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Commons Chamber

Volume 655: debated on Thursday 8 March 1962

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House Of Commons

Thursday, 8th March, 1962

The House met at half-past Two o'clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Australian Agricultural Company Bill

Saint Paul, Covent Garden Bill

WHITEHAVEN HARBOUR BILL

Read the Third time and passed.

Selection

Adjourned debate on Question [ 7th March], That Mr. Edward Short be added to the Committee of Selection, further adjourned till Monday next.

Oral Answers To Questions

Agriculture, Fisheries And Food

Land

1.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many acres of land are now in the Charge of his Department; and what are his plans for a further reduction of this acreage.

Of 154,000 acres in my charge, 74,000 acres are being sold. Thirty-one thousand acres are held by my Department for research, experiments and other Departmental purposes. This leaves 49,000 acres which will be sold or transferred to the Forestry Commission as opportunity offers.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the progress that has been made in the last two years, but may I ask whether he will continue to get rid of land that is surplus to his requirements and that of the Forestry Commission?

Yes, Sir. It is our intention to proceed with this as is right and proper in the appropriate circumstances.

Will the right hon. Gentleman resist any doctrinaire approach from his back benchers—an approach which could do harm to land like Forestry Commission land which is held for good public reasons?

There is nothing doctrinaire about the approach to this. It is merely that we wish to return those areas of land which Departments have no good reason for holding. I do not see anything doctrinaire in that.

As good agricultural land is continually lost, much of it to essential development, will my right hon. Friend keep a careful eye on that and which is held by other Ministries and try to persuade his right hon. Friends in those Ministries to keep their requirements down to a minimum?

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I was not accusing him of being doctrinaire, but some of his hon. Friends who support him from time to time?

Grey Squirrels

2.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to check the continuing increase in the number of grey squirrels since the bonus scheme for tails ended; and what conclusion was reached by the Forestry Commission as a result of this assignment of an additional officer to study this problem in 1959.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. W. M. F. Vane)

I have nothing to add to the full Answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom) on 8th December, 1961. The conclusions in that Answer were based on the studies of the officer employed by the Forestry Commission on grey squirrel research.

Is my hon. Frend aware that this is becoming a major problem in hardwood plantations? It is all very fine for the Forestry Commission, which is planting almost entirely soft woods, but this is becoming such a severe problem that it is almost getting to the stage of owners having to plant hardwoods for these grey squirrels to eat.

I understand the severity of the problem in certain areas, and it is for this reason that the Timber Growers' Organisation and the Forestry Commission are making a special effort this year.

Meat Inspection

3.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied that the salaries and conditions are sufficient to attract enough meat and food inspectors to deal adequately with meat inspection; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend has no responsibility for the salaries and conditions of officers employed by local authorities on meat inspection. As to the rest of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Darling) on 5th February.

The hon. Gentleman says that his right hon. Friend has no responsibility for the salaries of meat inspectors, but has not he a responsibility to make representations to the Treasury that they should get a much better salary than they do at present because of the 28 per cent. shortage of inspectors in large cities and the need, in the interests of health, for there to be adequate inspection of meat?

We are in touch with my right hon. and learned Friend's Department. The result of the recent recruitment together with the steady reduction in the number of slaughterhouses is having an effect.

Can the Minister give us more information—not now, perhaps, but at some time—about this reduction in the number of slaughterhouses? We have the impression that more slaughterhouses are being opened. Will he bear in mind that it is five years since we had a categorical promise that there would be quick developments towards a 100 per cent. meat inspection?

There is definitely a downward trend in the number of slaughterhouses. I will send the hon. Member details.

Quarantine Restrictions (Dogs)

4.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are his regulations in regard to the applicability of quarantine restrictions for dogs entering the United Kingdom from Eire.

No quarantine restrictions are imposed on dogs entering Great Britain from the Irish Republic, where quarantine arrangements identical with ours are maintained.

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the Eire officials are strictly enforcing the quarantine regulations? Is he aware that dogs have been known to enter Eire from various parts of the world without being subject to quarantine restrictions, and have then come into the United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend may have information about a certain case which I certainly have not. I understand that the Government of the Irish Republic are as anxious as we are to maintain a clean record, because of the serious risks to man, as well as to dogs, which rabies presents.

Meat

5.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if, in the interests of the taxpayer, the consumer and the producer, he will set up a meat working party.

No, Sir. I have considered the possibility of arranging to give guidance to consumers about retail meat prices, but have concluded that the difficulties are overwhelming. Retail prices vary very widely from district to district and from shop to shop. I have discussed with the National Federation of Meat Traders' Associations how to keep consumers better informed. During recent months they have instituted a weekly news service in which they issue to the Press statements indicating the best buys in the butchers' shops each week in different parts of the country.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the steps that he has already taken. Does not he agree, however, that consumer resistance plays a very important part in helping to prevent the sort of muddle we had during last year over meat prices? Will he put this point to the new committee on meat marketing which he is setting up?

The differential between wholesale and retail prices will certainly be one of the factors which the new committee will be considering. I know what is going through my hon. Friend's mind. I sympathise with his aim, but as the price of meat varies so much throughout the country it would not be possible to stipulate an overall price.

Horticulture Improvement Scheme (Fork-Lift Trucks)

6.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will now consider making fork-lift trucks eligible for grants under the Horticulture Improvement Scheme.

This suggestion, together with a number of others, is being considered by the Ministry for possible inclusion in the Horticulture Improvement Scheme.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that news, as I am sure the whole industry will be, but may I ask my hon. Friend whether he would agree that this equipment plays a vital part in the work of packing stations, and that the prosperity of the industry depends upon the efficiency of pre-packing and marketing? I hope, therefore, that there will be a favourable decision in the matter. Secondly, if and when we reach agreement upon entry into the E.E.C., does my hon. Friend agree that there will be a need to review the whole grant scheme, with a view to ensuring that our growers are in a position to compete on equal terms, especially with our Dutch competitors?

Groundnut Meal

7.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he proposes to take about the reports which he has received from his Veterinary Laboratory during recent months, describing the poisonous properties of certain batches of groundnut meal fed to farm animals; and what steps he is taking to ensure that such contaminated batches of groundnut meal are not being used in foodstuffs for consumption in this country in the form of margarine, peanut butter or coconut oils.

It would be difficult to answer briefly all the matters raised in the hon. Member's Question. I will therefore, with permission, circulate a detailed reply in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I can, however, assure the hon. Member that groundnut meal is not used in the manufacture of the products mentioned in the second part of the Question. It is refined groundnut oil which is used in making margarine and cooking oils and I am advised that the toxin is not present in it. With regard to peanut butter, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary for Science gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) on 27th February.

In view of the serious nature of the article which appeared in the British Medical Journal a short time ago, can the right hon. Gentleman assure us that every possible step is being taken in order to avoid the possibility of toxic effects from the use of these materials?

