House Of Commons
Thursday, 20th March, 1969
The House met at half-past Two o'clock
[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]
Oral Answers To Questions
Prize Competitions (Publication Of Solutions)
Mr. Gwilym Roberts
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that in competitions by many commercial firms the winning line or solution is not published, although lists of winners are published; and if he will introduce legislation to make it necessary for the winning line, combination or solution to be published in all commercial and newspaper competitions.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Elystan Morgan)
My right hon. Friend has noted this matter for consideration when legislation is next introduced to amend Part HI of the Betting, Gaming and Lotteries Act 1963 dealing with lotteries and prize competitions.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the millions of people who enter for these competitions will welcome his statement that the Department intends to look at the problem? Will he accept that it is not a question of the marking or judging being unfair but of information? It is not a matter of justice being done but of justice being seen to be done.
Yes, I accept that suspicions can easily be aroused as to whether or not results are fixed, and that it would therefore be appropriate to look at the operation of Section 47 of the 1963 Act.
Mr. Edward M. Taylor
If there were a legal requirement for such winning lines to be published, could that be the basis for legal action by aggrieved losers?
The law at present does not impose safeguards on the manner in which competitions are to be held or the results declared.
Medicines And Drugs (Accidents To Children)
Mr. Gwilym Roberts
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what are the latest statistics available of accidents to children resulting from swallowing medicines and other compounds in tablet form; and if he will consult with sweet and confectionery manufacturers with a view to taking steps to prevent the manufacture of sweets which are similar in appearance to medical preparations.
Sir J. Langford-Holt
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department in order to reduce the accidental consumption by children of dangerous drugs whether he will have consultation with the pharmaceutical and sweet-making industries with a view to taking steps to cut out the similarities between some dangerous drugs and some children's sweets.
The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)
Particulars of fatal accidents to children from swallowing medicines and drugs were given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Roebuck) on 14th March: there is no precise information about non-fatal accidents. Consultations on this problem have already taken place between the industries concerned and the Medical Commission on Accident Prevention. Although no complete solution has been found, the pharmaceutical industry is attempting, by means of special packaging to reduce the risk of medicinal tablets being mistaken for sweets. But the best safeguard is for all medicines to be kept in a safe place out of the reach of children.—[Vol. 779, c. 379–80.]
Whilst we welcome the consultations which have taken place and the steps which are being taken, will my hon. Friend accept that there is an increasing fear that the advertisement of sweets which are sold loose in their thousands will result in a rapid increase of accidents of this kind?
We realise the nature of the problem, which is not an easy one to solve. We put out a great deal of publicity in various ways to bring it to the notice of parents.
Sir J. Langford-Holt
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that packaging by itself does not go far enough? It is the absolute similarity of the drugs and the sweets which is a danger to children. The cost falls ultimately on the Government through the Department of Health and Social Security. Will the hon. Gentleman see if anything can be done about the similarity of pills and sweets?
The question of the colour and shape of medicinal products comes under the Medicines Act, 1968, and any Question on that ought to be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to complete his review of the effects of CS smoke in cases of riot control.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
There is no intention that CS smoke shall be used by the police for controlling rioting crowds and no review is being made of its effects when so used.
Is no review to be made?
No review in this connection is to be made. I should like to make it plain once again to my hon. Friend that there has been no change since the statement made by the then Home Secretary in this House on 20th May, 1965, to the effect that CS smoke would be used only for the dislodging of armed criminals or dangerously insane persons.
Brockhill Remand Centre (Women)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many women on remand from Birmingham have been sent to Holloway and elsewhere since the closure of Brockhill Remand Centre to women: and what is the total number of journeys involved for these women and their escorts.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
Up to 5th March, 94 women were received at Holloway prison from Birmingham Magistrates' Court. Their transfer and the reappearance of some of them before the magistrates' court involved 137 journeys for the women and 88 journeys for prison escorts. In addition eleven women were produced at Birmingham Assizes and fourteen at Birmingham Quarter Sessions, involving an additional thirteen journeys by prison escorts. There were also 22 prison escorts to the assizes and quarter sessions at Birmingham to take custody of women surrendering to bail.
Will the hon. Gentleman recognise that all these journeys are excessively time-consuming, exhausting and harrowing not only for the women but for their escorts and their drivers? Bearing in mind that it turns out that there was no valid or legal reason why Brockhill Remand Centre should have been closed to women, will the hon. Gentleman consider reopening it and, therefore, earn the gratitude of the Birmingham City magistrates, the Birmingham City Council and all the women concerned?
I dealt with this matter in the Adjournment debate on 22nd July last year. I do not accept the hon. Lady's contentions, in that it is quite clear that it was absolutely essential for that remand centre to be closed—
The position with regard to the Midlands is being kept under review and, in the event of a new remand centre for women being necessary, priority will be given to the Midlands.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further plans he has in hand to deal with women remanded from Birmingham courts in the future.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
Accommodation is available at Shrewsbury prison for detention overnight during trial, and will soon be ready at Birmingham prison; but my right hon. Friend has at present no other plans for changing the existing arrangements.
Will the hon. Gentleman take it from me that his assurances that the situation is merely being kept under review in his former Answer and in what he has just said will be deeply disappointing to many people connected with the courts, because Brockhill was set up recognising the need for this type of accommodation?
I think that it would be appropriate for the hon. Lady to acknowledge that, because only a small number of women are committed in custody, it means that, wherever a centre is set up, because the catchment area is so large, of necessity, it entails substantial travelling distances.
Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that, in a very populous area like this, which could be repeated three or four times across the country, the lack of suitable accommodation for remand purposes is more than likely to interfere with the final judgment of the court? In view of that, should not urgent steps be taken to review the position, taking into account the difficulties of magistrates' clerks in trying to find appropriate accommodation?
It is not the lack of suitable accommodation which is responsible for the situation, but the size of the catchment area itself.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his estimate of the cost per journey of taking women remanded at West Midland courts to and from Holloway Prison following the closure of the women's section at Brockhill Remand Centre.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
About £17 per prisoner for an average return journey.
This amounts to a very large sum of money. Why is the Home Office so obstinate over this matter, against the advice of local magistrates and against local opinion, which knows all about Brockhill? It was built in the first place as a tailor-made remand home. Will he reconsider this decision and, if needs be, build two houses to accommodate nurses?
As I am sure the hon. Gentleman knows, owing to the lack of medical staff at Brockhill, it became absolutely necessary in the interests of the inmates and their safety that it should be closed.
Metropolitan Police Officers (University Courses)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will take steps to restore the compensatory grant, corresponding to payments in lieu of rest-days, to officers of the Metropolitan Police undertaking a course at university; and if he will backdate payment to June, 1967.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
The Police Council for Great Britain, which is the negotiating body for police pay and allowances, is examining the question; and my right hon. Friend will await its recommendations before making a decision.
Is it not true, however, that the initial allowances were granted without reference to the Police Council, that the question has been raised with the Home Office since July, 1967, and that the reference was made only at the end of 1968? Will he, therefore, expedite this consideration so that we can get a restoration of these grants that were promised in the first instance?
I cannot anticipate the recommendations of the Police Council. But, before 1967, most Bramshill scholars who went to universities went in the rank of sergeant. As a result of changes in the promotion regulations in 1967, they now go in the rank of inspector, and it was considered that the increased pay on promotion would compensate for the loss of overtime pay.
New Police Station, Crediton
10 and 11.
Mr. Peter Mills
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) why he authorised expenditure on a new police station at Crediton, Devon, in view of the need to economise in Government expenditure;
(2) whether, before reaching his decision to authorise the building of a new police station at Crediton, Devon, he took into account conditions at the present station and the number of man-hours to be saved by the erection of a new building.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
A larger sub-divisional station at Crediton forms part of a scheme which the Devon and Cornwall police authority are considering for a reorganisation of police cover in the surrounding area with a view to the more efficient use of manpower and other resources. A new building is required because the existing site is too restricted to enable the necessary facilities to be provided by adaptation and extension of the present station.
That is all very well, but, in view of the economic problems and the squeeze that we are experiencing, why should this money be spent? It is a complete wast of time. I think that it is monstrous that we should be going on with this at the present time. Will the hon. Gentleman look into the matter and see that this decision is reversed?
While I welcome the hon. Gentleman's concern for economy, nevertheless I cannot accept his contentions There is no room at the present station for garages or parking. More police vehicles will be based on Crediton and will need facilities at the sub-divisional station under the new policing arrangements.
Justices Of The Peace (Payment For Loss Of Earnings)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when payment for loss of earnings to justices of the peace will commence.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
I regret that I cannot yet say when payment will begin
Will my hon. Friend accept that, by refusing to pay justices of the peace loss of earnings, he is placing the working men who serve the community in this capacity at a very serious financial disadvantage, and, further, that if he continues to refuse in this way he will deter men from accepting these positions?
I have considerable sympathy with my hon. Friend's views. As the House will know, when Section 4 of the Justices of the Peace Act, 1968, comes into force, it will be possible for these payments to be made. In the debates on the Bill, my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General made it clear that the financial loss allowance could not be introduced at present in the economic circumstances obtaining.
Commission On The Constitution
Mr. Gordon Campbell
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on when he now expects the Commission on the Constitution to start its work.
Mr. Edward M. Taylor
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the Commission on the Con stitution will commence its work.
Mr. Merlyn Rees
My right hon. Friend hopes that the Commission will start its work within the next few weeks
Can the hon. Gentleman explain why more than five months have passed since the Government announced the setting up of this Commission and why, since then, nothing has happened except the appointment of a chairman? Is he aware that, during this period, the Constitutional Committee on Scotland, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) in the chair, has been hard at work and getting on with its job?
That Commission which the Conservative Party set up is at a much lower level than the one which the Government are setting up. This is a high-level Commission. It is not just a matter of thinking up a number of people to sit round a table. This is important work which will last a large number of years; in other words, it is not party political.
Does not this show appalling complacency, in that six months will have passed before any work has been done? Is not the Government's lack of success in hawking round places on this Commission due to the fact that it is now crystal clear that the Government will be out of office before any report can be produced?
This Commission will make deep investigations. It is not intended for the sort of thing that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) is good at—writing a letter to the newspapers. This is real stuff, and it takes time.
Mr. Emrys Hughes
When will this slow-moving constitutional elephant ever get anywhere? In view of the fact that my hon. Friend says that its work will last a number of years, when will it arrive at any conclusions about Scotland?
I have answered the question. It will be set up very shortly.
Mr. Emrys Hughes
When will it do anything?
It will consider, in the sort of way that my hon. Friend is good at, all the various points which have to be taken into account.
While not entering into competition about whether this Commission, when it exists, will be real stuff, will the hon. Gentleman realise that some of us are very much dismayed to know that it will in advance be committed for several years? Cannot we expect some mouse to emerge from this monkey in a shorter period of time?
I cannot compete with the length of time that it requires to get results in the sense in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman puts it. They are important matters for many people, especially those on the periphery of this Kingdom. They should be considered and, taking into account all the facts and all the people who will take a part in it, five months is not too long to prepare for this sort of thing.
Sir J. Langford-Holt
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements are made to achieve standard reading of breathalyser tests under different coloured artificial lights at night.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
My right hon. Friend has advised the police that in some conditions of artificial lighting the breath-testing device should be read by the light of a torch, an interior car light or the light of a headlamp.
Immigrants (Admission Of Dependants)
Sir C. Osborne
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many dependants of immigrants have been admitted since the passing of the Immigration Act, 1962, giving men, women and children, separately; how many more he estimates will be admitted; and how soon he now estimates this type of immigration will end.
Mr. Merlyn Rees
Between 1st July, 1962, and 31st December, 1968, 257,229 Commonwealth dependants were admitted. I will with permission circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT the numbers of men, women and children included in that figure. As regards the second and third parts of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to a Question by the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson) on 2nd December.—[Vol. 774, c. 421–2.]
Sir C. Osborne
Since I cannot remember what the hon. Gentleman said to my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Sir Frank Pearson), that Answer is useless and stupid. Is not the hon. Gentleman and his chief anxious about this flood of people coming into this country? Has he no thought for the survival of the English race in their own country?
The hon. Gentleman says that he cannot remember that Answer, which is germane to this matter. Has he bothered to read it?The 4,000-odd Commonwealth immigrants who came into this country last year with vouchers was the lowest figure since the introduction of the 1962 Act. Last year the number of dependants fell for the first time for a number of years. To state, in the face of that information, that there is a flood is ignoring the facts of the situation.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the nature of the Question and the blanket term "immigration" is designed to camouflage the hon. Gentleman's anxiety about coloured immigrants, and that white immigrants far outnumber coloured immigrants? The nature of such a Question can only make a situation, such as that in my constituency, ten times more difficult.
A smaller number of Commonwealth immigrants is now coming into this country than for many years past. In face of that, it really is nonsense to use the word "flood".
Sir C. Osborne
On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I shall seek leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the first available opportunity.
