House Of Commons
Wednesday, 3rd November, 1965
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Agriculture, Fisheries And Food
Farm Amalgamations (Land)
1 and 2.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how he proposes to assess the rents to be charged for agricultural land after it has been bought by the Government on a voluntary basis under the proposed new scheme; and how the tenants will be selected if there are numerous applicants for one particular farm;(2) on what principle he will allot agricultural land bought by the Government on a voluntary basis under the proposed new scheme for amalgamation with other land to form holdings of a commercial size.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he plans to farm himself, as Minister, any of the land which the Government may purchase in course of the proposed farm amalgamation programme.
The present intention is to let rather than farm such land until it can be used for an amalgamation to improve farm structure. The method of selecting tenants, and the rent to be charged are matters of everyday land management which will be decided in the light of the circumstances of each case.
Is the Minister aware that there will be many competitors for each of the farms, when they are available, and that these will include many of the neighbouring farmers? What steps is he taking to ensure that a procedure is adopted which is fair to all concerned, so that there can be no repetition of the error of judgment in his Department which culminated in Crichel Down?
I was not responsible for administration then, but I would agree that any administration must be fair and must also appear to be fair. I will try to achieve that. I think that it is very important. We have a very effective land service, and I am quite certain that, as they have been in my other estates, they will be efficient and fair in these cases.
This kind of letting—would it be of a terminable kind, not a fully protected agricultural letting? Would it be done on something like a year's notice so that the Minister would be able to have the land available for amalgamation when he wants it?
I hope that the hon. Member will not tie me down to give a definite answer on that. As he knows, I am preparing legislation, and I am having discussions, on this very important matter. I will take careful note of what the hon. Member has said, as I believe he has said it in a constructive spirit.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what increase or decrease in staff there was in the Department under his control in the period 16th October, 1964, to 15th October, 1965; and what increase or decrease he anticipates in the period up to 15th April, 1966.
Mid-month figures are not available, but the staff of the Department is estimated to have fallen by 66 between 16th October, 1964, and 15th October, 1965. It is estimated that it will then increase by about 130 by the 15th April, 1966.
Can the Minister explain why he was unable to achieve the decrease of 110 which he forecast six months ago?
The decrease is 66 and the total figure of my Department is 15,542. It is not a very big error.
Food Labelling Regulations
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will introduce new food labelling regulations.
Comprehensive proposals for new regulations on food labelling were issued to interested parties on 27th September. Comments were asked for by 3rd January next. It will be necessary to consider the comments received and I cannot therefore yet say exactly when the regulations themselves will be made, but it will be as soon as possible.
While thanking my hon. Friend for this welcome news, may I ask whether he appreciates that consumer demand, and education, have increased considerably, even since the Standards Committee reported? Does he further appreciate that there will be great disappointment if the regulations do not provide for disclosure of all the contents and exact constituents of food, on the labels, particularly colourings which are especially suspect—
Order. That is too long. That is enough of the question. Answer please.
I take note of what the hon. Lady says. On the question of colour, we know of this point and it will be added to the comments from the interested parties.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will introduce regulations to require the composition of farm and garden insecticides to be clearly stated on the label or container.
The Advisory Committee on Pesticides and Other Toxic Chemicals is reviewing the existing voluntary arrangements for the safe use of toxic substances in agriculture, home gardening and food storage. When its report and recommendations are received, we shall consider future policy over the whole field of pesticide use, including labelling.
In view of the fact that the nature protection organisations have discovered that the residue of pesticides in birds has trebled in the last year and the concern of public analysts and local authorities who are reviewing residues in food, could the Minister treat this as a matter of urgency and make the present voluntary ban mandatory and introduce labelling which will protect the farmers and gardeners who use the chemicals to remind them of the dangers?
I do not think that we can do anything until the Committee reports, much as we should like to do so. This is a very complicated subject and it is a big job for the Committee. I should not like to indicate how long it may take to report, but it should be before the end of the coming year.
Trawler Fleet (Grants)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the present position on building subsidies for distant-water trawlers.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will state the manner in which he will allocate the £800,000 now provided as grant to the distant-water section of the trawling fleet.
A sum of £1·6 million has been allocated for grants for fishing vessels to the end of the financial year 1966–67. Of this sum, approximately £860,000 will be available for the trawler fleet as a whole. The distribution of this total will, of course, depend on the approval of individual applications.
Would the Minister agree that the sum is totally inadequate? Would he also agree that the White Fish Authority is bogged down by building grants and, as a result, owners are not able to carry on with forward planning? Can the right hon. Gentleman say how much of the sum which he mentioned is as yet unused?
I cannot do that. I do not believe that the sum is inadequate. I think that the balance is right. It is often difficult to make comparisons with the past, but I think that what we have done is reasonable.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that applications for new vessels total a little over £2 million and that we in West Hull, the capital of the deep sea fishing industry, thank him for a wise decision? We can plan ahead now until 1970.
I thank my hon. Friend very much.
There has been very considerable delay in this matter, whatever feelings there are about the figures—and I share the feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall). The owners are very concerned and they need to carry out long-term planning in this sort of industry. Cannot the right hon. Gentleman ensure that they are made more clearly aware of exactly where they stand in regard to the grants?
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his first appearance at the Box as shadow Minister of Agriculture. The Authority will consider the applications. We must leave this matter to the Authority. I think that that is sensible. I would not try to destroy that practice.
In view of the unsatisfactory reply to the Question, I beg to give notice that I will try to raise the matter on the Adjournment.
Fisheries (Faroese Agreement)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the limits and effects of the agreement made on 1st October, 1965, between the British and Faroese fishing industries resulting from the unilateral extension by the Faroese Government of fishing limits around the Faroe Islands to 12 miles from base lines on 11th March, 1964, and recent relevant British legislation; and if he will indicate the consequences of this new agreement on the British fishing industry and British fish consumers.
This agreement allows an increase in fish imports from the Faroes from £850,000 to £1 million a year. There should be no significant effect on total supplies since imports from the Faroes have not in any year supplied as much as 2 per cent. of the market.
Does the Minister realise that, owing to the events set out in my Question, the fishing industry faces "an uncertain and challenging future," to quote the words of that authoritative journal the Aberdeen Press and Journal? Does he also realise that the fishing industry is as important to the people of this country as the farming industry and deserves to be just as generously treated?
