HC Deb 15 February 1945 vol 408 cc381-5
24. Mr. Touche

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware that when Mr. and Mrs. Baldock complained to the police at Wallasey regarding the case of cruelty to their children the police refused to take any action in this matter and that the subsequent prosecution was only brought through the action of the N.S.P.C.C.; and whether he has any statement to make on the subject.

Mr. H. Morrison

Mr. and Mrs. Baldock were seen by the coroner's officer on 27th November and a statement was taken from Mrs. Baldock. This statement made no suggestion of cruelty or ill-treatment to the children, and my information is quite definite that no such suggestion was made at any time during the interview with the coroner's officer. I am informed that no intimation of any alleged ill-treatment to the children was made to the coroner's officer or to any other member of the Wallasey police force until 18th December, when the local inspector of the N.S.P.C.C. saw the coroner's officer and told him that he was investigating a complaint of ill-treatment of Peter Baldock.

Mr. Touche

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when Mr. and Mrs. Baldock went to the police at Wallasey and made the complaint, they were told that no action could be taken, and is it not the fact that the case would never have been heard of, apart from the action of the N.S.P.C.C.? Is this not entirely unsatisfactory?

Mr. Morrison

The hon. Member is making a direct allegation against the police, which the police deny. I am informed, after the most careful inquiry, by the police that the statement that the complaint or allegation was made at that time is untrue and, unless there is real evidence to the contrary to prove it otherwise, I must accept the statement of the police.

Mr. Silverman

When the N.S.P.C.C. officer told the coroner's officer that he was investigating the complaint, did he say from whom the complaint had emanated?

Mr. Morrison

I could not say.

Mr. Edmund Harvey

Has the right hon. Gentleman considered a letter, a copy of which I sent him, from Mr. Baldock stating that he had applied to the police and asked them to visit the child in hospital and that this had not been done?

Mr. Morrison

I have seen such a letter but that allegation by Mr. Baldock is definitely disputed, and I do not feel that I can accept it as necessarily being true. Of course, recollections may be at fault, and the circumstances with which the father and mother were faced were very distressing and worrying.

Captain Cobb

Was the death certificate given by the police surgeon, and not by the doctor who attended the child?

Mr. Morrison

I believe the doctor who attended the child only attended—I am speaking from memory—after the child was dead, and he declined to give a certificate, which is quite ordinary. The coroner referred the matter to the police surgeon, who could find no traces of cruelty, and certified death from natural causes, and I am quite sure that he genuinely so certified.

36 and 41. Mr. Touche

asked the Minister of Health (1) if he is aware that when Mrs. Baldock, of Hanworth Road, Redhill, applied in July that her children should be sent to a Government residential nursery she received a letter from his Ministry stating this could not be granted because Reigate was not an evacuation area and that when she wrote pointing out this mistake she received no reply; and will he make inquiries into this matter;

(2) if he has made inquiries into the circumstances in which Mr. and Mrs. Budd, of Wallasey, were recommended by the welfare officer as suitable persons to have charge of small children; and why no welfare officer ever called at Mr. Budd's house while evacuated children were there.

Mr. Willink

I think the House would wish to have the full facts of this distressing case. They cannot be given shortly, and I am therefore circulating a complete statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement:

Mrs. Baldock's first letter gave her address as "Salfords, Redhill," and the map consulted showed Salfords to be outside the evacuation area. The letter asked for information about the residential nurseries established under the Government Evacuation Scheme and said that Mrs. Baldock wanted to evacuate her two boys, both of whom were under five, outside the official scheme as she was unable to go with them. The accommodation available in Government residential nur- series is limited and has always been reserved for children under five who, for one reason or another, are without adequate parental care. Even, therefore, if it had been clear from the start that Mrs. Baldock was living in an evacuation area it would not have been possible to find places for her children in one of these residential nurseries. Mrs. Baldock's second letter did not reach my Department until 16th August and, owing to the extreme pressure of evacuation work at that time, was not dealt with until eight days later. One of my officers then spoke to the Reigate borough council offices and was told that arrangements had been made through the welfare officer at Reigate for the two children to be taken to Wallasey. I regret that Mrs. Baldock was not sent a further reply but the assumption that none was necessary because the welfare officer would have already explained the position fully to Mrs. Baldock was not, I think, an unreasonable one. The welfare officer comes from Wallasey and she had received Mr. and Mrs. Budd's offer to take the two children through friends in Wallasey. The Budds live in a very respectable residential neighbourhood and were highly spoken of; they are prominent members of a local church and Mrs. Budd was known to the welfare officer to be a State registered children's nurse. The Budds seemed therefore to be particularly well qualified to act as foster parents.

The welfare officer discussed their offer with Mr. and Mrs. Baldock and made arrangements for both of them to go with their children to the Budd's home in Wallasey, in order that they might decide whether to leave the children there or not. This they did, their fares being paid, Mr. Baldock's through a voluntary agency. They stayed a few hours with the Budds, and left the children there, being apparently as satisfied as those who had suggested the arrangement had been that the children would be well cared for. Although the official scheme assists such private arrangements with free travel facilities and billeting allowances, the responsibility for them rests on the parties concerned. When Mrs. Budd applied in Wallasey for a billeting notice, her home was visited by a representative of the Wallasey billeting officer and found to be satisfactory. If the procedure laid down had been faithfully followed the children might later have been visited by a child protection visitor. But Wallasey had not, until last July, been a reception area and the billeting staff was both heavily pressed and unaccustomed to the procedure for notifying all billeted children under five to the medical officer of health. Had this notification been made, it would have been possible to arrange for the home to be visited, but it will be appreciated that, in the present shortage of man-power, I cannot guarantee how soon or often a visit would have been paid. Apart from this omission to notify the case I think that all concerned in evacuation did their best for Mr. and Mrs. Baldock and their children and the very regrettable outcome was such as no one could have foreseen.

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