House Of Commons
Wednesday, 22nd December, 1965
The House met at Eleven o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Agriculture, Fisheries And Food
Cereals (Deficiency Payments)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will now relax the rule which disqualifies growers from receiving any payment tinder the Cereals Deficiency Payments Scheme if the necessary forms are not completed in time.
It is necessary for efficient and economical administration to have firm closing dates for the receipt of claims for grants and subsidies, including claims under the Cereals Deficiency Payments Scheme. We are only prepared to consider late claims for payment where we are satisfied that the circumstances are exceptional. A full review of the conditions governing the acceptance of late claims is well advanced.
I agree with the Minister that we must not condone inefficiency in any way in this matter, but does not he agree that the penalty of a 100 per cent. disallowance of deficiency payments is out of all proportion to the offence committed?
It seems hard—I could not agree more with the hon. Member—but it is very difficult to do anything other than this. Perhaps he will consider how difficult it would be to decide what the penalty should be if it were not the total amount. We considered this matter in the review that I have mentioned, but the hon. Member can take it that the question cannot be dealt with in that way.
Sugar Beet (Guaranteed Price)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will take steps to announce the future price to be paid to sugar beet growers sufficiently in advance for them to know the price they will receive before they have to sign contracts with the British Sugar Corporation.
All guaranteed prices are determined at the February Price Review for crops to be harvested later that year. Farmers signing sugar beet contracts before the guaranteed price is announced have the assurance that it cannot be less than 96 per cent. of the previous year's price.
Does not the hon. Member agree that beet growers who are some distance away from sugar beet factories are finding it a very uneconomical crop to grow at present prices? Does he not consider that it would be reasonable for them to refrain from signing contracts until they know the future price of their products?
I could not agree with the hon. Member. The question whether this is an economical price is a slightly different one. The point is that the price is agreed at the Price Review for that year's crop. At least the farmers know that they will be paid not less than 96 per cent. It would be difficult to find a time to suit growers of all crops, because considerations vary in respect of different crops and production is started at different times. It would be difficult to suit everybody, and the February Price Review seems to be the best time.
The Minister says that the price will not be less than 96 per cent., but in a marginal area the question whether or not sugar beet should continue to be grown on a certain farm is of great importance. A farmer may very well want to know whether there will be an increase in price for the extra cost in order to be able to say whether it will be worth while growing sugar beet.
It would be very difficult to fix a time for each crop. We have to have a complete Price Review and try to fix prices for all crops and commodities at the same time.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proportion of the British home market is now supplied with British-made butter.
During the 12 months ended 31st October, 1965, the proportion was about 7½ per cent.
Does the hon. Member realise that that is a marked decline in the proportion of British home-produced butter? Can he tell the House whether it is the policy of his right hon. Friend to encourage or discourage this production?
On the contrary, it is 2½ per cent. better than it was last year and it is our intention to encourage its production.
Can the Minister say how he proposes to deal with the proposals under the National Plan to increase milk production? Will this mean an increase in butter production and, if so, how will it be accounted for?
This is what is likely to happen, as milk production continues to rise compared with 1963 and 1964. It is agreed with the people concerned that the time of the Price Review is the best time to deal with any increase taking place.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is aware of the need for research into the possibility of growing rose briars in this country, in order that the rose-growing industry should not be wholly dependent on imports; and what action he is taking to encourage research and production to this end.
I know of no technical reason why rose briars should not be grown in this country, but my right hon. Friend is asking his Horticultural Advisory Council to advise him if experimental work is needed to determine whether there would be practical problems in growing them here on a commercial scale.
Is the Minister aware that the Association of British Rose Producers is very anxious that its members should not be so dependent on imported briars and that they will be grateful if some progress is to be made in this direction? Can he confirm that the figure of imports is higher than the total of £50,000 quoted in correspondence between the Association and the Minister? Is he also aware that the best roses are grown in the Rushcliffe division of Nottinghamshire?
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The figure which I have of imports for 1964 is £528,000, which is a considerable figure and one which we should like to see reduced. It has been referred to the Horticultural Advisory Council which will give every assistance to rose growers. We shall welcome any decrease in imports. This is not an easy job but a specialised one: research may be necessary.
Egg Marketing Board (Producers' Payments)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will cause to be investigated the complaints that the proposed new contracts between the Egg Marketing Board and producers, under which the producers will he paid monthly instead of weekly, will impose hardship, especially for the smaller producer.
The frequency of payments to producers is a matter for the Board, which announced on 25th November that it had decided to pay fortnightly instead of monthly as originally proposed.
I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that this action by the Board, which followed the tabling of this Question, is generally welcomed by egg producers? It seems to be a happy solution of the difficulties since the complaints have now ceased.
Will the Minister also consider that even this fortnightly payment is doing considerable damage to the producer-owned egg co-op?
My hon. Friend must appreciate that the Board is responsible for the detailed arrangements. There is a special procedure for any form of complaint, but they are responsible.
Charolais Cattle (Leptospirosis)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement regarding the Charolais cattle at present in quarantine at Devon-port; how many have reacted to the various types of leptospirosis; and whether it is intended to return the infected cattle to France.
