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Commons Chamber

Volume 654: debated on Monday 19 February 1962

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House Of Commons

Monday, 19th February, 1962

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Gas (Underground Storage) (Chilcomb) Bill (By Order)

British Transport Commission Bill (By Order)

City Of London (Various Powers) Bill (By Order)

Second Reading deferred till Monday next.

Letchworth Garden City Corporation Bill (By Order)

Second Reading deferred till Monday 5th March.

London County Council (General Powers) Bill (By Order)

Second Reading deferred till this evening at seven o'clock.

Port Of London (By Order)

Read a Second time and committed.


New Writ (Orpington)

I beg to ask leave to present a Petition on behalf of 3,502 electors in the Orpington Parliamentary Constituency, whose names have been collected during the past 48 hours.

The Petition shows that, since 1st October, 1961, the electors of Orpington have been unrepresented in your honourable House of Commons, that no steps have been taken to cause the election of a new Member to be held for the said constituency of Orpington, and that the electors of the said constituency have thereby been and are still disfranchised.
Wherefore, your Petitioners humbly pray that the Speaker of your honourable House be moved to issue his warrant for a new writ to fill the vacancy in the said constituency of Orpington.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever humbly pray.

To lie upon the Table.

Oral Answers To Questions

Pensions And National Insurance

Retirement Pensioners


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what has been the percentage rise in the cost of living since the date when the National Insurance Act, 1960, was passed; and if he will consider giving the beneficiaries under the Act the equivalent rise in benefits.

On the first part of his Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer which I gave him on 12th February. So far as the second part is concerned, as I explained in replying to a Question by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) on 5th February, the real value of the retirement pension remains appreciably higher than at any time before the last increase, which was, in fact, made in April, 1961.

While not disputing those points, the fact remains that at present there are any amount of single men who must pay £3 for board and lodgings, and often more, and their National Insurance does not even cover that. If the benefits were raised in accordance with the cost of living, as outlined in my Question, they would not even amount to £3, and does the right hon. Gentleman therefore not think that, in the circumstances, he should examine the whole position? Is it not about time the National Insurance benefits were reviewed and the scheme reconstructed so that better benefits are given?

The fact remains, to use the hon. Gentleman's own expression, that the real value of these benefits today is higher than at any time prior to April, 1961.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will state the number of retirement pensioners in receipt of an allowance from the National Assistance Board in the week following the introduction of the present scales, and at the latest available date.

Such figures are obtained quarterly. The count nearest to the time when the present scale rates came into operation, on 3rd April, 1961, was made on 28th March, 1961. On that date, the number of weekly National Assistance grants payable to retirement pensioners was 1,079,000. It is estimated that the number payable in the week following the pension and assistance increases was about 1,050,000. In December, 1961, the number was 1,056,000. Some of the grants provided for the requirements of a household with more than one pensioner.

I note that those figures show a slight decrease since April, 1951, but does the Minister not think that they indicate that far too many old people are still living at a bare subsistence level? Does he not consider the time now opportune for a further review of old-age pensions with a view to increasing them?

The hon. Gentleman knows that a change was made less than a year ago. It is interesting to notice that, in absolute terms, those figures are smaller than they were early last year in spite of the increase in the number of retirement pensioners generally.

Is the Minister satisfied with a position in which well over a million old-age pensioners have to apply for National Assistance? Would he not do better to give thought to future legislation that would take old-age pensioners, as such, out of the realm of National Assistance?

No, I disagree entirely with the hon. Gentleman. It is the function and purpose of the National Assistance Board, as set up by Parliament, to relieve those, whether above or below retirement pension age, whose means are below the levels that Parliament lays down, and it is perfectly proper that that function, which, by all accounts and by all the evidence, is most humanely and efficiently administered, should be undertaken to help those of our older fellow-citizens who need it just as much as the younger ones.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what would be the National Insurance retirement pension today if it were raised to 19·4 per cent. of men's average earnings, as occurred in April, 1948; and what would have been the figure on the basis of the average earnings of men in October, 1961.

On the basis of the provisional figures for average earnings among men covered by the Ministry of Labour's half-yearly inquiry in October, 1961, which are the latest available, 59s. 7d.

Does not that reply admit that the present National Insurance benefits are not up to the standards of 1948 in relation to average earnings? In 1948 the figure was 19·4 per cent., as compared with 18·7 per cent. now. If, in general, a country's workers are doing better, surely we should be able to do better for those unfortunate people who are sick or unemployed. Again I ask: is it not time that we made the National Insurance benefits equal to, or probably greater than, National Assistance scales? In 1960, 1,300,000 people were applying for National Assistance and were getting as much as 30s. more than the National Insurance benefit? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think that he should arrange that the National Insurance benefits should at least be equal to the National Assistance scales?

The last two paragraphs of that supplementary question dealt with National Assistance, which does not appear in the main Question. As to the main Question, the hon. Member will, of course, be aware that in terms of what they will buy, which is the important consideration, these benefits are very substantially above the 1948 level.

Occupational Deafness


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will make a statement on the progress made in the research programme initiated by his Department into the problems of occupational deafness.

Would the Minister agree that for many years some of us on this side of the House, as well as the trade unions, have been urging him to take some action in this direction? Can he give the House any indication of how long this research programme will take? Is he aware that a number of other countries have already scheduled industrial deafness under their industrial injuries legislation, and that many of us hope that this country will not lag too far behind?

Examples of countries with totally different schemes and limited cover do not help us very much. This is a very detailed and a very comprehensive inquiry that is being undertaken under the scientific direction of the D.S.I.R. and the M.R.C., and I think that it will take some time.

Pensions And Benefits


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether he will introduce legislation during the present Session of Parliament to raise the level of retirement pensions and other National Insurance benefits.


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether National Assistance scales and National Insurance benefits will be increased to match increases in salaries and wages during the next phase of the pay pause.

I have no statement to make on this subject other than by way of reminding both hon. Members that the rates of National Insurance benefits and the National Assistance scales were substantially increased as recently as April.

That is the third time the right hon. Gentleman has said that this afternoon. Is he aware that most other civilised countries have put up their pensions in recent years—most of them to a much higher level than ours—and that it is really not good enough for him to make comparisons with the past? Would he agree that, in addition to about a million pensioners on National Assistance, a recent survey seemed to indicate that probably another half million would qualify for National Assistance but do not apply? In that situation, will anything do to alleviate their distress except an increase in their subsistence rates?

The hon. Member has put at least half-a-dozen items into that supplementary question. I can only say that his comparisons with other countries very often miss the point, and I certainly know of very few foreign countries which, having raised their pensions to a new level last April, are raising them again.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many incomes were raised last year and that the modest increases in National Insurance benefits and in National Assistance scales will soon compare unfavourably with the rises in incomes that may be expected this year? Is he aware that large-scale increases in wages and other incomes will take place in April next, and that unless increases to match are made in the scales of National Insurance and National Assistance, social security beneficiaries will fall behind? What does he intend to do about that?

The Government's record on this matter is, as the House knows, an excellent one, while there is, of course, no precedent in the action of hon. Members opposite to justify them in talking about an increase in these benefits within eleven months of their being raised to a new high level.

When more money is available, will my right hon. Friend see that it goes to those pensioners who have been retired for some time, the sick and the widowed mothers with children?

That is an important suggestion, which I shall certainly bear in mind.

But is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated that, from July to December of last year, the Index of Retail Prices rose by 2·2 per cent., in spite of the Government's wage pause policy? That being so, are not these people really entitled to some increase, if only to offset that rise in the index figure?

The hon. Gentleman suggests that a rise of 2·2 per cent. in the Index of Retail Prices justifies a change in rates of benefit, but he may recall that it required an increase of 27 per cent. before his hon. Friends moved.

Incomes Policy


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance whether the principles of the White Paper on Incomes Policy, Command Paper No. 1626, will apply to those on National Assistance and National Insurance benefits.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) on 12th February.

Is the Minister aware that the reply he gave the other day was quite unsatisfactory and that I am now inviting him to be more specific? The White Paper deals with incomes. In many cases, National Insurance benefits and National Insurance scales are the only incomes of millions of people. What does he intend to do to ensure that they have their place in the rise in incomes in the coming months?

If the hon. Gentleman has really studied my previous answers, it is a little difficult to understand why he does not feel them to be specific. I stated quite clearly the considerations that affect the Government's judgment in proposing changes in contributions and benefits under the National Insurance Scheme, and those are, in fact, the main factors.



asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what is the policy of his Department with regard to Christmas and other bonuses paid to working widows as regards deduction of their pensions.

