§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Mr. ARTHUR LEE
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who has now technically taken charge of this Bill, wishes to reserve his remarks until a later stage in the Debate. Therefore it falls upon me, as the one formerly responsible for the Bill, to make the few remarks on this Motion. I desire, in the first place, to express the gratitude which the promoters feel to the Government for having decided to take up the Bill, and to give it facilities without which it would have been quite hopeless to suppose it would have passed into law during the present Session. I cannot help thinking that it is far better that this Bill should become a Government measure. It deals with amendments to the existing law; and without wishing to introduce the note of party, I cannot help feeling that it would be a more useful and beneficent measure than some others of more imposing title which at present ornaments the Government programme. At any rate, the Bill commands the support, and I believe the enthusiastic support, of all parties in this House. Before, however, I come to the actual subject-matter of the Bill itself, I feel bound to make a very brief reply to certain strictures which were passed 572 upon me, the sponsor of the Bill, by the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth), I believe on Thursday night. It is quite true that I have not attended here constantly during the present Session to move the reading of this Bill at the adjournment of the House, but I can assure hon. Members generally that it has not been through any lack of interest on my part.
Whilst I have no right to intrude my private affairs in the public business, I will ask Members of the House to believe that it would have been far easier for me to have resigned my political career altogether than to have been present here during the last two months. I can assure the hon. Gentleman, and any of those who may have felt inclined to criticise my action in this matter, that neither I nor any of the promoters of the Bill feel any lack of enthusiasm for it. The point I wish to urge is that there are different methods by which enthusiasm can be shown. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract, no doubt, thinks that the true test of enthusiasm would have been for either I or some other promoter to have attended here night after night in order to move the Second Reading of the Bill, and to have the pleasure of making appeals ad misericordiam perpetually, and to suffer the humiliation of hearing those appeals rejected, not only curtly, but even with contempt, as they have been by the hon. Member and by the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury), who sits behind me.
§ Mr. LEE
I am not responsible for the hundred times. I have moved it many times myself, and I have been met by a curt refusal. However gratifying that method of procedure of trying to wear-down an hon. Member and of blocking his Bill may be to hon. Gentlemen who love power in these matters, at any rate it would have done no good to the Bill itself.
§ Mr. LEE
I am not referring to the hon. Gentleman only, but there are certain Members in this House who were determined that this Bill, no doubt for a sufficient reason, should not secure a Second Reading by consent, and those of us who 573 realised that devoted our energies to trying to achieve our end by other means. We have, I venture to say, achieved a certain measure of success as indicated by the position of the Bill to-day. We have endeavoured to mobilise and to make vocal that body of public opinion, both inside and outside this House, which exists in favour of this Bill. I think that our method of procedure has been amply justified. I only say that in answer to the criticism which was passed in the course of the short discussion on Thursday night. But I realise that this is not the occasion on which the details of the Bill should be closely discussed. That will be done in Committee upstairs. It is necessary for me, as one who has assumed responsibility for the Bill, at any rate during the present Session, to say something about its main object—
§ Mr. LEE
And its principles, and to dispel, if I can, any legitimate apprehension which may be felt in regard to its effect on what is called "the liberty of the subject." First of all, in regard to its title. I believe that certain objections were raised by the hon. Baronet behind me as to the title of the Bill.
§ Mr. LEE
I do not wish to bandy words with the hon. Baronet, but the title as printed on the Bill. His chief objection appeared to be that the use of the words "White Slave Traffic" in the Bill had had the great disadvantage of having attracted a good deal of popular attention. He will forgive me for saying that I think that is one of the great merits of the title. I think it is very important that popular attention should be directed to the matter. The title is not misleading. At any rate, that objection comes very badly from a good party man like my hon. Friend, who I am sure would not hesitate to use any title for a Bill which he thought would either assist his own side or act to the detriment of his opponents. I go further, and say that I think the title as printed is accurate. In the first place, the Bill deals with certain amendments to the existing criminal law. It is, therefore, a criminal law amendment Bill. It also hits, and as I hope, hits hard at certain most objectionable individuals who are engaged in the white slave traffic. I think the title of the Bill therefore is fully justi- 574 fied. I think the hon. Baronet, if prepared to pursue the point, will find it very difficult to show that the title is, as he calls it, a sham title.
That, however, is of very little importance. What is of importance is what the Bill actually attempts to do. Let me start by saying the Bill does not attempt the impossible. The Bill does not certainly attempt anything so foolish as to attempt to abolish prostitution altogether. I do not suppose it is possible for any Bill to make the people of this country moral by Act of Parliament. The promoters are determined, if possible, to save the unwilling victims and prevent the white slave-market from being supplied by violence, by fraud, or by hideous forms of cruelty. Against whom, after all, is this Bill directed? It is certainly not directed, or intended to be directed, against the unfortunate women who are the victims of commercialised vice. I have no wish to add to the miseries of their lot. They are sufficiently hard as the world goes. I certainly wish to take no steps to harry them by first of all chasing them off the streets into the houses, and then chasing them out of the houses into the streets again, or anything of the kind. As a matter of fact, I do not think there is any provision in the Bill which really will affect prostitutes at all. The Bill aims only at those sinister creatures who batten upon commercialised vice, and who make a profitable business out of kidnapping, decoying, and ruining, and subsequently turning into prostitutes unwilling girls. These are the people at whom the Bill aims, and they are also the people at whom the original Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 aimed, namely, procurers, keepers, "ponces"—as they are called—and bullies. It aims at those people who unfortunately under the existing law are able to evade responsibility through certain gaps and loopholes through which those who are both cautious and cunning can nearly always escape. The object of this Bill is to close up those loopholes. It introduces no new principle of any kind, and it only ensures that the previously declared will of Parliament, as expressed in the Criminal Amendment Act of 1885, is made really effective.
The need of this amendment of the existing Act is, I believe, established beyond all question. Expert opinion is unanimous upon that point. This Bill represents not the ideas of a few enthusiasts, but the considered demand of practically all important societies engaged in 575 the suppression of this traffic. It represents the considered demand of the Home Office, that has to administer the law, and of the police, who have to enforce it, and, after making the most careful inquiries I can in every direction, I have come to the conclusion that without the amendment of the law suggested in this Bill, the police are really powerless to deal with the worst and most habitual offenders in connection with this white slave traffic. I know perfectly well the objection will be made in the course of this Debate that it is dangerous to entrust the police with such exceptional powers, and particularly the powers given in Clause 1 of the Bill. Personally, I do not share that view; at any rate, I am convinced of this, that far greater evils to the community accrue from the withholding of those powers than can possibly result to the community from the granting of those powers in view of the existing situation. Clause 1 gives power to the police to arrest without warrant in the case of certain offences. That is not a new power. It exists under many of our laws of the present day, and in connection with offences which, comparatively speaking, are entirely trivial. Let us consider for a moment what these are. The police are empowered now to arrest without warrant any person they suspect of being about to commit a burglary. They can arrest without warrant people who commit petty larceny, and persons guilty of offences of obscenity. That is to say, people who are either selling obscene publications in the streets, using obscene language in the streets, singing obscene songs, or writing up obscene words. The power of arrest without warrant is given by the existing laws to gamekeepers against persons whom they suspect of the intention of trapping pheasants or rabbits. Power is given under the existing law for any private person to arrest any individual who is guilty of cheating at cards.
§ Mr. LEE
I dealt with that in connection with burglaries, and I am only showing by actual illustration that the power of arrest without warrant does not introduce a new principle, but that the principle exists under many Acts of our existing legislation. If these powers already exist in regard to such cases as I have mentioned, surely the liberty of the subject in this 576 country is not going to be endangered by empowering the police to arrest, or, what is really wanted, empowering the police to detain for the purpose of inquiry notorious procurers, "ponces," and bullies, and who, owing to the absence of this power, are in nearly all cases enabled to escape. Surely if we are dealing with personal liberty, the personal liberty of these unfortunate girls, who are the daughters of our own people, is more important than a man's property in pheasants and rabbits, or than such matters as gambling or the use of light language in the street, and it is against persons guilty of that offence against those young girls that these powers are directed. There is no likelihood of the police abusing these powers. Personally, I would wish that the Bill went further in this respect, and that these offences committed by procurers, "ponces," and bullies should be made felonies instead of misdemeanours. It would not then be necessary to use the particular form of words in Clause 1, because that power would be implied and would, I think, be exercised with perfect safety to the liberty of the subject.
It has been suggested, and, no doubt, it will be suggested again to-day, that the police would be likely to abuse these powers and that they would lead in some mysterious way to the corruption of the force. I think that fear is entirely unjustifiable, and I think it is an unfair reflection upon the most honest and humane police force in the world. After making the most careful investigation I can, I believe that the detestation of this white slave traffic is absolutely universal throughout the police force, and I do not believe there is a single man in the force who could be bribed to co-operate with those taking part in this vile trade. Without Clause 1 of the Bill the police are really helpless to intervene in regard to the worst and most habitual offenders. After all, I ask the House to remember this: we are not dealing with cases where girls are seized forcibly and carried off. The case is a very different one from that. We have to deal with the situation where the girls are carried off not by force, but by pledges and hopes which are held out to them of being married, by promises of excitement and travel, and things of that kind, and by promises of happiness and comfort and possibly wealthy existences in another country. It is a gradual process of capture, and one which by its very nature makes it almost impossible for the police 577 to see exactly the moment at which an indictable offence is committed. When I come to the legislative points of the Bill I will show how it works. At present I do not wish to dwell unduly upon the details of the measure. I will only say this, that in my opinion the most important Clauses are Clause 1, Clause 2, and the second portion of Clause 4, that is Clause 4 (b), because these Clauses aim specially at the class of scoundrels to which I have already referred, the procurers, the "ponces," and the bullies.
I am not responsible for the drafting of the Bill, which has been in existence for some time. If I were to make a criticism at this stage it would be that for the particular class of offenders with which the Bill deals it does not go far enough, particularly in regard to the extent of the punishment possible. I believe the Bill is too lenient in regard to these particular offenders. With regard to the remainder of the Clauses in the Bill, they are designed mainly to remedy the defects in the case of the Criminal Amendment Act of 1885. They are aimed mainly at brothel keepers and that class of landlord who knowingly and deliberately, and after the matter has been brought to their notice, continue and persist in continuing in profiting by the proceeds of prostitution. I admit that these Clauses require very careful examination in Committee, and no doubt they will receive it. They can be amended where necessary, and no doubt will be amended if necessary, so that no innocent person will be adversely affected "by the provisions of this Bill. In connection with these Clauses I am quite prepared to have it said that the evils of brothels in their worst form are not so common in this country as abroad. I do not think they are, and I further admit that the particular phase of the white slave traffic in which girls are kidnapped and detained, either by violence or promises or devices of that kind, is not so prevalent in this country as in many others.