Thirty-five Charolais cattle reacted to tests for leptospirosis. One was slaughtered and the remainder returned to France by 17th December. The other 184 animals are being held in quarantine for further tests. Any reactors will be destroyed or returned to the country of origin and the remaining animal; will not be released in this country until repeated tests for this infection have given negative results.
Has the right hon. Gentleman ally idea how long it will be before he will be able to clear some of these cattle?
There is a strict procedure here—the 21 days procedure—and we will adhere strictly to this. I cannot give a specific date.
While sympathising with the Minister in his concern over the disappointments which have occurred in this matter, will he give an assurance that there will be no release at any time while there is the slightest danger of any infection?
I certainly give that assurance. We are very strict in this matter
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will introduce a scheme to eliminate brucellosis; and if he will give a breakdown of the figure of £40 million which his Department estimates will be the cost of the eradication scheme.
Consideration is being given to this problem, but no decision has yet been made.I estimate that about one-half to three-quarters of a million female cattle over 20 months would react to blood tests. Under an immediate eradication scheme, they would have to be slaughtered and, assuming compensation at £70 per head, this would amount to between £35 million and £50 million for compensation alone. Costs of testing and administration would add several million pounds. The sums involved are, therefore, very large. For this reason I am also giving consideration to a more gradual approach, under which the immediate costs would be smaller.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Northern Ireland they have succeeded in practically eradicating brucellosis at a cost of about £1 per head? On this sort of figure, the cost to us would be less than £10 million. Does he not agree that to contemplate introducing a brucellosis eradication scheme of total slaughter right away is nonsense? Most of us would welcome his introducing a gradual scheme. Is he not hiding behind——
Order. Questions must be shorter, even on agriculture.
I gave the hon. Member figures in answer to his Question. That is precisely why I am looking at the possibility of a gradual scheme.
Would the right hon. Gentleman consider introducing a compulsory vaccination scheme with S.19?
I am not promising anything. I said that I am considering the introduction of a gradual scheme.
Would the right hon. Gentleman introduce it first for dairy herds, because humans catch undulant fever from them and this is a very important consideration?
I will consider this. As I said, I am looking at the possibility of a gradual scheme.
Intensive Farming (Brambell Report)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how long he expects his consultations will take with those sections of the agricultural industry affected by the Brambell recommendations.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he proposes to take to make regulations requiring conditions for particular animals, in view of the fact that the committee appointed to inquire into livestock husbandry declared that certain practices of intensive farming are contrary to animal welfare and need to be controlled.
I have nothing to add to the replies which I gave on 1st and 15th December.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that until the consultations are complete and the Government's decision is known, the industry is left in a state of considerable uncertainty, which may last two or three years? Could he not tell the House that he will inform the interested parties that there will be a definite time limit on consultations?
The hon. Lady will appreciate that after I received the report I immediately asked for evidence from the associations. I have set a time limit—31st January. When I have had their views, I will consider what action I should take.
Will my right hon. Friend also note that the report verifies the fears which many of us have expressed in the House about the cruelties which are inherent in intensive farming? In view of that, will he try to proceed as quickly as possible in this matter?
I have often repeated that I am awaiting replies and I will consider all the factors involved.
Is the right hon. Gentleman having any consultations with overseas suppliers about that part of the Brambell Report which concerns imports of the type of food being produced under intensive methods?
I cannot make investigations of other countries' agriculture, but we know the position in those countries. This will be a factor.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a study of the financial implications to the British agricultural industry of implementing the Brambell Report, and of the practicability and cost of ensuring that food imported into the United Kingdom was produced by methods which did not conflict with the recommendations of the Report.
My study of the Report will include all relevant considerations.
Is the Minister aware that that is a most unsatisfactory Answer to what I believe was a fair Question? Will he give an undertaking that he will not promote legislation, as a result of this Report, which gives overseas producers an unfair advantage over British farmers?
I am certain that the hon. Member would accept that it is reasonable that I should have representations made to me. I have asked for evidence on the Brambell Report by all organisations affected. I should have thought that that was reasonable and sensible.
Irish Store Cattle (Waiting Period)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what will be the effect on the price per hundredweight of Irish store cattle of reducing the waiting period from three to two months.
The price of store cattle is influenced by many factors, including the number on offer at the time, their type and age, the availability of keep, and the level of the guarantee payment. To attempt to put a precise figure on the price effect of the reduced waiting period would be misleading. Clearly, however, if Irish stores are marketed in more mature condition, this is likely to be reflected in their price.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that is another very unsatisfactory Answer? Is he aware that many cattle which come from Ireland are nearly fat on arrival and the effect of shortening the waiting period involves the price which is paid for them moving higher than the store price per cwt. towards the fat price per cwt.?
I hope the hon. Member remembers that he and his hon. Friends pressed me over and over again in Standing Committee to see that there was an adequate supply of Irish store cattle. I think the arrangement is satisfactory.
While acknowledging that the Minister's original Answer to this Question leaves us almost speechless, may I ask him, none the less, whether the other factors in the Irish Agreement will not reduce the numbers of store cattle coming in because of the guarantees given for carcases?
