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Commons Chamber

Volume 480: debated on Friday 17 November 1950

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House Of Commons

Friday, 17th November, 1950

The House met at Eleven o'Clock


[MR. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Members' Bills Presented

Fraudulent Mediums Bill

"to repeal the Witchcraft Act, 1735, and to make, in substitution for certain provisions of section four of the Vagrancy Act, 1824, express provision for the punishment of persons who fraudulently purport to act as spiritualistic mediums or to exercise powers of telepathy, clairvoyance or other similar powers," presented by Mr. Monslow; supported by Mr. Thomas Brooks, Mr. Blyton, Mr. S. O. Davies, Mr. Grey, Mr. Glenvil Hall, Mr. Lang, Mr. McGovern, Mr. Murray, Mr. George Rogers, Mr. Sydney Silverman and Mr. Viant; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 1st December, and to be printed. [Bill 18.]

New Streets Bill

"to secure the satisfactory construction, lighting, sewerage, furnishing and completion of streets adjacent to new buildings; to provide for the approval of such streets by local authorities; to make such approval a condition of certain licences and permissions, and to oblige and empower local authorities to adopt streets so approved," presented by Mr. Kinley; supported by Mr. Mitchison; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 26th January, and to be printed. [Bill 19.]

Common Informers Bill

"to abolish the common informer procedure," presented by Mr. Lionel Heald; supported by Mr. Russell, Mr. Hylton-Foster, Mr. Peter Thorneycroft, Mr. Gilbert Longden, Mr. Reader Harris and Mr. Hopkin Morris; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 9th February, and to be printed. [Bill 20.]

Transport (Amendment) Bill

"to amend the provisions of the Transport Act, 1947, with regard to the transport of goods by road," presented by Mr. Bevins; supported by Mr. Peter Thorneycroft, Mr. Geoffrey Wilson, Mr. McAdden, Mr. Wade, Mr. Macdonald, Mr. Kenneth Thompson, Mr. David Renton and Mr. Vosper: read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 23rd February, and to be printed. [Bill 21.]

Matrimonial Causes Bill

"to amend the law relating to divorce in cases in which the parties have lived separately for a period of not less than seven years," presented by Mrs. Eirene White; supported by Mr. Martin Lindsay, Mr. Hopkin Morris, Lieutenant-Colonel Lipton, Mrs. Ganley, Mrs. Hill, Mr. Mikardo, Miss Burton and Mr. Paton; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 9th March, and to be printed. [Bill 22.]

Pet Animals Bill

"to regulate the sale of pet animals," presented by Mr. Russell; supported by Mrs. Hill, Mr. Anthony Greenwood, Mr. George Craddock, Mr. H. Hynd, Mr. Alport, Captain Orr, Viscountess Davidson, Miss Ward, Mr. Vaughan-Morgan, Mr. Angus Maude and Mr. Gilbert Longden; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 6th April, and to be printed. [Bill 23.]

Trade Union Bill

"to prohibit local and other public authorities from making membership or non-membership of a trade union a condition of employment or of continuance in employment," presented by Mr. Nigel Davies; supported by Mr. Peter Thorneycroft; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 6th April, and to be printed. [Bill 24.]

Deserted Wives Bill

"to give power to the courts to transfer the statutory tenancy of a dwelling to a deserted wife and to apportion the chattels," presented by Mrs. Hill: supported by Miss Ward, Viscountess Davidson and Mrs. Corbet; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 26th January, and to be printed. [Bill 25.]

Hill Farming Bill

"to amend section ten of the Hill Farming Act, 1946, and for purposes connected therewith," presented by Major McCallum; supported by Mr. Snadden, Mr. Vane, Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton, Mr. Donald Scott and Mr. Turton; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 1st December, and to be printed. [Bill 26.]

Gas Undertakings (Scotland) Bill

"to set up in Scotland a Central Gas Council directly responsible to the Secretary of State with powers subject to his consent to redraw the areas of supply; to transfer to local authorities gas undertakings in their area by mutual arrangement; and in other respects to reorganise the gas industry in Scotland," presented by Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison; supported by Mr. Galbraith, Lieut.-Colonel Elliot, Mr. McKie, Sir David Robertson, Mr. Heathcoat Amory and Lord Dunglass; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 9th March, and to be printed. [Bill 27.]

Rivers (Prevention Of Pollution) (Scotland) Bill

"to make new provision for maintaining or restoring the wholesomeness of the rivers and other inland or coastal waters of Scotland in place of the Rivers Pollution Prevention Act, 1876, and certain other enactments," presented by Mr. McKie; supported by Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith, Lord John Hope and Lieut.-Colonel Elliot; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 23rd February, and to be printed. [Bill 28.]

Representation Of The People (Amendment) (No 1) Bill

"to amend section eighty-eight of the Representation of the People Act, 1949, with regard to the use of motor vehicles for conveying electors to the poll," presented by Mr. Marples; supported by Mr. Spearman; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 9th February, and to be printed. [Bill 29.]

Security Of Employment (Service Contracts) Bill

"to entitle certain wage earners to a statement setting out the conditions of their employment and the terms upon which, if their employment is terminated, they shall be compensated," presented by Mr. John Rodgers; supported by Mr. Edward Heath, Mr. Robert Carr, Mr. A. R. W. Low, Mr. Iain MacLeod, Mr. Angus Maude and Mr. Peter Thorneycroft; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 9th February, and to be printed. [Bill 30.]

Public Bodies (Admission Of Press) Bill

"to provide for the admission of the Press to the meetings of certain bodies exercising public functions; and for related purposes," presented by Mr. Martin Lindsay; supported by Mr. John Hay; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 23rd February, and to be printed. [Bill 31.]

Slaughter Of Animals (Amendment) Bill

"to extend the provisions of the Slaughter of Animals Act, 1933, and implement certain recommendations of the Departmental Committee on the export and slaughter of horses," presented by Mr. Arthur Colegate; sub-ported by Mr. John Hay, Mr. Sutcliffe, Mr. George Craddock and Mr. H. Hynd; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 26th January, and to be printed. [Bill 32.]

Colour Bar Bill

"to make illegal any discrimination to the detriment of any person on the basis of colour or race," presented by Mr. Sorensen; supported by Mrs. Ganley, Mr. Dryden Brook, Mr. Douglas Houghton, Mr. Pannell, Mr. Harry Wallace, Mr. Holman, Mr. Michael Foot, Mr. Arthur Allen, Mr. George Jeger, Mr. George Craddock and Mr. Emrys Hughes; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 6th April, and to be printed. [Bill 33.]

Representation Of The People (Amendment) (No 2) Bill

"to amend the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1949," presented by Captain Orr; supported by Professor Savory; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 1st December, and to be printed. [Bill 34.]

Fireworks Bill

"to confer powers of seizure where dangerous fireworks are found, and powers to determine or amend licences or certificates for explosives factories where fireworks are made, and to amend the law relating to licences for small firework factories; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid," presented by Mr. Moyle; supported by Miss Burton, Mr. Hopkin Morris, Mr. Harry Wallace, Mr. Butcher, Mr. Mellish, Dr. Broughton, Mr. Pargiter, Mr. Cocks, Dr. Barnett Stross, Surgeon Lieut.-Commander Bennett and Mr. Derek Walker-Smith; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 9th March, and to be printed. [Bill 35.]

National Insurance (Amendment) Bill

"to amend certain provisions of the National Insurance Act, 1946," presented by Mr. Gilbert Longden; supported by Mr. Fort; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 9th February, and to be printed. [Bill 36.]

Packaging And Handling Of Food Bill

"to make provision for the regulation and control of the manner in which food for human consumption shall be packed, and to regulate the manner in which it may be handled during the process of manufacture, merchanting and sale," presented by Colonel Banks; supported by Mr. Kaberry, Dr. Hill, Wing Commander Bullus, Mr. Reader Harris, Colonel Stoddart-Scott, Mr. Geoffrey Hirst, Mr. Peter Thorneycroft, Mr. Hylton-Foster, Mr. Watkinson and Squadron Leader Burden; read the First time; to be read a Second time upon Friday, 26th January, and to be printed. [Bill 37.]

Orders Of The Day

Restoration Of Pre-War Trade Practices Bill

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."—[ Mr. Isaacs.]

11.8 a.m.

I do not want to delay the House, but I should like to ask the Minister whether he can tell us the result of his consideration of two points which we raised in Committee and which he promised to look into. One to which we attach considerable importance concerns an affirmative rather than a negative resolution procedure for the Order in Council. The other is a relatively minor point, but we want to know whether the employers and the trade unions concerned have had any talks about it.

We shall move an Amendment in another place to make it an affirmative instead of a negative procedure. In regard to the second point, I have gone into the matter very carefully with the parties concerned, but they see considerable difficulties about making a change. That being so, I hope that the House will not press me on that.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

Colonial Development And Welfare Bill

Bill read the Third time, and passed

Solicitors Bill

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

Ecclesiastical Reorganisa- Tion, Westminster

11.12 a.m.

I beg to move,

"That the Scheme for the rearrangement of the pastoral supervision of the parishes of Saint Stephen and Saint Mary, Westminster, Saint John the Evangelist, Westminster, and Saint Margaret, Westminster, in the diocese of London, be disapproved."
I wish to begin by making it clear that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood), my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, South (Mr. W. T. Williams) and I, are not opposed to the intrinsic merits of the proposal which is laid before the House by the Church Commissioners. Anyone who has known these parishes reasonably well, as I have done for the last 25 years, can be in no doubt about the wisdom of the recommendations which the Church Commissioners are now making. It is undoubtedly right to amalgamate the parishes of St. Stephen and St. Mary, Westminster, St. John the Evangelist, Westminster, and St. Margaret, Westminster. We have tabled this Prayer because of the effect the proposal will have upon the foundation of the Collegiate Church of Saint Peter, which is, of course, generally known as Westminster Abbey.

Since the reign of Queen Anne, the rectory of St. John the Evangelist in Smith Square has been attached to the office of a residentiary canon of Westminster Abbey. These two offices have been suspended since 1941 when, unfortunately, the Church of St. John the Evangelist was destroyed by bombing. Shortly after, Canon F. R. Barry, who will be well known to many Members of this House, was appointed to the diocese of Southwell and relinquished his residentiary canonry at Westminster Abbey.

