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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 720: debated on Thursday 18 November 1965

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Gibraltar

Constitution And Financial Assistance

1.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement about constitutional progress and financial assistance for Gibraltar.

The present constitution of Gibraltar was introduced just over a year ago after full consultation with the political leaders in Gibraltar. It is the view of Her Majesty's Government, which is shared by the elected members of the Gibraltar Legislative Council, that further constitutional change is not at present desirable.

As regards financial assistance, I would invite the hon. Member's attention to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development on 4th November to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor). It was also agreed to make available £100,000 as a special grant-in-aid of Gibraltar's budget for the current year.

Is it not a fact that the £1 million already promised to Gibraltar has been earmarked for buildings and schools? Will the hon. Lady assure the House that the development of Gibraltar will not be held up by lack of finance? Is she aware that the Spanish Government have now said that they will agree to talks with the British Government without any preconditions and will she see that these talks start quickly?

In reply to the last part of the supplementary, the hon. Gentleman knows that this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. As to development, we are, of course, in close touch with the Gibraltar Government and, in any case, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development deals with development matters.

Frontier Restrictions

7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action Her Majesty's Government propose to take to assist Gibraltar in her difficulties arising from the Spanish frontier restrictions.

Our aim is to increase the self-sufficiency of Gibraltar.

The Gibraltar Government expects shortly to receive the report of the Development Study Group. Meanwhile action has been taken to ensure maximum co-operation by Departments of the United Kingdom Government which are concerned with Gibraltar.

As the Gibraltar restrictions, really through no fault of the Colony, have now been in operation for over a year, could the hon. Lady tell us whether the Government—after all, she is a Minister and I hope that she will not always ride out on the Foreign Office—have plans for conversations with the Spanish Government, or any other political proposals as opposed to economic, in order to be able to carry out the promises which they made in a White Paper issued last April, to defend and sustain the people of Gibraltar?

I do not wish to ride off any Questions, but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, who has himself been a Minister, will recognise that one does not cross departmental lines in these matters. As I replied to his hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), there have been suggestions in Gibraltar for some constitutional changes, but it is the view of both the elected members of Gibraltar and of Her Majesty's Government that for the time being a change in the Constitution would not help matters.

Aden

Security And Constitution

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, if he will make a statement about security and the constitutional situation in Aden.

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, what plans he has for constitutional progress in the South Arabian Federation.

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies, if he will make a statement concerning the possibility of renewed political advance towards independence for Aden and the South Arabian Federation.

Although the security situation in Aden State has improved in recent weeks, there have been further terrorist attacks during the last few days. No appointments have yet been made to the Advisory Council for Aden State for which provision was made in the Aden (Temporary Provisions) Order, 1965.

The Federal Government have appointed Sir Ralph Hone and Sir Gawain Bell to advise them on liberalising and improving the Federal Constitution. Their report is expected early in the New Year. We hope that this will lead to a speedy resumption of constitutional progress.

Meanwhile, my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and for the Colonies is visiting South Arabia to study the problems of the area, and to have discussions with the High Commissioner and other authorities there.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that one of the causes behind the present situation is the continued support given by certain members of his own party to the Adeni politicians in their resistance against the Federal Government? Will he make it clear again that power is to be handed over to the Federal Government and that it is up to the political parties in Aden to co-operate with the Government?

I know of nothing to substantiate the allegations in the first part of the supplementary question. As to the second part, the constitutional position is perfectly clear.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House, in the general context of the security of Aden and the Federation, what is the situation on the Yemen frontier, and does he have any view about possible improved relations when a new coalition Government emerges in that country?

Improved relations with the Yemen is a matter which the hon. Gentleman should put to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. At the moment the situation is rather easier and we hope that it will continue so.

As both my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary of State have promised the Federation independence by 1968, and as the right hon. Gentleman has now had to go back to direct rule—I do not complain of that at all—could he give some idea of what his plans are for bringing Aden Colony and the Federal rulers closer together as a necessary lead-in to independence in 1968?

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says. I think that all of us regretted the need for the suspension of the Constitution. It has, however, produced greater stability in the area and we must hope that when the report of Sir Ralph Hone and Sir Gawain Bell is available it will be possible to start fruitful discussions between the Federal Government and Aden, which is, of course, a part of the Federation.

Terrorism (Security Precautions)

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many acts of terrorism causing personal injury have taken place in Aden during the last three months; what additional security precautions have been taken; and if he will make a statement.

35 utterly senseless acts of terrorism causing death or personal injury have occurred in Aden State since 15th August. In recent weeks the security authorities have had encouraging successes in the detection of agents of the National Liberation Front. After some reduction in terrorist activity, during the last few days, there have been a number of further attacks including three shooting incidents. Special emergency legislation allowing for the closure of roads, vehicle curfews and restricted residence was introduced in Aden State by the High Commissioner in June. Further measures since then include road checks and selective searches; static guards at key points and places of entertainment used by Service men and their families; additional protection for Government offices and individual quarters where necessary; the removal of British Forces' families from vulnerable hired quarters, the fencing off of surrounding areas and access roads and paths and the provision of hard surfaces as a safeguard against mines; improvements to the security of Aden airport; and the supply of small arms to Government officers when so recommended by the Commissioner of Police.

