HC Deb 23 July 1974 vol 877 cc1293-4
Q5. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Prime Minister if he will now consider the establishment of a Royal Commission to consider the extent and nature of the problems of battered wives and children.

The Prime Minister

As my hon. Friend will be aware, my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council recently agreed to set up a Select Committee in the autumn, and in my view this will provide the best means of inquiring into this very human problem. In these circumstances, therefore, I do not propose to recommend a Royal Commission for the purpose.

Mr. Hamilton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that some of us are very disturbed that the Secretary of State for Social Services has indicated that she does not see the link between battered wives and battered babies, although there is an intimate link between the two? Will my right hon. Friend give a firm undertaking that the terms of reference of the Select Committee will link the two and will enable the Committee to have access to all the papers in the Department indicating the extent of the problem and the proposals that are recommended for its solution?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. The House knows how deep an interest my hon. Friend and other hon. Members have taken in this question. That is one reason why I think that it should be dealt with urgently and not by a Royal Commission. We all know and have read of cases in which the ill treatment of wives and the ill treatment of children have been linked. They are not always linked. That is a matter on which more research is needed. The terms of reference of the Select Committee will enable it to look into all questions, linked and unlinked, of family tragedies of that kind.

Mr. Moonman

I am sure my right hon. Friend will be aware that what has been said will give great satisfaction to many people and will clear the air in view of the confusion that arose last week. Is he aware that of the 25,000 cases involving battered wives something like 60 per cent. show the linkage to which he has referred?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. I do not want to prejudge the inquiry which the Select Committee will undertake. A great deal of work has been done by a number of dedicated organisations and individuals; their work will be available. The figures mentioned by my hon. Friend will be available for examination. There is probably no single cause, as one knows from one's constituency and other problems, but it is important that where there is a linkage it should be established, and also that the problem of the battering of wives and the battering of children separately, for whatever psychological reason, must be examined.