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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 654: debated on Tuesday 27 February 1962

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Science

Dsir (Research Stations)

1.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science how many research stations are run, or grant assisted, by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research; and which of these are in the northern region.

The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has 15 research stations, and also makes grants to 52 research associations, of which 47 have research stations. Of these last, the Parsons and Marine Engineering Turbine Research and Development Association (PAMETRADA), one of the larger research associations, is in the northern region, in Newcastle.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that research stations are as important as factories to the North-East, both as stimulants and as a means of employment for science graduates, many of whom have to leave the area in order to find work? Will he look into that aspect of the matter?

I will certainly look into this matter, but the hon. Member will agree that the siting of co-operative industrial research establishments and laboratories is a matter primarily for the industrial members of the research association, who pay far and away the majority of the subscriptions.

River Trent, Burton-On-Trent

4.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what conclusions the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research came to, and what advice was given by them, as a result of the experiments carried out at Wallingford on the large-scale model of the Burton-on-Trent reaches of the River Trent, and if he will send to the hon. Member for Burton a copy of the report made on this experiment.

I shall be happy to send a copy of this report to my hon. Friend. The conclusions reached are not capable of brief summary, since several alternative improvement schemes were considered.

In congratulating the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Trent River Board on undertaking and carrying out this experiment, may I ask my hon. Friend if he can tell me whether there is any valid reason at all why the citizens of Burton should not be told what is contained in this report?

This report was made by the Hydraulics Research Station for the Trent River Board and was submitted to it. However, I am sending a copy to my hon. Friend, and he can make such use of it as he thinks fit.

The investigation was carried out in order to discover the probable effect on the River Trent, and flood levels in and near Burton, of removing Drakelow Weir and of realigning the river channel there and of certain additional channel improvement schemes in Burton.

Boiling Water Reactor

5.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what plans he has for the building of an experimental boiling water reactor of a type suitable for installing in ships.

I am informed by the Atomic Energy Authority that it has no present plans for building an experimental boiling water reactor, but that an advanced design is under study.

Will not the result be to put us further and further behind the Americans, since the amount spent on research is so very little?

I do not think so. As my hon. Friend will recall, in the Adjournment debate which we had on this subject before Christmas, it was stated that the Atomic Energy Authority is investigating the possibilities of four major reactor systems. As for the boiling water reactor system, it is the Authority's opinion that the existing designs afford no economic incentive to proceed with the system. That is why it is making further design studies.

Traffic Signals (Constant Flow System)

6.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what progress has been made in the research into the Turner system for constant flow traffic signals; and what facilities have been provided for a pilot scheme for testing the system.

It is expected that a pilot scheme for this or a similar system will be tested later in the year on the Road Research Laboratory's research track at Crowthorne.

While I am glad to hear that reply, may I ask the Minister if he would agree that in built-up areas where traffic signals are in operation, the rate of progress is appallingly slow, and that this is becoming an increasingly serious problem, while being very exasperating to motorists? Would he agree that any system which can be devised whereby the rate of the traffic flow can be increased would be a valuable contribution to the traffic problem?

Yes, Sir. That is why the Road Research Laboratory is testing a pilot scheme later this year.

Sea Water (Distillation)

7.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what investigations have been, or are being, made into the distillation of sea water for industrial and domestic purposes in this country.

The distillation of sea water is an established industrial process, and British-made equipment is among the best in the world. Compared with normal sources of supply in Western Europe, however, distilled water is expensive, and any extensive use for industrial and domestic purposes in this country is unlikely, except in very special circumstances where it would be economic.

While it may well appear that enough rain—and, indeed, snow—falls in this country to satisfy all needs, is it not the case that lack of water is becoming a limiting factor in town and country planning; and that if we store surface water it means further damage to various parts of the open country which people much appreciate? In those conditions, although I appreciate the expense, as we have this industry in the country, would it not be worth, perhaps, spending some money in trying to bring down the cost of producing distilled water from the sea?

The first part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is, of course, a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government. As to the second part, a considerable amount of research is being undertaken by industrial companies, and the right hon. Gentleman will no doubt have seen an article on the subject in one of this morning's national newspapers.

Social Services (Research Council)

8.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science, in view of the Minister's statement at the Imperial College of Science and Technology about the excessive neglect of the human sciences in this country, what plans he has for the immediate establishment of a social sciences research council.

My noble Friend is arranging to consult the Government Departments and research councils concerned and the University Grants Committee about the views of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research on this subject, referred to in my reply to the hon. Lady's Question of 18th July, 1961, which my noble Friend has now received.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary for Science aware that at the moment there are many social scientists engaged in post-graudate research who are finding it very difficult to look ahead to see whether enough money will be forthcoming to continue the work? Is not that a very serious situation, and only to be remedied by the early appointment of a human research council which would make money available to those people?