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, whatever the political developments that might ensue, will he continually bear in mind the anxieties of those who have relatives serving there? They have been in considerable apprehension.

I very much appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says. It is an anxiety which is shared deeply by myself and my colleagues.

Colonial Territories

Department (Staff)

3.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what increase or decrease there was in the staff of the department under his control in the period 16th October, 1964, to 15th October, 1965; and what increase or decease he anticipates in the period up to 15th April, 1966.

The number of staff in posts in the Colonial Office on the 16th October, 1964, was 632 and there were 16 unfilled vacancies. The corresponding figures for the 15th October, 1965, are 580 and 41 respectively.

The staff will shortly be increased by 16 when Communications Department is transferred back to the Colonial Office from the Ministry of Overseas Development.

Can the Minister tell the House something more about these vacancies, why they are not filled and whether it is really necessary to fill them?

It is undoubtedly necessary to fill the vacancies. The reasons for their not being filled would be much too complicated to deal with in answer to a supplementary question.

School-Leaving Age

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will state the names of the Colonies which come under his jurisdiction and which do not have a compulsory school leaving age.

I do not have complete information but Colonial Governments have been asked to supply it and I will let the hon. Member have the information when it is received.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that it is a well-known fact that in some of our Colonies children are leaving school at the early age of nine, whatever educational facilities they may be having up to that age, in order to become sweated labour? When she gets this information will she do her utmost to ensure that we will have an adequate educational system, without which these people can never progress to self-government?

We are, of course, always anxious to improve educational facilities. My hon. Friend will appreciate that in a number of Colonial Territories this is now a matter for the local government.

Diego Garcia

Future

5.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement about the future of Diego Garcia.

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave on 10th November to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson). Diego Garcia is one of the islands in the Chagos Archipelago.

Can the Minister say how the Government's discussions are going on with a view to establishing an Anglo-American base?

In that event, may I be assured that there will be no effect on the sovereignty of the territory?

The question of the defence use to which the island is to be put is a matter which should be referred to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence. There is certainly no question of any derogation from Britain's sovereignty of these territories.

Fiji

Banabans (Representations)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what action he has taken as a result of the representations by the Banabans made to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State during her visit to Fiji.

I gave the Banabans all the assurances for which they asked. No other action was necessary.

While thanking the hon. Lady for her reply, is she satisfied with the position which prevails in which the Banabans are getting 2s. 8d. a ton royalty for their phosphates, whereas the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Administration is charging 23s. per ton to finance their Administration? Does she feel that this is a satisfactory arrangement and ought she not to have another look at this?

That is really another question. That was not raised by the Banabans with me when I saw them. That has transpired since. If the hon. Member would care to put down a Question on that particular point. I would be happy to answer it.

Economic Affairs

South-East Study (Poole)

11.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he has completed his examination of the South-East Study; and what effect the conclusions he has reached will have on the growth of the population of Poole.

I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary gave on 26th October to a Question by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten).

Does the Minister realise that a whole year has now passed since he began his examination and the continual delay is holding up the review?

I understand the anxieties in Poole and we are certainly going to try to reach a final decision as soon as possible. In the meantime the hon. Gentleman may like to know that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is very ready to discuss, sympathetically, any problems that are worrying the local authorities.

Electric Traction Equipment (Export)

12.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs to what extent the Electrical Engineering Economic Development Council has taken into consideration the importance of United Kingdom railway electrification as a basis, economic and technical, for the increased sale of British electric traction equipment to overseas buyers.

In examining exports of this equipment the Economic Development Council has invited the Government's attention to the relationship between exports and the size of the home market. We shall bear this in mind when considering future investment proposals from the British Railways Board.

While thanking my hon. Friend for that Answer, may I ask if he will bear in mind how important it is that we continue with main line railway electrification, not only because of its own merits but as a shop window for the export trade in electric traction vehicles?

I think my hon. Friend knows that this matter is still under consideration. In fact, the Minister of Transport is reappraising the costs and benefits of electrification of the line northwards, from Weaver Junction to Carlisle, and, in this consideration, matters to which my hon. Friend has drawn attention will certainly be taken into account.

Economic Councils (Women Members)

13.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he will appoint some women to economic boards or councils; and if he will take into consideration the fact that members are yet to be appointed for the South-East Region.

My right hon. Friend has already appointed some women to these councils. In appointing council members my right hon. Friend's first consideration is the contribution which they seem likely to make to the work.

While appreciating that the Minister has very sound reasons for his reply, may I point out that so far no women at all have been appointed to any of the boards and that only three women have been appointed to the councils, one in the East Midlands, one from Yorkshire and one, I think, from Wales? It is hardly a sensible reflection of the ability of the women in our country and of the policy.

With regard to the boards, I am sure that the hon. Lady will recognise that except for the chairmen, who are appointed by my right hon. Friend, the other members are the representatives of the Departments in Whitehall. I do not think that in these matters—being rather a feminist myself—one should necessarily take sex into consideration in making these appointments. One should appoint the best person for the job.

Labour (Regional Demands)

14.

