HC Deb 22 June 1943 vol 390 cc1114-30

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain McEwen.]

Mrs. Cazalet Keir (Islington, East)

I think my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department will agree that I had no choice but to raise the case of Mr. Somers on the Adjournment. Let me say at once that my constituent did not ask me to bring the matter before Parliament. In fact, I asked him whether he had any objection to my doing so, because I felt it my bounden duty not only to Mr. Somers himself but to all my constituents, to raise it here in order to give them confidence that any seeming infringement of their individual liberty can always be raised in the High Court of Parliament. The case is simply this. In December last, I received the following letter from my constituent:


"May I draw your attention to the behaviour of two plain clothes policemen whose numbers are 250G and 510G? These men stopped me on my way home from work and asked to see my identity card and National Registration card. I showed them these things and they insisted that I had not got my identity card from the right quarter. Then they opened my box of tools and pulled them all over the pavement. They seized on a switch box I was carrying and said that if I could not show a receipt for this I was going inside. These men acted so much like hooligans that I went to a policeman and asked him to identify them as police officers, as only one could produce a warrant card. I told them that if they hurried they could find the shop where I had been working open, and they could verify same answers I gave them, that they inclined to disbelieve. One replied that they don't hurry, because the Government pay them just the same. I told them that if they wanted to see the receipt for my switchbox I had it at home. They then said they would come home with me and I had to carry my tool case and push my bike all the way from Balls Pond Road. On the way home they loudly asked me all sorts of impertinent questions about how I get my jobs and who gave me my identity card. One of them was threatening and the other was wheedling. When I got to the door of my house I asked them to wait at the door while I got the receipt for the switchbox. They pushed passed me, however, and said that they thought I was a deserter and that they were not going to let me out of their sight. I reminded them that they were forcing their way into a private house and they said, 'That's all right.' They came up the stairs into my rooms and I had to explain to my wife that they were police officers. This and their subsequent behaviour so upset my wife, who is expecting a baby in about three weeks' time, that I thought she was going to be ill. They then asked to see all sorts of things—my discharge papers (I was invalided home from Egypt), ration books, my wife's identity card, my medical card, and all the time making such remarks as 'Come on mate, tell us who gave you your identity card or you are going to the station.' My wife got so frightened of them that she went and put in an emergency call for the police. In the meantime, my mother came up and one of the men threatened to take her to the police station. By the time they had finished asking for bills and papers my place looked as though it had been ransacked. They then left without a word of apology, saying they would make further inquiries. Just after they had gone the other police arrived and we explained the situation to them and I asked them if my identity card was in order and they said it was quite in order. These other officers were the efficient, courtly kind of men whom- we are accustomed to know as police officers, and I have no complaint at all to make against them. They told me that they would report the matter to the authorities at the station and said that one of the officers in charge would call on me later on. An officer did call later on and apologised for the men and said they were over zealous. I hope I am not vindictive, but police officers acting like Gestapo hooligans surely strikes at the very foundations of democracy, and if a man cannot tell the difference between a good identity card and a bad one he is not fit to be a plain clothes officer, or if there is no difference in the cards it is hardly worth having one at all. Trusting you will look into the matter,

Yours truly,

M. Somers."

I immediately forwarded this letter to the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, asking him to look into the matter. I received in reply the following letter, dated 27th January, 1943: You sent me on the 22nd December the enclosed letter which you had received from Mr. M. Somers in which he complains of the conduct of two members of the Metropolitan Police Force who stopped him on his way home from work. You will appreciate that in the course of their normal duties it is sometimes necessary for police officers from time to time to stop and question a person who turns out to be entirely innocent. In this case, there were, I am informed by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, certain documents which the police wished to see in order to verify Mr. Somers' statements, and they accordingly went with him to his flat, which was close by. The Commissioner has gone into the matter with great care and he is satisfied that there is no ground for considering that the police officers' behaviour was in any way improper or unreasonable and as Mr. Somers states, an inspector subsequently visited his flat and tendered an apology. I hope therefore that you will be able to assure Mr. Somers that there is not the slightest reflection on him and that while the Home Secretary sympathises with his very natural feelings he does not think that the circum stances are such as to call for any action on his part. Mr. Somers will appreciate that in carrying out their public duties the police cannot avoid at times causing some inconvenience to innocent and respectable persons.

