§ 3.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
We have put down these Votes for discussion on a Supply day so that the House may have the opportunity for once of talking about a fairly wide range of the activities for which the Home Secretary is responsible. Even so, we shall be omitting some important activities, including the Fire Service and Civil Defence, for which the Votes have not been put down.
Not for some time has there been a general review of Home Office work. Of course, many specific queries are put and anxieties and complaints expressed at Question Time, in Adjournment debates and in other more limited debates, but today I hope that we shall be able to look at the work of this great Department rather more in perspective. I shall be inviting the Home Secretary to state his attitude and policy in a general way, in addition to any comments which he might wish to make on particular matters or cases which are put to him.
996 The general approach of the Home Secretary and his Department to their work is one of very great importance, perhaps more than is the case with many other Departments. It seemed to me, when I was at the Home Office, that, in a sense, the Home Office is less immediately involved in solving the major political problems of the moment than are some other Departments. For instance, if there is a sudden drain on our gold reserves, if there are disorders in Malaya or Kenya, if there is a Berlin blockade or a Korean war, these things have immediate repercussions in many Departments of State, but the nature of Home Office activities is rather different.
It seems to me that the Home Office is more concerned with the nation's social and political background and with the steady stream of the nation's life as a democracy. It is concerned, in particular, with the integrity of our political institutions, including elections. It is concerned with the safeguarding of liberties, and, especially—and this is perhaps the core of it—it is concerned with reconciling the liberties of the individual with the maintenance of law and order.
On the whole, major controversy arises relatively seldom over the Home Office, but when it does it touches such fundamental topics that emotions are apt to run somewhat high. It is because most of the main principles on which we expect the Home Secretary to guide his Department have become part of the common folklore of the main parties in the State that controversy on Home Office subjects, or at any rate on some of them, is usually not entirely a party matter.
For instance, the question of the relationship of the police to the public and also to the Executive, or that of criminal justice or the administration of the prisons, and so on—these are things which are rarely entirely party matters, and pronouncements on them rarely appear in party manifestoes at Election time. I myself think that this is a sign of political maturity in a country, but things cannot long remain like this unless the institutions and services for which the Home Secretary is responsible are in a state of continuous and active reform and renewal.
I think that a characteristic cycle of events in the Home Office might be something like this. We get a major 997 reform introduced, whether it be on the criminal law, the penal system or one of the social services which the Department administers. It then probably needs not far short of four or five years' experience in which to train the staff and implement the reforms and also gain the knowledge to see whether the reform be a good one or not. By that time, already new ideas will be welling up. If it is a complicated problem, there will often be a committee or Royal Commission already sitting to consider the matter, and within not much more than 10 years from the last great step in reform, a good Home Secretary will be already busy promoting a further stage in the new deal. That is, I think, in general what happens in many of the activities of the Home Office.
I believe that one of the main standards by which a good Home Secretary must expect to be judged is the standard whether he is sufficiently active in keeping the steady flow of reform moving. I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman must he aware of the restiveness which has been making itself felt in the House, not only on the Opposition benches, indeed, not only in the House of Commons, but also in the Press, and emanating from some distinguished people who have been serving on committees appointed by him, about his failure to move with sufficient speed from consideration of these problems to the phase of action.
One could quote, for instance, two matters on which we have only now been rather belatedly promised fairly early action of some kind, namely, the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming, which reported in 1951, and the even older recommendations of the Gowers Report relating to conditions in shops, and so on. Until a few months ago, we were all getting very impatient at the Home Secretary's apparent unwillingness to do very much about the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment. It is true that, to some extent, that has already been overtaken by the progress made by the Death Penalty (Abolition) Bill which has been promoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), but we cannot entirely dismiss from our minds the rather stonewalling attitude which Ministers were taking before they 998 realised that this Bill for the abolition of the death penalty was likely to make the progress which it has done.
On a perhaps smaller, but nevertheless important, subject, the recommendations of the inter-Departmental Committee on Adoption, which were published nearly two years ago, I notice that already the British Medical Association and the Magistrates' Association, in their recently published Report about neglect of and cruelty to children, have gone on record as regretting that no action has been taken, and, as far as I can see, they appear to anticipate none in the near future.
So far as the recommendations in all these various reports may involve legislation, that is not something that we can discuss in detail in this debate, but I think I am entitled to say that a prolonged failure to obtain Parliamentary time for necessary reforms in many fields in this way, especially when the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's Department is not at present engaged in major programmes such as took up so much of the period when my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) was Home Secretary, in the end comes to be taken by the public as a sign of inert leadership, from which it is the duty of the House of Commons to rescue the work of a great Department. That is my first point.
I come now to my second point. Any Home Secretary has very important duties to perform, especially in respect of public security, police and aliens and all the many matters which are covered by the prerogative powers, in which his action on particular cases is frequently challenged in the House. In these cases both the Home Secretary and the House are in a difficulty, because, on the one hand, the Home Secretary does not give—no doubt often rightly does not give—and, consequently, the House does not receive, all the information upon which he acted in the particular case.
The result of that, in my experience, both when I was speaking for the Home Secretary and since I have been on this side of the House of Commons, is that the House is angry and frustrated, and the Home Secretary, for his part, often knows that the published case looks rather weak and yet he feels unable to produce his best arguments, and he is 999 obliged to fall back—this refers not only to the right hon. Gentleman and the Joint Under-Secretary; I have done it myself, and I dare say that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields also did it on occasion—on asking to be trusted, saying that the matter has received the most careful consideration and asking the House to believe that the decision has been well taken. The Joint Under-Secretary said something to that effect in the debate in February on the deportation of Iraqi students.
These debates are, therefore, usually very inconclusive and unsatisfactory for all concerned, but, no matter how inconclusive they may be, the House usually comes away from them with some kind of an impression of whether the Minister's attitude is in general a liberal one or a bureaucratic one, whether his approach is progressive or obscurantist, whether he is anxious to give the House the maximum information possible or whether he is not, and this impression, as it comes to be built up from case to case and incident to incident over a period of months, ends by being a very vivid one.
Once again I must say to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that the impression gained in recent months from this side of the House in this respect has been by no means a happy one. I want this afternoon to avoid going in great detail into the particular cases which we have discussed in recent months, but I want to refer, in passing, to one or two purely by way of illustration of my general theme.
I want, first, to go back to the incident concerning the Conference on Regional Planning and Development, which was held in Bedford College in September last year and was debated in the House on the Adjournment on 7th November. This was one of the occasions when the Home Secretary felt unable to reveal all the information which had led to the Home Office advising that the Conference was in some way politically suspect. The Home Secretary may have been quite right, and it may, for all I know, have been inevitable that he should withhold a considerable amount of information; but what disturbed the House was that the Home Office spokesman, who on that occasion was the hon. Baronet the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth)—I am sorry not to see the hon. Member in 1000 his place at the moment—did not say that the Conference was Communist-controlled, which was something the House would have understood, and did not say that it had engaged in improper propaganda. Indeed, he could not have said either of those things, because I think it is fairly clear now that neither of them would have been true.
What the hon. Member did was to answer almost every question put about the Conference with oblique references to the Sheffield Peace Conference of 1950 and to action which my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields had taken in respect of it. That Conference, I think most of us would agree, was a part, and was known to have been a part, of a Communist-controlled political campaign, and its job in meeting, unlike the Regional Planning Conference, was to do propaganda.
I think the House felt, as I certainly did, on that occasion that the Home Office spokesman's argument lacked the intellectual integrity that one expects, and it did not make matters very much better when he said, apparently in extenuation, that on this occasion there had been no use of the prerogative powers, that no aliens had been refused admission for the purpose of attending the Conference, because all that meant was that this was simply an example of what one has heard of so often elsewhere, namely, the assassination of the character of either a person or an organisation by smear. That was what it was on that occasion.
There are two other cases to which I wish to refer briefly. One is that which I have already mentioned, the deportation of some Iraqi students, which was debated on 2nd February in the House. The other is the much more recent case of the deportation of the Greek priest, Mr. Macheriotis, about which the Home Secretary answered Parliamentary Questions as recently as 13th and 21st June.
Both those cases left many of us in considerable doubt as to what the standard is by which the Home Secretary judges the impropriety of any political activity which may be engaged in by an alien. Indeed, the utterances of Ministers, perhaps particularly the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, in answer to Questions about the latter case, conveyed to me the impression that they themselves have not adequately defined for their own 1001 use the principles which they seek to apply in this matter. I particularly disliked the way in which the Home Secretary, almost unconsciously I thought, almost without knowing he was doing it, allowed himself in answering supplementary questions to slip from the straightforward statement that Mr. Macheriotis had been authorised to collect for the national struggle in Cyprus into the innuendo that he had been… appealing for funds for the killing of British soldiers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th June, 1956; Vol. 554, c. 582.]The one does not follow automatically from the other, in the absence of evidence, merely because there are, in fact, British soldiers being killed in Cyprus. The logic of that is far from complete. The documents the Home Secretary put in the Library showed that at least one of the appeals specifically stated that it was an appeal for funds for the victims of the national struggle, which, of course, has an entirely different implication from what the Home Secretary was appearing to indicate.
It was also a part of the indictment against the priest that his church was a centre for anti-British propaganda. I think I am right in saying that the Home Secretary has still given no evidence of that. It may well be true, but I think he has told the House nothing of what he was relying upon. I cannot help asking "Why not?", because, after all, propaganda is in its nature something public, and it can hardly be something secret which it is beyond the power of the Home Secretary to reveal to us.
All the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was able to say was… I was satisfied that they"—that is, the activities of the priest—fully deserved this description.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June, 1956; Vol. 554, c. 1605.]If the Home Secretary is to ask the House blindly to accept his decisions on that sort of assurance on his part, I am sure he realises that he can only do so if he has previously built up a most impeccable reputation for good judgment and clear-headedness in these, admittedly, very difficult matters.
Whatever the Home Secretary may have to say on these specific points, I hope that he will agree with me in this: the fact that he does not give the House 1002 full details of all individual cases makes it all the more important that he should give the House the fullest information about the principles which underlie his policy. I therefore invite him, or the Joint Under-Secretary of State, who, presumably, is to speak in the debate, to tell us today what are at present the main principles governing aliens control. I hope that he will be able to deal, among other things, with his attitude towards refugees, distressed persons and the political factors to which I have already referred, and also towards the whole problem of the employment of aliens and the system by which the Home Office co-operates with the Ministry of Labour.
I think perhaps I should also mention to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, although I do not know whether he will wish to deal with it, that some of us have been wondering recently whether it might not be appropriate to suggest, in relation to the administration of the aliens control, the adoption of some kind of safeguards prior to deportation by the Home Secretary rather on the lines of those which are incorporated in the Prevention of Violence Act, 1939. Under that Act, before a deportation takes place it is open to the person concerned to raise objections, the objections are heard and he is interviewed by somebody who is independent.
This has been passing through the minds of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and it does not seem to me that it could possibly be considered impracticable in view of the fact that in one of the recent debates, I think that about the Iraqi students, the Joint Under-Secretary of State indicated that the total number of deportations in recent years has been about 150. I think that was the figure he gave, and, therefore, a system of the kind which I have suggested would not be impossible on administrative grounds.
The Home Secretary may also care to say something about a rather hostile article which appeared in the Economist of 14th April, attacking the attitude of the Home Office in respect of persons of independent means who come here not to take a job but to live on funds brought in from abroad. I am not saying that I am in sympathy with that article; I think that the article, as I am afraid often happens with that journal, seems to disregard the problems of fairness between 1003 man and man, in what is a human problem, for the sake of adding a few dollars to the British reserves.
I am not inviting the Home Secretary necessarily to agree with the article, but he may wish to refer to one particularly damaging comment which the writer made. Referring to those who are refused permission to come and settle here and to live on funds, perhaps dollars, being brought from abroad, the writer said:You may not buy yourself in; but you may fudge your way in if you have money and are of the right social groupFrankly, I have no evidence, personally, that that happens, but it is surely a damaging thing to have said, and I am sure that the Minister will wish to deal with it.
Passing to the other specific Votes on the Order Paper, I will not talk about the Police Vote or about the situation regarding vice and crime in London which has been so prominent in the newspapers and which is so much in the public mind at present. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) hopes to speak later on those topics. In the meantime, I simply say that if the Home Secretary is to follow me in the debate, I hope he will refer to them in his speech.
It seems clear that there is something in the state of vice and crime in the West End for us to worry about. How much, we should like his guidance in telling us; but I think it is equally clear that there is no reason for us to begin to lose confidence in the police as a whole. Indeed, it seems to me, on the record, that hardly a day has passed in recent weeks without the police bringing to justice somebody connected with one or other of these rackets, and I should not like it to go out that the House is failing to encourage the police in what is a very difficult and distasteful task. Nevertheless, it may be that some of the conditions which the police have to meet are restrictive of their activities, and it may be that some of the law makes their task unduly difficult. I do not know, and I hope that the Home Secretary will have something to say about it.
My remarks about the prisons must be mainly in interrogative form, otherwise I should take too much of the House's time. 1004 The development of prison administration has been a serious worry to successive Home Secretaries, to the Prison Commission and to all serious students of the problem since the war. I am sure that the Prison Commission has been doing its very best on reasonably orthodox lines to improve the present position, but, quite frankly, it seems to me that it is making no real impact on the problem and that there is no immediate prospect of it making a real impact on the problem of the bad conditions, particularly overcrowding. One of its great handicaps has always been shortage of money, and now we have a cut in the Prison Vote as a result of the Chancellor's economies. I think it is a cut of £199,000.
The first question I want to ask the Home Secretary on this topic, therefore, concerns the cut. What are its implications? It has been much criticised in the Press, because everybody has been aware that shortage of money has been one of the Commission's great handicaps and that the problem is of extreme urgency. We shall listen with great care to what the Home Secretary tells us on that.
Turning to the question of prison building, I do not know whether I should be too pessimistic in suggesting to the Home Secretary that we are never likely—and I repeat, never likely—to replace with modern buildings all our obsolete security prisons. The fact is that virtually all our security prisons are obsolete. To replace them would mean virtually having a complete new set of prisons. It seems to me that the cost of a modern security prison is so great and the competing claims on the Government are so numerous that if we simply look at the problem in that way we shall probably never be able to achieve our ends.
I therefore feel that we need to re-think the problem in other terms. As we know, the Home Office has for some time been trying to make good the lack of accommodation with less expensive types of accommodation, such as prison camps. This is a matter with which one has to proceed rather cautiously because of public feeling on the matter if anything goes wrong. Moreover, it is a remedy which perhaps will never be appropriate for more than a section of the prison population.
There are other and more radical suggestions which have been put to the Home 1005 Secretary from time to time and which might go some way towards alleviating the position. For instance, there is the question of finding alternative sentences to imprisonment, thus preventing many people from spending time in prison, with little benefit and sometimes harm to themselves, and hindering the staffs of the prisons from dealing effectively with the rehabilitation of those who are in prison for longer sentences.
I suppose we may say that the probation service, which is now an old and well-established service, has to some extent shown the way in what can be done, and the further development of the probation service, is, I am sure, one of the things with which the Home Office must press on in any event. It is claimed by the probation service that in terms of pure administrative costs a person under probation costs the State only £30, while a person under detention in prison costs between £300 and £400 a year.
A very lavish expenditure on the probation service, therefore, would probably be an economy if it resulted in a corresponding reduction in the number of people in prison—and administrative economies are only one side of the problem, because if we leave an offender at large but under supervision he is still productive, he is still doing his job and keeping his family; and from the point of view of rehabilitation it is very much easier under that system to enable him to keep his self-respect.
But something more than the mere development of probation is required. It has been suggested that alternative methods could be found for dealing with certain types of civil debtor. Possibly some agreement could be reached with the various bodies concerned about the attachment of wages for the enforcement of the payment of certain affiliation and other orders. That, again, would have all the advantages which I have just enumerated in respect of the method of probation.
Lastly, in this category, I wonder whether the Home Secretary can tell us whether he is contemplating giving any advice to the courts on the question of remand. I believe that many thousands of people are remanded each year, so cluttering up the prisons, despite the fact that when they are subsequently tried they are not sent to prison; they are 1006 either acquitted, or convicted and awarded some other form of penalty. I suppose that in difficult borderline cases the practice exists—it certainly existed when I was practising—of courts to say, "We do not want to send this man to prison, but we will put him back for a bit so that he gets a taste of it. When he comes up again we shall not send him to prison." I can see the sense of that procedure, and in some cases it may get the court out of a difficulty, but it results in a substantial increase in the prison population, which we cannot afford in present conditions.
I suggest that these matters are very urgent. In general, although through no fault of the Commission, the prison situation is extremely bad; so bad that it is failing in its duty of rehabilitation. This situation has led to disastrous results in recruiting; the lack of adequate recruits has led to the impossibility of instituting a three-shift system throughout the prison service, and this, in turn, has prevented sufficient of the right kind of work being done in prison—which should be the most important feature of the prison régime.
Unless we can break this vicious circle I do not see how we can ever make the prison service attractive enough to get the right type of man into it in sufficient numbers. For some little time past both the probation and the prison services have been asking the Home Secretary for a review of their functions, and also of their pay and conditions. I hope that he will comment upon this matter today. In any case, I am hoping that he will be able to give us some evidence that he is adopting a more radical approach than the public is yet aware of to the problem of prison overcrowding. With the best will in the world, I doubt whether the orthodox method of capital programmes to replace the old prisons will every be fully implemented.
There remains the question of the care of children. Here, I start by thanking the right hon. and gallant Gentleman for having drawn so widely the terms of reference of the Departmental Committee which he is setting up to consider matters relating to children, and which will sit under the chairmanship of Viscount Ingleby. It seems clear that the second part of those terms of reference will give the Committee adequate power to consider what needs to be done to forestall the neglect of children; such as whether 1007 local authorities have adequate powers and whether there is proper co-ordination.
Many people have been pressing for such an investigation for a long time. I think that the shade of Mrs. Eva Hubback, who tried desperately hard to get it included in the terms of reference of the Curtis Committee, will be glad that it is now to be considered. It is true that a great deal could be done under the existing law without any reform, but for one reason or another the psychological resistance to proper co-ordination and the rivalries between different services at local rather than national level—but perhaps at both occasionally—have not been overcome, and there is no doubt that the Committee will have a major function to perform in this connection.
I would ask the Home Secretary whether he thinks that in the seven years or so since the Children Act came into operation it has justified itself. I have a personal interest in the matter, because I introduced the Measure into the House. It is my impression that the system then introduced has led to a growing understanding of the problems of children who have no normal homes. It seems that the errors which are now made are usually errors of judgment, which are probably inseparable from any activity of this kind, and rarely, if ever, errors of malice or, as used to be more often the case, indifference. But we shall never get away from the fact that the decisions to be taken require a balanced judgment, and are very difficult decisions to make.
Two recent cases, at opposite extremes, illustrate this fact very well. On 22nd June, on the Adjournment, what I might call the Warwickshire case was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Bowles), in which there had been extremely bad co-ordination between the children's officer, the N.S.P.C.C. and other interested persons. Possibly as a result of that, far too big a risk was taken in returning a child to the care of parents who had already shown themselves to be hopelessly unsatisfactory and incapable of properly looking after it. It was also clear in that case that the court's control was somewhat inadequate. The results to the child were, unfortunately, disastrous. The Joint Under-Secretary himself described it as a shocking affair.
1008 Only a week or two later we had the converse case, which, I believe, is to be debated in this House tomorrow. Perhaps I may call it the Surrey case, in which the child concerned was named Jean Callender. It seems that in this case the difficulty arose not through a lack of co-ordination in the usual sense; indeed, the co-ordination was almost perfect, to the point of being bureaucratic. There seems to have been an alliance between all the officials against the parent. The child was removed too readily from its home, and the court was too ready to act. The result was that proceedings were taken, and the case was described by the Lord Chief Justice, on 22nd of last month, as "bureaucracy gone mad".
I am not attempting to defend the action taken in either case, but I ask the House to remember that preventive work involves the taking of extremely difficult decisions before the harm has occurred. It would be a great pity if those who were concerned in these matters were to be frightened of facing their difficult responsibilities. It would be unfortunate if we allowed ourselves to be deflected from our normal and reasonable policies because, every now and then, there was an extreme case of bad judgment.
I cannot pretend to have done more than touch upon the matters which fall within the Votes which have been put down upon the Order Paper; many of my hon. Friends will want to raise a range of different topics. But I have voiced some rather serious misgivings about the way in which the Home Office is now being conducted, and I have asked for information upon many subjects. The Home Secretary will agree that it is right that grievances should be remedied before the granting of Supply. That is why our approach has been frankly critical.
I want the House to accept, however, that our interest in the Home Office is not only critical but positive and constructive. We shall listen with very great interest to what the Home Secretary tells us, and see how far he can satisfy our desire for information and remove our doubts.
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Major Gwilym Lloyd-George)
The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) stressed the fact that this debate 1009 would not be conducted in a party way, nor at any time during his speech did he approach the matter in that way. He criticised the Home Secretary a little, but not as much as all that, and I am not complaining. He said that I had adopted a rigid, bureaucratic attitude, but, as I do not accept that, I am not too much worried about it. I am satisfied that since I have been at the Home Office the liberal traditions which have always reposed in it have in no way diminished. The right hon. Gentleman said, quite rightly, that it was a long time since there had been an opportunity for the House of Commons to discuss the whole range of activities of the Home Office. While from time to time we have discussed certain aspects, this is the first occasion on which we are able to range over practically the whole of the Home Office responsibilities.
I am glad of the opportunity to refer to some of my responsibilities and, generally speaking the right hon. Gentleman indicated three main topics with which he was anxious that I should deal. First, there is the question of the "goings on"—if I may put it in that way—particularly in London, with reference to the police. The right hon. Gentleman himself did not deal with that matter at great length, but I shall deal with it. Secondly, the right hon. Gentleman referred to prisons, and, thirdly, to the question of children. Though he did not develop that at any length he asked me particularly——
§ Mr. Younger
I also hoped that either the right hon. and gallant Gentleman or his hon. Friend would deal with the matter of aliens.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I was coming to that. I will deal with the three matters which I have mentioned, and the question of aliens will be dealt with by my hon. Friend later in the debate.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman referred to children and young persons and to the important social work in that connection which we hope will continue and will be instrumental in relieving the police and the prison service of work for many years to come, as well as giving a brighter and better life to young people who stand in need of help.
1010 I wish, first, to deal with the question of the police. Those who have held my office will agree with me that, while exercising their duty, they became increasingly conscious of the very great services rendered by the police to the community. At the outset I should like to pay my tribute to the police for their very loyal and devoted work. I think it important that I should indicate something to the Committee which I do not think is generally appreciated.
The Home Secretary does not control the day-to-day administration of any police force, not even the Metropolitan Police, of which he is the Police Authority. His duty is confined to seeing that efficient police forces are maintained. In particular, the Home Secretary has no power to direct a police officer to prosecute or not to prosecute in any particular case. Here is an important point which I wish to stress: the police in this country are subject to the law and can act only as the law allows them. That is a state of affairs which everyone will agree is inestimably desirable, but it seems to have been lost sight of by some people recently, particularly regarding the state of affairs in London.
It is impossible to understand the nature of the problem of prostitution and the associated problems which confront the authorities without a clear idea of the law, because the law sets the limit within which the police can act. It is all very well to say, "The streets of London must he cleaned up," or "Vice must be put down." But the House of Commons would be very quick—and rightly so—to criticise me if the police started arresting people against whom they could bring no charge, or if I interfered with activities which, though they may be morally obnoxious, are not criminal. I ask the Committee to allow me briefly to explain as much as I can about this.
Let me first deal with solicitation. In London every common prostitute who loiters in a thoroughfare or public place for the purpose of prostitution or solicitation to the annoyance of the residents, or of passers-by, commits an offence and can be fined up to 40s. I wish the Committee to notice two points in this regard. Solicitation is not an offence in itself. It is an offence only if it annoys either a pedestrian, a passer-by or a resident. Therefore, the police cannot arrest prostitutes merely for being on the streets. 1011 The police can arrest them only if they are satisfied that someone has been annoyed, and I can assure hon. Members that to obtain such proof is not the easiest of tasks for the police.
