Skip to main content

Home Department

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 13 May 1954

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

Prisoners (Preventive Detention)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the methods employed for the provision of work for preventive detention prisoners on their discharge.

Preventive detention prisoners are released on licence to the supervision of the Central After-Care Association, who arrange for every prisoner to have the opportunity of a personal interview with an officer of the Ministry of Labour prior to his release, so that his registration for suitable employment can be completed in advance. The Association arranges also for the prisoner to be personally advised and assisted on release by one of its Associates, who will usually be a probation officer.

There is also an experimental scheme now in operation whereby a small number of prisoners in the third stage of a sentence of preventive detention are enabled to take up outside employment for some months prior to their discharge.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is some confusion about this matter in the minds of the prisoners and apparently in the minds of certain of the staff as to whether it is the responsibility of the prisoner nearing discharge to try to find a post for himself; or does he leave that to the Association?

I was not aware of any such confusion. If the hon. Member will give me particulars, I will, of course, have the matter looked into.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many men have been refused and granted one-third remission of their prison sentences by the Board for Licence on Preventive Detention; how far the Board at Parkhurst is assisted by an advisory committee in London; and who are the members and by whom they are appointed; and what reports the Board receive of the men's records from the police, the welfare officer and the governor.

A prisoner serving a sentence of preventive detention is not eligible for release on licence when two-thirds of the sentence have been served unless he has been admitted to the third stage of the sentence. Admission to the third stage is decided by an advisory board, which sits at Parkhurst and is not assisted or controlled by any other body in London.

The prison rules provide that the advisory board shall consist of three members of the prison's Board of Visitors approved by the Secretary of State, and such other persons not exceeding four as the Secretary of State may appoint; and that the chairman shall be appointed by the Secretary of State.

The Chairman is Mr. Bertram Reece, a Metropolitan magistrate. The members representing the Board of Visitors are Lieut.-Colonel C. W. Brannon, Mr. G. C. Russell, and Lieut.-Colonel F. C. R. Britten. The other members are Mr. Duncan Fairn, Director of Prison Administration; Mr. J. C. V. Lovatt, a principal probation officer; and Captain R. C. Williams, a retired prison commissioner.

The Board is assisted by the Director of the Men's Section of the Central After-Care Association, and has before it all the information about the prisoner that is available in his record and also special reports by the prison governor and his principal subordinates, the medical officer and the chaplain or prison minister.

The number of prisoners who have been released after serving two-thirds of the sentence is 36; the number who were eligible for admission to the third stage but were not selected for it is 207.

While thanking the hon. Gentleman for that very full reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that a great deal of the unrest at Parkhurst is due to uncertainty about remission of sentences as men approach their discharge? Will he consult the Governor as to whether there is not some procedure by which this unrest can be removed?

If the hon. Member has any particular case in mind and will let me have the particulars, I will see that it is looked into.

Mechanically-Propelled Vehicles (Children Under 16)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will take steps to make it illegal for children under the age of 16 years to drive tractors or other mechanically-propelled vehicles, in view of the fatal accidents recently reported.

While my right hon. and learned Friend shares my hon. Friend's concern about these accidents, he can hold out no hope that time could be found in the near future for legislation.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the problem that arises as a result of these youngsters driving tractors? As these are capable and ambitious lads, whom we cannot afford to lose from the agricultural industry, can he give the matter further consideration?

My right hon. and learned Friend is consulting the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland to see whether anything can be done.

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind what has been said by his hon. Friend? Is he aware that mechanisation in the agricultural industry has increased enormously in recent years and that we have reached the stage when measures are necessary to prevent young people under 16 from driving tractors?

No doubt these considerations will be present to the minds of my right hon. Friends in the consultations

Foster Parents (Payments)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many councils deduct family allowances when making payments to foster parents.

Minister Of Defence (Statement)


asked the Prime Minister if the recent statement made by Field Marshal Alexander at Copenhagen regarding the conduct of operations in a possible future war involving Great Britain represents the policy of Her Majesty's Government.

My noble and gallant Friend made no statement of policy whilst in Copenhagen. In private conversations he referred to what might happen in a possible future war—in a spirit which should command agreement and certainly spread confidence.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a report of this statement which appeared in the "Scotsman" said that this country would bear the heaviest atomic attack in the event of war with Russia, that this country would be knocked out, and would be liberated by Canada and the other Dominions? Is that the sort of thing which inspires confidence in the civilian population in this country?

My noble Friend was indicating that even if the worst that people imagine were to come to pass, we should not give in.

Can the Prime Minister tell us whether a report is to be made to Parliament of a meeting this week between the Danish Minister of Defence and the Minister of Defence of Her Majesty's Government?