This letter contains no repudiation or even reference to the statements made by my constituent and I therefore immediately asked my right hon. Friend whether he would go again into the matter and give it further consideration. This he agreed to do. I did not feel at all satisfied by the reply which I have just read to the House.

On 23rd February, a month later, I received a further letter from my right hon. Friend, as follows: In accordance with your request I have looked again at our papers in connection with this incident concerning which your constituent, Mr. M. Somers, sent you the enclosed letter. I have also discussed the case with the Commissioner of Police. There has been a substantial increase in various kinds of larceny recently, particularly in blackout hours, as you are no doubt aware and when your constituent appeared on his bicycle at Balls Pond Road at 5.15 p.m. on the 15th December carrying a large wooden case, r am convinced that there was no excess of zeal on the part of the plain-clothes policeman concerned in stopping him and in asking for his identity documents. One of these was in an unusual form and aroused the police officer's suspicion, though it now appears that this was through no fault on the part of Mr. Somers. Mr. Somers has already received an ample apology from the police for the inconvenience to which he was put, and the Commissioner does not feel, in view of the circumstances outlined above, that he would be justified in administering any reprimand or admonishment to the police officers concerned. I trust that your constituent will be satisfied with the explanation I have given and in my former letter of the 27th January:

Once more there was no attempt to repudiate or even to refer to my constituent's statements and the House will see that all those letters completely disregard my main contention. In addition, when I put a Supplementary Question to the Home Secretary in the House of Commons at the beginning of April, mentioning some of the complaints made by Mr. Somers and which I have read to the House, he replied that he was unaware of these things.

While appreciating that the police had every right to stop Mr. Somers, and allowing for the fact that all of us are liable to make mistakes, my whole and only concern was with the manner and the method in which those two plainclothes police officers carried out the investigation. That is still the only thing about which I am concerned to-day. I have given to the House what I believe to be the facts, and I submit that unless the Under-Secretary of State can give me an assurance that this version of the facts is not correct, then, in the cause of British justice and in the name of the great reputation of our police force, there is no doubt in my mind that those two police officers should be reprimanded. May ask my right hon. Friend to say when he replies whether he has taken any steps to ask Mr. Somers himself for his version of this case, or whether he has taken evidence only from the police in this matter?

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Peake)

My hon. Friend gave notice some time ago that she wished to raise this matter on the Adjournment. It concerns an occurrence which took place on 15th December of last year, but it is, of course, through no fault of my hon. Friend that she has not been able to raise it on the Adjournment hitherto. If I may make one or two general observations at the outset, I would say that this is an example of the ability of the humblest person in the land to have his individual case raised in the high court of Parliament, and I think we are all agreed that it is a good thing that that can be done. I would like to make one or two other general observations before I come to the details of this case. I would say first of all that we must realise that it is the duty of the police not only to detect crime after it has been committed, but it is also a very important part of their function to prevent the corn-mission of crime. It is also clear that it is the duty of the public to co-operate in so far as they can with the police in this important task of the prevention of the commission of crime.

Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)

Even when the police are insulting?

Mr. Peake

No. Please let me make my case. Nobody appreciates better than the police force themselves the need for the greatest possible tact and discretion in carrying out those duties. Our police force have a name second to none in the world for the tact and discretion which they display in these matters. We must also, I think, have in our minds the fact that a substantial number of people do not react kindly or favourably when spoken to by a policeman. It is a curious fact that many people have in the back of their minds a sort of natural hostility to any interference by the police. I think that that complex very often comes from the days of childhood when parents and nurses sometimes intimidated children by reference to the police force.

Dr. Morgan

The right hon. Gentleman knows very little psychology.

