HC Deb 31 October 1906 vol 163 cc1102-3
MR. WEDGWOOD (Newcastle-under-Lyme)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether † See (4)Debates, clix., 769. his attention has been called to the Report of the Governor of Leeds Prison for 1906–6, in which he urges that instead of sending young lads to prison for nonpayment of fines and costs for such offences as playing at football in the streets and obstructing the footway, it would be better to write off these fines as irrecoverable, and so prevent these youngsters getting such a first taste of prison life; whether it is possible to compel the parents or guardians of children under sixteen, where their imprisonment is in lieu of a fine, to pay the tines and costs; and, if not, whether the Government will take steps, at an early date, to make such an arrangement possible.


I have seen the Report to which my hon. friend refers. I entirely sympathise with his objection to the committal of young lads to prison for offences of the character indicated; but I do not see how it can altogether be avoided. It would be impossible to maintain order in the streets if such offences were to go unpunished, and there is great difficulty in finding any other mode of punishment. There is already power to fine the parents if they have conduced to the commission of the offence either by wilful default or by neglect; but of course there are many cases where, a parent, at work all day, is guilty of neither default nor neglect. The subject is receiving my careful attention, and I hope shortly to introduce a Bill to provide for the probation of offenders, which will, I hope, have some effect in reducing the number of young persons sent to prison.