Yes, Sir. Considerable research has been carried out on this question, and it is continuing at present. An inter-departmental working party has been set up by the D.S.I.R., the Medical Research Council, the Agricultural Research Council, the Department for Technical Co-operation and my Department, to keep under review all the current research relevant to this toxicity.

Following is the information:

The work on toxicity in certain batches of groundnut meal which has been done by the Ministry's veterinary staff at Weybridge, in collaboration with the Tropical Products Institute of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, has been described in a series of articles in the Veterinary Record starting last April.
A great deal has been done by the Ministry's Veterinary Service, with the co-operation of the feedingstuffs trade, to reduce losses in livestock. Turkeys and ducklings are notably more susceptible than other species, but the incidence of the reported attacks among poultry has fallen from 410 cases in the first twelve months from the spring of 1960 to 69 cases in the nine months up to 31st December. Some of the younger farm animals are also susceptible, but during the twenty-one months for which records have been kept there have only been about 90 incidents.
The toxic factor is not inherent in the groundnut itself and it has been shown that it is produced by a strain of the mould Aspergillus flavus. The conditions under which this develops are being studied in producing areas, with a view to recommending methods of cultivation, handling and storage which will avoid contamination. Research has produced a method of detecting the toxic factor, and sampling and testing are being carried out to ascertain the incidence of the toxin in imports.
There has been the fullest co-operation in the necessary research and investigatory work among the Ministry's research staff at Weybridge, the Tropical Products Institute of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Medical Research Council, the Agricultural Research Council and the laboratories of the commercial firms concerned.

Fowl Pest

8.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give detailed reasons for the increase in the Supplementary Estimate by almost 100 per cent. of the original estimate for compensation for fowl pest; and if he will make a statement.

The subhead referred to by my hon. Friend covers compensation payments to farmers for animals and birds slaughtered on account of all diseases and also covers related expenses, such as those for disinfection. The original Estimate was about £3·2 million, and this included £1 million for fowl pest compensation. The Supplementary Estimate increased the provision to about £6·2 million, of which fowl pest compensation accounted for £4·5 million. The increase in the provision for fowl pest compensation was necessary because of the continued heavy incidence of fowl pest during most of the financial year.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that a very authoritative source in his Department said, as recently as 1961, that £1,250,000 was normal and tolerable for such compensation? Can he confirm that in January payment of compensation for fowl pest reached almost £750,000?

In 1958–59 the total expenditure on fowl pest compensation was £1 million. It is very difficult to estimate ahead what compensation for a disease of this nature is likely to amount to during the year. Hitherto we have followed the practice of putting in what I might call a floor estimate—a figure below which we have thought it unlikely to go. As a result of a recommendation of the Estimates Committee we have now tried to make what I might call more realistic assumptions, and we are putting in for a higher figure this year.

In view of the fact that these figures show the seriousness of this disease, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that enough research has been done on the question of eradication?

The question of fowl pest has been given great attention by the Plant Committee, whose report will be published during the course of this month.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Plant Committee is taking a long time over its investigations? Is it not possible to expedite its investigations? While it has been cogitating millions of pounds have been spent. Secondly, is my right hon. Friend aware that many scientists believe that the present form of fowl pest is less virulent that the old form, and can be effectively dealt with by inoculation? In view of those two facts, is it not clear that a lot of money may have been wasted by the slow progress of this and many other scientific committees which are constantly being set up by Government Departments?

It is difficult to estimate what time, in a perfect world, a committee ought to take to report on any particular subject. This is a very complex matter. I am sure that my hon. Friend will appreciate that the Plant Committee was anxious to give as authoritative, effective and useful advice as it could to Her Majesty's Government. This it has done, and it has taken the time it thought right to do so.

Eggs

9.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the average price per dozen for eggs of standard grade received by producers in the month of January, 1962; and how the figure compares with that for January, 1961.

The minimum price to producers declared by the British Egg Marketing Board for eggs of standard grade averaged 2s. 10·8d. in January, 1962, and 3s. 4·1d. in January, 1961.

As the February figures must have become available since this Question was first put down, would my right hon. Friend care to give me them? In any case, will he continue to work closely with his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on the question of importation from Poland? Despite the favourable answer given by the Minister of State, Board of Trade in a Written Answer on Monday, a great deal of misgiving still exists about the possibility of this importation affecting the British egg price.

My hon. Friend asked specifically for the January figures in his Question, and there is a later Question on the Order Paper asking for the figures for the first quarter of the year, or the first two months, which will cover my hon. Friend's point. As to the levels of imports, it is most important that we should keep the matter in proportion. The figures for January, 1962, show that 2,032,000 boxes of home-produced eggs went through the packing stations, compared with 1,879,000 in January, 1961. This is an increase of about 8 per cent. in home-produced eggs going through the packing stations. During the same period total imports amounted to about 72,000 boxes, compared with about 125,000 boxes last January.

Is the Minister aware that the position is even worse than has been stated, because the current packing station price for standard eggs is now half-a-crown a dozen? Will he explain how an egg producer with, say, an overhead charge of 37s per cwt. for pellets, can possibly produce eggs at the present price without subsidising production out of his own pocket?

19.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on current egg supplies and the measures being taken to prevent a repetition of the market collapse which occurred last spring.

During the first nine weeks of this year ending on 3rd March, packing stations in the United Kingdom handled 3,867,000 boxes of eggs, accounting probably for about two-thirds of home production. This figure is 11 per cent. higher than that for the corresponding period of 1961. According to trade sources, imports to 3rd March were 133,000 boxes, which is slightly less than half the total during the corresponding period last year.

Although prices fell at the end of February this year the average price for the month was little lower than usual. There was a fall at this time last year too, but it was by no means a collapse. Prices compared favourably with previous years. Some fall in prices in the spring is to be expected.

Will my right hon. Friend recall that the real trouble last year came in March and April and at that time the British Egg Marketing Board was in funds, which enabled it to cushion the home producer to quite a useful extent, whereas this year I am afraid that its funds are not so good? Will he keep that in mind as home production will increase in the next few weeks and we cannot afford to take seasonal surpluses from other countries at this time?

As my hon. Friend knows, representations have been made to the President of the Board of Trade on this matter by the Egg Marketing Board and he has already told the House that he is considering these facts.

Will the right hon. Gentleman now explain how it is possible for a British egg producer to sell eggs at half-a-crown a dozen to the packing station and make any profit on the transaction in view of the very heavy overheads he has to bear at the moment?

The rate of increase of home production of eggs does not lead one to believe that it is an unprofitable venture for the efficient producers who produce in large numbers.

I am sorry, but I called another hon. Member. I did not in fact see the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) rise.

Sugar Beet

10.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many cases are known to him where the contract acreage of suger beet allocated to a farm exceeds one quarter of the arable acreage of the farm.