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what proposals he has for restraining demand for labour in the regions of the country where it may be too high, without causing a check to development and excessive unemployment in the regions where it is too low.

We have exempted development districts from the measures announced in July to slow down the growth of public and private investment; we are exercising control over office development in the areas round London and Birmingham; and we have tightened the controls on industrial development in places with high demand for labour. These measures are already having the intended effects in the regions. The Government's further proposals to improve the regional balance were, of course, mentioned in the Gracious Speech.

Does not the Minister think, however, that there is still acute danger that though the extra demand and money may be pumped into some regions which require it, there is too big a flow-back to the South-East? Will the hon. Gentleman look at differential rates of taxation in addition to the measures which he has mentioned?

We are looking at all possible measures. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, it is the Government's firm intention to ensure that there is a proper balance of employment and economic activity throughout the country. In this matter, Scottish considerations are always before us.

Board Of Trade

Industrial Development, Royston

15.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will now accept proposals for industrial development in Royston, in view of the proposed expansion of the town.

I think that we should wait until decisions are taken about expansion in Royston before considering how much industrial development may be needed.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that a decision in principle has been made in favour of expansion between the county council and the local council, and unless there is industrial development fairly shortly Royston could develop into a commuter town, which would be very undesirable?

Yes, but, as I think my hon. Friend knows, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is considering this proposal in the review of the South-East Study. The industrial developments, if any are required, will come along after that study is finished.

Companies Act, 1948 (Private Companies)

16.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will introduce legislation to amend section 129(4) of the Companies Act, 1948, whereby private companies are at present exempt from public financial scrutiny.

24.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what action he intends to take to reduce the privileges of exempted private companies.

I would ask my hon. Friends to await the proposals I shall be making for new companies legislation.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his Answer, may I express the hope that this legislation will not be too long delayed? Does he consider that it should include provision to require private companies of this character to file their accounts and records with the Registrar of Companies at Bush House?

I can assure my hon. Friend that I shall take special note of his views on this subject.

Would the right hon. Gentleman recognise that in making this recommendation the Jenkins Committee had in mind the interests of creditors and not that private affairs should be exposed to the public gaze? Would he undertake to bear in mind and to include in the legislation the two exemptions which the Committee recommended in its recommendations on this subject?

In preparing his proposals, will my right hon. Friend give very careful consideration to the activities of the Service Group of companies which, because of the legal loophole existing in the regulations, appear to have developed a very lucrative racket out of hiring out non-existent launderettes?

Companies' Debts And Liabilities (Directors' Responsibility)

17.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will introduce legislation to make directors of companies personally responsible for their companies' debts and liabilities in cases where incompetence or culpability can be proved.

Under Section 332 of the Companies Act, in certain circumstances the court may make a director of a company who was knowingly party to its fraudulent trading, personally responsible for its debts. The proposals which I shall be making this Session for new companies legislation will not extend to amendment of Section 332.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his Answer, but will he look at this question again? Would not he agree that the Jenkins Committee found some time ago that there was abundant evidence already in existence that a change in the law on this matter was needed? Would not he accept that investors should have a right of redress against those who are responsible for the mismanagement of their investments?

I agree with my hon. Friend that this is an imporant point. But there is a limit to the amount of legislation which we can carry through in the present Session.

If the Minister gives further thought to this matter, as the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mr. Park) suggests, will he carry it to its logical conclusion? If unofficial strikes cause the debts, will he make the strikers responsible?

Donibrisrle Industrial Estate, Fife

18.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many new jobs have been created on the Donibristle Industrial Estate in Fife; how many of those jobs are for males and females, respectively; and how many additional jobs are in prospect.

The number of new jobs which have been created on the Board of Trade Industrial Estate at Donibristle since 1964 is 299. Of these, 191 are for men and 108 for women. There are 225 jobs in prospect within the next two or three years.

Can my hon. Friend say how these figures—either the jobs already created or those in prospect—match the numbers likely to be declared redundant as a result of expedited pit closures in the next two or three years? Can he say what proportion of the jobs in prospect are for males and whether there is any tenant for the advance factory now almost completed, I think?

On the last point, I understand that the advance factory is expected to be completed by the end of this year. I also understand that a number of industrialists have already shown considerable interest in it. As for the rest of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, as he will know, we are considering measures which will need to be taken to deal with mine closures. I should like notice of his question about the number of men involved in the 225 jobs in propsect.

Uneconomic Coal Mines (Closure)

19.

asked the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has for the establishment of publicly-owned industries in those areas likely to suffer from the expedited closure of uneconomic coal mines.

I have announced in the last 12 months a programme of 55 new Government-financed advance factories in development districts, of which 32 are in coal-mining areas. The Government are taking vigorous action to provide other employment for miners affected by the expedited closure of uneconomic coal mines.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that news is very, very welcome as an indication of the Government's sympathy with the nature of the problem? But it does not answer the Question on the Order Paper, which asks about the establishment of publicly-owned industries in these areas. Does not my right hon. Friend agree that the phasing of pit closures with new industrial development is not likely to be smooth unless and until we fulfil the pledge we gave at the election?

With all respect to my hon. Friend, these are publicly-owned factories. But in so far as it is possible to introduce further publicly-owned enterprises in these areas, we shall be delighted to do so.

