Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £304,123, 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, 1933, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and Subordinate Offices, including Liquidation Expenses of the Royal Irish Constabulary and Contributions towards the Expenses of Probation."—[Note.—£152,000 has been voted on account.]
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir Herbert Samuel)
Perhaps it would be convenient to the Committee if, in the first instance, I were to ask you, Captain Bourne, for guidance as to the scope of this discussion. There are four Home Office Votes on the Order Paper, and, if the Committee so desire me, and if you concur, I would ask leave to make a general statement with regard to the present state of crime and its prevention and other Home Office matters—no such statement having been made in the House of Commons by any Home Secretary now for many years past—without going into details on matters arising on the specific Votes. Possibly, if you approve and if the Committee so desire, I might be allowed to make that general statement first, and these particular points might then be raised on the specific Votes to which they belong.
The practice has been in Committee of Supply for the Minister to make a general statement with regard to the work of the Department concerned where there is more than one Vote before the Committee on the first day on which the Estimates for that Department are considered. If 1136 the Committee agree, I see no reason why that course should not be followed on the present occasion. At the same time, I must point out that in Committee of Supply where a service has a separate Vote it is customary to take the discussion of that service on the appropriate Vote. I must rule that details must not be raised in general discussion but must be discussed on the appropriate Votes when they are moved.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I am very grateful to you, Captain Bourne, and I am sure that the course that you have suggested will commend itself to the Committee. It is desirable that there should be a general statement, for I think the public mind is somewhat disturbed at the increase that has taken place in certain classes of crime, and in the number of certain classes of offenders, and it is to that aspect of the general matter that I would address myself in the first instance. It will be convenient to the Committee, if, first of all, I state briefly the main facts and proceed afterwards to endeavour to trace the causes of any movements which have taken place, ending with some suggestions as to the methods that should be adopted for remedying evils that have lately arisen. We have, fortunately, in this country a very admirable system of statistics with regard to criminal matters as to other matters—statistics which, in their accuracy and completeness, are unsurpassed I think and probably unequalled in any country in the world. Those statistics which are presented to Parliament and the nation enable us to trace very clearly and quickly any movements that may be taking place in social conditions.
I will deal in the first instance with the more serious crimes, because I think the Committee is less interested in more trivial matters of breaches of regulations than in crimes which affect life and property in a serious degree or constitute other grave offences. The best picture is given by the statistics of the indictable offences—that is, the more serious crimes known to the police—per 1,000,000 of the population, and I will take for the purposes of the picture which I am presenting the years immediately preceding the War, the most recent years for which figures are available and the middle year, which I take at 1921, about 1137 halfway between 1914 and the latest year. Of these indictable offences or more serious crimes, known to the police, per 1,000,000 of the population, there was on the average in the years immediately preceding the War, 2,700. After the War, in 1921, the number was exactly the same, but in 1929 the figure increased to 3,403 and in 1930 to 3,700, a very marked increase. The worst classes of crime showing an increase are burglaries and breakings-in. If one takes the London district as a very typical case, in the London Metropolitan District, taking not the figures per 1,000,000 but the actual figures, we find in 1913 3,000 cases; in 1921, it had risen to 3,900; in 1928 it had fallen slightly to 3,500, but, mark what has occurred in the Metropolitan Police District in the subsequent years. In 1929 the figure was 4,600; in 1930, 5,700, and in 1931, 8,000, so that there has been a doubling of this particular class of offence in the Metropolitan Police District—a very grave feature of the present situation.
There has been also a lamentable increase in the number of what are called smash-and-grab raids. There have not been in the earlier years sufficiently definite detailed particulars selected to enable me to give any figures earlier than 1925, but I propose to give, in this case, the figures per month, because I have some interesting figures showing the movement in recent months. The average per month in 1925 of so-called smash-and-grab raids in the Metropolitan Police District was 11; in 1929, it was 19, and in 1930 it was 20. In 1931 there are only figures available for some months, and these show, from May to November, a decrease to 16. But this year, in January, 1932, the figure had risen to 20; in February to 29, and in March to 31, so that the figure now is about three times as high as it was seven or eight years ago, and has shown a considerable increase within the last year. It is a matter which rightly gives rise to much concern, and it is obviously the duty of all those who are affected by this—whether the police or others—to take these facts into serious consideration. These are some of the worst items in our present day statistics of crime.
With regard to murders, a comparatively small number of very shocking, brutal and callous crimes which have taken place recently, and which have 1138 attracted much public attention, have given rise to some impression that there has been a wave of murderous crimes throughout the country recently. That is not so. The statistics with regard to murders may best be put on the basis of murders known to the police, excluding the murder of infants under one year of age which are in a special class by themselves and are separately expressed in the criminal scatistics. The number of murders in 1913 in England and Wales was 111, in 1921 90, and in 1930 86. There was a considerable increase in 1931 bringing the figures up to 109, which number is slightly less than the pre-War figure, and as there has been a considerable increase in the population since then the present figure although any statistic of this kind must be most regrettable, is not in itself really of an alarming character.
With regard to juvenile crime, the most important feature relates to the more serious offences, and the best statistics that can be given relate to indictable offences tried by juvenile courts. It is very difficult to disentangle the statistics of juvenile crime tried by other courts because the offenders are tried with other offenders; and the number in any case is very small. The great bulk of these offences are tried at the juvenile courts, and the figures of those found guilty are these: In 1913 there were 12,900, in 1921 10,400, in 1929 10,400, and in 1930 11,100. The figures for 1931 have not yet been collected for the whole of the country. There has been an increase in the last year of 700 cases, which while it is much to be deplored does not indicate any very grave or sudden change, and the present figure is still considerably less than the pre-War figure. I will not weary the Committee by going into a further examination of the statistics of crime, but the figures I have given will have presented the picture as it is in its worst shape and also in its more favourable aspects.
It is essential that we should examine the causes of such movements as have occurred. There have been opposite tendencies at work in our society, some in a favourable direction tending to the diminution of crime, others in an unfavourable direction tending to its increase; and the facts as we have them are the result of these causes on the one side and 1139 the other. There has been on the part of this nation in the last two generations a very intensive effort towards social improvement, the results of which are satisfactory in themselves although far less I agree that the needs of the community require. Still, there has been in the last 60 years considerable improvement in various directions. The industrial revolution at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century created the very evil social conditions which prevailed in the middle of the 19th century, with which we are all familiar not only from tradition but from the writings, for example, of Carlyle, Ruskin and Charles Dickens, and the nation as a whole, impressed by the gravity of these evils, did make a real sincere and intense effort to reform them. In the matter of education in particular, in housing, the standard of wages, the fall in the cost of living; all these things have contributed to a rise in the general standard of life of the community, to a decline also in drunkenness. People nave had better homes, and there has been in general a higher standard of life during the years of this century than in he middle of the 19th century.
The nation has, in fact, risen in the scale of civilisation, and these causes have had an effect in contributing to a downward curve in the statistics of crime. Furthermore, it is a remarkable characteristic in connection with the movement of crime that fewer offences are committed by elderly people, partly due to the enactment of old age pensions and the improvement of the social services generally, which have lifted more or less above the level of actual penury a great number of persons who otherwise would have been left in a state of destitution and subject to all the temptations which follow therefrom. Furthermore, the efforts of successive Governments and Parliaments in reforming our penal laws have had an effect in mitigating, to some extent, its rigours and contributed to a decline in the number of offences committed and to a more wise and sympathetic handling of offenders, particularly juvenile offenders. The Children Act of 1908, for which I am proud to have been responsible, establishing juvenile courts, the Probation of Offenders Act and the rapid 1140 development of the reformative side of our prison administration, have contributed to a decrease in the number of offences amongst juveniles and others and to a lessening amongst certain classes of offenders, recidivists, of repeated crimes and misdemeanours.
These have been the favourable factors and everything seemed to be going well. There was a steady and gradual diminution of the various classes of offences and the country was becoming less and less effected by depredations of a criminal class. But of recent years there have been emerging counteracting and unfavourable factors. The War, and the consequences of the War, was the first of these. Over a very large range of the population normal family life was broken up for a period of years. Fathers were away at the War and mothers were busy in factories and in other directions consequential upon the War. Not less important, the teachers in the schools were depleted in their numbers and their influence upon individual children was lessened, and now we see the results of that relaxation of control over the children of that generation in a crop of those who are now young men of between 25 and 30 years of age and who constitute the most difficult part of our present class of offender.
In recent years there has been a second cause of great importance, and that is the economic depression. I have seen a recent article in the "Political Quarterly," in which was a most interesting chart showing the curve of the crime statistics in conjunction with the curve of unemployment, and there is a most remarkable correspondence. Almost exactly as unemployment rises and falls, crime rises and falls. Therefore I attribute very largely the present increase of crime to the fact that we are living in a time of extreme economic depression. Indeed, it is known that a very large part of the increase consists in crimes of stealing by young offenders in the depressed districts, the effect and the cause being obviously connected. The same feature is visible in other countries subject to this depression— and what country is not? Indeed, the sociologists may wonder that, considering the gravity of the depression and the width of its extent, the increase of crime has not been more both in this country and others.
1141 A further and minor cause contributing to the increase of certain classes of crime is the use of the motor-car, which is a comparatively new factor in our social life and has existed only for a generation. On the one hand, that has given much greater facilities for the commission of certain classes of offences. It enables a raid to be made on some shop and the depredators to have a good chance of rapid escape. On the other hand, the development of the motor-car has spread out the urban population over a much wider area. There are many more scattered suburbs and isolated houses, which lend themselves more easily to burglaries and breakings-in; and my advisers consider that this is one of the main causes of the most regrettable and striking increase in this class of crime in recent years.
There are some who think that the cinema is another factor contributing in that direction, especially among the young; but there is much division of opinion as to that. My very expert and experienced advisers at the Home Office are of the opinion that on the whole the cinema conduces more to the prevention of crime than to its commission. It keeps the boys out of mischief; it gives them something to think about. Of course, if films were of the character giving technical instruction in efficient methods in the commission of crime, they might have an opposite effect, but the censors make it their duty to prevent propaganda of that kind, and the objections that might have been made some years ago under that head are now seldom heard. In general, the Home Office opinion is that if the cinemas had never existed there would probably be more crime than there is rather than less, although at the same time we are far from saying that it is not necessary to raise the standard of the films that are produced. No one suggests that they are by any means free from objection in many cases at the present time.
The next question that arises with regard to the causes of the increase of crime is whether or not it is due to any excessive leniency on the part of the courts in dealing with offenders, or whether it has been contributed to in any degree by the lessened rigours of our prison system. In this connection, there is a misapprehension, which, I think, is 1142 somewhat unfortunate in its effect, with regard to first offenders. There are many who think that any first offender is, for the reason that it is his first offence that is discovered, exempt from punishment. There was an Act passed some years ago called the First Offenders Act, and its title gave rise to that opinion. That Act was repealed when it was superseded by the Probation of Offenders Act. Still the impression remains that, like the dog that is entitled to its first bite, so the offender, and especially the young offender, is exempt from punishment for a first act of delinquency. The boy who is subject to temptations in that direction is inclined to think that if he is not found out he will have the advantage of his offence, and that if he is found out nothing will be done to him, because it will be the first occasion. I think it is desirable that the courts should disabuse people's minds of that idea, not necessarily by sending them to prison, but by insisting, in proper cases, upon an adequate application of the principle of probation, putting the young person under effective supervision, with the knowledge that if he does not conform to the requirements of that supervision he will be punished for that first offence, although it may have been his first offence.
I am a strong advocate of the method of probation, and was indeed partly responsible, being then Under-Secretary when Mr. Herbert Gladstone was Home Secretary, for the introduction and the passage into law of the Probation of Offenders Act. I feel certain that the result of that Act has been immensely beneficial. It brings to bear individual influence upon the particular offender, instead of leaving him to be dealt with by the more machine methods of the routine penal system. But its use should depend upon the particular case, and it may be that probation in some instances has been applied when more stern methods would have been necessary; and, on the other hand, sometimes probation has not been applied in the case of older offenders. The courts have often thought that it was meant only for young people, whereas there are many individual cases of older offenders, especially first offenders, who might most usefully be subject to supervision for a time under the provisions of the Probation of Offenders Act. But there are many young persons to whom a period of 1143 training in a reformatory school or Borstal institution is necessary if they are to be saved from a life of crime.