Following are the figures:
Commonwealth Citizens Admitted as Dependants: 1st July, 1962 to 31st December, 1968.
Dangerous Wild Animals
Sir B. Janner
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will seek to amend the law so as to ensure that when dangerous wild animals such as pumas, jaguars and snakes are kept as pets by private individuals adequate security is ensured.
Mr. Merlyn Rees
My right hon. Friend has no reason to think that escapes of dangerous wild animals are so numerous as to create a need for legislation.
Sir B. Janner
Does my hon. Friend realise that the escape of a small number of fierce animals which could do, and has done, considerable damage to other animals is something about which due care should be taken, because not only the lives and safety of other animals which have been attacked, but of human beings who are likely to be attacked, should be protected?
My hon. Friend seeks to know whether we need to amend the law. It would not be easy to devise a system of licensing for the keeping of wild animals which could distinguish between dangerous or potentially dangerous wild animals and others. Of course there is concern, but the problem is extremely small. There is always recourse to the civil law.
Sir B. Janner
On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature—
Order. The hon. Gentleman is too late. Mr. Costain.
Will the Minister confirm that there has been less damage to the human race from wild animals than from wild dogs?
I am sure the answer is right—yes.
Sir B. Janner
On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I shall seek leave to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.
Fairmile Hospital (Mrs B F Browne)
Mr. van Straubenzee
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why he has given his consent to Mrs. Barbara Frances Browne being granted occasional leave from Fairmile Hospital near Wallingford.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
Consent was given in the light of the advice of the responsible medical officer, who reported that occasional leave was necessary for the patient's rehabilitation and would not involve any risk to others.
Mr. van Straubenzee
While gratefully acknowledging the Under-Secretary's courtesy in discussing this case with me, may I ask whether he understands that the granting of occasional leave so shortly after the trial, which was on 29th April 1968, inevitably arouses anxiety in the area concerned? Can he give an assurance that, before the Home Secretary gives permission for the person concerned to be totally released, very careful consideration will be given to the aspect of public safety?
In all these cases my right hon. Friend must bear in mind the representations made by those who have the custody of such patients and the clinical factors involved. In addition, he is always mindful of the factor of public safety. This case will be dealt with in the same way as every other case.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to provide for the observance of 21st March, Sharpeville Day, as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Mr. Merlyn Rees
I have sent to the Chairman of the United Nations Association a special message in this connection reaffirming the Government's support for all those working for the elimination of racial discrimination.
While welcoming that action by my hon. Friend, may I ask whether he is aware that the General Assembly of the United Nations has specifically asked all Governments to mark this day as an expression of solidarity against the oppression that is going on in South Africa? In view of the historic share of responsibility of this country for the situation in Southern Africa, does he not feel, perhaps, that some further action should be taken?
I think that the best way to deal with this is to leave the observance of international days of this kind to non-Governmental organisations to decide for themselves. The Government have taken many practical steps in recent years—in particular, the Race Relations Act. In view of my own responsibilities, I think that it is a much better idea to work for good race relations on 365 days of the year.
Mr. Ian Lloyd
If ever it is thought unwise enough to commemorate man's inhumanity to man, will the Government bear in mind that the number of place names which could be considered as candidates is almost legion?
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps by legislation or otherwise to expedite the bringing to trial of defendants in criminal causes.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply which I gave to a Question by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) on 19th December last.—[Vol. 775, c. 443.]
Will the hon Gentleman take account of the fact that there have been many cases in recent years where the delay has been years rather than months? Without expressing anything about the subject matter of any particu- lar case, is it not intolerable and unfair to defendants when they have to wait five or six years before cases are brought to trial, as in the case of Rolls Razor and others that I could mention?
I will not comment on any particular case. I understand that the average delay, concerning assizes, is about two months. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Royal Commission on Assizes and Quarter Sessions has made a special study of delays and their causes in criminal proceedings, and will be publishing its findings.
Does not the hon. Gentleman recognise that the problem of comlicated financial frauds is quite separate from the rest of this group of cases? Can he not think, where the inspectors appointed by the Board of Trade have reached a definite conclusion, of a quicker way of disposing of a case than starting all over again and entering the 18th century buggy provided by the present law?
Despite the temptation, I cannot and must not comment upon this particular case on this question.
Mr. Arthur Lewis
Following on the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point, if, as is often the case, a person desires to go straight to trial without committal proceedings, why must there be all the expense and time of committal proceedings?
There is no question of a person going direct to trial without committal proceedings. The 1967 Act enables committal proceedings to be greatly shortened.
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to bring up to date and republish the Home Office Research Unit Report on murder in order that the public may be fully and accurately informed on this issue.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
My right hon. Friend has arranged for the publication, entitled "Murder" to be supplemented by a further report, to be published later this year.
Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that this is as up to date as possible? In view of the public debate that is bound to take place between now and July, 1970, the importance of making the discussion a well informed one on the basis of information provided by the Home Office can hardly be exaggerated.
The publication will cover the years 1957 to 1968. I am afraid that in so far as the figures for any year are concerned it is necessary for all the cases to pass the courts, and that does not normally happen until about May of the following year.
Will my hon. Friend try to ensure that the report contains figures showing the trends and practice in other countries so that a more intelligent comparison can be made?
I note my hon. Friend's remarks.
Cock-Fighting (Police Inquiries)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will call for a report from the chief constable on the action taken in respect of the cock-fighting that has recently taken place at a farm in Sussex, details of which have been sent to him.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
I understand that the police are making inquiries. I do not think that my right hon. Friend would be justified in calling for a report.
As this monstrous so-called sport of cock-fighting has been illegal for so many years, is it right that the Home Secretary should sit in his office and not take further action and call for some report while we await these long drawn out investigations, in view of the factual evidence, accompanied by photographs, which I have sent to the Home Secretary, and which appeared in the Daily Sketch on 12th March last?
It is not the prime responsibility of the Home Secretary to prosecute cock-fighting cases. That is the prerogative of the chief officer of police for the area concerned. I do not think that this case is such that it could properly justify the expenditure of police time by calling for a report.
Easter Act, 1928
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will implement the provisions of the Easter Act, 1928.
Mr. Merlyn Rees
My right hon. Friend awaits the result of the consultations being undertaken by the World Council of Churches.
Does not my hon. Friend think that the 40 years which have passed since the Easter Act was put on the Statute Book have afforded ample time for consultation with all these bodies, and that it ill-becomes a modern dynamic Government not to have taken a decision on this matter before now?
My hon. Friend may care to know that the World Council of Churches has sent a questionnaire to 230 member Churches, and that so far there is a majority in favour of a fixed Easter. Although the Catholic Church, through the Vatican Council, has declared in favour of the principle of a fixed Easter, it has let it be known that it will not go ahead until agreement is reached with the Eastern Orthodox Church. Consultations are now to take place between the Commission of the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Secretariat for Unity. I think that this is not a matter in which a good dynamic Government should interfere at this pitch. My hon. Friend may be interested to know that a great deal of progress has been made in the last five years in this respect, just as he knows a great deal of progress has been made in other respects.
Mr. John Hall
Will the hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of having a fixed Christmas Day as well?
I think that in all these things it must be one thing at a time.
Unlicensed Vehicles (King's Cross Area)
Mr. Arthur Lewis
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action the Metropolitan Police at King's Cross Station took as a result of the breaking of the law requiring a vehicle to be licensed by F. G. Radia Cars Limited, Calshot Street, N.1; and whether a prosecution will be undertaken.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
The police reported to the Greater London Council particulars of a number of apparently unlicensed vehicles in Calshot Street and Collier Street on 11th March, including the vehicle to which the hon. Member refers. It is for the Council to decide what action to take, including whether or not to prosecute.
I thank my hon. Friend and the police for that action. Is my hon. Friend aware that this firm runs a fleet of these cars, that they are unlicensed, and that the firm has refused to license them? Is my hon. Friend also aware that these cars are run with the name-plate of minicabs? As this is illegal, will my hon. Friend ask the police to take some action about that?
I shall relay that information to the police, but, as my hon. Friend by now no doubt appreciates, it is a matter for the G.L.C. to decide whether a prosecution should take place.
Parkhurst Prison (Inquiry)
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why he ordered an investigation at Parkhurst Prison on the basis of alleged evidence supplied by felons to a newspaper; and why he did not require the prisoners concerned to use the normal channels available to them for making complaints.
Mr. Elystan Morgan
My right hon. Friend decided that immediate inquiry into these very serious complaints was in the public interest and that of the prison service. A first aim of the inquiry is to establish whether there is foundation to any of the allegations.
Does not the hon. Gentleman think it rather disgraceful that this is the second occasion in the last 12 months when his Department has taken the word of a felon and initiated inquiries without going through the normal processes? We had the occasion last year when Prison Officer Jackson had to stand trial and go through all the mental anguish that that involves, only to be acquitted. Why cannot the Government go through the normal processes, instead of taking notice of what is published in the newspapers?
I am not willing to prejudge this issue in as flagrant a way as the hon. Gentleman has done. I am certain that it is in the best interests of prison officers, and in the general public interest, that allegations as serious as this, to which 120 persons seem to have put their names, should be investigated.
Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the machinery for complaints within prisons is adequate? It seems wrong that the Home Secretary should take notice of an article in a Sunday newspaper without taking a more careful look at the machinery of complaint.
I think that the machinery is generally adequate. A prisoner's normal channel of complaint about prison treatment is by petition, by seeing the visiting committee, or the board of visitors, or the visiting officer of the Secretary of State. If a prisoner has used one of those means and is not satisfied, it is still open to him to write to his Member of Parliament.
While accepting what the hon. Gentleman said about the matter now under inquiry, may I ask whether he will accept that this sort of device could be used in a way very damaging to the prison service?
I concede that it is open to abuse.
On a point of order. In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.
Mail (Time And Date Stamping)
Mr. Arthur Lewis
asked the Postmaster-General for how long the practice of using a time and date stamp for postage collection has been in existence; and why, in many instances since the introduction of the two-tier system, time is missing from the stamps and in some instances the date is also missing.
Mr. Ioan L. Evans (Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household)
I have been asked to reply.Date stamps were introduced in 1661 and time stamps in 1794. Omission of times is not new. Since 1922 they have not been shown on the lower paid mail because they serve no useful control purposes. Dates were omitted on some second class letters posted when the second class service was recently suspended. I must apologise, Mr. Speaker, for the absence of the Assistant Postmaster-General. He is away ill.
I congratulate the new Postmaster-General, and wish him well in his appointment. May the House be assured that the reason for dropping the time and date stamp is not so that the public will not be able to judge whether the postal service is now as efficient on a time basis as it was prior to the two-tier system?
I think I can give my hon. Friend that assurance.
Mr. Richard Wainwright
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, since the abolition of clocking off is one of the more laudable objectives of the party opposite, and of these benches, the abolition of time stamping is to be welcomed?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that comment.
Balance Of Payments
Sir C. Osborne
asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer what were the factors that caused Her Majesty's Government to borrow £1,300 million in 1967–68; to what extent these factors ceased to operate to enable this borrowing to be reduced to nil in 1968–69; and what special new action Her Majesty's Government is now taking to produce a surplus in 1969–70.
The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Diamond)
In 1967–68 the central Government more than covered its direct expenditure from receipts other than borrowing. This surplus helped to finance part of the Government's lending to the rest of the public sector; the remainder was met by borrowing. In the current financial year, public expenditure has been firmly contained, and the Government's receipts are higher than in the previous year as a result of measures taken in the Budget and on 22nd November. As regards 1969–70, I cannot anticipate my right hon. Friend's Budget statement.
Sir C. Osborne
Since the Chancellor and his predecessor were both wrong in their forecasts for the coming year, why should the House believe that the present Chancellor's forecast of a surplus for the current year will prove correct?
Every Minister of every party tries to give the House the best information that he can.
Mr. Emrys Hughes
Is the Treasury considering following the example of the Gas Council and borrowing large sums of money from Germany to pay the cost of Polaris submarine material and American aircraft?
That question does not arise immediately out of the Question on the Order Paper.
Ministry Of Defence
Raf, Bentley Priory (Radar)
asked the Secretary of State for Defence how many Russian military aircraft have been detected by radar from Royal Air Force Bentley Priory in each of the last convenient 12-month periods; and whether he will make a statement.
The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Army (Mr. James Boyden)
I am not prepared to release figures which could be used to give an indication of the efficiency of our air defence radars.
Is my hon. Friend aware that, in the Harrow Observer and Gazette of 11th March, the air officer commanding was reported as having said that his radar screen has revealed a large number of Russian aircraft? Is it not right, if that is so, that the public should have access to the fullest possible information? Surely it is wrong that the air officer commanding can give this information to the Harrow Royal Air Forces Association but my hon. Friend cannot give it to the House? What will he do about this matter?
The Harrow Observer was a bit inaccurate.
Mr. Eimrys Hughes
House Of Commons
Closed Circuit Television
Sir T. Beamish
asked the Lord President of the Council if he will arrange for the chimes in the closed circuit television sets, showing which right hon. or hon. Member is speaking and the business being discussed on the Floor of the House, to take place a few seconds before a change is announced rather than after one.
