HC Deb 22 June 1876 vol 230 cc274-314

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Assheton Cross.)


in rising to move, as an Amendment— That the House, whilst recognizing the necessity of measures being adopted to secure economy and efficiency in the management of Prisons, is of opinion that it would be inexpedient to transfer the control and management of Prisons from Local Authorities to the Secretary of State, said: In calling attention to the Prisons Bill proposed by the Government, I venture to move my Amendment, acting entirely upon my own convictions. I have no claim to represent any political Party, or section of a Party, in the House upon this question. I speak as an independent Member, and I would appeal to independent Members on both sides of the House upon this subject in which we are all so much interested, and I am anxious to make no remarks which would give rise to feelings of a Party character. Nor do I intend to enter into the great question of local taxation that may come up in the course of the debate; but I shall abstain from going into it, merely remarking that I hold it a great mistake to transfer large sums from the local rates to the Exchequer. I do not purpose to move the rejection of the Bill. I simply propose to call the attention of the House to the subject, and to move my Resolution as it stands upon the Paper. In doing this I wish to give the greatest credit to the Home Secretary for the very able manner in which he brought this important question before the House in the statement which he has made. I do not wish to stand in the way of any plan calculated to increase the efficient management of prisons or of economy in that management, but I think we must be on our guard, and not be led away by exaggerated ideas or mistaken statements. In the course of Public Business hitherto it has not un-frequently been my lot to advocate measures of reform, and the right hon. Gentleman has taken up a position to restrict such measures. Our positions in the present instance are reversed. The right hon. Gentleman comes forward as a Radical reformer, while I fill the rôle of a Conservative. It is the usual habit of reformers to exaggerate the benefits they hope to derive from the course they propose to adopt, while, at the same time, they keep in the background the disadvantages which may result from the change. The Home Secretary has done both—he has exaggerated the benefits to be expected, but he has withheld important objections. He has drawn a striking contrast from cases of certain large and small gaols. He held up three examples of the excessive cost of maintaining prisoners in small gaols as compared with larger and better managed prisons, showing that while in Stafford the cost was £23 per head, in Salford £15, and in Manchester £17, in Tiverton it amounted to £104 11s. 7d., in Lincoln £114 11s. 7d., and in Oakham as much as £150 4s. 2d., and the consequence was these "shocking examples" were taken up by the newspapers and spread throughout the country an opinion in favour of reform, and an inducement to accept the Prisons Bill. But I must call attention to facts which I think will show the apparent cost is not so great and unequal as it appears to be. I find that according to Returns for 1874, which were laid before the House upon the Motion of the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Pell), there is a considerable difference from the statement made by the Home Secretary, whose Returns were based upon the year 1875. The result of this comparison is as follows:—In 1874 the cost of each prisoner in Tiverton was £60 2s., not £104 11s.; in Lincoln £41 13s., instead of £114 11s.; and in Oakham the cost in 1874 was £117 7s., as compared with the following year £150 4s. 2d. Now, to what are we to attribute the difference? Why simply to the fact that in 1874 there was a larger average of two or three prisoners per day than in 1875. The entire cost of Tiverton Gaol in 1874 was £210, and yet upon this case and those of two other small prisons we are called upon to make this sweeping change in the management of our gaols! In the course of his speech the right hon. Gentleman led us to believe that small prisons were in all cases necessarily more expensive than large prisons. Now, what is the fact? In these Returns for 1874 are included large and small prisons, and there are many cases in which the latter show a more economical management in the cost per head than do the larger ones. In Devonshire, with a daily average of 156 prisoners, the cost was £34 1s 3d. per head, yet in Barnstaple where there was a daily average of eight prisoners it was only £25 8s., and besides several other instances there was Buckingham, where the cost per head was £27 8s., and where the daily average of prisoners was three. Now, I think these statistics for 1874 deserve the careful attention of the House, and should induce some reflection before we are led away by the revolutionary ardour of the right hon. Gentleman. I will admit cæteris paribus that small prisons can be less economically managed than large ones, still I think this principle can be pushed too far; there are limitations. You might suppress small prisons that are well and economically managed, and you might build others so large as to lead to abuses and waste. It seems to me there is in this some resemblance to a manufactory. Of course, it is an advantage to have extensive works, but manufacturers well know the evil of overgrown manufacturing establishments. No doubt the proposal in the speech of the Home Secretary for equal prison districts was a taking one. The right hon. Gentleman said that 40 of the larger prisons provided accommodation for 20,000, and that this was largely in excess of the average of prisoners, the daily average being only 17,806. In these 40 prisons there are 20,000 cells. Well, then the question might be very fairly asked—why not do away with all the prisons with the exception of these 40 large ones? I venture to say that proposal is a very taking one, having regard to the saving of expense; but there are serious objections to carrying it out to the full extent. I think that in dealing with the establishment and constitution of prisons we must have regard to considerations I depending upon local circumstances. These cannot be left out of view. You might make some little economy, but at the risk of creating local inconvenience that is not desirable. We must take care to have a good margin for the accommodation of prisoners between the daily average and the number of cells. Any one who has given attention to the subject knows that there are considerable fluctuations in crime—cycles of crime—some periods having an increase, while at another time the number is much smaller. In addition to that there is the increase in population, in some districts very rapid, while in others it is much less so. These circumstances have to be provided for in prison accommodation. Then also we must have prisons situated not too far apart or too few, or it would lead to an increase in the cost of conveyance of prisoners. It may not be a very serious item of expense; but it certainly is undesirable that prisoners should be conveyed long distances from one part of the country to another. But although the Home Secretary admits the accommodation for 20,000 prisoners, he does not propose to cut down the number of prisons to 40; but what he does propose is to reduce the number of prisons by 50 out of 116, with a view to secure considerable economy. I should like the attention of the House for a short time while we deal with this proposition, and inquire how far it will go towards the attainment of his object. He proposes to retain 66 out of the existing number for the accommodation of 17,806 prisoners. I must take it for granted he will allow for a certain proportion above the average of 1874. If we must have cell accommodation for 22,000 prisoners—4,000 or 5,000 cells less than we have now—that will give us an average of 365 cells to each prison, and I think the right hon. Gentleman can hardly go lower than 365 to provide for the daily average. Well, it is to this point I would direct attention. We want 66 prisons with an average of 365 cells in each. There are, however, not 25 prisons in England and Wales that have that amount of accommodation. But the proposition of the Home Secretary does not stop here. He will maintain one prison in each county, and what position shall we be in with regard to the prisons in the counties? I find that in 13 counties there is no prison with cell accommodation above 100; in 11 counties no prison with 200 cells; and in 9 counties no prison with 300 cells; so that in 33 counties out of 52 there were no prisons to meet the requirements of the Home Secretary for the carrying out his scheme. What does this mean? It means that the Government scheme will force them in one of two directions, either of which will tell against the desired economy. We must either retain the small county prisons at the expense of management, or we must build larger ones to accommodate the prisoners from those buildings pulled down or otherwise disposed of. My impression is that this suppression of 50 prisons is really what it has been described—a revolutionary scheme. I think after carefully looking at the Returns upon the Table that the suppression of 20 would be amply sufficient. If it is necessary to suppress some prisons, what is the proper course? Clearly, to follow the course adopted in 1865, when 14 prisons were suppressed by a Bill in which these 14 prisons were scheduled. Then every hon. Member could see exactly what was proposed to be done, and the various localities affected could make any representation to the House they thought fit in respect of the Government proposal. I do not doubt that some 15 or 20 prisons might be suppressed, but let these be properly specified. And let me remind the House that since the Returns of 1874 two prisons have been discontinued in the county of Norfolk by the arrangement of the local authorities, one at Swaffham, and another at Yarmouth, with a view to efficient management, and it seems to me that there is an example that might be followed without such a scheme as that proposed. There is another point to which I will call the attention of the House. The Government proposal is directed more against borough prisons than county prisons. [Mr. Assheton Cross dissented.] Well, some in boroughs, and some in counties. There has been within the last few years a number of prisons erected at the expense of boroughs: for instance, take the town of Portsmouth. When in the secret recesses of the Home Office, and surrounded by his counsellors, the right hon. Gentleman takes this prison into consideration he may, under the despotic power conferred by the Bill, decide to suppress it. I believe, under the Returns, Portsmouth, is not one of those likely to be retained. The Home Office recently put great pressure upon the authorities of that place, and in consequence the prison was commenced, but it was not yet completed. If the Bill becomes law this prison may be broken up before it has been in existence a year. The Home Office are worse than the Admiralty. The people of Portsmouth are accustomed to see vessels of war broken up after eight years' service; but they will hardly like their prison to be pulled down the first year of its existence. In 1859 similar pressure was put upon the authorities at Nottingham, and again in 1866 to enlarge their prison, and now having spent so much money at the recommendation of the Government, the Government brings in a Bill which will in effect confiscate their property which has been erected at so much expense. A Petition has been presented to this House from the Corporation of Nottingham, and to this I direct attention, because it contains a strong argument against the Bill. I will not read all the Petition, but only that portion which relates to this particular point. The Town Council say they have spent £30,000 in the erection of a gaol, and that the land upon which it is built is worth £20,000, and it is proposed to confiscate this property for Imperial purposes without offering compensation; and they further say that they are alarmed at the tendency of such legislation, and have resolved to delay the erection of a police and sessions court in proximity to the prison which they had intended to build at a cost of £30,000. I have seen the Bill described in a Nottingham paper as a scheme to confiscate local property and increase the patronage of the Secretary of State, and I must say that it is not altogether an unfair representation of the policy of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman shook his head just now when I said the Government intended to suppress borough rather than county prisons. I was going to observe that borough gaols are really more economically conducted than county gaols, and I think this saving is to be attributed to the advantage of having elected guardians of the public purse to look after local expenditure. I think we must take a large discount off the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. I must say that his statement had something of the character of those prospectuses issued by limited liability companies accompanied with an approximate balance sheet wherein the probable profits are exaggerated and the serious items of expenditure kept down. The Home Secretary anticipates a saving of £50,000 or £60,000 by closing superfluous prisons; but he has paid no regard to the expenditure necessary where existing gaols have not sufficient accommodation. And as to efficient management, comparing in the Returns the Government prisons with those under local authority, it appears to me there will not be much change for the better. The Home Secretary said, in taking over the prisons, there would be a saving in the cost of buildings. But that cost, in respect of Government prisons, goes on continually. If we take the trouble to look at the Civil Service Estimates, we shall find that the House votes several thousands of pounds every year to that purpose; and if some 60 prisons more are taken over, there will, of course, be still larger sums so voted. To show the variation in the cost of maintenance, I will, without unfairness, take three examples. At Pentonville, with 970 