On the other hand I am afraid it is none the less true that the United Kingdom, and particularly England, is increasingly becoming a clearing-house and depot and dispatch centre of the white slave traffic, and the headquarters of the foreign agents engaged in the most expensive and lucrative phase of the business. That state of affairs is well known to all who have to administer the law, and I venture to say it is a standing reproach to our national 578 honour. I am afraid without the powers contained in Clause 1 it would be impossible to interfere with effect. If necessary I could give many actual cases brought to my notice, and I hope to do so if this Bill goes to Committee showing how these foreign agents of the international white slave traffic are enabled to use this country of ours as a clearing-house for the dispatch of their marketable goods to South America and other countries. I know our time in this Debate is limited and I do not wish to take up more than my share in view of the fact that many other Members want to speak, but I do appeal to the House to afford a Second Reading to this Bill this afternoon, in order that it may be sent upstairs to a Committee where all reasonable objections may be raised, and every detail of the Bill threshed out. The promoters are willing and anxious to continue any Amendment which, whilst carrying into effect the main object of the Bill, may at the same time safeguard any innocent persons from illtreatment or injustice under any of its provisions. I feel very strongly as an opponent of Women's Suffrage that we men are under a special obligation to pay heed to the appeal made to us as men by the united voice of women on behalf of the most miserable and unfortunate of their sex. In my judgment the attitude of the anti-suffragists would be inexcusable, and its position untenable if it could be said, and said truly, that men were callous to the sufferings of women, and not willing to accord them even an elementary measure of protection. That commercialised vice—I distinguish this from mere prostitution—flourishes as a widespread and profitable business in the midst of our civilisation I do not think can be denied, and it flourishes only because there is a demand for it; and let us not forget that that demand comes solely from men. Therefore, speaking here as men, we must realise that there is a heavy responsibility upon us in this matter. Whilst, of course, it is not in our power by means of legislation to abolish prostitution, a profession which is as old and as enduring as the world, it is, I believe, in our power—and it is certainly our duty, if it is in our power—to see that that profession is not recruited by violence, by force, and by cruelty so unspeakable that no one who contemplates it can feel anything but passionate resentment, and a stern resolve to see that this blot on our national honour is removed at the earliest opportunity.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I think the Bill before the House is wrongly titled. It is quite true that the hon. Gentleman's speech dealt very largely with the white slave traffic, but I think the House became painfully aware as he proceeded with his speech that the Clauses of this Bill had very little connection with this international traffic in commercialised vice. There was one assertion made by the hon. Member, and I regret that an assertion of that nature should have been made in this House. It dealt with the subject which to me seems to be more in the minds of the framers of this Bill than the traffic in innocent girls. I regret that it should go forth from one of the Front Benches in this House that the profession of prostitution is as old as the world, and as enduring. I should have thought students of sociology, and those who have taken advantage of the researches of eminent scientists, would have been aware that the state of things complained of largely results from crowded communities in cities, and is not the natural state of the human race. Without attempting to dwell too long upon an unpleasant subject, I must say that I join issue with such a pronouncement as that, and with a great deal of what is enshrined in that assertion. This Bill, so far as it deals with the great question of sexual immorality, is of little importance. As a student of this subject for a great portion of my life, honestly I say that I think the House would be wrong to imagine that it will be accomplishing much in this direction by this legislation. I say quite frankly that the Insurance Act, about which there is so much controversy, will do a thousand times more to prevent immorality and prostitution than the Bill which is now before the House—I refer more to the provision made for domestic servants who come happily within the scope of the Insurance Act, which takes care of them during sickness, so that they shall not be tempted by extreme poverty after their illness to earn money by this deplorable means to buy clothes before they can get a new situation.
I am not one of those who believe so much in compulsory good conduct. I am too sad when I think upon the subject to be able to imagine that by the passing of a few pages of legislation we can materially affect the destiny of the human race. We ought not to proceed upon the idea that girls go into this life through being decoyed and deceived. The evils enshrined in this question of the abuse of 580 sexual instincts cannot be put right by a puny Bill of this description. I regret to say that in one grave measure this Bill is heading in a wrong direction. I want to appeal to this House, and to all friends of morality and all teachers of the young, so far as my voice can carry, not to depend upon Acts of Parliament and the Police Courts in endeavouring to save the youth, both male and female, of our native land. Whenever the responsibility for the morality or chastity of a young girl is taken away from the mother and afterwards from the school teacher and reposed in the policeman on the beat, I have very little faith in the progress of my own land. I consider the real responsibility of the grave evils with which we are now faced arises in a large measure from the ignorance of those youthful people, an ignorance which has been encouraged by the prudery of the older people. I know how difficult it is to get consent for a woman doctor to enter our secondary schools; I know how difficult it is to get public authorities to employ a woman doctor to teach sexual hygiene. There is a movement among some education reformers to limit the teaching in the schools entirely to single women. There is an opposition from the ranks of the teachers themselves against the employment of married women teachers.
What hope can there be for a real guidance of the young girls and women of this country when their teachers are entirely prudish old maids? I claim that if we were to give a little more attention to the enlightenment of the young we should be doing far more good to restrain them in after-life than by increasing the powers of the police. What do you teach girls at the schools now? I am sorry to say that in most homes, as well as in most schools, there is almost a deadly silence upon this all-important problem, and I think that is largely the cause of the deplorable state of things around us. You teach a girl how to get to Timbuctoo, but you do not teach her how to avoid Piccadilly Circus. I ask whether there is not the gravest responsibility in leaving these young people in entire ignorance of their natural functions; and the awful punishment which attends any abuse of their own bodies. I think it is necessary for me to briefly draw the attention of the House to the evil that is to be met and show while there is some good in the Bill it will require great amendment in certain particulars; and even then it will only relieve the fringe of this great problem. What 581 are the evils that are troubling us at the present time? In my opinion this international traffic and commercialised vice as it has been called largely exists in novels and is a figment of the imagination, so far as it applies to this country. I am not prepared to admit that London is the centre of an international traffic of this kind, because that has never been proved. If it is true, it is the greatest reflection upon previous legislation, and upon the present administrative authorities, that can possibly be uttered. I do not think so badly of past laws and the administration of the police force as some hon. Members who are prepared to believe that this vice exists in all its enormity. My view is that this traffic exists and flourishes in proportion to police and State regulations of the vice.
I regret that the hon. Member in charge of this Bill did not think it right even to mention the all-important subject of the State regulation of vice. If there is one conclusion more than another which can be drawn on this question, it is that in proportion as the State and the police interfere to regulate immoral traffic, so is this unspeakable merchandise promoted. I have no hesitation in saying that the headquarters of this traffic are not in London, never have been in London, and are not likely ever to be in London. If the hon. Member opposite thinks they are in London, if he were in charge of Scotland Yard for a week I am sure he would soon alter that condition. What are the painful facts in regard to the evil which this Bill only touches very lightly? There are thousands of people being accosted in London every night, and that is illegal. There are thousands of disorderly houses in this city, and they are illegal institutions. If our administration has been perfect in the past how do you explain these breaches of the law which are occurring every day in this great city, and will occur to-night? You have in London couples, and very often young couples, or mere boys and girls, waiting in queues in order to gain entrance to disorderly houses on the South side of London, and pay a shilling for the use of those rooms. Let us look facts in the face. That is illegal, and why is it going on? Will new legislation put that down? Certain thoroughfares are given up nightly to street-walking and solicitation in many of our great cities. In certain streets respectable people are warned not to take houses because there are so many disorderly premises. We have our parks as night approaches very largely occupied, I regret to 582 say, in the practice of unnatural vice. Youthful immorality in England, I regret to say, is in my opinion on the increase, and so is juvenile immorality, in spite of the Children Act. What is the meaning of all this? You have hundreds of wealthy men prowling about in the West of London, in Bond Street and Regent Street, all day, endeavouring to attract the attention of women shopping. Are you aware of the great spread of venereal disease among shopgirls and others, who only go quite casually and indulge in this dreadful way of earning money? Are you aware that is one of the most serious things that confronts the doctors in hospitals at the present time? Do you really know what takes place on the sands of the seashore at our resorts or in Epping Forest on Bank holidays? I mention this in order to let the House realise the tragedy of the position. We cannot save the human family, and particularly the boys and girls who are dear to us, merely by increasing the powers of the police constables and then thinking we have done our duty. When you come to look at these great evils, and then examine the Bill before the House, good though it is in its intentions and beneficial no doubt in one or two of its Clauses, it does seem to me a lame conclusion of the whole matter.
I have ventured to place an Amendment on the Paper to indicate my view. I put it down at a time when no facilities were given to the Bill. I wish to give some idea of what was in my mind. It was not hostility to any legislation designed to catch the bullies or to protect the young and innocent. I make that suggestion to the House. I appeal to the hon. Gentleman who presented this case with a sincerity and with an ability which I am very pleased to recognise—and which I am sure the House is—upon this point. It does not seem to me that we can get very far without more evidence. When the late W. T. Stead passed his Bill he did it after a great agitation. He made researches himself with regard to the depths of iniquity in modern Babylon, and published the result. The same thing preceded the repeal of another Act, at instance of that woman of priceless value, Mrs. Josephine Butler. We have had twenty-seven years pass since the passing of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885. What is the situation, and why is it so unsatisfactory? It seems to me our first duty is to collect information, ascertain the facts, go into the question thoroughly, and in a more drastic 583 way than we do by this Bill, and get our evidence. Then next Session we shall be able to come to the House with a Bill that of its own right will command entry to the House and a passage through it. That is my view. I think the cause of social purity and the protection of young women would be greater served by this searching inquiry which I now advocate. The Bill in its first Clause deals with the question of the traffic. I have only one objection to that, and it is my principal objection to the Bill. That is the increase of the power of the police. Clauses 2 and 3 do not deal with what is known as the white slave traffic at all, but with the general question of brothels. I have no desire to go into that question at all. It does, however, seem to me a new thing to introduce evidence of a previous conviction in the way that is done by Clause 2. I think it is a little more dangerous upon this question than upon any other. Still, it is one of those questions that can be discussed in Committee, and, if a case can be made out, I will waive my objection to it, though probably the lawyers in the House will have something more to say.
With regard to Clause 3, Sub-section (2), there is, of course, a very severe punishment which might, I think, occasionally fall upon an innocent landlord. I mean the landlord of a house, and not the ground landlord. I quite admit there is no desire on the part of the promoters to inflict any hardships upon an innocent owner of property, and again, I say, it is purely a question for the Committee. I have every confidence, however the Committee is constituted, that it will be put right. When we come to Clause 4, I join issue with the promoters of the Bill upon somewhat the same lines as the hon. Gentleman himself did. Paragraph (b) is absolutely futile. I would make that very much stronger. I do not think this will alter the situation with regard to dealing with these foreign bullies at all. I do not know whether the promoters have taken the trouble to ask the magistrates and those who administer the law why so many of these dreadful exploiters of women's vicious practices escape. As far as I can learn, it is because of the decisions of certain London magistrates, who will not send a case forward unless the woman herself gives evidence. I had hoped when I read the Bill, to find that it would meet the difficulty which has arisen. I am not in a position to say whether these stipendiary magistrates are justified or 584 not. I am not a lawyer, and would not for a moment challenge their fairness or their knowledge of the law, but I understand that is the difficulty. It is quite plain the woman herself is almost the last person that can be got to give evidence. Even if she had a passionate desire for liberty and to shake herself free from the shackles of this beast and rushed to the Court to seek protection, then what happened? Almost invariably she withdraws the case, because the neighbouring bullies, men who are left free, but who are in the same gang with the scoundrel locked up, threaten to spoil her face, I am not quite sure whether, in Committee, that could be put right. I say candidly that is the way, to my mind, reform of the law is needed. While expressing entire sympathy with the idea of dealing with this rascality, I am not quite sure if you deal courageously with these terrible creatures. The very fact that there are these bullies, who want girls to steal money, watches, and chains, and make exorbitant demands, prevents or disinclines many men from seeking the society of these girls and preying upon them. It is a sad reflection, I admit; but surely we must look at the thing all round. If we remove some of the horrors that surround this vicious traffic, we may imprison rascals who deserve the lash, but if we stop there we shall have done very little to improve the morals of the community.
It was a matter of some astonishment to me to find that many Members who are supporters of this Bill were actually supporters of another Bill introduced in this House to lessen the penalties against procurers and bullies. When I examined these Bills last Session, I took about six of them and went through them. They seemed to me to be a kind of common bundle. This was called the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, and another had a similar title. I found some of the same Members supporting both, this introduced with an idea of increasing the punishment, and the other Bill introduced to lessen the punishment and to do away with the lash. I want to be quite sure that we know where we are going. There are some Members who came to me to see if it was possible I had the remotest sympathy with this horrible business, but I found they were against using the lash. I am in favour of it. Yet some of these Members who want to abolish the use of the lash on these criminals were suggesting they were really more anxious than I to increase the penalty. There is only one sentence in 585 the first Clause dealing with police regulations, and, if that one sentence had been taken out, I think my view of the Bill would have been entirely different. I would suggest to the promoters, in the first place, that it will not accomplish what they want, and, secondly, that it may contribute to the evil which we all deplore. I do not thing the Bill as it stands will suppress the white slave traffic. My view is this. If we are seriously determined as a House to grapple with this problem, we must get special officers. They may be police officers or they may not, but we must have specially trained, reliable officers, married men, men of experience and great integrity, men of character, and men with high salaries. They must be men very well paid and of the soundest judgment to defeat the machinations and intentions of those engaged in this traffic. You have clever and unscrupulous villains against you, and we want the best brains we can find to checkmate them and to vanquish them. You will not do that by a general power given to every police constable.