Asia (Uk-Us Policy)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will now make a statement on the points of agreement and difference with the United States of America which have arisen over policy in Asia before and during the Geneva Conference.

The relations of Great Britain with other countries are a matter of constant thought and study and statements upon them are made to Parliament whenever it is thought that the public interest will be served thereby.

Why is the Prime Minister so secretive about all these matters? Why does he never give the House any information?

Why have we to learn what is going on in Indo-China and Geneva from Mr. Dulles and from President Eisenhower's Press conferences? Is it not time that the right hon. Gentleman told the House something, so that we can have an influence on the policy of Her Majesty's Government?

I am always glad when it falls to my lot and to my duty to make general statements to the House.

Hydrogen And Atom Bomb Tests


asked the Prime Minister whether information has now been received from the United States Government with regard to the hydrogen test series of explosions which took place during March and April; and whether he will make a statement.

I am not prepared as at present advised to give any information beyond that which has appeared in the Press.

In view of the great public concern over the development of the hydrogen bomb, would the Prime Minister consider proposing that there should be a suspension of all hydrogen tests and explosions pending the outcome of the Disarmament Commission, which began its deliberations this morning?

I think we dealt with that at an early stage in the experiments. I have no power to give directions on the subject to the United States or to the Soviet Union.

I did not ask the Prime Minister to give directions. What I asked him was whether he will consider proposing the suspension of these tests?

I do not think it would be much use deciding to propose such a course without some consideration of whether it was likely to be adopted or not.


asked the Prime Minister how many underwater atomic or hydrogen explosions have been recorded by the scientific instruments at the disposal of Her Majesty's Government; and which of them appear to have been connected with experimental explosions by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The answer to this Question would reveal the degree of efficiency of our apparatus for the detection of atomic explosions and this would not be in the public interest.

South-East Asia (Defence)


asked the Prime Minister which are the countries with which Her Majesty's Government are having conversations with regard to a security pact for South-East Asia.


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement regarding the progress of the conversations regarding a South-East Asia security arrangement.

I should be very ready to make a statement on this subject, but the situations at Geneva and in Paris are, at the present time, so uncertain that I think it would be better to wait till next Monday. If the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member will repeat their Questions then, I will give them the fullest answers which are possible.

In view of the fact that the Portuguese have a colony very near Australia, can the Prime Minister say whether anything can be done about that colony in the conversations that will deal with that area?

I should like to make detailed inquiries into these matters before I attempt a public answer.

Indo-China (Diplomatic Exchanges)


asked the Prime Minister whether he will make a statement regarding the consultations which have taken place between Her Majesty's Government and the Government of Burma regarding the future of Indo-China.

No, Sir. These diplomatic exchanges are confidential. If this confidence were not respected the exchanges would be seriously impaired.

Is it not a fact that the attitude of Burma to a proposed alliance on Asia is vitally important? How can the right hon. Gentleman expect this House to make any assessment of the future policy of the Government unless we are in possession of this vital fact?

I was speaking about our duty to preserve the confidence of those with whom we have had confidential discussions. It is not our business to make them public to the people of Burma over the heads of the Governments concerned.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the visit to this country recently of the Burmese Foreign Minister was extremely welcome to the many people who had the opportunity of meeting him?


asked the Prime Minister what answer Her Majesty's Government has received from the Prime Minister of India in reply to the request for his views on any future guarantees affecting Indo-China.

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) on 10th May on this point.

Will the right hon. Gentleman reconsider the answers he has just given to Questions Nos. 50 and 52 and consult the Governments concerned to see that we have the maximum amount of information available compatible with the ordinary diplomatic confidences?

Yes, Sir, I am very anxious that the House should be carried along with the Government in any matters of foreign policy, especially as there is such a large measure of agreement on important issues. I do not think we can begin by loosely and curtly publishing documents which were considered to be private and confidential by the Prime Ministers and the Governments to whom we had addressed them.

As the Government of India have just published the essence of their views on this question, why is Her Majesty's Government suppressing the Indian view? Is it because they do not like the views of India on this matter?

Anything the Indian Government have declared publicly is published and might even be read by Members of the House.

The Prime Minister has promised that he will answer Questions Nos. 48 and 51 next Monday. Can we take it for granted that Her Majesty's Government will not commit themselves to any proposal until we in this House have had an opportunity to discuss it?

No, Sir. I certainly would not give any such undertaking. The responsibility in these matters always rests with the Government of the day, and the House can do as it likes with them when all the facts are before it.

As there has been prolonged and what one might describe as hesitant negotiations, discussions, consultations and conversations on this matter, ought we not to be allowed to express our views about the outcome before we are faced with a fait accompli?

I think a statement can be made on Monday which will say all that there is to say on these difficult matters, which are in a very indeterminate position at the present time.