Of course, in terms of present-day values, the fine is small, but to increase it by legislation is not necessarily the answer to prostitution. It is all too often argued that if we drive prostitutes off the street we shall solve the problem of prostitution. But unless we remove the demand—and I should be very interested to hear any suggestions about how that is to be done—prostitution will go on in some form. Therefore, we have to be very careful lest the second state be worse than the first. This is a problem which the Committee, under the Chairmanship of Mr. J. F. Wolfenden, is considering carefully, and I am sure that it would be premature and unwise to legislate on any aspect of the subject until the Committee's Report has been studied.
It is an offence for a male person to live wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I will come to that.
The maximum penalty for living wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution is imprisonment for six months on summary conviction, and for two years on conviction on indictment. It is also an offence for a female, for purposes of gain, to exercise control, direction or influence over the movements of a prostitute in a way which shows that she is aiding or abetting or compelling her prostitution. The penalties are the same as for living on immoral earnings.
In view of references which have been made to the Messina brothers, I should add that proceedings for living on immoral earnings can be taken only if the accused is within our jurisdiction. That is one point which we must remember. This offence is not covered by our Extradition Treaty with Belgium. Therefore, even though an offence could be proved, there is no means of bringing the offender to trial in this country.
1012 I wish to say a word about brothels. I do not know what mental picture is conjured up in the minds of hon. Members by the word "brothel", but, so far as I know, there is no evidence of the existence in this country of brothels in the popularly accepted sense of a house full of prostitutes from whom a customer may pick at will. According to English law, premises cannot be a brothel unless more than one woman uses them. There must be common use by two or more women. If rooms or flats are let separately to individual women, even though they are in the same building, for this purpose they constitute separate premises and the building is not a brothel.
There are two types of offence which can be committed in connection with premises used by prostitutes. It is important to be clear what they are, because many people think, quite wrongly, that if prostitutes are using a house somebody must of necessity be committing an offence. That is not so.
It is an offence to keep a brothel or to allow premises to be used as a brothel, but anyone who knows the law—we can be sure that many of them do, and know it very well—takes care to let premises to prostitutes in separate rooms or flats so that they do not constitute a brothel. It is also an offence in respect of premises which are not a brothel for the tenant in possession or the occupier to allow them to be used for habitual prostitution; but a person is not the occupier of the part of the premises which he sub-lets. Let me give an example. If a man lets a prostitute use a room in his flat, he commits an offence. If he takes the precaution of sub-letting the room to her he does not commit an offence.
Frankly, the law is too easy to get round. It is apparent from what I have said that no offence is committed by a person who buys or acquires the lease of premises and farms them out in separate lettings to individual prostitutes. The landlord cannot be got at since the premises are not a brothel. The prostitutes cannot be got at because no individual is permitting her premises to be used by somebody else for habitual prostitution.
If nothing is done about premises which are known to be occupied by prostitutes it is quite wrong to assume that the police must be either blind or negligent. When 1013 no offence is committed the police are powerless to act. How the law can be amended without creating difficulties for respectable people is one of the problems with which the Wolfenden Committee is wrestling. Believe me, it is by no means an easy one.
The Wolfenden Committee is well aware that I am anxious to have its Report as soon as possible, but I doubt whether it will be able to present it before the end of this year. I am sure that it would be a mistake to put pressure on it to go faster than it feels able or to harry it into snap decisions. These matters are extremely complicated and need to be thought out carefully and dispassionately.
I have explained the nature of these offences, because this must necessarily govern police measures to keep undesirable activities in check. I will describe briefly the steps which the police are taking, especially in the West End. Although the strength of the Metropolitan Force is about 3,700 below its male establishment at the moment—that establishment is about 19,460—the West End Division, the one mainly responsible for looking after these activities, will reach its full establishment of 670 by today. The estabishment of women police for that Division is 29.
Apart from the normal police patrols there are in the central area of the West End 14 police patrols, in pairs, excluding women police, during the hours from 4 p.m. to midnight to deal with rowdyism and to pay special attention to annoyance by prostitutes in the streets. In addition to this, two patrols of women police cover the Piccadilly area from about 3.30 in the afternoon until 7.30 the following morning. After midnight there are regular patrols by male police officers in the areas where soliciting is known to be prevalent.
The Commissioner has under constant examination the question whether women police should be more widely used on duties of this kind. He informs me that their services are most valuable, especially in connection with young girls who may be beginning either casual or regular prostitution, and that he is satisfied that women police are being used as far as is practicable in the present conditions.
Arrests for soliciting in 1951 in the West End Division were 4,969. They were 7,230 in 1955. For the whole of the 1014 Metropolitan Police district the totals were 7,556 in 1951 and 11,173 in 1955. That increase is not necessarily due to an increase in the problem but due to a very large extent to increased activity on the part of the Metropolitan Police. The Commissioner of Police naturally shares my anxiety that everything possible should be done to reduce the nuisance caused to the general public by soliciting. I am satisfied that the police are doing everything they possibly can under the present law and with the resources available to them.
The number of arrests in the Metropolitan Police District for living on immoral earnings was 57 in 1951 and 91 in 1955, with fluctuating figures in between. The detection and proof of this event is a much more difficult matter than the detection of soliciting on the streets and takes up a great deal of police time. During the same period the warrants issued to enter premises suspected of being brothels were about the same in number in 1955 as in 1951.
The police have peculiar difficulties because of the existing state of the law. There has been mention in the recent trial of the brothers Eugene and Carmelo Messina in Tournai, and in this House and in the Press, of premises being used for immoral purposes in London. I want to make it plain that the police are well aware of the facts relating to these premises. Two of the premises have already been the subject of prosecutions and one was the subject of a civil action in which neighbours suceeded in getting an injunction to prevent the use of the premises by prostitutes. The police are satisfied that there is no case at present for proceedings in relation to them.
There have been suggestions that, for one reason or another, the police have not been sufficiently active in relation to these premises or to the Messina brothers. These suggestions are completely without foundation. The police would not hesitate to take any proceedings if sufficient evidence were forthcoming of criminal offences.
I come to another question concerning the police in the Metropolitan area and gangs. I am informed that there is no foundation for the statements which have been made that there are highly organised gangs frequenting race-courses in different parts of the country and 1015 engaging in violence. Some years ago there was anxiety about the activities of known criminals of this type but, thanks to the close co-operation of the Metropolitan police and the provincial police, who attend these various meetings, there have been no disturbances of any magnitude at these courses for some years. I ought to make it clear that the Commissioner has no information to support any suggestion that the groups of undesirables which undoubtedly exist engage in closely organised activity. These groups are, of course, receiving careful attention. They are concerned mainly with betting and with clubs and not with such matters as prostitution.
The Commissioner is in constant touch with me on these matters. Particularly has he been so in relation to some of the recent events. I am satisfied that the Commissioner and his officers are well-informed and are keeping in close touch and keeping a very close watch on the situation. We have had the recent outbreaks of violence in this city. On 15th June, two men were found guilty and given seven years; five days later two more men were convicted and given a similar period. Yet a third case has come to light now, where there has been a shooting incident. Arrests were made within a very short period of the offences. That shows very creditable work on the part of the police of this country. I am very glad that the right hon. Member for Grimsby paid his tribute to the efficiency with which they do their work.
I am satisfied from what I have heard from the Commissioner and from what I know of the police that they will do everything they can to put down violence in this city. From my talks with the Commissioner, I am perfectly satisfied that nothing could do a greater disservice to the highly skilled and disciplined men in the Metropolitan Police than by making sweeping allegations of bribery and similar reasons for alleged inactivity, unsupported by facts or in such general terms that the Commissioner cannot usefully investigate them.
The right hon. Member spoke of another very important matter, the question of prisons. I should like to deal first with the question of conditions in local prisons. There is undoubtedly much in those prisons which requires improvement. They are short of accommodation, 1016 with the result that at the moment 2,000 prisoners are sleeping three in a cell. That is a terrible figure, but let us take some comfort from the fact that a few years ago the number was 6,000. At least it is down to a third of what it was, although that is bad enough.
They are short of staff, with the result that the prisoners are employed for little more than half a normal working week. As the right hon. Member pointed out, many aspects of these ancient buildings are out of accord with modern thought. Of these structural deficiencies the sanitary arrangements, although possibly they attract the greatest criticism, are by no means the only ones which need urgent attention. All these matters are important, but limiting the factors in regard to accommodation and structural improvements are only too well-known to hon. Members.
Already since the war the number of establishments under the control of the Prison Commissioners has been expanded from 40 to 70 including 20 open prisons and Borstal institutions. There are no more old prisons to be taken back into use and the open system is being used up to its proper limits. Further expansion must await the building of new establishments which either are planned or in progress. The position is that the first new prison of which I was glad to lay the foundation stone last April—I say I was glad because it was the first prison built in this country for 46 years—will, I hope, be ready in the autumn of next year. The building of the second prison and the psychiatric hospital ought to be started before the end of this financial year. One, and possibly two, Borstals for boys will be started next year, and two Borstals for girls will follow as soon as possible.
The right hon. Member asked about the savings on the Prisons Vote. The main saving, which I know is the one which interests him particularly, is of a sum of £90,000 based on the deferment of starting dates and the purchase of sites for some of these new buildings. The position is that, taking into account unforeseen delays in the preparation of plans, this saving represents a more realistic assessment of the present possibilities. I do not think that the date of completion of these buildings will be significantly affected.
1017 A great deal has already been done in structural improvements. I sometimes wonder if hon. Members realise how much has been done. To mention only a few of the major items, more than 160 new workshops have been built. A large number of new hospitals, kitchens, and bath-houses have been provided. Blocks of class-rooms for education have been built at many prisons. Out-worn heating and hot-water systems have been replaced. The electrification of the prisons has been completed, and the standard of cell lighting raised from 20w to 40w: It is now going to be raised again to 60w. Modern sanitary recesses have been provided in over 100 prison wings.
I am only too well aware that much more needs to be done to bring the sanitary arrangements into line with the needs of today, but this type of work is very costly, and where so much needs doing in so many directions, it is a matter of allotting priorities among the limited funds and labour available. With few exceptions all this work of modernisation and reconstruction is done with prison labour by the prisons Works Department.
I turn now to an equally important matter, the staffing problem, which is in some ways even more intractable than that of accommodation. If there were no limits to the calls we could make on our financial resources for building new prisons and improving old ones, some headway might be made, but in the conditions of the labour market in recent years it is much to expect that the prison service, which in spite of its difficulties has refused to lower its high standards—I think rightly refused—should be able to attract the very large number of the right sort of men that it still requires in the basic grade of prison officer. It is, I think, remarkable that it has achieved so much.
In 10 years the staff in post of all ranks has more than doubled, from a total of about 3,300 in 1946 to over 6,900 in 1956 despite the difficulties to which I have referred. That is a remarkable achievement. This does not suggest that this important work has, in general, been socially undervalued, but so long as the present understaffing of local prisons persists, so must our efforts to remedy it persist. The problem is to attract many more of the right men into this impor- 1018 tant social service, for that is what it has now become.
How can we do it? It is not, I agree, entirely a matter of material conditions, though these are important and by no means have they been or will they be under-rated. It is equally important to create within the service a morale based on a feeling of professional pride and satisfaction in the work. Essentially, I think, this turns on the establishment of a proper relationship between officers and prisoners, a relationship which will enable these men who day by day are in immediate contact with the prisoners to feel that they are not merely custodians, but have a positive part to play in their rehabilitation.
In the many types of prison where the constructive training which the system has to offer is given, and certainly in all the Borstals and detention centres, I believe that the situation in this respect is good, though it may still be made better. The problem is again mainly that of the local prisons.
Here may I say that in modern conditions, when classification by type of prison and by the use of open prisons has been carried so far, the ordinary local prisons have become simply the basis of the system as a whole. Their population consists only of untried prisoners, of various categories awaiting transfer to other prisons, and of recidivists serving sentences of not more than four years and who are not suitable for any sort of training prison. It is, in fact, only with this last category that any positive training can be attempted, and though they are ex hypothesi those with whom it is least likely to succeed, we must not fail to do what can be done. I should not like the Committee to think that nothing much has been done for them up to now. In fact, in recent years remarkable changes have been made. Although the hours of work are short, the variety and interests of the work has greatly increased. Even though the mailbag still remains a prominent feature, more than half the men in local prisons are engaged on other work, much of it skilled and interesting.
There is in every prison an evening educational institute, under professional teachers, providing a wide variety of classes in the arts, handicrafts and academic education. In every library, the prisoners now have open access to the 1019 bookshelves, and they may have periodicals and local papers sent in every week. Prisoners serving more than six months are eligible to have their meals in association, and to play games afterwards and read the daily newspapers. The quality and variety of the diet have been greatly improved, and the traditional dinner-cans have been replaced by a cafeteria-style service on plastic trays. In such things—which are more important than they sound—as shaving, hair-cutting, the use of cosmetics by women and improved clothing, much has been done to remove the mark of prison from the personal appearance of the prisoners.
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer and which has been raised more than once by the right hon. Member for Grimsby and others, and that is the question of prisoners' earnings. As the Committee knows, this is a matter with which I have very much sympathy. Much has been done from time to time to improve the present earnings scheme, but, as I think the Committee is aware, I am far from satisfied with the present position, and I hope to improve it as soon as financial considerations permit. I shall certainly go into the whole question again very fully before the prison Estimates for next year are prepared. But all this would go for little without a right and proper relationship between prisoners and staff, and it is on this that attention is now being concentrated.
Steps already taken to this end are the setting up at the prisons of consultative committees, representing every section of opinion among the staff, so that all can feel that they are equally members of a team engaged in a common task and that their opinions are sought and valued on any aspect of policy. Refresher courses of training for various grades are proving equally helpful to the same end. Many fruitful ideas have emerged and will shortly be tried out in an experiment to be staged at a selected local prison, and this whole question will next month engage the attention of a full conference of prison governors with the Prison Commissioners.
§ Mr. Victor Collins (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
Before the right hon. and gallant Gentleman leaves the subject of prisons, can he say whether he has given any consideration to the point raised by 1020 my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) with regard to the possibility of attaching wages of men who make payments under affiliation orders instead of sending them to prison?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I cannot give any detail of that now, but I am very well aware of the point. On the question of debtors, I have come across some very hard cases indeed.
§ Mr. Younger
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say whether I was right in thinking that, when he was referring to the Chancellor's economy cuts, he accounted for £90,000 by referring to the postponement of the starting date of building? If that is so, is not that less than half? I do not think that he mentioned of what the remaining cuts consist.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I was referring to prison building. A good deal of the remainder is due to the deferment of schemes for houses. The figure I gave referred purely to prison building.
I apologise to the Committee for being so long, but this is a subject which covers a very large field and affects every aspect of life in this country, so it is difficult not to take some little time. I do not think that it is inappropriate, having spoken of police and prisons, to say a word on a rather different aspect of the responsibility of the Home Secretary, and that is the question of the Children's Department of the Home Office. This, I need not remind the Committee, is a most valuable and important work socially. The last Report of the Children's Department was published last November and is full of interesting information about the development of the various services concerned with the welfare of children for which the Home Office is responsible. I have not time now to summarise it, but I suggest to any hon. Members who have not read the Report that they would be well repaid by reading it.
The right hon. Member for Grimsby mentioned the need for co-ordinating the measures taken by the many welfare workers who may be concerned with different aspects of social service in the home. I should like to say a word or two about that. First, that although there may be differences between us as to what is the right way of proceeding, we are all fully agreed on the main objective. Second, this is not by any means a new 1021 problem. It was one which faced right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in office. Their conclusion was that the need was not for extra statutory powers, but for the most effective use of the existing resources.
The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and his colleagues at the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education made, I think in 1950, a joint appeal to local authorities on this subject, urging them to set up coordinating committees. I believe that most local authorities have done so, and I am under the impression that they have done very good work.
In the past 12 months, I have received representations, to which my colleagues and I have given the most careful consideration, that there is need for further action. This we accept, and in particular we all agree about the great importance of doing everything possible to sustain the family. The social services concerned with the care of children aim, not at relieving parents of their obligations, but at assisting them to discharge those obligations. I believe that those responsible for the social services are increasingly aware of this. If there is weakness it is rather in the practical work of the existing social services, some of which have been in existence for only a short time and have yet to settle down and find their proper spheres of work.
My colleagues and I have therefore come to the conclusion that what is chiefly needed at the moment is a technical study of the steps already taken to improve co-ordination of the local services at all levels with a view to seeing how improvements can be made. This technical study has been started and, as part of it, the local authorities will soon be asked for up-to-date particulars of the arrangements in force in each area.
At the same time, as the Committee will be aware from statements made by my right hon. Friends, consideration is being given to the related subjects of the training of particular social workers and the scope of their responsibilities. I join with right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the Committee in deploring the instances of cruelty and neglect of children that still come to notice. On the subject of cruelty, there are those who say that the courts should have power 1022 to impose a more stringent penalty. In my view, the courts already have extensive powers in this respect, especially where the offender is sent for trial. I will not weary the Committee with them because it knows what they are.
Increase of penalties for cruelty will be among the subjects which fall to be considered by the Committee under Lord Ingleby's chairmanship that is to start work, I hope, in the autumn, and I ask the Committee to await the outcome of the Committee's consideration on the subject. On the question of neglect of children in their own homes, I am sure that hon. Members greatly appreciate the splendid work undertaken by the local authorities and by the various voluntary organisations in the country.
A great deal has been done already to prevent those conditions arising in the home that will lead to the neglect of the children and the need to remove them to better conditions. A great deal is also being done to repair the damage where such conditions have arisen, so that the children may quickly be restored to their homes, which is the better thing.
It has been suggested to me, however, that more might be achieved if the local authorities responsible for child care under the Children Act—and I congratulate the right hon. Member for Grimsby on having had some responsibility for that Act—were armed with new powers to take early action to prevent the suffering of children through neglect in their own homes. I am, accordingly, asking Lord Ingleby's Committee to look into this question as well.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Is anything being done to extend the work that was being done in conjunction with the Salvation Army to give to some of the feckless mothers some education and help so that they can return to their families better equipped to carry on than they have been in the past?
§ Major Lloyd-George
There was another started somewhere else. I will look into the figures and let the right hon. Gentleman know.
1023 I have given the Committee an outline of some of the problems which affect or concern my Department. I hope the Committee will agree that I have not done it in any spirit of complacency, but in the full realisation that the problems are intractable and that our resources are sometimes inadequate. Anyone familiar with the work of the Home Office knows how closely that work touches the life and liberty of the subject. There is scarcely one among the major subjects with which we deal which does not raise not merely difficult questions of administration, but fundamental problems of principle.
The Home Secretary, by the very nature of his duties, lives close—perhaps closer than any other Minister—to the problem which lies at the root of Government, the question where and how and by whom the balance is to be held between the freedom of the individual and the well-being of the community. The House of Commons is rightly jealous of both. I have no doubt that I shall be criticised today, and, in fact, I have been, for tipping the scale too much or too little in favour of the community and for interfering too much with the liberty of the individual or for not interfering enough.
The problems of vice and violence, in particular, show this in the acutist form. I hope I have said enough to convince the Committee that I am aware of the nature of the problems and their implication and that I am tackling them with a full sense of responsibility. Some years ago when a predecessor of mine was speaking in a similar debate to this he said that the Home Office was, in his view, the Department most frequently occupied with giving detailed executive decisions affecting the individual, and he paid tribute to the devotion and care of the officials of the Department in dealing with these matters. I can certainly pay that same tribute today. He added that one could not expect that decisions would always be right and said:Indeed there are cases when it seems impossible to decide which is right. But that we should preserve a free Parliament in which we may challenge one or another as to the propriety of decisions … is the key to the liberty which we all desire."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June, 1935; Vol. 304, c. 903.]I echo those words and I hope that this debate will prove equally profitable to the Home Office and to the Committee.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that, although the police will be grateful for his kindly words, they will be deeply disappointed that he has not said anything about back pay and restrospection? As the Home Office has had this question under consideration for years and has promised to put the position right and bring the police into line with every other body of workers, is he not yet in a position to announce his decision?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I did not intend to deal with that. I thought that I had dealt with bigger subjects, from the time point of view. My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary may be able to say something about it. I gave my answer to the right hon. Member for South Shields when we discussed this before. I told him that I would let him know as soon as possible what I would do. That was about a week ago.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Mr. George Benson (Chesterfield)
Without wishing to be controversial, I must say that I was struck by the different angle from which the Home Secretary approached the problem of the purposes of prison from that which he adopted in his speech on Thursday on the death penalty. Not one word was said this afternoon about deterrence. Indeed, I doubt very much whether anybody who knows much about our penal system will discuss deterrence, for what is one of the most remarkable changes in public opinion, or at any rate in official opinion, is the change with regard to the purpose of imprisonment.
It is almost a hundred years since Archbishop Whatley stated:We cannot admit that the reformation of a convict is an essential part of prison.In those days reformation was something which might or might not occur. The sole purpose, the official purpose, of prison was deterrence. Exactly fifty years later the Gladstone Committee Report laid down that deterrence and reform were to be the dual and concurrent aims of our prison system.
Another fifty years passed, and we have the present Chairman of the Prison Commissioners stating, in the journal Probation, that it is:… necessary to abandon the dual aim. The deterrent effect of a sentence was 1025 assumed to be implicit in the loss of liberty. … Only on this assumption was it possible to pursue reformation as a primary end by removing any removable feature of prison life, not essential to discipline and security, which got in the way.Thus the sole aim is reformation. That is a most remarkable revolution in thought.
This change of attitude has undoubtedly also revolutionised prison conditions. I do not wish to compare our own prison conditions with the conditions under the Du Cane machine. I will limit my comment to my personal experience. I can, as a matter of fact, look back on prison conditions over a period of forty years. It is exactly forty years since I served a prison sentence, and today I can say that I am not unfamiliar with every prison in England, with the exception of two small ones. Without question the change over those forty years has to be experienced to be believed.
There has recently been a spate of books by ex-prisoners. One or two have been objective, as in the case of Wildeblood's book, others have been unobjective. Although a very remarkable change has taken place, there is perhaps still, owing to the unfortunate post-war conditions, overcrowding, shortage of staff and obsolete buildings, as much to criticise as to praise.
The changes in our penal system in those forty years have been absolutely justified on humanitarian grounds. Their aim was to make our prisons reformative, but to what extent have they succeeded? Admittedly, our information on this matter is extremely scrappy and inadequate. With very great deference, I venture the opinion that it is very doubtful whether, despite all the changes, our prisons are one scrap more reformative today than they were a generation ago.
Conditions have varied. It is very difficult to compare the effect of a penal system after a great war, when unquestionably there has been a very serious drop in social morality, with a system in which cells are unoccupied, unlike today's conditions, when more than 2,000 prisoners are sleeping three in a cell. Taking everything into consideration in the present difficulties, I still feel that we have failed to make any great impact on the problem of reformation. One can quote figures either way. For example, 1026 there is little question but that Borstal at present is giving results worse than those before the war. On the other hand, hon. Members may be surprised to know that prison for adolescents is undoubtedly giving better results than before the war. I do not propose to explain that, but merely say that those are the available facts.
The result of imprisonment of first offenders has not changed for a generation. Figures in the annual reports of the Prison Commissioners show that first offenders react to prison as they did in 1930, and there is scarcely a 1 per cent. variation one way or the other. Curiously enough, there is evidence that the same applies to the habitual offender. None of our changes seems to have made an impact on the hardened habitual criminal. The evidence—it is complex and not easy to understand, but it convinces me—is that over a period our prisons are getting no better results with the habitual criminal than they did a generation ago. That is not to say that they have no effect.
There is a curious delusion that the habitual criminal is hopeless. One of the many gaffes of Lord Goddard, the Lord Chief Justice, was to lay down, about four years ago, that corrective training was suitable only for men under 30, apparently labouring under the delusion that criminals over 30 with long records were hopeless. That is not true.
It is a rather curious fact that the rate at which a habitual criminal ceases to recidivate can be stated simply and clearly. If one takes 100 dyed-in-the-wool criminals aged 30, one finds that they cease to recidivate at the rate of 2½ per cent, per annum. Of those 100 men, 25 will have ceased to recidivate when they are 40, and 50 will have ceased at 50 years of age. When they are 60, 78 will have ceased, and that for reasons other than death. Considering the records of those men—and I am talking now about the Dartmoor and Parkhurst type—that is not too bad a showing.