I think it is interesting to look back to the Report of the Cathedrals Commission of the Church Assembly, which sat in 1926 under the Chairmanship of Archbishop Lang. It made its Report in 1927. Speaking of the residentiary canonries of Westminster Abbey, the Commission reported:
"We consider that four would suffice if the rectory of St. Johns were separated from one of them, and if the canons took part in the services and other activities of the Abbey throughout the year and not only during their statutory residence."
In spite of that Report, the Abbey continued with five residentiary canons until Canon Barry became a Bishop in 1941.

At this point I think it will be for the convenience of the House if I state that a residentiary canon, unless he is a parish priest, as in the case of the Rector of St. Margaret's, Westminster, has few duties. The main duty of a residentiary canon is to read the Lessons of the day on weekdays and to preach once on a Sunday. If there are four canons in the Chapter it means that they divide the year up between them, and the period of residence for each canon is three months. If, on the other hand, there are five residentiary canons, then the period of official residence is something like two-and-a-half months. In return for working for two-and-a-half to three months, these residentiary canons are receiving a yearly stipend of £1,400, I believe, and have in addition, a house and various other concessions.

Since 1945, five of these residentiary canonries have existed, but only four of them have been filled, because one of these canonries had to be filled by the Rector of St. John the Evangelist, and changed circumstances have made it unnecessary to appoint anybody to that living. The extinction of the rectory of St. Johns, under the Scheme which we are considering this morning, means that the ecclesiastical authorities are now in a position to fill that residentiary canonry without the necessity of appointing an ordinary parish priest to that position. It means, in fact, that it is now possible to create something which is approaching a sinecure.

It is not for me to say whether that is right or wrong. it is, indeed, difficult for anybody who is not well acquainted with the foundation of the collegiate church to know whether that is right, but I mention it for this reason. In October of this year, just over a month ago, the Lord Chancellor, representing His Majesty the King as the Visitor of the Abbey Church of Westminster, and the Lord President of the Council, acting on behalf of the Privy Council, appointed a committee to review the whole foundation of the Abbey and to adjust it to modern needs. The question of how many residentiary canons there should be would clearly be a proper matter to be considered by that committee, which was set up by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord President of the Council.

It is a committee consisting of three very distinguished men. The chairman is Lord Simonds, a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and a very distinguished Chancery judge. The other members of the committee are Sir John Beaumont, who was Chief Justice of Bombay, and Sir Richard Hopkins, who is known to most of us as a very distinguished and successful head of His Majesty's Treasury. That committee was set up last month. It is to hold its first meeting on 12th January, 1951. My submission is that if, by this Measure, we are creating a vacancy on the establishment of the Abbey, then it is surely right that no decision should be taken to fill that vacancy until the committee set up by the Lord Chancellor and the Lord President of the Council has reported.

I have moved this Prayer in order to represent to my hon. Friend, the Church Estates Commissioner, that other points are involved apart from this clear and simple matter of parochial reorganisation. I appreciate that these matters are beyond my hon. Friend's jurisdiction but, nevertheless, I hope he will assure the House that, in his capacity as the representative of the Church in this House, he will represent to the proper quarters the strong feeling which has been expressed that, if the procedure of this House is to be used to enable the filling of a vacancy made available by this Scheme in advance of the report of the committee to which I have referred, such a step will be not merely inadvisable but will be little short of contempt of this House and of the Privy Council itself.

May I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker? May I second the Motion but reserve my observations until after my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) has replied?

The Motion must be moved and seconded before it can be put to the House. Otherwise, it cannot be debated.

11.22 a.m.

As this is the first occasion upon which a scheme under the Reorganisation Measure has come before this House, and as the other business of the House has gone through very smoothly, I hope that you, Mr. Speaker, and hon. Members will allow me to make one or two general observations. It may well be that this will not be the last occasion upon which the House will be asked to consider a Reorganisation Scheme of this kind.

About the general merits of reorganisation I am sure no hon. Member can have any serious doubts. Only a few years ago we found ourselves obliged, by the movements of population, to reorganise the constituencies or, one might say, the parishes from which we ourselves derive our authority and which it is our duty to look after as Parliamentary representatives. The same kind of thing is continually happening to the Church. In addition to that, the Church in these years is having to face a considerable reduction in the number of men available to care for parishes.

I would like to point out, on behalf of the Church, that we require about 600 new entrants per year. In the last conveniently available 12-month period we had just over 600 applicants coming forward and offering themselves to be trained, but rather than accept the whole of this 600, which would have given us the number required for the year, the relevant Church authority thought it better to apply the policy of putting quality first and of adopting serious, and rigorous, tests by which about one-third of those offering themselves could not be accepted. With regret, it was not found possible to offer them training because it was felt that they did not attain the standards required. Therefore, another point which requires parochial reorganisation is the reduction in the number of clergy.

Whenever any change is made in local boundaries of any kind, whether secular boundaries or church boundaries, I am sure it is the experience of hon. Members in all parts of the House that somebody is aggrieved. Somebody, perhaps, for quite good reasons, does not welcome the proposals. I feel sure we shall find, therefore, that over and over again there are groups of people who, for reasons of deep sincerity, wish to query these schemes when they come before this House, which is the last stage in our procedure. I am quite confident that I, or any successor of mine from whatever party might be in power, will always be glad to meet hon. Members and discuss with them the points which their constituents wish to raise on these issues, and will always be very glad to answer in public in the House. I am very well aware that cases could arise in which it would be proper for this House to disapprove a scheme put forward on behalf of the Church.

I hope, however, that hon. Members will approach these schemes with the view that, prima facie, it is probable that by the time they reach the House the various objections have been considered and that, on balance, in the light of all the circumstances surrounding them, there is a fair probability that schemes will not have reached the House until good and proper account has been taken of all objections.

To show what the procedure may be, let me state to the House the procedure which has taken place in this case. Other schemes may vary because of special circumstances, but this is the general picture. There is a formal consultation between the diocesan reorganisation committee, the incumbents of the parishes concerned, the patrons, the parochial church councils and the Rural Dean. If, as a result of these consultations, proposals materialise, they are submitted by the reorganisation committee to the bishop and are submitted by the bishop to the Church Commissioners with the request that they will prepare a draft reorganisation scheme to give effect to the proposals.

The Commissioners then prepare a draft scheme and the Bishop has to approve it, as does the reorganisation committee. Then the scheme has to be approved by the Minister of Town and Country Planning. In the case of this scheme, it also had to be approved by the Crown, as patron of the benefices concerned. Finally, the draft scheme has to be transmitted to the patrons, the incumbents, the parochial church council and the Rural Dean once again, and to the local authorities concerned, with formal notice of the opportunities for objections. If no objections are put forward, which is the case here—and it may turn out that this is one of the rare cases in which no parishioner objects to the reorganisation at all—the matter then comes before the House. I hope hon. Members will agree that this is a procedure which at least sets up a prima facie case that schemes of this kind have been fairly and fully considered and thatpotential objectors have had their chance of stating their case.

Coming to the merits of this scheme, I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) said he had no objection to the scheme itself. That enables me to deal with the matter quite briefly, although I cannot pass it over altogether because I must point out to hon. Members some of the consequences which would follow if we did not now give our approval to this scheme of reorganisation. I expect most hon. Members know that the architecturally interesting church of St. John, in Smith Square, was destroyed by enemy action during the war and that no vicar has been appointed to the care of that parish since then. The parishioners in that area have, therefore, been in an uncertain situation from that day to this.

The first and most obvious effect of this scheme—which anybody can see by glancing at the map, copies of which are available in the Vote Office and in the Library—would be to remove the anomalous position of those who live in what is now the Parish of St. John's and to divide them, for the most part attaching them to the neighbouring westward parish of St. Stephen and St. Mary, and as to a small number in the northward part of the parish, attaching them to the Parish of St. Margaret's, Westminster. None of the parishioners object to this proposal, and I think it is fair to say that those who take most active interest in the work of the church in that parish want this proposal to go through.

Another important proposal, which depends entirely upon the approval of this scheme, is that the Church of St. John shall be rebuilt as a depository for interesting records which are in the hands of the Church. This project will be of great value not only to church people. It is also a project by and through which the church will render a considerable service to historians and to students of history, whether they be members of the church or not.

The church, as hon. Members will understand, has in its keeping records of all kinds—records of Queen Anne's Bounty, going back two or three centuries; the records of the Court of the Dean of Arches, the oldest court in this country, amongst which we have a deed signed by Henry III. I regret that the official business of the House went through so quickly that I do not now have with me the piece of paper on which I had written down all the fascinatingly interesting records which the church now holds in its possession but which, owing to bombing and to one thing or another, are now to be found in cupboards, in corridors of St. Paul's Cathedral, buried in turrets in Lambeth Palace, or in cellars of the office of the Church Commissioners—all in places where they are physically unavailable to be studied by any student of history who could derive great value from their study.

The proposal is that this very interesting structure, the building of St. John's—which, let us be frank about it, is superfluous as a parish church, and where the Church in these days would not be justified in spending the money of church people on restoring it for use as a parish church—should be restored as a storehouse for these invaluable records, where they can be kept in conditions where students can have ready access to them. This is something which surely should go forward.

My hon. Friend will appreciate, of course, that this part of the scheme has my wholehearted and enthusiastic support.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having said so. I am well aware of that, but if the House were to disapprove of this scheme it would be absolutely impossible—legally impossible—for the church to go ahead with this proposal. It would be quite out of our power to spend any money on the proposed conversion of the Parish Church of St. John unless this scheme goes forward.

I understood it was part of my hon. Friend's case, not that the scheme was bad in itself, but that the moment of its presentation was inopportune, because of the Commission, which is sitting, appointed by the Lord Chancellor to consider the whole set-up of the Abbey, embracing the Collegiate Church of St. Peter. Does my hon. Friend say that if the House were to disapprove the scheme now, it would be impossible for it to be brought forward, if thought fit, at a later date?