Surely the right hon. Gentleman will give the House a categorical assurance that it is not the intention of the Government to establish entirely new nationalised industries as is envisaged in this Question?

It certainly is the intention of the Government in this Session to introduce legislation to widen the powers of nationalised industries to manufacture. I hope that that will contribute to employment in these areas.

Textiles (Imports From Hong Kong)

20.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will give an assurance that there will be no further erosion of Hong Kong's position regarding the import of textiles into the United Kingdom.

The proposals which I put to the exporting countries for the control of imports into the United Kingdom from 1966 to 1970 do not involve subjecting Hong Kong to any reduction in her present quota. We shall maintain close contact with the Hong Kong Government during the international discussions on these proposals.

The right hon. Gentleman has not answered my Question. Would he give an assurance that he will ensure that there is no further erosion of Hong Kong's textile position in view of the recent decision not to allow a carry-over into next year? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, unlike an independent country such as India, Hong Kong is wholly dependent on the United Kingdom Government? Will the right hon. Gentleman try to look after our dependent territories and not attack them?

The hon. Gentleman has not got the facts quite right. So far from there having been any erosion of Hong Kong's position, under the previous Government Hong Kong had a fixed textile quota whereas in future it will have a rising quota.

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the intense satisfaction in the North-West with the policy which he is pursuing for the home industry and in resisting the squalid implications of this Question? Will he be in a position to make an interim statement on the negotiations well before the end of the year?

So far as I know, all the policies which I am pursuing for all the industries concerned are giving satisfaction to those industires.

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether his new quota arrangements are intended to apply only against under-developed countries such as Hong Kong, which in addition has to cope with 2 million refugees? What pressure is he bringing to bear on the advanced countries, such as France and America, to liberalise their textile imports?

21.

asked the President of the Board of Trade why he has refused to carry over Hong Kong's unused textile quota for 1965 into 1966.

The present restraint arrangement terminates at the end of the year, and it was not possible to provide for the carry-over of any unused quotas for Hong Kong or any other country into the new arrangements which we have proposed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that Hong Kong feels betrayed through the Government disregarding their obligations in this way, particularly as the reason for the large amount of textiles to be carried over into next year has been largely caused by the present Administration's import duties which apply to made-up goods? Will the right hon. Gentleman please look at this again?

Anybody who feels betrayed has not read the agreement which was made by the previous Government. That agreement, as is made perfectly clear in the first sentence, terminates at the end of 1965.

In view of the strong feelings in Hong Kong about the Government's action in this connection, can the Government undertake to make strenuous efforts to protect the interests of Hong Kong at the forthcoming G.A.T.T. discussions?

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Western European Time

23.

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he will make an estimate of the extent to which the introduction of Western European time for Great Britain throughout the year would stimulate British trade with Europe.

I see no way of making such an estimate. But I am aware of the inconvenience which the difference of time involves and it is one of the considerations which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department will have in mind when he reviews the arrangements for Summer Time.

Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the resolution of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce urging that time in this country should be the same as Western European time? Does he agree that there is a loss during the winter of 25 per cent. contact time by telephone and telex and that the problems of time for the farmer in Normandy are the same as for the farmer in Kent?

I am aware of the first part of the hon. Member's supplementary question. As to the second part, I am not sure that such estimates can be accepted without further investigation.

Walkie-Talkie Sets (Imports)

25.

asked the President of the Board of Trade if he will seek powers to prohibit the import of walkie-talkie sets operating in the 27 megacycles band, which it is illegal to use in this country because no licence to use them can be obtained, thereby preventing fraud on the public by the sale to them of useless articles; and if he will make a statement.

No, Sir. The Board of Trade cannot, because of the practical difficulties involved, use their powers to control imports of goods which might in certain circumstances prove useless to the purchaser. Legislation to control imports of the walkie-talkie sets in question would be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General.

Is it not preposterous that foreign currency should be used to import goods which it is illegal to use in this country, thereby encouraging the public to act illegally or shopkeepers to commit a fraud on the public by selling them things which they cannot use? Surely it is in the interests of the economy to prevent such a thing? Does it not come within the existing powers which the Board of Trade has for protecting our economic interests?

To the last part of the supplementary question the answer is "No". The Board of Trade's activities, in so far as it has supervision over the import and export trade, cover a tremendously wide field, and the Board of Trade's actions in regard to control of imports must properly be taken on a commercial basis. If the allegations in the Question of the hon. Member are correct, it is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General to deal with, and if he states that the import of sets should be banned because if they are brought in they will not be licensed, then he can take the appropriate action.

Will the Minister bear in mind that this problem arises to a great extent owing to the fact that neither the citizens nor the trade are kept properly informed as to what bands are available? Will he consult the Postmaster-General to see that greater knowledge is given of these bands? This is very important.

To the second part of the question the answer is, Yes. As to the first part, dealers who are known to be selling these sets have been reminded by the General Post Office that they will not be licensed for speech transmission, and I hope that this answer to the questions which have been put to me will give wider publicity to that fact.

Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Methane (Imports From Algeria)

27.

asked the President of the Board of Trade which of the considerations which led to the present tariff classification of methane imported from Algeria have since changed.

I would refer the right hon. Member to the White Paper on Fuel Policy, which sets out the changes which have occurred in the position of the gas industry since imported methane was made free of duty.

Is the Minister aware that but for this imported methane the recent gas crisis in the Midlands would have been very much worse, and that this methane was imported under a 15-year contract by the Gas Boards on the basis that it would not be taxed on importation, and that the threat contained in the fuel policy White Paper, to which the Minister referred, that it may be taxed, obviously for political reasons, has thrown a wholly undesirable uncertainty into the future plans of the Gas Boards?

I do not agree with the conclusions which the right hon. Member is drawing from this matter, but I would say to him that if there were any consideration of changing the duty, such matters as he has raised would be taken into consideration.

Would the Minister give a categorical assurance that there would be no intention whatever of imposing tax on any methane which may be discovered in the North Sea?

It is quite impossibe to give that assurance, and in any case the question should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power.

Employment, The Hartlepools

28.

asked the President of the Board of Trade how many new jobs have been made available in The Hartlepools since October, 1964; and what is the estimated provision during the year 1965–66.

Some 2,780 jobs are expected to arise from projects covered by industrial development certificates approved in the 12 months ended 31st October, 1965, but many of these jobs have still to come.

In thanking the Minister for the very encouraging information he has conveyed to the House, may I ask him to bear in mind that over 50 per cent. of the unemployed in The Hartlepools are over 40 years of age, and that we in this constituency are very concerned about the incidence and consequences of port redevelopment? We have a considerably large number of unemployed in The Hartlepools compared with the national average. For these reasons would he assure the House of his continuing interest—

I can assure my hon. Friend that all these matters are being taken into consideration, and I can assure him that my right hon. Friend and I will not cease to do good for The Hartlepools till the level of unemployment there is below 1 per cent.

Education And Science

Schoolchildren, Rural Areas (Free Transport)

29.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will review the regulations governing the provision of free transport for schoolchildren under the age of 12 years who live, in rural areas.

No, Sir. My right hon. Friend is satisfied that the present arrangements are sufficiently flexible for local education authorities to provide transport for pupils who live within statutory walking distance when they consider this justified.

Is the Minister aware that this reply will be received with dismay in the rural areas where young children under the age of 12 have to walk almost three miles in dark lanes in the winter through desolate country, and that the situation is wholly unsatisfactory, and that we expect a very much greater interest to be taken in this matter by the Minister?

The hon. Member must bear in mind that the statutory walking distance is not defined by regulations but by Statute—Section 39(5) of the Education Act, 1944. In any event a discretion is given to local authorities, who have been reminded of this discretion in dealing with specific difficulties in a circular as recently as February this year.

Teacher-Training Colleges (Places)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress has been made in providing places at teacher-training colleges and similar institutions for mature students.

In the academic year 1964–65 there were 7,300 non graduate students aged 25 and over following courses of initial teacher training in the general and specialist colleges of education. This compares with 5,700 in 1963–64 and 4,400 in 1962–63, and last year older students represented over 14 per cent. of the total intake to initial training courses. Total numbers for the current year are not yet available but are expected to show a further rise.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his strenuous efforts in this direction, may I ask him if he is aware that many married women who undertake teaching cannot find courses for teachers in school hours and are, therefore, unable to train if they wish to return home to meet their children coming back from school?

I am aware of this. For this reason I am trying to encourage measures, which are not easy in practice, to start a system of part-time training which will meet this particular difficulty.

Immigration (Circular 7–65)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will now give an estimate of the additional cost which would have to be borne by local authorities if all the recom-menations in Circular 7–65 on immigration were implemented.

This would necessitate obtaining detailed information and estimates from the local education authorities concerned, and would not in my view justify the work involved.

Would the Minister not agree that the suggestion made to local authorities that they need extra teachers, and, to quote his words, additional welfare assistants, additional clerical assistance, to deal with the problem, quite apart from the recommendation dealing with additional transport facilities, imposes a very considerable additional burden on local authorities in certain areas, and is it not right that part of this burden should be borne by the Ministry?

It is correct that it provides a burden to some authorities. It varies considerably from place to place, and it is a fact that the Government, in certain circumstances, are proposing to help provide extra money for this.

Would the Minister not agree that, quite apart from the question of the circular, one of the most important aspects of this matter is the teaching of English to immigrants, and that this is a matter where public funds should not be skimped?

Pupils

Teachers {including part-time teachers at their full-time equivalent value)

Type of Secondary School

Number

Percentage of total

Number

Percentage

Modern1,555,13255·278,56752·1
Grammar718,70525·541,86127·8
Technical84,5873·04,9653·3
Bilateral and Multilateral66,1662·33,5492·3
Comprehensive239,6198·513,3648·9
Other154,8455·58,3725·6
All Secondary Schools2,819,054100·0150,678100·0

NOTE: The differences in staffing in the types of school reflect the varying proportion of pupils in Sixth Forms who are taught in smaller groups.

particularly made arrangements to improve the teacher ratio in this case, and, of course, account will be taken by the Department of the results of inquiries into things to be done.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Secondary School Places

32.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what was the total number of secondary school places in England and Wales at the beginning of the 1965 school year; what percentages of these places were comprehensive, grammar, technical, secondary modern and special, respectively; and how many teachers there are in each category.

