Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £233,744, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1926, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices, including Liquidation Expenses of the Royal Irish Constabulary and extra-statutory Contributions towards the Expenses of a System of Probation."—[NOTE: £185,000 has been voted on account.]
I think there has been a misunderstanding, for the Debate was not going to begin until 8 o'clock, and the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) was going to commence. Cannot one of the hon. Members opposite get up and make a speech for a few minutes to keep the Committee?
I should like to submit one or two questions to the right hon. Gentleman, prior to the recognised leader starting off on the real Debate. During the past week various complaints have been made of punishment that has been inflicted and is being inflicted on various youthful offenders, having little or no opportunity to go under the ordinary probationer officer, who can give them a real opportunity for improving their ways and for generally seeing the bright side of life which they have been prevented from seeing in the days prior to their fall. I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what the exact position is to-day, and when a first offender is sent to an industrial school, or is held over for purposes of either the Quarter Sessions or sentenced to a term of imprisonment, what the position really is at the moment as to probationary officers. Is there a sufficient number in every district? I am particularly interested in the Doncaster area. There I notice within the last week one individual who had been hailed before the bench on what would appear on the face of it to be a very flimsy offence was rather kindly dealt with by the magistrates, when it might very well have been one of the opposite cases where severe punishment was inflicted. I think it was generally felt by the magistrates who dealt with the case that if this youth could have been placed under a probation officer and that guiding influence had operated for a period, the chances are this youth might have developed into a really good citizen and have been worthy of all the attention paid to him. Although it was the expressed view of the magistrate that this person ought to have been placed under the probationary officer, no officer appeared to be available, and apparently nothing has happened except that the boy has been dealt with leniently and has been sent possibly to continue in the same way he had been doing previously.
Is it fair to assume that there is a shortage of probationary officers; and, if so, what steps is the right hon. Gentleman intending to take to fill that breach? In the case of children who may have no parents, and who may have been adopted or for some reason or other have not had that parental control and who have lost themselves for the moment, are they going to have the same guiding influence, or are they going to be allowed to continue down the wrong path? What steps is the right hon. Gentleman going to take to see that probationary officers are in plentiful numbers?
I should like to draw his attention to a recent case at the Doncaster West Riding Court of a youth of 18 or 19, whose parent was suffering from cancer, and for whom there is little or no hope, and apparently it is merely a question of time before he passed from this world. He has had no control over his son, unfortunately, in consequence of his own physical infirmity. He is quite unable to earn his own livelihood. The boy, having no parental control, apparently, has gone down the wrong path, has been led away from his own home and has become employed by 3ome other person with whom he went to reside. For some reason or other, he fell foul of the employer, or they had a disagreement. The result in this particular case is that this boy has been charged either with stealing or with committing some offence, for which he has been sent to the Quarter Sessions, and now the parent whose infirmity has deprived him from taking that parental share in the case which otherwise he would have done, has been deprived of his boy, and the wages on which he depended. Now that the boy has got in trouble, he has been sent to the Quarter Sessions, and the parent is deprived of his son, his wages, and the son of his character.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what really happens in a case of this description? Is there no hope for the boy who, for some unfortunate reason, goes astray once. Is there no chance for him in the future or could not a youth of this description be placed for a period under the charge of somebody or some authority where he may be given a chance to see the bright side of life, and the better side of life, and develop into a really good citizen?
There are in many provincial districts numerous cases of young juveniles and youths of 16 and 17 and 18 years of age who, if they were caught at the proper moment and taken charge of and given that parental guidance they were entitled to, would instead of going from bad to worse, improve themselves and be good citizens for a very long period. There is another question I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman. Have there been any instructions recently given to superintendents of police, any suggestion in any shape or form whereby a superintendent, or any one of his officers, shall be permitted to enter any hotel and instruct the landlord to refuse to supply miners with any liquid refreshment until they have been home and washed, etc. Cases are known where this has taken place quite recently. At one very large colliery, some 900 yards deep, when the men leave the mine to indulge in the so-called national beverage, they make straight for this particular hostelry, but a fortnight ago, on the Saturday, they were refused a drink after leaving the coal mine, on the instruction of the superintendent of police. I do not know from where the instruction came, why it was given and by whose authority. I gather that it has been withdrawn since, but what I should like to know is, is it general, and, if not, why should there be these isolated cases? There may be other Members who may bring forward questions of this description referring particularly to cases in their local district.
New Edlington, near Doncaster. I have a complaint that at one hotel, at all events, no miner could be served with a drink until he had been washed, and performed the usual domestic functions. It seems to me this is an unwarrantable action on the part of the person responsible in interfering with the normal privilege of the ordinary individual. I hope the Home Secretary will make some inquiry, and see that this thing is not extended, and that men are not deprived of what they conceive to be the ordinary liberties of the ordinary British citizen.
I should like to make one other observation with regard to various types of aliens who are permitted to enter this country or who are kept on the opposite side. I brought a case to the notice of the Home Office of a parent with several boys and girls, very young, who came over from Germany at the request of large colliery proprietors in Great Britain some 20 to 30 years ago. He showed what German coal bye-product works really mean, and for over 20 years managed the whole thing. He also superintended the erection of other bye-product works built on German lines, and was held in very high esteem by the employers. In the meantime, his children reached working age, and commenced to follow the parent's lead at these collieries, and have become useful workers and useful citizens, and very helpful to the mining industry as a whole. But the War came, and the father, for reasons over which he had no control, was sent away to Germany. All the boys and girls were interned. Since then the boys and girls have all married, the girls having married British boys and the boys having married British girls. The father and mother were in this country for 20 odd years, the father rendering wonderful service in German bye-product work. He is now refused permission to enter this country, although he is willing to make any declaration the right hon. Gentleman would desire not to fall upon any pension scheme that might be in existence, or might subsequently be brought into existence. His sons are prepared to undertake to maintain their parents, should the parents need maintaining, for the remaining part of their lives. All they desire is merely to return to join their children and spend the few remaining years with them. They have been refused permission to come back to their children.
Other people, who happen to be much wealthier, but much less useful to industry, and certainly have been less useful in the past, can, by some manner of means, surreptitiously creep in for a three months' holiday, and can make their permanent residence in Great Britain. The right hon. Gentleman must know that, while this discrimination can take place, it is most difficult, with his closest scrutiny, always to do the right thing. I do not think he would do the wrong thing intentionally, and I do not think discrimination between one section and another section is definitely shown by the Minister, but cases do happen where one family are deprived of what ought to be their privilege, while another family, entitled to no privilege, get all the privileges. I would like to ask, what would be a fair line for him to take to decide whether or not a couple of old parents should be permitted to return to their children, merely to live with them for the remainder of their days, when they are willing to undertake not to be a charge upon industry, not to be a charge upon the nation, not to be a charge upon the Poor Law guardians or anyone else, but that they shall be self-supporting from the moment they enter? What reason is there, either on earth or in heaven, why a couple of that description should not be permitted under the existing alien laws to come back to this country?
Lord HENRY CAVENDISH BENTINCK:
The hon. Member who introduced the discussion on the Mines Department Vote this afternoon attributed the large percentage of accidents among the miners to the fact that there were not enough inspectors. My complaint is the same with regard to the factories and workshops of this country. In many previous discussions on this subject, I have raised this question. Last year we were told by the late Home Secretary, that directly the Factory Bill wa3 passed into law, the number would be increased. We have had the same assurance again from the present Home Secretary. I should be quite satisfied with, that assurance, were the Factory Bill not quite such an elusive will-o'-the-wisp as it is at the present moment. But what I want to know is, why should we wait for the passing of a Factory Bill to do what is urgently needed at the present moment, and that is, increase to a very consider able extent the number of inspectors on our factory staff?
There is an urgent need for greater vigour in affording protection to the lives and health of our workers in factories and workshops, and I cannot help feeling that a very large percentage of the deaths and ill-health is due to inadequate inspection. We have a splendid and most efficient staff of men and women, but when you come to think that these factory inspectors have to look after 1,500 factories and workshops, you begin to realise how inadequate the staff is, and what an impossible task is imposed upon them. I do feel that we need a greater vigour for the protection of our workers. When you look at the Factory Inspector's Report, and see that there were 169,723 accidents, on increase of 44,172 accidents reported for last year, there is, I am sure the Committee will agree, a most grave necessity for serious searchings of heart on our part as to the lack of protection for the working people in our industries. There were no less than 956 fatal accidents last year, an increase, I think, of 89 over the year before. There is no room for complacency, and I would urge that something more vigorous should be done. I cannot help thinking that a very large number of these accidents are utterly unnecessary, and need never have taken place.
In shipbuilding, the casualties last year were 103, and in building construction, 104. Why should we regard this very serious toll of life as absolutely inevitable and necessary in the conduct of our shipbuilding and building construction? It is true that ships are higher than they were, and so are the buildings, but the deaths in both cases are due to the fact that the platforms or stagings on which the men have to stand are too narrow and unprotected, and the slightest slip hurls a man to a certain death. I submit that if the Home Secretary would insist on railings being put to these small, narrow stagings, he would save an enormous number of lives both in shipbuilding and in building construction.
Again, transmission machinery last year was responsible for no less than 58 deaths, or nine more than last year. Transmission machinery is dangerous, because it is unfenced. Why is it unfenced? Shafting and belting have been well known for many years to be dangerous. Why is this danger not being remedied? Then, prime movers were responsible for 202 accidents last year, and nine deaths. The Chief Inspector of factories says these could have been prevented if adequate fencing had been provided. There is nothing more striking, and, to an artistic eye, more beautiful in modern industry than these enormous cranes that we see lifting their heads to the sky; but though there is nothing more beautiful there is nothing more dangerous than they are. The Chief Inspector of factories says that as the greatest accident producers, they stand in front of any single type of machinery known in industry. They are dangerous, because they are liable to collapse, and they are liable to collapse because they are not periodically inspected by a competent person. As a layman, I ask, why are these not periodically inspected by a competent person? They would be if the Home Secretary were to insist upon it.
Let me pass from accidents to disease. I think it is very disquieting that though we are and have been for a considerable time in a period of bad trade, yet the number of people suffering from lead poisoning is greater than ever and is increasing to an alarming extent. In fact it is double what it was in 1921. The number in 1921 was 230 cases and in 1924 there were 486 cases. Take the instance of the pottery trade. There are regulations which I suppose are good regulations, but I cannot help feeling they are not as good as they pretend to be or else they are not properly carried out. In 1920 there were 19 cases, in 1921, 35 cases, in 1922, 42 cases, in 1923, 44 cases and in 1924, 47 cases. The disturbing part of this very serious tale of disease is that lead poisoning is more and more infecting young people. Will my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary make special inquiry as to why in the pottery trade the cases of lead poisoning are on the increase? Ship breaking is responsible for an appalling amount of lead poisoning. There were only seven cases in 1921, and last year we had 131 cases. Is that inevitable? Are we to sit down and see this going on without any serious effort being made to stop it? Electric accumulators are responsible for an enormous amount of this sickness. There were 35 cases in 1921 and 101 cases in 1924.
