§ 4.0 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
It is by permission of the Committee that I am permitted to speak first on this Motion. It is a pure coincidence that the Home Office Estimates, which are not discussed every year, should be put down for the very day that I am leaving for Africa. I am obliged to the Committee for enabling me to review the Estimates before I have to leave. I shall not be able to be here during the later stages of the debate. It would be impossible at this stage to alter the proposed tour, with all its detailed arrangements. I am sorry about that, because I have always been brought up to treat the House of Commons and the Committee in the way it should be treated.
I hope, therefore, that the Committee will bear with me now while I review the various subjects covered in the Votes on the Order Paper. I will take them in my own order, but I think I shall cover most of them.
654 The Committees will remember that in the White Paper on Penal Practice in a Changing Society I said that in the war against crime the nation depended on three main instruments—an efficient police force, the deterrent effect of the criminal law and our system for treating offenders. I will deal with these three things before I come to the other Votes.
It is apparent that during 1961 indictable crime continued to increase at much the same rate, unfortunately, as it did in 1960 and 1959. I should also like to make the point that the prevention of crime is not a matter solely for the Government and the official machine. The work of the police, the powers of the courts, and the provision we make for dealing with delinquents all make their contribution towards preventing crime and reforming criminals. But this is not just a matter of good government—of providing this kind of institution or that; I shall be giving the latest news about the building programme—or of harsher or more constructive penalties.
Crime is a problem in which every organisation concerned with the wellbeing of the community has a part to play, and it was for this reason that, last November, I held a conference of leaders of the Churches and local authorities and representatives of many organisations concerned with moral welfare, and particularly education authorities and those concerned with the upbringing of children. We met to discuss the steps that might be taken to prevent delinquency. As a result of that conference I have received valuable suggestions from a number of individuals and organisations, and hope to receive more.
One development is that the Independent Television Authority has undertaken to finance an inquiry into the impact of television on the young, with particular reference to its effect on the incidence of delinquency. I have had discussions on this with the B.B.C. and the I.T.A., and last week-end a conference of experts in the field of criminology, psychology and the social services was held to consider possible lines of investigation. This is a valuable development, and I hope that something will come of it.
655 I will take the matters that I mentioned in their order. I will deal, first, with the police. Following the interim report of the Royal Commission on the Police, substantial increases in police pay, operative from September, 1960, were immediately implemented; and these new pay scales have helped to bring about a most significant improvement in the numbers of policemen.
In 1960, the total strength of the police service in England and Wales declined by nearly 450 men and women. During the next sixteen months, that is, up to the end of April, numbers went up by over 3,800. That is a very considerable change—from a minus to a plus.
§ Mr. Butler
On previous occasions, recruitment has tended to fall off after a pay rise, once the initial impetus has worn off. This time, I decided to try to counteract this by arranging for a national recruiting campaign to take place in February and March. This campaign was the first of its kind. It was undertaken jointly by the Home Office and the police authorities, with whom the cost was shared.
I am glad to tell the Committee that the recruiting figure for April—611 men—was the best monthly figure for ten years. There has thus been a very real improvement since the Royal Commission's interim Report was published and acted upon.
But it is still true that in some forces, notably the Metropolitan Police, recruitment remains slow, and we still have a long way to go before all forces can be regarded as up to the strength required to meet the demands now being made on them. The main demands are in the new built-up areas, which put a great strain on the cadres and necessitate an increased effort for the police forces over and above what they would have had if they had remained without the new built-up areas. That is why in the big cities and conurbations the problem is more serious than anywhere else.
Last August, I presented to Parliament a White Paper on Police Training, which seems to have been generally welcomed. Since then, I can now inform the Committee, 656 the arrangements for a twelve months' course at the Police College for constables of outstanding ability have gone ahead, and the first course will start next September. Plans are also being made for a senior staff course, designed to equip officers for the highest ranks in the Service.
The Royal Commission on the Police proposes to present its final report in the very near future and we are all awaiting its conclusions with very great interest. In due course, no doubt, we shall have an opportunity of considering in the Committee or the House some of its final conclusions. The report on the police is, I think, on the whole satisfactory, but we still need the drive for recruits to be continued with the same determination as it has been pursued recently.
The second subject I mentioned was the criminal law. Our objects are twofold. First, we want to ensure that the law, while providing adequate protection for the rights of others and conducing to proper standards of behaviour, does not impose restrictions on conduct which opinion today regards as unnecessary or undesirable—and does not, therefore, tend to bring the whole body of criminal law into disrepute.
It was for this reason that the Government introduced Measures to amend the law relating to betting and gaming, licensing and street offences. All these Measures are now successfully in operation. They are all the fruit of the last two or three years. As the Committee knows to its cost, there has probably been recently as much legislation from the Home Office angle as at any time. As time goes on, we shall look at other social legislation to see whether similar changes are required. The first requirement is to bring the law into tune with ordinary behaviour.
Secondly, we want to ensure that the law and practice regulating the machinery of the courts, and the powers available to them for dealing with offenders, are fully adequate. That is why we have implemented the recommendations of the Streatfeild Committee, and introduced reforms in the law relating to the treatment of young offenders, in the Criminal Justice Acts of the past two years. That is why I have also established a Standing Committee 657 on Criminal Law Reform, same of whose fruits we have already legislated upon in this last Session of Parliament. So much for the criminal law and its review and the decisions of the Committee for the House to act upon them.
I now come to the third point that I mentioned in my opening remark—our system for treating offenders. Today, the total population of prisons, borstals and detention centres is no less than 31,000—a considerable rise over the past few years. The Committee will realise that up till 1953 building plans were being made against the background of an expected fall in the population, and actually the forward building plans that we made between 1953 and 1956 were against the background of an actual fall in the prison population. Since that date there has come the rise, which has persisted and is one of the main problems of our society today.
To meet it, we had to concentrate our resources initially on obtaining and adapting existing premises to deal with the immediate surplus prison population. It is interesting to note that, even before I published the White Paper on Penal Practice in a Changing Society, the number of new establishments provided since the war in this way—that is, by taking back old prisons which have been given up and taking over Service camps, country houses, and so on—is no less than 40, of which 16 have come into use since the prison population began to rise in 1956.
In addition, two new secure establishments have been built, each costing about £1 million. Thus, since the war, we have brought into use 42 establishments. In the White Paper, I set out a further programme, and I will now explain its present state. Since the time of the White Paper, which is not very long ago, 10 new establishments have been taken into occupation for young offenders, and I shall be describing further developments in relation to that, because, during the passage of the Criminal Justice Act, hon. Members expressed anxiety that if the Act was to work we must have the institutions to help it work.
These establishments include the first remand centre ever to be built in this country, a large establishment at Ashford, 658 Middlesex, capable of taking over 300 inmates; five new detention centres; two security establishments—at Aylesbury and Hindley—which can be used either as borstals or as young prisoners' centres; and two open borstals.
Six further establishments for young offenders will be opened this year. The first will be a closed borstal for girls at Bulwood, in Essex, to be opened a week today. Four new detention centres are to be opened during the course of the summer, and a closed borstal for boys at Swinfen, near Lichfield, later this year. Besides this, there are 13 further establishments for young offenders in the programme. Of these, there is already under construction a large remand centre at Risley, Lancashire. This is a big one which will take both adults and juveniles. There are also a closed borstal for boys at Wellingborough, and a further detention centre.
Plans are also advanced for the remaining seven remand centres to which hon. Members have attached so much importance. These will, when completed, cover the whole country, as I have announced before, and construction of all seven will start during this financial year. Thus, although we are covering what some hon. Members regarded as a lag in the programme for remand centres—because I do not think that anybody can describe the present building programme as being other than for rather far ahead—a further closed borstal for boys at Barby, Northants, is on the drawing board, and sites for two more detention centres for boys are under discussion with the local authorities. These will bring the detention centres to 14 in all.
During the passage of the Criminal Justice Act, I said that I hoped that the number of detention centres would rise to 14, and we are now in sight, not exactly of the completion of the programme—because we may have to go further—but of the completion of the programme as undertaken then. A public inquiry will shortly be held into a proposal to construct a new closed borstal for girls on a site at Eastmoor, near York.
So much for the programme for young offenders, which, I think, comes up to the undertaking we gave to provide what is necessary to serve the courts 659 both in relation to detention centres and I hope, in due course, to remand centres.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give an undertaking as to when this building programme will be completed? Is he talking of a programme of several years?
§ Mr. Butler
I have used the expressions "on the drawing board" and "in discussion with local authorities" but these are only for the last few of the establishments. The others I mentioned are for the most part concluded. The last two detention centres, making 14 in all, will not be concluded for about a year. But we are in sight of bringing the whole of this programme into completion within the next year or two.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
As the right hon. Gentleman is due to leave the country quite soon, perhaps he will deal now with a matter I recently raised concerning open detention centres for young offenders—in which it is largely a matter of reformation—and the closed borstals to which he has referred. Is there no halfway stage for certain youngsters with a record of absconding where they could get a combination of both types of treatment?
§ Mr. Butler
I remitted to my Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders the scheme for the treatment of offenders called the "Boston Scheme", undertaken in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Council is investigating a report on this method. Naturally, we have this matter very much in mind, and we all honour the memory of Sir Basil Henriques, who was associated so closely with this work and whose views were so valuable. We are open to the study of various methods and, of course, they can be adopted from time to time even in the institutions existing now.
Since the White Paper, three new establishments have been opened for adults, all of them open prisons. Four other establishments for adults are under 660 construction. Two of them—the psychiatric institution at Grendon and a women's prison at Styal, Cheshire—will open in a few months' time. I attach the greatest importance to this psychiatric prison, of which I had the honour of laying the foundation stone during the time of the late chairman of the Prison Commission, whose work we all remember today.
The third to open, early next year, will be the new security prison at Blundeston, Suffolk. This will be an entirely new design and will be the prototype for five further prisons for men. I am also glad to say that a site at Theydon Mount, in Essex, has at last been settled for a new women's prison near London to replace Holloway, and this will release Holloway for men. In total, this is the largest single building programme, I am informed by my advisers, for a hundred years. The Government can be fairly said to be at least attempting to tackle this very severe problem of overcrowding in prisons with determination.
Now I want to say something about prison staff. The prison staff have faced, and are facing, the difficulties of their overcrowded establishments with loyalty and determination, and deserve the fullest gratitude of the public for their splendid work. I am glad to tell the Committee that the recruitment situation is now better than it has been for some time. For example, the training school at Wakefield, which some hon. Members may know about, and which has 150 places, has had to be supplemented by a temporary school at Leyhill, in Gloucestershire, with 80 places. At present, both of these training centres are full. This is a very good sign for recruitment. At the end of 1956, the number of male prison officers was 4,282. Today, it is 5,707, an increase of 1,425, or 35 per cent. in five and a half years. While, of course, the strain upon the prison staff has increased, and still larger numbers are wanted, there is at least a satisfactory tendency.
We have also made headway with employment in prisons, and I am greatly obliged to my Advisory Council on the Employment of Prisoners, whose first report was published at the end of last July. It contains many interesting ideas 661 on this most difficult and vital problem. To stimulate production, the Council re-commended the introduction of a new earnings scheme, with improved incentives. This scheme, I am glad to say, was introduced last August, and it certainly seems to have achieved some improvement in productivity.
§ Mr. Butler
I do not think that its scope quite comes within the range of the pay pause.
The earnings are still comparatively small, but they have considerably improved since I went to the Home Office. I think that it is a healthy improvement, and it certainly leads to greater productivity. Some prison workshops have already been reorganised, on the lines of the report of the Council, for line-production, with encouraging results. In referring to this aspect, especially in view of the presence of the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Sir G. Benson), who serves on A.C.T.O., my speech would not be complete if I did not say a word about research.
Research into the various aspects of the penal system is continuing. This includes studies by the Home Office Research Institute over a considerable field. Subjects which are being studied include preventive detention, upon which I am very much looking forward to receiving its report since there is considerable anxiety about it, recidivism and the effects of senior attendance centre treatment compared with borstal training. That takes up the point raised by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin).
Research with the aid of Home Office grant is also continuing in the universities. I mention especially the Cambridge Institute, which not only got off to a very good start, but is now an ornament not only to itself but to the university. This research includes a large-scale study of young offenders and a study of the possible factors associated with recidivism, or those who have the chronic habit of returning to prison.
I now mention the probation service. This debate gives me the first opportunity I have had since the recent Report of the Morison Committee of 662 referring to the probation system and the work of the probation service. I think that both sides of the House would wish to join in thanking the Committee for the comprehensive and well-reasoned document that it has produced. I particularly welcome the emphasis which the Report placed on the place that the probation system must occupy in a progressive penal policy.
I propose to examine, in consultation with my Probation Advisory and Training Board, the proposals that the Committee has made for improving the training arrangements. This examination will certainly be aided by the appointment, which I was happy to be able to announce last week, of Mr. T. A. F. Noble, Vice-Chancellor designate of Leicester University and a member of the Morison Committee, to be the first independent Chairman of the Board.
A major feature of the Morison Report is the recommendation for the very substantial improvement of probation officers' salaries. As I informed the House on 16th March, this recommendation calls for careful study in the light not only of the Report, but also of the Government's incomes policy. As a first step, I referred the Report to the Joint Negotiating Committee for the Probation Service.
I thought it right to inform the Committee that on the basis of the principles set out in the White Paper on Incomes Policy, I should not at this stage be justified in approving any increase which exceeded 2½ per cent. I went on to explain, however, that the Government were in no doubt that the probation service ought to receive a substantial increase of pay at the appropriate time, and that, in view of the long period for which they had been awaiting the Report of the Morison Committee, their claims ought to be treated as sympathetically as possible within the limitations imposed by the Government's general economic policy.
I told the Committee that with this in mind the Government were prepared to undertake that the claims of the probation service would be examined at the beginning of next year, when we hope to have entered the next phase of the incomes policy, in which arrangements must be made to deal with special cases without departing from the general 663 principle that increases in pay should be related to increases in productivity.
I was informed yesterday that the Committee has agreed that probation officers of all ranks should receive an increase of 10 per cent. with effect from 1st April, without prejudice to the recommendations of the Morison Committee and on the understanding that they will be examined early next year.
The Committee has asked me to make regulations to this effect. This is, naturally, under immediate consideration and I hope that it will be possible to give an indication of our conclusions next week. I must not raise hopes unduly, but hon. Members will, I think, see that the conclusion to which I have referred deserves the immediate attention of the Government.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to clarify that point? As he realises, the whole burden of the Morison Committee's Report is that to secure improvement in the probation service there must be an increase in pay. Is he saying that the recommendation for an increase of 10 per cent. to operate immediately is being favourably considered by the Government?
§ Mr. Butler
No, Sir. All I have said is that I have only this morning received the recommendation. My colleagues wish to examine it and an announcement about it will be made next week. I cannot go further than that today. I have, however, announced what the Government previously stated in regard to the prospect for the Morison award.
I should like to say something about remand homes and approved schools. As hon. Members know, the central Government do not themselves provide these. The duty of providing remand homes rests upon local authorities, and approved schools may be provided either by local authorities or by voluntary organisations. I am concerned to do what I can within this framework to ensure that adequate provision is made. I and my colleagues in the Government, the Joint Under-Secretaries and the Minister of State, have during the last few years attempted to pay as many visits to approved schools as we possibly 664 could because they have been of encouragement.
The number of boys in approved schools has increased by about 24 per cent. in the last five years and over a similar period the number of remands has risen by over 33 per cent. for boys and 16 per cent. for girls.
The following steps have been taken to increase accommodation. Two years ago, I approved a programme of approved school building which in 1961 provided about 150 new places in boys' schools and this year should provide about 300 more. By the end of 1964, we shall have increased the number of places by about 1,500, or 20 per cent. over the numbers available in 1961. The current shortages of places in remand homes is due partly to the fact that boys and girls are having to wait an unreasonably long time in remand homes before going on to approved schools. I hope, therefore, that the efforts we are making to provide more places in the schools will soon remove this particular difficulty. In addition, the courts are making an increased use of the homes, and more juveniles are coming before the courts.
The Home Office has been in touch with a number of local authorities with a view to providing more places. Since last June the number of places for boys has increased by 11 per cent.—from 910 to 1,015. Another 50 are in prospect in the near future and we are hoping that more will follow for boys and girls in all the areas of greatest need.
I cannot, in the compass of a speech before the Committee, cover every important aspect of the area of work covered by the Home Office, but no review would be complete without mention of the Immigration and Nationality Division, particularly as we published only yesterday the annual White Paper giving, for 1961, the number of foreigners entering and leaving the United Kingdom. We have recently spent a great deal of time discussing immigration policy in relation to the Commonwealth and I propose to leave my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State to deal with any particular points which hon. Members may raise on this matter.
My hon. and learned Friend will also devote a portion of his speech to civil defence. I would only say that we have 665 latterly improved the programme for civil defence. The question of evacuation is under consideration and discussion with the local authorities. The Civil Defence College is doing its work in the most capable and efficient way, as I have had the personal opportunity of testing. When my hon. and learned Friend, at the end of the debate, describes in more detail some of the improvements, he will take into account points raised by hon. Members in their speeches.
The decisions which have been taken and the increased expenditure which has been authorised have given a clear lead for the development and improvement of this vital service and I should like
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves civil defence, can he tell the Committee where the sub-division of responsibility lies between his hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State and himself? To what extent is he brought into civil defence matters and to what extent are they solely under the control of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State?
§ Mr. Butler
While my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State takes a special interest in civil defence, I may safely say that every decision of importance comes to the Secretary of State, which is the only way to conduct business in a major office of State. I am greatly obliged to my hon. and learned Friend, but I must honestly say that the responsibility rests squarely on my shoulders with his aid. I have the responsibility for dealing with the local authorities, with the Civil Defence Corps and with all those involved in the affairs of civil defence.
In concluding, I should like to refer to one theme which constantly and rightly recurs throughout the various activities of the Home Office. This is the liberty of the individual within the law. We live in a society which is highly organised and complex, in which the citizen and the State are brought constantly and increasingly into contact. We must, therefore, be vigilant to see that the individual's liberty is not infringed. That is a duty, which, as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will know, all Home Secretaries must accept.
666 But there is another side to the medal, It is important that the individual should realise and exercise the responsibility which the free citizenship of a democracy carries with it. We shall never bring under control the problem of criminal behaviour unless we, as individuals and parents, continuously assert and insist upon the standards which preclude such activities. We shall never have a fully efficient police force unless we, as citizens, support it. We shall only make our social services, like those concerned with the care of homeless children, humane and successful if the community interests itself in them and assists with its help and friendship those who are in their care.
The Home Secretary must do all that he can, in the liberal tradition he has inherited, and that I have inherited, to maintain our fundamental rights and liberties as individuals subject only to the rule of law; and also to persuade those free citizens to give the State—and their fellow citizens—the responsible service without which we shall not achieve the full life, in an ordered and orderly society, which this age of plenty offers to us.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)
We understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will have to leave before the end of the debate, and I want to assure him that there is no dark plot on the part of the Opposition to prevent him from taking his journey. Indeed, we wish him well in that. All that I would say is that I am sure that by the time I and others of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite have spoken it will be apparent why we believe that, with so many outstanding problems facing him as Home Secretary, that is fully one man's job without his having any other responsibilities.
As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the scope of this debate is extremely wide. We are discussing today the affairs of a Department which affects the life of every one in the country far more than any other Department of State does. Very great power is vested in the Home Secretary and he has great responsibilities. It is difficult to choose the subjects on which we should speak. There 667 is the whole of the children's department, the penal system, the fire service, the police, civil defence and aliens, not forgetting such minor points as burials and cremations and the protection of wild birds. Obviously, it is impossible to talk about all these.
There are four important sections of Home Office work with which I do not propose to deal, because I know that others of my hon. Friends will be dealing with them. First, there is civil defence, which is very important; secondly, the need for a review of the legal aid system; thirdly, home safety: and, fourthly, aliens.
I should like to offer the right hon. Gentleman one word of congratulation on the way in which he stood his ground during the past year with regard to corporal punishment and resisted efforts from some of his hon. Friends to get it restored. The right hon. Gentleman did not mention the fact that this is the fifth year of the working of the Homicide Act. While I cannot go into that in any great detail—it would need a whole day's debate on its own—it is the fifth year, and we wondered whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to review the working of the Act. I know that he has not said that he would review the working of the Act in five years, but I think that he has said that it would have to go at least five years before there was a review. Those five years have passed.
The right hon. Gentleman has the unenviable task of deciding whether or not those convicted of murder shall be reprieved. It is a task which none of us would like to bear. Many people were extremely uneasy about the Hanratty affair. I feel that he may have committed the crime and that it is likely that he did, but I also feel that there was just that little uncertainty about it, and I know that many people were uneasy. I should like to assure the right hon. Gentleman that I and many hon. Members on this side of the Committee, as well as some hon. Members opposite, would like to relieve him of this great responsibility by the abolition of capital punishment altogether.
In the last few years one of the features of Home Office affairs has been the number of Royal Commissions, 668 Committees of Inquiry, Advisory Committees, etc., engaged in producing reports for the Home Secretary. It is all to the good that experts should produce what are sometimes extremely valuable reports. I am sure that many of my hon. Friends are prepared to wait a reasonable time for action pending these reports. This is a good thing provided that the fact that a committee is sitting is not made an excuse for doing little in the meantime on urgent current problems and that when committees have reported the House of Commons will be given an opportunity to discuss those matters with a view to Government action.
I am not arguing that any Government should always accept the recommendations of any committee, but we should not ignore them entirely and we should always have the opportunity to discuss them and come to some conclusion about them. What has worried me in recent years is that on many occasions the right hon. Gentleman has answered Questions by saying that he is awaiting the report of such and such a committee. I cannot count, and it would be almost impossible for anybody to count, the number of Questions which have been answered in that way.
