HC Deb 26 June 1935 vol 303 cc1215-37

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

The following Notices of Motion appeared upon the Order Paper:That it be read a Second time upon this day three months. That it be an Instruction to the Committee to amend Part III, so as to bring it into agreement with any General Public Act relating to Ribbon Development passed during the present Session of Parliament. That it be an Instruction to the Committee to leave out Part VI except Clause 81. That it be an Instruction to the Committee to leave out Part X."—[Mr. Croom-Johnson.] That it be an Instruction to the Committee to leave out Clause 48."—[Dr. O'Donovan.]

9.30 p.m.


I beg to move, to leave out "new," and at the end of the Question to add "upon this day three months."

I submit this Amendment in the hope that it may be possible to discuss three or four questions, which are to be raised on this Bill, in the course of one discussion.


If the hon. Member is proposing to move, "That the Bill be read a Second time upon this day three months," it seems to me convenient that all these various questions raised in the Motions for Instructions to the Committee should be dealt with on that particular Motion, if that meets with the approval of the House.




I do not propose to take long in discussing the three points with which I myself am chiefly concerned. The first point is a very short one. There is at present before the House a Bill to which we gave a Second Reading yesterday in connection with ribbon development. It happened that the Hertfordshire County Council Bill was deposited before the Ribbon Development Bill had been introduced, and no doubt as a result of that the Hertfordshire Bill contains in Part III a series of provisions dealing with ribbon development. It occurred to those of us who are examining private legislation of the sort introduced here that it was an inconvenient course that the House should at one and the same time be proposing a system for the restriction of ribbon development applicable to the whole country and examining in the Hert- fordshire Bill a set of proposals dealing with the same subject on somewhat different lines. With the desire of calling the attention of the House to that fact, we have put down the present Instruction. I understand that the promoters of the Bill are prepared to deal in some way with this point, and I do not propose to say any more about it.

I come to the second point in the Bill to which my friends and myself desire to raise objection. There is in Part VI, apart from Clause 1, which deals with a very necessary amendment of the law relating to music and dancing, a proposal that the Hertfordshire County Council shall be enabled to make all sorts of rules and regulations in connection with two sports, one of which is boxing and the other all-in wrestling. I have been extremely interested in the former sport in the past, though I know nothing whatever about the latter. It does seem to us that these attempts by local authorities to regularise this, that and the other thing are attempts which should be examined by this House and checked. I can see very little distinction between a local authority proposing that they shall have power to grant licences and to exercise all sorts of restraining influence with regard to two sports, and proposing that they should make regulations dealing with any other kind of sport in which the public are interested. Unless we hear some good reason to the contrary this to us smacks of grandmotherly legislation and of interfering with the ordinary pleasures and avocations of the common people. It does occur to us that there can be no really good reason for local authorities promoting legislation of this kind.

I was interested when I got the statement of the promoters this morning with regard to this Measure to see what reasons they assign. The reason which they assign, as far as I am able to gather, for the power which they seek with regard to boxing is that this House in 1933, at a time when, apparently, I was not examining, as closely as I might have done, some of the local Bills, gave a similar power to the Essex County Council. That is an unfortunate circumstance. I will not say that two wrongs make a right, but I suggest that because we have done it in the case of Essex, when I do not suppose the question was ever raised, debated or thought of by anybody in the House, is no good reason at all for giving such power to Hertford. I look at the second point dealing with all-in wrestling, and the only reason which the Hertfordshire County Council condescend to give to the House of Commons in connection with this matter is that the object of the promoters, in seeking powers in regard to wrestling, is to place under similar control a form of wrestling commonly known as all-in wrestling. I do not want to use any harsh language, but to suggest that that is a reason at all which this House should consider for five seconds is indeed to suggest something which has really no foundation. I hope that those of us who still think that the liberty of the ordinary people of this country to enjoy their ordinary pleasures in the ordinary way is worth preserving will support us on this particular Instruction.

