The Home Office is the first office of the State, and the oldest. There are many issues which I could raise to-day in relation to the multifarious duties of the Secretary of State for the Home Department and his deputies, but I propose to confine what I have to say to the work of the branches concerned with children, factory inspection and industrial diseases. Many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will know very much more about industrial diseases than I do, but I propose nevertheless to touch in passing upon the problems which they present. It is not my intention to raise vast questions of policy relating to our prison system, although I gather that the right hon. Gentleman, having declared himself on the Floor of this House some time ago an ardent prison reformer, may launch out upon that subject to-day, whatever I may say. I would first venture to put to him two or three points about our prison system.
Every prisoner having legitimate complaint against authority ought to have the right to the services of a friend to watch his interests. Prison reformers are very keen upon that proposal because a soldier brought before a court-martial is entitled, I understand, to what is called a soldier's friend. That there is the necessity for a friend of a prisoner who has a complaint against authority is amply proved by the fact that in 1936 there were 572 complaints by prison officers against prisoners, and six complaints by prisoners against officers. Consequently this matter is a serious issue for those who are within prison walls. I would like, also, to mention the problems of a more varied diet, especially for the older prisoners, teaching of handicrafts in prison, extension of the practice of psychiatry in the treatment of offenders, ticket-of-leave men being allowed to report to some responsible body other than the police, censorship of prisoners' letters and bringing under review the experience gained by the experiments in Wakefield gaol. Finally, everybody who takes the slightest interest in our prisons is very much alarmed at the slow pace of the Home Office and the Prison Commissioners in providing new buildings for the treatment of offenders. Some of the present buildings are about 75 years old and were erected at a time when there was a different conception of the treatment of prisoners. Whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say to-day, I trust that he will give us some hope that these old prisons will be demolished and new ones put in their places. But all that is by the way.
Before I come to the three subjects which I have suggested I would like to say just a word about the administration of the Shops Acts. The right hon. Gentleman knows that we have passed several Acts of Parliament in the last few years dealing with shop life, affecting the conditions of employment of at least 2,250,000 shop assistants. I am sorry to learn from inquiry that local authorities in some parts of the country are not yet alive to their duties on that score. It would please some of us if the right hon. Gentleman could say whether the Home Office are urging those local authorities who have not done their duty to take more notice of the decisions of Parliament in this matter.
I now turn to the subject of approved schools, which are the responsibility of the children's branch of the Home Office. Whatever criticism I may make of the administration of that branch I gladly admit that the teachers in dealing with this problem from year to year and the staff who manage those very awkward children ought to be encouraged. A very valuable report has recently been issued on the work of the children's branch of the Home Office. It is all the more valuable because it is 10 years since a similar survey was given to the public. I have read through this document, which ought to be studied by social workers, reformers, politicians and, if I may say so, without offence, all those who occupy the pulpits of our churches. Delinquent children are often regarded in this country as children of the dead-end. It is well that we have a democratic Parliament in which to ventilate these problems in the open, because there are 15,000 of these youngsters under the charge of the officials of the Home Department. I am pleased with this report because it shows that exceptional efforts are being made to reclaim those youngsters and make them into decent, well-disciplined citizens when they come out. I rejoice in the privilege of saying a word or two upon this aspect of our social ills and I hope that hon. Members will find as we proceed that there is a great deal to be said in favour of the kind of treatment that is aimed at by the staff of the children's branch at the moment.
We must not blind ourselves, however, to the stern facts disclosed by the report. I am sure that hon. Members will be interested to learn the actual statistics in this connection. In 1934, the number of young persons proceeded against in juvenile courts was 22,191; in 1935, 27,358 and in 1936, 28,722. Of the last number, 11,624 boys and 840 girls were found guilty of indictable offences. I am sure that women Members of this House will be gratified to know that little girls are always better behaved than little boys.
Those who have studied these problems at close quarters must not, of course, be alarmed at the increase in the figures. I very much doubt whether the youngsters of to-day are worse than those of the days when we ourselves were youngsters. I will venture to tell the House how I view this problem. The volume of law has increased in this land and, as you increase that volume you throw your net wider to catch offenders, and the meshes become much smaller. That is true in the sphere of life with which I am particularly intimate. It is true in respect of social legislation; the ills of society are never fully dis- closed until you have laid down schemes to find them out. Take the statistics of unemployment insurance. We say that we have 2,000,000 people unemployed. I was unemployed once upon a time for six months, but no Government in those days would have regarded me as unemployed because there was no scheme to measure unemployment. The same may be said of the Children and Young Persons Act; it has undoubtedly disclosed some of the ills of society that were not apparent before. Consequently, I say that we need not to be alarmed about the statistics which I gave.
When we are dealing with statistics I always like to take the percentage basis in order to arrive at a proper picture. Let us remember that although the number of delinquent boys has increased there has also been an increase in the total number of boys at the same time. In 1912 about 2,000 boys were ordered by magistrates to be whipped, but in 1934 the figure was only 130. In 1935 it was 189 and in 1936, 155. I hope that the courts of this land will abolish whipping altogether. I have not the slightest doubt that whipping by order of a court makes a boy worse than he was before; the resentment in him against such harshness must grow as the years go by. I sat upon a committee for two years inquiring into this very subject. I have heard hon. Gentlemen say on the Floor of this House that they were whipped at Harrow, Eton or elsewhere and are none the worse for it; yes, but they were whipped by their schoolmasters. If I had been their schoolmaster I am not sure that I should not change my mind about whipping, but that is by the way.
After listening to a great deal of evidence on that problem I came to the conclusion that it is quite a different thing for a child to be whipped by its parents or by its schoolmaster to being whipped by a sturdy policeman by order of a court. The boy has probably never seen the policeman and the policeman has never seen the boy before, and in any case the policeman himself usually revolts against doing the job. If hon. Ladies in this House will forgive me, I must make one comment on this matter: I have been sad to note that some boys have been ordered by women magistrates to be whipped.
I am not so sure about that. I lived in Manchester when Mrs. Pankhurst was at the forefront of the battle for women's franchise, and one of the arguments I used upon public platforms as one of her supporters was that once women were brought into public life and placed upon benches of magistrates the quality of mercy would be extended. I do not take that view now. Mercy does not depend upon sex, but upon the type of the individual. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us something about the appointment of younger magistrates, of women magistrates and of magistrates of the right type, both men and women.
I am glad that the Noble Lady agrees with me upon something. There are passages in this report dealing with juvenile delinquency which ought to encourage us. It says:
It must not be forgotten that lawbreaking by boys is far less serious in itself than law-breaking by adults. Often it is a manifestation of the spirit of adventure or mischief, and is not deliberately anti-social in essence.
That is the spirit of the whole report. Here is another passage which is quoted from the report of the Warden of the Philanthropic Society's School at Redhill, Surrey:
Considering this school as a centre of medical, educational, industrial and character-forming activity, I put the medical work first in the boy's half-year with us. The malnourished child now forms 1 per cent. in the elementary schools, but 60 per cent. of our new arrivals this year were registered by the medical officer as below normal in nutrition.
I have no hesitation in saying that a hungry youngster will do more mischief and break more laws than a well-nourished child. I know that, if I were a boy and were starving, I would break every law of the land in order to get something to eat. It is interesting to see where some of these boys come from. Here are one or two cases:
Illegitimate, mother deserted, no interest, no home.
Father dead. Boy lived on barges, only home occasionally.
Father executed; step-father in prison for assault on step-daughter.
There are many other similar cases. There are ample indications in the report that some of these boys and girls really have more need of our sympathy than of punishment. There are some people to-
day who claim to be able to measure the intelligence of children. I wish they could measure the intelligence of Members of Parliament. If so, not a single Tory would ever enter the House; I am not so sure about the Liberals—
The detailed figures in connection with this measurement of intelligence are very interesting. In one of the schools with which we are dealing to-day, only 38 per cent., according to the test, were normal, 22 per cent. were dull, 32 per cent. were bordering on mental deficiency, and 8 per cent. were mentally deficient. Delinquency, therefore, is often a matter of low mentality rather than human "cussedness." The Home Secretary and the President of the Board of Education promised to make an investigation into this problem of dull boys among the school population as a whole. It would appear to be a little unfair to a boy of low mentality who commits an offence against the law to regard him as an outcast when in fact he has not the intelligence to know what he does to the same extent as other boys. I think the House of Commons, and especially the Home Office, ought to consider the problem from that angle.
Yes, they apply to one single approved school, and the masters of this school rightly point out that they are not dealing with children of the same mental measurement as the children in other schools in the country. Some years age I was deputed to go abroad on behalf of the Home Office to see what was being done in observing these cases. There is machinery in some countries for appointing psychiatrists to observe the mental capacity of these children before it is decided how they shall be treated. We have been appealing to the Home Office for years to do something of the kind in this country, and I was very pleased the other day to notice that the Goldsmiths' Company have offered £6,000 towards the establishment of an observation centre in London. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can tell us if anything has come out of that offer. I hope he will also tell us also whether he is quite satisfied with the method adopted of handing children over to the care of fit persons. Hon. Members will be aware that this is a new experiment in dealing with children who are neglected and forgotten by their parents and relatives. I would also express to the right hon. Gentleman the hope that we may not have to wait another 10 years for a further report, because, after all, we are charged with the welfare and future of these 15,000 children.
I turn now to the subject of industrial diseases. As I said at the beginning, I am not as familiar with this problem as are some of my hon. Friends who are connected with the mining industry, but I have been the secretary of an approved society for about 26 years, and it has been my duty very often to study this question at close quarters from the office point of view. Those of us who represent constituencies in Lancashire have always been interested in the efforts that are being made to deal with the awful question of bronchitis in card-room workers. My hon. Friend the Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), who has worked in a textile mill himself, will be able to tell the House something that I do not know about this problem, but I do know that the Home Office, though they have been trying to get the operatives and employers together, have not yet solved the issue of putting these people into the category of being able to claim workmen's compensation.
Approved societies who pay sickness and disablement benefits are becoming alarmed at the large number of cases which are thrust upon their funds but in respect of which, in their opinion, workmen's compensation ought to be payable. The position is becoming very strained. A workman who meets with an accident or contracts an industrial disease tends, particularly if he is not a member of a trade union, to lean on the funds of the approved society instead of standing up to the insurance company for compensation. I am sure that, if a statistical research were conducted, it would be found that the approved societies of this country are year by year compelled to accept financial liabilities in respect of industrial diseases and accidents which ought to fall on the insurance companies who accept workmen's compensation premiums. I should like, therefore, to know what is the position at present with regard to the cardroom operatives in Lancashire. There was an inquiry as to whether it was possible to prove that they suffered from the disease as a consequence of their work, and then another committee was established who are still, I think, continuing their investigations as to what method can be employed to compensate operatives who are suffering from this disease. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us something about that matter to-day.
There is, of course, a schedule of industrial diseases for the purposes of workmen's compensation. The industrial diseases scheduled are nearly 40 in number, and include arsenic, lead, dope and nickel poisoning, dermatitis, cataract in glassworkers, miner's nystagmus, beat hand, beat knee and beat elbow, telegraphist's and writer's cramp, glanders, and other diseases. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman or his deputy will be able to enlighten us as to what is happening in that sphere. But we are more concerned to-day about those industrial diseases which are not scheduled—for example, silicosis and asbestosis. These fall to be dealt with under special schemes, and we are wondering whether those schemes are giving satisfaction to the Government Departments concerned, and especially to the people suffering from these diseases. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman has been questioned once or twice about the investigation that is now taking place in the anthracite coalfield of South Wales with regard to silicosis among the workpeople there, and he will probably be able to tell us something about that investigation to-day.
In connection with this problem of industrial diseases there is a vacuum which ought to be filled. There is not yet sufficient statistical information regarding industrial diseases at the centre. If all the miners were in one approved society, all the textile operatives in one approved society and if all shop workers were in the approved society with which I am connected, then we should get reliable statistics to show how these people suffer as a consequence of being employed in any given industry; but they are scattered over about 2,000 approved societies, and we have not therefore the statistics that we would desire.
There is another point to which I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to turn his mind in the near future. We would like the Home Office to consider diseases and affections of the muscles, joints and nervous system arising out of the use of vibrating machinery. Hon. Members have probably seen the vibrating machines which are used for cutting up the roads, and I am assured that the men who handle these machines sometimes suffer unduly from nervous diseases consequent upon their use. We should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would go into that problem. Then I have to call his attention to the case of some of the grinders in Sheffield. My hon. Friend the Member for the Bright-side Division is more familiar with this problem than I am, but I understand that some of these men who were employed on sandstone grindstones were entitled to come within one of the special schemes if they suffered from silicosis. It was thought that, with the introduction of the new abrasive wheel in place of the sandstone grindstone, they would not suffer from silicosis any more, but I understand that, strangely enough, the new process brings about very nearly the same disease.
There is one other complaint I want to make. A very remarkable thing has happened under the law as it stands, and, as always, it is against the workman. If there is any flaw in the law, it is always in favour of the employer and against the workman. In the change-over to the abrasive wheel, the scheme leaves out all cases of diseases among men who suffered before the change; and they are left to the mercy of either public assistance, friendly societies or approved societies, or to fend for themselves.
My last point is with regard to factory inspection. I am very sorry that the Home Office, and some other Government Departments, cannot see their way to provide Parliament with a copy of the report of their work during the previous year before we adjourn for the Summer Recess. I understand the same complaint was made in connection with the Mines Department. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the Board of Education."] And the Board of Education. [An HON. MEMBER: "And the Ministry of Health."] Yes, and the Ministry of Health. This is indeed a rotten Government. I am sure than any intelligent Government could provide a report of some kind in good time. Since the Noble Lord has come to the Home Office I think he has been a drag on the wheels of progress. I have a feeling that if the Noble Lord had never touched the Home Department we might have had this report. I remember him at the India Office; we could not get a report from him then. No matter where he is, it is always the same. I do plead with the Government that we may get the report of the Factories Inspector in future before the Summer Recess.
Let me ask whether there has been an increase in the number of appointments yet in the inspectorate. There are about 278,000 premises subject to inspection by factory inspectors, and, according to the last report, there were only 264 inspectors to carry out the work. I do plead with the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the coming into operation of the last Factories Act in July this year, with all the new impositions on employers and employed, to realise that we ought to have an increase in the number of factory inspectors.
Section 50 of the Factories Act, 1937, deals with what is called shuttle-kissing in the textile industry. Section 21 deals with the training of young persons on dangerous machines. While I am on that subject, I might mention that I was in a town in Lancashire the other day. I read in a local newspaper, quite casually, of a boy of 16 years of age who got his right hand entangled in machinery and the whole of his arm taken away. I suppose it is not possible to carry on industry without some accidents, although I notice that, in his last report, the Chief Inspector quoted a case in 1847 when the people of Exeter smashed a whole factory to pieces because a boy was killed there. There would not be a single factory left in England, Scotland or Wales I suppose if people did those things to-day. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to look into this matter of factory inspectors.
Then there is the problem of goggles and screens in industry. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to say something about this, in connection with Section 49 of the Factories Act. When we were dealing with that Act we were told that the Home Office were very keen on a standard of lighting. I believe a committee has been appointed to look into that. Perhaps we shall be told what the result is. I would also like to know whether anything has been done to make part of the Industrial Museum moveable. I believe sections of the museum have been taken to the Empire Exhibition in Glasgow. That is all to the good, but I would like an answer to that question. The last Factories Report we got was really a terrible one, indicating an enormous increase in accidents among juveniles. I hope that education authorities in this country, when they grant exemption certificates for beneficial employment, will see to it that youngsters are not allowed to go to jobs to handle dangerous machinery, and that, in any case, the Home Office will compel employers to implement the Factories Act, so that these terrible tragedies shall be made fewer. Finally, it is pleasing beyond measure to me, after Parliament has encompassed the whole world, and dealt wtih the problems of all the peoples and nations of the earth, to come back for once, on the last day but two of the Session, to deal with issues that affect our own people, at home, and I trust I may have contributed a little to bring us back to that which matters most—the working lives of our own folk who dwell in these islands.
I am sure every hon. Member on this side of the House cordially agrees with the last observation of the hon. Gentleman. I would take this opportunity of thanking him for having raised these questions today, having dealt with them with the instructed outlook with which he has approached them, and having drawn the attention of hon. Members on all sides of the House to certain questions of very great importance in our national life. I will not follow the hon. Member in what he says as to the mental capacities of hon. Members on this side of the House, nor will I follow him into the equally attractive field suggested by his rather one-sided description of the great qualities of my Noble Friend. Rather will I attempt to take the broad subjects with which he has been dealing, and give the House a report of the present position in those matters. I propose, subject to the approval of hon. Members, to deal myself principally with the questions the hon. Member asked about prisons, juvenile delinquency, and penal administration, and to leave the subject of industrial diseases and industrial accidents to my Noble Friend.
And factory inspectors. My Noble Friend, representing in the House the Department of Industrial Research, has been brought into close contact with some of these questions which are being considered by that department, and I think he will be able to give the House interesting information on each of the questions raised by the hon. Member. I come at once to the questions the hon. Member asked about prison administration and penal treatment.
Yes, Sir. If the House is to deal intelligently with this matter of penal reform, there are certain facts which ought to be kept in mind. It is necessary that I should go into some detail in connection with what is being done, particularly after the speech of the hon. Member. We have to take concrete details, avoid generalities, and deal with these details. It is interesting to me, as Home Secretary, to note the fact that the greatest of my predecessors, Sir Robert Peel, who held very advanced views about prison administration and penal reform, was the Home Secretary who, above all others, interested himself in details. There is, for instance, in the Home Office a minute signed by his own hand, ordering that constables in the uniformed police force should be given two blankets instead of one. There is another minute, also signed by his own hand, saying that in future convicts to be transported to Australia should be given two sets of warm underclothing. I take that attitude of constantly facing the details as my example at the Home Office. I remember very well, and I dare say other hon. Members will also remember, the very striking phrase in a poem by William Blake in which he spoke of "labouring well the minute particulars." That is essentially the duty of a Home Secretary in dealing with the kind of questions that have been raised in the Debate this afternoon.
With those few words of introduction, I come to details about our prisons and certain aspects of our penal administration. The last statistics—the statistics for 1937—show that during the year 42,014 men and 5,035 women—that is to say, a total of 47,049 men and women—were admitted into our prisons. It is interesting to compare that figure with the figure not very long ago—30 years ago—during the Parliamentary lifetime of a good many hon. Members still in this House. At that time, no fewer than 211,519 men and women were admitted to the prisons in the course of 12 months. That is to say, prison receptions have fallen from 211,000 to 47,000.
It shows a very marked fall, particularly in the years since the passing of the Money Payments Act—an Act on which I should like to pay a tribute to my predecessor, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. It has done more to keep men and women out of prison than almost any other single Act in our generation. If we come to analyse these figures further, we find that of the 11,200 men and women who are in prison on an average every day of the year—that is to say, 10,500 men and 700 women—very roughly 1,200 men and 120 women are awaiting trial, or are in prison as a result of civil process or for non-payment of fines; about 2,100 men and 150 girls under 21 are in prison or under Borstal sentences; about 2,000 men and 75 women are first offenders; about 4,000 men and 120 women have had previous convictions; and about 170 men and 70 women may be described as habitual inebriates. There is one figure that my advisers have put in of very roughly 1,500 of what we might call hardened criminals, a very small number on the whole when we consider the total numbers of the prison population—1,500 out of about 11,000.
1,500 men and 80 women. To carry these figures a step further; of 38,139 prisoners received into prison for the first time during the last period of years for which we have had statistics, 30,475, or 79·9 per cent., almost 80 per cent., had not, as far as is known, returned to prison two to six years after these statistics applied. The percentage is high with regard to first offenders. It is satisfactory to note, I would ask hon. Members to notice, that about 80 per cent. of the men and women who get into prison for one reason or another do not get back there.
There is another comment I should like to make upon these figures, and it deals with two of the classes to which I have just drawn the attention of the House. I spoke just now of this class of habitual inebriates—170 men and 70 women. This is one of the most difficult classes with which we have to deal, particularly the women. If any hon. Member goes to Holloway he will be depressed by the large number, compared with the total number of the existing inmates, of women who spend almost the whole of their lives going in and out of prison. There are women there who have had 30 and 40 convictions and make a regular habit of going into prison on a Monday, with a five-day sentence, and coming out of prison on the Friday, and then coming back the following Monday; so much so that one of the prison administrators told me that some of them say, when they are leaving on the Friday, "Keep my room for me next week."
I draw the attention of the House to these facts to-day not to suggest that I have got a solution. I am searching about for one, and I cannot find one. Perhaps the only comforting factor about the problem is that most of these men and women are oldish, and that it is to be hoped that, with a better standard of education and better conditions of living, and so on, this intractable class will gradually fade out from our prison population. Meanwhile hon. Members will see how difficult it is, in a prison like Holloway, to organise the kind of reformatory treatment we all wish to see adopted when we have this number of quite irredeemable habitual inebriates.
There is another class about which I would say a word or two—the class of juvenile delinquents to which the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) made some allusions in his speech. I agree with him. I do not take the view that original sin has increased in the minds of the young since the year 1933. The figures that he quoted were a comparison of the figures in 1933 and the more recent years. Does anyone in this House to-day, with his own experience of the world, in going about in the streets and in the country, suggest that the young have become more wicked in the spectacular degree during the last five years? I do not accept that view at all. I agree with him that the increase in numbers is mainly due to the operations of the Young Persons Act. Indeed, the Act has operated exactly as the hon. Members who passed it wished it to operate. We wished it to call attention to these cases and to call the attention of magistrates to the greater opportunities of dealing with juvenile delinquents. I do not regard this increase in numbers, great as it may appear at first sight, as very much more than the result of the operations of the 1933 Act. It is, however, regrettable that, in spite of public opinion upon the subject, the number of boys and girls actually in prison still remains at a figure which we must all deplore. The figures for 1936—the last year for which I have statistics—show that there were still 1,237 boys and 77 girls committed to prison in that period of 12 months. Of the 1,237 boys sentenced to imprisonment, 34 per cent., so far as is known, had not previously been proved guilty of offences. They were first offenders, and would seem to me to be cases for which probation is eminently suitable. Of the remainder, namely, 66 per cent., with previous proved offences, many I should have thought had records that seemed to justify a Borstal sentence more appropriately than a sentence of imprisonment. I draw attention to these figures to-day, and I draw the attention particularly of the benches of magistrates throughout the country to the alternative methods which have now been developed, and which each year are being developed more successfully for dealing with the young and avoiding sending boys and girls to prison at all.