No, they will not. There has been a best endeavours promise and I hope that the position will be improved as against what it was two or three years ago.
Bacon Market Sharing Understanding
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by what criteria he decided that the evidence was insufficient to enable him to claim a larger share in the Bacon Market Sharing Understanding for British producers.
The United Kingdom will, in fact, have a slightly larger share next year as a result of reallocating part of the shares allotted to the Netherlands and Yugoslavia. Within the terms of the Understanding, we could not have claimed more except by showing a significant change in market conditions in favour of United Kingdom bacon, and this we could not do.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a very strong and growing demand for the high-quality bacon being produced at home and that much of the bacon being imported is of a lower quality? Should not, therefore, the home producer be allowed to make a substantial contribution to the increasing requirements under the international plan rather than the modest increase which the right hon. Gentleman is negotiating?
I am anxious to improve the bacon side of our industry. I shall be meeting representatives on this matter, but the hon. Gentleman should appreciate that we are bound to honour an international agreement which, after all, was signed by my predecessors. I could not break it.
Is it not a fact that producers in this country pressed the right hon. Gentleman very strongly to increase the percentage? Will he recall the things which he said when he was on this side of the House concerning this agreement and how the percentage ought to be increased? Does he not agree that he has put up a very poor performance on behalf of British agriculture?
Not at all. That is rather a silly suggestion. There has been an increase. I am bound by the agreement which was signed by my Tory predecessors. The hon. Member was himself responsible.
Chrysanthemums (White Rust)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will introduce legislation to bring in a compensation scheme where chrysanthemums have to be destroyed as a result of the disease called white rust.
No, Sir. I sympathise with the growers who have suffered losses as a result of this disease. But it is a general principle of our plant health controls that the occupier or owner concerned bears the cost of removing a source of infection.
Is the hon. Member aware that that is another very unsatisfactory Answer? Is he aware that his Ministry required defective stock to be destroyed and that, apart from the loss to the growers, this causes non-declaration of the disease by growers when it happens in their crops, with the result that it is spreading very greatly? Will he, therefore, reconsider this matter in view of the importance of chrysanthemums to many growers?
I am sorry to hear that there are some growers concealing this disease. I have no confirmation of that and I should dread to think that there were growers who were doing it, because it could only have a very bad effect on their neighbouring growers.
May I ask two questions? First, is the Minister aware that the method of inspection carried out by the Ministry could be greatly improved? Is he aware that one of my constituents was told that his entire year's crop had to be destroyed and that it was only because he appealed and had a second inspection that the entire crop was reprieved? If he had not appealed he would have lost a year's income. Secondly, can the Minister—
Order. The Liberal Party, too, must be brief in its supplementary questions.
May I briefly ask the Minister, secondly, to tell us what research is being done by his Department into the disease?
The last supplementary question is on a completely different matter. If there are some weaknesses in inspection I will have a look at them, but I would say on behalf of the whole of our inspectorate in any branch of agriculture that we get nothing but letters of thanks for the great services which the inspectors render.
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.
White Fish Industry
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the future of the White Fish Authority.
I am not aware that any statement is called for. The White Fish Authority will continue as in the past to carry out its responsibilities to promote the development of the white fish industry.
Is the Minister aware that the White Fish Authority is being frustrated by lack of Government financial support of its many schemes? Will he agree that an expansion of the work of the Authority is of importance to the whole industry?
The first part of that question just is not true. We have provided money. The money for this year will be greater than for the previous year. It may be that the distribution is not liked by the hon. Member, but I am sure that it will be welcome to inshore fishing.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will now make a statement about Her Majesty's Government's discussions with the White Fish Authority, and their policy in regard to the future of a minimum prices scheme in the fishing industry.
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what negotiations he has had with the fishing industry concerning a minimum price system; and when he will make a statement.
I have had full discussions with the White Fish Authority and will make a statement as soon as possible.
Is there any intention of introducing a statutory scheme and, if so, when does the Minister expect to make a statement? Will it be at the beginning of the next Session of Parliament?
We are certainly holding discussions. Certain difficulties have arisen not only at home but abroad, too, but these discussions have been carried on in a very friendly way and we hope to reach a decision.
While I accept the Minister's Answer for the time being, will he accept my view that the take-over bid of the Associated Fisheries Combine by the Ross Group will alter the nature of the industry as we know it, not least the nature of the wet fish auction sales in the dock? Will he consult the White Fish Authority about the effect of this proposal?
I think that I had better leave it to those two giants to fight out whether one will pay £16 million and the other will receive it. On the other hand, it is true that it may have an effect on the market, and I have no doubt that the White Fish Authority will be paying attention to any consequences arising from this sort of take-over.
Is it not time that there was an amalgamation between the Herring Industry Board and the White Fish Authority?
That is another question.
While hoping that we shall get this statement very soon after the Recess, may I ask whether I am not right in saying that the Chairman of the White Fish Authority, Mr. Roy Matthews, who has done so well for the industry, is very much in favour of a minimum price? I hope that the Government will be able to accede to the wishes of the White Fish Authority.
Without disclosing the opinion of any side, I can say that the discussions with Mr. Roy Matthews have been very friendly indeed.
