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Oral Answers To Questions

Volume 498: debated on Thursday 27 March 1952

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Preventive Detention (Accommodation)

1.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now in a position to say by what date it will be possible for prisoners serving sentences of preventive detention to be accommodated in prisons exclusively for prisoners serving such sentences.

The Prison Rules do not require that prisoners serving sentences of preventive detention should be accommodated in prisons exclusively for prisoners serving such sentences, nor would such an arrangement be possible in the present serious shortage of prison accommodation suitable for long-term prisoners.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that at Parkhurst, in particular, prisoners serving long-term normal sentences and sentences of preventive detention are accommodated in the same prison and they enjoy quite different privileges; that some have extensive privileges of association while others have different privileges of remission; and that this gives to the staff of the prison the very greatest difficulty in keeping order? It is a source of very real trouble, and to the prisoners themselves it is almost as exacerbating as an all-night Sitting.

It appears that by the end of this year the numbers of those in the second stage of preventive detention at Parkhurst will be such as to occupy the whole of the prison except for the accommodation reserved for special medical cases.

Police

Thomas Kavanagh (Report From United States)

2.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what additional information he has obtained as the result of inquiries by the American police into the case of Thomas Kavanagh; and, in the light of such information, what further action he is taking in this case.

I understand that the police have now received a report from the United States and that the facts have been laid before the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In those circumstances, is the Home Secretary aware that, if necessary, I shall put another Question down when the result of this consideration is made known?

Housing Accommodation, London

15.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to provide improved housing accommodation for members of the Metropolitan Police Force.

As I mentioned in the Second Reading debate on the Metropolitan Police (Borrowing Powers) Bill, good progress is being made with the programme of providing accommodation for 4,000 married men. Progress is also being made with providing 4,000 up-to-date single men's quarters but accommodation for married men must take priority, and more than half of this programme remains to be completed.

May we gather from that reply that the Home Secretary is satisfied that this former hindrance to adequate recruitment in the Metropolitan Police is being dealt with?

It is being dealt with, but—I think, like every Home Secretary—I should like it to be dealt with more quickly. Whenever that is possible, I shall do so.

Coronation Stone (Protection)

17.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what duties the police officers, now employed on precautionary measures to prevent the removal of the Coronation Stone, were employed before being ordered to take up these duties; and what was their weekly salary.

Police officers employed on duties of this character would normally be drawn from those employed on ordinary beat, patrol and protection duties. As they would change from day to day it would not be practicable to state in detail what their salaries were and in any event it would be undesirable to publish such details as would indicate the scale of precautionary measures which the Commissioner of Police may from time to time see fit to direct.

Is not the Home Secretary aware that there is considerable perturbation in Scotland about the very big expense this may incur, and does he not agree that that expense would be unnecessary if the stone were removed to Scotland for safe keeping? Is he also aware that there is an elaborate electrical system installed in Westminster Abbey which makes people who closely inspect the stone get in touch with Scotland Yard, and that constituents of mine will not now go to Westminster Abbey for the quiet meditation for which it is noted?

I am sorry about the perturbation that arises in the breasts of the hon. Gentleman and his constituents, but I think that if these are the least of their worries, they are greatly to be congratulated.

Would my right hon. and learned Friend also bear in mind that there is considerable perturbation in the minds of those who move among the underworld of London concerning the precautions taken to protect the Crown Jewels also?

RECRUITMENT OF MEN TO THE POLICE SERVICE
December, 1951, to February, 1952As at 29th February, 1952
RecruitmentWastageIncrease (+) or decrease (-)Authorised EstablishmentsActual strengthsDeficiencies
Counties, Cities and Boroughs1,215564+65151,89346,4795,414
Metropolitan Police Force295189+10619,68515,6424,043
Total1,510753+75771,57862,121

*9,457

Sunderland Borough Police Force44Nil24322617

* Includes 304 seconded or serving overseas.

Recruitment

21.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a further statement on the progress that has been made in the recruitment of men to the police force; and whether he will give, separately, the figures for the county borough of Sunderland.

I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT figures as at 29th February, 1952, which, when compared with the figures as at 30th November, 1951, which I gave in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale (Mr. Erroll) on 6th December, 1951, show the progress which has been made during the last three months. During this period the total deficiencies have fallen from 10,216 to 9,457. In Sunderland, no progress has been made during this period but the deficiency is only 17 in an authorised establishment of 243, as compared with 30 on 1st August last.

While I am sure the House very much appreciates the progress which has been made, will the right hon and learned Gentleman consider accelerating that progress by giving further consideration, to the question of the physical standards at present required for members of the police force?

If the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to give me his ideas, I shall be glad to consider them.

Following are the figures:

23.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is the practice with regard to the exercise of a colour bar in recruitment for the Metropolitan Police Force.

I am informed by the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, who is responsible for appointments to the Metropolitan Police Force, that, subject to the basic qualifications as to age, height, health and education which are laid down in the police regulations, all applications for appointment by British subjects are considered on their merits.

Crowd Control (Sports Events)

24.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what reply he is sending to the communication he has received from the Police Federation, expressing concern at the increasing difficulty of controlling large crowds at football matches and other sports events.

This communication, which was received on 18th March, is being carefully considered. A reply will be sent in due course.

What steps is the Home Secretary taking to prevent a recurrence of the disturbances which occurred outside the Arsenal Stadium last Saturday and Sunday, when there was not only considerable damage to property but also intolerable interference with the peace of the neighbourhood?

The hon. Member has Questions down on that disturbance, and I think it would be better if I dealt on them with the subject of the disturbance rather than at the present moment.

Royal Commission On Capital Punishment

4.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will recommend an alteration in the terms of reference of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment which will enable it to publish an interim report or reports.

The terms of reference expressly provide that the Royal Commission or any four or more members thereof may report from time to time if they judge it expedient so to do. I understand that the Royal Commission hope to present their report this summer.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman remember agreeing with me recently in the House that this is a matter of life and death, and that any differences which may be holding up the report should be resolved forthwith, or that, alternatively, separate reports ought to be issued in the public interest?

I do not think it would be desirable to dictate to those who are serving on the Royal Commission. We hope to get the report very soon and then we shall be able to discuss it.

Borstal Institutions (Films)

5.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why a Borstal boy, aged 18, was taken under escort to see the film "A Street Car Named Desire" at Hull, Yorkshire, on or about 13th March; and if, in view of the sordid and degrading nature of this film, he will investigate the mental and moral qualifications of those charged with the administration of the institution in which this boy was detained.

It is usual for selected senior boys in Borstal institutions to be allowed as a privilege to visit a cinema or other place of entertainment from time to time. At Hull the practice is for members of the staff who are visiting the cinema in their off-duty hours to be allowed to take with them two inmates who have qualified for this privilege. The choice of film in this particular case may have been unfortunate, but I do not think the incident calls for any further action on my part.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend say which official of the institution was responsible for taking this boy to see the film?

I should like to make it clear that the boys pay for themselves out of their earnings. The privilege is much valued by those of the special grade, and is a great incentive to raising the standard of work and conduct. I really do not think it is necessary for me to name the official concerned.

18.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what facilities are available for boys at Borstal institutes to see films either of an educational or recreational character.

Arrangements vary from one institution to another, but on average there is a programme of educational films about once a week and of recreational films about twice a month.

Postal Voting

6.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will take steps to extend the facilities for postal voting to those electors who are away on holiday at the time of a General Election, and whose occupation limits the times when they are able to take holidays.

The suggestion made by my hon. Friend would not, I think, command universal approval. In any event, it would need legislation which I am not prepared to undertake now or in the foreseeable future.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that there are many, such as teachers, whose occupation may necessitate their holidays being planned some time ahead? Does he not agree that it is very unfair that they should lose the franchise?

