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Home Department

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 15 April 1954

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Neglected Children (Training Of Mothers)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many establishments are now in operation to which mothers charged with neglecting their children may be sent for training.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many homes now exist for the reception and training of mothers found guilty of neglecting their children; and which organisations have provided or are operating these homes.

Mothers placed on probation for child neglect may be required by the court to reside either at Mayflower, the Salvation Army's training home at Plymouth, or at Spofforth Hall, the Elizabeth Fry Memorial Trust Home, near Harrogate. A part of Birmingham prison is used for training women who have been sentenced for neglect of, or cruelty to, children.

Has the hon. Gentleman's Department any intention of increasing, or helping to increase, the number of these homes? There must be a large number of women charged with neglect who do not receive this training; some are sent to prison. Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that ordinary prison sentences are useless in these cases and that this training is by far the best treatment?

The Mayflower has seldom been fully used since it opened in January, 1948. It has been full during the last few months, however, and if it continues so the position will, of course, be watched.

Will my hon. Friend convey to the Salvation Army his appreciation of its valuable pioneer work in this important field and assure it of his support in whatever extension of this work may prove to be desirable?

If the Mayflower Home is not fully used, is it because of the reluctance of magistrates to suggest that women should go there for training, to ignorance, or to what other reason?

I could not answer that; it is a matter of speculation. It may be that this Question and answer will bring the matter to the attention of the courts.

Young Girls (Indecent Assaults)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to the remarks of the Lord Chief Justice in the case of Regina v. King; and whether he will introduce legislation to cover this oversight in the present law.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will introduce legislation to increase the maximum sentence for indecent assault on young girls.

I would refer the hon. Members to the reply which my right hon. and learned Friend gave on 1st April to a Question by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Renton).

Does my hon. Friend not realise the great abhorrence that is felt when a man can, apparently, receive only a two-years' sentence of imprisonment for an indecent assault on a girl aged two when he has had five previous convictions for a similar offence? Will my hon. Friend not see whether anything can be done to speed up legislation in this matter, as suggested by the Lord Chief Justice?

The Lord Chief Justice was dealing with an exceptional case. My right hon. and learned Friend has no reason to think that the maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment is not generally adequate. When the accused is convicted on more than one charge, consecutive sentences may be imposed.

Will the Undersecretary bear in mind that not everybody agrees with the Lord Chief Justice in this matter and that the whole question was fully investigated when the Criminal Justice Bill, which later became an Act, was being considered, and that the great preponderance of opinion is all the other way?

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that, a far greater body of opinion would say, I think, that a man who has been guilty of five offences and then inflicts an irreparable offence on a child aged two deserves more than two years' imprisonment? The law ought to bear in mind these exceptional cases. Although we are all interested in the minority view that protects an isolated individual, far more hon. Members of the House are interested in the general view that protects the whole community and particularly young children.

My right hon. and learned Friend said that he would bear the observations of the Lord Chief Justice in mind. All he said was that he could not at present say when it would be possible to introduce legislation.

Steeplechasing (Cruelty)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is aware of the abhorrence with which the present form of Steeplechasing is regarded; and if he will introduce legislation to facilitate the prosecution for cruelty to animals of promoters of this type of sport.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will institute an inquiry into the risks of injury and death involved for horses in organised steeplechase races.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will cause an investigation to be made into the conditions under which steeplechases are run, with a view to establishing whether any element of cruelty is involved to the horses engaged.

My right hon. and learned Friend has no responsibility in this matter, regulation of the conditions under which Steeplechasing takes place being a matter for the authorities responsible for the conduct of the sport. While he greatly regrets the death of four horses at Aintree on 27th March, he does not think that a committee appointed by the Government would serve any useful purpose.

Is my hon. Friend aware that I asked about amending legislation? Can he tell the House whether he has considered a prosecution in connection with the Grand National under existing legislation and, if so, with what result? To satisfy himself about the rising indignation felt at this carnage and slaughter of horses, will he visit a cinema and see the current newsreel of the Grand National and hear for himself the horror with which the audience view the showing of this year's Grand National?

My right hon. and learned Friend is inviting the National Hunt Committee to discuss the matter with him on Wednesday, 28th April, and as my hon. Friend has already given notice that he will raise it on the Adjournment on 29th April, I think these matters might better be discussed then.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is a great deal of feeling about this matter, not only among the general public, but among racegoers, who feel that this particular racecourse is not fair to courageous horses and that, apart from improvements to the course itself, there is a great deal to be said for limiting this race to horses of proved quality which have gained at least first or second place in steeplechases of recognised standing?

If it is proved that cruelty arises from this kind of race, is it not the responsibility of the Home Secretary to take action to ensure that it is stopped?

