Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £185,969, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices."—[Note: £180,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. A. GREENWOOD
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
I had hoped that this Debate would have been opened by a speech from the right hon. Gentleman, but no doubt at this early stage he does not feel called upon to defend his Department. One cannot help sympathising with the right hon. Gentleman in the scope of the work which his Department covers, but during the last few months there has been an overemphasis of one phase of his work to the neglect of other phases. The right hon. Gentleman, in the administration of the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, has shown a vigour and a determination and an enthusiasm which many of us wish had been applied to other sides of his work. Had the same enthusiasm and energy, and, if I may say so, the same dash, been applied to the administration of the Factory and Workshops Act or to the removal of the evils connected with the police and prisons system as the right hon. Gentleman has shown in harrying deportees out of this country, he might have gone down to posterity with a halo of true reform about him which would have made him unrecognisable to his friends on the Treasury Bench. But he has chosen to neglect—so we believe—certain aspects of his work that we regard as being of the utmost importance. I had 1630 on the paper this afternoon a question about the publication of the Report of the Factory Inspector for 1922. I wish to protest against the delay there has been in publishing the only information which is available for anyone who wishes to speak upon the administration of the Factory and Workshops Act. Had the right hon. Gentleman shown the same speed and rapidity in publishing that Report as he showed in deporting 100 odd people we should have the Report before us now and be in a much more favourable position to deal with the work of his Department.
The administration of our industrial laws, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, is primarily a question of inspection. In the years before the War Members of the Labour party drew attention to the impossibility of the existing factory inspection staff carrying out their duty of administering the law, but during the last few years, so far as one can ascertain, not only has there been no expansion in the staff, but there has been an actual diminution. Unfortunately, we do not know the number of inspectors during 1922. The right hon. Gentleman up to the present time has withheld that information from us. But I believe it is true to say that the number of factory inspectors in 1921 was fewer than in 1914, and, so far as I am aware, the number has not been substantially increased since 1921. Since the beginning of the War the actual number of what are called effective visits under the Factory and Workshops Act has been reduced very substantially. I believe that in the year the War broke out there were something over 500,000 effective visits. Since the War and during the last year for which figures are available the number of effective visits has been something between 300,000 and 400,000. While there has been little alteration since the beginning of the War in the number of factories, warehouses, workshops and docks coming within the scope of the Factory and Workshops Act, there has been, as the figures show, a very substantial increase in the number of works and departments coming under Regulations or special rules. The need for inspection, therefore, is obviously greater. The Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentick) this afternoon asked a question 1631 about the number of factories and workshops which had not been inspected for a year or two years, and the figures were amazing and showed the inadequacy of the existing factory inspection staff.
That inadequacy is becoming more and more obvious because of the increase in the number of factories and workshops where special rules and regulations apply. As long ago as 1919 the chief factory inspector in his report said that "individual inspection tended to occupy more and more time owing to the ever increasing number of orders put in force and the detailed inquiry rendered necessary in the framing of orders." If that means anything, it means that during the last few years the administrative burden upon the factory inspectors of this country has been steadily increasing, but there has not been a commensurate increase in the staff to cope with the work. On the contrary, since 1914—at least up till 1921—there has been an actual decrease in the number of factory inspectors. There is a clear need for a very substantial increase in the number of inspectors, and more particularly in the number of women inspectors. It is fair to say that if all the money which directly and indirectly has had to be spent as the result of the right hon. Gentleman's escapade with regard to the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act had been devoted to an increase in the factory inspection staff, considerable improvements in industrial conditions could have been made as the result of more effective inspection. The fact that for all these different matters coming under the Factory and Workshops Act you have not got a sufficient number of inspectors affords infinite opportunities for the evasion of the law. The fact that inspection in these cases is not carried out as thoroughly as it should be must mean industrial inefficiency. It is agreed that the work of a factory inspector is largely that of the propagandist, as well as that of inspection. One finds in the last Report of the Home Office, which is very much out of date, references where an inspector describes several large new factories which have been erected without adequate provision for ventilation. Many inspectors express surprise at the indifference shown by many employers in regard to the 1632 importance of proper lighting in factories and workshops. Had there been a sufficiently large and well equipped Department of inspectors that kind of educational work could have been carried on, and those large new factories, in which hundreds of workers are going to work for years, would have been equipped with proper ventilation. Had there been more inspectors impressing upon unenlightened employers the importance of proper lighting and ventilation, we should not have found factory inspectors in 1921 expressing surprise at the little interest shown by employers in these questions. It is that kind of thing which is year after year perpetuating a system of industrial inefficiency, which is one of the great drags on that productivity upon which hon. Members opposite are often so eloquent.
That is not the only side of the work of the factory inspectors. They have to deal with evasions of the law, and their visits ought to be sufficiently frequent to make evasions of the law impossible. In the last Factory Inspector's Report, which is woefully out of date, we are informed that in 1921 there were 573 prosecutions, and apparently they were good cases, because the vast majority of them were successful and the inspectors obtained convictions. I suggest that 573 is not the number that represents the total infringements of the Factory and Workshops Act during 1921. Having regard to the fact that thousands of factories and workshops have not even been inspected or seen for over two years we are entitled to assume that the 573 prosecutions in 1921 really represent only a fraction of the number of cases in which the Factory and Workshops Acts have been contravened. Does anybody for example believe that in 1921 there were only 40 caess in which the sanitary provisions of the Factory Acts had been broken, or that there were in the scores of thousands of workshops employing millions of people, only 110 cases where the safety regulations had been ignored, evaded, or broken. Does anybody seriously believe, as the Factory Inspector's Report suggests for 1921, that during the whole of that 12 months there were only two cases of infringement of the Truck Acts The number of inspectors is so small that they cannot do a tithe of the work, and the consequence is that a very large number of workpeople, men, women 1633 and children, have often to work under conditions which are a direct infringement of the law, and which it is the Home Secretary's business to prevent. Had the right hon. Gentleman shown that dash with regard to Factory Inspector-ships that he showed with regard to the Irish deportees, I am quite sure that he would have rescued a very large number of working people, including boys and girls, from conditions which are in fact an infringement of the law.
Look at the enormous toll of industrial accidents every year in this country. If the right hon. Gentleman had presented us with the Factory Inspector's Report for last year we should have been aware now how many industrial accidents there were, but we have to rely on out-of-date information, and the only figures which are available are those for the year 1921. Those figures do not state the number of industrial accidents in this country, but only the total number of accidents reported, and they amount to 92,000 of which 950 were fatal cases. Had there been as effective administration of the Factory Acts, and as zealous an administration as there was a few months ago in regard to the Restoration of Order in Ireland Regulations, a very large number of those accidents would not have taken place. Therefore, I think we are entitled to hold the right hon. Gentleman responsible for a considerable number of those accidents in so far as they are due to the lack of factory inspection, and therefore responsibility in this matter lies at the door of the Secretary of State.
It is absurd to think that in these days of safety appliances there should be nearly 100,000 accidents reported every year. What I wish to suggest to the Home Secretary is that he is not getting every ounce of value out of the industrial legislation which it is his duty and privilege to administer. It is not the fault of the factory inspectors, because on the whole we believe they are a magnificent body of men and women, and what is needed is an accession to their number which might have taken place had not the sacred name of Geddes been invoked and a greater interest on the part of the Secretary of State. Really in this great work of factory inspection and the administration of our industrial laws you need the same kind of drive which the right hon. Gentleman exhibited on the occasion to which I have already referred. 1634 This question of the effective regulation of industrial conditions, so far as they have been legislated for, is one which comes close home to hon. Members on these benches, and we have a right to ask that when laws have been placed on the Statute Book dealing with these questions, what are called the whole resources of the State should be put behind them. I submit that the Home Secretary has not had time to do this, because he has been occupied with other duties, and he has been unable to put behind this legislation, as he ought to have done, the whole of the resources of the State.
I do not blame the officials of the Home Department, but we must, I fear, blame the right hon. Gentleman as being responsible for the dilatoriness which is little short of a scandal. Last August there was a conference held to consider the question of framing Regulations for buildings in course of construction, alteration, repair, and demolition. This is not the place for me to deal with all those crane crashes and the serious accidents that occur day after day amongst workers employed on and about cranes, because we have almost entirely excluded that form of employment from regulation. The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office at least realised that there was a defect in the Regulations with regard to this kind of work, and a conference was called. The trade unions concerned were consulted, and they put forward their views. It is now July, 1923, and in the interval the right hon. Gentleman has taken office, and we are still waiting for those Regulations to be put into force. I have in my hand a copy of the Regulations marked "Draft" and with the date blank, and that blank still remains. I am told that the explanation is that these things take some time. If the right hon. Gentleman happened to be a crane worker I imagine the time taken would be a great deal shorter, and those Regulations would have been actually in force before now. It is serious that after a long time, when the Home Office has just been aroused to the importance of framing Regulations with regard to buildings in course of construction, alteration or demolition, that having taken the plunge last summer, a year afterwards those Regulations have not yet been put into operation.
The Home Department is not only dilatory in these Matters, but it acts 1635 illegally. There is on the Statute Book an iniquitous piece of legislation which permits a two-shift system of working amongst women and young persons under certain conditions. That legislation was opposed from these benches, but it was put through, I believe, at the instance of certain employers, who wished to carry on the two-shift system which they thought rather cheap during the War period. Last year, in August, the Home Secretary at that time made an order authorising two day-shifts of women and young persons of 16 years and upwards in certain departments of Messrs. Lever Brothers, at Port Sunlight, subject to certain conditions. Under the Act two shifts may be worked on a joint application by employers and workers, but in this case the Order was issued in spite of the opposition of the organised women trade unionists in that firm.
The two-shift system was put into operation at Messrs. Lever Bros. works 24 days before the Secretary of State's Order was issued. At first girls under 16 were employed, contrary to the Employment of Women, Young Persons, and Children Act, 1920. When the workers at Lever Bros. were consulted as to their willingness to work two shifts, six only out of 308 expressed willingness to do so, and that in the face of the fact they were told that 200 would be dismissed if it were not agreed to. That is I suppose what is called freedom of contract as between the two parties. In spite of the views of the women and girls concerned the shift system was adopted, and the firm took a ballot requiring each woman and girl to put her tally number on the paper. Of course, that destroyed the validity of the ballot entirely, as anyone connected with industry knows. It was a distinct infringement of the law. We have here an instance of a huge firm defying the State. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman deal as drastically with Lever Bros. as with the people to whom I have already referred? I suggest all should stand on the same footing. On some occasions the Home Secretary has exhibited a vigour which he has not exhibited as regards this question. Seeing that his work is largely industrial and that he is the guardian of our liberties, I suggest it is right the House should demand a full and generous inter- 1636 pretation of the working of the Acts, and a real attempt to see that they are carried out and properly honoured.
Then I would like to refer to a rather ancient question, but one which the right hon. Gentleman might have taken up. By so doing he would have added lustre to his name. Suppose the right hon. Gentleman had given a little of his superfluous energy to convincing the Government of the importance of putting into operation the Washington Hours Convention. He has had several months to think about that, but he has been busy on other things of rather less importance. It would have given him an opportunity of adding a jewel to his crown. It is a rather tarnished crown, and the addition of a few jewels of that kind would have made him a highly popular and really respected person throughout the length and breadth of the country. Is it even now too late to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the importance, nationally and internationally, of honouring the Washington Convention as regards the hours of labour?
There is just one other question of a similar kind on which I would like to touch and it is the White Lead Convention. There are far too many cases of lead poisoning at the present time, and I put that fact down to the ineffective administration of the regulations by the right hon. Gentleman's Department. In the case of white lead we have had an international agreement, approved not merely by the workpeople employed in the use of paint, but also by the employers. The whole industry is in fact united, and there is no real reason which should debar the right hon. Gentleman from enforcing on the Cabinet the importance of an early ratification of the White Lead Convention. It has been proved to be a desirable thing to limit and on some occasions to prohibit entirely the use of white lead, but having regard to our experience, and knowing the number of cases which are brought to the Home Secretary's notice day by day—and we do not get the full figures for he has no power of securing the total number of cases—I would ask him to-day to take action which would at least gain for him some credit in his disastrous year of office. Let him take to himself credit for one good thing done. If he can inform the House that the 1637 Government have decided on his initiative to ratify the White Lead Convention no one will cheer him more loudly than the Members on these benches. Really our case against the Home Secretary is that he has done those things he ought not to have done and left undone those things he ought to have done. I will not pursue the quotation because I believe there is health in the right hon. Gentleman. I simply wish to see signs of it.
