That a sum, not exceeding £165,890,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for the following Civil and Revenue Departments (including Pensions, Education, Insurance, and other Grants, and Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues) for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, namely:
§ [For details of Vote on Account see OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1936; cols. 1219–1222.]
§ Resolution read a Second time.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Mr. HERBERT MORRISON
I beg to move to leave out "£165,890;000," and to insert "165,889,900."
I wish to raise one subject on the Home Office Vote. Some of my hon. Friends will probably also speak on this subject, but other hon. Friends of mine will speak on other matters which also concern the Home Secretary. The matter which I desire to raise concerns the safety and security of certain residents and citizens in the East End of London, The House will know that my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle), my hon. Friend the Member for North East Bethnal Green (Mr. Chater) and my hon. Friend the Iember for Central Hackney (Mr. Watkins) have put to the Home Secretary certain questions which indicate that there have been attacks upon members of the Jewish community in the East End of London by persons who appear to be members or representatives of Fascist organisations. I desire to say at once that the replies of the Home Secretary have been very helpful, and we are pleased that he takes a serious and a firm view of this matter, but it was thought that we ought to bring certain incidents before the House in a somewhat more extended form, in order that the Home Secretary may realise the gravity of the situation and have an opportunity of making a further and perhaps amplified statement.
1596 I have before me certain statements and allegations with regard to attacks upon the Jewish community in the borough of Shoreditch. In the time at my disposal I have not been able to get other cases, but I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Central Hackney has other cases which have occurred in Hackney. There is, in the East End of London, a fairly considerable Jewish population, although it is a very definite minority of the total population in the East End, and I think the Home Secretary will agree that although, here and there, there will be found among them offenders against the law, as is the normal case with the British population, taking that Jewish Population, taking that Jewish population as a whole, it is the normal case with the British population, taking that Jewish population as a whole, it is law-abiding and well-behaved. In the borough of Shoreditch, and to some extent in Bethnal Green and to Hackeny, there have developed during recent months a spirit and activities which are endangering the good order of the neigh-bourhood, and which cause grave apprehension to certain residents, and I propose to give a summary of incidents which have been brought to my attention.
I have asked that this information should be carefully verified, and that the persons who give it should be sure of what they are saying, but the House will appreciate that, by the very nature of the circumstances, it, would not be right that I should give the House and the public the names and addresses of the persons concerned, though I am quite willing to hand these papers over to the Secretary of State in order that he may make what inquiries he thinks appropriate. I am afraid that I should not be allowed to utter some of the language on this paper, and therefore there will be some blanks. There is a person living in Shoreditch who has been called in the street "dirty Jewish—" and other foul names, and there have been threats to murder him, to burn his shop and to expel his family from Hoxton. I am informed that one of the Blackshirts concerned in this matter. whose name is given, was later arrested and bound over for 12 months. To that extent the law took its course; but I shall say something later about the law taking its course. There is another case, in which it is alleged that Blackshirts stand outside the shop of the man concerned, mainly on Saturdays, calling him foul 1597 names and shouting "Boycott the Jews. Clear the Jews out of Hoxton."
The next case is one of actual physical violence. It is alleged that a man residing in Hoxton was struck by a Blackshirt, whose name is given, and who appears to be a professional boxer. He threatened to murder this Jewish shopkeeper if he took action, and used the usual foul language. It is said that on last Saturday, 1st March, this Jewish shopkeeper telephoned to the police for protection for a Jewish man who was selling cough lozenges in the gutter and was being molested in the usual way by Fascists. One of the Fascists concerned was the same boxer that I have mentioned, and another was another man to whom I will refer in a moment, because police proceedings have been taken against him; and, by the way, the second man had actually been bound over by the magistrate at Old Street Police Court for 12 months the very day before he made this offensive threat against this Jewish tradesman in Shoreditch. His record is pretty bad. The next instance concerns a woman. It is said there have been threats to kill her and burn her millinery shop, made by this same boxing gentleman and his associates. They have also called her a "Dirty Jewish cow" and similar epithets.
The next case is of a Jewish man who, when standing outside his shop, was attacked as a "Dirty, stinking, Jewish,—" and with worse epithets. One Blackshirt recently stepped into his shop to say, "This business is mine and not yours, you —." I am told that in another case a man was threatened with violence by a crowd of Blackshirts and they used foul epithets against him. Another man alleges that there was an occurrence in November when a number of Fascists got round the shop and created a disturbance in the usual manner, by the uttering of epithets and so on, and prevented customers entering the shop. This man, in consequence, had to close his shop at 8.40 p.m., on a Saturday, for fear of actual violence, while the Blackshirts used the refrain, "Get back to the Ghetto."
In the next case 10 or 12 Blackshirts broke the plate-glass window of a cabinet-making shop by throwing bricks and stones, and the man still retains the missiles. There is a case of a man living 1598 in Stoke Newington who was attacked by a gang of Blackshirts in December last while walking along Hackney Downs at 11.45 p.m., and a friend was so badly knocked about that he was obliged to receive hospital treatment for two weeks. These people are spreading the slogans, "Kill the Jews" and "Dirty Jews," and so on in the neighbourhood, and are actually affixing to various places, including premises, a gummed slip with "Jew" on it, and other slips with the Hitler trade-mark, the Swastika, in the middle and the words "Perish Judah." That is obviously action which is stimulating a breach of the peace and is endangering the security of His Majesty's subjects. Even if they do not break the peace themselves, it is obvious that action of that kind is calculated to cause a breach of the peace and to inflame racial hatred in a district where, clearly, it is particularly undesirable that that should be done.
I will refer to another man who is a member of a public authority and who does his work peacefully as a member of that authority, and from knowledge I have of him I should say that he is certainly not of a provocative disposition. I asked this man, who I knew had had difficulties over the matter, to write to me and give me information in order that I might put it before the House. He refers to a man who is apparently the leading local Blackshirt and says that this man, who was dealt with last Saturday at Old Street Police Court, is a real pest. He says:On one occasion he actually spat in my sister's face because he was writing on the wall of our house, 'Kill the dirty Jews,' and my sister asked him to refrain from writing on our wall.That is the first instance he gives. The second refers to himself:On the 7th February, 1936, I was looking out of my window at a funeral when a number of Blackshirts who congregated opposite my house called me a Jewish— and said, 'Come down and have a fight.' My sister went out to try to find a policeman, but could not find one. I therefore got on a 'bus to Old Street Police Station and reported the incident. The police told me that when I saw the person again who called me out of my name I should get his name and address and summons him. I assure you I have never given these people any cause to insult me, and have never visited any of their meetings or even spoken to them at any time.1599 I know that the police have very great difficulties in these matters. As a London Member of Parliament I share the general admiration for the London police. Sometimes we are critical about them, but, taking the London police as a whole, they are a remarkably well disciplined, considerate and courteous body of men. Still, I am bound to say that in this case it was not quite helpful that the man should be told to take out a summons, and I think the police had some duty to go back with him and to protect him against these people. He gives another instance. Speaking of Saturday, 29th February, he says:At approximately a quarter after mid- night I was going home and getting off a 'bus outside my door when I noticed about 30 Blackshirts, who rushed for the 'bus and shouted, Here he is.'Realising that they were after me, I remained on the 'bus.I think, myself, it was very wise to do SO—and took another penny fare so as to try to find a policeman, which I did at Dalston Junction. I then got off the 'bus and reported the matter to the police officer "—his number is given—but he only thought I should return home and take a chance.There again, I suggest, that if it were practicable that. man was entitled in those circumstances to immediate police protection.He did, however, take my name and address, and said be would report it, but not being satisfied to take a chance I called a taxi and drove to Old Street Police Station and reported the incident. The inspector in charge told me to go home by taxi and sent a policeman on a bicycle after me. But, of course, the Blackshirts had by that time gone. Since then I have been scared to go about at night on my own. I may mention that Mr. Ernest Thurtle knows about this and has taken it up with the police. I think, as a public man, I should receive proper police protection, and I am not kidding myself that this matter is now closed, because I feel that as soon as the Blackshirts think things have blown over they will try waiting on me again. If you can do anything I shall be grateful. Unfortunately, these people never do any work, and nearly all of them have a record as black as ink.He gives me, independently of the other sources of information, cases which, I think, are duplicates of some of the cases I have already mentioned. The leader of these people has been in trouble before. 1600 He was prosecuted for making a speech which was liable to cause a breach of the peace. I admit that the police took the case seriously and briefed counsel in order that they might be effectively represented. This is the man to whom I referred earlier who, a day after he was bound over, appeared to be guilty of action which was contrary to the undertaking he had given to the court. This man, who appears to be the leader of the local British Union of Fascists, seems to be a very bright specimen and rather typical of certain prominent Fascist leaders not only in this country, but in certain other countries.
In the police court proceedings a police sergeant of the Special Squad reported that prisoner was bound over in 1931, sentenced to 12 months imprisonment in 1932 for house-breaking and larceny, and sentenced to eight months hard labour in 1933 for obtaining money by false pretences. The superintendent stated that on two occasions he had spoken to prisoner warning him about the manner in which he delivered speeches uttering insinuations about Jews. Prisoner was a man who was inclined to be provocative. Although the court knew he was that type of man, and although he has been in trouble more than once, all that the police court magistrate did was to bind him over. I suggest that in a case of that kind that was not adequate.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman cannot control the police court magistrates, and he will, no doubt, gently rebuke me for having said what I have said, but it will not do any harm. I am bound to say from my experience that if a man with that record had come before a good many London police court magistrates and had happened to be a Communist, he would not have been bound over, but would probably have been given "time." I hold no brief for the Communists, and certainly they have no reason to be grateful to me. A Fascist is entitled to no more justice than a Communist, and a Communist is entitled to just as much justice as any other citizen. The magistrate possibly acted as he did in accordance with what he thought was right, but I am bound to say that, in view of that man's record and the fact that he is a persistent public nuisance, he really ought to be dealt with. He is apparently the leader of the British Union of Fascist organisation in the 1601 borough of Shoreditch, and, as far as I can gather, he is the kind of material out of which Fascists are made, not only in Great Britain but in certain other parts of the world.
