HC Deb 30 June 1952 vol 503 cc32-4

3.31 p.m.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Iain Macleod)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I should like to make a statement.

I have today presented to Parliament the Report of the Committee, under Mr. Scott Henderson, which was set up after the escape of Straffen from Broadmoor on 29th April last, and which was charged to inquire into the adequacy of the security arrangements at the Institution. The Committee make a number of detailed recommendations whereby they think that the existing arrangements could be improved.

With regard to the recommendations about pay and conditions of the nursing staff at Broadmoor, it will be appreciated that these are matters which should be dealt with through the appropriate Whitley machinery and cannot be considered in isolation from the position of other public servants. But the Government will arrange for a review of the basis of their remuneration in the light of the views expressed by the Committee. Subject only to this, I wish to say at once that, while some of these recommendations will involve further consultation with other authorities and bodies concerned, the Government do not hesitate to accept all the recommendations in principle and will proceed without delay towards their implementation. They are grateful to the Committee for the speed and the thoroughness with which they have carried out their task.

In view of the many rumours and speculations which have been provoked by the circumstances of this particular escape, the House will, I am sure, be on the whole reassured both by the general tenor of the Committee's Report and by the Government's clear intention to accept all their detailed recommendations.

The House will note that the Committee found that there had been no relaxation of security rules since the management of Broadmoor passed to the Board of Control in 1949.

Mr. Marquand

May I say that on this side of the House that we would wish to associate ourselves with the expressions of gratitude which the right hon. Gentleman has made to this Committee for the speed and thoroughness with which they have discharged their tasks? May I say, also, that we are glad to know that the right hon. Gentleman feels that public opinion will be, on the whole, reassured?

Sir H. Williams

On a point of order. Are we debating anything, Sir? Here is a Report presented to us. A statement is made by the Minister, which is unnecessary, and now the right hon. Gentleman is making a speech about it.

Mr. Speaker

This is a statement made by a Minister, and it is customary on these occasions, and in accordance with practice, for some supplementary questions to be put or observations to be made, but they should be limited, of course.

Mr. Marquand

I will certainly endeavour to make my remarks interrogatory, but I did think there would be no objection to associating my right hon. and hon. Friends and myself with an expression of gratitude to a committee for a report of this kind. I have certainly heard it done before. It is a little difficult to ask the right hon. Gentleman specific questions about the Report, because he has said so little about the recommendations. May I ask him whether he could assure the House that he is now satisfied that the recommendations made will go far towards preventing regrettable occurrences of this kind in future?

Mr. Macleod

Yes, Sir, I am so satisfied. I have been to Broadmoor myself, within the last few days, and from what I have seen I am able to confirm what the Committee has stated. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman understands that no place, be it prison or institution, can ever be absolutely guaranteed to be in all circumstances escape-proof, but I think that everything has been and is being done to ensure that security is maintained at Broadmoor.

Mr. Remnant

Does the Report include any recommendations on a system of warning the public in the unfortunate event of a further escape taking place? Further, apart from the Report, does my right hon. Friend still consider that that institution and those like it are properly under the Ministry of Health, or should they be under the Home Office?

Mr. Macleod

On the first point, if my hon. Friend will study the Report, copies of which are in the Vote Office, he will see that matters concerning notification by siren, the use of the B.B.C. and co-operation with the police are fully covered and have been accepted. On the second point, it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government that control should remain with the Ministry of Health.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Is it not a fact that at the moment the right hon. Gentleman has another Report before him of a disciplinary character, consideration of which he said must be deferred until he had the Report which he has just announced? Is he in a position to make a statement about this other disciplinary Report on the action he is going to take?

Mr. Macleod

I am sure it would be improper for me to indicate what disciplinary action I propose to take. I undertook to the House that I would not examine the case until I had the Report of the Scott Henderson Committee. I have not examined the case, but I shall now proceed to do so.