I would not agree that the only way in which one could have a substantial increase in research on the social sciences would be by the establishment of a further research council. Indeed, the hon. Lady will be aware that the amount of money given by the D.S.I.R. in one section of that field has nearly doubled in the last two years.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware of the serious danger of research projects in this field falling between the responsibility of the various councils—the Medical Research Council and the D.S.I.R., for instance—where there may not be specific industrial or medical content? Will he look at this matter again, as it is quite serious?

I would agree that there is that danger, and it is with that in mind that my noble Friend is arranging to consult all the organs of Government concerned, in order to get their advice.

In particular, what is the hon. Gentleman's Department doing to replace the excellent work that was carried out by the Tory Research Association in Aberdeen, the administration of which was changed some years ago?

The answer is that the Tory Research Station is still in being, but does very little, if anything, in the way of social science research.

Scottish Industry (Research And Development Contracts)

10.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what steps he proposes to take to encourage greater participation by Scottish industry in research and development contracts.

The responsibility of my noble Friend is restricted to contracts for civil purposes. Successive annual reports of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research have invited proposals from industry, and widespread Press publicity was given to the first civil development contract let last year. The Scottish establishments of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research are anxious to entertain any proposals which Scottish industry may wish to put forward.

Has the Parliamentary Secretary considered the recommendations in the Toothill Report? In particular, has his Department given any consideration to the suggestion that powers should be given to the National Engineering Laboratory itself to place research and development contracts?

My noble Friend has asked the D.S.I.R. to let him have its views on the proposals in the Toothill Report. These he has not as yet received, but it is important to remember that a proposal for a development contract can come only from the individual firm that has the idea. So far, we have had only one tentative approach from a Scottish firm.

Are we to understand that the hon. Gentleman and his noble Friend are concerned only with the suggestions of industry about development; and that they never themselves make any suggestion for the development of a promising project?

Certainly not, but unless the project starts off in the stations of the D.S.I.R., the D.S.I.R. naturally has to wait for a request for help from the firm in whose laboratories the project has originated.

Is not the Parliamentary Secretary aware that his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House told us in November that the Government were giving consideration to the proposals of the Toothill Report? Has nothing yet happened?

Nuclear Tests

11.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science how many experts from his Department will be sent to study the experimental nuclear test explosions in Nevada and on Christmas Island.

About fifteen scientists and engineers from the Atomic Energy Authority will participate in the British test in Nevada. No decision has yet been taken about holding tests at Christmas Island.

Can the hon. Gentleman give us any idea of what the cost will be? Are any of these scientists to be mathematicians as well? Is he aware that we have been told that this will cost a considerable sum of money? Can he give the House an approximate idea of what the taxpayer will pay for this experiment?

Of course, these fifteen scientists and engineers are, in any case, employed by the Atomic Energy Authority. I should like notice of the hon. Gentleman's question about the cost of their transport.

I do not think that I could tell the hon. and learned Gentleman anything about the actual details of the test.

Underground Gas Storage (Winchester)

12.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what advice he received from the Geological Survey in connection with the projected storage of imported gas near and beneath the City of Winchester.

19.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what investigations he has conducted, in conjunction with the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Geological Survey, into the matter of water extrusion from rock of high porosity, and replacing the water with gas, for underground storage purposes, as projected under Winchester; whether he will publish all relevant data showing desirable safety measures; and whether he will make a statement on leakage, seepage, subsidence, and safety in relation to underground gas storage, in suitable form.

When the Geological Survey was first consulted by the Gas Council about this scheme, it advised that the Council should drill supplementary boreholes. This was done and, on the basis of the further results so obtained, the Geological Survey has now advised—in relation to the underground geological structure, which is the Survey's primary concern in this case, and with respect to a smaller storage area than that originally proposed—that there should be no gas leakage or surface subsidence if specified precautions are taken.

Can my hon. Friend say whether the smaller structure referred to is the Crabwood structure, and can he enlarge at all upon the precautions? Further, will he put a copy of the report in the Library?

With regard to the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, the advice that has been tendered to the Gas Council over this period is the property of the Gas Council to disclose as it thinks fit; it is purely advice tendered when asked for.

As to the size of the more limited storage area, I should not like to commit myself to naming a particular area. It is somewhat smaller than the original area proposed. The six precautions that were suggested were, first, that the storage area should be more limited; second, that measures should be taken to ensure that the limits of the storage area should be controlled; third, that the Gas Council should undertake further physical studies of the lower greensand; fourth, that the pressures proposed for the insertion of the gas should not be exceeded; fifth, that adequate observation wells round the storage area should be continuously observed, and, sixth, that some of the works originally proposed by the Gas Council should be resited.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are large volumes of subterranean water beneath Winchester—notably, beneath the Cathedral, and other historic buildings—which, for more than a year and until quite recently, occupied the attention of a diver? As the extrusion of water from the porous rooks and its replacement by gas would inevitably lead to subsidence, implying a direct threat to the Cathedral building itself, could he not publish all the information furnished by the Geological Survey data for the guidance of hon. Members such as myself who are seeking to oppose this infamous Measure?