This thing goes higher up. The organisations themselves are making a propaganda which is calculated to encourage this kind of thing. A leaflet issued by the Imperial Fascist Union has been sent to me by my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence). That union is not the same body as the British Union of Fascists, but it is Fascist. The leaflet says:According to official reports we have 300,000 Jews in this country. If we read our local papers and note the number of Jews concerned in crime, bankruptcy, fire-raising, and other law-breaking pastimes, the 300,000 Jews must surely all be convicted by this time. The truth is that there are about 3,000,000 Jews in this country, roughly the same number as there are unemployed Englishmen.Hon. Members will note the same philosophy, the same brutal incitement to jealousy and envy which is part of the policy on which the Nazi Party based its revolution of 1933. It is an indication that but for the 3,000,000 Jews who live in this country there would be no unemployed. It is absolute economic nonsense, but it is just the kind of thing which is calculated to promote that very spirit of economic envy combined with racial hatred out of which these incidents happen. I venture to suggest that leaflets of that kind really ought not to be published. This leaflet finishes by saying:Britons awake, boycott Jewish shops, perish Judah.It is not only because of this rival organisation to the British Union of Fascists that this deliberate incitement to friction against the Jews is taking place. At the Hackney Baths recently there was a meeting of the British Union of Fascists, and it was addressed by a gentleman who is of no great importance himself but who, as a matter of fact, is one of the prominent leaders of the organisation, a sort of second or third in command to Sir Oswald Mosley. The House may or may not remember him. He was once a Member of this House, a man named Beckett, who once walked up the Floor with the Mace. That was the 1602 biggest contribution he made to the proceedings of this Assembly and the thing by which he is chiefly remembered. In this organisation he appears to be the principal propagandist. He is of no great importance, but he might have been if he had taken advantage of the advice I gave him when he was young. Although of no importance himself, he is relatively important in relation to the British Union of Fascists. This organisation is supposed not to have encouraged anti-Jewish violence, but he gave an answer to a question at this meeting at Hackney. It is reported in the "Hackney Gazette" of the 21st February. This is a paper with which I usually disagree but its reports can usually be relied upon. According to this report, a questioner asked whether a Jew would be able to become naturalised, or use an English name under Fascism. The reply was:Certainly not. It is preposterous. We must get rid of this muddle-headed idea that the Englishman is a Jew and the Jew an Englishman. I have no desire to foment race hatred. I say nothing against the Jew except that he is not an Englishman, and when he pretends to be an Englishman he merely makes himself both a bad Englishman and a bad Jew. It is, therefore, the first step towards the solution of this problem to see that the two races are different—that this country is Britain, and that, therefore, the British people we have here are British people. Foreigners, whether Germans, Italians, French, Russians or Jews—it is not our habit to beat them up—if they live here, it is under three conditions: first, that they are decent citizens; secondly, that they do not interfere in British politics; and, thirdly, that they do not do work which is keeping a Briton out of employment.I would not say that that is an illegal utterance, but it is the kind of utterance which is calculated to create those psychological conditions which involve a breach of the peace sooner or later. Jews who are British citizens take part in British public affairs, as they have every right to do. There are Jewish Members of this House who make important contributions to our proceedings, and there are Jews who, in various ways, contribute to British public administration, and we have much for which to be thankful to many of them. According to the utterance I have quoted, however, if a Jew takes part. in British public life he ought to be stopped, and if a Jew has a job while any British subject is unemployed, he should be put out of the job. 1603 I think that I have covered all the ground that was necessary to open this discussion. I have only done so on behalf of my hon. Friends in order that the House may see that there is a situation in the East End of London which, however, is not so bad as it is and has been in Germany in this respect; but, in the conditions of East London, it contains the elements of grave potential trouble unless the police and magistrates come down on it firmly and say it is to be stopped. I hold no brief for Jews as such. They all have their little ways, but so have we, and so has every other race in the world. If the nation takes the view that the Jewish population should be excluded, Parliament should face that issue, but it is certain that no Parliament is likely to wish to do any such thing. That being so, we simply cannot tolerate a situation in which these people are taking the law into their own hands and making the Jews feel, when they go on to the King's highway, that they are not safe from molestation.
I wish to thank the Home Secretary for the assurances he has given to my hon. Friends in answer to questions which they have put, and I hope he will be able to make a statement which will reassure the House and convince us that he will take such energetic steps as are within his power and are appropriate. I can assure him on behalf of all sections of the House that if he acts with vigour and determination in a matter which potentially is very dangerous, he will receive the united support of the House.
§ 4.41 p. m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir John Simon)
I shall be grateful to the House if it allows me to make a short statement now, because the question which has been raised—I think very usefully raised—by the right hon. Gentleman, is one which ought to be brought to a point. I am ready to make a short statement about it which I hope will be thought to be useful and I trust may be generally accepted by the House. This does not, of course, mean that I am seeking to suggest that other hon. Members may not have observations to make on the subject. In addition, there is a large variety of topics that come within the scope of the Home Office, and fortunately my colleague the Under-Secretary is here 1604 and he will deal with other matters at the end of the Debate. The subject which the right hon. Gentleman has raised especially concerns the Home Secretary and the Home Office because they are charged with the duty of keeping public order and to a large extent of preserving civil liberty. It is also a subject which affects the whole Government, the whole Parliament and the whole country.
I do not think it is a subject on which decent people have two opinions. It appears to me an issue which must be regarded as of first-rate importance by everybody who is concerned with civil rights and human liberty. It is especially important to us here for, after all, it is here in the House of Commons more than anywhere else that we claim to have been the protectors of the rights of individuals, and we all stand, I am sure, for the principle that there ought not to be either in the law or in administration any discrimination against any section of the community, whether by reason of their race, or of their religion, or of their political convictions. Whether we are all ready to stand fully up to those fine principles is a very proper matter for Parliamentary discussion from time to time. I think that the right hon. Gentleman performed a very useful part in choosing this topic on the occasion of this Vote.
Let me say that I do not think there is any widespread feeling of hostility against Jews in this country, but undoubtedly it is the case that in certain quarters, particularly in certain quarters of London, where many of the Jews more especially congregate, there is developing a very disquieting movement which potentially is very dangerous. That is, this preaching of the doctrine of hatred against the Jews, because they are Jews. One does not wish to sit in judgment on anybody's political philosophy, but one is not going beyond the mark when one says that that doctrine does seem inherent in the Fascist movement in this country. If this is indeed a free country and we are free people, a man is just as much entitled to profess the Fascist philosophy as any other, and he is perfectly entitled to proclaim it and expound it so long as he does not exceed the reasonable bounds which are set by the law. It has nothing l o do with it whether we like or we do not like that political philosophy or any other political philosophy.
1605 We are not. discussing anybody's political tenets. We are merely discussing the effect of a movement, such as that which has been described and illustrated by the right hon. Gentleman, which is making it its business to encourage our citizens to look on the Jew as an outcast. He is a citizen living here under the law, like the rest of us, and is entitled to fair and proper treatment like other citizens, and it is certainly part of the business of those responsible for the administration of the law to deal with any conduct which interferes with the liberties and rights of the subject in this matter. I say, and I am sure the whole House will agree with me, that in this country we are not prepared to tolerate any form of Jew baiting. We are not in the least disposed to look with an indulgent eye upon any form of persecution. It is, therefore, necessary that public attention should be called to this danger, the nature of which has been described to-day by the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore, I am glad that the Debate has taken place.
I have had this matter brought to my attention, since I have been at the Home Office, by a number of hon. Members and by other means, and also by cases in the courts. I have made it my business personally to examine to the best of my ability any cases which have come before me, and I certainly join with those who think that, unless proper action is successfully taken, this movement has in it the seeds of very serious development. Individual citizens are entitled to the protection which the law can give them, but there are very great difficulties in dealing with this matter effectively. We shall all agree that we must allow people to express their opinions, although they may be very wild ones and although they may sometimes be very strongly expressed, so long as they do not step over the boundaries which the law prescribes. Let it be clearly understood that a man is breaking the law if with regard to any section of the community he uses language of insult, abuse and provocation to such an extent that he is in fact encouraging people themselves to be violent or to behave without respect to the rights of those whom he attacks.
A man may, for instance, hold Protestant opinions and may express very strongly and firmly his detestation of certain Roman Catholic practices, and of Popery—it is right that people should be 1606 able to express their views fearlessly—but if that person deliberately chooses to go into a Roman Catholic quarter and sets himself to work to try and move those who listen to him to lend themselves to violence and attack, he would in fact be breaking the law. Therefore, while we must give every man every proper opportunity of expressing his opinion, so long as he does not break the law, there comes a point when we must all behave like good citizens and have respect for other people's opinions, and see to it that a minority is not exposed to contumely for the purpose of trying to create a row, a disturbance, a breach of the peace. That is the view that I have taken of this matter.
There is also a difficulty about evidence. Some of the instances which my right hon. Friend has given show how difficult it is to get evidence. You cannot take proceedings unless you have a case which you can prove affirmatively to the satisfaction of the court. While I recognise how hard it is for people to come forward, and I realise that it would be a very cheap form of assistance to tell them to show more courage, it is impossible to take proceedings unless one has the testimony in proof of the case. The Commissioner of Police, the Home Office authorities and myself have been considering this matter a good many times. We have received a series of complaints that Jews in the Jewish districts of London have been subject to abuse and in some cases to violence and assault. Some of the complaints may be exaggerated, but there can be no doubt that there have been cases in which people have been molested because they have been Jews, in pursuance or as an outcome of this anti-Jewish campaign. This anti-Jewish campaign is being carried on to some extent by Fascist speakers and Fascist meetings. I have heard it sometimes suggested or hinted that in dealing with Fascist or anti-Fascist demonstrations the police discriminate in favour of Fascists and that facilities or protection are given to them in contrast to the methods that are adopted with regard to people of the extreme opposite views.
§ Sir J. SIMON
The hon. Member makes an exclamation which shows that he thinks that may be so. I have taken 1607 personally the greatest care to inform myself and I am completely convinced that there is no truth at all in that suggestion. It may be that sometimes those who conduct the meetings on one side show themselves a little more skilful than the people who conduct them on the other side, but it is simply not true that the police in this matter have any bias of a political kind. The only interest of the police and the only interest of the police authorities is to do the best they can in difficult circumstances to keep the peace and to stop people from breaking the peace. It is not true that there has been favouritism or a difference of emphasis in the matter.
The action which the police take in regard to meetings is taken in discharge of what is really one of their primary responsibilities. They have to deal with an actual breach of the peace if it occurs and they have to do a much more difficult thing, that is to prevent a breach of the peace from occurring, if they can do so. Whether they have been successful or not, I am completely convinced that neither the police nor those who are directing them are in this matter in the least inclined to show any favour. If they did so I should be the very first to express my complete opposition to anything of the kind.
This propaganda very largely originates with meetings, although, apparently, individuals belonging to some association or other act in a reprehensible way in small groups. So far as some of these meetings are concerned it has been the case that for some time most offensive language has been used about Jews. Some of these meetings are held in the street. What is called the right of public meeting is nothing more than the right of anybody to do what he likes in the street so long as he does not break the law, and so long as public order is preserved. The police, as is their duty, attend such public meetings and do their best to watch them and see whether or not what some people call an abuse of the right of free speech takes place and the occasion is being used to break the law or to encourage other people to break the law.
