Skip to main content

Home Department

Volume 656: debated on Thursday 29 March 1962

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

Michaelmas Quarter Day


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will consider legislation for the alteration of the Michaelmas quarter day from 29th September to 24th September.

My right hon. Friend is not aware of any reason for making this change, but he will be glad to consider any evidence which my hon. Friend may wish to put before him.

While thanking my hon. and learned Friend for his reply, may I say that I will send him some evidence in due course?

Prison Medical Service


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will initiate discussions with the Minister of Health as to the desirability of merging the prison medical service with the National Health Service.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
(Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke)

In the medical treatment of prisoners advantage is already taken of specialist services provided under the National Health Service, and my right hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health look forward to further progress in this direction so far as this is consistent with my right hon. Friend's responsibility to this House for the treatment of prisoners generally.

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that the position of the prison medical service is very serious, that recruitment is most disappointing as regards both quality and numbers, and that the average age in the service is dangerously high? In view of the fact that most good doctors are required to cut themselves off from the main stream of medicine by joining this separate service, will he not give further consideration to the possibility of a complete merger in the future?

In fact there is not much cutting off because the majority of medical officers are already part-time in the service and are also engaged in the National Health Service, mainly as general practitioners. There is also some sharing of specialists, and close co-operation generally. I quite agree that we have to keep an open mind on this subject, and we do so.

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the medical service is the most neglected part of the Prison Service, which is a great condemnation? Would he not look into this matter again and give my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) some assurance that his suggestion will be carried out? Can he go further and say whether or not consideration has been given to the point I made some time ago as to the desirability of one Prison Commissioner being responsible for the medical services in prisons?

It is a pleasure to see the hon. Lady back at that Box again. We will certainly take up the thread where she last dropped it on the last point, and I will let the hon. Lady know. I cannot give any further assurance that this merger will take place because there are strong objections, but I can say that we will keep our minds open.

Electric Wiring (Colour Code)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to secure a uniform international colour code for electric wiring, in view of the fact that some Continental manufacturers of electrical equipment are using a red earth wire.

I understand that, as the result of agreement reached on the European international standards committee dealing with this subject, the use of red for the earth wire by certain Continental manufacturers of electrical equipment is in process of being abandoned.

Is the Minister aware that the interim Report of the Molony Committee on Consumer Protection shows that at least one fatality and a number of near fatalities have occurred because of the lack of an international colour code distinguishing between live wires and earth wires? Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that his announcement will give us great pleasure? Will he do what he can to expedite the publication of the Molony Report and to secure a universal colour code?

The question of securing a universal colour code is one for negotiation by international bodies on which the British Standards Institution is represented. They are going ahead with that work and I think that they will solve the problem.

But when agreement has been reached, would it not be desirable to put it into Regulations under the Consumer Protection Act so that manufacturers in this country also comply with the agreement?

Private Security Forces


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what consideration he has given to controlling, whether by licence or otherwise, the growth of private security forces, some of which wear uniforms very similar to statutory police forces.

There is already a provision in the law prohibiting the unauthorised use of police uniform or of any dress having the appearance of police uniform. The enforcement of this provision is a matter for the chief officer of police concerned. I am doubtful if any further legislation is called for, but I am watching the situation.

While thanking the Home Secretary for agreeing to watch the situation, may I ask whether he is not aware that many thousands of men are being recruited for these private police groups? Does not this raise many grave issues of public policy, especially when some of them are armed and some of them wear uniforms which are almost indistinguishable from police uniforms? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that any Tom, Dick or Harry can start a security force of strong-armed boys and hire them out to industrial concerns? Should he not consult the Police Federation and perhaps the Trades Union Congress in the light of this ominous development?

I said that I was watching the situation. I will bear in mind what the hon. Member has said.

Spectacle Frames (Inflammable Materials)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his discussions with the Federation of Manufacturing Opticians regarding the use of inflammable materials in the manufacture of spectacle frames.

I have received a reply from the Federation of Manufacturing Opticians and have written to them again asking for further information and clarification on certain points.

