HC Deb 05 March 1936 vol 309 cc1649-80

Postponed Proceeding resumed on Amendment proposed on Consideration of Resolution, That a sum, not exceeding £165,889,900, he granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the charges for the Civil and Revenue Departments for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937.

Question again proposed, "That '£165,890,000' stand part of the Resolution."

7.38 p.m.


We ought to know from the Home Office what are the actual overhead costs. In every annual report issued by the Home Office on this subject for the last five years, there appears the statement that in order to compute the total charge it would be necessary to take into account administrative expenditure, medical and legal costs, and what is placed to reserve and profits accounts. Of these things we know nothing and I submit that they should be in the next report. I find that by comparing this year's report with the reports of the last five years, although the cost of living has recently shown a tendency to go up, the actual average amounts paid as lump sums for disability have gone down year after year. That fact may be without significance, but, remembering that no less than £12,000,000 a year directly or indirectly will be paid by employers for workmen's compensation in this year and that it seems improbable that more than,£7,000,000 a year ever reaches the workmen's pockets, the overhead charges seem in all the circumstances to be excessive. I submit that the Home Office report should deal far more frankly and openly with these things. I hope that there will be further opportunities to discuss these questions. Meanwhile, I can only urge that the Home Office report on workmen's compensation should be far fuller than it has been in past years.

7.40 p.m.


It was said earlier in the Debate that a great variety of questions would be raised. I propose to add one more to the variety. I am probably carrying coals to Newcastle, but I would like to have an assurance on the subject I am about to mention. I want to urge on the Home Secretary the need for considering amendments to the petrol storage regulations. The existing regulations are good for their purpose at the moment. I speak with some acquaintance on the subject, because for the past 30 years, as a member of the local authority, I have sat on the committee that manages the fire brigade. I know therefore, that the petrol storage regulations are at the moment satisfactory. I wish the Home Office to consider, how- ever, that a new situation is arising in the world and that petrol, as it is stored at present, may be a grave danger in a national emergency. It is stored all over the place, and in some places it is in such bulk that it is likely to lead to serious public danger. I am sure the Home Office will agree that when petrol in bulk gets alight it is unmanageable and no fire brigade can deal with it. If we think of that from the standpoint of air raids, we shall appreciate that there is serious danger to the whole community. Tanks at present are sunk in the ground and hardly anyone is aware of their existence. They are scattered very thickly over London and fairly thickly in all the large towns, certainly in industrial areas.

I asked a question in the House as to the number of licences to store petrol in force in the Metropolitan Police area, and the number of licences to store up to 1,000 gallons and of licences to store above 1,000 gallons. The Department could not give the figures for the Metropolitan Police area, but supplied the figures for the London County Council area. There were 3,594 licences forquantities up to 1,000 gallons and 1,162 for quantities exceeding 1,000. As a member of the local authority in West Ham, I was able to get figures about the storage there which help to throw some light on the subject. There were 257 licences to store petrol. Licences to store in quantities not exceeding 10,000 gallons numbered 190. There are other licences ranging from 12,000 gallons up to one for storing 1,900,000. The total in bulk in West Ham amounts to nearly 5,000,000 gallons, and petrol stores are dotted about the place. The danger that arises does not come wholly from fire. Once a petrol tank fires when do air raid is taking place, it is a kind of beacon for the aircraft that may be coming on. It would also act as an illuminant when they arrived, and would be an invaluable aid to an attacking force.

Apart from the danger to life and property, there is another aspect to be considered, and that is the great danger to productive power. The right hon. Gentleman will know how important that is in war time. It might well be that an important factory would be put out of action. From our experience in the last war we know that a factory staffed by women might be worth as much as a whole brigade of men in the field. Therefore, this question is of tremendous importance. I suggest that the Home Office should take into consideration the advisability of prohibiting altogether the storage of petrol in residential areas, while in factory areas where it is stored in bulk it should be stored in bomb proof shelters. Very large bulk storage should be away from the large towns and thickly populated areas generally. No doubt the Department are giving attention to this matter, but I should like the public to be assured that it is not being lost sight of.

7.46 p.m.


I should like to call attention to the question of compensation as it affects the country generally but my division and Northumberland in particular. The latest figures that have been issued by the Department give no evidence of reduction in the numbers of persons making applications for compensation. In 1930 the percentage was 22.35 and in 1934 it was 22.30. My reason for drawing attention to this matter is the very great hardship—a hardship nearly indescribable, so far as the miners in Northumberland are concerned—which the present system involves. In Northumberland we regulate compensation on the average wage and the average number of days per week worked. We do that because we believe it to be the lesser of two evils. The effect is that when our men are in receipt of full compensation they receive—I am speaking of the skilled worker, the man at the coal face—23s. 9d. a week but if they happen to live in what is known as a free colliery house a deduction of 5s. per week is made from their compensation. I should like to say with regard to the wages of skilled workers in the mining industry that no one appreciates more than the miners the fact that in the recent attempt to obtain better wages the general public, for the first time in my memory, came on to the side of the miner because they believed that in existing circumstances they were not being properly remunerated for their labour. The men who receive compensation are broken in industry and as much entitled to be compensated in the full sense. of the word as any man who, in time of war, gives his brain, his brawn and risks his life in the service of the nation.

When the 5s. has been deducted, 18s. 9d. is left. But that is overstating the case, because certain other deductions have to be made. A deduction of 6d. a week is made for coals, doctor's fees, etc., and that reduces the amount to something less than 17s. a week. I am not sure that the Horne Office is aware of the misery and privation that is going on. After a few weeks, during which they have spent the little bit that they have saved, the men have to apply for public assistance relief. It will be agreed that 18s. 9d. or 18s. a week is not sufficient to keep a man, an injured men, who requires something more than when he was in full health and strength.