Of course, I appreciate that the fishing industry must be recognised as much as the farming industry. But the agreement has been made by the catching side of the industry. The industry has made this agreement, and I should have thought that my hon. and learned Friend would approve it.
Australia And New Zealand (Minister's Visit)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his recent tour of Australia and New Zealand.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his official visit to New Zealand; and what discussions he held there on the question of Great Britain entering the Common Market.
With permission, I will answer Question Nos. 10 and 11 together. [Interruption.] I recognise that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) is not here. I was merely being courteous to him.I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) on Wednesday, 27th October. I held no discussions on the question of Great Britain entering the Common Market.
I did not ask about the Common Market. Arising out of the Minister's reply, would he place in the Library a copy of the speeches which he made in Australia and New Zealand? Would he now further elaborate on what is meant by "a substantial share"—I gather that those were the words which the right hon. Gentleman used—of the rising demand in this country which he promised to New Zealand and Australian farmers? How much does this mean, and what does he intend?
I will be delighted to put a copy of my speech in the Library. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will read it and not distort it. I have repeated time and again in the House, even in reply to the hon. Gentleman, and I said over and over again in Australia and New Zealand, that the British farmer will make the major contribution to the increase in demand for food in this country by 1970. Before the hon. Member seeks to continue this line of thought, I hope that he will carefully read my speech.
Does the right hon. Gentleman's reply, in which he said that he held no discussion on this important subject, mean that the Government do not intend to discuss the Common Market in any way? Should not he have discussed this extremely important subject when he was in New Zealand?
I did not discuss the Common Market. It is true that from time to time I was asked questions informally, but I had no formal discussions on this subject.
On a point of order. It looks as though we are departing from an established practice. If an hon. Member is not here to ask a Question, he cannot have it answered. In fact, Question No. 11—
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not waste valuable Question time. Two Questions were to be answered together. The hon. Gentleman who tabled the first one was not here. The hon. Gentleman who tabled the second one was here. What happened was in order.
May I pursue my point of order? It is within the recollection of the House that the Answer given by the Minister was the answer to Question No. 10—
Order. I would ask the hon. Gentleman not to waste the time of the House on trivialities. As I have said, two Questions were answered together; and there the matter must remain.
May I come back to the Question and the Minister's charge that my hon. Friends have been distorting? The right hon. Gentleman is grossly unfair. There were Press reports in this country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question."]
Even Front Bench Members must ask questions.
I apologise, Mr. Speaker. May I ask the Minister whether he is aware that there were Press reports while he was in Australia and New Zealand which certainly gave the impression that he had been speaking with two voices? If he says that that is not so, we accept it. I am asking him why he charged my hon. Friends with distorting what he said when they were relying on Press reports.
Last week I asked the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) for a categorical assurance that he would withdraw. He has not withdrawn. I ask him again to do so. I shall be delighted to put a copy of my speech in the Library.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the loss to cereal farmers caused by the bad harvesting season this year.
The cereal harvest this year has been a difficult one, but, according to the latest reports, almost all of the cereals acreage has now been harvested to the extent that this year's weather conditions have allowed. It is not possible to make any precise estimate of possible losses.
When it comes to the next Price Review, will the Parliamentary Secretary bear in mind that certain areas, such as the West Country, have had a very long and costly harvest, and will he try to take account of that in the Review?
Any review will take account of all increased costs which farmers are likely to have had. If it is proved that that is the case, they are always taken into account.
Agricultural Workers (Wages And Hours Agreement)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will consider introducing a supplementary price review in order to compensate farmers for the most recent wage and hours agreement for agricultural workers.
No, Sir. The effect on farmers' costs is not sufficient to call for a special review under the terms of the agreement reached with the farmers' unions in 1956. But it will be taken into account at the 1966 Annual Review, together with all other relevant factors.
Intensive Animal Husbandry
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to receive the report of the Brambell Committee on intensive animal husbandry; and when he expects the report will be available to the House.
I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Ensor) on 1st November.
Does the right hon Gentleman still adhere to the promise which he gave me a year ago in reply to a Question in the House that as soon as the report was received he would publish it and act on it?
Certainly. But I must have the report published so that organisations in the country will be able to express opinions, since a considerable section of the agricultural industry is involved, apart from people who have other interests, and I think that we must wait for those discussions.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the minds of some people, including myself, the term "intensive animal husbandry" conceals something slightly disgusting?
I cannot accept that. My predecessor set up the Brambell Committee and one must fairly assess the report when one has read it. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members will carefully read it when it is published.
Inshore Fishing Vessels (Grants And Loans)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to what extent the sums available to the White Fish Authority for offering grants and loans towards the cost of boats built for the inland water fishing fleet have been or will be curtailed by the Government's economy measures.
The Government naturally took account of the financial situation in deciding what funds could be made available for grants and loans for building fishing vessels, but the sums available for inshore vessels in fact represent an increase over the average in the past three years.
Is it not a fact that the White Fish Authority asked to be able to spend up to £1 million in grants over the next three years, and do not the figures which the Minister has given the House represent a big cut? Is he aware that this is having a serious effect upon the small building yards in many of our fishing ports?
The hon. Member must not have heard what I said. I said that the sums available for inshore vessels represent an increase over the average of the past three years. The provision for grant approvals for inshore vessels in this financial year and next average over £280,000 compared with approvals averaging about £160,000 during the last three years. I could give other figures for the herring industry.
Corned Beef (Stocks)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what stocks of corned beef he now holds; and how he will dispose of these stocks.
I cannot give details of Government stocks of corned beef because they are held for defence purposes. Stocks nearing the end of their storage life are normally sold, but I have recently announced that no Government stocks known to have been produced under unsatisfactory conditions will be released.
Now that the Government and the main importers have agreed not to retail the corned beef that was withdrawn from the market after the Aberdeen typhoid epidemic, will not the Government go one stage further, ban the sale of the remaining stocks in private hands and provide complete security to the public by dumping the whole lot in the sea?
I have stated my position concerning the stocks which I hold. I cannot go beyond that.
Small Farms (Amalgamation)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what developments have taken place in the amalgamation of small farms since he announced his plans to assist this process.
It is only three months since we announced our proposals. Our discussions with the interested organisations have not suggested that there have been any special developments during this period.
Farming Industry (Import Saving)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the savings to the import bill which have been contributed by the farming industry so far this year; and how this figure compares with the previous year.