Mr. Peake

In recent months, and ever since the beginning of the war——

Mrs. Cazalet Keir

I do not think I can let pass what my right hon. Friend has just said about the police. If he had seen, as I have, thousands of little children all over London being escorted by the police, I do not think he would say that they were brought up with any fear of the police.

Mr. Peake

I am speaking now of grown-up people. Children to-day regard the police as their friends, but people of my generation and possibly of an older generation have a certain apprehensiveness when spoken to by members of the police force, and it is a very common thing for people not to know how to respond when spoken to by a policeman. Since the outbreak of the war and the beginning of the black-out, there has been a great increase of larcenies of all kinds and descriptions, and strong views have been expressed in the Press and in this House about the increase in petty crime. Hon. Members have spoken very strongly in regard to the despicable crime of looting the houses of persons who have suffered damage by hostile bombing, and the police have endeavoured, under the great difficulties of black-out conditions, to detect these offenders and to check this wave of crime. I think these are the circumstances which one must have at the back of one's mind in considering the case which the hon. lady has brought forward.

It is not, I think, in those circumstances at all surprising that a well-dressed young man riding on a bicycle, and carrying a large wooden packing case measuring about 2 ft. by 2 ft. 6 inches, in the gloaming—it was getting dark at 5.15 on 15th December, in fact it was probably already almost dark—should have been stopped by two plain clothes officers and asked what he was carrying. I do not think that is in the least surprising, and I do not think the police were acting in any way in excess of their duty in asking him what the parcel contained. As my hon. Friend has very fairly said, she does not complain that the police officers in this case at any moment were acting in excess of their powers. What she does complain of, if I understand her correctly, is the manner which the policemen adopted. Therefore, there is a large measure of agreement between us. At every stage in this somewhat unfortunate episode, as I shall explain, Mr. Somers complied with the requests of the officers and the question of the excessive use of their powers does not arise. The complaints are confined to the manner which the police are said to have adopted in this case.

An unfortunate part of this incident was a very curious circumstance. When Mr. Somers was asked to display his identity card he told these two police officers that he had been discharged from the Army. If you have been discharged from the Army your National Identity Card contains three and not four letters as does the ordinary identity card. Mr. Somers told the police that he had been discharged from the Army and produced a card which had four letters on it. I will explain in a moment how that came about. It was through no fault of Mr. Somers, but it was a circumstance which served to arouse still further the suspicions which these two officers had formed. They asked him therefore if they could see his discharge papers from the Army. Mr. Somers told them that if they wanted to see those papers they would have to accompany him to his home. They therefore proceeded to do so, and the two officers walked with Mr. Somers a short distance to his flat at 47, Marquess Road. When they got there—it was a block of flats—Mr. Somers asked the police officers to stay outside while he went to look for the papers. They pointed out to him that as it was a block of flats that would give him an opportunity of evading the police if he should prove to be a deserter. Mr. Somers thereupon said, "I have nothing to fear, come in." They therefore ascended the stairs with Mr. Somers. At no stage of the proceedings did they enter Mr. Somers flat. They remained on the landing outside the flat while Mr. Somers went in and searched for the documents. The search for the documents occupied a considerable time. Mr. Somers had difficulty in finding the documents. He became impatient and threw considerable quantities of papers out of drawers on to the floor.

Mrs. Keir

May I interrupt in case I forget the point? If at no time they went into Mr. Somers' room how did his wife know they were there?

Mr. Peake

Because Mr. Somers occupied two rooms the doors of which were open and both the police officers were standing on the landing. By this time Mr. Somers was getting very impatient. He did however produce an Armed Forces Registration Card with a different name on it to the one he had given to the police, because at the time he had served in the Army his name had been not Somers but Sarro. This was a curious circumstance. [An HON. MEMBER: "What nationality?"] I cannot tell the hon. Member that—British as far as I am aware. I think it is quite clear he is a British subject. But he produced the discharge papers in a different name to the name on his National Identity Card. When he was asked about that he said, "The explanation of that is that since my discharge from the Army I have changed my name by deed poll." When he had changed his name by deed poll, as in fact he had, he had taken his former identity card, containing only three letters which would have shown the police officers that he was in fact a man who had been discharged from the Army, to the town hall. They had issued him with a card which had four letters on it and which therefore had misled the police into thinking that he was telling them an untrue story. The House will therefore see it was a very curious and unfortunate chain of circumstances which had served to arouse the police officers' suspicions.

