House Of Commons
Thursday, 15th February, 1968
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
I have to notify the House in accordance with the Royal Assent Act, 1967, that The Queen has signified Her Royal Assent to the following Acts:
Birmingham Corporation Bill (By Order)
Second Reading deferred till Tuesday, 12th March.
Covent Garden Market Bill (By Order)
Second Reading deferred till Thursday, next.
Airdrie Court House Commissioners (Dissolution) Order Confirmation Bill
Read the Third time and passed.
Mr. R. W. Elliott discharged from the Committee of Selection; Mr. Francis Pym added.—[ Mr. McCann.]
Oral Answers To Questions
Motor Vehicles (Removal By Police)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department under what circumstances the Metropolitan Police now remove vehicles from the street without the permission of the owners.
Those set out in the Removal and Disposal of Vehicles Regulations, 1968, which authorises a constable to remove a vehicle which is causing obstruction or is likely to cause danger or is contravening a statutory prohibition or appears to have been abandoned without lawful authority.
As it is now, and has been for some time, possible for police officers to impose summary fines at the time of the parking infringement, could my hon. and learned Friend assure us that in future the removal of cars will be confined to cases of actual physical obstruction or impedence of travel?
Certainly the main reason why cars are removed is to ease the flow of traffic. If my hon. Friend has some cases in mind of unjustified removals of cars, I hope that he will let me know.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that my car was towed away from a certain spot in the West End some months ago, on which every night since other cars have been parked with complete impunity?
No, Sir, I was not aware of that, but whether or not a particular car is towed away may well depend on the traffic conditions at the time.
Approved Schools (Corporalpunishment)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department with what rules a master in an approved school must comply when thrashing a boy on the buttocks.
Rule 35 of the Approved School Rules; and the Common Law, which is that corporal punishment is lawful only if it is moderate in manner, quantity and severity.
Would my right hon. Friend reaffirm the assurance of his predecessor last November that corporal punishment will be phased out of approved schools as soon as possible? Will he also reassure us that the date when these sadistic practices cease will be as early as possible?
Although there are difficulties in handling unruly boys of advanced years, that is to say, of 14 or 15—[An HON. MEMBER: "Advanced years? "]—I mean before they become young men. I do not underrate the difficulties of the staff who must deal with them, whether in ordinary schools or approved schools, but I agree that the sooner we can achieve better methods of treatment than corporal punishment the better.
Criminal Injuries Compensation Board(Wrongly Charged Persons)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to enable the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board to assess and award compensation for financial and other loss to such persons as shall be certified by a court to have been wrongly charged with a criminal offence of which another person is subsequently convicted.
I have every sympathy with the innocent person wrongly accused, but I am not satisfied that it would be right or practicable to confer a statutory right to compensation.
Is my hon. and learned Friend not aware that in 1967 there were at least three cases of men charged with criminal offences of which other men were subsequently convicted? Does he not think that it is about time that these men should have what he suggests is not practicable—an absolute right to claim compensation for the humiliation which they suffered?
The difficulty about my hon. Friend's rather ingenious suggestion is that it involves discriminating between certain kinds of acquittal and other kinds of acquittal and making the right to compensation depend on a subsequent event, the conviction of someone else, which is an invidious distinction and would make it unjust to refuse it in other cases.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what factors he took into account when deciding to reduce civil defence to a care and maintenance basis.
The current level of civil defence expenditure, our financial circumstances and the risk of a nuclear attack.
Is it now Government policy to keep the civil defence organisation in a state from which it can readily be reactivated if needed?
Yes, Sir. It can indeed be reactivated. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman is no doubt aware, we are preserving the operational physical assets and the core of knowledge and expertise which would enable us to raise the level of civil defence rapidly if necessary, and the warning and monitoring system is being continued in existence.
Can the hon. Gentleman confirm, since we may be wanting to debate this subject, that the Government will have to lay an Order to make their policy legal and effective?
It is not my impression that that is so, but I would require notice of that question.
Did the Home Secretary bear in mind the fact that, in an emergency, the Civil Defence Corps, once disbanded, would not be there to form a cadre of volunteers to man the civil defence services? What will be done about the problem of manning the civil defence organisation if an emergency comes?
It is true that the volunteers will not be there, though a great deal of work is being done by those in Government and local authority service thereby maintaining and manning the essential elements, to which can be added the volunteers.
What change in our nuclear strategy led to this decision?
The right hon. Gentleman will recognise that the danger of nuclear war has clearly been receding over the years. However, this was not the only consideration. The financial considerations were, of course, involved in this.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what personnel will operate the civil defence system in the event of attack on the United Kingdom by a foreign power: when and how they will be trained; and what will be the cost of such training.
In the event of an attack the civil defence control system would be manned by the staff of Government Departments, public utilities and local authorities and members of the regular police and fire services and armed forces. Training on a modest scale is to be maintained, but resumption of full-scale activity would be a matter for the Government of the day. The initial training required to support a continuously ready system of central and local government in war might cost about £2 million.
How many permanent staff of the kind mentioned by the hon. Gentleman will there be? Is he aware that it would not be possible to have the civil defence system properly manned without thousands of volunteers and that they need to be trained in advance?
It is recognised that if there were to be an emergency, it would take some time to bring forward the volunteers. As I have already said, there will be a centrally trained core of personnel to provide a nucleus. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will be glad to know that the central civil defence training establishment at Easingwold will continue with training and specialised courses, not only for the national warning and monitoring organisation, but also for all those having continuing responsibilities for civil defence planning in both local and central government.
Is my hon. Friend aware that many of us on this side of the House are grateful for the fact that the Government have finally shed the dangerous illusion that there is some sort of defence against a nuclear attack?
I cannot accept my hon. Friend's view. It is important that we should have both skill and training available and a system which can he activated if the danger were to re-occur.
As an emergency implies an immediate requirement, how will it help to bring forward volunteers who require long training?