As I said, my right hon. and learned Friend is to discuss this matter with the National Hunt Committee. I think that, pending that discussion, it would not be right to express an opinion on the matter.

Is my hon. Friend aware that people who have practical experience of the training and riding of steeplechase horses, in the Grand National and elsewhere, do not agree that there is any cruelty involved, that they have absolute confidence in the decisions and wisdom of the National Hunt Committee, that conditions are already laid down such as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Norfolk, Central (Brigadier Medlicott) has suggested, which limit the entry of horses to those which have won races of a certain character? If steeplechasing were abolished, a great many of the horses now used for this purpose would become meat.

Affiliation Orders (Us Service Men)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many American Service men will initially be affected by the bringing into operation of the Visiting Forces Act, 1952, in respect of payments for the maintenance of illegitimate children.

Would the Minister make it as widely known as possible, certainly in round figures, that the numbers affected are not likely to be more than hundreds—not the 60,000 or 70,000 which was so widely and wrongly reported some weeks ago?

This matter has been debated, but if my hon. and gallant Friend wants particular figures I invite him to ask another Question.

Portuguese Criminal (Entry Into Uk)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why no objection was raised by the officials of his Department to the entry of the Portuguese gunman Justine de Almeida to this country.

No adverse information about this man was available when he was granted leave to land in this country.

Can the hon. Gentleman say why such a case can arise in respect of a man who was very well known, whose criminal record was very lengthy and who had a vicious nature? Is there no possibility at all of having a record of that kind available when such a man arrives?

The police have now been informed by the United States police that Almeida had a long record of convictions for armed robbery in that country. He was finally deported from the United States to Portugal in December, 1953. I understand, further, that he had no criminal record in Portugal and we had no criminal record of him here.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that we spend £4 million a year on the Secret Service? In view of its incapacity to deal with cases of this kind, will he suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this would be a good case for an economy cut?


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the nature of the inquiries being made in respect to the passport of Justine de Almeida, a Portuguese citizen, who recently arrived in this country.

De Almeida produced a passport to the British passport control officer in Lisbon and to the immigration officer, and this was accepted by both officers as valid. Inquiries were subsequently made of the Portuguese authorities, who have confirmed that the passport was in order.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the St. Pancras coroner, who looked into this matter thoroughly, was not satisfied that the visa was in order, in that he suggested that inquiries should be made of the British authorities in Lisbon? Is the hon. Gentleman now saying that the passport is wholly in order so far as the British authorities are concerned?

A visa and a passport are, of course, two separate things. The hon. Member put down a Question about the passport, which I have answered. If he wishes to put a question about the visa, he should put it on the Order Paper.

Homeless Ex-Prisoners (Care)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the number of discharged prisoners who are homeless, he will introduce legislation to set up a Government-controlled body to be responsible for looking after discharged prisoners in cases of necessity.

My right hon. and learned Friend is ready to consider, in consultation with the after-care organisations and the National Assistance Board, any specific proposals for improving the existing arrangements for the care of homeless ex-prisoners. On present information, however, he would not consider it either necessary or desirable to set up another body for this purpose.

While appreciating that answer, may I ask whether the Minister will go into the matter further, especially in view of the case I submitted to him on 2nd March, to which I have not yet had a reply? Is he aware that recently, in Birmingham, a man walked the streets for 36 hours, after being released from prison, before he was able to obtain a bed? It really is most tragic when so many men who have been in prison—I know it is a fact in Birmingham—are homeless and have no opportunity of being set on the road to rehabilitation. Is it not a very serious matter?

I think that the particular case the hon. Member has in mind is one where a man, after interviewing the local aid society, had a bed booked for him at a Salvation Army hostel, but did not turn up to claim it. Instead, he seems to have gone, on that night and on the following night, to other Salvation Army hostels where there was no room. The responsibility for this muddle is not clear. It will be looked into further, but I think it will be clear that a single case does not afford ground in itself for reviewing the whole system, still less for setting up a new service.

Every week there are several cases, especially in Birmingham, of homeless ex-prisoners. I have given one example, and there are more, of ex-prisoners who have actually committed crimes in order to get somewhere to sleep. It is a tragic situation. The Salvation Army is doing its best, but it does not support the view which the Minister expressed.

If the hon. Member has evidence that there are numerous such cases, I hope he will submit it to my right hon. and learned Friend, or myself.

Metropolitan Police (Palace Of Westminister Guides)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what regulations he has made to allow police officers off-duty to offer themselves as guides in the Palace of Westminster.

I appreciate the reply, but is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is contrary to police regulations to offer a policeman alternative duty? Is it not possible, through the hon. Gentleman or his Department, to see that hon. Members have opportunities of getting police guides, as has been the practice through the ages? Is it not the case that an hon. Member is more comfortable and happy if his constituents can be shown round the Palace of Westminster by someone he knows and can trust?

