1. Motion made, and Question proposed: —
That a sum, not exceeding £43,177, 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 1898, for the salaries of the Law Officers' Department; the salaries and expenses of the Department of the Solicitor for the Affairs of Her Majesty's Treasury, Queen's Proctor, and Director of Public Prosecutions; the costs of prosecutions, of other legal proceedings, and of Parliamentary agency.
§ *MR. PICKERSGILL moved "That Item II (Salaries) be reduced by £100 in respect of the salary of the Director of Public Prosecutions." The hon. Member said there was a great deal of public dissatisfaction with regard to the manner in which the functions of that office were discharged. No doubt the duties were of a difficult and delicate nature, and in any case complaints would be likely to arise, but at present and for some years past dissatisfaction had existed to an extent which ought not to be. Public functionaries were usually animated by a desire to magnify their office, but it was a tradition of this particular office, extending back over a long period of time, to do as little as possible—a position which was consistent neither with the intentions of Parliament under the Act nor with the Regulations made thereunder. Sometimes a rather paltry parsimony was exercised. For instance, in one or two cases mischief had resulted from the Director of Public Prosecutions or his subordinate omitting to take counsel's advice upon evidence before the case came to trial. Then, in regard to the manner in which cases were conducted by the regular counsel appearing 1354 for the Treasury, he entirely corroborated the statement that upon some occasions of recent years Treasury counsel had displayed an over-eagerness to secure convictions—a feature which was very unbefitting the dignity of Crown prosecutions and entirely contrary to the better traditions of the Bar. Country cases were often prepared in a perfunctory and unsatisfactory manner, and he attributed that to the terms of remuneration, only half-fees being paid. There was no more reason why the Government should sweat solicitors than workmen. And, in regard to the conduct of cases in Court, he thought some mischief resulted from what might be called dual control. The Public Prosecutor, although responsible, did not himself select the counsel who conducted the cases. It was in the hands of the Attorney General, but if the arrangement was to work satisfactorily it ought to be accompanied by responsibility. In this case, however, the responsibility was with the Public Prosecutor, while the patronage was with the Law Officer of the Crown. Public inconvenience and perhaps a miscarriage of justice arose from this divided control and responsibility. In citing instances of cases which were not taken up by the Public Prosecutor, he mentioned that at the March Sessions of the Central Criminal Court Mr. Commissioner Kerr made some strong observations in a case in which a police constable had been very seriously attacked and injured. The Commissioner thought it was a case in which the Public Prosecutor ought to have intervened. At the next Sessions the Public Prosecutor made his explanation, to the effect that neither by the magistrates nor by the police had his attention been drawn to the case, and he knew nothing about it until he read the remarks in the newspapers. Only the other day a, superintendent of police charged a man before a Metropolitan magistrate with wilful murder, though he had not brought the case before the notice of the Public Prosecutor; the officer told the magistrate that he thought it was better he should get the opinion of the magistrate before he informed the Public Prosecutor of the case. That was totally inconsistent with the regulations, which provided that the superintendent or chief officer should at once bring any capital case to the notice 1355 of the Public Prosecutor. So many of, these eases occurred as to lead one to think that the superintendents of police in the metropolis had received, directly or indirectly, an intimation that the less they troubled the Public Prosecutor the more satisfactory it would be to that official. What was the date of the last occasion on which the Metropolitan Police were reminded of their duties under the statutory regulations? They had been remiss, and he thought that the Public Prosecutor had shown some laxity in not reminding them of their duty. There was another class of cases where a prosecution having been instituted had been withdrawn by the prosecutor himself. At the Mansion House recently a director of a public company was charged with misappropriating £8,000, the property of the company. The prosecutor desired to withdraw; the magistrate sent the papers to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and a short time afterwards the clerk received an intimation that the Public Prosecutor did not propose to take the case up. But the magistrate expressed the opinion that when an information disclosing a criminal offence was laid before a magistrate, such a termination was most unsatisfactory. Again, the use which was made of our criminal courts as a kind of collecting agency, and sometimes for blackmailing purposes, had become a public scandal. The Public Prosecutor was the person who ought to call the attention of the Law Officers of the Crown to this class of cases, and something ought to be done. The case either ought to be proceeded with, if it was a genuine criminal case, or if the process of law was being abused for the purpose of collecting debt or for blackmailing, steps ought to be taken to put a stop to a gross scandal. Then as to cases of perjury. The attention of the Public Prosecutor was constantly being called to such eases, without effect. There had been laxity and remissness on the part of the Public Prosecutor. Only a few weeks ago one of the grossest cases occurred in the Lambeth County Court; it was a bogus case under the Employers' Liability Act, and there was the clearest evidence of perjury on the part of the complainant. Though the ease was brought under the notice of the Public Prosecutor, nothing, 1356 so far as he knew, had been done. Then there were the cases against bookmakers consequent on the recent decision in "Hawke v. Dunn." The statutory instructions gave very complete power to the Public Prosecutor in regard to any indictable offence to obtain full information from the police as to the commission of the offence, and as to what was being done. They provided the Public Prosecutor with complete means of securing a uniform administration of the law in these cases. But harm was done if the law was enforced in one part of the country and not in another. It was essential that there should be a uniform administration of the law against betting throughout the kingdom.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
admitted that this was a question of great importance, he thought that all those who had to do with the trial of cases agreed that, considering the number which the Public Prosecutor had to conduct, the work was, on the whole, extremely well done. He would undertake to communicate with the Public Prosecutor on the point of counsel being instructed and consulted at the earliest possible stage of a case. Due regard had, he hoped, always been paid to economy, but he did not believe that economical considerations were ever allowed to impede the proper administration of justice. There were four standing Treasury Counsel at the Old Bailey, who acted in accordance with the traditions that had governed prosecutions at the Central Criminal Court for many years. The four gentlemen who now filled the position had done their work admirably. Only two instances of too great eagerness oil the part of counsel to obtain a conviction had been brought to his attention, in the last four or five years, and those cases had not occurred in London. He had spoken to the gentlemen engaged, and had pointed out to them the rule which should be followed by counsel prosecuting on behalf of the public. The distribution of Treasury briefs in the country was regulated by considerations of fairness and justice, special regard being paid to the legal qualifications of the gentlemen employed. In certain parts of the country, Manchester and Liverpool for example, there were local Public Prosecutors who distributed the greater part 1357 of the briefs. That system had not, perhaps, worked in an altogether satisfactory way. If Treasury briefs were distributed in some new way efforts to obtain business which would be unworthy of the legal profession might be encouraged. Irksome, therefore, as the work of distributing these briefs was, it was thought best that in country cases the responsibility of the nomination of counsel should rest where it was. The question of what cases the Public Prosecutor should take up was a very difficult one. That official now took up more cases than he used to do, and acted under the direction of the Attorney General. In bad cases of crime affecting poor people the Public Prosecutor ought not to hesitate about taking action, but it was a different matter when pressure was brought to bear upon him to conduct cases affecting wealthy people who ought themselves to act as prosecutors. These private individuals sometimes initiated prosecutions and conducted them unsuccessfully up to a certain point, and then endeavoured to throw the responsibility of continuing them upon the Public Prosecutor. Although every now and then a case which could be taken up with advantage might escape the attention of the Public Prosecutor, no serious fault could be found with the general way in which he conducted his business. He agreed with the hon. and learned Member that a great many criminal prosecutions had been begun for the purpose of levying blackmail or to obtain the payment of a civil debt, but he would point out that the magistrates before whom such cases came could do more to frustrate the object of those who brought them than the Public Prosecutor could. He did not believe that that official was at all likely to sanction any compromise which would result in the escape of an offender. Careful attention was being bestowed on this class of cases, and still further watchfulness would be exercised if it was thought necessary. He feared he could not give the hon. and learned Member much satisfaction in regard to the subject of betting prosecutions. The action of the police in betting cases was necessarily controlled to a certain extent by the Home Office, and there were practical difficulties in the way of getting cases for trial. He would inquire whether any new instructions had been issued by the Public Prosecutor in 1358 consequence of the recent decision to which reference had been made.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
regretted that the He port on the subject of public prosecutions had not been laid upon the Table of the House before this Vote was considered. It seemed to him that there was great laxity in connection with cases of perjury, which were growing in number and gravity. Day by day in civil and criminal cases, and especially in divorce cases, the crime of perjury was committed with almost impudent impunity. There seemed to be no disgrace attaching to the crime, and no punishment for it. This, he thought, was a national danger which the Government of the day ought to consider seriously. If prosecutions were instituted in one or two well-selected cases, and if people were thereby made to understand that perjury was punishable by long terms of imprisonment, they might perhaps get rid of what was very little short of a public scandal.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 2. £22,300, to complete the sum for Miscellaneous Legal Expenses.
§ * SIR H. FOWLER
called attention to the cost of the Railway and Canal Commission. He said this was a case in which there ought to be a Return showing the number of sittings held during the year by this highly-paid body. The last Return on the subject showed that the Commission sat only 30 or 40 days in the year. He wished to know whether the Attorney General could give the Committee any information as to the number of times the Commission had sat during the past year?
§ THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Mr. R. W. HANBURY,) Preston
said the information asked for by the right hon. Gentleman was given at page 211 of the Estimates. With regard to the annual Report, he thought it was just about due, as the last annual Report was signed by the Commissioners in February.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
asked for some explanation of the item for repayment of Sheriffs' expenses.
§ MR. HANBURY
said it referred to the repayment of certain expenses connected with the attendances of Judges at Assizes.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he wished to know what class of expenses were repaid, and if some expenses incidental to the office were repaid, whether there was any good reason why all the expenses should not be paid?