As regards the charges that these two police officers behaved in a hectoring and bullying manner throughout, of course there are always bound to be differences of opinion as to the manner which people adopt on these occasions, and it is quite possible that two people giving accounts of an interview, will each give a very different account of the manner which they and the other party to the interview have adopted. There is nothing in the police statements, which I have studied with the greatest care, to show that there was any bullying or hectoring on the part of the police. But, in forming a balanced opinion upon a matter of this kind, where serious charges are made against the manner which the police have adopted, one really has to go, where there is a conflict of evidence, by matters of inference. We are bound to infer that police officers who have had considerable experience in plainclothes work, who have stopped and questioned many hundreds of people, are, on the whole, more likely to adopt a tactful and discreet manner than otherwise. They know that they are bound to get into trouble if they start bullying people. There is no need for the police to adopt a bullying manner, and these police officers were experienced in this work.

In this case there is a further matter which has a bearing on the question. There were present at various times, while the officers were interviewing Mr. Somers at his flat, his wife and his mother. His mother occupied a flat below, and kept coming up and down stairs and passing the landing, seeing these police officers. Throughout this interview the mother, who I understand to be of a highly excitable nature, and the wife, who, contrary to what my hon. Friend said—according to the statements I have—was perfectly calm throughout the interviews, kept saying to Mr. Somers, "Go to the Labour Party about it." I think it most unlikely that two police officers, with the threat that this matter was going to be taken to the Labour Party, would go on, if they had already started to do so, behaving in a hectoring or bullying manner. I have often wondered whether, if I got into trouble with the police myself, it would be better to say that I was connected with the Home Office or that I would take the matter up with the Labour Party.

Mrs. Keir

I want to know quite clearly whether my right hon. Friend has taken evidence only from the police in this matter, or whether he has taken any steps to ask Mr. Somers himself for his version of the case?

Mr. Peake

We have had Mr. Somers' version, which the hon. Lady read to the House in the letter which she brought forward.

Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)

Is that the only time you have had Mr. Somers' version?

Mr. Peake

No, Mr. Somers has been interviewed, quite apart from the set of circumstances which have been described, by two other police officers. He was called upon later that evening by a police officer who had been summoned by Mrs. Somers, a uniformed officer, who not only listened to what Mr. and Mrs. Somers had to say but tendered a most ample apology to them for the inconvenience to which they had been put. Mr. Somers was called upon later still by a senior inspector of the "G" Division of the police force, who again listened to what they had to say, took it down, and again tendered a full apology for the inconvenience to which they had been put. Those statements have been examined in detail by the Commissioner of Police. He has gone into the matter very fully. I have seen him about it. I have gone so far as to invite my hon. Friend to meet the Commissioner, in the hope that the Commissioner could satisfy my hon. Friend that this was not a case in which the police ought to be reprimanded or blamed for their behaviour. I am sorry that my hon. Friend did not see her way to have an interview with the Commissioner, because I feel that he might have been able to exercise greater persuasive powers over her than I have been able to myself. The matter has been most fully and most adequately examined.

If there had been any hectoring; if the Commissioner had been satisfied, if my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had been satisfied, that there had been hectoring or bullying, of course these police officers would have been reprimanded. But we are not able to satisfy ourselves that this has been the case. The evidence, in our view, points in the other direction. There is clear proof of a lack of balance and' of instability in the character of the mother of this gentleman, who was there, who was inciting him to take this matter to the Labour party, and to raise a song and dance about it.

Mr. Stokes

That is not lack of balance.

Mr. Peake

I do not say that that of itself shows a lack of balance. I do not want to cast any reflection on the old lady, but I could give clear evidence that she is, to some degree, mentally unstable.

Mrs. Keir

We are not discussing the mother.

Mr. Peake

What I suggest is that it is the mother who has instigated the man to carry this matter on, and to press this complaint.

Mr. Stokes

Does the hon. Lady support that view?

Mrs. Keir

This is the first time I have ever heard of it. As I explained at the beginning, my constituent has never at any stage asked me to raise this in Parliament; I asked him if he would mind my doing so.

Mr. Peake

I should not h Lye the slightest hesitation in letting my hon. Friend see the police reports in this case if she desires to do so. I am sure that had she availed herself of the opportunity of interviewing the Commissioner of Police he would have put these reports at her disposal. In conclusion, I would like to say, first, that Mr. Somers is a man of irreproachable character. There is nothing whatever against him in this matter. Secondly, I would like to sty that I take no exception to my hon. Friend raising this matter in the House. It is right and proper that anybody who has anything against the police should be able to bring it up in the House. Lastly. I would like to say that I am sure Mr. Somers' case has not suffered in any way through my hon. Friend being the agent through which the matter has been brought to the attention of the House. It is true that these good people thought that they would do better if they took their complaint up to the Labour Party, but it is perfectly clear that my hon. Friend has done her duty by her constituent, as she always does, in bringing this matter before the House. I hope that if she is still not satisfied she will avail herself of an opportunity of seeing the Commissioner of Police on the matter, and I will undertake that the statements of all the police officers concerned will be put at her disposal if she so desires.

Dr. Morgan

I would like to say, as a Member, any of whose constituents may be, at any time, in a similar position, that the reply of the Under-Secretary is to me very unsatisfactory. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] People have different ideas of nonsense, just as people have different ideas of mental instability. A famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns, said, "We are all mad but me and thee, and thou art a little bit queer." The Under-Secretary has not dealt with the case put up, which is that the police, on this occasion, acted in an abnormally hectoring manner. He has not dealt with that; he has not produced any contrary evidence. The hon. Member read a statement. The Under-Secretary has not given any evidence. He has not seen the family. Has he made any inquiries? Have the police made any inquiries about it, or have the police had any reprimands about it?

I can speak with feeling on this matter. An almost similar incident happened to me not very long ago. I was coming from Swansea and Cardiff after having spoken on the Beveridge Report and the Trade Union Acts. My wife and I arrived at Paddington Station at half-past three in the morning. We could not get any conveyance, and we were told that we would have to wait until 5.30 before we could get a tube to Hampstead. We started to walk, carrying our two bags, and on the way we were accosted by the police, who stopped us, and quite rightly. We must have looked very criminal people. They said, "What are you doing with those bags?" I said, "I am going home; would you like to see our identity cards?" The policeman said, "No, I want to open those bags." I said, "Here?" and he said, "Yes." I said that it was a very queer request for a policeman to want to see inside our bags and at the same time refuse to see our identity cards, and he replied, "In view of that, I shall take you to the police station." We started to walk to the police station, and as my home is on the way to the police station I asked him to come in and have a cup of tea. He declined, but we went into our house, and I told him what I had in my bags—a copy of the Beveridge Report, a company memorandum and my wife's personal belongings. He left the house in a most disgusting manner, without even apologising. I have his number still, but being friendly with the police at the station, I telephoned to the superintendent, and he said, "You leave this to me. He is one of those youngsters and does not know his job, I will deal with him." So these cases can arise. But what defence has the Minister to put up to an irascible and irate mother of a boy treated in this way and saying that the mother is necessarily mentally unstable?

I have been in an asylum myself, not as a patient, but for other purposes, and I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that I would not accept his opinion or that of anyone in the Home Office about mental stability. It is a most disgraceful thing that this mother should have been regarded as unstable because she behaved in this way. I would have felt in somewhat the same way if some of my children had been treated in that manner. The case put by the hon. Lady has not been touched by the right hon. Member to-day. It is disgraceful that a man who makes such brilliant speeches in the country, especially as he did last week, should come into this House and make such an absolutely untenable defence of the Home Office. What he should do is to have an inquiry and see the family, the mother and the boy, and then, after that, see that an apology is given individually to the people concerned.

