§ Defence (General) Regulations, 1939.
|32AB||Power to require nurses, etc., to continue in employment institutions.||No new orders shall be made, and Article 3 of the Mental Nurses (Employment and Offences) Order, 1941, and Article 3 of the Mental Nurses (Employment and Offences) (Scotland) Order, 1943, shall cease to have effect.|
§ 6.52 p.m.
VISCOUNT SIMON moved to leave out the references to Regulation 32AB. The noble and learned Viscount said: This is the only other Amendment I have put down, and I take it that the Lord Chancellor thinks I might have got an even better one, but this is good enough for me, or rather bad enough. It really is a most astounding provision if your Lordships will turn to page II of this Bill you will see that one of the Defence Regulations which is to be extended for another two years is Regulation 32A13, which is described as
Power to require nurses, etc., to continue in employment in mental institutions.
In order that you may understand the real character of this proposal, it is necessary to look at the modest little volume which contains the Defence Regulations, because the fact is that Regulation 32AB was merely a supplementary regulation to the main Regulation under which all sorts of people during the war were quite rightly compelled to stay at their jobs. If you will allow me to quote the necessary words of the Regulation 32AB—" Power to require nurses, etc., to continue in employment in mental institutions"—which was only made in 1941 they are as follows:
The Minister of Health if he considers it expedient so to do in the interests of the public safety—
that is possibly to prevent the escape of lunatics!
—or the maintenance of public order … may make, in relation to persons employed as nurses or in any similar capacity in mental institutions any such order as may be made by the appropriate authority
under paragraph (1) or paragraph (1A) of Regulation 29B.
29B is the main regulation.
§ If you turn to 29B you will find, as many people know, it is the regulation which really secured the continuance in the Service of all sorts of people who are now going to be free to give it up—persons employed as constables, Women's Auxiliary Police Corps, Police Auxiliary Messenger Service, members of the Royal Observer Corp, members of the Civil Defence Reserve, and persons in the service of local authorities or harbour authorities. It was quite natural and right in war-time to make such a regulation, and, of course, effect was given to it. But all that has gone. These people have to go, no doubt after giving proper notice. And then this miserable little regulation, which was put in two years later as a kind of addendum, is a thing that is to be preserved.
§ Whatever the circumstances may be—and I have no doubt there is some reason for it—let us consider what it may mean. It may be a man or a woman—I dare say it is a man in many cases in these mental institutions—who very likely out of a sense of patriotism and public duty entered into this service on a contract, which may not be remunerative, for the period of the war, and I have not the slightest doubt they have done their duty as well as they could. It seems to me to be a dreadfully unfair thing to say to these people: "Other people can regard themselves as free because the war is over, but the war is not over as far as you are concerned. Another two years is your sentence." It does seems a most extraordinary thing to do. The lunatic can get out but the nurse cannot get out. It not only is conscription, but it is conscription in time of peace, not because of a war.
§ I should have thought those people really had a strong claim to say "We have not been doing very pleasant work. For goodness' sake don't sit in silence in Parliament, because it is a little line in a Schedule of this Bill of odds and ends, shreds and patches. Please do not, at the time when you are letting everybody else go, let us he sentenced to this business for another two years." That is the case I make. I willingly accept the assurance of the Lord Chancellor that there are still worse cases in the Schedule. His own examination of them convinces him that 352 there are things even more objectionable, but I will be content for the time being with this. I beg to move.
Page 11, leave out lines 38 to 46.—(Viscount Simon.)