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said that, having served the office of Sheriff, he knew something about the expense. One of the expenses repaid by the Government was the cost of the Judges' lodgings, but the Sheriff still had to provide carriages for the Judges, and to pay his own expenses in the way of entertaining during the Assizes.
§ MR. HANBURY
said that the ceremonial expenses that were sometimes incurred depended very much on the Sheriff himself. If he went in for pomp and ceremony, he, of course, incurred considerable expense, but ceremonial had to a great extent diminished. As to the charges that were repaid, the principal ones were the expenses in connection with providing lodgings for the Judges. They took up nearly one-half of the item. Other expenses, such as advertising the Assizes and providing refreshment for jurors, were repaid.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
thought this was a very large sum to pay for Judges' lodgings. He understood that each Judge was allowed seven guineas a day expenses on Circuit, and he would have thought that out of that he could very well lodge himself. Of course, it was not possible that the persons of great eminence who now occupied the Bench should do anything of the sort, but the day might come when Judges might like to extend their time in an Assize town longer than was necessary for the performance of their judicial duties. [Laughter.] Consequently he thought that some alteration would have to be made. His objection was that with the seven guineas a day for expenses there ought to be no charge for lodgings made at all, either on the Sheriff or on the country. The right hon. Gentleman was a reformer in these matters, and he hoped he would look into this matter.
§ MR. HANBURY
said that the actual sum the Judges received for expenses 1360 was £7 10s. a day, but he could not say whether the consequences suggested by his hon. Friend were likely to follow. As the payment of the Judges' expenses arose on another Vote, he could not discuss it on this one.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
said that Sheriffs always had to spend a certain amount of money. They had to supply carriages, and some Judges even insisted on having men standing behind. Trumpeters were also insisted on in some counties; but cut down to the lowest figure the Sheriffs' expenses came to £200. In some large counties they came to £1,000 or £1,500.
§ * SIR H. FOWLER
said the £7 10s. referred to was a composition in lieu of an annual sum of, he thought, £500, which used to be paid for Circuit expenses. In what he had said just now about the Railway Commission, he had not wished to cast any doubt on the manner in which they performed their duties, but simply to point out that on that Commission there were two highly-paid and insufficiently-employed judicial officials, receiving £3,000 a year each, who might be utilised for other judicial work. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ Vote agreed to.
§ 3. £204,451, to complete the sum for Supreme Court of Judicature.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
hoped some light would be thrown on the various items of this Vote, where there was certainly room for retrenchment. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. R. B. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
said there was no doubt that the time had come when the items in this Vote should receive careful consideration. He was sure that if the condition of things which existed here existed in, any other Department of the State it would have been subjected to a large amount of scrutiny. There was, for instance, the question of the registrars, which should be carefully inquired into, particularly as to whether the staff might not be reduced with economy and efficiency. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought the Government might appoint a Departmental Committee or a small Commission which would bring before the House materials 1361 which would enable them to form a judgment.
§ * MR. CHARLES HARRISON (Plymouth)
pointed out that there was an additional reason why this Vote should be carefully scrutinised with a view to effect greater economy. The judicature fees contributed, in fact, by the litigants and the parties brought in aid and in reduction of the Vote amounted to no less than £383,000; whilst the expenses of all the officers, general staff and clerks of assize in all the Courts only amounted to £378,000. This charge included all the judicial and other staff of the superior courts, and expenses attending the conduct of business in all the superior courts—bankruptcy, lunacy, probate, Admiralty and winding up—and provided for every service but for (1) the maintenance of the buildings, (2) the local rates charged thereon. (3) the stationery, amounting in all to £51,000, and (4) the salaries of the Judges and their pensions, amounting to £192,000. So that practically the public taxpayers found only the buildings, paid the local rates, and paid for the Judges. But against this there was the large profit made from the Court acting as bankers to the funds of those whose affairs were administered by this staff. In this state of the account he thought the taxation on the suitors levied as judicature fee stamps should be reduced, and that oil this Vote there should appear as part of the appropriation in aid the large profit made upon the funds banked by the Court. ["Hear, hear!]
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said the hon. and learned Member bad pointed out that there were too many registrars, and he wondered what could be done to make them fewer. Well, he would suggest whether they might not all be made Judges. [Laughter.] He trusted that in a short time they would see that suggestion carried out. He came to a somewhat cognate point—the officers of the Judges. All the managing clerks, etc., were already provided for, but then in addition to these there was a great personal retinue, which was seen to great advantage when the Judges came to the Sheriffs with their javelin men, trumpeters, and the rest. Here there was an item of £17,338 set down for the personal following of the Judges, these Judges being 1362 already provided with officers. These personal officials were the remnant of ancient ceremonial which ought to be got rid of. If the Lord Chancellor wanted personal officers, why should he not pay for them out of his £10,000 a year? ["Hear, hear!"] His hon. Friend the Secretary of the Treasury, who used to sit with him in the other side of the House and who was the only reformer in f he Government — [laughter.] — should give his attention to the matter. The hon. Member also complained of the over-staffing of the Probate Department. He referred to an item on page 217 with reference to the Probate Division. He made out that there were over 100 persons, clerks, in the Probate Division, and they cost from £30,000 to £40,000 a year. Now that division was mainly occupied in taking care of and making copies of wills. It was a mere survival of the old ecclesiastical jurisdiction which used to have the power of dealing with wills, but the establishment was now nothing but a mere storehouse and the copying place of wills. It ought really to belong to the Inland Revenue Department, which was concerned with the Death Duties. This Probate Department was no longer required. The staff were not lawyers at all; they were clerks purely, and they ought not to be in this Vote at all. They were, he knew, under a most eminent Judge, but their proper place was in the Death Duty Department. He hoped, therefore, that the Secretary for the Treasury would give them a promise that he would look into the matter. He would suggest that his hon. Friend should visit the Department one day in disguise— [laughter]— or send some confidential person to see for him.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said that during the last ten or 15 years there had been a continuous reduction of the staff, of the High Court, and he personally had come to the conclusion that we had got very near to the point at which we could not stand any further reduction. He had never heard that there wore too many Registrars, or that there was sufficient promptitude in getting through the work. As to Masters, and those who were formerly Associates, he was persuaded we had got very near to the lowest point. In the year 1886–87, just ten years ago, the expenditure on salaries of Masters, Registrars, and 1363 various other clerks and officers was £299,932, while at the present time it was £268,729. There had been by a reduction in the staff a saving of upwards of £30,000. The total expenditure in 1886–87 was £417,868, and in 1895–96 it was £383,245. There were 21 Masters at the time of the passing of the Judicature Act, but there were now only 18, and in several other offices the number of officials had been reduced. For years past there had been practically continuous investigation under the direction of the Lord Chancellor, with the result he had stated. His hon. Friend the Member for Lynn Regis, who ought to be learned—he believed the hon. Gentleman was entitled to be called learned—[laughter]—was for once mistaken. The hon. Member spoke of the personal retinue of the Judges. For centuries it was the practice for a Judge of the High Court to have two clerks— a senior with £400 a year, and a junior with £200. Now, however, each Judge, except the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls, had only one clerk. That was a body clerk who attended the Judge in Court and on Circuit, and he was quite satisfied there was nobody who really understood the administration of justice who would suggest it was improper that a clerk at £200 or £300 should be provided for each of Her Majesty's Judges. The hon. Member for King's Lynn spoke of mediæval officials in the office of the Lord Chancellor, but for some years now these officials had been done away with. The salaries, which amounted to £3,824, were not for the personal attendants of the Lord Chancellor, but for clerks in the office. As to the Probate Registry, in 1893 a Committee, which sat under the direction of the Lord Chancellor, recommended extensive reforms. Those reforms were now being carried out, and there had been in that department, as in others, a considerable reduction of the staff. It would not be denied that extremely important work was done in the department. He admitted the experience of the hon. Member for Lynn Regis in matters connected with the Death Duties, but he did not think the hon. Gentleman's criticism in respect of the personnel of the Probate Registry was well founded. The hon. Member said the number of clerks might be reduced from 1364 100 to 80. When he asserted that the office was now reorganised, and was being improved under the recommendations of a Committee which sat as recently as 1893, they might take it that the efficiency and good order of the office were not being neglected.
§ MR. HALDANE
said that the Registrars were most capable and efficient public servants, but he asked the Committee to consider what their work was. Including the Court of Appeal dealing with Chancery matters, there were six Chancery Courts. The work the Registrars had to do was to record the formal orders and to take note of the documents read and put in. That, of course, was skilled work, but it was not so difficult as it looked. There were 12 Registrars —two for each Court—with salaries varying from £1,250 to £2,000 a year. These Registrars were assisted by 11 principal clerks, with salaries varying from £400 to £800; and there were besides second and third class clerks. There were altogether for six Courts 12 Registrars, assisted by 27 clerks. Judging from the standard which obtained in ordinary Government Departments, it seemed to him that reform in the Supreme Court of Judicature had not proceeded at that magnificent pace which one would gather from the statement of the Attorney General. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
asked for explanation of the circuit allowances and expenses. Were these paid by the day? How was it that so very large a sum was required, when it was common knowledge that the time of the Judges on circuit was often not fully occupied?