Reliable comparisons of import saving by the farming industry from one year to the next cannot be readily prepared from the available statistics. There is, however, every reason to expect that, as envisaged in the National Plan, agriculture will continue to increase its substantial contribution to import saving.
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the savings to the import bill contributed by the agricultural industry are an important achievement? Should not the industry be encouraged by a far greater share in the home market than merely a part of the increase in demand which is caused by the natural increase in population?
If the hon. Member would read carefully the appendix to the agricultural section of the National Plan, count the figures carefully and subtract the amount of grain from what the industry has said it is technically possible to provide, he will find that the two figures are not far apart.
Will the hon. Gentleman kindly expand a little on his reference to the National Plan? Will he say a little about what is meant by a "major part" of the increased production and what will be the percentage which is produced from home farms?
Milk Marketing Board (Discussions)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress is being made in discussions, started with the Milk Marketing Board after the Price Review, on the marketing powers of the Board.
The discussions which have been taking place at the request of the Milk Marketing Boards and the farmers' unions on their proposals for introducing a greater degree of marketing flexibility are continuing.
Can the Minister give any idea when these discussions are likely to be concluded?
I cannot give a specific date, but I hope that it will be as early as possible.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he has taken to make known the dangers to wild birds and animal life of the use of dieldrin for sheep dipping; whether he is aware that in spite of the ban on production of this chemical many farmers have laid in several years' supply; and whether he will now take action to prohibit the use of dieldrin.
Apart from the original announcement of restrictions on the use of dieldrin, further Press notices have been issued reminding farmers of the restrictions and warning against stockpiling. I have heard allegations that some farmers have laid in supplies of dieldrin sheep dip, but these allegations have not been substantiated.My right hon. Friend has at present no statutory powers to prohibit the use of dieldrin. The Advisory Committee on Pesticides and other Toxic Chemicals is considering the need for further controls on all pesticides and will also consider the remaining uses of dieldrin in 1967.
Forth Road Bridge (Tolls)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will now remove the tolls from the Forth Road Bridge.
Can my right hon. Friend say whether a firm decision has already been taken by the Government on this matter? If not, will he assure the House that when a decision is taken he will also publish the detailed statistics on which the decision was based?
I assure my hon. Friend that no decision has been taken. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave information concerning the procedure yesterday and I have nothing to add to what he said.
Cadco (Committee's Findings)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action the Lord Advocate intends to take as a result of the findings of the committee of inquiry into the Cadco affair.
The report which was sent to my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate by the Board of Trade discloses matters which call for investigation by the criminal authorities. Accordingly, inquiries are being made by him.
Can my right hon. Friend give the House any idea when these inquiries will be completed? Must it be assumed that all reports will be withheld from the public until the decision is taken and until court proceedings are finalised?
As to timing, I cannot say. All that I can assure my hon. Friend is that the inquiries are being pursued energetically. As to the report which is the subject of the Answer, it is important that nothing further should be said that might prejudice possible legal proceedings in due course.
Petrol Filling Station, Glasgow (Planning Permission)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why he has given planning permission for the building of a petrol filling station near the corner of Netherauldhouse Road and Auldhouse Road in Glasgow S3, in view of the fact that Glasgow Corporation had refused to allow this project to proceed because the site was dangerously situated and for other reasons.
I am sending my hon. Friend a copy of the report on the inquiry into this planning appeal and of the letter conveying my predecessor's decision.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that already in Netherauldhouse Road three petrol stations have been completed in the last four years and that a fourth already exists? Is he further aware that the corporation wanted to use the site for building houses? Would it not have been better to use the bricks for building homes for a city where homes are in scarce supply than to use them for petrol stations?
My hon. Friend is aware of the statutory obligation of the Secretary of State for Scotland in these matters: he is the final court of appeal. That means that, subject to an inquiry, he makes up his mind one way or the other. The case for the corporation was fully deployed at the time and I agree with the decision reached by my predecessor.
Houses (Compulsory Purchase)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will introduce legislation which will permit local authorities to acquire by compulsory purchase groups of houses falling into middle-life category and to develop such areas in a comprehensive plan.
Local authorities already have extensive powers of compulsory purchase for these purposes under the Housing and Planning Act. If my hon. Friend, or any hon. Member, has evidence of any inadequacy under present legislation, I would welcome this information.
I thank my right hon. Friend.
Old Houses (Renovation)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a study of relative costs of renovating and bringing up to date older houses in Scotland; and if he will then give advice to local authorities who wish to carry out such programmes as to how overall costs might be reduced.
I will certainly consider this suggestion. A great deal is already known, and my Department is always ready to give advice to local authorities about improvement schemes and their costs.
May I ask my right hon. Friend if he is aware that there is a very great need, on social if not wholly economic grounds, for programmes of this kind to be engaged in at the earliest possible opportunity, but that many local authorities feel that the cost involved is far too high, and, I am sure, would welcome some assistance from research undertaken by his Department?
Yes, indeed, and we are prepared to provide this, because our aim and purpose is to get very speedy improvement as far as possible in this respect. Results over the years have been disappointing. There are reasons for it, but if they are financial I am prepared to look at them.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will take action to encourage the use of Edinburgh as a conference centre by the United Nations, its agencies and other international bodies.
Yes, Sir, wherever appropriate. We have recently had the successful example of the first Commonwealth Medical Conference which met in Edinburgh last month.
In view of the increasing congestion in London, will the Secretary of State draw his colleagues' attention to the very successful E.F.T.A. Ministers' conference which was held in Edinburgh in the summer of 1964—though it was, admittedly, before the time of the import surcharge?
Let us miss out a little bit of the tail and concentrate on the real matter in the question. There have been 12 non-governmental conferences in Edinburgh, and there is every indication that Edinburgh is attracting to itself this kind of conference. My concern is to ensure that the facilities which Edinburgh has to offer are made as widely known as possible to those likely to hold such conferences.
Water Supplies (Fluoridation)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many water supply authorities in Scotland have decided to add the poisonous compound sodium fluoride to their supplies of drinking water.
