Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £396,253, 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 1936, 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 Contributions towards the Expenses of Probation." [NOTE: £197,000 has been voted on account.]
On a point of Order. We should very much like your guidance, Captain Bourne, as to the proceedings this afternoon. You will see that we have put down three Home Office Votes on the Order Paper, and it will be remembered that on previous occasions we have had the right to deal with several subjects on the Home Office Vote that are deemed by some people not to be appropriate for the occasion. If I may say so, I think it would be better for our purposes to-day if we could cover a great deal of the ground, because it will be remembered that the Home Office covers a variety of subjects. It covers prisons, Borstal institutions, approved schools, police, aliens, factories, workmen's compensation, and legislation with regard to shops; and we should like your guidance as to how far we may deal with the subjects which the Home Office covers to-day.
I am, of course, in the hands of the Committee, but I think it would be for the general convenience of hon. Members if we took a discussion now on the three Votes which have been put down for to-day. Of course, it would not be extended to the other Votes. We will take a general discussion, though I do not think we ought to go into minute detail on the two Votes which do not at this moment happen to be before the Committee. As regards the general question of policy, however, I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if they discuss it on this first Vote.
It will be, perhaps, for the convenience of the Committee if I make a statement at the beginning, and I gladly avail myself, Captain Bourne, of the wider latitude which you have offered to me, though what I gain in width I shall hope to lose in length. In presenting the Home Office Estimates, I inevitably recall the circumstance that it is just 20 years since I discharged a similar duty for the first time; and perhaps the Committee will think it pardonable, and may even find it interesting and useful, if I begin with a few words of contrast and comparison which this interval suggests.
Of course, 20 years ago, we were at war. Indeed, if I may be forgiven a personal reminiscence, the day on which I first became Home Secretary was the day on which the first Zeppelin visited London. Though much of the routine work of the Home Office went on under those difficult conditions, still public attention then was largely concentrated, as regards the Department, on its special activities in relation to suspected aliens, internment, hostile propaganda, and other special war topics. We were then living under the rule of that fruitful mother of an endless progeny of regulations, the Defence of the Realm Act. All that is now, I hope, the story of "old, unhappy, far off things," and I venture to express the hope that during my second incumbency of the Home Office we may address ourselves in the Department to the administration of the arts of peace.
May I say, in passing, that it is a mistake to suppose, as is sometimes suggested, that there are any remains left of the lady called "Dora"? She was buried long ago, I trust without hope of resurrection, and those Regulations which are sometimes complained of to-day as though they were extensions of her Regulations—such, for example, as the provisions in our licensing code, or in our Shops Acts, for fixing the hours of closing—are not the surviving efforts of D.O.R.A.; they are deliberate provisions of Parliament, which are the subject-matter of ordinary legislation, and, of course, are quite properly' subjects for discussion when we discuss legislation in this House.
If I put aside the contrast between war and peace activities, which is obvious enough, the thing that has struck me very much on coming back to the Home Office is the great development of Home Office work in this interval of 20 years; and especially is this the case in the branch of effort which is directed, not to the punishment of crime, but to the prevention of the conditions which encourage crime, and to the regulation and control which is designed to limit the temptations which are most likely to provide the breeding ground for crime and so to weaken the national morale. The conception which I have, and which I think has prevailed during the administration of many successive Home Secretaries, belonging to the party opposite as well as on this side, is that social services are not limited to assisting classes of the unfortunate and bringing the resources of the community to the help of sections of the population that are in special need of help—the aged, the sick, the widows, the mentally deficient, the out-of-work; but that the social services ought to cover plans of administration, duly authorised by Parliament, which protect the citizen, and especially the growing citizen, as far as may be, from risks against which individual activity cannot guard; and in that sense I think the Home Office is one of the great Departments which is really concerned with social services.
Let me give one or two examples. Before 1920, there was no control over dangerous drugs in this country, except such as applied to poisons generally. Now, since the passing of the Dangerous Drugs Act, 1920, and subsequent amending Acts, control is exercised over certain specified drugs and preparations. Every person dealing in them has to be licensed for the purpose, the premises of all licence-holders are regularly inspected and the stocks of drugs and the books and records relating to them are examined and checked. Under the international drug conventions, the manufacture of these drugs is limited to the legitimate needs of the country for domestic purposes and for export, and detailed estimates of the requirements of each country have to be forwarded and detailed statistics of manufacture and consumption furnished to the League of Nations. All that has been a development of the last few years. Take another case. Prior to 1920, apart from war time legislation, there was very little control over the manufacture, the possession or the use of firearms. To-day, with certain exceptions, a person may not possess or use or carry a firearm—which for this purpose does not include a shotgun—unless he is in possession of a certificate issued by the police, and the manufacture and sale of firearms can only be carried on by a registered firearms dealer. The system of control is administered by chief officers of police acting under the advice and guidance of the Home Office.
But the principal direction in which State protection and care, from the point of view of preventing temptations to crime and improving opportunities for decent citizenship has been developed under this Department in recent years is in connection with the vastly enlarged attention given to the problem of children and young persons. A start had been made in the Children Act of 1908, at a time when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) was Under-Secretary at the Home Office, but the passing of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, has so greatly extended the provisions of the Children's Charter for the protection and care of children and young persons that the responsibilities of the Children's Branch at the Home Office are now very greatly enlarged. Here is a very curious fact as to juvenile crime. During the Great War there was a considerable increase in the amount of juvenile delinquency, but the figures fell off to a marked degree after the Armistice, and it was at one time hoped and supposed that the decrease in juvenile crime would go on and that the figures would get smaller and smaller. That hope has not been realised, and, whatever the cause may be—this is a very serious matter for the Committee as a whole to consider—during the last five or six years there has been a very substantial increase in the number of offences committed by young persons. Explanations of all sorts might be offered, but that is the fact. Much the commonest offence is thieving, and it has been very much on the increase. Often it is petty thieving. It is true that in these elaborate statistics you read about cases of "breaking-in." I have looked into some of them. Very often it merely means that a boy or a couple of boys have opened the door of a shop, got inside, and helped themselves to something from the till. But it is not the extreme gravity of the crime in itself, it is the frequency of this kind of crime among young people which has had a very serious effect.
This increase of juvenile offences, which everyone is doing his very best to tackle, emphasises the importance of the juvenile courts. Unless these young people are wisely dealt with at the beginning in the most effective way, the results in later years may be disastrous, and the juvenile court is really the first line of defence against crime. If we can make the juvenile courts successful for their purpose, it will have an immense effect on the whole criminal problem of the future. It is now possible—this is perhaps the first year when it has been possible—to form some judgment as to the effect of the revision of the juvenile court system by the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933. That Act gave sanction to a legislative experience of some 25 years after full investigation by a most competent Committee. The Act has now been in force for 18 months or thereabouts and, from information which reaches the Home Office, it appears to be beyond all doubt that the new provisions are working well and the general result has been most valuable.
I think it might be useful to mention one or two points in which the new Act has greatly improved the previous system. The first of these is that the whole system of juvenile courts has been strengthened, especially by the provisions which require the special selection of justices to sit in the courts. Magistrates may have the most excellent magisterial qualities, but they are not all necessarily the best persons for this work. It is a very great thing to build up a good tradition of members of the bench who are accustomed to have juvenile cases before them and magistrates with interest in and knowledge of the special problems of youth have been attracted to this work. I have had in the few weeks since I have assumed my present office a number of communications from magistrates who specially wish to apply themselves to this kind of work.
Not less important is the requirement in the Act that, wherever possible, a woman justice of the peace should be present on the Juvenile Court bench, and experience has shown quite clearly what a valuable contribution women can give. Again, there has been devised a special and simplified procedure. Not only do you want to avoid putting children needlessly through an elaborate procedure, but there are many purposes for which, when you are dealing with juveniles and have no intention of sending them to prison, it is desirable that you should have reports which may be helpful, though not strictly admissible according to the narrow laws of evidence—reports from an education committee for example—and a special and simplified procedure has been provided which seems to work well and undoubtedly facilitates effective administration. I mentioned education authorities just now. Before the Act of 1933 there was some co-operation between education authorities and juvenile courts, but it was very far from being general. Under the new Act local education authorities were given specific responsibilities in making inquiries about juveniles coming before the courts and presenting information. I looked into a case in detail the other day, and I was very much struck with the great care and elaboration with which the local education authority supplied the juvenile court with all the information they could about the child who was before them.
The directors of education have shown a keen desire to give the fullest effect to the provisions of the new Act, and the results have been most marked. An influence is also being felt in the provision of better remand homes where children and young persons whom it is necessary to remand in custody are sent. It is a very important point, when a child has to be brought up on a second day, that he should be kept in a place suitable for the purpose. The co-operation of the education authorities is given in many other directions, in after-care, in the finding of employment and, a most important matter, in the boarding out of younger children, which is a most valuable method for dealing with boys and girls who would not respond so well to the training given in a residential school.
The Children and Young Persons Act not only dealt with young offenders, but also greatly strengthened the law for dealing with the neglected child by means of what are called the care and protection Sections of the Act. Long experience has shown a close connection between neglect and juvenile crime and, if the problem of neglect could be adequately tackled, the amount of juvenile delinquency would certainly be diminished. One of the merits of the new Act is to draw the attention of the education authorities to this aspect of the problem, with which they are now beginning to deal much more vigorously. I do not intend to make any observations about approved schools, as I am not sure that these come within the three Votes which you, Captain Bourne, were good enough to let us regard as our general topic, but there is very interesting material on the proper occasion to put before the Committee on that subject.
I should like to say a word or two about the probation system which, of course, is not limited to young persons, although it is chiefly used in their case. The probation system, by which an offender can be supervised without being removed from his surroundings, is a most valuable one both for juveniles and adults. In its statutory form the probation system dates from the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, but we had an inquiry by a committee in 1922, and the opportunity was taken to extend and improve the organisation, and there is a great improvement. For some years the Home Office, which is responsible for the general supervision of the probation system and keeps in close touch with it, has realised that further steps are required if the system is to become the valuable instrument for preventing crime which it ought to be. The increased use of probation and the tendency to give the probation officers many other duties has brought about a situation in which many of them have too much to do and are overworked. These defects certainly exist in some parts of the country, and I am told that there is also evidence of the need to attract to this service in some places more highly qualified and more highly trained candidates. For these reasons a Departmental Committee was appointed at the end of last year to inquire into the whole organisation of the probation system, and this Committee has been holding regular meetings and taking evidence from many witnesses, and it is hoped that its report may be issued before the end of the present year. It is also hoped that the recommendations which this Committee make will enable the probation system to be substantially strengthened.
I have presumed to detain the Committee with this little review, because I feel so deeply, as I know many hon. Members here feel, that the real function of a department which is specially charged with supervising and endeavouring to repress criminal tendencies is not to send offenders to prison, but to find some way by which you can improve their character and give them a new outlet and a new start in life, and I believe that by the co-operation of all parties in the last few years a very great advance has been made in this direction on which much will depend on preserving the sustaining strength of House of Commons interest and support.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the frequency of juvenile crime. I wonder if he has any information to enable him to come to right conclusions as to whether the increased frequency of crime is attributable to those who are unemployed or whether it applies also to children of secondary school age; and is that information a substantial foundation for the allegation?
I did make an inquiry on that point, because it appears to me that, in the years when there has been much unemployment, it may provide a partial explanation, but if I understand rightly the indications are that the increase is rather widespread. I doubt whether it is wholly attributable to one set of people and to one set of experience. One must allow for the fact that young people in these days are either allowed, or give themselves, much greater liberties than formerly, and possibly that accounts for secondary school children as well as others.
I must say a few words about the prisons. The most beneficent prison reform in our generation has been a reduction in the number of persons sent to prison. Perhaps the Committee will be interested in a figure or two. In 1933 the daily average population of the prisons (which include Borstal institutions), was 12,986. In 1934 it was 12,238. The figures taken out for the last two months show that the average daily population has remained slightly above or below 11,000, and included in those 11,000 are 700 women. There is one further detail in that figure which I should like to mention. Included in the 11,000 daily average population inside the prisons there are 500 persons in prison for nonpayment of moneys under affiliation and wife maintenance orders, 120 for nonpayment of rates, and about 500 in default of payment of fines. I would ask the Members of the Committee to remember these figures not for any purpose to-day, but because I hope that an opportunity may come very soon when we may co-operate to make some change in that regard.
As regards the Borstal institutions for boys, there are now seven. I think that it was on 31st May that the first party of Borstal lads arrived at the new Borstal institution—North Sea Camp they call it—at Freiston on the coast of Lincolnshire, and these young persons are at present engaged on the completion of a hutted camp. It is proposed ultimately that the majority of youths at this institution shall be employed in the reclamation of the extensive salt marshes along this coast, a piece of public work which I suppose will be universally welcomed.
It has been felt for some time that there was cause for the addition of a woman to the headquarter staff of the Prison Commission, and the post of Woman Assistant Commissioner has now been created. Miss Lilian Barker, who has for many years been the Governor at the Borstal Institution for girls at Aylesbury, took up her duties as Assistant Commissioner on 1st July.
Another very perplexing prison problem is the employment of prisoners, and I wish to mention with gratitude that this has recently been the subject of an exhaustive inquiry by a Departmental Committee under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow (Sir I. Salmon). Following the report of that Committee, it was decided to strengthen the staff of the Prison Commission by the appointment of a Director of Industries specially charged with the supervision and development of prison employment, and the new director has now taken up his duties. Concurrently with the fall of the prison population there has been, fortunately, a considerable increase in the volume of work suitable for prison labour provided by Government Departments, and a good deal has been done to make the labouring occupation inside prisons more of a reality, and as part of this reorganisation the system of wages paid to prisoners introduced some years ago at Wakefield has been extended to Maidstone and to most of the boys' Borstal Institutions. The effect is to give the prisoner when he is discharged something which he feels that he has earned while he has been in prison. At the same time, steps are being taken as soon as possible to bring the hours during which prisoners work in prisons up to eight hours a day. There is one more associated fact. We are all grateful for the good work done by the Prisoners' Aid Societies, but the report of the Departmental Committee to which I have just referred contains proposals for the reorganisation of the work of the Prisoners' Aid Societies. Their recommendations on this important subject are receiving attention.
Let me say a few words about the police. In no Department of work for which the Home Secretary is responsible is the spirit of reform more obviously at work than in New Scotland Yard. I do not think that our citizens appreciate the fact that we have in this country a distribution of responsibility for the police which is unique. It is derived on the one hand from the strong attachment to local self-government, which is so characteristic of British administration, combined with a centralised Metropolitan Force, due to the statesmanship of Sir Robert Peel. The idea that many people have that the Home Secretary is answerable for the police all over the country is, of course, an error. The Home Secretary is quite unlike a Minister of the Interior in many Continental countries. In this country he has direct responsibility for the Metropolitan Police, operating, broadly speaking, within a, radius of 15 miles from Charing Cross.
The relation of the Home Office with provincial and county police forces is of a much more indirect kind and is chiefly derived from the fact that the efficiency of those forces is a condition upon which half of their expense is met from central funds. The Home Office inspector examines the provincial police forces and the Home Secretary makes regulations which have to do with pay, pensions and other matters, but his direct responsibility is limited to the police area around London. The local police forces are separately organised and separately controlled and stand in a, different position. There is a great deal historically to justify that. It is entirely in accord with our old English principles of local government, but if carried to extremes it may lead to some awkward consequences. The Committee might consider these figures. There are 180 separate police forces in England and Wales.
I hope my right hon. and gallant Friend will not think that I am seeking to alter that. Of these separate police forces, 41 have an establishment of less than 50 men, and one has an establishment of only 11 men. I should be the very last to seek to break down systems of local government, because they are quite invaluable in our public life. Although it is no part of the Government's policy to move towards the institution of a national police force in this country—I should be wholly and completely opposed to anything of the kind—yet it is necessary to get co-operation between our police forces for many purposes. Ease of transport and modern scientific knowledge of crime and criminals tend to make small areas which operate as self-contained units rather artificial to-day. Many of these local police forces if they have difficult cases turn, as they are entitled to turn, to New Scotland Yard, which, with its marvellous collection of finger prints and its great experience, can give all sorts of skilled help to the local police forces. I merely make the observation that I think it is very desirable, while observing local independence to the uttermost, that we, should consider what system of better co-operation might possibly be devised so that the whole service of our forces of police may be made available for the benefit of the public.
Turning to the Metropolitan Police, I want to call attention to one or two very interesting things. The Metropolitan Force is in round numbers 20,000 men operating within a radius of 15 miles of Charing Cross. That is the Home Secretary's responsibility. Nothing has interested me more on my return to the office that I previously held than to study afresh the Metropolitan Police problem. Here I must be allowed to pay the tribute which is due to the Commissioner, Lord Trenchard. He was appointed in November, 1931, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen, and the improvements and drastic reforms which he has carried out were warmly supported by my right hon. Friend and predecessor the Member for the Pollok Division of Glasgow (Sir J. Gilmour). No one can study impartially from the inside what is being accomplished without a profound sense of admiration for the imagination and energy and the practical good sense of the Commissioner.
The Police College at Hendon, which was started in May of last year, will be passing out its first batch in a few weeks time. These young men, some of whom have come from the ranks, will now go through a further period of practical training in the rank of junior station inspector. They will constitute the first contingent of the new elements which the scheme has designed to incorporate in our police system. This great scheme has, I am sure, been carried out without any sort of injury to the old and the great traditions of the Metropolitan Police. In Hyde Park next Saturday, when His Majesty will review the police forces of the United Kingdom, I feel sure that the British public will have reason to feel proud of this display by members of our civilian forces who have made for the British policeman a reputation for coolness, courtesy and good temper which makes him an object of particular interest and indeed of adoration to every foreign visitor who comes to our shores.
Let us consider for a few minutes how the main function of the police, that of the prevention and detection of crime, is being carried out. We may classify crime as crime which is preventable and crime which is detectable. In modern conditions it is very difficult to be sure that you will stop the crimes before they occur. Let me give an instance which is of practical importance to London. The greatly increasing use of large blocks of flats and the extent to which people are giving up living in separate houses is making house-breaking much easier, because the police force is no longer able to surround the unit that is being broken into. In a great block of flats, with its numerous staircases and floors, the police have no means of knowing who is living in any part of the nest of dwellings. Therefore, that particular kind of crime is difficult to prevent. As regards detectable crime, that is, crime which you ought to do your very best to find out and to prevent anybody concerned from getting away, with a, view of discouraging others to do the like thing, other considerations arise. In some cases the criminal, the man who gives his mind to it, is a very scientific person. There is a flood of detective novels and crime books which expatiate on the amazing scientific ingenuity of the Moriartys of crime, while the ordinary policeman is sometimes depicted as the slow-witted victim, unless indeed he is fortunately assisted by the super-human sagacity of some amateur detective. But the criminal is not always so clever or the policeman always so stupid as the story-writers suppose.
A great deal has been done in recent years—I have consulted the Commissioner and he has no objection to my stating this—to enlist science on the side of crime fighting. In the old days it was the lonely policeman on his lonely beat. His business was to walk according to a particular prescribed track and make contact with his superior at particular moments at particular points, and then to do it again. He was lonely in the sense that he was quite outside the machine which was engaged in trying to check crime. All that has completely changed. In the old days when he saw something suspicious in a house which he knew had been shut up because the people were on holidays, or heard something suspicious, he was in great difficulty as to what to do. If he went to his own police station it might be half-a-mile away, and he was leaving his post of duty. If he blew his whistle, it was doubtful who would hear it. If he knocked at the door, someone who should not be there might escape. There was a considerable divorce between the ordinary services of the policeman on the beat and that part of the police machine which was engaged in trying to check crime.
That is all changed. What happens today is this. Anyone who goes to New Scotland Yard must be extremely interested in what is called the Information Bureau in the wireless room. The policeman on the beat goes at once to the nearest telephone and telephones, not to his station superior or local officer, but straight into Scotland Yard, right into the central brain of the whole institution. He makes his report there. The authorities there, who have before them a great map showing all the moving police cars in London, are able to communicate by wireless with whichever police car they select, and they can secure that the police cars will surround the point to be investigated within a minute or two. They are, in fact, by these methods steadily reducing the extent to which certain crimes can be pursued with immunity. I am not going to say that the problem has been solved, but the effect of all this is extremely important on crimes like stealing motor cars, on which everything depends on letting the police know immediately the particular place where the motor car has been stolen so that they can make a ring round it. The same thing happens in cases of smash and grab.
These modern scientific police methods are being developed in our own capital to a very remarkable extent indeed. It has been carried to the length, that detailed maps of London which show where particular kinds of offences have been committed have been prepared. They are not only interesting as records, but they have a direct bearing on police activity in the future; there are curious conclusions which can be reached. There are particular districts in London which are far more exposed to burglaries than others, and one of the causes which may affect it, may be the easier transport. The starting of a new motor omnibus service, which will give the burglar who does not want to be seen walking facilities for getting away, will give this particular area greater attractions for him. All this is being constantly studied as a problem inside Scotland Yard, and the police are encouraged to go and see. The keenness which is being developed is most remarkable, and we owe a great deal to the Commissioner for the energy with which these problems have been tackled. I hope I may be allowed to add that on the retirement of Lord Trenchard that we welcome his successor Sir Philip Game, who has shown his high qualities of resolution and judgment in many spheres and who I am sure will carry on with sympathy and energy the programme of police reform which is now bearing good fruit.
I should not like to improvise a precise ruling, nor have I the authority, but, broadly speaking, the police in such cases would go to the house and knock for the purpose of getting an answer. The police would not go away. In these matters we must act with common sense. The Englishman's house is his castle, and nobody is entitled to push his way in, whether he wears a police uniform or not, without cause, but, on the other hand, we are sensible folk, and I do not suppose that anyone will suggest that the law prevents a man, policeman or otherwise, pushing his way into a house when it is perfectly obvious that a crime is being committed.
Let me say one word about factories. One of the reports issued by the Home Office which attracts special attention in the House and is usually discussed in the Debate on the Home Office Vote is the annual report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. I do not wish to anticipate the discussion which no doubt will take place to-day, but I should like to mention three or four interesting features in the report for 1934. There is a remarkably striking passage in the introduction as to the excessive number of accidents among juveniles, though happily the fatality rate is low. The Chief Inspector gives some most disturbing figures, and the excess of accidents among young persons appears to be general throughout the whole of industry. He points out that the true solution lies, as in so many other instances, in the good will and voluntary efforts of employers and others, and he gives various hints as to the steps which might usefully be taken, more particularly in the better training and supervision of boys and girls in the early days of their employment. It is evidently a matter of the very greatest importance, and one which I hope will receive the special attention of all concerned. I have sent a letter to the National Confederation of Employers' Organisations specifically inviting them to look into this question with a view to a conference with the Department in the early autumn.
Another interesting feature is the way in which the report of the Chief Inspector illustrates the fact that since the War the work of the factory department has developed in new directions, such as giving technical advice to employers and others, securing safety measures by conferences, co-operation with trade union organisations, and encouragement of the safety first movement. That is all to the good. I have in mind particularly such passages as those on pages 21 and 22 relating to conferences and pages 41 to 46 as to safety organisations and the chapter on the Home Office Industrial Museum. I will not detain the Committee by saying more about that. I have endeavoured to dwell upon three or four out of many important topics. I think it is better that the discussion should be begun by a general statement, however imperfect, and I need not say that my hon. and gallant Friend and I are anxious to hear the contributions of other Members of the Committee.
I will say this in conclusion. The Home Office is, I suppose, the Department in the State which is most frequently occupied with giving a detailed executive decision which affects an individual. It has, of course, great functions in administering codes such as the Factory Acts, but the thing which distinguishes the Home Office from most other Departments of State is that the decision which issues from the exercise of the discretion which has continually to be applied by the executive, is addressed to an individual case, such as whether a particular person should be naturalised, or whether a person should be expelled or reprieved, all of which involves a vast amount of consideration. No one who has had experience of the office can fail to be most grateful for the devotion and care of the officials of this great Department, but it is quite impossible that a great office like that should continually issue its decisions without raising questions now and then as to whether a decision is wise or justified.
What are the precautions which we have in this free country against the abuse of those great powers? So far as there is any action beyond the law, I am glad to think in a very real sense the Courts are open to everyone. We have not got a system in this country, and I hope we never shall have, in which we attempt to give, over the whole range of administration, special protection to the officers acting in the name of the executive—an utterly unsound principle, and I, for one, would oppose the whole idea, which is quite contrary to our long tradition. But, of course, there is an immense range of things, not illegal, but which none the less may be doubtful or unwise exercise of the executive functions. What is the protection there? We have a protection in this country greater than in any other country in the world. This is the only country in the world where detailed action of the minister of the interior in his discretion may receive the challenge of the House of Commons and the criticism of his fellow Members of Parliament. Let us preserve it. You cannot expect that decisions will always be right. Indeed, there are cases—I have often come across them—when it seems impossible to decide which is right. But that we should preserve a free Parliament in which we may challenge one another as to the propriety of decisions, and accept the arguments in good temper, is the key to the liberty which we all desire. It is in that spirit that the work of this great Department should be administered, with equal regard to the claims of public order and private right.
