HC Deb 22 April 1910 vol 16 cc2520-39

(who had a notice on the Paper to move as an Amendment to reduce Item Class 3, Vote 8 (Prisons), by £100): I understand it would not be in order for me to move the Amendment which stands in my name, but I make no excuse for naming the circumstances which have induced me to bring forward that Amendment, and which give evidence of a grave administrative scandal to the serious injury of the public interests, and contravene the most rigorous deunciations enunciated by hon. and right hon. Members now sitting on the opposite side of the House. The point I wish to raise has reference to the administration of prisons, and I am rather surprised that no representative of the Home Office is present, the more so because, at their own request, I gave them the information as to the point which was to be raised in reference to their administration. It is presumably a question so very grave that, I think, the House will agree with me it should be sufficient to induce a representative of the Home Office to come down and defend the action of his Department. The point which is involved is this: Quite recently a Commissioner, in the place of the Medical Commissioner of Prisons, whose service expired under the age-limit, has been appointed—a young gentleman who was ten years ago a clerk in the Home Office, and recently acted as private secretary to Mr. Gladstone (now Viscount Gladstone). I wish to make this in no way a personal question. The gentleman appointed as a Prison Commissioner is a friend of my own. I have known him from birth. I have some interest in his career, and I should detest anything which would be derogatory to him or the Civil Service. I raise this question not as a personal question, but as one of grave importance involving the public interest, because I think I am entitled to say that very considerable public interest is involved in the fair treatment of a great profession like the medical profession. A profession of that sort, as it is represented in this House, has a right to have its views set forth. If, by the common consent of both parties, certain offices have been reserved for those who have medical qualifications, the tradition based on general consent should not be lightly departed from, and if it is departed from, the profession in question should have the opportunity of protesting.

But there is a stronger and a more important ground than the professional one. I might pass that over, but there is a question of enormous importance in regard to the administration of our prisons involved. It is not sufficient to say—and that is the answer which will be given— that there are other officers in the service of the Prison Commissioners who can give the necessary advice in regard to medical matters. That is not the point that the right hon. Gentlemen who now sit upon the Front Bench opposite put forward when this matter was last under discussion. In fact, it is the very opposite view of that which they took, because they repeatedly stated that they were not satisfied with the prison subordinate officers as medical experts. If that was necessary in the year 1898, when the whole subject came up for discussion, is it not far more necessary now? Have we not had questions of the greatest delicacy and of the greatest importance raised with regard to our prison treatment in which medical experts and their advice are specially required? In regard to the treatment of the lady prisoners—the suffragettes, and this artificial feeding that has been resorted to—is it not absolutely necessary in deciding the steps that ought to be taken? A medical expert should be one of the Commissioners who have to decide these questions. We have shown the necessity of inspection in every class of life. We have established medical inspection throughout our schools, and we have seen the necessity of care in sanitation and the necessity for details of sanitation in the houses of the poor; and now after twelve years, after they have maintained these views in discussion in this House, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are the first to abandon them when an important occasion arises.

The occasion of the Debate of 1898 arose when the Prisons Bill in the charge of the late Sir Matthew White Ridley had passed through the Grand Committee on Law, and there, by a very large majority—I think twenty-five votes to twenty-eight—there was inserted a clause providing that one of the Prison Commissioners should always be a medical expert. That Bill came to be considered on Report, and there were grave doubts, and not on one side only—as to whether it was possible to introduce such definite words into an Act of Parliament. These doubts were shared by Members who were eminent legal authorities, the present Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for War, while Sir H. Fowler, now Lord Wolverhampton, expressed the same doubt. They all agreed that there might be doubts about inserting these words in the Bill, and they were inclined to accept the reason given by Sir Matthew White Ridley against inserting them. Several other Members who are not here now, but whom I rather expected to see, eloquently expressed the views which I am putting forward, including the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool, the Member for East Mayo, many other Irish Members, and the Member for the Division of South-West Bethnal Green. All these hon. Members were not prepared to abandon the absolute insertion of these words in the Bill. They protested against their abandonment, as they said that there was no security for prisoners having the benefit of the services of a medical expert, unless these words were inserted verbatim in the Bill. It was only the attitude of the present Prime Minister, the Secretary for War, and Sir Henry Fowler that led to the doubt as to the insertion of the words. But every speaker on both sides of the House absolutely expressed the view that, whether these-words were inserted or not, the presence of a medical inspector amongst the Commissioners of Police was absolutely necessary in the public interest, and could not be set aside. No Debate ever showed greater unanimity in every corner of the House. It was not sufficient, and the present Secretary of State for War-asserted that in very definite terms, to have a medical expert amongst the servants or inspectors of the Board. He must be there directing the counsels of the Commissioners at the centre and taking part in issuing their instructions.