While thanking my hon. and learned Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he could please inform me whether the Federation is aware that there is a new form of cellulose acetate known as extruded which is much more stable than the previous one in all climates? Is the Federation aware that as a result of having this new material the whole pattern in America has completely changed from 75 per cent. cellulose nitrate to now 15 per cent?

Yes, Sir. This is among the questions on which we are consulting the manufacturers.

Homicide Act


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has now completed his review of the working of the Homicide Act; and if he will make a statement, with reference also to the proposal that there should be longer actual terms of imprisonment for murderers sentenced to imprisonment for life.

I have the working of the Homicide Act under continuous review, but, as I said in reply to the hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. C. Johnson) a fortnight ago, I see no prospect of early legislation on this subject. The length of time to be served by a person sentenced to life imprisonment depends on the circumstances of the case. Since the Homicide Act came into force each case has continued to be examined and decided on its merits, having regard to all the relevant considerations, including the character of the crime and the public safety. In what may be regarded as an average case—that is to say, a case in which there have been mitigating circumstances justifying a reprieve—the period of imprisonment served has for some time been about nine years. But there are many cases in which it has been longer—and of course a number in which, for special reasons, it has been less. In future, as I have said on several occasions, I expect that many prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment for non-capital murder under the Homicide Act will have to be detained for periods much longer than hitherto.

When the right hon. Gentleman says that the workings of this Act are under continuous review, may I ask whether there was not some obligation on him to make a special review after five years of its working, a time which, roughly, has now arrived? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the working of the Act is really not considered satisfactory either by abolitionists or by anti-abolitionists?

I am quite aware of difficulties both in the working of the Act and its general operation, but I can find no specific undertaking about a review after five years, though there is a widespread belief that it would be so reviewed.

Surely, in any case, my right hon. Friend would not consider revising the Act, pernicious and illogical though it may be, at any rate until the country has had the opportunity of expressing a view about it, especially since, as my right hon. Friend knows, there would not be sufficient prisons to hold these prisoners?

I certainly think that our new prison building programme would make a great difference to prison accommodation. As regards the operation of the Act, we must be extremely careful in considering its review with the present state of crime in the country.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his explanation about the length of time served by some life prisoners is most welcome, because there is a good deal of misunderstanding about this and some people feel that nine years is the maximum? I hope that on every occasion the right hon. Gentleman will make it quite clear that he has powers to detain in special circumstances prisoners for a much longer period.

That is why, in answer to the original Question, I gave a fairly long reply for Question Time to illustrate what is happening.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the task of reviewing these life sentences is likely to become progressively a heavier burden on him and his successors?

I must say that it is heavy enough already, and I fully realise the truth of my hon. Friend's remark.

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider the suggestion contained in the question asked by his hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), namely, that revisions or alterations in this law should, in some way or another, be submitted to a vote of the country? Is there any way in which this could be done?

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that divisions of opinion are substantial on this subject and cut right across party lines and that it would be extremely inconvenient to adopt on this question what we reject on every other question—the principle of a referendum?

If, as many of us agree, the position has become absolutely intolerable, will the right hon. Gentleman either take the responsibility as the responsible member of the Government for proposing changes or allow the House to do so at its own discretion on a free vote?

I could not undertake that the House would be given a free vote in this matter. One of the difficulties about the present law is that there has been very great doubt about it, but I doubt whether a free vote would resolve the position. The hon. Member must rely on the fact that the Secretary of State principally responsible has this matter continually under review.

Television Programmes (Crime)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions he has had with the British Broadcasting Corporation and the independent Television Authority regarding the impact of television on crime; and if he will make a statement.

The Independent Television Authority has undertaken to finance an inquiry into the impact of television on the young, with particular reference to its effect on the incidence of delinquency. My Department has had useful discussions with the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Television Authority about the form which such an inquiry might take, and a conference of experts will be held shortly to consider the lines which should be followed.

Whilst thanking the Minister for that statement, which will be received with much satisfaction throughout the country, may I ask whether, pending this inquiry, in view of the widespread anxiety over this, he will consult the Postmaster-General with a view to a reduction of these violent scenes which have created such anxiety?