To date, 12 Scottish local health authorities have received approval to make arrangements for the fluoridation of the water supplies in their areas. The advice of my Standing Medical Advisory Committee is that in the recommended concentration of one part per million fluoride is not harmful to health.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that a great many people do not accept the view which he has enunciated? Is he further aware that one of the authorities is Kilmarnock Town Council which, after five years' experimentation, decided to have nothing to do with this tampering with our water supplies? Does he further realise that Paisley Town Council has decided to have nothing to do with it because this poisonous compound may affect the thread industry in Paisley? Is he further aware—
No. Too long.
That is quite enough.
I can assure my hon. Friend that it does not surprise me—nor should it surprise him, nor should he read too much into the fact—that some local authorities come down on one side and some on the other. It is a matter entirely up to their discretion. As far as Kilmarnock is concerned, I am very familiar with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, and I can assure him that during the trial period in that area there was no evidence of any harmful effects either to individuals or to industry—and we have in Kilmarnock very considerable and important industries not unconnected with certain liquids.
That answer was too long, too.
On a point of order. I beg to give notice, Mr. Speaker, that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.
I would explain to the hon. Member that what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) has just done precludes me from calling him.
Seaside Resorts (Bathing Fatalities)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the growing number of bathing fatalities at seaside resorts; and if he will circularise local authorities with a view to their employing teams of lifesavers, especially during the holiday period.
I share my hon. Friend's concern over the bathing accidents which occur each summer, but I have no information about whether they are increasing in numbers. Local authorities of seaside resorts do appreciate the importance of making their beaches as safe as possible.
Would it be possible, Mr. Speaker, for me to ask my right hon. Friend for some sort of thing to be done from his Department to try to persuade local authorities in Scotland of the importance of having some individuals such as lifesavers on duty during these busy periods? Does he realise, for example, that some parents nowadays are visiting seaside resorts with considerable fear and alarm at the possible consequences? Would he use his good offices to try to allay their fears?
Yes, indeed; but I think my hon. Friend should appreciate that seaside resorts in Scotland are themselves the first to take action when they feel that warning notices or any other preventive measures are required to be taken.
Medical Certificates (Doctors' Charges)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will seek to regulate the charges for medical certificates made by general practitioners under the National Health Service; and if he will make a statement.
General practitioners in the National Health Service are required to issue free of charge certificates for certain statutory purposes which are listed in regulations. I have no power to regulate the charges made by doctors for other types of certificate, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health and I have recently asked both sides of industry to do all they can to reduce the need for private certificates.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the tremendous variety of charges, which range nowadays from as low as 2s. 6d. to as high, I am told, in some cases as five guineas for a simple medical certificate assisting someone in a quest for a municipal house? Does he not think the time has now arrived to adjust this matter by having some understanding as regards a regulated charge for all sorts of certificates issued by general practitioners in Scotland?
If my hon. Friend has any information about unreasonable demands in this respect I should be glad to have it, but I think he should appreciate that it would be unfair and not right to expect the National Health Service to bear the cost of all private certificates.
Fishery Training Scheme (Western Isles)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware of the success of the Fishery Training Scheme in the Western Isles, of the demand for its revival and continuation, and of the large number of young and suitable seamen and fishermen anxious to be trained and acquire fishing vessels; and what action he intends to take to continue and extend the scheme.
I know that the scheme has achieved its primary object of establishing a fleet in the Outer Isles manned by local fishermen, and that they have been fishing successfully. I have received many representations for the continuation and extension of the scheme and I am arranging for this question to be discussed with the Highlands and Islands Development Board and other authorities concerned.
I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for his assurance. May I ask him if he is aware that this scheme originated from the Highland Panel and was primarily put into operation by the Fisheries Department and that there is no need to go into any long investigation in order to extend this scheme which has proved to be successful, while there are excellent crews and fishermen waiting now for boats, and shipbuilding yards in Scotland awaiting orders?
I am sure my hon. Friend appreciates that the Highlands Development Board is already in existence and that it will be sufficient to deal with this special problem.
Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us, of the 12 boats, which, I believe, was the number involved, how many have shown a real and substantial success? Have they all, as we all hoped they would?
Not without notice, particularly in relation to each of the 12; but, generally speaking, it has been successful.
Is the Secretary of State aware that the feeling of the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) that action should be taken immediately is shared by other Highland Members, and that many of the young men on the west coast of Sutherland would like to take part in this scheme? If we wait till the Board examines all the possibilities, it appears to me that that will cause unnecessary delay.
I think that if we examine all the possibilities we shall be doing the right thing. Time spent in seeing if we can revive the scheme is essential delay.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will appoint a committee to clarify the legal status of the Gaelic language and to consider what changes in the law ought to be made.
I doubt whether the appointment of such a committee would be justified, but before making up my mind, I wish to consider the report on Gaelic, based on the 1961 Census, which will be published early next year.
My right hon. Friend is the Secretary of State for all Scotland, including the Gaelic-speaking area, and may I ask him to take into account the fact that a Minister in the last Government saw fit on his own initiative to set up a committee on the status of the Welsh language, including such questions as its equal validity and status in the courts, and so forth? Will he receive delegations and representations from authentic Highland sources before he finally makes up his mind, and not look at this merely in terms of the Census background?
This is not against the Census background; it is an actual report on this matter. I shall be very glad to receive representations from my hon. Friend or any other Highland Member who is concerned about this.
Why cannot the Government Law Officers clarify the status of this language?
Because there is no need to.
Seal Cull (Orkney)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many new-born seals are to be slaughtered this year in Orkney; and what precautions are being taken to see that the slaughter is controlled.
A cull of 750 seal pups will take place this month under the same controls as operated last year. Permits will be issued to seal hunters and the number of seals each is entitled to kill and the area and period within which this may be done will be specified. Permit holders will be obliged to send their seal skins through a central point in Orkney where they will be checked.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that Answer, but may I ask him to bear in mind that last year the cull was considerably exceeded, and may we hope that that will not occur again?
Yes, indeed, we will bear that matter in mind.
University Of Dundee (Draft Charter)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the dissatisfaction of students and members of the Association of University Teachers, Scotland, in respect of the proposed draft charter for the university of Dundee; and whether he will seek to ensure, through the Committee of the Privy Council to which petitions for grant of university charters are referred, that the representation of non-professorial staff on the governing bodies and the scope of academic planning are comparable with the charters recently granted to new universities.
When the draft Charter is submitted to the appropriate Privy Council Committee by the university I shall keep in mind the points my hon. Friend has raised.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask why it is that the proposed new university at Dundee cannot make application on its own for a charter similar to those granted to the other new universities?
