§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Sir Eric Errington (Aldershot)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:this House takes note of the Eleventh Report from the Estimates Committee in the last Session of Parliament and of the Second Special Report from the Estimates Committee relating to the Home Office".I should like to thank those who have made possible this second discussion following the Report of the Estimates Committee. This is the Eleventh Report of the Estimates Committee, and it deals with the Home Office.
1378 There have been two debates on this matter. The first was on 27th November last year, on the Committee stage of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. During that debate the Joint Under-Secretary of State, and the Home Secretary himself at col. 346 promised that there would be a review dealing with the whole question of immigration—not just the particular points to which the Report called the attention of the Home Office. So far nothing has eventuated. What is the position with regard to that review? What conclusions have been reached? When was the review started? There seems to be some doubt about whether it was started early this year, or early in the Session. That means that already 12 months have elapsed without any result being produced.
I am particularly concerned about this, because there was not a word to the Sub-Committee investigating these matters that there was to be a review of any kind. It was promised that the results of the review would be available very shortly. Four or five months have elapsed since the Home Secretary undertook to report the results of that review to the House.
One of the most valuable things about these debates is that one can follow up these matters, so that one does not feel that their investigation produces no result at all. This is particularly true of the Home Office. I do not want to be more contentious than is necessary, but in my opinion the whole attitude of the Home Office in regard to this Eleventh Report amounted to a brush-off of the Committee, which had gone into these matters as carefully as it was able to do.
The other matter debated, which was raised in an Adjournment debate on 2nd December, concerned the publication of Civil Defence Handbook No. 10. The Government spokesman on that occasion—I believe it was the Joint Under-Secretary—said that the document was a training manual. If it was a training manual it is an extraordinary thing that on page 4 it said quite clearly:This booklet tells you what you could do to protect yourself, your family and your home.It was suggested that the Home Office should have produced a handbook which would have been more acceptable. What the Estimates Committee had to do, and what it rightly did, was to call attention 1379 to what it considered to be a waste of money. Those are the two matters which have been before the House previously, following on this Report.
The next matter to which I must call attention is Recommendation (12), which deals with the development of the criminal law, and refers specifically to the Fugitive Offenders Act. In 1962, following the then crisis in Cyprus, it was thought that the Act should be amended. After two years had passed it was not unreasonable to ask what was being done about it. It was then said that the matter was one for consultation, and that consultation took a certain amount of time. But it is not unreasonable to ask what has been done about that Recommendation, which related to a question that was particularly exemplified by the case of Chief Enahoro.
A year had elapsed between the Cyprus incident and the case of Chief Enahoro and now, when almost another year has passed, we ought to know what the situation is. I am sorry to be so categorical, but I do not want to spend more time than is necessary in making my speech.
Recommendation (12), to which I have already referred, asks that immediate steps should be taken to reorganise the division of responsibilities between the Home Office, the Treasury and the Lord Chancellor's Office. The observation made in regard to that Recommendation was that two further Reports of the Criminal Law Revision Committee have been dealt with. The somewhat woolly statement goes on to say:There is close co-operation between the Home Office and the Lord Chancellor's Department on all matters of common concern: a recent example is the appointment of a working party of representatives of these and of other interested Departments to review the effectiveness of the present system for the provision of court accommodation in England and Wales.Then there is a further reference, after which the statement goes on:The Secretary of State and the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury, in consultation with the Lord Chancellor, will, however, take a suitable opportunity of examining any further points of detail in relation to which there may be doubt as to the precise division of responsibility between Departments.That is not satisfactory. Even Sir Charles Cunningham, in evidence, indicated that there was no logical reason for this distinction, which was a difficult 1380 one to make, and he said that it was to a great extent an historical one which did not always lead to a line of demarcation which could be defended as strictly logical on every ground, but which worked reasonably well. It is not using one's imagination too much to visualise a nice cosy chat about the situation.
In criminal courts the Lord Chancellor is responsible for the administration and the appointment of officers, while the Home Secretary deals with procedure. On the other hand, in the magistrates' courts the Home Secretary deals with administration and the appointment of officers, while the Lord Chancellor deals with procedure. One can imagine a very nice friendly arrangement being arrived at, which would make it very puzzling to know whose really was the responsibility for these matters, which are of grave importance and which require careful consideration.
I am convinced that this historical difficulty ought to be cleared up. There should be a complete overhaul, and some arrangement should be made as a result of which there would be a clear division of responsibility, and no investigation would be required. This does not mean that we should have some body which turns out laws and runs things entirely separately, over and above the Home Office and the Lord Chancellor's Department, but the existing responsibility should be made quite clear, so that there is no need for these discussions.
Next, I want to refer to the question of the general department, which has been described as the residuary legatee—which is a very polite way of referring to what is coloquially called a "rag-bag" of all the things that nobody else has. This is Recommendation (18):…to review the whole structure and organisation of the General Department with a view not only to improving its organisation, but also to ascertaining whether any of its duties might not more appropriately be performed by other Government Departments.The observation was a rather terse one—"This is being done."
I should like to know what is being done about this matter. What has happened as the result of the review? Is the Home Secretary really satisfied that a happy combination of racial discrimination and explosives is the most desirable way of running our affairs?
1381 I hope that I shall be forgiven for my anxiety not to speak for too long, because I know other hon. Members wish to speak. I may, therefore, have covered some matters rather scrappily. I come finally to Recommendation (13) which relates to grants to the Metropolitan Police. Originally someone could not resolve the situation in respect of what ought to be paid to the Metropolitan Police, and said, "We will pay £100,000 a year." That has gone up to £500,000. We suggested an immediate inquiry fora more appropriate system of payment to the Metropolitan Police for their special services.I submit that that is the right way to treat this matter which is essentially one for the Estimates Committee. A sum of £500,000 is being paid, and that may be the right or the wrong amount. But no one can know more about it. It has been agreed by the Home Secretary and the Metropolitan Police that this is what they will do:The Secretary of State is satisfied that the circumstances in which the Metropolitan Police are required to undertake special services are unique, and that the principle of an additional Exchequer grant to the Metropolitan Police Fund on that account should be maintained. There however, great difficulties in making any precise assessment or allocation of the specific costs from year to year of particular services in this field. The Secretary of State and the Lords Commissioners of Her Majesty's Treasury therefore agreed, after careful examination, that the grant should continue from 1961–62 to be paid on a flat rate basis, but at a level revalued to take account, among other things, of the change in money values; and they do not consider that a further inquiry would reveal a more appropriate system of payment in this case.That seems to me an intolerable answer to give to the Estimates Committee. After all, there must be responsibilities for Estimates and the agreement is apparently passed on what is known as a careful examination, but there is no indication of what was the careful examination. There is no indication of how the £100,000 has gone up to £500,000. The only answer is that it seems to be the figure agreed between the Home Secretary and the Metropolitan Police authorities. Since the original arrangement was made the block grant system has come into being and surely some consideration should be given to dividing up the amount so that one may know what the Exchequer is paying for.