4.0 P.M.

Sir Matthew White Ridley expressed his agreement with this view. He said he had set forth the difficulties as to the insertion of the word, but that his own mind was made up that undoubtedly he would put a medical man as one of the Commissioners, and that he had no doubt that course would be followed by his successor. But before the Debate was allowed to conclude the present Leader of the Opposition was asked whether he would give a further pledge, and this is the pledge that the right hon. Gentleman gave at the express request of the present Prime Minister. He said:— I am bound to say I think, after that public expression of opinion, backed up by an official promise, that a minute shall be placed on the record of the Home Office which must necessarily be taken as a guide to the right hon. Gentleman's successors. That was fully accepted.by Sir Matthew White Ridley, but the present Prime Minister was not quite content without further assurance, and he said:— The views expressed on both sides of the House do show that it is most important that the medical element should not merely be represented in the general direction, that is, amongst the inspectors, but should have a governing voice on the Board itself. The right hon. Gentleman hap pledged himself to that (the First Lord of the Treasury assented), and has pledged for his successors, as far as any expression of opinion on his part can pledge them, that it is to be their practice also. Sir Matthew White Ridley carried out to the letter that undertaking. He appointed a medical man as one of the Commissioners of Prisons. That medical man recently retired owing to the age limit, and in his place has been appointed the gentleman to whom I refer—a gentleman of the highest merits personally, and well worthy of promotion, but entirely without those qualifications which were declared, twelve years ago, to be essential in the public interest. Sir Matthew White Ridley was asked to pledge his successors as far as he could. Is it not a satire upon that demand that the very people who were asking him to give that pledge should be the first to depart from it? Is it not a satire upon the whole sincerity of public debate in this House when we have one right hon. Gentleman after another rising to urge that the pledge was not sufficient, that it must be more specific, and that it ought to be put down in an Act of Parliament, when they find their opponents fully acting up to the pledge that they gave, and a few years later they are the first to depart from it, in order to find a post for a private secretary? I do not wish to use any violent language or to make any personal attack. I am speaking, I think, fairly in the interests of a great profession, which has a right to have those interests guarded. But I am speaking with far more emphasis in defence of a public right and a public interest. I think you have lowered and weakened the Prison Commission. You have taken away a great security for the good, sound, and wise administration of our prisons in abandoning this security.

I am aware that only a few months ago a question was put to the late Home Secretary, Viscount Gladstone, with regard to the filling up of this prospective vacancy, and he assured the House that care would be taken to keep up the medical element In the Commissioners. I certainly shall not accept it as satisfactory to be told that Dr. Donkin or any retired official is going to give a certain amount of supervision and advice. That is a mere subterfuge. The only expert advice which is of any value whatever is that which is given by a man attending daily as part of his work at the Prison Commission. It is a subterfuge to be told that advice will be given occasionally by one who has abandoned his office owing to the age limit and who will not be expected to look into all the minutiaof prison matters. I understand that, owing to technical difficulties, it is impossible for me to move my Amendment. I sincerely regret it, because I think that there are some Members on the other side of the House who would feel that they were bound, by consistency and due respect for their former opinions, if it were nothing else, but also out of their sincere conviction that what is required is medical skill and qualification upon the Commission to joint with me in condemning the action of the late Home Secretary. I would appeal to the hon. Member (Sir W. Collins), who. I think, has full knowledge of the professional aspects of the question, as to whether he would not feel inclined to think that there is something in the argument that I have put forward against the omission of this medical expert. I think there has been administrative scandal of considerable magnitude and that injury has been inflicted upon the efficiency of the. Prison Commission and upon the trust which the public will place in the management of prisons by that Commission.

