§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether prisoners who are not convicted of offences, but merely committed to prison for noncompliance with an order of the Judge to pay a sum of money, are now treated as debtors under the rules framed by the Secretary of State, and are subject to the special rules applying to Debtors' Prisons; whether the rules referred to are those comprised in the Prison Rules, 1878; whether these rules are held to cover the cases of prisoners committed to prison by 796 the Magistrates for non-payment of fines under the Vaccination Acts, or under the several Public and Private Acts under which members of the Salvation Army and others have been fined for street preaching or taking part in processions with musical instruments; and whether he has, by Circular or otherwise, drawn the attention of Benches of Magistrates and Governors of gaols to the treatment thus prescribed for persons whose offence is non-payment of fines under these Acts?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
The answer to the first and second paragraphs is in the affirmative, assuming that by an order to pay a sum of money is meant an order to pay costs merely; a fine is payable by Statute on conviction for an offence. The answer to the third and fourth paragraphs is in the negative. In default of payment of a fine for an offence under the Acts referred to, prisoner is treated as a convicted criminal prisoner without hard labour (unless in some case the local Act, under which proceedings are taken, gives power to impose hard labour). I have no reason to believe the Justices and the Prison Governors are not fully aware of the distinction that exists between a person who refuses to comply with an order for costs and one who refuses to pay a fine for an offence under any particular Act.
§ MR. CHANNING
I should like to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that the Representative of the Government in another place has declared, in answer to a question, that in future prisoners convicted under the Vaccination Acts will receive the treatment accorded to debtors? Is that statement, as reported in the Press, absolutely incorrect?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
I read the answer to which the hon. Member refers, and I confess that I did not find anything inconsistent with the answer which I have just given.