The view taken by Scotland Yard and certainly the view which I take, and 1608 I have done my best to impress it upon everyone concerned, is that it is intolerable, as I said in the House in answer to a question, that any section of a community should be subject to the sort of abuse which is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. The right hon. Gentleman referred to a particular case which came before one of the London magistrates the other day. He did not give the name of the man but he gave his record and described what had happened. The magistrate in dealing with the case made some observations which seemed to put the position very well. The learned magistrate said:In this jurisdiction there is going to be no baiting, whether of Jew or Communist or Fascist or any other group of men. Every individual who observes the law is entitled to receive, and will receive from this court and from the police, the full protection of the law, whatever his religion, his race or his polities.That was a very proper way to put it and I associate myself very fully with what the learned magistrate said. He gave a warning as to the very serious course that might have to be taken. I cannot but think that the publicity that is now being given in the House of Commons to this matter and the attention that is being drawn to it in the country, will if any further such cases occur justify some pretty smart sentences in the future. It is all very well for some people to say, "It was only words," but there are occasions when words produce very serious action for which the speakers must be held responsible.
We inquire most carefully into every case which is brought to our attention, and I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that if there is a proper case and the police have proper evidence they ought not to leave it to the individual to prosecute. It is a public matter and should be dealt with as a public matter and a public responsibility. I have recently been in consultation with the Commissioner of Police, not merely for the purposes of this Debate but before I knew that the Debate was to come on. with a view to seeing whether more effective measures can be devised to deal with the situation, and as the result it has been decided to detail additional police for duty in these districts. They will be specially charged with the responsibility of keeping a special lookout for provocative conduct calculated 1609 to lead to a breach of the peace or to injury, and it is hoped very much—I wish to say this in order that the public outside may realise it—that the general public, the ordinary decent citizen who wants to see fair play all round, will not regard any case of this sort which he sees as a matter merely between the two parties who are in controversy, but will feel that it is his duty, as it certainly is, to give his support and help to get the law properly administered and the offending persons properly identified.
It is, of course, the duty of the public to come to the assistance of the policeman who is put into difficulty. It is one of the common law duties of every citizen to help the police. One of the reasons why in this country, in the case of sudden and serious crime, such as a gangster trying to hold up a bank or a post office, such crime does not usually succeed, is not because we are more virtuous than other people, but because the ordinary citizen in this country instantly lends a hand. When somebody is attacked, there is a natural inclination on the part of any man, and woman too, of reasonable spirit and courage to do his or her best to see that the thing is stopped and that the offender is identified. If the public will help the police in this matter, I feel confident that we can do a great deal to improve the situation.
I may say that the information which I have does not give the slightest ground in support of the view that this movement from which these things come is on the increase—not at all; very much the opposite—but it is true that a number of individuals who appear to be connected with it are still extremely active and, as I have pointed out, in ways which certainly will call for proper police action. That is the substance of what I wanted to say on this subject. I will add this general reflection: I say this— and I hold it very strongly—that as far as the Home Office and the police are concerned, we have nothing to do with people's political philosophies; we have merely to see that every citizen has a fair opportunity for living his life in peace and exercising the rights which we claim for ourselves. But, of course, one cannot help having this reflection in one's mind —and I am sure my hon. Friend opposite the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), will not mind if I put it in this way—that there are in fact two 1610 political philosophies, the philosophy of Fascism and the philosophy of Communism—I say nothing against either—which are alike in this respect: They both do undoubtedly constitute a menace to the ideas of freedom by which the vast majority of the nation hold, and I think one may say that in both cases they may be disposed, sometimes at least, to seek their ends by forcible methods. That is why, as the Prime Minister has more than once said, they both logically and ultimately involve a dictatorship.
§ Sir J. SIMON
I am sure the hon. Member will allow me to put my point. I shall be willing to be corrected, but that is how it strikes me, and whether it comes from the Right or the Left does not seem to make very much difference. I do not believe that either of those philosophies is likely to make very much headway in this country unless the nation were to be misguided enough to allow itself to be divided into two opposing camps. At the same time, the police have a very difficult task. People object very much, and quite rightly, if a policeman interferes without cause. It is astonishing how many times in the year some misguided person writes to the Home Secretary and says, "I saw a policeman doing so and so," and it turns out that the person was quite wrong. On the other hand, it seems to me certain that the police of this country and of the Metropolis would be failing in their duty if they allowed these two opposing bodies to come into open conflict in the street. If you start one, you tend to start the other.
As I conceive the duty of the police, it is, in the name of observing the liberties of us all, to see to it that, while everybody has a fair opportunity of expressing his opinions, we do not get this conflict really developed and encouraged. It is for that reason that I am so anxious to do what I can, with the help of the experienced officials at the Home Office arid of the police force and, I hope, with the approval of the House generally, to see to it that police action in these areas in the East End of London is directed to checking this conflict. I am convinced we can do it. It is not a situation which appeals to the instincts of the ordinary 1611 Englishman as at all tolerable. This is one of those things on which we are all united in trying to get the right thing done, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity which this Debate has given to show that at the Home Office we are very anxious to do it.
I would like to say one word in conclusion, following the right hon. Gentleman opposite, as to the position of the police. He gave the case of a poor fellow who appealed to a policeman some distance away from where he was wanted and was told that he had better go back again. It might have been cold comfort, but, on the other hand, it is obvious that the policeman could not have said, "I will leave my duty and come with you." Every policeman has his duty to do, and it is a terribly difficult thing sometimes for him to know how he should act, but I lay this down—and I am sure this is the view of the Commissioner—that the police are not concerned with the political views of any body or organisation whatever, and that is why I deny altogether that they are trying to use their powers in a partisan spirit. I believe the Debate to-day will very greatly strengthen their hands and provide them with the public opinion behind them which is what they always need in order to bring about a more tolerable state of things.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. BENSON
The subject which I wish to raise is that of the psychological treatment of delinquents. I want first to say a word of gratitude to the Home Office for the sympathetic way in which they have dealt with this matter in the past, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman of the definition of gratitude that runs, "A lively sense of favours to come," and it is in that sense, as well as in the more common sense, that I use the word "gratitude." I think the first official recognition of the psychological problem or the possibilities of the psychological treatment of delinquents and criminal offenders is in a Departmental Report issued in 1932, which contains a section dealing with psychological treatment. The report reads very much as if the Commissioners were thoroughly scared of their subject, but they go so far as to recommend that the Home Office should experiment in the matter. I am pleased to say that the Home Office, 1612 differing very largely from many Government Departments in their treatment of recommendations, immediately appointed a psychiatrist, who, I believe, is working at Wormwood Scrubs, and it is with the object of appealing to the Home Office to go a little bit farther than they have done that I want to ventilate this problem to-day.
It is frequently said that the psychological treatment of delinquents is in a purely experimental stage. That is true, but so is the treatment of cancer in an experimental stage. As in the treatment of cancer, however, and as in practically all medical matters, treatment and experiment are bound to go hand in hand. Practically the whole development of medical science has been along the lines of using treatment as an opportunity for improving the method, the technique, and with regard to psychiatry, particularly as applied to delinquency, it is essential that psychiatrists who are working on this subject should be encouraged and should be allowed every possible facility for the treatment of delinquents in order that they may extend and improve their technique and bring it out of what is called the experimental stage, As a matter of fact, psychiatry, like all medicine, probably always will be in an experimental stage, because experiments will never stop.
The present work that is being carried on is extremely haphazard, very largely because of a shortage of facilities. It is not that the Home Office are responsible for that. There is a brilliant band of psychological specialists working on this matter, but unfortunately they have to apply a long, arduous, and extremely difficult technique, and, moreover, they are very gravely hampered by lack of funds, lack of buildings, and lack of almost everything that will make either their experiments or their treatment efficient and helpful. At the present moment there is a single Government psychiatrist, I think at Wormwood Scrubs, and there are six London hospitals which have psychological clinics, and these occasionally take delinquents. There is the Institute of Medical Psychology, where again the treatment of delinquency is a side line, though they have done most valuable work and have gathered very valuable data. There is also one small new body with a very long name, the Institute for 1613 the Scientific Treatment of Delinquency, which is the only specialist body in the country dealing with the psychiatric treatment of crime and criminals.
The type of case that comes before these clinics for treatment is extraordinarily varied. It is not merely the sex case, as so many people seem to imagine. There has appeared a report of the Institute for the Scientific Treatment of Delinquency. In 1934 and 1935 the following cases came into their hands:
Therefore, the types that come before these various clinics and bodies is extremely varied. I should like to give the House two actual cases to show roughly the kind of types that are dealt with by the clinics, and the specific problems involved. The first is the case of a boy who was continually pilfering—not very large sums, but still pilfering. He lost job after job. When he was younger he had received pretty severe parental punishment, but nothing seemed to affect him. At last he came into the hands of a doctor who was a psychologist, and who applied modern psychological methods, by which he eventually cured the boy completely.
Attempted murder 1 Violence 7 Attempted Suicide 9 Sex cases 36 Wandering 13 Theft (including four burglars) 46 Shoplifting 14 Embezzlement, forgery and false pretences 26 Other kinds of cases 29
I almost hesitate to give the House the psychological explanation, but I think it is interesting although to the layman it sounds so bizarre. The real psycholological trouble of this boy was that he suffered from what is technically known as a guilt complex. Deep in his unconscious mind there was an overwhelming feeling of guilt, and, along with this overwhelming feeling of guilt, there was a demand, again unconscious, for expiation; and it was in order to invoke punishment upon himself, so that the feeling of guilt might be expiated, that he continually committed these thefts. That explanation sounds bizarre, but I assure the House that it would be immediately recognised by any psychologist as a highly typical one. In that case it would have been utterly useless to send the boy to prison; no matter what punishment 1614 might be inflicted upon him, there was no possibility of turning him into an honest citizen, from the very fact that theft was not an object in itself, but merely a symptom of an unconscious and abnormal demand for punishment.
The other case redounds very much to the credit of the Home Office. It was that of a man in a London prison who was serving his third sentence for homosexual offences. He applied to the prison governor to see whether there was any possibility of treatment—he was an educated man, or he would never have suspected the possibility. The prison governor told him point blank that nothing could be done. He applied to the prison doctor, and was given exactly the same reply—that nothing could be done, that he was a hopeless case. Despite that fact, he wrote to the Home Office, and the Home Office put him in touch with the Institute of Medical Psychology. The Home Office gave every facility for his treatment while he was in prison, although that treatment, if I remember rightly, had to be applied three times a week for nearly two years Eventually the man was entirely cured. That is not a typical case, because this abnormality is one of the most resistant of all psychological abnormalities. I merely mention it to show that the Home Office are doing what they can, and also because I hope that they will not weary in well-doing.
In this connection the Home Office will have to face two problems, because I am convinced that they will realise the paramount importance of psychological treatment. First of all, they will have to get the co-operation of judges and magistrates, who will have to recognise that in many cases there is some alternative to mere punishment. In London, I am pleased to say, the magistrates are awakening to that fact. In 1935, they sent to the Institute for the Scientific Treatment of Delinquency twice as many cases as they sent in 1934, and, incidentally, they nearly broke the Institute in so doing. In the second place, the Home Office will have to realise what is an equally difficult problem, namely, the necessity for the provision of treatment for cases in which it is recommended by the courts. In London the possibilities for this treatment at present are hopelessly inadequate, and in the Provinces they are entirely non-existent. The situation is only saved by the fact that 1615 magistrates in the North have never heard of psychology. I would commend to the right hon. Gentleman's notice the problem in the Provinces.