I come to the third point, and here I speak with some diffidence, not having in the least made up my mind as to the particular proposal which the Hertfordshire County Council have put into its Bill. It is proposing, under quite proper safeguards, to appoint two paid chairmen, as I understand the provision, each for one division of the county at quarter sessions, and two paid deputy-chairmen. There is to be a salary of £600 a year for each of the two chairmen, and a salary of £300 a year for each of the two deputy-chairmen. I want to take a few moments in examining that proposal and explaining the situation. The work of quarter sessions in the counties is very similar to the work which is discharged in the boroughs by the Recorder. The only difference is that at quarter sessions the magistrates for the particular division, if it is a county like Hertfordshire, habitually turn up and form the court. There is a chairman, but the decision of quarter sessions is as a general rule, certainly in the Crown court, a decision of the bench subject to the verdict determined by the jury empanelled to try any prisoner who comes before them. The work of presiding is arduous and responsible work, and it is in most counties discharged by members of my branch of the profession. They have done it for generations. It has been discharged on the whole with great ability and assiduity and upon a purely voluntary basis. Distinguished lawyers—and there is a very distinguished lawyer who at the moment presides in Hertfordshire—have discharged their duties with satisfaction to the public, to the lawyers practising at the court, and to all classes of the community, including the criminals who come before them, for many generations without any detriment whatsoever.

In three places an exception has been made in later years to that rule. When the County of London Sessions were set up it was appreciated that the work would be practically a whole time job. In the County of Middlesex power has been given to pay the chairman, and I believe, the deputy-chairman, though I am not quite sure about the latter, at quarter sessions, and I think I am right in saying that in the County of Lancaster, where again the same difficulty has arisen of a large mass population with a great deal of work, power has similarly been given.

The Hertfordshire case is a little different. In the Hertfordshire case, as I understand from the statement made by the promoters and from inquiries which I have made, the same difficulty is being felt, because London is growing out into Hertfordshire and indeed has grown out into Hertfordshire. The work has been very laborious, and it is, I understand, the practice now in Hertfordshire to have what is called a quarter sessions every six weeks. The quarter sessions already sit in two divisions of the county, and there is no doubt at all that if this proposal is the right proposal, Hertfordshire has made out an extremely good case for being empowered to do that which it seeks to be empowered to do, and I want to make that fact quite clear. But there is just this other angle of the matter. As far as quarter sessions are concerned, there has been a suggestion among the distinguished lawyers who have during the last two or three years been engaged in re-examining our legal procedure and institutions, that a good deal more of the work which at present is done at the assizes by the assize judges should be committed direct to quarter sessions, where indeed there is an existing power to do it, but for one reason or other, possibly, among others, the danger of overburdening the quarter sessions, the local benches of magistrates do not commit the prisoners. That is not a question which really should depend upon a particular local Bill.

A great many of us are inclined to think that the whole matter is one which ought to be examined so that every county council, when it found that its population was such that it could not get its work discharged by the right type of man as a voluntary chairman, should have the power to pay either a salary or some remuneration. We feel that that is something which might perfectly well be left as a general rule to the good sense of the local community. Those of us who do not sit upon the Front Bench but on benches rather more remote from the Table have felt that it would have been a good thing to introduce legislation to deal with such a point, but as private Members we are debarred from introducing such legislation because it would undoubtedly involve a charge upon public funds. I say quite frankly that I as one largely responsible for dealing with Part X of this Bill concerning this proposal have used the opportunity of the Hertfordshire Bill in order that we may see whether it is possible to get a view of the House of Commons as to how this matter should be dealt with. Therefore, it is a question which I should like to examine. I have not come to any conclusive opinion about it, but I want to make it quite plain that in putting my name to the Instruction to leave out Part X, I have done it in no sense of the word in hostility to the particular proposal brought forward by the particular county council, and I ought perhaps in justice to them to add one other thing. I understand that it is not their intention to make use of the powers Which they seek under Part X as long as the present distinguished gentleman is content to act as Chairman of quarter sessions in Hertfordshire. That I believe is his expressed desire. I do not deal with the fourth suggestion on the Order Paper. My hon. Friend opposite will deal with that. Having raised the three questions, I hope at not undue length, I move the Amendment.

9.45 p.m.


I beg to second the Amendment.

There is no need to say anything about the last Instruction, because essentially that is a legal matter. As my hon. and learned Friend has said, in the exam- ination of these Bills it is our intention to call attention to various matters that we think ought to be brought before the House, so that they may be discussed and the opinion of the House taken upon them. The question whether or not these eminent gentlemen shall be paid is one which I do not feel competent to discuss. With regard to the question of ribbon development, we understand that an undertaking has been given that nothing will be done with regard to this matter that will conflict with the Ribbon Development Bill when it becomes law. That leaves me only with the second Instruction to discuss, and I hope the House will consider that that is of some importance.