Could the Minister be a little more specific than that? Is he aware that one of the unfortunate consequences of the earnings limitation rule is that very often a Christmas bonus can be swallowed up by a reduction in the pension? Is he aware that many pensioners do not feel that the spreading of their Christmas bonuses is done in the most fair way? Would it not be fair to spread any bonus back over the period from the payment of the previous bonus, and will the Minister see that that is done?

I answered in that form because decisions in these matters, as the hon, Gentleman knows, are made by the independent statutory authorities in individual cases, and not by me. The question of spreading is difficult, because it could sometimes be helpful and sometimes it could be singularly unhelpful. The case law on the subject indicates a clear distinction between bonuses related to a specific period of service, which can be spread, and ones related solely to the good will of the Christmas season, which, in general, cannot.

National Assistance


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what proposals have been made to him by the National Assistance Board for increasing the scales of National Assistance.

Despite what the Minister has said in previous replies and despite the comparison with previous years, is it not still a fact that people on National Assistance are living at a very low level indeed, and that any rise in the cost of living is extremely serious to them? Can he now say when he expects further proposals to increase National Assistance benefits from the National Assistance Board?

Parliament placed the initiative in proposing possible changes on the National Assistance Board, and I have every confidence that it will discharge its duty.

But cannot the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether there have been any conversations through the usual channels with the National Assistance Board? Does he wait for it to approach him? Does he prompt it, or does he have informal conversations with it? Is there anything doing? That is what we want to know.

I have nothing to add in reply to those seven incoherent, unrelated supplementary questions.

Graduated Pensions Scheme


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance how much has been deducted from wages, since the inception of the graduated pensions scheme, from persons who have now retired without accumulating enough to qualify for any addition to their pension.

Is the Minister aware that there is a great deal of confusion and anger on this question; in fact, that a process of confiscation by the Government is going on? Is he aware that the Government are confiscating those contributions to graduated pensions which do not reach, in the case of employed males, as much as £7 10s. a year, or, in the case of a female employee, as much as £9? Will he see that the Government give something in return for this confiscated money, or at least say that, as this money should not be confiscated, it should be returned to the poor people who have been compelled to pay?

I think the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood the position. It is this. If the contributions paid equal half a unit, that is, a £3 15s. contribution by the man, a full unit is credited. If it is less than that, there is no entitlement. That seems to me to be an absolutely fair proposition, and it is one which, after debate, this House accepted some time ago.

May I ask the Minister if it is not the position that an employee is required to contribute up to £7 10s. and that when the Minister talks about half he is talking about a joint contribution; in fact, the employee must himself contribute £7 10s. before the money is returned?

No, Sir. There is no question of money being returned on either hypothesis. I am afraid that again the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood. If the contribution which an employee pays is £3 15s., there is entitlement to a full unit.

Welfare Foods


asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance if he will state the cost to the National Assistance Board of assisting applicants to secure welfare foods since prices were increased.

It is estimated that the total administrative cost to the National Assistance Board in arranging for the issue in appropriate cases of tokens for free supplies of welfare foods, including milk, is at present about £74,000 a year.

The Minister will realise that while that figure may not in his estimation be a big one, it does not tell the full story. Is he aware that many small wage earners with £8 or £9 per week are not able to qualify for National Assistance and, therefore, would not qualify for help towards the payment for welfare foods? Will he consider honouring the pledge given by the Parliamentary Secretary on 19th April, that if there were a decrease, such as we now have, of 75 per cent. over the country, the matter would be reconsidered with a view to consideration of increases in regard to these foods?

It is the whole story as far as I am concerned. The other matters to which the hon. Gentleman refers, including, no doubt, the observations of, as I understand it, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health, are matters for my right hon. Friend, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and not for me.



asked the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance what was the average weekly rent paid by couples in receipt of National Assistance during each of the past four years.

This figure is not yet available for the end of 1961. For the end of the three previous years the figures were 19s. 4d., 20s. 1d., and 21s. 2d.

Is it not quite clear from these figures that the 1957 Rent Act has already cost the National Assistance Board anything from £1 million upwards, which has gone, not to the unfortunate recipients of National Assistance, but to their landlords?

It so happens that the figures for the years which the hon. Gentleman selected show rather more substantial increases in local authority rents than in those exacted by private landlords.


Pits (Closures)


asked the Minister of Power when colliery closures are considered, what prior consultations take place with district and country councils with regard to the social consequences for the local communities.

Before district and county councils are told of closures, the Board must first consult representatives of the miners. Notification to the local authorities is left to the discretion of the divisional boards. I understand that the programme of closures in Durham in 1962 has been given to the county council.

While one naturally agrees with consultation with the N.U.M. first on these matters, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if adequate time is allowed for discussion with the district councils over the building of new houses? Surely, it will take at least two years to plan and build the houses. Why cannot discussions take place earlier with the district councils?

I think the hon. Gentleman well knows the difficulties of these discusions taking place too long before. It is very difficult, with the uncertainties of both geology and demand, to be quite sure at what point any pit is likely to go out of production. I am quite sure that the point is well known to the National Coal Board, but I will undertake to mention it to Lord Robens.



asked the Minister of Power in what fields of production in the coal industry there have been increases of productivity during 1961; and to what degree.

Output per manshift was 3 per cent. higher in 1961 than in 1960; six of the nine divisions of the National Coal Board contributed to this increase.

May I take it from that reply that the right hon. Gentleman is in favour of the miners' pay increase? Would he tell the House how he would gauge the productivity of clerical workers in the industry, and how he would expect the mining industry to benefit from their increased productivity?

The fact is that overall production in the mining industry increased by 3 per cent. on average. Obviously, in some spheres it increased by more. I have already expressed my views on the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question. The average increase in productivity is, no doubt, something which the National Coal Board took into consideration.

As productivity has increased, would not my right hon. Friend agree that the proposal to increase the price of domestic coal should be rejected?

Miners (Wages)


asked the Minister of Power the percentage increase represented by the wage award now proposed for the miners.

Only a part of the labour force is directly affected by the offer. Other claims have to be reckoned with. The combined effect of these factors may increase the wages bill of the industry by about 2½ per cent.

Will my right hon. Friend explain why the Press said that the figure would be 4 per cent., thus detracting from the value of the pay pause to the nation as a whole?

The Minister is responsible for many things, but not for what the Press says.

On a point of order. Surely, what the Press said must have emanated originally from the Minister's office.

Unless the Minister is accepting responsibility for the statement, he cannot be asked about it.

Domestic Coal Consumers' Council


asked the Minister of Power if he will appoint a domestic coal consumers' council in Scotland.

I think that Scottish interests are well represented by the Scottish members on the Domestic Coal Consumers' Council.

Is not the Minister aware of the fairly widespread sense of frustration in Scotland that there is no immediate avenue through which consumers can express their dissatisfaction? While I do not dissent from the good work of Scottish representatives on the National Council, is it not ridiculous that they have to travel 400 miles on urgent matters of complaint affecting consumers' rights?

Three of the 24 representatives on the Council come from Scotland. I am sure that they do not let Scottish affairs go by default. The question of regional consumers' councils has been discussed by the Domestic Coal Consumers' Council on previous occasions, but views as to the wisdom of setting them up were divided. If I had strong representations from the Domestic Coal Consumers' Council, no doubt I would consider them carefully.

In the consideration which the Minister gives to new regulations or to dealing with the matter of consumers' complaints, will he consider seriously any representations along these lines which are received meanwhile?

In thinking about this matter, will the Minister remember that he recognised recently that in Scotland there were coal problems peculiar to Scotland? Will he keep this in mind when considering the need for a Scottish domestic consumers' council?

I will keep that in mind. I am sure that those problems are very much in the minds of the three Scottish members on the Domestic Coal Consumers' Council.

Ministry Of Power

Nuclear Power Stations (Generation Costs)


asked the Minister of Power how his latest estimate for the cost of electricity generation by nuclear power stations compares with the present cost of generation by conventional power stations.

The estimate for base load generation from Bradwell and Berkeley, which come into service in the next few months, is 1d. a unit. This compares with a unit cost of ·55d.—·7d. from coalfired stations coming into service this year, depending on their size and distance from the coalfields. The present estimate for Sizewell, due to come into service in 1965–66, is ·65d. compared with ·5d. to ·65d. for coalfired stations commissioned at the same time.

Are not these figures rather disappointing, in view of the amount of capital expenditure and the amount of scientific effort involved? Could my right hon. Friend say how there has been this over-optimism about the position which appears to be disclosed by the figures he has given?