Before leaving the question of disease I wish to refer to the subject of anthrax. Last year there were 43 cases of anthrax and four deaths. A committee was appointed in 1918 which reported that the proper way of dealing with anthrax was be international co-operation in order that wool, hides and hair should be treated as near as possible to the country of origin. It also recommended that a trial disinfecting station should be set up here. This was done, and the station treats more and more wool every yea: and is I believe a successful experiment, but so far all attempts to secure international co-operation have failed. An attempt was made in Washington in 1910 and again in 1921 and 1924, but co-operation to combat anthrax is really more an Imperial than an international question, because India is the greatest sinner in this respect. India refuses to help in any way whatever, and I ask my right hon. Friend, would it be possible to have an Imperial conference, as it were, to deal with this question in order that the pressure of public opinion might be put upon the Indian Government. Obviously it is far better that wool and hides should be treated as near to the country of origin as possible in order that no infected wool could enter this country at all. Stations like those at Liverpool are useful, but they cannot possibly deal radically with the situation so long as wool and hair conveying danger of infection enter the country at all.
One more subject to which I desire to call attention is that of night baking. I would urge my right hon. Friend to take some action with regard to night baking, and I find great difficulty in understanding the action of the Govern- ment representative at Geneva last year. He seemed to have gone there—no doubt, acting on orders from the Government—in rather a wanton and mischievous spirit, because he moved an amendment to the Night Baking Convention and then plainly announced that, whether the amendment were carried or not, the British Government had no intention of ratifying the Convention. That was a purely wrecking policy, because the countries of Europe are practically unanimous as to the necessity of abolishing night baking, and why should we drive a wedge into the foreign countries if we ourselves have no intention of ratifying the Convention? Why should the Government be so unhelpful and backward in this matter? In 1919 a Committee reported unanimously in favour of the abolition of night baking. During the War there was no night baking and nobody was a penny the worse, and nobody was inconvenienced or incommoded. It is true that a Sub-Committee of the Food Commission reported against the abolition of night baking, on the ground that bread might be increased in price if it were necessary to provide bread absolutely fresh. But is it necessary that the people of this country should have their bread absolutely fresh? The medical evidence before the first Committee was strongly opposed to fresh hot bread as being bad for the teeth and bad for the interior, and likely to create all sorts of diseases, such as appendicitis and ulcerated stomach.
If the abolition of night baking were to improve the health of the population they would soon be reconciled to having their bread a little less fresh and more wholesome and we could kill two birds with the one stone by improving the health of the people generally and improving the health of the bakers. Why should we hesitate? What is the origin of night baking? It arises from the disastrous competition of the bakers themselves. One baker gets up a little earlier in order to overreach his competitor and so on. In Manchester, night baking was not practiced at all for two years after the expiration of the night baking order and nobody suffered any injury. But, unfortunately, new bakers came into Manchester and began to compete and to deliver the bread earlier, and in consequence all the Manchester bakeries had to revert to night baking. That to my mind is an instance of the necessity for the State stepping in and preventing that disastrous internecine competition which springs up owing to the greed of certain individuals. If the right hon. Gentleman will be kind enough to give these matters which I have raised his sympathetic consideration, I shall be very grateful.
I approach the consideration of these Estimates with a great deal of pleasure, because for a great part of the administration of the Home Office I have nothing but praise. As the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary knows, I have supported him against the flank attacks of some of his own followers in various matters affecting the administration of the principal Secretaryship of State. For example, I consider that we have the very finest police force in the world, and that, compared with the police forces of other countries, we ought to be extremely thankful indeed. I resent any attacks made upon the police, and I am always prepared to support the right hon. Gentleman in defending them, as I know he always would. Secondly, I always support him, and hope I always will, in resisting any attempts at weakening the law with regard to reckless motor driving. Here again I consider that the police have a very delicate and difficult task, and that they carry it out very excellently indeed.
There is a separate Police Vote, and questions regarding the police can only be raised in so far as the Home Secretary may have given any instructions or may have taken any action with regard to the Metropolitan Police.
Thank you, Mr. Hope, but that was only my preamble. On the question of night clubs, I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's attitude at the Home Office, in view of the grave scandal of these bogus night clubs in London, which I am sorry to say are spreading to the provinces, and I am very sorry that the pressure of Parliamentary time and, possibly, certain vested interests and prejudices represented in other parts of the House, may have prevented legislation to end or to improve this state of affairs. Therefore, my few remarks are not in any sense those of a Member who wants to oppose for the sake of opposing or to criticise for the sake of criticising. Before I come to the main question with which I wish to deal, may I draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a very small sum of money on page 42, of the Estimates, a sum of £136 for the "Roll of the Baronetage" We have the remuneration of the assistant registrar, £126, and incidental expenses, £10, the same this year as last year. This is only a very small sum, but it is the spirit in which expenditure is incurred that is the important thing, and if we are determined to save the small sums where we can, it is possible that the Departments will agree to save the large sums where they can. I should like to know why we should pay to keep a Roll of the Baronetage. The baronets are a very worthy body of men in the country, but they have no place in the Constitution at all. They have no Parliamentary status of any kind. They are half-way between the Peerage and the commoners, and I do not see why they should not be charged a small sum per year to keep up this registrar. A very small tax on these baronets, who are swarming as a result of the Coalition and other Governments of recent years, would pay for this £136, and why the general taxpayer should pay this money T cannot understand.
I should like a declaration from the Home Secretary as to the policy of the Government with regard to the naturalisation of respectable law-abiding and useful aliens who have been living in our midst for many years. There is, I understand, a very long list at the Home Office, and while I quite agree that every possible examination should be made and the greatest care exercised before the privilege of naturalisation is granted to a foreign-born person living in this country, nevertheless I think, when a man has lived here for a number of years, has brought up a family, has never broken the law, and is well spoken of by all his neighbours, that that sort of man should be welcomed and, if in every way desirable, should be naturalised without difficulty. I see that the Home Secretary received a deputation a few days ago, and I have a, report of that deputation, printed in the "Daily Telegraph" newspaper of last Saturday. I see that a number of societies interested in the questions of
the naturalisation and admission of aliens into this country waited on the right hon. Gentleman, headed by Lord Queen-borough. Speeches were made by Lady Sydenham, representing the British Women's Patriotic League, Dr. Wansey Bayly, representing the Workers' Liberty and Employment League—I do not know what this body is—and Mr. Arthur Kitson, representing the Banking Reform League.
The deputation handed in a short memorandum praying for the amendment of the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act, 1914, to make more stringent the conditions under which certificates of naturalisation may be granted.
I do not know whether it is supposed to be patriotism to preach hatred of foreigners. You see xenophobia flourishing in France and this country and other countries since the War, but I do not think a man is really more patriotic if he simply abuses the stranger that is within our midst for no just cause. The Report continues:
It was urged that the grant of British citizenship should only be given to aliens having long and meritorious residence in. this country"—
we all agree with that—
and then only after the most searching inquiries into their moral and financial1 status. It was suggested that aliens and naturalised persons form a very large proportion of the criminal population of this country; that many of them are being; maintained at the country's expense, whether in hospitals, prisons, asylums, or on the poor rate.
I quite agree that criminal aliens should be rejected from the country. The deputation went on to deal with the case of British women who marry aliens and of alien women who marry Britishers, and altogether they demanded a stiffening up of the present administration of the Act. The Home Secretary replied, and I may say that my complaint is that the present administration of the Act, not only by this Government but under the former Governments, the Labour Government, the former Conservative Government, and the Coalition Government, has inflicted hardship on very deserving people. This is what the right hon. Gentleman replied:
He entirely agreed that British nationality was a gift not lightly to be conferred …. The present position was that no alien could be naturalised unless he had had at least five years' residence in the British Empire; in actual practice,
the average duration of residence of aliens naturalised during his term of office was in excess of that period.
That is a fact, as I shall presently show to the Committee.
He could not agree that any distinction should be made, for naturalisation purposes, between residence in England and residence elsewhere in the Empire.
All this is common cause among all parties.
Yes, but the right hon. Gentleman is not carrying it out, as I am going to show. I am quoting the right hon. Gentleman's words to this super-patriotic league and followers, the Banking Reform Association and these other people, who, I presume, are a lot of busybodies who went to him and attacked him for being too lax. What is the Banking Reform League? Who are these people?
I do not see that they have any mandate to interfere in these matters. The right hon. Gentleman was attacked, and he defended himself, quite naturally, and pointed out the principles on which he acted, but he is not acting on those principles. He went on to say that responsible and respectable people should be given a chance of naturalisation after a certain number of years. My complaint is that that is not being done, and the enormous waiting list of these people is being delayed, for some reason or other, perhaps shortage of staff. At any rate, there are very good people who have been here many years, who have brought up families, who have a stake in the country, who are well spoken of on all hands, but who cannot get naturalisation.
I will quote an actual case, and I do not want to give the name publicly, for obvious reasons, but I have given it privately this afternoon to the right hon. Gentleman, and he knows all about it. It is the case of a man living in Hull, who is known to me personally. He had the misfortune, it is true, to be born in Poland, but ho is a man of splendid physique, handsome, and intelligent, the sort of man we ought to welcome here. He has been here for 30 years, he is a man of high character, an orthodox religious man of his religion, and he is well spoken of by all his neighbours. He has produced letters recommending his naturalisation, in the highest and warmest terms, from the Lord Mayor of the City, from the Sheriff, from the Deputy Lord Mayor, from the Chief of Police, from religious ministers, from Magistrates, from the Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, and from other people in the highest positions in the City of Hull, which I have the honour to represent in this House.
This man has been here for 30 years, and for 13 years he has carried on a successful and prosperous business in Hull. I repeat that if the right hon. Gentleman could meet him, he would see that this man is a gentleman and that he is healthy, vigorous, and worthy to be given naturalisation. On 29th September, 1922, the man applied for naturalisation. Nothing came of that, except that the letter was acknowledged, and he was informed that the case should receive attention. On 10th October, 1922, I wrote pressing the claim, and again an acknowledgment was received, but again nothing was done. He already had had his application in for three years. In March, 1924, I took the case up again. It had then been under consideration for several years. This gentleman was anxious to go abroad, and only wanted to be naturalised before he went. On 24th March—this was during the Labour Government—I pointed out to the then Home Secretary that it had been engaging attention for some years—[An HON. MEMBER: "What about his politics?"] His politics do not matter in any case. He had a certificate of character, and letters of recommendation from all the leading gentlemen of Hull, men of all parties. I wrote, I say, stating that the man had lived in Hull for 13 years and urging the Home Secretary to hasten the case as much as possible. This letter was to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley (Mr. Arthur Henderson). I got an acknowledgment from him, and on 30th April the right hon. Gentleman wrote stating that the papers relating to the application had been referred to, but he regretted that he then could not give any indication as to when it would be possible to proceed with it. There was no question of the man being unsuitable or anything of that kind.