May I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. G. R. Howard) and others have said? There is great concern among those in the industry about the matter. They need something to give them a greater feeling of security. I am sure that we all wish this to be done, and I hope that the Minister will be able to be helpful.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for what he said, which is along the road on which we have been trying to work. Like him, I hope that we shall reach a satisfactory settlement.
Order. Supplementary questions must be questions.
Milk Products (Imports)
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of milk products consumed within the United Kingdom is imported.
During the 12 months ended 31st October, 1965, about 53 per cent. by weight of total supplies other than stocks already held in store were imported.
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the Government's request that the industry should increase production, he proposes to make representations to his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to impose restrictions upon imported milk products?
That is another question. Sometimes when we even have a 10 per cent. charge on imports we get into trouble with certain hon. Members opposite.
Does not the Joint Parliamentary Secretary agree that the percentage of 53 per cent. which he quoted is a very high percentage of imports? Does he not agree that there should be some reduction—indeed, there must be—if anything like the National Plan is to be carried out? Even that is optimistic.
I certainly hope to see a large proportion of it taken up by our own industry.
North Of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board Schemes (Compensation Clause)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that the standard clause about compensation for subsequent flooding inserted in North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board constructional schemes has been interpreted in such a way that it places upon the pursuer the task of proving that the flooding would not have occurred but for the Board's works; and, in view of the decision of the Court of Session on the particular case of the flooding which took place in the River Conon valley in 1962, if he will introduce legislation to amend the standard compensation clause in constructional schemes.
The clause in question, which is included in the powers conferred on many statutory undertakers, seeks to preserve for persons who may be affected by the Board's schemes rights which they have under common law but which, in the absence of such a clause, might be held to be overruled by the statutory powers to construct and operate the schemes. In these circumstances I see no need for the clause to be altered.
Is the Secretary of State aware that his reply will cause grave concern to the farmers and crofters in the River Conon Valley who suffered such crippling financial losses in 1962 due to Hydro-Electric Board operations and who are under a constant threat of a repetition of those losses? Will he cause an inquiry to be made into the very special circumstances of this case?
No, I do not think so. I think that it would be quite wrong to change the law in this respect. Indeed, if this clause did not exist, there would he cause for concern because we should be taking away existing common law rights.
Is the Secretary of State satisfied that this interpretation is fair to individuals who may suffer considerable loss and damage as a result of such work? Is he aware that it is an extremely arduous and major operation to prove?
I think that it would be quite wrong for me to say whether the courts were right or wrong in their interpretation. Certainly we have not had many complaints about this in the past.
St Andrews And Edinburgh Universities (Building Developments)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the value of the university developments at St. Andrews and Edinburgh held back by the Government's economic measures; and how long this work will be deferred.
The total amount of building at the universities of St. Andrews and Edinburgh which appears likely to be deferred until 1966–67 amounts to £736,000.
Is the right hon. aware that these developments are needed to meet the expansion programmes of these universities? Will he not reconsider his priorities and look again at the cuts which have been imposed on higher education in this and other respects?
We are always prepared to look at these matters again, but the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that although this action has been regrettable, the contribution which Scotland is making in this respect is right, bearing in mind that these are the only two universities affected.
Is it not right for this matter to be put in its proper perspective, and can we have some facts on the remarkable progress that has been made at these two universities?
The amount of building work going on this year is £4·3 million and £3·5 million at St. Andrews and Edinburgh respectively, and that is unaffected.
Forestry Commission Land (Pony Trekking)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the policy of the Forestry Commission with regard to charging for the use of their land for pony trekking.
The Commission makes a charge, at the annual rate of £4 per horse, to riding schools and other commercial organisations which use its land.
Is the right hon. Gentleman seriously supporting what amounts to a tax on this healthy and growing sport? Does he support the proposition that the public should be charged for access to Crown lands? Should not the Forestry Commission be encouraging people to visit and enjoy our forests instead of discouraging them?
People are encouraged to visit and make use of our Crown lands. We are here dealing with commercial organisations. In any case, the hon. Gentleman should not lose a sense of proportion about this, for the actual cost is 1s. 6d. per horse per week.
Mr Gerald Donnelly
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give an assurance that he will take steps to ensure that the action taken in the case of Mr. Gerald Donnelly, who was arrested in Reading and conveyed in custody to Glasgow, having been charged with a speeding offence, is not permitted to occur again in such circumstances.
I would refer to the Answer given to the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) on 2nd December. Following on this incident, the procurator fiscal, Glasgow, took immediate steps to draw the attention of his staff to the standing instructions by the Lord Advocate which are intended to prevent this type of occurrence.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that when this man, who had pleaded guilty and had then heard no more about it, went to Reading Police Station in answer to a summons he was thrown in a cell for 22 hours, was then taken to Scotland and was thrown into a cell there for 12 hours, was then taken to court handcuffed to two other prisoners, and then fined £5, after which he had to make his way back to London under his own steam? Does my right hon. Friend not think that this is a disgrace in a so-called civilised society.
