§ Bill, as amended, considered.
§ *(2.10.) MR. HENRY J. WILSON (York, W.R., Holmfirth)
Briefly, I will explain how it is I have given notice of the new clause I propose to move. I hope no hon. Member will suppose that the idea suddenly occurred to me to add a clause of this kind to a Private Bill. The Corporation of Glasgow are the promoters of the Bill, and they, among their proposals, brought up a clause (No. 18) similar to this, which, however, was objected to by the Police and Sanitary Regulations Committee, and by the Scotch Office it was thought extreme. In accordance with views expressed in opposition to it the promoters modified their clause. It was twice amended, and the clause I now recommend to the House is in the form in which it was finally put before the Committee. Well, the clause was rejected in Committee by four votes to one. The clause, I may say, expresses the deliberate intention of the Corporation and their expressed desire, because, since the promoters became aware that I had given Notice of a Motion to move the insertion of the clause, the Glasgow Corporation, acting as they do for certain purposes as Police Commissioners, passed a resolution thanking me for the action I had taken and expressing a hope that my Motion may be carried. Now, I think it will not be disputed that Glasgow has set an example to many of the large centres of population in respect to matters of this kind. They have combined repression and police action under the law with voluntary philanthropic and religious action, and they have produced the most desirable results. Then they desire to go a step further—the step which is indicated in the clause. Let me also draw the attention 1096 of hon. Members to the fact that in this proposal there is no new principle, because we find that the principle of making persons found in improper or unlawful places amenable to the law, as well as the keepers of such places, is recognised in the Gaming Act. If the keeper of a gaming house is convicted, so also are the people found in the house liable to punishment. So also, more or less, does the principle apply to licensed public-houses where the keeper of the licensed house is convicted of the offence of selling drink within prohibited hours. We also punish persons found on the premises. There may be other cases in point as precedents for this clause with which I am not acquainted, but certainly I think these two precedents do apply. It is perfectly clear that persons do not keep such houses as these for their own amusement; but whether it is a gaming house or whether a licensed public - house, or whether a person keeps what is called a disorderly house, in each case it is done for purposes of profit, and I think it is useless to punish those who take the money unless we also punish those who tempt persons to these unlawful actions. For instance, in this very Bill we give power to the police of Glasgow to prosecute persons for betting in the streets, and not only the man who is commonly called a "bookmaker," but those who make bets with him are made amenable. I presume the objection will be raised that this is an attempt to create a new offence by a clause in a Private Bill, and that if such should be passed at all it should be as a general law. Now, on this point I may refer to a Bill which came before the Committee just before the Glasgow Bill, and which affords an illustration of what the Police and Sanitary Regulations Committee constantly do. I do not say the case affords an absolute analogy, for this is rarely to be found. But in the case of the Bournemouth Bill a clause was inserted making the prohibition of games and stone-throwing in the streets applicable to the sea-shore. In the same way we made it an offence to play musical instruments by steam, and to use steam engines in a certain way permitted in other parts of the 1097 country. We actually made it an offence for a man to burn rubbish in his own garden if his neighbour thought it polluted the atmosphere. I do not say these are parallel instances, but undoubtedly they are considerable deviations from the general law. There is, then, little force in the objection that this is creating a new offence by means of a clause in a Private Bill. If it is lawful to insert a clause to insure the purity of the atmosphere, then I do not see why, if the Corporation of Glasgow desire it, they should not have this power to assist in the preservation of the purity of the moral atmosphere of their town. I think I need say no more, and will only add, in conclusion, that I have no complaint to make against any of my colleagues on the Committee. They, I am sure, will give me credit for acting honestly in this matter. We have worked harmoniously together on the Committee; and though we have often differed in our opinions and have frequently divided, we have never quarrelled. In this case, however, I feel so strongly that the citizens of Glasgow ought to have this power they desire for the well-being of their town that I venture to appeal to the House from the decision of the Committee.
§ New Clause—
§ (Penalty for being in house for an immoral purpose.)