We are in constant touch and I certainly will communicate again with my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General and with the authorities concerned. I think that on the whole they have shown a responsible attitude. I am equally sure that the exchange of views expressed in the House only recently on a particular matter which caused considerable offence has in its own way also had an effect.

When the inquiry is set up, could my right hon. Friend ask its members to study some means for the Corporation and the Authority to have a form of self-censorship by having an identity mark on plays and films which they feel are not suitable to show to children?

The trouble is the timing. There is an idea that children go to bed at a certain hour and after that hour certain things can be shown. It is difficult to guarantee this, as is done in the case of films, but I will certainly bear that in mind and put it to the authorities concerned.

While I strongly approve of the right hon. Gentleman's action and that by the I.T.A. and B.B.C., may I ask him to ensure that what emerges from these considerations is a code of conduct and not a form of censorship?

I do not think that we are looking for a form of censorship. We are looking for self-restraint in the conduct of these matters.

In thanking my right hon. Friend, may I ask whether I am to understand that the inquiry will be, so to speak, under the guidance of the Home Office, with the I.T.A. and B.B.C. participating? How long will it be before the inquiry is started? What kind of personnel does my right hon. Friend intend to invite to sit on the inquiry?

This is why we have called together a body of experts. We think that a broad-ranging inquiry might be ineffective. We are having the matter expertly examined, and I shall then have to call in outside people to conduct the research necessary to make it a success.

Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that in any terms of reference not only crime is looked into but also the whole way of life which is depicted on television? Will the inquiry include advertisements as well as programmes?

As far as I have seen it, the idea is to include only programmes. In reply to the other suggestion made by the hon. Lady, I do not think that we shall limit this inquiry to crime.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress he has made in his study of the connection between the presentation of the techniques of organised crime on television and the rise in organised crime within the Metropolitan Police district.

If any particular case arose in which it seemed to the police that undesirable information was given on a television programme about the technique of crime, this would be taken up with those concerned with the particular programme. But no special study of the kind suggested by the hon. Member is in train.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the techniques of organised crime are illustrated almost literally night after night on television? If he wants an example, there was a programme called "The Avengers" on 23rd December which gave a detailed description of organised arson. Is it not the case that in the competitive scramble for mass audiences I.T.V. has become a school of crime more pernicious than in Fagin's day?

If the hon. Gentleman will let me have the information to which he refers. I will take it up with the Authority.

New Prison, Honeybourne


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will state the position concerning proposals to establish a security prison in Worcestershire, with particular reference to the suggested site at Honeybourne.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department for what reasons the Prison Commissioners propose to establish a prison at Honeybourne, Worcestershire, instead of at Malvern, Worcestershire; and whether he will make a statement on projected prison building in Worcestershire.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department why the proposed prison at Honeybourne, Worcestershire, is not to be sited in a less populated area.

The prison building programme includes several regional training prisons which should be within a reasonable distance of the main centres of population. The Honeybourne site was selected in preference to several others in the light of the views expressed by the Worcestershire County Council, who have suggested that a public inquiry into the proposal should be held. No other new prisons are at present contemplated in Worcestershire, but additional buildings for use as a remand centre are being provided at Hewell Grange Borstal.

Will my hon. and learned Friend take note that there is opposition to the siting of a prison in south Worcestershire, particularly on the Honeybourne site, coming from people who fear for the safety of their families and in other cases fear the loss of value to their property from the propinquity of a prison? Before deciding whether to go ahead with this project, will he arrange to have a local public inquiry held at which the people can state their views?

The form of the public inquiry will depend upon a certain amount of information which we are still awaiting from the Worcestershire County Council. Of course, everybody is in favour of more prisons, but nobody wants a prison near him.

Will my hon. and learned Friend say how large this prison is intended to be? Is it intended to hold 1,000 prisoners or 2,000 prisoners? What sort of prison is it? Is it a prison without bars? Is it a prison for desperate and hardened criminals or for first offenders—or what type of prison is it? I recognise my hon. and learned Friend's difficulties in siting establishments of this kind.