Against that, I have to consider the whole position of those using the excuse of a holiday for not voting personally. It is obviously a very difficult question that would give rise to very difficult borderline cases, and I do not see that we can legislate on it.

7.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will arrange that, in future, the form of application to be placed on the electoral register makes it clear that facilities for postal voting cannot be granted to those absent on holidays at the time of an Election.

Books (Censorship)

8.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will, in view of the large quantities of pernicious literature now being displayed for sale, take steps to set up a censorship for these kinds of books in order to remove from the magistrates' courts the responsibility of deciding whether a book is obscene and unfit for general sale.

Is the Minister aware of the present danger of cases coming before a magistrates' court where two different sets of magistrates come to different decisions on the same kind of book?

I hope the House will agree with me broadly that censorship, to be effective, must be authoritarian—that is, not open to challenge—and in this country that would be abhorrent. It is a dangerous institution which might be misused, and it is a clumsy and wasteful arrangement which is notoriously difficult to operate. There are several other reasons against it, but I think these are the main ones.

May I ask the Minister if it is not the case that police regulations already provide all the powers that are necessary for the effective safeguards required?

I think that the present system is sufficient to deal with the problem.

May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman if it is not a fact that any citizen can institute a prosecution in England and Wales where he believes a publication is obscene and detrimental to morals?

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the books that have been brought before my court are being sold in most establishments in London.

I think the hon. Gentleman ought to follow the advice of his right hon. Friend and institute proceedings.

Civil Defence

Training Pamphlet

9.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many copies of the Civil Defence Manual of Basic Training, Volume I, Pamphlet No. 9, entitled, "Reconnaissance and Reporting," are being printed; and what is the total cost involved in its production.

I am informed that 50,000 copies of this pamphlet have been printed by Her Majesty's Stationery Office at a cost of £1,516 10s. 4d.

Does the Minister realise that this pamphlet contains countless really fatuous remarks, one of which says that a building severely damaged by a bomb usually presents an appearance of complete chaos? Would he not agree that that kind of remark is about as superfluous as saying that Lord Woolton tells lies in an election campaign.

I must ask for the withdrawal of that remark. It is not in order for hon. Members of one House to make imputations of that character about a noble Lord in another place.

I withdraw the word "lies" and substitute "grossly misleading statements."

With regard to the first part of the supplementary question, which is the only relevant part, I think that if any one of our speeches were to be subjected to having one sentence taken out of its context it might present the same somewhat platitudinous aspect; but I ask the hon. Member to read the whole of the pamphlet and to consider in a short time, when the sales of that pamphlet are determinable, how well it has gone and how much help it has given.

If the Minister will read it himself, he will find that there are numerous similar fatuous statements. Will he see to it that they do not occur in any future pamphlet of this description?

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that a few months ago, shortly before he went to the Home Office, I sent a number of specimen pamphlets on Civil Defence to the Home Office asking urgently that they should be simplified because they contained so much verbose matter. The Home Office promised to do that. Will my right hon. and learned Friend look into this matter and see that it is done in this case?

I should certainly not like to argue with my hon. Friend on any question of verbosity. I shall certainly look into his point with great pleasure.

Leaflet (Peace Pledge Union)

11.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if his attention has been drawn to a leaflet entitled "Civil Defence," published by the Peace Pledge Union; and as this leaflet is likely to cause a breach of the peace, what steps he proposes to take in respect of it.

I have seen this pamphlet. I am advised that its publication and circulation do not involve a breach of the law.

Is the Home Secretary aware that this leaflet is a shameful pacifist attack to persuade the people of this country that Civil Defence is of no use? May I ask him whether, in view of the security aspect of this matter, he will consider whether it is reasonable that these people, who refuse to take part in the defence of the country themselves, should be allowed to incite other people to do the same thing?