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I am sure the Committee will have been very interested in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. He started off by saying that many things have happened in the Home Office since he occupied the position 20 years ago. I hope he will not be offended if I say that many things have happened to him personally too in the same interval, because my imagination forms a picture of the right hon. Gentleman sitting there accompanied by the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). He has changed his company in 20 years, but I am not so sure that he is very much happier for it.
The right hon. Gentleman covered a great deal of ground, but he missed one thing with which I shall hope to deal later in the course of my remarks, and that is the issue of the circular to local authorities in connection with precautions against attack from the air. Coming back to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, I would like to dwell on some of the points he made. He was not quite sure as to whether the increase in juvenile crime comes about because of unemployment, and, quite frankly, it might be difficult to arrive at that general conclusion. Some of the reports of the chief constables of our large cities, however, are very definite in stating that a great deal of juvenile crime occurs because of unemployment. It seems to me, although this is not the occasion to dwell upon it, that it would be much better for this nation to keep children in school until they get a job rather than allow them to roam about and misconduct themselves in that way. The right hon. Gentleman prided himself, and rightly so, that we are becoming a better behaved nation. Of course we are, in spite of the present Government. It has always occurred to me that one set of statistics warrants the saying that we are getting better in our behaviour, and that is that the number of murders in this country has remained stationary while the population has doubled. That, I think, is a very good indication of the manner in which our people behave.
Before coming to the main arguments which I want to put to the right hon. Gentleman, I would ask him to look into the problem of whipping boys by the order of the court. I believe that the Home Office have already sent out a circular to the magistracy discouraging them from giving such orders. I would like the Home Office to continue to discourage the whipping of boys by order of the court. It has always occurred to me that there is a vast difference between a parent or a schoolmaster whipping a boy and the huge hefty police officer doing it by order of the court. I would, therefore, urge the right hon. Gentleman to continue the good work in that connection. I do not know whether I would offend anybody if I said a word or two about the appointment of women magistrates. I am convinced of one thing, after sitting for a long time on the committee inquiring into the treatment of juvenile offenders, namely, that it is not the sex that determines whether the magistrate is merciful or not. It is the type of magistrate, whether man or woman. I am sure that I am right there, because I have seen cases where even women magistrates have ordered boys to be whipped when they know that the law prevents girls from being treated similarly. That is not to say that more women should not be on the bench provided the right type is appointed. I am pleading therefore for the appointment of the right type of men and women. With regard to the experiment carried on by Borstal boys in reclaiming land, I almost thought the Government had at last accepted part of the New Deal of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, and it seems to me that if Borstal boys can reclaim land, surely unemployed boys should also be engaged in that task.
I come now to my main theme, and will make no apology for returning once more to one of the most important documents ever issued from a Government Department. It never gets the attention it deserves either from Parliament or from the community. I refer to the annual report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops. There are about 5,000,000 people employed in factories and workshops. Inspection is carried on by the Home Office for the whole country and very serious accidents occur there. It has amazed me on more than one occasion that that document does not receive very much more attention than it gets. I propose to-day to try to lift it from the obscurity which it has occupied for so many years when so very few people are paying attention to it. There are in this country 162,922 factories and 83,110 workshops, and I say at once that I am satisfied that were it not for the factory inspectorate, the unscrupulous employer in this country would have run amok long ago. I want therefore to pay tribute to the inspectorate for the efficient way in which they are doing their work. I do not, however, think there is a sufficient number of them, as I shall point out later.
A strange thing is happening in this country. There was an increase of 2,737 factories and a decrease of 3,741 workshops aver the previous year. This goes to show that the old-fashioned workshop is gradually being discarded in favour of the modern factory. I thought quite sincerely that with the discarding of the old-fashioned workshop in favour of the modern factory accidents would decline, and that the workpeople would be less open to injury consequent upon new inventions and modern buildings. The reverse, however, is the case. After reading this book from cover to cover, I say that this is the saddest report of the Chief Inspector of Factories that has been issued since I have been in Parliament over 14 years. It is a very gloomy document, indeed. I am not going to apportion blame this afternoon, except that I do say once again that the factory inspectorate ought to be increased in number proportionately to the increase in the number of workpeople they try to protect. There were six vacancies for class 2 inspectors at the end of the year, and one vacancy for an inspector of textile particulars, and we would like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman intends to fill those vacancies.
I want to repeat a criticism I made last year. This is a Government Department report, and should be immune from any political bias. I am not going to say that this report falls into that category entirely, but it tends to glorify the building of new factories and the establishment of new industrial areas in the south, without at the same time informing us of the devastating effects of the industrial depression in other parts of the country. Any person from a foreign country reading this report could hardly imagine that there is anything wrong anywhere. We are told that new factories are cropping up and old factories are being renovated, and are being made use of on all hands. I represent a constituency in Lancashire, and that sort of report has no meaning whatsoever in so far as the district I represent is concerned. But it is interesting nevertheless to know that during the last seven years new factories in and around London have attracted more than 500,000 persons, many of them, of course, from depressed areas. This, we are told, represents an increase of 20 per cent. in insured workers in the South-East of England. The main purpose of factory inspection is naturally the prevention of accidents and the administration of legislation safeguarding the interests of the workpeople.
Now I come to the worse feature of this document, and I repeat that it is a very sad report, as hon. Members will see when I give the figures. The accidents reported to the Home Office increased from 113,260 in 1933 to 136,858 in 1934. That is roughly an increase of 23,600 in the number of reported accidents in the year. When we come to fatal accidents we come to a more tragic figure. We find that over the same period there was an increase of fatal accidents from 688 to 785, an increase of nearly 100 during the year. That is probably the biggest increase that has ever been recorded in the history of factory inspection. Of course, we are very much alarmed at it. The explanation given is that more people are employed in industry. I have tried to work it out, and I find that the percentage increase of reported accidents is far higher than the percentage increase in the number of workpeople employed. Consequently, it is no argument to say that these accidents have increased consequent upon increased activity in industry as a whole. There has not been a sufficient increase in the industrial activities of this country to warrant this terrible increase in the number of accidents.
I have been making a comparison with accidents in other spheres of industrial life. Take coal mining. The total number of coal miners is about 750,000. The fatal accidents in mines last year were 1,073, and the non-fatal 132,859. None of us expects that the accident rate in factories will equal the rate in coal mines, and I only give the figures by way of rough comparison. Here I would make an appeal to the Home Office. I notice that in the Report of the Mines Department we get a statistical table giving the number of accidents on a percentage basis, showing the number of accidents to the number of people employed. I wish we could have the statistics of all Government Departments on the same basis, so that we could compare one with the other. The Mines Department give the accidents per man-shift too, and in some cases the accident rate per ton of coal produced as well.
Let me turn now to industrial diseases. In this respect, too, the Report shows a serious state of affairs. In the vast majority of cases of industrial diseases in this country the situation is getting worse. Here are some figures: There is an increase over the previous year of 30 new cases of lead poisoning, and an increase of six deaths from the same cause. Even in the painting of buildings there is an increase in lead poisoning, both as to new cases and the number of deaths, and that in spite of the passing of an Act of Parliament some few years ago dealing with the use of white lead in paint. I cannot understand why there is an increase in suffering from lead paint poisoning when I remember the provisions of that Act.
The Home Secretary referred to safety organisations in factories, but in this Report we are face to face with the most extraordinary anomaly of all—that as safety organisation is growing there is almost a proportionate increase in industrial diseases and accidents. The plain fact is that with the introduction of new inventions and speeding up processes the liability to accidents has increased at an alarming rate. The only redeeming feature of these diseases is the case of silicosis in the pottery industry, which shows a declining rate. I have looked at the tables and I cannot find anything else on a par with the decrease shown there. There is also a serious increase in industrial disease among those employed in chromium plating and those handling pitch, tar and oil. I find that 423 persons died from pitch and kindred cancers from 1920 to 1924.
I think that that is a problem for medical men and, I believe, they are inquiring into the question. All that I am doing is to show the increases that are indicated in the report. Cases due to fuels and gases were 179 in 1934, compared with 149 in 1933, and there were 21 deaths in 1934 as against only 14 in 1933. I repeat that wherever I turn in this report the accident and the disease rate are increasing at an alarming speed. We ought to know the reason why. I come now to a very pertinent question about the four boys who were killed in a bleach works at Manchester some time ago. I understand that there was a Committee of Inquiry into the accident, and it would be interesting to know what was the result of it. Then let me say something about the textile industry of Lancashire. As the hon. and gallant Member for Hornsey (Captain Wallace), who is to reply, will probably know, negotiations have been proceeding for some time past between the Home Office and the employers in the Lancashire textile industry regarding those men who suffer from asthma and bronchitis consequent upon dust in card rooms. I know the difficulties fairly well. I believe that the Home Office has been doing its best. It is very difficult to schedule this disease for workmen's compensation. If it cannot be scheduled at all I wonder whether the Home Office can say what is going to happen to these men.
I am only going to touch briefly upon the subject of workmen's compensation, because some of my hon. Friends will deal with that problem later in the debate. Taking the official statistical document about workmen's compensation side by side with the factory inspector's report I am at a loss to understand what is happening. The number of workmen's compensation cases shown in this statistical statement is declining, but the accident rate in 'the, country is growing. I am just wondering, therefore, whether insurance companies which cover workmen's compensation risks are keeping a very much tighter hold on their money or are trying to avoid paying compensation at all. I am sure of one thing, that a statistician would have a difficulty in finding out the reason why moneys paid in workmen's compensation, as shown in this report, and the number of cases reported, are declining while the number of accidents in factories is increasing all along the line. The matter is worth studying. The figures covering cases of compensation show that in 1929 they were 481,421, and in 1933 they were 362,043, and that the amount paid in compensation over the same period declined from £6,500,000 to £5,500,000. I am at a loss to understand therefore why workmen's compensation payment is declining and the accident rate is increasing.
Let me turn to another point. We welcome very much the efforts of the Home Office to secure better lighting in factories. We agree with the report that it is an astonishing fact that with all the new inventions, with better lighted streets and better lighted homes, there is hardly any improvement in the lighting of factories where people are employed. If the Home Office cannot by ordinary pressure bring factory owners up to standard in this connection, I hope they will not hesitate to ask for Parliamentary powers to deal with them. I said at the beginning that the report rather indicates that the increase in accidents has been brought about because of greater activity in industry. The same report, on the other hand, tells us quite frankly that there is a goodly number of employers working the five days week, 40 hours instead of 48 hours week. That is all to the good. But we are told that when an employer works his people five days a week instead of six he expects exactly the same volume of production in five days as he got in six. Of course, the result is speeding up and the increase in accidents that I have indicated.
There are paragraphs in the report which, if I read them without stating that they related to England, would make hon. Members think that all this was happening in Japan. I got authoritative information the other day that it is the custom in a town called Redditch for children who enter employment direct from school to work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.—universally so. We complain sometimes of what is happening in Japan. It seems to me that it is worth while on occasions looking into our own conditions at home and see what is happening here. Let me read one paragraph from the report which shows that all is not well in our own country. It is on page 79:
In one case in the North of England two women commenced work at 5.30 a.m. on Friday and worked till 5.30 p.m. At 11 p.m. the same night they returned to work and continued until 5.30 p.m. on Saturday. As only snacks of food were taken during this time, they worked for 30½ hours in a period of 36 hours. They, resumed work again at 11 p.m. on Sunday, and were found working by an inspector
at 2.30 a.m. on Monday, and again at 6 a.m. when a further visit was paid.
Legal proceedings are, of course, taken in all these cases when they are found out. Of course, the number of inspectors is too limited by far. If I had my way, I would cure all that by other means. The Government ought to encourage trade unionism; trade unionism might prevent these terrible things about which we read.
I now come to my final point. I called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman a few moments ago to the fact that he had not said a word about the circular issued some time ago by the Home Office to local authorities preparing the population for attacks from the air. I doubt if a circular so awful in its implications has ever been issued by a Government Department in this country, and the more I read it the more terrible it appears. We, the official Opposition only propose to touch upon this problem to-day, but we shall return to it again some day when we have more time to deal effectively with all its provisions. In the meantime let me say this. Unless I am greatly mistaken this is the first time in the history of this country—certainly for centuries—that a circular has been issued to the civil population to prepare them for war. That, in effect, is what this circular means.
Needless to say, that it has already caused consternation among a large section of the community and we shall want a little further enlightenment from the Home Office in regard to it. We wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman has more information about this problem of attacks from the air than has already been given to Parliament. At any rate, the circular in its terms is contradictory. I am not very well versed in the English language but I can at once recognise a contradiction, and I notice that while calling upon the local authorities to do this and to do that in preparation for the next war, the Home Office go on to say:
The need for these measures in no way implies a risk of war in the near future.
How on earth comes it about, that the circular has been issued at all if there is no risk of war? Then, if you please, we find that it has a political colour because it states that its issue
does not imply any relaxation of effort on the part of His Majesty's Government to ensure the promotion and maintenance of peace.
If the Government and the right hon. Gentleman himself, representing this country at Geneva had done all they could to ensure peace this circular would not have been necessary at all. It is the fact that this Government have not taken the initiative strongly enough at Geneva—
The hon. Member has the advantage of me. I have not had an opportunity of reading the circular, but the rule in Committee of Supply is that we cannot discuss on the Vote of one Department a matter which really belongs to the service of another Department. The question of what action His Majesty's Government may or may not have taken at Geneva is clearly a matter with which the Foreign Office and not the Home Office is concerned.
Since the point has been raised, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman why this document has not been made available to Members in the Vote Office? I understand that his Department is responsible for it, and it is on that point that we desire your Ruling, Captain Bourne. This circular issued to local authorities in regard to preparations against air raids is, I think, signed by the right hon. Gentleman.
At all events, it is issued by the Home Office, and I presume the right hon. Gentleman is responsible for any document issued by his Department. We are in a dilemma. This document contains statements which we want to controvert, and it raises questions which are, as you say, Captain Bourne, connected with foreign policy. Either those questions ought not to be raised in that document at all or we ought to be able to controvert here the statements in that document. I put it again to the right hon. Gentleman that it is a document which ought to have been made available in the Vote Office.
I never meant anything of that sort, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman knows. I think it is the usual practice to issue Home Office circulars to local authorities, dealing with all sorts of subjects, just as this circular has been issued. I was not aware of any suggestion having been made as to it being placed in the Vote Office. I cannot do anything at the moment, but I shall be very glad to consider what the right hon. Gentleman has said.
I do not know whether this is a question which ought properly be addressed to you, Captain Bourne, or to Mr. Speaker, but ought a departmental circular to contain either a declaration or an affirmation of policy, and, if a departmental circular does contain such declarations or affirmation, are we not entitled to discuss it on the Vote of the Department which has issued that circular?
The hon. Member will realise that I have nothing to do with and no responsibility for departmental circulars. Obviously any hon. Member is entitled to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that some question of policy appears to be mentioned in a circular and to say that he regards that as very unsuitable. That is obviously in order. But it is not in order for hon. Members to argue on this Vote a matter which belongs to a different Department altogether. The responsibility for foreign policy rests on the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the question of whether foreign policy has been properly carried out or not must be raised on the Foreign Office Vote.
May I submit, Captain Bourne, that this document has been issued authoritatively by the Home Office? It is headed "Home Office. Air Raids Precautions Department." Therefore I submit, on that ground, that we are entitled to discuss it. Further, since it is issued by the Home Office it must be paid for by the Home Office, and is clearly a matter arising on this Vote.
With great respect I would submit this point. I appreciate the difficulty in which we find ourselves because some of us, by the courtesy of the right hon. Gentleman's Department, have got the circular while other Members of the Committee and you, Captain Bourne, have not received copies of it. But this circular does raise very wide questions and if we are to discuss it intelligently we must have regard to all parts of it. The opening paragraph makes a statement which is likely to be challenged from these benches. It says that the Government is making full use of the machinery of the League of Nations and that that is the unalterable basis of their policy. I am sure that other hon. Members beside myself on these benches would wish to question the accuracy of those statements. Those statements appear in a document issued by the Home Office. The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for that Department and for the circular and I submit, with great respect, that by the issue of the circular the right hon. Gentleman has put upon the Committee the necessity of discussing everything in it, including the Government's foreign policy.
I have gathered enough from these interchanges to know how far I am limited in my observations. What I can say is that some of these paragraphs are unsuitable in a document of this kind and that it is not proper in such a document to pay a tribute to the Government's foreign policy. We are satisfied that were it not for the Government's foreign policy this circular would not have been necessary at all. I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to recast it and omit a number of its paragraphs altogether. I suppose the next thing we shall see will be some of these paragraphs on the hoardings in preparation for the General Election.
We are told that most European countries and a number of other countries have already done what the circular suggests for this country. It is a very good way of bolstering up the desire for armaments and "enthusing" people with the military spirit, to tell them that everybody else is taking a similar course. We are entitled to know, categorically, from the right hon. Gentleman what countries have already done what the local authorities in this country are now expected to do. I should be very sad indeed to think that the right hon. Gentleman was trying to encourage the military spirit in our country by pointing out what Italy, France, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia or Bulgaria have done. We ought to know what countries have actually taken these steps.
Further, I cannot understand the seeming innocence of the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of air raids. How can he stand there and say that there is any device which will effectively safeguard human life once aircraft begin to drop bombs on a civil population? I know of no such device. Even if the people are sent down to the underground railways and gas bombs are dropped, there is no safety to be found even there. This circular actually appeals to householders to make some of their rooms bomb-proof. What a ridiculous proposition. How many people in this country could afford to make rooms bomb-proof? Some of the rooms in which our people have to live are not rain-proof to start with, apart from being bomb-proof. I seem to recall some words of the present Prime Minister on this subject. We have to be very careful as to what we say on this score, but I think I can recall that the right hon. Gentleman when occupying another office declared that no immunity at all was possible for the civil population in the event of hostile action from the air. This circular is really deluding people into the belief, that something can be done to save them in the event of a war in the air.
The hon. Gentleman must understand exactly what I say, and I think I can state my mind very clearly when I want. I repeat that the Government must know that all the precautions proposed here are futile to save human life. It is true to say, of course, that if an air attack occurred, people would at once imagine they were safe within some buildings, but that would only be psychological and not actual. I am sure I am right in saying that if a telephone call came from the Home Office to Manchester, where I live, to say that they expected an air attack on Manchester—of course, they could hardly say so anyhow, but suppose they did—and the authorities began to marshal the population into some buildings, there would be panic at once. There are plenty of empty buildings in Manchester now that could be used for this purpose, because the Government's policy has emptied them, and there are plenty of
empty pit shafts too, if they want them, because of the policy of the Government. Apart from all that, there are one or two other questions that I want to put to the Government. Look at another contradiction:
The use of poison gas in war is forbidden by the Geneva Gas Protocol of 1925, to which this country and all the most important countries of Western Europe are parties.
Listen to what follows:
The risk of its being used is, nevertheless, a possibility which cannot be disregarded.
I am wondering whether portions of this circular are not just a part of a Tory circular that will be issued at the next general election. Although this is a very serious and important document, I am not so sure that it has not some propaganda meaning behind it for the next general election. I should not like to put it as low as that, but I have seen so many things done by this Government that I am afraid they will stoop to almost anything. Now let me turn to another part of the circular where it says that precautions
must be organised locally, district by district, and that activity on the part of the central government cannot compensate for the failure of any district which is liable to attack to take effective measures on its own account.
That is putting the onus of defending themselves on the civil population, but the other day we passed a bill of £10,000,000 to expand the Air Force in order to make sure that nobody would succeed in attacking us from the air.
Yes, and why should I not? The circular goes on:
The Government . . will be ready … to afford financial assistance towards the provision of additional hospital equipment and stores, where essential, in order to assure adequate reserves.
See where we have landed ourselves. We are talking about the Government supplying equipment for hospitals and all the rest of it, but are the local authorities to be financed in this connection? They are asked to do a great deal to prepare for a war which we are told is not going to happen. If they are going to finance all these things, will they get any grants from the Government? We passed £10,000,000 the other day for the expansion of the Air Force, and surely, if we are to defend ourselves by
other means, local authorities ought to get some of that £10,000,000 for these purposes. We ought to know, therefore, how the money is going to be provided. There is one other thing about this circular which is worth noting. A number of lord mayors, provosts, and chairmen of urban councils in this country who have already received it have called the attention of the Government to another angle of the problem. They declare for the complete abolition of military aircraft and the effective supervision of civil aviation to prevent its misuse for military purposes, and indeed that is the angle from which the Government ought to approach this problem.
There will, of course, be a tremendous clamour for gas masks after the issue of this circular, and we shall have the same problem of profiteering in gas masks as we have recently had in the manufacture of aircraft. I think we are entitled to ask the Government, therefore, to take immediate steps to see to it that profiteering does not take place in connection with the manufacture of these instruments. My last word is this: The issue of this circular is a clumsy and a cowardly way of dealing with the issue of peace and war. If governments took adequate steps to sweeten the political atmosphere internationally, they would have no need at all to ask the people to wear masks against poison gas at home.
My remarks will be in the nature of a few interrogatories of my hon. and gallant Friend, who, I am very glad, has been promoted to the office of Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. The first question which I should like to address to him is on the hours of work for juveniles. I am not clear in my own mind, and I dare say this applies to other hon. Members as well, what exactly the powers of the Home Office are in this respect. I had a case brought to my notice some months ago, and I brought it to the notice of the Home Office, in which a juvenile had been enlisted through an employment exchange to work for approximately 54 hours a week. It may not have been hard work, but I communicated the facts to the Department and to the Ministry of Labour, and I received a sympathetic answer from my right hon. Friend's predecessor, in which he appeared inclined to admit the necessity for further legislation. We cannot discuss that to-day, of course, but I should like to know whether, in such a case as that, my hon. and gallant Friend's Department has not got greater powers than would appear from the correspondence to stop hours of that kind being worked.
I do not care whether the work is light or not, and whether in fact the hours of work are as long as they appear. It may involve considerable periods where nothing in fact is being done at all, but that is not the point. The point is that it might not always be so, and it might happen that work would be done which was really damaging to the health, and prospects in life therefore, of these young people. We cannot avoid knowing, any of us who represent constituencies in the distressed areas, that in the present circumstances the pressure upon young, or for that matter old, people to take work of any kind in order to get something to do and so increase the household budget is very great, and, therefore, there may be attempts, particularly in those areas, to offer work for very long hours to juveniles which they feel they cannot refuse because they may thus bring additional hardship upon their families. That is one point upon which I should be grateful to have some information. I should like some general ruling as to what the powers of the Home Office are in a case like that, treating it as a purely hypothetical case.
There is another aspect of Home Office work on which I should like to say a few words. The right hon. Gentleman gave a most thrilling review of the police work done at Scotland Yard for the prevention and punishment of crime. As a devotee of the "thriller," I was constructing in my own mind the kind of story to which I felt his remarks were applicable, and I was wondering how in fact, if the Department is so efficient, any criminals could escape at all. The fact is that they do escape. I put a question down some months ago to the Home Secretary, asking how many burglaries had been reported in the Metropolitan area over a period of, I think, six months, and how many convictions had resulted. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor told me in effect to wait until the annual figures were published, and he added—he is not perhaps always quite as clear as the present Home Secretary is—what I thought was a hint that it was not altogether in the public interest that figures of that kind should be extracted. I do not know whether that is so or not, but I think some figures should be shown to justify my right hon. Friend's assumption that the machinery of Scotland Yard for the capture of criminals and the prevention of crime in general is as efficient as his exposition this afternoon would lead us to suppose. My own fancy is—it may be no more than that—that there is a very large and perhaps unnecessary volume of undetected and unpunished crime in the capital, and I am sure that many hon. Members have felt that if the energies of the police were more devoted to that work, and perhaps less devoted to other and more spectacular duties which we see them performing, it might be more useful.