Far be it from me to say anything which would prevent the Lord Chancellor from dealing with this immediately, but I think that those people, who have voluntarily taken up work of this nature, considering the conditions under which they have worked, and the actual work they have had to do, probably have a greater claim to be released from that occupation than a great many of those who come under these regulations. I do not wish to enlarge on it. I think it is so patent. Feeling I think will probably be very strong by those people when it is brought to their notice. There does seem to be a very special case for this particular category of people being released from the occupation which they voluntarily undertook.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
When I address your Lordships on these things I try to be a realist. If I do not please my noble friend Lord Woolton by saying what I believe to be the fact, instead of saying what I should like to say, I am sorry. Now, let us take this case. I agree entirely that this is a terribly hard case. The fact that it is work which very few of us would choose is perhaps part of the trouble. At any rate, we have to face the fact that there are, unfortunately, a large number of mental cases, insane people, who have to be looked after. At the present time there is a most acute shortage of nurses, and we cannot get people to undertake this work. Now this is not like many other occupations. Many people are still frozen to their work, as we know, under the Essential Work Order and the like, and I am one of those who long for the day—I hope it will come soon—when we shall take that sort of Order off. I believe that, for a time, you would probably have rather a slump; a lot of people would go away, and then they would filter back again and probably work all the better when they got back. But in this particular type of work you cannot have a break like that, it is obvious.
The position is one of most critical difficulty. On the one hand, you can say, if you will—and you can say it with great 353 truth—that there is hardship on those people, some of whom have given themselves to this work from a sense of public duty, I have no doubt. Of course, they are paid, but there is nothing against them at all in that. Weigh that, on the one hand, with, on the other, the practical consideration of what you are going to do for these helpless inmates of these institutions, who must be looked after. I have asked the Home Office, with all the fire at my command, to say whether they were not prepared, here and now, to do away with this thing, and they said it was absolutely impossible; they could not because they remained responsible for the conduct of these homes which are under a statutory duty to take anybody who comes to them, and those people must be looked after.
Therefore the most I can say to your Lordships is that we will do the very best we possibly can by getting nurses on a voluntary basis, so that we can remove this restriction. Of course, at the present time, as your Lordships know, under the Order, there is power for these people to go to the person in charge of the institution—it is expressly provided in the Order—and if they show a good case (such as very hard circumstances at home, or having to go home for some cause, or ill-health, or anything of that kind) they can be and are being released. But at the present time it would be impossible for us to remove this restriction altogether.
It is not right to say that I am contemplating, for one moment, in this case, that this restriction will last for two years or anything like it. This is one of the restrictions I very much hope we shall be able to lift. I should like to have it done this summer. At any rate, we ought not to allow anything to stand in our way, by offering appropriate terms or anything of that sort, to try and get people on a voluntary basis. I hope I shall be able to tell your Lordships in the not distant future that this restriction, which I dislike very much, has gone. But, trying to be a realist in the matter, I am not prepared to say that the Home Office could take the responsibility at the present time of running these institutions unless this power was in the Bill. I ask any of your Lordships, who feel full sympathy for what the noble Viscount has said, as we all must, if you were responsible for running these institutions, would you be prepared to run this risk 354 at this time? I venture to say that you would reply: "However regrettable it may be, for the time being this power must stay on; but we will do the best we can to make the: period for which it must stay as short as possible, so that it can be measured in weeks rather than in months."
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I think the argument the Lord Chancellor has addressed to us is most unconvincing. He bases the whole of his case on the assertion, to which everybody will subscribe, that somebody has got to attend to a lunatic. Be it so. But if that is so, if it is impossible, by paying higher wages, to get people to go and do this work, then there should be some fair and just system by which people are compelled to do it., and they should be fairly chosen.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I believe that a number of these people have gone into it during the war. Does the Lord Chancellor say it applies only to people of the highest skill? I believe, as a matter of fact, that it is in general terms, certainly in the Regulations. It is not confined in the least to highly skilled nurses. II these are employments of the highest possible skill, then the right way to draw people into them is by paying emoluments which are equal to the skill and training.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
They have had twelve months' experience during the war. But where is that stated?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
"This Order shall not apply to a person or nurse who has no: for the time being completed twelve months in the aggregate."
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
Then I would say this. If you are Faced with a position in which compulsion has got to be exercised, this Government had better consider whether they ought not to make a 355 levy on persons who are properly qualified, and do the thing by ballot, and have people coming in by turn. This seems to be a most intolerable position. Conscription is alleged to be necessary, but the people who are to be forced to do it are the people who happen to be there and happen to have the misfortune to be found in this group. A great many people during the war did things which were most disagreeable to them. I know that applies to many women with whom one is acquainted, who volunteered for the hardest and most unpleasant thing they could do because they wanted to be running risks in the same way as their men folk.
