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Commons Chamber

Volume 467: debated on Friday 22 July 1949

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House Of Commons

Friday, 22nd July, 1949

The House met at Eleven o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Business

Huddersfield Corporation Bill Lords

Read the Third time, and passed with Amendments.

Crewe Corporation Bill Lords

Oldbury Corporation Bill Lords

Shoreham Harbour Bill

Staffordshire Potteries Water Board Bill Lords

As amended, considered; to be read the Third time.

Rhodesia Railways Limited (Pension Schemes And Contracts) Bill Lords

I beg to move,

"That in the case of the Rhodesia Railways Limited (Pension Schemes and Contracts) Bill [Lords] Standing Order 198 (Notice of Second Reading) be suspended and that the Bill be now read a Second time."
The House will perhaps permit me to give a few words of explanation of this Motion, which will enable the House to consider the Second Reading of the Rhodesia Railways Bill a little earlier than would otherwise be possible. The Bill, as its title implies, makes provision for the transfer of certain pensions and contracts consequent upon the transfer of the undertaking of the Rhodesia Railways Limited to a body to be constituted by a statute of the Legislature of the Colony of Southern Rhodesia. Its progress in the House of Lords has been considerably retarded, since the promoters had to await the passing of a statute by the Southern Rhodesia Legislature, which did not finally take place until June of this year. I am informed that it would be a considerable convenience to everyone concerned if the present Bill could pass through all its stages before the Summer Adjournment. If the House is good enough to agree to the Second Reading today, I hope to move a Motion at the expiry of the petitioning time to enable the Bill to be considered in Committee forthwith, if no petitions have been presented against the Bill.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed.

Private Bills

The Chairman of Ways and Means:

I beg to move,

"That Standing Order 208 (Notice of consideration of Lords Amendments) be suspended until the Summer Adjournment;
That, as regards Private Bills to be returned by the House of Lords with Amendments, such Amendments shall be considered at the next sitting of the House after the day on which the Bill shall have been returned from the Lords;
That, when Amendments thereto are intended to be, proposed by the Promoters, a copy of such Amendments shall be deposited in the Private Bill Office and Notice thereof given not later than the day before that on which the Amendments made by the House of Lords are proposed to be taken into consideration."

I hope the House will agree to this Motion, which has been passed almost every Session for the last 100 years in order to enable certain outstanding Private Bills to pass the last and remaining stage in time to receive the Royal Assent before the Summer Adjournment.

Question put, and agreed to.

Pier And Harbour Provisional Order (Southwold) Bill

Lords Amendments considered, and agreed to.

Dock Strike (Deportation Of Aliens)

It was reported to me yesterday evening that three aliens with Communist affiliations—one Dutch national named Blankanzee, and two American nationals named Goldblatt and Maletta—had landed in this country. After satisfying myself that their visit here was concerned with the dispute at the London Docks I decided that it was conducive to the public good that they should be deported, and I signed a deportation order in respect of each of the three men, who as a result were detained by officers of the Metropolitan Police at 12.15 a.m. today.

First, let me express to the right hon. Gentleman the gratitude of the House for keeping us informed of important matters such as the subject of his communication. Secondly, let me note, as the House has noted, that the governing words of the right hon. Gentleman's statement are "conducive to the public good." I assure him that where he explains to the House that the arrival of aliens of this sort is connected with the trouble in the docks and the fomentation of that trouble, the House will support him, in all quarters, including my hon. and right hon. Friends, in action which we have his assurance it is conducive to the public good to take.

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman in connection with his reference to the London Dock strike and the procedure he is now adopting whether, in view of a statement by one who up to yesterday was a Member of the Government—I refer to Lord Ammon—in this morning's Press, that the whole dispute has been grossly mishandled and could have been nipped in the bud right at the start, the right hon. Gentleman and the Government could not have taken steps some time ago, to anticipate events, and whether he will give a demonstration to the world, and show the world that if this country is meant to recover the present Government can persuade their own supporters to go to work?

The hon. Member has raised a broad general issue which I do not think arises from the statement I have read to the House, but may I say that I dissent very strongly from the views that were expressed by a late colleague of mine? I have no doubt that on an appropriate occasion, when it is possible to develop the case to the full, I shall be able to demonstrate that to the House.

Is it not a somewhat shocking affair that the right hon. Gentleman should be stampeded into this action by the clammering from the Opposition? May I ask him if he can tell the House how it comes about that the activities which he and his colleagues encouraged and stimulated as "divine discontent" when they were seeking power has now become "Communist conspiracy" when they have got into power?

I have not been stampeded on this matter. Yesterday I was dealing with the problem of British subjects who were giving trouble, and I gave the House a statement as to the difficulties that are inherent in any effort to deal with them. These, as far as I know, are the first three aliens who have interested themselves in the dispute at the docks. As far as I am aware, at no time has the issue which is now the cause of dispute at the docks, namely, whether these two ships are "black" or not, been the subject of discussion in this country.

May I ask the Home Secretary two questions? Firstly, is it still a fact that no evidence has been found on which anyone can be prosecuted; and, secondly, since Lord Ammon has been mentioned and he may have done some harm in the dispute, is it clear that his appointment was not engineered by subversive elements?

With regard to the first question, the position remains there as it was yesterday. I do not think I can usefully pursue the second question.

Can the right hon Gentleman say, with regard to the general situation in the docks, whether it is the intention of the Government to make a statement before the House rises today?

I should think it unlikely, but we shall see what developments there are in the course of the day.

The Home Secretary said that the deportation of these men was conducive to the public good. Would it not be appropriate if he told the House who in his opinion instigated the visit of these men, how they were financed and with what sort of finance? As a considerable air of mystery surrounds the whole strike, with hints and insinuations being made, would it not be a good thing for the right hon. Gentleman to make a definite statement as to who is instigating the trouble?

They came here from France where they had been attending a Communist international seamen's gathering, which was held there during the last few days, but who financed them I do not know.

Are there not some other Communist aliens who have been making trouble and might also be usefully deported?

Not to my knowledge, but if the hon. Member is in communication with any and will let me know, I shall take the necessary steps.

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether these three persons he has named are members of any known organisation, or whether they are here as individuals?

Is it not the case that one of the sailors, whose name I should not like to specify as I cannot recall it with certainty, left the International Workers meeting at Marseilles, according to the papers, and flew to this country? Is that not a well known conspiratorial organisation?

There was a Canadian national who flew here, a gentleman known as Mr. Harry Davies, although I believe that "Davies" is not the name with which he was born. He came here and he is a Canadian national. As I explained to the House yesterday, I have no power to deport him. I think the House realised yesterday that suggestions on these lines raise a grave issue on which we must not lightly embark. But, in regard to these people, they are not British subjects, and I have taken the action that I have always shown to the House I intended to take if such persons arrived.

Orders Of The Day

Isle Of Man (Customs) Bill

Considered in Committee.

[Major MILNER in the Chair]

Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 2—(Wines)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

11.15 a.m.

I should like to ask a question about this Clause. It is concerned with the affairs of this important part of the British Isles which rarely come before the House. I think that some Minister might give us information about these duties. Is there any budgetry statement to be made? What is the extent of the importations, and what are the retail prices? Is there an increase or a decrease in consumption of wines imported from the Isle of Man? What is the justification for this change? Is it to secure more revenue for the Crown or less? All these seem to be questions which arise on this and other Clauses of the Bill.

The Isle of Man, for Customs purposes, is a part of the United Kingdom, but it levies its own duties. Almost invariably it follows the line taken in the Finance Bill of this country. It passes resolutions that are embodied in a Bill which goes through the House. As the hon. Member no doubt will remember, we altered the duties on light wines, and all that Clause 2 does is to make the Isle of Man customs conform to what is now the law of this country.

Is the Isle of Man legislature desirous that this should happen, or do they accept it as a matter of course? Have they expressed any opinion on the matter in the House of Keys?

As far as Clause 2 is concerned, a resolution was passed on 8th April to this effect.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 3 to 7 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedules agreed to.

Bill reported without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.

Patents And Designs Money (No 2)

Resolution reported:

"That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to amend the enactments relating to Patents and Designs and to provide for the appointment of an additional puisne judge of the High Court, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any sums required for the payment of remuneration to scientific advisers appointed to assist the Scottish Appeal Tribunal, to be set up by the said Act of the present Session, in pursuance of any provision of that Act."

Resolution agreed to.

Patents And Designs Bill Lords

Ordered for consideration, as amended (in the Standing Committee), read.

Bill re-committed to a Committee of the whole House in respect of the Amendment to Clause 48, page 32, line 43, standing on the Notice Paper in the name of Mr. Wilson.—[ Mr. J. Edwards.]

Bill immediately considered in Committee.

[Major MILNER in the Chair]

Clause 48—(Appeals From Decisions Of The Comptroller In Scottish Cases)

11.21 a.m.

I beg to move, in page 32, line 43, at the end, to insert:

"(9) Rules made under this section shall provide for the appointment of scientific advisers to assist the Scottish Appeal Tribunal upon appeals under this Act and for regulating the functions of such advisers; and the remuneration of a scientific adviser appointed in accordance with such rules shall be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament."
This is a consequential provision on Clause 48, which was put into the Bill during the Committee stage and which gives certain rights of appeal to the Scottish Appeal Tribunal. This new subsection makes a similar provision with regard to Scottish appeals as Section 33 (1) makes with regard to similar proceedings in England, the provision being that scientific advisers may be appointed to assist in the hearing of the appeal. The original provision in Section 33 (1) was in pursuance of a recommendation made by the Swan Committee.

We are glad that this Scottish procedure has been brought into line with English procedure, and we welcome the Amendment.

While sharing my right hon. and learned Friend's gratitude on this point, I think it would have been more gratifying if we had had a Scottish Law Officer here today to amplify the statement made by the Solicitor-General.

In reply to the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling), may I point out that all the Scottish Ministers are engaged today on very important business in Scotland, where he and others who share his views are always urging that they should be? I am sure Scottish Members will agree that this matter can be efficiently dealt with by the Ministers now on the Front Bench.

I should like to add that my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate was present during the Committee stage when the principle of this Clause was discussed.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended (in the Standing Committee and on re-committal), considered.

New Clause—(Additions To Principal Act, S 85)

Section eighty-five of the principal Act shall have effect as if:

(a) in subsection (1), line 11, after the word "therefrom" there were inserted the words "or any person who in the course of employment by another person is in the opinion of the comptroller engaged wholly or mainly in acting as an agent for the purpose of applying for patents in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the name of or for the benefit of his employer, unless he is registered as a patent agent or unless, being an applicant for a patent, he is acting on behalf of one or more co-applicants;"
(b) in line 24, at the end, there were added the following subsections:
"(4) Rules under this Act may provide for the admission to the register of patent agents of any individual who proves to the satisfaction of the Board of Trade that prior to the first day of January, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, he was while employed by another person bona fide engaged wholly or mainly in acting as an agent for the purpose of applying for patents in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the name of or for the benefit of his employer and that in consequence of his experience he is suitable to be so registered.
(5) For the purposes of this section an individual shall be deemed to have been acting as an agent for the purpose of applying for patents in the United Kingdom or elsewhere if he has been appointed by the applicants for the patents to act for them in the applications or, without being so appointed, has been personally responsible to his employer for the prosecution of the applications."—[Mr. Erroll.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

When we on this side tabled this new Clause we did so before we had knowledge of the Government Amendment to the First Schedule, which deals with this matter. It will not be necessary for me, therefore, to go over the whole story of patent agents with particular reference to this Clause. Suffice it to say that we were anxious that the position which was intended in the Act of 1918 should be in some measure restored. There is no question here of anything in the nature of a closed shop for patent agents, but it was felt that what was deemed desirable then, and has been found to be desirable in subsequent practice, should be adhered to in this Bill. We should like to make sure that if we withdraw this Clause and accept the Government Amendment to the Schedule, the effect of paragraph (b) of the Clause will be secured. We should like to be assured that rules will be worked out to provide the safeguards which are intended in paragraph (b).

I beg to second the Motion.

I wish to reinforce my hon. Friend's plea that what is asked for in paragraph (b) is given either by a firm assurance from the Government or a promise of action. We feel that there is injustice in the prevailing circumstances to duly registered patent agents, and we want to be sure that injustice is not done to those who have done considerable service in this field up to now.

We discussed this point at considerable length in Committee, when I indicated my general sympathy with the view that anything that would help the Institute of Patent Agents to improve the standards of those who work in the profession would be a good thing. I think the broad intention of the new Clause is met by the Government Amendment to the First Schedule, in page 60, line 40.

With reference to paragraph (b) of the new Clause, I imagine it will be appreciated that when the Bill becomes law new rules governing the registration of patent agents will be necessary, and I give the assurance that provision will be made to enable unregistered persons who have for a sufficient period been wholly or mainly employed on the prosecution of applications for patents in the name or for the benefit of their employers to be registered on the Register of Patent Agents. Those rules will be subject to negative Resolution procedure in the House. I hope we shall embody the principle of such changes as are necessary, because of the new circumstances, in the rules. Before the rules are made we shall make sure that all interested parties are brought into consultation, so that the greatest effect will be gained. In the light of that I hope the hon. Member will feel able to withdraw the Clause.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 6—(Additional Powers Of Comptroller In Relation To Appli Cations)

11.30 a.m.

I beg to move, in page 4, line 20, to leave out from beginning, to end of line 6, on page 5.

The purpose of this Amendment is to enable the Government to rescind certain provisions which have been made for the Comptroller to endorse patents which, by reason of such endorsement, might have their value altered. The Clause seeks to enable the Comptroller to endorse patent applications and specifications with numbers of higher patents which he suspects may infringe, or whose validity may be called into question by, the new patent. This is the practice which I understand is already taking place, and the Comptroller is right within his powers in so carrying on the practice.

The Clause, however, seeks to change a permissive practice into a compulsory practice. That might be quite all right if the Comptroller were able to act comprehensively in every case, because it is not the correctness of what he does that will cause the damage, but the possibility of error. That is very real and very serious. For example, if a patent is incorrectly endorsed it means that it is reduced in value by reason of the erroneous endorsement. If, on the other hand, the patent which should be endorsed is not, in fact, so endorsed, then it leaves a false sense of security on the part of the patentee or of any interested third party. The possibility of error is admitted in later Clauses, because provision is made for correcting any errors which are brought to the notice of the Comptroller.

Furthermore, we know that the Comptroller's office is extremely congested at the present time, and conditions under which a comprehensive search can be carried out are extremely inadequate. There is, therefore, a real possibility of serious errors and omissions occurring. These may have most unfortunate consequences to the individual and the applicant or the interest of a third party. It would surely be very much better if the permissive power only were retained as at present, rather than proceeding with the extension which this Clause seeks to provide. The Amendment, as it stands, enables the comprehensiveness of the Comptroller's new powers to be whittled to permissive powers only.