I do not think that local authorities ought to have control over sport, whether it be cricket, football or other games, unless they can show some very good reason for it. I do not believe that this interference would be tolerated all over the country if a special Act were passed. If powers are to be given, then they should be given by some Act that will be universal throughout the country and under which there will be uniformity of practice. It is true that a Clause of this kind slipped through, if I may use the expression, in the Essex County Council Bill. That is why it is well for a body of Members to be vigilant in examining Bills, which process takes some pains and time, so that if there are any Clauses which are felt to be objectionable the attention of the House may be called to them. I hope that when this Bill goes upstairs this part of it will be struck out. Clause 81 is all right, because dancing and music licences are universal, but to say that you want to control boxing and wrestling, which hon. Members will agree is a great sport in Wales—


Would the hon. Member call all-in wrestling a sport?


In my constituency we have wrestling of various sorts. I am not an expert and I do not know what all-in wrestling means. Perhaps it is a sort of catch as catch can. I consider that any sport that is conducted in a sporting manner by sportsmen will be carried out in the traditions characteristic of the British race, and we do not want the control of any local authority, laying down and defining what kind of wrestling this is and what kind of wrestling the other is. I do not want to see any local authority begin the licensing of sports, because they will take that as a precedent and having got in the thin end of the wedge they will proceed until everything that is sport is brought under the same regulation. Our desire in placing our names on the Instruction is to call the attention of the House to Clauses which we consider undesirable, and it is not in any party spirit that we do that.

9.50 p.m.

Rear-Admiral Sir MURRAY SUETER

I desire to support the Second Reading of the Bill. It has been promoted with a view to obtaining for the County Council of Hertfordshire, and in certain cases the borough and district councils, up-to-date powers relating to the preservation of amenities, public health, highways, the licensing of various establishments and premises, finance, and other matters. The counties of Surrey, Essex and Middlesex and London all possess similar powers. The population of the County of Hertford is growing enormously particularly southwards. Any one who is familiar with those parts of the county will know that they have changed out of all recognition during the last 14 years, and it is very natural that the County Council should feel that it is essential that they should have adequate and up-to-date powers such as are in force in neighbouring counties, otherwise Hertfordshire is in danger of becoming the refuge of undesirable persons whose activities have been stopped in adjoining counties. This would be detrimental to the good government and amenities of the county.

Part I of the Bill is preliminary and only in the form of definition. Part II deals with land. I do not think that any objection is taken to that. With regard to Part III, I can give my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson) and the other hon. Members associated with him an assurance from the promoters of the Bill that nothing will be done to conflict with the Ribbon Development Bill. The Minister of Transport is working very harmoniously with the promoters of the Bill, and they are very grateful to him for his assistance and the various suggestions that have been made to amend Clauses 11, 12, 13, 21 and 23, and to provide a new Clause 23A. I think the hon. and learned Member has seen these new Clauses and I do not think that he takes any objection to them.

Part 4 of the Bill deals with the establishment for massage and special treatment. The object is to save the public from being imposed upon by spurious practitioners, who are very active in connection with electrical treatment. I can give the House an example of electrical apparatus being in improper and ignorant hands. When I was on His Majesty's Ship "Benbow" at Portsmouth, we were experimenting with X-ray apparatus and we had a Röntgen ray tube and a fluorescent screen. We used to take photographs of the torpedo lieutenant's hands, and as we were experimenting one day we thought we would like to see what was in the doctor's brain. We put the Röntgen ray tube in front of the doctor's brain and examined it through the fluorescent screen. We saw that the tissue of the brain was different and we were delighted with the examination. But in the morning, when the doctor was combing his hair, it came out in hand-fulls; he was perfectly bald on one side. We had destroyed all his hair on that side. He was rather annoyed but, fortunately, in a few weeks time it had grown again, and all was well. That is an example of the danger of such electrical apparatus being in improper hands. The promotors of the Bill seek to have powers to deal with this matter.

Part V deals with employment agencies. Here, again, similar powers are possessed by neighbouring county councils. The object is to prevent fraudulent business. Many heartless frauds have been perpetrated on people seeking employment, and the promotors want to have power to look into them. Part VI deals with the control of public entertainments. No one will object to Clause 81; and the other Clauses in this part of the Bill relate to the licensing of premises used for boxing and wrestling entertainments. The promotors do not want to interfere with legitimate boxing or wrestling, but they do think that all-in wrestling, as it is called, wants careful supervision. It is not entirely a good sport. People may be very rough and get very bad treatment. I have a hall in my constituency in which they go in for boxing, which is a very fine sport. The hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater says that he is a boxer. I used to be a boxer.