It would not be within the field of geological research for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Geological Survey to conduct experiments on the extrusion of water from high porosity rocks and replacing the water by gas, but if the various precautions I have mentioned were implemented that would, in the opinion of the Geological Survey, be adequate to safeguard local groundwater supplies. The publication of any advice tendered by the Survey is a matter to be decided by the promoters of the Bill, to whom it was tendered.

Administration (Operational Research And Social Survey Methods)

13.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what discussions he has had with Ministers of other departments about the use of operational research and social survey methods as aids to administration.

So far as operational research is concerned I have taken a personal interest in the functioning of the Industrial Operations Unit of D.S.I.R. and am satisfied with existing arrangements for inter-departmental liaison. The unit has recently cooperated with the Ministry of Health, the Royal Mint, and the War Department. Social survey methods are mainly employed by the Social Survey Division of the Central Office of Information which is the responsibility of my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the large extent of the criticism which has been made of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport both on account of the possible quality and the cost of his London traffic survey? In view of the large amount of expertness which exists in Government Departments, which he has just mentioned, and among British universities, does he not think that it would be a good idea to set up a committee to advise Government Departments on the use of these surveys in future?

I could not accept that criticism of my right hon. Friend. The hon. Member will appreciate that the Social Survey which engages in this type of activity is the responsibility of the Treasury.

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that so long as we have a Ministry which is representing itself as being responsible for science, it clearly has a duty to see that scientific method is employed in every kind of Government work well, carefully and economically? Therefore, has he not a duty to render advice to the Minister of Transport?

My right hon. Friend and my noble Friend work closely together in all such matters and I could not accept the criticisms of my right hon. Friend.

Research Associations

14.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science which research associations he has visited since his appointment; and whether he will make a statement on the nature of their work and the policy of Her Majesty's Government towards them.

I have so far visited the twenty-four research associations named in the list which, with permission, I will circulate with the OFFICIAL REPORT. AS regards the nature of their work and the Government's policy towards them, I do not wish to anticipate the results of the review which, as my noble Friend announced on 15th November in another place, the Chairman of the D.S.I.R. Council has been asked to undertake.

While congratulating my hon. Friend on the immense vigour and enthusiasm which he has brought to bear upon this matter—

may I ask him whether he is doing all he can to assist research organisations to get the industries concerned to adopt some of their latest developments, which, if put into operation, could possibly save many millions of pounds?

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend that if the results of the research associations were adopted more fully by British industry, costs in industry could be substantially reduced. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks.

Following is the information:

  • British Baking Industries Research Association
  • British Boot. Shoe and Allied Trades Research Association.
  • British Electrical and Allied Industries Research Association.
  • Files Research Council.
  • Research Association of British Flour Millers
  • British Food Manufacturing Industries Research Association.
  • Furniture Industry Research Association.
  • British Gelatine and Glue Research Association.
  • Heating and Ventilating Research Association.
  • Hosiery and Allied Trades Research Association.
  • British Iron and Steel Research Association.
  • British Jute Trade Research Association.
  • Lace Research Association.
  • British Launderers' Research Association.
  • British Leather Manufacturers' Research Association.
  • Linen Industry Research Association.
  • British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association.
  • Research Association of British Paint, Colour and Varnish Manufacturers.
  • Printing, Packaging and Allied Trades Research Association.
  • Production Engineering Research Association of Great Britain.
  • British Scientific Instrument Research Association.
  • Spring Manufacturers' Research Association.
  • British Steel Castings Research Association.
  • Wool Industries Research Association.

25.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science how many research projects in research associations are at present being sponsored by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research; and what is their cost.

Does my hon. Friend consider that enough is spent in this way? What are his proposals for the future?

I very much hope that we shall be able to increase the number of such sponsored projects, but D.S.I.R.'s main contribution to research associations is in the form of the grants it makes to supplement industrial incomes. I think that the Answer I originally gave could be misleading, because the research associations carry out a large number of research and development projects for other Departments of the Government.

European Space Research Organisation

15

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science whether he will make a statement on the progress made by Her Majesty's Government's representatives at the meetings during February of the Preparatory Commission of the European Space Research Organisation.

I am happy to state that, at its meeting in Paris last week, the Preparatory Commission reached agreement on the proposals which will now be drafted in final form for submission to the member Governments. These proposals will be considered at an inter-governmental meeting in about two months' time.

While welcoming the progress which has been made, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he can assure us that the proportion of the finance which the United Kingdom has to bear will be fair and that that proportion will not result in any reduction of the amount of grant allowed to D.S.I.R. for its purposes in this country?

As I understand the proposals which the Preparatory Commission is likely to submit to member Governments, the United Kingdom's contribution would appear to be generally in line with that which we contribute to similar organisations. I do not think that this country joining E.S.R.O. would have any effect on the amount of money which D.S.I.R. has for its own activities.

I cannot announce a firm figure until the proposals are received from the Preparatory Commission.