We are not giving the police constable power merely to arrest villains and offenders. If he thinks a person is about to commit an offence, he can arrest him without a warrant. I cannot therefore see that anybody is quite safe unless the individual is personally known to the policeman whose mind is dwelling upon the subject. I am not here to make an attack upon the police, and particularly the police of London. I am inclined to the view that if you were to take the whole of the police force of London and change them for another set of men you would be worse off, no matter from where you picked them. I say quite straightly that if we are to have the police I would sooner have the present contingent we know, and who have been proved to be true and loyal in such large numbers, than any other set of men; but I want to ask whether any constable, even the latest recruit to the police ranks, is to have such general and wide powers? Do the police never make mistakes? What was the evidence with regard to the police mistakes before the Acts were repealed for the State regulation of vice? I have been favoured with a document given to me personally by a member of the Royal Commission. There are not many alive now, but a member who sat on that Commission came and gave me this document, which is now, as the House may see, venerable with age. What was 586 the controversy then between this member of the Royal Commission which sat to consider the State regulation of vice and the Assistant Commissioner of Police, who is largely responsible for its administration? It was because of cases of mistake and corruption on the part of the police. Mrs. Josephine Butler, with that marvellous power of persuasion which is given to very few people, and is given mainly to women, in pleading the cause of her sex, went from town to town and village to village making speeches in which she mentioned pitiable instances of those who suffered from police action. This House will remember the case of a girl wrongly served with a summons for degrading personal inspection by a doctor to see whether she was fit for the service of wicked men—a girl who, rather than answer the summons, jumped into the dock at Devonport and drowned herself. That was the case of an innocent girl living with her employer and his wife.
I do not wish to bring any personal charges against individuals. It is the system we have to deal with. Everybody makes mistakes, and how can a policeman tell one woman from another woman, or one girl from another girl. If we had specially trained men these mistakes might be avoided, and I ask the House, in the interest of the police, not to employ them too fully in this degrading occupation of regulating vice. The controversy to which I am referring was in regard to mistakes which were frequently made, and I am merely mentioning it in order to show the extent to which this curse of examination had been pursued. I ask hon. Members only to read the daily papers of the last few days. There was the case of an innocent woman who, by mistake, was put into dock at a certain police court and charged with being drunk and disorderly. The policeman swore that she was the right woman. She herself was very nervous and quite unable to put forward her case, and it was only when the guilty woman turned up half an hour afterwards that she was released.
§ Mr. BOOTH
Yes, I meant to say that she was convicted, and the magistrate, in ordering her release, said he was sorry for the inconvenience to which she had been subjected. When I read those words I carefully refrained from looking to see who was the police magistrate, so that I 587 might not remember his name. But it was a disgraceful thing that the woman should have been treated in this way, because she is liable in years to come to have thrown in her face, by unscrupulous people, the fact that she was once convicted of being drunk and disorderly. I do not think that the constable was guilty of wilful carelessness. It was a case undoubtedly of a pure mistake. But what a terrible mistake as far as the woman, herself was concerned! There was a case in last Saturday's Courts, a case in which a chauffeur, a tee-totaller, who, after he had been in a collision enough to shake anyone's nerves, was charged by the police-constable, whose evidence was supported by the police-sergeant at the station, with being drunk, and it was only through the intervention of a trained nurse, who said that the man was not suffering from drink at all that he was freed from the charge. I say that, in view of this possibility of mistakes, we ought to be very careful. If we pass hasty legislation and a few mistakes of this kind are made there will be such an uprising of public sentiment that even the good parts of the Bill will be destroyed.
I wish to draw attention to the case which has been made out by the "Spectator." I say all honour to the "Spectator" for the action it has taken. I consider that the editor has done a noble duty in publishing the articles which have appeared. On 1st June he printed a remarkable review of a book by Miss Adams. Miss Adams lived in Chicago, the city from which a great evangelist came over here in order to convert benighted England. She gives such a picture of that city as should case us to pause, when we come to consider the question of the State regulation of vice, which, in my opinion, is wrapt up in the questions embodied in this Bill. Her conclusion is that nothing affords better political material than the regulation of commercial life and the very existence of a segregated district under police regulation means that the existing laws are nullified or rendered totally inoperative, while police regulation involves police and municipal blackmail. I am not here to compare the London police with the police of Chicago. But we cannot forget that they speak the same language in the United States as we do. We cannot forget that that great country was founded by religious men, who went out in the "Mayflower," and who could not have had the remotest idea that, in course of time, 588 there would rise such a terrible blot on civilisation as Chicago has become. I want the House to reflect on what it is doing.
This brings me to ask for certain assurances, both from the promoters of the Bill and from the Government; and if I receive satisfactory assurances on two points, which I will name, I think I may be able to welcome the Second Reading of this measure. First, I want to know is there in the mind of the promoters or in the mind of the Government any tendency whatever to go back on the decision of the nation to be free from the horrors of the State regulation of vice.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I am glad to hear that. But I must say that some gentlemen who have thought fit to interview me, and have endeavoured to persuade me to give my support to this Bill have been active advocates of the hideous system of the State regulation of vice. I know that the hon. Gentleman and his Friends are against it, but in the appeal there is something which rather astonished me. It is a strong appeal from Scotland Yard and from Parliament Street, and we are asked to pass this Bill as a memorial to the late Mr. W. T. Stead. Now we cannot forget that Mr. Stead was frequently in controversy with the people at Scotland Yard. Then, again, we find the doctors recommending the Bill on the ground that it is necessary for the health of the people. We are also informed that it must be followed by further legislation. I think I am entitled to ask both from the promoters and from the Government, with their full knowledge of those who administer the laws, whether this will have to be followed by further legislation in the direction I have indicated? When the Home Secretary replies we are, I would suggest, entitled to a definite pronouncement on this important subject.
Secondly, I wish to ask, will the police clause, if I may so term Clause 1, be open for free discussion and reasonable amendment. I am not asking that a place shall be given, but that it shall be altered. If in the discussion in Committee a proper case can be made out for these extreme powers—I cannot at present conceive it possible—the arguments advanced will have full weight given to them. But I should like to know whether the Government, in the Committee, will invite contributions from such Members as have studied the subject, and if they will support the 589 hon. Member in his efforts to free the Clause from any possibility of doing damage to innocent persons. I may say that any effort to amend the law with a view to letting ruffians escape will be as strongly opposed by myself as by the promoters of the Bill. In conclusion, I would again repeat my desire for a much larger measure which could have been brought forward after evidence had been tendered and given. It is true, as the hon. Gentleman says, the problem is an old one. It may not have existed from the foundation of the world, but it certainly has existed for thousands of years. I have often wondered whether any statesman in or our of office would ever be so bold as to offer candid advice to his countrymen and countrywomen on this topic. I am sure that many questions dealt with by Parliament are not half as important as this; but a solution will not be found by legislation. We might free our country from villainy to a certain extent, but when we come to the large questions of prostitution and sexual immorality, they cannot be dealt with merely by legislation. It would be a sorry thing if we relaxed our personal efforts' to get rid of this evil simply because Parliament passed an Act giving a little more power to the police constable. We can learn a great deal from history; but I will not trouble the House with that. I consider that the speech of the hon. Gentleman justifies the claim some of us have made that this Bill is too important to be passed without a word of discussion. The dangers involved in it are too grave for us to be content with passing it after eleven o'clock at night. I appeal to social reformers and students of morality not to be too pessimistic. I have great faith in knowledge and education, as well as in human nature, if we are only candid enough to tell our young people what are the great facts of life. I believe it is to the spread of education that we must look for improvement in the matter of this social evil, and I believe that liberty and enlightenment will dispel these horrors much in the same way as glorious sunshine dispels microbes.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
As one who is very earnest in the desire to get this Bill passed, I would like to register my sympathy with everything that has fallen from my hon. Friend in introducing the measure, and I should like to express my hope that the House will be able to send it to a Committee without a Division. 590 But I desire first to refer to the short debate which arose on a Motion for Adjournment last Friday. In the course of it the hon. Member for Pontefract, who has just spoken, suggested that there was an attempt to rush the Bill through, and he made statements which, if accepted, would be very damaging to Members in this House and in the country. He said that there had been no definite effort made to pass the Bill; that there had been no real demand for its second reading, and that night after night no Member had taken the trouble to move it. He also denied a statement that such a Motion had been made a hundred times only to be met with the cry, "I object." I was the Member responsible for this statement that it had been moved a hundred times. I will not pretend it was precisely a hundred times, but I do state that, during the two Sessions the Bill stood in my name, I was here night after night, and that it was not far short of a hundred times that I, or some other hon. Member whose name was on the back of the Bill, moved the Second Reading only to have the Motion thus curtly received and dealt with. I would appeal to the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) whether, on scores of occasions, he did not object when I moved the Second Reading. It is only fair that it should be stated that the matter was pressed in this House until we discovered that by no ordinary means of general assent could we obtain a Second Reading, and in that way we have been forced to carry on an even more earnest and ardent campaign in the country than has been done during the last twenty years. I turn to the campaign outside the House. There has been a strong and ardent campaign there, carried on with the support of all the religious denominations throughout the United Kingdom. We have had the whole of that sex most deeply affected behind us, and we felt that the time had come when the Government could, with the support they had behind them in the country, give a day, or part of a day, to the discussion of a measure which for so long has been necessary, and which in my opinion has been very long delayed. There is not a Member in this House who has not had a large number of requests and letters sent to him by various sections of the community and by societies asking him to support this measure. I think it was necessary to let it be seen that those interested in this Bill for many years past 591 have worked in order to bring it about that the House, whatever views they may have upon it, should give adequate discussion to the measure, whether they believed it to be good or bad. This is a Bill which has been approved by the Home Office under Conservative and Liberal Administrations.
I am not going to deal with the terms of the Bill itself; they have been very adequately dealt with by the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee), and I hope I shall have an opportunity, if the House permits the Bill to go to a Committee, of dealing with, it in detail as one who has taken a deep interest in it from the beginning. I would ask the House not to be so far influenced as to prevent the Bill being read a second time because of the criticisms that have been made against it. I do not doubt that the criticisms of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Booth) have been entirely sincere. Many of them are germane. Nevertheless, I think that in this Debate they were considerably ill-placed. We do not pretend that this Bill is the last word in this type of legislation. Obviously if revision could not take place in a Bill, and if all Bills presented to the House for discussions were perfect in their drafting, then the value of the House of Commons as a debating assembly would be gone. My hon. Friend referred to the fact that there was leniency in Clause 4. I can only tell him this, that we have had great difficulty in meeting the warring factions in promoting this Bill. It would not be possible for anybody to present a Bill entirely acceptable to every Member of the House, prior to its discussion in Committee by the Members themselves. There is a fear that innocent persons may be touched by some of the Clauses of the Bill. I can only speak for the view of the promoters, and say that if any Amendment had been brought forward in Committee it would have been most favourably considered, because we, above all others, would have been most desirous to see that the innocent were not mixed up with the guilty.