I am certainly prepared to go as far as to say again—which I think is the right way to deal with the point—that the suggestions in the pamphlet that nothing effective can be done in the face of atomic warfare are not only mischievous but entirely baseless and wrong. I have tried to indicate that in broadcasts and otherwise and although, as I have said, this does not involve a breach of the law, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to the inaccuracies in the pamphlet.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman take into account, when considering what is charged to be the damage of these statements, that they are nothing like so damaging as the statements of the supplementary questioner in frequent speeches he used to make in this House about the Army Bill?

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider instituting proceedings to have these persons prosecuted for causing a public mischief.

Radio-Activity (Measuring Instruments)

31.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what arrangements are being made for the training of personnel of the Civil Defence and allied services in the use of equipment designed for measuring radio-activity after an atomic attack.

Training in the practical use of this equipment began a few weeks ago at the Civil Defence technical training schools. Production orders for the necessary training versions of the special "Radiac" instruments and of the radio-active sources, with their containers, which are required for purposes of demonstrating the instruments, were given last summer, and supplies under these orders are expected to be available later in the year. They include individual measuring instruments, with charging units; portable dose-rate meters, and contamination meters.

In the meantime, I am glad to be able to say that, with the help of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply, I have been able to make arrangements for small numbers of training instruments, including some pre-production models, together with the necessary radio-active sources, to be made available in advance of the main issues to a selected number of major authorities in key areas. These authorities will begin forthwith, in their own areas, training the personnel of the Civil Defence Corps, police and fire services, and other organisations associated with Civil Defence. Later in the year, this kind of training will be extended to the whole country as equipment becomes available.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that that announcement will give very great satisfaction to the Civil Defence service?

Ministers (Police Protection)

10.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what Ministers are provided with personal police protection; and what additions have recently been made to the number of such Ministers.

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister stated on 3rd December in reply to the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd), the Ministers who regularly receive police protection are the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary. Other Ministers may receive protection from time to time for special reasons but it would not be in the public interest to disclose the details.

In view of statements that have appeared in the Press, will the Home Secretary either confirm or deny that, as a result of a trip abroad, the Colonial Secretary is now receiving police protection?

Quarter Sessions Appeal Courts (Women Magistrates)

12.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to ensure that on any appeals committee, dealing with cases coming from the juvenile courts, at least one of the magistrates shall be a woman.

Quarter sessions are required, in appointing members of appeal courts, to include, so far as practicable, justices specially qualified for dealing with juvenile cases, and I am sure that they can be relied on to use a wise discretion in this matter.

I have made some inquiries to ascertain whether women are in fact appointed to appeal committees, and I understand that the year books of quarter sessions in thirteen counties (including Leicester) show that all the appeal committees have women members. The average ratio of women to men is one to three.

If the right hon. and learned Gentleman considers it essential that there should be a woman sitting in a juvenile court when a case is tried, would he explain why it is not equally essential, from his point of view, that a woman should be sitting when a case is submitted to an appeals committee?

The Question dealt with the matter as one for legislation. I do not think it is a suitable matter for legislation.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that it is in consequence of legislation that it has been found absolutely essential to have a woman sitting in the juvenile court, and should not that apply to the same kind of magistrates in an appeal committee in which the appeal is lodged against the juvenile court in which a woman has been sitting?

I have a greater faith in quarter sessions than the hon. Gentleman.

Cruelty (Penalties)

13.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been drawn to the recent trials at the Old Bailey for cruelty to children; and whether, as a result, he will consider amending the Criminal Justice Act so as to restore to the courts the right to impose corporal punishment in such cases.

Yes, Sir. I have seen the reports. This class of offence was not one of the limited group of offences for which corporal punishment could be imposed before its abolition as a judicial penalty by the Criminal Justice Act. The second part of the Question does not, therefore, arise.

In view of the apparently alarming increase in these offences and the peculiarly bestial quality of some of them, would not my right hon. and learned Friend be guided by the Lord Chief Justice, who strove so hard during the passage of the Criminal Justice Act to retain the threat of corporal punishment for such offences as this?

With the greatest respect, the Lord Chief Justice has approved of the suggestion which I put to this House and of which I think this House has approved; that is, that those who are prosecuting should consider, in serious and deliberately cruel cases of ill-treatment, using the Offences Against the Person Act, which involves the heaviest penalty.