It is not a prison without bars. It is not a large prison. It must be near a main centre of population such as Birmingham, South Wales or Bristol because of visits from prisoners' relatives, home leave schemes and, above all, from the point of view of prison officers.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that although Worcestershire County Council may think that this is a suitable site, it is very near the borders of Gloucestershire and a very large village in my constituency and that the local residents take considerable exception to it? Will he confirm that it would be a good idea for a public inquiry to be held so that all these objections may be heard in the proper way?

It is a good idea that public inquiries should be held. When they are held they considerably ease the anxieties of villagers, large and small, whether in Worcestershire or in Gloucestershire. I am sure that my hon. Friend's constituents will be relieved, when the time comes, of some of their fears.

As Hewell Grange is in my constituency and this is the first that I have heard of this remand home, may I ask my hon. and learned Friend to give me further information about it?



asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has considered the evidence of Dr. D. Jackson, M.D., F.R.C.S., a copy of which has been sent to him by the hon. Member for the Ladywood division of Birmingham concerning casualties during the past 13 years arising from fireworks injuries during 5th November celebrations; and what action he proposes to take, in view of this new evidence, to reduce the number of such accidents in the future.

Yes, Sir. The valuable article by Mr. Jackson in the British Medical Journal which makes an analysis of the causes of firework injuries treated in the Birmingham Accident Hospital has been carefully studied in the Home Office. As regards the second part of the Question, I am not yet in a position to add anything to the replies given on 1st February.

While thanking the Minister for his consideration of that matter, may I ask him whether he realises that there is a great deal of anxiety in the accident hospitals arising from the fact that no reduction in these accidents occurs before and after 5th November celebrations? I hope that something further will be done.

We are anxious to find out which types of firework and which ways of handling them are the causes of injury. We are keen, therefore, to examine any evidence which helps us to answer this question. We can then decide what action, if any, it is necessary to take to reduce the injuries.

Will the Minister bear in mind that while it is necessary to look at the possibility of accidents and to do what we can to stop them, we still want out boys to be boys and to have a little fun?

Crimes Of Violence (Young Persons)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department my what ratio the number of offences of violence against the person by males under 17 years, other than robbery or robbery with violence, increased or decreased during the period 1945 to 1947; and if he will give comparable figures for the periods 1948–50 and for 1948–60.

Comparing 1947 with 1945, there was a decrease of 29 per cent. in the number of males under the age of 17 found guilty in England and Wales of indictable offences classified in the Criminal Statistics as violence against the person. As compared with 1948, there were increases of 38 per cent. in 1950 and 584 per cent. in 1960.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that there has been a tremendous increase in this sort of crime, which is causing widespread concern? The significant change of trend from a decrease to an increase in 1948, when the courts lost their power to order corporal punishment for this sort of thing, suggests that that power may have played a useful part in dealing with violent young thugs.

That may be an inference to be drawn, but in fact in the years 1945–47 I can find very little record of any sentences of that sort having been imposed.

If my right hon. Friend refers to Appendix B of the last Report of his Advisory Council on this matter he will see that the figures are given—I do not doubt that they are right—showing that use was made of this power.

While my right hon. Friend appreciates that both he and I, and indeed all the rest of us, want exactly the same thing—

that is, first of all to control this wave of criminal violence and then to reduce it, is he satisfied that the methods at present employed—prisons, borstals, detention centres and so on—are acting or will act as deterrents to crimes of violence?

We all feel that the new methods which are now being tried out must be given a chance. We have a greatly increased number of detention centres and the general scheme under the recent Criminal Justice Act is about to be put on trial. I am the first to hope that that trial will be successful.

Corporal Punishment


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders or any other comparable body has been asked to consider whether there are grounds for reintroducing judicial corporal punishment for male juvenile offenders convicted of offences of violence against the person; and whether he will institute an official inquiry on these lines.

The Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders considered in 1960 whether there were grounds for reintroducing any form of corporal punishment as a judicial penalty in respect of any categories of offences and of offenders, and concluded that no such measure would be justified. The House accepted this conclusion in the debates on the Criminal Justice Bill last session; and I do not propose to institute any further inquiry.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that this was an inquiry of a general nature and that a special difficulty has arisen in the case of violent young delinquents who are reported in court as not being suitable for institutional treatment in detention centres or anywhere else because they are not addicted to crimes involving dishonesty? This special problem was not considered by the Committee. Will he have it looked into as a matter of urgency?