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

Could the Minister extract the figure for teachers in special schools and give the House some assurance on this—that special school facilities are adequate?

I regret that it is not possible to give figures specifically for special schools. These schools are not included because they are not divided into the categories asked for in the Question.

Following is the Answer:

Information is collected in January. The following table shows the position in maintained secondary schools in England and Wales, in January, 1965. Special schools are not included as they are not divided into the categories asked for:

Royal Commission

33.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he will recommend the appointment of a Royal Commission to report upon all aspects of education in this country involving costs, supply of teachers, teacher training, ages of pupils, nursery schools, and the wage structure of the teaching profession.

No, Sir. The needs and problems of the education service are already well known. On the specific points mentioned in the Question, present and future costs and resources are analysed in the National Plan. The supply of teachers and teacher training was exhaustively considered in the Ninth Report of the National Advisory Council. Ages of pupils and nursery schools are now being examined by the Plowden Council. The wage structure was the subject of a recent arbitration award. The appointment of a Royal Commission on education would add nothing to our knowledge; and while it sat I should have to defer many vital and urgent decisions.

Would it not be better to have a comprehensive inquiry of this kind in public where all up-to-date views can be presented? Has the Secretary of State anything to hide on this matter?

No. I think the education service, if anything, is rather over-inquired into. What we need now is not more inquiries but policies and action there.

Village Playing Fields (Suspension Of Grants)

34.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science on what date grant aid for the purchase and equipping of village playing fields was suspended; and on what date this suspension became operative.

The suspension of grants to local voluntary organisations towards the capital cost of providing new sporting and recreational facilities resulted from the economy measures introduced by the Chancellor in his speech of 27th July.

It applied from that date to all projects for which no binding commitment had been entered into and which were not situated in development districts.

How does the Joint Under-Secretary justify the statement he has made with the report of his comments which appeared in the Daily Telegraphon 30th October that

"only grants for capital work projects such as new club houses for sporting clubs"
had been suspended? How does he justify this statement in the context of his refusal to make a grant for purchasing and equipping a playing field in the village of Hartwell in Northamptonshire?

I am justified by the fact that it happens to be a true and accurate statement of affairs. That particular project was a capital project and was therefore deferred.

What will happen to the backlog of applications at the end of the six months' suspension?

We have asked the authorities to continue to plan and send their proposals to us for the moment when the standstill is relieved. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There is already evidence—in spite of the jocular reception which that received—that they are already doing so.

Mathematics And Physics

35.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will give an estimate of the number of Ph.Ds. awarded in mathematics and physics in 1963–64; and if he will state the number of new academic posts created in universities and colleges in that year in mathematics and physics.

The number of Ph.Ds. awarded by universities in Great Britain in 1963–64 in mathematics was 84 and in physics 339.

I will write as soon as posible to my hon. Friend about the second part of his Question.

Bsc Degree Course, Woolwich Polytechnic

36.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science why his decision to cancel the bachelor of science degree course in applied physics at the Woolwich Polytechnic was not conveyed to the students for five weeks after he was aware that the number who had enrolled for the course was one below the required minimum.

The course started on 27th September. Until a late stage there was some doubt whether the minimum numbers would be achieved. When it became clear that the number of firm enrolments was only five, the Inner London Education Authority submitted an appeal for exceptional approval for the course to continue. My Department received this appeal on 19th October and gave the Authority their decision orally within a few days, confirming it by letter on 28th October. All the students have now been accommodated in other courses.

Would the Minister not agree that this discloses a situation at which he should have another look? These young people were spending six weeks getting ready to start a new course. Just as they are getting satisfied with the work they are doing they are told they cannot go on. Is that right?

I agree with the hon. Member that it would have been better if the course had never started. I gather that the Inner London Education Authority was in some doubt about the numbers and about student options after the course started. That is what led to this particular situation.

Home Department

Bathing Fatalities

37.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department in view of the substantial increase in bathing fatalities, what measures he proposes in order to give warning to bathers in holiday resorts.

Under Sections 231 and 233 of the Public Health Act 1936, local authorities have powers to make byelaws with reference to public bathing, including byelaws for the purpose of protecting bathers from danger.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is satisfied that the existing regulations are satisfactory and whether there is any further step that he proposes to take to ensure the safety of bathers in the future?

A special national winter safety campaign was launched this year by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, and also in the same year a special circular went round from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government calling attention of local authorities to that campaign. I do not think at the moment that any further steps are necessary.

Mr Bert Bensen

39.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why he has again refused admittance into Great Britain to Mr. Bert Bensen.

Mr. Bensen is the subject of a deportation order which requires him to remain out of the United Kingdom and which I am not prepared to revoke.

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend whether he will give some reason why he will not revoke the refusal for Mr. Bensen to visit this country both for family and business reasons? This is not in keeping with British tradition of free entry into this country.

In my opinion, there are ample reasons why my predecessor made the order, and those reasons are still valid.