On 1st May I took the matter up again with the late Home Secretary. He was good enough to grant me a personal interview at which I laid the facts very fully before him. On 28th May I wrote again to the late Home Secretary. Finally, on 30th June, the application was refused. Now we have the right hon. Gentleman the present Home Secretary, who, in the course of receiving a deputation that had waited upon him, giving utterance to these admirable sentiments about the people who are respectable and have a stake in the country, and who ought to be naturalised. I wrote to the present Home Secretary, and he was also good enough to see me about this case. On 4th March he replied, saying that this was not the sort of case which he could at present bring to an issue, and he could only suggest that the gentleman in question should ask for it to be considered again in two or three years' time.
Well, now, what is the policy of the Government? Three years have passed, and now word has gone against the applicant, who, as I have said, has the recommendation of the Chief of Police, of magistrates, and others. He is a man who is in a prosperous position, a man of good character, living a good religious life, is industrious and sober, and is a man who would be an acquisition to this country. He has been 30 years in the country, 13 of them at Hull. After all the applications and letters that have been put forward he is told to apply again in two or three years' time. I really think that we ought to have some statement of policy on this matter from the right hon. Gentleman. I do not ask him to deal here and now with this particular case of the man to whom I am referring, but I ask him to state what is the policy of the Government in similar cases to this where a man is respectable, in a good position, would be an acquisition to the country, and who has lived a number of years here? How long has such a man to be resident in this country before he can become naturalised? Would it not be better to encourage people like that to become naturalised, to live here, and to bring up their families, and to become, as good citizens, a source of strength to the country? Of course, in the case of a man of criminal tendencies I have nothing to say. I would support the right hon. Gentleman in any stringent measures against criminal aliens. In the case, however, of a respectable man who would prove a worthy citizen we ought to encourage him to become a citizen of the British Empire.
I must apologise to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary because I was not here at the commencement of this Debate, but circumstances over which I had no control prevented me from being present. I would ask the Committee to bear with me while I touch on two aspects of Home Office administration. I will deal in the first place with the administration of the factory laws. Members of the Committee will probably have seen the splendid Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories, which contains a review of the work in this connection for the year 1924. In the very first few sentences of the Report there is provided a good subject for a speech, because under the title of "Safety" in regard to Accidents, the Report states that
During 1924, 169,723 accidents, including 956 fatal accidents, were reported, an increase of 44,172 over the previous year. The figures of the two years are not properly comparable because the basis of comparability has been altered by Section 28 of the Workmen's Compensation Act of 1923.
In other parts of the Report I have noticed clear indications that factory life has become more dangerous during the last few years, and the year 1924, apparently, does not bring us nearer the time when preventable accidents are being prevented. Before proceeding to deal with the Report proper I think I would not be doing my duty if I did not congratulate the Home Office on its research work. I am referring in particular to the operations of the Industrial Fatigue Research Board. The work performed by that Board is admirable, and the pamphlets and booklets issued by the Home Office as a result of their investigations are well worth reading. The only further point of comment I would make on them is that, after the Reports are issued, little or no action is taken upon them. Nearly all that I have to say this
evening on factories and workshops will be in relation to the inaction of the Home Office in regard to the problems dealt with in the Reports issued by the Board and by other sections of the Department of State for Home Affairs.
The Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) has touched the pivot of the whole administration of the factory laws and I want to emphasise one point in particular he has made. The number of inspectors, after all, must determine very largely the safety of the millions employed in our factories and workshops. In 1914 there were 222 inspectors employed by the Home Office under the Factory Acts, and they paid effective visits numbering 470,742. By the end of 1924 the number of inspectors had been reduced to 205, a decrease of 17, and the number of effective visits had declined to 342,949. There is, however, something very much more important to remember in connection with the Report now under review. In 1914 the number of effective visits made before or after legal hours was 42,629, and these visits, after all, bring the most successful results. Instead of increasing as ought to be the case, the number in 1924 was reduced to 11,379. There is undoubtedly a distinct and intimate connection between the visits of inspectors and the number of accidents in factories and workshops. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to lose no time in going into the question of the number of inspectors, not only for factories and workshops, but as the Noble Lord suggests, the time has now arrived when inspectors ought to be employed to inquire into, and report upon, the conditions under which operatives in the building trade work. There have been several serious accidents of late in the building trade in connection with large cranes which are employed on the job. It was the intention of the late Government to deal with this question last year, and I would ask the Home Secretary to tell us whether anything is contemplated in the near future.
In the Chief Inspector's Report a reference is made to a Committee appointed last year to inquire into the examination of young persons for factory employment. The Committee sat for several weeks in the Home Office and inquired into this interesting subject. I do not know how many hon. Members are aware that there are over 1,000 certifying factory surgeons engaged on this task. They look with a medical eye on the young person of 14 years of age about to enter a factory or workshop in order to certify that he or she is fit for employment. I never knew before I inquired into it recently that the system of medical examination that prevails now, and the task performed by the certifying surgeons, is conducted on exactly the same lines as it was done 80 years ago.
The Committee to which I referred made certain recommendations. Has the Government taken any notice of those recommendations, and what is likely to be done in that connection? The number of certifying factory surgeons in 1933 was 1,771, and during that year they examined 300,814 young persons. The fee received by the certifying factory surgeon is 1s. per case. For a small fee like that I do not see how any medical man can give proper attention to any young person, and the Committee recommended that it should be increased.
The fundamental recommendation of the Committee, however, dealt with this position. There is now no connection at all between our school medical service, the work of the certifying factory surgeons and the panel system under the National Health Insurance scheme. I would impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the desirability that such a connection should be made. An extended school medical service ought to he capable of doing the work of the present certifying factory surgeon. At the present time the school medical service examines the child several times when at school and at or near the school leaving age. It is a waste of energy to have these two services in operation, and there ought to be, I repeat, a connection made between the school medical service, the work of the certifying factory surgeon, and the panel system of the Health) Insurance scheme.
Above all, I would like to see an industrial medical service established through the municipalities under the control of the right hon. Gentleman's Department on the lines already followed by the best private firms in this country. Those firms are doing valuable work by providing for medical examination and treatment in their establishments. If a school medical service is essential, as I believe to be the case, there is a very much stronger reason for examining children periodically while they are at work and treating them when necessary.
At 16 years of age the young person comes of course under the National Health Insurance Scheme, but the gap between the school leaving age and the entry into the Health Insurance ought to be closed by the right hon. Gentleman's Department. I trust he will be able to tell us the intentions of the Home Office in that direction.
I turn now to another point in that report, and I feel sure that I shall carry Members with me irrespective of their political prejudices. Last year a deputation of very influential men and women from the city of Liverpool saw the Home Secretary and called his attention to what I regard as an extraordinary state of affairs. I understand that scores of boys may be seen at any time waiting about the docks at Liverpool, without shelter from rain or snow, expecting to be engaged for the work of scaling ship boilers. I have here, a paragraph from a report which will explain the task performed by those boys:
Scaler boys are employed in chipping off the encrustations formed in boilers through impurities in the water. Access to the boiler is gained through an oval opening about 16 by 12 inches.
I was simply staggered to learn that boys of from 14 to 16 years of age were employed to work there for three or four hours at a stretch scaling the inside of pipes, sometimes 100 to 150 feet long. When they come out there is no shelter for them and no mess room in which they can eat their food. They eat their meals in wet clothes and filth and dirt, and then go back again for two or three hours more work, after which they go home without any change of clothing. This is not a party issue at all; and I would like the Home Office to lay it down in Regulations that any firm employing those boys ought to provide shelter, a mess room, a change of clothing, a place to wash themselves, and in short to treat them decently. I felt ashamed when I heard of the conditions under which these boys work in Liverpool. The case of Liverpool is worse than anything I have heard from any other part of the country. I would press upon the right hon. Gentleman to take immediate administrative action in this case. Complaints have been received that the boys travel home in tramcars with their clothing filthy with oil and dirt. I am not going to speak of their wages, because that question is not one for the right hon. Gentleman's Department, but their wages, I understand, are on a very low scale indeed. They are not employed by the week, they are not employed continually, they are not in any trade union, and nobody seems to care about them. When Parliament finds such a condition of affairs it is its duty to demand of the Department of State concerned that it shall intervene in order to help these boys out of their difficulties.
I join with the Noble Lord, too, in making an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to take steps to deal with the question of white lead in paint. I very much regret to notice that in this connection, a reaction is setting in. I gather, on very good information, that on 7th January this year the War Office published an Order prohibiting the use of white lead paint for their internal painting. The War Office may have been influenced, in this matter by the experience of the Office of Works, which for years has not used white lead in paint at all. The War Office would probably be influenced, too, by the Bill introduced last year to ratify the Geneva Convention in this connection. The reason I state that a reaction in this connection has set in is that I understand that the Federation of British Industries called the attention of the Government to this Order issued by the War Office, with the result that it was almost immediately withdrawn. It is a monstrous thing, when a Government Department issues an Order of that kind to try and save the lives and health of painters, that any section of the community like the Federation of British Industries should come along and influence the Government in that way. I wish to enter my protest against action of that kind. The Office of Works has found out that painting can be done without the use of white lead; and a Convention to deal with this problem has been passed at Geneva. I dislike the reactionary tendency which has manifested itself, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will take this matter up and see that the Geneva Convention is ratified to the full, and not on the lines of his Bill.
I have taken some interest in the question of anthrax which the Noble Lord has touched upon. Like him, I am a little concerned about the situation which has arisen, although I do not desire to blame the Government because I know there are difficulties in the way within the Empire itself. There are difficulties with India and Australia, but I would nevertheless like to make the suggestion that the right hon. Gentleman should not allow this matter to drop. At the moment the position is this. Last year there was an endeavour at Geneva to secure a convention to apply to all the members of the International Labour Organisation. That failed because of differences of opinion not only in this country but within the Empire.
I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman might undertake to call a conference of all the Dominions affected in order to see whether we cannot get some agreement amongst ourselves to commence with. I quite appreciate the ridiculous situation which would arise if the British Government raised this issue at Geneva once again only to find that Australia and India were at variance with the Mother Country. Although the number of deaths are not great, the amount of suffering caused by anthrax is serious. I have seen photographs of men who have suffered from this terrible disease, and anything the Home Office can do to prevent even one man suffering ought to be done quite irrespective of the cost.
This Vote provides us with the opportunity of mentioning the point which has also been referred to by the Noble Lord, and that is the prohibition of night baking. I would like to ask what is the attitude of the Government in relation to this problem, because at the last annual conference of the International Labour Organisation in Geneva, a draft convention was passed by the requisite majority. On this point, too, I quite appreciate the difficulties which arise. Some Continental countries already have legislation on their Statute Books which enable them to adopt and ratify this convention without difficulty. The process on the Continent is that when they prohibit night baking at all they do so not only in regard to the operatives but in regard to the employers as well. In common parlance, they go the "whole hog." In this country we proceed on the lines that safeguard the interests of the worker, leaving the employer to do what he likes. But, irrespective of this difference in the treatment of the problem, I want to say, now that the convention has been passed, that it would be wrong on the part of any single country to turn round and say that "although the convention has been passed, we cannot ratify it because the laws of our country are contrary to those of other lands." We should always do our best at Geneva to amend conventions to meet our own point of view, but, having done that, we should not turn round and say to other States associated with the International Labour Organisation that we will ratify only if we find ourselves in a majority.