There is a third question upon which I should like to ask the attitude of the Home Office, and that is the question of the reception of aliens in this country. I have a strong impression—I cannot support it by figures—that there is a growing tendency to refuse asylum here to political refugees. I know that that has not been so lately in the case of Germans exiled from their own country for religious or racial reasons by the Nazi Government, but no one can fail to have noticed the very large number of distinguished political refugees who have found asylum in France and who would, I think, in the previous century certainly have found asylum here. Hon. Members will naturally think of the case of M. Trotsky, for whom I hold no brief—I have no sympathy with his political opinions—but I remember being disturbed at the time when asylum was refused him in this country by the Government of the hon. Members who now sit above the Gangway on this side of the House, if I remember aright. I felt at the time that, however pernicious we might think his opinions to be, and however much we might fear that he would actively propagate them here, yet our proper duty was to admit him as a political refugee to this country and only to expel him when, if ever, he had actively engaged in subversive political propaganda or organised a plot against some foreign Government That, it seems to me, would have been more in the right tradition of British political life, and particularly in the tradition in which my right hon. Friend was brought up. I should like to know from the Under-Secretary in general terms what is the attitude of the Home Office to applications for entry here on the part of political refugees who have no criminal record and who are not in the least likely to compete in the labour market of this country.
I want to touch on a subject which my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Mallalieu) will raise in more detail later. Here again all my hon. Friends feel, and I believe that a great many other hon. Members feel, some uneasiness about what appears to be a tendency or inclination to suppress pacifist demonstrations. I do not happen to be a pacifist, and I have very little sympathy with the school of thought represented by extreme pacifism. On the other hand, I do not hold with the suppression of opinion of any kind, however it may disagree with my own. From letters and news in the Press, there appears to be an increasing tendency for the police to assume that pacifist demonstrations and processions and the selling and offering of leaflets are to be regarded as possible incitements to violence. My only late experience of that was in connection with the air display at Hendon. My hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley put a question to the Home Office the other day on that point, and I only mention it because I happened to be passing the Hendon air display and saw the people to whom the question referred. There were half-a-dozen harmless looking individuals walking along the grass. Some were holding up banners and one or two were handing out leaflets to passers-by. A more harmless, meek and mild, generally miserable looking crew I never saw in my life. I am loath to believe that under any provocation whatever they would commit a, breach of anybody's peace, and I can only think, if the answer to my hon. Friend's question is correct, that some extraordinary devil must have entered into them between the time I saw them walking along the edge of the road and the time the police came into collision with them.
We should all like to know from the Home Office that it is not the practice of the police to assume that the selling or offering of pamphlets, the holding up of banners, the displaying of posters and so on, in the pacifist interest constitute in themselves an incitement to violence or are likely to do so. If that were always assumed, I imagine that it would be the duty of the police to disperse or arrest any such people directly they caught sight of them or directly they suspected they were about to sell or offer a pamphlet at any military demonstration that was going on. We can all think of instances in which other expressions of opinion might be liable to the same repression. Socialists selling anti-Fascist literature in the neighbourhood of a Fascist demonstration and vice versa, or Labour workers distributing literature in the neighbourhood of a Conservative demonstration, are instances which might be interpreted as possible incitements to a breach of the peace. If that becomes the general habit and if it is always to be assumed that such activities create the possibility of a breach of the peace, we shall have a kind of repression of opinion which the whole House will regret. We wish the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. and gallant Gentleman well in the re-assumption and assumption of their new offices, and we shall be grateful to them if they can give us some assurance that they will be no parties to any suppression of free political opinion in this country.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) is not in his place, because I consider that he was guilty of a gross misrepresentation of the annual report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and Workshops, in that, while he quoted certain points from the report, he omitted to give the analysis of the inspector explaining those points. I am glad to see that the hon. Member has now returned, and I would ask him to recall his reference to page 55 of the report when he was dealing with lead poisoning. He said that there had been an increase of 30 cases in the past year, despite the legislation that had been passed forbidding to a much larger extent the use of lead in all its various forms, because it might become a danger to the public and to persons working in
connection with it. While reading one part of the report, the hon. Gentleman failed to read the significant part of the report with regard to lead poisoning. Let me read it again:
The reduction in cases of lead poisoning in the past few years has not been maintained; there is an increase of 30 over last year's figures, mostly among pottery workers, as foreshadowed in the annual report for 1933 (see page 18, Chief Inspector's Annual Report).
The hon. Member omitted the last words of that sentence. The report continues:
This is mainly the outcome of the increase in the building of houses"—
the hon. Member said it was not—
and in some measure of an influx into the industry of untrained workers, under the supervision of persons not yet fully alive to the high standard of cleanliness required under the regulations to control the lead risk.
The hon. Member also omitted that significant fact. It means that those responsible are fully alive to the cause of the increase in the cases of lead poisoning and are doing their utmost to eliminate any repetition of the increase. The report continues:
Of the 26 cases in the pottery industry, 16 cases occurred in the manufacture of highly decorated tiles. It may be observed that the tiles under consideration is a marl tile, the manufacture of which lessens the risk of silicosis but increases the risk of lead poisoning owing to the highly leaded glaze used.
It would have been only fair if the hon. Gentleman had dealt with that point. If the increase in lead poisoning has been due to a specific cause which automatically has brought about a reduction in silicosis, it is a tribute and should not be made the basis of an accusation against the officers responsible for this great service. The hon. Member accused the Home Office of allowing the painting of houses to be carried on under such conditions that lead poisoning was almost unpreventable. The report, however, says:
While there has been a slight increase, both in the number of cases of poisoning and death, in view of the increase in the building industry it is perhaps surprising that the number of cases, at any rate, is not greater. I cannot think, however, that notification by the medical practitioner is as complete as it might be.
That again is justification for suggesting that the officers have the whole question of lead poisoning from the painting of
houses under complete control and careful observation. I intervened when the hon. Member mentioned the question of chrome ulceration, and he said he could not give me the statistics or the answer to the question which I put to him. On looking in the report I find the answer, and it is a direct contradiction to the allegations of the hon. Member, because it says:
The increase in the number of cases of chrome ulceration is attributable to the further extended use of the process of chromium plating.
Obviously, if there is an extended use of an article which offers the danger of poisoning, there is an extended possibility of an increase in the number of cases of poisoning. For the hon. Member to submit an argument of that description in order to score a point at the expense of the Home Office is, with his experience in the House rather like hitting below the belt.
That he either did know and was not telling the truth, or that he had not read the report and had no justification for his statement. If the hon. Member, instead of looking at this issue through political spectacles, would look at it through the sincere spectacles which he claims to wear, it would be much fairer to the Home Office. The speech of the Home Secretary was an excellent survey of an excellent service, and, while I agree in the main with most of what he submitted to the Committee, there are one or two points on which I must fall into conflict with him in regard to the manner in which the policy for which he is responsible is carried out. One of the main points which the right hon. Gentleman made was that the principal function of the police was the prevention and detection of crime. I believe that to be so, but is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that in all cases the police act in such a manner as to prevent and detect crime rather than to cause crime? In a few moments I shall put before the Under-Secretary a specific case in which unjustifiable action on the part of the police resulted in the creation of two full criminals and a semi-criminal, in the eyes of the law; had the police not acted as they did, those persons would still be regarded in law as good citizens.
The question of juvenile offences was dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman in a very lucid manner. He pointed out that they had increased, but I am not so sure that they have increased to the extent which he would have us believe. If I had been in his position I should be inclined to say that the greater number of juvenile offences recorded is due to the over-excessive zeal of the new police forces in the past 15 years rather than to the criminal tendencies of juveniles of the present generation. Just as a man who wants to have a bet, whether of a "bob" or a pound, cannot turn his head with any suspicious intention, or what may be regarded by a policeman as a suspicious intention, without being as closely followed as a criminal would have been in the bad old days, so I think that if the police used a little more caution before apprehending children, those children would not be so ready to set their backs against the police and in some cases wilfully to engage in crimes. The same observations apply to magistrates when dealing with juvenile offenders. It is a psychological problem, but at the same time a great human problem, which the police have to handle, and I trust they will look at it from that point of view rather than from the standpoint which they have taken in the past.
The right hon. Gentleman regarded the existence of 180 separate police forces as an asset, feeling, I think, that it was an instance of the great British principle of local control, but is it actually in the interests of the State to have 180 separate police forces, each interpreting the law in its own way? A chief constable in one area will have his own interpretation of whether something that has been done is right or wrong, and in the area of another police force there will be an entirely different interpretation, and if it were not for these differences of opinion about the law among chief constables and local authorities not one hundredth part of the questions would have to be put to the Home Office in this House before justice can be secured. In Yorkshire alone I can secure five different police interpretations as to the severity of a certain crime if committed in separate police areas, each of which is in conflict with the other and all of which are in conflict with the decision of the Home Secretary—when he cares to give it.
The first day's Debate on the Home Office Vote last year was devoted to the Olympia disturbances, and important speeches, declarations and pledges were made by all parties which left the House with the impression that something would be done. I am entitled to ask whether anything has been done by the Home Office during the past year. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor at the Home Office said:
I do not disguise from the Committee that in order to do that"—
that is, to keep the peace at public meetings—
I have always arranged to have my meetings properly stewarded, and let me say that that is, indeed, the duty of those who organise large meetings of the public or of their supporters on various political occasions. I would emphasise the fact that the stewarding of a meeting by the ordinary method, and keeping a meeting correct and regular is the affair of the people who run the meeting and who have their own stewards.
He said further:
It is contrary to all democratic ideas and customs; it is contrary to the traditions of our own country that we should allow the usurpation of power, which can only be met by power, by anybody other than the State … I invite the leaders of all parties to consider this problem and trust that the invitation I have extended will be accepted.—[OFFICIAL REEPORT, 14th June, 1934; cols. 1966 and 1972, Vol. 290.]
I ask the Home Office, Did the leader of the Labour party, did the leader of the Liberal party, or did any other party leader accept the invitation of the late Home Secretary to devise a plan whereby democracy would not be denied the right of free speech in this country? Were any meetings held and, if so, what were the results attained? Was any specific order given by the Home Secretary to local authorities or public bodies, political or otherwise, as the result of the deliberations at those gatherings? If not, I want to know why. If such meetings did not take place I want to know whether it was the fault of the late Home Secretary or the fault of the leaders who, on 14th June last year, pledged themselves to associate with him in securing peace and order at our public gatherings. The right
hon. Gentleman the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said on the same day:
The breaking-up of meetings really cuts at the root of our political life. We of the Labour party are entirely opposed to the breaking-up of meetings."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1934; col. 1928, Vol. 290.]
What have they done to prevent their own people from doing that? Has he carried out his part of last year's bargain in conjunction with the Home Office? I want to know particularly in view of what happened on Saturday night in a little place called West Toxteth. I want to know why, if the Labour party are not responsible for the breaking-up of meetings in that division, it is reported that they are so confident after to-day's poll of having a 5,000 majority? According to yesterday's paper the Tories were stoned by crowds—
May I point out that the Home Office is not responsible for the administration of the police except within the Metropolitan area, and submit that as the Home Office is not responsible and no expenditure on that account is borne upon the Home Office Vote, what the hon. Member is raising cannot now be discussed?
The Home Office is responsible for what happens within the London police area. As I understand it the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike) is asking about a specific pledge last year to try to preserve order at public meetings, and is instancing occurrences at West Toxteth in order to show that peace has not been kept at public meetings. I would warn him, however, that the Home Office in reply could not deal with instances of that hind outside the Metropolitan area.
May I respectfully submit that the hon. Member would be entirely out of order in bringing this matter before the House, for the simple reason that any Member would have to be responsible for any statement that he makes? He has no authority for making any such statement, he was not present and cannot prove it, but two of us here have been present at those meetings and we can deliberately make a definite statement.
If the hon. Member was there I can understand the disturbances. I merely gave the case of West Toxteth because last year the House spent a whole day in discussing how to prevent such occurrences at public meetings and specific pledges were given that something would be done in conjunction with the Home Office by the leaders of all parties in this House to bring such a calamitous condition of affairs to an end.
What we have to remember is that the pledge stated to have been given by the Home Secretary last year was not limited to the London area. He gave a general pledge as regards the preservation of peace at public meetings. Mr. Pike.
As my argument has served its purpose I will leave it where it is. I had anticipated that hon. Members on the Opposition benches would have raised the question before I did. Having lost the opportunity and lost the game I hope they will not grumble any more. I come back to a question of police methods in relation to the prevention of crime which I referred to earlier in my speech. In this House in March I raised the question of action taken by the police as a result of which three persons appeared in court charged with a very serious criminal offence—directly as a result of methods employed by the police in procuring evidence which were severely castigated by the judge. I want to ask the Home Office, in view of replies which I received from the late Home Secretary, what they are doing to fulfil the pledge he gave that a careful watch would be kept on the police in future in such cases. It is a very important point if people in this country are to consider themselves free. The case was one in which the police suspected a person, or two persons, of being responsible for bringing about abortion. They had no evidence whatever upon which to investigate further than the kerbstone outside the house, and they procured the services of a very innocent young lady. [An HON. MEMBER "Question!"] It is not a question of a question. The hon. Member is not in a position to say that, and I hope he will withdraw his observation.
No, but in Sheffield. When I asked the late Home Secretary whether his attention had been called to the summing up of the judge in the case the right hon. Gentleman said the information which had reached him was such that he was calling for the full papers in the case and would inform me later whether any action on his part was called for. I take it that I shall be justified in going a little further with this case. This young girl was procured by the police to present herself to the suspected persons as being in a pregnant condition in order that she could make a report to the police on what they said. The girl herself was latterly discovered never to have been in a pregnant condition, but to have been used as a pawn in the hands of the police in order to procure evidence which would convict the two persons. I would ask the Under-Secretary to listen to what the judge said in his summing up. He said that the police could do certain things when they desired to obtain evidence against a man who had committed a crime, but in the present case the defendants did not come into it until Miss Paget—that is the police dupe—had been to the police. There was not the slightest doubt, said the judge, that from 16th January Alice Paget was being used as a bait, as a means of incitement to the other two people, to commit crime.
That sort of thing was not done only on that particular occasion. The hon. and gallant Gentleman can, if he chooses, find hundreds of similar instances all over the country. My suggestion is that that is due to what the right hon. Gentleman called a lack of centralised control of authority. None of us in this House would give the slightest support to any person who attempted to engage in such a degraded business as the procuration of abortion, but if the police are to follow their legitimate duties and bring to justice the persons who are guilty of it, there is no justification for their using innocent persons as bait if they have the necessary evidence entitling them to regard suspected persons as criminals, because they may besmirch the name of the innocent persons for the remainder of their lives. That is not a police method as we understand it in Britain; it is very anti-British in its make-up. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, in instructing his authorities in various parts of the country, so to instruct them as to render it impossible for them to repeat any of these pernicious practices.
Generally, I am satisfied with the whole conduct of the police and the service which they render to the country at large. We should be in a, very sorry plight in this country without them. On the other hand, it may be human weakness on the part of a young constable who is not initiated so efficiently into the frailties of nature to be tempted to overstep his duty, but it is not necessary to put a black mark against the whole force on that account or against the service generally. I would join with other hon. Members in wishing the very best of good fortune to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Under-Secretary, in their new offices. If they can improve upon the services that have been rendered by their predecessors, they will go down to history as very worthy servants of the Crown.
I am sure that everyone will welcome the return to this House of the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike). We are very glad to see him back again. I hope he will excuse me if I offer criticism of some of the things he said. He took the line that the police are too keen in carrying out their duties, but when we engage men we want them to carry out their duties and to be as efficient as possible. When we make laws which need a great deal of carrying out, that is the fault of Parliament, but we expect policemen to do their duty and to be as vigilant as they can be. Does the hon. Member remember backing the Government in carrying the Incitement to Disaffection Bill through this House? Was there any reason for that Measure? Was that not getting policemen to be as vigilant as possible to stop that kind of thing? Would he expect the policeman to ignore the Statute, and say, "We do not want 'anything to be done," or would he say, as we said, that the police would have to carry out their duties? Does the hon. Member in all seriousness want the police to carry out measures when they are instructed to do so, or does he say that they have no right to do it, and that we must turn a blind eye towards them?
That is a matter for the chief constable, and for the magistrates who sit on the bench and who have to see that undue pressure or search is not exercised. If the hon. Member examines his speech, I think he will see that he has been rather hard on the police force this afternoon. The Home Office covers a very wide area. Apart from the Ministry of Health, I do not know a department which has such a wide sphere of operations and is so comprehensive. There has been a change in the ministerial head and in the under-secretary-ship. I am not disparaging the new holders of those offices, they being well worthy of the positions they occupy; but I think the Prime Minister ought to have some regard to continuity in matters of this sort, and to say, "When I am making changes I will not alter both the Minister and the Under-Secretary." Ministers have to pick up the threads of their office from the permanent staff. They have to turn to the permanent staff in order to find out what is this question and what is the other. For instance, I had a Question down yesterday dealing with workmen's compensation and the provision of surgical appliances. The reply was that they were not aware of their requirements. Anybody connected with the Home Office should have a thorough knowledge of the fact that injured men know of these surgical appliances, and that many of them require them but have to pay for them themselves. The Prime Minister ought to leave one or the other Ministers in office until the other man gets used to it. In trade union work and in other departments we always try to keep someone in touch who has a thorough knowledge of the business until the other man is able to pick it up.
The Home Secretary has power by regulation to include in the schedule of industrial diseases any disease which he thinks should be brought into the schedule. Workmen's compensation has been built up by that method. The inclusion of diseases in the schedule has taken a long time, but there are now about 37 scheduled industrial diseases. Before we can get them on to the Statute Book we have to bring forward a lot of information to satisfy the Home Office that the diseases ought to be scheduled. Many hon. Members, especially those who represent industrial areas, have come across a new form of disease known by the peculiar term Dupuytren's contraction, which means contraction of the hand. This condition seems to be brought about by the thickening of the tissues in the centre of the hand, originated by excessive use of a spade or pick. A man's hand gradually contracts until he can hardly pick up the implement. I have come across quite a number of these cases and have seen some of the men. It is tragic to see their hands gradually contracting.
I have in mind the case of a man who sent me a letter over 12 months ago. Now his hands are in an advanced state of contraction, and in a month or two he will have to give up work. There is nothing in the Workmen's Compensation Act to protect him. His medical man tells him that he is entitled to compensation because his condition has been brought about by his employment, and the man goes to his trade union official. We look up the schedule of diseases, but the term is not included in it, and the man cannot get compensation until it is included. The matter has been brought to the notice of the Home Office, who courteously received the application, examined it and finally declared that there was not sufficient evidence to warrant the inclusion of the disease. I hope that the new Ministers will not let the matter stop at that. If I put a, question down, I know it will be turned over to the permanent staff, who will examine it and will say, "Your predecessor made this reply, and there is no reason why you should change it now. Just give the same reply, or alter it a bit, and put him off a bit longer. "This is too serious a matter to be dealt with in that way, because many workmen, not only in mining but in other districts, are affected.
Another question is that of medical referees. When a man is regarded as recovering, the employer has to examine him, and if the man is well on the way to recovery, he can serve him with 10 days' notice. The man can get a medical opinion which may be that he is not recovering. The matter is then referred to a medical referee. It passes through the register of the county court and at the end of 10 days comes before a medical referee for examination. I have no fault to find with the method up to that point, because the man must have compensation to the end of the 10 days. My complaint is in regard to the length of time that elapses after the 10 days before the man gets to the medical referee. I have cases in my possession where one, two or three months have elapsed. What happens? If there is not a permanent injury, the man is gradually recovering, and at the end of two months a lot of the damage will have passed away. At the end of three months it may have gone altogether. The medical referee carries out his duty and says, "I do not find any trace," and the man is debarred from getting anything. That gives rise to difficulties in signing on at the Employment Exchange, because the man is not fit for work and cannot claim unemployment benefit. When he is fit for work he receives no compensation and no unemployment benefit.
I understand that the late Home Secretary wrote to these offices telling them that they ought to be more expeditious in getting these cases decided, and that they replied that they would; but our information is that the same thing is still going on, that time is still allowed to elapse and trouble is occurring as a consequence, and altogether we do not get any satisfaction. Could not the Home Office lay it down that at the end of 10 days the man should be paid his compensation until he goes before the medical referee? That would certainly hurry matters up. Or, if they could not do that, could they not say that, at the end of a reasonable time, say a fortnight, if the man has not then been before the medical referee owing to the fault of the employer, compensation should be paid to him until he does go before the medical referee? If that could be done, I am certain that these cases would come before the medical referee with extreme rapidity, and there would be no trouble at all. I venture to think that this suggestion is worth considering, and possibly the ventilation of the matter will induce employers to look at these cases a little more leniently from the men's point of view, and will help to secure justice for them.
My third and last point is one with regard to the medical referee himself. At the present time there is only one medical referee, who decides on these cases. It does not matter how many doctors may have said that a man is suffering from a particular disease or accident; he goes before the medical referee, who alone has the power to decide his fate. The unfortunate thing is that, until the man's condition has changed from what it was when he came before the medical referee, the man has really no case in law. He can go before the county court judge, who can hold that there has been no change in his condition and that he sees no reason to alter the medical opinion. The Miners' Federation take such a serious view of this matter that they have appealed to the Home Office to examine it, and have asked whether it is not possible, if not in all cases, at least in extreme cases, that there should be more than one medical referee to decide on the condition of the man. We have now a number of cases of nystagmus and of industrial diseases. In one case, that of a man who had been suffering from nystagmus for four years, the time came when his employer said that he was on the way to recovery. The man was able to get eight medical men at various times to certify that he was suffering from nystagmus, but the employer went before the medical referee, who decided that he was not suffering from nystagmus. How is it possible for the trade union to convince that man that he has got justice? He cannot be got to believe that there is anything like fairness in English law. Eight medical men have certified that he is suffering from nystagmus, while the employer had only one, the medical referee, who, we claim, did not examine him thoroughly, though I am not pressing that point. This is only one of those cases which make us dissatisfied with the idea that one man should be the deciding factor for all time.
Is it not possible for the Home Office to review the position, which is now one of long standing? As I have already pointed out, the Workmen's Compensation Act has been built up by experience—by taking into account what has happened in certain cases and by trying to make improvements which will give satisfaction to the workman, for, after all, the suffering workman is entitled to the fairest and squarest deal that is possible in law. The present Home Secretary is one of those men who seem to be fitted for almost any sphere. I think it was Emerson who, in one of his essays, speaking of Julius Caesar, said that he was a man who was ready at all times to meet any emergency. When I listened to the Home Secretary, he seemed to be that kind of person—ready to meet any emergency. I think that, if he will go into the points that I have made, he will find that there are good grounds for the arguments I have put forward.
I should like in the first place, if I may, to thank the Home Secretary for his very excellent opening of the Debate. I shall not make any reference to the now famous, or notorious, circular of which the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) made so much, except to say that I should have thought that the first duty of the Home Office was the adequate protection of the civil population, and, if that were the intention of the circular, I have no further criticism to make of it. The hon. Member for Westhoughton drew attention to the reference made in the report of the Chief Inspector of Factories to the two-shift system. When I turned to the report of the Departmental Committee on the effect of the two-shift system on young persons and women, this passage caught my eye:
On the social and educational aspects of the question we have received less evidence than we anticipated from social workers and education authorities.
I should have thought that ample evidence had been forthcoming, on the question that was before the Committee, from education authorities and social workers, but, in case there is any doubt about it, may I be permitted to say that there is abundance of evidence from
education authorities, social bodies and people interested in the workers' welfare to show that long hours, and the two-shift system in particular, are having an adverse effect on the youth of the nation? It deprives them of certain educational facilities, and it also deprives them of what is abundantly necessary, namely, ample time for recreation. It may be that the Committee, on the balance of evidence before them, were justified in recommending that the two-shift system, which was then temporary, should be made permanent. I say "It may be," but I want to point out to the Home Secretary particularly that in any case, before permission is given to operate the two-shift system in the future, he might at least eliminate from it young people between the ages of 16 and 18.
I do not know whether the Home Secretary remembers that some time ago the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education gave us a very interesting account of an experiment with regard to work and recreation. The experiment was made on two school classes, but I am sure it could be applied to the workshop as well as to the large school. Two equal classes of boys were taken, which were both spending the same time on educational work and the same time on games and recreation, and the one class were given less educational time—by two and a-half hours a week, I think it was—so that they might devote that extra time to physical development and recreation. The result was that the boys who had this extra time for recreation did just as well at the next academic examination as the others, and I suggest that we might get better results as regards the work of these young people if we applied the same principle to them.
I do not know whether the Committee are aware that, although we go to great trouble and expense in providing educational facilities for these young people—the cost to the country is considerable, although I should be the last to criticise that aspect of the matter—less than 15 per cent. of the workers for whom these facilities are provided take advantage of the opportunities that are offered to them. These young people are not altogether to blame, because an eight-hour day at work very often means 10 hours away from home, and very often they are not then in the best condition, in view of the nature of their work, to take advantage of these educational facilities. There is a lot of talk—sometimes, I think, rather foolish talk—about our young people not using their leisure time rightly; but I am sure that, if we are to get them to pursue what are called the higher forms of leisure, we shall have to see that their hours of work are fewer. My plea this afternoon is that these young people at least should be relieved of excessive hours of work.