I submit in all seriousness that these big questions of industrial regulations, the regulation of industrial conditions, the diminution in the amount of industrial disease and the prevention of accidents, involve an enormous amount of work, and the great mass of working people employed under the Factory and Workshops Act, which comes under the administration of the right hon. Gentleman, ought to feel that they have in the Home Secretary a man who is prepared to put his weight behind the full administration of all those laws in the interests of the workpeople and in the interests of industry as a whole. If a good deal of that legislation were carried whole heartedly into effect it would do far more for industrial efficiency and for productivity than all the fancy nostrums put forward by hon. Members opposite, and at the same time it would lead to a substantial improvement in the health and in the outlook of working people.
I do not think many Members realise exactly what it is like to work in the thousands of workplaces which are inspected by the right hon. Gentleman's office. It is not a pleasant life, and, with these Acts on the Statute Book for the specific purpose of protecting the workpeople themselves, we have a right to ask and to expect the fullest and most sincere administration. The right hon. Gentleman ought to be a Crusader. Instead of waving his sword at deportees, he might have waved it at thousands upon thousands of unenlightened employers who do not know their own best interests. I hope that during the coming year the right hon. Gentleman will not engage in any more little adventures such as the raking up of the Restoration of Order in Ireland Regulations, but that, repentant and in sackcloth and ashes, he will be able to tell the House that he has done his best to live up to the high responsibilities of his office. It is on 1638 these grounds I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £100.
§ Mr. TURNER
I desire to second the proposition of my hon. Friend. I have no complaints personally against the Home Secretary or his factory inspectors, and I am not going to enter into details on these matters. All I wish to say is that factory inspection is not being carried out as fully and as quickly as it might be. It cannot possibly be, because there are not inspectors enough to inspect the factories and workshops in this kingdom. If one examines the Home Office total of factory inspectors, it will be seen that they could not go round to all the factories and workshops of this kingdom within a period of two and a half years. Even although they might make but very short visits to each place they could not visit all those which require inspection. Supposing all the inspectorate in Yorkshire were on duty now. They could not visit during this hot weather all the wool combing institutions which are places that specially require inspection from the point of view of ventilation. They could not inspect the smaller factories, and point out the need for ventilation and fresh air. When there are a large number of women employed in a wool-combing department the atmosphere is as thick as it is outside this afternoon and they have to stew in it for a period of eight and a quarter hours. It seems therefore desirable that every possible facility should be given for the inspection of these places. What happens? Many of the girls thus employed are at teatime simply exhausted. I know it, because I have a family of daughters. When women have arrived home at teatime at half-past five they been so thoroughly exhausted that they could not tackle the food put before them, and could not get that restorative energy which the food should give them. They are too exhausted by reason of the heat and the lack of proper ventilation in the workshops and therefore it is, as I say, that these workshops especially require inspection.
I have no complaint at all to make about the bureaucracy of the Home Office. My only point is that there are not sufficient persons to see that the Regulations which Parliament has laid down for observance in the various 1639 factories are properly carried out. There is one thing in regard to which the Home Office has been particularly slack during the past few years. There have been a tremendous number of breaches of the Truck Acts. Women have been fined on the most flimsy excuses. I saw yesterday a long list of fines which are inflicted upon workpeople in a factory in Leeds. One of these fines is to be imposed if the girls were heard singing at their work. Bless my life, any decent man knows that if the girls are singing at their work, and if the lads are whistling at their work, the activities of the factory are going on all right, as it means that the workers are happy. But here you have a declaration by a firm that if the work girls are heard singing, and I presume it means equally if the lads are heard whistling, they are to be liable to a fine. At the bottom of the long list of fines it is announced that an ordinary official receipt will be given for the fines inflicted. But there are certain fines which the Home Office are not paying sufficient attention to. There are fines being inflicted upon women because they are five minutes late, and for that they are fined an hour's wage. God help me; I have seen Ministers of State come late to their duties. They are never fined. They are raised to the Peerage or they are made baronets, or get some other honour conferred upon them. If these girls are five minutes late, then, by a strict Regulation of the factory, they have an hour's pay taken off, and yet nothing is ever done by the Home Office to correct the employers who do that. Thank God, they are only a few, but they are there, and, where injustice is done, we have to defend the people to whom that injustice is done. I think the Home Office are not as much alive in that direction as they should be.
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
May I draw attention to the fact that there are not many employers present on the opposite benches?
§ Mr. TURNER
One thing that the Home Office seems to expect is that the trade unions shall find them all their cases, but that is the business of the inspectors more than of the trade union officials. Many times, when the reports have been sent forward, we have seen them, as we do in a friendly fashion, 1640 because we are friendly with all of them, as we want to be with every one. We are asked to send our cases and they will be looked into, but it is their business to make a regular inspection. The Home Office are not enough alive on the question of accidents in our mills and workshops. The Report for 1921 indicates that the accidents were less than in the previous year, but, of course, that was when the slump came in trade, and one would expect that, with a 20-weeks' miners' dispute, and mills stopped for want of coal, the number of accidents would be less. It is still tremendous, and we want more inspection in regard to safety appliances than there is at present.
There have been too many hoist accidents in our textile mills recently. It may be said that firms here and there have the most up-to-date appliances, but there are still many very old-fashioned concerns. In my inspections as an individual during past years, I have seen some very antiquated hoisting systems, and the accidents have been too numerous during the last 12 months to be at all satisfactory. Again, in the last Report of the Factory and Workshops Department, the question of accidents in self-acting mills is dealt with. It is pointed out that there is a reduction of the number of accidents in self-acting mills, and that is quite true, but I want to see more Regulations in regard to cleaning those mills, drying under the going part, taking "food" off the head where the faller sets, or when anyone is in a dangerous position, and that there shall be between the headstocks and various parts of the mills sufficient room for people to pass. Women wear skirts, and it is much more difficult for a woman to avoid accidents even than for a man, and the men wear smocks, and accidents occur there, and also on account of looms being too close altogether.
I think our factory inspection department ought to receive instructions from the Home Secretary that adequate attention should be given to this question of accidents in our mills. Imagine a young woman, 16, 17, or 18 years of age, going to work this morning in the bloom of youth, and then, in the course of an hour or two, through machines being too close together, or, perhaps, through faintness owing to lack of proper ventilation, or any one of a multitude of things that 1641 could be avoided by careful inspection and management, having a finger or a hand taken off, or her scalp torn off, destroying her beauty for the rest of her life. We see these effects daily among our young people in our industrial towns. I have seen some tremendous tragedies in our family circles in connection with accidents in our mills. The question of fire escapes is mentioned in the Report. I know that the Factory Acts were altered many years ago, and it was laid down that there should be fire escapes in mills employing, I think, more than 40 persons, but some of the small, ramshackle places do not employ 40 persons, and it is they that are the death-traps. There has been, I admit, a great improvement, because of the state of public opinion and the pressure of our trade unions upon this question of fire escapes, but it seems to me that much more should be done.
I want to make a suggestion to the Home Office. I know that they have been trying to humanise factory inspection during the past 10 years. They have held conferences with the industrial councils of employers and employed to see whether certain reforms could be or should be carried out. We have had conferences in connection with weight-lifting and, at the instigation of the Home Office, through the industrial council, we have arrived at an agreement that certain young persons shall not lift the tremendous weights that they have been lifting, leading to severe injuries. That is the right thing to do, but I suggest that they might go even a step further, and that some of the proposals which were foreshadowed before the Safety Committee should be put into operation, such as elected committees in every mill and workshop of any substantial size, and a monthly inspection of all such establishments by qualified persons appointed by the Committee, to see, for instance, whether there is room through the loom gate or round the end of the loom, to avoid what happened a few weeks ago, when a girl was weaving in a loom and the employers put in a new door, through which this poor girl caught a draught from the effects of which she was dying. Had there been such a committee of inspection, common sense would have shown them that a door causing such a draught should not have been put in. In the pits there is a 1642 monthly inspection, and although, of course, the pits are more dangerous, there is still a great deal that requires looking after in regard to safety in our mills.
If we can save a life or a limb by reasonable inspection, I think it ought to be done more thoroughly than it is now. In some of our mills, for instance, the staircases are a disgrace to the firms who own them. There are thick lumps of greasy matter on the stairs, and when a man or a woman has to carry a heavy load up or down they are in great danger of slipping, especially on a day like this, when the grease melts on account of the heat, and they may break a limb or injure themselves in some other way. Those staircases ought to have the attention of the inspectors. It is, perhaps, only a small patch of grease on a faulty step; but it is there. We want safety in our workshops, for there is no satisfactory compensation for the loss of a limb. Some time ago, an enormous change was going to be made in regard to dining and rest rooms in our various industrial concerns. It was foreshadowed years ago, but that expensive economist, Sir Eric Geddes, suggested cutting down expenditure, or stopping increased expenditure, and the result has been that none of these useful things have been done. I have had to eat my breakfast and dinner among a lot of machinery. We were used to it then, but this is the 20th century, and 19th-century ideals are not sufficient as regards this question of taking meals among the machinery, with all the dirt and dust in a milling or dyeing place. There should be a dining place in all mills. Many employers have established dining and rest rooms, but the Home Secretary ought to prod the large number of people who do not do these things by making Regulations in that direction.
I want to compliment the Home Office on one thing, and that is that they are maintaining the anthrax station at Liverpool. Anthrax has changed in its incidence considerably in my life-time. Forty-five years ago, anthrax usually occurred in the worsted trade of Bradford and the surrounding district. It was generally found in the wool-sorting department. Then it came into the wool-combing department, and the Home Office made Rules and Regulations, the effect of which was to check that terrible disease. Then it transferred itself, or, at least, 1643 it showed itself, in the East India wool section, and in the blanket department at Dewsbury and the rug department at Heckmondwike. Where East India wools have been used, there have been far too many cases of anthrax during the past 10 years. I want to see the Home Office a little more active in this matter, so that some of the Rules and Regulations that apply to the wool-combing and wool-sorting departments in the worsted trade may apply to that part of the trade in which East India wools are used. At the Industrial Council last week a resolution was agreed to by both sides and sent to the Home Office expressing the hope that the Liverpool station would be allowed to go on, and I hope that the suggestions made at Geneva will not be checked because of the question of expenditure.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. A. Greenwood) mentioned a very important and pressing question in connection with the 48-hour week. We have had it by agreement. It came in consequence of a request made by the employees to the employers. It was given in times of good trade and after professions of good will and fraternity between all classes, but there are here and there an odd employer or two who represent the bad man of the family, who occurs in all families and in all circumstances and all grades of society. For the sake of the good employer, who wants to observe the 48-hour week, and for the sake of our name as the nation, which pledged itself at Washington in 1919, it does seem to me that this 48-hour week ought to be given Statutory force. My last few words are on a quite different subject. Most of the people who get into prisons come from my own working class, and it is not because they are born criminals but because they are being driven there. I suggest that, although the name "House of Correction," given when the prisons were established, was the right one then, our prisons now ought to be moral sanatoria.
The hon. Member is not in order in referring to prisons on this Vote. There is a special Vote dealing with prisons, and he should make his remarks in regard to prisons on that Vote.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH - BENTINCK
On a point of Order. Are we not now 1644 discussing the salary of the Home secretary, and is it not possible to discuss all the activities of the Home Office under that head?
No. It is permissible to discuss any question over which the Home Secretary has powers on this Vote, except those questions like prisons and police, for which there are separate Votes.