I said it in the past tense.


So do I. It is necessary to see that in these halls there are proper fire appliances and means of exit in order that people may get out easily in case of need. Part VII deals with moveable dwellings and camping grounds. It is entirely a question of sanitation. They do not want to prevent people camping out, but desire to have powers to look into matters of sanitation, and see that they are properly conducted. Part VIII deals with the sale of coke and Part IX with electricity, and they do not require any comments. The hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater dealt very fairly with Part X. He is not entirely opposed to making these salaried appointments. The work is becoming more arduous, and although the county of Hertfordshire has been fortunate for many years in getting a good legal luminary to act as chairman of Quarter Sessions, it may not always be the case, and the promoters want to have power to make these salaried appointments of two paid chairmen and one deputy-chairman. Part XI deals with finance and Part XII is miscellaneous. In Clause 130 it is proposed to deal with the means of escape from buildings in case of fire, which hon. Members will consider most desirable. Clause 132 gives power to the local authority to make bylaws as to hairdressers' and barbers' premises. It is most desirable that there should be proper supervision to see that they are perfectly clean and satisfactory. Clause 133 gives powers with regard to public swimming baths. During the last few years there has been a tremendous number of new swimming baths erected in Hertfordshire, and we want to see that they are under public control, and are clean and decently conducted. Clause 135 is for the purpose of preventing diseased carcases being sold for human consumption. It is very desirable to know where the carcases from a knacker's yard go. I have read through the Bill with the promoters Clause by Clause and word by word. I think it is an excellent Bill. It has taken about 18 months to prepare. I cannot find any fault with it. The hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater may, because be is a legal man, but I cannot, and I have searched it through and through and compared it with similar Bills. Therefore, I hope the House will give it a Second Reading.

10.2 p.m.


I should like to say a word or two in support of the Second Reading. Really we ought to consider our procedure with regard to these Private Bills. Hitherto, the procedure has been for the Committee on Private Bills to hear the evidence and go fully into all the details. Then it is for the House to decide whether it will pass the Bill. Hitherto, it has been rather the exception to raise matters on the Second Reading—


This Bill is an unopposed Bill, and, therefore, does not come within the category with which the right hon. Gentleman is dealing.


Unopposed Private. Bills are gone into very carefully by the Deputy-Chairman, and really I think it is a question whether it is right that the time of the House should be occupied by discussions on the details of Private Bills by hon. Members who search them through and then bring up some particular point on the ground that there is no precedent for it. The main objection of hon. Members to the proposals in the Bill is on the ground of novelty, and that there is a lack of uniformity in these provisions. I have always understood that the whole point of Private Bill legislation was that you should have Bills adapted to the particular conditions of different parts of the country. I have heard hon. Members suggest that because a thing is not suitable for Wolverhampton, you must not have it for London. Wolverhampton and London are two different places. It is most unfortunate to suggest that you should always wait for uniformity before you do any experiment locally. A great deal of our social advantages have come to this country by the experimental and pioneer work done by local authorities. If on every occasion when a Private Bill is promoted it is to be stopped on Second Reading by hon. Members who have looked through it and are unable to find a precedent for some of the proposals in it, you are going to stop a whole series of very valuable experiments. It would be most unfortunate and most unfair on the promoters of Private Bills if Private Bills on Second Reading were to be checked in order that Members might raise general questions of particular interest to them.

With regard to the payment of chairmen of quarter sessions, I do not think because the lawyers are thinking of reforms that the local authorities should be stopped from having the matter discussed properly by a committee. We all know that lawyers discuss reforms for years. My experience as a barrister was that there were chairmen who might have been replaced with advantage, whether by paid or by unpaid chairmen. I do not deny in the least the right of the House to challenge a Second Reading, but I think as a, matter of policy our Private Bill legislation is in need of reform. It is an extremely expensive process, and there is involved a large number of vested interests which might well be got out of the way. But if, in addition, on the score merely of novel provisions dealing with matters on which, like the hon. Member on the back benches, hon. Members, having no special knowledge, raise questions—the hon. Member, without even knowing what all-in wrestling is, objected to it being put under control—that is an extreme hardship.


Boxing is included also. I admitted that I did not know anything about all-in wrestling, but I said that with the instincts of our people it would not necessitate licensing to control the sport of boxing.


That is where the hon. Members begs the question. I have never heard of anybody who considers all-in wrestling a sport.