There are two further observations I wish to make. The first is, that I noticed in a speech of the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) on Friday last, that he made some reference to the fact that my hon. Friend who is backing this Bill has not promoted it with very great strength in the House. My 592 hon. Friend has defended himself very adequately, and does not require my defence, but I notice that the Noble Lord the Member for Chorley (Lord Balcarres) did speak in his defence for what the hon. Member described as lack of enthusiasm. I should like to associate myself with the Noble Lord, but in rather a contradictory fashion, because I say the hon. Member for Fareham has, if I may say so, worked like a Trojan in this matter. Not only has everything he has done been praiseworthy, but he has got other people to work, and it is owing to his enthusiasm that we have obtained the success of getting the Second Reading of this measure debated to-day. My second observation is, that we are not all very friendly at the present moment with the Home Secretary: We on this side of the House have a very big bone to pick with him. Some of us think he has done things that he ought not to have done, and that he has left undone things that he ought to have done. I am grateful to him that he should thus early in the tenure of his office have obtained time from the Prime Minister for the discussion of this measure, which is a measure of a Christian, charitable and national nature, to which I hope the House will be prepared to give a Second Reading.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Member who has just sat down has not advanced a single reason for this Bill. He has told us that there is a large number of societies outside the House in favour of the Bill, but he has not given a single reason in favour of it himself. He told us that he brought forward the Bill after eleven o'clock, but was met on my part by a curt refusal. What are you to do after eleven o'clock, except to stop a Bill which you consider requires discussion? I think the House generally will acquit me of any want of courtesy. I only followed the usual precedent, and said "I object." The hon. Member says he understands the Bill very-well, but the first time I objected to this Bill last year, the hon. Member came to me and asked me why I objected, and I said, "Because of Clause 3, which takes away a man's house from him when he may have paid a premium for it. That premium is lost and he is punished twice over." The hon. Member said, "There is no such Clause in the Bill." I said, "There is." I went to the Office, got a copy of the Bill, showed it to him, and then he was obliged to admit I was right and he was wrong.
§ Mr. BURGOYNE
I am very loth to interrupt the hon. Baronet, but he is entirely incorrect in his remembrance of what took place. I sympathise with him on his loss of memory. The facts are these: I never denied that there was not that Clause, but what I did state at the time was, that if he would put an Amendment down in Committee we should be happy to see what could be done in the matter.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Member charges me with loss of memory. The loss of memory is with himself. What I said is absolutely accurate, and it was not until after I had shown him the Clause in the Bill which he denied had existed, that he then said, "Very well, I was not aware that was in the Bill, but if you like to move an Amendment in Committee, no doubt it will receive favourable consideration." The majority of people, including the people to whom the hon. Member alludes as having been in favour of the Bill, do not know in the least what is in the Bill. I venture to say the majority of Members did not yesterday, and I am not certain that they do to-day, know what is in the Bill. My hon. Friend (Mr. Lee) talked about the Title. May I point out to my hon. Friend that the Title of the Bill is in the Bill, and that in the Title of the Bill there is not a single word about "white slave traffic." The Title of the Bill is—
The short title of the Bill is in Clause" 5—
"This Act may be cited as the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1912."
The words "White Slave Traffic" appear only on the outside of the Bill, and would not appear inside the Bill when it becomes an Act. They are not the Title of the Bill, nor have they anything to do with anything in the Bill, with the possible exception of Clause 1. It is because the ordinary person in the street, and because the vast majority of Members in this House, think that this Bill has something to do with the white slave traffic, to which they are opposed, as am I, that this agitation has been got up. The hon. Member (Mr. Burgoyne) has taken credit to himself and to the hon. Member for Fareham in that they have brought this Bill before the House at a time when it can be discussed. That was my object, and I am exceedingly glad that it has come up for discussion. 594 It is quite clear what is in the minds of the public of this country when they talk about white slave traffic. It was in the mind of the hon. Member below me (Mr. Lee), because he will remember he had a conversation with me about the case of the Argentine Republic, and he related to me certain stories which had come to his knowledge with regard to the Argentine Republic. He will understand why I do not repeat them. What was in the mind of my hon. Friend, and is in the mind of the majority of the people in this country, is the exportation of women from this country to foreign countries. That that is so is proved by a letter which appeared in the "Times" this morning, signed "Ettie Sayer." She says:—The trade is tremendously lucrative to those engaged in it.She gives statistics of what goes on in New York. The whole of her complaint is with regard to the exportation of women from this country to foreign countries. She says:—The proposed Bill does not touch questions involving the personal morality of independent individuals.I venture to say that this lady has not read the Bill or she would not have written this letter. Let me prove my contention. The first Clause—I am in favour of it, and disagree with the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) with regard to it—is the best Clause in the Bill. I told my hon. Friend that if he would limit the Bill to the first Clause—at one moment I went further, and said if he would limit it to the first and fourth Clauses—I should not object to it. At one time I almost committed myself to the fourth Clause, but fortunately my hon. Friend did not take advantage of my offer. The first Clause says:—
"A constable may take into custody without a warrant any person whom he shall have good cause to suspect of having committed, or being about to commit, any offence against Section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885."
Section 2 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885, does deal with procuration. I do not object to that Clause, although I think it gives rather dangerous powers to the police. Now we come to Clause 2. It is a very curious Clause. It begins by applying Section 13 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885 to this Bill. Section 13 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885, has nothing what ever to do with the exportation of women 595 from this country to any other country. Therefore this Clause does not affect, one way or the other, the white slave traffic. This Clause is a Clause for the suppression of brothels in this country, and in this country alone. Clause 2 says:—
"Section 13 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885 (which relates to the suppression of brothels) shall apply to a person in charge of any premises who knowingly permits such premises, or any part thereof, to be used as a brothel …. and accordingly in that Section, after the word 'occupier,' the words 'or person in charge' shall be inserted."
I can only find the word "occupier" in Sub-section (2) of Clause 13, and I want to know whether this Clause applies to the whole of Section 13 or only to Sub-section (2), because the Bill is so badly drafted that it is impossible for a layman, even if it is for a lawyer, to say. Sub-section (2) of Section 13 says:—
"Being a tenant, lessee, or occupier of any premises knowingly permits such premises, or any part thereof, to be used as a brothel or for the purposes of habitual prostitution."
But in the very next Sub-section the words "for the purpose of habitual prostitution" are left out. I do not know whether the words "as a brothel or for the purpose of habitual prostitution" have a legal meaning special to themselves. I can find no definition in any of the Acts which I have looked at to define what habitual prostitution is, but unless these words have some definite legal interpretation this Clause, as it is drawn now, would prevent any woman who, having a house, a room, or a flat, if she used it for habitual prostitution, distinct from a brothel, in contradistinction of what the hon. Gentleman said that the Bill would only affect procurers and not the ordinary prostitute—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
Then I want to know whether the wording of this Clause, which apparently is different from the wording of the Act of 1885, alters in any way the decision which the Law Courts have given? 596 Then Sub-section (2) of Clause 2 does not in any way relate to procurers or bullies or the white slave traffic, but only to brothels.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
This has nothing to do with the white slave traffic abroad. We have had no proof that there is any detention of girls or women against their will in houses in London. As I understand it, with the exception of people who are charged with receiving stolen goods, every man who is prosecuted in the Criminal Court is supposed to be innocent until he is proved to be guilty, and the mere fact, that he has committed a similar offence before is not to be allowed to be brought up in evidence against him, and it is one of the great safeguards of English liberty that because a man has committed an offence three or four years ago, and is charged with a similar offence later on, the fact that he has been convicted before is not brought out as evidence of his guilt until he has been convicted, and then only in order to extend his sentence. But this Clause says that where a man is prosecuted, the fact that he has been convicted before shall be allowed to be used in evidence against him. That is utterly wrong. Then under this Clause a man who has been convicted of being a rogue and vagabond in respect of any such second offence can be flogged, and therefore what the Clause does is not to procurers or bullies, but to the keeper of a brothel. Then we come to the most extraordinary Clause of the lot, which again has nothing whatever to do with the white slave traffic. When a man has been convicted under Clause 3 of an offence against Section 13 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, his landlord is to determine the lease. That is to say, that if I have taken a house at a rental of £10 a year, and paid a minimum of £1,000 and been convicted, I shall be punished with all the vigour of the law, as I should deserve to be, and I might have been convicted two or three times as well, and the house for which I paid £1,000 is taken away from me. That is utterly contrary to the spirit of the English law. You should put your penalty in the Act and not add another penalty in Committee, and in a disguised form. There is still a further extraordinary Sub-section:—
"If the landlord or lessor does not so determine the lease or other contract and subsequently during the subsistence 597 of the lease or contract any such offence is again committed…the offence shall be deemed to have been committed with the knowledge of the landlord."
It has nothing to do with the sentimental desire which has brought forward the agitation for this Bill, because it has nothing to do with the white slave traffic. Clause 4 says:— "In paragraph (b) of Sub-section (1) (which deals with soliciting for immoral purposes) after the word 'importunes 'there shall be inserted the words 'any person of either sex.'"
This is what the Section of the Act says:—
"Every male person who knowingly lives wholly or in part on the earnings of prostitution or in any public place persistently solicits or importunes for immoral purposes."
I believe this Clause was inserted to prevent unnatural offences. That Section is going to be altered in such a way that if a man speaks to a woman in the street he may be taken before a magistrate and told that he has committed an offence under this Bill. What a power of blackmail will be given by this provision. Anyone who had a grudge against any person and happened to see him speak to a woman in the street, perhaps a friend, may inform a policeman, who may arrest him. It is a tremendous temptation to a policeman if the man, from the position he is in, cannot risk a charge of that sort being brought against him. It will require great moral courage to go to the police station and face it. The next Sub-section says—
"There shall be inserted, 'or is proved to have been habitually directing or superintending the movements of a common prostitute.'"
What on earth has that to do with the white slave traffic? Certainly a policeman controls, directs, and superintends the movements of a prostitute in a public place. Under the Bill he would be liable to prosecution. I have endeavoured to put the Bill as it is before' the House. I do not believe anyone will hold me guilty of wrongdoing because I have insisted upon a Bill of this sort being discussed in the House of Commons when Members can know what is in it, when the Press will report what has taken place, instead of letting it be smuggled through after eleven o'clock. I have received letters from people, one of whom says I am worse than a Robespierre, another wanted to know 598 what my profits out of immoral earnings are, and another said the Bill had been printed a long time, as if it followed that anyone had read it or that discussion of it is unnecessary. Now that the House of Commons is acquainted with what is in the Bill, the responsibility rests not upon me, but upon the House of Commons. I venture to say that if this Bill receives a Second Reading, it will require very great consideration in Grand Committee. The consideration which is usually given in Grand Committee to a Bill which is not discussed in the House on the Second Reading, is of the most perfunctory kind, and everyone knows that probably if this Bill had not been discussed on the Second Reading, the attendance in Grand Committee would not have been more than twenty-four or twenty-five Members composed of people in favour of the Bill who would not be likely to criticise it. I hope, at any rate, the House of Commons will acquit me of having done anything I should not have done, and will believe me when I state that I have had to stand a great storm of obliquy and accusation, unjust and uncalled for, merely because, as I happen to know the forms and usages of the House, I have endeavoured that the House of Commons on a Bill of this importance should have an opportunity of discussing it.
§ Mr. BOWERMAN
I happen to be associated with those who are promoting this Bill. The hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) has been good enough to say that he finds one Clause in the Bill of which he approves. I think it must be very satisfactory to the promoters that the hon. Baronet who, from time to time, has opposed this Bill, as he has opposed other measures, finds it in his power to support one of its provisions. The hon. Baronet stated that the Bill has been badly drafted. May I say that it will not be the first badly drafted Bill that has received a Second Reading in this House and been amended in Committee. For that reason I ask him to give a whole-hearted support to the Bill. I speak for those on this side of the House when I soy that it is not the daughters of rich men who are affected by this traffic; it is the daughters of the working classes of this and other countries. I am not a traveller, but I have crossed the Atlantic two or three times, and I make the statement that no one can travel by Atlantic steamers without finding evidence of this traffic going on. Girls, mainly 599 young girls, are drawn through specious reasons into the net of these people. They do not know quite what they are going to. Simply certain inducements are held out to them, and they realise what they mean when it is too late. In every port of this country the police know very well what is being done so far as this traffic is concerned. They know the men; they know the uses to which these girls are brought, and, so far as I know, at present they have no power to stop the traffic. I take it that the main object of this Bill is to provide the authorities with power to endeavour to stop the traffic. I cannot conceive that the House could devote itself to any better cause than assisting the promoters to make the Bill an Act of Parliament. Obviously the provisions as drawn will have to be modified in some respects. It is only the main principles I am anxious about, and as a workman I do sincerely ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading. Whatever Clauses there may be in it, so far as draftsmanship is concerned, which require amendment, let it be borne in mind that the main idea is to stop a traffic which is well known to the authorities and which up to the present they have had no power to deal with—a traffic which is, not only a disgrace to this country, but a disgrace to every civilised country. It passes through this land of ours. This country is a kind of refuge for this traffic, but when evil is known I am sure the House will be eager and ready to do its best to stop it.