If my right hon. Friend can draw any special feature of this to my attention and elaborate what he has said, I will certainly give it consideration.

Commonwealth Immigrants


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many Commonwealth immigrants arrived in February, 1962; from which countries they came; and what were the corresponding figures for the two preceding years.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the number of Commonwealth immigrants from 1st January to 28th February, 1962; from which countries they principally came; and how these figures compare for each country with those of the corresponding period in 1961.

I am circulating in the OFFICIAL REPORT the figures for February for the last three years; the corresponding figures for January were given on 1st March in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne).

Can my hon. and learned Friend give the figures from Pakistan for February?

In February, 1962, 3,460 was the figure for the inward net movement from Pakistan compared with the figure of 650 in 1961.

Would not my hon. and learned Friend agree that the figures in answer to the first part of my Question are greatly in excess this year of those last year? Is he aware that special charter flights are being put on by B.O.A.C. for immigrants from the West Indies, and since this frustrates the purpose of the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill, will he try to discourage or limit this traffic?

The Questions asked for comparative statistics on immigration. As I have said, these figures will appear in the OFFICIAL REPORT. They show a considerable increase over those for last year. With respect to my hon. Friend, I do not think that his supplementary question arises out of the Question.

Has the right hon. and learned Gentleman made any estimate how far this increase is due to an attempt to beat the Bill before it comes into operation and how far the figures must, therefore, be discounted?

Has not the hon. and learned Gentleman seen the interviews, both in the Press and on television, with incoming immigrants, nearly every one of whom said that he had speeded his coming to this country because of the propaganda of hon. Members opposite and, lately, because of the introduction of the Bill?

Does my right hon. and learned Friend not remember that this argument was used ten years ago when the figures were one-tenth of what they are today, and that unless something is done to prevent these numbers, the people of this country, who look to hon. Members to look after them, will take action?

Following are the figures:

Estimated net inward movement in February from196019611962
West Indies1,1702,5002,790
East African territories−30170190
West African territories−30110630
Hong KongNil6060
Miscellaneous territories1012060


1. A minus sign denotes a net outward movement.
2. Figures are not available in respect of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will give an assurance that, immediately the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill passes into law, he will take every possible step to ensure the early and effective operation of the Act.

When this Measure is enacted, there will be no avoidable delay in bringing it into operation.

Has my right hon. Friend seen the report in the Daily Telegraph this morning that 30,000 Pakistanis, mostly illiterate peasants, are being brought to this country, and that a Karachi businessman said, "This is a new slave trade. There are millions in it"? Will not my right hon. Friend do something to stop this awful racket that is being developed?

I must confine myself to answering the Question, which is: "Will I bring the Bill into operation?" The answer is that I will bring it into operation as soon as I can.

Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) has brought enough damage to the good name of Britain—

I do not think that can be in order because the Minister cannot have a duty to express opinions of that kind.

Motor Vehicles (Emission Of Smoke)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make the offence of failing to prevent emission of avoidable smoke a separate main classification in the Annual Return of Offences Relating to Motor Vehicles, thus providing information, which is not at present available, regarding the results of prosecutions and the extent to which the various police forces in England and Wales are active in enforcement.

The Annual Return for 1960 for the first time gave separate figures of the number of offences under this head in England and Wales dealt with by prosecution or by written warning. My right hon. Friend is not at present convinced that there are sufficient grounds for publishing in the Return the further detailed information asked for by my hon. Friend.

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that this is a source of a very large number—a growing number—of road accidents, and that it is awfully difficult to support the police powers, which they have already, to prosecute for marginal offences in this category without some reliable statistical guidance as to the number of offences which are actually taking place annually? Will he again consult with his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport to see if some improvement in the administrative machinery is possible?

My hon. Friend, who is a zealous watchdog of public expenditure, will surely not press me to incur unjustifiable expense. The present figures already show the extent of police activity in enforcing this Regulation. I would have thought that the information now given is enough in substance for my hon. Friend and others to judge the situation.