Prisoner Holmes

41 and 42.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) why he has ordered medical tests on Prisoner Holmes, and what information he has from these tests;

(2) when he expects to be able to release Prisoner Holmes, and if he will take into consideration the fact that he has served more than the sentence he was originally given.

My right hon. and learned Friend hopes that he will soon have completed his current review of this case, in which he will take into account all relevant considerations. His concern is to see whether in all the circumstances of the case he should be justified in authorising the prisoner's release on licence for a second time, and in this connection Holmes has been under medical investigation: the reports of this investigation are confidential.

Does the hon. Lady know that this man has had many medical tests? As far as I know, each one has proved that he is not mental, and I have given the hon. Lady and the Home Secretary a number of letters written by him which show quite clearly that he is absolutely sane. This man has served over 10 years in prison. He was originally given a sentence of 10 years and then, because he appealed, the judge said that he was insane. There was never a test carried out, but he has done over 10 years now. He has been let out once and been pulled back again, and he ought not to be in jail.

I cannot think that discussing this man's medical condition on the Floor of the House will help him in his rehabilitation, if my right hon. and learned Friend decides to let him out for a second time. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows, this is a very sad and sordid case where the crime was one of rape of a girl of 11, and I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman ought to wait until my right hon. Friend has finished the review.

In view of the thoroughly unsatisfactory Answer and the amount of time that I have spent on this case, I will raise it on the Adjournment.

Firearms Amnesty (Collectors' Pieces)

43.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that under the surrender of firearms amnesty some people are handing in antique weapons or firearms which can be regarded as collectors' pieces; and if he will give an assurance that, when these are disposed of for cash, the person who gave them in will receive adequate compensation.

I have asked chief officers of police to arrange that members of the public handing in collectors' pieces should as far as practicable be consulted as to their disposal, and I have said that in my view disposal by the owner through a reputable dealer would be proper. No surrendered firearms are sold to dealers by the police.

Hereditary Peerages

Q1 and Q2.

asked the Prime Minister (1) whether he will introduce legislation to translate hereditary peerages into life peerages, thus removing the hereditary factor from the legislature;

(2) whether he will introduce legislation excluding from hereditary peerages the right to a seat in the legislature.

Is the Prime Minister aware that a three-letter word in reply to my Question would have been widely welcomed, except perhaps by the B.B.C., and that there is widespread and rising disgust at the delaying tactics of people who are responsible to nobody? Can he indicate whether the Government might provide facilities for a well-supported Private Member's Bill to remove the hereditary system?

I think that there is cause for my hon. Friend's concern about the way in which essential Government legislation has been mauled in another place in the past Session and the delays that have occurred on social legislation, but I do not think that what my hon. Friend suggests is the way to deal with it.

Prime Minister (Journeys Abroad)

Q3.

asked the Prime Minister how many official journeys abroad he has made since accepting the Queen's commission; and which countries he has visited.

Seven, Sir, to the United States and Canada, to Germany, France, Italy, Austria and Rhodesia. Cm the Rhodesian visit I also called in at Cyprus, Kenya, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana and Gibraltar.

While appreciating the assistance of the Prime Minister in visiting Rhodesia, may I refer to his previous scripts referring to bridge-building in Vienna, and knocking hell out of the Americans? Can he put his finger on a single practical achievement, other than headlines?

So far as bridge-building is concerned in Europe, it was not even attempted in the previous two or three years between E.F.T.A. and E.E.C. That is correct. This matter has been pushed further at the meeting at Copenhagen. But the hon. Gentleman will recognise the difficulties caused by dissension between the Six on these matters. With regard to the question of the Americans, this can be done when all our exporters are doing as well as the best ones.

Was not the information contained in my right hon. Friend's original reply already fairly well known? Why was it necessary to ask this question?

Overspill Programmes (Minsterial Activities)

Q4.

asked the Prime Minister what arrangements are made to co-ordinate the activities of the Ministries of Health, Education, Transport and Housing and Local Government in those areas of rapid town expansion under the overspill programmes.

Will the Prime Minister accept that in the expanding town of Haverhill in my constituency the provision of medical and social facilities, including shops and schools, is lagging far behind the build-up of population, and will he urge upon his right hon. Friends to try and achieve a much better balance in these town expansion programmes?

I am well aware of the hon. Gentleman's concern. I have seen a report of his speech in the Haverhill Echoof 10th September. I thought that a lot of what he said was very much to the point. I have had the same problem in an expanding town in my own constituency. If he cannot get satisfaction on this question from the local authorities or the Minister of Housing, I hope that he will bring any evidence of lack of co-ordination to me.

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is really a problem here? We have no machinery comparable to the new town machinery for the rapid expansion of these towns which his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing has put in hand and, as a result, an overwhelming task is being laid on the shoulders of relatively small authorities.

Yes, Sir. Having put almost that same question from those benches for some three years in the case of Kirby in my own constituency, which is a classic of this problem, I agree there is a problem, and that is what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government is dealing with, and he must be the co-ordinating authority.

Polaris Submarines (Nuclear Warheads)

Q5.

asked the Prime Minister if he is satisfied that all necessary steps are being taken to ensure that the nuclear warheads for Great Britain's Polaris submarines will be fully effective; and if he will make a statement.