I am sorry to be a nuisance, but I have to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

16.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will set up a committee to investigate and report on the adequacy of penalties imposed in cases of cruelty to children and animals.

19.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, in view of further recent cases of cruelty to, and neglect of, children, he will now appoint an all-party committee to investigate the problem in all its aspects and to recommend such remedial or punitive action as may seem appropriate and necessary.

As regards cruelty to children, I would refer to the reply I gave my hon. and gallant Friend on 22nd November. On cruelty to animals, I would refer to the reply I gave on 13th March to the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman).

Is the Home Secretary aware that despite all these statements to which he has referred, the public conscience remains gravely disturbed, and will he say specifically what is the official Home Office view? Does it support what the Lord Chancellor said in another place only recently, that it is the duty of magistrates in serious cases not to pass sentence themselves, but to send the case for trial so that really adequate sentences can be imposed?

That is exactly what I said in the last debate in this House about three months ago—and I think it had the support of the House—that cases of secondary seriousness should be sent for trial under the Children's Act; and that, as I said a moment ago, the more serious cases should be sent for trial under the Offences Against the Person Act. That is the procedure which is being carried out.

Is it not a fact that despite all that has been done by the Home Office and by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his predecessor, we are, in fact, making no progress at all in this matter, that the public conscience is really shocked by this blot on our society, and that it is not by any means only a matter of punishment, but of remedial treatment as well? Would it not be a great advantage, in view of the great wealth of knowledge and vast experience possessed by this House and by our constituents, if this matter were examined on a broader basis?

On the first point, it is only three months since the suggestion of mine that a greater use of trial on indictment and under the Offences Against the Person Act should be made. I think we ought to give that a trial. On the second point, what I may call the preventive aspect of my hon. and gallant Friend's supplementary question, may I remind him that a Private Member's Bill was introduced to deal with that, and I can assure him that if any suggestions are made for improving the working of the present machinery, and especially the machinery set up by my predecessor with regard to children's officers and local authorities, I shall gladly look into them and try to improve them in any way I can.

Football Match Tickets (Touting And Trading)

14.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will introduce legislation to prevent the growing practice of touting for and trading in tickets for football matches.

No, Sir. A prohibition on the sale of tickets at an enhanced price to a willing buyer would be almost impossible to enforce, and where touting amounts to a nuisance other powers are usually available to deal with it.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman indicate what other powers should be used by the police to deal with what he recognises is an increasing nuisance and a source of annoyance and irritation?

I had in mind the ordinary powers under the Police Clauses Act.

Crimes Of Violence (Corporal Punishment)

20.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will consider introducing corporal punishment for crimes of violence.

The arguments for and against corporal punishment were exhaustively considered by the Departmental Committee which reported in 1938, and were fully debated in the Criminal Justice Bill, 1948, which abolished it as a judicial penalty. The number of crimes of violence for which corporal punishment could be awarded before 1948 has varied little over the years 1947 to 1951. This does not support the view that reconsideration of this controversial question is urgently required.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the people who commit these offences do not pay any heed to the injury and pain they inflict of their victims, and does not he think that a dose of their own medicine would act as a deterrent to those who strike down innocent women and children who get in their way while they are committing their crimes?

The point I was trying to make was that when this House has come to a decision on a very controversial matter of this kind, we ought to have a chance of appreciating the results of that decison before we go into the matter again.

Welsh Affairs (Administration)

22.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent he proposes to increase the staff of his office in Wales; what is the number of persons at present employed; and the number of rooms occupied by the secretariat.

For the reasons I gave in my reply to the hon. Member on 6th December, I do not expect to have to appoint a large staff to assist me in my duties as Minister for Welsh Affairs, and I have not so far found it necessary to set up an office in Wales for this purpose. I have so far been able to call on the accommodation and assistance which I require.

