HC Deb 28 July 1927 vol 209 cc1534-64

The right hon. Gentleman in his earlier observations laid down a doctrine which is novel to the Conservative Government. He said there was no such way to strengthen the Soviet as to attack it. That doctrine is something of a novelty for the right hon. Gentleman himself, but when that utterance was cheered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was sitting by his side, our astonishment increased. Certainly the right hon. Gentleman lives and learns, but his experience is bought at very considerable cost in lives and money to this nation. The Foreign Secretary himself was a responsible member of a Government which not only attacked the Soviet Government with propaganda and abuse, as the present Government attack it, but actually attacked it with arms and with money. The right hon. Gentleman and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were both prominent members of that Government, and they are also now members of this Government which has attacked the Soviet in every possible way short of armed violence. Therefore, it is a matter of some gratification that this evening, for the first time, the right hon. Gentleman has stated his new knowledge that the way to strengthen the Soviet is to attack it.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to endeavour to rebut the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) in regard to China, and said that if British troops had not been at Shanghai, with all the cost and trouble which was involved to this country, the same events might have happened in that city as occurred in Nanking. No evidence whatsoever has been produced that any other circumstances would have arisen in Shanghai than those which have commonly prevailed when cities change hands, as they often have, in the Chinese civil war. Practically the only serious occurrences arose in Nanking; otherwise, these transitions were effected with scarcely any damage to property and with practically no damage to life at all, and the right hon. Gentleman has yet to produce evidence to show that any such danger or menace would have arisen in the actual transfer of Shanghai from one Chinese ruler to another. The right hon. Gentleman certainly did not rebut the very clear evidence which my right hon. Friend adduced to show how serious have been the effects upon the trade of this country. Our trade with China has fallen off by some 20 per cent. since those events, and the cost to this country for the protection of our citizens has worked out at a far higher rate than anybody anticipated, a cost of well over £700 a head. My right hon. Friend suggested that it would have been cheaper to bring the entire British population home, and obviously it would have been, and there were other advantages to he derived from such a course. If the entire population had been brought home, not only would it have cost less than their defence has actually cost, but the damage to our trade would have been of a less permanent character. By such a step our trade would have been affected temporarily, but by the dispatch of an armed force and the aggravation of Chinese sentiment against this country we have permanently, I fear, and possibly irrevocably, damaged the possibilities of trade with China. The case which the right hon. Gentleman advanced this evening against the contentions of my right hon. Friend has proved in the hard test of experience to be a far worse and far weaker case than the case put forward in those confident assertions and those loudly-advertised schemes announced from the benches opposite at the beginning of the Session.

The right hon. Gentleman passed on to the discussions now going forward at Geneva. He said, and, I admit at once, with much force, that he had never been guilty of any unfriendly action or gesture towards the United States of America. I agree at once that he has certainly not been guilty of such a mistake. But my right bon. Friend's point was different. He showed that the whole of the discussions at Geneva and the attiture of our delegation are based on the hypothesis that war between this country and the United States is a matter of practical political consideration. That is the whole basis of those discussions—the envisaging of a possibility too horrible to contemplate, a possibility which would definitely mean the end of civilisation as we know it, and a possibility which is beyond the scope and the range of practical politics.

In so far as those discussions have proceeded they have very considerably reinforced the opinion, often stated from these benches, that any reduction of navies, in almost any proportions, stands to the advantage of this country. In a way the Geneva proceedings have been a reductio ad absurdum of the military argument. We have had Lord Jellicoe getting up and saving that it took some 75 cruisers to arrest the "Emden" and that such a ratio, such a proportion, is necessary to deal with any cruiser which breaks through our precautionary measures in time of war. Really, if the safety of the country is to depend on a 70 to 1 superiority over other nations this is quite clear, that the more the navies of the world are reduced, in almost any proportions, the greater the factor of safety far this country.

6.0. p.m.

I will not pursue that argument in the delicate situation which is now admittedly before us, but I would deal with one other observation of the right hon. Gentleman in which he rather ridiculed the suggestion of my right hon. Friend that some great dramatic gesture, some challenging move from this country might be the best way to force a reduction of armaments upon a reluctant or a fearful world. The right hon. Gentleman thinks that all things are done best in secret. As for the idea that these soft-footed gentlemen, creeping from Chancellery to Chancellery, are the real white doves of peace, our experience has produced a very terrible denial of that argument. I contend that every great advance in foreign affairs of recent years has occurred when statesmen have had the courage to break with the methods of the past, and to challenge the conscience and the imagination of mankind. The right hon. Gentleman claims for himself that he is an ardent supporter of the League of Nations. When that League was in its inception there was just such a challenge thrown out as my right hon. Friend has advocated, but President Wilson left the Chancelleries of Europe and appealed to public opinion. President Wilson propagated his doctrine on the platform and appealed to the conscience of the people, and mobilised public opinion in such a way that it compelled the statesmen of the world to depart from their professed principles.

I can see no valid reason in the light of our experience and our recent history why some such move by this country should not be made? Why should we not take our courage in both hands and go forward appealing to the conscience of the world, and why by taking this course should we not bring about a result even more dramatic and beneficent in its ultimate consequences I will say no more upon this subject, but if the Government fails by any smallness of measures, or meanness of spirit to bring home the results which this country and the world expects of them not only we in this House, but a good many people in this country who have waited too long for a realisation of the dreams of the War will have something to the point to say to the present Government. I am grateful on this occasion for the attention of the right hon. Gentleman.

It is now my duty to pass to another subject notice of which has been given, and which only remotely concerns foreign affairs, and is more directly addressed to the Home Secretary. A week or two ago my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) brought certain questions to the notice of the Home Secretary in regard to which the right hon. Gentleman required notice. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton desires to express his regret that a very urgent engagement elsewhere prohibited his attendance, and he has asked me to put the matter once more to the Home Secretary in the hope that these grave matters may be cleared up. The first question which I have to address to the Home Secretary is already more or less settled, but it raises rather a grave matter of public interest. The right hon. Gentleman published Command Paper No. 2682, which contains certain documents relating to Russia and the Communist party of this country. On page 54 of this Command Paper it was stated that a certain letter was found at 38, Great Ormond Street, but in the police evidence at the Communist trial last year it was stated categorically by Inspector Renshaw that this particular document was found at 16, King Street. I addressed a question to the, Home Secretary on this subject, and it subsequently transpired in a letter which he has written that the document was in fact discovered at 16, King Street, and that the Communist Command Paper contains a very grave error.