The British police are the best in the world. They are the finest body of men that could be imagined for their courtesy, courage and treatment of the ordinary civilian. Those who have travelled in America or other places abroad have to admit that the British police are an example to the police of the world, but there are a minority of individuals who do on occasion—and more and more recently—behave in a way that is quite unworthy of the high reputation of the police. When examples of that kind occur and it is found that there are bad and unworthy police, as there are bad and unworthy people in all professions, such people should be stigmatised and told that this sort of thing could not be allowed in Great Britain and people should not be treated as if the police were a Gestapo supporting totalitarian methods in this country.

Mr. Tinker (Leigh)

It is a pleasing feature of our Debates that the House of Commons can discuss grievances of the public, and the hon. Lady has done a good service, because there is no doubt that some young police officers do exceed their duties, especially at times like these. It should go out to everybody that they cannot treat every citizen with impunity and that they must have some regard for the people with whom they are dealing. I myself have been stopped several times when out late at night, but after a courteous inquiry as to where I was going I have been allowed to go on my way. I was recently stopped on the highway and asked my business. I said I was going to a Ministry of Information meeting, and the constable was very nice and apologised and said that he had his duty to do. We hear so many complaints of people doing wrong and getting away with it, and the Home Secretary has been asked to take sterner measures in dealing with wrongdoers, but when a complaint comes from a Member of Parliament, I hope that the Home Office will give the person from whom the complaint comes an ample opportunity of putting his side of the case. The hon. Lady asked several times whether the man had been interviewed, and the right hon. Gentleman said he had not been interviewed, but I was not quite clear about it. If he had had an interview surely the hon. Lady would have heard about it from someone. Did only the police state their case, and was not the person who made the statement invited also? I press the Home Office to put the statement of the police alongside the man's statement and then try and come to the House with a reasoned reply. The right hon. Gentleman did not make it clear whether an interview took place.

Mr. Peake

Short of appointing an independent inquiry or a special Commissioner to make an inquiry, one has to rely upon statements taken by the police themselves either from other policemen or from the people who are making the complaint. We have not any other way except through the police force of obtaining statements from anybody. The Commissioner follows up statements not only from police officers concerned, but from the complainants, to enable him to come to a proper decision in these matters.

Mr. Tinker

The complainant was interviewed?

Mr. Peake

Oh, yes.

Mr. Tinker

That helps to clear up the matter somewhat, but the hon. Lady did not seem to be aware of that.

Mrs. Cazalet Keir

What I was concerned about was that only police officers interviewed Mr. Somers. After all, they were, so to speak, the interested parties. I really think that in a case like this the people who interviewed Mr. Somers should have been wholly disinterested people.

Mr. Tinker

In cases of this sort I think a complainant might be allowed to have someone with him when he is making his statement.

Mr. Holdsworth (Bradford, South)

He can always claim that right as a citizen.

Dr. Morgan

But he does not know it.

Mr. Tinker

We know he can claim the right, but we also know that police usually interview a man when no one else is present, which might sometimes mean that he did not say what the police reported to the Home Office. A warning should go out that the rights of the citizens of this land should not be unduly interfered with because of the war. This country is fighting so that freedom of thought and action shall continue and that no avoidable injustice shall be done to any individual. I think the hon. Lady has done a good service to the House of Commons and the country in bringing this case forward to-day.

Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)

I agree with the concluding words of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), namely, that my hon.Friend the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) has done a good service in bringing this matter to the attention of the House. Nevertheless, I think we must realise that if we are to examine the conditions in which the police work in wartime and so hedge them and frighten them that they are afraid of making a genuine mistake—because every man has to gain experience—our police force will not maintain their high standard of efficiency. Let us look at the circumstances. Here is a well-dressed young man coming along the road with a large parcel. His identity card is not in order, as it would be for a man who had been discharged from the Army. There is some discrepancy of name. There are such things as enemy agents in this country, and to all these matters the police have to devote their attention. I listened with great care to the remarks of my hon. Friend and to the reply of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, but I could not see how these police officers, the gentleman who lodged the complaint or the inspector who interviewed him could reproduce the exact tone and the exact words that were used. Nobody likes being cross-examined. It is not pleasant to be examined by the police as to why you are going here or there or why you did not park your car around the corner. Nobody really likes it, but the police have their duty to do. While it is the duty of Members of Parliament to see that their constituents' complaints and grievances are voiced here, if necessary, I think we also have a duty to realise that our police are charged with a very difficult task indeed in war-time.

Our police force is engaged in this democratic country on the difficult task of treading the narrow line between excess of zeal and lack of courage in the execution of their duty. I do not wish to take up the time of the House any longer—I think the matter has been sufficiently ventilated—except to say that I believe Mr. Somers was right in making his complaint and that my hon. Friend was right in bringing his complaint here. None the less, I cannot understand why my hon. Friend did not take advantage of the opportunity of interviewing the Commissioner, a course she might well have adopted. I hope there will be no discouragement of police officers who do their job but in spite of that do make mistakes. What kind of Home Secretary should we have to-day if he had been debarred, through fear of making mistakes, from ever doing anything?

Mr. Montague (Islington, West)

I would not have intervened but for one point which arose in the Under-Secretary's reply and which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan). I represent the constituency which adjoins the East Islington constituency, and Marquess Road is quite near to by constituency, so I have some sort of interest in the point which has been raised. What I want to refer to is the way in which the Under-Secretary, in order to justify the police and his own position in reference to this Debate, seemed to refer with great reluctance to the mental excitement of the mother. Mental instability may mean anything, nothing or much, as is said in one of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, but I think it rather unfortunate that that statement was made and was made in that reluctant way, which suggested more than mental instability. My purpose in rising is to give the Under-Secretary an opportunity of clearing up that point.

Dr. Russell Thomas (Southampton)

I have listened to this Debate with great in- terest, and I must say that as it continued I reverted completely to the side of my right hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who was, in my opinion, perfectly justified in bringing out the evidence in the way he did. I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mrs. Cazalet Keir) did not take the opportunity of meeting the Commissioner, as she was asked to do, instead of raising this matter here to-day. If she comes here and puts all these things on the Table, she must expect my right hon. Friend to develop his case in his own way, and I do not think he did 'any more than he should have done in saying that possibly the mother of this man was unstable. This mother constantly pressed and urged her son to take action when the police were in the house. My right hon. Friend had to say something with regard to the mental temperament of the mother and chose the word "instability." I think he was justified in using that term. I think it deplorable that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochdale (Dr. Morgan) tried to attack my right hon. Friend by quoting experiences of his own. They have nothing to do with the case at all. This case in a court of law would be judged on its own evidence. When the hon. Gentleman says that he is treated with suspicion if he goes about in dark places, I leave that to the policeman's discretion——

Mr. Kirkwood (Dumbarton Burghs)

This is professional jealousy.

Dr. Morgan

I wiped the hon. Member's eye the other day and he is having his revenge now.

Dr. Thomas

What the hon. Member said about his own experiences is no justification for attacking my right hon. Friend and the evidence which he produced in order to make his case. As one who is a lover of liberty, as my right hon. Friend probably knows—and here I would disagree with what he said about the complex some people had about being ordered about. I would not call such a complex one laid down in childhood, but a complex instinctive in every true Englishman—I say that my right hon. Friend put his case very fairly and as he was entitled to do.

Mr. Peake

In response to the hon. Member for West Islington (Mr. Montague) I would like to say that I considered my words very carefully on this point and that instead of adding to or taking anything away from them, I would rather show him afterwards the reports on this matter which I have in my hand.

Mr. Montague

Reports of what?

Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and agreed to.