Not only has there been stalling on Questions, but Amendments to Bills have been turned down and Private Members' Bills have been rejected pending the report of some committee. I will give some examples. It will be remembered that the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Chataway) and my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) both tried to put through Bills to provide compensation for the victims of crimes of violence. In both cases the right hon. Gentleman said that he was awaiting the report of a committee. That committee reported in June, 1961, and we have not yet had an indication from the right hon. Gentleman of his attitude on this very important matter. It is a subject on which he can count on the support of both sides of the Committee and a good deal of support in the country. I should like the hon. and learned Gentleman the Minister of State to give us some idea of the Government's attitude in this matter.
There is then the Report of the Ingle-by Committee on Children and Young 669 Persons, which reported in 1960. We were promised a comprehensive Measure, which we have not had. I want to take one small but important point from this Committee's Report. It will be remembered that about two years ago, when we were dealing with the Indecency With Children Measure, some of us on this side of the Committee attempted to raise the age of criminal responsibility for the purposes of that Measure from 8 to 14 years. The age of criminal responsibility in this country, which is eight, is abnormally low.
Every member of the Standing Committee concerned spoke in favour of my Amendment to that effect, but it was finally turned down on the recommendation of the then Minister of State, who argued that the Ingleby Committee was about to report and would include a recommendation on the age of criminal responsibility in its findings. The Committee recommended that the age should be raised to 12, but we were told by the right hon. Gentleman, in answer to a Question by the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) on 28th November, 1961, that he was not persuaded that the time was opportune to raise the age of criminal responsibility. This is another example of the House of Commons being put off by promise of something in the future only to find, when the committee concerned has reported, that no action is taken by the Government.
I must also mention the Offices Measure, because my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) and the office workers have been badly let down in that no regulations under that Measure have been provided on the ground that the Bill would probably be overtaken by a more comprehensive Measure. But we have not had either that comprehensive Measure or the regulations, and the office and shop workers are still waiting for some Measure so that their conditions of employment may be improved.
I was very interested in what the right hon. Gentleman had to say about the Morison Committee on the Probation Service. I have not yet had time properly to assimilate the figures which he gave and I am not quite sure what he meant when he said that there would be a 10 per cent. increase, but that he was not 670 certain about the timing. As quickly as I could, I looked up what the Morison Committee recommended. It said that there should be an increase in the salaries of certain higher grade probation officers, from £1,025 to £1,350, while other grades should have increases from £625 to £750 a year.
The recommendations of the Morison Committee seem to envisage a much greater increase in the salaries of probation officers than the 10 per cent. mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. It is symptomatic of the times that a television actor portraying a probation officer should have said that £450 an appearance was not enough for him and that he must have £850 an appearance, when our real probation officers are paid such scandalously low salaries.
We are now awaiting further reports, as the right hon. Gentleman said, from his Advisory Council—the report on preventive detention, the report on after-care, and the report on the Boston training centres. We expect shortly to have the Report of the Royal Commission on the Police. I hope that when those reports are published, we shall have an opportunity to consider them and to register our opinions on them.
I now turn to young people and penal matters. It is now about a year since the passing of the Criminal Justice Act. When it was going through the House, we drew attention to the serious position concerning young people who had committed offences. The right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that the position has been getting worse. There is a shortage of remand homes which is causing magistrates all over the country more trouble and more headaches than anything else.
The Minister of State will remember that at the last meeting of the Standing Committee on the Criminal Justice Bill he said that there was no shortage of remand home places. He said:As to the alleged shortage of remand homes, to which the hon. Lady referred, I must challenge her here, because there is a total of 52 remand homes in this country … but there is no court which has not got a remand home at its disposal."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B. 2nd March, 1961; c. 824.]That was not true then and if the hon. and learned Gentleman did not know it 671 then, I am sure that he will admit that it is certainly not true now.
The shortage of remand home places is serious. I have many newspaper cuttings with me on the situation. One says that a court was told that no remand home place anywhere in the country could be found for a boy of 16; a boy in Bradford could not be sent to any remand home; a magistrate has just retired to protest about the shortage of remand homes. Has the right hon. Gentleman considered the waste of time and money and effort in taking children to far corners of England and fetching them back two or three days later when they are remanded in custody?
I have one or two examples of that taken from Leeds, but they could be multiplied all over the country. On 1st June, 1961, a woman police constable with a male driver escorted a 15-year-old girl to Carlisle by road, a round trip of 250 miles, and fetched her back three weeks later for another court appearance in Leeds. On 7th June, two women police constables escorted a 15-year-old girl by train to London, a round trip of 390 miles, and fetched her back seven days later for a further court appearance in Leeds. The cost in telephone calls alone must be enormous. We were told that at one place about £250 a year was spent on telephone calls alone. These examples can be repeated in places all over the country.
The right hon. Gentleman cannot continue to say, as he said this afternoon, that this is a duty of the local authorities. It is his duty to see that there are sufficient remand homes. If local authorities are still to be his agents, he must exercise some power over them. He must also consider the financial arrangements between the Government and the local authorities to see whether they are such as to induce the local authorities to provide more remand homes. As he has just said, one of the great troubles is that there are many young people in remand homes who ought not to be there but who are there while they wait for places in approved schools. It is that situation which causes the bottleneck. I was interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman mention the new remand centre at Ashford, Middlesex, because during the Committee 672 stage of the Criminal Justice Bill the Government were defeated and it was decided that 15-year-olds should be kept out of prison pending the opening of remand centres.
Remand centres were first provided far in a Criminal Justice Act in 1948 by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede)—that was fourteen years ago. When we reached the Report stage of the Criminal Justice Bill, the right hon. Gentleman took out the words the Committee had inserted, and announced a programme for remand centres which would not have been announced had the Government not been defeated in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman said:The hon. Lady can be satisfied in that her adventure has at least had some success, for it has hurried on the Government's programme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1961; Vol. 638, c. 302.]On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman talked about the remand centre at Risley being like an immense battleship in the north of England. We have heard about this remand centre for a long time, and we wonder when it will be opened.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the remand centre at Ashford. I apologise to the Committee for criticising an institution which I have not visited, for reasons which I am certain the Committee will appreciate. I have accepted the word of reliable people whom I know extremely well who have visited this centre and have come away with some rather disquieting reports. Let me be fair about this. Any new venture has teething troubles, and the enormous turnover of children who go to this remand centre presents a great problem for the staff who are doing a good job and working under the most difficult conditions. Again on the credit side, I am told that the reports prepared for the magistrates are extremely good and much better than the reports provided before the centre was opened.
Having said that, I must say that I was appalled to hear of some of the arrangements at the centre where there are some boys of school age, some over school age, some on remand awaiting trial, and some awaiting sentence after having been convicted. Again, there are some boys who stay on much longer than these categories who are committed 673 to approved schools and are awaiting places. Finally, and this is what appalled me most, a party of young prisoners is taken there from Wormwood Scrubs to do the domestic work. I thought that the idea of a remand centre was to take young people away from the atmosphere of the prison, yet in this remand centre a group of young prisoners is engaged on domestic work.
Although this centre was opened in July, the first teacher did not arrive until the end of March this year, so the children of school age received no education for eight months. If any parent failed to provide education for his child for that length of time, he would be brought before the courts and dealt with. I want this remand centre to be a success because it is a prototype for the construction of others, and yet the right hon. Gentleman failed to provide proper educational facilities for this considerable length of time.
The worst feature of the centre is that because these young men from Wormwood Scrubs are working there—because there are not adequate teachers both for education and for recreation in the evening—these young boys are locked in their cells from 5 o'clock in the afternoon until 7 o'clock the following morning. These are single cells, but because the centre is so overcrowded there are three boys to each cell. I am not grumbling about this, because I think that if young boys of 13 to 15 are locked in cells, there should be three boys to a cell rather than one.
We hurried on the construction of remand centres, but they have been opened without much thought being given to them. The Home Office has had plenty of time to think about the problems involved, because the Criminal Justice Act setting them up was passed in 1948 and the first remand centre was not opened until last year. I understand also that no remand centre rules have been adopted, and it seems that the trouble here is that remand centres are the responsibility of the Prison Commissioners, while approved schools are the responsibility of the Children's Department. I think that the Government should reconsider the present division of responsibilities.
That leads me to deal with approved schools. As the right hon. Gentleman 674 said, the building programme is going ahead but there are many shortages. What powers have been taken under the Criminal Justice Act to control the managers of voluntary approved schools? The Act gave the Home Secretary adequate powers to control them, and I should like to know what is being done.
With regard to borstal accommodation, I was pleased to hear what the right hon. Gentleman said, and I thank him for adopting the suggestion that I made some months ago that a new borstal institution should be opened in the north of England so that girls in that area would not have to travel to Essex if they were sent to borstal. I stress now, as I have stressed before, that children who are sent to an institution should be sent to one as near their homes as possible so that they can receive frequent visits from their parents and families.
There ought to be a radical review of the provision of institutions for young people. It seems that there is an artificial distinction between approved schools and borstals. I have seen closed approved schools and open borstals, and there does not seem to be very much difference between the two régimes. Borstals are supposed to be more severe than approved schools, yet the maximum stay at borstal is less than at an approved school.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
The hon. Lady is rather less than fair in failing to observe the fundamental difference that approved schools are schools.
§ Miss Bacon
I agree, and if I had my way approved schools would be more like ordinary schools than they are at the moment. In any future reorganisation we shall have to consider whether a child of school age should be treated as a maladjusted child and sent to a special school of some kind instead of being sent to an approved school or borstal.
I was interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman talk about training centres. I am disappointed that more authorities have not undertaken attendance centre work. This is valuable because it gives some kind of training to the boy or girl while he or she is living at home. I think that we take young people away from their homes much too easily. 675 Unless it is a bad case, taking a boy or girl away from home creates as many problems as it solves. I think, too, that these young people are taken away from their homes for excessively long periods, and sent to areas far from their homes. Again, I still think that we ought to consider whether a court should not just stipulate some sentence of custodial treatment and leave it to the psychiatrists and social workers to decide what that treatment should be.
A further point about these institutions is that villages, and sometimes towns, get their Members of Parliament to oppose the opening of either a remand home or an approved school in their areas. This is a despicable thing to do. The Leeds remand home has been held up for some time—it was being built on the outskirts of Leeds—because the people of a little village outside Leeds did not want a remand home anywhere near them. What are we to do with these people? Somehow or other we have failed them. Are we now to put them out of sight, and say that they will not be allowed anywhere near other people's homes?
I turn now to the question of prisons. It is difficult to deal adequately with this in a short time; it could be the subject of a whole day's debate. It is impossible to generalise about our prisons. Anybody who has visited prisons in the last few years knows that widely different conditions obtain in them. There is all the difference in the world between Holloway and the open prison for women at Askham Grange in Yorkshire. They are two completely different types of institution. Then we have the local prisons, which are very overcrowded, and the regional training prisons.
In many of our overcrowded local prisons men are sleeping three in a cell, but the sleeping arrangements are not the worst feature of such prisons. Three in a cell means overcrowding during the day. It means that a prisoner does not have a full day's work to do. It means that the workshops are overcrowded. Some prisoners are working only for twenty hours a week. In such conditions, when prisoners sit about with nothing to do, small things tend to be magnified. I am sure that all hon. 676 Members must have had letters from prisoners at some time or other containing the most minute complaints. The Joint Under-Secretary is smiling, but I always try to attend to these letters, because I know that when a prisoner has been sitting about with nothing to do even quite a small thing may assume enormous proportions in his mind. Prisoners are often treated like children. It may be that some are rather childlike, but when they are released we expect them to live like men and women.
I want to make one point about local prisons, arising from the coming into operation of the recommendations of the Streatfeild Report. I welcome the fact that there is to be a more rapid turnover of prisoners, that remands will be shorter, and that the courts will sit more frequently, but I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that this, in turn, will present local prisons with an even greater problem than they have at present. There will be more frequent comings and goings, and these will take up more of the time of the staff. It would be a good thing if we could so arrange matters that in future local prisons were used simply for remands and short-term prisoners. It is impossible for the staffs of local prisons, faced with the enormous amount of overcrowding and a terrific turnover—with comings and goings every day—to provide adequate educational training facilities for the longer-term prisoners, who might be serving four-year sentences. I hope that this matter will be borne in mind by the right hon. Gentleman.
During the last few months people have begun increasingly to worry about what goes on in our prisons. I have visited a number of them and, with hardly any exceptions, I found that the governors have been very good and devoted men and women. But I have been horrified by some of the things that I have seen, such as the degradation that sometimes exists. On the other hand, I have been pleasantly surprised at some things, especially the way in which, in some women's prisons, the prisoners are allowed to decorate their cells and make them look homelike.
But when we visit a prison it is difficult for us to know what we are really seeing and what we are not seeing. It is very disquieting to read some of the 677 things which are written by people who have been in prison. Many allegations are made by them. I should like to know what is meant by "disciplining" a prisoner. The prison visitor does not see this. The only thing that I have seen which has had any connection with it was a disciplining cell in a girls' borstal—and I did not like it at all.
We should try to ensure that life in prison approximates more nearly to normal, with normal work and a normal working week. Generally speaking, the kind of work carried out by the prisoners is not the kind that they will do when they leave prison. I realise that the kind of buildings we have make it almost impossible to provide the kind of workshops and factories that we would like.
I almost wish that we could have some sort of island experiment, although I know that it would be rather impracticable. The treatment of criminals is one thing, and the prevention of crime is another, as the right hon. Gentleman said. How are we to prevent the continuation of the steep increase in crime that we have had in the last few years? The right hon. Gentleman has pinpointed some of the possible steps that we can take. When the detection rate is high the crime figures are low, and I am pleased to learn that there has been a great increase in the police service. We must remember that the increase in pay has had a great deal to do with that, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bear that point in mind when he is considering the pay of prison and probation officers, and others in the prison service.
I now turn to the question of aftercare. I know that this is the subject of an inquiry by the right hon. Gentleman's Advisory Committee. Nevertheless, I think it right to say that too many of our prisoners find their way back into prison very quickly.
Some would probably do so whatever we did for them, but it is very difficult for a prisoner leaving prison to go straight, even if he wishes to do so. We all know of cases illustrating this fact. We all receive letters—sometimes very pathetic letters—from prisoners who say that although, a year or two ago, they were looking forward to leaving prison, as the time to leave was approaching 678 they were becoming more frightened of going out than they had been of coming in. I have a letter from a prisoner who says:Very soon I shall have to think about my future, but believe me, I dread the thought of doing so. Why?—because I have been locked up now for almost two and a half years, and the thought that in the near future I shall be released from here with no home to go and with the chances of obtaining a job being very grim, due to the fact that I am an 'old lag'. But the fact is that I am not 40 years old yet.Another letter which I have received says:It is not right to send a man straight out to the outside world, after being locked up for years. It should be carefully done—gradual—to ease the strain for a man. A few are lucky, but a lot are not considered much. I am without a home outside and had nobody to visit me, and I have been in prison now for seven years.We cannot say that people are all good or all bad. There is a good deal of bad in the best of us and a good deal of good in the worst of us. The men who wrote the letter from which I have just quoted only recently sent me something that is now one of my most treasured possessions, and which I was very touched to receive—a Christmas card which he drew for me himself and sent to me, using up one of his valuable ration of letters, hoping that I should soon be better after my recent illness. These are the kind of men who are having to face the outside world. There is some good in all of us.
Last year we had the example of the man released from Chelmsford gaol with £1 in his pocket and a ticket to London when he had asked for a ticket to Durham where his only relative, a sister, lived. After sitting at King's Cross Station for several hours and after trying to get through the barrier he wondered how he could get to Durham, because it was Saturday and there was no place open to which he could go till Monday. He stole a mailbag for which offence he was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. Fortunately for him, some lawyers took up the case and succeeded in having the sentence quashed.
I wonder how many released prisoners today sit an railway stations with no home to go to, no work and no stamped insurance card, which is very important, and who will find themselves quickly 679 back in prison again. It is no use shutting a man in prison for years and then allowing him to come out in such a state of mind that he commits worse crimes.
I have said already that we must have adequately trained and paid workers in the prison service, and the same applies to social workers and probation officers. As for the increase in crime over the last few years, I believe that it has been a reflection of the kind of society in which we live today. Young people who follow the paths which lead to borstal and prison are to a large extent the products of the society which we have made for them. Most of the children in approved schools come from broken homes. A great many are brought up to have false values. Is it their fault or ours that they are guided by distorted values which must bring disaster?
This is the gambling age, the age when one doubtful deal often makes a man enough money to live the rest of his life in idleness. It is the age of the take-over bid speculator and the age when ordinary men and women dream of winning big prizes. Is it surprising that these young people, when they realise that the mammoth prizes are unlikely to come their way, see a short cut by robbing a bank, stealing a mailbag or even attacking an old woman in a sweatshop? These crimes have become almost a routine of life in a bandit age and honest work seems to be a mug's game.
We talk about schools and youth services and they can help, but we need a co-ordinated effort. I am pleased that the Home Secretary has decided to have an inquiry into television. As an ex-teacher I say that the influence of the school is nothing like as great as the influence of the home, and it is in the home that most can be done to help these young people. There is not so much conscious neglect by parents, though there might be some, but many parents do not seem to understand their children. The gulf between the adult world and young children today is probably greater than it has ever been.
These are great questions and the Home Secretary has many responsibilities. The right hon. Gentleman spoke 680 about the liberty of the individual. I am reminded that Dr. Johnson once said:The danger of unbounded liberty and the danger of bounding it have produced a problem in the science of government which human understanding seems hitherto unable to solve.It is on the right hon. Gentleman's shoulders that these great responsibilities rest, but it is on the shoulders of everybody, not only in the House of Commons but in the country, that the responsibility rests to set such an example to our young children that we may see in the not too distant future some of the solutions to the difficulties which we face today.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
I should like to congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) on the splendid recovery she has made from so severe an illness, and to say on behalf of all of us what a pleasure it was for us to hear her address the Committee with her usual fluency, buoyancy and effectiveness. May that long continue and may that illness never return to impair her life again. I should also like to wish my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary good fortune on the important journey which he is undertaking to another continent. It concerns other matters but I am sure that, irrespective of opinions on the subject which may be held by hon. Members, all of us would wish a successful outcome to that special journey.
As I listened to my right hon. Friend giving his review in opening the debate I was reminded of the enormous number of social duties which now fall to the Home Secretary. I recall a distinguished predcessor of my right hon. Friend, the late Lord Simon, telling me many years ago that the duty of a Home Secretary was to keep all secondary matters in his Department at secondary level and never to allow one to become a major embarrassment to Her Majesty's Government. It would seem that almost all the problems of the Home Office today have become major matters and sometimes matters of the greatest embarrassment.
The most happy and satisfying note struck by my right hon. Friend was his account of the wonderful outcome of his successful campaign to improve recruitment to the police force. It seems to me that no society becomes possible as 681 a workable society unless it has an efficient, well-maintained and well remunerated police force. On a smaller matter I was also delighted to hear that within a few months' time, the new women's prison at Styal in Cheshire will be open. I hope that as a result of the transfer of prisoners from Holloway to a new women's prison in Essex and the transfer of the women's section of the great prison in Strangeways to the new Styal Prison there will be increased accommodation for male prisoners which will relieve the present intolerable burden of having two or three prisoners living in a cell designed for one.
If the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East will forgive my saying so, she touched upon a matter at the beginning of her speech concerning Hanratty with which I did not altogether agree. I agree with her that special cases of that kind leave a slight uneasiness in the mind. The jury were out for a long time but it is not for any hon. Member to comment on the delicacies of a case like that and I thought that the hon. Lady said that "perhaps" Hanratty did commit the crime. There is a slight unease in my mind that sometimes British justice, wonderful though it be, could be wrong. I follow closely some of these cases and I never escape from a slight unease when the verdict of "Guilty" takes the logical course and, under the Prerogative, the Home Secretary in his wisdom allows justice to be done and the penalty to be fulfilled.
I have intervened in the debate chiefly to dwell upon one question—that of civil defence, Vote 3—with which my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State will deal quite substantially at the end of this debate. Therefore, I hope that the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East will forgive me if I do not follow her into some of the very interesting matters she raised, except to say that I agree with her about young children being taken away from home and placed in institutions, sometimes far away. In many cases, it would be much better to leave the child in the home.
On Vote 3 I wish to raise a few matters, and I do so for three reasons. First, as hon. Members of the Committee may appreciate, I have the privilege of representing one of the largest cities 682 in our country, containing a population of nearly I million, and within thirty miles of that city there is a population almost bigger than that centred on London itself. When I think of the snail's pace of the disarmament conference going on at Geneva, and the sounding board into which it is converted by the Russians; when I think also of the fundamentally important decision taken by President Kennedy on Thursday overturning the Eisenhower doctrine that the distribution of small atomic weapons might limit or contain a war within a small circumference; and remembering, as the President pointed out, the enormous danger contained in that policy of limited atomic weapons—when I think of these things, I feel that it is not a less dangerous world in which we live, but, perhaps, a slightly more dangerous world.
For that reason, for some months now I have been exercised in my mind as to the state of our civil defences, which, for the first time, must now be treated on a far more realistic basis than they have been treated in recent years. Apart from the realistic aspect of civil defence, hon. Members may be unaware of the commitments into which we have entered under this Vote. I gather from the Defence White Paper that expenditure in the present year is £18 million, and that for next year, according to the same White Paper, it is to be £19 million. This is the plan for the next ten years—an expenditure of roughly £20 million a year, to which we have committed ourselves in civil defence. An expenditure of no less than £200 million, in spite of inflation and in spite of the many economic difficulties, is not unimportant. There are many Departments of State which I am sure would like to imprison for the next ten years a sum as substantial as £200 million, given out at the rate of £20 million a year. Therefore, I was delighted to hear what the Home Secretary said at the end of his remarks about his visit to the Civil Defence College and the good work that is being done there.
