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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 655: debated on Monday 5 March 1962

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Ministry Of Aviation

Research And Development Contracts


asked the Minister of Aviation what was the value of research and development contracts placed by him during the past 12 months, or any ascertainable period; and how many of these were placed with firms in the north region.

The value of research and development contracts placed by the Ministry of Aviation during 1961 was approximately £125 million; my Department's records are not kept so as to show the number of contracts placed in particular regions.

Why was so little of the work placed with the North-East firms, especially when they are so efficient and could, perhaps, do the job more cheaply? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this type of contract could overcome the unemployment position in the North-East much better than anything else?

The hon. Member's Question referred to the Northern Region. I am aware that the electronics industry in that region is mainly concentrated in the north-eastern part of it, but it is only a small proportion of the electronics industry in the country. Since our practice is to allocate contracts by judgment of technical competence and financial consideration rather than by geographical location, it is inevitable that only a small proportion of the contracts will go there.

Aircraft (Exports)


asked the Minister of Aviation what was the total number of aircraft, and of what kind, booked for export in 1961; and how these figures compare with 1960 and 1959, respectively.

As the Answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

While I am awaiting that information, can the hon. Gentleman read my mind a little: are our exports going up or are they falling?

I am glad to say that in 1961 they were up by value on 1960, and civil aircraft were up by both numbers and by value.

Following is the Answer:

£ million

Factories, Stevenage And Luton


asked the Minister of Aviation what Government contracts he proposes to allot to the factories of the English Electric Corporation at Stevenage and Luton, in order to avoid redundancy there.

I do not allot work to particular factories. I am, however, discussing future possibilities with the British Aircraft Corporation to assist it in its forward planning.

Is the Minister aware that the factory at Stevenage is a Government factory, and it would appear that the conditions under which the I.D.C. was granted was for work for aircraft purposes only? A large percentage of the engineering personnel at Stevenage is employed by one or two aircraft factories, and if the development staff are to become redundant things will look pretty sickly for the manual staffs in a few months' time. Will the right hon. Gentleman look at the matter again from that angle?

It cannot be part of Government policy to preserve an exact level of design staff, but I am aware of the problems there and I am discussing them with the British Aircraft Corporation.

Helicopter Station, London


asked the Minister of Aviation what was the outcome of the deputation to him on 2nd March from London local authorities about heliport sites.

The hon. Member may have seen the agreed communiqué issued after the meeting, which I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that within half a mile or 880 yards of this site live 14,000 to 15,000 residents of Lambeth, Battersea, Chelsea and Westminster, and that the noise and congestion will be even worse if Covent Garden Market moves to this site, unless he will guarantee silent helicopters?

I do not answer for Covent Garden Market. I answer only for helicopters, and I see no prospect of a silent helicopter. If there is to be a heliport in London and the local authorities have no objection in principle to it, inevitably some people are going to live somewhere near the heliport.

Is it not the case that Westlands already has a helicopter station in Battersea, and can the right hon. Gentleman say how many complaints there have been about it in Brixton?

I have not heard of a great number of complaints about the landing of helicopters in Battersea. I am well aware of the noise problem. I keep it very much in mind, and I hope to proceed in full consultation with the local authorities concerned.

Following is the communiqué:

London County Council and Metropolitan Boroughs' Standing Joint Committee Deputation sees Minister of Aviation on Heliports.

A deputation representing the London County Council and Metropolitan Boroughs' Standing Joint Committee met the Minister of Aviation, Mr. Peter Thorneycroft, this morning to discuss their comments on the Report of the Committee on the Planning of Helicopter Stations in the London Area. It will be recalled that, out of the nine sites which they examined, the Helicopter Committee short-listed three possible ones, these being at Nine Elms, Cannon Street Station and St. Katharine Dock.
The deputation represented to the Minister that there was no objection in principle to the establishment in due course of a helicopter station in central London, provided that the noise caused would be kept down to tolerable levels. Unless this could be done the local authorities must strongly oppose the establishment of any helicopter station. The Minister explained that there was no suggestion of setting up a helicopter station for city-to-city travel in the near future, but it was unthinkable that London should be unable to provide such a terminal if such services developed generally in Europe.
The immediate problem was therefore to arrange to safeguard a suitable site by preventing any development incompatible with its use for helicopters. Before such a use was established there would be a full public enquiry when all the circumstances, as then existing, including the question of noise, would be fully ventilated and considered. The representatives of the local authorities emphasised the grave difficulties they would face if no more direct assurance against the effects of noise nuisance could be given.
The Minister indicated that he would now write to the local authorities to the effect that he would no longer wish to ask for the Cannon Street or St. Katharine Dock sites to be held for possible use as heliports as long as consideration be given to safeguarding the Nine Elms site for possible future use for a helicopter station.
It was agreed that the Minister, for his part, and the local authorities, for their part, would further consider the problem in the light of the discussion and consult again.
On the question of a monorail or other direct connection with Heathrow the Minister said that he did not regard this as an alternative to the Heliport but that any method of speeding up travel to Heathrow would obviously be valuable and the Government would co-operate with the planning authorities on the study of this as necessary.