Now I come to another aspect of this question, to which I hope the Home Office will give attention, and that is the light work side of the problem. Something must be done so far as light work compensation is concerned. I am speaking of the man who is certified for light work and is unable to obtain work. The lot of that man is beyond me to describe. There is no element of justice for the light work man. He has been broken and injured, is unable to get work and is in receipt of light work compensation. He eventually drifts to the means test, and the light work compensation is then taken into consideration. Before I come to the question of nystagmus, of which I have had more experience than I ever wanted to have, I should like to draw attention to another matter which particularly affects Northumberland. In the old days of hand production our young men when they had served their apprenticeship became coal-getters at the age of 21. If as boys they suffered serious accident they were able to get a review into the higher class into which they would have graduated. We generally associate the word "graduated" in the educational sense, and it is applicable in this case because in working through it the boy gets a great deal of education. In the old days he would have been eligible for the higher rate of compensation as a coal-getter, but as things stand at the moment unless he gets his review at 21½ years he is shut out.

We had a case before the county court at Ashington and the judge was most sympathetic and would have liked to have granted the necessary review for the young man in question, but it was argued by the other side that no coal-getter started at 21½ years but that their ages were usually 23 to 25. I would draw the attention of the Home Office to that point, because I feel sure that under the Act it was never intended that young men or boys who for the rest of their lives are permanently injured should be calculated for compensation on the lowest grade in the colliery. That is what is happening to-day. An enormous amount of money must be spent and care taken to ensure that statutes are foolproof, but I have come to the conclusion that there must be a good deal more money spent and a good deal more thought given by people in industry in finding a way round the Acts which have been with such meticulous care placed on the Statute Book. What is happening in Northumsberland to-day is that young men graduate to the hewing class at the age of 21 but they are 23 before they get there. The judge in the case mentioned took a sympathetic view but he had reluctantly to refuse the application. I should like the Home Secretary to pay attention to that matter.

Now I come to nystagmus, the most terrible thing in the coalfields to-day. I worked at a colliery both below and on the surface and, therefore, I can speak on this question with some measure of authority. Before that colliery began active production there was a colliery in the neighbourhood working with open lights and nystagmus was a thing never heard of in that colliery. That colliery closed, and I was instrumental in getting practically every man at that colliery work at the new one, where there were electric lamps. Shortly after they went there, nystagmus made its appearance on the scene, and year after year it grew, increasingly. My view is that that colliery did everything possible—at least, they appeared to do everything possible with the means at their disposal—to circumvent and meet the disease. They coloured the glasses, they canary-tinted them, and they did everything they could to endeavour to reduce the rate of nystagmus, but without effect. At that time, though unfortunately we are not often taken into consideration in these matters —the management claim that as their prerogative—I thought, and I think yet, that if we put canary tints around the glass, we should increase the candlepower at least to equal that tint and if possible to exceed it.

I come to a more serious side of the question. Men certified for nystagmus receive compensation at the full rate for a period, and then they go to the medical referee. We had a man as medical referee in Carlisle who was probably one of the ablest men in this country, and he told me repeatedly that his job was to examine a man on the day that he appeared before him and to certify him on that day. The man probably had nystagmus the next day, but he had not got it the day he was there. I therefore submit for the consideration of the Home Office that it would be wise for them to endeavour to see that before a man is declared fit, or partially fit, he should at least have more than one examination. If he is certified partially fit, it would not be asking too much that he should be given an opportunity to do the job which the medical man thinks he can do.

Imagine what happens on coming before a medical man who has probably never been in the bowels of the earth and has not the slightest comprehension of what it means to work in a 2 feet 1 inch or a 1 foot 9 inch seam. He certifies that the man can go in there and do the work in there. I think I am asking a most reasonable request when I ask that this side of the question should be taken into consideration and that before a man is definitely determined as able, in the opinion of the medical referee, to do a certain class of work, the employer should be compelled to give the man a job. Then for, say, a period of a month or more, let him do the job, and then go back to the medical referee. If at the end of that period, after the trial on work, the medical referee was satisfied, there would be some measure of equity and some certainty that the medical referee's decision was based on sound knowledge.

We have men, any number of them, who, when once the hall-mark of nystagmus is placed upon them, find it a curse and are branded as much as Cain was branded, as we read in Holy Writ. What is he to do? He is certified fit, he is clear, and at the first colliery to which he goes he is asked if he has ever had nystagmus. He does not get an examination if he say he has had it. That is the end of it; they are taking no more risks with such a man. Therefore I want the Home Office to take that aspect of the matter into consideration and to see to it that if a man is unable to get work because he has been branded with this industrial disease, then, unless he can get work, he should have full compensation, because he is suffering as a result of a disease that he has caught in producing the coal for this nation. I ask that, believing that it is a reasonable request.

There is one other point to which I would like to draw attention. Would it be possible for the Home Secretary to take further into consideration the advisability of having more than one man to examine our men? We feel, as workmen, that it would be a matter of great satisfaction if there was more than one man to examine us, because even the best of men are liable to err and their judgment be at fault, and we believe that if there was more than one man, that element of chance would be entirely removed. When our workmen go on to compensation they are entering on to a period of their life which is the most terrible that can happen to any man. I once had that brought home to me many years ago, and I have never forgotten the lesson. I was playing football, and I got a twisted cartilage. I was on the ground, but the game was going on. Our men only get a fair crack of the whip when they have their hands and brains and muscles in the industrial world, and when they are not able to stand up and play their part, it is a terrible thing for them. I believe the suggestion which I have made would help at least to smooth those rough places and ensure justice to the workmen.

8.8 p.m.


I feel sure the Secretary of State for the Home Department will be highly pleased with himself to-day; he will have listened to less criticism of his Department than has been the case for many years past on a Vote on Account. He disarmed most of the criticisms that might otherwise have been levelled against him when he replied to my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) on the treatment of the Jews. Although I do not think there is a single Jew in my Parliamentary division, I feel I should be speaking for a goodly number of folk if I said that they will echo to the full the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman on this very difficult problem. Fascists in particular, and probably Communists too on occasion, imagine that this system of government which gives us freedom of speech and the right to express our opinions in print is too feeble a thing to defend itself. I am quite satisfied that if this form of government which we have gradually established in this country and which gives us the right of a Parliament and free discussion were ever seriously attacked, then this thing called political democracy would be able to defend itself successfully against all attacks upon it. I say, therefore, that political democracy in this country is not that feeble and timid instrument that some people suppose it to be.

