1. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £438,490, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892, for the Expenses of the Prisons in England, Wales, and the Colonies.
§ (5.32.) MR. PARNELL (Cork)
In dealing with this Vote I desire to refer to two questions which are intimately connected with each other. I desire to raise the question of the treatment of political prisoners suffering sentences of penal servitude in the convict establishments of this country. I shall, I think, be able to establish the claim, at all events of some of these men, to be treated as political prisoners suffering imprisonment in consequence of sentences for offences of a political character. And after I have dealt with that branch of the subject, I propose to go on to refer to the case of two prisoners now undergoing, one of them, a long sentence of penal servitude on the charge of treason felony, and the other, John Daly, undergoing a life sentence as a consequence of his conviction on the charge of treason felony. The time has now come when the whole question of the conviction and imprisonment, and continued imprisonment, of persons convicted years ago on charges of treason felony should be considered, with a view to determining whether, both on grounds of public policy and also by reference to the special circumstances of some of these cases, a measure of amnesty might not be extended to many of such prisoners. With regard to the first question, the treatment of political prisoners in convict establishments, it has never been brought before this House yet without results following. The old system of transportation for 444 political offences was abolished many years ago, and in its place was substituted the punishment of penal servitude in these convict establishments; and with this change in the system of punishment came also a change in dealing with political offenders. That change, to some extent, was also coincident with a furtherchange—the substitution for trials for high treason of accusations of treason felony, under which it was sought to degrade the persons convicted of such an offence from the title of political prisoners to that of an ordinary felon. It was under such circumstances that the Fenian prisoners convicted in 1865 and 1867, and later Mr. Davitt, and Sergeant McCarthy, Corporal Chambers, Clancy, and others were sentenced to long terms of penal servitude. The conditions of their imprisonment were on many occasions brought before the House, with the result that they were liberated—I do not say all at the same time, but one after the other—and from time to time they were liberated as a consequence of the revelations made in the Debates in this House, of the circumstances of their prison treatment. It was stated against the 1865 and 1867 men that they were not political prisoners, because they had been convicted of treason felony. But I think there is no one in these days who will any longer attempt to suggest that men of the capacity of Mr. Davitt, who was convicted of the offence of which the men of 1865 and 1867 were convicted are not entitled to be treated as political prisoners. Yet, if offences convicted by these men and Mr. Davitt were repeated to-day, and convictions were obtained, the prisoners would remain subject to the terrible treatment of your prison discipline, and which is meted out to the hardened offenders who are usually found in your convict establishments. I think that is a very great blot on the prison system of England. You will have political prisoners as long as the Irish question remains unsettled. You will always have political prisoners of some kind or other. When the right hon. Gentleman got the Coercion Act, the question of the status of political prisoners was raised from time to time, with the result that there were material ameliorations of the treatment of prisoners, though there were many vain struggles on the part of the Chief Secre- 445 tary to maintain the prison rules. I shall be asked at the outset whether I compare the aims and objects of the men of 1865 and 1867 with those of the men who were convicted in 1883–4 under the jurisdiction of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. Although their aims and objects may have been similar, I will not compare them. But I claim for the men of 1883–4 that they should be treated as political prisoners, because they were tried and convicted on political offences. I believe it is true that every one of these persons was convicted of treason felony and conspiring to levy war against the Queen. Certainly, in the case of Daly and Egan, the main portion of the evidence against them was in connection with the Irish Republican Brotherhood, dating back as far as 1873. Daly, Egan, and the others in penal servitude were tried for treason felony. They were tried for conspiring to levy war against the Queen and against her authority in her own dominions, and they were convicted of these offences. And this was done by the policy of the then Liberal Administration, in face of the fact that at the time there was the Explosive Substances Act which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, the then Homo Secretary, had obtained to give him more stringent powers in dealing with the possession of dynamite, or the causing of explosions with dynamite. Notwithstanding this Bill was passed through its three stages in one night, yet the right hon. Gentleman does not appear to have used it after it was passed into law. On the contrary; when he came to try persons accused of having dynamite in their possession—I believe he never got as far as convicting anybody who had actually caused an explosion—he placed John Daly and Egan under the treason-felony enactments. Why? I suppose we shall have some explanation from him to-night. Looking into the matter, with my own unaided judgment, it appears to me that the right hon. Gentleman took the course of trying them, not as political offenders, not under the Dynamite Act—
Order! I do not think the hon. Gentleman is entitled to enter on that subject; it is not under the Vote. The hon. Member is entitled to discuss the treatment of prisoners so far as it relates to the rules. He is also 446 entitled to discuss the rules so far as they are within the discretion of the Commissioners. He is not entitled to discuss them in connection with an exposition of the law laid down by Act of Parliament, nor will he be entitled to do what he suggested in the second part of his speech, to enter into the considerations on which the sentences should be remitted.
§ MR. PARNELL
Very well, Sir. What I propose to ask is this: that the Government extend the system of treatment to persons convicted of political offences now in penal servitude prisons that they extended to Mr. Davitt when he was re-arrested in 1881 and sent back to the same prison where John Daly and Egan are now confined. That, I apprehend, is a matter within the competency of the Commissioners—it is an alteration of the system which has no reference to the law. Indeed, Sir, I think the Statute is not concerned in this question of the treatment of penal servitude prisoners at all, because there never have been any Statutes passed for the purpose of regulating the treatment of penal servitude prisoners, who are treated in accordance with the rules framed from time to time by the authorities. The treatment of ordinary prisoners is regulated by rules framed under the provisions of Statutes, but the treatment of penal servitude prisoners is left very much to the discretion of the Home Secretary and to the Commissioners appointed by him. I think I ought to be allowed to point out that these men were tried as political offenders, but that the Statute under which they were undoubtedly arrested was not used against them. I might point out, further, that by being charged with treason-felony they could be transported for life, whereas had they been charged under the Explosive Substances Act they could only have been sent to penal servitude for 14 years. I observe that this is not contradicted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, so that I suppose he accepts my statement. In addition, by not charging these men under the Explosives Act, they were precluded from the right which that Act conferred of giving testimony in their own defence. By being charged with treason-felony and conspiring to levy war upon the Queen, John Daly 447 was sentenced to penal servitude for life, and he was not allowed to give testimony in his own defence. What I claim is that these men, whose mouths were then closed, are entitled, after the interval of eight or nine years, to be treated as political offenders. I will add this, that if Daly had been tried under the Explosive Substances Act, and for the offence for which he was arrested, and for which he was really punished, he would now be almost entitled, under the penal servitude rules, to receive his liberty as a person on ticket-of-leave. I submit it is a fair argument to use that if, in addition to the considerations I have advanced, there are grave doubts connected with the case of Daly, then there is great reason why these prisoners should receive better and more lenient treatment than that which has yet been dealt out. Daly had been arrested in Birkenhead with dynamite actually on his person. After his arrest a bottle of nitro-glycerine was found in the back garden of Egan's house where Daly was lodging. And Daly admitted on his trial, in order to free Egan from a share in his punishment, that he (Daly) was alone responsible for having placed this bottle of nitro-glycerine there. In fact, the evidence against Daly as regards being in possession of dynamite under circumstances of reasonable suspicion were overwhelming, and we should not have complained, under the circumstances, if he had received his sentence of 14 years' penal servitude after he had been allowed, under the provisions of the Statute, to give testimony in his own defence. But he received a life sentence, and he was not allowed to give testimony in his own defence. Circumstances have transpired since then which throw an entirely new colour, and put an entirely different complexion, upon the case of this unfortunate man. From information received to-day by my hon. Friend Mr. John Redmond, from the lips of Daly himself, there is every reason to believe that Daly was absolutely innocent even of the charge of having dynamite in his possession with the intent to cause an explosion; and that if he had been allowed at the trial in 1884 to state to the Jury—
Order, order! The hon. Member is going beyond the limits which I mentioned in entering 448 into the circumstances of the trial, which have nothing to do with the action of the Prison Commissioners. On the Prison Vote he can only discuss the action of the Prison Commissioners in relation to the imprisonment itself.
§ MR. PARNELL
Well, Sir, I am endeavouring to make my argument as close as possible to the subject of the treatment of the prisoners. Of course, Sir, if you say I cannot bring forward these arguments in favour of Daly's having a more lenient system of prison discipline extended to him, and later on introduce the question of an amnesty, I shall have to bring it before the Home Secretary, and also before the House of Commons itself, on the Appropriation Bill. If you hold that I am not in order in slightly referring to the circumstances of the conviction in order to strengthen my claim for proper treatment for the prisoner pending investigation of his case, I shall not persist.
I think that would be going beyond the proper limits of this discussion. The question might possibly be raised on some other Vote, but not upon this.
§ MR. PARNELL
Well, Sir, I bow to your ruling; but however inconvenient it may be, when the time comes, I shall be compelled to stop the Appropriation Bill and re-open the question on the Committee stage. Keeping myself strictly within the limits of the ruling, I will say that from information I have received to-day, from a statement made by Alderman Manton, which I will venture to read to the House, there is every reason why the stringency of the rules under which Daly is treated should be relaxed pending the re-consideration of the case, which will undoubtedly become necessary. Here is Alderman Manton's letter—
It would be quite irregular to enter into an argument for more lenient treatment on the ground that there is a claim for a remission of the sentence. However inconvenient it may be to the hon. Member or the Committee, that is a subject which could not be raised here.
§ MR. PARNELL
Very well, Sir; in that case I shall simply go on to say that in my judgment it is absolutely necessary that some discrimination should be shown with regard to the 449 treatment of these men, whose sentences are political, inasmuch as if the offences had not been of a political character the prisoners would be now almost entitled to their release. The right hon. Gentleman may dwell upon the horrors of dynamite, the terrible circumstances that then existed, the panic in this country, and the fear under which many people laboured that they might at any moment become the victims of an explosion. In reply to that, I would say that these explosions were fortunately not attended with any loss of life, and in only one or two instances with injury to person. The political motive being there—whatever the right hon. Gentleman or anybody else may think as to the character of the means used to carry out those explosions—political sentences having been imposed, and the proceedings having been of a political character, these men now, at all events, after this long interval of time are entitled, justly and fairly, for the sake of the honour and credit of this country, to some relaxation of the terrible conditions under which they are working out these sentences of penal servitude for life. With regard to the general question, very strong reasons exist why the whole case of Daly, Egan, and others should be reconsidered with a view of seeing whether absolutely innocent men have not been sent to penal servitude—men who have been convicted of these offences owing to a most disgraceful plot on the part of the Irish police and the Home Office of that day. I beg to move the reduction of the Vote by £5,000.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That Item A, Salaries, be reduced by £5,000, part of the Salaries of the Prisons Commissioners.—(Mr. Parnell.)
§ (6.10.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I desire to interpose a few words on the general question before the answer of the Home Secretary is given. All I can say is that if any circumstances which ought to lead to the reconsideration of the sentences or the treatment of any prisoner come up, I certainly should be the last to stand in the way. During my administration of the Home Office I over and over again re-considered matters when there was any ground for re-consideration. Therefore, on those grounds generally I have 450 nothing to object to the claim which the hon. Member for Cork or any other person has to bring under consideration any case which demands it. I only rise for the purpose of noticing one or two points which the hon. Member has addressed to me personally. The hon. Member seemed to think that for some reason or other in the case of Daly I preferred to proceed against him for treason-felony instead of under the Explosives Act. It was no part of my business to determine what should be the proper form of indictment. I took the proper course in leaving the form of indictment to the Law Officers of the Crown, who had the facts laid before them. The hon. Member for Cork has rather suggested that the object of these proceedings was to shut the mouth of Daly. But the mouth of Daly was not shut. Daly contented himself with making a statement to the jury, and it was upon the statement of Daly himself—
The right hon. Gentleman is out of order in entering into a controversy with regard to the circumstances of the trial.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Of course, I bow to the ruling of the Chair, but I am bound to make some explanation with reference to the statement made by the hon. Member for Cork, which would otherwise go forth without any explanation. The hon. Member in his speech said that Daly himself admitted the possession of dynamite, and never from first to last, as far as I know, has Daly until this time disputed any of the facts alleged against him. [Cries of "Oh!"] It has never come to my knowledge that Daly ever denied the possession of dynamite. [Mr. PARNELL: He has never had the opportunity until to day.] In the defence he offered for himself at the trial he made no such denial, nor did he allege anything to the purport that the hon. Member for Cork has suggested. The offence has been spoken of as if it was less serious because fatal consequences have not ensued, but the results of explosions were often cruel if they came short of being fatal. Victims have received injuries from which they have never recovered, and on them at least sentences for life have been passed by those injuries. Then the hon. Member speaks of plots by the police, and I think he said plots by the Home Office also. [Mr. 451 PARNELL: Hear, hear!] Well, Sir, all I can do is to meet that with an absolute denial, and I say now, as I have said before in this House, that I shall always bear testimony to the honour, the zeal, and, as far as I know, the absolute integrity of the police, to whose courage and intelligence it was due that much more fatal consequences did not result from these conspiracies and crimes.
§ (6.18.) MR. J. REDMOND (Wexford, N.)