It may well be that there are many people, not young, who volunteered for a job like this during the war because they thought they were doing a thoroughly unpleasant job and it was their duty. These unfortunate people are to be held to it and forced to go on, maybe for two years. I cannot help thinking that this has not been terribly well thought out. I cannot help believing that it is the easy way of doing the thing—to hold people in this way—and that if we were not faced with the spate of legislation which comes upon us day by day, and if more care had been taken, some better provision could have been made. We do not know what wages have been offered. We do not know whether every effort has been made. I think the case is not made out. It is merely stated that the Home Office brief says that lunatics cannot be looked after unless this is done.
It seems to me to be the kind of case where we ought not just to take a statement of that kind without very, very stringent proof. I think this continued conscription of these people in this job is about the worst, thing we can possibly do. Why cannot we have definite evidence brought before us? How many of these people are there who have got to be held there? Who has advised the Home Office that the whole system will break down unless conscription is continued? Has somebody been round from the Home Office, some really authoritative person, to visit and see whether the full number is necessary, to see whether there is not any way of recruiting fresh people, and to find out what wages have been offered in these various institutions? It may be that that has happened, but 356 the Lord Chancellor has given us nothing to-night in fact to justify this. He has taken his brief; he has to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Lord has said that twice. I do not know whether he is trying to be offensive. When I am going to talk to this House I do not read a brief. I have seen the Home Secretary himself on this matter, talked with him, and satisfied myself of what I have told your Lordships.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I was not meaning to be offensive to the Lord Chancellor. Believe me, we feel strongly about this, not on any personal ground, but because we feel that a terrible injustice is being done to these unfortunate people. If the Lord Chancellor has (as I am sure he has, now that he has told us so), gone into this very thoroughly, then let me say to him, quite frankly and fairly, that he ought to come to us with some definite evidence and he ought to be able to answer these questions which we are putting to him now. What steps has the Home Secretary himself taken in this matter? Who has investigated these institutions? How many of these institutions are there? How many of these people are there whom it is said to be necessary to hold? Who has taken the decision in advising him about this? The Lord Chancellor himself said just now that when a thing gets departmentalised it is hard to shift it. Of course, this is the easy way for the people who are running these institutions to, keep these people slavishly held and tied. Quite frankly, I do not think the House ought to part with this in this way at this stage.
I do not believe your Lordships will be satisfied that every step has been taken. The Lord Chancellor says that he hopes the thing might go in a few weeks, certainly in a few months. What about the twelve months' training? What about the skill which is needed? If that really is so, then it is not a case of being able to find people in a few weeks. If, on the other hand, the people responsible for running these institutions are now going to set about their business, which the Government of the day ought to have set about long ago before they produced this Order, to see whether they cannot relieve these people, then in those circumstances I say that this House ought not to-night, on the arguments which have 357 been addressed to us, to give the Government the power to hold these people in this slavery, for it is little else, for a period of two years.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
Could the Lord Chancellor give me the reference in the Defence Regulations to the provision that it only applies to people with twelve months' experience?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
It is in an order made under the regulations. The only people who are being held are those who have been there for twelve months. I am not saying that in twelve months you can acquire very great skill, because obviously you cannot, but I am saying that it is absolutely idle, and we are playing with the thing, if we imagine that we can get women to go straight away, without any experience at all, to act as nurses in mental hospitals. Obviously we cannot.
§ LORD ADDINGTON
I rise with great hesitation. I am on the management committee of a mental hospital and I can say that we are having extreme difficulty in maintaining our staff. We are doing the utmost we can do to improve conditions. There are several regulations in the Rushcliffe scale about salaries and about hours. We are certainly doing our utmost to see that the hospitals are staffed. It is a very grave responsibility, looking after these people in our charge, and any shortage of staff, of trained staff, may give rise to very serious consequences. I am bound to say that.