What is disturbing is that those figures appear to have been stationary over two generations and that we are not dealing any more effectively with the present generation of habitual criminals than we did with the past generation. That seems to be the major problem which we have to face. Despite all the very great changes which have taken place, it is doubtful 1027 whether we have succeeded in making our prison system more efficient.
What all that boils down to is that one cannot say that it is possible to deter criminals by bad conditions, but it does not follow by any means that if the conditions are improved, the prison system is made reformative. On penal matters we are pitifully ignorant. We have had the Borstal system for fifty years, but we still do not know whether 18 months' training in Borstal is more or less effective for a youngster than six months in prison. No adequate figures are available. We shall not solve our prison problems so long as we are prepared to remain in ignorance of practically all the basic information which should be available.
The Criminal Justice Act, 1948, gave the Home Office power to spend money on research into penal matters. Since that Act was passed, we have spent £50 million on our Borstal and prison systems, but only approximately £2,000 on research into what our prisons and Borstals do. That is a derisory figure. It is not surprising that penology is roughly in the position in which medicine was in the fifteenth century, based upon assumptions, guesswork and hope.
Let me admit at once that that £2,000 produced a piece of research which is quite outstanding. It was done by Mannheim and Wilkins, and was published by the Stationery Office under the title of "Prediction in relation to Borstal Training". It is probably one of the three most important books on penology published in the last thirty years in any country. Certainly, the Home Office got value for money. That book has laid the foundation for a really rational development of our Borstal system, but what is pathetic is that the grant was not large enough to enable the solving of important problems that could have been solved had there been available another £500 or £600.
How much do we spend on prison research? So far as I know, nothing. I want to be fair to the Home Office. It has just completed a piece of research into approved schools. There is projected, I believe, a piece of research into probation. Something of the kind is going on, on what scale I do not know, relating to training centres. But when one thinks of the immense cost of our penal system—prisons, Borstals, probation and the police 1028 —and add to that all the depredations and the cost of crime, and when one thinks of the pitiful trickle of money that goes into research in regard to dealing with criminals, one really wonders what is the cause of that small figure.
I should like to ask the Home Secretary if he is having difficulty with the Treasury in getting adequate money for research, and I hope that I shall get a reply to that from the Joint Under-Secretary of State. Is it the Treasury that is cramping the Home Office here? If it is, the Home Office has a perfectly adequate answer in respect of Borstal alone. One thing that Borstal research did show was that a very large number of Borstal lads, particularly the better group with whom one can expect a very high proportion of success, were clearly being kept in Borstal considerably longer than necessary.
It costs about £400 to keep a boy in Borstal. As a result of this research we can very accurately assess the optimum period for which lads should be kept in, and on that one piece of research, for a cost of about £2,000 properly handled, the Prison Commissioners should be able to save tens of thousands of pounds a year. I do not say that that is the justification for the research, but it is a good answer to the Treasury, if the Treasury is the stumbling-block to adequate research into penal matters.
I was very glad that the Home Secretary ended his remarks on prisons by a reference to the recent changes that have taken place internally in inter-staff relationships. I think that it is true, as the Home Secretary said, that the key to the prison problem is the landing officer. We require good governors; and we certainly ought to have a first-class psychiatrist in every Borstal in the country. At Polmont, in Scotland, there is a resident psychiatrist. That is the only Borstal to have one. But the real key to the prison problem is the landing officer, because he is the man who is in daily and continuous contact with the prisoner.
The problem of reform, of stopping the man coming back, of changing either his personality or his mind, is a psychological problem, a problem of personal contact and relationship. Every governor whom I know, such authorities on penal matters as Dr. Roper, the medical officer at Wakefield, are all agreed that the really good and healthy impact of the 1029 prison system on the prisoner comes through the prison officer. It is here that we find one of the disastrous effects of the shortage of staff. It is true that, as the Home Secretary says, we have doubled our prison staff, but still we are unable, except in central prisons, to work a full eight-hour shift outside the cell.
At the present moment, the prison officer in our local prisons—and it is our local prisons that hold the great majority of our prisoners—is little better than a turnkey. His job is mainly to keep people safe. He is a turnkey, whereas he ought to be the key to the present situation. What inducements the Home Secretary can offer to obtain a higher numerical standard of staffing I do not know. One thing is quite certain—if we can make the job more interesting, make it a better job for the landing officer, something better than mere shepherding and locking up, we shall improve the number of staff because we shall get rid of wastage. It is not the recruitment that is wrong, but the wastage. So many men who are adequate in every way to be prison officers find the job dull, uninteresting, mechanical.
Here we have a vicious circle. We cannot make the prison officer's job better until we get more staff, and it will be very difficult to get more staff until we get a more attractive régime. I hope that the Home Secretary will persevere along the lines which he has suggested of making the prison officer's job worth while. For there, I think, is the key to the problem.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) has unrivalled practical knowledge of the prison system and it is worrying to hear an authority such as he make the comment that there seems to have been so little difference in the last 100 years——
§ Mr. Rawlinson
I am sorry—so little difference in the last 40 years in the reformative effect of prisons.
I want to deal more with matters affecting the police, to which the Home Secretary has referred. It is rather a matter for regret that in his review of the year the Commissioner of Police of 1030 the Metropolis should have thought himself obliged to refer to the criticism of the police—which has, in fact, been so widespread—by saying in page 7 of his Report, that… there is a strong and growing feeling of resentmentin the force against these attacks.
The police, considered as public servants, are in a peculiarly vulnerable position. They have great opportunities and great powers. That being so, there will always be rumour and gossip of corruption or non-corruption among their ranks. It should be recollected that, between 1951 and 1956, 87 Metropolitan Police officers were convicted, including two for demanding money by menaces, one for conspiring to pervert justice and two for committing perjury. There is, therefore, bound to be some fuel for some rumour; but surely it is only a matter for rumour, and I do not think that in any shape or form public confidence in the general integrity of the police force as a whole has been affected.
It is a matter, of course, for constant vigilance, and those ranks which are of the greatest importance—the inspector, the chief inspector and the superintendent—are men of distinction who are grossly underpaid and should certainly receive very much more pay for the tasks they have to do. There is at the moment great distinction in the senior ranks of the police force, but I hope that there will be vigilance the whole time to see that the standard of the junior officers, who have to bear terrific pressure and the possibility of temptation, remains as high as it has been in the past.
The objects of the police are the prevention and detection of crime. Other duties which are imposed upon them by our system are, in my opinion, far too heavy. It is interesting to note from the Report that of the property reported stolen, on the estimate of the owners, about £2,800,000 worth in the past year has not been recovered. In addition, about two-thirds of the indictable offences have not been cleared up. That is partly because the police have such absurd tasks thrust upon them as the licensing of cabs, which surely should be done by the London County Council, the collection of stray dogs, about which they are continually being telephoned, and all the other difficulties which are put upon them by the law as it is at present.
1031 The police have to administer the law as they find it, and the fact that there are ladies lurking on every street corner, despite the activities of a former Prime Minister, Mr. Gladstone, is really due to Parliament itself. The failure and the responsibility are Parliament's. There is some form of national hypocrisy about the law relating to prostitution, betting and licensing. Only a short time ago, when discussing the Bill on capital punishment, certain hon. Members said how glad they were that we in this House were in advance of public opinion. I only hope that when the Wolfenden Report is published, and these matters can really be considered, Parliament will shoulder the task which it ought to do, and that is to introduce legislation to put these matters on a sound, sensible and proper basis.
May I illustrate the situation by referring to betting? As many hon. Members know, it is an offence to loiter on behalf of oneself or for another for the purpose of betting. It is perfectly legal to go to the telephone and to put one's money on a horse through what is known as a commission agent. But if—heaven forbid—one should loiter outside and take bets, one commits an offence.
I notice in the Commissioner's Report that because the law is the law, and has to be administered, the police, whose duty is the prevention and detection of crime, have arrested 5,242 persons for street betting during the past year. The Chancellor will be glad to know that fines and costs amounted to £8,716. It is an obsolete law and it is impossible to administer it. The whole purpose of criminal law is that it should be capable of literal interpretation and unfailing execution. It has to be accepted by the country as a whole to be a just law, and it certainly is not so far as betting is concerned.
The Home Secretary has dealt in considerable detail with the matter of prostitution. He has said quite properly that the powers of the police are limited. It is with weapons such as the Vagrancy Act, 1824, the Metropolitan Police Act, 1839, and the Town Police Clauses Act, 1847, that we are concerned in dealing with this problem in 1956. There has been only one national law, the Vagrancy Act, and the others are these local Acts including also, I believe, a byelaw in 1032 Cambridge. Anyhow, it was in Cambridge where an unfortunate Miss Daisy Hopkins was arrested and charged with walking with an undergraduate. The absurdity of the whole of the legislation is shown when it is expected that the police should deal with this terrible problem, though goodness knows how.
The Home Secretary also dealt with the difficulty which arises and which was shown to arise in a recent case at the Central Criminal Court—the Queen v. Silver—which related to landlords and estate agencies. It was explained that if a flat is let at a high rent to one prostitute, even though one knows that she is a prostitute and intends to use that flat for the purpose of prostitution, yet the matter is outside the scope of the Vagrancy Act, 1898, and, therefore, no charge could be brought home.
I hope that when the Wolfenden Report comes before the House, provision will be made for such reforms so that a landlord, on the conviction of a prostitute, can be notified, if need be, that the person is a prostitute, that he is letting his room to a prostitute, and that on a second or third offence of soliciting by the prostitute, it will be made an offence for the landlord to continue to let the premises to this woman. There ought perhaps to be also a right of search of the premises of known prostitutes.
The Home Secretary said that we have to be careful in this matter because it may well be that we might drive the whole problem into a worse position than it has been in the past. I cannot think that anybody walking the streets of London today could believe that it could be possible for conditions to be worse than they are at present.
My right hon. and gallant Friend also referred to the matter of gangs and gang warfare. He said—and one must accept it—that there are apparently no race-course gangs. But there certainly appear to be gangs, or persons hired by others for money to commit violence upon other people, and there certainly are in existence protection rackets in Soho, where wretched shopkeepers, for fear of having their windows broken, are paying protection money to people in control of the gangs. If that is not gang warfare, I should like to know what it is.
If we can deal with the problem of street betting and prostitution, we can 1033 come on to the matter of the protection racket and deal with that later. But it is rather false to blame the police for the present position. If hon. Members wish to know who to blame, we should look around and blame ourselves.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
If I do not follow the hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson), it is largely because I agree with almost everything that he has said. In particular, I should like to reinforce his hope that when the Wolfenden Committee reports to this House there will be early legislation to bring the law up to date, not only in relation to prostitution, but also as regards homosexuality, which is the other part of the Committee's terms of reference.
I want to deal with one aspect of the functions of the Home Office. I think the Committee was grateful to the Home Secretary for his survey of a large area of the responsibilities of the Home Office, but I think that, equally, hon. Members were a little surprised at the way the Home Secretary divided the responsibility for the purpose of this debate. He dealt with crime and the police, prisons and the children's section of the Home Office. But the main burden of my right hon. Friend's attack on the Home Secretary and on his Department concerned the question of aliens, deportations and civil liberties, and that, we were told by the Home Secretary, he was going to leave to the Under-Secretary of State to deal with in his winding-up speech. The right hon. Gentleman contented himself with assuring the House that he was not bureaucratic, and that in his own opinion he was a liberal Home Secretary. I do not think that that view of the right hon. Gentleman's performance of his functions is very well borne out by certain incidents in connection with aliens which have taken place in the course of the last few months.
I want to deal with the treatment by the police and by the Home Office of the Cypriot community in London. We have in London, or mostly in London, about 25,000 or 30,000 Cypriots. Rather more than half of them live in the borough of St. Pancras, part of which I represent. These Cypriots feel very passionately about the matters now concerning their 1034 compatriots in the island of Cyprus. Contrary to what was said in this House not very long ago by, I think, the hon. and gallant Member for Hull, Haltemprice (Major Wall), Cypriots in Britain feel very deeply about self-determination for Cyprus and about Enosis.
Although they are so concerned about these matters, they have conducted themselves, especially throughout the last year or two when the problem has become acute, with complete propriety; there have been demonstrations in London, but they have been infrequent and they have always been completely orderly and dignified. The right hon. Gentleman and the police could have had nothing to complain about whatever in connection with the conduct of the Cypriot community.
About a month ago, the right hon. Gentleman, apparently, received some information—from the usual anonymous sources, I expect—that trouble was expected from the Cypriots in London. It appears that it was thought that certain E.O.K.A. terrorists had either got into this country or were shortly expected in this country. Fears were expressed in connection with the intended visit of Sir John Harding. The result was that many dozens of Cypriots were visited by the police and interrogated. Among those thus visited were business men who have lived here quite peacefully for 20 years or more and who have never come into contact with the law at all, and also two Greek Orthodox priests, one of whom was the Archimandrite Macheriotis.
So far as I am aware, the police discovered nothing at all of any significance. They carried out certain searches, not on search warrants, though admittedly with the permission of the people concerned. I find it difficult to envisage the circumstances in which permission could have been withheld, but nevertheless it was obtained. Having discovered nothing, the police, I understand, strengthened the guards placed on certain prominent people in this country, including Ministers of the Crown. They then began shadowing from morning till midnight certain leading Cypriots, officials of Cypriot organisations, and of the London branch of the Ethnarchy.
This was done quite openly. Indeed, I am assured that some of the Cypriots became, apparently, on quite friendly 1035 terms with their shadowers, and they used to offer each other lifts in order to save taxi fares. Not content with this, the police began intercepting cablegrams sent from the Ethnarchy office in Fitzroy Square and stopping cable messengers in the street, asking them to show the messages they had just collected. No doubt there was also the usual tapping of telephone lines and censorship of mail.
No conspiracy of any kind was uncovered. The one thing which, apparently, the right hon. Gentleman never thought to do was to question the accuracy of his original secret information. Of course, that is always the danger in these matters; action is taken on information which cannot be checked, which may be, and, I have no doubt, often is, based on political ignorance or political prejudice.
The one positive outcome of this campaign was the deportation of Father Macheriotis in the early hours of 12th June. Police officers called on him the previous evening at his home, which was a sparsely furnished single room in a house in my constituency; they gave him time to pack, put him under detention, took him to London Airport, and placed him on the night plane to Athens.
What were the charges against Father Macheriotis? No charges were brought, of course, but what were the charges which the Home Secretary preferred against him in this House? As my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) said, they were two. Firstly, the Archimandrite was accused of collecting money under duress for the Cyprus national struggle, and, secondly, he was accused of allowing his church to be used as a centre for anti-British propaganda. Like my right hon. Friend, I was very disappointed that the Home Secretary, having given a careful reply to the original Question, put his own gloss on the phrase "the Cyprus national struggle," stretching it to suggest that it involved collecting money for the purpose of killing British soldiers.
I have given the Home Secretary every opportunity to produce evidence to this House that that innuendo and those suggestions were justified. In my view, he has completely failed to justify them. In a supplementary question about 10 days ago, I quoted from the actual document 1036 which the Home Secretary laid in the Library, in which it was stated that money was being canvassed for the victims of the Cyprus national struggle. The right hon. Gentleman said that there were other documents which mentioned merely the Cyprus national struggle. Even if all the documents mentioned only that, I still think it would not justify the Home Secretary's charges. But the document from which I quoted, in the Home Office translation, was the actual letter sent out asking for subscriptions, and the purpose for which the subscriptions were asked was to aid the victims of the Cyprus national struggle. And there are many victims who do need help. I asked the Home Secretary if he would tell me whether any of the money had left this country. He said that was irrelevant. My information is that not one penny has left this country.
§ Mr. George Jeger (Goole)
Would my hon. Friend allow me to intervene for one moment? He has just said that many of the dependants are in need of the money which is being collected, allegedly for their assistance. He then said that not one penny has left the country. Could my hon. Friend enlighten us as to what has happened to the money which has been collected?
§ Mr. Robinson
Certainly. According to my information, it is still in a bank in this country. It will be remembered that this fund was started with a power of attorney given to Father Macheriotis by Archbishop Makarios in Cyprus, and when Archbishop Makarios was deported by the present Government, on instructions of the Colonial Secretary, the money remained in this country because nobody knew to whom to send it.
I asked the Home Secretary to say what evidence he had that there had been any duress. His reply on 28th June was:Information reaching the police from a number of sources"—again unknown sources—indicates that some Cypriots have subscribed to funds under duress, but no one who has been subjected to pressure in this way has complained to me or to the police.I think that is slender evidence on which to base a charge.
Now I come to the second question of anti-British propaganda. I find it difficult to see any difference between what the 1037 right hon. and gallant Gentleman is complaining about and the normal, and in my view legitimate, criticism of Her Majesty's Government's policy on Cyprus which one can hear not only from these benches in the House of Commons but also on many political platforms throughout the country. I hope that when the Joint Under-Secretary of State replies tonight, he will make it clear that there is no objection to criticism of Government policy, even if it happens to be conducted by an alien in this country. I suspect that what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not like was the fact that at the church at which Father Macheriotis officiated. All Saints Church in Camden Town, there was a memorial service for Karaolis and Demetriou, who were the first Cypriots to be executed under the emergency laws.
Not only did the Home Secretary fail to make out a case for deportation, but it is clear that the manner in which it took place left a lot to be desired. The whole thing seems to have been done in an arbitary and thoughtless way. There is in existence an Anglo-Greek Consular Convention signed by the two Governments as recently as 1953, under the terms of which it is required that a consular official should be informed immediately when a subject of either nation is arrested or detained by the other.
In this case no communication of any kind was made to the Greek Embassy or to the Greek Consulate, and when this matter was first raised by Lord Stansgate in another place the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office in his reply made it clear that the Home Office was entirely unaware of this Convention at the time of the deportation. I asked the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether in his view his action was a breach of the Convention, and he replied:The instructions issued to the police at the time this Convention was concluded did not deal explicitly with the situation which arises in cases of deportation and, therefore, no notification was made to the Greek Consul, in accordance with Article 19 of the Convention, during the short period of Mr. Macheriotis detention.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th June, 1956; Vol. 555, cc. 64 and 65.]That seems to me a fairly definite admission that the Home Secretary slipped up in this respect. I think that it might have included a slight expression of regret.
1038 The other way in which the Home Secretary failed to take appropriate steps, in my view, was the fact that he at no time informed the Archimandrite's ecclesiastical superior. The Archbishop Athenagoras, who is head of the Greek Orthodox Church for Central and Western Europe, has his headquarters in London, and was at all times available. I should have thought that if there were any complaints about the way a priest, who is also a foreigner, was conducting himself in this country, the first thing that the Home Secretary would have done would be to go to his ecclesiastical superior and ask, "Will you have a word with Father Macheriotis? We do not like the way he is conducting his services or his activities at his church." No such approach was made. No complaint was made during the month which elapsed between Father Macheriotis's interrogation by the police and his deportation, and no notification was given.
In the course of questions and answers the Home Secretary made light of the deportation. He said that it was no great hardship for a Greek subject to be deported to Athens. But that was rather begging the question. This is a matter of principle and the powers of deportation, necessary though they are, are granted to the Home Secretary reluctantly by this House. I believe that the House expects those powers to be used sparingly, and only as a last resort. Certainly we do not expect them to be used for political ends.
Nothing that the Home Secretary has said so far suggests that he had any adequate grounds for deporting Father Macheriotis, and unless the Joint Under-Secretary can give the House new facts in the course of his winding-up speech, we must assume that this deportation was not only an error of judgment, but a serious injustice.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Humphrey Atkins (Merton and Morden)
The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) has dealt with one aspect of police work and a specific case. I do not think that he will expect me to follow him in great detail, because most of what he dealt with was directed at the Home Secretary, and I do not think there is anything I can usefully say about his remarks.
1039 I want to deal with some aspects of police work, because there is no doubt that in the Metropolitan area, in which my constituency is situated, there has been a certain amount of alarm caused recently by outbreaks which have been described as gang warfare, terrorism, and so on. My right hon. and gallant Friend is quite right in saying, as he did earlier, that the prompt action by the police in securing the arrest of a number of persons, some of whom have been convicted and others of whom will shortly be appearing for trial in connection with those convictions, has helped to allay much of the alarm. Nevertheless, some of that alarm remains, not, perhaps, because people feel that they themselves will be attacked, but because they feel that the law is being set aside in these larger matters and possibly will be in smaller ones.
I have said before in the House that for serious crime a great deterrent is the knowledge that the culprit will very probably be caught. Therefore, from the Report of the Commissioner for the Metropolis I was glad to see, for 1955, that no less than 81½ per cent. of the cases of crimes of violence against the person which came to his notice had been cleared up. The percentage is a good deal lower for the smaller crimes such as burglary, picking pockets or housebreaking. Here we must rely on something else to give a sense of security and to keep down the number of offences.
I am a great believer in the effectiveness of the policeman on his beat. The knowledge that an area is well patrolled by a policeman not only deters criminals from committing minor crimes, but also gives a feeling of confidence to the people who live and work in those areas. I am keen to see that as many men as possible, certainly up to the number required by the establishment, should be employed on that work rather than on other duties.
In that connection there is one thing about which I should like more information from the Home Secretary, namely, the scheme commenced in 1954 of equipping some patrolling policemen on their beats with light motor bicycles. In his Report the Commissioner mentioned that what he calls the experiment is going on. I should like to know whether it is thought to be a good one, and whether it is proposed to expand it or not. Ob- 1040 viously it has certain advantages. The mobility of the policeman is increased and he can cover more ground. If he is linked by radio to his headquarters, as I understand some are, that is an additional advantage, and he can be called on readily in case of need.
Nevertheless, I can see a number of disadvantages, and I would welcome the observations of the Home Secretary. One of the most obvious is that the examination by a policeman of the locality which he has to cover must be more cursory if he is on a light motor bicycle than if he is on his feet. He should devote—at least, we hope he does devote—a good deal of his attention to controlling his vehicle, so that his complete attention is not available for noticing the open door or the suspicious loitering character and matters of that sort which the patrolling policeman is expected to investigate.
Another disadvantage which occurs to me arises particularly if such men are equipped with means of radio communication with headquarters. If a policeman wears headphones and the engine of his machine is running, it is more difficult for him to answer calls for assistance or to hear suspicious noises which ought to be investigated. Of course, the final disadvantage is that such a man, although he gets around a wider area, is much less easily stopped by any person either wanting help or merely wanting to ask one of those questions which we do ask of policemen and perhaps should not ask. Before welcoming an extension of this scheme to provide better coverage by patrolling policemen, I should very much like to hear the opinion of the Home Secretary on the matter.
In order to secure the maximum number of men available for this duty, there are two obvious things that can be done now. The first is to recruit more men. The Home Secretary has mentioned recruiting for the Metropolitan area, but there is one point on which I should like to question him. Although the recruiting campaign goes on, although a lot of money is spent on advertising for more police, and although the pay and pensions conditions were improved last year, nevertheless by the end of last year fewer men had joined the force during the year than had left it, and there was a net decrease in strength of the Metropolitan Police force.
1041 I should be very interested to hear whether the new pay and pensions scales have in fact resulted, or are showing any signs of resulting, in an increase in the intake of men to the Metropolitan Police force. The force is very considerably below strength, and any measures that can be taken to bring it up to strength should be taken. These pay increases to which I have referred came into effect in December last, and I should be very interested to hear what effect, if any, they are having.
The last point which I should like to make is on the question of the replacement of uniformed policemen by civilians. I attach a great deal of importance to that, and so, I am glad to see, does the Report of the Commissioner. There has been a certain amount of progress in replacing, by civilians, men who had to be employed on shorthand-typing duties, in operating the telephone exchanges in police stations, etc. It is obvious that those duties are not proper employment for any policeman who has been trained by the country to discharge the duties of a policeman in the maintenance of law and order.