There is one further undesirable feature of this practice, and that is that it would provide the Comptroller with an opportunity of deciding questions of infringement and validity ex parte instead of as at present inter parte. It means that he has to judge the merits of an application by reference only to the patent applicant, and he will then be called on to decide a difficult argument, that between his own view and the view of the applicant, instead of merely holding a semi-judicial function and deciding between rival claims and rival cases submitted to him. This represents an undesirable development in the Comptroller's department. It will impose upon him considerable additional work, much of which will be of a controversial nature, and which will lead to serious congestion in his department at a time when the department is coping manfully with serious arrears of work.

I beg to second the Amendment.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) says, we have considerable doubt whether this Clause represents an improvement on the present practice. In these circumstances, we hope the Solicitor-General will take note of what we have said and, if he shares our opinion, will accept the Amendment.

The object of the Amendment was somewhat fully canvassed in the Committee stage of this Bill, and we endeavoured to deploy the reasons which actuated the Government in thinking that the provisions of the Clause which this Amendment desires to delete should remain in the Bill. When the Bill was before the Committee, subsection (2) of Clause 6 was not in the Bill. That was moved during the Committee stage, and, if I may, I will deal one by one with the arguments which have been advanced.

It is said that notification can damage the interest of the patentee, but it is well understood under existing practice that the insertion of the reference is by way of warning only. It does not mean that the Comptroller has in any way prejudged the issue. It simply means that the researches, which are in any case carried out, have disclosed something which, in the view of the Comptroller, should be mentioned in the specification in order to warn the public, and for no other purpose.

If I may say so, with due deference to what has already been said, it is not because of any existing practice, and we can see no reason for thinking that it would be the case that the patentee's interests would be damaged. They would not be damaged, because it is understood as meaning no more than that the public should be on their guard. It prejudges nothing, and that is the answer to the argument propounded that this practice that the Comptroller carried out can be an ex parte investigation and prejudges something against the patentee. Investigations take place by the examiners in the search for novelty, and it is part of the ordinary routine. It means that the search is made so that if anything turns up the public should know about it. Nothing is prejudged.

We think the provisions of this Clause, in point of fact, contain a useful machinery for giving warning to the public. We are, in subsection (1), implementing the recommendation which is contained in the Report of the Swan Committee. The recommendation appears in paragraph 180 of the final Report, and we can see no reason for departing from that recommendation, which seems to us to be sound sense.

I would add this. As I have already stated, subsection (2) was not in the Clause when it was before the Committee and was moved into the Clause at that stage. The effect of subsection (2) is that it provides the necessary counter-balance, if counter-balance is desirable, to the insertion of the reference to the specification. In other words, the specification is marked with the reference to the previous patent. Subsection (2) contains a provision enabling the reference to be expunged in the appropriate circumstances set out in paragraphs a, b and c.

Therefore, although I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite and the House that we have carefully considered what has been said, and in particular the argument that the interests of a patentee might be damaged if we did not waive this requirement, we feel that we ought to retain these provisions, particularly modified as they are by subsection (2). It is, after all, not only the patentee's interests that have to be kept in mind but the interests of other inventors who have claims to operate patents, and the interests of everyone else who might be affected if the patentee used a patent which infringed a previous patent. All those interests have had to be weighed one against the other. It is no doubt what the Swan Committee would have had in mind, and what we would have had in mind, in giving arguments against cumstances set out in paragraphs a, b and c.

For all those reasons I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree that we have come down on the right side of the line, and that the Bill is better with these subsections in. I think that the interests of all will be better protected if there is warning machinery, and that the interests of the patentee cannot be said to be prejudiced in any sense whatever.

Amendment negatived.

I beg to move, in page 4, line 21, after "eight," to insert:

"or of proceedings under sections eleven and twenty-six."
The purpose of the Amendment is to narrow the grounds upon which the Comptroller can base his reasons for deciding that an application involves risk of infringement of another claim. We have considered the matter and have come to the conclusion that the words "or otherwise" are too wide. We think that the grounds should be kept within the bounds of the principal Act. We looked at the Act, and we came to the conclusion that the reference to Sections 11 and 26 should be introduced here. Broadly, they deal with opposition to the grant of a patent and with the Comptroller's powers of revocation over a patent.

The effect would be to limit the proceedings to those which are inter parte. The Solicitor-General ought to look favourably upon such limitation for historical grounds. It was the practice up to a few years ago that the Law Officers had a special jurisdiction in dealing with patent matters. I am credibly informed by predecessors of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and myself that there was an invariable practice as soon as a new Solicitor-General was appointed for the Attorney-General of the day to call him, and to say: "Recognising as I do your great qualities and powers, there is one piece of work of the Law Officers which I am immediately going to commit to your hands, and that is the section dealing with patent matters." Therefore, every Solicitor-General has this historical appreciation of patents which he gets from his predecessors, and the very clear inducement to have the matters limited to the narrowest possible extent.

11.45 a.m.

We feel very much impressed by the arguments to which we have just listened, particularly the concluding part of the forceful address which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given to the House. We are delighted to accept this Amendment and the consequential Amendments which follow it. We think that the words which we have employed go too wide and that the Clause would be better with the words "or otherwise" in line 21 limited in the sense in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman seeks to limit them by the Amendment which he has moved in line 21. We are much obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for having called attention to the improvement, which will be made in the text of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 4, line 21, leave out "or otherwise."

In line 38, after "revoked," insert:

"or otherwise ceases to be in force."—[Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe.]

I beg to move, in page 4, line 45, to leave out "may," and to insert "shall."

It is clear that the object of the Amendment is to make it obligatory on the Comptroller to delete the reference to another patent if the provisions of Subsection (2) are fulfilled. The Parliamentary Secretary will note with approval that we are merely following out the words which he let fall in the Committee stage. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. E. P. Smith) who raised this point the Parliamentary Secretary said:
"I see no reason at the moment why we should not do what the hon. Member … wants.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 7th July, 1949; c. 21.]

I am afraid that my first thoughts are not my second thoughts. While I still feel that there is no real difference between us, if we are talking about the conditions (a) and (b) of the Subsection, there are difficulties in respect of (c), which refers to any working of the applicant's invention. I am advised that in infringement proceedings before a court or the Comptroller, a decision will be given on the question whether a specific working of the invention was an infringement of a prior patent. Although this decision might be in the applicant's favour, it would not necessarily mean in all cases that the prior patent would not be infringed by any other working of the applicant's invention.

In other words, if the word "any" in paragraph (c) is read as meaning "any possible" working, this would not correspond to the issue before the court or the Comptroller in infringement proceedings, while if the word "any" refers to any one specified working, this would correspond to such issue, but the decision would not then necessarily be conclusive on the question whether the reference by way of warning to the public was unnecessary, and the Comptroller would decide in the light of the decision whether the reference ought to be cancelled. It is for this reason, I am advised, that it is considered to be appropriate that we should retain the word "may". I have gone into the matter as carefully as I can and I can assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that, as I am advised, it would be necessary for us to keep the word "may" in these circumstances.

In view of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, I do not press the Amendment. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 4, line 46, at the end, to insert:

"(3) The presence or absence in or from a complete specification of any reference to another patent shall not be deemed to warrant that any patent to which reference has been inserted is valid, or that the invention disclosed in that specification can be performed without infringement of any other patent, and no liability shall be incurred by the Board of Trade or any officer thereof by reason of any connection with the presence or absence of any such reference."
The purpose of this Amendment is to insert in this Clause a warning similar to that inserted in Section 8 of the principal Act in respect of the investigation of specifications published after application. This matter has been carefully discussed between the technical people concerned, and we in turn have examined it and have put forward this proposal for the acceptance, we hope, of the Government. The Amendment would make it quite clear that the insertion of a reference does not prejudge the issues of validity and infringement or put a legal responsibility on the Comptroller or the Board of Trade. Those who wish to refer to the warning contained in Section 8 which I mentioned will find it in page 39, subsection (8); it is in practically the same words.

I hope that the Government will accept this Amendment in view of what they said earlier today about Clause 6. There is considerable scope for error, which we hope will be kept down to a minimum, but scope remains. There is inevitably a good deal of ignorance on the part of the many and varied people who for one reason or another study patent specifications, and we think that this warning notice should be inserted. While we understand that the position of the chartered patent agent is to be slightly strengthened, there are also a large number of unqualified practitioners and numerous lay readers of patent material. This Amendment should be made to place the issue beyond all doubt.

I am sorry to say that we do not feel that this new subsection would improve the Clause. We have carefully considered this matter which, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, is one which would be, and has been, discussed by experts. It is really the weight of their opinion which should largely count in a matter of this sort. We think that this new subsection should not be inserted because we feel—I do not say this with any disrespect—that it is more appropriate to the textbook than to the text of the Bill. Our view is that as a matter of legal construction no one looking at Clause 6 (1) could possibly think that there was any such warranty. In those circumstances it becomes otiose to say that anyone looking at subsection (1) could say that there was. Therefore, why insert this proposed subsection to say that there shall not be any such warranty?

If it is asked what harm could be done by making this Amendment, our view is that as a matter of drafting it would do a considerable amount of harm. We have this point raised in the discussion of the provisions of various Bills and the answer is that once we begin putting into a Bill something which apparently cannot have any conceivable purpose except to be purely explanatory, and which one would expect to find in a textbook on the subject instead of in the framework of the enactment, we begin to introduce uncertainty. The lawyer and the expert, looking at subsection (1), and then seeing the same specific provision in this proposed subsection (3), would begin to wonder why subsection (1) should be read in any sense other than that in which it would normally be read. If one looks at this Clause, one cannot think that there could be such a warranty, and we feel that it is not merely otiose but bad drafting to put into the Clause something which there is no conceivable reason for putting there. It would simply introduce doubt and give rise to argument, not only on this Clause but on other parts of the Bill.

That is my objection to the first part of the Amendment. The second part corresponds very largely to what is in Section 8 (8) of the principal Act, which now appears in the First Schedule, in page 39, line 16. We do not really think that it is necessary. Our main objection to the proposed Amendment, however, is the one which I advanced at the outset of my argument. We think, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman will probably agree with me as a result of his great experience in these matters, that as a matter of drafting it is undesirable to do what the proposed subsection seeks to do. There can be mistakes and always will be, but, as I said when answering an earlier Amendment, a reference which is read largely in the patent world and is understood by it, will be clearly defined. It is known that it is merely by way of warning and no more. It is accepted practice and has become ingrained in patent procedure. In those circumstances, I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will take the view that this Amendment will not improve the Clause. We are grateful to him and to the other Members for having put down this Amendment, but having considered it we feel that the Clause is better without it.

Perhaps I might, before asking the leave of the House to withdraw the Amendment, be allowed to say that if there is an intention eventually to bring forward a consolidating Bill, and if, contrary to the expectation of the Solicitor-General, any difficulty does arise, this is exactly the sort of minor point which under our new procedure might be dealt with without violating the principle which we discussed a few weeks ago. I throw that out for consideration in case experience teaches us that there are difficulties. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10—(Patents Of Addition)

I beg to move, in page 7, line 19, to leave out "any embodiment of."

Perhaps it might be convenient if with this Amendment we also considered the next three Amendments, which are little more than drafting Amendments. The lines which we suggest should be amended were in an Amendment which was accepted in Committee by the Government. Second thoughts have shown that there may be matters described in the main patent which are not an embodiment and, which as the Clause stands, could be used as a ground of attack on a patent of addition. The clear intention of the Swan Committee was to prevent anything described in the main patent from being used in a trial of patent for additional invention.

We are grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his hon. Friends for having put down these Amendments, which we are happy to accept.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 7, line 21, leave out "any embodiment of."

In line 21, leave out second "of," and insert "in."

In line 22, leave out first "in," and insert "of."—[ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe.]

Clause 14—(Revocation Of Patent By Court)

12 noon.

I beg to move, in page 10, line 22, to leave out from "specification," to the end of line 23, and to insert:

"is not new having regard to what was known or used, before the priority date of the claim, in the United Kingdom."
This and the Amendment in page 11, line 24 are linked together. They are purely drafting Amendments proposed in order to clarify the meaning of the Clause.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 11, line 24, after first "of," insert "paragraph ( e) or."—[ Mr. J. Edwards.]

Clause 16—(Compulsory Licences)

I beg to move, in page 12, line 2, after "patent," to insert:

"a Minister of the Crown or."
During the Committee stage we had considerable discussion both on this Clause and on Clause 19 (1). The law as it existed for some time provides for any person interested to apply to the courts after a period of three years for a compulsory licence of right if the patentee or the owner of the patent refuses to grant the person interested a licence on reasonable terms. This safeguard which has been in our patent law for a great number of years effectively disposes of the charges which are often being levied against the capitalist system of suppressing inventions.

There was some discussion on this subject in the Report of the Swan Committee, and the Government deemed it advisable, in Clause 19 (1), to reserve to themselves separate powers to have a patent endorsed "licences of right" on their application to the comptroller. We on this side of the Committee held the view, as we do today, that such a power is really a duplication of powers already possessed in Clause 16 (1), if the Government care to make use of them. As any person interested may apply to the comptroller, why should not the appropriate Government Department apply to the comptroller in the same way and state the case in the public interest?

Earlier, the Government pointed out that by custom and usage the phrase "any person interested" related purely to a person having a manufacturing interest. It was pointed out that a Government Department would not necessarily have a manufacturing interest—it would have a public interest. Therefore, we have sought to overcome this difficulty by seeking to insert the words, "a Minister of the Crown." This would overcome the difficulty discussed upstairs about whether or not a Government Department was a person, and it also overcomes the difficulty about the word "interest," because it is obvious that a Minister of the Crown would only act in the interests of the public—using that term in its best sense. The very fact that a Minister of the Crown was applying to the comptroller, would mean ipso facto that he was applying in the public interest.

Then we have the second category of applicant, namely "any person interested," who is applying merely because he has a manufacturing interest or an interest in a desire to manufacture. In this way, by this simple and precise Amendment, we overcome the undesirable features of Clause 19 (1), which we would move to delete if our Amendment to this Clause was accepted, and we place the Minister of the Crown on exactly the same footing as any other interested person. There can be very little difference between a Minister of the Crown applying in the public interest and an interested person applying. The Minister of the Crown can only be applying on behalf of somebody who may want to manufacture if the patent could be endorsed with the words "licences of right."