§ SIR ROBERT REID (Dumfries Burghs)
said that the circuit arrangements were in a very confused state, and that often the Judges found themselves with nothing to do for two or three days, while the work in London suffered. That was a matter of the rearrangement of circuits; but there was another question involved— namely, the delay which often occurred between the committal and the trial of a prisoner. It frequently happened that a person who had been kept in prison for two, three, or even four months, was found not guilty. It was perfectly shocking that such a state of things could exist. The best solution of the difficulty would 1365 be to have a rearrangement of circuits. He knew the difficulties raised by the smaller towns to any such proposal; and he did not wish to see the circuit system unduly interfered with, as far as criminal work was concerned; but something might to be done to prevent the long imprisonment of innocent persons. He would suggest that the practice of accepting bail should be very largely extended. In ordinary cases the rich men were bailed out and the poor men had to go to prison. It was found that men very seldom forfeited their own recognisances; and, as a matter of fact, poor men could not do so, because they had not the means to fly the country. If the Attorney General could not come to an early settlement of the circuit system, by which the trial of prisoners might be expedited, he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would introduce a Bill to make it compulsory to accept a prisoner's own recognisances except in the gravest cases.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said that the circuit allowances of the Judges were calculated at the rate of £7 10s. a day. That system was in lieu of the allowances previously made; but he himself thought that a lump sum would be better than a daily allowance. He was quite alive to the importance of protecting innocent people from the possibility of being kept in gaol; but as to the granting of bail, there had been grave scandals in recent years caused by the escape of criminals to whom bail had been granted. As to remodelling the circuit system, many unsuccessful efforts in that direction had been, made. No doubt a long interval sometimes still elapsed between committal and trial, but he hoped that in, regard to minor crimes Parliament would extend the jurisdiction of Quarter Sessions. It was an almost hopeless task to deal with the circuit question. Directly it was proposed to change the circuit arrangements in respect of any town there was an uproar among the inhabitants of that town. He hoped that some day or other an improved state of things might be brought about; but if it were to be done the House of Commons must turn a deaf ear to the grievances which might really be believed to exist, but which two or three years' experience would dissipate.
§ * SIR H. FOWLER
said that ever since he had been a Member he had heard the 1366 Law Officers make the same speech as the Attorney General had just made. The difficulty would never be solved on the present lines. We had the Judges attempting the impossible—to reconcile all sorts of conflicting interests, and to do justice to them all. Not only were there the susceptibilities of the towns, but there were the conflicting claims of the Bar and other professional men concerned, and of the witnesses and experts. But the hopeless difficulty would vanish if the matter were placed in the hands not of Judges, barristers, or lawyers, but of a Government department independent of sectional influences, and regarding first and only the convenience of the public. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of the Treasury could settle the matter in three months. Each scheme which the Judges produced seemed to be worse than the previous one. Judicial time was the property of the country, which paid for it on the most liberal scale, and which was entitled to have justice speedily and cheaply administered. Above all, innocent people—and even, guilty people— had a right to speedy trial. In any other department of the State such arrangements would not be tolerated for a, moment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was having a very distinguished career in his office, and the House had every confidence in him—[cheers]—and if the right hon. Gentleman would bring to bear his experience and the strong economic tendencies of the Secretary of the Treasury, who had not yet forgotten all the doctrines which he used to preach— [laughter]—these grievances might be remedied.
§ MR. EDWARD CARSON (Dublin University)
said that the tardiness of bringing prisoners to trial was a question of great importance. But he could not see how it would he possible to bring in a Bill dispensing with bail altogether, or allowing prisoners returned for trial out on their own recognizances. He thought the question of bail must be left to the magistrates or the Judges, and his experience was that in recent years magistrates and Judges had become more liberal in the exercise of that discretion. He thought the remedy was to be found in the greater utilisation of the County Court Judges. The County Court Judges were not employed continuously, as were the Judges of the High Courts, and as 1367 they got salaries that recompensed them for the whole of their time, he had never been able to understand why they should be half the year idle, and why they should not be utilised, like the County Court Judges of Ireland, to deliver the gaols or transact criminal business at every Session. Recent appointments to County Court Judgeships included men of great experience in civil and criminal matters, equal in many respects to appointments in the High Courts; and the remedy for the grievance to which the late Attorney General had drawn attention was to enable the County Court Judges to try prisoners returned for trial and compel them to hold their Courts more promptly.
§ SIR ROBERT REID
said he had not suggested the introduction of a Bill to make it compulsory on magistrates and Judges to allow bail in all cases: but he thought that unless there were strong reasons to the contrary poor prisoners should be allowed out on their own personal recognizances. A prisoner had the right of appeal to a Judge sitting in Chambers when bail was refused, and it must be apparent that that was a privilege open only to fairly well-to-do men. He thought the suggestion of his right hon. Friend the Member for Dublin University was one in favour of which a great deal might be said. He did not see why the County Court Judges should not be placed, as they could be placed, on the Commission of Assize.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Walsall)
did not see why the Law Courts should be shut up 15 or 16 weeks each year, any more than the Foreign Office, the Treasury, or any other Department of the State. He thought the remedy for the grievance complained of was to put an end to the long vacations, and to allow each individual Judge to get his holidays as it was found convenient. Again, in other Departments of the State there was a rule by which men were compelled to retire from the Service at a certain age; and he could not see why that rule should not apply to the Judges—
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
Order, order! The question before the Committee is not the salaries of the Judges.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he sympathised with the hardship inflicted on poor prisoners by not bringing them speedily to trial, but he thought that if poor prisoners were allowed out on their own recognizances, a large proportion of them would never be seen again. It had also been suggested that the County Court Judges should have the power of dealing with criminal cases. That would involve an increase in the number of County Court Judges to try the prisoners. Another proposal was that the Judges should take no holidays at all, or fewer holidays. It therefore came to this, that if all the suggestions were adopted there would be fewer prisoners to try, more Judges to try them, and fewer holidays on the part of the Judges. He thought they ought to be adopted, for they would ultimately lead to a great diminution in legal charges. There was no doubt that the Judges took holidays altogether too long, and that they did not retire with that promptitude that was due to the junior members of the Bar. [Laughter.]
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said he should object to the allowance of £7 10s. per day to the Judges while on circuit. The Judges got large and adequate salaries; first-class railway fares and lodgings for nothing. Was it for food they got the additional £7 10s. per day? Rethought it was hardly credible that a Judge could eat £7 10s. per day.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said it would not be in order to discuss the question of retirement of Judges upon the present item.
§ MR. GIBSON BOWLES moved to reduce the Vote by £100, in order that they might obtain an assurance on the subject.1369
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS BEACH,) Bristol, W.
hoped the hon. Member would not press the Amendment. His experience had been that it was extremely difficult for the Treasury or the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal with matters of legal reform in so far as the question of expenditure was concerned. He had had a, try many a time in different parts of the United Kingdom, and he could not say that he had hitherto been very successful. All these matters had to be done in consultation, sometimes with the Judges themselves, sometimes with the Lord Chancellor, or other equally high personages, and it was very difficult for the Treasury, whatever their predilections might be, to carry them, into effect. The hon. Member for King's Lynn, he understood, had referred to an annual salary instead of the payment per day, and he would promise to look into the matter.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn; Vote agreed to.
§ 4. £5,177, to complete the sum for Land Registry.
§ MR. HALDANE
said the Establishment to which this Vote related might be made more use of. This Establishment was the pivot of the reform which the Government had embodied in the Land Transfer Bill, which was in progress in another place.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said the question of legislation dealing with Land Transfer could not be discussed on that Vote.
§ MR. HALDANE
said he trusted the office would be made more useful by the passage of the Land Transfer Bill this Session.
§ MR. GEORGE LAMBERT (Devon, South Morton)
said nothing could be more cumbrous and costly than the system of land transfer in this country. He thought, if they were to reduce the fees of the Land Registry Office and bring them more into conformity with those in force on the Continent, the usefulness of the office would be increased. He hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would re-appoint the Committee in 1370 regard to this matter in accordance with the promise which he (the Leader of the House) made last year. That Committee took a great deal of evidence all on one side of the question, that was the lawyer's side, and there was no evidence taken on the other side. Among the Parliamentary Papers which had been circulated was a Report of the Assistant Registrar of the Land Registry Office, as to the system of Land Transfer on the Continent, which seemed to be giving complete satisfaction. In some countries thousands of pounds in land could be transferred for £1 10s.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
said if the hon. Gentleman had any suggestion to make by means of which the Land Registry Office could be made more useful under the existing legislation, he would be in order, but if the only suggestion he could make was that certain fresh legislation should be introduced in order to make the office more useful, he would not be in order.
§ MR. LAMBERT
said that if the fees were reduced it would be an enormous benefit to some mortgagees. He concluded by urging that the Committee should be re-appointed and the whole matter thoroughly sifted, so as to make the office more useful and efficient.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said he had not the slightest recollection of having given such a promise with reference to the Committee. He would communicate with his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and ascertain whether a promise was given on the point. With regard to the Office itself he agreed that possibly some reduction of fees might be desirable, but he would point out that until quite recently the complaint used to be made that the expenditure upon, the Office was not in, any I way justified. At the present time, however, there was a very considerable profit from this Office to the country, a profit of something like £13,000 a year. There was a continuous increase in the usefulness of the Office. Whereas in 1893 there were 357 conveyances and transfers through the Office, in 1896 there were 525. The total transactions through the Office had increased from 840 in 1893 to 1,116 in 1896. He thought the Office was continually growing in favour, and he hoped the public year by year would appreciate it more.