The British Sugar Corporation has agreed to supply as much of this information as it can but it will take some time as there are over 30,000 sugar beet growers. I will write to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

I appreciate the difficulty of obtaining this information fully in a short time. Will my hon. Friend keep in mind that this is a guaranteed price crop and that it is bad husbandry to grow sugar beet more than once in four years on any land? Will he try to ensure that the British Sugar Corporation does not issue contracts where a high proportion of sugar beet is grown on farms, and thus make the contract acreage available? Is he aware that there are many small growers in my district and elsewhere who would like to participate in one of those contracts?

As my hon. Friend knows, the Minister does not allocate contracts. The British Sugar Corporation makes its contracts with farmers within certain totals. The hon. Gentleman also knows that for many small farmers the most economic way of growing sugar beet is for them to plant a large part of their acreage in one year and then plant other crops for the requisite number of years until the growing of sugar beet is again permissible in order to avoid eel worm infestation; so that it is a different rotation on a small farm.

Dairy Industry (Profitability)

11.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the profitability of the dairying industry.

Some indication of the profitability of dairy farming is given by the National Investigation into the Economics of Milk Production carried out by the University Departments of Agricultural Economics. The latest results, for 1960–61 as compared with 1956–57, show that the increase in production costs per gallon was negligible but this has been accompanied by a reduction in the pool price due to increased national production. Although the profit margin per gallon has consequently fallen, yields per cow and the average size of the herd in the country generally have risen.

Is the Minister aware that the latest cut of 1d. a gallon in the February price of milk makes it the lowest final average price for milk for this month since decontrol, and what does he intend to do about the unabated flood of milk? Is he aware that the latest available figures show that the profitability of the industry was down by 19 per cent. compared with last year?

I feared that the hon. Member had put down this Question in order to ask what I was proposing to do about it. We are in the middle of the Annual Price Review the results of which I shall be announcing, and it would not be in order to comment on it at present.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the value of milk in real terms to the farmers is less now than it was twenty-five years ago, and that, relatively, the cost of distribution has increased?

I should like notice of that supplementary question before answering in detail. But I think my hon. Friend would agree that the price fixed for the standard quantity of milk is one which would ensure a very reasonable return to the farmer.

Brucellosis

12.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the incidence of brucellosis amongst cattle in England and Wales during 1961.

Information collected during a recent survey of this disease in dairy herds is being assembled and it is hoped that the results will be available in about three months.

In the meantime would my hon. Friend consider giving some information of the extent to which the germ brucellosis is found in T.T. milk, in view of the fact that the disease can be communicated to human beings, in which event it is rarely, if ever, correctly diagnosed by the medical profession, as was the unhappy experience of one of my unfortunate constituents?

Brucellosis is not present in heat-treated milk, which forms the greater part of the country's milk supply. I should not like to guess the result of the survey. It is likely to show great differences between different parts of the country, and even between different herds in the same district.

Sea Defences, Suffolk And Norfolk

14.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is satisfied that the sea defences in Suffolk and Norfolk are strong enough to withstand a flood like that which recently hit Germany; and if he will make a statement.

The sea defences in Suffolk and Norfolk have almost entirely been brought up to the standards recommended by the Waverley Committee, which reported after the coastal floods of 1953.

A report on the recent disaster in Hamburg, prepared after consultation with the German authorities, will be considered by the Ministry's Advisory Committee on Oceanographic and Meteorological Research. We have other steps in mind, including a visit to Hamburg by drainage experts, to make sure that we learn all the lessons we can from this disaster.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that it is reported that the surge of flood water was 5 ft. higher in Hamburg than in 1953 on the Suffolk coast? Is he aware, further, that one of my constituents has twice had his land flooded in the last year and that only last night there was a breach in the sea wall in North Essex? Is he satisfied that these walls are up to the right standard?

I never said I was satisfied because that would be a rash statement to make in regard to sea defences. I did say that we had done a great deal of work in this country since 1953 to improve coastal defences, and we intend to learn all the lessons we can from what has recently happened.

Will my hon. Friend say not only whether the defences are strong enough but whether they are high enough? The Waverley standards were arrived at a long time ago. In view of recent incidents abroad, would not it be a good thing if the standard height for sea defences were reviewed again now?

These things are constantly under review. My answer was intended to cover both height and strength. The Waverley Committee was considering what one might take as the worst case.

As there was a breach in the sea walls in my constituency, this morning, Mr. Speaker, may I be allowed to ask a supplementary question?

I am sorry, but we are making very bad progress with Questions, and there are quite a lot of breaches in sea walls in the constituencies of other hon. Members.

Meat Marketing (Committee)

15.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will now give the name of the chairman and members of the committee of inquiry into the marketing of fatstock; when the committee is expected to meet; and whether he will request it to expedite its report, in view of the urgent need for a thorough reappraisal of the whole system of meat marketing.

20.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has now appointed a chairman for the committee to inquire into meat marketing; how many other members he intends to appoint; and if the committee will report by the end of this year.

25.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will now announce the personnel of the committee to investigate meat marketing

Sir Reginald Verdon Smith has agreed to become Chairman of the Committee of Inquiry. I shall make an announcement about the composition of the Committee as soon as I can.

I welcome this reply. May I ask why there has been such a long delay since the debate on agriculture before making the announcement? May we have an assurance that the Committee will report before we have to face another Supplementary Estimate this year for a further £78 million.

I do not accept that it has been a long time. The formation of a Committee of this standard and importance inevitably takes some time.

Can my right hon. Friend tell us what kind of people he proposes to add to the Committee? Are they to be experts or outside business men? Will he keep in mind that this is a most important and urgent problem to which members of the farming community are directing their minds, and that they would like to know what is in the mind of the Minister?

As to the composition of the Committee, it is our view that it should be a small and completely independent Committee.

Is the Minister aware that he should bear in mind what has been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir A. Hurd) and that we desire to know what is in the Government's mind? It is all very well to have a Committee, and we should like it to act quickly, but is the Minister aware that the Government must take the initiative at some time?

Calf Rearing (Broiler System)

16.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the result of the investigations carried out at his experimental centre into the rearing of calves by the broiler system, referred to in his Parliamentary Answer on 16th May, 1960; and if he will make a statement.

Early in 1960 a small-scale observation study was carried out at Great House Experimental Husbandry Farm. Satisfactory results were obtained in this case by allowing the calves reasonable freedom of movement in small groups in ordinary accommodation, and keeping them not in darkness but in a subdued light. There was no evidence to suggest that the special milk substitute used in this method of rearing was detrimental to the health of the calves, to live weight gain, or to the quality of the final products.

I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for his reply. Can he state with confidence that he has equal assurance that the methods being used on many private farms are not leading to cruelty in the rearing of calves? Is he aware that this is a matter which has roused very great public interest? What assurances can he give that he is satisfied that on private farms there is no abuse?

One cannot say that one is satisfied that nowhere is an animal kept in domestic conditions subjected to any form of cruelty. But there is a law in this country to prevent cruelty. I did try to show that when calves are being fed for veal there is no reason why it should be under unpleasant conditions.