The CHANCELLOR of the DUCHY (Mr. Joseph Pease)

There has been a charge of considerable magnitude brought against Lord Gladstone, but I believe no man believes in the necessity of medical expert advice being secured for the Prison Commissioners more than Mr. Gladstone did, and all the arguments which the hon. Member has used to justify the appointment of a medical officer being included among the Commissioners were realised to the full by Mr. Gladstone, and he has not only given full consideration to them but has actually put into effective operation the views which have been advocated by the hon. Member. The first thing I should like to read to the House is a passage in Sir Matthew White Ridley's speech, which he delivered on the occasion to which allusion has been made by the hon. Member. When that particular recommendation was made in 1898 Sir Matthew White Ridley used these words:— I do not think that the hands of the Secretary of State ought to be tied in such a manner as they are here. I do admit that it is most desirable to do what the majority of the members of the Grand Committee desired, namely, to strengthen the medical element and influence upon the Prison Commission, but I do not think it is desirable to lay it down that there must be a medical member of the Board. It is perfectly true that an official minute was recorded in regard to this matter, and that Dr. Donkin was appointed on the first occasion. Three or four months ago, owing to Dr. Donkin having reached the age of sixty-five, he naturally retired, but so much appreciated had his services been by the Home Office, that it was thought desirable to appoint him as a special adviser under a special salary, and giving the whole of his time to this matter. As one of the Prison Commissioners, he undoubtedly was not only medical expert, but he had to devote a considerable portion of his time to the administrative work of these Commissioners.


How was it that he was allowed to stay on after he had reached the age for retiring?


At the age of sixty-five he retired, and the vacancy was filled by a man of conspicuous administrative ability, Mr. Waller. I shall come to his appointment in a moment. The point I was making was that Dr. Donkin, useful as he was as one of the Commissioners, had to devote a great portion of his time to administrative work, and on his retirement from the Commission at the age of sixty-five, a new arrangement was made by Mr. Gladstone that Dr. Donkin, who was a pensioned official, should receive a salary of £200 a year and devote the whole of his time to the work of adviser to the Prison Commissioners. The effect of that has been that the great medical knowledge of Dr. Donkin has been placed entirely at the service of the Commissioners, and the Commissioners themselves have been strengthened by the appointment of Mr. Waller. It has been suggested that there has been a sort of job in the appointment of the private secretary of Mr. Gladstone to the post. Mr. Waller is a man of conspicuous ability. He has not only proved by his experience and services in the Criminal Department that he is especially qualified for the post, but as secretary to Mr. Gladstone he showed conspicuous ability in the matter of the reforms which Mr. Gladstone had under his charge. He has proved himself, not only to be one of the best-qualified men for such a position, but I would say that even if Mr. Waller had not been appointed, in Lord Gladstone's view some other individual would have had to be appointed in his place as administrator owing to the excessive amount of work that has now fallen to the Prison Commissioners as administrators. May I remind the House of the most excellent work Mr. Gladstone has been doing at the Home Office. A great deal of it was unseen, and it is now bearing fruit. New rules have been drawn up. There has been a great extension in the classification, not only of criminals, but of other classes in the community who undergo sentences from time to time.

Not only has the question of deterrents been kept in view, but also the question of reformation of those who have been sentenced. There has been a State Criminal Lunatic Asylum established at Parkhurst. Great administrative work has been required in connection with the introduction of preventive detention. There have also been established State inebriate reformatories. It would have been really impossible to carry out these great administrative changes unless the administrative body had been strengthened by the addition of a capable administrator. In order to carry out this very great work a capable administrator, Mr. Waller, has been appointed. In order to secure proper advice being given to these Commissioners, Dr. Donkin, who has had experience as a Prisons Commissioner, has been appointed to give the whole of his time in connection with his medical knowledge to the service of the country. And we have gained much by the retention of Dr. Donkin in a position of that kind. I really feel that in the work which Lord Gladstone has performed we have good reason to congratulate ourselves. He has realised to the full the importance of having an expert medical officer always at hand to advise the Prisons Commissioners, and he has secured one by the appointment for, five years, at a salary of £200 a year, of Dr. Donkin, who is prepared to give the whole of his time to the service of his country. In conclusion, I desire to say that as regards the work which Lord Gladstone has performed I believe that the country has really little cognisance of the magnitude of the work. He has not only, by strengthening these Commissioners, been able to carry out the reforms in various directions which I have suggested, but he has really enabled many of these criminals to become good citizens after their terms of sentences have expired, and I believe that not only has he left his mark at the Home Office by his work when it comes to be realised, but he has added lustre even to the great name which he bears.