§ "Upon conviction of any person of having kept, managed, used, or knowingly suffered to be used, any building or part of a building for the purpose of harbouring prostitutes for the purpose of prostitution, any person found in the building or part of the building referred to in the complaint on which such conviction has followed at the time to which such complaint and conviction apply, shall be liable to a penalty not exceeding five pounds, if it be proved to the satisfaction of the magistrate that his presence in such building or part of a building at the time referred to was for an immoral purpose,"—(Mr. Henry J. Wilson,)
§ —brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be now read a second time."
§ (2.20.) MR. F. S. POWELL (Wigan)
I greatly regret that my first duty in the House as Chairman of the Police and Sanitary Clauses Committee is to discuss this certainly unattractive subject. I acquit the hon. Member 1098 who has moved this clause of any motive not highly commendable. For many years he has been a Member of the Committee; and I may say, as Chairman, there is no Member of the Committee to whom we are more indebted for constant attendance and conscientious discharge of his duties on the Committee with knowledge and ability. Still, my duty remains the same. We have to consider the instructions of the House of Commons and the general regulations which govern the proceedings of the Committee. We are bound not to allow any alteration of the general law except upon strong cause shown. We must have proof that the general law is in an unsatisfactory state, and that it is desirable to alter it in the Bill before us, or there must be some circumstances of a local character, which show that it is desirable for the welfare of the section of the community concerned that the alteration should be made in the locality. I am not aware that in the evidence before the Committee it was shown that either of these conditions arose. We were not told that the present condition of the law in this regard was intolerable in Glasgow, or that in the town there was special need for a clause of this kind. We had before us a member of the Corporation who gave us the only evidence tendered in favour of this clause, and when the learned counsel, Mr. Balfour Browne, asked—For what reason do you desire to have this power?The answer was—Because the brothels of Glasgow would cease at once to exist had the police power to deal with the male patrons of such places, the male persons who frequent them.This was the only evidence in favour of the clause, and I may fairly say that evidence of that sort is not sufficient to justify us in altering the general law. There was no evidence to show that the general law was insufficient so far as Glasgow was concerned, and we had no choice in the Committee but to act as we did in pursuance of the instructions given us. My hon. Friend was somewhat unfortunate in his reference to the Bournemouth Bill, because in considering that Bill we rejected clause after clause by virtue of our general 1099 instructions, clauses some of which I personally thought would have been desirable, but which we were bound to object to on the principle laid down. As to the general policy of such a clause, I leave hon. Members to discuss it. My duty is to vindicate the action of the Committee, and I hope I have said enough to show the House that we acted according to our duty, and I trust the House will confirm our rejection of the clause.
§ (2.25.) DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
Our Chairman has entirely answered my hon. Friend, and has left me nothing to say except that I concur in every word he has said. At the outset I may say I have nothing to find fault with in the action my hon. Friend has taken. My hon. Friend is a staunch and conscientious Member of the Committee, and I regret to disagree on this occasion with one whose mature judgment I highly appreciate, and with whom I usually find myself in cordial concurrence. I will not enter the tempting field of ethical and moral discussion. We had in the Committee to do our work under the instructions and restrictions by which we were governed, and we acted in accordance with our instructions in rejecting the clause. We had three reasons for doing so. In the first place, the clause as originally presented to us was utterly, hopelessly, and absolutely unintelligible; and after an explanation, extending over half an hour, we were unable to find the limit to its far-reaching effect. Even now, in its present form, it is not free from that objection. It is a wide extension of the Criminal Law; and if it is expedient to make the extension, then it should be done in a Statute of general application; it should not be smuggled into a merely local Act. In the Eastbourne Bill we did undoubtedly pass one or two clauses inconsistent with the general law, but why did we do so? Because we had witness after witness testifying to the necessity for such regulations for the peace, comfort, and prosperity of the town. But in this instance we had one witness only who stated the motive for the clause. There is nothing to find fault with in that motive, but he made no attempt, nor did any other witness make the attempt, to show us that 1100 there was anything in the moral condition of Glasgow which made this special clause necessary. It may or may not be; but there was no evidence that the peace, comfort, prosperity, or outward morality of Glasgow required it. In fact, all the evidence went the other way, and to prove that no town could show a better state in regard to outward morality than Glasgow. No local necessity was shown why we should sanction in a local Act this wide, this formidable alteration in the general Criminal Law. We felt that if we passed the clause we should be going beyond the powers entrusted to us, and I unhesitatingly ask the House to support the Committee in the action taken.