Flood Prevention Work, North Lewisham

17

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what plans he has for expediting flood prevention work in the Manor Lane area of North Lewisham;

(2) when he will reply to the letter of 2nd February from the Deputy Clerk of the London County Council about flood prevention work in the Rivers Quaggy and Ravensbourne.

Since the London County Council wrote on 2nd February, we have received the plans promised in the letter and other details. These are being considered in conjunction with the council's comprehensive proposals for the River Ravensbourne. A reply has now been sent to the council explaining that we hope to be in a position in two or three weeks' time to say whether or not we can approve the proposals for the Manor Lane area in isolation from the comprehensive scheme.

While I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask if he realises that this matter is extremely urgent? Many people in this area are not able to get insurance cover because the flooding has been so long and so severe. Will he realise that it is in the spring that this flooding has always occurred, and that if no action has been taken within the next few weeks his Department will be about as popular with my constituents as the mud which will then flow into their basements.

Apart from the last sentence of that supplementary question, I appreciate that this matter is urgent, but I hope my hon. Friend realises that this scheme is extremely difficult and extremely costly compared with many other schemes in different parts of the country. We hope, however, to make some progress shortly.

Veterinary Surgeons

23.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, in view of the fact that in this country there are only 103 qualified veterinary surgeons for each one million animals as compared with France where there are 194 and Denmark where there are 186, what steps he is taking to encourage the expansion of the teaching facilities in veterinary colleges and an increase in the number of students in those colleges.

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has told me of its anxieties about the number of veterinary surgeons likely to be available in the future and I intend to have a study made of the steps we could take to improve the position.

Can the Minister tell us the reason for this disparity in the figures and for the inferiority we have to accept compared with France and Denmark? If he does know the reason, will he tell us?

I do not think it is necessarily right that the number of veterinary surgeons per million animals in one country which perhaps has a large acreage but a scattered population would be the same as the figure appropriate for a small country with a concentrated population of animals.

Horticultural Produce (Marketing)

24.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will institute further research into the marketing of horticultural produce and in particular into the development, design and operation of packing houses and mechanical aids to facilitate standard packs.

This is one of the objects for which the Horticultural Marketing Council has been set up under the Horticulture Act, 1960. It is already studying a variety of subjects, including the standardisation of grades and containers. If the hon. Member has in mind any particular line of research or development, perhaps he will let me know.

Although I am grateful to the Minister for making that statement, may I ask him to bear in mind that there is a measure of urgency in this matter, particularly in view of the dangers to the horticultural industry in the event of our entering the Common Market?

Yes, a great deal is being done in the way of research by the Horticultural Marketing Council.

European Economic Community

26.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will now make available an English translation of the regulations, decisions and resolutions adopted by the Council of the European Economic Community on 14th January, 1962.

I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal, said in reply to a Question by the hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Oram) on 26th February.

Is not the Minister aware that, despite statements by himself earlier and also by the Lord Privy Seal, there is still a feeling that hon. Members are not supplied with proper information about the agreement in Brussels? Hon. Members on both sides of the House believe that more information should be given and that there should be available to every hon. Member at least the English translation of the recent Brussels agreement.

I think the hon. Member knows full well that this is a matter over which we have no control inasmuch as this is a document which has been prepared by the European Economic Community and it has not yet been made available. As soon as it is made available the French version will be placed in the Library of the House and a translation will be made available to hon. Members.

In view of the promise made on 29th January that very soon something would be put in the Library, is there not an obligation on my right hon. Friend to put information in the Library for the use of hon. Members studying this subject? Surely he must have some information in the Department?

The important thing is that my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal spoke of information "which is reliable." Reliable information will be the final text which comes from Brussels, from the Community. We do not think that it would be useful to place in the Library any document which is not a final document emanating from Brussels, the timing of which is not within our control.

The right hon. Gentleman and his Department must have some official documents. They must know what they are negotiating about. Surely it is not unreasonable to ask that hon. Members should be informed? At present hon. Members have to rely on second-hand information from other organisations. Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider this matter?

We have a lot of provisional information. So has the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) and others. We find it possible to get a lot of information which is provisional, but when the Government officially have to make a document available to hon. Members, it must be a full and final text.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Lord Privy Seal stated in a recent reply that the Government could proceed in the negotiations upon the information that has so far been received? Why, therefore, cannot hon. Members have the information so far received?

The negotiations have not been in any way held up in the very broad field which they cover by lack of a final document, but when Her Majesty's Government are concerned officially in giving information to hon. Members it must be the final version which they make available.

As this information must be in the Department, cannot the Minister put in the Library what is known so far? We shall understand that it is provisional and not official, but at present we have to rely on information from the National Farmers' Union.

The hon. Member is very understanding, but he would agree that it should be the final text which should be published by the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and it might well be misleading—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"]—if a text were published which in the event did not coincide exactly with the final text.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the fact that this matter is of considerable importance to the House of Commons and that yesterday the Lord Privy Seal on a larger aspect made an interim statement, surely it would be in order for the Government to make an interim statement on this position?

The hon. Member rose to a point of order. What is the point that he desires to make?

It is to request the Government to make an interim statement on this subject.

Every day I have to appeal to hon. Members to abandon the practice of rising to bogus points of order.

Sea Defences And Coast Protection

27.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will consult the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs with a view to making sea defences and coast protection a joint national responsibility.

No. Sir. The Exchequer already makes very substantial contributions towards the cost of coast protection and sea defence works, but the Government take the view that there should also be some local contributions.

Is not the Minister aware that there is a far greater significance in this Question than there was two days ago, because of the happenings in the last two days? Is he aware that in parts of Cornwall, once again, there has been great destruction and loss of life? This happens year after year. How long are we to wait before we get some national action from his Ministry and his right hon. Friend so that this distress is prevented?

Regarding the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, there is, I understand a Private Notice Question to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government concerning the floods in Cornwall. On the broad question of the present arrangements, the Government are supported by the views expressed by the Waverley Committee and they regard the recommendations of that Committee which they have put into effect as being the best possible steps that can be made.

In view of the loss of a considerable acreage of agricultural land, apart from the loss of life, and so on, which my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) mentioned, will the Minister keep this matter under review?

In view of the quite unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible date.

Trade And Commerce

Motor Cars (Safety Belts)

28.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will inquire into the high cost of safety belts for motor cars with a view to introducing price control.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is very important to encourage the widespread use of these safety belts in cars and that their present cost is prohibitive for the modest car owner? Would he not, therefore, by threatening to introduce price control, induce manufacturers to look at their costs again and perhaps bring them down?

I agree with the hon. Lady that we should try to encourage the widespread use of car safety belts, but some fourteen manufacturers are already producing thirty different types of these belts and the prices start at less than £2 per outfit.

Would not the simplest way to bring down these costs be to take off Purchase Tax when this equipment is built into cars?