Airguns And Shotguns


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what was the number of cases of injuries resulting from the use of airguns and shotguns in the years 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960, and 1961, respectively; how many of these were fatal; how many were serious; and how many of them were due to air weapons used by young people up to the age of 14 years and between the ages of 14 and 17, respectively.

Complete information is available only in respect of the years 1957, 1958 and 1959. Since the Answer contains a number of figures, I will, with permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is the Minister aware that information can be obtained from the local authorities, or some of them, in respect of some of these years? Is he also aware that a very serious position is disclosed by the figures in various localities and in London by these unhappy cases, and that those aged 14 to 17 form a large proportion of the persons concerned in committing these offences? Will he see to it that something is done by the Government to put the position in order?

YearAge of UserShotguns (see note (a))Air Weapons (see note (b))
Total injuriesFatal injuriesSerious injuriesTotal injuriesSerious injuries
1957Under 14197334239
Over 1799284611515
Not specified521036
1958Under 14202834741
Over 17120405411522
Not specified31983
1959Under 14304936454
Over 17149436513325
Not specified13410218
(a) These figures do not include suicides or attempted suicides. During the three years ended 31st December, 1959, 373 persons committed suicide and 25 persons attempted to commit suicide by using a shotgun.
(b) There were no fatal injuries resulting from the use of airguns.

Nuclear Warfare (Shelters)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, in view of the fact that a private firm is offering fail-out shelters for sale at £550 each, if he will instruct his Department to work out specifications for shelters which would give protection against fall-out, heat and blast, following a nuclear explosion.

I am considering whether it is possible to supplement the advice already available about what householders can do to provide protection against fall-out in or near their homes.

Even if one has no belief in the possibility of protection against H-bomb explosions, which a recent and authoritative American consumers' union report doubts, how can the average family judge the value of these shel-

ber's Bill making its progress through the House at the moment on which these precise issues can best be argued.

Following are the figures for Great Britain:

ter and avoid being misled without independent expert advice?

It is precisely because we are just studying how this advice can be given that I gave the answer I did.

As we have had it on the authority of the Prime Minister himself that there is no defence for the civil population in the event of nuclear war, will the right hon. Gentleman make it perfectly clear that he objects to people trying to make money out of the natural fears and apprehensions of the civil population?

I should want details if I thought that people were attempting to make money out of it. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can afford me some evidence. In regard to the statement of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I think it is clear that a great deal can be done through efficient Civil Defence, and that is what we are trying to achieve.

Jury Service


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that eligibility for jury service varies, so far as it concerns the joint tenants of a house with a qualifying rateable value, in different cities and towns in the United Kingdom, and that in some places both such tenants may be eligible, in others neither, and in yet other places only the husband; and if he will give consideration to this matter with a view to introducing clarifying legislation.

I am aware that the present law relating to qualification for jury service is open to criticism, and that difficult questions of interpretation sometimes arise. As I have indicated in previous replies to the hon. Member, and to other hon. Members, any changes in the law would require very careful consideration, and I can hold out no prospect of early legislation. I have no evidence that there is any general difficulty in obtaining sufficient qualified and suitable persons to serve.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the ridiculous position that exists? Will not he give an opinion as to which of these systems is correct? Are joint tenants to be regarded as two people eligible, or as one person eligible, or as no person eligible? Is not he aware that in consequence of this kind of thing, in my constituency, with 50,000 voters, only 2,800 are eligible for service, including only 164 women? Is not this ridiculous? Does not he think that in view of these anomalies he should change his mind?

I said that there was no prospect of early legislation and that the present law was open to criticism. I am aware of these facts, and I am at present collecting voices on the subject.

Before my right hon. Friend considers any possible legislation, will he remember that the important factor is the administration of justice and not the question of whether more or less people should serve on juries?

My hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) was refused leave last week, by a very small majority, to bring in a Bill dealing with this matter. In view of that, will the right hon. Gentleman promise to look at this again and introduce legislation of his own?

We have the difficulties very much in mind and I have here the speech of the hon. Member for Lanark and the reply to it. I am fully aware of the difficulties but I cannot promise early legislation.