10.8 p.m.

The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS (Captain Bourne)

I would like, in the first place, speaking as one in whom the House has placed a considerable responsibility in respect of Private Bill legislation, to associate myself to a large extent with the words just uttered by the right hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). There are, I think, two distinct questions with regard to Private Bills. There are questions which raise very big points of public policy. On those, I think, the House should pronounce a decision. There are many questions of detail in most of these Bills, and on those I would venture to submit to the House that hon. Members have really no ground whatever on which to come to a decision. They have not heard the evidence, they do not know whether particular provisions are or are not suitable to the different localities which may be promoting the Bill, and in these cases it is far better to follow the ordinary practice and allow these Bills to go before a Committee of this House who will listen to the evidence, and on that evidence come to a decision.

I gathered to-night—I think in an interruption by the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson)—that there seems to be some doubt if a Bill goes to the Unopposed Committee that the provisions of this Bill necessarily pass as introduced. It has been my duty to preside for very nearly four years over that Committee. I have had, I should be sorry to say how many, Private Bills in front of me, but I would like to assure the hon. and learned Member and the House that every single case is taken into account, and if we are doubtful—and we very frequently are doubtful of provisions—evidence is called and listened to very carefully, and unless we are satisfied from that evidence that in a particular case the provision for which the promoters are asking is justified, that provision is disallowed.

Before I turn to the actual provisions of this Bill I would like to say one word on behalf of the Chairman of Ways and Means. As the House knows, he is a representative of the county in question, and he is also a member of the Hertfordshire County Council. He has asked me to say that he has not attended, that he has been absent deliberately from any discussion on this matter, that he has not attended any meeting of the county council at which this matter has been discussed, and does not wish to express any views on this subject. It is for that reason that I am speaking to-night.

I understand that this Motion to postpone the Second Reading for three months has been moved in order that we may discuss the general sense of the Instructions that have been put down. With regard to the first Instruction dealing with ribbon development, I sincerely hope that the House will not pass it. I am in entire sympathy with the object of the Instruction. I understand that this Bill is unopposed, and will go before the Unopposed Committee, and I would re- mind the House that under our Standing Orders dealing with Private Business, we are not to put provisions into a private Bill which are dealt with or covered by general legislation. In this particular case that Standing Order would not apply, because the Ribbon Development Bill is unlikely to receive the Royal Assent earlier than this Bill. But, obviously, we are bound by the spirit of that Standing Order, and we shall naturally take care to see that the Clauses in this Bill dealing with ribbon development do not conflict with general public policy as expressed in the Bill which got a Second Reading yesterday.

My objection to this particular provision is that I think it might tie our hands. The Ribbon Development Bill got a Second Reading yesterday and I understand that it is going to a Committee upstairs. We do not know when it may emerge from that Committee, and in what state it may emerge. Thereafter it has to go through a Report stage in this House. I am not a prophet, and I do not wish to forecast the exact form in which that Bill may emerge. It may be a little time before it is read for the Third time and finally passes this House. In any case, there must be amendments which have got to be referred to another place, and I do not think that if the wording of this Instruction were literally carried out by your Committee it would be possible for us to deal with the Bill this Session, because we could not amend the Bill bringing it into line with a Bill which had not passed in time to get this Bill back to another place, and to receive the Royal Assent at the end of this part of the Session. If the House will trust me, I will give an undertaking on behalf of the Unopposed Committee that we will see as far as we possibly can as to the progress of the public Bill, that there are no provisions in this Bill which conflict.

With regard to the second Instruction dealing with certain forms of sport, I think the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater said that because provisions had been given in the case of the Essex County Council, they would necessarily be given in the case of the Hertfordshire County Council.


Should not.

Captain BOURNE

I have not the slightest idea at the present moment whether the Hertfordshire County Council has a good case or has not a good ease for these particular provisions. It is obviously a matter for evidence. It is only on the hearing of the case, on evidence as to what abuses they may or may not have suffered in recent years and what reason they have for anticipating possible abuses in the immediate future, that any decision can be given as to whether the particular Clauses are or are not desirable. I wish to express no opinion on their merits, but I do wish to emphasise that this seems to me to be emphatically a question for a Committee. It is the whole object of our Private Bill legislation, as I understand it, that points of this sort should be sent to the Private Bill Committee in order that that Committee may hear the evidence, may consider the reports sent in by Government Departments, and, where the Bill is opposed, may consider the evidence of the opponents, and on that balance of evidence may come to a decision whether or not they think that particular provisions are justified.