§ SIR R. REID
thought the fees were a great deal too high, and that the profit which the Exchequer was deriving from the Office was too great, and was calculated to retard to some extent an advance hi the registration of land. There was another reason which was of a more delicate character, but which it was possible to advert to without making—as he would be far from making—the least suggestion of anything but perfectly honourable conduct. But many solicitors, who were naturally the trusted advisers of the owners of land, did not believe in the present system of land registration, and thought it open to many objections. He himself believed it was far from perfect. But even now the Act establishing that office was a most useful Act, and if solicitors had been able to regard it in the wry he did, more estates would have been registered there. No doubt one great cause of the inutility of the Act was that it had not inspired confidence among the solicitors of the country. The Committee on the subject of land transfer, of which he was Chairman two years ago, was not appointed, because there had never before been inquiry into it. During the last 40 years there had been at least half-a-dozen Inquiries by Royal Commissions and Select Committees of both Houses. There had been four or five inquiries even during the last twenty years. For 200 years there had been inquiries going on, even since that industrious man Cromwell expressed an opinion on the subject which he himself believed was justified by the facts. But the inquiry of 1895 arose from the special circumstances that the Government had made a bargain with the Incorporated Law Society that their objections to the Land Transfer Bill should be fairly heard, that the evidence should be limited to a certain period, and that meanwhile the Bill should be Read a Second time. The most valuable evidence was given. Mr. Lake, one of the first conveyancers in this country, gave evidence which impressed him, as Chairman of the Committee, greatly. It was temperate, reasonable, and showed complete mastery of the subject. After hearing all that was to be said against the Bill the Committee was dissolved, and had never been reappointed. He did not think there was any necessity 1372 for the reappointment of the Committee, because he believed those who studied the evidence would be satisfied that a decided measure of reform was needed. Any further inquiry, after all the inquiries that had taken place, would simply delay registration. He hoped that, at an early date, the Government would bring before the House the Bill which had been introduced into the House of Lords. Whatever assistance it was in his power to render to pass that Bill, he would most gladly render. Meantime he did not think they ought to make any complaint of land registry, because he believed that the officers of the Land Registry Office, who had shown much zeal and ability in fulfilling their duties under the present law, would be able to work any new system with the most complete success.
§ MR. HALDANE
said it was true that the most valuable evidence was given before the Select Committee. But this winter a small Departmental Committee was appointed to scrutinise the evidence taken, and to consider such changes in the Government reforms which would bring them into harmony with the evidence. This had been done, and he might say that the Land Transfer Bill was no longer a contentious Measure. The business of the Land Registry could be put completely on its proper basis without the controversies they formerly had. There was now no controversy between the Government and the leading opponents of this reform, and there should be no difficulty in getting it through easily and quickly. He reminded the Committee with regard to the fees, that the Land Registry Office now transacted the business of the Middlesex Land Registry, and a large proportion of the fees came from the latter, which had nothing to do with land transfer, but with the registry of deeds. Without the consent of the noble Lord, who received a third of the fees derived, he did not know how the fees could be altered. He himself hoped the system would not be perpetuated when an opportunity occurred for putting an end to it.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said he was not in a position to make any pledge to the Committee with regard to the Land Transfer Bill. It was receiving thè anxious attention of the 1373 Lord Chancellor, and he hoped to pass a Measure through the Upper House which would not be open to the objection to which his previous efforts in the same direction had been. If there was no opposition to the Bill in this House, he hoped that before long the Bill would become law. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. LAMBERT
said the ex-Attorney General was a great authority on the subject, and if he did not think the reappointment necessary, he himself was prepared to acquiesce. But if making the Land Registry Office more efficient depended on the consent of the lawyers, it would probably remain inefficient for a long time. Its greater efficiency would take bread and cheese out of their mouths, and to that they would never consent.
§ MR. GEDGE
said he thought he might claim on behalf of his profession that they had sufficient common sense to know that they could not set up the interests of their class against the public interests. They did not desire that the business which they did should be done at the expense of the taxpayers—they did not think that right; but he was sure they would heartily welcome any system of land registration which was good for their clients. The objections they had to land registration as it now stood were not universal. The present system suited no particular estates, and all who had to do with such estates carried them into the Land Registry, The objections were not universally applicable, because if so, solicitors of the present generation—at least those who had attained his age—would carry all estates into the Land Registry Office. Then they would make their fortunes and be able to retire comfortably, and leave their successors to get what they could out of it. He was glad to learn that the Incorporated Law Society were satisfied with the Bill as it stood, so he hoped there would be a re-appointment of the Committee of that House, and that upon the evidence they had before them the Bill would be Read a Second time, and referred to the Standing Committee on Law, where minor defects would be eradicated.
§ MR. HALDANE
wished to say that he had no authority to say anything on behalf of the Incorporated Law Society. 1374 But Mr. Lake, who gave valuable evidence before the Committee, had assented to the changes made in the Bill to make it agree with the evidence given before the Committee, and had written publicly to the newspapers, saying that he was satisfied with the Bill which he once opposed, and that so far from, opposing it, he was in favour of giving every assistance to pass it into law.
§ MR. WARNER
said that in spite of what had been said by the lawyers who had taken part in the Debate, there was a feeling of distrust as to their policy in reference to the Bill. He asked for some statement on behalf of the Government that they would try and reduce the fees in the Land Registry Office. He hoped that the Law Officers of the Crown would act so disinterestedly as to reduce the fees which were charged in the Land Registry Office in connection with transactions out of which the legal profession did so well. If the fees were reduced more and more estates would go through the office, and its business would increase.
§ MR. W. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow)
could assure the Committee that both solicitors and the Bar were honestly endeavouring to see what could be accomplished in the direction of land transfer.
§ MR. ALFRED HOPKINSON (Wilts, Cricklade)
urged upon the Government the importance of bringing the Measure dealing with land transfer before the House, so that provision might be made for a much more extended system of land transfer by registration than they had at present. As a matter of fact, lawyers had not been the opponents of the principle of land transfer by registration, but what they had opposed was ill-considered schemes. For many years lawyers had been constantly urging the importance of the introduction of a sound scheme of transfer by registration, and he hoped the Government would recognise the necessity of dealing with the matter.
§ Vote agreed to.
5. Motion made, and Question proposed:—
That; a sum, not exceeding £23,071, 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 1898, for the salaries and expenses connected with the County Courts.
§ * MR. HARRISON
pointed out that the receipts from litigants in the County Courts reached the enormous sum of £465,000. The expenses were put at £457,000, which balanced it within £9,000, and the Consolidated Fund paid for the buildings, for the rates and taxes on the buildings, and £82,000 for the Judges. That being so, he ventured to think that something should be done by the Treasury to reduce the fees which were paid by litigants, and which were now much too great.
§ SIR R. REID
observed that this Vote included an item of £3,000 for the conveyance of persons committed to prison. These persons wore unhappy debtors, who were sent to prison, in the eyes of the law, because they had been guilty of contumacious conduct in not obeying the orders of the Court by paying debts due by them. The fact was they wore sent to prison because they could not pay the sums of money which the County Court Judge had ordered they should pay. He thought this or any other occasion ought to be utilised for the purpose of pointing out what really went on under this system of County Court debtors' summonses. County Court Judges were required to make orders that the money should be paid within a month or six weeks, or by some such instalments, and then they made a contingent committal order, so that if the man did not pay within the time specified he was sent to prison, where he was lodged at the expense of Her Majesty's subjects at large. That was the system, and it was nothing in the world but a modified form of the old system of imprisonment for debt. It derived its origin from that old system, and, to his mind, the time had now come when it should be abolished altogether. ["Hear, hear!"] A Committee sat some two or three years ago, and made rather an inconsequential Report, the County Court Judges differing in giving their evidence on the subject. But the question presented a broad principle, which was whether or not they were to allow persons to be sent to prison for not obeying orders to pay money. If they had no property upon which execution could 1376 be levied, the creditor must stand his chance and pay the penalty of having given credit where he ought not to have given it. ["Hear, hear!"] There was one point which made this matter specially hard. Supposing a debtor owed more than £50, he could get rid of all liability for imprisonment or anything else by becoming a bankrupt. It was the small debtor who owed 10s. or 20s., or £10 or £15 at the outside, who was the victim of this abominable system by which he was sent to prison for not paying his debts. ["Hear, hear!"] It was ridiculous to say such a man was sent to prison not for not paying his debts, but for contumacy in not obeying the order of the Judge, and that imprisonment for debt no longer existed. It was the fact that imprisonment for debt did really exist in such cases as he had instanced. He hoped, therefore, the Government would take the matter in hand and bring about a small but valuable reform which would be acceptable to everybody except that class of tradesmen who gave credit knowing they had behind them the County Court, which enabled them to put the screw on unfortunate debtors by fear of imprisonment. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
said a worse class of sharks did not exist in this country than those persons to whom tradesmen sold their debts at about a shilling in the pound, and he was happy to think that the majority of County Court Judges themselves strongly protested against this practice, and that they had of recent years more and more set their faces against it. ["Hear, hear!"] He hoped the occasional pressure which had been applied in that House in questions put to the Attorney General would be discouraged. He was quite sure that if hon. Members who had put questions trying to get harder treatment for the poor in this respect really knew the facts of the practice to which he had referred they would not ask the questions again. The authorities deserved to be supported in the attempts they had made by circulars to County Court Judges to discourage the practice. The majority of those Judges, he believed, had done enormous public service in recent years by discouraging the practice, and that House ought to support them and strengthen 1377 their hands instead of trying to weaken them by the asking of suck questions as had been put this Session. He thought powerful support might be given to a better view of such question, if from time to time some of the strongest County Court Judges were placed on the Bench of the High Court.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said he agreed that, where a County Court Judge found that a debt was being enforced for the benefit of the person who had bought the debt, the power of imprisonment should not be exercised, and he thought this was recognised by most County Court Judges. But he could not go as far as the late Attorney General with reference to this practice of what the hon. and learned Gentleman, he thought, wrongly called imprisonment for debt. He knew from the County Court Judges themselves that an order for imprisonment was never made unless they were satisfied that the man had had the means to pay and would rot. ["Hear, hear!"] He quite agreed that ordinary imprisonment for debt ought to be put an end to altogether, and that they had done to a large extent. But it must be remembered that there were, not only eases where a traveller had gone round and given credit, but cases where money had been lent and where work had been clone for wages, and yet the man who really ought to pay would not pay. He knew from the County Court Judges throughout the length and breadth of the land that, as far as they could, they never made an order unless they were satisfied that there had been that sort of unfair keeping- back of a small sum of money from a man who really wanted it. He thought a little too much had been said in favour of the man who was avoiding the payment of debts he could pay, and not quite enough consideration had been shown for the small plaintiffs, who really very often wanted the money quite as much. Therefore, while they ought not to encourge the practice to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean had referred, on the other hand they ought to see that where there was a small sum due to a plaintiff and where there had been a contumacious refusal to pay, the County Court Judges ought to have the power of imprisonment. As he had already said, he did not believe that County Court Judges as 1378 a rule ever made an order except they honestly believed that a man had had the means of payment and would not pay, and in those circumstances he felt it was too strong a measure to abolish this power altogether. Such a course would, he thought, encourage that class of persons who would not pay debts that they could properly pay.