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman how many other errors of this magnitude occur in this authentic document containing all the sins of omission and commission by the Communist party and the Russian Government ever since this Government came into office. Really we are dealing with very grave judicial matters which cannot be handled in this light-hearted way. The Home Secretary used the same document to incriminate two different lots of people in the trial of these Communists who dwelt in King Street, and in the Command Paper it is stated that he used the same document to incriminate those who dwelt in Great Ormond Street. I am unaware of the varying relationships of these facts, but the fact emerges that the same documents cannot be used to cast aspersions on the inhabitants of each place. I think the Home Secretary should address a rather severe remonstrance to those who have fallen into the error of preparing an erroneous paper for submission to Parliament.

Before I come to the gravest matter involved, I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has inquired into another case which arose in Glasgow. A woman, called Ethel Chiles, was alleged to be a foreign spy, and it was alleged that a Mrs. Crawford had assisted in the escape of this lady by changing clothes with her, and it was also stated that this lady had stayed with Mrs. Crawford's brother in Glasgow. As a matter of fact Mrs. Crawford does not possess a brother, and she denies all the allegations which have been made against her, and unless they can be substantiated I am sure the Home Secretary will take this opportunity of withdrawing any aspersions cast upon the conduct of this lady.

I come now to the third case, which raises a very serious matter. I will make no mystery whatsoever of the way in which this matter was brought to my notice and to the notice of the hon. Member for Bridgeton. A very well-known solicitor, whose name I am ready to give if necessary, and who has appeared in certain famous trials of late, considered it was a matter of public duty Co secure the raising in this House of the matters which I am now about to bring before the attention of the Home Secretary. This solicitor, and this solicitor alone, is my source of information in regard to this matter. To summarise the case, a man named Henry Robert Johnstone, of 32, Fieldside Road, Bromley, committed suicide on Tuesday, the 14th June last, at Southend-on-Sea. The inquest appears to have been hurried on, because it was held the next clay, and at the inquest I understand the only important witness who was called was this man's wife. On the body of the dead man was found a letter addressed to another lady, a Mrs. Martin, with whom his relationship appears to have been intimate. The solicitor who brought this matter to my notice now holds two statements, one signed by the dead man's wife, Mrs. Johnstone, and the other by Mrs. Martin, both of which allege that this man was in the pay of the police and the right hon. Gentleman's Department, and was employed as a spy upon the National Unemployed Workers' Committee Movement, and these letters further relate that the suicide of this unfortunate man followed upon his exposure as a spy in the pay of the police, and followed also on the cutting-off of his money or salary by the police. The first statement by Mrs. Martin is perhaps worth reading, and I will read a few sentences to the House:

  1. "1. He (that is Johnstone) was in the pay of Scotland Yard, and had been submitting reports to them on what happens in the working class Movement, particularly the National Unemployed Workers' Committee Movement, for at least three years.
  2. 2. That when he first became informer for the police he was only receiving £2 per week, later £3 per week regularly, and special payments in addition for special reports.
  3. 3. He stated that on the occasion when he embezzled £14 belonging to the Lewisham Branch of the N.U.W.C.M. he had told the police that lie was to be expelled from the Movement over this, and they paid him £20 in order that he could pay the money back and prevent his expulsion. He paid back the £14, but was expelled from the Lewisham Branch of the N.U.W.C.M., and also from the Communist party. He had, however, regained his connection with the Movement by establishing a branch of the N.U.W.C.M. at Bromley, Kent, and taken on secretaryship. It was from this branch that he continued to sit upon the London District Council of the N.U.W.C.M.
  4. 4. He further stated that on the occasion of the National Conference of the N.U.W.C.M. in 1926, he had received a special grant of £8 form the police for his report. He also received a special payment for attending the reception given to the released Communists at the Holborn Town Hall.
  5. 5. He also stated that on occasions when he did not have sufficient spicey material for his reports he wrote it up out of his own imagination, very often giving statement and extracts from speeches that were never made.
  6. 6. He suggested that if I would go into partnership with him, and convey news to him from inside the Communist party, and add more to it of what I thought they could have said, I could earn no end of money.
  7. 7. He told me that he dealt with an officer of the Yard named MacBrien, and 1541 that when he had occasion to meet him it was either in Wimbledon or Putney. He also knew Sergeant Gill, and on one occasion had bluffed him for £10.
  8. 8. He dealt with MacBrien in the name of Francis.
  9. 9. He stated that his understanding with MacBrien was that in the event of the Movement discovering his connections he would receive from MacBrien a lump sum of roughly £100 down to enable him to clear out of the district or abroad if necessary."
The statement goes on to say that there was a further meeting between MacBrien and the deceased in which he asked for money and this was refused. There is also a very pathetic letter from the wife of this man in which she says: At the inquest the verdict was returned temporarily insane. This was probably brought on by his knowledge that he was about to be exposed by the Movement. I know he was greatly worried about this matter, especially when he knew that members of the Movement were already in Bromley waiting for him. I knew he was in the pay of Scotland Yard. He dealt through Superintendent MacBrien, who saw him, according to a statement to me made by Mrs. Martin, at Southend-on-Sea. It appears that Johnstone was trying to get some money from MacBrien, who refused it. You will, of course, condemn the action of Comrade Johnstone in accepting money from the police, but I think that you will recognise that the responsibility for my husband's action in committing suicide rests mainly on Scotland Yard, and as I have four little children, and expecting another, who along with myself are left destitute, I think that Scotland Yard should make compensation to me. That very pathetic letter, and the other letters, are in the possession of the solicitor I have mentioned. I have not Seen the originals, but the solicitor supplied me with copies and informs me that he holds the originals himself. Clearly, this is a very grave matter upon which I trust the right hon. Gentleman will be able to make some explanation. If these facts can be substantiated, it is clear that this unfortunate man, who became a spy for the police, was driven to suicide by an exposure of his occupation and further by a cutting off his emoluments by the police. Really, it does appear to be a little beneath the dignity of a great country, even in the pursuit of the private affairs of its Government and their political friends, so to degrade itself as to use an instrument which at the end is so ruthlessly and callously cast aside. I have quite frankly put the facts, as far as I am acquainted with them, before the House. I cannot vouch for those facts to any greater extent than the evidence which I have produced, and which has been supplied to me in the way that I have quite frankly stated. I hope very much, for the good name of the Government and the country, that the right hon. Gentleman will be able entirely to refute these allegations. Certainly, this matter cannot be allowed to rest where it now is, and I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will make a full and ample explanation.