I must confess that this matter had escaped my memory when the Debate arose, but I have been looking through the Report of the Debate in 1898 upon which my hon. Friend behind me relies, and I am bound to say, after looking through the Debate, that the defence of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down strikes me as utterly hollow and insufficient. He ended by a tribute to his late colleague, Lord Gladstone, and I am confident was well deserved. I have no expert knowledge of the work that Lord Gladstone did at the Home Office in connection with prisons. I am quite ready, from my knowledge of that gentleman, to assent to any eulogies that may be passed by his colleagues upon him. I am confident that he had the highest sense of public duty. I have not the least doubt that he has left his mark, an honourable mark, on the great party with which he was for four years engaged. But that has nothing to do with the matter. It is not the question we are discussing, nor is the question we are discussing the administrative capacity of the official at the Home Office who has now been made head of the Prisons Department. I have not the least doubt that he also, so far as character and ability are concerned, thoroughly justifies any promotion that may be given him, and that he will show that competency in carrying out the duty which has been given to him which the work of Lord Gladstone's private secretary has shown he can carry out. Therefore this really has no personal aspect at all.

Nobody criticises either the administrative work of Lord Gladstone when at the Home Office or the administrative capacity of the gentleman whom he appointed to be one of the Prison Board. Let us put all these arguments on one side; they are irrelevant. Let me repeat to the House what occurred in 1898. In that year the House of Commons discussed whether we should make it a statutory obligation on the Home Secretary to have one medical man on the Prison Board. In that Debate there took part some leading gentlemen among the Nationalist Members from Ireland, and the present head of the Local Government Board, the present Undersecretary to the Board of Trade, the present Prime Minister, the present Secretary for War, and others. In other words, five or six leading Members of this House, and Members of the Government, including the present head of the Local Government Board, went the length of saying they would rather the Bill under discussion was lost than that the Amendment put in by the Grand Committee should be rejected. The present Under-Secretary to the Board of Trade pressed that the obligation to be imposed upon the Ministerial successors of the then Secretary of State for the Home Department should be as rigid and as binding as it could be made, and we were only allowed to go to a Division and carry the Bill after the present Prime Minister had extracted from the then Government a pledge, put in the strongest way, that in so far as the official Minute could bind the action of his successor, that official Minute should be drawn in the most stringent terms. I do not see that a party could be bound, or a Ministry could be bound, to a policy more closely than the present Ministry are bound to the policy of having a medical officer among the governors of the Prison Board. I do not profess to offer an expert opinion on the merits of the question, but I took part in that Debate as in this, obtaining my information from those who have a more minute acquaintance with the Home Office administration than I have had an opportunity of obtaining. The then House of Commons was unanimous, and every Member of the Government who spoke took the same view by holding in the strongest way that it was absolutely necessary to have on the governing body a medical officer. The very first Radical Home Secretary who comes into office since the Members of his party laid down those propositions and urged that policy, reverses that policy. What is the defence? The defence is that a gentleman who, owing to the age limit, is no longer allowed to carry on his duties as one of the Prison Commissioners, should be continued at a small salary to give advice. I am rather surprised, I confess, that it is thought consistent with the general practice that after an official has become superannuated he should be given new employment at a new salary.

I do not wish to be didactic. I daresay in this particular case the arrangement will be an economic one in the country's interest, but how it is consistent with our general policy of turning on the Civil servants pensioned after the age of sixty-five I really am extremely puzzled to under- stand. Perhaps that point will be explained by some Gentleman on the Front Bench. After all, that is not the main point. That is not the principal point that my hon. Friend raised. The point my hon. Friend raised was as to the policy upon which, ten years ago, the whole House had agreed, and on which nobody was more insistent than, perhaps, those who now hold office under the Crown. That policy was that you should have a medical adviser at your disposal, not merely medical experience, not merely those who would give advice, but those who could see that their advice is taken, that you should have amongst those responsible for your prison organisation a man of medical training. Not one syllable bas been said by the only Minister who spoke showing why the policy unanimously agreed upon in 1898 should be abandoned by the Government for the time being. Where is your President of the Local Government Board who would simply rather abandon the Bill of 1898 than see this provision for a medical commissioner dropped out?