§ SIR C. CAMERON (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said he had listened to this Debate with some interest, inasmuch as a good many years ago he succeeded in abolishing altogether exactly the same practice in Scotland as was now said not to exist in England. In Scotland the people were not imprisoned for debt for some centuries. They were put there for high treason—[laughter]—because they refused to obey the order of the Crown, as conveyed to them through the Judges, to pay debts for the payment of which they had no money. In the case of Scotland, they had a Committee on the subject, and they found that imprisonment for debt was generally enforced for the benefit of people who bought up debts at a shilling in the pound; or, at all events, for the benefit of debt-collecting agencies, who constantly made use of the threat of imprisonment in order to get a mother or a brother, or someone else who did not owe the debt, to pay the money. Imprisonment for debt had been altogether abolished in Scotland, and the same law was now applied to the poor man as to the rich man. That surely was an equitable system of law, which they should aim at procuring for England as well as for Scotland. By way of protest against the present system which obtained in England, he bogged to move "That Item H, of £3,000, for Conveyance of Persons Committed to Prison, be omitted from the proposed Vote."
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said it was extremely inconvenient that a question so large should be discussed on a Vote of this kind. The question was a very serious one. It involved such matters as were raised by the Attorney General as to whether they should allow the transferee of a debt, to exercise the rights which belonged to the original owner of the debt. He thought they should. If he had bought a debt he had the same right to such powers of collecting as the law gave the original owner. Other 1379 matters were involved. There was the question of the injury that might be inflicted on the debtors themselves, because they might be refused credit. The rights of property were involved, and he thought it was impossible, on a Vote of this kind, to discuss the matter. If it was desired to alter the law there was a proper method to do it. It was not proper on a side issue like this, involving relatively a small sum and really no principle, to raise a matter which really did involve an important principle requiring adequate discussion.
MR. BRYNMOR JONES (Swansea Boroughs)
said he agreed with the Attorney General generally that if they took the whole course of County Court proceedings over any year, he thought it would be found that in no case was anybody sent to prison unless there had been some substantial evidence laid before the Court that he had had the means to pay the whole or some part of the debt and had contumaciously refused to obey the order of the Court. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not approve of the credit system created by the facilities given for the collection of debt by the County Court system; but still, he believed, it was necessary to retain the present power in the hands of the Court. While he would vote against the reduction, he would like to suggest to the Attorney General whether it would not be possible to put some amending words in the Act of 1869 which might lighten the difficulties of the County Court Judge and give him a larger indication of the kind of proof of means on which he should act. The question of the assignment of debts was most difficult from a practical point of view. A man who purchased a debt was as much entitled to sue as the original creditor, and it would be a retrograde step were the House to attempt to fetter him. At the same time abuses had arisen of which the County Court Judges were perfectly alive, and which they were doing everything possible to discourage.
§ MR. W. AMBROSE
said it was rather a surprise to him to find that when a man was sent to prison for debt the cost of conveying him there came out of public funds. It might, however, be that fees were charged which covered the cost. He had always regarded it as a pretence to say that imprisonment for debt was abolished when they retained the present 1380 system. What the County Court Judge, did was to ask what a man's wages were, and to estimate what he could spare out of those wages. He did not go into the affairs of the debtor, or take account of his other obligations. Five or six orders might be made against a man, but the County Court Judge did not feel at liberty to take into consideration the orders he had previously made. Why should the man in a humble position of life be punished for debt in a way in which a man in a higher state of prosperity would not be. Was the poor man the only man who was guilty of this offence? He knew that upon one hand it was said if they had not this power they would deprive a man of the means of getting credit. But, on the other hand, it was made the means of mortgaging wages to an extent that was not justified. This was especially the case with regard to travelling dealers who extorted orders from poor people, and relied on this cruel system for securing payment.
MR. BRYNMOR JONES
said the hon. Member had forgotten the Administration Order system introduced by the Bankruptcy Act. In the Courts which he knew this system worked very well. The whole position was taken into account, and all practical hardship was done away with.
§ SIR R. REID
said the Administration Order system was an illustration of the difference in the way in which the law treated a small debtor and a large debtor. If a man could afford the luxury of getting into debt for an amount above £50 he could take bankruptcy proceedings himself, and thereby relieve himself from the clutches of any Court, and from the liability to imprisonment. But if the debt was of smaller amount then, although the debtor might by the method of Administration Order, have his debts diminished, he still remained liable to have a mortgage on his future earnings, subject to the penalty of imprisonment if he did not comply with the order made. This was not a very convenient occasion for raising the question. But nowadays Supply afforded almost the only opportunity for bringing forward such matters, and if his hon. Friend went to a division, he would support him.
§ The Committee divided: —Ayes, 54; Noes, 133.—(Division List, No. 189.)
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.1381
§ 6. £3,400, to complete the sum for Police Courts, London and Sheerness.
§ * MR. HARRISON
called attention to the increasing charge under this head, and alleged that this was due to intrusting the levying of the money in the hands of the Chief Commissioner of Police, instead of placing the control in the hands of a representative body. He stated that when the Act was passed to establish the Metropolitan Police, the rate was limited to 8d. in the pound on the rateable value. It had since been increased 1d. It was levied over the whole area not only of the Metropolis but practically of 20 miles round.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
I do not quite follow how the hon. Gentleman connects his arguments with the Vote.
§ * MR. HARRISON
said he was endeavouring to point out that the expenditure of £l2,734 which they now asked for was due to entrusting the levying of it to on unrepresentative body, instead of vesting the control in a representative, and that the expenditure was unduly largo in consequence.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
If the hon. Member means to argue that the Metropolitan Police Force ought to be placed under the London County Council, that would require legislation, and would not be in order on the present Vote.
§ * MR. HARRISON
said he did not suggest that there should be any alteration, but he proposed the amount levied in respect of these expenses by the Commissioner of Police should be reduced.
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
There are no rates levied in inspect of the Metropolitan Police Courts. This is a sum charged on the Exchequer. If the hon. Member raises a question of rates, that cannot be discussed in Committee of Supply.
§ * MR. HARRISON
said he had proposed to move to reduce the Vote asked for. His argument was that the expenditure of £21,039 was out of all proportion to the duties that were performed, and they would not reach that amount were the management of Committees in other hands, and under a representative body. He urged, therefore, that the Vote should be reduced so as to bring the expenditure on the Metropolitan Police Courts within 1382 that reasonable amount which would make them at all events self-supporting out of the fees, and they ought not now to be charged on the Consolidated. Fund to the extent proposed by this Vote. There was an expenditure which at present was contributed partly by the Consolidated Fund and partly out of the Metropolitan Police rate. ["No!"]
* THE CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS
The hon. Member is in error. The Metropolitan Police rate does not arise on this Vote.
§ * MR. HARRISON
pointed out that during the past two or three years this expenditure had been gradually increasing, and it was to this fact he desired to call attention.
§ Vole agreed to.
7. Motion made and Question proposed: —
That a sum, not exceeding £41,107, 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 1898, for the salaries of the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioners of the Metropolitan Police, and of the Receiver for the Metropolitan Police District, the pay and expenses of officers of Metropolitan Police employed on special duties, and the salaries and expenses of the Inspectors of Constabulary.
§ * MR. PICKERSGILL
called attention to the subject of police supervision. A large body of opinion existed in this country to the effect that police supervision was the most mischievous expedient ever devised by any country to prevent a man who had once gone wrong from acquiring with reasonable ease a foothold in society again. It was a remarkable fact that at the Central Criminal Court sentences of police supervision had not been imposed for many years, because he believed that the Recorders had been largely influenced by the opinion held and expressed by Colonel Fraser, the late Chief of the City Police. This gentleman held the view that a man who intended to relapse into crime snapped his fingers at police supervision, that was to my he disappeared and never reported himself, whereas the man who had fallen casualty and meant to try to lead an honest life was he who reported himself, and by means of constant harrassing was 1383 prevented from, earning an honest livelihood. He wanted some statistics to show how this system worked, and whether or not the system was a success as measured by its results. Further, he would like to know how many of the persons subject to police supervision actually reported themselves. This information was in the possession of the Criminal Investigation Department. Did the system given the police any effective hold over the habitual criminal, who meant to relapse into crime? He contended that it did not. Would the Home Secretary grant the Return for which he had pressed? Many believed that the system was a failure, and if that was so he thought a primâ facie case had been made out for further investigation. A Committee ought to be appointed, by preference a Select Committee; or if that was not thought to be desirable, a Departmental Committee, with two independent Members of the House of Commons upon it. Would the right hon. Gentleman grant such a Committee? He moved "That item A (Salaries) be reduced by £100, in respect of the Salary of the Chairman of Commissioners and Directors."