For the reasons I explained in my statement in the House on 17th December last, it would not be possible under the partial test ban treaty to test the efficiency of the warhead system as a whole. As I explained to the House on 20th July, Her Majesty's Government considered there might be a case, purely on ground of economy of expensive materials, for repeating the earlier test, which was unsuccessful, of a component of the warhead. This test has now taken place and was sucessful.

The right hon. Gentleman has referred to economy of expensive materials. Will he repeat the assurance that he gave to the House in the last Session that any further tests on components will be carried out which are necessary for the purpose of effectiveness?

If the hon. Gentleman did not hear me last time, I will certainly repeat it for him. He will be aware that so far as his economy question was concerned, there was a test undertaken a year earlier by the previous Government which, unfortunately, did not succeed. It was very expensive, and it did not succeed. It has been repeated, with success this time, and will lead to a considerable saving in cost. On the hon. Gentleman's other question, we shall do whatever is necessary to maintain what is needed for the purpose of an inter-nationalised deterrent.

Supposing anyone were foolish enough to fire one of these, would it not be an unconvenanted blessing if it did not go off? Why should we try and avoid that?

I think that raises rather wider questions than can be dealt with at Question Time. I think that we have been into some of the theology of the question as fully as the House would want over the last few years.

Mr Kosygin (Visit To Great Britain)

Q6.

asked the Prime Minister if the date for Mr. Kosygin's visit to Great Britain has now been fixed.

I am rather disappointed with my right hon. Friend's reply. Is my right hon. Friend aware that we on these benches and the majority of people in this country long passionately for progress on two aspects on which we are fully committed, namely, a nuclear-free Europe and a non-proliferation treaty? Will my right hon. Friend, therefore, do all in his power to assure Mr. Kosygin that he will be our most welcome visitor and that we on our part are very anxious to make progress?

I am disappointed at my reply, too. But, as I have already told the House, I have been having exchanges with Mr. Kosygin now over a considerable period, and I spoke about it the other evening. The next step now is the visit of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary to Moscow to see if we can get near enough to justify an exchange of visits, whether by Mr. Kosygin coming here or by my going to Moscow.

Rhodesia

Q7.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will lay a White Paper setting forth his correspondence with Mr. Ian Smith and other documents relative to their efforts to achieve a settlement in Rhodesia.

I would refer the hon. Member to the White Paper (Command 2807) which was laid before the House on 12th November.

May I ask the Prime Minister why the last message in the Blue Book, for which we are grateful, was not given to the Prime Minister of Rhodesia in writing for the avoidance of dubiety, and whether the Prime Minister of Rhodesia knew that his telephone conversations were being monitored?

I think I have done something rather unusual in publishing every exchange by the right hon. Gentleman, with his agreement, and myself. It would be obvious that in 150 pages someone would find something to complain about. There were very good reasons for not putting that in writing on the last night, and it was clear that, if we had, they had already taken their decision and it would not have made very much difference. As to the telephone conversations being monitored, on anything as important as that it was obviously important that a full record should be kept, just as a full record had been kept at every stage by both sides of our joint meetings so that, to use the hon. Gentleman's phrase, there could be no dubiety about what each of us said afterwards.

Q10.

asked the Prime Minister if he will issue an invitation to representative senior back-bench Members of Parliament, preferably Privy Councillors, to form a mission to Rhodesia as an aid in assessing developments on the spot.

Does the Prime Minister agree that such action would be useful, especially at a time when it is likely to become increasingly difficult to assess development, and will he keep the idea open for possible use at a later stage if he decides it may be useful?

Yes, Sir. It is very much being kept open. I do not think that at this moment it would be right to take such action. I should remind the House that as long ago as last December I proposed to the then Rhodesian Government that there should be a mission of senior Members of all parties in the House for the purpose of trying to make progress with the outstanding difficulties, but he refused to have it at that time. But there may be a case for quite other reasons today and, at the right moment, I shall not be backward in putting the idea forward.

Q11.

asked the Prime Minister what progress has been made towards sending uncensored news to the people of Rhodesia; and if he will make a statement.

The number of British Broadcasting Corporation shortwave broadcasts has been increased and urgent steps are in hand to enable a strong medium-wave signal, carrying the B.B.C. programmes, to be made available to listeners in Rhodesia.

Mentally Deficient Children (Residential Homes)

Q8.

asked the Prime Minister if he will list the Departments which have official responsibility in regard to residential homes for mentally deficient children.

The Ministry of Health and the Scottish Home and Health Department; and, in the case of homes provided under the Children Act, 1948, the Home Office, and the Scottish Education Department.

Crown Commissioners

Q9.

asked the Prime Minister whether he will introduce legislation to bring the Crown Commissioners within the control of a Department of State.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been considerable complaint about the delays in dealing with correspondence and questions by the Crown Estates Commissioners, and it is only since a Question appeared on the Order Paper that action seems to have been taken by these people?

I am aware of the delays, and my hon. Friend has been kind enough to send me some of the correspondence showing the tone adopted to a Member of Parliament by an agent to the Crown Commission. Certainly if any help is needed, my right hon. Friend and I will be prepared to take it up with the Crown Commission, but I do not know that legislation is the way to deal with it.