§ Mr. TURNER
I will not enlarge upon it, except to say that, as the Home Secretary is the custodian of the prisons, I was led to believe that I could refer to them on this Vote. I agree that it is largely the question of factory inspection that we are discussing, but the Home Secretary has had a bad job since he came into office, in having to hang people by deputy, and I wanted simply to mention that hanging does not do anyone any good, and that a prison should not be the place where hanging takes place.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. TURNER
All right, I will give in, and will simply say to the Home Secretary that I want him to be as alert as he possibly can in increasing factory inspection for the purpose of saving as many limbs as possible, especially in the case of our women and children; and, in addition, to maintain the great name that this country has had for always keeping its bargains, or trying to do so, with other nations. This nation has not kept its bargain on the 48-hour working week. In my young days we sang the song,Eight hours' work, eight hours' play,Eight hours' sleep, and eight bob a day.This question of the 8-hours' days is long overdue. Peel, in this House in 1832, said there ought to be an 8-hours' day for children and adults, and, God knows, in these sweltering days, it is two hours too long.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
I am afraid I cannot claim to discuss this subject with the same intimate technical knowledge as the two hon. Members who have just spoken, but I have taken an interest in this question for a great many years, and I hope the Home Secretary will not take it amiss if I associate myself most heartily with what has fallen from my hon. Friends opposite, and draw his 1645 attention to the utter inadequacy of the factory inspectorate of this country. I think it is high time he gave it his consideration. It is, to my mind, a deplorably penny-wise, pound foolish policy. What you are saving in your factory inspectors' salaries you are losing in damage to the community and in the waste of the life of the nation. As my hon. Friend who moved this reduction said, the inadequacy of the inspectorate is patent and manifest. During the War there was no increase at all, and at the end of the War, though there was a great increase in the number of factories and workshops, there was no increase, but rather a reduction in the inspectorate, and now the factory inspectorate staff, I believe, is only 205 for 280,000 factories and workshops. That is to say, each inspector every year has to inspect 1,400 factories and workshops, which is an utterly impossible and a ridiculous job. The Home Office, very rightly, brought out several codes of Regulations dealing with dangerous trades, and I do suggest to my right hon. Friend that these Regulations must be, to a very large extent, a farce, if your inspectorate is so utterly inadequate as it is at the present moment.
I am quite willing to allow the Home Office a good mark for having increased the technical inspectorate, and I am quite willing to agree as to the usefulness of the Safety First movement. But, after all, that Safety First movement can only save accidents through sheer carelessness on the part of the workers. The only safeguard to the workers is the constant pressure of the inspectorate. If you want confirmation of what I have been saying, you have only got to turn to the Factory Inspector's Report, and almost on every page of that Report you will see allusion to endless and unnecessary-accidents and unnecessary ill-health caused to the workers by the inadequacy of the inspectorate. I hope my right hon. Friend will not imagine for a moment I am making any charge against the officials of the Home Office. I know full well their earnestness and activity, and my only feeling towards them is one of sympathy that they have to perform the hopeless task of seeing a code of Regulations properly administered when those officials are so small in number. On almost every page of this inspector's Report you will see allusions to needless 1646 accidents. Take, for instance, the accidents that occur in laundries. There were eight accidents in 1921 in connection with what are called hydro extractors. The Inspector's Report says that certain accidents could have been avoided if an automatic cover had been fixed. Why, was it not fixed? I take it the constant pressure of the inspectorate was not there to see it was fixed.
One looks under the head of Rubber Mixing Rolls. There were 56 accidents in three years, and the Report says they could have been avoided if the safeguards had been adequate. In connection with metal working power presses, there were 262 accidents which, according to the Report, were caused because no guards were fitted, or the guards were inefficient. Again, in connection with brick works there were large numbers of accidents because the fencing was inadequate, and also because the lighting in many instances was bad. May I, in this connection, ask my right hon. Friend what he proposes to do to carry out the Report of the Lighting Committee? The Lighting Committee say they are greatly impressed with the number of accidents caused by inadequate lighting, not only on ships in docks, but also all over our industrial sphere, and it is high time something was done. Under the heading of Bakers' Machinery, there were serious accidents in connection with dough mixers and dough brakes, the lack of efficient safeguards. There were 1,812 accidents in connection with cranes. I saw only the other day two instances of cranes crashing down in the London area. Why did they crash down? I think it was because the inspection was inadequate. Defects ought to be found out before there is this terrible threat to life and limb of working people. Then the Factory Inspector's Report alludes to hoists. He says the standard of safety in hoists is far too low, and that there are a great many accidents owing to there being many of an old and primitive type.
So much for accidents. I would now like to allude to the question of lead poisoning. There has been an alarming increase in connection with lead-poisoning cases in the manufacture of electric accumulators. In spite of most stringent Regulations, those cases of lead poisoning are on the increase. There were 35 in 1921, 31 in 1922, and from January to 1647 May of this year there were no less than 24; so that we may take it that lead poisoning is on the increase in connection with electric accumulators. Again, in the pottery trade there is an increase in lead poisoning. Why is that? According to the Factory Inspector's Report, the Regulations are very largely disregarded. Owing to the inadequacy of the Factory Inspector's staff, a slack tone has crept into this industry—an industry where the strictest Regulations and the strictest attention to those Regulations is necessary. The Report actually gives instances of new works being erected with entire disregard of the Regulations.
I want also to ask my right hon. Friend what he intends to do to decrease the rate of deaths and ill-health in the house-painting trade. Before the War there was a deplorable amount of ill-health and a deplorable number of casualties owing to lead poisoning in the house-painting trade. During the War the amount of ill-health, of course, decreased enormously, but that was entirely due to the fact that lead was not procurable. Now it is procurable you will find, if you turn to the figures, that the amount of ill-health is steadily increasing. There is really no obstacle to dealing with this question effectively. The use of lead in this connection has been condemned by two Committees. It has also been condemned by a Congress at Geneva of the International Labour Movement, and I believe the house painters of this country are quite agreed that something should be done. The only persons, I believe, who stand out against legislation are those who are interested in the manufacture of lead, but I do suggest that a Government like this should not allow the opposition of a small section of people to stand in the way of a great improvement in the health of the people employed in the house-painting trade.
I desired to raise a question with regard to certain necessary reforms in our prison administration, but I understand that it would not be in order on this Vote. In conclusion, therefore, I wish to assure my right hon. Friend that I do not criticise his administration for the sake of criticising. I only rise to urge that, in the interest of humanity, and in the interest of economy, it is necessary to be more active and vigorous in defence of the 1648 health and the welfare of the workers who are employed in our industrial system. For every pound that you spend in the salaries of inspectors, you will decrease by thousands the amount which the community has to spend in other ways. I do want to instil into my right hon. Friend and the Government generally a faith in what human sympathy and intelligent action can do to improve the conditions of the people of this country. I do not think this House or the Government ought to allow that it is in the necessary scheme of things that workers should have to suffer these adverse conditions, or that it is in the scheme of things that any category of workers, whether land workers or coal miners, should be paid less than a living wage. I do ask my right hon. Friend to adhere to the traditional policy of the Conservative party, that is, to safeguard the health and welfare of the people, and I, for one, although I hope I am a loyal Member of his party, will take every opportunity of protesting where I consider it, is necessary.
We are going to have a Debate on Monday on Socialism and private enterprise. I dare say we may have many eloquent speeches, but eloquent speeches in defence of the industrial and social system of the country and the institution of private enterprise will really be of very little effect. What will be of effect in defence of the institutions of this country is to make them consistent with the welfare and happiness and the aspirations of the workers, and if you abandon that policy your industrial and your capitalistic system are as good as dead.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson)
The Home Secretary, who has left the House for a few moments, has asked me during his absence to reply to the point about white lead. The Home Office has taken a very great interest in this question of the lead used in paint. A conference was held at Geneva in 1921, which came to certain agreements which may be shortly summarised under four heads. They first of all agreed that no lead in the future should be used for the internal painting of houses, with the exception of large industrial buildings, and they agreed that henceforth no woman or young person under 18 should be employed in using this poisonous 1649 material. Both those will come into operation not later than 1st January, 1927. They also agreed that certain strict Regulations should be issued in regard to all paint, whether inside or outside, where lead was used, and they agreed that very full statistics should be kept of all lead poisoning cases. Then there was a Committee that investigated the whole question in 1922, and they agreed that legislation ought to be introduced as soon as possible to carry into effect what had been agreed upon at Geneva. This question really is not quite so easy as some people might think it is. A good many hon. Members think that the Convention of 1921 at Geneva ought to be ratified. As a matter of fact, the present Minister of Labour was present at Geneva, and he agreed to the terms of the agreement, but unfortunately since that date a certain misunderstanding has arisen about one of the principal agreements under the Convention—the employment of young people under 18 and the employment of women for industrial purposes. Apparently a good many of the members at Geneva were under the impression that that Article referred only to the painting of houses. Other members declared they believed it referred to the whole of industrial painting, whether in regard to houses or not. Until that point has been cleared up satisfactorily, it is rather difficult for this country to agree to the ratification of the Convention.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I hope it will not take any very long time. Secondly, since the Geneva Convention sat, a good deal of new information has come to light. I understand a new process involving the use of wet sandpaper has been invented by means of which the old dangers arising out of dry rubbing down can be prevented. Some people say if you use this wet sandpaper the dust is turned into a wet paste which clings to the hands and is almost as dangerous as the dry rubbing down process. I think it is absolutely essential that further experiments should be made with this new material until a definite decision is come to. At present the Home Office is engaged in receiving deputations on this question. I was deputed by the Home Secretary to receive these deputations and I have already had a deputation from the operatives concerned, and the operatives are in favour of the Conven- 1650 tion being carried out. I have also had a deputation and a very long interview with the master painters, and they too are in favour of this Convention being carried out, but neither of them was able to give any opinion in regard to this new wet sandpaper process. I have yet to see the manufacturers of this white lead paint. It is rather difficult to come to any decision until one has met all these deputations and until the views of all interested parties have been placed before the Home Office, but the Home Office take a very deep interest in the question. They are deeply concerned with the safety of the people who are engaged in this trade and they certainly will not leave any stone unturned to get to the root of the matter and to do what is best for those concerned.
§ Mr. BRIANT
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has been the recipient of many compliments during the time he has occupied him office. May I have the pleasant task of at once congratulating at least on one or two appointments he has made since he accepted office? It would be almost impossible to find two better selections than that of Miss Arbuthnot as Governor of the Aylesbury Borstal Institution for girls, and that of Mr. Alexander Patterson as a Commissioner of Prisons." They mark an enormous advance, shall I say, in the policy of the Home Office. I only hope the right hon. Gentleman will follow it up in the direction of appointing women governors and deputy-governors and women medical officers and women commissioners of police.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
On a point of Order. May I call your attention to the fact that the hon. Member is now talking on the question of police? Why is he allowed to do so when we were forbidden?
I did not hear the hon. Member at the moment. If he was in the Committee he will remember the ruling I gave on the point a few moments ago.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
Are we not discussing the salary of the Home Secretary and is not the widest discussion allowed?
We are discussing the Vote which contains the salary of the Home Secretary, and every subject which comes under the Home 1651 Office can be discussed on it with the exception of those items on which there is a special Vote. For two of these items, Police and Prisons, which are the next two on the Paper, special Votes are provided, and it will be out of order on this Vote to discuss them.
§ Mr. BRIANT
I was only saying that as a preliminary to some criticism which I have to make, and I thought I might soften it. I entirely agree with what has been said in regard to factory inspection and better protection for the worker, but I want to call attention to the necessity for the protection of children who are helpless and have not the partial protection that the workman has. I am extremely anxious that the Home Secretary shall consider whether it is not time he should issue some form of circular to the magistrates' and other courts calling attention to the comparatively small penalties inflicted for what seem to me to be the most terrible, loathsome offences that are known. I am fully aware that the subject on which I want to speak is one which most people naturally avoid and evade, but it is no use evading the facts that exist. It is quite time the public and this House should face the facts, however loathsome. If they are horrible to hear, they are still more horrible to endure, and at the risk of offending the sensitiveness of any hon. Member, I want to point out what is occurring now as an additional reason why the Home Secretary should exert his great interest in endeavouring to have a more full comprehension of the terrible nature of the assaults which are continuing every day. In the case of assaults on children, a police court can only inflict a penalty of six months. I suggest that it is most desirable that all these cases should be sent to the Sessions, where a heavier penalty can be inflicted. But my chief grievance is that the courts of magistrates, who have power to inflict at least six months, will not do so, and they impose penalties which would be ridiculous if they were not tragic in their leniency for the most horrible offences. I want to give the House some definite cases. I am not a sentimentalist. For better or worse, my life has been spent in a certain way in which I happen to know some of the depths of wickedness, and I want to make certain definite statements.
