HC Deb 26 October 1909 vol 12 cc986-8

1. This Act may be cited as the Naval Discipline Act, 1909.

2. This Act shall come into force on the first day of January, nineteen hundred and eleven.

Mr. HAY moved, in Sub-section (2), to leave out the word "eleven," and to insert instead thereof the word "ten."

Why on earth this Bill should be postponed for a year I cannot conceive. Why should not the Navy have the advantage of the change forthwith? If that cannot be done in respect of the actual structures, at least the improved forms of punishment could be brought into force.


I am afraid no good service would be served by the Amendment, as the remodelling and alteration of the buildings will take certainly 2½ years. But apart from the question of buildings, this is a thing which must be done with care, discretion, and a certain amount of circumspection, and we have put in the earliest practicable date.


It would be very easy to abolish shot drill by 1910. That is admitted to be a form of cruelty to which no human being ought to be subjected. According to the hon. Member's own showing, the Act will come into force 18 months before the detention barracks are built. Why, then, should he not begin at once with this alteration in the cruel and horrible forms of torture to which the men are now subjected?


I really cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's answer as satisfactory. Will he pretend that it is necessary to spend £50,000 on buildings in order to abolish a system which cuts a man's hair short directly he is sentenced, or that you must spend £50,000 on buildings before you can allow a man to keep on the clothes he is wearing when sentence is pronounced upon him. Again, taking physical drill as an example, why cannot you put him through physical drill in the same yard in which he now carries out shot drill? If the Amendment is not accepted I shall have to take a Division.


I am anxious to avoid a Division on this Bill, which commands the assent of both sides of the House. I think there is some substance in the Amendment, and I would ask the hon. Member if he could not consider the possibility of bringing this change into operation at the beginning of next year in order to establish in existing naval prisons two divisions of prisoners, namely, those convicted of serious offences, who will undergo ordinary prison discipline, and those convicted of offences against naval discipline, who might be treated in the way they would be treated in the new barracks, which cannot be ready for 2½ years. I think it is really a point on which the hon. Gentleman might meet the views put forward, for it seems unnecessary that this beneficent reform should be put off altogether for over a year, when all that is really necessary is that these offenders should be accommodated somewhere else.


I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman knows Lewes Naval Prison? If he does, he will know that we have no room there. You would have to alter the whole character of the premises before you could bring into operation there the open air naval drill which I, and all of us, want to see substituted for the shot drill. With regard to the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fareham (Mr. A. Lee), I do not know but what we might discuss this matter again at the Admiralty from the point of view of the possibility of bringing in the altered punishment earlier than now arranged. I will make enquiry at the Admiralty.


Can you not do it on Report?


No. I hope that we shall be able to get the third reading and report now.


To all acquainted with the facts it is, I think, notorious that the naval prison at Lewes was a civil prison some time ago. It was condemned as such, and regarded as unfitted for murderers and felons. Notwithstanding that it is thought good enough to be a naval prison. As to the difficulty of giving facilities for physical drill, all I have to say is "that where there is a will there is a way." I am intimately acquainted with the civil prison at Lewes, and it is one of the best and healthiest in the country. I do not want the hon. Gentleman to pledge himself, but am I to understand that he will consult the Admiralty as to the propriety of either altering the present rules under the existing prison law or of expediting the enactment of this Bill in accordance with my Amendment?


No. All I want the hon. Gentleman to understand is that we will consider whether the suggestion is practicable.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 added to the Bill.

Bill reported without Amendments; read a third time, and passed.

ADJOURNMENT.—Resolved, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Joseph Pease.]

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-three minutes after Twelve o'clock.