It is true that, if there were to be an immediate emergency, we would not have the volunteers available. It is also absolutely clear that the centrally trained personnel to whom I have referred in both local government and central government will be available, trained and ready. The hon. Gentleman would be wrong to assume that we are likely to have a sudden emergency without any warning whatsoever. The Government are prepared.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what will be the savings on salaries and wages in 1968–69 and 1969–70 in respect of cuts in civil defence services, with special reference to the Auxiliary Fire Service; how many permanent staff of each grade will be dismissed; and what provision will be made for their re-employment.
The level of continuing activity in civil defence, and arrangements for dealing with displaced local authority staff, are under discussion with the local authority associations. As regards the A.F.S., I hope that fire authorities will find it possible to absorb all the staff concerned into the normal establishment of fire brigades. The savings in salaries are estimated at about £1·6 million in 1968–69, including £·14 million for the A.F.S., and about £2·3 million in 1969–70, including £ ·3 million for the A.F.S.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that members of the Auxiliary Fire Service would he very glad to serve without their small remuneration? Would it not be possible to keep this organisation in being so that it could help in emergencies, as it has done in so many cases?
The willingness and generosity of the members of the A.F.S. and also of the Civil Defence Corps to give their services voluntarily is greatly appreciated. It is in line with their spirit of public service. However, such a saving would account for only about 8 per cent. of total expenditure and it would be impossible to maintain anything effective on a voluntary basis in that way.
Would the Under-Secretary give further consideration to those aspects of the present civil defence services—the Auxiliary Fire Service and others—for which there is clearly a civilian rôle? Would he consider the establishment of a volunteer defence force for use in national civil emergencies in order to provide an outlet for the public spiritedness and the expertise of the many people who will now be displaced?
It must be recognised that this is not the purpose of the A.F.S., though it has certainly given notable service on a number of occasions of civil distress. Its purpose is to be ready in war circumstances. I will certainly give consideration to the question whether there is any other way in which volunteers can be used.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the need to recruit and train against the increase in crime, he will refrain from making any proposals for placing any numerical restrictions on the recruiting of police in the United Kingdom or the Metropolitan Police District in 1968–69.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what estimate he has made of the effect the Government's proposed cuts in public expenditure will have on police recruitment in 1968–69 and 1969–70; and what the net effects of the cuts will be on police manpower.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department by what figures police strength in England and Wales is now short of authorised establishment; and what proposals he has for bringing it up to strength.
Arrangements have been made to increase the strength of the service in England and Wales by some 1,200 officers between 1st January this year and 31st March, 1969. The Metropolitan Police will increase its strength by over 500 officers. Plans have not yet been made beyond 31st March, 1969.On 31st December, 1967 the strength of the police service in England and Wales was 89,597, namely 17,839 short of the authorised establishment.
In view of the increase in crime and the shortage of police, under establishment, as against the very satisfactory upsurge in recruitment in the last 12 months, is it not the craziest of all false economies to put any restriction in the way of recruiting and training more police? Will the right hon. Gentleman take this opportunity to deny the rumour that it is proposed to close down Peel House?
I do not know about Peel House. To answer the earlier part of that supplementary, I am bound to say that those comments come oddly from an hon. Gentleman opposite. The increase in police strength has been unparalleled in the last three years, and we have been making up past deficiencies. We have now reached the stage when I think that the question of establishment needs to be looked at on a much more scientific basis than it was in the past, especially in view of the change in policing systems. I take it that the hon. Gentleman does not wish me to spend more public money than I need, even on this.
Since the right hon. Gentleman has agreed that the police are still over 17,000 men short, on what possible basis does he deliberately limit recruitment to below the rate at which recruits have, in recent months, been coming in?
I do not accept that the police force is 17,839 short of the numbers it requires. The fact that the various establishments have been built up on an unscientific basis in the past in the reason why we are now working them out properly and are not recruiting men if they are not necessary. I repeat that the strength of the police force has increased very substantially in the last three years; it has increased in an unparalleled way.
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that, though 17,000 short of establishment, the police have adequate men to deal with the appalling rate of crime prevailing in England today?
I am glad to say that because of the success of the Government in strengthening the police force, the increase in the rate of crime is now very much lower that it was before. This is a matter for congratulations by everybody and, on the question of establishment, I have pointed out that it has not been measured scientifically. It must be measured in that way and I intend to ensure that it is. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may bury their heads in the past, but if, at the end of the day, the examination shows that, as a result of the introduction of the new police systems—which, by the end of this year, will cover 80 per cent. of the people of Britain—more men are needed, we will take them on However, I will clearly not authorise an excessive increase in strength until I am certain that it is required.
While rejoicing, as I suppose the whole House will, at the recent increases in recruitment, does the right hon. Gentleman really ask the House to believe that all that we need this year is 1,200 extra policemen? If he does not ask us to believe that, then in what possible way does it help devaluation to work to keep the police force below its requirements?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite wrong. The police force is not being kept below its requirements. Its authorised establishment is quite different from what it requires, and it is the authorised establishment on which I intend to concentrate. As to whether I know what I am about, I had 10 years' experience of this before the right hon. and learned Gentleman opened his mouth on the subject. I intend to ensure that the level of establishment is measured scientifically and accurately, to carry out the policy of the party opposite, but to see that we do not waste public money unnecessarily.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he will take to ensure that the manning of police forces will be adequate to enable them to combat the crime wave with increased success.
It is intended to press on with plans to introduce mobile systems of policing, and to provide the necessary equipment. There will be no interruption of these programmes, whose main purpose is to enable the same work to be done more efficiently with less manpower.
Is the Home Secretary aware that in spite of equipping the police better and in spite of there having been more police in the last three years, the crime wave has increased very consider- ably and the detection rate still remains well below 50 per cent.? Will not he reconsider the matter and bear in mind that without more policemen we shall not effectively tackle the crime wave?