1652 In a case of indecent assault on a child of nine the penalty was four months' imprisonment. About the same time a man received five months' imprisonment for stealing a Pekingese dog. In another case of assault on a child of six there was a sentence of one month's imprisonment, in another on a child of seven, in which the man who was convicted gave as a reason that the child had given him any amount of encouragement, the total penalty was a fine of £3. It is a ridiculous punishment for a most serious offence. There are worse cases than these. There is a case of a child of seven in which the man was only bound over. In another case, in which the child is or was about to become a mother, the sentence was one week's imprisonment. Can you wonder that people are beginning to think that property is much more honoured and respected than persons? The House would be full of excited Members if there was an attack on the price of beer instead of attacks on innocent children not old enough to know evil from good, the victims of assault of the most atrocious and horrible character. I know these facts are not pleasant, but the House and the outside public should know the facts in order that public opinion may be roused, and that there may be an attempt, at least, to make the Courts do all that they possibly can, by pressure being brought upon the magistrates, to deal with this class of man more severely, and to give him the extreme penalty. There is a case which has been under my own observation of a child of 12 which is losing its sight through communicated venereal disease. We are very indignant about our small grievances. If our train service is bad we write letters to the "Times" about it, but few people ever raise their voices for the sake of these children, who are being practically murdered, body and soul. These outrages are going on more than people know. Some of the assaults are almost too horrible to relate. I have not exaggerated in anything I have said.
I do not wish the punishment to be vindictive, but if it be true that some of these men are abnormal, and probably it is true, then that is all the more reason why children should not be subject to their assaults, and all the more reason that whenever there is a chance of segregating these men, it should be taken advantage of by the magistrate or the 1653 judges. Many of these men are probably the victims of some kind of delusion. It may be that they are mental defectives, but the danger is so great that when the law has an opportunity of protecting children from such persons the opportunity should be taken. This House consists almost entirely of men, but it should not allow this question to be, as it has been in the past, a woman's question. It is my sex that is responsible, and all the more shame to my sex that the money that is required to save these poor children's lives has to be largely appealed for to women.
The Home Secretary is as tenderhearted as I am, or as any other Member of the House, and knowing the facts, as I hope he knows them, I trust he will take action. If he does not know the facts, I hope he will study them. I speak with confidence when I say that he will use his influence to stir up the laggard magistrates, and to make them feel that a magistrate who passes a penalty of a £5 fine for this atrocious and loathsome offence, and then sends a man to prison for stealing a pound of apples, is guilty of a travesty of law and justice. It is time that our courts should be cleansed of men who have so little appreciation of what is just, right and wrong. I appeal to the Home Secretary to consider whether by circular or otherwise he could not make the magistrates feel their responsibility in this matter, so that it may not be a lasting shame, as it is, to our manhood, that children should be sent out into the world with ruined bodies, and one might almost say with shattered souls.
§ Mr. ROBERT JONES
I want to plead with the Home Secretary to deal with an injustice from which we suffer in Wales, and that is, that we are debarred by the law from taking the oath in the courts of justice in our own language. In many instances this has been allowed, but lately we have had legal opinion expressed that we have not the right to do it, and it has been made perfectly clear that we were only allowed to take the oath in our own language in our own country on sufferance. We are not a nation which has ever asked for favours, and we are not keen on accepting them, but we are very keen on our rights, and we are ready to fight for our rights when necessary. The Principality is the only part of the United Kingdom where the commercialism and industrialism of the age has 1654 not been allowed to destroy our language, or to destroy our native culture. Every person who so desires should have the right to take the oath in a court of justice in his own language. I have reason to expect sympathy from the Home Secretary. He is not a Welshman, but his ancestors have always lived on the borders—tribal people who flourished in raiding both sides. His ancestors knew by experience what it was to oppose the just claims—
Would the alteration suggested by the hon. Member need legislation? In that case, it would be out of order on this particular Vote.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. Bridgeman)
I am not sure whether it would need legislation, but I think it is possible to meet the wishes of hon. Gentleman opposite, representing Wales, without legislation, and I should be glad to do so, if I can. Perhaps it would not be out of order to refer to any improvement that could be effected which does not need legislation.
§ Mr. HASTINGS
Surely, a Welshman can take the oath in Wales in his own language. A Chinaman comes into this country and he can take the oath in Chinese, and, if necessary, it is interpreted. There is no need for legislation so that a Welshman can take the oath in Welsh.
§ Mr. JONES
There are over 2,000,000 people in Wales, and of that number 1,000,000 are Welsh speaking. One-fifth know no other language. It is on behalf of the Welsh population that I am putting forward my plea. I do not ask 1655 for it as a sop to sentiment, but I ask for it as a right of the Welsh nation for a full recognition of its own language within the confines of its own country. Surely, such a case should appeal to any fair-minded person without the need of elaboration.
I want to add a word to the excellent speech made by the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant) on the question of assaults on children. It is one of those things which makes one either see red or weep tears of blood. There is nothing in the world more tragic than these cases of child assault. If anything is liable to rouse what one might call class consciousness it is the fact that a man can get six months for stealing a Pekingese, and another man should only get six months for assaulting a child. I am not blaming any section of the community, but I am blaming the public conscience. I remember years ago the late Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth was made an ardent supporter of women's suffrage by a case of child assault. A man was brought up for a most horrible and ghastly assault on a little girl of seven, and another man was brought up for stealing. The man for stealing got two years' imprisonment, and the man for the child assault got six weeks, and the judge remarked "This is the kind of thing that might happen to any man." That made an ardent women's suffragist of the late Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth.
I know how uncomfortable it is for men and women to speak of these things, and I know what any mother would feel and what any father would feel. I believe the fathers feel it even more intensely than the mothers. They would feel that they would far rather their children were murdered outright than be ruined morally and physically by these ghastly assaults. The most of the girls who do wrong, certainly an enormous percentage of them, are girls who have been assaulted by men when they were children. That is a very serious thing. It has a psychological effect on the child's mind. That is proved by every social worker. Some people say that the man is not a criminal. If he is a criminal, he ought to be put into prison, and if he is abnormal he should be treated as abnormal. I implore the Home Secretary to do all that he 1656 can to change the law which deals so lightly with the very worst sort of crime.
In dealing with girls who become prostitutes, one often hears the remark made that the woman led the man on. That may be true in some cases, but nobody can say that a little girl of seven, eight, nine or 10 could lead a man on. I hope the Home Secretary will give his sympathetic attention to this matter. If he went into these cases he would feel as every right-minded man and woman in this House and outside it must feel. As the hon. Member for North Lambeth has said, this is not a woman's question; it is a man's question, because it is the abnormal and degenerate men who are responsible. I ask the Home Secretary to look into this matter and act. If he would act quickly and strongly he would have the whole of the awakened public conscience behind him. A conscience that is asleep does not matter in any country.
§ Mrs. WINTRINGHAM
I wish to support all that was said by the hon. Member for North Lambeth (Mr. Briant) and the Noble Lady the Member for the Sutton Division (Viscountess Astor) in regard to the question of child assault. It is because we care greatly for these things that we dare to raise our voices on such an unpleasant subject. It is not a very easy thing to do. The House is sympathetic towards the subject we are discussing. I was particularly struck when the hon. Member for Bosworth (Major Paget) brought in a Bill a few days ago requesting that offences of this kind should be punished, though in a way that some of us perhaps did not agree with. At any rate, there was a feeling throughout the House that this class of offender should be very severely punished. The present administration for dealing with these cases has been suggested as inadequate. The procedure is that the offender is charged and he is convicted and sent to prison. Afterwards he is allowed to come out of prison. I want to go a step further. I do not want to say that the Judges or those who give the sentences must make the sentence longer, but I want to deal with these men in rather a different manner. When they leave the prison they are a very serious harm to the public, because generally there is a repetition of the offence.
1657 These men are degenerate in every sense of the word, but if it cannot be proved that they were mentally deficient at the age of three they cannot be classified under the Mental Deficiency Act as being mentally deficient. I heard the other day of a man of 63 who for 40 years had lived a life of continually committing these offences, being repeatedly sent to prison, and released, and then committing the offence again. He had done that continuously for 40 years. That man ought to be looked upon as a mental degenerate and treated as such. There is so often lack of evidence in these cases, and the Court fails to convict through lack of evidence. I have known of a case in my own town two miles from where I live. A little girl was assaulted. After some pressure the mother was persuaded to let the case go into Court. The evidence was outstanding, and there was no question as to the man who had committed the offence. As the trial went on the little child was rather overcome. She was a child of only seven. She could not answer all the questions properly and finally broke down. The consequence was that that man was allowed to go scot free and is now committing similar offences and has had no punishment whatever.
We have to think of the harm that this is to the girls themselves. We feel as was suggested by the hon. Member for Lambeth the shock to them, the memories which they retain all through their lives, their appearance in Court, their difficulty in answering questions on these delicate matters, and again, their impressions when they have to be taken to various homes for treatment. I have been looking into the question of these homes and find that there is not anything like the accommodation which is necessary for these girls. At present there are four in England, and we could well do with 50, unfortunately, to take charge of all the girls who are so afflicted, and who recover very slowly if they recover at all. Then there is always a stigma attaching to the child. There is the case of a child in my own town whose mother regrets that she ever sent the child to a home as the neighbours jeer at it now and that child is a marked child. There are many of these cases, in which there are no convictions owing to the difficulties in connection with the matter.
1658 Some people think that all criminals are insane or mentally deficient or victims of heredity or alcohol or environment, but in this matter we want to deal with those who are, to my mind, mentally deficient. I would ask the Home Secretary if he could consider the appointment of a Committee to look into this question of child assault, both with regard to the children and with regard to the offenders. If he would appoint a Committee consisting of medical men and representative women and lawyers who have knowledge of crime that could inquire into this question with a view to setting up machinery, such as that which is working with such extraordinary success (although it is only in its early stages), in Birmingham and in Essex, which would bring about the examination from the psychological and scientific point of view of men who commit these offences. Such machinery with proper medical inspection would give us more scientific knowledge than we have at present and would lead to the treating of these men as moral degenerates rather than as ordinary persons.
One does want the appointment on the Benches of more women magistrates to deal with this question. If I mentioned the question of women police I should be called to order, but that will come on later. But one does feel that it is a very important point in reference to dealing with cases of assault on children, because they have capacity to question these children in a manner which makes them not afraid to state any evidence, and which does not give them a lasting impression of the horrible things through which they have gone. These two classes of women would follow up these cases with great advantage. We should have more women police and more women magistrates. I trust that the Home Secretary will exercise his power in this direction by setting up a Committee with the object of providing machinery such as that which is working so excellently in Birmingham and Essex.
§ Mr. HINDS
The last two speakers have referred to the question of child assault, and I would like that something should be done to deal with this matter. From my experience, I believe that these cases are dealt with quite justly and sympathetically by all the benches with which I have come in contact. I desire, however, to confirm what was said in 1659 reference to taking the oath in Court in the Welsh language. I have never seen myself that there has been any trouble at any time in getting the evidence of any man or woman interpreted or having an interpreter there to do this work. I think that chairmen of Quarter Sessions and judges are always quite ready when a witness wants to give evidence in his own language to see that he is enabled to do so. I have nothing to say against the two magistrates who have been referred to, but we could do far better with men who understand the language. We have some other grievances against the Home Office at the present time. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman wants to be fair. We are not an alien country. We are the oldest part of this great Empire. Our language is the oldest almost in the world, and it ought to be respected to that extent.
There is another grievance. I have been asking question with regard to the appointment of an ex-Member of this House, for whom we all have a great respect, Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen. He was an honoured Member of this House, and I wish that he was here at present, but the Welsh people do object to the Home Office putting him into the position of Chairman of the Welsh Church Commission. He was a valiant fighter, as some of us remember, on the Floor of the House for the Church, and from his own point of view he was justified. I remember him complaining very bitterly of £1,500 being given to the Chairman of the Commission. When the Commission was set up, the Church felt that there should be one churchman among the three who were appointed, and that one was appointed, and the other two were to be quite independent. To-day you have three churchmen, and when there is a vacancy instead of appointing someone else, another churchman is appointed. I do not say that Sir Arthur Griffith-Boscawen has not got all the qualifications, but there is among the Welsh people a feeling that, after fighting in the way in which he has been fighting in this matter of the Welsh Church, and having had so much to do with the Welsh Church Act, he cannot be as independent as another person, for instance, of the type of Sir William Plender. We do feel that there is something of the job about this appointment, 1660 and we object to it. The Home Office should have appointed a man whose hands were clean in the matter, and not one who has taken the part which Sir Arthur Boscawen took in the past on this question of the Welsh Church. The property with which he is dealing belongs to the Welsh County Councils and the University of Wales. The Commissioners wield great power, and we ought to have a man who, we feel, would be independent of all sections, so that we might feel confident that justice would be done to the Welsh people and to the Welsh Church as well.