I have listened to most of the Debate to-day, and we have traversed some new ground. If I may mention it in passing, I was very pleased with the suggestion that came from the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson). I think the problem with which he dealt has been touched upon on more than one occasion, but I have never heard it elaborated to such an extent as he did, and I would commence my remarks on that very issue. Some years ago I had the privilege of sitting on a Departmental Committee set up by the Home Office to inquire into the problem of treating young offenders, and I was asked, with another member of that committee, if we would proceed to Belgium to find out for ourselves, and to report on our visit, what the Belgian Government were actually doing in the realm of psycho-analysing young delinquents. Frankly, I was agreeably surprised to find out what they were able to achieve. There was what was called an observation centre in a town called Moll in Belgium. All the young delinquents in Belgium were brought to the observation centre, and before they were handed over to the schools, the teachers and the masters, the medical officer and the psycho-analyst found out first of all what was wrong medically and mentally with the children.

It is amazing what they have been able to achieve, and one thing they have found out is that some children were mentally incapable of knowing when they were committing a wrong against society. It seemed to us, when we reported to the Departmental Committee later on, that it would be well if our country followed suit and established some observation centres here for the same purpose. The hon. Member for Chesterfield dealt with psycho-analysing adult offenders. I want to touch upon the same problem as it affects juveniles. The Home Office is now about to establish eight new approved schools. They used to be called reformatory schools, but we have a. better name for them now. I hope the Under-Secretary of State will ask his Department if it will not utilise two or three of these new schools and establish in them observation centres, so that the Home Office will not thrust children of different types, and outlook, and mentalities all together in the same school and subject them to the same education and the same training.

There are many children in these Home Office schools to-day who are there because they just want care and protection. They are not there because they have committed an offence against society. I am told that these are mixed up with delinquent children who have passed through the courts and are there for training, and some of the training, of course, is of a rather severe type on occasion. It seems to me, therefore, that we might ask the Home Office if they will look at this problem once again. I am sure that one day some Government will get down to this problem of what is called the observation centre, in order to find out, not what offence the youngster has committed against society, but what ought to be done wih him when he is handed to the schoolmaster and the teacher; and for that purpose we think that the doctor and the psychoanalyst should be called in.

The remarks of the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys) was the only truculent speech that I have heard today. I do not know why the hon. Member got angry with us. I thought he was beginning to criticise his own Government, but he made a most remarkable statement about the Labour party when he said that we had always declared in our propaganda speeches that all the crime ever committed by mankind arose out of economic factors. We are naturally critical of the capitalist system, but there is no doubt that crime will persist in some form or other whatever system of society we may establish. One thing is certain, however, and every Member of Parliament will know that, were it not for the exploitation of the many by the few for their own personal aggrandisement, some crimes that are now committed against society would not emerge. We do not carry the case further than that in relation to crime.

I was very pleased that my, hon. Friend the Member for Brigg (Mr. Quibell) raised the very old problem of accommodation at police stations in some parts of the country. The story he told to-day was an extraordinary one—that the police station, with its housing and cell accommodation, owned and controlled by the county council in that area, would, if it had not been controlled by the county council, have been condemned by the local urban authority in whose district it was situated. That is a very deplorable state of affairs. In the city where I live the sanitary inspector always prosecutes his own local authority first; he expects the local authority to be more modern and up to date than the private owners of mills and factories. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to look into this problem of police and cell accommodation, especially in the township referred to by my hon. Friend.

I hope the hon. Gentleman will not mind my referring to one point that has not yet been touched upon. When we passed the Children Act a few years ago, the Government of that day put in a Clause providing that the courts should not order boys to be whipped by policemen—a very good provision. The Bill went to another place, where there was some difficulty, and in the end a Clause was again inserted in the Bill, so that magistrates can still order boys to be whipped. I think the Home Office have done their best to discourage magistrates from ordering boys to be whipped, and I should like anyone who hears my voice or reads the words that I utter to know that I consider that practice one of the most monstrous, namely, orders given by magistrates for boys to be whipped by policemen. It is the most brutal thing that I know of. I am astonished sometimes to see that magistrates still persist in giving these orders. I understand that the Home Office is in this respect almost better than the law. Of course, the Home Office is always better administered when Labour is in power than when hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are there; it is very much more merciful than it can be under this Government; but, even under this Government it has gone to the extent of asking that magistrates should not order boys to be whipped.

The hon. Gentleman will remember that, as from the 1st January this year, some 350,000 boys and girls employed in the distributive trades are under regulations in respect of hours of labour, and I have already seen reported some cases in which shopkeepers have pleaded ignorance of the existence of this new law. When we passed that Act, we handed over its administration to the Home Office, because they hold the baby, as it were, for every other Department that declines to hold a baby at all. I want to pay tribute to the Department's administration of the Shops Act, but I would ask them to go one further. It is not sufficient for Parliament to pass an Act. Unless the Department of State concerned will see to it that the local authorities appoint inspectors to implement the provisions of the Act, the Act itself is of no avail. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether the Home Office is satisfied that all the local authorities in this country have already appointed an adequate staff of shops inspectors to see that that Act is implemented properly? I think I am entitled to ask that question because, as the hon. Gentleman will know, I was on the Select Committee, which made recommendations which were translated later on into an Act of Parliament.

We used to be supplied with a very good report giving us information on the work of the Children's Branch of the Home Office. There are Borstal institutions, reformatory schools, hostels, and remand homes for children, to report upon but I have not seen that report for some years. I do not know why we should not get it. I thought it was a very human document, telling us what was being done for these thousands of delinquent children. I would urge the Home Office to consider letting us have that report again. It may cover two, or three, or even five years, but in any case Parliament ought to be supplied with a report, especially in view of the Children Act which we passed some years ago, and which, of course, has changed the whole manner of treatment of these children.