§ Sir THOMAS ESMONDE
May I say a word on this subject on behalf of Ireland? I and my colleagues are in favour of the Bill, and we are anxious that it should be read a second time this evening and passed into law as speedily as possible. Any country placed in the position of my country, where there is a considerable amount of emigration, must naturally take an interest in such a question as this. I do not say that the daughters of Ireland are abnormally interested in this question, but at the same time it is one in which, as an Irishman, I must naturally take a very great interest. May I say to the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) that there was no necessity for him to apologise to the House for objecting to the Bill on previous occasions. The hon. Baronet objects to every Bill on principle. It is, I fancy, the ordinary occupation of his life to object to everything. May I also say that the speech he made was very much the 600 sort of speech we anticipated from him. The details to which he referred are matters which can be dealt with in Committee. Some of them exist possibly in his own imagination. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) appeared to me to urge that the Bill should be made very much stronger. With that I thoroughly agree. But as practical men we must accept what we can get. Nobody will expect us to pass a Bill this Session dealing with all the very intricate and difficult questions involved in view of the other work which is to be done, but when we have a chance of passing this small measure as a step in the right direction I think we should make the most of our opportunity. The result of previous legislation on this subject has on the whole been beneficial. We all know that the question has not been finally dealt with, but considerable progress has been made in dealing with various details. No doubt further progress will be made even after this Bill has been passed. This Bill deals with what has become a great and crying evil in the country. It deals with one of the most hideous blots on our civilisation, and attempts to put some check on this traffic, and on those who derive a lucrative living from it at the present moment. No doubt when the Bill goes up into Committee it will be quite possible to meet the objections of the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) and the hon. Member (Mr. Booth). I am quite certain it will be possible to meet them fairly and squarely. One point which both hon. Members laid stress upon is the-question of the increased powers given to the police. It may be questionable, speaking generally, whether the powers of the police should be increased, but, after all, the police have power in relation to other matters similar to what is now proposed. For instance, they can arrest a man if they suspect him of intending to commit a burglary; but, after all, what is burglary in comparison with the crime with which this Bill is intended to deal? The police may make mistakes. I have no doubt they will make mistakes. I am quite willing that they should make mistakes if they can do something to put a stop to this hideous traffic. So far as the general question is concerned, everybody knows that it can only be dealt with by international agreement. I think the time is ripe for some further step in this direction. I would impress upon the Government that they might now take the initiative, through diplomatic or other means, and approach other Governments to ascertain whether something 601 could not be done in the way of discussing this question internationally among the nations, with a view to legislation, and in order that there might be international agreement.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I do not think that this Bill, if it passes, will do very much harm, except perhaps to those people who salve their consciences by fancying that such a Bill as this is likely to do much good. I have also received many resolutions on this question from people who, I think, have not read the Bill. The House and the country must be thoroughly grateful to the hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) for having afforded the House the opportunity of discussing the Bill in detail, of showing exactly what its provisions are, and how far they go to wipe out what, many times to-day, has been called a "blot on civilisation." My impression is that the Bill does very little indeed to wipe out a blot of any sort, and there are traces in the Bill of the manufacture of fresh blots, not so bad as the old ones, upon this wonderful civilisation. I was very glad the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Lee) said that he drew a clear distinction between those Clauses in this Bill which referred to what is known as the white slave traffic and the others which deal with brothels. I was glad he stated that he would not, when the Bill was upstairs, emphasise the necessity of retaining the Clauses dealing with brothels.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I think the hon. Member said that the main principle of the Bill was to deal with the white slave traffic, and not to deal with brothels or the persons who keep them open.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
This Clause, if passed, is going to make it more difficult for these unfortunate women to find a room for their head at night. I do not want hon. Members to force this Bill through the House, making it more difficult 602 for these women to find shelter than they already do. Now that the hon. Member (Mr. Lee) is going to stick to Clauses 2 and 3, I wish to make it quite clear what our objections are. The objection is to making it more difficult for these women to find a shelter. You chase them off the streets, and then you chase them out of their houses. Where are they to find shelter if the police are always after them? We know perfectly well that under the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 it is difficult enough for these women to get on, and some people say that bribery of the police does occur. Are you going to make it more impossible for these women to carry on this traffic, which, however much you may disagree with it, or hate it, is bound to go on in some way or other, whatever laws you pass? Driving this sort of thing underground merely makes it worse and merely leads to additional vice. I think that everybody who was in the movement for the abolition of the CD. Act must recognise that the increase of the police supervision is about the worst possible thing you can do for morality in this country, and for the general abolition of prostitution. Under Clause 1, which is a Clause to which I take very serious objection, the police are given power to arrest anyone whom they have good cause to suspect of being about to commit an offence. These are the words to which we take objection. These are the words which do constitute a serious danger to the liberty of the English nation. It is all very well for the hon. Baronet (Sir Thomas Esmonde) opposite and for the hon. Member for Fareham to say that the police have this right in other cases at the present time, and that they have the right to arrest people whom they have good cause to suspect of being about to commit a burglary. But surely in these cases you have the tools of their trade as primâ facie evidence that they are about to commit the offence. In the same way we are told that they have the right to arrest people who are about to commit poaching. There also they have the instruments of their trade. In both those cases the person who is about to affect the arrest has something definite to go upon to show him that he is not making a mistake. But I will undertake to say that this is absolutely the first time that we are proposing to put on the Statute Book the power of giving the police the right to arrest people who they think are about to commit an offence when there is absolutely nothing definite to justify the supposition that the offence is 603 about to be committed. They have absolutely to read into the mind of a man or a woman before they can get any definite evidence on the matter at all. Therefore I think that a very strong ease will have to be made out by the promoters of the Bill. I do not say that it is impossible; but it must be a much stronger case than they have made out up to the present for giving them this power of making an arrest without any warrant when they have nothing to go upon.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
That is what I want to know. I am not a lawyer, nor am I a specialist in this particular line of business; but what evidence is there that this traffic is going on at the present time? The hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Bowerman) has said that he has come across the Atlantic and seen traces of it on every journey across. What are these traces? What is the knowledge of the fact that is possessed? What evidence is there that it does exist? I have got a booklet giving letters from the "Spectator," but I cannot find any definite evidence on which this Bill is prepared at all. I understand now that there was a Committee which sat twenty or thirty years ago and dealt with this subject, and I suppose I should read its proceedings to see what the evidence is. But surely we should have from the promoters of this Bill some evidence that this traffic does go on at the present time, and that there are people waiting at railway stations for any girl who comes through London. I simply cannot believe it. I cannot believe that it is profitable enough for this sort of thing to go on. We have had the promoter of the Bill saying himself what I always believed to be a fact, that this system of depriving women of their clothes and imprisoning them in a brothel may go on possibly in the United States or in Belgium, but does not go on in London. I was very glad to hear him say that. But all these letters in the "Spectator" are all the evidence that we have to go on almost that these brothels do imprison women against their will and confine them there. Is it true or is it not? Surely we have got a considerable amount of knowledge about this subject, or it can be got from the police; and I think that those who brought in this Bill might have made a stronger case, and told us definitely what the evil was against which they were going to fight. As far as 604 I can gather, the evil against which they aim this Bill—and a very bad aim it is—is the importation into this country from foreign countries of girls and their re-exportation across the Atlantic.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I think that is the main feature. As far as I can gather, there are far more foreign women exported from here than English women. Is it impossible to get from the police or from the immigration authorities, and the people who have the supervision of the immigration of aliens, any figures or evidence-whatever that this trade goes on? It is said that this place is the centre of this traffic. I cannot believe that it is the centre. I believe that our police are more unbribed than any other police; but if it is the centre of the traffic, then that must depend upon the connivance of the police. Do you mean to say that our laws are not strong enough at present. [HON MEMBERS: "Yes."] That the denial to the police of this power of arresting a person without a. warrant makes it absolutely impossible for them to deal with this traffic? That statement requires some evidence behind it. I am very sorry that the mover of this Bill in his very excellent speech did not emphasise that point more than he did. We want to know what case there is for breaking all precedents and giving the police, for the first time, this power to arrest people on mere suspicion without any evidence and without any warrant? I know perfectly well from the shoals of letters on this subject that the people who want this Bill passed do believe in the necessity for putting an end to the horrible state of affairs which exist at present, and I think that they honestly would do far more than agitate for this Bill in order to put a stop to this state of affairs. I ask those people to consider more closely what is the cause of the evil we see at the present day? I saw a letter in the "Times" of to-day, which has been quoted to-day, from a doctor, Ettie Sayer. She gave figures of the women working in the refreshment rooms of the West-End shops at 4s., 5s., and 6s. a week; and she said that the entire staffs of these establishments were on some nights to be found on the streets soliciting for the purposes of prostitution. Does not that show that at the bottom of this prostitution question is the poverty question, and that it is far more vital to put an end to that than to go on tinkering as this Bill, in my opinion is merely 605 tinkering with the results of the system which we have at the present time? The self-respecting artisan either thinks or acts as though he thought that he could not afford to marry a wife very often before he gets to thirty years, and consequently there is an increase of prostitution because he continues to lead a single life. In addition to that, the women not being able to find husbands also adds to the stream of prostitution; and you have also the horribly low wages of women producing the same effect. All these sources of prostitution come from the poverty which exist at the present day, and I would earnestly ask those people who support this Bill—and I know that many of them are earnest Christian people who would do anything in order to put a stop to the existing state of affairs—to consider whether they could not throw themselves with the same genius and enthusiasm into putting an end to poverty and exploitation that they put into this tinkering measure dealing with the results of the existing system.
§ Mr. WALTER GUINNESS
All those speakers who have dealt with this Bill on behalf of the Promoters have only dealt with the vampires who live upon the lives of women, and whom they wish to suppress; and while there is no Member of the House who is not in the fullest sympathy with that object, my object is at present to find out the intention of the Government, who, I understand, are now responsible for this Bill, on the remaining Clauses. I particularly want to ask the Home Secretary what his intention is in dealing, as this Bill does, with the habitual prostitutes as distinct from brothels. The interruption of the hon. Member for Fareham during the speech of the hon. Member for the City of London made it clear that the promoters do recognise that there is a distinction between habitual prostitution and women in brothels; and it is rather disquieting to find that because apparently they have framed Clause 2 to hit the habitual prostitute. I think that Clause 2 does go very much further than merely the question of brothels, because it makes it an offence for anyone in charge of premises to allow them to be used for the purposes of prostitution.