If the House were to disapprove it now, it could not simply wait say another three months and then merely be re-introduced on the same piece of paper. We should, I understand, have to go right back through the whole of this long procedure. Meanwhile, with each month that passes, the weather will be doing more and more damage to this church, which has stood in a derelict condition for long enough. If there were to be further delay, it would be likely to be a matter of years. If there was any great cause for asking for this delay, my hon. Friends might be justified in putting forward their proposals. I apologise for having been so long, but it is worth while to deal with the matter thoroughly, to show the merits of the scheme, how it has come forward, and the general situation.

Turning to the points which my hon. Friend has raised, I think that he is subject to a misunderstanding on this matter. The scheme says nothing about the appointment of residentiary canons, nor will the passing or the rejection of the scheme in any way affect their position. As I understand it, there is nothing to prevent the Crown from having appointed a vicar to St. John's Parish. True, he has no parish church, but that is not unique; plenty of parishes where the parish church has been destroyed have vicars. Nothing could have prevented the Crown from appointing a vicar of St. John's parish, yesterday or at any time since the bombing.

Surely it is implicit in the scheme that there is no work for a parish priest in that parish to do if amalgamation with the neighbouring parish is possible. I think it is my hon. Friend who is under a misapprehension. If, up to the time this Scheme goes through, a residentiary canon had been appointed, he would have had to be a working parish priest. Under the state of affairs created by this Measure, it would be no longer necessary to appoint the rector of St. John the Evangelist, and it would, in fact, be possible, as I have said, to create something approaching a sinecure.

I grant my hon. Friend this point: that not as a matter of the powers that could or could not be exercised, but as a matter of practice of what probably would or would not have been done, while this scheme was in preparation, there was a probability that no vicar of St. John's Parish would be appointed. But I am dealing with the question of what were the actual powers. The powers have always been such that at any moment a vicar of this parish could have been appointed. He would, as my hon. Friend has said, have then had the duties of a vicar of a parish with a bombed church, a parish where, for physical reasons, he could hardly conduct the normal services. I agree that he would have had those duties, but he would also have been a canon of Westminster and would have been in a position to take his turn with the other canons in the official duties of the Abbey and to take his part in consultations about the administration of its quite complicated business; and I do not think that any duties which would have attached to him in relation to the St. John's Parish, with its destroyed church, would have been so onerous as to prevent him from making a very large contribution as a canon. As I say, he could have been appointed at any time up till today.

If this scheme goes through, he can be appointed tomorrow, but in that respect the position is not at all altered except in the respect that if he had been appointed yesterday; if he be appointed tomorrow, with this scheme disapproved, he would have had certain not very onerous duties in relation to the parish without a parish church; whereas if he be appointed tomorrow after the scheme has gone through, he would not have those duties.

I have no knowledge at all whether a canon will be appointed in the near future, nor could I have that knowledge. I speak in the House on these matters as the Second Church Estates Commissioner on behalf of the Church Commissioners, and the Church Commissioners have nothing to do with the question of appointing canons. That is entirely in the hands of the Crown, and it would be quite impossible for any hon. Member, or even for any right hon. Gentleman who is a Minister, to give any sort of firm undertaking about the way in which the Crown would exercise its prerogative. I think I am constitutionally right on that.

Would the hon. Baronet give an assurance to the House that if this scheme is approved, he will be prepared to make representations to the Prime Minister that in view of the proposed inquiry into the constitution of the Abbey—

I should like to finish what I am saying. Is my hon. Friend prepared to make representations to the Prime Minister that in view of the review of the position in the Abbey no residentiary canon should be appointed pending the report of the persons appointed to make the review?

That is, of course, the very point to which I was coming, after having made it abundantly clear that in my capacity, both as a private back bencher and as Second Church Estates Commissioner, I cannot give any cast-iron assurance as to what will happen in the same sort of way as Ministers who speak from the Despatch Box can give assurances. I cannot possibly do that. If I give the kind of assurance for which my hon. Friend asks—that I will communicate certain suggestions to those who advise the Prime Minister—I cannot, of course, give an assurance that those suggestions will prevail. There may be arguments the other way which the advisers of His Majesty will have to take into account.

The only assurance which I can properly give, and I hope that my hon. Friends will feel it is adequate, is that I will communicate to the advisers of His Majesty a copy Of HANSARD which will contain the arguments brought forward by my hon. Friend, with a request that those arguments should be fairly, carefully and sympathetically considered before any step is taken in the matter. I do not think that, constitutionally speaking, I can possibly go further than that. I hope that this will satisfy my hon. Friend and any others who are concerned with him in this matter, and that the House will be prepared to give approval to this scheme.

11.45 a.m.

It is not often we have an opportunity in this House of considering matters which affect the Church and it is therefore very convenient that this Prayer should have come up on a Friday when Government Business has been disposed of with unusual dispatch and the House has a rare opportunity of considering some of the important matters, including constitutional matters, which have been raised. As I understand it, we shall from time to time be getting before the House, as a result of the Reorganisation Measure passed by the Church Assembly, a number of schemes such as this which require Parliamentary approval and in respect of any one of which it will be open to hon. Members to put down a Prayer asking that the scheme should be disapproved.

That has been found a convenient procedure because, whereas on the one hand it provides the Church with the largest possible measure of freedom in dealing with its own domestic matters, at the same time it gives this House an opportunity, when it thinks it necessary, of reviewing the decisions of the Church Assembly. It is right that this House should, on occasion, have the last word because these matters of the reorganisation of parish boundaries not merely affect the rights of members of the Church of England as such, but also affect the rights of all citizens of this country whether professing members of the Church of England or not.

It seems particularly appropriate that we should on this occasion be discussing a Scheme for the reorganisation of three parishes, one of which happens to be St. Margaret's, Westminster, with which this House is so intimately associated and which has for many centuries been the parish church of the House of Commons. I think that the reasons which my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) has brought forward in support of his Prayer are of considerable national importance. As I understand his argument, he is not objecting in principle to the desirability at some time or other of these three parishes being united. With that I think we all agree. For the reasons he set out in the speech, which have been referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland), it is a very sensible, practical method of dealing with this situation which has arisen since the Church of St. John was so badly damaged during the war.

I think my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale is quite correct in saying that we are just as much concerned to see what are the repercussions of this scheme on the constitution and organisation of Westminster Abbey. I do not think anyone would agree with the description given by my hon. Friend to a canonry in Westminster as a sinecure. Most people would take the view that Westminster Abbey occupies a distinctive and very important part both in the life of the Church of England and in our national life. I do not think that it is true to say that merely because a residentiary canon is only required by law to be in residence for two-and-a-half or three months each year, that his office is therefore necessarily a sinecure.

If this scheme goes through, the net result will be that, whereas hitherto of the five residentiary canons of the Abbey two have necessarily had to be parish priests—one the Rector of St. Johns and the other the rector of St. Margaret's, Westminster—while the other three have had no parochial duties, in future of the five residentiary canons one only will have to be a parish priest because the parishes of St. Margaret's and St. Johns will be merged. The immediate result, as has been pointed out, would entitle the Crown to nominate a fifth canon of the Abbey who would not be a parish priest.

My hon. Friend the hon. Baronet has indicated the very serious problem with which the Church of England is faced today in the matter of the recruitment of clergy and it is for that reason I have no doubt that schemes of this kind for the amalgamation of parishes will gather momentum in the years to come. It is equally important to point out that in a sense the whole nature of the Church is to some extent changing, from a parochial basis to a different kind of basis. In approaching this matter of the duties of parish priests and duties of other dignitaries of the Church, we should not overlook the important fact, that, whereas for many years past the Church has been organised on a parochial basis, parochial organisation is tending to cease to correspond with the national needs of the country.

Everybody knows the extent to which Church attendance at parish churches has diminished in comparison with a generation or more ago. That does not itself necessarily mean that this country is becoming less of a Christian country. There are all kinds of other methods by which it is now becoming the recognised duty of the Church of England to fulfil its historic function of supplying and administering to the religious and spiritual requirements of the nation. In recent years there has been superimposed on the whole of the parochial system various new channels of approach, of which I regard two as of special importance. First, there are the facilities provided by the State for religious broadcasting and incidentally I do not think full advantage is being taken of the immense opportunities in this field.

Secondly, we now have, for the first time in this country in times of peace, National Service with large numbers of men in the Forces for a period of two years. The State quite properly provides very considerable facilities to padres of the Church of England and other denominations, to provide services and give religious instruction and moral guidance and so forth to men in the Forces. This is work and opportunity quite outside the parochial system. Speaking again for myself from the information that reaches me, I doubt whether full advantage is being taken by the Church of England or other denominations of those facilities.

Therefore, in regard to what my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale has said, I do not personally think it is any criticism of this Measure now before the House to find that it may incidentally have the effect of enabling the Crown to appoint another canon of Westminster Abbey who is not a parish priest. I think it would be quite wrong for it to be thought that this House takes the view that a canonry in the Abbey is a sinecure. My experience is that Sunday services at Westminster Abbey are very well attended, and it would be true to say that the kind of service provided at Westminster Abbey meets a demands and invokes a response of an order which is totally different from that which occurs in the typical parish church.

Therefore, I would not think it a bad thing if as a result of this scheme being approved, there continue to be, subject to any recommendation the Lord Chancellor's Commission may take, as there have been in the past, five resi- dentiary canons of Westminster Abbey. The House will remember the long list of illustrious names of those who have occupied canonries at the Abbey and have been national figures. One calls to mind the names of Dean Farrar, Charles Gore, and William Temple, and Canon Barnes, the present Bishop of Birmingham. There are many others whose names will occur to hon. Members. My hon. Friend the hon. Baronet has indicated that he will send a copy of HANSARD to the Church Commissioners whom he so ably represents in this House. I also understood him to say that he will send a copy to the Prime Minister.

Not to the Church Commissioners because the Church Commissioners are not at all concerned with the point being raised, namely, the question of appointing a canon, but I agreed that I would send to or communicate with those who advise the Prime Minister making sure that they would give sympathetic attention to the arguments they will find recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT of today's Debate.

I welcome that explanation because I was afraid the hon. Baronet was trenching on a very delicate constitutional matter. As I understand it, the prerogative of appointments both to diocesan sees in this country and to deaneries and the canonries of Westminster and Worcester are a Royal prerogative. While I think it true to say that in the exercise of that Royal Prerogative the Crown has for many years been guided by advice tendered by the Prime Minister of the day it is equally correct to say that in tendering that advice this House has never had the right to address any question to the Prime Minister as to how that advice is given or to debate, challenge or criticise in any way in this House on any Motion that comes within our Rules of Procedure the advice tendered by the Prime Minister to the Crown in connection with Ecclesiastical patronage.