The only possible abuse is that the person interested may hesitate to go to the courts under Clause 16. He may hesitate to be involved in the litigation which might be necessary. I can appreciate that the Government, realising that possibility, seek to be able to act on behalf of the small man. It is indeed a possibility that we have here a case of maintained legislation which would be far from desirable, where the manufacturer says, "I will not go to the courts and apply. I will stir up some interest in a Government Department and get them to apply on my behalf. I will get a few Questions asked in the House and I will ask Members of Parliament to write to the Government Department to ensure that the patent is endorsed, 'licences of right' under the procedure of Clause 19 (1)."

This is a power which must be used most sparingly by Ministers. It is far better if they are to have this power they should have it on entirely the same terms as any other interested person. In fact, they will only apply on behalf of persons who are interested from a manufacturing point of view, either known or unknown to the Government department concerned. If this Amendment is accepted, a Minister of the Crown, as a person, will be put on the same footing as any other person, since he will only be acting for any person interested. We should remove the danger always prevalent in present day legislation of giving a Government department far wider powers than they require—powers which under Clause 19 (1) would enable them to poke their noses into any field of activity and to insist on patents being endorsed "licences of right" at the whim of some junior official of any Government department acting on imperfect evidence without any right of appeal from the patent holder.

It is noteworthy that Clause 19 gives no protection at all to the holder of a patent. The protection is contained in Clause 16 which is successfully by-passed by the Government through the operation of Clause 19 (1). For that reason also, it is extremely desirable that this Amendment should be accepted in order to place the Minister of the Crown in the same position before the comptroller as any other interested person.

I beg to second the Amendment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) has made it clear that the powers which the Government are seeking in Clause 19 can be dealt with adequately under Clause 16, and that there really is no need for the Government to take the specific powers outlined in Clause 19. Our case on this issue is strengthened when one appreciates that, under Clause 19, the Government will not be required to fulfil the conditions laid down in Clause 16. We cannot see why a Government department should have the authority to go to the comptroller and insist upon this action without having to fulfil the conditions which would be required to be fulfilled by a normal applicant under Clause 16. In those circumstances, we think that our Amendment would make for a much more satisfactory state of affairs than exists under Clause 19.

The hon. Member for Bucklow (Mr. W. Shepherd) may not have had in mind all the provisions of Clause 19 (1), which he will see provides:

"…. any Government department may apply to the comptroller upon any one or more of the grounds specified in section sixteen of this Act for the indorsement of the patent with the words "licences of right" or for the grant to any person specified in the application of a licence under the patent; and the comptroller may, if satisfied that any of those grounds are established, make an order in accordance with the application."
I think that disposes of the gravamen of his argument.

The hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) began by going near to, but not quite touching upon, a subject which caused much controversy in our earlier discussions; that is to say, whether it is or is not the fact that patents are suppressed. I feel that the House would agree with me that it is not desirable or necessary to embark upon that subject for the purpose of deciding whether this Amendment should be accepted.

What the hon. Gentleman does by his Amendment is to take away from Clause 19 (1) most of what is there and put it in Clause 16 (1), but he leaves out something very important which is in Clause 19 (1), the existence of which operates in the interests of the patentee. The hon. Gentleman asks why we do not insert in Clause 16 (1) the reference to a Minister of the Crown, by which he suggests that we should, at one fell swoop, overcome the difficulty about the applicant not having a public interest in the subject-matter of the application. Then, he says we have done all that we need to do by giving that power in Clause 16 (1) and removing it from Clause 19 (1).

The Amendment would, it is true, give most Departments, but not all, the right which they now possess under Clause 19 (1). The phrase "Minister of the Crown" would not include all Departments, as a matter of drafting. It would not include the Board of Admiralty, and so it would be inadequate for that purpose. The words "Government Departments" however, constitute an expression which is constantly used in legislation of this type, and which is well understood as the accepted expression to cover all Government Departments. The Amendment, therefore, is worse than the text in that respect, to start off with.

The radical objection to the Amendment is this. If it were accepted, it would mean that some Ministers and some Departments would be entitled, if they could establish the grounds set out in Clause 16, to apply to have a patent marked "licences of right." It would not enable any Government Department to apply for the grant of a licence to a nominee, and, in many circumstances, it might be very desirable to make the compulsory grant of a licence to a nominated manufacturer, which would be much less harmful to the interests of the patentee than the endorsement of the patent "licences of right."

Once the patent is endorsed "licences of right," we bring about a situation in which, upon reasonable and proper terms, "licence of right" must be granted, but it may not be necessary in the circumstances of particular cases to go as far as that. It may be preferable, both in the public interest and in the interests of the patentee, for the Department simply to appoint a particular nominated manufacturer to whom the licence is to be granted for the purpose of the use of the patent. Such a grant to a particular nominated manufacturer would leave the holder of the patent in a very much better situation than he would be if the patent was endorsed "licence of right."

12.15 p.m.

The Amendment seeks to enable the Department only to apply for the patent to be endorsed "licences of right," thereby inflicting injury to that extent upon the patentee, and taking away from the Government Department the right to apply for the relief which is much less injurious to the interests of the patentee—the grant of the licence to a particular nominated manufacturer.

In that case, litigation could proceed, because the Government Department would be applying solely on behalf of a particular potential manufacturer, and not in the public interest at all?

That is an error which underlies so many of the arguments which we hear from hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is an error which assumes that once a Government Department intervenes, the public interest is displaced through the intervention. The whole point of our vesting this power in Clause 19 (1) is to provide that the Government Department should be able to protect the public interest, and Government Departments will intervene, and will only intervene, when it is necessary in the circumstances of a particular case that public use, either complete or partial public use, should be made of the patent. The Amendment seeks to provide a more drastic remedy against the patentee and take away the least drastic one.

If I understood correctly the arguments of the hon. Gentleman, the Amendment would have precisely the opposite effect which he has in mind. It would mean that, if a Government Department with the public interest in mind makes an intervention by way of application to the comptroller, they could only ask for the drastic remedy of endorsing the patent "licences of right," and could not ask for the more modified process of granting to a particular manufacturer a licence to use that patent. We do not think that we should necessarily force upon a Government Department such a drastic step, if that Department thought that the public interest required its intervention and if it could so persuade the comptroller. We think it should be done by going half-way, but not the whole way, and, for these reasons, we think that the Amendment not only does not improve the Bill but is a little harmful of what we have in mind.

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman a question on one point? If a Government Department intended to apply on behalf of one particular manufacturer, why could not that manufacturer himself apply under Clause 16?

Because a particular manufacturer is concerned with his own interests and the public department is concerned with the public interest, and that is why we give the public department the right to exercise the initiative in these matters.

Amendment negatived.

Clause 30—(Special Provisions As To Crown User During Emergency)

I beg to move, in page 22, line 23, to leave out Clause 30.

This matter was discussed during the Committee stage of the Bill, and we are raising it again in the hope that we may obtain an additional explanation from the Government. The Clause deals essentially with the protection of the position of a particular user in an emergency, and, from a careful study of it, the situation seems to be entirely covered by the Supplies and Services Act, and this Clause is therefore unnecessary. The Supplies and Services Act continues until September, 1950, and we have heard it stated at Blackpool at the recent Labour Party Conference, that it is the intention of the Government, if returned to power, to continue that Act permanently from year to year.

Therefore, there seems to be no possible justification for the repetition in a separate Bill of what are really powers under the Supplies and Services Act. Indeed, the powers would appear to be identical, with the possible exception of subsection (1, a), but that is a matter which was so self-evident as to hardly require statement in the Clause at all. We do not think that the Clause represents anything which is requirable; it is just another example of repetitive powers, of having one's cake and eating it as well, of having the blanket powers of the Supplies and Services Act, and, just to make sure, putting the relevant powers all over again into Clause 30 of this Bill. We therefore seek to delete this Clause in the belief that it is unnecessary and redundant.

I beg to second the Amendment.

As my hon. Friend has said, we have had considerable discussion on this point—not always clear, I fear—as to what the real intention was, and whether, in fact, the Supplies and Services Act could apply all the machinery necessary in the circumstances. What we now want to learn from the Parliamentary Secretary is whether this Bill goes outside the provisions of the Supplies and Services Act. If it does, it justifies the present Clause, but if it does not, then we feel that the Clause is unnecessary.

This is not actually a case of repetitive legislation as suggested by the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll). It is rather a case which is equally frequent, of the hon. Member making a speech without thinking, first of all, what he is ging to say. I admit that this is a complicated matter, but I believe there is a perfectly rational explanation, and if the hon. Member will bear with me while I take it rather slowly I shall try to satisfy him.

In the first place, there are no new powers being taken by Clause 30 which do not exist at the moment. In the second place, we are pulling together in Clause 30 and making permanent, not a state of emergency, but the form of procedure which we propose to use in relation to patents when a state of emergency exists, in accordance with the recommendation of the Swan Committee, who have recommended that we should set down in this Bill the particular form of procedure to be related to patents in a state of emergency, without, of course, addressing themselves—as they could not—to the question, which is a quite different one, of the circumstances in which a state of emergency might or might not exist.

The point made by both the mover and the seconder of this Amendment was that since these powers already exist by virtue of the Supplies and Services Act, they were unnecessary in this Bill. That is not true. In the first place, the Supplies and Services Act is temporary legislation, and if we are discussing this matter in serious terms, the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale will realise quite well that the question of what might happen in the future about some possible perpetuation of all or part of the Supplies and Services Act has nothing whatever to do with this at all.

The real issue is that Clause 25 of this Bill, which we have already passed by, repeals Section 29 of the principal Act; and all the emergency powers at present available, that is, the same powers set out in Clause 30, derive from and are dependent on subsections (1, a) and (1, b) of Section 29 of the principal Act which we are now in the process of repealing. The complicated part of this comes in the chain of connection by which we build up from that Section of the principal Act, and I shall endeavour to put this as clearly as I can.

The provisions of subsection (1, a) and (1, b), of Section 29 of the principal Act were extended by Section 7 of the Emergency Laws (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1946, and that Section added to the purposes specified in subsection (1, a) various other purposes, namely, those specified in Section 1 (1) of the Supplies and Services (Transitional Powers) Act, 1945. Those purposes were further extended by the Supplies and Services (Extended Purposes) Act, 1947. I apologise to the House for the complications of that, but there is a chain moving from one piece of legislation to another, all of which rests on Section 29 of the principal Act which we are now repealing. All those powers are available until December, 1950, because they are preserved by the Emergency Laws (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1947, and they would disappear except for this Clause which the Opposition are moving to leave out.

The moment Clause 25 of this Bill becomes law, Section 29 of the principal Act is repealed so that, unless we leave in Clause 30, the whole of that edifice falls to the ground. That would, I think, be obviously undesirable, and would also be contrary to the recommendation of the Swan Committee. I again apologise for the complexity of that, but I think it is a valid explanation, and I hope, therefore, that in those circumstances hon. Members opposite will not press to remove this Clause, which would, I assure them, be a regrettable thing to do.

After hearing how complicated was the answer, I think it was unfortunate for the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to say that I had not studied the subject properly. It is very difficult to follow the full implications of the subject, as the hon. Gentleman's answer indicated. However, I appreciate his reply, and beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 34—(Order For Account In Action For Infringement)

I beg to move, in page 26, line 13, to leave out from "the," to the end of line 15, and to insert:

"plaintiff shall be entitled, at his option, to an account of profits in lieu of damages.
(2) In the application of this Act to Scotland the foregoing subsection shall have effect as if for the words 'an account of profits' there were substituted the words 'an accounting and payment of profits'."
Our intention is to confer on the plaintiff under Clause 34 the right to claim an account of profits as an alternative to damages, as recommended by the Swan Committee. As the Clause stands, there is some risk that it might be read as giving the court an option, and since it is a right that we intended to confer and not an option on the court, we desire to make the change. The second part of the Amendment adds a new subsection which applies the Clause to Scotland.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 35—(Proceedings By Licensee For Infringement)

I beg to move, in page 26, line 22, at the end, to insert:

"or, as the case may be, the profits earned by means of the infringement so far as it constitutes an infringement of the rights of the exclusive licensee as such."
This Amendment proposes that if an exclusive licensee brings an action for infringement he should be entitled to an account of profits in so far as the profits have been gained by the use of the invention to which he is exclusively entitled by his licence. The latter part of the Clause, as it at present stands, does not deal with this aspect of the matter, and the Amendment now proposes to put into effect the intention I have just explained.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause 38—(Co-Ownership Of Patents)

I beg to move, in page 28, line 16, to leave out from "others," to the end of line 18, and to insert:

"(3) Subject to the provisions of section thirty-seven of the principal Act, and to any agreement for the time being in force, a licence under a patent shall not be granted, and a share in a patent shall not be assigned, except with the consent of all persons, other than the licensor or assignor, who are registered as grantee or proprietor of the patent."
Clause 38 (2) of the Bill provides, among other things, that where two or more persons are registered as grantees or proprietors of a patent, each of those persons shall not be entitled to grant a licence or assign the whole or any part of his interest in the patent without the consent of the other grantees or proprietors. It has been suggested that, under the subsection as worded at present, where a co-grantee or a co-proprietor assigns his interest to another person and the assignment is not registered, the assignee might be able to assign his interest to some other person without the consent of the other remaining registered proprietor and thus avoid the provisions of the subsection. This Amendment would stop up that hole.

12.30 p.m.

Although we have disposed of some difficulties, there remain some in Clause 38 to which reference was made during earlier stages of the Bill, and I am sorry that the Government have not seen their way to consider the representations which were made to them. As the matter stands at present, the part-owner of a patent can indeed hold things up very seriously if he has a mind to do so. I think it is a pity that rather more could not have been done to remedy that situation.

Amendment agreed to.

First Schedule—(Minor And Consequen Tial Amendments Of Principal Act)

I beg to move, in page 40, line 5, to leave out from the beginning, to "and," in line 10, and to insert:

"as soon as may be after the acceptance of a complete specification, the Comptroller shall advertise in the Journal the fact that the specification has been accepted, provided always that on the date of the publication of advertisement the application and specification or specifications filed in pursuance thereof shall be laid open to public inspection and printed copies of the specification or specifications shall be available for purchase."
The purpose of this Amendment is to ensure that documents shall be laid open to public inspection and printed copies of the specification shall be on sale on the day on which the acceptance of the complete specification is advertised in the Journal. I believe there has already been some consideration of this matter behind the scenes, and it is understood that this matter will not come into the rules as was at first thought. Therefore, it is necessary to make the necessary provision in the Bill itself.

At present there is a discrepancy between the advertised date of the complete specification and the actual date on which printed copies are available. It is indeed a difficulty which arises in many other forms of printed papers, both Parliamentary and otherwise. The specification cannot be available for inspection by the public in the Patent Office until it has been returned from the printers. It is considered advisable that the Comptroller should wait a few more days until prints are actually available before advertising the acceptance. The Amendment provides that printed copies shall be available, since this is much more satisfactory than merely laying a specification open to public inspection in London. That is not much use to interested persons in the provinces.