Would the Minister be kind enough to answer that part of the Question which asks for the number of persons he has employed to assist him—or, it may be, whom the Joint Under-Secretary has employed, for I suppose the Parliamentary Secretary is doing something in the Welsh Department.

The point which the hon. Gentleman raised was dealt with in the former answer. What I wanted to make clear was that the nature of the office and the work which my hon. Friend and I do must depend on assistance from other Departments. I have to try—and the House will forgive me for being personal for one moment—to get a good working knowledge of Welsh agricultural and industrial conditions. It is obviously better that I should try to do that by collaborating with the Minister of Agriculture and the President of the Board of Trade than that I should set up in some way a separate staff.

Has the Minister no co-ordinating staff with a knowledge of Welsh to help him in his important work?

We have the member of the staff who was mentioned in the previous answer, who is my guide, philosopher and friend when occasion arises for me to listen to or speak Welsh.

School-Crossing Patrols

27.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now make a statement following the discussions between local authorities and the Departments concerned on the question of school-crossing patrols.

My colleagues and I had a most useful discussion with the local authority representatives on Tuesday afternoon, 25th March. We are now examining a number of questions which were raised at the meeting.

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman say when he is likely to be able to give the House the benefit of his opinions on that conference because, as he knows, the matter is one of extremely grave urgency?

I could not agree more strongly with the hon. Gentleman than in saying that the matter is one of grave urgency. I want to get our steps into operation as soon as possible, but I think the hon. Member will agree that it is essentially a matter in which I have to carry local authorities with me, because they deal with the position of the schools and also the position of the parents. I hope, therefore, that we shall be able to get an agreed system very shortly.

Is the Home Secretary aware that the Kent County Council have decided to abolish these patrols unless the police undertake these duties? In those circumstances, will the Home Secretary say that he will consider authorising the police to carry out these duties?

Certainly I will consider that. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education indicated, that is what we are considering. It is a question of finding the machinery for putting the matter into operation. I hope all hon. Members will help me and help the local authorities to find a system to deal with what I think is a most important matter.

Uk And Irish Republic (Travel Permits, Abolition)

30.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is prepared to abolish the control of passenger traffic between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

32.

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent he is prepared to modify the travel restrictions at present in force between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

After careful consideration, I have decided that the present system of control of passengers travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Great Britain and the Irish Republic, should be abolished; and it will be discontinued on 7th April. From that date, it will be unnecessary for passengers travelling on the routes in question to obtain special documents for the journey or to obtain leave to land from an immigration officer. Aliens will, of course, still have to carry documents establishing their nationality and identity: and amendments have been made to the Aliens Order to make possible the imposition on aliens coming from the Republic of conditions such as are normally attached to the grant by an immigration officer of leave to land in the United Kingdom.

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, in removing these restrictions, he will receive the thanks of the business community and also of tourists, who have so long been denied their rights as British subjects to travel freely within the United Kingdom? Is he also aware that hon. Members opposite, who are not so friendly disposed towards Ulster, can scarce forbear to cheer, and that this will also benefit the Irish Republic?

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that during the last two Parliaments the abolition of these unnecessary restrictions on travel to essential parts of the United Kingdom was frequently pressed upon his predecessor without success and that today, in making this decision, he has earned the gratitude of everyone in Northern Ireland, irrespective of party?

Does the answer mean that passports will or will not be necessary in travelling to and from Ireland in future?

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman's reply mean that, in return for this concession, he will ask the Northern Ireland Government to abolish the censorship of letters, which is equally distasteful?

Public Health

Cigarettes (Arsenic Content)

34.

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware that the arsenic content of English cigarettes has been found to range twice as high as that of American cigarettes and 25 times as high as that of Turkish and Rhodesian cigarettes; and whether, in view of the fact that there are grounds for the belief that this arsenic content may be the cause of the increasing incidence of cancer of the lung, he will take steps to regulate the entry into the country of tobacco having an unnecessarily high arsenic content.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health
(Miss Patricia Hornsby-Smith)

My right hon. Friend is aware that a small-scale study showed these proportions, but I understand the amounts were very small and varied widely in the same types of cigarettes. Also my right hon. Friend is advised that arsenic in tobacco smoke is not established as a likely cause of cancer of the lung, and that the great bulk of the tobacco used in British cigarettes comes from the countries mentioned in the Question.