§ (2.30.) MR. MCLAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)
I support the Motion for the insertion of the clause. I do not agree that all we have to consider is whether the Committee was justified. That is not what we have to consider. It is a matter of indifference to this House, from our point of view, whether the Committee struck out the clause or not. The Committee, in my opinion, were probably justified in striking the clause out of the Bill, because, as the Chairman of it has said, a Committee should only pass clauses embodying new principles of law when there are certain reasons, some of which he named, for doing so. Therefore the Committee may have been right in rejecting the clause and giving notice to the House that it has done so. But now it is for the House to consider whether, on the merits of the case, it will not re-insert it, as the Glasgow Corporation desires. The Corporation itself practically unanimously wishes for the re-introduction of this clause, and on the 9th May, acting as the Police Commissioners, it passed a resolution thanking Mr. H. J. Wilson, M.P., for the proposed restoration of the clause relating to persons found in brothels for immoral purposes, and it also resolved to send a copy of the resolution to the Members of Parliament for the City, with a request to them to support the action of the hon. Member. That shows that the Corporation of Glasgow desire this clause to be inserted in the Bill. For my own part I think it is a good clause, and one that should be 1101 made the general law of the country; but before that is done I think it is desirable that in the second City of the Empire this clause should be tried as an experiment. The Glasgow Corporation has for years been interested in repressive legislation of this class, and I am told by Glasgow citizens that the effect of it has been highly advantageous to the morals of the town. If that had not been the result, the Corporation would not desire to go further with it. The fact that they do desire this clause is the strongest possible evidence that can be given to the House that this repressive legislation has been a success so far. It seems to me that the passage from the evidence which the Chairman of the Police and Sanitary Regulations Committee quoted proves the whole case for the Glasgow Corporation. The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. F. S. Powell) stated that the evidence in support of this clause was that the brothels of Glasgow would cease to exist if the Corporation had power to punish their patrons. What could tell more strongly in favour of such a clause? I presume it is the desire of this House that these places should cease to exist. If that is not so, let the House repeal the law which makes them illegal in England. They are illegal in this country, and I presume the defenders of law and order on the other side of the House wish the law to be carried out. Well, we have evidence that if this clause is inserted the law will be carried into effect, and therefore, Sir, I do urge this House to accept this clause. At all events it is our intention to divide the House upon it.
§ *(2.34.) MR. WEBB (Waterford, W.)
I wish to say a few words in support of the proposal to insert this clause in the Glasgow Police Bill. Any effort to restrict the traffic referred to in the clause should have, I feel, the warmest sympathy of the House. It is said that this clause is not required; but the evidence given before the Committee points in the opposite direction. I think it would be an advantage rather than otherwise to try the working of this clause in certain towns rather than wait for it to be applied to the whole country. Exceptional legislation has been tried in a great many places. That 1102 has particularly been the case with regard to my own country. If there is one evil against which exceptional legislation should be tried, I think it is that which this clause points at. I do not know a worse crime than that which condemns the unfortunate inmates of these houses to a fate worse than death itself. And then we ought to remember the deplorable results which the existence of these houses have upon property in the neighbourhood. Very often persons find the value of their property greatly reduced, if not swept away altogether, on account, of some of these brothels being opened in their midst. I believe a law such as is embodied in this clause will protect localities from the opening of such infamous dens. I, for one, would most heartily support the application of such a measure to the whole country, but I believe that is not possible at the present time. We have, however, an opportunity of now trying—in accordance with the wish of the inhabitants of Glasgow — an experiment of this kind, and I believe it will tend to the best results all over the country.
§ (2.38.) MR. JOHN WILSON (Lanark, Govan)
I wish to take some part in this discussion as a citizen of Glasgow, and as representing a part of the City of Glasgow. It has been pointed out by previous speakers that the action of the police of that city has been successful in ridding the streets of open prostitution, and the authorities are now desirous of endeavouring to root out those places which are given up to the purposes of immorality. I wish to take this opportunity of thanking my hon Friend (Mr. H. J. Wilson) for his courage in standing up for this clause. The Police Bill for the city has been thoroughly thrashed out by the Local Authorities, and I think this House will consider that they know best what is required for Glasgow, and I hope that hon. Members on both sides will vote in favour of the clause. A great deal has been said by the Chairman of the Committee and by the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire (Dr. Farquharson) about interfering with the general law. Well, if the general law of the land is such that these houses cannot be suppressed, the sooner it is altered the better. But I 1103 fail to see that this clause will interfere in the slightest degree with the general law, and I hope this House will agree to it.
§ (2.40.) MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
I hope this House will favourably consider and adopt the clause which has been proposed by my hon. Friend (Mr. H. J. Wilson). We have no fault—I do not see how the House could find any fault—with the way in which the rejection of the clause has been moved by the Chairman of the Committee, and seconded by the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire. At the same time, I am not able to agree with the reasons of those hon. Gentlemen. My hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. F. S. Powell) began by saying that the Committee were restricted by certain terms, I think, in the order of reference. Hon. Gentlemen felt themselves to a certain degree bound by what they understood to be the view of the House in appointing the Committee, and they are perfectly entitled to that view. But I wish to point out that my hon. Friend himself said that the Committee felt themselves bound—as a Committee appointed by this House for a certain specific purpose—not to introduce any change in the general law unless the general law was shown to be unsatisfactory in its nature. Now that is part of the case. We hold it to be eminently unsatisfactory. The clause as amended and now placed before the House is to this effect—that upon the conviction of any person of having kept, managed, used, or knowingly suffered to be used, any building, or part of any building, for the purpose of harbouring prostitutes, that upon these persons being convicted under these circumstances any person found in the building or part of the building referred to in the complaint at the time, if it is proved to the satisfaction of the magistrate that he was there for an immoral purpose, shall be subject to a penalty of £5. I want to know if that is a serious invasion of what is called the general law on this subject? Now, if it be right that the brothel keeper, the mere agent of those who employ him, should be convicted and imprisoned for keeping the place, is it not to be argued that his clients, or customers, or employers, who are found 1104 upon that place at that moment, and who are adjudged to be there for a guilty purpose, should be punished also, instead of being allowed to go scot free? Another proposition advanced in opposition to this clause was that there should be local circumstances suggested when a law of this kind is sought to be applied to one locality. Local circumstances that fully justify the clause have been brought before the House by my hon. Friends on this side. For years the Corporation of Glasgow have been endeavouring, as far as possible, to repress immorality in the brothels and streets of that city. They have successfully administered the existing law as far as it suffices, and they now ask you for a moderate addition to their powers. Is that not a local circumstance which ought to be sufficient to justify special legislation? Now, I must point out how exceedingly moderate and sensible this proposal is. First of all, there is the amplest evidence that the Glasgow Corporation desires it, and the House has listened to one hon. Member for Glasgow who has spoken in favour of it. Secondly, it has been shown that the principle of this proposal, at any rate, is incorporated in the general law. It is analagous to the law under which gamblers are seized in the gaming house, and let me point out that persons found in a private club are treated as participants in the offence which may be taking place there. And then let the House mark the exceeding carefulness and moderation of this proposal. It does not provide that any person found at any time in these places shall be liable to severe punishment, but it provides that when a brothel keeper is convicted his customers shall not go free. The Chairman of the Committee has said that the Committee felt bound not to entertain this proposal by the terms of the Order of Reference, and they ask the House not to entertain it. I do not see that it would imply a want of confidence in the Committee if the House, in view of the representations of the Glasgow Corporation, did accept this proposal, considering that the Committtee felt themselves restricted from entertaining or discussing it. The Corporation of Glasgow are inclined in this case to make what my hon. Friends 1105 call a useful experiment in an admirable direction, and I think we should assist them to do so. I hope this House will take this view, or the view may be forced upon them in a way which will, perhaps, suit right hon. Gentlemen no better than the present. I would ask the House not to refuse a moderate proposal of this kind from a Corporation which has a high character and a long experience which entitles it to make the demand.
§ (2.51.) DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)
I cannot allow this question to go to a Division without stating why I shall support this clause. Analogous powers have been granted with respect to the shebeens, and when a police raid is made on them the persons who are found in the shebeen are liable to be brought before a magistrate and punished. That is precisely what is proposed here, and the penalty is not a severe one. You subject the people found in a disorderly house to a fine of £4, and that is a penalty which is attached to all sorts of petty offences. The inmates of an over-crowded room can be proceeded against, and anyone who has looked through police legislation will have noticed that where the punishment of a fine is imposed, £5 is a very common maximum, and I do not see why it should not be attached to cases of this kind. No one will deny that the action of the Glasgow Corporation in endeavouring to suppress disorderly houses is a laudable one. They have succeeded to a large extent, and I am glad to have the support of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. John Wilson) in stating that a number of these disorderly houses have been driven outside the city, and the occupants have taken refuge in other places. This is eminently a matter on which the citizens of Glasgow should be consulted, and the constitutional exponents of their wants must be the Town Council. This Bill has not been sent up here without ample discussion in the Town Council, and a large number of the clauses have been the subject of very considerable discussion. The Bill has been before the Committee for more than a year; and when it is remembered that the Town Council 1106 of Glasgow have passed a unanimous vote thanking the hon. Member who has brought this matter forward, and asking the Scotch Members to assist him in the retention of this clause, and that this has been done without any protest on the part of any section of the people of Glasgow, I think it will be admitted that a strong case has been made out. There is, unquestionably, a strong feeling in Glasgow that the Corporation should be entrusted with these powers, and I see no reason why they should not.
§ (2.55.) MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
I cannot help expressing surprise that no Member of the Government has spoken on this matter. There is the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department, the Lord Advocate of Scotland, the Home Secretary himself, and several other officials, and yet they say nothing about the intentions of the Government. I want to know whether the Lord Advocate, as counsel for the Established Church of Scotland, is prepared to oppose this clause? The City of Glasgow is endeavouring to deal with a great and crying national evil, and it asks that the law, as it relates to these places, shall be assimilated to the law in other matters of the same kind. We have been told that the Committee threw out this clause; but if they did so because they felt that the powers conferred upon them by this House did not permit them to deal with it, I would remind the House that our powers are not limited in that way; and, further than that, it would not be inconsistent for any Member of the Committee who in Committee voted against this clause, for the reasons I have stated, to now support the clause before the House. No one can deny that the House is perfectly competent to deal with this matter, and I think this is a very reasonable, moderate, just, and wise proposal. It seems to me that when a clause comes before us with the local claims that this does, it is curious that it should be opposed, but that the Government should sit still and no doubt silently vote against this clause without stating their reasons for it is more than I can understand. I would move the Adjournment of the Debate rather than that the matter 1107 should pass like this; but, as I see the Under Secretary (Mr. Stuart Wortley) is about to rise, I will give way to him.
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. STUART WORTLEY,) Sheffield, Hallam
No one in this House has better reason than the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down to know the views of the Government on this question, for no one has more fully or more recently availed himself of their known views as the point of procedure here raised. The opinion of the Government is that alterations in the Criminal Law of this far-reaching nature should not be made in Private Bills on evidence that is not before the House, and cannot be before the House. This clause comes before the House in a doubly bad position. It comes before the House as an alteration in the general law in the direction of creating a new offence, and also in the position of having been rejected by the Committee which this House has specially selected for the purpose of ascertaining on sworn testimony, and with the assistance of skilled counsel, whether there does exist in this particular case any local need for legislation. It comes before this House like a charge at a Court of Assize which has been thrown out by the Grand Jury. We had a recent experience in the Eastbourne case of the unwillingness of the House to make a special exception in the Criminal Law—an unwillingness strenuously counselled in the very quarter from which this clause is now pressed upon us. I submit that the House will do well not to entertain such a very far-reaching proposal, except in connection with a measure intended to apply it to the whole of Her Majesty's subjects.
*(3.0.) EARL COMPTON (York, W.R., Barnsley)
I must say, after having listened to the argument of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stuart Wortley), that this case is not on all-fours with the Eastbourne case. The two are entirely different. The Eastbourne case was practically a proposal to rescind a special law granted to a certain locality. What we are now asked to do is to give additional powers to carry out the law which exists everywhere at the present 1108 moment. These disorderly houses require police supervision and the strong arm of the law; and the ordinary law has been well tried in Glasgow with a view of bringing some sort of order into these houses, or, at all events, to keep them within the limits of the law. The Corporation come now and ask us for additional powers to carry out the law. The hon. Gentleman said the Committee threw out this clause like the Grand Jury throw out a bill at an Assize; but here, again, I contend that the cases are entirely different. If it were explained that the Committee threw out this clause because they thought it did not come within the province of the inquiry that had been placed before them, that would make an important difference. It seems to me it is perfectly open to the House to give additional powers to a municipal body in order to put down gross immorality which they find cannot be put down without these additional powers. It does not require any great alteration in the Criminal Law, and I think it is a pity that the Government will not assist in these small alterations of the law to facilitate the action of the Local Authorities in putting down the immorality which exists in all the large towns. As far as I can understand, we are only asking that Glasgow should have powers which practically exist elsewhere; but if it were a question of stretching a point and giving extra powers to a great municipality, I think we might trust them, and the only thing I regret is that they have not the power to do what they ask without coming to this House. It seems to me that everyone who is anxious that immorality shall be restrained as much as possible in our large towns should support this clause which has been brought forward by the hon. Member for Holmfirth (Mr. H. J. Wilson), and I must once more express my regret that the Government should have stated in such very strong language their opinion that this clause would be a bad thing.
§ (3.5.) MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I shall vote in the same Lobby as my noble Friend who has just sat down (Earl Compton); but I scarcely agree with a single word 1109 he has said. It will be in the recollection of the House that this Police and Sanitary Regulations Committee was appointed by this House in order to prevent unwise extensions of the Common Law. A number of very extraordinary proposals were made in Private Bills, and Mr. Hopwood, who is no longer a Member of this House, obtained the appointment of this Committee in order to restrict the practice and to prevent such cases in the future. The Chairman of the Committee has made a speech this afternoon, and has rested his opposition to the clause entirely upon the motives which prompted the institution of the Committee. He said that the Committee could not, under the powers delegated to them, entertain this clause. I think he is entirely right. The Committee could not have accepted this clause and allowed it to remain in the Bill. But what the Committee could not do, we, the House, are perfectly at liberty to do. It is said that this is a question of law, and it is a proposal to make that an offence which is not now an offence. But we can look at the proposal on its merits and see whether this proposal is one that we are bound to resist, because it will be local in its application. The proposal is that when the keeper of a disorderly house is convicted of keeping a disorderly house, the persons found in the house—and I take it that the clause applies to both males and females—for the purpose of disorderly conduct, and who by their presence may be said to promote disorderly conduct, may be subject to penalties. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) pointed out, there is a precedent for legislation of this kind in the Gaming House Act, and there is a precedent in the legislation which was directed against bear-baiting, cock-fighting, and other amusements of that kind, under which not only the persons who promoted them were punishable, but the persons who assisted and encouraged by their presence were also liable to limited penalties. Now, the Corporation of Glasgow, after much discussion and much deliberation, come to the House and ask, in order that they may prevent the commission of that which is an offence under the general 1110 law, that they should be allowed to try a legal experiment. I confess I think there is much to be said in favour of making this the general law, and as it is desired by Glasgow with such unanimity, I am prepared to assent to it. It has been said that this is a new crime, but there is a great difference between crimes and mere police offences, and I see no objection to the clause, and I shall vote in its favour if it comes to a Division.
§ *(3.9.) MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
All of us who have been at work in the cause of social improvement will realise that some effort is needed to do away with a great deal of the immorality that exists. It is an unsavoury subject, and I am sorry to say that no one can speak on these matters without being regarded as an enthusiast, but we must recognise the fact that something must be done to improve the state of affairs in this country. I do not say that this is what we want, but it is an experiment determined upon by a large and influential body of men who can have no other wish than the improvement of the morality of the great city which they are elected to govern, and I shall be glad to support the proposal.
§ *MR. H. J. WILSON
My hon. Friend has asked why the Lord Advocate has not spoken. I can tell him. It is because the Scotch Office has no objection to the clause.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE (Sir C. J. PEARSON) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)
The hon. Member is in error. The Scotch Office reported against the clause on the ground that it was an invasion of the general law.
§ *MR. H. J. WILSON
The Committee were told in the Report from the Scotch Office, which I have in my hand, that the clause was too stringent and ought to be modified, and this very important modification was made, that whereas at first the burden of proof was thrown on the accused to show he was not there for an immoral purpose, in the form in which the clause is now presented the burden of proof is thrown on the accuser. A representative from the Scotch Office was present to assist the Committee, and he stated that in its modified form there would be no objection 1111 to the clause. I find no fault with the Committee and entirely agree in what has been said by most of the speakers that those who felt hampered by the Instruction of the House might very well vote against the clause in the Committee, and yet vote in support of it in the House.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
I sympathise very much with the general object of those who support this proposal; but I think it wants more consideration than it has yet received, as it is a most serious alteration of the law. In it two distinct offences are dealt with. One is keeping and systematically using a house as an improper house, and the other is the proposal to convict anybody who is there, not for the purpose of assisting in keeping the house, but for an immoral purpose. You do not in the second part of the clause connect the mind of the person you propose to punish with the substantial offence—the intention to keep an immoral house—struck at in the first part of the clause; it creates an offence quite distinct from that which is the subject of the earlier part of the clause. The first part deals with persons having kept, managed, used, or knowingly suffered to be used, any building for the purpose of harbouring prostitutes for the purpose of prostitution. That is one thing, but when you deal with the people found in the building, it is a different kind of offence. The clause seems to me to be another illustration of the immense difficulty of trying to alter the general law in special Statutes; and, while I am in sympathy with every attempt to improve the condition of our great towns, I do not see my way to support my hon. Friends in the case of this particular clause.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
I do not like to go to a Division without expressing my reasons for opposing the clause. In Glasgow, I am glad to say, we have thoroughly pure streets—streets as free from trouble as any town I know; but this clause, which is now being discussed, does not give any additional power to the authorities either to clear the streets or put down brothels or disorderly houses. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken is under a slight misapprehension as to that. The police have most stringent 1112 powers elsewhere to put down these houses. This clause does not give additional power to deal with these houses, but the power to deal with individuals who frequent them—that is to say, it makes sexual immorality in itself a punishable offence in any man or woman. I think that is too strong a clause to bring in in a Private Bill, even for the second city of the Empire. It is a matter for argument as regards the general law of the land; but I do not see that it is possible, either as a matter of general policy, or considering the amount of discussion the provision has had in Glasgow, to bring in a clause so new and going back so completely to ecclesiastical discipline as this would be. Therefore, while I fully recognise the spirit in which those who support the clause are acting, I do not feel that it would be safe to support it. No evidence whatever was given in support of it before the Committee, except an expression of opinion on the part of a member of the Town Council that thereby brothels, and, I suppose, immorality altogether, would be put down. I do not think we have any sufficient foundation for making such a great change in the general law.
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
I think the last speaker has entirely mistaken the purpose of the clause. It is not intended to put down sexual immorality; you never can do that. Why I support the clause is because it appears to be the only manly and. Christian way in which this subject can be dealt with. You have already abundant means of punishing the wretched creatures who keep these dens of infamy, but there is one class, you do not touch, and that is the men who take the money to these places and keep them in being. If the law is strong enough to deal with the people who take the wages of infamy, let us have the common honesty and decent courage to strike at those men, who now go free, whose patronage keeps these hells in existence. It is because I believe that the clause will strike at the root of the evil that I shall vote for it.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Clause read a second time, and added to the Bill.