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY,) Lancashire, Blackpool
said that, as he had explained on a previous occasion, the object of police supervision was not to inflict any extra punishment on criminals. The object was twofold—partly to protect society and partly to render it possible to inflict shorter periods of imprisonment upon prisoners. He had never examined the question in detail, and was not prepared to say whether on the whole the system was a success or not. He quite recognised that it might be very desirable to see how far the results of the system had justified the anticipations of those who introduced it. If, therefore, the hon. Member opposite would communicate to him the kind of information and return which he (Mr. Pickersgill) thought could be supplied he would do his best to provide it. There was no desire on the part of the Home Office or of the police to keep anything back. Undoubtedly the system, ought to be clearly understood by the public— ["hear, hear!"]—and he was only anxious that the facts should be fully known. If it should appear that the 1384 system had not worked satisfactorily he would be quite prepared to consider how it could be improved.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LOUD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
asked for an explanation with regard to a matter which had caused a great deal of discontent among the Police of London. He referred to the alteration of the system under which boots were supplied to the force. Unless he had been misinformed, the Police were very dissatisfied with the change. They feared that they would be deprived of a great part of the value of the boots at present provided for them.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
assured the noble Lord that the alteration of the system under which boots were supplied to the Police had been accepted by the force by an overwhelming majority, and that he had not hoard a single expression of dissatisfaction at the change. When he came into office, an intimation had been given to the force that a money allowance would be given to them in order that they might provide their own boots. At first sight it might be thought that the change would cause the members of the force some pecuniary loss, but he could assure the Committee that the contrary was the case.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
congratulated the Home Office on the adoption of the anthropometric measurement of criminals. The system had been adopted with great advantage in foreign countries, and he had no doubt that it would be scientifically and practically useful in this country also.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
observed that the system was instituted by his predecessor. It was working very well, and was applied throughout the prisons of this country.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
8. Motion made, and Question proposed: —
That a Rum, not exceeding £420,851, 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 1898, for the expenses of the Prisons in England, Wales and the Colonies.
§ * MR. PICKERSGILL
drew attention to the shooting of a convict by warders at Dartmoor on Christmas Day. He said that the conduct of the warders had been defended on the ground that it was in accordance with the instructions which they received. One of the orders relating to convict prisons said:—In the case, of a convict who in seen to run away or make an attempt to escape, there is so little chance of success when an immediate pursuit can be made that the use of firearms would not be justified.Those words certainly did not justify the warders' action on the occasion to which he referred. Another of the orders said: —The object of firing being mainly to induce the convict to stop while in the act of effecting his escape, it would be advisable that the first shot at least should be wide of the mark, and if it should be necessary to fire again that the aim should be low, which would avoid the danger of wounding a vital part.That was very plain, but what were the facts in the case under consideration? The medical evidence showed that the liver and the right lung of the deceased man were torn by 13 slugs. There was some question as to the distance at which the man was from the warders when they tired. On that point there was great conflict of evidence, but the medical evidence did corroborate the testimony of the other convicts, that the distance at which the man was from the warders when he was shot was exceedingly short. His first point, therefore, was that the warders exceeded their instructions, and that they were not justified by the letter of the Standing Order in taking the life of this man. But assuming the warders did not exceed their instructions, on what authority did the right hon. Gentleman and the Prison Commissioners make this order? The right hon. Gentleman relied on an old dictum of the Common Law that a felon might be killed if his escape could not otherwise be prevented; but that dictum came into vogue many centuries ago, and was usually applied in this way, that if a man tried to escape, not from prison, for punishment by imprisonment was not inflicted in those days, but from justice, he might be killed. Punishment for felony in those days was in almost all eases death, and thus then was the closest relation between 1386 the risk which a person ran in seeking to evade justice and the risk which he incurred if he submitted to trial. Now punishment for felony might be only a few days' imprisonment, and yet according to the principle relied on by the right hon. Gentleman, if a prisoner, from wantonness or any other cause, tried to escape, a warder might shoot him down. He submitted that it was altogether wrong to base a modern order on this ancient and obsolete rule. Again, a large proportion of the prison population wore only misdemeanants and this rule did not apply to them, and if the escape of misdemeanants could be prevented without it, why not the escape of felons? ["Hear, hear!"] It was said that the circumstances of this ease had been investigated. They had, but only by a Coroner's jury at Princetown, and he contended that a Coroner's jury drawn, from the population in the immediate neighbourhood of a prison could not be considered an independent tribunal. These warders ought to have been put on their trial at the Devon, Assizes, but it was too late to do that now. It was not too late, however, to prevent the recurrence of such a thing. The suggestion he made a few weeks ago was a very moderate suggestion—namely, that there should be a Select or Departmental Committee appointed to consider the law and practice with reference to the prevention of the escape of prisoners. ["Hear, hear!"] His final question was, then, would the right hon. Gentleman assent to that very reasonable request? If nothing was done, it would inevitably happen some day or other, with this case as a precedent, that warders would shoot a man down, and would be put in a criminal dock on, a charge of murder. He begged to move the reduction, of the Vote.
§ * SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said he could not complain of the hon. Gentleman having again called the attention of the House to this unfortunate occurrence. Everyone must regret that, in the execution of their duty, the warders in charge of a gang of prisoners unfortunately killed a man. The Standing Orders which governed the case had been revised from time to time, and ultimately assumed their present shape under the advice of the present Lord James and the ex-Lord Chancellor. They had been frequently considered by the Law Officers, and had 1387 given the greatest possible anxiety to those who had had to frame thorn; but in the state of things which existed at Dartmoor, where large gangs of men worked in the open, it was difficult to conceive how orders could be drawn in such a way as to insure that firearms should only be used in such a way as only to stop locomotion. He had satisfied himself, after the most careful inquiry by one of the directors of the prison, and after considering the fact that a dense fog existed at the time of the occurrence, and that a determined attempt was made to escape by these men, who well knew the risk they were running—he was satisfied that the warders did no more than their duty in firing at the unfortunate man who lost his life. As far as he had ascertained the facts, the nearest warder must have been 20 yards from the man, and the furthest about 50 yards. The escaping prisoner, in a thick fog, was getting over a sort of embankment in a crouching position, at the moment the warder, whose clear duty it was to stop his escape, fired, and unfortunately the result was to cause his death, which was, of course, very much to be regretted. He had not been able to find any fault with the warder for what he did. There were 50 or 60 convicts in charge of only 11 warders, and, therefore, he did not think the warder could be blamed for what he did. He was asked whether he would agree to the appointment of a Select or Departmental Committee to inquire what ought to be the regulations in this respect. He was now taking what practical steps he could to alter these orders, and he was extremely anxious that nothing of the kind should happen again. The last fatal occurrence was, happily, 23 years ago. He did not see how, in the case of outdoor gangs working in unenclosed land, it was possible to avoid the use of firearms in the last resort to prevent escapes. He would be very glad if it could be avoided, and he was now reviewing the whole question, both with a view to preventing escapes, and also, as far as rules could do so, to prevent fatal results. He hoped hon. Members would be satisfied with the assurance that he was doing his best now practically to secure the safe control of these convicts, so as not to let them loose on the people all over the country, by some amendments of the Standing Orders. The hon. Member 1388 spoke of the unsatisfactory nature of the coroner's inquest. Well, he knew something of Dartmoor and Princetown, and he thought a jury assembled at Princetown were not unlikely to do their duty in bringing in a verdict against warders. On this occasion the jury found that these warders had only done their duty, and that was the opinion that he had formed. He could assure the House that he should do his best to amend the Standing Orders. He hoped that this would be satisfactory.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. H. C. F. LUTTRELL (Devon, Tavistock)
thought that the warders had a considerable grievance. They had the warders compared with the London police, but as so compared the warders had a considerable grievance. The London police joined at the age of 21, and after 26 years' service they could voluntarily retire on two-thirds their pay. Thus the London policeman could retire at 47. He was not saying that that was too liberal, but he did say that the state of the warders as compared with the London police was not what it ought to be. A warder could not retire until he was 64 years of age. The work of a warder, he had no doubt, was harder and much more dangerous and disagreeable than the work of a policeman. The hours of the warder were longer than those of a London policeman. In one case it was eight hours a day, and in the other ten hours. There was also a question as to the clerks and storekeepers, who joined under a special agreement, which was a privileged one. They joined under nomination, and they had to pay a fee of £3. By that payment they were led to believe that they would have certain advantages not possessed by other clerks. It was said at the time of their nomination that they would receive £400 a year salary. What they contended was that the conditions explicitly laid down should be fulfilled. He asked the Home Secretary that full consideration should be given to the grievances of these men.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
said he should like to add his appeal to that which had just been made with regard to the case of the warders, who, many thought, ought to be able to 1389 retire at an earlier age. At the same time they wanted to have a little more freedom. Their employment was very laborious and monotonous, and he hoped the Home Secretary would see that more opportunities of recreation were provided for them at the time they were not on duty. ["Hear, hear!"]