Police regulations do not prohibit police officers off duty acting as guides, although they would require the consent of the Commissioner of Police before accepting a reward for doing so. The rule that police officers may act as guides only when off duty has been made by the Serjeant at Arms. It was not made at the instance of my right hon. and learned Friend, nor the Commissioner of Police. Hitherto, plain clothes police officers on duty in the Palace of Westminster have conducted hon. Members' parties, when their duties permitted, as a courtesy to hon. Members and without official authority.

Could not the same facilities be granted, as, so far as I can see, an encroachment has been made on the amenities of hon. Members which have been in existence for many years? I intend to fight for the right which hon. Members opposite have had for centuries in this House.

If there has been any encroachment it is not the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend.

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that a Select Committee is at present looking into this matter? Will he take no action in these cases until that Committee has reported, as, in the body of the report, there will possibly be reflections about this sort of thing which will cause changes of opinion about it.

David John Ware (Death In Broadmoor)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what date David John Ware died in Broadmoor; the circumstances of his death; the inquest verdict; and whether Ware made, in anticipation of death, any reference to the late Walter Graham Rowland or the late Olive Balchin.

Ware committed suicide on 1st April. The verdict returned at the inquest was that the deceased killed himself while the balance of his mind was disturbed and that the cause of death was strangulation through hanging by the neck.

The answer to the last part of the Question is, "No, Sir."

In view of the verdict at the inquest, which was, apparently, not one of insanity, and in view of the man's confession, which showed quite clearly that he knew what he was doing and that it was wrong, can the hon. Gentleman explain why Ware ever came to be an inmate of a criminal lunatic asylum at all? Secondly, now that we have come to the grim end of this grim story, and all the people most nearly concerned with it are now dead, does not the hon. Gentleman think that his right hon. and learned Friend might reconsider his decision not to hold an inquiry in this case, to see what miscarriage of justice occurred?

Those questions are entirely different from that on the Order Paper. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to have them answered, he must put them down.

Sir Roger Casement (Remains)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department his reasons for refusing permission for the remains of the late Sir Roger Casement to be transferred to Ireland.

Successive Governments have considered this matter and have found no reason for departing from the invariable practice of refusing permission for the removal of the remains of executed prisoners. My right hon. and learned Friend sees no reason to take any other view.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Foreign Secretary said recently in the House that it was not the policy of Her Majesty's Government to carry hatred beyond the grave; and does that not apply to Ireland? Does the hon. Gentleman realise that the late Sir Roger Casement is recognised as a great Irish patriot and that the Irish rebellion, is, from the Irish point of view, a great episode in the successful struggle for independence? Does he not think it is time that he should apply the same principle to Ireland that the Foreign Secretary enunciated with regard to Germany?

It is not thought by this Government, nor has it been thought by previous Governments, that the removal of Casement's remains would help to improve relations between this country and the Irish Republic. Indeed, by reawakening the memory of old differences, leading to demonstrations, and so on, it might do the reverse.

Would the hon. Gentleman care to explain how he reconciles that attitude with the quite opposite attitude, in parallel circumstances, of the Foreign Secretary in the other case? I believe it is quite impossible to reconcile the two.

As Eire has now separated herself from the Commonwealth how can it lead to any rising against British rule, which is what the hon. Gentleman suggests might happen if the remains of this Irish patriot were taken back to his native land for interment there? It is a simple human question.

I do not think I suggested that it would lead to a rising or anything of that kind. I said that it would reawaken memories of old differences.

Local Authorities (Civil Defence Arrangements)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many communications he has received from local authorities expressing concern at the inadequacy of existing Civil Defence arrangements in the light of recent developments; and what answers he has given.

The only communication of this kind which my right hon. and learned Friend has so far received is the one from Coventry, and the hon. Member has, no doubt, read the terms of the reply which has been made public.

I do not wish to condone the attitude of Coventry Council in banning all forms of Civil Defence, but it remains true that a great many local authorities are very concerned about what changes should be made in Civil Defence preparations in the light of the hydrogen bomb, and are very anxious to have authoritative guidance from the Home Office on this matter at an early date. Could the hon. Gentleman say what his Department is doing about it?

As my right hon. and learned Friend has said, and as I have said, the position is being reviewed in the light of the explosion of the hydrogen bomb, and my right hon. and learned Friend has promised to make a statement to the House.

Is the Under-Secretary aware that many local authorities are dissatisfied with the present method of organisation? Perhaps he will recall that the Medway area would like to be its own authority. Because it is not it has not that enthusiasm for recruiting Civil Defence volunteers which local responsibilty would encourage.

I hope that when my right hon. and learned Friend has made a statement any such feeling will disappear.