Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £257,647 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, 1928, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices, including Liquidation Expenses of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Contributions towards the Expenses of Probation Committees."—[Note: £178,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I propose this afternoon to devote my attention exclusively to Factory inspection, Workmen's Compensation and the administration of the Aliens Orders. I am sure we should have an exciting time if I dealt with other issues, such as the Police, the Criminal Investigation Department, Prison Administration, Borstal and Reformatory Schools; but I am going to confine myself as I said to the three points I have mentioned. With regard to factory and workshop administration the broad facts are that there are about 6,000,000 workpeople engaged; and their destiny while they are employed in their miscellaneous occupations, so far as safety is concerned, is more or less in the hands of the Home Office. There are every year nearly 1,000 fatal accidents amongst them, and approximately 170,000 non-fatal accidents. Were it not for the arm of the law and the enforcement of certain regulations the figures would be more alarming still. What are the two main safeguards for the welfare and safety of these 6,000,000 people? The law as stated comes to their aid: but the law in itself is not sufficient without its enforcement. The right hon. Gentleman has a factory inspectorate so I understand, of 207 persons. The first point of information I am seeking is whether the inspectoral 2332 staff is sufficient to cope with the task; that is to say, whether the number of inspectors is sufficient to warrant that the law is carried out in detail.
I put that point because, unfortunately, the number of fatal and non-fatal accidents in factories and workshops is not declining at the rate it ought to do. The astonishing thing is this, that although we have nearly 1,000 persons killed every year in the establishments I have referred to and 170,000 non-fatal accidents occur, there is so much apathy, so much lack of interest in what is transpiring in that sphere. If a colliery explosion took place and 200 men were killed in one moment, as it were, the whole of the British people would clamour to know the reason why. But because the 1,000 people I have referred to are killed at the rate of about three a day continuously, day in and day out, and 170,000 are maimed more or less every year, it is taken as a matter of course. I think we on this side of the Committee have a right to protest against the apathy of the public, and, if I may say so, of the Home Office in some respects on this issue. That on broad lines is the point I wish to make in regard to factory inspection.
Let us see what is being done. I will give the right hon. Gentleman credit at once for one very fine piece of work which has been accomplished by his Department. I have seen the results of what is called the "Safety First" propaganda in factories. I know that there are cases where that propaganda for "Safety First" among employers and workpeople in some factories shows definitely that it has brought about very good results indeed. I am pleased to note that; but what I wanted to ask is, has the right hon. Gentleman sufficient resources at his command to carry that propaganda on throughout all the large and small factories in every part of the country? If it be true, as I understand it is, that many lives have been saved, and the safety of working people ensured by propaganda of this kind, such propaganda ought to be spread abroad so that it percolates through to the smallest factory in the land. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well, and probably better than I do, that factories are divided into two main classes, the large factory owner and the enlightened employer who knows that if he looks after his people well and treats 2333 them properly he gets better and more work out of them; and what applies in the matter of welfare and conditions of employment should apply more so in regard to safety. The other class is the careless and indifferent employer. The right hon. Gentleman ought to tell the Committee this afternoon how far he intends to carry this propaganda of safety first.
Before I pass from this question of factory inspection I should like to emphasise this important fact. I understand that we have a less number of factory inspectors employed by the Home Office to-day than was the case prior to the War. The right hon. Gentleman knows that, not only has there been a growth in the number of factories in this country, but that there is a greater variety and diversity of occupations than ever. Consequently, if there has been a growth, as I understand is the case, of a miscellaneous type of factory, we ought for that reason alone to secure an increase in the number of factory inspectors, instead of an decline as is shown by reports. For example, we have factories manufacturing goods for wireless, for gramophones and many other kinds of luxury trades, which were hardly known prior to the War. It seems to me that as the growth in the manufacture of commodities of that kind continues the inspectorial staff ought to be increased in order that the safety of those engaged in those occupations should be ensured. The human factor, after all, is the most important thing in industry, whatever might be said to the contrary. It is contended, and I presume we shall have the argument stated from the opposite side of the Committee to-day, that this country's laws are better than the laws of any other country. Supposing that were so, should we not be proud of the fact? But that surely does not say that we should not go a step further still. If there are problems confronting us that ought to be solved we ought to apply our minds to a solution so that not a single life should be lost through carelessness in any of our factories or workshops. That I should have thought is taken for granted.
When the argument is employed from the other side of the House that our laws are better than those of any other country, and that the laws that we have 2334 on the Statute Book in relation to industry and social insurance are pursued better than in any other country, I am willing to admit that it is largely true. But I would like to put this point to the right hon. Gentleman. The number of inspectors should, after all, be a fair indication as to how the laws of any country are administered and pursued. If, therefore, it is accepted that the number of inspectors must have some relation to the efficient pursuit of the law I would put these figures to the right hon. Gentleman. In Great Britain the number of inspectors is about 207; and the number of establishments which those inspectors have to visit from time to time is roughly speaking 290,000. Let us get those facts definitely into our minds—207 inspectors to 290,000 establishments. In Germany, the total number of inspectors proportionately is very much higher than in our own country. They number 642 in respect of 335,000 establishments. Consequently, if the test of the pursuit of the law lies in the number of inspectors employed to enforce it, then German laws are better administered than our own. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Royton (Dr. Davies) shakes his head. I do not know how much better informed he may be on the subject; but I am giving the figures provided by the highest authority in Europe—the International Labour Organisation. They, at any rate, ought to be unbiased on an issue of this kind. Coming to the smaller countries, Czechoslovakia has 85 inspectors for 25,000 odd establishments; and in France, I would admit at once that the industrial legislation of that country is not pursued as well as is the case in Germany or in this country. I cannot see, therefore, that the laws of this country are better administered in relation to factory and workshop employés than is the case in either Germany or Czechoslovakia.
There is something else in connection with the administration of factories and workshops in this country that must be noted, and it is the growth of welfare work. Hon. Members of all parties will welcome anything that is done by employers to make it more possible to carry on welfare work in the factories. Has the Home Secretary any tabulated information showing how far the most enlightened employers have proceeded with medical service in the factories? I 2335 know it would require legislation to compel employers to do it, but the right hon. Gentleman has administrative powers and he ought to use them if possible in this connection. I would like to see a medical staff attached to every large factory in the country. That is not a new idea, because the most enlightened employers already have a medical staff inside their factories. The right hon. Gentleman would do a great deal of service if he conveyed to all employers information regarding what the best employers are doing, in order that those who take no interest in the welfare of their staff might know what is being done elsewhere. I would like to see the laggards brought up to the position of the best.
The Committee will remember that we had a battle royal on the Floor of the House in relation to lead paint, and the right hon. Gentleman ultimately secured the passage through this House of a Bill regulating the use of white lead in paint. I wish the Standing Orders would admit of something being said on that score; but if I were to enter into combat with the right hon. Gentleman on that issue to-day I should be out of order. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has now issued Regulations under the Act passed last year. It would be interesting to know what is the method employed for enforcing those Regulations. It is very little use issuing Regulations from the Home Office to hundreds of small master painters and to the operatives, numbering about 70,000, without some means of seeing that the Regulations are enforced. Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us whether wet rubbing-down in connection with painting is now carried out, and, if so, to what extent; and whether it is his intention, if he finds that some master painters do not carry out the Regulations, to institute proceedings in order to see that they are enforced? It is very early to put a question of that kind; but possibly the right hon. Gentleman will have some interesting information to give us to-day.
A further subject with which I should like to deal is the probation of young offenders. In 1925 we passed the Criminal Justice Act, one part of which provided that every Petty Sessional Court should have a probation officer. I took a 2336 little interest in the question of probation because it affected my mind considerably when I came to close quarters with it. The position is a little better now, but even now the problem is not solved. You may have a bench of magistrates to-day in one part of the country where the community is not very enlightened, and you may have another bench of masgistrates in another part of the country, a very enlightened bench, with the result that two persons may commit exactly the same offence in different parts of the country, and because of the difference in the attitude of the two benches one offender is put on probation and the other sent to prison. I want to see justice operating in this country so that it will be even and applied equally all over the land; but we cannot get that unless the machinery for the administration of justice is the same in every Court.
What is the position to-day in regard to probation? The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that we have been closing reformatory and industrial schools, probably by the dozen, during the last few years. It is a very welcome sign that young persons, in particular, should not be confined in institutions if they can be better cared for otherwise. That is admitted by all parties. No person, no young person in particular, should ever be confined in a prison or in an institution of any kind if it can be proved that he can be turned into a good citizen by keeping him outside prison or institutional walls. In order to see that that principle of equal justice is applied throughout the country by all benches of magistrates, there must be probation officers appointed to cover all areas. I do not know what is the exact position at this moment, but the latest information I have is that in the Register of Probation Officers for 1926 it is stated, thatout of 1,031 divisions there are 137 for which no probation officer has been appointed, as compared with 147 in 1925.That may appear a very simple statement, but, in fact, it is very serious. It means that in one year only 10 districts have been completely equipped by the appointment of probation officers. I understood that when we passed that particular Section of the Criminal Justice Act, 1925, the Home Office would 2337 proceed at once to see that the whole of the Courts in the country were covered by probation officers; that it was to be compulsory. There are magistrates in this country, whose point of view I fail to understand, who are strongly opposed to probation. When the right hon. Gentleman has secured a Statute whereby he can enforce the appointment of probation officers, it is his duty to see that they are appointed even against the will of benches of local magistrates. I came to the conclusion long ago that some of these benches have ideas of justice and mercy which are almost Victorian; and the right hon. Gentleman, through his staff at the Home Office, should now bring them up to date.
My next point relates to the administration of workmen's compensation. I was given to understand in 1924 that there was an arrangement between the Home Office, the Mining Association and the Miners' Federation of Great Britain whereby persons suffering from nystagmus could be employed above ground in order that workmen's compensation cases might be dealt with more favourably to the men. All those who have worked in the pits will know the causes of nystagmus. Unfortunately, the number of miners suffering from that dread disease is not on the decline; I think it is on the increase from year to year. I wonder whether the disturbance in the coalfields in 1926 has vitiated in any way the arrangement that was then made. I believe that in Yorkshire there was a very definite understanding, almost amounting to an agreement, between the employers and the workpeople that men suffering from nystagmus should be employed above ground in order, if possible, to help them to recover their normal eyesight.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVIES
That is exactly what I want to know. I am very much afraid, from the information I have here, that the arrangements started in 1924 are not going on very well in some quarters. As I say, the right hon. Gentleman can do a great deal in that direction. Another point with regard to workmen's compensation 2338 is the disease known as cataract of the eye suffered by steel-smelters, in the main. The problem was always there, and I think it still continues; and the right hon. Gentleman will do a good turn for the steel-smelters of this country if he will give us some information on the point which I am about to raise. There is no difficulty at all when the furnace worker suffers from this disease, and he continues in the employment of the same employer; but he is in a difficulty at once if he is employed, say, for eight or ten years by one employer and the cataract does not show itself at all until he leaves that employment. He may leave the steel works entirely, and become a roadmender, or follow any other occupation, and when he follows that new occupation the disease from which he suffers is attributable entirely to his previous occupation. What I want to know is whether there are any means at all whereby the Workmen's Compensation Act shall apply to cases of that kind. There are some questions of law that cannot be settled by saying twice one are two. There are points of administration which you are bound to bring to bear in connection with the law; it does not matter how rigid you make the law. Consequently, it would help us very much indeed if the right hon. Gentleman would give us some information on that score.
Another point I would put to the right hon. Gentleman is with regard to the Liverpool and Birkenhead Tunnel. I have raised this issue one or twice by way of Question and Answer, as to whether the occupation followed by those men is not, in fact, an occupation that conduces to silicosis in a formidable way. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, if nothing has yet been done, he would look into the case in order to prevent, as far as possible, the disease getting hold of those men who are following this dangerous occupation. I am told that the disease is likely to cause a great deal of suffering unless some arrangements are made soon to prevent it. Probably the right hon. Gentleman has it in mind; but if he will give us some information on the point, I am sure he will be doing good service.
2339 I have dealt with two matters which have not aroused a great deal of excitement, but I will now touch upon one about which I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me. "So far so good," he probably says to himself. I come to the administration of the Aliens Order. The present Home Secretary is a remarkable Gentleman in regard to administering the Aliens Act. He can see red when there is nothing in sight but pink. He always sees an enemy about. I am not quite sure that his strange attitude of mind towards the alien provides fair administration to the alien himself. The number of aliens in this country, proportionately, is the smallest in the world, so that he need not be frightened about them. The alien problem in this country is within certain definite limits. The eyes of the right hon. Gentleman's Department are on every one, as he knows. I understood that the law regarding naturalisation was, that an alien resident in this country for a minimum of 10 years could be naturalised, provided all other qualifications were met. I had something to do with that in 1924, and, if I may say so, we speeded up naturalisation a great deal during that year. I would like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is continuing the policy we laid down in 1924, which was, by the way, a very enlightened policy. If he will tell us what is happening in that direction now, it will interest me personally very much.