The great complexity of many inventions today makes it impossible to gain adequate knowledge of the nature of the invention without a reasonably long study. Some inspection must in these cases be purely nominal, and the treatment of the date on which specifications are open for inspection as the date of publication is certainly a little more than a legal fiction. It is most essential that the printed copies should be available as soon as the announcement is made, or coincidental with it. By accepting our Amendment this procedure will be ensured.

I beg to second the Amendment.

This is only a small point, but I think it would meet the convenience of everybody concerned with patents, and I hope that we shall receive a favourable answer.

I am sorry, but I do not feel that the Amendment is desirable. Perhaps I should explain the point as I understand it. The amendment of Section 9 of the principal Act at present appearing in the First Schedule on page 40 of the Bill provides for the advertisement in the Journal of the date on which the specification will be open to public inspection, the date so advertised being the date of publication for the purposes of the Act. It will clearly be necessary for the date of publication to be shown on the printed specification, and it must, therefore, be marked on the manuscript specification before that document is sent to the printers.

It is intended that printed copies of the specification shall normally be available on the date of publication, the date being fixed in advance so as to allow for the time normally occupied in printing and in transmitting the printed specifications to the Patent Office. But, of course, the receipt of the prints might be delayed by abnormal circumstances—for example, an industrial dispute—and it would not then be practicable to delay the advertisement until the printed copies were, in fact, available, since, as I have stated, it will be necessary to mark the date of publication on the specification before sending it to the printers.

What we have in mind is that when the complete specification is accepted, the fact of acceptance, being a matter of interest to the public, will be advertised as soon as possible and the advertisement will also indicate the date when the specification will be published. The date so advertised will be printed on the specification, and on that date the documents will be thrown open to inspection in the Patent Office and printed copies of the specification will normally be sold.

The present wording of the Bill has been chosen to clear up doubts when the specification is published for the purpose of the Patent Acts. The intended procedure would secure early advertisement of acceptance and early publication of printed copies of the specification, whilst avoiding objections to the present procedure. As I understand the Amendment, it would have the effect of deferring advertisement of acceptance and would require by statute that the Official Journal advertising acceptance and the printed copies of the specification should always be available on precisely the same date to be decided and printed in advance. Such deferment and such requirement seem to me unnecessary and undesirable, and for the reasons which I have given I must resist the Amendment.

Having heard that explanation, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 59, line 8, after "subsection (2)," to insert:

"after the word 'design,' where that word occurs for the second time there shall be inserted the words or for the determination of a dispute as to an invention under section thirty-nine of the Patents and Designs Act, 1949.'"
The object of this Amendment is to enable the Comptroller to require an applicant for determination of a dispute under Clause 39 who is resident abroad, to give security for costs. In other words, Section 73A (2) provides for the giving of security for costs by persons resident abroad in certain proceedings before the Comptroller, and this Amendment applies this provision of the existing law to the new proceedings under Clause 39. The next Amendment in line 9 is linked with this and is purely drafting and consequential.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 59, line 9, after "occur," insert "and the word 'compulsory.'"—[ Mr. J. Edwards.]

I beg to move, in page 60, line 40, at the end, to insert:

"and after that subsection there shall be inserted the following subsection:—
'(1A) Rules under this Act may authorise the comptroller to refuse to recognise as agent in respect of any business under this Act any person, not being registered as a patent agent, who in the opinion of the comptroller is engaged wholly or mainly in acting as agent in applying for patents in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in the name or for the benefit of a person by whom he is employed.'"
This Amendment is one to which I referred earlier, and is in accordance with the undertaking which I gave in the Committee stage to go as far as I could in helping to maintain and improve the standing and professional competence of patent agents.

It is indeed most satisfactory to find that the Government have been able to see their way to accept the spirit of our intentions, and it is to be hoped that the contents of the Bill will be of value to the people it will affect and of general benefit to the community at large.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 63, line 30, leave out "or assignee of such a person."

In page 63, In line 31, leave out from "words," to "in," in line 32 and insert the personal representative."

In page 63, In line 37, after "by," insert:

"after the word 'design,' where that word occurs for the first time there shall be inserted the words 'or by the grant of a patent or the registration of a design on such an application.'"—[Mr. J. Edwards.]

12.41 p.m.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

I do not wish to make any speech other than to say that a number of the difficult points in this Bill were thoroughly thrashed out in another place, and although the changes made during the Committee stage and since have not been of any great consequence, they have nevertheless improved the Bill. I would say, in passing, that the hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) has shown an understanding of this Bill and a willingness to work on it which must have been a shining example to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller). My only trouble with the hon. Gentleman was that sometimes he espoused causes which would have met with the full approval of the patent agents and at other times he espoused causes which I am sure must have filled them with hate. But that is the result of having such diverse contacts and such a willingness to espouse the cause of anyone as long as it is related to the Patents and Designs Bill. I wish to express my gratitude to anyone who has helped in any way to improve the Bill, and I hope we may now dispose of it.

12.42 p.m.

I should like to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for his kind remarks about the work I have put in on this Bill, though I would not like him to think that I merely represented any one body of persons interested.

I am sorry if the hon. Gentleman misunderstood me. That was not the point I was making. I simply pointed out his diversity of interests, some of which were inconsistent one with the other.

Remarks could be made about the evils of consistency, but I shall not weary the House with them. At least I sought to obtain the widest views which could improve the Bill. It is rarely that we have a Patents Bill introduced into this House, and I hope that the interval between the passing of this Bill and the introduction of the next one will not be so long, because, while the Bill is good in its present form, one or two matters are still left open to doubt and our future practice may well show them to be incorrect. I hope it will be possible, therefore, in the course of the next year or two, perhaps, to introduce a smaller Bill to deal with such matters.

There is no doubt that a Bill of this kind is of a highly specialised character and is extremely difficult to follow, but it is less than fair if the great principles behind it should be altogether obliterated by the mass of verbiage to which a popular paper such as the "Evening Standard" was prepared to devote a whole leader the other evening. In fact, that paper is showing a quite remarkable interest in new inventions, good and bad, in a series of illustrations taken from a current book.

I hope that our discussions on this Bill will have served to demonstrate to hon. Members opposite some of the fatuities to which they are normally subject. We had the case only two years ago of the present Secretary of State for War being called from his office to inspect an atomic motor car. He was so credulous as to inspect it himself, and I think he even believed the inventor who said, when the motor car would not move, that the motor car manufacturers had sabotaged his invention. I hope that the passage of this Bill will see an end to the stupid assertions often made by hon. Members opposite regarding inventions and their suppression. This Bill provides the answer to all the criticisms of the past and, if passed by the Government, should enable the present system of invention and the development of new ideas to thrive and prosper in the future even more than it has done in the past.

Question put, and agreed to.

London Docks (Resumption Of Work)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[ Mr. R. J. Taylor.]

12.46 p.m.

I desire to make the following statement to the House.

The dock workers' meeting at Victoria Park has this morning decided on a full resumption of normal working on Monday morning next. I am getting into touch at once with the Emergency Committee as to the arrangements for resumption.

The House and the country will be glad to learn that the strike is over. The Opposition, as I hope I showed again this morning, has been prepared to support stern and unusual action where the Government have claimed the necessity for it. However, we could not disguise doubts, which were not confined to any political party, about the conduct of the Government at the beginning, when the information given and the light let into the difficulties was totally insufficient; and later the unfortunate disagreement between the Government and the Dock Labour Board added an element of confusion and indecision which was most unfortunate. Despite these profound doubts, however, we have endeavoured in every way not to hamper the chances of settlement, but we must reserve our right to a discussion of the matter should we think fit.

I am anxious at the moment to say this: there are many lessons to be learned from our experience of the past few weeks, and these must be learned by everyone, including the Government. We must ask for the greatest watchfulness, in the light of our experience, over other fields of industry where similar dangers may arise. At the moment, as we are so constantly told, our economy is precariously balanced and we cannot afford such losses as have been sustained owing to the strike. Therefore we feel that the call should go out to everyone to make up in the days that are now upon us, for the losses that have been sustained.

Finally I am sure the House would wish again to signify its gratitude to the Service personnel whose vigour, enthusiasm and characteristic cheerfulness demonstrated a combination of qualities which are truly worthy and which will long be remembered. In that spirit we hope everything that will be done in the next few weeks will not only make up for our losses but will demonstrate the determined spirit of everyone to do their utmost for this country in this difficult hour.

As one who has been associated with many strikes, unofficial and otherwise, and encouraged in all my doings by leaders of the Labour movement, I should like to say that, in the circumstances that exist, I am glad that this decision has been taken. However, I ask the Minister if he would not pay a tribute to the sterling character of the dockers, and if he can tell me of any body of men who would stand so firmly and so loyally against such a barrage from officials, the Government, the Press, the radio, and others. I think the dockers have shown characteristics in this event similar to the characteristics shown by them during the war.

I hope the House will forgive me if I say a word, and put a question to the Minister. First, I want to say that, while I like the emotion to which the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has given expression, I think when the whole story of this dispute is known, it will show what many of us have been saying for a long time—that wherever a Communist holds an official position in the trade union movement there is a constant spot of danger against which we have to be on guard. From that I would go on to say that there is a need in this country, either through a Government agency or through the trade union movement itself, to seek out these spots and expose them, so that the workers of this country cannot be deceived.

The question I want to put to the Minister is this. Is he satisfied that the action taken by the Government in repudiating the threat to terminate the Dock Labour Scheme did, in fact, save the country from widespread strikes in other ports?

When will the troops cease work? Will it be today or tomorrow? What is to be the future of the Maxwell Committee in the new circumstances?

I should like to answer that question first. That is in the hands of the Emergency Committee. We have at once contacted them to see that the necessary arrangements are made to resume the normal working of the port. The right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) said he hoped we had learned the lesson of this dispute. I hope that my fellow-workers amongst the dockers will realise that their loyalty has been played upon. Nobody respects their loyalty to trade union traditions more than I do, having known them and lived near them and had dealings with them for so many years. I hope they will listen to their trade union leaders and not to outside people. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also mentioned thanks to the Service men. The Minister of Transport yesterday sent out a message to them, and I can give the assurance that at the proper moment that will more definitely be placed on record.

On a point of Order. In view of the statement made to us by the Home Secretary yesterday about the investigations that were made, and about the consultations with the Director of Public Prosecutions, and about the fact that there was no evidence of any kind of anything that could be charged against anyone, is it permissible for an hon. Member to get up and make such loose, unfounded charges in connection with the matter? May I further draw attention to the fact that the district that has the finest record for output of coal is a Scottish district under Communist leader, ship?

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether, as a result of this very welcome announcement, the Emergency Regulations will lapse, or whether he will think it necessary to keep them in force to take any necessary steps as a result of the inquiries that have been made during the last few days?

I think the House will appreciate that we must really wait until Monday, and until we can see what is the effect of the decision, before we decide what other steps are necessary.

Patents And Designs Bill

Before we proceed with the next subject for discussion on this Adjournment Motion I have to stand in a white sheet myself. The Deputy-Chairman of Ways and Means forgot to ask for signification of the King's Consent on Third Reading of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Bill the other night. I have just done the same thing myself. I forgot to ask for signification of the King's Consent on the Third Reading of the Patents and Designs Bill. So formally I ask that the King's Consent be signified now, so that the passage of the Bill may proceed.

King's Consent signified.

Bill read the Third time and passed with Amendments.

Child Welfare

12.55 p.m.

The progress of a country can be measured by the welfare of its children. Britain ranks very high by this standard but there are still serious gaps in the welfare services, and it is to these gaps that I want to call the attention of the House today. The local authorities take the view, as far as I can make out, that in most cases they are unable to take any action when their attention is drawn to children who are neglected in their own homes, unless the neglect is such that it can be shown that the neglect is likely to cause unnecessary suffering to the children; in which case the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children steps in and a prosecution ensues.

I do not know whether it is true of all the local authorities, but I have ascertained that the children's officers of some of the largest and, indeed, most progressive local authorities take the view that, even when their attention is drawn to serious neglect, and to the serious ill-being of children in their own homes, they are unable to take any action unless criminal neglect can be proved. This leads to a very serious state of affairs in heaven knows how many homes in the country. It is difficult to assess—in fact, it cannot be assessed—how many children are seriously suffering because no action is taken with regard to their home conditions.

I want to cite just one case, not, unfortunately, because it is an outstanding case, for it is typical of scores of cases to which my attention has been drawn all over the country. The home is admittedly a bad one. The father is serving a sentence of five years in prison. The home consists now, in his absence, of the mother; up till recently a daughter of 12 by a previous marriage; and five children under eight. The home place is dirty and vermin ridden. The children are in a terrible condition, and frequently it is alleged by their teacher that they go to school with bruises and cuts. The children are obviously frightened. A neighbour has alleged that one of the little boys was found shut in a dark cellar with his hands tied behind him. Over a period of years this home has been watched by the Family Welfare Association and by the N.S.P.C.C., but no notice has been taken of any advice given, and the mother appears to have no maternal feeling at all for any of the children except the baby. The children are obviously suffering from malnutrition, and have, on a number of occasions, been found rummaging in the pig bin for bits of food. Eight complaints from accredited organisations have been made to the local authority about these children. The care committee officer has complained time and again, the teachers of the children, who are of course in more than one class, have complained time and again, the health visitor has complained on a number of occasions, and finally the borough psychologist, who was asked to investigate the condition of one of the children, said:
"[Mrs. Smith] will hit [Teddy] one of these days so that he really is injured unless something is done."
Teddy was the child the neighbour alleged was found in the cellar with his hands tied behind him.

It is perfectly obvious that these children ought to have something done for them, and should be looked after. I am the last person to advocate children being taken away from their homes, and one of the things I am most keen about is that the homes should be attended to before they have got into the state when the only thing that can be done for the welfare of the children is to remove them. In the case of the particular home I have mentioned, the N.S.P.C.C. inspector, who agrees that it is a very bad home and who would like to do something about it, does not feel that there is sufficient evidence for him to institute a prosecution, although nobody has been able to persuade the mother to improve her condition.

The eldest child, the girl aged 12, had been left at home on numerous occasions when the mother went out, in order to look after the younger children. As a result her attendance at school was so bad that on the advice of the attendance officer, she has been removed by the local authority in order that she may receive proper education. Unfortunately the other five children are now in a worse plight than they were before, because the influence and help of their elder sister who as far as possible acted as a little mother, have been entirely removed.