These matters were dealt with in the Answer to which I have referred.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if Mr. Gerald Donnelly, who appeared in Glasgow recently to answer a charge of exceeding the speed limit, was handcuffed while being taken from prison to the sheriff court.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say under what heading handcuffs were used on this occasion? Since the headings which he gave to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) were that either violence was anticipated or that an attempt at escape or rescue might be made, what on earth caused the use of handcuffs in this case?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, discretion is given to the police in respect of the safe custody of prisoners between stations and the courts in Glasgow. Flow the police use that discretion is a matter for them. General guidance is giver and I am discussing with the Chief Constable of Glasgow this whole question and whether arrangements other than those existing at present should be made.
Is it not absolutely shocking, irrespective of the case of this gentleman, that any prisoner should be handcuffed unless there is a real danger of him trying to escape?
The hon. Gentleman should try to appreciate the facts and the circumstances under which the police must operate. In some cases they deal with prisoners in batches of probably 30. What an outcry there is if one of them escapes or there is trouble in an attempted escape. We must give a certain discretion to the police in this respect and, I agree, watch that it is used wisely.
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree, while accepting all he has said about the difficulties of the police, of which we are well aware, that in this case there was no justification whatever for applying handcuffs to this man?
It is because of that that we are discussing what arrangements could be made with the Chief Constable of Glasgow.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, in view of the Lord Advocate's regret at the treatment given to Mr. Gerald Donnelly recently, he will reimburse Mr. Donnelly for his expenses in getting home from Glasgow to Reading.
In the special circumstances of this case, if Mr. Donnelly makes a claim for reimbursement of these expenses it will be considered.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that satisfactory reply. Does he agree that while we have all been proud of the reputation of the civilised nature of the Scottish legal system, it was badly tarnished by this episode?
Scottish Universities (Engineering And Science Graduates)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what were the total numbers of engineers and scientists, respectively, produced by Scottish universities in each of the last five years; and, in each case, how many subsequently secured employment in Scotland.
The available figures for applied scientists do not differentiate between engineers and others. The provisional returns for 1964–65 show that 779 students graduated in applied science and 918 in pure science. Corresponding figures for previous years are given in Table 6 of the annual University Grants Committee returns.I am having such information as is available on employment extracted and will send it to my hon. Friend.
While that Answer is satisfactory as far as it goes, would my right hon. Friend consider publishing it in the OFFICIAL REPORT SO that all hon. Members who are interested might have the information available? Would it not be desirable, in view of the need to get the Scottish economy growing, that my right hon. Friend should himself produce an annual report containing the relevant figures and statistical information about the universities, instead of having to refer to the U.G.C. and other bodies?
No, Sir. If we get the information from one body—that is, the right body—that should meet our need. I will consider the other point raised by my hon. Friend.
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that, whatever the statistics may show when we have an opportunity of seeing them, too many scientists are still leaving Scotland? Is this not a good reason for the right hon. Gentleman using his best endeavours to get things like a computer centre in Scotland?
The use of scientists is certainly something which we are anxious to forward, and we are doing everything we can in that way.
Haemodialysis (Fluoride-Free Water)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what arrangements he is making to ensure that a supply of non-fluoridated water is available for use in haemodialysis.
None, Sir. I am advised that no such arrangements are necessary.
Since even my right hon. Friend will no doubt agree that official opinion has not always been, and is not always, correct, does he realise that a large body of unofficial expert opinion takes the opposite view to the official one in this respect? Will he, for safety's sake, see that this type of water is available in respect of certain kidney diseases?
I am satisfied that the advice I am getting now is correct. I am advised by my own medical staff, who are in touch with practising specialists in this sphere.
Local Government (Reorganisation)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he intends to make a statement on progress in the reorganisation of local government in Scotland.
I have nothing to add at present to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Gregor Mackenzie) on 17th November.
Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to make any real progress in this at all or is he going to allow himself to be overtaken by his right hon. Friend in England, which would be a pity because Scotland started well ahead?
I am not going to allow myself to be overtaken by any of my right hon. Friends in this or any other matter. The hon. Gentleman should know that circumstances are different in the two countries, We will deal with this matter in our own way.
Will reference be made to this problem in the Economic Plan for Scotland? When is the plan likely to be published?
Those are entirely different questions, particularly the last one.
Student Nurses (Pay And Working Conditions)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will initiate an independent inquiry into the pay, hours and working conditions of student nurses.
No, Sir. These are matters for the Whitley Council which covers the whole of Great Britain.
Does my right hon. Friend consider it satisfactory that these hard-working girls should be paid less than 2s. an hour net? Will he reconsider their position or at least send to the Whitley Council the massive correspondence which I have had on this issue from these girls, who are often afraid to speak up for themselves lest they may be victimised in their respective hospitals?
I am perfectly sure that the Whitley Council is aware of these matters and is at present no doubt considering any proposals which are put to it on behalf of the nurses.
White Fish Subsidy (Inshore Vessels)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has yet decided upon a single rate of payment of white fish subsidy to inshore vessels.
No, Sir. This matter is still under consideration.
While the fishermen's representatives may not agree on which of the methods is the best method, is it not a fact that they are all agreed that one method should be selected; and that it is the Government that should make this decision?
The fishermen may be all agreed that one method should be selected, but the hon. Member should know from past experience that, invariably, the method selected is the wrong one to them. This is a very complicated matter—indeed, what the fishermen favour changes from one thing to another.