I have stated the problem so far as numbers and categories are concerned. I do not to-day attempt to theorise about penal treatment. Indeed, as far as my studies teach me anything, they go to show the great danger of adopting a doctrinaire attitude towards these penal questions. A great deal of harm, for instance, was done in the middle of the nineteenth century by people with the best intentions in the world applying doctrinaire theories to the treatment of individuals, and, as a result, the cause of more humane treatment of prisoners, quite contrary to the desire of these particular doctrinaires, was put back a generation. I try to approach these problems in as common-sense and concrete a way as I can, and I set myself two objects. First of all, it is the duty of the Home Secretary, and indeed the duty of every hon. Member in this House, to protect society against the enemies of society, and, secondly, to do what one can to help those who have slipped up to find their feet again.
I have here a number of details connected with penal administration during the last 12 months which may, at first sight, individually seem insignificant to some hon. Members. I venture to quote them for two reasons. First of all, they will help to show what we are trying to do to develop the reform side of prison life, and, secondly, I think that their cumulative effect, even though individually the particular items may not be of any great importance, will be to help to do what is very necessary—to prevent the prisoner becoming an outlaw of society, and to keep him in touch as far as we can with the world outside and to make his life in prison as natural as we can in the circumstances.
Here is the list of the improvements that we have been adopting during recent months. There is, first of all, the development in the earnings system. I spoke last year upon the introduction of the earnings system in the convict prisons. I am glad to be able to make a further and a very satisfactory report upon the earnings system. Not only is it answering very well where it has already been introduced, but we are introducing it into the local prisons, where the sentences are shorter and where, consequently, the difficulties are in some ways greater, but in the cases where we have introduced it, it is answering very satisfactorily. We are finding that it is creating a much better spirit within the prison walls. It is giving the prisoners an interest in their work, but, most important of all, it is helping to maintain their self-respect and to make them think that people are taking an interest in what they are actually doing.
Next, we have been introducing a new system of hours under which there is more of what is called associated labour, that is, labour in which the prisoners meet together in the prisons. That, again, is helping to break down the evils that are very likely to arise from a system of too great solitude. We have arranged for prisoners to be employed in association on Saturday afternoons, where local conditions permit. We are allowing young prisoners on remand or awaiting trial, to smoke. We have arranged for a temporary transfer of certain convicts to local prisons for the purpose of receiving visits from their friends. The definite object of this change is to keep the prisoner in touch with his family outside, so that when he comes out of prison he is not an outlaw out of touch with the world at large. The scheme only came into operation towards the end of last year, but it is working very well. We have been reorganising the physical training in our prisons. Hitherto, there has been an age limit.
In regard to the visits of relatives and friends, is it still the practice that there is a kind of barrier between the visitor and the prisoner? There is usually, I understand, a barrier of glass.
I do not know the details, which I will give later on, but I think I am right in saying that we have substantially improved matters in that respect. With regard to physical training, it has hitherto been open only to prisoners below a certain age. We are now extending the limitation and giving opportunities for physical training on a much wider basis to prisoners of older ages. We realise how important it is that they should be kept physically fit. We have been looking into the question of prison libraries and have been able to make an increased grant towards the libraries. We have been able to arrange for periodicals to come into the prison libraries on a bigger scale, to get the prison libraries catalogued, and generally to make the library side of prison life a good deal better than it has been in the past. We have also been able to arrange in certain prisons, and particularly in the Borstal institutions, for cinemas, and I should like to express thanks to all the people concerned who have provided the prisons and the Borstal institutions with the necessary apparatus.
Coming to a new class of change, we have been reviewing the question of prisoners' clothes, particularly women's clothes. Any hon. Member who visits Holloway will find that great changes have been made in that respect. They are not only better looking but better fitting clothes. My advisers rightly take the view that it adds tremendously to the self-respect of a woman prisoner if she feels that she is not looking a guy and that her clothes fit her. With regard to the question of lighting, unfortunately, our prison buildings are very old in many cases, and it is very difficult to adapt these old buildings to modern requirements, but within the possibilities we are trying to get better lighting in the cells. Obviously, an improvement in lighting will enable the prisoner to read much more easily. We have to do these things gradually, because our funds are limited, but it is our definite policy to improve cell lighting in the prisons generally.
Lastly, there is the very important question of food. The difficulty of serving food in prisons must be obvious to every hon. Member. The difficulty is that of serving food hot in the individual cells, particularly when we remember that some of the prisons, particularly the older prisons, cover a very large area and are so inconveniently arranged so far as the kitchen accommodation is concerned. We have been consulting experts who know most about these problems and we are experimenting now with a system of food containers, which enables the prisoners to collect the containers, instead of the food being carried to the cells until, though it may be good, it arrives at the cells so cold that it is almost uneatable.
Can the right hon. Gentleman say what percentage of the prison population take their meals in solitude in the cells and what percentage have meals in association? Is it necessary to preserve the system of solitary meals?
I cannot give the hon. Member the figures offhand, but I am sure he will see the difficulty. One of our great difficulties is that we are dealing in prison with such a great variety of human beings and we have to be very careful in the classification to guard against the worst criminals corrupting less criminal prisoners. Because of that fact we have to maintain generally the cell system. When our prisons are better classified and we have a more modern system of prison buildings, the question of association will be much easier than it is at the present time. One word more about the clothes of prisoners. We are trying an experiment which was suggested to me by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), of allowing prisoners at Maidstone—I am quoting Maidstone because Maidstone is one of the prisons where we are making the experiment—when interviewing their friends to wear their ordinary clothes. It was pointed out to me that many prisoners feel very much degraded if when their friends come to see them they see them in their prison clothes. The experiment is still a new one, and I do not want to generalise upon it, but we are hoping that it will succeed.
It may be asked, after I have given this long list of small changes, what is in our minds? Why have we done it? Is it simply the result of men and women of our generation being more soft-hearted than our predecessors, and instinctively having a greater dislike for pain and suffering than former generations? In other words, is it little more than the expression of a sentimental feeling of benevolence towards human beings generally? I should like to say categorically that so far as my advisers are concerned and so far as I am concerned, it is nothing of the kind. In making these changes we are engaged upon the reforms that I hope to introduce in the autumn, not merely from sentimental reasons, but because we feel that it is the commonsense plan. We are dealing with a series of concrete problems and we are dealing with them not because the theorists or the sentimentalists say that on general grounds this is the right way to deal with human beings generally, but because the people who know most about these things say that this is a successful way of keeping down crime and of preventing people who get into prison from coming back to prison.
I have two very interesting comments in my possession respecting the changes of the last few months. I am taking them not from my advisers at the Home Office, who might be biased and might be anxious, as we all are, to make the most of the changes that we are introducing. The first of the comments is from a man who only recently came out of prison after serving a serious sentence. The other is taken from the report of the Governor of one of our difficult prisons. This is what the ex-prisoner says about the earnings scheme:
To the thinking man, the matter does not rest merely with the advantage of being able to have a smoke. It is a scheme which is going to prove more far-reaching than that.
I will try and explain what I mean. First of all, the time goes much quicker because the individual knows he is doing something useful, and he has to do so much before he can earn this great privilege, that he has not time to brood on his wrongs, fancied or otherwise, so that the psychological effect, to begin with, is great and good. The very fact that a man is earning something, however little, has the tendency to put him in a better frame of mind and, in my humble opinion, this will have a good influence on his attitude to the community when he is released from here. These efforts at prison reform are really all for the good of the community, and I can say in all honesty that in this prison, those in authority are doing their utmost, as far as lies within their power, to promulgate reform methods. I feel certain that the effect of this treatment will be the direct cause of a large number of the men leaving here with the determination to become better citizens.
Here are a few sentences from the report of the Governor of one of our most difficult prisons. I will not name it, but I am perfectly ready to show any hon. Member the full report if he is interested enough to wish to see it.
During these five months"—
That is the five months to the beginning of this year—
greater changes in administration have been made than during the five previous years; indeed, the comparative period might be truthfully and considerably extended. The earnings scheme has justified every optimistic prophecy, and the co-operation of these supposedly difficult prisoners has been remarkable. As an instance of this I have been compelled to issue an order that men in piece-rate shops are not to be permitted to work during their exercise period. I cannot but think that everyone at this prison is entitled to look back upon the work of these last months with some satisfaction. The whole atmosphere of the prison has improved to a marked extent, and now approaches normality.
Those are two opinions, neither of them solicited by us; the first of a prison governor and the second of an ex-prisoner, and they show that all these small changes which we have introduced during the last 12 months have had a cumulative and real effect on prison life. They are helping to make prison life more human, and are helping to keep the men and women in prison in closer touch with the world outside, so as to make it more likely that when their sentence is over both men and women will become good citizens and find their place in society, instead of, as is often the case, becoming outcasts and going further and further down hill. I have given the House this description of what has been going on in our present
administration, but I should not like to sit down without saying something about an almost equally important problem, and that is the problem of our prison buildings. One of our greatest difficulties today is that our present buildings are so out of date. There has not been a new prison built for 50 years, and some of the prisons still in use date back a century and more. We have tried our best with the money at our disposal to improve the buildings, and anyone who has gone round the prisons will congratulate the prison administrators on their attempt to make the best of a bad job.
While it is the fact that no new prison has been built for 50 years, it will be realised that during that period the whole outlook of the country has changed towards penal questions. We have gathered together a much greater body of experience of how to deal with crime and delinquency, but time after time we are held up by the difficulty of trying to introduce these reforms into buildings which are so much out of date. My time at the Home Office has unfortunately coincided with the moment when it is difficult to get money for these services. In the nature of things we have to face a huge expenditure on re-armament, and it is very difficult to find money for the big and comprehensive building programme which I should like to see undertaken. I am glad, however, to be able to tell the House that we have formed a programme for the future. We wish to have a housing programme for prisoners just as we have a housing programme for other classes of the community. We have approved the first steps in this big and more comprehensive programme.
It seemed to me that there were two points at which we ought to begin this new housing programme. One point was at Pentonville, where we have a prison which was built nearly 100 years ago, and which is situated in a very thickly populated district of London. The other point where we ought to begin is a new women's prison. If any hon. Members have visited Holloway, they will agree with me that you could not have a building much more unsuited than Holloway for ordinary women prisoners. Take the unfortunate class of woman prisoner to whom I alluded at the beginning of my speech—the habitual inebriates, of whom there are a good many in Holloway. Most of them are old ladies. Could anything be more incongruous than a prison built on the model of Windsor Castle, with great walls all round it? None of these old ladies could even climb over the seats in this House, let alone escape from the great and semi-mediaeval walls of Holloway. My first move, therefore, was to take the necessary steps for building a new women's prison for the women at Holloway. The kind of prison I had in mind is more in the nature of a camp in the country, with the women living, as Borstal boys and girls live, in small house communities, with a good deal of open-air work and many activities to keep them interested.
The first step, therefore, which I am able to announce is that we are now going to start, as soon as we can get a suitable site, the building of a new women's prison on these lines, which will take most, if not all, of the women from Holloway. Holloway will then be closed as a women's prison, and the men from Pentonville will go either to Holloway or to Wandsworth or possibly Wormwood Scrubs. As a result of building a new women's prison, we shall be able to get rid of Pentonville altogether, and at the present moment—I do not think I am divulging any secret—there are negotiations in progress between the Prison Commissioners and the London County Council with a view to the Pentonville site being taken over for a housing scheme for North-East London. Another result of these changes will be taking the women out of Aylesbury and putting them into this new women's prison. We shall probably use Aylesbury, which is a much more modern building, as a men's prison. We shall also, as a result of these changes, want another Borstal for girls, and although I cannot announce it to-day, I think that as a result of the proposed legislation being passed, we shall find that we shall want a further boys' Borstal. Looking further ahead—I want to give the House a picture of our programme—I should like to see the discontinuance of the prisons at Reading and at Oxford. The site of the prison at Reading is very much needed for municipal improvements in the town of Reading, and the site of Oxford Prison is very much needed in connection, so I am told, with the new Nuffield College. These schemes must depend on conditions in the future when we are in a position to build the new women's prison, which will enable us to make the further changes I have indicated.
The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of a women's prison on a country site and closing the prisons at Reading and Oxford. I presume he has taken into consideration the possibility that this will not prevent visitors coming to see them?
The right hon. Gentleman will see that it is inevitable if we are to carry out the plan of greater classification than we have now, but it is a point which we must bear in mind, and it may be that we shall be able to afford greater facilities to visitors to go to these prisons and for their friends and relations to see the prisoners. I have left myself very little time to discuss the other questions which have been raised. As far as industrial diseases are concerned, my Noble Friend will reply. Let me say a few words about the very important question of approved schools, which are an essential part of the questions we are discussing this afternoon. They provide one of the ways of dealing with the young. There are probation, approved schools, and Borstal treatment for dealing with the young, and an interesting fact is that every year magistrates and social workers realise more and more the advantages of these various alternatives and are applying them much more than they did a few years ago.
In the case of probation, I think the country as a whole is becoming far more seized of its great advantages than it was a few years ago. The changes which have recently taken place in the approved schools are really two. We have drawn the attention of magistrates to the advantages of not sending the very young to the schools if it can be avoided. We take the view that for the very young children under 10 years of age, in nine cases out of 10 it is much better to find foster parents than to keep them in a home. So far as the older boys and girls are concerned, the difficulty is the dearth of accommodation. We have induced local authorities in recent years to build more of these approved schools. I think we have had 19 in the last two years, but even so the accommodation is insufficient, and I would ask hon. Members to keep an eye on this important question in their own constituencies and to encourage their own local authorities to find suitable sites and provide this much needed accommodation.
One further change we have made in recent months is that we have sent out a circular to encourage local authorities to place the older boys and girls with foster parents, and not only to board-out children under 10 years of age. We did that for this reason. We took the view that in a number of these cases the problem was to tide over a difficult time, such as the breaking-up of the home, or some domestic difficulty of that sort, rather than to send the boy or girl, for a long period, to a distant school. The experiment has not been in operation for more than a few months, but at present it seems to be working well. The local authorities are finding suitable homes for a number of these boys and girls. They are able to give them advice as to their mode of life and so on. This avoids taking the boy or girl, perhaps for two or three years, away from home surroundings altogether.
I have covered a wide field in the many questions on which I have said a word or two this afternoon, but I am afraid that a number of specific questions are left which I may not have answered in detail. I hope, however, that what I have said will show the House the spirit in which my advisers and I are approaching those detailed questions. I believe that a Debate such as this will go to show that there is a general body of support for the line we are taking. It is very important that this fact should be known to the country outside. One of our difficulties is not that there are not progressive people who are anxious to see changes introduced and adopted, but that there is still an appalling amount of ignorance in the country about any question connected with penal administration. The usefulness of a Debate such as this will be to show up that ignorance and to tear off the veil of mystery which has often surrounded these prison questions. I welcome, for instance, the visits which hon. Members and other public workers have paid to prisons during the last 12 months, for that all helps to dissipate that ignorant atmosphere of melodrama which has collected around many of these questions. I thank the House for having listened to a long catalogue of details this afternoon. As I have said, a Debate of this kind will be very helpful to me and my advisers in our day-to-day work of prison administration.
I am sure there are no two opinions about the usefulness of this Debate. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) raised many problems in his opening speech, and he showed a very enlightened attitude towards them. I think every hon. Member will desire to pay a tribute to the Home Secretary for the enlightened and progressive way in which he has approached, and is approaching, the questions connected with his Department. I do not intend to try to follow the right hon. Gentleman in his dissertation on prison reform, for there are many hon. Members who are better qualified than I am to deal with that matter. I wish to deal with a special matter concerning industrial diseases. I rather wish that the Home Secretary had given some indication of the attitude of his Department towards this important matter, but I realise that he had so many subjects to deal with that he had perforce to leave some out of his speech.
My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton asked whether the Home Office are satisfied with the administration of the industrial diseases schemes, and there has not yet been any answer to that question. I want to refer particularly to the silicosis scheme. If the Home Office are satisfied with the administration or the scope of that scheme, then they are the only people in the country who are. The right hon. Gentleman quoted a line in which William Blake talked about labouring the minute particular. I shall try to do that in the few remarks that I make. I want to say generally, with regard to the Metal Industries Silicosis Order, that the whole scheme is too narrow in its scope, since it has never included a great number of workers. Silicosis is the only industrial disease within that scheme for which a worker can claim compensation, and all the allied diseases, such as pulmonary tuberculosis and many other respiratory diseases, are excluded. If the present eliminatory process, which is caused by the introduction of certain new tools in the grinding industry, goes on, in a few years time the scheme will not be worth the paper on which it is written, because very few workers will come under it.
I will try to give the House a picture of the situation in this respect in one city in which there are many of these workers. I believe that the whole centre of the silicosis scheme, that is, the metal-grinding industry, is based upon the metal grinders of Sheffield. It is estimated by the Medical Officer of Health of Sheffield that there are about 4,600 grinders in the city—I will not say they are all covered by the scheme—and 3,635 cutlery grinders. To give the House some idea of what these people do, there are, for instance, table-blade grinders, file grinders, saw grinders, jobbing grinders, wool shear grinders, edge tool grinders, scythe grinders, scissor grinders, and spring knife grinders. I think hon. Members will agree that these men are very skilled and worthy men. They are men whose products are of popular use and go into every household in the country. Their crafts are not new crafts, but very old ones, and I do not think that even the Government can advance the excuse that it is a new industry, and that they have not had time in which to investigate all the ramifications of the trade.
These men have always been subject to a very heavy incidence of respiratory diseases. The old Sheffield grinders used to say at once time that in a certain number of years they would "drop off their perch." They used that old Sheffield phrase knowing full well that in the ordinary course of events they would contract some lung disease that would ultimately bring about total incapacity to work and in many cases death. Among these grinders the death rate from respiratory tuberculosis is, even now, four times the rate for all persons over 15 in Sheffield. That is the case despite the fact that the new abrasive wheel, which was to bring about such a revolution in the industry, has been in operation in many of the cutlery factories in Sheffield for some 25 years. In spite of that, there has been very little diminution in the incidence of the disease among the grinders of Sheffield. The 4,600 grinders in Sheffield, excluding cutlers, represent 1/120th, or less than three-quarters of one per cent., of the population. I think the House will realise the terrible incidence of this disease when I say that those 4,600 men provide 6 per cent. of all the cases of infectious tuberculosis in the city.
Let me quote a few comparisons with other trades, which are given in the report of the Medical Officer of Health of Sheffield, Dr. Rennie, who is one of the greatest authorities in the country on respiratory diseases. Cases of tuberculosis among the 4,600 grinders numbered 149. There are 9,744 miners in the city. I think it will be agreed that mining is a very dangerous occupation. I have listened to many speeches in which my hon. Friends have put forward the claims of miners and explained the dangers of mining and the incidence of disease in that industry. When I say that even mining is not as dangerous as metal grinding, from the point of view of respiratory diseases, I think hon. Members will get some idea of the terrible scourge which afflicts these men. Among the 9,744 miners in the city, there were 31 cases of tuberculosis. Stone masons and stone-getters are men among whom it is always thought that there is a very great incidence of lung trouble. There are 1,200 of these workers in the city of Sheffield and 20 cases of tuberculosis among them. From those comparisons, I think hon. Members will agree that there is no question that this heavy incidence of respiratory diseases among the grinders of Sheffield is due to their work. During the last 40 years, in spite of the introduction of the new abrasive wheel, there has been very little diminution in the incidence of the disease among these workers. I can give actual figures.
I am dealing at the moment with the desirability of bringing into the silicosis scheme these men who are now excluded by the restrictive clauses. If the hon. Member so desires I can, later, give him the opinion of one of the greatest experts in the country. The cardinal defect of the scheme is that it proceeds on the assumption that silicosis is the only disease from which these people suffer. But that is only one complaint. Phthisis, fibrosis and tuberculosis are all rampant among grinders. Among the general population there has been a marked decrease of these diseases in the last 40 years, but the decrease among grinders has been much less than the decrease among the general population.
Turning to the scheme itself, I think I can show the desirability of enlarging it so as to cover these respiratory diseases which, beyond doubt, arise out of the conditions and the nature of the work done by these men. The people who drafted the scheme seem to have been concerned, not so much with the disease as with the tool used by the men in their work. I have some figures here of which I ask the Noble Lord to take particular note. When the silicosis scheme came into operation a census was taken among men working in these trades—table blade grinders and the other sections I have already mentioned. That census did not include all who worked in the industry but it was fairly representative. It covered about 1,678 men working in about 10 different grinding processes. Owing to the restrictive clauses of the scheme, only 399 of these would be able to make a claim under the scheme. Paragraph 2 in the scheme excluded 687 men who were working on the abrasive wheel. I have already shown that there is very little diminution in pulmonary diseases among grinders, but the scheme excludes men who have worked for three years on the abrasive wheel. A man may have worked on sandstone for 10 years and may during that period have inhaled silica dust which will ultimately bring about total incapacity, but if his employer introduces the abrasive wheel, then as soon as the man has worked for three years on that wheel, he has no claim for compensation. He is outside the scheme. If that is to be called "a compensation scheme" then I do not understand the term at all.
Again, 134 file grinders were excluded under paragraph 2 (b). These file grinders were excluded because safeguards had been provided in their case. The stone had been covered as much as possible and the man had to keep the file which he was grinding immersed in water. As long as these conditions were conformed to, these file-grinders could not claim under the scheme. Further, the definition of "grindstone" in the scheme resulted in the exclusion of 52 men, while 371 out-workers were excluded under Section 2 of the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1925. That Section defines the term "workman" and under it the out-worker who works casually is not regarded as a workman and, whatever disease he may contract, he cannot claim compensation. I suggest that that matter requires alteration, and I hope the Noble Lord will pay some attention to the facts which I have stated.