I desire also to refer to the question of the chaplaincy in one of the Welsh prisons about which I asked a question the other day. We say, that as there are no Nonconformists now in Wales, this position ought to be open to all ministers, including Nonconformists, as they were before, Baptist, Wesleyans, and so on. The present Home Secretary does not concede that. I think that his strong point is, that the prison population belongs to the Church of England, and I consider that that is a great compliment to the Nonconformists, but we are fighting for fair play, and I think that the Home Secretary is willing to give fair play, and I would ask him to give full consideration to these points, upon which we, as Welsh people, feel that there is some injustice. I would also ask the right hon. Gentleman what is going to be done with regard to the empty prisons. We have got them up and down the country. We have got one in my own town, Carmarthen, near the railway station. We would like that some means should be found of turning them to some useful purpose for the good of the people. They might be adapted for use by the Boy Scouts, or for some other useful purpose. They are no use at present. If there is any use to which they can be put, why does not the right hon. Gentleman sanction their use in some way or other. We Welsh Members do not trouble the House very often, but we have these pin pricks of grievances, as to which we feel that we have not got the justice to which we are entitled.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
I desire to press on the attention of the right hon. Gentleman a matter which was referred to earlier in the Debate. That is the question of the inspection of factories. 1661 There seems to be general agreement as to the urgent need for the Home Secretary to strengthen his staff which has to do with the inspection of factories. The Noble Lord the Member for Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) and the hon. Member for Batley (Mr. Turner) have dealt specially with the point. I wish to urge specially the importance of it by bringing to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman a case which seems to be indicative of the situation in many parts of the country. This is the case which was taken up by the Public Prosecutor acting, I suppose, on the instructions of the right hon. Gentleman. The defendants were John Walker and Emma Biggins, proprietors of premises known as the Select Works, 190, Rockingham Street, Sheffield. I will not go into all the details, but this is the kind of thing. They had premises 130 feet by 60 feet let to 39 tenants for a very substantial rent, and those tenants employed on the premises between 120 and 136 persons, mostly women or female young persons. The Inspector reported that the place was in a dangerous condition, with four or five different floors, absolutely rotton, in spite of the fact that there was very heavy machinery there, with the shafting and pulleys going up to the top floor.
In one case the wall of the premises was out of plumb to the extent of 6 inches. When one realises that in premises like those you have practically all women labour employed and also have the use of xylonite, a very inflammable and dangerous material, one can appreciate the great need for increased inspection. The point I want particularly to draw attention to is this: During the taking of the evidence the magistrate put the question, "Has the defendant been in Court before in respect of this property?" The reply was, "Not in respect of this particular property, but he has been in this Court several times in respect of other premises." That seemed to show that it is quite a common state of affairs. In dealing with the evidence, the presiding magistrate made the remark, "There are a great many places of this kind requiring attention." From his evidence the inspector in the case seemed to be a very highly efficient officer. He said that he had done a great deal in reporting to the 1662 Home Office the very serious state of affairs, and the imminent danger to human life that existed in regard to these premises, but he had been unable to get anything done. Those were the facts. What happened? The people were given a month to start some work of repair in order to put the premises right, whereas counsel appearing on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions said in his opening statement that the only way to cure the place was to blow it up.
That is the kind of thing which, apparently, is to be allowed to go on in the industrial conditions of hundreds and thousands of the workers of the country. I am aware that there are other employers who are quite the reverse—employers who make every effort to see that their work-people are housed and employed under conditions that do not cause imminent danger to life and limb but are as conducive as possible to health. I would, however, urge upon the Home Secretary that when we are having cases of this sort brought to our notice, with such a condition of affairs existing in many cases, the Home Office is not a Department in which there should be any great cry for economy. It is of enormous importance to the industrial workers, and especially to the women and children workers, that there should be a far larger staff of the technical kind. It is impossible, as has been said, for the present staff to visit once a year all the factories concerned. I hope that in his reply the Home Secretary may be able to indicate that the Government is prepared to grant such a sum as will ensure a larger inspectorate, so as to avoid these dangers.
I wish to congratulate the hon. Member for Carnarvon (Mr. R. Jones) on the admirable way in which, in a maiden speech, he urged the need of having the oath administered in Welsh, if desired, in the law courts not only of North Wales, but of South Wales. Very often we are told that in South Wales we are more Anglicised and more cosmopolitan than in North Wales. Representations have been made to the Home Secretary that it is desirable that he should meet the very moderate and reasonable request which has been made. We have found from time to time a great deal of difficulty raised as to administering the oath in the Welsh language. There is another 1663 Matter—the appointment of Stipendiary Magistrates for Wales—to a certain stage I endorse the remarks made with respect to the appointment of Welsh-speaking stipendiaries in Cardiff and Swansea. I know that I shall be told that both these appointments have received the approval of the Corporations affected. There were gentlemen available who had a greater knowledge of the language than those who were appointed. I shall not say anything with respect to the appointment to the Swansea district. The gentleman appointed there has a thorough knowledge and some slight ability to deal with the Welsh language. But in the other case I do not think that that can be said.
In the Cardiff Courts there have been Welsh men who have not been able to follow the language, and to the discredit of Cardiff nobody has been provided, though applications have been made. On one occasion I was used as an interpreter because there was no one else able to carry out the duties officially. Even in Cardiff, cosmopolitan as it is, there is a very large number of Welshmen who require the services of an interpreter and who ask that the oath shall be administered in the Welsh language. Cardiff provides for all aliens, but not for the Welsh. That is the irregular and unreasonable part of it. It provides for the Arabs and Hindus and Chinese, but does not provide for the Welsh, and that is in a city which claims to be the capital of Wales.
I will agree, but Cardiff does not provide officially for the administering of the oath in Welsh. We ask that that omission shall now be rectified. Fortunately, in the industrial district we have had a County Court judge appointed recently who is a thorough Welshman, and on several occasions he has conducted the whole of the business in Court in the Welsh language. With regard to the administering of the oath, there are, I 1664 believe, Welshmen on the magistrate's list even in Cardiff who, if they were asked, could do the necessary work. When a request is made for the oath in Welsh the reply invariably made by the sitting magistrates is that they have not the official form of the Welsh oath to be administered. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give us it.
It is very simple and easy, and is as follows:Yr ydwyf yn tynghedu fad y dystiolaeth a rhoddaf i gynwys y 'Gwir,' yr holl 'Wir,' a dim ond y 'Gwir,' fel yr atebaf i Dduw.[Cheers.] That is the Language of Eden.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Mr. James Hope)
I hope that the hon. and gallant Gentleman will supply a certified translation to the Official Reporter.
§ Captain W. BENN
Has it not been laid down by the Chair more than once that the Debates in this House must be conducted in the English language?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That is so, but occasionally even the Chairman has been, I will not say guilty of, but has been known to use, quotations in another and perhaps a classical language, and, therefore, I do not think that the hon. Member's quotation is out of order. I was rather thinking of the difficulties of the Official Reporter.
The translation is simple enough. It is this:The evidence I shall give to this Court shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.All the difficulty has been caused hitherto because it has been said that the form of the Welsh oath has not been officially approved and registered. There should, however, be no difficulty in meeting a very reasonable and moderate request.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The hon. Member who moved the reduction of the Vote seemed rather disappointed that I had not made a long statement about the work of the Home Office at the beginning of the afternoon. I think it is far more useful, in a Debate on Estimates of this kind, to hear first the views of Members of the House, so that one can know the subjects which interest them, than to take up a great deal of time with matters that the Minister in charge thinks are a good advertisement for his term of office. I decided, therefore, that as much time as possible should be given this afternoon 1665 to hearing what was said, and to ascertaining what useful suggestions could be made for the better working of the office over which I have the honour to preside. Perhaps I might begin with the great national question of the Welsh Oath and the other national points which have been raised by hon. Members from Wales. I think there is some misapprehension in the criticism of the appointment of Sir Arthur Boscawen to be Chairman of the Welsh Church Commission. It was said in the course of the Debates on the Welsh Church Act that it was stipulated that only one of these members must be a Churchman. I remember those Debates very well indeed, and I was looking them up the other day, and I think if is quite clear that it was in contemplation by many Members of the House, if not of a majority, and, I think, also of Mr. McKenna, who was in charge of the Bill, that all three would be Churchmen. Mr. McKenna said he thought it would be in their interest to have some Churchman to accept office until the Bill was absolutely through—
§ Mr. HINDS
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to be unfair, but I have read those Debates right through, and I have arrived at a different conclusion from the right hon. Gentleman. I cannot find that there was any such understanding as he mentions. I think the assumption was that there should be one Churchman, but that all three should be independent, and I contend this appointment is a breach of the spirit of those Debates.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
That is where the hon. Member and I differ. I listened to those Debates and took some part in them, but apparently he and I have formed different ideas as to what was said, and it may be that we have taken the words of different speakers which happened to meet our own wishes. At any rate, the Act says that one must be a Churchman, but it does not say that the others may not be Churchmen, and therefore there is nothing at all wrong in appointing a man who belongs to the Church of England and who succeeds an other gentleman who was, I think, also a member of the Church of England. As to Sir Arthur Boscawen's part in the Debates being prejudicial to his work in that position, I feel quite certain he has much too great a sense of fairness to 1666 allow any consideration or party prejudice to bias his judgment in the work he will have to do. He has the advantage of knowing a great deal about the subject, and he should also be welcomed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, being, I believe, himself Welsh.
Reference was made to the question of the use of vacant prisons in Carnarvon and elsewhere, and it is very satisfactory that such a question should arise at all. I have been asked if we cannot put them to some other use, and we should like to do so if we felt certain they would not be again required for their original purpose. They are not buildings which are very easily adapted to other purposes, but we are bearing in mind what has been suggested as to making what use of them we can if it is found that they are not likely to be required again as prisons. With regard to the Welsh Oath, I have great sympathy with what has been said. I cannot, however, quite understand what the grievance is. I have been making inquiries from various clerks and justices, and there does not seem to be a general feeling of grievance on the subject, but I feel myself it is natural that a person who speaks Welsh and no other language should wish to take the oath in Welsh. The only difficulty seems to be the case of a man who speaks Welsh, but is not able to read or write. He should be made to understand somehow or other what the oath means, and I think if one or two of the hon. Gentlemen who are interested in the matter would meet me at the Home Office we could easily get over this difficulty, which is not a very great one. Regarding the question of chaplains in Welsh prisons, I think I answered a question on that subject. I believe there is a statutory obligation in that matter, and I would refer hon. Members to my answer on the point. As far as I recollect, arrangements have always been made for the services of Welsh chaplains where they are required, but I will certainly look into the matter again, if there is any grievance in any particular place.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
As I say, I will look it up again. I believe there is some statutory obligation, but I think there should be an opportunity for every denomination to have its own chaplain. Several hon. Members have referred to 1667 the very sad subject of assaults on children. Two of the lady Members of this House and the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Briant) have referred to this subject, and I feel, personally, there is a great deal in what they say. Nobody in the House fails to realise the horrible nature of crimes of this kind, but I think the hon. Member for Lambeth made a mistake as to the amount of punishment which can be imposed for such offences. I think he said it could not be more than six months' imprisonment, but it can be anything up to two years with hard labour, and, if it amounts to a felony, it can also be punished by penal servitude. There is always the difficulty that, unless one has been present at the trial of a case of this kind, one is liable to be misled as to the real extent, of the crime by newspaper reports, which are naturally very much abbreviated.
I rather hesitate in these matters to decline to take the opinion of the local justices as to what the sentence should be. They know the conditions much better than we do, and I think, as a rule, they impose reasonable sentences. The figures in regard to the number of these assaults do not show that the want of more severe punishment has led to any increase. On the contrary, there is a decrease. It may be, as the hon. Member for Louth (Mrs. Wintringham) said, that this is due to the fact that people are reluctant to come forward in cases of this sort. Possibly that is the reason why there are not more convictions, but, at any rate, there is no evidence that this horrible crime is on the increase. It is a matter which we must watch very carefully, and the Home Office are watching it and watching the sentences which are being given. The suggestions made by the hon. Member for Louth as to the treatment of mentally-defective persons, in this connection, deserve consideration. I think the fact that the subject has been debated and that every Member who has spoken has emphasised the fact that this crime should be severely punished will be of itself an indication that public opinion is in favour of severe punishment. I shall certainly continue to watch the matter, and where it is possible, either by circular or otherwise, call further attention to it.