Where is the Under-Secretary, where is the Prime Minister? The Prime Minister took a leading part in this matter, and remember he spoke with special experience, and experience to which I make no pretence. He had been Home Secretary, and a very distinguished Home Secretary, during the whole course of the Radical Administration, which lasted from 1892 to 1895. He spoke, therefore, with more experience in this matter than any Gentleman belonging to his own party, and with at least equal experience to any Gentleman in the House or in the country. At the very end of the Debate to which I am referring he threw the whole weight of his authority in the direction of obtaining the most-explicit pledge that such a minute should be drawn and left on record in the Home Office as to make it impossible for any future. Home Secretary to ignore the policy on which at that date the House of Commons was unanimously agreed. I cannot imagine what justification there is for it. Lord Gladstone was quite rightly anxious, I suppose, to promote his private secretary, like other official private secretaries who have done invaluable services for him during his heavy years of office, and of whose capacity he had exceptional means of informing himself. It was a most natural and most proper desire, but I confess I should have thought it possible to defer it, at all events if there was no other means of promotion open, rather than absolutely ignore and traverse the declared wishes of both sides of the House. Is there a change in policy, and do they now think they do not require a medical Commissioner? The right hon. Gentleman said that the work of the Commission is so heavy that it is far better, as I understood him, to got your medical advice from somebody who is not one of the Commissioners. It is quite possible that the work may be too great for three, but, then, have four. Do not appoint a gentleman who has passed the age limit, do not ask him to do work which cannot be the kind of work which the House in 1898 required. The whole point of the decision of 1898 was, not that there was a dearth of medical advice available, but that that medical advice was not put in a proper position—that the man who gave the advice was not one of those who were responsible for seeing that that advice was carried out; and that fault evidently attaches to your new system just as much as it attached to any system before 1808. Dr. Donkin, who is giving his services to his successors as adviser, has no control over the Board; he has not a vote; he cannot alter their policy by a hair's-breadth; he can only give what will no doubt be invaluable advice, the result of his long and honourable career as one of the Commissioners. But that is not the policy of 1898. That policy, urged primarily by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, accepted fully by the then Government, and endorsed by the whole House, was that there I should be on the governing body regulating our prisons a trained medical expert. That policy has been abandoned in order to give well-deserved promotion to a distinguished official. By this abandonment it seems to me that not merely is injury done to the great profession for which my hon. Friend speaks, but, what is more serious, the declared will of this House has been set aside, without excuse or justification, and those who have assented to its being set aside, those who have abandoned that policy without justification, were among those who in Opposition were loudest in their clamour in favour of its adoption.


I am not concerned with any recriminations as to the abandonment of the policy advocated ten years ago. If there is any comment to be made upon that policy, it is that the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member deliberately abandoned an Amendment inserted in Grand Committee which would have made it necessary for one of the Prisons Commissioners to be a medical member.


They abandoned it, and among those who said they were right or supported them in abandoning it, were Members of the present Government, who insisted that instead of the Clause there should be made this Minute of the Home Office.


They abandoned it, as far as I understand, for reasons stated by the Home Secretary of the day—because he realised, in my opinion rightly, that there must be circumstances in which a binding statutory condition would be undesirable. Sir M. W. Ridley said:— I do not think that the hands of the Secretary of State ought to be tied in such a matter. I do admit that it is most desirable to do what the majority of the Members of the Grand Committee desired, namely, to strengthen the medical element and influence upon the Prison Commission, but I do not think it is desirable to lay it down that there must be a medical member of the Board. He advocated, as everybody advocated, the strengthening of the medical element on the Commission, but he recognised that there might be circumstances in which it was more important to appoint an administrator than to fill up a vacancy by a medical man. Lord Gladstone, who was the first to advocate bringing more medical influence into prison administration in the Commission of which he was Chairman, after fully studying the Debates of 1898, and the conditions under which the promise had been made, and also realising the most difficult facts of prison administration in 1910, thought that this was a period such as Sir M. W. Ridley foresaw, when the appointment of a medical man as a Commissioner should rightly be abandoned.




I will tell you in a moment. I think you have been told already by my right hon. Friend, but perhaps I may add a little more. At the same time he fully maintained the position laid down by Sir Matthew White Ridley that the medical element and influence should be strengthened upon the Board of the Prison Commissioners. If there is one thing I regret in this Debate it is that the hon. Gentleman who moved this Motion, after paying the highest tribute possible to the gentleman who has been appointed, went on later to state that this was done as a job and to make a place for the private secretary. It is nothing of the kind.


I do not think that I used that word.


Yes, you used it.


I said I did not wish to use the word "job." [HON. MEMBEKS: "Scandal."]


Perhaps the hon. Member used the word "scandal"?


