HL Deb 23 July 1952 vol 178 cc176-8

2.51 p.m.


My Lords. I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government to specify the titles of the 3,887 inspectors who are entitled to enter private houses without specific search warrants; to state the Minister to whom each category is responsible, and to specify in respect of what duties this power is accorded to them.]


My Lords, as the answer contains a complicated table, I will, with the noble Lord's permission, circulate all the details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the table referred to:

Revenue" in large numbers, part of whose function is the examination of property for estate duty, rating valuation, development charges and claims on the Development Fund. If these are the gentlemen to whom the noble Lord refers, I will certainly immediately bring to the notice of my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the noble Lord has said.


My Lords, arising out of the question, we may take it, I suppose, that these functionaries have letters or papers of identification. What is the position of a householder who does not want to let them in because it may not be convenient? Can he keep them out?


My Lords, my noble friend the Leader of the House has just said that that shows a very proper spirit. I think any question of the legal position had better he addressed to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I have four inspectors in my Department, who go only into business premises, and they certainly require an authorisation. I imagine that all these inspectors have some form of authority signed by somebody. I hope that it will not be necessary for householders to do anything which might lead to a breach of the peace, because in so far as this kind of entry could be dispensed with. I hope it will be.


My Lords, it is not a question of a breach of the peace. I should like to put the question to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor because it is important. Take the case of a woman, alone in a house, who is nervous—there may have been crimes of violence in the neighbourhood Must she admit people into the house at an inconvenient time when her husband is not at home?


My Lords, I must ask the indulgence of the noble Lord and of the House and ask for notice of that question. I should like the question to be not general but specific, because I can well conceive that there may be different conditions prevailing as between those who have a right of entry under different Statutes. I am sorry that I cannot he specific. It would not be right for me to be so to-day But if the noble Lord will put down a specific Question, I will answer it.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble and learned Lord. I will consult with the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, on that point, as it is his Question.


My Lords, perhaps I ought to say one word on this matter. My noble friend Lord Swinton, in answer to a supplementary question of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said that I appeared to indicate that a householder who refused, admittance to an inspector would be showing a very proper spirit. That was not the intention of my remark. It was that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, was showing a very proper spirit in his zealousness for civil liberties.


My Lords, is it not a fact that, under the section of the Local Government Act to which I drew attention, not only may any valuer of the Inland Revenue go but he may appoint any person to go in?