With regard to the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories, I must say that, while it contains one or two satisfactory features, there are some things in it that make very alarming reading, and here I agree with the hon. Member for Westhoughton. On the question of accidents and of excessive overtime I was truly alarmed; and it may be pointed out that, while some of the cases reported of excessive overtime and so on are rather alarming, there is a large number of children or young people besides those mentioned in the report who work in unregulated trades, which adds to the number of severe cases. With regard to the high incidence of accidents, I thought the Inspector's report was rather tame. Surely all the suggestions that he makes have already been put into practice; I can see nothing new. He says, in one part of the report:
It seems to me that it is incumbent on us to give him"—
that is, the young worker—
an apprenticeship in safety just as is done in his productive work and to see that he is not only warned, but forewarned, of all the dangers inherent in industrial life.
The best method of protecting and instructing these young workers has already received the attention of the Juvenile Advisory Committees and of teachers in general, and I do not think it is inappropriate to mention that there are some methods which might be adopted more fully. Among these are visits to factories when these young people are in their last school term; while another is to get people from factories to come and talk to the children in the schools about the nature of the work that they would like them to take up. A third method that has been adopted is the showing of illustrated films descriptive of various industries. In the light of the information given in the report, it appears to me that more precautions
should be taken than ever, and I suggest that the Chief Inspector is right when he says that where, in the case of young people, an increasing number of accidents is found to occur, even though they be only of a trivial nature, the young people concerned ought to be taken out of that class of employment and put into a safer category. I think, however, that perhaps one of the greatest causes of increased accidents is longer hours of work, and I feel that, especially when we are talking about a 40-hour week, we ought to take steps to see that new entrants into industry get at least a fuller chance of recreation and of immunity from accidents.
In the first place, I wish to associate myself with all those who have expressed their appreciation of the very interesting review that the right hon. Gentleman gave of the work of his Department. I want to raise a point in connection with the London police which has not yet been mentioned, and I hope I shall not be deemed to be making any attack upon any individual at all. I merely wish to comment on what I consider to be an unwise policy which seems to have become solidified in the Home Office of recent years. We have now seen the third, if not the fourth, military, naval or air officer appointed to the head of the London police. We had first Lord Byng, then Lord Trenchard, shortly after Colonel Drummond was appointed to an important post, and now General Sir Phillip Game. I suggest that it is a rather dangerous proceeding to reserve the headship of the London police to people with this kind of experience. It used to be said that Napoleon encouraged his soldiers with the belief that each one carried a field marshal's baton in his knapsack. It does not look as if that is reserved for the London policeman. These officers may be admirable gentlemen, but I think it is a bad principle for that type of person to be regarded as inevitably the right sort to put at the head of the London police. The London police is not a military but a civil organisation, and I do not see on what ground we should be repeatedly turning to the Services for someone to occupy the headship of the force. Further it would tend to be taken as a reflection upon people in the service endowed with the necessary qualities and the experience which would justify them in the course of years in hoping to reach the head of the service.
I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's point, but I am sure that he will be glad in his turn to remember that one of the objects of the reforms which have been brought about is to give greater opportunity, it is hoped, for promotion within the ranks of the service.
I was coming to that point. So far we have seen the old system give us this kind of development. Now we have the new college at Hendon. Here I see a trace of the same sort of thing. The right hon. Gentleman chose his words rather carefully. He said there are a, certain number of people from the ranks who pass through the college at Hendon, and there are also people brought direct from the universities. They come straight from the university, pass through the curriculum at the college, and then go, not to the bottom of the ladder, but straight into the sub-inspector's office. Those of us who have watched this very carefully know that there are certain regulations in regard to dress and what-not which indicate that there is a sort of social stamp in connection with this thing which is undesirable. I will give an illustration. The papers were full of it at the time. The people who went to the Hendon College must have above all things a dress suit. Dress suits are very appropriate in their place, but I do not see that they make very good policemen. It is an attempt to give a sort of social stamp to those occupying the higher reaches of the service. It would be a thoroughly bad thing from the public point of view if inspectorships in the London service were even believed to be a reserve for people of a certain social stratum.
I am glad that the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Johnstone) raised the case of the distribution of pacifist literature at Hendon. I, too, have followed this correspondence with very great interest, and I think the right hon. Gentleman who is a lawyer of very great renown will appreciate that the point is one of fundamental importance for the citizens of the country. After all, it is not illegal to hand on to whoever may choose to take it a pacifist pamphlet. [Interruption.] If it is illegal by by-law, let the appeal to the law take place. The person to interpret the law is not the policeman, and the policeman has no right to interfere with the liberty of the individual citizen. If the policeman thinks the man is doing wrong, he must bring him before a court of law and have the case tested. He has no right to act on his own initiative without giving the citizen the right to state his case. An hon. Member challenges my law. He is an older hand at the law than I am, but I should say it is an elementary proposition that I am laying down, that, if a citizen is deemed by the officers of the law to be contravening the law, it is not for the officer of the law to determine that he is not allowed to do it, to deprive him of his pamphlets and leave it at that. It is the business of the officer to give the citizen the right to have it tested in a court of law. These people were doing their work quite peacefully. They were deemed to be doing something that might be inimical to the peace, but see how easy it is to abuse that. Any one who advocates any popular opinions may always be deemed to be doing something inimical to the peace. After all, it is the person who advocates unpopular opinions who needs to have his liberty amply safeguarded. Those who are in the majority can generally look after themselves, but a person who is advocating a new philosophy above all others should be amply protected. The gravamen of this case is that there was no sort of suggestion at all of any violent action or intention to indulge in violent action, but simply the desire to exercise their legitimate right to circulate and ventilate their opinion. It is a matter that the Home Office ought to inquire into.
The hon. Member also raised the question of the immigration of aliens. Here, too, I admit the difficulty in the case. Of course, there must be thousands of people who have been turned out of their own country and are wondering where in the world they can go. I can quite see that the Home Office would be up against a difficulty if all these thousands wanted to come in a veritable flood into this country. The right to regulate immigration is one thing, but to use the control of immigration to exclude people entertaining unpopular opinions is another. I do not often read the social columns in the newspapers, but my eyes stray sometimes, and I read about Prince this, Countess that, the Duke of this and the Duchess of that, who have come from heaven knows where. They seem to live in London with comparative ease and comfort. No one seems to have raised any objection to their coming, and no one seems to want them to go back. How do they come in? I cannot tell what the explanation is, but it is odd that people of a, certain social standing can come in easily, that people whose opinions are not suspect can come in, but people whose opinions are suspect may not.
This very afternoon I was called out into the outer Lobby by a young gentleman who has come from India, who happens to have been a Socialist. He had a British passport which was valid for five years. He innocently took it to the appropriate office to have it renewed. But he was refused. Why are these things done? I shall raise that case on the Foreign Office or on India Office Vote. That is the kind of thing about which one complains—people who are deemed to be extreme in their views have great difficulty in coming in and very little difficulty in being pushed out. An hon. Member says, "A good thing, too." That is because he dislikes that philosophy. How would he like a Socialist Government to turn out people who share ads point of view? If he looks up the record of the last Socialist Government, I think he will find that they were less severe to friends of his colour than to those of their own colour. A ease in point is that of Trotsky, a Communist, who was refused permission to come in. All I ask is that political opinion shall not be allowed to weigh so long as the people making application undertake to observe the laws of the land while they are here. Of course, if a person abuses the law he has no right to remain here. So long as he obeys the law and observes our customs and traditions, let him by all means enjoy our hospitality.
The last word I want to say is on the recent circular. I admit that the circular issued by the Home Office is one which presents very great difficulties indeed to local authorities. Local authorities up and down the land possess all kinds of obligations, and they must naturally pay a great measure of attention to a circular sent out by the central Government, as has been the case here. Do I understand from the circular—and it is not at all clear—that whatever expenditure the
local authorities undertake in this matter, the Government will bear it? That is far from clear. What it says—and it will be found on page 3—is:
The Government will issue general instructions, based on expert study of the problems, and will be ready to give technical and administrative advice, and to afford financial assistance towards the provision of additional hospital equipment and stores where essential in order to assure adequate reserves, as well as in the directions indicated in paragraph 9 below; but responsibility will rest on local authorities for ensuring that adequate measures of civil protection against air raid dangers are taken in their own districts,
I want to submit this fact to the Home Secretary. If this circular is going to mulct local authorities in extra expenditure, it will be for what is really a national service. There never was a clearer case of a national service than this, and, if you ask the local authorities to undertake it, at least you ought to assure them, not that 90 per cent., but 100 per cent. of the expenditure incurred shall be borne by the central Government. Let me put this further point. Take the distressed areas of the North-East or of South Wales, all of whom will be invited to participate in this activity. How do the Government expect those areas to undertake this purely national service, or even to bear 10 per cent. of the burden? The thing is impossible. I hope that the Home Secretary will, if he cannot give an answer to-night, press that point upon the Government particularly. Though the Government invite the local authorities to participate, it is clear that the services to be provided even by the local authorities are not all-inclusive in this sense. There will still remain for individual citizens a very considerable measure of expense. I will read the following paragraph, when my point will be made clear. I will read the whole of paragraph 8:
The construction of any extensive scale of shelters which would be proof against direct hits by bombs is impracticable. Such protection could be obtained only by means of concrete structures of great thickness or correspondingly costly works of equivalent strength, and apart from any other considerations the cost would be prohibitive. The Government cannot therefore undertake to provide money towards the construction of public bomb-proof shelters. On the other hand, effective protection against blast and splinters from bombs can be obtained at comparatively small cost, and it will be for occupiers of premises"—
that is, the individual householders—
to provide this for themselves and their households, and where necessary for their workers and customers. Specific advice on this subject will be made generally available.
Where are we drifting to? We are inviting millions of our people up and down the land, through the medium of this circular, to believe that there can be for them, through the methods proposed, adequate protection against air raids. That they are asked to believe, and not only are they asked to believe it—a very dangerous thing indeed to invite them to believe—but they, are also asked to pay for the belief themselves. They are to provide this protection at their own expense. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite: Does this sound to them a fair proposition? Does it really? Whatever you may say against the individual citizen, you cannot say that the individual citizen is responsible for this situation. Whether it be right or wrong, the policy of the Government has given rise to this risk, and the policy of the Government is going to mulct millions of poor people in providing protection for themselves at their own expense. And what is the protection after all? I will read a quotation—I am sorry that it is a long one—from page 194 in the book on "Gas—the Story of the Special Brigade" by Major-General C. H. Foulkes, published in 1934. This is what he says about the gas, thermit:
Thermit is a well-known metallic mixture of powdered aluminium and iron oxide, which, when suitably ignited, under- goes a peculiar chemical reaction which is accompanied by an astonishing rise of temperature amounting it is said, to 5,000 degrees centigrade. As a result the metals become molten, and they were observed on one occasion, in the course of the experiments, to set fire to grass, which was wet from a recent shower of rain. In the preliminary investigation of thermit it was found very difficult to procure complete ignition of the compound with the bursting charges employed, and of reconciling the best scattering effect with the most effective size of the fragments of molten material. This difficulty was overcome when Professor Thorpe discovered that the new explosive, ophorite (which he himself had invented), served this purpose admirably owing to its rate of detonation being remarkably slow. It was realised that little tactical use could be made of the incendiary effect of thermit against trenches, but by fitting artillery time fuses to the 4-inch bombs it was found possible to burst the latter very accurately in the air 50 or 100 feet over the heads of
the German infantry manning a parapet, and it was often so used preparatory to an assault, and even while our infantry were crossing No Man's Land.
This is the comment of the General:
The cascades of molten metal descending on the heads of the enemy at these stirring moments provided a. magnificent spectacle, and the effect on our opponents must also have been terrifying.
Terrifying to one, but magnificent to the other. I wonder how terrifying it will be to the millions of people in this country who will not be able to afford this protection, and who even if they have it will get no protection at all. There is in a document issued dealing with chemical warfare—it is not in this document—even a suggestion that there should be bomb proof rooms provided in houses. Why, as my hon. Friend said, all our people have not rain proof roofs. And all this to persuade people of some sort of immunity from this kind of attack. Hon. Gentlemen know that this is a lie. It is an attempt to persuade the people to be quiet. Speeches have been made by military gentlemen to tone it down, to make it look less ghastly, to reduce the fright among the population. We shall, no doubt, be committed to spending vast sums of money upon this thing to undo the effect of the other £10,000,000 extra we are going to spend on the Air Force, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman: Will he undertake that whatever expenditure is undertaken not one extra penny shall be foisted upon local authorities nor upon private citizens? It is not fair, it is not just, it is not decent. If you will go on this mad career, very well, do undertake the expense yourselves. The people in my area anyway have not the money available. They are too poor already.
Under this business, rich people may be able to rush off to the countryside and to their country cottages, but the overcrowded people in the slums, as in the late War, will have nowhere to go. There will be no escape for them. They must stand their ground, and this silly, stupid, puerile suggestion will be useless in the presence of the dread catastrophe that impends. I have spoken strongly, and I repeat that if I were a member of a local authority I should find it very difficult to decide, I admit that frankly. The Government have foisted a dreadful decision upon them. They should have borne the decision themselves, and not shifted the burden and responsibility upon people who have no voice or lot in the policy which has given rise to this request. However, I have made my protest, and I can only add that we on this side have no responsibility for this situation. It lies entirely at the door of the Government, and they must shoulder it.
I wish to endorse very strongly what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) about the militarisation of the police. I have always held the view that to attempt to convert the police force into anything like an army would be a profound mistake. The police are not a military force. They were founded to replace the old night watch 100 years ago by Sir Robert Peel, when they were given the name of "Bobby" and "Peeler." From time to time suggestions have been made that the police could be much more efficiently managed and made a more effective force if they were put upon a military basis and linked up with our military forces. I hope that any suggestion of that kind will never find favour in our midst. There is another matter, on which I have put questions to the Home Secretary several times, to which I should like to call attention. One of the speakers today asked that the Home Office should use its influence to prevent boys being flogged. With that view I am in entire sympathy. I should like to ask the Home Secretary to use his influence against young people being put in prison. My desire is to see young people under the age of 21 freed from the liability to be sent to prison. The effect of prison is always demoralising. As one warder, who was quoted in a speech by the Lord Chief Justice, said:
They come in crying, but they go out laughing.
Once in prison, the fear of prison disappears, and they come out, so to speak, bearing the taint of prison. They are stamped, so to speak, with the mark of degeneracy. The effect on boys and girls under the age of 21 of being put in prison is everlasting and irreparable, and I hope that the Home Office will use its influence against that practice. Boys and girls ought to be exempt from the terrible possibility of being subjected to life in gaol.
There is another matter to which I would allude, and I am bringing it forward at the earnest request of a very important body which works on behalf of prisoners. The request is that the Home Secretary should establish an educational adviser for the convict prison at Dartmoor, to give the people in Dartmoor some chance of mental improvement by means of classes, lectures and so on. I am told that other prisons have educational advisers, but Dartmoor has not. Many hon. Members will be familiar with the hideous blot on the landscape of Dartmoor prison. I was at Torquay last Easter, and I went a motor journey to see that terrible place. It left me with a desire to mitigate in every possible way the evils of such an establishment. The prison at Dartmoor used to have an educational adviser, but some little time before the mutiny in 1932 the adviser was dispensed with, and there are some who think that dispensing with that educational adviser had something to do with the degeneracy that ultimately produced the riot.
In his interesting address the Home Secretary laid stress, among other things, on the work of probation. Probation was an American idea. It was first tried in Massachusetts in 1878, and was found to be so successful that it was introduced into this country. In 1907 an Act of Parliament was passed which introduced probation into our English system. It has proved a most admirable institution and has gone a very long way towards reducing crime, and has reduced the number of juvenile delinquents to a, remarkable extent. But there are not nearly enough probation officers. There has been talk this afternoon of 'an increase in the number of juvenile delinquents, and I regard that very largely as the result of unemployment and temperament. If you have boys and girls in work you will not have so many juvenile delinquents.
We want more probation officers to deal with our juvenile delinquents. The Archbishop of Canterbury made a very potent appeal the other day in which he pointed out the heavy burden that lay upon probation officers and the numerous classes of work they had to do, such as temperance work, the bringing together of husband and wife who had quarrelled, and so forth. Among those who are interested in juvenile delinquents there is a very strong desire for more probation officers. Last year there were only two probation officers to deal with boys between 14 and 16 years of age in London, and London is regarded as ahead of most places. We also want adequate pay for the probation officers. We need a good type of men. Some people think that if a person takes up altruistic work and work of an elevating character, he should not think much about remuneration. It may be that probation officers are willing to sacrifice themselves and to go about in shabby clothes, but they have their wives and children to maintain, and they have no right to expect that their wives and children should go short.
One recent development has taken place which calls for more probation officers. By the Children Act, 1933, justices may now send to approved Home Office schools children up to the age of 17 who, although they have committed no criminal offence, are in moral danger or liable to fall into criminal ways. One result of that provision in the Act of 1933 has been that far more children have been sent to approved schools by the magistrates than could be accommodated. There were not enough schools for the children, and large numbers of them have had to go to remand homes, which are not at all suitable. If hon. Members want an idea of how poor a remand home may be they should go to the London County Council school in Ponton Street, and they will come away with a feeling that the sooner boys and girls are away from that establishment the better. If more probation officers were appointed and could place their services at the disposal of the magistrates I believe that the children would not be sent to schools. The magistrates know that the probation officers are overworked and that there are not enough of them, and therefore they hustle the children into the crowded approved schools, and from there they have to go to the remand schools. A substitute for the approved schools is the probation officer, and that is a good reason why more probation officers should be appointed. I hope that the Home Secretary will be good enough to keep in mind the suggestions that I have made.
May I refer to one point in the interesting survey made by the right hon. Gentleman? He referred to the Police College and to the fact that certain students were taken from the ranks of the police forces. I wonder whether in the reply on the debate some indication can be given of the proportion of students from the ranks who are at present studying at the Police College. It would be interesting. The particular reason why I have ventured to intervene is to make some brief reference to the happenings at the Hendon Air display, and also at a similar function of the Royal Air Force at Mildenhall and Dux-ford. Every Member of the Committee will sympathise with those persons who have to gather these immense numbers of men and marshal them into order. The difficulty must be enormous. Hitherto it seems to me that those difficulties have been overcome with striking success.
Reference has already been made to the opinions of foreigners about our police. It is well known that in France, to take the nearest example, they have a most remarkable regard for our police and a Frenchman or a French girl will do almost anything to have an introduction to a "bobby." In Scandinavia, too, the reputation of our English policemen is held very high. This great reputation which is shared by foreigners as well as by the people of this country must be maintained if it possibly can. I have thought, however, that there has been recently an impression created that perhaps the impartiality hitherto shown by the police towards opinions which may not be very widely held and may not be very popular has not been quite so apparent. The peacefulness which has hitherto marked our great demonstrations in this country is not by any means attributable only to the police. The main reason for it is the innate peaceableness and reasonableness of our people. I should be the last person to say that it was due to the police, and still less would I say that the police did not contribute to it. It would be about as stupid to say that the police were always right as to say that politicians were always wrong. Both police and politicians are human, and both make mistakes. It would be a very great misfortune if at any time we were to allow ourselves to get into the habit of thinking that the police must necessarily be right. At the same time we should look into every complaint against their conduct with an open mind.
I think that I have detected a feeling among persons of a most peaceable nature that there has been recently a certain amount of discrimination against the left wing of politicians and, what is far worse, against pacifists. I wish to explore two causes of this feeling which I have noticed in the minds of certain respectable and peaceable people. The first cause may be this. Hon. Members will remember the discussion which took place about the meeting in the Albert Hall of Fascists over a year ago. Some hon. Members were present at that meeting and saw that rather childish pseudo-militaristic display which went on, and also saw the rough house which went on and the most improper handling of questioners and perhaps of interrupters also. There was a discussion in this House and the former Home Secretary, when he was asked why the police did not interfere with the meeting, replied that they could not enter into the building because it was a private meeting in the sense that the hall had been privately hired and they had not been invited to go in. I would point out, however, that in a certain case which was decided in the High Court very recently, which will be familiar to the right hon. Gentleman's Department, the police most certainly entered an exactly similarly convened private meeting, which was held by Communists in South Wales, and they stayed there the whole time, although they were requested to retire. There was an apparent discrimination.
Surely, I am correct in thinking that considerable grants are made to the police all over the country by the Home Office, with the result, in my submission, that points of general principle at any rate, spiced with illustrations, may be produced before the Committee.
I am afraid the hon. Member is not correct. By Statute law the provincial police are in the hands of the chief constable, who is responsible to the standing joint committee in the case of a county, or to the watch committee in the case of a borough. There is no responsibility on the Home Office, which is solely responsible for the Metropolitan Police Force.
In the case of a riot occuring with loss of life in any part of the country, through police action or otherwise, it is the Home Secretary who would be questioned in this House and who would have to make a statement, and if the Adjournment were moved he would be the Minister responsible for the reply.
That may be the case, but, all the same, it is very doubtful whether in that case there is any responsibility whatever on the Home Secretary. The question as to who is responsible for dealing with the provincial police is settled by Statute law on the local authority, and the only responsibility of the Home Office is to see that the police force is efficient.
We are engaged in voting £11,000,000 in respect of police expenditure in the provinces as well as for the Metropolitan Police. If an hon. Member chose to move to reduce that figure by £1,000,000 it would obviously be open to the House to carry the Vote for the lesser sum. Would it be really possible to alter the figure without discussing the reasons which might move the House to do so?
I must point out to the hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) that the only effect of reducing the sum would be to throw a heavier burden on the local authority. That is all that would occur. The mere fact that this House grants money for certain purposes does not necessarily put the responsibility for carrying out that service on the shoulders of His Majesty's Government. In some cases it does; in some it does not. In this case the Statute law specifically lays it down that it is the responsibility of the local authority.
It will be within your knowledge that on the Vote of the Scottish Estimates—I submit that the Secretary of State for Scotland is in the same position in Scotland as the Home Secretary is in England with regard to the police—particular instances as to the conduct of the police were debated by the Committee only a few days ago. In my submission it is perfectly proper to urge general principles on the Home Secretary and to cite certain particular instances of police conduct in various parts of the country.
If the hon. Member attempts to draw any deductions as to what is permissible on the English Vote from what may probably be permissible on the Scottish Estimates, he is on extremely dangerous ground. I still adhere to my ruling. The only examples the hon. Member is entitled to cite are those which occur within the Metropolitan Police district, which is under the direct responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman.
I was not really intending to pursue the details of police operations outside the Metropolitan area. I was merely instancing the decision of the High Court which has a direct bearing on something which a former Home Secretary stated in this House. Does the right hon. Gentleman still adhere to the ruling which his predecessor made, that the police must not enter into a building where a meeting is in progress provided that they are not invited to enter by those who have taken the hall, unless of course, some breach of the peace is brought to their notice? It would clear away a feeling that there is some discrimination if he would make a statement on this point, because the remarks of a former Home Secretary are fresh in our minds, and it would be desirable that this question should be cleared up once and for all, and that it should be made perfectly plain that no discrimination of that sort will be tolerated by the Home Secretary. I am not going to touch in any detail on what happened at the displays at Mildenhall and Duxford which, under your ruling, I am not allowed to do, but it does not preclude me from making a reference to what happened at Hendon. According to my information—I will not put it any higher—perfectly respectable citizens distributing pacifist literature were interfered with by the police. I have some examples of the literature which was being given out by these ladies, who belong to the Society of Friends and who would never think for a moment of causing a disturbance. They had their leaflets taken from them by the police, and were told that they were the cause of disturbances. There was one very respectable lady, a member of the Society of Friends, who had been distributing some thousands of these anti-war leaflets most of the afternoon. About 5.30 she was suddenly met by a man who snatched her leaflets from her and threw them into the air.
No, he threw them on the ground, and the lady picked them up and proceeded to go on with their distribution. While doing this she noticed that her lady helper was receiving similar treatment from the same man, and she pointed this out to a police officer. She said, "Do you see what this man is doing to my helper?" All that the police officer said was, "If you create a disturbance I shall have to remove you." In my submission that is discrimination, or it is likely to give that impression. This was by no means the only instance of that particular afternoon. The first lady went to a police officer and said, "Are we not allowed to distribute these leaflets?" Whereupon he replied that if they caused a disturbance he would have to remove them. That was perfectly proper from the point of view of the law; if there is a disturbance there must be a removal of the disturber, but that does not answer the particular question as to who is the cause of the disturbance. The evidence I have put before the Committee, as far as it goes, shows quite plainly that there was discrimination against this pacifist organisation, and to say that this was done in the interests of those who were distributing the leaflets is apparent nonsense—
It is a question of who creates the disturbance. If a person goes among a large crowd which is of one particular opinion and officiously produces such a leaflet, whoever he may be, Liberal or Labour or Tory, if anyone officiously and openly presses views which are contrary to those of the general meeting, surely he is likely to create a disturbance?