This is a very serious extension of the law. A landlord at the present time, under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, is under no obligation to prevent, say, a flat on his property, from being used for the purpose 606 of habitual prostitution. It is quite true that there is this obligation on the tenant, lessee or occupier; but it is a very serious extension of that principle to throw this responsibility on the person in charge of the premises. We know that women of this class, of course, many of them, live-in flats, and the person in charge is liable to proceeding under Clause 13, if the tenant is a prostitute. I want to know what "the person in charge" covers. Is. it only the manager of the flat, or does it also include the porters? If so, I think this Clause may lead to a terrible amount of inquisition and great danger of blackmailing. Those whom you would ultimately affect would not be the owners of the flats, but the unfortunate women themselves. If this Bill, as the promoter admitted, is not aimed at stamping out prostitution if you cannot abolish the evil altogether, have you any right to harden the already terrible lot of these ruined lives that are already paying tribute to our social law? The hon. Member disclaimed it, but he did not deal with the point. But it was a point raised by an hon. Member who spoke, and I only raise it again to try and get an answer from the Home Secretary as to what the Government intend. I believe that a provision of this kind would not in the least be a deterrent; it would not prevent a single woman from falling into a life of shame. It is inconceivable that any woman comes to this life from choice, and in cold blood, and no disability of this kind would weigh in the scale. If you pass this provision as it stands, the only difference will be that you will add to the lot of these women the new terror that they will be turned out into the streets. You make their lot harder by driving out all landlords except those who are prepared to go to prison as criminals for letting these women find a roof over their heads. Surely society has no right to treat these women vindictively, because they already pay a terrible price in misery, disease, and despair. I ask the Home Secretary whether I am right in so understanding the Clause, and if he will say whether he is prepared to modify it so that it would not be a crime on the part of the landlord to have a prostitute on his premises. I hope that this will be done, especially in view of an article which I find in regard to this Bill published by the "Spectator":—Suppressive laws directed in general against vice often do more harm than good, because they drive it underground and make the type of it that remains more virulent. If the law tried absolutely to suppress 607 prostitution one effect would be that the price of the material of the trade would go up. While this might mean an outward improvement, it would certainly produce secret infamies more terrible than those described. …I cannot help thinking that if this provision is carried in its present form instead of remedying the disease at which it is aimed, it will only further punish those who are already the chief sufferers.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. McKenna)
I regret that owing to other claims and other business of a pressing nature, it was impossible for me to be present to hear the important speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Lee), and one or two speeches that followed. The hon. Member who has just spoken, Mr. Guinness, has addressed a question to me, and an argument to the House. His argument, if it has any value at all, and with respect I submit it has not, is directed not against this Bill, but against the Act of 1885. His argument is against the whole Act. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] My hon. Friends on this side of the House agree with me on that point. All that we do under Clause 2 is to make a very small extension of the Act of 1885. The hon. Gentleman argues against the whole principle.
§ Mr. W. GUINNESS
I cannot have made myself quite clear on the point, that under the Act of 1885, the tenant, the lessee, or occupier of premises which are used for purposes of habitual prostitution is rendered liable. This Bill proposes to go further, and, under Clause 2, to make any one in charge of the premises who knowingly permits them to be used for the purpose of habitual prostitution liable. I say that is a very great extension of the Act of 1885, and will lead to these women being driven into the streets.
§ Mr. McKENNA
That was the hon. Member's question to me, but his argument was directed against the suppression of premises habitually used for the purpose of prostitution, and he argued that unfortunate women would thereby be driven into the streets. But that is an argument against the Act of 1885, which has had most satisfactory results, as admitted on all hands.
§ Mr. McKENNA
Parliament has been satisfied that the general operation of the Act of 1885 was good. The hon. Member (Mr. W. Guinness) asks me what reason is there for extending the operation of the Act of 1885. The reason is that in prosecutions of this class of case it is very difficult to get at anybody except the person in charge. It is not a case of the owner, it is not a case of any person who is not responsible, it is the case of the only person who is "knowingly responsible," the person in charge. It is proposed in a very small way to extend the operation of the Act of 1885. But, of course, this particular Clause 2, which the hon. Member has spoken about, is not the real bone of contention in this Bill. I am glad to say that there is a generally expressed determination on the part of this House; if possible by some means, to get rid of the great evil which this measure aims at. The trouble is to adopt a satisfactory measure. This Bill may not do all that its promoters would wish, but they have not fixed their tune in a very high key. They are the first to recognise, as I know they recognise, that this Bill is in effect a simple police Bill. But it is, nevertheless, although simple and although it will not extend the law in any great degree beyond what it stands at now, a most important Bill, because, which is of the utmost importance, it will enable the police hereafter to suppress some of the worst evils connected with public vice. The main argument has been directed against Clause 1, which gives the name to the bill of "the white slave traffic." It has been argued by my hon. Friend behind me that the Clause breaks our tradition that there shall be no arrest of any person without a warrant on suspicion. I can only assure him that, however extensive his reading may be of other branches, his reading of the law is very defective.
§ Mr. WEDGWOOD
I directed my argument to the only two instances that were brought forward by hon. Members on the other side, namely, the case of burglary and the case of poaching, and I pointed out that in both those cases there was an entire distinction, in view of the fact that in arrest on suspicion, before the offence was committed, it could be reasonably inferred from the tools possessed that the offence could be committed,
§ Mr. McKENNA
I can assure my hon. Friend there is nothing in the Act dealing 609 with that particular class of offence which requires the offender to be in possession of his tools. A person may be a burglar, or under the Larceny Act may be arrested on reasonable suspicion without a warrant whether he has got any of the tools of his trade in his possession or not. My hon. Friend's reference to tools is wholly irrelevant to this argument.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
The right hon. Gentleman does not suggest that there is any such power in the case of poaching. You surely must have the man committing an offence.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I did not mention poaching. I said the Larceny Act. Under the Larceny Act there is clearly no necessity for a warrant, and in offences against the person the offender may be arrested on reasonable suspicion without a warrant.
§ Mr. McKENNA
In the case of offences against the person he may be arrested without a warrant. The same is true of malicious damage. In all those cases the law has recognised and Parliament has recognised that it is proper in a certain class of offence that a person may be arrested on suspicion without a warrant. Of course, when a person is arrested on suspicion without a warrant the Court would inquire very closely into the grounds of suspicion. The principle which Parliament has always acted on is this: to determine whether the offence is of such a kind that unless the person is summarily arrested he is likely to escape. The offence under Clause 1 of procuration is, in the case of young girls being taken abroad exactly the kind of case which unless the arrest takes place on the spot you never can prove. If you do not arrest without a warrant the girls are gone and assuming the man comes back again there is no legal evidence in existence. Consequently the perpetration of the offence is rendered not merely possible, but certain in a large number of cases, unless you have the power of arrest without warrant. The mere fact that you require twenty-four hours' delay, or something of that sort, in order to get the warrant, enables the offender to escape. That is the reason why following precedent, and fully in accord with the best traditions of Parliament, it is proposed in this class of case 610 also to allow arrest on suspicion without a warrant. I really think that the hon. Member is entirely unjustified in his charge that in that particular Clause the Government were proceeding to support a measure which had no parallel in this House.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) asked for an assurance from the Government on two points. With the Bill he finds himself in agreement, although he expressed serious doubts as to whether it would fulfil all its promises. He particularly wished to have a double assurance. He asked that I should assure him on behalf of the Government that the support of this Bill disclosed no tendency to go back to the State regulation of vice. That assurance I can give him frankly, fully, and without qualification. He next asked me will Clause 1 be open to reasonable amendment if a proper case is made out in Committee. Of course, I must say of this Bill not only of Clause 1, but of all the other Clauses, that I am not sure that every word is inspired. I am sure it will be necessary to make Amendments on particular points in Committee, and, although I think Clause 1 is more watertight than the others, nevertheless, I assure him we shall consider any reasonable Amendments which are proposed, and if a case is made out shall accept them. That is one of the liabilities the promoters of the Bill suffer by the Bill being taken over by the Government. In general, so far as I have been able to listen to the Debate, the feeling of the House has been expressed in support of the Bill. It is quite true, as I have said, that complaint is made on particular points. There is one point which will have to be remedied, and I hope the promoters will not be unduly shocked, and that is in the provision with regard to the landlord's liability which is in Clause 3. I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fareham is probably already aware that some Amendment will have to be made. There is no provision for meeting the case where a landlord was genuinely ignorant of the use of the premises. There are various points in each Clause in which Amendments will have to be made. I do not think that on the Second Reading it is exactly the time to go through the Bill seriatim.
I think it my duty to say that generally the proposals of the Bill are good in the opinion of the Government, and that they will undeniably, acting upon the experience of the Metropolitan Police, at any rate, 611 assist the operation, not of any new law, but of the existing law, and will aid the police in carrying out the declared intentions of Parliament. We are all united upon the desire to meet the objects sought after, and I hope that no hon. Member will be deterred from assisting this Bill through by the mere fact that it does not go further. Poverty, of course, is one of the great causes of prostitution, but are we to wait until we get rid of the poor before we pass any preventive measures dealing with a great social evil of this kind. If we are we must say farewell and even repeal all the measures of the kind already passed. I hope the hon. Member will not press the objection. The Bill is a small Bill, but it is a good Bill. It will have far-reaching effects, and, that being so, I ask the House to give it a Second Reading.
§ Mr. NIELD
I think it will be said of me I am not often here to bless the acts of His Majesty's Government, but I do on this occasion sincerely congratulate them and the Home Secretary upon having taken up this Bill and on having indicated their firm intention of seeing it through its remaining stages. If all the promised legislation which is to occupy us during this prolonged Session, which rumour says will take until Easter of next year, were abandoned, and this Bill alone put on the Statute Book, the Government would have done something, at any rate, to justify the confidence of the country. Those of us who know the workings of the Metropolitan Police Force have no reason to suspect, as the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London suspects, that they are likely to abuse the powers which are given to them by Clause 1. Those of us in this House, and they are not a few, who are Recorders, or, like myself, the chairman of a quarter sessions, and brought constantly into contact with the police, have not any reason to suppose that the powers proposed to be given under this Bill will be abused. I agree with the Home Secretary that unless the police are to have the opportunity of arrest on suspicion their opportunities for putting an end to this deplorable trade are reduced to a minimum. Those hon. Members who take the experience of Peter the Painter as being sufficient evidence that because occasionally the police make a mistake they should condemn the whole force, have not the faintest idea of the number of cases in which the 612 police prove to be correct in their suspicions. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Wedgwood) has made one of his characteristic speeches, in which he has maintained his character in this House for eccentricity. I should have thought that he of all men would have been one of the foremost to have welcomed this Bill and every one of its provisions, and to have endeavoured if possible to strengthen them. But I find him inveighing against the Bill on numerous grounds, one of which is that that this evil is the product of poverty, and therefore we must not do anything which will make the lot of the unfortunate people worse. Nobody wants to make their lot worse. What we want to do is to make it apparent to them that they cannot carry on their trade, voluntarily or involuntarily, without the disapprobation of the State. Let the State help them to become honest women.
Every one of us sympathises with the lot of these unfortunate creatures. Every one of us condemns the act of those rascals who bring them into the position in which they find themselves. No one will accuse me of being an extreme puritanical type of man, but I condemn root and branch the mischief with which this Bill deals. I condemn everything in connection with it. But I see no danger of any man or woman being apprehended on suspicion merely because he or she talks to somebody in the street. A man must so regulate his conduct as to prevent his acts being liable to suspicion. He can do that perfectly well. A man can answer an interrogation in the street—it may be an inquiry as to the way—without making it obvious to a policeman that an offence is about to be committed, and that therefore he is justified in exercising the right which this Bill gives him of arresting without warrant. A point was made by the hon. Member about burglary being one of the few cases in which at present you can arrest without warrant. I spent the best part of Saturday in trying two men who had been arrested on suspicion of committing a burglary, and both those men are now in one of His Majesty's prisons. I agree that there may be something to be said in regard to Clause 3, Sub-section (2), under which a landlord may be convicted if he does not determine the lease after an offence has been proved to have been committed. But I believe that in all well-regulated tenancies, if the agreements are properly drawn, the tenancies may be determined upon 613 suspicion. Clause 2 of the Bill, however, is very carefully drawn. The Debate has run at some length, and points have been made in great detail. The hon. Baronet (Sir F. Banbury) said that unless a Bill was debated at great length on Second Reading the Committee stage was usually perfunctory. I think he is not quite right in his facts. I hope that after the consensus of opinion which has been expressed in regard to the urgent needs for legislation which will advance the law at all events one step towards dealing with an abominable evil, the Committee upstairs will have an opportunity of strengthening the Bill in detail, and of affirming a measure which is, at any rate, sufficient for the time, until the Government turn their attention from those somewhat chimerical schemes which they have put before us and pass a more complete measure or attempt the codification of the law regarding crimes of this kind. There is no Bill they have yet introduced, in my experience, that has not been completely turned inside out either on the floor of the House or in Committee upstairs.
§ Mr. NIELD
The Insurance Act was turned inside out so that its authors did not know it. But I will not discuss that now. I simply congratulate the Government on being able to take up this Bill, and I hope that where necessary it will be suitably amended in Committee.