The postponement of the date by which nuclear generation is likely to break even with coal-fired generation depends on quite a number of factors, one of which is the rate of interest. In fact, I do not think that the figures are disappointing, because the capital cost per kilowatt at Bradwell and Berkeley, which come into operation this year, is £165, and the cost per kilowatt at Sizewell, which will come into operation in three or four years' time, will be down to £100. It is quite impossible, obviously, to decrease the cost further until there is a regular programme of nuclear building.

Is it not the case that, far from progress being disappointing, the programme is ahead of the target for breaking even in 1975? Furthermore, is it not due to the Government's policy, because of the easier availability of alternative fuels, that the programme has been deliberately slowed down?

The expectation now is that the break-even point probably will be reached in about 1970. Certainly, it is our plan to press ahead with this work and to try to get more experience of building these stations.

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that, as his reply shows, the gaining of experience from the nuclear power station at Sizewell will make an important contribution?

Does the Minister agree that a few years ago Sir John Cockroft said that parity would be reached in about 1965?

Gas (Underground Storage) (Chilcomb) Bill


asked the Minister of Power what technical report was submitted to him by the Gas Council in support of their application for his consent to promote the Gas (Underground Storage) (Chilcomb) Bill; what was the title of the copy so submitted; and what date appeared upon the said copy submitted to him.

The Gas Council sent me the technical report of its American consultants, Ball Associates of Denver dated October, 1961, and entitled The Chilcomb Underground Gas Storage Project.

At the time that he considered the matter, was not my right hon. Friend shown the original report of the American consultants dated April, 1961?

The original report refers to another underground storage site which the Gas Council has made no proposal to use and which, I understand, it does not contemplate using.

Is the Minister aware that the Bill raises such profound new issues that it is his duty, not only to the citizens of Winchester, but to all who use the water undertakings of Hampshire, to have such proposals examined by an impartial committee before they come to this House?

Does not my right hon. Friend interpret it as his duty to ensure that there are no alternative sites and, in any event, to safeguard a unique and historic town and district? Is he aware that this proposal will meet with the most bitter and determined opposition from all parts of the House?

Those matters are rather wide of the Question I was asked. In any event, they are matters Which the House will no doubt discuss on the Second Reading of the Bill.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the April report referred at great length to the proposals to store gas at Chilcomb and that, apparently, the supplementary answer which he has given is inaccurate?

No, Sir. The earlier report referred to storage to the west of Winchester. I do not think that it is at all unreasonable that the Second Report did not mention that area, since the Gas Council had decided against developing it.


asked the Minister of Power whether an assurance was given him by the Gas Council that consultations had taken place with the Winchester City Council and with other bodies or persons directly affected when application was made to him by the Gas Council for his consent to promote the Gas (Underground Storage) (Chilcomb) Bill.

Does not my right hon. Friend consider that, as a Minister of the Crown, when giving his consent to a Bill of this sort, he has an obligation to inquire whether those vitally affected by the principle of the Bill have been consulted?

No, Sir. I conceive my duty to be to give consent under the Gas Act, having had regard to two factors. One is the general objectives of the Bill and the second is to what extent it is necessary for the objectives to be examined by Parliament. I came to the conclusion that there was an economic case for the Bill and that it would be a good idea if Parliament looked at it. Therefore, I gave my consent.

Is the Minister aware that he is not only Minister of Power but part of the Government, and that part of their job is to ensure that when a revolutionary proposal of this nature is made adequate consultation has taken place not only with the City of Winchester, but with the planning authorities of Hampshire and with all the water undertakings affected?

The Bill was published at the end of November. We have not yet had Second Reading and the Committee stage is even further away. There has been quite a lot of time for discussion between November and Second Reading.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this proposal is of interest not only to the County of Hampshire and that it involves fundamental departures from earlier governmental policy in regard to fuel and power technology, civic matters, water supply and, most important of all, the undermining of the historic City of Winchester and its Cathedral? In view of all these important factors, will my right hon. Friend tell the House why he has evaded his Ministerial responsibility by allowing a nationalised industry to bring in a Bill of this sort? Why did not he himself take the responsibility and bring the Bill to this House so that we could all have opposed it in proper fashion?

As the replies to both my Questions are thoroughly unsatisfactory and the first of them is inaccurate, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at an early opportunity.

Ministry Of Aviation

London Airport (Mr Newley)


asked the Minister of Aviation by what authority and for what reason Customs and immigration formalities were waived, and airport Passenger Control Regulations disregarded, at London Airport on 3rd January, 1962, to enable Mr. Anthony Newley to accompany a friend into an aircraft in which he was not travelling as a passenger.

None, Sir. For an airline on exceptional occasions, and with the permission of airport management, to permit a personal farewell or greeting does no great harm, but I have urged them not to overdo it.

In thanking my right hon. Friend for that Answer, may I ask him to ensure that it really is not overdone? This is the sort of thing that creates resentment among a lot of ordinary airline travelling public. Whilst certain exceptions should be allowed, they must be kept to the absolute minimum and must not be done for publicity purposes.

Jet Aircraft (Fuel)


asked the Minister of Aviation what further studies have been made of the danger involved in the use of J.P.4, a mixture of 60 per cent. petrol and 40 per cent. kerosene, as fuel for jet and turbine-engined aircraft, instead of kerosene; and what conclusions he has reached.

The Working Party I set up to compare the safety aspects of aviation kerosene and wide-cut gasoline or J.P.4 has now completed its studies. Its Report will be published, and available next month. I will then make a statement.



asked the Minister of Aviation if he will introduce legislation to give to the Air Transport Licensing Board clearer and more comprehensive terms of reference in relation to the granting of licences under the Civil Aviation (Licensing) Act, 1960.

But is there not a strong case for enabling the Board to take into consideration, first, the weakening of British competition with foreign airlines; secondly, the effect on the order books for British aircraft; and thirdly, the extent to which operators are prepared to run services on unprofitable or less profitable routes?

Of course, all this was very fully debated at the time when the Bill was passed, which was only quite recently. It has only just recently come into effect and the first awards of licences are now coming through. I think we have to allow an Act just passed by Parliament an opportunity of working.

Have not things taken a very unsatisfactory turn in view of the fact that the Corporations are expecting heavy losses? As the Board has given away more than one-third of the prospective growth of B.E.A. in the short time it has been operating, should not something be done now?

All these things are perfectly relevant points to be argued before the Air Transport Licensing Board.



asked the Minister of Aviation why the estimated cost of developing the Blue Steel nuclear missile increased fivefold to £60 millions by September, 1960; what is now his estimate of the ultimate cost; and how much it is estimated will be spent in addition on production, training, installation and other costs.

Blue Steel was an entirely novel development of a new type of very advanced weapon. It flies at high supersonic speed and, after release from a V-bomber, automatically navigates itself to its prearranged target carrying a warhead in the megaton range. The original figure underestimated both the complexity of these problems and the time required to solve them. The Accounting Officer of my Department will shortly be giving detailed evidence upon this matter to the Public Accounts Committee.

Is the Minister aware that £150 million was spent on the similar American missile Rascal before it was cancelled, and does he not agree with the expert estimates in this country that Blue Steel will cost roughly the same here? With this money, could not the Government have provided 12s. 6d. a week on the pensions or built 100,000 houses for families?

It is always possible to compare one form of expenditure with another, but this is an extremely important weapon and is extremely relevant to the deterrent in this country.

To get the matter clear, is it not a fact that the £60 million referred to covers many overheads and other charges of establishments, and that they would have been charged in any case, so that it is rather misleading to give this overall figure for this one object?

A great number of these figures tend to be misleading. It is, however, true, and must be fairly faced, that this weapon was underestimated when the original estimate was put forward. I would not attempt to conceal that. It will be considered fully by the Public Accounts Committee.

Will the House be fully informed in the future about what the actual cost will be?

No. I believe it is not usual to disclose the actual cost, but this will be brought up before the Public Accounts Committee, so that there will be every opportunity of discussing it.

Does that mean that mistakes in estimating are disclosed but that the full facts of actual cost are not disclosed? Is this in the name of security? If so, what about the security of the taxpayers?

The security of the taxpayers is fully dealt with by the procedures in this House, which include detailed reports to the Estimates Committee, full analysis in front of the Public Accounts Committee, and publication of the facts so far as research and development are concerned. What we do not publish, of course, is the precise figures of production, because these would disclose to anyone who wished to know the number of weapons which we were in fact fitting.

Is it not the case, though, that Sea Slug, Thunderbird and Fire Streak were estimated to cost £9 million and ultimately cost £140 million, and that the Ministry of Aviation then promised to amend its ways in the matter of costing? Furthermore, is it not the case that Blue Steel has a range of only 100 miles and will only come into service very shortly before Skybolt, which has a range of 1,000 miles and is much more efficient?