prisoners, the cost is £30 per head per year. At Parkhurst, with 450, the cost is £52 per head; and at Borstal, a prison entirely and positively under Government control, with 315 prisoners, the cost per head is £55. These are fair examples, and I think they are almost as bad as Tiverton ["No."] Well, but Tiverton was only £60 a-year; but I do not defend Tiverton, and Tiverton is not going to be retained. The average cost of prisoners in these State prisons is about £50, whilst the average cost in local goals is only £27. At Borstal, taking the entire staff, from the Governor downwards, the average allowance to each man is £120 a-year. The right hon. Gentleman, in the course of his speech, alluded to Lancashire as an example of efficient and economical management, a standard to which he wished to bring the others. In Lancashire the cost of prison officials averaged £100. In Lancashire, and I speak from an experience of 25 years, the magistrates are men of considerable ability and business experience, and they bring the same amount of care to the management of the gaols that they display in the conduct of their own large business affairs, and the effect of it is that the cost per head of the prisoners was only £20. I have had a letter from a gentleman well known to the right hon. Gentleman, a visiting justice of Kirkdale, who has given evidence before several Committees of this House—Mr. Henry Bleckly. Alluding to the fact that Lancashire prisons are well managed, he says the Home Secretary would never venture to say that the Home Office would do what is being done by the Lancashire justices, and that while central authority was a valuable superintendent, it was an indifferent administrator. He mentioned the fact that on a recent occasion the justices had to appoint a Governor to Kirkdale Prison, and received about 50 applications, a very large number of which were made up of naval and military men. This number was sifted down to the one best qualified, and he was appointed; but, my friend adds— Had the patronage been in the hands of Government, each of these naval and military officers would have had some political influence, and it would have been 50 to 1 against the best man being appointed. Now, without a local authority you will have a mere routine management. Now this, I think, is good sense, and it comes from a gentleman who is a warm supporter of the political Party of which the right hon. Gentleman is a distinguished Member, I am not convinced that Government management would be more economical. In the first place, there will be a large number of officers to be superannuated, and then it is proposed to make a central establishment at the Home Office, and we have had a sketch of that central establishment. There is to be a Prisons Board, consisting of five Commissioners, at high salaries. The Chief Commissioner may be an old gentleman aged 77 years, with a salary of £1,500, and, if he happens to be a Peer, not less than £2,000. Then there are to be Assistant Commissioners—how many? The right hon. Gentleman does not tell us. But, at all events, there are to be four other Commissioners, and a great number of Assistant Commissioners. I am very much struck with one of the advantages of the scheme described by the right hon. Gentleman. He says there will be a flow of promotion. This Bill proceeds from the permanent officials of the Home Office, and those officials have just three great principles: The first is that they are omniscient; no one knows the subject so well as they do. Next, that they shall be made omniscient; and the most delightful thing of all is, that they shall have a good flow of promotion. Inspectors will become Assistant Commissioners; Assistant Commissioners Chief Commissioners; and the establishment will be swelling up every year into large dimensions. Then these Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners are to have the patronage of every prison appointment—gaolers, chaplains, matrons, &c.—throughout the Kingdom, and people will be sent down into the country to make inquiries at considerable expense. These Commissioners will have the appointment of various officials, and I think Parliament should look with apprehension at the extension of this Government patronage, for thus a combination is formed which is becoming dangerous. When I was a candidate for Burnley, there appeared in a newspaper called The Civilian, which, I believe, advocates the interests of these spending servants of the Crown, whose principle is to keep up the expenditure of the country, an article describing me as a bitter opponent of Civil Service interests, and calling upon everyone, irrespective of Party interests, to vote against the "notorious individual," meaning myself. I do not think there were many of my constituents in Burnley in that interest. If I had been denounced as a Radical I could have understood it: but I do think there is a very dangerous element in this trades union, that, irrespective of Party, denounces a Member who is anxious to effect economy in the public purse; and yet it is proposed to add to this combination engaged to keep up public expenditure. But the right hon. Gentleman has dropped one sugarplum. After taking away from the magistrates every authority and appointment connected with the gaols, he says he is going to keep up the Visiting Justices. They might inspect the prisons, and if they saw anything wrong, they might inform the assistant Inspector. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of conflicting jurisdiction; but where is it? With regard to prisons generally, there is a great deal of uniformity; but if there is any want of uniformity, it can only be with reference to diet and labour. That would be easily rectified. The Secretary of State might by this Bill take any additional powers that are required. The Home Secretary also takes credit in his statement for a great saving of £50,000 from prisoner's earnings. Something in this way, I think, might be done. We are very much behind-hand in this respect, and it is a question deserving the serious attention of this House and of prison authorities. There has been, on the part of prison authorities, a disposition to proceed in one groove—in a jog-trot mode in such matters. With judicious management I think the earnings from prisoner's labour might be materially increased, and I hope we may see them increased. It is in some sort a technical education of prisoners, and by employment they might be fitted in after time when they go out of prison to earn wages to keep them from commission of crime. A great reform in the development of prison industry can be better carried out under local than under a central authority, because local bodies would be better able to understand the kind of labour in which prisoners might be most profitably employed, and can make better arrangements for the disposal of the results of their labour than could the Home Office. I find in following out the average of earnings in different prisons that they are very small, and that they vary up to £14 per head. There are several in which the earnings reach from £6 to £10. There are others where they are no more than from £3 to £5, and a considerable proportion where the sums are very small indeed. It seems to me we ought to take blame to ourselves in not increasing the average of prison earnings, because by doing so we should derive great benefit to the county, to the country at large, and to the future of the prisoners themselves. Now, what is my proposal? It is this—and I submit it to the Home Secretary, with the hope that he will see no practical objection to it—to give to the prison authorities every year a percentage equal to the average earnings of the prisoners up to £10 a-year, to be devoted towards the maintenance of the prisons. The number of prisoners at present is 18,000. If it were possible for the local prison authorities by judicious management to bring up the average profit of prison work to £10 a-head, £180,000 would be produced. From the experience in Germany and elsewhere, we may form an opinion that it is not unreasonable to suppose that £10 a-head could be produced. In a variety of ways it might be possible if some inducement were held out to prison authorities. If you get this moderate amount my proposition is, that Government should supplement it with a similar amount, this will make £360,000. To the grant there might be attached any conditions which the Home Office might think it right to impose, and you would have all the improvements in prison management without interference with local management of expenditure. I may say that, in taking up this question, I have done so from no feeling but that of the interest I take in local self-government. As a magistrate I have taken part for 25 years in the local matters appertaining to that part of the county where I reside, and I honour the public spirit which induces gentlemen to act in their locality for the public service, so that this proposal of the Government appears to me a most dangerous one, striking at the policy which I believe is one of the essential elements on which the progress and well-being of the country is based. If the Government take over the control of the prisons, every argument the right hon. Gentleman has urged applies in equal force to taking over the control of the police. If I had the honour of a seat on the front bench opposite, I venture to say I could come down to the House and make a speech, in which I could show that by taking all the borough police and the county police under one control, the Government would effect a great economy of management, would employ a less number of police at less cost. All these and similar arguments I could advance by the dozen together. But if the Government take over the prisons and the police they must not stop there. I recollect when my hon. Friend the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Massey Lopes) brought in his Resolution in regard to local taxation. What argument did he use? He claimed that prisons should be taken up by the Government, because they were used not only for the security of real and personal property, but for the security of life. The same argument applies with equal force to the police. But if the Government take over the prisons and police, they must, as I have said, go further; they must take over the control of the magistrates, and institute a system of paid magistrates, like that in Ireland, a sort of superior inspectors of police, and then what a grand flow of promotion we might have!—from policeman to sergeant, from sub-inspector to inspector, and at length to a seat on the magisterial bench. I have seen a newspaper—whose extreme views I do not share—whichapproved of the Bill, because it was a "slap in the face for the great unpaid." For my own part, I should be sorry to see this body of gentlemen superseded in favour of salaried officials, and I do think that, considering the large number of magistrates, and the variety of cases that come under their adjudication in contrast with a much smaller number of police magistrates, I may venture to say that comparatively the paid magistrates have made more blunders in the administration of justice, and given rise to more scandal by those blunders in proportion to their numbers, than unpaid magistrates. I have often sat with unpaid magistrates, and remarked the great attention and care they give to the consideration of a case before them. They have not the same amount of legal training; but, for my own part, if I should have the misfortune to be put upon my trial in some case where great care was necessary to secure my liberty, I would rather trust my fate to the consideration of three English gentlemen, because I know that if one should err there would be two others to set him right, than I would to the pig-headed decision of a police magistrate who, with his head full of his own legal knowledge, might be more likely to send an innocent man to prison. Such an instance occurred the other day. Now, I would appeal to the country Gentlemen in this House. There is a newspaper known to many of them, with which I do not often happen to agree—I mean The Standard; but in an article on local taxation and local self-government, the writer expresses my views in words I could not hope to improve, so that I will take the liberty of reading an extract. The writer says— The local taxation reformers have fixed their eye so exclusively on one object that they are almost blind to considerations of infinitely greater magnitude. Centralisation, necessary to some extent, no doubt, in modern times, if carried beyond a certain point, honeycombs the life of a nation and destroys its political energies. But the constant outcry against local burdens must, if successful, tend to the establishment of centralization, and we would ask the English gentry and yeomanry fairly to consider whether the game is worth the candle, and whether they are not departing from their most honourable traditions in giving precedence over all considerations to the breeches pocket. If the provincial aristocracy of this country wish to retain their hold over the people and to continue to exercise the influence which has been exercised by their forefathers from time immemorial, they will be careful of making too great an outcry about the incidence of taxation, against which they have many sets-off, though undoubtedly it is quite true that it may press upon them here and there with undue severity. I will only add my hope that the English country gentlemen will continue to exercise that influence exercised by their forefathers, and that they will not abdicate that honourable position in which they employ so much time upon public matters for the public good, for the sake of saving a paltry penny or two in the pound. In conclusion, I have to apologize for the length of time into which my remarks have run, and I beg to move the Resolution, which stands in my name.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, whilst recognizing the necessity of measures being adopted to secure economy and efficiency in the management of Prisons, is of opinion that it would be inexpedient to transfer the control and management of Prisons from Local Authorities to the Secretary of State,"—(Mr. Rylands,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