The Question refers to a

"statement on the progress made by Her Majesty's Government's representatives at the meetings during February of the Preparatory Commission of the European Space Research Organisation."
Is Her Majesty's Astronomer Royal a member of that delegation? He said on a famous occasion—and it has never been denied—that he regarded space research as "all bunk"—and I happen to agree with him. Is he a member of the team?

It would be rather hard to envisage such a situation, if the Astronomer Royal has the views ascribed to him by the hon. Member, as space research is a matter upon which there is some controversy.

As Parliamentary Secretary for Science, can the hon. Member suggest to his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) that the only means of locomotion by which he might restore himself to favour with his party is crawling on his hands and knees?

Physicists (Emigration)

16.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will state the numbers of senior physicists of British origin who have left the United Kingdom to take up senior appointments in the United States of America during the last ten years.

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Dartford (Mr. Sydney Irving) on 18th July and to the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) on 5th December, 1961.

Is the hon. Gentleman quite satisfied that we are not losing too many senior physicists to the United States of America? What is his Department doing to make certain that these important persons are encouraged to stay in this country?

There are two distinct though related problems here. First, there is a problem of why people go to America either for a post-graduate degree or after getting a post-graduate degree, and whether that is a good thing. I am certain that they should not be stopped because they get a wider experience. The second question is whether they come back here to give us the fruits of their enlarged experience. To this end the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Atomic Energy Authority are now running a joint programme of interviews in Canada and America and are offering research fellowships to such as are willing to return.

Is the hon. Gentleman taking any steps to find out what is happening in this matter, which may be rather important?

Yes. I hope that the Social Survey of the Central Office of Information, which is now taking a series of sample interviews at airports asking people why they are going abroad, will produce some more definite information about the motives which lead to emigration.

Space Research

17.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will state the number of scientific staff engaged in space research in this country in 1960 and 1961, and the numbers at the latest convenient date.

The following figures relate to the programme of scientific space research for which my noble friend is responsible. Staff with university degrees or equivalent professional qualifications employed at universities and supported by grants made under the space research programme numbered 17 in the early part of 1960, 27 in January, 1961, and 25 in January, 1962. These were in all cases supervised, and in many cases assisted, by staff supported from university funds, but the numbers involved are not readily available. Similarly qualified staff in Government Departments engaged on similar experiments or supporting work, on other experiments to be conducted in rockets or satellites, or on the observation and tracking of satellites numbered, on the same dates, 20, 32 and 40. Some equipment for these experiments has been produced in industry, but information is not available as to the number of scientifically qualified staff concerned.

I am grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for such a long reply. Is he quite satisfied that the Government are taking sufficient interest in space research? Is he sure that if this country joined the Common Market it would be able to make a useful contribution to the E.S.R.O. in the Common Market area?

I am perfectly certain that if this country signs the E.S.R.O. Convention, which I hope it will be possible for us to do, we shall make a worthy contribution to that organisation, which would be completely independent of whether or not we joined the Common Market.

Diesel-Powered Road Vehicles (Fumes)

18.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what progress has now been made by his department and the Department of Scientific and industrial Research in developing means of decolorising and decontaminating noxious dark fumes emitted from the exhausts of diesel oil-powered road vehicles; and whether he will make a statement.

The Warren Spring Laboratory of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has not found any suitable means of removing smoke from the exhausts of diesel-powered vehicles, but it will examine any device for this purpose that comes to its notice. The real remedy lies in correct maintenance and operation of engines.

Have not hon. Members in all parts of the House continuously expressed apprehension in recent years about the growing gravity of the emission of asphyxiating fumes from diesel oil-powered road vehicles? As D.S.I.R. and other agencies have apparently applied themselves to this problem entirely without success for the last few years, whereas foreign countries are making progress, cannot my hon. Friend say what further steps his Ministry has in mind?

I hope that my hon. Friend will write and tell me about the progress he asserts is being made in foreign countries. I draw his attention to the Regulations recently made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport about the use of the excess fuel device, which should have an effect in reducing the emission of dark diesel smoke, especially on hills.

The House readily appreciates the technical difficulties involved in finding a solution to this problem. Does the Parliamentary Secretary appreciate that powers are given under the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations to impose penalties on people who cause dark fumes to be emitted from vehicles? Will he consult his right hon. Friend with a view to ensuring that the powers already given by Parliament to abate this nuisance are enforced more readily than they are at present?

National Reference Library Of Science And Invention

20.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science whether he has reconsidered the plans for the National Reference Library of Science and Invention.

The Departments concerned are now well advanced with the consideration of plans for the Library and my noble Friend is taking a close interest in the matter.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that there is very great anxiety that already the scale of the plans for the Library and also for the Patent Office itself are quite inadequate in view of the growing need? Will he have the matter examined again very seriously?

About a year ago we had an Adjournment debate on this subject. I do not think I can add anything very constructive to what was said in that debate.

Dsir (Economic Section)

21.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what are the plans of the Economic Section of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research for its future programme.