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said he entirely agreed with what had been said with regard to the prison staff. He had himself brought forward their case, but in vain. He had considered the case very carefully in all its bearings, and he had no hesitation in saying that the treatment they had received was discreditable to the Administration. He did not believe there was a man sitting on the Government Benches who would think of treating any servant as these warders were kept as to the terms of service, as to their families, and as to their promotions. They were men who had been misled. He was sick and tired of urging their claims. He had been into a large number of prisons, local and convict, and he had no hesitation in saying that in many prisons he would rather be in the position of a prisoner than a warder. There was no comparison between a London policeman and that of a prison warder. The warder's position was most depressing and most responsible. He was often in immediate danger, of which he was perfectly conscious, and yet he must not admit it even by a look. The warders had to keep their tempers—one of the most important qualifications. Surely these men should not be left suffering under a sense of injustice. ["Hear, hear!"] What was the promotion for these men? A matter of a few shillings a week for men who had served five, ten, or 20 years. Then, again, with regard to sleeping out, they had a very small allowance, and they would be glad to sleep out much oftener than they are allowed. They ought to be allowed more for lodging allowance, or, at any rate, if they did lodge outside they might be allowed to live more like human beings than they were. The warders were in charge of men who, after all, were just like Members of the House of Commons though they were convicts. If hon. Members' antecedents and surroundings had been like the convicts he wondered how many hon. Members would be very much better. Convicts 1390 were human and were amenable to the influences which affected humanity. The warders had absolute authority over them, and if the warders were not men who could exercise self-control, if they were not themselves in a peaceful state of mind, if they were suffering under a sense of wrong and injustice, it was very likely they would make the convicts suffer more than they need. That there wore men in the prison service who were horrible tyrants to the men under them could not be denied, and he supposed, it was almost impossible to prevent it. He asked, however, that the warders should not be men of a discontented class as they were now. Wherever promotion, was possible promotion, should be given, where there were vacancies they should be filled up, and everything should be done which would make the life of the men as comfortable as the circumstances would permit. There was one other point he wished to raise. He had reason to believe that, in, one prison at least—in Dartmoor—there was a system under which warders could obtain drink within the prison walls either for cash or on credit. Some of the warders had taken very extensive credit; indeed, he was afraid to mention the sums of money which three warders owed for drink. He feared that in view of the largeness of the bills it was perfectly impossible that the three warders could have done their duty properly. Whether the system he referred to existed elsewhere he did not know, but surely it was most important that amongst men who had charge of convicts sobriety should be strictly enforced.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
said that, as the representative of a large number of warders, he had on more than one occasion pressed upon the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor the grievances under which warders suffered. There was a good deal in what fell from the hon. Member for East Donegal; if warders were discontented it stood to reason injury would be done to their work. He did not believe there was anything like tyranny in convict prisons, but there was no doubt that if warders felt they had considerable grievances, as they did, the probability was they would not treat the prisoners with that care and consideration which even prisoners ought to receive. He could not help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman, might well consider the 1391 great hardships of the warders' position. Its unpleasantness was indescribable when it was compared with that of the Metropolitan policemen. The last time he was at a convict prison he was told it was very difficult to pet work out of convicts, and that the work of a convict was only about half as valuable as that of a free man. The Committee could realise the driving which must be required from the warders under such circumstances. The case which the hon. Member for Bethnal Green had cited showed very clearly what an enormous responsibility was thrown upon warders, a responsibility out of all proportion to that which was thrown upon a policeman. He trusted that the Home Secretary would turn his attention, to the grievances of the men, and be able to find some redress.
§ MR. W. O. CLOUGH (Portsmouth)
said there was a large number of warders in the constituency he represented, and he could assure the Home Secretary that the feeling of discontent which had been mentioned was very widespread. It was very important that every class of public servants should have before them the prospect of promotion, and that they should feel they would be justly dealt with when vacancies occurred. The warders were undoubtedly dissatisfied, and it was in the general interest that the Home Secretary should endeavour to give them redress.
§ * SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said that he was not at all disposed to underrate the position and responsibilities of the warders in convict prisons; and the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had given ample reasons why prison warders should be not only first-class public servants, but men contented with their position. He had not been aware that there was anything like the spirit of unrest and discontent among the warders which had been represented during the discussion. Four or live years ago the whole case was gone into by a Committee, presided over by Lord de Ramsay. The Committee made certain representations as to salaries, and for once the Treasury gave way, and something was done to improve the condition of the warders. Since then further demands had arisen, especially in regard to pensions. He was not prepared to admit that the prison warders stood on quite the same footing 1392 as the Metropolitan Police, but he was aware of their special responsibilities and of their tedious and solitary duties. The hon. and learned Member for East Donegal had said that throughout the prison service generally there was a better and more humane spirit than there used to be, and there was no class of public servants whoso interests were more deserving of attention than the warders. As to the stagnation of promotion he had not received complaints. He did not know whether promotion was always within one prison, but the point was worthy of consideration. He would give his attention to all the points which had been raised. He would inquire into the case at Dartmoor. He had heard that there was a system there by which warders could obtain beer, but it had never been suggested that the system had led to excessive drinking. As to the prison clerks, he could not reopen the question of the £3 for examination. The changes of the last two years had materially improved the position of the prison clerks. The creation of a new class of governors and storekeepers had been a great been to them; four or five promotions had been made already, and indeed all the higher posts of the profession were now open to these clerks.
§ MR. A. O'CONNOR
said that if the right hon. Gentleman would compare the Returns for English and Irish prisons, nominally administered under the same law, he would find that the number of reports and punishments was much higher in the former than the latter. In Irish prisons, for instance, corporal punishment was almost unknown. It was significant, too, that the rates of mortality, sickness, insanity, and suicide were much lower in Irish than in English prisons.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY
said that the warders complained of the excessive strain sometimes put upon them.
§ * SIR. MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
said that though he would look into the points raised he could not promise to satisfy them.
§ Vote agreed to.1393
§ On the return of the CHAIRMAN of WAYS and MEANS, after the usual interval,
§ 9. £126,130, to complete the sum for Reformatory and Industrial Schools, Great Britain.
ADMIRAL FIELD (Sussex, Eastbourne)
referred to the necessity for the reform of the management of reformatory and: industrial school ships. They were chiefly maintained by public funds, which came to a large sum in the aggregate, and the country did not get its money's worth in return. A reformatory school ship which did nothing but reform and instruct was the worst class of school to which children who had done wrong could be sent, unless they were trained to become sailors. The number of lads from reformatory and industrial school ships sent to sea had considerably diminished. If these ships were properly worked they would become important feeders for the waste of life which went on in the Mercantile Marine. The Mercantile Marine had always been looked upon as a reserve for the Navy in time of war. It was no longer so, and the places of English seamen were being taken by foreigners. His argument was vindicated by the Report of the Departmental Committee. It recommended that 13 should be the minimum ago for admission to the ships, and at 15 boys should be sent to sea. Reformatory and industrial school ships should be affiliated with similar schools on land, from which boys could volunteer for a sea training. The schools on land did not like parting with their best boys, but that was a trivial matter compared with the training of the boys on the ships. The naval inspection of the ships had been attended by beneficial results as regards discipline and industrial training. But a proper staff was required on board. Then the code for the education of the boys needed revision. The complaint was that the same code was used for boys of 14 and 15 which was used in land schools for boys of 11. The main point was that the schools should be regarded by the Home Office as Government institutions, which they really were. The private subscriptions and the contributions of the parents were so small as to be almost beneath notice. The schools were maintained largely by School Boards and 1394 County Councils. He trusted the Home Office would carefully consider the recommendations of the Departmental Committee and endeavour to carry them out. Another point was that wherever there was a ship there should always be a playground on shore. These, however, were matters of detail. The main question was the use of the ships for the benefit of the country; as it was, the country's money was now being expended uselessly. It was the duty of statesmen to face this question of the diminution in their sea power, and in the manning of their Mercantile Marine. There were the men to their hand, and they ought to make the best use of them. This was a question which would not brook delay, for they were going from bad to worse. He hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would give the matter his most earnest consideration.
§ SIR C. CAMERON
, having been the Chairman of a Departmental Committee which a few years ago had among its duties to examine into the question of juvenile delinquents and reformatory and industrial schools in Scotland, desired to say a few words on some reforms which did not involve legislation, and which might be carried through with advantage. He quite agreed with the gallant Admiral that it was a great pity boys educated in training ships should in such very small proportions find their way into the Navy. He remembered being very much struck by the fact, as shown before the Committee, that only a small proportion went to sea at all, and those who did went not in British, but generally, by preference, in Swedish vessels, the explanation given being that the Masters of the Swedish vessels treated them better and looked more carefully after them than the Masters of English ships. Everything should be done that was possible to provide from these training ships, for which the nation had to pay, a supply of sailors for our Mercantile Marine. The Departmental Committee to which he referred made a number of recommendations, some of which were purely matters of administration, and one or two of which would, at all events, recommend themselves on their very face to the common sense of the Home Secretary. The members of the Committee on visiting the prisons were very much struck by the fact that a large number of the prisoners 1395 had formerly been inmates of reformatory and industrial schools. They found that there was a much larger proportion of ex-reformatory boys and girls than ex-industrial school boys and girls. The members of the Committee had a number of conversations with these ex-reformatory pupils to find out how it was that so many of them lapsed into their old habits of crime. One cause was described in a paragraph of the Report of the Committee, which set forth that many of the ex-reformatory pupils stated that when they returned to their native towns after discharge they got among old companions, that youths so discharged, though not personally known, were recognised as coming from a reformatory by the clothes they wore and were so introduced into the set. The paragraph also stated that, while so much money was expended on reformatories it was folly to permit the work to be neutralised to a great extent for the sake of petty economies. No trouble or expense should be spared to remove youths from reformatories from their old associations or criminal surroundings. Many of the reformatories had a large web of cloth; each boy, on leaving, was given a suit of clothes made from this web, and when he went back to his native town all the other boys from the reformatory recognised him, so that he was at once drawn into a set of reformatory boys and drifted back into crime. This was a matter (said the hon. Member) which could easily be put an end to. A letter from the Home Office pointing out the evil results of such a practice would suffice to put an end to it. There was another matter which applied specially to reformatory and industrial schools in Scotland, and that was that the education was not given according to the Scotch, but according to the English code. The result was that an ex-reformatory or industrial school pupil, the moment he opened his mouth on any subject connected with his school life, was ever marked as having come from one of these institutions. That was most undesirable. What was wanted was to cut such a youth adrift from his old associations, to free him from all criminal companions, and give him such a fresh start in. life as would insure him becoming an honest member of society in future. But that was not all. The Committee found in the Girls' 1396 Industrial School at Dundee a number of girls going through the fifth English standard. About half had already passed once in that standard; a quarter had passed twice and were going up a third time; while one girl had passed it three times and was going up a fourth. If the education was conducted under the Scotch code the pupils could go on to higher standards, and in the case, especially, of industrial school children, who were constantly transferred to Board Schools, a source of dislocation in their educational career would be avoided, and general convenience would be consulted if the system of education pursued in the industrial and reformatory schools were made conformable with that which was carried on throughout the country. He thought the time the children were kept in industrial schools might with advantage be shortened, and the money more advantageously expended in sending them into some other districts of the country, or to Colonies where they would get into a totally fresh community and where nothing of their past could be raked up against them. He thought, if the right hon. Gentleman would carefully consider the matter, he would see that it was absurd to send children from the reformatories earmarked by their clothes, and by the system of education which was different to that generally carried on throughout the country, and that he would bring about a change in these respects.
