HC Deb 29 May 1946 vol 423 cc1183-5
Mr. Raikes (Liverpool, Wavertree)

I beg to move, in page 30, line 7, to leave out from " servitude,"To the end of line 8, and to insert "Imprisonment."

As the Clause stands, except where regulations otherwise provide, a person would be disqualified from receiving any benefit if he is undergoing penal servitude, imprisonment, or detention in legal custody. The object of this Amendment is to strike out " detention in legal custody" and merely have the disqualification apply to penal servitude, or imprisonment. It appears to me, and I daresay the Minister would agree, that under the laws of the land if one is undergoing penal servitude, or imprisonment, one has, presumably been found guilty of a grave offence. But the Minister, or I, might be detained in legal custody and yet be as innocent as a babe unborn. It seems to me a pity that no distinction is drawn between detention in legal custody, and penal servitude, or imprisonment. Although I realise that detention in legal custody is not one of the weapons which His Majesty's Government would be using against other people, there might very well come a time when we have a Government which considered under some Defence of the Realm regulation detaining people with- out trial as a valuable way of encouraging them towards the wishes of the Government of the time. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Mack) has been running around to Russia and other places, and when I see him and the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), some very odd ideas come to me at times. We have to look to the future.

Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)

The hon. Member will not be in legal custody—it will be burial.

Mr. Raikes

If I should be detained in legal custody I should want to have my pension rights safeguarded.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Silvermans (Nelson and Colne)

I beg to second the Amendment.

It is a pity that the hon. Member for Wavertree (Mr. Raikes) should have spoiled a good case by being facetious about it. It is a perfectly good case. There are forms of custody which are perfectly legal, without any penalty having been incurred by the person detained. There is no reason why such a person should be penalised, and I feel sure that my right hon. Friend never intended that he should be. It is only a question of drafting.

The Minister of National Insurance (Mr. James Griffiths)

Perhaps I can clear up this point. We had a long discussion about this matter in Committee. The question was raised of the position of a man on remand pending trial. I am advised that it is essential to have in the Bill the words to which objection has been taken, because they cover certain kinds of cases. I will cite only one. I understand that a man who is committed to a criminal lunatic asylum is detained in legal custody. It is possible to meet the case about which hon. Members are worried, I said in Committee that I would look at the point raised about a man on remand pending trial, who is subsequently found not guilty. I can cover that case by regulation, and I will do so.

Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)

Does the Minister mean it is simpler to meet the case in the way he suggested, and that the answer he has given is to excuse the taking of administrative action because it is easier to do it that way? My concern is that if we leave the words as they are, instead of making them "or imprisonment", we are leaving to some future Minister, powers which might easily be abused. That is a point to which my hon. Friend the Member for Waver-tree (Mr. Raikes) referred in moving the Amendment. Perhaps the Minister could give a word of explanation.

Mr. Griffiths

This is a matter in which I must be guided by the advice given to me on the meaning of these phrases in law. I am advised that the proper phrase to describe a man committed to an asylum as a criminal lunatic is that contained in this Clause, and that the words are essential for this purpose. In Committee we had a discussion on whether the words "In legal custody " would define a man remanded for trial and subsequently found not guilty and released, and whether the fact that he was detained in custody would prevent him from getting benefit. I said that we could cover that in regulations, but I am advised that there are no words other than those in the Bill which could suitably be used to cover the point which I have already made. I have met the point which hon. Members in Committee urged me to meet. I can meet it by regulation and I propose to do so.

Mr. S. Silverman

I take it that my right hon. Friend is referring to the provision in this Clause: Except where regulations otherwise provide,— and that, to carry out his undertaking to cover the case we have in mind, the regulations will make provision accordingly.

Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)

I appreciate the argument of the Minister, but in this Clause the phrase " detention in legal custody," follows " penal servitude, imprisonment." On the face of Subsection (1) it looks as though detention in legal custody does not merely mean a case such as the Minister has mentioned, but one that belongs to the same class as penal servitude or imprisonment. If it covers what the Minister means, there is no objection to it, but I am not clear that that is so, as the Subsection stands.

Amendment negatived.