I read every speech the right hon. Gentleman delivers—I do not know whether he regards that as a credit to himself or not—and I read his speech last night. I thought one paragraph at least of that speech was very sane. I could not say that about all the paragraphs, naturally, but I approve of one thing he said. It interested me immensely to find that the right hon. Gentleman had to confess that, at long last, employers of labour in this country were appealing to him not to send too many of the Russians out of this country. That is an astonishing statement; and it seems to me that even the employers are gradually seeing that the right hon. Gentleman's attitude towards aliens is altogether out of proportion. When employers in this country talk to the right hon. Gentleman in that way, surely he ought. To change his mind 2340 and see a little less red about. He seems to see an alien, a red Bolshevist, wherever he turns.
It would be interesting, too, if we could get to know—it is purely an administrative matter—what is the attitude of the Department towards the naturalisation of aliens. We have only about a quarter of a million in this country. Few aliens have come here to reside permanently since the War. The whole issue, as I said, is within certain limits; and these men, if they behave themselves, ought to secure naturalisation. I understand that the fee of £9 charged for naturalisation is a serious bar. Really, £9 is too much for a workman, and it is grossly unfair to the average alien workman who has behaved himself, who has conducted himself peacefully in this country, who has resided here for 10, 12 or 15 years, that £9 should be charged to him, because it is an undoubted barrier to his becoming a British citizen. Another point with regard to aliens is—if the right hon. Gentleman would inform the Committee, I should be glad—what is now the position with regard to transmigrants? There is a huge building in Southampton, where if I remember aright, hundreds upon hundreds of aliens are housed. I do not know who keeps them; I have the impression that it is the shipping companies. In view of the fact that the War ended nine years ago, is it not possible to tell the shipping companies definitely that they cannot dump these people down in this country for their own convenience? I would like to know, too, whether there is any charge on the State in respect of keeping these transmigrants?
As I have said, I do not want to dwell unduly upon the points I have raised—factory inspection, workmen's compensation and the administration of the Aliens Order: but, after all. I think the Committee is entitled to know what is transpiring behind the doors of the Home Office. The Home Office always gives the impression of a great secret establishment. It is the oldest office in the State; it is the first office in the State. It is presided over at the moment by a gentleman who seems to have managed to keep the Government going very well up to the present. Usually it is the Home Secretary who brings every Government down. It is the Home Secretary that 2341 brings about the fall of every Government—except of course the one in 1924. He always either arrests the wrong woman or hangs the wrong man. It seems to me the present Home Secretary, metaphorically speaking, does that excellently every day.
The Home Secretary has, undoubtedly, a great task to perform towards the 6,000,000 people employed in our workshops and factories and, as I said at the commencement, I hope and trust the right hon. Gentleman will look into the important points I have raised. We shall be, indeed, happy if he is able to tell us that something more is being done in the way of medical service and welfare work in our workshops and factories, that the restrictions on the naturalisation of aliens have been relaxed, and that all aliens who behave themselves properly in this country shall be treated not merely as foreigners, but as human beings.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
Although there is only one subject on which I wish to follow the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), the few points which I wish to press on the Home Secretary arise out of the recommendations of the Committee, on which the hon. Member sat, dealing with youthful offenders. If he will allow me to say so, I think the hon. Member and his colleagues who sat on that Committee rendered invaluable service. In the introductory paragraphs of that Report, it was stated that the primary obligation of the Committee was to discover the best means of helping youthful members of the community who, starting life with the handicap of moral weakness or unhappy influences, specially need the protection of the State. The very fact that the Committee was concerned with the question of affording the protection of the State to these young offenders proves that their investigations were inspired with a sympathy and discernment which were lamentably lacking in the administration of the old days. In unenlightened times, we were more concerned to protect the State from the young offender than to afford the young offender the protection of the State. One of the greatest discoveries of recent times has been that nine-tenths of youthful delinquency is to be traced to what is described in the Report as "unhappy influences," in other words, evil environment 2342 and physical causes of various kinds, rather than to any inherent depravity, and this conclusion naturally has resulted in the employment of revolutionary expedients to deal with youthful offenders.
It is obvious that when you have established the contention that the majority of offences are due to external rather than to internal causes, we should concentrate our efforts on prevention, but the problem, then, is resolved into one rather of housing, health and education. It would not be in order to deal with those, and I am well aware that, as some of the recommendations of the Committee involve legislation, I should not be in order in discussing them now. But there was a number of recommendations dealing with administrative questions with which this Committee can deal. I will allude to one or more of the urgent problems. The first is with regard to remand homes and observation centres, particularly in the London area, which call for consideration. Those who have studied the question may be aware that the Prison Commissioners concentrated in Wandsworth Prison the lads on remand, and also those who were sentenced to Borstal treatment for preliminary investigation and observation. I have made it my business to visit Wandsworth Prison in order to make myself familiar with the system of observation and investigation administered by the voluntary workers who discharge this invaluable function. Wandsworth Prison is hardly an appropriate receptacle for lads, the majority of whom are of no more criminal disposition—
The hon. Member is now dealing with prisons. That is not in order on this Vote. This Vote includes the Secretary of State's salary and he is responsible for prisons, but there is a separate Vote for prisons and, therefore, prisons can only be discussed on that separate Vote, that is, Vote 4.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
I do not know whether I should be in order in pressing on the Home Secretary the consideration that remand homes and observation centres should not be centred in prisons? That is the point of my argument.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Do I understand from your ruling that general prison questions are not to be considered on this Vote? 2343 This is the only opportunity we shall have, I imagine, this Session of discussing Home Office matters.
The special Vote dealing with prisons is down for to-day. That is Vote 4. The Vote we are discussing now is Vote 1, and the time to discuss the administration of prisons will be when we reach Vote 4. That is the next Vote.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Is it not usual on these occasions for some arrangement to be made whereby we can have a general discussion ranging over various topics. I want to take part in the Debate at a later stage, and raise two or three matters affecting different Votes, including prisons. Now I understand you are ruling that we cannot discuss prisons unless we dispose of the earlier Votes. I should have thought some arrangement would have been made whereby we could agree to range over the various Votes.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)
I do not know if anything I can do will facilitate matters. I am responsible for looking after prisons, and paid a salary as head of the Department, and if it convenient to you, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, I should raise no objection at all for any of my actions to be brought under review.
It has been the invariable custom in Committee of Supply to confine the discussion to the actual Vote under discussion, and I should be loth to set a precedent and make a change in that direction. Far the best way would be to dispose of this Vote, and get on to the next Vote, Vote 4.
This is Vote 1, and it deals with the salary of the Secretary of State and the expenses of the Home Department. The subjects of prisons and police come under separate Votes, and I should not be in order in allowing a discussion on these subjects on this particular Vote.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I gave notice to the right hon. Gentleman that I intended to raise these issues. In that case do 2344 I understand that when they are disposed of it will be competent for my hon. Friend to raise the question of prisons?
Most certainly. That is my suggestion. I suggest that we should dispose of this particular Vote, and go on to the next Vote.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
I suppose under the head of "prisons" would be included all other institutions, such as reformatories?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Is it quite impossible for us to discuss these three Votes together? The Home Secretary is responsible for the administration of all of them, and it is a little difficult if we have to take them in sections. I have one or two questions to put to the Home Secretary, which he will have to answer, and they deal with all the different Votes.
The easiest way to get over the difficulty is for hon. Members to make their speeches and dispose of one Vote, and then get on to another. That is much the best plan. I do not think it is possible to vary the custom which has obtained in Committee of Supply.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
In a discussion of this kind, as time is so limited, would it be possible, on the Vote for the salary of the Secretary of State, for you to allow a general discussion to take place, and then in regard to the individual Votes either that there should be no discussion at all, or else a very short one?
That has never been done. It has never been the custom to allow a general discussion on those subjects for which there is separate Vote.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
This is rather an exceptional occasion as we are only given until 8 o'clock this evening, by arrangement, to discuss these Votes, and those of us who want to raise separate questions do not want to have to speak two or three times.
That may be, but I do not think I can vary the custom which has invariably been followed for so many years.
§ Mr. MAXTON
May I put to you my own personal difficulty? I wish to make a short speech of about five minutes and raise questions concerning aliens, the prisons, and the police; that is the secret police. Is it your ruling that as the programme of business is arranged, I shall have to make three speeches, and not one?
§ Mr. SHEPHERD
The Home Secretary appears to be kindly disposed towards our desires. I have been trying for 18 months to bring forward the question of the reformatory industrial schools, and I should like an opportunity of discussing it.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
The question I wanted to raise is in regard to the Borstal Institution, and, therefore, I had better wait until the present. Vote has been disposed of.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
In the circumstances, may I appeal to hon. Members to make short speeches on the points they want to raise in connection with this Vote, and I will endeavour to answer them as fully as I can. In that way you can dispose of this Vote.
§ Mr. TINKER
I want to raise a point in reference to a question which I put to the Home Secretary on Thursday last relating to the Order which comes into operation on 1st July in regard to the Workmen's Compensation Act. My criticism is that the Order does not go quite far enough. Let me read the Order:Subcutaneous cellulitis over the patella (miners' beat knee) and acute bursitis over the elbow (miners' beat elbow) is revoked, except as regards cases arising before the commencement of this Order.The Home Secretary has extended the Order to include bursitis of the knee, but it does not go far enough. I have one particular case in mind where the man was certified by a doctor to be suffering from bursitis of the knee, but the health society refused to grant him pay because they said it was a case under the Compensation Act. They took him to the certifying surgeon, who agreed. They could not give him a certificate. The matter was brought to the notice of 2346 the Home Secretary, and about two years has been spent on this matter. After full inquiries the Home Secretary has issued this new Order. I give him credit for that, but I put it to him that the inclusion of the word "acute" is putting something on a workman which might very well be removed. Anyone acquainted with mining knows that a miner is on his knees most part of his time when he is at work, and that bursitis is likely to arise. But, it has to be acute before the man can get a certificate. There will be a lot of suffering and extended compensation. A man may have bursitis of the knee, but he has to continue at his job until it becomes acute. Hon. Members will realise that if a man has only a slightly damaged knee he will go on working when it is a case of having to get his living, and the man's knees gradually get into a very badly damaged condition. A knee in that state will take much longer to get round than if it had been taken in its first stages.
The House always tries to treat disease and illness in its first stages, yet here we have a miner who must carry on until he is totally incapacitated, and only then has the surgeon the power to grant a certificate. I appeal to the Home Secretary, seeing that he has gone so far in this Order, that he should extend it a little more and drop out the word "acute," because it will have to be extended in this direction at some time or other. I should like the Home Secretary, although he is a Conservative, to have the credit for taking out this word, and, if he does, I can assure him that the miners will greatly appreciate his action. In reply to my question last Thursday, the right hon. Gentleman said that he had had no further complaint from the Miners' Federation. The Miners' Federation have had this matter under consideration, and most of the districts have sent in resolutions to the head office protesting against the Order. I do not know whether the Home Secretary means that he has had no further complaint from any other society. If he means that, I can understand it, because out of the total number affected by this Order, according to the last returns for 1925, the total number scheduled and receiving compensation was 2,603. Of that total, 2,593 came from the miners, 2347 so that only 10 are left belonging to other trades. Of beat elbow, there were 302 cases scheduled or got certificates, and out of that number 299 belonged to the miners, so that the Home Secretary will realise that this matter belongs chiefly to the miners and does not largely affect any other industry.
There are 99 per cent. of these cases belonging to the mining industry, and when I make this appeal and quote the Miners' Federation, I do not want the right hon. Gentleman to think that the Miners' Federation are taking something on that, belongs to other industries. This particular thing belongs chiefly to the miners, and that is why we are lodging a protest and why I do not want the Home Secretary to think that, because other people have not complained, there are no complaints coming along. They are coming along largely from the industry chiefly affected, and if the right hon. Gentleman will view it in the light that I have put before him—that it will be a saving to the men and to the employers and to the country generally in preventing the disease getting too great a hold on the men and in getting them back to work much earlier than they go back now—I think he will agree to rescind the particular part of the Order to which I am referring. If the right hon. Gentleman were to go into a mining district and to see the men hopping and crawling about because of damaged knee, and the fear that they have when they return to work because of the suffering through which they have gone, I think he would agree that something ought to be done on the lines that I have indicated. I have no other point to raise, and I have only put down a Motion to reduce the Vote in order to bring to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman a genuine complaint, which I hope he will see in the light in which I see it, and agree to take out of the Schedule the word "acute."