I hope that the Home Secretary will press on wherever possible with the replacement of uniformed police by civilians, and I hope that he will also look again at the categories of occupations which could perhaps be carried out by civilians but which at present require the services of trained policemen. In spite of all the efforts made last year, I understand that only 98 police were replaced by civilians, and I hope that much more attention will be given to that matter to ensure that, wherever possible, uniformed men are either out on their jobs or are available in the stations for the detection of crime. The detection of crime is a matter for experts, while the prevention of crime can best be done by the man on the beat. Therefore, the more it is up to us to see that the maximum number of men are always available for that duty.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
I certainly join with the hon. Member for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins) in paying tribute to the work of the police. I should also like to say to the Home Secretary that there is one thing which he himself can do to help recruitment to his own force. It is all very well telling us that we must not say anything to upset them or discourage 1042 them in their work or prevent other people from joining the police, but there is a little matter of the back-dating of the award. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman issued a further announcement today on those lines, he might find it extremely helpful, because, much as the police like being praised by Members of Parliament, I think that they attach much more practical significance to a gesture of this kind.
I represent a London borough which has its own problems in connection with one aspect of the work of the police. Just how widespread the legend about my borough was I did not learn until I was in Peking, 18 months ago, when a Chinese said to me, "What constituency do you represent?" I said, "I represent one of the London boroughs called Paddington; I do not know whether you have heard of it." The Chinese replied, "Oh, yes; that is where the Church owns the brothels, is it not?" That is a legend which has persisted for a long time, and is not without a basis of truth.
I want to say straight away that I do not think that any solution will be found to the problems which are connected with this matter until the whole question of property owning and land owning is looked at and revised. For my part, I think it is not honest to assume that the problem of brothels can be solved without solving the problems of the sale of the fag-ends of leases, and mysterious figures of head lessees who cannot be found when wanted and certain clauses that were put into agreements of a hundred years ago.
I think that the Home Secretary might pay attention to that. He might also ask the Wolfenden Committee to report on it fairly early. We were disappointed in his announcement this afternoon that the Wolfenden Report will be delayed, though we were not surprised. We are certainly not surprised to find that that Committee has bitten off much more than it could chew in a very long time. In a subject like that, particularly in view of its wide ramifications, it might not be impossible to have the Report presented in stages. If there are some recommendations which require legislation in connection with the ownership of property, they could be dealt with in isolation. I am quite certain that if the Home Secretary asks for quick legislation on one or two of these separate matters he would get the 1043 co-operation of both sides of the House in getting it through.
I am one of those who believe that it is a very grave disservice to treat this question of vice and prostitution on glamorous and sensational lines. It is not at all clever to keep on rediscovering that certain addresses in Mayfair are used for the purposes of prostitution, and to demand that the police should walk in and put everything right. One energetic order by the Home Secretary, and London cleaned up tomorrow—that is arrant nonsense. All these addresses are to be found in Mayhew's "London"—Shepherds Market, Curzon Street, Panton Street, and so on. Let those people stay there a little longer. Do not let them be driven under cover into my constituency.
It is not very clever to glamorise the supposedly high earnings made by Elizabeth De Meester. Far better was done by the best English harlots of the nineteenth century. Laura Bell, who was in her heyday in Hyde Park a century ago, made a much bigger fortune than that before she was buried in Paddington Cemetery. Elizabeth Howard, a lively redhead, was a wealthy woman at 17, when she took as her ponce a dissolute adventurer from abroad named Louis Napoleon.
This woman financed a paddle-steamer which took him and 50 toughs from London to a supposed invasion of Bolougne, but they got into gaol. He came back six years later, and, apparently, in the meantime having inherited some money, he bought her a house in Berkeley Square. Later, she put up £30,000 for his election campaign, but it is true that she got a good return when, eventually, he became Emperor.
This sort of thing is all right for those who want to write lively articles for the Sunday newspapers, but it is not a serious treatment of the problem to keep on publishing figures of supposed vast earnings and the network run by men like Professor Moriarty and other great organisers. It is not fair to suggest that there is high powered organisation behind it. It is silly to over-dramatise the Messina brothers. They handle only a mere handful of the people who are engaged in this trade. They have, of course, organised it very well and made a reasonable amount of money out of it.
1044 We are dealing with quite a small, specialised section of highly efficient professional prostitutes. It is not true to say that the whole problem is widely organised by experienced operators who can be jumped upon by the Home Secretary at a moment's notice. I was glad to hear the Home Secretary say that it is just not true that there are highly organised, widespread gangs in London. That is my own view following such modest researches as I have been able to make. Does it not, after all, fall in with the probabilities? These people live the sort of lives they do because they are not susceptible to organising or being organised. It is a trivial, purposeless, squalid, twilight of near-society in which they live.
For that reason, it is important that the police should have our confidence and that they should get to know what goes on. It is far better that the police should know than that I should know exactly what goes on and where. I hope that the accumulation of information will not in any way be held up pending any vast reforms or that there will be any discouragement by any criticism that may be printed in the newspapers. If the Home Secretary wants to do a little research into who can be prosecuted for living on the proceeds of prostitution, it is possible to suggest that the shareholders of certain newspapers get at least as much out of it as some of those who take somewhat greater risks in London.
The police are supposed to be the friends of everybody. They are supposed to be the friends of the friends of the bad lads and bad girls, the sort of people who are not always in trouble but are always nearly in trouble, and when they are nearly in trouble, the police are supposed to help them out of it. The police must be expected to be on reasonably familiar terms with them.
It is not fair to suggest, for instance, that the police are too familiar with the prostitutes on the streets. It is an extremely difficult situation. I watched a couple of constables in Curzon street last Sunday night. They crossed the road to intercept a girl. She had not accosted anybody. I wondered whether she had accosted anybody that night at all. Is there such a thing as "soliciting"? Does the girl who knows her business really make so many mistakes as to annoy 1045 people? I doubt it. No doubt there are a number of women who are known in that way.
At all events, this one was being intercepted. She dodged away and went down the dark passage of a garage. There she took something out of her handbag and handed it to the police. I suppose a flashlight photograph of the incident by a free-lance photographer might have earned some money. In the end the girl was ordered to move on. Little glimpses by people who do not know the story and do not know what goes on are sometimes misinterpreted, and we ought to have more confidence in the police.
There is a lady round that part of the world, a dark haired lady, who looks to me like a manageress, who seems to enjoy a certain freedom. I should have thought that she could be consulted a little more frequently as to exactly what she is up to. I should have thought that, on the whole, it would have been an advantage if she could have conducted the business by telephone or in an office. However, it is regarded as very wrong to use a telephone in these matters. That is, unfortunately, one of the crimes and one of the anomalies of the situation, and, therefore, the trade is pushed out into the open.
I want the Home Secretary to tell us one or two more things about what he thinks he can do pending the Wolfenden Report. I should like to know whether he has seriously considered the publication of sections of the Report, the recommendations in which must be ready or could be ready within a short time. There are a few things there on which pressure could be put fairly soon.
The Home Secretary did not give us any statistics about prosecutions for indecency. It is very strange, but one does not see many prosecutions of men for indecency. Why is not the man prosecuted as well as the woman? I know the law says that one has to be a common prostitute before one can be pulled in for an act of indecency in Hyde Park, but I should have thought that the man who was paying for it was just as guilty. After all, we are discussing indecency, which, I suppose, is an offence against the public. Would it not be possible for the man to be prosecuted every time when 1046 a known common prostitute is charged with an act of indecency?
I do not want to say too much about the sort of letters that we sometimes have to send to the Home Secretary asking for special attention to be paid to certain districts in our constituencies, because if we say much about them we shall ourselves receive letters tomorrow morning saying that we have driven the people down the next street. I think the use of Hyde Park, dark streets, corners, basement steps, and so on, is a habit in respect of which the man who is paying for it might well run a little risk of a very much heavier payment and a little notoriety at the same time.
I now turn to another subject, the question of advertising. It is not, of course, illegal for "Rita" to put a notice in a window or an advertisement in the personal column of The Times, if she can get it in—sometimes she does—that she welcomes old and new friends at her address, followed by, "Ring telephone number so-and-so". That is a subject to which the Paddington Chamber of Commerce has given a little attention, and which I think might be taken up elsewhere. After all, it is fairly easy to boycott a newsagent who shows that sort of advertisement. It may be that he gets only 6d. for showing it, but he probably sells a lot of newspapers and cigarettes as a result. Such trade might decline if chambers of commerce exposed people making trivial money out of that sort of advertisement.
One sometimes sees advertisements with these words at the bottom, "Lady model also required." That sort of thing is becoming frequent. I should have thought that that was practically an advertisement to recruit personnel indicating that the name "Rita" was a collective name for a company. I should have thought that that would be worth a little special investigation by the police.
In other words, I do not think it is sufficient to say that a Committee is at work and that we must keep quiet until it reports. I am sure it will improve the morale of the police if they can find a few positive ways in which they can act to check the worst abuses at the present time, and, at the same time, it will encourage those of us who feel that a most important Committee is at work, that the House does not often have an 1047 opportunity to consider legislation of this type, and that the legislation will arouse a great deal of controversy outside this Chamber, and, therefore, it ought to be tackled with level heads and with full information by us. Consequently it is right that we should rely on the Home Secretary to continue accumulating information, to give all the support that he can to the police, and to give us answers to a few minor points, such as those which I have mentioned.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I hope the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) will forgive me if I do not follow him in what he said, because I want to deal with a completely different aspect, that of children. I am very glad to hear from my right hon. and gallant Friend that he is setting up a Committee to deal with neglected children. However, this will take a great deal of time and in the meanwhile further action should be taken, particularly in regard to children in care. I should like to see the hand of the children's officer very greatly strengthened in the near future.
In 1954 more than 64,000 children came into care and a very small number of those were orphans, lost or abandoned—little more than 2,000. Only about 3,000 were under two years of age. The majority of the children, about whom I am rather worried, are the 13,000 children under the age of five who come into care. I gather from the Seventh Report on the Work of the Children's Department, to which my right hon. and gallant Friend referred, that one in every 200 children in England and Wales under the age of 18 comes into care at some time. That is a very disturbing situation.
Admittedly a proportion of those children come in for only a short time. They go in and out, but it is unsettling for a child who meets with other children who may be in the care of the local authority for some minor offence, or be waiting to go to an approved school. Such mixing is not beneficial for the individual child. I understand that 8 per cent. of all those children have no parents or guardians and that 6 per cent. have no mothers and that the reason that those come into the care of the local authority is that the fathers cannot manage to look after them.
1048 I know that in many cases the father has relations who might help him, but it means that such a relation has to give up a job and in this case no allowance is given to the father in respect of any relation who might help. If he has a home help he can get help with payment. It might be of some assistance if the relation could be paid, and I should like to have that matter considered. Seven per cent. of the children are illegitimate. Some hon. Members may not agree, but I am very much in favour of allowing mothers with illegitimate children to look after their own children if possible. I think that the National Assistance Board should give them at least for the first 10 months during which time the mother may be feeding her child much more assistance than it does at present.
I know many of these mothers, and I visited some last weekend. A great many mothers with illegitimate children have mothers who are willing to help them with their children. When the mothers go into hospital, they are encouraged, even before the baby is born or within a few days, to have it fostered out. I should like to see that practice stopped, because every mother should have a chance of looking after her own child and very often one finds that these mothers become very fond of their children.
About 5 per cent. of these children come from unsatisfactory homes and about 30 per cent. are committed under the Children Act, 1948. Here I feel diffident as a spinster, but I should like to suggest that more advice be given to the parents. Only the other day I had a case where a mother had a child of two who crawled out of her house and around to the neighbours and very cleverly, at the age of two, took off 40 milk bottle tops. The child was said to be in need of care. More parents should take more care of their children and be stricter in their homes to prevent some of the children coming before the courts.
Eight per cent. of the children have been evicted from their homes, in a great many cases, homes of the local authorities. It is short-sighted to evict a family, even if it does not have a good record of paying its rent, and have the children put into care, because it is more expensive and there is very little chance to help the family to improve. I suggest that it is better to take less rent and 1049 to help the family to improve its own home, than to evict the family and separate it and put the children in a home, therefore giving the family very little chance to improve its status. One of the difficulties of putting children in homes and taking them away from their parents is that there is little chance of improving the home or the parents, then the children come back into an equally difficult situation, even if the children have been away for two or three years.
In view of better housing conditions and the fact that we have full employment, it is extremely disturbing that we should have 64,000 children in homes. My right hon. and gallant Friend suggested that there were perhaps too many authorities dealing with the situation. In some cases it is possible to have as many as 40 people interested in one family. There is still too much over-lapping and very often the children fall between too many stools. I had an example of that the other day when a mother went to prison. The father thought that the children were going to school, but they were playing truant. They stole in the market, found themselves in court and were sent to an approved school for three years. If timely action had been taken, that could have been stopped, if there had been more knowledge of what was going on when the mother went to prison. The shortcomings of the family are a reason for so many children being committed to the care of a local authority.
A great many of these families do not have parents of a very high intelligence quotient and they often have great difficulty in managing their own affairs. There are the shortcomings of the family in material circumstances, in which they have very little opportunity to remedy bad housing conditions, or where the unskilled worker is still on very low wages. As has been said, there are too many different authorities who can deal with one family. For instance, housing, welfare, National Assistance, education, health, and, if the children do not happen to be attending school, the attendance officer. There is the health department for the mother if she is attending a clinic. All these different departments at the moment are self-contained and are independent statutory services.
1050 The great problem is to integrate them and mobilise them quickly, so that they can become one service at an early stage. I suggest to my right hon. and gallant Friend that, until his Committee makes its Report, the essential people who could co-ordinate these services are the health visitors, until the child reaches the age of 5, school attendance officers, who very often have the chance to get into the home, if the child is not at school, the rent collector who, when collecting the rent, can see what is happening with the family. If those people could report direct to the children's officer, that might give him or her a far better opportunity of getting to this family to help it before it gets into really serious trouble.
I suggest that we can make more use of organisations such as the Family Service Unit. This is an organisation composed of practical people who go into houses and actually help mothers to overcome their difficulties. I am certain that every woman who marries wants children and is prepared to look after and love them. In fact, only the other day I saw a small boy in a home and I asked him how he was getting on. He said, "It is very nice here, but they love me at home." Even in a not too good home, love is better than a home which apparently looks a little neglected.
Sometimes mothers find circumstances too much, too quick pregnancies, bad housing, no co-operation from their husbands—perhaps they do not give them a word of encouragement—and no extra help in time of need. That is why I suggest that in trying to give extra help for these women in time of need it will be a service to the home and a saving to the State, because, even at its lowest, it costs £3 9s. 1d., and up to £14 a week to look after a child, and if only the mother could have a little of that money in her home to help her, many of these families would be kept together.
The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) mentioned the Mayflower Home. There are two types. One is in Plymouth and the other in Brentwood. They take the mother and children and rehabilitate them together. But this is a very expensive process, and it is no good undertaking it unless it is certain that the children concerned have homes to which they can go when they have been rehabilitated. The Mayflower Home 1051 in Plymouth has to be very selective, and certain that there are homes for these children to go to when they have left its care. Otherwise, it considers that its work may be undone all too quickly.
We all know how difficult it is to balance the budget. I believe that in many cases the whole difficulty is simply that of balancing the budget in the home. If people such as the Family Service Unit could help in this matter they would be of great assistance. At present the children's officers of local authorities are not empowered to assist parents to obtain necessary household equipment to help them to improve their home standards, although they are able to do so for foster parents. I suggest that this service might be extended to the parents of the children. Although foster parents may be above average parents, there is a danger that a child may have to go to too many. I know of one small boy, aged 9, who has already had 11 different foster homes. That is where this service breaks down.
I suggest that families should be given more domestic assistance; home help schemes should be extended, and more sitters-in provided, especially for the widowed mothers who never have a chance to go out. In such ways parents of these families might be allowed a little more freedom. Local authorities might also be able to provide families which are really in need with a little household equipment, upon loan, from public funds. There could also be an extension of the teaching of parentcraft, not only for girls but for boys.
Upon the question of adoption, the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) referred to the Hurst Report. I would very much like to see something done about the Report because, as the law stands at the moment, it is necessary to obtain the consent of both parents before a child can be adopted. This is not always a sensible regulation. It may be that a woman's husband has deserted her, that she is unable to look after her child, and that there are very good foster parents who want to adopt the child, but that she cannot have the child adopted because she cannot obtain the consent of the father. I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will look into that point.
Then there is the question of the lack of accommodation for mentally defective children. I believe that the hon. Member 1052 for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock), who is such an expert upon the care of mental cases, will agree that mothers too often have to look after children who really should be in mental homes, and are therefore forced to neglect their other children. More accommodation should be made available for mentally defective children, whom it is not possible for the mother to look after properly without neglecting her other children.
I do not want hon. Members to think that I consider the family unit to be breaking down, I agree with Margaret Mead, who has said that the family has not suddenly lost its moral fibre; what has happened is that it has lost its grandmother, and also its maiden aunt. In these days of full employment the grandmothers and the maiden aunts now live longer, keep younger and go out to work, and families are not able to turn to them as they sometimes did in Victorian days.
Early in 1944 leave was granted at the rate of 100,000 men a year to men stationed in Great Britain and serving with the Army. That was in addition to those who overstayed their leave. That proved that mothers were in need of this extra help when their husbands were away. Evacuation helped mothers a great deal during the early period, and our eyes were opened to the great difficulties being suffered by families. While my right hon. and gallant Friend is awaiting the Report of this new Committee I hope that he will strengthen the Children's Department and enable the children's officer to carry out more work in the homes, thereby keeping the family unit together.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
I know that the hon. Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers) will not mind if I do not follow her comments. Many of the matters to which she has referred are of the utmost importance and I agree with her almost 100 per cent.
I want to make the point that the serenity with which a discussion about home affairs is carried on in this House differs considerably from the way in which the subject is regarded by people outside, who have to put up with some of the ancient regulations and laws which the Home Office refuses point blank to do anything about. Whether that is the fault 1053 of the Home Secretary or his advisers I do not know, but I am certain that people outside are concerned about the many cases where no action has been taken by the Home Office to bring in more up-to-date laws and regulations.
I was very disappointed that the Home Secretary made no reference to a matter with which I have been dealing for the past eight or ten weeks. I hoped that he would refer to the allegations of the ill-treatment of prisoners in Walton Gaol, at Liverpool. For the past few weeks I have been supplying him with very many letters, names and incidents. If he had been able to say that, following the receipt of these facts, as I consider them, he had decided that he had sufficient information to justify an independent inquiry, I should not feel quite so moved to say some of the things which must be said if decision is not to be taken.
It is some time since I received information from prisoners in Walton Gaol that some of the warders were using their powers and their control over prisoners to do things which should never be done by people in charge of others. I was informed that the methods adopted to make prisoners take certain steps, and do things which they otherwise would not, required investigation; that letters had been written to me which had never reached me, and that prisoners who desired to make statements about certain happenings were called into the office of the governor or deputy governor and warned that if they dared to make any statement which they could not prove against individual warders they were likely to be brought up upon a very serious charge in front of the prison visiting committee or Prison Commissioners.
To me that seems a serious matter, because it involves every warder in the prison. It may be that only half-a-dozen are responsible. But when allegations of this sort are made; when actual letters and statements are given to the Home Secretary, by myself and other people, indicating that these things are happening and require investigation, then I believe it to be the duty of the Home Secretary to institute an inquiry as soon as possible, in the interests of all who have to accept responsibility.
1054 I hope that I need not pursue this matter further today. I do not know whether I may be told whether any fresh steps have been taken. I do not desire to discuss it on the Floor of the House, if there is any possibility of an inquiry being held, but I have in my possession information which I received only this morning. I will give way to the Minister, if I can be given an assurance that something is to be done, and I will not read the letters which I have in my hand or refer to the people to whom I spoke at twenty minutes past three this afternoon. On the other hand, if I cannot have that information, I shall have to give details which I have already sent to the Home Secretary and follow that up with references to letters and comments.
Can the right hon. and gallant Gentleman tell me whether any steps have been taken to deal with this matter? If he can do so, I will not refer to it further now, but will proceed to other matters with which I desire to deal. But unless I may have some information; unless I am informed that something will be done about inquiring into the serious allegations which have been made; unless I know something will be done so that warders who are not implicated are able to go about their work with their minds set at rest, I must pursue this matter. I could name those responsible, and, unless I am assured that something will be done, I will name them here and now. If the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is prepared to tell me what will be done, I shall be happy to give way to him.
§ Major Lloyd-George
I do not wish to stop the hon. Lady, but I can tell her that I propose to hold an inquiry.
§ Mrs. Braddock
I thank the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. I am sure that the prison warders and the prisoners, will be very pleased about that, and I know that the Home Secretary will find every justification for an inquiry from the information which I have sent to him.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) will not be satisfied merely with that assurance from the Home Secretary. One would like to know what kind of inquiry will be held.
§ Mrs. Braddock
I was about to ask that. I shall not refer to any of the details which I have here, but is it to be a public inquiry? Will it be an inquiry at which prisoners will be completely protected if they make statements? Will they be able to make statements they know to be true, openly, to whoever is conducting the inquiry, and know that nothing will happen to them?
§ Major Lloyd-George
I am sorry to think that I should have to give such an assurance, but I give it readily to the hon. Lady.
§ Mrs. Braddock
In those circumstances, I am quite satisfied, and I will not pursue that matter further.
I heard the Home Secretary pay compliments to the police. But it is not platitudes that the police want, it is action. I have in my hand a statement by the representative of the Police Federation which includes caustic comments about the decision of the Home Office not to implement the decision of the arbitration tribunal. Although the tribunal recommended that the lower ranks in the police force should receive a pay increase retrospectively to last September; although it could have been suggested that they should have had it earlier, because negotiations on this matter started last July; in spite of the fact that all the negotiating machinery was set up following the Oaksey Committee Report, in order that matters should be dealt with squarely and fairly; following all the discussions which have taken place, and all the representations which have been made and the facts which have been put before the Home Secretary, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman says that there is a flaw in the 1919 Act which prevents him from making these payments retrospective.
§ Mr. H. E. Randall (Gateshead, West)
Would my hon. Friend also tell the Committee that, in fact, the Home Secretary agreed to the setting up of the tribunal?
§ Mrs. Braddock
Yes, that is true. The tribunal was agreed on. It is part of the Oaksey Committee machinery which was agreed by this House and by the Home Secretary. But the policemen say to me, "What is the use of having machinery of this sort, and coming to a decision, if the Home Secretary is not prepared to do anything about it?"
I wish to tell the Committee about the recruiting position in Liverpool. I know a little about the Metropolitan Police position, but not sufficient to say much about it. The only comment I wish to make about the Metropolitan Police is that, as the Home Secretary knows, a certain division will be up to strength either today or tomorrow. Have men been taken from other divisions to bring this division up to strength, or have men been recruited specifically into the division where there are difficulties at the moment? Has the Home Secretary increased the establishment of the Metropolitan Police, or is it a case of men being substituted into a division for a special purpose?
I wish to refer to the position in Liverpool as it existed on Saturday. In Liverpool, and it is not an unknown place, we were showing vacancies for 513 men on the establishment and six women. Most of the young Liverpool policemen have been in the force only for about seven years, and they are on a low rate of pay. As deputy-chairman of the Liverpool Watch Committee, and a magistrate, I frequently have the duty of swearing in recruits. Although I must think twice about doing so in future, at present I tell them that they are entering a service which will require of them the highest integrity and degree of truthfulness; that they will have to be completely above suspicion; that every possible consideration will be given to them regarding their salary and general condition.
About 90 per cent. of the police in Liverpool have only about seven years or nine years of service to their credit, and their pay is low. Many of them have been looking forward to receiving this retrospective payment, which will amount to anything between £25 and £30, so that they may go on holiday. It is not easy, on a policeman's pay, to meet every financial commitment. That applies especially to a young policeman who, usually, is getting a home together and 1057 may have started a family. It may be that he has mortgage repayments to make on his house, or, if he is occupying a house belonging to the police authority, there will be financial commitments there.
The pay is too low to attract the right type of young recruit. Police recruits have been given to understand that they are entering a service where all their difficulties will be met fairly and squarely; that there exists good arbitration machinery between those who pay and those who draw the wages; that all the facts may be sent to an independent arbitration tribunal and, whatever the decision of the tribunal, it will be taken on the whole of the facts before it.