I am on a little more delicate ground when I come to the police. I speak with more emphasis on this subject because I have visited America twice, and know a little about the police administration in that country. I think it is creditable to us that our police force is probably the best in the world. Having said that, however, I would not like Parliament to pay so much tribute to our police that we would never at any time offer a single word of criticism of what they do. That would be carrying our tribute to the police to an absurdity. Those of us who live in the provinces, who come to London on Mondays and go home on Fridays, have been a little alarmed at the figures presented to us from time to time as to the number of persons arrested in London against whom no charge could be levelled when they were brought to the court. I do not think that happens in the provinces. I live in Manchester and it does not happen to the same extent there. I am not saying that because I live in Manchester. I suppose it would happen whether I lived there or not. Some explanation is necessary therefore before we can believe all that has already been said about these statistics.

Having said a word or two about the police, let me say something now about the police college. We had a discussion some years ago when the Commissioner of Police was demanding that these colleges should be set up. We were told some very wonderful things as to the necessity of bringing young men to he trained to meet the new type of criminal that was to be found in London. We have not heard much since about the college, and the time has arrived when we ought to be told how it is getting on. How many young men are there, and how many working-class boys are there, or are they all sons of the nobility and the aristocracy? Are they boys who must have matriculated? Are young men there from the universities? We shall be very interested in that information.

There is some apprehension in the minds of some people that the police are a little meticulous when they find pacifist literature being distributed. I have some bias myself in favour of pacifist literature and I should not like the police to be too keen when they are scrutinising what is printed on that subject. There was a case at Cambridge which showed that the police went a little outside their domain. Then will the hon. Gentleman tell us how many women police there are in the country, whether the number is increasing and whether their appointment has been justified by the results?

I should like to put a pertinent question in relation to the use of the Criminal Investigation Department by provincial forces. It has been alleged in some quarters that provincial forces are unwilling that they should intervene, I suppose because there is a little jealousy. I should imagine that the hon. Gentleman would be able to give us some information whether there is a more extensive use of that Department in the provinces than used to be the case.

I think I am entitled too to ask a question about the dismissal of two prison officers at Oxford. A manifesto was issued respecting them and I feel sure that anyone who reads it will conclude that they have not had fair play. I think the Home Office ought to justify itself as to the alleged harsh treatment meted out to them. It would appear that a great deal more ought to be said about these dismissals.

Not very many years ago we passed the Incitement to Disaffection Act, and we were told we were bound to pass it because there were evil-minded people ready to rock the pillar of the State from its socket—people inciting others to do things against the constitution, whatever that meant. The Attorney-General practically told us that, unless we passed it, he was not so sure that the British Empire could withstand these evil influences and he would not be responsible for the consequences. That was a very strong statement to make. The time has, therefore, arrived to ask how many of these evildoers have been collected in the net. If they were there at the time they must have been collected since. We ought to be told how many there are of them.

My last point is on something much more serious. It relates to the terrible disease of silicosis. I have taken a slight interest in industrial diseases. Some years ago I had something to do with helping to pass a law which has happily reduced the numbers of painters suffering from the terrible disease of lead poisoning. If an Act of Parliament can save the life of one individual, it is worth passing. Some of us are not at all happy about this matter of silicosis. The incidence of the disease continues to be serious and widespread. During the three years 1932–1934 the Silicosis Medical Board have certified 52 cases of disablement and 17 deaths from ganister mines and silica brickworks, 252 cases of disablement and 79 deaths from the getting and manipulation of sandstone at quarries or premises worked in conjunction therewith, 289 cases of disablement and 92 deaths from the pottery industry, 532 cases of disablement and 105 deaths from coal mines and 319 cases of disablement and 142 deaths from other industries. It is very strange indeed that when society conquers one disease and feels itself on top of it, another new disease comes along and we have to combat that too. Sufferers in some parts of our coalfields are feeling a little sore at the way they are being treated under the present silicosis scheme. They say you must practically be dead before you can claim compensation. It is put in a very crude form, but it is understandable.

The medical profession have had considerable experience by this time and ought to be able to diagnose silicosis as well as they diagnose Bright's disease or any other complaint. From the printed documents that come into our hands it would seem the medical profession will have reached that stage at the moment. I know that the main trouble is the unwillingness of the premium insurance companies who cover workmen's compensation cases. If I had my way, I would take workmen's compensation funds entirely out of the hands of the profit maker. If there is one thing in this world that wants doing by some government, it is to see that no person or group of persons shall be able to make 10 per cent. out of broken limbs in collieries, factories and workshops, because that is what it means. The day may come when another government of a different kind will be in power. If I am in that Parliament the first thing I shall ask that government to do will be to bring under public control, once and for all, the funds of workmen's compensation, so that men who are bruised in mines and women who are injured in factories shall have the full benefit of the premiums paid in respect of them.

8.36 p.m.


We have had a Debate to-day, as I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) opposite will agree, that illustrates once again the point that he made, and of which he is so well aware, and that is, the wide range of subjects dealt with by the Home Office. Therefore, the House will not expect me to reply, at any rate certainly not in detail, to every point that has been raised to-day, although I shall try to reply to some of the main divisions of the important subjects which have been raised. The House can take it for granted that we in the Home Office shall examine the Debate to-day with great care, and that we shall note carefully and consider, wherever possible, the suggestions that have been made by hon. Members.

Perhaps before I get on to some of the other subjects raised to-day, I might just touch upon the subject raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Sandys), because it is unrelated really to the other subjects with which we are dealing, although it comes under the Home Office. It is the question of the medical profession and air raid precautions. I can give him the assurance at once that we have not in the least overlooked the great importance of this matter, and that we are already taking a number of steps in regard to it. We are in touch with medical officers of health all over the country in connection with the medical aspect of air raid precaution schemes, and a doctor has recently been appointed to the staff of the Air Raid Precautions Department. Lectures have been arranged with the British Medical Association to interest general practitioners in our problem, and the Department is in touch with the medical officers attached to the Ministry of Health. In addition a doctor has been attached to the staff of the Anti-Gas School. I give those details of what we are doing at present. I do not say that they are necessarily comprehensive or that they indicate what should be done in the future, but they will give a background to the assurance I give, that we are fully alive to this question.