This is not merely a case of backwardness on the part of magistrates and judges; it is a case of backwardness on the part of the whole population. It is rather astounding that there are practically no clinics outside London for the treatment of delinquents, and there are no clinics because there are no psychiatrists. London is far ahead of the rest of the country in this form of medical treatment. It is really staggering, but it is a fact, that outside London there are only four doctors with the qualification of the Institute of Psycho-Analysis. All the rest of the doctors with that qualification are in London. There is one in Manchester, one in Reading, one in Southsea and one in Edinburgh. These are practically the only doctors outside London with a really modern, up-to-date psychiatric technique.
The Home Office will have to face this problem, because the psychiatric treatment, not merely of delinquents but of any neurotic person, is fundamentally different from the treatment that is given by hospitals. The hospital can rely very largely upon the voluntary work of the ordinary practitioner and the specialist. A surgeon may perform half-a-dozen operations in a morning for his hospital, but with psychological treatment that is utterly impossible; it is a slow, arduous and extremely difficult technique. In some extreme cases a doctor may have to give as many as 400 hours to one case. In the homosexual case I have mentioned, which was sent by the Home Office to the Institute of Medical Psychology, the treatment lasted for two years. To allow this type of treatment to depend upon the voluntary work of a small handful of specialists is out of the question. A surgeon can give a considerable amount of time voluntarily to a hospital, because he can do a lot of work for himself in the afternoon, but a psychiatrist is continually and steadily working against time, possibly having to devote an immense period to each individual patient, and he cannot give anything like the same service, relatively, that the surgeon can give. Therefore, if this problem is thoroughly tackled, the Home Office will sooner or later have to pro- 1616 vide its own trained psychiatrists and to regard this as a curative branch of the prison service, and one which will eventually be a very economical investment.
It may be said that I am a special pleader, and that the results so far do not necessarily warrant, the Home Office taking such action. If I were making a debating case, I agree that the results would be disappointing. There are very few statistics on the subject. To begin with, this form of treatment is extremely modern, or rather, the opportunities for the clinical treatment of delinquents are of extremely recent date. Secondly, the statistics would be vitiated by the fact that there has been no time to test whether the criminal treated is likely to relapse. Another point in this connection is that, even if there is a, relapse, it does not necessarily prove that the treatment has failed. This is rather a subtle point. If the boy whose case I have mentioned, who was continually pilfering because of an unconscious guilt complex, and whose pilfering stopped as a result of the treatment, fell out of work and, as an. ordinary normal person, stole, as he might do through want, that would be regarded by a hostile critic as evidence of the failure of the psychological treatment, whereas it would be nothing of the kind, because the pilfering due to his psychological maladjustment had stopped, and the hypothetical subsequent theft would not be due to psychological maladjustment of the boy himself, but to social maladjustment outside his control.
The cases that have been sent to the clinics and institutes are not selected cases. There has been no psychologist sitting on the bench and saying to himself that such-and-such a case was one that would answer to psychological treatment, then allowing a dozen prisoners to go by and picking out another. There is no question of picking out cases that a psychologist would recognise at suitable for treatment; the cases are sent haphazard by the magistrates, not for any medical reason, but purely for lay reasons—possibly because the case puzzled the magistrate, or possibly because in his opinion the case was a psychological one. It is a very haphazard, unpicked set of cases with which the clinics have to deal.
1617 The Institute of Medical Psychology has followed up for three years a number of cases which it has treated, and has found that after three years some 30 per cent. of the delinquents have not relapsed. They point out that, until the social conditions and home conditions of the people they have treated can be improved, there is no guarantee that their treatment can effectively prevent a relapse into crime. The psychiatrist does not claim that he can make a man proof against the temptation to crime; he merely says that in many cases he can remove an abnormal neurotic impulse which may lead to anti-social acts. A far better test than statistics is the feeling of the doctors themselves who are voluntarily engaging in this work. If you read their reports you will see in a. moment that they are not enthusiastic propagandists who think they have a cure-all. Their reports are cold, scientific documents which face up to the facts —failures as well as successes. They are giving long, arduous hours of work involving a. highly difficult technique, but you will find that in their opinion the work they are doing for the delinquent is immensely worth while. I think that is a better criterion than statistics which are extremely difficult to gather and still more difficult to interpret when they are gathered. I ask Ministers if they do not think it opportune to go a little further than they went when thew put into operation the very timid and halting recommendations of the Departmental Committee. I am not going to make any suggestions. It would be impertinent on my part, speaking as a layman, to make suggestions. I know that they are in sympathetic touch with the clinics and doctors who are carrying on this valuable work, and I hope they will encourage those psychologists and doctors by continuing in their sympathetic attitude and expanding the service that they can give, by offering greater facilities and possibly actually establishing an inpatient clinic. I know they will give what help they can, and I am hopeful it will be more expansive than it has been in the past.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I think the hon. Member has rendered a very great service to the House and the community as a whole in raising this extraordinarily in- 1618 teresting topic. I quite agree with him that no one has any complaint to make about the Home Office. No one thinks it is a matter in which they could take drastic action or move very fast, but it is very necessary, and I make an appeal to the Under-Secretary that the Home Office should take a very lively interest in this whole question of the more scientific treatment of delinquents and keep in very close touch with the experts who are carrying on this very valuable work, so as to know exactly what the position is at any given moment. We are here in the presence of a science which, though comparatively new, is moving very rapidly. Every year fresh discoveries of vital interest and importance are made. The actual founders of the science are still alive. We are all inclined to laugh at Freud and Freudism, without realising the incredible extent to which his doctrines and discoveries permeate the lives of the whole of us to-day. The very word "complex," which we now so glibly use, derives from. Freud. I feel that this whole science needs much closer attention on the part of the governing authority than it has hitherto received.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I do not think I ever made that suggestion. I merely said that pathological science and the development of psychology and psycho-analysis were of extreme importance. The hon. Member is at heart a Marxian, and thinks that nothing but purely economic forces mean anything or have ever caused anything to happen. I do not take that view. Psychology and psycho-analysis are of as great importance as pure economies. I was a little astonished on getting an appeal signed by a very large number of our most distinguished scientists and sociologists and medical and public men, including the wife of a distinguished Minister in the Government, for a, comparatively trivial sum, something like £l2,000, to help the Institute for the Scientific Treatment of Delinquents. I feel that this is a little humiliating for a great country of our size. I think such 1619 an important departure in embryo ought not to be left entirely to private enterprise to carry on as best it can, by raising a fiver here and a fiver there, when, more. and more, magistrates are coming to appreciate it and use it.
I think the whole criminal law will have to be revised by a special committee sooner or later in the light of modern psychological discovery. In the meantime I ask the Under-Secretary to consider, first of all, whether he would not think it worth while to give some support and backing by his Department to institutions such as the Institute for the Scientific Treatment of Delinquents, which is one of the very few that are carrying on at all, and, secondly, whether in regard to the administration of the law he would call the attention of judges, magistrates and sheriffs all over the country to the advantage in certain places of sending young delinquents particularly for treatment at some of these centres because, however much hon. Members may sneer at it, I am sure in many cases results of enormous value can be achieved.
Mr. BOOTH BY
If hon. Members are so absolutely rigid in their ideas, I am not going to argue with them. More than ever it shows that we shall have to depend for progress of the best and most suitable kind upon this side of the House.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
I hope that attention will be paid by the authorities' to the various suggestions that have been put forward by the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson). Those whose business it is from time to time to be present at the criminal courts know how appallingly frequent, particularly in country districts, arc the kind of cases to which he referred. A great many of them are cases which, whatever the causes in the first place, demand not so much punishment as treatment, and I hope the hon. Member's remarks will be taken to heart by the Minister. I want to raise a rather different matter which to some extent arises out of the propositions advanced by the Home Secretary a short time ago. He said that one 1620 function of his Department was the preservation of civil liberty and of the rights of individuals, and he proceeded to put forward a number of propositions as to the existing law regarding propaganda and public meetings.
I should like to draw attention to an action that was tried at the Cambridge County Court in December last. The matter arose in this way: On 6th July there was an Air Force display at the Duxford Aerodrome. A number of persons of what are known as pacifist views attended in order to distribute leaflets. The leaflets were all confiscated by the police. As I understand it, there was no dispute at any time that the distributors of the leaflets were acting in a perfectly peaceful and law-abiding manner. An action was brought against the police, and the county court judge, though he did not take a very serious view of the case, awarded damages against the police of £1. I should like to cite one sentence from his judgment. He said:In acting as he did I consider that the sergeant went rather beyond what he was in law entitled to do and that as a matter of law ho really had no reasonable ground to apprehend a breach of the peace, and I further find that a breach of the peace would not have been a natural consequence of the exhibition of these pamphlets.A police sergeant who gave evidence, who was one of the defendants, justified his action by referring to his duty to prevent a breach of the peace. It was said that the attempt to distribute these leaflets had aroused a certain amount of hostility and apparently what was in the minds of the police was that people hostile to the distributors of literature might create a breach of the peace. I emphasise the word "might." There was no evidence at all that there was any sign of a breach of the peace being imminent. It was simply that the police anticipated that there might be a breach of the peace on the part of these other people at some time in the future if the literature was not confiscated. It is that justification for the action of the police that I want to bring to the attention of the House and the Minister.