I want to draw the attention of the House to what seems to me a terribly serious state of affairs. Where, quite rightly, a child who is prevented from attending school is removed from the home so that it may be properly educated but where the other children are at home in the most squalid and deplorable conditions, being—I was about to say "brought up," but one can hardly call it that in this case—allowed to grow up under conditions which are likely to be a fertile ground for juvenile delinquency, and to do grave harm mentally, morally and physically to the children. Apparently no action can be taken to help and protect them until some harm, which may be irreparable, has already been done to one of them. Then the children's officer will step in.

I am not a lawyer, and I hoped that this would not be the position under the Children Act; whether it is a misinterpretation, or whether it is the correct interpretation and the Children Act does not go nearly as far as we hoped, I do not know, but the fact remains, as I understand it, that, in the view of some of the most leading and progressive children's officers of local authorities, if there is a mother in the home no action can be taken unless criminal negligence can be proved. Of course, one of the troubles is that in most places there are no care services which can be called upon to help these people before things have got so bad.

Some weeks ago I tabled a Motion, which was signed by Members of all parties, calling upon the Government
"to give consideration to the home conditions of neglected children who were outside the terms of reference of the Curtis Committee, with a view to strengthening the law and administration regarding them."
I know that I cannot today say anything about the question of strengthening the law, and the whole emphasis of my speech must be on strengthening the administration dealing with these neglected children in their homes. The Curtis Committee very strongly recommended that consideration should be given to these children, because they came outside the Committee's terms of reference. Since going into the matter in greater detail it seems to me vitally necessary that something should be done.

Some people have advocated that where cases have been brought to court the whole trouble has been that insufficiently heavy sentences have been imposed on the criminally neglectful or brutal parents. That may or may not be true. I do not know. But it does not seem to me to be one of the vitally important things, because by the time the parents have been brought to court the neglect may have been going on for years, and so much harm has already been done to the children that my feeling is that what happens to the parents, whether they receive longer or shorter sentences, does not very much matter. It is obvious that the children cannot go back to those parents and it is the children that matter.

What is needed is that the home should be rehabilitated wherever possible long before it reaches that state and proper supervision of the children given. In actual fact, the vast majority of cases of neglect, there is no direct brutality or criminal neglect; they are cases where the home has become bad, sometimes because the parents have had no training and are very ignorant, particularly the mother, sometimes because the parents are of no great intelligence; sometimes it is due simply to the bad health of the mother, perhaps owing to very impoverished conditions, so that she has simply lost heart and given up the unequal contest.

There are on record a number of instances—and I think this is a real indictment of the home conditions which are allowed to prevail—where mothers have been sent to prison for criminal negligence, but where the children have suffered very much because they have been parted from their mothers, even in those bad home conditions, and the mother has come out of prison very much improved in health because she has had better food and more rest. Now there is something wrong with our welfare services when the mothers are in such a state that criminal negligence occurs simply because their bad health has made them unable to run their homes.

Let me now deal briefly with the whole question of taking children away from home. Obviously, the ideal thing is to rehabilitate the home and let the children grow up in a home environment which shall be a good one. However, there are certain cases where that will never occur because the children are unwanted children; in some cases they are hated children. In these horrible cases, which are sometimes reported in the Press, almost invariably the children are found to be either step-children of one of the parents—very often an illegitimate child of the mother before her marriage.

I would make the test of whether we try to build up the children's own home and make life for them in it that of affection. If there is affection in the home and the mother loves a child, then with the right kind of help and advice she will ultimately co-operate and learn how to build up the right kind of home for her children; but if the child is hated there can never be a right kind of home for it. I think it is almost invariably true that so long as there is affection a bad home is better than the best institution, but where there is no affection that can never be true.

Another thing that haunts me is the question of the really bad cases. Some time ago we were all horrified to read in the papers of a case where a young policewoman happened to look up to a first-floor window of a slum home and see a miserable little face peering out between the curtains. She climbed up and got into the window, where she found a little boy of five who had been horribly burned and was suffering from ghastly malnutrition. The case was brought to the attention of the N.S.P.C.C., a prosecution was institued, and the parents were sent to prison. The inspector of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said in his evidence that he had never seen a child so frightened.

When we read of these cases, we are haunted by the fact that we do not know how long such a thing has been going on and how many cases of the kind there are which have not been found. We wonder what would have happened in that case if the policewoman had not happened to look up at that moment and the little boy also had not happened to be looking out of the window. It is horrible to think that this misery may be going on among the most deprived children of all, and that no one knows anything about it, with the result that nothing can be done. I am quite certain that these cases would be infinitesimal in number if every time a complaint were made by a school teacher—although this particular child was not going to school—or a welfare officer, that something was wrong with the conditions of the home, the matter was taken up by the local authority. If that were done, we should reduce these horrible cases of criminal negligence and cruelty to practically nothing at all.

The vast majority of cases are not as bad as this. They are cases where complaints are made of the poor condition of the children, of the misery of the children, and of the immoral surroundings of the children. What happens then, as with the family I have cited that I called the "Smiths," is that people complain, not just neighbours but responsible people, and still the matter goes no further. If we take the report of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children for 1949, we find that they have dealt with nearly 100,000 cases, but that only 626 prosecutions were instituted. They actually investigated and followed up nearly 100,000 cases.

I have the report with me. The number of cases investigated by the Society was 40,000 for the year. I think my hon. Friend is referring to the total number of children concerned in those 40,000 cases.

I should have said that the number of children dealt with was nearly 100,000. I should like to pay a tribute to the work of the N.S.P.C.C. They do extremely fine work, but they are hampered by the fact that they have not got nearly enough money and have too few workers. I think that the whole thing has got beyond the possibilities of any voluntary society, however good. Originally, all the welfare services for children were dealt with by voluntary bodies. Education, school meals, school milk, medical attention and everything to do with child welfare originally started on a voluntary basis, but now we have to build up our system on the basis that if we are to be sure of dealing with all the children in the best possible way, it has to be done administratively through the authorities and not left to voluntary societies, however good and however efficient.

I think the time has come when we as a nation should make ourselves responsible for all children, not only for the education and well-being of children who come directly under the Children Act, but for all children in their homes as well. It has been suggested that we cannot do anything about this because an Englishman's house is his castle and no one is prepared to put up with snooping. I suggest that there is no question of snooping. Properly accredited people are already calling at the homes, finding out the bad conditions and giving help where it is needed. In some places very valuable work is being done under the local authorities.

For instance, in Norwich they have a home advice system. A series of people under the local authority, some voluntary and some on a paid basis, go to the homes and make themselves welcome to the parents. They do it not just by giving advice but by being prepared to help, by "getting down to it" and scrubbing the floors and then suggesting that the place looks rather brighter after the kitchen floor has been scrubbed. Ultimately, in most cases they obtain co-operation from the mother who is perfectly willing and anxious for someone to help to get her and her home back to a status of self-respect. We want to encourage this sort of thing, but we cannot do it and give the necessary directions unless a duty is laid on local authorities to follow up complaints from accredited teachers, health visitors and welfare officers, so that they can go into the homes and find out what can be done and what is necessary for the children. It is appalling that there is no protection for a child in its home unless great harm has already been done, perhaps over a period of years, to its health, morale and spirit, which may have been ruined for life. But that is the state of affairs today.

In conclusion, the Curtis Committee, out of which came the valuable Children Act, was set up because the whole country was shocked by what came to be known as the Neill case—the case of the little boy who was put out with foster parents, and who died as a result of ill-treatment. I hope we shall not wait until there is a Neill case in a child's own home before we deal effectively with this question. Neglected children are a challenge to the nation and sympathy is not enough. The time has come when we must accept responsibility for these unhappy, miserable and lonely little beings—the most deprived children of all. I ask the Minister to deal with it administratively, and to ensure that a duty is laid on every local authority to follow up these children in their own homes. If it is not possible to do it by administrative action, I hope the matter will be dealt with in another way in the House before very long.

1.22 p.m.

I think the House and the country owe a debt of gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) for raising the important matter of the ill-treatment of children who do not come within the categories which were dealt with in the Curtis Report. The importance of the problem is, I think, even greater than what she put before the House would seem to show. I am a member of the Central Executive Committee of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children—an honour I share with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George). During the year's working it has been abundantly brought to our notice that the problem of cruelty has become more and more divorced from its physical aspect. There are ordinary maltreatment cases, and very bad ones such as the one quoted by my hon. Friend, but there are even more cases, and through all classes of society, where the cruelty is of a mental nature, where there is a sad psychological misunderstanding of the needs of the child. It is for that reason that it behoves us to be extremely careful in our approach to the problem of entering the home and influencing the family.

Generally speaking—and I have had over 22 years' work among young people and children, a good deal of it in a very poor neighbourhood—it is lack of understanding of the needs of the child which is the supreme tragedy of their parents. The phrase "When intervention is necessary in the interests of the child," in connection with the Children Act, seems to be comprehensive enough to make it possible for effective action to be taken not only where physical violence is concerned, but certainly where mental cruelty is concerned, and it should be possible to intervene on behalf of the health of the children who are being hurt either mentally or physically.

I did not quite gather where the quotation which my hon. Friend has just made came from.

I was reading from a speech made by Professor Allan Moncrieff who is, I believe, Chairman of my hon. Friend's Advisory Committee on Child Welfare, and he quoted those words from the Act. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Hendon stressed in her admirable statement of the position, wherever possible we want to retain the child in the home, however misguided it may be, where there is fundamental affection for a child. That is the aim of every children's society and organisation with which I have been associated for a quarter of a century.

We want to preserve the family basis of love because I am sure that amid a family a child has a much better opportunity for full development than in any institution, even if the institution provides more efficient amenities. The fundamental thing to which we must hold on is the love of the parent for the child and the natural love, respect, and trust of the child for the parent. Because of that the N.S.P.C.C. feel that it is sometimes badly misrepresented, and I have heard the same complaint from family welfare advice centres. We tend to have our failures underlined and our successes not known. Our few prosecutions are publicised but our remedial work is unsung.

The House may be interested to know some of the figures from the part of the report, quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for North Hendon, which bears on that point, particularly the cases which were, to use a familiar idiom, "settled out of court" happily and, in most cases, finally. My hon. Friend said that some 100,000 children came to the notice of the Society in the 12 months ending 28th February of this year. They came from 40,246 homes or families. It is interesing to note how readily officials, as well as neighbours, seek the advice and help of the Society as a natural step to take immediately a case of cruelty, neglect or psychological maladjustment is brought to their notice.

Of the 40,246 cases there were reported by the general public—often by a kindly passer-by, who accidentially met the child looking into a window or wandering disconsolately in a park, late at night—24,956 cases. That shows that the voluntary societies are playing a very much bigger part in the cracking of this problem than is generally recognised. The police also know how valuable it is to have an unofficial society, which can mend rather than an official organisation which must prosecute. No fewer than 2,934 cases were brought to the attention of the N.S.P.C.C. by the police, and the police also brought cases in their hundreds to other voluntary societies.

School officials do—and here I speak with absolute knowledge—because of the efficiency of their service to the children, take very careful notice of the physical and mental weakness of children so that they can take immediate action to safeguard their pupils. I know that does not cover the point of the child who has not reached school age, but it is one more figure in the general picture I am trying to present of how the problem is being rationally tackled now. School officials in one year alone were responsible for reporting 1,164 cases.

Other officials connected with local authorities and the medical officers of health reported 6,862, and the actual discoveries by the society's 267 inspectors in their 200 odd districts of this country only amounted to 1,330. I submit while there is every reason to strengthen the hand of local authorities in cases where punitive action is essential for the sake of saving the child, it is wiser to proceed as we are doing in this country, with an overall responsibility on the part of the authorities and with the help and assistance of voluntary organisations, whose main intention is to safeguard the child and to restore its environment to what should be more normal.

It may interest the House to know that the categories of neglect or cruelty which were investigated in the group of cases mentioned by my hon. Friend. Cases of neglect or physical cruelty were 24,420 out of 40,000 cases. Ill-treatment and assault actually accounted for fewer than 3,946. It is important to get our perspective right. Where there is neglect and psychological maladjustment between the child and the parent then there is hope for a friendly co-operative, useful agent to get to work to remedy the position. The cases of abandonment, I am glad to say, were extraordinarily few, only 53. The number of exposure for begging has dropped to 39, probably as a result of better conditions in the country. Of course, today there is something of a problem owing to influences at work, which are not particularly good for the children. It is extremely difficult to preserve the "beyond control" child in normal home conditions, but I am glad to say that only 201 of those difficult problems were presented. Corruption of morals accounted for 512 and in other classifications there were 45.

To my mind the most hopeful figure of the lot and one on which the N.S.P.C.C., and other like agencies, which do not occupy the same large predominant position in the affections of the country, can pride themselves is that out of 40,000 families or cases examined last year up to 29th February, 11,210 were brought to the society's inspectors by the parents themselves. That is an extraordinary thing. It shows that there is hope in the position. It shows that parents are at times able to bring themselves up short when their tempers run away with them or when the lure of the dog track or the cinema persuades them to neglect their children for their own amusement. There is a general feeling in the country of responsibility for children, which brought over 11,000 parents voluntarily to the N.S.P.C.C. inspectors to whom they said, "I am not doing right by my children. Will you advise and help me before the thing gets out of hand?"

The N.S.P.C.C. has, with the able assistance of the Home Office, completed the training of its first contingent of women visitors, who are willing to collaborate fully with all local authorities in the area to which they are assigned in order that preventive treatment will be possible under the direction of skilled trained women. We are adding to their number this year. I want to pay this tribute to the Home Office, and to the police and other authorities—there is no sign whatever of competition or of jealousy between the various agencies working at this moment for the welfare of the deprived, unwanted and cruelly treated children in this country.

This matter was touched upon recently in a letter to "The Times" written by Mr. Thomas H. Band who said:
"Local officials can and do deal with cases where definite crisp action is wanted—e.g. the reception of a child in a hostel, the removal of a child to hospital, the cleansing of foul premises and clothing, the grant of money, etc.—but they are not trained nor are they suitable for the weary process of visiting, helping, criticising, teaching, threatening and even bullying the ignorant and vicious parents with whom we have to deal in their own homes. The parents will tolerate and often react to the advice of an N.S.P.C.C. inspector when they would resist 'the man (or woman) from the Town Hall'".
May I in conclusion quote to the House a few words from the prologue of a book which contributed to the happy childhood of many of my hon. Friends as it did to myself—the prologue to "The Golden Age" by Kenneth Graham, which will reinforce in my last few words the statement which I made at the beginning, that the question of cruelty is not a class question; it is not a question of a particular economic stratum; but it is very largely a question of misunderstanding between the adult mind and the child mind. It is in some cases, true enough, produced by poverty, but it may equally proceed from a wilful neglect by people who ought to know better and who live in happy circumstances.