§ LORD AMMON
I would like to mention that I know something about this so far as the London County Council is concerned, which is the largest authority dealing with this sort of thing. For a very long time past we have been grievously concerned about the shortage of nurses. Anybody who walks about London will see posters all over the city asking for people to volunteer and to be trained for this particular service. We have been more than disturbed with regard to the mental cases because they have increased tremendously, and a great deal of that increase is due to the war. Care has been taken to see, so far as is possible, that nurses who are beginners only work in conjunction with those of greater skill and experience, but owing to the heavier demands made upon them that has not been too easy. Hence the 358 proposal that only those who have had at least twelve months' experience—and that has been very intensive experience—should be detained under the regulation that my noble friend is advancing.
As to conditions, there is nobody in your Lordships' House who can tell you more than the noble Lord Lord Rushcliffe, as to the great improvements which have been made in pay and conditions of the workers in this particular service. He presided over the committee that brought about a great deal of those improvements. We have improved very considerably both the pay and conditions of those engaged in this service, but it takes time, and the demands that are being made and the attractions offered by other industries have all played their part. This is the one service, if there is one, in existence from which we cannot afford to withdraw man-power or woman-power, because if that is done there will not be enough people to tackle these very serious and very difficult cases. Of all cases, mental cases require the most urgent and careful attention. The noble Lord will surely see that if the numbers are diminished much more responsibility will be thrown on those remaining. I hesitated to intervene as my noble friend, with his legal training, has the handling of this, but if am speaking from a knowledge of this matter so far as London is concerned, and that is the largest authority concerned with this matter.
§ LORD WOOLTON
May I ask how it is expected to get more people to come into this profession if they are going to be under this bond? Does this regulation apply to people newly recruited?
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
This is one of the regulations which only applies to existing staff. This regulation does not apply to anybody who comes in afterwards, and it is very important that that should be made plain, because we are all at one in wishing to assist the recruitment of nurses.
As I put this Amendment down, and I do not at all regret it I suppose it would be right for me to say, although I feel strongly about it, as ethers do, that I do not think I ought to try and press it at 359 the Committee stage. The Lord Chancellor has told us (and knowing with what sincerity he speaks I am not suggesting that he is just presenting a plausible case) that after having consulted with the Home Secretary—and therefore doubtless he says it with the Home Secretary's full concurrence—he hopes this thing will be able to be brought to an end in a few weeks rather than months. If that is the case, would not the Government consider whether they could not do with reference to nurses what they propose to do about billeting?
In the case of billeting I was met with the answer, "You are really beating the air. If you think this thing can be stopped in a year, it will only raise false hopes. On that ground we must stick to two years for billeting." We accepted that, however unwillingly. Now the situation is reversed. The Lord Chancellor, having consulted the Home Secretary, says he hopes this thing will come to an end at the latest by the summer. Are we justified in making it a rigorous provision for two years? I do suggest that here the proposal should be accepted to allow it to last for another six months and extend it further if this should prove necessary. This is a most unhappily burdensome duty which has been thrust compulsorily upon certain people, and I am sure the Lord Chancellor will be most anxious to minimize the burden of it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will certainly do this; I will get chapter and verse for every statement I have made to the Committee. I had hoped that my statement on more general lines would have been accepted. I will go into the matter further from the point of view I have indicated.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ First Schedule agreed to.
§ Second Schedule:
§ Section four of the Special Constables Act, 1923, shall have effect as if the words "of or exceeding the age of eighteen years" were substituted for the words "of or exceeding the age of twenty years."
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD moved to leave out the reference to Regulation 360 40 AB. The noble Viscount said: I hope that the Lord Chancellor will be able to accept my Amendment after the facts which I am going to give him. Let me say in the first place that I know that The Special Constables Act, 1923, relates only to Scotland. I will come to that point at the end of the few words I want to say to the Committee. The Act I have mentioned was amended to reduce the age at which special constables should be taken on from 20 to 18. In England this was done by an Order in Council. When the age was reduced from 20 to 18 I did not like it then, and I like it less almost nine months after the war is over. It was perhaps necessary during the war, but we now live under totally different conditions. I know something about the special constabulary.