In my opinion it is a serious matter and it would be introducing an entirely novel principle into our law if people doing something perfectly lawful were to be restrained became it was supposed that those antagonistic to them might do 1621 something unlawful. That was the proposition put forward on which the police were acting. That proposition has always been rejected in the Law Courts when it has been put forward. There was a famous case when the Salvation Army wished to hold a procession and were restrained from doing so because it was thought that there would be a breach of the peace. In that case the judge said:What has happened here is that an unlawful organisation has assumed to itself the right to prevent the appellants and others from lawfully assembling together and the finding of the justices amounts to this, that a man may he convicted for doing a lawful act if he knows that his doing it may cause another to do an unlawful act. There is no authority for that proposition.Yet it was that proposition on which the police were acting on the occasion to which I have referred. Professor Dicey in his work on constitutional law, and in the course of his comments on that judgment, says:Nor is it in general an answer to the claim, for example, of the Salvationists to exercise their right of meeting, that while such exercise might excite wrongdoers to break the peace, the surest way of keeping it is to prevent the meeting"—In this case, to prevent the distribution of literature—or, if danger arises from the exercise of lawful rights resulting in a breach of the peace, the remedy is the presence of a sufficient force to prevent that result under the legal condonation of those who exercise those powers.I submit to the Minister that those particulars precisely apply to this case. I know that it has been held in other cases that, where there is absolutely no other way of preventing a breach of the peace and where a breach of the peace is likely to occur at any moment, the police are justified in stepping in and restraining someone who is doing something which is in itself perfectly lawful. But as the law stands, it is only in those very exceptional cases and on those very extreme occasions that they can exercise a power of that. kind. I would not have raised this matter if it were the only occasion on which this sort of thing has occurred, but there has been, as I expect the Minister knows, other and similar occasions when people have been restrained in this way. Some of those cases were raised in this House on the Home Office Estimates in. July of last year. I do not say that these cases are of any great importance them- 1622 selves, but the principle is of vital importance. We are concerned with some of the principles laid down in a speech a short time ago by the Home Secretary. It would indeed be unfortunate if people indulging in perfectly legitimate propaganda and expressing their opinions in a legitimate way could be restrained by the authorities because somebody else might possibly be provoked to a violent attack or a breach of the peace. I am not attacking the police. I realise the truth of what the Home Secretary has said as to the difficulty that often arises in the tasks which they have to carry out, but when you have an arbitrary interference with lawful activities such as occurred on this occasion, it is a serious matter and one which ought to be inquired into by the Minister and by the Home Office.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. PETHERICK
I will not follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) into the case which he has made out with regard to the distribution of Fascist literature at aerodromes. He maintained that where people were going about their lawful vocations in such a way that it might provoke a breach of the peace, it was the duty of the police to give protection to them and not to stop them doing those things because some disorder might arise. I agree with him up to a certain point on the general principle, but all the same there are circumstances in which it is necessary for the police to intervene and stop people doing a perfectly lawful thing. May I offer a possible suggestion in regard to something that might happen? Suppose that during the Jubilee celebrations a republican demonstration had been threatened. Fortunately we do not suffer from that sort of thing in this country, but that is the sort of analogy I would draw. In a ease like that, I think that the police would have been justified in intervening in order to prevent a demonstration which perhaps might have had the effect of causing loyal Monarchists and supporters of the Throne to make counter-disturbances.
The question of immigration of aliens into this country has been raised in this House on previous occasions, but it has not been brought up very recently. It is for that reason that I wish to express certain apprehensions to-day. Some of us who read the criminal cases in the 1623 newspapers have noticed a considerable amount of crime which has been brought home to the subjects of foreign countries. In the last few years I have personally kept a fairly active eye upon criminal reports in the newspapers for that purpose. When you begin to examine these matters and to raise the question of alien immigration into this country you run the risk of being accused of having persecution mania. There are certain newspapers of rather an enterprising character which print from time to time large headlines concerning aliens' activities and all that sort of thing. It is possible to have an exaggerated view as to the danger, but I think that danger definitely exists to a certain degree, and it is very important that we should be clear as to the policy of the Home Office in this matter.
I have noticed in the papers in the last few years a number of extremely unsavoury cases. For instance, there have been many sharepushers sent across, I suppose, by our Trans-Atlantic cousins or who came across in any case, and they have relieved the subjects of Great Britain of very large sums of money and have very often got away with it. I have noticed several of these cases recently. There was not so long ago a murder case which aroused a good deal of public interest—the case of Emil Allard, who was shot and whose body was found in a ditch in Hertfordshire. I do not hold any brief for the statements in various newspapers with regard to the alleged criminal activities of this person. I did not know how much information the Home Office possessed with regard to this man's past, but I put a question to the Home Secretary and asked whether he was of British birth or not, and I received an answer that apparently his origin was not known. Anyhow the man got into this country and engaged apparently in a number of criminal activities, and eventually he was murdered.
The Home Office have very extensive powers to deal with aliens who wish to come and reside temporarily in this country. I know from being in business that on certain occasions when I wished to get a foreigner into the country in order to stay in my office, perhaps for six months, in order to learn the 1624 language, the Home Office and the Ministry of Labour have quite properly made it extremely difficult to get in such a man, although he was in fact respectable and intended to stay only for a very short time for the purpose of learning English. There must be some loophole somewhere by which aliens can enter the country and stay here.
To-day I have been looking at the Statistical Abstract for the last few years, but the latest copy, unfortunately, only gives figures of immigration up to 1933. The average figures of naturalisation of aliens have kept pretty constant since 1913. They are not excessive or likely to alarm anybody in the country in any way. They very rarely exceed 2,000 a year, and generally the average has been something in the region of 1,100 to 1,500 since 1913. Those are the naturalisation figures. But when one turns to the balance of immigration, that is to say, the balance of people of foreign birth who come into this country over those who leave the country, a very different situation is disclosed. The most recent statistical abstract of the figures shows that since 1913 the figures of the balance of aliens who stay in this country are very high almost every year. In 1913 the balance inwards was 123,000. There was a gap throughout the War years, and in 1921 it was 16,000, taken to the nearest round figure, and it has remained steady, 18,000, 16,000, 28,000 and so on, up to the year 1931, when there was a very small balance outwards, and in 1932 a very small balance outwards also. In 1933, however, the latest year for which I have available figures, there was again an inward balance of foreign subjects of some 10,000.
Over the years from 1921 to 1933 inclusive a balance of inward immigrants of 368,000 is disclosed as having taken up residence in this country. When we consider that figure in conjunction with the unemployment figures, we begin to wonder if the administration and the policies of successive Governments have been wise or in the interests of the people of this country as a whole. I am not claiming that the whole of these 368,000 would have gone to swell the unemployment figures. Obviously, some of them must have displaced British people who would otherwise have obtained jobs, but all these people have to be fed and they 1625 create employment to a certain extent. But is it wise and sound to allow this very large amount of immigration to go on when we have a very considerable unemployment problem of our own?
There is another aspect of the case, and that is the question of getting a certain degree of racial purity. Hon. Members opposite may not feel so interested in that side of the question as some of us on this side of the House, especially as the theory of Aryan purity is advocated in certain quarters which are not popular with them, and indeed, not very popular with us either. Still, I think there is something to be said for it, and undoubtedly we have been suffering for 20 or 30 years now from an entirely unrestricted immigration into this country from Central Europe, and indeed, from other parts of the world. Unfortunately, far from the flood having been stopped, it is still going on, though I am happy to say that it has been somewhat diminished during the last two or three years.
I should be very grateful if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, in replying to this question, will give me the most recent figures for 1934 and 1935, which are not available in the statistical abstract. There are cases, perhaps, where it is advisable for scientific or other reasons of that nature to allow eminent people to come into this country. All the same, at the present time, particularly when we are suffering from a most severe unemployment problem, the Home Office should be extremely strict in preventing our shores from being flooded with people who, perhaps, are escaping persecution in their own country. We are very sorry for them, but I do not think that it is right to allow them to come here. We know that many undesirable aliens, as well as perfectly respectable people, have entered these shores and have remained here during the last few years.
I mentioned the case of Emil Allard. It is one which has certainly perturbed a good many of us, and I ask my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State whether he and his Department are entirely satisfied with the staff of the Home Office at the various ports. The Customs Officers are incredibly ingenious in detecting breaches of the Customs regulations, and over a long period of years, by long 1626 training, they have been able to detect almost at once those who were likely to be smuggling and those who were not. Does that same principle apply to those who are inspecting the immigrants not for Customs purposes, but on purely Home Office grounds? I feel rather doubtful. I saw a suggestion in one of the newspapers not very long ago that there was some doubt as to whether the staff at the ports had the proper sort of training, and adequate training, and I should be very glad if my hon. Friend could give some indication in his reply of the sort of training that Home Office immigration officers have, whether they start from the beginning and work their way up in the trade, so to speak, or whether they are drafted in from outside and are, say, ex-Army officers or the like. I hope, now that I have drawn attention to this very important case, that the hon. Gentleman, as was almost promised by the Home Secretary the other day in reply to a question, will institute a most searching examination of all the rules which govern immigration into this country.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. THURTLE
The hon. Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick) has introduced a very interesting and I have no doubt important question, but perhaps he will forgive me if I do not follow him into it this evening, because I want to raise two other points with the Home Office. I would take this opportunity of paying a tribute, with which I think the whole House will agree, to the very satisfactory statement by the Home Secretary of the position of the Fascists in the East End of London. I am sure that the House will have heard with satisfaction of the right hon. Gentleman's determination to see that Jewish citizens in the East End of London are not subjected to violence or intimidation. The energising action that he has already taken has had beneficial effects upon the police, and I hope that he will not weary in his well-doing. If the Home Office do not keep up this attitude, in the course of a few months the police, it may well be, will relax their vigilance, and we may get back into the old condition of affairs.
Speaking as one who believes very firmly in free speech, as do all the members of this party, I would make it clear that in our campaign against Fascist in- 1627 timidation and violence we have no desire to go contrary to the principle of freedom of speech. I think, as we all think, that the Fascists, as other parties, have a perfect right to express their political views as freely as they please, but freedom of speech, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, does not mean liberty to indulge in abuse, and it is that kind of abuse to which we object. I am not a lawyer. A Member who spoke recently was a lawyer, and argued the nice point as to when free speech becomes an offence. I do not presume to be an authority on that point, but it seems to me that a criterion of whether or not speech is proper from a legal point of view is whether it is likely to cause a breach of the peace, and we have to consider the circumstances in which any particular sentiment is expressed.
When Fascist speakers in the East End of London denounce Jewish business people, Jewish cinema magnates, or Jewish financiers such as the Rothschilds and the Sassoons, such statements are not calculated to cause a breach of the peace because the Rothschilds and the Sassoons are far away, and there is no immediate danger of a crowd being incited to take action against them. It is a very different matter when speakers talk about shopkeepers who are within 20 yards, 100 yards or 200 yards, or about Jewish people who are said to have taken jobs. It must be remembered that the speakers are talking to people who are frightfully discontented and suffering from misfortune, poverty and unemployment, and when these people hear speakers say that they are being robbed and exploited by Jewish shopkeepers, or that jobs which they should have had have been taken by Jewish workpeople, there is a clear danger that language of that kind and in such places is calculated to cause a breach of the peace. I hope that the Home Office will continually press that point of view upon the police who have the task of administering the law.
I do not wish to go into the puerilities of Fascist literature and Fascist statements, because my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) has done that. I am going to give the House only two quotations to 1628 bear out what I say as to the danger of language inciting people to violence. Here is a, speech which. was delivered by a speaker in Victoria Park Square. He said:When there are any jobs going, who is it that gets the jobs? The Isaacs, the Cohens, the Solomons and the Jacobs. They are robbing the British workers of their daily bread.Then he went to to say:The Jews among us are the cancer and every foul disease. The situation calls for surgical operation, and we Fascists intend making that operation. We will extirpate them thoroughly from our life.These things seem almost beneath our contempt, and yet we ought to realise that if we allow that kind of thing to go on, we may create quite a dangerous situation in the East End of London and other parts of the country. In all of us are latent ignoble tendencies, and those people are appealing to the very basest and lowest prejudices of the people in the East End. I am sure that people who have any regard for their country will feel that it is deplorable that a so-called political movement like this Fascist movement should descend to the petty kind of nonsense that we hear spoken in the East End of London.