1668 My noble Friend the Member for Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck) raised a question about the Report of the Lighting Committee. That is a matter which will require legislation if it is to be dealt with, and we are considering it. As regards lead poisoning, that point will be answered by the Under-Secretary. I come to the criticisms of the hon. Member for Nelson (Mr. A. Greenwood) and the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander). Their criticisms, in the main, amounted to this, that there was inefficient factory inspection and that we wanted an increase in the inspectorate. If the need for economy were not what it is, I should welcome the opportunity of getting money to appoint more inspectors, but, in these days, economy is being pressed upon every Department, and it would be extremely difficult to increase the number at the present time. A great many of the grievances suggested can be met by members of the Labour party, and of the unions which they represent, bringing cases to the notice of the inspectors, and further assisting—as I know they already do to a large extent—in calling the attention of the inspectors to any breaches of the regulations or any dangers existing in particular places. I have not had a sufficient amount of time to go into this question as I would like to go into it. If only the House would adjourn and remain adjourned for a good many months, one would be able to investigate many of these questions which it is impossible to investigate except on the spot and when the House is not sitting. These matters are of extreme interest. When I was at the Mines Department I had rather more time to go into the question of safety than I have had since, but I hope I shall be able to look into the suggestions made this afternoon. The real move in advance that can be made is by everybody joining in the "Safety first" campaigns which are being promoted all over the country by our inspectors, and in many cases well supported by the leaders of labour in the various districts. In the mines the leader, Mr. Herbert Smith, and the Secretary of the Federation, Mr. Hodges, have done a great deal to help in pushing forward in various places the "Safety first" movement, and I hope that any efforts that are made by the Home Office in that direction will receive the support of the employers and also of those who represent the trade unions concerned.
§ Mr. TURNER
The mines have compulsory inspection by the workpeople. Could the Home Office institute a similar proceeding for factories, so that there shall be a monthly inspection?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I should like to consider that question, which deserves consideration, and I will certainly bear it in mind.
§ Lord H. CAVENDISH-BENTINCK
Does my right hon. Friend think that the "Safety first" committees have the power to enforce safeguards and improvements in industries?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
What they do is to call attention to the dangers to the workers themselves, and to bring up the children who are going to work with a sense of the dangers of the occupation that they are going to take up. I am certain that the movement has had a great effect where it has been tried, and I believe there are great possibilities in the future, and that more good will come from efforts of that kind than from very large increases in the number of the inspectors, although I quite admit that if money were to be found I should be very glad to spend some of it on a few more inspectors. The hours of labour dealt with by the Washington Conference were referred to, but that is a question for the Ministry of Labour and does not come under my jurisdiction. The hon. Member for Nelson referred to the two-shift system and to some breach of it which he said had been committed by Messrs. Lever Brothers. I made inquiry as soon as I could into that matter, and I find that what happened was that Messrs. Lever gave notice that they wished to adopt the two-shift system. The Home Office were not quite satisfied that the ballot was properly taken, and they sent down to have another ballot taken. The second ballot showed a majority in favour, but in the meantime, I believe, Messrs. Lever had actually adopted the system, between the first and second ballots. It was not thought likely that a prosecution would be successful in that case, as it would probably be regarded merely as a technical offence, and that the second ballot had justified their action.
§ Mr. A. GREENWOOD
Was it a technical offence to put into operation, arrangements for a two-shift system 24 1670 days before the receipt or the order from the Home Office?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
As the second ballot showed that everybody on both sides was in favour of it, it seems rather useless.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I think I pointed out at the time, that that second ballot was taken under circumstances which made it quite unfair and that the girls were expected to put their disc number on the ballot paper, which meant that they could be identified.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I have no proof of that, but I will look into that point. In regard to the two-shift system generally, there seems to be a very great difference of opinion about it. The operatives in some places are in favour of it, and in others are against it, but it cannot be put into operation properly unless both sides ask for it. Further, it is limited to the hours between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. and to persons over the age of 16. It is also limited to 1925, and it cannot be carried on after that without further legislation. I think we want really to have more experience as to how it works before we blame it, in face of the fact that there is a great deal of opinion amongst the operatives in favour of it in certain cases.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
I have the evidence of that. It depends on where the place is, but in some cases, under certain circumstances, they are clearly in favour of it, and evidence has been given to that effect. One more criticism which the hon. Member levelled at me was the lateness of the date of the appearance of the Factory Inspector's Report. I am very sorry it should be so late, but on looking back over the past years I find that last year it came out on 7th July, the only time since the War when it was so early. It came out on 22nd July in 1921, on 4th October in 1920, and on 30th September in 1919. In the last year before the War it came out on 4th July, and in 1912 on 31st July. I quite agree that it would be far better if we could have it produced earlier, and 1671 I will look into that question. It is a very long Report, and it has to deal with the financial year, but if it be possible to accelerate that Report, I shall be very glad to do it.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I want to say a word or two in reference to the case that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hinds), with regard to the administration of the Welsh Church Act. No one knows better than my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary the difficulties which we experienced in trying to effect a settlement of that question immediately after the War. It was an old controversy, as he knows. It had torn religious Wales for about 50 or 60 years, and the controversy was a very bitter one. Fortunately, the new spirit created by the War enabled us to effect a settlement which was acceptable to both parties. The settlement that was put through this House had the support of the leaders of Welsh nonconformity. There were two or three notable exceptions, but it had the support of the whole of the Welsh Bishops, and everything depended upon the spirit in which it was carried out. It succeeded in settling a great national controversy in a way which left no sting behind it. I have heard people criticise it on the ground that its terms were much too favourable to the Church, but the bulk of the Welsh non-conformists never gave any countenance to that criticism. They were so pleased that the old quarrel between religious people and spiritual agencies in Wales should have been settled without leaving any trace of bitterness behind.
But I very much regret that two or three things have been done recently, stirring up the embers of the old controversy, and it was very unnecessary, I think. I have not a word, personally, to say against Sir Arthur Griffiths-Boscawen, but he had been a very violent partisan. He used to take a very leading part in the controversy, and it is pre-eminently desirable that the Chairman of this body should have been—I am not complaining of his being a Conservative or a Churchman; that is not my complaint—someone who had been removed from the controversy. We chose Sir Henry Primrose, who, I believe, was a Churchman, but he had never taken any part in any of these controversies, and I think his administration gave very great satisfaction. At 1672 any rate, it did not provoke controversial issues. I should have thought it would have been possible to have chosen a Conservative and a Churchman who had not been mixed up in what I call the savageries of the fight. Sir Arthur Boscawen had been in the fight. If we had been in office and had chosen a man of that type as Chairman, I have no doubt about the complaints which would have been made, and rightly so, by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I think it is a very great pity that that should have been done, when the controversy had been settled in such an admirable spirit and had worked so well that all traces were vanishing, and there was a real co-operation, which I have never seen in my time, between Church and Dissent in Wales in matters of much greater importance to the national life than any issue raised by the Welsh Church Act.
Then, again, take what has been done about the chaplains. The chaplains in Ireland, under the working of the disestablishment there, were chosen without reference to creed to minister to criminals of that particular creed. That is right. There was a majority in an Irish prison of Catholics, and there was a Catholic chaplain, and the same with regard to the other forms of religion, Episcopalians, Methodists, and the rest, but here the Government have chosen to assume that there is no disestablishment in the prisons. You have disestablishment everywhere else, but the Church is still the established Church in the prisons of Wales. What is the answer of the Home Secretary? His answer is that the majority of the criminal classes in Wales are members of the Church of England. That is his answer. It is a very offensive answer, which I would not have dared to give, but supposing that is the case, that simply means that in those cases the criminals who were members of the Church of England would have a Church of England chaplain. That is not what we are objecting to. What we are objecting to is that it seems to be assumed that the prison chaplain should be a member of the Church of England because it is the Establishment—ipso facto as an hon. Friend points out—but it is no longer ipso facto in Wales, and the Act ought to be carried out in the spirit of the compromise arrived at. It was a compromise to which we all agreed.
1673 I remember an effort being made to stir up objections to that compromise by hon. Members sitting below the Gangway, but the Welsh bishops absolutely refused to have anything to do with it. They wanted a settlement. It was a settlement that all the Welsh Churchmen agreed to, and those who from outside tried to persuade them not to agree completely failed. All the bishops came into it. Is it not better that that thing having been settled, all the poison having been eliminated out of the system, we should not be re-inoculated with this virus by the Home Secretary? I am certain he would be very anxious to see us in Wales living in peace and amity, because we are rather near to him, and any disturbances might affect him. I appeal to him to be true to the kindly spirit he generally manifests, and to see that the spirit of the bargain is not broken. It is really the breaking of that bargain. I should not like to use a certain phrase which would seem to suggest that my right hon. Friend had done something dishonourable, because I am sure he is quite incapable of doing anything of the sort. But he seems to have got some lawyer, who told him him that there is some old Act of Parliament which meets his case. Let me give him a piece of advice. I advise him not always to be led by the lawyers when it is a matter of dealing with broad issues of this kind. Lawyers are all right in their proper place. But I hope he will keep them there, and not let them get mixed up in a religious issue of this kind, to stir up that controversy, which I thought was dead and buried.
I am sorry to say I had some very painful letters from people who supported this compromise against their own fraternity and who have been charged with having surrendered their great principles because they agreed with the Church of England in the settlement. These are the people who are writing to me. They took risks in order to effect the arrangements when the Welsh Church Act was on the Statute Book, when it was an Act of Parliament. The compromise was a modification of the Act of Parliament. My right hon. Friend was a party to that arrangement. I do appeal to him to carry it out in the spirit as well as in the letter. He has got a personal responsibility in the matter, and I ask him to do exactly what has been done in 1674 Ireland, and to appoint chaplains of their own persuasion to those to whom they minister, to treat them all on the basis of nonconformity. That is the essence of the arrangement which was arrived at, and unless that be carried out it really is a breach of faith, and will be a cause of conflict between the religious agencies of Wales.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
First of all I would like to remind my right hon. Friend that Sir Arthur Griffiths-Boscawen was one of these persons wile supported the compromise settlement, and with others who supported the compromise, was dealt with very harshly at the hands of some of his own friends. Therefore, so far as the settlement is concerned, it is only fair to say that the right hon. Gentleman was strongly supported by many not of his views. In regard to the question of the prison chaplains, I do not know the answer to which the right hon. Gentleman referred as being offensive, but I gave a tentative answer to the effect that there were some members of the Church of England in prison in Wales. It was not a question as to the chaplains. What I was asked about chaplains was whether or not some legislation would have to be introduced repealing some old Act. As it is the principal chaplain has to be a member of the Church of England. The question is not one of a breach of faith. It is a question that if what is asked is to be done we must repeal some old Act. I am quite willing to consider doing that. I do, however, object to being represented as having given an offensive answer. I gave one answer purely statistical, and the other was a bare statement of the law. I never said what my own view of the matter was. I am quite ready, however, to consider whether it is necessary to repeal the Act in force.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I want to ask the Home Secretary a short question about what action he is taking in regard to the Regulations made under the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act? He has it in his power to annul these Regulations by Order in Council. When the Bill was brought forward to indemnify the English officers for the action they had taken, it was clearly understood that steps would be taken to revise these ridiculous powers possessed by the right hon. Gentleman. The House is aware of 1675 the large batch of totally unsuitable powers which were hastily collected and given to Sir Hamar Greenwood when the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act was passed. My own view is, that the right hon Gentleman should give up altogether the possession of these extralegal powers. Many of them, as everybody in the House will agree, should immediately be given up. They are absurd. The Home Secretary himself has admitted it. He has, for example, powers under this Act to regulate the growing of crops, or the keeping of pigs, or the collection of certain information, the possession of silver coin in excess of a certain amount, and so on. He has, however, other powers which are more dangerous, and which give the Home Secretary power to prohibit meetings, to search premises, and make arrests. They ought to go! The state of affairs in which they might have been proper has passed, and the Home Secretary ought to give up these extra-legal powers. In any case, when the Indemnity Bill was passed, it was clearly understood that there was to be a revision.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I gather that under these Regulations the Home Secretary has power to continue or abolish the Regulations he has issued. By legislation he has been given control.