I will now turn to the second part of my remarks. The hon. and gallant Gentleman below the Gangway raised the issue about aliens, and he cast some reflections upon the policy of the Labour Government in this respect. It is not for me to answer on behalf of the Home Office, but I will say to him that the history of the Labour Government shows in connection with the alien problem that we were very much more considerate and generous than the present Government in this respect, as can be proved by statistics.
The Home Secretary has been delivering many speeches recently, and, if I might say so, I do not think some of them have been very discreet. The right hon. Gentleman has a very strong anti-alien feeling. I do not know why. I have never understood Conservative statesmen in this country Toeing anti-alien, because, after all, this is the centre of a big Empire, where all sects and creeds and colours are brought within its ambit; and it ill becomes us who are under the British flag with millions of coloured men, millions of folk who do not agree with us in religion, to have any anti-alien feeling on the lines exhibited by the right hon. Gentleman.
I would like to refer to one or two of the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman, to prove my contention that he is not favourable to aliens. First of all, I think we ought to clear our minds as to the powers of the Secretary of State for Home Affairs in this connection. His powers over the alien are immense. He has power to say whether an alien shall come here at all. He has power to say whether an alien, having resided in this country for any number of years, may be naturalised and made a British subject. He has power, also, which is greater than either of the first two, namely, the power of deportation. When I went to the Home Office I was very much struck with one thing there. I was astonished to find that the first person to be naturalised by the Home Office, many years ago, was a Welshman. I failed to understand that, and I said to myself, "How can this be? We were here before they came. I am not sure whether we shall be here when they have left."
The right hon. Gentleman, in June of this year, made the following remarks:
A desperate attempt was being made to-day, in conjunction with the people of a country which was not our country, in conjunction with the ideals of a community which was not our community, to force upon us by what was known as the National Minority Movement a scheme of policy, a constitution, which was utterly foreign to the British nation. He referred to the condition of Russia and Bolshevism, and observed, 'I am responsible as Home Secretary to see that we do not allow ourselves to be conducted by devious methods into the same state as Russia is in to-day.'
I have many other quotations on the same lines, and, if I may say so, there is not a better advertiser of Bolshevism than the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure he is doing the Communist and Bolshevist cause a great deal of good. Needless to flay, I do not agree with the Communist party. I would never, myself, stand a dictatorship of any kind from any quarter. But this country has been renowned in history, and I hope it still will be, as a country where freedom of expression' of opinion prevails.
The right hon. Gentleman is afraid of something. I can assure him that to keep out an alien with an idea that he dislikes does not of necessity keep out the idea. Ideas have a strange way of travelling, irrespectively of pamphlets or of speech, and I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to believe with me that nothing that he will do, that no Acts of Parliament ever devised or passed by any Parliament in the world, can ever prevent an idea from travelling from one country to another. The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, afraid of Bolshevism. I can assure him that, if there is any truth in Bolshevism, no Government can prevent its coming to its own. Bolshevism will fail in this country merely because it makes no appeal, because it does not appeal lo the culture of our people. I want to make this request to the right hon. Gentleman, that he should not fear new ideas. He talks of subversive propaganda. Statesmen in all ages have been afraid of everything new. They have always had a hatred of other people's opinion; there has been opposition to progress and change at all times.
Once upon a time it was subversive to no a Christian; it was subversive to form a trade union; it was subversive to belong to a Socialist organisation; it was subversive, during the War, to be in favour of peace. I was said to be carrying on subversive propaganda during the War because I opposed the War. I shall oppose the next war, and the one following that, irrespective of consequences. It was subversive once upon a time to be a Protestant, or to be a Catholic, and, certainly it was subversive to be a Labour advocate. The most subversive thing of all during my early life was to advocate a strike. If the right hon. Gentleman had been Home Secretary a quarter of a century ago, I suppose he would have imprisoned all Labour leaders. We have quite passed that stage now, and I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman, as I have already said, that he will not fear new ideas. If they are good, they will find a place in the hearts of our people; if they are bad, they will perish. If he shuts the door, he may prevent his opponent from entering the house, but an idea can pass through the keyhole nevertheless. Ideas can never be prevented by Government action at any time.
As I have said, I have other quotations from speeches delivered by the right hon. Gentleman, but I would ask him to allow freedom of expression of opinion to prevail in this country. He does that in the case of the Fascisti. I have never seen a single speech of the right hon. Gentleman against that body, and the methods advocated by the Fascisti are exactly the same as those advocated by the Bolshevists. Both movements want to secure something by force. I would not object to the right hon. Gentleman dealing sternly with either a Fascist or a Communist if he found a revolver in his pocket; but when he has nothing more than an idea in his head, that idea should be allowed to come out. It is safer out than in. Those are the criticisms that I desire, to make, and I trust that the Home Secretary will be able to give us a reply, especially on the points I have raised in connection with the administration of the factory laws. He has a great duty to perform to the community. He has difficulties to contend with, but I want him to be a little more generous to people who disagree with his point of view. Men and women, after all, have a title to say and to write what they think, and the only danger with which the right hon. Gentleman ought to deal is the danger which may arise from the revolver or the bullet. When he apprehends that anywhere, he is entitled to step in; but when a man desires to deliver a speech he is entitled to do so, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will do nothing to destroy the great name of this country for liberty and freedom of speech.
The time at the disposal of the Committee this evening is so short that it is not sufficient by any means to cover the whole of the ramifications of the right hon. Gentleman's Department, or even to cover his own actions, but I should like to follow on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. E. Davies), and to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that it occurs to me that, when the end of this year comes, and we look back and survey his work since he was appointed Home Secretary in this Government, one outstanding thing that will be to his credit will be that he has, during his term of office as Home Secretary, given a new lease of life to the Communist party in this country. I think the year 1925 will be remembered as the year in which the right hon. Gentleman was the chief publicity agent of the Communist party. It does seem to me that it would be far better if he and his Government would pay more attention to remedying the social conditions which are making people Communists, and less to instituting proceedings against Communists, the only result of which is to advertise them, and to get bigger crowds to their meetings and to get more people to read their publications. The right hon. Gentleman apparently not only pursues his vocation industriously during the week, but at week-ends regularly he appears to attend Primrose League gatherings and there, amidst very pleasant surroundings, he has been indulging in wild and whirling denunciations of the people he is pleased to call the Reds. If he will, when the Vacation comes, quietly think over the work he has done in his Department in the past few months, does he think as the result of all the speeches he has delivered and the action he has taken up to now against the Reds there is one Communist less in the country? [Interruption.] Obviously if the numbers have increased his efforts have not been successful. Consequently, I hope he will consider whether a change of tactics might not produce more desirable results even from his own point of view.
I wish to refer to the question of naturalisation. T suggest, without in any way desiring to be rude, that, so far as I can see, the right hon. Gentleman, since he came into office, has been administering the Act in a somewhat high-handed and pompous manner. I intimated to his secretary that I proposed to raise one case as an example of the sort of thing that is making some of us wonder what his policy is. I want to give the case of a man named Krupp, who came to this country 32 years ago and has never been out of it since. He has six children, all of whom were born here and have attended local schools, and if I am informed aright, at least two have won scholarships. This man has never been in trouble of any sort and neither have any of the members of his family. During the War he did his share as well as most other people. From 1915 to 1917 he was engaged in making munition boxes—perhaps not a very important job, but none the less necessary. In 1917 he was at the Small Arms Factory at Enfield. In 1918 he was making aeroplane sheds and from 1918 to 1919 he was in a Government factory at Walthamstow. I should like to read the manager's state-
ment given to the man when his employment ceased:
His Majesty's Factory,
I have much pleasure in stating that Mr. A. Krupp has been engaged here as a general fitter from 20th August, 1918, until 20th December, 1919. During the whole of the time he gave every satisfaction and showed himself to be a very good worker. His only reason for leaving is on account of the closing of this factory as the result of the cessation of hostilities.
This man applied to be naturalised a few months ago, and some weeks after his application a detective called at his house and examined him in reading and writing. After the examination he said he was perfectly satisfied, and told him there was nothing against him. On 24th June the application was turned down without any reason being given. Hearing of several cases of a similar sort I asked a question as to how many applications for naturalisation have been turned down between last November and June of this year. The answer was that 126 applications had been definitely turned down and a very large number were still under consideration. I asked another question, whether any reasons could be given why those 126 had been turned down.
This is how I argued the matter. If a person has been in this country for anything from 20 to 40 years and has been well-behaved, has never been in trouble of any sort, the police have never made any allegation against him and he has been a desirable resident, surely there must be some broad, general ground, which Members of the House would very much like to know, why people, under these circumstances, are turned down. I was referred to the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act, 1914, Part II, Section 3. That Section says:
the grant of a certificate of naturalisation to any such alien shall be in the absolute discretion of the Secretary of State and he may, with or without assigning any reason, give or withhold a certificate as ho thinks most conducive to the public good, and no appeal shall lie from his decision.
These seem to be powers almost after the Home Secretary's own heart. I am not mentioning this case because I want to specify any particular case. I am taking it to make my argument more
clear. Has this man been refused because of his particular nationality? He has not been refused on the ground of length of residence, because the Act says five years or more. The right hon. Gentleman says that since he took office it has been more, but this man has been here for 32 years, therefore he cannot have been refused on the ground of insufficient length of residence. He cannot have been refused on the ground of unsatisfactory conduct, because the police themselves say, and everyone knows, he has never given any trouble of any sort. If he had been an Austrian or an Italian, would he have been refused? Is there a definite time for different nationals? I endeavoured to obtain from the right hon. Gentleman general reasons, but the only reply he made was that to give reasons for the rejection of 126 people would entail a great deal of research.
He was a Russian or a Pole. I think the right hon. Gentleman's answer was simply "fudge." It would not require any considerable amount of research to give the general reasons for the refusal of 126 applications for naturalisation. Can he give us any information as to the nationality of the 126 people who have been definitely refused, although they have conformed to the ordinary conditions required, since he took his present office? In this case the length of residence is 32 years, and in the case quoted by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) it is 30 years. The second condition is that the man must be of good character. The hon. and gallant Gentleman's case was a man of good character, and mine is a case of exceptionally good character, as I know from my own personal knowledge. Thirdly, the man must have an adequate knowledge of the English language, and this man has been informed by the detective that he was satisfactory in that way. I want to repeat the question I asked the Home Secretary last week. If a man has been resident here for 20 to 40 years, and has never been charged by the police with any offence, on what ground would his application be turned down? I think the House is justified in getting some information upon that. The right hon. Gentleman said last week in answer to a Supplementary question that this was "rather a large question which could be debated next week." It is now being debated, and we wait with interest the reply he will make. May I finish on the note on which I began? I want to make an appeal to him to consider during the Vacation, when, I hope, he will have more time than he has had in the last few months, the way he is administering this Department. There are many signs of serious industrial trouble in this country, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider whether there are not any ways in which he can run his Department in order to make things better instead of worse. He might realise that it sounds very fine for him to say, "Under this Act I am empowered to make any decision I like without assigning any reasons to anybody." I do not think the Act was intended to be administered in that spirit, and I hope he is not going to administer it in such a spirit of dictatorship. I hope that he will realise that the part of the dictator has never been a success in this old country, that it is never likely to be a success, and that in either case the right hon. Gentleman himself, neither by nature nor temperament, is fitted to make a success of the part.