Aircraft Industry


asked the Minister of Aviation what improvements he intends to make in the present system of planning national aviation objectives to enable the British aircraft industry to design, develop and produce on a substantially more long-term basis than at present.

All planning is on a long-term basis, and not least in the aircraft industry. Its principal objectives are to meet defence requirements and to sell aircraft, engines and equipment, particularly overseas. I am discussing with the industry ways in which planning methods, industrial as well as Governmental, might be improved.

I am glad to hear that the Minister is giving this matter some attention. Is he not aware that the United States Government, through the Operation Horizon report, and the French Government, through the Commissariat des Plans, have given a lot of useful and long-term guidance to their aircraft industries? Would it not be helpful if the Government adopted the same policy?

Guidance is very useful, but orders are what they really want in the aircraft industry. It is not Project Horizon that really helps the American aircraft industry, but the fact that massive defence orders are put in the way of manufacturers. We had earlier than Project Horizon a policy which was set up by my predecessor rather on the same lines, and this is still the policy that we pursue.

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that the aircraft industry today is a very valuable earner of foreign currency, and that if we are to retain that position it must be on the basis that manufacturers of aircraft must be given every opportunity for long-term development?

Yes, Sir. I would agree that the aircraft industry is an extremely valuable asset, and it was with that thought in mind that the British Government devised the policy which they have and which has been fully explained on numerous occasions and are giving support to it.

Unlike a number of other industries, much of the cost of this industry falls on public funds, and is that not all the more reason for the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Cronin) about long-term policy being applied through Government sources rather than leaving it to the industry?

There is much to be said for long-term planning whether public or private money is involved.

Hawker P1127


asked the Minister of Aviation what support the Government are giving to the development and production of the Hawker P1127 vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Money and a development programme shared with Germany and the United States.

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this is the biggest development in aviation since the invention of the jet engine, and is it not, therefore, necessary that there should be some intensive, urgent Government support for this project, particularly as this country possesses the only aircraft of this type which actually flies? Would it not be desirable to put a squadron of these aircraft into service as soon as possible in order to obtain operational experience?

I would agree with the hon. Gentleman that this is one of the most interesting and, perhaps, far-reaching developments in aviation research, and all those concerned in it are to be complimented. In addition to the two P1127 aircraft which have already flown and four experimental aircraft under construction, at least a further nine aircraft will be ordered. The whole approach is being done under arrangements which we are seeking to make with Germany and the United States of America, so we have been far from idle in this and there are good prospects for this particular form of development.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that for the sake of very small orders, which are welcome, in the United States and Germany, in two or three years' time they will finish up with the engineering "know-how" which has given Hawkers this present three-year lead?

Yes, Sir, but I think it would be a short-sighted view not to seek to interest others in this particular type of development. The converse of what my hon. Friend has said—and I realise the force of it—is that if we choose to develop this on our own it might be that no one will take the slightest interest in it.

Avro 748 And Dart Herald Aircraft


asked the Minister of Aviation why the Avro 748 is preferred to the Handley Page Dart Herald as a replacement transport aircraft.


asked the Minister of Aviation if he will state the cost per aircraft to be paid for the Avro 748, the comparable tender price per aircraft of the Handley Page Dart Herald, military version, and the total extra expenditure involved in his recent decision to purchase the Avro 748 in lieu of the Dart Herald as a close support military transport aircraft for the Royal Air Force.


asked the Minister of Aviation why the Avro 748 is preferred to the Handley Page Dart Herald as a replacement transport aircraft.

Both these aircraft are first class and both are distinguished examples of British aircraft production techniques. There is in practice no decisive difference between them, either in suitability for the purpose required or in the financial obligations which they would represent. The actual price to be paid for the aircraft will be determined by fixed price negotiations between my Department and the Hawker Siddeley Group and the contract is naturally conditional upon satisfactory terms being agreed. It is not the practice to give details of the manufacturers' quotations in these cases, but the Government is satisfied that, having taken all the relevant factors into consideration, including all those concerned with cost, maintenance, operational performance and possibilities for future development, the choice of the Avro 748 in this particular rôle is the right one.

Is it not a fact that Handley Page is already jigged and tooled and able to get on with this job whereas Avro has not reached this stage and that this may possibly result in twelve months' delay? Is it not also the fact that only five Dart Heralds will be required for every six Avros, and does not this mean that there will be a difference of between £3 million and £10 million in the cost to the taxpayer as a result of putting the order where it is at present?