The number of committals to prison has shown a very remarkable decrease in our lifetime, and indeed since before the War. These facts are most striking: In 1913, 167,000 people were committed to prison; in 1921 the number was 66,000; in 1930 it was 60,000. The cause of this is mainly the greater facilities given to people to pay their fines. Before the War there was an enormous number of cases of persons who were sentenced to a fine, with a term of imprisonment in default of payment. Wealthier people paid the fine, the poorer people in very large numbers went to prison. In 1914 there was passed the Criminal Justice Administration Act, which required the justices to give time for the payment unless the circumstances were exceptional. The immediate effect of the passing of that Act was the fall in the committals to prison, in default of payment of fine, from 75,000 to 22,000. Almost at once 50,000 people were saved from prison, simply by allowing them more time in which to find the money to pay their fines, instead of their having to go to prison straight away unless they had the money in their pockets or it could be found by their friends.
There is another and a minor cause. Before the War most cases of fines were for drunkenness and fines on poor people, who could not pay. Now, a very large proportion of the cases of fines are motorists, who are well-to-do people, who can pay and who do pay. The consequence is that whereas in 1913 and 1930 about the same number of persons were sentenced to pay fines or to go to prison in default, about 500,000 people in each year, in the former year, out of the half million, 75,000 were sent to prison, and in the latter year only 12,000. In the former year it was 15 per cent. and in the latter year only 3 per cent. That is the main cause of the remarkable drop in the number of committals to prison. There has also been a very great decline in the number of people sent to prison by the courts, either the courts of summary jurisdiction, quarter sessions or assizes, in those two years without the option of a fine. In the former year, before the War, the number was 62,000, and in 1930, 26,000. Therefore, 1144 it is evident that we have recourse to the punishment of imprisonment to a very much less degree than 20 years ago. Within the last year or two, it is much to be regretted, there has been some increase, an appreciable increase, in our prison population owing to the increase in the particular classes of crime to which I drew attention at the opening of my remarks.
A further question is whether our penal system, our system of imprisonment, is itself a cause of the increase in certain classes of crime, either because it fails to be a reformatory influence or because it has become much milder in its administration and that it ceases to be a deterrent. In regard to reformatories, the Committee will be interested in the juvenile delinquents. The reformatories, in my view and in the view of my advisers, have done most admirable work, with most successful results, due to the devoted service of the managers and teachers in the schools. There is reason to believe that not less than 90 per cent. of cases committed to reformatories have really been reformed and have given rise to no further delinquency. With regard to the Borstal Institutions, the material is more refractory and difficult. At the ages of 16 to 21 the character of the offender is more set than in childhood, and, furthermore, no one is sent to a Borstal Institution except after more than one conviction, usually after several convictions. Nevertheless, considering the material that is handled there, the results must be regarded, on the whole, as satisfactory, for it is found that three out of every four disappear from the criminal records and are not reconvicted. There have been about 10,000 young men and also a small number of young women who have passed through the Borstal Institutions, and it is estimated that more than two-thirds, perhaps three-fourths, of these have not again been charged with any offence.
§ Sir WALTER GREAVES-LORD
Is there not a material difference between the numbers who are saved among those who have never been imprisoned before 1145 they have gone to a Borstal Institution, and the number who are saved among those who have been in prison before they go to a Borstal Institution? I think there is a material difference, and I should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman could enlighten me on the subject.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I have not those particular facts. I have not had my attention drawn to that discrimination, and I do not know what conclusion my hon. and learned Friend would draw from that fact if it were proved to be so from the statistics. I will look into the matter, and, if my hon. and learned Friend makes some observations during the debate, as I hope he will, perhaps he will develop that point further, as there may be a question there which may require special attention. About 800 Borstal inmates leave the institutions every year and 600 of them do not reappear in the criminal statistics afterwards, so that I think those who are concerned with the Borstal cases have cause for some measure of satisfaction. The material offered among these cases is very obdurate. I saw a petition addressed to the Home Office not very long ago by a young man who had been sentenced to penal servitude, after 14 convictions, a young man of 24, and he asked to be transferred to Dartmoor or Parkhurst. In the course of his petition, he said,I was told that I was going to a new convict prison for young men, so that they can get a chance. It is useless giving me a chance to go straight, because I will never take it. I intend being a criminal always.He went on to say,It is useless giving me a chance, for I know that I shall always be a criminal.It is very hard indeed to know how to deal with a social phenomenon such as that. The statistics of the allocation of crime between the older offenders and the younger offenders have, again, given rise to some misapprehension when they are viewed as percentages. I am always extremely suspicious of statistics based on percentages. The fiscal controversy has taught me that. When it is said that at one time 50 per cent. of criminals are over 30 and 50 per cent. under 30 years of age, and that at another time 33 per cent. are over 30 and 66 per cent. under 30, that is regarded as a very grave phenomenon. But the point of import- 1146 ance is not the percentages but the numbers. I should like to see the percentages of offenders over 30 falling and falling until they become nil. I should like to see a state of society in which no one committed a crime over the age of 30. That would be the greatest possible tribute to the efficiency of our penal system, both as a method of reform and as a deterrent. The worst feature would be if as people grew older they committed more and more offences. It is better to catch them young and to reform them, so that they adjure a life of crime.
The important point is the numbers, and we find that the numbers of older offenders have decreased. Here, however, our statistics have not been very complete, and I can only give two figures. In 1907, there were 20,000 offenders over 30 years of age and in 1930, 18,000. Having regard to the large increase of population that has taken part in the intervening period of 23 years, it is satisfactory that there should have been that decrease. There has been an actual increase in recent years among juvenile offenders, and this is a fact which is serious and to which the Committee would wish to give its attention.
I have given this picture, first of the facts and then of the favourable and the unfavourable causes, the resultant of which has been the increase in certain classes of crime that has taken place. Now we have to address our minds to the action that should be taken in these circumstances. Unquestionably, by far the most important means of securing a diminution of crime is a general improvement in social conditions. The general level of prosperity, comfort, education, the whole standard of civilisation of the nation, is reflected in its criminal statistics, and for that you have to look to causes far back. It was, I think, a sound observation that was once made by Dean Inge that the proper time to influence a child's character is about 100 years before he is born. He is the outcome of causes that spring from a more distant past. But these major causes, while the most important, are not those to which the Home Office as a department can specially address its immediate attention or which this Committee is called upon to consider on these Votes.
1147 So far as the social measures directly aimed at the prevention and restriction of crime are concerned, the most important perhaps is the certainty of detection. Certainty of detection and punishment is, of course, the greatest deterrent, and no severity of penalties or any other action can take the place of that; and that depends, of course, upon the zeal and efficiency of the police. There has been an idea current that with regard to murders the numbers which have been accounted for by police action, where the criminal has been discovered and someone has been charged, show a decline. That is not so. There are statistics given by the Home Office of the murder cases which have been what is called cleared up. In a very large number of cases the murderer commits suicide. In no fewer than one-third of all the murder cases, the guilty person commits suicide; a certain number are proved to be insane; and in some cases persons are charged whom there is good reason to believe have committed the offence, though the evidence is not sufficient to warrant the jury finding a verdict of guilty, and those cases are regarded as having been cleared up.
In 1913 there were 111 murders of persons over one year of age and no fewer than 101 were disposed of in that way; in 1921 the numbers were 90 and 81 in 1930 they were 86 and 78; and last year, as I mentioned before, there was a considerable increase in the number of murders, namely, 109, but out of them 99 have been cleared up. That is a provisional figure. That shows that there is a great deal of zeal and activity on the part of the police and that it is not the case that there has been any marked decline in the number of murder cases that have not been tracked down. With regard to indictable offences generally, the figures of the numbers cleared up have never been so high, but they are still as many as 70 per cent. That is to say, for every 10 serious crimes, seven have been cleared up by the police and as a rule persons have been charged, so that anyone who commits a serious crime may feel that he has odds of 10 to 7 against him that he will be found out and brought to book.
I know that some hon. Members in this House have, in questions and other ways, raised the point whether the police 1148 have been unduly hampered in their investigations by any change of practice with regard to the examining of possible offenders. I am very definitely assured by my legal advisers that that is not so, that the practice has not been altered in any way that need hamper the investigations of the police. It is, of course, the bounden duty of every citizen to give all the assistance to the police that he can in the investigation of crime, and the police have the right and the duty to question anyone who can give relevant information. There has been no change in that respect. Whether the answers after they have been obtained are admissible in evidence is a matter for the courts. It is for that reason that the judges have had to lay down rules as to what they would regard as admissible evidence, and the police in making their inquiries have to bear in mind those rules. But there has been no change in the character of those rules that would in any degree hamper police action. I am sure that no one in this House would desire that there should be any restriction of the legitimate activities of the police in suppressing crime and that the Committee will approve that there should have been no change in the rules or in the administration of justice which would put any fresh obstacles in the way of the police in investigating crime.
It has been suggested that there might be more co-ordination of detective work between the various police forces of the country. There is already a very great deal of co-operation, especially in matters of serious crime, and the various forces assist one another, not only as between Scotland Yard and provincial forces, but the provincial forces among each other. The establishment of a national detective force would not he found to be practicable if the administration of the police forces in general were left as part of our local government system, and to change our local government system would be a very great departure, which would probably not be approved by public opinion in general. But I am taking steps to secure, if possible, a still larger measure of constant co-ordination in the work of the detective forces, and a committee is to investigate this matter, consisting of the inspectors of constabulary and representatives of the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, of the county and 1149 borough chief constables, and of the Home Office, which will formulate detailed and specific proposals to increase the efficiency of this measure of coordination. Of course, if the numbers of the police force were largely increased, no doubt there could be a greater measure of repression of crime, but there we have to consider the question of cost. Before the war the police forces of the country cost the nation, the State, and the local authorities, £6,800,000.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I must apologise. If I am ruled out of order, it will have the incidental advantage of abbreviating my remarks.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
May I ask whether we could not on this occasion do what is sometimes done, with the assent of the Chair and of the Committee, and allow the statement to be made on condition that those who follow do not wander too far? This is a very interesting statement, which we should all like to hear, and I think other hon. Members would be reasonable and not want to take advantage of it.
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was here at the beginning, when I gave a ruling that on this occasion we would follow what is a not uncommon practice, and that the right hon. Gentleman would mike a general statement on the question, but that he must not go into details like expense and numbers. Those questions must be raised on the individual Votes to which they belong. The right hon. Gentleman has been far wider in his remarks than is strictly relevant on the Home Office Vote, but so long as we can avoid discussion of details, I shall not rule him out of order.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I will try to conform to the purpose of my right hon, Friend while also observing the conditions which you have so properly laid down.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I will consider that, but I should not like to give any undertaking without having considered all the relevant factors and consequences that might ensue. I am afraid that the ruling of the Chair will prevent my dealing with various points relating to traffic and the desirability of replacing the costly policeman by the less costly light signal, but that is a matter which must be dealt with upon another occasion. So far as the efficiency of the Metropolitan Police is concerned, I believe that much good will result from the activities of our distinguished new Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, Lord Trenchard, who is throwing into his task the zeal, energy, and devotion to the public service which have made him so valuable an officer of the State in other capacities. There are too many police forces in this country to secure really efficient administration, but that is a matter which will come before the Select Committee of this House who are considering the merger of police forces.
With regard to sentences imposed upon criminals by the courts, my predecessor Mr. Clynes appointed an expert committee to deal with the question of the persistent offenders. Their report will be presented very soon, and will probably give guidance both to the Home Office and the courts in this particular matter. The courts are now imposing longer sentences where burglars and others have been detected carrying firearms. The maximum penalties are already heavy. There is no need, therefore, for alteration in the existing law, and the matter is within the discretion of the courts. The Prison Commissioners are now engaged in several interesting developments with a view to making the reformatory effect on prisoners more effective. At Wakefield Prison now there are about 300 first offenders and about 100 others who are being subjected to a new system of training with intensive work. [Interruption.] I am afraid that although the prison system has been a good deal modified in their case, they cannot be given leave of absence on any special occasion. At Chelmsford Prison, the Commissioners have adopted, and it is now in operation, a new system of discipline and training for young convicts who have been sentenced to penal 1151 servitude, and good results are expected to follow from that. We have under review the reform also of the system of prison industries, so that the prisoners shall be able to have useful and regular occupation to a greater degree, while bearing in mind the necessity of not allowing prison labour to compete with ordinary industry. That matter, no doubt, will also be dealt with in the report of the Offenders' Committee.
With regard to Dartmoor, I cannot go into the details for two reasons, first, because it would be out of order, and, secondly, because we must remember that the whole question is sub judice on account of the trial that is about to take place. I will only repeat what I announced some time ago in this House that as early as last November, long before the disturbance took place, we had decided that Dartmoor was an unsuitable locality for a prison, that that particular establishment was very costly to maintain and that it had been decided to reduce it to very small proportions. So far with regard to crime. The Home Office has many able and experienced advisers to deal with these matters. We greatly regret the loss of Sir John Anderson, who was for so many years the permanent head, but whom we have had to yield up to the greater claim of duties in India. And we shall regret the loss this year of the Assistant-Secretary who had been dealing with criminal matters, Mr. Locke, whose introductions to criminal statistics year after year have attracted much attention both here and abroad.
The Home Office has many difficult functions to perform, and the Home Secretary personally, in particular, in dealing with individual cases. We have to be careful that miscarriages of justice do not occur, but there is a very good saying of Mr. Robert Lynd that miscarriages of mercy have to be guarded against as much as miscarriages of justice.
I will deal with one or two other matters which arise in connection with Home Office administration, besides crime. Happily we are not restricted to that more seamy side of the national life. On the industrial side, the Home Office has always been active in increasing the protection of workers in 1152 industry, and within the last year new codes of regulations have been issued dealing with the building trade—a very important code—with sugar factories, and with the industry of chromium painting, and regulations are continually being elaborated to prevent industrial disease—a prevention which is of far greater importance than the mere provision of compensation when the disease has occurred. Within the last few months the Silicosis and Asbestosis Act has been put into operation, the effect of which should greatly increase the safety of workers in those industries. In the factories, safety organisations are being promoted, and I would remind the Committee that there is, not far from this House, in the Horseferry Road, an industrial museum established by the Home Office which contains large numbers of appliances and devices of various kinds for safeguarding the health and safety of the workers which would be found of great interest if hon. Members would be good enough to visit it.
Another aspect of our national life concerning the Home Office which has attracted even more attention than any I have mentioned is the control of lotteries, and I think the Committee will, perhaps, be interested in certain figures as to the extent to which the Irish Sweepstakes have been patronised in this country and elsewhere, and the way in which the funds which have been collected have been disbursed. There have been five of these sweepstakes between November, 1930, and March. 1932, and the public in the United Kingdom and throughout the world have subscribed to those sweepstakes no less than 13,800,000. Of that sum, they have received back in prizes 27,700,000. The expenses and commissions of the sweepstakes have involved an expenditure of £3,300,000, and out of the sum of nearly £14,000,000 subscribed by the public, the Irish Hospitals have received £2,800,000. So far as Great Britain is concerned, a calculation has been made based upon the proportion of the prizes received in this country which are known, and on that basis it may be estimated, though the precise accuracy of the figures cannot be guaranteed, that the people of Great Britain have subscribed to the five Irish sweepstakes £9,500,000, and they have received 1153 back in prizes £5,000,000. The commissions of sellers of tickets in Great Britain have amounted to £1,600,000, and there has been a sum transferred from Great Britain to Ireland on balance of about £2,750,000. I think the Committee will realise how necessary it is that this whole subject should be subjected to a very close examination, and it is high time that the Royal Commission, which I have announced previously, should be appointed, and we are now engaged in drawing up a list of suitable personnel.
My final point relates to the control of cinemas. The cinema industry is now one of very great importance, and the effect of the films that it exhibits is profound upon the national life in view of the great numbers of persons who attend these performances and the impressionable age of a large proportion of them. I know that many Members of the Committee and great numbers of the general public have been seriously concerned with the possible effect upon the future character of the nation of the kind of film which is sometimes produced. There is in these days a much greater liberty of expression than was considered proper in Victorian times, and the consequence has been the introduction of the sex element, not only into the cinema, but elsewhere, to a degree unprecedented in modern times. I believe that there is a growing opinion now that that has been overstressed, whether on the stage, in fiction or in the cinema; that it is being overdone, and that there is a wholesome reaction of public opinion.
The Board of Film Censors, which is an unofficial body, but which acts in cooperation with the local authorities throughout the country, has had this matter very much in mind, and it has issued new instructions with regard to the permissible limits of films. Their task is a very difficult one; it is how to enforce an adequate control without undue interference with this new form of dramatic art, and without hampering the more serious, and indeed the more tragic, representation of various aspects of life. Whether the Board of Film Censors should be superseded by a State censorship is a matter on which there has been much difference of opinion. I remember that nearly 25 years ago I had the honour to be chairman of a Joint Committee of 1154 the House of Lords and the House of Commons on the censorship of stage plays. Then the cry was all for the abolition of a State censorship, and for the substitution of some less rigid and formal control. I feel that if anyone were to propose in this House the enactment of a law to establish a State censorship of cinemas, it would be by no means passed through with universal consent. In general, the Board of Film Censors has, I think, performed its functions, not indeed to the unanimous, but perhaps to the general satisfaction of public opinion. We have felt, however, that there was need for some closer touch between that Board, appointed as it is by the cinema industry itself, and public opinion in general, and the licensing authorities in particular.
My predecessor, Mr. Clynes, had prepared a, plan for the establishment of a consultative committee with that object, and I have carried that plan into effect. That committee has been established and is now at work. It consists of four representatives of the Association of Municipal Corporations, four representatives of the County Councils Association, two representatives of the London County Council, and two representatives of the justices, who in some boroughs have charge of the licensing of cinemas. It is, as the Committee will perceive, a very authoritative body. It has one defect in that it has no woman among its members, but I have called attention to the various appointing authorities to this fact, and I hope that the defect will he made good when any vacancies occur.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
The answer to that question can be given later in the Debate; I have not the particular towns. I remember that the justices have been appointed by Birmingham and Liverpool, but I cannot recall at the moment the representatives of the corporations.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I will make inquiries as to that. This committee has been sitting sometimes in conjunction with the members of the Board of Film 1155 Censors, and sometimes independently. It has taken in hand several of the matters which have been the subject of public attention, particularly in regard to the attendance of juveniles at certain films, and we shall do well to await the outcome of the work of this new body before we consider any large change in the method of control of the cinema industry and the films which it produces.
The Home Office has to deal, in relation to cinemas, with other performances, and with certain classes of literature and publications, with many matters which touch some of the worst features in our modern civilisation. We are all aware that there are in our midst certain tendencies towards indecency and degradation. We have got rid to a great extent of drunkenness as a national vice, but there are still dangers in other directions. We all know from our study of history that many peoples have passed through various phases, first living in a more primitive state of society, with manners and customs simple and the national life wholesome. Then civilisation becomes more complex, more sophisticated, and afterwards there may occur a measure of foulness at the base of society and of dissoluteness at the top of society, and, if that spreads, nations become corrupt and in the long run decadent. I think that the British people is, as it has always been, on its guard against those tendencies.
It is easy to scoff in these days at the bourgeois respectability of the Victorians, but there was a good deal of healthy instinct in their conventions; it was a reaction from the looseness of the period of the Regency which had preceded it. There is, I am convinced, in the British people now, as there has always been, a very earnest desire for clean living, for decent, ordered family life, which is a deep-rooted instinct among our people. It is essential that we should maintain that character for the sake not only of our influence in the world, but for the sake of our influence in our own Commonwealth. I often wonder what are the impressions of certain aspects of life—in London, for example—upon visitors to the capital of the Empire, from India the Dominions or the Colonies.
How far the State can intervene by the power of the law to repress the 1156 manifestations of these undesirable tendencies, is another matter. Freedom also is of importance and is an integral element in the British character. Between these two conflicting claims the position of the Home Secretary of the day is never an easy one. He, at all events, is not a Censor Morum. He has not had that duty placed upon him. Without seeking the power to suppress by the force of law tendencies which are undesirable, the State can exercise a very powerful influence and power of leadership in helping to set the tone of the national life. But it mainly rests with public opinion itself, with the general public opinion of the community—and it should not be chary in expressing itself—to help to remove whatever is unwholesome and ignoble in our drama, in our cinemas or in our literature, and so to restore and maintain the cleanliness and dignity which are essential elements in national greatness.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I feel very diffident in following the right hon. Gentleman this morning, because I must confess that he has delivered one of the most enlightening statements on the work of the Home Office that I have ever heard. I congratulate him on his very broad outlook, and am glad he has not been misled by some of the statements in the Press and elsewhere as to the causes and tendencies amongst us at the present time. I would add, in brackets as it were, that on occasions I feel sorry that such an enlightened gentleman should have handcuffed himself to the present Ministry. I think it is correct to say, in spite of all these statistics and the statements in the splendid introductory note to this Blue Book, that, after all, this country is the safest industrial country in the world in which to live. Taking the worst crime of all, the number of murders in this country has remained practically stationary while the population has doubled. Another very notable fact must also be borne in mind. In one year, I think it was 1927, the total number of murders in this country did not exceed the total number of murders in Chicago. That may not be saying very much, but it is a fact worth remembering. A great deal of attention has been given to the introductory note to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and I join with him in the compliments he has 1157 paid to Sir John Anderson and the gentleman who drafted that note and is about to leave the Home Office on retirement.
The introductory note is, however, a matter of opinion, because it draws conclusions of its own from the statistics, and I do not think the nation ought to be unduly alarmed by the figures which the right hon. Gentleman has so well explained to us. One central fact emerges from the examination of them. It is inferred in the introductory note that the greater leniency meted out to offenders by the courts may be responsible for the increase of crime among certain classes of the population, but we must remember that as the penalties on offenders have declined in severity so the number of offences has proportionately decreased. The right hon. Gentleman did not go back far enough, in my view, to give us a proper picture of the effect of the severity of sentences on criminals. The number of crimes known to the police in 1857 was 4,760 per million of the population.
§ Mr. DAVIES
Yes. In 1930 the number was 3,694. If hon. Members will compare the use of the gallows and the flogging for trivial crimes that went on in 1857 with the kindlier treatment meted out to offenders in 1930 they will see that it is no argument to say that leniency towards offenders is in itself the cause of a greater number of crimes. It is stated that the increase of crime, especially among young deliquents, is serious, and I agree. It is suggested that this increase in particular has been brought about by more lenient sentences, but the causes are really very much deeper. The so-called leniency of the courts was not followed by an increase of crime so long as industrial conditions were good. The most sensational drop in crime figures came after the passing of the Education Act, 1870, and after 1908, when the depression following the South African war gave place to comparative prosperity. It is assumed by a great number of people that the young offender is generally speaking, drawing unemployment benefit, or that he has been in employment. In the district where I live I have been astonished to find that a considerable number of young men of 18, and even of 20 years of age, have never been in em- 1158 ployment for wages at all. I am convinced, if I know anything about human nature, that if hon. Members had had no work at all between the time when they were 14 or 15 and 20 years of age they might not have acted very differently from some of the young men of 1932.
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
Will the hon. Member say to what area he is referring? I do not know where he lives.
§ Mr. DAVIES
It may astonish the hon. and learned Gentleman, but I live in Withington, one of the best parts of Manchester. I do not think this problem is quite the same in purely industrial districts as in the suburbs of large cities. I know of boys who have been trained in the professions but cannot find a job in those professions. They have passed the matriculation standard, and trained as architects, surveyors, estate agents or accountants, but there are no jobs for them. Although I have been accustomed to champion the cause of industrial workers I think the condition of these boys is quite as pitiful. We must bear this fact in mind when we are discussing these problems. After all, most of these troubles are the outcome of the late War. If hon. Members study the statistics after the South African War they will find there was an increase in crime then, in the same way as there has been since the great War. War does not end at home merely because peace is signed abroad. The warring instincts are aroused, and, somehow or other, are reflected in the relationships among individuals at home.
I have been very much interested in the analysis in the introductory note of the position in Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire. One criticism which I would put forward in a friendly way is this. I do not think it is correct, in making an examination, to pit those two counties against the rest of the Principality without taking into account the population in those two counties and the population in the Principality outside. Conditions are taken into account, in the present analysis, but population is not. The most depressed counties in Wales are, of course, Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire, and they show .½ times as much crime as the rest of the Principality. But when those counties are considered in relation to their population the crime figures are less than double. 1159 On this subject a comparison should not be made between the North and South of England, or between counties as such. It should be made in proportion to the population of each area, whether industrial or otherwise. When a comparison is drawn between the North and South of England it should be remembered that the population is as four to five, but in crime it is nine to eight. The point I am trying to stress is that in the examination of these figures the only basis should be population, otherwise we can be easily led astray.
I was interested the other day to read the report of the Scottish Departmental Committee on Young Offenders which analysed 50 Borstal cases. The result of the analysis was that 43 were unemployed when the offence was committed, and four were employed in the casual occupation, street trading. I think those figures show that the chief reason for most of this increase in crime is not as has been suggested the leniency of the penalties imposed. The main factors tending towards a reduction of crime are social education and employment. These factors are outside the purview of the Home Office, the prison authorities, the judges or the police. There still remains, however, the offender who will deliberately steal and rob. It may be that he has been unwisely dealt with by the court, or because the treatment meted out to him after conviction has not been efficient. I am unwilling that a youth suffering from mental instability, for instance, should be sent to prison or to Borstal without some examination being made as to his mental or physical deficiency. The most eminent medical men connected with the hospitals continually inquire into cancer, consumption and other diseases, but I regard the mental state of a youth determined upon crime—like the case mentioned by the Home Secretary in his speech—as much a disease as if he suffered from cancer or some other malignant disease.
One of the tragedies in regard to this question is that 2,383 persons under 21 years of age were sent to prison in 1929. I wish it were possible to keep young persons under 21 out of prison entirely. I think we should have some special institution to deal with those cases. Many reasons for increase in crime have been given by the Home Secretary, and I would 1160 like to make one or two observations in regard to them. I am speaking as a layman, but my view is that the police have been called upon too much to carry out duties in connection with traffic; that they have no time to perform the ordinary police duties. I am not, of course, on this Vote entitled to do anything more than touch upon crime in its relation to the work of the police. The Home Secretary said something about co-ordination, but my experience has been that there is too much local jealousy in this matter between small police forces in certain towns. There ought to be more co-ordination between them. We find small boroughs with a force of only 20 or 30 men and their traditions have broken down because of the new traffic which has come along. We have not kept pace in the organisation of our police services with the enormous stream of traffic which has arisen.
I am told by those who have studied this problem at close quarters that the professional criminal is years ahead of the police and knows the game better than they do. It has been stated that the London Metropolitan Police protect property in London better than property is protected in Essex, Hertfordshire and Surrey. This means that the London housebreaker can succeed on the countryside where he fails in the metropolis. Of course, that is a feather in the cap of the Metropolitan Police, but it shows too that there is a necessity for more co-ordination between the police forces. So far as I have been able to gather statistics they show that the increase in this type of crime is world wide. Some countries do not provide statistics but others do. I find that in Germany, Belgium, France and particularly in the United States the picture is very much like our own, consequently this is not a phenomena which belongs to this country alone.
I think the Home Secretary was very kind to the cinema this morning. He has told us that his advisors think that the cinema on the whole does more good than harm. If that is so why should we not start opening cinemas at nine o'clock in the morning every day of the week and on Sundays too? But I doubt the advice which the right hon. Gentleman has received on that score. I will not argue the point now, otherwise we may unduly 1161 prolong the discussion. So far as I have seen pictures on the screen I would like to make one criticism. It seems to me that the desperado becomes the hero too often.
§ Mr. DAVIES
In nearly all the pictures which I have seen the desperado not only becomes a hero, but finishes up his career in great style, and I do not think that is a good thing for our young people. I think our Press pay too much attention to what is happening in America. The lurid facts in regard to crime in America enter very much too easily into the newspapers of this country. I am sure that the effects of those reports on the mind have something to do with influencing the youth of this country in regard to crime. I should like to make one or two further observations on that point. The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned the motor car. I was told the other day that in some countries of Europe, if the owner of a motor car leaves it anywhere, even at a parking station, he must lock it up, but there is no such arangement in this country. A motor car seems to be very easy to steal if you can drive one, and I am informed that young fellows who run away with motor ears do so not because they want to steal, but because they want the joy of driving the car. Ultimately, when they have driven it, they find that they have stolen it, and then they are in trouble.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I must remind the hon. Member that he must relate his remarks somehow or other to the matter under discussion. We must not get into a Debate on questions which are outside the Vote.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I was using that illustration because the young fellows who steal motor cars are included in the criminal statistics, and I think I could easily relate my argument in that way to this Vote, but I will pass to something else. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the fact that we are in a serious difficulty on every occasion on which we discuss the Home Office 1162 Vote. I do not blame him for it; it occurs every year; but we are never in a position, on the Home Office Vote, to discuss what is to us a very important matter, namely, the Report of the Chief Inspector of Factories. Many millions of people are employed in factories and workshops in this country, and we should have liked to know—perhaps the Under-Secretary will be able to tell us—what has become of the "Safety First" movement in connection with factories and workshops. Could we have an indication whether fatal and non-fatal accidents are on the increase? I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman touched upon two or three of these points, and I will venture to put one or two questions on them.
I should like to know what is now the position in relation to lead paint poisoning. The Committee will remember that a few years ago we passed a Convention to prevent the use of lead paint inside buildings, and I am informed that a great deal of good has ensued to the operatives from its passing. I should like to hear whether there has been a continual improvement in that connection. Then I do not think it would be unfair to put this point. The number of cases of nystagmus in coal mines is, unfortunately, increasing, and perhaps we could be told what is being done in that regard, because the Department deals with workmen's compensation, and the liability companies that handle the problem of paying out workmen's compensation. I hope that the issue of the Factory Inspector's Report to which I have referred will be speeded up, so that, when we come down to details in our next debate on the Home Office Vote, we shall be able to have the Report in our hands.
I should have liked to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman, but it would be out of order to do so, to what has been the cause of stopping meetings of the Police Federation. There was one, I think, held in London and one in Manchester. I think, however, I should be in order in dealing with the Metropolitan Police on this Vote, and I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he considers he has done the right thing in prohibiting any further meetings of this Federation I will, however, pass on to something else, because I am very much afraid that I shall be out of order if I pursue that 1163 point any further. I join with the right hon. Gentleman in feeling that everything that is said in this Blue Book with regard to the increase of crime among the young is of considerable importance. Speaking as one who has taken some interest in this problem, I hope that Members of the House, and those who take an interest in criminology, social reform and so on, will not forget that it does not follow that increase of crime comes about because there is greater leniency of treatment by the courts. I would rather believe that, as the right hon. Gentleman himself said, crime is committed in the main because young fellows have nothing else to do, and that, once you find them employment and a livelihood, they will not commit offences against the law. As the right hon. Gentleman himself has indicated, crime in the later stages of life has declined because old age pensions have been payable to the old folks. If hon. Gentlemen want to know what is happening in this connection in London, I would call their attention to the results of the census which is taken on a February night in London every year, which indicates that, as these social services have grown, the derelicts who sleep on the Embankment have disappeared proportionately; and as our educational standard improves, as we teach our children the better things of life, as the nation proceeds to better housing and a higher environment, so in proportion will these criminal figures decline.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir VIVIAN HENDERSON
I should like to refer to one or two statements which the Home Secretary has made to-day, and also to some observations which have been made by my hon. Friend opposite. As the Home Secretary knows, during the last three years I have spent a good deal of my time working in connection with Borstal institutions and Home Office schools, and I agree with a great deal of what he has said. I think that all Members of this Committee who listened to his speech must have been struck by the extraordinary grasp of the subject which he shows, and also by the very able analysis that he gave of the incidence and causes of crime in this country during the last few years. I was particularly glad to hear his reference to the influence of the 1164 cinema. Frequently I see lads in Borstal institutions, and sometimes in Home Office schools, and, although you are sometimes told by those boys or lads that they got themselves into trouble because they "saw it on the pictures," which is the expression they use, I am gradually coming to the conclusion that in most cases that is not really the fact. They use that expression simply because they have been told that, if they do so, they will, perhaps, be treated leniently. They regard it as an extremely good excuse if they can tell the magistrates that they, innocent young people, went to the pictures quite harmlessly for pleasant enjoyment, and there they saw some evil suggestion or influence which afterwards impelled them to act in a way in which they would not otherwise have acted. We all know, and particularly those who are fathers of children, that there is no mind more fertile than the childish mind in inventing excuses for doing something which should not have been done.
Although the cinema has probably a very bad moral influence on many people—and for that we have largely to thank the American film—I do not think it has an evil influence in regard to the actual increase of crime among young people. The Home Secretary referred to the influence of the War. We all know that, after a war, there is always less respect for life and property than there was before, and after a war on the scale of the last War, with thousands of young men seeing people killed around them, and property destroyed or taken without compensation, it is quite natural that many of them should come back with an entirely different mental outlook. But, with all due respect to that point of view. I am convinced, from personal contact with many of these lads, that their outlook with regard to property, and their disrespect for property, is also due to some extent, not to the War, but to the extreme Socialist teaching which has arisen as a result of the War. [Interruption.] I know that hon. Members opposite may not agree, but that is my firm conviction and my firm opinion. I do not suggest that the mild form of Socialism which some hon. Members opposite preach is in any way responsible for crime, but they know as well as I know that there are types of Communist teaching which deliberately encourage people 1165 to believe that they have a right to take something if someone else has it and they have not. I am perfectly convinced that that has had an influence on some young boys' minds, because they have practically told me so themselves. I feel convinced, for that reason, that it has had some influence on the increase in crime, and I feel sure that the right hon. Gentleman opposite will weigh his words very carefully in future on that account.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) made a reference to unemployment and crime in which I was very interested, because I entirely agree with him that it is grossly unfair to the unemployed themselves to suggest that, because there is more unemployment, there is of necessity bound to be more crime. That is quite untrue. On the other hand, I think a large amount of unemployment results in men who have once fallen into crime very often finding it much more difficult to get out of it again. I am a member of the investigation committee, which examines the case of every Borstal lad who has been let out on licence and whose licence is afterwards cancelled because he has broken the terms of it. That committee has to find out why the lads have broken the terms of their licence and what is to be done with them. In a very large number of those cases we find the reason is that they have gone back to the town to which they belonged and, perhaps for six or nine months, or even longer, have had no employment of any kind. To send a lad back to Newcastle or one of the big industrial towns of Yorkshire or Lancashire is to send him back to unemployment for an indefinite period, and it is extremely hard for these lads who have once been in touch with the criminal classes, very often men much cleverer and older than themselves, to go back to their old surroundings and keep away from those people, which they are supposed to do under the terms of the licence, and at the same time see no prospect in front of them of honest employment of any kind. I agree that you cannot necessarily say that unemployment causes crime but, once a boy or girl has fallen into crime, it is essential that, if possible, we should, when they come out of prison, try to find them employment. The Borstal Association exists for that purpose but you cannot find employment where there is not any in the town at all.
1166 I only hope the work that the present Government is doing, with which unfortunately the Home Secretary does not agree, will result in greater employment and, therefore, a less incidence of crime amongst young people.
The hon. Gentleman opposite referred to mental instability. There are many Members of the Committee who are members of the medical profession who have made a study of that question, and I think they will agree that there is nothing more difficult to decide in this world than whether an individual who is mentally unstable is also certifiable. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not think for a moment that lads are sent to prison or to a Borstal institution without a careful examination as to their mental condition. He probably remembers—he was my predecessor as Under-Secretary at the Home Office—that Borstal lads are classified in different institutions and that the institution at Feltham in Middlesex is specially reserved for mentally unstable cases. It has a permanent doctor in residence, who regularly reports to the visiting committee as to the condition of the lads. Over and over again you get cases where it is obvious that a crime was committed by a lad because of his mental condition, and yet you will not convince two doctors that that same lad is certifiable. It is an extremely serious thing for two doctors to certify anyone.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
Surely there is a middle way between certifying a man and keeping him in prison. I think there ought to be an intermediate instituion, and that is why I have always argued in favour of observation centres.
§ Sir V. HENDERSON
I am only pointing out, in my private capacity in connection with the work of Borstal institutions, that Feltham is such an institution. The treatment of the lads there is milder and less rigorous than the treatment at Rochester or Portland, and for that reason the hon. Gentleman has what he is asking for. You could not have treatment of a much kinder sort without abolishing discipline altogether than that which is meted out to the lads at Feltham. It speaks very highly for that treatment that so very few of them, even with Unemployment at its present level, subsequently get into trouble. I do not agree that there can be no case in which a 1167 young person under 21 could be sent to prison, because every now and again in your Borstal system you find a lad who is totally untrainable, whose influence on other lads is extraordinarily evil and bad and who must be removed. The only way of dealing with a case of that kind is to remove him to prison and it is essential, whatever is done in the matter, that the power should be retained of sending a lad to prison after he has been given a Borstal sentence if it is found that he cannot be trained in a Borstal institution.
I rose primarily to put this point to the Home Secretary. If the training of the young criminal is proving a success, will he seriously consider the possibility of raising the age at which we can give such training? I think under the original Act he has the power by Order in Council to raise the age from 21 to 23. He will probably remember, because he was one of the authors of the legislation. I realise that at present he has neither the accommodation nor would be probably persuade the Treasury to give him the money for any such purpose. If, however, he is convinced, as I believe he is, that this form of training, not for two or three weeks in prison, which is what the hon. Gentleman opposite was objecting to, but two years, is the right way of dealing with a young criminal, will he not carry it higher up the scale and, instead of stopping at 21, or even 23, gradually bring it up till we can deal with the criminal right up to the age of 30? That would probably eventually mean further legislation. It would probably mean that you would have to give the judges the power of giving a young man under 30 a sentence of preventive detention in an institution of up to a maximum of three years as is the case with the Borstal sentence. I am absolutely sure that if we are to deal with the criminal problem we have to do so at that end and not at the other end. The right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the system of preventive detention which has been in force for many years in this country has been a complete failure, because we are dealing with people at the wrong end. We are dealing with the man of 45 and 55, and in some cases even over 60. The minds of those men are not pliable; they are petrified. You will 1168 have no effect upon those people whatever form of punishment you give them. They are very comfortable and happy in their surroundings. As far as I remember they are now all at Lewes, but I do not think that practically one per cent. of them have reformed as a result of that training. As a means of keeping certain, what I call, pests away from society, it may be an excellent system, but as a means of reforming the criminal it is a complete failure.
I hope that, if financial conditions in this country improve, the right hon. Gentleman will consider the possibility of giving longer training in institutions less like prisons and more like Borstals to the younger criminal, and less attention to the older criminal. I agree with what he said that the ideal state of society would be one in which all the crime took place under 30, and when there was no crime after that age because of the excellent system of reformative treatment which the State would establish. If he works along those lines, which, I believe, is his intention, I feel sure that when he leaves office he will have established a still greater reputation for himself as a Home Secretary than he has already done.
§ 1.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LOVAT-FRASER
I wish to comment upon the crime statistics which were issued by the Home Office a few days ago. There emerges from the admirable and excellent summary of the crime statistics the alarming fact that there has been a great increase in juvenile crime. That fact has caused widespread alarm. I have had an opportunity of seeing a large number of cuttings from newspapers commenting upon the increase in juvenile crime, and there is no doubt that among citizens of this country there is serious alarm. My principal object in asking for the attention of the Committee for a few moments is to try and allay, as far as an obscure Member of Parliament can, the alarm which has resulted from the issue of the criminal statistics. Some people have lost their heads and become panicky. I have seen it stated in the Press that our policy of reducing the severity of our penal laws during the last century has been a mistake, and that what we ought to do now is to return to severer methods and the methods which we have been steadily discarding for a century. Everyone knows the 1169 horrible conditions of 100 years ago when boys were hanged for stealing apples and when George IV, who, whatever his defects may have been, had a merciful heart, used to plead for the lives of young men. George IV wanted to save them, but Peel wanted to hang them and even threatened to, resign if they were not hanged. We have steadily advanced since that time. It would he most deplorable—and I hope others in this Committee will repeat what I say and give emphasis to it—if as a result of alarm at the temporary increase in juvenile crime any return was made to the severer methods of former days. In speaking in this House one has constantly to put forward what is one's own opinion, and I venture to state that in my opinion the two main causes of the increase in crime are unemployment and the influence of the cinema. Surely it is undeniable that the existence of thousands upon thousands of young boys and young women in this country with nothing to do must result in an increase in crime. One of my earliest childish remembrances is of my mother repeating to me the lines of Isaac Watts:Satan finds some mischief still For idle hands to do.That is true. Those simple lines contain a volume of truth. Unemployment and idleness conduce to crime. My hon. Friend who held office in a former Government and who speaks with such authority in this matter suggested that unemployment did not mean an increase in crime. I must differ from him. I think it is undeniable that it should be so. Unfortunately, it is often the best and most enterprising boy who wants to do, to know, and to act, who goes astray. Osborne in his book "Society and Prisons" states thatthe dangerous and desperate criminal is often the hero gone wrongand it is so. It is the best boys, unfortunately, who often become criminals. Of course, the miserable homes which result from unemployment, poverty, and the lack of food, drive boys into crime and cause breaches of the law. Reference has been made to the children who were undisciplined in, the War years, whose fathers were absent, and whose mothers were not able to deal with them, and to the fact that now they are of an age to 1170 commit crime. That indirectly is also the result of unemployment. If at the proper age they had teen placed in congenial employment, those men would not now have been breaking the laws.
The second cause of crime is the influence of the cinema. My right hon. Friend and myself do not see eye to eye upon that matter. I had the honour of introducing a deputation to him from Birmingham which included some of the most weighty and influential persons in the country. I had the pleasure of introducing that deputation to him on Wednesday, and we asked him to appoint a, committee of inquiry to deal, among other things, with the question of the influence of the cinema upon children. I am sorry to say—and the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I say it—that for reasons that were inadequate he declined to accede to the request of the deputation. There are, undoubtedly, two opinions as to the influence of the cinema. The right hon. Gentleman said that the experienced and expert gentlemen in the Home Office who assisted him were of opinion that the cinema did not conduce to crime. I am never alarmed by the experience of experts in talking about matters with regard to which anyone can form an opinion. There are no sources of information open to the experienced experts of the Home Office which are not equally open to men like myself who have taken the trouble to inquire, and have endeavoured to form just conclusions. I am not saying that the cinema is the only influence of the kind. Books may have a bad effect. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that he had been brought up on Dick Turpin. Perhaps that is why he is now leader of the Labour party. But books undoubtedly have their influence.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
May I ask the hon. Gentleman if it also explains why he had joined the Labour party?
§ Mr. LOVAT-FRASER
I am not tailed upon to make a personal explanation; it might be so unpleasant for the hon. Member who sits opposite. I do not suppose that any book, has aroused criminal instincts in more boys than "Jack Shepherd." The year in which "Jack Shepherd" was published Lord William Russell was murdered by his valet, who said that he had been led to 1171 commit the murder by having read "Jack Shepherd." But the numbers of boys who have been corrupted by reading "Jack Shepherd" are a tiny fraction of those who, in my judgment, are now corrupted by seeing all kinds of films exhibited. They see burglaries, murders, and every kind of burglarious trick exhibited. The gangster is held up as a hero. The leader of the gangsters always scores, and he secures the sympathy of the boys. This influence steadily, year after year, exercised on an enormous number of unemployed boys, imperfectly educated boys and girls, has undoubtedly affected the youth of this country very detrimentally.
Fortunately, both unemployment and the influence of the cinema are remediable matters. It will take a long time before the evil effects of unemployment are wiped out, and it may take some time before the evil influence of the cinema comes to an end, but these things are both remediable. In regard to unemployment I sometimes wonder if the Home Office could not do more. If it is not going entirely beyond their province, could they not try to reduce some of the evil effects resulting from unemployment? Could they not do something for the boys who now wander the streets and get into mischief. One of the most persistent characteristic of the young boy is the gang instinct, and I sometimes wonder if the Home Office could not do something to counteract the evil results of the gang instinct in boys. Usually when a boy gets into a football club or into a sports club he ceases to do mischief. I do not say that the Home Office should undertake the work of organising these means of protecting boys from crime, but could not they do more to set things going in that direction and to induce people throughout the country to take up the work? I believe that there is a large body of opinion willing to help boys who are only waiting to be led and who if they were led would turn out to be good citizens.
May I repeat what I said at the beginning of my speech? I do hope that people will not lose their heads as the result of this increase in crime. I hope that they will not call for a return to the old, bad methods of dealing with 1172 juvenile crime, that they will remember that the causes of crime are remediable, and that magistrates and others who are responsible for the law will continue on the same lines that they have followed in the past, that of steadily reducing the severity of our penal laws and thereby converting the wrong-doer into an asset to the State.
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
I join with the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser) in welcoming the extremely able and interesting speech that we had from the Home Secretary. I am afraid that I do not draw the same conclusion that he did that the result of the report establishes a reason for his leaving the Government. I draw the entirely opposite inference that it is a very complete justification of his remaining in. I say frankly that I would very much rather hear the right hon. Gentleman on Home Office matters than I would on some other matters on which he talks fluently. There are one or two things connected with the discussion to-clay that I should like to say. A' great deal has been said about the causes of juvenile crime and the causes of crime in general.
Something has been said about leniency. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) said that leniency did not cause an increase of crime. I am certain that during a long period the tendency towards leniency actually reduced the amount of crime which was committed. I look back with fairly vivid recollections to the work of one of the pioneers of shorter sentences or, rather, more lenient sentences, the late Mr. Hopwood who, as Recorder of Liverpool, set an example of leniency towards criminals which, in the end, did a very great deal towards reducing the amount of crime in this country, but I want to go a little further back than that. One of the most serious causes of crime has been the treatment of young offenders in the past. One of the most pitiable things is to take up any calendar which has in it the records of prisoners. I guarantee that in that event one will almost invariably find that where you have men between the ages of 55 and 65 committing crime, as you have time after time, you will almost invariably find that those men started their criminal careers as boys. In saying that they started their criminal careers as boys I am using an expression which is 1173 probably incorrect. They started the career which ultimately landed them into a criminal career, as boys. It will be found also that their treatment was such that it was much more likely to lead them into the paths of crime than away from the paths of crime.
To show how long that has persisted, I might say that during the last fortnight I came across the record of a man, 45 years of age, who before he reached the age of 21 had received seven sentences of imprisonment. Three of those sentences were for 12 months or over. Two of the sentences were for 12 months and one for 20 months hard labour. The prelude to those three sentences were four sentences, one following the other at very short intervals, of three to four months' imprisonment. If one goes through a series of records of that kind one is driven to the conclusion that early sentences of imprisonment have been responsible for a great deal of the persistence in crime that still remains in this country. One of the difficulties of the situation has been that it has lad people to make rather extravagant statements. I am afraid that I have been guilty of sometimes making extravagant statements which were inspired by one's horror at past treatment.
People have been saying that no person under 21 should in any circumstances be sent to prison. If that idea got abroad it might do very serious harm to the community and to the young persons themselves. Undoubtedly, that kind of expression has given rise to an opposite tendency which is almost equally dangerous in its results. I refer to a tendency which is strongly in evidence at the present time. Looking through a list of some six offenders under the age of 18 I found that five of them had been bound over by courts of summary jurisdiction on no less than three occasions, some of the five on four occasion and in one case the boy had been bound over on five occasions. That sort of thing brings the administration of justice, as far as a boy's mind is concerned, into contempt. It is like a parent who is always threatening his children that he will smack them, and never does. He says "the next time you do it I shall have to smack you," but the next time never comes, and in the end the boy knows that there is no next time. When you are dealing with punishment 1174 for crime directly you get a young person of the opinion that it is going to be a long time before he will be punished in an effective manner so long you encourage him to drift back into crime rather than keep away from it.
In my view, some middle course has to be found. It should be made clear that in all cases of serious crime effective punishment will be administered, although it may be the first occasion on which the offender has been brought before the court. There is a terrible tendency to-day for people to say, when a case is brought before the court for the first time, that it is his first offence. I came across the case of a man who was brought before the court for the first time who admitted that for over 12 months he had been committing one offence after another but had never been found out, and then he had the hardihood to observe that as it was his first offence he should be treated with leniency. There is far too much tendency to regard people coming before the court for the first time as first offenders whereas the real truth is that it is the first time they have been found out. It would have been very much better if they had been found out before. But some course other than that of extreme harshness or extreme leniency has to be found, and magistrates throughout the country ought undoubtedly to be warned against repeatedly binding over particularly in a court of summary jurisdiction. As one of our judges remarked it would be far better in a great many cases, although they might consider the case was one which would be admirably dealt with by binding the offender over, for magistrates to commit the young offender for trial because he would then have a period of waiting when he would be subject to considerable anxiety. If the higher court then saw fit to bind him over he would have suffered during the period of waiting in a way which would be much more effective than if he had been bound over in the first instance by the court of summary jurisdiction.
I want to keep in mind that there is nothing more dangerous to anybody than short sentences of imprisonment. There are cases where it is practically impossible to give other than very short sentences of imprisonment, but in the majority of cases a short sentence of im- 1175 prisonment is the very opposite of remedial. There are many cases when the person accused must be brought up against it so that he may realise that the offence cannot go without punishment, and in those cases it is far better to give a sentence of imprisonment which will impress itself upon the person as a punishment rather than one which will get him inured to prison atmosphere without realising how terrible a long period of confinement really is. On the other hand, with regard to young people I think we may defer too long the operation of sentencing a young person to a Borstal institution or to a Home Office school. While I am complaining of magistrates binding over too often do not let it be thought that I am suggesting they should substitute for it short terms of imprisonment they should take the fullest advantage of Home Office schools and the Borstal institutions.
As far as Home Office schools are concerned, everybody who has bad experience of them realises that we have progressed a very long way from the stage of the mere industrial school or the so-called reformatory. Our Home Office schools to-day are conducted on lines which are all designed to improve and stabilise character, and so long as that is the position the fullest advantage should be taken of the schools. I asked the right hon. Gentleman a question with regard to the statistics of the Borstal institutions. A short time ago I believe it was the fact that 75 per cent. of those who went to a Borstal institution never came back ino the criminal arena again, but I doubt if that percentage is quite correct at the present moment. I have an idea that the percentage to-day is about 66. The difference between the 75 per cent. and 66 per cent. is accounted in this way. The number of persons who go to a Borstal institution without a prolonged series of being bound over or without having been to prison before is, I believe, three out of four, and the difference between 75 per cent. and 66 per cent. is made up of the unfortunate cases which are not sent to Borstal until they have been inured to the idea of contempt for the law by having been repeatedly bound over or who have suffered the atmosphere of an ordinary gaol for two or three months by a wholly improper short 1176 sentence of imprisonment. If that could be guarded against I think the work of the Borstal institutions could be rendered much more effective.
Something has been said about unemployment. I was much interested in what the hon. Member for Westhoughton said with regard to young fellows who have never had employment. It might interest the hon. Member to know that, although I have dealt with a considerable number of young people, I cannot recollect one case coming before me where the young person had never had employment. I can recollect a very large number of cases where the young person got employment which was precarious, and in some cases where the young person worked for 12 consecutive months in one employment and was then discharged through slackness of trade. A very large number of those who come before our courts have that record, but, again, it must not be assumed that every boy who comes before the courts is an unemployed boy by reason of the force of circumstances or slackness in trade.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
Can the hon. and learned Member tell us whether those who were employed were employed in the main in blind alley occupations?
§ Sir W. GREAVES-LORD
Many of them have been in anything but blind alley occupations, but unfortunately they have lost their employment through slackness in a particular trade. But there is another symptom which is now exhibiting itself, and it is of a much more serious nature. In this I am not speaking from my own experience alone. I have consulted with a considerable number of recorders and judges, and I find that this symptom is appearing: it is that boys who at the time of the commission of a particular offence are out of employment, need never have been out of employment. There are large districts of this country where, so far as juvenile employment is concerned, there is not the same lack of employment as there was a short time back. Unfortunately in these districts there are young persons who get employment, not in blind-alley occupations but in sound occupations which might lead to something, and for some reason or other they find the employment irksome and leave it of their own accord. That is a most distressing circumstance of the present time. It is 1177 not confined to one place, but it is a symptom which is being found all over the country. It points to a certain number of the younger generation not having that respect or that desire for work which certainly their fathers had. It is a symptom which it will be extremely difficult to correct, and it is a symptom which is far more dangerous and subtle than the mere case where the employment is lost and there is inability to get further employment.
I am afraid that that symptom is exhibiting itself in another direction. I was talking the other day to one of those who are largely responsible for the after-care of young men who go to Borstal. The same symptom is exhibiting itself there. Those responsible for the after-care of Borstal boys are finding that there is not the same determination to stick at work when the boys are out of Borstal. If that continues, the number who will be saved from returning to the criminal ranks will be very much reduced in future. It appears as if there is at work an influence which tends to make some of the boys feel that work is irksome. When they leave work of their own accord they are much more inclined to be dissolute than the lad who is unemployed through force of circumstances and whose general inclination is to seek for employment.
I want to make another observation on the other end of the picture. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who sits for Chelmsford (Sir V. Henderson) made, from his experience, an extremely interesting speech. He said something about preventive detention with which I profoundly agree. Preventive detention, as everyone admits, is a complete failure. I am not sure that I agree with the hon. Member entirely as to the cause. I think that one cause is that preventive detention, and the way it is inflicted, cause in the mind of the man who suffers from it a grievance from the very start of the sentence passed upon him. He feels that he is being sentenced for that for which he has already paid the penalty. But I am very far from saying that there is not real remedial work to be done at the other end of life. One has found, with regard to a number of older criminals, that there comes a time, even in their careers, when they are responsive to lenient treatment. In my own experience, found at 1178 least two cases of men over 60 years of age who had spent over 30 years in penal servitude, with whom the course has been taken of binding them over to come up for judgment when called upon, and they have lived straight and honest lives from the moment they were dealt with in that way. One must not think that the remedial work to be done by leniency is to be done only at one end of life. It can be done at the other end, and often effectively. It not only brings those concerned back to a more respectable class of humanity, but it takes from their old age that terrible stigma which would remain upon it if remedial measures of that kind were not undertaken.
Then there is crime among the younger men. It is the most difficult crime to deal with to-day. It is unfortunately that part of crime which is most seriously affected by the state of unemployment. In a great many cases that come before the courts unemployment is used as an excuse, and in a way that is wholly unfair to great numbers of unemployed who are suffering untold hardships but who at any cost intend to keep out of the clutches of the criminal law. I hope the Home Secretary will do something with regard to those persons who are not certifiable, but are not completely sound mentally. They exist not only among those who are under 21, but among those who are over 21. It certainly is most difficult to decide what to do with a person who comes before you when you realise that he has not full possession of all his faculties, that he is under-developed, and yet at the same time is not certifiable. What he wants is a sort of intermediate hospital rather than a prison, and at the same time you cannot set him completely free.
The hon. Member for Westhoughton said something about nystagmus cases. Attention has been called lately to the peculiar way in which the rules are being made under the Workmen's Compensation Acts with regard to medical referees, and how they are defeating the objects of the Act. I hope that the Home Secretary will devote some attention to try to bring the forms used in connection with medical referees, and the rules, more in accord with the intention of the Act, and now allow them to remain in a form which contradicts the intention and destroys a great deal of the good of the "Workmen's Compensation Acts. There is a great deal of ground for saying that 1179 nystagmus has increased in this country very largely owing to the way in which the courts and the medical profession between them have treated it. It has rather tended to the belief that the disease is incurable. A great deal can be done in that regard if the rules and the forms are properly dealt with.
§ Mr. TINKER
The hon. and learned Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord) has, on former occasions, raised points on which we have disagreed strongly with him, but we are very largely agreed with him in the views which he has advanced this morning with the exception of that contained in almost the last sentence uttered by him about the cause of the increase of nystagmus. However, he has not developed that point. Supply Days, as a rule, are looked upon as dull and uninteresting, but I think if any hon. Member who has been able to find the time to stop here to-day has been well repaid. The Home Secretary gave us a lucid and interesting description of the work of the Home Office. The right hon. Gentleman spoke for over an hour, but it was one of those occasions when time seemed to pass very rapidly because of the way in which he presented his case. He covered many points, but I only propose to deal with that part of his remarks relating to industrial diseases.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned silicosis and I understood him to say that there was much satisfaction at the progress which was being made in regard to that disease. I wish, however, he had been able to develop that point a little further and I hope that the Under-Secretary later on will go into it a little more extensively. We find that in the mining industry it is most difficult to establish a case of silicosis. The Act so far as it has been extended to us gives only very slight protection in that respect. Proof has to be given of the presence of a certain percentage of silica and the result is that while scores of men in the industry are dying from that disease, or are certainly incapacitated in consequence of it, it is very seldom that we can establish a claim owing to the enormous difficulties which are placed in the way. I touch upon the subject with the sole object of getting the Home Office to pay greater attention to it.
1180 The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the subject of nystagmus. The latest figures which I have been able to get are those for 1930 and they show that 3,248 men were granted certificates of incapacity during that period. I wish to know if the disease has been on the increase or otherwise during recent years and if recent investigations are leading to a, betterment of the position in regard to that disease. The Home Secretary, dealing with general matters, spoke about prevention rather than cure and this is one of the things in connection with which prevention ought to be regarded rather than cure. I am told that lighting is one of the chief causes of this disease, but my own view is that the cramped position of the miner when he is engaged in certain mining operations, and the strain on the muscles of the head, contribute to causing nystagmus as well as the lighting. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us if the Home Office during the last 12 months have found any means of lessening the incidence of nystagmus. I do not agree with the suggestion that the leniency of the courts had been a contributory factor in this connection. I think the increase merely shows that the disease is getting a great hold on the men who are subject to it.
The question of insanity arises in connection with this subject. The Home Secretary dealt with various phases of insanity but the Committee may not be aware of the fact that miners' agents find in various districts that insanity arises among men with nystagmus. In fact, in cases where men have taken their own lives, we have been able to establish in court that it has been due to feelings caused by nystagmus. The agony suffered by men who have nystagmus seems to be even more intense than one can imagine. We feel this matter very keenly in the mining world because we see so many of our people suffering from that disease. There is another point which I would urge on the Home Office. We find many of these men being deprived of compensation on the ground that they are cured, but we feel that the after-effects of nystagmus are such that the Home Office ought to look into this matter. The oscillation of the eyeball in these cases means that a man is not free from the disease; that it has left something in his system which renders him unfit to work, 1181 though he might be unable to establish that fact in a court of law, as certain symptoms have to be definitely proved to the certifying surgeon and the medical referee. There is another matter which is fundamental to the consideration of the Workmen's Compensation Act. A memorandum was issued by the Home Office in 1923–24 explaining the working of the Act in which it was stated:The Act does not require the employer to insure against his liabilities hut in his own interest as well as those of his workmen, it is advisable that any employer who will find it difficult to meet the heavy charges which may be entailed upon him by serious accidents should protect himself by insurance with a sound insurance company or an employers' mutual indemnity association. In view of the great increase in these liabilities imposed by the Act of 1923 in case of fatal accident this is now more necessary than ever.When that Memorandum was issued one did not attach much importance to that point because we were not dealing with anything in that connection at the time, but in recent years this passage which I have quoted has come home very forcibly to us, because we find now that many companies, particularly colliery companies, have failed, with the result that there is no payment for the workmen. The Home Secretary has been approached on this matter by deputations and by questions in the House of Commons and he is undoubtedly sympathetic to our view that something more ought to be done in regard to this matter. I wish to ask the Under Secretary if those inquiries which were indicated are being made by the Home Office and is he prepared to make any statement on this subject. I know that the genuine employers feel that something ought to be done and are attempting to do it themselves in their own cases, but I want the bad employer to be watched, so that the workman, in whatever capacity he is employed, will have protection. To prove my point and to show what the Workmen's Compensation Act was really intended to do I would quote the words of a very eminent Member of the House of Commons at the time when the principle of workmen's compensation was first mooted. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain was one of the advocates of workmen's compensation. It was in 1893 that he first took up the matter. He was not able to succeed then but eventually, the Workmen's Compensation Act became 1182 law and these were the words uttered by Mr. Chamberlain on that occasion:No amendment of the law relating to employers' liabiity will be final or satisfactory which does not provide compensation to workmen for all injuries sustained in the ordinary course of their employment and not caused by their own act or default.Anyone who has dealt with the Workmen's Compensation Act in the way of amending it has always had in mind that whatever the House of Commons did, it did ensure to workmen that they were entitled to the moneys that would be awarded by a court of law. That is the fundamental principle underlying the Act, but we find that that important point is not being carried out. My sole reason for taking part in the Debate to-day is that I want once more to impress upon the Committee the urgent necessity of this House taking up this question and seeing that workmen are protected by what I term compulsory insurance.
§ Mr. BRIANT
There is a, rather peculiar case that has come to my notice under the industrial diseases provisions of the Workmen's Compensation Act. Compensation is obtained for certain industrial diseases, such as dermatitis and different forms of poisoning, but in two particular cases of which I know great hardship has arisen. Under that particular Act, a man who suffers from an industrial disease has to get a certificate from the certifying surgeon of the district in which he was working, and in two specific cases that I have had before me, men have been working on board ship, but the sea does not constitute a district within the regulations or apparently in the eye of the law. In these cases the men, who have suffered from an industrial disease, have not been able to obtain a farthing of compensation. I feel sure that neither the Home Secretary nor the Members of this Committee would wish that these men should be debarred from compensation through what is probably some slip in the particular drafting of the Act. I do not ask for an answer now, but if the Under-Secretary of State will have the matter looked into and at some time in the future supply me with an answer, I shall be grateful. They are exceptional cases, but two of them have come to my notice, and there must be more, of which I have not heard, of the 1183 same sort. I am sure that this House would be willing to allow facilities for the passage of such slight amendment of the Act as would be possible to bring these men within what must have been the obvious intention of the House when the Act was passed.
With regard to the question of juvenile crime, may I say that I am very grateful to the Home Secretary for the very comprehensive, clear, and humane speech which he has made to-day I In my view, the National Government is more fortunate than it deserves both in its Home Secretary and in its Under-Secretary of State for that Department. I believe that no Department is better administered or represented in this House than is the Home Office. We have heard a great deal about the causes of juvenile crime, but I have no doubt that the chief cause is unemployment, and for two reasons. First of all, as has been said, idleness always causes degeneration in any man, whether rich or poor. The whole difference between the rich man and the poor man in this respect is that the rich man has money enough with which to find some occupation for himself, but the poor man has not. Therefore, the apparent effect of the degeneration which always comes from idleness is more obvious in the poor man than in the rich man.
The second point about idleness in the working-man is that he has no money, and that is a most serious point in regard to a young fellow. I suggest, what is seldom realised, that the whole social recreations of the working-classes have been revolutionised in the last 25 or 30 years. I remember in my earlier days, when working among working-men, that a boy with 6d. a week pocket money was considered to be well-off, but then, of course, he had nothing but the music hall to go to. Now he has the music hall, the cinema, dog racing, football matches, and so on, and he has in consequence acquired certain tastes that cost a good deal of money. I think that is the reason why many of he working men's and working lads' clubs are said to be not so successful as they used to be, simply because the lads have acquired other tastes, which require money.