I do not want to weary the House by an unduly long speech, which would be essential if I were to reply to all the points which have been raised. I should not like to continue my remarks to-night without making at least a passing reference to the speech which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made at the beginning of the Debate. It was very satisfactory that the Home Secretary was able to make that statement and that the House received it in the manner in which it did. I do not think that hon. Gentlemen will think that I am unduly straining the point when I say that it gave great satisfaction on the point of which he was speaking, and secured general assent as regards problems connected with the functions of the police. I think that it indicates that the public arid the House are at present satisfied with the way in which the police are being administered in regard to this question to-day.

There was one question raised by the junior Member for Dundee (Mr. Foot) and touched upon by the hon. Member for Westhoughton. It was the incident that took place at Duxford when certain pacifist pamphlets were taken away by a police officer. The House will realise that the Home Secretary is not directly responsible for the provincial police forces, but he has general functions with regard to supervision and also a general duty in regard to the preservation of public order, and, therefore, it is right for him to give information with regard to episodes that may occur under those provincial jurisdictions. We have ascertained the facts in regard to this matter, and I will put them before the House.

It was rather interesting that my hon. Friend the Member for Penryn and Falmouth (Mr. Petherick), commenting upon the raising of this case, said, "I quite understand that, but, of course, there must be exceptions to the legalistic point of view raised by the hon. Gentleman," and he said, for example, that if certain behaviour had taken place at the Jubilee celebrations it might have been very provocative. That is exactly what was happening. His late Majesty King George V was reviewing the Air Force at Mildenhall and Duxford, and while he was at Mildenhall a lady, no doubt very sincerely but somewhat misguidedly in the circumstances, tried to throw a pamphlet into His Majesty's car through the open window. Fortunately the attempt did not succeed, but there was evidence of strong resentment on the part of bystanders. Information was telephoned to the police at Duxford, and it was in those circumstances that, fearing a repetition of some similar incident, the police gave an instruction that these leaflets were to be confiscated and prevented from being distributed. As the House knows, this action was challenged in a court of law and the judge said that he was satisfied that the police officers were acting within a bona fide conception of their duty. In the circumstances he held that they were mistaken and that there would not have been a breach of the peace, and he awarded damages of £1, which indicated, no doubt, the view the judge took of the seriousness of the episode.

I would point out (and I think everybody will agree) that whatever this may prove, it certainly does not show any overbearing conduct on the part of the police. It shows the smooth way in which our constitutional arrangements work, in that, after this episode had taken place, it was the most natural thing in the world that it should be challenged in the courts. The judge took the view he did, and there the matter ended. I think the House will agree, when they consider all the circumstances, and the great responsibilities with which the police have to contend on special occasions of this kind, that it is not a matter upon which one need spend a great deal of time. Indeed, when we recall that this is the sort of incident that is brought up as a case of possible bad behaviour on the part of the police, which resulted in damages of £1, we can consider ourselves lucky in this country that that is the sort of thing which arises here and is dealt with in the ordinary course of our law.

The next large subject of interest raised was the psychological treatment of delinquents. We have had interesting speeches on the matter, to a large extent from the benches opposite. Hon. Members will agree that there has been a great movement in this country of recent years towards a more progressive and sympathetic view of the treatment which should be given to delinquents of all kinds, and especially to juvenile delinquents. The Home Office has not been uninfluenced by that movement, and this House has passed legislation in regard to juvenile delinquents which has been in the spirit of that movement. The point which was raised in regard to psychological treatment is part of that general movement, perhaps the most advanced and the most speculative. We have treated it from that point of view.

The House would expect from the Home Office in a matter of this kind that, while our minds should be thoroughly open to all new schools of thought in these subjects, we should not rashly adopt schemes or theories which are as yet not thoroughly tried out and approved. There is a scientific basis for certain psychological theories, but it is necessary to point out that psychologists have not achieved complete agreement among themselves, and that would indicate the need for a certain degree of caution in advancing along those lines. The Home Office have not their eyes closed in this matter. Hon. Members will be aware that a Departmental committee on the question of persistent offenders said that there was reason to suppose that certain delinquents might be amenable to psychological treatment and that, although the scope of such treatment was probably limited, the time had arrived when selected delinquents should be placed voluntarily under psychological treatment, and that the results should be published in due course.

The Home Office have sent a circular to courts of summary jurisdiction in which they draw attention to the desirability of obtaining a medical report on the offender in any case where the circumstances of the offender, or his demeanour when before the court, suggests doubt as to his mental condition. That is only one side of the question. It may well be that there are some offenders who are not mentally normal and who ought to be under some form of restraint, but who cannot be dealt with except by being sent to prison. The question arises as to how you are to treat them there. The Home Office have appointed a specialist in mental psychology as part-time medical officer at one of the London prisons. The arrangement is still in an experimental stage, and it is too early to arrive at any conclusions as to the type of case which is most likely to respond to such treatment or to give permanent results. The experiment will be continued, and considerable information as to the results will in due course be available.

For the benefit of hon. Gentlemen who were not here when I introduced this subject, I will sum it up by saying that the Home Office have not their minds closed on this subject, and are not unsympathetic to the consideration of modern progressive theories, but, on the other hand, they could not take rash decisions on matters which are not fully explored. That is the difficulty that faces the Home Office. Hon. Members can rely upon our considering the whole subject very carefully.

My hon. Friend who raised the question of aliens gave a number of interesting figures. He appreciates, I am sure, that there are various sources of these figures, and that we are not in a position to accept as accurate the figures which he produced. I make no reflection upon him, of course; his figures came from a reputable source. Our figures are based upon our own operations. The key figure, in which he will be interested, is that the number of aliens registered with the police has fallen in the last 10 years. We could not, therefore, consider that there has been any large increase in the alien population such as might be indicated by the figure which he gave. I do not regard the matter as very urgent, but we will further consider it to see if we can reconcile the two sets of figures and I will communicate with him further.