Indictable crime rose throughout England and Wales by no more than 1·5 per cent. in the first nine months of last year, which was a very considerable improvement. I think that this is due to the increased manpower in the force, but I cannot go back over all the ground which we discussed in previous Questions. It is the Government's job to hold the balance between better equipment and fewer men. On the whole, I think that what we need in the police at present is equipment more than men.
Will my right hon. Friend give consideration to the recruitment of Commonwealth citizens as special constables as well as as ordinary policemen?
I believe that this is being done in the ranks of special constables, but I could not give my hon. Friend an answer offhand as to how many have been recruited. It is certainly policy.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consultations he had with the Police Advisory Board before reductions in police recruitment were announced.
None, Sir. This was a decision for the Government to take.
But does not the Home Secretary, who has just boasted that he has been in this game for 10 years, realise the importance of consulting the police over a matter which vitally affects their capacity, on behalf of the nation, to cope with the crime wave?
Yes, Sir. If I may repeat the boast, I was one of the authors of the idea of joint consultation between the police and the Government. I am glad to say that I saw officers of the Police Federation yesterday, and I think that they are quite satisfied that there will be full and adequate consultation on all matters which are within our purview.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent the rate of police recruiting has been affected by the cuts in Government expenditure; and when, at the new permitted rate of recruitment, the police force in England and Wales and, in particular, the Thames Valley Division will be up to strength.
The level of recruiting allowed will be related to the rate of wastage, which cannot be precisely predicted. The strength of the police in England and Wales increased last year by 4,124 officers, and the forces comprising the Thames Valley Force by 143, compared with permitted increases of 1,200 and 59 respectively between 1st January, 1968 and 31st March, 1969. The rates of recruitment after 31st March, 1969 have not yet been settled.
Unless I misheard, the Home Secretary did not answer my Question. I asked when the establishments would be up to strength, but all he told me, as I understood it, was the increase there had been over the past year or so. Will the right hon. Gentleman now say when the establishments in England and Wales, and in the Thames Valley Division in particular, will be up to strength?
I could tell the hon. Gentleman that only if I could anticipate the rate of wastage and if I knew what the rate of recruitment was likely to be after 31st March 1969. Neither is as yet vouchsafed to me.
Police Forces (Electronic Andmechanical Equipment)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is satisfied that facilities are adequate to maintain all new electronic and mechanical equipment being used in police forces; and if he will make a statement.
I am not aware of any general difficulty on this score, but if the hon. Gentleman has in mind difficulties in any particular area and will write to me, I shall be glad to examine the matter.
I am grateful for that Answer. In general terms, in relation to the increased use of this equipment, can the right hon. Gentleman say if he considers that the Ministry of Defence might make use of some of those coming out of the Forces, whose experience might be of value in maintaining this equipment, much of which is of a comparable nature to that used in the Services?
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. It is quite true that, for example, the number of pocket radio sets in use will have increased from 600 in January, 1966, to 20,000 by the end of this year. This is having a substantial impact on the nature of policing and I will, therefore, be delighted to consider any suggestions about bringing in technicians who can help us to service this equipment and thereby save extra manpower.
How many of our police forces now have computers? How near are we to the identification of fingerprints by this method, which the United States has been using for many years?
I cannot answer the first part of that question without notice. Certainly there is a substantial development at Scotland Yard, which I had the opportunity of seeing for myself the other day, when they rapidly—within a matter of minutes—identified somebody who was wanted; and I hope that that will bring terror to the hearts of some would-be evil doers.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, having regard to the welcome and assistance given citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies who emigrate from Great Britain to Canada, Australia and New Zealand, he will seek to relax restrictions on entry and terms of residence imposed upon Her Majesty's subjects from those realms under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act.
I would refer to my reply to a Question by the hon. Member for Dorking (Sir G. Sinclair) on 14th December, and to my speech in the debate on Commonwealth immigration on 21st December.—[Vol. 756, c. 193, c. 1513–36.]
Would not it be appropriate to distinguish between fellow subjects of the Queen and citizens of republics which may not give us reciprocity?
The hon. Gentleman's Question refers to the old Commonwealth countries. There is no basis of comparison between those countries, which are seeking to attract immigrants, and this country, which obviously is not doing so.
Dangerous Substances (Carriage By Road)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will introduce legislation to control the transportation of dangerous materials by road; and whether such legislation will cover the over 800 dangerous substances carried by road.
The carriage of explosives, acetylene, petroleum spirit and certain other dangerous substances is already subject to statutory control. On the advice of the Standing Advisory Committee on Dangerous Substances, my right hon. Friend will shortly be making regulations dealing with the conveyance by road of over 200 inflammable liquids, and work has begun on similar regulations about corrosives. Regulations about poisons, organic peroxides and other classes of dangerous substances commonly carried by road will follow.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that it is time that a sense of urgency was injected into this matter? Is he aware that for about seven years we have been discussing legislation and regulations regarding the carriage of dangerous loads? Will he urge my right hon. Friend to complete the whole job by including all 800 or more substances which are carried by road?
A sense of urgency does exist and I can promise my hon. Friend that the statutes to which I referred will be brought forward within a very few weeks. As for the others, they entail a great deal of consultation with the industries concerned, but I assure my hon. Friend that they are already proceeding and that we are treating the matter with extreme urgency.
Having regard to the nasty cases we have had recently of inflammable materials being carried by road, would it not be right to put the control of inflammable materials carried by road under the Ministry of Transport instead of under the Explosives Department of the Home Office, as the Ministry of Transport would be able to deal with it better?
That aspect of the question is under consideration.
Is my hon. Friend aware that his Department, for nearly 10 years, has been unsuccessfully trying to devise a simple method of labelling these substances so that in an emergency firemen may know what they are dealing with? Will he take it from me that his statement this afternoon that we can expect some legislation for control of the transport of these substances will be met with great scepticism in the Fire Service?