Now, many of these young fellows have been taken off the dole, altogether. I think that the removal of transitional 1184 benefit in many cases is certainly logically supported by facts. It is true, in my view, in many cases that the home has sufficient to maintain the lad, but, though logically it can be supported, the effect on the young fellow has been lost sight of. I, personally, would be prepared to scrap some of my logic and to allow at any rate a few shillings a week above the bare margin which the home contains to keep him, in order that he should have some money. He has become used to these amusements. He is not a criminal by instinct and has never been connected with crime. I am afraid that I am stating what is literally a fact, because I come into contact with some of these lads, when I say that he has been suddenly taken off every kind of recreation; he has the whole day before him, and I ask the Committee to remember that he has no recreative reservoir. When you are taking him from school at the age of 14 the boy has not attained enough knowledge or education to make reading or science an occupation for him. The boy who leaves school at a considerably later age can get books from the free library and read them, or he can take up science and indulge in some sort of hobby, but the lad taken away from school at 14 has none of these things to fall back on and to occupy his mind.
The question of clubs has been mentioned by one hon. Member, who is not now present, but it is not the absence of clubs which open in the evening, but the absence of recreation in the daytime, which is the important point. In this connection I am delighted to see, from a circular in my hand, this extraordinarily fine experiment which is being made at Morley College, where they are having free afternoon classes for unemployed men and women, including almost every subject you can think of—gymnastics, current events, psychology, gardening, wireless science, and even public speaking, though I do not advise that myself. I believe that an extension of this idea would be very useful, and I would appeal to Members of this House and to those who have buildings available whether they could not see the advisability of having some of them open in the daytime—not all the daytime. I have come across that difficulty. One does not want to attract a young fellow to spend all his day in recreation, when he ought to be out look- 1185 ing for work for at least a part of the day. It should not be made too easy to be out of work, but in the afternoon particularly, when one knows that a young fellow will never be able to find work, there is no reason why some places should not be open to keep him from the streets.
I want now to say a word about the cinema. I have never held exaggerated views about the dangers and temptations of the cinema. I think that on the whole we are better with them than we should be without them. That is not very high praise, but I do not know that I can say more now. I do not see that they lead to much open crime, but they do lower the moral standard of many who go to them. Though they may not lead to crime, they may lead to vice, which may not be a crime in the eye of the law, but it is certain that the constant holding up of the exploits of gangsters cannot be good for a child. Only yesterday morning I watched four young boys, about the ages of 10 and 11, at play. They had already successfully roped one of their mates; one had a representation of a revolver and another a dagger, and they were going through the whole performance which they had seen on the film the night before. I do not see anything very dreadful in that, but I do not think it is a good thing, even for children of that age, that their chief amusement should be the emulating of exploits of gangsters on the films. I am not exaggerating these things, but one cannot help thinking that the cumulative effect of these films must be bad for children.
There is one more question, and that is about reformatories and Borstal institutions. For my point of view, everything depends upon the kind of boy who goes to the institution, and upon his classification. Some lads sent to reformatories have come out far worse than when they went in, because they have con, sorted with boys of a lower type than themselves. I know the difficulties of classification and that is why I believe that it should be carefully examined. It is also a fact that many boys are classified as mental defectives when they are abnormal in mentality, which is quite a different thing. I know at the present time a most difficult case of a lad guilty of a moral offence who is not mentally defective, or in any sense backward. In the ordinary way he is very capable and 1186 a decent boy, but he is abnormal in one respect, and it would pay the State to find out that sort of abnormality as early as it can, so as to prevent its development. He ought not to be treated as an ordinary criminal. He needs treating in an entirely different way, and in the subdivision of these cases I think the greatest hope of the future lies.
I do not depreciate the enormous efforts made and the excellent effects of the various Home Office reforms and institutions like the Borstal institution. I think they do good, but often fail, and even attempts to humanise prison treatment, with which I entirely agree, have their defects. I know the case of a man who was treated very well in prison. At certain times of the day he was allowed to converse with other men. His particular crime was not one of violence or robbery. He told me that his conversation with the other men was as to where he should meet them when they came out of prison in order that he might be attracted to a life of crime. I realise the enormous difficulties of classification. I think that, in the direction of the more careful subdivision of various types, we should find the most hopeful development of our industrial homes and reformatories. I have every hope that the present phase of crime will end. We are certainly passing through a difficult time. It is no good for anyone to tell me that there is not an increase of crime. There is, and will be, an increase, and I venture to prophesy that the next criminal statistics will show the effect of the removal of the dole from young fellows, and that there will be a further increase of crime. I am not blaming any particular person. It is certainly not my right hon. Friend's Department, but honestly, I am very much afraid of the result. I am talking of actual experience. I have seen young fellows who are on the edge of crime who have never been in it before. They have been in work and are now out of work. They have been accustomed to the dole, rightly or wrongly, which has given them pocket-money and now they get nothing. I have heard them say that they will go to some of these amusements such as pictures, and will get the money somehow or other. It is an extremely dangerous position, for once you allow a young fellow to start in crime you never know how to arrest it.
1187 2.0 p.m.
We are all very grateful, I am sure, to the Home Secretary, and I hope that the figures he has mentioned in so clear and concise a manner will be read by the whole country, so that it may realise the enormous danger to the moral stability of this nation unless we immediately arrest, particularly among the young, this tendency to crime. I do think that our Press might serve us sometimes better in this respect. It is a dangerous thing for any public man to come into conflict with the Press, but I think that the Press might serve the young better by giving less space to crime and a little more space to the efforts which are constantly being made for reform and to the nobler deeds of life. I am a great believer in the influence of our schools in constantly inculcating moral points. They may be called moral platitudes, but a child's mind is very retentive. I believe that the Germans realised that 20 years before the War, and by constant emphasis about certain things the Germans absorbed their ideas. If the education authorities would more closely consider the question of pointing out to the child what I would call not only the moral, but the social, injustice done to the State by crime, there would be an improvement in the ideals of the young in the future. That time seems a long way off, but, after all, we have to look a long way ahead, and I believe the effect on the schools would be a great advantage to the future generation.
§ Mr. LYONS
Before I deal with the matter about which I have given notice to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, perhaps the Committee will permit me to make a few observations in reference to two matters which have already been discussed in this Debate. First of all, I want to associate myself with what has been said in reference to the great desirability of having some guarantee for an insured person in the case of employers insolvency. Those who have been concerned with the practice of the Workmen's Compensation Act have seen the hardship which falls upon an injured person deprived, probably, of his working capacity, covered by a humane Act of Parliament, but who, because of the insolvency of those for whom he worked, finds himself for all time put out of that relief to which he is legally entitled. 1188 Speaking for myself and a good many on this side, we should be glad to see the Home Secretary, in the exercise of his discretion, introduce some legislation which would prevent this unfortunate hardship.
Seondly, may I say that I would like to associate myself with what has been said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Norwood (Sir W. Greaves-Lord) about the lack of institutions for persons over Borstal age, of mental instability and not always certified as mentally defective under the Statute. One hears that deplored constantly by His Majesty's judges and by Recorders who say, "Here is a man about whom there is no doubt one cannot say he is a mental defective, but, equally, one is satisfied that he has some mental defect which makes him abnormal and unstable, and yet, once he is over Borstal age, there is no institution provided as an alternative." The Feltham institution is for Borstal treatment, and there the age limitation applies. There is a great omission in that no such mental treatment exists by public institution for those of the type to which I have referred. I urge the importance of this matter upon the Home Secretary and hope there will be some remedy provided in the course of a very little time.
I should like to ask the Home Secretary whether he will at once do something to remedy one of the few evils remaining on the fair name of British justice. By circularising the justices throughout the country informing them definitely and with clarity of the position of a convicted person under the Summary Jurisdiction Act a first step will be taken. It is an extraordinary thing that as the law stands to-day a person may be convicted by a bench of magistrates on a matter which to him is so serious that it means life and death, and it is entirely in the province of the justices to say how big a surety they will fix before the convicted person can test the decision on appeal. There is no such machinery entitling one of His Majesty's judges to make such a condition before a man appeals from a decision on law of the High Court to the Court of Criminal Appeal; yet there is no unfettered right of appeal from a bench of unpaid, untrained magistrates. It was ascertained by some friends of mine that the average amount fixed as 1189 sureties by the magistrates was greater than £48. I cannot speak for all benches of magistrates, but I have seen justices fix the amount of surety as a condition before a convicted person can appeal at such an amount that bore no relation to the amount of costs which would be incurred, and which put a complete prohibition against the man testing the decision of the bench. It operates, of course, most unfairly in the case of the poor man who has no means to pursue the matter.
We have reached a stage in our law when we have poor persons legal aid, assistance for witnesses, and assistance for experts throughout every stage; and, indeed, in the Court of Criminal Appeal a man who challenges a decision of the courto below does not have to run any risk as to costs. To challenge the decision of untrained and unpaid magistrates, however, a man has to undertake conditions which may often mean a denial of justice. My right hon. Friend may say that it would require legislation. I venture to urge, however, that it is within the magistrates' right as the law stands to fix the amount of sureties. I want it brought home to the magistrates—and I speak more of the benches outside the Metropolitan area, in the more remote country districts, where there is not much knowledge of the real working of the criminal law—that they are not to fix the amount, which a convicted person must find as surety against costs if he wants to appeal, in accordance with what they think is the likelihood of the appeal succeeding, or with any relation to what they think is the seriousness of the offence, but to fix it at such an amount as would reasonably cover the amount that can be expended in costs.
Those costs have to be taxed in due course by a proper officer of the court, and there is no need for a large amount to be fixed. If it is large, it operates as a complete barrier to and restriction on a convicted man to test a decision of the court. I am not speaking of trivial convictions, such as those for obstruction by motor cars and for not having a light on the back of the bicycle, which make no difference to a man in after life. The Home Secretary will realise that wide jurisdiction now exists in the magistrates' court, and that they have the right to give a conviction for a felony, 1190 which makes a lifetime's handicap to a man who receives the conviction. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will at the earliest moment take some steps to remove what is still an indefensible anomaly and an injustice to the fair name of our criminal code. The law requires an immediate alteration, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will at once be good enough to consider proceeding on the lines I have ventured to indicate.
Turning to another matter, may I ask that when the Department which is to be set up to consider the question of stricter film censorship gets at work, it will not only deal with the films themselves, some of which are open to the gravest criticism and objection, but to the advertisements, the hand bills and the posters, some of which, in the opinion of a good many hon. Members, and of a multitude of people outside, are offensive to public morals. They are not merely indelicate, but lewd; they are suggestive and exhibit intimacies which appeal only to tastes which are depraved and have a serious effect on the minds of the impressionable. Not only the films themselves, but the pictures which are exhibited, the hand bills, the literature and posters should come under much more complete scrutiny than now exists in the hope of keeping the degree of public morals as high as possible in a country that has always boasted, and rightly boasted, of its social purity and standard of home life. I hope that the observations which I have made will not be ignored by the Home Secretary who has given to-day so complete, instructive and clear a review of his Department; I hope particularly that we shall see the glaring injustice to which I have referred removed in a short time under the guidance of the Home Secretary.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
May I express my appreciation and that of every hon. Member in the Committee of the most excellent speech of the Home Secretary, in which, after giving us a wealth of information, he commented with such pure philosophy and with such a sympathetic outlook upon the phenomena which come under his notice in his Department. There are a number of matters upon which the Home Secretary commented with which I should like to deal. I was pleased to hear him make a reference the connection between the curve of un- 1191 employment and the curve of crime statistics. He said that there is a remarkable coincidence in the undulations of those curves. Most reformers have been convinced for a long time that there was a, connection between poverty and unemployment and crime, and in assessing that connection we now have the aid of figures which show with remarkable accuracy the movements from time to time. I am glad the Home Office are making use of the Ministry of Labour in this connection, and hope that valuable lessons will be derived from a continuance of the comparisons. It is interesting to note that there is no increase in crime among children still at school, and therefore the allegation that the cinema is a demoralising influence among youth is not entirely borne out. Statistics of crime among youth become pronounced after the school-leaving age, and that proves the connection between unemployment and what is known as juvenile crime.
The Home Secretary gave us a very encouraging report to-day, but one feature of it caused us some concern, that in which he showed that there was an actual and a proportionate increase in the type of crime known as "smash and grab raids." I am not so surprised at that. An hon. Member behind me said he attributed this class of crime to the political doctrines which were being inculcated by certain men in the country, some of whom are to-day undergoing punishment because of their political associations. The suggestion was that the growth of Socialist and Communist ideas of disregard for private property were responsible for this amount of crime. I would like to test that view, and if the Home Secretary has any staff at his disposal he might take a political census of the criminals in prison. Just as it is found that privates in the Army usually declare themselves members of the Church of England, I feel sure we would find the majority of "old lags" calling themselves good, sound Conservatives.