How can my right hon. Friend expect the House to be able to judge the wisdom or otherwise of his decision if we are not given information about the cost of the aircraft? Why is he so coy about it? Could it be because the Avro 748 will cost approximately £100,000 per aircraft more than the Dart Herald and that the extra cost to the taxpayer of this doctrinaire decision will run not into hundreds of thousands but millions of pounds?

I am not in the least coy about the subject. I have not even yet begun to negotiate the price for this aircraft, and in any event even if I had it has never been the practice to disclose quotations.

Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that there is no difference either in carrying capacity or economically between the two aircraft, because it has been quite freely said that there is an advantage which the right hon. Gentleman is not taking up because of the failure to enter into shotgun marriages and things of that sort?

A lot of things are very freely said which are not necessarily true. These aircraft are not identical. There are differences between them, mostly marginal, some to the advantage of one and some to the other. Taking all the factors into consideration, I am absolutely satisfied that we have made the right choice.

If my right hon. Friend has not yet negotiated the price, how can he say that the Avro 748 is to be preferred?

Because the cost difference between these two aircraft is in any event marginal and I have to take into account all the factors, some of which I have enumerated.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware how horrified we all are in the House today about the word "marginal" used by himself when reference is made lightheartedly to millions of pounds in connection with his Department's expenditure? Is it not the case that the Avro 748 will cost nearly £100,000 more per aircraft, and and is it not a fact that if this transaction goes through it will cause a widespread drop in the morale of the aircraft industry when it realises that merit is not important and doctrinaire political considerations come first?

The hon. Gentleman may rest assured that it has nothing to do with doctrinaire considerations. This is a case in which all relevant considerations have to be taken into account, including the declared and, as I understand it, accepted policy of Her Majesty's Government towards the aircraft industry; and, on full consideration of these matters, the choice has been made. I cannot choose them both. Somebody is bound to be unhappy about the choice.

Hydraulic Systems (Flame-Resistant Fluids)


asked the Minister of Aviation what steps he is taking to ensure the use of flame-resistant hydraulic fluids in aircraft.

No flame-resistant fluid so far produced is wholly satisfactory in existing hydraulic systems in aircraft. Research is in hand to develop new flame-resistant fluids and to develop methods of using them without increasing the risk of hydraulic failures.

In view of the importance of using flame-resistant fluids owing to the heavier and faster machines that we are now operating, and the real danger of fire arising from friction at the point where the nose wheel collapses and when the brakes are applied, could the hon. Gentleman assure us that this research is going ahead with the greatest possible speed and efficiency?

I should not like to have the danger exaggerated. In the past ten years there have been only two accidents to U.K.-registered civil transport aircraft in which hydraulic fluids may have caused or contributed to a fire, and there were no casualties in either case. However, research is going forward. A new fluid is being tested now, and my Ministry has placed contracts to the value of £150,000 to promote this research.

Manchester Airport


asked the Minister of Aviation whether he will give an assurance that the Government will support the proposed extensions to the runway at Manchester Airport; and what financial assistance will be given to the Manchester Corporation to carry out these works.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that both in freight and passenger traffic Manchester Airport has been developing at an extraordinary rate in recent years, and that his reply will cause the greatest disappointment not only to people in Manchester but also to the aircraft operators? What does he propose to do about supporting any application in that area for facilities, including the provision of proper landing facilities for modern four-engined jet aircraft on the trans-Atlantic route?

I appreciate that any refusal to support additional investment expenditure must necessarily cause disappointment. I have a great respect for the energy and skill with which Manchester has pressed on with its airport; nevertheless, if I were to say "yes" to everything it would not be possible to contain expenditure at all.

Would my right hon. Friend undertake not to give permission to extend this airport south into the Bollin Valley area? Apart from the fact that the filling in of this valley would be a very expensive operation, would it not also destroy agricultural land and a famous beauty spot in Cheshire?

My hon. and gallant Friend raises a further point. I have not even got as far as that, because I am not supporting the extension at all.

Would the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that this is not a question of not saying "yes" to anything? This is a question of the transport facilities available to several million of Her Majesty's subjects who feel that Manchester has been gravely discriminated against in the past and that expenditure in London is out of all proportion to the expenditure that is applied to this very large and important industrial area?

I can well understand the pressure to extend this runway for trans-Atlantic jet aircraft, but there are substantial facilities at Prestwick and Heathrow, and I really would be throwing away public money if I were at present to say "yes" to any other airports which claim that we should support them in extending their runways.

Will my right hon. Friend disregard what my hon. and gallant Friend and constituent the Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) has said? How can the Minister possibly refuse this application, bearing in mind that Ringway serves 10 million people in a radius of 40 miles? How does he reconcile this decision with have pumped millions of pounds into Gatwick which handles only a few hundred movements a year, while disregarding what Manchester has asked for in respect of this vast enterprise which is an example of what can be done by leaving these matters to local government, and saying that passengers should go to Prestwick?