That is not the case here. The hon. Member assumes that the leaflets in question were abhorrent to the crowd present at the display. During the whole afternoon they had good-naturedly received these leaflets, perhaps tearing them up. Except in the one case of this man who threw them into the air there was no sort of feeling displayed by the crowd which would have justified any action by the police. I am informed that the man who threw the leaflets into the air did the same thing the year before. One man creates a disturbance and the police at once assume that the distributors of the leaflets are the cause. I hope that this incident will be carefully considered by the Home Secretary, who is not one of those who are inveterate and incorrigible whitewashers of subordinates. I hope he will do what he can to see that this unfortunate impression is not allowed to continue.
May I say how warmly I welcome the right hon. Gentleman in his new capacity after exactly a 20 years' absence from the Home Office? In almost his first speech as Home Secretary he claimed that he was new to Departmental work. On that occasion he dealt with much the same subjects as to-day—anti-aircraft defences, alien refugees, the Children Act. The same subjects are still uppermost in our minds to-day. The right hon. Gentleman ended his speech with the statement that this is perhaps the only country where Ministerial acts can be daily called in question in the House of Parliament. I wish he had added that it is probably the only country where the Crown cannot be sued in tort and only with difficulty in contract in the King's Courts. The Minister's task will not be complete until he can claim in his peroration that, in the words of the Ministers' Powers Committee, there is no lacuna in the rule of law in this country.
The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Johnstone) suggested that the Home Office had been ungenerous in its treatment of political aliens. I find from the latest returns that in all leave to land was refused last year to some 1,400 persons, 1,200 the year before, and that we have allowed more foreigners to land in this country than for some years past. Refusals for the last three months total 400 in all for the whole Kingdom. As it is impossible for an alien to ascertain in advance whether he will be given leave to enter this country, and that only two were refused leave at Croydon, I apprehend there could not have been many alien political refugees refused leave to land. Such small experience as I have of the actual operation of the Aliens Act under the administration of the Home Office is that they have been exceedingly fair and just in the treatment of such cases. I would go further than that. I have spoken in this House more than once in favour and in support of the Third Reich, but that does not preclude me from saying that I regard the more recent recrudescence of persecution of Jews in Germany and particularly the latest speech by Dr. Goebbels with disgust and resentment. I feel that we in this country ought to be doing something more than merely expressing disappointment. I should like to see an even more generous attitude adopted by this country in such exceptional circumstances towards the victims of persecution.
May I further respectfully suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that it might be of real assistance to him in the operation of the Aliens Act if he could constitute not a statutory but an advisory committee which could assist him in his deliberations in regard to the more difficult class of case which must from time to time come before him. His office has very heavy responsibilities for the fate of individuals. Is it altogether desirable that their fate should be decided solely on the strength of official documents, and as a consequence of official consideration without the aid that an unofficial committee might bring? He would, of course, retain the whole of his authority, but could be able to obtain some sort of assurance that there would be supervision of such aliens after their arrival in this country and during the period of their stay by some more effective authority than the local police who are at present charged with that very difficult and unpleasant duty. I do not think we should lose anything by a temporary addition of a few extra law-abiding citizens who have been driven from their own country in circumstances which must arouse not merely the pity but also the resentment of practically every class in this country. I have recently passed frequently through our ports. The immigration offices sometimes seem either insufficiently staffed or too hard worked to give not so much the courtesy but the kindly and the prompt attention to foreigners we should wish them to receive if we desire to maintain the reputation of our public services at the ports, as well as in the Metropolis, for courtesy.
I have more than once drawn the attention of the Home Office in connection with the Factory Acts to the increasing frequency of accidents in electrical lifts in large towns. I believe that they should be notified, and I hope that the Home Office, who have already undertaken to examine that question closely, will be able to make some statement on that subject before long. There are hundreds—mostly boys—who are killed or maimed in our cities every year by lift accidents. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider this question most seriously. The lift is becoming more and more a part of our lives and I do not think it is safe to leave the matter any longer to chance and the coroner. There is at present no machinery even for reporting the accidents and the London County Council, to whom I referred recently, stated that they had no information as to how many accidents had occurred, or where or in what manner. They are simply cases of accidental death for the insurance company to settle up as best it can.
The Chief Inspector of Factories referred to the bad lighting so common in factories and the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) touched on that point. May I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that instead of appointing more factory inspectors and devising fresh laws and regulations, he should induce those great firms in this country who supply electrical equipment to spend a few thousand pounds on a special campaign of advertisement and education and instruction, particularly of small firms, into the numerous new ways of lighting which can be introduced, often at a great saving, even into the oldest factory. It is very largely a matter of propaganda and instruction and of travellers competent to explain, what should be done, and how much it would cost. The reports of the Industrial Research Board and of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research show that good light is not merely an amenity which you can have if you care to pay for it, but it involves a saving in accidents, in output, and very often in current actually used. It is not so much a matter for the Home Office as for the electrical industry to get busy and really propagate their views—I need hardly say with the active concurrence and co-operation of the chief inspector of factories.
I should like to endorse the plea of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) on the subject of a medical referee sitting alone as the sole person to decide whether a man is or is not entitled to compensation under the law. It is notable that the question as to medical responsibility is coming up more and more almost every year into our daily lives. I submit that the whole question requires further consideration. Lead poisoning and chrome ulceration are largely due to the absence of adequate medical supervision on the spot at the right moment, as stated by the Chief Inspector of Factories. The doctor is coming more and more into our lives. I submit that his position in such matters should be that of an assessor or witness, who should give his technical advice, and the final decision as to whether a man is or is not suffering from a given disease—a matter upon which his whole future depends—should be given by a judicial authority, a referee—someone learned in the law—who has to assist him, on the question of evidence, one or more medical men of high repute sitting as assessors, and not acting as judges. We are becoming more and more dependant on technical evidence in these matters, and I question whether we are wise in making our technical experts also judges. In their own interests they would be well advised to accept the position of assessors to a legal tribunal consisting of a single man who would decide whether or not the facts as placed before him in medical evidence justified the decision. That, for the main part, is what is happening in the county courts and elsewhere, where compensation is assessed by a judge on the evidence placed before him by doctors. The doctor does not sit as judge but gives the best possible evidence that can be obtained.
Contracting hand, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh referred, is not a new disease. The progress of medical knowledge may one day enable us to isolate it and to put it in its own category. I have seen several cases. It is admittedly obscure, and I can quite understand my right hon. Friend's predecessor saying that he was unable from the evidence before him to reach a decision that this was a proper disease to schedule, but I can see no reason why, with the Industrial Health Research Board at the disposal of the Home Office, as it always is, every single case of that disease which is reported should not be specifically examined by a doctor reputed for that purpose by the Industrial Health Research Board. Let us have an extensive and thorough examination as is done with other diseases, and within a year or two a final decision can be reached, and once reached could be given effect to, with retrospective effect. We have mighty efficient scientific machinery, and I am by no means satisfied that we are making the best possible use of it.
The right hon. Gentleman is the final authority in many matters relating to the police, and I am not going to risk your disapproval, Captain Bourne, by discussing the provincial police, but I wish to say, if I am allowed to do so, that magistrates cannot reply upon the Home Office for even copies of Home Office circulars which they should administer and by which they should be guided. The statutory rules and regulations are in a very complicated form. There has been no new edition since 1925. The old circulars are not always in print. The rules of procedure for the court are not easily obtainable. Our Statute Book is in a bad mess, and I submit that it is high time that the Home Office, under the impetus and stimulus of a great legal mind, should apply itself to giving magistrates a weapon which they can use before they are subjected to further criticism.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the increasing frequency of juvenile crime but omitted, of set purpose, to mention, because apparently they are not in the Estimates, the extraordinarily valuable work done in the Home Office approved schools under the direction of his Department.
I particularly regret that I cannot mention them, because juvenile crime could be stopped by an extension of these schools as in no other way, and I hope that the magistrates of the children's courts, to whom the right hon. Gentleman paid a deserved tribute, will be given at a very early date a copy of the Home Office handbook dealing with the approved schools. No report of their work has been published for the past eight years. I have asked for such a report to be published. Last year I was assured that my request would be considered, but meanwhile the children's courts are in operation and few magistrates have the least idea of what the Home Office approved school is, or how the children will be treated. Will the Home Secretary consider giving every magistrate who works on approved schools a copy of an up-to-date description of these schools, showing how they work and the proper criteria to be observed in deciding whether or not any given child should be sent to such a school, and what will be his prospects there?
It is equally important for the police, even in the Metropolitan area, and much more outside, to have from the Home Office a textbook which will give them an outline of their duties brought up to date at frequent intervals. At the present time there is no such textbook published by authority. The police depend upon various sources which they cannot afford to keep up to date. The complexities of the law, so far as they apply to the police and so far as they are under the jurisdiction of the right hon. Gentleman, could be avoided by the simple use of the printing press. We are not anything like so active as some foreign nations in using the printing press, not for propaganda but for popularising and explaining what we are doing, what Government officials ought to do and how to do it. I have seen the most satisfactory results accrue from the various great consolidating Acts which have been passed during the past few years. The Children Act has released a vast amount of energy and has done much good. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, with all his vast experience behind him, will use his time at the Home Office to initiate and push through a series of great consolidating and amending Measures.
I beg pardon. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will revise and republish the Statutory Rules and Orders and such other documents as are within his purview, upon which the police and magistrates necessarily depend. I should have liked to have spoken on the question of the circular regarding defence against air attack, but so much has been said already, and in such ill-humour, that I hesitate to trench upon that ground. I do not quite understand why the circular should go to the county councils without being available at the Vote Office. I have not even seen a copy of it. I feel confident that there is far less known about the probable effect of many of these terrible weapons than is popularly thought. There is by no means the unanimity amongst scientific men as yet as to the probable effects. There is no sort of unanimity between the Services as to remedies. I believe that the best remedy is attack, but that is obviously outside the Home Office Vote. Meantime I urge the right hon. Gentleman in any public references he may make to this subject not to allow any word of his to increase the public fears. I am far more afraid of public fear in these matters than I am of public carelessness and indifference or public stupidity. We shall all be stupid if the time does come; we shall all do the wrong thing. I do not think that any of the proposals in this circular are likely to save us. Let us keep the temperature as low as possible. Let us avoid the cascades of verbal thermit that this subject seems to arouse.
I feel myself a pariah. Every Member of this Committee gets up and devises fresh schemes for perfecting the machine, and I do not like the machine. This is the one opportunity we have in the whole year for criticising that quintessence of authority which is represented by the Home Office. The whole of our history has been one long struggle between liberty on the one hand, and authority, represented by the Home Office, on the other. The real reason why one starts this year with a certain amount of satisfaction in this Debate is that we now have a man at the Home Office who knows that authority is not always right. We have an opportunity at last to check this perpetual growth in the power of authority and the eternal subtraction of liberty from the individual. The right hon. Gentleman as a Foreign Secretary may not have been as strong as Palmerston. He may have tried too much to please the Germans. But he should be an admirable Home Secretary.
This is the only chance we have had of seeing a Liberal mind at the Home Office since the days of Herbert Gladstone. Now is the chance of trying to persuade him that the serried ranks of the bureaucracy or the hierarchy behind him have to be kept in check in the interests of British justice and British freedom. The right hon. Gentleman hinted that there were 180 different police forces in this country, and he thought that that was a bit too much. One of our cherished rights is decentralisation and local control. The right hon. Gentleman will never be able to reduce those 180 police forces to one police force, not because it would not be in the interest of the public, nor because it would not be more economical, but because every Member in this House who represents a local police force would stop the amalgamation. That is where democracy comes in. It is all to the good of liberty that it should come in. I prefer my local police force, though it may not be so efficient and may be a bit more extravagant, because, after all, the police there are not doing the work of the bureaucracy up here. They are more human, even open to persuasion in the hard cases and the people know them. One thing I would ask the Home Secretary to avoid, and that is more centralisation of authority. Let us remember that the movement towards liberty means decentralisation. In every case, whether it is the Home Office or the church or a trade union, the cry is, "The bigger we can make it the better it will be." They do not understand how much is lost by lack of local knowledge, local interest and local control.
That is one thing. The next thing is that the Home Office always seeks to hide its arbitrary authority or even its legal authority under the disguise of grandmama; it is always acting in the interests of society. When a poor boy is brought before it it always acts in what it believes to be the interests of that boy. We had the case the other day of an unfortunate boy sentenced to three years at Borstal. It was a shocking case. We got the boy released and put on probation.
The Appeal Court. It is an exact illustration of what I am saying. You can see the man who tries that boy. He says, "That boy will get on splendidly if sent to Borstal for three years. It is no use sending him to prison for three months. What is wanted is the definite, steady, educational experience of Borstal." At the bottom of the whole movement is the idea that it is best for the boy. The thought is not of punishment but of the chance of developing the boy into a useful citizen. But that is not the province of justice. The infant Cyrus was brought up carefully in order that he should be a good king when he became King of Persia. His father started by giving him experience in administering justice. The boy was made a magistrate of the children's court. There were brought before him two boys, a big boy, and a little boy weeping. The little boy complained that the big boy had taken his coat, and the big boy said, "I did take his coat because it was too big for him and it fitted me, and I gave him mine which was too small for me but fitted him." The infant Cyrus ordered the boys to exchange coats. They tried on the coats and the coats fitted. Then Cyrus said, "See what an excellent, fit they are. We will award the little coat to the little boy and the big coat to the big boy." He went back to his father and joyfully told him what he had done. His father said to him, "I sent you to administer justice. Who made you a fitter of coats?"
The moral of that story might be applied to much of the administration of justice in this country. If only you would punish delinquents according to their crime, instead of trying to save their souls by sending them for long terms to these institutions, which may be excellent but which the poor people themselves hate! It is the business of justice to administer justice not to devise a future for an unfortunate youth.
We want to get it inside our heads that in England we stand permanently for two things. It is democratic to de-centralise as far as possible. It is wrong to put expediency before justice. There are two well-known alternatives. The common thing for everyone on the Government Front Bench and everybody in the country in time of war is to say that the State comes first and that everything must be sacrificed in the interests of the community. An older better doctrine is that the function of law is to do justice though the Heavens fall. Those two alternatives ought to be engraved in the Home Secretary's room and everywhere else at the Home Office. It ought not to be a question of expediency but of justice.
Let me turn from these general principles to the special case which I desire to bring before the right hon. Gentleman's notice. The hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) said that only 1,400 people had been prevented from coming into this country last year but he knows that it is hopeless to-day to try to come into this country unless you fulfil certain conditions. This country is closed to the foreigner except in certain cases. The immigrant must have money, the period of his stay must be fixed at three months or six months and he must pledge himself not to take any work while here. Those conditions operate not only in England but throughout the civilised world. In France the conditions are almost as bad as they are here. Indeed things are growing worse there in this respect and they are beginning to squeeze out the refugees. But what is good enough for the rest of the civilised world ought not and need not be good enough for this country.
I ask the Committee to consider the history of alien immigration. When I first came to this House there were no restrictions on people coming into this country and I remember Gladstone denouncing the idea as though it were the worst form of Protectionist heresy. We kept open house here, down to, I think, 1905 or thereabouts. Then the door was shut and it has remained shut ever since. Why was it shut? Because Jews were flying in great numbers from Poland—then part of Russia—into this country. They were coming into the East End of London where they are most of the population to-day. The objection raised in those days—entirely by the Conservative party—was that these people were coming in to compete with English labour and were putting honest Englishmen out of jobs and taking the bread out of the mouths of our own people, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be as frank as anybody else in denouncing that point of view. He knows as well as I know that a man coming into this country gives as much work as he takes. He has to be clothed and fed and even sometimes educated. By coming here he employs British labour, and on balance he turns nobody out of work. But there was a time when the trade unions took the same point of view as the Conservatives on this matter and objected to aliens coming here on the ground that it put men out of work.
It is upon that ground that all countries have acted in this narrow fashion. They have been pushed into this position by trade union and working-class objection to increased competition in their own labour markets. It is a tragic thing to find a working-class, driven by unemployment to desperation and taking up such an anti-brotherhood and anti-international line on this matter. That has been the case everywhere, except possibly in Palestine, and it is the law everywhere now. All countries show an anxiety to keep out foreigners. But in England to-day we no longer find that the working-class are opposed to refugees coming to this country. That is the result of education, common humanity, and the gradual realisation that these people coming here really make work. It is also the result of the excellent leadership in the trade unions of Walter Citrine. There is a completely different position from that which existed in 1905 or whenever this alien legislation was passed. There is a recognition by the working-classes, as well as by all educated liberal opinion that it is in the interests of the country to get fresh waves of population from the outside; that population and prosperity go hand in hand.
That being so, Malthus being proved wrong, could not the Home Office without touching on legislation make it easier for refugees from Europe to come to this, the last free country? If we set an example it would be followed, perhaps not in France but in all the Scandinavian countries. A lead is due from us. Just think what happens at the present time. The first question put by an immigration officer to the unfortunate alien trying to 'enter England is, "Are you a Jew?" I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that question is put on the authority of the Home Office or does the immigration officer merely ask it on his own responsibility?
The Jews who come in here. The first question that is put to these unfortunate people is whether they are Jews or not, and, if they are Jews, they do not get the sympathy which they ought to get. A sort of Fascist attitude is adopted towards these unfortunate people who have no friends. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will find out whether that is the case or not. I give him the facts of one case which I have very much on my mind. The man concerned is not a Jew but a big Amerian buyer of crockery who comes to this country every year. This year by misfortune instead of coming by Liverpool he came by Harwich, and his name being Harris—which is often a Jewish name—he found every sort of obstacle placed in his way. They took his passport away and raised all kinds of difficulties, although he was an American citizen coming in here to buy British goods. Fortunately the first firm to which he came was Josiah Wedgwood and Sons. There he told his story, and I sent the particulars to the Home Office. The answer I got was that it was very unfortunate that the man had not mentioned that he was buying from Josiah Wedgwood and Son. Well, everybody cannot buy from, us. I wish they would. But what an excuse to offer for the difficulties which were placed in this man's way. They did not know anything about him, and they said that if they had known that he was coming here to buy from a reputable firm all would have been well. That is no excuse. After all, the immigration officers have to administer the law and to do what the Home Office tell them, and I should like to have some inquiry made into that case.
At the present time aliens who come here find that their only chance of being allowed in is to tell a lie. They say that they are only going to stay for three months and that they will not ask for work or take it. It is ridiculous. Many of them are starving people who have been driven out of Germany, who are not allowed to work there, and they are allowed to enter England on the understanding and condition that they will not work here. What happens? They stop here for three months and then the police notify them that their time is up. Foreigners have a regard for the English police, but they are always really afraid of all police, in any circumstances, and especially in a foreign country. They do not know what to do. They are ordered to leave by a certain date, and they have nowhere to go. Then they write to me or to some other hon. Member and ask for an extension, and one has only to write to the Home Office in order to get an extension for three months, or even six months. In one case I have got an extension of a year. But why should we be put to this bother and why should these unfortunate people be terrorised? Their only crime is that they have told a lie. I know of one case of a man who was only a Socialist—not even a. Jew.
He was not even a Liberal, but he had had a job in the Berlin municipality. He had to fly, and he came here. Fortunately for him a young lady who was attached to him was a British subject. She had been born here, but had been carried away when she was very young. She did not speak much English, but she was a British subject, and, being a British subject, was able to take work here. They lived together. The man who might have been her husband was not allowed to work, and if they had got married neither of them would have been allowed to work. They are getting on all right now—she does the work and he does the cooking. What a state of affairs. That is what we reduce honest people to by these regulations. We force them into signing a lie to begin with, and then we force them into the position of having to beg Members of Parliament to get extensions for them. The only alternative is deportation back to a country where they would be put straight into concentration camps.
I wish to know whether we have deported anybody from this country who has not been guilty of some crime. How far are the police in a position to say to an alien: "You must leave on such a day." What would happen if I were to say to one of these alien applicants: "I am not going to write to the Home Office for an extension but stop here"? What would be the procedure? If a man or woman is brought before the magistrate on the charge of having stayed beyond the period or even of having taken work, what will happen? Suppose it is said, "This man or woman promised not to take any work but is now earning 10s. a week mending socks or something of that kind," what would be the position? Do hon. Members think that any magistrate would deport such people? Not one. Even if these people had committed a crime, it would have to be a serious crime before a British magistrate would deport them to Germany or even Poland.
Yes, the magistrate could recommend deportation, and I want to know whether any bench of magistrates in the last two years has recommended anybody for deportation to Germany. If they have not done so, why not stop threatening these unfortunate people with deportation? If it is a brutum fulmen; if it is a thing which you know the magistrates will not do, why not stop threatening these people who do not know our law and who hardly understand our language? Could it not be made public that merely to take work is not a crime involving deportation? These refugees receive visits from the police and get documents to fill up, showing where they are working and so forth. I tell them "Fill up the form truly and show that you are working and nothing will happen." Of course, they do not dare to do so. They think that, if they admit that they are working, they will not get an extension. So they can get extensions for one period after another until they are here pretty well for life. Yet if they do not commit a felony or some serious crime, they run no risk of being deported, and I think it is about time we made that publicly clear. It would redound to the credit of our name if that became openly known and if these threats ceased. Can we not get a more generous interpretation for the people who may be here? If Citrine does not object to working men coming here from abroad, why should the Government object? What are their grounds for objecting? Have they become imbued with Aryan ideas? We know that the Home Secretary is 100 per cent. Aryan, because he told us so. Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State also a 100 per cent. Aryan?
Me? I hope I am a half-caste. Most of us here are half-castes; but in any case I do not believe in the Aryan doctrine, and the Government do not, and the Home Office had better give up believing in it and realise that even a Polish Jew may be allowed to come to England and work here, and that as long as there are no complaints from the trade unions at any rate, he might be allowed to stop here. This seems to be the obvious thing to be done. The whole excuse up till now has been that the trade unions and the working-classes would not want them. If that excuse goes, then your justification goes, and England may again come into its own as a free country for free people.
I will not follow the argument of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), although it is always very interesting to hear him speak. I do, however, wish to raise again the question of the Home Office circular regarding the precautions to be taken in the event of an air raid, because the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) seemed to make very heavy weather over it. He seemed to suggest that it was useless to issue such a circular, because it was the duty of the Government to protect the country. I would like to ask him and his friends if they object to Home Office circulars regarding accidents in factories, and if they object to circulars regarding lifeboats, and other such matters. Yet all these things have to be protected. It is the duty of the Government, where they can, to prevent accidents, and they do it to their very utmost. Therefore, I do not see any reason why there should be objections to a circular by the Home Office with regard to air raids. In fact, I think it is probably a very good thing that we should realise that at some time or other it may unfortunately come about that we shall all have to be ready to protect ourselves against air raids.
I was very interested to hear, in the excellent opening speech of the Secretary of State, what he had to say about the police force and their methods of detecting crime, although I hope those methods will not become so good that we shall never again have a Raffles or any more of such excellent books as those of Conan Doyle, which, apart from other virtues, sometimes enable me to go to sleep at night. I am very keen on the police. They are often criticised and very seldom praised. I happen to come into touch with them a good deal in many ways. I am a magistrate, I am a special constable, and I was for several years Chairman of the Places of Detention Committee of the London County Council. I come into contact with them, and I realise their great difficulties. I have travelled a lot and I have been able to compare them with the police forces of other countries, and, although there may be now and again a black sheep in the police force, as there are, I believe, black sheep in the House of Commons, yet on the whole I would say that our police force bears comparison with the police force in any other country in the world. Their duties are many, and they have to know a great number of different things. They were criticised this afternoon about their lack of knowledge of the law.
Yes. I was not saying by whom, and I certainly did not mean anything that the hon. Member himself said, because I thought he made a very admirable speech. He has more practice in speaking than I have, as he belongs to a small minority in this House. There is no doubt, however, that their lack of knowledge of the law was criticised. On the contrary, I am very often surprised, in cases that come before the bench, at their knowledge of the law. Then again they have to answer, during the course of the day, dozens of questions, and they have not the advantage which Ministers in this House have of suggesting that they should have notice of a question. They are supposed to give a ready reply to all sorts of questions. Again, in the course of their work they come across a great number of different people, some of whom are very objectionable. You see sometimes, after some big function or other, when people are a little bit gayer than they otherwise would be, that some are merry and some are objectionable, and I think it is surprising how tactful and courteous the police generally are.
Some years ago I had some correspondence with the then Home Secretary advocating the advisability of allowing public schoolboys into the police force. I said at that time that I thought there was a good opening for them, and I am very glad to think that now there is a police college at Hendon. I happened a fortnight ago to go down to Hendon to the police college to play in a cricket match. If you want to know a person well, I should advise you to play cricket either with him or against him. In that way you will get to know whether he is a good chap or not. I was surprised to find what a fine lot of fellows there are at Hendon, fellows of all sorts and conditions, but all nice, decent fellows, and I sincerely hope that, as has already been advocated to-day, some of these young men, when they have had experience and have been properly trained and show proficiency, will be given the opportunity of filling some of the highest ranks in the police force.
Nobody would advocate that they should be given the highest ranks unless they are really efficient in the various ways that are necessary, but if they are efficient, I hope that some of these young fellows will in the future get opportunities of filling the highest ranks, which has hitherto been filled so often from outside the force, owing, I understand, to the fact that there have been no people in the service equally fit. That occurs in every walk of life, not in the police force only. It occurs in our own spheres, in our offices, where we often have to pass over some youngster and to put in someone from outside because nobody inside happens at the moment to be ready to take over the more responsible tasks. I will conclude by saying that I listened to what the Home Secretary said about the police force in its various branches, and I think we have very good reason to be proud of the police force. Let us not imagine that, because there are occasionally one or two cases which go wrong, therefore the whole force is to be damned.
I want to say how delightful it was to hear the remarks of the Home Secretary to-day in dealing with his Department. It would appear that the heart grows fonder of the Home Office after its 20 years' absence. With regard to the observations of the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), I am at a loss to understand his position. I am sorry he is not here at the moment, because this Front Bench below me seems to carry with it a certain weight and dignity, but by what right he mentioned Labour leaders and their authority and what that has to do with the subject of aliens, I am at a loss to understand. I wish to raise a question, not with regard to refugees coming into this country. When hon. Members deal with cases of vital importance, Timbuctoo, Kenya, South Africa, or anywhere else in the world outside is of no more consequence than the place in which they themselves reside, and I want to turn my attention to the place where I reside, namely, England, and to deal with what I consider is a disgrace. I raised this matter some months ago with the President of the Board of Trade, and I had hoped to-day that, with one who has so great a knowledge of the law occupying the responsible position of Home Secretary, he would take cognisance of the matter and see what could be done.
If we believe in the model life of the nation and that our people have a right to a place here, and if we believe that the alien, if admitted by the Home Office, only has the right of domicile here, then we shall know where we are if such authority be exercised. I was sitting on a bench before which a case was tried of a person who had to appear with regard to a maintenance order for his wife, and I found, in dealing with this case, which was that of a coloured man, that he was about to leave the country. I found that he had married a white woman and that they had two children. I say nothing about the colour, but the man being domiciled and married in this country, I should have thought that would establish status. I found, however, that he was an alien who had been admitted to this country under a three years' contract with a shipping company, and that he was ceasing to be under contract and was leaving the country and, incidentally, leaving his wife and two children also.
In places like Cardiff, Swansea, Liverpool, Glasgow, or Hull the problem of coloured children dependent on the various public assistance committees is prevalent, and I want to know what, if anything, the Home Office is doing, not with regard to refugees, but with regard to a foreigner, who has no right whatever in the country except under the terms of a contract and who is returning to his native land, leaving his wife and children to the care of the Poor Law authorities of the city in which they reside.
I do not want to bring this question up every year, for every year adds to the numbers that may be left behind. I do not bring it forward as a criticism of the Home Office. This is the first opportunity I have had of putting it forward to a quarter from which I feel redress can come. The Home Office has power in regard to naturalisation and aliens, and I want to know whether the Home Secretary is prepared to see that when the sacrament of marriage is contracted between any couple in this country there will be some protection for the wife and children. The recognition of marriage as a sacrament goes by the board if such a loose system can creep in. I suggest to the Home Office that they ought to tighten up the conditions in regard to the contracts of these foreign seamen.
I am not going to deal with the labour problem, because that is a side of the question which ought to be dealt with by the Board of Trade, but it is the duty of the Home Office to deal with the other aspects of the problem which I am placing before them. It is a problem that eats very deeply into the family life of our seaport towns, and because of that and of the great injustice it is doing to women and children, I am asking the Home Office to deal with it. I am convinced that any man who has the right of entry into this country and marries should have the right of asylum, but for a man to come here and shirk his responsibilities by leaving the country is an insult to the women of our land.
I want to raise a question of outstanding importance to a large number of people. The question concerns the legality or otherwise of gaming machines which are called fruit machines, or more colloquially, "diddlers." These machines contain three revolving drums which are operated by the insertion of a coin, and if, when the revolutions stop, certain fruits or other figures approximate to each other, the lucky experimenter with the machine may draw from four to 100 coins as a prize. For a number of years past there seems to be some doubt as to their legality, and to make sure that they might not be illegal, the owners fitted them with three buttons with which the revolving drums could be stopped, but one has to have the eye of an eagle in order to stop the drums at the required places. Lately a number of prosecutions have taken place in a large seaside town not far from here, and the proprietors of the clubs and their clientele want to know where they stand before the law. It is becoming the custom for a police raid to take place. A number of policemen in private clothes appear at the club, seize the machines and take them away, and institute a smaller charge with reference to some other matter.
I cannot find any case where the legality of the machines alone has been tested in the law courts. In the last case that was brought to my notice a small charge was preferred. It was brought against a new member for having drinks before he had been properly initiated by what is called the bar committee. Usually some other charge, apart from the supposed illegality of the machines, is preferred against the proprietor of the club. That is not the worst. After a raid of that sort takes place a fine will be imposed upon the proprietors of the club, and six months later another club within a 100 yards of the first club is similarly raided and the proprietors fined. I suggest that if these clubs are illegal and are proved to be illegal, the chief constable of the town should send a notice to clubs which are registered in order to point out that they are illegal and that by a certain date the machines must be cleared off the premises. I want to ask the Home Secretary whether his Department is prepared to give a ruling as to the legality of these machines and whether the proprietors of clubs are entitled to use them. If the machines are legal, will a notification of their legality be sent round to the police authorities in all towns where clubs exist? If the machines are illegal, can a notice also be sent round so that the proprietors of clubs and the people who go to them shall not live under a continuous apprehension that they are liable to be arrested for doing what in their opinion is a perfectly innocent thing?
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—even if vicariously—for calling attention so shortly after his re-occupation of the Home Office to the difficulties which arise if what he calls local sub-government is carried to extremes. He called attention to the fact that there are 180 separate police forces, 41 of which consist of less than 50 men. I differ from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) when he hopes that centralisation in this matter will go no further, and I am going to ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to do everything he can to secure voluntary amalgamations, particularly of the smaller forces of non-county boroughs with those of the appropriate adjacent county. I must rest content with advocating voluntary amalgamations because anything which calls for legislation is out of order. If my right hon. Friend were able to take more direct action I should not be displeased.
I want to emphasise that voluntary amalgamation would eliminate unnecessary boundaries and, therefore, formalities, and that that would do much to speed up the circulation of information and the concerting of measures to prevent and detect crime which are so vitally necessary nowadays when methods of communication are so fast and crime is so efficient. Such voluntary amalgamation would be in the interests of the forces concerned. In a small force of 20 to 50 men a man who makes a slip has little chance of making good, whereas, if he belongs to a larger force, he can be removed to the other end of the county, no one knows anything about it, and he is able to get a new start. If a man is anxious to get at the top of the tree, he must have experience not only in country police work but in town police work. Economies can also be effected by amalgamation. Although they would not be very substantial, when there is such vast expenditure on the police, economies, however small, should not be lightly dismissed.
There has always been one drawback to amalgamation. It hurts civic pride, the pride of the city fathers in some town where they and their predecessors have been supreme under Parliament as long as there has been any local government at all, if they feel that they are to surrender any of the powers which will detract in any way from the dignity of their town. I can understand their reluctance to do that. It is very natural, but it should not be beyond the power of my right hon. Friend—
I hope that my right hon. Friend will persuade these authorities that their dignity will not suffer and that there is more to be considered than the mere question of dignity when the good of the police forces and of the country is concerned. There are 251 non-county boroughs in the country, and only 49 have separate police forces. What is far more important, there are eight important county boroughs which are content to be policed by county forces. If borough forces consent to voluntary amalgamation they will have adequate representation on the Standing Joint Committees—as much as they like, because they will be extremely welcome. The Standing Joint Committees might even agree to the name of the borough being associated with that of the county in the title, so that the ancient dignity of the borough might bring lustre to that of the county. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to persuade the boroughs that there would be no loss of dignity if they make this concession, and that it would really be for the good of the force and of the public.
The hon. Member for Bromley (Sir E. Campbell) who has left the Chamber, said he could not understand why the circular about air raid precautions issued by the Home Office bad been referred to so often to-day or had come in for so much denunciation from our side of the House. We have denounced it because it throws the cost of whatever has to be done on to the local authorities, and most of us come from industrial areas, where the cost of taking precautions is likely to be greatest, and therefore we object. I am a member of a local authority, and I want to prevent damage to life and to property, and that is why I am speaking this evening. The circular is most inadequate, as the Home Secretary will find out as soon as he begins to get suggestions from the local authorities as to what can be done. In view of the tremendous importance of the problem of dealing with the effects of air raids, we must all consult together over the measures to be taken to ensure that the least possible damage is occasioned. We all hope that air raids will not occur, but the danger exists, and it is no use trying to hide our heads in the sand.
The speech of the Home Secretary made no reference to his having a new sub-department, no reference to the new expenditure of £92,000. Usually Ministers with something new talk about it, explain it, but in this case the matter was passed over entirely. I take it that his silence is some measure of the appreciation of the danger which may come upon us, but, as I say, it is no use hiding our heads in the sand. I hope the Home Office will act a little more quickly than it has done up to now. As far back as the 14th March two questions were asked in the House regarding the organisation of fire brigades in the case of air raids, one being put by an hon. Member on the other side of the House and the other by myself. We were informed by the Home Secretary at that time that he intended to set up a committee. Just before the House rose for the Easter holiday I put down a question for answer after Easter, but the reply I got was that there was nothing to report. Nothing had been done. On the Thursday before the Whitsun holiday I had a question on the Order Paper asking when the right bon. Gentleman was likely to make a statement about the appointment of this committee, but there was no further information forthcoming. I find in this circular, dated 9th July, that the Secretary of State has decided to appoint a committee to investigate this matter and to strengthen the organisation of the fire brigade. So there is a firm determination to appoint a committee, though we still do not know when it will be appointed. Let us hope we shall hear of it soon.
As a member of a public authority I am likely to be charged with the protection of the population. That is a comparatively easy matter in county areas, but there are horrifying possibilities in industrial areas, where houses, factories, stores of oil, stores of timber and stores of every imaginable kind are packed closely together. One bomb may start a fire there, and succeeding bombs will undoubtedly fall in the area. I have in mind the Home Office regulations which apply to petrol but do not apply to other inflammable liquids stored in bulk. In West Ham there are any number of very large tanks standing above ground storing what is called white spirit, used in the manufacture of paint. Because that spirit does not vaporise so easily as petrol it is allowed to be stored in that way. With those tanks standing three or four feet above the ground any splinter from a bomb might cause a tank to leak and set a river of burning spirit running around, and that would result in any raiders following up the first raiders being attracted to that area. I have in mind a place in West Ham, alongside the railway, where three or four years ago we had a terrific fire. It belongs to a firm who are manufacturers of white spirit, and they store there petrol and turpentine and all kinds of stuff like that. Alongside the railway there are thousands and thousands of gallons of spirit stored in tanks. When that fire occurred the stuff overflowed on to the railway and fired the sleepers and the trains had to be stopped until the fire was extinguished. Imagine that kind of thing in an air raid.
I ask that the Home Secretary should help the public authorities by strengthening these regulations. Everyone of these tanks ought to be sunk in the ground, so that if the spirit is actually fired it cannot run about. Then there would be some possibility of extinguishing the fire. The only effective thing we could at the fire to which I am referring was to send lorries down to our ballast hole and bring back lorry loads of sand to be thrown over the burning spirit, but not every district has a gravel pit handy from which to get supplies of sand. I hope the Home Office will revise their regulations, in view of the danger that exists, and help the local authorities in industrial areas to face these grave and serious difficulties. We ought to render safer the storage of the petrol which is kept at many points in our great towns and along our roads. It was all right while there was no danger of air raids, but that danger is very real now. I know what happened in the last War, because I lived in an air raid area, and during the War spent only one night out of the area. Therefore, I know exactly what happened and what would be likely to happen in future. Where bombers came in twos in the last war they will come in twenties and fifties in the next war. The Home Office cannot throw the whole of this burden on to the local authorities. They must not only give us advice but very practical help, in order that people may be made as safe as possible.
I join in the gratification which has been expressed at the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon in which he reviewed with remarkable clarity and comprehensiveness the whole of the work of his Department. Whatever alteration may be made or progress effected at the Home Office during his reign, I pray that he may never be called upon to marshal the machinery for war as he had to do when he was there 20 years ago. The desire for peace is the most fervent prayer of the whole of our people, and it is contemptible that any party advantage should be sought to be taken of that desire merely for the purpose of political expediency.
Let me turn for a few moments to the report which has been issued by the Department in the last few days, and which has already been the subject of our discussion this afternoon. It is very satisfactory that the annual report of the Chief Inspector of Factories is now published in time for it to be considered before the Home Office Vote is discussed. That is a comparatively new practice which began two or three years ago. We can now discuss the new report and not an old one, and I hope that the procedure will be followed from year to year. The work done by the Home Office touches a vast proportion of the population. We need only consider that something like 284,394 premises of all kinds were subject to inspection by officers of the Department to realise how extensive is the contact which has to be maintained by this Department of State with the whole of the industrial community.
It was stated by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) that this report was a somewhat unfortunate document. I would answer, in the hon. Gentleman's absence, that observation, which does not do justice to the document and to the facts which are disclosed therein. The hon. Gentleman suggested that some of those facts were half truths and paid no regard to the devastating effect which had taken place in the distressed areas; but this matter is very closely related to the distressed areas. During the past seven years our new industries in and around London have attracted more than 500,000 persons, and, we are informed, many of those persons came from the distressed areas. Development in the South continued in 1934, and there are now approximately 50 per cent. of the insured population of Great Britain in the southern part of the country, including the Midlands. That must have some relation to the difficulties of certain special areas and must not be considered too lightly. There has been a great influx of trade and industry to the South.
It is a great consolation that on almost every page of this report there are special commentaries on trade increase, including the increase of trade in the iron and steel industry. Once the heavy industries have revived, a good many incidental trades will prosper. It is unfortunate that there has been an increase in the number of accidents. I cannot leave the point with that bald statement, because at least two factors must be considered. First, there has been a great increase in the number of insured persons at work, and the general expansion of industrial activity and the greater number of persons employed must bear a relation to the unfortunate fact of an increase in accidents. The report states—and it is only fair to bear this in mind when dealing with the increase in the number of accidents—
It must be remembered that the reemployment of many workers after a long spell of unemployment involves a greater accident risk among such workers until such time as they again become accustomed to working activities"—
and to the dangers connected with their work. We are jealous of the safety of our workers, and in our departmental reports we give the whole of the facts. We do not publish a report for reasons of expediency, but to enable us to see what
the position is on every hand. We are particularly proud of the standard of life of the British workers and of the safeguards upon which we insist for their personal security. There has been a great improvement in that standard in recent years, and we are glad to know that working conditions are now superior to those of any competing country. Nobody is finally satisfied with them, of course, or thinks they are better than they ought to be. I hope that at all times we shall aim at something better. Hon. Members would do well to read the report and to see what a real effort has been made in the direction of safety during the year.
The best way to secure safety in any organisation is by voluntary and co-operative effort, but, the report states:
there is still a tendency to abolish the safety committee … and appoint a safety officer in place of it … This practice is spreading.
I hope the practice will not extend, because it is not working as satisfactorily as one would wish. The report advises:
Once a safety committee … has been in operation … it should be retained,
and a safety officer should be appointed
to assist and stimulate the work of the committee.
The safety officer should never take the place of the committee, and there should at all times be on the committee representatives of all the workers engaged in the industry.
In regard to hours of labour, I hope there is co-ordination between the Home Office and the Minister of Labour. Valuable discussions and considerations have been taking place between the Minister of Labour and various representatives of industry. Hours of labour form a special feature of the work of the Home Department in respect of matters which are dealt with in the report. Some aspects of that work seem extraordinary. There is a shortage of labour in particular localities, and shortage of skilled workers is given as a reason for the working of longer hours. That is regrettable and beyond comprehension at a time when there is a surplus of labour large enough to create a demand for the abolition of overtime and for a shorter working week. I can see no argument to explain away a long working day by the fact that there is a shortage of labour. That is a regrettable argument which I cannot accept, and which, I am certain, the Secretary of State will not accept. In the investigations into the conditions in various houses of industry, shocking occurrences are sometimes found, and these are inquired into and prosecutions are launched with respect to them. I hope and believe that they are exceptions, but I would like to know whether the Home Office itself is really co-operating, by its experts, in the discussions which are going on for a general shortening of the working week.
I am sorry that there is no reference in the report of the Chief Inspector to what I think was the most excellent experiment carried out by that well-known firm of chemists, Messrs. Boots, which culminated, after examination, in the adoption of a five-day week. Messrs. Boots asked the Minister of Labour to nominate one of its officers, to whom they gave every facility, to make a report upon it. It is only right to say that there are conditions in that firm which perhaps do not apply so completely to others, but the fact remains that the experiment was a success, and has resulted in considerable betterment of the conditions of the employés. I am sorry that that experiment has apparently been omitted from the consideration of the Chief Inspector, though I am certain that it has not been omitted from the consideration of the Department.
I am very much obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend. I see that on page 82 there is a separate section headed "Five-Day Week," which I assume is the one to which he is directing my attention. But the complaint that I made was that there was no specific reference to the report of Sir Richard Redmayne, who went down at the express request of Messrs. Boots and of the Minister to give an unbiased account of the working of that particular experiment. I agree that a good deal of consideration is given in the Report to the possibility of a five-day week, but my point was that there is no particular reference to that one examination of Sir Richard Redmayne.
In new kinds of work there is, of course, further incidental risk, and one example of this which I have been at some pains to go into is the danger of chromium plating. It would seem that almost every article of furniture, almost every household appliance, and almost every piece of light machinery has some piece of chromium plating in it, and I am told by manufacturers that they have now passed the stage at which they bought their chromium-plated material and put it on to their own article, and that now they themselves, when manufacturing on a large scale, have established their own chromium plating plants. That new type of work offers a new danger to employés. I welcome the suggestion which has been made that proper medical inspection and constant medical guidance could prevent many of the happenings which we are so sorry to see and which account for increased accidents; and I would suggest to the Home Office that any concern utilising a new type of invention, such as chromium plating, should be specifically asked not to wait for fortnightly or monthly inspections, but to make the period very much shorter, and to introduce medical supervision daily, if necessary, in order to prevent the danger which must arise when employés are dealing with a new process that is full of danger, such as chromium plating.
This report ought to be studied, and, I hope, will be studied, closely and carefully by Members of the Committee, because millions of people are affected by it. It is regrettable to find, in an enlightened community in the year 1935, that there is still violation of the Truck Acts. In such cases prosecutions are immediately launched by the Department, and I hope it will not be long before we see a report of this nature showing a considerable diminution in the accident rate and an absence of contravention of the regulations. I should like to ask the Home Secretary, before I sit down, one or two other questions. In the first place, is not the time now ripe for a real review of the schedule of industrial diseases? We know that great strides have been made since the passing of the Workmen's Compensation Act. Quite recently a Measure was passed necessitating compulsory insurance against the danger of accidents involving workmen's compensation in relation to one particular industry, and we then had an assurance on behalf of the Home Office that they were examining with very close care the possibilities of considering compulsory insurance in every other trade. Perhaps we may be told what stage this examination has now reached, and whether it would not be possible to review and reconsider the whole schedule of industrial diseases in order to prevent the difficulties which have been so rightly referred to this afternoon by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), in relation to a man who would have no claim to-day although he was suffering from what is a type of an industrial disease.
Again, could not the Department, when they are circularising magisterial benches, impress upon those benches, some of which I have found cannot be sufficiently impressed, the fact that they now have statutory power to apply the Probation of Offenders Act in everything over which they have jurisdiction. In various places it seems to be thought that somebody else ought to exercise that mercy rather than the magistrates, and I wish they could be told, if the law provides a way, as it does in this case, of keeping someone out of prison on the occasion of a first criminal offence, there is that amount of mercy with which justice can so often be tempered. That is a matter which ought to be impressed time and again on the minds of justices sitting in small places, away from the big industrial areas and away from metropolitan considerations and where there is no real contact with their advisers.
I should like to say a word about the circular upon which so much has been said. I resent very much the statement that has been made that this outline was the result of the Government's policy. There has not been any Government in the world which could have so proved itself to be the mainstay of peace as this. The difficulty is that there is no power to make every other country see our point of view. There is no doubt at all that this country has been the mainstay of the League of Nations and, whatever the duty may be of the Government to face the facts, to see that the people of the country face the facts and to be true to the people in helping them to face those facts, I am certain that they will continue to be the mainstay of every effort directed to make any outburst of war impossible throughout the whole world.
I congratulate the hon. Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan) on raising a point which interests every port in the country. I think he forgot, when he mentioned Liverpool, that really the leading port in the United Kingdom is Manchester. The question that he raised about alien seamen who come to this country, marry English wives and then depart, leaving the wives and children dependent on the Poor Law, is becoming a serious problem. It has been put before me on several occasions, but I doubt very much, after going into the matter, whether it is the Home Secretary who can deal with it. He can undoubtedly deal with it as far as the aliens coming into the country are concerned, but I rather think, once an alien comes in and has married and then departs, the Home Office has finished with the alien, because the wife and children left behind, unfortunately, are not aliens. However, the problem is one that is growing in all our ports, and I shall be greatly obliged if we can be told whether it is competent for the Department to deal with the matter.
There are two other matters with which I want to deal, because I took note of the right hon. Gentleman's opening remarks that, though he was allowed greater width as regards his opening statement, he intended to cut it down as regards length. I hope many ex-Ministers will follow his example. It will then give the back bencher who intends to be brief a chance of getting in to make a few pertinent remarks. One question raised to-day which interested me very much from an angle which has not yet been touched upon, is the circular which has been referred to, which I have not seen, but which, I gather, refers to the Home Office's suggestions with regard to possible air attack—I suppose gas attacks from aircraft. If the idea is protection against attack by hostile aircraft—and I take it it can be nothing else—how does it come about that the Home Office is advising us, through local authorities, what we should do in such an eventuality? I could understand the right hon. Gentleman when he said that the main duty of his Department was not to detect or to punish crime, but to prevent its commission, and, keeping that observation in mind, if the circular was referring, for example, to some private aircraft owned by a private individual coming from a foreign country and he dropped, say, some bottles of inflammable liquid on my house, I could understand the Home Office taking some action to protect me from such a crime. But when it comes to a question of hostile aircraft I fail to see what the Home Office has to do with such an action, because surely the Home Office for the first time is usurping the powers of the War Office. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, and I have no doubt he will put me right, as he is well able to do.
If you take the situation that arose in 1914 when, in fact, these attacks occurred, it was the Home Office that was responsible for making all arrangements that could be made for the protection of the civil population—the turning out of lights and advising people as to the best way in which they could conduct themselves. That has nothing to do with military action. This circular is purely for the purpose of informing local authorities that it would be open to them to consider how the population should be protected.
I am obliged for the explanation, but it leaves me in doubt. I understand from what I have heard that the circular goes much further than the turning out of lights. Surely, during the War the defence forces of the country were not under the Home Office. Even the Home Defence Corps was under the War Office. I take it that the circular deals with hostile attacks by aircraft, particularly with regard to the dropping of gas bombs. If that is coming under the Home Office, it seems to me a thing that ought to be explained. I only mention it because an hon. Member on the Government side gave a peculiar explanation why the Home Office took the matter up when he referred to their protecting children and people in factories and shops, which I thought was utterly beside the mark. What that had to do with hostile aircraft I do not know. I saw no analogy whatever.
The most important thing to which I want to draw attention is the carrying out of the provisions of the Drugs Act of 1920. I know that the Department has been pressed from all quarters to tighten up the administration and that there has been a report from the Poisons Board with regard to the people who should be qualified and permitted to dispense drugs. It is, of course, the protection of the public. I agree entirely that the public should be protected as far as possible, but, whilst we are protecting the public from any possible danger through an unqualified or unlicensed person dispensing or selling such drugs, the Home Office ought to take the greatest care to see that, if it acts upon that report, it is not going to cause unemployment among people who are more qualified to do that work than the people who are recommended by the board. As far as I understand it, the report suggests that the only people who should be allowed to supervise the manufacture of poisons to be used medicinally in this country should be members of the Institute of Chemistry. If that recommendation were carried out, we should find the ridiculous position arising in this country that men and women who were more qualified than members of this institute would be debarred from doing the work which they are doing to-day. In fact, some of the people who live in my Division and have written to me about the matter, hold university degrees in chemistry, and they are the very people who have instructed the men and women who are carrying out the dispensing of chemicals and drugs. Here you have the curious anomaly that the very men most highly qualified would be debarred from taking part in the sale or dispensation of those drugs. It would be as farcical if, say, the Council of Legal Education suddenly said: "No, because you are a Doctor of Laws you must not instruct any young man sitting for his Bar final." Such a thing could not happen at the present time, but it would be as ridiculous if the recommendation of the Poisons Board were carried out. But what is worse is that 50 per cent. of the people who are carrying out that work, and carrying it out well, would be instantly rendered unemployed.
Almost every time I have raised my voice in this House has been in order to prevent an increase of unemployment in this country, and I am satisfied, in spite of what some of my hon. Friends on the Labour Benches say, that the present Government are undoubtedly determined not only to decrease unemployment, but, as far as possible, to increase employment. I wish to warn my right hon. Friend that if this recommendation is carried out it will undoubtedly, from the advice I have received from my friends engaged in the chemical industry, increase unemployment among those highly qualified people. In spite of what has been said about my right hon. Friend, particularly by an eminent member of the bench, that he is at times so unsympathetic to our pleading that nobody would dare to address him as "Jack," I am still of the opinion that if my right hon. Friend will consider the recommendation of the Poisons Board in the light of what the National Government were sent here to do, that is, to increase employment and not to cause unemployment, he will hesitate before he carries out the recommendation. If he refuses to carry out the recommendation of the Poisons Board, he will only be following the example of his colleague on the Front Bench, the Minister of Agriculture, who did not follow out the Greene Report with regard to the beet-sugar subsidy, and I ask him in the intresets of those people to consider very carefully whether it is fair to them, after years of honourable service as highly qualified men and women, that they should be turned out of their employment on a question of this sort.
When the speed limit of 30 miles an hour was enforced some months ago the police acted rather enthusiastically, and the measure of their enthusiasm was shown by the protests made by various motoring papers, and by various motoring Members of this House. They were very annoyed at the way in which the police seemed to be catching people who travelled at 40 or 50 miles or more per hour. Some of us in this House were rather pleased, because we had an announcement from the Minister of Transport showing how the death and injury rates were declining, and it seemed to us that the saving of life and limb was rather worth while. If it only meant the saving of 20 lives and a 100 limbs per month it was something well worth doing by this House. But some people in London, at any rate, have felt recently that the police have not been quite so keen or enthusiastic about enforcing the 30-mile limit, and the accident and death-rates seem once more to be on the up grade. I hope that the Home Secretary will use his great influence, which we know he possesses with the police in the Metropolitan area, to see that the law is enforced most vigorously in this connection. Only last week no fewer than 50 cases were dismissed on the plea that they were just over the 30-miles-per-hour limit, some 32 or 34 miles per hour, and that it was just a technical infringement. No wonder the police do not feel quite as keen about it if that kind of result obtains. There is the question of the enforcement of the uncontrolled Belisha beacon crossings in London. I daresay that many hon. Members will disagree with me when I say that I do not believe that half the motorists take any notice whatever of the uncontrolled Belisha crossings.
I believe that if any hon. Member picked out any crossing in any particular locality where pedestrians were waiting to cross and counted 20 motorists, he would find that not more than a half of them observed the police regulations. This is very important, because if the public generally feel that the regulations are not enforced, those regulations will gradually become a dead letter, and all the expenditure, which is considerable, will have been wasted, and one more attempt to safeguard the lives and limbs of the people will have been defeated. There is a third small point I wish to put while on the question of motorists. I hope that the police will generally oppose cases of application for renewal of licences to motorists when those motorists have had their licences stopped for grave motoring offences. There has been a case only this week where a motorist, who had had nine previous police convictions against him for various offences against the law, applied to have his licence restored, and was successful. I do not know how many offences a motorist should commit before he gets suspended, but I think that if a motorist has killed 10 persons and injured 20 it is a fair bag, and he ought to be content with his success. At any rate, the police ought to be encouraged to resist the applications of motorists who have a bad record to have their licences restored.
I want to speak this evening chiefly, not because of motoring offences, but because of the very numerous cases of what are reported in the Press as arrests of persons for loitering or being suspected persons. Since I have been a Member of this House I have brought a number of cases to the attention of the Minister which I thought were rather shocking. I will mention one or two which will be familiar to hon. Members. There is the case of the man in Kensington, my former division, who at half-past nine at night found himself without a key and waited for his wife for half an-hour. Kensington is an interesting place. Therefore, he whiled away half an-hour looking at the shop windows. There, he was seen by the brainy people whom the Home Secretary has boasted about. Two detectives saw this poor fellow looking in shop windows. Fancy! Walking about and looking in shop window after shop window at 9.30 p.m. There must be something wrong with the man. So they brought the police car. They surrounded him and took him to the police station and took his finger prints.
The magistrate dismissed the case without hearing any evidence except that of the police. Someone may say that there was no harm done. But many people do not like being marched through the streets of London by policemen. Some people may like it because they like any kind of limelight. There are some people who do not like their finger prints taken; they may have peculiar feelings in this respect, and he was one of them. His employer said that he had worked for him for 25 years and that he was a most trusted man. He went to the bank for the money to pay the wages. He had the highest recommendations from his employers, yet he had to go through this unpleasant, humiliating experience.
There was even a worse case, in which I was particularly interested. A young man came to my house in Hammersmith and reminded me that he used to attend the school where I was a master, some years before I came to this House. I remembered him at once as having been one of the promising boys of the school. He was a nice boy and he had been successful. He left school at 16 and had been in employment all the time, and was in employment on this particular occasion. It so happened that this young man went for a walk in Chiswick, it being his half-day holiday. Chiswick is a normally safe place, but he took two friends with him. It was mid-day. I went to the police court to hear the evidence, because I did not believe that even Scotland Yard, reorganised, with all its new methods of crime detection, could get this young man down. I went as an impartial admirer of Scotland Yard, and I heard two detectives give evidence. It was amazing. What they said would have made some of us put them in the dock at once. According to their story, these three young men went to a shop at one o'clock. Two went into the shop, a draper's shop, and came out with a parcel. Such a thing has been known even before Scotland Yard was reorganised. They searched the young man and discovered, to their great surprise, a bill. The young man had bought a shirt. He had paid for it, too.
It struck the detective as a very suspicious circumstance. Therefore, he began to track these young men, to sleuth them for half-an-hour or 20 minutes. Then it was discovered that one of the young men was carrying an overcoat. It was March, which is not the warmest of months, but that a young man in Chiswick should be carrying an overcoat in March was a very suspicious thing, so the detective got hot on the trail. Finally, these three young men were seen to be looking for a motor car. What more could be expected? I myself am very interested in motor cars, particularly the mechanical side. My boy, too, is very keenly interested. He cannot pass a Rolls-Royce or even a Ford without looking into it. I pull him away in fear and trembling, but he will keep doing it. Well, these three young men had been looking for a motor car. The case went before the magistrate and only the evidence of the detectives was heard. The case was immediately dismissed. Even carrying a parcel and an overcoat and looking for a motor car was not enough to convict them.
I am perhaps putting the case too lightly. The sad thing about the case was that the young man in question was employed by a firm who, naturally, did not like any of their employés being arrested and brought to the police court. He worked in a lawyer's office, and they did not want one of their clerks to be arrested. The young man, naturally, was keen on being proved innocent and he engaged a solicitor, who charged him five guineas, although he did not have to speak a word. There was no need for the solicitor to speak a word, because even the evidence about the overcoat, the shirt and the motor car was not sufficient to bring about a conviction. Although the magistrate dismissed the case the young man was five guineas worse off and a day's wages worse off, and he had suffered humiliation. In addition, there was a report of a column in the local newspaper of how Mr. X and his friends were prosecuted and had to be subjected to this humiliating experience.
I could go on giving a dozen of these cases which have occurred in my own area recently. If it were only a question of two or three cases I would not trouble the Committee with a recital of the facts, but I have tried to elicit information as to the widespread character of this business, and the figures are somewhat staggering. The Home Secretary in reply to a question about a month ago stated that in the Metropolitan Police Area in the last year approximately 3,500 persons were arrested on the ground of being suspected persons. With all the weight on the side of the police, with the feeling that the police can do no wrong—some people think that the police cannot do wrong, and that may be a right principle, but I question it—and with all the weakness of the defendant, usually a working man who cannot defend himself even when he is in the right; even when he has a good case he makes a mess of it because of inability to answer successfully questions by a lawyer; 1,200 of these cases were dismissed. More than one-third of the cases were dismissed, and the greater number of them were dismissed after hearing the police evidence.
I should not like it to be thought that I am a person violently partisan against the police. Such an idea would be rubbish. I am a policeman's son. Therefore, I suppose I should be pro-police. I am not pro-police, neither am I antipolice. I believe that policemen and detectives generally are just as bad and as good as Members of Parliament. Some Members of Parliament make blunders and some of them are not always sensible in their speeches and actions. Policemen are just the same. There are some policemen who make blunders and some who do stupid things. I am only accusing them of doing foolish, mistaken and stupid things and not of doing vindictive things. It is not right to protect the police if one thinks that they are doing wrong to innocent persons. To take the stand that a policeman can do no wrong is foolish and ridiculous. I hope that the Home Secretary will spend a little time in looking into this question. If it be true, as I believe it is, that hundreds of London people and perhaps many people outside London are being placed in this humiliating position, I should like the right hon. Gentleman to remedy the abuse.
Some people say that it is even better to arrest an innocent man if by so doing it has a deterrent effect upon criminals. I would rather one or two criminals went free than an innocent man should be arrested in order to frighten those who may be guilty of a crime. Whenever the police at Scotland Yard are proved guilty of having made a mistake, the least they can do, in my opinion, is to send a letter of apology to their victim. Even Labour Members of Parliament, if they make a blunder or do something wrong, are willing to apologise, yet in not one of these cases, although they were dismissed after hearing the police evidence, was any apology received from Scotland Yard. They seem to be too big, too important and too dignified, to apologise. No department ought to consider itself too big to apologise if it is wrong. When a rich person is injured in this way, you can be quite sure that he will generally get some redress. He can employ great and learned lawyers, but a poor person cannot get a great lawyer to defend him. But in addition to an apology for any person who has been injured in the way I have suggested, there should be compensation equal to what it has cost through being wrongfully arrested. I shall be glad, therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman would spare a few minutes to examine the case I have put up, rather crudely I am afraid, so that people who are arrested wrongfully in the future may have a better chance to get a square deal and an apology than they have at the moment.
I had intended to bring two points before the attention of the Committee. The first was with regard to the recommendations of the Poisons Board, but that has already been dealt with by previous speakers. I had intended to put more or less the same case to the Home Secretary and to ask him to give careful consideration to that point before he passes regulations which will limit to the members of one particular Institute the right to prepare medicines containing poison. The other point is with regard to the new department for dealing with air raid defences and the circular, to which reference has already been made. I do not find myself in agreement with hon. Members opposite with regard to this circular, and I should like to congratulate the Home Secretary and his Department on at last taking action which shows that they are aware of the possible dangers. Surely it is common sense in time of peace to prepare for certain eventualities. It is like the provision which a local authority may make in respect of a fire brigade for dealing with an outbreak of fire. The brigade must be trained beforehand to be effective; it is useless to organise it after the fire has started. The circular is admirable as far as it goes, but I do not think it goes far enough. The suggested action to be taken is almost entirely remedial, after the damage has been suffered. It does not deal with the prevention of damage or loss of life.
Paragraph 8 says that any attempt to provide bomb proof shelters would be too expensive. On that point I join issue with the Home Secretary. In all our centres of population where considerable protection would be necessary we have a large number of parks, open spaces and squares. These are potential sites for bomb-proof shelters. If you put them at a depth of 20 or 30 feet they would not injure the trees or the amenities of the square. The Home Secretary will probably say that the construction would be much too expensive, but I would reply that the construction could have a definite economic use in peace time. I would suggest that the underground parts of these open spaces could be used for underground parking places and garages, and thereby contribute to some extent to a solution of the traffic problem in so far as it is complicated by the parking of cars.
Certain schemes have, I know, been worked out, and I have seen figures prepared by competent engineers and people who work in steel which show that adequate underground parking spaces and shelters could be made for a figure which, if raised by way of a loan with Government or municipal guarantee at about 3½ per cent., could be adequately serviced as to interest and sinking fund for the redemption of capital by the ordinary charge of 1s. or 2s., which is commonly made for the parking of cars to-day. I would ask the Home Secretary to consider that point. It would be a solution of a difficult traffic problem and would also provide shelter for the civilian population in time of danger. It could be done economically. It would be self-supporting, it is practical, and during the course of construction it would give an appreciable amount of employment. I ask the Home Secertary seriously to consider it, and, if it is feasible, to urge its adoption on local authorities.
I do not rise to take part in the general Debate, but there are one or two matters connected with the administration of the Factory Acts in Scotland which I should like to mention. I wonder whether it is possible in the most interesting report prepared by the Chief Factory Inspector to indicate how districts are affected in the matter of accidents. The second point is with regard to the hours of labour. I should not be in order to raise the general issue of the hours of labour, because it would require legislation, and the question as to whether the hours are too long does not rest with the right hon. Gentleman. But he has to carry out certain Acts to see that the hours are enforced. I do not want to make a general charge against the inspectors of factories in Scotland, that would be unfair; but there is one matter which startles me somewhat in this report. The paragraph occurs on page 79, and deals with the hours of bakers and the employment of juvenile labour. This startling fact occurs:
The investigations showed that in England and Wales only 11 claimed and took advantage of this exception.
That deals with young persons over 16 years of age engaged in bakehouses; that is to say, the exception of working boys, mostly boys of 16, outside the normal
hours. In Scotland 114 firms claimed and got the benefit of this exception. In England and Wales the combined population would be about 10 times that of the whole of Scotland, yet only 11 claimed and received the exception. And this largely means starting work before five in the morning. This thing is shocking, especially when you are discussing new deals and old deals, and the problem of facing unemployment. You cannot have boys of 16 doing this kind of thing without a harmful effect on their health. Secondly, it is cheap labour, and 114 Scottish firms, compared with 11 in the whole of England and Wales, are allowed to exploit cheap labour to the disadvantage of adult labour. The time has arrived when this exception, particularly in Scotland, should be inquired into and stopped. In London, with the early hour at which people go to work, there is a stronger case for it if it is needed at all than in any place in Britain. Everybody talks about how London stays up at night. I think that London is the earliest place to bed in Britain. In the working-class place in which I live when the House is siting, Battersea, I never see a soul about at 11 o'clock; they have to be up early. There is no excuse for this thing in Scotland. Even if it were necessary for the sake of the habits of the people, there is an adequate supply of adult labour. We have always, I thought, in Scotland been slightly in advance of England; the laws regarding illegitimate children, for instance, are much more advanced and tolerant; and I would plead with the right hon. Gentleman not to allow Scotland in this respect to be more reactionary than the rest of the country.
Has the time not come when the right hon. Gentleman can use his administrative powers to allow aliens who have been registered for a long period, but who may be poor, to become British subjects at a nominal figure? There is nothing to be said for making a penalty of the poverty of a person. I represent the alien population of Glasgow, and I say that from the point of view of general city administration it is much better that the alien who has been resident 20 or 30 years and who is a good citizen should become British. He has no intention of leaving the country, and if he were a comparatively rich man he could apply for naturalisation, which costs money. The Home Secretary should know better than anyone that the possession of money neither makes a good character nor a bad character, and because you have a certain sum that you can pay over that does not make you a good person or a bad person. The test for naturalisation ought to be a citizenship test. I have Jewish people and people from Lithuania and Poland in my constituency. Their sons fought and were killed in the War. Some of the sons who fought in the war were naturalised, but their fathers, who have lived there far longer, cannot become naturalised, because of the bar of poverty. Provided that they pass the test of citizenship the Home Secretary should allow free naturalisation to them.
One of the things that at the moment, for good or ill, is growing is the employment of female labour. I do not know whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. I am old-fashioned about the employment of women and think that they still have their useful function of cooking your breakfast. That does not matter. Women are there, and while they are there the facts cannot be ignored. Men, maybe not as much as they should, drift into organised unions, but anybody who knows trade union work knows the difficulty of organising women, particularly young women. In every factory there ought to be posted up not only the factory regulations, but in clear, bold print the place where a complaint can be made regarding the carrying out of them. In every factory where the Factory Acts apply there ought to be boldly placed where anyone can read the name of the person to whom they can apply for information and advice as to the Factory Acts conditions. I know that if a worker makes a complaint to the factory inspector it can be done in complete confidence, and I have never known that confidence to be broken by a factory inspector. But ordinary people do not realise that. Not only every factory but every employment exchange ought to have notices posted stating where the trade board offices are and where the factory inspector's office is. That is especially necessary in view of the growing employment of young females. The notice should bear a guarantee that those who make complaints will be completely immune from discovery by their employers.
I agree with the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) that Scotland could do with additional inspectors. Not merely is machinery being used to a greater extent than formerly, but the number of young employés is growing, and the type of worker going into the factories is such that more inspection is called for. In the old days when there was more male labour it was well organised in the unions and there was no fear of their being unable to make their presence felt, but today, with workers of 16, 17 and 18 years going into the factories, it is necessary to do something to safeguard them. I rather welcome in some respects the change at the Home Office. If a lawyer can carry out the law without prejudice in the same way as he can apply his mind to a case at the courts, the right hon. Gentleman should be able to do much to help the poor people. I would thank the right hon. Gentleman for his help in a Scottish matter regarding the administration of the Factory Acts.
If it is not too late I should like to begin by congratulating the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on the very admirable speech which he made earlier in the day. The right hon. Gentleman has a wonderful gift for placing things before the Committee in their most palatable form. I was just a little disappointed that he did not make any reference to the air raid precautions circular which was issued by the Home Office on 9th July. I regard the circular as a very important document, and it is rather a pity that it has not been made available in the Vote Office. So far as I know it adds new responsibility to the Home Office, and it is, as it were, a new policy on the part of the Government, and I think hon. Members ought to have been given an opportunity of seeing it. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) apparently dislikes the circular very much. He described it as a terrible circular. He said it was preparing the country for war, that it was clumsy and cowardly, and that if the Government had done their work properly at Geneva such a circular would not have been necessary. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) also denounced the proposals in the circular in the strongest possible language.
I would like it to be made quite plain where the Socialist party stand in the matter. Do they really believe that there is no possibility of an air raid taking place in this country? If they believe that, what reason have they for such a belief? The real point of controversy between the Government and the Opposition is this: The Government believe in telling the country what is the truth, unpleasant as it may be; and this is not the first occasion when they have done so, for we all remember the last election. The Opposition, on the other hand, say that it is wrong to frighten the people, to raise a scare, that it would be much better to allow people to bask in the sun and to go to sleep until they are awakened by the noise of the first bomb exploding; and when they awake they are apparently to have no shelters to enter. In fact, it would be wrong to take any precaution whatever. I cannot see the justification of that argument.
I know that a lot of people believe that wars are impossible. There are many who say that another war can never occur. But there is always the possibility that it may occur. It is quite obvious that if we should ever find ourselves at war with France or Belgium or Holland, no power in the world could prevent London from being bombed. In these circumstances is it not right and proper that the Government of the day should at least warn the people what every man in the street knows already? I cannot see why the Government should be so derided for telling what is obviously the truth. Then the Opposition say that if the Government had done its work properly at Geneva all of this would not be necessary. Whether this Government or our Socialist friends were in power I do not believe they could have prevented the great Powers of the world from building up large air armaments.
Then I will not pursue that argument. As we have been discussing air precautions I thought it would be in order to discuss the possibility of an air raid. What are air precautions for unless one has an air raid? I do not think that at the present time there is any possibility of an air raid, but we ought to take precautions. We must be prepared for future eventualities. I do not wish to dwell upon the horrors of air warfare or anything of that sort because I think a great deal too much can be made of that subject. I think that such eventualities as we have heard of are a very long way off. We have to face the fact that the drop ping of bombs on London or any other large city would be a very serious matter. At the same time it cannot be compared to an earthquake for example. In the great earthquake in San Francisco many more people were killed than would be killed in any air raid, and from the individual's point of view the prospect of being hit by a piece of shrapnel from an air bomb is very remote. It is about the same as the individual's chance of drawing a winning ticket in the Irish sweepstake.
I wish to ask one or two question about this circular. In the first place what does the Air Raid Precautions Department of the Home Office consist of and over what area does its jurisdiction extend? Does it control London only or is it intended to circulate these documents and this advice all over the country? I should also like more information about the finance of this matter. How much is it intended to spend in this way. Then, I think the Committee ought to be told something on the question of precautions against gas attacks. I see that it is proposed to set up a civilian gas school. Where is it proposed to establish that school, who are to be trained there and who are to be the instructors Further, is it intended that those instructors should be sent all over the country or are they to remain in London?
One of the first things that must strike one on reading this circular is the necessity for liaison between the Home Office and the Air Ministry. Apparently the Home Office has undertaken the difficult task of administering such matters as the circulation of air raid warnings, restrictions on lighting, the reporting of damage, and so forth. There must be some link between the Air Ministry and the Home Office, and perhaps the hon. and gallant Gentleman who replies will give us some information on that subject. One cannot possibly judge of what may happen in the future, but it would be a great calamity to any future Government if an air raid were to take place and the country found that no precautions had been taken. If it is the case that there is a serious risk of an air raid in the future, most probably the Government have not gone nearly far enough in this circular. If the risk of a future air raid is sufficiently great, it is the duty of whatever Government may be in power to take every possible precaution to arrange for the warning of the people and to see that an organisation is created by which as many lives as possible shall be saved. Should an air raid take place, and should the Government of the day have failed in taking such precautions, I certainly would not like to be a Member of that Government.
As I have promised not to take more than a few minutes, I must resist the temptation to follow the hon. Member who has just spoken. I would only mention how consoling to the Committee must be his information that a future air raid will not be as bad as the San Francisco earthquake. I have not any detailed knowledge of the effects of that great earthquake, and perhaps to enable us to appreciate the relative values involved in the hon. Member's comparison, we might at some time have a lecture upon the results of that upheaval. Then perhaps we would know something about what we are to expect in these future air raids.
I intend to keep my promise. The hon. Member said he did not wish to draw any pictures of horror and frightfulness, and I agree with him. In my view the argument against war is its utter and complete futility, and we certainly have no desire to frighten people into advocacy of peace. I do not propose to deal either in general or detailed terms with the Home Office circular to the local authorities on this subject. I face the pending visit of the higher civilisation with feelings of physical nausea and it is not a subject on which I wish to dwell. But since the Home Office has seen fit to offer certain advice to local authorities, which those local authorities presumably will adopt and translate into action according to local circumstances, there are two questions which I wish to raise.
My first question relates to those cities, of which Liverpool is a typical example, where there are large tunnels. For instance, the Mersey Tunnel is 2½ miles long and there is a widespread opinion that tunnels of such great length and holding capacity would provide safe refuges in an emergency of the kind we have under review. On the other hand, I am told that some of the poison gases which may be used in certain eventualities are heavier than air, and the opinion is held that if such gases were used, these tunnels would become death traps and graves for the living. The Home Office has not dealt with that aspect of the matter in the circular. It has offered certain advice to local authorities, and having regard to the fact that in certain areas there are these large tunnels, some only built recently, and also having regard to the statement I have just mentioned, I think the Home Office ought to make known to us whether the information which we have been given on this subject is correct. Having regard to present circumstances and the development of the science, if it be a science, of the killing of men and women, it seems to me that these tunnels, far from being places of safety, might be the last places in which to shelter the citizens of a particular area. I hope we may have some guidance for the sake of the local areas that I have in mind.
My only other point is to reinforce the pleas that have been made by other hon. Members with regard to the Poisons Board. I am informed that the report of the Poisons Board recommends that the only people to have any voice or control in the manufacture of poisons are those who are members of the Institute of Chemists. I am further informed that that will exclude 60 per cent. of the chemical profession, including the members of the British Association of Chemists. I should like to know whether that statement is true. I do not vouch for it, but that is my information. If it is true, it is obviously an injustice and a hardship, and I trust we shall be told whether or not it is correct, and what is the attitude of the Department to the question.