§ Mr. MARSHALL
I have to appeal for the indulgence of the House which is usually accorded to those who venture to address it for the first time, and I am sure I shall not appeal in vain. I wish to make one or two observations upon the Bill, which I think has commended itself to the general sense of the House. In doing so I do not wish to supplement the good things which have been said about the purpose of those who have brought the measure forward. I wish to say a word in regard to the remedy proposed in the first Clause, which has been regarded with some suspicion by those who have spoken against the measure. I do not share in 614 the serious view of the danger of the Clause here introduced. The Clause has been well defended, but I should like to put before those who have criticised it one point which has not yet been mentioned. In dealing with an offence of the class here aimed at, speed in the action of those who are endeavouring to prevent the offence is most essential. It would be easy to base the soundness of the Clause on the fact that the evidence necessary to procure convictions in these cases might easily be removed from the power of those who bring the charge. Apart altogether from that, apart from the fact that the girls who are being procured for this class of offence might, at a subsequent date, be out of the country, and therefore not be available for the purposes of prosecution, or of evidence to support a prosecution, it is essential when you are dealing with men of the class referred to that you should be able at once to put your hands upon them there and then and deal with them without having to go to the trouble and delay of procuring a warrant. I wish to say, in addition to that, that those of us who are familiar with the practice of the Criminal Courts know perfectly well that this power, as the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has said, is constantly being brought into use in various classes of offences. What I wish rather to make a point of is this: it is essential that we should remember that people suspected in this way generally have, perhaps, even more latitude in regard to the way in which they are treated in the Courts of Law than those who are charged with more definite offences. Upon the police and those supporting the charge a great burden always rests when before a Court of Law charges are being made in regard to a case where you have not got definite evidence, but where the case is rather of the nature of a suspicion.
I listened in vain when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract was criticising this Bill for anything in the nature of a practical proposal. The urgency of the case has been admitted on all hands. The gravity of the evils with which we intend to deal in this Bill have been admitted, even by the hon. Gentleman himself, as well as by the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London. What were the practical proposals of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract? He only asked for delay, for the amassing of evidence for presentation, and the consideration of that evidence as to evils that he admitted actually existed. I do not think any 615 further body of evidence can be gathered together. The facts are admitted. The evil is admitted. When we come to consider what it is that he wishes, what hon. Members who oppose this Bill wish to put in its place, there is not one single practical proposition brought before this House. No proposal that can be brought before the House, I venture to think, can be so effective as the first Clause of this Bill. There was one suggestion of a practical character that was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract. I think that this House, and especially those of us who have experience of the Criminal Courts, must have rejected that proposition as being altogether an impossible one. The hon. Gentleman suggested that there should be the creation of a special class of policemen rather than that the general powers that are suggested in the first Clause should be conferred upon the whole body of police. It seems to me that that is a fantastic and a most dangerous proposition. It would be difficult for us to gather together and select from the general body of the police of this country men who should be detailed for this particular class of work.
I do trust that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract, even in Committee, will not make so fantastic a suggestion as that we should have highly paid officials gathered together for the special purpose of spying upon this particular class of offenders. It seems to me that it would inevitably result in this particular class of police being gathered into particular sections for a particular purpose, and would bring about what we should really avoid in this connection: that is the creation of a body of men whose purview of life is based upon the consideration and the suspicion of this particular class of offence. I think that the police, with their common sense and general capacity for estimating the character of the people they are dealing with, and their general knowledge of life are capable of dealing with this class of offence without making a special selection of police. I have only ventured to intrude these few remarks, because I feel it is very vital that we should have in this matter very earnest, very speedy, and very definite legislation. The moral sense of the country is entirely roused. Although there may be a cavil here and there about the title of this Bill, I believe its main effects would be to deal with that particular class of offence which 616 meets with the reprobation of every right minded man and woman throughout the country, and I support the Second Reading very earnestly.
§ Mr. SANDERSON
I desire merely to make one or two suggestions to the Home Secretary. I am heartily in favour of this Bill, although I am bound to say it is a great pity that "White Slave Traffic" is put at the top, because this Bill, as I interpret it, has precious little to do with a traffic which all of us thoroughly detest and abhor. The only Clause which can possibly deal with the traffic is the first one. I have a very great difficulty in seeing how it is to be of very much help in putting down that traffic. A pamphlet has been circulated, and several cases have been put forward in that. First of all, there is the case of the woman who is enticed to leave her home by a promise of marriage. I do not see how power given to a constable to arrest on suspicion is going to deal with that case or put an end to cases of that kind. There is a second case of a woman being enticed to go to a servants' registry, and who, expecting to find a prospective employer or mistress, on some pretext or other is detained in the town. How can power to arrest on suspicion by a constable stop that? Then there is the case of a woman who meets a girl at a railway station, and passes herself off as the agent of a travellers' aid society. How in the world is compulsory power to a constable to arrest on suspicion going to put an end to that? There is the case of a girl who goes to a railway station expecting to meet a friend who does not turn up, and who is accosted by a pleasant stranger, who leads her away on some pretext. How will that be stopped by the powers suggested?
I can quite see one case which I think the Home Secretary must have had in his mind: of the well-known person engaged in this traffic who by one pretext or another persuades a woman or a girl to go on board ship, and who does not turn up himself till the last moment. There is no time to make the whole facts of the case known to the girl, to acquaint her with the real character of the man, who may be known perfectly well to the police, but not to the girl. There is no time on such an occasion to make her understand her real position. In that case I can understand the first Clause. I would suggest to the Home Secretary that he might think it desirable to put some words into the first Section to limit it to cases of that kind. I do not 617 want to go into Committee points, but I do want to make this suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman; because I possibly will not have the honour of sitting on the Committee, and I suggest to him that this first Section is going beyond anything that has ever been done before. I think I am right in saying that at common law a constable has the right to arrest a person without a warrant only in two cases; in the one if he has good grounds for believing that a felony has been committed, or if he sees a breach of the peace taking place under his eyes. Certain statutory powers are given to the constable to arrest without a warrant, but nearly always they are in cases where he cannot make a mistake. For instance, if he finds a man loitering about in a dark road at night—in the neighbourhood of a deserted house, or something of that kind, he is then entitled to arrest him without a warrant, on suspicion of being about to commit a felony. Or, again, if he comes across a ticket-of-leave man whom he knows well loitering about, then I think he may arrest him on suspicion, not that he is going to commit a felony, but that he has committed a felony. Here you are going to give power by this Bill, if it is passed as framed, to a constable to arrest on suspicion that a man is about to commit an offence in circumstances that it must be most difficult for any person to come to a proper conclusion as to whether an offence is going to be committed or not. I draw the Home Secretary's attention to the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act. There, I think, a constable has power to arrest a person without a warrant if he believes he has committed any offence of cruelty. That seems to me to be very much like this case, but there are very important provisions in that Act, and these provisions are if the constable has reasonable grounds of believing that such person will abscond. That is not going nearly so far as this Bill, and I suggest it will be desirable to consider whether this first Clause ought not to be limited in some way, at all events, to the kind of case I have indicated, namely, believing that the man intends to leave the country or to take his victim out of the country, and where there is no power to obtain a warrant. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary whether it would not be desirable in the interests of justice and fair play to have the whole of Sub-section (3) of Clause 2 struck out, and let us have the penalties in black and white instead.
618 9.0 P.M.
I think there were a great many Members of this House thoroughly astonished when they found it was proposed that a man convicted three times of keeping a brothel should be subjected to a year's imprisonment, and, not only to that, but to whipping as well. I think that a good dose of whipping is perhaps about the very best punishment you could give to a man of that kind. I am thoroughly in accord with hon. Members on that point, but let us have it in the Bill and not by reference to other Acts, which only lawyers, in all probability, can determine. Speaking from my own experience—I will not say how long I have been at the law—I had to go to my books and refresh my memory and make quite certain what was the punishment that could be inflicted at quarter sessions upon an incorrigible rogue. There are a great number of people in this House who had not the slightest idea that that Clause involved, not only one year's imprisonment, but whipping also. With regard to Clause 4, Sub-section (b), which deals with the question of a man living upon the earnings of such prostitution, I do not know whether he is aware that there are, I am sorry to say, places where the husband, I will not mention any particular towns, has sunk to such a state of degradation that he lives upon the earnings of his wife from prostitution. I think I am correct in the statement that in such a case the wife is not a compellable witness against the husband, and if the right hon. Gentleman wants to improve the Bill he might consider that case and see whether he cannot put in an additional Clause to do away with that inability at the present moment. It is very difficult indeed to obtain the conviction of a man earning his living in that degraded way, simply because the most important witness, the poor woman forced into this state of life, cannot be heard as a witness. I suggest to the Home Secretary that if on inquiry he finds I am right, he might very easily improve this Bill by inserting a Clause such as I have suggested.
§ Mr. DUNCAN MILLAR
Speaking as a Scottish Member, I should like the House to understand there is a very strong feeling in Scotland in support of this Bill. I welcome very cordially indeed the attitude which the Government has now taken up upon this Bill. We certainly might have expected the Government to move in this matter a good many years ago. I have always maintained this was a matter upon 619 which there was no degree of controversy in the House. There are two Members of this House, the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Booth) and the junior Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) who have blocked this Bill as a private Member's Bill. I am glad to know they have modified their action, but I protest against the tactics by which one single Member may block every private Members Bill, although he may have sympathy generally with the proposals in the Bill. I rejoice very heartily that the Government have now taken up this Bill and are pressing it forward. From the point of view of Scotland, I should like to say that while this Bill deals with Scotland, there is a Bill to amend the Immoral Traffic (Scotland) Act of 1902. I hope that Bill may receive special consideration from the Government. It has been for a considerable period of time in the hands of the Scottish Office; it was framed by the large corporations in Scotland, and the Corporation of Glasgow was specially interested in it. That Bill has amongst its provisions one to which the hon. Member opposite has referred, namely, making it competent for the wife or one of the persons living upon the earnings of prostitution to appear as a competent witness. It is a very important provision indeed, and I think that provision should also be inserted in this Bill. My point with regard to the Immoral Traffic Act is this: I understand the matter may be fully dealt with in a Scottish Amendment Bill. I do not know whether the Home Secretary is in a position to indicate the intention of the Government with regard to this Scottish Bill and whether it may be taken up separately. Considerable labour has been expended on its drafting, and I hope it may be possible to deal with the matter fully in the form of an amending Statute for Scotland. If that were so I trust the provisions of this Bill will be made applicable to Scotland as well, and the reason I ask for that is that some of the Acts referred to in this Bill now before the House are purely English Statutes. For example, Sub-section (3) of Clause 2. dealing with the increased penalties which it proposed to inflict under the provisions of the Vagrancy Act which do not apply to Scotland. I think it would be a great misfortune if we had not in Scotland also the increase of penalties provided in case of breach of Section 13 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act. With regard to the other Sections, I think 620 one or two of them would apply as they stand to Scotland, and I hope I may have the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that it is intended in Committee to lay down how far those Clauses are to apply to Scotland, and how far the penalties will be applicable to the Scotch law. There-has been found in our large centres of population in Scotland very great need indeed for such a measure. We have had evidence from every possible source, and in Glasgow we have at the present time a very strong Vigilance Association doing very good work in watching cases which ought to be dealt with under an amended Statute, and the suggestions put forward are practical—in fact, similar suggestions are contained in one or two of the provisions of this Bill. With regard to the portion of the Bill which applies purely to England, this is capable of being altered so as to give Scotland the advantage of those provisions as well. In passing a Bill of this character I feel we are endeavouring to stamp out an evil which is a disgrace to our civilised humanity, and we are doing what we can to remove a reproach and a blot upon our national honour. I hope this Bill at this stage, and in all its later stages, will receive the warmhearted support of all hon. Members.
§ Mr. GEORGE GREENWOOD
I feel certain that there is not a man in this. House or outside of it who would not be prepared to give his enthusiastic and strong support to any reasonably conceived measure which he believes would have the effect of counteracting the machinations of those scoundrels who by fraud and false pretences decoy English girls away to foreign countries for immoral purposes. That is what I understand to be the white slave traffic, and I do not believe there is anyone who would not enthusiastically support a measure of that kind. But one cannot help asking, Will this particular measure deal with an evil which we all want to put down? I think there is only one Clause in the Bill which has any chance of touching that evil at all, and that is the first Clause. That Clause may be necessary, but speaking as a lawyer, although it is some years since I practised, I believe it goes a long way beyond anything that exists at the present time. We know there are many cases in which a constable may arrest without warrant, but in those cases it is for the most part the arrest of a man committing some offence at sight. A constable may arrest without a warrant on a charge 621 made when he has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a felony has been committed. If the constable arrests without reasonable grounds, he is liable to an action. If a constable finds a man loitering about in the streets at night he may arrest him on suspicion of going to commit a felony. That is the only analogy to the present law, and although it may be necessary that this power should be given, I think it ought to be very carefully safeguarded, because it may lead to an abuse which all of us would deplore. I think my hon. and learned Friend opposite will agree that is the only analogous case under the present law of a power to arrest, not on the suspicion that a felony has been committed, but on the suspicion that a felony is going to be committed. That is a very rare case, although there is that one instance.
If you come to the second Clause of the Bill, that is designed, it seems to me, for an entirely different purpose, and it will have no effect, as far as I can see, in regard to what is understood by the white slave traffic, that is preventing girls being decoyed by fraud and false pretences out of this country. This is a Bill for amending the Criminal Law Amendment Act. It may be rather late in the day, but I confess I have great sympathy with some observations which fell from the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Walter Guinness). I know it is very difficult to speak on this subject, but I wish that some of our legislators would think a little more deeply on this particular subject, and ask whether they really do good by dealing with symptoms rather than with causes. If the object is to stamp out prostitution, and if it is thought that that can be done by law; if it is thought that prostitution is an offence and ought to be made an illegal offence, why not have the courage of your convictions and make it an indictable offence. Instead of that you harry women from one house to another, and any of these women having a flat or a house can be prosecuted under the Criminal Law Amendment Act. I remember some words which fell from the late Chief Magistrate at Bow Street Police Court, Sir John Bridge, in which he said that many of these measures which had been recently taken with regard to these unhappy women had had the effect of driving them into the arms of bullies, because they must live somewhere. You have not the courage to say that they are doing something which is punishable as an indictable offence, but you harry them by 622 bringing in new measures which make their lives more miserable and more intolerable, and then, as Sir John Bridge says, you throw them into the arms of bullies. Therefore it is worth considering whether you are doing any real good which is not counterbalanced by harm by these particular measures with regard to these women and the houses in which they live. I do not think that is a matter which has been sufficiently considered, and I think this particular Clause should be very carefully considered in Committee as to whether or not it should stand as it is now.
I want to say a word with regard to the punishment under the Vagrancy Act. I disagree entirely with some of my hon. Friends as to the punishment of the lash. You may say that these men richly deserve the lash; you may also say they richly deserve being branded, but you do not brand them because you think that torture would do more harm than good. I am one of those who believe that the infliction of the lash does more harm than good. I have put questions to the Home Secretary once or twice about this old Act of George IV. I think it is a disgrace that it should stand as it does now. Under that Section a man who has been convicted three times of wandering abroad without any visible means of subsistence can be ordered by the magistrate to be flogged, and not only to be flogged, but in this particular Act there is no discretion, and no other Act gives any discretion, with regard to the number of strokes that can be inflicted or with regard to the instrument by which they are to be inflicted. The Home Secretary says, "Oh, but you can trust the magistrates; they will not inflict these punishments." I say it is wrong to allow such punishments to be at the discretion of the magistrates, and recently sentences of flogging have very greatly increased. It may be a Committee point, and certainly in Committee I should strongly support an Amendment to prevent the lash being applied in addition to all the other punishments under this Bill; but I may not be upon the Committee, and I think it is only right to say that these particular points ought to, and I hope will, be taken into consideration when the Bill goes to Committee.
§ Mr. KING
Perhaps the House will listen for a few moments to one who has studied this question, and who has himself at the present moment Bills before the House dealing with the same subject. I welcome 623 the action of the Government in taking up this Bill, and I welcome especially the speech of the Home Secretary. He said, and I think said very well, that this Bill by no means treats the whole subject, nor indeed does it attempt to deal with the whole evil. It is simply a police Bill. It takes up one or two points which have been found in practice to need taking up, and in which the action of the police is at present restricted largely because flaws have been found in the way in which the original Act was drafted. It is, therefore, quite absurd to suppose that the supporters of this Bill expect it will abolish, or even go any distance towards abolishing, the white slave traffic. It will put a great instrument in the power of the police to take steps against men who are manifestly offending which they at present do not possess, but it will not really deal with the white slave traffic as it has been defined by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterboro' (Mr. George Greenwood). He defined it as obtaining women for immoral purposes to be sent abroad by fraud or by false pretences. In the Bill which I have introduced, and which I am afraid I do not expect to see passed until we have a Government ready to take up that Bill also, there are one or two points to which I desire to draw attention here, because to me they are essential if Parliament means really to deal with this question. One of the evils which has recently grown up has been the procuring of women and girls either by threats, false pretences, promises, or inducements in connection with their employment. There are one or two kinds of agencies which can be understood and imagined by Members which really are in many cases a fruitful field for recruiting for this terrible traffic, and until we strengthen the law in connection with inducements, threats, or promises with regard to employment we shall not really strike at what is a fruitful source of the white slave traffic at the present time. Another respect in which the law needs strengthening is in connection with the expulsion of foreigners who are proved in any way guilty of immoral practices. I would extend the powers at present to not only loose women, but to procurers and all persons connected with this traffic. There are other points in connection with the law which need strengthening. I will not mention them, I will only say they are so serious and indeed so numerous that 624 sooner or later I hope there will be a Bill dealing with this subject. After all this, as the Home Secretary has said, is only a police Bill, and in order to bring the law of the land up to the higher standard of sexual morality which there is among the people I believe legislation on wider lines will sooner or later be found necessary, but, as a step in the right direction, I heartily approve of this Bill, and I heartily thank the Government for taking it up.
§ Mr. RAWLINSON
We have heard a great deal to-day upon the question of sexual morality generally. Probably we all agree with that which has been said, but personally I do not see the necessity for it having been trotted out to-day, because it does not touch the provisions of this Bill in the least. Let us look at the Bill, and see whether we are in favour of the principles which it seeks to set up. They are two in number. My hon. Friend who introduced the Bill did not refer to them. The case of a person who keeps a brothel, who allows his house to be habitually used by prostitutes for immoral purposes for the sake of the remuneration he gets, is common throughout the length and breadth of the land, and no one has any sympathy with him, but his crime is absolutely devoid of violence or fraud. It is merely letting out the house for an improper and illegal purpose. That in the old indictment was called "keeping a common bawdy house." One has seen people tried, convicted, and properly punished for this offence. When they have been punished they sometimes revert to the old practice. There is, we are told, a demand—I was entirely unaware of the extent of that demand—among people who wait outside houses of this type for accommodation. Men and women willingly use these place for these purposes and pay a price for the accommodation which no doubt offers a temptation to the people who occupy the premises. You have the same thing in connection with flats in London. A large number of flats are kept for this purpose. I have of course no sympathy with people who carry on this trade, but I wish to point out that the question of principle involved in this Bill is whether the punishment of flogging with a cat-o'-nine tails should be inflicted in these cases. I am not sentimental on this subject; I hold very strongly that flogging is an excellent punishment for certain crimes, but I think the House should give its serious attention to the question whether it is a 625 right punishment for an offence which involves neither force nor fraud.
I am sorry that my hon. Friend in introducing this Bill did not mention this point in the course of his speech. He may not know as well as I do how very few Members ever take the trouble to read the Bills laid before them. I do not blame them for not looking into legislation by reference; I do not blame them for not looking up the different Acts of Parliament, a perusal of which only will enable them to really understand the Bill. I took a considerable amount of time to do it in this case, and I think it is a very important question which the House itself should determine, whether or not a person who lets lodgings for this purpose is to be liable at the discretion, not of a judge of the High Court, but at the discretion of a Recorder or of a Chairman of Quarter Sessions, to a punishment of this nature. I am proud of being a Recorder myself, but I am not so certain that all my brother Recorders would be certain to exercise that discretion in the most desirable way, while as to chairmen of Quarter Sessions, we know they are all liable at times to be affected by sentiment, and and they might not improbably say in a case of this kind, "A good job too: flog them." Are you going to deal in this way with some poor old man who has succumbed to the temptation of carrying on this trade? No doubt he should be punished for it, but is it right he should be liable to flogging to an unlimited extent at the discretion of a chairman of Quarter Sessions. I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London for having had the courage to block this Bill so that this question might be brought before the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Fareham spoke of the views of the suffragettes and of the anti-suffragettes. I believe one of the chief contentions of the suffragettes is that men and women should be treated alike. If you are to flog a man for this offence, what about a woman? Would you also flog her? I am in favour of neither being flogged. In the few cases I have seen tried for this offence the defendants have generally been women. I do not think that it is necessary here to introduce the question of the equality of the sexes. We need not introduce either the question whether men are or are not the only people absolutely responsible for immorality and prostitution. I have had cases which raise that ques- 626 tion. There may be the cases of women in the, habit of refusing their husbands their right which has led to results not very satisfactory, but I do not want to go into that subject. I want to point out that the first question of principle involved is whether or not a person who keeps a bawdy-house should, on conviction, be flogged.
The second question of principle which I wish to raise is whether or not a constable should have the right to arrest on suspicion not only that an offence has been committed, but that an offence is likely, in his opinion, to be committed. I would point out that this is a very great step in advance, and there is a peculiar irony in the fact that it comes from the quarter from which it does. In the question of procuration, the idea is that if you have to wait until you get a warrant there is difficulty on the part of the police in arresting a man or woman supposed to be soliciting a girl. But under this Bill an intelligent policeman at a railway terminus, if he sees a man or woman walking or talking with a good-looking girl and if he suspects they are there to commit an offence under the Act, and to try and procure the girl for immoral purposes, he is to have the power of arresting them. I only want to make it perfectly plain that that is a step far in advance of what is possible at present, with one exception which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Peterborough—namely, the arrest of people loitering about after dark on the highway or in enclosed premises. I am not quite sure whether the London police have been most happy when dealing with this question of the control of prostitution. I do not want to dwell on it. A certain Government went out on the Cass case. What I do remember is this. In the town of Cambridge, with which I am particularly connected, there used to be an ancient power of arresting women "suspected of evil." That power of arrest was confined to University constables, and it had to be carried out in the presence of the Proctor. It was, I believe, used with great care. So far as I know, no mistake was made, but in the agitation which arose some thirteen or fourteen years ago, so strong was the feeling expressed by ladies interested in the subject, lest mistakes might be made and people who were perfectly respectable taken up by error, that these very powers were finally abandoned, and they do not exist at the present day. Yet to-day the very same class of persons 627 who protested in those days against the limited powers which then existed are coming down to this House to propose that very extended powers should be given to the police to arrest people. I put forward this point tentatively. It is not a strong point, but there is a risk run from it, and it may cause inconvenience to a certain number of people, and I do not think the House should shut their eyes to it. As regards the last question, as the Bill is drafted, it would seem to raise some question of principle, because as it reads it would seem that a man addressing a woman in the street, possibly a prostitute, and requesting her on one or two occasions to come home, would be guilty of an offence under the Vagrancy Act. I am not taking any technical point about that. My hon. Friend says it is likely to be met. As it stands in the Bill it would have been a new principle. I was bound to be suspicious with regard to the question of flogging being introduced by reference, and, as nobody else in the House had taken the trouble to look up the point, I thought it worth while to mention it. While I have every confidence that the Committee will put matters right, I think we ought in this House to pledge ourselves to a particular principle and then leave it to the Committee to carry it out.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.