That is an interesting point, but these are not built into motor cars. They are supplied as an optional extra.

European Free Trade Association And European Economic Community

29.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how the current economic expansion of the member countries of the European Free Trade Association compares with that of the member countries of the European Economic Community.

The growth of national production has varied from country to country, but on average it has been greater in recent years in the European Economic Community than in the countries of the European Free Trade Association. My hon. Friend can obtain further details of the economic expansion of the various European countries from the National Accounts published by the O.E.E.C. in its Bulletins of General Statistics for July and September, 1961.

Will the President of the Board of Trade confirm that one should not, nevertheless, draw too many deductions from these comparisons since there are all sorts of reasons which may explain the difference in the rate of expansion between the two groups?

For once I can be grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having given me the supplementary answer which I would have made myself had I been asked the question.

Export Credits Guarantees (Japanese Market)

30.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is satisfied that the United Kingdom is sufficiently competitive as regards credit extension through the Export Credits Guarantee Department in the Japanese market; and if he will make a statement.

Yes, Sir. I hope British firms will make full use of the extensive guarantee facilities we offer. If my hon. Friend has any particular point in mind, perhaps he will let me know.

As credit is not a limiting factor in our trade with Japan, can the President of the Board of Trade say why our trade with Japan has not been increasing as fast as Germany's?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the main risks in trade with Japan are carried by our textile exporters without any help from the Export Credits' Guarantee Department—that is, for the whole of the period while the Japanese trade agreement is being negotiated? This is a very important period of six months, and will the right hon. Gentleman instruct his Department to give some cover for that period?

I appreciate and value the important contribution being made by the wool textile exporters to Japan and I am familiar with the point raised by my hon. Friend. But neither E.C.G.D. nor any other credit insurer covers the risks of licences being refused for licensable goods.

Would it not be better to allow the British exporter to Japan to enjoy the same sort of privileges in export subsidies as the Japanese themselves employ?

That would entail a complete change of policy regarding export subsidies for British exporters; I would not like to undertake that in respect of Japan alone.

Housing (Evictions)

Q1.

asked the Prime Minister, in view of the continuing increase in the number of evictions under the Rent Acts and other parts of the law in relation to housing, if he will instruct the Minister of Housing, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Minister of Agriculture and other affected Ministers to consult together with a view to amending the law to end all evictions from houses until satisfactory alternative accommodation is provided.

Will the Prime Minister, in view of that Answer, suggest some other way of dealing with a problem which is one of the greatest social evils in this country at the moment? Is he aware that hundreds of people are homeless and that I have with me a list of twenty-four—[Laughter.]—has the Prime Minister ever heard a more disgraceful scene than the supporters behind him laughing at evictions?

I was saying that there are twenty-four cases in my constituency at this moment, of which I have sent details to the Minister of Housing, of women in the anguish of mental breakdown through families being dispersed. Will the right hon. Gentleman do something about what is the greatest scandal among our people at the present time?

With regard to the particular Question, my right hon. Friend has told me about the letters which the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) has sent to him concerning cases at Slough. Of course, my right hon. Friend will himself be replying to the hon. Gentleman. I understand that very few of these twenty-four cases have any direct connection with the Rent Act.

With regard to the larger question, its ultimate solution can only be by carrying forward with vigour the great housing progress we have made in the last ten years.

Does the Prime Minister understand that whatever the reasons for which people are evicted it is the Rent Act which makes it impossible for them to find anywhere else to go? Is he aware that since the Rent Act was passed—and this is admitted by the Minister of Housing—under-occupation of property is increasing and there is no increase in the amount of property to let coming on to the market? Since the Rent Act has failed in the objects claimed for it and is producing these undoubted hardships, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that he should look at it again?

I do not consider that the repeal of the Rent Act would serve the purposes which the hon. Gentleman has in view. It is much more likely to lead to yet greater sales of houses and less houses for rent.

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory reply, I give notice that I will raise this matter at the earliest possible opportunity on the Adjournment, and I hope that the Prime Minister will be here to answer the debate.

Foreign Secretary (Speech)

Q2.

asked the Prime Minister whether the speech of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs at Newcastle on 3rd March, in which he discussed the political purposes to be served by Great Britain's entry into the Common Market, represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

Would not the Prime Minister agree that one of the essential methods of retaining the freedom that he values is to build up the economic conditions within which political freedom can operate? Would he not also agree that a great deal more attention should be given by the Foreign Secretary to our co-operation within the Commonwealth as a means of building up the kind of economic security that guarantees freedom?

The first part of that supplementary question seems to be a proposition of unexceptionable rectitude. With regard to the second part, both I and the Foreign Secretary, and all Ministers, spend a great deal of effort in trying to do work for the underdeveloped countries of the Commonwealth.

In his enthusiasm for the Common Market, the Foreign Secretary made no reference to any conditions which had to be fulfilled before we entered it. Would the Prime Minister confirm that it is still the Government's view that Commonwealth interests, the interests of British agriculture and the interests of our E.F.T.A. friends must be safeguarded before we enter the Common Market?

That has been made clear so many times and on so many occasions, and I think that it was repeated again by the Lord Privy Seal yesterday. It is not necessary to say the same thing over and over again in order to make the purpose clear.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Foreign Secretary said in his speech that the aim was to get Britain into union with Europe, and then for all of us to go into the Atlantic Community? Is it Her Majesty's Government's purpose to aim at associating this country with a permanent bloc based on N.A.T.O.?

I cannot imagine any sentiment expressed by my noble Friend the Foreign Secretary which would be agreeable to the hon. Genleman. It seems to me a very harmless sentiment to express. We all know that there are political advantages as well as economic advantages in strengthening Western Europe and other groups of free nations.

Official Secrets Act

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will move to set up a Select Committee to inquire into the working of the Official Secrets Act and to make recommendations for limiting its scope to the purposes for which it was originally intended, and for the prevention of abuses.

Is the Prime Minister really unaware of the grave anxieties about this matter which are affecting a great many people in the country—at any rate, those who are still concerned with liberty? Is he also not aware that over the years the scope of prosecutions under this Act has become wider and wider and gone further and further from the Act's original intention, that every pledge to limit the scope of it has been broken and that the Attorney-General only recently informed the House that every safeguard in the Act can be evaded and avoided by the simple device of bringing a charge of common law conspiracy instead of a substantive offence? Is the right hon. Gentleman really satisfied with that? Does not he think it time that the Government had another look at this matter to see whether we need this apparatus of a police State?

All those matters will be considered, but I do not think that this is the time to consider them because these cases are before the courts on appeal, and it would be very improper for me to comment on the propriety or otherwise of the prosecutions.

On the general principle involved, would the Prime Minister agree that there appears to be a case for inquiring into the operation of this Act? If it is found that it is being used for purposes not originally intended, would it not be preferable to introduce new legislation so that Parliament might have the chance to consider it?