It may be convenient if the Home Secretary will allow me to intervene for a moment. I regret extremely, Mr. Courtney, that your ruling prevents us going into the substance of the case. That ruling has already placed us in some little difficulty, because it is very hard to listen to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby without attempting to reply to it. I confess I do think nothing could be more unfortunate to Daly, from his point of view, than that we should have a fragmentary discussion on one point or another point in his case. When the opportunity comes it will be shown, on the solemn declaration of the Chief Constable of Birmingham, and on the statements of a number of other persons in similar positions, that there was a plot on the part of the agents of the Irish Police. I regret extremely that it is not possible to go fully into the case. The case must be gone into fully, and I hope the occasion will soon come. In anticipation of that occasion and obeying your ruling, Sir, I shall refrain from any further reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. This, however, I desire to say before I sit down: I regret very much that I was not in my place in the House on the last occasion when the case was mentioned, because the Home Secretary apparently made statements it would be difficult to substantiate. The right hon. Gentleman pleaded misapprehension as to the object with which I applied for permission to visit Daly. As I understand, he stated that he did not know from me or anybody else that it was to be a purely professional and legal visit. I wrote to the right hon. Gentleman on the 4th of January stating that I had been engaged on behalf of some friends of Daly's to investigate his case and all the circumstances attending his conviction, that I had had an opportunity of 452 visiting him, and had advised him to apply for an order for me to consult with him professionally and privately. I made a similar application myself, and I assured the Home Secretary that such a visit was essential to enable his friends to investigate his case. In reply to that letter, which could have left no misapprehension in the mind of anyone who read it, but clearly showed that my object was to pay a professional and private visit to Daly, I received, almost by return of post, a letter from the Home Office granting me the permission asked for. I accordingly made the long, tiresome, and expensive journey from Dublin to Portland, and on arriving at the prison was told by the Deputy Governor that he and a warder must be present at the interview. In vain I exhibited a copy of my own letter and the reply from the Home Office. I then telegraphed to the Home Office, and I received the following reply:—Telegram received; Secretary of State cannot sanction any relaxation of the rules relating to a professional visit to a convicted criminal prisoner.It was not any relaxation of rule I asked for; it was for permission to pay such a visit; and am I to be told that the Deputy Governor and a warder must be present at such interviews? That was not the defence of the right hon. Gentleman the other night; it was that he was under a misapprehension as to the character of the visit, but that when his misapprehension was removed he sent the necessary order. The probable explanation is that the right hon. Gentleman had not seen my letter and the reply to it; if he had seen them the misapprehension is inexplicable. I received by telegraph the order I asked for on Saturday in Dublin. I again travelled to Portland; I have this day seen Daly, and, after a too hurried interview, have returned to the House. The impression produced on my mind by the statement of the Chief Constable of Birmingham has been intensified by the result of to-day's visit, which has strengthened my conviction of Daly's innocence and my determination to do what I can to bring the truth to light. It is, perhaps, well that a few days should intervene before a full discussion takes place, because the information received is 453 such as must be investigated. I have no ulterior object in this matter; my object is by investigation to get at the truth and see whether injustice has been done; and I trust that in any further steps to be taken the right hon. Gentleman will not, without serious reason, interpose further obstacles. I can assure him that I will not in the slightest particular abuse any privilege or facilities that are afforded to me. I trust, therefore, he will give me what facilities he can to enable me to inquire fully into what I think I have good reason for believing was a great miscarriage of justice.
§ (6.30.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS, Birmingham, E.)
I have pleasure in saying that I have very little to add under the limitations imposed by the ruling of the Chair. The facts to which the hon. Member has alluded are not new to me. They were brought before my notice some time ago, and since then I have on two or three occasions gone with all possible minuteness and impartiality into an investigation of every circumstance connected with the conviction of Daly. I have satisfied myself that the suggestions of the hon. Member are entirely groundless, and are little more than the creation of imagination. I have scrutinised most carefully everything that has been done under the direction of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, and I have been able to detect nothing that could call for the slightest censure or blame. I hope that this direct denial will be a sufficient answer to the allegations that have been made by the hon. Member. I will point out that if I had discovered the slightest ground for supposing that there was anything in the nature of a plot against Daly, such a discovery would not have led me to a relaxation of treatment, but to instant release of the prisoner. The hon. Member for Cork contends that the prisoners in question ought to have been convicted under the Explosives Act instead of being convicted for treason-felony, and that they would have then enjoyed the double advantage of giving evidence themselves and of suffering a shorter sentence.
§ MR. PARNELL
I was referring to Daly and Egan. They could only have been convicted under Section 4.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
Daly and Egan were also guilty under Section 3, and the jury might have found Daly guilty under that section in consequence of his having done acts or having conspired to cause an explosion by means of an explosive substance. The offence under Section 4 was the minor offence of being in possession, contrary to the law, of an explosive substance, and thereby giving rise to reasonable suspicion that he intended to cause an explosion.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
The evidence satisfied the jury. I am anxious not to appear to prejudice the case, but it is impossible to read the evidence—
§ MR. MATTHEWS
Taking it for granted that there has been a proper conviction, and looking at the character of it, it is impossible to say that the treatment in a convict prison is too severe. The present punishment is itself a relaxation of the old law of treason-felony, under which the prisoners would have forfeited their lives. Modern ideas of greater clemency have brought about the less extreme punishment. Having regard to the Chairman's ruling, there is no other topic which I am entitled to discuss in this case. I would remind the Committee that I have instigated what I endeavoured to make a perfectly independent and impartial inquiry into the treatment of the Irish prisoners in Chatham Prison, and then the prisoners had every opportunity of stating their grievances. As it is evident that the discussion is to be renewed, I will say no more on the present occasion.
(6.38.) COLONEL NOLAN
With regard to what has been said as to the prison treatment administered under the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, I can corroborate what the right hon. Gentleman has said, because I remember that in the case of Michael Davitt a large number of hon. Members thought it very hard that he should be subjected to the treatment of an ordinary prisoner, and the right hon. Gentleman allowed him to be exceptionally treated. I think that in the present case it would be advisable to introduce some relaxation of 455 the stringency and hardship of the Prison Rules; or, at any rate, that some inquiry might be made into the matter, with a view of seeing whether the rules might not be relaxed. I think that, under the circumstances, we have strong ground for voting for the reduction of the Vote as proposed by the hon. Member for Cork. I would point out that if the hon. Member for Wexford had been allowed to have gone to the prison and seen Daly some months ago, we should have been much better prepared on this subject, and might have challenged the salary of the Home Secretary on the Police Vote; but Owing to the fact that the Government refused this, we were not in possession of the necessary materials at the time. I think it must be generally admitted that we are placed in a very unsatisfactory position by the way in which the matter is brought before the Committee. We have seen the hon. Member for Cork called to order before he has really developed his argument. We have also seen the ex-Home Secretary the Member for Derby called to order and then allowed to go into some of the facts against the prisoner, and after this we have seen the present Home Secretary first diving into the subject and then retreating from it and apologising and expressing his regret that he could not go further into it. I am not quite sure that we ought not to bring this question up on all the Votes having any bearing on the subject; but, at any rate, if we cannot fully discuss it on this Vote there is the possibility of doing so on the Appropriation Bill, which I should advise the hon. Member for Cork to look carefully after, because many things are ruled out of order in discussing that Bill, and, therefore, unless he takes the earliest opportunity of securing the necessary discussion on that Bill, it may have to be put on one side. The hon. Member for North Wexford has procured a half-hearted promise from the Home Secretary that he will do everything he can to facilitate an inquiry into this matter, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will afford every possible assistance for the prosecution of that inquiry. I hope we may have some other opportunity before the end of the Session of dealing with this question, so that we may have it thoroughly threshed out. 456 It is possible that we may not have an inquiry before the end of the Session; but if it is refused, the impression left upon the minds of the people will be that this inquiry has been purposely obstructed by the officials.
§ (6.46.) MR. SEXTON
This question was discussed to some extent last year upon the Home Office Vote, and it is distinctly within my memory that the Home Secretary made a more favourable response than he has given to-day. He did not then come to the unchangeable conclusion at which he has arrived to-day. I regret that the Debate was not raised upon the Vote for the Home Department, because we would then have been able to deal exhaustively with the various considerations in the case. The Home Secretary has the prerogative of clemency, and we would have been able to bring before him evidence such as would have entitled him to ask for the clemency of the Crown. On the Prisons Vote we are limited strictly to the question whether the Commissioners within their discretion have acted properly or improperly. Whether by inadvertence or not I do not know, but the right hon. Gentleman did not refer to the letters sent to him by the hon. Member for North Wexford. The hon. Member has read the letter, which states that he wished to see Daly on professional and legal business. I certainly think the hon. Member was entitled to complain, even with more energetic language than he used, of the treatment which he has received at the hands of the right hon. Gentleman. It is not a light thing for a professional man, who thinks he has permission to see the prisoner, to come across the Irish Sea and across this country to Portland Prison only to find that he will merely be allowed to see the prisoner in the presence of two warders. There has been a want of businesslike arrangement in connection with the whole affair, and I think the Home Secretary should give some explanation. I claim that the hon. Member for North Wexford should be allowed to see the prisoner. Daly and the other men have undeniably suffered grievously in these prisons, because of the prejudice which exists against them in connection with the offence of which they were convicted. No one 457 who reads the Report of the Commission can fail to become aware of the indignities to which these men are subjected, often being put to disgusting offices in the middle of the night, simply because of their offence. If there is a strong doubt in the case of Daly, there is a stronger doubt in the case of Egan; and if I may venture to discriminate, I do think it is not too much to ask the right hon. Gentleman not to make these men suffer the punishment which is provided for ordinary criminals; at any rate, pending his final decision, their treatment might be as much relaxed as is compatible with the rules. As to the right of interview, the right hon. Gentleman clearly laid down on Friday night that a prisoner may be seen by his legal adviser. I ask him to allow the hon. Member for North Wexford to see the prisoner, even though it be in the sight of, not in the hearing of, a warder. I trust that before the Debate is concluded we shall have an assurance that the hon. Member for North Wexford, without further letter or telegram, mistake or misapprehension, will be entitled to see this prisoner.
§ (6.56.) MR. T. M. HEALY
I am very glad that this entire question can be raised on the Appropriation Bill, and that it will not be necessary to deal with it in a piecemeal manner on this Vote. I asked the right hon. Gentleman several questions with regard to the treatment of Daly in Chatham Prison, and the right hon. Gentleman twice laid down that Chatham Prison was the proper prison for Daly, and that he was very well treated in that prison, although he had three times been nearly poisoned.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
He had three excessive doses of belladonna, and if that is not being three times nearly poisoned I do not know what is. The right hon. Gentleman stated to me in the month of May that some suggestion would be made for a separate classification, or some kind of division, at Chatham Prison, but beyond that he would not go. Now I have to ask why it is that John Daly has been removed—I am glad he has been removed; I am not making it a complaint—but why was he removed to Portland? Considering the abominable language proved to have been used by the warders at Chatham, which stands 458 recorded in the Blue Book, I consider the removal to have been good policy on the part of the Government; but the Committee ought to know why Daly was removed, and the whole circumstances connected with the removal. Then I have to refer to another prisoner whose name appears in the Report of the Visitors to the prison, James McGrath, who has since died, and as to whom I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman earlier in the Session. The case of this prisoner is thus referred to in the Report—One of the prisoners, James McGrath, informed us that he was studying Spanish, with a view of getting employment on his liberation as a sailor on the Spanish Main; and he expressed a wish to he supplied with an epitome of navigation in the Spanish language, similar to Norie's Epitome of Navigation. We find on inquiry that this prisoner is exceedingly well conducted, having only been punished once during nine years, and we trust that his request will, if possible, be complied with.Well, what happened? He was' according to the Report of this most prejudiced Commission—prejudiced against the prisoners—found to be a well-conducted prisoner; and this poor man, in his examination, made no complaint whatever. You find his examination recorded on the 2nd page of the Report. He was asked if he had any statement to make with regard to his treatment during the nine years of his imprisonment, and he replied—No, I have got on very well here.Then followed questions and answers—Has your health been good?—It has been very good. Is there any matter which you wish to bring before us?—Nothing with regard to my treatment, or anything of that sort. Perhaps this might not be the place to make a request for something that I wish to obtain. Would it be out of place here?—We have only power to make recommendations; we have no power to' grant anything.—It was with regard to a special book which, perhaps, would hardly be granted to me, that would be possibly out of place here?—We will consider it.Then the prisoner went on to say—I am a sailor, and have been a sailor all my time, and I have been a good deal about the Spanish Main, and I intend, if I ever get my liberty, to go to South America; I do not want to go to any place where I have been before; I intend to go to Chili or Valparaiso. I had some knowledge of the Spanish language before I began my sentence. Twelve months ago the chaplain kindly allowed me a grammar and a dictionary of the Spanish language. He came to the cell door and handed them to me and spoke very kindly to 459 me and gave me encouragement. I have been studying it ever since, and I have made some progress with the language. I have not a practical knowledge of it, but I have a good theoretical knowledge of it. That is to say, I could read it fairly, but not speak it; and I wish to get an epitome of navigation in the Spanish language, it would assist me in gaining my living when I leave the prison. The book I would wish to have particularly is a book like Norie's English Epitome with complete mathematical tables. There are various editions, but this is the complete one. He is a standard authority on English Navigation, and I would wish to have a Spanish one just like Norie's.The Chairman undertook that the request should be laid before the proper authorities, and the prisoner said—I will deem it a very great favour, and if I can obtain it it would be a great assistance to me, and would enable me to pass my time in prison. I have been a great deal better since I have taken to the study of this language. I have an object. I was very well treated here, but I had no object, and under the very best circumstances the life of a prisoner is somewhat irksome. I went through my old school career and took up various subjects, but since I have been studying the Spanish language, I have had more of an object in life, and I have been in better health, and I would wish to follow it up.In the appendix you find the doctor's reference to this prisoner—H. 700. James McGrath in hospital from August 27, 1885, to September 1,1885, suffering from bronchial catarrh.And for this he was treated. This appears to be the only ailment for which he was treated during the whole time of his imprisonment. It will not do for the right hon. Gentleman to say this prisoner reported himself in good health; a man may not be cognisant of his being under the influence of a specific disease, but what I have to complain of is that, when this man was stricken with a mortal illness, his friends were not apprised of the fact. The right hon. Member for Derby, when Home Secretary, laid down the principle that when a prisoner was in a dying condition he ought to be discharged. I remember the release in such circumstances of one of the Scotch prisoners connected with the Glasgow explosion. I saw in the Times mention of an inquest on the prisoner, James McGrath. I asked the right hon. Gentleman why it was the man's relatives were not communicated with, why it was not brought to their knowledge 460 that he was dying, so that they might receive his dying words and wishes—not an unreasonable thing to ask. I also ask why it was he was not released when his illness was known to be mortal. Whether the death occurred at Chatham or Portland I do not remember, and newspaper paragraphs do not turn up when you want them; but if the death occurred at Portland, there is, of course, less responsibility upon the doctor, under whose care the prisoner could only have been for a short time; but if the death occurred at Chatham, then a strong responsibility does rest upon the doctor for not taking steps earlier to inform his friends of his illness. I did not know when I asked the right hon. Gentleman the question whether the prisoner was an Irishman or an American, whether he was friendless or whether his friends lived at a great distance, and when the right hon. Gentleman told me that