HC Deb 27 July 1898 vol 63 cc67-89

Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed [28th June], on Consideration of the Bill, as amended (by the Standing Committee):—

Amendment proposed— Page 2, line 8, to leave out paragraphs (a) and (b), of clause 5."—(Captain Norton.)

Question proposed— That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'mutiny,' inline 11, stand part of the Bill.


This Amendment would bring about the complete abolition of flogging in gaols, and I do not think the Government have made any reply to the arguments which have been advanced in favour of it.


I am unable, as the Standing Committee knows very well, to take the view set forth in the Amendment, and I have the approval of the right honourable Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton in the view that although corporal punishment ought to be most rigidly guarded, still it is a punishment which ought to be held in reserve for certain cases. I accordingly oppose the Amendment. There are cases which ought to be met by flogging, but I have a subsequent Amendment by which the offences for which it can be administered are to be confined to offences limited under the Statute—an entirely new limitation in clause 2. There is also to be a more formal summoning of the committee of the Prisons Board or of the committee of visitors. I have provided, further, that a report of the sentence and the grounds on which it was passed shall be sent to the Secretary of State, and shall be included in the annual Report of the Prison Commissioners. After a great deal of consideration, and for the sake of agreement, as we are all aiming at the same object, though it will be casting exceptional responsibility on the Secretary of State, I am prepared to propose that every such sentence must be approved by the Secretary of State.

MR. FLOWER (Bradford, W.)

I am sure the House will learn with great pleasure the decision of the Home Secretary. We have all been giving anxious time to this Bill in order to introduce more humanising influence into our prison system, and the announcement which the right honourable Gentleman has just made will, I am sure, be received with approval on both sides of the House. In future corporal punishment will be inflicted in our prisons in the full light of day and only after the sentence has been sanctioned by the Home Secretary. I thank the right honourable Gentleman for the very considerable concession he has made in the direction of prison reform—a concession which will receive the cordial approval of all who have been working in the direction of prison reform, and one which I feel sure will materially facilitate the passing of the Bill. During the last few years there has been an immense diminution in the number of corporal punishments inflicted in our prisons. Ten years ago in the official Report for 1887–8 I find that there were no less than 65 cases of corporal punishment in our convict prisons, whereas we were told by the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department the other day that only seven cases of corporal punishment occurred in our convict prisons last year. Side by side with that diminution there has also been a steady diminution in the number of prison offences. In the year 1887–8 there were no less than 11,500 such offences, whereas in the year 1896–7 there were only 3,500, and even allowing for the diminution of our prison population which has taken place during the last 10 years I think we may conclude from the figures I have quoted that an increased humanity in our prison administration has been followed by a marked diminution in the amount of crime in our prisons. I think the statement of the right honourable Gentleman, for which I beg respectfully to thank him most sincerely, will materially aid the passage of this Bill, and I hope that before the prorogation the House will have the satisfaction of knowing that a marked improvement has been effected in the administration of our prison system.

MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)

I join in acknowledging the very large concession which the Home Secretary has made to those of us who desire to restrict corporal punishment within the narrowest limits possible. Before the Standing Committee and in the House on a previous occasion I expressed my own opinion that the best way to deal with the matter was by a judicial inquiry, but the House decided against that, and that being so I do recognise that it is an enormous safeguard that every sentence of corporal punishment must be submitted to the Home Secretary, and cannot be inflicted without his approval. I very cordially thank the right honourable Gentleman for it, and hope the House will accept it.


I cannot help thinking there has been already too much concession to the sentimental views of honourable Members opposite who come to Westminster to make laws. I think the right honourable Gentleman in charge of this Bill might have gone a step further. What is the good of a board of visitors passing a sentence if it is to be subject to review in Whitehall? Many sentences are inflicted only to maintain discipline, and I submit in this matter, if there is to be punishment, it should be quick and short in order to maintain discipline. The present system, which is confined to the hands of the governor, may be rather too strict, but when the visiting committee decide under this Bill how to maintain the discipline of a prison it is distinctly against discipline to refer this decision to Whitehall, and it is also a reflection on the visiting committee, who have hitherto done very good work. It seems to me the right honourable Gentleman has gone beyond what might fairly be expected of him in granting concessions. If he were a little more consistent he would do away altogether with the visiting committees and order that every case of lack of discipline should be referred to him at once.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

I am quite ready to acknowledge that the concession which the right honourable Gentleman has announced does create an enormous difference in the Bill. We now practically have the Home Secretary responsible for floggings in prisons, and I think he himself and his successors will find that this punishment will be followed by some lingual punishment in this House. The position of my honourable and gallant Friend who moved this Amendment, and many of us on these benches, is that we object to flogging altogether. We regard it as a barbarous and unnecessary punishment. We have shown by statistics that practically flogging has been abolished in Ireland and Scotland without any injury, but with considerable benefit, and I am unwilling to give the predominant partner the privilege of flogging which Ireland and Scotland can do without. America, which is now in the van in prison reform, has done away with flogging, and I believe my honourable Friend the Member for South Mayo, who has travelled through all the colonies of Australia, found that flogging was in process of abolition in most of the prisons there. The only reply of the Home Secretary is that prisoners in Ireland are of a milder type than prisoners in England, and that, therefore, a more severe form of discipline was necessary. I duly acknowledge the flattering contrast which the right honourable Gentleman makes between Irish and other prisoners, but I cannot accept it as a reason. If flogging be unnecessary in Ireland, in Scotland, in Australia, and in America, it surely ought to be unnecessary in England. In America they have a population which is as hard to deal with as that in any English city, and if they, with a section of this population drawn from some parts of Southern Europe, can do without flogging in prisons we ought to be able to do it here. I regard the lash as a relic of barbarism and savagery, and if there is a Division in favour of total abolition of flogging I will support it.

* MR. COHEN (Islington, E.)

My honourable Friend who has just sat down said that the Home Secretary bad made

himself responsible for the infliction of corporal punishment in prisons. I think he has, and I think he has made himself responsible for a little more by bringing into disrespect, to my mind, the authority of the visiting justices. I do not share the opinion of some of my honourable Friends opposite as to the impropriety of corporal punishment. On the contrary, I think it is the best, quickest, and most effective punishment which can possibly be awarded for offences for which it is to my mind most appropriate; but, be that as it may, it would, in my judgment, be better and more conducive to the authority of the visiting justices if they were deprived of the power to award corporal punishment than to have their authority diminished by referring punishments justly awarded to some authority in Whitehall which has not hitherto been consulted.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 156; Noes 64.—(Division List No. 263.)

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F. Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r) Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Eldon
Allhusen, Augustus H. E. Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E. Goulding, Edward Alfred
Arrol, Sir William Coghill, Douglas Harry Green, W. D. (Wednesbury)
Ascroft, Robert Cohen, Benjamin Louis Greene, H. D. (Shrewsbury)
Asher, Alexander Colomb, Sir John C. Ready Gretton, John
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Colston, C. E. H. Athole Greville, Captain
Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy Compton, Lord Alwyne Gull, Sir Cameron
Baird, John George Alex. Cook, Fred. Lucas (Lambeth) Gunter, Colonel
Balcarres, Lord Courtney, Rt. Hon. L. H. Halsey, Thomas Frederick
Baldwin, Alfred Curzon, Viscount (Bucks) Hamilton, Rt. Hon. Lord G.
Balfour, Rt.Hon.A. J. (Manc'r) Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robt. W.
Balfour, Rt.Hn. G. W. (Leeds) Dalkeith, Earl of Hare, Thomas Leigh
Balfour, Rt.Hn.J.B. (Clackm.) Dalrymple, Sir Charles Hermon-Hodge, Robert T.
Banbury, Frederick George Denny, Colonel Hill, Arthur (Down, W.)
Barnes, Frederic Gorell Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Hill, Sir Edw. Stock (Bristol)
Bartley, George C. T. Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)
Barton, Dunbar Plunket Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Holland, Hon. Lionel Raleigh
Beach, Rt. Hn. SirM.H.(Brist'l) Doxford, William Theodore Howell, William Tudor
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Drucker, A. Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn
Bethell, Commander Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V. Jebb, Richard Claverhouse
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Elliot, Hon. A. R. Douglas Johnston, William (Belfast)
Bigwood, James Fardell, Sir T. George Kenrick, William
Bill, Charles Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. Kenyon, James
Blundell, Colonel Henry Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne King, Sir Henry Seymour
Boulnois, Edmund Firbank, Joseph Thomas Knowles, Lees
Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn) Fisher, William Hayes Laurie, Lieut.-General
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James FitzWygram, General Sir F. Lawrence, W. F. (Liverp'l)
Bullard, Sir Harry Fletcher. Sir Henry Lawson, John Grant (Yorks)
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs) Foster, Colonel (Lancaster) Legh, Hon. T. W. (Lancs)
Cayzer, Sir Chas. William Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie
Cecil, Lord H. (Greenwich) Gilliat, John Saunders Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.
Chamberlain,Rt.Hn.J. (Birm.) Gordon, Hon. John Edward Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine
Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham) Nicol, Donald Ninian Spencer, Ernest
Lorne, Marquess of O'Neill, Hon. Robert T. Stanley, Lord (Lancs)
Lowles, John Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay Stewart, Sir M. J. McTaggart
Loyd, Archie Kirkman Penn, John Stirling-Maxwell, Sir J. M.
Lucas-Shadwell, William Philipps, John Wynford Stone, Sir Benjamin
Macartney, W. G. Ellison Pierpoint, Robert Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
McArthur, Chas. (Liverp'l) Purvis, Robert Tennant, Harold John
McArthur, William (Cornwall) Rasch, Major Frederic Carne Thornton, Percy M.
McKillop, James Richards, Henry Charles Tomlinson, W. E. Murray
Malcolm, Ian Ridley, Rt. Hon. Sir M. W. Tritton, Charles Ernest
Mellor, Colonel (Lancashire) Ritchie, Rt. Hon. C. T. Verney, Hon. Richard G.
Mellor, Rt. Hon. J. W.(Yorks) Robertson, H. (Hackney) Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H.
Milner, Sir Frederick George Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.
Milton, Viscount Russell, T. W. (Tyrone) Whiteley,H. (Ashton-under-L.)
Monk, Charles James Rutherford, John Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Moon, Edward Robert Pacy Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse) Wilson, John (Falkirk)
More, Robert Jasper Sharpe, William Edward T. Wylie, Alexander
Morrell, George Herbert Shaw-Stewart,M.H. (Renfrew)
Murray, Rt. Hn. A. G. (Bute) Sidebottom, T. H. (Stalybr.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES— Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Murray, Col. W. (Bath) Simeon, Sir Barrington
Newdigate, Francis Alexander Sinclair, Louis (Romford)
Austin, M. (Limerick, W.) Evans, Sir F. H. (S'th'mpt'n) Palmer, Sir Charles M.
Baker, Sir John Foster, Sir W. (Derby Co.) Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Barlow, John Emmott Harwood, George Pirie, Duncan V.
Bayley, Thos. (Derbyshire) Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale- Provand, Andrew Dryburgh
Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Holburn, J. G. Redmond, J. E. (Waterford)
Billson, Alfred Horniman, Frederick John Roberts, John H. (Denbighs)
Brigg, John Joicey, Sir James Roche, Hon. J. (E. Kerry)
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Jones, David B. (Swansea) Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarsh.)
Caldwell, James Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire) Spicer, Albert
Cameron. Robert (Durham) Macaleese, Daniel Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Carew, James Laurence MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Causton, Richard Knight McEwan, William Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.
Cawley, Frederick M'Ghee, Richard Wayman, Thomas
Clark, Dr.G.B. (Caithness-sh.) McLeod, John Williams, John C. (Notts)
Clough, Walter Owen Maddison, Fred. Wilson, Chas. Henry (Hull)
Colville, John Mappin, Sir Fredk. Thorpe Wilson, John (Govan)
Crombie, John William Molloy, Bernard Charles Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbro')
Curran, Thos. (Sligo, S.) Morgan, J. L. (Carmarthen) Yoxall, James Henry
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles O'Brien, J. F. X. (Cork)
Dillon, John O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) TELLERS FOR THE NOES— Captain Norton and Mr. Davitt.
Donelan, Captain A. O'Connor, J. (Wicklow, W.)
Doogan, P. C. O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)
Dunn, Sir William Oldroyd, Mark

Bill read the third time, and passed.

Amendment proposed— Page 2, line 12, after 'prison,' add 'nor "'(c) except by order of the board of visitors or visiting committee of the prison, after inquiry on oath held by them at a meeting specially summoned for the purpose, and consisting of not less than three persons: provided that the Secretary of State may, if he thinks fit, appoint a metropolitan police magistrate or stipendiary magistrate to take the place of the board or committee, and the magistrate shall in any such case have the same powers as the board or committee.

"(2) Where corporal punishment is inflicted under prison rules, a copy of the notes of evidence shall be furnished to the Secretary of State, and a report of the sentence and of the grounds on which it was passed shall also be made to him, and be embodied in the annual report of the Prison Commissioners."—(The Secretary for the Home Department, Sir M. White Ridley.)

As Amendments to Sir Matthew White Ridley's proposed Amendment— Line 5, after 'persons,' insert 'two of them being justices of the peace: provided that each accused prisoner shall be entitled to have two persons present throughout such inquiry to assist him or to conduct his defence.'"—(Mr. H. D. Greene.)

MR. H. D. GREENE (Shrewsbury)

The right honourable Gentleman the Secre- tary of State for the Home Department has made such very wise concessions in the directions which are desired by many honourable Members, that I do not wish to press unduly the Amendment which stands in my name. When this question was last discussed in the House, and also when it was considered in Committee, two principles were laid down under which corporal punishment in gaol alone could be inflicted. The first was that it should be done by order of a judicial tribunal; and the second, that there should be publicity. The right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State has given notice of an Amendment which will secure a good deal of publicity, but I should like to point out that he has not yet appointed a judicial tribunal. He has appointed three persons, neither of whom may be a justice.


I am willing to accept the first part of the Amendment.


I understand that the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary assents to that part of my Amendment which proposes that two of these officials shall be justices of the peace. I therefore proceed to the next portion of my Amendment, which, proposes that the prisoner shall be given an opportunity of having his side of the question thrashed out by the tribunal that is considering his case. At present he has no one to advise him, no one to whom he can appeal for mitigation or to put forward extenuating circumstances; he is left entirely in the hands of those who constitute this tribunal, and to the way in which they may think fit to direct the inquiry. Supposing a man is sentenced to two months' imprisonment for an assault, and while he is serving that time he is guilty of some act of violence towards one of the warders; he is taken before the committee and receives a sentence of flogging. In the original case, when he was sentenced to two months' imprisonment, he had evidence on his side and lawyers to defend him; but in a case of assaulting a warder the punishment is infinitely more severe than the sentence of two months, yet the prisoner is unable to have any assistance. In my opinion it is illegal and wrong not to allow a person to have a chance of legal aid when such a terrible punishment may be inflicted upon him. Since this matter was last before the House a very striking reason in support of my Amendment has come under my notice. A deputation has had an interview with the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department; they were visiting justices from the country, and their object was to protest against interference with their right to order flogging. The right honourable Gentleman seems to have pointed out that the number of floggings in gaols has decreased enormously within the last year or two, but it was found that the reason is that the present Secretary of State has been holding that an act of insubordination is totally different from mere disobedience. On the other hand, the justices have been holding that, if a prisoner on two occasions disobeys some regulations, he is insubordinate, and so falls within the scope of the rule for corporal punishment It happens, therefore, that numbers of men have been flogged in the past for what turns out now to be an incorrect interpretation of the rule. The wording of this Bill will give rise to equal doubt. A person is to be punished by flogging for "mutiny, or incitement to mutiny." Who will define mutiny or incitement to mutiny? It will be a difficult question to decide if disobedience on three occasions is to be called mutiny, or whether it requires acts of violence, or whether more than one person can be concerned. These are matters which the solicitor or counsel would be able to thrash out before the tribunal. I am told that the Secretary of State for the Home Department is going to review all these cases, That may be so, but he cannot elicit facts, and his view will probably in most cases be the same as the view of the justices. He will not have the full disclosure of facts, which would be the case if someone assisted the prisoner in his defence. Another reason why the prisoner should have someone assisting him is that the tribunal may order twenty-four lashes, and with legal aid the man might give, very good reasons perhaps from the incidents of his past life, or other circumstances, why less than the maximum should be given. In the criminal courts we daily see counsel pleading for mitigation of punishment. Why should there not be the same opportunities in the cases I have described? Why should not a prisoner have every opportunity of appealing for as lenient a sentence as possible? Punishments of this kind may have such serious consequences that it is only right and just that a prisoner should have some means of appeal. I hope the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department will see that some such provision is introduced, or will, at all events, give the House some assurance that, if he will not allow a prisoner to have assistance at an inquiry, he will at least have a fair chance of having his side of the case represented to the Home Office.


I have no objection to the words "two of them being justices of the peace" being inserted. As regards local prisons, every member of the visiting committee must, of course, be a, justice of the peace, but I have no objection to words being put in which merely carry out my intention. But when the honourable and learned Member suggests that there should be a judicial inquiry I would remind him that that question has been discussed by the House. The honourable and learned Member seems to have no confidence in the administration of justice by these tribunals. On that point I can assure him he is mistaken. How is it possible to provide that in the case of any intricate question of prison discipline prisoners should, if they can afford it, have the assistance of professional men? I have endeavoured to do my best in order that, in these circumstances, a prisoner should be tried in a manner which, I venture to say, would be almost as judicial as the honourable and learned Gentleman could wish, but I am afraid I cannot undertake to consider the honourable Member's proposal to encumber the Bill with a provision that the prisoner shall have two persons present to assist him in his defence.


If it is the sense of the House that the words, "two of them being justices of the peace" be added, the best course would be for the honourable Gentleman to withdraw his Amendment and propose it again as two separate Amendments

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


formally moved— To insert the words 'two of them being justices of the peace.'

Amendment, agreed to.


formally moved— To insert the words 'provided that each accused prisoner shall be entitled to have two persons present throughout such inquiry to assist him or to conduct his defence.'


I regard this as one of the most important Amendments that have been proposed in the course of this discussion. I must express my profound regret that the right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department did not see his way to accept it. What is the state of affairs? Take the case described by the honourable Member for Shrewsbury, of a man sentenced to two months' imprisonment. Before he received that sentence he had the right to a regular trial, and the right to be represented by counsel. He had every possible professional assistance for his defence. Within the two months of his sentence, the prisoner is brought up for some offence committed within the gaol, and he runs a chance of having to undergo the punishment of 24 lashes, which, practically, is worse than four, five, or six months' imprisonment, and he is deprived of any professional assistance. The right honourable Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department seems to have suggested that the honourable and learned Member for Shrewsbury is, by his Amendment, throwing doubt upon the fairness of the court which will try the case. I do not think any such idea was present to the mind of the honourable Member, and I altogether dissent from and repudiate the idea that it is throwing doubt upon the fairness of a tribunal to insist that professional assistance, shall be given to the prisoner. I have the very highest opinion of the judiciary of this country, I think it is the best in the world; but does anybody suggest that I would be throwing doubt upon its fairness if I advocated the right of every prisoner to have professional assistance? It is absurd. When a person is charged with a serious offence— say murder—before one of these tribunals, the judge, although he is there to protect the prisoner, is not satisfied, but assigns to him a counsel for his defence, and it is a matter of professional honour and professional duty for that counsel to do his very best for the prisoner, exactly as if he were feed for the purpose. That is what takes place before one of these tribunals, and they are tribunals that sit in the light of day. The Press is represented, the judge on the bench sees that the Public Prosecutor does not unduly press the case against the prisoner, and, if the case is interesting or remarkable in any way, it excites the attention of the country; and yet I venture to say that, with all these safeguards, cases of gross injustice frequently occur. As an illustration I may mention a case which occurred at a recent assize at Norwich. A man was charged by the police with burglary. The suspicion against him consisted mainly of the fact that there were marks on the ground from where the burglary was committed, and corresponding marks of the shoes worn by the prisoner. Fortunately for him there was on the bench that able, upright, and most humane judge, Mr. Justice Hawkins, who cross-examined the police, and proved that it was only a case of suspicion, backed up by a feeling on the part of the police against the prisoner; but if there had been on the bench a judge less humane and less experienced in cross-examination the unfortunate prisoner would have got seven or 14 years' penal servitude, although the evidence against him was of the most flimsy character. Well, I am sure that, notwithstanding all these safeguards, acts of injustice are done; but now let me go from the open tribunals, where these cases are tried, to the secret tribunals, because those are the ones where these cases are tried. The prisoner comes before these tribunals with all the safeguards the Home Secretary has given; thus, after all, it is, to all intents and purposes, a secret tri bunal. The prisoner comes before it with all the prison authorities and influences against him. He is tried by three men, two of whom are to be justices of the peace. I hope the Home Secretary will not think that I am throwing a general charge upon the justices of the peace when I say their judicial minds, and knowledge, and freedom from anything like prejudice are not sufficiently strong to make them equal in authority to the judge upon the bench, and it must be remembered that the tribunals before whom these prisoners will come are composed of gentlemen who, we have heard from the Home Secretary himself, came to the right honourable Gentleman, and confessed that they had been, for a considerable time, misinterpreting the law.


No, not at all. They expressed their views in favour of altering a rule which I had, in my discretion, seen fit to make. They thought it was desirous to retain the power, but they were acting quite within their powers in doing what they did.


From the statement which the Home Secretary has made I understand that these gentlemen consider insubordination a sufficient ground for flogging. Insubordination, an angry word, refusing to obey a warder, who may have been, for aught we know, goading and oppressing the unfortunate prisoner, that is a justification for flogging which, according to the Home Secretary, might be received for the greatest act of mutiny. But I take the case of the Home Secretary as regards these justices—I attach great importance to what the Home Secretary says as to his having the right of revising any of these decisions; but, after all, I would point out that the whole bent of an official mind is to confirm, if possible, the decision of the court below, and if the court below had given its decision against the prisoner the bent of the mind of the Home Secretary, whoever he might be, would be to confirm it if he possibly could. Put yourself in the place of the unfortunate prisoner, with no friends or assistants, like a rat in a trap. Put yourself in his place.

Finally, I want to know what answer there is to the honourable and learned Gentleman who had pointed out that the words of the Bill—"mutiny, and incitement to mutiny"—were very difficult of interpretation. The honourable and learned Gentleman said that it was very hard to define what mutiny was, and I am not certain but what the Home Secretary might find difficulty in defining it under cross-examination. Why should not the warder be cross-examined upon it, or his inspector? You do not allow a man to be 24 hours in gaol without his being allowed this professional assistance, and I regret extremely the attitude which the Home Secretary has taken in this matter. It is a refusal to take that step in advance which he should have taken, and it is also putting our present system far below the advances which have been made in France, where, after many years' agitation, they do at least allow the prisoner to have professional assistance.


It would be no use my attempting to carry this Amendment after the speech of the right honourable Gentleman, and therefore I will, with the permission of the House, relieve it by withdrawing the Motion.

Amendment proposed— Line 9, leave out paragraph (2), and insert— (2) An order under this section shall not be carried into effect until it has been confirmed by the Secretary of State, to whom a copy of the notes of evidence and a report of the sentence and of the grounds on which it was passed shall forthwith be furnished. The said notes of evidence and report shall be embodied in the annual report of the Prisons Commissioners."—(Mr. Pickersgill.)


I accept the honourable and learned Member's principle, but I cannot accept his words "the said notes of evidence and report shall be embodied." I am quite willing to accept the suggestion that there should be the approval of the Home Secretary, and I hope the honourable Gentleman will agree to amend his words in order to place words which I shall suggest therein.


What will the words be?


I propose that— An order under this section shall not be carried into effect until it has been confirmed by the Secretary of State, to whom a copy of the notes of evidence, and report of the sentence, and the grounds upon which it was passed, shall forthwith be furnished. And then these words— Such report of the grounds on which it was passed shall be embodied in the annual report of the Prisons Commissioners.


I am quite content to move the Amendment which the right honourable Gentleman suggests, and I should like to thank him very much for making this suggestion, and therefore I shall not say a word upon the Amendment which stands upon the Paper in my name, but there is just one point. It has been suggested that, along with this privilege, the prisoner should be at liberty to forward a statement. It is at present a right or privilege of the prisoner to forward to the Home Secretary, and I think he could hardly be excluded in a case of this kind. I do not wish to press the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary, but I think he will be willing to accept that.


It is quite unnecessary to insert any such words in the Amendment, but, of course, he would still retain that right.


I should like to ask the question, before the words suggested are inserted, who is to make the report upon which the Home Secretary is to ground his decision, and which is subsequently to be inserted in the annual report of the Prisons Commissioners. That report clearly should not be made by the prison officials. I want to make it quite clear. It is not stated who is to make the report, and I do not think it would be at all satisfactory if it were made by the governor of the gaol.


The report would come, of course, from the tribunal which tried the case.

The Amendment was agreed to.

Amendment proposed— Page 2, line 25, leave out subsection (a)."—(Mr. Lloyd Morgan.)

MR. LLOYD MORGAN (Carmarthen, W.)

I wish to move the Amendment which stands in my name, and I shall not trouble the House with more than a few brief observations upon it, because the concessions which the right honourable Gentleman has made are very substantial; but this is a question upon which I entertain a very strong opinion, or else I should not have moved it at all. My Amendment has reference to the way in which prisoners for debt will be treated under this Bill, and this is a Bill which generally is a considerable step in a forward direction. So far as the treatment of prisoners for default or debt is concerned, their position in the future will be very much worse than it was before. At present they are treated as first-class misdemeanants. They are allowed to see their friends, and they are allowed to send and receive letters, and their treatment is entirely different to that of ordinary prisoners. Under this Bill it is proposed to alter all this, and it is proposed to make these men, whose only crime has been that they have been unable to meet their liabilities, and then, when a judgment summons has been taken out against them, and the judge is of opinion that they are able to pay the debt—an order made frequently on the most slender evidence. In this case the man goes to prison, and under this Bill this class would be treated as prisoners of the second division. What does that mean? It means that the man would be treated as an ordinary prisoner, and sent to an ordinary prison. It is true that concessions have been made by the right honourable Gentleman that they should wear their own clothes, but they will only be allowed to see their wives or children once a month, and then the visit will only last a quarter of an hour. They will only be allowed to send one letter a month, and receive one during the same period. Now, that seems to me to be very severe treatment for men who have committed no offence against the law, to send them to prison amongst other prisoners. Although they will not associate with men who have committed felony and crimes, they suffer this degradation, because the judge is of opinion that they could pay their debts. If they do not do so, then they are to suffer this treatment. Now, when the Government, take this matter in hand, with a view and for the purpose of improving the conduct of our prisons, I do think it is a retrograde step to treat this class of men in this way. It was said upstairs, in the Standing Committee on Law, although some honourable Members who defended this clause opposed imprisonment for debt, that they wanted to see imprisonment for debt abolished, and therefore they were going to support this clause, because, if the law were made more intolerable than it is at present for this class of men, the judges would hesitate before they sent them to prison. Now, it is quite illogical to make a position worse in order that the judges should make it better.


The object which the Government had in making some difference in the treatment of the debtors in the prisons—there is, no doubt, some justification for the remarks of the honourable and learned Gentleman upon this point—was to get rid of a very troublesome class of prisoners, and they thought the recommendations of the Committee ought to be carried out. I have had a great many suggestions made to me that this class of prisoners ought to be put to some kind of work, and ought not to be what they now practically are—idle loafers living at the expense of the public. I might remind the honourable Gentleman that, whatever we may say about imprisonment for contempt, it yet remains the law. No one desires to give the law effect unless a man refuses to pay that which he can pay; therefore you have got, in the first case, to deal with a class which refuses to pay that, which they can pay, and the intention of this clause is to remove abuses which existed; and, while it is not desired to inflict a social stigma upon the debtors, it is desired that there shall be some power to put these men to work; and in deference to the opinion of some honourable Gentlemen in the Committee I undertook to introduce words which are now upon the Paper. It is not intended that a debtor shall associate with ordinary prisoners, but it is, at the same time, desirable that these men should not bring in their own food, and eat their own dinners, and be entertained in other ways at the expense of the public. I hope that the honourable Gentleman will see that the words that I propose to move will meet the case.


I shall oppose this Amendment, because I think it is a monstrous thing that in a Bill which is to improve the condition of our prisons one class should be singled out like this —a class which is not one whit more dishonest than hundreds of gentlemen who are walking about the streets of the City today, and are living in luxury and wealth. If it were a law that every dishonest man should be got hold of and punished, it might be a good law, but this law does not attempt to do anything of that kind. These men are the victims of the relic of an old and bad scheme, which I hope will very soon be swept away. If the prison authorities are troubled with this class of prisoners, the true remedy is to abolish the system of imprisonment for debt. It is the relic of a system which has been in a course of change for some years, and which I hope will soon come to an end, but this system is still in force, and people are allowed to be held in gaol. I think the theory of it is, not that they have committed any offence, but that their bodies are held in pledge until they have discharged their debts. I do not think you have any right—you have no moral right—to inflict punishment upon those men, except that punishment which is inseparable from the restraint of their liberty. I remember the Marshalsea Prison in Dublin, and in that gaol we had a nice suite of rooms, and we had balls there, and many a pleasant hour I have spent there, in the society of many of the most delightful men in Dublin, who were in the habit of spending some time at that resort. This was 25 years ago, and it was perfectly well recognised then that there was no kind of punishment in the debtors' gaol. They were held there until they made an arrangement with their creditors, but they had everything that their means would allow them to have in prison. But now, in this Bill, which is to mitigate the rigours and improve the treatment, in our prisons, such a clause as this is entirely out of place, because it will put the debtor in a very much worse position than he is at present—the position of a first-class misdemeanant. It is a total departure from the theory of imprisonment for debt. The trouble with regard to these prisons arises from the fact that they ought not to be in prison at all. Until that is more recognised than it is at present there should be a different prison, with a totally different system, set apart for them, but when imprisonment for debt was abolished those prisons were abolished. The proper remedy, I think, is not to treat debtors in the ordinary criminal prisons, but to abolish this last remnant of an old and barbarous law.

SIR H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

If this were a question of the abolition of the system of imprisonment for the non-payment of debt, in all probability I should be found in the same Lobby, and voting with my honourable Friend. I think this law is very unsatisfactory, as administered by the county courts, and that the law itself is defective. But that is not the question in this Prisons Bill. I am bound to say the Home Secretary has made large concessions in the course of the Bill through Committee. He has made large concessions on the Amendments now put down. He proposes to amend the law to carry out the recommendations of the Com- mittee of my right honourable Friend beside me, and has removed from our minds the general impression of my honourable Friend's Amendment. I should be glad to see this form of imprisonment abolished altogether, as perhaps some day it may be, but so long as it is in force it is necessary to have some discipline, and that these men should have some labour to occupy their minds. I think this particular departure is an improvement, and therefore I shall support it.


Under the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Further Amendments proposed— Page 2, line 29, leave out 'or,' and insert 'shall be placed in a separate division, and treated under special prison rules, and shall not be placed in association with criminal prisoners, nor be compelled to wear prison dress, unless his own clothing is unfit for use.' Page 2, line 30. before 'for,' insert 'any person imprisoned.' Page 2, line 32, leave out 'unless he is a convicted prisoner.' Page 2, line 33, after 'division,' insert 'unless he is a convicted prisoner or.' Page 2, leave out lines 36 to 40, both inclusive."—(The Secretary of State for the Home Department.)

Amendments agreed to, and added to the Bill.

Amendments proposed— Page 3, line 19, leave out 'exceeding six months,' and insert 'prescribed by the rules.' Page 3, lines 21 and 22, leave out 'not exceeding one-fourth of the period remaining after he has served six months.'"—(The Secretary of State for the Home Department.)


I beg to propose the Amendments standing in my name upon clause 8.

Amendments agreed to, and added to the Bill.

Amendments proposed— Page 4, line 32, leave out to 'and,' and insert 'section sixty-seven.' Page 4, line 33, leave out 'that Act,' and insert the Prison Act, 1865, and Schedule 1. to that Act.'"—(The Secretary of State for the Home Department.)

Amendments agreed to.

Amendment proposed— Page 4, line 38, after 'ninety nine,' insert— Provided that sections six and nine of this Act shall come into operation on the date at which the first rules made under this Act come into force."—(The Secretary of State for the Home Department.)


I move this in order to cover the gap in the passing of this Bill. This is for the purpose, as it were, of covering the interregnum.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment proposed— Schedule 5, line 10, leave out '67,' and insert '41.'"—(The Secretary of State for the Home Department.)

Amendment agreed to.


I hope the House will now read the Bill a third time.


I do not think it would be a fair return for the conciliatory spirit which the right honourable Gentleman the Home Secretary has shown in this Bill that we should not read it a third time. If it had been earlier in the Session I should have been glad to have had this stage postponed until we had had some further discussion. I am quite prepared to meet the right honourable Gentleman, as he has met us, in a good spirit, but I cannot help regarding the history of this Bill.

I remember, when my honourable Friend the Member for South Mayo delivered a speech on this Bill, which, I think, will remain historic, that in the denouncements which, he made he denounced the dietary as scientific starvation; he denounced the indiscriminate treatment of hardened criminals, and those who were there for their first or second offences; and he denounced, and will continue to do so, the absence of any distinction between political and other prisoners. I remember that in the speech of that honourable Member, although I think the House was disposed to regard his criticism as sound, some portion of it regarded his descriptions as exaggerated. I remember, when he spoke of scientific starvation, that there was a movement of ridicule from the Treasury Bench, but most of the charges brought against the prison system have been more than justified by the Amendments which have been inserted in the Bill. I think the prison system still needs some more reform. I believe there is still a spirit of seeking to reform prisoners, but I do not think it is fair to the Home Secretary to go into the matter now. I regard the Bill as an enormous step in advance, and although I say great credit is due to the Home Secretary, I say that the real credit for this Bill passing into law belongs to my honourable Friend the Member for East Mayo.

The Question put, and the Bill was read a third time, and passed.