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will state the approximate expenditure from 1955 to date on missiles which have since been cancelled.

Are not all these cost-plus contracts in which the greater the expense to the company the greater its profits? If such a scandalous overspending of public money had taken place, 1st us say, on the building of houses or on pensions, would there not have been real trouble, whereas with armaments apparently anything goes?

No. These are all extremely complex missiles systems. There is no doubt that since, say, 1955, when Blue Steel was first estimated, the methods of costing these estimates have improved. I think it has to be remembered that over the same period £50 million worth of export orders have been placed for missiles of this character.

Is my right hon. Friend not overcome by the overwhelming support for all matters of national defence indicated by some hon. Members opposite?

Is it not the case that the system of accountancy for these weapons is even more complex than the weapons system itself?

It is necessary to have a fairly complex system of accountancy. Indeed, I share the view of hon. Members that they should be fully informed of the cost of these matters. They have been carefully examined by the Estimates Committee. Our procedures for estimating have been improved, but I cannot yet guarantee that even with all improvements absolute accuracy in these extremely complex estimates is possible, but I think it will be better.

Does the right hon. Gentleman now conform to the recommendations of the Zuckerman Committee which were submitted in July, 1961, to the Minister for Science?

Yes, indeed, I think that virtually all the recommendations of the Zuckerman Committee were in operation in my Ministry even before I arrived there.

Yeadon Airport


asked the Minister of Aviation what action he proposes to take to assist the authorities in control of Yeadon Airport, Yorkshire, to make it suitable for use by all types of modern aircraft.

The authorities have been informed that their application for a grant towards the cost of developing Yeadon Airport cannot be approved.

Does the hon. Gentleman, then, believe that a region of about 4½ million people should be denied the right of having an airport which will take modern aircraft?

No. My right hon. Friend's decision does not contain that implication.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that living in the West Riding and in Yorkshire are taxpayers, and that, while Government support is being given to other parts of the country, they think that Yeadon Airport, too, should be given the right kind of consideration?

I am aware that they are taxpayers, but my right hon. Friend's decision was based on the conclusion that the extra cost to them of the running and development of the airport would not be an intolerable burden on their rates.

Bea Routes (Accounts)


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will give a general direction to British European Airways to publish detailed profit-and-loss accounts for all their domestic routes for every year since 1950.

I do not consider that it would be in the interest of British European Airways to publish detailed commercial results of every route. It has, however, been their practice, in accordance with the advice of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, to give some particulars of the results on domestic services in their annual report.

If it is not advisable to publish detailed figures of the profit and loss accounts of every route, why is it that B.E.A. has detailed statistics of group domestic routes?

This is what the Select Committee of the House of Commons suggested it should do.

Even taking into account the difficulties created by allocating overheads covering all services, is it not possible from these figures to derive figures for the detailed routes?

It may be possible to devise such a system, but it is not the system recommended by the Select Committee of the House of Commons.

Turnhouse Airport


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will state the number of scheduled flights which have been cancelled and the number diverted from Renfrew Airport as a result of high winds or gales during the 12 months to 12th February, 1962; and if he will give corresponding information for Turn-house Airport.

I regret that the precise information requested is not available. During the four months ended 31st January, 1962, there were 29 aircraft movements of all kinds to and from Renfrew cancelled or diverted because of high winds. The corresponding figure for Turnhouse was 79.

Is the Minister aware that air traffic at Turnhouse Airport is increasing at a greater rate than that of any other Scottish airport, and that with the advent of the new Forth Road Bridge it will increase still further, and, thirdly, that the alternative airport to Turnhouse is going to be still further west of Glasgow? Will he, therefore, reconsider his previous decision to have an alternate runway at Turnhouse with a view to preventing such cancellations and diversions?

No. In relation to the relatively small proportion of cancellations and diversions caused by high winds the cost of establishing a new runway would be disproportionate.

Commonwealth Advisory Aeronautical Research Council


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will state the present membership of the Commonwealth Advisory Aeronautical Research Council; how many meetings of the Council's Central Secretariat were held during 1961; and when the Council itself last met.

The member countries are Australia, Canada, Ceylon, Ghana, India, Malaya, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Six meetings of the Council's central secretariat were held in 1961. The last meeting of the Council was in September, 1959, in London.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether every effort has been made to persuade the newly independent countries of the Commonwealth not mentioned in his list to join this organisation? Can he say whether there is any particular field of research in which this country is engaged in accordance with the general principles on which this organisation functions?

I cannot without notice give a detailed answer to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, but I can assure him that it is our policy to try to encourage newly independent members of the Commonwealth to join.



asked the Minister of Aviation why the changeover from Renfrew Airport to Abbotsinch will not take place before the end of 1964.

This is the earliest date by which the necessary work can be completed and the changeovers sensibly effected. It would be impractible to change from Renfrew to this new airport during the peak summer season.

Will the hon. Gentleman take into consideration two factors? First, does he realise that the risk of landing large machines like the Vanguard at Renfrew Airport in high winds due to the turbulence caused among the cranes along Clydeside is fairly serious? Secondly, is he aware that passengers using Renfrew Airport are provided with totally inadequate accommodation? As these are two very serious aspects of the problem, would the hon. Gentleman try to get the Navy to put to sea at least a year earlier than is proposed?

I would not wish to exaggerate the danger to which the hon. Gentleman referred in the first part of his supplementary question, although considerations of that kind, of course, led to the decision to transfer the airport. With regard to the second part of his supplementary question, it is impossible, and has always been recognised to be impossible, for the Navy to move before October, 1963.

Aircraft Accidents (Third Party Insurance)


asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will take steps to require all airline operators flying aircraft over the United Kingdom to provide third-party insurance cover similar to that required by motor car owners for the financial protection of those who may suffer loss or damage arising from aircraft accidents.

Under the Civil Aviation Act, 1949, all aircraft owners are legally liable to pay compensation for material loss or damage caused by aircraft to persons and property on the surface, and I know of no evidence to suggest that they do not invariably insure against this liability. Compulsory insurance would involve further complex legislation and I am not at present satisfied that it is necessary.

Is the Minister aware that in a particular case, and I think generally, this type of insurance cover is subject to the observance in full of all the statutory regulations? If they are broken in any way, the insurance is invalidated. What action does the right hon. Gentleman propose to take to cover that sort of thing?

There is no evidence that anyone has suffered through the absence of legislation in aviation comparable to that which covers motor car third party insurance. There is quite a case for saying that it ought to be compulsory, but it would necessitate a fairly complex Bill of about 20 Clauses and many Schedules, and I do not see much prospect of its Introduction at the moment.

It is not the fault of the passenger if there has been some minor slip-up by the company with which he is travelling. If a passenger is under the impression that he is covered for third party risks when in fact he is not, is it not the Minister's duty to put the matter right by legislation?

There is a lot of legislation which might be introduced, but, if I had to choose from all the possible legislation on my front, I would not put this matter very high on the list.

Is the Minister aware that, in the case of the Southall air crash, the insurance company repudiated liability but made ex gratia payments, although they were not nearly as large as they might have been if it had had full liability.

In the case of the Southall air crash, no one suffered because of this.

Would not the Minister agree that the case for compulsory insurance in respect of aircraft is at least as strong as it is in respect of motor cars? Will not he consider introducing legislation to deal with this matter as soon as an opportunity presents itself?

The words "as soon as an opportunity presents itself" are fairly wide. There is this added safeguard. The Air Transport Licensing Board has to consider, and is empowered to consider, the provision made for third party insurance before it issues a licence.

Airline Operators (Minor Offences)


asked the Minister of Aviation to what extent the decisions of his predecessor, that a navigator of an aircraft whose experience has not been properly established and is in breach of Regulation 44 of the Air Navigation General Regulations, and that failure to carry out engine repairs by persons qualified so to do in breach of the Regulations are regarded as minor offences, apply to all airline operators.

My right hon. Friend the then Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation referred to these infringements as "minor" in comparison with a charge of manslaughter.

Is it the case that this particular ruling depends on the degree of some other offence which might be committed? Is that the Minister's ruling?

All that I am saying is that one cannot take the word "minor" out of its context. Here the context was in comparison with a charge of manslaughter.

May I ask the Minister whether it is an offence or not and whether it is a major or minor offence irrespective of any other offence?

The hon. Gentleman knows that this particular case has been debated very fully, and I do not think that I can add to what I have said, namely, that when it is said that something is minor we must compare it with what it is minor to, and here it was a charge of manslaughter.

Gatwick Airport


asked the Minister of Aviation What steps he is taking to prevent low-flying approaches to Gatwick Airport, particularly from westwards; and if he will make a statement.