1382 I am sorry that we are critical of the manner in which this matter has been dealt with. But these are things which we examine carefully in order to be helpful and to improve administration. I do not often quote from The Times. but it stated that the Estimates Committee is the eyes and ears of the public whose interests the Departments are maintained to serve. There is nothing exactly parallel to the Home Office, and that we realise; but to promise reviews and not to produce them and report to the House means that the Estimates Committee is justified in raising these matters at every opportunity until something is done and is seen to have been done.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
My first duty is to pay tribute to the Chairman of Sub-Committee C. He carried out his duties during long sittings with fidelity and assiduity which recommended itself to every member of the Committee. No sub-committee could have had a more competent chairman or a better guide than the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington). I am certain that every member of the Sub-Committee will agree with what I have said when tomorrow, I hope, they read it in HANSARD.
I support the hon. Member very firmly in all that he said. He felt, and I also think, that the Home Office has treated this whole matter with the sort of light touch that we associate with Puck and not with the sober mien of a Home Secretary. I should not perhaps be over-strong in my language, but we feel that the work we put into this task has been ill-judged by the Home Office, or perhaps I should say by the Home Secretary, and has not received the treatment which our labours deserved.
It may be merely a coincidence, but it is also apposite, that we were concerned with the safety of our fellow citizens in the event of war and were meeting in the trail of a fellow sub-committee which had been dealing with the military aspect of this problem. In a way, the two were complementary, but the contrasting treatment meted out to them was distinctive. The earlier subcommittee was dealing with a Treasury expenditure of about £2,000 million. Its job was to consider what I may crudely describe as the destruction of human life 1383 while ours was to consider trying to save human life. We, from the same source, get £23 million per year. That, I gather, is the Home Office expenditure as detailed in one of the memoranda that came to us—2½d. per person per week—to make sure that some of the citizens of this country may survive in the event of nuclear attack.
In dealing with the particular part which I propose to present to the House I should first try to present the overall picture as I see it. Civil defence, with which I intend particularly to deal, is faced with the possibility in the event of war of nuclear attack. In order to provide the setting it is worth while to point out that according to authorities I have consulted one bomb would destroy completely everything within an area of 3,140 square miles. That is a circle with a radius of 100 miles. Those who are familiar with ∏r2 will be able to correct or verify that.
Twenty-eight bombs would wipe out Great Britain completely, as the area of the British Isles is 88,000 sq. miles. Twenty-eight bombs would wipe us completely off the map. There would be no need to worry about civil defence. The Home Office memoranda points out that a nuclear attack would destroy millions of people, yet millions would survive. It is the millions who would survive in whom we must be interested and in whom the Sub-Committee was interested, but the extent of the nuclear attack and its weight were not in any way examined by the Home Office. I therefore point out that 28 bombs of existing power would entirely wipe out this country.
As we know, that power will go on increasing and the number of bombs necessary will become less. To contrast that position with the situation which exists in the nation towards which our missiles are pointed, we should remember that the Soviet Union has an area of 8½ million sq. miles. To destroy the Soviet Union completely would require 2,700 bombs. Therefore, in the event of a nuclear attack, the chance of survival depends more on the size of the country than any precautions such as those outlined to us by the Home Office can possibly offer. I do not suppose for a minute that we have 2,700 bombs in this country, but if I were to speculate 1384 on that much further I would be taken into avenues wider than I am entitled to enter.
I am dealing particularly with civil defence but I should have been very happy to have covered a wider area. However, other hon. Members want to speak and our time is limited. I regret that limitation very much, because I am certain that the Chairman of my Sub-Committee will agree that to deal with civil defence requires as much time as does the problem of military training and military attack.
I want to deal particularly with recommendation (15), which has been criticised by the right hon. Gentleman. The related paragraph says that sub-Committee C heard a good deal of evidence from the Home Office. It was very competent evidence, and as it came from very highly and, I assume, accurately, informed witnesses, we took careful note of it. We spent a good deal of time dealing with the various aspects of civil defence. After considering all that had been said, we state:Your Committee do not feel that this pamphletthat is, the pamphlet issued by the right hon. Gentleman which deals with protective measuresachieves any useful purpose. They recognise that any judgment of its merits must be largely subjective and a matter of personal opinion, but in their view the information contained in the pamphlet is of such a general and simple character that it will be of little value to members of the civil defence corps, who must already be well aware of the contents. Although primarily intended as a training publication, it is written in the form of advice to the householder, to whom, however, it is not readily available.There is only one Stationery Office in Scotland, and that is in Edinburgh. I was assured in the Sub-Committee that the pamphlet could be had of any bookseller, but no bookseller I asked knew anything of it. It may be that information spreads slowly from the Home Office—let us hope that the torchbearer will not arrive in Edinburgh too late.
The Report goes on:Your Committee do not feel that many householders will purchase the pamphlet from the Stationery Office, nor do they feel that those who do will be convinced of the effectiveness of the measures proposed therein. In the opinion of Your Committee the average householder who reads what to do in the event of imminent nuclear attack, and is told, if driving a vehicle, that he should 'Park off the 1385 road if possible; otherwise alongside the kerb', will not form the impression that the civil defence measures taken by the Government are of any value whatever.Your Committee are anxious that the public should be aware of the steps that are being taken to protect them, and they feel that this pamphlet creates entirely the wrong impression. They therefore recommend that Civil Defence Handbook No. 10 should be withdrawn.That is strong language, but it was forced from us as a result of the evidence presented to us by people who were eminently qualified to talk on the subject. I realise that the Home Secretary has perhaps been a little peeved, shall I say, at the strength of our language. He states in the Second Special Report that hedecided to issue this handbook as a training publication for the civil defence, police and fire services, with the object of indicating to members of those services the sort of advice which, in the present state of our knowledge and resources, would need to be given in a period of alert to the general public about the precautions they should take. As the handbook will have to be revised from time to time in the light of changing circumstances, the Secretary of State considers that it would have been wasteful to issue it to every household now".The Secretary of State says that it would be wasteful on his part to issue the handbook to every household now because it will be revised from time to time, but he does not recognise that it will be equally wasteful for householders to spend 9d. every time he decides to revise the handbook. People will think that way. It is a reason why in our view the pamphlet should have been distributed free.