§ Captain BENN
That is just the point. This comparatively short Act endows the Home Secretary with powers to make these Regulations and, of course, with power to revoke them. He ought not to have any such power. Certainly he ought not to get it by so absurd a method, and in connection with the things which are embodied in the Regulations to-day, I am well aware that the illness of the Lord Chancellor has caused some delay in this matter, but that surely is a difficulty which could be overcome? We cannot wait indefinitely. The promised Committee should be set up to consider the matter. The House should be asked whether or not it will continue to permit the Home Secretary to possess these or any of these powers. The Secretary for Scotland, in another place, indicated in 1676 a speech his own judgment that some special power of this kind should be permanently retained. I do not know whether the Home Secretary has that idea, but many of us here strongly disagree with it. In any case, I should like to know that steps are going to be taken, a Committee set up to report, and that the House will be asked to give a definite decision as to whether the time has not arrived when we should revert to the old state of affairs, which was that law and order was kept to the satisfaction of everyone without giving the Home Secretary powers altogether above the statutory requirements.
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
In answer to the question of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, it would not be in order to say much as to my powers under the Act, and as to which should or should not be retained. Perhaps I had better for the moment keep outside controversy in replying to the question—which was justified—as to what steps have been taken to fulfil the undertaking given by the Prime Minister when the Indemnity Bill was going through the House. My recollection is that the right hon. Gentleman said then that he proposed to set up, with the assistance of the Lord Chancellor, a small committee of three, one member of which would be an eminent legal authority, to go into the question, not only as to whether the Regulations should be abolished, but whether any of the emergency powers under the Act should be retained, and, if so, what? The position of any Home Secretary who succeeds me will be intolerable if it is not made exactly clear what powers he possesses on matters which have been left in great doubt by the recent judgment. The position is most absurd, I agree. The thing should be cleared up, and it should be settled what powers, emergency powers, the Home Secretary should have to deal with any troubles that may arise in the country.
What has happened is that, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman says, there has been considerable delay owing to the illness of the Lord Chancellor. I have, however, been able to communicate with him since he has been well enough to receive letters, and so far two out of the three members have accepted the appointment. I cannot announce the names until the third member is secured. Another 1677 gentleman has been asked, but has not seen his way to serve. We are now trying to find a third suitable member for the Committee, and I shall announce the names at the earliest possible moment.
§ Captain W. BENN
Will the Report be published and the decision of the House sought before we adjourn?
§ Mr. BRIDGEMAN
The Committee have not yet sat. There are only two appointed; I am trying to get the third.
§ Mr. PETO
In intervening in this Debate I must apologise to the Committee for raising a question outside those which have been proceeding up till now. It is an English question, although it has a bearing upon Wales. I am not going to make a complaint against the Home Secretary, but I shall be very glad if I can have his attention while I point out what wide powers he has under the Shops (Early Closing) Act, and which seems to inflict a hardship upon people, particularly those in seaside resorts, who are having a very short summer season. It is desirable that they should reap any benefit they can in the summer. They are not busy for 12 months. Their trade is practically done in the summer months, and has got to be done then.
The particular grievance to which I want to call the attention of the Home Secretary has been brought to my attention by the dairymen of Ilfracombe. The customers of these men are the Welsh miners. Visitors from Wales go to Ilfracombe by the Campbell steamers, which carry hundreds of people every day. In spite of the gloomy picture drawn the other day of the miners' condition, it is true that the miners of Wales have still got some money to have a little holiday. One of the things they always take back with them to Wales is Devonshire cream. The Campbell steamers return about 9.30, 10 or 10.30, and very often the Welsh miner on his little annual holiday, being somewhat of a casual fellow, forgets one of the most important things he came to Devonshire for, namely Devonshire cream, and it is only when he is on his way to the steamer, or gets on board, that he discovers he has not got his cream. The shops are then closed, and while there is Devonshire cream in the shops he cannot get at it owing to the Early Closing Act. It is not only that, but milk is not allowed to be sold under the Act after eight o'clock. If 1678 visitors go into a lodging house or hotel and give orders they cannot be possibly carried out, because it is illegal to supply lodging-house or hotel keepers with the necessary milk to make coffee or other drink although it may be wasting in the dairy shops next door. I have looked into the matter to see how it stands, and I find that under the original Shops Act, 1912, the provisions of which are confirmed by the Act of 1920, the Clause runs:5.—(1) An Order (in this Act referred to as 'a closing Order') made by a local authority, and confirmed by the Secretary of State in manner provided by this Act may fix the hours on the several days of the week at which, either throughout the area of the local authority or in any specified part thereof, all shops or shops of any specified class are to be closed for serving customers.Then it goes on to say:(2) The hour fixed by a closing Order (in this Act referred to as 'the closing hour') shall not be earlier than seven o'clock in the evening on any day of the week.(3) The Order may—What I want to put to the Home Secretary is that this short summer trade at seaside resorts is one of these cases referred to where he reasonably might use the power conferred on him by these Acts to make an exception, and let dairymen, at any rate, keep their places of business open, particularly on Saturday evenings, a little later than is allowed by the hard and last rules laid down in the 1920 Act. That Act provides that
- (a) define the shops and trades to which the Order applies; and
- (b) authorise sales after the closing hour in cases of emergency and in such other circumstances as may be specified or indicated in the Order."Every shop shall be closed for the serving of customers not later than eight o'clock in the evening.There are, however, exceptions which are allowed under the Order of the Home Secretary. I find thatnewly cooked provisions to be consumed off the premises; any fresh fish or tripe or soft fruit which would become unfit or less suitable for food if kept till the following dayare expressly exempted. Soft fruit is expressly exempted, but, the cream to eat with the soft fruit is not exempted. Surely, that is a little unreasonable, and I am not at all sure that a more liberal 1679 interpretation of the words of the Act would not include that particular article.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Is the hon. Gentleman in favour of having Devonshire cream marked, as well as the soft fruit?
§ Mr. PETO
That remark of the hon. and gallant Member is worthy of the Committee Room upstairs. That has absolutely nothing to do with the question before the Committee. I am particularly interested in this question of Devonshire cream, which is a leading article of the dairymen's trade in these seaside resorts. I am not at all sure that it is not a "newly-cooked food intended to be consumed off the premises." It is undoubtedly cooked, and if the Home Secretary would take a friendly view of a struggling trade, which is trying to do a little business, and would help people who have money to spend and are anxious to spend it—there is not too much employment or trade in the country—and would apply to the Attorney-General, I feel confident that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would probably give him a legal opinion to the effect that real Devonshire cream might be held to be "newly—cooked food." At any rate, I ask him to give attention to the memorial that has recently been made to him, signed by every one in the dairies in this district, asking for more liberal opportunities for trading than are given under the rigid interpretation of the Shops Act. If he does so, he will be doing something which will be popular, not only in Devonshire, but also with our very friendly visitors who come to us from Wales, for whom we want to cater.
§ Mr. CHARLES BUXTON
I should like to say two or three words on a question which also comes under the purview of the Home Office, namely, their administration of the Aliens Act. I am speaking for people who cannot speak for themselves, because they have no representation in this House, and who, for many reasons, deserve, in my opinion; rather more consideration than they received at the hands of the Home Office I am not going to review the administration of the Aliens Act in general, and I am not unmindful of the Debate we had 1680 a few months ago in this House. I listened then with very great interest to the reply given by the Home Secretary to the many criticisms, more particularly from these benches, against the very severe administration of the Act in respect to aliens. By the Regulations in respect to aliens, made under the Acts of 1914 and 1919, the Home Office has acquired a very important position in the foreign relations of this country. It has become, in this particular respect, a kind of off-shoot of the Foreign Office, and its action in dealing with aliens who are in this country, or who wish to come to it, has a very distinct effect upon the foreign relations of this country and its reputation internationally. From that point of view, I think the matter is important.
I am not going to deal with the general questions which were raised in that Debate, but with some matters which may appear smaller on the surface, and which were not touched upon then. Granted that a certain number of aliens are allowed to come to this country, and to remain in it, why should not they be treated with decency and courtesy when they are here? As a matter of fact, aliens who are here have to be subjected to various conditions. They have to come up at frequent intervals to the Home Office to apply for an extension of their permit and for purposes of that kind. What happens when they go there? They go to a little, dirty, dark, musty room, with the plaster falling off the wall; a dilapidated room, with broken-down chairs. They are called upon to wait, hour after hour, and frequently to come back again to be examined again. I say "examined," because they are put through—I know one or two cases at any rate, and I presume it occurs in other cases—a cross-examination. They are treated as if they were extremely suspicious characters. They have to make out a case under very severe cross-examination, and to wait a very long time before it comes to an end.
I am not blaming the officials there. From what I have heard, the officials are very much overworked, and it is not their fault if the aliens concerned have to wait a very long time. Some hon. Members may consider that a matter of small importance, but I think it is to be very much regretted if people who, after all, have been permitted to come to this country, 1681 should have to go through a process which makes them leave the walls of the Home Office muttering their dissatisfaction at the way in which they have been treated by this country, which has enjoyed a high reputation in these matters in the past. I think that high reputation is quite worth preserving. I can say this, without putting my claim too highly, that where you can afford to be courteous without very much trouble and without very much expense, what advantage is there in being discourteous and unpleasant. My second point is in regard to the exclusion of aliens from this country on the ground that they hold certain political opinions. I have been very desirous to see certain people whom I know, whose opinions are communist. I have been very desirous that those people should be allowed, in accordance with their desire, to visit this country for a few weeks, to see for themselves what is going on in this country. I asked, a few months ago, for visas to be granted for certain Russians, acquaintances of mine, well-known communists, whose opinions I do not myself share. I have argued with them against their opinions; I have talked with them in Russia, I have talked with them in The Hague, in Holland, and I can say that the Dutch Government does not seem to be influenced by the tremors and alarms which affect the Home Secretary in this matter.
It seems to me that no earthly harm could come of a visit of these gentlemen, in spite of their communist opinions. Possibly great good might come from their visiting this country, as they wish to do, for a limited period of three or four weeks, to study the situation here. What is the objection? The Home Secretary, in the debate a few months ago, gave us as his principal, and almost his only ground for exclusion, that the people who wish to come here might displace British labour. I should like to know what British labour these communists from Russia would be likely to displace? If they displaced anybody's labour, it would be that of the British agitator, who also causes great tremors in the mind of the Home Secretary. Therefore, I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman would object to these gentlemen on the ground that they were displacing British labour. If that is not the objection to their coming here, what is it? If the Under- 1682 Secretary to the Home Office replies to my remarks, I should like him to tell me. I hope he will not put me off with mere political prejudice against these gentlemen's opinions. I hope he will not endeavour to dispose of the matter by raising a cloud of political prejudice, which is so easy to raise, because this is really a question worth answering.
What is the objection to having these gentlemen here? Are they going, in three or four weeks, to upset the British Constitution—[An HON. MEMBER: "Yes!"]—the hon. Member says "yes." I do not congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his faith in the British Constitution and in its stability. I think that that Constitution, which has stood the test of so many centuries, might stand the test of the presence here for three weeks of certain gentlemen of Communist opinions, and that we might very well be enlightened, both as to the reason why these gentlemen should be excluded, and as to whether it is the policy of the Home Office to get rid of aliens who are already in this country on the same ground, namely, that they hold Communist opinions.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I want to ask if the Under-Secretary can give me a clear and definite answer as to whether the Home Office, or the Private Inquiry Department, consider that the holding of Communist views, and the preaching or speaking of Communist views, is a criminal offence? The reason I ask that question is because I sat in the Thames Police Court, and heard an officer tell the magistrate that all he knew against two persons who were before him was that they were members of the Communist party. That was given by the officer as a reason why they should be treated as persons of criminal intent. I have tried, by question, across this Table, to get an answer, and I should like to get a clear and definite reply to the question to-night.