I share my hon. Friend's appreciation of what Manchester has done in this matter. At the same time, I know that my hon. Friend is as firm as any of my colleagues in wishing to contain Government expenditure.


Acton Hospital (Nurses)


asked the Minister of Health how many nurses trained in Acton Hospital have become state registered during the past five years.


While thanking my hon. Friend for the information, may I ask whether she would not agree that as Acton Hospital is to continue as a general hospital for only about ten years, as I understand the new hospital plan, it will be extremely desirable if the small but particularly efficient unit should continue training nurses until the date of its metamorphosis?

I am sure it will not comply with the new conditions for recognition by the General Nursing Council, by which hospitals, in order to secure approval as training schools, should have a minimum of 300 beds, 240 of them occupied, and, if possible, a student establishment of 100. Acton is nowhere near those figures. Nevertheless it does make a contribution. I understand that it is being considered for training for the Roll, and I hope that will be the outcome.

Hospital Routines


asked the Minister of Health what progress is being made with his campaign to ease hospital routines.

Results are not capable of precise measurement, but the response has been encouraging and further progress in all the fields concerned will be continuously watched.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this campaign has been generally welcomed, but that certain problems arise for hospital administration and nursing staff in adjusting routines? Would he not applaud the quiet and uncomplaining efficiency with which these schemes are being introduced?

Yes, indeed; this must be a continuous process. It is not a thing which can be brought about by decree or otherwise than by continuous study by all concerned.



asked the Minister of Health what special measures he intends to employ to increase recruitment of nurses, so that he will be able to implement the additional leave entitlement recently awarded to the profession.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this extra two weeks' holiday, an increase to six weeks for nurses, is not in fact wanted by large numbers of nurses because many of them cannot afford to take the holiday? Many of them are foreign nurses and they have nowhere to go when they have the extra holiday. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the management committee side thinks that this was a disastrous arbitration award, and will he consider making special payments or payments for overtime to those nurses who decide voluntarily that they are prepared to work for the hospitals during some of the extra leave period?

I should not wish to criticise the policy of the award which has been made and implemented. I think that it is a part of the reason for the increase in leave that the leave should actually be taken to afford an opportunity of relief and refreshment to people who work under very great pressure.

Will the Minister tell us whether nurses who feel themselves unable to afford to go away on holiday may none the less, without working, stay on in their rooms in hospital and have nothing to pay, taking a holiday in that way?



asked the Minister of Health what negotiations he has had with representatives of National Health Service staff on the subject of redundancy agreements in the event of staff becoming redundant through the closure of hospitals; and what has been the result.

Measures to deal with any staff redundancy have been discussed with staff representatives and will shortly be notified to hospital authorities.

We all agree that the redundancy will be very small, but is the Minister aware that there is some anxiety among the staffs following the publication of his hospital plan? May I take it that the arrangements which will be published have been reached with the agreement of the representatives of the staffs?

Yes, the arrangements have been thoroughly discussed with representatives of the staff, and I am not aware that there is any—certainly no substantial—disagreement. I expect the arrangements to be published in the next few days, and I shall let the hon. Gentleman have a copy as soon as they are out.

Mentally Subnormal Patients, Manchester


asked the Minister of Health how many mentally subnormal patients are on the waiting list for hospitals in the Manchester Regional Hospital Board area; and what prospects there are of increasing the number of beds available.

Three hundred and forty-four last December; for proposed developments I would refer the hon. Member to Command Paper 1604.

Is that not a very high figure for one type of case? Is the hon. Lady aware that there are waiting lists also in the regional hospital board area for other cases? Is the Manchester region getting its fair share of the resources available? If not, would it not be possible for other regions to help Manchester out with these long waiting lists?

No doubt the hon. Gentleman is aware that Liverpool has an extreme shortage of such beds, and, therefore, beds are pooled between Manchester and Liverpool. The new hospital plan provides for an increase in beds at Cranage Hall Hospital from 524 beds to 924, with an increase for the Liverpool region over the period of 1,500 beds. One further important point which I should add is that the Lancashire County Council has proposals for 14 hostels for sub-normal patients.

Is the hon. Lady aware that this type of case means that those on the waiting lists are waiting for deaths in order to get vacancies? This is a rather different situation from that created by ordinary diseases. Will she give particular attention to the need for beds for this type of case?

The hospital development plan provides for a considerable increase in the number of beds available for subnormal patients. If the hon. Gentleman has a certain case in mind, I will look at it—on the understanding, of course, that I would not want to press for priority for a particular case.

Nottingham General Hospital


asked the Minister of Health whether his attention has been drawn to the practice prevalent at Nottingham General Hospital of human bones removed in operations being given to nurses to wear as ear-rings; and what disciplinary steps he has taken or proposes to take.

Then how does the hon. Lady explain that one of the surgeons in the operating theatre admitted that this practice exists and that he and his colleagues have given such bones to nurses, that one of the nurses in the operating theatre has said that this is common practice, and that other members of the staff have freely admitted this to the Press? How can the hon. Lady give such an answer when these statements are all on record? Will she make a further inquiry to see that any other barbaric practices of this kind are discouraged?

Both the nurses and the surgeon have strenuously denied making such statements; 220 nurses connected with ear, nose and throat work in any way have been interviewed and all deny that such a practice could have existed. The bone itself is only 3 mm. and I do not believe that it could even make an ear-ring. I am glad the hon. Gentleman asked this Question because it enables me to nail this lie.

How is it possible to call this barbaric? Even if this thing were true, these are only bone fragments, no longer required, which are taken out, just as gall stones are taken from the gall bladder. Will she not agree with me that even gall stones can be very attractive when polished and threaded and turned into a necklace?



asked the Minister of Health what are the salaries now being paid to physiotherapists in the National Health Service.

Between £525 and £1,155 per annum, depending on grade and length of service.

Does the hon. Lady realise that there is a grave shortage of these medical auxiliaries in the National Health Service? How does she expect to have an efficient Health Service when the auxiliaries are paid only a pittance and when applications for increases are turned down by the Ministry through the Whitley Council?

There has been an increase of 22 per cent. in these auxiliaries since 1949. Of course, the work is developing and there is need for more. As I have said before, salaries are a matter for the Whitley Council, before which there is a claim at the moment.

Has the Institute of Physiotherapists asked for an interview with the Minister? If so, what answer has it received? Will he grant an interview?

Ministry Of Health

Cancer (Records Bureaux)


asked the Minister of Health what are the obstacles to the establishment of complete and effective regional cancer records bureaux; and which regions are still below the desirable level of registration.

This is one of many developments competing for available resources. All regions undertake registration, but the ultimate aim of completeness has nowhere been reached.

Why is it that the hon. Lady's colleagues are always saying that there are adequate funds available for cancer research when here are vital statistics which would go a long way towards making cancer research reliable? Why is not the strong effort which her own Chief Medical Officer recommended in his last annual report being followed?

This expenditure is a matter for the individual hospital boards. We consider it important that the National Cancer Registration Scheme should cover all cases of cancer treated in hospitals, and on 22nd November last my right hon. Friend asked all hospital authorities to make further efforts to achieve complete registration. We propose to review the situation in June.

Welfare Foods


asked the Minister of Health if he will state the decrease in the distribution of orange juice, cod liver oil and vitamin tablets in the quarter ended 31st December, 1961, compared with the corresponding quarter in the previous year; and if, in view of the Government promise in April, 1961, that they would reconsider the charges then imposed under certian circumstances, he will now so reconsider them.

Sixty-one per cent., 64 per cent. and 48 per cent. I would refer the hon. Member to my reply to him on 26th February.

Were we not told last April that no change was expected in the quantities taken up, but that if a change did occur, then the authorities would reconsider the matter? Is the Minister going to honour that promise, or is he going to dodge it as he did on 26th February when he told us that there was no evidence of any failure to obtain the necessary quantities of vitamin, which is quite a different point?

That is not dodging the undertaking at all. It is the outcome of the continuous review, which I am maintaining.

Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what the assurance of his hon. Friend meant? If this decision was taken, as it appears to have been, on the assumption that there would be no change, and if there has in fact been a drop of two-thirds, is the Minister telling us that he refuses to consider it or that he has reconsidered it and proposes to do nothing?

It is the latter, because the evidence that I have is that there is no reason for anxiety about vitamin intake in spite of the movement of the figures since that time.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not realise that changes in a downward direction concerning the health of children would be barely perceptable over a long period? Surely he should do something before he has evidence of deterioration in the health of our young children and mothers and not wait until it is apparent before doing something to reintroduce this free food?

No. What I realise to be the best way of ensuring vitamin intake is by selective methods, such as those applied by health visitors, and not by the indiscriminate subsidy which was abolished last year.


asked the Minister of Health what reduction there has been in the total issues of welfare foods in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the last quarter of 1961, compared with the last quarter in 1960; to what he attributes this reduction; and what consultation he has had with the local authority on this matter.

With permission I will circulate the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT. Sales fell after the price

Quarter endedNational Dried MilkOrange juiceCod Liver OilVitamin A and D Tablets
31st December, 1960 (14 weeks)41,46925,1324,5882,864
30th December, 196135,9438,5581,7311,351
Percentage Decrease*7635949

*Correcting the 1960 figures to 13 weeks.


asked the Minister of Health if he will give the total cost to public funds of advertising the nutritive value of welfare foods, since the price of these foods was increased.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his answer will undoubtedly perturb many of us who are interested in this matter? Is he changes on 1st June, 1961. The council has brought the reduction to my right hon. Friend's notice.