It is therefore going to be extremely difficult to enforce the right treatment of children in their own homes by official action which must, by its very nature, arrive at the home when too late to mend. The words which stuck in my mind when I read them as a lad and which have been repeated quite recently by the Chairman of the Advisory Committee for Child Welfare are these, from "The Golden Age"; talking of uncles and aunts:
"They treated us, indeed, with kindness enough as to the needs of the flesh but, after that, with indifference, an indifference as I recognised the result of a certain stupidity, and therefore with a commonplace conviction that your child is merely an animal. At a very early age I remember realising in a quite impersonal and kindly way the extent of that stupidity, and its tremendous influence in the world."
Stupidity can be beaten only with education, and education can be made effective only through a kindly understanding on the part of the educator.

For that reason I plead with the House to come to the conclusion that, while punitive measures may be necessary and extended powers, indeed imperative, we should not divorce from our minds the main objective of building and retaining a nation of happy homes. For that reason I submit that the work of kindhearted people, whether gathered in voluntary societies or working in some cases, as I have shown the House that they do, individually for sheer love of a single child, is what we need. We want to keep everyone aware that there may be cruelty and misunderstanding of children. We do not want them to say: "It's no concern of mine now, because the local authorities are going to do it." In this, the love for and care of children, we are each of us a local authority, whether official or unofficial.

1.43 p.m.

I am glad to follow my hon. Friend the Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard) and to agree with him very heartily indeed that punitive measures are by no means enough. My own approach to this problem differs slightly from that of my hon. Friend, and that of the hon. Lady the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould), who opened this Debate. Some years ago, and for many years, I was a medical inspector of schools in London and I did a great deal of work in the training of children in London. I obtained an intimate knowledge of children and of their homes and of the conditions influencing their lives.

One thing which impressed me very much indeed was that only once in the whole course of that experience, when I saw and personally examined many thousands of children in the presence of their mothers, did I find a mother who was vicious and brutal to the child. The ordinary mothers were sometimes ignorant and were very often circumscribed by poverty in what they could do. When enough care was taken to explain to them what needed to be done for their children, there were practically no mothers, even the poorest, who did not make every effort to carry out what was necessary and desirable for the health and well-being of their children. I say that because, at the present time, the situation in our country is improving rapidly with regard to children, whose conditions are, to a very large extent, very much better indeed than they were even just before the war. The nutrition of children is better on the average than it was before the war, but even now there are circumstances in which children suffer very grave disadvantages.

I should like to ask the Minister who is to reply whether he can answer a question with regard to the possibilities of administration. Let me take the cases of two mothers which came to my immediate attention just recently, in regard to housing. Over a period of years during which I have been representing North Islington, there has been a considerable number of houses in which people are living in overcrowded conditions. The houses are in bad repair and some are without an adequate water supply and without good lighting. They approach slum conditions, in fact, and in certain areas they reach very serious slum conditions in which, for practical purposes, children cannot be brought up in a healthy way. In those conditions we get cases that come within the immediate purview of the Curtis Report. The way to deal with those cases is not to wait until they come to a stage when proceedings have to be taken but to try beforehand and get at the people concerned so as to improve the conditions and by prevention, avoid the worst environment.

I want to put to the Minister who is to reply, this question with regard to homes: should not a greater priority be given in applications for accommodation and homes in the London area, to applicants who have children than is given at present? A priority is given, but I believe that a greater priority should be given, and that it should be greater still if the children are ill. I have had correspondence within the last week or two with parents whose children are suffering from tuberculosis and other diseases and are living under conditions which all responsible persons agree are unsatisfactory. If we gave higher priority in such cases, we should tend to get rid of many difficulties and complexities of life, in addition to physical difficulties which I, as a doctor, would never dream of underestimating.

Another matter has been called to my attention which is inevitably part of our present conditions—the state of the rest houses in which parents and their families are obliged to live if they have no homes. Some of those local authority rest houses are, I am afraid, very overcrowded. I have it on good authority in a statement made to me by a person of official status that in one of these rest centres mothers of children are lying bed to bed with no interval between them, very overcrowded and not very clean, that mothers and fathers are separated, and that the mothers with the children are not always as conveniently situated as they should be. Conditions exist now owing to overcrowding in some of those institutions which cannot be excused by anything but sheer necessity. Cannot something be done to provide alternative accommodation to those rest centres which are badly overcrowded? I believe it is a problem which applies not only to London; but to what other cities it applies, I do not know.

I hope that something can be done to clear up some of the difficulties to which I have referred. In these matters we must help the children by helping their parents. As has been emphasised by the two previous speakers, the best way of helping children is by seeing that they live in happy homes where their parents love them and where they have an ordinary friendly environment. That is by far the best solution. In my experience mothers always do their best for their children although they are caught up in quite impossible circumstances.

A great deal can be done in this direction through the school authorities. School doctors could, when inspecting the children, bring to the notice of the appropriate branch of the local authority concerned, the fact that the children are living in conditions which are damaging their health. It would then be reasonable for the local authority concerned with housing to see what they could do about giving a greater degree of priority to the housing needs of that particular family.

I think that children under school age should be visited much more frequently by health visitors, N.S.P.C.C. representatives and others to see what help can be given in preventing undesirable circumstances from affecting those children. I also consider—and urgent priority should be given to this—that more residential nursery schools should be set up so that when conditions in the home are bad, or when home conditions do not exist owing to the death of a parent, or the separation of the parents, the children may be provided with some place to live where they can be healthy and happy.

There is at present great overcrowding in London, into which hundreds and hundreds of people are coming every week. There is now no longer in operation the provision in the Poor Law about place of domicile which enabled any persons coming to London to be returned to their place of domicile if they had not got work here. There is nothing now to prevent people coming, as many do, from other parts of the country into London—people who have no work here. They throw themselves, so to speak, on the mercy of the public authorities. They are creating a serious and grave problem which will intensify the adverse conditions under which children are living. They often bring with them large families, and there is now no legal provision to enable them to be returned to the place from whence they came. A lady who recently came to seek my assistance in North Islington had come from the Isle of Arran off the West of Scotland. There are others who have also come from distant places.

I urge that by every kind of administrative measure which can be applied whether by the education authority or the health authorities or any other department of local government or of the State, there should be an intensified drive to improve the conditions of child life. While I hold that conditions are much better than they were before the war, there is still a time lag; there are still dark places in our social system. I wish to see the time come when we can proudly lift our heads and say that there are no dark places in our social system where we compel children to live.

1.55 p.m.

Not only all Members of the House but all the children of our land have cause to be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) for bringing this matter before us today. We have all been appalled by the number of cases of cruelty and neglect which we read in the newspapers. Whether the explanation is that these cases have greater news value—as we all hope—or whether it is that they are more numerous than used to be the case, I do not known. The really sad aspect is that most, indeed nearly all of them, are not just cases of recent cruelty, cases in which the father or the mother has lost his or her temper; they are cases in which the children have been neglected either mentally or physically for a considerable time.

One thing which has emerged clearly from today's Debate has been that there are many causes of these deplorable conditions. My hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) singled out housing. I would say in reply that certainly in London, and I believe in most places, credit is given, in the allocation of housing accommodation, to large families and particularly to cases in which illness exists. Then there is the relatively rare case, I am glad to say, of deliberate cruelty. There is also the very frequent case of a mother who is perhaps not mentally very alert, and who is overcome by the constant struggle to keep her house clean and her children respectable, who has also to struggle with poverty or who perhaps has a husband who is difficult.

There is not just one type of case but many, and they have all to be dealt with differently. I cannot help feeling that the law as it now stands gives local authorities ample powers to deal with all these cases in the appropriate way provided, and only provided, that they know of them in time. That is the point I wish to stress. The great consideration in relation to these cases is to learn about them and that early. As I have already pointed out, so many cases which have been reported in the Press are cases in which cruelty or neglect has been going on for a long time. Had the local authority had knowledge of those cases right at the beginning matters might have been different. I know of the most valuable work which the N.S.P.C.C. have been doing. As a member of the Curtis Committee I can say that we were constantly coming upon cases not only of children deprived of normal family life but of children from among the general population that needed care and we regretted that our terms of reference did not allow us to deal with anything except the cases of deprived children.

I feel that it is essential there should be a sort of centralised authority in each area, a sort of clearing house which can take advantage of all the services rendered by local authorities and voluntary agencies, an authority which everyone knows to be a children's authority, to which cases even of suggested child cruelty or neglect can be reported at once. I believe that that authority will be the children's committee. I know intimately the work of only one children's committee, that in London. I am a member of that committee. We are trying to decentralise our work; we are providing at least nine district offices, and we are trying to get premises so that they may be in positions which people will recognise and know. We hope that when these district offices are working anyone who suspects cruelty or neglect of children will know that it is the right thing to report such cases there. I believe it is possible under the law. If it is not I hope that the law will be changed accordingly.

I feel that some central authority should exist, some well-known agency, in every area. Then, the schoolteacher who suspects that something is not well with the home of a particular child will be able to send a note or ring up the local children's officer and report the matter. Then should there be a person who thinks that the child of a neighbour is not as well looked after as he should be he will also know to whom he should report such a case. If we could get early knowledge of these cases and if we were ready to use all the machinery now in existence, a great deal could be done without further legislation, although I agree entirely with the hon. Member for North Hendon that if, as a result of experience, further legislation is proved to be necessary, the House must reconsider the position.

2.0 p.m.

Before the hon. Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) had developed her theme, and before the hon. Member for East Harrow (Mr. Skinnard) had spoken, I was a little nervous that statements would be advanced today which would militate against what so many of us feel to be essential—that we should at all costs avoid breaking up family units. Having heard that all who have spoken are at least as fully aware of this danger as I am myself, I feel reassured. The hon. Lady said that we should let affection be the test. Where there is affection between parents and child, then all can be saved, a remedy can be offered and improvement effected. But if one is quite certain that there is no affection, then indeed I agree with her that other steps must be considered.

I was most interested in the speech of the hon. Member for East Harrow, who spoke with such authority and knowledge of a great voluntary institution, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. I have seen that society at work for many years and I have a great deal of admiration for its efforts. However, I hope that it will not be out of place, and I hope that I do not offer a discordant note, when I point out that it is possible even for the N.S.P.C.C. to make of itself an agent in bringing about an injustice. We all know that it is the last thing that they would willingly wish to do, but I am very conscious of the fact that when they prosecute they always make use of the services of a skilled lawyer. It so happens that many of the parents prosecuted are not only of poor mentality but also not equipped educationally so as to be able to speak up for themselves in a court of law.

More than once I have seen people standing in the court almost dumb. They have been punished on an accusation that they have neglected their children or been cruel to them, when afterwards one has found that the facts were lien, different from those submitted to the court.

I think my hon. Friend will do me the justice to admit that I made out the case that the last thing in the world which the N.S.P.C.C., or any other child guidance or care organisation, wants to do is to prosecute. They want to mend and to save whatever affection is there. Actually, not more than just over 1,000 prosecutions in 40,000 cases investigated is proof of that. Would not my hon. Friend agree that whatever agency has to bring to book unnatural parents—be it Government agency, through the Home Office, Ministry of Health or the police—they use skilled advocacy, so that the injustice which he mentioned is one which he would permit as a member of a local authority when they prosecute?

My hon. Friend did not allow me to finish, or he would have realised that I give him his point. I was going to develop from that an argument not so much for his ear as for that of the Under-Secretary. I should like to point out to him that it is our duty to consider every section of the family. Where a mistake has occurred and something has gone wrong, parents as well as children require protection when the matter is being investigated. I stress that it is possible for injustice to occur because parents are not represented in the court and there is no skilled person who can get the full history of their case.

I do not apologise for giving an example of what I mean. In North Staffordshire I learned from the Press that a mother had performed a most unnatural act. With a red hot poker she had burned her child on the leg. This was reported by a neighbour to an inspector of the N.S.P.C.C. who instituted proceedings, and she was sent to prison for, I think, six months. The outcome of this was that the three children in the family were taken away to a home and the father bruised and bewildered and not understanding why all this should happen, was left alone.

It appeared to me when I investigated this matter that there had been a misunderstanding in the court and that the full history had not been brought out. Both the man and the woman had been virtually dumb and unable to defend themselves through terror. People are terrified of a court. Honest, normal, decent people do not know how to speak up for themselves when they appear before a court. In fact, the circumstances were that the little boy who was burned, and on whose account the mother was sent to prison, was nine years old. He had been left at home with a little boy aged four. He had been told to look after him for an hour. Apparently, the little boy had been singing in bed and the older one had heated a poker and had burned him. He had done this not once, but on two different occasions.

Then he threatened the tiny child and intimidated him to such an extent that he agreed to say that another boy who lived further along the street had burned him. The older boy would not admit the true facts. The mother had tried to find out. She had cajoled him and offered him a bribe. She had said, "I will take you to the pictures and give you a shlling, but you must tell me who did this. We know it was you. You must admit it. Otherwise, we shall not feel safe in leaving you and your little brother together." The child still insisted that another boy was responsible and, after the father had had a quarrel with the parents of a boy living further along the street whom he had falsely accused, the mother said, "If you do not tell the truth I shall heat a poker and I will do to you what you have done twice to your little brother."

I am very glad to be able to tell the House that even at that late stage after the mother had been sent to prison, all the facts were brought out and action was taken by one of the most sensitive and kindly magistrates I have ever known. The Home Office acted upon his recommendation and within 48 hours the mother was allowed to go home. I give that as an example of how a home can be broken up if we are not very careful. Those who have spoken in this Debate would be the last people in the world to fail to recognise the disaster and catastrophe which might be caused by unwarranted and undue interference.

I have only one other point to make. I think it has been stressed already, but it is most important. It is that the genius of our people is to use the voluntary agencies for work of this type. There are no people anywhere else in the world who have had the same experience as folk in Britain in the use of voluntary agencies for the care of the unfortunate. We already have machinery in existence in the children's committees. Local authorities have certain limited powers especially where children are concerned. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary whether he has power to recommend to local authorities that they should ask the children's committees to set up in every part of the country panels of people who will act, under the instructions of the children's officer, as friends to parents and children. I am sure that if they were asked to do so, they would readily act in this particular way.

The power does exist and is exercised, because they have home visitors and health visitors, who do in fact carry out this friendly task.

What I was saying was not so much for the ears of my hon. Friend as for the Under-Secretary. I know that that is the case, but I want to make quite certain that there are normal ordinary people, who are not paid and who do not wear uniforms, but who have contacts with the inspectors of the N.S.P.C.C. or the children's officer, in the way to which the hon. Member himself referred in regard to Norwich.