§ The special constabulary in peace time comes out for emergency, for special occasions, perhaps at such a call as a great fire. But the special constables who are now being used are being used because of the shortage of police. This is occurring daily all over the place, and it is a very different thing from the use of these men for a special occasion to relieve the regular police and enable the regular police to deal with a difficulty. Let the Committee reflect that men of 18 are little more than boys. The Lord Chancellor may be able to say that the regular police are also taken on at 18; but that is an entirely different matter, they go to colleges, and their training takes some time. The special constables on the other hand are called out at once for emergencies or to fill a gap. I say that it is bad for the life of the nation and for their own lives in the future that they should come up against the sordid side of life at the age of 18 to 20. I am not going into details, but I know and many of your Lordships know the facts which could be adduced in support of what I am saying. The experience does not do them any good.
§ There is another point to which I would like just to refer. The Lord Chancellor no doubt will refer me to what is said in the commencement of the Act, that there is power to revoke it, but I maintain that there is no need whatever to continue this legislation to-day in Scotland. Here I must refer for a moment and with great diffidence to the fact that what I am moving to delete refers only to Scotland 361 and not to England. I am well aware that it is limited in that way. I hope the Committee will forgive me, because this is a complicated legal business, and I am very far from being what has been described earlier this afternoon as a legal gladiator. As I understand the position, the Act in Scotland laid down the age of 20 and under, whereas in England no limit was laid down at all by legislation, but it was introduced by an Order in Council and became regulated in that way. In the years of peace before the war the age was over 20. Now we have this Emergency Act relating to Scotland which we are being asked to agree to continue for two more years. It does not relate to England and Wales and people may say therefore, "Why raise the age in Scotland and not in England?" If we raise the age in Scotland we ought-to balance the matter in England and Wales by the introduction of an Order in Council to do the same thing.
§ I do ask the Lord Chancellor to refer this to the Home Office with a view to having an Order in Council relating to England and Wales to carry out the same point which I am pressing for in Scotland. I feel very strongly on this matter. I have seen a certain amount of this special constabulary work in years gone by, and there is no reason for this very early age of recruitment under present conditions.
Page 22, leave out lines 9 to 13.—(Viscount Trenchard.)
I wish to support my noble and gallant friend. This is not a Party matter, and I should be very sorry at this late hour in the evening to wave the Scottish flag round my head. But I look upon the Union of England and Scotland as probably the most purely creditable business to both of them in all their history, and I should like to see it closer still.
But we do have a curious position here if we are going to be told that because there is an Order in Council in England therefore Scotland must have what I believe would be a permanent statutory provision under this Bill—a provision which cannot be defended on any other ground except that England has the Order in Council. I 362 think that that is a peculiar position, and I do not feel that noble Lords sitting opposite would want to support it. I have myself been at different times, over a period of thirty-eight years, a special constable, and I have served both in England and Scotland. I know what arduous and difficult work a special constable may be called upon to do. I have been on point duty myself, and I have known young lads of twenty put upon it I have also known of such young lads having to arrest a dangerous murderer. They have also had to patrol roads picketed by strikers in times of civil disturbance.
My experience is that the duties which fall upon special constables are very difficult and very trying even for lads of twenty. If it is argued that the need to increase the numbers is so great that we must now recruit at the age of 18, then I would submit in answer that it is far better to have a reliable force which is, perhaps, too small, rather than to have a force which is partially unreliable, even though it may be larger, and with elements which may cause civil disturbance with serious consequences. The untried boy of 18 is an enigma, even to himself, and it is not fair to put him to tasks that even a young man of twenty is really too young to perform except under very careful supervision. I feel very strongly on this point, and I hope that the noble and learned Lord will be able to tell us that something may be done to meet our views in this matter.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
So far as the law is concerned, I may say that it has been most admirably stated by the two noble Lords who have preceded me. It is the fact that under the law of Scotland, until it was altered by Defence Regulations, the minimum age for appointing a special constable was 20, and the minimum age for appointing an ordinary constable was 18. Under the law of England the minimum age has been 18, so that by making the age for Scotland 18, for special constables, we are merely doing what is already the case in England, and what is already the case in Scotland as applied to the ordinary police force. That, the noble and gallant Viscount has stated quite accurately. Whether or not anything in the way of training such as is given at the Police College at Hendon—of which no one has better knowledge than the noble and 363 gallant Viscount—is given in Scotland I am not sure. I rather believe that there is not anything in the nature of such a College. Lord Trenchard no doubt knows. But I had thought that the distinction between the apparent illogicality of having 18 as the minimum age for the regular police and 20 for the special constables hardly applied in the case of regular police going to a college for training.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