I appreciate his point about the difficulties which a respectable foreigner has in coming to this country. Also a certain number of undesirable aliens do find their way here. I do not want to weary the House by dealing with this matter for too long, but I would say that we have certain recognised principles as to the admission of foreigners to this country. The Home Office accept the advice of the Ministry of Labour with regard to aliens who are seeking employment. The general principle is that we can allow foreigners into this country only if to do so will not prejudice the employment of British subjects. In spite of what is said about this, I do not think that either my hon. Friend or myself would wish to be too severe in any action which would prevent this country providing a reasonable asylum to those who wish to escape from persecution elsewhere. We have been considering the subject, especially in the light of recent questions in this House. However perfect may be the system for the control of the entry of foreigners into the country, the measures taken cannot always be proof against the ingenious criminal. There are such things as forged passports and landing in this country by means of boats. We cannot prevent entry in every case, but we are alive to the problem, and we take every measure that is possible. It is not easy to effect an entrance into this country, but in certain cases entry is almost impossible to prevent.

That brings me to the other great division of the subject which we are discussing to-day, the question of industrial disease and accidents, on which the hon. Member for Westhoughton mentioned some interesting points. I would like to reply first to the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Short), on the subject of hoists. The provisions of the Factory Acts on the subject are practically limited to saying that hoists. oust be securely fixed. In view of the practical difficulty and the heavy expenditure of bringing hoists up to date, progress, though considerable, seems somewhat slow. I know that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate the point that in some industries that use hoists to a considerable extent, for example, in the North of England, there are very had cases, and it has been very difficult in their case to introduce up-to-date hoists, but we have our eye very much on this question. I greatly appreciate that it has been raised. It is contemplated that in the Factory Bill which may be introduced next Session the provisions as to hoists will be considerably strengthened.

I was in the Industrial Museum of the Home Office this morning and I went into the question of hoists. We have there a very up-to-date example of the best type of industrial hoist. One would like to see such a hoist in as many factories as possible in this country. The ingenuity in regard to safety devices incorporated in it is very striking when you examine it carefully. As to the regulations relating to the loading and unloading of ships, they apply to foreign ships in the same way as to British ships. I have not heard of any special difficulty, but will inquire into any complaint that foreign vessels are not complying with the regulations.

Before I deal with the question of industrial accidents and disease may I just answer a point put by the hon. Member for Westhoughton with regard to the loaning of members of the Criminal Investigation Department to provincial forces? Arrangements were made as long ago as 1906 for detective officers of special skill and experience in the Metropolitan Police district to be available to assist other forces in the investigation of serious crime when application is made for their services by the local chief constable. When these officers are sent to assist the local police force they remain under the direct control of the Commissioner and carry out their investigations in close co-operation with the chief constable of the local police force and his officers, and report to the chief constable their progress and results. The number of cases in which this aid has been actually sought is quite small. There were three cases in 1931, none in 1932, two in 1933, and six in 1934.

The question of policewomen is one of great interest. Two committees have inquired into this subject and both recommended that the employment of women in a particular force should be left to the discretion of the local police authority concerned. We are not in a position to press these local police forces; it is left to their discretion. What is within our control is the position in the Metropolitan Police. The number of policewomen employed in the Metropolitan Police district has fluctuated mainly for financial reasons. On 1st January, 1931, there were 47, and in December last 66, and the Home Secretary recently sanctioned an increase to 142, but it will take some time to reach that figure owing to the difficulty of finding women suitable to join the police force.

Let me say one word on the question of the arrest of suspected persons. The hon. Member for Westhoughton was inclined to take the view that the figures of persons arrested on suspicion and charged with loitering with intent to commit a felony was unduly large in the Metropolitan district. I cannot agree with him. The duty of the police is to prevent crime whenever possible, and there is no doubt that this is an important method of preventing crime. The police are convinced that they have been able by the use of this power to prevent a substantial amount of crime. It is the duty of the police to bring these persons before the court if they have sufficient grounds for believing that their conduct is open to suspicion, and it is the business of the court to decide whether a case has been made out. In many cases where a magistrate dismisses a charge he has made it clear that the police were justified in bringing the defendant before the court. If the practice in this matter were seriously changed the police would be hampered in preventing crime, and I can assure the House that constant vigilance is exercised to guard against any improper use of the power of arrest.


Without in any way criticising the activities of the police in this matter, will the Under-Secretary look into the statistics of provincial police and populations, and see whether the figure for London is not really very much larger in proportion?


I will certainly look into that. In regard to the question of industrial disease and accidents, every hon. Member will agree that silicosis is one of the most important matters that can be raised, and if I deal with this at some length may I assure hon. Members that we will look carefully into the points raised regarding workmen's compensation and in particular to the subject of miners' nystagmus. There is a Committee sitting at the present time on this matter and I do not think we can have a very useful discussion before we get the report of that Committee. With regard to silicosis, I agree with the hon. Member that it is one of the most terrible industrial scourges that exist. It is a curious and insidious disease, due to infinitesimal particle of silica dust which can be liberated by any rock or stone which has a considerable portion of silicon in its composition. They are invisible to the eye except across a beam of sunlight. Hon. Members have asked that the disease should be dealt with under the ordinary provisions and scheduled as an industrial disease, but there are certain facts in regard to the disease which make it inappropriate to deal with it in that way. It progresses slowly. These minute particles get into the recesses of the lungs. A number of them are removed with the mucous secretions and a certain number stay there and are only removed by the internal processes of the body. But there is a limit to what the body can do in removing these particles of silica, and if a person is exposed for any length of time to the infection a slow inflammatory reaction is set up which is progressive and gets gradually worse. Therefore, it is very slow in its onset, and that is one reason why it is not suitable to be scheduled under the ordinary provisions.