When we analyse this service, and it is not altogether centred in the Civil Defence Corps, because it comes under the general heading of civil defence services, we find that the first line in our home defence preparations is the warning 683 and monitoring organisation manned by the Royal Observer Corps, which has reached a most advanced stage of preparedness. Behind that first line exist the Civil Defence Corps, the Auxiliary Fire Service, the National Hospital Service Reserve, the Special Constabulary and the Industrial Civil Defence Service.
The important point about these organisations and the structures behind the alerting group of the Royal Observer Corps is that they are highly geared and at an advanced stage of preparedness. Naturally, in all this activity, the Home Office touches directly the work of the regular police. I have had occasion to go rather deeply into the question of these services in the city which I am privileged to represent, and splendid work is being done. I think the hinge on which most of this work turns is the wardens' service, and it is in the recruitment of wardens that the Civil Defence Corps will succeed or fail.
At the moment, Manchester has an establishment of 1,703 wardens, and an effective strength of 690. Senior appointments, such as those of chief warden, deputy chief warden and assistant chief warden and the section posts staff have already been made. There are twelve volunteer part-time instructors and about 550 wardens who are regularly trained, but, unfortunately, in all that work, recruiting is extremely slow. The vital necessity in the Civil Defence Corps is this recruitment of wardens.
But that is not the end of the efforts being made, because the Chief Constable is head of the wardens section and works most closely with the head of the Civil Defence Corps. All the police in the city, and this would apply to any other of our large cities, are trained in warden's section duties. For example, last year 144 constables were trained in standard rescue work, 156 were trained in organisation control and tactics, and 31 inspectors had a course of advanced training, some of them at the Civil Defence College named by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. This year, all 70 inspectors of the force will have been trained at advanced level, and the advanced training of 200 sergeants will begin. There are no fewer than 17 684 instructors in civil defence in the regular police force.
It seems to me to be quite obvious that the regular police are a vital part in the whole plan of civil defence. At the beginning of my speech, I expressed satisfaction on hearing the Home Secretary say what he did about the success of his recruitment campaign for the police. Apart from their duties in the event of an emergency, there would be an appalling new scale of duties which would fall to the regular police forces of our country. The special constabulary are already embroiled in the present civil defence scheme. Therefore, I am exercised in my mind whether the present pattern of civil defence and the spending of this vast sum of £200 million over the next ten years is rightly conceived at the moment. There are other methods of promoting enthusiasm, but in a great city like Manchester to attempt to promote enthusiasm for civil defence is almost attempting the impossible. One hears all the old platitudes about peace and the hope that good sense will prevail in international affairs, but seventeen Foreign Ministers sitting in Geneva at the moment do not seem to be making much progress.
When I listened to the broadcast from Washington on Thursday last after President Kennedy's Press conference, on the danger even of accidental war in the world today, I felt, and I beg my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State to realise this, that a special duty rests upon the Government to concentrate their minds upon making civil defence, on which they are spending this amount of money, an effective instrument in our defence plan. In some respects civil defence is as important as the Royal Air Force, the Royal Navy and the Army. It is an effective part of our conventional forces.
I wonder whether the Minister of State would consider this matter from a different angle. I wonder whether he would ask the regimental associations of the Territorial Army to assist in providing some task for the Territorial battalions, and some of the "shadow" battalions, in civil defence. If such work is already undertaken perhaps it might be extended. The great gatherings which attend regimental reunions reveal that hundreds, perhaps thousands of 685 middle aged men would be prepared to give service to their country in a voluntarily capacity. Perhaps some interest could be stimulated through the agency of the Army.
In the First World War the Manchester Regiment raised no fewer than forty-four service battalions, providing five divisions of infantry to take part in the slaughterhouses that were the battles of the Somme. The contribution in the last war was just as great and the efforts of other cities such, as that represented by the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East, were no less. I think that an appeal to some of the institutions to which these older men belong might yield useful results and bring the Secretary of State for War into closer co-operation with those in charge of civil defence.
Perhaps it is inevitable, perhaps it cannot be avoided, but as an old Member of this House who was here in prewar days I have been through all these stages before. I remember the preparations. The Home Secretary talked about evacuation, although there would hardly be time for that. I took part in one small plan which made possible the evacuation work in the last war and when I think back about it I realise how efficient the arrangements were. They were extraordinarily well carried out. On 3rd September, 1939, there were no fewer than 200,000 hospital beds vacant and ready to receive the casualties which we anticipated would need them in the first few weeks. Then the Government were extremely competent in discharging the obvious social obligation which rested on them. Of course we had had a year of warning following the Munich operation. That was fortuitous. But when the inevitable did occur, it was as well that the plans worked smoothly, although we did not then know that we were in for nine months of what was called the "phoney war".
Tests have started again with the Americans, to be followed by the Russian tests, to be followed by what—
§ Sir R. Cary
—and ending where? Perhaps that is best left to the imagination. I say to my hon. Friend the Minister 686 of State, let us make all aspects of our defence effort equally effective.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Sir George Benson (Chesterfield)
I think that we are entitled to be proud of our system of justice of which the Home Office is the custodian. We are entitled to be proud of the care taken to protect the rights of an accused person and to ensure that there is fair trial. It is true that, on occasions, miscarriages of justice have occurred, but every hon. Member would agree that they are extremely rare. The finding of guilt is one thing, but the real problem is the sentencing policy of the courts. I am not sure whether it is the right one.
When we examine the activities of our courts we find that there is something more like chaos than a policy. Within the maximum sentence fixed by law the courts have an opportunity to vary the sentences imposed and each court would seem to be a law unto itself. A very interesting document, known as the Supplementary Criminal Statistics, is published each year. It is a duplicated sheet which contains a great deal more detailed information about the activities of our courts than is to be found in the ordinary criminal statistics.
One particularly interesting table gives the sentencing policy of magistrates' courts. It is interesting, but it is also extremely disturbing. It has been said that all men are equal before the law, but the administration of the law is by no means equal to all men. The latest figures, those for 1960, show that the average magistrates' court sends 18 per cent. of its adult male indictables to prison, Bournemouth, Brighton and East-bourne sent 29 per cent., Peterborough sent 34 per cent., and Rotherham sent 35 per cent., so the probability of getting into prison did not depend on the type of crime, but upon the court before which the offender appeared.
On the other end of the sentencing scale we find, as compared with 35 per cent. of imprisonments of adult male indictable at Rotherham, that Nottingham sent 14 per cent., Hereford sent 10 per cent., Carmarthen sent 12 per cent., Bootle sent 6 per cent., and Mid-Wales only 4 per cent. We get a fantastic variation in the sentencing policy of the 687 courts and I regard that as an extremely serious matter. The national average for all the magistrates' courts is 18 per cent. of the adult indictables sent to prison, but it varies from 35 per cent. in Rotherham to 4 per cent. in Mid-Wales.
In the juvenile courts we find that the spread of the sentencing policy is even more fantastic. Merioneth Juvenile Court put 79 per cent. on probation, whereas Swansea put 14.8 per cent. on probation. Merioneth puts on probation five times as many as Swansea. Cambridge sends 27 per cent. to approved schools and Wigan sends 3.8 per cent. Cambridge uses approved schools eight times as frequently as Wigan.
Other statistics are: absolute discharge, Cambridge 1 per cent.; Carmarthen 48.9 per cent.; Carmarthen uses absolute discharge forty-nine times as frequently as Cambridge. Conditional discharge, Exeter 0.4 per cent; Southampton, 28.5 per cent. Southampton uses conditional discharge seventy-one times as frequently as Exeter. Fines, Lincoln .04 per cent.; Rotherham 15.4 per cent. Rotherham uses fines three hundred and eighty times as frequently as Lincoln.
This is fantastic. What is the use of that beautiful phrase, "All men are equal before the law"? It is perfectly true that the Home Secretary cannot dictate this policy. But I suggest, in view of this extraordinary variation in sentencing policy, that there should be some means of educating courts. Magistrates courts' sentences are short compared with sentences in senior courts. Persons sent to prison by magistrates can be a very small proportion compared with those sent by the higher courts. Nevertheless, there is no question that overcrowding in the prisons today is due far more to the very sharp increases in the length of sentences which has taken place since the war than to the number of sentences.
There is a very current belief that severe sentences are more effective as deterrents than milder sentences. That belief cannot be substantiated by any facts I know. Conditional discharge has exactly the same result as imprisonment for first offenders, and fining and binding over are the same. There is a mass of evidence to show that for first 688 offenders mild methods are just as effective as severe methods.
We have to realise our profound ignorance on the whole question of sentencing and its results. We have a very effective research unit in the Home Office. It grew from very small proportions. I think that I can claim a certain amount of credit, because its origin was as the result of a memorandum which I sent to the Home Secretary pointing out that borstal records were magnificent material for research. From that time the research unit has grown to a staff of nearly 20 and it is one of the most important and valuable pieces of machinery in the Home Office.
Our main trouble in the handling of delinquency is the fact that we know so little about it. Tradition, habit and custom and drawing deductions from premises which are extremely doubtful have made penal treatment haphazard. It requires to be put on a sound and a really just basis. It requires behind it an immensely greater amount of detailed knowledge than we have at present.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
It is difficult to follow the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Sir G. Benson) in discussion of criminal matters, for I have reason to know that he probably has forgotten more about some aspects of penal reform, particularly those related to statistical matters and research, than some of us will ever know. I always feel anxious about his pessimism in regard to research. I know that he does not intend to convey the feeling that research will not bring us closer to the truth, but I share his feeling that research hitherto has been wholly inadequate.
We are indebted to the Opposition for this rare opportunity to have a look in all the Home Office cupboards—perhaps "down the corridors" would be a happier phrase—although before the end of the debate the Minister of State will have a long and mixed list of detailed subjects to which to reply. The hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) referred to at least four subjects, none of which is on my list, but I wish to refer to what she said.
One thing that the hon. Lady said should be stressed. That is the handicap 689 imposed on the programme of penal reform by senseless opposition to new institutions in various parts of the country. I am aware of the delay which can occur when a spoke is put in the wheel, described by the Home Secretary. Six months, and in many cases twice that time, is spent in argument between local authorities about whether an institution should go on one side or the other of a boundary. I am entirely with the hon. Lady in what she said on that subject.
I want to deal primarily with two matters, but I wish first to touch briefly on one on which I hope the Minister of State will have something to say. For some months the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been conducting a campaign on the subject of vivisection and the administration of the Act of 1876. The concern of many people for animals is widely enough known to hon. Members. Even if it is not fully shared, it deserves a great deal of sympathy.
It is inevitable that there should be concern over this subject, quite apart from the campaign by the R.S.P.C.A. It is a mistake to attribute all the concern to the campaign, which is not accurate in all its details. This research work, unfortunately, cannot be given a public window. What is not seen, of course, is suspect. The nature and volume of the work, I suppose, must have changed a great deal since 1876, and there is at least a prima facie case for uneasiness.
Of course, the claim of medical research in this respect is not to be denied, and I say in justice to those conducting the campaign that it is not denied. But, without accepting all their allegations, I feel that there is anxiety, and there are hon. Members of the Committee who probably have been made aware of this. There is a degree of public interest outside members of the R.S.P.C.A. which should be taken seriously. If the Act is satisfactory and the administration is irreproachable, which I am inclined to believe, there is a very good reason for making this clear.
As one who puts all human claims above any claim which may be advanced on behalf of an animal, I say that I should 1),:, sorry to see a violent antivivisection campaign get under way, which would make this important work 690 more difficult. I can see no objection to a simple inquiry, preferably by one individual whose name commanded respect here and among those concerned in this matter, possibly—and I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) for this suggestion—someone like a High Court judge, because this is a technical subject which needs the attention of someone with an ability to master the technical facts involved quickly.
I urge on my hon. and learned Friend that an inquiry of this sort, carried out quickly by one man, could do no harm. It might allay disquiet, and in the long run it would assist the Home Office and those associated with this difficult and vital work.
I turn to one of the principal matters on which I should like to speak. Inevitably, the subject of the police in relation to law and order is somewhat overshadowed by the forthcoming report of the Royal Commission on the Police, although I give first importance to the figures which the Home Secretary was able to announce which, we may say, flow directly from the first and interim Report of the Royal Commission. Steps were taken on the basis of that Report which have led to this remarkable and heartening increase in police recruiting figures.
It is inevitable that during the last year much of the discussion, certainly the discussion in the House of Commons in which many of us have taken part, has centred round matters like penalties, the powers of the courts to punish and the nature of punishment, rather than other aspects. These matters occupied the House of Commons and the Committee considering the Criminal Justice Bill last year.
I should be the last person to question the great importance of this work which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has put in hand or the difficulties which have confronted him. Some hon. Members are aware of the leeway which has to be made up. Perhaps not all are aware of the particular difficulty which arises and which I encounter in many places, namely, the number of people who falsely associate the rising line in crime on the graph, which all countries in the West, certainly all industrialised countries, have experienced, with the policies which my right hon. 691 Friend has tried to pursue on penal reform. That is muddled thinking with a vengeance. We are not without people in this country who associate the two things and for that reason express themselves as adverse to what my right hon. Friend is trying to do.
Sufficient stress is not laid on the fact that in the reformation of the criminal ultimately lies the greatest safeguard for society, which is what society is most concerned about. In other words, what my right hon. Friend is pursuing is not soft treatment of the criminal, but ultimately the safest course for the society to which, sooner or later, the criminal must return.
I acknowledge what the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East said in giving credit to my right hon. Friend for pursuing certain aspects of his policy against a fair measure of public opinion. I only hope that we shall keep abreast of what happens in the new institutions and with what flows from the new policy embodied in the Criminal Justice Act by not only research, on which the Home Secretary had some satisfactory things to say, but by keeping the keenest ear cocked to what magistrates, those in charge of the detention centres, and those who belong to the sadly inflated profession which is designed to remedy parental failure, have to say about the development of the new policies which have been put into effect.
I have no doubt that much of this policy will be successful, but some of it will be less successful than we hoped when the Criminal Justice Bill was being considered. The earlier we can get information about what is succeeding and what is failing—this is in line with what the hon. Member for Chesterfield was saying—the better. It is far better to cut a loss and change the policy than to pursue a line which takes us down a blind alley. I think particularly of the reformation of the young criminal.
The main point that I wish to make, however, is this. A view which I have held for some time is that possibly the biggest single factor in reducing crime is not the form of detention, but the effectiveness of detection. This has been recognised by a number of expert bodies, not least the Advisory Committee on the Treatment of Offenders, and it has been 692 stressed by Mr. Leon Radzinowicz, Director of the Institute of Criminology in Cambridge. I sometimes wonder whether it is sufficiently recognised by those who have to foot the bill for the police.
The figures, by which I set some store, are most disturbing. The percentage of offences cleared up for the whole country has been falling steadily, certainly since before the war. In 1938, for the whole country, it was about 50 per cent. For the last recorded year, 1960, it was 44.4 per cent. I do not wish to exaggerate, but that represents a steady decline. In the Metropolitan area, for obvious reasons—this is no reflection on the Metropolitan Police—the figures are much more alarming. In London, in 1958, 27.5 per cent. of reported crime was cleared up. In 1960, the last year for which the Commissioner reported, it was 25.1 per cent.
There are reasons for this, but it entitles Professor Radzinowicz to say, as he has said:We cannot resign ourselves to a situation in which, for example, seven out of ten robbers remain undetected and, therefore, unpunished, thus conveying the impression, which is highly contagious, that the risk involved in criminal behaviour can be for all practical purposes ignored.The professor went on to point out that the number of robberies in private premises in London not cleared up in 1960 was nearly twice as high as the total for all such offences in 1950, adding—and these are the telling words—Impunity on such a scale becomes in itself a cause of the increase in crime.I have no doubt that the Royal Commission on the Police has taken full note of all this. Indeed, it must have been one of the principal matters with which it was concerned and on which it based its recommendations.
There are still too many people who see a note of irony in the fact that, in times of relative prosperity, we appear to need more, not fewer, policemen. Some people still regard this as a paradox which it is difficult to accept. It may be ironic, but it is no mystery. Some light was thrown on this subject in a remarkable book written by Professor Galbraith called "The Affluent Society". He made this simple point, that the more property there is about, the more protection is needed for it. In more prosperous 693 times we require more policemen to protect property than in less prosperous times. I hope that hon. Members will not regard this as unduly cynical. I regard it as very near the mark.
My right hon. Friend the Home Sec-rotary referred more than once in terms of pain, regret and surprise to what he described as this paradox—a rise in crime in a nation enjoying relative prosperity. I do not regard it as a paradox. It is, alas, a logical state of affairs and it is as well to recognise it. Society today may be affluent, but much of it is also very predatory, and until we are ready to enter into the next phase I am inclined to think that the need for more policemen and better policemen—by "better policemen" I mean better-equipped policemen—will remain with us.
I cannot believe that the Royal Commission will find otherwise. It is important, in view of the crime figures, that the House and the country should recognise this fact because, in my view, we shall face here mounting costs. The job of re-equipping the police force to meet this new challenge will not be done cheaply. If the figures my right hon. Friend gave this afternoon are worked out in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, they will mean quite a lot to some of the joint authorities which administer our police forces.
The country has always to make up its mind not only whether it is willing to meet the cost, but how it is to meet it. It should be stressed—I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will acknowledge this—that there will be no protection from this wave of crime without paying for it. It is vain to shout at my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, as many do, for heavier and stiffer penalties, which the courts already have power to impose. Detection as well as detention will have to play its part and those who call for stiffer sentences will have to pay for sharper detection.
I hope that the Royal Commission will recognise the rôle that the police have played and still play, but in a diminishing way because of their hitherto diminishing numbers, in what I call preventive work, particularly among the young. Speaking as one who represents rural areas, I can tell 694 the Committee how much one depends upon what some would regard as the old-fashioned work, the preventive work, of the rural constable, who knew his families and their problems and knew where to look for them. He knew when to put in a word at the right moment. More of that would have saved a great many of these young people in the institutions. There is in this sense no substitute for the village constable or, in urban areas, for the "bobby" on the street.
I note with increasing regret the schism between the law-abiding citizen and the police, who were formerly an alliance against crime. This schism has been brought about by the advent of the motor car. For psychological reasons which we all appreciate, those who possess motor cars no longer feel quite at one with all policemen as they did thirty or forty years ago. The bond between the majority and the police must be restored. This is one of the great elements in breaking the crime wave. I do not despair of the constable once again becoming the friend of the family, which is traditionally what he always has been in this country. This could make a great contribution to solving the problem of juvenile delinquency.
I want to touch, finally, on a difficult subject which comes to the Home Office from many directions. This relates partly to the remarks with which the Home Secretary concluded his speech. I refer to the capacity of the Home Office to deal with what I would broadly call objectionable matters conveyed through books, films, television, posters, advertising, films, and so on. This is the thorniest subject, but I do not think that that should discourage one from tackling it. My own instincts are extremely liberal on all this. I think that a healthy nation should be able to tolerate a great deal of vulgarity. Indeed, one might say that a degree of vulgarity is essential to the health of the nation. That is probably true.
I dislike censorship in principle. I should like to see it diminished in every possible field. But a robust attitude over this cannot blink away the fact that there is a good deal of nasty stuff being purveyed today for reasons of pure commercialism, though it is often 695 wrapped up in a much more specious guise.
What troubles me is this. I hope that the Committee will share this view with me. I think that we are moving—a very good thing, too—towards a much more liberal attitude in all these matters—towards censorship, towards restriction, and so on. This is a matter for rejoicing. At the same time, a minority perceive in this greater degree of tolerance an opportunity to exploit and cash in on it. I shall not advertise books or films or anything else by naming examples, but no hon. Member has to go far to find examples of what I have in mind. There is, for example, the cult of the highly disagreeable play, a play designed not only to titillate with vulgarity, which is harmless and often most enjoyable, but to shock and to satisfy the baser and the basest instincts.
The danger is not that this sort of thing will corrupt public morals. I regard that as most improbable. All the evidence that I can find on the subject is that this debased stuff, certainly in relation to television, touches only the most impressionable and weakest among us and that the majority of people, even young people, dismiss with impunity the crudest scenes containing the greatest violence.
The danger is that, unless checked, this sort of thing will provoke an agitation against my right hon. Friend and the Home Office for more restriction, more censorship, and more control. That is the peril in some of this stuff which is now being purveyed. These people—I do not suggest that they are numerous, but there are enough of them to be troublesome—are the enemies of the cause which they speciously seek to advertise. This should be recognised.
An examination of the arrangements which lie somewhat loosely along the Home Office corridors shows that we are not very well equipped or covered against this contingency. Our arrangements are miscellaneous. For plays, there is the Lord Chamberlain. For books, we have an Act of Parliament, which we have all seen in action. For films, we have the British Board of Censors. I at once pay tribute to the work which Lord Morrison and Mr. Trevelyan do. I say, in parenthesis, 696 however, that the Board does not appear to have any control over the advertising of films. I know that complaints about the nature of advertisements have been brought to the door of the Home Office. For the Press, we have the Press Council. In respect of television, we have arrangements with which we are all painfully familiar.
I do not object to this diverse approach. There is no particular safety or virtue in uniformity. But I question whether, taking them all together, they are meeting the need, because here the Home Office, quite falsely, is regarded by many people, I think most people, as having political, if not moral, responsibility. It would be interesting to know how many deputations, letters and exhibits—I am not asking my hon. and learned Friend to tell us—the Home Office has received during the last year or two on this subject. In my day at the Home Office horror comics were coming in in very large numbers. I dare say that they have had their successors.
The Home Office powers, short of the worst abuses, which can be referred to the police and dealt with under the law, are negligible. The Home Office powers to ordain moral standards do not exist, and I devoutly hope that this will so remain, because the last thing we want is a Government Department which seeks to establish moral standards or which in any way tries to deal with moral standards through the law.
What is tiresome is that there should be general misunderstanding about what the Home Office sphere of responsibility is and how much it can do. In reality, it has a great deal of responsibility, without corresponding power. Failure to exercise this responsibility is widely regarded—for instance, by constituents who bring me books and posters—as neglect, contempt by the Home Secretary and the Government for contemporary standards. This might apply to any Government.