There is nothing fundamental about the differences between the Jew and the Gentile, and anyone who emphasises those differences is doing a very real disservice to the country. The things which link us together, and the things of our common humanity, are much more. important than those comparatively trivial differences which separate us. It is desirable from the point of view of public service and public well-being that the law in this country should, so far as possible, step in to prevent the development of the exacerbation of feelings of that kind. I was very glad indeed to hear the Home Secertary say, from his information—he, of course, is in a position to know—that this Fascist movement is definitely on the decline. That is only in conformity with our expectations. We never believed that the good sense of the people of this country would be taken in by these miserable appeals. The hatred and jealousy that they seek to foment are foreign to the nature of our people. and I am sure that in 12 months, or in two or three years, we shall find that movement definitely petering out. In the meantime, it is a comfort to know 1629 that the Home Office and the Metropolitan police system are determined to do all within their power to ensure that violence and intimidation on the part of those people are definitely kept in check.
One of the functions of this House is to guard the liberties of the people. Perhaps the most important function of all is that we should guard the liberties of the very poorest people. I want to raise the question of the very large number of arrests which have been taking place in London in the course of the last few years, by policemen in plain clothes. The arrests have been on the ground that the persons concerned were suspected of loitering with intent to commit a felony. I do not know whether hon. Members are aware that such cases have been very largely on the increase in the last two years. I understand that the increase is due to an innovation brought about by Lord Trenchard when he was at the head of the Metropolitan Police. He introduced the practice of plain-clothes men going out on a very large scale indeed. My information is that many of those plain-clothes men who go out are not police officers of very great experience. While this practice is employed in the Metropolitan area, not one chief constable in the provinces is employing the method. The chief constables of the provinces are mainly, I am told, officers with great police experience behind them, and, in their judgment, the method of employing plain-clothes officers for the apprehension of persons suspected of committing a felony is not a desirable practice.
Consider the position which arises. Young men are invited to take on this work of going out in plain clothes to see if they can find potential criminals. I understand that when the system was first introduced it was expected that a large number would volunteer for the service, but that calculation was wrong, as only a comparatively small number of policemen came forward. Then, as I am informed again, the suggestion was put round in the Force that unless a young man volunteered he was lacking in zeal and keenness. The result was a kind of veiled coercion which induced many young policemen, who did not want to take on the work, to volunteer to go out in plain clothes. Consider the position. An ambitious young man, we will say, goes out. He is hoping to make a career for himself in the police force, and he 1630 goes out in plain clothes. Is it not very natural that in those circumstances lie will try his very hardest to achieve results? If he is young and comparatively inexperienced, almost every poor down-and-out man that he meets in the street will be looked upon by him as a potential criminal. I believe that that sort of thing explains the very remarkable figures of arrests of this kind.
I find that in 1935 3,672 people were arrested on suspicion and only 2,439 of them convicted. Out of every three persons arrested in this way one was arrested falsely;he was found to be innocent when the case was examined before the magistrate. That is a situation which ought to be looked into by the Home Office. It is said that there is no distinction in the eyes of the law between one person and another, but I think I can safely say that of these 1,200 persons who were arrested and found to be innocent there is hardly one who was not a poor man. It is the case that people who are poor and unemployed looking around for jobs, whose clothes are ragged, are looked upon by the police as the kind of persons who may be contemplating committing a crime. I hope, therefore, that the Under-Secretary will look into this question and urge upon the Commissioner that much more experienced men are sent out on this difficult work than is the case at present, and bear in mind that no matter how poor a man may be it is no reason why he should be regarded as a potential criminal.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. SANDYS
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) in all that he has said, but I certainly do not think that all hon. Members will accept his suggestion that the police go out with the idea of trumping up cases against poor people in order to make a career for themselves. I have much sympathy with what he has said about Fascism, not from a political point of view but from the general civic outlook of the citizens of this country. The hon. Member said that it was entirely wrong for any political party to try to emphasise differences between fellow-subjects, and that it was entirely wrong in principle for a party to try to exploit poverty and dissatisfaction in order to advance their own political aims. I do not know whether the hon. Member was addressing those remarks only to the Fascist party, 1631 or also addressing them to hon. Members who sit on the same benches as himself. Surely he realises that if only his hon. Friends were to accept his very excellent advice, probably very few of them would be sitting there this afternoon. Hon. Members in all parts of the House, except perhaps hon. Members opposite, are grateful to the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) for giving us such a very human speech, and making such a moving appeal to the Home Secretary to look into the question of the psychological inclination towards crime. I am a little surprised that hon. Members opposite are so bigoted in their political outlook that they wish to attribute all crime to economic causes, and to deny to those people who, as they know perfectly well, are tempted to crime not through economic causes but from purely mental and physical causes, the assistance and help which science is able to offer.
I rose to ask the Under-Secretary of State a question about a subject which his Department has recently taken over —air raid precautions for civilians. I have been approached by a number of medical practitioners recently who have said that in the event of an air raid and gas attack, they know that upon them will fall a large part of the duties of providing relief and first-aid assistance to the victims, and as yet they are not in a position to carry out these duties. The vast majority of doctors to-day have no knowledge whatever regarding the treatment of poison gas cases. There are a certain number of doctors who took part in the late War and acquired a certain knowledge of a number of gases which were then used, but since then the range of poison gas has developed out of all recognition, and a whole generation of doctors has appeared who have no knowledge or training in the treatment of these cases. It does not form part of the regular curriculum of a medical practitioner training for his degree. Therefore, I want to ask whether the Home Office are considering measures to provide courses of instruction for doctors in the treatment of gas cases, and also whether they are preparing directions for doctors not only in the treatment of poison gas cases but as to how they should render first-aid at the actual moment of the air attack. When a gas attack takes place it is evident that 1632 doctors will have to play a very big part in giving first-aid relief to the victims on the streets or elsewhere, and if it is incumbent on doctors, as it no doubt will be, to render this first-aid, are the Home Office making arrangements to provide all medical practitioners with suitable gas masks and gas-proof suits and outfits in order to enable a doctor in a gas attack to go on to the streets and bring in the victims of the attack? I do not expect that my hon. Friend will be in a position to give a very full statement on the matter, but if he can give us a general assurance that these aspects of the question are under active consideration, we should be reassured.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. WATKINS
I do not propose to argue—although I should very much like to—some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys). I have risen for a specific purpose, but I am tempted to say this one thing, that when he accuses us of believing that all crime is due to economic causes he is saying something which is literally not true. We believe that if we had a decent economic system, an arrangement of society which would give adequacy to all men and women, very little of the crime committed to-day would be found to exist, and for that reason we consider that economics enter largely into the amount and the degrees of crime to be found in the community.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I was sharply interrupted and taken to task by the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) for even suggesting that some crime may be due to pathological causes.
§ Mr. WATKINS
I was dealing directly with the statement made by the hon. Member for Norwood, that we on these benches believe that all crime is due to economic causes.
§ Mr. SANDYS
The reason I said that was because when my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) made the remark to which he has referred there was a storm of protest from hon. Members opposite, and as far as I could see the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) was the only Member of the party opposite who recognised that there was a human side to this problem.
§ Mr. WATKINS
I do not propose to follow the argument. There appears to be some difference between the two hon. Members which they had better resolve among themselves, and bring back a united front to our discussion. I have really risen in order to say a word about the unprovoked and unjustified attacks upon the Jews. As I have a large number of Jews in my constituency I was naturally interested in the two opening speeches of the Debate. The right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) gave a whole catalogue of these attacks. I was pleased with the reply the. Home Secretary gave to a question in the House a week ago and with his reply to-day. Among the Jewish population of London his reply will be warmly received. But these attacks are not made only on Jewish people. The Fascist does not merely select the Jews for beating and persecution. I have had an incident brought to my notice of an ex-Service man, an Englishman, who keeps a little cafe, which like most of them is open rather late at night. Into this cafe all sorts of people come, and among them Communists. A Communist has a perfect right to coffee and sandwiches like the vest of the population, but because this English ex-Service man who was crippled in the War serves coffee and sandwiches o Communists he has had his shop windows smashed by Blackshirts, and the threat is held over him that his shop will he smashed to pieces unless he desists from serving these customers. The Fascists do not merely attack the Jews, but anyone with whom they see fit to pick a quarrel.
In this country we have always managed to conduct our political controversies, until the Fascists came, by reasonable methods. We believe in reaching political decisions by counting, not by breaking heads. If the knuckle-duster and other means of violence are introduced into our discussions, things will go very badly indeed for us. I trust that no effort will be spared to prevent this kind of thing happening in London or anywhere else. I cannot help wondering whether it would not be a very great advantage to this country to prohibit the wearing of uniforms for political purposes. It seems to me that when a man dresses himself up in a uniform which differentiates him from the remainder of the people, there is produced in his mind 1634 a kind of psychological feeling which leads to very bad results. Differences in politics ought to be fought out in the realm of ordinary controversy. With the coming of the Fascists, very unsatisfactory methods have been introduced, and I believe I am right in saying that the Under-Secretary has himself witnessed some of those unfortunate methods during recent months. At large meetings held to forward this particular brand of political belief, all sorts of torments have been introduced that ought not to be continued.
My main object in rising was to tell the Home Office that it is not merely persecution of the Jews but persecution, either directly or indirectly, of Communists when they are behaving themselves perfectly reasonably, against which protection must be sought. I have taken every case that has arisen in my constituency to Scotland Yard, and it is with great pleasure that I say that the inspectors there have given me every assistance in trying to root out the wrongdoers and bring them to justice. I have no complaints to make at all, but only praise for the police in their efforts to maintain law, order and decency in our midst. I repeat that the people in the East End of London will receive with great satisfaction the statement made by the Home Secretary.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Mr. HOLLINS
I would like, in the first place, to ask the Under-Secretary whether he would convey a message to the Home Secretary arising out of a question which the Home Secretary answered in the House recently concerning an increase in the number of factory inspectors. I would ask the Home Secretary to consider giving one of those additional inspectors to the Midland area. When it is realised that there are 300 to 400 factories within the area of Stoke-on-Trent, and hundreds of others in the district, it must be agreed that from our point of view the present staff is inadequate if a thorough inspection of the factories is to be made. In view of the dangerous occupations carried on in those factories, I think it is important that there should be rigid inspection. I know that under the 1914 Regulations concerning the pottery industry, it is suggested that there should he internal inspection carried out by someone appointed by the factories, but I would 1635 point out that, from the operatives' point of view, very little good has come of that. We would prefer that the Home Office should make a permanent addition to the staff in order that there might be more adequate inspection. To go further still, we would prefer that some appointments should be made of workmen with experience to assist in these inspections.