We tell them that when the case goes to the tribunal the Police Federation will recommend the men to accept its decision. That decision was that they should have retrospective pay from September, 1955, but the Home Secretary, and those behind who tell him what to do, refused retrospective payment. What does he expect men to come into the force for? Does he say that there is nothing in store for them? They want a career, They want to come into the force because they are able to do a job there. Goodness knows, we need them in Liverpool. We tell them that they will get all the consideration, yet when this decision is made it is put on one side because of a flaw in the Act of 1919.
It only needs a four-line Amendment of the 1919 Act for the Home Secretary to be able to put into operation the decision of the tribunal. Cannot he do that? Is someone at the back of him refusing him the power to do it? Has he any guts at all about it? If he has, why does he not see that four lines in an Act of Parliament give him all the power that he wants?
No wonder people say that he dithers on the edge of a precipice. He dithers about other things as well, and I will tell him so too, before I finish. We are very disturbed in Liverpool about the police position. We are not getting our recruitment. We have to recruit, as have other police forces in the country, but the Home Secretary takes no notice of the award of an independent arbitration tribunal. He had better look at this matter again if he wants to recruit for the police force the type of men and women we want.
1058 The police force has completely changed from what it used to be. Now the police are out to assist people to keep the law and to advise them in doing so, not to sit on the doorstep waiting for people to do something wrong and then pounce on them. They need a high standard of education, physique and intelligence. They have to cope with the standard of intelligence possessed by those who want to break the law. It is very wrong indeed for the Home Secretary to refuse this award at a time when everybody is attempting to build up the police force to its establishment.
We are expanding our forces in Liverpool and our establishment figure is only for Liverpool as it was. We shall need police for our housing estates on the outer perimeter, at places like Kirby, Lee Park and Halewood. If we cannot recruit even up to the establishment we had before this expansion, what chance have we of recruiting up to the increased establishment so that the outskirts of the city are covered by the police force?
The police forces of the country generally—I am speaking for them now—are very dissatisfied about the situation. They know they cannot take any punitive action against the Home Secretary or the Government, but I can tell the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that they are trying to see what they can do within the limits of legitimate democracy to secure action by the Home Secretary.
We have been trying for a little while in Liverpool to secure an amendment to the law on the question of what we call "shebeens". Only recently the Liverpool Corporation Watch Committee and Estates Committee sent a deputation to the Home Secretary. We went fully into the matter and gave the right hon. and gallant Gentleman all the information we had. In fact, I gave him a brief which I had prepared for a speech in this House. He looked as though he was prepared to be sympathetic. I said, "Instead of your looking up the information I will give you the advantage of having what I have looked up". It suggested methods of improving the law so that Liverpool and other towns might deal with this matter. It affects Liverpool more than anywhere else.
It concerns the illegal distilling of spirits, such as whisky, and the consum- 1059 ing of it on premises not licensed for that purpose. This has been handed down to us from the Irish side of the water. We know what it means. Many times we have practically cleaned it up but it has meant putting on to that particular police division many extra men, just as the Home Secretary has now done in the West End division. We should be able to clean it up if the Home Office would move. Somebody has to shoot somebody right on the spot before the Home Office take notice that a situation requires amelioration.
It is a question of stopping people who own houses from allowing them to be rented for the making of liquor and for use as brothels, when they have no liquor licence, for which offence there is only a fine. I can tell the Home Secretary what I have seen happen. In my own constituency there have been decent, respectable people who have been living there for a long time. Then a house is bought, and complaints suddenly start to come in that all night long taxis come up to the door and there are people going in and out. The children get no sleep. There is almost perpetual movement in the area. My constituents ask me what can be done about it. I report the matter and also send them off to report it.
One night the police draw up there and make arrests. In the process of the raid they discover all sorts of spirits on the premises. I do not mean heavenly spirits, but whisky, brandy, beer, and all the rest of it. They take all the names of the people and take all the stuff out of the place. A police van comes along and the stuff is loaded into the police van. The place is closed. Within an hour, another van calls and unloads a lot of the same stuff in that place, and the taxis start going backwards and forwards. I have known that happen three times in my constituency in one night. The police are powerless to do anything about it, because the Home Office has not the sense to see that a new regulation or law is required.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
If the hon. Lady is advocating legislation she is out of order.
§ Mrs. Braddock
Yes, Sir Rhys, but I am just telling the Home Secretary about it. I am not suggesting it, because it is no use suggesting anything to him.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It is out of order in this debate to raise a subject which requires legislation.
§ Mrs. Braddock
This is a Home Office responsibility.
I must draw very special attention to the last subject I want to raise. I asked the Home Secretary a Question a little while ago about the opportunities people have of using air pistols. Many people in the country have lost their sight, or have been otherwise injured, as a result of their use. Many people in Liverpool have been hurt by pellets fired from air pistols.
I suppose hon. Members think that an air pistol is a little thing like a water pistol and that it cannot do much harm. I can assure them that is not so. I can also assure them that there are two or three different sorts of air pistol, one of which is called a "Diana". One can go into any bicycle shop in London or in the provinces and buy it for 24s. One does not have to give any explanation about it. The purchaser is not asked what he wants to buy it for, but can buy it so long as he is 17. If he is under 17 and goes into a shop with his mother or father, it can be bought for him. He is not asked what he will use it for, or if he has any knowledge of how to use it.
As soon as the purchaser gets outside the shop, if he is going to use the air pistol he is supposed to get a licence for it. Any number of these things are being sold. I asked for an alteration of the law to include these items in the list of firearms.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
If this matter comes under regulations the hon. Lady is in order, but if it would mean a change in the law she is not in order.
§ Mrs. Braddock
All right. I ask for a regulation within the law to include the sale of these things so that anyone who buys them must sign his name before he can purchase an implement of this sort. Nothing has been done about that. All that happened was that the figures I gave were questioned. I followed that up and found that my figures were right and that many people in Liverpool have had their eyes knocked out by pellets from air pistols. There is another weapon known as the Webley Junior. Anyone can go into a shop and buy that, or they can get a bigger model for 7 guineas.
1061 These are very damaging articles, but they are being sold in shops without licences. I could go into any of the shops in central Liverpool and buy one of these things. I would not have to say who I was, although probably they would know. As soon as I got out of the shop I should need a licence if I was going to use the air pistol. Was there ever anything so silly as that? Why does not someone do something about it? These things may have a legitimate purpose, but there is no record made of their sale. Why should they not be included in firearms?
On Friday morning, in the juvenile court where I am chairman, there were six cases of boys under 16 who had bought these arms and were using them. They had to be confiscated. I have brought two here and will let the Home Secretary have a look at them. That is one which I hold in my hand and here is another. I brought them in deliberately because I think people ought to see what they are.
§ Mrs. Braddock
I can assure you, Sir Rhys, that I have bought a licence, so I have permission to have them.
§ Mrs. Braddock
No, but I have to startle the Committee before anyone will do anything about anything. No one takes any notice unless someone does something which is out of order, or is unusual. I confiscated these on Friday morning in the juvenile court. I got them from the Liverpool police and I will hand them now to the Home Secretary, so that he can see what children can buy.
§ Mrs. Braddock
Will the Home Secretary do something about this matter? Children of 17 can buy these air pistols. Is it any wonder that we are always in trouble and that people do things they have no right to do when the Home Secretary is not prepared to budge an inch to do anything about a matter like this? I have waited to do what I have done and I have done it deliberately. I have done it because mothers and old people throughout the country are subjected to the shooting of pellets from these guns. They object to them being sold without the necessity of obtaining a licence.
1062 Other hon. Members have said that it is very seldom that we have an opportunity for a debate on the Home Office. I have chosen subjects which I believe are of importance to the people. What I have said is of importance to prisoners and is of importance to the police, who have not got retrospective pay. I will hand back these guns, and my licence—because my tongue is good enough without a gun—but I hope that the Home Secretary will see whether it is possible to put on the Statute Book regulations to provide that licences must be obtained before these weapons can be handed to anyone. It would be a simple matter for him to shift himself and do something about it.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I must point out that it was quite out of order for the hon. Lady to walk across the Floor of the Chamber in the course of her speech.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Thompson (Liverpool, Walton)
I welcome the opportunity of saying a few words about a number of matters which are of great importance to the Home Office and of great importance to the people who are affected by the things for which the Home Office is responsible. One of the things which have occurred to me in the course of this debate, and which, I think, has troubled other hon. Members as well, has been the evidence that the debate has produced of the wide scatter of interests that occupy the attention of the Home Secretary at any time.
It seems to me quite extraordinary that the Home Secretary should be able to get himself involved with the politics of Cyprus, with the legalised or other form of control of prostitution—and, therefore, in some kind of legal tangle with Belgium—with the care of deprived and orphaned children, unmarried mothers and their children, with the control of people who are in the prisons of this country and of those who are responsible for the prisoners, as well as for the kind of circus act which we have just seen as part of what is really a serious matter if only it could have been treated in a proper way.
1063 First, I wish to refer to a matter which concerns my constituency and my constituents, which I regard as of considerable importance and about which my right hon. and gallant Friend made a statement which gives very great satisfaction to those constituents. A little time ago the House heard of allegations of cruelty and misbehaviour by wardens in Liverpool Prison, Walton, against some of the prisoners in that prison. Members of Parliament have a duty. It is a duty which requires them to be constantly on the alert about things which may be being done wrong, or not done at all when they should be done, and to take steps to draw the attention to those responsible to anything which they think requires correction.
Members of Parliament receive a great many communications from a great many people, some strange communications from some strange people. A Member of Parliament must, of course, investigate to the best of his or her ability the validity of statements contained in letters received and, having made all the inquiries possible, act according to the dictates of his or her conscience. It may very well be that the Member of Parliament may open his or her post one morning and find that a public servant, whether in the prison service or anywhere else, is charged in a letter with acts of one kind or another which are contrary to the code of behaviour expected of that public servant.
The allegations contained in such a letter may be well-founded or not, but I am quite sure that it behoves a Member of Parliament, receiving that kind of communication and knowing that it concerns the activities and responsibilities of a public servant, to go to very great lengths indeed to satisfy himself whether it is worth his while, from the pinnacle of prominence a Member of Parliament occupies, to focus the spotlight of this Chamber upon allegations contained in a letter from a constituent.
A prison officer or any other public servant can have his reputation destroyed by a casual remark, a chance sentence, an inference or innuendo in the House of Commons, and he has no possibility of retaliation or of self-defence, or even of explanation. So long a time may 1064 elapse between the utterance of the implication or innuendo and any counterblow being struck on the officer's behalf that his reputation may have been destroyed by smear before anything can be done.
§ Mr. Collins
Is the hon. Member suggesting that the names of any of these officers have been mentioned?
§ Mr. Thompson
Has not the hon. Gentleman considered whether it is possible for a small number of officers in the named prison of Walton to maintain anonymity in their own area? One does not have to name Mr. A or Mr. B, if it is made known that they work in Walton Prison, in regard to allegations made of cruelty against these defenceless prisoners.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Would the hon. Gentleman say what, in his opinion, is the duty of a Member of Parliament who receives such a letter containing such charges?
§ Mr. Thompson
I was hoping to have an opportunity of doing that before the interruptions became too numerous. It is perfectly true, of course, that it is possible for things to be seriously wrong inside a prison or any other public institution, and it is probable that Members of Parliament will hear about those matters sooner or later. What are they then to do? It seems to me that the last thing that they should do is to bruit it abroad from the Floor of the Chamber.
§ Mrs. Braddock
On a point of order. In view of the fact that the Home Secretary has already stated that there is to be a public inquiry into this matter, is it in order, Sir Rhys, for the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) to continue on this matter? I would have said very much more if the Home Secretary had not said that there was to be an inquiry. Is not the hon. Member doing damage in this Committee by saying these things before the inquiry takes place? I shall be bound to say something if he is permitted to do so.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I have no responsibility for any opinions which the hon. Member expresses. He is responsible for them. This is not a sub judice inquiry.
§ Mr. Thompson
I have consistently avoided relating anything that I have said to any specific point that may concern the commission of inquiry to which I am making reference. I said that the last thing that a Member of Parliament should do is to make this the subject of a speech across the Floor of this Chamber.
There are many things that a Member of Parliament can do before he or she does that. It would not be out of order for a Member of Parliament, hearing this kind of information, to go to the prison and say, "What have you to say about it?" or write to the Home Secretary and ask for a report on what had happened. There are many other avenues open to hon. Members, but the last thing an hon. Member should do, considering that he holds in his hands the reputation, individually or collectively, of good, honourable constituents performing a public, responsible duty, is to seek the headlines or at least achieve the headlines across the Floor of this Chamber.
Prison officers themselves take the view, I think—not just the prison officers at Walton, but all prison officers and all public servants—that if a general charge is made against them, or their profession or trade or calling, it should be examined by some form of inquiry, the more public the better, in order that those who are guilty may be found out and hounded out of the service and those who are not guilty may be honourably acquitted of any charge or smear that may be made against them.
Every use should be made of the small influence that is given to a back bench Member to seek to influence the Home Secretary to hold such an inquiry, not necessarily to find out those who are guilty but to give to those who are not guilty an opportunity of retaining their proper status in the eyes of the public. I am grateful that my right hon. and gallant Friend has been able to inform the House today that such an inquiry is to be held and I am sure that the officers of Walton Prison, both the senior officers and the warders, will welcome this decision.
I turn to one other matter in which I find it possible, almost to my surprise and somewhat to my consternation, to agree with something that the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange 1066 (Mrs. Braddock) has said. I use that language only because I fear that the hon. Lady's advocacy of a cause which I also have at heart has done that cause more harm than good.
§ Mrs. Braddock
It is all right. The hon. Member will not be here after the next Election, so let him get it off his chest.
§ Mr. Thompson
The hon. Lady has taken the opportunity of making remarks like that on previous occasions, and we have had to deal with her in due and proper course. However, these are local matters which we can settle on our home ground, which is a long way from here, and I promise her that she will get as good as she gives. However, I must not use threats, or you, Sir Rhys, will rule me out of order.
I want to speak about the matter of pay and conditions which affect the esteem of the police forces throughout the country. I was a little concerned, during the earlier stages of the debate, that the Committee might consider that the Metropolitan Police force was the only police force or, at any rate, that anything that applied to the police could be covered by considerations that were appropriate to the Metropolitan Police force. That is not true. There are important, efficient and very effective police forces in the provincial cities. I take this opportunity of paying tribute, in which I think the whole Committee will join, both to the efficiency and success of the police forces and to the integrity and earnestness in which they go about their work.
The police forces in the country are governed as to conditions and pay by the recommendations of the Oaksey Committee. It is true that as a result of three separate sets of negotiations which took place it was recommended that increased pay should be made to all ranks. The rank and file of the police are greatly disappointed that my right hon. and gallant Friend has not found it possible to follow this process through to its logical conclusion. The police forces have had their increases but a dispute arose as to the date at which the increases should be made applicable, and I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will find it possible to examine the situation which has resulted.
1067 I can assure him that the police officers are concerned not only with this matter in terms of £ s. d.; they are concerned with it in so far as it affects their own estimation and the stature and esteem which they enjoy. I believe, therefore, that my right hon. and gallant Friend will add to the respect and honour which the police enjoy in our communities if he will accede to the request that is made to him this afternoon.
These are important matters. As was rightly said at the beginning of the debate, the police have knit themselves into the whole social fabric of the country. We want to see that process developed, and I hope that when he replies my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will have such things to say as will add to what has gone on to the satisfaction of us all for a very long time.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Somerville Hastings (Barking)
I want to deal, and that briefly, with only one of the many activities of the Home Office—the Children's Department. I am grateful to the Home Secretary for referring the House to the valuable Report of that department which appeared at the end of last year. I am even more grateful to him for saying that he wants to do everything he possibly can without breaking up the family, and also that he appreciates the great need which there is for co-ordination of the various services for children which exist at present.
The three matters to which I wish to refer are the incarceration in remand homes of children under the age of 12 with children up to the age of 16; the abandonment of children by parents, and cruelty and neglect in the home. With regard to the retention in remand homes of children under 12, I should perhaps say that I have an interest, although not a financial one. I am at present chairman of the committee of management of one of the remand homes for boys in London. There we get children from 8 to 16 years of age who have got into trouble and are being remanded whilst inquiries are made by the police and others as to their homes, their psychological condition, etc. They then go before the magistrates a second time to receive their sentence.
In this remand home we have very young children, harmless little things who, in my view, ought not to be treated as 1068 criminals at all, even in a children's court. We also have older lads up to the age of 16 who may have been in approved schools, have often absconded and are really little toughs. Everything possible is done to keep the children under 12 from those over that age, but I know of no remand home where the children under 12 do not have their meals with the older children and do not share the same playground.
I am perfectly sure that the youngsters look upon the elder boys with great respect. At the present time we have the son of a man whose name has been in the Press a good deal in connection with some of the gangsterism about which we hear so much. Who can doubt that this youth of 16 is looked upon by the juniors as a great hero?
What can be done? By Section 3 of the Children and Young Persons (Amendment) Act, 1952, it is possible for local authorities to provide special reception centres for children under the age of 12. I understand that there are not many of those centres, and I want to ask the Home Secretary whether, for the sake of the children for whom he is responsible, he will not urge local authorities to provide these centres to which the magistrates can send children while on remand.
I want to say something about the desertion of children. At present parents do not realise what they are doing when they abandon or desert their children. They do not realise the love and security which they can give to them, the feeling a child has of belonging somewhere, and the interest in the child's concerns that parents can give. The confidence which children have can be suddenly lost but only very slowly and with great difficulty be regained.
It is possible that we, as Members of Parliament, must take a certain amount of responsibility for the fact that people are so ready to abandon their children, because we have made sure that such children are well looked after. I was a member of the Curtis Committee, which dealt with children deprived of normal family life; and the recommendations of that Committee were incorporated in the Children Act, 1948, by means of which local authorities make admirable provision for such children. They are so well looked after that we find the parents are 1069 quite ready to dump them on the local authorities, knowing that they will be well looked after by them.
In reply to a Question which I asked quite recently, the Home Secretary said that in the year ended 31st March last, more than 38,000 children were received into care, about one-twelfth of whom were abandoned or lost. I suggest that those figures do not really represent the facts. Many of the children received into care are received only temporarily—for perhaps a month or less while the mother goes into hospital, or has a baby—whereas children abandoned or lost usually remain for many years under the charge of the local authorities. I was also told by the Home Secretary that there were on that date about 62,000 children under the care of local authorities, but that he could not tell me how many were abandoned or lost. I have the figures for London, however, and I understand that at 31st March last there were 8,695 children in the care of the London County Council and that about one-sixth of them were lost.
Again, I suggest that does not represent the true picture because, as soon as an abandoned child comes under the care of the local authorities, if the parents cannot easily be traced, the local authories, in most cases, get busy preparing for the adoption of that child. I want to ask the Home Secretary what he is doing about the prevention of this desertion and abandonment of children. I have here a report on cruelty to and neglect of children, published quite recently by the British Medical Association as the result of an inquiry at which I and others gave evidence. This is what it recommends:Suitable literature dealing with the duties of parents and, in particular, the place of the father in the home, should be prepared for distribution by clergy and registrars to marrying couples.I am not sure to what extent the Home Office would be responsible in this connection, but I should like the Home Secretary to tell us whether, when children are abandoned, he is making it easier for the local authorities to trace the parents who have left, and to bring them to justice. I agree that as the law is at present it is not illegal to abandon a child, unless harm is likely to follow. But local authorities assess parents and levy a charge, and they can take proceedings, and they try to trace the parents 1070 in order to recover that charge. But that is a slow process. It takes a month before a summons can be issued, and then generally another month before a conviction can be obtained. I should like to know whether something can be done to accelerate that process, as well as to trace the defaulting parents.
I now come to the question of cruelty and neglect of children in the home. I am not asking the Home Secretary to secure more convictions. I am asking him to assist in preventing the necessity of convictions having to be secured. The police force must hear of many cases of incipient cruelty and neglect in the home which are not sufficiently severe or certain for them to take proceedings. I should like to be assured that in such cases the police have instructions to inform the children's officer or the medical officer of health so that careful inquiries may be made to ascertain to what extent those rumours are correct, and so that the necessary action may be taken to warn the parents of their duties to their children and help them in carrying out those duties.
Then I suggest that even in cases of incipient neglect, a great deal more can be done without breaking up the home and the family. May I in this connection mention the experience of the London County Council and others in dealing with evicted problem families? In London there are two establishments, and two more are being prepared, where evicted problem families are taken in as families—not the mother only but the whole family. There they are given training. There is a warden who lives on the premises, and the mothers are helped in the care of their children. The results are simply astounding. Up to May last, 44 of those families had come under the care of the London County Council. Twenty-nine of them have left, and of those 26 have gone back into normal life in normal housing accommodation. So far as we know, they are making good.
If we merely imprison the mother of a neglected family, we reward the culprit at the expense of the family; and surely the father is responsible as well. I suggest that more of these neglectful parents—both of them, because as a rule both the father and the mother are responsible—should be put on probation, provided that they submit to training and 1071 watchful care, under such an institution as I have described.
I know that the police are rather slow in taking proceedings for neglect or cruelty in the home, unless they are fairly sure of getting a conviction, because in the case of an acquittal the parents are likely to take it out of the child. In cases like that, if the family is put on probation, with careful watch kept and training given, that risk will be much less.
There is another important body which has been sitting lately—a special Committee of the Magistrates' Association, and it has reported on neglectful parents. I should like to read a short extract from the Report of that Committee:Where both parents are committed and where there is obvious need of training of the whole family, we consider that it should be possible for the whole family, including all children of school age, to receive residential training for a period not exceeding twelve months, in special accommodation along the lines of the special units outlined above.Those are the units which I have just been mentioning. The Report goes on:We therefore recommend that there should be wider provision of similar units by local authorities, and that it should be possible for them to be used by the courts. We would prefer that this training recommended above should be a requirement of a probation order …I want to stress that whilst in very severe cases of cruelty and neglect, imprisonment may be necessary as the only reasonable course to follow, in the less severe cases it may be possible, without breaking up the family, to put the family on probation, provided only that it is willing to agree to training and watchful care.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Sir Beverley Baxter (Southgate)
The Committee, or those who are here at the moment, will agree that we have listened to a very wise and humanitarian speech. It was in keeping with the reputation and the personality of the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings), and I should like to pay tribute to him for what he has said.
I am sorry to say that it is my intention and painful duty, as I see it, to lower the whole tone of the debate. We have had a singularly peaceful afternoon, although the advance notices in the newspapers indicated that the sparks would fly. I feel somewhat apologetic for having to come right down to the vice 1072 racket, and to that extent keeping faith with the public.
This is the time of the year when our kinsmen from all over the Empire and Dominions come to London. They come with dreams and memories, and they want to see this great city. Quite rightly, if the weather is favourable, they go strolling around Mayfair, Piccadilly, and other places. What do they see? If the time is around ten or eleven o'clock at night, they see things which are not paralleled in any other great civilised capital in the world. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not in New York?"] No, not in New York. New York is not a national capital city, but it is a great city, and its avenues are a delight to walk upon at night; it is an invigorating experience to walk down them, with the light of the buildings, the shops and everything making a great appeal. I am not pretending that New York is a model of morality, but one simply does not see prostitutes plying their trade on the main avenues of that city; one never sees it anywhere.
In Paris, hailed so long as the gay city, one does not see it. One does not see it even in Vienna, emerging from her long gloom. Such things are reserved for this country; and it is a shameful thing to say to our friends overseas, "Come from Canada, come from New Zealand, and from the Colonies, and we will show you organised vice through the centre of the heart of London". I do not know whether that rouses resentment. It does in me.
The other night, I walked up from the House past Hyde Park Corner and up Park Lane to Marble Arch. These women were drawn up like a guard of honour—or dishonour, I should say—three yards apart from one another, facing the traffic; there they stood as if trained by a sergeant-major from the not so distant Brigade of Guards. What was their purpose? Was there any doubt about it? Does one stand sideways and gaze at the traffic in the ordinary way? Yet these women, according to our quaint laws, are not causing a disturbance.