The last speaker said there was a great deal of industrial depression, but he forgets the fact that a great deal of that is due to the introduction of so many aliens over here. That unrest is due entirely to the discontent fomented by his alien friends. It is such an extraordinary thing for Members on the Opposition side of the House to love aliens better than their own countrymen. They want to throw the doors open to aliens, when we have over 1,000,000 unemployed. The hon. Gentleman the Member for somewhere in Wales said that years ago it was subversive to have a strike in this country, but he forgot to mention that it was the Conservative party which made it possible to have strikes, to have peaceful picketing, and to have trade unions in this country. The Home Secretary, far from exceeding his duties in regard to aliens, has not satisfied some members of his own party. We have not only discontent among aliens throughout the country but we have dis- content stirred up by numbers of this House. I will not say to which side they belong, because it is perhaps sufficiently obvious. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am very glad hon. Members on the Opposition side are with me this time. Again, the hon. Member likened the Fascist to the Communist. You could not imagine any two sections of the community more widely different in every possible way.
I am not talking about the head of the Fascists but of the movement as a whole. The Communist movement is for causing trouble in this country, causing revolution and splitting up the Empire. The Fascist movement is defensive, to counteract the effects of the Communist in this country and other parts of the Empire. I do not say I approve of the Fascist movement, because in this country we are sufficiently levelheaded to realise that the Communists are mostly fools, or they would not be Communists, and that we can deal with them by ordinary legitimate constitutional methods. The methods we have, such as the methods being pursued by the Home Secretary, are quite adequate to deal with Communists. It is most regrettable that the Socialist party should encourage Communists in every way, and I am certain the Committee will wish the Home Secretary to go on with the excellent work he has been doing to rid the country of the undesirable aliens of whom we have too many over here.
I want, first of all, to join with the other speakers who have asked the Home Secretary to deal with the industrial question, especially in regard to accidents and increasing and improving the inspectorate. It ought to be possible for the country to afford a larger body of inspectors, and I hope very much indeed that, if more are appointed, some will be detailed to deal with those big public buildings and with the machinery that is used on those big public buildings in order to see that all proper precautions are taken for safeguarding the lives and limbs of the men who are employed. I am sure there is not a Member on this side of the House who is not deeply grarteful to the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) for the manner in which he puts this forward, and I am only sorry he and the rest of us have not more influence with the powers that be on these matters. It is a melancholy thing that at this time of the day we should be recording increases in accidents and that at the time of very bad trade and when, one would imagine, the hurry-up-and-make-haste methods would not be so prevalent as previously. That very tiny thing the Noble Lord pointed out of just putting a rail round a very narrow kind of landing stage on which men stand is one which I should have thought most humane employers would only have been too glad to do of their own free will. I say this because all of us are guilty in one way or another of want of thought, and I think if some steps were taken by the Department to deal with that and bring it to the notice of the employers it would be done.
We really must face up the fact that to-night we have had a terrible story told of accidents in mines, followed by a very clear statement by the Noble Lord opposite as to accidents that come within the jurisdiction of the right hon. Gentleman, and it is not to the credit of this House or of any public Department that these things should continue. I very earnestly hope that, whatever else we do not get out of this Debate, we shall get an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that he will go very thoroughly into the question of the inspectorate and add to their numbers and, if possible, increase their powers. I am quite certain that with more care and efficiency we could get down those accidents to a very much less number than they are at the present time. I would also like to join in the appeal about anthrax. I went on a deputation to the India Office on this subject knowing its difficulty, but difficulties are made to be overcome. From that interview I gathered it would be possible with good will on the part of all Departments concerned to stamp out this very terrible disease, so terrible that none of us can think of it without a feeling of real loathing and also deep sympathy with anybody unfortunate enough to suffer from it.
Having said that, I would like to come back to the perennial subject of the aliens. The hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Rawson) made the usual speech on this subject. It really is absurd at this time of day to tell us that a handful of aliens coming into this country make all the trouble and strife. It is conditions that make revolutions. The Bolsheviks in Russia did not make the revolution in Russia; it was the conditions which made the revolution. No one will deny that. If the conditions are not there, there will be no revolution. Long before the Bolsheviks arrived the revolution had taken place in Russia, and it took place because of the corruption of the officers of the Tsar, because the troops were starved, because they had neither food nor ammunition, and they turned round and refused any longer to be dumb, driven cattle. The same thing would happen in this country under the same conditions, whether you had 1,000 aliens or no alien at all here. Human beings being what they are, they will not starve quietly, any more than rats will starve. Anyone with intelligence knows that that is true. I can prove conclusively that even before the advent of the present regime in Russia there were a few atrocities committed even under the Tsar.
Let me deal with the question of the Home Secretary's powers. No one denies that at a time of grave national emergency great powers were given to the Home Secretary. I have never denied that if you have a war you cannot have the ordinary law running. The last time I spoke on this subject I said that this was part of the price we were bound to pay for war. The war conditions have gone by now. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary stands at that Box and talks to us as if this House had endowed him with the powers and the intelligence of a kind of demigod. He stands up and treats us to a disquisition as if he were the only person in the world who could never make a mistake. As a matter of fact, when Parliament gives anyone powers it expects that those powers will be used in an intelligent way. Parliament also reserves to itself the right to discuss and to decide whether the powers are being used in an intelligent way. Why have we this Vote before us to-night? Why have we the opportunity of putting questions to the right hon. Gentleman, if it is not that Parliament at the back of its mind imagines that occasionally it may give some one powers which may be used badly? Therefore, there is no wrong in our calling into question things that the right hon. Gentleman does.
Take the case in which he got rather indignant with me, the case of the man Homer. Here is a man who is an agitator. He is a Communist. I happen to be a Communist, although I am not a member of the Communist party, and do not suppose I shall ever be a member of that party. That is because I disagree with them on a fundamental principle, exactly as I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman and with many of my hon. Friends on this side. I am against force under any conditions—force for revolution or force for a racial war. That is my disagreement with the Communists. But when the right hon. Gentleman claims that he Has a right, and that the police have a right to go into a man's house to search him, and then that man has either to be taken by force or to be persuaded to come to Scotland Yard to be examined, not publicly before a magistrate, but in some office in Scotland Yard, and is told to give an account of a certain document which turned out to be a most innocuous document—then I am against the right hon. Gentleman. That was as stupid a thing as was the putting of police officers under the platform at the Communist meeting last year—perfectly ridiculous. I know that the right hon. Gentleman will give us the credit of saying to our own people exactly what we are saying to him, that it was a perfectly idiotic thing to do.
But this sort of thing is bound to happen when we have this Red mania running around. You see bogies and off you go chasing after them, and nearly every time you catch a loser. What have you done with all your hunting after the Beds? You have arrested this man, you give him all the publicity of arrest. You search his house, and then you find some "dangerous" document that is out of date, a document which conveys no information of any worth to any one. Then the right hon. Gentleman later refused to allow certain delegates to come to this country to attend a Communist conference. He said, "These people in their own country may preach what they like, and in this country we have to put up with Englishmen who preach the same doctrine." Does anyone seriously think that a couple of delegates coming from a foreign country to take pare in a conference here for a week or 10 days can really upset this Realm? If so, it rests on a very poor foundation indeed. For the life of me I cannot see even now what good the right hon. Gentleman did, because the persons he tried to keep out actually did attend the conference. How they got there I do not know, but their presence proves that the net is not quite as close as the right hon. Gentleman and his friends imagined it was. In that case the action of the right hon. Gentleman was quite wrong.
But he not only keeps out that sort of person. I have been trying to find out why certain people in India should not be allowed to come to attend a semi-religious conference in this country and in Holland. [HON. MEMBERS: "Semi-religious!"] Yes, semi-religious. If hon. Gentlemen do not understand the word, let them look at a dictionary. Some of them would not pass the naturalisation test for a knowledge of English. The point I am making is that it is not only the dangerous Reds, but people who happen to hold what are considered rather extraordinary views on religion who are excluded. They are not allowed to travel about. It seems to me perfectly montrous that that should be so. It is all part of the fear of new ideas, the fear that in some way or other there is running through their religion some insidious sort of theory which will upset the accepted order of things.
It is time that this sort of thing was stopped; it is time that we went back to the good old days when men like Mazzini and Kropotkin, who in their own country and even here talked very seditious stuff and wrote quite seditious pamphlets and books—we ought to go back to those days and allow absolute freedom of expression for any view which people may hold, however extreme it may sound to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. My view is that the more you allow people-to speak, the more you let them write, the more you allow them to have perfect freedom of expression the more safe the country is from any danger from their propaganda, because as my hon. Friend here said if a thing is true it will live whatever you may do. You may kill an individual, but you cannot kill an idea. The New Testament tells you that the word of God will live, and the word of the Devil will die. That is the attitude which I wish—
Before the hon. Member passes from this I would like to know what he is driving at when he refers to Indian religions? What Indian religions have I prevented from coming here?
Yes. It is all part of this theory that people are dangerous if they hold views with which you disagree. These people are said to be dangerous because they hold new views of life and the policy which the right hon. Gentleman represents of keeping out aliens. [HON. MEMBERS: "They are not aliens!"] They happen to be Indians, but they are a subject race, and they must not be allowed to get about without permission. I will give the right hon. Gentleman the correspondence which I have had in this connection, because it is part of the policy of the present Government to prevent the freedom of movement of certain people even within the Empire simply because they hold the ideas which they happen to hold. There are three other things to which I wish to refer. One is the question raised by my hon. Friend on this bench and the hon. and gallant Member for Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy). I want to know how long is it necessary for a man or a woman to live in this country before they can be naturalised? I have a case here of a man who has lived for 30 years in this country to my knowledge, and there Is nothing against him. He was told to advertise the fact that he had applied for naturalisation. When he did advertise he was informed that his application could not be further considered. I will give the right Hon. Gentleman the name and address of this man.
What I want to emphasise is, that if a man has been in this country for 30
years, you either ought to deport him as a person unworthy to remain here or you ought to allow him to be naturalised. It seems to me that you have no choice in the matter. I say further, in connection with aliens generally, that I often look round in this House, and occasionally outside I look at the names of people balloting for seats, and occasionally I look at the little book there, and I ask myself, "Where do we all come from?" How many of us could trace our genealogy right back and say where we come from? How many of you have any choice as to your parents? You talk about the British race as if you all had something to do with it. It is a mere accident that any of you were born here or anywhere else. I was wanting to throw on hon. Members the responsibility of being sensible enough to realise that nobody is responsible for where he is horn, or for who his parents are. I know-perfectly well that, from the highest to the lowest in the land, we have all come from a very mixed sort of race, and none of us are so pure blooded that we can claim to be absolutely British through and through. I defy any single Member of this House to produce the history of his house and to prove, whether he is one of the richest or the poorest, that there is not some of this foreign blood somewhere in him. As Tennyson says:
Saxon and Norman and Dane are we.