This should be fostered throughout the whole country, because there may be circumstances where a mother is ill or is not very well equipped mentally and cannot face up to the problem, or it may be that she lives in surroundings which make life very difficult for her. The house may be infested and the property of the slum type, or her husband may be ill and she may become impoverished, with the result that the children become neglected. In all these cases, such an arrangement as I have suggested would prove most useful.

Let us never forget that it is true that a suffering child, who suffers unnecessarily, is a reproach upon us all, but let us also remember that there is something more even that the child in this problem, and that is the family in which that child lives. If a child needs our help, we should do everything we can to help it, but let us remember that the parents themselves have their rights, and that, if they need assistance, we should help them as well.

2.11 p.m.

The House is greatly indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) for bringing to our attention today the cause of the ill-treated and neglected child, and it is good that the House on this occasion has an ample opportunity to discuss this very fundamental problem affecting child life.

Much has been done in recent years to improve the physical and mental standards of our children, and one can receive evidence of that great improvement when one undertakes visits to our schools. The great change for the better in the physical and mental make-up of the children in our schools today, compared with that which existed in the 1920's and 1930's, is most remarkable, and it is therefore somewhat sorrowful that there are, here and there, black spots. Nothing is more tragic than to see, against that fine background, the neglected and ill-treated child, and I am sure that all of us who have had that experience must feel overwhelmed with sympathy and distress that there are, here and there, innocent children suffering from causes, which ought not to exist, arising very largely from the ignorance and indifference of parents and others.

I am one of those who believe that we must start to some extent with the responsibilities of the parents. There are, unfortunately, today parents who are bringing children into the world who are not fit for the responsibilities which follow, and I feel that much could be done, in the stage before men and women marry, to bring home to them the responsibilities of parenthood. Nothing is more tragic than to see an unwanted child brought into the home or a child ill-treated and neglected because of the indifference of its parents.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest) mentioned particularly the difficulties in congested areas, particularly in London, not to mention the provincial cities, where the housing problem appears to be a directly contributing factor to this social evil. Let us take a typical case, one of many, of a family consisting of mother and father and five children trying to live in two small rooms in which they do everything for themselves—cooking, washing, sleeping and all the rest. A family of seven, five of whom are children, in which, despite all the difficulties, additional children are brought into such an environment, constitutes a problem into which we must inquire. Therefore, I feel that the responsibilities of parents are important, and I also know that we must look to wider spheres than merely intelligent parents to overcome these difficulties in our congested areas.

It is quite true that more and more people are migrating to London. It has been so through the ages, and we are now attempting to arrest that trend by the building of new towns, and so on. Nevertheless, London is a great magnet, and people and children are being attracted to it from all parts of the country. When they come to London, they face a serious housing problem, and the first thing they do is to look for one or two rooms into which they can crowd with their children. It may be in a great built-up area in which a family of small children is herded together in one or two rooms, probably in a tenement block, in which other people who live there may complain of the noise and interference from small children, and this does result in great trials and difficulties for the parents in trying to bring up their children in the fullest and wisest way and in the manner in which a child is entitled to grow up.

I feel that we must do something in our congested areas to look after these small children. It is not sufficient to say to the parents who have five children living in two rooms, "There it is; we are very sorry for you, but they are your children and you must do the best you can." We know that the statutory minimum age for the admission of children to school is five, but local education authorities have power to bring in children at the age of three plus, and to cater for them in nursery classes and nursery schools as a preliminary to the infant stage. I wonder how many local authorities are taking upon themselves that responsibility.

I know that, in my constituency, the local education authority is anxious to encourage as many children as possible, especially from congested parts, to come along and attend nursery classes before they reach the age of five. But quite recently the higher education authorities have seriously handicaped us in carrying out that arrangement. In my constituency we have a technical college which serves a very wide area of the county, and attached to it is a junior technical school. Of course, in the realm of technical education there is a considerable increase in the number of young men and women desiring to take advantage of those courses.

We are faced with the fact that in Acton we have a very rapidly expanding junior technical college drawing to it boys and girls from wide areas of the county. The education authorities have insisted that we hand over to them nine of our classrooms normally used for primary and secondary education. They have given priority in accommodation to the technical school over and above the needs and the necessities of local children including the under five's. We are very sore about that because we feel that the responsibility for providing additional accommodation for the junior technical school and for the Acton Technical College lies in decentralising the functions of the technical college into areas outside the constituency, because, as the position exists at present, it means that, in the interests of technical education, our smaller children are being elbowed out of the school accommodation which is rightly theirs. This, in turn, intensifies the problem of trying to help the younger children, who live in overcrowded conditions, by bringing them into nursery classes, and, by that means, to ease the problem of child welfare with which we all have to wrestle in built-up areas.

There is another point I wish to mention. We have been encouraging—and I suppose rightly—women to enter industry, and to take part in our drive for increased production. I am wondering whether that is always in the best interest of the children, because it means that when both the husband and wife are out at work all day the small children are left to fend for themselves. I know of many cases where the children are turned out on to the streets at half-past eight in the morning and remain there until six o'clock at night when their parents come home.

That may not be too bad when the schools are open, but what are these children going to do during the long summer vacation? I think that more should be done during the school vacations by way of throwing open to the children the school playgrounds, and, further, that local education authorities should provide games organisers in the school playgrounds, in the parks, in the open spaces or anywhere where they can be taken off the streets and can come under some form of control.

This question of the summer vacation is a real problem. A number of parents have come to me, strange as it may seem, and complained that the school holidays are too long, and that the children are left to roam the streets for too long a period. I am glad to see that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education is present because this is a subject which affects the Ministry of Education as well as the Home Office. I feel that much more could be done by the education authorities to cater for the children during the vacation period in the way I have suggested.

I am glad to have had this opportunity of saying a few words in support of my hon. Friend the Member for North Hendon. I believe that we are doing a great and valuable service this afternoon in bringing to the attention of the House and of the country this very sore problem, this blot upon our very fine standard of child welfare. After all, it is the children of today who will be the citizens of tomorrow, and it is upon them that we as a nation shall rely for our integrity and our greatness. We cannot do enough to see that our children are given every opportunity to develop into manhood and womanhood rich in the knowledge which leads to clean and healthy lives. I do not think we can spend too much—either in starting new services or in augmenting our existing services—with a view to seeing that not a single child shall be uncared for and unwanted, and that, so far as the State is concerned, the least of our children shall receive our maximum care and attention.

2.27 p.m.

I am very glad to have the opportunity of speaking in this Debate, and I hope that what I have to say will not unduly delay the reply of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department. I think everybody agrees that it is a very serious crime on the part of the community to see ill-treated or neglected children. No political barriers intervene in a case of this kind, and I speak with a considerable knowledge of the treatment of neglected children in a very great city. Therefore, I am at one with the hon. Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) who raised this subject today, in trying as far as possible still further to improve our approach to the treatment of children.

I have the fear, however—and I have got to face it—that there are occasions on which there may be too much interference. The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) referred to education and mentioned that school holidays were far too long. I think that if it were suggested that they should be at school during the holiday period, the children would regard that as a form of ill-treatment.

That was not my view; I was only expressing the view put to me by many mothers who had to look after the children in the vacation period.

I do not know a parent in any part of the country who has not been worried at one time or another at the length of school holidays, and who has not said that if little Johnnie were at school it would be much better because then they would know where he was.

That is one of the problems which arise from intruding on child life—that one attempts to judge the approach of the child to certain matters by one's own approach. We have to be very careful there. Even the teaching profession would start to complain if the suggestion to restrict holidays was persisted in. I was a member of a child welfare committee for many years, and I remember one case in which a woman had her three children taken away from her because they were illegitimate. In the opinion of some of the members of that committee the woman was unworthy of and unable to rear the children. It may surprise hon. Members to know that it was only after a very serious debate and after a vote had been taken that it was decided that the woman should retain her children.

I myself boil over when I see people exercising physical punishment on young children. I have seen it happen in all manner of places, as no doubt other hon. Members have—people hitting out at a youngster, not always because of his fault but because of the fault of the parent. I can say with much pride that I have never lifted my hand or used any violence against my children. Of course, one cannot always be too rigid in that respect. Sometimes when there are large families the rule of the sergeant-major must operate to some extent to keep the children in their places; one cannot always avoid that.

Who is to be responsible for this question, other than the organised bodies which are already doing it? If we look over the past 40 years we discover that there has been tremendous progress even in Government Departments. There is close co-operation between the Ministries of Health and Education and the Home Office in watching the development of child life. But who is to be the judge? I can remember magistrates during juvenile court proceedings saying to a boy, "If you were my son I should give you a damned good thrashing, and you would remember it for the rest of your life." Such a person is regarded as an authority on the law of the land and in seeing that people are properly protected in one way or another; yet as soon as a young delinquent goes before such a person, the best thing he can say to the boy is, "You require a good thrashing." Is that the best authority to look after children?

Whom are we going to choose to look after the neglected and ill-treated child? The usual practice is that charitable organisations go into the working class and overcrowded areas. They do not go into residential areas to see whether there is any child neglect there.

No, they do not. There are various forms of neglect and ill-treatment. While I agree with the hon. Member for North Hendon who raised this matter, that we should try to give greater comfort, care and kindness to children, I hope that the Under-Secretary for the Home Department will not ask for increased powers; I think we have sufficient powers. Therefore, when we consider the question of ill-treatment and neglect, we, as responsible people in authority either in national government or in local government, must ask ourselves how far we have contributed to the neglect and ill-treatment of children. It is easy enough to find the dull mother and punish her when somebody says that she has neglected her child, but it is difficult to punish a local authority.

I remember the case which was responsible for the appointment of the Curtis Committee. The parents were punished, but the local authorities, who in my view were primarily responsible for handing over the children to those parents, were not punished because it is difficult to punish a corporate body. Therefore, while I welcome anything that can be done to improve child life and make children stronger and healthier and give them a broader outlook in life, I hope that great care will be taken to see that there is no undue interference with family life and that parents are not punished if such punishment would not compensate the children.

2.36 p.m.

I only intervene for a few minutes to ask the Under-Secretary for the Home Department to clarify one point of law in regard to the treatment of children. Hon. Members who have spoken hitherto have covered nearly all aspects of child ill-treatment and neglect, and there is very little that can be said further to make the case of the hon. Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) more clear and more definite.

I had a case brought to my notice—no doubt, it is one of many—of a small family consisting of a man, his wife and daughter of 11. They had to take in a lodger, and the lodger interfered with the child. The child complained to her father, the father called the doctor and the doctor verified the truth of the child's allegation. Yet because there was no other evidence from a witness who had seen this interference, no action could be taken under the law as it exists at present. That seems to me to be a dangerous weakness in our legal system and one which, in my opinion, and I am sure in the opinion of every other hon. Member in this House, should be rectified. I thought it was only right that I should bring to the notice of the Government the existence of that defect in the law, and I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to say something to help us in this matter.

2.38 p.m.

I intervene in this Debate with some diffidence because practically all the hon. Members who have spoken represent in this House large urban areas, and therefore it may be wondered why a Member who represents a very widely scattered rural constituency should want to intervene. My belief is that although the number of cases may not be so high because the population is not so high, the need for attention to this mattter is quite as great in rural areas as in urban areas. It is that which justifies my speaking in this Debate, in spite of the fact that I have not the experience, such as medical experience, which some other hon. Members possess.

My belief is that the matter which we are discussing raises a very important question of principle. It is the principle whether we should put upon the State or the local authority the first responsibility to look after children whose parents are not looking after them properly, or whether we should make the parents look after the children. My feeling is that wherever possible we should follow the latter course. In other words, the first people to go to in order to get kindliness and proper care for a child, is the child's own family. We should always do that, even though we may think at first that the child's family is past praying for. We should examine each case on its merits and go back to that family to see whether something can be done first by the family itself.

If one accepts that as a principle, it is important to realise that before a parent commits cruelty or neglect towards his or her child, there is probably something in the circumstances of that parent conducive to cruelty. Sometimes, of course, it is hereditary, on which I am no expert, but more often it is due to the circumstances in which the person is living. Those hon. Members who have mentioned the conditions of over-crowding under which some families are living, have made a substantial point.

Anything which is likely to make the lot of the housewife or the lot of the father more difficult at home is likely to make the children in their more mischievous moments, more irritating to the parents. There are some people whose patience has been sorely tried over many years, and often cases of cruelty are due first to the fact that the parents themselves are having difficulty in making ends meet, in keeping the household together, or in managing to live with the people who are sharing the house with them.

All these things are human problems. Both sides of this House are intensely determined to try to solve the housing difficulty. We do not agree on the best way to do it, but we realise that shortage of housing today is one of the greatest evils and is causing more unhappiness to children than perhaps any other single factor. I believe that housing must have over-riding priority from any Government which tries to rule this country although some people believe that it is still more important to build new schools. I am glad that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Education is here because I believe that we are devoting too much of our building resources to things other than housing. That, of course, is not the responsibility of either of the two Under-Secretaries on the Front Bench at the moment, but I hope that what I am saying will be brought to the attention of the Minister of Health because it is fundamental to what we are discussing. When there is a shortage of material for building, it is essential that we concentrate the right amount on the right thing. I believe that we are not concentrating enough on housing, with the result that we are making family life more difficult for far too many people and are getting unnecessary cruelty and neglect of children.

There are many things relevant to this Debate which have been said in the Report of the Royal Commission on Population, and I hope that those responsible for seeing that as much as possible is done to facilitate proper family life will study carefully what appears on pages 182, 183 and 184. The remarks about sitters-in, day nurseries and nursery schools are of the utmost relevance to this Debate, though I do not propose to read them to the House because hon. Members can perfectly well read the report for themselves. I certainly think that local authorities in particular would be well advised to pay attention to them.

There is one aspect of this distressing problem which I hope the Home Office will consider, moral delinquency, particularly in relation to those mothers who have a series of illegitimate children. I know of astonishing cases, even in small rural areas, of a series of illegitimate children with the same mother, and the measures which exist for dealing with these people are not as good as they should be. I cannot discuss legislation on the Adjournment, but there is need for backing the work which is being done by the moral welfare societies in this connection.

It may seem somewhat remote from this Debate, but I believe that wherever we are dealing with children we should look first at the parents. I think it was H. G. Wells who said that before you can educate the children you must re-educate the parents. That problem of re-education is the greatest educational problem existing, and we should take first the worst case of parents who do not know their proper duties and have not had any instruction in how to behave as parents. Thoses cases are not receiving the attention they should have, and it is the direct responsibility of the Home Office. I do not know how much attention has been given to this matter since the present Government have been in power, but certainly the voluntary societies are in need of considerably more assistance than they are getting.