As regards deaths from silicosis, the number of deaths in Sheffield certified as being due to silicosis was 34 in a certain period, and in the same period, the number of successful claims for disablement—owing to the various defects I have indicated—was only 11, while only three successful claims could be made in respect of death. I do not want to weary the House by a long speech on this subject, but I feel it is time that the Home Secretary instituted a thoroughgoing investigation of this matter with a view to enlarging the scope of the Order and bringing in these men who suffer from these diseases and who can prove that the disease arises out of their employment. The silicosis scheme is too narrow in its operation, and if this Debate has done nothing else but give us an opportunity of raising this matter, and of trying to bring home its seriousness to the Home Secretary, it will not have been in vain.
I am sure we have all listened with great interest to the details which have been given by the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall). The House is always impressed when a Member tells us details of which he has personal experience, and even more impressed when an hon. Member is able to speak with such lucidity and moderation of things about which he feels deeply. I shall not follow him in the field which he has chosen. I want to ask my Noble Friend certain specific questions not covered by the speech of the Home Secretary, and I hope he will realise that I am putting these questions solely with a desire for information, and not in any spirit of criticism. I have no desire to criticise the Home Office for its administration for which I have the highest admiration. I should like to take this opportunity of paying a special tribute to the Aliens Department which, during recent months has been under a heavy strain of work. It has been overwhelmed with applications and, as hon. Members know who have had contact with the officials of that branch on refugee problems, they have dealt with those applications, while maintaining their duty towards their own regulations, not in a spirit of hard mechanism but with commendable humanity, enormous patience, and, I think, very great charity. I think the House ought to pay a tribute to those hard-worked officials at this very difficult time of strain in their Department.
When I first joined the Civil Service, which I regret to say was 30 years ago, the Home Office was regarded by the other Departments of State as a rather static Department. It was regarded as one of the oldest Departments and was thought to be, if I may say so, more or less obsolete. At its best, it was regarded as a sort of Ministry of the Interior, as a sort of Gestapo or Ogpu, the main function of which was to maintain law and order. If we personified it at all, we personified it in the shape of an elderly policeman moving with great dignity but not much rapidity in the execution of that sole function of maintaining law and order. Even at that date we were incorrect in so doing, because the Factories Acts had brought the Home Office into constant and extensive contact with the actual lives of the people of the country. Since then the conception of the Home Office as a static organisation has become completely obsolete. The Home Office is to-day one of the most dynamic Departments of State. It is a Department of great and increasing social service. I think the picture of the policeman must be superseded to-day by the picture of a young doctor anxious by every means in his power to gain experience of, and to improve, the mental and physical health of the people in the district in which he lives.
Some would go even further and say that the picture of the young doctor was in its turn being superseded by the picture of a young octopus whose tentacles are stretching out and begning to embrace all the administrative functions of the State. We can see one tentacle stretching out at this moment so that it gets its suckers ino the comparatively ancient brickwork of the Board of Education. Another tentacle stretches out and with infinite tact, but great firmness, entwines itself round the sturdy limbs of the local authorities. Still a third is creeping along and getting hold of that young sapling, the Ministry of Health. Oviously, in probation schemes and in approved schools the Home Office is assuming educative functions. Obviously, in other respects it is usurping the functions of the Ministry of Health and in one way and another, I think, there is danger of overlapping between the functions of the Home Office and those of the Ministries which are specifically dedicated to education and health. I do not imagine that the Home Office are unaware of this tendency, but I should like the Noble Lord to give us an assurance that they realise that overlapping means duplication of labour and therefore waste of labour; that it may mean rivalry between Departments; that it may mean competition, and competition between Government Departments does not mean increased efficiency, but always means increased costs.
There are certain more specific points about which I should like to ask the Noble Lord. First, with reference to juvenile delinquents. The Home Secretary spoke at some length and in considerable detail about child delinquents and I think he agreed, as I agree, with the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) that we must not be too depressed by the statistics on that subject. It is true that they seem very alarming at present, but when statistics disclose unpleasant facts it is very often not because the facts are really much worse than before but because the method of gathering the statistics has become much better than before. The second point to be remembered is, as the report itself notes, that the rising generation, the children now under 14, are an infinitely better generation than either my own generation or that which followed mine. They have far more energy, more ambition, more enterprise. Therefore, a little delinquency is only the froth on the tide of a very strong rising generation. I think we must expect a little delinquency to go with that very large increase in the enterprise and energy of the new generation. All the same it is a serious problem, and I am not quite clear exactly how it stands at present. My recollection was—and the Noble Lord will correct me if I am wrong—that some time ago the Secretary of State gave us an assurance that a special inquiry would be made into this very problem of the increase in child delinquency. I am not now clear whether he meant that the report we now have would shortly be issued after a 10 years' interval or whether something more specific was being done. That is a point on which I should like to have further information from the Noble Lord.
On the question of general penal reform, I think many of us in this House have been disappointed that during this Session a revolutionary Bill has not been brought forward. My right hon. Friend gave us some indication that that might come in the autumn. I think we must recognise that in our present Home Secretary we have someone who combines all the virtues necessary for a real penal reformer. In the first place, he has a great gift for absorbing detail precisely; in the second place, despite his disclaimer of sentimentality, he has very human emotions; and, in the third place, he has a sort of family pride, as it were, in this question of penal reform. It is a question to him of hereditary instinct and tradition, and I did hope that we should, under his guidance and with his enthusiasm, have got much further already than we have done.
In his speech he covered most of the points of detail on which I would myself have wished to question him, such as the question of clothes and many other details, but some remain. I do not think the country generally realises as yet (though I think the House does) the absolutely vital difference that exists between the first offender and the habitual criminal. I think that if we were to describe what has been the development in thought on penal reform in the last generation, we should call it an approach to some conception of this distinction between the old lag and the new boy, between the habitual offender, the recidivist, and the first offender. I think we would say that out of that conception quite different ideas have grown up. In the first place, we are beginning, I think, to regard crime not as a sort of checker board with black and white squares—virtue white, and crime black—but more or less as a sort of grey tweed in which the strands are curiously intermingled with chance, opportunity, character, environment, and heredity. In the second place, I think we have come to realise this, that crime is not, as it used to be, so much an outrage upon society as a reflection upon society, and that, therefore, the incidence of responsibility, the incidence of justice, the incidence of criticism, has shifted. We are getting less and less to say that a man is a wicked man when he has committed a crime, and more and more to say that there must be something wrong with ourselves if these conditions can continue unmodified and unimproved. This feeling that responsibility for the first offender is our most important responsibility is increasing enormously. I trust that the Home Secretary will, in the new Penal Reform Bill that he is considering, concentrate upon that and on certain smaller points which I should wish to ask him in that connection, and they are these.
The Borstal system first. I have visited many Borstal institutes. I have had Borstal boys to stay in my own house, and nothing that I can say would be too much in praise of the Borstal system as it exists to-day. As far as I can make out there is no difference whatsoever between a Borstal institute to-day and Wellington College when I was a boy. In fact, I think that, if anything, the Borstal boys are a little more comfortable and enlightened than we were in my school days. But there is one terrible mechanical error, and it is this. Borstal boys, when they are sentenced, are taken to Wormwood Scrubs for a certain period—I think it is six weeks—in order to be classified. I am all for classification. I believe indeed that it ought to go very much farther than it does, and that it ought to be carried out by trained psychologists. At present you put bulldogs and greyhounds into the same kennel, and call it classification. But, above all, their classification ought not to be carried out at Wormwood Scrubs. It is quite wrong to take a lad who has stolen a bicycle, or who may have just run away with it and forgotten to put it back, and put him in that sinister and terrifying place and allow him to see the criminals, the prisoners, walking round and round and to feel that the stigma of the prison, the mark of Cain, has been put upon him. You destroy the whole effect of Borstal if you begin it by branding the boy with this great broad arrow which is Wormwood Scrubs, and I do beg the Home Secretary—I know there are difficulties in the way—to do something to render it quite impossible that these first offenders, these young boys, should be shut up in Wormwood Scrubs while they are being classified. That surely is a simple thing that ought to be done.
The second thing is with regard to the earning system. The Home Secretary did indicate, in the first place, that the system had been a success and, secondly, that it was being extended, or that he hoped to extend it, to local prisons. I shall be very much obliged if the Noble Lord, when he replies, will give us some idea how many local prisons have adopted this system, and if he will also indicate, if he can, whether in fact it does mean that the earning system not only restores their respect, as I think it does, but that it does mean that they can buy luxuries with the earned money, and that they are allowed to smoke. I think it is essential that if a man has earned a certain amount of money by the earning system, he should be allowed to spend it on cigarettes and to smoke them at certain hours. I think it is a great pity to deprive him of that great pleasure, although many people may call it a luxury and not a necessity.
Finally, there is this question of aid on discharge. If I am right in thinking—and I think the House agrees—that the whole purpose of our penal system to-day is to try as far as possible to render the prisoner a better man when he goes out than when he went in, to make him fitter for the difficulties of life rather than less fit, we are all agreed that the care of the Home Office ought not to end at the prison gate. I know there is the Prisoners' Aid Society, and we all know what wonderful work it does, but it is a private society, and I think the Home Office ought to consider this question of aid on discharge. They ought to think whether they cannot do something more about finding employment; more than that, they ought to find a discharged prisoner something to live on during the interval between his discharge and his being able to get employment. The Prisoners' Aid Society simply cannot carry the whole of that burden, and as it is a definite part of penal reform, the Home Office ought, I think, to be able to give us an assurance that that matter also will be taken under their wing.
I think the House feels that we have all got a different attitude to-day towards penal reform; and that, apart from any party question, the present Home Secretary is really enlightened and active on the subject, and is the very person who will carry it to a successful conclusion.
I want to speak of something rather different from what has been said already. I am very sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary is not present at the moment, because I want to raise a matter in which he and I, in regard to some questions and answers, differed somewhat a week or so ago. The question that I want to deal with is one with regard to the Receiver's Department of the Metropolitan Police, and particularly in regard to buildings carried out by that Department. On Thursday, 14th July, I asked a question of the Home Secretary in regard to the cost of certain buildings being put up under the direction of the Receiver of the Metropolitan Police, and I asked whether the right hon. Gentleman was aware that local authorities in London were carrying out buildings for the housing of working-class people at from 1s. 7d. to 1s. 8d. per foot cube, that blocks of residential flats, such as are called luxury flats, the most expensive type of flats, were being built in London at the present time at from 1s. 9d. to 2s. 3d. per foot cube, and that police buildings for married men were being built at 1s. 7d. per foot cube. I then asked whether he could explain why section houses for single police constables were costing 2s. 2d. in Putney, 2s. 4·55d. in Judd Street, and 2s. 5·92d. at Kenning-ton Lane.
The extraordinary answer that the right hon. Gentleman gave to me on that occasion makes it imperative that I should take some action in regard to it, and this is my only opportunity of doing so. The answer that he gave really was extraordinary, and it seems to me that the people responsible for that answer are either grossly ignorant of costing in regard to buildings or that they are deliberately trying to mislead this House. The right hon. Gentleman said:
The accommodation provided in a section house includes much that is not provided and is unnecessary in married quarters"—
which, of course, everybody knows—
such as common and recreation rooms, gymnasia, canteens, etc.
Anybody who has the remotest knowledge of building knows very well, and the people who framed that answer know very well, that the considerations mentioned in that answer ought to cheapen the section houses and not to make them dearer. It must be obvious to everybody that if you have a room or a hall this size, and if you are measuring the cost per foot cube, you have to measure only the outside walls, and there is no cost in the centre, whereas, if you have a building of this size, with all kinds of walls and divisions in it, such as you get in flats and buildings with small rooms, the cost must be greater. For anybody to try and put it over Members of this House that the fact that the buildings concerned have gymnasia, recreation rooms, and canteens is an element in increasing the cost, is sheer nonsense, and, as I say, it indicates either ignorance of building costs or a desire to mislead the Members of the House. The Home Secretary went on:
Much of the general accommodation in a section house is for the use not merely of the residents but for all the local police.
What has that to do with it? Nothing in the world, and to put that in an answer to a question is an attempt to mislead the Home Secretary or the House or both. I hope that we are not going to be subjected to that kind of answer when we ask questions, because if we are the public will have something to say to the Department which is responsible. The Home Secretary said further:
Moreover, as regards the three section houses mentioned, account must be taken of the recent increase in building costs which was reflected in the tenders for these schemes. If account is taken of all the factors there is no reason for regarding the cost of the section houses in question as excessive."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1938; col. 1510, Vol. 338.]
In view of the examples I have given, that is no answer, and the people who framed it know that it is no answer. It is an attempt to mislead the House. I hope we shall have an inquiry by the Home Secretary into the question of these building costs, which are a sheer waste of public money. I and other hon. Members have put down questions with regard to the costs of administration and building which are incurred by the Receiver's Department. We have a right to do it not only because public money voted by this House is being
expended in large sums by the Department, but because public money collected from the ratepayers in the Metropolitan area is also being spent by it. When we ask questions whether any opportunity is given to the local authorities to ascertain how the money is being spent, we are told that they have no right of inquiry. They have simply to pay. I asked the Home Secretary whether he had had representations from the local authorities in regard to the wasteful expenditure of this public money—I say it deliberately—but the only reply I could get was that the Home Secretary's Department, which is in effect the Receiver's Department, is responsible and that local authorities have no right of inquiry, and he could not concede any such right to them. I hope this matter will be inquired into, because I want the Department to know that Members of this House cannot be put off by the kind of answer which is given through the Home Secretary by the Department.
On the same day I put a question seeking information with regard to the expenditure against loan under the 1934 Act by the Receiver's Department. I got a reply which, for sheer audacity, is amazing. It was:
I would refer the hon. Member to the information given on this matter in the accounts of the Metropolitan Police Fund presented annually to Parliament, and I will send him copies for the last three years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1938; col. 1509, Vol. 338.]
I had all these copies and I have one in my hand now. It shows that in 1937 there was a balance of £187,644 left over from 1936, and one would imagine that it would have been transferred to the accounts of 1938. I am not an accountant, and I have submitted these accounts to several people who are accountants. Every one of them said that nobody on earth could understand them, that they had no relation to accountancy at all, and that, so far as they could be understood, they showed that the money that had been left over from one year was not accounted for in the next year. The amount I mentioned is shown as having been the balance at the end of 1937. In the 1938 accounts it is not shown as a balance carried forward. It does show it, strange to say, as an expenditure of that year, and apparently it is expended in two years in succession. At the end of that year there was a balance of £305,000. How
was that money expended against loan when there was no expenditure against loan? I hope that the Home Secretary will give me the information for which I ask. I thank him for sending me the three year's accounts, but they show me nothing except that the money is there, and that it does not appear to have been expended. I want to know how it has been expended.
I wish to say a word with regard to the building of prisons. I have spent a good deal of my time in prisons, not as a prisoner, but as one working there. I have also spent a good deal of time in asylums, not as a lunatic, but as one working in them. It has always been one of my boasts that although I have spent a long time in prison I have maintained my character, and although I have spent a long time in asylums I have maintained my sanity. I would like to compliment the Home Secretary on the excellent reference in his speech to prison buildings, particularly to the one which is to be done away with at Holloway. When I have visited Holloway I have been struck, as apparently the Home Secretary was, with the fact that it is hopelessly out of date and in an entirely wrong place to house anybody, particularly women. I hope that it will soon be done away with, and that the right hon. Gentleman will transfer some of the money which is now being wasted deliberately and shamefully by one section of the Department to the excellent purpose which he has now suggested of reforming prison buildings and bringing them up to date and of building new prisons for the better accommodation of prisoners.
I would like to concentrate on a point which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) and the Home Secretary, namely, approved schools. In the last few years there has been a tremendous improvement in the conduct and the product of those schools, and I think that everybody in the House will agree that all those who are sent to them need the best possible type of instruction that can be given. They want, too, the best possible type of teachers. This is emphasised in the Henderson Report, which says:
More than ever before, these schools need to attract to their service men and women of
sound qualifications and wide culture. In order to attract such men and women the conditions of service in these schools need to be more satisfactory.
I am not without some knowledge of these schools, and I wish to draw attention to that point. They have done some excellent work and they have now reorganised these schools much as the elementary schools have been organised into a trinity of schools—junior schools up to 13, intermediate schools up to 15, and senior schools up to 18. Of these three types the intermediate one requires the best type of instructors, who need not only a high degree of training in schoolroom education, but special vocational training and a certain knowledge of business methods. I want to ask whether we have the right type of teachers in those schools, and to suggest that something should be done by the Home Office to attract the right type.
An hon. Member spoke of the overlapping of the work of the Home Office and the Board of Education. I would like to see greater co-operation between the Home Office and the Board of Education in regard to these schools. What could be done almost instantly to bring about an improvement in the personnel of the teaching staff would be a co-operative movement between the Home Office, the Board of Education and the local authorities. Instead of these schools being shut up in watertight compartments they ought to be brought into line with Board of Education schools generally, and I should like to see teachers being transferred and retransferred from the approved schools to the ordinary schools and vice versa. It is not a good thing for teachers in either school to have their experience confined to one type of school. If this is to be brought about we want to get a lightening of the conditions.
The pay of the teachers has been greatly improved, but some of their burdens are rather irksome. They are called upon to work very long hours, for they have not only their teaching hours but long hours of supervision. In this report it is recommended that the hours of supervision duty, that is, minding the young people after their educational hours, should not exceed 21 hours. One of the reasons for some of these people not taking on this important duty of training the probationer pupils is that they do not like the long hours. If something could be done to eliminate them it would make the calling much more attractive. I do not want to say a word against the work of this excellent body of teachers, but one cannot get away from the fact that unless we get men and women of a high standard of education, some knowledge of psychology and of wide culture, we shall not bring about that big reform we all want to see among these young people who made the first step, it may be quite innocently, the wrong way. Their reformation is a great national task.
I would like to draw attention to the question of the tenure of these teachers. I have had recent instances where the relations of the teachers and the domestic members of the staff have been rather strained. The Home Office will not be surprised at my reference to this matter because I have been in touch with them by correspondence. I had rather an alarming case not two years ago where, in one of these schools, there was internal friction between the scholastic staff and the house staff, the matron and her husband on the one side and the schoolmaster and his wife on the other, which led to most regretable incidents. That is in the knowledge of the Home Office. This sort of friction ought to cease. With some more enlightened form of governing the schools we could avoid some of those troubles.
Teachers tell me that one of their great difficulties is that if they have a complaint they have no right of being heard at an inquiry. Most local authorities would allow a teacher who has a grievance, or is likely to be dismissed, to state his case before a tribunal and to be accompanied, if necessary, by a friend whom he could consult, but in approved schools matters are handled rather more arbitrarily and the dismissal of teachers seems to rest with the head master alone or, sometimes, with the secretary. I think the governors ought to refer the matter to the Home Office. Let there be a statement of any grievances which may exist, and let the teachers concerned have the opportunity of putting their case before the authorities.
I do not know whether in these approved schools they have a system, such as is found at some of our bigger schools, of the students having their own courts, but I was rather alarmed not very long ago to learn that one boy at an approved school had taken upon himself the liberty of writing direct to the Home Office about the action of one of the teachers. There must have been something very wrong in the school for that to be allowed. In a subsequent investigation at the same approved school I found the unedifying spectacle of the boys taking sides for and against different masters and ranged either on the side of the secretary or the headmaster. I hope that a speedy end will be put to such proceedings.
Generally speaking, I believe that very good work is being done by approved schools. Anyone who walks across to the Home Office can see some of the finest work that schoolboys have ever turned out in the engineering line. But we cannot train all these boys to become engineers, and very righly we are training some of them in farm work, and it would be interesting if the Noble Lord would say how many of the boys do take up agricultural pursuits. Further, although I do not want these schools to be a training ground for the Army, Navy and the Air Force, it would be interesting to know how many of the boys do enter our great Services. I ask that question for this reason. Only this week I inquired of the Secretary of State for War why it was that boys who had been on probation were very often turned down when they applied to join the Army, even after they had been recommended by the probation officer and, in one case, after a bench of magistrates had said the best thing the boy could do would be to join the Army, because that boy had made only one slip and had no stained character.
I listened with a great deal of interest to the speech of the Home Secretary, but he scarcely dealt with the points which I wish ultimately to bring before the House. Before I come to them, however, I have one or two remarks to make on the Home Secretary's speech. He showed that he was very anxious to do something for prison reform, and while I was listening to him it occurred to me that it would make a tremendous difference to the unfortunate people in prison if we ensured that there were really good cooks to prepare the food for them. There is an old saying that "God sent the meat and the Devil sent the cooks," and as one who has done cooking in his time I have found in all sorts of institutions, while the food itself has been good, that nine times out of ten it has been spoiled in the cooking. I was a member of a board of guardians for many years and looked into this question in the poor law institutions, and I found that by good cooking it was possible not only actually to save money but to add to the comfort of the inmates. If the Home Secretary really wants to make prisoners as happy as they can be—which I suppose is not very happy—he should give special attention to this point.
Those who listened to the Home Secretary must have realised how times have changed as regards the treatment of prisoners. The old-fashioned idea was to treat them rough and tell them nothing. To-day we treat them as kindly as possible, and apart altogether from sentiment—which I do not think is of very much use in these matters—if we could get people to realise that the purpose of sending offenders to prison is not simply to punish them but to reform them, so that they may have a new chance in life, we should get some very good results. There is one more point in connection with this matter. Since the introduction of the Young Persons Act, 1932, there has been too much disposition among magistrates to take boys and girls away from their parents and send them into approved schools. That is a step in the wrong direction. We seem to have magistrates—and the introduction of women magistrates, with all due respect to them, has been no help in this matter—who are obsessed in many cases with the idea that if a child does some trifling wrong and is brought before the court the parents have not proper control of it and that the child must be sent into one of these schools. Although in certain cases it may be necessary for children to be taken from home I beg the Home Secretary to remember that very often a bad home is better than an approved school, that nothing really does take the place of home, and that a great responsibility rests upon those benches of magistrates who lightheartedly, without due consideration and thought, send a child away from its parents.