The other reason is that it is difficult to diagnose. No ordinary doctor can tell with any degree of certainty whether a particular man is suffering from silicosis or some other pulmonary condition, and an elaborate medical machinery, including a medical board, is necessary whereby the most expert skill possessed by the radiographer shows beyond doubt whether a man has silicosis or not. In general we feel that it is not wise to scrap all the work that has been done in gradually building up this complex system of silicosis schemes—because there are a number of schemes—which have been added to and improved as the result of experience. We feel that it is better to go on, as we are at present, experimenting on and making researches into the causes of the disease; we are ready to examine any evidence that is brought to us as to the occurrence of the disease in any other occupations or any other circumstances, and none in time to make improvements in the scheme.


I think all hon. Members agree that the ordinary medical practitioner cannot diagnose the disease by a clinical diagnosis at all, and can only say whether there is lung trouble. In the remarks I made I put it to the hon. Gentleman that the machinery of the medical boards could still be retained, and I hope it will be retained not only for this but for other industries, in place of the medical referee and the certifying surgeon.


I will not go into that question to-night because it raises a very complicated matter and would, of course, involve legislation. I would like to discuss the question afterwards with the hon. Gentleman, but in my remarks to-night I will confine myself to stating that our view, as we are at present advised, is that we should improve these schemes in detail as they continue and as our knowledge grows. At the present time we are conducting a number of examinations with regard to silicosis, and, in particular, the Medical Research Council is at work on the subject. Another side of the matter which has not been dealt with very much to-night and to which I would direct the attention of hon. Members, is the prevention of silicosis, a question which is receiving considerable attention from the Home Office. As many hon. Members are aware there are special processes, the main principle of all of them being the suppression of the dust, which can be achieved by a number of methods. For instance, there is exhaust ventilation, which is applied in innumerable methods to different types of machinery; there is the method of putting water upon the material that is being used; and there are certain other methods, the use of respirators of a certain type being one of them—in fact, in the Home Office we think we have a simple and better type of respirator with regard to silica dust.

A good deal is being done in co-operation with employers in certain industries for the elimination of siliceous material. I will give the House two examples. Grinding processes used to be done, particularly in Sheffield, with siliceous material, but now to a very large extent we have secured the use of emery or artificial abrasives; which means that young people entering the industry in Sheffield to-day, in so far as they are using artificial abrasives or emery, are to all intents and purposes not exposed to the risk of silicosis at all. The same applies with regard to sand-blasting for cleaning castings. In a very large number of cases we have been able to secure the substitution of steel shot for quartzose sand, which means the substitution of a non-siliceous material and the removal of the risk.


Before leaving the question of silicosis, I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether the Home Office is making any researches in connection with a process for grinding involving the use of oyster shells? I think that if the Department made some research on those lines it might obtain some very interesting results.


I cannot say to-night whether that question is being investigated. I would like to conclude by referring to the prevention of accidents in general from the Home Office point of view. We are very much alive to our function of assisting in the prevention of accidents, although we know, as hon. Members will appreciate, that accidents can in fact only be prevented by the co-operation of all concerned, employers and employés alike. A great many accidents are not caused by machinery at all, but by ordinary operations which are not connected with machinery. So far as the prevention of accidents caused by machinery is concerned, the Home Office is playing a very active part. I would like to draw the attention of hon. Members to the Home Office Industrial Museum, which is in Horseferry Road, very near the House. As many hon. Members know, we have there a clearing house for knowledge from all parts of the country in relation to safety, health and welfare in factories. There is nothing theoretical about the museum, and the term "museum" is really a misnomer. Practically every machine in the museum is in use in industry to-day, and there is no doubt that extremely good work is being done by these practical demonstrations of the latest machinery for the prevention of accidents so far as machines are concerned.

I was recently in the museum myself, and I must confess that I was very much struck by the work being done. There I was able to see the actual pair of spectacles which a worker engaged in an oil refinery wore, and congealed upon them was the hot oil which flew out of a defective valve at a temperature of between 600 and 700 degrees Fahrenheit straight towards his eye—which would have meant the loss of his sight but for those spectacles. There are many other examples of spectacles which have prevented the loss of sight and on which one can still see the molten aluminium or molten caustic which would have caused an accident but for the spectacles. I would appeal to hon. Members who are interested in the question of industrial accidents and health to visit the museum, if they have not done so already, and if my voice reaches outside I would address that appeal to employers, especially to those progressive employers who want to help in this matter. If they pay such a visit, they will learn much that will be to their advantage.


Is that invitation open to Members of Parliament?


Naturally, and it is open to the public as well. But I hope hon. Members opposite will visit the Museum, because they know that in certain cases when safety machinery is first introduced the more conservative type of older workman feels that it is something new and that it may be something which would make his job more difficult to do. This is often the feeling they have when they are on piece work, and it is a natural feeling. We should be very grateful if hon. Members would use their great influence with the workpeople with a view to persuading them to take a, modern and progressive attitude with regard to using the latest accident-preventing machinery.


In my speech I raised the important question of carbon monoxide poisoning from which the drivers of petrol-driven buses suffer. Could the hon. Gentleman make some statement or send me a statement regarding this matter?


I am sorry I could not deal with the hon. Gentleman's point. As a matter of fact, the Home Office has no direct functions with regard to bus drivers, but I have ascertained that the matter is in fact being examined by a medical committee at the present time.

9.15 p.m.


I am sure all hon. Members wish to congratulate the Under-Secretary on the way in which he has replied to the Debate. We all appreciate the vast subject he has taken on and the assiduity he has given to his task; and we must all feel satisfaction that he has been able to follow up so many aspects of the Department's work. There is one subject which I understand was to be raised to-day either by the Home Secretary or the Under-Secretary and which was dealt with indirectly by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies). It is the subject of juvenile delinquents. I believe this to be one of the most important matters that comes under the aegis of the Home Office. I believe, too, that the whole future of the administration of children's courts in this country depends on the work of the probation officers and I would ask the Under-Secretary for an assurance that the Home Office will have inquiry made into the working of the children's courts, especially in those parts of the country where there are no whole-time probation officers.