Is my hon. Friend aware that arsenic is regarded by those who have studied this subject as being contributory to cancer, and that this content of arsenic in American tobacco arises from the use of arsenic sprays in that country unnecessarily? In refusing to take the action for which I have asked, does she realise that she and the Minister are hazarding the lives of the citizens of this country?

Taking the best evidence available to the Department, I can assure my hon. Friend that international lung cancer statistics give no indication that arsenic in cigarettes causes cancer, although one Turkish hospital has reported a high incidence of lung cancer.

Is it not true that the Medical Research Council is considering this matter?

Will the hon. Lady represent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the increased use of Rhodesian and Greek tobacco would make a major contribution to curing the economic cancer of our dollar deficiency in our balance of payments?

Cancer

35.

asked the Minister of Health the proportion of the total deaths in the United Kingdom which arose from cancer in 1931 and 1951 respectively.

In 1950, the latest year for which figures are available, the proportion of total deaths in England and Wales, which arose from cancer including various analogous conditions was 16.71 per cent. The comparable figure for 1931 was 11.96 per cent. As regards Scotland, I would refer my hon. Friend to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

37.

asked the Minister of Health if he has given consideration to the desirability of education in the cancer field; and what conclusions he has reached.

Yes, Sir. The Central Health Services Council have advised my right hon. Friend that it is undesirable at the present time for any cancer publicity to be carried out by any central Government organisation direct to the general public. My right hon. Friend's Cancer and Radiotherapy Standing Advisory Committee are considering the merits of local schemes of cancer education.

Does my hon. Friend not think that it is about time that the secrecy with which cancer has been surrounded for the past 30 years was brought to an end and some attempt made to educate the public and enable them to take certain safeguards that are practicable in this case?

Will the hon. Lady bear in mind that the type of advice which she has been given and which she has described is, in the minds of many other people, and, I think, in the minds of the public at large, wrong, and that the public have the right to know what dangers they face, whether they be from cigarettes or whether they be from arsenic in tobacco? The more we know about them the better for us all.

Can the hon. Lady indicate to the House how much of the increase in deaths attributable to cancer, to which she has referred, is due to the improvement in the method of diagnosis?

In answer to the last question, certainly I would agree with the hon. Gentleman that considerable steps in improvement have been taken in diagnosis in the early stages of the incidence of cancer, and that has substantially contributed to the increased figures. So far as the other points raised are concerned, taking the best medical advice at our disposal we do not think it is advisable to increase public alarm, but we are using all endeavours, by the education of general practitioners in early diagnosis, to encourage all possible methods of ascertaining the incidence of this disease.

National Health Service

Mental Defectives

36.

asked the Minister of Health how many mental defectives have been received into institutional care from the area of Divisional Health Committee No. 9 of the Lancashire County Council by the Liverpool and Manchester regional hospital boards, respectively, during each of the last two convenient years; and how many of these were under 16 years of age.

In the Manchester region, in 1950, four patients from this area over 16 were received in mental deficiency institutions, and in 1951 one patient over 16 and one patient under 16. In the Liverpool region, no patients from this area were received in institutions in 1950 or 1951; but in 1951 two were taken to places of safety under Section 15 of the Mental Deficiency Act.

Does the hon. Lady not think that these figures show that neither of those regional hospital boards is giving adequate service to these very unforunate young children, and will she take steps to see that the selection of children does meet the needs of this area?

The Liverpool Regional Hospital Board is very much alive to the limited accommodation which it has for defectives, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that special arrangements are being made to increase the accommodation in the Liverpool region by the development of the mental deficiency colony at Greaves Hall.

43.

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the shortage of institutional accommodation for mentally defective children in the Sheffield Regional Hospital Board area; and whether he will take steps to improve the position.

Yes, Sir; my right hon. Friend is now reviewing proposals made by the Sheffield Regional Hospital Board to relieve the shortage.

Dental Goods Industry

38.

asked the Minister of Health what consultations he has had with representatives of the dental goods industry following the publication of the annual report on the Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Act.

None, Sir; but consultations will take place from time to time as necessary to ensure that the criticisms of the Monopolies Commission are met.

Is the hon. Lady not aware that consultations are promised on this subject in the annual report of the Board of Trade? Is she further aware that the Board of Trade shows that by December the industry had not yet fulfilled the undertakings which it gave as long ago as last July?

The right hon. Gentleman may be aware that many of the Commission's criticisms were left, as the Commission recommended, to be dealt with by the industry itself, and the Association of Dental Manufacturers and Traders has undertaken to make a comprehensive revision of the rules and regulations, which is in course of being done for this purpose. Meanwhile a number of price reductions have already been made by manufacturers since the publication of the report in lines of goods which, in the Commission's view, yielded an undue share of profit. Throughout these negotiations the Department has been in consultation on the revision of these rules, and so far as the Board of Trade is concerned in this matter, it has been kept in the discussions.

Will the hon. Lady convey to her right hon. Friend that the vigour or otherwise with which he pursues this matter will be regarded as a test of the seriousness of the promises which the present Government gave to the electorate to strengthen the Monopolies Commission.

The hon. Lady mentioned that price reductions had taken place. I am a dental surgeon, and I do not think that the dentists have noticed any substantial reductions at all.

I think that if the hon. Gentleman will refer to the items he will find that there has been a reduction, among others, in acrilic materials and teeth. He will find, too, that a minor restrictive agreement concerning burs, and operated by one firm, was brought to an immediate end on the publication of the report.

Day Nursery, Carlisle

39.

asked the Minister of Health, in view of the public meeting of protest held in Carlisle on 12th March, 1952, against the decision to close the Currock day nursery, and, in view of its importance to mothers engaged in industry, if he will take action to disapprove this decision, so that the day nursery may continue.

The closing of this nursery does not need my right hon. Friend's consent, and he does not feel called on to intervene.

Is the hon. Lady aware that an expression of disapproval from the Department would lead to a reconsideration of the position, which, undoubtedly, has caused a good deal of concern and alarm?

I am informed that there are two nurseries neither of which is fully used. The remaining nursery of 50 places should provide adequately for children needing accommodation on health or social grounds.

Permanent Invalids (Accommodation)

40.

asked the Minister of Health how many institutions exist under his control specifically for the accommodation of permanent invalids in early and middle life; and what is the capacity of those institutions.

Two separate establishments with 54 beds are now in process of conversion to this use. Five other special sections of larger hospitals provide 109 beds, and three more units with 72 beds are in various stages of preparation.

Does not my hon. Friend recognise that there is still in this respect a gap in the Service, and will the Minister continue his efforts to close the gap?

While appreciating the remarks of my hon. Friend, I must say that I am sure he will recognise that the number of hospital patients in this group is not large—possibly between 400 and 500 spread throughout the whole country. It is very difficult to place them because it is necessary, we feel, to accommodate them within a reasonable distance of visiting relatives. It is, therefore, our policy to foster the development of smaller groups in hospitals.

Out-Patient Departments (Appointments)

41.

asked the Minister of Health if he will look into the present system of making hospital appointments for out-patient departments, to see if the present lengthy period of waiting for such patients can be done away with.

Hospitals have already been urged to introduce an efficient appointments system in out-patient departments so as to reduce waiting time to the minimum. If my hon. Friend has in mind particular hospitals where the system is not working well, I should be glad to make inquiries.

While some waiting time is to be expected, does my hon. Friend not realise that some patients wait hours for treatment in hospital, and that if this were looked into the medical staff would be saved much effort, and things would be better for the patients?