I want to draw the attention of the House to the position of hundreds of thousands of workers in this country who are engaged in occupations in which the dreadful disease of silicosis has developed. There have been many deputations to the Home Office for the purpose of securing that this disease shall be scheduled as an industrial disease, since at the moment it is only covered by Section 47 of the 1925 Act. We would prefer that there should not be the limitation which at present exists with regard to silicosis, because Section 47 only schedules the occupation and not the disease. Only those people who are working in the scheduled occupations are able to obtain compensation at present. We contend that wherever a workman contracts this dreadful disease as a result of following an occupation he should be allowed to make a claim for compensation, but at the moment it is more or less the occupation which is scheduled and not the disease.
I know that one reply I shall receive will he that we should lose some of the advantages of the present scheme if silicosis was scheduled as an industrial disease under Section 43. Under Section 43 a workman who claims to be suffering from an industrial disease first of all goes to a certifying surgeon, gets a certificate and then goes to the medical referee. The decision of the medical referee, when given, is final and binding. Under the scheme of Section 47, and the amending Act of 1931, medical boards were introduced, and the experience of the pottery industry is that these boards are operating in a perfectly satisfactory manner. As a matter of fact, we would prefer the medical boards to the system of medical referees and certifying surgeons. The medical referee is the only person who is consulted with regard to a disease, whereas with the medical board system, it is possible, in cases where doubt exists, to obtain a second or even 1636 a third opinion. We prefer that. there should be a second or a third opinion rather than that the decision should be left to one man.
We can see no reason why silicosis should not be scheduled as a disease and the machinery which is now contained in Section 47 retained, so that instead of there being a certifying surgeon and a medical referee under Section 43, there would be the medical boards under Section 47 to administer the matter. In my own industry the position is that the processes are scheduled up to and including the preparation for glazing. Recently there arose a case where a workman engaged on one side of a wall on the same operation as a workman on the other side was not able to claim compensation, whereas the man on the other side of the wall would have been able to claim it. That is entirely wrong. If it can be proved that silicosis is brought about because of a man's occupation, surely it ought to be scheduled as an industrial disease, so that the man would have an opportunity of making a claim for compensation.
There is another point which I would like to raise, since it is of very great importance. My own industry was scheduled in the 1928 Act, which came into operation in January, 1929. Unfortunately, from 1929 to the middle of 1933, the pottery industry was hit by the great trade depression. Under the present Act, the average earnings of a workman are taken 12 months prior to the date of the accident, and because of the fact that the industry was hit by the great depression, the operatives do not get the maximum 30s., which is meagre enough in any case, simply because they happen to have fallen on two or three years of bad trade. The society with which I am connected has had through its hands hundreds of cases for compensation. I have some statistics which I will quote to hon. Members. These statistics show that only 38.7 per cent. obtained the whole 30s. compensation;18.3 per cent. got 25s. to 30s.: 28.5 per cent. got under 25s. and over 20s and 14 per cent. got under 20s. Had it not been for the depression, most of these men would have been earning from three to four pounds a week and would have been entitled to the maximum 30s. I think this state of affairs ought to he remedied at the earliest opportunity, and I beg the Under- 1637 Secretary to note the point I am making. We lost the opportunity a week ago of raising some of these points when we were unable to bring a new compensation Bill before the House, and had that Bill been brought forward more drastic things would have been said than I am now saying.
To sum up, I would ask the Under-Secretary to pass on my message regarding the appointment of an additional inspector in the Midland area to help to cover the pottery industry, and I hope that due consideration will be given to the question of scheduling silicosis as an industrial disease under Section 43, while continuing to operate the machinery under Section 47.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. QUIBELL
Most hon. Members on this side obtained a good deal of satisfaction from the statement made by the Home Secretary. Some of us have suffered from the kind of treatment to which reference has been made, but in the days when I experienced it, the meetings were broken up by the young gentlemen represented on the Government side. The Liberals and Tories broke up my meetings, and implemented my way out of the villages with tomatoes and bananas. Nevertheless we survived those days, and did not alter our point of view concern in the preservation of the right of free speech. We believe in the freedom of speech and the liberty of the subject to express his opinions whether we like them or not. I want to draw attention to another matter which is not unimportant. Like every other hon. Member who has had experience of the Police Force I can pay a tribute to the courtesy, help and consideration rendered to us at all times by the police. In the days to which I have already referred I did not need police attention. I had a way of dealing with those matters myself, but in these later days we have become law-abiding to such an extent that we call on their aid in case of necessity.
I would draw the Home Secretary's attention to the growing number of ex-police officers who are given the best jobs at some of our works while they are in receipt of handsome pensions, having retired from the police force at the age of 45 or 50. In the town in which I live this has become almost a scandal. We have police, police inspectors and sergeants 1638 taking every key position. In fact, in one case the only civilian that was acting as bailiff of the county court whose services was being dispensed with but, on appeal, the decision to replace him was reconsidered on the ground that he had long experience and that he would not receive a pension.
I have said to the police that they are their own worst enemies in this respect, because the workers protest strongly against this system of employing ex-officers especially in view of existing unemployment. I suggest that the Government ought to introduce some regulation to deal with this matter. In my own town we have four superintendents, three of them retired and one at work, and before long we shall have five, four of whom will be pensioned officers and only one performing any duties. I hope that they will remain with us for a long time, but the eldest of them is still fit to discharge the duties which he had to discharge when he occupied the position of superintendent at Scunthorpe. That precedent will be a good one for us to apply on this side of the House in future to other industries and occupations.
I want to draw attention to another matter which has not been touched on this afternoon so far. It relates to the reports of the Home Office inspectors whose duty is to deal with court houses, police stations, police houses and the general conditions which concern the efficiency of the police force. I wish to bring to the Under-Secretary's attention a case in which police court buildings, police cells and police houses are in a condition which I consider to be a disgrace to civilisation. In this particular police court there is no cell for females—it has been closed—and for males there are three cells. In one of them there is a water-closet; in the other two there are the old-fashioned pail closets, which the Government compelled the Scunthorpe Council to abolish before they would give them a charter. These conditions have been condemned by successive inspectors, but in spite of that fact people have to sleep in those cells and in some cases perfectly innocent and decent people have had to do so. I consider that the Home Office deserves a. great deal of criticism for not taking steps to put an end to these abominable conditions. These cells, I think, must have been designed by Queen Elizabeth.
§ Mr. QUIBELL
I ought not to blame it on Queen Elizabeth because she was a good woman. I made a bad choice, but I was referring to the date. In any case, the conditions are, as I say, abominable. Then, as regards the court, we have to-day women acting as magistrates, and everybody will admit that there are cases in which women magistrates are very useful and which they are more fitted to judge than men. Yet what are the conditions in that court house? There is only one retiring room. There is just the same accommodation for a town of 40,000 inhabitants that it had when it was a town of 7,000 to 10,000 inhabitants. The retiring room which is supposed to be available for the magistrates to go to when they wish to consult together and consider a case, has to be used as a second court and there is only one cloakroom for the magistrates. It has become nearly impossible to carry on the ordinary business. In addition, the court is situated near a works, and those engaged in business in it can scarcely hear one another speak. That court house is an abomination and ought to be swept away.
We have three police cam with garage accommodation for one. The other, in Lincolnshire language, has to be "joisted out" anywhere in the town. There is no coal house so that the coal has to be left out in the open yard. There is very little accommodation in the charge room which has a. little entrance 6 feet by 3 feet, and every conversation which takes place between an officer and anybody else is public property. There is just one place for the inspectors and the sergeants and if anyone goes there to speak privately to the chief officer the others have to go out. Then the houses in which the inspectors, sergeants and some of the police officers have to live are situated near a blast furnace and the dust settles down on the houses like a cloud and has to be wiped off the shelves. The result is that the amount of sickness is abnormal because of the housing conditions and were it not that these houses were police houses, I believe that the council would not hesitate to take steps to close them. I know of one case of an inspector whose wife has never been well since she went to live there.
1640 As far as Lindsey is concerned they will do nothing in these matters, but the Home Office know the facts and I hope they will compel the responsible authority to take action to put an end to conditions such as I have described. Those conditions ought not to exist in a town like ours, or any other town. Another thing is that the prisoners have only a little bird-cage walk in which to take exercise, a place about 10 yards long by 3 yards wide with iron bars. It is more like a place in which one would keep hens than an exercise yard. I hope and trust, therefore, that t he Home Office will take up this matter with the Lindsey standing joint committee and that some action will be taken to abolish these abominable conditions in Scunthorpe.
§ Sir HENRY FILDES
Before the Debate concludes I would like to hear from the Home Secretary how many meetings were broken up at the General Election and what steps will be taken in future to see that that form of violence does not continue.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
To-right we have had a variety of subjects before the House, ranging from juvenile delinquencies to the breaking up of political meetings and conditions such as the hon. Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) has mentioned. I am pleased to say that in my division we are not troubled in the way he has described, but, if we were, I should certainly wish to call attention to it in the House. I rise, however, to refer to another point which has not, I think, been dealt with yet in this Debate. I differ from some views which have been put forward as to the cause of crime. My idea is that it is due chiefly to economic circumstances and I propose to give an instance.
Under the Workmen's Compensation Act there is a schedule of industrial diseases and one of these diseases is called nystagmus. It is a terrible disease from which miners suffer. There is a regulation which requires a man seeking work at a colliery to sign a declaration as to whether he has suffered from industrial disease or not. If he has had such a disease and makes the fact known he has no chance of work. He is thrown on the scrap-heap. The result is that he must either tell lies or lose the job. I put it to hon. Members that in circumstances like that a man is driven 1641 to do wrong. If he declares that he has not had an industrial disease, there in always the dread on his part that should he contract disease later there will be no compensation for him. There have been cases in which men, rather than be out of work, have declared falsely that they have never suffered from an industrial disease. Later they have contracted disease and when they have put in claims for compensation the employers have had the records examined and have found that the men did suffer from industrial diseases previously. In such cases, if a man has drawn compensation previously he is called upon to refund it. In many cases he is unable to do so and he has a debt hanging over his shoulders.
On the other hand, if he declares he has had industrial disease there is no hope of his getting work in the mine again. That man is on the scrap-heap or life. There are few miners who are fitted for and go to another occupation. What is the man to do? Is he to go on day by day doing nothing, saying to himself that that is the position in which he, must be for the future, and not attempting to break the law? I always want to be as lawful as I can, but I have often thought that if I were driven to the extreme point of not being able to get employment and when nobody was taking any interest in my grievance that I should take the consequences and break the law. Probably I might quail if I were driven to that point. But when I see hundreds of men in that position I think that I could almost forgive them anything they did to try to assert themselves and to right their wrongs. I hope the Home Office will try to do something to get that position altered. I think it could be done by regulation.