The future programme of the Economics Section in the headquarters office of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is currently under discussion.

The reports which the Economic Section has already published have, although they are very controversial, been on balance extremely valuable. Will my hon. Friend urge that this good work should be continued?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks about the work of the Economic Section, which I think is of a very high standard. We certainly want the work of the Section to go on and expand.

Will the hon. Gentleman take an early opportunity to make a statement when this consideration is completed?

Students, Scotland (Science Honours Degrees)

22.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science how many students graduated with science honours degrees in Scotland in the last academic year; how many have subsequently obtained employment in Scotland; and how many have emigrated.

I am informed that 374 students graduated in Scotland with honours degrees in pure science and 105 with honours degrees in technology in the year 1959–60. Figures for the year 1960–61 are not available, nor are figures for subsequent employment in Scotland. On emigration, I would refer the hon. Member to an Answer today to the hon. Member for Dearne Valley (Mr. Wain-wright).

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a good deal of concern in Scotland about the proportion of graduate honours degree scientists, particularly those who are born in Scotland, who subsequently leave? The proportion is about 60 per cent. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we are naturally very gravely concerned about this? Can he give the House much more detail about this problem so that we may the better tackle its solution?

Detailed figures are available from private sources in Glasgow, but collecting figures for subsequent employment of science and technology graduates would be a question for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour.

Minister's Office (Staff)

23.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science whether it is now proposed to include in the staff of his Office any scientific officer above the grade of a prinicpal scientific officer; and whether he is satisfied that sufficient scientific knowledge is available in his office to enable a proper evaluation to be made of the advice received from the councils for which his Office is responsible.

It is the function of the various Research Councils, the Atomic Energy Authority, the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy and other advisory bodies, to give properly evaluated scientific advice, and they are equipped to do so.

Are we to understand that the hon. Gentleman's Office has no responsibility whatever for weighing up advice or acting on it? If it has, is it in a position to do it with no scientific officer above the comparatively junior grade, with all respect to them, of principal scientific officer?

No. I do not think that it is the function of my noble Friend's Office to evaluate scientific advice scientifically. Its function is to assist in the consideration of the advice by the Government and the implementation of it where this affects the interests of other Government Departments or has international or political aspects for which my noble Friend is responsible.

In such cases my noble Friend has to seek the particular sources of information appropriate to the occasion and test them the one against the other. In certain suitable circumstances he has not hesitated to do so.

Will the Parliamentary Secretary explain what his last answer means if it does not mean evaluation?

It does not mean evaluating scientifically, because if we had an Office of the Minister for Science which was entirely composed of high-grade scientists it would either completely duplicate the advice given by the scientific advisers or alternatively would be of no value.

Manufacturing Industry (Research)

24.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science whether he has read the report of the Federation of British Industries on Industrial Research in Manufacturing Industry, a copy of which has been sent to him; and what action he is taking in the matter.

Yes, Sir. I have read this report with interest, and it is being further studied both in my Office and by D.S.I.R. My noble Friend welcomes the interest shown by the Federation of British Industries in industrial research in manufacturing industry, and he joined in the discussion of the report at a recent meeting of the National Production Advisory Council for Industry.

Has my hon. Friend noted that much of this research is carried out in certain specific industries and by larger firms? Does he consider that the balance is correct? If not, what does he intend to do to change it?

I noticed with particular interest the sections of the report dealing with the relatively few small firms which belong to even one research association. The research associations are at present doing their best, some of them with special assistance grants from D.S.I.R., to increase the number of their members and improve liaison between the laboratory and the existing members.

Scientific And Research Stations (Aberdeen)

26.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science if he will make a detailed statement of the changes in the administration and work of the scientific and research stations in Aberdeen under his authority during the last twelve months, and of the further changes which he has in view; and, having regard to the success which has attended those stations until now, why he proposes to make these changes.

The only research station in Aberdeen directly financed by any of the Research Councils, for which my noble Friend is responsible, is the Torry Research Station of the D.S.I.R. In addition, the Medical Research Council supports an Obstetric Medicine Research Unit at the University of Aberdeen Medical School. In the case of the Rowett Research Institute and the Macaulay Institute of Soil Research, the Agricultural Research Council advises on the research programmes and on scientific staffs and facilities, though the finance is provided by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland. I am not aware of any changes in the last twelve months, nor of any specific changes in view, in the administration and work of these establishments, other than those which occur with the normal development of their scientific programmes.

Has not the hon. Gentleman's Department within the last two years taken steps to diminish and divert some of the very useful work which has been undertaken by the Torry Research Station? Is not that a step in the wrong direction? Will he reverse it and assist the research stations to increase their usefulness, their constructive work, and their staff?

The work of nearly all the stations of D.S.I.R. is increasing annually. I am not aware of any diminution in the effort of the Torry Research Station, although from time to time it may be necessary to alter the volume of work between one station and another, for example, between Torry and the subsidiary fish laboratory at Hull.

Noise

27.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what research is being conducted into noise and its modification, with particular reference to the noise from jet aeroplanes; what progress is being made in such research; and whether he will make a report available.

28.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Science what research is being carried out in connection with noise, and in particular with noise from jet aircraft.

In establishments for which my noble Friend is responsible, research is going on at the National Physical Laboratory, on noise in industry from motor vehicles and from aircraft including jet aircraft; at the Building Research Station, on noise in buildings, and at the National Engineering Laboratory, on noise from machines. Extensive experiments have been made on a subjective assessment of motor vehicle and aircraft noise and surveys on noise in communities and in industry are in progress. The Committee on the Problem of Noise, under the Chairmanship of Sir Alan Wilson, appointed by my noble Friend, will report in due course.

In view of increasing public awareness of the part played by noise in adding to the stresses and strains of life, and the need to treat this as a major problem, is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied with the progress which is being made, and will he undertake that his Ministry will report to the House from time to time on the progress being made?

We are never satisfied that sufficient progress is ever made in any field. We are merely spurred on to new efforts. The Wilson Committee has been set up specifically to review the whole matter and to make specific suggestions and I hope that we shall have its Report before the end of the year.

Does my hon. Friend know of any scientific law which indicates that the length of a supplementary reply by a Minister should be in inverse ratio to his height?

Order. I do not think that that arises from noise and its modification.

Ought not there to be a little more co-ordination in this matter? I see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation spent the night of Wednesday, 8th November, in the general manager's flat on the second floor of the Queen's Building at London Airport to study noise. Ought not the Parliamentary Secretary to go there, too, quite soon?

I should have thought that one night by one member of the Government was sufficient in one year.

Annual Reports

29.

asked the Parliamentary Secretary for Sicence, in view of the lack of public information about the activities of his Department as distinct from those of the advisory and other councils for which his Department is responsible, if he will publish a report of his Department's activities since its inauguration; and if he will give an assurance that similar reports will be published annually in future.

In view of the numerous annual and other reports by the bodies for which he is responsible, including the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, my noble Friend does not consider that a separate annual report covering the activities of his Office would at present be justified, but this and other methods of making its activities known will be kept under consideration.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that, judging by his Answers, all he appears to do is to act on advice from somebody or another, and indeed often not to act? No one knows what his Office is doing. Is it not advisable that it should enlighten the public by producing a report showing that it is not merely a post office or the recipient of advice from councils and other Government Departments?

No, Sir. I think that the general impression in the scientific world and in industry is that our Office is having a steadily increasing effect.

Local Government

Coastal Foreshore

30.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what is the extent of coastal foreshore still in private hands; and whether he will now take such property into public ownership for the benefit of the community as a whole.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government
(Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)

The extent of the coastal foreshore in private hands is unknown. My right hon. Friend sees no need for nationalisation. The public already has access to much of the foreshore, and local planning authorities have powers to secure public access for open-air recreation.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the nature of that reply, its content, and brevity, will come as no surprise? Is he further aware that there are still many stretches of coastal foreshore which are privately owned, and from which the public are excluded? Is he also aware that at this moment there is an 850-acre strip of some of the finest coastal scenery in this country which the National Trust is trying to buy? Does he not think that in 1962 it is an anachronism that coastal foreshore should be privately owned?

My reply was, I hope, brief but clear. Local planning authorities have adequate powers to deal with these matters.

Would not the Joint Parliamentary Secretary consider it desirable to give limited powers to local authorities to acquire stretches of coastal foreshore in some instances where they might add to local amenities?

Is it not a matter of public concern not only that so much of the foreshore is not available to the public, but that half of that which is is in such a filthy and polluted condition as to be a scandal? What is the Minister doing about it?

Scotland (Development Of Industry)

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister if he will appoint to the Scottish Office a Minister whose sole responsibility will be the development of industry with a view to securing full employment for the people of Scotland.

No, Sir. In 1954 the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs recommended against a division of the responsibilities at present exercised throughout Great Britain by the President of the Board of Trade. The hon. Member will have noticed that the recent Toothill Committee reached the same conclusion.

Does not the Prime Minister agree that to some extent, because of the Departmental responsibilities of Scottish Ministers for other basic services in that part of the country, employment is not receiving the attention it warrants? Is not this instanced by the fact that Scotland, with 10 per cent. of the general population of the United Kingdom, has 20 per cent. of the unemployment? Will not the Prime Minister agree that this project is worthy of some further consideration?

No, Sir. We are discussing now the organisation of Departments, and I feel that the Royal Commission and the recent Toothill Report having reached the conclusion not to try to divide the responsibilities of the Board of Trade, it would be very unwise if the Government were to take a different view.

Will my right hon. Friend please point out that there are now no fewer than seven able-bodied full-time Ministers in charge of 5 million people in Scotland, which is four more than are at present considered necessary to look after the whole of the rest of the Colonial Empire put together?

No 10, Downing Street

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister what communications he has received regarding the televising of the interior of No. 10, Downing Street, on the completion of its repair.

None, Sir. But I will consider in what way the public interest in this historic house can best be met.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that no one, probably not even the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite, would object to the expense of this tremendous undertaking? Right hon. Gentlemen opposite probably have hopes of getting there some day. Is not my right hon. Friend aware that in these days of consumer protection taxpayers are anxious to know whether their money is being spent in the best way? Lastly, does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be a fine thing for people to go to No. 10, and perhaps my right hon. Friend could act as guide?

I have been considering various suggestions, and I will certainly try to work out something before the house is reoccupied. There are difficulties, of course, which are obvious, about having it on view for any length of time. I think that television would be the best possible method, but I will consider that nearer the time.

Can the Prime Minister say when the repairs are likely to be completed?

I think that fresh difficulties have been found with the foundations, not so much with No. 10, but with the whole block, which, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, suffered severely from the bombing.

Exports

Q3.

No, Sir. The President of the Board of Trade has primary responsibility for the promotion of exports, and he is assisted by a Minister of State who gives special attention to this and to the problems of overseas trade generally.

But would not the Prime Minister agree that the failure of exports to rise adequately is the greatest of the Government's many failings in the economic field? Would not he at least have an immediate official inquiry into our export arrangements, and will he remember that the last time this matter was inquired into was at the time of the MacMillan Committee in 1930?

Yes, Sir; but these were inquiries into various methods of helping exports, and we have done, and are doing a great deal. This is a question of the organisation of Government, and I repeat that I do not think that the proposal is a valuable one.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the appointment of another Minister will not help to sell British goods abroad if they are too dear and the quality is not good enough, and that he has to get it over to the nation that we have to keep our quality up and prices down to increase exports?

The economic side is one aspect, and then there is the promotion side. On the latter, which I think the hon. Gentleman chiefly has in mind, I think that the present organisation is working well.

Mr Khrushchev (Letters)

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement on Mr. Khrushchev's reply to the British and United States letters of 14th February.

Q10.

asked the Prime Minister what reply he has now received to his letter to Mr. Khrushchev of 14th February.

Hon. Members will now have seen Mr. Khrushchev's message of 21st February and my reply of 26th February. I have at present nothing to add to the latter.

May I ask the Prime Minister whether we are to take it that, in his view, a Foreign Ministers' meeting is essential to the holding of any Summit Conference? Is it also his view that at any possible Summit Conference the numbers should be restricted to much fewer than eighteen—the number of Governments represented at the Disarmament Conference?

I do not really want to add or to detract from the letter which I wrote very carefully. What I said there was that two situations might arise, in my view, in which I thought that the presence of Heads of Governments might be fruitful. The first would be if the Conference were making satisfactory and definite progress and we could make a further effort to consolidate the progress made, and get on further. The second would be if there were certain major and clear points of disagreement which had emerged and made a kind of deadlock which Heads of Governments might help to solve. I think that this approach would be more practical than all the eighteen Heads of Governments arriving at the beginning of the Conference. I would rather that first it got under way.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether in these exchanges with Mr. Khrushchev he expressed his own appreciation of what is technically desirable, or merely acquiesced in a view put forward by the United States?

If it is necessary for me to answer that question, I would say that I consult the President, as is proper, and I make a reply based on my own judgment of what is the duty of Her Majesty's Government.

I recognise the obvious objections to the proposed eighteen-Power Heads of State meetings. Would the Prime Minister bear in mind the possibility of proposing a smaller meeting, perhaps between three, or even four or five. Heads of States so that the ice might be broken before the disarmament talks begin?

That is another question, but I have made this reply which I hope that the House will feel was both clear and courteous and intended to be in a spirit not of argumentation and propaganda but of trying to arrive at a practical result. I shall now await the further reply which I hope that we may get from the Chairman of the Soviet Republic.

Shipping And Shipbuilding

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if he will constitute a Ministry responsible for shipping and shipbuilding.

No, Sir. The Minister of Transport is already responsible for shipping and shipbuilding.

I thought that the third attempt might have been a little more lucky. Is it not the case that the Prime Minister recognised the serious state of this industry on the eve of the last election and made a certain promise? Is he aware that now we are approaching the eve of the next election and that nothing has yet materialised? Is he further aware that in the Clydeside yards the fall in shipping tonnage at the end of this year will be 100,000 gross tons unless the situation improves? On reflection, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that it would be better to put these two industries under the control of one senior Minister rather than leave them in the hands of a Minister who already has sufficient to do in connection with roads and railways?

I have, of course, considered this matter. These industries originally were under the supervision of the Admiralty. If seemed to me more practical to have them under a Minister who would then be in charge of transport, and supervise transport by sea, by road and by rail. I have since arranged for an additional Parliamentary Secretary to be appointed to deal specially with shipping and shipbuilding. Again, this is a matter of organisation and I think, subject to some change of view, that this is the best organisation.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that this Question and Questions Nos. 1 and 3 reveal the almost pathetic confidence of hon. Members opposite in Her Majesty's Ministers? Does not he think that these Questions from back bench Members opposite reveal a lack of confidence in the members of their own Front Bench?

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an individual who represents an industry that is over-subsidised to make a statement of that nature?

Civil Defence

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the Government's decision, stated in paragraph 50 of the Defence White Paper, to embark upon a scheme of dispersal of mothers and children and other people in priority classes from major centres in the event of nuclear war, he will now consider appointing a Minister of Civil Defence.

Does not the Prime Minister agree that the dispersal of large sections of the population to heaven knows what safe places in this country is such a gigantic operation that no Minister in the present Government could undertake it? Is not it time that we had a Minister to protect the civil population against the "suicide club" known as the present Cabinet?

This, again, is a matter of a suggested change of organisation. I think, in making the plans which have to be made, that it is better to use the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs in England and Wales, who is in touch in the ordinary way in his Department with local authorities who have to participate in any such plans, and the Secretary of State for Scotland who is in touch with local authorities day-by-day. This is a suggested change in that organisation by taking the matter out of the hands of those Ministers and putting it into the hands of another Minister. From my experience, such as it is, I do not think that that would make the work easier. I think that it would make the work more difficult.

Nuclear Tests

Q7.

asked the Prime Minister what reply he has sent to the petition presented to him by Daphne H. English and others on behalf of 42,000 women signatories seeking, among other things, that urgent steps be taken to stop the testing of nuclear weapons in order to ease the international situation.

Q11.

asked the Prime Minister whether he has today received a petition signed by 42,000 women in favour of multilateral nuclear and conventional disarmament under international inspection and control; and what reply he is making.

Q13.

asked the Prime Miinster what reply he is sending to the petition signed by more than 42,000 women which has been presented to him asking him to take urgent steps to secure agreement on stopping nuclear weapon tests.

I received the petition to which these Questions refer yesterday. I am considering my reply.

When considering that reply, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this petition comes from a number of people who do not belong to any organised group? Does he realise that it represents a view, held by a growing number of people in this country and also in America, that the testing of nuclear weapons is more likely to lead to war than to peace?

I am studying the terms of this petition. I think that it would be courteous for me to study them carefully before writing a reply. My first reaction, from a rather cursory reading of it, was that its purpose was very much in line with Government policy and the recent initiative which President Kennedy and I had taken about disarmament, and was really saying something very much on the lines of the statement which I made myself in the House of Commons and which commanded certain support from both sides of the House.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this petition, like a similar one in my constituency, which has already collected 5,000 signatures without the backing of any organisation or publicity, expresses the moral revulsion of women against nuclear tests, and a growing demand for a reconsideration of policies based on prestige and pride? Can the Prime Minister say what reappraisal he is making of British nuclear tests and other aspects of defence and foreign policy?

I have replied that I will study this petition, and I will do my best to make a reply to it. I added that, from a cursory reading, it appears to have elements in it which were not taking the most extreme view, but trying to marry the point of view of those of us who feel that we must maintain our defences but who are passionately anxious to find some way out of what President Kennedy and I called this sterile contest.

May we take it that one of the elements in the petition of which the Prime Minister approves is the ending of the present proposed British nuclear tests?

I do not think I should like to take the matter into further detail. I shall read carefully the precise formulation of this petition and shall do my best to send a courteous and. I hope, a constructive reply.

Will the Prime Minister note that many of us on this side of the House regard this remarkable petition as a spontaneous and massive support for multilateral disarmament?

I think that what I have said about it recognises the degree of common purpose that many of us have, and I think it is very much the same as what was expressed, as I saw in the Press yesterday, by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. He has latterly realised how deeply the President and I feel in this dilemma about the absolute need to maintain ourselves against being caught at a disadvantage and yet the tremendous longing of the world to find some way out of the terrible problem with which we are all confronted.

Would not the Prime Minister consider it worth while being a little more precise on this matter? Would he not be prepared to say that, even at this late hour, after the Russian tests have taken place and after the various unfortunate refusals of the Soviet Government to accept what the West regards as adequate controls, nevertheless if we could now get a firm, cast-iron agreement to have no more tests of any kind he, the Prime Minister, would urge the American Government to accept it?

That is a little different from what I observed in the newspaper that the right hon. Gentleman had said. We spent three years trying to get this, and I shall go on trying as long as there is any hope of getting it.

Is the Prime Minister aware that, on the contrary, that is exactly what I said to the Press yesterday, that it was indeed my belief that if at this moment a firm agreement could be negotiated that there would be no more tests on either side, despite the fact that the Russians have made these tests the Americans would nevertheless be prepared to make such an agreement? What I am asking the Prime Minister to do is to give as his opinion that that is the right course to pursue.

Of course, if an agreement can be negotiated and we all accept that there will be no more tests, certainly as far as we are concerned there will not be any more tests.