—Where did you get the Saxons from?—
Saxon and Norman and Dane are we,
—and so we are and a lot more too. Therefore, it is time that you gave up all this sort of Mother Hubbard talk of Britain for the British. Find the British. That is the problem for you. I want to see the time when you will mete out to all aliens the same kind of treatment. That brings me to the question: Who pays for the officer who trots up and' down before the residence of a gentleman called Duke Michael? Is he registered? Where is he registered? Is he doing anybody out of a job? It all appeared in the press the other day. I only want equality of treatment for all aliens. If you are going to deal with the pure communist you wart to deal with the pure white. If we are to have one set kept out I want to see all kept out. I am as much against the white Russian propaganda in this country as I would be against any sort of propaganda if I was against any at all.
[Laughter.] I mean if I were against anything in the nature of propaganda at all. I am sorry that I missed out a word. You take a little explaining to at this time of night.
The other point which I wish to raise is a perfectly simple one. I have been egged on to ask does the Duke Michael get police protection? I am told that he does. That is why I want to know about the policeman who is walking up and down outside his house. I would like to know a little more about him. Is he registered, because we have to see that everybody is respectable whether he has a title or not? Having to come up here for my sins pretty often I see huge crowds of police keeping back huge crowds of people, looking at weddings and other functions, and I always ask myself—who is paying for them and whose property is being left unprotected while the police are doing this sort of work? Is it not time to ask the people who have these functions to provide a special kind of police for their own special wants and to pay for them themselves? [HON. MEMBERS: "They do pay for them."] It would help the unemployment problem. You are hard up for some proposition to deal with the unemployed. Here is one of which I make you a present. You can take some of these unemployed, and organise them as a special police to look after you on your wedding and christening days, and at any other function at which you want protection.
I hope that the Home Secretary will pay attention to the request which we have made to him with regard to factory and other administration, and I hope that he will give up hunting and chasing and will leave these people to whom I have referred alone, and will remember that if the conditions of England are such that people can live without being dissatisfied with the conditions there will be no fear of revolution, and that if the Government ever do want to prevent revolution they will get rid of the causes that make for revolution.
Before I return to the perennial subject of Bolshevism, I should like to ask the Home Secretary if he will consider one question very far removed from any revolution or red peril. Perhaps I ought to have given him notice that I was going to raise it, and I will not press him for an answer this evening. I raise it in view of the local elections, which, I understand, come under his Department, and it is connected with the elections for rural district councils and parish councils. There is considerable confusion at present as to what happens if one individual is elected for two wards, and as to whether a vacancy in a rural district council immediately creates a by-election or whether another candidate can be co-opted to serve. This is a matter which is causing some confusion in some districts, and I think it is a point which may well be raised and which is worthy of his consideration.
I turn now for one moment to another subject which has inspired such discussion, namely, the question of Communistic agitation. I only ask the Committee to cast its mind back to last October and the publication of a remarkable letter when the late Prime Minister was in office. I know in my case it turned a large number of votes to me. As the letter was published when the Labour Government was in office, I cannot think that they will have any complaint to make when the Home Secretary takes strong action in dealing with the Communist menace in this country. I know from going about that there is nothing this Government can do to please the country on the whole more than the strong action which I hope is going to be taken after the strong speeches which have been made to deal with the enemies in our midst. I am not one of those who say that because a man votes Socialist he wants to cut my throat to-morrow morning. That is the most foolish policy the Conservative Party could pursue, to go about the country telling every man who votes Labour that he is a revolutionary. I do not agree with that and I do not believe it for a moment.
I have the honour to represent a constituency which has a rather large area which is very poor. In order to get to my constituency I go down every week through the East End. When one travels down and sees miles of poor streets, when one sees Employment Exchanges with men standing outside with nothing to do but prop up the wall with their backs, one cannot help feeling that here is a state of affairs which must inevitably be a very fertile breeding ground for dis- content. It is a thing which impresses me more every day that I see it. I am proud to say I have very many friends among the poorest of the poor. They are kind enough to do me the honour of coming to tell me their troubles and to ask me if I can help them, and I am absolutely lost in admiration at the patience of these people and the magnificent way in which they struggle against adversity. I say, quite frankly, that if I thought Socialism to be a remedy for that state of affairs, I would be a Socialist, but I am convinced that it is not, and that it would only make affaire much worse. [An HON. MEMBER: "You will alter!"] An hon. Member says I shall alter, but I cannot alter be cause one cannot get away from the teachings of history and fundamental truths. Socialism has never succeeded, and it has always resulted in lowering the standard. If we take the country as a whole the standard of living, except in certain black areas, is very much higher. One has only to study accounts of the conditions of the industrial areas a hundred years ago and compare them with the conditions to-day to see there has been a very remarkable improvement. The spirit that I should like to appeal for is the spirit we have heard expressed this afternoon in the mining Debate, when Members on the benches above the Gangway on this side appealed to the Secretary for Mines to urge the employers to see that proper Regulations were enforced and everything done to ensure the safety of the miners and in the same way that the miners should co-operate in order to make conditions better. I will say this, that where the employer asks more of the men, the men are absolutely entitled to ask for the most modern machinery and most up-to-date conditions. If we can get a state of affairs of co-operation and, at the same time, of individual liberty, I think we shall go a very long way towards stopping any Revolution in this country.
I want to raise a matter of some importance, which has been raised on similar occasions by questions to the Home Secretary, and that is, the small number of persons from Northern Ireland still detained in prisons in this country. We know they were arrested because of political crimes with political objects. That was a considerable time ago, and there is a very strong feeling among their fellow citizens in Southern Ireland who are, after all, members of the British Empire, that it would strengthen the spirit of growing good feeling between Southern Ireland and this country if an act of clemency could now be exercised by the Home Secretary and these men released. I make this appeal to the Home Secretary because I feel the time has come when there should be an inquiry as to their position and whether it is possible to release them.
On other matter I should like to raise is the case of a constituent of mine, which seems to me to raise a very important problem of principle. I raised it across the Floor of the House in the form of a question, but I got a most unsatisfactory reply. A young man employed in a factory at Watford went during the dinner hour into a newspaper shop quite innocently to buy a newspaper, and what was his surprise to find himself touched on the shoulder by a police officer in plain clothes. He was then taken into a back room and searched, but no incriminating documents were found on him, no betting slips, find nothing to associate him with anything irregular. Not only was he detained, but any chance person who happened to enter this newspaper office was also similarly searched, and even in cases where no incriminating papers were found on the men they were all taken off to the police station and detained there for over two hours, being driven through the streets of Watford in open cars in view of everybody, not only suffering great indignity but in most cases the loss of several hours of work and forfeiture of pay. When I addressed the Home Secretary on the matter, he took up the position that he had no responsibility, that it was entirely in the hands of the county constable, who had powers to search any man going into the shop, and he himself had no power to interfere. I put it to him, is it not a serious proposition that an innocent citizen going into a shop should be open to the suspicion of being there for betting purposes, liable to arrest without any evidence against the individual, who is kept from his employment and taken off to the police station?
I do think it is entirely against the spirit of our laws. It has been our pride and our boast that everybody is innocent until he is proved guilty, and that the individual is free from arrest. I do think it is a very serious statement for the Home Secretary to make, that ho is not responsible in the matter, and that the whole discretion of taking high-handed action of this kind must be left in the hands of a county constable. I am one of the first to realise the serious danger of the growing vice in question becoming general, and it is certainly one it is well to put clown, but, serious as it is, there is something far more important, and that is the liberty of the individual. We have to be very jealous in this House to protect our citizens from arbitrary arrest, and certainly, in such a case as that, of my constituent who happened to be in Watford on that particular day, and was arbitrarily arrested when going about his ordinary business, going to a factory as he was, and was caused great personal distress and inconvenience. I have taken advice on this matter, and I believe this man could have taken action for wrongful arrest, but how can you expect a working man to give up work to consult a solicitor and go to the expense and through all the paraphernalia of taking action against such a powerful machine as the Government? I do hope I shall get a satisfactory statement from the Home Secretary to satisfy people who have suffered great inconvenience and distress from this action.
I desire to bring to the notice of the Home Secretary one or two cases of complaints brought to me from my constituents. The first is that of a lad who was charged, with two other men, with felony, and all three were sentenced to three months' imprisonment. They served their term of imprisonment, and the two men were discharged about a fortnight ago. The lad, however, was detained for a fortnight after those two men had been discharged, although their terms were exactly the same. According to the report I received from the mother of this lad on Saturday night last, the lad was detained because it was thought he was a little bit wrong, and he was discharged from Wandsworth Prison and then sent off to a mental institution. She was told by the governor that if she wanted to find out any further particulars with regard to her son, she had to communicate with the doctor or superintendent of this institution. The mother complains most seriously about the lad having been detained a fortnight after the other two men had been discharged for the same offence. She communicated with the governor and her son at Wandsworth Prison, and got to know nothing at all as to why he was detained for a further fortnight, and why he should be sent off to a mental institution without her being consulted in any way whatever. She seems to think it is very high-handed action, and I certainly hope the Home Secretary will be able to give us some explanation.
I have also written to the Home Secretary with regard to complaints I had brought to my notice about the warrant officer from the Thames Police Court. I sent a letter, which I received from a woman constituent of mine, to the Home Secretary about this warrant officer going to her house and interfering with her after notice had been given that she had to quit her apartments at a certain time. I have numerous cases, as I said in the letter I sent to the Home Secretary, as to the attitude of this warrant officer in his work. I thought the Home Secretary would be able to judge better by the person's own letter than he would if he got the particulars from me. After the Home Secretary had had this letter in his charge for a month, I got a reply to say that he had had the matter inquired into, and the warrant officer used no undue efforts in connection with this matter. What we would like to know is, if a case to dispose of a tenant is taken to the Court by a landlord, and the magistrate gives the woman a fortnight or a month to get out of the place, what right has the warrant officer to go down four or five days before the time is up, to interrogate her and make all kinds of representations and threats as to what is going to happen two or three days before the time is up. I understand the warrant officer told this woman, although her time would not be up till Monday, she would be expected to have herself and her things out on the street on Saturday. I should like to know whether that is in accordance with the proper routine of a warrant officer.