When this matter came before the House some years ago it was laid down and, I think, was intended by Parliament, that local benches of magistrates should recognise that by the establishment of children's courts it was desired to take charge of juveniles and prevent them falling into the category of criminals. It is no use having a children's court if a child is to be brought before a bench consisting of a number of old gentlemen of 70 or 80 who have no conception of what a child's ideas are. What we want to do is to inculcate into the minds of magistrates throughout the country the necessity of trying to understand the child mentality. That is why I ask the Home Office to make inquiries as to the number of whole-time probation officers who have been appointed by local authorities in the various counties. We cannot expect the children's courts to function properly unless there are probation officers who are trained to the work, who take a sympathetic interest in the children and are able to help the children to gain that experience and find that employment which will remove them from the area of crime. If the hon. Gentleman examines the archives of the Home Office I think he will find that in those counties where there are no whole-time officers, the statistics show that the children's courts are not functioning as Parliament intended them to function.

I apologise to the House for intervening at this stage in the Debate but I feel that the question of the care of these children is of such importance that special attention ought, to be paid to it by us. It is no use for us to lie back in self-satisfaction and to say that we have established children's courts, unless we follow up the working of those courts and see whether machinery exists to ensure that they are functioning according to the intentions of Parliament. If a boy or girl is haled before a bench of magistrates, found guilty of some small crime and subjected to a savage sentence, the experience sears the child's mind and puts the child right outside all hope of being saved. We, in this House, pass Acts of Parliament but over and over again we leave the operation of those Acts to local authorities. Indeed, I think we are piling too much on to the shoulders of local authorities. We must recognise that if we do not inquire how legislation works after we have passed it, we are guilty of trying to avoid our responsibility. It is for us to see, not only that legislation is passed, but that the machinery for operating it is working satisfactorily throughout the country. I, therefore, ask the Under-Secretary to consider setting up a, departmental committee to ascertain how the children's courts are working. It would be easy to ascertain from the chief constables what is happening and it is the solemn duty of the Home Office to see that the Children Acts are being observed. Every child who is neglected in this respect becomes a potential criminal and we ought to see to it that child offenders are subjected to a more modern and a more humane jurisdiction than the ordinary criminal law.

9.21 p.m.


I would not have intervened in this Debate had it not been for the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) because my experience bears out much of what he has said. In Sunderland some years ago we had a chief constable who is now the chief constable of Newcastle and who felt, like the hon. and gallant Member opposite, that it was wrong to drag children charged with trivial offences before the magistrates in the first instance. What he did was to act in a paternal way towards the children who got into trouble. The children were brought not into the police court but before a fatherly superintendent in the police station with their fathers and mothers. They were kindly dealt with, the parents were given useful information and the subsequent career of the children was followed up by the police, not with the object of making the children criminals, but with the object of helping the. children to do better. That has had a marvellous effect upon child life in our town.

With regard to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member opposite about aged men on the bench, may I say that I do not think there is anybody more capable of dealing with the impishness of children than the man who is the father of a family himself and who has had to live with children and to be responsible for them. That is why I object to stipendiary magistrates in this connection because I feel that they are cold-blooded. Some of my hon. Friends may object to the theory that lawyers are any more cold-blooded than other people, but I think stipendiary magistrates are so steeped in law that they forget the necessity of dealing with the children in a parental way. I would suggest appointment of additional lay magistrates who are apt to deal more tenderly with children. Generally speaking, I think it will be agreed that the police have become more tender, not only to children but to adult offenders. In connection with the bench where I have the honour to sit, we have a superintendent who takes a very keen interest in the children and who does all he can when children have been brought before the court to assist the parents of those children in getting them back on to proper lines. The tragedy unfortunately is that many children of 14 or 15 years have nowhere to go and have no work and are very liable to get into mischief.

There is a greater responsibility and duty falling upon magistrates to-day than ever there was, but there is also greater sympathy all round for the children. I think the Home Office ought to give more encouragement to the police in this respect as I must admit they have already done in connection with adult offenders. In my day the police were rewarded according to the number of convictions which they obtained. Nowadays, watch committees are not so ready to give preference to the officer who has succeeded in gaining a number of convictions and I think we ought to be more concerned about giving promotion to the man who knows how to handle these cases with kindliness and tact. I could give you some wonderful instances of that. If the Home Office could give more encouragement to the police to help children in consultation with their parents before taking them to the police courts I believe that the magistrates would be better able to deal with the problem later on.

9.26 p.m.


I was interested in the statement made by the Under-Secretary in regard to the instructions sent out to the London magistrates—I do not know whether they have been sent elsewhere—as to a psychologist being appointed in order to observe these children. I would like to know if that particular medical man is appointed to deal with boys and girls or with only one of the sexes, and also where this particular medical officer is situated. I would like to know also whether the Home Office have given any instructions to the magistrates with regard to these young people that they should be sent to the colonies for mental defectives. I am amazed as one of those responsible for the conduct of the two great mental colonies in London at the number of young children who are sent to us by the courts. I do not know why it is. I ask that that should be looked into. I do not want to see these young people being sent to prison. Very often the offences they are supposed to have committed are what many of us have done many times without the slightest penalty being attached to us, and there would be something wrong with us if we did not attempt some of these things. But I hope that the Home Office are not going to send these young people to colonies for mental defectives when some other method is required. If that instruction has been sent out I hope that further consideration will be given to it.

9.28 p.m.


There is one point about which I want to ask the Home Secretary, and that is the question of silicosis. I come from a district where workmen are gradually having their lungs encased in concrete. I want to know what the Home Office are doing in the work of protecting these men, and I welcome what we have heard to-night. I want to know whether there is a special silicosis fund and whether there is a special silicosis medical board. We have had quite recently a death from silicosis, and the widow and children, five of them, have got no compensation at all. Another case is that of a man who was certified by the medical board to be suffering from silicosis. He has not been able to get anything from the board and is at present on benefit at half rate. That is all that he has as income. What is being done now for the victims of this vile disease?