The right hon. Gentleman defends himself by saying that it has been placed on sale and so is available to anyone who wants it. It may have been placed on sale, but it is not readily available, so far as I have been able to discover. The right hon. Gentleman tells us:Over half a million copies have already been distributed or sold.How many have been distributed? How many have been sold?
Judged by its proper purpose as a training manual, there has been hardly any criticism of it by those who use it. In reply to questions, the Sub-Committee was told that the training period was sometimes a day and on the average three days, from which it does not seem 1386 that much time was presented to students to start criticising the pamphlet. The right hon. Gentleman goes on to say thathe intends to keep its contents under review in the light of new developments and techniques aid in future editions to introduce any necessary revisions.All that portends a continuing outgoing of these methods of civil defence. It all adds up to support for the Committee's contention that the pamphlet, because of its vital nature, ought to be distributed free to those whom it is trying to help in the case of a nuclear attack. We are told in all the arguments presented by the right hon. Gentleman in reply to us that it is a technical pamphlet, but in answer to our Question No. 1701 we are told that the handbookwas not intended to be a technical handbook at all, but…a fairly clear indication to the householder of what he could do to help himself in an emergency.There is a contradiction within the Home Office and this is bound to lead to confusion in the public mind. The sub-Committee deplored this.
I appreciate that time is marching on and that there may be anxiety in some quarters because only one and a quarter hours remains for the debate. We have been criticised because, we were told, we have presented only one example of the sort of ridicule that had befallen the pamphlet. It is full of them. We are told, for instance, that water is more essential to life than food. That is a truism, but air is more essential than either. One can live for three weeks without food and three days without water, but one can live for only three minutes without air.
Despite this, nothing is said about what one should do about air contamination by radiation, which cannot be seen, felt, heard or smelt. How can one prevent it entering the lungs and choking one when one thinks that the air being breathed is clear? People are merely told, because water is more essential than food, to fill a bath with clear, fresh water. I wonder if the Home Secretary has ever visited Govan, which I have the privilege to represent. Baths? They are in scarce supply. Whole tenements often have only what is called the "jawbox"—yet the Home Secretary wants each family to fill a bath with water. They do not have baths to fill.
1387 Then we come to the question of sanitation, and we are told:You could not rely on being able to use your W.C. There might not be enough water to flush it, or the sewerage system might be damaged.What to do? People are told:Keep the things listed below in the fallout room or within easy reach outside the door: Large receptacles with covers and with improvised seats for use as urinals, and for excreta. Ashes, dry earth, or disinfectant, toilet paper, clean newspapers, brown paper or strong paper bags (to wrap up food remains and empty tins), dust bin with well fitting lid for pets. Keep a box of earth or ashes.The Home Secretary does not seem to be aware that to many of my constituents it is not a question of having a fall-out room but a fall-in room because in some of the tenements and buildings in which they live the walls are more likely to fall out. In any case, the sort of fall-out the right hon. Gentleman has in mind is not the sort of fall-out my constituents think of. When one has a room and kitchen and a family of six or seven there is no question of having a fall-out room.
As to keeping a box for pets, we should be frank and admit that the best thing to do with pets is to get rid of them. There will be enough to worry about, looking after human beings, without worrying about pets, particularly in the kind of tenements that exist in Glasgow.
Another example given is that during this protective period a husband, if wearing long boots, must take them off before coming into the house and his wife should present him with a pair of shoes. In fact, often when the wife comes towards her husband with a pair of shoes it is not to give him the shoes in this way but to use them in another way. This may make people laugh. While no one denies the need for advice of this type, I do not think it should have been presented fictionally but should have been given in written form. I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman replies he will give us a more serious reply to the work which Sub-Committee C has put into the question of civil defence—a more serious reply than has so far been given either in his own special report or in the little pamphlet which the Sub-Committee condemned.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)
We are all indebted to the Estimates Committee for this Report. Quite apart from its recommendations, it is useful because it gives an excellent account of the scope of the Home Office. It contains valuable memoranda and evidence, together with the Report and conclusions.
The Home Office is a vast Department with diverse functions. Over the years some of its functions have been hived off and others have been added, but even so, there is a formidable and varied list. Some—prisons, the Children's Department and so on—are very important functions and others—such as the protection of birds—are of minor importance. As we are told in the Report, it is one of the oldest Departments of State, but the Report also says that in the 20th century the Home Office is trying to do its work with the methods of the 19th century. That is the essence of the Committee's Report.
Some of the criticisms in the Report are very severe. I heard an hon. or right hon. Gentleman opposite say "Nonsense", and if it were the Home Secretary exploding in that way, I suggest that that is the way in which he has treated the Committee's Report from the very beginning. We are not alone in thinking that, for the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) quoted from The Times, and I could quote from The Times and other newspapers which felt that the Home Secretary's reply to this Report showed a good deal of contempt for the Committee's work.
Some of the criticisms are severe. On the Immigration and Nationality Department the Committee said that this Department neededa drastic overhaul.It recommended that the Home Office and the Treasury shouldcarry out an extensive reorganisation of the Immigration and Nationality Department.On approved schools the Committee said thata full inquiry should be carried out into the whole of the approved school system.I will return to that in a moment. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) about the criticism of the civil 1389 defence pamphlet. On the General Department the Committee said that a joint committee of the Home Office and the Treasury should be set up to review its whole structure and organisation. Paragraph XXXV on page 35 reads,Your Committee have been impressed in many ways with the matter in which the Home Office discharges its many tasks and with the organisation of a Department whose wide responsibilities make efficient administration difficult. They do, however, feel that there is a certain lack of urgency in some departments of the Home Office.At the end of the paragraph the Committee says:They would not for one moment suggest that this position should be weakened, but they feel that simultaneously the Home Office should endow itself with an equally strong sense of the need for speed, if its organisation is to be capable of maintaining a standard of efficiency appropriate to a great Department of State.These are some of the chief criticisms and the conclusions to which the Committee came.
The Immigration and Nationality Department was discussed at some length on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill last November, but I want to draw attention again to the rather extraordinary situation whereby everyone who comes into the country fills in a landing card and when he or she goes out an embarkation card is filled in. There are millions of these cards, but most of them are never checked out. I always thought in my simple way that these cards were not only married together but were systematically checked. We are told that for those who are considered bona fide travellers this not so, but that a sample is taken occasionally.
This seemed to me, and it seemed to the Estimates Committee, a great waste of time and an inefficient way of dealing with the matter. The immigration officials do a good job in spotting undesirable immigrants, but the present system is entirely unsatisfactory. Here I part company with the Estimates Committee, because I do not like the alternative proposed by the Committee that cards should be filled in only by those who are not considered to be bona fide travelers.