Instructions have been issued to all operators at Gatwick that they should adhere strictly to the correct descent path. They have also been warned that approaches will be monitored when operational conditions permit. Monitoring results since my predecessor last wrote to the hon. Member on this matter have confirmed once again that pilots are most conscientious in approaching no lower than necessary, and that significantly low aproaches are extremely rare.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but would not he agree that this improvement is due largely to the time of year? There is a great local fear that when the spring and summer schedules start once again this risk of low flying will increase. If monitoring is not enough, would my hon. Friend consider putting observers on the ground?

In our view, monitoring is likely to be much more efficient than putting observers on the ground. I have no reason to think that it will be more difficult for pilots to maintain the proper altitude at times of the year other than winter.

Can my hon. Friend say whether the monitoring will be carried out on the eastward side and the other sides as well? Also, can he say whether the proposed diversion of jet flights to Gatwick will make any difference?

The diversion of jet flights will obviously make a difference to the number of aircraft approaching to land, but the regulations governing the angle of descent will be exactly the same. It is our intention to monitor approaches from both directions.

There are only a few culprits in this matter. The vast majority of pilots do their level best to observe the regulations. However, will my hon. Friend make a special effort to catch the small number of culprits who bring the whole of aviation into disrepute?

I am glad that my hon. Friend has drawn attention to the fact that there are very few infringements. In fact, 283 approaches have been monitored since last June, and only ten of them were below the normal limit. Since September, when my predecessor wrote about this matter, only one low approach had been noted.




asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the shortage of physiotherapists in Northumberland; and what estimate he has made of the effect of present salary scales on the position.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward) on 29th January.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that, despite the Answer to the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), there is still considerable disquiet, not only among physiotherapists in Northumberland, but throughout the country? Will she therefore look into the matter?

I know that there is a shortage of physiotherapists, particularly in the North, but the key to this situation is the shortage of teachers. We arranged a shortened course, a six-month course, for physiotherapy teachers. That is about halfway through, and I hope that it will alleviate the position.

While the question of teachers of physiotherapy is a factor in the shortage of physiotherapists, there is also another very important reason for the shortage, and that is the very low rates of pay which physiotherapists receive. Is the hon. Lady aware that what her right hon. Friend the Minister says about this matter, namely, that he cannot abrogate the Whitley Council machinery, sounds very hollow to these people in view of the fact that the Whitley Council machinery has been abrogated in connection with other industries? Will the hon. Lady have another look at the matter to see whether something tangible can be done to put these salary scales right?

This is essentially a matter for the Whitley Council, which was set up by hon. Members opposite when they were in power to deal with pay and working conditions. We cannot think of physiotherapists in isolation. There are other professions which must be considered.

Sheffield Area (Storm Damage)

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he will make a statement on the storm damage in Sheffield and surrounding areas.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs
(Dr. Charles Hill)

Yes, Sir. First, may I extend the Government's sympathy, indeed that of the whole House, to the people of Sheffield and other towns which have suffered such damage and injury from the recent gales.

I have seen for myself the damage in Sheffield, as have other hon. Members. It is very great. According to statistics provided by the city's council, about 2,500 houses are uninhabitable, and many thousands more have been damaged, some severely.

I have not yet got a complete picture about other towns. I am awaiting a report from one of my officers now in the area.

One thing is evident. Voluntary services—Civil Defence, W.V.S., Territorials, auxiliary firemen, Scouts and Guides included—have worked superbly in support of the hard-pressed official services.

Every local authority whose area has suffered damage should proceed at once to organise repair work, to private houses as well as to its own, to the extent that it judges this necessary to get the work done quickly. This has already been said to the Town Clerk of Sheffield and I am glad to have this opportunity of conveying it to the authority of every area which has suffered damage.

The Sheffield City Council will be meeting representatives of the local builders this afternoon in order to settle how best to tackle what needs to be done. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Works has made the services of his Department available to help in any way they can with the supply of building materials and equipment in the areas affected.

As regards finance, it is, of course, impossible at this stage to estimate what the cost of repairs and replacement will be, or the extent to which this is covered by insurance. Local authorities should be prepared to meet any costs immediately needed to carry out emergency work quickly. If, in the result, after due account is taken of insurance and other factors, an undue burden falls on the rates, the Government will, of course, consider what assistance from the Exchequer should be made available, as has been done in the past after similar emergencies.

I feel that all hon. Members who have seen the destruction in Sheffield will have appreciated the Minister's tribute to the voluntary services—Civil Defence and many others, including the police, whom the right hon. Gentleman did not mention—for the magnificent job that they have done.

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, in regard to the suggestion about mobilising available materials, whether he is aware that there is a very serious problem about slates? Many more tiles are required, but tiles may be obtainable. I understand that there is an ample supply of slates in Wales and other parts of the country, but there is very serious delay in delivery. Could the right hon. Gentleman approach the Minister of Transport to ascertain whether a special train could be arranged to bring the slates from Wales, as the immediate problem is to prevent further devastation in the event of heavy rain going through the roofs of the damaged houses?

I am glad to see that the Minister is prepared to consider assisting local authorities with the enormous burden of repairs and rehousing which will be entailed. However, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will also consider, in conjunction with his colleagues in the Government, the question of providing some funds, as was done in the case of the Lynmouth disaster and the East Coast disaster, to relieve individual hardship upon hundreds of people who—it is probably through their own fault, but none the less they are having to pay the price now—are left without any worldly goods whatever? The Lord Mayor of Sheffield has set up a fund, but I hope that the Government will be prepared to subscribe to this purpose in so far as may be necessary.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the immediate need is roofing felt, tiles and slates, and it is that aspect of the problem that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works is urgently dealing with now. I agree absolutely with what the hon. Gentleman said about the need for transport, as well as for the slates which are so urgently needed—really urgently needed—for so many houses.

The Lord Mayor Sheffield has opened a fund. If that fund proves inadequate—and it is a national fund for helping those whose furniture and chattels have been damaged or destroyed—the Government will consider what help should be given to it.

Having regard to the fact that Sheffield had a substantial housing problem before this disaster, would the right hon. Gentleman, in addition to considering the immediate needs of repair and financial provision, try to get some additional building labour and building firms into the area?

That is one of the questions which are being discussed at the meeting this afternoon. There is, of course, the labour force employed by the Sheffield City Council, about 1,500 strong and there are some large contractors engaged on work in the town. Precisely the sort of question which has been raised is being considered this afternoon.

I should like to associate my hon. Friends and myself with what the Minister has said about the sympathy of the House to everybody who has been affected by this rather unusual and very far-reaching tragedy.

With regard to what the right hon. Gentleman has had to say about financial help, if the local authorities organise assistance in the way of materials and labour on an emergency basis, the costs will rise, and for smaller authorities, such as the Belper Urban District Council and the Repton Rural District Council, this will be a very considerable and difficult matter. May I press him to be more precise about what the Government will do in that case? Will they take over for Sheffield or any of the smaller authorities the ultimate costs which it would obviously be unreasonable to expect the authority to bear?

What local authorities are asked to do about the immediate very urgent problem is to get on with what needs to be done. Thereafter, when it is known to what degree there is insurance cover—in the case of local authorities some are covered and some are not, some have an insurance fund and some not; in the case of private owners some, no doubt, will be uninsured, although most will be insured—and when the account is sorted out, the Government will discuss with the authorities concerned on the basis on which I have replied to the hon. Gentleman.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Barnsley survey has just been completed, and that, although the town has not been as badly hit as Sheffield, it has certainly suffered fairly substantial damage? Twenty-four families were rendered homeless, but Barnsley got on with the job and 15 families have been satisfactorily re-housed. Seventy per cent. of the local authority houses, or 4,500 houses, were damaged in some way.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there are two immediate needs? First, there must be a rapid flow of slates and tiles into the area. Secondly, local authorities like Sheffield and Barnsley are certainly in need of some financial assistance, and we hope that the Government, rather than considering the matter at a later stage, will be prepared now, far more quickly than hitherto, to give us some financial assistance.

The first task, I agree, is to get the men and the materials on the job of re-roofing the vast number of houses—outside Sheffield as well as inside—which have been damaged, and to carry the cost that is involved. Just as soon as it is possible to sort out what the burden on the authorities has been, I shall be glad to discuss with them what aid can be given to them. Insurance plays so large a part in this matter, a larger part than in the case of floods, that it is difficult at the outset to judge what financial aid will be needed. But I am saying, in effect, "Get on with the job, and the Government will help fairly and sympathetically as soon as the size of the burden on the individual local authority is known."

Will the right hon. Gentleman particularly consider the question of the labour needed for the repairs, which may prove to be the most difficult of all? Is this not one in which the Ministry of Works could perhaps help, as with other aspects of the problem? Secondly, why would it not be possible to make an immediate Government contribution to the Lord Mayor's Fund? Ought we not, in this connection, to look again at the proposal, made at the time of the floods, for the establishment of a national disaster fund?

I agree with what the hon. Gentleman says about the need for labour, and particularly for labour skilled in roofing work. That is of the first priority, and my noble Friend the Minister of Works is looking into that as well as into the question of materials.

On the question of an immediate Government contribution, I have said plainly to the House today that we are saying to the local authorities, "Get on with the job and we will sort out the loss that falls upon you when we see the size of it." I hope, quite frankly, that many people will give generously to such funds as the Lord Mayor's fund, just as so many have given so generously of their services. I have said that, if these funds fall short of what is needed, the Government will consider what contribution should be made nationally.

While agreeing with the Minister that the urgent need is to get the damage, wherever it has occurred, repaired, will he remember the old saying, "He gives twice who gives quickly?"

In previous disasters there has been a long delay before local authorities have known of the assistance they are to get, and this has held up work. There are anomalies in the insurance position, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look again at the question of having a general national fund to meet the ultimate costs of this sort of disaster.

It would be hardly useful at this juncture, where urgent work needs doing, to raise the question of a national distress fund, on which there may be views. But I hope that what I have said will convince the local authorities concerned that they are authorised to proceed with all necessary work with all possible speed, and that when the cost is seen, with the set-offs which must be put against it, the Government will consider what they can do fairly and properly to assist them.

British Guiana (Situation)

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the situation in British Guiana.

Following a general strike and demonstrations against the Budget proposals of the elected Government of British Guiana, serious disorders began in the capital, Georgetown, on Friday afternoon, in the course of which the police were fired upon and two were wounded; Subsequently, the police were ordered to fire, resulting in the death of one rioter and the wounding of another. The available troops and two frigates were called on. Fires were started and have caused great damage to property, especially in the commercial area.

At the request of the Council of Ministers, who are responsible for internal security, the Governor asked for reinforcements to aid the civil powers. One company of the Royal Hampshire Regiment is stationed in British Guiana; the first of the reinforcements, a sister company of the Royal Hampshires stationed in Jamaica, and two frigates of the Royal Navy arrived at Georgetown on Friday afternoon.

Two companies of the 1st East Anglia Regiment, and one of the 1st Duke of Edinburgh Royal Regiment from this country and four other naval vessels have since arrived.

On the advice of the Council of Ministers, the Governor, on Friday, made an Order under the Emergency Powers Order, 1939, proclaiming a State of Emergency.

I regret to say that civilian casualties are at present estimated at five killed and 127 injured. Great damage has been done to property. The military forces and the police have restored order in Georgetown, but the situation remains tense.

I am sure that everyone in the House deeply deplores the events which have led to the intervention of British troops and the loss of life and property involved. Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the fact that the Chief Minister of British Guiana called on British troops to intervene to restore order throws an odd light on his remarks to the Trusteeship Committee of the United Nations last December, when he said that there was a Colonial Office régime of terror and oppression in British Guiana and that

"… only the armed might of Britain acts as a deterrent to my country proclaiming its freedom."?
Nevertheless, would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it would be a mistake, even in these circumstances, to delay the proposed talks on British Guiana's independence in May? Would not he also agree that the main lesson of these unhappy events is the need to include in the Constitution of independent British Guiana some such provision as was agreed recently for Jamaica, which would guarantee the constitutional position of the opposition party in British Guiana, whichever it may be?

The immediate task is to restore law and order, which the forces and police are doing. Clearly, these events have considerable implications for the future of British Guiana. I would not like at this early stage to comment on what those may be.

While endorsing the Government's decision to send troops in aid of the civil power, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind, when considering the question of independence for British Guiana, the unfortunate fact—and I think that I shall be acquitted of having any reactionary views on these issues—that whenever Dr. Jagan gets power in British Guiana it leads to trouble—now, as in 1953? Will my right hon. Friend weigh this when considering the danger, or possible danger, of giving independence to a Government which may become the first Communist Government in the British Commonwealth?

I would not like to comment on these important and far-reaching issues at this stage. We are urgently examining the implications of recent developments. I do not think that this is the time for me to make a statement on them.

Can my right hon. Friend confirm Press reports that the troops are there solely to restore law and order and not in any way to intervene for, or on behalf of, any particular political party or policy?

Bill Presented

Commonwealth Settlement

Bill to extend the period for which the Secretary of State may make contributions under schemes agreed under section one of the Empire Settlement Act, 1922, presented by Mr. Sandys; supported by Mr. Maudling and Mr. John Hare; read the First time; to be read a Second time Tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 66.]

Orders Of The Day

Consolidated Fund Bill

Considered in Committee; reported, without Amendment; read the Third time and passed.

London Government

3.48 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs
(Dr. Charles Hill)

I beg to move,

That this House takes note of the proposals of Her Majesty's Government for the reorganisation of local government in Greater London (Command Paper No. 1562).
Today's debate will, I think, for various reasons be welcomed on both sides of the House. It will provide an opportunity to explain more fully the Government's approach to the problems of London's local government and to hear constructive suggestions on the many matters still to be settled.

May I begin by reminding the House of the context in which the proposals have come forward? In 1957, the Government announced a comprehensive review of local government throughout England and Wales. There was widespread acceptance at that time that a comprehensive review was necessary, overdue and, indeed, urgent. For the rest of the country, as the House knows, the scope and machinery of review were embodied in the Local Government Act, 1958. The operations of the Local Government Commissions set up under that Act are now in full swing.

For Greater London, bearing in mind its unique complexity, its urgency and the delays and difficulties of tackling it by the same machinery as for the rest of the country, a Royal Commission was appointed under the chairmanship of Sir Edwin Herbert. It reported in 1960 and the Government announced their broad acceptance of its conclusions in 1961. I want to reaffirm our indebtedness to Sir Edwin Herbert and his colleagues for their patient and exhaustive work.

Their Report is a model—cogent, clear, and highly valuable as a basis for action. Indeed, it is a valuable source book for the future on the essential problems of our whole local government system. It is significant that the Royal Commission was unanimous, unlike the previous Royal Commission on London Government which reported in 1923.

I now turn very briefly to recapitulate how in the nineteenth century we got our present structure in Greater London, and the areas. The year 1855 saw the first attempt at anything like a local government system for London as such in the Metropolitan Board of Works, which was concerned with sanitation and with highways. Its area was a stretch of territory which, although described as "the Metropolis", had been merely customarily defined in this way for rather haphazard reasons more relevant to bills of mortality than to live local government. Much of the area was, in fact, open country.

The formation of county government over the country generally in 1888 saw this same area, a slightly odd area, made up from bits of the geographical counties of Middlesex, Surrey and Kent, formed into the administrative County of London. I say "slightly odd". Indeed, a distinguished alderman of the London County Council has gone further by saying, of the way in which the present County of London was defined:
"… to delimit a capital city by Act of Parliament on a basis of death registers and main drainage is surely one of the oddest that can ever have been evolved."
The County Boroughs of Croydon and West Ham were created at the same time, with East Ham following much later, in 1915.

Then, in 1899, we got the formation within this interestingly devised County of London of the 28 metropolitan boroughs, and, a year later the transfer to Kent of Penge—and nothing since Penge. That is how we got what we got, and we still have it after more than sixty years—over sixty years—of massive, momentous change. We may well doubt whether it was a very adequate local government area or structure for the capital then. We could hardly expect it to be adequate now.

If the hon. Member can restrain his enthusiasm, I will come to that later.

Take population. Let me make it clear that in referring to Greater London I am speaking of the area referred to as the "review area" by the Royal Commission and in the White Paper and not in the sense of its being necessarily the final area. There is room for some adjustment here and there in the boundary and we are quite open to realistic suggestions on this. The population in the County of London when it was first formed was 4 million and in the rest of Greater London 1 million. Today, there are few more than three million in the county but 5 million in the rest of Greater London, so that there are 8 million in the capital, but fewer than half of those in the administrative County of London.

As for building; the original so-called Metropolis included large stretches of open country. So did the early County of London. Outside the county boundary the land was built up only in relatively few places. Today, the continuous built-up area extends over the whole of what is now described as Greater London. Social habits? I have no need to remind the House of what has happened—a vast increase in cars, an increase so great over an area so large and so fully populated that at times it is in danger of defeating itself. I do not need to spell it all out. London and its problems have grown in every way.