§ Mr. G. LOCKER-LAMPSON
My hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple put one or two questions about the Shops (Early Closing) Act. I am sorry the Home Secretary is not here. It is not owing to any discourtesy on his part, but my right hon. Friend has been here since a quarter to three this afternoon. He has to be here later, to answer various 1683 points, so he has gone out to have some dinner now, and has asked me to answer my hon. Friend. If there is any point which I do not cover, and if my hon. Friend will let me know, the Home Secretary will deal with it on his return. I understand my hon. Friend's point was that he wished the Home Secretary to allow the sale of cream until a later hour to excursionists arriving by steamer at Ilfracombe pier.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I may say that applications have been received from time to time, by the Home Office, from seaside and health resorts for a relaxation of the Shops Act. The Home Office have no powers to relax these provisions at all without legislation. The only power which the Secretary of State possesses is to suspend the operation of the Order to such time as he thinks fit during the Christmas season or on other special occasions, and any such suspension takes effect not only in that particular district but in respect of all classes of shops throughout the country. He has no power to allow any relaxation for particular districts. I agree that there may be a very good reason for relaxing certain provisions of those Acts, and the Home Secretary has given me an intimation that if it is found necessary to do so he will see if it is possible to introduce legislation to meet the difficulties which have been mentioned.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
It depends on the meaning of the word "emergency." My right hon. Friend says that if the hon. Member has any special case he will see if it is possible to meet it, and I cannot go further than that. The hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. C. Buxton) dealt with the way in which aliens are treated who want an extension of their visas in this country, and he said they were received in a very dirty room which was in a dilapidated condition. I may point out that the Home Office has been under the process of redecoration during 1684 the last few weeks, and I should have been very sorry to have received the hon. Member in my own room under existing conditions. No ill-treatment is meted out to these people, and every case is treated on its merits. I have had to look into a good many of these cases, and no reasonable requests for an extension of their leave are refused if it can be proved that such an extension ought to be given. Very often we find that an alien, when he comes over here, presumably for a few months, asks for an extension of his leave. Then he asks for another extension and gets it, and sometimes it is found that he is really asking for these extensions of leave in order to remain permanently in this country. Unless a really good case for an extension is made out, it is not granted. The same hon. Member complained that sufficient visas are not given to Russians who want to come to this country. May I point out that a visa does not enable an alien to come into this country, and he has to get permission from the immigration officer.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I do not say that, but merely getting a visa does not mean that he is going to be allowed to land here. First of all we do our best not to allow any alien to come into the country, if there is any probability of him taking a job from a British subject. Secondly, we do not allow any alien to land if it is shown that he is medically or morally undesirable. Thirdly, we should not allow any alien to land if it can be presumed that he is likely to become a charge upon the rates. We go further than that and we do not allow aliens to come here unless they can show some special reason why they ought to be allowed to land. In reply to the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lana-bury) because a man happens to be a Communist is no reason, so far as the Home Office is concerned, why he should not be allowed to land. If he is a Communist and does not show any reason why he should be allowed to land then he is not permitted to land.
§ Sir J. BUTCHER
If you know that a Communist is coming here to sow mischief and distraction in this country why should he be allowed to land?
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I think what I have already said answers the question just put to me by my hon. and learned Friend. Unless they can show a good and special reason why they should be allowed to land, permission is not given. In view of the shortage of housing accommodation in this country it is not reasonable to allow a flood of aliens to come into this country.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
It does not matter to us whether they are rich or poor and we make no difference.
§ Captain W. BENN
With reference to the cost of all this business, is it not a fact that 2,000 aliens were refused permission to land at a total cost of £70,000 representing £35 per head?
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
Is it a fact that we still have in prison certain persons who were incarcerated at the time of the disturbances in Ireland—I refer particularly to the case of certain soldiers of the Connaught Rangers who took part in an unfortunate affair during the height of the Irish trouble? We know that there was a general amnesty for all such prisoners, and a general deliverance took place from our gaols, and we wiped the slate clean when the Treaty of Peace was signed with the Irish Free State.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I understand that these soldiers were imprisoned by the military authorities, and they would not come under the jurisdiction of the Home Office.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
That was a point I desired to impress upon the hon. and gallant Member if he had given way.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
I would have given way at once had I known, and under the circumstances I will not pursue that point. I shall take an opportunity, probably on the Colonial Office Vote or some other occasion, of exploring this matter. I want to raise a different aspect of the question of permitting aliens to enter this country. I am not referring to distinguished Communist politicians which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Accrington, nor do I allude to people who come here to stir up trouble, or take work which would otherwise be done by Englishmen. I refer to a different class altogether. My 1686 constitunecy, being a great seaport, is one of the points of contact with the continent, and it is one of the ports from which the wealth and power of England is built up, and we have in that port a fairly high proportion of people of foreign extraction, many of them being naturalised and occupying responsible positions in the town.
These people have in some cases aged relatives, and sometimes very young relatives who are left orphans, in Poland and the Ukraine. I have addressed a number of requests to the Home Office to allow them to bring their very old or very young relatives to this country. In all these cases I have given assurances from responsible people knowing these persons in England that they will not become chargeable to the rates. Their relatives here are in a fairly wealthy position, and the people who were allowed to come here in these cases would not be employed to the detriment of Englishmen. If people who are householders in Hull choose to bring these old or young relatives from countries where they are now being persecuted or suffering hardships, I do not think the Home Secretary has any right to say that they should not come here, or to assume that they will increase the shortage of houses. I have a great number of these cases, and I have not brought them up in the House before. I have carried on a correspondence with the Home Office, and I have had very prompt and courteous replies which have been very sympathetic, but these people have never been allowed to come. Here is the case of a man whose two sons fought right through the War. They were not conscripted, but they volunteered at the beginning of the War, and their father, owing to poor circumstances, had to leave South Russia, and his son was left in charge of the grandmother. The brother of these two British soldiers has asked permission to bring a son over here because he has now no relative to look after him in Russia.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
The father has given an undertaking that he will not be so employed. I pointed out to this man the objection of the Home Office as to increasing unem- 1687 ployment, and so on, but we have assurances from these people, who are in responsible positions, that this son will not take employment away from any Englishman. I have a number of cases like that, and that is one which was refused. There is another case of four young children, who have been left orphans in Lodz. The applicant, in this case, is married to an Englishman, and she wishes to bring these poor little nieces here to give them a home. They have been left orphans; the mother is dead and the father has disappeared. There they are in Poland. This is another case in which I have met with a refusal. It strikes me as a rather hard case.
§ Mr. LOCKER - LAMPSON
Only the day before yesterday I wrote a letter in which permission was given for a young alien to come in. I repeat, that every case is considered on its merits.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
That encourages me, at any rate. I have had quite a number of cases where there has been a refusal since the present Government came into power and since the present Under-Secretary assumed his high position. There was another case only a week or two ago of two young girls who had been deported from America to Poland as a result of a technical offence against the Immigration Laws. They were Jewish girls, and the Jewish guardians here asked for a little grace—asked to be allowed to keep them for a few days until arrangements could be made for them to go to Holland where they had relatives. That was refused, and they had to be sent to Poland where they have no relatives at all. I think the Home Office might be a little more soft-hearted, or, shall I say, a little more humane in these cases. These people are not agitators, and I hope, where possible, the decisions will be reconsidered and, in future, a little more sympathy will be shown in dealing with such cases. I know there are some super-officials always looking for an excuse to wave the Union Jack, but it is not all the officials of the Home Office who are imbued with that spirit, and I, therefore, ask that the law be interpreted with a little more liberality in these undoubtedly hard cases.
1688 There is one other question I desire to raise. It is in connection with the recent attempt to interfere with and terrorise the Press, as represented by raids on the "Daily Herald." This paper published a photograph of a submarine. It was a small, bad print, and I defy anyone to declare seriously, and much less to prove, that the photograph gave information to any foreign power whatsoever. The paper's offices were raided several times; the staff were called on to fill in forms; they were cross-examined, and an attempt was made to remove the remaining copies of the paper, the great bulk of the issue of which had already been distributed all over the country. When I put a question to the Home Secretary, he raised the question of the Official Secrets Act. Now, I know that Act rather well. I spent a hard night wrestling with Lord Hewart, who was then Attorney-General, over the Bill. I did not throw him down. Again and again he told the Committee that the Bill was not in any way aimed at the liberty of the Press or of the subject, but the object was merely to strengthen the hands of the executive in dealing with foreign spies and in stopping espionage. He said it could not possibly be used in the way I had suggested. But, as a matter of fact, it has been used to justify this miniature Third Degree exercised on the junior members of the "Daily Herald" staff, and in demanding that forms be filled in, and so on. We know that such conduct is absolutely alien to the British idea of liberty, and similar tactics have always been resented by our people. It is only because we live in rather abnormal times that these things occur. Much worse things were done under the late Government. The present Government is very much more free from the war spirit, and I do hope that the "Daily Herald" incident, is not to be taken as symptomatic of its attitude on these questions.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
The hon. Gentleman can hardly get over it in that way. The raid was carried out by detectives from Scotland Yard, under, presumably, the authority of the Home Secretary.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I understand it was not by order of the Home Secretary. If it was done by Scotland Yard, then it is a matter which should be raised on the Police Vote.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
It was done by the police in the exercise of their duty, but not under orders from the Home Office.
§ Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY
But surely the Home Office is responsible for the action of the police?
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is not entitled to raise the case on this Vote, seeing that there is a separate Vote for the Police.
§ Mr. G. SPENCER
I want to ask the hon. Gentleman in charge of the Vote whether he can now see his way clear to appoint another medical referee under the Workmen's Compensation Act for the county of Nottingham for dealing with certain industrial diseases. I have been in communication with the Department for some short time, and not long since the authorities declined to appoint any further medical referee for the county. I should like to say at the present time there is no medical referee for the county of Nottingham to deal with disputed certificates as to industrial diseases, and cases have in consequence to be sent to Sheffield. The men affected have to pay their expenses to Sheffield to be examined in cases in which the certificate given by the certifying surgeon is questioned by a colliery company. Recently a case arose in which a man's certificate was questioned, and he was told he must go to Sheffield to consult the medical referee there. He had not the money to pay even his fare, and his case consequently went by default; because he did not put in an appearance the verdict was practically given against him. But there is a much more serious aspect of this case to which I wish to call attention. I am sorry to say that the workmen in the county of Nottingham have lost faith in the present medical referee, not because they want to allege that he is unfair, or that he acts in an ex-parte manner, but they object to him because they believe that he is 1690 not conducting cases consistently with the description of the disease in the Act. I have made the statement in this House before and I repeat it now. This medical referee made an admission in a court of law, while acting as medical officer for a colliery company, that oscillation was an objective symptom of miners' nystagmus, and that in the absence of oscillation there was really no disease. I think when a medical referee makes a declaration of that sort he is no longer acceptable as a medical referee. We have been too long the victims of unsettled opinions in regard to this disease.
For over 25 years there has been a conflict of medical opinion as to the cause of the disease itself. Dr. Snell, of Sheffield, declared that the cause of the disease was the position which the miner had to assume when at work, but others assert that the position has little or nothing to do with the disease, which is a question of light. There is also a difference of opinion on another question. One school of thought says that the subjective symptoms of this fell disease are more important that the objective, while another school says that the most important aspect of the case is the objective aspect. One side says the objective symptoms count; the other side claim that they do not count. The medical referee to whom I have referred belongs to the school of thought who hold that if objective symptoms are not present then the disease does not exist. I ask the Under-Secretary to accede to the demand which is being made by my association, and which was declined by the Home Secretary's predecessor, for the appointment of another medical referee. I think this matter deserves a far greater degree of consideration than has so far been given to it. The one thing that they ought to establish with regard to the medical referee is that confidence is reposed in him by the two parties. As the matter stands at present, there is not one workman in the county of Nottingham who has any confidence in the present medical referee—not, as I have said, because he is acting in an ex parte manner, but simply because his decision is determined by one particular standpoint, and by the school of thought to which he belongs. I have in the House at the present time six certificates relating to three men. These three men were sent to one ophthalmic specialist in Nottingham, and he declared that two of 1691 them had nystagmus and that the other had not. I sent the same three men to another ophthalmic specialist in Leeds, and that specialist said that the two men who had been declared by the Nottingham, specialist to have nystagmus had not the disease, and that the third man, whom the Nottingham specialist had declared not to have nystagmus, had the disease. The two points are that we have no Nottingham referee, and we ask for one, because we have lost confidence in the other, on the ground that he belongs to a school of medical thought which we believe at the present time is not consonant with the description of the disease laid down in the Act.
§ Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY
Are we not to have some reply to the questions that have been put? I put certain questions to the Home Office, and it is usual, I believe, to give a reply.
§ Mr. LOCKER-LAMPSON
I thought I had answered the hon. and gallant Member. In fact, I thought that, perhaps, I had been discourteous in interrupting his speech. I said that we consider every case on its merits. I believe that only two days ago the Home Office did issue a permit, I think, for a young Polish girl to come to England to join her relatives in this country. Every case is considered on its merits, and any case that may be presented by the hon. and gallant Gentleman will be so considered. With regard to the question which has been raised in reference to the medical referee, the point is an important one, and, perhaps, the hon Member will allow us to consider it.
§ Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £185,869, be granted for the said Service," put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.