I think my hon. Friend will appreciate that what he is discussing in this Question is a draft. It will be a long time before it gets to the Privy Council stage, but when it does I will bear his representations in mind.
Scottish Universities (Royal Commission)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will advise the appointment of a Royal Commission on the Scottish universities.
As it would appear that the Government have accepted the proposals of the establishment of the Scottish universities that the 1889 University Act should be amended, as opposed to the proposal and recommendation of the Robbins Committee that that Act should be repealed, would not it be of great advantage to have such a Royal Commission so that there could be a full examination of the internal government of the traditional universities, and the innovation of new fields of study?
I do not think that the problem which my hon. Friend has mentioned is something which merits a Royal Commission.
Solway Firth Barrage (Feasibility Study)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has accepted the offer of Messrs. Babtie, Shaw and Morton to undertake a feasibility study of the Solway Firth Barrage at a cost of £300,000; when the study will begin; and when it should be completed.
As a result of the moratorium on certain kinds of capital expenditure announced in July by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it is not possible to proceed immediately with the full-scale feasibility study into the Solway Firth Barrage. I am glad to announce however that, after consultation with Messrs. Babtie, Shaw and Morton, it has been possible to arrange for them to start a preliminary study right away at a cost of some £10,000 to £15,000 into the quantity and quality of water that would be made available by a barrage.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his failure to proceed with a full technical investigation will cause grave disappointment? Would he agree that a social and economic survey is of equal importance?
Yes, Sir. I think the hon. Gentleman should appreciate that what we are doing is making a start, and that will not prejudice the feasibility study that was originally the concern of the same consultants.
Staffordshire Assizes (Judge's Comments)
asked the Attorney-General if he is aware of the observation of Mr. Justice Glyn Jones at the Staffordshire Assizes at the trial of John Brown concerning proceedings against his employers and their transport manager; and what action is being taken.
Inquiries are being made into the matters commented on by Mr. Justice Glyn Jones but have not yet been completed.
In view of the suggestion made by the learned judge about a bill of indictment—in other words, further proceedings—in the case of this terrible accident, does my right hon. and learned Friend accept that the case can to some extent be considered still sub judice, and is he aware that it is absolutely imperative that the greatest diligence should be shown in taking this case further to another court if necessary?
Inquiries are still taking place into the matter, and I should have thought that the prudent course, therefore, would be to assume that the mater is still sub judice.
Ministry Of Defence
Service Establishments (Cost Of Upkeep)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what is the total annual cost of upkeep in the current year of airfields, Army camps and other service establishments which are not fully used at the present time.
Can my hon. Friend say whether this includes the cost of upkeep of the airfields and establishments other than the 42 which are required for changing requirements in the course of the year, namely, those which have been declared redundant and those which are being rebuilt? Does not he think that there is a vast waste of resources in this situation, and will he give further consideration to the possibility of drastic economies and to using such facilities for civilian purposes, even if at a later stage these are required by the military authorities?
This does not include premises which are being rebuilt or which have an operational purpose. A large part of the money is required for the maintaining of runways—they have to be maintained to rather exacting standards—which are not in use at the moment, but for which there is still a possible operational requirement. I cannot accept that premises are being held unnecessarily. We are at present disposing of about 58,000 acres of land.
Director Of Public Relations
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if outside advice was taken before the appointment of Director of Public Relations was made.
The decision was entirely mine. Before making it I took into consideration all relevant factors including Mr. Edward Pickering's report on the Defence Public Relations organisation.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware of the discontent of the professional Information Grade officers in this matter, and will he bear this in mind in making any future appointments to this post?
I am aware of the dissatisfaction, and I have already arranged for the Permanent Under-Secretary for the Defence Secretariat to meet I.P.C.S. representatives to discuss considerations which might govern future appointments.
Territorial Army (Future)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what steps he took, before announcing his plans for the future of the Territorial Army, to consult Scottish Territorial Associations.
None, Sir. The rôle of the Army Reserves, and their size and shape, are the responsibility of Ministers. This the Council of Territorial and Auxiliary Forces Association has recognised. We have however been discussing with the Council, which represents all Associations, the means by which our proposals should be given effect.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the lack of consultation has caused grave concern because there is an impression that over large parts of the country it will be impossible for young men to volunteer for service in fighting Territorial Army units? In view of the fine record of these units in the last two wars, is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that we can afford to deprive ourselves of that good voluntary manpower?
One the first point, it was the wish of the House, and Questions were answered by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, that the House should be first informed of the Government's decision in principle. The details involved have been, and are still being, discussed with the Associations and the Territorial Army Council, but quite clearly what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind may mean not reducing but increasing the present size of the T.A.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Scottish Territorial Army Associations are willing to consider methods by which public expenditure can be saved, and will he take this into account in deciding whether to consult them in future?
Consultation is one thing, decision is another. I think that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not necessarily wish to discuss the whole range of public expenditure with the T.A. Associations in Scotland.
Would not it have been wise for the Government, before announcing their proposals, to ascertain by consultation with the T.A. Council whether they were practicable?
I think that the right hon. Gentleman has enough experience of the difficulties of leakages in the Press to know that it would be impossible to conduct wide-scale consultation before the House was informed, and his predecessor, the shadow spokesman on that side of the House, asked specifically that the House of Commons should be informed first of our intentions. I think that that is right, and that was done.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what consultations he has held with the Territorial Council on the future of the Territorial Army; and if he will make a statement.
I cannot at this stage add to the Answers I gave on 27th October.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that what is really affronting the Territorial Army is the feeling that it was handed a death sentence, and that consultations were limited to the funeral details? If his future plans have any rôle for the voluntary peacetime soldier, does not he think that he ought to start now by saying that his services are better appreciated than is apparently the case?
Perhaps the hon. Member does not know that since immediately after my right hon. Friend announced the broad plan for reorganisation—which must be the responsibility of the Government and which has been accepted to be the Government's responsibility by the Territorial Army Council—we have been willing and in fact have been consulting the Territorial Army Council over all the details involved, but we cannot consult it on what is essentially a matter of Government policy, which must be the responsibility of Ministers.
Aircraft Carrier (Proposed Purchase)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the proposed purchase of an aircraft carrier from the United States of America.
