HC Deb 31 October 1946 vol 428 cc775-8
47. Mrs. Corbet

asked the Prime Minister whether, in view of the Curtis Report, he is giving consideration to the desirability of the Ministry of Education assuming the responsibility for the care of deprived children.

The Prime Minister

I can assure my hon. Friend that this Report is receiving close consideration, but it is not possible to make a statement at present.

Mrs. Corbet

Will the Prime Minister note that there is a large body of opinion both inside and outside the House in favour of this course?

The Prime Minister

Yes, I will note that.

Mr. K. Lindsay

Whichever Department is chosen, will the Prime Minister see that the primary consideration is the absorption of these children into the full life of the community, rather than segregating them?

Mr. Nicholson

Does the right hon. Gentleman anticipate legislation at an early date?

The Prime Minister

I think it is rather early to answer that question. We have not had very much time to consider the whole matter.

9. Mr. E. Fletcher

asked the Minister of Education what steps she is proposing to take as a result of the publication of the Curtis Report.

Miss Wilkinson

The report of the Curtis Committee is under active consideration by the three Departments concerned.

Mr. Fletcher

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there is very widespread feeling that the Ministry of Education should assume responsibility for all types of children?

Mr. Wilson Harris

Is the right hon. Lady aware that there is very strong feeling that, owing to the importance of making a division between the child at home and the child at school, the Ministry of Education should not be the authority to take charge of these children?

64. Mrs. Castle

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will arrange for the publication of a supplement to the Report of the Care of Children Committee, giving the name of each institution to which reference is made in the Report together with the name of the authority responsible for it.

Mr. Ede

This material has not been given me. I would remind my hon. Friend that in paragraph 101 of the Report, the committee said: A much more searching inquiry would have been necessary if we had intended to give a judicial opinion on the merits of any establishment, and we have therefore thought it right not to mention any one of them by name in this Report.

Mrs. Castle

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the present position gives us the worst of both worlds, in that great public anxiety has been aroused by a specific statement of terrible abuses existing in given institutions, while public opinion is not allowed to be brought to bear on clearing up those abuses because the names of the institutions are withheld? Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider it?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. I did not draft the Report, and I think the reasons given in the Report which I have quoted are sufficiently sound for me not to attempt to find out what the names were, because I should then have to conduct a further inquiry to make sure that stigmatising the places would be justified.

Mr. Nicholson

Is there not enough prima facie evidence in this Report for a further inquiry of that nature?

Mr. Ede

No, Sir. I think there is prima facie evidence in the Report for action to be taken to remove the causes of the conditions detailed.

Mr. Lipson

Would it not be possible to inform the local authorities where these institutions are situated in confidence, so that they may have inquiries made to see that the children do not suffer?

Mr. Ede

The names are not in my possession. The only thing I have is the Report.

66. Mr. K. Lindsay

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether it is the intention of the Government to make available the proceedings of the Care of Children Committee, including memoranda submitted, verbal evidence and cross-examination of witnesses.

Mr. Ede

In view of the comprehensive nature of the Report and the full Press reports on the evidence given to the committee, some of which has been printed and circulated by witnesses themselves, I am doubtful on present information whether there is a sufficient case for the publication of additional material.

Mr. Lindsay

Would the right hon. Gentleman reconsider that reply, in view of the fact that a great deal of this evidence has been circulated to various bodies, and is now public, and all that is required is to collate the memoranda? May I ask him if he is absolutely certain that the amount of work involved is not commensurate with the importance of the question?

Mr. Ede

I am far more concerned with being able to do something to remedy the state of affairs disclosed by this Report than to take steps which would inevitably delay an appropriate decision being reached and appropriate recommendations being made to the House.

Mr. Osbert Peake

In view of the great importance of the issues raised by this Report, and the fact that we do not all agree on all the conclusions of the Committee, will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider his decision not to publish the evidence?

Mr. Ede

I think my last answer ought to be conclusive. This was an inquiry where the sittings were held in public, and we had very full reports which were made while the evidence was being given, and certain of the interested parties who were in a position to do so have published and circulated the evidence they contributed. I am very anxious that we should not get engaged in long controversy, which so often arises on these Reports and postpones effective action being taken.

Mr. Peake

Surely, the mere printing of the evidence would not in any way delay the matter?

Mr. Wilson Harris

In view of the tact that the Report itself contains 146 closely printed pages, would not the total evidence be too voluminous?

Mr. Churchill

Surely, the publication of part of the evidence will be detrimental, will it not? Either there should be publication of the full evidence, or it should all be kept secret?

Mr. Ede

There is no publication by the Government of any of the evidence. The evidence was given in public, and, therefore, to that extent, may be regarded as having been published at the time it was delivered. We are dealing here with a very urgent matter, on which I think the country is very deeply disturbed, and I am anxious to do nothing that shall delay effective action being taken. Although I will consider the representations that have been made this afternoon, I very much doubt if the public interest would be served by the delay that would be involved in getting this evidence printed.