This is a subject on which, taken broadly, the Home Office would be well advised to clear, if not its own mind, at least that of the public. It is sure to arise most sharply when we discuss the Pilkington report. We do not know what recommendations that report will contain, but standards will be discussed, and any deficiencies will be laid at the door of the Home Office.
697 There should be a much clearer definition of principles than either we or the public now have. Given that, it would be easier to impress on all concerned their fundamental obligation to put their house in order. I regard this as a job for those who are concerned with the particular industries, and it is important that that should be made clear. What is damaging is an appearance of Home Office non possumus which nervous silence, punctuated by equivocal statements made to deputations, is apt to give—the impression that the Home Office is not willing to act. I find that to be a matter of no small concern to quite a lot of people, and not just people in the Church of England. People are very swift to judge the Government by the moral tone prevailing.
Possibly the best way of regulating all this is through the industries themselves, but for this to be achieved it must be made clear where the obligations lie, and those industries must be encouraged to get on with it. If industries can stop price cutting by firms, as they do, it should not be impossible for publishers to prevent other publishers from selling either dirty books or books with objectionable covers. What we need here is not more censorship, but some of the relish shown in catching odd men out in price resale maintenance displayed in keeping out objectionable matter from the industry concerned.
These are random thoughts, and I apologise to the Committee for taking up its time with them, but I suggest that the subject merits reflection; and that there would be benefit to be had from a considered statement on an appropriate occasion by the Home Secretary, redefining where the responsibility of the Home Office, the industries, and this House should lie.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)
Sir Robert, some of us who try to catch your eye during Home Office debates will be getting to know each other soon. It does not seem very long since I followed the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) in one of these debates, and it is a great temptation to seek to follow the lines he has taken, particularly in the latter part of his speech. He referred to an absorbing subject, and roused a 698 great deal of interest among hon. Members. I shall read his speech with very great interest. I should have liked very much to follow him and to have gone through the whole gamut of Home Office work, but I made up my mind to resist all temptation to do that, and to concentrate on only one subject.
The subject about which I want to talk was touched on by the Home Secretary himself, and very lightly by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon)—the Departmental Committee's Report on the Probation Service. I feel very strongly on this matter, and if I devote what time I have at my disposal to it alone I hope that the Committee will forgive me. I regard this section as a blot on the work of the Home Office and of the Home Secretary.
Before the appointment of the Departmental Committee whose Report is now before us, the last similar inquiry was held as long ago as 1936 and, if I may say so, the present inquiry was only set on foot after great pressure by some of us on this side of the Committee, }with the help of some hon. Members opposite. It was only after that pressure had been applied that the Home Secretary agreed to set up another inquiry into the activities of the probation service. The Committee has for three years been considering what could be done about the service, and what the current situation is.
I would remind the Committee that since 1936, many duties have been put on the probation officers, and I should like to enumerate a few of them. In addition to what we regard as normal probation work—looking after probationers—the probation officers now have to supervise orders under the Children and Young Persons Acts; they have money payment supervision; after-care; guardianship ad litem; inquiries on behalf of the divorce courts about children; guardianship of infants; matrimonial reconciliation work; what arises from two Criminal Justice Acts; liaison with approved schools; liaison with the higher courts—and loads of voluntary work. All that is done for miserable salaries, and the officers sometimes work in appalling accommodation.
This Report makes many recommendations—they run to 157 paragraphs—and I fully appreciate that a great deal of work will be necessary at the Home 699 Office in giving full consideration to it. I hope that in due course, through legislation, some of the recommendations will be put into operation.
As I say, the Committee sat for three years, and it reported five months ago. During those five months, some of us have asked Questions about what was transpiring on the important matter of probation officers' salaries. This side of the Report should be tackled at once. The Departmental Committee's suggestions on this topic are contained in paragraphs 153 to 157 inclusive, and I shall not weary hon. Members by reading them, as they can be easily turned up. They are very strong statements.
Before I deal with salaries, I should like to say a word or two about training and recruitment. The expansion of the service has never kept pace with its work. It has been compelled to recruit a very large proportion of untrained people. In Salford, there is the utmost difficulty in filling vacancies for probation officers. Very often the difficulty arises because, unfortunately, Salford is not one of the most salubrious places, and we find that many of those appointed move on fairly quickly to more salubrious areas. As a result, the compulsion all the time is to engage untrained officers. Training after appointment is not an adequate alternative to full training beforehand. The real need now is for a drive in recruitment and in training.
That brings me to my main point—salaries. I suggest to the Minister that without an adjustment in salaries, any talk of greater recruitment is a complete farce. If that is not so, can we be told what suggestions the Home Office has to get more probation officers to fill the great need? I suggest that an immediate consideration of their salary position is the only way to improve recruitment and I assert that the treatment meted out to them in recent years has been abominable.
Their basic salaries do not take into account the added duties placed on them. They have just had a cost of living increase and have received one rise since the Morison Committee started its deliberations. They have not put in for further increases because, for a long time, they have been told about the 700 report that is to be presented. The Home Secretary has constantly said, "We are awaiting the report", but in the midst of it all came the latest wage squeeze, followed by the second phase, under which increases of 2½ per cent. may be permitted.
A probation officer aged 22 gets a starting salary of £625 a year rising to a maximum of £1,025 after thirteen years. A senior officer starts at £1,075 and reaches his maximum of £1,195 after some years. Does anyone doubt the importance of the work they do? It is ridiculous that the negotiating machinery is at present made up of three members of the Central Council of Probation Committees, four representatives of the County Councils' Association, four representatives of the Association of Municipal Corporations, two officials of the Home Office and twelve members of the probation officers' staff side.
The decisions reached by that National Joint Negotiating Committee are, in effect, prescribed by the Secretary of State. They are fixed by Statutory Instrument and while the Home Secretary always says—and will, no doubt, continue to say—that he is guided by its recommendations, I wonder whether that is always so? There was a wage squeeze in 1957 and, at that time, its recommendations were turned down. The Negotiating Committee then suggested that probation officers should get more money and they now find themselves in the same position.
Paragraph 347 of the Morison Report states:Our concern has been only with whether the control of probation service salaries is justified in the necessarily unique circumstances of that service. We should not wish to be taken as expressing a general view on ministerial prescription of salaries in fields where ministers are not employers or are not the sole employers. We are satisfied that ministerial prescription of probation officers' salaries now serves no sufficient purpose and we recommend that, in future, the salaries should be freely determined by negotiation. In reaching this conclusion we have examined both the contribution of the existing control to the efficiency of the service and its value as a protection of the central authorities' interests.That is what I feel about the present negotiating machinery. Only if radical changes take place in it will probation officers get a fair crack of the whip. I want a complete reappraisal of the 701 Morison Report and it would be fitting if more justices of the peace and fewer representatives of the paying authorities were involved. That would be fair because magistrates are constantly in touch with probation officers and are fully aware of the work they do.
To bring hon. Members up to date on the salary position, I urge them to remember that the Departmental Committee was set up by the Home Secretary. It sat for three years, presented its Report last December, and recommended a 30 per cent. immediate average salary increase. What was the result? Questions were asked and the Home Secretary referred the matter to the Negotiating Committee. The case for the increase was expressed throughout the Report and that it should be immediate and retrospective. However, it was merely referred to the Negotiating Committee with almost an instruction that, under no circumstances, should that Committee depart from the needs of the present economic situation and the salary freeze imposed by the Government in other respects.
Why did this not happen to the police? I realise that their case arose at a time when a wage freeze was not in operation, and also that the hon. Member for Ashford referred to the necessity for the prevention rather than for the treatment of crime. I agree with him in that and also that the police should have had their increase. However, when the Royal Commission was set up to consider police pay, it was asked by the Secretary of State to make an interim report on wages, and the very substantial increases which were then recommended were put into operation almost immediately.
Would anyone suggest that probation officers are not, in different ways, rendering equal service to the community regarding justice and the administration of the law? That there is a wage squeeze I accept and I also agree that the matter was referred to the Negotiating Committee. I also realise that, under the second phase, 2½ per cent. increases are to be allowed—overshadowed by Her Majesty's Government's policy of income restraint.
As I say, the Negotiating Committee received that intimation. They met last Monday and presented their answer. 702 They suggested that there should be an immediate 10 per cent. increase without any reference Whatever to the Report of the Departmental Committee. What does the Home Office feel about this situation? I hope that we shall get more information later than we got from the Home Secretary.
I do not wish to go at great length into the various reports and the countless words that have been written on this subject. Realising that other hon. Members wish to speak, I do not desire to occupy undue time on this one subject, but I have with me a copy of a letter which the Negotiating Committee sent to the Home Secretary. These are its recommendations:(1) that consideration of the proposals of the Departmental Committee be postponed on the understanding that the case of probation officers will be treated as a special case at 'the head of the queue' at the beginning of 1963".There will be a great many people at the head of that queue in 1963.
The letter goes on:(2) that an interim increase of 10 per cent. be made on existing rates of salary for all members of the service, to take effect on and from 1st April, 1962;(3) that the foregoing recommendations are made without prejudice to the positions which may ultimately be taken by both Sides of the Committee in relation to the Report and Recommendations of the Departmental Committee.In thus recommending an increase in pay which goes beyond what the Government have suggested as appropriate in this phase of their incomes policy, the Joint Committee wish to draw attention to—It has been my purpose—I hope that I have not entirely failed—to make as fervent a plea as I possibly can for this service. They are not dockers, miners or policemen. There will be no great economic crisis in this country if the probation officers come out on strike, 703 and, apparently, nobody will be worried. They are men and women in a calling, devoting their lives to a great social work of vast importance. They have never put salaries first. If we ignore their claim at this time, we shall be cashing in on their devotion to duty.
- (a) the very long period (over three years) which has elapsed since the Departmental Committee were first appointed, with pay as a major feature of the terms of reference;
- (b) the period of over five months since the Departmental Committee were able to reach their conclusions and sign their Report;
- (c) the restraint exercised by the Staff Side on pay matters during the last three years (and particularly during the last year and a half) when early publication of the Report was confidently expected;
- (d) the very special case of the service for special treatment."
Every magistrate knows the value of the probation service. When we face our great difficulties on the bench and we ask ourselves what we can do with someone before us, we "pass the buck" and suggest that the probation officer should talk to him or her. The probation officer's report comes back in due course and assists us in our decisions.
I apologise for having spent so much time on this matter. I should not have done so if I had not felt very deeply about the subject. My appeal to the hon. and learned Gentleman is that he should convey to his right hon. Friend the urgency of the matter and agree, at least as a first step, to the recommendation of the Negotiating Committee that an immediate 10 per cent. rise in salary should be given, and that the full recommendations of the Departmental Committee should be put into operation early next year. I wish that it could be sooner. I know that that is impossible, but, for goodness' sake, let us give them the 10 per cent. and show that, at least, the work they do is being appreciated.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Mrs. Evelyn Emmet (East Grinstead)
I make no apology for returning to the subject touched on by my hon. Friend for Ashford (Mr. Deedes), because it is one which is causing a good deal of anxiety among a great many people today. I refer to the laboratories for experiments on animals which are under the supervision and inspection of the Home Office in accordance with the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876. I suggest that it might be reasonable to look in closer detail at that Act, which was passed so long ago.
I say at once that I am not against these laboratories. I feel that everyone should realise the tremendous contribution which they have made to the advance of medicine. Nevertheless, I have some suggestions to make which 704 would, I feel, help to allay the public anxiety which has been due both to the R.S.P.C.A. circular and to some articles written in local papers, not, perhaps, always as accurate as they might be.
I have had a certain amount of firsthand experience of these laboratories. In the 1930s, when I was chairman of the management committee of the 75 London hospitals, I made it my business to go round all our laboratories as a matter of course. Eighteen months ago, I had quite a number of letters from constituents about this matter and I felt that I should like to bring my knowledge up to date and see a laboratory at this time. To my surprise, I found a great deal of resistance when I applied for permission to go and see one. However, being an extremely persistent person, I eventually got my application accepted, and I visited one of the extremely good laboratories in London.
I am quite certain from what I have seen, and the inquiries I have made, that the animals are kept in extremely good condition with, perhaps, a reservation in regard to monkeys. It is very difficult to keep these sensitive animals in surroundings which are congenial to them. However, I think that it must be accepted that, if animals were not in a good condition, they would not be suitable for the purpose for which they are kept.
I am sure that there would be less anxiety if there were not so much secrecy surrounding the laboratories. It is not that there is anything to hide, but I think that there is a tendency on the part of the medical profession to surround itself with a certain amount of mystery. I hate to think that this is handed down from the witch-doctor! Nowadays, with all the television sessions, which we have on medical matters, and so forth, I feel that, if our admirable doctors were a little more forthright they would gain yet further in public esteem and a lot of uneasiness would disappear. So long as these laboratories are inaccessible, the public will fear the worst.
I come now to my suggestions. First, we should inquire whether there are sufficient inspectors and whether the number of centres licensed could be reduced. Is it necessary to have quite so many? It is, of course, important 705 to ensure that operations are carried out properly. People are worried about the operations. Because the general public thinks that an operation is always a surgical one, it should be emphasised that 90 per cent. of the operations on animals are injections such as we ourselves have to submit to from time to time. However, we must be certain that the inspectorate is sufficiently well staffed to do its job.
Would it be possible, perhaps, for Members of Parliament or experts in zoology to visit these laboratories from time to time? I am sure that it would make a good impression on the public to know that laymen were allowed within the precincts of these places. There is a feeling in the public mind, the medical world being connected so much with sickness and pain, that doctors are sometimes inclined to become hardened to both these afflictions.
I do not agree with that. Their great mission in life is to relieve pain and heal sickness. The Advisory Board is composed of ten very eminent doctors and surgeons, and one asks oneself whether perhaps these very busy gentlemen have the time to give detailed attention to the subject, and whether it might not also help from the public point of view if one member of the Board were a woman. Women are not supposed to be quite so hardened or callous about these things as the male sex. One might have a woman doctor or nursing expert or zoologist on the Board. Certainly, I should like to see a woman on the Board, also a layman, so that the Board does not give the impression of having a vested interest in these laboratories, which, I am afraid, is the position at present.
It would also help if the Home Office, when it makes out the yearly report, explained to the public the tremendous benefits we have derived from the experiments in these laboratories. It could explain how we have practically eradicated tuberculosis, how poliomyelitis has been brought under control, and how many drugs have been found to alleviate pain. The laboratories have had their share in these results.
I sat by the bedside of a very beloved child of eighteen months and watched it die of tubercular meningitis. It was not 706 my child, but it was a very distressing episode, and if one has seen that happen, and realises that now it is a very rare disease, and that these laboratories have contributed to the solving of these problems, one cannot but be grateful to these animals, big or small.
It is a curious thing how the bigger the animal the more distressed is the public. Yet I feel that whether they are mice or horses, our responsibility to the animals is exactly similar, that we should show our gratitude to them—if one can put it in that way—by making quite certain that they are kept in comfort as far as is possible, and that if they have to be destroyed, they are destroyed painlessly.
I should like the Home Office to realise the great feeling that is behind this matter at present, and I ask it to see whether it could help, perhaps on these lines, to alleviate that feeling.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) on bringing before the Committee the particular subject of which she spoke, because to my certain knowledge there is on this issue very great misgiving among a large number of very humane and sympathetic people. I think that it is, perhaps, more a matter for public relations than for anything else, and that an arrangement by which persons other than those interested in the remotest scientific diagnoses of disease could join the Advisory Board is desirable.
I, for one, would then be a great deal more satisfied that an undue number of experiments on certain lines was not being conducted. I dealt with this problem once or twice as Home Secretary, when I received deputations on the matter, but, as I have said, this matter is more one of public relations than of anything else.
On Sunday, I read in the Observer's Weekend Review an article written by someone who is now telling us all the secrets of the way in which we are misgoverned. He included in the article, on the Civil Service, the following paragraph:The most notoriously self-centred department are the Home Office"—707 Let us be quite clear. All the other Government Departments have sprung from the Home Office. The Home Office is left with all the things that nobody else wants. Therefore, to call it self-centred really is a bit steep.who regulate and badger aliens and visitors with little consideration of Commonwealth or foreign interests, or even of human decency; the intense conservatism of the Home Office has trapped nearly every would-be-reforming Home Secretary. The overriding aim of the Home Office is to avoid trouble"—Who does not go about trying to avoid trouble? Why single out the Home Office for that?—like Bournemouth landladies, however much trouble that may cause elsewhere. And they reached their shabby triumph in the Immigration Bill of 1961.I must say that, during the passage of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, what most struck me was the little enthusiasm shown for it by those who were promoting it. It was interesting to watch the way in which the Home Secretary, beseiged by the hon. Members for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) and Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) and a few other hon. Members behind him, allowed the Bill to wander on, and then produced at the end a White Paper which, as far as I can see, was produced to prove that in the future there may possibly be, but only possibly, in a remote part of the Commonwealth, a gentleman who will be regarded with great distinction because he is the man who has been refused admission to the United Kingdom under the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. There will be very few such persons if the White Paper is administered in the way that the Home Secretary promised that it would be.
I have a great suspicion of the statistics of most of the subjects we have been discussing today. I am not perturbed by what my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Sir G. Benson) said about the way in which one court, over a certain period, sends more persons to prison than another. One needs to be able to examine each of the cases. One of the difficulties that confronts the Secretary of State and the magistracy is the fact that every case in a magistrates' court is distinctive. To think that it is possible to have a uniform standard is erroneous. The circumstances of the defendant, the 708 amount of provocation he receives in certain kinds of cases—all of these factors vary.
But I agree with my hon. Friend that the problem of what one is to do with a person after he has been convicted in a magistrates' court or at quarter sessions is the real test of the capacity of the bench to discharge its duty to the community, to the offender and to the person who has been offended. I am not surprised that from time to time the records of certain courts vary. It may be proof that a genuine effort is made to apply to each case the treatment that is most needed.
I reinforce the special plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle) about the question of probation officers. The Home Secretary's astuteness is catching up on him. He was the first to start this kind of thing. He appointed the Royal Commission on the Police and asked for an interim report on police pay. He accepted the Commission's first Report, the recommendations of which, I understood from what we were told at the time, cost the country £10 million for constables only.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Renton)
It was not quite as much as that.
§ Mr. Ede
The figure of £10 million was generally stated at the time. It was a fairly big sum compared with what the nurses are likely to get.
On to the constable's salary had to be added the differentials of each grade above until, when one came to what the chief constables would get, serious perturbation was created among the senior officers of county and county borough councils when they suddenly found the stratosphere into which the chief constable's salary had managed to soar.
I am not opposing the pay that was given to the police. In the first place, they had been underpaid for a good many years. They had three or four increases of pay during my Home Secretaryship. All those increases were resisted with greater or less intensity by the police authorities. In the end, I had to rely on one provision in the Police Act and to get the Prime Minister to appoint an arbitrator to deal specifically 709 with their salaries. In that way, after there had been a preliminary rejection at the Police Council, the award under Sir Malcolm Trustram Eve brought peace into the service for a time.
I am not complaining about the increase in pay that was given to constables, although it had serious repercussions for me, because at once the teachers pointed out that the village constable would now get, at an earlier age than the headmaster at his maximum, a higher salary than the headmaster of the village school. The wave that has compelled the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his weakness, to fix on the figure of 2½ per cent. as the best that he can do, started with what happened to the police.
I do not want to say much more about the Royal Commission, because I imagine that most of what will now come from it will require legislation. While I have heard a lot of new legislation advocated this afternoon, I shall probably be told that I ought to know better than to get on to that kind of thing. I hope that when the Report is received, the administrative side will be considered urgently and that a place may be found for the necessary legislation before the end of the present Parliament.
The Home Secretary has been very astute. He is not seriously hampered by the shackles that most of his other colleagues in the spending Departments have to carry under the general grant. He was astute enough to keep all his big spending services away from the general grant. They are still on a percentage grant, which he can use both as an encouragement and as a punishment to authorities who are unwilling to carry out the more enlightened phases of his policy.
I have been very pleased with the way in which the work of the children's officers and the Children's Department in the Home Office has been developing in recent years. There was a battle at the time about which was the appropriate Department to look after the children. My friends in the educational world were angry with me at the time because I did not consider that the Ministry of Education was the proper one to deal with them.
A child is something more than a pupil. Very good parents sometimes 710 must have battles with very good school masters and school mistresses about the way in which the raw material which they supply to the school master and the school mistress shall be moulded. Neither did I think that a child was of necessity a patient. Medical advice may be required, but one does not want a child to be perpetually regarded as a patient.
It seemed to me that the right way to treat the child was to treat him as a growing citizen and to put this service under the Home Office, which has to deal with the successive stages of citizenship. I agree, however, with what the Home Secretary said this afternoon about the real rôle of his Department. He has to discharge two duties simultaneously. He has to preserve law and order and to maintain individual freedom. To do the two simultaneously efficiently is about the heaviest task that can fall on any man.
Either individual liberty to the extent of anarchy or law and order to the extent that it is carried out in the authoritarian countries can be carried through by a determined process. To maintain the two with the balance that enables a gracious life to be lived is, however, a very heavy task.
I rejoice that, when the time came that the reallocation of the service inside the local government area came to be decided, it was provided in the Children Act that for the first three years of its administration there should be a separate committee for the children, reporting separately direct to the local authority and not to the education committee or the medical services committee. When the three years had passed, as far as I have been able to discover no local authority reallocated the service.
After the inquiry which took place into the Dennis O'Neill case, which hon. Members who have taken an interest in the subject over a period of years will remember, I felt that to make the local authority feel its responsibility the children's committee must not be a sub-committee of another committee, with the danger that when the monthly or quarterly report was made from the main committee, of which the children's committee was a sub-committee, to the authority, one would get a short paragraph like this: "We 711 have considered the report of the children's sub-committee and have given the necessary instructions thereon." The children's committee reports directly to the authority, and the authority has to accept the responsibility of considering the report and dealing with it.