The Metropolis in the sense of the old bills of mortality area, in the sense of the County of London as first taken by the founding fathers of the L.C.C., is no longer a meaningful area in any real, modern sense. The only meaningful area now for the capital taken as a whole is Greater London. Local government functions have undergone an equally massive transformation in their range, complexity and scale. Yet we still have the same old structure still based on the old haphazard, outgrown areas.

That is why we determined five years ago—and that is why it is now five years more urgent that we should get to the next stage—to do what needed to be done to establish fresh areas, a fresh structure, related not to the conditions of the last century, but to the pressing need of today and, no less important, the probable needs of tomorrow.

I want to say just a word on the present structure. Greater London is now governed by a complex patchwork of more than 100 local authorities, quite apart from joint boards and other special bodies for particular services. There are nine major authorities, that is county councils and county borough councils, the City of London, 28 metropolitan boroughs, 40 municipal boroughs and 23 urban districts, exhibiting three distinct systems of government.

In those parts of Greater London outside the L.C.C. area, the powers, execpt in the three county boroughs, are divided between the county and the borough and district councils in the same way as in the counties of England and Wales generally. Inside the County of London, the powers are split differently. The L.C.C. holds far more of the strings of powers. The boroughs within its area, despite the considerable size of many of them, exercise fewer powers than almost any other kind of authority, however small, in the Greater London area.

It is worth describing the present powers of the metropolitan boroughs. They have no personal health and welfare services in their own right; no education functions; a limited, delegated power of planning control—and that acquired only in 1960; housing and highways powers shared with the L.C.C.; and even parks and open spaces powers shared with the L.C.C. What remains? There remain only libraries, local sewers—subject, in practice, to certain L.C.C. rights of control—refuse collection, street cleaning, baths, wash-houses, cemeteries and crematoria.

That is the list of present functions of the metropolitan boroughs. If the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown) is winding up for the Opposition, and can give a different and accurate list, the House will be glad to hear it.

Let us look beyond the Metropolitan boroughs, at the big municipal areas and urban districts which, although now forming part of Greater London, are controlled for their major services by county councils to whom Greater London is not of prime concern. It is not only that this haphazard and antiquated system of divided areas of responsibility is irrelevant to the needs and problems of modern local government services in modern urban circumstances, particularly in a great capital city; it is not only frustrating to the existing authorities; more than that—they cannot do their job effectively.

I mean no criticism of the existing councils, whether of counties, boroughs or urban districts. They and their officers have striven well, considering the difficulties within which they have had to work. We owe it to these men and women in local government—members and staff alike; those who serve now and those who follow them—to give them a better deal in terms of an intelligent and intelligible system, and so enable them the better to give a better deal to the people they serve, in terms of effective and convenient local government.

If we do not—if we defer and run away from action because in this field all action is difficult and troublesome and full of risks—we risk the end of real local government in the area, and reach a situation in which the central Government have to take an ever increasing part. The strains are there already. The Ilford and the Ealing Bills were but indications of the widespread friction and frustrations which everyone in this House who is acquainted with local government in the area knows only too well.

The Royal Commission's Report adds fresh warning, and the Commission was certainly not anxious to look for trouble where none existed. It said:
"Where things are working well our inclination is to leave them alone. We do not believe that London's problems can be solved merely by improving the machinery of government. Our inclination is to recommend changes only where they appear to be essential. In spite of these predilections the facts we have found to exist and the inferences we feel bound to draw from them drive us to the conclusion that, judged by the twin tests of administrative efficiency and the health of representative government, the present structure of local government in the Review Area is inadequate and needs overhaul."
This was a blunt diagnosis, by an independent panel of referees, and it confirms the views which have long been held by many who have studied this problem.

What of the remedy? The Commission based its approach on two main principles, which the Government fully accept. The first is that Greater London is, as a fact, one great city, with a recognisable civic unity and shape, and must, therefore, be treated as an entity for those local government purposes to which that fact is relevant. The second is that the existing boroughs and urban districts within Greater London should be regrouped to form units of such size and resources as are necessary to enable their councils to carry the full responsibility, within their areas, for all the other local government functions.

Let me quote the Royal Commission on the first of these principles. It says:
"We have formed the view, based partly on our own travels in the Review Area, partly on evidence brought before us, and partly on special studies, that there is an entity which is so closely knit, so interdependent, so deeply influenced by the central area and so largely built up, that it truly makes up the London of today."
It follows inescapably that, for the appropriate local government purposes, what is London should be treated as a single entity. In other works it should have a directly elected authority—for if it is an entity in itself it deserves its own electoral personality. And with executive powers. For if, in relation to the appropriate services, it is a single and complete area, there must be a single and complete responsibility.

The White Paper sets out the Greater London services. The House will recall them. There is the preparation of an overall development plan; the planning and construction of main roads; traffic control; overspill housing; the ambulance and fire services; and refuse disposal. I do not need to go over the reasons for this choice of services; the House will know them. Indeed, the choice almost dictates itself.

This means that the new boroughs will be the primary housing authorities. They will also have complete responsibility for personal and environmental health services, welfare and child care. I believe that it is a considerable advance to bring these related services into the same hands. Outside a central area, which I shall mention later, they will be the education authorities. They will also have important powers in connection with planning control, highways and other matters, though the extent of these will need in some cases to be considered further.

That is the way we propose to meet the need for accepting the unity of London as a whole, and, at the same time, for strengthening the boroughs for the administration of local services. There is much scope for discussion and adjustment of details—the precise delimitation of boundaries and the precise delineation of functions—but not, in the Government's view, of the main framework. This structure and this pattern—in the Government's view—flow logically and naturally from the two principles—indeed, the facts—established by the Commission, which I mentioned earlier. If we challenge the pattern we challenge these principles.

Let us look at the challenges. There is the challenge of inertia and fear. It underlines much of the criticism which the Commission's Report and the White Paper have aroused. I freely recognise that much of it is very natural and understandable. It is not surprising that local authorities who will lose their present entities are perturbed. The knowledge that any material proposals for reorganisation must inevitably have this effect has already delayed badly needed action in many parts of the country for years. But we cannot let that remain as a stumbling block for ever. Clearly, too, however great the need for the changes proposed I do not deny that there will be considerable practical difficulties whilst they are being put into effect. One would not wish to give rise to these difficulties if changes were not really necessary.

I come back to the Commission's own point. If things are working well, they should be left alone, but, if they are not, they should be changed. And the change should be a genuine one, based on the two principles—a unified London for some overall services, and stronger boroughs within it for the more local services. We shall turn our attention to some particular functions later today and tomorrow. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Education will deal tomorrow with education questions, and I shall say little on that subject today.

Much has been said of the difficulties, and I merely want to say that, difficult though the stage of transition will be, I hardly think that it will be claimed that local government is so poor in men and women of skill, devotion and farsightedness that they cannot surmount and survive these difficulties of change.

Then there are the difficulties created for Essex, Kent and Surrey, with the loss of large slices of rateable value and the severance of complex administrative and functional organisations. Of course, it will not be easy for the counties concerned, and we are willing to consider carefully any evidence which may be put forward of really exceptional difficulties, calling for exceptional solutions.

But let us remember that, on present figures, even if all the four counties of Essex, Kent, Surrey and Hertfordshire were reduced as the Royal Commission suggested they would all still be in the first ten counties of England as regards rateable value, and within the first fifteen from the point of view of population.

I will say a word now about the challenge embodied in the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris). At least, it is comprehensive. It stems from anxiety about the most important thing of all in this business of local government—the interests of the inhabitants. That is what we must cater for. Not the special interests of particular groups of people in the local government world who, naturally enough, speak with such enthusiasm, if not passion, for the bit of the system that they happen to have been working in that they are in danger of losing sight of the whole. Nor, indeed, of the people who want to tailor local government to fit what they conceive to be the overriding need of the one particular service in which they are interested.

There may be the individual place where some of the inhabitants feel that they will contribute more than they gain by being administered for overall services along with the rest of the capital city of which they form part. Where such a place, for example, is near the edge of the capital city, there may be a temptation to argue that they are not really part of the capital city at all. That can be argued on its merits, as a matter of fact, but if one is really part of the capital it is, at the very least, short-sighted to seek to evade a share of the responsibilities of its proper overall administration.

It is asserted by some, including the signatories to the Opposition Amendment, that the White Paper provides
"no adequate answer to the problems of planning and transport.,"
I would have thought that an overall planning authority for the capital as a whole, with day-to-day control of development within that plan resting with the new boroughs, was a marked advance on the present situation.

I know that some people want an executive regional planning body for many times the area of Greater London. It is an interesting idea, though not a new one, and I should be happy to discuss it in a debate on regional planning, but today we are not on one particular function; we are not on a theory of regionalism; we are discussing specific proposals for local government, that is, the whole local government system and its structure in Greater London.