This opens the door wide to a great many things. If it is known that those considered to be bona fide travellers do not have to fill in a card, it seems to me that it would be quite simple for un- 1390 desirable immigrants to come in and to pretend to be bona fide travellers. I am sure that the immigration officials could not spot them in 100 per cent. of cases. Therefore, while I think the present system to be entirely unsatisfactory I do not like the solution put forward by the Estimates Committee. I do not know a great deal about computers and mechanical aids but we are told that these machines can do all sorts of marvellous things and I should have thought that it would have been possible to get a computer which could have married up the cards.
The Home Secretary told the Committee that this matter was being looked into. I hope that tonight he will be able to tell us what progress has been made. In many of his replies to the Report of the Estimates Committee the right hon. Gentleman said that the particular matters were under constant review. Like the hon. Member for Aldershot, I hope that tonight the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what has been happening in the last few months as a result of some c f these matters being kept under constant review.
The hon. Member for Aldershot referred to the Criminal and Probation Department and I was glad that the Committee drew attention to the functions of the Home Office, the Lord Chancellor's Department and the Law Officers' Department. It is important that the functions of these three Departments should be clearly defined. But I myself—I am sure that this is true of many hon. Members—find it difficult sometimes to decide to whom queries should be addressed. I believe that great misunderstandings arise as between these three Departments. It is important that there should be a distinction between the Home Office and the Lord Chancellor's Department but at present there appears to be a blurring between the two in some respects. Not only is there a blurring but, as the Committee points out, there is overlapping and confusion which may cause difficulty in the administration of the law as well as in the reform of the criminal law.
Although we have had a certain amount of law reform during the past few years, everyone in the House knows that law reform is particularly slow and there are many Measures which ought to 1391 be on the Statute Book for which we have been waiting a long time. The Committee gives the example of the Fugitive Offenders Act, saying in paragraph 36:It appears to Your Committee that in the case of the Fugitive Offenders Act the Home Office showed a lack of urgency and foresight which has caused considerable embarrassment and expense, to put it no higher.In paragraph 35, the Committee says:In Your Committee's opinion the Home Office has not been successful in this aim"—that is, the aim of getting more legislation on the Statute Book—and the backlog of legislation in urgent need of revision is in their view serious.
§ Miss Bacon
I hear my hon. Friend say that the Government have plenty of time in the coming few weeks, but I do not think that a few weeks would compensate for the few lost years in putting on the Statute Book some of the very important Measures which are needed.
There is the Criminal Law Revision Committee, but its members serve part-time; they are busy people who can only do this kind of work in the spare time which they have. There should be a permanent Commission sitting all the time to deal with this very important matter of law reform.
I turn now to the Children's Department. This department is today better than it was four or five years ago. For one thing, we are getting much more information from it than we used to have. At the time when the Criminal Justice Act, 1961, was going through the House, it was very difficult for those who were members of the Standing Committee to know exactly what was happening in the Children's Department because we had very few reports from it at all. I think that there was a space of seven years between one report and another. Now, at least, after the efforts of some of us—I see here my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), who played a great part on that Bill and the Children and Young Persons Bill—we now have, by law, a report from the Children's Department every three years and a statistical report 1392 every year. But this is because we pressed for it at the time when the Criminal Justice Act was going through the House, and our proposals were at first strenuously resisted.
The Report of the Estimates Committee makes the point that some of the responsibilities of the Home Office might, perhaps, be taken over by other Ministries. A point often discussed is whether or not the Children's Department and the whole care of children should be in the hands of the Home Office or the hands of the Ministry of Education. There is a theoretical case for the Ministry of Education having control of the care of children through the Children's Department, but I am not sure that this would be right in practice.
Although in the past I have criticised the Children's Department of the Home Office, I have always been full of admiration for the children's committees of local authorities, who, I believe, have done a particularly fine job. They have one particular function, and they have discharged it admirably. I believe that if the care of children anti the Children's Department were taken over by the Ministry of Education responsibility for the care of children might go to the back of the queue as, I am sorry to say, the special schools appear to have gone in the Ministry of Education. I do not blame the education authorities too much. Although some blame attaches to them, they have a lot to do and their finance and building programmes have often been cut by the Government. The local education authorities have not had all the resources which they would have liked for our schools.
I was very pleased to see the remarks of the Committee about approved schools. Indeed, the Report of the Estimates Committee endorses what some of us have been saying about the approved school system over the last three or four years. We said it at the time of the Criminal Justice Act, 1961, and last year during the progress of the Children and Young Persons Bill. The Home Secretary only last year swept away my criticism of the approved school system in the same way as he has swept aside the criticism of the Estimates Committee with regard to the 1393 approved schools. The Home Secretary tried to make it appear that when we are criticising the approved school system, we are in some way criticising the approved school staffs. That is absolute nonsense. I have the greatest admiration for the work which the teachers do in the approved schools.
There are a few matters in this Report that I should like to raise. The Estimates Committee draws attention to the fact that it costs £11 6s. 3d. a week to keep a child in an approved school. It has reckoned that on an average stay of 18 months, it costs about £900 for each child sent to an approved school. For some children it costs much more than that, because children who go into approved schools early in life seem to stay there a long time. The Report for 1961, shows that nine children were in as approved school for over 60 months, that is over five years. I think that is absolutely disgraceful. Nine children were in approved schools between 64 and 60 months, so that the cost for some children is much more than the £900 which the Committee has used as an illustration.
The Estimates Committee is concerned with the finance of this. If by spending £1,000 we could ensure that a juvenile delinquent became a useful member of society for the rest of his or her life, I should consider that money well spent. But, as the Estimates Committee points out, the success rate in approved schools does not lead us to believe that this is happening. In fact, the success rates have been going down. We see from the Report for 1961 that of the boys released from an approved school over the previous three years only 43 per cent. have not been in further trouble, and 57 per cent. have been found guilty of an offence in the first three years after leaving approved school. Therefore, it does not lead me to believe that we are being very successful with our approved schools.
It is stated that 86 per cent. of girls are satisfactory and that 14 per cent. are unsatisfactory, but this means nothing because 65 per cent. of the girls in approved schools are there not because they have committed an offence but because they are in need of care, protection and control. In most cases they 1394 have had sexual offences committed against them. It is therefore very difficult to measure the success rate among girls when they leave approved schools.
I have said before that I think that taking children away from home, besides being expensive, as the Estimates Committee pointed out, usually creates far more problems than it solves. The Estimates Committee asked the Home Office why more use had not been made of attendance centres to which boys can go on Saturday afternoons. I asked this question of the Home Secretary during last week's debate on juvenile delinquency. He said that it was not possible to find places where there would be sufficient young people to fill the attendance centre. I am not sure that I believe that.
I have been considering some of the places where we have attendance centres. To take one at random, Dewsbury, which is quite a small town, has an attendance centre. During 1961, 88 attendance orders were made for Dewsbury. I should have thought that there were many places of the size of Dewsbury where there are not attendance centres and where they would be a very useful way of dealing with juvenile delinquents.
§ Sir E. Errington
Attendance centres are of great merit because they can be set up in schools when the school children are not there. A building programme is not involved, as is the case with so many of these things.
§ Miss Bacon
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Most attendance centres are run by the police, but there is no reason why they should all be run by the police. They could be run by other organisations.
I wonder whether the Estimates Committee saw the Report of the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders, published in 1962, on the non-residential treatment of offenders under the age of 21 in which an attempt was made to see whether we should follow the Boston scheme of having training centres for young people. The Advisory Council came to the conclusion that it would not be right to have training centres. A lot of people—I am one of them—where very disappointed about this. We felt that more could be done on those lines.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
Would my hon. Friend agree that it would be a bad thing to have the attendance centre at a school in case schools were regarded as places of punishment?
§ Miss Bacon
That may be. Most of the attendance centres are not in schools. They are in other buildings, but, except for one or two, they are not in buildings built specially for them. They are in buildings used for other purposes during the week and as attendance centres on Saturday afternoons.
I should like to hear from the Home Secretary why there was such a difference between the Estimates Committee's estimate for new approved school places of, I think, £8,600 each and the Home Secretary's reply that they would cost £2,700 each. This seems to me extraordinary. I cannot think that the Estimates Committee, after hearing all the evidence given by the Children's Department of the Home Office, could have been so misled as to make such a very great mistake between £8,600 and £2,700.
The Estimates Committee says that it believes the time has come for an investigation into the whole system of approved schools, and I agree. It is not only the financial aspects that are wrong. No other institutions completely financed by public funds have so little democratic and public control. Only 27 approved schools are run by local authorities. The rest are run by voluntary organisations or ad hoc committees. Yet all the money for approved schools comes from public funds. There should certainly be an investigation. I have been urging as much for a long time, and I am pleased that the Estimates Committee agrees with me.
I will mention the prison service only briefly, although there is a good deal I would like to say. The Estimates Committee emphasises that when a person is in prison there should be a notification so that the State is not paying both his general practitioner and for his medical care while in prison. I believe that it is important that when a man goes to prison the medical authorities should be told not so much in order to save money but because it is important that the prison authorities should know the man's medical history. It is that aspect 1396 which is so very important. I am pleased also that the right hon. Gentleman has accepted the recommendation of the Committee that there should be more assistant directors of prisons so that more visits can be made.
We have had many debates in the last few months during the passage of the Police Bill, but the Estimates Committee stresses one point which should be mentioned tonight. This concerns the grant given to the Metropolitan Police Force. Now that the Home Secretary is responsible for the police throughout the country and can call for reports, surely it would be possible, as some of us suggested during the Committee stage of the Bill, for the Metropolitan Police District to coincide with that of the Greater London Council and for the G.L.C. to have a police authority like every other local authority in the country. In that way it could have some financial control over the money spent on the Metropolitan Police. That would have been a way of achieving what the Committee wishes.
I will not deal with civil defence, because it was covered so adequately by my hon. Friend the Member for Govan, but I wish to make one or two general remarks. The first concerns the General Department of the Home Office, referred to by some witnesses before the Committee as the "rag-bag" of the Department. Because the Home Office takes on all the functions of Government not specifically undertaken by any other Government Department, it has a very wide and miscellaneous collection of subjects in the General Department.
I agree with the Estimates Committee that there should be some investigation to see whether or not some of these functions could be taken over by other Government Departments. It always seems silly to me that the Home Office and not the Ministry of Agriculture should he responsible for the protection of wild birds. It is suggested by the Committee that the electoral register should be the responsibility of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government because it seems to concern local authority problems.
But I believe that not only the General Department but the Home Office as a whole must be looked at. Some people, 1397 both inside and outside this House, believe that the Department is so big and its functions so varied that it could be split into two departments of State. I do not agree with that, but I believe that there is a case for treating the Home Office in the same way as the Ministry of Education has been treated in the last few months, with Ministers of State with specific responsibilities. That could be looked at. I am sorry that the Estimates Committee confined this overall investigation more to the General Department than to the Home Office as a whole.
We are told in paragraph 70, as I have quoted, that there is a certain lack of urgency in some departments of the Home Office. Reading the replies of the Home Secretary to the Estimates Committee, I feel that there is this lack of urgency on the part of the Home Secretary, too. He gives what The Times has called a "brush-off". On 26th November, 1963, The Times said in a long leading article, some of which has already been quoted by the hon. Member for Aldershot, how disappointed it was that the Home Secretary had brushed off the Report from the Estimates Committee.
In giving a brush-off to the Estimates Committee, the Home Secretary said that some of these things were under constant review. I hope that tonight the Home Secretary will tell us just what has happened during the last few months as a result of these things being under constant review. The Home Office is a great Department of State, and we want it to remain so. It is a Department of State of which in the past everybody has been proud. I hope, therefore, that the Home Secretary, even at this late hour—I refer not to the time this evening but to this late hour after the Report of the Estimates Committee—will show that sense of urgency and responsibility, which the Committee says is lacking, in his attitude towards this very important Report.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I am delighted that this debate gives me the opportunity for which I have long been waiting to speak at rather greater length on the Report of the Estimates Committee. The reply sent on behalf of the Home Office to the Estimates Committee was personally approved by me in consultation with the Treasury, but it is 1398 customary for these replies to be kept reasonably brief. I am glad, therefore, to be able to say rather more this evening, thanks to this debate which my hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Sir E. Errington) has initiated.
I hope that I can do the greatest courtesy to the Estimates Committee by going through the 18 recommendations. On a few it will be necessary to say only a word or two, but I should like to dwell on those which have given rise to debate this evening.
The first recommendation was:The Home Office, in consultation with the Treasury and the Ministry of Public Building and Works, should carry out an immediate review of the accommodation of the Home Office with a view to its greater concentration.This was a matter on which we had already been working for years. My dearest desire is to see the whole of the Home Office concentrated in one building. This is impossible in our present premises; it depends on the new premises across Whitehall being built, into which we can move. This has been a plan which has been under discussion for some time. It has now been announced, and I greatly hope that a building will go up on the other side of Whitehall into which the whole of the Home Office can be concentrated. I entirely agree that that would bring savings of money, staff and time.
The second recommendation was:The Home Office should consult with the Treasury and the Stationery Office, with a view to introducing further mechanisation within the Home Office as soon as possible.I can tell the House that the computer about which the Estimates Committee received considerable evidence was delivered to us at the end of 1963. It is already in use for the payment of police salaries. We are planning that it should take on the payment of other salaries, and that it should take on the preparation of criminal statistics and various other tasks.
I have seen the computer. I do not pretend to understand these things, but we certainly hope to make the utmost use of it, and the possibility of mechanisation by the introduction of further new and modern office machinery other than computers is another matter on which we are constantly working. I have my Organisation and Methods 1399 Branch working on that. We are in close touch with specialist officers of the Treasury, and I entirely agree with the Estimates Committee that we should press on as rapidly as possible with further mechanisation in the Home Office, not just for its own sake but wherever we can effect a saving of time and money thereby.
The third recommendation was:Immigration officers should be given much more extensive information about those people whom the Home Office does not wish to allow to land.This subject was discussed at some length during the debate on the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and I have to confess that I am still somewhat at issue with the Estimates Committee here.
My immigration officers who carry out their difficult duties at the ports and airports do not tell me that they want to be supplied with more information. If I read the Estimates Committee Report aright, the Estimates Committee felt that it would be desirable that the book of about 7,000 names of people who are not to be allowed to land should be embellished also with photographs and fingerprints of those people.
If a person comes in giving his right name, it is easy to look him up in the book. One does not need his fingerprints and photograph. But if his real name is Brown and he gives the name of Smith, it does not help very much to have the photograph and fingerprints of Brown, because the immigration officer cannot possibly marry up the two. No person can remember 7,000 sets of fingerprints or 7,000 photographs.
There was a feeling that had the book contained a photograph of M. Bidault he might not have been allowed in. But M. Bidault, being an ex-Prime Minister, was able to provide himself with a genuine passport—it is easy to detect a forged one—correct in all respects except that it gave a different name—not M. Bidault. It would have been impossible for anybody, unless he had personally known M. Bidault, to detect that. This is the very exceptional case where an alien has not had to forge a passport because, owing to his previous position, he had been able to obtain a perfectly genuine one in a name not his own.
§ Mr. Rankin
We had a great deal of evidence in the case of M. Bidault, but we never discovered how he got in, despite what the right hon. Gentleman has told us. Can he tell us now how M. Bidault got into the country?
§ Mr. Brooke
I thought that that had been explained, but I can tell the House how it happened. He had held high office in the French Government, and at some stage had possessed himself of a genuine passport. It was correct in all respects, except that it did not describe him by the name of Bidault but by another name which, I gather, he sometimes uses. That is how he got in. That other name was not on the black list, and unless the immigration officer had personal knowledge of M. Bidault's appearance, it would have been impossible to detect him. But this is the most exceptional case, because the average alien wishing to slip past the controls has no means of obtaining a genuine passport. If he comes in under some disguise he will have obtained a forged or altered passport, and that kind of thing can be detected. But there was nothing phoney about this passport, except that the individual concerned had managed to obtain it made out in a different name.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
Is my right hon. Friend saying that the only way in which an undesirable alien can be detected is if he has a forged passport? Surely it would be a help if the immigration authorities had photographs. If M. Bidault's features had been familiar to the immigration officers he would not have got through.
§ Mr. Brooke
That is true, but we must bear in mind that the human brain cannot carry 7,000 pictures. It can refer to a book containing 7,000 names, but if somebody arrives under the name of Robinson when he is really a Mr. Jones, to have the fingerprints of Mr. Jones attached to the picture of Mr. Jones is no help at all. The case of M. Bidault was an exceptional one. I could never claim that any system of immigration control is 100 per cent. perfect, but in my opinion our immigration officers do extremely well.
§ Sir E. Errington
We have already had these observations in one debate, when my right hon. Friend gave a clear 1401 and unambiguous undertaking that there would be a thoroughgoing review covering a much wider field than the question of landing cards. He said that he expected to get the report next year, and that when he got it he would be pleased to make a statement to the House. Has he had that report? If so, what is the result?
§ Mr. Brooke
This comes under Recommendation (4), which I was just coming to. It says:The system of landing and embarkation cards for those classed as bona fide visitors should be abolished, and immediate consideration should be given to the possibility of mechanising the Traffic Index for the remaining aliens.As I pointed out in a previous debate, that creates the extremely difficult practical problem of distinguishing in advance between visitors and others. What we have been doing is to carry out a thoroughgoing review of our system of control, including landing and embarkation cards. I have recently received the report, and am considering it. I would not like to forecast at this moment what conclusion I shall reach. Whichever way one turns one comes into difficulty.
If we could simplify the procedure it would be a tremendous gain in cost, burden of work, and everything else. But somebody would have to pay the price. We cannot say to incoming aliens, "If you are not bona fide visitors you must fill in the cards, but if you are you need not", because everybody who wished to slip into the country would say that he was a bona fide visitor. We must therefore either ask everybody to fill in cards before reaching the immigration officer or provide for a much longer inquiry by the immigration officer than is the case at present. The procedure at the moment is pretty quick. I am inclined to be in favour of a quick passage past the immigration officer. He can look at the landing card which has already been filled in rather than cause a hold-up at that point. But if I can find any way round the problem I will do so.
Another solution would be to assimilate our system of control more to the Continental system, under which there is very little control at the frontiers or at the ports. Control over aliens is 1402 exercised by requiring everybody, nationals included, to carry papers of some kind, which the police can ask for. I think that the British public would find that quite intolerable. Therefore, to avoid putting the burden on the British public we have instituted this strict control of aliens at the ports, although it has some of the disadvantages to which the Estimates Committee drew attention. I certainly intend to think very carefully over this thorough Report which I have received to see whether we can find any way through the problem.
I must say that I do not like the idea of allowing in even people who call themselves bona fide visitors without any record of them at all. Then we should be, so far as I know, the only modern country which would not know whether a particular alien was in the country at any given time. In other countries there is a system, which, again, I think we should Lind most trying and vexatious, whereby a report has to be made whenever an alien is staying in a hotel or private house. It would be quite intolerable if every time any of us had a foreigner staying with us we had to report to the police. That is an alternative and a less acceptable way of ensuring that we know where aliens are.
However, I should like the Estimates Committee to know that the Report has been completed and is under my consideration. If we can find means of simplifying these matters, if there is a case for a major change of policy or we can find any means of streamlining the system, nobody will be better pleased than I. I hope that the House will support me when I say that we ought to maintain a system which is efficient, if only for security reasons, and that we ought not to render it too easy for people to come into the country and be about here when there is not much known about who they are, when they came or when they are likely to leave.
§ Sir E. Errington
Regarding the 7,000 microfilm photographs which are rarely looked at, has the wider review to which the Home Secretary referred dealt with that?
§ Mr. Brooke
It has dealt with the whole matter. When my hon. Friend says that the index is seldom referred 1403 to, he is not quite correct. In any case, it is of great value to have an accurate record to which one can refer should the security services or someone else wish to know about a particular alien. The existence of the record is of value even though it may not be referred to frequently. But I mean what I say when I tell the House that I want to think very carefully about this Report which I have now received.
Recommendation (5) says:The Home Office should regularly issue fuller and clearer advice to the courts setting out the latest interpretation of the law by the courts and the principles on which the Home Secretary acts in reaching his decisions in the cases of recommendations for deportation of Commonwealth citizens.That has already been done, it is being carried out. I entirely agree with the recommendation and whenever there is anything new to say we shall see that it is made known.
Regulation (6) states thatImmediate steps should be taken to ensure that there should be the least possible delay in reaching a decision about recommendations of the courts for deportation of Commonwealth citizens.Here there is a difference on policy between the Estimates Committee and myself. When a Commonwealth citizen is sentenced to a term of imprisonment and recommended for deportation, I consider that the right time to take a decision whether or not to act on the recommendation is towards the end of his sentence of imprisonment rather than at the beginning. One then knows more about the circumstances. One has up-to-date information, and has learned something of the man while he has been in prison. I should be very sorry if I took a decision as soon as the person was sent to prison and had to modify it before his time for discharge came. I hope the Estimates Committee will not press me to change my policy on that. I can assure it that we want there to be no delay.
Recommendation (7) was that:The Home Office and the Treasury should carry out an extensive reorganisation of the Immigration and Nationality Department".This is linked with what I have been saying. We must clearly get the policy right first and then examine the structure and the staffing. I should like my hon. 1404 Friend and the House to know that as a result of part of the review we have been making, of which I have spoken, we have made a number of changes and simplifications in the landing conditions imposed by immigration officers so as to reduce the work of immigration officers and the work of the Home Office and the Ministry of Labour. We want to simplify wherever we can, but I hope the House will accept that we must first decide what kind of control we are to maintain for the future.
Recommendation (8) is:The system of financial control of expenditure on approved schools should be investigated.In fact, we changed the system of control some years ago and the Treasury reported, I think in 1958, to the Public Accounts Committee that it was fully satisfied with the system. I do not see any way in which we could effectively tighten it up. I was asked how it came about that there was a difference between myself and the Estimates Committee on the cost per place of additional places. The cost of additional places in new schools and extensions to existing schools is about £2,700, whereas the Estimates Committee said it was £8,600 a place. The figure of £2,700 is correct.
I can only presume that the figure of £8,600 was arrived at by the Estimates Committee dividing the number of new places, not into the capital cost of providing those new places but into the total capital expenditure of everything to do with approved schools, a great part of which was not concerned with enlarging the schools but with the necessary modernising and rebuilding of old schools, and which did not in fact give rise to any additional places.
§ Miss Bacon
I am sorry, but I do not quite understand how that accounts for the great difference of about £6,000. I still do not understand why there is that great difference. Could the right hon. Gentleman enlarge on what those particular items were?
§ Mr. Brooke
It is very difficult for me to explain how the Estimates Committee arrived at a figure which is so grossly incorrect. I can only presume that it did it in this way. Capital expenditure in regard to approved schools is partly related to enlarging 1405 the schools for providing new places, and partly to modernising and rebuilding those schools—the hon. Lady will surely agree that a great deal of that is needed—although in fact no additional accommodation for more boys or girls is provided. It appears that the Estimates Committee took both those elements of capital expenditure, added them together, and divided the total by the number of new places provided, instead of confining itself to the first element, the capital expenditure actually required for enlargement of the schools, and dividing that by the number of new places.
The hon. Lady referred also to a statement in the Estimates Committee's Report which said that a full inquiry should be carried out into the whole approved school system. This is something which should be well within the terms of reference of the Royal Commission which has recently been announced. I am not saying that the Royal Commission will have cause to find fault because I think that in general the approved schools do their work extremely well, but I should be the first to grant that approved schools have grown up over a number of years and nothing but good could come from a kind of stocktaking. When, however, she suggests that public money is being paid out to people who are under no sort of democratic control, I remind her that all approved schools are regularly inspected by the Home Office inspectors. That inspection is very thorough, and we should pick it up at once if any approved school were falling below the required standard.
Recommendation No. 9 was that,The Home Office should draw the attention of the courts to the advantages of attendance centres, and should take steps to ensure that sufficient centres are provided to meet any demand for them.In 1961 a circular to the magistrates' courts drew attention to my predecessor's readiness to open new junior attendance centres where there was a need for them. In 1963, in my time, there were discussions with representatives of the Juvenile Court Committee of the Magistrates' Association, which confirmed that magistrates were aware of the advantages of attendance centres.
1406 There is a radical difference between attendance centres, which are Saturday afternoon affairs, and approved schools, which are far more expensive, residential affairs. I do not think that it would be right for the Home Secretary to ask magistrates, "Before you send somebody for residential treatment at an approved school will you please pause, because it is very much cheaper if you decide that he might be sent to an attendance centre". The two treatments are so different that it must be for the magistrates to decide which is the suitable treatment. There are 54 attendance centres. Another will open on 6th June and proposals for seven more are under consideration.
I am anxious to get attendance centres open and operating in all those places where there is a sufficient load, but it will be appreciated that in country districts and small towns there would not be enough boys to justify the opening of an attendance centre. Nevertheless, I am entirely with the hon. Lady in her views about the importance of these centres.
Recommendation No. 10 was:Responsibility for junior detention centres should be transferred from the Prison Department to the Children's Department.With great respect, I do not think that this would be economical. My Children's Department has no experience in or responsibility for running residential accommodation. The Prison Department has a great deal. I do not believe that it would be wise to build up the Children's Department to take charge of three or four junior detention centres, which is all there are. But, of course, centres are inspected by the Children's Departments Inspectorate and the abolition of the Prison Commission and its conversion into the Prison Department of the Home Office has greatly helped to bring the two sides together.
Recommendation No. 11 was:The Home Office should emphasise to local authorities, particularly those in whose area the proportion of children boarded out is low, that, where boarding out is in the best interests of children, it also has welcome financial advantages.I assure the Estimates Committee that I take every possible opportunity to do this. I entirely agree with the recommendation. It was as recently as 14th April that, when I was addressing a local authorities' child care conference, I 1407 seized the opportunity to emphasise that in a number of areas there is still room for considerable further development of boarding out. I have been doing that ever since I became Home Secretary, and I assure the House that I shall continue to do so.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
But there is a wide discrepancy between different areas, is there not? Does my right hon. Friend take steps to account for this discrepancy? It seems that so much is at the whim of local authorities.