On a point of order. I do not understand why three figures must be circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT and could not be given in the Reply. Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that the drop represents 27,000 items of welfare food over the same quarter in the previous year? Does her right hon. Friend really suggest that he is happy about this in one of the heavy industrial areas where a high proportion of the families are in the low income group? How much more evidence does the Minister want before he will honour his promise to review the position?

Rather than there being three figures, when the hon. Gentleman reads the answer he will see that there are twelve figures; in any case, it would appear from his supplementary question that he really knew the answer. The relevant indices prove that children are receiving adequate amounts of vitamins.

The point which the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Short) raised on a point of order does not give rise to a point of order.

Following are the figures:

aware that it has cost the National Assistance Board about £100,000, since the charges went on, to issue vouchers? Many people in the low income groups—earning £8 to £9 a week—are not now obtaining these welfare foods. Can the right hon. Gentleman not admit defeat and honour the pledge given by his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and make an honest woman of her?

There is no reason why the hon. Gentleman should be perturbed at the impossibility of making an estimate, because so much of the work of bringing these foods to the notice of the public is wrapped up with other work of local health authorities and cannot be disentangled and separately costed.

Why does the right hon. Gentleman persist in what he must now regard, in view of his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) earlier, as a waste of public money? If, as the right hon. Gentleman says, there is no evidence that women and babies are not getting these welfare foods, why spend public money on advertising them?

Because the availability of these foods from local health authority sources should be known to those for whom they are intended. Those who do not get them from the local health authorities can and do obtain the great bulk of such foods from other sources.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I beg to give notice that, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.



asked the Minister of Health how many patients requiring long-stay treatment in an epileptic colony are unable to secure admission.

Are there not more patients needing treatment than are actually on the waiting lists? Does the Minister propose to increase the grant and make more facilities available so that more can get these facilities?

It may be that there are more patients than appear on the waiting lists, but it is not only epileptic colonies which provide accommodation and treatment for epileptics: on the one hand, there are local authority arrangements and, on the other, the various kinds of hospitals.



asked the Minister of Health, having regard to the shortage of orthoptists in the North-East, what future plans he has for the area to train more people for this kind of job.

My right hon. Friend proposes to inquire if training requirements ought to be modified so that more orthoptists can be trained.

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that this shortage is a very serious matter indeed? Does she realise that one of the main causes for the shortage is the shockingly bad pay, which also applies in other parts of the service? Will she have regard to this urgent matter and try to increase the scales?

The question of salaries is a matter for the Whitley Council. There has been an increase of 55 per cent. in the number of orthoptists in the Health Service since 1949. But we think that we might look again at the training to see whether it is possible to increase the number of students.



asked the Minister of Health what steps are being taken, in view of the present shortage of medical practitioners, to encourage married women doctors available for part-time work to enter the employment of the National Health Service.

I have recently brought this source of recruitment to the attention of hospital boards. Local health authorities are also aware of it.

Since the Minister made a serious error in endorsing the Willink Committee—which means that the shortage of doctors will be even more severe in seven or eight years than it is now—will he look at the matter again to see if it is possible to integrate some of these women into general practice as well as into the hospital service and elsewhere?

There is no reason why a married woman should not be taken on in certain areas as an assistant or partner in general practice, or, apart from the restricted areas, herself set up single-handed. I agree that married women doctors would be a welcome addition to our total doctor force.

Mentally Retarded People


asked the Minister of Health whether, under his regulations, it is obligatory on local health authorities to keep a record of mentally retarded people.

If there is no proper record taken of mentally disabled people, how is it possible for local health authorities to find out what the requirements are in their areas?

Most local authorities do, in fact, keep such a record, but there would be no point in making it obligatory since total ascertainment is a variable concept. But I have no doubt that local health authorities keep the records which they require to carry out their statutory duties.


asked the Minister of Health how many local authority health services are still without provision of centres or other facilities for training or occupation and the equipment and maintenance of such centres, as provided for in Part II, Section 6 (2) (b) of the Mental Health Act, 1959; and if he will make a statement.

Is it not a national scandal that, in this modern age, children are being born into this world who are mentally retarded and must enter manhood without having had a day's proper training? Is the Minister aware that "training" is the operative word? We have people with the ability to make these youngsters and young men fit to take a proper place in life among the fraternity in general. Will he not do something for them? After all, they are the children of ratepayers and taxpayers, but are, in many instances, receiving no training at all.

As my reply indicated, something is everywhere being done, and in Command Paper 1604 an indication was given of the scope for expansion. I hope that the plans which local health authorities will be putting to me in the coming months will show the way in which they intend to develop this service in the coming years. I share with the hon. Gentleman his view concerning the great importance of this service.

Venereal Diseases


asked the Minister of Health what measures he proposes to introduce to deal with the recent increase in venereal diseases, as shown in the Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer.

The inquiries now proceeding have not yet indicated any new measures which can usefully be taken.