This strange law which provides that there must be a disturbance caused has some peculiar variations, too. I have some friends who have a flat in Bayswater, just facing Hyde Park. Sometimes they play cards until a late hour, playing till one or half-past one or so. They tell 1073 me—and I have heard it myself once—that practically every night a motor car comes up with a couple of men to take the money from the prostitutes in that area. There are screams, quarrels, blaspheming and blows; that is the regular technique. Yet apparently even that is not regarded as causing a disturbance.
Somebody must face this issue. So brazen have these practices become that now the big gangs are coming out into the open. At what moment is this nation, through its Home Secretary and, through him, the police, ever to take any action? I really cannot answer that. Are things to continue as at present? Not so very long ago I had to go to Bow Street. I had placed my car in what seemed a harmless place, as I thought, where it would cause no disturbance at all; but I was summoned and had to pay a fine for having left it there. When I was at Bow Street, in came the prostitutes. The magistrate is an admirable man, a friend of mine—or, at least, he is a Conservative and chairman of a Conservative association, and, therefore, he appeals to my heart. These women were fined the customary £2; it was their turn; they would be rounded up in turn, nobody telling them they should not do it or telling them to stop. That fine was no more than a night's tip; it meant nothing whatsoever.
I ask my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary to tell us, if he replies to this debate, who is responsible. Can we do anything? The right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), is one of the predecessors of my right hon. Friend; he has great knowledge of these matters, and I hope that he will speak in this debate. It appears to us, looking at it calmly, that either the Home Office is unwilling to act or it has not the necessary power to act. I cannot see how we can escape the choice of one of those two alternatives.
We heard this afternoon from the Home Secretary that it is not against the law for a woman, for the purposes of prostitution, to take a man home to her room; but it is against the law for the landlord to rent that house or room for the purpose of prostitution. Therefore, all he has to do is to let it to her in good faith, without knowledge of what is going on. Very often, of course, he is in fact the organiser of the whole thing, but, in fact, it is impossible to nail him down. So the thing goes on and on.
1074 I wonder whether it is not time that we learnt something from Chicago. When Chicago had the Al Capone gang at its worst, at the height of its achievements, the authorities could get no evidence; nobody dared give evidence against the gang. Eventually, they arrested Al Capone on the charge that he had avoided Income Tax. I wonder whether the Department of Inland Revenue could be brought in for the assistance of the Home Office.
I myself, as do all hon. Members, have to account not only for such money as I earn, but I have to say how and where I earned it; everything has to be placed before the gimlet eye of the inspector. I have an accountant whom I pay of my own volition to draw all this up for me, and my impression is that he is in the secret pay of the Inland Revenue; he hunts me down to the last farthing.
But a gentleman in Soho, with a house in which there are five, six or seven girls in different rooms, is apparently outside the law. Can we not have a statement of his earnings and of their source? Is it really beyond the power of Parliament to deal with these wretched creatures, the lowest creatures on God's earth, the men who traffic in prostitution? The time has come when we must demand action.
For instance, the fine of £2 must be ended. What is sacred about £2? This fine was imposed in the nineteenth century. By what miasma of the mind is it regarded as a proper fine today? It has no relation whatsoever to today. Why should there not be a substantial fine? Why should we not look into the income and level of taxation of the gentlemen with these mysterious houses? The police know the position fairly well. I believe that, given authority, they could act. I think that they are discouraged and perhaps believe that it is better to wait until trouble comes.
In conclusion, I come back to the point made at the beginning of my speech. I came to London from the outer Empire. It is difficult for those of British and Scottish and Irish birth here to realise what it means to see this great capital, with its cathedrals, its ghosts of Dickens and Shakespeare, the river and the Houses of Parliament. Many people come from overseas to this House and 1075 then see the streets at night. Do hon. Members know what they say when they go back? They say that they love London, but that its streets are the most disgraceful in the world.
I do not know whether that statement will find any response in this assembly tonight in some action. At any rate, I am grateful for the way that all my colleagues and friends and opponents in this Committee have listened, and I would like to think that from this debate we shall get from the Home Secretary a plan of action, which might be altered and changed and strengthened as it is carried out, but not a statement that nothing can be done.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Dr. King)
Several hon. Members have sat throughout this debate trying to take part. If hon. Members who are called by the Chair will co-operate, it ought to be possible to get all of these hon. Members into the debate. Mr. Ede.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I am grateful to you, Dr. King, for calling upon me to speak. It was not my intention to speak for long, but what you have said reinforces my determination to be as brief as possible.
I must apologise to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Home Secretary that I was not able to hear the whole of his speech. I happened to be out of the Chamber on other Parliamentary business when he rose, but I heard all but a few minutes of what he had to say. It seemed to me to be the kind of speech that any Home Secretary could have made at any time during the past 30 years. I agree wholeheartedly with his statement of the law on the subject matter of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter). There is no doubt that, as the law stands at the moment, it is possible, by a series of subterfuges, for this traffic to be carried on without anyone being able to bring the real culprits to book.
I agree with the right hon. and gallant Gentleman as to the farce of fining these wretched women 40s. In about three minutes from the time the charge is made until the magistrate announces his decision, they go in a regular procession——
§ Mr. Ede
I do not want to exaggerate, because I do not believe in overstating a good case. I think that my estimate would prove to be probably more accurate if it were timed by a watch. Let us be certain of this, that the public conscience has for years been seriously perturbed at this matter and that recent events, here and abroad, have probably quickened the public conscience.
It would be out of order for me to suggest the form that the remedy should take, because one cannot advocate legislation in the course of a speech during a debate on Supply. However, we could at least say, without offending the rules of order, that when the Wolfenden Committee reports, the House of Commons will expect the Home Secretary to take such action as will enable us speedily to consider that report, and any recommendations it may make, but it will still be the responsibility of this House to consider recommendations and not blindly to follow any report from outside.
I want to join with my hon. Friends and with my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) in the appeal that has been made to the Home Secretary to deal speedily with the vexed question of the back-pay of the police under the recent award. There again, I am not sure that the suggestion of the right effective action would not go beyond the bounds of order, but I hope that the statements which have been made from both sides of the Committee this afternoon will encourage the Home Secretary to deal with that matter.
I was glad to hear from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that he is taking further steps on the co-ordination of the efforts of the various committees of county and county borough councils that deal with children who need the assistance of the local authority. There is a war on in Whitehall between the Government Departments, a devastating war that is waged ruthlessly. But sometimes there is a worse war, inside the town or shire hall, between the departments dealing with the specific subjects coming under the aegis of the local authority.
If the best is to be done for the children, there must be no empire building by the children's officer, the medical 1077 officer, the chief education officer or the chief constable. The child is the concern of all, and where a child is in difficulties or needs the attention of the local authority, all should co-operate in trying to do the best for the child. More often than not, more than one department will be concerned in seeing that this is done.
As the right hon. and gallant Gentleman said, during my Home Secretaryship I arranged with the Minister of Education and the Minister of Health of the day to see that an appropriate officer was given the responsibility of calling the others together. One cannot say which is the right officer to do it. That differs from one local authority to another, because the personalities of the heads of local government departments come into play. But every local authority charged with these duties ought to have one of these officers whose duty it is to bring the case before the others so that the whole of the resources can be brought to bear.
With regard to the question of gangs, apparently, the present gangs are unconnected with racecourses, like the Sabini gang was. The Sabini gang had a standup fight with another big gang on the way home from Epsom Races in the 'twenties of the last century. [HON. MEMBERS: "This century."] I mean this century, of course. I have lived in two centuries, but not so far back into the nineteenth century as that may have indicated. In the 'twenties of this century, they were dealt with, and, as far as I know, there has been no recrudescence.
What is essential in dealing with these gangs, whether the old gangs or the new gangs, is that the witnesses who are to be called can be given an effective assurance that if they tell the truth in the witness box they will be protected afterwards. What the public have seen, during the past few months, of the way in which witnesses have been declining to confirm statements which they have made after very careful thought is an indication of the need for the witnesses who are called in these cases to feel quite certain that telling the truth will not involve them in the most appalling consequences.
The only other matter with which I wish to deal is the question of the deportation of the Archimandrite. I under- 1078 stand that the real reason for doing this was that he was carrying on anti-British propaganda somewhere in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson). I cannot help thinking that it is far better for a person to carry on anti-British propaganda in St. Pancras, North rather than in Athens. The man who tries to carry on anti-British propaganda in St. Pancras, North has taken on a very tough job, but the man who is engaged in carrying on anti-British propaganda as a recent import into Athens from the place where Britain carries on is a far more dangerous person.
I want to be quite frank and say that I know the great difficulty with which a Home Secretary is faced in dealing with this kind of problem, and that I am not trying to belittle it. What I have just said is my own honest opinion of the matter. I would have preferred to have seen the man here, his contacts being watched and the sphere of his influence being carefully studied all the time, because our tolerance of things said against ourselves is one of the greatest assets we have before the public opinion of the world. Everybody knows the story of the American motorist who heard an orator in Hyde Park denouncing the police, and who saw a policeman move. He thought, "Now we shall see the law in action." The policeman, however, went to the American and said, "Would you mind stopping your engine running, because the people cannot hear what he is saying?"
I therefore regard the deportation of the Archimandrite, on the stories which we have had so far, as not being justified. I know the difficulty of the Home Secretary, and I make all due allowance for it, in stating the case, but I believe that we want to keep alive our own sense of humour in the matter. People used to urge me to take the most drastic steps about the Communists and the Fascists in the East End of London. I treated them, as far as possible, with contempt, but when there was an occasion when I received a report from an eye-witness of what had gone on in the Albert Hall, I read it to the House, and such few hon. Members as are now here who were here then will recollect the reception which it had. There was no further meeting called in the Albert Hall by either of them.
1079 We must have a very poor case for what we are doing in Cyprus if it is necessary, for the sake of peace and order in this country—for that is what the Home Secretary has to bear in mind; the public good in this country—to deport this obscure priest and give to his activities a publicity which otherwise would never have been vouchsafed to him. I very sincerely hope that before such another deportation takes place, it will be very seriously considered whether we should not tolerate anti-British propaganda in St. Pancras, North rather than send forth a martyr to carry it on in Athens.
I hope, Dr. King, that I have not offended your sense of my share of the time, and I thank you for the hint that you gave me.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
Debates on home affairs provide rather rare occasions for, generally speaking, the expression of unanimity of opinion on most of the subjects which are debated, and today's debate has been no exception. I think that most of the subjects which have been mentioned on both sides of the Committee, possibly with some reservations about the last subject mentioned by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), have commanded sympathy and support on both sides of the Committee.
I want to take up one point which has been raised today, and to support the plea that has been made from both sides of the Committee to my right hon. and gallant Friend to give retrospective effect to the police award. The case for it was first fully deployed by the hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock). I know that the interests of the hon. Lady are very wide. They range from prisons and police to our pugilists and pistols. I believe that the hon. Lady herself would agree that, from her interest in the pugilistic profession, she has earned the nickname of "Battling Bessie". Possibly, after her display with pistols this afternoon, she will be known as "Pistol-packing Momma".
I support the hon. Lady and other hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who have asked that the matter to which I refer should be reconsidered favourably. I must confess that until quite recently I 1080 was not fully aware of the facts about this arbitration award. It was not, in fact, until I received some details from the Police Federation of England and Wales that I discovered what had happened, and I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend will forgive me if I say that I was a little shocked by what I learned, if the facts given to me are accurate.
As I understand the case, after the police pay award had been made and after the police had asked that it should be made retrospective to 8th September, 1955, the Home Office and the local authorities agreed that the matter should go to arbitration. The arbitration tribunal gave an award in favour of the police. Then, as the hon. Lady pointed out, owing to a defect in the 1919 Act, the Home Secretary stated that he was unable to give effect to the award. The first question that comes to my mind is why, if it was known—as indeed, it was—that, if the arbitration award went against him, the Home Secretary would not be able to give effect to it, he accepted arbitration in the first place.
The second point is that I notice that the nature of the defect arises from the fact that increases of pay given to all ranks up to the rank of chief inspector have to be given in the form of a Statutory Instrument, and I am informed that in 1946 it was decided by the Government that unless an Act specifically gave authority, no Statutory Instrument could operate from a date earlier than the date on which it was laid before Parliament. It was known at least as early as 1948 that that defect in the Act existed. I am informed that the defect was drawn to the attention of certain Home Secretaries. I believe that the right hon. Member for South Shields will agree with that statement.
§ Mr. Ede
It was never drawn to my attention as Home Secretary. The question never arose. However, it was drawn to my attention as having application to the award of teachers' salaries in relation to the restriction which it placed on the Minister of Education in giving his assent to scales reached in the Burnham Committee.
§ Mr. Hall
The right hon. Gentleman is, of course, well aware of the matters which were brought to his attention during his period of office, and I will not press the point. However, the defect came to light, and as long ago as 1953 the Police Federation pressed for it to be remedied, and, even if legislative action was not promised, the Home Secretary of the day agreed that it should be considered.
We now have a case where the police, having put their case to arbitration, might naturally have expected that, if the award went in their favour, they would receive the benefit of it. It is very difficult for people outside the House to appreciate the legal and technical difficulties which make it impossible to give effect to such an award——
§ Mr. Hall
The hon. Member says "And even for hon. Members", but after careful study one can understand why, at the moment at all events, the Home Secretary is debarred from giving effect to the award without further legislation. One can appreciate that, but it is very difficult for people outside the House to understand it. It is a very old saying, and a very true one, that it is not enough that justice shall be done but that justice must be seen to be done. I should have thought that when we were trying to increase recruitment to the police force was the worst time to give any impression that the police force was not being fairly dealt with.
The police have some other slight grievance arising out of this matter. Police superintendents have received the award from 8th September, 1955. It is only chief inspectors and ranks below which have not been able to get it because they come under the terms of the 1919 Act. I should not have thought it impossible 1082 for the defect in that Act to be remedied. Parliament from time to time passes legislation which, because all hon. Members are human and fallible, does not always operate fairly on every citzen who comes under the influence of it and when matters of grave injustice are brought to our attention it is up to the House as a whole to put right a defect in legislation which it has passed. I beg my right hon. and gallant Friend to look at the matter again sympathetically, as I know he does, to ascertain whether something can be done to give the police what they consider to be justice and what the ordinary citizen would consider to be justice.
I was impressed by an Answer given by my right hon. and gallant Friend on 21st June to a Question on this point, asked by the right hon. Member for South Shields. My right hon. and gallant Friend said:We sympathise … with representations made about the difficulties which arise from the present state of the law, and we are considering whether anything can be done to resolve them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st June, 1956; Vol. 554, c. 1624.]I hope that my right hon. and gallant Friend is continuing his consideration of the matter and that he or the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to tell us that something is being done to give the police what they think is due and what all hon. Members will think is their due.
That is the only point that I wish to make at this stage. There are several other matters with which I should have liked to deal. I should especially have liked to explore the realm, so thoroughly explored by the hon. Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter) and the right hon. Member for South Shields, of the development of vice rackets and prostitution in this country, and particularly in London. I live very near Hyde Park, and the situation is getting to the point where I cannot allow my young daughter to walk unattended there. That is a very deplorable state of affairs which, I know, concerns the Home Secretary as much as it does everybody else.
Bearing in mind your request, Dr. King, that we should allow as many hon. Members as possible the opportunity to make their points in the debate, I content myself with making a plea on behalf of the police and hoping that what I have said will have some little effect upon my right hon. and gallant Friend.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)
I am sorry that I cannot follow the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) in elaborating the very important subject about which he has spoken. I want to revert to the question of the treatment of aliens, especially the humbler type of aliens and not some of the eminent ones to whom reference has been made.
I am sure that every hon. Member will agree that it is extremely important that visitors to our country should be given the best possible impression when they arrive. Unfortunately, those coming to this country are, immediately on arrival, separated from British citizens and put in a separate queue, where they have to wait for up to an hour before an immigration officer arrives to examine their papers. There is a fairly general complaint from people who are concerned about our tourist industry and who, naturally, want to encourage visitors from abroad, that the services for visitors at the ports are inadequate, that there is insufficient staff to deal with their papers and insufficient space in which to deal with them, and, also, that very often the questions which they are asked are of an extremely personal nature and much more searching than would appear to be necessary in respect of people coming here on an ordinary visit.
That may seem to be in a rather minor key after some of the dramatic things that we have been told today, but it is important that visitors should feel, when they come here, that they are being treated as human beings, which is often not the impression they get when they are herded in this way.
I want to turn from that topic, which is rather general and which mainly deals with visitors, to the position of those who want to work in this country. It often happens that aliens—that is a very unpleasant word to describe people from other countries—who want to work here, partly no doubt because of imperfect understanding of the language, do not always understand all the regulations. It has frequently happened that they have landed in this country with labour permits, but without visas when they have come from countries for which visas are required. They are sent back to the country from which they came because they have no visas.
1084 It seems regrettable that that should happen when they have a labour permit and when the very fact that they want to work here indicates that they have no liberal means and yet they have to pay the expenses of going back home and then returning to this country because of the lack of a visa. I ask the Home Secretary to look into that to see whether something cannot be done to ease the position in those cases.
There is also the difficulty of people who come here on a visit and who, liking the country and finding employment, try to obtain permission to work here. It has been found by employers that it is sometimes very difficult to obtain a labour permit for these visitors while the visitor remains in this country, but if the visitor goes back home and the employer then applies for a labour permit, he finds no difficulty in obtaining it. Once again, the alien is involved in the expense of going back home and returning to this country, simply to obtain a labour permit about which there would appear to be no difficulty. It is merely a case of the regulation being extremely awkward and harsh in these particular cases. This seems to be a matter of red tape and a lack of flexibility which causes considerable hardship.
I also wish to refer to the topic of aliens wanting to stay in this country for a period longer than they first intended. When they land in this country, they are very often given a card with certain information, part of which suggests that if they wish to stay longer, they should apply to the aliens' department. The card goes on to say that there is no need to employ an agent to handle applications for such permission. The mere fact that that is stated would seem to indicate that many of them find difficulty in making applications and try to find somebody who will help them.
There appears to be some objection from the Home Office to their approaching anybody to help them. When reputable organisations have backed some of these applications, they have found that the Home Office would deal not with the organisation but always directly with the individual. The organisation had no means of knowing whether the application had been successful. I wonder whether this apparent objection from the Home Office to anybody intervening on 1085 behalf of these individuals leads some officials to think that Members of Parliament should not be approached in this connection.
In a Question, a short time ago, I asked the Home Secretary whether there were cases of officials discouraging aliens from approaching Members of Parliament for help in this matter. I mentioned a particular case and the Home Secretary assured me that the official concerned had not discouraged an alien from approaching a Member of Parliament. I must accept that assurance, but I can only say that whether through imperfect understanding of the language, or for some other reason, the alien concerned, a Swedish girl, left the aliens' department under the impression that she had done something wrong in approaching a Member of Parliament.
I ask the Home Secretary to make certain that officials understand and apply in practice the fact that aliens are quite entitled to approach Members of Parliament when in difficulties. I remind the Home Secretary that many of these aliens are girls who have only just left school. They come to this country to better their knowledge of English and to see something of the country. Sometimes they decide to stay and obtain employment. It is vitally important that they should feel perfectly free to approach Members of Parliament or others whom they think might help them in their difficulties.
The other type of case, where extension of stay sometimes seems to be unnecessarily withheld, is that type of case where aliens want to stay with their relatives in this country. The regulations say that permission to reside in this country with a relative is given only by the Home Office and should be obtained before the foreigner comes to the United Kingdom, or he may be refused leave to land. In point of fact, it is very often extremely difficult for foreigners coming to this country to know whether they will want to stay here permanently, or for any length of time, or not. If we were able to make up our minds what we wanted to do three or six months ahead, it would be easy, but these people very often know nothing about the country, have no idea of the climate or food and do not know how they will get on with their in-laws. 1086 They often find that they get on very well and that they want to stay.
I want to mention three cases, which have been brought to my notice, where permission to stay has been unreasonably withheld. The first case is that of elderly foreigners who came to this country to visit their daughter. They stayed for six months and then applied for an extension, because they wanted to reside with her for longer. They were refused permission and sent back to their own country. The second case concerns a French girl whose father was in the Resistance Movement, in France. When her mother died a short time ago she very naturally wanted to come to this country to stay with her married sister. She came for six months and then applied for an extension which was refused. I have sent the Home Secretary particulars of this case and I hope that he will correct me if what I say is not so, although it is the girl herself who told me.
This girl went back to France and, some months later, returned to this country, When she landed at the airport, she was told, first, that she could not stay and then that she could stay for one week only. She was stripped and searched before being given permission to stay. There may have been a very good reason for that. I do not know and I have not heard of one. However, that had a very distressing effect on a girl from another country when all she wanted to do, very naturally, was to stay with her married sister in this country. That does not create the best impression for a visitor from another country. She told me that she would never forget that arrival at the airport and what happened to her there.
The third case concerns an elderly lady from Israel who came to stay with her married daughter. Before she left Israel she had been told that she could stay here for 12 months, and that permission to extend her stay could be obtained when she came here. She arrived in January; she applied for permission to reside here, and has now been told that she must leave the country on 13th July. The astonishing thing is that when her son-in-law went to the aliens department about this case he was told that his mother-in-law was a liar, and that we did not like liars.
Apparently this statement was made because it was said by the British Consul in 1087 Jerusalem that the lady has said that she wanted to visit this country for only three months, and had shown him a return ticket to prove that she wanted to return home. It was apparently because of that conflict of evidence that she was called a liar. The lady does not speak English, and it is reasonable to assume that the difficulty arose because she did not really understand what she should have done.
Although these cases are especially hard cases, and although many thousands of people secure permission to stay here without any difficulty and have the best possible treatment from the aliens department, even one or two such cases—and one may find many more in Parliamentary records—indicate that our regulations are not sufficiently flexible, and that our treatment of people is not always as sympathetic as it should be, in the light of the fact that we are living in days when people want to travel very much more freely, when we should welcome this exchange of people between one country and another and do everything possible to encourage people to come here.
It often happens that when people go to the aliens department, in great difficulty, they are met only by a clerk, or someone who cannot give them the information they seek, and they find it impossible to make an appointment with anyone in authority who can take an urgent case further and give the necessary information. I ask the Home Secretary to consider this problem and see whether he can make the regulations more humane and flexible.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Billericay)
I hope that the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) will forgive me if I do not follow along the lines of her remarks about aliens—although I agree with many of the points which she made. Instead, I should like to follow the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) and other hon. Members in respect of what they have said about crime and our prisons. In so doing I feel that I should almost declare an interest as, for the last six years, I have earned by livelihood from crime. Nearly every day I defend or prosecute a criminal of some kind or another.
After the jury has retired to consider its verdict, it is my practice to go to the 1088 dock, take the prisoner to the cells, and discuss with him what should be said in the plea in mitigation. As the Committee knows, after the jury brings in a verdict of guilty, and before judgment is passed, counsel for the defence is entitled to make a plea in mitigation of sentence. So it is that I go down and speak to these criminals and discuss with them such other matters as they would like to be said on their behalf, apart from those which have been given to me in my instructions.
One appalling thing which has struck me over and over again in speaking to these prisoners is that if they have already been to prison and have experienced prison life they seem quite indifferent about going back again. So often the worst said by them is, "Oh, lor, I suppose it will mean two years' porridge," or something of that kind. There seems to be no anxiety about returning to prison. I know that those who have never suffered a term of imprisonment feel very differently. They are afraid of the hardship that prison will bring, and if they are married men with families they are terrified of the humiliation and degradation that it will cause to their dependants. In the case of people who have already been to prison anxiety arises only if they have had several previous convictions and are faced with the threat of preventive detention, which means being "put away" for eight years, with very little remission.
I have therefore come to the inescapable conclusion that our prisons are becoming too soft. Since I began to form that conclusion I have had the advantage, like the hon. Member for Chesterfield, of visiting a number of our prisons. It may be that I have not been able to do so in quite so experienced a way as the hon. Member, but I have none the less had an opportunity of seeing them. One of them has struck me particularly as being a soft one. Suprisingly, it is Dartmoor. I examined every nook and cranny of that prison during the Whitsun Recess and was struck by the way in which the authorities there are trying to destroy the myth of the "Moor".