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)
I understand that it would be technically feasible to arrange for the chimes in the closed circuit television sets to be altered to take place a few seconds before rather than after a change is announced. I will place the hon. Member's suggestion before the Services Committee for its opinion.
Sir T. Beamish
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that such a change would be sensible, since one could then tell what has taken place as well as what is about to take place?
I have noted what the hon. and gallant Gentleman says and I will put this to the Services Committee.
Will my right hon. Friend take some steps to stop phasing the Division bells through the television apparatus, because it makes a hideous and quite unnecessary extra row?
I will also put this before the Services Committee.
Who was the "person"—I use that expression because it is a mild one and Parliamentary—responsible for this contraption? In view of the waste of time and money involved, would my right hon. Friend return to the old-fashioned and practical annunciator?
I can assure my right hon. Friend that I was not responsible. This occurred before I took up office as Lord President. I have great sympathy with what my right hon. Friend says.
We are ahead of time, so I can call the Prime Minister's Questions if the hon. Gentlemen concerned are here and the Prime Minister is willing.
Royal Mint Premises, Wales
asked the Prime Minister what plans he has to visit the new Royal Mint premises in Wales.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
I have no plans to do so at present, Sir.
That is a great pity, but when the right hon. Gentleman gets around to it, can he, on his way to the Royal Mint, stop off at Bristol and make once again that speech about buying food in the cheapest markets of the world and how he dislikes the levy system? How does he reconcile his dislike of the levy system with his passion for entering the Common Market?
Order. A supplementary question must have some connection with the original Question.
asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of paragraphs 22 and 23 of the Final Communiqué of the Commonwealth Prime Ministers' meeting, he will take steps to secure a standstill agreement on further national expropriation of the ocean floor.
The Prime Minister
No, Sir. I do not think that such a standstill would be useful or desirable but we shall continue to be guided in this matter by the internationally agreed provisions of the 1958 Geneva Convention on the Continental Shelf.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that, very properly, these agreements take time and that, unless there is an embargo in the meantime, by the time that we have an agreement there may be nothing left to agree upon?
The Prime Minister
I do not feel that there is that danger. Of course, the urgent question—my hon. Friend knows what I have said on this matter before—is the international effort now being made with our full support to ensure that the sea bed is not used for nuclear installations or other weapons of mass destruction.
President De Gaulle And British Ambassador
asked the Prime Minister if he will make a statement on the discussions he had with the Federal German Chancellor on the recent conversations between President de Gaulle and the British Ambassador in Paris.
asked the Prime Minister whether he will seek an early opportunity to meet the President of France so as to resolve present misunderstandings.
The Prime Minister
I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary and I have already told the House on a large number of occasions during the past four weeks.
Did Dr. Kiesinger approve the idea of bilateral talks between the British and French Governments? Has my right hon. Friend given any thought to the idea of British adherence to the Franco-German Treaty of January, 1963, as a means of furthering our European policies?
The Prime Minister
On the first point, I am sure that I answered that question when it was put last week. When I met Chancellor Kiesinger and we had the discussions of which the House has been informed, I said that we were, of course, very willing to enter talks with the French Government, and I had every impression that the Chancellor welcomed that approach on our part. On the second part of the question, that also has been fully answered in the debate.
As, on 4th February, the President of France suggested talks on the creation of a wide free trade area, will the right hon. Gentleman now swallow his pride and apologise for a betrayal of confidence which is preventing the opening of such talks.
The Prime Minister
There is no question of pride or of an apology being required, although, if one were given, I should have to apologise to five other European countries for going back, as I would have done if I did what the right hon. Gentleman wants, on our undertaking to all the other countries to keep them fully informed, as they do us, on all exchanges in Europe on matters of common concern. On the free trade area, we have made it clear over a long period that any proposals from the Six as a whole on the question of free trade arrangements between the Six and Britain and other countries we should be ready to discuss with the Six.
While clearly no case for an apology arises, would it not be in the interests of all concerned if the Prime Minister were to consider initiating discussions between Eastern and Western European Powers in response to the recurrent declaration of the Warsaw Pact countries? Would it not be much more fruitful to consider an approach to a European security conference rather than harking back always to what has happened between ourselves and President de Gaulle?
The Prime Minister
At the right time, as we have often said, a discussion between Eastern and Western European countries could be helpful, but my hon. Friend will know that, before Czechoslovakia, at the conference in Iceland of N.A.T.O. countries last year, we put specific proposals to the Warsaw Pact countries for mutual troop reductions Unfortunately, they were not taken up, and the invasion of Czechoslovakia happened soon after.
The right hon. Gentleman undertook, in answer to a supplementary question from me, to inquire into the reports that, at their recent meeting, the President of France told Dr. Kiesinger that France would not take any further part in W.E.U. Has the right hon. Gentleman obtained any information yet on this?
The Prime Minister
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I think that the Press report that He had in mind—I have looked into this—was one by Agence France Presse, based I think, on what was said to be briefing from the Quai d'Orsay on this matter. I have looked into this and other reports that we have had on these discussions and it seems clear to me that the line indicated by General de Gaulle, if the report was right, was exactly in conformity with what the French Government had already announced before the talks took place and arising out of the decisions at Luxembourg and the action taken to follow u p those decisions. It had nothing to do with what is called the "Soames affair".
asked the Prime Minister what recent consultations he has had with the Prime Minister of Nigeria about steps towards the achievement of a peace settlement there.
The Prime Minister
In my talks with General Gowon in Lagos later this month, I hope to have a full discussion of the deep problems facing Nigeria, of the prospects for progress towards a settlement, and of the scope for assistance by this country in reaching such a settlement. I hope also to be able to get the fullest information about food and other relief supplies, and about other questions which greatly disturb hon. Members in all parts of the House.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that he has the good will of all those who wish to see an end to this war? Is it his intention to see representatives of the Biafran side, including Colonel Ojukwu? Will he try to convince the Nigerian Federal Government that there must be a political solution and not a military one?
The Prime Minister
There are no plans for meetings with Colonel Ojukwu but, of course, that would not be ruled out if circumstances, from every point of view, appeared favourable. I would regard it as very problematical, so far as forecasting such a meeting is concerned.As I have already made clear, the purpose of this visit is not to propose any further mediation. My right hon. Friend and I have both made it clear that there is no lack of mediators. Most of us agree that, where mediation is needed, this is fundamentally an African problem and not a problem for Western nations. Many issues have been raised in debate by hon. Members, whatever may be their general view of the Nigerian war, and it is, therefore, right that I should look into some of these problems and try to get for myself a full and accurate account of the situation.
Would the right hon. Gentleman say whether these problems will include the question of tabling at the United Nations a motion for an embargo on arms supplies to the whole of Nigeria and the policing of it?
The Prime Minister
The question of arms supplies naturally arises out of any consideration of Nigeria, as it did in the debate in the House last Thursday. I have previously said in the House that, because of the supplies which arrive through clandestine channels, I would be very doubtful indeed of any effective embargo based on an agreement by the arms-supplying countries, even if we could get such an agreement.If it were a question of having an effective means of stopping arms arriving, this would mean not only international policing, but it would be totally ineffective without a cease-fire, and a cease-fire would be ineffective without arrangements or prior agreement to have negotiations and, therefore, the three questions are closely bound up together.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make known to the Federal authorities the horror which is felt in all quarters of the House about the bombing of civilian targets by either side? To get a balanced view, will he make an effort to see Colonel Ojukwu and possibly the Emperor of Ethiopia, who has also been closely concerned?
The Prime Minister
I have no doubt that the Federal authorities will have read the full account of the debates which have taken place on this subject in the House and the statements which have been made in other connections. I have equally no doubt that Colonel Gowon and the Federal military Government are determined to do everything in their power to stop the bombing of civilian targets. That is what they have made clear not only in public statements but in the instructions which they have given to their military authorities.
Mr. Frank Allaun
Can my right hon. Friend hope to achieve a cease-fire if he sees only one side? To achieve this, will Her Majesty's Government disavow any commitment to a military settlement and underline to the Biafran leadership security, personally, if they should need it?
The Prime Minister
To comment on my hon. Friend's suggestion, I have made it clear that the main purpose of my visit is not to try to negotiate a cease-fire. This has been tried, with our help, on many occasions. For example, we were instrumental in getting the two sides together at one of the earlier meetings, and the Emperor of Ethiopia has also been successful in this context. I made clear the grave limitations on any hopes of mediation from outside in this matter and the fact that, if it were from outside, it would have to come from Africa.
Would my right hon. Friend make it clear that he is going to Nigeria as a friend and supporter of the Nigerian Government and not as an emissary of the Biafran rebels—[Interruption.]—or to try to obtain for them terms which the Nigerian Government do not wish to concede?
The Prime Minister
Without relying on provocative langauge from any source, I am going there as the representative of British interests, as the representative of the views of this House as expressed clearly by hon. Members of different shades of opinion and as one who, in common with every other hon. Member, desires to see the earliest possible end to this carnage and a political settlement in Nigeria which will preserve the unity of that country and which will preserve full security for the life, liberty and future development of the people of Eastern Nigeria.
Mr. Hugh Fraser
While the whole House, whatever may be our individual views, must, on this matter, wish the Prime Minister the best of good fortune on his mission, may I ask him to ponder the fact that what applies in the granting of self-determination to the 6,000 people of Anguilla is an equally strong argument in the battle for self-determination on the part of 16 million Biafrans, a population four times that of Scotland?
The Prime Minister
To answer the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, and considering the very strong commitment into which he has entered in expressing his views in the House, I am grateful for what he said about my visit. The answer to the second part is that I can see no parallel whatever between the two cases.
Former Ministers And Senior Officials (Commercial Appointments)
asked the Prime Minister whether he will include in his proposed review of hon. Members' relations with extra-parliamentary bodies the conditions governing the movements of retiring Ministers and senior Government officials into commercial bodies with which they have had Departmental relations.
The Prime Minister
On retiring Ministers, I would refer to my reply to a similar Question by my hon. Friend on 20th June, 1968. As regards senior officials, I see no need to review the existing rule that they must obtain Government approval before taking up an appointment with a firm or organisation which has some contractual or financial relationship with the Government.
In view of the increasing involvement of Government in industry, would it not be desirable to have clear and formal rules about the employment of ex-Ministers, as is the case with ex-senior civil servants?
The Prime Minister
In connection with Ministers, as I said in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend on 20th June, 1968, these matters are better left to the discretion and good sense of the individuals concerned. A number of ex-Ministers of all parties since the war have, on ceasing to be Ministers, taken up positions in British industry. As far as I am aware, in every case their position within industry has been known to their fellow hon. Members, to Ministers, to civil servants and to the public generally, and I see no case for any change.
On the question of having a register of the interests of hon. Members, does the right hon. Gentleman recall that it is more than three years since he told my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) that he was in favour of having such a register? Since he last reaffirmed this policy, what consultations has he had with the Leader of the Conservative Party and with my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Liberal Party to implement that policy?
The Prime Minister
That is a separate question, since the Question relates to ex-Ministers and Government officials. However, since the hon. Gentleman has raised the matter, it might help if I point out that I have made it clear that we are considering this subject urgently and I hope to make a statement in the near future. I will certainly consider the question of consulting the leaders of the other parties, since that would be a necessary part of any action which might have to be taken.
Mr. C. Pannell
Would my right hon. Friend make it clear that the precedent set by Mr. Baldwin in about 1935 of firing a senior civil servant who applied for a commercial job while serving with a Ministry is a precedent which he will follow?
The Prime Minister
As my right hon. Friend says, I think that that case arose in 1935. I have not had such a case put before me, but I would certainly want to consider all the aspects of the case and I fully understand what my right hon. Friend has in mind.
Commercial Radio Stations
asked the Prime Minister what proposals he has received for setting up commercial radio stations; and what action he is taking.
The Prime Minister
Would my right hon. Friend accept that such stations would endanger the local Press throughout the country by siphoning off advertising revenue? Would he, as a positive alternative, encourage the B.B.C. local radio experiment and resist any proposals for 100, or any other number, of commercial local radio stations? Does not he think that the "phoney" figure of 100 underlines the gimmicky nature of these mischievous Tory proposals?
The Prime Minister
The answer to the first three parts of my hon. Friend's supplementary question is, "Yes, Sir." In this connection, I was interested to note the speech made yesterday in Leeds by the Chairman of the B.B.C., who has considerable experience in both public sector broadcasting and commercial broadcasting, in which, in relation to local newspapers, he said that if there were commercial advertising to finance these stations, then even if the newspapers got a modest share of it, local newspapers would be ruined; and that would not be the desire of any hon. Member.As for the proposals which have been put forward, I am not clear whether they are the proposals of the Conservative Party—or whether it matters if they are—but they are, I think, proposals put forward by the shadow Postmaster-General, and I do not believe that the local press is afraid of shadows.
