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Home Department

Volume 526: debated on Thursday 29 April 1954

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

Police Forces (Cost)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the cost of the maintenance of the police forces of England and Wales at their present strength; and how much it would cost to bring these forces up to the strength which he estimates they should at present attain.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Minister for Welsh Affairs
(Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)

The cost of the police in England and Wales is now about £68 million a year, of which half is paid by the Exchequer. If all existing vacancies in police establishments were filled, the extra cost would be about million a year.

Does the Home Secretary agree that owing to the forces being under strength they are greatly overworked and that the extra money would be money well spent in countering the prevalence of crime?

I entirely agree, and would add only that the most pressing problem, as the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, is in the big cities.

Poisons (Antidotes)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if, where the law provides that any poisonous fluid or substance must be marked or labelled "Poison," he will make it compulsory that the antidote to the poison shall also be clearly stated.

No, Sir. The Poisons Board has advised against the introduction of such legislation.

Would my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, as very few people know what to do when faced with a poisoning emergency, a precaution of this kind might be the means of saving life, even if the antidote were only a temporary expedient?

I think there are great dangers in this matter because undue emphasis on antidotes might result in the loss of valuable time in obtaining medical help. Barbiturate poisoning, for example, which has been the commonest form in recent years, requires immediate hospital treatment, and any delay may be fatal. I hope no one will rely on antidotes to the exclusion of getting immediate medical advice.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend consider the possibility of a statute providing that all Socialist constituents should be labelled, "To take Conservatism"?

Swans (Protection)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to include swans on the list of protected birds in order to preserve them, their cygnets and eggs, from unnecessary pain and destruction.

Wild swans are at present fully protected in 25 counties in England and Wales, and their eggs in 29 counties, by local orders made under the Wild Birds Protection Acts. I have no power to make additional orders except on application by the local authority. The Protection of Birds Bill now before Parliament will give full protection to wild swans throughout the country.

Could the Home Secretary give power to local authorities not only to protect the birds from destruction, but to provide them with food and shelter at the ponds and lakes where they congregate?

Prison Deaths (Burial)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will review the present practice of burying convicted murderers within the precincts of the prison where the sentence was carried out with a view to an amendment of the law and the adoption of the practice proposed for the convicted war criminals in Spandau Gaol of returning the bodies to their next-of-kin.

Can the Home Secretary explain why, in the case of the NÜrnberg criminals, which, I believe, he knows quite a lot about, and who were convicted of mass murders, their next-of-kin are to be allowed to have their bodies back, while the parents of young men like Dereck Bentley are not allowed to have their sons' bodies back, though the prisoners were. convicted of a single murder? Surely if it is good enough, in the case of the Spandau prisoners, for the next-of-kin to have their bodies back, it should be good enough for people in this country.

I think the hon. Gentleman has confused two matters. The question of the Spandau prisoners, of course, is a matter for the Foreign Secretary, but the proposal that, I think, the hon. Gentleman has in mind deals with the bodies of those who die a natural death and not of those who are executed. It is already the practice in the Department of which I am in charge that the relatives of a prisoner who dies in prison here, other than by judicial execution, have the opportunity to take the body away and to make their own disposal arrangements.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that it is quite impossible to reconcile his attitude in this matter with that of the Foreign Secretary, not only in the case of the Spandau prisoners but in the case of prisoners who were executed for mass murders and whose bodies were handed over to the civil authority for reburial outside the prison? Secondly, will he bear in mind that on this whole matter of executions in this country a Royal Commission that sat for five years came unanimously to the conclusion that our present law was wrong and could not be supported? Could he tell us when he will be able to inform the House of the result of his consideration of that Report?

The first supplementary question is one for the Foreign Secretary, and the second raises a point to which I have replied previously.

Yes, but as the right hon. and learned Gentleman is a member of the Government, and a colleague of the Foreign Secretary, surely he recognises the principle of collective responsibility. As he had something to do, quite properly, with the execution of the NÜrnberg prisoners, why is he not prepared to adopt in this country the same policy that is now being adopted in Germany?

I fully accept the principle of collective responsibility but I do not remember that when the right hon. Member was Minister of Defence he was particularly active in answering Questions which concerned the Minister of Health. That is the point I made. As for the further point, I said that was a matter on which I had already answered questions, and if the right hon. Gentleman will do me the honour of looking at the answers he will find that that is so.