It is true that there has been delay over many years—I believe over 10 years—but I think my hon. Friend will be satisfied when he sees the progress which is now being made. I hope that he will welcome the regulations when they are brought forward.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what additional measures he is taking to prevent illegal entry of Pakistanis and others into Great Britain.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to amend the First Schedule, Part 1, Section 1(2) of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, so as to enable illegal immigrants to be deported even if they have not been examined within 24 hours of landing.
Yes Sir, there is a case for some amendment of the law, to deal with clandestine immigration, when further immigration legislation is introduced. The primary safeguard is effective and vigilant co-operation between the police and other authorities on both sides of the Channel.
I thank the Home Secretary for that excellent Answer. Will he assure the House that he will deal in the amending legislation with the fault in the originating Act which prohibited the deportation of any person clandestinely entering the United Kingdom after 24 hours' sojourn here?
Yes, that will be the purpose of the legislation when it is introduced.
Can my right hon. Friend give any details of the racketeers who are misleading people about entering the United Kingdom? Does he agree that we should not lose sight of the misery caused to the victims of those racketeers?
I agree with my hon. Friend. The police are making a detailed examination of this traffic with the French and Belgian authorities and are receiving great help from them.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say how long it will be before the legislation comes into force?
I could not give an answer to that question this afternoon.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the legislation will also deal with the problem of the influx of Asians from East Africa?
The right hon. Gentleman is jumping the gun on Question No. 31.
Parliamentary Candidates (Costs)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware of the large increase in the costs of Parliamentary candidates since the present maximum permissible statutory limits were established, notably transport and printing costs; and whether he will conduct a Departmental inquiry and publish the findings, as to the increased costs, with a view to substantial increases in the statutory limits for both borough and county constituencies.
The Government are now considering the recommendation of Mr. Speaker's Conference on Electoral Law that there should be an increase in the basic figure to £750.
Having regard to the very difficult position of candidates in large county constituencies, who are tied to maximum costs imposed 20 years ago, would the right hon. Gentleman undertake to bring in this year an upward limit of at least 50 per cent.?
I think this will be a matter for discussion. I find on looking through the records that quite a number of candidates seem to manage quite well within the existing limits.
I cannot manage.
We know that the hon. Member could not manage anything. This matter must be looked at in conjunction with the other recommendations of Mr. Speaker's Conference. I could not undertake to introduce separate legislation on this matter.
In view of the fact that this recommendation was made by Mr. Speaker's Conference nearly two years ago and it is an urgent matter, will the right lion. Gentleman take urgent steps to deal with this particular problem as quickly as possible?
As we are not going to have an election for two or three years, I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman is worrying about. We have been waiting for the recommendation from Mr. Speaker's Conference about the age of voting. That has now been received and it will enable a wide discussion to take place on the recommendations that have come forward.
Having regard to the fact that these limits affect borough elections, which certainly will take place, as well as Parliamentary Elections which the whole country hopes will take place, will the right hon. Gentleman look at this a little more seriously? Will he be warned by the terrible example of the United States where the formal limits are much lower and where every candidate, from the President downwards, has to commit perjury before he gets in?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks with his usual moderation, as on all other questions. I note that you, Mr. Speaker, have recommended this increase. It is a matter for discussion whether something should be done in advance of the general recommendations or not. I would not take a hard and fast view on that if the House as a whole decided that there was a case for an increase and wanted it considered earlier, but I had better not go further or the Lord President of the Council will he after me.
Order. Hon. Members should not reflect, even accidentally, on heads of friendly foreign Powers.
I apologise. I except the President.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce amending legislation to prevent the circulation of perverse and indecent publications, examples of which have been sent to him by the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie; and if he will make a statement.
I have no proposals for amending the Obscene Publications Acts. The particular publication forwarded to me by my hon. Friend has been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for consideration.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that explanation. As the information in the publication is bound to affect the young, the adolescent and the weak-willed, will my right hon. Friend convey my best wishes for success to the Director of Public Prosetions?
I think it would be improper for me to do so. I think the best way of dealing with this kind of literature is not to read it.
Do not display it.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has now received the assurances which in his official capacity he required from the editors of "Petticoat" that paper dresses advertised in this magazine would in future be flame-resistant; and what further assurances he has obtained from the editors regarding their warning their readers of the inflammability of the dresses previously advertised by that magazine.
The editors of this magazine have assured me that they will not be offering paper dresses to their readers again and that a suitable warning about the hazards presented by untreated paper dresses will be included in the issue for 9th March.
I am grateful for that reply. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that one of my constituents could have been very badly burned as a result of the irresponsibility of this magazine? What steps is his Department taking to draw attention to these dangers, not only in this magazine but in others which may be using advertisements of this kind?
The trade is very well aware of the attitude of the Home Office on this question and I think it is co-operating. I am grateful to the editors of this magazine for the co-operation they have given us.
Grendon Prison (Nursing Staff)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made in the recruitment of additional nursing staff for Grendon Prison.
Efforts have been made to recruit more nurses for Grendon in order to open the women's wing, but it has now been decided to make provision elsewhere for psychiatric treatment of women, and I am advised that the size of the existing nursing staff is adequate for Grendon's present needs.
Does this mean that the women's wing at Grendon is not to be used for the purpose for which is was built? Is it intended to remove highly disturbed women from Holloway to make the running of Holloway Prison much more easy and acceptable?
It has been decided after a review that Grendon should not be used for this purpose. It is intended that a special hospital should be provided at another establishment.
Second Psychiatric Prison
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what proposals he has for the construction of a second psychiatric prison.
The need for such a prison is being studied by the Prison Medical Service Steering Committee. My right hon. Friend expects to receive shortly the recommendations of the Committee and will then consider whether to include such a project in the long-term prison development plan.
Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that it is generally accepted that such a second psychiatric prison is needed? Will he give an assurance that this will not be axed under current economy measures?