Is it not characteristic; of the Prime Minister and hon. Members opposite that they should so bitterly oppose a proposal which it is quite obvious the majority of people in this country want? [Interruption.] Is it not particularly foolish to do so on the fallacious ground that the local Press will suffer when it is quite plain that the local Press, having an interest in local commercial radio stations, will stand to benefit in the same way as the national Press is benefiting from national commercial television. In this matter—[Interruption.]
Order. There are too many local stations at the moment.
In this matter the present Chairman of the B.B.C. can hardly be described as a disinterested body.
The Prime Minister
The right hon. Gentleman has not yet made clear in his supplementary question whether the statement by the shadow Postmaster-General carries his authority, or whether it is another case of pressing what he thinks will be popular in the country and half going along with it without committing himself. Not every newspaper, many of which are facing very serious trouble, would agree that commercial television has been in the interests of the British Press as a whole. Some have gained from it, of course, but not all have and it is arguable whether the Press as a whole has done so. As to local broadcasting, I still say that the Chairman of the B.B.C., who has vast experience of it, both of commercial broadcasting and public sector broadcasting, spoke with great authority yesterday. I should have thought that, as he is a former colleague of the right hon. Gentleman in the Cabinet, the Leader of the Opposition would not make such snide remarks about him today.
Mr. Russell Kerr
Will my right hon. Friend pay full heed to the experience of Australia and the United States in this connection and take every opportunity of exposing the sordid commercialism of the Leader of the Opposition and his friends?
The Prime Minister
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is guilty of commercialism in this way. I have said all I have to say about him. Maybe if there is a register of lobbies in any form or if interests are to be declared we shall learn a great deal more about Questions which are put from all parts of the House. I am not referring to any party or any individual hon. Member. So far from looking at the experience of America and Australia—and some of us have experience of part of that at any rate—I should feel that the whole House would agree that the experiment so far conducted in local broadcasting is extremely interesting. We must all review it coolly and impartially and without ideological bias—and as soon as it has been running long enough there is to be a review, this summer—but my impression of it from what I have seen of it is that it is very good. There are still financial problems but some have been highly successful in raising finance from local interests who want to see local views expressed in broadcasting.
On a point of order. May I direct your attention to this conspiracy on the part of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to prevent me from putting my Question No. Q8? Is it not obvious to you that this is a Question which they find disagreeable and that probably they have no adequate or satisfactory answer to it? I am entitled to put my Question. It was obvious that they were just wasting time. [Interruption.]
Order. The right hon. Gentleman is not alone in having the experience of a Question being just missed—
They are always doing it to me.
—because other hon. Members ask supplementary questions. I have never known the right hon. Gentleman to be backward in asking supplementaries.
Mr. Ian Gilmour
While fully appreciating the anxiety of the Prime Minister to ingratiate his Government with the local Press, may I ask if he has also seen the remarks of a former colleague of his, the Chairman of I.T.A? Is there any reason to believe that his party is more likely to be right about independent radio than it was about independent television which it first strenuously opposed and then promised to modify or to abolish?
The Prime Minister
The hon. Member the shadow to the shadow Postmaster-General will no doubt be aware that his Government opposed commercial television until, in June, 1952, facing an extremely desperate situation with a narrow majority, they gave way to a very strong pressure lobby—[Interruption.]
Order. I want to hear the answer.
The Prime Minister
The then Government in rejecting it, and ours in opposing it, have both proved to be wrong. We have all said this publicly. That did not make more honourable the particular circumstances in which the then Government changed their mind.
May we at least take it that the creation of 100 commercial radio stations, unlike the decision of the Opposition, is not regarded by this Government as of the highest social priority for the nation?
The Prime Minister
This figure of 100, which was plucked out of the air by the shadow Postmaster-General, is not a serious proposition before the nation at this time. I am responsible for Government action. I do not even know whether it has the support of the Leader of the Opposition. I do however, know that the Chairman of the B.B.C. yesterday gave an indication that with various technical improvements and for other reasons we could look forward to every major town in the country having its own public broadcasting service.
Questions To Ministers
Sir C. Osborne
On a point of order. May I ask your guidance Mr. Speaker? Last week, you very kindly allowed the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to answer a Question after the hour had passed. Would it be possible to follow that precedent and to allow the very distinguished right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shin-well)—
I do not want any help from the hon. Member.
Sir C. Osborne
Will you allow one of the oldest Members of this House to ask his Question, in which both he and the House are deeply interested?
Order. This reaching across the Floor of the House by one old Parliamentarian to another is touching, but I have not had any request from the Prime Minister for permission to answer the Question.
Further to that point of order. I would not have said this but for your comment. The last person from whom I would accept help is the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne).
Business Of The House
May I ask the Leader of the House whether he will state the business of the House for next week?
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Fred Peart)
Yes, Sir. The business for next week will be as follows:
MONDAY, 24TH MARCH. Supply (15th Allotted Day):
Debate on foreign affairs, on a Motion for the Adjournment of the House.
At Ten o'clock the Question will be put from the Chair on all outstanding Votes.
Motions on the New Towns (Scotland) Act, 1968, Order, on the Bacon Curing Industry Scheme and on the White Fish and Herring Subsidies Schemes.
TUESDAY, 25TH MARCH. Second Reading of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.
WEDNESDAY, 26TH MARCH. Remaining stages of the Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill.
Motions to extend Sections of the Post Office Act, 1961.
Motion on the Housing Corporation Advances (Increase of Limit) Order.
Consideration of any Lords Amendments which may be received to the Horserace Betting Levy Bill.
Motion on the Police Amalgamation (South Wales) Order.
THURSDAY, 27TH MARCH. Lords Amendments to the Representation of the People Bill.
Remaining stages of the Decimal Currency Bill.
FRIDAY, 28TH MARCH. Private Members' Bills.
MONDAY, 31ST MARCH. Committee stage of the Parliament (No. 2) Bill.
The House will wish to know that the present intention is that we should rise for the Easter Adjournment on Thursday, 3rd April, until Monday, 14th April.
May I ask three questions? First, can the right hon. Gentleman tell us when the Minister of Housing and Local Government will make an early statement about amendments to the Land Commission Act which he has promised to make? In view of the high cost of the Ford dispute and the urgency of improving industrial relations, can the Leader of the House give an undertaking that the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity will introduce legislation this Session? Thirdly, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the contrast between the promise by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to expand farm production which he made last November and the Price Review which he announced yesterday is so great that we must have an early debate on the future of the farming industry? Can he promise time for that?
I cannot specify the date when my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government will make an announcement. I will certainly consult my right hon. Friend and put to him the right hon. Gentleman's point of view.On the point about the Ford dispute, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity said that she would consider this. I will again convey to her that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues regard this as an important matter. I cannot go beyond that.
On the question of the Price Review, when I introduced my first Price Review and the Opposition expressed their displeasure they chose the date themselves for the debate. It would be interesting if they were to do that.
In this case, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food made a statement last November in which he promised a very large and immediate expansion in agricultural production. He is not now providing the wherewithal for this. It is therefore important that, because of this contrast, the Government should provide time for an early debate.
I should have thought that the procedure I have mentioned would have been satisfactory.
When will the final composition of the Commission on the Constitution be announced?
I cannot say. I will certainly bring the right hon. Gentleman's question to the notice of my right hon. Friend when he returns from the conference he is attending.
Has my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House seen Early Day Motion 228?
[ That this House, noting the contributions made in the Second Reading Debate on Tuesday, 11th March, 1969, on the Children and Young Persons Bill, regrets the decision of the Committee of Selection to remove the names of the hon. Members for Oldham, East, and Wellingborough from Standing Committee G in respect of the Bill, as reported in the Votes and Proceedings of the House on Friday, 14th March, 1969.]
Is my right hon. Friend aware that usually this Committee sits once a week, on a Wednesday. Last week we had on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday three different decisions on three succeeding days. What happened on the last occasion makes it clear and evident that this Committee has been influenced by Ministerial pressure. In these circumstances, will my right hon. Friend arrange for an early debate on the working of the Committee?
I have noted my hon. Friend's Motion on the Committee of Selection. His is the second signature to the Motion. This is a matter for the Committee of Selection. I cannot find time next week.
Earl of Dalkeith
On the proposed business for Monday, 31st March, does this mean that it is the considered view of the Leader of the House and of the Cabinet that there is nothing more urgent facing us than the reform of the composition of the House of Lords?
The hon. Gentleman knows that this is a collective decision. This is the Government's view.
Mr. Philip Noel-Baker
In view of the mounting danger of war in the Middle East, will my right hon. Friend consider whether it would not be wise to have a debate on the Middle East rather than a general round the world review which never succeeds?
It is expected that the Front Bench spokesmen will concentrate on two matters—Europe and the Middle East.
Sir D. Walker-Smith
On the proposed business for Monday, 31st March, has the Leader of the House seen reports in the Press that two further days are to be given in that same week for discussion of the Parliament (No. 2) Bill in Committee? Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake not to do that and to give priority to the discussion of Motion 171—
[ That this House applauds the declaration of President Nixon in his Inaugural Address that he seeks an open world, open to the exchange of goods; and urges Her Majesty's Government to examine the possibilities for the creation of a free trade association of countries based on the United Kingdom, Canada, the United Kingdom's partners in the European Free Trade Association, and the United States of America and open for all, including the European Economic Community, to join.]—
which is a far-seeing, imaginative and constructive Motion and which has great support on both sides of the House, asking for an exploration of the possibilities of an Atlantic Free Trade Area?
I am intrigued by the way the right hon. and learned Gentleman has pressed the case for his Motion. I know that it is an important matter. No doubt he will be able to raise it, if he so wishes, in the foreign affairs debate. I am not responsible for Press speculation.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the debate on mortgage rates yesterday brought some criticism from back benchers because four Front Bench speakers—two on each side—were balanced by only four back bench speakers and some hon. Members who wished to take part in the debate could not be called because of shortage of time? Will my right hon. Friend consider this matter and provide some time next week, or at least before Easter, for a further debate on this very important subject, which has not yet been properly aired?
The question of the length of speeches comes up from time to time. I will look into this matter.
In view of the great relief to the Government's programme for the next year or so which would result from a collective decision on a free vote on Early Day Motion 232—
[ That further consideration of the Parliament ( No. 2) Bill be suspended, seeing that the question of the future composition and powers of the House of Lords is within the scope of the Royal Commission on the Constitution.]—
will the Leader of the House consult his own interests and find time for a debate on it next week?
I have noted with interest the Motion in the name of the right hon. Gentleman and other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen. I know the right hon. Gentleman's views on this matter, but he knows full well what the Government's policy is on this.
Will my right hon. Friend consider having a debate on the procedure of Select Committees, especially their practice of sitting in public, in view of the selective and sensational reporting in the Press, which seriously distorts the evidence of witnesses?
I note what my hon. Friend has said. This is an important matter affecting procedure. I will examine my hon. Friend's suggestion.
Sir A. V. Harvey
Will the Leader of the House ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement next week on the problems affecting the management of B.O.A.C. and the pilots bearing in mind that if this matter is not resolved in a matter of days there could be another serious strike losing millions of £s of foreign currency to Britain and causing great inconvenience?
I will have a word with my right hon. Friend on this matter.
Mr. Arthur Lewis
On the proposed business for Monday week—something to do with the Lords Bill or something; I am not quite sure—has my right hon. Friend already taken action, or will he take action, to get the secret document in time for that debate? Will he tell us how we are going to get it? Does he intend to circulate it? Does he intend to put it through the Whips' Office?
My hon. Friend knows, if he has attended, that I made a statement yesterday, assuming that he heard it. The procedures are going forward.
On a point of order. I asked about the secret document.
That was precisely what I was talking about.
Reverting to the question asked by the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), is it not so that a vote of censure on a Select Committee cannot be a matter for the Select Committee but must be a matter for the House, and merits a certain degree of urgency of consideration over other business?
The right hon. Gentleman has great experience in these matters. I will carefully examine what he has said and, if it is so, we shall have to deal with it.
Mr. C. Pannell
I know the anxieties of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House on this issue: therefore, can he say that, if not next week, at any rate before Easter, we shall have some sort of debate on the acceptance of the Report of the Select Committee on the law of privilege, a matter which seems to grow in urgency with every case of privilege that we discuss?
I will do all I can to fix a debate on this matter as soon as possible. I know that it is not a matter in which my right hon. Friend alone is interested; it affects all hon. Members. I will try to arrange a debate.
May I press the Leader of the House further on Motion No. 228 on the Committee of Selection? When, as the right hon. Gentleman has promised to do, he reviews what my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) has said, will he take into account that we on this side are greatly concerned by what has happened? Will he remember that, if he wants to get his business on the subsequent stages of the Bill at all rapidly, he must satisfy us that he has not rigged his side of the Committee on the Children and Young Persons Bill?
I said that I would examine this. I gave that promise. I will treat it as an urgent matter.