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that when I was Minister of Defence I was never asked a Question which related to the activities and responsibilities of the Minister of Health?

Remand Homes And Approved Schools (Punishment)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent the infliction of corporal punishment in remand homes and approved schools has declined or increased during the past year; in how many cases during that period inmates have absconded and how many have subsequently been apprehended; and what further consideration has been given to the question of discipline, treatment and punishment in those institutions.

The number of occasions on which corporal punishment was administered in remand homes and approved schools in 1953 was about 4 per cent, more than in 1952. The number of abscondings in 1953 was 2,236; I have no reason to believe that more than a very few absconders were not recovered.

The question of discipline, treatment and punishment in remain homes and approved schools is kept under constant review.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman not appreciate that this is a matter which should be more than reviewed constantly? Is it not one which needs special inquiry in view of the more enlightened opinions about the treatment and discipline in these institutions?

The hon. Member will recall that the Franklin Committee reported in December, 1951, on punishments in approved schools and remand homes. It considered that the existing powers to give corporal punishment were necessary and that the safeguards against the excessive use of this form of punishment were generally satisfactory. Since then, as I have said, the conditions on which it reported have been kept under constant review. If the hon. Member has any specific point to make I shall be very glad to consider it.

Am I not right in stating that in some of the best-managed remand homes corporal punishment is very rarely administered?

That must be a matter for the authorities of the remand home. I cannot answer for specific remand homes. I think that is the proper combination: we have a Report, we keep it under review, and the operation is in the hands of the authorities of the home.



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people have immigrated into this country each year since the war.

I regret that no information is available about the number of persons other than aliens who have come to live in the United Kingdom since the war.

Under our system of immigration control, aliens are not ordinarily admitted as immigrants in the first instance, save in exceptional circumstances. The majority of the aliens who have been accepted as permanent residents in recent years were admitted on a temporary basis—e.g., on Ministry of Labour permits—and accepted as residents some years after their arrival.

Figures of aliens accepted as permanent residents are not available for each year since the war, but in the immediate postwar years nearly 250,000 foreigners were as an exceptional measure admitted or allowed to remain in this country as a special contribution to the relief of distress abroad and to the resettlement of displaced persons. Precise figures are not available but it is estimated that the number at present being admitted to permanent residence is of the order of 8,000 to 9,000 a year.

Has my right hon. and learned Friend noted that when citizens of the United Kingdom desire to go to a Colonial Territory they have to give very considerable undertakings, both financial and otherwise? Will he represent to the Colonial Secretary that it is desirable that our people should be able to go to the Colonial Territories with facility equal to that with which people from the Colonial Territories can come to the United Kingdom?

I will certainly convey the contents of my hon. Friend's question to my right hon. Friend.

Father Ingram (Warrant)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what date the warrant was issued for the arrest of Father Ingram, formerly of the London Choir School, Bexley; and on what grounds the warrant was applied for.

I understand that a warrant of arrest was issued on 22nd March on the grounds of alleged unnatural offences against a pupil of the London Choir School.

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that this is the evil man to whom I referred in the House some months ago? Is it to be wondered at that homosexuality is on the increase when such men can operate in private schools at will? Will he say whether the warrant has yet been served?

The police endeavoured to enforce the warrant, but they discovered that Ingram had disappeared from the school and they later found that he had flown to Northern Ireland on 24th March. Police inquiries are being made in Northern Ireland and in the Irish Republic.

Juvenile Courts, South London


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what provision is being made for additional juvenile courts in South London to deal with the growing number of cases.

Last August, in order to relieve the congestion at Lambeth Juvenile Court, it was arranged that the court should sit twice instead of once a week. Alternative premises are being sought for the second court, and also for the South-Eastern Juvenile Court which sits at Tower Bridge.

While realising that these additional provisions are a regrettable necessity, may I ask the Home Secretary whether he will examine the disturbing implications of what is apparently the growing number of juvenile cases in South London in the light of the 14 per cent, reduction in the number of juvenile convictions throughout the country as a whole, which he announced the other day?

Certainly. I am very glad that the hon. and gallant Gentleman mentioned the 14 per cent., for it is always a good thing to remember the good side of questions. I will certainly bear in mind the other point which he made.