No, Sir. We have not yet decided what part aircraft carriers should play in our plans for the 1970s, or whether the inclusion of an American carrier in them would be helpful. It is, however, one of the many options which we are studying.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether approaches have been made to the United States Government, and will he confirm that the object of the exercise is to provide an aircraft carrier capable of operating Phantoms until the new British carrier can be built?
We have been in consultation with the American Government to the extent necessary to enable us to clear our own minds about what would be involved in terms of cost, performance, and so on. I cannot at this stage say what are the various purposes which the purchase of an American carrier, if it were decided to purchase one, might serve.
Territorial Army Emergency Reserve (Service In Aden)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many members of the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve have been serving in Aden; and if he will give an assurance that all will be given two days' home leave on full pay for every month served overseas to compensate for the fact that it has been impossible to grant these men local leave on this basis in accordance with their terms of engagement.
Seven officers and 122 soldiers. The original terms of engagement for the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve did not provide for any leave, local or home. It was later proposed to grant local leave when practicable. As this was not possible in Aden, I have decided to grant six days home leave on full pay for members of the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve serving in all theatres in the present call-out.
While not suggesting that it was more than a coincidence that the Government changed their mind about both this Question and Question No. 46 the day after I put them on the Order Paper, may I ask the Minister whether he is none the less aware that it has given great pleasure to the Ever-Readies, who have done such excellent work in Aden in trying circumstances, to know that they are to get part of their bounty in addition to the leave that they were expecting, but is not he being rather parsimonious about the leave even now?
The fact of the matter is that our predecessors, in devising the scheme, made no provision for any leave at all. We are considering this matter in conjunction with a number of other lessons which have been learnt as a result of this first call-out of the Reserves and I shall take the hon. and gallant Gentleman's point into account. I would add, however, that while we like to have him on our side in these matters, the Government machine is difficult to move in 24 hours, so his Questions were not a major factor in this decision.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will arrange to pay all members of the Territorial Army Emergency Reserve about to return from Aden the unpaid portion of their annual bounty immediately on their return to this country in order to give them some spending money on leave.
Yes, Sir; this is being done.
In that case, will the Minister congratulate me on moving the Government machine so fast?
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will now make a statement on progress towards the proposed cuts in arms ependiture; and if he will state the approximate total expenditure he intends for 1966–67.
On the general question I have nothing at all to add at this stage to the statement which I made on 5th August; I would prefer not to make a forecast about expenditure in 1966–67 but it will, of course, be at a figure compatible with our 1969–70 target.
Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that the current review could result in a lower ceiling than that announced in August, and that he would welcome this? Secondly, without giving us any details, can he confirm that next year's total will be less than the current year's?
No. I can assure the House that it is my purpose and the purpose of the Government in this review to ensure that we bring our commitments, our military task and military capabilities into balance with each other—something that has not been the case for many years past. We shall do so within the figure of £2,000 million.
Tactical Strike Aircraft
asked the Secretary of State for Defence, in view of the continuing deficit in the balance of payments and of his proposed reduction of arms expenditure, if he will forgo the option to buy F111A aeroplanes from the United States of America.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether it remains the policy of Her Majesty's Government to take up the option to buy a small number of F111A's only if it is intended to take up the option for the main force of F111 Mark II.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he expects to announce a decision on the future tactical strike aircraft for the Royal Air Force.
A decision on the future tactical strike aircraft for the Royal Air Force will be announced in the course of the defence review. Our arrangements with the United States give us flexibility in deciding the numbers and timing of any orders for the F111 aircraft.
For the two reasons stated in the Question, would it not be a double folly to buy any of these aircraft at all from America, even if long-term credits were granted?
No, Sir—not necessarily.
We understood that the defence review might not appear until early next year, whereas the option on this aircraft runs out at the end of this year. Can the Minister resolve that difficulty? Secondly, he told us last week that he considered the Mark I version of this aircraft to be equivalent to the TSR2, whereas it had previously been understood that we were interested only in the Mark II.
On the first question, the defence review is a continuing process. I said that we would take this decision in the course of the defence review, so the incompatibility that the hon. Gentleman appeared to find in my remark was not there. On the second question, he will know that there are a number of possible varieties of the F111 aircraft—there are three or four already—with various types of electronic equipment to cater for various types of capability and rôle. I can assure him that the aircraft that we buy will be fully capable of carrying out all the tasks for which it was intended the TSR2 should be responsible, provided that in the course of the defence review we decide to retain the capability for carrying out those tasks.
Can the Minister confirm that it would not be his intention to take up the option on the small number of aircraft required for training purposes unless he had also decided that the Royal Air Force would be equipped with the F111A in its developed version?
The hon. Member is quite right. It would not make very much sense to buy aircraft for training purposes if there were no intention of using them in operations.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement regarding the future use of the all-British Buccaneer plane by the Armed Forces particularly as an alternative to the American F111.
Buccaneer aircraft are already doing sterling service with the Royal Navy, and aircraft of the Mark II version are now becoming available in increasing numbers. As regards the latter part of the Question I would refer to the Answers I have given to similar Questions today.
Is the Secretary of State aware that many first-class designers, particularly on Humberside, believe that our plane is better than the American one in this field? Would he give us a guarantee that work will be available at Hawker Siddeley for some years to come?
I am well aware of the enthusiasm of all our designers for their products and, on the second question, I will certainly give that guarantee.
Before coming to a decision as to what tactical strike aircraft he should order for the Royal Air Force, will the right hon. Gentleman keep very much in mind the possible consequential effect of his decision on the British aircraft industry as a whole and on Anglo-European co-operation in this respect as well?
Certainly, but I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House would wish my main concern to be the operational effectiveness of the Royal Air Force.
Service Men (Separation From Families)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he is aware of the hardships caused to men serving in Her Majesty's Forces overseas as a result of their being separated from their wives and families; and if he will make a statement of the steps he is taking to avoid and mitigate that suffering.
Yes, Sir. Officers and men are having to put up with more family separation than they used to, and more than they ought to. A main purpose of the current defence review is to bring the resources of the Services into balance with the tasks which the nation gives them. Meanwhile, we are doing what we can to relieve separation by building more married quarters, by easing the rules about the occupation of hirings, and by sharing the work as fairly as we can.