I would also like to bring to the notice of the Home Secretary a case like that which the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) has mentioned. I have two or three cases in my side of the Division, but one particular case of naturalisation. This person has brought to my notice that he arrived in this country in 1891, and therefore he has been here 34 years. He has been in business for himself ever since 1911. He applied for naturalisation in 1914, and from 1914 up to now nothing definite has been told him as to whether he is to be naturalised or not. He sent along his sovereign in the usual way with the application, and it was kept. We understand that is in accordance with regulations, but it is very rice to be able to get these sovereigns sent along with an application for naturalisation, and the man is to be kept all this period not knowing why he is not receiving the naturalisation papers, or whether he is to have them or not. I shall be glad to give the Home Secretary the name of the person afterwards. It does seem very strange that applications of this description should be made, and inquiries and investigations made—the man has visited the Home Office with the deputy town clerk of our district, and has given further particulars which they required about six weeks ago—and from that time nothing has transpired as to whether he is to be naturalised or not.
I want to bring to the right hon. Gentleman's notice something which I think is doing a good deal of good, and that is that we have a number of horse-police parading up and down Commercial Road. It has a very great effect upon slow-going traffic in keeping it away from the tram-lines on to the near side. I travel about the main roads a good deal, and I think we ought to have a few more of these horse police. It would make a great deal of difference, especially in regard to slow traffic, if we could have more mounted police. They do a great deal of good where there are steam driven vehicles the drivers of which cannot hear the whistles or the horns of motors and get out of the way. The mounted police are rendering excellent service, and I should like to see the system extended. I desire to touch on the subject of night baking which was raised by the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck). I happen to have been in the baking trade in my very early days, but we had no night baking, and I do not think you will find the system prevailing to any extent in the country districts. There we knew how to rise early, and we were always able to have our baking finished at 8 o'clock in the morning, and to carry out the deliveries during the day. I think it is only in the cities that night baking is carried on to a great extent, and I think it could easily be abolished. We had the experience during the War of not having bread until it was 24 hours old. That was for the purpose of economy, but if we could manage to put up with that, surely most people can put up with bread which is six or eight hours old? It is only because a few people demand hot rolls for breakfast that pressure is brought to bear on the authorities to carry on night baking; but as one who has been in the trade, I should be glad if we could get away from the system for health's sake and carry out the Night Baking Convention.
I wish to thank the Committee for the very kind way in which these Estimates have been received. Hon. Members have occupied some two and a-quarter hours in putting various questions, but, with one or two exceptions, kindness has been shown towards the Home Secretary and the Home Office. Member after Member has spoken, not in regard of myself, but in regard to the Home Office, in the highest terms, referring to the work done by the inspectors of factories, by the police, and by the Prison Department, and of the wonderful way in which the gentlemen connected with these various Departments carry out their duties. I think it is agreed that they do their work in the manner we would expect from English civil servants. I am glad that, on the first occasion on which I have appeared here in support of these Estimates, the work of the Department should have received such a general testimonial. I I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for South Poplar (Mr. March), having made various complaints, refer to the increase of mounted police in the East End and mention that they are doing good work. It has been a great experiment in the direction of improving the management of traffic, and I believe it has been successful. I should like to see more mounted police, as indeed I might like to see more police of all kinds, but there is such a thing as economy, and I cannot ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer at this time for any increase in mounted police, which represent a rather expensive item in the police Vote. I am sure the hon. Member for Poplar did not know it is usual to send notice to me of difficult individual questions such as he raised, but it is quite impossible for me to deal with these individual cases without notice. I cannot carry in my mind all the thousand and one cases which come before the Department, but if he will let me- know the names of the cases to which he referred, I will inquire into them and communicate with him directly in regard to them.
The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Mr. Harris) raised a point that was raised before—I think he raised it—with regard to betting at Watford. The Act of Parliament provides that a magistrate must be satisfied on sworn information before he issues a warrant in regard to premises used or alleged to be used for betting purposes. I have no control over the magistrate. When he is satisfied that it is right to issue a warrant, he issues it on his own responsibility, and when he has issued that warrant the police of the district to which it refers have the right by law to arrest anybody found on the premises. I cannot give any further explanation than that. I am not personally responsible, either for the magistrate or for the Watford police. They are outside the Metropolitan police area, and the Chairman of the Committee ruled, earlier in the evening, that detailed cases in regard to the police force would be out of order. I can only deal on this subject with directions given to the police by myself, and I am bound to say that I gave no directions in this case, and, therefore, I am not responsible.
The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who opened the Debate, dealt with questions in regard to probation officers, stating that more were required. I entirely agree with Kim that more probation officers are required. I am strongly in favour of the probation system, and I have had the privilege of carrying through, as far as the Committee stage of this House, the Criminal Justice Bill, which deals largely with the recon- struction of the probation system. I hope it will be taken through its Report stage during the first week when Parliament meets after the Recess, and when that is carried, if the House does me the honour to carry it, and when it is carried by the other House, there will be a very large increase of probation officers, and all the good work which the hon. Member for Don Valley said has been done on a small scale will then, I hope, be done on a very much larger scale by the greater number of probation officers who will be appointed under the provisions of that Bill.
If I may, I would like to deal with the larger questions which have been raised by various hon. Members, and particularly by my Noble Friend the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) and by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who was the Under-Secretary for the Home Office in the late Government. My Noble Friend sometimes seems to think that he and I do not get on very well in political matters, but I should like to join in the tribute which has been paid to him by the other side for his interest in factory matters, and I should like to tell him that I do not in the least degree resent the pressure which he sometimes puts on me in the endeavour to get things done in connection with my office. He has very rightly complained of the lack in the numbers of the factory inspectors. I am with him all the time. I have said in this House, and I said only last week, in reply to a deputation, that I agree that I have not got enough factory inspectors. I would like to get more, and I hope I shall get more. The same complaint was made during the last Government, and the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary made the same answer, that considerations of economy, in the first place, prevented an increase in the number of factory inspectors.
I am bound to say that I think it is essential, that my experience and my inquiries of the factory inspectors themselves lead me to the conviction that they are over-worked, that they are working at very high pressure, indeed. I agree that the more factory inspectors there are, the more visits they can pay to the factories, the better, is the record of accidents. I can only say that, if the new Factory Bill is passed into law, the Bill which I hope to introduce before very long, further necessity will arise for a considerable increase in the inspectorate, and that that will be the time, I think, when a concerted scheme can be put before the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Treasury, to apply for an increase. In any case, I think it will be inevitable in the near future in regard to the factory inspectors.
The hon. Member has referred to the increase in accidents, and has suggested that some explanation might be offered. Curiously enough there was an improvement in the steel and electrical trade, amongst others, and in respect to some other trades which are doing well, with more men employed, and where trade is good and more work is being turned out. It is, I agree, very regrettable that there should be these increasing accidents, and if we could get more factory inspectors devoting more time, that increase in the number of accidents would go down again. We should, I think, find that there will not only be a decrease in the total number but a decrease in the fatal accidents. I have been able to get regulations with regard to docks, and substantial progress has already been made in regard fro Regulations for shipbuilding and operations in the building trade. These are two great businesses where those accidents do take place. The Dock Regulations are in the hands of the trade, and I hope, certainly, before the House meets again, that I shall be able to announce that these Regulations have been issued. These are the two trades in which there are a considerable number of accidents. If we can get the Dock Regulations to work, and further Regulations issued with respect to shipbuilding and building operations, I think we shall again go a long way in regard to these particular trades. Then the hon. Member for Westhoughton put a question to me with regard to dangerous buildings. Dangerous buildings are matters with which the local authorities are more concerned. But I have been in touch with the Minister of Health and it is now proposed, I think, to have a Clause inserted in the Public Health Bill giving additional powers to the local authorities. They are the people who at present deal with the Acts relating to dangerous buildings. If we can get further powers, of course subject to the sanction of this House, that will go some way in regard to the point put forward by my hon. Friend.
In regard to buildings in course of construction, I have prepared Draft Regulations. I hope very shortly to get an agreement with the trade, and then the Regulations will be issued—when, exactly, I do not know. I should like to say further that the factory inspectors as they go about do call the attention of the local authorities to any dangerous buildings which they may see in the course of their duties. I wonder whether the House will spare me one or two minutes in dealing with accidents: and may I be allowed to refer to the National Safety First Association, which they will find referred to in the Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories, on pages 24 onwards. I have the honour to be president of the association. If hon. Members will look at that report they will find that there is a decrease 'in accidents where the "Safety first" principles are put into operation in any of the factories. There is, it is pointed out, a remarkable decrease in accidents resulting in a decrease of cost to the employer by compensation. Where the effort has been successful in getting employer and employed to work together it has reduced the number of accidents. If the Committee will consider, apart altogether from the cost to the business, apart altogether from the pain and suffering to the working people, there is the personal and moral aspect of it. The efforts have been successful not only, as I say, in reducing the sum of human misery, but also in helping to reduce the very great cost to industry at the present time.
I have asked to deal with the question of lead poisoning. Most cases of lead poisoning occur in the manufacture of electric accumulators and in the work of ship-breaking. The manufacture of electric accumulators is one of the industries which has been booming, the increased work increases the possibility of lead poisoning, and it is fair to assume that, so long as those conditions continue, lead poisoning will increase in that industry. The subject has been under careful consideration by my Department, and I have issued new Regulations which, I hope, will have the effect of removing the dangers in that industry. One hon. Member made some observations with regard to the action of the War Office in regard to lead poisoning. Of course, I have no responsibility for the proceedings of the War Office in that matter, and my officials tell me we were not consulted about it, but it can be raised with the Secretary of State for War. The shipbreaking industry, also, is an industry which has been busy during the last year or two, owing to the large number of warships broken up, and in the ordinary course of things when there is much shipbreaking going on the cases of lead poisoning are likely to increase, and have undoubtedly increased during the past year or two. There are technical reasons which prevent our taking the usual preventive measures, such as clearing away the lead fumes from confined spaces by blasts of fresh air, because that precaution is not applicable to shipbreaking, which is performed in the open air. I am informed that the number of warships being broken up is now decreasing, and it is fair to assume that the cases of lead poisoning will diminish again. The amount of lead poisoning now is less than it was 10 years ago. I admit the number of cases has gone up in the last year or two, for the causes which I have mentioned, but the sum total to-day is less than in 1913-14, and I have every reason to hope that under the new regulations the number will become much lower than in 1913.
My noble Friend the Member for South Nottingham and the hon. Member for Westhoughton have referred to the subject of anthrax, a horrible disease, a disease which the Home Office would like to stamp out if it were possible to do so. But as the hon. Member for West houghton knows, that can only be accomplished through a Convention with foreign powers. The hon. Member himself headed the British delegation which went to Geneva last year to consider this question. He did his best to secure a unanimous Convention for dealing with disinfection of wool, which gives rise to anthrax poisoning, but there was opposition from two of our own Dominions, India and the Dominion of Australia. In any matter of this kind it is quite impossible for the Imperial Government to dictate to our great self-governing Dominions. It is desirable in the interests of humanity that a Convention should be arrived at, and that those two great Dominions should join in, bus at present they decline to do so. They have their own views on the matter, and it is quite impossible for the Imperial Government to attempt to dictate to them. A suggestion was made that I should call a conference of the Dominions in order to deal with this matter, but really that would be futile unless I knew that those Dominions were prepared to reconsider their decision. It would be almost insulting to ask them over here to a conference when I know beforehand what their views are on this question, and until those two important Dominions change their view it will be impossible for us to get very much further. If anyone wishes to have the full details, they will find them in the Report made by the hon. Member for Westhoughton to the International Labour Office last year when he tried his best to get the convention to agree with him, but found it impossible owing to the opposition of those Dominions.