§ Mr. Brooke
That is exactly the point which I was making when I was addressing this conference at Church House the other day. But the House will appreciate that local authorities are autonomous bodies, and I do not believe that the children's service would be better run entirely by me from Whitehall than it is at present by the children's authorities.
Recommendation No. 12 was:The Home Office and the Treasury, in consultation with the Lord Chancellor's Office, should take immediate steps to reorganise the present division of responsibilities between those departments concerned with the administration of the criminal law, with a view to rationalising its administration and rendering more effective the methods of bringing the criminal law tin to date.Frankly, I do not think that the reform of the criminal law is hampered by the present distribution of functions. I have the Criminal Law Reform Committee, which is working very hard. It is producing frequent reports on matters which have been referred to it by me. Only the other day there was one on the number of jurors.
I keep in the closest touch with my noble and learned Friend the Lord Chancellor on all these matters of common concern. Recently we appointed a working party of representatives of the Departments concerned to review the effectiveness of the present system for the provision of court accommodation in England and Wales. Lately my noble and learned Friend and I have jointly appointed a Committee under Lord Donovan to review the constitution, powers and procedure of the Court of Criminal Appeal. In the Administration of Justice Bill we have proposed, and the House has approved, a certain trans- 1408 fer of responsibility from me to the Lord Chancellor for the appointment of magistrates to juvenile courts in London.
So all this is in hand. I do not think that major changes are needed here, or that there is any confusion along the borderline. As to the Fugitive Offenders Act, I think that the House accepts that this can be amended only after thoroughgoing Commonwealth consideration. This is the stage that is being reached now. I very much hope that before the end of the year, perhaps sooner, we shall manage to reach some kind of agreement among Commonwealth countries, and then the way will be clear to introduce an amending Act, because I am sure that the Act should be amended.
§ Sir E. Errington
As the Lord Chancellor is responsible for one class of court and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is responsible for another class of court, which is a pure historical accident, ought not something definite to be done?
§ Mr. Brooke
This is exactly the matter on which I said that we had appointed a working party. The system does not seem to me to lead to any confusion or difficulty, but if we can improve it we want to do so.
Recommendation No. 13 was that—An immediate inquiry should be set up with the object of instituting a more appropriate system of payment to the Metropolitan Police for their special services.We could do this. We could at great length seek to make an annual estimate of what the appropriate division of costs should be. The House will appreciate that this is an allocation as between the taxpayer and the ratepayer. In fact the grant was fixed in 1910 at £100,000 a year. It was not reviewed for over 50 years. When it was reviewed, in 1962, it was decided to alter the grant to £500,000 a year, based on the change in the value of money rather than on a precise calculation. With respect to the Estimates Committee, I do not believe that a precise calculation would be practicable to try to see exactly what extra cost falls on the Metropolitan Police for this, that or the other which is of a national rather than a local character. This is simply an allocation as between the taxpayer and the ratepayer.
1409 Recommendation No. 14 was to the effect that—The Home Office should increase the scale and improve the nature of national publicity in respect of civil defence.We are constantly trying to improve its nature. I do not know whether the Estimates Committee examined the publicity material that we put out. It did not ask the Home Office to provide any of it. In 1963 we made a radical change at the time of our recruiting campaign, and we gave much fuller information as to the wide scope of home defence preparations. I am entirely with the Committee on the importance of this.
Another point the Committee had in mind was that greater use should be made of television and films. The advice of the experts in television, which I have obtained, is that it is doubtful whether television advertising would be successful in bringing in recruits to Civil Defence at an acceptable cost. However, we agree that it would be desirable to run a pilot scheme, and that is what we are proposing to do this year. There will be an experiment in part of the South of England to see whether television advertising for recruitment purposes is successful.
Recommendation 15 is that Civil Defence Handbook No. 10 should be withdrawn. I am afraid that I cannot accept that Recommendation. I appreciate that if one takes particular sentences out of the Handbook they may look silly. On the other hand, in wartime, nuclear or other, small actions of common sense may be as important as the more technical preparations for safety.
I must tell the House that from those who are using the booklet throughout the Civil Defence service we have had no criticism whatever of the type put forward by the Estimates Committee. I must be guided by the Civil Defence organisation. Nor do I think that it would have been conducive to economy to have accepted the suggestion of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) that we should have made a free issue of the Handbook to 15 million householders. Frankly, as it came out about 15 months ago probably most of those copies would have been lost by now and the householders would not have them.
1410 Recommendation 16 is:Arrangements should be made to notify the central register of National Health Service patients of the removal to prison for periods of over two years of those patients on the lists of doctors in their area.The Government accept that recommendation and are implementing it, but we must appreciate that there will be no saving to public funds from it.
Recommendation 17 is that the number of assistant directors in the Prison Department should be reviewed. That is being done. There will be one assistant director, who has been on special duties, moved to reinforce the assistant directors concerned with general inspecting functions. I think that that is what the Committee wished. We will keep the number of assistant directors under review, with particular reference to the development of the building programme.
Recommendation 18 states:A joint committee of the Home Office and the Treasury should be set up to review the whole structure and organisation of the General Department with a view not only to improving its organisation, but also to ascertaining whether any of its duties might not more appropriately be performed by other Government Departments.I would like the House to know that O. and M. officers of the Treasury and the Home Office are now engaged in a survey. This is an intractable subject, as the Estimates Committee probably discovered. The Home Office is the residuary legatee. There must be some Department which takes over any function or responsibility not specifically assigned to any other, and that is why the Home office becomes responsible for fixing the fees of ministers at burial grounds, for example.
The protection of wild birds and many other things come into this. I am not sure whether my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food would consider the protection of wild birds to be concerned with fish, food or farming, but I am not clinging on to any of these matters if they could be better done by another Department.
There has been a suggestion underlying the Estimates Committee's Report that certain parts of the Home Office are slow. I would be grateful if any hon. Members would give me specific evidence where they think this is so. I 1411 have been most concerned, since coming to the Home Office, to drop on any case where I thought there had been undue delay. That always needs watching in any organisation, public or private. I am most concerned that the Home Office should work swiftly, but at the same time most carefully, because this is not a Department in which one can afford to make mistakes. I am anxious that the Department for which I am responsible should meet the needs of the House and show that it is responsive in all ways to both Houses of Parliament.
§ Sir G. Nicholson
On behalf of the Estimates Committee, I thank my right hon. Friend for his speech. We can no longer accuse him of giving us the brush-off and I am sure that we will gladly bury the hatchet.
§ Sir E. Errington
It would be churlish of me not to thank my right hon. Friend for the remarks he has made, although he may not have satisfied me in all respects. In the circumstances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Committee Tomorrow.