May I press my right hon. Friend further on the point raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. Philip Noel-Baker) on the subject of the foreign affairs debate? Will not my right hon. Friend reconsider this matter and, after consultation with the Opposition and other interested Members, table a Motion enabling a more precise debate to take place? Did not the Biafran debate show beyond doubt that when there is a definite subject the best possible debate follows and that general tours d'horizon are no use at all? Whether the subject under discussion be the Middle East or Europe, it should be a precise subject.
I have always said, in the House and elsewhere, that I have sym- pathy with my hon. Friend's view on this matter. I find that debates which are focused on one subject are usually more effective. However, we cannot follow his suggestion because of the pressure of time and the urgency of discussing the Middle East and Europe.
Mr. Hugh Fraser
May I support the appeal of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for a debate on agriculture before the House goes into Recess. It is absolutely vital that Members should have a chance to debate it before they meet their constituents and before the Budget debate starts when we return from the Recess. It is scandalous that the House cannot find time to debate the White Paper, and to do so by the end of the week after next.
The right hon. Gentleman heard my answer and what happened on a previous occasion. If right hon. Members feel strongly on this, they can follow that procedure and have a Supply Day.
Cannot my right hon. Friend give some indication of when legislation will be introduced on industrial relations? Is not it much more important to reform the trade unions than to reform the House of Lords, which is not doing any particular harm to anybody at present?
I cannot give any indication.
Mr. Richard Wainwright
In view of the current concern about Land Commission operations, has the right hon. Gentleman noted that Early Day Motion 211—
[ That this House, noting the failure of the Land Commission to achieve its objectives, urges the Government to dismantle it with urgency, at the same time seeking a more radical approach to soaring land prices based on a need to curb speculators and safeguard potential home owners.]
—is a three-party Motion which seeks consideration of radical alternatives to the Land Commission? In view of that, will he arrange for it to be debated at an early date?
I have noted the terms of the Motion and will convey those views to the Minister responsible, but I cannot promise a debate.
Mr. Hector Hughes
In view of the very serious and unhappy situation in North East Scotland, where great unemployment has been created recently, will my right hon. Friend find time to debate my Earl Day Motion 233—
[ That this House expresses its distress at the drift south from north-east Scotland of skilled craftsmen and other workers accentuated by the closure or threatened closure of Inverurie Locomotive Works, by the concentration of industry in Southern Scotland, and by the uneven spread of industry throughout the rest of Scotland; is of opinion that the future substitution of advance factories after the skilled craftsmen and other workers shall have gone south will be no solution to the relevant problems which by then will have broken up homes and inflicted loss and sorrow on the families concerned; and now urges the Government to use the advances of science, technology and communications to increase trade, industry, commerce and employment throughout north-east Scotland.]
My hon. and learned Friend has pressed me on this. He is aware of the Government's policy on help for the development area. I cannot find time.
Having regard to the right hon. Gentleman's concern that the time of the House should not be wasted, and his understandable lack of interest in the debates on the Parliament (No. 2) Bill, will he reconsider the Government's decision to squander the time of the House further in this disgraceful way?
I take a great interest in the speeches, even those of the hon. Member, on matters like this. He knows what the position is.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the growing anxiety about the Government's inability to introduce the promised legislation on merchant shipping? There is very little time left for this. Cannot we at least have a statement from my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade or my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister about the Government's intentions in the matter?
My hon. Friend has pressed me on this. I regard it as an important matter, and the Bill will be introduced as soon as it is ready.
Dame Irene Ward
Has the Leader of the House noted Early Day Motion 196—
[ That this House notes with concern that the first sailing of the first British deep-sea containership, 'Encounter Bay', took place from Rotterdam, and that the container terminal built at Tilbury specifically for this service could not be used, despite the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement with the employees directly concerned, and considers that the permanent diversion of this valuable trade would seriously damage the British shipping industry, the export drive and the balance of payments.]
As it deals with Commonwealth trade, the balance of payments and the export trade, instead of saying that he cannot find time, could he give me an assurance that he will get in touch with the Prime Minister about it? The matter is very important to the prestige of the country. If the Prime Minister would interest himself in it we need not have quite so much to-ing and fro-ing. We could get on quicker if we could get at the Prime Minister.
I have noted the Motion and accept what the hon. Lady has said. It is an important matter, and I will make quite certain that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is aware of the feeling.
Mr. Russell Kerr
In view of the snowballing confusion that the Committee stage of the Parliament (No. 2) Bill has revealed, will my right hon. Friend take it back to his right hon. Friends and have another think about it? We do not like wasting the time of the House, but we would be betraying our trust as M.P.s if we did not put on this kind of pressure.
I know that my hon. Friend is strongly opposed to the Bill, and I respect his point of view. I can assure him that I was not responsible for the snowballing of confusion. I gave a promise to assist yesterday, and I have taken action. I hope that our next debate on the Question, That the Clause stand part, will be helpful.
In view of the speech by the Minister of State, Welsh Office, at Taunton last Saturday on the subject of an international airport in the Severn Estuary, will there be time for a debate on the subject between now and Easter?
I could not promise that.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the proposal to discuss the Parliament (No. 2) Bill further on Monday week is hanging by a silken, silken thread? Will he explain why the author of the Measure, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, has not yet changed his mind on it? Is not he going out of character?
Order. We are drifting into merits, I think.
There are many people in the House who change their minds, but my right hon. Friend has consistently supported the Bill.
Mr. Edward M. Taylor
Does the Leader of the House realise how important and urgent the merchant shipping Bill is? Can he still guarantee that it will go through this Session, and that it has not been held up because of the Parliament (No. 2) Bill?
I have already given a reply on that. It will be introduced as soon as possible.
Has my right hon. Friend noticed Early Day Motion 194 on the newspaper industry—
[ That this House, believing that it is necessary to have a strong local and national newspaper industry, urges Her Majesty's Government to consult newspaper proprietors and the appropriate trade unions to counteract the threat by a Conservative Party spokesman that a future Tory Government will spread 100 commercial radio stations throughout the country.]
—standing in my name and the names of some of my hon. Friends? In the light of the exchanges between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition today, and because of the implication of a threat to the newspaper industry by the Opposition, will he consider having a debate?
I know that my hon. Friend takes a great interest in this, and the Motion is important, but I cannot find time for it.
Mr. John Hall
As we are not to have a debate next week on the Land Commission Act, and in view of the very grave anxieties expressed by the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) about the injustices and hardships caused by the operation of the Act, will the right hon. Gentleman see that Orders are brought forward under Section 63 of the Act which will enable the Commission to lift the liability for levy on many people?
I said in reply to a previous question that I would put this point to my right hon. Friend.
Mr. Philip Noel-Baker
Order. I must remind the right hon. Member for Derby, South that there is no second round of business questions.
May I return to the Parliament (No. 2) Bill and the proposed debate a week on Monday? There were reports in The Times this morning that we shall carry on the debate for two days, on the following Tuesday and Wednesday which will take us up to the Easter Recess. Does not my right hon. Friend feel in view of the number of urgent issues that need to be debated, that the Bill should be withdrawn? Where is the pressure for it coming from? Is it from himself, his right hon. Friends, or the Leader of the Opposition? Not one word do we hear from the Opposition on this matter.
I know that my hon. Friend feels strongly about this. He knows that the Second Reading of the Bill was carried by a large majority, and he represents a small minority on this. I respect his views, but this is the Government's policy, and it is a Government decision.
In view of the unsatisfactory Price Review announced yesterday, may I press the Leader of the House once again on whether it is not essential to have an agriculture debate before Easter?
I have given my reply on that. The hon. Gentleman knows my position.
In view of the many questions asked and the shameful ignorance shown by the Prime Minister and other Ministers in their replies, can we expect a serious and informed statement next week about the loss of 35,000 jobs in Scotland over the past four years?
My right hon. Friend replied in great detail. I cannot provide time to debate the matter next week.
My right hon. Friend has just remarked that those who are opposed to the Parliament (No. 2) Bill are a small minority. Are small minorities in the House to be disregarded? Was not there a time when my right hon. Friend was one of a small minority and thought that it was right?
Order. If the right hon. Gentleman was, it is not a business question for next week.
I have noted the views expressed. It is my duty to try to protect minorities. I have stated the Government's view.
Mr. John Smith
We have the whole of the future in which to discuss the Parliament (No. 2) Bill. Does the Leader of the House think that it is more important than the merchant shipping Bill? If he does not get on with that Bill, it will not get through this Session.
The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that I have made my position known. I would only be repeating it.
Sir Knox Cunningham
In order to save time next week and before the Easter Recess, will the right hon. Gentleman not seriously consider taking the Parliament (No. 2) Bill and cutting its throat?
I know that hon. Members feel strongly about this. They have lobbied me and have put pressure on me. I have stated the position.
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a brief personal statement.I am persuaded that courtesy does not come amiss in the conduct of our business in this House, and I should therefore like to express to you and to the House my regrets at the remarks I made yesterday afternoon which reflected on your conduct of the Chair. My respects, Sir.
The House always accepts wholehearted and generous expressions of regret. I say from the Chair and on behalf of the House that we accept the hon. Gentleman's statement.
Consolidated Fund (No 2) Bill (Debates)
I have one useful statement to make to right hon. and hon. Members about the Consolidated Fund Bill. It will help right hon. and hon. Members if I remind them that, for the debate on Tuesday next on the Second Reading of the Bill, they may hand in to my office their names and the topics they would wish to raise by ten o'clock on Monday morning. The ballot will be as last time—for name plus topic and not just name. A right hon. or hon. Member may hand in only his own name and his own topic, and I will put out the result of the ballot later on Monday.
Business Of The House (Supply)
That this day Business other than the Business of Supply may be taken before Ten o'clock.—[ Mr. Filch.]
Orders Of The Day
[14TH ALLOTTED DAY],— considered.
Defence (Navy) Estimates, 1969–70
Vote 1 Pay, &C, Of The Royal Navy And Royal Marines
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £102,882,000, be granted to Her Majesty out of the Consolidated Fund, to defray the expenses of the pay, &c., of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1970.
Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)
This is my first debate opposite the new First Lord of the Admiralty—and what a much better title that is than "Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy". The Royal Navy has almost always been fortunate in its First Lords, and I am sure that the present incumbent is no exception. But he will understand when I say that I can only wish him today a successful but not prolonged term of office.Today, we come to the end of a long defence marathon, and I hope that we have got beyond what I might call the "competitive insults" stage. I want to summarise the main queries which still worry the Opposition and upon which we do not think the Government have given satisfactory replies. Then I shall pass as quickly as I can to the next Vote. If I am as brief as possible, it will leave plenty of time for the Minister to give full replies and enable the Army and perhaps the R.A.F. Votes to be reached before ten o'clock. Vote 1 is for the pay of officers and ratings of the Royal Navy, and the Opposition's first objection to the sum of £102 million is unusual perhaps for an Opposition—that it is not a sufficient sum. We say that it is not sufficient, firstly, because we believe that the number of officers and men provided under it is insufficient. This was well summed up by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), in the recent defence debate, when he said:
The Opposition believe that at the present time we are not adequately defended, especially on the naval side, in view of the vast Soviet maritime expansion world wide, which has been discussed earlier this week, and the possible threats to our interests and to our shipping, both in the N.A.T.O. area and, just as important, in other parts of the world. We also believe that the insufficient number which we maintain is provided for by the money granted under this Vote leads to over-stretch. Over-stretch was a very popular term at the time of the Defence Review. Can the hon. Gentleman give any figures to show the House that over-stretch has been reduced by the policy of the Government? I wrote to the hon. Gentleman some time ago about this and also asked a Parliamentary Question, when I was told that it was not in the national interest to provide figures. The hon. Gentleman understands the difficulty, and perhaps he can, with a little ingenuity, prove his case that over-stretch has been reduced. The second reason for our opinion that this sum is not sufficient is our belief that the pay and allowances detailed in Appendix 1 to the Vote are insufficient for the men getting them. Appendix 1 shows what these sums are in detail, but the recruiting figures show that they are inadequate. It is difficult in these figures to compare like with like, and the Opposition fully realise that there are many advantages in a Service life which are not apparent from tabular statements on daily rates of pay. I am the first to appreciate these advantages of a Service life. Nevertheless, some comparisons are interesting, and one may be sure that young men who are considering or might be considering joining the Royal Navy do such comparisons. I thought that an interesting comparison was made recently by the hon. and supposedly gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) from the benches behind me in the defence debate on 4th March. He said:"Either we are adequately defended or we are not."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1969; Vol. 779, c. 248.]