Development Districts (Publicexpenditure)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what increase there has been in the time taken either within his Departments or by local authorities in the progressin of plans for public expenditure in development districts.
None, so far as I know. If the right hon. Gentleman has any evidence to the contrary, I should like to examine it.
Will not the Secretary of State agree that there are many cases in the Highlands and other areas where people believe, rightly or wrongly, that delays have taken place? Will he give the House a clear assurance that this method of delaying the planning of future works is not being encouraged by his Department, through the local authorities?
I certainly give the right hon. Gentleman that assurance, but if he has any evidence about any of these cases where it is believed that some people think something or other, surely it would be far better if he were to bring them to me.
Can my right hon. Friend inform the House whether there has been a stepping up or a falling back in local authority activities connected with loan sanctions granted this year?
If we go by the figures, we see that within the first nine months of the year loan sanctions have amounted to about £120 million, as against the figure for the first nine months of last year of £105 million. There is, therefore, no indication of a falling away.
South Ayrshire Hospital (Ayr)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will now give a firm date for work to commence on new South Ayrshire Hospital in Ayr; and whether he will make a statement.
I must ask the hon. Member to await the publication of the review of the hospital building programme.
Is the Secretary of State aware that the lack of a firm date for starting work, whenever it might be, is already making it impossible to plan minor works and small improvements in the existing hospital? Now that Ayr is a development district, will he please do what he promised to do during his General Election campaign, which is to bring forward the date of commencing the new South Ayrshire Hospital?
I do not know where the hon. Gentleman gets all this information about what I promised to do and did not, but he had better get his facts right. I pointed out, of course, that it was his Government that dropped this project from the first hospital plan, and put it back for five years. I have said that we are reviewing the whole plan.
Has the right hon. Gentleman really the effrontery to forget his criticisms and strictures on the postponement of this hospital? Has he really the face to go on with this very scratchy gramophone record now about waiting for the publication of the hospital review?
We should get the facts right. In the absence of any Conservative Ayrshire Member of Parliament raising the complaints of the people of Ayr at that time I had to do it.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in South Ayrshire there is considerable anxiety about the future of the Ballochmyle Hospital, and will he keep that in his mind when considering the hospital review?
Court Of Session (Divorceactions)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will propose any change in the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Session in actions of divorce before the report of the committee presently sitting under the chairmanship of Lord Grant becomes available.
Is the Secretary of State for Scotland aware that his reply will be widely welcomed in Scotland, especially by those opposed, in particular, to the idea of dissolution of marriage in the lower courts, but also by those already concerned about the ability of the lower courts to cope with the work they already have?
Law Of Valuation
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he proposes to introduce legislation to amend the law of valuation in Scotland following the recent decision of the court that off-peak electric storage heaters fall to be regarded as heritable for valuation purposes.
No, Sir. I do not think that it would be wise to attempt to define by Statute which installations and other improvements to property are heritable and which are not.
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that this view of the law, which I do not question in any way, is widely resented by those who feel that they have been misled by the electricity board into purchasing these storage heaters, and generally widely resented by people who intended to improve their own property in this way?
I do not think that the position would be improved by the introduction of the change in legislation which the hon. and learned Member suggests.
Does not my right hon. Friend agree that this Question underlines the illogicality of the rating system? Can he say whether he is marching step by step with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government in this review of local taxation?
I think that my hon. Friend is quite right. It is the rating system that is the real culprit, and he knows perfectly well how I feel about that, and how I would like to act in this way.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what would be the estimated cost of carrying out an eradication scheme for brucellosis in cattle; and whether he will institute such a scheme in Scotland.
As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has already stated, the estimated cost of an immediate slaughter policy for the eradication of brucellosis in cattle is for Great Britain, between £35 million and £50 million, of which the Scottish share is between £8 million and £10 million. It does not take into account the cost of testing and administration, which would be substantial.My right hon. Friend and I are at present considering what steps should be taken to deal with this problem.
While thanking the Secretary of State for his reply, may I ask him whether he does not think that we may not be able not to afford such a scheme? As so many other countries are introducing schemes, for us not to do so might well damage our exports very badly.
I agree with the hon. Member about the inherent difficulties, and that is why we are examining all the possibilities in relation to what can be done.
Will the right hon. Gentleman do his very best to keep his nose ahead of his right hon. Friend in this matter? As we were in the lead in Scotland for the eradication of T.B., will he do his best to get a scheme for the eradication of brucellosis started as soon as possible?
We have to work on a United Kingdom basis, as the hon. Gentleman knows, and we work closely together and very successfully.
Housing Association Houses
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many houses have been built by housing associations since the Housing (Scotland) Act 1962.
There were 58 under the Act of 1962, and 113 under earlier Acts. In addition, 127 and 14 respectively are being built.
Is it the right hon. Gentleman's intention to encourage housing associations? In particular, why was no mention made of them in the recent White Paper on housing in Scotland?
If the hon. Member will read the White Paper again he will see that, comprehensively, we do support this form of house building.