the friends of the dying man had been communicated with, I naturally supposed that they lived at a distance and had not replied. But I have since received a letter from the deceased prisoner's mother contradicting point-blank the right hon. Gentleman's statement. She says that no communication was sent to her, and that she never heard of her son's illness until he was no more. Now, all through this Blue Book these treason-felony prisoners complain that they received treatment over and above in severity the usual prison treatment or punishment, in supererogation, if I may use the expression, as the result of the prejudice against the offences of which they were convicted. But it is not the law or custom in England that a sentence of imprisonment should be enforced to the death of the prisoner, or at all events, when a man is dying he is allowed his liberty and the company of his friends. I maintain that a careful inquiry ought to be instituted into the circumstances of McGrath's death. An inquest was held on the deceased man, and was reported in the Times, but prison inquests are often unsatisfactory, the jury being too often composed of contractors, traders, and others having business relations with the prison officials and warders. Then, another case to which I have to call attention is that of another prisoner, J. F. Egan, in relation 461 to whom there was a pregnant passage in the Report on the treatment of Daly, giving rise to the hope that there would be a, special inquiry into the case of this man. It was in relation to this that the hon. Member for North Wexford visited Egan, as he was fully entitled to do within the regulations; but I am informed that every obstacle was thrown in the way when the prisoner began to talk of the circumstances attending his conviction. Now, surely to a prisoner this is an all-important subject of conversation with one who comes from the outside world. If a man is allowed a 20 minutes' interview with a visitor, surely the prisoner may be allowed to occupy the time in conversation upon his own affairs so long as he does not indulge in insulting language towards the officials. Surely it is not necessary for the warder present to interpose and check conversation like a Chairman of Committees. Certainly it is a strong doctrine that when an educated man like the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. J. Redmond) visits a prisoner, the conversation is to be controlled by a warder. A prisoner ought to be allowed to say what he likes during the visit, as long as he does not make an attack on the constituted authorities of the prison, or say anything of an insulting or aggravating character. This brings me to the statement made by Daly with regard to Egan. It must be remembered that at the time Daly was suffering from poison, and he believed he was a dying man, Daly wished to see the man with whom he was convicted, but his request was refused. Supposing a prisoner was believed to be dying from natural causes, and not from poison administered to him by prison officials, would he be denied access to his friends, would his friends be informed of his condition, and would he have an opportunity of making a dying declaration concerning a fellow prisoner whose imprisonment he believed he had caused? Daly, in his statement, said—I wished to see Mr. Egan because, as a dying man, I wished to ask his forgiveness for the great wrong I had done him. I wished to say, with my dying breath, almost in the presence of the unknown God, and in the presence of witnesses, that during the time I lived in his house in Birmingham he never, at any time, had my confidence; he had no share in my political sentiments, no more than the child unborn. I deceived him first by saying I changed my name, and took off my beard, 462 because I wanted to go to Ireland, and that owing to the things that Rossa had said about me in his newspaper in New York, I was afraid I would he arrested. He was constantly saying he would go to the Police Office to ask for an explanation for his house being watched by detectives, I kept him from it by saying from day to day I'd be clearing out. I had several reasons for going to live at his house, amongst them was economy, his beautiful garden, the society of his admirable wife and his own; but, before God, as a dying man, I wanted to say that I had no political reason whatsoever. And I may be here permitted to mention a thing, the truth of which the Birmingham police can ascertain. Mr. Egan sent to his house while I was there two sheet iron pans from Mr. Hill's office or warehouse where he was employed, by the carrier, or one of the carriers of the London and North Western Railway who used to deliver and carry goods to Mr. Hill's warehouse.Then Daly went into matters which are not relevant to the point now at issue. They can be dealt with on the Appropriation Bill. The fact remains that the prisoner Daly declared, when he believed himself to be dying, that his fellow prisoner was an innocent man. I understand that when he was tried before Sir James Stephen he made a solemn declaration that Mr. Egan was absolutely innocent of the charge made against him. In view of the important statement made by Daly we asked last year for a special inquiry with regard to the case of Egan. I always regarded the case as one of great doubt, and I shall be rejoiced when an opportunity is afforded on the Appropriation Bill of going fully into the matter.
§ (7.25.) MR. MATTHEWS
I cannot help regretting that the hon. and learned Member has indulged in so many disagreeable suspicions. He says that the Coroner's Jury consisted mainly of contractors to the prison. No intimation of that kind has been made to me, and I think the hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely mistaken. As to McGrath, I may say that a very short time before his death he was in excellent health. In February, 1890, the Report of the Medical Inspector was—Health good on reception, and has continued so up to the present time. Only once admitted into hospital for bronchial attack. Free from organic disease, No complaint was made.On the 17th March, 1891, he was taken into hospital. His illness developed suddenly into acute tuberculosis, and on the 21st April he was considered in 463 danger. In accordance with one of the prison rules, his friends were immediately communicated with.—[An hon. MEMBER: When was that?]—I take it that the letter was written on the 21st of April. That is not stated in terms, but I assume that was so. In any case, his mother and sister visited him on the 23rd of April, 1891, and he told them he had the best of treatment. He died on the 28th of April of acute tuberculosis.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Will the right hon. Gentleman say why the ordinary rule as to removal was not followed in this case?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
Probably he was too ill to be removed at all. He was at Chatham, and his mother and sister were at Salford. The Coroner's Jury found that he died from natural causes. I have been asked as to the conversations with Egan. It is an invariable prison rule that complaints as to treatment must be made to the officials, whose duty it is to inquire into them, and, if necessary, to redress the grievances. It would be quite impossible that a prisoner should avail himself of the visits of friends to bring charges against those in authority. Then, I have been asked about the removal of those prisoners to Chatham. As I stated on the 4th of December, 1890, there was absolutely no reason in the interest of the prisoners for removing them from Chatham. The occupants of the cells at Chatham are amongst the best of prisoners, certainly so far as health is concerned. The premises have since been transferred to the Admiralty, and in consequence I am gradually transferring the prisoners there to other prisons. Eight of the prisoners, including Egan and Daly, have been transferred to Portland. There are still some prisoners at Chatham, and they will be removed before long.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Are prisoners when visited allowed to discuss the circumstances of their conviction?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
My experience is that prisoners always do. Certainly there is nothing inconsistent with the prison rules in their doing so. Of course, no interview has hitherto been allowed in convict prisons except in the sight and hearing of a warder. ["The Times."] I hope hon. Members will do me the honour not to interrupt. At the time of the Special Commission there were certain 464 irregular interviews in local prisons. There were certain Irish convicts who came over here and were received as guests, being brought over to London by order of the Court; they were received as lodgers. With regard to the telegram sent to the hon. Member for Wexford, his message came late in the evening when I was not at the Home Office. A reply was sent that night by the person in charge at the time, who probably did not know much about the matter.
§ (7.31.) MR. J. REDMOND
If the right hon. Gentleman will look at the hour at which it was handed in, he will find that it was early in the afternoon. Speaking from memory I should say it was 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The hour at which the reply was sent out will show that the right hon. Gentleman is again in the wrong, and in saying that, of course I do not question his bona fides. The answer was handed in at 6.30 p.m., so that it was not late at night.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
At 6.30 the Public Offices are closed. Then, at the Home Office they had no knowledge of the date at which the hon. Member wished to visit this prisoner.
§ MR. J. REDMOND
But they were good enough to intimate to me that I could go on any day I chose to select.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
That shows that the hon. Member's case is even stronger than he has hitherto made out and I repeat my apologies to him. I express my regret that the hon. Member should have suffered any inconvenience. Such a visit to the convict as he asked for was a novelty, and it was only introduced in consequence of the hon. Member's application.
§ MR. SEXTON
How does it happen that when the right hon. Gentleman came to the conclusion to allow these interviews the prison officials were not informed of it?
§ (7.34.) MR. J. BARRY (Wexford, S.)
I regret, Mr. Courtney, that under your ruling it is not possible to discuss the case of Daly on this Vote, and I regret it the more because I believe 465 there are elements in the case which require that we should discuss the matter in the House at the earliest possible date. We are excluded from referring to the case of Daly, but it is admissible to refer to the case of Egan—at least to matters that have occurred since his conviction. About this time last year, Egan, writing to his wife, expressed a wish that I should pay him a visit. He suggested that I should ask for a special visit so that it should not exclude the half-yearly visit granted under the ordinary rules. He generally receives a visit from his wife under those rules. I made the request to have a special visit but it was refused, and after waiting for some time—until an ordinary visit could be made—I went to Chatham and visited Egan. He was extremely anxious to refer to certain circumstances relating to his conviction, and he commenced to make a statement when he was peremptorily stopped by the warder, and a discussion arose as to whether Daly was at liberty to talk on this subject. I was astounded just now to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that it is permitted to discuss with prisoners questions connected with their conviction. Egan had no other object in view in asking for a visit from myself. He had no desire to enter into the question of prison treatment or to say anything about what had occurred in the prison. But at that time certain statements were made by an Alderman in Birmingham and the Chief of Police in that town which cast grave doubt on the validity of the conviction, and it was to those matters that Egan desired to address himself when he was interrupted by the warder. For 15 or 20 minutes the dispute went on, Egan anxious to make his statement, and I equally anxious to hear it. The warder, however, persistently refused to allow him to make his statement, so that as the entire visit was only about 20 minutes the dispute was discontinued, and ordinary topics were discussed for the remainder of the time. My only object in rising now is to make this appeal that in any further steps that may be taken by the hon. Member for North Wexford no such interference will be allowed on the part of the warders, but that an opportunity will be allowed to Daly and Egan to state their case fully and uninterruptedly 466 to the gentleman who is permitted to visit them. I also hope the right hon. Gentleman will make some inquiry as to why it was Egan was interrupted in the statement he wished to make to me. It is clear from the law laid down that it is no infringement of the ordinary rules to make such a statement. It is of the gravest importance that this case should be gone into at the earliest possible moment, and it is also important that when entered upon there should be no attempts made by officials or by any authority to interrupt a clear and full statement of the case by the prisoner.
§ (7.41.) MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
The Committee are now face to face with a very important question in connection with prison discipline. I do not, in consequence of your ruling, Mr. Courtney, propose to go into the case of Daly, but I would lay stress on the point dealt with by the hon. Member who has just sat down, and that is as to the right of prison warders to interfere in conversations between prisoners and their visitors. An important admission has been made. We now know from the Home Secretary that such an important matter as the conviction of a prisoner can be referred to on the occasion of these visits, and we now find from the evidence in the Blue Book that Daly himself, when he thought he was on the point of death, begged to be allowed to make a statement as to the innocence of this unfortunate man Egan. Surely, then, it becomes a matter of very extreme gravity indeed if an ordinary warder can interfere with a man like Egan, when he wishes to put his visitor in possession of certain proofs or circumstances that may help to establish his innocence. We are told by the hon. Member for North Wexford that the warder on his own authority interfered in the hon. Member's conversation with Egan, and stated that the latter could not say anything about his conviction. The warder evidently took that course on his own responsibility, and of course my hon. Friend would have no appeal. The time permitted for the interview—15 or 20 minutes—would not allow of an appeal to the Governor, and very probably, if such an appeal had been allowed, it would have been barren of result. I 467 am glad we have had the official declaration from the Home Secretary that prisoners are allowed to discuss their convictions with their visitors, for I myself have had personal experience of the rule being construed in the Irish prisons exactly as it was construed at Chatham. It is a very valuable point to have elicited from the right hon. Gentleman, who is an authority on the question of prison discipline, that it is consistent with the prison regulations for a prisoner to speak of circumstances connected with his conviction to visitors. The right hon. Gentleman even said, "What can be more natural than that a prisoner should refer to these things and that prisoners are always talking about them?" This being so, I hope that when the case of these prisoners, Daly and Egan, comes to be ventilated it will prove that advantage has been taken of the right hon. Gentleman's admission. The right hon. Gentleman was unnecessarily severe with the hon. Member for North Longford in reference to Coroners' Juries. My hon. Friend did not wish to imply that juries sitting within the prison walls would be wilfully corrupt, or anything of that kind; but he did seem to imply—and I think the circumstances bear him out—that the people who form these juries are more or less connected with the prisons, or are brought more or less into connection with prison officials, and, therefore, would be likely to make these inquiries more or less in a slipshod manner. That this is the case is known to everybody who lives in the vicinity of a gaol. It is the case in Cork. The people who live near the gaol are the people who have dealings with it—tradesmen and the like—and they are the people who are most likely to be selected as jurymen. And if this is the case in Cork I can quite believe that it is the case in connection with English gaols. Therefore, my hon. Friend is right in saying that the verdict of a Coroner's Jury in one of these prison inquests is a thing to which too much weight should not be attached. With regard to the case of the deceased prisoner McGrath, I regard it as a most pathetic one. He tells his tale to the Commissioners. He says he entered the gaol comparatively in good health. He makes no complaint; we find that he is taken ill on the 17th 468 March; that in a few weeks he developes acute tuberculosis, and that he dies in four weeks. I am not a medical man, and have not much knowledge of medical matters, but I feel sure it will come upon every medical man in the House with surprise to learn that acute tuberculosis could commence and end fatally in four weeks. It seems very strange that the prison doctor was not able to mark the development of the disease, and did not do that which is done in so many cases, namely, certify for the man's removal from prison, in order that he might be taken to spend the last few days of his life with his afflicted mother and family. Speaking as a layman, I must say that it seems to me very much like carelessness that a man should be reported to be healthy when he was taken sick on the 17th March with acute tuberculosis, and died on the 28th April. And what may happen at Chatham may easily happen at Portland. No one can read the Report of the Commissioners without seeing that the majority of these political prisoners have suffered punishment over and above that meted out to ordinary prisoners—even those suffering ordinary terms of penal servitude or life sentences. I grant that the Commissioners try to explain away many awkward charges, but on their own showing there are many circumstances in connection with the treatment of these men that does not reflect credit on the discipline of Chatham Prison. It bears out the contention of these men, to some extent, that our account of the nature of their offence—on account of their being Irish prisoners convicted of a certain class of offence—they were treated with exceptional severity and hardship over and above that meted out to the ordinary prisoners. In the case of one of these prisoners the Prison Rules were not read to him until he had been in the prison for nearly 12 months, although I understand that it is one of the chief regulations that the Prison Rules should be read over to a prisoner as soon after his reception in the prison as possible. Then there is another point that all these prisoners complain of—that they are deprived of the ordinary exercise in the prison yard. Mr. Egan complains of that, and so also does Mr. Daly. The rule says that the prisoners must take 469 such exercise in the open air as is necessary to their health, and they say that, instead of being allowed to take that exercise, they are put to work of a very trying character, which thoroughly exhausts the frame, and makes the hands a mass of blisters. The men are punished with a severity far greater than the nature of their offences demands. I will not deal with the point the hon. Member for Cork referred to. I draw—no matter what anyone else does—a distinction between political offenders of this kind and those condemned in 1865 and 1867. I believe that the common sense and patriotism of the Irish nation draws that distinction, and does it to-day, and has done it from the time those offences were first committed. But I say that no matter what offence these men may have been convicted of, they should not be punished with greater severity than any of the ordinary prisoners, many of whom are in prison for vile and disgraceful offences against society. I trust that the important points which have been brought before the right hon. Gentleman to-night will receive his attention. We hope the Prison Rules will not be strained against these men, and that they will be allowed to discuss with their visitors the circumstances of their conviction, so that, if possible, they may be able to demonstrate their innocence.
§ *(7.54.) MR. H. J. WILSON (York, W.R., Holmfirth)
I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary that according to his statement anybody who happens to be left in the Home Office, after he and the other persons in authority have gone away, are at liberty to send messages to such people as the hon. Member for North Wexford saying that they cannot avail themselves of privileges that they had supposed were given to them. The right hon. Gentleman did not offer an explanation of the circumstances under which the telegram was sent down saying that the hon. Member would not have the privilege for which he asked. It seems to be an extraordinary thing that a doorkeeper or a junior clerk should have the power to send these telegrams.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
May I ask how it was that this man McGrath showed no signs of tuberculosis? I know—and the right hon. Gentleman 470 will find it in Quain's dictionary, which is in the Library—that acute tuberculosis is sudden, but we also know that the termination is death. If the diagnosis was established as the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, how was it that the man's mother and relatives were not called in until the man had been dying nearly a month? Quain's dictionary says that acute tuberculosis is absolutely and positively unmistakable. How can the right hon. Gentleman reconcile these points? He cannot. I ask him to consult any fair and conscientious independent medical opinion, and I maintain that his statement will warrant the remarks I have made. I consider that this convict was diabolically treated, and that his treatment was merely due to the fact that he happened to be an Irish political prisoner.
(7.58.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 64; Noes 95.—(Div. List, No. 381.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ *(8.8.) MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I desire to move the reduction of this Vote by the sum of £100, in order that I may draw attention to the great anomalies which exist in the treatment of prisoners in English prisons, and with a view of impressing upon the Home Secretary the desirability of taking steps to exercise the powers he now possesses under the Prisons Act to bring about a better state of things. The questions to which I wish to draw attention may be briefly stated. The questions put by me to the right hon. Gentleman and questions asked in "another place" have elicited the fact that persons committed to prison for the non-payment of fines under the Vaccination Acts or under certain local Acts, such as that at Eastbourne, under which Salvationists are being punished, are subjected to the whole of the disagreeable and odious incidents of ordinary imprisonment; whereas persons committed to prison in respect of exactly the same Acts, who are committed to prison for the nonpayment of costs, as opposed to fines, have, under the Prison Rules at present existing, the advantage, such as it is, of being treated under the debtors' rule". I contend that it is within the power of the Home Secretary, under the Prisons 471 Acts of 1865 and 1877, to do something, without further delay, to mitigate and alter this state of things. Punishments involving treatment of a degrading nature applied, contrary to public sentiment, to persons convicted of offences of the class I have referred to, are merely a surplusage of cruelty, and alienate public feeling from the law, and, so far from having any deterrent effect on the prisoners, encourage rather a contempt for the law. Where prisoners of this type are associated in the same prison with persons convicted of brutal assaults, dishonest acts, and horrible offences of all kinds, the treatment to which they are subjected, and which is supposed to have a deterrent effect, ceases to be deterrent. Every one knows that it is in the power of the Magistrates in minor cases such as I have already referred to, to order that the persons convicted shall be treated as first-class misdemeanants, and I will draw the attention of the House to a way in which this power is used by the Courts at the present time. I have here a list of the cases in which the treatment of misdemeanants in the first-class was actually given to persons imprisoned for offences which were of a distinctly criminal character. For instance, there were 15 cases of fraudulent bankruptcy, six of libel, and three of serious misdemeanours; there is a case of acting as a solicitor without qualification, and a case of conspiracy to procure indecent photographs, in which the prisoners were treated as first-class misdemeanants. This treatment, I venture to say, was mainly permitted because the prisoners were well-to-do and occupied a good social position, although, in my opinion, the higher the social position of the person offending the less relaxation should there be of the punishment attached to their offences. If anyone will take the trouble to look through the evidence taken by the Vaccination Commission he will find that the persons sent to prison for non-compliance to the Vaccination Act were, to a large extent, persons occupying a respectable position—persons belonging to the middle or lower middle class, including many small tradesmen—while those who were not of this class were well-to-do and respectable mechanics and artizans. One of the witnesses before the Committee 472 presided over by Lord Aberdare stated that the prison dress had a degrading effect on such men as he had known in prison—men who were the cream of the working class, who in several instances had been connected with our Sunday schools. He added that the influence exerted on the minds of these men by making them wear the prison dress is such as to make them almost despise the law. The people on whose behalf I urge that better treatment should be meted out are persons deserving of our sympathy. They are persons who, rightly or wrongly, attach a great importance to their own views as to the physical welfare of their children. What I desire to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to is that under the provisions of the existing law he has powers which would go a long way towards modifying the treatment of those who are neither criminals according to the definition of the Act nor according to public opinion. By the exercise of those powers he might do a great deal towards bringing about a more satisfactory state of things. Under the 24th and 25th section of the Act of 1877 he has clearly considerable powers with regard to the administration of prisons and the distribution and classification of the prisoners. Under these powers relating to classification he might get rid of the anomaly of sending persons imprisoned under the Vaccination Acts to prisons where they are associated with criminals of the worst class. It seems to me also that the powers he possesses under the 38th section of the Act, with regard to the framing of rules as to the classification and treatment of prisoners, would cover cases in which fines are imposed for noncompliance with such laws as the Vaccination Acts. I have submitted these points to the Home Secretary, because I wish to press upon him the duty of seriously considering whether some modifications of the Prison Rules may not be made by which the treatment of debtors or first-class misdemeanants might be applied to all cases of nonpayment of fines where there has been no moral obliquity or real crime. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman, as a Member of a Conservative Ministry, to take a lenient and generous view of this matter. Lord Beaconsfield and his 473 Ministry passed the Act of 1877, and have great reason to be proud of doing so, for it was a measure conceived in a wise and generous spirit. In that spirit I ask the right hon. Gentleman to regard the question now. In a discussion which took place in this House two years ago on a Bill to mitigate the treatment of prisoners in Ireland, opinions were expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, to which I desire to draw attention. The right hon. Gentleman said—Consider a case I heard of only a few hours ago. A respectable woman, wife of an English tradesman, refused to have her child vaccinated, and went to prison. She was forcibly stripped, and put into the bath, was, in fact, treated as if she had been the dirtiest tramp from the streets.… So far as I understand the philosophy of punishment at all, these kinds of punishment, which are thought to inflict degradation, need not, and ought not, to form part of the penal system, because the evil of that kind of punishment is this—that the hardened criminal is not punished by it at all.And at the close of his speech he said—Those who have been condemned under the Vaccination Act, and in connection with the Salvation Army, are the class of prisoners who chiefly command our sympathies, and who ought to receive the benefit of any modification which may be made in the law.There are two further grounds on which I would press this Motion. The Government, by conceding the Royal Commission on Vaccination now sitting, have practically admitted that the people to whom I allude have a case for consideration. The question whether the views for which they are willing to go to prison are right or wrong is really referred to this Commission. Again, public opinion is in many parts of the country so strong that the Guardians have declined to prosecute. I contend, therefore, that a strong case has been made out for the Home Secretary to exercise his powers to the fullest extent in modifying the Prison Rules in the direction I have indicated.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item A, Salaries, be reduced by £100, part of the Salaries of the Prisons Commissioners."—(Mr. Channing.)
§ (8.31.) MR. MATTHEWS
The hon. Member has treated an interesting subject in an interesting way, but, unfortunately for his argument, the 474 Home Secretary has not the power which the hon. Member alleges that he possesses. If he will read with a little more care Sections 38 and 39 of the Act of 1877 he will see that the Home Secretary has no power—and I am glad I have no power—to modify the system of treatment laid down in the Schedule of the Act of 1865, which applied to all criminal prisoners. The Home Secretary has power to make rules with regard to prisoners confined for debt, unconvicted prisoners, and misdemeanants of the first division, but he has no power to modify the prison treatment which is applicable under the section to all convicted prisoners alike. Therefore, I cannot help thinking that the whole discussion is to some extent out of order, and I will not, therefore, spend many moments in answering the interesting part of the hon. Member's speech, in which he touched upon the treatment that ought to be awarded to prisoners with whom many people not unnaturally feel a certain sympathy. In the first place, when the hon. Member talks about there being no moral obliquity in this class of offences he indirectly criticises what Parliament has done. Parliament has chosen to say to parents, "You shall have your child vaccinated." Of course, if Parliament is wrong in that view, if it is desirable to have the smallpox, then the omission to vaccinate ought not to be an offence at all; but if it is an injurious thing to society at large that the best means should not be resorted to in order to avert the spread of an epidemic—one of the most disastrous from which Europe has ever suffered—if vaccination is desirable, surely it is impossible to say that there is no moral obliquity in a man choosing to disregard the law laid down by Parliament. Disobedience to a sanitary enactment demands punishment of some sort. If an act is mischievous to the public weal, it can hardly be said that Parliament is wrong in decreeing that it shall be an offence and must be punished. In this case the punishment inflicted is not particularly disagreeable; it is a fine. There is no halo of sympathy attracted around your head when you have paid 5s. or 7s. 6d., but those persons who set themselves against the law of Parliament and determine to disobey the law, do attract 475 sympathy, and are regarded as martyrs when they refuse to pay the fine and went to prison. If a man chooses, for the sake of martyrdom, to go to prison, the prison should be made disagreeable to him. As to the incidence of that prison treatment I have no control. I have no power to say to A, "You are a good-looking woman; yon shall not be forced to take "skilly"; or to say to B, "I have a good character of you from your locality, and will not give you the plank bed." I think it would be most undesirable for a Minister to have any such power, for it might lead to lamentable injustice. The provisions as to "skilly" and all the rest of it are most properly laid down by the law. I suppose that when the hon. Member for Northamptonshire comes to be Home Secretary he will inflict no punishment on parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated, or on members of the Salvation Army who infringe the law. But let me remind him it is the duty of the Secretary of State, whatever his personal feelings, to see that the law is applied equally to all.
(8.40.) THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order! If the Home Secretary's view is correct that the matter is governed by regulations framed under an Act of Parliament, the discussion is out of order.
§ (9.12.) MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
In accordance with your suggested ruling, Sir, I may say a few words on the assumption that the Homo Secretary is incorrect in his view of what the law is in regard to Prison Rules. I am bound to say that I think my hon. Friend who introduced this question is entitled—
I am going to do that, and I regret that the right hon. Gentleman is not here to assent to my proposition. Under the 9th section of the Prisons Act of 1877 powers which were formerly exercised by the Visiting Justices are exercisable by the Prison Commissioners, under the control and subject to the discretion of the Home Secretary.
(9.14.) Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES
In the absence of the Home Secretary, I was endeavouring to point out that the right hon. Gentleman is incorrect in his view of the effect of the Prisons Act of 1877, and I gather from your ruling, Sir, that I am expected to give some ground for that statement. In the 9th section of that Act it is provided that the Prisons-Commissioners shall exercise all the powers that were formerly vested in Visiting Justices, and that the Commissioners shall conform to the directions which may from time to time be given to them by the Secretary of State. The Visiting Justices had exercised a large suspensory power with regard to punishments. In 1838 the Marquess of Normanby, who was then Home Secretary, issued a Circular Letter to Visiting Justices pointing out to them that it was within their power to modify the conditions of imprisonment for prisoners charged with political offences. A Return was afterwards issued showing that, in accordance with that Circular, a material change was made in the treatment, as, for instance, in the case of Monmouth prisoners convicted of riotous conduct and certain offences against public order. So there is a primâ facie case which admits of reply, at any rate, that my hon. Friend is right in his contention. Thanks are due to my hon. Friend for bringing forward this Motion, because quite apart from the vaccination question, in which I must confess I do not take any particular interest, undoubtedly the Government should consider, and should long ago have considered, the desirability of exercising the discretion the law allows in reference to this class of prisoners. It is a curious fact that, with the exception of Spain, this is the only country in the civilised world where different treatment is not meted out to offences of this description as distinguished from ordinary felonies and misdemeanours. In recent times there has been an immense volume of legislation passed in relation to sanitary matters; and for offences against sanitary regulations penalties have been imposed—fines, with the alternative of imprisonment; and, in some cases, imprisonment without the option of fine—for breaches of the sanitary laws. Therefore, it is not at all an unreasonable subject for argument and discussion in this House that a 477 distinction should be drawn in the treatment of prisoners who are convicted of these offences, offences which they advisedly and conscientiously commit, offences which do not partake of the ordinary sordid character and turpitude attaching to the penal class of felonies and misdemeanours. It would have been more satisfactory if the right hon. Gentleman had given us same statement recognising this. The Chief Secretary for Ireland very properly and justly, though it must be admitted rather tardily, recognised the fact that a distinction should be drawn; and he stands in the same relation to prison management in Ireland as the right hon. Gentleman does towards English prisons. He very properly and wisely, in the case of Mr. W. O'Brien and other offenders against the Criminal Law of the country, made exceptions in their treatment in prison; and I remember that he, speaking at that Table, instanced the fact that vaccination prisoners, with whom I have no particular sympathy, were of the class to whom exceptional treatment should be awarded. But the Home Secretary has approached the subject almost in a tone of levity. He gave as an illustration the case of a pretty woman—or a comely woman—sentenced to imprisonment, to whom the Chairman might extend a relaxation of the ordinary prison discipline. But Parliament, in its wisdom, has vested a discretion in the Home Secretary for the time being, and it is not to be supposed that that Minister would be susceptible to the influence of female charms. The power was formerly vested in the Visiting Justices; and this is not a serious argument in favour of maintaining a hard and fast rule of punishment. I know that this is not the occasion, nor is it expedient to discuss the question at length, and we probably shall have a better opportunity next Session; but I do very much regret that the right hon. Gentleman fails to appreciate the distinction in offences my hon. Friend has drawn. I am sorry there is no indication that an attempt will be made by the Government, either by legislation or by a judicious use of the powers vested in the Home Secretary, to apportion the conditions of punishment to the moral character of the offence. I know of an instance of a gentleman of respectability and 478 probity, a solicitor and Town Councillor in Wiltshire, who, having conscientious objections to the vaccination of his child—ill-advised objections they may be—he declined to comply with the order and was committed. Is it reasonable that a prisoner of this character and position in life should be treated like an ordinary criminal? I do not think that an adequate answer has been given, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stuart Wortley) will appreciate the opportunity offered and depart from the non possumus attitude of his chief, that he will express some sympathy with a proposal that has not found that amount of physical support to which I think my hon. Friend was entitled.
§ (9.25.) THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. STUART WORTLEY, Sheffield, Hallam)
I must ask the Committee to remember that I am limited by the ruling from the Chair to the effect that the discussion of Prison Rules relating to discipline trenches on projects of legislation. The Government must adhere to the position that the Executive is not vested with dispensing powers which would enable it to differentiate the treatment of prisoners. Parliament has shown that it is jealous of conferring these powers. In 1865 a comprehensive Act was passed relating to prisons. The rules were expressly scheduled and were made incapable of variation at the discretion of the Executive. Again, in 1877, when the subject was reviewed, Parliament acted with equal caution, because, although a power was given to the Secretary of State to make rules as to differentiation of treatment, those powers were confined to the distinction between convicted and unconvicted prisoners and prisoners who are or who are not classed as debtors. In these circumstances, the alteration of the existing conditions of treatment cannot be discussed on the present Vote. On the general question I must adhere to the position taken by the Home Secretary, which is that experience shows that you cannot devise for a special class of offences which constitute a distinct breach of the law a different treatment from others which would not in effect give the offenders the glories of martyrdom without any of its pains.
§ *MR. CHANNING
I cannot accept the interpretation the hon. Gentleman has given of the Acts and the powers given by them. But in any case, however the Acts may be interpreted, I submit that the Home Secretary clearly has the power of issuing a Circular addressed to Magistrates calling their attention to the powers they possess with regard to the treatment of prisoners, and I would still press upon the right hon. Gentleman to consider the expediency of doing so.
§ (9.30.) MR. PICTON
The Under Secretary has said that certain regulations were framed and scheduled, but we have known cases in which—
This is a matter which cannot be discussed under this Vote, nor, indeed, can the suggestion of the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, that the Home Secretary should issue a Circular as to differential treatment.
§ MR. PICTON
Cannot the exercise of the discretion of the Home Secretary be discussed under this Vote?
Only within the limits of the Prisons Act. This Vote refers to the administration of the prisons.
§ MR. PICTON
It is with regard to the treatment of different classes of prisoners that hardships exist, and upon which there is much feeling in the country.
That is not pertinent to this Vote. What can be arraigned is the administration of prisons by the Prison Commissioners, and their action within the limits the law allows them.
§ MR. PICTON
If I am precluded from discussing the punishment on prisoners convicted of offences against the Vaccination Laws, I confess I am rather at a loss. I can only say that, having the honour to be a Member of the Vaccination Commission, I feel myself under a difficulty, for I have no right here to express an opinion on the general subject, but I may say that evidence already published shows that the exercise of discipline in prisons with regard to prisoners who have been actuated by conscientious motives is irritating to public feeling, and ought to be amended as soon as possible.
§ *MR. CHANNING
On the point of order, Sir, may I draw your 480 attention to the fact that what I was asking the Home Secretary to undertake was to draw the attention of the Magistrates to the discrimination as to treatment of prisoners instituted by the Prison Rules under the Prisons Act, and the desirability of so using their discretion as to bring about a state of things in which the Prisons Act would be administered in the spirit under which those rules were laid down?
(9.35.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 50; Noes 94.—(Div. List, No. 382.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ *(9.44.) MR. JOSEPH C. BOLTON (Stirling)
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by the sum of £2,000, as a protest against the high salaries paid to prison chaplains in England as compared with those paid to chaplains in Scotland and Ireland. The salaries paid to the first-class chaplains in England range from £350 to £450 a year, while the salaries of first-class chaplains in Scotland are only £200 and £300; and the highest salary paid to any chaplain in Ireland is £200 per annum. In England the second-class chaplains begin at £300 and rise to £400, or £200 more than the highest salary paid in Ireland to any chaplain. In England assistant chaplains are paid a salary at the commencement of their services of £250, rising to £300, so it would appear that assistant chaplains in England are considered more efficient public servants than first-class-chaplains in Scotland, and, of course, greatly superior to first-class chaplains in Ireland. Some three years ago the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury admitted the necessity of a revision of the salaries paid to chaplains in English prisons, and in a subsequent year he practically admitted the anomaly, and took credit to himself for the possibility of correcting it without adding to the salaries in Scotland and Ireland. I do not know whether he has attempted to revise these salaries and finds it impossible to do so, and I am sorry he is not in his place to give an explanation of the absence of a revision, and in his absence I think it only remains for me to move the Amendment of which I have given notice.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item D, Pay and Allowances of Officers, be reduced by £2,000, in respect of Salaries of Chaplains."—(Mr. Joseph C. Bolton.)
§ (9.47.) MR. MATTHEWS
I admire the extraordinary ingenuity of the hon. Gentleman who, under colour of finding fault with the salaries paid to English chaplains, has practically insinuated that the salaries of chaplains in Scotland ought to be raised. But this is a matter over which I have no control; the hon. Member should address his arguments to the representatives of the Treasury. The hon. Gentleman omitted to explain that the salaries of the chaplains in both countries are based upon the population of the prisons, and until very recently there was no Scotch prison whose population entitled the chaplain to the higher rate of remuneration. The salaries paid in England to first-class chaplains are in respect to prisons where there is a large daily average of prisoners.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
Yes, there the numbers exceed the numbers in English prisons where the remuneration is from £200 to £300, but usually the proportion is the same in both countries for that scale of payment. I might, therefore, rest my defence on that. But upon this Motion for reduction I can only say we do not find that the salaries paid for duties rendered in England are too large. For an increase in the remuneration to Scotch chaplains the hon. Member must address his arguments to the Treasury.
§ (9.52.) DR. TANNER
Under this system of payment by results it is to the interest of chaplains to keep up a large attendance of criminal population in our prisons. Now, I once had the honour of a brief stay in Holloway Prison, and I am bound to say I was fairly comfortable there. During the few weeks of my stay I attended the ministrations of the Protestant clergyman on Sundays, but not once did I have the pleasure of a visit from the chaplain. I do not know if other prisioners were similarly neglected; but, speaking from my own short experience, I may suggest that English chaplains might devote 482 more attention to the work for which they are well paid.
§ *(9.55.) MR. JOSEPH C. BOLTON
The right hon. Gentleman is quite right when he assumes that my desire is to raise the salaries of Scotch chaplains, not to reduce the salaries of English chaplains. If the right hon. Gentleman maintains that English chaplains are not overpaid, then he supports my contention that Scotch chaplains are underpaid. It is not in my power to move an increase to the Vote, so I am driven to the usual expedient of moving a reduction when calling attention to the grievance. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to the number of prisoners in English prisons, but he has omitted to mention that in many of these prisons there are also assistant chaplains and Roman Catholic priests assisting in the ministrations to prisoners. It is not very easy for one who does not know all the details to make a correct comparison, but it is perfectly evident from the short statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and from what the Secretary to the Treasury has previously said, that there is an anomaly in the scale of payment which requires remedy. The right hon. Gentleman admits that at Barlinnie Prison the chaplain is underpaid. Under the circumstances, and unless the right hon. Gentleman can give us some promise of revision, I must persist in my Motion.
§ MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
If we assume that the Scotch chaplains are properly paid, it follows that the English chaplains are overpaid, and the personal experience of my hon. Friend seems to indicate that in English prisons the clergyman does not always do his duty.
§ *MR. CAUSTON (Southwark, W.)
It was my intention to have brought forward the claims of what I considered an underpaid English chaplain, who, however, has recently died. In voting in support of the Motion of my hon. Friend, I desire to be understood that I do not think that English chaplains are overpaid, but I would like to see an increase of the pay to Scotch chaplains in proportion to their responsible duties.
SIR G. CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
On the contrary, I shall give my vote for the reduction, in the bonâ fide wish to reduce the salaries of English chaplains. I am much in favour of the voluntary system, not paying sectarian clergymen.
§ *(10.0.) MR. HOZIER (Lanarkshire, S.)
I have no wish whatever to reduce the pay of the English chaplains, but I must say I consider the Scotch chaplains are very much underpaid.
§ *MR. JOSEPH C. BOLTON
I hope that the Home Secretary will re-consider the matter, and give some assurance that the salaries of the Scotch chaplains will be placed on a more equitable footing. In the case of one English prison whore there is a daily average of 224 prisoners, there is a third-class chaplain employed and one Roman Catholic priest. I would ask if the Roman Catholic priest serves any number of prisoners, because if he does I suppose they must be deducted from the 224?
§ DR. TANNER
Are we to understand that the right hon. Gentleman has nothing to say to these prisoners, and that they are not to be cared for?
§ DR. TANNER
That is not the point. I would again deprecate the anti-religious position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has nothing to do with the Scotch chaplains? I would ask whether there is any responsible Member of the Government who has to do with the Scotch prisons?
§ MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)
The right hon. Gentleman says he has nothing to do with the Scotch prison chaplains, but he cannot say that he has nothing to do with the Welsh prison chaplains. Fortunately, there are not many prisons in the Principality, and there are now fewer than there used to be. Bat there is one thing about the chaplains—they are all of one 484 sect. I want to know if the right hon. Gentleman will take into consideration the desirability of selecting Nonconformists in appointing prison chaplains in Wales?
§ MR. S. T. EVANS
It is not a matter of pay, but of appointing them from one sect. All the chaplains belong to the Church of England.
§ MR. T. ELLIS (Merionethshire)
I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will give some answer to my hon. Friend.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
There is no provision by law for the appointment of any chaplains except those belonging to the Established Church.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
They are not chaplains, but Roman Catholic priests, who are appointed to officiate amongst a certain number of prisoners.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
Are we to understand that even where the majority of the people do not belong to the Church of England the Home Secretary is obliged to appoint clergymen of the Church of England as prison chaplains?
§ MR. MORTON
It seems from the Estimates that the right hon. Gentleman has power to appoint a visiting Presbyterian clergyman as well as Roman Catholic priests. If that is the case the right hon. Gentleman can surely appoint a Baptist, Wesleyan, or other Noncomformist chaplain in Wales.
§ DR. TANNER
May I ask whether we are to understand that the overwhelming mass of the prisoners in English gaols belong to the Established Church? The right hon. Gentleman assumes a singularly unfortunate position. If he will only quit his present religious attitude he will, I think, be able to furnish us with some solution of this problem.
485 (10.8.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 56; Noes 97.—(Div. List, No. 383.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ *(10.17.) MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
I wish to draw attention to the conditions of service of prison warders. Their usual hours of labour are 12 per day—from 6 o'clock in the morning to 6 in the evening—and every third night they have to remain on duty until 9 or 10, and sometimes until 12. In addition to this, the warder is frequently called on to sleep in the prison in case he is required, and yet he is expected to resume duty at the usual hour in the morning. Then, as to the wages of these men, they are exceedingly low having regard to the nature of the duties. On a man entering the Service he receives 23s. a week, with an increase of £1 a year for five years, when the increment stops, and the only chance he then has of further increase is by promotion. The chances of promotion, however, have during recent years been much lessened, owing, no doubt, to a happy cause—namely, the large diminution of the prison population. Still, that is no reason why some compensation, in some form or other, should not be given to those men for the loss they sustain in this respect. I find that some years ago an assistant warder, on an average, became a head warder at the end of seven years, whereas now the average period is about 15 years. Then, with regard to the quarters provided for the warders—for which they have to pay £9 2s. a year out of their already scanty pay—in some of the prisons they are in a very crowded and insanitary condition. A little while ago there appeared in the public journals a letter from Mr. Pearce Edgcumbe showing the way in which some of the warders are housed—showing that their residences at Portland are almost as bad as slums in the East End of London. Next, as to the question of superannuation. The age of compulsory retirement is 65, and a warder cannot retire on a full pension until he has served for 40 years. The morale of a 486 prison largely depends on the character of the warders, and yet these men are overworked and underpaid, and the houses in which they live, though public property, are frequently in a most insanitary condition. And, besides all this, these men are subjected to a very harsh military discipline. They are harassed by numerous fines for very trifling neglects of duty. In some foreign countries great attention is paid to the culture and recreation of the prison warders, but in England nothing of the kind is done. And there is another point in regard to these warders to which I would desire to call attention. It is a singular instance of the degree to which we are now carrying centralisation in the administration of our prisons. There are some 10 or 12 prisons at the present time which are now administered by a warder instead of a Governor—that is to say, you put a man who is receiving perhaps at the outside £3 a week in charge of a prison with 200 or 300 prisoners. The chaplain and the surgeon are both nominally under the control of the Governor. Now, can the right hon. Gentleman contend for a moment that a person in the position of a warder is capable of exercising control over the chaplain and the surgeon? It is obvious that the chaplain and the surgeon will under such circumstances do pretty much as they like, and it is also obvious that the Acting Governor will have no control nor discretion, but will be practically under the leading strings of the Prison Commissioners. I think that the degree of centralisation to which we have now attained is a matter which demands the serious attention of the public. Along with this centralisation, we also see that ameliorating influences in the prisons have, to a very considerable extent, fallen in the background, and that good influences from the outside are being more and more excluded. However, my main object in rising is to call the attention of the Committee to the circumstances of these warders, and unless I can obtain a satisfactory statement from the Home Secretary, promising some amelioration of their condition I shall persevere in the Amendment I now move, namely, to reduce the Vote by £200 under Sub-head B.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item D, Pay and Allowances of Officers, be reduced by £200 in respect of Pay of Warders."—(Mr. Pickersgill.)
§ (10.25.) MR. STUART WORTLEY
The claims of the warders to increased pay and improved conditions of service are at present the subject of investigation by a Committee appointed this Session for the express purpose of dealing with their grievances, and until that Committee report it will be premature for me to enter into the matter. The last time the claims of the warders were investigated was in 1883, when a Committee decided that there was no cause for complaint, and did not recommend any increase of pay. As to the quarters of the officers at Portland Prison, the matter was the subject of a question in the House a few weeks ago, and it then appeared that, although some of the quarters are insanitary, those quarters have been vacated, and are now unoccupied. The matter is still receiving attention.
§ *MR. PICKERSGILL
The hon. Member has not made any reference to the fact that some 12 prisons are at present under the control not of Governors, as under the old system, but of warders.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY
These prisons are only very small establishments, and there may be some where arrangements of the kind referred to have to be made. No doubt the hon. Member is right in suggesting that caution must be used in making these arrangements.
§ *MR. PICKERSGILL
The hon. Member says the prisons are small, but some of them contain 150 prisoners. But whether small or large the point is that these places are under the absolute control of men receiving only £3 per week. I ask how is it possible for such men to control the chaplain and surgeon—professional men of education? As to the Committee to which the hon. Member refers, it was appointed, I think, more than six months ago.
§ *MR. PICKERSGILL
Then, may I ask when it is likely to conclude its labours and present its Report?
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY
I am told that the Report is actually in proof at the present moment; but it has not yet come in.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ (10.30.) MR. S. T. EVANS
I wish to call attention to the item of £750 for prison chaplains in Wales, and to move the reduction of the Vote by that amount. I find that, besides Roman Catholic clergymen, a visiting Presbyterian receives a stipend, and I therefore want to know why the Nonconformists should not be allowed to have chaplains? If the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary is bound by Act of Parliament to dispense this favouritism, I think that, at any rate, we have a right to call on the ministers of the Established Church to perform these functions for nothing. I move to reduce the Vote by the sum of £150.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item D, Pay and Allowances of Officers, be reduced by £750, in respect of Pay of Chaplains."—(Mr. S. T. Evans.)
§ MR. T. ELLIS
I support the Amendment. Since the administration of the prisons has been centralised this is the only opportunity we have of calling attention to these anomalies, and this is worse than an anomaly. If the right hon. Gentleman is bound by Act of Parliament to nominate in a Nonconformist country only ministers of the Established Church, then I think the least those clergymen should do is to do their work, so far as prisons are concerned, for very much less pay than they now receive; and considering the little they have to do among the Welsh people, I think they might undertake this prison work for nothing. The same question crops up again in regard to work houses, but there local opinion has some sort of sway over nominations; but since 1877, since the centralising of prison control, this is the only opportunity we have of challenging the appointments. I hope my hon. Friend will press his Motion to a Division.
489 (10.35.) The Committee divided:—Ayes 56; Noes 100.—(Div. List, No. 384.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ (10.44.) MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I have no desire to protract these proceedings in Committee, but there is a meritorious body of public servants whose salaries are included in this Vote, and who claim that they have not been fairly treated. I mean the clerical staff of the prisons. When the prisons were taken over by the Government under the Act of 1877 a very considerable change was necessarily made in the clerical staff, and certain regulations were made by an Order in Council in the year 1879. The Prison Commissioners required that the prison clerks should not enter the Service by open competition, but were to be nominated and to possess certain qualifications not generally required. They were required to be of at least 20 years of age, and Sir Edward DuCane, before the Civil Service Commission, two years ago, specially dwelt on the necessity of having men for the prison clerical staff of somewhat higher qualifications than the ordinary clerks in the Civil Service. So here is a special class of Civil servants with special qualifications; and in the Order in Council to which I have referred these prison clerks were led to expect all the advantage of the Civil Service, rising to salaries of £300 or £400 a year. The prison clerks, instead of realising the prospect the Government set before them, find the path of promotion blocked, and themselves stranded, in middle age or advanced life, at salaries of £150 and £200 instead of £300. There has been a distinct breach of faith on the part of the Government, and in equity these clerks have a strong claim to consideration. For reasons into which I now need not enter, I ceased to be a member of the Civil Service Commission; but if I had remained a member, I should have done my best to bring the case of these clerks before the Commission. As a matter of fact, their case was not presented, though they presented Memorials desiring to be heard. The head of the Department (Sir E. DuCane), under 490 some misapprehension, informed the Commissioners that the clerks on the staff did not desire to make any personal representation. A short time since, I think in December last, some kind of re-arrangement of the scales of pay was decided upon, with the class called storekepers at the head of the list, then first-class and second-class clerks. The second-class were to begin at £70, rising to £150; the first-class rising from £155 to £200. The result of the arrangement is that the men who entered the Service at 20 or 21 years of age have to serve 16 years before reaching £200, and then 10 years more, when under the most favourable circumstances conceivable, and which in practice can scarcely be attained, they may reach the maximum of £300. In ordinary civil life there might be a ground for action in this breach of faith, but of course the clerks have no means of recovery or action against the Government. Beyond all cavil, these clerks have been misled; the conditions under which they entered the Service have been falsified. I do hope we shall have from the Government a promise of amelioration of the position of these public servants.
§ (10.52.) MR. STUART WORTLEY
This subject has been investigated by a Departmental Committee. The proposal made to it was that the two classes, consisting of 43 first-class clerks and 139 second-class clerks, should be merged into one class, so that the majority should receive higher emoluments. This, however, was found impracticable on account of the different-sized prisons that had to be provided for; but the number of clerks of the first-class has been increased to 93, and the number in the second-class had been reduced to 83, and this involves the raising of a proportionate number of salaries from £140 to £190, and from £155 to £200. There has also been an increase in the number of storekeepers, whose position is one of advantage, and of the number of clerks who receive higher pay for taking charge of stores. In this way it is understood that grievances have substantially been met. Experience has shown that, whether owing to the centralisation of the prison system or other 491 causes, there has been a great decrease in the number of prisons, and, therefore, in that of posts available, but the Government cannot be held to blame on that account. On the other hand, I submit that by improvements in pay and by recent changes the Government have done all that could be expected to meet the claims of these clerks. Under the circumstances, I do not think the Government can be held to blame for not having done their best in the matter.
§ (11.0.) MR. A. O'CONNOR
I can quite understand how with such officials as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stuart Wortley) at the head of the Civil Service, feelings of disgust, of impatience, and of a sense of injustice are very rapidly developing, to the damage of the public interest. The hon. Gentleman has not answered one of the points raised. He has not said anything about the clerks who were in the Service when the Government took over the prisons. He fell back on the alteration in the scales of pay, and said the Government had benefited the clerks through that. He told us how they have raised the maximum. It is perfectly true they have. [Mr. STUART WORTLEY: And also the numbers; there are more than double.] There the hon. Gentleman is misleading the Committee, or else he does not understand the facts. The Home Secretary never would have given us the answer the Under Secretary has given us. I never heard any man give an answer with regard to a portion of the Public Service so utterly unworthy of a large-minded Administration as that which has just fallen from the hon. Gentleman. I do hope that for the sake of the Civil Service the Home Secretary will keep his subordinate in check and prevent him creating those feelings of dissatisfaction, discontent, and distrust which speeches such as his are calculated to create. Unless the Government hare got some better answer to give than the flimsy answer we have just had, I shall be under the necessity of dividing the Committee. I beg to move to reduce the Vote by the sum of £1,000 in connection with Item D.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Item D be reduced by £1,000.—(Mr. A. O'Connor.)492
§ (11.6.) DR. CLARK
I intended to move a reduction of the Vote on other grounds; but we had better take the whole discussion now. Last year I found that first and second-class clerks in England and Scotland had the same salaries. This year I find there has been an increase in the maximum salary of the first-class clerks in English prisons from £190 to £200, and an increase in the maximum salary of the second-class clerks from £130 to £150. Every official in England is paid a higher maximum than in Scotland, and I want to know why the Government have increased the pay of the prison clerks in England and not in Scotland. If the present state of things exists next year we shall certainly take a Division and fight the question out.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
I hope we shall have some explanation respecting the increase in the salaries of the English officials. Before the increase took place in November last the Scotch and English clerks were on exactly the same level, and surely we are entitled to know why, when the work of the clerks in both countries is precisely the same, an increase should be given to the clerks in one country and not to those in the other?
§ MR. MORTON
I hope the right hon. Gentleman is going to give us some answer to the case put forward. I do not profess to thoroughly understand the question, but surely we are entitled to some explanation from the Home Secretary with regard to the charges made by the hon. Member for Donegal (Mr. A. O'Connor). As far as I can understand the Estimates, we amply protect those who receive large salaries, and show little consideration for the men in receipt of small stipends. Such a state of things is to be greatly deprecated.
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I can only repeat what my hon. Friend has already told the Committee. I do not assert that the condition of these clerks is all that could be desired, but it is not possible to alter the conditions of the Public Service for the sake of one small class. The clerks in the Prison Department are in a position that compares not 493 unfavourably with that of clerks in other Departments of the Public Service.
§ (11.12.) MR. A. O'CONNOR
At any rate, no one can object to the tone of the right hon. Gentleman; no one can feel that any disposition of resentment will be enkindled by his words. But the right hon. Gentleman touched very lightly—if, indeed, he touched it at all—the point I wished to deal with. You induced a number of men to enter a particular branch of the Service under distinct representations as to prospects and promotion and pay, and when you got them into the Service you would not allow them to leave that particular branch, and you refused to give them the pay you promised them. The Home Secretary says that his predecessor in office had nothing to do with the matter; but the Order in Council says he had. The fees charged by the Civil Service Commissioners in connection with entry into the Service are fixed after consultation by them with the heads of the Civil Departments. Therefore, in the case of these clerks, I maintain that there has been a gross breach of faith.
§ (11.17.) MR. WALLACE
There is a very great difference in this House between what may be called logical relevancy and practical relevancy. In the matter of logical relevancy I can see the Home Secretary is right, but in practical relevancy I can see he is wrong. I mean to stick to the practical relevancy in this matter, and I regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness has not announced his intention of taking a Division, for the simple reason that there is no possibility of getting justice to Scotland, or for any community that is smaller than the English community, unless we take ourselves to processes that are more open to practical recommendation than to logical conclusion. I want to know why the English salaries have been increased, while those in Scotland have been allowed to stand still? I think the Scottish Law Officers of the Crown who are present have very feebly stood by the rights and interests of Scotland, when an inequality of this description is presented to the House, and is not dealt with argumentatively by the financial authorities on the Treasury Bench.
§ (11.20.) DR. CLARK
I did not want to take two Divisions; but if the Government will not answer my question, I shall be compelled to move a reduction of the Vote by £2,190, the amount involved. If we are treated with silent contempt, the only thing we can do is to make ourselves felt. Surely the Home Secretary or one of the Scottish Law Officers can tell us why this increase has been given to England and not to Scotland.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I am sure there is no wish on the part of any occupant of the Government Bench to be discourteous to hon. Gentlemen. We are asked why we have dealt with the case of the English officials only. It is a little discouraging that the moment we attempt to deal with the alleged grievances of one class of officials, a host of other grievances is to be raised. Certain grievances were put forward by English prison officials. According to hon. Gentlemen opposite, we have not satisfied them; we have endeavoured to satisfy them, but we have not, and I regret that that has been the result. Special circumstances were put before us in the case of the English officials. We have not had any special case put forward by the Scotch officials, and the reason why we have not attempted to deal with the case of the Scotch officials is that it has not been brought forward. If they can prove that the same grounds exist for favourably considering their case, as were shown in the case of the English officials, the attention of the Treasury will, no doubt, be given to the matter. I hope hon. Members will see after this intimation that we have not been niggardly in the case of Scotland. I do not wish to shut the door to any claim that may be made. I only repeat that we have only dealt with the special circumstances put before us.
§ (11.24.) DR. CLARK
I expected such an answer from the Government. Next year if the present state of things is then in existence we shall raise the whole question at length. The lower grade clerks have always been on the same footing as similar officials in England, and by next year we hope the Treasury will have acted fairly all round.
§ MR. CALDWELL
When the right hon. Gentleman talks about the discourage- 495 ment to deal with grievances, I should like to point out that 177 persons in England benefit by the augmented salary. In Scotland only 14 would be affected; surely it would be a small matter to raise their salaries to a similar extent.
§ (11.27.) MR. WALLACE
I understand from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the reason why the English applicants have been more favoured than their Scotch brethren is that they have been more importunate.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. There were special circumstances brought forward in the case of the English prison officials. I do not know whether those special circumstances apply to Scotland.
§ MR. WALLACE
I understand that if the Scotch officials are able to bring forward certain special circumstances certain particular modifications and certain diversities in connection with their claims they will possibly be as successful as the English officials. I shall be content under the present circumstances to refrain from further opposition to the passing of this Vote.
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR
If by putting the Committee to the trouble of a Division I could secure anything, I would not hesitate to invite the Home Secretary to walk through the Division Lobby; but as I do not see any chance of securing the object I am aiming at, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
2. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £87,133, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Lord Advocate's Department, and other Law Charges, and the Salaries and Expenses of the Courts of Law and Justice in Scotland.
§ (11.32.) MR. ANGUS SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
I wish to get some information with regard to a legal officer whose position is not so well known to us as that of other legal officers. I refer to the Crown Agent. What are his duties, and is he engaged 496 in other pursuits outside his office work?
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON, Bute)
The duties of the office are of an important character, and it is a permanent office. The gentleman in question acts as solicitor for the Crown in Scotland, and in that capacity has the management of criminal prosecutions. The present holder of the office is Mr. Jamieson, who is well known as one of the most accomplished and experienced men of business in the country. He is engaged, as all his predecessors were, in the conduct of business on his own account; but I am convinced that no public service rendered to Scotland is more valuable than that performed by the Crown Agent.
§ (11.35.) MR. ANGUS SUTHERLAND
I should like to point out that in other public offices steps have been taken to secure that the official has no private practice, and I would suggest it would be better if the Crown Agent were precluded from engaging in private practice. There is an increasing tendency in Scotland to separate public duties from private work; and as I gather that the holder of this office does not change with a change of Government, it becomes all the more easy to provide that he should confine his attention to the duties of the post.
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I may point out that the Crown Agent has no power to determine who is to be prosecuted, or what shall take place in that direction. For that the Lord Advocate is responsible. No professional man of such standing would consent to give his entire services for £1,200 a year, and it is quite unnecessary that any such change should be made.
§ *(11.38.) MR. CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
I think it right to confirm the observations which have fallen from the Lord Advocate. I have had considerable experience in the administration of the Criminal Law in Scotland. When I was at the Bar, and afterwards when I was Legal Secretary to the Lord Advocate, I was in constant correspondence with the Crown Agent. 497 The considerations which apply to the office of Procurator Fiscal in the matter of having a private practice do not apply to the Crown Agent. Whereas the Procurator Fiscal, in his local sphere, has a great deal to say in the institution of criminal prosecutions, the Crown Agent has no discretion in the matter at all. The discretion rests with the Lord Advocate and his deputies. The question as to whether the Crown Agent should be allowed to have a private practice has been several times carefully considered. It was considered by Lord Advocate M'Neill, afterwards a distinguished Judge and a Member of the other House of Parliament; and again it was considered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Clackmannan; and the decision they both came to, without the slightest hesitation, was that it was so important that the holder of the office should be a man of high position and wide experience that it would be a great pity to appoint a mere permanent official, and not to have the advantage the country now possesses of having for the Crown Agent a man in the foremost rank of his profession. I can conscientiously assure my hon. Friend that there is no ground for adverse criticism on this Vote, and that the services of the Crown Agent are very cheaply obtained.
§ *MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH (Inverness-shire)
I wish on the sub-head—Law Agent to the Woods and Forests in Scotland—to raise a question as to the alienation of Crown fisheries, and to ask for an assurance that the practice shall not be continued.
§ (11.41.) MR. WALLACE
I have no wish to move a substantial reduction in the Vote; but in regard to the offices of Lord Advocate and Solicitor General for Scotland, I must say that the salaries are remarkably small compared with those of the Attorney General and Solicitor General for England. Certainly, the Government get good value for their money in their Law Officers, and I am, therefore, unable to understand the arithmetical principles on which the difference is made. But there is one item in the Vote—a comparatively 498 trivial one—which I have noticed on previous occasions, and intend to draw attention to every year so long as it appears in the Votes, and that is the Vote for macers and trumpeters. I cannot understand why this Vote is persevered in, and why this money, which might be much better spent in Scotland, is thus wasted. Why should £320 be spent upon trumpeters? It is, to my mind, utterly unpractical, and leads to no beneficial result. The trumpeters are practically useless even in their own Department. They each receive a salary of £16 16s. 4d. a year, and a uniform once in every five years. A man whose uniform lasts five years cannot have very much to do. Let the Lord Advocate conceive what a hat would be like on the ultimate day of the fifth year if it were much used. And what would be the state of the boots at the end of the quinquennial period. I do not wish to deal with other items of garmenture; but it must be assumed that the uniform has to be kept decent in order to maintain the honour of the country. And if it keeps decent for five years it cannot be very much used. With respect to the macers, their functions are altogether formal. They may have some substantial service to perform; but I have never been able to find out what their functions are in the Court of Justiciary. I believe they go on circuit; but surely justice would be as effectively administered without their attendance. I see the whole amount of salaries is £820 a year—£820 spent on wind and macers, under the pretence that it is conducive to the proper administration of justice in Scotland. Might not the money be spent more usefully, say on an Astronomer Royal for Scotland? The Scottish Judiciary would get on very well without these trumpeters and macers. They ought to be abolished, and the money thereby saved devoted to some useful purpose. I rejoice that there should be such difficulty in finding fault with the Scotch Estimates, and I can only say that I desire to purge the almost pure Estimates for Scotland from these absurdities.
§ (11.50.) MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I am not sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman quite realises the functions 499 of the macers. The macer in Scotland is in England the usher, an officer with whom no fault is ever found, and who is necessary for maintaining the order and decorum of the Court. But even in the office of macer, a considerable economy has been effected in recent years, because, while the Court of Justiciary used to have a staff of macers for itself, who only went on circuit, those macers have now to perform their duties in both the Civil and the Justiciary Courts. As for the trumpeters, the hon. Member has himself vindicated the Vote to a large extent, because he has even censured the economy with which the modest state of the establishment is maintained. I objected to them having a uniform only in five years, and, accordingly, I have to defend the Vote against the charge of undue niggardliness which the hon. Member has suggested. But I may remind the hon. Member that even the office of trumpeters has been carefully economised of recent years.
§ DR. MACDONALD (Ross and Cromarty)
Is there any explanation to be given as to the office of election petition appeals?
§ MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
There have recently been no election petition appeals, and the item for the officer under that head is not a Vote so much as an Estimate. The sum may not be necessary.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
I desire to ask as to the fees received by the Legal Secretary to the Lord Advocate?
§ (11.56.) MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
As regards the fees in addition to the salary which the Lord Advocate's Secretary receives, these are mainly for drafting, and they vary from year to year. I cannot say off-hand how much the Secretary receives, this year or last year, because recently the method which I think best has been adopted of having the bills drafted by experts. As regards Advocates Depute, the fees they receive, in addition to their salaries, are fees given in cases where they are merely selected as counsel in appeals to the High Court of Justiciary or suspensions in special cases relating to the decisions given in Courts below. In such cases, the Procurator Fiscal in Edinburgh or 500 elsewhere may employ any counsel they like, and, accordingly, if they employ as their counsel Advocates who are Advocates Depute, the fees are paid to them in the ordinary practice of their profession, although related to quasi-criminal work. Then, as to Procurators Fiscal, there has been a steady tendency in recent years to put them on salary, and in most cases where they are still paid by fees, they are survivals of old appointments.
§ (12.0.) DR. CLARK
I do not expect we shall get much satisfaction out of the present Lord Advocate in relation to these Crown Agents any more than we have had any satisfaction from previous Lord Advocates. Officials of the same character in England and Ireland are permanent officials, and I think the Crown Agent in Scotland ought to be like the Director of Public Prosecutions in England and the other official of the same kind in Ireland. The salary might be re-arranged and fixed at £1,500 or £1,600 a year. I think the present system is a bad one. We have the Crown Solicitor in Scotland acting for the Crown and for half a dozen landlords. I know he acts for several Dukes. It may be that the Crown Solicitor can in these cases act impartially; but the feeling is that the Crown Agent does, in the interest of his other clients, control several matters in relation to Crown business. I on a previous occasion pointed out how the Solicitor for the "Woods and Forests was under suspicion in this respect, and I am sure it is a bad thing that the appointment should be in the private patronage of the Lord Advocate. It is no use taking a Division now, but we must see what can be done under a future Government. The Solicitor should be appointed to give the whole of his time, with a salary proportionate to the work.
§ (12.5.) MR. CALDWELL
I think we could secure the services of a very superior Law Agent in Scotland for £1,000 a year. It would be for the public interest if the Crown Agent and the Agent for Woods and Forests were made into one official, who should not have private practice and be the agent of a large landowner, and who should be permanently in office; because in connection with criminal procedure in 501 Scotland, it is important to have continuity of office.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
The taxpayer is not likely to gain very much from the proposals of Scotch Members. I find that whenever Scotch Members suggest the reduction of one salary they invariably suggest an increase in two or three others. Therefore, I am content with things as they are. I wish to complain of the item of £50 for the trial of Election Petitions. That item has appeared in the Estimates for the last 10 years, and I think that when the Minister in charge of a particular Estimate states that he does not anticipate for a moment that it will be spent during the current year it ought not to appear on the Estimates. The result is, it is transferred to some other item under the head of law charges, or it goes to swell the Budget surplus at the end of the year.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
3. Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £25,354, be granted to Her Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1892, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Offices in Her Majesty's General Register House, Edinburgh.
§ *(12.9.) MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH
I desire to call the attention of the Lord Advocate and the Secretary to the Treasury to the office of Register of Sasines. The matter has been before the Treasury for a number of years. There was great dissatisfaction on the part of many when that office was transferred to the Treasury. The higher officials were satisfied with their old position, but there are a considerable number of most deserving men called engrossing clerks who complain that they have been excluded from the benefits of the Act of 1879. These clerks have been constantly urging their being placed on the same footing as others—that is to say, the commissioned clerks—with powers of getting an increase of salary, and also of being promoted to higher grades. Of a sudden the Secretary for Scotland, no doubt acting on the advice of the Treasury, withdrew all countenance whatever from these 502 clerks, who consider that they are exceedingly ill-used. Some months ago I put a question to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, asking for the production of the correspondence, and for the Report of an inquiry into the state of the office presided over by the late Lord Lee. The Secretary to the Treasury refused to produce the documents, and I now call upon him to mention what the purport of that Report was as regards these engrossing clerks.
§ *(12.12.) MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
I beg to support the appeal of my hon. Friend. The condition and salaries of these clerks have been constantly brought forward before the House for many years past. In view of the representations which were made in this House, a Departmental Committee was appointed in 1888. The Report of that Departmental Committee has never been published, but it is understood the Committee reported in favour of the claims of these clerks. A Minute issued by the Scottish Secretary did not grant the claims put forward on the part of the engrossing clerks, though it did those of the commissioned clerks. The clerks naturally feel that if the Departmental Committee did report in favour of their claims, they ought to have some explanation from the Scottish Secretary and the Scottish Office as to the Report of the Departmental Committee, and why the distinction has been made between them and the commissioned clerks. I should also like to have some information from the Secretary to the Treasury or the Lord Advocate with regard to another branch in the Register House—namely, the Minute Book clerks, six in number. It is a small matter. They have presented a Memorial to the Secretary to the Treasury in which they represent that they can now only earn under the reorganisation an average of £130 or £140 instead of from £170 to £190. They think, and with justice, that it was never intended that they should suffer in this way for the reorganisation. It is a small matter; only six men are affected, three of whom have been in the Service since 1868–9. I would urge upon the Government that they should inquire why it is these 503 clerks are dissatisfied, and what is really their complaint.
§ (12.15.) MR. WALLACE
I am not generally in favour of any movement the effect of which would be to add to the Estimates, but in this particular case I really wish to have some explanation why these engrossing clerks should not be on the same footing as certain other clerks whose claims have been acknowledged. It is exceedingly difficult to understand the affairs of the Sasines Office; but my hon. Friend has sounded the depths and fathomed the difficulties, and his opinion is that the engrossing clerks ought under Statute to have the same footing as commissioned clerks, and I agree with him. Such documents as have been made public may be quoted in favour of my hon. Friend's contention. In the Treasury Minute of 1881 it is distinctly laid down that the abridgment clerks are to be put on the permanent establishment of the Department. The position of the abridgment clerks includes the engrossing clerks.
§ (12.22.) MR. JACKSON
It is quite certain that the engrossing clerks are not in the Treasury Minute to which the hon. Member refers. They are simply clerks who are paid by piecework. They are not on the establishment of the Civil Service, and they are practically in the same position as copyists in other branches of the Civil Service in this country.
§ *MR. BUCHANAN
I think we ought to have some further information. Three years ago the Departmental Committee, presided over by the late Lord Lee, reported upon the claims of these gentlemen; and though the Report was never made public, it is commonly asserted, and has never been denied, that the Report was in favour of those claims. The claim of the commissioned clerks has been granted, while that of the engrossing clerks has not been granted, and I want to know upon what ground this distinction has been made. Also, I should be glad to have some reply in relation to that limited class to which I have referred—the Minute Book clerks.
§ *(12.26.) MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH
The right hon. Gentleman introduces the word "copyists," a 504 novelty in the office. The clerks are engaged on work of an important character requiring the greatest care, and though they are paid at so much a page, this is merely carrying out the rule observed prior to the transference to the Treasury. Large fees are exacted for the work, which requires the greatest exactitude. The clerks occupy the same standing as the commissioned clerks, and until 1879 the engrossing clerks were treated as clerks of the Establishment. I feel compelled to take a Division against the Vote.
§ (12.27.) MR. WALLACE
The treatment to which we are now being subjected by the right hon. Gentleman is most contemptuous. He seems to think we are to accept his ipse dixit on a matter of the interpretation of documents. If the right hon. Gentleman is simply going to try to work the matter off in this autocratic fashion, the Scottish Members may have to resort to the proper means of resenting this sort of contemptuous despotism. I have referred to the Minute of 1881 emanating from the Department for which he is officially responsible, and of which he may be considered the judicial expositor, but he gives us no explanation. His reply is: "Sic volo, sic jubeo; stet pro ratione voluntas." The right hon. Gentleman is trying to ride a high horse in a way that is quite inconsistent either with the position of the horse or the rider. I do not believe the right hon. Gentleman knows anything at all about the matter, and we cannot accept his official assertions as truth and gospel. The engrossing clerks, whose circumstances we are now considering, were put on the same footing by the Treasury Minute as the commissioned clerks, and the right hon. Gentleman has given no answer to the question raised by the hon. Member for Inverness-shire and the hon. Member for West Edinburgh as to the declaration of Lord Lee's Commission. If the right hon. Gentleman will not give us an answer such as is suitable to the position which Scotch Members—and especially Scotch Members connected with the Register House in Edinburgh—occupy, probably he will not get this Vote as quickly as he anticipates.
§ *(12.32.) MR. JACKSON
I am very sorry that the hon. Member should have thought it necessary to address the Committee in the tone he has done. All I want to point out is that the hon. Member has misunderstood the Minute. I say again, that if he will make inquiries he will find that copying clerks were not put on the Establishment by this Minute.
§ *MR. JACKSON
They were not the men employed in the copying work. If the hon. Member will look at the Estimate he will find that there is a sum of money taken for copying. The money is paid according to the amount of work done, and I can assure the hon. Member that he is mistaken that the Treasury Minute placed these copyists on the Establishment as the Establishment of the Civil Service. To do that would be to put the clerks in the position of being entitled to pension. These copyists are not entitled to pensions.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That a sum, not exceeding £25,304, be granted for the said Service."—(Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh.)
§ *(12.35.) MR. BUCHANAN
We must press for some information on this matter. As to the Treasury Minute, what took place was this: Six of these engrossing clerks were put on the permanent Civil Establishment; but it must be well-known to the right hon. Gentleman that ever since the Minute was published in 1881 there has been dissatisfaction in the office on the part not merely of the commissioned clerks, but of the engrossing clerks. In 1888 the Government took the very wise step of appointing the Special Committee referred to, the head of which was the very distinguished Judge, Lord Lee. We have never heard it stated to the House what the Report of that Committee was; but it is well known, and bas never been denied, that it reported generally in favour of the claim put forward, not merely by the commissioned clerks, but by the engrossing clerks. The Government have carried out the 506 recommendations of the Report as to the commissioned clerks, but not as to the engrossing clerks; and what we want is a statement of the reasons why that part of the Report has not been carried out. The right hon. Gentleman has studiously avoided saying a word as to the evidence brought before this Committee or what it reported. He cannot be in ignorance on these points, because they have been brought before him in questions, and he must have known when the Vote came up to-night that the question of this Committee and the engrossing clerks would come up on this occasion. I therefore say that the right hon. Gentleman is treating us with less courtesy than we have a right to expect when he refuses to answer the claims put forward by the representatives of the people of Scotland. If we cannot get a further explanation I shall certainly support my hon. Friend in his Motion for the reduction of the Vote.
§ (12.39.) MR. WALLACE
I am perfectly astonished at the immovability of the right hon. Gentleman under the appeal of the hon. Member for West Edinburgh. Nothing could have been put in a more conciliatory manner, or in a way more fitted to evoke a declaration from an official willing to give information to those who have a right to expect information on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman has sailed off again on a simple denial. He tells me that I am wrong in my interpretation of the Treasury Minute, but he does not show me that I am wrong. He merely says so. I say "Yes," and he says "No." Is that fitting discussion in an assembly such as this? I say it is not, and my way of argument is as good as that of the right hon. Gentleman. The thing is reduced to a nursery argument. That is the way children in a nursery argue. The one says it is, and the other says it is not. What satisfaction can be got for the promotion of public business in argumentation of that kind? The right hon. Gentleman has some dim and remote understanding of the history of this matter, because he jumped to a certain particular half-dozen of clerks who are placed in a peculiar position by this Minute. 507 I understand that, but 6 and 13 are not the same thing. There are 13 abridgment clerks who were put on the Establishment by this Minute, and they include the engrossing clerks; but the right hon. Gentleman can only say "No." Who are the abridgment clerks if they are not the engrossing clerks? Let him bring proof to show that the abridgment clerks are not the engrossing clerks. His mere uninstructed, individual assertion is of no value in this Committee unless proved by appropriate argument. He has been again and once again, and again and once again, and another time in addition challenged to give his opinion on Lord Lee's Committee. He will not say a word about it. I do not believe he knows a word about Lord Lee's Committee. His answer had all the appearance of stolid ignorance. What right has the Financial Secretary to be ignorant of Lord Lee's Committee? It was an important Committee in connection with this subject, and the right hon. Gentleman is bound to have read the correspondence with regard to it. I do not believe he knows who Lord Lee is. Let him acknowledge his ignorance of the whole matter, and we shall be able to deal with him. If he is not ignorant let him tell us whether the abridgment clerks, whose position was secured in the Minute of 1881, are not the very identical engrossing clerks I am now putting forward. I insist upon his telling us whether he has read the correspondence in connection with Lord Lee's Committee or Commission, and whether the deliverance of the Commission was not in favour of that decision?
§ (12.46.) MR. JACKSON
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman opposite and I are not discussing the same item, if the hon. Member is correct about his 13 engrossing clerks. The item I refer to is an item of £7,000 for copying.
§ MR. JACKSON
The hon. Member spoke about 13 engrossing clerks, and, as I understood, went on to assert that they were the same as those to whom I had referred, who come under the head of copying, and for whom a round sum 508 has been taken in the Estimates. I cannot believe that the hon. Member's 13 engrossing clerks get £7,000; therefore, I think he must be mistaken in thinking that these are the same body as those to whom I referred. I think he will find he is mistaken. Reference has been made to a Committee which was appointed, and on which a Treasury Representative sat—and about which he thinks I know very little. Well, I may tell him that I had a good deal to do with that Committee, and had still more to do with it when the Report was made to the Treasury through the Scotch Office, and I was under the impression that the question had been settled to the entire satisfaction of those concerned. There is one point, as to which I have no Papers, and on which I am in some doubt. I am not clear in my mind as to the positions of those who have been described as "Minute Clerks." I cannot from recollection say what their position is, but I will inform myself on the matter, and on Report will give the hon. Member a complete answer.
§ *(12.50.) MR. BUCHANAN
I recognise the conciliatory tone of the right hon. Gentleman, especially with regard to the Minute Book Clerks, who are a comparatively small body of men. As to the other branch of the subject, the right hon. Member in his opening remarks adopted a somewhat unworthy argument. He knows whom the clerks are to whom the hon. Member refers. They are the engrossing clerks, who held appointments previous to 1879. He also knows very well that these clerks are 30 in number. Their position is an anomaly owing to the passing of the Lord Clerk Register Act of that year, and to the Treasury Minute, and to the action taken in that Minute. When the right hon. Gentleman tells us that he thought that Lord Lee's Committee had settled the whole matter he must have forgotten that during last Session, and during the present Session, a series of questions were put on the subject.
§ MR. JACKSON
I have no recollection of any question having been put to me since the Report of the Commission.
§ *MR. BUCHANAN
I thought the hon. Member for Inverness-shire said he had put questions. At any rate we have not had information. Why, when the Committee reported generally in favour of these two Departments of clerks, has the Executive Authority sanctioned the Report in regard to one section of them, and not done so in regard to the other?
§ (12.54.) MR. JACKSON
I think it is admitted that the office is over-manned, the number of clerks being in excess of the requirements of the public service. It is part of the arrangement that on consideration of certain improvements in the position of these clerks when vacancies arise, the number shall be reduced. I do not think it would have been possible to have admitted to these ranks a large number of clerks only employed in temporary service in the sense of only being paid according to the amount of work done. The copyists are paid according to the work they do.
§ *MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH
The right hon. Gentleman is mistaken in saying that the office is over-manned. By the greater use of printing, the work of the six Minute Book clerks has been lessened, otherwise the general business is larger than ever.
§ MR. JACKSON
There is a note in the Estimates saying that the clerks are to be reduced as vacancies arise.
§ (12.57.) MR. WALLACE
The right hon. Gentleman does not even yet understand the elements of the position. He is arguing this matter as a question of economic administration, but that is not the question at all. The question is one of the historical claims of certain individuals, and the right hon. Gentleman by an instinctive dexterity tries to confuse the historic argument with this question of economic administration. I decline to allow him to confuse the two subjects. The right hon. Gentleman is trying not to bring light into our minds, but to throw dust in our eyes, and I must tell him that that experiment is one which depends for its success very much upon the quality of the dust he throws, and the nature of the eyes he tries to throw it into. I say to him that the engrossing clerks had a certain claim at a particular 510 date, and they are not to be mixed up with the copyists. [Cries of "Divide!"] Hon. Members need not cry "Divide!" This is a matter which must be threshed to a conclusion. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me whether the conclusion of Lord Lee's Committee was favourable or unfavourable to the clients of the hon. Member for Inverness-shire?
§ MR. JACKSON
I am sorry I did not convey to the hon. Member my meaning. I am willing to admit—if that will satisfy the hon. Gentleman—that I am ignorant on the question of these Minute clerks. I have promised to look into the matter, and, when the Vote comes up on Report to-morrow, to give full and complete information in regard to it. I stated that I had not with me the papers relating to the clerks whom I suppose he speaks of as engrossing clerks. I would assure him that I had no intention of answering him curtly or with any want of courtesy, and I should be sorry if I thought I had.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ (12.59.) MR. ANGUS SUTHERLAND
I think that considering the importance of the next Vote, which relates to the Crofter Commission we should now report Progress. I therefore make that Motion.
§ Motion made, and question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Angus Sutherland.)
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I would venture to urge hon. Gentlemen not to press the Motion. I rather gather that it is the general feeling of the House that we should sit late to-night to endeavour to make progress.
I am in favour of having Scotch business discussed at a proper hour. The Government are entirely responsible for the delay which 511 has occurred in dealing with the Scotch Estimates. It has of late years been the practice of the Government to take first the business of England and Ireland, and then at the end of the Session when half the Members have left to bring on the Scotch Votes. If the Session is in consequence prolonged the fault is that of the Government, for Scotland is entitled to have more of the time of Parliament for the discussion of its affairs.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Member must bear in mind that this year the Estimates are being taken in their regular order, and that, therefore, his complaint that Scotch Estimates are postponed to the last does not apply. I must protest against his suggestion that we put Scotland in a back place in these matters.
§ DR. CLARK
I think the right hon. Gentleman might consider this question from another standpoint. On several occasions we have got by ballot a special night for the discussion of these matters, and on each the Government have taken the opportunity away from us. Now this Estimate is to be brought on at 1 o'clock in the morning, and last year it came on at 3 o'clock in the morning. We have some grievances which we want to discuss, and surely it will not be said that this hour in the morning is a convenient time for the purpose. There are only two Scotch Votes left, and I think that under the circumstances the Government might let us have the chance of debating them at a reasonable hour.
§ (1.4.) MR. SEXTON
We are willing to sit up late, but the question is to what hour does the Government require the sitting prolonged. The Scotch Members may reasonably object to going on with the Scotch Estimates after 1 o'clock. Hitherto the suspension of the 12 o'clock rule has only applied to Supply, but now it has been agreed to for the purpose of enabling other Bills, including some Irish Bills, to be advanced a stage. I shall, in view of the desirability of getting on with those Bills, resist any further progress being made with the Scotch Votes to-night.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I should like to point out that one of the Irish Bills 512 referred to by the hon. Member for West Belfast is a very contentious measure, and will be resisted in every possible way. I therefore ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to bear that in mind.
§ MR. SEXTON
The Training Colleges (Ireland) Bill must be taken some night, and although it is confronted by the formidable opposition of the hon. Member I hope we shall get it advanced a stage to night.
§ MR. MARJORIBANKS (Berwickshire)
I hope the right hon Gentleman will listen to the appeal of my hon. Friends. I do not want to bring unnecessary charges against the Government, but it is a curious coincidence that the Scotch Estimates are always brought on at a most inconvenient hour for Scotch Members. The crofter question is one of great importance to the Highlands of Scotland, and surely it ought to be debated at a reasonable hour.
§ DR. MACDONALD
I may point out that there is a Bill affecting the Highlands and Islands on the Paper. It is put down night after night but no progress is made with it, simply because the Lord Advocate does not feel inclined to give way to our views.
§ (1.9.) MR. GOSCHEN
It is not the fault of the Government that the Scotch Votes have come on at a late hour. Hoping the House may make some progress with other matters, and in order to prevent wrangling and frequent visits to the Division Lobby, I reluctantly give way to the view of the Scotch Members. I hope, however, that discussion will not be prolonged to an undue length to-morrow.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported to-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again to-morrow.