Is the Minister aware that the increase for 1960 was about 10 per cent. and, particularly for the 19-year-old age group, it is very alarming? Does he realise that it seems almost certain that similar figures will obtain for 1961, and will he consult the Minister of Education with an idea of making some kind of joint endeavour, because this requires to be dealt with both medicinally and educationally? Will his Department again look at this suggestion very seriously? A contribution might at least be made by the compulsory notification of venereal disease?

The question of compulsory notification is a separate one, but I entirely agree that this is very largely an educational question. That is why, both on the education and health sides, an effort is being made; but no new proposals have come out of the current investigations which are proceeding.

Can the Minister say to what extent this increase is due to the development of strains of microorganisms which are resistant to the present antibiotics? What progress has been made for developing new types of antibiotics which will themselves conquer these new strains of micro-organisms?

It was pointed out by my Chief Medical Officer in his last report that there are a large number of contributory factors. There is no major outstanding factor responsible for this phenomenon. I would rather not give an answer off the cuff on the medical point.

Prescriptions, Walsall


asked the Minister of Health by what percentage the number of prescriptions dispensed under the National Health Service in the County Borough of Walsall in the period March-August, 1961, inclusive, differed from the number prescribed in the like period of 1960.

To what factors other than the increase in the Health Service charges does the Minister attribute the drop, and is this fall not greatly in excess of his assessment of a 2 per cent. decrease?

Yes, but it has largely been counterbalanced by the increase in the quantities prescribed, from which it is evident that those in chronic need of medicines are getting them without appreciable additional charges.

Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate more precisely what he means by "largely" in this context?

Yes, if the hon. Gentleman asks me a corresponding question on quantities and costs, I will give him the figures.



asked the Minister of Health what action he is taking to ensure that all new drugs are submitted to immediate, independent and reliable scrutiny before use in the National Health Service.

Is the Minister aware that there is considerable medical and public concern about the number of drugs which recently have been shown to have very dangerous side effects, particularly the 40 abnormal births which are now believed to have been due to the taking of one particular sedative by expectant mothers? I know that this is a recurring problem, but when it comes to a child being born without limbs because the mother took a sedative during pregnancy, should the Minister not consult the Home Secretary to see if some machinery can be set up to screen drugs before they are made available for public use.

Where side effects are concerned, and that is what the hon. Lady has in mind, the mere scrutiny of a drug would not be enough. What is necessary are clinical tests, and the terms of reference of the Cohen Committee were recently revised to enable it to recommend that there should be clinical tests in cases where it thinks advisable.

Can my right hon. Friend say whether, following the Report of the Cohen Committee and its recommendations, there has been a reduction in the amount of drugs being prescribed outside the British Pharmacopoeia list?


asked the Minister of Health what has been the total amount of drugs purchased from foreign sources since he became Minister of Health; what was their total cost; whether similar drugs are available which are manufactured in this country; and what is the actual difference in cost between the home-produced articles and those imported.

In the absence of information but from his general knowledge of the subject, will not the Minister agree that a large volume of drugs is imported into this country and this is having a detrimental effect on the manufacturing industry here? If the reason for importing drugs from abroad is that they are cheaper, will he take into account the effect on the drug manufacturing industry in this country and the possibility of unemployment?

I should be loth to agree to any proposition in the absence of information. The major fact is that this country is a very big net exporter of drugs.

Is it not possible for the right hon. Gentleman to obtain information about the importation of drugs? Will he consult his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade who, presumably, has statistics about imports? This information ought to be available.

The right hon. Gentleman's question might have referred to the National Health Service, and, as it was addressed to me, that was how I took it. If he wants the total figures, perhaps he will put a question down to my right hon. Friend.

Is it not a fact that the freer importation of drugs from abroad has helped to keep down the cost of our domestic products, some of which were sold at exorbitant prices in the past?

I cannot believe that it would be practicable for this country, a major exporter of drugs, to prohibit imports.

Prescription Charges


asked the Minister of Health whether he will now review the prescription charges.

I have nothing to add to my reply to the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) and for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) on 11th December.

Is the Minister aware that his predecessor told me two years ago that the Government would review the prescription charges at the end of the two-year period of voluntary limitation recommended by Sir Henry Hinchliffe's Committee? Has that review taken place, and can we have a statement of the result?

The review of the trend of prescriptions and prescribing costs would not be the basis for a change of the present policy. The whole question of prescription charges is continuously being examined. I must tell the House that there is still no reason to think that the yield of these charges cannot be far better spent elsewhere in the National Health Service than by reducing them.

Has not the right hon. Gentleman yet realised that the most obnoxious feature of the prescription charges is that they put a special penal tax on special diseases? Could not he go at least a step towards meeting the Opposition by allowing people such as diabetics to have all their medicaments on one prescription?