That is a matter of some constitutional importance, particularly in this present juncture. There is another Commission sitting at the present time. It has been appointed by the two Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and I happen to be a member of it. It is appointed for the purpose of considering the present relations between Church and State, and one of the matters which gives rise to a good deal of controversy is that of the appointment of bishops. It is because the constitutional position is so clearly laid down that I thought it wise to point out that whereas this House is perfectly within its rights on this occasion in considering the many points which arise under this scheme for reorganisation, it will be for the Crown eventually on the advice of the Prime Minister to decide how many canonries there are to be in Westminster Abbey and how they are to be filled.

If, as I hope, this proposed scheme is approved by the House, then whatever recommendations are made by the Commission appointed by the Lord Chancellor, this House will not have at any future time any constitutional right of any kind to question the advice given by the Prime Minister to the Crown as to whether the fifth vacancy should be filled and we shall have no right to criticise the method by which it is filled.

12 noon

I was much impressed with what the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) said, and he represents almost exactly my view of this complicated matter. However, there is one point I should like to mention. The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), I think inadvertently, made it appear as if he were making an attack on the system of residentiary canons who have no parochial work.

If the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting, I said I did not know whether it was right or wrong to appoint a fifth canon, that it was difficult for anybody not closely in touch with the Chapter to decide matters of that kind, but that there was a commission of inquiry, and it was better to await their report before any decision was taken.

I am glad the hon. Member has said that, because I felt that in mentioning salaries, and so on, there was a possibility that ill-advised persons might think that in this House an attack was being made upon the system generally. I wanted to make sure that was not the case. I do not think it is our duty in this House, nor are we properly equipped, to criticise the duties of canons, but equally, if the canons came here on Friday about this time and saw these benches only partially filled, they would not have the right to assume that all the absent hon. Members were doing nothing or were not paying attention to their constituencies. Those in close touch with the Church of England and the medical profession know that probably the clergy and the doctors are the most hard worked of all the population, and residentiary canons certainly perform a mass of work outwith their duties to their respective cathedral or abbey. I should hate it to go out from this House that we would think of criticising their activities in any way.

In view of the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland), and in the hope that the Dean and Chapter will appreciate the interest we have taken this morning in the affairs of the Abbey, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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

British Territories, Borneo

12.3 p.m.

It is 21 months since I had the opportunity of drawing the attention of this House to the British territories in Borneo, and I think it will be agreed that to return to the subject today will enable us to assess the position in those territories and also the amount of progress which has been made. I desire especially to draw attention to the economic and social aspects of these territories, and not to say much about the constitutional position of the various parts of the Borneo territory.

I recognise that from time to time we have general colonial debates, but these usually tend to be wide in character and, therefore, it is good that on occasions we should have these short, concentrated examinations of one area. I shall probably ask a lot of questions, and I recognise that they will be so numerous that it will be impossible for the Minister to reply to all of them today. However, I trust that he will pursue his inquiries in order to ascertain the answers. Also, any criticism I may make of the events of the last two years as far as his Department is concerned will be of a helpful character as far as possible, because I realise the difficulties to be overcome in those territories.

Everyone will be aware of the fact that North Borneo, Sarawak, Labuan and Brunei were overrun by the Japanese and that North Borneo, in particular, suffered devastatingly as a result. Nearly all the economic resources, other than the natural resources, were either completely or partially destroyed by the Japanese during their occupation, and the condition of the Colony after the evacuation of the Japanese was desperate for the present well-being and its future development.

While the full light of world publicity has fallen recently on Sarawak owing to the unfortunate assassination which took place there a few months ago, North Borneo and the rest of the territories are not in the news. I do not think there has been any political strife or riot that could attract a commission of inquiry, and it is a pity that, because these territories lack news value, remarkable stories of progress in colonial development and expansion seldom reach the mass of our people. I am therefore, hoping to hear from the Minister today an encouraging report of the progress made since our last debate.

On that occasion I made it clear that the two most important problems facing North Borneo after the war were: first, to make good the terrible devastation caused by the enemy; second, to open up the country so that its known and presumed wealth can be utilised to further the well-being of its people. Sometimes it is thought that the inhabitants of these particular territories are in a very low state of social development. But I would remind hon. Members that only a few weeks ago in this House a Question was asked about the ultilisation of some of these peoples by the military authorities in Malaya. We were informed, either by the Secretary of State for War or the Minister of Defence, that quite a number of these people from North Borneo were being utilised in the fighting in Malaya with great advantage.

Therefore, it is completely wrong to assume that these people are so low in the social scale of development that it would be impossible for them to accept, within a reasonable space of time, full responsibilities as citizens in a modern constitution. I feel that they could be expected to take their stand and play their part in any future constitutional development that might take place.

From recent reports which I have read about the development and progress of these territories, it seems to me that, originally, there was some underestimation of the difficulties and expense of some of the projects which were mooted, when the civil administration took over at the close of the war. I think the authorities have since found that some of these projects are far more expensive and difficult than it was imagined they would be in the first place. It is at this stage that I begin to ask a few questions and I hope that I shall receive from the Minister of State for the Colonies a reply to some of them.

I should like to ask what progress has been made and what steps have been taken to re-cast and, of course, which is just as important, to re-cost some of those original plans. The annual report of the Colony of North Borneo is rather vague on this matter. It merely says:
"During the past year the work of rehabilitation and reconstruction has continued and although the funds available may in some cases have been less than desired it is possible to report substantial progress. A beginning has been made with the construction of permanent housing and office building; additional offices and stores have been built, roads have been extended and repaired bridges re-built and essential services to the public maintained and improved."
In view of the importance of that particular quotation I should like the Minister to enlarge somewhat and to detail some of the conditions that lay behind that particular reference in the annual report. I should also like to bring to the notice of the House the fact that many schemes have been launched and much work done recently in these territories which has cost British taxpayers a lot of money.

While these territories are small in area compared to other vast areas within the Commonwealth and Empire, substantial sums of money have been expended on them. For example, on the evacuation of the territory by the Japanese the full responsibility of the maintenance of law and order fell on the military administration. They had to retain that responsibility until the restoration of the civil administration which did not take place in Sarawak until 1st April, 1946, in Brunei on 6th July, 1946, and in North Borneo on 15th July, 1946. On this particular account alone British expenditure amounted to £1,200,000.

Then we had the scheme of rehabilitation and compensation which was designed, I think, by the Government to alleviate some of the hardships caused by the war and rehabilitate some of the industries in the land. This particular expenditure was estimated at £1,982,333, or nearly £2 million. In addition to those two forms of expenditure we have the expenditure involved in or concerned with the taking over of North Borneo from the Charter Company and making it into a Crown Colony. This particular expenditure amounted to about £2,700,000. I would point out that with regard to these moneys we have this particular position arising because of the expenditure that we made. I will quote the Governor of North Borneo:
"This territory enters into its career as a Crown Colony unencumbered by any millstone of debt and with sufficient sum to repair damage wrought by the war."
I consider that a very important statement, and one which does credit to the efforts made since 1946 to give these territories a chance to have a prosperous post-war existence.

In round figures the sums I have mentioned total almost £5 million in grants of various kind and £1½ million in interest-free loans.

It is a sum of £5,850,000, as my hon. Friend says. This is a noteworthy contribution which we have made. In the debate in February, 1949, I mentioned, and strongly emphasised, three things that were essential to the future development of the territories. One was the need for increased capital investment, both Government and private, and I mention that point particularly because of the debate we had yesterday, and because I think that hon. Members did not make enough of the point. Another thing was the enlargement of the labour resources of the territories and the third was substantial improvement in communications; not an improvement to the extent of trying to catch up with conditions before the war but improved conmunications to develop facilities greater than before the war commenced.

So far as capital is concerned, the Colonial Government and Welfare Act, 1945, provided about £3¼ million for both Borneo and Sarawak and the regional allocation was about a quarter of a million. From what I have been able to discover—I am not sure of the figure—up till June of this year we spent £525,000 of that money. In the debate which we had last month on the Colonial Development Corporation Report, I said that we ought to congratulate the Corporation on what they had been able to do in various parts of the Empire and Commonwealth, but I suggested that they should look at those Borneo territories with a view to doing something more than has been done to develop them economically.

There is only one scheme which I have been able to find was publicly announced, and that is the taking over of the North Borneo Abaca Limited. That is a project to take over and develop the former Japanese hemp estates, but I understand that in that direction substantial difficulties have been experienced. Experiments have been made in Manila hemp and other things of that kind. Favourable trade reports have been made about the commercial possibilities and I trust that the Corporation will press forward with this scheme.

I have been able to find one other scheme which has been mentioned as operating there, but no evidence that it is, in fact, being carried out. I trust that the Minister will be able to say something of it when he comes to reply. The scheme was mentioned in an article in the "Daily Telegraph" last Monday. I tried to find the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine) who wrote it, but I had some difficulty in contacting him. He wrote in the "Daily Telegraph", on 13th November, that he knew of a scheme for banana cultivation being started in British Borneo. I do not know of any banana scheme in that country, but perhaps the Minister will look at the hon. Member's article and tell us something about it when he comes to reply. I certainly have not been able to discover any- thing about banana development in North Borneo.

I should like to draw attention to the fact that in 1920 one of the most important products in these territories—they were not called colonies in those days—was the production of coal. It was not away inland. It was near Cowie harbour and accessible to ships. It was reported in 1920 that 65,000 tons of coal were produced, but I know that there is not that quantity or anything like it there today. Indeed, I do not think that now there is any produced in the territories on a commercial basis. It is a fact that conditions have changed since 1920, and we are living in an oil age, particularly from the shipping point of view, and in Brunei there are oil refineries. However, there are still a number of ships which are coal-burning vessels, and I am sure they would welcome the opportunity to refuel in different parts of the island of North Borneo. I hope the Minister will say something today about coal production.