Yes; "Administrative scandal."


I shall be more than pleased if the hon. Gentleman repudiates that suggestion, because there is not a word of truth in it. If the gentleman who has been appointed—he is one of the most efficient members of the Civil Service, who has made a speciality of the study of prison work—had not been appointed, I have no hesitation in saying that Lord Gladstone would have had to appoint a man mainly to carry out the administrative work laid upon the Prison Commissioners. The real reason why the condition in 1910 is different from the condition in 1898 is the enormous and almost overwhelming increase in administrative work which is now being thrown upon the Prison Commissioners. Few people but specialists have taken any notice of it. Those who are specialists—and there are some in this House—realise what a considerable extent—with lack of advertisement, but with none the less efficiency—the whole prison system of this country is being transformed. Every new advance in reformatory methods, many of them passed by this House in the last four years, some of them carried out by administrative action, has thrown an additional amount of work on the Prison Commissioners. I welcome the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that it is perhaps a more satisfactory method to meet the addition by an additional Prison Commissioner. I am quite willing to acknowledge, on behalf of the Home Office, that this is a transitory arrangement. I think we shall have to come to an additional Prison Commissioner. But for the present someone was needed to grapple with the administrative work thrown upon the Commission by these new Bills. How did Lard Glad- stone meet the difficulty? He appointed a man who is acknowledged to be fully competent to deal with this enormous business of administration, and at the same time, in addition, retained the experience, energy, devotion and enthusiasm of a retired prison commissioner. Anyone who knows Dr. Donkin knows that in the new work which he has been given he will give a good deal more than the mere monetary value. He has promised so to do, and he is now more free to give time to the medical work than he has been during the last ten years. What I want the House to realise is by this change we have a man who can give his whole time to the work. We have also got, in addition, during a time of transition, the same medical officer whom we have had, and who will be liberated entirely from administrative work in order to give full time to medical work. I think that was not a bad arrangement which we made in circumstances of some difficulty, and I think that the House will agree with me that Lord Gladstone in the circumstances did the right thing.


The hon. Member, who has just sat down, has said nothing that we were not told before. It is no use for him to quote the words of the late Sir Matthew White Ridley. These words embodied a policy which was pressed upon the House, but the House refrained from literally translating them into a statutory obligation; but a pledge was given which was regarded as morally if not in every other conceivable way binding upon future occupants of the office of Secretaryship of State. The hon. Gentleman said this is a transitory arrangement. He has got the service of a late Commissioner in consideration of his being a pensioned officer. He is a pensioned officer because he is supposed to be too old to fill the office of the present Commissioner, and the right hon. Gentleman has got at a specially cheap rate the services of a medical man for a limited time during which this arrangement is to run. What is the justification for this most abnormal and most irregular kind of proceeding? Lord Gladstone's claims upon the gratitude of the public—and it is not our business to deny them, it is in effect part of our case to admit them—are that by raising the standard he has increased the work. If that is the case for anything it is a case for increasing the number of Commissioners instead of making the undesirable arrangement which has been made. The number was restricted in 1898, among other reasons, because the House foresaw the irresistible tendency to appoint private secretaries to the post of Commissioners. I can remember well the Debates which occurred. The Members of the Nationalist party from Ireland took an active part in those Debates. It was not then merely a question of Suffragettes; it was a question of Salvationists. They were put on trial for obstructing the highway, and it was claimed that they should be treated as political prisoners. We have had recently the question of the danger of medical treatment of suffragette ladies who were sent to prison. Every one of these things has made it more necessary for the performance of that pledge, and that the House should be more vigilant in seeing it carried into execution.


I desire to associate myself with the protests which have been made, and to point out that there is involved in this question not merely a question of the wisdom or the propriety of this particular appointment, but a very grave question involving matters of the deepest importance with regard to the whole of our prison administration. I should like to invite the attention of the House to the arguments and statistics which were adduced by the right hon. Gentleman who now occupies the position of President of the Local Government Board in the Debate in 1898:— Referring to the necessity or desirability of having a medical expert amongst the Prison Commissioners, the Report distinctly says that one of them should be a medicalman, skilled in mental disease. With regard to that point many valuable suggestions were adduced by the right hon. Gentleman who is now President of the Local Government Board to which I should like to invite attention. The right hon. Gentleman said: — But why should a medical man be appointed? That is the argument to which I wish to address myself. What do we find, Sir? We find that insanity in the outside population is eight per 10,000. In 1875, the rate of insanity inside prisons was 113 per 10,000, as against eight per 10,000 amongst the ordinary population, and that increased to 226 per 10,000 in 1890, and in 1895 to 332 per 10,000 in prisons, as against eight per 10,000 outside. What does that indicate? It indicates that crime, certainly in its elementary stage, is more or less traceable to lunacy, to weakness of intellect, to defective education, and to bad environment. Who is better qualified to deal with all the ramifications of that disease—for such it is—which is germinating in our criminals than a, medical man who has made a special study of mental diseases? I desire to associate myself with those views, which I hold to be scientifically accurate and of the utmost importance from a public point of view. I strongly urge upon the Government that they should indeed regard this existing order of things as a very transitory one, and one which they will take the first opportunity of amending in the sense implied in this Report. As the President of the Local Government Board then pointed out— You have got to secure the square man for the square hole, and the round man for the round one, and that means that when crime is frequently the result of insanity, it is a matter rather for the skilled physician and the expert in mental diseases than for the mere drill-sergeant. I do not desire to apply the term "drill-sergeant" to any member of the Commissioners, but I merely quote the words given here. Once more I venture to accentuate to this House the extreme importance of the relationship which undoubtedly exists between insanity and crime, and I wish to point out that in dealing with this question on scientific grounds and on the grounds of broad humanity, it is of the utmost importance that you should, have, not merely outside medical advice, but that you should have an expert medical man associated with the administrative work of this all-important Department. Crime is held by many medical experts to be largely attributable to mental disease. This subject receives the greatest attention in all civilised countries, and I think we have arrived at a time in the history of this country when it behoves us to give rather more than less attention to this subject in order to secure expression to that view. There is not the least doubt that hon. Members who took part in the memorable Debate of 1898 came to an absolutely right conclusion, namely, that the one practical step to take was that there should be an expert medical man amongst the Commissioners.


I do not desire to take part in the discussion on this item. I was anxious to discuss another matter, but the opportunity has not yet arrived. As, however, the hon. Member who introduced this subject referred to myself in regard to the necessity of appointing a medical member on the Prisons Commission, I desire to say one word on that point. He said he thought it ought to be possible for a general agreement to be reached on this question of the necessity of a medical member being appointed on the Prisons Commission, irrespective of party consideration. I am afraid that the language held by the hon. Member, in introducing this matter to the consideration of this House, makes it somewhat difficult to dismiss party considerations altogether from the question; but, on the simple issue whether it is or is not desirable for a medical member to have a place on the Prisons Commission itself, and not merely in any advisory capacity, I should think that, as in 1898, there might have been a complete and general agreement, irrespective of party. I myself have had the honour of serving for about six years as a member of the Board of Advisers of Aylesbury Gaol. I came in contact with Dr. Donkin at that time in his capacity of a member of the Prisons Commission, and I felt it was useful that there was not only a medical officer of the gaol and a medical officer who came down to act for the Board, but that it was also useful that there should be a medical member of the Board itself co-operating in its quasi-legislative work, taking his part in its deliberations and in promulgating the regulations of the Board. I have had cause to come in contact with Mr. Waller, and I can say that he is an exceedingly capable administrator, but I hope there will also be placed on the Commission a medical member who will take his part on an equal footing and standing with the other members of the Commission. There is much greater reason to-day than in 1898 for the presence of such a member. That very year saw the parsing of the Inebriates Act, and, as the previous speaker intimated, the border line between the bad and the mad is exceedingly difficult to draw. The presence of a skilled medical expert is very necessary on the Board, and 1 hoped, when once the principle had been laid down, it would not he abandoned.

The earlier discussion dealt wholly with the question of primary, intermediate, and technical education, and perhaps the subject of Grants by the State for the purpose, of university colleges is a somewhat less attractive one, but I would desire to remand the House that the aid given by the State to university colleges has rapidly increased in amount. I think it was £15,000 when it was first granted in 1889, it was raised to £27,000, then to £54,000, and now as much as £100,000 is distributed annually to university colleges in England. The Treasury has called in to its aid to give it advice as to the manner of the distribution of this £100,000 an Advisory Committee, of which I have the honour to be a member, and of which Dr. Woods, the Master of the Temple, was until recently chairman. I regret, owing to ill health, he has found it necessary to resign his chairmanship. That Committee was invited by the Treasury to advise how State aid to university teaching could be most effectively organised and applied. It was not an easy task which confronted that Advisory Committee. There is, first of all, the difficult question of deciding what education may be regarded as of university rank, and how it is to be discriminated on the one hand from primary education and from professional and technical education on the other. Moreover, we have found that education of university rank is being subsidised by various Departments of the State, not only is there this grant of £100.000 for university colleges but there are various grants to different universities, present and prospective. There is also the grant for the training of teachers and the grant for technical education, and these and grants from the Colonial Office overlap one another in a very inchoate fashion. It would be very difficult to decide without sonic unifying body as to the whole amount given by the Treasury, and as to the fair and just distribution of the same. I understand that the Treasury have received an intimation from the university colleges urging an increase of the grant. It is manifestly exceedingly difficult for the Advisory Committee to suggest basic principles for the distribution of these State aids for higher education unless they know what is to be the amount of the Grant, or whether, irrespective of the amount of the Grant, there are to be laid down certain fundamental principles upon which the Grants for higher education as against primary and secondary education, shall in future take place. It will be necessary to merge together the separate grants which appear in the Estimates at the present time— the grants for universities and university colleges. That distinction has no value to-day, and it makes it more difficult to devise a just distribution so long as such artificial distinctions are drawn.

I should also like to call attention to the insufficient accommodation and the insufficient Treasury Grant for the University of London. That matter has, I believe, been postponed pending the Report of the Royal Commission now investigating the position of the University of London, and the Prime Minister only the other day told us he could not give an approximate date for the issue of that Report. I can assure the Treasury that great inconvenience is felt by the University at the failure to carry out the assurance that adequate accommodation would be provided for it at South Kensington at the expense of the State.


I cannot help thinking it is extremely unfortunate that no Division can be taken on the specific question of the appointment of a medical man on the Prisons Board. It is particularly unfortunate in view of the fact that in 1898, when the constitution of the Prisons Board was under consideration, there was a substantially unanimous opinion in this House that the appointment should be given to a medical man who should be in the position not of a mere medical adviser, but of one able to give effect to his own views. No special reasons whatever have been given why a medical man should not have been appointed in accordance with the minute drawn up at that time expressing the view of the Home Secretary of the day. As I understand it, the suggestion is that the general business of the Board has grown to such an extent that it is undesirable a medical man should be appointed, but that it is more desirable a person who is supposed to have general qualifications should be appointed to assist in the general work of administration. All I can say is that that introduces a very serious divergence from the point of view taken in 1898. It amounts to this, if this is to be adopted and applied, the appointment of the medical man on this Commission is to be permanently discarded. Therefore that element will not be retained which was on the former occasion regarded by everyone as being essential. Under these circumstances I cannot but hope that it will be found possible to appoint an additional Commissioner who should be a medical man. But in general it is recognised that mere medical advice will not be sufficient, and that what is wanted is a medical man in the position himself of a Commissioner, in order to import that authority and that experience which is essential in the management of prisons. I shall not further delay the House on this subject. I only wish there was time to say something on the subject of the university Grant, which is an interesting one for the House to discuss as well as being of interest to the universities concerned.


I wish to ask the hon. Baronet representing the Board of Agriculture whether he can take some further steps with regard to the traffic in decrepit horses. The Board of Agriculture have taken some steps to obviate the traffic in these horses, but, unfortunately, the steps which they have taken, although I do not say they are not steps in the right direction, have not been sufficiently powerful to prevent the traffic continuing. I understand that a few days ago the Board of Agriculture made a new regulation, which would have the effect of putting some sort of discretion in the local authority to have horses examined.


That is not the order. It is to the effect that the local authority is to be notified of all horses which are being sent abroad to the Netherlands and to Belgium, and the local authority then have power, if they choose, to have a horse examined, and in any case a horse cannot be exported except on the permit of the local authority. It is stronger.


That is stronger, but I do not think it goes far enough. The local authority has a large business in hand and cannot always be depended upon to incur the expenditure which is necessary to be incurred in these matters. The only way to stop it would be to put a small duty of £3 or £4 on each horse, which would bring in a revenue, and such proposal would be supported by myself and by hon. Members on this side of the House. The time is so short that I cannot expect a reply from the hon. Gentleman, but I would appeal to him because of his great kindheartedness to assist those of us who are desirous of seeing this matter put an end to.

Resolution agreed to.