As my hon. Friend admits that these hardships exist and that the hardships referred to in my Question are in some cases endangering family solidarity and in others inducing serving members to purchase their discharges, it counteracts the recruiting campaign. What has he to say to that?
I am bound to accept that there is a great deal of truth in what my hon. and learned Friend says. There is no question but that this is a major problem facing all the Services.
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind the fact that in considering this problem sympathetically there is a strong case for much shorter postings overseas, with air transport, provided that the Service families who may have children at school are left in this country in Service homes?
We well understand that, and have made some progress. Equally, where, for operational reasons the men cannot go for only short periods, we think that as far as possible they should be accompanied by their families when they go abroad.
Portsmouth Dockyard (Graving Dock)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what plans he now has for building a graving dock in Her Majesty's Dockyard, Portsmouth.
The need for the graving dock depends on decisions on the future of the carrier force but plans are in hand to meet the need should it arise.
Will the Minister speed up the building of this graving dock? Many people in this country would rather have a graving dock in Portsmouth than spend £6½ million on the Minister of Technology and his office.
Aircraft Carrier Programme
asked the Secretary of State for Defence when he will make an announcement regarding the future aircraft carrier programme for the Royal Navy.
This is an extremely complex issue on which we must be certain that we reach the right conclusion. There is still some more work to be done before we can reach a final decision, but I shall make a final decision in the course of the defence review.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that he gained a lot of popularity in the last election by promising bigger conventional forces—and that we have seen nothing of them to date?
Injured Service Men (Notification Of Next-Of-Kin)
55 and 56.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what official notification was given to the next-of-kin of Craftsman Keats (R.E.M.E.) attached to the 15/19th Hussars that he had received burns and was detained in the British Military Hospital, Hanover, Germany;(2) what are the arrangements for informing next-of-kin of British Service men if they are injured or taken ill on active service.
None, Sir. Serious illness or injury is notified to next-of-kin by the Service authorities, but in less serious cases, as in the case of Craftsman Keats, where a Service man is able to do so it is considered preferable for him to write to his family himself.
I thank my hon Friend for that reply, but does not he think that it is a serious situation, when a Service man is due home on leave, that the first notification which his next-of-kin gets is a letter from him saying, "Dear Mother, I am in hospital"? Will not he see that in future commanding officers are given instructions that the next-of-kin should be informed of illness or injury?
No, Sir. It is much less of a shock to a family if a man is able to write home himself and say, "I am in hospital, but I do not feel too bad", rather than to receive a notification from the unit or the Department which could not give any personal details.
Army Exercise (Boy Soldier's Death)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether he will make a statement on the circumstances in which a Coventry boy soldier serving with the Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers was drowned while on an Army Outward Bound School exercise; and what future added precautions he intends to take in order that the limits of reasonable risk should not be exceeded.
This boy soldier died after the canoe in which he was travelling overturned. When the coroner's inquest on his death has been completed the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Command will consider whether any modification to existing instructions is required.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind in the meantime that in this tragic incident several canoes overturned, and it was only fortuitous that more lives were not lost? Will he consider tightening up the regulations so that canoes, which are ill-fitted for sea-going purposes, will not be used in such exercises?
We shall consider any points that arise, but I think it would be better to leave it to the coroner and the inquest first, so as to get all the information. Then we can look at it.
With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a further statement on Rhodesia.On Monday I said that the two Governments had agreed in principle to recommend to Her Majesty the appointment of a Royal Commission for the purpose of testing the acceptability to the Rhodesian people as a whole of a draft independence arrangement which, we hoped, would be agreed between the two Governments and would be based on the 1961 Constitution with such amendments as we might consider necessary. I went on to say that the two Governments were in discussion to see whether it was possible to agree on the text of a document which the Royal Commission could take for this purpose. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General have now returned and reported on their discussions. It is now clear that there is no prospect—and the House would realise from what I said on Monday the kind of issues involved—of agreement being reached on the amendments which should be made to the 1961 Constitution, as a basis for use by the Royal Commission. In these circumstances we have had to consider our position. This we have done with a deep sense of the responsibility lying upon us for ensuring that this House, before there is any question of its being asked to take a decision about independence, should have before it an authoritative statement of the views of the Rhodesian people as a whole on particular proposals for independence. Mr. Smith considers that independence on the basis of the 1961 Constitution is acceptable to the Rhodesian people. Neither we nor our predecessors have been able to accept this as a fact without the most rigorous proof being forthcoming. In this connection I must refer to statements made yesterday by Mr. Smith about the discussions he had with my predecessor, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), in September 1964. Mr. Smith said yesterday that he had made an agreement with my predecessor that Rhodesia could have independence on the 1961 Constitution, if it could be proved that this was acceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. I want to make it clear that we do not accept this interpretation and we are so informing Mr. Smith. The right hon. Gentleman made it crystal clear again and again that the British Government had as yet no evidence that the majority of the population supported the Rhodesian request for independence on the basis of the present constitution and franchise, and indeed in the final agreed communiqué, the following statement occurs:
Against that background and unequivocally re-confirming the statement I have just quoted, the British Government have decided and I am so informing Mr. Smith that we are now prepared to agree, subject to certain conditions shall outline, that the Rhodesian's Government's constitutional proposals should be put to the test of acceptability to the people of Rhodesia as a whole. But if this is to be done it must be known that we ourselves disagree with these proposals for the reasons I stated on Monday and which I shall not weary the House by repeating. Indeed, Mr. Smith himself recognised in his broadcast on Monday night that we disagree with them. Second, we continue to hold the view that the Royal Commission, before canvassing the views of the Rhodesian people as a whole, should submit for approval by both Governments a unanimous interim report on how they would propose to determine acceptability. If the Royal Commission's suggestions for this purpose were approved, they should themselves supervise whatever procedures were adopted in order to implement their findings. Third, when the Royal Commission have completed the process of ascertaining the opinion of the people of Rhodesia as a whole, they will submit a final report which we have agreed must be unanimous. The British Government cannot, of course, be expected to commit themselves in advance to accept that report, particularly as, in any case, the eventual decision rests with Parliament alone. But I must also inform the House that we are making it clear to the Rhodesian Government—and I do not want there to be any misunderstanding about this here, in Rhodesia, or anywhere else—that if, in the event, the Royal Commission's findings showed that the Rhodesian Government's proposal was unacceptable to the people of Rhodesia as a whole, the British Government reserve their freedom of action as to the future course to be followed. We would feel free to pursue other means of dealing with the problem such as reviving our earlier suggestion of a Royal Commission with the substantive task of devising a new Constitution of Rhodesia, or our proposal that the issue should then be remitted to a Constitutional Conference. I greatly hope—and I am sure the House will share this hope—that, after all the efforts that have been made in these past few weeks to secure a solution fulfilling all the requirements of honour and of justice, that what I have said will enable us to go ahead with the Royal Commission, on the principle of which we agreed last week, and that the Royal Commission can get down to its vitally important work without delay. If what I have said is unacceptable to the Rhodesian Government—though I am sure the whole House would find it difficult to believe that this could not be acceptable to them—I have one last alternative proposition, which I have put to Mr. Smith, as a fall-back on which agreement could still be reached. We should still be willing, as an alternative to the Royal Commission, to agree that the Rhodesian Government's Constitutional proposals should be submitted to the test of a referendum of the whole Rhodesian people, provided that it was conducted without restriction on free political activity by all sections of the community, provided that it was subject to adequate impartial supervision, and provided that it incorporated stringent safeguards against intimidation from any quarter. I will, of course, keep the House fully informed of any further development."The British Prime Minister said that the British Government would take account of any views which might be freely expressed by the population on the issues involved; but he must make it plain that the British Government reserved their position."