There are only one or two other matters that have been discussed today on which I want to touch briefly. I am glad to hear that buildings for the institutions that are required under successive Criminal Justice Acts are now being erected and brought into operation. I am glad to hear also that the number of open prisons and open borstals is increasing. I was much touched by the letters read by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) from a couple of prisoners dreading the time when they would be out of an institution and back again in the world where they had not many friends. To become institutionalised is one of the dangers that some people have great risks of encountering in the Welfare State.
What I have said about human liberty applies particularly here. After all, liberty implies responsibility on the free person. If a person has been kept within a prison or any other institution so long that he has become merely part of the routine machine, it is very serious for him if at any time he should have to evercise his initiative.
I remember a colleague of mine, in my early days in this House, who had been a police officer, saying, "What better life could you have than being a prisoner? You wake up in the morning. Your meals are always ready at the right time—somebody has thought them out for you. Your work is arranged for you. When you came to the evening there is a time for you to go to bed. Life flows evenly." That may very well be the life of a prisoner, but for a prisoner to become so institutionalised that he dreads having to exercise the most elementary responsibilities of freedom means that he has had inflicted upon him a very terrible punishment indeed.
I hope that the arrangements we make for after-care in the Criminal Justice Act will be vigorously implemented and that 712 help will be given to these people to reestablish themselves. I hope that this will not be lost sight of, because the letters read by my hon. Friend this afternoon were very tragic reminders of the fate that can befall people. Whatever their crimes may have been, they cannot have deserved the punishment of the fear of being outside, which the prison has obviously left on their minds.
I hope that some institutions will be found where selected prisoners can work in more fredom on ordinary jobs from which they can get some sense of self-respect than has been sometimes the case in the past. I have told the House before of an experiment carried out near Burton-on-Trent, where men were put on a job which showed some result at the end of each day and at the end of each week. It was a job that lasted some months, and there was something to show for their work of which they could be proud. The more that selected men can be employed outside prison walls and given a chance of seeing the world at large in its ordinary state, the better it will be, I am quite sure, for many of those men when it comes to rehabilitation and returning to their proper places in society.
There are so many departments of the Home Office that if one attempted to utter four sentences on each, one's speech would be far longer than ought to be tolerated in Committee of Supply, and I shall not go very much further beyond what I have already said.
I am quite certain that the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) advised very wisely this afternoon on the question of censorship with regard to some of the things that are apt to impress certain sections of the population. Censorship will get us nowhere. Once a young person gets it into his mind, "This is something that they do not want us to read", it is the one way to ensure that that book will be in every schoolboy's locker, and, from what we heard during the "Lady Chatterley's Lover" trial, I am not sure that it will not be in every schoolgirl's reticule as well.
We must try to surround our young people with an atmosphere of naturalness, in which their minds will be influenced by what they see other people doing, by people realising that what they 713 do is the most potent force in the framing of young people's existence. The idea that everybody does it, and, therefore, it does not matter, is one of the worst surroundings that youth can have.
We do not often discuss Home Office matters. But the Home Secretary can be reasonably satisfied with the kind of comments about the Department which have been made in the debate. Such suggestions as have been offered for the improvement of the administration of any of its services have been uttered in the belief that what the Observer said about staff is a gross slander of people who have to discharge very difficult duties and occasionally advise on matters of the utmost delicacy.
Lord Attlee told me when he sent me to the Home Office "Your first job is to prevent a third-class row from developing into a first-class crisis". At any rate, I managed to avoid that, if I did not always earn complete praise for what I did. That is one of the things which this great Department has to bear in mind. It is the custodian of all that is best of the British way of life and if, through its staff, the Minister gets advice which enables him to maintain and improve that way of life, then it is a Department in which anyone can be proud to serve, whether as a Minister or even as one of the messengers who go along the corridors delivering papers.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Worsley (Keighley)
I intend to devote my remarks to one of the many Departments of the Home Office to which the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) did not devote four sentences, and I should like to begin by referring to the remarkable speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) because I want to refer to Vote 3, namely, civil defence.
§ Mr. Worsley
I welcome the news that my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State is to refer at some length to civil defence. I am a newcomer to the House of Commons, but during the time I have been here there has been no discussion of civil defence.
§ Mr. Worsley
I have been told by those with longer experience that it is more than eight years since there was a debate on civil defence. That is an indication of the extraordinary capacity of the House of Commons to avoid certain subjects which are of such obvious importance.
§ Mr. Worsley
I am somewhat alarmed at finding such great agreement with what I am saying coming from the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). As I go on, he may find less with which to agree.
In view of our failure to discuss these matters, it is natural that, as with so many other things, it has been left to another place to discuss civil defence, and there was an interesting debate there only last month. I wish that we had the opportunity for a general debate on civil defence here. There are matters which are wider than those which can be discussed today on the general question of Ministerial responsibility and so on, but this debate provides an opportunity to discuss this important topic.
In round terms, local authorities and the Government are spending about £20 million a year on civil defence. It is noteworthy that in the last two years the figure has risen from about £15 million. Perhaps less than in any other service of Government is the actual cost an indication of the effectiveness, or non-effectiveness, of what is going on. The problem of civil defence is not simply an additional subject on the side of civil administration. The problem of civil defence is how in the calamity of war the civil administration is to adapt itself to deal with the situation which arises. It is no part of my desire to press for greater expenditure, but I want to show how much I disagree with some hon. Members by defending the expenditure which is being made.
Civil defence has two justifications. The first is that if there is a conventional or nuclear defence effort while civil defence is neglected, the rest of the world will not believe that we are serious about the nuclear balance. I do not wish to deal with that side of the matter, as it fits more into a defence debate, but it is one reason why on a Home Office Vote we have one aspect of defence expenditure.
715 I know that there are hon. Members who disagree with this type of expenditure. I respect them for their judgment, but I find it difficult to understand those who oppose civil defence for any purpose, because whatever one's views about defence and the nuclear balance and so on, on broad humanitarian reasons there is an absolutely overwhelming case for effective civil defence. We all passionately want to avoid war, but until we get disarmament, we must appreciate and accept the possibility of war. We shall not get disarmament until the nations agree to inspection.
In the event of a nuclear attack, there would be immediate casualties on a pitiful scale, but there would almost certainly be a greater number of people whose survival would depend on what happened immediately after the disaster. My hon. Friend the Member for With ington naturally spoke of his own constituency and the great conurbation of Manchester. My mind goes to the West Riding. It is typical of the way in which we live in this country that we tend to live in groups of cities. The sort of pattern which might easily result if a nuclear device were exploded in this country is total destruction in one city, but a ring of towns all round where everything for the future of the people concerned would depend on what was done immediately to cope with the situation.
This involves two separate things. It needs first an organisation ready in advance to cope with the situation, and I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will be able to give a good deal more information than is generally available about the present readiness of our civil defence force.
I should like to ask several specific questions. To what extent is the Minister of State satisfied with recruiting figures? To what extent is he satisfied with the number of wardens actually available? To what extent is he satisfied that the age of civil defence staff is suitable? I have the impression, which I should very much like him to contradict, that although there is a band of people in civil defence whose devotion to public service is quite beyond praise, there are not enough of them—and one says this with some temerity—and too 716 many who have been in this service a long time and whose age is rising, possibly people who have been in since the end of the war and whose effectiveness, although they doubtless have an important part to play, is such that if a disaster came, their age would not suit them for more active work and for the work of leadership. I should like to know something for the ratios of the different ages in the civil defence service.
Is the Minister satisfied with the recruiting figures? Is he satisfied with the recent civil defence recruiting campaign? Are the figures good? Is he sure that the campaign is getting to the right people? Will the Minister bear in mind that when we are appealing to people to cope with the problems of a nuclear war we must somehow get away from the image of the past war? There is a great feeling, which it is the purpose of civil defence to dispel, that because weapons are so intolerably more powerful and destructive there is no point in doing anything about civil defence.
Are we sure that the publicity being put out is not simply reminding people of the last war? Is it forward-looking publicity that will encourage people to volunteer for civil defence, realising that something can be done in modern conditions? Perhaps, too, the Minister can say something about the technical side. Are these units properly equipped? In other words, if somebody volunteers for civil defence, is the equipment available to make it seem to him that he is doing a useful job? We are familiar with stories immediately before the war of recruits for various services who spent all their time practising with dummy weapons and equipment. Are we giving people proper equipment to use? We owe it to those who are prepared to volunteer to provide proper equipment. What about the communications upon which civil defence depends? These have been mentioned in recent Defence White Papers, and if there is to be a civil defence system almost everything will depend on communications being effective at local and national level.
Finally, and I am sorry to ask so many questions, is the standard among the Corps authorities throughout the country reasonably level? I have little doubt that the best are good, but I get the impression that some local authorities will not give civil defence the support 717 that they should, either because of inertia—and I say this, too, with some temerity—or because of political prejudice. It is well known that before the last war certain local authorities—and I will not mention any names—did not give what were then called air raid precautions the attention that they should have done. It is also well known that political prejudice played it part in this. This is a wicked thing to contemplate, but there is no doubt that in certain cities there were more casualities than there should have been at the beginning of the last war because of political prejudices affecting the decisions of the councils concerned.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
I happen to have been in charge of all matters arising from enemy attack in a town which had every one of its houses bombed at least five times. It was the banner town of Labour in Kent. Prejudice did not play any part there. The hon. Gentleman should not make these flagrant assertions.
§ Mr. Pannell
Leeds, which I represent, did not suffer in the same way, and Keighley was hardly touched. What is the basis, except political prejudice on his part, on which the hon. Gentleman makes these assertions?
§ Mr. Worsley
I said advisedly that I did not intend to mention the towns, and I intend to stand by that decision. It is within the recollection of the Committee that there is truth in what I have said. Indeed, one has only to look at recent events in certain towns to realise that this is so. I am not accusing the Opposition in general. For goodness sake let me make that clear. I am saying that among the extreme Left there is a school of thought which is opposed to civil defence. This is demonstrably true. It is within the recollection of hon. Members who have been here longer than I have—I was only a boy at the beginning of the war—that this sort of political prejudice affected the behaviour of certain towns.
I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will be able to give us some more information about the regular cadre of civil defence personnel and their training. However effective the actual system of civil defence, however effective the 718 organisation, unless the people of the country have some basic knowledge of what will be required if an emergency arises, inevitably the effectiveness of the cadre will be limited. I am aware that in spreading information of this kind one is facing a psychological problem of great difficulty. It would be very easy, while attempting to spread information, to spread instead panic, and on occasions something of this sort has happened in America.
I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the W.V.S. one-in-five scheme. The noble Lady, Baroness Swanborough, speaking in another place in the debate to which I referred earlier, said:In this scheme we have undertaken to inform one woman in five, in the simplest possible language, of the dangers that might have to be faced if a nuclear war were to take place and the simple, ordinary things that a woman could do in such an event, for her family and for her neighbours."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 5th April, 1962; Vol. 239, c. 296.]I understand that this W.V.S. scheme has had a considerable effect. I am told that the lectures have been of high quality, and that they have spread this information in a general unalarming and un-panic-making way. I think that this is an example on which we could base a general dissemination of knowledge.
If we in the House of Commons take civil defence seriously, then we must let the country see that we do. If, as I have been told, we have not discussed this matter for eight years, I find it hard to encourage the Committee to say to the rest of the country, "You are not taking this thing seriously enough". I think that we ought to insist in discussing this matter more frequently, and that we ought to obtain from the Home Office more information about civil defence.
The only regular report about civil defence appears in the Defence White Papers, and the reference is naturally only a brief one. I think that there is an unanswerable case for a greater degree of publicity about civil defence. I think that we should discuss it more readily, and encourage the Home Office to publicise it by an annual report, and perhaps by speeches. At any rate, there should be less of a feeling of secrecy, less of a feeling of a closed shop, about 719 the whole matter of civil defence, and we should discuss it more regularly. If we do, the feeling will percolate down that civil defence matters, that something can be done, and that the House of Commons and the Government will give a lead in doing it.
§ The Chairman
In calling the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) to speak next, I am calling him to speak on the main Question and not to move his Amendment, because, as the Committee appreciates, if the Amendment were moved it would have the effect of very much restricting the debate and would prevent other hon. Members from discussing the other subjects before the Committee.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
This is a curious debate, ranging over a wide area of subjects, and I should be the last to wish that it should be limited in any way. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) that we should have a day to discuss prisons, prison reform, crime, and law and justice generally. I know a good deal about prisons, in many ways. I know a little from the inside and a little from the outside. I shall not go into the question now, except to say that I recently visited many of the prisons that I stayed in for a time as a patient forty years ago. I went to Wormwood Scrubs, Pentonville, Dartmoor, and several prisons in Scotland.
There has been a great change in the attitude of society towards the criminal, and it is a very welcome change. Prisoners today no longer spend a long time in solitary confinement, and they no longer wear broad arrows, as I did. On the whole, the prison administration is doing a very good job within the limits of its power and finance. As more than one hon. Member has pointed out, the trouble arises when the criminal is ultimately released from gaol.
I am glad to hear that Holloway is going. I hope that Pentonville will soon go. I also believe that Dartmoor is definitely on the list to be closed down. It would be a good thing if the House took a whole day to discuss questions concerning prisons, crime and the duty of the Home Office towards an increasingly serious social problem.
720 But, like the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) and the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary), I want to speak about civil defence and to ask some questions about it. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Keighley that it is regretable that we have not had a serious debate on the matter for eight years. That fact has long been a matter of great concern to me. If defence does not affect the civil population, what does it mean? Hon. Members opposite and I have taken part in many debates on defence. If defence is regarded as something remote—as a discussion between different schools of thought on the question whether there should be nuclear weapons or conventional weapons—and if we are to discuss the question of defence purely from the point of view of military strategy, we are forgetting what defence is about. When we think of defence we should be thinking of the 50 million people in this island who are affected by decisions on defence.
I listened for two days to the defence debate, when only two speeches were made which dealt with civil defence. When the Minister of Defence wound up the debate he entirely neglected the subject. When I subsequently asked him why he had done this he said that it was because he had not had time, and not because he wished to minimise in any way the importance of civil defence. It was a strange thing that this House, in discussing defence, did not have time to discuss the really important question of the defence of the lives of our population.
At last we have an opportunity to do so—but let us see how the subject is being dealt with. It is regarded as a footnote to questions concerning probation officers, and as an afterthought to discussions about the police and legal matters. From hon. Members on both sides of the House there should have been a demand for a day's debate on civil defence at the end of the defence debate, when we voted the huge sum of £1,720 million. We should have a definite day for a debate on civil defence, to correlate the matter with what is, after all, the bedrock of the argument and discussion.
I entirely agree that it is an absolute scandal that we have neglected this 721 subject for so long. It has been regarded as the dirty little secret of defence. But people outside are asking about it. One of the great issues now under discussion on the wireless, in the public houses and everywhere is the "Ban the Bomb" campaign. There has been a conspiracy in the House not to have a really thorough clash of opinion on this momentous question, but, instead, to pass it over without a debate. Hon. Members have said, "Do not let us have a debate on tests. Let us talk about all the old political questions—about old-age pensions, or any damned thing, except what the people in the country are asking about. I therefore welcome this opportunity to ask a few questions on the subject.
The hon. Member for Withington asked what would happen in the case of a city such as Manchester. What civil defence is there for the population of Manchester in the event of nuclear war? What defence is there for a city like Glasgow in such circumstances? During the debate on the Polaris agreement the hon. Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) said that anything within 100 miles of Glasgow would be burned to a cinder if a nuclear bomb were dropped, and that this was something that had to be accepted.
If it has to be accepted for Glasgow, it has to be accepted for Manchester, London and the rest of the country. The destructive power of modern weapons increases every hour of every day of every month. The whole concept of civil defence and the defence of the civil population cannot be examined from the point of view that we should have all our preparations ready to protect a few millions in Manchester, Glasgow and London.
Every day people are asking what is the meaning of the new tests. We have been told that they are taking place 500 miles up, and that the danger from fall-out has practically disappeared. I would like to hear from the Home Office how far the danger has been increased as a result of the latest tests. We are assured that they are comparatively innocuous and that there is very little fall-out. We are told that when these tremendous weapons are exploded 500 miles up in 722 the stratosphere they will not hurt humanity at all. I shall believe that when they explode one of these big bombs over Washington or New York. That will be the test.
We are told that these tests are not like the dirty Russian or Communist tests, which distributed strontium and other fall-out all over the Christian world. The Russian tests were denounced until all the adjectives were exhausted. The Prime Minister referred to them as brutal and cynical, and the Leader of the Opposition said that he looked upon the Russians with deep disgust and cold hatred. Yet four months afterwards, they are engaged in defending the same kind of test, while all over the world people are asking if all this is not nauseating hypocrisy. I believe that it is.
I cannot see the difference between the deadly effect of the fall-out which comes from a Russian bomb—and I dissociated myself from the Russian bomb tests at the time—and that from any other bomb. I do not see any difference in morality or military necessity at all in the argument between one bomb and another. We have to regard neither the West nor the East as in any way superior to the other. The enemy of humanity is the H-bomb, and we have to examine the effect which it will be likely to have in this country.
The Russian bomb, so we are told, was a 50-megaton bomb, and there may have been a 100-megaton bomb. I should like to ask the Home Office how that fact affects the Ministry's estimates of what is likely to occur in this country. If half-a-dozen of these bombs arrive by rocket from the Soviet Union, it is quite clear that this country will be destroyed, or practically destroyed, with only a very small number of the population left alive. I ask the Home Office representative whether he will answer the questions that were put in two very interesting articles in the Manchester Guardian, as it then was, about eighteen months ago.
What estimated death roll does the Home Office anticipate in the event of a nuclear war at present? If the answer is that it is so great that it means the destruction of this country, then I say that the time has come to realise that civil defence as we know it is a phrase which has little relevance to the 723 position we face today. I say this quite seriously. If 20, 30, or 40 million people are to be destroyed, we have to revise our whole conception of what constitutes civil and national defence.
There could be no calamity which could be worse than the wholesale destruction of our towns and cities. During the last war we agreed, on humanitarian grounds and for historical reasons, that great cities like Paris and Rome should be regarded as open cities, which should not be bombed but should be regarded as neutral territories. If it is to be said that we are to have such huge destruction of our population, our towns should be declared open towns and our country should be an open country. It would be far better for our people to be neutral and outside the war altogether; and that is a sentiment that would be endorsed by the great majority of the people of the country if it came to the test, because they do not believe in suicide.
We may talk to them dramatically about preferring to be dead rather than alive under Communism, but, under any system of society, people would prefer to be alive, so as to fight against totalitarianism or Fascism, or what they think are the evils of Communism. If we wipe out life, or a great part of it, then ordinary language has no meaning.
I should like to ask whether the Home Office would give us some further facts about its evacuation scheme. I hope that we are not to be told that that is not a matter for the Home Office, but a matter for the Ministry of Health, which was the answer I received in reply to a Question. Could the Minister get down to brass tacks and tell us how we are to evacuate 6½ million people from the population centres? How are they to do it from London? There was an interesting article in the Sunday Telegraph a few weeks ago in which a military expert asked how we are to solve the transport problem. How are we to transport the people of London who come under the categories for evacuation? Perhaps that is one of the questions to which we may or may not get an answer tonight, but it is a question which the people are asking.
Surely the Government think that danger is imminent, that there is a possibility 724 of this nuclear holocaust, because otherwise they would not be conferring with the local authorities at present. I should like to get some further details. Do not let us have a collection of vague platitudes which are not a practical answer to the questions which people are asking.
There is the question of shelters. I understand that there are no shelters against fall-out in this country at all, unless there are fall-out shelters for members of the Cabinet. I do not know. Should we not have a shelter policy? What about the American shelter policy? What about the Russian shelter policy? In Moscow last September, I asked what civil defence was for. I asked what they would do in the event of an H-bomb exploding over Moscow, and I was told an anecdote about the suppression of Armenian Radio. It was for asking awkward questions.
One of the questions was, "What will you do in the event of an H-bomb dropping on Moscow?" The answer was, "Put yourself in a white sheet, and walk slowly to the cemetery." When asked, "Why a white sheet?", the reply was, "Oh, to stop panic". That is the sort of macabre anecdote that is told in Russia. I understand that Russia has no great shelter policy at all.
What about the United States of America? In these days, we are accustomed to send our leaders over to the United States to talk with President Kennedy, and whatever President Kennedy says is the last word. The Minister of Defence says that the President of the United States has assured him that it is a military necessity. The Leader of the Opposition has had talks with President Kennedy, and what he says must be accepted as were the laws of the Medes and Persians. What did President Kennedy say about fall-out shelters in his very interesting address to Congress on 25th May, 1961? President Kennedy is in favour of having a scheme of shelters against fall-out. He says:It is insurance we trust will never be needed—but insurance which we could never forgive ourselves for forgoing in the event of catastrophe. Once the validity of this concept is recognised, there is no point in delaying the initiation of a nationwide long-range programme of identifying present fall-out shelter capacity and providing shelter in new and 725 existing structures. Such a programme would protect millions of people against the hazards of radioactive fall-out in the event of a large-scale nuclear attack. Effective performance of the entire programme not only requires new legislative authority and more funds, but also sound organisational arrangements.Therefore, under the authority vested in me by Reorganisation Plan No. 1 of 1958, I am assigning responsibility for this programme to the top civilian authority already responsible for continental defence, the Secretary of Defence. It is important that this function remain civilian, in nature and leadership; and this feature will not be changed.The Office of Civil and Defence Mobilisation will be reconstituted as a small staff agency to assist in the co-ordination of these functions. To more accurately describe its role, its title should be changed to the Office of Emergency Planning.Is there an office of emergency planning in connection with the Home Office? If not, why not? Surely this country is as much in danger from fall-out as the United States of America. We are nearer to the bombs. Our peril is greater. This is a densely populated island off the west coast of Europe. We are told that it is on us that the bombs will fall. If this is regarded as essential for the protection of people in New York, Washington, or San Francisco, why should not it be a protection for our own people? We are responsible for the lives of the people who elect us as Members of this House. If we say that we cannot afford such a policy, that it is a grandiose scheme which would take an enormous amount of money to implement, the time has come to revise all our relations with the United States in this matter.