I think that this is a bad moment for me to discuss the general principle while the particular application is about to go before the appeal court.

Will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that he will consider the appointment of a Select Committee to consider this matter as soon as this immediate case is dealt with? Meantime, will he undertake to examine and study the Report on the Sandys case which was made to this House before the war and which gave the view that the Official Secrets Act should be restricted in its use in the light of the present case when the opportunity is available?

I cannot undertake to set up any particular form of procedure, whether by Select Committee or otherwise, but when the appeal is over I will discuss the matter with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General to see whether, in the Government's view, any action is necessary.

Commonwealth And European Economic Community

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister if he will instruct the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the Secretary of State for the Home Department, as the Minister in charge of Common Market negotiations, to prepare plans for strengthening the United Kingdom's ties with the Commonwealth in the event of the failure of these negotiations.

I hope that the United Kingdom's ties with other members of the Commonwealth will continue to become stronger whether or not the negotiations with the European Economic Community are successful.

Is it not a fact that Her Majesty's Government have given the impression that we in Britain have to get into the Common Market at any price? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Is not this an absurd way to negotiate? Would not the publication now of an alternative plan for a Commonwealth free trade area help us to get better terms by proving that we were going in as equals and not as suppliants?

No, Sir. The Government have given no such impression, either in the debate when the House authorised the negotiations to begin or at any subsequent time.

National Expenditure (Ministerial Responsibility)

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister what further proposals he has for a reorganisation of the system of Ministerial responsibility in order to enable more effective control to be exercised over the level of national expenditure, in view of the failure of Her Majesty's Government to fulfil their declared policy in this regard.

I would refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) on 13th February.

I know all about that, but does not my right hon. Friend appreciate that in the years that the Conservative Party has been in power we have collected four ex-Chancellors, including my right hon. Friend, who, most unhappily, dismally failed in this task? Does not he appreciate that unless and until the Government as a whole and the Prime Minister in particular control and manage policy, expenditure will not be controlled but will continue to control them?

These difficulties have been discussed and the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a statement about them on 27th February. I am happy to think, however, that, in spite of the difficulties over thees years, we have had the support of my hon. Friend throughout.

Is the Prime Minister aware that, as a result of the statement of the Minister of Defence this week, we have a Supplementary Estimate for the next financial year before that year has begun? Does he think that that is a good start?

I understand the right hon. Gentleman to be referring to the pay of the Forces. I do not know whether he is opposed to that.

Does not my right hon. Friend think that he should have reread some of the correspondence which I have sent to him concerning expenditure before he let off that broadside a few moments ago? Perhaps my support has not been all that he might have liked in detail, but I have been happy to support the Conservative Government in principle.

Perhaps I should have said that my hon. Friend has given us his support almost throughout this time. However, this has been reciprocal, because he will remember that he asked me to go to speak for him, which I did.

Has the right hon. Gentleman studied the criticisms which have been made lately about estimating by various Ministries? If so, has he any proposals to improve it?

Of course, the right hon. Gentleman knows that there are great difficulties about Estimates. After some experience, I think that the remarkable thing is the accuracy which our officials achieve in these Estimates. Certainly they are as accurate as any estimate one is able to make in any large industry. There are, perhaps, variations of 1 or 2 per cent., but the sums concerned are very large. Often in the past, especially in the Service and supply Departments, we used to estimate and find that we were not able to get delivery. Now delivery is better, and sometimes it runs more rapidly than the Estimates.

Federation Of Rhodesia And Nyasaland

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will now publish the assurances he gave in writing to Sir Roy Welensky regarding the British Government's support for the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

I do not know to what assurances the hon. Gentleman refers. No communication has been sent to Sir Roy Welensky which in any way conflicts with Her Majesty's Government's public statements of their aims in Central Africa.

I do not hold any brief for Sir Roy Welensky, but may I ask whether the Prime Minister is aware that there is a widespread feeling from the facts which are available that the British Government have betrayed him? At what point in time did the Government warn him of the prospect of his having to face the possibility of a black African majority in the Central African Federation?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, it is obligatory on us to consult the Federal Government about the constitutions of the local Governments. This was carried out perfectly properly, both by the High Commissioner—we have a very able and experienced High Commissioner there—and by prolonged discussions between the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and Sir Roy Welensky only a few weeks ago.

Have not charges of bad faith and the dishonouring of assurances been levelled against Her Majesty's Government from Central Africa, and are not these damaging to Britain's reputation? Therefore, will the Prime Minister consider consulting Sir Roy Welensky about the possibility of the publication of White Papers in London and Salisbury to clear the air and to get us on to a better basis of understanding with this important Commonwealth country?

I should, of course, be ready to do that, but I do not think it would be right, and I do not think Sir Roy Welensky would wish, to destroy the long-established basis of confidential messages between Ministers.

While recognising the obligation of Her Majesty's Government to consult the Federal Government on constitutional changes, could the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that the ultimate right to decide what constitutional changes should be made rests unequivocally and exclusively with this House?

I thought that that was made clear by the Secretary of State for the Colonies a few days ago.

Nuclear Tests, Christmas Island

Q7.

asked the Prime Minister what consultations he had with President Kennedy prior to the United States decision to resume atmospheric test next month at Christmas Island.

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement which I made on Monday.

Is the Prime Minister aware of the growing feeling that, apart altogether from any kind of proposal that Mr. Khrushchev may make, the United States will resume atmospheric tests on Christmas Island, on the simple ground that she is now prepared to use her nuclear and conventional might for the same sort of reason that we used to use the gunboat?

Of course, if that is the hon. Gentleman's view of the policies pursued by the British Government and the United States Government together, I cannot change his mind. All that I can do is to repeat again what I said had been agreed and state what I believe to be the hope of the whole House—that the conversations about to open in Geneva may be fruitful.

West Cornwall (Storm Damage)

(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he is aware of the severe damage caused by gales and heavy seas in West Cornwall, and whether he will make a statement.

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

Yes, Sir. I understand that in Penzance and Newlyn about 50 families were evacuated from their homes yesterday evening because of flooding by the sea, but many of them are already returning. Although structural damage to houses does not appear to have been severe, the sea defences I understand, have been extensivly damaged and I have arranged for an engineering inspector to visit Penzance today to advise the council on repairs.

In the Camborne-Redruth area, I am informed that storm damage to houses has been fairly widespread, though it is too early yet to say how severe it has been. I am in touch with the Camborne and Redruth Urban District Council.

May I thank the Minister for his reply, and say that the question was prompted first by the fact that the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) is in bed as a result of an accident? May I also ask the House to pay tribute to all the public services in Penzance, which carried out wonderful work during a terrifying experience?

Will the Minister bear in mind that the population of Penzance is only 19,000 that there are several miles of sea defences, and that Penzance and Camborne-Redruth are both areas of high and persistent unemployment?