The labour problem is one of the most difficult questions with which we are faced when we are considering these Colonies, and I hope the Minister will have something to say about it. On the occasion of the last debate I spent quite a long time discussing the labour problem, and I was disappointed in reading the annual report to find no suggested solution of this very important matter. How can we recruit a sufficiently large labour force and thereby preserve, for the native inhabitants, labour opportunities in the Colonies? The last thing we desire in any of these Colonies is to see a plural society established.

I had the opportunity recently of reading a book—I do not know if any other hon. Members have become acquainted with it—by E. N. G. Dobby entitled "South-East Asia." It is a book which is well worth while reading, but on page 248 we find a statement to the effect that the Government or the Colonial Office are responsible for importing Chinese labour to assist in the solution of this labour problem. That is a very important matter. I do not think it is true, but I hope that the Minister will take the opportunity to say something about it. If that statement is true, it will have a great bearing on the possibility of the development of a plural society in that country, and it can only lead to trouble in the future. While I have nothing further to say on the subject of the labour problem, I do not wish to minimise it and we will be interested to know what the Minister has to tell us about it.

One of the most important conditions attaching to the future development of the economic life of these territories is communications. I know that the war dealt very harshly with their harbours, railways and roads, which were out of commission completely in North Borneo and Labuan. I am rather interested in railway operations in various parts of the world, and it was with some degree of satisfaction that I read in the report that the railways in North Borneo were definitely necessary to the future economic development of the country. Are those railways now in full operation?

Then we have to remember the geographical position of these Colonies. Their position, and particularly that of North Borneo, is one of the most favourable in the Far East. It will be within the knowledge of most hon. Members that it is about 1,000 miles from Singapore, 1,200 from Hong Kong, and 1,500 from Port Darwin. If we think of the position of the island we recall its proximity to Japan, the Phillipines and Formosa, so that North Borneo, detached from the mainland, can, from the strategic point of view, be accurately described as of the utmost importance in that part of the world. It occupies a place that could be utilised very considerably by our air routes all over the world. Could the Minister tell us anything about the provision of airfields and ancillary services, which are so very important and serve a particularly useful purpose, particularly in view of the present political position in the Far East? Borneo is not so far away, yet it is sufficiently far away from the mainland to be relatively quiet.

Then there is the question of shipping. It has been reported that shipping facilities have been increased twofold during the last two years, and that sounds good. Such facilities were still very bad up to two years ago, so that any improvement must be welcome. I would like the Minister to look into this question. While many people today use air routes, the normal life of these territories still depends particularly on shipping, and this brings me to the question of harbours. The harbour of Sandakan is supposed to be one of the finest natural harbours in the world, and is being re-established after having been wrecked by the Japanese. I would like to know what is the position in regard to the harbour being repaired at Jesselton. All these questions are tied up closely with the economic development of these territories.

I want to mention agriculture. It will be a disaster for these territories if they concentrate completely on the production of cash crops. We still find that about 50 per cent. of the exports is represented by rubber. The price of rubber today is such as will encourage the development of that production, but, so far as the long-term view is concerned, I am sure that if that development takes place it will be ultimately harmful to the island's economy.

Then we come to the question of rice, which is a very important import. The wet and dry production of rice should be encouraged. The trade picture which I have already given is also true so far as Sarawak is concerned, if we exclude the oil production and refining of Brunei. I am not going to suggest that rubber production should be neglected, but the history of these territories proves that if they depend too much on one particular and unstable export, it will be to the disadvantage of their economic development.

In conclusion, so far as British Borneo and the other territories included under that heading are concerned, I feel that, on account of the pleasant geographical and climatic conditions which they enjoy they will have a great future, and I trust that the Minister will be able to assure us that substantial progress with many projects designed to bring real prosperity to the territory has been made in the last two years.

12.34 p.m.

I think the hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Harrison) has done a valuable service in drawing the attention of the House to the subject now under discussion. Everybody who visits any of our Colonies must be impressed by the value of bringing this and other problems before the House. It is particularly fortunate that the hon. Member has done so at this time, though, admittedly, the subject has not attracted a large number of hon. Members. I want to ask the Minister one question not dealt with by the hon. Member for Nottingham, East. The hon. Gentleman put a great many questions to the right hon. Gentleman, but the Minister has plenty of time in which to reply to them all. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think me discourteous if I do not stay to hear the whole of his speech, as I have one of those engagements which we have round about 1 o'clock.

The question I want to put to him is this. The hon. Member for Nottingham, East, referred to the danger of the excessive cultivation of cash crops, with which I entirely agree, and said that it is particularly important to diversify the crops. It is well-known that for some years an investigation has been going on into the possibilities of this area for the production of cocoa. Everybody is at present very much concerned about the short-term position regarding world supplies of cocoa, in view of what has happened in West Africa. It would be valuable if the Minister could give us some up-to-date information about the possibilities of cocoa cultivation in this area, and inform us whether examination has proved that we are likely to get an additional substantial source of supply in the course of a few years.

12.36 p.m.

I think my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Harrison) has done a very good service in using the sudden gift of time that has fallen upon the House to draw attention to one of those parts of the Empire which are not discussed as frequently, perhaps, as they might be. Perhaps one of the disadvantages of having a very large Empire is that there is so much to discuss that the House naturally cannot discuss every single item in every single part, so that some part of the Empire may therefore possibly, though quite wrongly, feel, neglected. The hon. Member has asked me a very large number of questions, and I shall try to deal with some of them, but I am not certain that I shall be able to cover them all.

Let me take, first of all, the general position as to the rehabilitation and the general resurgence of the area since the Japanese occupation. I think it could be said that this rehabilitation has been very successfully conducted. We have been hampered by many things, and there has been a shortage of all kinds of labour and materials, yet great progress has, in fact, been achieved.

One of the most striking results concerns the territory of Brunei, were petroleum is now being produced in quantities in excess of pre-war records, so that that field is now becoming one of the most important in the British Commonwealth, and will, therefore, be of considerable assistance to us in our campaign for the production of dollar-earning or dollar- saving materials throughout the Empire. Hardly less remarkable has been the recovery in Sarawak and North Borneo, where the value both of imports and exports in 1949 has exceeded all previous records. There, again, is something on which the territories may be congratulated.

I think the hon. Gentleman would like to know something of the principal development plans that we have for these territories. We want, for one thing, to correct excessive dependence on a single industry. It is not right, however successful that industry may be—and we all know how successful the rubber industry is—for the territories to be dependent on it alone, and we therefore want to diversify production as far as we can. We want to exploit the natural resources of the territories, and the hon. Member for Nottingham, East mentioned coal. There, we have not had very much success. The quality and the quantity of the coal likely to be there do not seem at present to be very encouraging. But we shall continue with our investigations, and we may hope that in future they will be more successful.

The hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Peter Smithers) raised the question of cocoa. That is obviously a very important development. We are looking into the matter to see what can be done. We have by no means neglected it, but it will require some little time before any cocoa industry can be developed there. In view of the difficulties experienced on the Gold Coast with the growing of cocoa, we shall have to take particular care to see that any cocoa industry which can be developed in Borneo will be free from disease and will be able to continue in a satisfactory manner.

The hon. Member for Nottingham, East also asked about railways and transport. He will be glad to hear that those well known features of the countryside in which we in England delight so much, the steam trains, have now been started once again in Borneo for the first time since the occupation. The harbours of Labuan, Jesselton and Sandakan were all severely damaged during the war, and their repair will undoubtedly take some time. We hope to get the plans completed so that their reconstruction can begin in the latter half of next year.

Another point raised by the hon. Member was in connection with the work being done by the Colonial Development Corporation. It is true, as he said, that they are undertaking the development of hemp, and this is meeting with some success, but it will naturally take a little time to develop. They are also taking part in a joint two-year pilot scheme for mechanised rice production. This will involve an expenditure of, approximately, £90,000, and it will be a joint enterprise between the Colonial Development Corporation and the North Borneo Government. I am sorry to have to disillusion the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Braine), but so far as my information goes he is quite wrong, and there is, unfortunately, no banana scheme envisaged for North Borneo.

The hon. Member for Nottingham. East referred particularly to the difficulty of the supply of labour. This is, of course, a matter of the very greatest importance in North Borneo which, in the past, has suffered from a great shortage of labour. Naturally, this shortage of labour was very apparent right after the war owing to the amount of work that had to be done. Steps are being taken to see how it can be improved. The hon. Member referred particularly to the importation on a large scale of Chinese labour for the growing of rice. At present there is no intention of starting a wholesale importation of this labour for that purpose.

Could my hon. Friend say that there is no intention on the part of the Government to import Chinese labour on a large scale for any other purpose?

I would not say that there is no intention ever to import Chinese labour, but there is no particular scheme at present involving a large and wholesale importation of such labour.

I have dealt with a number of points raised by the hon. Member, but I am afraid I have not covered them all. I think I can say that our task is to conduct the surveys first of all in order to get the essential information, because we have not all the information which we would like to have about the territory. Then we have to see that we improve the roads and the port facilities, and transport generally. We then want to continue with the production of important crops, such as rice, and to test out the production of new crops. When these things have been done I hope that the Borneo territories will then be in a far better position than ever they were before the war.

As I say, we have perhaps thought too little of these territories and of many other outlying territories, but they are territories of very great importance to the Empire and I want to see them get the fullest posible measure of development. His Majesty's Government have done what they could during these past years to see that they got such development and they will continue to do so.

12.47 p.m.

On a point of order. Before my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) raises a new subject, may I have two minutes to say a word or two on the matters we have just been discussing?

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that he cannot expect a reply from the Minister.

I do not expect a reply from the Minister; I merely wish to make a brief comment on what has been said. We have now been discussing colonial affairs on four successive days, and today we are discussing a colonial subject in a limited form on the Motion for the Adjournment. When we discussed colonial matters in the Debate on the Address, Mr. Speaker ruled that the Rule against anticipation prevented a wide discussion. When we came to the Second Reading of the Colonial Development and Welfare Bill, that Bill was drawn so narrowly that it was impossible to have a discussion on the wide issues which we wished to debate. Today we are still more limited.