We appreciate, of course, the great difficulties under which the Prime Minister and his colleagues are working at the moment and the pressure of time and communications with Salisbury. Therefore, we appreciate the reasons why he has not been able to extend to us the usual courtesies of a reasonable time to consider his statement beforehand.The whole House will have heard with the deepest disappointment that it has not been possible to reach agreement on a draft document which could be presented to the Commission. Do I understand the position aright—that the Prime Minister has now reserved the British Government's position at every stage; on the actual proposals which will be put forward by the Commission to the people of Rhodesia, on the interim report, as to the procedure which is to be used, and, if that is agreed, on the final decision to which the Commission comes? Can he tell the House anything about the present proposals of the Government of Rhodesia which will, if his new proposal is accepted, be put to the people by the Commission? Have there been any changes in the last proposal which the Government made?
I am sorry that it was not possible to send an earlier copy, for the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman knows. The other day I made certain he got one unusually early when that was in my control. I share his disappointment that we have not reached agreement on the document. The reason is that we have stood firm on the principles which I outlined on Monday, which would have made it impossible to agree to the Rhodesian Government's proposal, which is, basically, the 1961 Constitution with certain consequential amendments which are necessary when a country proceeds from a position of dependence to a position of independence, but also, of course, including their proposition for extending the number of voters on the B roll. That is the only difference we have.As to his understanding of the position, I entirely agree with the way in which he has summarised it. Of course, there is still no agreement on the interim report. He is quite right that, on the method of consultation, on the final report and certainly on any action by this House, we fully reserve the position of Her Majesty's Government and of this Parliament throughout.
While regretting that the proposals put before the House and the Rhodesian Government by the Prime Minister have been rejected, may there not be some disquiet, now that, as I understand it, the proposals put forward by the Rhodesian Government will not contain proposals for the implementation of the five principles, which the Prime Minister told us in his last statement were essential to the draft agreement? Does it mean, therefore, that the British Government will appoint a member of the Commission who will put before the Rhodesian people proposals which are not acceptable to the British Government themselves?
We have made it quite clear that we do not regard this Constitution as now proposed as satisfactory and we have reserved our position as to the ultimate outcome, as did the Government before us. Mr. Smith all along has argued, indeed for three years he and his predecessors have argued, that they have the support of the Rhodesian people as a whole. He quoted indabas of chiefs and all sorts of things in support of the argument. Both our predecessors and ourselves are entirely unsatisfied that that is the position. All right; we will put it to the test. If it turns out that the Rhodesian people as a whole, on terms that all of us would consider fair as an indication of their view, reject it, then, of course, Mr. Smith's case falls to the ground. If, on the other hand, they accept it, then we still reserve our position as to the course of action to be taken.
May I be allowed to confirm the interpretation which the Prime Minister has put on the talks of 1964? It seems to me important that this should be done. We were not satisfied at that time that there were sufficient safeguards against retrogression in the position of the Africans, and we were not satisfied, either, that the proposals before us for ascertaining the will of the people of Rhodesia were sufficient or sufficiently defined. Will the Prime Minister find some convenient way of letting the House know on what particular points in the five principles the talks have broken down? It seems to me that at one time there was considerable progress, but now there seems to be deadlock. I do not know whether the Commonwealth Secretary would be able to enlighten us at some time.
I hope that there might be an opportunity of going into the details. I am not sure that it would be helpful to go into every point at the moment. On the question of guarantees against retrogression, we feel that these are essential to this agreement, and we insisted on this staying in if our name were to be attached to the document, which was to be the subject of ascertaining the views of the people of Rhodesia as a whole. May I thank the right hon. Gentleman for confirming what I said earlier about his attitude last year? Anyone who reads the full text of what he said and what his colleagues said, to say nothing of the communiqué which I have quoted, can be in no doubt at all that the right hon. Gentleman made the point about ascertainment and about reserving the Government's position crystal clear again and again.
Is the Prime Minister aware that some of us are greatly concerned by the statement which he has made this afternoon? In view of the fact that the position of the Rhodesian Government about independence has been on countless times challenged on both sides of the House and by the Prime Minister himself in countless statements, is it not quite wrong that that proposal should be submitted for consideration to the Rhodesian people? Does not this conflict with the statement which the Prime Minister made on Monday that the five principles would have to be part of the statement submitted to the Commission? Is it not now possible that Mr. Smith could gain independence for Rhodesia on the basis of terms which month after month and year after year have been rejected by this and previous Governments?
I made it clear on Monday that those points necessary to give effect to the five principles must be included in any document to which we set our seal. Since this is impossible, we are faced with the position of what to do. If my hon. Friend thinks that the people of Rhodesia as a whole are likely to accept this constitution, then I must say that it is a very big change from the attitude taken by him and many other hon. Members. What we have to do now is to see whether they accept it or whether they do not accept it. This is not giving carte blanche for independence. Not at all. We have fully reserved our position, but obviously we have a right to know whether Mr. Smith is correct in saying that the Rhodesian people as a whole back him. We shall find that out.