If we cannot afford a defence policy for civilians, we ought to ban the bomb policy from this island in the interests of the people. I am glad that we have had this rather short and cursory debate. It is an important debate, sandwiched as it has been between these other items of equal importance. People are asking questions of us which we cannot answer. In future defence debates, whatever our point of view may be, I hope that we shall insist that civil defence is put among the priorities and that someone will provide the answers which at present we cannot give.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Kirk (Gravesend)
As was pointed out at the beginning of his speech by the hon. Member for South 726 Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) one of the problems which we have been up against today is that people have been galloping off in different directions. I mean no disrespect to the hon. Member when I say that I am not proposing to follow his horse but some of the other horses which we have seen running in the disparate collection of races which we have been watching.
I wish to return to the question of the prison service and penal reform. That does not mean that I do not recognise the importance of the subjects referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) and the hon. Member for South Ayrshire. Like the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, I hope that in future we shall not be faced with the necessity of having five different debates in one. Instead of having several subjects to debate—civil defence, the prison service and other subjects, all of which are relevant but none of which we have been able to cover in a proper and orderly fashion—I hope that we shall have separate and distinct debates, so that we may know what we are talking about.
I do not wish to pursue the most interesting arguments advanced by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, but to confine myself to the progress report which was given to us this afternoon by the Home Secretary on the work of his Department, particularly in the field of penal reform. My mind went back, as I am sure did the minds of other hon. Members, to the debate on the Address in 1958, when my right hon. Friend first outlined his general ideas on this matter. The encouraging thing which the Home Secretary had to say today was that the building programme—which I must admit I regarded as a dream when he first outlined it in a White Paper, and something which we had no chance of getting through the Treasury—was becoming something of a reality. This is a matter upon which I am sure we can all congratulate my right hon. Friend and wish him well. But I find that with the growth of these various institutions, there is another danger arising, evidence of which I have detected in particular speeches during the interesting debate that we have had today, and of which we must beware.
One of the real qualities which one must seek in the sphere of penal reform 727 is flexibility. It is almost impossible to maintain that treatment which is suitable for one person will inevitably do for someone else; or that there is a criminal type, or that all criminals are unlucky or unhappy or are searching for a way out. I do not know whether hon. Members have read a book recently published entitled, The Courage of his Convictions. If not, I urge them to read it. It is an interesting book, of a documentary nature, giving an account of conversations of a social worker with a recidivist in gaol who makes no secret of the fact that his business is crime; that he lives comfortably on about £2,000 a year from the proceeds of his criminal activities and that he has no desire whatever to reform.
I admit that this shattered a large number of theories which I had held for a long time, including that, through an enlightened system of penal reform, one could bring almost anybody back to what I and others would regard as a normal and happy life. If this book be true, anti I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of its contents, it is clear that there is a type of man who does not care twopence whether he is put in gaol or not. That is one of the normal hazards of his life, just as it is one of the hazards of the life of a Member of Parliament that he may lose his seat. One of the hazards for this man is an occasional loss of liberty which may occur from time to time. He regards that in much the same way as an M.P. may regard the possible loss of his seat. His attitude is that after a period of five years' imprisonment, he can come out of prison and resume his old activities again.
This is something which we must take seriously. What are we to do with this type of man? He cannot be shut up for ever, yet undoubtedly he is a danger to society. Is there no way in which even such a man as this can be reached? I hope that those at the Home Office have read this book. I am sure that the Home Secretary has read it and has considered whether there is any way to cope with this problem. So far, none of the things outlined in the speech by my right hon. Friend nor in the excellent speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss 728 Bacon) has touched the problem represented by that type of man. I have a feeling that the answer may lie in the long overdue Grendon Underwood Institute, the East Hubert Institute, for which we have been asking for so many years. When we come up against a problem of this kind we have not the psychiatric knowledge to deal with such a man. I am not sure that the problem can be solved even with the provision of such an institution.
When I was living in America I was asked by the then Governor of New Jersey to do a series of articles on the new Jersey penal system. I was then a journalist, working in New Jersey. I went to the criminal diagnostic centre at Menlo Park. The psychiatrists in charge, some of whom had been working there for thirty years, freely admitted that occasionally they were confronted by men who presented a problem to which they literally did not know the answer; and that nothing in any of their experience or knowledge could show them the answer. I have a feeling that the more we progress in this field the more we shall discover that we do not know anything about it. We shall have to feel our way. We cannot put everything in books and announce, "If you are faced with this problem you will solve it in this way …"
I noticed one or two signs of inflexibility. I hope that the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East will not mind if I mention one which I detected in her speech. She said that we must have these institutions all over the country, and I agree wholeheartedly. I know something of the problem, for instance, of magistrates' courts in Westmorland where, if a child has to be sent on remand they have to send it seventy miles away. That is the minimum distance.
The hon. Lady went on to say, and this is where I detected a slight inflexibility, that the children should be near enough to receive regular visits from their parents. That may be true of 99 per cent., but in the 1 per cent. of the cases that is the last thing that should happen. They should be as far away as possible. I know it sounds callous to say this, but I had a case in my constituency recently in which the child should be sent as far as possible from its parents.
§ Miss Bacon
Of course I agree with that, but the trouble is that very often it is the 99 per cent. who are sent to the other end of England.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I rather understood my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) to make the point that juveniles had to travel long distances when they were put on remand for only a fortnight and that sometimes they had to travel 200 miles.
§ Mr. Kirk
The hon. Lady certainly made that point and I agree, but it is fair to say that she also made the other point and I was underlining that I think one can go too far in that direction.
On the question of flexibility, I wonder whether the more institutions we get the more we ought to see if we are using them properly. Take the case of the Ashford remand centre. No one was more pleased than I when that came into operation. The hon. Lady had some cricitisms to make about that and I, like her, hope that now it has got over its teething troubles the institution will succeed. I think I am right in saying that it caters for juveniles of 17 to 21.
§ Mr. Kirk
Those under 17 are sent there, but I do not think it is intended for that use. They are sent there because of the crowding in other remand homes. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State will correct me if I am not right about that, but it is not vital to my argument.
Juveniles are sent there by order of the court for a report and as the hon. Lady said the reports are very good indeed. A juvenile comes up for sentence and is then sent back to Ashford. Then in most cases the juvenile is sent to a classification school for six weeks to be classified. He then goes to an approved school or to borstal. Would it not be possible to do the classification at Ashford the first time the juvenile is 730 sent there so that when the child is before the magistrates he can be sent straight to the approved school or borstal. That would not only save a great deal of time, but it would make more places available and would disturb the boy or girl less than their being constantly switched from one institution to another until the right one is found. I know that sounds a small matter, but I think it could be made to have good effect.
Are we using the institutions properly? I do not know if twenty hours' work a week in prison is general, but that is the only statistic we have. We are told that twenty hours' work a week is all that can be provided for the individual prisoner. For the rest of the time he has to be locked up in a cell and that gives rise to all the crises to which the hon. Lady referred. Would it not be possible, instead of trying to organise an educational system in the evening which means overtime and extra money—which, so far as I know, was why it was cut down some months ago—to try to organise it in the mornings and afternoons? Then it would not be necessary to pay overtime to the staff. I do not think it should be beyond the wit of man to devise a way whereby, during the normal working hours, prisoners could be doing a certain amount of adult education. Then there would not be the trouble of locking people away in cells for the greater part of the day.
This is the sort of thing we ought to be considering. I think that from this "crash" building programme on which we have at last embarked we can see that in the next decade we shall have enough, or at least adequate, buildings with which to experiment. I should like to see some "organisation and methods" treatment of the whole penal system. Are we using the institutions aright? Are we doing so with the approved schools? They all seem to be of the same pattern. I remember from my American experience a school for male juvenile delinquents at Hopetown, New Jersey, which was in the house once occupied by Charles Lindbergh. The boys worked on the farm during the day and in the evening they were encouraged by psychiatric social workers of various kinds to talk out various 731 problems, and that had remarkable results. They were feeling their way and did not know what would come out of that experiment. They could do that kind of thing because they had a variety of institutions and, next to California, that appeared to be the best State in this respect. They had the flexibility which we have not got but which we must somehow acquire.
I promised that I would not take up much of the time of the Committee, but there is another matter to which I want to refer which is not directly related to the prison service. Having listened carefully to the Home Secretary, I was very disappointed that he did not say a word about a subject dear to my heart, compensation to victims of violent crimes. The hon. Lady referred to this matter. She may recall that Margery Fry put forward such a proposal ten years ago. Two hon. Members have brought forward Private Members' Bills on this subject. The Solicitor-General interested himself in it and two weeks ago I thought that at last something was to be done when in a speech in his constituency he suggested that legislation was coming forward. Yet we learnt from The Times this week that that is not so and that there is no prospect of a Bill coming forward. Perhaps when he winds up the debate my hon. and learned Friend can give us some more cheerful news.
I cannot believe that such a Bill would detain the House for very long or that any hon. Member would wish to hold up its passage. Nor need it be very complicated. I should have thought it would have been possible to get some scheme in the next Session, if not in this. It would have to be flexible as we should be feeling our way, but we should try to do what we can in this direction. This is a matter which is very long overdue and the amount of suffering which the absence of such legislation causes must be very great. There is no compensation for a sub-postmaster, or anyone else, who gets beaten up. That is something we could redress. I am sure that money is not the problem and that it could be done without much Parliamentary trouble.
As I said at the beginning, this is the sort of day when there are so many 732 subjects one would like to cover. I should like to say something about emigration but that would be going off in all directions in one speech. I feel that this debate has been worth while, but I must come back to what I said at the beginning—I hope we never have this procedure again. The Home Office is too diverse a Department to be treated in this way. In future let us have individual Votes put down and discuss them in an orderly fashion, not like this.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
I share the view of the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) that we should treat these matters separately. I find myself in the hon. Member's difficulty, since I should love to talk about civil defence and penal reform, both of which are subjects very near to my heart. However, I decided that I should say one or two things about our prison system, and that is what I propose to do, much as I should like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) in many of his remarks, particularly those about the hypocrisy which many of us think the Government's programme of civil defence represents.
The hon. Member for Gravesend mentioned the book The Courage of his Convictions, which was recently published and which, no doubt many hon. Members have read. He talked about the problems presented by a man who, apparently, does not have a desire for reform. But this is really where the problem both begins and ends. Reform must assume from the beginning that society is dealing with people who, by virtue of the kind of life which they have to lead, their background, and the moral feelings which they possess or do not possess, have little desire to be reformed.
Because there is evidence that a person is a habitual criminal, going in and out of prison, who does not see that he is doing anything more than carrying out a certain profession, we must not assume that the possibility of reform of the criminal is lessened by the fact that we are made the more aware of the existence of this kind of person. But he was not that kind of person when he was a child. That is what we must remember. Reform begins not just in prison 733 but in the home and in the community.
To that extent, prevention is one of the most important aspects of the job of any society which is trying to reduce the amount of crime and the amount of deviation from what it regards as the norm. It begins, perhaps, with our education system and with the way in which we try to integrate the individual in the community.
§ Mr. Iremonger
I do not wish to be captious, but this is a matter in which it is extremely important to get points of detail right. It was in his earliest childhood that the subject of The Courage of his Convictions said, "An honest life is not for me". That was one of the most interesting things in the book.
§ Mrs. Hart
No one will convince me that those are the first words which a baby utters. Of course they are not. We know that it is in the earliest days of childhood that many of the things which create the deviation emerge, but one does not abandon hope of reforming people because it is discovered that some of the things on which they go wrong happen in the very early years of childhood.
We are by research through the Home Office, which has an extremely good programme of criminological research, in Cambridge and elsewhere—other universities are doing similar things—not only comparing methods of treatment to discover the results which they are achieving but also the basic causes of crime. Although good work is being done, it is still nowhere near enough, because we are dealing, perhaps, with the most fundamental problem in a community. We are trying to discover what makes a good society and a good individual.
We need to devote much more money to research. To that extent, perhaps, we should be encouraging, with the expansion of research by the Home Office, the setting up of a human sciences research council, as many of us have pointed out to the Minister for Science. The more we expand the study of the factors related to crime, the more likely we are to find the right answers.
What astonishes me is that every new piece of research seems to indicate that one of the old conclusions was wrong. 734 For example, there was a publication recently in Glasgow referring to boys on probation from which it emerged that the broken home is not a major factor in the causation of delinquency and the fact whether or not the parents are present in the home is far less relevant than the relationship in the home between the members of the family and the attitudes to the home practised by the parents. I suppose that that was a tentative conclusion which may or may not be confirmed by further studies. Here is one of our sacred myths, as it were, in the sphere of delinquency being shattered. It shows how urgent is the need for a greatly expanded programme of research so that we can begin to be a little more certain of the lines along which we should go.
The speech of the hon. Member for Gravesend, with so much of which I agreed wholeheartedly, revealed the dichotomy that there is in our attitude to the penal system. On the one hand, there are exciting experiments, new developments, research, and groups of people, probation officers and criminologists carrying out wonderful work by experimental treatment of people. On the other hand, we have a prison system which is still, in some of its aspects, almost medieval and which is not dependent for its reform entirely on the new building programme, which we are glad to hear from the Home Secretary is proceeding reasonably satisfactorily, increases in staff, better conditions and pay for prison officers so that more of them are recruited, but on reform which could be achieved almost by a stroke of the pen.
I gave notice to the Home Secretary that I proposed, if lucky enough to catch the Chairman's eye, to raise one or two questions relating to Mrs. Helen Allegranza in Holloway Prison. One of my hon. Friends saw the Home Secretary yesterday on this question, and there is, in fact, no longer any particular point that I wish to raise with the Minister of State. Nevertheless, one thing is happening as a result of the imprisonment of some Committee of 100 nuclear disarmers which is potentially valuable. Mrs. Allegranza is a Quaker. She is a pacifist, and the gentlest of creatures. There were others, such as Jane Buxton and Margaret Turner, who suffered a spell in Holloway Prison a year or two 735 ago as a result of demonstrations, came out and wrote a book about life in prison. There was a front page article in the Observer a month or two ago on the impressions of the prison system conveyed to Observer reporters by young men and women who had been in prison as a result of nuclear demonstrations.
I do not think there is one hon. Member who does not disapprove of the activities of the Committee of 100 and of its kind of civil disobedience, but a new impetus in prison reform may be emerging as a result of the fact that young men and women are seeing from the inside what is happening in our prisons. I am sure that the Minister of State will have read the book by Jane Buxton and Margaret Turner called Gate Fever. It has been read by many members of the staffs of our prisons, and I am led to believe that they think that it is biased and does not give a true impression of what goes on in prison. It may be that there is some bias in the comments which are made and the conclusions which are drawn in that book, but these women give, as I am sure the Minister of State will agree, a reasonably factual account of day-to-day life in Holloway Prison, which has changed a little since then because that was two years ago.
I know, for example, what Mrs. Allegranza's punishment was when she was fasting recently in Holloway. It is of value to know what some of these punishments consist of. We can find the outline of them in the Report of the Prison Commissioners. They are to be found in the table dealing with the offences and punishments in prisons for males and females. The figures for males are the most interesting. One table gives the details of the kind of punishment given for various kinds of offences which took place in prisons. Some of them were serious. They consisted of violence or damage to property. A large number of others consisted of merely of being idle or what is called insubordination or other breaches of regulations. Over 6,000 of the punishments awarded consisted of cellular confinement. I ssume—the Minister of State will correct me if I am wrong—that that is what is normally called solitary confinement. Another 6,000 punishments—these were probably 736 awarded to the same people, because these figures relate to punishments, not to individuals—consisted of being put on restricted diet. Over 2,000 other punishments consisted of the postponement or suspension of privileges.
I do not understand how any prison system whose primary aim inside the prison is that of reform can believe that solitary confinement in a cell will be of any assistance in achieving that end. Nor can I see how in 1962 we can regard restriction of diet as a justifiable method of treating any type of offence inside a prison. For example, a sentence of fifteen days No. 1 punishment diet consists of alternating three days of bread and water, then three days on what is called the "minimum diet for the maintenance of health". I cannot see the point of this. I hope that the Minister of State will agree that this is a hangover from the days when we regarded penal treatment as entirely a question of retribution and punishment, not involving the element of reform. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will find it possible to agree that such methods are out of date now that we are trying to make reform the main purpose of prison treatment, apart from its deterrent influence and its preventive influence by removing the criminal or the potential criminal from society. As reform is now regarded as essential in the prison system, there can be no value, and only a great deal of harm, in this kind of medieval treatment.
I understand that the cell in which solitary confinement is carried out at Holloway is a bare room. I know that Holloway is soon to go—the sooner the better. One wonders what kind of solitary confinement punishment it will be replaced by. What kind of changes will there be in the new prison buildings so that it will not be possible to have the same medieval treatments in the new buildings as we have in the old ones. I understand that one of the punishment cells at Holloway consists simply of a bare room with bare boards, with a mattress which is brought in only at night. In the cell at Holloway there are beetles and wood lice on the floor so that the prisoner concerned could feel reasonably satisfied that her cell was clean only after she had asked for soap and water and scrubbed it out herself.
737 This is an anachronism in our modern society. This does not demand extensive new building programmes. It does not demand larger numbers of prison officers. It does not even demand finance. It demands an up-to-date attitude to what goes on today inside our prisons. This is why I find it so strange that there should be this dichotomy. We talk of the wonderful new things and the wonderful new experiments and the marvellous new ideas which people are having and which the Home Office is having for up-to-date penal treatment, but at the same time the Home Office and the Prison Commissioners are content to allow the continued existence of out-of-date prison regulations embodying an attitude of retribution and not one of reform.
I ask the Home Office to look at this matter very carefully to see what immediate steps it can take. I ask it to get the Prison Commissioners to examine the whole apparatus of prison regulations with a view to eliminating these old-fashioned medieval ones.
I do not believe that we go far enough when we put into practice our up-to-date thinking about penal reform. I know that many conferences take place in Britain amongst criminologists, probation officers, and Home Office representatives. These conferences are attended by people from abroad. I know that there was one in Scotland not long ago. I hope that the Committee will not mind me, a Scottish Member, intervening in this debate. My reason for intervening is simply that it is clear that in all Home Office matters no reform will take place in Scotland until something is first done in London. For that reason, when I speak about the prison system in England and Wales I am also urging the need for prison reform in Scotland, because I know that it will stem from London, so to this extent Barlinnie and other institutions in Scotland come under the indirect control of the Home Office in London.
I want to say a few words about the Swedish system. I have not been to Sweden. I should like to go and see her system for myself. The Minister of State probably knows much more about it than I do. Perhaps the hon. Member for Gravesend is acquainted with the Swedish system. I understand that in 738 Sweden the normal method of treating an offender is that he is admitted to an institution which has very high security indeed in its outer boundaries. In other words, once he is in it is far more difficult to effect an escape than it would be from a comparable English institution. Once in the institution, because there is maximum security on the outer boundaries, within it it is possible to have infinitely more freedom and an infinitely more informal attitude between prison officer and prisoner than we have ever contemplated.
I believe also that the first thing that happens when a prisoner goes into a Swedish institution is that there is a case conference at which he, the prison governor, other prison officers, the psychiatrist, the psychiatric social worker, his wife and even his friends are present. They all sit dawn for a considerable time and discuss why the man is there, why he became a criminal, and what there is in his background which brought him to this state of affairs.
If he is to be in prison for a long time, they also discuss the kind of work which he could best do whilst in prison. The longer the sentence, the more care they take in devising the best kind of activity for him to pursue whilst he is inside. Whilst he is in the institution he is not cut off from the community as a similar person is in Britain. This is one of the most valuable aspects of the Swedish system. I cannot see how reform can be effected by so completely divorcing a prisoner from the outside world. Several hon. Members have spoken of the difficulties of the prisoner who is released and goes back to his ordinary life. How much less these difficulties would be if he had not been so completely divorced from the community around him.
Why should he be? Why is it good for him to be so deprived? Is not being in prison and being deprived of his liberty enough deterrent to others? Is it necessary that this element of retribution should again dominate the system, so that we regard it as treating a prisoner "soft" if we allow him more than one letter a week or more than one visitor a month? Is that the really up-to-date thinking that penal reform wants to maintain? Of course it is not. That is the contrast between the Swedish system 739 and ours. There, families and friends visit prisoners much more freely, and much more frequently—and without someone listening over their shoulders the whole time.
I believe that here, in Britain, while we are pursuing our research into how to prevent crime and how most effectively to reform the criminal—while we are doing that, and should be doing more—we should be thinking of the practical steps we can make within the present system in order to allow it to embody many of the ideas that are now no longer particularly progressive but which are generally accepted as being the way our society is thinking on this subject.
There would be exceptions, of course. There always will be the people who want to hang, flog and birch, but I think that they are growing fewer and, surely, one of the jobs of Government is to educate our own society to think in an up-to-date way on this question. We must have a conscious drive towards a good society, and I very much hope that during the next few months the Minister of State will find it possible for the Prison Commissioners, and the Home Office itself, to look at what can be done within our present system, without waiting for all the new buildings and all the expansion that is to take place. Let him wipe out of the regulations some of these out-of-date medieval concepts that have their origin, not in reform but in old-fashioned, out-worn ideas of retribution.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I will do my best to keep my speech to ten minutes, in the hope that other hon. Members may be called before the winding-up speeches.
There has run through this debate from its beginning a line of compassion, no matter what the topic has been. A thread of common sense has also run through it, but there has been one very serious omission, and it was particularly brought to a head by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart). It is that whenever one talks of people being punished one ought not to forget the people who have to do the punishing.