Under the Grigg system, Service pay already lagged behind comparable civilian rates by anything from nine months to two years and nine months, because the Grigg interval was two years and the statistics were taken in March based on civilian earnings of the previous July. The situation is worse under present conditions as industrial rates outside are rising so fast. As the Grigg awards were based on existing civilian rates already passed by the National Board for Prices and Incomes, I cannot see the argument for re-referring Service pay yet a second time to the Board, because it will merely mean a comparison with what has already been referred to the Board. It means cantering round the course for the second time unnecessarily and greatly to the confusion of Servicemen. The third point about rates of pay is: why did the Secretary of State allow this matter to be referred to the Prices and Incomes Board? The Opposition think he was absolutely wrong to do so for a number of reasons. First, because the Grigg formula is understood by the serviceman and the serviceman is accustomed to clear-cut orders and instructions. Secondly, we believe the Secretary of State is neglecting his responsibility to the serviceman. There was an interesting reply to a Parliamentary Question by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Defence for Administration on 1st May last year. He was asked about the well being of the Forces and why the pay had been referred to the Prices and Incomes Board. He replied:"Now consider an able seaman serving in a minesweeper on home sea service. He gets basically £12 a week. If he is married with two children and not living in married quarters it may go up to about £18 a week. Of course this able seaman has an interesting and exhilarating life, which he no doubt enjoyed. But he must compare his weekly earnings with those of the average home trade seaman in merchant ships around the United Kingdom. His average earnings are from £23 to £25 a week, according to the latest figures."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1969; Vol. 779, c. 333.]
We believe that by referring the matter to the Prices and Incomes Board the Secretary of State is fulfilling only one of those responsibilities, and certainly not the responsibility to the serviceman. It was wrong most of all because the Secretary of State allowed control of this vital matter to pass out of his hands altogether. What could be more important for the Secretary of State than to control the rates of pay and the size of the Forces which defend the country? He has handed this over to a statutory body over which, by his own admission, he has no control. He had in his hands some £480 million for Service pay, £108 million for the Navy alone, and he voluntarily surrendered this responsibility—he handed the helm to somebody else. Having done that, his control over his own Ministry and the Services must be vastly decreased. The most important questions we ask the Minister on this Vote 1 are: first, why has naval pay been referred to the Prices and Incomes Board? And secondly, why has the Secretary of State taken no effective action to increase recruiting by improving pay and allowances for our naval officers and men? There are some other points arising from Vote 1 which are detailed but nonetheless important to serving officials and ratings. The first is in relation to the doctors and dentists. Why have they been allowed to fall so far behind? Secondly, some of the naval allowances which are in Appendix 1 to this Vote are absurdly anachronistic: fourpence a day for good conduct badges after each four years of undiscovered crime. This was threepnce a day 35 years ago when I was a midshipman. I see that it is only threepence a day to the W.R.N.S. for good conduct. Threepence a day is not much to give a girl for saying "Yes, sir" all day and "No, sir" all night. There is also the long service and good conduct medal which carries £20—that is also a figure from the early 1930s. If we delve into the details, we see a "harmonium" allowance of 4s. for every occasion. More seriously, the Opposition welcome the education allowance for officers' and ratings' children. This is excellent and appears to be a good allowance. We are concerned, however, with the rules for awarding separation allowance, which are very complicated and really amount to nit-picking of an extremely high order by the Treasury. Who could be more expert in this process than the Treasury? A fourth specific point, which I hope the Minister will answer, is in relation to a discussion a year ago about the rates of local overseas allowance to people in B.A.O.R. and other parts of the world. It is the local overseas allowance for officers and men, following devaluation, and whether it had been properly adjusted. This was supposed to be under very active review. Has this review of local overseas allowance been completed? The assistance with house purchase for ratings is an extremely successful scheme and widely appreciated in the Royal Navy, but will the Minister say why this assistance is only provided for ratings? Why is there no similar scheme for officers? Footnote in Appendix 1 states that certain ratings are paid a re-engagement bounty of £100. This creates differences and bad feeling between ratings. Could the Minister explain why only certain categories of ratings are paid this re-engagement bounty? On the subject of re-engaging, the Opposition very much welcome the fact that the re-engagement figures have improved somewhat. It shows that men appreciate the life in the Services. The figures given for nine-year men had increased from approximately 29 to 31 per cent. Five years ago the figure was something like 60 per cent., double the present re-engaging rate. Any improvement in this is obviously welcome. The last detailed point is in respect of Appendix II, on page 51, where there are shown to be 73 flag officers and officers of equivalent flag rating. Admirals are useful chaps to have around the place, but will the Minister say whether the figure of 73 includes the Admirals of the Fleet who are always on the active service list? To sum this up, I hope the Minister will comment upon the reference to the Prices and Incomes Board, why there has been no interim pay award to help recruiting, and also the smaller details which I have mentioned."I accept that my right hon. Friend and other Ministers in the Ministry of Defence wear two hats: one as the employer and one, in effect, as the trade union general secretary."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1968; Vol. 763, c. 1084.]
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Westlothian)
It might be instructive to reflect on the "undiscovered crimes" of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles). I do agree with him regarding the detailed matter of doctors' and dentists' pay. It is a very real point, and those of us who have talked to individual service doctors are under no illusions as to just how serious this is.As he has said, this is not the time to indulge in insults nor would I wish to do so during a defence debate. But there is one thing which ought to be said: that is, when rhetorical questions are asked there ought to be some kind of answer given. The hon. and gallant Gentleman asked what the Government are going to do to provide sufficient sums. The Opposition's complaint was that the sum of money under discussion was not too big but too small. I would ask what, in the view of the hon. and gallant Gentleman is a sufficient sum? I am not indulging in party politics. He says it is an insufficient sum; we simply say, then, what is a sufficient sum?
If the hon. Member is asking to see a fully detailed naval statement prepared by the Conservatives, he is knocking at the wrong door. He should ask his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to have a General Election and then he will have what he wants to see. This is the quickest and by far the most certain way of getting that.
That is a very Delphic answer. It is also a totally unsatisfactory way of handling defence. If one makes criticisms one has to progress chase them through. I am not silly enough to ask for any detailed reply, but to the nearest £10 million. Why make the charges of insufficiency in the first place unless one is to be reasonably specific? This is what throws Parliament in the view of many people including myself, who are interested in defence, into disrepute sometimes. Politicians should be much clearer about what they are doing.I would like to congratulate my hon. Friend on writing so quickly to myself, my colleagues and, I am sure, hon. Members opposite on the points raised during the Estimates debate. It is very refreshing to have such full replies and extreme punctuality from a Government Department. As he knows, I dealt in great detail with the subject of oceanography and the marine environment. If, as is indicated, the Navy Department are to take more interest in the development of the marine environment and perhaps have point enterprises with industry, could it also be made clear that the naval wages, incurred for oceanography, will be compensated from a Vote other than the Defence Vote? I have raised this subject in one form or another four times in the past few days. I will not go into it at any greater length. It is not only a question of putting capital equipment on to another Vote, but also the wages if the Government are to go in for this kind of enterprise in the way that we would wish. If the Navy does this, who knows, the recruiting problems and the pay problems might become relatively easier.
Captain Walter Elliot (Carshalton)
Under this Government, the Navy is being reduced So puny proportions, far too small to meet our needs. I want to make quite certain that our teeth are not being cut out of proportion to those cuts made on the "tail". If we look at Vote 1, dealing with pay and National Insurance of officers and ratings, it will be seen that these are cut because there are fewer officers and ratings. On Vote 7—
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. We can only discuss Vote 1 at this stage.
I want to make comparisons, and it is rather difficult. I will only do so briefly, but I cannot bring out my point unless I make this comparison between these two Votes.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
It puts the Chair in some difficulty if it allows any degree of latitude. Perhaps the hon. Member can pursue his point without going into too much detail on Vote 7.
I am grateful. If we look at Vote 7, pay and allowances in H.M. Dockyards, we see that the figure has gone up on 1968–69. Again, we see that in Vote 7 "Ships (other than Royal Fleet Auxiliaries), hulls and machinery, &c, purchased and repaired by contract", the figure has gone down, as it has with weapon equipment purchased. Yet pay and allowances on the design, production, inspection and staff has gone up. I am worried that the cuts are falling disproportionately on Vote 1.I would like an assurance from the Minister that careful consideration is being given to this, because the manpower being provided for in the front line of the Royal Navy is pitifully small, and anything that can be done to ensure that the teeth can be kept up to strength should be done.
Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I would like to thank the hon. Gentleman for replying to so many points which I raised in the previous debate. I would also like to suggest that, as his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is coming to Plymouth this weekend, he might like to drop a hint that it would be best to keep off naval matters. I want to deal first with the Royal Marines. I am sorry to see, and the hon. Gentleman has explained the reason, that the Royal Marines Band will have to be cut down. I would like him to reconsider this. It is very good for morale and, as it earns 40 per cent. of its cost, it seems to be rather a mean economy. It is said that the bands will be at Darmouth and Lympston. That will not make up for the loss of the band in the city of Plymouth. I am glad to see that the Marines are to do their training abroad. This was mentioned in the Green Paper. I understand that there are to be about 30 countries involved, and perhaps we could have a list.The amount of money for the Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service is to be increased. It is one of the few limbs of the Services that have gone up in numbers. I would like to know where they will serve in future, because there are less and less places for the nursing service. Is the hon. Gentleman considering that they may, perhaps, go on ships as they used to do in Nelson's days? I have had a Question down about the age of majority, and since this is to be lowered I want to know whether the marriage allowance will be brought down to the same age. Now that there is no need for parental agreement, marriages will take place earlier. As to the Wrens, the record is not too bad, but it is not very good. It could be better if the Wrens did not have to go to H.M.S. "Dauntless" for their initial recruiting training. There is some suggestion that this may be moved. It would be beneficial if they could get into the right naval atmosphere instead of being in the middle of the country near Reading. It would be much more conducive to recruiting. I see that the lodging and London allowances for officers are being increased. On the other hand, allowances for ratings and others are going down. Living in London is very expensive these days, and officers very often have relations or friends with whom they can stay. I would like the hon. Gentleman to consider this because, in all the other sections, ratings are getting an equal rise, yet in this particular instance they are being left far behind. I wonder whether there is a misprint in Appendix 1 on page 43. In the last two columns, under "W.R.N.S. Officers" and the nursing services, in the third line the rates of pay are 57s. and 78s. 6d. and 57s. and 70s. 6d. If he looks at the other rates of pay he will see that they rise equally. He may not be able to answer this point now, but it may be that a mistake has been made. I, too, saw the 4s. for the harmonium player, but I was struck by the difference between that and the shorthand-typists, who are very precious these days, who are receiving only 9d. I would prefer to have a shorthand-typist rather than a harmonium player; they are far more useful. Then we have the flying allowance. I could not understand officers getting only 5s. while ratings get 9s. 6d. I could not see the reason for the difference. Looking at page 47, Married Quarters, I see there is a difference in the allowances for removals. I would like the hon. Gentleman to consider a point I have raised time and time again. Why cannot ratings and N.C.O.s have some unfurnished accommodation? This is always being asked for. It would cost the Government less, considering the cost of storage, and considering also the way in which furniture deteriorates in store. It is a great problem for people now they are to remain in home service much longer. Also, I could not understand why officers and nobody else should get a fuel allowance. The hon. Gentleman will know that quarters are often damp. Such an allowance is surely equally necessary for ratings, who do not have central heating in these places. My last point concerns the marriage allowance to married officers, ratings and widowers. I am glad to see that W.R.N.S. who are widows are also to get that allowance. This brings up the point as to the age at which the marriage allowance, particularly for officers, is to be payable, because since the age of majority will be going down we should also bring down the age at which the marriage allowance starts.
Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
During a previous debate on the Navy, we heard about the lack of recruits and the shortage of manpower. I would very much like to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy if he is using to the best of his ability the manpower that is already there; because I can see that a lot of manpower, both officers and men, is being wasted in the ship known as the "Britannia". I know that I raised the matter this year and it was agreed at that time that greater use should be made of the "Britannia", but I am rather disappointed because, during 1968–69, the manpower wastage in the "Britannia" continued, and I am afraid it is likely to continue until the House and the Government assert themselves over the Admiralty.Surely, at the time we are entitled to question whether the men in the Navy are really doing the job for which this House votes the money. I find that in the "Britannia" at the present time there are a rear-admiral, five commanders, five lieut-commanders and a crew of 234; and the total expenditure last year was £500,000. This is an extraordinary amount to be spent on one ship, and when I look at the prospects for this year I find that the expenditure is not going down but is actually going up. What has the "Britannia" been doing during the past year? What have these officers and men been doing? As a result of a Question I put down, I learned that the "Britannia" had been at sea for 30 days, going to South America, to be at the service of the Royal party. But the Royal party did not go on the "Britannia". It used aircraft to go to South America, and the "Britannia" was not used for any real purpose until it got across the South Atlantic. It stayed a comparatively few days and then returned.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
This is rather interesting, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman can assist the Chair by indicating on which page of the Estimates or Vote 1 the "Britannia" is referred to.
Obviously, that on the Vote on the number of men.
Mr. Deputy Speaker
The Chair appreciates the point which has been made, but I do not think we need pursue the "Britannia" across the Atlantic and back.