If some of us had done no more in the way of breaking the law than have these little children who are sent to approved schools we should not have very much for which to blame ourselves. The number of these young persons who are sent away increases year after year. Thirty-four per cent. of those who have never been previously convicted are sent to prison. In my experience as a magistrate the probation system has proved its worth over and over again, and it is wrong that 34 out of every 100 young people should be sent to prison for a first offence, because that is against the tendency of the time, it is not good justice, and it is very bad humanity indeed.
Next I want to deal with dermatitis. It is an industrial disease of which most people know very little, but it is one of those objectionable diseases which occur in the baking trade, and somehow or other it is increasing instead of decreasing. I want to pay a sincere tribute to the Home Office in respect of this matter. Some years ago, before I was a Member of Parliament, I drew the attention of the Home Office to this disease. They were sympathetic, as they always are in these matters, and on my representations they issued what they called a Washing Facilities Order for the baking industry. I am satisfied that it was a wise Order and has been the means of saving many men from getting dermatitis, but the difficulty in the baking industry is that although the Home Office may make Orders the employers please themselves in great measure as to whether they carry them out, and the visits of inspectors have not achieved a rigid observance of those Orders. I wish to impress this upon the Home Secretary because in a food trade dermatitis is one of the worst diseases there could be. It is a horrible thing in its way and we must do our best to abolish it altogether.
A few years ago I was successful in getting the Ministry of Health, in conjunction with the Home Office, to make an inquiry into the cause of this disease, but it remains a matter of mystery. No one knows very much about it, except that certain things may cause it in a certain way. I hope that the Washing Facilities Order will be rigidly enforced. I cannot imagine anything worse than to have an employer complying with the Order by hanging up one towel to last six men for one week. That is enough to make even a decent man like myself use strong language. Therefore, I hope the Home Office will do its best to see that the Order is enforced. I always have a great deal of sympathy with Home Office inspectors. They do their duty under very great difficulties, and we have nowhere near enough of them. They use tact, and they use discretion, and when they do take cases under the Factory Act into court I say here without any hesitation that very often they find benches of magistrates who absolutely refuse to do their duty. There is nothing more likely to kill an inspector's enthusiasm for his work than to take a clear case into court, very often after warning the employer two or three times; the bench know the employer, because everyone knows everyone else in a provincial town—they know Mr. So-and-so because he goes to the same chapel or something of that kind; they hear the inspector, and the solicitor, who is a local man too, says, "We plead guilty, but really the persons concerned begged and prayed of this good kind employer to be allowed to work five, six or seven hours when they should not be at work and it was almost impossible not to accede to their request." The bench fines the employer 5s. with costs, and suggests that the inspector might be better employed than in harassing employers in that way. It is a serious matter and I think the Home Office might do something to impress upon magistrates the absolute necessity of enforcing orders under the Factory Act.
A new Act came into force on 1st July. See what happens when Parliament does things and does not quite understand how they work. This Act gives women and young persons a 48-hour week. It also says that women and young persons may work 100 or 150 hours overtime as the case may be. Only last week a girl employed by a big firm in Manchester said, "The new Factory Act says that we are to have a 48-hour week." The employer, who I suppose has been working them 60, 65 or 70, says, "If that is what the Factory Act says I shall reduce your wages by 5s." The Bill makes provision for overtime but makes no provision for the payment of overtime, with the result that these girls may be faced with the fact that it is to their interest to break the law as much as they possibly can. That is the kind of thing that a man like myself meets in his everyday work as a trade union secretary.
I believe the Home Office has a great tradition. I believe it keeps in touch with ordinary people and endeavours to make the social legislation that is passed here really effective. But it is no use disguising the fact that there are not nearly enough inspectors, and that smaller employers particularly take no notice of many of the regulations, that they have sympathetic magistrates and that with the best will in the world we cannot get that enforcement of the law that we think we are entitled to get as things are at the moment. There are 264 inspectors and 277,000 shops and factories to be inspected, an average of one inspector to every 1,000 shops and factories. What can be done with a position of that kind?
A good deal of this kind of work is delegated to local authorities. I speak with long and bitter experience of what happens in the case of local authorities which have duties delegated to them under the Factories and Workshops Act. There cannot be the slightest doubt that in scores of cases these duties are not looked upon as of any particular importance. A sanitary inspector is told to report upon the bakehouses in his locality. He runs round them and says, "Have you lime-washed this place this year?" He is told, "Yes," and he reports to the Health Committee that everything in the garden is quite all right. It was not the intention of Parliament that things should be done in that way, particularly in bakehouses. Cleanliness is even better than godliness when it comes to places where food is produced. Sometimes I feel thankful that a good many people are quite in ignorance of the conditions that exist in these places.
I hope the Home Office will do its best to see, amongst other things, that the new law restricting underground bakehouses is carried out to the full. They ought to have been done away with. It is a disgrace to Parliament that after all these years we have still these underground holes and cellars where food is produced, but if Parliament says, as it has said, they are to go on, I hope that something more than lime-washing will be done within the next 12 months, and that the Home Office will carry out its pledge that these places shall be made as sanitary as places above ground. The fact that they are below the level of the street makes it almost impossible to do that, but I hope that some really high standard will be required and, if it is not reached, it would be far better if they were shut up. The Home Secretary mentioned the necessity for attention to detail. Someone said that genius is a capacity for taking pains—a capacity for doing the little things. In this Home Office work it is the little things that really count. They make the wheels go round and in many cases they make life worth living. If that is the policy of the Home Office, I hope they will continue with the good work.
One always listens to the hon. Member with interest, as he speaks with sincerity of the things which have come within his experience. On one occasion I changed my vote after I had listened to him speaking, and not many speakers in this House have caused me to do that. I agree with what he said about the undesirability of boys and girls being sent by benches of magistrates to approved schools at too early an age, or in fact being sent at all. As one of those who signed the manifesto urging various measures of penal reform last Session. I assure the Home Secretary that I will give him my most enthusiastic support for his reforms and I thank him for his splendid and understanding speech.
To-night, however, I wish to call attention to the Foreign Enlistment Act and its application to the Spanish conflict. It is woefully inadequate for its purpose. The Prime Minister said yesterday it was a matter for profound regret that it was impossible to see the prospect of a speedy termination of the Spanish war. That makes an effective Foreign Enlistment Act all the more necessary. It is over two years since the Home Secretary announced that the Act would be put into operation, but there has not been a single prosecution. It was originally passed in 1870, to-day it is completely out of date and quite unable to deal with the present situation. There is some doubt whether it can be applied in the case of a civil war, and it appears to be impossible to use it to stop the enlistment of a volunteer, or to stop the action of any body of individuals assisting that volunteer. The reason is that there must be a contract of service completed before any action can be taken, and it is usual for a volunteer to go to Spain before he signs any form of enlistment. It is, therefore, impossible to catch your bird before he gets to Spain.
There is still traffic in human lives going on between this country and Spain, and it is because of the anxieties and sufferings of certain constituents of mine that the matter has been so forcibly brought to my notice and that I raise the question. I am not so much concerned with the young men who enlist. I appreciate their adventurous spirit, and very likely many of us might have done the same. I am concerned with the activities of those who send them. The case of a burglar and a receiver offers a very similar comparison. The burglar takes a sporting chance but the receiver is always a man for whom people have little respect. Those who send them are the receivers. In January last a young marine engineering student, aged 18, named Hector Leigh Coop, heard a speech by the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson)—I should mention that any Member to whom I refer has been warned that I was going to raise this matter.
I have warned all those who wrote back and asked me. The hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) and others have been informed. The hon. Member for Jarrow has not been informed. I wrote and told her I should be raising a matter concerning her.
I saw the letter that the hon. and gallant Gentleman wrote but he did not inform Members of the matters to which he proposed to refer, so they have had no opportunity of making inquiries.
The answer to that is that the other Members have made inquiries of me, and the hon. Member for Jarrow could quite easily have done the same. I am sorry; I agree that it might have been more desirable. At any rate, I did inform the hon. Lady and give her a chance. This constituent of mine wrote to the hon. Member for Jarrow and asked her when and where he could enlist for Spain and he received the reply from the hon. Member for Jarrow telling him to write to the Communist party. He wrote to the Communist party and was told to apply in Manchester where he would be welcomed. He applied in Manchester to the Communist party, but at first when he inquired on the telephone, they turned him down and refused to have anything to do with him. Later, when he went in person, they arranged for him to go to London and to report to the International Brigade Dependants and Wounded Aid Committee, at 1, Litchfield Street, London. When he got there he was given 7s. 6d. and told to report at a stated time and to come back later. He reported later and was then told to report at Victoria Station, where he was given money—not a ticket—to buy a week-end ticket to Paris. He went across to Paris with some other men, and, after a short time in Paris, he left with 30 men for Carcasonne in the South of France. They stayed for a few days in that district and then made a march over the Pyrenees in company with other men of all nations in connection with the International Brigade. He tells me that it was a very stiff march in which they lost several men.
The next point in this story is that when they got over the Pyrenees to Figueras in Spain they were asked for the first time to sign any document. Mr. Coop signed a further document at Albacete and at one other place as well. He tells me that there were many arguments among the men as to when and where they were actually enlisted, but there is no doubt that they were not enlisted until they got to Spain and that there was therefore no breach of the Foreign Enlistment Act. The next development was on 28th April when the father received a letter from the International Brigade Committee expressing regret that his son was missing. At that point the parents asked for my help. The Foreign Office endeavoured to find out something about this young man. Mr.
Coop, Senior, then wrote a strong letter of protest to the committee to which they replied with a letter of sympathy. They added this proviso, however:
We would like to say that we have no knowledge about your son having gone to Spain or of any method adopted to recruit him.
I submit, considering that the young man had been sent to Litchfield Street, given 7s. 6d. for his expenses, told what to do and instructed by this committee, that for them to write back and say that they had no knowledge of his being sent to Spain was a complete misrepresentation of the truth.
This really does not appear to be a matter for the Home Office, but one for the Attorney-General. If my hon. and gallant Friend is saying that any person in the Communist party is guilty of a breach of the Foreign Enlistment Act, I suggest that he should send the particulars to the Attorney-General.
I was not able to hear the beginning of the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member. If his implication is that some illegal action was done by those who have anything to do with the body for assisting the International Brigade, I would point out that the society was started long before there was any legislation against sending men to Spain, that it was started by someone who is not a member of the Communist party, but is a very well-known member of the Socialist party and that by far the greater number of the Englishmen who went out to Spain did so before the Spring of 1937 when there had been no declaration in Parliament against their going to Spain. The hon. and gallant Gentleman may not know that international lawyers are very much divided on the point whether the Foreign Enlistment Act really applies to people who go to Spain, and that an international lawyer lecturing in Cambridge said that considerable risks would be run by anybody who tried to dispute an order in Parliament against anybody enlisting.
I mentioned at the beginning of my speech when the hon. Lady was not in the House that I was dealing with the question of the inadequacy of the Act to control enlistment of people for Spain. As regards what was said by my Noble Friend, that this is a matter for the Attorney-General, I agree, but there is no reason why this matter should not be raised in the House. I was referring to the so-called benevolent committee. The House ought to know who are the people who are sending these young men out to Spain. The Secretary is Mrs. Charlotte Haldane who, I understand, is the wife of Professor Haldane.
May I rise to a point of Order? May I direct attention to the fact that the hon. and gallant Member is taking advantage of his position in the House to mention people who have nothing to do with the accusation he is making, and that it is not possible for them to defend themselves?
On a different point of Order. Is it not an extraordinary step for a Member to take when he is, apparently, of the opinion that a violation of the law has occurred, to raise the matter in the House first of all so as to create the maximum of prejudice without first of all having sent the matter to the Attorney-General?
If the hon. and gallant Member intends to send the matter to the Attorney-General and to ask him to take action, would it not be wiser for the hon. and gallant Gentleman not to disclose here the facts of the accusation and so possibly prejudice the case, but to send the facts to the Attorney-General?
Let me read from their notepaper the names of some of the patrons of the committee. They are: the hon. Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl), the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Cocks), the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), the hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Shinwell), the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. G. Strauss), the hon. Member for North Cumberland (Mr. W. Roberts) and the hon. Member for Jarrow (Miss Wilkinson). There are about 12 others who are outside the House, and perhaps I will not read
their names. I think that if I can prove that this society, which purports to deal with benevolent activities in connection with the pensioners and wounded of the International Brigade, is really sending people to Spain, those who have any share in its administration ought to bear a very heavy responsibility. In the case of my constituent, the news that he was missing was an error. His section were all blown up, except himself, and he escaped and got to another Spanish battalion. Eventually he went to Barcelona. I should mention that first of all he wrote to his parents and said:
Being under 18, can't you possibly get me out of this?
His father wrote to Valencia and tried to get him out. His representation was in vain. The young man got to Barcelona with seven other people who were members of the International Brigade and after some stratagem they got on board a British ship. Six of them were discovered, after search, and taken off the ship and shot on the dockside. My constituent and a Canadian were more lucky. My constituent being a marine engineering student, knew where to hide and he got away to Greece and on the English ship.
Yes, that is my information from my constituent. He understood that a ship was leaving for home, but it got fresh orders to go to Russia and collect tanks. The ship stopped off the Island of Zea in Greece, whence he was able to swim ashore with his companion. He was then taken to Piraeus, the Port of Athens, and imprisoned as a stowaway, but thanks to the Foreign Office, he was finally rescued and sent back home.
I must now take the House back to another part of the story. The father, after the anguish that he and Mrs. Coop had gone through while this young man was missing, or thought to be missing, took a step, for which we cannot blame him, in his eagerness to prevent other parents suffering what he and Mrs. Coop had gone through. He found in a trunk a copy of the letter that the hon. Member for Jarrow had written to his son and he took exactly the same procedure. He wrote to the hon. Member for Jarrow and, giving the name of J. Smith, said that he wanted to enlist for Spain. He got a letter back from the hon. Member for Jarrow saying that he had better apply to the Communist party. After that, he was referred by the Communist party, who had passed his letter on, to this society in Litchfield Street, and Litchfield Street asked him whether it would be possible for him to get to Norwich to interview a certain Mr. Cornforth. Mr. Cornforth then wrote to Mr. Coop, and on his notepaper was: "Communist Party of Great Britain. Eastern Counties District Committee." Mr. Coop wrote on a Friday and Mr. Cornforth suggested that on the following Tuesday he would come and interview Mr. Coop at Bury St. Edmunds. Mr. Coop was not ready at the time, because he had no one to pose as a willing candidate for Spain. He therefore put Mr. Cornforth off for two or three weeks.
In the meantime his son arrived home from Greece and proved willing to pose as the candidate for Spain. The interview took place on 14th July, in a certain place where there was a partition between two rooms. Mr. Coop, senior, took advice as to how to conduct the interview, and was told that if he were in the next room with a typist and took down the conversation which took place, he would be in a position to produce reliable evidence, especially if he presented himself at the end of the interview to Mr. Cornforth. That is what actually happened. At the end of the interview, Mr. Coop, senior, and his typist presented themselves to Mr. Cornforth as he was leaving.
At the interview Mr. Cornforth started the conversation by saying that he had not got much time, as he had to go to Chelmsford. Mr. Coop, junior, who was posing as Mr. Smith, asked about getting to Spain. I must say, in fairness to Mr. Cornforth, that the direct inducement did not appear to come from him. He said that the International Brigade were not sending out so many people now as there were so many wounded that their funds might not stand up to it. He also said that when the International Brigade was started there was no proper Spanish Army but that the Spanish Army to-day was under one central general headquarters and that any English person who went there would belong to the Spanish Army.
Consequently, if he went there he would be in the Army and under Army rules, and would not be able to get back until the end of the war. He further said:
If you go to Spain, you will have to go through the International Brigade in London. They will ask you various questions and tell you what to do. I will give you a letter saying you will go to Spain.
He gave a letter to Mr. Smith—or Mr. Coop, junior—saying what he should do. He told him:
The whole thing is illegal. Do not talk to anyone else about it. You had much better not tell anyone at all. Do not take much luggage, but see that you have good socks and good shoes.
It might be a matter for wonder, but it is true, unfortunately. He gave Mr. Coop the following letter:
Comrade J. Smith, from Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, got into touch with me via 16, King Street, He wants to see Robson. I have seen him, and he appears to me to be completely genuine and quite O.K.
The address on the envelope was:
International Brigade Dependants' Aid Committee, 1, Lichfield Street.
That is the end of my story. I submit that this shows that, both in January and at the present time, the Foreign Enlistment Act is being ignored, that it is being evaded by a body of which seven hon. Members of this House are patrons. I suggest that it is most desirable, in view of the fact that we are looking for a settlement in Spain, that every possible hindrance should be put in the way of further recruitment for either side in Spain. The Act is palpably inadequate and out of date, and I suggest to my right hon. Friend that it is high time that the law should be strengthened, and that this illegal traffic of human life to Spain, which is resulting in so many adventurous young men losing their lives and causing so many parents anguish and distress, should be ended once and for all, and that we should have an adequate Foreign Enlistment Act.
I will not attempt to follow the hon. and gallant Member who has just sat down, because I have no intention of detaining the House for more than a few minutes, but I have one or two points to put to the Noble Lord, which I hope he will be able to answer, on
another question which has been before the House and the country for many years, and which affects some people in Lancashire very considerably. It relates to those who are suffering from the effects of dust in the card room. This disease has never been defined and has never been admitted into the category of industrial diseases, but it has been causing a great deal of trouble to a large body of workpeople in Lancashire for many years. I think that this discomfort due to the inhalation of cotton dust was first discovered when automatic processes of cotton spinning came into use. In 1863, Dr. James Leech wrote in the "Lancet":
The strippers, grinders, and card-room hands suffer from a spasmodic cough, sore throat, expectoration of blood, pneumonia, and confirmed asthma, with compression of the chest. A carder seldom lives in the card room beyond 40 years of age, and many have to give up work much younger.
That was in the early days of the cotton industry. No doubt improvements took place. It was thought that the discomfort due to the inhalation of dust would be largely abolished with the introduction of machinery which was intended to clarify the atmosphere in which this work was carried on, and, since the installation of modern ventilation plant, the evil effects of card-room dust have certainly diminished, except that we still find that in many old mills, where extractors have been put in, there are extractors which do not extract, and as a consequence there is very often a polluted atmosphere, even though modern machinery is being used.
It seems strange, but it was not until 1924, when the late Mr. Arthur Henderson was Home Secretary, that a visit to Lancashire took place at the joint invitation of the employers' and operatives' associations in the cotton industry. Dust in card-rooms was one of the subjects then raised, and from that time, now 14 years ago, this subject has been constantly before the Home Office; and the Home Office, I am bound to say, have given a good deal of time and attention to it. But, in spite of all their time and attention, and of the reports which have been presented upon it, and which, I think, have proved conclusively, both by figures from the trade itself and by doctors' reports, that the incidence of this disease is due to the work in which these people are engaged, nevertheless they have not devised a scheme whereby compensation in any form is paid to the sufferer. The consequence of this has been, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) this afternoon, that the people suffering from this disease, which they have contracted in the card-room, automatically at a given age come on to the health insurance section. They become first of all sick for their 26 weeks, and then automatically fall into the realm of the disabled. Many of these people have been drawing disablement benefit for a long period of years, and will draw disablement benefit until they die. Three weeks ago I received a letter from a resident in a neighbouring constituency—a man who had been engaged in the card-room for 30 years and had then been compelled, owing to this disease, to give up. He wrote to me pleading that something might be done in order that the 7s. 6d. which he received as disablement benefit from his approved society might be augmented in order that he could live.
The medical explanation of what takes place in the sufferer as a result of the inhalation of this dust has varied very little over a long period of years. I have here rather a long explanation of what happens to the patient who becomes a victim of this inhalation. It was written in 1863. I will not trouble the House by reading it, but I suggest that in the report dealing with dust in card-rooms in the cotton industry, and in the report of the Industrial Health Research Board which deals with sickness among operatives in Lancashire cotton mills, it will be found, 70 years after the first report was written, that the description then given of the symptoms is almost exactly the same as that which is given now. We have been told time and again by representatives of the Home Office—and this report was printed in 1932, after the Departmental Committee had been set up and had carried out a great deal of work—that the difficulty of dealing with this question were in the main due to the fact that it was not possible to determine just where the line of demarcation could be drawn between the individual who contracted the disease in the card-room and the individual who might contract a similar disease outside. But the committee, according to their findings, were confident that it was there that the disease began and developed. They admitted
that at a certain stage it became incurable, and, therefore, they said that it ought not to pass the wit of man to devise some scheme whereby the victims of this disease could be brought under the workmen's compensation law. Sir Thomas Legge, in his book on "Industrial Maladies," sums up the problem as it stands before us at the present time. He says:
Owing to the difficulty of distinguishing the respiratory disease which occurs in cotton card-room workers from that which occurs in workers in other processes of the cotton industry and in the general population, it would not appear to be possible to define it in such a way as to make it conform with the requirements necessary for scheduling it under the Workmen's Compensation Act in the ordinary way, although the Departmental Committee are satisfied that it is due to the workers' employment, and its incidence in these workers is two or three times as great as in certain other processes in the cotton industry. But, surely, with good will on the part of those concerned, it should not be beyond the bounds of human possibility to devise a method, such as has already been done for dealing with silicosis and asbestosis, but less complicated, whereby those at least who are seriously or permanently incapacitated by the card-room dust should obtain some measure of compensation.