With no desire whatever to abuse the rights of hon. Members on the Motion for the Adjournment, which does, in fact, enable one to raise anything, I wish to mention one thing. In the discussions on the Committee stage two days ago, my right hon. Friend said:
"One day, I hope that we ourselves will propose a world plan for mutual aid."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1950; Vol. 480, c. 1784.]
With respect, I regard that as one of the most encouraging and important statements which my right hon. Friend has made. Although I know that the Minister can only reply with the leave of the House, I would suggest to him that for many years now a general colonial debate has ranged over so many individual matters, with each Member, quite properly, wishing to raise the matter of an individual territory that we have never had a chance of a debate on colonial policy.

I wonder, therefore, in view of this most helpful statement from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the Minister would convey to my right hon. Friend the very grave desirability, particularly in view of events in the last few days, of an opportunity for discussing either on the Motion for the Adjournment or in the form of a formal Motion, general colonial policy, not merely with regard to this country, but with regard to the colonial policy of the whole world and of the United Nations.

I can only speak with the leave of the House. I shall naturally convey the view of my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend. There is, of course, an opportunity for such a discussion when we consider the Estimates, but this, I agree, is only one opportunity, and it might well be desirable that we should have a further opportunity. As I say. I shall convey what has been said to my right hon. Friend who, I am sure, will be only too glad if such a debate can be arranged.

Congress, Sheffield (Admission Of Foreigners)

12.50 p.m.

I feel sure that if it had been possible to put on the Order Paper anything which would have given hon. Members notice of the subject which I would like to raise now, we should have a larger attendance in the House at this moment. It is, of course, one of the great virtues of the procedure of raising matters on the Adjournment that if, with luck, the other business of the House is dealt with quickly, hon. Members have an opportunity of raising urgent matters very quickly and very soon after they first become known. That has been so in this case.

The matter which I want to bring before the House now only came to my knowledge a little more than 12 hours ago. Earlier than that, on Tuesday last, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) raised the general question of the action of the Home Secretary in excluding certain persons from this country in connection with the so-called peace conference at Sheffield. He, too, raised this on the spur of the moment. I then, owing to arrangements which I could not escape, had to be in the position of many hon. Members of this House at this moment, namely, an absentee. Therefore I want to make it perfectly clear that after reading the debate which then took place, I am in entire agreement with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne and his supporters, and in entire agreement with the letter written to the "Manchester Guardian" by Mr. Victor Gollancz—I think it was yesterday, but it may have been the day before—and I am in entire disagreement with the general line of argument offered by the Home Secretary in answer to those arguments.

Nevertheless, for the purpose of the matter which I am raising now, I am prepared to accept the arguments offered by the Home Secretary, and what I want to ask is whether they have been properly applied in the particular instance of a considerable number of American citizens who arrived in this country by aeroplane on the night of 11th-12th November. I think that it is right to recall the general principle on which the Home Secretary said that he was acting, and I think it is best stated in the statement which he made to the House at the end of Questions on 14th November, 1950. He said:
"As I informed the House on 19th October, the policy was to consider applications for entry on their individual merits, but to reserve the right to exclude any foreigner who was persona non grata."
Then he quoted from the speech made by his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in a speech to the Foreign Press Association these words:
"… we are not willing to throw wide our doors to those who seek to come here to subvert our institutions, to seduce our fellow citizens from their natural allegiance and their daily duties and to make propaganda for those who call us cannibals and warmongers.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th November, 1950; Vol. 480, c. 1562–3.]
These are the principles, and I think that they are wrong; I think that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne in his objection to them was right. But let us take this argument on the basis that these are the principles which we are working on. The very fact that the Home Secretary used these words in describing his principle makes much more serious what has actually happened.

An aeroplane came from America with intent to land in Paris. Those on board intended thereafter to come by ship to this country in order to take part in this alleged peace conference. As it was approaching Europe, it was reported that all the French airports were fogbound, and therefore in the interests of the safety of passengers and crew, this aeroplane put down at London Airport. That, I understand, was in the night, but the Under-Secretary, I think, is better informed on this than I am. I think that it put down somewhere about midnight.

On board this aeroplane there were some 25 Americans and, it may be, some Canadian citizens as well. One of these was the Rev. Willard Uphaus, who is personally known to me. He had brought over to this country in earlier years on one visit at least, and it may have been two, a party of religious teachers, and, I think, Christian trade union organisers. These people gathered together in an organisation operating in the United States known as the National Religion and Labor Foundation. These people under the leadership and guidance—I think that "convenership" would be a rather clumsy but quite accurate word—of Mr. Willard Uphaus have been entertained in this House by hon. Members and I think by Members of another place as well. They talked to us and discussed problems with us.

It may have been a little naïve of my friend Mr. Uphaus to think that he was coming to a conference at which there would be quite free discussion with no commitments in advance, but I am quite sure that all my colleagues who have met Mr. Uphaus and the friends who came with him are absolutely certain of their complete democratic bona fides; absolutely certain that they are not agents, stooges, dupes or anything else of the Cominform or anything like it. I have a very high respect for Mr. Uphaus and for his integrity.

I want to read a few passages from the personal letter which he sent to me. It says:
"I ached all over to get in touch with you by phone"—
Perhaps it was a little optimistic to think that he would get in touch with me by phone after landing at midnight on the 11th November, but he says:
"Of course, we were not permitted to contact anyone."
I think that statement in itself is extremely serious. If people were at the airport for some five hours, and if it is true that during all that time they were not allowed to go to the phone to try to get in touch with any of their friends here, I think that is a very serious state of affairs.

Will my hon. Friend tell me if this reverend gentleman made a request that he should be allowed to consult a British Member of Parliament by phone and that it was refused?

All I have is his letter. He says:

"I ached all over to get in touch with you."
If I ache all over to get in touch with someone, I usually ask the people preventing me from doing so to allow me to do it. I think that it is a natural assumption that he did ask someone to allow him to get in touch with a Member of Parliament. He said:
"We were severely grilled."
I do not want to read the letter in full, but perhaps I may be allowed to read this:
"I came through the questioning easily for I told of my previous visit and of my connection with the National Religion and Labor Foundation."
It appears that he himself was not subjected to any long or aggressive cross-examination, and he must be speaking in relation to his colleague when he says that "We were severely grilled." There is a further sentence:
"We could not help but believe, during the long interval of waiting, that the British authorities were in contact with our State Department, and that the long finger of America was in the pie."
That is all that I want to read from the personal letter which I have from my friend.

I now want to read a few sentences from a cyclostyled document which accompanied that letter. Those whose names are signed at the bottom of it are quite unknown to me personally, but I can only take it that my friend would not have enclosed this document unless he was prepared to vouch for its accuracy. This is what it says:
"If it had been considered that we had not yet arrived on English soil"—
simply because they landed here, not because it was their booked destination, but because of reasons of safety and fog—
"If it had been considered that we had not yet arrived on English soil, we could have left after refuelling, but passports were seized, questions were asked, private papers were searched, and unwelcome advice against the Second World Peace Congress was given, without any warrants being issued. The American delegation was kept waiting more than five hours under strict surveillance of officers from Scotland Yard, a practical condition of arrest, although all Americans were equipped with passports accredited by the State Department of the United States. The American delegation was finally ordered to leave for Paris immediately and not to return. Although asked for, no reason was given for this drastic and tragic action."
This letter is signed by a number of people whose names I should like to give in connection with the definition of the Home Secretary in quoting the Prime Minister's speech in regard to those who were to be excluded.

I know nothing about these people, except that they came in company with my friend Mr. Willard Uphaus, and because of that I do not believe that Mr. Dudley H. Burr, Pastor at Hartford Congregational Church, Conn., came here to subvert our institutions. I do not believe that Mrs. Helen Johnson, Chairman of the Massachusett Minute Women for Peace, Boston, came here to seduce our fellow citizens from their natural allegiance and duty. I do not believe that Mrs. Theresa Robinson, a member of the International Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, had come here to make propaganda for those who call us cannibals and warmongers. I am certain that my friend Mr. Uphaus also does not deserve any of these strictures.

Because the Under-Secretary of State has been good enough to have a word with me about this a few moments ago, I understand that he is not going to make out a case that these people are reprehensible characters, but that the unexpected arrival of this small community threw those concerned into a difficult situation, and that these people who arrived after the conference had been transferred from Sheffield to Warsaw were given an opportunity in a very gentlemanly manner to leave by plane for Paris in order to go on to the new seat of the conference. I shall be very glad to hear that made public. I hope that, as a result of what I have said and what my hon. Friend will say, there will be no grounds in America for thinking that any of these people have come under the condemnation of the British Home Office.

I want my hon. Friend to deal with one or two questions of fact. The short extracts I have read from these letters indicate that these people were treated in a way that they should not have been treated. They say that they were ordered to leave for Paris immediately and not to return. If these facts are in conflict with the facts as supplied to the Under-Secretary by the airport officials, or any other people concerned, I want to ask him whether he will agree in principle that representatives of this group of Americans, if they are willing to do so, should be admitted to this country so that an inquiry can be held to find whose version of the facts is correct.

Quite apart from the general principles of who should be admitted and who should not be admitted, it is of the utmost importance that any examinations which are necessary should be conducted with the maximum possible courtesy, consideration and explanation, and that people should not be subject to such re- strictions as being prevented from ringing up Members of Parliament. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to say that, if it is the desire of people in this group to come to this country, they will be allowed to do so, and that there will be an inquiry as to whether their version of the facts is correct. If it is shown to be correct, I hope that my hon. Friend will feel—I am not asking for an undertaking—that there are grounds for very severe criticism and perhaps of disciplinary action against those responsible.

1.6 p.m.

The House is indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) for raising this matter. I make no apology for returning to the subject that was discussed on the Adjournment on Tuesday. The gravamen of the charge against the Home Secretary is not that he did what he did intentionally, but that he has opened a wide gate to the methods of the so-called Communist police States. What he has also done, incidentally, is to make us supremely ridiculous in the eyes of intelligent and liberty-loving people in the world who are as much opposed to Communism as he or any other Member of the House. What he has done will percolate through, not only to the United States, but to France, Italy and all the other countries from which these delegates came to attend these conferences.

The case my hon. Friend brought to the attention of the House has also reached me indirectly. It is certain to cause a great deal of comment throughout America, where these matters are discussed in very great detail. I first heard of the case of these 30 American citizens from a friend of mine who also came across to attend this conference as an observer. He is the Rev. John Paul Jones, of Brooklyn, who is a well-known and respected figure in the religious life of America. No one will accuse him of being a subversive Communist. I hardly think that the American police would have allowed, or connived in sending of, any of their citizens to this country if they thought they were subversive elements.