I turn now to say a word about traffic and roads. Here again, we have proposed that main roads and traffic control should be substantially the responsibility of the Greater London authority. I wait to hear why this should be thought wrong, or whether, again, we should deem greater London to be a much bigger place than it seems on the face of it, to suit a theory for the administration of one or two particular local government functions.

Then again, I notice in the Opposition Amendment the words:
"… believing that wiser and more effective plans for Greater London government are available …"
I shall be interested to hear more about these wiser and more effective plans. I think that I am right in saying that apart from one scheme, to which I shall come in a moment, no sizeable body of opinion has put forward any constructive plan alternative to the Commission's and the Government's proposals since they came out.

An alternative plan, on which I should, in any event, like to comment, is that put forward by the four counties of Surrey, London, Middlesex and Essex. I note that the Kent County Council is not quite of the same view, and that the Hertfordshire County Council is not. It can be traced back to the oral evidence given to the Royal Commission by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black), in his then capacity as Chairman of the Surrey County Council. He referred at the time, in terms of approval, to the idea of a joint advisory planning committee—purely advisory. Even this suggestion was an advance on the position taken up in the written evidence by the county councils. Their line had been that almost nothing needed to be done to alter or improve existing arrangements in Greater London. To them, everything in the capital was capital.

The plan that they now put forward—stemming from that advisory committee idea of my hon. Friend—is something elaborated after the Royal Commission's Report was published. The county councils attached themselves in this plan to the two main propositions of the Commission's Report, that certain functions needed to be considered Greater London-wise, and that more functions should be given to the boroughs or districts within Greater London. It is fair to say that they did not go very far in specifying the extent to which boroughs and districts could get more powers. There was to be some conferment, some delegation, and perhaps some amalgamation, too.

Now for the things that needed doing for Greater London as a whole. There was no need, the counties said, to set up a single new directly elected authority in place of all the existing major authorities. Let us have, they argued, a joint planning board. And not just for Greater London—establish it for an area going beyond the green belt, possibly including the whole of Surrey and Hertfordshire, and parts of Bedfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.

The members would be appointed by the major authorities and by groups of boroughs and districts. They would concern themselves with planning, main roads and traffic, overspill, and refuse disposal. They would draw up, and periodically review, a master plan dealing with the broad issues—employment policy, land availability, population targets, location of industry, communications, green belts, and standards for such matters as open spaces. Their master plan would be approved by the Minister and have binding force, and the planning authorities within the area, while preparing their plans, would have to keep within it; and similarly with main roads, traffic control, and so on.

There is one outstanding characteristic of the plan. It leaves the existing major authorities as they are. There is no harm in that if what ought to be done can be done without harming them. But this plan does not deal with London; not with the built-up area which the Royal Commission regarded as London, or anything like it. It goes enormously wider. Of course, London's influence stretches much wider than its built-up area, but that does not mean that good London government is best served by basing it on that wider sphere of influence.

The Royal Commission, in dealing with this point, said:
"We accept the view that the problems of Greater London are inextricably concerned with the problems of south-east England as a whole, but it is a non sequitur to argue from that that no attempt should be made on the part of local government to organise planning, housing, transport and some other services within the Review Area as a whole. To do so would not solve all the problems of southeast England; but to treat the Review Area as one entity, so that its problems can be assessed and dealt with as a whole, would (we believe) be an important administrative step towards the arrangements which are necessary for dealing with south-east England."
Indeed, let us think of what would happen in practice if there were a joint planning board, as the county councils suggest, over an area of that size. It would necessarily deal in generalities. The detailed application of these generalities would have to be worked out, in their separate development plans, by the six county councils and the three county boroughs. They would all have an eye on the master plan, but they would all have different view points from which to peer, as it were, through the metropolitan fringe with one eye, with the other squinting back at their outer areas. In fact, the joint planning board idea starts by ignoring the basic fact that London is a single capital city, which for a number of important purposes must be treated as a separate entity.

A second major weakness in the scheme is that it adds another tier to an already complex structure, without giving it real power to solve the complex problems. The White Paper refers to the suggested board as "largely advisory" and the Government have been accused, by using this term, of misrepresenting what the county councils have proposed. Let me quote from the county council memorandum to my predecessor about this body:
"Though it should not be an executive body, it must be more than a mere consultative body. It must, indeed, be a planning and co-ordinating body."
It also stated:
"It should not be an executive body."
How can a board make any real impact on London's most urgent problems if it has no executive powers, no ability to carry out works and get things done? Take roads, for example. It could plan roads, but others must build them. "Ah", say the county councils, "the pressure and incentives which the Minister of Transport can use would see that the main road pattern was achieved …" In fact, they are saying, "Let us stay as we are at all costs, and if, as a result, we do not do the job properly, the Minister will keep us up to scratch". It is not reasonable local government.

Now a word about the boroughs in the proposals of the Government—

Whatever the position and whatever establishment may deal with planning for roads, at the end of it the Minister of Transport has the power of veto or approval. Surely the Minister is not saying that his right hon. Friend has not the power to veto or approve.

I am not saying anything of the sort. I am saying that a scheme which relies on action by the Minister of Transport in relation to a task which the body should itself do reveals an essential weakness.

The Minister has dealt exhaustively with the weaknesses of the proposals from the county councils. To enable hon. Members to make a fair comparison, will the right hon. Gentleman say something about the functions of the Greater London Council and how it would work?

Earlier in my speech I referred to the list of functions allocated to the Greater London Council. Since it was at that point that she intervened, I imagine that the hon. Lady is referring to the Greater London Council's part in planning. Taking the present position in Greater London before we examine the alternative, we find that there are nine development plans—from the six county councils and the three county boroughs. If we take the proposal of the White Paper, the Greater London Council will prepare a development plan and review it periodically.

I shall go on to deal with its associated functions, but the Council would be able, with the consent of the borough concerned or of the Minister, to carry out big schemes of comprehensive development. The boroughs would exercise powers of planning control which would be given to them by Statute and not just by delegation schemes. The main exception to this is that the Greater London Council and not the boroughs might well retain control over planning applications in Central London. That is one of the issues which is still being considered.

As I have said, the detailed application of the plan put forward by the four county councils would be an exceedingly difficult matter.

May I pass swiftly—I am trying not to detain the House too long—to the two departures from the recommendations of the Royal Commission as described in the White Paper. One relates to education. The House will recall that the Royal Commission recommended that education should be shared with the Greater London authority and that the boroughs should broadly have a population range of 100,000 to 250,000. As I have said, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education will deal with education more fully. I mention it now only because we propose that the boroughs should be the education authorities throughout all Greater London, save for a central area, and that they be rather larger and fewer than the Royal Commission suggested.

The case for larger boroughs rests not only on grounds of education. Bearing in mind the other services which they will be providing, the boroughs will be rather akin to county boroughs. Today, one normally expects a county borough to have a population of at least 100,000, although some of the most effective ones are much bigger. Within an area like London the bigger area would seem right. We think that a figure more like 200,000 is the minimum at which to aim. I await the final comments of the local authorities on the possible borough boundaries suggested in the circular from my Department which was issued just before Christmas. There will be discussions on the grouping, indeed group discussions.

I have proposed to local authorities that a small number of serving town clerks from outside the London area should conduct these discussions on my behalf. I am consulting the London authorities and their associations on the terms of reference. There is, of course, room for disagreement over these groupings. The big difficulty is that we cannot look at any one group in isolation. We have to consider the whole general pattern. But we should be quite willing to consider alternative groupings which are viable and desirable in themselves, and whose creation would not make insuperable problems for other groupings.

Do I understand that the Government are still willing to consider the possibility of education over the wider area, and not just the 2 million to which the Minister has referred?

The position is, setting aside the population and size, that for part of the area the boroughs will be the education authorities. For part of the area, the so-called central area, there will be an ad hoc education authority. In so far as we have put down a figure of 2 million, there is room for discussion about what is the right size for the population of that area. There is room for discussion about the method of its appointment. There is no room for discussion on the main principle that the boroughs, except in a central area, shall be the education authorities. In short, the size of the area and the population of the area are open to discussion, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education will be dealing fully with this problem.

May I put it this way? If there is an attempt to make out a case for the central authority being the education authority, the Minister would dismiss it before even hearing the arguments. I refer to the whole wider area.

I am not sure that I understand the hon. Gentleman. The boroughs are to be the education authorities, except in a central area, for which a size of population has been suggested, but on which no final decisions have yet been made. Does that answer the hon. Gentleman?