After that expression of opinion, a committee was set up and is now functioning. At least, I am given to understand that it is functioning, though people who are looking to that committee, and have been looking to it for some years, for assistance, cannot believe that it is functioning, because one of the effects of its functioning on those who are suffering would be some relief from their suffering, and as yet they have looked for that relief in vain. I hope that, as a result of the raising of the question this afternoon, it will be possible to make a move in the direction of bringing some relief to these very deserving people. Anyone who reads the medical description of the effects on the body of the inhalation of dust, which include contraction of the chest, leading to stooping and eventually to wasting away, will be able to see, in the vast majority of Lancashire cotton operatives who have gone through this process, the reason for their appearance, which so often inspires pity in the hearts of people who do not understand what is taking place. On the Terrace of the House of Commons the other day I had a friend from Lancashire who has been working in that atmosphere.I had to leave him out there and spend a lot of
time here in the House, but I wanted to send him some refreshment, and it was only necessary for me, in describing him to the attendant whom I asked to serve him, to tell him to look for the man who looked most ready for the grave. He found the man from Lancashire who was one of the consequences of having to work in an atmosphere of that kind. He looked just as so many of our people look who have been compelled to spend their lives in that atmosphere.
These people have time and again appealed, at conferences and elsewhere, that the cry which they have sent out should be heard. Only last Saturday at the Card Room Workers' Amalgamation quarterly meeting, one elderly man, who for years has been drawing 7s. 6d. a week as disablement benefit, asked the officials whether they had received any information from the Home Office that would give any hope in this direction. The Home Office are convinced, and have been convinced for a long time, that there is a case. Indeed, they were instrumental in calling together the employers and the employés in the industry in the hope that they would be able to hammer out a scheme whereby some assistance could be given to these deserving people. But, as has happened time and again on questions of compensation, the gap between what the employers were prepared to offer and the least that the workers would be prepared to accept was so great that it was impossible to bridge it.
We have heard in Debates in this House of the value of voluntary agreements. I believe in voluntary agreements when they can be made and adequately enforced, but we have been waiting so long for voluntary agreements that the people are now looking to the Home Office, hoping that the Home Office will bring them within a scheme. I hope the Noble Lord will be able to give us some information about the committee which I understand is now sitting, and upon the decision of which the fate of these people rests. Especially would I plead for those who are totally incapacitated. There are very often difficulties in coming to an agreement when the vested interests of one class and only the health of another are in the balance. The health of the individual counts for very little when vested interests are at stake.
I also am interested in the manufacturing section of the cotton industry and in the working of the Acts of Parliament which come under the Home Office inspectors. I would not say a word against the work the inspectors are doing, but their numbers are quite inadequate for the task they have to perform. I have heard questions asked in this House about the mines inspectors, and whether the managers know when the inspector is coming. Whether they know or not in the mines I cannot say, but I am sure, after fairly long experience, that the managers know when they are coming to the mills. The only value of an inspector visiting a mill is that the management should not know.
Let me give an example. There is an agreement for a 48-hour working week, and, under the Factories Act, the women and young people can be protected through the work of the factory inspector. In Lancashire there has been a practice for a long number of years, by which the employer, in order to obtain a little more out of the employés, will run the engine five minutes more than he should. It is not a healthy practice. This takes place often in the early morning, at breakfast time, at the lunch hour, and again at half-past five; so, in the course of the whole week, it is possible for the employer to gain two and a-half to three hours, and it is not infrequent for such a thing to be done. What I object to most is that five to seven minutes may be taken from the dinner hour. I know that a factory inspector can have these people fined, but in some mysterious way, when the inspector is coming, all the managements develop a desire to be honest and the workpeople get a full hour. I wish there was an inspector in every town every day. I am not suggesting that he informs the employers; but there is a greater unanimity among the employers than among the workpeople, and when he goes to one mill all the employers in the district know that lie is there. I would not like to say that the telephone becomes busy.
The second point is with regard to the particulars inspectors who were appointed to carry out this Act of Parliament. I have here a little book which is necessary in order that these badly-paid people can compile their wages. When a piece of cloth is put into the hands of an individual who understands this list, he can tell what the weaver should receive for weaving 100 yards. There is not one operative in 200 who can reckon up the price he should be paid. That is the particular occupation of the trade union secretary in the district, and it would be a good test for Members of this House to perform it. Inasmuch as these particulars determine the price that the weaver should be paid for the manufacture of the cloth, it is most essential that the particulars inspectors, whose duty it is to see that the right particulars are put on the tally board which indicates to the worker the type of cloth that is being woven, should be sufficient in number.
I have come into contact with manufacturers—I would not say they are a majority—who, in order to pay the workers less than they are entitled to, will take advantage of the fact that the workers cannot reckon up these lists. They do this sometimes to get an unfair advantage over their competitors. I ask the Noble Lord to look into the possibility of the inspector himself being in a position to take action when the particulars given are not accurate. At present the law throws the onus on the weaver himself. Everyone knows the difficulty of such action being taken, other than through a trade union, by an individual receiving 18s. a week, and the difficulty of a trade union getting an individual to go into a law court and prove such a case. If the inspector, who knows what the particulars should be, was in a position to say that a man has been violating the law and to take him into court, that would be of great advantage to the workers. If the two questions of dust in card rooms and a more adequate number of inspectors were dealt with, the Home Office would have gone a long way towards easing the burden of the workers in that industry.
The hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Marshall) has spoken about silicosis, and the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson) has put up a remarkable case for the workers in the Lancashire cotton industry. I want for a few moments to speak on a subject about which I, along with other Members belonging to my industry, have been very persistent in inquiring—miners' nystagmus. I am very pleased the Home Secretary is now in his place, but I am
sorry the Noble Lord has to have something to eat, for I wish they were both on that bench. The late Home Secretary, who is now Chancellor of the Exchequer, appointed a committee on 23rd October, 1935, to make inquiries into the question of industrial diseases, and the first paragraph of their terms of reference reads:
To be a committee to inquire into the operation of the Workmen's Compensation Act, including any orders or regulations made thereunder in relation to workmen affected by miners' nystagmus and to make any recommendations, whether by way of amending the law or otherwise, as, having regard to the special character or effects of the disease, or any special circumstances connected therewith, they may think desirable.
This committee was appointed on 23rd October, 1935, and reported to this House in January, 1938. We waited for that report for two years and nine months. When the report was issued we looked at the recommendations. I am very pleased that the Home Secretary stated that the Noble Lord would make a statement to-night regarding the findings of this committee—I think the Home Secretary stated that. But what is disturbing Members on these benches and making us feel rather uneasy is the fact that after this committee had reported, and when we were expecting something almost immediately, the Prime Minister appointed another committee to go into the entire compensation law as it affects the workers. I hope the Home Secretary or the Noble Lord will make a definite statement to-night that, so far as industrial diseases are concerned, they are going on with legislation on the lines of these recommendations, and are not going to delay.
The hon. Member for Farnworth referred to cases affecting his own industry, but I do not think there is any other industry in this country which suffers so much as the mining industry from the consequences of industrial diseases. I have the report for 1936 on the question of compensation, and in that year, including diseases, there were 180,000 men injured in the mining industry. That is one in every four; or nearly one in every four—23.62 per cent., to be precise. Almost every man in the mining industry meets with an accident every four years, or if one man does not it means that another man meets with two. But I want to come to the question of industrial diseases. I met a man the other Saturday night, and he said to me, "George, what are they going to do with us chaps? I have been on compensation for 11 years with nystagmus." He had been drawing 22s. 6d. a week for 11 years. But he also drew a little bit from the public assistance committee, and I am going to tell the House that out of these 180,000 that I spoke about the majority, almost in the first week after they are injured, are applying to the public assistance committee for relief, because they are on the point of starvation. I have sat on public assistance committees and seen these men coming, a dozen a week, and making application, because they have nothing coming in. They have been living on the starvation line, and immediately their wages cease they have to come to us.
I feel it is necessary to emphasise the fact to the Home Secretary that we do not want this House to sit with its feet on the fender while these men are dying. Do not wait until the Prime Minister's committee bring in their recommendations. We are anxious that something should be done for those who are suffering from industrial diseases. These are the Government compensation statistics for 1936, and it states on page 9:
The number of disease disablement cases was 19,339, inchding 11,640 new cases and 7,699 cases continued from previous years.… The outstanding cases included 4,361 which had lasted one year or more and 687 (of which 653 were in the mining industry) which had lasted 10 years or over.
The vast majority of the industrial diseases which are scheduled are inside our industry. I will not discuss the manner of settlement, because I am desirous of bringing the case a bit nearer home to the Home Secretary. On page 10 we read:
As in previous years the bulk of the disablement cases occurred in the mining industry. The majority were due to miner's nystagmus, beat hand and beat knee. Cases of miner's nystagmus accounted for 39·9 per cent. of the total number.'
On page 11 there are some more startling figures.
There were 1,522 new cases and 6,202 continued cases of miner's nystagmus in 1936.
All the outstanding cases were of over 12 months' duration. I would say to the Home Secretary that a man who contracts miner's nystagmus is just like Cain; he is branded as though with a hot iron. He cannot get work at any other pit. When
a man has once had nystagmus it is difficult for him to get back to work. It is possible to be cured, because one of the best supporters I have ever had in my life has been working at the coal face for the last 10 years, although he was previously off work with nystagmus for 7½years. But there are a lot of mineowners, once they know that a man has had nystagmus, who will not set him on again. There are coalowners who will give such a man work again, but in the majority of cases, men who have suffered from nystagmus cannot get a job, even when they have been declared fit. They often have to walk from one place to another in search of work, and sometimes they get into such a serious mental condition that I have known men in my own coalfield commit suicide. I hear an hon. Member say, "Good Heavens."
In 1932 there were 8,523 old cases, and 1,962 new cases, and in 1933 there were 8,068 old cases, that is cases of more than 12 months' duration. These men receive only a little compensation and have to seek public assistance. They often have to sell their furniture or go to the pawnshop. No wonder they suffer from a severe mental strain. These are not figures that I have concocted but Government figures. They show a total of something like 8,000 cases of nystagmus in the British Isles. The number of cases of men—this does not only include miner's nystagmus but all accidents—who have been on compensation for more than five years, is 5,398. These men are drawing possibly half their wages and a bit of public assistance. There are 6,361 cases of men who have been injured for more than 10 years.
Men are in the trenches every day in the mining industry. At the present time three men are killed every day and scores are injured. I am speaking not from a book but from practical experience of conditions which I encounter every week-end in my division, and I appeal to the Home Secretary to tell the Noble Lord when he gets up to reply to say that he does not intend to wait or to waste any time, but to get to business at once; that when we return from the holidays he will introduce legislation so as to give some hope to these men, their wives and their children, many of whom have to wear borrowed clothes or clothing bought from the second-hand stall in the market place. I have seen these people at the secondhand stall in the market place on a Saturday afternoon buying whatever clothing they can afford. This is not in Germany or in Italy, but in Yorkshire, the British Isles, and I ask the Home Secretary to give all the consideration possible to this matter.
I was greatly interested in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) and I want to emphasis to some extent the point he raised with regard to the inadequacy of compensation with respect to industrial diseases. As far as the pottery industry, which I represent, is concerned, when the silicosis Order was brought into operation in 1928, unfortunately, the industry fell on evil times and there was a decline in trade with the inevitable result that our people had a terribly low wage, and, instead of receiving the usual small maximum of 30s., they received only 15s., 20s. or 25s. in compensation. I mention that in order to call the attention of the Home Secretary to the fact, so that when the committee meets he will bear in mind the serious effect that bad trade has on compensation payments.
I now want to come on to points with regard to our particular industry. I had not the pleasure of hearing the references made earlier to-day to silicosis in some other trade, but I know the terrible tragedy of the position in the pottery industry. We have during the last four years averaged 52 deaths per annum, and in addition there have been hundreds of cases of disability, total or partial incapacitation. That tragic position cannot be removed unless there is a drastic alteration in the construction of the factories, and we cannot get that drastic alteration unless there is adequate inspection. I have raised this matter on two occasions and have had very unsatisfactory answers concerning the very inadequate number of inspectors who have to cover the Potteries and all operations in the Midlands area. In answer to a question which I put to the Home Secretary, I was informed that there were four inspectors on the staff at Stoke-on-Trent.
I have made some inquiries as to the staffing at Stoke-on-Trent. There is a chief who is so taken up with research work, with making returns to the Home Office and with special investigations which he may have to make occasionally at the factories, that he has very little time at all to carry out anything like a periodical examination of the factories. We have a second in command, but he is entirely engaged in research work at the North Staffordshire Technical College. He gives no time to the factories. Then there is a lady inspector who, I know from my own knowledge, is doing very excellent work and pays periodic visits to the factories. A fourth member of the staff is learning the job. Therefore, we have only one effective inspector, the lady inspector, on the staff at Stoke-on-Trent. If the staff were trebled there could not be an adequate inspection of the 250 to 300 factories in our area. In addition to our 250 to 300 factories in Stoke-on-Trent there is the Midland area, with all the workshops and other factories. Many of these factories being 100 or 150 years old, although some are not so old, the construction is of the worst type and unless the inspectors know the run of what are called the rabbit warrens of these factories they can never properly inspect them.
There ought to be systematic examination from one end of the factories to the other. Instead of the periodical examinations being made, the inspectors usually go only when they are asked to go to a factory. Sometimes they are asked by the trades union to go to a certain factory because of a complaint. The inspector should make periodical visits whether required or not, and he should make the visit when it is not known that the visit is to be made; when it is not known at the lodge at the gates that he is going. It is a tragic record that there should be 52 deaths in our industry in a year and hundreds of incapacity cases, but no alteration can be attempted so far as I can see unless we get a tightening up of the regulations, which needs adequate inspection, and drastic reconstruction of our factories.
Having mentioned that point, I want to refer to another question, which I put to the Home Secretary some time ago, with regard to the limitation of the period within which claims can be made in connection with lead poisoning. One cannot always make a point clear in a question, and I want to put it as clearly as I can now. So far as lead poisoning is concerned, the effects are not shown in many cases until years after the person has ceased work. The lead continues to permeate the whole system, because it has been absorbed, and ultimately it develops all kinds of symptoms, such as kidney trouble, nervous complaints and other things too numerous to mention. A partial promise was made by the Home Secretary that the question would be gone into. I have support from other parts of the House in my appeal, and I hope that the inquiry will not be long delayed. I mentioned in my question that there might be a limit of five years. Other hon. Members differ from me and say that there ought to be no limit. I agree with them that if justice is to be done to the lead-poisoned worker there should be no limit in respect of a claim, because we do not know when the effects will develop.
I had intended to raise another question in the House, and I am taking this opportunity of raising it. We have a monthly examination of our lead workers by the certifying surgeons. One case came to my knowledge this week in regard to this question. After the examination of the workers has been made by the certifying surgeon the certifying surgeon makes an entry in a book provided at the factory and marks the worker A.1, B.1, and so on. The workers themselves have access to the book, but foolishly enough they never refer to it to see how they have been marked. The employers, however, have a look at the book and note those who are marked B.1 and not A.1. When they note a worker who is marked B.1 some of the employers take the first opportunity of getting rid of that worker. I will quote a case in point. Six persons were examined by the certifying surgeon at a certain factory within the last 12 months. The next time the certifying surgeon went to that factory all those six persons were missing, simply because of the fact that they had not been marked A.1, but B.1, and the employer was getting rid of his responsibilities.
There is one particular difficulty in regard to the period for claims for lead poisoning being limited. The employers get rid of their responsibilities before the lead poisoning can develop. The point is whether the Home Secretary would consider bringing into operation for the lead workers a scheme similar to that now in operation in connection with the medical board wth regard to silicosis. I can only speak of my own industry where a man who works in the skilled processes is allowed, after a periodical examination, to say to the medical board "I do not want a certificate issued but I want to continue working." If a man has silicosis, it is an economic position which confronts him. The man may be earning £3 or £4 per week, but if a certificate is issued he is compelled to leave the industry. Although he may be capable of earning £3 or £4 a week, if he accepts the certificate he has to go, and he gets a maximum of 30s. but if he has been unfortunate enough to have had a bad year of trade he gets something less than 30s.
We have a clause in our scheme which states that the skilled operatives shall have the opportunity of refusing the certificate. After the periodic examination the worker is supplied with a small register and the employer is supplied with a copy, but nothing is stated in that register as to whether the man has silicosis, or if he has silicosis how serious the condition is. All that is mentioned in the register are the words "no action," which means that no certificate is being issued. One point we took up with the Home Office was that it is undesirable that the employer should have the inside information and to know how the worker was affected. That arrangement is working very well. I suggest that a similar register might be established for the lead workers, and that there should be no indication as to the position in regard to the worker as in the case of the medical board.
Only this week I heard of the case of a worker who was marked B.1. At the time she was working her notice for some alleged fault at her work, but a promise had been made to the girl that the notice would be withdrawn at the end of the week. The examination took place last Wednesday, and she was told to finish on Saturday. She was marked on the register a B.1 lead worker. Had she been marked as an A.1 worker that girl would have been at work now. I appeal to the Home Secretary that he should consider the points that I have made, that he should take into consideration an increase of inspectorate staff in the Potteries area, and that he should consider bringing in so far as the lead-workers are concerned the method regarding the certifying surgeons' examina- tions that is now in vogue in regard to silicosis under a medical board
I add my plea to that of the hon. Member for Hanley (Mr. Hollins) in regard to this appallingly horrible disease. For years in the House of Commons we have been talking about it and different Governments have been saying that they would do their best about it. There can be nothing more horrible than for workers to enter an occupation knowing that they may get this disease. If they could feel that everything was being done to prevent the disease, they would go in cheerfully. Inspection is not enough, and never has been enough. I cannot go into the question of the factories, but one of my friends who is interested has told me that the conditions are absolutely heartbreaking. I saw something of the disease during the War. I saw some soldiers who had lead poisoning which had developed later. I have also seen the effects of silicosis.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who is one of the best we have ever had, and has shown ever since he has been in his office so much diligence, keenness and ability, will go seriously into the question of silicosis and lead poisoning. Action has been too long delayed. It ought not to rest with hon. Members who represent districts where these diseases occur, to bring forward the grievance. It ought to be a question for the whole House of Commons. It affects the nation. In my own division it does not affect us, but being interested in social questions and social reform I am deeply concerned about it, and I regard it as one of the reforms which would be well worthy of a National Government. Therefore, I hope my right hon. Friend will be as diligent about this matter as he has been about prison reform.
I congratulate him on the great work he has done since he has been in his present office. All who heard his speech to-day were grateful to him for what he is doing in connection with the prisons. I was very pleased to hear it stated for the first time that our prisons are old. They are. Some of them are centuries old. It was a great joy to me to hear that the first new prison is to be a women's prison. [Interruption.] The Home Office report shows that the most law-abiding section of the community are the women. They are far more law-abiding than any other, and it is right it should be so.
Naturally they are more law-abiding, and if you want one of the reasons, you have only to go to the churches and chapels, where you will find more women than men. They are certainly more spiritually-minded than men, and if our churches and chapels are any evidence at all, it is clear that the people who are trying to get into the Kingdom of Heaven are the women. They are far ahead of the men, whose only chance of ever getting there is to have good women about them. The only chance of keeping men spiritually-minded is to have good women about them. I was very glad to hear the prison reforms mentioned by the Home Secretary. In regard to wage-earning, a prison governor friend of mine has told me that it has already had an enormous effect on the inmates of the prisons.
I do not propose to talk about juvenile delinquents, but I was glad to hear that the children of this generation are not worse than those of former generations. They are not worse. The tragedy about this matter is that they are problem children, because they come from problem homes. There is nothing more pathetic in the world than to see the juvenile victims of unsatisfactory homes which are not confined to any one class. Not long ago I was in one of the remand homes and saw a little boy who was not more than 10 or 12 years of age. I asked him what was the matter and why he was there; and he said, "Uncontrollable, Miss." He was uncontrollable. And if you want to find out the reason you will find that it was because his parents themselves were not able to control themselves and thus not in a condition to control the child. It is a positive blessing that these children come within the law and under the conditions which now obtain in remand homes. There is a chance of reform; and I am deeply grateful to the Home Secretary for the vital, personal and minute interest he is taking in our prison system.
I want to say a word or two about factory inspectors. It is no good making factory laws unless you have plenty of inspectors. It is a waste of time. It is no good inspectors going round when they are asked to do so—that is not the way. We should have enough inspectors to see that the laws are obeyed. If we had enough inspectors we should get people into the habit of keeping the laws. When we passed the Shops Act in 1934 we thought we had taken a great step forward, and so we had, but there is too much evidence to show that these laws are being evaded right and left. The reason is that we have not enough inspectors. I want the Home Secretary to put into effect Sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the Shops Act, under which he can make regulations as to the working hours of young persons.
I want the Shops Acts to be effective, and they are not effective now. They are being got round in the most amazing and cute ways. I do not want to weary the House by making a speech on this subject, but we thought that by regulating the hours of juveniles we were going to give them a chance for recreation and evening studies. What is happening? I have been looking into this matter and have obtained a good deal of information on the subject, which I will pass on to the Home Secretary. I think the House should know some of the facts. A boy in a London dairy works these hours: Monday, 8.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Tuesday, 8.30 to 7 p.m.; Wednesday, 8.30 a.m. to 7.0 p.m.; Thursday, 8.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Fridays, 8.30 a.m. to 8.30 p.m.; and Saturday, 8.30 a.m. to 9.30 p.m. He has three-quarters of an hour for dinner and half an hour for tea, which makes a 54-hour week. Another boy works every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. except on Thursdays, when he finishes at 1 o'clock, and with the time allowance for dinner and tea he, also, works 54 hours per week. It shows clearly that there is a great need for more inspectors. Some people keep within the law by giving the boys time off in the middle of the day. What is the good of that? They only loaf about the streets. But these people are within the regulations. That is not what the House of Commons meant when they passed the Act. We meant that these boys should have a regular working week and should not be kept late at night in this way. Local authorities have not got a sufficient staff of inspectors.
There is another point. When cases under the Act come before the magistrates they do not inflict sufficient fines. I asked an inspector why magistrates did not give them more, and he said, "They are not giving them what they could give under the law." I think that they should impose the maximum fine. It is not a technical offence to overwork a child: it is a crime against humanity. I think it is a terrible thing. I do not say that it is done in many cases, but it is being done in too many cases. All parties in the House welcomed the Shops Act and we want it to be put into effect. Unless it is, these evasions will go on for ever. It is such a farce to talk about £2,000,000 for playing fields and for keeping people fit. I do not care if there are only 1,000 young people, no child should be allowed to be worked in this way. The House of Commons did not want it, and the people who are acting in this way are committing a crime against humanity. I am sure that the Noble Lord the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster knows all about it. He has a good heart, and I am sure I shall have the right answer. If I send him cases, I am sure he will promise me to look into them.