One has sometimes to be as compassionate towards them as towards the 740 person who is punished and, if this debate on the Home Office Estimates does nothing else each year, it helps us always to bear in mind that we are dealing, amongst other things, with the salaries and pay of those people who, in the words of an American poetess, are Englishmen, and who are… content day after day to do dull jobs that keep a nation strong.Many of these jobs are desperately dull, and could be made a great deal more interesting if the conditions under which they have to be carried out were better.
We all owe a very great debt to those who work in Her Majesty's prisons, and to those who work as probation officers—to whom a great tribute was paid by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle). I would very much associate myself with some of the hon. Member's remarks. What a reflection it is on our modern age when an actor on television can be paid for a few performances as a probation officer far more than any of the probation officers he is imitating are paid in a whole year. There are many aspects to this subject, but let us not forget the debt the nation owes to those who do work that is frequently very unpleasant.
The hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) referred to those young people who are getting the idea that hard work has become a "mug's game". There are some people in our civil defence who might have said the same thing once or twice during the course of their service in that admirable activity, and it is with their work that I want mainly to deal now.
Their Lordships in another place had a very important debate on 5th April last on civil defence—and I say to hon. Members who bewail the fact that we in this House have not had a civil defence debate for eight years that they tend to forget that Parliament has two Chambers, and that perhaps we have to divide the labour a little, although a debate in this Chamber on civil defence is long overdue.
In that debate, the noble Lord, Earl Bathurst, speaking on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, said that there were three objects of civil defence. The first was the provision of a reliable warning system. The second was the mitigation 741 of the effects of an attack. The third was the provision of communications in the organisation of revival. I am not sure about the third one; I think that the other two are certainly more important in anticipation of a disaster.
An other thing that I feel the noble Lord left out was national morale. It is absolutely essential that we always remember that those who are serving Her Majesty overseas do so far more effectively if they know that everything that ought to be done is being done at home for their families. If men become engaged in hostilities in a local area overseas which they feel may possibly lead to something worse, it is some encouragement to their morale to know that, in any case, everything is being done for their families back home that ought to be done.
First, there is this provision of a reliable warning system to which Lord Bathurst referred. The warning that is important here is the one that comes before any attack, and there appears now to be a vast network of warning against nuclear attack. We have it under the head of ABMEWS, which includes Fylingdales—and it is very disturbing to note how long that construction is taking, although I know that it is not the responsibility of the Minister. There is DEWLINE, in Canada. There is the United Kingdom radar network; the Royal Observer Corps—which has been mentioned in this debate and is partly in the Civil Defence Services Vote—and there are all the special arrangements with the G.P.O. and the B.B.C. Indications have been given in various places at various times that the B.B.C. and the G.P.O. are being considerably pressed to improve their means of giving their warning to the public.
Let us suppose that, one Friday afternoon, a few hon. Members still about the House—perhaps waiting to vote on the Abolition of the Dangers of Over-Assiduous Attendance at the House Bill—coming back from luncheon, were to see on the tape machine, "Flash. Vast explosion reported in Ely area and mushroom cloud seen drifting west towards Huntingdon". What would happen? I know that someone would be bound to say, "That means two more by-elections. Poor old Renton and poor 742 old Legge-Bourke—what are their majorities?
Let us suppose that the four-minute warning had been given before this attack took place. I ask hon. Members to think of what this business would mean in their own constituencies. I suppose that it would mean that in the Ely area the staff of the Thor rocket base would have had time to roll off the canopies from the Thor rockets and would have erected umbilicals of destruction, and that, just before, the Pentagon had agreed that the man at the console should be allowed to put in the key at the end of the count down so that the missile could be exploded.
Then, in the words of the Poet Laureate,The towers bent like mossUnder the fiery figures of the skyFire tore the sky in twoThe sick earth shook and tossed the cross askew"—It might be of Ely Cathedral—The earthquake ran like thunder, the earth's bonesBroke, the graves opened, there were falling stones.And over the Fenland there would be hanging from the sky that fungus, that mushroom trade mark of nuclear war.
The civil defence chain of warning works down from the central Government. First, there is red—a siren warning of imminent air attack. In my constituency the siren is used already as a warning for the fire brigade to go to the help of farmers whose ricks are on fire. What is to be the warning, and how many people will know it?
The next warning is grey—church bells—denoting danger that fall-out will arrive within one hour. How many people, particularly those in the outlying areas, will hear the church bells? Then there are the other signals. There is the black one a maroon warning of imminent danger of fall-out. People are warned to take refuge—but where? Then there is the white warning which will tell that there is no further danger from fall-out.
I understand that Home Office warning officers are dotted about, at the R.A.F. air defence operations centres and the main radar stations in the United Kingdom. The siren will give a warning of four or five minutes only. 743 Then there as the whole list of governing factors: the chain from the central Government to the region, to the sub-region, to the group, on to the area, down to the sub-area, on to the sector post and on to the patrol area. How many of those will be left and standing and, anyway, how will they be able to communicate with each other? The groups will be relying, as they are now, on the G.P.O. telephone system. There are no wireless sets for them, it appears, except far a few "walkie-talkies" and a transmitter at a reconnaissance unit. Otherwise, there are no major wireless stations.
I have been looking at the figures of the damage that would be done and what would happen to the G.P.O. telephone system from, say, a 20-kiloton bomb. A bomb of only that size would destroy all the G.P.O. exchange lines within two miles of the explosion. A one megaton bomb would affect a radius of 7½ miles and a 10-megaton bomb would destroy the lines within a radius of 16 miles. The warning and other activities of the civil defence, police, fire brigades and industry would have been almost completely restricted and, while some field cables might be laid, that could not happen until after the explosion. I know that in my constituency it would probably mean that the whole area would be out of contact. This wireless set business is becoming almost a scandal. The Isle of Ely has not had any new sets issued since July, 1959. These sets must be got, so that training can be made realistic.
I agree that the wardens are the key link. The latest handbook, No. 6, has been well accepted and so have the two latest films. I am willing to pay tribute where it is due, but we must consider the conditions of service, for this is most important to all concerned. The most important things now required are conditions of service for the members of the Civil Defence Corps to accept specific obligations in both peace and war. Until we get that I do not believe that there will be an air of reality about this business.
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) has said that if we are to spend £200 million on civil defence let us make sure that all concerned in this service know their conditions 744 of service, both in peace and war. A householders' handbook is long overdue. What advance is being made in home shelters? But perhaps the worst thing of all is industrial apathy, for it appears that there is little co-operation by industry, especially in the outlying areas. We must get it into the minds of everyone that this is a serious business. Everything must not be left till the last minute. Things must be organised in advance so that they will be effective.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. W. T. Williams (Warrington)
Once upon a time I had a friend in the Home Office. The picture he painted of that Department was very different from the one painted by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who described it as being the mother of all the Departments. My friend spoke of it as the Cinderella of the Departments. He said that he was without hope for the Home Office, because Prince Charming was always flirting with the big bad baronet, because, at that time, the Home Secretary was the Chairman of the Conservative Party. My friend left the Home Office with a broken heart, and now I have no friends in the Department. But Prince Charming has gone to Africa, and, as in most fairy tales, my story also has a moral.
The Home Office has within its compass responsibility for, or control of almost all the present order and decency of our public life and also the protection of our future. Yet in addition to his many existing duties the Home Secretary has, for many years, taken upon himself, or been given responsibility for, other additional duties.
The consequence of this is to be seen in the way in which, although our debate has wandered far and wide and covered many subjects, each speaker has revealed criticism of much the same nature, implying that the Home Office conducts its affairs like a gatherer of inconsequential bits, like a sweeper in a factory gathering up unconsidered trifles. It conducts its work on an almost completely ad hoc basis, and very little research is done into the causes or the needs arising from the problems with which we are faced.
One can take any of the Home Office matters before the Committee in the 745 Votes this evening. We have heard interesting, informative and, in some senses, alarming things about the state of civil defence. It was plain from the interesting speech of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) that the civil defence service in Britain, as far as it goes, is considerably below the standard of efficiency and care which one ought to expect. If one considers more fundamental questions such as those raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary), one is driven to the conclusion that, whatever private thinking may be going on in the Home Office about civil defence, no conceptions have yet given birth to any serious consideration of the way in which Britain is to be protected in the event of nuclear attack. This is a serious criticism which the Home Office ought promptly to face.
There have been criticisms about the situation of the police service and the probation service. The position is the police service is better than it has been for a long time. One hopes that the final report of the inquiry into the police service will bring forth some rich and thoughtful suggestions, but, so far, the subject has been dealt with in an ad hoc fashion. The only solution offered by the Home Office far the failure of police recruitment has been the attempt to increase pay.
The position of probation officers calls for serious attention. With it is related the whole problem of crime, its detection, prevention and cure in this country, in which respect, I think it is fair to say, Britain lags behind most of the great industrial nations of the world. We have heard in other speeches today of the ways in which, when criminals are incarcerated in other countries—Sweden and the United States have been particularly referred to—an attempt is made seriously to meet their psychological and psychiatric difficulties.
It is true that in Britain, also, attempts are now being made from time to time, and in different prisons, to meet the psychological difficulties and psychopathic problems of prisoners, but far too little is being done here to inquire seriously and on a large scale into the reasons why 746 people commit crimes and into the ways in which they should be dealt with. The result is that, side by side in our prisons, we have treatment techniques which are advanced and worthy of the greatest praise and what I might almost call medieval practices which are retributive and not reformative.
Only recently, I defended a man who has spent many years in prison. When I asked him about the latest crime he had committed, he told me that he had become institutionalised and wanted to get back to prison. But he said that when he was in prison, although it was known that he was an epileptic, he had never seen a specialist or received psychiatric treatment, but had only received treatment for epilepsy. After he had, for twenty years, been in and out of prison, this fact was finally brought to the notice of the bench, and for the first time he was given an opportunity for psychiatric treatment.
§ Mr. Williams
No, he had not asked for it. But I do not see the relevance of that. If he was in need of it, and was known—as he was—to be an epileptic, then my point is proved—that the time has long since arrived when a more serious attempt should be made to deal with the problems and difficulties with which prisoners are faced. This should be done not necessarily even for their own sakes, but at least for the sake of the community. The situation in Britain calls for criticism. Certainly, the attempt is being made to improve our prisons, although the position regarding the treatment of prisoners has long since called for reformation.
For instance the situation in which people are left for long periods three in a cell designed for one person has been for too long a scandal. Even today, it is possible for prisoners to get long-term sentences with no real attempt being made to try to answer the questions of why they commit crimes and if there is a possibility of their being cured. That situation stands out starkly against the situation in France, Sweden and the United States, where attempts are made to meet the psychological and psychiatric problems of these people.
747 In the same way, although we have tremendously developed our concern for young people, particularly those who become delinquent, we are faced with the situation in which they, too, are treated in an ad hoc fashion. Very often, they are committed to detention centres which really do not exist, or they are sent to remand homes which are far too overcrowded for anything to be done for them. In many cases, they are left in remand homes waiting for classification for far longer periods than is proper or intended.
Similarly, the position of after-care is that even to this day prisoners who have become institutionalised are often discharged with insufficient means to keep them out of trouble for any length of time. They are faced with difficult problems when they ask for National Assistance, or for other assistance, because often they have no home and no permanent address and are treated as vagabonds. It is true that there are after-care organisations and a considerable burden is put upon the probation service in after-care, but no real attempt has been or is being made, as far as one can see, to deal with this situation in a way that is a credit to a great country such as ours.
Because of these things, it would appear to me that the time surely has come when the problem created by this debate, in which people have wandered from one subject to another, is but symptomatic of the problem with which the Home Office is concerned. Its very diversification and the fact that on top of all these burdens the Home Secretary takes even further burdens upon himself faces the House of Commons and the Government with a challenge to do some root and branch consideration of the duties and responsibilities of the Home Office. I do not propose to develop that theme. It is sufficient that the matter has been raised and I hope that when he replies to the debate, the Minister of State will comment upon it.
Having said that these problems exist, however, and are blots upon the escutcheon of the British way of life, it is probably true that great cost would be entailed in improving the civil defence services at the same time as developing a considerable criminal research project, developing after-care organisations 748 of a kind that do not now exist and caring for prisoners and meeting their psychological needs so that they may be redeemed and make a useful contribution to society. I appreciate that all this must cost money.
One of the things that the Minister of State may well say is that with all the pressures which are laid upon us the cost is too heavy. It would seem to me, however, that the cost of not doing it is too heavy. Although I appreciate that the Votes which we are being asked to pass tonight are for a nominal sum, the very picture that is created is a picture of inadequacy and of lack of sufficient deep concern for the welfare of our people that would leave them defenceless if nuclear war were to come. It generates tremendous passion and excitement when it comes to dealing with those who have offended against our laws and it makes too little provision to deal with their needs and their restoration as civilised members of a civilised community.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
I hope that the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. T. W. Williams) will forgive me if I do not follow him in great detail and will not think I am picking on him unnecessarily, because I have the happiest memories of our joint researches into French viticulture, if I say that one of the points made by the hon. Member in his speech should not be allowed to pass. It is one which is frequently made and it caused me concern when I first heard it, namely, that prisoners discharged from prison are unable to get National Assistance unless they have a fixed address.
Having made inquiries, I am assured on the best possible authority that that is simply not true. I hope that this myth will not be propagated so that prisoners are discouraged by it. If my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State has time, it might be helpful if he could confirm what I am saying and give details of the arrangements that are made.
It is particularly tempting to me to follow the many thoughtful and interesting speeches that have been made on penal practice, because there are few 749 subjects which interest and concern me more and few are more fascinating or of more profound importance, but I shall instead make only one point, and that briefly. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend will be able to deal with it.
I wish to refer to observations made earlier in the debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) about experiments on live animals, a matter about which a great many of our constituents are concerned. I refer to the pamphlet which has been circulated by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, "Cruelty within the Law", about the Cruelty to Animals Act, 1876, and the way in which its provisions are administered by my right hon. Friend's Department.
Many of us on this side have the greatest respect, and those who know him great affection, for the Chairman of the R.S.P.C.A.
I think that he would have done better service to the Society of he had managed to persuade, as I am sure he tried to do, his colleagues who were responsible for this pamphlet to be a little more careful in what they actually stated and even more careful in the implications that they made, because I think that this pamphlet is grossly misleading in many respects, But that is not really the point. It has been circulated and it has caused a great deal of distress and anxiety to ordinary decent people. It is one of the most agreeable traits of the British character that everyone has a profound feeling for animals and intense reaction to any thought that cruelty may be perpetrated against them. This has disturbed a great many people.
My own belief and bias of mind, having looked into it, is that the Act is right and that it is fairly, efficiently, and properly administered; but the point is that people do not think so. I think that it would be to the advantage of the Committee and certainly to my hon. and learned Friend and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary if something could be done to persuade people that their anxieties about these experiments on live animals were not justified.
It would be very helpful if we could have some sort of public inquiry into 750 this matter, conducted by, say, a High Court judge—someone whose mind and integrity would be beyond criticism—who might possibly be supported by two others, one a layman—I think that I would agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead in saying a woman, not medically qualified—and the other a doctor who could bring his mind to bear on the medical implications.
I think that it would be a good thing to do this so that we could have this matter thrashed out. I would not care to go as a Member of Parliament, or ask my hon. Friends to go, around these laboratories and institutions, because I cannot feel that I could come to a fair conclusion unless I had more opportunity to call for witnesses and to cross-examine them and make further inquiries than one would have, with the best will in the world, in the ordinary way.
As it is, I can do no more than say to my constituents that I am assured by my right hon. Friend that their anxieties are not justified and that he is probably speaking the truth in defending his administration of the Act. But there comes a time when that is not very convincing and when I would like something more to add. It might be helpful if my right hon. Friend would open up the operation of his Department to the public view, through the scrutiny of an independent inquiry which would be beyond suspicion of whitewashing and which would enable the public to be satisfied from sources which it would know were not biased.
I know that the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) is waiting to wind up the debate for the Opposition very shortly, although he is probably not quite ready yet. I also know that several of my hon. Friends have been trying to catch your eye, Sir William, since the early afternoon, so I hope that the Committee will forgive me if I do not detain it any longer.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Antony Buck (Colchester)
I trust that my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) will forgive me if in the short time available to me I do not follow his arguments about vivisection. Sufficient to say that 751 there is public disquiet about the situation, disquiet which, from the inquiries which I have made with some thoroughness, I believe to be largely unjustified. However, the inquiry which my hon. Friend has suggested, the greater opening up, as he put it, of the licensed laboratories to Members of Parliament, and perhaps to members of the R.S.P.C.A., might go a long way, without the need for an expensive public inquiry, towards allaying the suspicions and fears which exist about this matter among certain sections of the public.
In the few moments available to me, I should like to comment on the most interesting speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon). I join with others who have congratulated her on her splendid recovery from her recent illness. We are all delighted about it. She made a considerable point about the Government not carrying out the recommendations or even considering the reports of various commissions and committees which from time to time have considered various Home Office affairs. However, I part with her in that, although we should all welcome the opportunity for a full debate on the Ingleby Report and some other matters, it might have been more appropriate if in fairness she had mentioned the extraordinary expedition of which the Government are capable when something especially important comes up. For example, within a very short time of the Report of the Streatfeild Committee, if not a matter of weeks then of a very few months, the Criminal Justice Bill was presented implementing many of that Committee's recommendations. I am sure that the hon. Lady would be the first to recognise that when recommendations as important as those are made, the Government do and have acted with considerable expedition in an entirely appropriate way.
I have heard most of the debate and one of the other themes which has slightly surprised me is the lack of appreciation among some hon. Members opposite of the need of a deterrent within our penal system. Of course it is appropriate that we should stress the need for reformation. My own university is Cambridge and I am particularly proud of the work of the Faculty of Criminology 752 and Professor Radzinowicz. As the solutions to various problems are studied by the Home Office and as they are more formulated and made steadily more clear, so they will be brought into our system.
But it is not helpful in instilling the public with confidence in the system if hon. Members opposite are for ever stressing solely the reformative side of the present penal system. It is not right that prisons should be thoroughly comfortable places. It is right that they should have a substantial element of discomfort. Of course we do not want prisons with three men to the cell, and we have a magnificent prison building programme. But we should not constantly stress the reformative element without the deterrent element. Retribution, no, but deterrent, yes. Prisons must not be comfortable.
It is unfortunate that some people should have the view that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is a "softie" about these matters. Having heard him on many occasions and having read many of his speeches, I know that that is not the case. There is nothing soft about a detention centre. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) will know that it would not be an inappropriate parallel to say that a detention centre is the Brigade of Guards discipline multiplied by about four. Everything is done at the double. They give a short, sharp, shock. The Government are entitled to full credit for a great deal of the toughness in their outlook on these penal matters.
Finally, to keep the balance, there must be a spirit of reform none the less. An interesting experiment, sanctioned by the Minister of State is being conducted in my constituency. A place named "Windy Ridge" is being made into a combination of a probation home and probation hostel. The boys regard this as home, and some are able to go out to work. The most able leadership is provided, and I have no doubt that the scheme will be a success. This is another interesting measure of reform which might well commend itself to wider extension in the country.
I promised to sit down at ten minutes past nine, and I am obliged to you Sir William for the opportunity to address the Committee for a few moments.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
The Committee realises that the Joint Under-Secretary of State has a formidable task to deal with the variety of subjects raised in the course of this debate. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) that it might be better in future if we tried on Home Office debates on Supply days to limit the Votes for discussion so that we might have more time to concentrate on a limited number of topics.
I do not wish to add to the number of points raised in the debate, beyond mentioning two incidental matters. Many people in London and elsewhere have been to the ballot box today to record their votes. For a long time it has seemed to me that when the Representation of the People Act comes up for consideration it might be convenient if, in future, candidates were able on the ballot paper to put the names of their parties, because when a voter has to select nine candidates out of 27 it is quite a feat of memory to select the right names unless the parties have supplied, as they generally do at great inconvenience, voting cards to the electors. If, in future, ballot papers showed not only the name, address, and occupation of the candidate, but his political party, it would be of advantage to the political parties and to the public.
The other point which has not been mentioned, and which I think ought to be, is the subject of legal aid. I note with some surprise that in the Home Office Vote on page III-6 there is a reduction compared with the amount asked for last year in item H for legal aid in criminal cases. I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to notice that the Estimate for which the Home Office is budgeting this year as the amount it will have to spend on legal aid in criminal cases is about 10 per cent. less than it was last year.
My experience is that legal aid in criminal cases is very much sought after. It is also my experience that a great deal of hardship is caused to those prisoners who do not have the benefit of legal aid. I therefore hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to assure us that this reduction 754 in the amount asked for is no indication whatever that it is any part of Home Office policy to curtail in any way the facilities available for legal aid in criminal cases. There is a good deal that could be said about the operation of the legal aid system in general, but it would be trenching on the time of the Committee and introducing at a late stage an entirely new topic if I embarked on that tonight.
With great respect to those of my hon. Friends and hon. Gentlemen opposite who have referred to the matter, I do not propose in the time at my disposal to touch on two subjects which have been ventilated at some length. I refer to civil defence and animal health, both of which are of great importance, but have been adequately dealt with by other hon. Members.
The Home Secretary, in opening the debate, rather prided himself on the impressive record of legislation that has emanated from the Home Office in recent years, and I think that he was justified in referring to the Betting and Gaming Act, the Licensing Act, and the Street Offences Act, as having been liberalising Measures of reform which had received general support.
But the Home Office is not entitled to be at all complacent because of that record of legislative activity. This is the occasion to remind it—as did my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) and others—that there was a great backlog of social legislation required, and there are still other important Measures which the Home Office should lose no time in introducing, and about which it has been remiss in not dealing with before. I refer, in particular, to the subject of compensation for victims of crimes of violence, which was referred to by the hon. and learned Solicitor-General in a recent speech in his constituency, and I hope that as a result of that speech we are justified in assuming that a Bill on that subject will be introduced at an early date.