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I want to deal with compensation from the financial point of view and also from the very costly administrative point of view. I submitted to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary a few months ago one or two questions drawing his attention 2348 to the fact that, notwithstanding the arrangement that had been made between his Department and insurance companies, even in 1925, the latest year for which figures are available, the cost of administration, commission, and the amount set aside for profits on all premiums paid for compensation amounted to no less than 47.14 per cent. That seems to me to be an outrageous proportion when compared with various other departments, where we have proved that gigantic undertakings are dealt with in a fairly methodical and efficient manner, and where the costs of administration are somewhere in the region of one-third the amount required in the case of injured workpeople. It seems to me that the arrangement that was apparently entered into either has not been fully carried out or, if carried out, is certainly not adequate to meet the needs of the case.
Here are millions of men performing their daily tasks. Under various Acts of Parliament, in cases of either partial or fatal injury the men or their dependants are entitled to receive a certain remuneration during the term of their incapacity from following their normal work, and in a fairly large number of cases insurance is effected by the employers, so that when the claims are made for compensation, compensation is well nigh a certainty from the various insurance companies; but when we find that these companies and employers' liability insurance people are taking nearly 50 per cent. of the whole of the premiums in commission, working expenses and profits, it is, I think, an outrage of the worst conceivable kind. I know the right hon. Gentleman, replying to the supplementary questions that I put to him, said that if he followed the line that I indicated it would savour too much of Socialism and that he was not prepared to move in that direction. That was when I, along with other hon. Members, suggested that, instead of workmen's compensation being, as it were, in the hands of private companies, who were in business insuring against accidents for the purpose of the profit they made out of the business and not for the service which they rendered to the employers or their employés, he would consider the advisability of a national insurance system which would be worked 2349 on the basis, for instance, on which it is worked to-day in Canada and on which it has been worked in a good part of Australia for a very long time. We could not only increase the benefits obtained by working people by more than 25 to 50 per cent., but we could—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am not quite sure whether legislation would be required to give effect to that suggestion, but I think it might be possible, by Regulation or otherwise, to change this system from what it is to what I think it ought to be. Still, I have no desire to transgress your ruling, and I am merely bringing to the notice of the right hon. Gentleman the cost of administration in this country, and indicating where a tremendous leakage takes place and where injured work-people are certainly not sufficiently remunerated for the period during which they are unable to follow their normal employment. Take the last year for which figures are available, namely, 1925. It appears, from provisional tables of returns furnished by the companies to the Board of Trade in respect of employers' liability insurance business, that for 1925 the income of the companies from premiums, after making the necessary adjustments in respect of unexpired risks, was £5,663,895, and from interest and dividends on reserves £160,621, making a total of £5,824,516. Of this sum, £3,078,813, or 52.86 per cent., was allocated to payment of compensation.
That is to say, that injured workmen or widows and children whose husbands or parents have been killed, received only a little more than half the amount of money paid in premiums as insurance against these accidents, and this included legal and medical expenses incurred in connection with the settlement of claims. The balance, £1,893,080, or 32.5 per cent., was spent in payments for commission and expenses of management, while £940,692, representing 16.15 per cent. of income, was set aside for profits. Excluding the sums paid for commission and expenses of management, 16.15 per cent. of the total premiums are taken away by the insurance companies for profits made out of the insurance, which ostensibly should be a service—
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not see what 2350 the responsibility of the Home Office is in regard to this matter. They may come in on the question of medical referees, and they have, no doubt, other duties on workmen's compensation, but I do not see how the hon. Member can attach any responsibility to the Home Office in regard to this question of insurance. It may be that he can.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I think the connection is pretty well known to the Home Secretary, who is responsible for seeing some arrangement between his Department and the insurance companies, with regard to workmen's compensation, carried out. As to whether that has been or is being carried out, or whether, when carried out, it meets the case, that is quite another matter. However, I repeat that I do not want to transgress your ruling. But having indicated to the right hon. Gentleman that the agreement, if it exists and if it has been carried out, certainly does not meet the case, and cannot, while crippled people, widows, and children of those killed, combined, receive only a little over 50 per cent. of the total premium paid, I hope that the profits taken away and these very large payments for commission and expenses will be examined by the Home Secretary, and something done with a view, not only to improving the compensation, but to seeing that injured people shall receive far more than they have been receiving up to the present.
Now I want to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to another item, again an item about which I questioned him some time ago. I refer to Section 16 of the Workmen's Compensation Act. This Act, as administered, has been proved over and over again to have wholly failed to meet the needs of the men and the desires and, I believe, the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman who initiated the 1923 Act. Section 16 enables a workman who meets with an accident, but partially recovers and becomes fit for some work, though not for his ordinary work, to appeal to the Courts in case his employers refuse to find work suitable to his then capacity, and, having travelled all over the area and genuinely endeavoured to find work, but failed, it enables the man to go to title Courts to prove that his particular pre-accident employers, and, indeed, 2351 all other employers, have refused to find him work, so that he can be reinstated on full compensation. On paper, Section 16 may have appeared to work admirably so far as injured workpeople are concerned, but in practice we find that it totally misses its mark, and to-day we have examples all over the country, and particularly so far as the mining community is concerned, where men meet with an injury in a colliery and have so far recovered as to be capable of doing work on the surface, but the colliery company refuses to find them light work, and not only do they lose their work, but it is found in practice to be almost impossible for them to go to the Courts and get the compensation which Section 16 awards to them.
Therefore, I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman how many complaints have been received over a period against employers, and I would like to ask how frequently employés or trade union organisations have requested him to look into Section 16 with a view to its amendment in such a way as to give effect to the real intention of the present First Lord of the Admiralty when he passed this Bill in 1923 through the House. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman, from private, personal experience, that those men who, unfortunately, are affected by that terrible disease known as miners' nystagmus cease work because of the disease, and then, when they partially recover, their employers refuse to reinstate them at work and they go to Court and have their compensation stopped. So the men are landed like orphans in the middle of a desert with no work, no wages, no compensation, and no hope of a job. I do not think for a moment that the right hon. Gentleman would countenance this if he were given suitable opportunities of putting the thing right, and I hope my observations will lead him to examine the question and to cooperate with the large trade unions who know the effect of it. If he can do so, I hope that on some future occasion he will deal with what is a real need and will help thousands of poor, injured work-people up and down the country.
§ Mr. HILTON
I want to say a few words relative to the remarks which fell 2352 from the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). The hon. Member took three points. He spoke about factory legislation, and he is certainly an idealist. He spoke of the welfare of the workers, but he has not quite got down to the facts, He made a statement that a larger number of inspectors would lessen accidents. Could any hon. Member, who has had any experience of machinery, try to square that statement with the facts? The hon. Member went into international figures, and gave the number of inspectors in Czechoslovakia and other countries compared with those in this country. This is a very important point, and, if I thought there was anything in it, I would say, "Double the number of inspectors"; but, if you appointed an inspector for every workman, you would not lessen the number of accidents. I have had considerable experience in mills in Lancashire, and most of the accidents which I have come across have been due to carelessness. I am not going to fix the blame on anyone. I have seen some very serious accidents, when arms and fingers have been taken off in the works, but in most cases they have been due to carelessness on the part of someone. We have laws designed to prevent accidents; all our machinery is supposed to be fenced off, but, in many cases, the so-called fence is now perhaps more dangerous on than it would be off. We are getting to the pitch when the more fencing we put round the machinery the more likely we are to have accidents. I am speaking more especially with regard to fast revolving machinery, where the chief accidents from which the workers suffer are burning and friction. One of their arms gets between the rollers and the skin is scorched away.
I am not referring to cases where weights tumble down, or things like that. The accidents to which I refer are sometimes due to the enthusiasm of the worker, when he has been trying to get out 10 minutes before his time at the end of the week, or when he or she has done his or her cleaning while the machinery is running. All the Regulations which this House has passed in the last 50 years provide that the machinery must not be cleansed in those conditions, but these and other rules and regulations have been broken—[An HON. MEMBER: 2353 "Through over-anxiety."]—through overanxiety to get the work done. The hon. Member for Westhoughton says that we ought to preach a safety-first policy everywhere. In every well-conducted mill in Lancashire we have printed leaflets which give advice as to what should be done and how it should be done. I am not speaking of accidents over which we have no control, such as the shaft breaking or something like that.
The hon. Member also suggested that every big mill should have a medical staff. I do not think he was serious or that he could have given the matter very careful consideration. In every large town in England we have a most up-to-date medical staff in the local infirmary, which is more or less in the centre of the industrial area. Cases can be taken right away to the infirmary and treated with the most up-to-date scientific knowledge. The hon. Member should consider very carefully what the expense would be if we had a miniature infirmary in every mill. He gave us figures this afternoon which certainly do not work out at one accident a week for a large mill. Are you going to get a staff of nurses and of trained men for one accident a week?
§ Mr. HILTON
The hon. Member said he would like a medical man attached to the staff of every mill. If so, the expense would be unwarrantable. At present, we have our infirmary collections every week, and we raise the largest part of the funds for the maintenance of the local infirmaries and hospitals in our towns by contributions of a penny or so each week. If we had mills situated like some of those in America the case would be different. In the State of Massachusetts the factory laws are more stringent than ours. There is a State law there providing that large mills must have these medical facilities provided, but those mills in many cases are 30 miles from each other, and 30 or 40 miles from civilisation and from a proper infirmary. If you had a mill situated 30 miles from an infirmary, it would not be fair that an injured person should have to be carried for 1½ hours or more to that infirmary, but, when you have a centralised industry, with a couple of hundred mills within an area of a very few miles, such as you have in Lancashire, 2354 with a well-equipped infirmary in the midst, I submit that any fresh expense which would ultimately have to be borne by the employer would be a waste of money and time and would not carry out the object in view. We provide first-aid in every mill and, by Regulation, it is essential that we should do so in case of accident. We have a fully-trained man to render first-aid at all the mills. It is easy enough for hon. Members to say that we treat our workpeople like beasts of burden and house our cattle better than the workpeople. That sort of talk is increasing, but we must get down to the main facts.
When the Compensation Act first came in, about 20 years ago, I was interested in it, and I have been interested in it ever since. I sat for many years on the Insurance Committee, because we had our own workmen's compensation scheme in our own trade, which is that of the Lancashire cotton operatives and the Lancashire cotton spinners and manufacturers. They insure their own workmen and we have our own insurance committee, which has been in existence since 1st July, 1897, when it was first introduced, down to the present. When the Act was new, it was incumbent on the doctor when an accident took place to go to see the accident or the place where it occurred, and the machinery had to be stopped until the doctor had seen the same and had given his report. The accident might be due to a defective machine, and the doctor had to give that report through the head inspector. That rule does not operate now. It was withdrawn several years ago on the score of expense. The point I am trying to make is that if there has been an accident, if it has been neglected and there has been delay, and if the patient is suffering, the whole case can be inquired into and reported on. If those circumstances were to arise I should be the last person in the world to deny the necessity of a medical man being on the spot; but, as long as we can take these cases straight into the infirmary, we need say nothing more nor go to an unnecessary expense. The medical men in the infirmaries take a greater interest in these mechanical accidents, because the doctors in the cotton districts or the potteries are more or less localised in their experience of accidents and as to how they happen. We cannot have too much knowledge of 2355 the patient and too clever a method of treatment. These are things which the Home Office would do well to consider before they make any promise to put us to fresh expense.
I listened to what the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Hilton) said with regard to accidents. If you take some of the mills, you will find that there are no accidents at all, because the manufacturers are up-to-date. Their machinery is well looked after and well fenced in, and there is a great deal of inquiry and watching on the part of the manager.
§ Mr. HILTON
I submit to the hon. Member that all the fencing Regulations apply equally to every mill.
They are not always kept in full operation. I know all about fencing. I have worked in these places too long. The illustration which the hon. Member for Bolton has given is not of accidents that happen unavoidably, but of a matter connected with the driving system, which has become very serious, in the weaving industry especially. I want to ask the Home Secretary three questions. There is a Committee sitting to-day with regard to accidents. I should like to know what progress is being made. There is also a Committee inquiring into dust and fibre. What are they doing? The injury from accidents is nothing compared with that from dust, where you simply take the life away from a man at the early age of anything between 30 and 40.
I would like to know, further, if it is possible to have better inspection. I am thinking more particularly of the heating of the rooms; it is abominable to see any employer do it. In the spinning mills, they do not do it, because the workmen cannot do the work if it is very hot; but in the other places they can do it, and the workmen work at a great disadvantage. That does not matter, as long as there is nothing to pay for it, but when they have to pay for the fixing of the fine yarns they are very careful to have heat. With better inspection we should have less complaints with regard to heat. Inspectors do their best, but when a man goes into a cold room he has a big top coat on and is in a different state from the man or woman who is working there. He is not feeling 2356 the cold iron. I want the Home Secretary to see that inspectors give more attention during the coming winter to the cold rooms than they have done up to the present. I do not want to say anything more with regard to accidents, but I should like to know what progress is being made by the Committee which is sitting. If we had better arrangements in regard to fencing we should have fewer accidents. There are many accidents caused simply through the driving system, and that is largely the reason so many accidents in the textile industry occur. I appeal to the Home Secretary and his staff. I know the staff and their present leaders, and they give us great help. They know that what I am saying is true, that if the inspection were better and more regularly done we should have fewer complaints. I hope the Home Secretary will give his attention to the matter.
§ Dr. VERNON DAVIES
As the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) laid particular stress on the suggestion that the number of accidents had been very largely increased, I should like to point out that, if you are going to treat every employer and every organisation as ready to break the law, you will require many more inspectors, because it is the easiest thing to break the law. The number of inspectors could be increased, but you have to depend largely on the honesty and good will of the employers, and their desire to do their best for their workpeople and to recognise the law of the land. There are many who regarded it as a retrograde step when the inspection of accidents was taken away from the certifying surgeons. That was done by decree of the Privy Council for the saving of £7,000 per annum, a comparatively small amount. What happened before that time was that accidents were reported to the certifying surgeon, who had to proceed to the mill and see the actual machine, and he could at once see whether it was due to the negligence of the employer or the carelessness of the employé, and he could make suggestions on the spot.
Now a report is made to the inspector, and from that report the inspector decides 2357 whether to visit the place or not. He can say on reading the report: "That is quite straightforward, and there is no necessity to go there," and he does not go. But there is a possibility that some accidents may not be accurately reported. I have seen in my own experience an accident caused in a certain way, and I have made further inquiries and found that part of the machine was unguarded. An inspector could not possibly find that out from the factory report. There is another thing. Now all that the certifying surgeon has to do is to go to the office and certify, and he practically never goes into the works or the mill. In the old days I was in the mill every working day, and I had full knowledge of every accident, and, when I saw that something was not quite right, I immediately drew attention to it. The result was that every certifying surgeon was helping the factory inspector and helping the Secretary of State. I would like to ask the Home Secretary what his present opinion of the certifying surgeon is. I ask this, because in a question a few months ago in this House the Secretary for Mines said that children could work in the mines without being examined by a certifying surgeon. He was asked whether he could do nothing, and he replied that he understood the Home Secretary had certain measures in view. He had been given the information or had obtained the impression that the certifying factory surgeons in the past had not been a satisfactory institution.
§ Dr. DAVIES
I said that he had obtained the impression that the certifying surgeon up to the present had not been a success, and possibly certain alterations would be carried out. That was the gist of his answer. What I would like the Home Secretary to do is to inquire through the Department into the work of the certifying surgeon in the last few years and compare it with the work they did formerly and see whether one of the most efficient services that the State had, and also one of the cheapest, was not the certifying surgeon. Any alteration in the status of the certifying 2358 surgeon is probably a retrograde step. He is at present a trained medical man with a very good knowledge of industrial processes. Every accident is reported to him, he is frequently in the mill, and constantly on the look-out for errors, and he could be of the greatest use to the Home Secretary and his Department. Accidents are not always the fault of the staff or even the fault of the workmen. They are sometimes the fault of the guard that is put on the machine, the guard suggested by the inspectorate. I remember in a particular case there was a certain part of a spinning wheel where people were constantly getting hurt between the rope and the pulley, and it usually resulted in a slight abrasion. A guard was put on, but, as a result of it, every accident became a serious accident. The injury became very much more serious, such as the loss of a finger-tip. What happened then was that the operatives started taking the guards off. I went into a certain mill on a certain day and we went round and every single guard in that room was taken off, because the people had found that it was a failure. The medical man is of use at a time like that. The medical man's knowledge, in co-operation with the factory inspector, can be a very great help. I should be very glad if the hon. Gentleman would pay particular attention to the possibility of securing co-operation between the work of the surgeon and the factory inspector, and of entrusting the inspection of accidents again to the certifying surgeon.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not reply to this Vote yet, because there are one or two other Members on this side of the Committee who want to express the hope that—I think the right way of putting it is to say through the usual channels—when the Home Office Vote comes up next year it may be possible to have a more comprehensive discussion on the subject than we are able to have to-night. The Home Office is a Department that deals with such a multitude of questions that if we had to take them all in succession it would take several nights to deal with it. I want to say a word about accidents and the prevention of accidents. All my experience both on the railways and other works is contrary to that of the hon. 2359 Member for Bolton (Mr. Hilton). Without inspectors and without the Factory Acts, accidents would be multiplied many times over. The provisions of the Factory Acts and the appointment of inspectors have not only saved limb but life as well to a very large extent. I have no knowledge of Lancashire cotton machinery, but I have knowledge of other very dangerous machinery connected with saw mills, and I say without any hesitation that, not only is there not too much supervision, but I am doubtful whether we have done as much as we ought to do in the way of safeguarding the work-people who use the machinery. I should not have taken up the time of the Committee to say that had it not been for the speech of the hon. Member for Royton (Dr. Davies). When it comes to doctors and inspectors, I have never known a doctor in London who visits the factories except when there may be an accident or when he goes to certify young people. It is only the inspectors that come round to inspect the machinery and get a knowledge of how the factories are being run.
§ Dr. DAVIES
The hon. Member misunderstood me. I said that sometime up to the beginning of the War accidents were reported to the medical men, and they had to go to the place of accident and see the actual spot. During the War that was stopped, and, since then, the medical men have not gone to make these inspections.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The point is that they went where there had been an accident. Will the Home Secretary tell us how often an inspector can visit a very large factory in the course of a year? I think he will find a multitude of factories that are not visited at all. The whole point of the hon. Member for Bolton was that we do not want more inspectors. I think we want the number very largely increased, because, whatever the control over the mill and factory owners may be generally, very few of them—again I speak only for London—are so over anxious or take so much care or trouble to find out what is needed to safeguard machinery as an inspector who goes in almost solely to do that particular piece of work. The inspector's job is to see that the machinery is properly safeguarded for the persons who are working it. 2360 The fewer of these men are engaged in visiting the factories the worse it is. I strongly support the appeal made by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) for an increase, in the inspectorate. It is not true to say that he was arguing for a kind of infirmary in each factory. He expressly safeguarded himself by saying the large factories. I wish all Members of the Committee were able to visit the big factories in Germany and to see the provision which is made in them for the treatment, not merely of accidents, but of all kinds of diseases. I remember during the Armistice period being in factories in Cologne where I found every conceivable appliance and organisation for dealing with every sort of disease to which man is heir. It might be said that in those days before the War Germany was only thinking of building a fine fighting machine, but nowadays they are taking care in exactly the same degree because they believe that efficiency is one of the best aids to production.
I have made these references to factory inspection in reply to remarks which have been made on the other side of that question; but my main object in rising is to refer to the naturalisation laws and to the treatment of aliens generally. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will not mind if I say that when it comes to dealing with aliens I look on him, as I expect he would look on me, if I were in a position to sit in judgment occasionally on people who held his point of view, or if I were a strong Anglo-Catholic set up to judge people of his evangelical tendencies. It seems to me that, the right hon. Gentleman, in connection with these matters, "sees red" and that his otherwise good judgment is blurred when dealing with a certain type of foreigner. The right hon. Gentleman takes it upon himself to make extraordinary statements as to his duty. The other day he laid it down that, as Home Secretary, he had been asked to clear out all the Communists and, generally speaking, to "get rid of the Reds." He proceeded to say that it was a rather tough job, but that there might come a day when this country with other countries—led by him I suppose—would engage in a sort of crusade against Communism the world over. That attitude of mind towards a philosophy of life with 2361 which one happens to disagree, especially when it is international, is dangerous. Is that what the country pays the Home Secretary for? The fact is that the Home Secretary does not conduct the foreign affairs of the country and has no right to make speeches of that kind in regard to a nation with whom we are not at war, even though we have no diplomatic relations with that nation. I do not see that it is any part of the Home Secretary's business to seek to outlaw a certain Government, because he, personally, disagrees with their view as to how their own country should be managed. The right hon. Gentleman has a perfect right to his own opinions, but when he is speaking as Home Secretary and as the representative of this country I deny his right to talk about the Communist Government of Russia in particular and Communism in general as if he were referring to some sort of leprosy or plague and to say that all Governments should be united in trying to stamp it out. That is what the right hon. Gentleman said.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
In that case, I desire to say that in my judgment the right hon. Gentleman is totally unfit to occupy a position in which he can grant or refuse to people who hold those views certain privileges as to staying in this country. There ought to be in that position a person more judicially-minded than the right hon. Gentleman on his own confession has shown himself to be. I do not think he can properly judge whether a person is good enough and respectable enough to be allowed to remain in this country. He has told me, in answer to questions, that the advocacy of Communism—this leprosy or plague, as he might describe it—is not illegal in this country. When the right hon. Gentleman talks about forming combinations of the nations of the world to put down Communism, that proves he has not the judicial mind which a Home Secretary ought to possess. That brings me to the other point on which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to tell me something. I asked about it at Question Time, but Mr. Speaker ruled that it was rather a matter for Debate. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to state some particulars as to the large number of Russians who have been 2362 naturalised during his period of office. I think the House of Commons, which is very jealous about giving naturalisation to aliens, would like to know more about these persons who were formerly Russian citizens and who have become naturalised British subjects. We should get particulars, at any rate about a sample of them, because I am told the number runs into hundreds. How long have they been in this country and what occupations do they follow? It is certain they are not Communists and therefore the assumption is that they are what are known as Russian Whites. Why are they entitled to receive naturalisation in this wholesale fashion at the hands of the Home Secretary? I think if the right hon. Gentleman gives us the figures, we shall find that the number of Russians naturalised during one year exceeded the number of all other nationalities. We should be informed as to the reasons for this step.
I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us whether the Government have yet found the document in search of which they went to Arcos and I would also raise the question, quite briefly, of that gentleman, Mr. Miller—the human document—who was, as the right hon. Gentleman told us, "discovered" at Arcos. I do not understand to this day how it came about that this gentleman who has been, according to the right hon. Gentleman, in the country for six or seven years, who has been reporting himself regularly as an alien and who was altogether under the supervision of the right hon. Gentleman's Department, should have been "discovered" in such a surprising way. It seems to me there was a screw loose somewhere in the machinery of espionage if it was so surprising to find this gentleman working where he was found working on this particular occasion. We were told by the right hon. Gentleman this man was known as the centre of the whole spy system of Soviet Russia. Yet he was allowed a free run for seven years in this country and no attempt was made to deal with him. The right hon. Gentleman, when he answered my Supplementary Question, led me to infer that the reason this man was let loose in this fashion—although according to the right hon. Gentleman he was known to be the most dangerous and villainous of the Russian spies in this country—was in order that the Department 2363 might get to know those who associated with him and discover his accomplices. But six or seven years is a long time during which to allow such a dangerous person to go loose. During that period, however, there was only one big prosecution of Communists.
If this man was as dangerous as the right hon. Gentleman would have us believe, I think we paid a big price for that prosecution. We got practically nothing by allowing this man to run loose in this fashion. It may be that I am ignorant of the ways of secret police and of espionage generally, but it seems extraordinary that the right hon. Gentleman should stand up and say in his most dramatic manner: "No, we did not find the letter but we did find a human document." I am certain very few people in the House of Commons at the time thought that the right hon. Gentleman had previously known of this man's existence or that the man had been under supervision for nearly seven years. We all imagined that it was a sudden discovery of some miscreant who had been hidden away. I cannot understand if the man was so dangerous, why he was allowed to go for such a period. I am sorry we have not time to pursue this subject further, but I hope the right hon. Gentleman will see his way to tell us more about Mr. Miller.
§ Commander WILLIAMS
I do not want to find myself in too acute disagreement with the last speaker, but before I say anything else about the Home Secretary which may not be quite so flattering, I think I should say that I am very glad he has acted with rather more severity in these matters during the last two or three months than he did previously. I believe that in that way he has gained enormous support amongst every section of the community, including the moderate section of the Socialist party. I know there are extreme sections in that party who do not like him and his actions, but I believe if we could have a vote to-day the moderate Socialist leaders would say, "Here is a very fair and a very just Minister whom we would not mind see acting a litle more strongly in future than in the past." But my object in rising was to deal with another matter which has occupied a considerable part of the afternoon's Debate, and that is, 2364 the administration of the Factory Act. I should be the last person in this House to criticise that administration except to say—as far as I personally am concerned, and I can only speak for myself—that I would like to see it absolutely and thoroughly efficient in every way. If the Home Secretary said it was necessary to spend more money on inspectors I should certainly not oppose him.
Seeing that we have taken some time in discussing those two matters, I think it would be fair to the general body of the taxpayers if for two or three minutes I drew attention to what is revealed on page 10 of the Estimates, where one finds a total expenditure of more than £149,000 this year for the staff of the Home Office itself. That sum is about £1,600 higher than it was last year. Probably that is due to the natural rise in the salaries of the various members of the staff, but, still, I think the figure is too high. Not only has the expenditure on the central staff increased, but the staff itself has increased. I would like to know how it is that suddenly, apparently, in one year, he has established a new class, or what would seem to be a new class, of civil servants called paper-keepers. He has set up 16 of them this year, a very considerable number of men. Of course, they may have been transferred and renominated, as other people are transferred in other branches, but if it had not been for these 16 paper-keepers his administration of his central office would have been very much more praiseworthy from an economical point of view. I draw attention to that, because I think it is part of our duty when we are in Committee discussing Estimates to go into the details of the headquarters' expenditure as well as the main body of the expenditure.
On page 18 will be found some information with reference to the fees charged to aliens who change their names. The amount raised in fees last year was lower than in the year before. May I ask what is the actual fee charged to an alien who, presumably, flatters the British nation by wishing to take a British name, and why it is that the amount derived from these fees is less? If the Home Secretary is making it more difficult for aliens to disguise themselves as good Englishmen or Scotsmen or Welshmen—though I do not think they generally try 2365 to become Welshmen; at least there is not the same competition as to become Englishmen—will he not consider the question of raising the fees? There is a strong feeling in the country not merely against aliens coming here. Whether they are whites or reds, and no matter from what country they come, there is a feeling that we should limit the influx of aliens so long as we have a considerable amount of unemployment in the country, and also that we should charge them whatever fees we possibly can get from them, up to a reasonable figure. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) apparently does not like our charging them fees.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I was saying that if you charge them a fee and they pay it, you get them in anyhow. I say the proper thing to do is to keep them out if they are taking work from workmen in any industry who are wanting a job.
§ Commander WILLIAMS
Keep them out anyhow, and if they do come in charge them as big a fee as you possibly can. If you do let any come in, charge them as much as ever you can before they are admitted. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what is the position as regards admitting aliens. I do not think the Aliens Act is sufficiently severe. Too many aliens come in. The right hon. Gentleman has certainly administered the aliens' legislation far better than it was administered by his predecessor, and far better than it was administered by the Liberal party, who are so conspicuous by their absence to-day, as always when it is a question of economy. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will do everything to limit the number of aliens coming into this country.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
On page 11 there is an item of £2,500 for, amongst other things, the expenses of Departmental Committees appointed by the right hon. Gentleman. I take it that figure includes the provision for the Departmental Committee which is now considering the Shop Acts legislation. But before I come to that, I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what the Arcos raid cost, 2366 and if he knew that the particular individual who has been referred to was on the premises why he did not use the ordinary powers which are open to him to expel any undesirable person, without undertaking this very melodramatic raid? The right hon. Gentleman has been melodramatic before. He was melodramatic in connection with the Irish controversy before the War, and possibly his recent action may be just as disastrous a contribution to peace as was that expedition. When the right hon. Gentleman announced the appointment of the Departmental Committee on the subject of Shop Acts legislation, he was asked from this side of the House whether he would extend the terms of reference in order that the problem might be dealt with in a comprehensive way, so as to settle it, at any rate, for some time. The right hon. Gentleman said the terms of reference provided for the consideration of whether the existing 1920 and 1921 Acts should be continued, and, if so, whether with or without modifications. He was asked whether he would extend the terms to include the consideration of the 1912 Act and the legal limiation of the hours of labour for shop workers. He declined to do so then, although representations were made to him by the Leader of the Opposition and other influential people. As the proceedings of the Committee have developed, it has become quite obvious that it is impossible to deal with the question intelligently without considering also the position created by the 1912 Act and the position with regard to hours of labour.
In view of the evidence which has been presented to the Departmental Committee, will the right hon. Gentleman consult the distinguished civil servant who is the Chairman of it with a view to securing an extension of the Committee's activities, or, at any rate, such an orientation of their activities that they may be able to consider seriously the legal limitation of the hours of labour? If the right hon. Gentleman would spare a little more time to deal with the evil conditions, injustices and inequalities which exist in this country, instead of chasing so many Reds out of Britain, he would be doing far more to secure his country against a real menace, for instance, the menace created by the effect of excessively long hours on the health and well-being of 2367 hundreds of thousands of young women and young persons in the distributive trades. I will give him an extract from the evidence placed before the Committee a few days ago, being the report of an inquiry undertaken for the Scottish Council for Women's Trades by students of the Economic Department of the School of Social Study in the Glasgow University. They give a number of instances, of which I am going to quote two. They say that in a fruiterer's shop a girl of 18 was found to be working—
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
On a point of Order. I do not know whether the hon. Member is asking me to introduce legislation, and without it I do not think I have any power to deal with hours of labour. I think any proposal for legislation would be out of Order on this Vote.
The hon. Member would not be in Order in dealing with the question of hours of labour on this Vote.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
On that point of Order. I wish to point out that this Vote provides for the expenses of a Departmental Committee, and I am asking the right hon. Gentleman to see that the work of that Committee is properly carried out by extending the terms of reference in the way suggested to him when first it was set up. To prove the necessity for such a course, I was proceeding to read from the evidence submitted to that Committee in order that the Home Secretary might have some knowledge of the actual conditions.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Taylor) was appointed by me as a member of that Departmental Committee. That Committee has taken evidence, but it has not yet reported, and its report has not been published. Therefore, I think it is a great breach of privilege for the hon. Member to quote from that evidence at the present moment.
To raise the question of the hours of labour would not be in order on this Vote.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
With regard to the point raised by the Home Secretary, I should like to ask your guidance, Captain Fitz-Roy, as to whether I am not in order 2368 in referring to evidence given before a Committee, which has been published in the public Press, which was taken in public, where any person can attend the Committee and hear the evidence? Of course, if it is a breach of privilege for a Member of this House to repeat what may be repeated in a dozen newspapers or by anybody who attends the Committee, then I confess that I have misunderstood the custom and traditions of this House.
It is not in order to refer to evidence given before a Committee until the Report of that Committee has been laid before the House.
§ Mr. TAYLOR
Should I be in order if I quoted the same material from a newspaper report instead of the actual words used before the Committee? If I am not in order, then I am sorry if I have committed any breach of privilege, and I apologise for having exceeded what is the usual custom in this connection. While I do not propose to proceed any further with that point, I want to raise another matter. In view of the interests of hundreds and thousands of young persons who are working very excessive hours, I want to ask, while this question is under review, if the Home Secretary will see that that side of the problem is fully considered before the Committee terminates its proceedings. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give my points favourable consideration.
§ Lieut.-Colonel ACLAND-TROYTE
I want to raise the question of probation officers. We all know that these officers perform very important duties, and they deserve payment if they want it, but there are cases, especially in country districts, where the work is very light, in which suitable people are willing to do this work without payment. They are anxious to continue to do this work in order to help their fellow-men, and with no wish for reward. I understand that the Home Secretary has now made a rule by which he will not allow probation officers to be employed unless they are paid, and we are 2369 likely to lose the valuable services of a number of people who, in the past, have been very useful and are very suitable for that particular work. I hope it is not going to be part of the policy of the Home Secretary to do away with voluntary efforts of this kind. A large part of our public work is done by voluntary efforts, and this work is undertaken not because those people want any reward, but because they consider it their duty. A case has arisen in my county where the probation officers have been doing their work voluntarily to the complete satisfaction of everybody concerned. The Home Secretary has refused to allow the magistrates to reappoint them. The County Council has sent a resolution, which was passed unanimously at the last quarterly meeting, protesting against this action. I do not believe the Home Secretary has the legal power under Clause 1, Subsection 2, of the Criminal Justice Act to do this. I should like to know Whether he has taken legal opinion about this, and what action he is going to take in the matter.
§ Mr. COMPTON
I wish to raise one or two points in regard to the Workmen's Compensation Act. On the industrial side we are very much indebted to the Home Secretary for the concessions he has made during the last 12 months, and we wish he could have extended them further in one or two other directions which I will indicate. Orders have been made in connection with certain trades during the last year or two, and I wish particularly to refer to the order issued by the right hon. Gentleman in connection with lead paint spraying in the vehicle trade 18 months ago. I understand that Order is not to be given full effect in various parts of the country. In connection with the Regulations issued in the case of metal-polishing, we know that the Home Secretary has instituted quite a number of prosecutions during the past 12 months. On the industrial side we are indebted to him for tightening up things in this direction, and we hope the Department will use the same methods in dealing with defaulters in connection with the spraying of lead paint.
I want to ask why, during the past year, the disease known as cattle-ringworm has not been scheduled. No justifiable reason has been given for not 2370 scheduling this disease. It is contracted inside a certain industry in connection with cattle. It is hardly possible for it to be contracted outside that industry, and the fact that it is not a scheduled disease may have a far-reaching effect, because those people who may be affected will not be entitled to compensation. The men who are employed in dealing with these cattle, through not being able to receive compensation in case of contracting the disease, are forced to go back to the farmyard to attend to other cattle, and in this way they tend to spread the disease of cattle-ringworm. This alone may cause the disease to be spread to alarming dimensions, whereas if the disease were scheduled, these men would receive medical attention and compensation up to such time as they are entirely free from the disease. For these reasons, I hope the Home Secretary will see his way to schedule this disease.
In the next place I desire to draw attention to a disease that has lately been scheduled, known as dermatitis, which affects a particular industry. Not long ago we had a Press campaign with regard to bakers' rash or a bakers' disease known as dermatitis. This disease affects French polishers, and it is asserted that the paints in which certain chemicals are used are liable to produce this particular disease. Then there is the case of lithographic printers, and those workers who are known as transferers in connection with lithographic printing are very much liable to contract this particular disease. Our difficulty is that in so far as the industrial disease of dermatitis is concerned the workmen and the workwomen who have once suffered from this disease cannot with any degree of certainty return to their employment without running the risk of recontracting the disease.
I do not know what the Home Secretary will say in reply, but there are cases on record where a workman, having once been certified as suffering from dermatitis, and having received benefits under the Workmen's Compensation Act to which he is entitled, when once he is free from the disease and offers himself for re-employment he is told that the insurance companies who carried out the industrial insurance had given notice to the employer that he was not to be employed again at that particular trade. I have here the Home Secretary's letter 2371 written to the Secretary of a trade union on the 6th September last, and I will refer to one statement in that letter. The Home Secretary says:The Secretary of State has made inquiry into this case and understands that in the Autumn of 1925 Mr. A was twice attacked by dermatitis while employed in transferring at Messrs. B's works. It appears that the insurance company were advised by their doctor that the disease would be certain to recur if Mr. A returned to transferring work. In these circumstances the Secretary of State considers their action in refusing to insure the employers unless other work not involving contact with chemicals was found for Mr. A was not unreasonable, and it seems to be clearly in the man's own interest that he should not return to this or similar work which would expose him to the risk of dermatitis.Here we have a position in relation to the Workmen's Compensation Act that we cannot afford to leave as the Home Secretary has left it. To state that the action of the insurance company is not unreasonable in connection with this particular transferring lithographic work is a very serious matter. To say that men who have served seven years apprenticeship to this trade and who have reached the age of 50 or 65 with no other employment to which to look forward, and who are practically condemned to starvation for the remainder of their days is something to which I think the right hon. Gentleman on reconsideration will not be a party, and I hope he will find out some way of getting over that difficulty. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to impress upon the particular department concerned that there are still chemicals being imported and used in connection with lithographic printing and transfer work which are put into turpentine and oils for toning-down purposes and for the manufacture of polish which are very dangerous, and the disease of dermatitis can be traced to the use of these chemicals. It ought to be the duty of the Home Office to see that the employers purchase only pure chemicals for these processes in order to protect the lives of their workers.
I wish to refer to another aspect of the Home Secretary's Department, and that is the question of capital punishment. I am not going to deal with the question whether capita punishment is right or wrong, but with another phase of the subject 2372 which was raised in this House a week or two ago. In answering a question, the right hon. Gentleman stated that prison doctors were not entitled to go outside the scope of the coroners inquiry when giving evidence at the inquest on an individual who had been executed. Further, not very long ago the right hon. Gentleman prosecuted an ex-prison governor for making certain statements in the Press concerning an execution. I wish to raise a phase of this matter that has occurred in connection with a certain Sunday newspaper in the North, in which an ex-hangman was giving, for several Sundays in succession, an account of his experiences in most harrowing terms. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can exercise any powers over a man who has served in this capacity and then retired, but I do suggest that, if he can bring any pressure to bear, he might do so, even to the extent of banning a newspaper which publishes such harrowing details, with which 95 per cent. of the people of this country were disgusted. Details were given of an unfortunate criminal who, it was feared prior to his execution, would not be able to stand upon his own legs, and it was stated that a wooden contraption had been made for the purpose, and that the man, not being able to speak the language of our country, cried, almost on the eve of his execution, "No, no, me be brave," which was probably all the English he could understand. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he, if would go to the extent of banning the reproduction of such harrowing details, 99 per cent. of those not directly interested in the production of such a so-called newspaper would welcome it. I hope he will consider taking steps in the direction I have indicated, so that, for the benefit especially of working people who read this kind of Sunday newspaper, and their children and families, such stuff may not be put on the market. I believe that, if he will do that, he will have the best thanks of the people of this country.
§ Mr. CHARLES EDWARDS
So many questions have been put to the Home Secretary that I am afraid he will forget some of them when he comes to reply. I want to emphasise one point that has already been put before him, and that is in regard to the number of inspectors 2373 employed. I want to advocate a very large increase in the inspectorate. I have been reading to-day the account of the inquiry into the cause of the recent explosion at, the Marine Colliery, Cwm, and anyone who reads that account will see that someone should have been there who was independent of both employers and workmen. If that had been so, this accident could not have happened. The place never ought to have been worked, and never would have been worked, if an independent responsible man had been there. We have tried on several occasions to get the firemen or deputies made Government men. This would not entail any cost, because the cost would be secured from the industry as it is to-day. The reply has always been that the manager is the responsible man, and that there could not be anyone over him. The manager is certainly the responsible man, but he is not an independent man. If managers were idealists as to safety, they would not be wanted. Output is the first thing, and the appointment of the manager, and every official under him, is considered from that standpoint only. If they cannot comply with that, and produce output, they are not wanted. That is the first consideration, and it will always remain so until some independent person is appointed to look after this matter.
Even if firemen and men of that class were not made Government men, why should not one such man be employed, say, for every 1,000 men? Where the number of men employed was smaller, they might be linked together and an inspector put over them. The inspectors we have in the mines to-day do not count, and it seems to me exactly the same in the factories. Their numbers are so very few, and their inspections are so few and far between, that they count for nothing. From what I know of the inspectors, their time seems to be almost entirely taken up by going to places where fatal accidents have occurred, and then attending the inquest and writing a long report. Therefore, real inspection of collieries, and also, I think, of factories, by men independent of both parties, counts for very little, because it is so very rarely done. I have not looked at the Estimates, but I dare say the amount of money spent on inspection would look pretty large. It is, however, far smaller 2374 than it ought to be. The first consideration ought to be safety, and there never will be safety until these men are made independent. This does not apply only to employers. Men break the rules as well as employers, especially men on piecework. When wages are low and times are bad, they take risks that they never ought to take, and never would take under a day wage system. Men get more money by working piecework, but the very considerable and, indeed, alarming number of accidents would be reduced if a day wage system were instituted instead of the piecework system. We have Regulations to-day, but many of the Regulations that are posted up are merely a protection for employers when accidents occur.
In the case of the railways, for instance, Regulations are posted up, but if these Regulations were kept there is not a single railway in this country that could go on for 24 hours. We have heard before now about working to rule. They cannot work to rule; there would be no work if they worked to rule; and yet these Regulations are posted up, and, when an accident occurs, they say, "Well, it is his own fault; the Regulations were there." We have heard it said also, when compensation has been claimed, that no compensation would be granted because the man had broken the rules. The Regulations are there, but they are Regulations which it is well known cannot be carried out if the work is to proceed. I say that, if the Regulations are posted up, they ought to be adhered to to the letter, or they ought to be withdrawn and practical Regulations substituted. My main plea, however, is for a larger inspectorate. "Safety First" is a phrase that we hear in this House sometimes. It is a very good phrase, but it is merely humbug. It is all right in crossing the street, but when you get back into the very heart of industry "Safety First" does not count. If the men responsible at the very heart of industry made "Safety First" count, output would suffer, and they would not be wanted. I say again, therefore, that it is mere humbug when you get back to the real heart of industry. It is a fine phrase to use here, and it ought to be the first consideration everywhere, but it is not the first consideration, and never will be until men independent of both employers and 2375 workmen are appointed to see to these things.
§ Mr. PALING
I want very shortly to raise three points, with which I hope the Home Secretary will deal in his reply. The first is in regard to Section 16 of the Act, which has already been referred to this afternoon. I want the Home Secretary to assure us that this provision, which was discussed at great length, and which there was some difficulty in getting into the Bill in 1923, is going to be made workable. It was the intention, I believe, when the Clause was put in, that it should work. The arguments upon it were fully discussed, and I believe it was the general opinion of all parties in the House that the Clause was absolutely necessary. While I am not going to bring forward any specific cases, I say that the Clause, generally speaking, is not being worked, that employers, particularly in the mining industry, are evading it. I am not making any complaint against the Judges, because they have no chance of getting the case fully in front of them. It was intended, where people were partly incapacitated, and could not get work suitable to their disability, or their ability to work at that time, having regard to their incapacity, that, if they had made all reasonable attempts to get work, and if the colliery company concerned could not find them a light job, they should be put on full compensation. I want the Home Secretary or the Under-Secretary to make some inquiry into this matter, when I think they will find that the Section is being honoured in the breach. The Home Secretary has stated that he would prosecute with the utmost vigour the question of getting the Reds out of the country. I would ask him whether he will prosecute this case just as vigorously. I am sure that, if he does, he will find room for his abilities in that direction, and that people who have been badly treated, as they are at present, will have some reason to thank the Home Secretary if he can make the Clause work as it was intended to work when it was put in in 1923.
The next subject on which I want to ask a question is silicosis. This has been discussed now for years, and attempt after attempt has been made by the Miners' Federation to get silicosis scheduled, but they have failed up to this 2376 moment. I believe that during recent months it has been scheduled in regard to a very limited number of industries, possibly those producing some kind of silica, but in regard to coal-pits, where there is a tremendous lot of stone, attempts to get the disease scheduled have not been successful. I hope the Home Secretary will prosecute his inquiries in that direction also. I had brought to my notice in my own Division a few months ago the case of a man working in a coal pit, who had worked for most of his life in stone. Of late years, as the Home Secretary knows, there has been a tendency to get machines to do all the boring in stone that is necessary. These machines revolve very rapidly, and a great deal of very fine dust is given off. A man doing this kind of work for a number of years is in my opinion, and in the opinion of the doctors who have to deal with these cases, just as liable to contract this disease as a man working, say, in a silica mine. Cases of that description have been brought to me before, and, in view of the medical evidence that has been collected on this subject, and of the numerous cases that have been brought to the notice of the Home Secretary, I would ask him to see if it is not possible to get this disease scheduled. The poor fellow whose case I have mentioned got no compensation, and, if my memory serves me, he is now dead. The doctors who dealt with his case—doctors who were supposed to be impartial—were absolutely agreed that it was a case of silicosis caused by his work in the coal-pit, but it was impossible to get any compensation because the disease had not been scheduled as an industrial disease with regard to coal-pits.
My last point is in regard to the question of nystagmus. My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) has already mentioned this, and has referred to the fact that the number of nystagmus cases is growing. I am not quite sure what the arrangement is between the Home Office and the Mines Department, which both deal with this question to some extent, but I think the Home Secretary has the power in these-cases to set up inquiries, medical and scientific, for the purpose of getting to know everything there is to be known about these diseases. I would ask whether he does not think, in view of the 2377 alarming increase of this disease, that it is not time that something else was done. After all, we, as representatives of the workers, are not so much concerned with getting compensation for the victims of a scheduled disease as with taking steps to prevent the disease, and it is from that point of view that I would ask the Home Secretary whether he thinks sufficient evidence has been accumulated to warrant a further inquiry into this matter.
It used to be said that the disease was due to the faint light in which the men had to work, involving constant strain on the eyesight, and consequent irritation of the eyes, but I want to point out to the Home Secretary that since that time there has been a very considerable improvement in the lighting of mines. The number of electric lamps has grown in the proportion of two electric lamps to one oil lamp, and the lighting of the mines has consequently been very much improved. But in spite of that it is still going on, so that that does not seem to be the be-all and the end-all of the causes of the disease. A medical man in my neighbourhood says it is not a question of light at all but of the tendency of a man to contract the disease under the conditions of work in the pit. It is a question of examining your boys to see whether the tendency exists, and excluding them if it does. Medical evidence is at variance, but in spite of that, there has been a tremendous amount of evidence accumulating since the last, inquiry which might lead, if the whole thing was co-ordinated by a Committee of Inquiry, to some further knowledge than we have at present. If the Home Secretary will use his powers in the direction of preventing this rapidly spreading disease we shall have reason to bless the time when he was Home Secretary.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
A very large number of points have been raised and I shall have to bore the Committee for a little time if I am to answer them all to the satisfaction of those who put the questions. Perhaps I had better clear up one or two of the smaller points first. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Tiverton (Lieut.-Colonel Acland-Troyte) raised a question in regard to voluntary probation workers. The position there is that I have not decided that no voluntary workers should 2378 be permitted. I have spoken in the House many times in support of the wonderful efforts of the voluntary workers, and I want to avail myself of the work that is offered to the administration of the Home Office in these probation cases. At the same time it was the decision of the House of Commons—and it is, of course, my duty to carry out that decision—that there should be definitely a probation officer in every Court, and I must be satisfied beyond all possibility of error that voluntary workers will be there when they are wanted—because there can be no definite claim upon a day to day and hour to hour attendance of voluntary workers as there is in the case of paid workers. I have to see that there is a worker either paid or voluntary in every police court.
My hon. and gallant Friend told the Committee that there was something in the nature of a vote of censure passed upon me by the Devon County Council, but I am sure he did not mean to be too hard on me, as he was told only yesterday by the Under-Secretary that the letter had just been received, that it was being considered, and that I would reply in the course of a few days. It was really unnecessary for him to have brought it up again to-day. However, perhaps it will do me good and keep me from forgetting the point. Then a question was raised in regard to a worker engaged on steel work which was likely to cause cataract, who left it after 10 years and took to other work, and then in the course of the other work cataract came on, assumed to have been the result of the steel work. The position there is that a claim for compensation must be made within 12 months of the termination of the employment which produced the disease. I do not know whether it is necessary to extend the period, but at present it would not be possible to meet that point without an alteration of the Act of Parliament.
The most important questions which have been raised are Factory Act administration, the position in regard to different industrial diseases, and the administration of the Aliens Act. I shall try to deal with those three questions as they were dealt with by the hon. Gentleman who preceded me at the Home Office, and of whose work as Under-Secretary I have no cause to complain. I have followed in 2379 his footsteps in the endeavour to carry out a great many suggestions he made but I am not going to allow him to say that I have gone back, and that the administration of the Home Office would be better if he were here instead of me. That I will not have for a moment. I can show that that is not the case. I have been asked about factory inspection both by the hon. Gentleman and by the hon. Member for Bedwellty (Mr. C. Edwards), who quite definitely asked me to increase the number of factory inspectors. The hon. Member for 'West-houghton (Mr. Rhys Davies) dealt with the number of factory inspectors in Germany. The figures for our staff are as follow: In 1913 there were 222 inspectors and last year there were 205. I agree they have slightly gone down. The number of visits paid to factories and workshops has dropped from 406,000 in 1913 to 300,000 in 1926. That is very largely accounted for by the reduction in the number of visits to workshops. The number of visits to factories last year was 188,000, as compared with 176,000 in 1913, so that the actual inspections of factories have gone up since 1913 by 12,000, though the number of inspectors has slightly gone down.
We cannot quite compare the work in Germany with the work here. Germany is nearly twice as large as this country, the inspectors, of course, have to travel a great deal more than they do here, and I find also, that though the number of inspectors in 'Germany is larger than here they include more deputies and assistants than we have. I do not deny that the number of inspectors is greater than here, but I do not think the comparison is sufficiently definite to enable us to say that Germany is better inspected than we are. I am prepared to admit, however, that I think there is a distinct claim for more factory inspectors, and I will quote from a speech I made on the Home Office Vote last year in reply to the Noble Lord the Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Bentinck). I said:He has very rightly complained of the lack in the numbers of the factory inspectors. I am with him all the time. I have said in this House, and I said only last week, in reply to a deputation, that I agree that I have not got enough factory inspectors. I would like to get more, and I hope I shall get more. The same complaint 2380 was made during the last Government, and the right hon. Gentleman the late Home Secretary made the same answer, that considerations of economy, in the first place, prevented an increase in the number of factory inspectors.I and the Committee would like the administration of all these great and humanising laws that come under the control of the Home Office to be as effective as they possibly can be. There is no doubt there are many thousands of works which do not get inspected in the course of every year. If we had more inspectors there would be more inspections made. At the same time, I have to balance, as the Home Secretary in the Labour Government had to balance, on one side the claims of the Treasury and on the other the claims of perfection in administration. The nearer we get to perfection in the carrying out of the work allocated to the Home Office the more expensive it is bound to be and the more difficult the demands I shall have to make on the Treasury will be. I, therefore, repeat to-day what I said last year, and what the Labour Government said. We should both like to increase the number of factory inspectors, but we are limited at the moment by the very strenuous efforts the Government are making in the cause of economy, and at present I am bound to ask, and I am asking—and they are responding to it gallantly—the departmental staff of factory inspectors to work harder and harder in order to cope with the increased work without having to apply to the Treasury for an increase in the number of inspectors. When we have got through our difficulties, and when perhaps the Factory Bill of next year has passed into law, that will be the time to approach the Treasury.
The most difficult points that have been raised, apart from factory inspection, are those relating to industrial diseases, nystagmus, cattle ringworm, silicosis and acute bursitis of the knee or elbow, and it is only right that I should deal a little fully with those diseases and the action of the Department in regard to them. A scheduled disease is one that is scheduled under the Workmen's Compensation Acts, which give a right of compensation, and in accordance with the Report of the Departmental Committee on Industrial Diseases, no disease is scheduled by me 2381 unless it complies with certain conditions. First of all, it must be a disease and not an accident within the meaning of the Act. Secondly, it must be a disease such as will disable the workman for the minimum period, not less than four days, necessary for compensation. Thirdly, it must be a disease specific to the employment, so that its causation by the employment can be determined in individual cases. The question of cattle ringworm was first raised six or seven years ago by the National Agricultural Workers' Union.
I want to show the Committee the difficulties the Department has in coming to a conclusion on these diseases. They were asked to furnish particulars of the number and the nature of the cases on which the application was based, but no reply was received to that request. The question was raised again in April of last year, when the Trade Union Congress submitted a summary of cases to me, and I received a deputation in order to discuss the whole question. The evidence that was put before me, as to whether cattle ringworm was a disease which definitely came within those conditions, was considered very carefully, not only by me but by my medical advisers, and it was certainly sufficiently clear to me that without further investigation I should not be satisfied that this disease came within the three conditions I have mentioned. There seemed really to be some doubt as to the extent to which this disease, commonplace though it may be, really prevented a man from going to work. It is in a different category from ordinary ringworm, which boys and girls, and sometimes men, have, and one knows that work can be carried on with the ordinary ringworm. There has been no evidence put before me to prove conclusively that cattle ringworm in mankind is such a disease as would normally prevent a man carrying out his work.
§ Miss WILKINSON
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that ringworm is so very infectious that any child suffering from it is excluded from the schools, and in that case a man who remained at work would be seriously endangering the health of everyone who worked with him?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
That is quite a different point. I have to deal with the Act of Parliament and I have to be satisfied that a particular disease, whether infectious or not, will really prevent a man carrying out the work he has been doing. I have been in consultation with the Ministry of Health on this point, and they have agreed to institute a special investigation into this disease. I have not enough information, and I was not able to get it from the deputation which came to see me in April last year. I tried hard to satisfy myself, but the data were not sufficient. The Minister of Health, however, is undertaking a special investigation into this disease, with a view to determine how far it could properly be included in the list of industrial diseases. I hope the investigation will be completed very shortly, in another month or two, and then the matter will come up for final decision. I do not want to say definitely to-day either that the disease will be scheduled or will not be scheduled. I must wait until I have the report of the investigation.
I admit the disease mentioned by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Paling), who last spoke, namely, miners' nystagmus, is a very terrible disease indeed. It is a disease which causes my Department the very greatest anxiety. It has always been scheduled. It is perfectly true that the disease has increased. In 1908 there were only 386 new cases and 74 old cases. In 1925 there were 3,445 new cases and 7,890 old cases. I admit that this is a very serious matter. One might have said 40 or 50 years ago that this was not a matter for the Government to consider, but that is a position which no Government could take up at the present time. We regard the disease as of very serious moment, not only to individual workmen, but to the well-being of the community as a whole and to the efficiency of the workers. As has been said, the effect is to reduce the output of the industry in which the disease occurred. After very full investigation a committee of the Medical Research Council, which, as the Committee knows, is one of the most eminent bodies in this country, in 1923 made a number of recommendations 2383 for improving the position in regard to this disease, including a recommendation for the alteration of the terms under which the disease was to be scheduled. We at once at the Home Office—I am not quite sure whether it was the hon. Gentleman opposite or his predecessor who considered this report—drew up a scheme to give effect to those recommendations. The scheme which was then considered by my right hon. Friend in the Mines Department was agreed to by them and was referred by the Home Office to the Mining Association and to the Miners' Federation for their consideration. I do not want to blame anybody, but blame cannot be apportioned to my Department. It is not their fault that the matter has not been pressed forward. We received the report from the Medical Research Council and we drew up a new and improved scheme to deal with miners' nystagmus. We sent that scheme to two great organisations concerned with the conduct of the industry. The Mining Association has furnished me with their views on this scheme but the Miners' Federation have not yet done so. I know that the Miners' Federation was very busy last year, but, at the same time, I am not to blame for the complaint that has been made. It is not my fault nor the fault of the Home Office that this matter has been delayed. I have been consulting with the employers' association, and I have consulted with the great trade union which has in hand the interest of the miners and I am now waiting for their views on this scheme. If they are such as commend themselves to me, I hope to have a better scheme before very long for dealing with this terrible disease.
The next disease in reference to which I was questioned this afternoon is the disease known as miners' beat knee and beat elbow. The diseases known as miners' beat knee and beat elbow are ascribed respectively to constant kneeling and to the position assumed for under holing. With beat hand—due to constant use of the pick—they form a formidable group of diseases. Each of these diseases consists of a localised inflammation of the deep layer of the skin and subcutaneous tissues, or in the case of the knee or elbow, there may be acute inflammation of the bursa over the knee cap or elbow. 2384 The point I have to consider, and it is a very difficult one, is how far bursitis without inflammation is a disease which incapacitates a man. The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) who put a very fair question to me regarding this disease, is trying to get removed from the definition of this particular disease the word "acute." I do not know whether the hon. Member will be interested in the fact, but I have suffered from bursitis for a good many years. For many years now I have had slight bursitis, but it is not acute and it does not disable me.
§ Mr. TINKER
The right hon. Gentleman is not working in a pit, where you have to go down on your knees every day.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
No, that is quite true. If I were doing a particular form of work which caused me to kneel, quite likely my bursitis would become acute. Then the disease would come under the provisions of the Clause and the description I have laid down. The Miners' Federation were informed of my decision in advance and they asked—but without producing any evidence in support—that the word "acute" should be omitted. As already explained, there is a chronic bursitis which is not a disabling condition, and this would be covered if the word "acute" were omitted. The Medical Research Council have dealt with the point and this is what they say:A chronic enlargement of the bursa in front of the knee or elbow should not be certified as an industrial disease unless the chronic condition becomes acutely inflamed as the result of work. Chronic enlargement of these bursæ does not cause any incapacity. The certifying surgeon must always satisfy himself that the condition is an acute inflammation arising out of the workmen's employment and of sufficient severity to cause loss of earning power.The Miners' Federation was, therefore, informed that I did not feel justified in including bursitis in the Schedule, except in the acute form, and the order was made accordingly, beat knee being described as "subcutaneous cellulitis or acute bursitis arising at or about the knee," and beat elbow being described as "subcutaneous cellulitis or acute bursitis over the elbow." If hon. Members or the Miners' Federation will bring me any medical evidence to prove that there is a bursitis which is not associated with acute inflammation 2385 but which nevertheless disables the worker, I am quite prepared to reconsider the position.
§ Sir JOHN SIMON
Is it clear that the word "acute" is the word that should govern the point? I am not quite sure what is meant in this connection by "acute." If "acute" means that the disease is such that it causes pain, then I follow him, but is the qualification of "acute" something other than that?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
No. The right hon. and learned Gentleman belongs to a learned profession and—
§ Sir J. SIMON
I daresay the right hon. Gentleman has constituents as I have, who are really interested as to the point at which you regard these particular diseases as being disqualified. That is the point.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The right hon. and learned Gentlemen and the Committee must realise that I cannot put into the list of industrial disease a particular disease until I am satisfied that in the form in which it is desired to be put it would incapacitate men from work. The view of the Medical Research Council, which, of course, is a body of the very highest repute in the medical world, is that until it becomes acutely inflammatory, it is not such as would prevent a man from working. Any hon. Member may have bursitis of a non-acute character which does not prevent him from working. That is the view of the Medical Research Council, and it is the view I am bound to uphold, until I get information to the contrary. I tell hon. Members now, and I am prepared to tell the Miners' Federation also, that I will very gladly consider any medical information establishing the case that bursitis in itself, even before it is acute or inflammatory, is such a disease as would prevent a man from going down the mine to do his work.
§ Dr. DAVIES
Does my right hon. Friend think it possible to define the word "acute," because "acute," medically, is something very serious? If acute bursitis means a swelling, pain or redness, it would be quite sufficient to define "acute." Otherwise, it is such a specific term that a man might have bursitis causing a certain kind of pain 2386 which would not come under your definition. It requires a definition of the word "acute."
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
It is no doubt very difficult for the layman to define. I did not read the whole of the Report of the Medical Research Council, but there is a further Clause which may deal with the point raised by my hon. Friend.The certifying surgeon must always satisfy himself that the condition is an acute inflammation arising out of the workman's employment and of sufficient severity to cause loss of earning power.That is the position I have been bound to take up, and, unless hon. Members can produce medical evidence that bursitis in itself can cause, not merely pain, but loss of earning power without it becoming acute and even before it becomes acute or inflammatory, I must be bound by the Medical Report placed before me.
§ Dr. DAVIES
Upon that definition, a case would have to be distinctly acute before it could come under the right hon. Gentleman's Department, and the man would have to be unable to work for many days before he satisfied the conditions enabling the certifying surgeon to give a certificate.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I know my hon. Friend has had great experience, and I shall be glad to consider any evidence of a medical character which he can give. I have made this offer to hon. Members and the Federation, and I shall be prepared to make any further inquiry necessary to satisfy them on this question.
The last disease with which I will deal, and it is a very troublesome one and has worried the Under-Secretary and myself, is silicosis. That is fibrosis of the lungs due to the inhalation of silica dust. This disease has not been scheduled, but I can provide compensation for it under special powers conferred by the Workmen's Compensation (Silicosis) Acts, now Section 47 of the Consolidated Compensation Act, 1925, if I am of opinion that in any industry or group of industries there ought to be a scheme under which compensation can be provided. I have made two such schemes. One scheme is for the Refractories industries, chiefly in the Yorkshire 2387 district (ganister mining, and Banister and silica brick-works and quarries). I have also made a scheme for the metal grinding industry which is centred largely round Sheffield and is concerned with the grinding of cutlery and edged tools, machinery, etc. These industries are now proceeding under the schemes which I have established since I have been at the Home Office, and I believe that the former scheme at any rate is working satisfactorily. It is not possible to make a full report on the latter scheme as it has only just come into force and is not altogether popular. I should, however, like to bear testimony to the fact that the employers have entered whole-heartedly and perfectly fairly into the working of the schemes and I believe we shall find that as far as these two industries are concerned a satisfactory solution has been found.
I have been asked to deal with silicosis in coal mining, where it is suggested that silica enters the lungs of the worker and induces this horrible form of fibroid tuberculosis in consequence of the silica entering the lungs. Before I impose a scheme upon an industry, I have to be satisfied that the disease really exists and that it results from the employment. A medical inquiry ha[...]st been conducted by the Home Office and the Mines Department, and we have had examined a considerable number of men by radiograph. Tests have been made and information has been obtained that in some cases there is distinct evidence of silicosis in the lungs of these men. There were 13 men in a particular mine or group of mines and undoubtedly in two or three cases very serious fibroid conditions were discovered by radiograph examination. When I pursued my inquiries further, the owners of that mine said, "We do not know where they got their fibrosis; they could not have got it in our mine, because there is no silica of any kind in this mine." I had a long interview lasting an hour and a quarter the day before yesterday with some of the owners of that particular mine—
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Yes, a coal mine. The fact remains that out of the men examined by the experts selected by the Mines Department, two at least were certainly suffering from a form of 2388 silicosis, but the employer, the owner of this particular mine, said that it is quite impossible that the disease could have taken place in his mine. Hon. Members will see the difficulty in which I am placed. I am satisfied that there is this disease, that there is the disease of silicosis, which can be contracted by miners who are engaged in working in stone drifts where there is rock of a siliceous character. What I have done so far is that I have supplied the information to the Mining Association, and I have arranged with them that they shall come and have an interview with the medical advisers of the Mines Department who arranged for the examination of these men by doctors of the highest eminence, that they shall see the radiographs, and then consult as to whether they are or are not convinced that it is fair, under all the circumstances, that I should make a scheme. If they are not convinced, then the only thing will be for me to direct an inquiry to be held in order to establish which side is right or wrong. I cannot take upon myself, and I do not think hon. Members opposite would ask me, to decide a very important point of this kind until I am fully satisfied in my own mind, and when I am satisfied, then I shall make an Order in regard to this industry, as I have done in regard to the two industries which I have mentioned.
§ Mr. PALING
I suppose the statement of the mine owner that there is no silica in the mine will be examined and tested?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
That is so. I have the particulars of the men tabulated and I will gladly show my hon. Friend the names and the particular class of work that the men were doing. I have not the information here now. I may say in reply to the hon. Member for Don-caster that I have had a large number of mines examined by an independent medical man, who is not an interested party at all, a mining expert from South Africa, who is over here. As the deputation 2389 from the Miners' Federation, at which I met Mr. Cook, we talked about industrial diseases and not political problems. I hope the Committee will realise that the Home Office is doing its utmost to cope with this very difficult question. I can assure the Committee that if I am satisfied, and the House will not ask me to do it until I am satisfied, I shall make a scheme.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton said that there had been a battle royal about lead paint last year—I should hardly call it a battle royal, it was a skirmish—between the hon. Member and myself, and he was carried off the field leaving me the victor, temporarily, at all events. I am going to ask him not to press me too hard upon the question of lead paint at the moment. I cannot give full information to-day. There has not been time for the regulations to be put into force, in order to find out how far the wet process is really being carried out. If the hon. Member wishes, I could give a long report of what has been taking place, but I do not want to weary the Committee. In a few months time, when there has been full opportunity for the proposals to work, if he would like to see me or put down a question, I will endeavour to give him a full and complete answer.
The next question which the hon. Member raised related to the Liverpool and Birkenhead Tunnel. I do not carry the Liverpool and Birkenhead Tunnel in my pocket; but I have made inquiries since the hon. Member spoke and I am informed that the work is being carried out with the greatest care. The hon. Member was good enough to ask a question two years ago. We have had the matter under very careful consideration, and we are assured that the work is being carried out with every modern device and every modern appliance that can be suggested. Water sprays are used where there is boring through rock in order to prevent the possibility of silicosis, as far as it can possibly be prevented. The work will be inspected from time to time, and if we discover anything further that can be done to protect the workmen from any possibility of injury, I am quite sure that the contractors will be only too glad to carry out our suggestions.
2390 I now come to the question of aliens, which has been raised by several of my hon. Friends. The hon. Member for Torquay (Commander Williams) referred to different Home Secretaries. I do not think he regards me as being quite as good as I might be. It must be remembered that every alien is not in every sense an undesirable alien. An enormous number of aliens come into this country every year. Some 367,000 aliens were admitted into this country last year. There is an enormous influx and efflux of aliens. Most of these aliens come here for the benefit of this country. For instance, last year there were 53,000 alien residents in this country who went back to other countries on visits, and returned here; people who have lived here for years, people who are carrying on industries in this country and who are valuable citizens. It would be ridiculous if I were to say to each one of these aliens on his return: "You may have lived in England for many years; you may have your roots in England, but I do not want you back." Nearly 31,000 aliens passed through this country in transit to other countries. The shipping industry is very valuable to this country and the shipping of the alien populations from the South and East of Europe to Canada, the United States of America, and South America is a very valuable thing indeed, and I must not in the administration of the Regulations with regard to aliens which are entrusted to me by this House, do anything to hinder our shipping industry. Moreover, 172,000 visitors came here for holidays. The Secretary for the Overseas Trade Department has been devoting a great deal of time and energy to popularising English health resorts, and—
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I did not see the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) enter the House, otherwise I should have known that he would not allow me to get away with the term "English." I hope to visit Scotland myself next month.
§ Captain FRASER
The right hon. Gentleman said that a third of a million aliens came into this country. Can he 2391 say how many went out in the same period?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
About the same number. Last year the number of aliens who came in totalled 367,000, and slightly more went out than came in.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
We must allow them in, that is, those who come here for the benefit of this country must be permitted to come here. These tourists spend money upon our railways, in our hotels and so forth, and they are a valuable asset to the country. We must not prevent them from coming. There were business people who came here. Some 82,000 business visitors are included in the 367,000. These people are advantageous to this country. I have here a Report which has been published, Command Paper 2865, in which hon. Members will find details of every type of alien who came into the country last year, classified, giving the objects of their coming, and the particular country from which they came. Among those classified are 6,019 aliens of no particular class. They are not diplomats, tourists or commercial men, but they will be found tabulated on page 5 of the Report, and if my hon. Friends will do me the kindness to read that Report they will find that practically every single alien who comes into this country is ticketed, labelled, docketed and accounted for. We know when he comes in and when he goes out, and we take particular care to see that when the period for which he is allowed in expires, he goes out.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
I am sure that hon. Members will read the Return with interest. Does the Return include or can the right hon. Gentleman give us a return which will include the complementary figures of British subjects who go abroad, live abroad, or work abroad? That would complete the story.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The Report does not give that return, and I do not quite know how it could give it.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I could get the total number who go out and come in and those who go to live abroad, 2392 but it would be very difficult, because we have to take into account the efflux of people from this country who go to live not only abroad but in our own Dominions and Colonies. If my hon. Friend presses for the information I will see if I can supply it.
§ Mr. CRAWFURD
Over a period of years it would make a very interesting study and it would be of value in discussions on the question of aliens.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I can only say I have not got the information at the present time. I did not have notice that this was going to be asked for, but if the hon. Member presses for it, I will try to get it. I was asked a question about naturalisation. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton will be sorry he asked that question, because as far as naturalisation is concerned my figures are better than his from his own point of view. In 1924, there were 935 naturalisations in this country. In my first year, 1925, there were 1,074, and last year I naturalised 1,345 people—not a bad return for a Conservative Home Secretary as compared with his predecessor, a Labour Home Secretary. I think those figures distinctly show—and I want to be quite clear on this point—that there is no bias in my mind against naturalising a man who, in my view, is fit for naturalisation. We have speeded up the work at the Home Office very considerably, but I am not going to say that I am making naturalisation easier. I am not. The hon. Member seemed to think that if a man had lived 10 years in this country and had behaved himself decently he should be entitled as a right to naturalisation. I do not take that view at all. A man may live here for 10 or 20 years without becoming in his heart and mind an Englishman. He may want naturalisation for various purposes—because he wants to travel with the facilities of an English passport, or to have the help of the English Diplomatic Service rather than that of his own country. 2393 No, I have said this before in this House, and I am not ashamed of it and I repeat it. I do not want hon. Members opposite to go away with any idea that I am weakening in the views which this House has approved, not once but in successive years, in regard to my administration of the powers granted to me under the Aliens Act. Unless I am satisfied that a man, however long he has lived in this country, has become a real Englishman, desiring to put his roots deep down here and desirous of having his children educated as English boys and girls and, in fact, desirous of making England his home for the rest of his life, and with no thought of returning to a foreign country, wherever it may be, in my view he is not entitled to the proud privilege of being made a British citizen. While I have increased the number of naturalisations, it is simply because we have speeded up the operation of the Act. I did find rather an accumulation of cases which the hon. Gentleman opposite had left over when I became Home Secretary, and I got the Department to speed up the work, and now I am very glad to say there is no more delay than is necessary in making proper inquiries or than can possibly be avoided in granting naturalisation in proper cases.
Another question was asked me about the barracks at Eastleigh and the number of aliens there. I think the House knows of the arrangement which was come to in connection with several hundred aliens who were brought here from the East of Europe in transit for America. Just as they arrived at Southampton, and were being transhipped to a Cunard or other vessel going across the Atlantic, America closed her doors and put on a quota. There was a difficulty as to what was to be done with them. They did not want to go back to their own country, their own country did not want to have them, and America would not take them. I declined to allow them to be let loose on this country. The liability is by law with the shipping companies, and quite rightly so, and the shipping companies behaved exceedingly well and established this camp at Eastleigh where every kind of arrangement was made for these unfortunate people. They have lived there for nearly two years, and from time to time, as America opened her doors, numbers of them were shipped off to America. 2394 In the winter of last year the Jewish Board of Guardians, who are very largely responsible, as far as religion is concerned, for most of these emigrants, came to me and said: "We have got rid of nearly all these people, but there are about 120 remaining. Most of them are young girls and they are certainly not improving by being kept here. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may smile, but I do not think any of them would be improved by being kept locked up. Then they said, "Is it not time that this matter should be reconsidered?" "Certainly," I replied, "but on condition that you, as a board, will be responsible, if I let these people come out, for seeing that they are properly looked after and arrangements are made, as soon as America can take them, to ship them to America, and that in the meantime they shall not come on to the English labour market to compete with English labour."
A very full undertaking in regard to that matter was given to me by the board of guardians. That undertaking has been carried out to my entire satisfaction, and the very difficult question of the retention of these people in this camp at Eastleigh and the expense to the shipping company has come to an end, having been admirably accomplished by the Jewish board. In due course, the whole of these unfortunate people will be able to proceed to their destinations in America. That shows the advantage of dealing personally and directly in these matters. You could not administer an Aliens Act of this kind with cast-iron rules and regulations. There must be a power of decision left to somebody, and at present the House of Commons has left it with the Secretary of State for the Home Department. It is not an enviable responsibility which has been placed on my shoulders, and if the House chooses to take it away, and give it to a Committee or some other body, I, for one, would not mind. But, as long as that responsibility for dealing with the Aliens Act is cast on the shoulders of the Home Secretary, so long shall I endeavour to carry out those duties in the primary interests—as I have stated on more than one occasion in this House—of this country. This country's interest must come first in regard to this question of aliens. 2395 I do not want to be, and I am not, harsh, and I think the way in which we have dealt with those unfortunate people proves that the administration of my Department is very far from being harsh. We seek to do all we can to mitigate the difficulties and unpleasantness which must necessarily arise in the case of aliens travelling through this country. In the administration of the Act, in regard to the naturalisation of aliens and all the other powers given to me, I shall endeavour in future, so long as I am Home Secretary, to continue to carry them out fairly, reasonably and with kindness to these people, but always with regard to the interest of this country as a whole. I have endeavoured to answer most of the questions which have been put to me this afternoon, and I do not like taking up more of the time of the House.
§ Mr. W. C. ROBINSON
Would the right hon. Gentleman answer the question regarding the Textile Committee?
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
A question was asked me about the Textile Committee. It is a voluntary committee of the employers and the employed, with two of my factory inspectors on it. That committee has been sitting for some long time, and I hope it will report very shortly. As soon as it does, and as soon as an arrangement is come to between employers and employed as to what is to be done, I shall be only too glad to give their decision the effect of law by making the necessary Order. I hope it will not be very long before I am able to deal with it.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
The hon. Member did ask me a question about that, and whether I would extend the reference of the Shop Hours Committee and make it wider to deal with hours. I replied to him on a former occasion that I did not intend to do so, and I can only make the same reply to-day. 2396 I have received no request from the Committee as a whole. The Committee is taking evidence, and I believe it will report very shortly. In the circumstances, if the hon. Member presses me, I can only say "No!"
§ Mr. MAXTON
On a point of Order. Some of us are in a little difficulty as to the procedure which is being adopted. At an earlier stage we raised, Mr. Hope, with your predecessor in the Chair the question of what subjects could be discussed, and we understood we could not discuss the police question or prison question on the Vote which we are now discussing, and we want to get on with those questions. Are we to understand that we are now departing from the first Vote on the Order Paper, which includes the Minister's salary, and are now to be allowed to discuss the police and prison questions?
§ The CHAIRMAN
That entirely depends as to whether more Members wish to discuss the Home Office Vote proper. As long as other Members rise, unless a Motion for the Closure is moved, I am bound to call on those Members.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
May I make one observation? It was understood that we were to dispose of the subject we have already dealt with after the Home Secretary had replied to the three points which I had raised with him, and that hon. Members would then be able to deal with prisons. I am not sure as to whether prisons include reformatory schools, and perhaps that is a point upon which there is a difficulty, but I do want to say that I understood that we should not move to report Progress until eight o'clock.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am entirely in the hands of the Committee. I shall be quite willing for the Committee to finish this Vote now and go on to the Prison Vote, in accordance with the arrangement to report Progress at eight o'clock.
§ Mr. GROVES
There was a question which I submitted to the Home Secretary yesterday, and he sent me some acknowledgment, and I should like to know whether there is a possibility of getting a reply before the Vote is disposed of. I should like to raise the matter, if the right hon. Gentleman is in a position to give me a reply.
§ Mr. MAXTON
On a point of Order. The Votes that are put down for to-day are separate Votes, and we are now discussing Vote I. The next is a Vote 4, which relates to prisons, and then there is Vote 3, which relates to police. The subject I wish to raise is connected with the police. Is there any reason why Vote 4 should be taken before Vote 3? Is this by arrangement or accident?
§ The CHAIRMAN
No. They are put down in this order. I shall have to call the next Vote, but if no one wishes to discuss it it can be withdrawn by general consent.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The next Vote is for prisons, which will include Borstal institutions but not reformatories. That comes on next, as soon as we have disposed of this Vote, but the Home Secretary can withdraw it by consent and then we should be able to get on to the Vote for Police.
§ Mr. GROVES
I should like to get a reply from the Home Secretary to my question, because I shall not be able to deal with it on the next Vote.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I am afraid I cannot give the hon. Member an answer. I have a mass of papers here relating to the case, but he only gave me notice last night and all the morning I have been engaged in a Committee upstairs, and during the afternoon I have been keeping my ears open to the speeches made by hon. Members. However, I will try and read the papers and let him have an answer to-morrow, if that will satisfy him.
§ Question put, and agreed to.