And I hope he will put into force regulations under Section 2 of the Act which, so far, have not been put into operation. I feel great confidence in the Home Office under the present Secretary of State and the Noble Lord. I have known the Noble Lord for a long time. He has been a long time in the House and has a good record of social reform. If he is shown a wrong, I am sure he will try to put it right. I do not want to deal with the question of lead poisoning and silicosis, but there is so much that could be prevented that is not prevented that I sometimes want to become as violent as some hon. Members opposite. I hope we shall receive a satisfactory answer to-night and that the Shops Act will be applied. I hope that the Home Secretary will look into the question of silicosis and lead poisoning, and that if there is anything that can be done, he will promise us that it will be done, so that we may stop the preventible cases, which are heartrending, tragic, and, I think, unnecessary, if we are awake in preventing them.
The Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) always makes an interesting speech when she addresses the House, but I can never relate her speeches to the votes which she records in the Division Lobby. If she intends to follow her speeches, she always seems to me to go into the wrong Lobby. To-night, she has spoken with great sympathy about the victims of silicosis, nystagmus, and lead poisoning, and the unfortunate children who are employed more hours than they ought to be. There is one thing that the Noble Lady could do in the matter of silicosis, nystagmus, and lead poisoning. It is a thing which she has had many opportunities of doing. She could go into the Division Lobby in support of adequate compensation for the victims of these diseases when that matter is raised in the House.
The Noble Lady has never done that. She must be aware, after all the discussions that we have had on the subject in the House, that the victims of silicosis know that they are dying, that their wives are dependent upon them, and that their children will be in grave risk of becoming juvenile dilinquents, and yet they have to live on a maximum of 30s. a week. Indeed, they may get very much less, for at the present time the average weekly compensation in this country is 25s. The Noble Lady must be conscious of the fact that whenever one of those poor people is unable to work as a consequence of the disease, they get only this paltry compensation, which has to be supplemented by the public assistance committee, thus placing them from that time onwards on the basis of the Poor Law.
What I have always pleaded for during the last 19 years has been prevention. As to what the hon. Member says about my not voting on his side, he must remember that I am not a Socialist. If I were a Socialist, I should be on the other side of the House. I am a social reformer, not a Socialist. The hon. Member must not attack me because I do not vote with him on one particular thing.
The Noble Lady admits my point. She has never voted for adequate compensation for these people. As to the prevention of these diseases, obviously everybody will do all that is in his power. I should be glad if more definite steps had already been taken. One knows very well what the employers do in certain circumstances. My hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) has spoken about nystagmus, and has told us that a man is branded as Cain when he gets nystagmus. That is true. According to the law of England at the present time, this is what happens. Suppose that a man gets nystagmus in a certain colliery after working there for 25 or 30 years. He is then dependent upon this paltry compensation for a short period. If and when he recovers, he goes to another colliery, and one of the questions which is asked of a man who applies for work in a colliery is, "Have you ever suffered from nystagmus?" If a man replies, "Yes," he does not get a job. If he says, "No," and the company later proves that he has had nystagmus, he has no claim for compensation. The decision is vested in the courts.
Not long ago there was a case where a man told an untruth because of his desire to get work and to get off unemployment benefit or assistance. He went to a colliery, and when he was interrogated as to whether or not he had suffered from nystagmus, he said that he had not. A note was made of his reply. Later on, it was proved that he had suffered from it. After a period of work, he made a further claim, for a second attack of nystagmus, contracted while he was in the employment of the new company, and his claim was resisted and the matter went to the court, which decided that he was not entitled to compensation in respect of the nystagmus because of the fact that he had said that he had never suffered from it. The Noble Lady must be aware of these things. It only needs a Debate of this sort to demonstrate the very large number of grievances which exist among the poor people of the country in regard to these industrial diseases. The attitude adopted by the Noble Lady tends to disturb me a little, because I know perfectly well that she will not try to right the wrong when she has an opportunity of doing so. When a man has nystagmus, lead poisoning, or silicosis, when he is condemned to death because of his having rendered excellent industrial service to the country, the Noble Lady should go into the Division Lobby in favour of such a man having adequate compensation, just as a member of the upper classes who has lost property gets adequate compensation. That is always done. It is the practice of the House, as the Noble Lady knows.
I plead for a far greater measure of justice for these people who suffer so badly and so long. I have seen these dreadful silicotic cases. In tuberculosis cases, there is a tendency for the patient to feel, as he is getting nearer to death, that he is getting better, but in the case of these diseases, it is a continual gasping for breath, because the contraction which has taken place in a man is such that he cannot consume sufficient oxygen to live. Those are the circumstances in which the man dies. There are many men living in those conditions, and we must do everything we can to help them. I hope that the Noble Lord will give considerable attention to this matter. First, we ought to see that there is adequate compensation for the people who are now suffering, and that their wives and dependants shall not suffer as a consequence of the men having contracted this disease. Secondly, every possible scientific step should be taken to prevent people from suffering from it in future. I did not intend to say much about industrial diseases to-night. but I was rather attracted to that subject by the Noble Lady.
I want to say a few words concerning prison life in this country. In the first place, I wish to express the very great pleasure which I had in listening to the admirable speech of the Home Secretary, a magnificent review in which he explained what was necessary, but unfortunately, towards the end of his speech, he said that we are living in such critical financial times that he really cannot put that into operation. It is funny how an excuse of that sort can be so often provided. But that was the submission of the Home Secretary in his speech, and I am quite sure that he believed it. Prison life has been unbearable for the people who have been the victims of it. There are Members of the House who have had some experience, and who know some of the conditions inside the prisons.
I think there is a good deal of truth in the statement by Mr. Beverley Nichols in his book "Cry Havoc" that, in order to be able to understand and to legislate for the unemployed, it is necessary to live in the circumstances of the unemployed. It is necessary to experience the real thing. Sometimes, I feel that perhaps it is necessary to live in the conditions of a prison in order to be able properly to understand what it is like. Things have improved, and that is all to the good, for I can imagine nothing more soul-destroying that the old type of prison that we used to have in this country. Make no mistake about it, many of those conditions still exist. There is still the lack of contact with the outside world, to which the Home Secretary referred to-day, the absence of newspapers and of any knowledge of modern life and the deadening work which one knows to be worthless.
I know the case of a young man of magnificent brain, who was in prison as a result of industrial disturbances. I saw him spend a considerable time sewing up a hole in a mail-bag. He did the work with great diligence and was rather proud of it when he had finished. A certain warder of the old type, now probably in retirement—I am told the modern type of warder is not like that—came along and this young man, who was merely anxious to do the work well and who has since made good in the world, said to him, "Sir, I have mended this bag; I hope you will think it has been well done." The warder looked at it and immediately tore a hole in the bag three times as large as the hole which the young man had repaired and said, "Sew that up!" From that day until the end of his imprisonment that young man never again put a needle in a bag. He made the motions, but he never did the work. That is the type of waste that goes on. I hope that some day that young man may come to this House—so resentful was he of his treatment. I could relate many instances of that kind, but I hope I shall have an opportunity some day of talking to the Home Secretary about these matters.
The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon referred to the buildings. They are wretched. They are built to keep out the sun, to make life the next thing to unbearable and their effect is to create a very bad type of mind. Consider the present prison population. It is made up of boys, of grown men, of first offenders, of old lags, of brilliant brains and of feeble brains. But they are all together. We mass them together; we walk them round the prison yard together; we try to make them uniform. Some will resist that treatment, others will succumb to it but in the end you get a type which is extremely difficult. I remember one case of a very bright young man who was assistant manager of a branch bank. Because of certain reasons which he described to me, he took £100 from the bank. At quarter sessions he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment. At the end of four months he was told by a highly-placed official in the prison: "You cannot hope to get back to the status which you formerly held. You have committed a crime against society, and the best that you can hope for is to get a pick and shovel and earn your living as a navvy." That young man was completely destroyed. That is the kind of thing which goes on now and it is all wrong. According to what the Home Secretary said to-day, it may be 20 or even 30 years before those splendid ideals to which he referred can be put into operation.
It is too long to leave them for even five years. I suggest that something might be done by closing some of the old castle-like prisons which now stand on extremely valuable sites, and taking sites of much less value for new buildings.
It is still there, and the site is still very valuable, and if sites could be disposed of for sums that would more than meet the cost of rebuilding, there should be no need to wait a long time until these things are put into operation.
I wish to refer to the readiness with which some magistrates send young people to prison, and more frequently to approved schools. I have a case of a man who was seriously injured in a colliery and was left dependent on his compensation. His home was very poor. One of his boys who was a bright lad went into a little shop and took a few coppers. He was bound over. The boy, after some six or eight months, took a bicycle—he did not steal it—and rode to the seaside. The bench of magistrates said that the boy had broken his undertaking and could not be trusted, and they sent him to an approved school for an indefinite period. He has been there for a long time, his parents are anxious to get him out, but all the pressure that we have tried to exercise has been of no avail.
The standard which a boy has to reach in an approved school in order to get release is much higher than the standard which the average boy outside is required to observe. The standard is frequently set too high to enable these boys to regain their freedom. The Home Secretary referred to the possibility of local authorities boarding out these boys in order to keep them near their homes. That is certainly a far better idea than sending them to distant approved schools. I think if it were possible to exercise some sort of supervision over these boys, many of them would not relapse and would cease to give any trouble. I liked the view expressed earlier by an hon. Member to the effect that society no longer regarded crime in the same light as formerly. There is a growing recognition that crime has something to do with one's environment and the condition of one's life. Frequently people make slips, but it does not follow that they are definitely bad, and I do ask the Home Secretary to take immediate steps to secure a proper segregation of the various classes of offenders. The prisons should be so arranged that you would not have this jumble of people of different categories, and the whole prison system should be used to make it corrective. It ought to be that, and it ought not to have anything in the nature of punishment about it.
Many of these people suffer considerably because they are torn away from the outside world. The old practice used to be to get the Saturday's news read out out in the chapel on Wednesday morning, which was an absurdity. Why is it that the great majority of prisoners, if not all, should not be supplied with newspapers? Give them as much freedom as you can. I am sure the whole system will benefit very substantially if we adopt an attitude that will convey to these people that we want to give them as much liberty as we can, that we want to make them better men and not bad men; but under the present system many of them get the idea that they are bad, that they cannot again get a reasonable status in society, that they must be worse as a consequence of their imprisonment, and that society is against them. That idea must be destroyed entirely, and if we could convey to these people that our purpose is to make them better men and women, and to restore them, not only to their former, but to a higher, standard of civilisation, I think the prison system might be an advantage to them.
Mr. Edmund Harvey:
I should like to join with the last speaker in the hope that he has expressed, and at the same time to give voice to my gratitude to the Home Secretary for the work which he is accomplishing in the direction which the hon. Member desires. Anyone who has followed, in the last year or so, the work that is going on in the prisons will know what a valuable impetus the Home Secretary has given within the existing system, to the work of penal reform, which the Prison Commissioners themselves have so much at heart. He has shown repeatedly, in public speeches in different parts of the country, his deep interest in this question and his knowledge of it, and already this afternoon the House has had an opportunity of hearing from him some of the reforms that he is carrying out, which are, I am convinced, only an earnest of greater reforms to which we can look forward in the next Session of Parliament, when he brings in his long awaited Penal Reform Bill. He himself will no doubt realise that one of the great obstacles that lie in his way is in the existing prison buildings, and I am very glad that he has been able to inform the House that he is making arrangements for the discontinuance of that hideous prison at Pentonville and its utilisation for much-needed housing purposes, for the transference of the prisoners to much more suitable prisons, and for the building of a new women's prison in better conditions and better designed than any prison that we yet have. That, I am sure, is just a beginning of changes that he will wish to see carried out on a far wider scale, and I hope he will be able to hold the whole House, without consideration of party, behind him in this very great endeavour for the gradual, steady reconstruction of our prison system.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us of other changes that have brought new hope into our prisons—the bringing in, for instance, of the system of allowing a small sum of money to be earned by the prison workers, and especially the interesting way in which it is carried through by collective work, in which the individual gets, not a personal gain, but a group gain. It gives a stimulus to industrious work and encourages an esprit de corps among a group of prisoners working together, not each for himself, but each for the group, thus increasing their sense of group loyalty, which is one of the things which, not prisoners alone, but all of us, need. I think we can feel very grateful for that very valuable reform which has already been introduced into many prisons and that the Home Secretary intends to introduce it into all of them.
I am also very glad that he is giving further facilities to some of the long-sentence prisoners for intercourse with their families. One of the most terrible things from which all prisoners have to suffer is their cutting off from all the best influences of home life, all the opportunities that ought to give them the chance to develop the best that is in them, and I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he could not see his way to make a very large increase in the facilities for correspondence. Less than a year ago I was visiting one of the largest prisons in the United States of America, an institution far larger than any of our prisons. I found there that the prisoners were allowed two letters a week, and the Governor said, "I make no objection to their writing or receiving more than that." I do not think a great many prisoners would want even as much as that, but if, instead of one letter a month, they were able to have one a week, it would make an enormous difference. The one letter a month is a very heavy penalty to those who have dear ones with whom they want to keep in touch. A man has to decide whether he will write to his mother or to his betrothed—there are all kinds of difficult choices—and we ought to wish to encourage the keeping-up of the family tie and the ties of friendship. I believe it would mean a little more labour for the prison staff, but it would be labour well repaid, because it would be encouraging the best side of the prisoner's life; and I hope the Home Secretary may see his way to a reform of that kind, which could be carried out without any legislative action. I give that only as one instance out of many reforms that I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will have under review.
There is one other point that I hope he may take into consideration. I have found that a great number of magistrates who send people to prison have no personal acquaintance with the prisons which they are entitled to visit. Some magistrates do not even know that they are entitled to visit prisons. I believe that no magistrate ought actually to sit on the bench and to send people to prison until he has at least once visited a prison and found out what it is to which he is sending people. I would ask whether the Home Secretary could not, in a circular to magistrates, suggest that it is their duty at least once to visit a prison to which their bench sends prisoners, so that, from personal knowledge, they may have some idea of what a prison sentence means. I believe that that would be very valuable for the magistrates and that it might make a difference in some cases in the sentences which they pass.
I think we may feel that throughout the work of the Home Secretary he has in mind the ideal to which the hon. Member who preceded me referred. I know that it is in the minds of the Prison Commissioners. They have expressed it already in one of their reports. They want the prisoner to have the opportunity to go out of prison a better citizen than he was when he went in. That should be the aim of our legislation and of our administration. We can do it by restoring, so far as it is possible, a man's self-respect. That was destroyed by the old prison system. There are still in prison life things that tend to lower self-respect, and I am grateful to the Home Secretary and to the Prison Commissioners that they have already done so much to remove that side of prison life. It is needful, too, that the prisoner should keep in touch with all that is best in his own family life and that he should have the sense of community made strong within him through the sense of comradeship and fellowship. I am glad that in some of the reforms to which the Home Secretary has alluded there will be an opportunity for the expression of that sense of comradeship. The whole House and the country are grateful for the outlook of the Home Secretary and the spirit in which he is going about his work.
While I welcome the reforms that have been mentioned by the Home Secretary, I feel that it is necessary to say that we are very far from solving this problem of prisons and prisoners. One thing that most people discuss when they talk about prisoners is the necessity of making some provision for them when they come out of prison and of trying to find them employment. That is a very desirable impulse on the part of those interested, but we have to take into account the fact that there are millions of people not in prison who cannot get work and who, because of the very circumstances of being unable to get employment, are continually facing temptation. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) has spoken of the terrible conditions that afflict many thousands of miners and their families. Let us consider for a moment the effect that such conditions must have on the young people who are growing up among them, who see what is happening to their fathers and mothers, and who have all kinds of temptations thrown in their way. There is a play in London now in which the central figure is a young lad with great musical genius who would have to spend years of hard struggle and privation in order to develop it. He also happened to have a spendid physique and all the qualities of a prize fighter. The temptation is there and he goes into the ring and is destroyed. The great problem for many of our people is to get money; that represents security. The biggest problem associated with prison reform is to provide security. When we can provide security we shall advance towards a stage when prisons can be a memory of the past.
The Home Secretary says that there has not been a prison built in this country for the past 50 years. When he is talking about this country he is talking about benighted England; Scotland does not come under his purview. When we had a discussion on the Scottish Estimates some English Members said. "I wish we could get rid of these Scotsmen and that they had a Parliament of their own." I told the English Members that if we once went away and left them, it would be a case of "God help them." If the Home Secretary is going to renovate or rebuild any prisons he should not do so without visiting Scotland and seeing Saughton Prison. It is built in an entirely different manner from any other prison. It is erected in two-storey flats of red sandstone. There are no walls and it stands in open grounds. It has not miserable little square panes in the windows, but big wide sash windows. There are, too, electric light and spring beds. There are many weaknesses about the prison conditions there, but the buildings themselves are something entirely different from anything that existed before. I can recommend all those interested to go and see it. I can recommend it the more because I helped to build it.
Another prison that is worth visiting is Wakefield. It is an old prison, but changes have been made in it. They have knocked away the wall between two cells and the enlarged cells are used as small communal dining rooms. That is one of the solutions of the problem of cold food about which the Home Secretary spoke. The hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) asks me if there is a milk bar. I am sorry to say that there is not. It would be a good thing if there were milk bars in all the prisons and in certain other places as well. In these enlarged cells groups of 12 prisoners dine in common, and two of the 12 are responsible for bringing the food to the dining room. This replaces the old system of a truck coming round with a warder and a prisoner and going from cell to cell, so that by the time it gets to the last cell the food is cold. The camp at Wakefield is one of the finest experiments that has ever been made. There are well constructed wooden huts, like nothing associated with a prison, erected on a big estate. Ten prisoners live in each of the huts, which are beautifully set out, well decorated inside and with many conveniences. There are no bars to the windows and no locks to the doors, and no warders wandering round at night. The men work out on the estate, but there are no warders about and they do not run away. When the whistle blows the men come in for their meals. It is a wonderful experiment.
I want the Home Secretary and the Noble Lord to pay attention to the fundamental difference between Wakefield and the other prisons. Let anyone visit Wakefield and go around with the governor or one of the officers, or get an opportunity of talking with any of the prisoners, and he will learn that in Wakefield they have the absolute minimum of rules and regulations, but every prisoner is expected to keep them. The prisoners are in groups, and each group is anxious that nothing should be done which would lead to a curtailment of privileges. Every prisoner knows that he is expected to keep the rules and regulations, and he keeps them. In short, they are getting very fine results. On the other hand, in Wandsworth, or Pentonville, or Holloway prisons there is every conceivable rule and regulation, and from the moment the prisoner goes in he gets to understand that he is expected to break the rules whenever he gets an opportunity. The warders adopt the attitude that every prisoner, at every opportunity, will break the rules, and so the warders are always watching the prisoners, the prisoners are watching the warders, and the warders are watching one another. There are many warders anxious to show the greatest consideration to prisoners who are yet afraid to go beyond the rules lest some other warder will report them.
I have had experience of prisons in Scotland and in England. The Deputy Governor of Wandsworth Gaol was a very progressive fellow. He used to come into my cell every other night to have a talk about prisons and prison reform. I used to put all kinds of ideas into his head. He went from there to Wakefield, and he is the governor who introduced the reforms into Wakefield. I am glad to know that he is now a Prison Commissioner. He is an intelligent and progressive gentleman. One practice that existed in Wandsworth—I do not know whether it is being carried on in any other place—was that young fellows from 20 to 25 who were in prison there were kept separate. They were known as "spots," because they had a black spot sewn on to the arm of the jacket. They had a certain section of the prison to themselves, and they moved about as a band, but they were always in a certain association with the older prisoners, and those lads, because of that association, wanted to show off to the older prisoners. Time and time again the deputy governor and warders would discuss with me the problem of these "spots." What a problem the "spots" were. They did not know what to do with them. I remember saying to the deputy governor in my cell one night that I felt Shakespeare must have been at one time a prison warder, because in Macbeth he declaims "Out damned spot." The problem of the "spots" was a very serious one, and I hope every measure will be taken to ensure that the younger prisoners will not be given any opportunity of associating with the older criminals, which can only encourage bad tendencies in the lads.
When the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was Home Secretary he was not so receptive of ideas as the present Home Secretary seems to be. I remember that one day I suggested to him that as one means of avoiding the expense to which the relatives of prisoners were put when they wanted to visit them was that the prisoners should have an opportunity of going home to visit their relatives. There was such a burst of laughter in the House when I suggested that, possibly once a quarter, the prisoners should be allowed to visit their relatives; but now we have at least got to the stage when prisoners are being sent to gaol near their homes in order to facilitate visits from their relatives. Unfortunately, prisoners in the south of England who have relatives in Scotland can be sent north only as far as Durham, because there is no prison nearer to Scotland, and as there is an English Prison Commission and a Scottish Prison Commission there is difficulty about getting the prisoners across the Border. If a prisoner in the south of England has relatives in Edinburgh, instead of sending him to Edinburgh they send him to Durham, and his relatives have to go to Durham. But I would still suggest that in many cases it might be a good thing for the prisoner if he were not only sent to a prison near where his relatives lived, but were sent for a week-end to his relatives home. However, that is something for the future.
When I suggested that prisoners should be allowed to wear their own clothes when they meet their relatives, I also suggested that prisoners should be allowed to wear their own clothes at the week-ends and on Sundays—they mostly go to chapel—but the argument used against me was that it would introduce class distinctions into prison, because some have good clothes and others poor clothes. If a man has tattered clothing and is to be in prison for two, three or five years, is that rotten clothing to be kept in store and given to him when he goes out? If people go into prison with good clothes, all right; if they go in with bad clothing, they should be supplied with a suit of clothes to wear at week-ends. In a prison like Wakefield, where they are out on Saturday afternoons watching football and cricket—within the prison grounds—it would be desirable for them to have their own clothes. It would give them the feeling that those who were responsible for them were taking an interest in them and were anxious to help.