May I ask him whether he will arrange for the Government to be generous in the grants that may be necessary for sea defences, for road works and public works of that kind and will he be prepared to assist West Cornwall in the public appeal that has been launched for the repair of damage to private property by matching it pound for pound?

May I, further, assure the right hon. Gentleman that Camborne-Redruth has an immense amount of old property, which is in places very exposed to gales from the Atlantic?

I gladly join with the hon. Member in the tribute which he paid to the public services. The main problem is that of the sea defences that have been breached. If any undue burden falls on the rates, the council will be eligible for Exchequer grant towards that cost.

The question of damage to houses is primarily a matter for concern in the Camborne-Redruth area. The local authority, for example, estimates that £2,500 worth of damage has been done to its own property. Again, if any undue burden falls on the rates, we will gladly consider the position. I understand that the Camborne-Redruth Council has decided not at this moment to launch an appeal. If it does so decide, I will consider the position that arises.

Can my right hon. Friend give any details of the damage done on the coast of South Devon, particularly in the vicinity of Dawlish and Dawlish Warren?

I have had no report or request from the local authorities in that area. I am making inquiries, but at the moment my information is limited to what I have seen in the Press.

The Minister's reference to an undue burden on the rates, which is the same as the reference that he made in the case of Sheffield, is very vague. Will not the Government now consider whether, in view of this damage, following on the wind and storm damage in the Midlands and the North a few weeks ago, there is not a very strong case for considering the setting up of a national disaster fund, to which automatic recourse could be made in the case of any authority very badly hit, like this one?

On the subject of "undue", the resources of different authorities vary. I think that it is wise that the circumstances of each authority, in the light of the burden that falls upon it, should be individually considered.

On the general subject of a disaster fund, I have nothing to add to the reply I gave to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) a few weeks ago.

With reference to the answer which my right hon. Friend has already given, can he say whether he has any knowledge at all as to any breaches in the sea defences, either in East Cornwall or in the immediate surroundings of West Devon?

I have given the House all the information I have at the moment. I am seeking to get more comprehensive information and I expect to have it during the course of the next day or two.

In view of the nature of the particular area involved in this breach of sea defences, does not the Minister agree that almost any burden would be an undue burden? In these circumstances would he not take the perhaps unprecedented step of giving an assurance that the Government will bear the cost in this instance, because of the nature of the area?

The words I have used have covered what has happened previously in similar circumstances to the satisfaction, I believe, of the local authorities concerned. I readily accept that, in this case, from the reports so far received, there may be a very heavy burden on a small authority.

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether his answer extends over the whole of Cornwall, because I understand that there has been some damage in my own division, but I have been unable to get full particulars of it?

Yes, Sir, in so far as it refers to coastal defences, or damage to houses, which it would not in the case of my hon. Friend's division, the reply obtains generally.

Is the Minister aware that his reference to "any undue burden" on a local authority did not give general satisfaction? Is it not possible to lay down more clearly what are the principles which will govern help from the central Government in these cases, so that the local authorities will know more clearly where they stand? Has he noticed that there has been damage in the Isles of Scilly and, as that is a community with a very small population, will he be ready, if necessary, to give it help in the repair work that will be required?

To the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, the answer, clearly, is "Yes". To the first part, as I have said in answer to the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown), I think that it is in the interests of local authorities, with their varying resources, that each case should be considered on its merits. I assure the hon. Geneleman that they will be fairly and sympathetically treated when the cost is known.

Business Of The House

May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business for next week?

Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:

MONDAY, 12TH MARCH—Supply [8th Allotted Day]: Air Estimates, 1962–63.

Consideration in Committee of Vote A.

TUESDAY, 13TH MARCH— Supply [9th Allotted Day]: Committee stage of the Civil Estimates, Vote on Account, 1962–63, when we propose to debate National Insurance Benefits and National Assistance Scales.

WEDNESDAY, 14TH MARCH—Supply [10th Allotted Day]: Navy Estimates, 1962–63.

Consideration in Committee of Vote A.

THURSDAY, 15TH MARCH—Supply [11th Allotted Day]: Committee.

Army Votes 1, 2, 8, 9, 10, 11.

The Royal Ordnance Factories Estimate.

The War Office Purchasing (Repayment) Services and Army Supplementary Estimate.

Navy Votes 1, 2, 6, 10, 11 and 14.

Air Votes, 1,2,7,8,9,11.

Air Supplementary Estimate.

It may be found to be generally convenient to devote two hours to each of the three Services.

FRIDAY, 16TH MARCH—Consideration of private Members' Motions.

MONDAY, 19TH MARCH—The proposed business will be: Supply [12th Allotted Day]: Committee stage of the Civil Supplementary Estimates.

At 9.30 p.m. the Questions will be put from the Chair on the Vote under discussion and on all outstanding Votes, under the provisions of Standing Order No. 16.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that there will be a suspension of two hours on Monday and Wednesday in connection with the Air and Navy Estimates?

On another matter, he will recall the Question of the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) earlier this week and the exchange which took place thereon, in the course of which the question of a permanent Standing Committee on Procedure was raised. Has the right hon. Gentleman had time to think about the particular problem raised by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland and about the more general question of a permanent Standing Committee of the kind suggested?

On the first matter, it is proposed to suspend for two hours for both the Air Estimates and the Navy Estimates, following the same procedure as for the Army Estimates.

On the other matter and the Motion which is on the Order Paper, there are, I think two points. I have always made clear—I hope that the House will agree with this—that it would be wrong to censure the Committee of Selection, which is composed of very experienced Members from both sides of the House, for doing what I believe we have instructed it to do.

I do not agree with what the Leader of the Liberal Party said last week, that the Standing Order would not need amendment. I think that the Committee has followed the Standing Order as it stands. If we wish to give different instructions, as it were, as a House, I am very ready to consider that. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that perhaps a Standing Committee on Procedure to consider this and other matters remitted to it by the House might be the best way of proceeding. If that is convenient to the House, I shall be very happy to agree.

[ That this House takes note of the situation of the honourable Member for Caithness and Sutherland and other minorities in the House in relation to selection for service on Standing Committees; and expresses its disquiet at the present position.]

Is it not possible for the numbers on the particular Committee to be increased? If there is any question of upsetting the composition of the Committee, the difficulty could be overcome simply by increasing the numbers. I suggest that as a possible way out in this case, without derogating from the suggestion that there should be a Committee on the whole subject.

Here again, the Committee of Selection was obeying the instructions given to it by the House. The Select Committee on Procedure of a Session or two ago suggested that, on the whole, the numbers appointed to Standing Committees should be smaller than hitherto. The Committee of Selection was carrying out that suggestion.

On another matter relating to Committees, will the Leader of the House say what has happened to the Motion on House of Lords reform and whether it is the Government's intention to find time for it this Session?