I suggest that we are really not in a position, on an ex parte statement from one side or the other, to come to nearly such a satisfactory decision as can be reached by a Committee of this House which has heard the evidence and come to a decision in a judicial capacity. It was my fortune to serve on the Select Committee which was appointed by the late Government during the previous Parliament to consider the whole of this question of Private Bill legislation, and I was surprised and impressed by the weight of evidence given to us by all sorts of bodies, the County Councils Association, various local government associations and associations outside, as to their trust in the impartiality and fairness of a decision of a Select Committee of this House. I would suggest that if hon. Members are going to raise what are merely Committee points on the Floor of the House, and ask the House to come to a decision on those points without evidence, they are going to destroy that confidence which the various people concerned with Private Bill legislation in this House feel in the impartiality of our proceedings.

With regard to the other Instruction standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater, I only say that there are precedents for having paid chairmen and deputy-chairmen of quarter sessions. I suggest again to the House that this is not really a question of principle. I have not yet heard the evidence as to whether the pressure of business in Hertfordshire is such that it does put an undue strain on any person, any competent lawyer, who takes the Chair at quarter sessions in order to get through the necessary business of the county. It may do. I have known counties in which the quarter sessions business was comparatively slight. I have had evidence before me, as Chairman of the Unopposed Bills Committee, that the business of quarter sessions is very heavy But I think it must be obvious to the House that it is desirable that the chairman of quarter sessions should be a competent lawyer. It seems to me purely a question of fact as to whether in any given circumstances it is possible to enlist the services of a competent lawyer voluntarily, or whether the pressure of cases is such that no person can be expected to do that job and at the same time carry out his ordinarily professional duties. It is purely a question of fact and on this fact I have no knowledge. With regard to the last Instruction, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Mile End (Dr. O'Donovan) I will only say this. He proposes to leave out the definition Clause but does not propose to leave out the remainder of that part of the Bill. I suggest to him and to the House that if that definition Clause were omitted and the remainder of that part of the Bill were allowed to stand, that part of the Bill would be unacceptable and unworkable.

10.21 p.m.


That there should be confidence in the work done in Committee upstairs I most heartily agree, and with the purpose of this Bill I have nothing but the heartiest concurrence. But I think certain aspects of the matter dealt with in Part IV of the Bill ought to be made public now, so that those who sit on those Committees can see what another profession is thinking of this Private Bill legislation which is affecting professional work. Bills very similar to this have gone through Committee before, and this Bill, presented to us with the fair and proper expectation that it will receive a Second Reading to-night, appears in its present form largely because this is the form in which previous Private Bills have been passed by the Private Bills Committee. One fact emerges from a study of this Bill and from listening to the Debate. If Clause 48 and the consequent Clauses become enshrined once more in an Act of Parliament, without a variation of its wording, we shall have agreed by our own Act to a classification as undesirable ancillaries to the practice of medicine. In Clause 48 men and women who practise massage, manicuring, chiropody, electric treatment, radiant heat treatment, light treatment and vapour or other bath treatment, will be compelled to notify the chief of police of their intention to practise those special branches of biophysical medicine. As Part IV stands without explanatory amplification, I suggest that its imputations are offensive to a great body of useful people and bear no relation to the conditions under which they carry out their work to-day. I am entitled to say that, for, since 1921, I have been a teacher, an examiner, and a practitioner in this special part of medical treatment, and I have not discovered that those whom I examine, those whom I teach or those with whom I daily work, are so undesirable that they should be subject to the attention of the county police.

The next point to which I wish to call attention is this. Medical practitioners are given a certain freedom from the oppressive restrictions in Part IV, that is to say, it is not required that every registered medical practitioner should notify the police of his desire to practise special branches of medicine. But medical practitioners, perhaps London experts who wish to practise, in the town or county of Hertfordshire, any of these special branches of medicine are required annually to produce from Hertfordshire practitioners a certificate that they are fit to carry out the special technique of their work. It would be a fair and appropriate observation to make that Hertfordshire, even in its county town, has not a panel of experts who are competent to certify as to the competence of experts who may go to practise there.