I am, of course, relying only on my memory, but I believe that whereas the regular police in Scotland go through a course of training of the sort that is given at Peel House, London, there is not a Police College such as we have at Hendon. I do not say that in every little town there is similar training to that given at Peel House, but I believe that it is so in the cases of the big towns such as Edinburgh and Glasgow. The police recruits all go through a thorough training.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I am obliged to the noble and gallant Viscount. I did not know if there was something analogous to the Hendon College in Scotland but I did not think that there was. When the age limit was reduced to eighteen, Chief Constables were advised to use the power to appoint men under twenty with very great discretion, to have careful regard to the duty for which they were to be used, and only to employ them in special circumstances, keeping them so far as possible under their own direct supervision. At the present time, the whole subject of the post-war reorganisation of the police is receiving attention.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
May I interrupt to make the point that in peacetime these young men would have all sorts of difficult and unpleasant matters such as corrupt practices to deal with? In war-time they came up against bombing and fires—matters with which they were capable of dealing. They would not be by any means so capable of dealing with the sort of tasks which would confront them in peace-time.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
What we want to do if the occasion arises—which I hope it will not—is to use these young men in accordance with what we believe is the right principle—which as the noble 364 Viscount has remarked, has not always been observed. We say that these young men ought to be put on ordinary duties like traffic duties, so as to relieve the more experienced men for more difficult duties. That, I would suggest, is the ideal system, if you have to employ the boys at all. It is not necessary for anyone to argue with me that a young lad of 20 is better for this work than a boy of 18. Of course, I quite accept that proposition. And I would go further than that and say that a young man of 25 is probably better than one of 20. I do not think I would go beyond that. If you have got to have these boys—and it must be remembered that this is a troublous age in which we live—the right thing to do, obviously, is to put them on the simple duties to relieve the experienced men so that they may carry out the more complex duties. That is a very elementary piece of organization.
I am certain that if the noble Viscount had anything to do with such matters in Scotland he would see that organization on those lines was carried out just as he saw it carried out in the old days here. In the consideration which is being given to the post-war organization of the police, it is probable—I do not put it higher than that—that Chief Constables will be advised not to appoint men under 20 save in very exceptional circumstances, as, for example, where a man has special aptitude or special qualifications. But, subject to that, it is probable that the Order that will go out will be on those lines. Further than that I cannot go. We want to put Scotland on a level with England—or shall I say England on a level with Scotland?—and therefore we want to have the right to appoint these young fellows special constables in Scotland as in England at the age of 18. But we propose that that power to go down so low should be used very sparingly and only in exceptional circumstances.
I would like, if I may, to add one Ming. In view of the lateness of the hour, I did not say a number of things which I could have done, but what I want to emphasize is that should an emergency crop up and things become really bad, that will be just the time when you are going to be tempted to bring in these young boys of 18. And that is just when you would be very much better without them. I feel 365 that this would be very unfair to these boys. Even in my own experience—and others of your Lordships have had the same experience—I have been brought to realize the possibility of these young fellows being put on to very difficult tasks. I do not think that the noble and learned Lord's expectation that they would always be kept on simple duties is likely to be realized. That is one reason why I am hoping that simply because there is an Order in Council—which I do not like—in England, we shall now make a bad Statute for Scotland to correspond with it.
§ VISCOUNT TRENCHARD
The noble and learned Lord has said that orders are being issued not to take on youths under the age of twenty except in very special cases. There are 60,000 regular police, I believe, and there is a shortage, I understand, of something in the neighbourhood of 10,000.
Are they going to fill that shortage by these? If they are, then I say that I must press this question to a Division. I am very sorry, but I feel very strongly that we are dealing with this shortage in the wrong way.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I cannot say more than I have done. That we shall give these instructions is probable, but 366 I cannot say, on the spur of the moment, how the vacancies in the police force are going to be filled. Obviously, if I had known that the noble Viscount was going to ask that question, I should have obtained the information.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Second Schedule agreed to.
§ Bill reported without Amendment.