I am doing something in regard to the safeguarding of the workers in hides and skins against anthrax. This disease affects mainly workers in wool and workers in hides and skins. Recently the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department received a deputation with respect to a disease which had broken out in a tannery at Northampton, and I want to do all we possibly can to get rid of this disease. To this end I have arranged a conference between the Home Office, the employers and the workers in this trade. In these matters the Home Office is purely a non-party organisation, and its object is to do what it can utterly irrespective of party politics for the good and welfare of the people. At this conference there will be employers and employed, and I hope something will be evolved which will enable me to make Regulations which will be agreed to by both employers and employed for at all events minimising the effects of anthrax in the case of the workers in hides and skins.
Now I come to a rather more debate-able question, that of night baking. This subject has been discussed by question and answer in this House more than once during the last few weeks. The hon. Member for Westhoughton tried to get the Convention at Geneva to agree to the views of the Labour Government on this question, but he could not get them to agree. He told them that, unless they could agree to certain amendments, this country could not agree to the Convention. We told the Convention again this year that we wanted certain amendments made in certain directions. It is quite true that we put before them reasons why we were not prepared to agree to the Convention straight away, but if the Convention had then and there said they would insert in the Convention the amendments the British Government asked for last year, then they would have been in a very much stronger position to come to us and ask for the ratification of the Convention. A further reason why we are not disposed to ratify the Convention is because of the inquiry made by a Commission which reported this year, and they reported that the abolition of night baking would increase the price of bread by at least a halfpenny on the quartern loaf. I am bound to say that the Government are not prepared to ratify the night baking proposal and certainly—
Certainly. I have not the least hesitation in saying that the British Government is responsible for its conduct of this country, and if the British Government comes to the conclusion that any Convention whatever, although it may be passed by the whole of the International Labour Organisation combined, is not suitable to the position of trade in this country, we certainly should not ratify it. Please do not let the Committee sail under any false misapprehension with regard to that. I take the fullest responsibility for advising the Government not to ratify this Convention, and we shall not, so far as we can help it, ratify it, at all events in its present form.
The hon. Gentleman also asked me about certifying surgeons in factories. He was himself chairman of the committee with regard to the medical examination of young persons in factories, and I think I am not betraying any very great secret when I say that the main part of the recommendations of that committee with regard to the examination of young persons and the position of certifying surgeons are embodied in my present draft of the Factory Bill. I think that will be a satisfactory answer on that point. With regard to boy scalers, what the hon. Gentleman said is perfectly true. The scaling of boilers is carried on by unfortunate boys who, as the hon. Gentleman told us, have to get through a small aperture 16 inches by 12 inches in a boiler. It is a filthy, dirty business. There is at present no control over them, and no welfare work amongst them, and their conditions are not such as any humane Minister would desire to see. The position, however, is, unfortunately, that I have no powers as Home Secretary to deal with them. The work is carried on in harbour and in wet docks, which at the present time are outside the purview of all the Factory Acts. Again, however, I am glad to be able to inform the hon. Gentleman—I am here, of course, trenching upon the subject of legislation—that improvements in regard to the position of these boys are embodied in the draft Factory Bill which I have in hand and which I hope to present to the House. When I do present it, there may be questions in regard to several points in it, but I am perfectly certain that any provision we may propose for the improvement of the position of these unfortunate boys will be unanimously carried by the whole House.
I should like, if I might, to sum up for a moment or two what we have done at the Home Office since the present Government came into office. Three new codes of Regulations relating to dangerous trades have been made. It is true that we have not passed the Factory Bill, but we have gone a long way towards it in various trade Regulations. There is the code with regard to electric accumulators, which are one of the main sources of lead poisoning. There is the code with regard to work in docks; and there is the code with regard to the weights that men, women and boys are to be allowed to carry in the woollen trade—a code, I may say, issued by me with the full sanction of the employers and employed in that great trade. It is not a bit of use either for me or for the House to attempt to embark upon legislation or Regulations that are in advance of public opinion. It is for the Home Office and for the Home Secretary to get the trade concerned to come together and agree as to what should be done. A new Order has been made regarding the notification of industrial diseases such as carbon bi-sulphide poisoning, chronic benzine poisoning, aniline poisoning, mule spinner's cancer, and moisture in cotton factories. A draft of dangerous trade Regulations has been issued dealing with shipbuilding, building operations, and grinding, a frequent cause of silichosis. Draft Regulations are about to be issued, or are under consideration, for vehicle painting and the painting of buildings. The Committee, will see that the Home Office, even under a Tory Government, has not been idle in doing its best to improve steadily the conditions of the workers of the country, quite irrespective of political questions. All we have tried to do is to get unity between employers and employed, and as soon as we can get it we shall put into effect Regulations which will deal perhaps with the bad employer who is not prepared to carry out voluntary arrangements. There is one small point raised by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Hull. T like to deal with all his points, because I know they are all serious. He complained of a cost of £136 for baronet's fees year by year. I think he will be satisfied to know that the receipts from baronet's fees come to over £400 a year, so that as the cost of keeping the list is only £136 there is a total profit of some £300 to the Exchequer.
Yes, but when the hon. and gallant Gentleman's turn comes to be created a baronet, he will realise that the fees for a very few baronets will not bring in a very great deal of money. Let me now deal with the question of aliens and naturalisation. I am not going to be led away into a whole disquisition on the subject of Bolshevism and Communism. I think the Committee will probably agree with me that, at the present juncture of industrial affairs, it would ill befit a Minister of the Crown to say anything which might not be conducive to peace in the coal trade or any other trade. I have been challenged, and it is very tempting to accept the challenge, but I forbear to-night. There will be other opportunities when the present crisis has passed by on which I can be challenged.
I am sure, although the hon. Member attacked me, he is always courteous, and I make no complaint of his attacks. The question of aliens is strictly within the purview of the Home Office Vote. Let me once more repeat the lines on which I have gone with regard to the admission of aliens. I have said in previous debates that, were this country not in the position it is today in regard to unemployment, much might be said for allowing it to be used, as it has been for many centuries, as a refuge for the distressed of other nations. There is no secret about my policy. Where we have 1,250,000 unemployed I am not prepared to allow any alien to come into the country to take a job which might by any possibility be taken by an Englishman. Really, if hon. Members would look at any case where I have refused admission to aliens, they will find that is the guiding principle. There are other reasons under the Act, but with regard to the ordinary alien at the present time, that is really the main rule I have carried out. My right hon. Friend: the Minister of Labour is equally concerned in it, because it is not really the Home Office that is involved. Any alien who desires to come here to undertake work can only do so if he gets a permit from the Minister of Labour, or he has to come under the purview of my officers. That will undoubtedly be carried out for, I fear, many years to come. So long as the condition of unemployment is as it is, I could not take any part in diminishing the restrictions now placed on the introduction of aliens. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Hull (Lieut.-Commander Kenworthy) referred to a speech I made this week in regard to aliens—men, women and children—who had been here 30 or 40 years, who came in when the door of England was open. We have obligations to them. I think it was the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) who suggested with regard to some of them that they should either be naturalised or deported. If I were to attempt to deport men who had been here 30 years, there is a very great difference indeed—
I am afraid if I took that view, there would be wholesale deportation. My view is that when they have been admitted by the policy of my predecessors, the policy of the open door, and have settled down, it is impossible for me to comb them out as long as they conform to the laws of the country. If they decline to do that or become criminals, if they are unfit or unuseful members of society, the House has given me the right to deport them. I do not deport them unnecessarily. Very rarely do I deport unless the man is convicted of crime. Even in those cases, I go through them very seriously. They are gone through first of all by my staff, then by my Parliamentary Under-Secretary, and then by myself before I sign. It is a very serious matter to turn a man out of the country in which perhaps he hopes to make his home. There, again, the guiding principle is the same. The interest of the country first, second, and last. With regard to naturalisation, I have been asked about two special cases, one put to me by the hon. and gallant Member for Hull. He told me the name. I have the papers. I think there must be a misunderstanding. The hon. Member said this man has been in the country for 30 years. The papers show that he has been 13 years only. It may be that the hon. and gallant Member is right, and that he has been 30 years, but the papers show he was married in Poland in 1901. At that time, quite naturally, that man was of Polish inclination. He sought his wife in Poland and went back to Poland and was married there. The distinction I make with regard to these matters of naturalisation is, first, Is the man really heart and soul a British subject? Has he made up his mind? If he has married an English wife, that goes a long way to convincing me his heart is in England. If he has married a Russian or Pole or German, that rather shows his connections. I find out a great deal more than the hon. and gallant Member may know. I find out what a man's connections are, what his relationships are, with Poland or Russia or Germany. If he keeps up connections there, showing that he is at heart still a member of his own nationality, that is a case where I think it would not be right for me to give him the very inestimable privilege of British citizenship. Then I have to consider various other things.
In vain is the net spread in the sight of the Home Secretary. I am not going to say what the reason is. If a man desires to be naturalised, and I find him at the present moment a burden on the State and in receipt of Poor Law relief, I do not say that he is a satisfactory kind of person to be naturalised. All these things have to be gone into by me or by the officers of my Department, and there are many reasons of that kind why it is not possible always to say to hon. Members opposite what the reason is. The House of Commons has given the Home Secretary duties and responsibilities. They are both very heavy indeed. If Parliament desires to defer all these questions of naturalisation to a Committee it would save me a great deal of trouble and would take a large load of responsibility off my shoulders, but when Parliament has placed the responsibility upon me, and has given me the duty of deciding in the interest of this country whether it is desirable to naturalise a man or not, you must do one of two things—either turn me out or trust me. If I once gave reasons I should have to give reasons for every single refusal and delay, the whole thing would have to be opened up in Parliament day by clay, and there would be no possibility of forming what I have to form—an opinion to the best of my ability, whether these men should, or should not be naturalised. I hope that the House will accept my statement. I have given it on previous occasions.
I assure hon. Members that I am not opposed to naturalisation. When a man, whoever he may be, shows signs of settling down in this country, of becoming in his business relations and connections a useful member of the community, and of bringing up his children here, then I say that, after a reasonable number of years, the sooner he is admitted to British citizenship the better. I am very glad that the question of anti-Semitism has not been raised. Religion has nothing whatever to do with it. Whether a man is a Churchman, a Nonconformist or a Jew makes no difference whatever in my settlement of this question. All that I desire to find out is whether a man will make a, desirable citizen, whether by his residence here, his affiliations here, and his conduct here, he has shown his desire to be a good citizen, and has convinced me that he is likely to make a reputable member of the community.
We now have a new crime for a man, and it is that 25 years ago he married a Polish girl. Because a man has had the wickedness to write to the relatives he has left behind, and has shown filial devotion, that is an added crime. [Interruption.]