It is strange that this county council should wish a certificate of special competence on the part of doctors who practise a very minor branch of medicine and yet is not particular as to the special fitness of those who are to operate in more dangerous, more venturesome and more serious ways. Any practitioner in Hertford can deliver ladies in difficult labour without being required to prove his special competence to the Hertfordshire County Council, but, should he instal a mercury lamp or an X-ray apparatus, he becomes a suspected person who must year by year prove his fitness. Furthermore, nurses specially trained and certified by the Chartered Society of Massage and Gymnastists are to be under the same obligation of producing yearly certificates of their competence. Although a doctor or a specially certified massage nurse may become licensed in a simple way, nevertheless the county council ask powers to pass by-laws instructing them how they shall keep their records. Up to now a professional man has been entitled to keep his records and conduct his business in the way best suited to his personality, but this county council wishes powers to pass by-laws so that his card index and professional records shall be such as commend themselves to the council's advisers.

There is another point. The county council wishes, properly or improperly, to set up a form of Medical Register of its own, for it not only asks those who practise these special forms of treatment to submit their technical qualifications, but it asks powers to set out on its own behalf what those qualifications should be. In other words, through this Bill and similar Bills we shall have up and down England a multitude of minor, quasi-responsible general medical councils. I wish to advert to the question of chiropody. There are two incorporated societies of chiropodists in England, who seriously teach their students, who train them well, who examine them well, and who certify them, but the Hertford County Council, without waiting for action at the hands of the Privy Council which is seeking to promote a Charter for the registration of chiropodists, would set up its own register of chiropodists; and then those who have successful boot shops and pay large rates can plant tame chiropodists in their back rooms and claim all the privileges of those who would benefit by registration at the hands of the Privy Council, which cannot be long delayed. That seems to me to be a real wrong.

Finally, I would say that I am sorry to detain the House, but there is much professional feeling on this matter. We have heard from the hon. and gallant Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter) his experiences with X-rays. Those experiences, inaccurately and wrongly reported, were nevertheless experienced at the hands of a registered medical practitioner not at the hands of an undesirable person. Those experiments on a doctor's head, presumably with the doctor's consent and not under Admiralty orders, were carried out presumably by a registered medical practitioner. Whatever dose of X-rays the gallant Admiral gave to the doctor's hair, that hair could not fall out the next day. It would take three weeks to fall out.


The next morning the doctor came down and told us that his hair had fallen out. When I said his hair grew again in a few weeks, it may have been a few months, but it grew successfully, and he did not have any bad effects afterwards, but it actually happened, and I saw it. It was in the early days of X-rays.


I wonder if the gallant Admiral will take it from me that X-rays in his day and X-rays in my day would behave in exactly the same way. Our difference may be explained by the fact that when he was doing those experiments with X-rays I was too, but I have been doing them ever since, and he may be a little behind current medical practice. Nevertheless, the fact remains that X-rays are a dangerous weapon in the hands of inexperienced or unskilled operators, but this Clause does not exclude in any way the use of X-rays by anybody. It excludes electrical treatment or other similar treatment, and I and my professional colleagues would be pleased to go into any court of law and give expert evidence that X-ray treatment and radium treatment, which is even more dangerous, are in no proper and strict use of the word electrical treatment or similar treatment. Any argument founded on the Admiral's experience is only an argument that this definition Clause should be redrafted, that expert advice should be more widely sought in this work, and that a county council should not put itself in a lamblike manner into the hands of those who are professional Parliamentary draftsmen. I have discovered that the art of drafting Parliamentary Bills is rather static. Moreover, I have found by practice that it means a week or ten days' lobbying, writing and anxious work to achieve even the change of a comma or a beneficial improvement in a Private Bill. Because of that experience, and because I would like more confidence to be felt in the work of these Committees, I thought it right to detain the House at this late hour.

10.31 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir ARNOLD WILSON

After the impressive observations which fell from the lips of the Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means my own observations will be very brief. I cannot claim the same intimate acquaintance with the Bill as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hertford (Sir M. Sueter), but, as one of those "undesirable persons" who have migrated from London in order to find freedom and licence in the county of Hertford, I have looked at this Bill with a critical eye, and I can see in it nothing to which on Second Reading the House should take exception. The points that have been dealt with by the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson), the hon. Member for Elland (Mr. Levy), and the hon. Member for Mile End (Dr. O'Donovan) are Committee points. At least two of them were dealt with in some detail in another place when the Bill was under examination, and we can safely trust the Committee on Unopposed Bills to give the fullest consideration to the facts that have been put forward. I have some difficulty in understanding the objection of the hon. Member for Elland to any sort of supervision by local authorities of the noble English sports. Billiards and cock-fighting, to mention only two sports, have been for the best part of a century under the closest supervision—[HON. MEMBERS: "Cock-fighting is illegal."] I am aware of that. There is the closest supervision of all the arrangements, which may tend to public safety and prevent the aggregation of undesirable persons in houses which are licensed, and which, once having been licensed, cannot be under the control of the police as regards what happens inside. Every care has been taken to grant reasonable exemptions. I submit with confidence to the House that the Bill should receive its Second Reading and be entrusted to the scrutiny of the Committee on Unopposed Bills, which has dealt with similar cases of not less complicated legislation, with results which have been entirely satisfactory in the experience of the Middlesex, Essex and Surrey County Councils, on whose legislation this Bill is largely based.