The next point with which I want to deal is in relation to the medical referee. I have been looking through the statistics of the number of cases that have gone before the referee when there has been a dispute regarding the finding of the certifying surgeon. In the workmen's compensation statistics for 1934, issued by the Home Office, I find that of the 2,063 cases referred under Section 43, 1,961 appeals were made by employers a ad 102 by workmen. The decision of the certifying surgeon was confirmed in 1642 1,255 of the 1,961 appeals by employers, and in 66 of the 102 appeals by workmen. In the employers' cases, 64 per cent. were confirmed and 36 per cent. were swept on one side as not being qualified for compensation. That is a grave position. The men who come before the medical referee feel that an injustice has been done to their cases. Instances have been brought to my notice in which on many occasions the medical referee has been casual in his examination. Hon. Members should imagine themselves being put in a similar position to these men. A man feels that he is suffering from industrial disease. His own doctor certifies it. He goes before the certifying surgeon, and it is confirmed. The employer appeals. The case is taken before one man, who in a casual way examines the workman, and the decision is against him. That workman never feels that his case has been judged properly.
What we are asking is that the Home Office should consider having more than one man to judge these cases. We think that at least three should form that body. It is very difficult to satisfy the workman. The medical referee may be right in his judgment, but the workman always feels that he has not had a fair deal. When we find that 36 per cent. of the cases are rejected, it is sad, to think that the livelihood of the men concerned depends on one man who, in our judgment, does not in many cases give the careful examination that we think he should do. The Workmen's Compensation Act needs a thorough examination in many respects. I was sorry that on Friday last we had not an opportunity of doing that. I hope that the Under-Secretary will pay some regard to what we have said and try to rectify the points that have been mentioned.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. SHORT
I should like to emphasise the importance of the question raised by the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) and the desirability of more serious thought and consideration being given to it by the Home Office. I rose for the purpose of making what I hope will be a friendly intervention calling attention to the accidents in factories and workshops. Judging from the last report of the Chief Inspector there has been a, notable increase in the number of accidents, particularly of a non-fatal character, and the Inspector emphasises the growing 1643 volume and nature of the accidents. In 1933 the total number was 113,260, and it rose to 136,858, an increase of 23,598. The fatalities rose from 688 to 785, an increase of 97. We have to admit that there has been an increase of employment among the workers, and there has also been the re-employment of workers after long spells of inactivity. They have returned to work unaccustomed to association with work. I recall an occasion in my own life when I was out of work for a long time and then found employment, and I remember that during the first fortnight particularly I suffered great agony, and I was certainly not so mentally alert and so physically fit as I had been. That, I think, is true of the conditions of large numbers of those who have re-entered industry after long spells of unemployment, and it is calculated to accentuate the danger and incidence of accidents. The sudden re-starting of machinery, the introduction of new industries and new processes, and the sudden demand to cope with new and irregular orders, are all calculated to cause an increase in accidents. There is need for greater care and supervision.
I would like to call attention to the increasing accident rate among young people. It is much greater than the accident rate among adults. These young people are unaccustomed to factory life, unaware of the danger, have no experience of machinery, and I think that when they enter industry they should be taken round by some intelligent foreman and have the possible dangers which surround their occupation explained to thorn. It is not sufficient to hand out books of safety rules. There should be personal education. I am pleased that attention is called to working hours, and that the Inspector expresses the view, with which I agree, that it is undesirable that young people should be employed long hours. It is a short-sighted policy, it is not calculated to sustain output, it is not in the interest of the young people, and it certainly has a tendency to encourage accidents. There is one class of machinery, of which I had personal knowledge when I was in the workshop, to which the Inspector gives the title transmission machinery, belts, gearing and so forth. The Inspector points out that this class of accident is far too numerous, and that it has been found necessary in many 1644 cases to institute legal proceedings against the occupiers of factories. The total number of accidents due to transmission machinery was 1,143, compared with 1,064 the previous year. There were 38 fatal accidents, compared with 35; 25 occurred at revolving shafts, and 17 were due to driving belts, ropes, pulleys and gearing. This class of accident is of a serious character. Many of them wholly or partially incapacitate the victim, and it is desirable that greater care should be shown, and greater supervision provided.
I also want to refer to the question of lifts. Accidents constantly occur in connection with hoists and lifts, and the Inspector points out that there is a similarity about many of these accidents which points to the lamentable fact that practically every accident should not have occurred if the hoists had been properly constructed and fenced in accordance with modern safety standards. He points out that many of them are old and out of date, that there is a lack of supervision respecting overloading and workers travelling in hoists intended for goods only, and that they are not periodically examined by skilled persons. From the Inspector's report itself we find ample evidence to justify us in asking for something to be done. In the newspapers one constantly reads reports of accidents occurring in lifts or associated with them. It is pointed out that a committee of the British Standards Institution is preparing standard specifications for hoists and lifts, and I should be obliged if the Under-Secretary would tell me what have been the results of their work.
In so far as these accidents are concerned I am inclined to think we have not enough inspectors. In reply to a question I put to the Home Secretary some little time ago he said the authorised strength of the factory inspectorate was 254. I think there is an examination going on with a view to the appointment of a further nine, but can it be contended that 254 inspectors are sufficient to supervise all the workshops and factories in Great Britain? We also require new powers to strengthen the hands of factory inspectors, but that would involve legislation. At the same time I do not put my faith entirely in compulsion. I think the practice of inspectors entering workshops and calling attention to the 1645 need for this or that reform frequently accomplishes its purpose.
I am glad to pay testimoney to the very admirable way in which the inspectors carry out their duties under difficult circumstances, but I hope the Under-Secretary will be able to say that the Government contemplate appointing a larger number, apart from the announcement that next Session they propose to introduce a new factory Bill which it is hoped will strengthen the law by giving inspectors additional powers in respect of new industries which have sprung up in the last few years. While on the subject of inspectors I should like to pay a tribute to the women inspectors. I am glad the Home Office have appointed women inspectors, and when I read the report of the Committee on the two-shift system I was gratified by the nature and quality of the evidence which they had submitted, though I do not think it had the effect upon the minds of the members of the Committee which it had upon my mind. I read their evidence with great satisfaction, and thought it emphasised my point of view.
Another matter to which I wish to call attention is carbon monoxide poisoning arising from petrol fumes. Many drivers and other workers employed upon petrol-driven omnibuses suffer from gastric complaints as a result of inhaling these fumes. I understand that the Transport and General Workers' Union have more than once been in communication with the Home Office, and the question is now in the hands of some research council—I do not know whether it is the Medical Research Council. I should like to know whether the Home Office is co-operating in this investigation or whether it is being left to the trade union to investigate the matter for itself. The object of this investigation, if the fears of the men as to the cause of their complaints is confirmed, is to have those complaints scheduled as industrial diseases.
Further, I wish to ask about the Dock Regulations of 1934. That is a new code of regulations affecting docks. Earlier regulations were issued in 1925 and a new set became operative in 1934. I understand that while British employers have accepted the regulations and that they are becoming generally operative, there is difficulty with regard to foreign ships. 1646 I wish to know how far these regulations have been adopted in the case of foreign ships. Finally, there ought to be a closer association with the medical profession as regards the health of the workers. It is desirable that there should be a greater diffusion of knowledge concerning industrial diseases. There is an amount of ignorance abroad, and medical men ought to be encouraged, if they believe that the complaint from which a patient is suffering arises from the patient's occupation, to communicate that fact to the factory inspector or the Home Office. I trust that the Under-Secretary will be able to give attention to some of the points I have raised. I have put them forward in a friendly way, and I am glad that the whole course of the Debate has run so smoothly.
§ 7.25 p.m.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir ARNOLD WILSON
The hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Short) has spoken of accidents in lifts. May I express the hope that when the Under-Secretary replies he will deal with lift accidents which occur on hotel and restaurant premises, which, in law, if they employ more than 40 persons, are, I believe, classified as factories. If inspected at all they are not as a rule inspected in the matter of lifts. There have been a great many lift accidents, more particularly to juveniles, in the past few years, and the general impression is that they are increasing in number. Never a week passes without one reading a reference to some boy or girl who has been maimed or killed in a lift. I know from the predecessor of the Under-Secretary that systematic inquiries have been set on foot by the Home Office in order to endeavour to secure a higher standard of safety in such lifts. No action will be adequate unless the Factory Acts are so interpreted as to bring hotels and restaurants, within their scope, which I understand requires no fresh legislation.
The hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker) spoke about workmen's compensation. In cases of silicosis, dermatitis, nystagmus and similar occupation diseases the first essential is to re-condition the man and make him fit to follow some other occupation. It is not sufficient to pay compensation and have done with the case. It is not sufficient for the doctor to report that he is fit for some sort of work. There should 1647 be an organisation for ex-workmen, just as there is for ex-service men, to fit them for some other trade. It is done at training centres, beyond all praise, by the Ministry of Labour in the case of young men between 18 and 25 from the Special Areas, and I can see no good reason why men who have been found unfit for a particular trade by reason of an acquired disability should not be systematically trained for other occupations. It would unquestionably save us hundreds of thousands of pounds. Many a man is on the scrap heap simply because he has not had the opportunity to fit himself for another trade. To give him that opportunity would be consistent with the whole trend of our legislation, no changes in which are needed to continue the medical benefit until the man has been trained for another occupation.
In Vienna, I understand, the insurance companies have for many years past had a special clinic the business of which is to take a man who has lost three fingers or an arm or a leg and teach him how to make the best use of his remaining limbs and fit him to take his part in life. In every industrial town, almost in every street, in England there is a man, and sometimes more than one, who has been thrown on the scrap heap simply because nobody has taken the trouble to pick him up and polish him. A man may lack initiative, like many of us. He has been paid his legal compensation and has had proper medical treatment, but this has not gone so far as to fit him to do anything except to eat and drink and, finally, to decay. A little more stimulus applied to him at the right moment—sometimes perhaps harshly—to get him back into work by teaching him that there is an occupation which he can follow would, I believe, do more good than any modification of the law or the appointment of more inspectors.
The third point to which I wish to make reference is the Home Office Report on Workmen's Compensation for 1934, recently laid before the House. I do not think we shall get much further with improving workmen's compensation—and I for one greatly regret that the expected debate on Friday last did not take place—unless we have more figures and more information available to us than is to be found in the report. At the bottom of page 7 is a footnote which says: 1648These calculations take no account of one item of profit, viz., interest and dividends on reserves, for which complete figures are not available.Why should they not be available? We ought to have them. We cannot discuss these matters dispassionately and in a non-party spirit unless we know the facts. I see that 66 per cent. of the total sum received by the companies as premiums was expended in payment of compensation, and one-third went as expenses, of which rather more than £1,000,000 was paid as commission. Assuming for present purposes that workmen's compensation is a proper subject for private enterprise and private profit—which I do not myself admit, these figures suggest that the overhead costs involved are excessive. The figure of overhead charges is not stated definitely. We ought to know how it is divided up. Again, we do not know how much is incurred on legal and medical expenses in connection with the settlement of claims. I have some reason to believe that it may be as much as 15 per cent. So that, of the £11,000,000 which the employers paid, only half or less actually has reached the workmen.
§ It being Half-past Seven of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down. by direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 6, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.