We have had a very informing Debate, ranging over a large number of interesting and important subjects. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in opening the Debate, gave an excellent résumé of the work of his Department and reminded us that it was practically 20 years ago that he first held the office which he now holds. He also reminded us that that was, I think, the occasion of the first Zeppelin raid. Undoubtedly there has been a great deal of progress, in so far as the social side is concerned, in the relationship of his Department not only to the individual but to society as well, and it is a pity that the right hon. Gentleman could not say that there had been the same progress on the other side and that, 20 years after that first Zeppelin raid, notwithstanding all the progress on the social side, we have now to discuss a circular dealing with the possibility, not only of a Zeppelin raid, but of an air war throughout. We were amazed and appalled by the Zeppelin raids, but we seem to take it for granted now that this air war is inevitable and almost a matter of everyday course.
We welcome the right hon. Gentleman to the Home Department after his sojourn into foreign fields. I do not intend to cover any of the speeches in this Debate, although they have been very important, but I want to deal exclusively with the question of compensation. Reference has been made to the need of getting a more general survey of the question of industrial diseases and the need of expanding the schedule of industrial diseases. The experience of the last 30 years has shown us that from time to time new diseases are discovered, consequent upon changes in the nature of occupations, and that those diseases are not scheduled under the Compensation Act. Then again experience proves the need not only of expanding the schedule, but of revising some of the orders that are already in existence.
Take the order in respect of silicosis. I am very pleased to pay a tribute to the right hon. Gentleman's Department for the great progress that has been made with respect to orders dealing with this dread disease. It is practically 15 years now since the first order was made, and that order practically excluded miners. After about eight or nine years' experience a new order was introduced, in 1928, which reduced the amount of free silica contained in the first order, namely, 80 per cent., to 50 per cent., and that brought in a small number of miners working in the ganister mines, but there were certain conditions laid down which made it practically impossible for miners to claim compensation. Not only had there to be a percentage of silica in the rock, but also certain conditions with regard to the definition of the rock. The workman had to be working in the process of handling the material, either in the form of milling or blasting, and he had to be working in the process for three years, and unless he could prove that he had been working in it for three years, it was impossible for him successfully to establish his claim to compensation.
After years of experience again, in 1931, a new order came about, eliminating the 50 per cent. but still keeping the condition about the process, and by this time it had become more difficult for the miner to prove that he had been working in the process. The depression in the industry had set in, and places that were formerly worked had now become depleted or finished. A mart now had to prove that he had been working either in a quartz rock or sandstone, that the colliery or the section of the pit in which, he worked had closed down, and it was impossible for him now to provide evidence as to the nature of the rock in which he had worked. He had to depend upon his employer for evidence with respect to the nature of the rock in which he had been working. Those are the difficulties with regard to silicosis. Gradually throughout these 15 years improvement after improvement has been brought about, and last year another order was introduced which was a material advance upon the old conditions.
The order now means that the workman, provided he is certified as suffering from silicosis, is entitled to compensation, but, there are two or three difficulties with respect to this order, and one is that it is not retrospective. We have to-day hundreds and hundreds of cases of men who have been certified as suffering from silicosis, but merely because they were suffering from silicosis prior to the date mentioned in the order, namely, October, 1934, it is impossible for them to establish their claims. The order is confined to underground operations, but there are a large number of surface men certified as suffering from silicosis, and merely because the order is applicable to men working underground these surface men cannot claim compensation. I contend that, no matter when a man contracted the disease or where he contracted it, provided he is certified by a medical board as suffering from silicosis, that certification ought to entitle him to compensation.
Then there is the question of aggravation and acceleration. In the case of an ordinary accident, if a man dies and the doctor certifies that the accident has aggravated death, the widow and orphans are entitled to compensation; but if he dies of heart failure or pneumonia, notwithstanding the fact that the doctor certifies that silicosis has aggravated or accelerated death, the widow and orphans are not entitled to compensation. If silicosis has aggravated or accelerated death, I contend that compensation ought to be paid to the dependants. A disease similar to silicosis is anthracosis. It is getting very prevalent in the coalfields, and medical science through the College of Physicians is taking a keen interest in it. It has been found that a large number of men are suffering from anthracosis, which is a kindred disease to silicosis and is contracted through the inhalation of coal dust. In years gone by it was certified as bronchitis. We would like the Home Secretary to make investigations to ascertain to what extent this disease exists in the coalfields and to see whether it is possible without much delay, and without the delay that has been experienced with regard to silicosis, to make an order to enable a man suffering from anthracosis to be entitled to compensation. We have not much complaint against the policy that is adopted with respect to the medical examination of persons suffering from silicosis.
The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) raised the question of medical boards. There are three responsible for silicosis cases. We have asked the Home Secretary to consider extending the principle of medical boards to all cases of accidents. The medical referee has too much power; in fact, he is judge, jury, House of Lords and court of appeal in one. Is it not possible to extend the principle that applies to silicosis to all other accidents so that the individual will have the satisfaction of being examined by a medical board? It would also mean the removal of a great deal of delay. A workman who is suffering from the effects of an accident is examined by the compensation doctor of the company. If that doctor believes that that man has recovered, the compensation stops. The man has then to go to the medical referee, and, if the case has to go to the county court, probably the court will not be sitting for a month or six weeks. If the injury is of a temporary character, the injured workman is thus at a disadvantage. It would be well if the Home Secretary made inquiries into the causes of delay in compensation cases so far as county courts are concerned and to ascertain whether it is possible to expedite the work of the courts, especially in industrial areas. The tendency is to reduce the number of county courts, but I do not think that that would be advisable and in the interests of the workers. Perhaps the Home Secretary could inquire whether it is not possible to expedite the hearing of cases of injured workers in the county courts.
Then there is the question of prevention. I realise that there is no close relationship between prevention and compensation. The right, hon. Gentleman's Department and the Mines Department have been doing a great deal of good work in investigation and research into the prevention of accidents, but I find that there is no co-operation or co-ordination between the two Departments. The Mines Department has been making investigations and research into the prevention of silicosis, and a good deal of inquiry was made into the foam that has been invented to absorb the dust and into dust traps. There was an exhibition at the Home Office the other day dealing with the prevention of accidents, but I find that once an exhibition is held and once inquiries and research have been conducted, the matter is left there and nothing further is done. I should like to see co-operation between the research work of the Mines Department and that of the Home Department and to see that, once a department has arrived at the conclusion that a particular means of prevention is a good thing, it is made compulsory upon the employers to adopt it.
Then there is the question of ventilation. Probably the hon. and gallant Gentleman will say that is a matter for the Mines Department, which only shows the necessity for co-operation. I also wish to draw attention to the methods by which employers evade the obligation to reemploy workers who have suffered an accident. Under the Act of 1931 an obligation was placed upon the employer to take back the man in the event of the latter being able to prove that his failure to obtain work was directly the resulf of the accident and we thought we had overcome our difficulties, but the insurance companies and the employers have adopted every device to circumvent that Act. There is a case before the House of Lords at present. It is quite easy for the workman to prove that were it not for the accident his work would be available for him, but the employers are now telling the man, once he has partially recovered, "Oh, yes, it is quite true that it would be possible for you to work there, and that you would be working there were it not for the accident, but now we give you notice to terminate the contract." They give him 14 days' notice, contending that even if he had not met with the accident he would have got notice at that time. So anxious are employers to give the men notice in these cases that a workman lying in bed with a broken back has received 14 days' notice to terminate his contract, because probably the company anticipate that he will recover some day and ask for work at that particular colliery. Is it not possible to prevent a colliery evading its obligations in this way after an Act of Parliament has been passed? There is another point, and that is the method of the computation of the compensation.
Is the hon. Member quite certain that these matters which he is raising can be dealt with without legislation? I have been listening carefully to him, and it would appear that they would either require legislation or at the present time are subjudice. I rather hesitate to express an opinion.
—but with respect to computation I am under the impression that the Home Secretary could issue an order to outline the method of computation of the compensation. I shall only refer to it in this way. When a workman meets with an accident he is paid compensation based upon the average wages earned prior to the accident, but the incidents of his employment are taken into consideration, such as the breakdown of machinery, and the stoppages consequent upon the depression existing in the industry, and the result is that a large number of miners are receiving compensation as low as 8s. or 10s. a week. When they partially recover they are given so called light work, but it is not a question of the average wages then. The incidents of employment are not taken into consideration then. Take the case of a skilled miner whose average wage, because of the incidents of employment, would work out at, say, £2 a week, His compensation would be £1. Now he is given employment as a labourer. The labourer's wage is £1 16s. 9d., assuming, and the companies always assume it, that the man is now going to work six days a week. The incidents of employment do not count then, but only pre-accident, with the result that the man is not entitled to any "partial difference" at all, The companies are adopting this method, that once a man starts on light employment they give him notice to leave after they have had an opportunity of proving his earning capacity.
Another scandalous thing is being done with men working on light employment. I have a case where a man has been employed on light work for two years and the manager comes along and gives him 14 days' notice. While the notice is running, the manager goes to the individual and says, "We will withdraw this notice conditionally upon your signing an agreement that you will not claim partial compensation any more." Those are incidents where the employers are attempting to evade their duties under the law. I would like the Home Secretary to make inquiries into such complaints, especially with regard to extending the scope of the schedule of diseases and the need for amending the orders which are at present in existence, and to consider in the near future the absolute need for introducing a new compensation Measure.
I should like, first of all, to acknowledge on behalf of my right hon. Friend the tributes which have been paid to him in every quarter of the Committee on his reappointment to the great office of Home Secretary. Were he finishing this Debate tonight instead of myself, I am sure that he would be the first to acknowledge those tributes. When I appeal for the sympathy of the Committee, I do not think anybody who has listened to the Debate or to any substantial part of it will think that I do so as a mere formality. The quality, the variety and the complexity of the subjects which have been touched upon, and the intricate and detailed knowledge of most hon. Members who have dealt with them, makes replying adequately to the Debate an extremely formidable job, even if it were entrusted to an Under-Secretary who had been for some time at the Home Office. It is not that I have not the answer to practically every detailed question which has been put by hon. Members, but it is a matter of the absorptive power of one brain, and also the fact that if we are to conclude this Debate at 10.59½ p.m. and thus give hon. Gentlemen opposite an opportunity of supporting their Amendment in the Lobby, it will be necessary that I should restrict my reply in the first instance to certain main questions which have been raised, and then reply to such detailed points as I can fit in towards the end of my remarks.
Before I deal with the four big questions, I should like to say to the hon. Member for West Rhondda (Mr. John) that I am certain that he would not expect me to reply off-hand to the extremely clear and lucid speech which he has just made. I am sure that everybody who listened to the speech will join me in complimenting him upon the lucidity with which he put what I know is a very difficult case. I should like to say to him, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, that the whole of his speech when we see it in print will be examined with the care and sympathy which it deserves. It seems to me that the four main questions with which anybody would be bound to deal who was replying for the Home Office are, the Air Raids Circular, the Factory Report, the general conditions governing the admission of aliens into this country and the questions relating to the right of public meeting and civil liberty in general raised by the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Mallalieu).
Let me start, therefore, with the Air Raids Circular. I should like to point out, by way of introduction, that my right hon. Friend considered that it would be better that it should be dealt with at the end of the Debate by answering specific questions than by adding, to his extremely interesting but quite adequately long speech, another chapter on the Circular. We are asked why this Circular was issued, and it is suggested that it was issued as election propaganda. We are asked why it was necessary. I would seriously ask the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who not so long ago was a distinguished ornament of the office which I now occupy, if he really accepts the view that, because you go out with an umbrella, you are bound to bring on rain, or that, because you expect to find a adequate supply of lifebelts when you go to sea, you are encouraging the captain to run you on a rock? Further, I would suggest very respectfully to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition that he must know as well as I do that this is no new policy suddenly launched as a bolt from the blue, but that the whole question of the responsibility of the central Government towards the civil populaion of this country, in certain regrettable eventualities which cannot be ignored, has not only been the concern of this Government, but, I feel certain, must have been touched upon by previous administrations. I believe that the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), while I was temporarily absent having a little refreshment, made a savage attack on the Circular—
I would ask hon. Gentlemen, opposite, quite honestly, what would they do if they were in our shoes We quite recognise that the Geneva Protocol should, if everyone stuck to the rules, eliminate any possibility of gas attack, and make the issue of an important part of this Circular, and all the work which has preceded it and will undoubtedly have to follow it, entirely unnecessary. But can any administration, sensible of its duty towards the people at large, ignore the possibility that the Geneva Protocol may not be lived up to in its entirety, and, moreover, ignore the fact that, in this particular instance, a stitch in time undoubtedly saves nine? It is very clearly stated in the Air Raid Circular, of which I am glad to see some hon. Gentlemen opposite have copies, that its issue implies no change whatever in Government policy, and I do not propose at this late hour of the evening to pursue the accusations which were levelled against us in that regard. If, indeed, the hon. Member for Westhoughton thinks that the issue of this Circular is one part of our gesture in stooping to win an election, as I think he said, I can only reply that, on present indications, we shall not have to bend down very far.
There are, however, one or two specific questions which I feel bound to answer, and, in particular, the one in regard to the finances of the local authorities. That question was asked, I think, by the hon. Member for Westhoughton, and also, just now, by the hon. Member for Wavertee (Mr. Cleary). The things that we are asking local authorities to do are really matters of organisation not involving at present arty appreciable financial outlay. This circular is only a preliminary. It will be followed up by conferences and by the issue from the Air Raids Precautions Department of a series of technical hand- books dealing with various aspects of this extremely difficult problem and, while I am not going to suggest for a moment—indeed, I have no authority to do so—that the Chancellor of the Exchequer intends to re-imburse local authorities in full for any expenditure that they may incur under this circular, I think it must be implicit to the Committee that the Government feel bound to take the matter in hand seriously and that some fair arrangement in the way of finance will have to be come to in due course. I was very glad to observe that the hon. Member for Upton (Mr. Gardner) realised the need for doing something, and I should like to tell my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. North) that the Air Raids Precautions Committee is not confined to London, but proposes to operate all over the country, and that we have the closest liaison with the Air Ministry. Indeed, the head of the Department at present is an Air Force officer.
Before I leave this rather thorny subject, I feel bound to reply to the question put by the hon. Member for Wavertree in regard to the Mersey Tunnel. It seems to me that for anyone to put about the idea that a thing like the Mersey Tunnel, or the tube system of London, would be a secure refuge for the population as a whole in these dreadful eventualities would be to do a very great disservice to the population of the country. The idea of people crowding into such a place obviously holds elements of the very greatest danger, and I hope the hon. Member will use his influence to see that that idea is not put about in Liverpool. It may be true to-day that it is impossible to secure complete immunity from aerial attack, but it is emphatically and profoundly true that mitigation of the effects of bombing is well within the bounds of possibility, and there is no reason whatever for the citizens of this or any other community to sit down with folded arms and wait for an assault against which adequate preparation and ordinary common sense will not provide a considerable measure of defence.
I must pass on to the report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. I was very glad to hear the hon. Member for Westhoughton preface his remarks with a generous tribute to the Inspector and his staff. It is a tribute which I very cordially endorse, and I do not think anyone could read the report without being impressed by the fact that it is not simply a collection of statistics, but a very human document written by officers who really have the welfare of the people they are looking after at heart. So far from agreeing with the hon. Gentleman who said that it was the saddest document he had ever read, I should like to say frankly, after having read it through from cover to cover last week-end in preparation for this ordeal, that it seemed to me almost on every page to hold out the elements of improvement and the hope of further progress. Even in the case of the terrible accident to which the hon. Gentleman referred, that has been followed by a conference of all people concerned, and there are already indications that it will be possible, by agreement, to take such measures as will render a repetition of such a tragedy quite impossible.
The hon. Gentleman drew attention to what he regarded as the deficiency in the staff of the factory inspectorate, and I should like to tell him that the 254 inspectors we have at the moment are 14 more than we had last year, and seven above the maximum number we have ever had, and that the vacancies to which he referred in his speech have now actually been filled as a result of examination, although the people have not been sent out, and, naturally, are not shown in the figures. He will forgive me if I point out that against the 254 inspectors we have now, we had only 205 when he held the office. His remarks about lead poisoning were most effectively countered by my hon. Friend the Member for Attercliffe (Mr. Pike), and I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to this particular fact in the Chief Inspector's report. He is bound to put in the bad accidents and the tragedies, and I hope that the Committee will realise that the cases which the inspector quotes, and which the hon. Gentleman quoted this after noon are very much the exception, and by no means the rule.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), who generally adopts a friendly attitude towards this Bench, was rather critical—not personal in any way—of the appointment of two new Ministers at the Home Office. I read over again very carefully the question he put to me yesterday. I frankly admit that I did not apprehend exactly what he was getting at, and I am willing to apologise now across this Table to him for any inadequacy in my answer. He mentioned to-day a particular disease known as Dupuytren's contraction, and he wants it put on the schedule of industrial diseases. The difficulty is that on the advice of an expert Departmental Committee we have not at present sufficient evidence to do this. In order, as he well knows, to put it on the scheduled list, it must be a disease which you can show definitely is due to occupation, and to nothing else. You could not, for instance, put asthma or hay-fever on the schedule, because they arise from some other causes than that of employment, but we will keep this question, and all other medical questions of the kind, very closely under review. I should like to draw attention to the point raised by several hon. Members about medical referees, and about delay in decisions. I am sure that the whole Committee were very pleased with the answer given by my right hon. Friend in which he announced that we proposed to set up a Departmental Committee in order to examine that and several other cognate questions. I am certain that we shall have the co-operation of hon. Members who possess expert knowledge in those subjects.
Before leaving this subject I ought to say that the increase of accidents, regrettable as it is, must definitely be ascribed to the causes which have already been mentioned by several hon. Members: first, the general expansion of trade; second, the fact that men are coming back into work after long periods of unemployment, and thank God for it, and, third, the fact that the general industrial reorganisation now proceeding in this country, the result of invention and changes in economic conditions, produce a very large number of new processes, and there is no doubt that in connection with these new processes we have more accidents. The fact that a high proportion of the accidents occur among juveniles does appear to me to indicate rather failure of the human factor than inadequacy of the material precautions. I am certain that that must be pursued by means of training at school and training when the young people enter the factories for the first time.
I only wish that I had time to pursue further these interesting factory questions, but I feel bound now to turn to the question of aliens, which was raised by the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. H. Johnstone) and the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). I do not quarrel with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's absence, because he has explained it to me, but I find it impossible to allow some of his remarks to go unchallenged. It would probably be for the convenience of the Committee if I indicate very briefly the general principle upon which we try to deal with this extremely difficult problem. The fundamental and underlying principle is that we should place no unnecessary restrictions on foreign visitors. When a foreigner comes over here to spend money it is extremely good for trade, transport and other things. Refusal of permission to land is definitely the exception, for which some special justification is required. The usual ground for refusal is the taking of employment to the detriment of our own people. Whatever views the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme may have, I am not prepared, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend is not prepared and that no hon. or right hon. Member opposite is prepared, to subscribe to the doctrine that, while we have still a large number of unemployed in this country, we should see our way to take everybody ad lib from any other country in the world where social and economic conditions are less fortunate than they are here.
There are extremely few cases of people being refused admission to this country on account of their known political creed or even of their political activities. Generally speaking, I think it is fair to say that the Home Office is no more interested in a foreign visitor's politics than it is in his religion. For the purpose of administering the Aliens Act and the Orders made under it, the only thing that really matters is if the presumption is created that somebody will take the opportunity of getting into this country in order to engage in unlawful and unconstitutional activities. If there is good ground for thinking, and we must judge on the best opinion we can form, that someone is going to organise disorder on British soil, it is clearly the duty of the Home Office to use its powers to keep him out. From the practical point of view of my right hon. Friend who is responsible for the administration of this difficult task there is all the difference in the world between an alien who does not happen to believe in the prevailing political creed in this country—if there is one—and one whose political creed actively embraces the overthrow of constitutional government in some other country beside his own.
It is not the practice of the Secretary of State, in the absence of any special reason of this kind, to exclude any alien simply on the ground that his political views are not in sympathy with the views of the Secretary of State himself or the prevailing views in the country. I should like to put it on record for the benefit of the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme that immigration officers do not now ask people if they are Jews. That is definitely laid down. But I do not suggest that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was quoting a case which has not occurred. We have to realise that this particular branch of the work of the Home Office is intensely complicated by the fact that the United States do not take nearly as many people as they did, and it is no exaggeration to say that people who are seeking to escape from what they properly regard as unsatisfactory conditions, religious, political or economic, have nowhere to go except here, and we are, consequently, getting considerable pressure. I do not think that the advisory committee suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) would be feasible because it would delay the day-to-day administration of this work and the number of applications is so enormous that we cannot afford any delay. In fact, rapidity is the essence of the contract if we are to avoid hardship on the individuals themselves. Finally, I come to the question of the police and the cognate matter of civil liberty.
I will deal with that point before I sit down. I would like to clear up one small point about the police college by informing the Committee that at the present moment out of 60 cadets at the college 44 have come from inside the police force and 16 from outside. I do not suggest that that is a fixed proportion; it will have to be dealt with according to the needs of the force. I should like at once to pay a tribute to the studious moderation with which the hon. Member for the Colne Valley stated his case in regard to civil liberty, and I do so with the particular concurrence of my right hon. Friend. I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I attempt to lay down in a concrete and concise form the general principles which guide us in this matter. It is agreed that every citizen has the right to take part in meetings, demonstrations and processions, so long as three conditions are fulfilled: First of all, the object should be lawful; secondly, the conduct of the proceedings should be orderly; and, thirdly, there should be avoidance of, or the minimum of, obstruction to the legitimate activities of other citizens. The police have very definite duties and powers in that regard. They have to prevent obstruction, and they have to preserve the peace. What action they take in any particular set of circumstances must be decided by the responsible police officer on the spot, with due regard to these general principles.
The police have been accused—they were accused this afternoon—of giving facilities, and I might almost say protection, to the Fascists and their allies, in acute contrast to the facilities, or rather the lack of facilities, which they afford to ladies and gentlemen who demonstrate on the Left. I should like to say very definitely and categorically, with all the authority that a mere Under-Secretary can command, that there is no truth whatever in this suggestion; and that the action which the police take in regard to all these meetings is in discharge of their responsibilities for taking all steps necessary not only to deal with an actual breach of the peace when it occurs, but to prevent a breach of the peace occurring, if they possibly can prevent it. When you know that two rival bodies are going to demonstrate on the same day, and when there is apparently a keen desire on the part of each to demonstrate fairly near to the other, the responsible police officer has got to recognise that if he allows those two factions to come into proximity, no matter how determined the accredited leaders of both may be that there shall be no conflict, the demonstrators are almost certain to get out of hand, and trouble is bound to ensue.
The hon. Member for Colne Valley drew attention to two cases at Mildenhall and Duxford and he also referred to the case at Hendon. I do not think there is anything I can usefully add to the answer which my right hon. Friend gave on the subject, except to say that I believe it to have been on that occasion a perfectly genuine feeling in the minds of the police that, however peaceable these persons might be in themselves, their mere presence in an assembly of that kind might constitute a potential danger to peace. The same thing would occur if you reversed the Right and the Left. The inquiries which my right hon. Friend made and the answer he gave to the hon. Member for Colne Valley will, I hope, when he thinks it over, satisfy the hon. Member. The hon. Member quoted a recent case in the High Court which decided that the police could enter premises if they have reason to believe that a breach of the peace is likely to occur. This definitely clears up a rather obscure situation, and the police do know now the extent of their powers, which they will exercise with complete impartiality.
The hon. Member for East Middlesbrough (Mr. E. Young) asked me a question about "diddlers." That is one of the obscure questions which neither the Home Secretary nor the Home Office has any right to decide. It can be decided only by a court of law. The hon. Member for Attercliffe drew attention to a case which has already engaged the attention of the Home Office. I have had an opportunity of looking into it since he spoke, and if my hon. Friend re-reads the letter which my right hon. Friend's predecessor sent him after a very full consultation, I think, he will realise that at the Home Office it was recognised that the police had acted in perfectly good faith, and that there was no need to take any such action as he suggested.
I must apologise to hon. Members with whose detailed questions I have not had time to deal. I would say to the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser) that if he listened to the Home Secretary's speech he must have done so with very great pleasure, because my right hon. Friend devoted a very large portion of his time to impressing upon the Committee his sincere and earnest view of our responsibility, particularly towards the juveniles, and the fact that prevention is better than crime. I would now make one appeal to the hon. Member for Westhoughton, who moved a reduction of the Vote. He was not only an ornament to the Home Office, but I know that he was very keen and very interested in his work. I wonder whether—with the exception of the air raid circular—he would not consider it a good thing to celebrate the day of the Naval Review by withdrawing his Amendment and allowing the Vote to go through unopposed.