10.34 p.m.


I want to offer my support to Part X as to the provision of salaries for the chairman and deputy-chairman of quarter sessions. The point does not appear to me quite as the Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means put it. It is not so much a question of paying a lawyer for presiding at quarter sessions as a question whether one should have a paid legal chairman or a lay chairman. Speaking with a fairly long experience of quarter sessions in the country, I heartily support the proposals put forward by the Hertfordshire County Council, and I congratulate them on their courage in bringing forward this proposal and not waiting for general legislation. I am concerned with the question of how it affects the proper and efficient administration of justice in the country. I think few people realise how much the jurisdiction of quarter sessions has been extended in recent years. Much work formerly done at assizes has been transferred to quarter sessions. Apart from the trial of prisoners there has been a considerable increase in the appellant jurisdiction of quarter sessions, and to my mind it is very desirable that every quarter sessions should be presided over by a trained lawyer accustomed to dealing with these matters.

May I contrast the position in most, if not all, the county boroughs in the country? Their quarter sessions are presided over by an official called a recorder, who is a paid official and a trained lawyer, and, yet strange to say, one may find the quarter sessions for the same county presided over by a layman who no doubt does the work to the best of his ability but who cannot possibly have the necessary training to discharge those duties. I sincerely hope that this provision will be retained in the Bill, and that before very long we shall see it pass into the general law. May I respectfully add that the question might be considered of whether the appointment of paid chairmen and deputy- chairmen ought not more properly to be left in the hands of the Home Secretary, who has the appointment of recorders, rather than in the hands of the gentlemen mentioned in the Bill.

10.37 p.m.


On behalf of my hon. and learned Friend I wish to say that, having regard to the explanation given by the Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means, it is not his intention to move the three Instructions standing in the name of himself, myself, and other hon. Members; and I gather, also, that it is not the intention of my hon. Friend the Member for Mile End (Dr. O'Donovan) to move the Instruction standing in his name.


That is so.


Now that the matter has been ventilated, I think it can be safely left to the Committee on Unopposed Bills. May I make this passing observation? When private legislation is introduced which affects or which may affect adversely organised interests those interests can petition and do petition against the Bill. They have the organisation and the means to do it. But when private legislation is likely to interfere with the liberties of the ordinary man in the street he finds no organisation at his disposal, and therefore his interests can only be protected if individual Members of this House seize the opportunity, which is theirs, of challenging the provisions in the Bill by the method of moving Instructions. I say that because I know that the action of my hon. and learned Friend and myself and others in regard to a number of Bills this Session has excited, perhaps, some alarm—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]—some alarm because on most occasions we got away with it. But I am one of those who believe that the liberties of the subject ought to be preserved when they are challenged in a private Bill. In a public Bill the whole House is conscious of the challenge, and if it has to be resisted it is resisted, but these massive private Bills in most cases get an automatic Second Reading immediately after prayers, and then go upstairs, and if they are not petitioned against there is no one to look after the interests of the man in the street unless the Chairman or the Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means, as the chairman of the Committee on Unopposed Bills, makes himself their defender.

I think it is worth while for some of us to take the trouble to glance through these private Bills to ensure that the liberties of the people are not whittled away by different Clauses in different Bills promoted by a number of municipalities and ultimately become part of the general law by becoming incorporated in a Public Health (Amendment) Bill. I therefore have no regret that some of us have seen fit during the Session, when the opportunities of private Members are somewhat restricted, to devote some of the time at our disposal to examining a form of legislation which is very important and which, in my judgment, sometimes goes beyond the necessities of the case. I gather that there is no intention on the part of my hon. and learned Friend to move any of the Instructions, and I imagine that, in the circumstances, he will now seek to withdraw the Motion.


In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed.