§ Debate on Second Reading resumed.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I feel as if I must almost apologise to the House for intruding in this Debate, because the speech—I may say the historic speech—delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Mayo dealt with so many of the points that I shall deal with, that I feel it is almost superfluous for me to enter into them. I congratulate my hon. Friend upon his being able to take so noble a revenge for the many years of suffering which he went through. I think I may say that his speech upon this Bill will have the effect of destroying for ever the system of scientific suffering in our prisons. The treatment of our prisoners is a subject upon which I have thought and upon which I have felt for a good many years, and I feel so strongly upon it that I consider it my duty to take part in the discussion upon this Bill. First of all, I desire it to be distinctly understood that in the course of my observations I am dealing with the system only, and not with individuals, and, above all other persons, I have no desire whatever to assail the present Home Secretary; I am perfectly certain that a no more humane man has ever occupied the position which the right hon. Gentleman now occupies than the present Home Secretary, who, I believe, follows out all the 56 traditions of the Home Office and its humanity. In fact, I look upon the right hon. Gentleman as being the ally of my hon. Friend the Member for Mayo, and others of us, who, in this matter, are going to make an attempt to render this Bill the basis of what we consider to be a most necessary and far-reaching Measure of reform. Now, the greatest difficulty with which one has to contend in discussing a Measure of this character is what, if I may be allowed to say so, one may call the admitted lack of imagination in the English Government. I am perfectly certain that this assembly contains as many humane men as any other assembly in the world, but, if I may say so without offence, this assembly in dealing with this subject has the great misfortune of a large majority of the English people, of being unable to put themselves in the position of other people, and look at the subject from their point, of view. I know no man who is less able, as a rule, to put himself in the position and take up the standpoint of another person than the Englishman; therefore, I am sure that what I may venture to call the tortures which are incorporated into our present prison system are not in any way owing to the lack of humanity in that system, but are the result of a lack upon the part of Englishmen to put themselves in the position of other people, and feel the sufferings which those others have to support. Now, I have one observation to make as to the English national character, and it is more flattery than anything else, and that is the supreme passion of the Englishman to whitewash his institutions. If he can say a good thing of a bad system he does so, and, while we have the Report drawn up by what is called the Gladstone Committee, which was one of the most severe reprobations of a system ever pronounced by a public body, yet we have members of the Commission getting up in this House and giving their blessing and approval to this Bill, the main feature of which is the rejection of the most important recommendations of the Committee. What did that Committee report? That Committee confessed that in some respects, and in one most important respect, the new prison system was not an improvement upon the old. They reported that the best prisons under the old system 57 were managed on lines more likely to produce a more healthy moral effect in the prisons than the present system. They reported that—The general prison system is open to the reproach that it not only fails to reform offenders, but in the case of the less hardened criminals, and especially of first offenders, it produces a deteriorating effect.I think that is a strong condemnation of the present system, and the one which is going to take its place. Now, Sir, the Committee set forth the principle that the object was to give better prison treatment, and we are obliged to confess that the present prison treatment has, practically, disastrously failed in carrying out the object. In the first place, the Committee reported that recidivism has largely increased, or, in other words, the prison treatment, instead of showing a deterrent and reformatory effect, has produced the opposite result of increasing the number of persons who return to prison after the first conviction. These are the figures given to me, and, so far as I can investigate them, they appear to be correct. The number of reconvicted prisoners in 1872 was 26,863, whilst in 1893 they were 43,320, or nearly double what they were in 1872. Now I know various opinions are given with reference to these figures. It is said that, under the partial adoption of the Bertillon system of identification, the means of recognising old prisoners has been improved, but those are small points; the broad fact remains, that recidivism is double, or nearly double, what it was. If I turn to the figures as to this particular point, and contrast the state of the English prisons with the Continental prisons, I find the result is nearly as disastrous. In Austria it is 28 per cent., Germany 29 per cent., Italy 36 per cent., France 47 per cent., and in England, taking the year 1895, it is 55 per cent., or nearly double what it is in Austria. I say the system which produces results as startling as these is a bad one, and one to be condemned. I am not going into the ethics of criminal responsibility: I have my own opinion on that subject, which I do not think it would be wise of me to express here. I know very well what the official contention is, but I take my ground upon admitted facts, and 58 these are the admitted facts, that most of those prisoners—fully half of them—are children deserted by either one or both of their parents, and that according to medical testimony prisoners are, for the most part, persons of a neurotic taint, and upon that point I would advise hon. Members of this House to read the very instructive evidence of Dr. Shaw, the Principal of Banstead Asylum. Another doctor also points out that criminals are really the degenerate offspring of a degenerate stock; but here is an important and startling fact: the average prisoner in height, weight, strength, and mental capacity is markedly below the average population of the country. That statement is backed up by these remarkable figures: the average height of the London criminal is five feet four and a half inches, and of the free man outside, five feet seven inches. In dealing with our prison population we are dealing with a population whose end in the gaol is foredoomed and pre-ordained by that fact, and those unhappy beings are entitled to be considered when they are in gaol and have committed offences. For a moment I wish to point out that, according to medical testimony and statistics, and according to the Report of this Committee, the inmates of the prisons are inferior, mentally and physically, to the general average of the outside population. I mean my observations to be an indictment of our whole prison system, and I first indict it in its treatment of political prisoners, upon which point I do not intend to dwell at great length; in the first place, because my hon. Friend the Member for Mayo has dealt with it far more effectually than I can profess to do, and, secondly, I do not do so because it might be supposed that I am approaching this Bill from an Irish point of view. I am not approaching it from an Irish point of view, but from the point of view of a Member of this House, and I am dealing with it as an Englishman more than anything else, because it deals more with the English than any other part of the United Kingdom, and I believe the prison system of England is worse than the prison system of Scotland or Ireland. I at once deprecate the suggestions that the opinions expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Mayo and myself are opinions from an Irish point of view. 59 They are the opinions of members of humanity and of Members of this House. As regards the treatment of politicai prisoners, I should like to say a few words. I have been reading a book called "Side-lights on Siberia," written by a Mr. Simpson, and I desire at this moment to explode the favourite idea of Englishmen, which is that if you wish to get the greatest horror of prison treatment you must go to Siberia. All I can say is that, having read the work of an impartial man, if I had to make up my mind as to where I would commit a political offence, and if my choice lay between England and Russia, and my place of imprisonment was Siberia or Dartmoor, I would take care that Russia should be the scene of my exploits, and that Siberia should be the home of my imprisonment. I know nothing can destroy the idea of the Englishman that his own institutions are the finest, but I say the treatment of a prisoner in Siberia is far more humane than it is in England. In Siberia some of the men charged with the darkest and most violent crimes are employed as schoolmasters and as newspaper editors. I read of one man who was a curator in a museum, who, while he was in charge of the room, was visited by the present Czar, and that was a Nihilist who was convicted of murder in the streets of St. Petersburg. Yet the Czar shook hands with him at parting. There are several other instances. I could give the instance of a man who was employed as a meteorologist, and got a salary from the Government in that position, and I could give you an instance of the editor of a newspaper. Compare them with the wrecks in mind and body of Irishmen who have been sent out from English prisons after punishment for less violent crimes than these Nihilists have committed. I could say a great deal about the treatment in prisons, but my hon. Friend has dealt with that already, and, as I desire not to make this appear an Irish Debate, I will leave these facts, which are familiar to everybody, to speak for themselves. So far with regard to the treatment of political prisoners in this country as compared with their treatment in Russian Siberia. I go on to the treatment of non-political prisoners. My first charge against your 60 present system is that it is a system of deliberate, calculated, scientific, cruel starvation. I repeat that, and the Home Secretary will have an opportunity by-and-by of referring to the subject. I have my witnesses here beside me. Let them bring up any amount of medical reports; let them bring any amount of reports from prison governors or prison inspectors. It may be a hard thing to say, but I put the evidence of the men who have endured this prison treatment as far higher and more worthy of credence than the evidence of prejudiced officials. What are the facts? My hon. friend beside me was between seven and eight years in penal servitude. He assured this House that never for one day was he free from the pangs of hunger. Everybody in this House has read the startling and striking poem written by a prisoner recently liberated, entitled "The Ballad of Reading Gaol," in which he gives a most touching account of the starvation he endured. My hon. Friend the Member for Meath was also in penal servitude for a considerable number of years, and he will say that, not being a man of very large appetite, he cannot speak of having suffered starvation in his own person, but he will tell this House, if necessary, what he has witnessed. It is 25 years ago since I had the pleasure of making my hon. Friend's acquaintance, and though it is 25 years since he made this statement to me, it has remained in my memory ever since. My hon. Friend was in prison in Portland. There were some Fenian prisoners there; they had keener appetites than himself, and they suffered chronically from starvation. Any of my hon. Friends can corroborate that statement. These men suffered from starvation, and he himself went round and saw these men gathering snails, so terrible were the pangs of hunger. My hon. Friend has given some terrible examples of the things that men in prisons do when driven to it by the stress of hunger's pangs. They eat candles, and those candles are specially prepared by some noxious fluid to be disagreeable. They eat the grease that is put in their cells for their boots. My hon. Friend told me the story of how he saw men cat filthy and rotten offal. What answer is there to this? Here are men, whose veracity no man will 61 doubt, who are speaking of what they saw, what they endured in their own persons, saw with their own eyes, or heard with their own ears. I put their testimony against the testimony of prison officials who are bolstering up this wicked and cruel system of prison treatment. I have been told by chaplains of gaols stories of how men try to get their food to save them from horrible starvation. Not only is the food insufficient, but it is of a very disagreeable and inferior character. Again, I appeal to the testimony of the Prisoner of Reading Gaol. He speaks of a painful disease as almost the immediate result of the form of food that is given, and then he goes into a description. It will be scarcely decent that I should repeat in this House what physical suffering men endure from the painful internal disease produced by insufficient and bad food. I will sufficiently indicate the evidence by saying that he has seen warders sick in the morning in consequence of the malady from which these prisoners suffer. My second charge against the treatment of prisoners is that you cultivate sleeplessness amongst them by the plank bed, and sleeplessness becomes a chronic prison disease. My third charge—and I give it from the writer from whom I have already quoted more than once—is that the prison system seems almost to have for its aim the wrecking and the destruction of the mental and physical faculties of the prisoners. If you try to make them insane, I congratulate you upon the magnificent success of your efforts in that direction. Let me first take the system of giving nine months' solitary confinement. During these nine months the prisoner, spending 23 hours out of the 24 in his cell, thinks of what? Here is a man in a most depressed condition of mind, having gone through all the misery, anxiety, and suspense of a trial, having lost his liberty, with anything but pleasant memories and nothing but gloomy anticipations—very often a man of intelligence, but more usually a man of unformed intellect—and you stick him down for 23 hours in this small cell, giving him no food, nothing except the brooding thoughts of his own disastrous life and his hopeless thoughts of the future. If you want the means of destroy- 62 ing what little remnant there is of self-control left in this man, this nine months is the best instrument for doing so. There are things you cannot speak plainly upon, but I will sufficiently indicate my meaning by saying that these nine months of solitary confinement inculcate habits and vices which produce loss of self-control and melancholia. I assert, as the result of my reading upon this question, that whatever good was left in a man at the beginning of these nine months was destroyed at the end. What makes this more remarkable is this, that this period of solitary confinement was originally started as a means of reform and improvement, and even of hope. It was started, I believe, by Sir James Grey, and with the report, I may say, I do not agree: it is open to the objection I have stated, of being a whitewashing report. I hope the Home Secretary will remember that observation of mine. In a very curious memorandum I read that the convict was to undergo 18 months' solitary confinement, which has since been reduced to nine months, and he was to be freely visited by the chaplain and prison officials. Let me say here that I do not regard the ministrations of the chaplain as the best way of reforming the character of a prisoner. It is just as bad as the goody-goody lectures which are stuffed down their throats. He was to be trained in a productive industry. He was to be subjected to a progressive system of education. Lectures were to be given him by the prison chaplain. He was to be kept in a state of cheerfulness, which was done by confining him in his cell with a Bible, a prayer-book, and a hymn-book as companions to his own brooding thoughts, by way of carrying out the maxim that he was to be kept in a state of cheerfulness. Hope, energy, resolution, and virtue were to be imparted to him. He was to be trained to be fully competent to earn his own living, and become a respectable member of the penal settlement. I say that these nine months' solitary confinement are far worse than, say, the cases of fraudulent pretences for which many of these poor wretches were convicted. Having got your man into this cell for 23 hours out of the 24, and having starved his body, you commence starving his mind. 63 For the first three months he is allowed a Bible, a Prayer-book, and a Hymnbook. After that he is allowed a book a week. But we have improved since my hon. Friend has been in gaol. Soup has been added to the Sunday dinner; and during the humane and enlightened progress that has taken place during the last 30 years since my hon. Friend was in gaol, we have actually got to two books a week, instead of one a fortnight. What right have you to deprive him of that? Is it not torture to the mind as well as torture to the body? Is it more humane and more civilised to torture a man's mind than to torture a man's body? I have not done with this question of books. When you get these books, of course, you have to go to the prison library. I do not know who is responsible for the position of prison-librarian. I believe it is due to the progressive, broad, and enlightened view of the chaplain of the gaol. What do you get there? A series of mawkish, goody-goody Sunday-school literature, such as "Foxe's Book of Martyrs," "The Proceedings of the Missionary Society in the Polynesian Islands for the Years 1847 and 1849," Dr. Young's "Night Thoughts," etc. I do not know whether any Member of this House has read "Night Thoughts" — I very much doubt it—but it has a second title, "Meditations among the Tombs." No, Sir, you manage to starve the body, and now you starve the mind. But, in spite of this literature in the shape of Dr. Young's "Night Thoughts," prisoners might get some consolation by talking to each other. But the prisoner is not supposed to speak at all. When my hon. Friend the Member for Mayo was first at Dartmoor he was allowed to speak, I think, on Sundays and at exercise, during an hour every day. Subsequently, however, that right was taken away, and for all the remaining years of the sentence he was supposed never to open his lips, except to one of his companions. Is not that torture? What is the justification of it? Contamination! Contamination! Just fancy the miserable position to which you have brought these prisoners. If they happen to whisper a word to another man they are liable to punishment—just whispering! Well, Sir, having starved 64 the prisoner, deprived him of literature, deprived him of even that modified form of conversation with his lips, what is the result? I have read a great many letters on this question, and some of them are very painful, some of them are very striking; but I do not think I have read any letter which produced a greater effect upon me than a letter written by a gentleman named David Nicoll, who was sentenced to 18 months' hard labour for an article in the Commonweal, of a very menacing character, and an article for which I have not the smallest sympathy. But this man, who was sent to 18 months' hard labour, describes his sufferings in the prison, and he gives a most graphic and a most painful picture of what the prisoner feels in gaol. He says—Modern prisons have been built by humane men, therefore you cannot look out of the window, for the window is made of thick opaque glass, and you are shut up in the cold whitewashed walls of your cell to brood for ever. There is no relief; you might be in a living tomb for all you hear of the outside world. Crimes and follies rise again and again before you. What anguish must be endured by one whose life has been nought but crime!Then we come to this passage, which produced a profound impression on my mind—The effect of this is so terrible that after a few months of it the strongest man will tremble like a leaf at a rough word.Now, that is the effect of the prison system. Probably most of those who go into these prisons are strong and stalwart, but in nine months—sometimes half that time—you have so broken them, body, mind, and soul, that they "tremble like a loaf at a rough word." Well, Sir, what has been the result of all this? If it had produced reform, and acted as a deterrent to crime, it would not be justified, for nothing could justify such cruelty and torture; but we know that this system, besides its brutality to humanity, is a disastrous failure. But I have now to go on to a more startling chapter in the story. Sir, I have spoken in vain if I have not proved to the Members of this House that the prison system is directly calculated to produce insanity. We need not go to à priori reasons for it; I will read the words of the Report. Page 88 of the last Prison Blue Book shows 65 15 cases of insanity in convict prisons in the course of the year 1896–97. The convict prison population averaged about 3,000. This gives a ratio of 50 cases of insanity per 10,000 of the convict population. The ratio of insanity in the outside adult population is 12 per 10,000. In other words, the rate of insanity, according to the returns, is four times higher in the convict prisons than in the general adult population. But, Sir, I would draw attention to the fact that all the insane cases are not included in the returns, and if the Home Secretary will look to page 48 of the last Report of the Commissioners, March, 1897, he will find these words:—J 462, T. G.; date of reception, 7th April, 1883; date of release, 27th of August, 1896." The second entry is, "J 463, A. W.: date of reception, 19th April; date of release, 22nd August, 1896." I think everybody will recognise, "T. G." as Thomas Gallagher, and "A. W." as Albert Whitehead; and, Sir, we know all about Gallagher and Whitehead now—they are both raving mad. But it apparently took an awful time to discover their condition. But what do I find is the disease which is reported by the medical officer? Let it be understood that I am making no charge or insinuation against the Home Secretary. I hope I have said nothing all through my speech which is contradictory to the policy which I aimed at in the beginning, when I said I was going to attack the system, and not individuals. But in the cases of both Gallagher and Whitehead. I find that the disease on account of which they are released described as "debility." As a matter of fact, Sir, they were released because they were stark, staring mad. I dare say there was some debility as well, but it was mental debility as well as physical debility. But here is a remarkable case, in which a false entry is made in a Blue Book presented to this House, and insanity hidden away within the prison. I believe the Home Secretary has admitted that two of the remaining prisoners are under observation in Portland at this moment, and I suppose they will be released on the ground of debility, and that a few weeks afterwards they will be found stark, staring mad, too. [The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT: I have not made 66 that statement.] I am sorry if I have misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman, but I have certainly heard the statement made by someone. But, Sir, with these facts before us, what is the use of asking the opinions of governors and doctors on the effect of penal servitude on the mental health of the prison population? Passing from the convict to the local prisons, I find that the Prison Report for 1897 shows that there was a total of 362 cases of insanity in the local prisons in 1896–97. Of these cases 98 were unconvicted prisoners and 164 convicted. With regard to these unconvicted prisoners. I have one observation to make. These prisoners are unconvicted because they are innocent. But if I take out the unconvicted prisoners, and take only the convicted offenders, the result is that among the convicted population in local prisons there are 117 cases of insanity per 10,000 of the prison population, while in the adult outside population these cases are only 12 per 10,000. In other words, insanity is, at the lowest estimate, nine or ten times higher than in the general adult population. Well, Sir, I know very well that these figures will be contested. Reports are presented by which it is shown that the prisoners became insane a short time after admission, and, therefore, it is argued that they were insane when they were admitted. Well, Sir, I will read some of the ghastly records. "M.; aged 19; case of congenital, weak mind; removed on discharge to N. Asylum." Why is such a man as that put into gaol at all? Again, "M.; 32; discovered to be in second stage of general paralysis," which had probably begun before the committal of the offence. He may have been mentally unbalanced when he went in, but you had not had him long before you changed that want of mental balance into paralysis. Take another case. "M.; 38; no sign of insanity for 55 days; acute mania." Here is another: "M.; obtaining money by fraud; deaf mute of low type; congenital disease." Now, Sir, I take this case: "No sign of insanity for 55 days after imprisonment," and then an attack of acute mania. What is the defence to that? The defence is that the prisoner must have been suffering before he went in, and, therefore, must not be put in the 67 statistics of insanity. What a ridiculous rule this is! No, Sir, if they are insane when they go into prison or not, the conclusion I draw is that 55 days is quite sufficient to do the work of the prison and make a man lose his mental balance. There is a very painful and terrible case in which an unfortunate woman, who was sentenced to seven days for fowl stealing, becomes a raving lunatic. Well, Sir, of course her lunacy is largely the result of starvation, which is more acute in the case of short terms than long terms. In the Report of the Departmental Committee on Prisons there is a very remarkable memorandum by Dr. Bridges, who takes up the point that the prisoners are insane when they go in. Yes, very often they are, because they have served previous terms of imprisonment. Dr. Bridges makes this deduction—We have thus to accept the fact that among the prison population the ratio of insanity arising among persons apparently sane on admission is not less than three times as great as that amongst the general population.Well, Sir, if I had only to rest my case upon that admission, I think I have said enough to condemn the present system. But how is this insanity produced? It is produced by starvation, by solitude, and by punishment. I wish to say one word on the question of starvation. I have alluded to Siberia, and in the book to which I have referred I find this reference:—At Tehita the men were said to receive one-third of a pound of meat daily; the soup, with a great variety of vegetables cut up into it, was as good as one had tasted anywhere, and the bread was quite of the same standard.How would the English prisoners in humane England like to be treated as well as these convicts in the prisons of Siberia under the bureaucratic rule of the Czar of Russia? The other night my hon. Friend the Member for one of the Divisions of Durham gave some figures which he has been kind enough to hand to me, and I give them on his authority. He says—In the last six years the number of floggings in English gaols were 796, in Scotland 16, and in Ireland 2.And he tells me that in Ireland there were no floggings for the last four years, 68 and in Scotland there had been none in the local prisons during the last six years. I have been informed by a Scotch official that flogging is not allowed now by the Scotch prison rules. Is it allowed in English gaols? [An HON. MEMBER: Certainly.] Then what a blessing it is to belong to the "predominant partner" if you are entitled to a flogging which you cannot get in any other part of the Kingdom. Well, now, Sir, will this Bill remedy these evils? I say no, unless it is very much modified and amended. I hope, when we get the Measure upstairs, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will consent to the modifications we are proposing, so as to make this prison treatment a little more humane. Now, what is the evil of the present system? Why, it is a bureaucratic system from head to tail and top to bottom, and it is a retrograde system. The life of a prisoner is one that requires careful attention; in fact, there is no life in the world that requires more special care. It is, of course, necessarily inevitable that you have to put enormous powers in the hands of the prison officials; but I do not mean to say that you can always have a prison official, with members of a Visiting Committee on his back, examining and interfering with him as to how he should deal with the prisoners. Such a thing as that would prevent prison discipline altogether. But look at the power these officials have. To some extent, I may say, they have the power of life and death over a prisoner. Therefore, I say that these officials ought to work and act under the supervision and control of public opinion and a judicial body, which every other public official had to work and act under. Now I do make this statement: the House must remember that there are such things as prison tragedies. As an example, I may mention the case of the boy Cooper, referred to by the Member for Waterford in a supplementary question, and which was referred to publicly in the newspapers. The Home Secretary had been very cautious in the answers he had given with regard to this case. Sir, I have here the published reports, and more shameful treatment I never read of in the whole course of my life. This unfortunate boy was, I think, 18 years of age, and he was sent to gaol. He was put on the treadmill, and he complained. [An HON. 69 MEMBER: He was certified by the doctor.] Yes, that is so. He complained of being ill, and he was sent to the doctor, who said, "He is all right; there is nothing whatever the matter with him." And he was sent back to the treadmill. He was afterwards taken ill, and he was evidently delirious, for he destroyed some of the things in the cell. Then he was put into the padded room. The doctor saw him again, and again he declared that there was nothing the matter with him, and practically said that he should be put on two treadmills instead of one. The wardens asked him to get up from his bed, but he couldn't. They took away his bed, and tried to get him to put on his clothes, but he could not dress himself. They pulled him up several times, and put on his clothes, but he fell down exhausted. The warders visited him two or three times between that time and 11.15, but at 12.15, when they came to the cell, they found him dead on the floor of the cell, and practically naked. And the doctor in charge—I won't mention his name—made a post-mortem examination, and he was forced to say that on this unfortunate boy, after he had opened the body, he found an ulcer which had perforated the stomach, and that the body was full of food. Of course, this poor unfortunate boy was suffering from an ulcerated stomach all the time, and he was suffering from it when he was put on the treadmill, and the treadmill and the doctor killed him. Nothing was more calculated to aggravate an ulcer of the stomach. I think this justifies my statement that there are such things as prison tragedies in the present system in England. The prison system of England should be under constant and close judicial supervision, but have we any guarantee of this under the present Bill? In bureaucratic France and Italy they have a much, better form of independent supervision. We ought to have a judicial body consisting of well-known public men to supervise prison administration. For my own part, I would like to see an independent Member of this House at the head of this judicial body, to be asked questions in this House with regard to prison treatment, just as the Charity Commission is represented here. Now, Sir, our present system, as I have said, is bad from top to bottom. We require a vast and a revolutionary change, and not the 70 small petty reform given to us by this Bill. Finally, Sir, the system contrasts with the reformatory system by increasing its evils. If you go to Redhill—I know there is a difference, because they are young people—you will find that 90 per cent. of the children are reformed. We have heard loud guffaws over the American system, which claims to reform 80 per cent. of those passing through their reformatories. I was reading an account, the other day, of the eighteenth century criminal law, and it reminded me very much of the present treatment in the nineteenth. I do not know whether I have the passage here or not, but it describes what a traveller to London saw in the eighteenth century. Here it is—No matter by what approach the stranger then entered London, he had the fact of the stringent severity of English criminal law most painfully impressed upon him by a sight of the gallows, if he enters the metropolis by its northern suburbs, he could have passed Finchley Common, and have beheld not one, but perhaps five or six gibbets, standing at a short distance from each other. If he travelled outside or inside a stage coach that ran through the western quarter of the metropolis to Holborn or Piccadilly, he passed within sight of the notorious gallows at Tyburn. If, hailing from some foreign shore, he sailed up the River Thames to the Port of London, his gaze would have been certain to have fallen on some of the skeletons of those who had paid with their lives the penalty of mutiny or piracy on the high seas, suspended in chains from numerous gibbets erected in the marshes below Purfleet on the Essex side, and Woolwich on the other. If he traversed on foot any of the numerous heaths or commons in the vicinity of the metropolis he would, unless possessed of universally strong nerves, never fail to be terrified by the sudden creaking and clanging of the chains, on which the corpse of some gibbeted highwayman or footpad was slowly rotting away.We know very well that there were statements of Ministers, who declared that England would be ruined if criminals were not treated in the manner described in this paragraph. I hold that our system of to-day, in a century or half a century hence, must appear just as much an anachronism and a barbarism as the gibbets which surrounded London in the 18th century, described in the extract I have just read, are considered now. For these reasons, my hon. Friends and myself think it is our duty to do our best to amend and reform every line almost of this Bill.
§ MR. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
I think it must be admitted in every quarter of the House that this Debate has been conducted under conditions extremely unfavourable to anything like continuous or consecutive argument. We have had the fragments of three evenings, separated by considerable intervals of time, allotted to the discussion of a topic which, I venture to say, is far more important in the magnitude of the interests which it involves than any other subject of legislation that has been, or is likely to be, before the House in the course of the present Session. Bur I am glad to see, by many indications that public interest in the matter, and indeed in the whole series of problems connected with prison administration, is not to be measured by the few scattered hours which are apparently all that this House can afford to devote to it. For my part, I say at once, in the few observations I will inflict upon the House, that I do not approach this question with any disposition to look at it through what are called the spectacles of official optimism. When it was my duty, as it was for some years, to be responsible for prison administration, I had been but a very short time confronted at first hand, and at close quarters, with the actual facts of the position before I discerned some things that excited in my mind great anxiety and uneasiness, and others as to which I thought searching, impartial, and dispassionate inquiries were absolutely necessary. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Leeds—who was my colleague at the time—shared my feelings, and the result was that, backed up as we were, and stimulated by the outside expressions of opinion—I do not see why one should grudge that admission, because it is a perfectly just one—I appointed a Committee in 1894, the report of which has been the subject of so much discussion to-day. My hon. Friend who has just addressed the House in a powerful and interesting speech, which I am sure all who have listened to it, and I wish there were a great many more, must admire, has spoken of the report of this Committee as a white-washing report. Now, I do not understand in what sense he uses that expression. It embraces one of the defects of our national language, 72 and I am not quite sure whether I entirely appreciate the exact scope of the term. If he means, by calling this a white-washing report, that this Committee was appointed with the object of vindicating the existing system, then I am obliged to traverse his statements.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
What I meant was that the condemnations of the system are by no means proportionate to the justice of the case, or to the findings of the Committee itself.
§ MR. ASQUITH
My hon. Friend is perfectly entitled to differ from the conclusions at which the Committee has arrived.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I cast not the slightest doubt upon the good faith of my right hon. Friend in appointing the Committee.
§ MR. ASQUITH
That I believe but let me point out that I think I must say, not in justice to myself, but in justice to the Committee, how it was constituted. Its chairman was my right hon. Friend the Member for West Leeds, and I venture to say that there is no man in this country who has given closer attention to prison administration, or who approaches it in a greater spirit of sympathy and humanity. Upon that Committee there was not a single person connected with the official administration of our prisons. I was careful to select people as to whose impartiality there could not be a shadow of suspicion. Again, I was fortunate enough—knowing how strongly views had been expressed by hon. Members below the Gangway—to be able to put on this Committee my hon. Friend the Member for East Donegal, who signed its Report. Now, Sir, what did this Committee—which, I think it is generally admitted, in its constitution was an unimpeachably just tribunal—report; what was the conclusion at which it arrived? It disclosed a very large number of what I consider to be very grave and serious defects in our prison administration, but when I hear that system held up, as it has been held up in this Debate, to public reprobation as an organised system of torture—["Hear, hear!"] Well, I do not agree with hon. Members who say "Hear, hear!" 73 When I am told it cannot compare for a moment in point of humanity with the prison system of any other civilised country in any part of the world, I must enter a protest. I turn to the Report of the Committee, which I may remind hon. Members was subscribed to by the hon. Member for East Donegal, and I rind in paragraph 17 this general statement;If the condition and treatment of prisoners at the present time are compared with what they were 60, 40, or even 20 years ago the responsible authorities can justly claim to have effected a great and progressive improvement, and that there was no reason for a general condemnation of the system.I think, Sir, it is impossible in the face of that conclusion not to feel that some of the language used in the course of this Debate—language of sweeping condemnation—is not supported by the authority of the gentlemen who examined the question closely for themselves, who heard all the evidence tendered, not only by officials, but by prisoners, and as to whose competency and good faith. I am certain no man in this House will utter a single word of doubt. But, while I therefore cannot associate myself with these large and sweeping statements, I do not in the least deny that this Report does disclose a state of things which calls for both administrative and legislative improvements of a wide and far-reaching character. I suppose in any given day of the year we have in this country—in convict and local prisons together—a prison population of not less than 18,000 persons. That is a most heterogeneous body. It is drawn from many different sources, and it has got where it is from the most diverse causes. Some of them, not an inconsiderable number, of whom we have heard too little in this Debate, are what may be called trained and professional enemies of society. Some of them, again, no insignificant fraction, belong to that class which has been so eloquently described by the hon. Member who has just sat down; they are people of a morbid, neurotic, and ill-balanced physical and nervous system, to whom it is very difficult to apply with anything like justice and humanity the ordinary canons of moral responsibility. Others again—and I believe these to be a very large class in our prisons—are 74 men and women who, without any ingrained criminal instincts and habits, are paying the penalty of some sudden and perhaps unpremeditated act, an act committed in a gust of passion or during a bout of drink. Finally, there are among the inhabitants of our prisons what are called juvenile offenders; children, for the most part, of cruel or careless parents, who from their earliest years have spent their lives on the boundary line between poverty and professional crime. This is our prison population, and these are the ingredients of which it is composed, and when the House bears that state of things in mind let me ask, what is the impression it ought to create in the mind of any humane and intelligent administrator who believes that the object of punishment is not merely to be the expression of the vengeance of society against those who have transgressed its laws, but that it is, as far as possible, to destroy, or at least to weaken, the criminal propensity, or, where that is impossible, at least to prevent further contamination? What are the reflections, or suggestions, that ought to present themselves? It appears to me, ever since I had the opportunity of studying the question, that the first principle of a wise system of prison administration is the recognition of the principle of discrimination. Under a wise and intelligent system you cannot treat these people, who have been brought into prison by such an infinite variety of moral and, indeed, physical causes, as though they all belonged to a single class. You cannot act on the principle that rules which are good for one are necessarily good for all. But there are practical difficulties of the most serious kind in the way of an effective application of the principle of discrimination. In the first place we must avoid at all hazards the risk of anything like partiality or favouritism. Again, it is very difficult, almost impossible, to judge, by simply knowing the particular crime of which a convict has been found guilty, as to which of the various classes he really by antecedent and temperament belongs. Here I must say the difficulties of discrimination of treatment are largely aggravated by causes for which the administrators of prisons are not themselves 75 responsible. We have heard a good deal in those discussions of overcrowding, and I trust, so far as overcrowding arises from defective accommodation or defective structure, it will be finally put an end to by this Bill. But there is another cause of prison overcrowding. It is this. There is every day in every prison in this country a number of persons who ought to have ceased to be there, and a number of persons who ought never to have been there at all. The first and foremost cause is the excessive length of the sentences which are still passed. Sir, I am not going into that matter in any detail, because it is a frequent subject of discussion in this House, and only the other day was debated at considerable length, when the Bill for establishing a Criminal Court of Appeal was under review. But there is one question in reference to this matter which I should like to put to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and I hope he will be able to give us a satisfactory answer. When we were in office we were so much impressed—Lord Herschell, the late Lord Chancellor, was also—with the gravity of this question of the duration and inequality of sentences, that we were on the point of recommending, I think we did recommend, to Her Majesty to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the matter, and to see what steps were possible to secure a better scheme for the punishment of offences. That was, if I remember aright, in 1895, but from that day to this nothing has been done, and I ask the right hon. Gentleman now whether it is the intention of the Government to pursue that inquiry. Until you have dealt with this matter you cannot solve the other difficulties. But there is another circumstance equally outside the purview of direct prison administration which accounts for overcrowding in prisons—I mean the persistent, inveterate, and incurable indisposition of a large number of magistrates in this country to grant bail to persons remanded for further inquiry. When I was at the Home Office I was so much impressed by the innumerable cases which came before me that I caused a circular to be sent to every bench of magistrates pointing out the powers which the law gave them of letting out 76 on bail persons whose guilt had not yet been determined, and strongly urging them to use those powers. I have not had any responsibility in the matter for some time, but I never read a report of an assize without finding one or other of Her Majesty's judges inquiring how it is that a man, sometimes an innocent man, has been detained in prison awaiting trial for months, and not let out on bail. If our magistrates would only use their opportunities, I would go further and say perform their obligations, a large number of persons kept in prison would not be in prison at all. The cases of young persons and children present, no doubt, in some of their aspects, peculiar difficulties. When a child is charged with an offence and has to be remanded it is very often most undesirable to send him home to his parents, because it is probable they are either indifferent, or have connived at the crime. What are you to do if you cannot send him home to his parents? There are only three places to which a child of that kind can be sent—the workhouse, the police cell, or the prison—and it is very difficult to say which of the three is the least objectionable. I do not doubt myself that if provision were made for complete segregation of persons—particularly of young persons—on remand, if they were treated on an entirely different footing, so that they might come in and go out without having acquired any of the stigma of prison life, if they were allowed association, recreation, and instruction, I think on the whole it would be better to send them to a prison rather than to a workhouse, or shut them up in a police cell without association. But, Sir, I am perfectly certain—the conviction has been forced upon me, as I am certain it has upon the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary—that until we get a more rational system of sentences, and a much wider use by magistrates of the privileges of the law, our prisons will be crowded with persons who ought not to be there at all. I welcome this Bill because, subject to those observations with reference to Clauses 2, 4, and 5, it appears to me to enable the principle of discrimination, which ought to lie at the root of prison reform, to be applied with far greater flexibility than was hitherto possible in our rigid system 77 of prison administration. Some of my hon. Friends who have spoken did, I think, underrate the powers which this House will have under the Bill to criticise and disallow the rules drawn up by the Home Secretary. What is the scheme of the Bill? At present we are bound by the cast-iron regulations of an Act of Parliament which only legislation can change. When this Bill comes into operation the Home Secretary will have power to make rules of his own. He will be able to provide for modifications in the mode in which a sentence shall be carried out, and to take into consideration sex, age, and other matters. I do not hesitate to say, if we take the very dark and over-coloured picture just presented to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool as actually and faithfully representing the prison system, that under the present Bill the Home Secretary will be able to get rid of, or certainly largely mitigate, every one of the evils mentioned by my hon. Friend. He will be able, if any reason shows it to be necessary, to modify the term of solitary confinement, to diminish the amount of time which convicts have to serve in solitude in local prisons before they are sent to penal servitude prisons, and, in fact, to lay down any variation he may see fit as to diet, exercise, reading, recreation, and association.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I understand rule by rule. The second sub-section of Clause 2 provides that the draft of the new rules must lie on the Table of both Houses of Parliament for 30 days, and if either House carries an Address to Her Majesty objecting to the rules—or any part thereof—no further proceedings can be taken. Sir, I have served in the office now held by the right hon. Gentleman, and I certainly, as a Member of Parliament, would not give the Home Secretary these large and drastic powers without Parliamentary control. But it is because I believe that it will on the one hand enable the Home Secretary to carry out such relaxations 78 and modifications in that which is now rigid and possibly cruel, as humanity and experience may suggest, and on the other empower this House to keep a persistent and vigilant supervision over prison administration, which is now altogether outside its scope, that I welcome this clause, and if I had any doubt that it would not have that effect I would not approve of it. Let me just take, by way of illustration, two or three other points just referred to by my hon. Friend, and also referred to by the hon. Member for South Mayo, in a very remarkable speech, which produced such an impression on the House the other night. We have heard a great deal said on the question of diet, and it has been stated by my hon. Friend and other Members that the existing system of prison diet is, as I understand, for an average prisoner in normal health and strength, starvation diet, which is injurious to health, and, at any rate, may be a contributory cause of insanity. The Report of the Committee to which I have referred recommended the abolition of "No. 1 diet," but I do not observe that they made any recommendation whatever as to the other diets.
§ MR. M. DAVITT (Mayo, S.)
The right hon. Gentleman knows that the Prisons Commissioners refused to carry out that recommendation.
§ MR. ASQUITH
That is a point which must be addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Home Affairs. Although I have great confidence in the Prisons Commissioners and in the very distinguished public servant who stands at their head, whom I myself appointed, and whom I know to be a man, not only of very remarkable ability, but of a fine and sensitive humanity, with the strongest possible disposition to utilise what the experience of other countries teaches for the amelioration of prison life; still, as a matter of fact, the Report of the Committee was only presented a short time before I left office, and I, therefore, was not able to supervise the carrying into effect of any of its recommendations. But, although I do not find in the Report any evidence in support of the statements that the present diet is 79 a starvation diet, I must say, only speaking for myself, that the statements which have been made on the subject, both inside and outside the House, in the course of the last few weeks call, in my judgment—without for a moment expressing any opinion on the justice or injustice of the charge—for an inquiry by impartial men, in order to quiet the public conscience, if for no other reason; and I should advise, in view of the allegations, that the inquiry should be conducted expeditiously, and with an authority that will be recognised in every quarter. The hon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool gave us a humorous description of the typical contents of the ordinary prison library. I have seen a good many prison libraries in the course of my visits to prisons. It is a subject which always interested me very much, and I always sampled the books in those libraries. I am bound to say that, whatever may be the case here and there, there are certainly two or three prisons which contain a large mass of most interesting reading. [Mr. DAVITT: They differ very much.] I dare say, as the hon. Member says, the libraries differ, but I do not think I should be at all sorry myself, nor do I think that even my hon. Friend, with his larger literary resources, would be sorry to be shut up for a few months in these libraries, and able to browse at large among their books. I remember at one of the prisons—I forget which—being told of a prisoner who, I am afraid, belonged to the professional enemies of society—a very ingenious and skilful imitator of other people's handwriting—who taught himself from the resources of the prison Greek and Hebrew during the course of imprisonment. I do not know what sort of an examination he would pass if he were sent up to the London University or elsewhere, but the prison chaplain, who assisted this man in his studies, assured me that he made considerable and satisfactory progress in both of these languages. I do not assent to the view of my hon. Friend that the prison libraries are quite such terrible things. But I feel, and have always felt, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman opposite will agree with me, that it would be desirable to very much relax the rules which at present restrict the reading of 80 prisoners, at any rate during the time they are not engaged in labour. There are some things which the imagination shudders to contemplate, and among them is the picture of the state of mind of a man—particularly a man of education who has been accustomed to books—shut up for many hours, during which he can neither work nor sleep, absolutely alone with his own thoughts and deprived of the consolations which literature affords. I do think that is a part of our existing prison system which might very well be changed for the better, and I do not think the Prison Commissioners themselves will interpose any effective objection to considerable reform in that direction. Then there is the question of association. The hon. Member for South Mayo, in the course of this Debate, has drawn a very moving and impressive picture of the awful mental tortures which result from the absolute disuse of what I may call articulate companionship among prisoners. We know what the difficulties are which stand in the way of a change in the system. If we could have a complete system of discrimination, such as I have advocated earlier in my remarks, the dangers of association would greatly dwindle. But so long as you have a large number of men banded together, criminals of very different degrees of guilt and of physical and moral condition, there can be no doubt that association might prove, as it has proved, extremely contaminating and demoralising. I know quite well that the skilful prisoner, the old hand, the professional criminal, may even now, by taking advantage of all sorts of devices and opportunities, communicate his ideas to his fellow-prisoners, and corrupt those who are not already sufficiently corrupted. But all the same, while I would be glad to see a relaxation in the present rigid system in that respect, I think association is a thing that requires to be carefully guarded; but, subject to proper safeguards, I am certain it is a thing as to which the Prison Commissioners and the Home Secretary are most anxious, as far as they can, to promote a more elastic system. I also agree that it is very desirable, as far as possible, to introduce an outside element of inspection and supervision not associated with the 81 official body or with the central authority at Whitehall. If the Boards of Visitors to be appointed under Clause 3 are well and wisely chosen they will have very good results. Finally, there is one other clause which will have almost as far-reaching an effect for good as any, and that is the clause enabling remission of periods of imprisonment to be made. It is most important to introduce some element of hope. The convict at present can by good conduct earn a remission of one-fourth of his sentence; but local prisoners are not able to look forward to any such remission, and I hope that the minimum term entitling to remission—namely, nine months' imprisonment—will be further reduced. I am in favour of doing all that is possible in the way of enabling prisoners to earn relaxation and additional comforts, physical and intellectual, in order that they may make the best of their time and prepare themselves so far as they can for a better and more useful life outside. I have only one word more. Prisons are not intended to be comfortable places, and punishment must not, in becoming reformatory, cease to be deterrent. But, subject to that over-ruling condition, it should, in my opinion, be the first end of an enlightened system of prison administration not to add to the loss of liberty any superfluous degradation, or to quench any flickering sparks of self-respect. And it is because I believe that this Bill, although it does not cover the whole ground, and is capable of extension and amendment, yet will be a first and most important step in that direction, that I shall vote for the Second Reading.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir M. W. RIDLEY,) Lancashire, N., Blackpool
I think that on the whole this Bill has been received very favourably by the House; but some Gentlemen, mostly sitting on the Irish Benches, have used rather exaggerated language in speaking against the English prison system. Before I deal with particular criticisms, or come to speak of these particular attacks, I desire most emphatically to repudiate, on behalf of the authors of that system and of those who carry it out, the charge that the present system is conceived in a 82 vindictive spirit, in a spirit of what I think the hon. Member for East Mayo called lex, talionis; that it is inhuman or treats prisoners other than as human beings. I do not think that that can fairly be said of our prison system, and I am sure that not even those who bring the charge will apply it to the officials who direct the system. I was surprised to hear the violent and exaggerated language of the hon. Member for East Donegal in reference to the prison system; the hon. Member used language more exaggerated than any that has been used in the course of this Debate about the prison system in England. Yet the hon. Member was invited by the right hon. Gentleman opposite to assist in the inquiry which he instituted. The hon. Member put his name to the Report of the Committee, which is entirely and absolutely contradictory of almost everything he said in his speech to the House the other night. And I am astonished that, having put his signature to this Report, the hon. Member should use in this House language entirely at variance with the opinions he himself expressed in the Report. The Committee did not consist of persons pledged at all to the existing system; several of them were of a philanthropic turn of mind, and not wanting in sympathy for the prison population. But after their inquiry, before which a great deal of evidence was taken, including that of the hon. Member for South Mayo, the Committee came to the conclusion that bad prisons had disappeared, and saw no reason for a general condemnation of a system which had been "successfully designed to put an end to many glaring evils." It was open to the hon. Member for East Donegal to give a dissenting Report, if he had wished to do so; but after the hon. Member signed the Report of the whole Committee, there is some ground for complaint that in this House he should express opinions so very different. The hon. Member made allusion to the punishments and to the warders. The Committee say on these points—Prison life necessarily means severe discipline. But the number of those who receive no punishment is a remarkable tribute to the discipline maintained, and to the tact and forbearance of the prison staff .… The warders as a body discharge their difficult and responsible duties with forbearance and kindness.83 These words were subscribed to by the hon. Member for East Donegal. As the right hon. Gentleman opposite has said, there must be discipline in our prisons; and discipline is not always pleasant. We must not forget, however much we desire to improve the humane side of our system and to make it more reformatory, the deterrent and punitive side of it. We desire to keep our prisons empty, and not to make them full, and there ought to be in no stage of prison discipline any inducement to any part of the population to come under it. I believe it to be perfectly true that there has been a greater decrease in criminality in this country than in any other within recent years, and at the proper time I shall be able to argue the figures with the hon. Gentleman. Therefore, if the prison system be attacked on that point, the attack fails. With reference to the Bill, the Committee appointed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite proposed certain sweeping changes. I may fairly claim that a great proportion of those changes have been carried out, and this Bill is introduced to carry out those which could not be effected without legislation. I am, therefore, astonished to find any opposition to this Bill from gentlemen who strongly urge the necessity for increasing the humanity of our system, because, although they may think that this Bill has shortcomings, it is, at all events, all in the direction of enabling more discrimination and greater humanity to be exercised towards the prison population. The hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the rejection of this Bill objected to the treatment of this subject by rule, and quoted Sir George Grey as saying that he would not be responsible for the making of rules which ought to be settled by this House. But Sir George Grey was not averse to making all the rules under the Convict Prison Acts. The effect of this Bill is to bring under the control of this House, and subject to its revision and disallowance, any particular portion not only of the rules which may be made for local prisons, but of others which are now for the first time brought within the cognisance of the House. Under the present system the rules made for convict prisons are made by the Executive without submission to the House; by 84 this Bill they will be brought within the cognisance of the House; so that the effect of getting these extra powers is really to increase the control of Parliament. The hon. and learned Member for Bethnal Green spoke of a desire for secrecy on the part of the Home Office. I cannot understand the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman. I have given such an amount of information to the House that I feared I might be blamed for it, but the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks I ought to produce all the standing orders. It is impossible to produce all the mass of details to the House, but so little do I desire to keep back information that, to satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman, I am willing to consider whether all the standing orders affecting prisons could not be published annually. There is nothing in the world to conceal in the matter. The hon. and learned Gentleman who moved the rejection of this Bill spoke about the treatment of debtors, and the hon. Baronet the Member for one of the divisions of Glasgow said the Bill was a most retrograde measure, because it put some hardships upon debtors from which they are exempt under the present law. Now, it is certainly intended by the words of the Bill that all those persons who go to prison because they cannot pay—as, for example, School Board cases, vaccination cases, Salvation Army cases—should, for the first time, be treated as a separate class, and not classed with ordinary prisoners. The object is, in fact, to provide under this Bill a treatment less severe and degrading for persons convicted of offences not involving any moral turpitude or criminal intent. I have, however, reports from the Visiting Committees of Birmingham and other places to the effect that they very much desired to have some means of providing occupation for debtors in our prisons. The House will recollect that now debtors can only be committed when they have means to pay and refuse to pay. [Sir R. T. REID: That is not the practice.] The practice may be wrong, but if the law is properly carried out, at the present moment no person ought to be sent to prison as a debtor unless he refuses to pay that which he can pay. But the evidence shows that Visiting Committees, though they do not want to 85 class debtors as ordinary prisoners, still think there should be some means of imposing upon them some industrial occupation in prison, and that is the extent to which the clause goes. I am entirely in accord with what the right hon. Gentleman said with reference to the inequalities and severity of sentences which are sometimes passed in this country, and with reference to using the power of bailing out more frequently, and, of course, with reference also to the segregation of prisoners. The right hon. Gentleman asked me why we were not appointing a Commission. I believe the right hon. Gentleman knows I am not averse to considering that question, but certain difficulties occurred in the formation of the Commission, and diverse opinions were offered as to whether a Royal Commission was the proper way of dealing with the matter. I may say, however, that I think it very desirable, and the Government think it very desirable, that some means should be taken, if possible, to secure that sentences should be passed on a more uniform scale. As to the question of bail, I have a little Bill before the House now which goes some way in the direction advocated, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give me his assistance in carrying that Bill through the House. Generally, it may be shortly said that the Bill now under discussion is an amending Bill preliminary to a consolidation of the whole of our Prison Code. It amalgamates the government of local and convict prisons, and it gives power to modify from time to time the rules for prison labour, and to have regard to sex, age, industry, and character—a very important matter. It extends classification, does away with punishment cells, gives power of earning remission of sentences in local prisons in the same way as in convict prisons, and if there be objection taken to the period of nine months I am quite ready to consider whether this should not be extended to sentences of six months and upwards. One of the great difficulties of prison administration since the passing of the Act of 1877 has been to sustain the interest of those who formerly had more power over local prisons. It is my desire, and that of the Commissioners, as far as possible, to increase—subject to the responsibility of 86 the Commissioners, which is, be it remembered, the responsibility of the Secretary of State—the powers of the Visiting Committee, and, as far as possible, to interest them in the administration of our local prisons. A few words about the general charges which have been brought against the prison system. The hon. Member for East Donegal says that our prison system gives no hope, and is intended to give no hope, to convicts. I cannot understand anyone who knows so much about prison administration as he does making such a statement. Our whole prison system proceeds upon the idea that no prisoner is absolutely incorrigible. We have not got that system of indeterminate sentences which is advocated by some persons, and though we know that a large portion of our prison population—40 or 50 per cent.—is apparently incorrigible, still, we do go on, not adequately, perhaps, but genuinely, applying the educational improvement system to all classes of convicts. On the First Reading I cited figures to show the success which has followed the introduction of the "Star" class in convict prisons. We intend to extend that class to local prisons; and as to juvenile members, I would point out that a great deal is being done, even without legislation, to secure that they shall be separately located. I was rather astonished to hear a criticism about the supply of books, because, although there may be some libraries not so good as others, yet I know there is a very large discretion on the part of the governing authorities to allow the use of books to prisoners almost to any number they like, provided they make a satisfactory use of them. I know there are some prison libraries by no means devoid of interest. I remind the House how much has been done to consolidate and help the prisoners by various charitable agencies throughout the country, and to increase the assistance given to them by the Government, so that they might lead an honest life hereafter. I need hardly—or, rather, I think I ought to remind the House how much has been done to consolidate and help the various Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies throughout the country, and analogous societies, by the Government, with a desire in every way to secure that 87 through these agencies there should be found some means by which men and women leaving prison should lead honest lives afterwards. Sir, it has been said that our prison system brutalises our convicts and our prison population. Of course, no doubt, it may be the case in some instances, but to make such a charge generally against our prison system is grossly unfair. Let me take the "Star" class to which I have alluded. There were comprised in that class a great many men and women under long sentences, and if, after their discharge, they have not come back again to prison, and, so far as we know, have led honest lives afterwards, it cannot be said that they have been brutalised by the prison system.
§ MR. J. BURNS (Battersea)
You let them out too late. If you let them out two years sooner, they might become very good citizens.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
That is a matter for the courts of this country to determine, and not for the Home Department. Well, then, Sir, let me take another instance. For a certain time past we have been pursuing a practice at the Home Office of making investigations into the lives of those who have served long sentences, and if it appears, from the general history of the released convicts, and their behaviour subsequent to their release, that they are not likely to relapse into crime, we are able, after police inquiry has been made, to relieve them from the necessity of reporting themselves periodically. That is a provision which I am sure will commend itself to the House generally, because everybody desires that when men and women have served their sentences they should, as fair as possible, be relieved from the prison taint. I find that in the six months from February to July, 1896, there were 41 cases of this kind into which the police were directed to make inquiry, in order to ascertain if it would be possible to remit the obligation of reporting themselves, and out of 41 cases, 39 were reported favourably upon, and released altogether from the obligation of reporting themselves. Now, these are 88 something like test cases. They included persons between the ages of 18 and 60, and persons who had been under very long and under short sentences of imprisonment; and I say that if there had been in our penal system a brutalising influence, as has been stated with so much exaggeration by some hon. Gentlemen, then we should have found that no such a remission as that would have been possible. A word now on the question of starvation—what is called "scientific starvation." Sir, I have only to say that this does not exist. I do not dispute the genuineness of the belief entertained by hon. Gentlemen in making the sweeping allegations they make, but I say this: to the Home Office there come every year a large number of complaints from prisoners—between 4,000 and 5,000 complaints. I have gone, to a great extent, into these complaints with the view of seeing what proportion of them had anything to do with the question of diet, and it is astonishing how few complaints are made about diet. It is not that prisoners are afraid to petition the Home Office on the subject. If they were at all afraid they would shrink from making complaints as to their treatment by the warders. Yet complaints by prisoners on the question of diet are very rare. A great number of prisoners leave our prisons in the course of the year—something like 105,000 are discharged—and I should like to know how many Members of this House have received any authentic complaints that they have suffered from this so-called "scientific starvation" in either our local or convict prisons. Sir, I have an open mind on the subject, and I am not averse to considering the point; but I say I have no evidence before me, none whatever, of any complaints from prisoners in this matter, nor was there any in the Report of the Committee presided over by my right hon. Friend opposite, except on one little point, to which I shall have occasion to refer later on. But there is not even the shadow of a foundation for the complaints and accusations as to "scientific starvation" made by some hon. Members. The hon. Member for South Mayo gave us a very harrowing account of certain painful cases which he had witnessed either at Dartmoor or Portland. The hon. Member made this statement 89 before the Royal Commission of 1879, and he gave the same evidence before the Committee presided over by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. As to how that evidence was dealt with by them, all I can say is that the decision the Committee came to—I need not read it all—was to the effect that, while it was true, as stated in the evidence, that some of the prisoners did eat candles, they did so because of their desire for more fat than the dietary supplied. Since then there has been some improvement in the diet. But what is, after all, the main fact shown in the evidence put before the Committee of the right hon. Gentleman opposite is that out of 180 prisoners who were discharged, I think in one year, 97 had gained weight averaging 7lb., and 80 had lost weight. Now, Sir, is it possible to conceive, looking at the character of the men who go into our convict prisons—and I am referring now only to the convict prisons—that there could be anything like "scientific starvation," when you find that out of 180 prisoners no fewer than 97 gained in weight an average of 7lb.?
§ MR. DAVITT
Is it not the fact that the Royal Commission, presided over by Lord Kimberley in 1879, recommended an increase in the prison diet?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
Yes; and what they recommended, no doubt, was carried out. But I am referring now to the inquiry which established this fact, that out of a large number of convicts discharged in one year there was a very large percentage, more than one-half, who had absolutely gained 7lb. in weight.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
Many heavy-weight men would probably be all the better for the loss of some weight.
§ MR. J. F. X. O'BRIEN
The light-weight men get plenty to eat, while the heavy-weight men do not get half enough.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
All I can say is, there is not that general complaint of starvation which is made by hon. Gentlemen opposite. And although 90 I do not wish to shelter myself behind the Committee of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I must point out that they state in their Report that, though they have had the evidence of the hon. Member opposite before them, and have gone into the facts of the case, they think it is not necessary to say anything about the diet, with the exception of No. 1. With reference to that No. 1 diet, I have looked into the matter and taken some medical evidence, and I am inclined to think there might be some improvement made. But I wish to remind the House that this diet is only for seven days, and it is not desirable to make a change, especially in the earlier and short sentence period of imprisonment, which shall compare favourably with the unfortunate outdoor circumstances, the out-of-prison circumstances, in many cases, of persons who might thus be tempted into our prisons. It ought not to be a period of comparative luxury. The prison authorities have full power to increase the diet, and from year to year there is a constantly increasing disposition on the part of the medical officers to see that no prisoner is injuriously affected by this diet. Sir, with regard to the other diet, I am not at all averse to looking into the matter. I understand hon. Gentlemen to suggest that I might usefully do so, and I shall be perfectly prepared to consider the matter with an open mind; although, at the same time, I have to say that on the first blush of the matter there is no evidence before me to substantiate the very strong charges made against either our convict or our local prisons. Sir, the hon. Member for Waterford made a statement as to a matter about which I think I am a little better informed than he is. He gave a very graphic description of the searching of a gang of convicts in one of our convict prisons who were going from or coming from their work. As I understand, he said these prisoners were searched with their clothes off in the presence of their neighbours; but he is quite mistaken. The search of a gang of convicts going to work is conducted exactly in the same way as it is in the case of a set of free labourers in one of Her Majesty's dockyards. The warders have to feel in the pockets and clothes of the men to see that they are not concealing any articles which they have no right to have, and if there is any suspicion that 91 they have got such articles they are taken to their cells and a proper search is made there, as it ought to be made. Again, with regard to exercise, the hon. Member made a great point of the small amount of outdoor exercise which is given to the convicts who are engaged in indoor and sedentary pursuits in our prison shops. I have inquired into that matter since he spoke, and I desire to correct the hon. Gentleman, for I find that, although he is generally very fair in these matters, he is quite wrong here. I find that the invariable practice with regard to such convicts is to give them daily exercise of from 40 minutes to two hours when employed in shops inside the boundary wall. When employed outside, they are out of doors at least one hour, and get exercise at and in going to and from their work. Well, I think that is a matter on which the hon. Gentleman is not right in making such a charge against our system. The hon. Member for South Mayo said he wished that the duties of the Commissioners should be more clearly set out, and I understand that he wanted what he called an independent inspection. Now, Sir, the Commissioners are appointed to assist the Secretary of State, who is responsible for the administration of our prisons, and the inspectors are the officers of the Commission. They are the persons from whom the Commissioners get to know whether their rules and the rules of the Secretary of State are being properly carried out, and they are not engaged to interfere to protect the prisoners in our prisons. The independent security for the proper treatment of our prison population lies in the Visiting Committees, and I am anxious to extend that outside influence. I gladly welcome the strengthening of our Visiting Committees, but with reference to our convict prisons, what I am afraid of is that it would be difficult to get gentlemen to serve. It is not a very pleasant task, but I should like to secure the services of those gentlemen who are likely to give their time—representative men and properly qualified—to inspect our convict prisons, in order to carry out those duties which are carried out with great efficiency by Visiting Committees in our local prisons. I cannot avoid mentioning how extremely satisfactory has been the assistance which some ladies have given us in this work, and how very much we are indebted to 92 the Duchess of Bedford and others. I desire to extend by this Bill such authority of inspection as I think ought to be given to the Board of Visitors. Something has been said about plank beds. They are the old guard beds introduced on the recommendation of the Royal Commission, and I do not think it would be possible to dispense with them in the first stage of imprisonment; but that there might be some relaxation of the plank-bed rule—and there has already been considerable—after the first short period of 28 days, I am not at all prepared to dispute. Sir, there are several other points upon which I might have spoken, but I am unwilling to keep the House much longer engaged. The question of keeping children out of prison is hardly a subject for discussion in connection with this Bill; but we are doing everything we can, consistently with the requirements of administration, to keep children out of our prisons. They must, unfortunately, be confined somewhere; but I am confident that the state of things so graphically described by the hon. Member for Mayo, as to what he had seen in an Irish prison, is not now possible. The hon. Member spoke of the industrialisation of our prisons and the abolition of the treadmill. We desire to do away, as far as we possibly can, with unproductive labour in our prisons, and if the hon. Gentleman will look at the Report of the Committee, and one or two of the recommendations of that Committee, I think he will be satisfied that a great deal has been done in that direction. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it would be desirable, so far as we could, that prisoners should be employed in work in the open air, in agriculture or in gardens; but it is not very easy to remove our prisons from the great centres of population. There is, first, the question of expense, and the friends of the prisoners who desire to visit them would probably be the first to complain of the removal. I think, even if it were desirable on other grounds, it would not be possible to remove them to any great distance from those centres where they are easily accessible. Sir, something has been said about political prisoners. Well, Sir, for the purposes of prison administration, I confess I do not know what a political prisoner is. A prisoner sent under sentence to prison has to be treated in 93 accordance with that sentence. The nature of the sentence is a question for the court which tried the case, and not for the prison administration. Sir, I should like to say one word about corporal punishment.
§ MR. DAVITT
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be possible to insert a clause in this Bill providing that the treatment of political prisoners here should be similar to that which they receive in other countries.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT
I should like to know, in the first instance, what a "political prisoner" is. He is a person sentenced under a particular Act of Parliament, but that, of course, is a matter for the consideration of the court which tried the case, and has nothing to do with prison administration. What concerns the prison authorities is that, if a man is sentenced, as a first, second, or third class misdemeanant, or sentenced to hard labour, he must be treated in strict accordance with his sentence. But, as I have said, I do not know exactly what is meant by a "political prisoner." Now, as so many observations have been made about corporal punishment, I desire to say a word or two on that subject. It is quite true that in Ireland and Scotland there is less corporal punishment in local prisons, certainly, than there is in England. I believe, in fact, that in Ireland and Scotland there is no corporal punishment in local prisons; and in the Irish convict prisons there has been no case for several years of corporal punishment inflicted for insubordination. I am not here to give the exact reasons why that has been the case, but the fact remains. Possibly, the reason may be that in Ireland the convicts are not of the same violent character as some of those in England. In Scotland the figures relating to corporal punishment in convict prisons are about the same as those in England. In our local prisons it is .07 per 1,000, and in our convict prisons the figure is 4.0 per 1,000, while in Scotland it is 4.4 for the latter, so it comes to pretty much the same thing. I know that some hon. 94 Members desire to abolish corporal punishment, but I do not think it would be safe to do so, especially in the case of grave offences. I do not think we are ripe for that yet. The House will observe that the rules have been very considerably modified with reference to corporal punishment, and the new rules provide that corporal punishment shall only be inflicted for mutiny or inciting to mutiny, for personal violence to an officer of the prison, and for any act of gross insubordination requiring to be repressed by extraordinary measures. That is a considerable reduction of the offences for which corporal punishment can be inflicted; and, with reference to the last point, I have strictly intimated to the Visiting Committees that refusing to do work is not an act of gross insubordination. I do think it would be a very good thing if we could manage our prisons without corporal punishment, but at the same time we must remember what great advances we have been making, and I think that if we carefully guard against abuses, we shall find that corporal punishment discourages a great many of our criminal population from acts of violence. I hope I have now sufficiently intimated to the House my reasons for speaking so long. I do not think our present system is open to the very grave charges which have been made against it. I do not say that the system is perfect, but I do say that, after an examination by sympathetic persons, only two or three years ago, and on their proposing some sweeping changes, our prison administrators have shown themselves willing to carry these changes out to a surprising extent. We believe that we can carry out these changes, and I am proposing legislation to enable still more changes to be made, and I believe that if the House will pass this Bill, and give to the Secretary of State this power, it will be doing a great deal to promote a more humane administration of our prisons, while at the same time it will be maintaining that discipline which is so necessary to the efficient control of the prisoners. I hope that the House will not be disposed to continue the Debate much longer, and considering that really there does not appear to be any substantial objection to the Second Reading, I trust that the Bill will be now 95 given a Second Reading with a view to its being discussed upstairs.
§ MR. J. BURNS
Whatever sweeping charges may have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House as to the present system, I think the speech of the Home Secretary has justified them: both the sweeping charges of the hon. Member for Mayo and the hon. Member for North Devon. It is an advantage to the community that men like the hon. Member for Mayo should be in the House to give the other side of the official prison system in England, and to put before it the convict system from personal experience, and as we have had a personal view of the convict system, I ask the indulgence of the House while I give the experience of a local prisoner in a local prison in London. But, first of all, let me say that I must dispute one or two of the statements made by the Home Secretary. He was inclined to challenge the growth of recidivism. I have only to refer him to page 10 of the Departmental Committee's Report, and he will find that the number of recidivists ranges from 47 to 79 per cent. That fact in itself warrants all the wild charges that have been made. Then I come to the question as to the existence of a great deal of insanity in our prisons, and I take the evidence of Mr. Ruggles-Brise, and what does he say? In answer to Question 10,235, he says this—You would say that a large proportion of the prison population was mentally weak. I think that is so with the bulk of the recidivists. I think I should call it 'moral imbecility.' They are called 'half-sharps.'So much for the wild charges about insanity. I now come to the concessions made by the Home Secretary, and I am rejoiced to hear that there is to be no secrecy as to the prison rules, and that everything is to be laid upon the Table, and when I say "Table," I interpret that as being the Table of this House. But that only applies, I apprehend, to general rules. Are the special rules drawn up by governors, and sometimes objected to by Visiting Committees, also to be tabled; if not, why not? At any rate, I sincerely trust that the tabling of the general rules will lead to the 96 tabling of the special rules. Well, Sir, criticism of our prison system, I am glad to say, has induced the Home Secretary to interpret one of the clauses of this Bill as creating a new class of misdemeanants, such as Salvationists and anti-vaccinationists. [The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT: It does nothing of the sort. It was the original intention of the Bill.] Very well, I am glad, as other Members are, that that clause now makes clear what some of us have had a doubt about. Then the Home Secretary justified the criticism which has been made by saying that he is disposed to give a remission of sentences down to six months, instead of 12 and nine, as originally intended; and then we come to one of the most important matters in connection with this Bill, and that is the Visiting Committee. I know something about the way in which Visiting Committees do their duty. At Pentonville, when I had the honour of Her Majesty's hospitality, a warder would come in advance, open the door, throw it back, and up would come a military-looking gentleman, who would put his head in and say, "Any complaints?"—and before you could give an answer he was at the next cell. I think, Sir, that a magistrate, or any member of a Visiting Committee, ought to be able to go to any cell, unaccompanied by any prison officer, and with the governor standing at least six cells away, and then, perhaps, the question as to "any complaints" may not prove so abortive a farce as it is at present. Although the Home Secretary has justified the outside clamour for prison reform, and some of the sweeping charges made in this House as to the necessity for still further humanising our prison system, curiously enough, he does not see it in the same light as I see it in. But he told us that out of 2,000 prisoners under the "Star" class, 20 only have come back after they have been put into that class. Well, Sir, I am very grateful indeed to the Home Secretary for having done in that statement more to condemn, our present prison system of treatment than all the wild and sweeping charges that have been made from this side of the House, because what does it prove? It proves that humanitarianism pays, and that kindness, even at the 97 eleventh hour, is better than no kindness at all. But I say let us have the kindness at the third and fourth hour, and if more men are put into the star class, and if it were applied to misdemeanants undergoing shorter terms of imprisonment than it is now applied to, the Home Secretary will find that men will not come buck as they do now. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that there are very few complaints as to food and shortness of diet. I will tell him the reason for it. As a rule, short-sentence prisoners are under the impression that the less they grumble, and the less they worry the warders, the better it will be for them in every respect, and besides that, there is an inherent disposition on the part of the prisoners to take their gruel like men. I must say that was my view, I did not complain, and I found that, as a rule, the prisoners did not care about worrying and cavilling at the warders too much. No, they do not complain, but they are carried from the prison ward to the infirmary hospital through shortness of diet, and that is why there are so few complaints. Take the percentage of men who have been discharged from the prison infirmary, sent there because they were suffering from weakness and debility brought on by shortness of food, and then you will see, Sir, where the complaints come in. We are asked to look at the number of prisoners who gain weight whilst in prison. But the weight that a man puts on while in prison is not a healthy weight. It very frequently takes the form of swelling of legs and dropsy. I repeat it is not a healthy gaining of weight. Besides, you must differentiate. Take the case of a half-starved man sent to prison, even the starvation diet they get there is better than the no diet he had outside. It is most unfair to say that these men are evidence of the fact that prison diet lends to gaining weight. You might as well put a chicken in solitary confinement, put a small portion of gruel and stir about down its throat with a force-pump, and point to that as a triumphant example of the beauties of such a diet. I am very glad that we have moved the Home Secretary to say that No. 1 Diet will be considered. What is No. 1 Diet? I have had it. It is six ounces of bread and two ounces of oatmeal. I went into prison 98 with a strong constitution, and I was there for six weeks. I never made any complaint; but what is six ounces of bread? It is just about as much as hon. Gentlemen take with their chop and potatoes, and cabbage or spinach; but I had the bread only—six ounces at 5.30 at night, and nothing from then until 7.45 next morning, an interval of over 14 hours. I am not ashamed to say that at one or two o'clock in the morning I have wetted my hands with my spittle, and gone down on my hands and knees on the asphalted floor in the hope of picking up a stray crumb from the meal I had had ten hours before. I made no complaint; no other prisoner made complaint, because they did not want to get into trouble by worrying the warders and being looked upon as fractions prisoners. That, Sir, is not the way to reform men. If I had not had the Bible to read I do not know what I should have done—and it wants a certain amount of intelligence to find consolation even in the Old Testament. But if that was so with me, what about those prisoners who can hardly read and write, and who look upon the Bible as being the embodiment of prison life, because many of them only see it there, and they do not look upon it from the literary and historical and religious side; they only regard it as being associated with bad treatment. I say, Sir, that you have no right to put a strong man into prison and break down and enfeeble his constitution, perhaps permanently, by No. 1 Diet. Take a man who has done, we will say, three years in the Brigade of Guards—a six-footer—who afterwards goes gas-stoking at 6s 6d. a day, and who is, perhaps, getting his Reserve pay as well. Well, he gets drunk, and gets a sentence of seven days' imprisonment. During that time he is put on this diet—this big, strong man—and the result is that after he comes out he is prevented for two or three weeks from going back to his gas-stoking. What right has any system to do that? The Home Secretary says that he will consider No. 1 Diet. I would advise him to take 24 hours under the Governor of Pentonville Prison, have this six ounces of bread and two ounces of oatmeal made into gruel, and then he will alter it at once—not consider it; and if that will not convert him and the Home Office, may I suggest 99 three days' solitary confinement, with the Under Secretary in the next cell. The right hon. Gentleman has promised to look into it, and I sincerely trust he will do it. Now, Sir, to pass from the diet to the Visiting Committees and Commissioners, I was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman said he would welcome outside help—and I am pleased to see so many distinguished ladies taking an interest in our prison population—and I believe that the sympathetic desire expressed by the Home Secretary to extend that will induce more ladies to take an interest in the same direction, and I sincerely trust that the Home Secretary will allow them all the liberty he can, and, above all, I do plead to him not to allow any of the Prison Commissioners to do anything to prevent these ladies from freely going into the prisons and tempering the brutality of our prison system by the kindly visits of angels in disguise. Then the Home Secretary referred to the plank bed. Well, Sir, the Home Secretary is a bulky person, and I am not a thin one, and the plank bed is not particularly objectionable to a man from 13 to 17 stone; but take a lean and hungry man—a modern Cassius, weighing from 8 to 10 stone—who is particularly thin and has not much to lie upon. A person of that sort finds a plank bed particularly uncomfortable. In this respect we find that the present system is worse than the old system. Up till 1878 every prisoner used to have a hammock, and the allowance of clothes that he had then for his covering was certainly larger than it is now. Every prisoner now is practically one blanket short, because he puts a blanket on top of the plank, whereas under the old system he had his two blankets and his hammock underneath. I appeal to the Home Secretary to abandon the plank bed altogether and to revert once more to the hammock. I cannot, Sir, allow this Debate to go by without giving my views about Prison Commissioners, and in so doing I say that the modern tendency to remit legislative duties to permanent officials is increasing in the most disastrous way. We had an instance of that under the Scotch Private Procedure Bill the other night. Now, I do not want to say anything against the Prison Commissioners, but I think already they have too much power, and the Governors are too much 100 in their hands. It is true it is said their reports will be supervised by the Home Secretary, but the Home Secretary has not time, even if he has the desire which I credit him with, to supervise their reports. Who are these Commissioners? Are they independent people? No. Are they impartial? No. They are nothing more nor less than the highly polished links of the official chain of the Home Office. Two of them are officials of the Home Office and two of them are old soldiers, of whom we are not enamoured as prison officials. In that view I am not alone, because I find that Mr. Tallack is against the employment of military men in the prison system. The Commissioners ignored the overcrowding in 1894, although it was proved before the Commission. They were against the abolition of Diet No. 1. They are very reticent upon our silent system, and they gave no new, useful, or suggestive evidence before the Commission, and, above all, although three years have passed since the Committee reported, yet the Home Secretary has been obliged to tell us that there are still 900 small corrugated cells to three prisons. What have these Commissioners been doing in the meantime? Let us go farther, and judge what the Commissioners have done since the report of the Committee. What have they done with regard to punishment? I will quote one case. A man named Cox was sentenced at Gloucester to 12 months' imprisonment, and that sentence expired in 12 months, and he was discharged in December, 1897. Owing to bad treatment, the local people say owing to insufficient diet, he was so brutalised and demented that four days after the expiration of his sentence he went upstairs to the bed in which his three little children were asleep, and, having kissed them, went downstairs and cut his throat. I believe, as the people of Gloucester believe and as his wife believed, that that was the result of insufficient diet, and the solitary system, and the bad treatment which the Prison Commissioners ought to have revised, but did not. Then I will take the case of Edward Callock. Discharged from Wandsworth in May—he was a lunatic, but was treated as a criminal—two days after he was released he killed two women in Deptford by cutting their heads off. 101 Now, you have no right to liberate lunatics in this way. You ought to send them to an asylum and give them proper treatment, and not give them solitary confinement. I feel very strongly on this point. What recommendation have the Prison Commissioners made in matters of this kind? Take, again, one of our greatest offenders; take the case of Jane Cake bread, convicted 250 times where she ought to have been convicted not more than twice, and then sent to an asylum. She has been to prison 250 times, and she is a lunatic to-day, and has been for the last 15 years. What have they done with regard to William Onions? I was in Pentonville with this man; he has been in prison 175 times. He comes, to see me every time he comes out of prison, and if he would go and see the Home Secretary once I am perfectly certain that the right hon. Gentleman would see that he should never go to prison again. There is a kindly relation between Onions and myself, because on one occasion, when at exercise, he pulled an eight-ounce leaf of bread from out of the seat of his trousers, and I ate it. Ah! and so would you have done, gentlemen, if you had had the chance. Now, I know the man, and I venture to predict that if he is constantly treated as he has been treated, and is being treated, in prison—this man has never once committed any theft; his convictions have been generally for drunkenness or assault a upon the police—if this treatment is continued towards him this man will become so maddened and brutalised that there is a strong probability, in my opinion, that he will follow the examples of the other two prisoners I have referred to and commit some horrible crime. Then there is the case of Gilbert, the Covent Garden porter. Never once has he committed any theft, yet he has been in prison for 15 years. Those are three instances. I want to know what representation the Prison Commissioners have made to the Home Secretary as to these persons, and I find they have made absolutely none. I say those gentlemen are unfitted for the post they occupy, and I would suggest to the Home Secretary that he should nominate a Prisons Board, such as there is in France and other countries, composed of scientific men, who would have an opportunity of 102 revising the reports of the Prison Commissioners. Why do I say that? Look at this case. In Wands worth Prison, in my own district, on the 3rd February, 1898, was a lad sentenced to seven days. It was a first offence, and the poor lad, going to chapel, forgets his Bible, and for that he is sent back to the punishment cell to three days' bread and water. Now, I see no sense in this Bill; no evidence of change on the part of the Commissioners. I sincerely trust the Home Secretary will do everything in his power to create an independent Prisons Board, which would strongly supervise the Prison Commissioners. If you go to Holloway Gael to-morrow morning you will see from 16 to 20 lads exercising there. Now, in the first place, those boys ought not to be there at all; they ought to be in a reformatory, but you send them there and look at them after they have been there a week or a fortnight; look at the dark line under the eyes, and look at the hanging lip and the vacant look. You do not want to go to the prisoners and ask them. Go to the first warder that you see, and he will tell you that stone walls do a prison make, and iron bars a cage. These boys by their own hand are slowly but surely making themselves physical wrecks and mental imbeciles. Go to Denver and see the same class of boys there working contentedly and happily under a matron. One of the most pleasant things that I have seen in my life was boys, saved from crime by the better system in force at Denver Prison, coming back to their old matron with large bouquets which they had gathered on the mountain side and brought as a testimony to her for having been treated differently to the way in which boys are treated in an English prison. I have been speaking to various warders and prisoners, and those who work amongst prisoners, for the last two months upon this Bill, and the universal opinion is that the centralised system as carried on in our prisons is the least humane of all. The Visiting Committees are more formal, and take less time and less interest in the prisoners. I hope the Visiting Committees in the future will have more power; what is the use of them if they are only to say "Yes" or "No" to what the Government does? What is the use of 103 having a Board of Prison Commissioners in the Home Office? What we want is an independent Prisons Board that shall keep the Home Office authorities in check where they are wrong. Let me ask the Home Secretary what he proposes to do upon the subject of the diet. Unimpeachable medical testimony says that the diet, in the first place, is not sufficient, and, what is worse, is unnutritious, and we all know that 60 or 70 per cent. of our prisoners die of tuberculosis, and all doctors agree that an unnutritious diet will make for that disease. The Prison Commissioners are not inclined to alter that themselves, because on the Commissioners' Report they pledge themselves against the abolition of the No. 1 Diet. How is the Home Secretary going to deal with the silent system? I do not ask that with regard to the prisoners alone, but to the warders also. You have no right to take men from the outside ranks of labour and subject them for 10 hours to the silent system to the extent they are now subjected. Then take the prisoners. I think it is extremely brutal to put a man to a long term of imprisonment, as you do subject them to by this silent system. Involuntarily they break the rule. One of the premonitory symptoms of imbecility is to chatter. Go to Holloway and Pentonville, and you will see them do so, and then they are taken up by a warder and put on punishment diet. That ought to be stopped. I believe the difference in the condition between the outside population and the prison population can be traced, where it is not due to the food, to the silent system. The tread-wheel is still at Wands worth. The crank is still at work, mentally and physically injuring the men at work upon it, and until the mill and the crank are done away with, the number of immature boys and invalid men who are in our prisons ought not to be allowed to work upon them. The Home Secretary has said that prisons should not be made too comfortable. I do not want to see the prisons in England like that of Denver; that is going a little too far, but the diet should be altered. Look at the diet there; it is ¾lb. of meat, 1lb. vegetables, and 1lb. bread, and occasionally that is varied by a fruit diet. Contrast that with the diet of the convict at Dartmoor. 104 It is no wonder that he should go mad, because there in that bleak place they have not enough to keep body and soul together. There are two ways of deterging crime at Elmira. Eighty per cent. of the prisoners who go out on parole never come back to that or any other penitentiary. I find at the great industrial school at Redhill that 90 per cent. of the lads do well, and never come back. When I visited the Iowa Penitentiary I found that 91 prisoners let out on parole never came back at all. We find these things done in other countries, but the Prisons Commissioners ignore that altogether, and we have not the slightest humane suggestion from them upon the subject. Take the case of the prison buildings. There is no country in the world where they have such depressing and monotonous prison buildings as here. The outside is bad enough; but I will deal with the inside, as it affects the prisoner. I think that the old cell was better than the new one. In the old cell you had something like decent sanitary accommodation provided for the prisoner. I am sorry to talk about these details, but we must. In Pentonville Prison you have a cell 10 feet by 8, and you have no light coming in at the back and no light at the front. In the winter time there is a little gas jet in front of your cell. What do you find at night time? At night time those sanitary conveniences that a prisoner ought to have access to outside his cell are denied him. Under the old system the convenience used to be inside; and if the convenience is properly trapped and there is plenty of water, that is a system I would advise the Home Secretary to revert to. In a warm night in July or August, when the diet affects a man with chronic diarrhœa, these poor prisoners are confined for 12 or 14 hours in their cells, which, as Oscar Wilde says in his splendid poem, makes the prison cell a foul, dark latrine. I now come to exercise. I believe they are insufficiently exercised, especially the young. Some say you cannot have too much exercise. If it is wanted you might get your warders, line them up in the corridor, and give the prisoners an hour's physical drill. The warders would like it, and you would mentally and physically do a lot of good 105 to the prisoners. Now I come to the chapel. What do I find? I don't know what the general experience of chapel is, but I will tell you mine. I have been to sea, and I know what the language of the forecastle is. I have heard swearing, but never did I hear language such as I have heard come from prisoners in the chapel of one of Her Majesty's gaols. You don't get the typo of man who can talk to a prisoner, but rather a man who will talk at them. The language I have heard is something terrible. There are more punishments for talking than for any other thing in all the previous week's work. My advice is to dispense with some of the duller parsons. I hope also that the Home Secretary will provide the prisoners with as much labour as possible. The old-fashioned prejudice on the part of trades unions against prison labour has died out. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than the decision at Belfast some years ago that prison labour was necessary for prisoners and should be extended. There need be no fear on that point. I have seen in the exercise ground of the prison these professional enemies of society, as they have been called—these derelict human beings—and they have been there often because society has been cruel and unjust to them, first making them criminals, and then punishing them. What do you find: Instead of men being educated, robust, and healthy, as in some of the American prisons, they are perpetually put on punishment diet and subjected to brutal monotonous confinement. You find in the Report of your Committee that—The fact that the great increase of the general population does act carry with it a further addition to crime suggests at once that the spread of education, improved dwellings and sanitation, and more favourable conditions of living have reduced crime.That is true. But why not give the prisoner the benefit of that spread of education which is now denied him? Why don't you appeal to his better self; why don't you improve the dwellings in which he is housed; why don't you abolish this loathsome sanitation which is in every prison in London? I am one of a body that looks after 16,000 pauper lunatics and 1,000 industrial schoolboys, and what do we find? We find that in proportion as we have changed our modern lunatic 106 asylums from the old prison-like Bastilles in which lunatics used to be treated, and erected buildings on healthy sites, and given them entertainments and museums, the proportion of patients dismissed as cured has increased. The result of this progressive treatment in the treatment of lunatics has been that in nine years there has never been an abuse brought to the notice of the London County Council regarding the management of those 16,000 pauper lunatics on its hands. If this can be done for lunacy, why cannot it be done for prisoners whose crime is only a phase of lunacy? But it cannot be done under your present system, because it is a cruel system imposed upon us by old-fashioned ideas, based upon cruelty and repression, a system carried out by military men, who, however good soldiers they may have been, are bad doctors and worse reformers. I ask the Home Secretary to recognise that he will never get rid of crime until this is radically reformed. He will never reduce crime by substituting four ounces of gruel for two ounces of gruel. You will never morally improve a criminal by first dehumanising him, and then starving him into the condition of a brute. I have seen the effects of this brutalising system upon the poorest of this country. I am glad I went to prison, because men like myself and the hon. Member for South Mayo can give another side to the aspect of things presented by the optimistic reports that are carried to the Home Office, and which I trust the House will not take for gospel. I hope that every rule made by the Government will be subjected to Parliamentary criticism, and that every rule shall be laid upon the Table; that this Bill—weak and insignificant skeleton of a Bill though it is—is the first instalment of a radical change in our prison system, and that the House will say once and for ever that no good can be done by appointing military men who have made prison a curse, and made every man miserable who has come under their domination.
§ MR. H. J. TENNANT (Berwickshire)
I should like to point out that in the statement which has been drawn up and circulated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite it is stated that the recommendation of the Committee of the right 107 hon. Gentleman the Member for West Leeds as to association has been carried out. Without absolutely controverting that, I may say that there are three ways in which the recommendation may be avoided, in regard to the possibility of the prisoners associating: first, in the prison van; then, after arrival, while waiting for examination by the doctor; and again, when waiting for the bath. We may be right or wrong in desiring to prevent prisoners associating one with another, learning signs, and making assignations for meeting when they come out. I believe the system is right that tries to avoid that, and it seems to me a great pity that, with all your arrangements to prevent prisoners communicating one with another, you should leave these three large gaps by which prisoners may escape from your control. Most hon. Members will recognise and welcome the fact that the new code of rules will be of a less unyielding character than was the old code, and I am glad to see that the Government speak of the "unyielding character" of the old rules. Sir, I should like to make a special plea in favour of more useful work being given to the prisoners. I should also like to say that Prisoners' Aid Societies do not seem to be sufficiently in communication with the governors of gaols. Would it not be possible to increase the facilities for communication, so that governors would be told what would be a useful industry to teach prisoners? They might make recommendations to the prison governors, and thus some industry for which there is a particular demand outside might be taught to the prisoner. It would be useful to have some system of organisation among the various Prisoners' Aid Societies. For instance, there is one in York and another in London, and others in different parts of the country, and they have no communication one with another. Would it not be possible to have some annual conference of these societies, similar to the Poor Law Conference of Boards of Guardians? They might, by taking counsel together, learn what would be the most useful course to pursue. What do you find now? Ton find industries being 108 taught in gaols which are not only useless in themselves, but are most hurtful. Take the case of women who are in gaol for drunkenness. In the first place they ought not to be in gaol; but that, I admit, is another question. They are put to laundry work; and it is well known that habits of drunkenness are contracted with great case in laundries, as the supply of beer is commonly a part of the pay. Owing to the great heat of the laundry, habits of drinking are most common among the women, and to teach women, who are in prison for drunkenness, laundry work seems a form, of madness. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that the work of the lady visitors is of great value. I should like to ask him if he would consider the advisability of adding to the Prison Inspectors a woman inspector. I am sure cases have arisen in which women inspectors would be of great advantage. Matrons and female warders often feel that when the inspector comes round it is difficult to talk to him about many little things; and these little things are often really important. I should like to mention also the importance of the treatment of women with infants. In that respect the recommendations of the Committee have not been carried out, and for a reason that seems to be a very paltry reason. Women who have infants are sent into cells which are made for one person, and not for two; consequently the area of space is insufficient, and the sanitary conditions are bound to be unsatisfactory. Then those women are not allowed to join with others in their work. They can have no exercise except that of trailing round an asphalte path—which is no exercise at all. If a woman cannot get sufficient exercise it stands to reason she is not in a fit condition to nurse her infant, and the result of the present system is that infants are half-starved on account of the ill-health of the mother; and because also of the fact that inhuman mothers, in prison sometimes for cruelty to the very child with whom they are locked up, take themselves the supplementary basin of milk ordered for the infant. Again, it seems to be a wrong system, whether the mother is good or bad, under which a child is cooped up with its unfortunate mother for eight or nine months, and then, the 109 medical officer suddenly says that the child must be taken away. Sir, that seems to me to be a very distressing thing. If the right hon. Gentleman considers the distress of the good mother, who is denied the consolation of work: who is not allowed to go to church; who has been with the child so long that she must necessarily have become absorbed in it-if. I say the right hon. Gentleman considers it, the distress of the mother must be something terrible to contemplate. If you want to make the prison system a preventive as a curative system you ought to make the children healthy. There ought to be a crêche, and a nursery warder to look after the children, so that the woman can go to her work and to church. She could see her infant at regular periods. Larger cells are required, as well as better food: and if you wand to make your system really effective you ought to ensure that the children grow up strong, because if the body is not fit to cope with the struggle for existence it stands to reason that the child, in its turn, will become a criminal, and will swell the already alarming proportion of criminal population.
§ Read a second time without a Division.
§ THE UNDER SECRETARY OF STAFF FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. JESSE COLLINGS,) Birmingham, Bordesley
I beg to move that the Bill he referred to the Grand Committee on Law.
§ MR. E. H. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S. W.)
Before the House adjourned the Under Secretary for the Home Office and moved that this Bill which the House has just read a second time should be committed to the Grand Committee, and I desire to explain to the House the pounds of my objection. In the first place the Grand Committee is as rightly beyond by rules of procedure as this House is and the rules are substantially the space. That is to say, it would be only open to many of us on this side who feel strongly in regard to this 110 Bill, to move formal Amendments to the text of the Bill, and the discussion would of course be rigidly confined to the substance of the Amendment. Now, Sir, it does seem to me that if these things are so, then the Grand Committee is not the proper Committee to which to commit this Bill. Sir, this Bill, as the late Home Secretary said in some weighty words a few moments ago, is one of the most important Bills that has ever come before this House, and, therefore, I think that the Committee to which it is to be referred ought not to be bound by strict technical rules, but to have what, perhaps, I may describe as a free hand in dealing with this Bill. Mr. Speaker, if this Bill goes before the Grand Committee there will be no opportunity to take any evidence. Now, I do think that the Committee to which this Bill is committed ought to have power to take evidence, and to collect information from any source which in the opinion of the Committee may be likely to afford it assistance. In particular, Sir, I should like an opportunity to be given to the Chairman of the Prisons Board to appear before the Committee to which this Bill will be committed, and to explain the system which he represents. It may be that we have unjustly formed unfavourable impressions of what that system is. If that is so, I think nothing but good would result from giving the Chairman of the Prisons Board an opportunity of explaining and defending himself, in face of what would be, I may say, a courteous, but at the same time a critical body. But there is a still more important consideration which, I think amply justifies my opposition to this Bill going before the Grand Committee. If this Bill goes before the Grand Committee there would be no opportunity of dealing with the rules. The rules are referred to in the Bill, but they are not part of the Bill, and it must be obvious to the House that the main effect which the Bill will produce will depend upon the rules. What does the Government propose to do with regard to those rules? It proposes to lay them on the Table of the House for 30 days, and if within those 30 days either House of Parliament presents to Her Majesty an address against the rules then no further proceedings 111 will be taken thereon. This is no new proceeding, although, perhaps, to inexperienced Members of the House it may appear plausible. But we know what it means. It is by no means unusual to provide in an Act of Parliament that rules shall be laid on the Table for 30 days, and Members who are interested in them have to find, as best they may, some opportunity of discussing them. In practice, however, the only opportunity is after Twelve o'clock at night. But it would be monstrous to ask the House of Commons to discuss such rules as these after Twelve o'clock. The late Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for East Fife, seemed to think that there was some opportunity of discussion presented to the House of Commons by this Bill, and he drew attention to the fact that the House of Commons may object, not only to the rules en bloc, but to any part of them. It is true the House of Commons might object to any particular part of these rules, but what the House of Commons will not be able to do, as I understand, will be to introduce anything into the rules. The House may object to what appears in the rules, but it will have no opportunity, according to this plan, of introducing anything. Many improvements have been suggested by hon. Members with experience, and the inference is that there are many provisions they would desire to introduce into these rules. I think, also, that it would not be practicable for the House in its corporate capacity, or even in a Committee of the whole House to deal with these rules. What the House of Commons cannot do directly, however, it can do by legislation, and I think this is a proper occasion to delegate the duty of going through these rules to a Select Committee. Of course that will take time, but time does not seem to be a very precious commodity with the Government this Session. I am sure, however, there are Members on both sides of the House who would not begrudge any time or any labour which might result in the improvement of our present system. After all, for whatever is wrong in the present administration, the real responsibility rests, not with the Prisons Commissioners, but with this House. Those who support the Bill have spoken 112 of what they describe as its quality of elasticity, by which they mean that, whereas the old rules were part of the Statute and could not be altered without the consent of Parliament, it is now proposed that the rules shall be made by the authority of the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I do not wish to incorporate these rules in an Act of Parliament. I think there is a good deal in what has been said by hon. Members in favour of the supposed elasticity of this proposal, but I want the House of Commons, through its Committee, to have an opportunity of going carefully through the whole of these rules. This is an entirely exceptional occasion. What is the House to be asked to do by the Home Secretary? The House is about to be asked by the Home Secretary to adhere to rules which were originally framed in 1860, and have undergone substantially very little alteration. The very statement of that proposition shows how absurd and how fantastical it is. It is obvious that in the 33 years which have elapsed—equivalent to the lifetime of a whole generation—we have made great progress in every other Department of the State. Why, then, should we be content with stagnation in our prison system, and in that alone? I think if the House is really, and not merely nominally, to discharge the responsibility which lies upon it, it must accept the Amendment which I propose to make to the Resolution which has been submitted from the Treasury Bench, and refer this Bill to a Select Committee as against a Grand Committee. I, therefore, move—That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee, and that the draft Prison Rules also be referred to the same Committee.
§ MR. J. H. YOXALL (Nottingham, W.)
I desire to support this Amendment, but I feel sure that the admirable spirit shown by the Secretary of State for Home Affairs in all that regards the treatment of prisoners will ensure that the proper course is taken. It is only by sending this Bill to a Select Committee that the House can give effect to the general good-will that has been shown upon both sides towards this proposal for prison reform. I have a 113 special reason for supporting this proposal, and that is that I do not find in the Bill itself, or in the rules, anything like an adequate treatment of the great question of education in the prisons. I hope I am not out of order—
§ MR. T. C. H. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)
May I draw attention to the fact that there are not 40 Members present?
§ [The necessary number of Members having returned—]
§ MR. YOXALL
resumed: I desire that this Bill shall go to a Select Committee in order that those rules which refer to the scholastic treatment of prisoners shall receive that attention which they cannot receive from a Grand Committee.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
I find that the Prisons Bill of 1877 was discussed in a Committee of the Whole House, and I think the House ought either to follow that example or adopt the suggestion that this Bill should go to a Select Committee. If the Bill goes to a Select Committee it will take up too much time, and the rules will not be improved in accordance with the intention of the Home Secretary. I trust the Under Secretary of State for Home Affairs will accept the Amendment and allow this Bill, which has been unanimously accepted in all parts of the House, to go to a Select Committee.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
This is a Bill which is specially suited for a Grand Committee, and to send it to a Select Committee would be a mistake, because after the procedure there it would have to go through the Committee of the Whole House. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green admitted that the Bill would occupy a great deal of time, and if it is to go through the process the hon. Member advocates, I fear there will be a great danger as to whether it will pass. Seeing, therefore, that there is no necessity 114 to send the Bill to a Select Committee, and seeing that it is specially suited for a Grand Committee, and, moreover, as the Government wish to get it passed as speedily as possible, I think it should be sent to a Grand Committee. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green seems to have lost sight of the fact that the Bill and the rules are founded on the report of a Committee that has sat for a long time, has given most of its attention to this subject, and has made a most exhaustive inquiry. The Bill is founded on that report, yet, as far as I can gather from the speech of the hon. Member, he wishes to have another inquiry of the same kind, and one which will occupy a great deal of time. With regard to the "quality of elasticity" to which reference has been made, it is certainly intended that the rules can be changed as often as experience shall show to be necessary, and whenever there is a change it will come before Parliament, which would thus have not a shadowy but a real control over the rules. I hope the House will allow the Bill to go to a Grand Committee, so that it may speedily become law, and may not be subjected to the danger of going to a Select Committee.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
Before the House disposes of this question there is one consideration to be kept in mind. We seem to have for gotten the purpose for which Grand Committees, as they now prevail, were first instituted, or, at all events, the purpose which was in the minds of Members when the present system of Grand Committees was established. Nobody ever pretended that a Grand Committee was anything more than a necessary evil in the then circumstances of the House; nobody ever pretended that a Grand Committee was a better tribunal for discussing a Bill than a Committee of the whole House; and on all sides of the House the admission was made, when Grand Committees were established 10 years ago, that the devolution of business absolutely by the House to a Committee of the House was a procedure not unattended with dangers, examples of which can be found in America, and in every State of that confederation. What I wished to 115 point out, however, is that there is no excuse in the circumstances of the present Session for referring any Bill whatever to a Grand Committee. I have no particular love for the alternative proposal of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bethnal Green to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, and I do not think there is any excuse in the circumstances of the present Session for withdrawing the Bill from the Committee of the whole House, and referring it to a Grand Committee, as proposed by the Government. Where is the flood of business this Session? There is plenty of time for dealing with this Bill in the ordinary way, and I would suggest that a compromise might be resorted to. Let both Motions be withdrawn. If my hon. and learned friend withdraws his Motion, I understand the Government will withdraw theirs, and the Bill will then be left to the consideration of the whole House. I urge the House to be true to the principle upon which Grand Committees were originally established, and only send Bills to a Grand Committee when the Committee of the whole House has no time to deal with it.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
Mr. Speaker, I would remind the Under Secretary that the Bill of 1865 was, upon the responsibility of the Government of that day, relegated, so far as the rules were concerned, and, therefore, so far as the Bill was concerned, to a Select Committee. I cannot help expressing my entire concurrence with the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, that it is desirable that the Bill should be sent to a Committee of Members of this House, chosen on account of the interest they take in this Measure, and their knowledge—their special knowledge:—of matters dealing with prison discipline. Now, if this Bill goes before the Grand Committee on Law, it will, it is said, go before a body specialty constituted for the consideration of this subject. I entirely deny that. It is nominally a strong body, but, as a matter of fact, it is always difficult to secure the attendance of a quorum of the Committee. A large number of members 116 of the Committee are members of my profession, and are precluded from attending the Committee owing to the time at which it is held. The public spirit of not one of them, unless it be the Attorney General, is influenced by pecuniary considerations. [Cries of "No, no!"] I am simply speaking of the Attorney General as an officer of the Crown, and not with any disrespect. He is one of the most public-spirited representatives of this House. It is his duty to attend the Committee, but we find that the other members of the Committee are conspicuous by their absence. My point is, that the Committee on Law consists of between 20 and 30 members, that there is the utmost difficulty in securing the attendance of members, and that the men who do attend, with the exception, perhaps, of a few who may be extremely interested in the Measure before the Committee, are goaded there by the greatest pressure, so as to secure a quorum. Over and over again you hear the Chairman of the Committee entreating members to remain, in order to prevent it collapsing. I say that that is not a satisfactory tribunal to refer this Bill to, and that it should come before a Committee of the whole House.
§ MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E.)
Mr. Speaker, I have listened attentively to the arguments by which the Amendment of my hon. and learned friend the Member for Bethnal Green has been supported, and I have been astonished at the irrelevance of those arguments, which seem to me to go rather in the opposite direction. The hon. Member for Dundee has suggested that this Bill had better go before a Committee of the whole House, as distinguished from the proposal of the Government that it should be referred to the Grand Committee on Law, and the proposal of my hon. and learned Friend opposite is that it should be sent to a Select Committee. I do not think the question before the House is the Committee to which the Bill should be referred; the question is, Does the House desire that the Bill should pass? If the House does desire that it should pass, then it seems to me that the only hope of its passing is to refer it, as the Government propose, to the Grand Committee 117 on Law. I have not the honour of being a member of that Committee, but I am a member of the Standing Committee on Trade, and I do not acknowledge that it is the particular duly of on member more than another of any Standing Committee to abroad that Standing Committee. It is the duty of every member to attend, and I do not think the argument that some members do not attend is at all against this Bill being referred to the Grand Committee on Law. The hon. and learned Member opposite said there is nothing in the rules referring to education. That is not a grievance which could or would be redressed by its being referred to a Select Committee. The rules will come before Parliament, and if an Address is presented to His Majesty's Government finding fault with any part of these rules, clearly it will not be more the duty than it will be the interest of the Home Secretary to take care that the new rules shall redress those grievances. I believe that, unless the Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Law, there is not a ghost of a chance—absolutely no hope—of it passing into law. I, therefore, hope the Government will stand firm to their decision in the matter.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Mr. Speaker, I am afraid there is some danger of our confusing two separate issues in this discussion. There is a good deal to be said in favour of a Select Committee, and also in favour of a Grand Committee, but the reason which I understand has been given by the hon. and learned Member for Bethnal Green for the reference of the Bill to a Select Committee is that, if that course is adopted, it will enable the rules to be discussed. My hon. and brained Friend knows that the Select Committee would have exactly the same rights as the Grand Committee with regard to the discussion of the rules, unless the second Amendment is carried. That is, I understand, the position. If the Select Committee were agreed upon, without the second Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend being adopted, the Select Committee would have no more right to discuss the rules than the 118 Grand Committee. Very well, then, the point at issue between the Government and ourselves on these Benches is whether she rules should come before the Committee or not. I do not know how far the Under Secretary for the Home Department is authorised to speak for the Government at the present moment in the absence of his Chief, but I suppose he is in a position to deal with this matter. Anybody who has listened to the Debate must know that the Debate has been directed very largely, at, any rate from these Benches, not merely to the changes in the law which the Bill proposes, but to the rules. In taking that course, we were followed by both the late Home Secretary and the present Home Secretary, the greater part of whose speeches were devoted to the question of the rules. I put it to the Government: Can we have anything like an adequate discussion of the proposals of the Government as to prison management unless the rules are also discussed? I understand, from the little conversation which is taking place between the Under Secretary and the Attorney General, that they will urge that the Bill in its present term does bring the rules before the House of Commons. But that is not our point. These rules will not come up for discussion in the present Session of Parliament; they cannot come up for discussion until next Session. We contend that this Bill ought not to be passed into law until we have had an opportunity of introducing into the Bill a change in the rules with regard to the treatment of convicts. What I suggest, therefore, is that the Government should agree to refer to the Grand Committee the rules as well as the Bill. If the Government will undertake to do that, I would strongly urge my hon. and learned Friend to withdraw his Amendment.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I may point out to the hon. Member that the only method of referring the rules to a Committee would be that suggested by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green. The Standing Committees are only the creatures of a Standing Order, and are expressly created for the purpose of considering Bills, and nothing else.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
In that case, I can only support my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment. I cannot understand why the Government should resist this proposal. I am sure that, if the Government will meet us in this matter with regard to the rules, we shall be only too delighted to facilitate the passing of this Bill.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the hon. Member who has just spoken that there is sufficient opportunity for discussing the rules in principle on Clause 4, which provides that rules shall be made. Amendments could be moved there declaring that special regard should be had to questions of diet, punishment,
§ or employment. After the Grand Committee has dealt with these general principles, the House would be in a position to see whether they were embodied in the rules submitted to the House. The Bill ought not to be hung up for another Session by being referred to a Select Committee.
§ MR. J. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
The course suggested by the right hon. Gentleman is an extremely ineffective method of criticising the rules. If the rules were referred to a Select Committee they could be discussed thoroughly. Under these circumstances, I shall support the Amendment.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 130; Noes 41. See Division List, No. 58.121
|Aird, John||Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Lafone, Alfred|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Digby, Jno. K. D. Wingfield-||Lambert, George|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Laurie, Lieut.-General|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. Hart||Lawrence, Sir Ed. (Cornwall)|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Fardell, Sir T. George||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc.)||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Field, Admiral (Eastbourne)||Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn- (Sw'nsea)|
|Barton, Dunbar Plunket||Finch, George H.||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benj.||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter (L'pl)|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brist'l)||Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Lowe, Francis William|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Fisher, William Hayes||Lowles, John|
|Bill, Charles||Flannery, Fortescue||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Fry, Lewis||Macartney, W. G. Ellison|
|Bond, Edward||Garfit, William||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Goldsworthy, Major-General||M'Arthur, Charles (L'pool.)|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Gordon, Hon. John Edward||M'Calmont, Mj.-Gen. (Antr. N.)|
|Brookfield, A. Montagu||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||M'Killop, James|
|Bucknill, Thomas Townsend||Goschen, George J. (Sussex)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Gourley, Sir Edw. Temperley||Milward, Colonel Victor|
|Carlile, William Walter||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Monckton, Edward Philip|
|Chaloner, Captain R. G. W.||Greene, Hy. D. (Shrewsbury)||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.)|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc.)||Greville, Captain||More, Robert Jasper|
|Charrington, Spencer||Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robt. Wm.||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Clarke, Sir Edw. (Plymouth)||Heath, James||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptf'rd)|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Helder, Augustus||Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Grhm (Bute)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Hill Rt. Hn. LordArth. (Down)||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Howell, William Tudor||Nicol, Donald Ninian|
|Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth)||Hozier, Hon. Jas. Hv. Cecil||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Cotton-Jodrell, Col. Ed. T. D.||Hutton, John (Yorks., N. R.)||Penn, John|
|Cox, Robert||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Cross, Herbt. Shepherd (Bolton)||Kimber, Henry||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Curzon, Viscount (Bucks.)||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Pollock, Harry Frederick|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Knowles, Lees||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Priestley, Sir W. Overend (Edin)||Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch)||Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)|
|Purvis, Robert||Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.)||Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)|
|Rentoul, James Alexander||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)||Williams, Jos. Powell- (Birm.)|
|Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W.||Stevenson, Francis S.||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart||Wodehouse, Edin. R. (Bath)|
|Round, James||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir Jno. M.||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Royds, Clement Molyneux||Strauss, Arthur||Young, Commander (Berks., E.)|
|Russell, T. W. (Tyrone)||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Seely, Charles Hilton||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Simeon, Sir Barrington||Tomlinson, Wm. Ed. Murray||Sir William Walrond and|
|Skewes-Cox, Thomas||Warr, Augustus Frederick||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Allan, Wm. (Gateshead)||Doogan, P. C.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Allen, Wm. (Newe.-under-L.)||Harwood, George||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Bainbridge, Emerson||Knox, Edm. Francis Vesey||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarsh.)|
|Bayley, Thos. (Derbyshire)||Leng, Sir John||Smith, Samuel ((Flint)|
|Billson, Alfred||Lewis, John Herbert||Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)|
|Brigg, John||Macaleese, Daniel||Tanner, Charles Kearns|
|Burns, John||MacDonnell, Dr. M. A. (Qn's. C.)||Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.|
|Caldwell, James||Maddison, Fred.||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Clough, Walter Owen||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Williams, Jno. Carvell (Notts.)|
|Colville, John||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Wilson, Fredk. W. (Norfolk)|
|Crilly, Daniel||Philipps, John Wynford||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Curran, Thomas (Sligo, S.)||Pirie, Captain Duncan|
|Curran, Thos. B. (Donegal)||Provand, Andrew Dryburgh||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Davitt, Michael||Rickett, J. Compton||Mr. Pickersgill and Mr.|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Atherley-Jones.|
Question put, and agreed to.