We are also entitled to complain at the failure of the Home Office, after a long delay, to implement the Gowers Report upon conditions in offices. I endorse what my hon. Friends have said, namely, that my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) has been 755 shamefully treated through the failure of the Home Office either to make any regulations under my hon. Friend's Act, or, alternatively, to introduce comprehensive legislation on the subject.
Thirdly, I hope that the Minister of State will be able to confirm that it is the intention of the Government, at an early date, to implement the recommendations of the Tucker Committee dealing with committal proceedings. Those recommendations received considerable support in legal and professional quarters, and there is a general feeling that the time has certainly arrived for the suppression of Press reports on committal proceedings, and perhaps for a complete review of general committal procedure.
Having mentioned those matters, all of which require attention before the Home Secretary is entitled to congratulate himself upon his activities, I turn to the twin matters which have been uppermost in our minds today, namely, the treatment of offenders and the prevention of crime. I do not propose to go over the ground covered by my hon. Friends. We all welcome the statement made by the Home Secretary about the programme of building operations for remand homes, new borstal centres and detention centres, which are in progress, and some of which are referred to in the Estimates.
We regard this as overdue, and we hope that, conjointly with this programme, the Minister of State will bear in mind the sensible observations made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), which I am sure impressed the whole Committee. It is no use embarking upon this expensive but welcome and overdue building programme unless, at the same time, there is a real effort to remove some of the many evil and out-of-date practices in existing prisons, and to ensure that prison treatment is of a reformative character and not a retributive, penal character. I hope that the Minister of State will take to heart what my hon. Friend has said.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I did not say that. I said that I hoped that the emphasis would be laid upon the reformative character of treatment in prisons. A prison sentence is itself a punishment of a penal character, but a prisoner, once in prison, should be treated as my hon. Friend and others have said, as a subject for reformative treatment.
I remind the Minister of State that a great deal has still to be done as a result of a series of earlier reports that have emanated from the Home Office. For example, there were the recommendations of the Maxwell Committee. A great many of its recommendations have not yet been carried out, though that Committee published its Report as long ago as 1951. It was under the very able chairmanship of Sir Alexander Maxwell, to whom we all owe a tribute for the great work he did at the Home Office in connection with penal reform. As a recent pamphlet by Dr. Pauline Morris, published only a year or two ago, has indicated, seven years have now passed since the publication of the Maxwell Report, and very little has been done in practice to implement its recommendations.
I particularly draw the attention of hon. Members to the obsolete methods which still surround prison visitors. I have never been able to understand why prison visitors, many of whom work on a voluntary basis and ought to be encouraged, are not allowed to have, or, rather, are discouraged from, any contact with a prisoner's family, and, also why they are discouraged from having any contact with a prisoner after he has been released from prison.
While he is in prison a man requires the maximum of social help in connection with his family relationships, and if there are prison visitors attending to his welfare there is every reason why they should be encouraged, and not discouraged, in keeping in contact with his family and relatives and also looking after his welfare after he leaves prison.
I think that the Minister of State will have recognised by now that there is very considerable disquiet in the Committee and, indeed, in the country about the whole of the arrangements for the after-care of prisoners. The dual system, as a result of which some prisoners are 757 entitled to statutory after-care while others rely on voluntary after-care, has been condemned more than once. It produces great disadvantages, and we all hope that the committee which the Home Secretary has set up to deal with the present unsatisfactory state of affairs will very soon make some recommendations, to which the Home Office will immediately pay attention.
Having said that, I now turn to what is perhaps one of the most important matters dealt with in the debate—the probation service. Very few of us have had time yet to study in detail the report on the Departmental Committee on the Probation Service under the chairmanship of Mr. Morison, now Sir Ronald Morison, which was published only a few days ago, but I think that these things should be said. In the whole context of the treatment of offenders, the treatment of potential offenders, the prevention of crime generally and the prevention of juvenile deliquency, nothing is more important at the moment than the strengthening of the probation service.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. C. Royle) pointed out in his most eloquent speech on this subject, multifarious duties devolve on probation officers and the work done by them is invaluable social work. They not only deal with prisoners after sentence, but deal with a whole variety of cases of a matrimonial character, and, on a voluntary basis, with a lot of quasi-criminal matters as well.
As the Minister of State knows, following the recommendations in Part B of the Streatfeild Committee Report, which the Home Secretary has undertaken to implement, it is intended to throw additional burdens on the probation service. It is now recognised that in any reform of our criminal system it is essential that judges, recorders, chairmen of quarter sessions and those who have to decide what penalties shall be inflicted on a criminal when convicted should have the fullest possible information so that they can determine the proper sentence to impose, particularly now that there is a much greater variety of sentences than was the case a few years ago. If that duty on the judiciary is to be exercised to the best advantage, reliance will have 758 to be placed on a great deal more information about prisoners, their records, family circumstances, environment and previous history than has been the case in the past.
That information will have to be supplied by the probation service. Only in that way shall we obtain a more sympathetic and rational administration of the criminal law. In substance, that is the burden of the recommendation of the Streatfeild Committee, which the Home Office has accepted. In turn, that means that the whole status and conception of the probation service must be raised, recognised and enhanced.
One of the most disquieting features of the Morison Report is the serious criticisms made of the present relationship between the probation service and the Home Office. On page 71, the Report refers to thestrained relationships between the Home Office and probation committees and between the Home Office and the service.This is very disquieting, and I hope that we shall have an assurance from the Minister of State that due notice will be taken of it.
The Committee gives four reasons for the strained relationships:The first has been the great increase in the volume of work with which output from the probation training scheme has not been able to keep pace … the Home Office has, in the interests of national economic policy, had to resist certain salary claims by probation officers and has incurred the resentment both of officers and of their employing committees. … the Home Office has exercised also in the interests of the Exchequer, financial controls which probation committees have found petty and irksome … the Home Office has not always succeeded in giving the service as a whole a full picture of its considerable activity and of its warm and genuine interest in the welfare of the service.These are weighty criticisms.
When so much invaluable work of a difficult nature in very difficult circumstances, often in totally inadequate accommodation and at all hours of the day and night, is expected of the probation service, the least we can expect is that due attention will be given to these recommendations. It was for this reason that I intervened when the Home Secretary spoke to obtain his clarification of what it was he was saying about the proposed increase in the remuneration of probation officers.
759 To quote again from the Report, the Committee said, very emphatically, on page 141:There must … be bold increases in salaries which will put the service on a different plane of attraction, and encourage, as can no other measures, interest in the opportunities which the modern service offers for a professional career.In view of that recommendation, the Home Secretary ought to approach this matter, as the Morison Committee recommends, with a view to announcing that he will not only give them the 10 per cent. increase recommended by the Joint Negotiating Committee, but will also, I hope, raise the salary status to that recommended.
On the subject of prevention of crime, we await the report of the Royal Commission on the Police. We hope that when that report is received we shall have a full debate. There has been a great deal of disquiet about relations between the public and the police. It is most important that there should be the greatest possible confidence on the part of the public and co-operation with the police. In view of the hour, I shall not go into that subject now, but I give the Minister of State notice that when we get the Royal Commission's report we shall need a very full debate on the whole subject of the police, the public and the Home Office's relationship with the Metropolitan Police.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. David Renton)
First, I join with other hon. Members in welcoming the return of the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon), in good voice and in good heart, and displaying that keenness in Home Office matters she always displays and the very valuable experience she has had in the field of child care, juvenile delinquency questions and so on.
The value of this debate, I suggest, lies in the many constructive contributions and suggestions that have been made from both sides of the Committee rather than in any immediate response which I might make to them. I think it right to say that the debate has shown broad approval of my right hon. Friend's policies. The criticisms which have been made have been made not so much of 760 the policies themselves as of various aspects—relatively minor aspects—in which they have not been executed as hon. Members would have wished.
I have never met anybody who was connected with the Home Office who was not intensely proud of its tradition of enlightened service to the British public. I was greatly heartened by the speech of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), whose distinguished tenure as Home Secretary we all remember. By implication, he paid a warm tribute to the Home Office which I should like to acknowledge. The general programme of reforming legislation introduced by my right hon. Friend in recent years is powerful evidence of the capacity of the Home Office to work with a Home Secretary of progressive outlook.
This, as has been said, is the first debate we have had for a long time in which civil defence could be discussed. We have had some very interesting speeches and some well-informed ones on that matter. They have also been strangely conflicting. Some have said that we should spend many more millions on civil defence and reach a stage of near-readiness for emergency, while others, including the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) said that we should drop the whole thing, that it is a waste of time and money. Indeed, the hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) went so far as to back him up by saying that it was all hypocrisy. In saying that they seemed to ignore the fact that Russia, the United States and most European countries have a civil defence policy very much like ours, in some ways more developed and in some ways less so. We keep close contact with our N.A.T.O. allies in civil defence matters, and we learn a good deal from each other.
We regard civil defence as a prudent and humanitarian form of insurance against a disaster which we hope will never happen. But if it did happen, we should be thankful that we had taken steps to help the survivors and to alleviate the suffering. This year, we fixed the insurance premium at about £19 million, rising to £20 million, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) pointed out, we are continuing it at that level 761 at least for a good many years ahead. We do not think that that is over-insuring. If anyone thinks that we are under-insuring, I suggest that he should first help us to make certain that the premium is well spent.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire indicated that, in his view, there would be no survivors. That, I think, fairly summarises his attitude to the matter. That is not a view shared by us or by other Governments concerned. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and I have pointed out on many public occasions, there would, on any reasonable assumption, be millions of survivors of the attack. It is to ensure that the maximum number of people would survive and to help to re-establish the essentials of national life after a disaster of such magnitude that civil defence in its widest sense exists.
As the Committee knows, during 1960 we carried out a comprehensive review of civil defence plans. As we explained in the 1961–62 Defence White Paper, we decided that some additional expenditure was needed to secure a better balanced programme over the next few years. Among the items to which more money is being devoted, both under the Home Office Vote and under the Votes of other Departments, are the provision of premises and communications for the emergency chain of control, the protection of water supplies, and the provision for the storage and emergency distribution of oil and emergency medical supplies. We are continuing with our plans for safeguarding supplies of food and are making emergency provisions for the functioning of ports, shipping and railways. We are continuing to stockpile radiac equipment for the essential services and we are stock-piling more fire-fighting equipment. We are providing more operational and training equipment for the Civil Defence Corps and the emergency fire service.
The hon. Member for South Ayrshire asked whether we have an office for emergency planning. Of course we have. Some countries, when they need to establish a new office, do so with a good deal of publicity and form a separate department. But our habit is sometimes to let the Home Office get on with the job. That is what we are doing.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) my web-footed neighbour—I am sure that 762 he will not mind my calling him that—referred to the condition in which his constituency and mine might be. He referred in particular to the number of wireless sets available for training and the facilities which exist for exercises to take place in his constituency, where there are sixty-two active members of the signals subsection training weekly in detachments at Ely, March, Wisbech and Whittlesea. There are seven sets between them. That is an allocation which, I understand, has enabled those sixty-two people to be trained adequately. Still more could be trained if necessary.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely and others referred to the warning and monitoring organisation which, as they said, is the first essential for home defence—a reliable system of warning. It would be a short warning, about four minutes, but it would at least give people time to take cover, and this alone could save many lives.
I was glad to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Withington when he said that our warning system was in an advanced state of preparedness. I assure the Committee that it could be brought into operation at very short notice and it would be effective. We are improving it all the time.
§ Mr. Renton
The hon. Lady has not been present during the debate. She has no conception of the number of points that I have to answer. However, as she has interrupted me I will answer that point. The sensible thing to do here, as in so many other places, would be to get into a basement, if possible, or, if not, to get into a room with as few outside walls as possible, preferably brick built, and on the ground floor rather than on the first floor.
All home defence measures in the event of attack would depend for their effectiveness, as my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely pointed out, on a system of command and control. We have had one in existence for some years and the many exercises which have been held show that there is excellent co-operation between our regional, sub-regional and area organisation and the Armed Forces. Many control premises 763 have been built for that purpose. Others have been earmarked and we have a building programme for the remainder which is gaining momentum. The whole chain of command needs special communications and our network of emergency cable and radio links is being developed very fast.
We have detailed plans for emergencies in the broadest sense and for marshalling and co-ordinating essential supplies and services after a period of attack. The aftermath would be a struggle for survival in which the entire remaining resources of the country would have to be used. We have the most comprehensive arrangements for ensuring that all necessary services are provided for in these emergency plans.
My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) asked about recruiting. I am glad to say that the last recruiting campaign was the most successful we have had and the total strength of the civil defence services, including the Royal Observer Corps, is now about 650,000, including 375,000 members of the Civil Defence Corps. There are two good things about these figures. First, they probably include a higher percentage of effectives—that is, trained people who are taking a genuine and active interest in things—than for many years past. Secondly, recruiting has continued at a good rate since the last recruiting campaign ended. I am sure that the Committee would wish to join me in expressing our thanks to all those who volunteer for this most valuable service to the country.
In paragraph 49 of the last Defence White Paper we announced our intention to discuss with local authorities certain changes in the organisation of the Civil Defence Corps and the Auxiliary Fire Service. Our main purpose is to improve their effectiveness to form a trained nucleus for quick expansion in an emergency. We are discussing these proposals with the local authorities. My hon. Friend the Member for Withington wanted to know about the co-operation of the Territorial Army. He rather indicated that there was very little. Without troubling the Committee with details, I will merely say now that there is a great deal and has been for years. I will write to my hon. Friend about the details.
764 As to shelter, it is generally accepted here and in other countries that the need is to concentrate on protection against fall-out, which is quite easy to obtain, rather than to consume resources on protection against blast and fire. As I said in reply to the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East, a basement or any other kind of underground shelter gives a high degree of protection and much can be done by taking advantage of existing buildings. Managements of industrial premises were invited some time ago to survey their premises with a view to providing fall-out shelter and were given technical advice to help them in doing so.
We do not intend to divert the energies of our building trade from our large and fine programme of building new schools, new hospitals, and other things on public account, nor to divert energy from the housing programme. I must therefore make it clear that we consider that it would be over-insuring to have purpose-built deep shelters on a nation-wide scale. It would be an immense diversion of resources, quite apart from the expense—
§ Mr. Renton
No, I must press on. I am trying to answer as fully as I can.
In our Statement on Defence this year, we explained that we had reviewed dispersal policy in the light of recent developments in the strategic situation, and announced that we had decided to prepare a dispersal scheme. This would be a voluntary scheme under which priority classes, mainly women and children, would move from large centres of population to reception centres. The local authorities have been sent information about the outline of the scheme, and the next step is to work out the details, on which we shall, of course, consult them.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely and other hon. Members referred to the important question of giving advice to the public. A good deal of information has already been made available to those who want it, but we agree that this is not enough, even when we take account of the splendid work which the W.V.S. has done in the one-in-five scheme, and what the local authorities are doing. We have 765 plans for the rapid issue, in an emergency, of instructions to householders on the physical preparations they should make, and we are considering how to increase the information given meanwhile to the public.
It is sometimes said—and said sometimes, if I may say so without being offensive, by people who ought to know better—that the Government are not giving enough of a lead in civil defence, but I hope that I have shown clearly that we are giving a lead, not merely by words but by deeds. We are bringing our policy and plans up to date. We are spending large sums of money, building more headquarters, control rooms and local training centres. We are providing more and more equipment and improving our reserves of food and materials, besides encouraging recruitment through our autumn campaigns and, speaking for my right hon. Friend and myself, encouraging volunteers, officials and civil defence committees whenever we have the chance to do so. If those things do not amount to giving a lead, I should be glad to be told what does.
I must quickly say a word about immigration, because my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) when Under-Secretary at the Home Office, in July, 1956, told the House that the number of foreign passengers then presenting themselves at our ports was about a million a year. In the report which was published yesterday, showing the annual return of aliens, we find that nearly 1,800,000 foreigners entered this country last year—a very large number. The fact that the controls have worked so smoothly on the whole must surely give us confidence in the ability of the immigration service to cope successfully with the additional tasks that lie ahead of it. Needless to say, I refer to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act.
I must now turn to some of the matters to which the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East referred. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary dealt with them, but I know that the hon. Lady will expect me to refer to some of her points, which have also been referred to by other hon. Members. First of all, there is the Homicide Act. Its working has, of course, been closely 766 watched ever since it came into force, and the Report on murder by the Home Office Research Unit last autumn paid close attention to the changes made by that Act.
Although there is a widespread belief that the Measure was to be reviewed after five years, no specific undertaking has been given to institute such a review. There are wide differences of opinion among hon. Members on this matter, but this is not the moment, when crimes of violence continue to increase, for the Government to take the initiative to amend the law, and I am afraid that I cannot add anything today to what my right hon. Friend said on 29th March, when he indicated that the working of the Act would remain under review, but held out no prospect of legislation on the subject.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk), the hon. Lady and others asked about compensation for victims of crimes of violence. My right hon. Friend is well aware of the desire of many hon. Members as well as people and organisations outside Parliament that steps should be taken to provide some measure of compensation for these victims. The White Paper which was presented a year ago made clear that there were several questions of principle and many practical difficulties which had to be resolved before a decision could be taken, and my right hon. Friend thought it right to open the subject for wider discussion and to seek the views of bodies with special interests in the subject or with expertise to contribute. He has received helpful reports and comments from some of them and hopes to receive more from others before long. That is as far as I can go on this matter now.
The hon. Lady also asked about the Ingleby Report. She will remember that some of its most important recommendations were embodied in the Criminal Justice Act. Regarding the remaining recommendations, the Government have already indicated that we accept most of them. I think that all the outstanding recommendations would involve legislation and, therefore, we cannot now discuss them in detail. Of course, they would have to be embodied in a Children Bill in a future Session.
767 The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) referred to after-care, which is a most vital problem. A most important development was the extension of compulsory after-care made in the Criminal Justice Act. However efficient and devoted the workers may be, there is no doubt that their effectiveness in the past has been hampered because, for most prisoners, the acceptance of after-care was a voluntary matter and many of the prisoners who most needed after-care were the most likely to decline it. Compulsion, however, must be regarded, to some extent, as a long-term experiment which must be tried as we work for an improvement. The organisation of the whole field of after-care is being studied by an Advisory Committee and we can look forward to early progress in this matter.
May I, lest I should not have time later, interpolate a word about vivisection before continuing with penal matters because my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford and my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) I am sure impressed the Committee with the sincerity of their desire that we should take a further look at this matter. We understand the public feelings involved. About a year ago the Home Secretary received a deputation from the R.S.P.C.A. and gave an assurance that every care was taken to see that all the requirements of the Act are fully observed. He replied to them after most careful thought with regard to the proposals they made about the number and qualifications of the inspectors under the Act and the composition of the Advisory Committee.
Hon. Members have made a number of specific suggestions and I am sure that they would not expect me to give an immediate answer to all of them. But I can say that I propose to invite the attention to this of the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, who is Lord Morris of Borth-y-Gest and who is a Lord of Appeal. I should like to remind the hon. Member for Ashford about this since he said that a High Court judge should look into this matter. We already have one of the most distinguished, humane and liberal-minded 768 judges on the bench, who is a Law Lord, as Chairman, and we feel that it would be courteous to him to invite his attention to what has been said in this debate and to consult his Advisory Committee on the suggestions that have been made. Let us first have their views and then we will consider the matter further. Having made sure that I replied on that important matter, I now revert to the vital subject of penology.
Approved schools and remand homes have figured greatly in the debate. The hon. Lady reminded me of something which I had said, not very wisely, she thinks, over eighteen months ago. I am always glad to be corrected by the hon. Lady. As my right hon. Friend said in his opening speech, the responsibility for providing remand homes rests with the local authorities. We cannot get away from that. We recognise that the authorities' problems have been aggravated by the shortage of approved school places. I am sure that the hon. Lady takes comfort in the fact that we do, at least, acknowledge that. There is no doubt of it.
However, even when the expansion of our building programme for approved schools has been completed and produced sufficient places, as we believe it will, there may well remain a shortage of places in remand homes. More juveniles have been remanded by the courts because of the continuing increase in delinquency and, probably, because of a growing understanding by the courts of the help which the assessment of a child in a remand home can give in deciding how best to deal with that child. Between the beginning of 1956, when the increase of delinquency began to be felt, and the first half of 1961, remands increased by no less than 58 per cent. for boys and 49 per cent. for girls.
In order to help local authorities to get to the bottom of the problem and decide what is required to meet the immediate and urgent need and to plan for the future, the Home Office has been in consultation with groups of local authorities in different parts of the country. During the past few months, local authorities have provided about 100 boys' places, about another 50 places for boys and 20 for girls are in early prospect. These consultations are continuing and are 769 being extended to those areas where further provision is considered necessary.
We are increasing the number of places at approved schools all the time. Last year, there were 150 more places provided for boys, and there have been 90 more provided in the first quarter of this year. As my right hon. Friend said, the building programme will expand in the following years. Not only are we providing new accommodation but we are, at the same time, trying to improve the old accommodation, some of which has been quite fairly criticised today. We are conscious that, in the meantime, the schools are working under great difficulties because of the constant pressure of numbers and the fact that, in order to help to meet the pressure, many are working above their normal capacity. We should pay a tribute to the work which the managers and staff are doing in the face of many difficulties.
Quite rightly, it has been said that the provision of staff is vital in this connection. The Home Secretary's Central Training Council in Child Care, with its long experience in organising the training of staff for this service, is now organising, in co-operation with the universities and local authorities, courses specifically for house staff of approved schools, and it is considering the further development of training for staff already in the schools.
The hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East referred in critical vein to the new Ashford remand centre. She rightly said that it is having its teething troubles, like any new establishment, but she expressed anxiety. We have taken full note of what she said and we shall certainly do what we can—
§ 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.