I also desire to claim the attention of the Home Secretary upon a matter which may not be quite so sensational as those which have been referred to by the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Mosley), but which I hope he will agree is of equal importance. I had hoped to raise this question on the Home Office Estimates, but, as the House will recollect, the particular Vote, on which I could have raised it, was, in deference to the wishes of hon. Members opposite, passed over in silence, and, as I have not yet acquired complete indifference to the feelings of hon. Members, I did not challenge the Vote; but I take fresh courage this afternoon, and I trust the right hon. Gentleman will be able to hold out some hope that he will give attention to this matter.

Hon. Members have had in their hands for some time past the extremely interesting Report of the Departmental Committee on the Treatment of Young Offenders, and, if I may be allowed to do so, I should like to recommend those who have not read it to digest its contents. I am sure the Home Secretary will agree with me that some of the Committee's recommendations require prompt attention, if the new experiments in the treatment of young offenders are not to fail simply because we fail to carry out the experiments on the approved lines. I wish to bring to the attention of the Home Secretary particularly those paragraphs in the Report which speak of the present overcrowding of Borstal institutions. So long as those institutions remain in that condition, so long will the governors, the housemasters and the officers—to whose work I should like to take the opportunity of paying the highest tribute—find themselves severely handicapped in their work, and the benefits of the system will be rendered nugatory.

As the Home Secretary knows, I have served for some years on the visiting committees of two of these institutions, and I speak, therefore, with some first-hand knowledge, although probably the right hon. Gentleman would think I speak with some prejudice. It has been definitely recommended by this Departmental Committee that the total number in each of the three institutions for boys that are at present in existence in England should not exceed 240. Under existing conditions there is now a total aggregate population in these three institutions of 1,060, whereas, according to the recommendations of the Departmental Committee, there should be only 720, so that one more institution is essential if the system is to be carried on on approved lines. As a preliminary, however, to devising any expedients to limit the number in each institution, it should be a first consideration that border-line cases should not be sent to Borstal. It is argued, I know, that this system is capable of ameliorating, or even of curing, such cases, and I am quite prepared to believe that that is so; but they must be entirely segregated in different institutions. There is at the present moment a very formidable percentage of these border-line cases at present in Borstal institutions. An endeavour is made to localise the evil by sending them, as far as possible, to one institution, that at Feltham. I had hoped that the Mental Deficiency Bill would have included in its Clauses some provision which would have obviated this, but, as far as I can see, it leaves this particular problem untouched.

I have been told, by those who ought to know better, that there are no borderline cases in these institutions, that they are all eliminated in the preliminary investigation that is made. That is absolute nonsense. There are at least 100 in these institutions at the present time. Nothing can prejudice the proper working of the system more. These institutions were never intended for the feeble-minded. There is neither the requisite staff of specialists, nor can a sufficient amount of time be given to these cases. Those who know anything about the matter will realise that such border-line cases not only require individual attention, but occupy a very great deal of the time of the officials of the institution. Excellent and interesting as are the records of the results of the Borstal system over the last 20 years, they would be still more convincing if the border-line cases could be segregated, and their records kept separate from those which deal with youths of normal mind. I might add that, if the suggestion in the Report of the Departmental Committee—which I cordially welcome and with which I heartily agree—that imprisonment of those between the ages of 16 and 17 should be abolished, were carried into effect, the whole problem of accommodation in Borstal institutions would be considerably aggravated. It is estimated by the Committee that it would increase the population of those institutions by at least 1,000, and that would mean, of course, the provision of three more institutions at the very least. Careful individual treatment is essential to the new system of treatment of young offenders, and I beg the Home Secretary to study this crying need for better accommodation.

There is one other subsidiary matter with which I desire to deal in this connection. The Prison Commissioners have concentrated, in a wing of Wandsworth Prison, those youths who are remanded from the London area, and also all those youths who are committed to Borstal treatment, in order that they may receive preliminary investigation and observation. I have made it my business recently to visit Wandsworth Prison for the express purpose of investigating and acquainting myself with the system, which is administered by a voluntary band of workers under most prejudicial surroundings. As the result of my investigations there, I most cordially endorse the findings of the Committee as to the utter inappropriateness of this wing of the prison for this purpose, and I urge upon the Home Secretary that the boys' wing of the prison should be closed, and some more suitable accommodation found elsewhere. This prison is certainly a most inappropriate place for this purpose, and it is likely to have on the minds of young men just that unfortunate, baneful influence which our modern methods of treatment are endeavouring to eliminate. On the left, as you go in, is the condemned cell, on the right the place of execution, and out in the yard are buried those who have paid the extreme penalty of the law. The whole atmosphere of the place is antipathetic to the rehabilitation of the youthful delinquent. In these days, when so much importance is rightly attached to the influence of surroundings upon the undeveloped mind of the young, it is impossible to insist that this is a proper place for the preliminary observation and examination of young delinquents. It is essential that remand observation centres should be as dissimilar in characteristics as possible from the convict prison, and yet, here in Wandsworth, the very first process to which the youthful delinquent is subjected is conducted in an atmosphere which is redolent of the prison taint.