I have here a letter dealing with certain matters in connection with prisons which ends up with the words "Your old friend," and then the name of the writer. The writer was my prison warder on the two occasions when I was in Calton Jail, Edinburgh, and he is my old friend, because while I was in prison he was a friend in every way. I do not mean that he did not keep all the rules and regulations—I did too—but he adopted an attitude towards prisoners which gave them the feeling that there was someone who was not trying to take advantage of them because they were in a difficult position. If they were allowed to wear their own clothes at the week-ends it would be a big advantage from the point of view of giving them self-respect and a renewal of their dignity. We have had the desirable reform of small payments being given to prisoners for the work they do. Often when they have gone into prison they have had no experience in the work, and the warders have had the responsibility of training them. Anyone who visits Wandsworth Prison can see the valuable work which is being done in the shops there. I think some of that work should be shown in public, to let those interested in prison reform see what is going on.
Not only should prisoners be encouraged to write letters every week, but they should be encouraged to write books. I wrote a book when I was in Wandsworth. It is said in this House that the greatest speeches are those that are never delivered. I can say that the greatest book that has been written is one that has never been published. I made application to take it away, but it is not permitted. You can fill up all the notebooks you like with quotations from other books and bring them out with you, but if you do anything original in the way of writing you are not allowed to take it out. I commend to the Home Secretary the importance of encouraging people to write. It is a very good way of getting them interested in reading, and the more they read the greater the advantage to them and to the community as a whole. I commend to the Home Secretary the task of rebuilding the prisons as rapidly as possible with a minimum of rules and regulations, and doing away with the old system under which it is a case of watching all the time for a chance to make the prisoner feel the greatest possible humiliation. Let us look forward to a better system which will ensure that those who are for the time being in the custody of the authorities will be helped in every possible way and will come out ready to take their place in society without any feeling of shame or humiliation.
If the hon. Member is as persuasive with the Home Secretary as he was with the governor of that prison, we may look forward to his becoming the leader of the Communist party. He would adorn any party, and I am sure my hon. Friend would give him a great welcome as one of the greatest converts he had ever made. Some people look upon my hon. Friend as a prisoner at large. Whether we agree with his policy or not, he has character, courage and determination which are a credit to him. I have had an experience different from his. He has been in prison. I used to take people there, and in the journeys backward and forward I learned a lot. I am pleased to say that the Home Secretary has blazed the trail, not towards making more prisoners but towards making better citizens of prisoners. When I spoke on this subject before I pleaded with the Home Secretary to keep young prisoners apart from the old rogues who are continually there. There is always a mischievous desire to try to outdo the other fellow. They ought to be segregated. We do it as far as we can in lunatic asylums, where the mind is supposed to be gone. Many men's lives have been ruined when they were boys by giving them prison experience. If they had been dealt with by a compassionate magistrate, and perhaps boarded out, I am convinced that they would never have become members of the criminal class.
I mentioned once before the case of a boy who stole a book and got two months. Although he was not allowed to have a certificate from the Board of Education, he passed with flying colours because his professor did not mind going into the cell and giving him lessons night after night. The Board of Education said: "No, you have blotted your copybook. You must be punished because you stole and you get two months." When we wanted to send him out of the country, where his record would not be known, again the authorities said he could not leave the country because he had been convicted of a crime. It is a treble punishment for one offence. There is a First Offenders Act and, as far as possible, no young man should be sent to prison for a first offence. I have had a long and varied experience, and I am glad I have had it, because the school of hard experience is the greatest educator. I would rather board some children out with kindly strangers than let them continue at home with their parents, who have never looked after them at all. I am not greatly in favour of the Borstal institution. Some of the boys seem to come out worse than they went in. The intention is good and Borstal is a good deal better than gaol. When a man goes to gaol he is hallmarked for life, and he is not altogether clear when he has been to Borstal. Not many employers will employ a lad who has been in Borstal, and no employer will employ a man who has been in gaol except for rough work or because he wants cheap labour.
I am pleased that the men in prison are to have a decent library. I am a great believer in the Bible, but when you get all Bible you are apt to become rather solid on things. You need variety. I never looked down on a person who had been to prison. I was friends with prisoners, if they were in any way decent at all when they came out. One thing about which prisoners complained when they came out was not having had a variety of reading matter. It has been of great benefit in mental hospitals, with the administration of which I have been connected for many years, to provide a variety of books. The variety would surprise people, and so would the keenness of the inmates to read the books. If that is good for mental cases, it is a good thing also for men who have been in prison. There are books to give inspiration such as men need in prison, if they are not to be looked down upon for ever. Another thing that I could never understand was why they should keep a man in the dark in prison. Would any hon. Member of this House who had been strong and vigorous both mentally and physically find any inspiration at being kept in a cell in the dark, hour after hour? I hope that the Home Secretary will get enlightenment on this matter and will give more artificial light by which the men can read.
In regard to smoking, I am unfortunately a smoker and I have just about smoked myself through my clothes. It is a consolation to be allowed to smoke, especially to heavy smokers such as some of the men who go to prison. I remember being told how one prisoner had reported another for smoking and I had to go and see what he was doing and stop him. I found what this man was smoking. We used to whitewash the wall without troubling to scratch off the old whitewash and the whitewash used to get thick enough to be almost a wall by itself. This prisoner had taken a piece of this porous lime and, obtaining a match in some way had lit the lime and had sucked away at it till his heart was content. That shows what a man will do for a smoke. They used to smuggle in old clay-pipe heads. Some of us may have seen miners smoking, as they have been doing since the days of Cain, clay pipes strong enough to kill at 500 yards. The men used to break them up and chew them to get a taste of the nicotine. That shows the cruelty caused to men whose whole beings are desiring nicotine. We ought to allow prisoners the comfort of having a smoke.
My hon. Friend spoke about dermatitis and appealed to the Home Office. He drew rather a vivid picture. I wonder whether the general public know that, in spite of the Home Office, the rules as described by my hon. Friend are not being carried out by employers, that one towel has to serve a number of men for a whole week. Imagine people working dough with that skin disease upon them. Do the people who eat the food know what is taking place? I am convinced that if the Home Office were to apply the power that they possess they would earn the thanks of the public as well as of the victims. I pay a compliment to the inspectors. I never believe that all Government officials are wrong, and we should encourage officials who have tried to do their job. What disgusts me is what happens sometimes when they take their cases before the magistrates. I remember some years ago when I was sitting on the bench learning that in certain cases we never fined people who had broken the law for not putting on insurance stamps, but only ordered that they should put on the stamps that they had missed. That meant that men had evaded the law and had cost the State much money to trace them, and that the only thing you could do was to make them do what they ought to have done at the beginning.
I noticed that one inspector was nervous when he was putting the case, and on going into the whole matter I found that nobody had ever been convicted for that sort of offence. The inspector was worried and anxious. When cases of the kind described by my hon. Friend come before magistrates you sometimes find these people, because a Government inspector has taken action, saying: "Let these Government men mind their own business." That is not fair to the Home Office or to the public, and it is most of all unfair to the inspector, who has to serve two masters, one of whom is sitting on the bench. It is scandalous, and we have had the same thing again and again in the coal trade as regards inspectors of mines, where the very life of the workers has been concerned because of lack of air or of attention to water by owners. Employers have come before some benches of magistrates and have been fined 5s. or £1. What is it to them? It is like my buying the "Evening Standard." I know that the Home Secretary would like to see these things carried out, and magistrates ought to remember that, while they have a duty to correct things, they have also a duty to protect things. In any case in which food becomes contaminated as a result of skin disease or any other disease because someone is not carrying out the Act, the magistrates have a duty to the State to punish those who are responsible.
I hope the Home Secretary will go on with his good work of reform in the construction of gaols. If I might dare to make a suggestion, there are many big castles some of which to-day could be got for a mere song, because people cannot afford to live in them on account of the rates and taxes. One hon. Member of this House who owns such a castle told me that he has sold it for the stone, which is being used for road-making. There are many very nice buildings that could easily, with the aid of a good architect, be so reconstructed that they could be used for gaols, and they would have the advantage of being in the open country. I know of nothing more likely to give a man a clear vision and a desire to lead a good life than to give him the opportunity of breathing the fresh air of God, especially when he has been living in the slums all his life. Many a child has the gutter for his only playground. How can you expect him to grow up into a spiritually-minded man at the age of 21 or 22? If you want to encourage children to higher things, take them out into the country, where the freshness of Nature will rebuild and restore them. It is possible to give a prisoner a love for things that are beautiful. I know a man who served 35 years in prison but who has done wonderfully well, simply because the police gave him an opportunity to become a member of their band. He has become a wonderful musician, and is now a bandmaster. Prisoners can come to love music, to love flowers, to love companionship. Let us not give the cold hand, the "frozen mitt," to these people. There is not one of us who does not need to thank God for the help of some guiding hand in the past, and it is our duty in the future to give our hand to those with whom we are dealing to-night.
We have had a very interest-discussion, covering a very wide range of subjects, from prison reform to industrial diseases, and, if the Noble Lord will give us as favourable a reply on the questions which have been put to him on industrial diseases as that which we had from the Home Secretary on the question of prison reform, we on this side will be very well satisfied with having initiated the Debate. The Home Secretary has suggested that certain reforms are to be introduced in the very near future. We all know that in the past, and, indeed, it is often the case to-day, two ideas have been fighting one another for supremacy. The one is that, the severer the punishment, the greater is the deterrent, and the other is that reformative measures are much more beneficial than punishment. We know, from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, that his ideas are of the latter class.
There has been practical unanimity this afternoon in all quarters of the House with regard to the need for prison reform and with regard to the methods which are being adopted in order to bring about that reform. I do not know whether there will be the same unanimity when the Noble Lord replies with regard to industrial diseases. My hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths) raised the question of the report of the Departmental Committee appointed to inquire into questions arising under the Workmen's Compensation Act, especially in connection with nystagmus. The Departmental Committee has been sitting for a considerable time. It was appointed in 1935, and issued a report in January of this year. I should like to ask the Noble Lord whether he is in a position to say what is going to be done with that report. It contains many recommendations; do the Government intend to implement those recommendations? Like my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield), I hope we shall not have to wait until the promise of the Prime Minister is fufilled to appoint a Departmental Committee to make a general survey of the whole question of the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
There are at the present time many difficulties with regard to nystagmus which call for immediate reform. My hon. Friend the Member for Pontypool (Mr. Jenkins) referred to a very serious one, namely, that, if a miner suffers, or even if there is a suspicion that he suffers, from nystagmus, he is unable to get employment at any other pit. It is true that attempts have recently been made to get the employers to waive that policy and to agree that in future a workman who suffers from nystagmus shall not be deterred from being re-employed, but I am afraid that, while one or two employers may be got to waive their right in that respect and change their policy, practically 70 or 80 per cent. will refuse to re-employ a man who suffers from nystagmus. Another question that requires immediate attention is the question of the change from a medical referee to the establishment of a medical board. The medical referee at the present time is the judge, the jury, the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords all in one.
A man may be certified by his own doctor to be suffering from nystagmus, and he may also be certified by the certifying surgeon to be suffering from nystagmus. Then he goes to the medical referee, and the medical referee certifies that he is not suffering from nystagmus. There are two opinions against the medical referee, but his decision is final so far as the applicant is concerned. Even the British Medical Association say that this is too much responsibility for one man, and that there ought to be at least three men, formng a board who could have a discussion on the general situation, look at the various angles of the disease, and see how it affects the individual. I hope the recommendations of this Committee are not going to be delayed unduly. Consider the effect of the delay on the individual applicant himself. He is certified to be suffering from nystagmus; the certifying surgeon certifies that he is not; the only thing left for the individual is for him, or his trade union, to make an application to the county court. But the county court probably will not be sitting for six, eight or 10 weeks. The individual has to wait in a state of uncertainty as to whether he is to receive compensation or not. This long delay is not in the best interests of the applicant. For that reason, a medical board should supplant the medical referee.
Another industrial disease that has been referred to is silicosis. We have heard to-night about the ravages of this and other diseases on the health and life of the workers of this country. Indeed, so important has the effect of silicosis on the workers of this country become in the recent past that the Medical Research Council deemed it necessary to request the Pulmonary Diseases Committee to make an intensive investigation into silicosis and its effect on the workers. I know that this is a very delicate and scientific subject, and that it requires a great deal of careful handling. Not only have the medical profession been making an inquiry into the causes of silicosis and its effect upon the workmen from the medical point of view, but a committee of mining experts has also been appointed to investigate the effect on miners, both on the surface and underground. I know this requires very careful study, but the committee has been in existence now for 18 months and, if the rumours are correct, it is not anticipated that it will report again for another 12 or 18 months. I want to impress on the Noble Lord the need for this committee reporting as quickly as possible.
A great deal has been said about workmen in various industries this afternoon, but there is another class of workers who suffer, in proportion to the number employed, as much as any other workers in this country from the effects of silicosis. They are the North Wales quarrymen. Recently, there was a committee appointed to inquire into the anti-tuberculosis services in Wales. The chairman of that committee was the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). In the course of the inquiry the committee went to Blaenau Festiniog in North Wales, and startling revelations were made in evidence with regard to the condition of the quarrymen at these slate quarries as a consequence of tuberculosis. The death rate from tuberculosis and silicosis was so high that an appeal was made to the Welsh Memorial Association to make investigations. A clinic was established, an X-ray plant was installed, and it was disclosed that a large number of the quarrymen were suffering from silicosis. In the examination it was ascertained that 80 per cent. were definitely suffering from silicosis, and that a very high percentage of that 80 per cent. were suffering both from silicosis and tuberculosis. Here is an extract from the evidence of the tuberculosis physician:
I am convinced that if every quarryman of 40 years of age and over were X-rayed the majority would have silicosis.
In conclusion, he said:
I am of opinion that a great many of the quarrymen working at the Festiniog mines today are suffering from silicosis to such a degree as to make it dangerous for them to continue at work in the industry and that the solution of the persistently high tuberculosis death rate of the male population of the Festiniog area lies in the tackling of this vital question of the injurious effects of an unhealthy industry.
Further evidence was given that in practically every post-mortem that had been conducted the medical officer of health
for Blaenau Festiniog said that he found—to use his own words—"the lungs choked with dust." He said that
in one instance a man was working on the wagon in the mill and he coughed up blood; he was taken home and he had another attack of haemorrhage during the night and died the next day. The coroner ordered a post-mortem. The man's lungs were like two bricks.
So serious was the condition of the quarrymen in North Wales, according to the report of the medical officer of health in 1931, that the Canadian Government became interested in the subject, and in 1932 they sent eight doctors over to make an investigation into the cause of silicosis in North Wales. The purpose of the Canadian Government, in addition to obtaining knowledge of the disease, was to prevent immigrants into Canada who were suffering from silicosis or tuberculosis. But surely it was of equal importance to the Home Office in this country to make inquiries into the matter. Not only have the Home Office not made inquiries into the condition of the quarrymen of North Wales, but the quarrymen of North Wales, although those men are suffering from silicosis to the extent of 80 per cent. of those examined, do not come under the silicosis order. Their dependants are not entitled to any compensation. Probably the reply of the Noble Lord may be that these are slate quarries. Whether they are slate quarries or not, the fact remains that the men are certified as suffering from silicosis and therefore, when they die, their dependants are entitled to compensation.
What happens at the present time? We heard this afternoon about the fate of those in receipt of compensation that the average amount of compensation paid is about 25s. a week. In this case they do not get 25s.; they do not get anything at all. They are not recognised as being entitled to compensation, and they are left to the cold mercy of either the approved society or of the public assistance committee. That is one reason why I should like to get an early report from the Medical Research Council. If the reply of the Home Office is that these are slate quarries, and consequently they cannot come under the Silicosis Order, the fact remains that these people are dying from a disease that has an industrial origin. They are dying from the effects of their occupation. We can call it what we like. We can call it anthracosis or whatever we like, but the fact remains that men are dying consequent upon inhalation of dust while following their occupation, and compensation ought to be paid.
The Medical Research Council is to inquire into all these cases, and the various diseases, and we should like an early report upon this particular question. If it is a new disease that is not yet scheduled, the sooner it is scheduled the better, so that sufferers may be entitled to compensation. There is another phase of the Silicosis Order which ought to receive very serious attention on the part of the Home Secretary, and that is the three years' time limit. The position is that an individual who has not been certified within three years of the last day that he worked in the process loses entitlement to compensation. Here is a case that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton East (Mr. Mander) gave to me the other day respecting a man who had died in his constituency, having formerly lived in mine. The headings are:
Death After Silicosis.
Had Not Worked Since 1930.
After working for 35 years in a South Wales coal mine, a man who had since been living in Wednesfield died on 15th April from pneumonia following silicosis which he had contracted while at work. He was David Edmund Evans. … The deputy district coroner for Staffordshire remarked that the cause of death was one with which the Minister of Health was well acquainted. Steps were now being taken to prevent it, but Evans had contracted the disease at an earlier period.
The assistant pathologist at the Royal Hospital, Wolverhampton, performed the post mortem examination and found in the lungs some black characteristic of silicosis, and said that the man must have contracted the disease by coming into contact with silica, which must have been in the rock he was mining. That man had not worked since 1930, but because he was not certified within three years from the last period that he worked in the process, he was not entitled to compensation while he was alive, and his wife and children are not now entitled to compensation. I have a letter from them. They are in very sad circumstances. I have another case which is only indicative of a large number of others. The other day a man died from silicosis. Eight months previous the medical board had refused to certify him. When a post mortem took place, his death was certified as being
due absolutely to silicosis, but because of the failure or the refusal of the medical board to certify the man his widow and children were unable to claim compensation.
I want to put before the Home Secretary the serious need of an amendment of the law and the abolition of the three years time limit. A time limit should not be the deciding factor in the payment of compensation; it should be decided by the actual cause of death. If it could be proved that a man suffered from silicosis regardless of whether the period was three years, 10 years or 15 years, then compensation should be paid. Why do not the medical board certify? The test is too high. The medical board must be satisfied that the individual is suffering to such an extent as to make it injurious for him to continue his occupation. It is very rarely that anyone comes up to that particular test. In fact, the number of refusals in a certain district is 45 per cent. of the total applications, and if one takes the number of refusals throughout the country, it is over 50 per cent. There must be something wrong with a medical board that refuses 50 per cent. of the applications for compensation. These are the points that I want to emphasise. There should be a medical board to deal with the question of industrial diseases, including nystagmus.
There has been talk about dermatitis, I want the same principle to extend to dermatitis. I know of a case reported from the Midlands in which a man was suffering from it. His own medical attendant certified that he was suffering from dermatitis, having industrial origin. The man was sent to hospital, where he was examined by two other doctors and a skin specialist. The skin specialist certified that he was suffering from dermatitis which had industrial origin, and he placed that statement on the record at the man's bedside. He was seen by the employer's doctor, who again certified that he was suffering from dermatitis, having industrial origin. Then he was sent to the medical referee who, notwithstanding the fact that four doctors had already certified that this individual was suffering from dermatitis, having industrial origin, turned the case down. Surely, that is a very concrete example which shows the need of a medical board having to decide these particular cases, and that it should not be left to one individual. It is too much of a responsibility for one individual.
I should like to know what the Government are going to do with the report on nystagmus, and whether they will seriously consider the advisability of amending the Order as it applies to silicosis. I should also like to know that they intend to press forward the work of this medical research council. Industrial diseases are on the increase. A question was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) whether it was possible to ascertain to what extent the vibration of machines affects the nervous system, not only on the surface but underground. We have pneumatic drills on the roads and there are pneumatic drills which have been introduced into the mines. We should like to know to what extent rheumatism is an occupational disease. It is more prevalent among the cotton workers and the miners than any other section of industrial workers, and it is argued that that is because of the quick change of temperature from cold to hot and from hot to cold. To what extent can rheumatism be diagnosed as an occupational disease? There are diseases which are not well known from which the workers of this country are suffering, and it would be a distinct advantage to the workers and the community at large that this medical research board should extend its investigations into that field of inquiry.
A good deal is being said at the present time in regard to physical fitness. We have "Keep fit" classes and welfare schemes all over the country, in order that we may keep the nation fit. The health of the nation very largely is decided in the workshops of the nation, in the occupational characteristics of the nation. Therefore, I should like there to be more co-ordination between the Mines Department and the Home Office on the lines of preventive measures. The Home Office are doing a great deal of good work in this direction. They have exhibitions from time to time showing the good work that is being done, but I do not want their good work to end in exhibitions. I want the preventive measures that are introduced at the Home Office and the Mines Department to be made a direct part of the history of the industries of this country, and I should very much like to know that in future there will be more co-ordination between these two Departments, not only in regard to the adoption of preventive measures but the imposition of them upon industry.
I should like, on behalf of my right hon. Friend with whom, as the House knows, I am now associated at the Home Office, to thank the House, and especially hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, for the friendly references that they have made to him personally and to his administration. I should like, further, to acknowledge on my own behalf the indebtedness which I feel I owe to hon. and right hon. Members opposite for having notified in advance to the Department the points that they were going to raise. The House will appreciate that I have been only five weeks at the Home Office, and during that time I have been engaged on a very poignant task in regard to refugees, and it has, therefore, been of great help and benefit to me to be supplied in advance with a list of the subjects which hon. and right hon. Members intended to raise. Perhaps I may be permitted one further personal reference. I should like to say that the particular subjects with which I am going to deal to-night, and with which I have been asked to deal, are subjects in which, although I have had no previous expert experience, I take the greatest interest, because I happen to have been chairman for over 30 years of a hospital which has been a pioneer in a certain branch of medical work. I have always thought that if I had not been a politician I should have liked to be a medical research worker. I used to visualise myself as engaged in medical research work and as eventually finding my name in the Coronation honours list as a reward for my services.
Before I deal with the questions relating to industrial diseases, with which I propose to deal particularly this evening, let me say a word in reply to some of the points which have been raised by hon. Members in all parts of the House in regard to other aspects of Home Office administration.