Finally, we have to decide for ourselves whether the State, through its social services, and the local authorities through the responsibility they take, are the right people to deal with matters which are their respective responsibilities. Social services are of the utmost importance and have done an immense amount of good in the past. They should do an immense amount of good in the future, but one thing they must never do—which there is a tendency for them to do at present—and that is to make the individual members of the community imagine that it does not matter how much they neglect their duties because there is always the State or the local authority to do the job.

If that mentality grows, the structure of our country will crumble. The people who neglect or ill-treat their children are often those who believe that even if they fail in their obligation as parents, there is always some one to look after the children. That is obviously not true of the majority, but it is true of the minority of the population. There should be a concerted effort by all voluntary societies and local authorities to try to make what I might call the delinquent parents realise their responsibilities. We have to get at the root of the problem, and I do not think it will be reached if we confine ourselves to delinquent children who have been neglected or ill-treated. We must get to the people who have neglected their children, and we can only hope to achieve anything through them if we concentrate on re-education and make it as easy for them as possible to look after their children.

It is not a matter which is the responsibility of the Home Office only, and it is not a matter of the responsibility of the Ministry of Education only. It is a matter which concerns the whole of the Government, and particularly those responsible for housing, health, education, and for seeing that the local authorities are given sufficient grants to carry out their obligations in such matters as these that the State places upon them. So I hope the Under-Secretary of State will give us some indication of what is the view of the Government, and of what the Government ought to do to help the societies doing their best to overcome some of the difficulties, particularly in re-educating the less responsible parents in the country. I should like him to say, too, if he thinks the local authorities are carrying out their work in the re-education of those people.

When we detect cases of the neglect of children we consider them to be some of the most appalling features of our national life, and it is right that we should; but let us always remember that, compared to what some other countries do for the care of their children, we have a very high standard indeed. Let us, therefore, not be too pessimistic. I have noticed a rather pessimistic strain in the Debate. Let us remember that much has been done already, and most of it voluntary, and what has been done is magnificent, and would stand examination by any test and pass with flying colours. I hope that the hon. Gentleman who is to reply to the Debate can give us some indication of the work that has been done over the last few years, and of what he considers ought to be done in the future to implement what I believe to be the sincere and right suggestion of the hon. Member for North Hendon.

2.52 p.m.

think that the quality of the speeches which have followed that of my hon. Friend the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) is enough proof of the great interest which is taken in this subject she has raised, and we would all wish to congratulate her both on having raised it and on the manner in which she raised it. I think it will be necessary for me to return to the problem as she raised it, for since then the Debate has ranged extraordinarily wide. I think the problem with which she was anxious I should deal was that covered in a report, a copy of which I have here, and which must be known to many hon. Members here. "The Neglected Child and his Family," a report compiled by the Women's Group of Public Welfare, as a result of investigations over quite a long period some two years ago. That certainly is the basis of very much of my understanding of this problem, and I think my hon. Friend would agree that it is a very valuable Report.

I am sure the House would wish me to express our very great regret at learning of the sudden death of Mrs. Eva Hubback, Chairman of the Committee, who was, perhaps, more than any other person responsible for its report. The House may know that she wrote a long and useful letter to "The Times" just before her death, and I myself saw her just before that, and on several occasions in the course of the past year. Her departure is a very great loss to the study of this as of many other subjects.

The House will realise that this problem goes well beyond the responsibility of the Home Secretary as the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) said. It is true to some extent that no one person is responsible for just the things which my hon. Friend wished to discuss. I have done my best in preparation for this Debate to consult my colleagues, and I hope I shall be able to go a little wide of what normally would be Home Office business. At the same time, I must say that some of the instances which have been raised, relevant though they are to the problem, are instances which would be inappropriate for me to deal with in any detail today, because they raise questions of the whole social structure of the country—of all the social services and such matters as education and the building of houses. In particular, some of the specific instances which were mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for North Islington (Dr. Guest), although very relevant, were things I cannot be expected to answer fully.

Such, for instance, was the question of the degree of priority given by local housing committees in the allocation of houses to persons with children as against persons without children. I have never myself envied the job of any housing allocation committee. I think that such committees have an almost impossible task in present circumstances. I should have thought from my own experience that very considerable priority was given to people with families, but just how much should be given must be a matter of opinion. So on that side of the subject all I would wish to say is, that, quite clearly, a big element in the neglect of children in their homes is the difficulty which many mothers have in living a reasonable life, and having reasonable facilities for running their homes and bringing up what may be large families.

All the social services will contribute to ease the mother's task, and so we may hope that, as the social services develop, they will have incidentally a big impact on the rather narrower problem to which I now wish to devote myself. It is a problem difficult in itself in that what we are trying to deal with are the conditions existing long before the stage at which there is an offence or cruelty. It is difficult because we are trying to deal with the child when it is with its own parents who, in the ordinary way, would be entrusted exclusively with the authority for looking after the child, and we must be careful about interfering with that parental responsibility.

Public authorities can take action in a pretty wide range of cases, as in all cases where the child is in need of care and protection. The definition in the 1933 Act goes, I think, a little wider than simply the cases where parents have been themselves guilty of criminal negligence. If my hon. Friend looks at the definition she will find it goes a good deal wider than that in defining responsibility and in making it possible in some, though not in all, cases to take preventive action. Under the Public Health Acts, too, there are wide powers for dealing with the child who is with unsuitable foster parents, That is rather a different thing—a very different thing—than the case of the child who is with its own parents.

Under both types of legislation the normal form which public intervention would take would be to remove the child from the family with which it is. That would break up the home. If I have understood my hon. Friend correctly, what she wishes to promote is a rather different type of intervention, in a class of cases which are certainly harder to define than those I have mentioned, and are probably also hard to recognise in individual cases. The type of intervention envisaged is principally that of help and advice to the mother in making the home a better home.

Reference was also made to the need for some change in the power of authorities to remove a child from its own parents. That, I think, would inevitably require legislation, and I therefore do not propose to discuss it now. What was principally envisaged was intervention in the form of skilled help and advice by trained social workers, in the class of cases where the signs of trouble are visible but where there has as yet been no offence, where there would be no ground for any order to be made under the 1933 Act; that is to say, if I may put it in a colloquial form, cases where there is reason to suppose that the parents are falling down on their job. Now that is a very difficult criterion to apply for administrative purposes. We all think we know what we mean by it; it is easy to say, but it is not at all easy to turn it into good administrative practice.

What I suggested was that in the cases where accredited responsible people, such as schoolteachers, health visitors, hygiene visitors, and various people of that sort had complained, action should be taken. I would suggest that that confines the cases to those where there is definitely something wrong.

I take my hon. Friend's point, but the fact remains that, even the complaint of responsible people would have to be based on something which is, in itself, difficult to define. Normally when they would make a complaint—certainly in their official capacity—it would be because they had reason to suspect an offence, something which was at any rate reasonably definite. Here we are trying to secure suitable intervention in cases where nothing so concrete has occurred.

The first thing I want to say is that I admit immediately that there is this class of case, that if we could give the right help we would prevent a great deal of suffering which goes on at the present time, and that there is a gap in the mechanism of the social services in dealing with that type of case. Therefore in putting forward, as I am bound to do, some of the difficulties which face the Government in trying to devise the right administration for a matter of this kind, I do not want the House to think that I am in any way seeking to shirk the problem, or to pretend that it is a problem which does not genuinely exist. It does exist.

Now let me address myself to three questions, all of which are inter-related. First, how are we to find out what is going on?—a problem particularly stressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Hastings). Secondly, once somebody has found it out, no matter who it may be, to whom is it to be reported? Thirdly, and very closely allied with that, who is to take action after the report has been made?

The question, "How are we to find out?" at once raises the problem of the relationship between public authorities and the homes of private persons. It is one thing to investigate specific offences which go on in homes, such as the one referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore); it is one thing to supervise foster homes where children are living with persons other than their parents; but I think hon. Members will agree that it is quite another thing to set up some kind of official machinery for supervising ordinary homes, and to watch for apprehended dangers, for things which, as far as everybody knows, have not yet occurred in the homes which are run by the parents of the children themselves.

Nobody who has spoken today has suggested that we should set up a special service to do this. I think that it would cause very great difficulty to set up a special service whose only job was to look into the broad mass of ordinary homes where nothing is known to be wrong, to investigate whether or not they are being well run. Nobody has suggested that, and I think we are all agreed that the right way to get the information is to make better use of the vast bulk of existing information which is already available, if only it can be co-ordinated.

Hon. Members have mentioned most of the sources and I will just enumerate what seem to me to be the main ones. First of all, on the education side there is the teacher in the school who may be put on inquiry by what he or she sees in the school. Then there are the school attendance officers, or school welfare officers as they are sometimes called, who in the ordinary course of their duties have access to very many homes. However, I do not think I should be going too far in saying that both the teachers and those other education officers will want to be very cautious in doing anything which lays them open to a charge that when they go round the homes they are in any sense snooping. That is a charge from which we have to protect all officers, no matter who they may be, whether of the local authority or of a voluntary body, if we are asking them to take part in an organised system of reporting their information.

On the health side there is a very considerable organisation which is in touch with these matters. There are welfare centres, clinics and nurseries; there are the health visitors, whose powers I understand have been considerably increased under the National Health Service Act; there are the home nursing service, the domestic help service, and so on. All those things are at the present moment very much in their infancy, and I certainly should not like to be required today to tell the House just how far we can cover this problem by means of the development of some of those services, and how far they would still leave a gap even when they are fully developed. They are in their very early stages.

Then there are housing managers, sanitary inspectors and, finally, children's officers. That again is a post which is in its infancy. I have no doubt whatever that children's officers can play a very big part in this, but I would point out that of all the officials I have mentioned the children's officer is possibly the one who at the moment has the fewest facilities for actually being in touch with a very large cross-section of the homes in a particular town or area. He or she has not the staff, nor, indeed, the occasion to visit anything like the number of homes which are visited by health visitors, and school attendance officers.

Finally, we have the voluntary organisations, of whom the N.S.P.C.C. have been particularly mentioned, and to whom I should like to pay a tribute for the work they do. In other words, we have many sources of information already, and no doubt large numbers of active officials do already report what they see either to their colleagues or to voluntary bodies. The question is whether we put a duty on them for this purpose. I am not quite clear what can be meant by that. It might mean something that involves legislation, or it might be a form of instruction from the local authority to the officer that when he sees certain things he should report to some one. Here again it is necessary to give a word of caution. It is important it should not appear that the principal function of any of these officers is to go round and collect information. It would not be good for their own job if it were thought that a school attendance officer was really going round, not for school attendance purposes, but to see how the home was run. That might shake confidence.

The second question is to whom it should be reported. I do not think there is a consensus of opinion on this. There was an interesting suggestion made during the Debate, that there should be an unpaid panel of child advisers to consider what should be done when cases were reported. If such a panel were set up, presumably they would be the body to whom all reports would be sent. I was asked whether the children's officers could set up such a body. I think the position is that while the children's officers can certainly promote the voluntary formation of a body of this kind, there would be no statutory power to spend money or set up staff; it would have to be done by local voluntary effort. There are a number of authorities that have already made an experimental start in centralising information, and they have done it in different ways. Some, I understand, centralise it on the children's officer, and others on the education service. I think the home advisers, to which reference has already been made at Norwich, are attached to the health services.

So there are a number of ways in which this can be done. It may be that uniformity is not necessary, but probably what is necessary is that in any given area it should be generally known by all the voluntary societies and the general public to whom reports should be made, even if it is not always precisely the same official or body throughout the country. This brings me to the question as to who should take action. It is not necessarily the same person upon whom the information is centralised. The person on whom the information is centralised may simply be a clearing house to parcel out the work according to the case and the type of work to be done.

I think that this is the crux of the whole question. I am sure the House will realise that at the present time nearly all the local authority services which may be called upon to take action in this matter are very fully stretched and are very short of trained social workers. The supply of trained social workers is increasing, and we hope it will go on increasing at a fast rate, but nevertheless the job we are seeking to get done is one which requires highly trained people. It is not one which can be done by anyone, however good may be his knowledge of the work of a doctor or a nurse or a school attendance officer. It is no reflection on any of these people, in their capacity to do their own jobs, to say that this is a job which goes rather wider than what most of their qualifications qualify them for. There are, of course, people doing these jobs who have social science qualifications and experience, but that is not the general rule. We are looking for a rather rare type of bird to do this job.

May I say a word or two about the possibility of getting the job done by voluntary societies? I do not wish to minimise the work done by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, or the specialised bodies which have done magnificent research work like the family research units and the pacifist research units who have done case work which is valuable in connection with this subject. On the whole, I think this looks like being a problem which is too large to be covered entirely by the voluntary societies. Under the Children Act we established what I hope will prove to be a very satisfactory partnership between public and voluntary bodies. I have not heard, since the Act came into force, any serious objection to the form of the partnership, and I think both public authorities and voluntary organisations are doing very valuable work.

I think it will probably prove necessary—and I go no further than this—for local authorities to take some direct part in addition to playing the part of liaison with voluntary societies who, undoubtedly, will still have a very large part to play. I do not think they need fear that if any action were taken in this matter it would result in a diminishing of their functions. It is much more likely that they would be very fully strained in what they would be called upon to do.

My difficulty is to say what can be done. I have said enough already to show that the solution of this problem lies in consultation between a number of central Departments, the local authorities and the voluntary societies. During the past year the Home Office have thrown out one or two hints in circulars which have been sent to local authorities. A paragraph in the circular on juvenile delinquency related to the question of collecting information and trying to get at the root of the trouble before it went too far. There was also a paragraph in the circular which was issued following the introduction of the Children Act, calling attention to this type of work in homes. No more than hints were made, and at the moment I do not know what local authorities have thought about these hints.

One of the things we would have to do would be to get in touch with them and try and take this matter one stage further. One of the reasons for our tentative approach was that both the Children Act and the National Health Service Act, which might provide facilities for dealing with parts of this problem, had not been in existence long, so that it would be rather difficult to put on to local authorities any great new burden for a comprehensive service of child care beyond what was already laid upon them by existing Statutes. We have to tackle this problem by stages, partly because of its administrative burden and partly because of lack of trained personnel.

I have, however, been in consultation with my colleagues at the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education and, as a start, we are prepared to enter into consultation, as we did for the purposes of those circulars, to see whether it is possible to bring the solution of this problem a little nearer. It is largely a question of administrative difficulty and finding the best way to get hold of a person on the spot, at local authority level, to do the job. We undertake to consult again on that, and I hope we shall be able to make some progress. In the meantime, I have no doubt whatever that my hon. Friend who raised this has done great service in doing so. I hope what has been said in this House will be reported and studied, and that, therefore, we shall get all the people who are concerned seriously thinking of what is a possible solution for this difficult and important problem.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Sixteen Minutes after Three o'Clock.