Seed Potatoes (Producers' Return)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps, following the evidence adduced by the honourable Member for South Angus, to improve the return to seed potato producers in the east of Scotland.
The Government's responsibility under the potato guarantee is specifically related to potatoes sold for human consumption.
I am aware of that, but what does the Secretary of State intend to do about it? Is he aware that seed producers are getting a considerably lower price than the Board is offering the ware producers? Is he aware that if this situation goes on, the seed producers will turn to ware and increase production which the Board will have to take?
I think that the hon. Gentleman is far too pessimistic in this case about the turnover for the whole year in respect of these potatoes.
New School Places (School-Leaving Age)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many new school places will have to be provided to meet the requirements of the higher school-leaving age; and whether he is satisfied that the present building programme is adequate for that purpose.
Precise figures for new places needed will not be available until education authorities have completed their review of requirements. The present building programme will be increased to cover the essential additional accommo- dation for the raising of the school-leaving age.
Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government plans for extending comprehensive education in Scotland put a further strain on the school building programme, particularly in the rural areas? Can he further say whether any school building in Scotland has been either restricted or held back as a result of the Government's economic measures?
The answer to both parts of that supplementary question is, "No, Sir."
Road Programme (Kincardine)
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why Kincardine County Council have been asked to reduce their long-term programme of maintenance and minor improvements on classified roads; and whether he will now make available money for major improvements such as at Upper North Water Bridge.
For the 10-year period 1965–75 the average annual amount of grant for maintenance and minor improvements within which the county council has been asked to plan is 23 per cent. higher than its allocation for the year 1964–65. It is lower than desired because this work, in Kincardine as elsewhere, must be limited to what we can afford.The council has been advised to go ahead with preliminary work on the preparation of the Upper North Water Bridge diversion, but I cannot say when construction will be authorised.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the county council is seriously concerned about the cut in expenditure on roads? Does he also recognise that this particular bridge where a development is required is a notorious accident area and that an early start of work there would be very much in the interests of road safety?
I do not consider an increase from £65,000 in the year 1964-65 to an average of £80,000 each year over the next 10 years a cut.
Calf Subsidy Scheme
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the average length of time in 1964 and 1965 between the birth of a calf and the payment to the farmer of benefit under the Calf Subsidy Scheme.
Precise information is not readily available but it is estimated that the average length of time is about 10 months.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for that reply. Would he not agree that in view of the credit difficulties that the farmer is facing at the moment, the time is disproportionate between the inspection of a calf and the actual payment of the subsidy? Would he not consider increasing the number of livestock inspectors?
No, I do not think that we should proceed to that. I understand that between ear punching and payment, the time is four to five weeks.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the cost in 1964–65 of the benefits paid out on the Calf Subsidy Scheme; and what was the cost of administering the scheme.
Payments in Scotland under the Calf Subsidy Scheme in 1964–65 totalled £3·98m. The cost of administering the Scheme is estimated at £80,000.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what increase is likely as a result of the increase in the calf subsidy and also as a result of dairy herd calves being eligible for subsidy?
Not without notice.
Legal Aid (Arbitration Costs)
asked the Minister without Portfolio whether he will take steps to extend legal aid to persons who are obliged by circumstances beyond their control to proceed by way of arbitration in respect of the costs of so proceeding.
Is the Minister without Portfolio aware that this procedure is causing great hardship to people who may have a judgment on third-party rights against insurance companies but are prevented from recovering that judgment because they cannot proceed by way of arbitration?
There may be isolated cases of hardship, but the hon. and learned Member will be aware that in 1957 the British Insurance Association and Lloyd's both gave an undertaking to the Lord Chancellor that their members would not in future insist on an arbitration clause if the insured preferred to bring proceedings in court. Therefore, I cannot think that the extension of legal aid to arbitration has a very high degree of priority. If and when legal aid can be extended, there are other courts and tribunals, such as the Land Tribunal, and the various kinds of maintenance cases in the magistrates' courts, which would, I think, have a higher priority.
But would not the hon. Gentleman look at this matter again? The need for legal aid is extremely flexible and one cannot relate it to the particular court in which the proceedings are brought. Is it not the fact that the real need for legal aid is the need to establish a right of any kind? Will not the hon. Gentleman consider whether he can make his rules more flexible?
I will certainly consider the matter with my noble Friend the Lord Chancellor, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate that arbitration cases, pure and simple—particularly commercial arbitrations—tend in the ordinary way to be expensive, and there might be difficulties about extending legal aid to arbitrations in general.
Ministry Of Defence
F111a (British Nuclear Weapons)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence whether the F111A will be able to carry British-made nuclear bombs.
Our primary requirement is for an aircraft to replace the Canberra as a tactical strike-reconnaissance aircraft carrying conventional weapons. But the F111A would also be able to carry the nuclear weapons the hon. Member mentions.
May I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on maintaining the independent British nuclear deterrent, but could he give a categorical assurance that the bomb designed for the TSR2 can be carried in this new aircraft, if ordered?
I am always grateful when I get congratulations from the Front Bench opposite. I hope that it sets a precedent which others will follow. I can give the assurance for which the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) asks.
May I ask my right hon. Friend what will be the cost of this plane, plus a nuclear weapon?
I would like notice of that question.
Royal Navy (Release Of Recruits)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence if he will release those who wish to leave the Royal Navy in those cases where they were under 16 years of age at the time of joining.
No, Sir. However, the hon. Member will recall the statement by my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy, in the debate on the Second Reading of the Armed Forces Bill last week, that the Navy is considering coming into line with the Army and Royal Air Force with regard to giving a right to a recruit to discharge himself very early in his period of recruitment.
Does not the Minister think that the examination could be speeded up, and does he not agree that it is hard on a boy joining under the age of 15 if he has to be kept against his will for many years? Is he much good to himself or to the Navy in those circumstances?
I think that the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Sir A. Spearman) has a point, and I will look at it speedily.
Has my hon. Friend given consideration to the suggestion that I made some time ago that an option to leave the Service should be permitted at the end of three years of a long engagement?
We have, in fact, considered that solution. I do not think that it is the best way of going about it.
Royal Air Force Married Quarters (Lincolnshire)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many Royal Air Force married quarters are situated in the parishes of Tattershall and Coningsby in Lincolnshire; and how many of them are unoccupied.
There are 529 married quarters at R.A.F. Coningsby and 30 more are under construction. At present 144 of the completed quarters are unoccupied.
Does riot that produce a very sad situation, when it is well known that there are many men in all the Services wanting accommodation? Surely there should be some method of making this accommodation available to any of the Services under the new set-up? Will the Minister consider that?
This is a temporary situation. There is a long-term use for the station at Coningsby. I agree with the hon. Member for Horncastle (Sir J. Maitland), and I am grateful to him for drawing this to my attention. The present situation is not satisfactory. We are using these quarters, for example, for separated families. But I am certainly looking into the question to see if we can utilise those which are at present still unoccupied.
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what has been the cost to date of the buildings and installations at H.M.S. "Cambridge"; what effect the construction of a civil airport at Gnaton Cross would have on the proper functioning of the gunnery school; and what would be the estimated cost of moving the gunnery school elsewhere.
Since 1950, well over £2· million has been spent on setting up and maintaining this naval gunnery range. To move it somewhere else would probably cost over £3 million. However, Her Majesty's Government have decided that the development of a new airport for Plymouth at Collaton Cross, close to the range, cannot be justified in the foreseeable future, and so the question of moving H.M.S. "Cambridge" does not now arise.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that reply, which will give considerable satisfaction in the Plympton rural district. Do I take it that the proposed inquiry into the airport in February will not now take place?
I assume so.
Defence Establishments, Northern Ireland (Civilian Personnel)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many civilian personnel were employed at defence establishments, including those of the Territorial Army, in Northern Ireland at 1st January, 1964 and 1st January, 1965; what are the prospects for the next five years; and whether he will make a statement.
At 1st January, 1964, 5,197; at 1st January, 1965, 5,418. In October, when the figure had fallen to 5,255, I announced the closure of the Joint Anti-Submarine School at Londonderry over the next three years. It would be wrong for me to make any further predictions at this stage of the Defence Review.
Is the Minister aware that in view of that reply and the debate which is to follow, I shall relieve him of the necessity of replying to any supplementary question?
asked the Secretary of State for Defence what action he has taken on the proposals submitted by the hon. Member for The Wrekin to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army for the formation of the National Guard on a county basis to be drawn from the Civil Defence organisation and the Territorial Army as a special national home security force capable of dealing with national emergencies, either civil or military; and if he will make a statement.
The Government will consider these proposals, in addition to others which have been put forward in the context of their examination of how best to secure appropriate provision for home defence. I would refer the hon. member to what my right hon. Friend said about this in replying to the debate on 16th December.
Is the Minister aware that that is a much more sensible reply than we have heard from the Dispatch Box for some time? Will he take it from those who serve in the Territorial Army and the Territorial Associations that the proposals that they wish to put forward are proposals designed to assist him to make the new force effective?
The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. William Yates) has made a considerable number of proposals and suggestions, and we will consider all of them.
Now that the Government, happily, are having second thoughts about the Territorial Army, does the hon. Gentleman realise how premature it was to put forward an order of battle for the Territorial Army before the review which the Secretary of State announced had even begun?
The Government announced that it was not our intention to retain the Territorial Army for home defence and have always said so. We are still looking at home defence, so it was not premature. It might perhaps be better for the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) to have noted the debate on the Reserve Army.
Service Men (Deaths Overseas)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence why, after a 17-year-old soldier, on active service in Aden, had been killed by the discharge of a bullet from a gun due to the carelessness and negligence of a fellow soldier, he refused to pay the cost of £393 of bringing the body back to England and burying it, and left it to the parents of the soldier to do so.
I would refer my hon. Friend to the Answer given on 26th October by my hon. Friend the Minister of Defence for the Royal Navy to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Wavertree (Mr. Tilney).
Does not my hon. Friend think that if that is the policy of the War Office it is about time that it was changed in cases where the Department itself is responsible for the man's death, since it happened because of negligence? Would he not agree with me that what was done only serves to dig the knife more deeply into the wounds of the afflicted parents, and that the whole thing is an absolute damn scandal?