There are some points in connection with the aliens legislation on which I and other hon. Members have had correspondence with the Home Secretary. I would like to know whether it is not possible to have a more sympathetic 1192 administration of that legislation, especially in the case of people, who are really British but have lost their right of British citizenship by accident. I have given the Home Secretary details of the case of a fellow countryman of mine, one who is, indeed, a better Welshman than I am, with untainted Welsh blood, one who has spoken no other language. He was born in America, but brought to this country when three or four years of age, and spent the whole of his life in this country. When War broke out he joined up in the first few days, three of his brothers also joined, and the four of them were in the Services throughout the whole of the War and came back alive. The service rendered by them and their relatives provide a remarkable history of family devotion to this country. It is a complicated case and I had better explain it more fully. This man was technically an American citizen, because his father had been naturalised in America. He himself was born in America, but lost his American citizenship by having fought for the British Crown during the War. After the War he returned to America and resumed his American citizenship, in order to get a better job, but, finding America subject to industrial depression, he returned to this country after a few years. Now this man, who has been an American and has been a Britisher and is back again to American citizenship—although he is a. Welshman if ever there was one—finds himself regarded as an alien in this country and not entitled to remain here to find employment.
I have other cases here which I shall not go into now, because the Home Secretary has the details of them on the files of his Department. Is it not possible to give special consideration to the cases of men who have either been born in this country or, if they were born abroad owing to the temporary absence of their parents from this country, were brought back here in childhood, who have lost their British citizenship. The aliens legislation is not carried out so strictly in regard to some other people, seamen for instance. Seamen of foreign origin who sign-on in foreign ports come to this country and get work at our ports which ought to be reserved for our own seamen, the law being really evaded. Preference 1193 is given to them while men of this country who are "bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh" cannot get employment. Then it is also the case that a large number of Swiss girls are coming to this country—hundreds of them. Is it necessary for those girls to come here to take up employment which might be reserved for our own people?
I was glad to hear the Home Secretary refer to the need for continued activity in that side of the Home Office work dealing with industrial diseases. Nowhere are they more prevalent than in the part of the country which I represent. We have a larger variety of industrial diseases, and a heavier incidence of disease, in the area of Swansea, than in any other part of the country. We have nystagmus, silicosis, pitch cancer, lead poisoning and a variety of other diseases which disable a large number of people, and I would like to say to the Home Secretary how grateful I am to find that he and the heads of his Department, with the very large staff of competent inspectors under them, are keeping a close watch over the interests of the workers at the bench and in the factories and workshops and the docks. I am glad that the Home Secretary felt that it was worth while devoting some part of his remarkable and comprehensive speech to this aspect of Home Office administration. I fear that the risks run by those engaged in industry is not sufficiently realised. These men are exposed to extremes of heat and cold, noxious vapours and gases, dryness or humidity, darkness and light, fumes and dust, and all these affect their health. It is impossible for them to maintain perfect hygienic conditions in many industrial pursuits. In these matters, the Home Secretary has not only to carry out duties of supervision for the protection of health, but he assumes responsibility for preventive and ameliorative measures. He is also responsible for the Acts of Parliament by which the men disabled in the course of their employment are entitled to receive compensation.
I would like to press the Home Secretary in regard to the class of diseases which affect the respiratory organs, which are so prevalent in my own district. After years of neglect we have now begun 1194 to give some attention to the disease which prevails in mining districts, known as silicosis. I notice that this disease has only lately been recognised for compensation. That, however, is only a tiny portion of the men who are disabled and who are able to draw compensation. In regard to these cases, I have noticed the change, and in this matter prevention is very much better than any attempt to cure. I would like to know whether the Home Office, in collaboration with the Mines Department, will now insist upon the provision of water for use when boring and the provision of exhaust pumps for withdrawing the dust from the boring pit. I know that in South Africa, by adopting these methods, they have dealt effectively with that dreadful disease phthisis. The disease has been almost entirely wiped out there. In these matters, the Home Secretary bears a very great responsibility. With regard to the diagnosis of these dust diseases, is the Home Secretary satisfied that his medical advisers are treating this problem in a practical way 7 There is a strong 'belief that dust from coal, in the absence or in combination with stone dust, is producing a large crop of anthra, cosis cases. It should be possible to determine this point without risk of error. There is a sufficient number of cases of men who have worked only in coal dust and who can be examined separately to test how far anthracosis may have disabling effects where no stone dust is present. Then it could be aster tained how far men who have been exposed to stone dust, and whose lungs have been damaged, might be saved from tuberculosis, or from chronic emphysema if they were given proper attention and treatment in time. I trust the Home Secretary will give his attention to the questions to which I have referred.
Then I come to the question of pitch cancer. I have been in communication with the Home Secretary on this matter, and he has promised to give attention to it. I regret that I have not been able to give him full details of the cases brought to my notice. I am, however, firmly convinced that the incidence of this particular form of cancer among men engaged in certain processes at work in 1195 the Swansea district proves the connection between the elements of coal gas and the condition of cancer. The Home Secretary informed me that he knew only of six deaths in the last three years. I have called his attention to more cases where the sufferers are happily still alive, and I have asked that these men should undergo a close examination and that their cases should be compared with what is known of the men who have died from this cause. The Home Secretary may be told that all these men have been attacked in the same way. The cancer starting in the nasal passages becomes visible after a time and ultimately grows upon and destroys the membranes and the soft tissue of the upper nasal region and results in death. For a long time the question of what is commonly called pitch cancer, epithelomatous cancer was inquired into. In the patent fuel industry a large number of men were affected. There were frequent cases of unsightly and painful cancerous growths. By preventive regulation the number of cases has been reduced almost to nil. Will the Home Secretary press forward his inquiries on these matters. I suggest that he should require a kind of pathological survey of the men engaged in these processes where cases have been reported. I shall not be satisfied with a statement that the number of deaths is not abnormally high and that in any case they were all men who in middle age had given many years of service to that work. I would prefer to hear that the Department and its staff is keen to learn whether the admittedly large number of cases who have contracted a special kind of cancer while engaged in a special kind of occupation will suggest some special preventive measures to save further disablement and death to men who may unknowingly run unavoidable risks.
The Home Secretary must not assume that I am criticising merely to find fault. I have an idea, of our debt to those engaged under him in the administration of the Factory Acts and of the difficult nature of their manifold duties. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will find it possible to continue and to expand and improve the very large and competent organisations under his control. Not 1196 only are those officials efficient, but I believe they have the right temperament and outlook for the duties which they have assumed in a Government of which I do not approve. I am grateful to the Home Secretary for the help which he has given to the House, because it enables us to appreciate the nature of the many problems which arise in connection with the industrial health and welfare of those who are unable to maintain their proper place in society. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pay close attention to the things which I have brought to his notice, because I believe that in them he will find another opportunity of earning the gratitude which has been tendered to him for passing the Eight Hours Act.
Mr. HOPKIN MORRIS
The Home Secretary has given us a most interesting survey of the work of his Department. As regards the detection of crime and the work of the police, there is only one observation that I wish to make. The right hon. Gentleman has said that there is a greater measure of internal coordination between the police forces in different parts of the country, but I would point out that the character of crime and of criminals has become largely international, and I should like to ask whether any, and, if so, what steps are being taken for the greater co-ordination of the international detection of crime? I should like to refer to one case of American lawlessness upon which reports, whether accurate or not, have recently appeared in the Press. I refer to the case of Colonel Lindbergh's baby. According to the reports, members of the American police force are over here, and some assistance has been given to them by Scotland Yard. I should be glad to know if it is actually the case that any assistance has been given to the American police by Scotland Yard, and, if so, what the assistance has been.
I pass to another subject, which has not so far been raised in this Debate, namely, that of the Racecourse Betting Control Board. I agree that it is rather difficult to raise that question in this debate, because the right hon. Gentleman's powers are strictly limited by the Statute. The Home Secretary has, however, certain very definite and useful powers in this matter. In the first place, 1197 he has the power to appoint the Chairman of the Board, and that was done by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor. He has another power, which is, perhaps, more useful, namely, the power of removing the Chairman of the Board. In addition, he has the power to prescribe the form in which the accounts shall be presented to Parliament. Unfortunately —or it may be fortunately—the accounts for last year have not yet been presented, and, therefore, I can comment upon the form in which they have hitherto been presented, and ask the Home Secretary to prescribe a new form so that, when the accounts for last year are presented, we may have a little more detail as to the operations of the Board.
The balance sheet, so far, has been presented in such a way as to show virtually nothing at all about the finances of the Board. No one can see from the balance sheet as presented what the actual position is. In their first report the Board promised a trading and operating account, hut when the balance sheet was presented last year no such account was included in it. Will the right hon. Gentleman this year prescribe a form such that the Board shall be compelled to present a trading and operating account? I hope he will ask for more detail than has hitherto been given. In the last balance sheet the Board show among their liabilities at the end of 1930 a sum of £1,811,044 2s. 2d. That is shown in the balance sheet as "Advances for Installation, Development and General Expenditure." Will the right hon. Gentleman obtain information from the Board as to who is responsible for the advances? There is nothing in the balance sheet to indicate where they came from, unless it be one item of £59,000 in respect of interest paid to the banks. That is the only indication that these advances of nearly £2,000,000 were obtained from the banks. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to obtain information as to whether that item had actually been paid or not.
Then, if the sum was obtained from the banks, I should like to ask what security, if any, was given? Was it given by way of a charge upon the assets of the Board? There is nothing in the balance sheet to show. Or were any guarantees given in respect of this sum, and, if so, what were they, what were the amounts, what were the terms, and who were the guarantors? All of this is information which cannot 1198 be obtained from the balance sheet as it stands. There is a, further item of £227,411 7s. due to sundry creditors and accrued charges. Who are the sundry creditors, and what are the accrued charges? I asume that these are the contractors responsible for the buildings, equipment and so on, but nothing is said in the balance sheet as to who they are or what sums are due to each. Also, could I be told how much of these sums has been paid, if any? I very much doubt whether any has been paid, because the cash in the hands of the Board at the end of 1930 is shown as only £1,038, and, clearly, these sums could not have been paid out of any earnings of the Board during the year. If that were the position in 1930, I imagine that in 1931 it will be far worse, because the takings of the Board will probably have been much diminished last year. I should be glad to see these items of information given on the liabilities side in the next balance sheet.
Turning to the other side—the assets of the Board—these are shown to be made up of several items, such as expenditure on building, expenditure on equipment, alterations and improvements, and so on, the total being £2,065,286. Expenditure on buildings and equipment accounts for £1,647,797, but there is nothing in the balance sheet to show how much of that amount is in respect of operating account and how much is in respect of new construction. That is important, because, in the body of their report for 1930, the Board said that during 1930 the business was still in the construction and development stage. Taking the only basis upon which the matter can be tested, the basis of allotment of interest, the amount spent in respect of new construction was only about 8 per cent., and, if that be so, what becomes of the Board's statement that the bulk of the money was spent on new construction? The report in this respect appears to be totally inadequate.
If one analyses these figures, the inference, although it is not exactly stated, is that what is allowed for depreciation is equivalent to 5 per cent. It appears that only 5 per cent. has been allowed in respect of depreciation of these wasting assets, but when one turns to the history of the Board one finds that 75 per cent. of their machines, casting hundreds of thousands of pounds, have been 1199 dismantled, and that those which were operated electrically are now in the main operated by hand. There is nothing in the balance sheet to show what the value of the assets is. It is doubtful whether, if they were realised on winding-up, they would fetch anything at all. What, then, happens to the sum of nearly £2,000,000 owing to the banks' This is a position which cannot be allowed to remain as it is, with a balance sheet presented in this form relating to the work of a Board which I venture to describe, I think mildly, as one of the worst ramps that I have even known, and which has the authority and dignity attaching to the presence upon it of five members representative of different Government Departments. Such a position ought not to be tolerated by the House of Commons. I must not, however, traverse that ground too far. There are serious omissions in the balance-sheet, and it does not reveal the actual financial position of the Board.
I have said that the right hon. Gentleman has the power of removing his nominee. He nominates the chairman. I am not saying a word of a personal character. I have no personal animus in the matter, and I do not even know him, but the way in which the affairs of the Board have been conducted is a complete breach of the undertakings that were given to the House when the Act of 1928 was passed, and the chairman of the Board has connived at those breaches. He has tolerated them. There is no question about that at all. I do not say the Board has been guilty of breaches of the law, because unfortunately I do not think the Act achieves the objects which the promoters intended. Recent decisions by the courts clearly indicate that the Act is virtually a dead letter. I have here a cutting from the "Daily Express" of 12th March last. There are big headlines across the paper: