§ Vote of £34,408, to complete the sum for Law Charges—agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £21,932, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Legal Expenses.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said, he was obliged to call attention to this Vote. The Wreck Commission, which was included in it, was entirely out of date. In fact it did not exist. As far as he could make out the staff consisted of two clerks, and what they did he could not imagine. He supposed they represented the glory of past days and prayed for their revival. There was no work to be done, and no work was actually done. If the Committee would refer to page 205 they would find that there was exactly the same sum put down as last year for the Wreck Commission, and yet the work of the Commission was done by the Magistrates. It was high time to put an end to this shadow of a shade. He did not complain of the fees to the Magistrates; they did the work and were entitled to them. Why was this Wreck Commission kept up, and what were these two clerks doing?
§ * THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBURY,) Preston
said, one of the clerks was charged with the preparation of claims to be placed before the Magistrates, the preparation of estimates, Slave Trade Reports, and so on. He was also Registrar of the Court of Survey for the London district. With regard to the junior clerks—
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, there had been only two since 1890. One of them acted as Clerk to the Court, checking the Magistrates' charges, and the other gave assistance in the general work of the office.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that would not do, for there was a separate item for the Clerk of the Court. Why was this shadow of a shade kept up in order, apparently, to provide for three clerks at high salaries, for one of them had a salary of £600 a year. One of the clerks was told off, they were told, to check the Magistrates' charges. Surely if a Magistrates' charges required checking they did not require to keep up a Commission to do it. It was simply an imposture. It was not right to keep up the machinery of an institution, which had been allowed to lapse, solely in order to provide for these clerks. It was a skeleton establishment, and he did hope his hon. Friend would give the Committee an assurance that he would look into this matter, and abolish these offices.
§ * MR. HANBURY
Of course I promise to look into it. I see that the Treasury have already had their eye on it, for there is a star against the salaries of these clerks, which means that the Treasury is observing the matter. I will see whether these men are necessary or not.
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
complained that the conditions of Extradition Laws were too strict, enabling criminals who ought to be punished to escape. They neither wanted nor ought to want to show great tenderness with regard to criminals, who ought to be surrendered by every civilised country, and Extradition Treaties ought to be made with all civilised countries. They had now a case of the miscarriage of Extradition Law with France, operating most unjustly towards a defendant, but, as he gathered from the Chairman he ought not to go into that, he would pass on to a few remarks which he wished to make with regard to the Railway Commission. He hoped the Treasury, or the President of the Board of Trade, would look into the cases brought before this Tribunal, because they were most suggestive of the 1004 lines on which legislation should proceed. He held that commercial interests were not adequately protected and watched by the Commission, for while the legal interest was represented, and there was one gentleman on the Commission who was an ex-chairman of a railway company, trade and commerce had no representation. As to the third member of the Commission he would say nothing, but he urged that some means should be found of placing on the Commission someone possessing real practical knowledge of commercial affairs, a quality in which the Commission was lamentably wanting. He thought that in this way they might improve the efficiency of the Commission, as by making it less formal and technical and expensive, and more accessible in its procedure. He should like to ask whether the rules of the Civil Service applied to the Railway and Canal Commission, and whether the principle of superannuation could not be applied in this case. Recently there had been argued before the Commission a most important case, dealing with a preference given to foreign traders, in which it was held that there was a justifiable reduction of the rate. He thought there were many cases in this direction which demanded the attention of the Government. There was another case involving, not a direct but an indirect increase of rates, the weight carried for the same amount being reduced from 21 cwt. to 20 cwt., a point which he had endeavoured to anticipate in his unsuccessful Amendment to the Railway Rates Bill. These and other matters required meeting.
Mr. GIBSON BOWLES
dissented from the remarks of his hon. Friend as to extradition, which should, in his opinion, be most jealously guarded. As to these Commissions, he thought that in setting them up a most important principle had been infringed. He wished to protest against the principle involved by the appointment of these Commissions, because it appeared to him that they were opposed to the ordinary course of law and that their appointment suggested that the ordinary tribunals of the country were not competent to deal with the matters in dispute that were referred to them. He disapproved of these Commissions on the ground that they were unconstitutional.
§ *MR. S. GEDGE (Walsall) rose to a point of order. He wished to know whether the hon. Member was not out of order in referring to these commissions as unconstitutional, when the Commissions in question were constituted by Act of Parliament.
That is so. But on the other hand it is open to the hon. Gentleman to move to reduce the Vote, and as long as that course is open to him the hon. Member cannot be prevented from going into the question of the usefulness of these Commissions.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, that he could only repeat his protest against the appointment of these Commissions.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, he did not think that the hon. Gentleman's remarks with regard to this Commission would be generally accepted, because one of the main reasons for appointing the Commission was to take away from the ordinary courts of law the business which was referred to the Commission, who were more capable of dealing with it, by reason of the fact that it included men connected with the mercantile world. The idea was that the ordinary courts of law were not properly qualified to deal with that business. With regard to the complaint, that had been made by the hon. Member for West Islington as to the small amount of work which the Commission performed, he was informed that a large part of the work done, was done outside and not inside the Court. For instance, a large part of the work performed by the Commission was that of settling agreements entered into between railway companies, and that was always done out of Court. As to the complaint which had been made by the hon. Member for South Islington with reference to one of the Members of the Commission on account of his age, he thought that the hon. Gentleman had been rather hard upon the gentleman in question.
§ * SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said, that he had intended to speak generally as to the necessity for the laying down of some rule with regard to age. He wished to know whether there was any rule under which Members of the Commission could be required to retire after a certain number of years service.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, that he understood that the Commissioners were in 1006 the position of Judges, and held their office during good behaviour.
§ * MR. HANBURY
said, that the Commissioners were removable by the Lord Chancellor only in case of inability to discharge their duties or for misbehaviour.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
asked what was the amount of work which the Commissioners did out of Court.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
said, that for many years past a large number of agreements had been entered into between railway companies, and those had to be considered out of Court by the Commissioners. There was also a large amount of other work which they performed, which did not come before the Commissioners in Court.
§ MR. LEWIS
asked whether the duties discharged by the Commissioners were equal to these discharged by a County Court Judge.
§ THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL
said, that a considerable amount, of labour was imposed upon the Commissioners.
§ Vote of,£177,858, to complete the sum for Supreme Court of Judicature—agreed to.
§ Vote of £ 4,074, to complete the sum for Land Registry—agreed to.
§ Vote of £15,800 to complete the sum for County Courts—agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £2,663, to complete the sum for the Police Courts of London and Sheerness,
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
remarked that the late Government had promised to bring in a Bill dealing with this subject, and therefore he wished to know why the Vote appeared in the Estimates in its present form.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir MATTHEW RIDLEY,) Lancashire, Blackpool
said, that the hon. Gentleman was correct. It was intended to introduce a Bill, and a Bill was, in fact, introduced and printed, and was before Parliament during last Session. When he himself 1007 took office, it was considered, and it was found impossible to pass the Bill during the present Session. The matter was, however, under his consideration.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
drew attention to the arrangement of business in the Police Courts of London. A great many Members of the working classes and other poor people at present lost a great deal of time through not knowing when particular classes of business would be taken. A good deal of evidence was given at the Departmental Committee which sat at the Home Office last year. It had been suggested whether it would not be well to arrange for a special court to deal with the small questions arising out of traffic. That was, however, found to be rather a strong order, and it was suggested that, if these cases could be taken on one day and at one hour, it would meet the difficulty. There was now a precedent for this in School Board cases, which were taken at a particular hour. He asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the recommendations of the Committee with regard to a special hour being fixed for these cases had been carried out?
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
said, he was afraid he could not give any information on that point. Of course, the difficulty was much greater in the Metropolitan Police Courts than in the City of London itself. It would be impossible to take all the cases in one Court, but he would do his best to meet the convenience of the people concerned; and, if the hon. Member would communicate with him, he would do what he could to meet him.
§ MR. H. J. WILSON (York, W.R., Holmfirth)
asked for information as to Police Matrons.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
said, that a great deal of progress had been made, but the proposed arrangements had been hindered owing to the want of accommodation. The matter had not been lost sight of.
§ MR. H. J. WILSON
said, that they had been told that it was a question of accommodation by successive Governments, and what they now wanted to know was, not merely that it was a matter which had not been lost sight of, but that it was being pressed forward.
§ * MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Walsall)
said, that the necessity of attending 1008 these summonses put the poor people to great inconvenience. He thought in these matters we might borrow a leaf from the books of the Swiss Republic. He and a friend, a Judge of one of the inferior Courts, were summoned for bathing in one of the Swiss lakes without pants, and, at the foot of the summons served upon them, appeared an intimation that, if payment of the small fine mentioned were made to the gendarme who served it, they need not attend upon the summons. He thought something of that kind might be done here.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £37,507 to complete the sum for the Metropolitan Police,
§ * MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
complained that the annual Report had not yet been received. They had had a reconstruction of the Criminal Statistics for England, and this made it desirable that the Criminal Statistics for the Metropolis should be assimilated. He desired to ask a question with regard to a late police officer, Colonel Roberts, who was one of the chief constables. It was stated in the Police Orders that he had been dismissed the Service; but the next day that was superseded by a further notification in the Police Orders that he had been permitted to resign. He desired to ask whether the object of that change was to give a pension to Colonel Roberts? If so, he should protest against it. The case of the Police Matrons came more properly under this Vote than under the last one. At the Police Courts, where women were detained only during the day, the absence of a matron was not so important, yet these Courts were already provided with matrons; whereas, at Police Stations, where women were kept during the night, there were no matrons. This was an anomaly which he had been pressing upon the Home Office for a long time. There was, he believed, no civilised country in the world where women were detained during the night in custody of men. He did not ask that a matron should be provided at every police station; but he suggested that the 1009 system in operation in Chicago should be adopted, namely, that there should be a certain number of central stations throughout the Metropolis, each provided with a matron, and that women should be detained only at one of such stations during the night.
§ MR. LOUGH
said, that a very interesting change was apparent in this Estimate. He referred to the identification of habitual criminals. The Committee ought to have some information as to this item of £1,072. He asked for some particulars upon the work that these officers had done, and whether the right hon. Gentleman considered that, on the whole, they had justified their existence? He also urged that the present system of small fines upon police officers for slight derelictions of duty caused discontent among the men of the Force, and were, moreover, oppressive. He should be glad to hear a promise from the right hon. Gentleman to look into this question. He would also like to know whether the new arrangement, promised last year by the late Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith), in regard to police boots had been carried out. He would call attention to the case of an inspector who was rather hardly dealt with last year in regard to pension. Six months before he would have retired he was reduced to the rank of constable. The late Home Secretary gave the man some facilities to test his right to the larger pension in a Court of Law. He wished to ask what had been done in the matter?
§ DR. CLARK
said that one of these Assistant Commissioners received a salary of £800 and that in addition he received two other salaries, one of £300 and one of £150, and now it was proposed to make him the head of the new department with a further salary of £100 per annum. In his view one Assistant Commissioner, if he did his work in that capacity properly, ought to devote his whole time to it. He did not say that the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for this proposal, but at all events, the Government were asking the Committee to agree to the Vote which included this additional salary of £100 per annum. He asked the Committee to express their disapproval of this appointment. He should like to know who was responsible for this proposal.
* SIR ALBERT ROLLTT
said that every hon. Member in the House must approve of an endeavour to identify habitual criminals, which was frequently a very difficult thing to do. No doubt the cost of this new department appeared to be very large, but it was most useful in the administration of justice. He should like to know whether the scientific adviser of the department would give his whole time to that work or whether he would only occasionally be employed? With regard to the small fines imposed upon the police, the practice of exacting those fines had given rise to considerable discontent in the Force both in London and in the provincial towns, and it should be limited as was now very much the case in private businesses. He believed, from the information he had received, that the change in the practice with regard to the manner of supplying boots to the police, which he had helped to effect, had been received with general satisfaction. He sympathised with what had fallen from the hon. Member for West Islington in connection with the treatment which the Islington Inspector had received, and there was a strong and general feeling on this subject.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
said with regard to the Report of the Commissioner of Police, he was not prepared to state whether it had been presented on a later day than usual.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
said, in that case he could not give any reason at that moment for the delay in the presentation of the Report, which had only recently reached him in draft. He had been asked a question with regard to the manner in which the vacancy caused by the resignation of Colonel Roberts was to be filled up. The fact was that the affairs of that officer had got into such a state that he had come to the conclusion that he ought no longer to be allowed to occupy his post, and he had directed that an order should be made for his dismissal. Colonel Roberts, however, had been allowed to resign at his own request, but there was no idea of granting him an allowance or a gratuity of any kind. With regard to the question of maintenance of police stations, he was very much inclined to agree with 1011 the views of the hon. Gentleman who had brought the subject forward. His attention had been called to the new department for the identification of habitual criminals. The matter had originated in this way. In October, 1893, the attention of his predecessor in office had been called to a particular method of identifying habitual criminals which had been introduced into France, and in the beginning of 1894 it was recommended that the system should be adopted in England. The system had since been adopted in London, and Dr. Galton had been appointed to carry out the system, subject to a reconsideration of his appointment by the Treasury at the end of three years. The work had been put under the charge of the Assistant Commissioner, who had been referred to, and it was not unreasonable that that gentleman, who had had extra work imposed upon him, should receive an additional salary of,£100 a year in respect of that extra work. He hoped that before long that Department would be amalgamated with the ordinary Criminal Department.
§ MR. LOUGH
asked whether this system of the identification of habitual criminals would be applied to all such criminals throughout the country.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
Yes, it will be applied in the case of criminals all over England. The details of the sum of £1,072 asked for were these: £600 a year would be paid to the scientific Director of the Department, £372 would be paid for the services of a police sergeant arid constable, and £100 would be paid to the Assistant Commissioner. He was unable to give an answer to the hon. Member for West Islington with regard to the case of the Islington Inspector, but if the hon. Member would be good enough to give him the name of the Inspector in question, he would make enquiries into the subject. He was not prepared at that moment to make any statement with regard to the boot question. He would see what could be done in the matter of the small fines imposed upon the police.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that the right hon. Gentleman had not given any answer to the question of the hon. Member for South Islington whether the scientific adviser of the new Department 1012 would give the whole or only a portion of his time to the work of the Department.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
He will give his whole time to the matter.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that that was quite satisfactory. He wished to know whether the additional powers conferred upon the police in connection with the regulation of the traffic of London applied to bicycles. The riders of those machines frequently broke the rule of the road and rode away without giving their names and addresses. He thought that some steps should be taken, either by way of compulsory registration or by having the name and address of the owner panted upon the machines to identify the riders who were guilty of offences against the law.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
promised to consider the matter. No doubt there would be great advantage in regulating the use of bicycles.
§ DR. CLARK
asked how many hours the Assistant Commissioner referred to gave to his regular duties, and how many he would be expected to devote to the duties of his new office. Unless they received some information from the right hon. Gentleman as to what it was intended should be done to do away with this system of pluralism, he should take the opinion of the House on the subject. He moved the reduction of the Vote.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
said, the whole question was now under the consideration of the Home Office, and it was intended to remove the Criminal Reporter from the, Home Office to the Department of Criminal Investigation. The result would be, as he had stated before, that this Registrar of Criminals would be moved with very great advantage to the carrying on of the work, and he hoped there would be a consolidation of that Department with the new Department which was constituted under this Vote. He could assure the hon. Member that he had every confidence that the gentleman in this office would be able to do the work thrown on him, and that ultimately, in a year or two, there would be considerable economy in that office.
§ * MR. PICKERSGILL
hoped that his hon. Friend would not persist in his 1013 Motion, for if he did he should feel it to be his duty to support this official, who was admirably qualified for all these duties.
§ DR. CLARK
No. This gentleman held three offices, and he was totally opposed to his being placed at the head of a new Department. It was a new Department, and he should take the opinion of the Committee upon it.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Vote of £623,000 for the expenses of Prisons in England and the Colonies,
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
expressed his wish to say something about the treatment of Irish prisoners in English prisons. He had carefully studied the Report of the Departmental Committee, but it did not directly deal with the treatment of those prisoners. Some five years ago they got a Commission to report on their condition and treatment, and it undoubtedly disclosed that several of these men were affected in their minds. He had also seen some of the prisoners, and he thought the Government would be well advised if, in the cases of men who were suffering for exceptional offences, who did not belong to the ordinary run of criminals, and who felt their punishment acutely, they allowed someone more skilled in mental disorders than a prison doctor to examine these men. Everyone knew the humanity of doctors, but there was naturally enough in the prison doctor an inclination to treat the vagaries or apparent vagaries of prisoners as a sham. He instanced the case of Flanagan, who attracted no notice except that he was shamming. He had no doubt that those prisoners to whom he specially referred were gradually sinking in the direction of insanity. The present Government should take an independent view. They would not be attacked from the Liberal Benches if they adopted a policy of clemency. It was significant that the only 1014 man released had died within a short period after his release. These men had not been sentenced to insanity. The Italian prisoners sentenced for these offences were in a different category. They had no grievances against England, whose hospitality they enjoyed, and he could say nothing in their favour ; but if one of them were afflicted in his mind he Would raise his voice for mercy. For the Irish prisoners he asked for medical clemency. Prison discipline worked more severely upon the minds of educated men than on others, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would cast a clement eye on these prisoners, and grant some modification of their punishment.
§ * MR. PICKERSGILL
said, the Committee appointed to investigate our system of prison discipline had made recommendations which if they were carried out would practically revolutionise our prison system. He did not desire to press the Home Secretary generally with regard to these recommendations, though any declaration of his attitude with regard to them would be received with the greatest interest by the country at large. There were, however, one or two points of pressing importance in the Report which he desired to bring specially under the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. The first had reference to the dietary, not its quality but its quantity. There seemed to be absolutely irresistible evidence that, in regard to prisoners sentenced to short terms of hard labour, the present dietary in prisons did not afford sufficient sustenance. It lowered the vitality of prisoners, and he had been assured by persons who had been in prison that one of the most painful features of this punishment was the absolute gnawing of hunger to which they were subjected. He hoped, therefore, that the question of dietary, which was referred to in the Report of the Committee, would receive the early attention of the right hon. Gentleman. Then, it was perfectly clear from the evidence that the staff of warders was insufficient. This was shown by the fact that, at the date of the Report, Sunday exercise had been intermitted. No reason was alleged for failing to give Sunday excercise except that the staff of warders was insufficient, and that this was the only means by which they could get a proper holiday. 1015 The Committee made some very strong observations on the question of unconvicted prisoners. He had long thought that the treatment of these prisoners was little short of scandalous. It was supposed to be a maxim of law in this country that a man was innocent until he was proved guilty, but, so far as the treatment of unconvicted prisoners was concerned, we certainly seemed not only to ignore but absolutely reverse this salutary maxim. The Committee passed a very severe censure on the Executive Authority in this matter. The 39th Section of the Prisons Act, 1877, directed that special rules for the treatment of unconvicted prisoners should be made, and that these rules—are to be drawn in such a manner as to make the imprisonment of these persons as little as possible oppressive, due regard only being had to their safe custody.The Committee, in their Report, said—'We cannot think this provision has been adequately carried out.He hoped the subject would receive the early attention of the right hon. Gentleman. Then there was the question of the treatment of weak-minded prisoners. The Committee recommended that these prisoners should be concentrated as far as possible in special prisons, and that the question tion should be considered whether it was right to treat such persons as ordinary criminals. But the Committee were apparently ignorant of a certain statutory power with regard to the treatment of weak-minded prisoners that already existed. Section 12 of the Criminal Lunatics Act of 1884 enabled the Secretary of State to make regulations for the treatment of persons sentenced to penal servitude or imprisonment, who appeared to be from imbecility unfit for the same discipline as other prisoners, but so far as he had been able to discover that enactment had remained a dead letter. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to give his careful consideration to the subject, with a view to making such regulations as the Statute contemplated. There was another question to which he desired to invite the attention of the right hon. Gentlemen, and that was the treatment in prison of persons convicted, not of 1016 serious crimes, but of mere technical offences. He cited the case of the Salvationists who were from time to time convicted of obstruction. It was in evidence before a Parliamentary Committee that some Salvationists who had been convicted of a technical obstruction of the highway, and who, failing to pay the fine, were imprisoned for seven days without hard labour, were subjected to the following treatment:—They were stripped and bathed, they were weighed naked, and were examined for marks on their persons; their hair was cropped; they were put in prison clothes, and they were compelled to sleep on plank beds. To treat in that way respectable persons who had been guilty merely of a technical offence was little short of a public scandal. He desired to make a practical suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman. Apart from any reform of the law, Executive action might be taken to mitigate the harshness to which he had referred. The 67th Section of the Prisons Act of 1865 provides that prisoners convicted of misdemeanour and not sentenced to hard labour should be divided into at least two divisions. Under that Statute the Executive might constitute any number of divisions, but only one special class had been created, namely, misdemeanants of the first division. It seemed to him that it was quite within the competence of the Executive to constitute a class between the first division misdemeanants and the ruck of prisoners sentenced without hard labour. That would enable the present authorities to deal with Salvationists and other respectable persons of a similar class, who, from conscientious motives or otherwise, offended against the law, without outraging public opinion by subjecting them to such treatment as he had recited.
§ * MR. W. E. M. TOMLINSON (Preston)
expressed the hope that the Home Secretary would consider the grievances of prison clerks, who had been called into the service on the basis of a Civil Service examination, and led to expect that they would have a chance of obtaining positions of greater emolument, and whose expectations had, in consequence of changes, never been realised. He asked whether it was the policy of the Home Office to continue the system of governing prisons under chief warders.
§ MR. LOUGH
said, he attached the greatest importance to the treatment of prisoners when they were about to be discharged. Their object, he took it, was not so much to persecute and punish as to reform the criminal. The Committee, in their Report, recommended that facilities should be given to properly constituted Prisoners' Aid Societies, and recognised by the Government, to see prisoners for a week or two before their discharge. He desired to know whether these facilities had been given, or what steps were to be taken in the matter. Then it was recommended that the grant which the Government gave to some of these societies should be increased. He would like to know whether the Home Secretary was favourable to the policy of increasing that grant? He would like to see the Government take a part in this matter and provide some economical hotel or lodging house where an unfortunate individual might go when released from prison and spend a few days, protected from the temptations to which he would otherwise be exposed. There was another matter of great importance into which the Committee went at great length, and that was the question of prison labour. It had been announced on behalf of the Government that they had addressed a remonstrance to Foreign Governments on the question. He found from this Vote that productive labour was carried on in English prisons to at least the extent of £15,000 a year. The Committee said that they did not consider there was any objection to prison labour if it was carried on under due and proper restrictions, and was of a reproductive character; and they suggested that care should be taken that the price at which prison-made goods were sold should not cause unfair competition, and that the special circumstances of any particular trade should be taken into account, so that labour in prisons should not unnecessarily interfere with labour outside. He wanted the Home Secretary to tell him what his policy was with regard to this matter. He wished also to call attention to the treatment of warders. He believed that the hours of warders were 74 per week, and he thought that was too much for them to work, and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether their hours could 1018 not be reduced. The Report of the Committee stated that the work of the warders had been done consistently well. Surely, therefore, their services required recognition to the extent of seeing that they were fairly treated. Many prisons were undermanned, and the Committee reported especially that there were too few female warders in almost all the prisons, and that their number ought to be increased from 5 to 7 per cent. Warders also complained that when they were ill they had to use the same hospital as the prisoners, and that, in his opinion, was little short of a scandal. Finally, he noticed an increased amount for buildings and repairs, and he would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the whole expenditure was provided for under this year's Vote, or whether the increase was likely to be permanent?
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
said the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had asked him, with reference to the prisoners in whom he was interested, to pay particular attention to that matter. He had already undertaken, at an earlier period of the Session, to inquire for himself, not only into the condition of these prisoners, but to investigate the whole question connected with them in order to satisfy himself that they were being properly punished and treated. He did not think the hon. and learned Gentleman could expect him to say more than that, he should do what his predecessor did, namely, look into everyone of these cases, both from the medical point of view, and also from the point of view of criminality, in order to ascertain whether it was possible that the Crown should exercise clemency in their cases. The hon Gentleman the Member for Bethnal Green had called attention to the very valuable Report of the Departmental Committee, and the hon. Gentleman who followed him had alluded to some of the very important questions with which the Committee dealt. He did not think the hon. Gentleman would expect him to go in detail into the points enumerated by him. He had only just received an exhaustive Report from the Prison Commissioners dealing with everyone of the recommendations made by the Departmental Committee, and he was not yet able to say, with reference to any particular point, how he proposed to 1019 deal with it. The Report of the Commissioners dealt most sympathetically with the recommendations of the Departmental Committee. Many of those recommendations he proposed to carry out immediately, but there were a number of others which could only be carried out with the assent of the Treasury, inasmuch as they involved a considerable amount of expenditure. In that category would be included any increase in the number of warders, or any decrease in the hours worked by them. With regard to the case of weak-minded prisoners, which had been referred to, their case was a very difficult one. It was one of the most difficult the Prison Commissioners had to deal with, because of the difficulty and expense of finding accommodation for these prisoners. The hon. Member for Preston had asked about prison clerks. Their grievance was, and he believed it was an admitted grievance, that when they went in for their examination they were charged a fee of £3, which was supposed to imply a possibility of their rising to posts carrying a salary of £450. It was true that they would get into a class in the ordinary course of promotion from which such appointments might be filled, but the chance of their attaining to one was very remote, and, therefore, the Treasury acknowledged the impropriety of charging them a fee of £3, and, in future, they would only be charged £1. The hon. Gentleman also asked him about the appointment of prison warders. That was one of the points dealt with by the Departmental Committee, and was referred to at considerable length by the Prison Commissioners. It involved a very difficult question of money, and he was not now able to enter into it. He, however, was afraid it would prove too costly to move in the direction suggested by the hon. Member. The hon. Gentleman opposite had asked him about Prisoners' Aid Societies. He was most anxious to see a development of Prisoners' Aid Societies, and he approved the recommendation of the Committee that it would be well to endeavour to enlist the efforts of Visiting Justices and Visiting Committees generally in favour of discharged prisoners. There would be on his part a strong inclination to do everything that was possible to maintain and develop the Aid 1020 Societies. Upon the question of productive labour, the Departmental Committee spoke very strongly. The idea of the Committee—an idea which it was intended to carry out as far as possible—was that, whilst prison labour must be to a great extent penal, it was better both for the prisoners and the community that they should do work that would have some result, instead of wasting their time on oakum-picking or the crank. In accordance with the recommendations of the Departmental Committee, efforts would be made to increase the amount of productive labour under the conditions which must govern the circumstances. The complaint respecting the hospital accommodation for warders he could not meet at present, the matter being one of detail.
§ MR. J. M. PAULTON (Durham, Bishop Auckland)
asked whether it would not be advisable to lay upon the Table of the House the Report of the Prison Commissioners upon the Departmental Committee's Report. He was aware that the Commissioners' Report was a confidential document, and that it was not usual to lay reports of that kind upon the Table; but having regard to the great importance of the subject, he hoped the right hon. Member would see his way to lay the Report, or at any rate some portions of it, upon the Table.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
said, if he presented the Report at all, he must present the whole of it. He could not exercise a discretion and select portions of it. It was not usual to publish the comments of a Department on the Report of a Departmental Committee, even when the Report of the Departmental Committee had itself been made public. He, of course, recognised the extreme importance of this question, and if he could see his way to make the Report public, he should be glad to do so. He could not say more than that, the course proposed being unusual.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Vote of £131,003, to complete the sum for Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain—agreed to.
§ Vote of £18,177, to complete the sum for Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum—agreed to.