HC Deb 22 February 1877 vol 232 cc867-71

Transfer of Prisons.

Clause 4 (Maintenance of prisons and prisoners out of public funds), postponed.

Clause 5 (Prisons to vest in Secretary of State).


moved to insert after the word "offices," in page 1, line 25, "except as hereinafter provided." The particular point to which his Amendment was directed was the appointment of the higher officers of the prison—the surgeon and chaplain. The recommendations for appointment should be made by the visiting justices, whose local knowledge would better enable them to select proper persons than any office in London could do; but, of course, the power of dismissal would remain with the Home Secretary. He also thought the visiting justices should have some power in regulating the punishment of criminals. If all patronage were taken away from them there would be little inducement to anybody to join that body.

Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 25, after the word "officers," to insert the words "except as hereinafter provided."—(Sir John Kennaway.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


could not accept the Amendment, because he thought it would be deterimental to the service. As to the inducements to become a visiting justice, he thought no man could be more usefully employed than in seeing that no unnecessary hardship was inflicted on prisoners by gaolers and officers. That being the function of justices, care must be taken that there was nothing like a conflict of authority, and it was, therefore, in his opinion, most desirable that all the officers should be appointed by one head. The justices would be able to recommend fit persons for the general prison service; but those persons would, of course, have to undergo the usual examination before they were appointed.


said, that it was not intended to interfere with the power of appointment vested in the Home Secretary; but only to enable the visiting committees to recommend to him fit persons. He, however, thought the question involved was one which had much better be raised on the 11th clause.


was of opinion that at least the nominations to the offices of surgeon and chaplain should be left with the visiting justices. The surgeon must be a local man.


said that, much as he objected to the Bill, he wished it to be made as perfect as possible, and was satisfied that the less the magistrates had to do with the disposal of patronage the better it would be for them. As they were not to have the appointment of governors he did not think it desirable that they should have any other appointment. They might, however, recommend fitting persons for the various posts which would have to be filled up, and he felt sure those recommendations would have their due weight.


said, that the hon. Baronet who had last spoken had taken an extremely sound view. He (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) thought that all the patronage ought to be vested in one authority, and that as the justices were not to have the whole, it was not desirable that they should have a portion. Any division of responsibility in such a matter would be a mistake. As to what had been said about patronage, it was one of the most disagreeable things connected with office, and no Home Secretary would desire to have it for his own sake. He believed that as a rule magistrates were actuated by the best of motives in their bestowal of patronage, and it was not from any distrust of them that he thought it, on the whole, best that it should be taken from them in the present instance. He was convinced no magistrate worthy of the name would be actuated by any feelings arising from its loss in contributing, as far as he was able, to the good working of the Bill.


asked whether the visiting committee were to have any connection with quarter sessions? ["No."]


contended that the real question at issue was how the services of the best men were to be secured, and that the magistrates should have the re- cognized position of being called upon to recommend persons for the various offices. He was glad that the matter of patronage was repudiated, and believed there was no greater delusion than that of supposing that the justices were anxious to possess it. If it were not presumptuous he would ask the right hon. Gentleman to re-consider the point. He desired as little change as possible, and he wished no more to be made than was necessary to carry out the Bill. He did not wish to retain the appointment, but the recommendation of the officers by the visiting justices.


said, he had no doubt but that the recommendation of the visiting justices would be listened to by the Home Secretary, whoever ho might be. He hoped that the hon. Baronet would press his Motion to a division.


remarked that, of course, the magistrates might recommend any number of people, but that the adoption of the words of the Amendment would, if they had any meaning at all, be taken to mean that the magistrates were practically to have the power to dictate to the Secretary of State. This being his view of the effect of the Amendment, he must stand by the Bill as it was.


said, it was unfortunate that such an Amendment had been so suddenly brought forward. He was afraid there was something more behind than appeared on the face of it. He rejoiced that the right hon. Gentleman intended to stand by the Bill and not accept the Amendment.


said, that having taken part in the drawing up of the Amendment, he disclaimed entirely that there was anything behind the Amendment that did not appear on its face. All it meant was that the best men should be appointed to these offices. The patronage was not worth having, but the visiting justices were the best able to recommend a gentleman for the office of chaplain or surgeon.


acquitted the supporters of the Amendment of any desire merely to retain patronage, but pointed out that there were other motives that there was reason to fear, particularly in connection with the appointment of chaplains. It was better to be without a statutory power if it meant nothing. The criminal law was the law of the land, and prisons which gave effect to the law ought to be national and not local institutions.


did not love this Bill, and had voted against it; but when the Home Secretary had taken upon himself the power to manage these institutions, he thought it would be unwise to maintain a double power of appointment, which would be the effect of adopting the Amendment.


also thought that the two systems could not co-exist, and that hon. Members opposite who had supported the Bill must make up their minds to surrender altogether the patronage of the visiting justices. He should, therefore, vote against the Amendment. At the same time, the Committee must not conceal from themselves that they were creating a great amount of political patronage by this measure. The Home Secretary was, no doubt, acting from the highest public motives; he was not promoting this Bill from any desire to create political patronage. But this would be the result of the measure; and whatever Party was in power, and whatever safeguards were imposed, this patronage would find its way into the hands of the Secretaries to the Treasury, with the result that a worse set of men would be appointed than would have been chosen by the visiting justice under the old system.


should vote for the Amendment, believing that the privilege of nomination in these eases might properly be left to the visiting justices, the surgeon and chaplain being officials not connected with the permanent staff of prisons.


said, he would withdraw his Amendment, reserving to himself the right of proposing it upon the Report.


(who spoke amidst cries of "Divide, divide!") said, he ought not to be interrupted, having had 30 years' experience as a magistrate. It would be dangerous to take away from magistrates their obligations to attend to these prisons. The Bill struck at the root of local government. The Romish influence was evidently at work in this Bill. This Bill was brought forward accompanied by a bribe, which sacrificed, on the one hand, the principles of the constitution, and, on the other, the interests of those who contributed to the Imperial revenue, for the benefit of the landowners.


said, he did not see in what way uniformity of discipline could be endangered by leaving the appointment of surgeons and chaplains in the hands of the local magistrates. He should like to see these appointments remain as heretofore.


said, he hoped the hon. Baronet would not withdraw the Amendment of which he had given Notice. As a rule, all the public appointments made by the magistrates of a county were with a view to the public interest. It had been said by the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter Barttelot) that if the chaplain and surgeon were not appointed by the magistrates, those officers would support the Governor through "thick and thin," and that meant that they would support him in any cruelty and tyranny. It would be better to have two officers who would take an independent part, would counteract the despotic power reposed in the governor, and would alleviate the sufferings of the prisoners, who under some governors were in a pitiable condition.

Question put.

The Committee divided:—Ayes 42; Noes 154: Majority 112.

Clause agreed to.

Back to