That is an entirely novel Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If we are not to discuss what the men in the Navy are doing and what is the purpose of a ship, then I fail to see what purpose there is in having this debate at all. Your predecessor in the Chair last year allowed me, not to pursue the "Britannia" over the South Atlantic, but at least to ask what the officers and men were doing. I submit that this is relevant to the debate. I would argue that these men could very well be doing something else more in the national interest. I feel that at a time of national emergency to spend £9,000 a day on the "Britannia" doing this kind of work is not justifiable; and from the last Question I put to the Minister the cost is going up.We are to spend more this year. The number of voyages that the "Britannia" will make for ceremonial purposes is likely to increase; and so is the expense. I see in the Press, for example, that in July the "Britannia" is to go on a voyage to the Menai Straits. What is it going to do there? I have heard of the Free Welsh Army, but I have never heard of a Free Welsh Navy. I understand that the "Britannia" is to be in the Menai Stairts accompanied by two other warships, to be on ceremonial duty during the time of the Investiture of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
If hon. Members are saying "Hear, hear" as a note of appreciation of the services of the Prince of Wales, then I quite agree with them. But I suggest that it is merely a waste of manpower to take this expensive vessel up there for a few days so that the Prince can stay aboard. I do not see why, with the hospitable people of North Wales who are supposed to be enthusiastic to welcome their Prince, he cannot find hos- pitality on land. Instead, there is to be this expensive vessel with all these men who, presumably, could be engaged on other naval duties.I renew my request to the Minister to see if he cannot ease the burden on the national Exchequer and utilise this ship for something else. One of the suggestions I made last year was that it might be chartered out to somebody in America, or even to Mr. Onassis, for the purpose of bringing in money in connection with the tourist trade. I was told last year that the "Britannia" was to be used in other ways, and I have noted that it took part in the N.A.T.O. manoeuvres in the Mediterranean; but the "Britannia" is not suitable for naval warfare. What has happened this year, and what I am afraid will continue to happen, is that the services of those men will be utilised purely for ceremonial purposes at a time when we are told that there are not enough sailors and officers to carry on the normal work of the Royal Navy. I would ask my hon. Friend to look into this matter again with a view to seeing whether it is possible to make some economy. Then I want to ask him some questions about the Polaris. One ship, the "Resolution", is already in commission. What will it do? Recently, I put a question to the Minister about the Polaris missile, and I did not get a very satisfactory answer. This Vote provides a sum for a number of men, including those who will go out in the Polaris submarines where, presumably, they will be called upon to take part in the practice of firing missiles. They are very powerful and deadly weapons which, if delivered in other parts of the world, could do enormous damage. What about the warheads? Is it the intention to equip the Polaris submarines with the very expensive Poseidon weapon?
Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. As long as the hon. Gentleman relates his remarks to the men engaged on the Polaris submarines, he is quite in order. But it is not in order to discuss the missiles.
I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I do not understand how the missile can be dissociated from the men who are to fire it. It will not go off automatically, we hope. It takes men in the Polaris submarines to fire the missile. I suggest that the effectiveness of the work that these men are doing depends upon the missile.When I pressed the Minister on this point during his speech in the preliminary debate, he said that it was not the intention to equip submarines with the Poseidon missile. Then he added something which is a bit of a mystery to me and which I hope that he can clear up today. There has been criticism of this submarine in America, because it is regarded there as obsolete or obsolescent. In view of that, I cannot understand why we should vote a number of men to equip and manage an obsolete submarine. But, when I pointed this out to the Minister, he said that the Government would not be buying these expensive American weapons but would hold our position in reserve. I would like some explanation from the Minister. Are the sailors who are going out in these submarines and who are classified in this Vote not entitled to know what exactly is to be their rôle in any future warfare? Are they to have the new kinds of missiles, and are the Government preparing to spend £20 million according to the Daily Mail—equipping the Polaris submarines with new weapons? I hope that the Minister will be a little more candid and tell us whether there is to be a vast new expenditure on the Polaris submarine.
Sir Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is underestimating his ability to raise the same subject year after year. I remember the "Britannia" being referred to in 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, and so on. He has the feeling that the sailors may not be usefully employed. Having listened to 12 years of defence debates, I cannot help wondering whether I have been usefully employed listening to his speeches. I have been totting up the number of hours that I have put in, and I am not sure that they are cost-effective in the terms that the Government like to use.I always give full credit to the fact that Mr. Attlee, as he then was, had the courage to lay down and order "Britannia" during the General Election of 1951 because he thought that any succeeding Government would feel it impossible to order a Royal yacht. It was in- tended for two purposes, of course. It is able to undertake hospital services as well as its Royal duties.
Mr. Emrys Hughes
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that it was built as a hospital ship?
Sir Ian Orr-Ewing
I think that this debate is the best argument for an all-party Select Committee on defence—
Sir Ian Orr-Ewing
I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman would find himself a member of it. Probably what would happen is that, like a weathercock, as he came on, I would go off and vice versa.We find it very difficult to probe some of these points in depth, and such investigations would be more appropriately conducted in an all-party Select Committee by people who specialise in these very considerable problems. A point was raised earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devon-port (Dame Joan Vickers) about marriage allowances for our personnel. I would urge that we do not introduce marriage allowances at 18, 16 or at any other age which is suggested. I very much agree with Lord Montgomery, who said in the other place that it would pay us to bribe bachelors with something like £2,000 a year to join the Services. However, I can see that there would be other oncosts which might arise if everyone in the Services was a bachelor, and I do not think that that is a very practical suggestion. However, we should not put any incentive in the way of young people in the 18 bracket to marry. It must be remembered that, once given, an allowance cannot be taken away. If we are to increase the marriage allowance, in my view it should be done at the age of 25, when one's children are beginning to get to an expensive age in terms of the destruction of shoes and clothes. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I must apologise in advance in that I shall have to leave the Chamber at 5 o'clock in order to attend a Committee. However, I shall read the Minister's reply with interest. I want to turn for a moment to Vote 1, subhead Z, Appropriations-in-Aid. It is a little worrying to see the steady fall in receipts in respect of personnel lent to other Governments. I will give the House the figures first and then put my question. In 1962–63, the figure was £1·18 million. In 1967–68, it was down to just over £1 million. Last year, it fell to £938,000, and this year it is down to £615,000. The best possible way of keeping ex-Commonwealth countries in our sphere and, incidentally, adopting our training methods and, above all, our equipment is to lend personnel from our Services for training purposes. I am sorry to see that the figure is going down, though there may be some other explanation which is not directly apparent. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree that here is very good value for money. We need them in Muscat, Oman, the Gulf, Malaysia and Singapore. Perhaps we need them in the Caribbean as they begin to train up their own defence forces rather than rely on ours. When I was in Singapore last autumn on a defence visit, I learned that a wing-commander lent to the Singapore Government was charged for at the full rate plus all the overheads. It was not just a matter of the salary and allowances of a wing commander, but a full assessment. It occurs to me to ask whether this is really necessary, because it seems to be very expensive. Once the wing commander has been trained, I suggest that we should lend him to friendly Governments at the cost which it is on the Service Votes and not make them bear the overheads as well.
Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I had not intended to intervene on this Vote, but the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has succeeded in bringing me to my feet. I do not feel nearly so calm as the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing). I thoroughly resent this campaign, year after year, that the crew on board H.M.S. "Britannia" are wasting their time. This country lives by sea trade, and sea trade alone and the hon. Gentleman ought to know that as well as any other hon. Member. We are a maritime nation and shipbuilding is very important too. It is right, therefore, that the Sovereign should have the finest yacht in the world, which is what she has.If the hon. Gentleman had done his researches properly, he would have found that the crew of the ship have a full- time job. She is used very frequently by various members of the Royal family, and she is used as one of Her Majesty's ships in exercises. I do not know why the hon. Gentleman thought that she did not work as one of Her Majesty's ships in the Mediterranean—or whatever was the phrase he used; that is entirely incorrect. I suggest to the House that the expense incurred for the officers and crew of H.M.S. "Britannia" is fully justified to a maritime nation, and I resent this unenlightened campaign which I am sure has no support from the Royal Navy. I think the Minister will agree with me when I say that the Royal Navy is very proud to provide for the Royal yacht.
Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
The first point which I would like to raise with the Under-Secretary relates to the admiral superintendent. The functions of two admiral superintendents, in Devonport and in Scotland, are to be amalgamated with the ordinary local flag officer.In the past it has been recognised that the admiral superintendent had special functions, and the man who could best perform those functions was not necessarily the man who could best perform the functions of a local command. Great trouble was taken in selecting the right person for the job of admiral superintendent, one who would be able to preside over the Whitley Council, for example, and who understood labour relations; these aspects being rather outside ordinary naval work. The Admiral superintendent is also involved in the construction and repair of warships, and this demands special qualities. Otherwise, it tends to be rather "Juggins's turn" in appointments of this kind. Are we now to understand that an admiral superintendent will be selected simply as the best local flag officer who can be found, and that the attempt to appoint an admiral superintendent who has special knowledge of the problems which arise is to be abandoned? My second point is that the first Polaris is now on operational patrol. The right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench visited the American Polaris on the same occasion as I did, and he will remember that we studied the special problems affecting the crew, which are quite unlike those arising on an ordinary ship as such a long time is spent away from base. In the American submarine, for example, smoking is allowed all the time and there are special provisions for welfare. I have read in the newspapers that a service will be provided whereby families can send special messages to ratings and officers working in Polaris submarines. I have also read in the Press about the reading matter which will be provided. The Polaris poses completely new problems, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will tell us what provision is being made at the start of this important new task for the Royal Navy.
Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) said that he was tempted to intervene because of the remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). Whilst I do not agree completely with my hon. Friend's views about the usefulness of H.M.S. "Britannia", I think the remarks of the hon. Member for Haltemprice were a little vitriolic and unnecessary. My hon. Friend was not saying that those employed on the Royal yacht were not fully employed but that they were unnecessarily employed.I go a great distance with the hon. Member for Haltemprice and his colleagues. I think there is a place for the Royal yacht, and its scope has been considerably widened. He was stretching it rather far when he claimed in support of the Royal yacht and its activities that it was engaged in trade and commerce. [Interruption.] This was my impression, and we shall know tomorrow from the OFFICIAL REPORT. I think that he made a reference to commerce, and this is precisely the point which my hon. Friend has made time and time again, that it should be used for trade and commerce.
I said that, because we are a great trading nation and we live by sea trade, and because we build ships, it is important for our Sovereign to have the finest yacht in the world, which she has.
The impression I received was that the hon. Gentleman was saying that the Royal yacht was engaging in trade. It is an honourable profession, why should it not be engaging in trade?
The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Navy (Dr. David Owen)
I have been asked a large number of questions, and I will do my best to reply to them. The question which is of over-riding importance on this Vote, and I can understand the concern, relates to pay. The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles) raised this question, and I thank him for his kind personal words. I do not think he meant to give this impression to the House, but what he said led me to believe that there had been major delay and almost that there had been no increases in pay because of the reference to the National Board for Prices and Incomes and the giving up of Grigg, about which there has been much argument between the two sides.The House will recall that Service pay was made the subject of a standing reference to the Board from 1st November, 1967, and that the first Report was accepted by the Government in May, 1968. The main recommendation, which was implemented without delay, was an increase of 7 per cent. in Service pay from 1st April, 1968, and it was always stated that this Report was of an interim nature. The House was informed on 30th May, 1968. that the Government had asked the Board to complete its review within a year. In the meantime, the Board has devoted a great deal of time and labour to the whole subject of Service pay. It has involved a searching study of the whole Services' pay structure and the important and extremely complicated task of examining the relativity between the work of Service officers and other ranks in various employments and that of civilians in comparable tasks. In the latter task it has been making extensive use of the services of industrial consultants. Members of the Board have visited and are still visiting Service establishments in the United Kingdom and Germany. As stated in the first Report, the Board has been paying special attention to the remuneration of doctors and dentists in the Services, and I will deal later with this in more detail. I cannot, of course, anticipate the conclusions which the Board will reach as a result of its inquiries and deliberations, but I hope that a solution will emerge which will be scrupulously fair to the Serviceman and woman, and which will stand the test of time and also provide an improved pay structure. So the Government are very conscious that Service pay is a major element, and probably one of the most critical single elements, in recruiting; it is not something that we have tried to disguise. We have also said that we attach particular importance to the concept of a Service salary which is demonstrably more comparable with pay in civilian life. In taking up the hon. and gallant Member's specific point in which he compared Service salaries with merchant salaries, there are many disguised advantages which people, rightly, claim to be part of Service pay, but there are some things which tend to be overlooked when direct comparison is made. I cannot anticipate the report of the Board, but I am sure that it has not overlooked the possibility of a Service salary, and we await the Board's thoughts on this with considerable interest. The Secretary of State has already said a little about the shortage of doctors—
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for answering my question about the N.B.P.I., but he did not quite answer the point that we on this side believe that this should be the function of the Ministry of Defence and cannot see why it should be sub-contracted to the N.B.P.I.
In no sense is it subcontracted. The Board advises the Government. It is then for the Government to make a decision. This is the collective decision of the Government. The Ministry of Defence has in no way abrogated its prime interest in ensuring that the Services are given full financial compensation. Hon. Gentlemen opposite tend to think that we must accept what the Board says. This is not the position. The Government decide whether to accept the recommendations of the Board. I do not think I should go into that matter any further while the Board is still sitting.The shortage of doctors has caused some concern, and I will deal with that matter in a certain amount of detail. Until about six years ago the method by which the Navy obtained its doctors was by the direct entry of qualified doctors. We found, however, that we were getting insufficient officers in this way. The House will know that in 1962 a scheme was introduced whereby undergraduates could enter the Navy while at university and receive appropriate rates of pay during medical training. They then enter on a five-year short-service commission on completion of that training. I am pleased to say that, although recently there has been some fall-off in cadet entry, the scheme is still proving attractive. The entry of short-service doctors into service with the Fleet is improving as the earlier entrants under the scheme complete their medical training. Unfortunately, even with the present level of entry for short-service officers, we have a significant shortage of doctors in the middle ranks. This is because very few short-service officers now find the prospects of transfer to the permanent list of medical officers sufficiently attractive. This is basically a question of pay. They feel that their prospects outside the Service are considerably better than if they remained with the Navy. This aspect of the question is part of the general review now being carried out by the National Board for Prices and Incomes into Service pay. We are hopeful that the result of that review will be to restore the confidence of short-service doctors in the attraction of a continued Service career. We hope, too, that it will prevent a further fall-off in cadet entry, which we fear would otherwise be likely. It is important that Service medical officers should not feel at a disadvantage compared with National Health Service doctors and consultants. In addition to their medical duties, they are subject to the inconvenience and disturbance which life in a disciplined force must inevitably involve.
Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the trouble is that Service doctors are suffering a disadvantage compared with civilians in the Health Service? Though it was intended that they should be kept about 15 per cent. ahead of the G.P.s in the National Health Service, today they are about 34 per cent. behind. It is no use the Government saying that they are anxious about this position if they are not going to correct it.
We have taken action. This has been referred to the National Board for Prices and Incomes. We have expressed anxiety about the situation. I explained it very openly to the House. However, we must wait for the National Board for Prices and Incomes. We are trying to achieve a Service salary structure which makes sense throughout.The hon. and gallant Member for Winchester raised the question of over-stretch. He has asked a Question about this for 26th March. He knows that there are real security difficulties about giving an answer in the terms that he suggested. I note that he has a Question down to be answered next week asking for figures relating to over-stretch. I will bear his points in mind when I come to consider my Answer. There is no intention to hide this information deliberately. I believe in giving the maximum amount of information possible. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also raised a point about separation allowance. He said that there were delays and difficulties in getting it through. I agree that it is a valuable allowance. Subject to the views of the National Board for Prices and Incomes, we foresee this allowance continuing in any new pay structure. Service life inevitably involves some family separation. This is one factor of the Service way of life that we consider should be recognised in basic pay. However, we think that separation beyond a certain point will still need to be recognised by additional payment to the individual concerned at the time of separation. I will look into any particular cases where the hon. and gallant Gentleman considers there has been long delay in how it works. The hon. and gallant Gentleman also asked about local overseas allowance. We have had discussions on this in the House. Following devaluation of the pound, interim rates of local overseas allowance were approved pending detailed review of local conditions and costs in each country which did not devalue its currency in line with sterling. This programme of urgent reviews is virtually complete and firm revised rates of allowance have been assessed and promulgated for almost all the countries affected. Good progress has been made by the limited numbers of expert staff available, and priority has been given to the most important areas in terms of numbers of personnel and of expenditure on this allowance. Increases in allowance determined by the reviews are paid retrospectively to the beginning of March, 1968, but decreases apply only from a convenient pay day following review. I am in no doubt that the new allowances fairly reflect the difference in the serviceman's cost of living abroad compared with that of his compatriots in the United Kingdom. Routine periodic review of local overseas allowance for countries such as Malta, which devalued in line with the pound, is being resumed. I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will feel that we have looked into this. The long service advances of pay scheme was introduced in September, 1965. It allowed married leading rates and above an advance of pay to be used to assist them in purchasing a house when they re-engaged for pension. Many hon. Members have drawn attention to the fact that it is generally a popular scheme. I have no doubt that it has been one of the factors in improving our re-engagement rate. It may interest the House to know that the total number of advances since the scheme's inception is something over 6,600. I am aware that there are many who feel that this attractive scheme should cover officers as well as ratings. There are difficulties here since the present scheme is related to re-engagement, which does not apply to officers, but we are at present considering a variety of alternative schemes. Hon. Members can be assured that as soon as we have reached a firm conclusion we will make an announcement. On re-engagement, I think I have been extremely honest about recruitment and the problems facing the Navy. There is also a good side to the story. Re-engagement rates for Royal Navy ratings who had completed nine years' service improved substantially to 31 per cent. in 1967–68 from 25 per cent. in 1966–67. The rate has remained at the higher level during the first half of 1968–69. The nine-year re-engagement point is the point at which the highest number of ratings become eligible for re-engagement. Re-engagement rates are highest amongst senior rates, and much of the improvement in overall rates has been brought about by improving advancement times to the higher rate. I am not complacent about it, but it is a matter of great importance that we continue the improved re-engagement rates. These people have been trained. We have put a lot of money into their training, and they still have very valuable service to do. A point of detail on bounties was raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester. There is a relatively small amount of money in for two bounty schemes. One is a £100 re-engagement bounty of general application, which was discontinued in 1956. Certain ratings who were serving then as juniors or apprentices retained reserved rights which are still being taken up. The other is a £130 bonus payable to W.R.N.S. who enter on a six-year engagement upon completion of that engagement. I hope that this will be some compensation to those who think that good conduct money is not sufficient for W.R.N.S. I was also asked detailed questions about the number of flag officers. The figure of 73 in Appendix II on page 51 of the Defence Estimates does not include any Admirals of the Fleet. It would do so if there were any on active service. The number of flag officers borne in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines today is about 74. It is difficult to be precise. As most people know, we share appointments in the centre. This is subject to small variations, but I must point out to the House that, comparing today's figures with those for 1964, we have achieved a fall of 11 per cent. in flag officer numbers. For those who saw the cartoon in the Daily Mirror, the number of flag officers includes not only those in national operational commands but also those in N.A.T.O. administrative and professional posts. With the phasing out of the separate admiral superintendent posts which were referred to in the recent Navy Estimates debate, the number of flag officers will fall still further in the next few years. This might be an appropriate time to answer the point raised by the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby), who asked about admiral superintendents. I would be the first to pay tribute to the extremely valuable work that admiral superintendents have done, and are doing, for dockyards. But we have to take account of the management changes which have taken place in dockyards and which were started by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The idea was to give greater authority to the general managers. I think it is in keeping with giving more authority to the man who is managing a major industry—we tend to forget this—at the same time to take away some of the detailed powers of the admiral superintendent. We still believe that we shall need to retain the admiral superintendent, as the new title at Chatham shows—Area Flag Officer Medway and Admiral Superintendent. We believe that he will still need to have the responsibility for the base as a whole. We are more and more keen to push the attitude of looking at the base as a whole, not identifying and reporting out any one item within it. This will be the responsibility of area flag officers. I ask the hon. Gentleman to see the eventual abolition of the separate post of admiral superintendent as part of the new concept of giving greater authority to individual general managers.
Mr. Wingfield Digby
Can the hon. Gentleman give the House examples of the power which is to be taken from the admiral superintendent? Will this officer continue to preside over the Whitley Council, which is a good arrangement?
No decision has been made about his presiding over the Whitley Council. I think we should discuss this with the trade unions to see what their general feeling is, and I should not like to commit myself about that.My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) is not here, but he apologised for having to leave the Chamber. He asked whether we ought to have special Estimates for oceanography. I do not think that I can go any further than I did on 10th March, when I said:
I was talking in terms of oceanography and ocean technology—"The Royal Navy undoubtedly has a contribution to make here,"—
That is the position. The Select Committee on Procedure is currently examining the Government's proposals for a new form of Defence Estimates, and if my hon. Friend feels strongly on the subject presumably he can influence the Committee's deliberations. The hon. and gallant Member for Carshalton (Captain W. Elliot) raised a matter which is of concern to all Servicemen, namely the question of cutting the tail to match the teeth, and asked the Government to ensure that not all cuts and economies fall on the teeth. I refer the hon. and gallant Gentleman to page 6 of the Statement on the Defence Estimates, where it says:"but, unless other financial arrangements are made, it cannot be expected to be funded against more relevant defence research within the Defence Estimates."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th March, 1969; Vol. 779, c. 1118.]
That remains our determination. The hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) raised the question of Royal Marines' bands. I have written to the hon. Lady about this. The total reduction is relatively small, and I join the hon. Lady in saying that the bands are a very important factor in recruiting and general morale, both of the Marines and of the Royal Navy, and that they will continue to be so. In my letter to the hon. Lady I said:"Although it is not easy to reduce overheads in direct proportion to reductions in defence tasks or activities, the Government is determined that cuts in the teeth arms of the Services shall be matched by cuts in the tail."
The hon. Lady also raised a question about the W.R.N.S. and said that H.M.S. "Dauntless" was rather daunting—I hope the House will forgive the pun—for a new W.R.N.S. intake. The hon. Lady should know that a few weeks ago we said that we would move "Dauntless" to South-wick Park, which will be part of the Naval complex, with all the attractions that that offers for the W.R.N.S., and I hope that this will please them. They have wanted this move for some time. We are satisfied with the figures for W.R.N.S. recruiting, and I pay tribute to them all for what they do for the Service. The hon. Lady also raised the question of marriage allowance, and referred to the recommendations of the Latey Committee. We had somewhat opposing views on marriage allowance from the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Sir Ian Orr-Ewing). I was not certain whether he was totally opposed to it, but he seemed to say that we could not do away with it once it was here. I think we showed during the recent defence debate that we have been considering the wider question of marriage allowance, even whether it should disappear altogether. It is a big subject. and it, too, has been referred to the Prices and Incomes Board, whose report we await. I do not think that I can comment further on that. The hon. Lady also raised the question of lodging allowance and London allowance. Both of these form part of our Service review. Lodging allowances were fixed in 1965. We are reviewing these at the moment, and an announcement will be made as soon as possible. The hon. Lady also referred to the free fuel allowance. I draw the attention of the House to the statement on page 47 of the Defence Estimates:"… the band of H.M.S. "Raleigh" is due to be disbanded in 1971–72 and the Flag Officer Plymouth's band will then be accommodated in "Raleigh". The bands at Dartmouth and Lympstone will remain, and I am sure that these three bands will be able to serve the Plymouth area as well in the future as they have done in the past."
Anyone who has received hospitality at some of these residences knows that to heat them without any form of allowance would be a massive expenditure for the person concerned, and while officers continue to live in premises of this kind, some of which are extremely attractive buildings, I think that this is a reasonable allowance to pay them and it is not one to which I object."Officers, occupying large official residences and married quarters which have excessive fuel costs may receive an allowance to meet the cost of the assessed extra need."
Mr. James Ramsden (Harrogate)
No one objects to officers getting the allowance in the circumstances described by the Minister, but ratings do not get it. My recollection of the same allowance in the Army context is that it is payable in circumstances where married quarters put up by the Ministry of Public Building and Works are inadequately insulated and it is judged that extra fuel is needed to keep people reasonably warm. I do not know whether Royal Navy families do not have such quarters, but I think we should be told why ratings are not entitled to this allowance.
I take the point made by the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Lady drew attention to the fact that there were some damp houses, and I would be prepared to consider the matter if there were a demand for the allowance to be paid. Generally, however, I think that if there were too many allowances we should create immense difficulties. I think there is a lot to be said for paying people a basic rate which is the rate for the job.My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes)—and I hope that he will not take it amiss if I say this—made a ritual attack on what to him are subjects of concern, one being the Royal Yacht "Britannia" and the other the Polaris submarine. I shall not deal with the Polaris submarine, except in the context of manpower. My hon. Friend said that it was wrong to use men for this obsolete submarine. It is not obsolete, far from it. It makes an extremely effective contribution to the deterrent. My hon. Friend claims that the Royal Yacht "Britannia" was not used in South America. This is not true. It was used, particularly in Brazil. I spoke to our Ambassador there, and he told me that it had made a very useful contribution to the visit. It took out visiting businessmen, and then took part in a naval sales drive which was very valuable at the time. It contributed greatly to the success of the visit, and I strongly rebut any criticism of the Royal Yacht "Britannia" on that score. We have given considerable thought to the manning of the Royal Yacht. My hon. Friend knows that we have decided that wherever possible it should be used with the Navy in naval exercises, and steps are being taken to ensure that this can be done. As a Welshman albeit somewhat Anglicised, I welcome the proposed visit of "Britannia" to the Investiture