having taken considerable interest in this question, wished to say a few words in support of the second reading of this Bill. The hon. Member opposite had been one of the strongest opponents of the reform of local taxation and grievances; it was refreshing to hear his hon. Friend advocating the cause of country gentlemen and of the unpaid magistracy, but from the tenour of his speech, he strongly suspected that he spoke more in the interests of unrated property than in those of local self-government. Turning to the proposals of the Government, he wished to point out that there were three cardinal reasons which would recommend them to the approbation of the House and of the Government. In the first place, those proposals would insure a much more efficient management of our prisons; secondly, they would tend very much to secure greater economy; and, thirdly, they would do what was an act of justice to those who had been unduly charged with the cost of prison administration. The main evils under the existing system which the present measure sought to put an end to were the want of uniformity of the management of our gaols, the excessive number of those establishments, and the extravagant cost at which they were kept up. The gist of the recommendations of the Lords' Committee of 1863 was simply that a uniform system should be adopted in our prisons with regard to labour, diet, and discipline. The Act of 1865, which was based upon recommendations of that Committee, was, no doubt, a great improvement upon our previous regulations, because it established a system where previously none had existed. What had that Act effected? It had, in the first place, substantially handed over all management of prisons and the power of making regulations with regard to discipline, diet, management, and construction to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. It had also imposed various very strict statutory obligations on prison authorities, or the Visiting Justices. The effect of the Act, therefore, was to transfer from the local authorities the powers which they had previously exercised with regard to our prisons to the Secretary of State. The great blot in that Act, however, was that while it gave the Secretary of State enormous powers on those points, it omitted to give him any means of enforcing his regulations, except by withholding the Government grant. Thus the Secretary of State had power by that Act to close defective prisons or those which did not comply with his regulations; but he had no power to compel the neighbouring authorities to receive the prisoners who were in the prison it was intended to close. And, again, while it gave him power to close unnecessary prisons, it gave him none to compel the neighbouring prison authorities to unite in maintaining one such establishment between them. But the great practical defect of the Act had always been felt to be that the local ratepayers, and not the State, paid the cost of keeping up these establishments. A. difficulty had always presented itself in interfering with the organization and management of our prisons by the Secretary of State, because such a small part of their cost was defrayed out of Imperial taxation. The hon. Member Opposite had objected to the prisons being taken from under local control; but he should like to know what local control the ratepayers now had over those establishments or over their management and cost. The very small amount of local control which still remained was exercised by the magistrates, who were the representatives, not of the ratepayers, but of the Crown. Magistrates were in no respect responsible to ratepayers; they were the instruments of the Legislature; their appointment and authority emanated from, the State. In his opinion, there was not the slightest ground of complaint against the magistrates for the way in which they had exercised the power entrusted to them in this respect. They had performed their functions in a way that had been of the greatest benefit to others, and which had reflected the highest honour upon themselves; but, at the same time he could not admit for a moment that the magistrates could fairly be described as local authorities. Then, again, the power was not exercised, by the magistrates as a body, but by a few of them who were appointed to the office of Visiting Justices. It was not proposed that their jurisdiction should be altogether superseded, they would still retain a great portion of their authority; it could not be expected that the Government would defray the whole cost out of Imperial funds, and leave the management where it was. To hand over Imperial funds to local authorities over which Government had only a limited control, would possibly lead to great extravagance—there would be no security for better management or increased efficiency. Local relief would be unaccompanied by any reform. The hon. Member had referred to the loss of dignity which the country gentlemen would incur by surrendering this powers; but he gave the magistrates credit for too much character and patriotism to suppose that they would regard their dignity as lowered by being deprived of the petty patronage which enabled them to appoint a few prison officers. Looking at the subject as a question of principle, he had always understood that there ought to be no local taxation without local management and local control over the expenditure, and he should like to know in what respect the ratepayer exercised either of those powers over our prisons at the present time. He thought it was a sound constitutional maxim, that those who provided the money should have some voice in its expenditure; that taxation and representation should go hand in hand, but in this case the principle was entirely ignored. He had always been a strong advocate of local self-government: but he felt that since the Act of 1865 all local control of our prisons had been taken away. The hon. Member opposite, therefore, was fighting for the shadow after the substance had been lost. He had always been of opinion that it would be impossible to change the system without changing the administrators. The reforms which were necessary for the better management of prisons were far greater and more comprehensive than ever could be carried out by the dispersed and independent action of local authorities; they never could be effected by the voluntary agreement of one Board with another. In the majority of cases the local authorities had no bond of union, and it would be quite impossible for them voluntarily to come to the adoption of any uniform system. To make the prison system efficient you must have uniformity. He did not think that uniformity was possible without absolute control on the part of a central authority, and such absolute authority ought, in his opinion, to be vested in the Secretary of State for the Home Department. At present his authority was a divided one, and as opposed to justices, was conflicting. Under the present system there were too many separate jurisdictions and too great a division of authority for it to be expected that an uniform mode of dealing with the question could be arrived at. Each local jurisdiction had peculiar theories with respect to discipline, and therefore every prison had a separate system. The existing discrepancies in regard to diet, discipline, and the other details of prison management existed not alone in different parts of the country, but were to be found in prisons situate close to each other. Punishment of crime ought not to vary with local and personal fancies and theories, but should be precisely similar in every part of the country. The great fault was inequality and uncertainty; there was no common accord, no fixed principles. Hard labour meant very different things in different places. Two sentences, nominally alike, meant two very different things. Every county and borough might just as reasonably have separate criminal laws as have different modes of carrying out the sentences of the law. His hon. Friend the Member for Burnley had alluded to some of the advantages that had been set forth as likely to result from the passing of the present Bill; but he had failed to mention one or two of some importance—namely, the fact that under a system of prison management with a central authority there would be the means of securing the services of a trained and therefore more efficient and experienced class of officers. There would be the advantage of being able to group and classify prisoners, of devoting special prisons to special trades. Another important feature of the question was that while prison labour could not be profitably employed in small establishments, it could, in large prisons, be made to go very far towards paying the establishment charges. The earnings of prisoners in large and well-managed prisons went far to render these establishments self-supporting. There was great waste of public money from neglect of profitable prison labour. It was the only machinery to recoup the tax on the ratepayer. If the rogue did not work to maintain himself, honest men must work to maintain him. It was to be recommended not only on financial but moral considerations; it was a great moral motive power. Prison work was penal and deterrent, and at the same time reformatory, and if not remunerative, was demoralizing. His hon. Friend the Member for Burnley had laid before the House certain figures in reference to the cost of maintaining prisons; but, unfortunately, his averages had been calculated on the Returns of different years, and therefore they did not agree with those of his right hon. Friend who had charge of the Bill. In the year 1874 the payments for prison officers' salaries amounted to £242,000, the average being one officer to every seven prisoners; if, as in our best managed prisons, the average was one officer to ten prisoners, only 1,800 officers, instead of 2,500, would be required, and this alone would be an enormous saving; but if the proposal contained in the Bill under discussion was adopted, and 60 prisons were abolished, almost half the salaries of the most highly paid among the officials would be saved. His right hon. Friend, in introducing the Bill, had, in his opinion, considerably over-estimated the additional cost to the State which the direct assumption of all prison charges would involve. His right hon. Friend's estimate was £285,000, but he calculated that, with good management and under a central system, prisoners could be kept at 1s. per day, and therefore that the net annual cost of maintaing them would be £178,000, instead of £285,000. The average annual number of prisoners was 18,000; at 1s. a-day the amount would be £328,000. If you deducted from this amount the profits from labour £100,000—which was at the rate of scarcely 4d. a-day for each prisoner—and also the present Government Grant of £85,000, and added the present annual cost of buildings, repairs, &c., £35,000, the additional annual cost to the State would be £178,000 only; and it must be remembered that in some of our best managed prisons at Salford, Durham, &c., the prisoners did not cost more than 1s. per diem, and we only paid that amount for our Army and Navy prisoners. A comparison of the cost of management in several prisons disclosed an anomalous state of things that could not continue if the Government Bill was adopted. In Sandwich there was one gaol for 3,000 population, in Grantham one for 5,000, in Staffordshire one for 858,000, and in Liverpool one for 500,000. But as regarded prisoners and officers the disparity was greater still. In Buckingham there were three prisoners and four officers; in Tiverton two prisoners and five officers; in Poole five prisoners and four officers; and in Stamford five prisoners and five officers. There were other anomalies which he desired to point out. There were five prisons in Devonshire where two would be sufficient. The county prison was in Exeter. The prison at Plymouth contained an average number of 31 prisoners, at a net cost of £31; that of Devonport 27 prisoners, at an average cost of £25 14s.; that of Barnstaple nine prisoners; and that of Tiverton an average of two prisoners, at a net cost of £103. It was impossible to deny that a large reduction of prisons might be made. Instead of having 116 prisons, 81 county and 35 borough, or one for 200,000 inhabitants, there might be only 60 to 64—or one prison to 350,000 inhabitants, and the prisons need not be then more than 15 miles apart. With an average annual number of 18,000 prisoners, he found that in 1874 62 prisons contained 15,100 prisoners, while the remaining 54 prisons contained only 2,500 prisoners; there were eight prisons in Lincolnshire, and only 231 prisoners altogether in them; one prison would accommodate every prisoner easily; each prisoner in the county prison there cost £114. There were two prisons in Leicester, the county and the borough; each contained the same number of prisoners—namely, 86, and yet, in the same town and with the same number of prisoners, a prisoner in the county prison cost £47 net, and only earned. 15s., while a prisoner in the borough prison cost only £27 net, and earned 64s. He proposed to say a word as to the injustice of charging the ratepayers so large a proportion of prison expenses. The injustice in his view was patent and palpable. The punishment and repression of crime were questions of national importance; they were the functions of national government. There was no duty more Imperial. It was just as much the duty of the State to punish wrongdoers at home as to punish our enemies abroad. What were the primary necessities of every civilized nation? They were the protection of life, the security of property, and the preservation of law and order. The machinery of justice was carried on not for the benefit of any particular locality, but for that of the county at large. Offences were not limited to any particular locality—they were breaches of the Imperial law, and therefore, a charge put upon a particular locality for the repression of crime was unjust. The penalties inflicted should be at the cost of the country, not of the locality. It was most unjust to particular localities to mulct them with the cost of imprisoning a criminal whose crime was against society generally. Why, then, should one-seventh only of the income ability of the country be charged with the cost of the repression of crime? Why should not personal property pay its quota to punishment of crime? It received more protection than houses or lands. It was movable, and excited the cupidity of the criminal classes more than houses or lands did. They could not be taken away; but it was the property in them and the persons on them that required protection. The cost, therefore, of the repression of crime ought to be placed proportionately upon all descriptions of property. It should be borne by persons, rather than by lands and houses; that could only be done by charging it on Imperial funds to which all persons and property contributed a fair proportion. A considerable proportion of the cost of the administration of justice was already paid by the Imperial Exchequer—the salaries of the Judges, the expense of the Courts, and the whole expenses of Army and Navy prisoners. The principle, therefore, was admitted. More than that, the State paid the whole expense of convicts. What, he asked, was the reason that in the case of a man sentenced to five years' penal servitude the cost of his punishment was charged to the community, whereas in every case short of five years the cost was charged to the locality? Why should the incidence of the cost of punishment be made to depend on the gravity of the crime or the duration of the punishment? Local taxation reformers were not asking for exceptional relief, for it must be remembered that real property contributed its quota to Imperial taxation in respect to prisons, besides the exceptional charge which it bore at present. His hon. Friend had referred to the relief he had had; but what relief had been afforded during the last 20 years to ratepayers, except that recently given by the present Government? There had been within the last 20 years remissions of Imperial taxation to the amount of £28,000,000, of local taxation—previous to the accession of the present Government, nil. During the same time there had been additions to Imperial taxation to the extent of about 10 per cent. Local taxation had been increased by 100 per cent. In fact, during the last 40 years, with the exception of the small amount given in 1846, no relief of local burdens of any kind had been afforded. On the contrary, new charges had been continually imposed. There was not a single reform, social or sanitary, which was thought to be for the benefit of the country at large which had not been placed on local taxation. Let them take the case of education alone. They all remembered how much was said when the Chancellor of the Exchequer added 1d. to the Income Tax; but what sympathy or consideration was shown for the ratepayers when a charge for education which, he believed, would amount to 6d. in the pound was added to the rates? The increase of the income tax they could get rid of; but the 6d. for education would remain. It would become a rent charge—a permanent income tax. It was said that the remission proposed by the Bill was that of an old charge. No doubt it was; but how many new charges had been imposed? Again, it was urged that the charge was necessary to secure local supervision. For this charge he contended there was no such reason. Local supervision was not necessary, and therefore it was desirable and expedient to take off the charge. And what did it amount to? He was, he believed, overstating it when he said that the maximum of the relief would not amount to more than £400,000, or less than 1d. in the pound, for 1d. on the net rateable value produced about £485,000. Did the House grudge so small an amount of relief to those upon whom they had recently imposed so many new burdens? He would only say, in conclusion, that under the present system there was great waste of power; that the variations in prison system was absurd, anomalous, and most unjustifiable; and that it was evident that if the cost was placed upon the Imperial Exchequer there would be reduced expenses and greater efficiency, and that great gain would accrue to the public from the direct assumption of the cost and control of the prisons by the State. The proposal of the Government was not only expedient, but it was equitable, and economical. The charge, he did not hesitate to say, belonged distinctly to the State. By the State it ought to be controlled, and to the State it ought to be transferred.


said, that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had described himself in this matter as a strong Conservative, and the Home Secretary as a Radical Reformer who had brought in a Bill of a revolutionary character. He did not know how this might be; but he congratulated the right hon. Gentleman upon having the courage of his convictions. The Party at present in Opposition had hitherto been twitted with advocating measures of centralization, but now a scheme of that character emanated from the other side. Far from complaining of this, he heartily approved of the Bill, because he believed it would be for the benefit of the country, and therefore hoped the House would pass it. He had no doubt his constituents would be glad to be relieved from the great expense of prisons. There were many precedents in favour of relieving local taxation from this burden. The trial of prisoners, the prevention of crime, and the maintenance of convict prisons were already borne by the State, and why should not the maintenance of prisoners in gaols be also regarded as an Imperial question? The relief to local rates, although important, was not, however, the greatest merit of this Bill. He believed that by such a system alone as was now proposed could real uniformity of prison management and punishment in the gaols throughout the country be secured. His hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands) was quite mistaken if he supposed that by the Act of 1865 uniformity had been obtained. On the contrary, in spite of that Act, the greatest possible diversity existed. Some magistrates thought remunerative labour a good thing; others that useless labour was more deterrent. In one place there was one dietary, and elsewhere another. Sometimes the separate system and at other times the silent system was adopted. He was not finding fault with the local authorities, and in his own county (Derbyshire) they had done their best to make the gaols efficient; but as opinions differed it was inevitable that gaols should be managed in different ways throughout the country. He might claim to be pretty well acquainted with the wishes, tastes, and fancies of the prisoners in our gaols, and he could assure the House that the discrimination they showed in their appreciation of different prisons was almost beyond belief. Some five or six years ago a man was tried before him for stealing fowls, in Derbyshire. Being an old offender, he was intimately acquainted with the interior of all the gaols in that and the neighbouring county. After the theft, which he had committed near the boundary of the counties of Leicester and Derby, he went to a furnace—for it was a cold winter's night—and there cooked one of the fowls, then ate half of it, and fell asleep. Early the next morning a policeman found him fast asleep, with the remains of his spoil scattered around him. He shook him by the collar and said—I take you in custody on the charge of stealing these fowls. The man rubbed his eyes, and the very first words he said were—"Do tell me in what county I am? In Leicestershire or Derbyshire?" "In Derbyshire, to be sure," said the constable. The man instantly replied—"Thank God for that." The hon. Member for Leicester, sitting opposite, would no doubt be pleased with that answer. As one of the magistrates of Derbyshire he (Mr. Evans) confessed he felt humiliated. They had been racking their brains to make their prisons as unpleasant to criminals as possible, yet here was a man who thanked God that he was going to Derby instead of Leicester Gaol. Now, his desire was that there should be a most unpleasant and disagreeable uniformity and monotony in the gaols throughout the country. These "light-fingered gentry" who lived upon the public ought no longer to speculate as to which gaol they should be sent to, or what form of punishment they would have to undergo. So important was this uniformity that if the Bill secured that alone it would be a very valuable measure. He was not quite so sanguine as the Home Secretary as to the diminution of expense under the Bill, because when the magistrates of his county wished to reduce expenditure, the Home Office and the Inspector of Prisons took a line which rendered it necessary to augment it. He agreed with his hon. Friend that questions of county expenditure would very soon have to be settled by Financial Boards. Many years ago it was said that that question was a monopoly of the Liberal Party, and he had on many occasions raised a cheer from his constituents in advocating such a change; but it was impossible to make political capital out of it at the last Elec- tion, for he found that his opponent was as strong on the point as he was. He believed that they must before long entrust the management of county expenditure to Boards elected by the ratepayers. He had, however, always doubted whether a Financial Board would be so good a body as the magistrates to manage the gaols; but now that the prisons would be managed by the Government that difficulty would be got rid of, and a County Boards Bill would be more easily carried. He thanked the Home Secretary for bringing in a Bill which was bold and sweeping, but which he believed would be exceedingly advantageous to the country.


regretted that he was obliged to speak strongly against the Bill. He had had the greatest confidence in the Home Secretary and for what he had done at the Home Office; but on this occasion he neither liked his policy nor the reasons he had given for introducing the Bill. If uniformity in the management and the abolishing of certain of our gaols was all the Bill proposed to do he should be prepared to adopt it, but he had other objections to the measure. He objected to it because it was a direct blow against the jurisdiction of the local magistrates of the country, because it was a direct blow against local self-government; he objected to its confiscating character, and to its centralizing tendency. There was no man who knew more the value of local magistrates, or who ought to do so, than the Home Secretary, because he had been a magistrate for many years, and had been chairman of quarter sessions. He knew exactly their capabilities, and that they had endeavoured honestly to do the duties that had been reposed in them; but this was the greatest blow that the magistrates, as a body, had ever received, and he was indeed surprised it should come from his right hon. Friend. As the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes) had reminded them that the Government paid the Judges, he could not help seeing in that remark a suggestion that they might have a magistracy also paid by the Government. The hon Baronet shook his head. Then having taken the management of the prisons out of the hands of the magistrates, why should not the Go- vernment take the management of the police also out of the hands of the magistrates, because the two ought to go together. For the sake of the trivial saving that was promised, ought we to depart from old usage and adopt centrilization, which would weaken those local institutions to which we owed so much of our national life and greatness? If the Returns for the gaols were analyzed, and Salford, Winchester, or any gaol might be taken, it would be found that five-sixths of the prisoners were in gaol for short periods, periods under two months, and only one-sixth for what might be denominated long periods; indeed, nine-tenths were for periods under three months and one-tenth only for longer periods. Were these short-term, prisoners to be moved about all over the country; and, if so, who was to bear the expense of their conveyance? Where were prisoners to be remanded to, and were new police cells to be built for remanded prisoners, and that with the chance of their being confiscated without notice? They might feel sure that after this change had been effected others would follow. Could it be true that the Home Secretary contemplated the confiscation of £3,000,000 of the property of the ratepayers? The gaol at Salford had cost £180,000; it had been furnished with the most modern appliances and all those deterrent means that were thought to be necessary; it provided accommodation for 1,100 prisoners, the average number for five years having been 600; and now it was to be taken from the ratepayers and confiscated to the Government. Surely that could not be right. The town of Bolton, which had sent its prisoners to Salford under arrangements by which it contributed towards the cost of the gaol, was to be called upon to find accommodation for 100 prisoners at a cost of £120 a cell, which would involve an expenditure of £12,000. Was it wise and prudent to impose such a burden on the town under the circumstances? and if Bolton was to pay for the accommodation provided for it surely it was only just the ratepayers who built and provided extra accommodation for Bolton should have the benefit of the money so paid by Bolton. No doubt there had been anomalies in prison management; but the Act of 1865 had gone a long way towards remedying them, and an amend- ing Act would have done all that it now required. In this way the extra cost of building could have been avoided. A more or less uniform diet could have been enforced, but absolute uniformity was impossible, because different localities were inhabited by different classes, some who lived high and fast, and others who lived low and poorly, and the two could not be treated exactly alike. The Government lunatic asylums did not compare favourably with others in the cost of the management, and he feared that the results of the management of prisons by the Government would be disappointing. Would the necessity for and the cost of improvements be as carefully considered by Commissioners as they were by magistrates? As to prison labour, that could easily have been made more uniform if the Home Secretary had exercised the power he possessed, or had taken a little more if he required it. It was right the criminal classes should expect equal punishment everywhere, and that could have been accomplished by more efficient inspection without centralization. Magistrates could not continue to take as much interest in prison management under Commissioners as they did now. By one clause in that Bill his right hon. Friend, knowing that he had a large majority to support him, was prepared to say that no further contracts should be entered into or anything done in respect to gaols until that Bill came into operation—namely, on the 1st of April, 1877. That, he thought, rather a strong measure. If that Prisons Bill became law, the next thing would be the transfer of the lunatic asylums to the President of the Local Government Board. He was told that in some places the authorities had taken fright at that Bill, and that works had been stopped. There was to be a great meeting on that Bill to-morrow, and the Home Secretary ought to have allowed the measure to be considered in the country before pressing it to a second reading. He asked whether they were going to give up all their independence and submit to centralisation for the sake of local taxation relief of £150,000? He was, he said, willing to accept from the Government the amount it might be pleased to give them, as long as it left them the control they possessed, but he was unwilling to accept a single farthing from it if it took the control away from them. The Home Secretary might increase the sum he gave the localities for the maintenance of prisoners and still leave the prisons in their hands. Again, the patronage which the Bill would give the Government was a dangerous thing; and he doubted, moreover, whether it would be possible to find men more capable than the governors of gaols in England generally were of doing the duty required of them. That measure was a revolution, not a reform. It would go a long way to destroy that interest in county management which was taken by so many gentlemen. Under those circumstances he had asked himself what he ought to do. He might vote for the Bill; that he could not do. He might walk out of the House without voting, but after what he had said that would be cowardly. He was driven, therefore, to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Burnley. [Sir William Edmonstone: No.] But he should. The hon. and gallant Member had not a pistol that night, and he (Sir Walter Barttelot) might fire his shot as he thought best. He appealed to his right hon. Friend not to press the second reading of the Bill. It had only been before the country a fortnight, the quarter sessions were coming on next week, and until the opinion of the country was pronounced it was neither wise, prudent, nor statesmanlike to press the measure forward. When the Bill had been thoroughly discussed by the country, and if it was accepted by the country, the Government would then have an easy task in passing it.


quite agreed with the hon. Baronet who had just spoken, and cordially endorsed every word he had uttered, and more especially his condemnation of the way in which the Bill was being hurried forward. He had that day presented a Petition against the measure from the mayor and corporation of the borough he had the honour to represent (Hull), which had been agreed to at a meeting held yesterday, which protested strongly against the injustice of the measure, and pointed out that in their case it would amount to confiscation and robbery. The Home Secretary had claimed a saving of £100,000 from the adoption of his scheme; but he was confident that not even that small amount of economy would be effected by it when they came to pay the salaries of the proposed Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners, and also the allowances to those officers who were to be pensioned off. He believed the unpaid magistrates, whose authority was threatened by the Bill, performed their duties on the whole exceedingly well. To a certain extent, the liberties of this country were bound up in the present system. If a prisoner were ill-treated now while in prison, he could easily obtain redress; but if he were sent 100 miles away from his locality, it would be very difficult for him in many cases to communicate with his friends, and he would be almost entirely at the mercy of his gaolers. The principal consideration which he had to submit to the House, however, was a financial one. The gaol of Hull happened to be a new one, built on a very expensive site, and worked on the most approved system. Hull being a growing town, the local authorities had very wisely provided accommodation considerably in excess of their immediate requirements. The result was, that although the daily average of prisoners at Hull in 1873 and 1874 was only 235, there were no fewer than 389 cells. The gaol cost in building £83,000, and there was at the present time a mortgage debt of over £40,000 in connection with it. If the Government scheme were carried out, therefore, Hull would be placed at a very serious disadvantage. A town which did not provide sufficient prison accommodation would only be called upon to contribute at the rate of £120 per cell. The contribution paid by Hull in such a case would only amount to £28,200. Yet the Government proposed to confiscate at Hull buildings and land which were worth £83,000, and on which rested the mortgage debt already mentioned. He could not believe that the right hon. Gentleman had contemplated such a case as that of Hull in framing his measure. They had sufficient experience of Government management to beware of its further extension. He did not know a single Department that was not managed in the most expensive manner. He had voted for the acquisition of the telegraphs; but if the vote was asked for again, he should certainly hesitate very much before giving it. The Bill would throw well-managed, moderately managed, and badly-managed prisons into hotchpotch, to the grievous injury of the best-managed and the great advantage of the worst-managed gaols. Again, the Bill would diminish the inducement now felt by the magistrates to repress crime, and it would place sober localities on a level with drunken ones. Then centralization itself was a dangerous step. On the whole, he believed the Bill would be unfortunate in its results, and he hoped the Government would re-consider, at all events, some of its provisions.


remarked that it could not fail to be gratifying to the Justices to hear the compliments which were being paid on all sides as to their usefulness. With regard to this Bill, he must say that, on the grounds that it secured uniformity in discipline and punishment in our gaols, and relief to local taxation of the burdens of which they had long complained, he gave it his cordial support. He demurred entirely to those statements which seemed to make it appear that this system of centralization was entirely unknown. He believed this Bill was only an extension of the principle introduced into the Act of 1865. That measure had proved a complete failure, and he denied the proposition that all that was now required was to amend it; for in his opinion it was hopeless to secure uniformity and economy in management while so many persons had limited control, subject to the superior control of the Home Secretary. When he was told that if this measure was passed the visiting magistrates would feel so hurt that they would become negligent of their magisterial duties, he could not accept such a view of the case. On the contrary, he believed that if their power was still more crippled, they would be still found ready to perform their duties in the detection and punishment of crime. As regarded the argument in respect to centralization, he would ask what were the powers of the visiting magistrates under the existing law? This Bill was only carrying out the principle acted upon since 1865, and he believed the only mode in which they could accomplish this was by placing the power in the hands of the Home Secretary in the manner proposed by this Bill. He was not surprised at the notion of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), that this was an inter- ference with the legitimate duties of the Justices; but the hon. Member would find, if he inquired, that in every single thing connected with the management of a gaol they could not stir one step without the authority of the Home Secretary. He would a hundred times rather conduct the business of a gaol, as a Visiting Justice having some controlling power over him, clearly defined and settled, than be wearied and fidgetted by continual appeals to authority at head-quarters. There was nothing more perplexing and embarrassing than to be told by the Clerk of the Peace—"You cannot do this without sending to the Secretary of State." If this Bill passed, the duties of the Home Office would be strictly defined, and the duties of the Visiting Justices would be strictly defined. He was surprised to hear it said the Visiting Justices would have nothing to do—that they would be superseded by these Commissioners. As far as he could understand this Bill, it meant no such thing. They conformed now to the rules made by the Secretary of State, and if they were deprived of the privilege of selecting oatmeal and cheese, he should be glad to see the official of the Home Office take that off their hands. Then, as to patronage, would it be worse in the hands of the Government than in the hands of the magistrates? He spoke advisedly when he said that many magistrates would be glad to be relieved of the patronage, and he, for one, would welcome this change as one of the best features of the Bill. As far as he could understand this Bill, with the exception of the patronage and the contracts, he did not see what it was of which the Justices had to complain of any interference with their rights. As regarded the complaint that Government in taking over the prisons would be confiscating the property of the counties and boroughs, he could not understand it. It could not be said that they were a valuable property, which might be offered for sale. In his opinion, instead of there being a confiscation, Government would come in for what he might call a damnosa hæreditas. The hon. and gallant Member had said that the administration of the gaols by the Government would be extravagant, and instanced the comparison between the cost of maintaining Broadmoor and the County Lunatic Asylum; but the circumstances of the two institutions were so entirely distinct that the comparison was a fallacious one. It had been said that the question had not been discussed in the country. It might not have been discussed at quarter sessions; but for some time this question of local taxation with reference to prison charges had long been discussed, and if he had seen one article in the public journals, he had seen hundreds. For anyone to urge that this Bill was to be delayed because the feeling of the country was unknown upon the subject was an argument which, under the circumstances, he could not at all understand. If anyone went down to any district and told the people—"This measure will save you ¾d. or 1d. in the pound per annum in your rates, and the only sacrifice you will have to make will be to transfer certain powers into the hands of the Secretary of State or give him direct powers where at present he has indirect powers, to carry out the discipline of our gaols," he was sure they would find very few people who would not be in favour of the proposal. It was said the next thing that would go would be the police; but, at the present moment, he was not prepared to say that if the Government took the police any harm would be done. He did not see what centralization there was there. The hon. Member for Burnley and his hon. and gallant Friend said this would lead to stipendiary magistrates. He denied this. Economy was the reason why the plan in the Bill was proposed, but stipendiary magistrates would be an enormous increase of expense. The conclusion which the hon. Member arrived at was far fetched, indeed. On the whole, he had no fear whatever of this Bill interfering with the prerogatives and duties of the Justices, and he did not believe there was any reflection thrown upon them. He, for one, did not feel it, and he hoped the Bill would be carried by a large majority and become the law of the land.


congratulated the Government on having found a thorough supporter in the person of his hon. and learned Friend who had just sat down. He had, with what might be termed naked cynicism, stated that his reason for supporting the Bill was because it would save him three farthings in the pound. [Mr. Rodwell: I did not say that.] At all events, such was the effect of his hon. and learned Friend's argument. He (Mr. Dodson) could not agree with his hon. and learned Friend that this Bill was merely an extension of the principle of the Act of 1865. The principle of that Bill was that the Secretary of State should have certain powers of supervision and control; but under this Bill the powers of the Visiting Justices were virtually put an end to. His hon. and learned Friend might as well say that cutting a man's throat was only an extension of the act of shaving. He looked upon this Bill as a material interference with local self-government. But, although he was an advocate of local self-government, he was not such a fanatical supporter of that system as not to admit that there were cases in which centralization might not be desirable. He made this admission to the Home Secretary—that if there were any matters to be taken into the hands of the Government, prisons and lunatic asylums might fairly be so considered. But the Government had exposed themselves to the strictures made on this Bill by the course they had adopted with reference to local taxation. If they had shown any indication of a settled policy in regard to that subject; if the House could see any disposition on the part of the Government to deal on principle with this question; if they saw the Government centralizing in one direction and decentralizing in another, they might be prepared to approach the consideration of this Bill in a more favourable spirit. But, while this was undeniably a measure of centralization, magistrates, in their capacity of Visiting Justices, having authority and control over prisons, were lowered to the position of mere honorary reporters to the Government. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to him to have misunderstood the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot) when he attributed to him the opinion that the magistrates would, if this Bill passed, neglect the other duties. Nothing could be further from his hon. and gallant Friend's mind than to convey such an impression as that. [Sir Walter Barttelot: Hear, hear!] All he wished to convey to the House was that they would not for the future feel the same interest they had hitherto felt in the proper administration of the prisons. Under Clause 11, certain shreds of power as to visiting and reporting on prisons were left to them, and it would be well if those shreds of power did not bring them into collision with the Assistant Commissioners, who were to have similar powers. No one could regard the concentration of power and patronage which this Bill placed in the hands of a Minister as a matter of indifference. Already they had a large and increasing number of Commissioners and Inspectors. Every other man one met was a Commissioner or Inspector, and this Bill enabled the Home Secretary to create a Board of five Commissioners, with an indefinite number of Assistant Commissioners. All the appointments in existing gaols were transferred to the Home Secretary, except those who were described as subordinate officers in the Act of 1865. The number of persons who were not subordinate officers was very considerable. There were 149 gaolers, 132 chaplains, 118 surgeons, 111 matrons—in all 510 persons. There were besides these nearly 2,000 subordinates, whose appointments would rest with the Commissioners. Directly or indirectly that Bill would place in the hands of the Home Secretary the appointment of upwards of 2,500 persons. Besides this, there were 1,700 appointments in convict prisons which were under the patronage of the Home Secretary, and thus he would have the patronage of upwards of 4,000 appointments. It had been suggested that the second reading of this Bill should be deferred till after the quarter sessions had met, and there was much force in the reply of the Prime Minister that it would be instructive to the magistrates if the House discussed the Bill on the second reading. He thought a course might be adopted which would combine both advantages. The Bill should be discussed as far as the House thought fit to-night, and then the debate might be adjourned till the quarter sessions were over. The Bill would extinguish one of the principal powers of the magistrates who had discharged their trust faithfully and well, and this part of the Bill should not be affirmed until the magistrates had had an opportunity of considering the matter. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), whose voice had, after a long interval of silence, been once more heard in that House, speaking with his old force and ability on the subject of local taxation and the grievances of the ratepayers, had said that the blots in the present system were want of uniformity and extravagant expenditure. No doubt the want of uniformity was a defect; but it might be remedied by a measure less sweeping than the present one, which if it had been introduced by the late Government would have been described as an heroic measure. The local ratepayer was to be relieved of £400,000 of expenditure, and the general taxpayer was to be burdened to the extent of £300,000. The hon. Baronet (Sir Massey Lopes) had strongly insisted that the protection of the police and the punishment of crime was exercised mostly in respect of personal property, and that therefore personal property should be called on to pay. Both real and personal property, however, would contribute to the £300,000. It was said that there would be a net saving of £100,000, derived partly from the suppression of a number of small gaols, the concentration of prisoners within fewer walls and under a smaller staff of officials, and partly by the increased earnings of the prisoners. This saving, however, would depend not on the Bill, but on the firmness with which the Home Secretary for the time being exercised the powers of retrenchment and of regulation which would be conferred on him. One supporter and another of the Government would represent to him that a particular prison should not be suppressed. With regard to the reduction of the number of prisons, he might observe that the 27th and the 42nd clauses, taken together, provided for the maintenance of one prison in each county. Consequently, the Home Secretary would be bound to maintain such small prisons as existed at Oakham, in Huntingdonshire, and in several Welsh counties. There were many county prisons in which there were very few prisoners. The £50,000, therefore, which was to be derived from the suppression of small prisons would be, to say the least, doubtful. As to the £50,000 additional to be got from the earnings of prisoners, he doubted whether the Government management would be so superior as to secure this additional sum. In the convict prisons there were 10,000 prisoners who earned £200,000 a-year; but that was the estimated value of their labour upon public works, and not money realized from the sale of their work. Convicts were also mostly in prison for long periods, so that they could be trained to work effectually. In the local prisons 18,000 prisoners only earned £50,000 a-year. The House must remember that the majority of the prisoners in those gaols were only under sentence for short terms, and could not therefore be taught a trade. Did the Home Secretary hope that the Government officials would make better salesmen than the local authorities? He feared, too, that in disposing of the mats produced by the prisoners the Government would be told that they were competing with "honest labour," and that this objection might lead to serious inconvenience—for example, on the eve of a General Election. The Home Secretary was sanguine that he would be able to reduce the cost of maintaining the prisoners. According to the judicial statistics of 1874, the average cost of a convict appeared to be £33 a-year, and deducting the labour, value £20, the net annual cost was £13, while the cost of a prisoner in local gaols was stated by the right hon. Gentleman to be £27 or £28. In prisons, however, where the convicts were not engaged upon public works—as at Pentonville, Millbank, and Woking—they cost as much as in local prisons under local management. Some explanation should be afforded on those points, and he hoped that the Government would consent to adjourn the debate, so that the subject might be considered at quarter sessions before the House was called upon to affirm the principle of the Bill.


said, he thought that the details mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman were rather questions for Committee. Of the 118 prisons throughout England and Wales there were 20 with an average of only nine prisoners each, while each prison had four or five officials, and 24 more prisons had an average of only 22 or 23 prisoners. These facts of themselves afforded almost a sufficient justification for the Bill. It was in 1823 that an Act was passed by Sir Robert Peel calling on each county to provide a prison for itself and to appoint Visiting Justices. All the Acts on the subject of prisons passed since 1823—and they were many—had been entirely in the direction of inducing the prison authorities to diminish the number of prisons. No doubt originally every man committed to prison was committed to the prison of the county where the offence had been done. But within the last 25 or 26 years Acts were passed authorizing persons to be committed to some other prison besides that of the county, and in that way some of the expenses entailed on counties and boroughs were diminished, those who were not inclined to incur of themselves the cost of building a prison, making certain contributions to other prisons, in proportion to the number of prisoners committed. It had been complained by a large number of Members on both sides that an enormous amount of additional responsibility and expense was imposed on the local authorities by modern legislation. In this very Session there were five or six Bills conferring larger powers on local authorities, and requiring larger contributions from them. The hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot) said that if they began by taking the prisons they might continue the work by taking the police. But was there not a time when a great outcry arose among the country gentlemen that they should be called upon to bear the burden and expense of the police in the rural districts? The truth was that it was according to human nature that when a power was once acquired an outcry was sure to be raised when it was attempted to remove it. In proof of this he might refer to the boroughs, which fought so hardly when their municipal privileges were attacked, either as regarded their prison, police, or magisterial jurisdiction. Magistrates would have quite enough to occupy the whole of their spare time in attending to the various new duties imposed upon them, if relieved from the task of looking after the local prisons. And apart from the question of economy, which should not be disregarded, if we could diminish the number of gaols and insure a uniform system of regulations, so as to make punishment really deterrent, by that means alone we should effect an object which would be of the greatest benefit to the nation. He understood the object of the Bill to be not that there should be one prison in each county, but one to be fixed in each locality according to the amount of crime, and he could not help thinking that under its operation a great saving would be effected, and a public advantage gained.


said, he was greatly disappointed at the character of the Bill. It did nothing with respect to the great question of industrial labour, leaving the Prisons' Act of 1865 untouched as to this, and its, simple object seemed to be centralization. It, moreover, furnished no means of knowing what gaols were proposed to be abolished, and it took out of the hands of the Justices the whole power which they possessed, except that of interfering in small matters of general discipline, such as authorizing the Governor of a gaol to put a prisoner in irons, and reporting to the Home Secretary. The abolition of too many of the borough gaols would create great inconvenience and also hardship to prisoners committed for trial. The expense, too, of the removal of prisoners to the county gaols instead of their committal to borough gaols would be great, and this expense would fall on the ratepayers. If a man were committed to a borough gaol he could send for his friends or his attorney; but if he were committed to a county gaol 100 miles off from the place where he lived, how could he consult his friends or his attorney? The Home Secretary proposed by uniform management to obtain a much larger sum from the industrial labour of prisoners than it yielded at present. How was that to be done? Under the Act of 1865 prisoners committed for any period not exceeding three months could not be put to industrial labour at all; and as to those who were sentenced to six months' hard labour, the first three months must be passed in the first class of hard labour under the Act of 1865—that was to say, in carrying shot from one end of the prison yard to the other, in grinding the winch, in going on the treadmill, or breaking stones. The Bill ought to deal with the question of industrial labour. The men who were sent to gaol were generally found to be extremely ignorant of handicraft labour. While they were in gaol they ought to receive instruction in some handicraft trade in order that when they left gaol they might have no difficulty in earning a living. He regretted extremely that this Bill had been pressed on before the meeting of magistrates at quarter sessions, and believed the Government would find there was a strong feeling against it in the country. As the measure was not comprehensive he should oppose it.


said, the Government had no reason to be dissatisfied with the course of the debate or to suppose that if the decision of the House on the second reading of the Bill should be deferred they would be in any worse position with regard to it than if the measure had passed this stage at an earlier period. An hon. Member said the Bill would so fetter by its restrictions the power of the Visiting Justices that practically there would be no use for them. The Visiting Justices were quite aware that their present powers were limited by the discretion of the Secretary of State. The Visiting Justices could go into and inspect private lunatic asylums; but they had only power to report to the Lunacy Commissioners the results of their observations. As to remunerative labour on the part of the criminals, that was a subject of great difficulty. By the system proposed in the Bill they would be able to teach the prisoners a variety of trades, and, taking the proposed scheme into consideration, be able to make criminal labour more productive. What, among other things, they asked the House to consider was the deterrent influence which the measure would in its operation have upon criminals. It would become a reformatory measure and a productive one. It was a measure which was worthy the most serious consideration of the House. The reduction of local taxation was a subject which many hon. Members were fond of bringing before the House, and it was a subject the importance of which he was fully prepared to admit. His own view of the question was that local reforms, regarded from a financial point of view, would become much more practicable after the management of prisons was taken out of the purview of local authorities. The power to which objection had been taken—namely, that of retaining one prison in each county, was practically a safeguard against the evil to which it was contended it would give rise. From the information which had been laid before the Home Secretary he could say that the proper selection of prisons would practically bring each within reasonable distance in each criminal jurisdiction, and that prisoners could be as easily remitted to those prisons as they now were to the existing prisons; it was only in the case of convicted prisoners that the powers of removal for the purpose of classification could be exercised. It had been urged more than once that night that the Secretary of State based his advocacy of the Bill on the ground of great economy, and figures had been largely quoted in reference to that subject; but they might take it for granted that there was a great discrepancy between the cost of prisoners in one prison and in another, but the average per head was about £35 a-year, and deducting the labour earnings of a convicted prisoner from the cost of his maintenance, it would reduce the latter to about £13, and wherever the labour test could be applied they would get the cost of maintenance of prisoners very considerably reduced. One of the effects of the Bill would, he believed, be not only a reduction of prisons, but also of the gaol staffs to a considerable amount. He was satisfied, speaking as a magistrate, and well acquainted with the feelings of the magistrates of England, that they would give their hearty co-operation to the Government in carrying out any arrangements that might be made for the management of the prisoners, just as they had co-operated with the Lunacy Commissioners, and as they had done in carrying out the regulations of quarter sessions. Believing that the Bill would work a great reform in the history of our criminal populations, and that it was a measure of long-called-for relief to local burdens, he thought the House would act wisely in giving the Bill a second reading.

THE LORD MAYOR (Mr. Alderman Cotton)

moved the adjournment of the debate.

Moved, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Alderman Cotton.)


said, it would be unreasonable to offer any objection to the adjournment of the debate. Other business having intervened, the House had not had a full night for the discussion of an important and interesting subject, and the Government would not, therefore, throw any obstacle in the way of the adjournment. With regard to the resumption of the debate, he wished to point out that to-morrow morning had been assigned to business which it would be inconvenient to alter. Next Monday had been appropriated to the Navy Estimates, and Thursday in next week had been given to the debate on the Irish Land Bill. There would not therefore, he presumed, be any opportunity of resuming the debate on the present Bill until the week following. In the absence of the Prime Minister he would not fix the day, but would move that the debate be adjourned until this day week, in order that the day for resuming the debate might then be named. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, when asked by an hon. Friend (Sir Walter Barttelot) to adjourn the second reading until after the quarter sessions, stated that he thought it would be more advantageous that it should be discussed in that House before quarter sessions than afterwards. He believed that the discussion of that night would very much assist those who might take an interest in the Bill at quarter sessions, and enable them to discuss with greater advantage the details of a measure which was of great importance to the country, and not to the magistrates principally, but with reference to the incidences of local burdens. Considering the important part magistrates had played in the past, and the important part he hoped they would continue to take in the future, the Government had no desire whatever to weaken their position, but every desire to secure their co-operation and assistance; and if the matter were fully looked into, it would be found that what the Bill did was mainly to relieve them from some of the difficulties incidental to their position. The debate might now be adjourned for a period which would enable quarter sessions to consider the measure.


hoped that the debate would not be resumed until after next week, when the quarter sessions would generally be held throughout the country, and when many Members of the House would necessarily be absent who were directly interested in the question. He could state the bench of magistrates with which he was connected had taken precisely the views expressed by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot).


asked the Home Secretary to lay on the Table of the House information respecting the computation of savings to be effected under the Bill, including superannuations and pensions.


asked the Government to reconsider Clause 8 of the Bill, with a view to its modification, so as to give Visiting Justices the power of appointing subordinate officers, in order to give them control over those officials. He, however, approved of the Bill.


asked the Home Secretary to lay on the Table of the House a schedule of the gaols that would probably be closed under the operations of the Bill.


asked to have a day fixed for the further consideration of the Appellate Jurisdiction Bill, because, after next week, the Members of the Bar who were Members of that House would be away on circuit.


said, he would lay what information he could respecting what had been asked of him on the Table. He was sorry that, by the adjournment of the debate, he was then unable to give an answer to one or two points that had been raised in the course of the debate.


expressed a wish that the right hon. Gentleman would state the bases of the calculation according to which he expected to be able to maintain prisoners at £24 per head.


urged the advantage of the calculations as to the saving that would be effected by the measure being presented to the House in a clear and intelligible form.

Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned till To-morrow, at Two of the clock.