I think that when the Report of this Committee is received and consideration is given to it, it will be something for the medium and long-term Future and will not be affected by measures in the next two years.
Dangerous Toys (Imports)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied that the regulations governing the safety of toys are adequate to prevent the import of dangerous toys from abroad, in view of recent sales of plastic firing guns from Hong Kong and models of a jack-in-the-box from China, details of which have been sent to him.
In my view, there is no real risk of injury from the toy gun. Arrangements have been made for the jack-in-the-box to be suitably modified. My right hon. Friend proposes to review the scope of the present Regulations when the revised British Standard Code of Practice for Children's Toys is published in a few weeks' time.
Is my hon. Friend aware that there is considerable disquiet about these toys and that the jack-in-the-box, about which some hon. Members laughed, had a very dangerous spike in its head? These toys were freely on sale in the shops until the Sun newspaper drew attention to their dangers. Since this kind of thing is frequently happening with imported toys, will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the new regulations will give stricter control over imported toys?
I must wait to see the report on the revised Standard Code of Practice. The number of imported toys found to be dangerous is extremely small. We certainly appreciate it when members of the general public inform us about things which look dangerous. I tried the toy gun myself and I think it has no dangers at all.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce regulations to ensure that all forms of children's nightwear are fire resistant.
The sale of children's nightdresses made of non-flame resistant material is already an offence. The Working Party on Flammable Clothing is at present reviewing the problem of children's dressing gowns.
Would my hon. Friend ask the Working Party or some other body to look into the possibility of producing a soft, attractive and permanently flame-resistant material at a reasonable price, because this would cover made-up dresses and pyjamas and ones which are made at home and would greatly increase the use of flame-resistant materials for all types of garments?
My hon. Friend has touched on a real problem. Trade experience in the case of night dresses has been that garments which are made from these chemically treated fabrics are not popular, and many inquiries are being made to find a suitable material. It is a matter which I will ask the Working Party to look at.
Imperial College (Vietnam" Teach-In ")
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received about the admission of North Vietnamese students to the United Kingdom; and what reply he has sent.
My right hon. Friend has received a request from the Imperial College Political Societies Council to agree to the admission of a Vietnamese spokesman to take part in a "teach-in" at Imperial College. This was discussed with the sponsors yesterday, and I will let them have a reply soon.
Would not my hon. Friend agree that recent lamentable developments in Vietnam have illustrated the need for growing exchanges of this sort? Can he give us an assurance that bona fide applications of this sort will be treated favourably in the future?
I assured the House on 6th December that applications for visas by Vietnamese would be considered on their merits in the light of the relevant circumstances, and this will apply to this case and any other applications.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Under-Secretary twice said "Vietnamese". Does he mean "North Vietnamese ", because there is a big difference?
Will the Under-Secretary remember that North Vietnam itself allows hardly any British citizens to visit that country and has refused all applications by Members on this side of the House?
Further to that point of order. I was, of course, referring to applications from North Vietnamese.
White Paper, The Child, The Familyand The Young Offender
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will implement the proposals in the White Paper on The Child, The Family And The Young Offender; and whether he will now make a statement.
I am anxious to introduce legislation on this subject as soon as Parliamentary time is available, and I intend to make a statement on my proposals beforehand.
In the meantime, will my right hon. Friend accept that many of those most intimately concerned in the professions involved are anxiously awaiting an announcement, but does he agree that, on grounds of both economy and effectiveness, action along these lines is needed?
Yes, Sir; it is important that I should consult with a number of the interests who will be responsible for operating the proposals which I bring forward, and I intend to start that process in the near future.
Will the right hon. Gentleman's proposals include a review of the procedure by which he can recommend dismissal of staff from approved schools so as to allow a right of appeal to anyone whose dismissal has been recommended?
The House knows that I have made some modest changes in procedure already. I do not know that it would necessarily hinge on a White Paper of this sort, which would deal with a wider problem, but I intend to review the question of appeals as a separate issue.
Prison Building And Improvementprojects
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department which prison building and improvement projects will be affected by the proposed cuts in Government expenditure.
The start of the building of the maximum security prison on the Isle of Wight and two other prisons will be deferred; proposals for adapting two redundant Ministry of Defence camps for prison use will be abandoned; there will be some reduction in the rate of increase in the provision of houses for staff; and some small prison improvement schemes will be deferred.
As prisons today are more over-crowded than ever, what possible effect can this cut have except to make the situation worse still?
I notice that it is a constitutional disease of hon. Members opposite to be in favour of economies in general and of none in particular. If I may repeat a theme song which I have uttered so often, the effect of these cuts is to reduce the rate of increase. Translating that, for example, into terms of prison houses for staff, in the first year when we came into office there were 125 houses bought for staff. In 1968–69, that is, the coming year, as a result of the cuts the figure will be not 125 but 700 new houses.
As Dartmoor Prison was considered obsolete in the last century, will my right hon. Friend now announce a firm date for its abolition?
I cannot do that at this moment. It is too soon after 17th January.
Auxiliary Fire Service (Disbandment)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what savings will result in 1968–69 and 1969–70 from the decision to disband the Auxiliary Fire Service.
In England and Wales, about £0·6 million in 1968–69 and £1·1 million in 1969–70.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the effect of decisions such as that which the Government have announced in regard to the A.F.S., and the way they announced it, is to help to destroy the spirit of voluntary service in this country? Will he explain what he meant when he referred in an earlier Answer to the absorption of personnel of the A.F.S. into local authority fire services? Does he intend by that to refer to volunteer members of the service?
Order. Supplementary questions are becoming too long.
It is hoped that those who are now fully employed by local authorities on dealing with the A.F.S. will be absorbed into the general regular fire service. As regards the criticism which the hon. Gentleman makes, it is, I submit, sheer hypocrisy for hon. Members who have been constantly baying for cuts in public expenditure to come forward with that sort of criticism every time a cut is proposed.
South-East Asia (Securityarrangements)
asked the Prime Minister whether he will take steps to convene a conference of the Heads of Government of the United Kingdom, United States of America, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia to discuss security arrangements in South-East Asia.
If, as I assume, the hon. Member is referring to the conference originally proposed by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, I would refer him to the Answer given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) on 31st January.—[Vol. 757, c. 343–5.]
Is the Prime Minister aware that on 22nd January the Secretary of State for Defence referred to the need for an alternative basis for stability in South-East Asia? Will he tell the House something of the Government's ideas on how that alternative basis will be achieved?
This was discussed with the Prime Minister of Singapore when he was here, and, after the announcement about defence arrangements, we made clear—indeed, I did so in my statement on 16th January—what we intend to do in order to help Singapore develop her own defences. The same applies to Malaysia.
Is it not the declared view of Her Majesty's Government that, even after the end of 1971, we shall still be under a continuing obligation to go to the aid of these countries if they are attacked? Ought there not, therefore, to be early and full consultation on the way in which that responsibility is to be carried out?
That question also was dealt with in my statement. I referred to the general capability and the circumstances in which forces from that general capability could in certain circumstances be deployed in that or in other areas. This matter also has been discussed with the Governments of Singapore and Malaysia.
Is the Prime Minister aware that, only yesterday, the Prime Minister of Australia said that the question of swift availability of any British forces after 1971 was, to use his words, "clouded with doubt"? Is it not essential that this doubt be removed at the earliest possible moment? Until it is removed, will not Australia and New Zealand, as well as Malaysia and Singapore, believe that the sentence in the Prime Minister's statement means no more than his previous pledges?
What it means is, as the Prime Minister of Australia well knows, that we would in any situation consider whether it was right for us to intervene. There is no blank cheque on intervention. As the right hon. Gentleman will well understand, the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand have expressed their own doubts about being able to do more in that area themselves.
Mr. Chichester-Clark—Question No. Q2.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Am I not right in thinking that you half-called my name on Question No. QI, and is it not the convention—
Order. The hon. Gentleman is quite right. Mr. Chichester-Clark.
asked the Prime Minister what instructions he has given as to the criteria which determine the placing of Ministerial names on the back of Government Bills.
As the name of the Minister of Public Building and Works appears on the back of the Industrial Expansion Bill, may we have an assurance that, after the serious effects of licensing and the S.E.T., there is no plan for him to intervene further in this industry?
I do not know how that arises from a Question about instructions regarding the criteria determining the putting of Ministers' names on the back of Government Bills, in which we are following exactly the same practice as our predecessors. The position regarding the construction industries following the statement on 16th January was explained in the debate in the House.
Michael Colliery, Fife
asked the Prime Minister what representations he has received concerning the need to re-examine the decision not to reopen the Michael Colliery in Fife, consequent on the proposal to establish a coal-fired power station at Invergordon as part of the aluminium smelter complex; and whether he will meet a delegation to discuss the matter.
Both my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power and I have received a number of representations about this colliery, including some from hon. Members. The future of the colliery is, of course, essentially a matter for the National Coal Board but my right hon. Friend, as the responsible Departmental Minister, is always ready to discuss this and similar matters with hon. Members. Indeed, I understand he discussed the particular colliery mentioned in the Question with my hon. Friend and others of my hon. Friends earlier this week.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that some of us on this side of the House have seen both the Chairman of the National Coal Board and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power, and that there seems to be some conflict of view between them on this matter? As Lord Robens has said in a letter to some of us that he wants to see at least a proportion of the coal for the project coming from Scottish coal mines, not excluding the Michael Colliery, will my right hon. Friend at least give an assurance that the decision of the Cabinet on this matter will be delayed until Lord Robens has had a look at the forward projection of costs in the Scottish coal fields?
All of us, none more than my hon. Friend, regret the tragedy which led to the situation in the Michael Colliery, which was, up to that time, a viable and extremely efficiently worked colliery. I am not aware of any misunderstanding or disagreement between my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power and Lord Robens on this matter. The future of the colliery is a matter for the National Coal Board. On the question of the colliery's relation to possible smelter projects, the whole smelter question is being considered by the Government, and a statement will be made in due course. I do not think that I can answer it now in relation to this colliery.
Could the Prime Minister at least assure us that Scottish coal will be used, and will he charge one Minister with the responsibility for this project, to cut through the administrative confusion stemming from there being no fewer than six Ministeries involved in this one project?
The hon. Gentleman would naturally recognise that a number of Departments are very much involved in the matter, and must be, if the problem is to be tackled as a very important problem of this kind must be. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is in general charge of the aluminium smelter project. There is the very complicated complication about a possible coal-fired smelter, which is being examined.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the miners of Michael Colliery were told that it was a commercial decision not to reopen the pit? Does he agree that hon. Members on this side of the House, including himself, have said that Governments can influence market trends? Does he agree that miners are entitled to be dissatisfied because of their past support for this Government?
The question of the Michael Colliery was raised with me in very strong terms by representatives of the Scottish National Union of Mineworkers as long ago as last September at a very full meeting on the whole question of the coalmining industry. Because of the loss of production caused by the accident, the situation there has changed and the decision must be one for the National Coal Board, which is in close touch with the Government about it.
When are the Government likely to be in a position to announce their decisions about the various proposals for aluminium smelters? Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House an assurance that when they make the announcement the Government will publish details of the economics of the various forms of power involved, so that we can come to our own conclusion on how the problems have been resolved?
It will be two or three weeks yet before a decision can be announced to the House. I shall certainly consider how much detail should be given. From his own experience, the right hon. Gentleman will recall that this kind of question is of interest to our E.F.T.A. colleagues, and there have been and must be discussions with them. As between nuclear energy and coal, we shall of course want to make as full a statement as possible to the House when the decision is taken.
Secretary Of State Fordefence
asked the Prime Minister whether the public statement by the Secretary of State for Defence on television on 22nd January represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.
I would refer the hon. Member to the Answer I gave on 13th February to Questions by the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) and the hon. and learned Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell).—[Vol. 758, c. 319.]
What apologies have been conveyed to the Rulers in the Gulf for the typically foolish remarks of the Secretary of State for Defence about white slavery?
My right hon. Friend authorised a statement to be issued to those concerned in the Persian Gulf expressing regret for any offence he may unintentionally have given by those remarks.
Does the Prime Minister recall the letter I sent him on 11th January, five days before his statement of Government cuts, conveying an offer from certain Gulf States to meet the full cost of our continuing defence presence in the Gulf? Why was this so summarily dismissed at the time, and subsequently so discourteously referred to by the Secretary of State for Defence on television?
Of course, I remember the letter, which arose from the hon. Gentleman's very well-meaning efforts as a mediator between the chargé d'affaires of one of the States concerned, whom he met at a cocktail party or something—[HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."] Some hon. Members had expressed disbelief that I remembered the letter. I hope that I have now proved that I have remembered it. What the hon. Gentleman had to say, though not conveyed to us officially by any of the Governments concerned at that time, was considered seriously. The matter was raised again later, and our answer was given to the States concerned.
As the Secretary of State's remarks which caused very grave offence to our friends in the Gulf were made in public, why were his very proper regrets made only in private?
I thought that the House usually accepted a Minister's statement when he made it clear that regret had been expressed, and I have made it clear publicly now. I should have thought that since the States concerned were willing to accept that statement by my right hon. Friend the House would also be willing to do so.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there should be a bipartisan policy on this? Does he recall the speech on 7th December of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) to the Monday Club —theirs, not ours—published in The Times of 8th December, in which the right hon. Gentleman advocated pulling back all our forces from east of Suez? Will my right hon. Friend consult the Leader of the Opposition to see if this is the Opposition's official policy?
That lies outside my duties. In a recent debate I quoted other statements by the right hon. Gentleman concerned, but I have long tried to reconcile any of his statements with what appears, if one can be sure about this, to be the Opposition's defence policy.
Prime Minister's Officialvisits (Air Travel)
asked the Prime Minister whether he will in future, when travelling overseas by air on official business, make use of the services of British civil airline operators.
As the hon. Member knows, all of my official journeys overseas have been made in aircraft either of the Royal Air Force or of British civil airline operators. I have no reason to suppose that any different arrangement will be necessary in future.
Would it not be a good idea for the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to do something to back Britain for a change by making it a firm rule to fly by British European Airways whenever they travel in Europe, and by British civil airlines whenever they travel elsewhere?
The hon. Gentleman may or may not be aware that my predecessors used to charter an American aircraft for their visits to the United States— [Interruption.]—a B.O.A.C.— owned Boeing aircraft. [Interruption.]
Order. There is too much aircraft noise.
The Boeing happens to be—[Interruption.] If hon. Gentlemen will put— [Interruption.]
Order. We are losing Question Time.
If hon. Members will put down Questions of this kind week after week they will be answered, and they will listen to the answers. As I was saying, my predecessors chartered Boeing aircraft from B.O.A.C. From October, 1964, I made it clear that I intended to fly only in British aircraft. My early flights were in B.O.A.C. Comets—obviously slower, but at any rate British —which was what the hon. Gentleman wanted. More recently in the main I have been using R.A.F. aircraft, both Comets and V.C.10s, and I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would approve of that. I hope that that meets his requirements. With regard to my right hon. Friend's flight, as has been made clear several times, going by the airline concerned was the only way he could get there in anything like the time required and return for some very important discussions in America and Britain.
Does my right hon. Friend realise that hon. Members on the back benches opposite are doing almost everything but throw bottles?
I have noticed that, for a long time, hon. Members opposite have thought that the best way to cover up their lack of policy is to follow such tactics.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that many of us are very willing to see him share with other carriers?
Like all the hon. Gentleman's recent supplementary questions—and he used to be a serious junior Minister—that is once again typical of Peyton Place.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that, even if the Opposition had bottles, they would miss?
Yes, Sir. They share that in common with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). But, of course, we have seen earlier this week supporters who, when they thought their side was losing, started to throw bottles.
Several Hon. Members rose—
Order. I think that the time is ripe for the Business Question.
Questions To Ministers
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recollect that, in answer to Question No. 9, the Home Secretary rebuked my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) for "jumping the gun "—the gun in question being my Question No. 31 regarding an emergency situation. Did not the Home Secretary's rebuke imply a clear intention to answer Question No. 31 and connected Questions? May I ask whether you have received a request from him to answer it?
Neither the Home Secretary nor the Chair could have anticipated that Question No. 31 would not be reached. It is not in order to anticipate a Question of some other hon. Member on the Order Paper. I have had no request from the Home Secretary.
Business Of The House
May I ask the Leader of the House to state the business of the House for next week?
Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY, 19TH FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Revenue (No. 2) Bill and of the National Loans Bill.
TUESDAY, 20TH FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Public Expenditure and Receipts Bill.
Prayer on the Dangerous Drugs (Notification of Addicts) Regulations.
WEDNESDAY, 21ST FEBRUARY—Remaining stages of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.
THURSDAY, 22ND FEBRUARY—Second Reading of the Trade Descriptions (No. 2) Bill ( Lords).
FRIDAY, 23RD FEBRUARY—Private Members' Bills.
MONDAY, 26TH FEBRUARY—The proposed business will be: Supply (11th Allotted Day): A debate on a topic to be announced later.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say when the Defence White Paper will be published? Secondly, as the Home Secretary did not have an opportunity to answer Question No. 31 today, can the Leader of the House give a firm assurance that the Home Secretary will make a statement as early as possible next week about the very serious and, as we recognise, at the same time complicated problem which arises from the increase in immigration from Kenya?
I expect the Defence White Paper and Estimates to be published on 22nd February. On the second point, I think that we had better see what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary says in his Written Answer to Question No. 31 but certainly I will communicate to him the right hon. Gentleman's desire for a statement next week.
In view of the deep and justifiable resentment felt by thousands of sacked workers following rationalisation without consultation, will my right hon. Friend find time for an urgent debate on mergers and the social consequences that flow from them?
I am aware of the widespread interest in the House for such a debate and I will try to find time. But I am afraid that it will not be next week.
If the right hon. Gentleman heard the answers given by the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to Question No. 4, he may realise that there was a doubt in the Under-Secretary of State's mind as to whether it would be necessary for the Government to lay an Order to enable their intention to disband the Civil Defence Corps and the Auxiliary Fire Service to be carried out. Can the right hon. Gentleman now assure us that such an Order will be laid and that we shall have an opportunity to debate it adequately?
Yes, Sir. I gather from consultation at this moment that an Order will be laid. Of course, if an Order is laid there is opportunity for debate according to the wishes of the Opposition.
Can my right hon. Friend indicate whether the Opposition have given any indication that they want a debate on Vietnam? If the Opposition are not prepared to use one of their Supply Days, will the Government allow an early debate on this very intense and serious matter?
Whatever the Opposition may think, I always listen with care to the demands and suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). I know the desire of the House in this matter but there cannot be a debate next week. We are now coming into the period of Supply and Defence Estimates. We shall have opportunities to discuss Vietnam during the Defence Estimates and afterwards but I cannot guarantee a special day in the near future.
Has the right hon. Gentleman seen the Motion standing in my name about Mrs. Mopps and Valentines?[That in the opinion of this House it is destroying the spirit of its traditional existence if, in accordance with the practice of the House, the words "representations" and "lady cleaners" have to be substituted for "Valentines" and "Mrs. Mopps" in a parliamentary question in order to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the delightful way the Mrs. Mopps, who have the affection of us all, have used to emphasise their grievance and sense of injustice over their treatment and that the practice of the House should be altered to allow the use of these words.] Is he aware that I would very much like to have asked questions of the Prime Minister in the terms of Mrs. Mopps and Valentines? What is wrong in the English language with Valentines anyway?
Order. The hon. Lady is now discussing the merits of the Motion. She must ask for a day to discuss Mrs. Mopps.
If the Leader of the House is not going to follow up what I have asked for in my Motion—which he may well be doing—may I have an opportunity of discussing whether I can ask about Mrs. Mopps and Valentines?
I can never exclude the hon. Lady from asking anything. I think that the hon. Lady's style was charming and I hope that she will repeat it.
In planning our future engagements, has my right hon. Friend any news to give us about the Easter Recess?
I think that I can now safely say that the Recess will be from Friday, 12th April, to Monday, 22nd April, inclusive.
As it seems likely that the Tories will have issued by-election writs for their formerly-held seats next week, can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Patronage Secretary proposes next week to apply for by-election writs for Dudley, Meriden and Acton, where the electors have been disenfranchised for more than four months?
The hon. Gentleman refers to disenfranchisement, but seats for which the Opposition have applied for writs have been vacant longer than those not yet applied for. The actual date of application is strictly a matter for the Patronage Secretary.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that grave anxiety is being created in the mining industry in view of the absence of, or delay in laying, the Regulations for compensation within the 1967 Act? Will he discuss with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Power the possibilities of making an early announcement?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing this to my attention. I had not been aware of it, and I will certainly discuss this with my right hon. Friend.
Is the Leader of the House aware that this is the time of the year when we are normally told that the economic situation is so perilous that the prices and incomes policy needs further legislative backing? Can he therefore indicate to the House whether next week, or certainly before the Budget, the Government will give some indication of their intentions in this respect?
I will cautiously say that no statement will be made during the course of next week—in business time.
As so many matters of economic and industrial importance are being discussed next week, will my hon. Friend make early arrangements to have a debate on the effect of mounting pit closures on the regional development policy of the Government?
I will certain bear that in mind. I think that my hon. Friend must seek opportunities for himself, because there will not be a great deal of Government time for debates of that kind in the next fortnight or so.
As it is certain that the statement which his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture is to make to the House shortly will be (a) critical and (b) highly debatable, would the right hon. Gentleman see if time can be found to discuss this matter further at an early date?
I am well aware of the predictability of all the statements by my right hon. Friend. We will wait and just make sure.
Is my right hon. Friend to let us have a statement on certain experiments that have been taking place in the past few days in another place? I recognise that their Lordships have a certain local autonomy so far as their own administration is concerned, but is he aware that there is very strong opposition to television in this House— [Interruption.]
Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot go into the merits of what he seeks to discuss.
With great respect I am not seeking to discuss the merits. I should like my right hon. Friend to tell me if he recognises that this House is sovereign in the voting of Supply paying for this experiment. Will he give some informa- tion about who is to meet the bill for £18,000 reported by—
Order. The hon. Gentleman can ask for time to discuss who will meet the bill. This is Business Question time.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for eliciting that statement of view from hon. Members about the future of the House's attitude to television. I give him an assurance that the question will not be raised again during this Session. This is quite clear. It is a firm decision which has been taken. We are to make our own experiment with sound radio during this Session. Meanwhile, I recommend hon. Members to go on the last day and visit the other place to see the interesting experiment now going on. I have learned a good deal from it.
On a point of order. With great respect, I suggest that the constitutional question involved is who pays for the experiment already made, and I think that the House is entitled to know—
Order. The House is entitled to know in some other way than through a business question. I have told the hon. Gentleman that he can ask for time to discuss this constitutional issue of who pays for their Lordships' television.
Doubtless the Leader of the House is aware of the inter-union dispute which has been causing very widespread damage to the tourist industry in South-West Devon and which is now likely to spread elsewhere. Would he mind having a word with the Minister of Labour, who I think he will find appreciates our difficulties in this matter, and ask him whether he would consider coming to the House early next week and making a statement?