[ That is is expedient that a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament be appointed to consider whether any, and if so what, changes should be made in the rights of Peers of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain or of the United Kingdom, and of Peeresses in their own right, to sit in either House of Parliament, or to vote at Parliamentary elections, or whether, and if so under what conditions, a Peer should be enabled to surrender a peerage permanently or for his lifetime or for any less period having regard to the effects and consequences thereof.]

It will be either in the next announcement of business—that is what I hope—or at worst the one after that.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that the Motion regarding the selection of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson), to which he has referred, is in no way intended to censure anyone for what has happened? Could he tell us Whether, after he has had conversations through the usual channels, perhaps with the Leader of the Opposition, he will be able to make a statement on the matter during the course of next week?

I entirely accept what my hon. Friend has said, and I am very glad he has made that explanation. The Committee of Selection is a Committee of the House which we have appointed to carry out instructions we have given to it.

As far as timing goes, I shall, of course, consult through the usual channels and, perhaps, on this occasion, through more unusual channels as well, and do it as quickly as I can.

Will the right hon. Gentleman, in considering the appointment of such a Committee as was suggested by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, bear in mind that the whole difficulty arises out of the practice in making the selections—Which may be correct; I am not criticising—of giving the major parties the dominant control of the situation? If the subject is to be reviewed by a Committee, will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the possible advisability of having someone on the Committee who is not, as it were, represented by the usual channels?

One of the factors which may give rise to difficulty is the necessity, which I am sure the House recognises, that just as a Government, in order to carry on at all, must command a majority in the House, so they must have a majority in a Standing Committee. The Standing Order refers specifically to this, and it is precisely that matter and the sort of point which the hon. Gentleman raises which should be considered by the Committee which has been suggested.

Has any approach been made to my right hon. Friend by the Opposition in connection with Motion No. 74, dealing with the Common Market? Some of us would like to know whether it is to be debated so that we may find out whether the Leader of the Opposition has been nobbled by Mr. Kennedy on this as well as on defence.

[ That this House requires the following as conditions of entering the European Economic Community, namely, guarantees safeguarding the position of British agriculture, the Commonwealth, and the European Free Trade Area countries; that Great Britain retains her present freedom to conduct her own foreign policy and to use public ownership and economic planning to ensure social progress within the United Kingdom; further welcomes the initiative of the United States Government in seeking a low tariff agreement between the United States of America and the Common Market; and urges that the products of the underdeveloped countries be given free entry into the Common Market.]

When my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal made a statement to the House, there was a suggestion afterwards that, at some appropriate time, which we did not attempt to define too closely, it might be appropriate to debate this matter.

Was not an announcement made by the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means at the opening of our proceedings this afternoon that, because of the objection raised by an hon. Member opposite to the proposal to make an appointment to the Committee of Selection, the matter would be dealt with on Monday? Was that correct, or was it merely an irrelevant statement?

Will the Leader of the House bear in mind that in the appointments made by the Committee of Selection to several Committees or to any particular Committee, it sometimes occurs that one is not selected if one is not in favour with the usual channels, which, of course, is the antithesis of democracy?

On the first matter, the position is a well known and almost formal one, that the Question is put off from day to day until it is either obtained or, if sufficiently opposed, it has to be discussed by the House. I hope that the agreement which I think we have come to this afternoon will enable that item of business to go through.

The second point which the right hon. Gentleman raises is precisely the sort of matter which such a Committee should consider.

Has my right hon. Friend had time to give further consideration to the Motion standing in my name and the names of 130 right hon. and hon. Members which deals with the plight of widows and pensioners, and has he had time to speak to the Chancellor of the Exchequer about it?

[ That this House, recognising the hardship suffered by retired officers, pensioned other ranks and widows of the armed services, especially those who are old, whose retired pay and pensions cannot be debated under Pensions ( Increase) Bills and bear no relation to current awards, urges Her Majesty's Government immediately to improve the pensions of widows bereaved before 4th November, 1958, and to examine the conditions peculiar to all armed service pensioners, and, as soon as economic circumstances permit, to introduce special provisions to improve their retired pay and pensions.]

I have spoken to the Financial Secretary, who has a special responsibility in this matter, and I have done what I told my hon. and gallant Friend last week I would do. My hon. and gallant Friend knows that legislation is involved. There have been several pensions Acts since the war—five in all, I think—and I have represented fully to my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary and to my right hon. Friends the sense of the Motion which has been tabled.

Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed the Motion on the Order Paper in the names of 150 right hon. and hon. Members asking for facilities for consideration of the Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill? Can he respond to that request, or at least give the House an opportunity to consider the Motion?

[ That this House requests the Government to provide facilities for the consideration of the Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill.]

There are opportunities to discuss matters which the House wishes to discuss. The hon. Gentleman will recall that he brought an all-party delegation to discuss this matter with me last week. I have written to him today and sent copies to all those who came with him to see me. I have no objection whatever to his publishing my reply if he wishes to do so. It is only fair to say that, having consulted my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in this matter, I have not changed the view I put previously to the hon. Gentleman.

It is difficult to understand quite what my right hon. Friend has said to the Financial Secretary about the Motion to which my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey) referred. Am I to understand that he, not as Leader of the House but as Chairman of the Conservative Party, commended the terms of the Motion to the Financial Secretary? Further, on the point about legislation, will my right hon. Friend please remember that, if we must find time for it, all of us, on both sides of the House, I think, would be prepared to sit all night to put the legislation through?

I will certainly bear that in mind. Naturally, I represented the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Sir A. V. Harvey), in my capacity as Leader of the House, to my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary. It is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of course, who has the prime responsibility—although a number of other Ministries are also involved—to decide what action should be taken on the Motion.

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that the proposal to put increased accommodation for hon. Members above the roof was deferred for one year because of the financial exigencies of the Government? It was presumably for that reason, also, that the proposed Select Committee on Accommodation was not set up. Bearing in mind that we hope that a start will be made on this work during the Summer Recess, does not the right hon. Gentleman think that the time is ripe to set up a Select Committee on Accommodation to plan these further facilities for hon. Members, and so not entirely leave us to the whims of the Civil Service?

I have been having discussions not just in connection with the Palace of Westminster but also about another site which the hon. Gentleman knows about and which is in prospect of being developed. I have no announcement on these matters to make at this time, but I have been considering the problem.

If my right hon. Friend is to have discussions on the Motion on minority rights through the usual channels—and perhaps through unusual channels—will he take account of the fact that it is the Government and the Opposition supporters who are in the majority in this House and that the Independent Members outnumber those of the Liberal Party?

My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) has pointed out that there are now 150 signatories to his Motion calling for a debate on his Racial Discrimination and Incitement Bill. How many names of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen are required on a Motion to justify its discussion in this House? Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision?

I recognise the support given to the Motion. The principle of detestation of racial discrimination is not in dispute. What is genuinely disputed by those who detest racial discrimination as much as does the hon. Gentleman is whether it is possible effectively to move against it by the sort of Bill contemplated. That is the true matter that is in dispute.