We have indeed had a most interesting series of speeches. We have had speeches from hon. Members who have had long experience as workers and who are now holding high positions in the trade union world. We have had a speech from an hon. Member who was once in the police force but who is now a distinguished official in the trade union movement, and I am sure the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) will not regard it as impertinent on my part if I say that we have had a speech from the point of view of a former prisoner. The hon. Member for the city of Durham (Mr. Ritson) in an eloquent speech and the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. H. Nicolson) asked questions as to the prisons into which the wage-earning system had been introduced. Amongst the prisons at which it is at present in operation are Maidstone, Holloway and Liverpool, and it is proposed to extend it to three more prisons in the autumn. I should like to add that the earnings connote smoking.
The hon. Member for West Leicester asked a question regarding the system whereby boys sentenced to Borstal detention have been taken in the first instance to Wormwood Scrubs, and he asked that the system should be abolished. The difficulty at the moment, I understand, is the difficulty of finding sufficient space. The boys who go there before being drafted to a Borstal institution are carefully segregated from the rest of the prisoners, and my right hon. Friend will bear the point in mind. The Government make a contribution to the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society of 2s. per head, plus a supplementary contribution of £1,500 a year. The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Morgan) referred to the question of the staffing of approved schools. He will excuse me if I do not deal with the matter at any length, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is fully aware of the great importance of selecting suitable staff for approved schools, and he fully agrees with the hon. Member that the staff should be constituted of fully qualified men of the right type. As regards enlistments from approved schools, in 1936, 195 entered the Army but the numbers entering the Navy and the Air Force were much smaller being under a dozen for the two Services combined.
We have not the specific returns for agriculture, but I will make inquiry into that matter. The hon. Member for West Walthamstow (Mr. McEntee), who is not now in his place, made a criticism of a somewhat serious character on the subject of the cost of the erection of new police quarters in the Metropolitan Police area. The first answer I will make to the hon. Gentleman's charges, or suggestions, is that the comparative cost of section houses and flats is a very technical matter into which I am afraid I cannot try to go, but my right hon. Friend will take note of what was said by the hon. Member and will go into the question further and if it appears desirable he will communicate with the hon. Member. The cost of engineering services was, I understand, included in the cubic foot costs quoted by my right hon. Friend in reply to a question, to the terms of the answer to which the hon. Member for West Walthamstow took exception. It was suggested in the question that the cost of the section houses compared with the cost of high-class flats, but hostel accommodation is more comparable with section houses than are blocks of flats, and it is understood than such accommodation recently provided in London has cost some 2s. 3d. per cubic foot. As I have said, my right hon. Friend is prepared to go further into this matter if the hon. Member wishes to have further information. I would add that the first four section houses were necessarily, to some extent, experimental. It will be realised that there is a desire to provide for the Metropolitan Police, in the newer houses, better accommodation than is provided at the present time.
Before coming to the question of industrial diseases, I will say a word or two on the very thorny question of juvenile delinquency, a subject in which many hon. Members are interested, and in which I know the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) takes a great interest. As the hon. Member for Westhoughton pointed out, it is true that there has been a considerable rise in the numbers dealt with by the juvenile courts. As I think the hon. Gentleman pointed out, one of the causes of this increase in the number of cases is the greater use now being made of the courts as a result of the Children and Young Persons Act of 1933. I think there is no question that cases are now brought before the juvenile courts which were not brought before them previously. However, the question of juvenile delinquency is a most difficult and complicated one, as I think all magistrates, and indeed all hon. Members, will agree. For that reason, an inquiry is to be instituted into the increase in the numbers appearing before the courts. I may announce that it has been decided that the inquiry shall take the form of a careful investigation into one thousand cases coming before Metropolitan juvenile courts and also into all cases coming before the juvenile courts of six large provincial towns during a period of six months, the towns being Manchester, Leeds, Hull, Cardiff, Nottingham and Sheffield. I think hon. Members will agree that that will be a comprehensive inquiry.
I turn now to the question of the inspection of factories, the report of the Chief Inspector of Factories and the question of accidents coming under the factory inspectorate. The hon. Gentleman opposite complained that there had been, on more than one occasion, delay in producing the report of the Inspector of Factories. It is true that although the report has been presented, formally, to Parliament, it is not actually presented in printed form yet. The hon. Gentleman, in a vein of good-natured chaff, suggested that in some way I was responsible and was what he called "a drag on the wheel." He said that when I was at the India Office he found equal difficulty in getting any information out of me. I regret that that should be his impression. It is not my recollection and I hope I may add that in the home circle, I have the reputation of giving as much information as anybody wants to hear. But I assure the hon. Gentleman that it is not my fault, nor is it the fault of the Home Secretary that the report is not available.
Seriously, we appreciate the desirability, if possible, of getting out this report before the end of July; but this year the Home Office has, I will not say been overburdened, but has had a great many extra duties placed upon its shoulders for a variety of reasons, among others the air-raid precautions schemes and the bringing into force of the new Factories Act. These have placed additional burdens upon the Department and upon the factory inspectorate and the work has been much greater this year than in previous years. I must not make a definite promise but I will say that my right hon. Friends will bear in mind the desire of the House that the report should be published earlier than usual. I have read the report very carefully and I see no reason why I should not mention certain matters in it. There is nothing very novel about the report of the inspector. It contains the results and conclusions arrived at by the inspectors and these are very much the same as those recorded in the previous year.
Let me deal, however, with the report which the House has actually seen, namely, the report for 1936. Speaking with some diffidence in the presence of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have greater experience of this matter than I have, I take the view that there is much in that report of a hopeful nature. I instance one thing in particular and that is the increase of welfare work, not only in the big but in the small factories, compared with a few years ago. Welfare work of a voluntary character in the factories and voluntary co-operation between employers and employed, is much greater than it was. Of course we have to consider the whole question of the factory laws and factory inspection in the light of the fact that the new Factories Act came into operation this year. It is obviously too early yet to judge the effect of the Measure.
I intend to say something about that in a moment. The report to which I have been referring points out that in a time of increased industrial activity there is always liable to be an increased accident rate. That is almost inevitable for this reason that at such a time more people are employed than were employed in the previous experience of the particular industry concerned, and there is also greater pressure of work. This applies not merely to adults but also to juveniles. I think it must be admitted that the number of accidents among juveniles is greater than the Home Secretary or the House as a whole wishes to see and hon. Gentlemen no doubt would like to know what is being done about it. In the first place, the Department is continuing the intensive study of juvenile accidents and their causes with a view to giving employers what further help they can in reducing the number. The in- spectors report calls attention to the fact that insufficient care was taken in many factories by the firms and managers to see that young boys and girls coming into the factory were, so to speak, made accustomed to the work which they had to do.
In other words, sufficient care was not taken to deal with the psychological aspect of the case. Although the machines themselves may be of a perfectly safe character, and although there may be nothing about them which requires special precautions, the mere fact that a boy or girl is working in unaccustomed surroundings makes it necessary that the employer should take a fatherly interest in his or her welfare. That is what the Home Office Wishes to impress upon employers, and it will be remembered that under the new Factories Act there is special provision laid down on the subject of the proper instruction of these juveniles in their work. One of the actual provisions is that the Act requires that juveniles working at dangerous machines must be properly trained and instructed, and there is a very valuable strengthening of the provisions as to the cleaning of machinery by young persons.
I turn to one or two other matters arising out of the report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. I think one hon. Gentleman raised the question of eye accidents. There is a Section in the new Factories Act which specifically requires goggles or screens in the case of processes which are specified by the Secretary of State as involving a special risk of injury to the eyes, and the Home Office and the factory inspectorate would like to see a more general use of these goggles, especially where screening is impracticable. There seems to have been reluctance in some forms of industry, on the part of both employers and employed, to make use of them. I might also mention that there has been opened recently at the Royal Eye Hospital a special exhibition of eye protecting devices, to which I would call the attention of the House.
The question of lighting in factories has also been raised. There was a special committee appointed some months ago, under the chairmanship of the Chief Inspector of Factories, to advise on this matter, and I think I am safe in saying that the report will be ready some time during October.
The very interesting point was raised of what is sometimes known by the appellation of shuttle-kissing, and for the benefit of those hon. Members who are not familiar with what it is, I might explain that it is the practice of cotton weavers to thread their shuttles by mouth suction. Section 50 of the Factories Act empowers the Secretary of State to make such special regulations for curtailing the practice as appear to him to be reasonably practicable. A conference was summoned by the Superintending Inspector of Factories at Manchester on 9th December of last year to deal with this question, and as a result of that conference a joint committee was formed to inquire into the matter. The committee held its first meeting on 6th April, and it was felt that the real way to make progress was to conduct experiments at the mills themselves, under every-day practical conditions, and that is being done.
Questions were asked about the strength of the factory inspectorate. The passage of the Factories Act has naturally meant that it is necessary to have a larger inspectorate, and the House will be interested to know that for that and other reasons a scheme has been sanctioned which will have the effect of increasing the strength of the inspectorate by 62, or about 23 per cent., over a period of three years. That will be a very substantial increase.
Questions were asked about lead poisoning. In 1937 the number of cases of lead poisoning was the lowest in any year since notification of the disease was made compulsory, and this followed a previously low record in 1936. The figures for the pottery industry, to which reference was particularly made, were 15 in 1937, 18 in 1936, and 18 in 1935. In the painting of buildings there has been a more general compliance with the lead paint regulations made in 1927.
I come to the most important subject with which I have to deal, namely, the question of silicosis, and after that I shall say a word about nystagmus. My right hon. Friend and I appreciate fully the great interest which is taken in this matter, not only by hon. Members opposite, but by all who have the welfare of the workers in certain industries at heart. It is a most difficult question. I have not, unfortunately, the technical knowledge that some hon. Members have, but I hope to be able to present a picture which will show how alive my right hon. Friend and I and the officials of the Home Office are to this matter, and to report the progress that is being made. I need not give a description of the method by which silicosis is dealt with for compensation purposes, but I would like to say a word about the incidence of the disease. It is, of course, difficult to get out figures showing how many cases of silicosis are being caused at this moment, because, as has been pointed out in more than one speech, the disease is one of slow development. Taking the disablement cases certified by the Medical Board, the figure for the refractories industries is less than five in each of the last five years except one, when there were seven. The figures for sandstone quarrying have gone down from 53 in 1933 to 26 in 1937. The figures for the potteries have fallen in the same five years from 70 to 41 and the figures for stonemason's outside the sandstone industry have fallen from 72 to 56. The figures for metal grinding are comparatively small—13 in 1933 and eight in 1937.
I will give them later on. There are special regulations for factories in the metal grinding and pottery industries. As regards prevention in coalmining and sandstone quarrying, that is a matter for the Mines Department with which I am not competent to deal. As regards stonemasons outside sandstone quarrying, cases have arisen in building operations or builders' yards, and the recent valuable extension of the Factories Act to cover builders' yards and building operations where there is no mechanical power will enable the question of further regulations to be taken up.
No, I never suggested that. The Home Office are responsible. I said that the prevention of silicosis in mines was a matter for the Mines Department. I will say a word in a moment about research work. The hon. Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Marshall) said, as I understood it, that there were a number of grinders in Sheffield suffering from silicosis who were unable to get compensation and he asked whether anything could be done for them. I understand that he has in mind those who are employed on processes now within the compensation scheme but who ceased to be employed on those processes before the first scheme was agreed to in 1927, and he may also have had in mind those who, I understand, are known as "little masters," that is those who work on their own behalf. I am afraid there are very great legislative difficulties about bringing the latter class under the Act. In fact, it is clear that it would involve an extension of the principles of the Act to bring in people in this or other trades who are working for themselves. For instance, there might be equal reason for including smallholders and others who are liable to suffer from certain diseases arising from the circumstances of their work. As I have already said, silicosis is a disease of slow development, and no doubt it seems hard that workmen still employed in grinding after June, 1927, may get compensation if they become affected while workmen not employed after that date are outside the scheme, but it would be difficult, if not impossible, to make the scheme retrospective. Somebody asked a question about asbestosis and—
Can the Noble Lord give the House any hope that the men in the metal grinding industry, many of whom die, sometimes, from a mixture of silicosis and tuberculosis, diseases which undoubtedly arise out of their work, will be brought within the silicosis scheme or any other scheme for compensation for industrial diseases?
Perhaps it would be convenient if I mentioned that the matter is obviously intertwined with two matters one of which is under consideration and other of which is really in the position almost of being sub judice. As the House will be aware, a committee has been appointed by the Medical Research Council—I have been asked several questions upon it as representing the Lord President's Department in this House—which is inquiring into the incidence of pulmonary diseases other than that which can be definitely diagnosed as silicosis, and the report of that committee will, I fear, not be available before the middle of next year. The question which the hon. Member put is mixed up with the whole question of workmen's compensation, about which I am going to say a word in a moment.
Another point which I should like to deal with in connection with silicosis is that of periodical medical examinations which was brought up in the course of the Debate to-day and has been mentioned in former Debates. I am sorry if I am dealing with this question in rather a ragged manner, but the House will appreciate that there are so many points arising out of it. The Home Office have recently placed before representatives of the employers and trade unions for their comments revised proposals for amending the scheme, and they include the extension of examinations to workers employed in certain additional processes in the pottery industry particularly in connection with the manufacture of earthenware. The question of multiplying the number of examinations is by no means a simple one but the proposals have been worked out with this point in mind and include a provision for decreasing the frequency of some of the examinations.
In conclusion I should like to say a word about this committee about which I have been asked many questions. I am now speaking in my capacity as representing the Lord President.
Is it contemplated in the instructions that are to be issued that, where men have been actually disabled from silicosis but are not certified, there will be an extension of the time limit beyond three years? The Noble Lord says the progress of the disease is slow. Is it possible that it is so low that sufficient evidence to satisfy the medical board does not appear in three years? Could they not be examined periodically beyond the three years?
What I was referring to were the revised proposals which have been placed before representatives of the employers and the trade unions. My answer to that is that nothing can be done until an answer has been obtained from them.
I think the hon. Member does not appreciate that the Parliamentary Secretary's reply referred to earlier proposals which had been placed before the associations of the employers and the employed. We have not yet received the replies to the revised proposals which will enable us to take action. My right hon. Friend will undertake to see that they are asked to accelerate their replies.
The reply is that both sides were to make suggestions and the Home Secretary was considering what was to be the next step. I am asking what are the results of the consideration.
We have not yet received the final replies, but I will undertake that the matter will be looked into at once and dealt with.
A question was asked about silicosis in the North Wales slate mines. The Home Office has no evidence to show that the silicosis compensation scheme ought to be extended to slate workers, but the Mines Department, through their inspectors, are inquiring further into the working conditions. It is really for them to do so. The question whether a further medical inquiry should be undertaken can be considered in the light of the results.
I am well aware that there has been on the part of some hon. Members opposite an apprehension that the inquiry being made under the auspices of the Medical Research Committee into certain diseases of a pneumonic character in mines has been unduly delayed. I represent the Lord President's Department and I have gone into the matter personally. I realise the great importance of getting the results of the inquiry as soon as possible, but it will be difficult, if not impossible, to do so before the middle of next year. There have been 5,000 separate cases investigated, but it will be necessary to examine the workers at another colliery. I hope the report will be out next year. I will do all I can to accelerate it.
May I put this to the Noble Lord as one of the reasons why we are pressing for the report? It is not that we want to deny to the medical men ample time to go into this very important matter but because of our experience that when a report of this kind is issued and orders are eventually made based upon the reports, an enormous mass of anomalies arises. With his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, perhaps the Noble Lord would be able to look into this matter. Here, week by week and month by month, are men in my own division being told by medical men that what they are suffering from is not silicosis. The report may declare that here is an industrial disease and they may call it pnuemo-choreosis. They may decide to change the name and it may be said: "We cannot make a new silicosis order." When the new order comes forward as was the case under previous orders saying that as from a certain date everybody who comes within the terms of the order shall be dealt with we shall doubtless get hundreds of people who lie outside not covered by the new order. I want the doctors to have full time to do their job but after they have made their report if it is in favour of a change, as I think it is bound to be, will the right hon. Gentleman give full consideration to the desirability in the name of elementary justice of making such an order retrospective?
My right hon. Friend will give full consideration to it and I will undertake to represent to the Lord President's Department the need for all possible acceleration. I do not think it is fair to blame the doctors for the length of time taken on what must be intricate examinations.
The last point upon which I wish to touch is the important one of miners' nystagmus.
Before the Noble Lord goes on to the question of miners nystagmus would he say whether he has any hope to offer to the people in the card rooms of Lancashire, on the questions which have been raised?
I will say a word about the card room disease in a moment but I should like to speak about miners' nystagmus now. The report of the Stewart Committee was presented in January of this year and it contained some very important recommendations, to be found upon page 107. I need not quote the recommendations to the House because hon. Members will probably be familiar with them. Question have been asked in this Debate and in ordinary questions whether or not it was proposed to implement the report in advance of the Royal Commission's Report, announced upon the whole question of workmen's compensation. I must give the answer to-night that implementation of a portion or of the whole of this particular report can neither be promised nor precluded by me to-night. There is a good deal to be said for dealing with the question of whether any alterations may be required—I think it is generally agreed that they will be required—on the report of the Royal Commission for dealing with them as a whole. Whether there shall be alterations to the law in respect of some parts of workmen's compensation in advance of alterations in the law necessitated by the report of the Royal Commission is a question which has not yet been decided. Obviously, the report of the Departmental Committee on Miners' Nystagmus is of the greatest importance, and will have to be taken into consideration when general legislation is forthcoming.
I do not think it will be a question of years.
With regard to the card-room operatives, I listened with great interest and considerable sympathy to the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Tomlinson), though I cannot, on the advice given to me, find myself in agreement with all the points that he urged. He suggested, and others have suggested, that some compensation should be paid by employers to card-room and certain other operatives disabled by respiratory illness which is generally known as card-room disease, where it is found to be sufficiently prevalent and can be attributed to the dust. The question, however, is an extremely difficult one from a medical point of view, owing to the difficulty of ascertaining whether the workman is suffering from, say, bronchitis or asthma due to dust or due to natural causes. A committee was appointed last year to go into the matter further, and questions have been asked as to what progress has been made. I understand that the present position is that the committee have heard evidence and have carried out various statistical investigations, and they have now reached the stage of considering their report. The statistical work in particular took a long time, but my right hon. Friend, the Home Office and the committee are fully alive to the desirability of their reporting as soon as they properly can, and no doubt the attention which has been called to the matter in the course of the Debate will accelerate the decision.
I should like to say, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, that we very much appreciate the spirit in which this matter has been approached to-night by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have endeavoured in our two speeches to deal with the, main points raised, and, if any have been omitted, they will be carefully considered. I should like, in conclusion, to make this observation. I cannot help being struck, as others who have listened to the Debate must have been struck, by the contrast between our proceedings here and the proceedings that presumably take place when the Vote of a roughly similar department in other countries—the Ministry of the Interior—is under consideration. It is a fact that in most countries the functions of the Ministry of the Interior are mainly concerned with the maintenance of law and order, and in a growing number of countries with the prevention of opinion hostile to the régime. In this country we can with pride contrast with that the beneficent activity of our Home Office, under whatever political mastership it may be. More and more, as time goes on, under the process of what one may call steady evolution, the Home Office, while maintaining its primary responsibility for the maintenance of law and order with the assistance of the local police forces, is concerned with the whole community, and with the reform of the evil-doer rather than merely with his punishment. It is an Office which guides, advises and directs. Through its agency a great many abuses have been abolished, and I hope that a great many more will be abolished in the next ten years. I make bold to suggest that as an institution, under whatever political mastership it may be, it is one that is so typically British that all of us in all quarters of the House may be proud of it.
I am sorry I had not got the figures when the question was asked; I now have them. Certificates of disablement were granted by the medical board as follows: in 1934, seven, with two deaths; 1935, four, with one death; 1936, four with one death; 1937, three.
I regret that the arrangements as to time prevented me from speaking before the Noble Lord, but I do not complain as what I have to say does not entail any reply to-night. I have been asked to put before the Home Secretary two points. One was dealt with in the Noble Lord's speech, so I need not refer to it. The other deals with the question of dermatitis. We have heard, and rightly heard, details of this problem in one or two industries, but I have been asked to press upon the Home Secretary the fact that another trade, cabinetmaking—a reasonably healthy trade—is subject to dermatitis. I refer to the polishing side of the trade. The old system of french polishing is nearly a thing of the past and chemicals in an ever-increasing complexity are appearing as polishes and carrying increased risks of dermatitis. There exists in the trade the opinion that the inspectoring of the trade is not so effective as it might be. I would therefore ask the Home Secretary to cut a section in the visits of his inspectors and see if a little more time can be given to this trade while not desirous of injuring others. Another question relates to prisoners who report on the sick list. There are doctors in the prisons who have the duty of examining them. But I am informed that there is a practice—perhaps a necessary practice—of doctors being assisted by warders, who are designated nurse warders and they have the duty of determining whether a prisoner reporting sick is sufficiently ill for the doctor to be called that day or not, I suggest that the lapse of time between a prisoner reporting sick and the doctor being called, should not be longer than a day and in no case should a week-end slapse. I trust that these two points will be looked into.
I would ask whether the Home Secretary could, without breaking any Cabinet rule, indicate to the Scottish Office the nature of the reforms he has carried out. I know I cannot ask him to reply on that point, because he has no responsibility, but I would like him to do what I have asked, so that we in Scotland shall not be in any way behind England. With regard to factory inspectors, there are a number of cases where accidents happen, but, instead of being sent to hospital, the girls are paid full wages and are simply put into places to rest. The result is that these are never recorded as accidents, because the people never lose time off work. They are revealed only if compensation claims are made. Will the right hon. Gentleman not see that in these places the inspectorate is tightened up, as sometimes serious accidents occur.
I never thought when I came into this House that the right hon. Gentleman would ever make such a benevolent speech on prisons as he has made to-day. Let me say as a younger man than he, that I trust the House of Commons will never be ashamed of allowing sentiment to move it, and that he will not be ashamed of the sentiments he has expressed, nor need to apologise for them. I thought that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, whom I have always regarded as a case-hardened Tory, marked for him a considerable advance.