I raised the question of the Rev. John Paul Jones at Questions yesterday, but the Question was not reached and I have received a written reply. The question I asked, with the answer, is this:
"MR. EMRYS HUGHES asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how long the Reverend John Paul Jones, of Brooklyn, United States of America, who wished to attend the Sheffield peace congress, was detained by his officers for questioning; and what was the nature of the interrogation.
MR. EDE: It was made clear to the organisers of the Congress that delegates would not be admitted before 11th November, unless the travel facilities available did not allow them to arrive on this date, and that foreigners would not be admitted in advance in order to organise the Congress. The Reverend John Paul Jones arrived at London Airport on 10th November and was interviewed by the Immigration Officer at 10.30 a.m., and questioned for some 15 minutes in order to establish his status. After reference to the Home Office he was given leave to land at 11.45 a.m."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th November, 1950; Vol. 480, c. 198–9.]
He was slightly more fortunate than the ministers to whom my hon. Friend referred. It is interesting to fill in the picture. The Rev. John Paul Jones had other business in this country. He could have got past the immigration officers without saying that he was an observer at this conference. When he was asked whether he was coming to Britain on business or for a vacation, he said, quite honestly, "Both." In order not to be misunderstood, he added that he was also going as an observer to the Sheffield Peace Congress. The immigration officer then said, "We shall have to see about this. Will you kindly sit in the next room?"

His passport was taken from him. After he had been there for a quarter of an hour, he thought he would like to telephone someone in this country. He asked the immigration officer whether he would be allowed to telephone his friend—myself. As soon as the Member for South Ayrshire was mentioned, there was a sudden change in the atmosphere. The immigration officers decided that they would get in touch with the Home Office, with the result that within a quarter of an hour he was told he could come into the country. Apparently, the fact that he knew a Member of the House of Commons who was capable of raising the matter on the Floor of the House was enough to put the fear of God into the Home Office. The Home Office decided to recognise that the Rev. John Paul Jones was a sort of innocent political simpleton, something like the Member he knew in this country.

But what about the unfortunate people who could not contact a Member of Parliament and give the impression to the Home Office that their actions would be subject to that criticism and inquiry which it is most essential for this House to retain? I have a few cases to show that the people who were able to put their grievance to those who could take notice of them were received with courtesy, but that a good many of the other cases where this could not be done came under the heading of subversive people.

I want to deal, not only with those who came from the United States, but with some cases from France. I hope we shall get some enlightenment on some of these cases. I know that I cannot expect my hon. Friend to go into all the details, but it is absolutely essential that it should be shown that the one thing we intend to fight in this country is the methods of the Gestapo, the O.G.P.U. and the police State, or whatever the name may be under which it appears in this country.

I should like to know what line of demarcation the Home Secretary drew in the case of the delegates from France or Italy. He told the House of Commons last week, in an attempt to justify his position, that what he had done was to divide the so-called dangerous people who could organise subversive action from the so-called innocent people. He said he sought to protect the sheep from the shepherd, and to do that he called in the goats. I am not at all sure that he did not call in the wolves.

France sent certain delegates to this country, and I presume that the counterpart of the Home Secretary in France knows the so-called dangerous persons as well as does the administrative apparatus of the Home Secretary. On Monday evening I was surprised to receive a green House of Commons card asking me to meet a gentleman whom I knew in France and whom I met a fortnight ago in Paris. He is a member of the Assemblée Nationale, a French Member of Parliament. At one time he was a member of the French aristocracy—he was a count—and I do not know whether they looked up his past in the French Debrett. I do not know if that was why he was treated with such extraordinary respect. Many years ago he dissociated himself from his title and now he seems to be almost insulted if one recalls the fact that he was a member of the French aristocracy.

He sent for me on Monday—the first count I have ever received in the House of Commons—and he told me a remarkable story of how, as far as the French were concerned, they had divided the sheep from the shepherd, for it appears that some of the people who were refused permission to land are people who are no nearer the Communist Party in France than is the Home Secretary. I want to know whether we can discover some facts about the dividing line between the people from France who were supposed to be dangerous and those who were not supposed to be dangerous. I want to know why M. Chamberun, a deputy, was refused admission while Mr. Gilbert E. Chambrun, a gentleman of the same name, was admitted. Then there is the case of Madame Dupont Delestraint, who is the daughter of the general who was the first chief of the secret Army of Resistance under General de Gaulle and whose father was shot by the Germans. I do not know why it was thought that she was dangerous, but the agents of the Home Office said, "This lady is dangerous and cannot come into the country."

Imagine the result this will have upon enlightened opinion in France. Imagine the laughter, the ridicule and jocularity with which they will refer to the Home Office of England in the Lobbies of the Assembly when the news reaches them of who was admitted and who was not. There was a distinguished lady journalist who arrived in this country along with the suite of the President of the French Republic when he was entertained in this House. I believe that she, too, was entertained in the House when we gave the reception to the President of France. This lady was not considered dangerous when she came in the suite of the President of France, but she was considered too dangerous to be allowed to spend last week-end in this country.

Another who was not admitted was M. D'Astier, the first Minister of Interior under General de Gaulle. Another was Minister of Supplies in 1946. Even M. Pierre Cot, ex-Minister for Air, a Republican and Progressive Deputy of the Assembly Generale, was refused admission.

Can we have some facts about these cases? Here is a distinguished and well- known personality in the public life of Europe, M. Pierre Cot. How can it be explained to public opinion in France that we considered this gentleman a danger to the people of this country when, apparently, the French Government were prepared to allow him to travel? I suggest that when this percolates to France, Italy, and to the other countries in Europe who sent people here, either as observers or as delegates, we shall appear supremely ridiculous.

I shall not go further. Those are the facts which have just begun to come through to us and I have no doubt at all that, when the facts which have reached my hon. Friend and myself are known in detail, they will justify the very scathing remarks which were made in the "Manchester Guardian" in criticism of the Home Secretary. When I asked the Home Secretary about this, he was very jocular; he made some humorous asides and evaded the point entirely. I asked him about the comments of the "Manchester Guardian" and he said something to the effect that it was like an ancient grandmother reproving a grandniece about the facts of life. Of course, the House laughed, but that answer did not meet the point; it was no attempt to answer the criticism of the "Manchester Guardian."

When I pressed the right hon. Gentleman further he produced a letter from the correspondence columns of the "Manchester Guardian" in order to reply to that paper's editorial column. He read out certain criticisms of the police State in Communist countries, with which most of us will agree, and then he roused a great laugh by saying that the letter was written by Mr. Zilliacus. Mr. Zilliacus has been in and has gone from this House; he has been thrown out of the House and out of the Labour Party. Yet the Home Secretary's case against the "Manchester Guardian" is so weak that he has to drag in, as witness, someone who was expelled from the Labour Party.

Although I disagreed with Mr. Zilliacus on many occasions when he addressed the House, and do not agree with some parts of his general outlook, yet I regret his disappearance because he contributed something individual in the way of independent criticism in this House. But he was thrown out of the House and was in the outer darkness until the Home Secretary said, "Listen to what Mr. Zilliacus says about the police State."

I want to read to the House the main point of criticism made in that article of the "Manchester Guardian"—and nobody will accuse that newspaper of being in any way an organ of fellow travellers, Communists, or of people who seek to undermine the liberties of this country. This criticism should be on record and somebody should attempt to answer it. No one has yet found the answer. The leader writer said:
"After the way in which Mr. Ede's secret agents have interrogated some scores of foreigners at points of landing and sent them back home, his words do not ring true."
All the jocularities and the little quips which amused the House did not reply to that.
"All these Frenchmen, Spaniards and the rest are not likely to share his belief that this is a country of freedom and Mr. Ede has made it plain that he is really afraid of people seeing how we live."
Whether that is the Home Secretary's intention or not, the fact remains that that will be the impression of the more than 30 people to whom he referred and the opinion of innumerable people who may be classed, roughly, as Left-Wing progressive intelligentsia in a very large number of countries of Europe. The article went on to say:
"It is difficult to recall any precedent in our history for such an adoption on British soil of the methods of the Communist Police States. The one thing that we had hoped distinguished us from the Police States was that we were not afraid of people seeing how we are living while they tremble in suspicious fear. Now we, too, have thrown up something like their police apparatus and interrogation by a horde of secret agents whose methods must, like theirs, necessarily be clumsy and unjust. The stultification of the Sheffield Congress is nothing to be sorry about; the tricks by which we secured it and the British Government's illiberal panic are a blow to the little that remains of freedom in the world."
It is because we believe in freedom in the world, in the real sense of that fundamental idea, that we are seizing every possible occasion to bring the glare of publicity to the methods of our own secret police. I know it will be said, and rightly so, that neither the Home Secretary nor the Under-Secretary have the point of view of the totalitarian police chiefs, but they have to be very careful that the apparatus they are creating does not become a sinister Frankenstein in our life which, in turn, may have effects which they do not contemplate at present.

I believe that so long as the Home Secretary and Under-Secretary are there, and so long as the present Government are there, there will be some attempt to carry out the administration of justice in this country in a way which will differentiate it from the methods of the countries behind the Iron Curtain, but the time may come—I will not say that it will come; I hope it will not—when there will be a different kind of Home Secretary and a different attitude towards political refugees.

What I fear is that the time may come when there will be a Conservative Home Secretary who may carry these methods a little further. Then he would be able to say that glorious word which is so often used in the House, a word which we kneel down to and worship—"precedent." He could say that there was a precedent in an earlier debate. We might be fighting against a much greater effort to subvert our liberties, when a Conservative Home Secretary—when we on this side might be in the minority—might say, "Look up HANSARD of such and such a date. Look at the speech that was delivered, the arguments that were produced, and the point of view and the assurances given by a Socialist Home Secretary." That is the danger.

There is grave danger that in this country, as a result of the cold war, we are creating a new vested interest—a new secret police vested interest—perhaps unconsciously, but certainly the apparatus is there. It must have taken a very large and elaborate organisation to carry out these so-called screening operations of the type that were conducted last week-end. I fear very much that if we create an apparatus of this kind, whether it is called M.I.5, Scotland Yard, the political police or the special police, we are putting men into jobs whose duty it will be to discover conspiracies, to exaggerate what may happen, and, ultimately, to find things in order to keep themselves in their particular jobs.

It is very essential that the voice of liberty should be heard on every possible occasion, because we do not want to see a duplication, as we have seen in so many other countries, of the suppression of liberties and of the freedom to discuss and to think openly, which, happily, have been the great traditions and boast of our people.

1.32 p.m.

A great deal of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) would have been unnecessary had he realised that the 33 Americans in the aircraft which we are discussing were not refused permission to land. On the general question of men and women coming from France, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has fully covered this in Question and answer and in debate in the House, and I have nothing to add. Nor, without notice—I do not think my hon. Friend would expect it of me without notice—can I discuss the particular events connected with his friends in France, whether aristocrats or not.

This party of 33 Americans arrived at London Airport in the early hours of the morning of Sunday, 12th November. Their aircraft was a charter machine going from Montreal to Orly, in France, but owing to stress of weather it had to come down in England. Consider the position in the early hours of a Sunday morning at an airport when an unexpected, unscheduled party of Americans arrives. Of course, they have to be interrogated by the immigration staff who are present.

The party arrived shortly after midnight at about 12.15 a.m. The interrogation obviously would take some time. A skeleton staff is always present, and there is also a skeleton staff at that hour at the Home Office, and the references necessary to find out about these Americans would obviously take time. It is not as if the so-called peace committee had sent us in advance a list of the Americans who were coming, as we had received in advance a list of many other national parties—for instance, the Dutch party of 50, whose names we were given; as soon as the list had been examined, we knew that we could admit 47 and not three. In that case there was no delay.

Some of the Americans who arrived had passports which were restricted by the American authorities to the British Isles and France. When they arrived, they were told that the conference was now to be held in Poland. I ask hon. Members to picture the conditions at an airport at that hour in the morning, when an unscheduled party of 33 arrives without any advance notice and with nothing beyond their passports. There is also the fact—and this is relevant to the letter which my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Sir R. Acland) received—that the men, and women if there were any, in the party were naturally disgruntled at having to come down in England after what must have been an unpleasant flight. Some of them, I am told, were not very co-operative; they were annoyed to learn that the conference was to be held in Poland and not in Sheffield; so that what was quite legitimate interrogation may well have assumed in their minds the aspect of severe grilling. It is right that the immigration officers should find out all about them, and this they did.

My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend admitted that he had given me very short notice of this debate, but so far as I know at present, none of the party asked to get in touch with anyone to vouch for them. I stress, because this point has been raised, that of course we have regard to representations made by citzens of this country on behalf of aliens who are coming here. My hon. Friend announced only a few days ago in the House that a certain bishop had been granted a visa after a representation from bishops in this country. I might add that my right hon. Friend denied privately that Picasso had come here after representations from the Royal Academy.

It was not a question of consultation. My hon. Friend would not expect that we could build up a system by which when people arrive they were put into certain categories, and that if an eminent gardener, for instance, were to arrive, we should consult the Royal Horticultural Society. Such a system is not likely to be devised, but we listen, and rightly so, to representations which are made by eminent bodies or people.

Let me come to the essential point. Between 12.15 and 3.30 a.m.—it may seem a long time to us here, but I have described the conditions at the airport—these Americans were being asked what was the purpose of their visit, who they were, and so on; we were finding out all we could about them. At 3.30 a.m. the captain of the aircraft decided that the weather was then good enough for them to fly on to France. He told this to the airport authorities, and the immigration officers stopped their checking or interrogation. For technical reasons, concerned no doubt, with refuelling or some other form of maintenance or the weather conditions, the aircraft did not leave until shortly after 5 o'clock.

A definite statement has been quoted in a letter by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend that this party of 33 Americans was ordered to go to France and not to return. That seems extraordinarily unlike the behaviour of an immigration officer, because these officers are very well versed in the law relating to immigration and cannot tell an alien not to return here. They cannot say that and then order a man into an aircraft. An immigration officer can order an alien not to enter the country but he cannot prejudice a further visit by that same alien. If any of these men were again to present themselves at a port their admission would always be considered in the light of the circumstances of the time. What I am sure happened was that no-one objected to going on to France. I have already said that no one was refused leave to land, and I hope that on consideration my hon. Friend who raised this matter will acquit my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary from any blame in this matter.

I had hoped that in his reply my hon. Friend would show that the fact that these people were, according to his statement, given the opportunity of going on to Paris as soon as the weather was fit for travel, indicates that in the view of the Home Office none of them came under the castigation contained in the speech of the Prime Minister, from which the Home Secretary quoted in defence of his own policy. I was hoping for an indication from my hon. Friend that these people had not, so to speak, been judged by the British authorities and found guilty within those terms.

That is perfectly correct, because none of them had been refused leave to land. The investigations concerning these 33 people were not complete when the time arrived that the captain of the aircraft decided they could go on to Paris.

Football Pools

1.42 p.m.

I take this opportunity on the Adjournment to raise another matter with which the Home Secretary or his Under-Secretary has the responsibility of dealing for the Government. The subject which I raise is the administration of football pools. These pools are an aspect of gambling in our life which has made phenomenal progress during the last 20 years or so. A Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming, has been sitting recently and its report is now awaited, but in the meantime one particular aspect in relation to football pools needs to be raised and to be given immediate attention.

I have been thinking a lot about the administration of football pools for a long time, in common, probably, with most other Members of the House, but I am inspired to raise the matter at this particular stage because of the contents of a rather revealing leading article which appeared in the London "Evening Standard" on 15th November.

Certain statements are made in this leading article which really shock one out of complacency about the operation of these vast financial concerns. For instance, referring to the prize which was won recently by one of the customers of the big pools, the leading article says:
"Some people find these colossal prizes surprising in view of the fact that, on the whole, betting on football pools has been declining. Last year's total turnover dropped by some £10 million. Now it seems to be falling again. Receipts from the betting taxes for September are down on last year's figures. If the amount of money being staked is falling, how does it come that the prizes are so high?"
Then the comment is made:
"The answer is shrouded in the mystery which surrounds the allocation of the money staked in football pools …."
I understand that the football pools function under the Betting and Lotteries Act, 1934. I am not going into the moral rights or wrongs of the football pools as such; I am merely raising a narrow point of the actual administration of, and total lack of public accountability about, the finances of these organisations. Perhaps I may quote again from this leading article in the "Evening Standard" in connection with this particular aspect of the matter:
"If one pool was going to declare an exceptionally low dividend, promoters would 'temper the wind to the shorn lamb'"—
this is dealing with the joint organisation of the various pools in order to spread the expenses in some scheme of their own. It goes on:
"As they can reduce expenses against one type of pool to prevent a dividend being too small, presumably it is equally possible for them to take similar action for the purpose of producing an exceptionally large dividend.
But nobody outside the pools organisations knows if this is done. For the pools are handling vast sums of public money, are private companies and, therefore, are not called upon to publish their accounts."
I think this shows a serious state of affairs, because these organisations handle millions of pounds.

I find that most of the recently published figures are in a book named, "Gambling in English Life," which says:
"Football pools are capable of more exact measurement …"
that is in regard to the amount involved—
"based chiefly on Post Office returns of the postal orders sold and cashed by the promoters. In recent years the figure has been round about one and a quarter million to one and a half million for every week of the football season. This is reaching a total of well over £50 million per annum. Figures given in the House of Commons indicated that the total figure for football and other pools is over £61 million. Post Office evidence given to the Royal Commission showed that 60 per cent. of the postal orders, a total number of 240 million, are bought for football pool purposes and cashed by the pool promoters."
The point I wish to stress is the public accountability of these organisations in regard to their operations. There is, apparently, a total lack of legal requirement for these football pools to publish any sort of account or to give any record either weekly, monthly, or annually as to their operations.

Am I right in thinking that there is no legal obligation to make a return? If so, it could only be remedied by legislation, which it would be out of order to raise now.

I am merely saying, in passing, Sir, that there appears to be no legal requirement for these accounts to be published. I want to find out whether that is exactly the position and whether the Government can take some action, even under the law as it exists, to have some light thrown on the accounts of these organisations. In other words, I am seeking information as to the present position. I will conclude by referring again to the leading article in the "Evening Standard," which, I think, has rendered a great public service in throwing light on these dark places, or attempting to throw light on them. It concludes with these words:

"The largest firm is Littlewoods, which has made the claim that it pays half of all the pools taxed. The two directors of this company, John and Cecil Moores, have made so much money out of the pools. …"

Order. I have been making some inquiries and I gather that the Home Office have no power to enforce the production of football pool accounts; and, unless they can show me that they have such power, this is out of order.

I conclude by saying that I would like to know from the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the exact position and whether the law as it stands is being fully applied to ensure that there is some form of public accountability from these organisations. Is it the case that the Government are totally unable at present to ensure that these organisations shall make any sort of accounts public and publish records of their operations for the benefit of the public, or are they awaiting the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming? I hope the Minister will tell us what is the present position and the intentions of the Government if they find that at present they have no power to intervene.

1.54 p.m.

On 28th April last year the Royal Commission on Betting, Lotteries and Gaming was appointed. It was to inquire into:

"the existing law and practice thereunder, relating to lotteries, betting and gaming, with particular reference to the developments which have taken place since the Report of the Royal Commission on Lotteries and Betting in 1933 and to report what changes if any are desirable and practicable."
We expect the Report from the Royal Commission early next year. I will see that the Royal Commission receive a copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT containing the views of my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. I. O. Thomas).

Are we to conclude from that that at present there is no power to secure publication by these organisations of any form of accounts to make it plain how the amounts of money collected are distributed in overhead charges, expenses, profits and the rest? In other words, as far as the public are concerned, are they working completely in the dark?

I think my hon. Friend is expecting a little too much if he expects me to answer that off-hand as I have been sitting on this bench ever since he handed me a note saying: "I am going to raise the question of football pools." I really cannot go further than I have gone on that information. If my hon. Friend will put down a Question on this matter, I shall be delighted to see that it is dealt with.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Four Minutes to Two o'Clock.