§ SIR MATTHEW WHITE RIDLEY
agreed that in order to secure the future of those who had been sent to reformatories it was essential that they should not be earmarked with the reformatory stamp, and he certainly regretted that there should be any establishment in the United Kingdom which sent out any of its inmates in the manner the hon. Baronet had described. He had always understood that a young fellow who had served his time in a reformatory was supplied with clothing which could not identify him as belonging to any establishment which could in the remotest way be called penal. With reference to the question of teaching according to the Scotch Code, the hon. Member was probably aware that arrangements were now in progress whereby the inspection of Scotch reformatory and industrial schools would in future be under the responsi- 1397 bility of the Secretary for Scotland, who was naturally more acquainted with Scotch habits and wishes than an unfortunate Saxon like himself. [Laughter and "Hear, hear!"] He hoped that might possibly meet the difficulty as to the teaching" arrangements to which the hon. Baronet had referred. ["Hear, hear!"] His hon, and gallant Friend the Member for Eastbourne had several times called attention to the training ships of this country, and he had, with some reason, felt himself justified in saying that these training ships were not recruiting the Mercantile Marine in the manner he desired to see that service recruited. He was afraid that, though they might send boys to these training ships, they could not make them go to sea. He did not know how that could be cured. He had endeavoured to read the whole of the voluminous Report referred to by his hon, and gallant Friend, and he would use his best efforts to give effect to the recommendations which were made. The question of these reformatory industrial schools had been considered by a Committee appointed by his predecessor more than a year ago, but if was extremely difficult to arrive at any tangible result, from their long deliberations. Therefore he did not think it could be expected that, either on the general question or on the particular question his hon. and gallant Friend desired to bring before the Committee, he should give a definite opinion that night. But he could promise him that he should give his best attention to the subject, and he should be glad to welcome any practical suggestion he had to make. He believed very much in the possible utility of these training ships under proper management, and any suggestion which tended to make them better and more adequate for their purpose would certainly receive the attention of the Home Office.
thanked the Home Secretary for his sympathetic reply, but reminded the right hon. Gentleman that his special point was that magistrates should not commit to the ships, and then they would only have volunteers from the land schools going to the ships because they wanted to go to sea. Let magistrates commit to land schools, and the question would solve itself.
§ Vote agreed to.1398
§ 10. £21,954, to complete the sum for Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.—
§ Agreed to.
§ 11. £62,630, to complete the sum for Law Charges and Courts of Law, Scotland.—Agreed to.
§ 12. £28,961, to complete the sum for Register House, Edinburgh.—Agreed to.
§ 13. £3,350, to complete the sum for Crofters' Commission.—Agreed to.
§ 14. £52,277, to complete the sum for Prisons, Scotland.
§ MR. R. WALLACE (Perth)
asked for some information as to the policy of the Prison Commissioners with regard to the general prison at Perth. That prison was built to accommodate nearly 1,000 prisoners, but at present it was practically empty. They would all rejoice if the prison were empty owing to the diminution of the criminal class in Scotland, but unfortunately that was not the case. The prison was empty as the result of a new system which had been inaugurated by the Prison Commissioners of Scotland. Until very recently long-sentence prisoners from every part of Scotland were conveyed to the prison, at Perth, which was specially arranged for their accommodation. He thought that several hundred thousand pounds were spent in its construction, and yet at the present time it was practically empty, and was only used as a local house of detention. It was suggested that the new system was inaugurated from motives of economy in order to save the railway fares of prisoners from different parts of Scotland to Perth. But about two years ago, when the prison was made use of, the annual cost of bringing the prisoners to Perth was only £400. Therefore the economy which had been inaugurated by the Prison Commissioners of Scotland was, that in order to save £400 a year they had spent within the last two years a capital sum of £100,000 in the construction of a prison at Barlinnie, near Glasgow, and £20,000 to add to the accommodation of the prison at Dundee. He did not oppose this Vote in any hostile sense. He was only anxious to obtain from the Lord Advocate some information as to what the Prison Commissioners proposed in the end to do—whether they intended to practically abolish the Perth prison, or 1399 whether it was intended to return to the system recommended in past times of using it as a long-sentence prison.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said he thought the facts of this case, which he was glad his hon. Friend had brought forward, required some explanation on the part of the Scotch Office. He thought many of the best authorities on prisons had entirely gone against the concentration of a large number of prisoners under one roof. The idea was rather to have a small number of prisons, where the prisoners could be kept under the immediate eye and study of the governor and the chaplain, and under the immediate supervision of the medical officer. He understood that this prison at Barlinnie was not only too large, but was also very insufficiently staffed. He thought they naturally expected the Lord Advocate to give them some reason for this policy of abandoning small prisons, well staffed and well equipped, and of concentrating and huddling the whole criminal population, practically, of Scotland, in this one great prison at Glasgow. He also desired to draw attention to a special grievance experienced by the chaplains and medical officers of prisons in Scotland. The Scotch medical officer and the Scotch chaplain got practically about £100 a year less than his English brethren. Was it because Scotch prisoners were more impressionable to religious influences and had a hardier constitution than English prisoners? One or two very important explanations had been offered by English Members on the Treasury Bench. He hoped the answer of the able Scotchman now in charge of Scotch prisons would be more satisfactory.
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. GRAHAM MURRAY,) Buteshire
said the hon. Member for Perth was under a misapprehension if he thought that the general policy as to prisons in Scotland was a matter of modern development. As he was aware, the general policy as to prisons took a new departure in 1877, when the prisons, which before that time had been maintained out of local resources, were taken over by the State. A general scheme was formulated by the Prison Commissioners in 1877. That was modified in 1880, and practically the scheme of 1880—with this exception, that a certain 1400 prison proposed to be built in the neighbourhood of St. Boswells was given up—was really and practically the scheme in force now. Consequently the idea of the prison of Barlinnie was not a new idea, but part of the policy started in 1880. It was perfectly true that Perth prison was very much less occupied than it used to be, but that was owing not to any change of policy inimical to Perth, but owing to the operation of certain natural results. In the first place the idea was that it was very much better, if possible, to confine prisoners who were committed for short sentences in the district in which they were committed. That avoided taking prisoners a distance in the charge of warders and making them a spectacle at railway stations. In the next place the old idea of working out penal servitude was to submit a man first to a long period of solitary confinement and then to send him to work. That system had been given up and the prisoners were now sent to work at once. He believed that was very much better for the individual than the old system. The result of that had been against Perth. Originally convicts in Scotland were sent to England, but it was found that that was not a good arrangement, and accordingly the convict prison at Peterhead was instituted. Then, when this difference of treatment ensued, it was not possible to have convicts at Perth, because there was no work for them to do. Hon. Members who knew the surroundings of Perth prison knew that they could not employ gangs of convicts there. A third cause was the decrease in the number of female convicts. Perth had always been a female convict prison. In 1872 there were 320 female convicts in Perth; at the present moment there wore only 15. He thought that was a figure on which they might entirely congratulate themselves. He had said the depletion of Perth prison was owing to natural causes, but there had been certain salutary reforms in the prisons. The reason why a certain amount of money had been spent on Dundee prison was really on the same lines. Most of the prisoners convicted in Dundee were prisoners with short sentences. There had been certain salutary reforms made in the prison of Dundee which resulted in a diminution of the cell accommodation, and what had been done in Dundee was really no more 1401 than to bring up the cell accommodation to something like what it was before, and avoid the necessity of taking prisoners on short sentences from Dundee to Perth. Even as it was there was scarcely sufficient room in Dundee, because he believed the average number of prisoners was really above the number of cells. As regarded the future, there was no new prison policy, so far as he knew. There was no intention at the present moment to give up Perth as a prison. At the same time, it was quite evident there might be causes and occasions where some use might be found for a large building of that sort, and then it would be a very fair matter for consideration, whether even Perth prisoners might not be accommodated elsewhere. But he did not think that would be likely, unless there was some particular occasion for utilising Perth prison in another way. With regard to the pay of the Chaplain and medical officers, he apprehended that it was the old question of demand and supply, and, although he was anxious not to be less patriotic than the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, he felt it was for very much the same reason that his hon. and learned Friend sitting next him (Sir R. Finlay) got a better salary than he received; not because he was conscious of any superiority— [laughter]—but because Englishmen were inclined to give more money to a compatriot of his own when he came to the English Bar, and, therefore, it was only fair to remunerate him at a higher rate than was paid to Scotch officials. The present scale paid by the Treasury roughly corresponded with what a man could make at other similar work in the same country, and there was no great injustice to the chaplains and medical officers when their pay was compared with what they would get in ordinary civil employment.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next; Committee to sit again upon Monday next.