This has frequently been considered, but the difficulty of distinguishing one category of disease from another is almost insurmountable. The best way to deal with the matter is by the assistance which can be given in prescribing for a substantial period where the medicines are regularly required. If the hon. Gentleman has a particular case in mind, I will gladly look at it and see whether I can help.

With regard to the increase put on prescription charges last February, did not the Minister tell the House that he would look at the matter after he had had twelve months' experience? Has not that period of twelve months now expired and has there not been a considerably larger fall in the number of prescriptions than he expected, and is it not a fact that this fall is not nearly balanced by the increase in the average cost of prescriptions, indicating that quantities prescribed have not increased commensurately with the drop in number?

The fall in numbers is due not only to the increase in prescribing for a longer period but also to the elimination of prescriptions which can be obtained for under 2s. There can be no exactitude in this matter, but the evidence is that the increase in quantities prescribed does substantially counterbalance the fall in the numbers.

Infant Mortality


asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the most recent statistics issued by the medical officer of health in Manchester show an increase in the infant mortality figures which are 50 per cent. above the national average; to what factor he attributes this increase; and what action he is taking to help to reverse the trend.

Yes, Sir, approximately. The specific causes of the recent increase have still to be shown.

Is the hon. Lady aware that the medical officer of health of Manchester and all the best informed people know more about the matter than she does, because they attribute the increase, first, to lamentably bad housing in the city of Manchester and, second, to the shortage of maternity beds? Does not she think that it is an indictment of the Government of which she is a member that, in 1962, more infants are being put in the grave and more stockbrokers and take-over bidders are growing fatter?

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman betrays a true concern for the Service in making comments of that kind. There was a sharp drop in the infant mortality figures for Manchester in 1957. I admit that the Manchester figures are higher than the national average, but, if there was a sharp drop in 1957, I cannot believe that the reasons for the increase which the hon. Gentleman adduces are the right ones. We are looking into the matter with the Medical Officer of Health for Manchester, who has prime responsibility, because we want to know the reasons. It is too early yet to talk of specific action.

Malaria Eradication


asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the progress of the malaria eradication campaign which is being conducted by the World Health Organisation; and what has been the effect of transferring the costs of the campaign to the regular budget of the Organisation; and whether this transfer has caused the United Kingdom Government to make a higher contribution to the budget.

The Organisation's budget for 1963, of which Her Majesty's Government will bear their due share, has been increased by the inclusion of $4 million towards the field costs of the campaign, which is expected to achieve considerable progress this year.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that, between now and 1964—the transitional period—at least part of the cost of the campaign will be borne by the special fund to which the British Government refuse to contribute? Can he assure us that none of this vital work will be held up during the interim period because of lack of funds?

Yes, Sir. The hon. Gentleman is aware of the decision of the World Health Organisation to transfer this work to the General Budget. Her Majesty's Government have always thought that that was the right decision, and the result will be that we shall bear, with other nations, our fair and full share of the cost of this work.

Can the right hon. Gentleman precisely answer my question? I asked for an assurance that, between now and 1964—when the regular budget takes over the whole cost—the field work will not be held up through lack of funds.

It need not necessarily be held up. It is the policy of the W.H.O. that this work should be transferred to the general budget. The result of that will be that we shall be contributing to it as and when it is so transferred.

European Economic Community


asked the Minister of Health what consideration has been given to the effects on the National Health Service if Great Britain joins the Common Market.

Nothing in the Treaty of Rome would involve alteration of our National Health Service.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the six Common Market countries the health system operates on an insurance basis and in many cases on part-payment at the time of service, and that that is a different system from our own National Health Service? Is he further aware that there is a school of thought in this country which is anxious to convert the National Health Service to an insurance basis? Will he make representations to the Lord Privy Seal to ensure that the National Health Service is retained on its present principles if we join the Common Market?

All that is concerned in this Question is that our joining the Common Market would not involve any decision one way or another by this country on the future of the National Health Service.

Has my right hon. Friend been in consultation with the British Medical Association and the British Dental Association about their anxieties that signing the Rome Treaty would have an effect on professional standards in this country and might also affect National Health Service standards?

I have had consultations with those two bodies and will have them in future, but there are specific safeguards about these matters in the Rome Treaty.

Senior Dental Officer


asked the Minister of Health when the new Senior Dental Officer of his Department was appointed; who he is, what his qualifications are; and how many applications he received after the vacancy was advertised.

The last appointment, of Mr. R. A. Campbell, was in October, 1959, by promotion within the Department.

I am referring to the question of the Senior Dental Officer of the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry, Admiral Holgate, and I want to know why he was appointed and why the job was not advertised before he was appointed.

The hon. Gentleman appears to be giving information and not asking for it. His information is inaccurate. He has confused the Senior Dental Officer with the Chief Dental Officer. I have written to him giving him all the particulars about the Chief Dental Officer.