I can assure the Committee that many of the things that we read in books and newspapers about that prison are myths. Unfortunately, in their attempts to destroy 1089 that myth, the authorities are making the prison so comfortable that many of our old lags will soon be making applications to the governors of other gaols asking for a transfer to the "Moor". The most sensible feature of Dartmoor is the amount of activity which takes place there. From the time the prisoner rises in the morning to the time he goes to sleep there is always something for him to do. There are evening classes; he can play football; he can play darts, and can read any book he likes. In his library service he may have one advantage even over hon. Members. I intend no reflection on the Library of this House in saying that; but a prisoner at Dartmoor may have in his possession within a week any book that he likes to name, and most books are available there for him at a moment's notice.
As in all prisons, the amount of work done by prisoners is ridiculously small, and for the overwhelming majority of prisoners it is useless and futile. The average working week amounts to about thirty hours, and when that period is spaced over five-and-a-half days, it will be realised that the working periods are very short. In my submission that is unsatisfactory from any point of view.
I appreciate the difficulties which would follow from trying to extend the working week. There is a shortage of warders, and a longer working week would mean a two-shift system for warders and would require an increase of about 50 per cent. in the staff of our prisons. It might also mean a considerable capital investment, amounting perhaps to £1 million or £2 million, although many existing workshops are perfectly adequate and must have been cheap and easy to equip. I have in mind the workshops at Wandsworth Prison, where useful and sensible work is done, including tailoring and carpentry.
There is the further difficulty of the very natural attitude of trade unions, which would object to the unfair competition resulting from the use of cheap prison labour. But surely all those difficulties could be surmounted, were we to accept as our objective that crime must decrease. Among existing criminals that may be achieved only by increasing the deterrents to crime. I suggest that the greatest deterrent for that class of criminal, the man with previous convictions and experi- 1090 ence of prison life, is punishment in the form of really hard work.
Criminals have one characteristic in common, they have offended against society. I think one might go a stage further and say that they all dislike making a contribution to society—and that applies to sexual offenders as well. I think it true to say that if there is a lowest common denominator among criminals it is that they dislike hard work. To be forced to do hard work is a grave punishment for them, and if prisoners had to work for 50 or 60 hours a week—[Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh but that is still a shorter working week than the working week of many hon. Members—I am convinced that they would so hate the life that they would cease to feel so indifferent about returning to prison as they do now.
Were they subjected to such a period of work each week they would be conditioned, in many cases for the first time, to earning their own livelihood upon their release. There are about 20,000 prisoners, who cost the taxpayer about £7 million a year. The right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) told the Committee that each of these prisoners cost the taxpayer about £300 or £400 a year. With such a manpower force, surely there is no reason why that loss should not be converted into a modest profit for the good of the community? That could be done, if prisoners ceased doing jobs which are utterly demoralising and soul-destroying both for them and for the warders.
In one prison to which I have been—as a visitor—only 150 prisoners out of 650 had any proper work. The remaining 400 were sewing mail bags, a task which might have been done more efficiently by one machine attended by two men. Surely, that is an appalling and demoralising waste, yet it is repeated in most of our prisons. Once prisons were made places of hard work, we might introduce a new principle of punishment into our system; that if a person commits a crime, he takes something away from society, and therefore, when he is convicted, he must go to a place where he is compelled to make compensation to society in the form of having to work for society for nothing, and work very hard. Once criminals realised that they would have to pay compensation for their crimes in 1091 the form of working for nothing, I feel certain that crime statistics would decline.
§ Mr. W. T. Proctor (Eccles)
Has the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) read Mr. Khrushchev's repudiation of Stalin? It seems that the hon. Member is proposing precisely the same kind of treatment for criminals for the benefit of the State as was adopted behind the Iron Curtain.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Yates (Birmingham, Ladywood)
I was amazed at the speech of the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body). I should have thought that his experience would enable him to obtain a little more knowledge about what actually happens inside our prisons. It is not true that there is a 30-hour average working week. In all our local prisons, it is impossible to get an average working week of more than 20–25 hours. If the hon. Gentleman goes further——
§ Mr. Yates
The hon. Gentleman said that criminals were indifferent about going back to prison. He fails to realise that local prisons impose a punishment far worse than anything he has tried to think about this evening, by locking people up for 19 hours or 20 hours in cells. I have asked the Home Secretary Questions about this. I have been to two prisons within recent weeks, Winson Green, Birmingham, and Strangeways, Manchester, where I found the same conditions. If more than 20 hours' work a week can be found for ordinary prisoners the prison is very fortunate. That is what led me to say, in a previous debate, that local prisons were breeding grounds for crime.
If the hon. Member wants a man not to be indifferent about going back to prison he must place him in conditions in which it is possible to be reformed and 1092 rehabilitated. The emphasis is now, as it must be, on punitive rather than corrective treatment because there is no prospect of staff sufficient to control a man except by locking him up for long periods.
I have listened with great interest to the opinions expressed here today. I have had a good deal of experience in talking to prison officers and I have read some of the books written by ex-criminals. I do not subscribe to the view that we can indict prison officers as a class. We find, in every class, some who do not come up to standard. I have great admiration for many prison officers.
When hon. Members ask the Home Secretary to deal with vice, and not merely to impose a small fine like £2 for prostitution, they are suggesting that he should put them in prison. There is no room for them, anyhow. Let hon. Members go to Holloway Gaol and see the women who have been put there, some suffering from disease as a result of sexual activity. They will feel that we have not provided the conditions in which prisoners, men and women, can be rehabilitated and reformed.
I praise the police and have much admiration for the work they do in preventing crime. That work is preventing people from being placed in prison in conditions which often would make them worse instead of better. I do not believe that prison life can reform a prostitute. As our prisons are organised today, I do not believe that prison is the right place for the conscientious objector. I do not believe that it is the right place for those who have committed quite a number of crimes. I am not speaking about crimes of violence and murder, which are something distinct.
I am deeply disturbed that the Home Secretary felt it necessary to accept a cut in the expenditure on prisons of £199,000. I understood him to say that £90,000 was for deferment of purchasing sites. The buildings are fundamental if there is to be rehabilitation of prisoners. When I was in the United States of America the director of American prisons, Mr. James V. Bennett, gave me permission to visit some of the prisons there. He also gave me a number of observations he had made in speeches about prisoners.
1093 One of the first points of importance which he stressed, which, he said, applies not only to America but to Britain and everywhere else, was the question of buildings. In one of his speeches, he referred to an American architect, the late Alfred Hopkins, who said:If you cannot get to the heart of the man you want to reform you cannot reform him; and the way to the human heart—and this may sound strange in this connection—is through the sense of beauty.Later, he said:Beauty of concept is inseparable from beauty of environment. Without both there is no complete and comprehensive approach to the rehabilitation of human character.My hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) said earlier that he was doubtful whether there had been improvements in rehabilitation in the last 40 years. I think that there have been some improvements, although I believe that the damaging factor against them has been the conditions of the buildings and also the conditions inside prisons.
The Home Secretary referred to sanitary conditions and said that much had been done, but is it not true that in practically all our local prisons today the sanitary arrangements are absolutely appalling? When I went into Strangeways I found it was quite common for there to be only two lavatories in a workshop used by 80 to 90 prisoners. It is appalling to think that on the overcrowded landings of local prisons prisoners who have been in their cells for many hours have to carry their chamber pots in queues. That is an antiquated, insanitary condition which is a disgrace to this country. I am not blaming the Home Secretary for what he has inherited. This is something which has been going on for years, but I say that it is possible to overcome that insanitary state of affairs.
I was delighted to hear the Home Secretary refer to payment for prisoners. I know that he has that question very much in mind. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has told me that the average rate for a prisoner in a local prison was 2/6d. per week and that the average rate for a piece worker was 2/9d. That is ridiculous. How can a prisoner exercise a sense of responsibility, after he has been in prison for a number of years, if he has never been allowed to receive proper wages and carry out his liability to his family as he should do?
1094 The difficulty, of course, is that the staff is not sufficient. I asked the Home Secretary, a few weeks ago, how long it would take for prisons to undertake the three-shift system. He gave a reply which, I think, has been the cause of great consternation among prison authorities because he said, or inferred, that it was not the intention to adopt the three-shift system in all prisons. I understood, when we were examining this problem in the Select Committee on Estimates, it was laid down and established to us by the Prison Commissioners beyond doubt that it was their intention to establish a three-shift system in all prisons. Today, we need 1,000 more staff which at the present rate of recruitment would take 50 years to achieve and may not be within the lifetime of any present prison officer.
As a result, the overtime for which we have to be responsible is terrific. The Select Committee on Estimates called attention, in 1952, to the great amount of overtime that was being worked by prison officers. In 1952, it amounted to £315,000; in 1954, to £410,000; in 1955, to £450,000; and in the 1956 Estimate to £485,000. No employer in the country could be efficient in his business if his overtime bill was amounting in that way. There is a great case here for examination.
There are other hon. Members who wish to speak, and I will, therefore, refer to only one other matter. I should like to ask the Home Secretary whether he will closely examine the problem of preventive detention. I am disturbed by the large number of letters which I receive from prisoners, some of which I referred to the Home Secretary and some of which I replied to myself. I am not at all convinced that when men and women are sentenced to very long periods of detention, especially as we have not the machinery for reform and rehabilitation that we should have, that this is a wise thing.
I have in mind the case of a man who has committed a number of crimes, not crimes of violence or sexual crimes. He has served imprisonment on a number of occasions, and he finally commits a crime for which he would normally be sentenced to two years' imprisonment but for which it is suddenly decided to give him 10 years' preventive detention. Up to the present he has served about 25 years 1095 in prison. It seems that he is being punished over and over again, and I wish that I could see the prospect of some rehabilitation.
Someone from Glasgow wrote to me about a woman who had been sentenced for stealing stockings to the value of 15s. 10d. She had a number of other convictions and it was decided to send her away for nine years' preventive detention. I am doubtful whether it is wise for a judge to decide how long it will take to reform a criminal. Very often, a judge wields that power without knowing what the conditions are really like.
The Home Secretary should realise that he will have to fight the Treasury for the necessary money to make our prisons satisfactory, so that we can be sure that when a prisoner returns to society he is a better citizen than before he went to prison. We ought never to be satisfied with a position whereby prisoners become worse rather than better.
The Home Secretary is faced with a tremendous problem. On the one hand, he is being asked to tighten the law, thus making it possible for more people to be sent to prison, while, on the other, our gaols are overcrowded and are without the necessary conditions for reform. I frankly admit the tremendously valuable work being done by prison classes and other reforms, but we are still up against the fact that the vast majority of prisoners are locked up in their cells. It is there that they are rotting. That is a crime to the individual. We may punish a man, but we must not place him in conditions which are either a danger to his health or which may possibly be injurious to his character and development in later life.
The Home Secretary has opened one prison and I hope that he will feel that he has the encouragement and the backing of the House of Commons in going forward with the improvement of conditions in our prisons. I also hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to announce a scheme of payment for work done by prisoners more comparable with what is happening in Scandinavia and in other countries so that our prisons may be put on a footing which, one day, will make us feel as proud of our institutions for the moulding of the character of prisoners as we are of our hospitals, 1096 which are doing wonderful work for people diseased in other ways.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)
I have listened to most of this debate, and it seems to me that were my right hon. and gallant Friend the Home Secretary to accept all the advice tendered to him, he would have to run violently in both directions at once, stand still, and, possibly, jump up and down. I am wondering in what frame of mind he finds himself after listening to all that has been said.
My right hon. and gallant Friend has come in for a certain amount of praise, but one or two unfortunate remarks have been made concerning our police force. I believe that the police force is still the friend of all decent citizens. I am quite sure that policemen do their best in discharging a very difficult task. I am also certain that the average policeman who intends to make the police force his career does not like having to deal with petty offences such as the moving on of motorists and having to act, possibly, as a school-crossing guide, or engage in other similar activities. I am quite certain that he would much rather be doing the job he must have envisaged when he joined the force. I am also quite sure, and I have a certain amount of knowledge of this subject, that much valuable time of the better type of C.I.D officer is being used for clerical work instead of being utilised to allow him to do more and more crime detection.
I will give one example of what I consider must be both tiresome to the police officer and unnecessary from the point of view of the general public. It is a job which I think officers should never be asked to undertake. I visited the White City on Saturday night. Leaving that place and going towards the railway station I heard a voice over a loudspeaker, saying, "Ticket holders keep to the left near the wall; non-ticket holders join the queue on the right". As I entered the station I saw to my surprise that talking into a microphone was a police officer actually on the railway premises. I feel that our officers should not be called upon to undertake that sort of duty, which should obviously be done by a railway servant.
During the day I have heard some criticism of the aliens department of the Home Office. I should like to put on record the 1097 fact that I have had dealings with that department within the last two months, and those in it have been most helpful to myself and to my constituents. They have obtained the release in Western Germany, in a very short time indeed, of the wife of a person who sought my aid. I should also like to record the help I have received from that department of the Home Office that deals with the obtaining of permission for a Member of Parliament to visit prisoners. Last week, unfortunately, I had to visit a woman constituent, a Mrs. Richardson, who was in Holloway Prison, having been arrested on a charge of murder. From the time I requested permission to make that visit to the time when I arrived at Holloway Prison with the necessary authority only two hours had passed. I should like to express my very grateful thanks for that sort of service.
The other thing which I think we should not overlook but which I have not heard mentioned today is the work done by our women police officers. They should be encouraged. When they were first enlisted they were laughed at and sneered at, but they are doing a grand job in interrogating women who would otherwise find it very distasteful to have to answer some of the questions which are very necessary when criminal proceedings are pending.
I feel that this speech of mine, though short, was necessary, and advise the Home Secretary not to attempt to please everyone, because if he begins trying to do so he will end by pleasing no one at all.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Victor Collins (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
At the end of a long debate, and with only a few minutes left, it is difficult to convince oneself that one has anything of value to contribute, but I want to say a few words to the Home Secretary on behalf of those prisoners who find life in prison so intolerable that they try to escape. It has been suggested by an hon. Member opposite that we were making prisons so comfortable that people did not mind if they were sentenced, and wanted to stay behind after serving their sentences. I want to put in a plea for the men who dislike it so much that they escape or attempt to escape.
I must say at once that I realise that escapes cannot be ignored and that special 1098 efforts must be made to see that they do not occur. But there are limits, and I think that the present treatment of escapees goes far beyond anything that we would think necessary or wise. The man who escapes and is brought back is put on a bread and water diet and he suffers some loss of remission of sentence. He also has coloured patches put on his clothes, and his clothes are put outside his cell every night.
So far, that is fair enough, providing that that does not go on for ever. But he is also compelled to have an electric light burning overhead all night every night. Last week the Home Secretary told me that only a 25-watt bulb was used. Today in this debate he took credit for the fact that lighting in cells had been stepped up to 60 watts. But in any case I submit that this is pure sadism. What possible justification can there be, in the case of a naked man locked up in a cell, for having a light burning over his head all night?
These escapees also are not allowed to see a newspaper or to hear the wireless. They are not allowed to take dinner or tea in association. They are not permitted educational classes. When they take exercise they are forced to do so together, so that they must become members of a gang, because they have no choice between that and being outcasts when they are with their fellow prisoners in the workshop or the chapel.
A constituent of mine tried to escape from the magistrates' court before starting his sentence. This man, when he started his sentence, was a good prisoner. He earned full remission, but he had to suffer for twenty continuous months all the measures I have mentioned. In fact, until two weeks ago, he suffered them, but I put down a Question in the House and was informed by the Home Secretary that two or three days before the Question was answered, this man and nine others at Pentonville Prison had been taken off the escape list. I was then told that that had nothing to do with the fact that I had tabled the Question, but I think that is straining credibility a little too far.
I am glad to say that those prisoners, whether they are on the escape list or not, are now allowed to see a newspaper. I have had a letter from that prisoner, and it is among the most moving that I have ever received. The Home Secretary has 1099 still refused to cancel the order relating to the electric light overhead. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will deal with that matter, and also with the request that the escape list should be reviewed at intervals of not more than six months. I do not think that that is an unreasonable request.
The Home Secretary said today that the prison service is a social service. I do not think that it is a very social service that makes it possible for any kind of man to have to endure those conditions for a period of twenty months. There can be no justification for punishing a man two or three times for the same offence. We are trying to make our prisons places of rehabilitation, but any governor who is allowed to keep a man in such purgatory for a period like that is not a governor of a prison; he is the custodian of a cage.
I ask the Home Secretary to review the regulations whereby prisoners' letters to Members of Parliament are censored and copied. Of whom is he afraid? Is he afraid that if a prisoner writes to his M.P., the M.P. cannot be trusted? Surely this is quite an intolerable regulation. I urge the Home Secretary to be a reformer—to support his police and Civil Service, by all means, but not to be subject to them; to praise what is good, but to have the courage to acknowledge what is wrong, and put it right.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
When I heard the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden) give his graphic description of the Home Secretary running in both directions at once, I was reminded of an earlier description of one of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's predecessors, of whom it was said that he possessed all the characteristics of an equestrian statue, combining the appearance of violent activity with complete and utter immobility. That seemed to me to be a not inappropriate description of the Home Secretary.
I will begin on a note which will, I think, command general support. I am sure all hon. Members will agree that this has been a useful and constructive debate. We on this side of the House hesitated a good deal before asking for a debate, but we certainly have no regrets that we finally decided to do so. 1100 Although it would be undesirable if the activities of the Home Office became too much involved in controversy in the House of Commons, it would be a bad thing if any of us were afraid to ventilate here the criticisms we have of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and of his administration.
It would be idle to deny that there has been in the Press and among the public generally a good deal of disquiet about the administration of the Home Office in recent months. There was very little in the Home Secretary's speech which went very far to dispel the disquiet which I felt. I cannot remember a time, except perhaps in the days of Lord Brentford, when the Home Office has been so consistently under fire from all sides, not only in leading articles in almost every newspaper but also from both sides of the House of Commons.
Among the public generally, I think that the misgivings have sprung chiefly from what appears to be an increase in violence in London during recent weeks. In this House, on the other hand, I think the misgivings are more deeply rooted. We believe, in the first place, that there is a dilatoriness on the part of the Home Office. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) raised the question of the Report on the Closing Hours of Shops and the Report of the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming; he asked what had become of those Reports.
There are other decisions which we still await from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. For example, what has happened to the provisions in the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, regarding remand centres? What has happened to the Maxwell Committee Report on Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies and the pilot schemes which were to be set up? What is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman doing about the Report of the Select Committee which was published in July, 1952, dealing with prisons?
When shall we hear a decision on the Report of the Departmental Committee on the Adoption of Children, which reported in April, 1954, or on the Report of the Departmental Committee on Summary Trial of Minor Offences, which reported in July last year? Is the right hon. Gentleman soon to announce action on the recommendations of the United 1101 Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, which came out in September, 1955?
There is a most impressive backlog of work for the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to undertake. Bearing in mind that it has taken over five years to get legislative action on the Report of the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming, we must all hope that when the Wolfenden Committee reports there will not be a five years' delay in implementing whatever decisions it will see fit to make.
I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that this is a record of dilatoriness and inactivity on the part a the Home Secretary. I was interested today to see in the News Chronicle that this comment is made:The critics are unanimous about the reason: the Home Office has for years been dominated by permanent officials, who work to a pattern deeply ingrained but increasingly outmoded. The officials are able, but a reassertion of political control is overdue.It was because we felt that the Home Office has not been having that political leadership over the last few months that we felt constrained to ask for the debate today.
We believe, too, that it is not only a record of inactivity but, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby suggested, the question of illiberality on the part of the Home Office is involved, also.
It is not only a question of the Iraqi students or the deportation of Macheriotis. Incidentally, I had a great deal of sympathy with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who suggested that it would be much better for the priest to continue his activities in St. Pancras, North than to let him loose in Greece.
However, there are other issues which have caused great misgivings on the part of us on this side of the Committee. For example, there was the successful attempt to invoke the Official Secrets Act to prevent a Sunday newspaper from publishing the memoirs of Albert Pierrepoint, the public hangman. Whatever one may have thought of the good taste of those articles, it seemed to me to be a most improper use of that Act to try to stop Mr. Pierrepoint from expressing his opinion, in the light of his experience, on what was a matter of tremendous public interest at that moment.
1102 In our submission there are, too, examples of administrative inefficiency on the part of the Home Department. There was the answer, given in another place by the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, regarding Mr. Koestler, a statement which later had to be retracted and an apology offered to him. On that occasion the Home Office showed, at the very best, carelessness in answering a Question in another place, which does not show very much credit to the Home Office.
There was also the answer given by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman over a week ago to my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson). The Home Secretary then said that he did not think it was necessary to consult the Greek Government before taking action in the case of Macheriotis. And last Thursday, in a Written Answer, he admitted that he had broken the Anglo-Greek Consular Convention. It is monstrous that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and his colleagues could be misled by their permanent officials to give answers in either House of Parliament which were not in accordance with the true facts of the situation.
If I may give another example, there was the answer given to an Adjournment debate initiated by the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Hyde) on the question of the Casement diaries. I shall read to the Committee the comment made upon that speech by one of our weekly newspapers. It was not Tribune, not the New Statesman, or any other journal associated with the Labour Party. It was a respectable Conservative weekly called The Spectator, no doubt well known to the Home Secretary. This article, written by Mr. Robert Blake, began:The civil servants who govern the Home Office have managed to render their department by far the most notorious in the country for general asininity and obscurantism"—The language is stronger than I myself would care to use—Not content with making a fool of Lord Mancroft over Mr. Koestler's alleged misquotation of a Home Office instruction on hanging, they have contrived to make an even greater fool of poor Mr. Deedes, who had to reply on May 3 in the House of Commons to Mr. Montgomery Hyde's motion about Casement's diaries. Seldom has an official answer been more feeble, misleading and disingenuous.The time has come when the Home Office must make up its mind what story 1103 it will tell the public about the Casement diaries. I do not want to canvass the merits of the case tonight, but I want to put this point to the right hon. and gallant. Gentleman; on the question of the Casement diaries three reputations are now involved. It is not just a question of the reputation of Casement himself. It is also a case now of the reputations of Admiral Hall and Sir Basil Thomson. I believe that those who are admirers of Casement, or relations of Hall or Thomson, have every, right to expect the Home Secretary to clear up the ambiguity which has enshrouded this problem for so long.
I should like now to return to the question of prisons, about which we have had so many valuable contributions tonight. My hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates), with whom I was once in the Scrubs, but only for a morning, and who was chairman of that sub-committee of the Select Committee on Estimates which prepared a valuable report on prisons, made a moving plea for better conditions in order to prevent a further moral deterioration in the inmates of our prisons. I agree with everything my hon. Friend said, but when we remember that the present population is twice that for which the prisons were built, and combine with that the fact that the Government has now launched another economy campaign, it looks as if it will be a long time before there can be any real improvement in the conditions in our prisons.
In the meantime, I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) has the right answer in saying that we need a new atmosphere in our prisons and a new relationship between the prisoners and the prison officers. I thought that the importance of that was very much highlighted by the later remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) which prompted such a handsome concession from the Home Secretary himself.
There are one or two points on which I should like to ask the Joint Under-Secretary to comment. I should like to ask him whether the Home Office will seriously consider having a complete review of the probation officer service. It is now 20 years since such a review took place, and the work of the proba- 1104 tion officers has changed very much. It is time we had another general review of the situation.
The other day, when I put a Question to the Home Secretary about police activities in the West End of London, he gave the impression, rather unfairly I thought, that I was in some way undermining confidence in the police. I want to say tonight that that is very far indeed from being my intention. I agree with other hon. Members who do not believe that corruption is widespread in the London police. I have a high regard for their efficiency, integrity, courage and patience. Of course, there are cases of corruption; it would be surprising if there were not. Even in this House we have had Members who have fallen by the wayside, and it would be surprising if in such a large body as the Metropolitan Police, there were not a few black sheep; but it is certainly not widespread. Nobody would wish to give the public the impression that we cannot rely upon the Metropolitan Police.
