§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Assheton Cross.)
§ MR. RYLANDS
, in moving that the Bill be read a second time that day six months, complained that the House was 393 asked to adopt a measure entailing a large additional expenditure, at a time when the Revenue was declining, and the expenditure in every Department was increasing. The Estimates for the Civil Services, which had just been presented, showed an increase of not less than £400,000, and he supposed that the demands for the Army and Navy would be upon a larger scale than last year. Under those circumstances he thought the introduction of the Bill most inopportune; and if it were urged that the additional charge would not be felt during the present year, that formed a most objectionable feature of the case, and was merely the common argument of the spendthrift, who put off the evil day and justified his extravagance by the hope that something might turn up before he was called upon to meet his engagements. The measure before the House was, in its material particulars, the same as that introduced last Session. There were, however, two alterations to which he wished to call attention. The first had reference to the arrangements proposed to be made with prison authorities in connection with the disposal of the gaols, and although the new terms were more equitable, he feared that there were still cases in which considerable injustice would be done, and he thought that if the Bill were read a second time it should be referred to a Select Committee, who could receive evidence from different localities with a view of preventing any injustice. The other alteration in the Bill had reference to the position of the visiting justices, and was no doubt intended by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary as a sop thrown out to them. It was, however, a mere shadow of authority that was given to them, and it would make little difference in the working of the Bill whether the visiting justices were controlled by a Government Inspector, or by an Assistant Commissioner of Prisons. The Bill also confided to the justices, under certain conditions to be fixed by the right hon. Gentleman, and subject to his control, over every appointment, the nomination of subordinate officers of prisons, but it did not leave them dependent on the same authority after their appointment. It was humiliating to magistrates for the right hon. Gentleman to suppose that they could be gratified by any such 394 pretence of maintaining their position. Either the whole authority over these officers should be left to the magistrates, or it should be taken over by the Government. Any middle course was objectionable and he hoped that the clause would be struck out of the Bill, so that there could be no mistake as to the intention of the central authority acting through its own agency, and taking upon itself the whole responsibility. That was, in fact, the great object of the Bill. It was a sweeping measure, and was practically a Bill for the disestablishment of local prison authorities. There would not have been a chance of its success but for the existence of two great influences in its favour. One of these was the desire of Government officials to get as much power and patronage as possible. For many years past there had been a constant advance in the direction of centralization and of interference with the independent action of local authorities. He did not charge his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary with any wish to increase his own patronage; but he thought he might fairly say that a change had come over the right hon. Gentleman since he entered office, and that he had lost the healthy independent spirit which marked him as a county magistrate, and was now mainly inspired by the genius loci of the Home Office. It was in fact the permanent officials who were at the bottom of this conspiracy against the exercise of local authority. These spending servants of the Crown formed a great army, and as was once remarked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), they were always awake to their own interests; and whenever public opinion slept they took advantage of the opportunity of in- creasing the flow of promotion by the creation of now offices, and by advances in the rates of pay. They constituted, in fact, a great trades union, and every year were increasing in numbers and in influence. The cost of Government Boards and Establishments was already enormous. Let hon. Gentlemen glance over the pages of the Civil Service Estimates, and they would find under Class II., long lists of Commissioners, Assistant Commissioners, Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, Inspectors, sub-Inspectors, assistant Inspectors, Clerks, Law Officers, and a whole host of other 395 officials. In one Department alone—the Local Government Board—the expenditure for salaries, &c., amounted to £715,000, or nearly three-quarters of a million a-year. In fact they were rapidly creating a net work of officialism throughout the country, so that the time seemed rapidly approaching when every householder would have a policeman at his front door, and an inspector in his backyard. It was this policy of centralization and officialism that supplied the reason why the Bill found such favour on the Treasury Bench, and the other great inducement in its support was the bribe held out of the relief to local burdens. That was, however, a narrow and short-sighted policy. If the local taxpayer wished to get relief from those burdens, he would find himself mistaken if he supposed it was to be obtained by means of such proposals as that under discussion. The truth was, that local expenditure, notwithstanding Government subventions, was increasing, and these grants from the State would, in his opinion, tend to foster that increase by withdrawing from local authorities the motives for economy, or for taking an interest in the management of local affairs. The only effective method of keeping down local expenditure was to appoint county boards elected by the ratepayers; but if they continued to go in the direction of the present Bill, they would soon leave nothing for county boards to do. But for the desire of centralization on the one hand, and the claims for relief of local taxation on the other, he believed that the pleas put forward in support of the Bill would not be listened to for a moment, as they were hollow and would not bear examination. What were those pleas? The hon. Baronet the Member for South Devonshire (Sir Massey Lopes), stated them last year in the following words. He said:—The main evils under the existing system which the present measure sought to put an end to were the waist of uniformity of the management of our gaols, the excessive number of those establishments, and the extravagant cost at which they are kept up."—[3 Hansard, ccxxx. 287.]The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary took the same line, and in the discussion last year instanced the case of two or three small gaols—Tiverton and others—of which the cost of management 396 appeared so heavy, that they had been quoted in the papers ever since as conclusive in favour of the Bill. But, in fact, the entire cost of these small gaols was a mere bagatelle. In England and Wales there wore 17 of the smallest prisons containing less than 20 prisoners in each, and the total cost of all these small gaols, including Tiverton and the rest, was only £9,000 a-year, and yet it was on account of so trifling an outlay that the House was asked to make what practically amounted to a revolution in prison management. Besides these small gaols might be abolished, if deemed expedient, without the slightest difficulty; in the same way that 14 small prisons were discontinued under the Act of 1865, so that the argument in favour of the Bill drawn from that source was little more than a hollow pretence. What the House ought to look at was the annual average cost of the local prisons throughout the country, and that at the present time, even including the small gaols, did not amount to more than £27 per prisoner, which could not be considered under all the circumstances an unreasonable sum. But then it was alleged that the difference of treatment in gaols with regard to diet and the regulations as to hard labour were so great that some such change as that proposed was absolutely necessary. In support of that view the hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Evans) told a graphic story last year which naturally attracted attention. He said that an old offender stole some fowls near the boundary of the counties of Leicester and Derby, and, having cooked one of the fowls at a furnace, ate half of it and fell asleep. The next morning a policeman found him fast asleep with the remains of the spoil scattered round him, and on apprehending him 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." Now that story from internal evidence might safely be taken as an apocryphal one and was probably a canard which had been set flying in Derbyshire for some purpose or other, and had not only been accepted by the hon. Member as perfectly reliable, but had been repeated in various forms in the Press until a few days ago it was 397 made use of as a serious argument in favour of the Bill. The Times remarked that—The difference inflicted in the various gaols involves an uncertainty respecting the penalties attached to criminal offences which most mischievously diminished the different effect of the law. Men have been known even to calculate in which county it was safest to run the risk of committing an offence, and have been heard to express satisfaction that they had been arrested in one county rather than another.As a matter of fact, there was not that great difference between the discipline and punishment of Derby and Leicester gaols, and if there were it would not need so improbable a story to prove it, as every year there were Reports of Inspectors of prisons presented to the Home Office and laid before Parliament, giving minute details of the treatment of prisoners both as regarded discipline and diet. A reference to the Inspectors' Reports of last year would show that in Derby Gaol prisoners for 7, 14, and 21 days after conviction, had to lie upon plank beds, which were punitive instruments, whilst in Leicester Gaol they enjoyed the use of mattrasses. In Derby Gaol prisoners worked 9 hours on the treadmill, and in Leicester only 5 to 8 hours. In both prisons the diet was very similar, but the punishment of dark and solitary cells appeared to be more frequent in Derby than in Leicester, so that if the "old offender" really did thank God for being taken to Derby instead of Leicester, he must have had peculiar notions of prison comforts, or have thanked God for very small mercies. No doubt there were irregularities in prison discipline, to a more limited extent, however, than was alleged in favour of the Bill, but whose fault was it? Clearly, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was as much to blame as the magistrates. Under the Act of 1865 it was provided that no rules for the diet of prisoners, or regulations in respect of hard labour, could be put in force without the express sanction of the Secretary of State. He had further the power of compelling the magistrates to submit to his decision in reference to prison regulations by withholding the Government grant from any prison in default. The right hon. Gentleman admitted in his speech last year that "great differences had escaped the notice of the Secretary of State," and 398 yet on account of these differences in prison regulations for which the Home Secretary was responsible, and which he had already the power to remove, they were urged to sweep away the local authorities, but it would be more just if the sweeping away commenced in the Home Office. A great plea put forward by the right hon. Gentleman in favour of the Bill was economy, and he assumed that he would save £50,000 a-year in the present cost of prisons, and that he would gain an additional £50,000 a-year from the earnings of prisoners. In entertaining any such hope he (Mr. Rylands), after carefully considering the question, was convinced that the right hon. Gentleman laboured under a perfect delusion. The expectation of economical management was entirely contrary to the experience of other Government establishments and even of Government prisons. In calculating upon saving a considerable amount in building and repairs by the closing of 50 gaols, the right hon. Gentleman had not considered how much he would have to spend in enlarging prisons and in building new ones. As soon as the prisons had been taken over, there would be a marvellous pressure put upon Government to induce them to spend money, and the alteration and repairs of prisons would lead to an enormous increase in the Civil Service Estimates. The 12 convict prisons under Government now cost in alterations and repairs alone, from £25,000 to £35,000 a-year; and during the last 10 years, under those heads, no less than £300,000 had been expended. If the Bill became law, there would be a large addition to the charge for superannuation—there would be five Prison Commissioners, several additional Inspectors and a large number of subordinate officers all over the country appointed, whose salaries would amount in the aggregate to no inconsiderable sum. Nor was the experience of the cost of management of Government prisons at all encouraging. The contrast between the average cost in county and boroughs gaols weighted with all the disadvantage of the smaller prisons which might be discontinued, and the cost of the convict prisons was remarkable. The average cost in local prisons was £27 per head, whilst that in convict prisons was £33 per head. In the Lancashire prisons the cost was only £17 per head, or about half the cost of 399 Government management, which was held to be so economical. In the convict prison at Borstall, the expenditure amounted to £45 15s. per head. The calculations of the Home Secretary with respect to his obtaining an additional £50,000 a-year from prisoners' earnings were equally delusive. He appeared to think that because in Pentonville, the prisoners earned an average of £9 a-year, he could bring up the general run of prisoners to the same standard. But he entirely overlooked the fact that in Pentonville and the other convict prisons, the inmates were sentenced for long periods from 5 to 25 years, and consequently modes of employment could be found for them that might be profitable; but this, of course, could not be done in the local prisons, where most of the prisoners had only to serve short sentences. He believed, indeed, he was under the mark in saying that nine-tenths of the inmates of local gaols were prisoners who had been committed for terms of three months and under. It was therefore impossible to render their labour profitable except to a limited extent. Under all these circumstances, he thought he was justified in saying that instead of there being a saving of £100,000 a-year under the Bill, by the reduction of prison expenditure from £400,000 to £300,000, it was more likely that the taxpayers in a short time would be called upon to pay £500,000 or £600,600 a-year. But where was this policy to end? The claim for relief from local burdens would not be stopped by the sop given by this Bill. Probably the next demand would be that a further sum should be granted to pay the police, and the Government would yield to such demand on the condition of the police being placed under State control. The final result would be that not a single Department would be left for the local patriotism, and the local public spirit of men who were anxious to serve their country in their respective localities. Thus by gradual steps, one of the chief elements of the progress, the prosperity, and the power of Great Britain would be withdrawn, and a Conservative Government would have been a main instrument in the destruction of institutions which had so largely contributed to the welfare of the nation. In conclusion, the hon. Member moved the rejection of the Bill.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
, in seconding the Amendment, expressed his belief that the measure would be fatal to the institutions of the country. The ratepayers in the different localities might be supposed to consist of rich and poor together; whereas those who paid the income tax were mostly rich people, especially since the last exemptions were made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Therefore, burdens would -be taken off those who were of the poorer sort and put upon the wealthy in the land. This was as near an approach to Communism, taught by a Conservative Government, as any lapse in political economy they had ever committed. Of course, they had heard a great deal of the principles of political economy as applied to the matter with which the Bill dealt; but how could these principles operate when the measure would, as one result of its operation, take away from the various localities all incentive to true economy? He could not but foresee much danger in the future from the fact that the Government had the power of creating an army of officials—a fact, which at a moment when the existence of a Government was endangered, would enable its members to exercise an undue, and it might be, a pernicious influence throughout the country. And he would ask, had not the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary heard any murmurs from behind him as to the manner in which the county magistracy were treated by the Bill? Had no such murmurs reached him from Lancashire—that representative county which had given him his start in official life? What the right hon. Gentleman ought to have done was to have given to the counties power to consolidate their institutions. Had he done so, he believed they would have witnessed evidence of a desire to promote true economy in all parts of the country. But while economy would not be promoted by the Bill, neither would it lead to efficiency. If' the Secretary of State did not set up what might be described as a large manufacturing firm, his new system could not be profitable; and, if he did, he would have memorials and deputations time after time from those who would say that their honest industry was interfered with in the market, and that he had taken measures to render an honourable occupation a sign of punishment. With regard to the 401 police the local authorities had ceased to be so vigilant for economy as formerly, the excuse being "Never mind, the Government pays half." There was formerly a community of feeling on both sides of the House that the institutions of the land should be upheld and maintained, but that feeling had now departed from the Government side of the House. He doubted the efficiency or the economy of the proposed change, and the only hope the right hon. Gentleman could have was that the Bill would be carried in the face of some of his most faithful Friends with the action of some from the Opposition side of the House. With respect to the question of uniformity, there was abundance of provision in the Act of 1865 to make that matter very much depend upon the will of the Secretary of State, and if he required further power, he could have obtained it from that House. With respect to the magistracy, the Bill treated them as spoiled children instead of as gentlemen who had administered the gaols of the country with great ability and at great cost of personal care and attention. Certain sops had been offered to them which he could not but think would in the olden time have been flung back to those who gave them. They ought only to limit the authority of the justices in those respects in which it might be arbitrarily exercised. The right hon. Gentleman had admitted, in answer to the Motion made by him (Mr. Hopwood) last Session, that 30,000 persons were committed to prison, not for any crime, but because they could not pay a sum of money. That number they might expect to see greatly diminished, if not entirely got rid of, by giving magistrates a merciful alternative, and so abolishing imprisonment in such cases. No man should be sent to prison when he could not pay money, but only when he refused to do so. Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now, "and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Rylands.)
§ MR. RIDLEY
said, that he was by no means one of the country magistrates whose blood, according to the hon. and learned Gentleman, had been stirred by the provisions of this Bill. So far from feeling that the class of country gentle- 402 men to which he belonged felt in any way slighted by the measure, he intended to give it his warmest support. With regard to the magistrates of his own county (Northumberland), of whom he had the honour for a short time to be Chairman, he could state that it was their wish, as it was his own, that this Bill should become law. During the last Session he had had the honour of forwarding a Memorial from them to the Home Secretary in favour of the Bill, and he had never since seen any indication of a change of opinion on their part. He would refer to some of the objections which had been urged against the measure. It had been urged by the right hon. Member for Chester (Mr. Dodson) that this was an inadequate scheme for the improvement of our local government, that it ought to have proceeded on larger lines, and have dealt in a more comprehensive manner with the chaos of our local administration. He willingly gave credit to the Members of the late Government for having endeavoured, with the best intentions, to concoct schemes for the improvement of local government; but the lesson taught by the ambitious Bills of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) and the right hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) was that they had made the mistake of attempting to do too much. In endeavouring by such large schemes to reform our local administration they had, to a great extent, lost their chance of success. The right way of proceeding was to begin from the bettom, to go on gradually, and not to be ashamed when a Government were told that they had brought in a little measure. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) said the principle of granting Imperial taxation in aid of local burdens was wrong. That principle had been, however, partially adopted by the Legislature, and without detriment to those principles of economy which ought to guide our local administration. For his part he did not see how it was possible or consistent for any Government, still less for one that entered office pledged to carry out local and administrative reforms in relief of local burdens, to resist a vote of that House, by a large majority, which had decided as to the necessity for granting Imperial relief to local burdens, where it was shown that these burdens were connected with purposes of a national 403 character. Take, for example, the cases of prisons and lunatics. It was admitted on almost all hands that if there were a national object in aid of which Imperial taxation should be granted, it was the case of prisons. It was, however, said that Parliament ought to go further, and that the House would next be called upon to take up and altogether maintain the police. He should demur to any such proposal. The Government had now gone as far as they ought to go in relieving the local burden of police, and any proposition that they should go further in that direction would receive his most strenuous opposition. Another argument against the Bill was that it was a centralizing measure. The Prisons Bill of 1865 was, to a great extent, of a centralizing tendency, and the powers given to the Home Secretary had, as every member of the court of quarter sessions knew, centralized our prison system to an extent which was hardly ever realized. But would the hon. Members who had addressed the House in opposition to this Bill ask the Home Secretary to relax the powers granted by the Prisons Bill? If not, they were inconsistent with themselves, and would hardly convince the House that this Bill ought to be rejected on the ground of its centralizing character. The fear of excessive centralization was, no doubt, a wholesome fear, and hon. Members would do well to keep this danger before their eyes. If, however, there were undoubted advantages in a scheme of this kind, the mere name of centralization ought not to frighten them from adopting it. He attached the greatest importance to those advantages which consisted in getting rid of differences with regard to hard labour, dietary, and discipline, which enabled the Home Secretary to group together prisoners undergoing long sentences distinctly from those undergoing short ones; and also the advantage which gave the Home Secretary power to close unnecessary gaols. If he were told that these powers might be given in some other way, he would reply that the object could not be carried out by any method so practicable and so certain to answer its purpose. It would not be possible to persuade the counties to agree for these purposes, nor would it be easy in any other way to get rid of the petty jealousies which would impede any proposal for general action. He 404 was surprised that anyone who had read the Bill should use the argument that it proposed to confiscate the property of the different local authorities. It might be that, in some instances, such as that of Hull, the local authorities might be apprehensive that the provisions of the Bill would not secure to them proper compensation for the excess accommodation they had provided; but even if that were so it was a point of detail, and the principle of the measure was not one of confiscation. The Bill assumed that local authorities had provided, or must provide, a certain amount of prison accommodation, and taking it over from them it relieved them of the liability for the future. As the liability of the authorities was undisputed, he could not see how such an arrangement could be called confiscation. Another objection urged had been that the Bill curtailed the power of visiting justices; he would have preferred to say it curtailed that of the quarter sessions, which had been in the habit of drawing up regulations that were approved by the Home Office and carried out by the visiting justices as the servants of the court of quarter sessions. The Bill would place the initiative in the Home Office, and the visiting justices would carry out its orders rather than those of the Sessions. This would put an end to an unsatisfactory state of things, under which the visiting justices found that in proposing a small alteration they were liable to the veto of the Home Office, and they would find it pleasanter to have their duties clearly defined for them. But for what was said last year by the late Lord Mayor (Mr. Cotton) he could hardly have believed that county magistrates would be aggrieved because the Bill took a little petty patronage from them. He was certain visiting justices would be as willing to discharge their duties under the proposed arrangement as they had been hitherto. The Bill was supported by a Party that attached the greatest value to Imperial relief of local burdens, and to the economy which the Home Secretary had shown would result from the measure. It was also supported by a Party that attached most value to the securing of uniformity in the discipline and management of the criminal population. Both of those principles were, he believed, perfectly sound; but, for his part, he valued the latter more 405 than the former, and he believed the counties did so too, or they would not be bribed by the relief offered. He was not so sanguine as the Home Secretary as to the amount of saving that would be effected when the salaries of the new Commissioners and other things were taken into account; but whether the saving were much or little, he should support the Bill for the sake of the second object it would attain. It seemed to offer the best means by which we could get rid of lamentable inequalities in the management of our criminal population. He should like, if it were possible, to have the duties of visiting justices more clearly defined, and to bring them still more directly into contact with the Home Secretary apart from the inspectors; and the case of those local authorities who had provided more accommodation than was necessary ought to be clearly provided for. These who regarded the Bill as a centralizing measure must recede from the legislation of 1865. If the Bill passed, the present Home Office might rely with as much confidence as heretofore on the co-operation of those magistrates in whose name many objections had been urged with such little justice and such little success.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL - HUGESSEN
said, after the two able and earnest speeches that had been made from that side of the House against the Bill, he was unwilling to vote for the second reading of the Bill without offering a brief explanation. He could not consent to mix up the merits of the Bill with the general question raised as to the manner in which the Government had dealt with the matter of local taxation. No doubt they were pledged to bring forward a large general measure; but that opinion would not prevent him supporting them when they brought forward a measure which, quite apart from its effect upon local taxation, would effect a decided improvement in the administration of the Criminal Law. The Bill of 1865 was designed to promote uniformity in the management of prisons and in the discipline and treatment of prisoners. It was essentially a Bill of consolidation and amendment, and brought into readable and workable compass provisions respecting prison management which were scattered about in a great number of different statutes. He was bound to admit 406 that the present proposal of the Government was the logical outcome of that Act. No doubt a great deal might be said as to the danger of making advances in one direction which might logically lead them in another. He would admit that taking the prisons they were logically bound to take the police; but logic did not always obtain in politics, and there were objections of a totally different character to handing over to Government the whole police force of the country. They were going to transfer from local to Imperial taxation one particular source of expense, and the question was this—Was that, fairly speaking, a local or Imperial subject? In this point of view what could be more entirely a national or Imperial object than thief-taking and thief-guarding? If, indeed, you could localize your thieves the case would be different; if you could say "500 persons shall thieve in Surrey, 2,000 in Middlesex," and so on, there could be no reason against localizing police and prisons; but since you could not do so, of course the thieves had a great advantage, being an unlimited body, able to travel all over the country, encountered only by limited and localized bodies. An army of 20,000 men, able to move upon any point, must be more powerful than 100,000, localized in bodies of 5,000 and unable to move from their localities; and if there were no other reason against it, police as well as gaols should, no doubt, be under the central Government. But so far as the present Bill went, the reasons against it appeared to him insufficient. He had noticed that when any great measure was introduced by any Government, those who objected always applied to it one of three long words—centralization, inquisitorial, or unconstitutional. But in the 19th century they were surely not to be frightened by these grand phrases, and he would ask them to consider what the meaning of the word centralization was as applied to this measure. Centralization meant the concentration of the power which the country could bring to bear upon any point, instead of dividing and thereby weakening it. Was not that desirable in an Imperial object? It was said the Bill would paralyze all local authority. But there was a fallacy in the objection. It took for granted that there was now a representative body managing the prisons having absolute 407 control over all expenditure, whereas the fact was that nine-tenths of the prison expenditure did not come really under the control of the magistracy. In the next place, that control was to be transferred not to a dictator, but to the Secretary of State, who was directly responsible to the House, so that, in reality, whatever power they were taking away would be taken away from the magistrates, who were officers appointed by the Crown, and responsible to nobody, and given to an officer directly responsible to the representatives of the people. He owned it would be quite different if the prisons were to be taken out of the hands of a body elected by the ratepayers; but no such body was in existence. No abuse would be tolerated by Parliament if perpetrated by the Secretary of State. The Home Secretary was very often questioned with regard to the conduct of magistrates, and if this Bill passed there would be greater facility of inquiry into abuses, and he would more readily be brought to book if he did not do what he ought to do. He did not pretend to say that the Bill was not susceptible of improvement; but he believed it would achieve the three main objects contemplated—uniformity, efficiency, and economy of prison administration. At the same time, he thought the magistrates would be placed in rather an equivocal position with reference to patronage, and it would be better, instead of giving one-half to the Visiting Justices and the other half to the Prison Commissioners, to give the whole either to one body or the other. In either case he did not believe that a single magistrate would perform his duties less efficiently than at present. The appointments by the Justices were made in the great majority of cases from the purest and best motives and having regard to the real merits of the applicants. The idea that the Secretary of State was seeking to increase his own patronage was really absurd, for no one could be conversant with official life without knowing that this kind of patronage was a thing which any Minister would be only too glad to get rid of. But the provisions of the Bill in this respect would require great care and attention, otherwise, in taking powers from one class and giving them to another, they might land themselves in confusion. With respect to 408 the discontinuance of prisons, he wished to give to the Home Secretary a respectful but an earnest warning not to be too precipitate in closing prisons in the pursuit of economy. A year or two ago an example occurred in Kent which would aptly illustrate his meaning. The General Sessions of that county resolved to abolish the Canterbury Prison, which was small but in good order, and to repair and enlarge the Maidstone Prison, which was in a reverse condition. Immediately he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), as Chairman of the East Kent Quarter Sessions, received remonstrances from all classes in East Kent, and the result was that being supported by a large number of the East Kent magistrates he obtained the reversal of the resolution at a subsequent General Sessions. The arguments which were urged, and which came home to him, were these—that although the closing of Canterbury Prison might be proved on paper to be economical, yet there were many expenses which fell on individuals concerned in the criminal business of Quarter Sessions which were shown in no Parliamentary Return, but which would be greatly increased if they had upon every occasion to travel a much longer distance from home, and often to be away for a night or more. And if this occurred, one unexpected result might follow—namely, that people would be deterred from prosecuting, and would rather suffer from petty thefts, than incur so much expense and inconvenience. Unless, therefore, the Secretary of State consulted local feeling and exercised forbearance and discretion in closing gaols, he might actually arrive at the result of providing immunity for crime and at the same time fail in obtaining real economy. It was desirable, as far as possible, to bring justice to every man's door; and in these matters the feelings and convenience of localities should be fully considered.
§ MR. J. R. YORKE
, in supporting the Bill, observed that it had been said that the Government were pledged to bring in a large and comprehensive measure on the subject of local taxation. He (Mr. Yorke) would rather have a small and definite grievance remedied than a large and comprehensive failure. If they compared the course of the present Government with that of the last, they found that if very slow it was very sure; 409 whereas the strong scheme which the last Administration originated came to signal grief. If this Bill passed this Session they would obtain a substantial instalment of a debt long due, and which ought to be discharged. There were four objects which the measure was intended to promote—economy, uniformity, efficiency, and relief to the taxpayer. His principal object in supporting the Bill was to obtain relief for the local taxpayer. He admitted that the Home Secretary would not be justified in proposing a measure of this kind solely on the ground that it would be a relief to the taxpayer; the right hon. Gentleman must show that it could be recommended on other grounds, as he did last Session, when he proved that economy, uniformity, and efficiency would be combined with that relief. Unless the right hon. Gentleman in this instance showed himself to be a very different man from what he had been in other matters he had taken in hand, there was no reason to apprehend that the sinister predictions which some had indulged in would be fulfilled. The salaries of the prison officers now amounted to £242,000, there being one officer to seven prisoners; but by this Bill half the salaries of the most highly paid would be saved, and with good management the net cost might be reduced from £285,000 to £178,000. Then, again, the extraordinary discrepancy in the cost of prisoners being £70 in one prison and £24 in another would be got rid of; and, instead of 76 county and 40 borough prisons, or one to about 200,000 persons, we should have for the future only 65 gaols, or one to every 320,000 persons. A Committee of the House of Lords recommended in 1863 that a uniform system of diet should be introduced, and in 1865 a Bill was passed with a view to carry out that recommendation. Nevertheless, it remained true that in some prisons hard labour, as the right hon. Gentleman said last year, meant a gentle walk, in others it was like the ascent of a mountain a thousand feet high. The time differed materially in different gaols, and the quantity of stone to be broken was exactly double in one gaol to what it was in another. In some places prisoners had their work separately, in others the separate system was not adopted. Unproductive labour was believed in some prisons to be more deter- 410 rent, in others not. No doubt, as Mr. Baker thought, different experiments ought to be conducted without the authority of the Visiting Justices. But magistrates had been occupied many years with these matters. They had exhausted the experiment stage of the question, and were now in the scientific. As to the question of relief to the local ratepayer, it should be observed that his position as compared with the taxpayer had materially deteriorated, for during the last 20 years, while 10 per cent had been added to the taxes, 100 per cent, more or less, had been added to the rates; and while £14,000,000 had been taken off the taxes, not one shilling up to the time the present Government came into office had been taken off the local burdens. In the first Session of the present Parliament, however, relief was given in the matter of the expense for police and lunatics, and there remained now the strongest case for relief, that of the liability for the administration of justice. He could hardly conceive any claim on the Exchequer stronger, for not only was the Government bound to defend us from foreign foes, but also to render life and property secure in the country, and it was not real property that was so much threatened by the dishonest as personal. It was curious to consider the system of justice in this country. Apparently, it was most simple, and connected by one leading idea. The Queen was the fountain of justice, which was administered in her name, writs were issued in her name, and all Civil officers, from the Lord Chancellor down to the Sheriff's officers, acted in her name. But when we came to consider the way in which the expenses were paid, the contrast to this theoretic uniformity was most striking. We had one anomalous distribution of cost between the Treasury and the localities. The Judges were paid by the Exchequer; the Coroners by the local rates; the expenses of prosecutions were shared between individuals, the Treasury, and the county; prisoners were maintained before conviction by the localities, and after conviction by the Imperial Exchequer; and the police were maintained partly by the one and partly by the other. He thought he had shown some reason for holding that no excuse whatever was needed for the claim put forth by the ratepayer on 411 the Exchequer. We had heard a great deal about the price to be paid for the advantages which the Bill would confer, and a great deal had been said about interfering with local self-government. In his opinion, however, the evils likely to arise from this interference were very shadowy. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman who had last spoken that you could not properly talk of local institutions unless you spoke of such as were administered by persons who were elected; but the magistrates were not an elected body, they were appointed by the Crown through the Lord Chancellor. Some would say this was the thin end of the wedge. The police were virtually the servants of the Home Secretary, though the counties had to pay half the cost. The limits of pay were determined in London, and the Chief Constable, though appointed by the magistrates at Quarter Sessions, was not removable by them. Then, again, the police had no common action; they were in isolated bodies all over the country, so that it was difficult to arrange any satisfactory system of promotion and superannuation, and there was also the difficulty of jurisdiction in dealing with offenders. In the not very distant future he hoped, therefore, that some further concession would be made in the matter of the police. Returning to the Bill, he regarded it as a step towards a simplification of the power of the magistrates in time to come, and also as a step towards the constitution—which, he hoped, was not very remote—of County Financial Boards. He had always considered that the present position of the magistrates in dealing with the money of the ratepayers was alike anomalous and indefensible, and a real safeguard to local institutions would be a County Board, either composed entirely of elective members, or, as he should prefer, with a proportion of magistrates sitting ex officio. If such Boards were empowered also to deal with sanitary matters, education, and other questions now intrusted to Boards of Guardians, it would be possible to constitute provincial assemblies, which would not only exercise these functions most usefully, but would also relieve the Government in London from a vast amount of harassing details and correspondence. If this Bill, as he believed, would promote economy and efficiency; if it would give an instalment 412 of the debt which had long been owing to local ratepayers; and if it did not, as he believed, give rise to the dangers which had been apprehended, he thought it should receive general support, and trusted it would speedily pass during the present Session.
§ SIR HARCOURT JOHNSTONE
said, he could not but express his surprise that so much time had already been wasted in discussing a Bill which was evidently very desirable. At the Quarter Sessions of his county the Bill had been received with absolute unanimity, because it carried out the recommendations of the Lords' Committee of 1863, made for the sake of securing greater economy and efficiency of administration. Referring to the case of Scarborough, which had been recently mentioned in the newspapers, he said there was no truth in the absurd statement that the people of Scarborough desired any exceptional legislation because they were exceptionally "respectable." They only felt somewhat aggrieved on local grounds connected with the prison there, but they were not in the least likely to get exceptional legislation, and had never asked for it. As to the Bill, he believed it was perfectly safe in the hands of the Home Secretary. Last year there had been a large majority in favour of the measure which was then introduced on the subject; and yet the old bugbears and phantoms—centralization, for instance—with which all the Members of the House must be familiar had again been conjured up. Notwithstanding what had been said, however, he trusted and believed that the Bill would have a speedy passage through the House.
§ MR. W. S. STANHOPE
said, that the Bill which was now under discussion did not materially differ from the measure which had been presented to Parliament last year; but the alterations which the present Bill exhibited, as compared with its predecessor, were, in his opinion, improvements. If it passed, it would, in its operation, remove a great many difficulties in the working of prison regulations, expenses, and other matters. Objections had been raised as to the way in which the duties of the visiting justices would be affected by the Bill; but he thought that, in practice, it might be expected that those duties would be very much what they had hitherto been. It was quite clear that neither the present 413 Home Secretary nor any one who might succeed him in the office which he held would be able to get on without the assistance of the local justices in the management of the prisons; and having been for a considerable time chairman of the visiting justices of Wakefield Gaol, where they had more than 1,400 prisoners, he knew these local justices were more directly under the supervision of the right hon. Gentleman, and more immediately responsible to the Home Office, than they were to the Quarter Sessions. Should County Boards be henceforth established, a difficulty might arise between them and the magistrates on the subject of prison expenditure, but if the Bill became law the cause of it would be removed. In Committee he hoped that the measure would be amended in regard to the visiting justices having to report upon the repairs necessary, or a large amount of circumlocution would be incurred. In all large prisons repairs could be better done by the justices than by a central office. At the same time, he thought a great benefit would result to the ratepayers, in that it would render more uniform the way in which the burden should be borne by the different classes of persons on whom it was laid, for he saw no reason why those persons who derived their incomes from funded property should not contribute towards the costs of prisoners. He wished to express his opinion in favour of the employment of prisoners upon industrial labour. Nothing could be said in defence of what might be described as purely penal labour—such as the treadmill, the crank, 'shot drill, and punishments of a similar character, and the justices with whom he had been associated in connection with Wakefield Gaol had for many years entirely disapproved of labour of such a description, and were of opinion it should be abolished. Work of that kind acted unequally upon criminals, and was, in many instances, dangerous to health. The sturdy ruffians sentenced to it thought nothing of it as a punishment, and the weakly prisoners who were subject to heart disease suffered in their health by such punishment. Not only so, but it was liable to this objection—that such a form of labour often tended to disgust the criminal and to make him declare that as soon as he got out of prison he would not do another day's work if he could help it. Let 414 them, however, put such a man to an industrious occupation while he was in gaol, and they would not only train him to useful work, which he might follow when he regained his liberty, but they would make him of service in reducing the expenditure of the prison during the period of his incarceration. It did not follow that because a man happened to be a criminal he should be kept in idleness, and at Wakefield they preferred employing them in useful labour—in doing the repairs and alterations necessary in the gaol; and other things which produced a profitable result. Objections had been raised to the employment of prisoners in industrial and productive labour, on the ground that such labour would enter into unfair competition with various trades conducted outside prisons. He could not agree with this, because, in the first place, it did not follow that the labour of one man necessarily ousted the labour of another; and in the second, the magistrates could have no object in under-selling any trade. No doubt complaints were sometimes made against them, and specific cases might be brought forward when goods had to be sold at low prices; but it should be borne in mind that, in this matter, they were dealing not with willing, but with unwilling workers, and that in every prison there must be a quantity of bad material produced which had to be sold for what it would fetch. There were some other points of detail in reference to which he thought the Bill capable of improvement, and which he hoped to see effected in Committee; but, on the whole, he was of opinion that the measure would prove beneficial to the country both as regarded the interest of the ratepayers and as tending to promote a more efficient and uniform administration of our gaols, and he hoped the House would give its assent to the second reading.
§ DR. KENEALY
said, he should not oppose the second reading of the Bill, because he thought there was a general opinion in the House in favour of legislation on the subject. There were, however, some points in reference to which he had an objection, and upon which he thought Amendments might be made. In the first place, he thought the powers proposed to be given by the Bill were too dictatorial in character; and in the second, he was of opinion that 415 the Governing Bodies proposed to be constituted should be called upon to make such Reports as would enable Parliament to take action in reference to possible abuses of the internal management of prisons. It was all very well for Prison Inspectors to report to the Secretary of State, who probably pigeon-holed the document as soon as he got it. The Report should be presented to Parliament, so that hon. Members might have an opportunity of knowing what was going on. He had taken the liberty of calling the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the other evening to certain prison regulations which, in his opinion, ought to be altered in the way of amendment, and he now respectfully pressed upon him the necessity of repealing all existing prison rules and framing fresh ones altogether. Under our present prison system most tyrannical proceedings were permitted, which, if generally known, would excite great public indignation. Thus prisoners were frequently masked and manacled, and had heavy weights, such as cannon balls, chained to their legs as a punishment for having violated some trifling prison rule; while others were flogged if they committed the slightest breach of discipline, and this, in his opinion, was a disgrace to the country. He had waited with anxiety to see whether any of the so-called Humanitarian Party in the House would come forward on behalf of these unfortunate beings, many of whom were doubtless guilty, but a large proportion of whom were the victims of circumstances, who deserved commiseration, and who would, if treated differently, be converted into good members of society; but he regretted to find that their wrongs were passed by unnoticed. Many of the prisoners were flogged, were subjected to long terms of solitary confinement, and were fed upon bread and water for similar offences. He found from Returns that between July, 1864, and March, 1871, no fewer than 1,398 prisoners had been flogged by order of the Visiting Justices. Surely that was a circumstance requiring investigation, especially when it was remembered that all these transactions were concealed under the present system, and were unknown to the general public, as the prisoners were absolutely forbidden to make known to the outside world any of the tyrannies to which they were subjected. Notwithstanding the 416 vigilance exercised by the Home Secretary, there were officials who delighted to inflict torture on those of their fellow-creatures who happened to be in their power. It might seem an extraordinary theory to propound, but he certainly considered that flogging ought only to be imposed after full investigation in Court before a jury. So-called philanthropists looked upon prisoners as men who, having raised their hands against other men, deserved to have other men's hands raised against them; but if an entirely opposite system were adopted—one of love, kindness, and gentleness—it would be much more effective. He would therefore suggest that in future no prisoner should be flogged without having been tried by a jury and sentenced to that punishment by a Court of Law, that no prisoner should be subjected to solitary confinement for a longer period than 12 hours at a time, and that no prisoner should be fed upon bread and water or be compelled to drag about heavy weights chained to his legs. The effect of these cruel punishments was to harden and confirm in guilt rather than to soften and reform, while they were liable to the grossest abuse at the hands of bad men who sometimes got into office, and who exercised their great power tyrannically. Seine alteration should also be made in the regulation forbidding complaints to be made by prisoners to their relatives and friends, for the mouth of a person ought not to be sealed simply because he was a prisoner. He ought not to be debarred from acquainting his friends with the hardship he was suffering; he was not likely to invent falsehoods for the mere pleasure of inventing them. Provision might also be made for prisoners who fell into a state of ill-health. If the medical officer considered that the ill-health was not sufficient to justify a change of treatment, the prisoner ought to be allowed to be visited by a doctor in whom his friends had confidence, and whose recommendations should be attended to. The rules as to the visits of relatives and the writing of letters might be judiciously relaxed, as the more frequently a prisoner was brought into contact with the outside world the more powerful would be the humanizing effect upon him. Under the present system prisoners were only allowed to be visited twice a-year, and then only for 20 minutes at a time, 417 but he proposed that the number of times they might be visited should be increased to four, and the duration of each visit extended to one hour, because he believed that these interviews, with their mothers, their wives, their sisters, and their children, tended to humanize rather than to debase them. Placing him behind iron bars to be gazed at by his friends was reducing him to the level of a wild beast, and with treatment like this was it to be wondered at that, on his release, he acted like a beast rather than a human being? These were alterations which were consistent with the ordinary feelings of humanity, and he trusted that the Home Secretary would find himself able to adopt them.
§ SIR WILLIAM FRASER
said, they had heard much in that debate of the rights and duties of visiting justices; he hoped the rights, powers, and privileges confirmed by the Act of 1865, with respect to the visitation of prisons, to those justices who were not on the visiting committee, and whose services in examining what went on in prisons would be all the more valuable, because their visits of inspection were unexpected, would be strictly preserved. In the county of Middlesex there was a very large number of magistrates and also of prisons, and he hoped the point to which he had just referred would not be overlooked. He also trusted the important point would be made clear whether magistrates had a right, which they ought to have, of visiting the police cells of the metropolis and prisons of first instance—that was to say, the houses of detention, with a view to the careful supervision of the treatment received by the inmates. Different systems of discipline, varying much in their degree of severity, had been adopted in the prisons of this country; but when the power was more concentrated and vested to a great extent in the Home Secretary, on the whole, greater justice would be done to prisoners. Uncertainty and inequality of treatment were more intolerable in a free country than strictness even to severity; such uncertainty and inequality had to many minds the appearance of injustice, a thing which it was desirable to avoid as much as possible. Allusion had been made to the hardships and indignities inflicted upon convicts in respect to the visits of their relatives and friends: it was a hardship 418 that prisoners, on the rare occasions when they were allowed to see their friends, should be exposed to any degradation that was not absolutely unavoidable. In these days of mechanical contrivance, it surely could not be difficult or unduly expensive to make arrangements in most prisons by which a few moments of privacy could, without danger, be given to prisoners when they were visited by their friends. A prisoner ought also to have something to look forward to, if he was not to sink into hopeless and inveterate criminality. Moreover, it was most important to maintain a distinction both in name and in condition between a house of detention and a prison. Shakespeare had made a very young lady ask, "What's in a name?" but he was far too sensible a man not to know that there was a very great deal in a name. If a man were put into a house of detention, he would not be so degraded in his own and in other people's estimation when he came out as he would be if he came out of a prison. He knew of places in which persons who were detained on remand or for trial were treated just the same as convicted prisoners, excepting in regard to hard labour. That he conceived to be an injustice, for until the sentence was passed the accused was, in the eye of the law, innocent. In conclusion, he thought measures like the present one were wise and practical, and thoroughly appreciated by the country. Happily, the times had changed since we had only one philanthropist. On the tomb of John Howard, in St. Paul's, were inscribed the words—"He trod an open, but unfrequented path to immortality." Howard was not only a very benevolent man, but a man of consummate practical sagacity; and he taught the world the lesson that a man may be benevolent without being a fool. It was extremely gratifying to find a Conservative Government endeavouring to carry measures conceived in the spirit in which this Bill had been framed. He was very glad indeed that the measure had been introduced by the Home Secretary and his Colleagues, for nothing could tend more to honest and just popularity than these philanthropic reforms.
§ SIR SYDNEY WATERLOW
said, he would admit that the present condition of the small county and borough prisons could not be regarded as altogether satisfactory, and also that there 419 was a large number of small prisons which were extravagant in their management and which ought to be abandoned. But he thought the necessary changes for insuring greater economy and greater uniformity of discipline could be better carried out by utilizing the present system of local government than they could be by the radical measure of transferring the whole management of the gaols from the county magistrates to a State Department, as proposed by the Bill. A good deal had been said about the part of the Bill which retained for the visiting magistrates the right of inspecting gaols; but the privilege would be only a sham under the provisions of the Bill, for the visiting justices would have no control over the prison officials, and any person they recommended for a prison appointment might be accepted or rejected by the Prison Commissioners as they chose. By doing that they would take, away all the attractions which made the work of inspection agreeable and pleasant to the justices; while, on the other hand, it would tend to create a feeling on the part of the officials that the visiting magistrates were spies, who had no real power or authority. The Bill aimed a serious blow at local self-government, and every magistrate of experience must come to the conclusion that it was one of the most dangerous attempts at centralization that had been proposed by any Government during the last quarter of a century. He had not heard it alleged that the visiting magistrates were incompetent for their duties, and yet it was proposed to replace them by Commissioners, who could not for many years to come have the same knowledge of prison discipline and prison management. He admitted that the Bill would effect a large saving by closing small prisons, but the same end could be attained by following the lines of the Prisons Act of 1865, in which 15 prisons were scheduled as requiring to be abandoned. Reforms were undoubtedly necessary; but they could be assured by the control of the prisons for England, for instance, being placed in the hands of a smaller number of experienced local prison authorities, and more under the direct control of the Home Secretary; while, at the same time, all the present advantages of local self-government and. local representation would be retained. Such a plan would be found more eco- 420 nomical than that proposed in the present Bill, and equally effective in producing uniformity of management. Having regard to the large number of cells in the several prisons in England in excess of the maximum number of prisoners in custody, he would suggest that all the small prisons, which were so costly in their maintenance, should be abandoned, and that all the counties in England, for prison purposes, be grouped into nine prison districts, corresponding with the existing circuits of the Judges. Each circuit under this arrangement would have but one prison authority, consisting of a limited number of justices to be nominated in proportion to the relative assessment to the county rates, by the several counties grouped in each circuit, and each justice appointed on the district prison committee would hold office for four years, one-fourth of the number retiring each year. The prison authority thus created would have general direction of the gaols in their own district, subject to rules and regulations to be framed by the right hon. Gentleman, who should also have the power to abolish unnecessary prisons. This plan would reduce the number of prison authorities under the control of the Government to a number very little in excess of the proposed five Commissioners, and would provide the machinery for a more uniform system of discipline and management. As some evidence of the necessity for a reduction in the number of prisons and the economical results which such a course would produce, he might state that the last Reports of the Inspectors of Prisons for the year ending September 29, 1875, showed the average daily number in custody during the year to be rather more than 18,000, while the greatest number in custody at any one time during the year was 22,251, to accommodate whom there was a total number of 27,604 cells. It was obvious, therefore, that they had accommodation for 5,000 prisoners above the maximum I number ever in custody. A reference to the same Report showed that there were 54 prisons containing collectively only 1,376 prisoners, thus indicating clearly that 50 prisons might be closed without unduly reducing the accommodation necessary for the criminal population of the country. There was, however, sufficient power in the Act of 1865 to close unnecessary prisons, and. thus the only 421 saving effected by the Bill could have been carried out without disturbing an existing arrangement which had done so much to train public men of ability and integrity sufficient to meet any emergency which might occur. His main objection to the Bill, however, was that in all other ways it inaugurated what would be anything but a system of economical administration. If they took the Government Returns it would be seen at once that the cost of maintenance would be greatly increased throughout the Kingdom. If the right hon. Gentleman disputed that fact, he would ask how it was they did not maintain the convict prisoners at as low a cost as the magistrates did the county prisoners. Comparing the convict prisons with county prisons, it appeared from the Report on the former for the year ending March, 1875, that the net cost per prisoner was very much in excess of the cost in county prisons. In Pentonville, with 878 prisoners, the charge was £24 3s. 8d. per head per annum; in Parkhurst, 544 prisoners, £24 per head; and in Woking, with 478 females, £29 14s. per head, or an average of £25 16s.; while in the whole of Lancashire (the prisons being under local management) the average cost was less than £15. It might be urged that it was not fair to compare the cost of convict prisons, where men were sent for long periods, with those prisons where persons undergoing short sentences were confined. He did not consider that objection possessed any force, for, as a rule, the labour of men sentenced to short periods was worthless, because there was no time to teach them anything useful, and the vast majority of those in the county prisons were under sentences of less than six months. With these figures before them they ought certainly to hesitate before incurring the risk of such a large additional expenditure by the transfer of the gaols from local to State control. Lancashire was not the only district in which the prisons were well and economically managed. Thus—Durham, with 758 cells, and on an average 575 criminals, expended £13 6s. 6d. per head; Wakefield, with 1,473 cells, and 1,253 prisoners, £17 5s. 3½d; Leeds, with 519 cells and 386 criminals, £18 18s. 9d., and a reference to Salford and Preston gaols showed that the prisoners were maintained at much less than half the cost 422 incurred by the Government in maintaining convict prisoners. It would, perhaps, be urged that the comparison was not fair, because convict prisoners being sentenced for long periods, were obliged to have a larger allowance of food than prisoners in custody for only short periods; but that difference was immaterial, amounting only to 2d. or 3d. a head more per day for those undergoing long sentences, and even that slight saving was much more than counterbalanced by the increased advantages derived from the labour of prisoners sentenced for five years and upwards. Taking the average number of prisoners in 13 of the principal county and borough prisons for the year ending the 29th of September, 1875, he found that out of a total of 75,987 prisoners, 72,632 were committed for sentences under six months, or, in other words, only one prisoner out of every 25 remained in gaol sufficiently long to be taught any trade. The convict prisons had thus everything in their favour, and yet, as he had shown, the cost of their maintenance was greater than that of the county gaols. He should rejoice to see a reform effected in prison labour, and he considered that that could be best carried out by local magistrates acting on the gaol committees, who were more likely to administer the prisons efficiently and economically than Commissioners appointed by the State. County magistrates would also be better able than a Board of Commissioners to understand the kind of labour in which prisoners could be profitably employed, and from a better knowledge of the markets, could dispose more advantageously of the products of the labour. In, conclusion, he quite agreed that small prisons, the management of which had been found to be expensive, and out of all proportion to their usefulness and importance, should be abolished; but he thought this could be done without putting the country to the risk of the radical change which the Bill now before the House would effect.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I am quite sure that the House, if disposed to give its attention to this important subject, must feel very much indebted to the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow), for the eminently able and practical speech which he has addressed to the House, showing that 423 there is no real necessity for abandoning the existing system, and that the system is susceptible of improvement. When I ventured to address a few observations to the House on the introduction of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department said, "You made the same speech in 1865." I am not aware that I spoke on the Bill of 1865; but I believe that the tenour of the few observations which I made on the Prisons Bill, when it was last year introduced into the House, were very much in accordance with the opinions I am about to express. I was gratified in 1865 by seeing that the constitution of the county and borough prisons, and their management, was preserved, by that Act of 1865, although great changes were made in the detail of administration. I wish the House to understand how great a change the right hon. Gentleman is now proposing. By the Act of 1865, 14 of the smaller gaols were closed, and why should not a similar proposal be adopted now? By that Act the local jurisdiction of the magistrates was preserved, and instead of making over the large sphere of the administration of justice which prison discipline and management comprehend to the arbitrary, and it may be the capricious discretion of the Home Secretary, the rules for prison discipline were incorporated in the Act of 1865, and were specifically enacted by Parliament, so that inmates of the gaols of England are, as much as the people of England, governed by law, and not by an authority delegated to a Member of the Executive Government. In this there is the recognition of a great constitutional principle. I could have understood the right hon. Gentleman if he had said,—"Give me discretionary power for a time, until I can make rules such as may command the confidence of Parliament, and thus be enacted;" but the right hon. Gentleman proposes, under this Bill, to take for himself and his successors an unlimited discretionary power in the administration of justice. For prison discipline under the modern system has become more than ever part of the administration of justice, and that is one reason why I regard as dangerous the principles of this Bill. If, Sir, there are too many gaols, there is no reason why the smaller ones should not be suppressd in the same manner as 424 14 were suppressed in the year 1865. If this is to be done, let it be done specifically by statute, and if the right hon. Gentleman wishes to exercise discretion, the House might allow him two or three years, which will probably be the full extent of his occupancy of office, for suppressing small prisons and for the framing of the rules to govern the rest; but if he has any confidence in himself, if he has any confidence in his Party, if he has any confidence in being able to effect good and useful alterations in the present system, why does he not propose the general outline of his intended action now? Why do I say that the administration of prison discipline has become a part of the administration of justice? It is perfectly well known with respect to the separate system of imprisonment, that, when that system was adopted in many of the gaols of the country, I believe in all the convict prisons, so grievous was the unmitigated pressure of that system found to be upon the mind, so overpowering upon the minds of many prisoners, that it became necessary to give some authority power to limit the period, as well as the application of that system. I hope the House will forgive me if I allude for one moment to experience of my own. More than 30 years ago I went to the United States, where I was privileged to see the first application of the separate system in the prison of Philadelphia. I do not know how the permission was granted to me, but I had it, and I must say that anything so dreadful as what I there saw, I have never since witnessed. The system was being applied in excess, and I saw both black and white men, prisoners, in almost every stage of moral and mental decomposition. The system was subsequently introduced into this country, and I resisted it, in conjunction with some of the Warwickshire and most of the Middlesex justices of the peace, and we succeeded in preventing its application, until the necessity for modifying its application had been ascertained by experience in this country, just as it had been ascertained by experience in the United States. So that I do not speak altogether as a novice on the question when I contend that in the application of this system some person or persons in authority must have the power not only of modifying the application, but 425 of regulating the period of the application of this system; and, if that power must be exercised, then I say that this interference forms a part of the administration of justice which reaches the gaols of the country, and that the proper persons to be entrusted with the regulation of the ordinary gaols are the local magistrates. I know that the county and borough justices are lightly spoken of by certain persons; yet if there be any instance of abuse in their administration, if there is any instance of cruelty or injustice, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether there are not always found Members in this House, who, like the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor)—and I honour him for what he has done in this respect—are prompt to bring the conduct of such magistrates under the attention of this House? Do not tell me that, because the county and borough magistrates are not elected, they are therefore irresponsible. They are always liable to dismissal by the same authority that appointed them, the Lord Chancellor. They have been made practically responsible by this House; for if any magistrate has committed any excess or abuse of power, Members in this House have shown themselves ready to appeal to the Lord Chancellor for that magistrate's dismissal. I repeat, then, do not tell me that the magistrates are irresponsible. Among the younger Members of this House in the present day there seems to be strange confusion. They appear to think that no institution can be national, the conduct and expenditure of which are not immediately subject to the Executive Government. According to this theory the Established Church is not a national institution. These Members speak of the county magistrates, as if they were not representative, because they are not elected. Will they tell the country that the House of Lords is not representative, because it is not elective? Will they accept the vulgar delusion that the House of Lords represents nothing but a certain number of acres and houses possessed by the Peers, and fails to represent the higher intelligence of this country? Sir, it pains me to hear among those who call themselves Conservatives, politicians, junior to myself, fathering delusions, which on the present occasion, I am glad to find the Radicals in this House are ashamed to utter, and practically disown. 426 It is gratifying to see the Radical Members of this House rising in their places to defend great constitutional principles, which secure the freedom of the people of this country. The House will forgive me if I am travelling in too wide a sphere; but you may depend upon this, that representative institutions are not only those which are elective. It is impossible that men having a stake, and who reside in certain localities, should exercise public administrative functions in their own neighbourhoods without feeling the pressure of the public opinion of those neighbourhoods; and this is the meaning of local government being described as self-government. It matters not whether the administrator be elected or not; if he is fixed to a locality, he must feel and be influenced by the pressure of the opinion of that locality. The danger arises from this, that, if you extend the sphere of his action too widely, you dissipate the pressure of local opinion. In the multiplicity of functions that are heaped upon Home Secretaries they escape this kind of responsibility, and in this lies the reason for their being sometimes charged with neglect. They are unable to perform all the offices they undertake themselves, and are obliged to delegate the exercise of them to subordinates, and thus evade the responsibility that ought to rest upon themselves. Now, this is the process of dissipating responsibility which you are engaged in furthering by means of this Bill for the supersession of the local government of the country in the matter of prison management and discipline. I say, then, that this is a Radical Bill in the worst sense of the term, for it is a radical change in the direction of virtually irresponsible and despotic power, and I stand with the Radical Members of this House as firmly as any of them in protesting against the despotic tendencies of this measure. I am sorry to say that among junior Conservatives there appears to be a leaning towards principles which have been condemned during the best period of the history of this country. In the exercise of the wide hospitality of this country we receive ex-Potentates and their families; we have received ex-Presidents of Republics and their families; but these ex-Presidents have generally come here poor; we receive ex-Emperors and ex-Empresses, and ex-Kings and ex-Queens, but they have 427 generally come here rich—at all events, they have a position in society which I am afraid tends to impregnate the higher classes with an undue toleration of—if not an inclination towards—those despotic practices which have been occasions for the ousting of these ex-Potentates, ex-Emperors, and ex-Kings from their former countries. Now, when I read this Bill—a Bill which I little expected from the present Home Secretary—I do not think that the apprehensions with which the Royal Titles Bill was regarded by hon. Gentlemen opposite, suspicions shared by myself, were so groundless as my hon. Friends near described them. The fact is that this Bill is a direct invasion of the Common Law of this country, and I am prepared to prove it. The Common Law of this country—the chief source and guardian of our orderly freedom—grew out of local administration. I might quote Lord Coke, Mr. Justice Blackstone, and Lord Hale to prove this. But, Sir, there is not a lawyer in or out of the House that would dispute the proposition that the Common Law is founded upon the local customs of this country. With the permission of the House, however, there is one authority upon the subject whom I should like to quote. I hold in my hand an extract from the works of M. de Tocqueville, whom I believe to be the highest French authority upon constitutional questions. A work of his on The Ancien Regime in France," was translated and published by the Conservative publisher, Mr. Murray, in 1865. And what does M. de Tocqueville say while comparing the laws of France with those of England? He writes of the Common Law and Courts of England—The power which nations possess of prospering, in spite of the imperfections to be met with in secondary portions of their institutions, so long as the general principles and the actual spirit which animate those institutions arc full of life and vigour, is a phenomenon which manifests itself with peculiar distinctness when the judicial constitution of England in the last century, as described by Blackstone, is looked into.Mind you, this was the constitution of England unreformed—that is, unreformed in the modern sense, of which the proposal now before the House is an example. He says there was a wonderful diversity of law— 428In England itself may be found four kinds of law—the common law, statute law, canon law, and equity.Then, what does he say of the administration of justice in England, with all this diversity, which the right hon. Gentleman says cannot longer be endured, still preserving the great principle of the Common Law? He says this—These blemishes were very great; and if the enormous old machine of the English judicial system be compared with the modern construction of that of France, and the simplicity, consistence, and natural convexity to be observed in the latter, with the remarkable complication and incoherence of the former, the errors of the English jurisprudence will appear greater still.M. de Tocqueville had just been ejected from France by a despotic coup d' etat. He was here in England, ejected from his own country, which be one revolution had destroyed a Constitutional Government, and by another revolution had within four years seen the Republic of 1848 supplanted by a despotism. He was in a temper, therefore, to inquire how it was that, at that period of European crisis, England was able to stand so firm? And what is his observation on this? Notwithstanding all this diversity, this complexity, this multiplicity of jurisdiction, he says—There is not a country in the world in which, in the words of Blackstone, the great ends of justice are more completely attained than in England—that is to say, no country in which every man, whatever his condition of life, whether he appeared in Court as a common individual or a prince, was more sure of being heard, or found in the tribunals of this country better guarantees for the defence of his property, his liberty, and his life.Now, it is a part of this system which we are asked by the present Bill to break up in favour of a centralized system like that of France. The Swiss have a very varied system of prison discipline, like our own. It is no more uniform than the system which exists in England; but they have only one criminal to every 1,200 of the population; whereas, if you turn to France, with its exact uniformity, and its centralization, you will find one criminal in every 600 of the population. The proportion of criminals to population in England is smaller even than that of Switzerland. This brings me to refer to another part of the English system. Hitherto, though not unmodified, in principle the administration of justice in this country has been non-political. The 429 magistrate is a judicial officer, and is not appointed in deference to, and is usually free from the bias of political considerations. He is, I repeat, a judicial officer; but by this Bill you take the whole of that portion of the administration of justice which, as I have shown, How extends throughout prison discipline, under your modern system; you take the judicial system from the Lord Chancellor, a Judge, who is the superior of the magistrates, and give it to the Secretary of State, who is a political officer. That is another ground upon which I object to this Bill; but I object to it on other grounds. Colonel Ducane and other gentlemen of the Civil Service go to Social Science meetings, and there they impugn the conduct and vilify the unpaid magistracy of the country. Those gentlemen say that there is greater uniformity of administration in the convict prisons than in the county and borough prisons, and the discipline in all prisons ought to be equally uniform. Is that to be expected? The occupants of convict gaols are selected prisoners. They are long-sentence men, and it is easy to adopt an absolute, or nearly absolute, uniformity of discipline for them, when it would be impossible, even if it were desirable, to adopt that absolute uniformity of discipline among prisoners sentenced for a variety of periods with whom the justices have to deal in the county and borough gaols. I appeal to the experience of every magistrate in this House whether this is not the fact; and yet we are taunted with a want of uniformity like that in the convict prisons, and with not carrying out a system which is totally inapplicable in many of these cases. Again, I say, that this Bill puts an end to the great and useful legal distinction which still exists between felons and other classes of prisoners, the treatment of the most heinous and less culpable offenders. The term "felon," in its original sense, was applied to that class of offenders who were afterwards transported, and are now termed convicts. The felon was an outlaw, and the convict was transported; and during the period of his sentence became an outlaw. In my opinion no greater mischief was ever done to this country than by the abolition of the system of transportation. The abolition of transportation may have been a boon to some of the colonies; but it was an 430 injury to the mother-country, and an injury to the convicts themselves; for I defy you to give a convict the opportunity of amendment in the mother-country, where you are obliged to guard him against his old associates in crime by a stern system of restraint, that you could give him if you sent him to the colonies, where he would have a much fairer chance of amendment. It is a great misfortune that the system was abolished; it was proved, in the case of a person who desired to be admitted to a seat in this House, whilst still under a sentence of transportation, that he was an outlaw. It is a wholesome distinction that compelled you to deal differently with convicts who have been guilty of the more serious offences and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment, and with prisoners sentenced to short periods—the distinction between county and borough gaols and the convict prisons. But under this Bill you are going to abolish the wholesome distinction which has hitherto existed between these different classes of prisons. If, however, you mean to remedy that defect, which will be created by this Bill, it can only be, as the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Hopwood) pointed out, by the establishment of Bridewells and Houses of Detention. You are about to abolish all the small gaols; but you will have to create a substitute for short-sentenced prisoners. You will have to enlarge your police stations, or else build Houses of Detention, and where will then be the boasted economy of this Bill? The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has proposed this measure with a double object. On the one hand, he desired to gratify those who clamour for the remission of local taxation, and if possible make his concessions in that direction fit into a reform of the whole system of prison administration. The consequence of this two-fold attempt is the introduction of an arbitrary measure in violation of the constitutional law of the country, which, but for the clamour raised by Chambers of Agriculture and others, I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman would ever have attempted to lay on the Table. I hope the House will excuse the observations which I have made. They convey, I conceive, distinct fundamental objections to the Bill and to its principles. I would say further that I think the clause in this 431 Bill upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary relies—the clause providing for the appointment of the visiting committee of the magistrates who he intends should take the place of the visiting justices—would place any magistrate who may accept the post in a false position with the court of quarter sessions, for whoever accepts this function will cease to be a magistrate like his brother magistrates, while not ceasing to be a justice of the peace, he will become the instrument of another power. In fact, his position will become utterly ambiguous. He will not sit in the court of which he is a member like the other members of that court. He must be either their superior or their suspect. The right hon. Gentleman says that he cannot dispense with the assistance of the visiting justices; but he is about to supersede them by instruments he is about to select from the courts of quarter sessions. The reports of these instruments are to be made to him, not to the court of quarter sessions; he will receive reports from individual justices instead of the collective reports of the courts which now reach him through their chairman. I hope the House will excuse me for having thus detained them in stating the objections which I entertain to this Bill. But, before I conclude, there is yet one other objection to which I would direct attention. The reformatory system in this country began in my own county. For 16 years I subscribed to a reformatory before any Act of Parliament was passed on the subject, and I do not know that in any part of England an institution of the sort was founded earlier than in Warwickshire. We had power to commit to a reformatory school, we had only to find the means of establishing a reformatory school—we did this by private subscription; and when you tell me that there has been no improvement in prison discipline originated or carried out by the county justices, I ask you to look at this fact—that the reformatory system in this country was founded by us, despised and condemned justices of the peace, and of this my own county presents the first example. If you separate completely the prison system from the judicial system of the magistracy, you will build a wall against the improvements, such as we have hitherto been enabled to carry out, and instead of our being 432 able to empty the prisons, you shall fill them. These full prisons may be administered by officers of the central authority all clad in blue, according to a rigid system of uniformity; but you risk the contentment of the people which has hitherto been assured under the ancient constitutional system of local self-government, which made every man to feel that he would be tried, and, if need be, punished, not only by his peers, but by men who were responsible to his neighbours and their neighbours for their conduct; but if, by means of this measure, you substitute a central system, you will in the end succeed in doing this—you will centralize discontent, and thus enter upon a system which has proved the fruitful source of convulsion in France.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he was sure his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), earnest as he was upon every subject in which he took an interest, had no need to apologize to the House for having suggested the views he had just laid before them, but he could not help congratulating the Radical Members below the Gangway opposite, as his hon. Friend had called them, on the accession to their ranks of a very powerful ally. His hon. Friend had stated what he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) could not, for the life of him, perceive—namely, that the Bill was an interference with the Common Law of the country. On the contrary, it was an interference merely with the government of the prisons of the country, which was regulated by statute law. He did not think that another of the views of his hon. Friend would find favour with his new allies below the Gangway, for not only was it a matter of absolute political necessity, but it was a matter of mere justice to those citizens of the United Kingdom who had gone to found our colonies, that transportation was abolished. They had had a speech from the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow), who was, perhaps, the only Member who had spoken who had travelled in respect of the Bill out of the history of last Session. The hon. Baronet's suggestion to divide England into circuit districts, and regulate prisons on that plan, though he might have given some attention to the matter, had not been sufficiently worked 433 out, because he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) ventured to think that the hon. Baronet had not considered the difficulties, quarrels, and jealousies which must ensue from that system. The whole idea on which the hon. Baronet founded his system was that the present Acts could be so supplemented as to be made perfectly suitable to carry out the objects to effect which the present Bill was brought before the House. Those objects were—economy in management, the reform of criminals by industrial employment, and the relief of local burdens. He (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) asked whether the Act of 1865, having been passed for those objects, had afforded sufficient encouragement to the Home Secretary by the way in which it had been carried out, to make them think that by merely taking further powers they would attain the end they all had in view? The Bill of 1865, while helping the authorities in the localities, laid down a system of rules which were to be sanctioned by the Secretary of State, in which the mode of governing the prisons was to be sanctioned as regarded diet, discipline, and other matters of administration. Power was also given for the removal of prisoners from one prison to another. But what had been the result? The local magistrates throughout the country were not of one mind, and the rules so sanctioned were not carried into effect; and under the present system a period of four years must elapse before the Secretary of State could compel action whenever the prison authorities refused to carry out the rules. The Bill would remedy that, and moreover, would bring about an immense saving. The hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone had said that under the present system economy would not be secured, and he referred to three Government prisons in which the net cost of maintenance averaged something like £35 a-head. But the hon. Baronet left out of his calculation a statement which he ought to have made. He ought to have told the House that the prisons managed by Government had a much larger proportion of officers than those not under its control; and the cost of maintenance in the various prisons he took as examples showed that that if all the local authorities in England had only followed out the principle by which such economy was arrived at 434 there would have been no need for the present Bill. Convincing as the figures the hon. Baronet quoted appeared to be, they were not absolutely flawless, for if he had gone a little further he would have found them refuted. He had only to turn to the county prison of Leicestershire, where the cost per prisoner was £42 13s. 1d.; to that of Stamford, where it was £69; or to that of Nottingham, where it was £46, to find this verified. He mentioned those facts to show that the argument from figures was not perfectly reliable. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire urged that if the Bill passed the Secretary of State could set aside the rules which were made by the statute. That was not so; those rules would remain as enacted in 1865. The power the Secretary of State took was the power possessed by the prison authority—namely, the quarter sessions. That power might supplement the rules laid down by the statute by regulations framed for the visiting justices, and the power to make such regulations was now proposed to be transferred to the Secretary of State; but all the safeguards provided by the Act of 1865 remained. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire had asked, would not the magistrates be despised and condemned if they worked under the system to be established under this Bill?
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I said that their position would be despised and disregarded as an independent authority.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he had misunderstood his hon. Friend, but he must say from his own experience as a magistrate that he could not believe that men who performed the duties of justices—acting from the motives which actuated them—would be at all influenced by such an idea. He did not believe that men who voluntarily visited lunatic asylums under much the same condition of things would be placed in any such degraded position as the hon. Member had asserted they would be by acting under the powers of this Bill. So far from the visiting justices sustaining any loss of dignity, the Home Secretary must depend upon them for the maintenance and working of the prisons throughout the country. The duties of the visiting justices would be almost identical with their present functions. They would be the guardians of the prisoners and their protectors against any injustice, 435 cruelty, and wrong that might be done to them. They would then as now also have to administer the rules laid down by the Secretary of State; and they would, in fact, have the supervision of the prisons subject to the authority of the Home Secretary, the only difference being that they would report to the Secretary of State instead of to the quarter sessions. He believed, also, that they would have the same authority over prison discipline when the Bill became law as they possessed at the present moment. In all matters of urgent necessity the visiting justices would have to act, and he doubted not but that they would work as well and as willingly with the Home Office as they did at present. As to the question of patronage, he agreed with those hon. Members who combated the idea of handing it over to the Government, as they alleged this Bill proposed to do. But that was not the case. The nomination of officers to be employed would remain, as at present, with the local authorities, the only difference being, that under the Bill all appointments would be subject to the control of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The officials would become civil servants, and would be members of a general prison staff, to be employed and promoted as they deserved in any of the prisons of the country. It would be impossible to work such a system as this without a general plan of promotion, and. by it the present system would be made more efficient. Several hon. Members who addressed the House said the Bill would have the effect of handing over or confiscating the property in the prisons. But that also was a mistake. By the Bill the prisons would remain, as they now were, nominally the property of the Crown, and the relief the Government proposed to give was simply that of the expenditure of the gaol the Bill did not relieve the local authorities from their original obligation to provide the prisons, in the first instance, and the only change would be that as long as the prison continued to be used as such, so long would it remain in the name of the Homo Secretary as trustee for that county. For his own part, he believed the Bill to be a good one, and that it would do that justice to local taxation so long demanded at the hands of that House. He believed that it was the outcome of the Prisons Bill of 436 1865, and he believed also that by it the Home Secretary would be able to carry into effect a better classification as to labour, and by increasing industrial labour it would do much to diminish crime in the future. He could not believe that when a man had been taught a trade in prison he would not in many cases attempt to gain an honest living when he came out. He believed that the magistrates would work well under the Home Secretary, and that the Bill would be a lasting testimony to the ability of his right hon. Friend who now filled that office.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
said, ho would venture to trouble the House with a few observations with regard to the measure, because the position of the constituency he represented was somewhat different from all those which had been hitherto referred to. Other hon. Members had considered it from the point of one local authority, but in Birmingham two local authorities would be unseated by the measure. Not only would the visiting justices be deprived. of the management and control of the prisons which they now enjoyed, but the town council would also be deprived of its control over the financial affairs connected with the gaol. He confessed that he was not at all surprised at the fact that there should be considerable difference of opinion on both sides of the House in respect to the measure. He could sympathize with those divergencies of opinion, for he himself was divided between admiration for the objects which the Home Secretary had in view, and dissatisfaction with regard to the means by which the right hon. Gentleman hoped to achieve his end. He rejoiced, however, with regard to this division of opinion, that it had had the result of securing to them the eloquent advocacy of his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate.) If he understood the objects which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had in view, they were chiefly three-fold. He did not attach much importance to the suggestion with regard to the saving in respect of local rates, because the bribe would be a very small one; and secondly, because he thought it would be too dearly purchased. He did not think that a saving of £100,000 in local expenditure was worthy attention if it entailed an increased Imperial expenditure of double 437 that amount. But the right hon. Gentleman, in his efforts to secure uniformity of discipline, would have the hearty support of every magistrate in the United Kingdom. All of them must feel the importance of any measure securing that result. Not less important was the abolition of unnecessary gaols, and the consequent reduction of expenditure and labour. Lastly, it was important to settle the vexed question of the character of prison labour, and to remedy the undoubted injustice which existed in consequence of the concentration of this labour upon one or two trades which it entirely disturbed. He understood, with regard to this last point, that the right hon. Gentleman had pledged himself to find a remedy, and he (Mr. Chamberlain) had no doubt that justice would be meted out to those who had a claim to it. But he could not support the second reading of the Bill in reference to this matter, because he could not find any provisions in the Bill which would give the remedy sought. And as regarded the other objects, they were purchased at too high a price, at the expense of a distinct slur on local government and management. In the first place, it appeared that the patronage of all these local institutions was to be vested, as regarded the chief offiicials, in the hands of the Secretary of State, and as regarded the subordinate officials, in the hands of the Prison Commission, on the nomination of the visiting committee. This plan combined all possible objections, for on the one hand, if there was any reason to anticipate local jobbery or favouritism, there would be room for its exercise. On the other hand, if there was merely a nomination by the local authority, and not election, there would not be local supervision. As regarded the financial arrangements, those were to be taken from the town councils in boroughs where there were gaols, or from the visiting committee of justices in the county, and placed also in the hands of the Prison Commission. He had considerable experience of Government contracts, and while, on the one hand, he had never seen the slightest reason for believing in the existence of any fraud on the part of Government officials, while he found that manufacturers and others had been treated with courtesy and consideration by the Government, yet he was convinced that no sys- 438 tem could be devised which was less competent to secure the best article at the lowest price. It would not compare for a moment with the advantages enjoyed by local authorities doing similar work and possessing multifarious sources of knowledge. These were his chief objections. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had spoken of the enormous increase in the expenditure likely to result from the transfer. To that he (Mr. Chamberlain) attached only a secondary importance. What he looked at chiefly was the dignity of their local life. It was quite true that the Bill proposed to preserve some of the authority of the visiting justices. The hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) had thought it necessary to speak in defence of the visiting justices, and anticipated their willingness to accept the functions entrusted to them; but he (Mr. Chamberlain) thought that if the Bill became law the visiting justices would have great occasion to defend themselves for their very existence. They might become ornamental, but would not be considered useful. Duties were still to be imposed on those gentlemen, which, although necessary, were not of a high character, and from time to time they were to visit the prisons, but all knew how purely formal those visits to the gaols would become. They were to report upon any abuses they might find in the prisons; but he need scarcely say that when all the prisons were under the authority and management of the Secretary of State and the Prison Commissioners, no abuses would exist. They might report if necessary upon any urgent need of repairs in prisons; if a drain required alteration, or a slate were loosened by a hurricane—they might report upon such things, but they had not the power to have the repairs done. They might take cognizance of a pressing necessity, but would have no further power. The functions left to the visiting justices would be limited, and almost of a contemptible character. But there was another authority set up in the form of Prison Commissioners, who were to have co-ordinate jurisdiction; two authorities would be working at the same time and for the same object. Although there were these serious objections to the Bill, yet he was bound to admit there were advantages pointed out by the Home Secretary, and he could not have brought 439 himself to vote against the second reading, if he had not perceived an alternative, whereby all the advantages could be secured, and at the same time the authority of the local administration remain intact. Under the Act the Prison Commissioners were, in the exercise of their function, to conform to any direction from time to time made by the Secretary of State. He did not doubt reforms in the management of prisons under the control of Commissioners would result from instructions given by the Home Secretary. But why should not the Home Secretary give those instructions and those regulations for the advantage of the magistrates and visiting justices? It had been said that as the cost of maintaining prisons was to be removed from them so they should have no voice or authority in the management; but, as a matter of fact, though that might be a bribe to some small districts, it was not sufficient to satisfy the majority of local authorities. The Birmingham gaol represented a capital expenditure of £100,000, and that Birmingham was asked to transfer to Her Majesty's Government. That was no insignificant contribution as compared with the annual expenditure upon the prison. The hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State had combated the term "confiscation," which had been used as describing this enforced contribution from the local authorities, but he confessed that that must be the light in which the measure would generally present itself. If it was not confiscation, at least it was disendowment, to which on that occasion he took very serious objections. If the gaols were to be taken for the sake of convenience and uniformity, why were reformatories and industrial schools excluded by a clause from the operation of the Bill? They were left under the control of their voluntary subscribers. For the reasons which he had given, he would vote against the Bill; and it was with pleasure he found the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) joining with him against the radical and revolutionary proceedings of Her Majesty's Government.
§ SIR WALTER BARTTELOT
said, that it was of course more agreeable to support any measure proposed by those whom one generally was proud to serve under and to follow. But it was the 440 duty of men calling themselves independent when they conscientiously differed from their Leaders that they should express fully their views, without which no man was worthy of a seat in that House. He accordingly did so, and at the same time wished to express the pleasure with which he had listened to the views of the last speaker, expressed as they were with a convincing calmness, which was so acceptable in that House. One of his main objections to the Bill was, that it interfered with the local self-government of which they were all so proud, and he had hoped that his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would have been satisfied with his victory last Session, and would have made more concessions to his opponents now. Although the Bill had certainly been improved in some respects, yet it was not improved in the way they had hoped it would be. In introducing the Bill this Session his right hon. Friend shadowed forth great improvements which did not appear to have been made, and certainly not to the extent expected; he had provided, no doubt, for short imprisonments for minor offences as he stated last year he intended to do. It was manifest that in such cases in which money payments could be substituted for imprisonment, people ought to be confined as far as possible in their own localities, so that they could communicate with the friends who might release them from imprisonment. This, no doubt, was a great improvement. In cases of imprisonment for three months, the last two were to be employed in remunerative labour or the learning of trade. This was good as far as it went; but it involved the danger that in the effort to make gaols pay the labour would not be so deterrent as it ought to be. Another point conceded was this—that small towns and places requiring accommodation for their prisoners would have to pay, and the larger towns and places in which the gaols were situated which afforded that extra accommodation would receive the payment. But his hon. Friend the Secretary of State went no further than that. The responsibility would still rest on the local authority to find and maintain the gaols. If the Home Secretary said a gaol was not sufficient, it might be sold, whatever it had cost, and the locality would have to pay for prison accommodation at the rate of £120 per cell, should the sum 441 realized not be sufficient to pay that cost per cell for the accommodation required. He thought that very hard, indeed. They were going to take from the ratepayers of the country what they had subscribed for without giving them any compensation whatever. If that was not confiscation, he did not know what was. If the right hon. Gentleman formerly Secretary of State for War (Lord Cardwell) had come down to the House and said—"I intend to take all your Militia stores without paying for them," no man in that House would have condemned that so much as his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. That was a parallel case. The question of centralization was a difficult one to argue, no doubt, and it was equally undeniable that there was some centralization in the Act of 1865; but, as the hon. Member for North Northumberland (Mr. Ridley) had stated, it was a centralization of degrees. The main objects of this measure might be carried out by the local authorities, the smaller prisons being scheduled and certain powers given to the Secretary of State; but although he would not say that the Bill was a slur on the visiting justices, it certainly appeared as if the Secretary of State had no confidence that they would carry out the stringent rules and regulations he laid down as well as the Commissioners who were absolutely in his power. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had himself admitted that the Act of 1865 had done great things, and if a similar Act were passed in 1877 there would be no reason to complain of the manner in which the magistrates would carry out their duties; for he (Sir Walter Barttelot) would lay it down as a direct fact that the visiting justices would delight to conform to rules of the Secretary of State, especially when they knew that they were carrying out a discipline which was to be universal. The results of this measure had been fairly shadowed out by the hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Mr. J. R. Yorke). It would be followed by the centralization of the police. No doubt, many arguments might be adduced in favour of such a measure, especially in the metropolis, where Temple Bar formed the arbitrary limit of two separate and independent systems of police. Again, it would be argued how much better it would be if the county police had jurisdic- 442 tion over the towns. But it would not stop there. Next would come stipendiary magistrates, though not, perhaps, under a Conservative Government; but they did not know what might happen in the future. He was sorry that it might be said hereafter that a Conservative Government was the first to cast a stone at the magistrates. It was a great pride in many men to become possessors of land so that they might become magistrates, and he was sorry that any blow should have been cast at a body who had been acknowledged to have done such services to the State by his right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
hoped, as several pointed allusions had been made to the course taken by the late Administration with regard to local government reform, he might be allowed to say a few words. The House ought to be congratulated on the fact that the debate had been conducted with conspicuous moderation on both sides, able and interesting speeches having been made, irrespective of Party considerations, by Conservatives who opposed the Government, and by hon. Members on his side of the House who supported the Home Secretary. His hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) had pointed out with great clearness and ability that, so far as the precise objects of the Bill were concerned, many on both sides wished to see them carried out; and so far as a classification of prisoners was concerned, and so far as administrative reform of the prisons was secured by the Bill, he (Mr. Goschen), for one, thought much was to be said in its favour; and he would further confess that the views expressed by many chairmen of quarter sessions and by many quarter sessions collectively had made a considerable impression on his mind. They considered it a move in the right direction. But it was said the Bill should be discussed by itself and should not be mixed up with local government reform; but the right hon. Gentleman must admit that it had been put forward as part of their scheme of local government reform, and it had been described by the hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Mr. J. R. Yorke) as a redemption of the pledge given by the Government and an instalment of the debt they had contracted upon this subject. He should like to know from the 443 Chancellor of the Exchequer what he had to say in answer to that, and also how many other instalments were due. Last year that right hon. Gentleman was pressed to say how many more instalments were due, as considerable sums had already been paid, and something more was to be done this year; but at present it was not known whether this year would bear that strain upon its finances. He (Mr. Goschen) saw that the date mentioned for payments under the Bill was the 1st April, 1878; and seeing that there was an increase of £500,000 in the Civil Service Estimates—which might be still further increased—he thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer, as pointed out the other evening by the Leader of the Opposition, was in his heart grateful to those hon. Members who last year opposed the Bill, because if it had passed it would have imposed an increased charge upon the Revenue of this present year. The Government had thus escaped a difficulty by, what the right hon. Gentleman would pardon him for calling, his Paulo post futurum system of taxation. Last year the House was told that there was little detail in the Bill, and that few estimates had been prepared in connection with it, because there had not been time in which to do it. A year, however, had passed, and they were still without detailed estimates. Though his right hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) had asked the Home Secretary whether he would not prepare a Paper showing the cost of maintenance, building, and repairs, and how he had arrived at the estimated economies, the House was still without the means of checking the calculations of the right hon. Gentleman. Doubts had been expressed even by the hon. Member for North Northumberland (Mr. Ridley) on the point of economy, and if the right hon. Gentleman rested his case on the economies to be effected by the Bill he feared it would not be passed by the House. The hon. Member for East Gloucestershire stated very frankly that to him relief to local burdens was the great attraction of the Bill. But there was not that difference between the two sides of the House as to the desirability of giving relief to local taxation which hon. Members opposite supposed; the difference was as to the mode in which relief should be given. They on that (the Opposition) side did not desire that 444 it should be given by continued Imperial grants from the Revenue to local committees. They were not anxious that measures should be brought in to give relief to local taxation which would not be passed upon their own merits; but they were anxious that local government reform should go on side by side with relief to local taxation. Their protest against the Bill last year was in part directed against the course which the Government had pursued from the first moment they came into office—namely, to pay their debts in a manner which was not consonant with the best system of local government. The hon. Member for North Northumberland in his able speech approved of the protests constantly made against centralization, and hoped it would be carried no further, and he did not take the view that the protests against it were an empty cry. Again, the hon. Member, making a distinct protest against the views of hon. Members below the Gangway, said he was not in favour of the transfer of the police; and he (Mr. Goschen) was delighted to see from the manner in which the remark was cheered by right hon. Gentlemen opposite that it was not one of the modes in which local taxation was to be relieved by Her Majesty's Government. But his hon. Friend went on to say—"Look at this measure by itself; it is a good measure, and therefore do not let us be carried away by the cry of 'centralization.'" He (Mr. Goschen) hoped the House would pardon him if he made this observation, that it was too much the tendency of this House of Commons to look at every measure only by itself—not to look back to precedents or forward to consequences, but to say—"This is a good thing in itself; let us do it because it is good, and not be led away by any general arguments. Let us not look back to precedents, because precedents are musty; nor forward to consequences, because consequences may be visionary." But he looked to the political character of this measure, and the House would pardon him if he protested against it, because, however good in itself, it was part and parcel of the legislation going in a dangerous direction. His right hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) had said—"What is centralization? It is simply the concentration of power in the Government; 445 and if the Government have the means to do good why should we object?" He (Mr. Goschen) did not object to the Government having more power, but he did object to anything which, as had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), in any way diminished the dignity of local life and institutions. He objected to a diminution of local activity, and to the doctrine that because the State was able to do a thing equally well it was wise for the State to undertake it. His doctrine was the contrary. It was this—"Let the localities perform as much work as they can; draw into the service of the State as many men belonging to as many classes as it can, fasten on them fresh responsibilities, and increase the dignity of their local life, and do not say because the State would do it equally well we must, therefore, transfer to it functions which have long been well performed by the localities." It was well known that this House was year by year becoming more overworked, the demands on the House were daily increasing, and with those demands, with all its industry, it was not able to keep pace. Panaceas had been proposed for that overwork which he entirely repudiated and rejected, and among them, it was proposed that the work of Parliament should be diminished by the separate countries which composed the-United Kingdom apportioning that work among themselves, but that was not the way in which to relieve the work of Parliament. He wished to see the Imperial Parliament relieved, but he was not for any modified Home Rule. There was a talk of Home Rule; but he knew only of one "home"—the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland; he knew only of one "Rule"—the Imperial rule of the Lords and Commons of this Realm; and he would not by an indulgent or wearied turn of the windlass loosen the chain which bound all parts of the Empire together. It was by other means that he would seek to relieve the heavy work which Parliament had to perform. The way in which he would do so—if it was to be relieved—was by strengthening all local institutions, by increasing local work; by county organizations and municipalities and local bodies of the country generally undertaking duties which Parliament was not able to perform. His right hon. Friend the 446 Member for Sandwich asked whether we had got institutions which could perform these functions. No, we had not, but he wanted to establish them. We did not want merely County Financial Boards, but local institutions through the length and breath of the land which would be able to cope with the work which the country wished to have done. He was sorry to see work for local purposes, for financial purposes, for administrative purposes, and which would re-invigorate the counties, taken away from the local authorities and thrown on the Imperial Government. Allusion had been made to the schemes of the late Ministry for local Government. Certainly the late Government had an ideal before them and a plan which they were anxious to carry out in its integrity. They had no time to carry it out, but their ideal was this—that they should work up to a general reform of their own institutions. They knew what they wanted, and knew now what they meant. The present Government, however, were dealing piecemeal with the question; and, without desiring to subject Her Majesty's Government to adverse criticism, he contended that there was danger in going on passing measure by measure, even if the whole of them were in the same direction, unless they drew attention to what they were doing and looked the situation fairly in the face. It was not his desire to embarrass the Government upon this particular question, especially after what had occurred at quarter sessions, which, as he had said, had made a great impression upon his mind. He did not see in the Bill any economy, though there might be administrative improvement. But he did wish to know the mind of the Government upon this question. What was the "debt" which hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway said was owing by the State to local ratepayers? How much did the State owe, and what would satisfy hon. Gentlemen? Were they going Session after Session to demand further instalments, or had we at last reached the extreme limit both of centralization and of sops given on account of local taxation out of Imperial funds? These were material questions. At the same time, looking at the general opinion of the country, he did not see that it was necessary to carry their opposition to this particular measure beyond a protest against the general policy of Her 447 Majesty's Government upon this subject.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
wished to join in the congratulations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) as to the manner in which from beginning to end the debate had been conducted. Notwithstanding that it had been his misfortune to find several valued supporters of the Government differing with him upon the merits of the Bill, he could not help being struck with the moderation of the tone in which the measure had been discussed on both sides of the House. He had no desire to take the debate out of the line in which it had hitherto been conducted; but, without wishing to raise a disturbance on the points elucidated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he was anxious to say a few words in reply. The right hon. Gentleman had called attention, and objected in the first place, to the fact that the Bill was not to come into operation till April 1, 1878, so far as any great expense was concerned, though Commissioners must be appointed some time before. The reason for the delay was not on account of the financial operation of the Bill, but because, whenever such a measure was passed, it would be quite impossible for the Government to take over the prisons from the time of its passing. It would be necessary for Commissioners to go carefully into the circumstances of each prison in order to arrange for taking the whole over at some future date. In the next place, the right hon. Gentleman hinted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had rather given way to Paulo post futurum legislation or expenditure. He could not help reminding the right hon. Gentleman, however, that not very long since, in the very place in which he now stood, Lord Cardwell, as Secretary for War, proposed a charge for the abolition of Purchase which extended over a very considerable period. Again, Lord Cardwell contemplated the formation of an Army of Reserve which in the course of 12 years was to cost a considerable sum; and no one could forget the Education Act of 1870, under which the State had already contributed £1,500,000, besides £8,000,000 which had fallen, unfortunately, upon local taxation. These were questions involving millions; and when he came to speak of what was by comparison a paltry sum of £250,000, he did 448 not think that the present Government could fairly be charged with any ulterior object in postponing the operation of the financial portion of the Bill till April, 1878. The right hon. Gentleman further said that what he wanted from the Government was some comprehensive scheme of county administration and reform, and that the late Government had a definite plan in their minds, and knew what they meant. Now, he (Mr. Cross) thought the House would agree with him that if they had a plan they never told the country what it was, and if they knew themselves what they meant they took care not to let the House into the secret. Then the right hon. Gentleman said the Government should have kept this plan in reserve, because then, when our comprehensive scheme of local reform was proposed, we should have a bribe to offer the local ratepayers. Now, he was rather sorry that the right hon. Gentleman had referred to what he (Mr. Cross) should disdain to call a bribe. Then there was the fear of centralization. He would not yield to any man in his intense admiration and love for local self-government. In his opinion, it was the great strength of this country. Nothing had made our country stronger or our Constitution more likely to last than the great freedom of local self-government, which had been given not only to bodies in the country, but to our municipalities. He assured the House that he would never take one step wit-tingly to infringe upon the system of local self-government. He was for extending it as far as possible, in order that the several localities might be free to govern themselves according to their several wants and requirements. He was as strong an advocate as the right hon. Gentleman could be for drawing into local institutions with that view men of all ranks and classes. And he might remind the House that the Government had taken considerable steps in that direction already. They had thrown a great amount of burden upon the localities. What, he might ask, would be done by the Education Act of last year? What had they done by the sanitary legislation of last year? For his part, he was entirely in favour of throwing upon the localities the expense of everything that was necessary and suitable for their management; but there was one thing in which the reason 449 for throwing expense upon the localities failed. They could not do so where the object in view was to obtain uniformity of management, discipline, and punishment throughout the country as in the case of gaols. If they threw those duties broadcast over the whole country the variety they got was fatal to uniformity. Therefore, in taking the management of the prisons out of the hands of the localities, he contended that he was not depriving them of any power which they ought to possess. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) said, that one motive for the promoting of this Bill was that the officials of the Home Office wanted to get power and patronage into their hands. So far as he was concerned he could state that such a motive never crossed his mind. [Mr. RYLANDS: I never said it did.] The only object which he had from beginning to end in the Bill was to promote in the prisons of the country that uniformity of discipline, punishment, and management which he believed essential to the proper carrying out of the law. But the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) asked where would those instalments end, and how many were to follow; and it was suggested by some hon. Members that the police might be next dealt with. Well, on that subject he might state that the police stood on a totally different footing from the prisons; and that, in his opinion, although in regard to the police there were certain anomalies which ought to be remedied, the circumstances of the case referring to that body were wholly different. So long as the law threw upon the municipality or the county the necessity of maintaining order, so long must the localities have the control of the police. Then, as to the question of instalments, he might refer the right hon. Gentleman to a celebrated debate six or seven years ago, from which he would find that they were brought very nearly to an end, and to the speech of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the debate on the Prisons Bill last year, from which the right hon. Gentleman would be able to draw his own conclusions. But the hon. Member for Burnley said, that the Bill would destroy the patronage of the visiting justices, and last year the hon. Gentleman the late Lord Mayor (Mr. Alderman Cotton) in- 450 veighed very strongly against the dignity and privileges of the City of London being interfered with. [Mr. Alderman COTTON: Of the magistrates generally.] Of course, including those of the City of London. But really, as a matter of common sense, could they talk of "dignity and privileges" in reference to the custody of 18,000, or 20,000, or any number of prisoners? He would ask the hon. Member for Burnley and his hon. Friend the late Lord Mayor could they seriously speak of the dignity and privileges of magistrates being interfered with because the prisons were, as the Bill proposed, about to be taken from their jurisdiction? It was a very disagreeable duty which was imposed upon the magistrates by the statute, and they had discharged it not only to the best of their ability, but to the advantage of the country; but he could not understand how it was a dignity or a privilege. If it were an infringement of the dignity or privilege of the local magistracy to take prisons containing 18,000 prisoners out of their jurisdiction, was it not equally so for the State to take the control of 10,000 convict prisoners from them, as it had done for years, or even for the Judges to sentence a criminal to penal servitude in a convict prison, rather than to a short term of imprisonment? Where was the line to be drawn? Of this he was sure—that the House and the magistracy throughout the country would see that the argument which had been so urged could not stand for a moment. The hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow) said he did not think any material saving would be effected by the Bill. Well, he (Mr. Assheton Cross) had never brought it forward as a measure especially intended to promote economy. He believed, however, that it would effect great economy and a considerable relief to local burdens; but his main object had been an improvement in the discipline of gaols, and combined with that a relief to local burdens. On the average of five or six years the total expenditure on prisons amounted to £589,000, and, deducting the interest on the loans, the amount would be £547,700. Of that sum of £547,700 the Government believed that nearly £100,000 might be saved by economy in management. He had said last year that he could not pledge himself that 451 such a saving would be effected, but he believed it was quite possible to be done. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) asked last year why Returns on the subject had not been produced, and he could now state that all the necessary information could be obtained from the Papers upon the Table of the House. Estimating the expenditure, therefore, at £497,000 per annum, at the present time £101,000 came out of the public revenue, and £386,000 was provided for by the local rates. According to the calculations he had made, £381,000, instead of £101,000, being an addition of £279,000, would have to be provided for out of Imperial taxation, as against £386,000, which would be saved to the local ratepayers. The hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone had alleged that it was unlikely that the Government would be able to maintain the prisons more cheaply than the local authorities, inasmuch as convict prisons were more expensive comparatively than borough and county prisons were. He might remind the hon. Baronet that there was nothing so deceptive as figures, though, of course, he hoped his own were correct. Convict prisons were exceptionally expensive. The men were under long sentences, had heavy work, and therefore required to be well fed, and the officers had greater responsibility thrown upon them and had to suffer greater expense, and therefore they had to be better paid. In addition to the cost of the conveyance of prisoners and providing them with new liberty clothing and gratuities on their discharge, the transfer of officers had to borne by them. All those items made a considerable difference when the average cost of each prisoner was struck and was compared with that of prisoners in other gaols. The average cost for a considerable number of years of 18,000 prisoners in county and borough gaols amounted to £23 17s. 6d. against £30 15s. 6d. in convict prisons. When, however, the value of the labour came to be taken into account, it appeared that that of the prisoner in county and borough gaols amounted to £3 4s. 5d., while that of the prisoner in the convict prison amounted to £19. The hon. Member for Burnley had remarked that it was not fair to compare the value of the labour, because in borough and county gaols so many of the prisoners 452 were only sentenced for a short term, during which the value of their labour was almost nil; but he did not think that that argument was supported by the facts. Objection had been taken to the Bill on the score of patronage, and it was said the Government was going to get a large amount of patronage into its own hands, and that the power of nomination to be conferred upon the visiting justices was illusory, because the Government might reject their nominees. He looked upon that, however, as one of the merits of the case, for the subordinate officials would all be members of one service, and it was most desirable that the subordinate should be appointed not to a particular gaol, but to the service, so that they might have an incentive to do their work efficiently and might be transferred from gaol to gaol as their merits deserved. A great number of men would have the opportunity of entering into the service, and the probability was that a considerable number of them would be very good men. Another objection that had been taken to the Bill referred to the position of the visiting justices; but he must remark that if the country was to spend the money on the gaols, it must have the control of them. He had, however, said from the first that the Government would not be able to carry on the prisons throughout the country without the assistance of the visiting justices. If hon. Gentlemen would look at the Schedule of the Gaol Act of 1865, they would find that a great number of things in a prison had to be done by the authority of some one on the spot, and for which it would be impossible to send up to London for instruction. If any hon. Member thought the visiting justices were nominally to be done away with because all their duties were prescribed for them, he would find himself very much mistaken. The magistrates would still have to see that all the rules laid down by the Secretary of State were carried out by the officers. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) said he would vote for the second reading of this Bill, if he had not got an alternative which he thought would be better. He wanted to preserve local jurisdiction, local control, local self - government. That was his sole object, otherwise he would vote for the Bill. What was his alternative? Why this—that if the Se- 453 cretary of State would draw up all the rules that were to be observed by the visiting justices they would obey them. But if all the rules were to be drawn up by the Secretary of State, where was the local self-government? Local self-government and local control were preserved in the Bill, and therefore the alternative which the hon. Member for Birmingham had proposed had fallen down, and he (Mr. Cross) claimed his vote. He must for a moment refer to what fell from his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). His hon. Friend took a constitutional position. He said gaols now would be subject to arbitrary rules of the Secretary of State and would not be regulated by law. But his hon. Friend was in error, because if ever there was an Act in which minute directions were given for the enforcement of it, it was the Act of 1865. That Act would not be repealed by this Bill, but incorporated with it, and the Secretary of State would be just as much bound by the provisions of the Act of 1865 as the courts of quarter sessions were. He contended that no arbitrary rules could be drawn up by the Secretary of State, because he would be strictly tied down by the Act of 1865. Only one word more as to magistrates and gaols. His hon. Friend said the Bill would interfere with Common Law, and quoted Lord Coke; but Lord Coke had laid it down that gaols could only be erected by the authority of Parliament. [Mr. NEWDEGATE: May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to read the words of Lord Coke?] Lord Coke's words were—The principle of law is that the public liberty and welfare require that gaols should only be erected by the authority of Parliament.Gaols, therefore, were always created by statute. But statutes could abolish them without interfering with the Common Law. Equally, so far as the justices were concerned, they had no power by Common Law over the gaols, and all these particular duties had been put upon the justices by Acts of Parliament. But the Common Law rights of the justices were not interfered with, only the statutory powers which they had had been granted to them for the performance of certain duties. He quite granted that in many cases justices had most admirably performed their duties, but — and here it was he found the only fault— 454 justices, being totally separate and independent bodies, had no means of knowing what was going on in those parts of the country over which they had not jurisdiction, and therefore there were no means of insuring uniformity of discipline in gaols. That was really the whole of the Bill. Its objects were to effect an improvement in discipline and secure uniformity in management. He believed that that would lead to a saving of expense, and, as a subsidiary result, be a great relief of local burdens. If, as he hoped, he had shown all these improvements could be made without any great radical change, and he did not believe there would be any such change, he hoped the Bill would be read a second time that night, as in the last Session of Parliament, by an overwhelming majority.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 279; Noes 69: Majority 210.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday next.