Two Reports have been placed in our hands lately, both dealing with the welfare of the youthful citizen. If we only express sympathy with the findings in those two Reports, we shall not go far in effecting those long-needed reforms. I do not think the Home Secretary's bitterest political opponent, if he has a bitter political opponent, can accuse him of inactivity. In fact, I think it is, perhaps, activity of which he might be accused. I earnestly hope that the findings of the Committee on the matters to which have referred will have his attention, and that these much-needed reforms will be brought about at no distant date.


I am glad of the opportunity to refer to a matter which also affects the Department of the Home Secretary. I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Mosley), who stated the details of his case, I think, very well, except to say that I think that questions of that kind are questions more of policy from the Home Office than questions of administration from New Scotland Yard. The Department at New Scotland Yard has grown up into something rather foreign to that which it was intended to be at its inception. Many years ago, the Special Branch, or Political Branch, of New Scotland Yard had the sole duty and purpose of protecting foreign visitors who were the guests of this country. I do not, therefore, propose to question the manner in which the officers have carried out their duty, for, so long as it is the policy of the Department that information shall be obtained, it is, of course, obvious that police officers are not likely to get that information if they make themselves known to the people of whom they desire to make inquiries. I do know that it is a most distasteful job. Everyone, of course, detests it, but, so long as it is a question of policy, I suppose the officers at New Scotland Yard will carry out their duties according to the instructions given to them.

The matter that I desire to raise is one that affects, I suggest, the efficiency and contentment of the police service. It is the question of the accommodation provided for the housing of police officers' families. One appreciates, as one must, all the difficulties of local authorities who are called upon from time to time to house police officers transferred into their areas at comparatively short notice. I know that the right hon. Gentleman, during his period of office, has endeavoured to improve the housing accommodation available far police officers, particularly in London, but I hope that the policy of the Department will not remain the policy of building tenement houses in central London, but that it will extend its activities to the provision of houses in the suburbs of London, and will encourage and assist local authorities outside the Metropolitan Police District to build houses by making some provision out of the Police Fund. The right hon. Gentleman probably holds the view that he cannot undertake in suburban areas the provision of housing for police officers. To a question put to the right hon. Gentleman on the 30th of last month by the hon. Member for Central Southwark (Colonel Day) he replied that: The funds available for the provision of housing accommodation for the Metropolitan Police are necessarily reserved for the Central Divisions, where the need is greatest. In the residential suburbs the men are left to make their own arrangements, apart from a few sets of quarters at new stations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th June, 1027; col. 592, vol. 208.] I am afraid that, having been left to make their own arrangements, they are often without suitable accommodation, because local authorities must have regard to their local needs in the order of application made by people desiring new houses. I am not going to ask the right hon. Gentleman to press local authorities to give, shall I say, special treatment to police officers who are transferred to other districts, because that would tend to create a feeling of resentment—and one can understand it—on the part of the local residents which would not be calculated to create that pleasant or harmonious relationship between the officers in the locality and the people amongst whom they must do their duty. Therefore, if it be necessary for the police officer's family to be properly housed—and I suggest that it is particularly necessary—the Home Office policy should be directed to financial provision for the erection of new houses which would remain the property of the police authority.

In Birmingham, and in other areas, the local authorities have done something towards that state of affairs. In the Metropolitan Police district, however, a police officer who may be transferred so far from his original station that it is almost impossible for him to return home after he has completed his duty, is compelled either to live under conditions that are unsatisfactory, or be has to purchase his own house. If he purchases his own house, most police officers find it necessary to resort to a loan. They mortgage the property, in other words borrow money on security. Under the Police Regulations, it is improper for a police officer to borrow money, and particularly from certain people. One never knows, perhaps one hardly inquires, just what are the occupations of people who may be associated with businesses or societies that may have money to lend, and there is the possibility that upon strict inquiry it might be found that certain police officers may he innocently contravening the Regulations.

But, arising from the provision of their own houses, there then comes the question of the assistance which, by the Regulations, is extended to them in the form of what is known as rent aid, which takes the form that the police authority-shall provide quarters free of rent, rates and taxes or, in the absence of that provision, shall pay a non-pensionable allowance, in the case of a constable not exceeding 15s. a week. That income is regarded by the policeman's wife as her property in so far as she is responsible—most policemen hand over the responsibility for household affairs to their wives—for the payment to the landlord of that income by way of rent aid. When a man purchases his own house, he is in considerable danger of losing that rent aid, with the result that he finds himself in a far worse position after providing his own house than if he left it to the police authority. The police authority in London uses the opportunity, in its interpretation of the Regulations, to withhold the rent aid. Let me give an example. A police officer obtains, perhaps for deposit purposes, £100, on which he has to pay 5 per cent. The measure of the sum he must set on one side for interest and repayment, rates, repairs, and ground lent, would probably stand at anything from £75 to £90 a year. He sub-lets a portion of the house. The amount he receives for sub-letting is, under the present interpretation, set off against his right to receive rent aid. The consequence is that if he receives a half of his outgoing in the matter of subletting he automatically loses the benefit of the rent aid, which leaves him in many cases in a position of financial embarrassment, and at the same time the police authority has been relieved of the payment of the rent aid, and I suggest that in developing that policy the provision of the Regulations is being somewhat escaped by the police authority.

This matter has been before both the police authorities at the Yard and the Home Office. The Commissioner of Police has been asked if he will reopen the whole question with the Home Office in order that these eases might be very carefully examined so that there should not be an interpretation of the Regulations which will create hardship and might possibly put the police officer in the position of contravening the Regulations by himself becoming financially embarrassed. There are ways and means by which he could deceive the police authorities. I do not think it is a good thing, I think it is very unhealthy, that a police officer should have to resort to artifice in order to secure that 15s. per week rent aid. I do riot propose to disclose, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not ask me to, the ways and means by which this can be circumvented, but some men have declined to transfer, shall I say, the property rights in their houses to other people, with the result that they have been denied the benefit of the rent aid. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give us an assurance, not that he is sympathetic. because I know he is, but that he will go into the matter again and see if he cannot first of all do something to extend the provision of housing in the suburbs and help the local authorities in that respect, and, secondly, that he will see that no police officer is penalised to the extent of, perhaps, 15s. a week merely because he has become his own landlord, and what is more, has become a good citizen and relieved the Metropolitan Police of the responsibility of having to carry out the Regulations in so far as the provision of quarters is concerned.


I want to call the Home Secretary's attention publicly to a case which affects me as the representative of Stratford Division. A little while ago, I mentioned the case of one of my constituents who was prosecuted at the instigation of the West Ham Board of Guardians for wilfully refusing to maintain himself, and he was sentenced to one month's hard labour. At the hearing, certain statements were made, which I submit were cruel. The man was offered a situation as barman at a local public house at seven days per week, 11 hours a day, at 22s. a week. Of course he would have had his mid-day free for rest. He did not refuse the job from the point of view of the smallness of the money. He said in Court that he had a medical certificate that he was not fit to take a seven days' job. The magistrate remarked, "I expect he is a total abstainer, and objects to serving beer." I take exception to that. I do not think a public Court should be used to take advantage of such a position. The man had been attending the London Hospital since the 18th June, 1922, as a day patient, suffering from a stricture of one of the valves of the heart. I have consulted medical opinion in the House, and I understand it is a serious complaint, imposing such a physical restriction that he should not be compelled to have a situation that necessitated very much standing. I have a certificate from the out-patient department of the London Hospital stating that he had regularly attended from the 13th June, 1922, and his last visit was on the 14th June, 1927. The man himself told the magistrate' that he had medical proof of his unfitness, and therefore the jeer was a merciless one.

That was on the 4th July. On the 8th July the matter was brought to me, and I considered it my duty to approach the local magistrate. I showed him this medical certificate and I said I should feel it my duty to submit the matter to the Home Secretary, and the magistrate gave me his permission. I said I should lay before the right hon. Gentleman the fact that I had approached him, and he said he had not that evidence before him when he inflicted a month's hard labour. I have a group of letters covering a period of three years, which I am prepared to submit to the right hon. Gentleman, showing that the man had applied for work. He was offered a job on the Great Eastern Railway in 1926 but was turned down by the medical adviser as being unfitted for the particular class of work. I am not complaining of the Home Secretary's action. I want, in my own defence, to prove publicly that I have done what it is possible for a Member of Parliament to do, and laid the facts before the right hon. Gentleman. The man has been relieved from hard labour and put on to light tasks, but he ought to be out. His time expires on Monday, and this lackadaisical policy on the part of someone—I hope the Home Secretary will make it clear on whose part—means that I should not get a reply from him until the man is back to his family. I have known him for a quarter of a century. I have lived in the same street for 17 years, and I know, other things being equal, he is a perfectly respectable man, suffering from a really serious physical defect, who should not be called upon to perform that class of work. In my opinion, the prosecution was undertaken in a vexatious spirit. I went out of my way to produce for the Home Office the necessary evidence. I am very disappointed indeed that on the eve of adjourning for the long Vacation there is no reply from the Home Secretary. I raise this question here, because I do not want my constituents to think that in matters of this kind I turn my back upon them. I deal with them. It is a serious case of a man prosecuted by the West Ham Guardians, in my opinion, viciously.


I am afraid that the hon. Member cannot deal with the action of the West Ham Guardians in this matter. I understood that he wanted to make an appeal to the Home Secretary. The hon. Member had better not bring in another matter, which is really out of order.


I do not want to bring in the question of the West Ham Board of Guardians, and I desire to obey your ruling. I will conclude by appealing to the Home Secretary to give a reply on this matter, because I wish to have it publicly stated that Edward Harland, of 94, Cobham Road, is in prison in the circumstances I have indicated.


I want to refer to the question that was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Hayes). There is considerable difficulty surrounding local authorities concerning the London area in respect of the housing of the police. I want to make an appeal to the Home Secretary to give some special consideration to these local authorities. It is becoming quite a common thing for appeals to be made to local authorities when they are embarking upon a scheme for the erection of houses to make some accommodation or to set some accommodation apart for the housing of the police, with the result that you have no end of friction in the particular area itself. Even inhabitants who have large families find that occasionally they are pushed aside in order that privileges shall be given to police officers in respect of housing accommodation. That sort of thing is not conducive to a good spirit or a good feeling in the areas, and, furthermore, it is not beneficial to the local authorities. Some local authorities who are responsible for the police through the agency of the Watch Committee are erecting special houses for police officers. In Birmingham, I believe, 134 houses have recently been erected, and I believe another large scheme is about to be launched in Oxford. It has received the provisional endorsement of the Watch Committee and is now awaiting the sanction of the Home Office. That is all very well in its way, but the general feeling is—and it is growing rapidly with local authorities—that the Home Office, who are responsible for the policing of the Metropolitan area, ought to play a greater part in the housing of the police than it is playing at the present time. I have had my attention drawn to a statement which appeared in the Report of the Commissioner of Police. The Report says that if the local authorities refuse to find houses for the police, then they must lose, to some extent, the police protection which otherwise would be afforded them. I want to submit that it is hardly fair to suggest that the local authorities should be deprived of police protection simply because they are unable to provide houses for the accommodation of the police. That condition of affairs ought not to obtain.

I feel that it ought to be within the scope of the Home Office to devise ways and means of becoming responsible for the erection of houses for police officers. Personally, I feel that co-operation between the Home Office and the Office of Works would enable houses to be erected in various districts in Greater London, supplementing the houses that are already being erected by the local authorities. Soon after the Armistice the Office of Works played a very great part in the erection of houses throughout the country, and I feel that the Home Office ought to obtain the co-operation and the assistance of the Office of Works in the erection of houses for this purpose. Local authorities ought not to be expected to become responsible not only for housing the inhabitants within their area, but the police officers as well. I raise this point in the hope that the Home Secretary will give some consideration to the matter. If powers are not within his scope that will enable him to carry out this work at the moment or to embark upon this policy, I hope, in view of the importance of the question, he will be prepared, at least, to submit the matter to the Cabinet in order to see if we cannot have a different policy from that which obtains at the present time.

The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir William Joynson-Hicks)

It seems almost as if my Estimates were again under discussion, because no less than six questions have been raised this afternoon on the Administration of the Home Office. Perhaps it will be more convenient if I dealt first with the question which has been dealt with by the hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) and by the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Hayes). It is quite true that the provision of houses for the police is a matter of very great difficulty. As the hon. Member for Edge Hill said quite truly, there is a rent allowance for the police, a maximum, I think, of 15s. 6d. per week for married constables, and 18s. per week for married sergeants. That, of course, in most districts is a sufficient rent allowance for these men, and, I think, I may say that since I have been in office there has been no complaint as to the amount of the rent allowance. There have been complaints —and I agree that a very difficult question has been raised by the hon. Member for Edge Hill—in regard to those policemen who have purchased or have built their own houses and who, having let portions of those houses, have met with difficulty with regard to the question of rent allowance. The hon. Member for Edge Hill told me that I was not to say that I sympathised with the police with regard to this difficulty, because he knew that I did. That is quite true. It is a very great difficulty indeed. I strongly support, and I have always done so, the building of houses and the ownership of houses, particularly by men in established forces such as the police force. I believe that throughout the country it would be for the benefit of the police force itself if more and more men owned their own houses.

I appreciate the difficulty the hon. Member for Edge Hill raised. I do not think for a moment that many of the members of the police force would adopt those expedients which he suggested might be adopted with safety to enable them to get rid of the difficulty, presumably by putting their houses under some other ownership and taking the rent allowance as if they were tenants. There is, I admit, a temptation to do that. But the police have always played very fair with the Home Office and with the different Watch Committees, and I do not want even to suggest that that kind of thing is going on on any great scale. I do not think that it is. On the other hand, I quite agree with the hon. Member that it is desirable, if possible, to prevent the cause of the grievance. The matter has been brought before me, and I have had great difficulty in regard to it. The hon. Member must remember that I am not in sole control of the police outside the Metropolitan area. There are the Watch Committees and the Standing Joint Committees who are in an independent position, and I have not the same power in regard to them and their actions as I have in regard to the Metropolitan police. This I will say to the hon. Member who has brought the matter to my notice so fairly. I will personally go into the matter once more and see if there is anything I can do to meet the point he has raised. The other point which was raised by him and by the hon. Member for West Willesden, opens a much more difficult question. Large numbers of houses are being built by local authorities and other bodies. I want to dissent at once from the suggestion that the police are not entitled to their fair proportion of such houses.


I did not suggest that.


I am saying that in order to prevent anybody else suggesting it. The hon. Gentleman went almost as far by saying that if a policeman got a council house it caused dissatisfaction amongst other members of the community who had not been successful. I want to lay it down perfectly clearly, that the police officer is a member of the community just as much as the tinker, tailor or baker, and he is entitled, not to privileges with regard to council houses, but to have his application considered just as though he were not a member of the police force.


I gathered from my hon. Friend the Member for West Willesden that certain authorities were building blocks of houses for habitation by police. I think he mentioned Oxford. I would like to ask whether it is the policy of the Government that that should be done, and whether they think it is a desirable thing that the police should live in dark walled-in blocks of this kind?


That is quite a different point. The matter I was discussing related to the ordinary houses built by local authorities, whether the London County Council or other authorities, and I was saying that it is desirable that the police should have the same fair play as they would be entitled to if they were not members of the police force. On the other hand, I am responsible with regard to the Metropolitan Police for the provision of houses for police officers. The hon. Member had seen a statement that I had had the privilege of opening some large new married quarters in the centre of London which provide accommodation for 72 policemen and their families, which, I suppose, pro tanto, shows the housing accommodation in that immediate district. I cannot say more than that is, within the limits of the finances of which I have control, the policy we are continuing and shall continue. I think those responsible for the police force should do all in their power to take their fair share of the housing difficulty. On the other hand, I am sure the hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree with me that where it is not possible—and it is certainly not possible for me to build blocks of houses in the suburbs of London—to house the police they must get their accommodation, receiving their rent allowance, in the same way as other people have to get theirs, and that they should have neither greater nor less favour from the local authorities than is shown to other members of the community who are not members of the police force.


If I may be allowed to make the position clearer, I should like to point out that I was asking whether it was possible to supplement the houses that were being erected by local authorities wherever that was possible.

7.0 p.m.


It really is not possible for me to enter into schemes all over the suburbs of London. As the hon. Member knows, there is not the concentration of police in the outer circle as there is in the central part of London. The demand is greater in the central part than in the outskirts. All I can say at present is, that I am frequently in consultation with local authorities, and anything I can do to expedite the housing of the police in London localities I will do. I hope that all those who are interested will see to it that fair play is given to the local policeman if he wants to obtain a council house. With regard to the point raised by the hon Member for West Willesden, so far as London is concerned a new block was opened last year in Crawfurd Street, Paddington. Other local authorities, for whom I am not so personally responsible, have the power to erect blocks of dwellings for the police. It does not happen on such a great scale, as the hon. Member suggests, that the police are segregated in barracks; nothing of the kind. I have seen instances where, at the junction of two or three villages, the local local police reside close together. That may be convenient because, if a particular policeman is called away, it is of advantage to have another policeman living nearby who may be called on in the event of trouble. In any case, the thing is on a, very small scale, and I can assure the hon. Member that there is nothing in the shape of police barracks.

In regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Stratford (Mr. Groves) it is quite true that he saw the Under-Secretary. The facts which the hon. Member mentioned were at once considered, and the prisoner was immediately put on to light work. There is no question whatever that he is being injured by that work. The papers were immediately forwarded to the magistrate, and I regret to say that I have not yet had any recommendation on them. The hon. Member only sent me his letter about 10 minutes before he got up to speak, awl if I had had information that he was going to raise the matter today I would have telegraphed asking for the magistrate's opinion.


I offered to raise it, either to-day or to-morrow, according to the right hon. Gentleman's convenience.


I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon, but when a whole lot of questions are raised in a Debate it is the opinion, not of the Minister but of the House, that they should all be raised at the same time, and there are other questions of equal importance with that of the hon. Member which it is desired should be raised immediately. I will, however, inquire of the magistrate, and endeavour to get an answer by to-morrow. If the matter is not raised in Debate to-morrow, I will endeavour to see the hon. Member him self.


It appears to me that the facts in question are not in conflict. If they be true, and if the man comes out, as I understand, on Monday, it is probable that an injustice will have been done. The least that could be done would be to release the man before Monday if an injustice has been done, and that is what the hon. Member for Stratford asks.


Will the right hon. Gentleman take any action with the local magistrate if he ignores the Home Secretary? What action can we take?


The House must understand that I cannot pre-judge the case. The hon. Member for Stra[...]ford has, I understand, seen the magistrate. I sent the papers to the magistrate a few days ago. The hon. Member must not assume, and I cannot assume, that the magistrate agrees with his views. Everyone will realise that it is quite impossible for the Home Secretary to enter into the full details of the thousands of cases that are decided in London every week. I will telegraph to the magistrate now, and ask him to let me have a answer, and then I will see the hon Gentleman to-morrow. I think he will realise that no Home Secretary can do more than that. The hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) raised a question with which, I am sorry to say, I have the very greatest sympathy. It was with regard to the Wandsworth Prison Boys' wing and the Borstal esstabtishments in this country. I think the hon. Member was a little hard on the Wandsworth Prison. The Boys' wing is entirely detached and was used previously for women. This wing is a very useful institution for collecting in a center boys from all over the country who are sentenced to Borstal treatment. They are collected at Wandsworth, and are examined, mentally and physically. A very careful investigation is carried out to see the type of boy each one is, his type of mind and his physical condition, in order to decide to which particular Borstal institution he shall be sent.

As the House knows, there are three Borstal institutions at present, one at Portland, one at Rochester, and a third at Feltham. These institutions are all different in character. The boys are brought to Wandsworth in order that the prison governor and the doctors shall examine them. Investigations are carried out—by voluntary workers—into the condition of their homes, into the kind of men the boys have been mixing with, and the temptations they have had to meet, in order that they may advise the governor and the Prison Commissioners as to which particular Borstal Institution the boys should be sent in order that they may have the best possible chance of making good citizens when they come out. Wandsworth is also used for the ordinary imprisonment of lads under 21 who are sentenced to short terms. You cannot send these lads to Borstal. Borstal is of very little use, under two years or something like 18 months, in which to get a boy really started, mentally, morally and educationally and, from the labour point of view, to teach him a trade, and so forth. My hon. Friend has been to Wandsworth, and I have been there. I say quite frankly that it is not an ideal place for these particular boys.


It is good enough for Communists!


The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) would not have them sent to Borstal, at all events. I do want to get a better place for these lads than Wandsworth Prison, and I have quite recently been investigating the possibility of doing so. The Borstal Institutions themselves are overcrowded. We have three institutions, and the total average population has grown from 937 three years ago to 1,154 at the present time. The normal population of the three Borstal Institutions which I just mentioned should not exceed 240 for each one.


Do the figures quoted by the right hon. Gentleman mean that the number of boys sentenced to Borstal is growing? In other words, do they mean that the number found guilty of crime is growing?


The number sentenced to Borstal is growing, because I am glad to see that there is a feeling on the part of the Judges and the magistrates that they should send these lads to Borstal institutions, and not to prison. That is the reason why the number is growing, but I do not want the House to assume for a moment that juvenile crime is growing. It would be to the pecuniary and economic advantage of the nation if I could be given another Borstal institution.


Does the right hon. Gentleman, then, say that juvenile crime is decreasing?


All crime is decreasing, I am very glad to say. I have said so, over and over again.


It is different in Scotland.


The hon. Member has more knowledge of Scotland than I have.


Have not the cases with which you are now dealing arisen directly from unemployment?


No. I do not think there is any connection with that at all. The hon. Member for Dumbarton is really putting a point which has nothing to do with the matter. That is the case, at all events so far as England is concerned; I will not answer for the position on the other side of the Border. I should like another Borstal institution, and I believe that it would be enormously to the benefit of this country if I could have one. It is merely a question of that troublesome finance which always dominates the House of Commons to-day. [An HON. MEMBER: "Economy!"] I do not think so, because the House of Commons this afternoon seems to greet my suggestion that I should have a new Borstal institution with pleasure. I think the House is right, and that it would be to the economic benefit of our country if we could take more of these lads and really train them to make decent citizens, rather than send them to prison, where they have not got nearly as good a chance as they have in the Borstal institutions. On the other hand, I am limited by finance. I can give no definite pledge to my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley. This is a matter for the Prison Commissioners. I tell him, quite frankly, that the Prison Commissioners have been in consultation with me on this matter, and they are hoping, if in any way economies can be made in any other part of the Home Office Vote next year, to advise me to have a new Borstal institution.

Then I come to the charges made by the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Mosley). He raised three cases. The first case was in regard to a mistake in the place where a Communist paper was said to have been found. He complained that in the statement in Court the paper was said to have been found at 16, King Street, and that the Blue Book says it was found at 38, Great Ormonde Street. The hon. Member is quite right. He has found a mistake in the Blue Book. The hon. Member had received an acknowledgment and an apology from the Home Secretary before he raised this question in the House. I do not like to say that the hon. Member reminds me of the man with the muck rake, but before I have finished I think the House will probably think that he does so. The hon. Member tries to find out any case he can which will reflect adversely on the administration of the police courts of this country. He began his speech by saying, "How many other errors are there in this Book?" I will tell him how many other errors there are. I am perfectly certain there are none, because, if there were, the hon. Member would have found them. I admit, quite frankly, that there was a mistake in one item, and in one name. In regard to that, the hon. Member has been informed, and an apology has been sent to him on my behalf; and I do not think he need have wasted the time of the House in dealing with it.

He also raised the case of Kate Gussfeldt, who was sentenced some little time ago for having a forged passport. The gravamen of the charge which the hon. Member made apparently is that Sir Wyndham Childs, in giving evidence as to the character of this woman at the Court, made some remark to the effect that she was associated with one Mrs. Helen Crawford, and that she went to stay with Mrs. Helen Crawford's brother-in-law. The hon. Member for Smethwick said that Mrs. Helen Crawford had no brother-in-law. I believe that is true; I believe she has a brother, a gentleman of the name of James Jack, with whom Mrs. Gussfeldt has been staying. The fact that Mrs. Helen Crawford was associated with Kate Gussfeldt is quite undoubted; it goes back so far as the last Government. I find, on going through the file of my predecessor at the Home Office, that on no less than two occasions Mrs. Helen Crawford wrote to him about an extension of a passport for Kate Gussfeldt. On one occasion, Mrs. Crawford went so far as to say that she herself had invited Kate Gussfeldt to wait over the day, so that she might see Wembley before returning. Apparently, she anticipated that my predecessor would extend the passport for that purpose. I find, however, that he was not quite as sympathetic with Kate Gussfeldt's activities as the hon. Member for Smethwick, and that he was not inclined to extend her passport. Mrs. Helen Crawford wrote, on one occasion: At this International Conference her work for our organisation"— that was the Workers' International Relief Committee, of which Mr. G. Lansbury, a name well known to us, and Mr. Purcell, another name well known to us, are either members of the committee or vice-presidents, or they hold some other important official position— is absolutely essential for the translation of the material gone through. This, again, is a very small point, and it has been raised before. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) raised it a fortnight ago, but the point he took was that although she was known to be a spy, she has not been prosecuted for being a spy but for having a false passport. That is true. She was not an English spy. She was not spying on us, so far as we know, and there was no means under the Official Secrets Act by which we could proceed against her for spying in this country. It was notorious that she was an international spy whose presence here was no good to us. She had from time to time been here trying to evade the friendly notice of the police in this country, and when the police found that she was utilising a false passport to enable her to remain in this country, they prosecuted her, they rightly prosecuted her, and she was convicted, and rightly convicted.


Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, would he mind dealing with the case I put, and which he has so far evaded? The charge which Mrs. Crawford resents, which was made by Sir Wyndham Childs, was that she has assisted this other lady to evade the law by changing clothes with her. I do not know Mrs. Crawford or the other lady, but the hon. Member for Bridgeton does know Mrs. Crawford, and I understand that the charge which she resents is that she assisted this woman to evade the law by changing clothes with her. Has the right hon. Gentleman any evidence in respect to that statement? That is the whole question, and there is no other question.


The hon. Member has not put the point quite rightly. That is not the point. Does he deny that Mrs. Crawford changed clothes with her?


I understand that Mrs. Crawford does deny it. I was not present.


I understand that if the hon. Member had been present that that change could not have taken place. I do not think it is denied that they changed clothes. I think that what is denied is that the change took place in the train. That is the only denial that Mrs. Crawford has made through her solicitor, namely, that the change took place in the train.


She denies that it took place at all.


My information is that there was a change of clothes, but the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Mosley) says that there was not. If he is prepared to say, on his own responsibilty, that there was no change of clothes, I accept it, but still I say that I am glad she has been turned out of the country.


Is the right hon. Gentleman now admitting that Sir Wyndham Childs' evidence was wrong and that no such change took place?


I am admitting nothing of the kind. The hon. Member does not feel inclined to make any definite statement about it himself. Now I come to the third case, which has really more of the muck-rake about it than the other two. It is the case of a man named Johnstone. The hon. Member says that he was driven to suicide through the way he was treated by the Secret Service; that he way deprived of money which he expected to get, was turned out of his job as a spy, and that finally, in despair, he committed suicide. I am not going to say whether the man in question was a spy or not. I am not going to answer any question in regard to the administration of the Secret Service in this country. I think it was a former Prime Minister, the Earl of Oxford and Asquith, who once said, "If there is a Secret Service, it must be secret." So long as I am responsible for the administration of any portion of the Secret Service, I can say that, so far as I am concerned, it will be secret. It is true that this wretched, unfortunate man had been carrying on a clandestine intercourse with a woman other than his wife. I have here a report of the inquest, from the local paper. It is a full report; it was a full inquest. There is no earthly reason whatever for saying, as the hon. Member did, that the inquest was hurried so much that people were not allowed to give evidence, or anything of that kind. It was a perfectly straightforward, ordinary, common inquest on a man who had killed himself. The widow was present at the inquest. It may be true that the hon. Member has, with his muck-rake, got some information out of the widow which enabled him to make remarks about the treatment of the man by those who, he says, employed him. I am going to tell the House why he committed suicide, and in his own words.


Who took the shorthand notes?


Here is a letter the man wrote. [Interruption.] I have not brought this matter before the House. I would have preferred, now that the poor wretched man is dead, leaving a widow and children, not to refer to it. It would have been very much better, after the inquest is over, that the thing should not have been raised. Here is a letter which he wrote to the woman with whom he had been living: Darling,—Why did you leave me to-day while I was asleep? You left me without even a good-bye. Why? You have told me times out of number that you loved me passionately. You have been as a wife to me, and yet you leave me with only a halfpenny and a farthing with which to run mad round Southend to find you. You left me in my misery and to die amongst strangers. You knew my only alternative and yet you left me. Oh! sweetheart, could you tell me what you have done and act like you have done to-day? I love you so much that I waited at the spot where you left me until it was dark, hoping against hope that you would return. God! To die amongst strangers is terrible, nevertheless. But it is retribution, no doubt. I die still loving you.—Harry. He wrote to his wife: My Dear Florrie,—It is good-bye, and, Florrie, please forgive me. Retribution has followed rapidly. God, if I could only see you and my children now, because they love me and I love them. Please don't make me out too big a blackguard to them. My heart is bursting.…Good-bye.—Harry. It is a perfectly clear and simple case of a poor wretch who had forsaken his wife and children, whom he had loved, apparently, and got into the toils of a woman who lived with him, and who was actually with him the night before he died. The woman left him, whether after a quarrel or not I do not know, and he went out and poisoned himself. That there is anything whatever in the way of blame on his employer, or the Secret Service or any other employer in the land in this case, the hon. Member has no right to suggest, in the face of these letters written by the man. It is a sordid case, of which there are, unfortunately, as we all know, many which take place in the world. where a wretched man ends his own life, and there is no blame whatever upon the employer, who-ever the employer mar be.


You have evaded the whole point. It was part of the case that he was a spy.