What I was trying to say on that occasion was that the Metropolitan police are, in many areas, much too thin upon the ground. I put a Question to the Home Secretary the other day about the present strength of the police force in the Metropolitan area. I found that the authorised establishment is 19,462 men and that the strength of the force on 31st May was 15,659 men. There is a very similar position in most of our big cities. The point I was really making was that the only really effective way of getting rid of crime is a reasonable certainly on the part of the criminal that he will be detected, and a realisation that anybody who gives evidence against criminals can be reasonably confident that the police will be able to protect them.
I was encouraged to hear the right hon. and gallant Gentleman say that the West End division of the Metropolitan Police will be up to full strength today, and I hope that the Home Secretary, or the Joint Under-Secretary, will be able to assure us that that has not been done at the expense of other parts of the Metropolitan Police area.
§ Mr. Greenwood
Not only is there crime in the West End of London, but recently there have been slashings in 1105 South London, there is crime in the East End and the recent murder of Smithson took place in Kilburn. It would be a lamentable thing if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was merely giving the appearance of providing police protection only at the expense of depriving people of it in other parts of London. The real answer is to build up the strength of the police force in the Metropolis, and here I agree very much with what many of my hon. Friends have said on this subject.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman, however, will not get people to join the police force as a profession if the Home Office treats them in the shabby way it has treated them over the recent pay award. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman says, "It is quite untrue." I do not know whether he was in the Chamber to hear his hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall), who had some very critical things to say about the conduct of the Home Office in the matter. The point surely is why, if the Home Office knew that it could not implement any award back-dating the pay, and it had known that for eight years, it agreed to it going to arbitration at all?
Now, particularly when the higher paid officers have their pay back-dated, it is not surprising that there is a good deal of resentment on the part of the Metropolitan Police. I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has done a very great disservice to the cause of cleaning up London by what I think is shabby treatment of the police in this respect.
When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of violence, he properly paid tribute to the speed and efficiency with which the police have cleared up recent cases. All of us agree with that tribute, but, at the same time, I think the public is wondering whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has adequate powers to prevent crime and whether he is using those powers sufficiently urgently.
The other day I put a Question to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman about the Prevention of Crime Act, 1953. That is the Act which enables a policeman to arrest without warrant a person whom he believes to be carrying, without reasonable excuse, an offensive weapon in a public place. We passed that Act with a great deal of hesitation and heart-searching, because this House never likes putting the onus upon the accused. How- 1106 ever, we gave the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that power.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman now says that up to 31st December last 244 persons were prosecuted in the Metropolitan Police district for offences under the 1953 Act, and, of those, 203 were summarily convicted, in 15 cases the charges were withdrawn, dismissed or otherwise disposed of, and the remaining 26 persons were committed for trial.
I should like to ask the Home Secretary whether he believes that the Act is having the effect it was intended to have. I ask for this reason, that in recent cases, while the police are to be commended upon the swiftness with which they acted, it is a little surprising that they were not able to keep apart men already known to have long records of convictions and known to be public enemies.
Warren and Fraser, for example, were sent to prison for seven years for slashing Comer. Fraser had 15 convictions already, including two for violence. The next week Rosa and Frett were sent to prison for seven years for slashing a South London fruit trader. Both had eight convictions, and both had a three-years' conviction for razor slashing. The following week Falco was slashed, and a few days later Smithson, a razor slasher and mobster, was killed in Kilburn.
I spent a week-end checking up the facts of recent cases. One of the surprising things is not only that they are all linked together with slashing by razors, but they are linked together with the personnel, who crop up again and again in these cases. Warren and Fraser attacked Comer. At their trial Falco was named as an alibi. Falco was chauffeur to Albert Dimes. Dimes was involved with Comer in the Soho "fight that never was." Falco and Johnnie Rice accused Comer of wounding Falco. Smithson was a former associate of Comer. In at least three of these cases the name of Billy Hill has cropped up, so it looks, in spite of what the right hon. and gallant Gentleman himself has said, as though there may be at work gangs, or a group of undesirables which does act in closely concerted activity.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman was doubtful about that, but it seems to me that one has the same people running 1107 all through these incidents. As so many of them describe themselves as being associated with the racing world in some form, there appears to be some form of concerted action on their part. I notice that the noble Lord the Joint Under-Secretary, in another place, referred the other day to the remarkable way in which many bookmakers seem to be associated with some form of criminal or semi-criminal activity.
Hon. Members will have noticed that so many of these people in recent cases of violence have described themselves as commission agents, turf accountants, tic-tac men, or bookmakers. In this Committee we have to face the fact, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman told us, that the activities of the police are being hampered by obsolete laws, not only in respect of betting, but also in respect of prostitution and the licensing of private clubs. At the moment we are making a jungle of some of the laws which ought to be protecting the social standards for which we as a country ought to stand and we are creating a situation in which respect for the law can easily be destroyed. What we have to do is to re-establish the supremacy of the law.
I want to read to the Committee a report in yesterday's Empire News. It is headed:A Day At The Races—with Billy Hill and Co.It reads:Friends of Billy Hill—self styled ex-gang boss—are going racing at Brighton this week. They're all bookmakers and already they've been allocated their pitches on the 'free side' of Brighton racecourse.The "free side", I understand, is the side free from any sort of official control. The report goes on:The man who allocates the pitches is said to be Albert Dimes, who has been named as the leader of the Italians of Saffron Hill.With them at Brighton will be a bookmaker's clerk, just released from gaol, who told me yesterday that he was going to try to make a living with the underworld bookies of the point-to-point and the Epsom and Brighton freeside.'I shall be at Brighton on Monday and Tuesday,' he said.I hope that hon. Members will listen to the names I shall now read out.
'No. 1 pitch will be occupied by Archie Hill, brother of Billy Hill. No. 2 pitch has been assigned to Bill Goller and Harry White. No. 3 pitch is held by Yossell. No. 4 pitch by Johnnie Rice. No. 5 pitch by Frani 1108 Daniels and No. 6 pitch by Tommy Falco. The first six pitches are always reckoned the best.'Others will occupy the lesser pitches along the line, some of them former well-known figures in the underworld.'If these six men whose names I have read out from that article do not have some form of criminal conviction against them, I shall be extremely surprised.
It seems that this report in the Empire News yesterday is a clear challenge by one of the racing gangs to one of the other racing gangs that it allocates the most profitable pitches on some of our most profitable racecourses. It is a challenge from one gang to another. It is a challenge to the police. It is a challenge to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and to every one of us in this Committee to sweep obsolete and corrupting laws from the Statute Book and to give the country the laws that we need.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. W. F. Deedes)
It is inevitable that a debate over so wide a variety of subjects as we have discussed today, good value though it has provided, should leave a great deal for me to round up. It may not be easy to do so to the satisfaction of hon. Members who have spoken. I want to spend as much time as I can on the subject to which the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) devoted most of his speech, that is, aliens' control, but it may be helpful if I first refer to certain of the points which other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), raised.
I do not pretend to be able to do justice to the points raised by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings) in his speech about children. We will study what he said. I should like to reply immediately, to his remark about the need for earlier action to prevent the suffering of children through neglect in their own homes. My right hon. and gallant Friend feels that more might be achieved if the local authorities responsible for child care under the 1948 Act were armed with new powers to take early action, and he is accordingly asking Lord Ingleby's Committee to include this question in its already fairly wide terms of reference.
Speaking of children, I cannot overlook the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers), who made a very thoughtful and constructive contri- 1109 bution to the debate. I am sure that the Committee will support her plea that the various statutory and voluntary agencies should co-operate in doing all they can to prevent conditions arising which, in the last resort, will require children to be removed from their homes.
There have been speeches subsequent to that of my right hon. and gallant Friend—including that of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood)—upon the question of law and order, with special application to prostitutes. In view of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Southgate (Sir B. Baxter), I should add that two problems are involved here; the state of the law, and the administration of the law as it stands. I think that most hon. Members accept the fact that there is a limit to what can be done by administrative action under the present law. It is quite wrong to suggest that a great deal more could be done than the police are already trying to do.
No one would attempt to defend the law as it stands, but neither would the Committee accept any serious change now, before the Wolfenden Committee, which has been occupied upon this subject for two years, has had a chance to complete its work and make recommendations upon an appallingly difficult subject. That may not satisfy those who are now calling for immediate and drastic action, but it is a fair assessment of the situation. Nor should we now be too contemptuous of police administrative action to meet a situation which, despite all that has been said, is not entirely new, and which, without any tendency to be complacent, can be over-dramatised, as the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) observed.
The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) asked about the progress of homes for neglectful mothers. I can tell him that there are three such homes. In addition to the Mayflower Home, which he mentioned and which is run by the Salvation Army, there is a second one run by the Quakers, and a third, which is about to be or has been opened, at Birmingham.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Merton and Morden (Mr. Atkins) apparently missed the short debate that we had recently, upon a Private Members' Motion, in connection with police activities, because that answered 1110 some, if not most of the points he raised. He asked a specific question about light-weight motor cycles. They are still in a very experimental stage, but there is certainly scope for their further use if they are found to be satisfactory.
The hon. Member for Rossendale asked if we would agree to a complete review of the probation officer service, which he said had not been undertaken for twenty years. We will consider that suggestion.
I cannot ignore the powerful speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) and her reference to the arbitration award on police pay. I only regret that at this moment, as my right hon. and gallant Friend foreshadowed earlier, I cannot add to the statement that he has made. Under the existing law there is no power to give retrospective effect to an agreement or arbitral award relating to this pay. My right hon. and gallant Friend and the Secretary of State for Scotland were therefore unable to give such effect to the recent award.
The hon. Lady and other hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have expressed strongly the feeling that power should be taken to enable pay awards to be given retrospective effect, where appropriate. As the Committee is already aware, the Home Secretary is looking into this matter with his colleagues, and hopes to be in a position to inform hon. Members of the outcome of that consultation very soon. For all these reasons I hope that the Committee will accept that I cannot go beyond that.
§ Mr. Callaghan
At a little past midnight on 20th March the hon. Gentleman repeated to me that same formula, and now three months have elapsed. This matter has certainly been under consideration in the Home Office for three years at least, if not longer. In view of the procrastination at the Home Office, may I ask whether, when the Department is ready to come forward with proposals, these will include a decision about the arbitration award won by the police?
§ Mr. Deedes
If the hon. Gentleman will look again at the Answer of my right hon. and gallant Friend to a Question asked about a fortnight ago, he will see that the matter was taken further than where I left it three months ago; and that represents my last word on the subject.
§ Mr. Deedes
I am sorry, but I am not going beyond what was said by my right hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Mr. Callaghan
With respect, the Joint Under-Secretary of State is at the moment sheltering his nakedness behind a legal thicket. If that thicket is torn away, what other garment of respectability has he with which to clothe himself? Is there anything else with which he can justify his stand, except a mere legal quibble?
§ Mr. John Hall
May I ask my hon. Friend why the Home Office decided to go to arbitration on this matter when apparently it was realised beforehand that there was this defect in the Act? I should be interested to know the answer.
§ Mr. Deedes
The answer is that that knowledge was not confined to the Home Office. The state of the law was known generally. It was not as though the Home Office was concealing a guilty secret.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I can speak with some experience of trade unions, and I have listened to this discussion. The Home Office and the local authorities are the employers, and someone would be acting for the police, as the employees. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that, knowing that arbitration could not result in retrospective payment, the Home Office, as employers, agreed to arbitration without making that clear to the other side? If that is so, and I, as a trade unionist, had attended the discussions, I should have felt that the employers had played a shabby trick.
§ Mr. Deedes
I was replying that the arbitrators and the police, as well as the Home Office, knew the legal situation before the matter went to arbitration. The Home Office, therefore, did not conceal anything or deceive anyone in the matter to which my hon. Friend has referred.
§ Mr. K. Thompson
Would not my hon. Friend agree that, at any rate, it was in the minds of the police that in 1953 Lord 1112 Kilmuir, who as Sir David Maxwell Fyfe was then Home Secretary, had given an undertaking that he would seek to amend this defect in the law which prevented the Home Office from making such an award retrospective?
§ Mr. Deedes
That may be. The point I am making is that the defect in the law was known to all concerned. It was not concealed by the Home Office from the arbitrators.
Without wishing to leave that subject too abruptly, I should like to move on to the question of aliens. The right hon. Member for Grimsby had a good deal to say about that. The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) spoke critically about the apportionment of responsibility in this debate. I am sorry that the subject has had to be split, but, as the right hon. Member for Grimsby will know, by custom the Joint Under-Secretary has a certain responsibility in this matter, and therefore it is not inappropriate for me to reply.
I think it would meet the point which he made in his speech and the wishes of the Committee if I dealt with the question of aliens policy on fairly broad lines and did not try to say too much about any particular case. Opportunities arise from time to time to deal with particular cases. As I see it, the present occasion should be used to review the principles which govern our general policy.
The right hon. Gentleman expressed concern lest our policy on aliens verged towards a kind of tyrannous bureaucracy. My right hon. and gallant Friend has as deep a personal concern as any other hon. Member for the liberty of the subject—I hope that will be accepted by those who know him—but it is no small part of the burden on all Home Secretaries that from time to time decisions have to be taken which appear harsh and even unjust, in circumstances which preclude the Home Secretary from giving full justification for his action. There is nothing very new about this. It was so in the day of the right hon. Member for South Shields and in that of his predecessors.
The House of Commons has every right to be vigilant and critical, as the Committee is on this occasion. But "the public interest" is not an empty expression which is trotted out from time to time to mask awkward cases. There are times when any Home Secretary has the 1113 duty to put it first, even when his personal inclination may be to tell the whole story, which is very often the easiest thing to do.
In considering our current policy on aliens it would be helpful for the Committee to take account of some of the broader background, which may become somewhat obscured when we are talking about individual cases. To a great many people in Europe, Great Britain, particularly in the industrial spheres, exercises a most magnetic appeal, just as a great many of our towns and cities have exercised the industrial magnetism which has beckoned many people from the land: in the same way, this highly industrial country beckons to people overseas. That is not an impulse which we can allow to operate without let or hindrance. Another cause is the frightful upheaval in Europe caused by the Second World War and its aftermath. One cannot have anything to do with the aliens department of the Home Office for long without realising that a vast number of people in other countries are still unsettled.Those who to the harvest home would comeExpect no harvest and possess no home.I am not thinking only of refugees but of those whose standard of living is so low and whose expectation of its improvement is so remote that they would prefer to live in this country on any terms, if they could get here. Great Britain is a place where many would like to live, but we cannot become a country of immigration and settlement. We cannot contemplate the admission of every foreigner who would like to live here.
It is relevant to recall that aliens control was instituted as a reversal of the long tradition of free entry, as a result of uncontrolled immigration from Eastern Europe for twenty years or so before the turn of the century. That influx led to conditions here that were so repugnant to the general feeling of the country that steps were taken to stop it. I make this point so that it should not be assumed that there is the possibility of a repetition of such an influx.
If an immigrant would be useful to us as a worker he may come in under a labour permit. But it is not reasonable that foreigners should be allowed to come in, look round and see what they can pick up, regardless of their age, suitability for work, intentions and plans, and with the 1114 possibility that they may become a charge on public funds. If we accept, as I think most hon. Members do, that there must be some restriction upon uncontrolled immigration, we must administer the controls by impartially applying recognised but not inflexible principles. It is obviously out of the question that cases should be decided by the pressure brought to bear or according to the political or social standing of persons who may be interested in them. I sincerely believe that the principles on which the Home Office acts are reasonable in themselves and are intelligently and impartially applied. I was glad to hear the tribute paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden) to at least one section of these activities.
On matters of employment the Home Office is advised by the Ministry of Labour and National Service. The two Departments interlock, and we pursue a common policy. I should be sorry if the Committee were to suppose that the Home Office was still living in the political and economic climate of the 1930s, when unemployment was chronic and the exclusion of foreign labour commanded general assent, not least on the part of organised labour. Since then there have been schemes for the employment of foreign labour. An obvious example is that of Italians in the brick making industry, and there has been a similar infiltration into the mining industry, but this has not continued for reasons for which the Committee is aware.
I think that the Aliens Order can be used as a sluice to control the flow of immigrants according to our requirements. There has to be some way of ensuring that if a person is allowed in for a certain type of employment he does not drift off to do something else. A check is kept on foreign labour for a number of years, but when a person has been in approved employment for four years he is relieved of any conditions limiting the length of his stay and the nature of his employment. I think that that policy is as liberal as the policy followed by any other country.
We also admit foreigners to this country to set up in business or to take part in businesses already established, on very similar principles to those to which I have referred in relation to employment. In that field the Home Office relies on the advice of the Board of Trade, or, it may 1115 be, the Ministry of Transport. Until recently the criterion was whether or not the proposed activity made a positive contribution to the country's economy. Recently we decided that that criterion was more stringent than the situation required, and now the Home Office only requires the advice of the Board of Trade that the proposed activity would not be detrimental to the national economy. I do not think any country can be expected to encourage businesses that appear to be detrimental. As such, that criterion would appeal to be as liberal as anyone could expect.
In general, the test applied in our immigration policy, both in relation to employment and business, is, what is in the best interests of the country? Exceptions are made on the broader grounds of humanity. There is one exception with which all hon. Members will be familiar, the distressed relative scheme, under which certain categories of elderly dependants of people already here can come in if otherwise they would be left virtually helpless in their own country. That is not a particularly strong item of policy from the economic point of view, but it was intended as a humane gesture. Since its inauguration we have taken about 6,500 such people, an average in the last few years of about 500 a year.
A number of hon. Members have expressed concern about students. Foreigners come to this country in very large numbers in order to study. All that is expected is that their maintenance here should be adequately provided for, that the arrangements made for them and their progress should make it reasonably clear that their study is genuine and not merely a device for getting into this country and staying here, and that they should not engage in any form of employment if they are admitted for the purposes of study. It goes without saying that they should not engage in activities which are inimical to this country. Extensions of their stay are freely granted, and I do not think that the genuine student has anything to fear from the immigration control.
Taking the widest field of all—on which a number of remarks have been made during the debate—that of visitors in general. I would say the general 1116 visitor is more than welcome, subject of course to individual scrutiny. We are now a tourist country, as I think we have reason to know. Our system of control is watched all the time to ensure that it causes as little inconvenience as possible to the genuine traveller.
Here I take up some of the points made by the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler). The staff at the ports have been imbued with the idea that if they are satisfied that a passenger is a genuine visitor they should not waste his time by asking unnecessary questions. Unfortunately, there are many foreigners who try to get into this country who would not get in under the general policy, and they find it that the easiest way to circumvent the controls is to come in as a visitor. That means that the immigration officer must always be alert and at times—this is where the rub comes—inquisitive. It does not often happen, that the genuine tourist experiences any trouble at all.
Of course, this control causes much irritation to any one who may be detected in "trying it on". Some of the complaints which we receive come from such people and their friends, but not of course from hon. Members. In relation to the magnitude of the passenger movement, refusals are few. Those hon. Members who are inclined to be critical of what happens at Dover, Folkestone and other places when passengers are coming in, particularly at this time of the year, should, I think, bear in mind that over I million foreign passengers presented themselves at our ports of control during the 12 months ended 30th September last. Of these, less than .2 per cent., or one in 500, were refused leave to land.
The hon. Lady made a particular point about separating incoming passengers into queues, British and aliens. That is done in the best interest of the passengers as a whole. It would cause undue inconvenience to British passengers—and this is not confined to this country—who need very little questioning if they were held up behind foreign passengers, about whom, for the reasons I have elaborated, the immigration officer must be inquisitive. It does not indicate a "sheep and goats" attitude, I assure the hon. Lady, towards the alien.
§ Sir B. Baxter
As my hon. Friend has raised the question at the moment of this country having become a great tourist 1117 centre, does he intend to make any statement in relation to my speech that tourists are coming here to conditions in the streets which exist in no other great city?
§ Mr. Deedes
I am sorry that my hon. Friend was not here when I made reference to his speech at the beginning of my remarks, and I know that he will forgive me if I do not repeat them.
The right hon. Member for Grimsby referred to an article in the Economist on the subject of the rentier and his prospective welcome to this country. May I say straight away that I know of nothing to support the suggestion that in administering the Aliens Order vis-a-vis the foreigner of independent means preference is given to persons of the "right social group", whatever that may mean.
It would be quite wrong to deal with human problems purely on the basis of foreign currency, and while naturally we are sympathetic to anyone who wants to come here to spend his money that should be only one of the factors to be taken into consideration when deciding whether a foreigner should or should not be allowed to stay here permanently. I accept in general that the powers conferred by the Aliens Order are very wide. It does not follow that those powers should not exist. What does follow is that they should be humanely exercised, and I claim that they are. In my experience there is no topic which bulks as large in Ministerial correspondence as action taken in regard to aliens.
§ Mr. V. Yates
Am I to understand that the hon. Gentleman wilt not be able to reply to a single question on prisons tonight?
§ Mr. Deedes
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that my right hon. and gallant Friend devoted a very considerable part of his remarks earlier to that matter. I am sorry that the debate has to be divided in this way but I think that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that with the immense field that has to be covered one cannot devote the greater part of one's remarks to a matter which occupied a great deal of my right hon. and gallant Friend's speech.
Of course, there are many cases in respect of which hon. Members do not agree with the principle on which control is being administered or maintained and in which they think that exceptions from established policy should be made 1118 more often and more widely than they are. One cannot make too many exceptions. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister observed a few days ago that everyone is in favour of general economy and particular expenditure, and in the same way there are some hon. Gentlemen who accept the principle of restriction, but who press for individual admissions. It is really not very easy to reconcile the two, and conflicts are not only to be expected, but, of course are accepted as essential and indeed salutary. It is that sort of case which concerns hon. Members so deeply.
The stormiest cases are invariably the public security and the "public interest" cases. I can only say that there can scarcely be any Government who do not preserve the right to require a foreigner to leave on what might be described as grounds of public interest without going into all the details of the grounds on which they have acted or making public the evidence on which their action has been founded.
The right hon. Member for Grimsby spoke today of falling back on the argument of asking to be trusted, and suggested that when the reason of "in the public interest" was given the implication was that it was a bad case. I do not accept that, and neither do I think that, with his earlier experience, the right hon. Gentleman will really press that point.
Governments always support that right, and Oppositions invariably oppose it. Perhaps both are right, and there lies the value of democracy. I hope that the Committee will accept the claim so frequently made that there are occasions when sources of information must be protected. Such cases always receive the close personal attention of Ministers, and decisions are not more lightly taken because it is known that all the details need not be given to the House. The decisions in such cases are the most difficult of all.
A certain amount of discussion has been concerned with deportation. That is the most ultimate and the most drastic sanction of all. It is accepted that the power of deportation is essential if the proper control over aliens is to be exercised. Further, in our view it is necessary that the power should remain in the hands of the Home Secretary, but my right hon. and gallant Friend has been 1119 struck by the uneasiness expressed by a number of hon. Members that the power should be entirely his own. I may say that my right hon. and gallant Friend is considering whether, in those cases in which he acts without a court recommendation, it would help him to have the assistance of some advisory body. I do not want to elaborate that point at this stage, but I think it right that the Committee should know that my right hon. and gallant Friend has the point in mind.
I have tried, to the exclusion of certain other matters, for which I apologised in advance, to give this framework of our aliens policy, and I would say in conclusion that, somehow, we have to steer a middle course. It is not a policy which lends itself to violent administrative switches. If it is to be just, there must be certain principles, and, generally, one has to stick to them. One cannot allow pressure from one quarter on one case to make one abandon them. There are not two cases alike. The most difficult have to be considered and weighed individually up the administrative tree until they reach the Minister, and a great part of the Under-Secretary's time is spent on such cases.
We have, of course, to defend ourselves from the risks which the unrestricted admission of foreigners would entail, not only to security, but also industrially and socially, and at the same time to defend the reputation which this nation has and which it has certainly well earned, for the liberal and humane treatment of those who seek the protection of its shores. It is not always easy to do both. Mistakes are made, and errors of judgment. Criticism is to be expected, and is always levelled, no matter how vigilant and conscientious those concerned may be. All I can say is that when mistakes are made this House can call attention to them and pass judgment.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I take the unusual course of denying the Home Office its Vote, because of the evasive replies by Ministers on the question of police pay. We shall return to it later.
§ It being Ten o'clock, The Chairman left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.