Road Vehicles (Dangerous Loads)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will take steps to ensure that, where dangerous loads are being carried on the roads, the police and fire authorities en route are notified in advance, as is the case with wide loads.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now make a statement on the report made to him about the explosion of a vehicle in West Bromwich.


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will now take steps to regulate the transport of explosives by road.

I would refer the hon. Members to replies given on 28th February and 15th March to Questions by the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) and the right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale).

Can the hon. and learned Gentleman say whether this matter is being actively pursued? Is he aware that local authorities are alarmed by the recent tragedy in West Bromwich? Can he promise us that urgent action is being taken to enable them to exercise some control?

The position is that an interim report has been made, but that it is merely a summary of the obvious facts of the accident. Experimental tests of chemicals of the type carried on that occasion are being carried out, and when we have a comprehensive report based on these tests we can decide what action is needed to prevent further accidents from occurring. Meanwhile, J should say that the use of hazardous chemicals has increased enormously, and a very large number of loads of them have to be carried. But despite the numbers involved, the accidents involving personal injury or damage are very rare.

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that this explosion caused very great damage in my constituency and destroyed a number of houses, and that had it not been for the bravery of the driver the damage might well have been considerably greater? Can the Minister of State say whether the inquiry is being conducted by an independent body or by the people responsible for loading the vehicle?

The manufacturers concerned are conducting an inquiry and they are having the benefit of independent experts to assist them. I fully agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said about the serious nature of the accident. That is why we are determined to go into the matter very thoroughly.

Is the Minister of State aware that had it not been for the coolness and high personal courage of the driver, Mr. John Walker, of Blackburn, there might have been a very serious loss of life? We clearly must avoid a repetition of this danger. Will he, therefore, tell us whether the report which is being prepared will be published or at least made available to hon. Members?

I would like to join with the hon. Lady and the right hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the courage of the driver. I will consider whether the report could be published.

Is my hon. and learned Friend aware that it is the whole chapter of accidents and incidents of this sort which must be considered? Will he suggest to the Minister of Transport that suitable provisions should be included in the Road Traffic Bill now before the House?

There is already a good deal of legislation covering this matter, and in any further thoughts on it we would naturally consult the Minister of Transport.

Riding Schools


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will seek powers to make it compulsory upon local authorities to inspect riding schools and similar establishments.

Local authorities have power to inspect such establishments under the Riding Establishments Act, 1939, and my right hon. Friend is not convinced that further legislation is necessary.

While appreciating that answer, may I ask whether, in view of the very many cases of ill-treatment of horses which have been brought to my notice, my hon. and learned Friend will circularise local authorities in England and Wales drawing their attention to their powers?

I will consider that. Meanwhile, I think it as well to point out that anyone who knows a riding stable where he thinks that animals are being neglected should report the circumstances to the local authority concerned and urge it to order an inquiry.

Estate Agents


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he has reached a decision on the need for persons practising as estate agents to be registered, licensed, or both; and if he will make a statement.

Last November my right hon. Friend informed the professional bodies which had submitted proposals to him that Her Majesty's Government had an open mind on the principle of registration and considered that their draft Bill required further examination before Parliament was asked to consider it. Discussions on the details of the Bill are proceeding.

Is it not becoming increasingly clear every day that most reputable estate agents and the professional organisations which represent them are becoming convinced that some legal safeguards are required against these bogus people who are now operating in property?

Yes, it is with considerations like that in mind that three very important and respected professional bodies decided to get together to promote a Private Member's Bill. That Bill was found to be technically defective when it was due for presentation to Parliament, but, of course, it will have a later opportunity of being presented.

If that is the only difficulty, why do the Government not do it themselves instead of leaving it to private enterprise?

In this Session we already have a large and valuable programme of legislation.

Questions To Ministers

On a point of order. May I point out that it is becoming increasingly more difficult for Members to obtain Oral Answers to Questions to the Home Secretary?

Order. I do not want to stop the hon. Lady, but I think that strictly this matter is not so much a question of order as one of arrangement, and I wonder whether she would care to deal with it in the form of a question to the Leader of the House on Business questions.