HC Deb 21 April 1913 vol 52 cc207-9

"This Act shall remain in operation for one year from the passing thereof unless renewed meantime by Parliament."


I beg to Move a new Clause to the effect that this Bill shall remain in operation for one year. I feel apprehensive lest at the end of the year, or some slightly longer time, it may be found that this Bill is not a success, though I hope it will be. I think its success or failure largely depends upon whether or not those who are released observe the conditions of their release. What I am afraid of is that if the Bill fails it will sink into abeyance and will be forgotten, and then, perhaps, eight or ten years hence it will be resuscitated after everybody has forgotten the special circumstances in which it was passed, and it will be put into operation under some totally different circumstances. That is a danger which is always cropping up. Somebody is continually taking up an old Act passed in the time of William or George intended for a totally different set of circumstances, which everyone has forgotten, and then the Act is suddenly made operative. I suggest that as this is a tentative Bill passed to meet a certain set of circumstances it will be proper to make it operative for a short period, say twelve months, though I will leave the Home Secretary to name any time he likes. If at the end of that time the Act is found to succeed it can be continued in the ordinary Bill continuing the laws, or else a new Bill can be framed or the matter dropped altogether. To leave this Bill in operation for all prisoners for all time would be very inadvisable.


The hon. Member, I think, stated his case a little too widely. It is quite true I propose this Bill for all time, but I do not propose it should be made applicable to all prisoners. I think in any circumstances under which the Bill could apply it ought to apply. I can see nothing temporary about the application of its principle. The hon. Member must remember it applies only to prisoners whom it is undesirable to keep in prison in circumstances where their condition of health has been brought about by their own action. Where you have that set of circumstances, where the conduct of a prisoner arises from suffragist enthusiasm, or from any other enthusiasm, with the result that the prisoner ought not to serve the sentence or cannot be detained in prison under the existing practice, and can only be discharged under the conditions of a complete release, I think it would be always desirable to give power to release without complete discharge. I do not look upon that as a temporary matter. I look upon it as a matter which we ought to incorporate into the law in order to enable us to deal with a person of that sort. We are coming to the end of the Bill, and I should like to remind hon. Gentlemen of the large number of cases in which it has been my duty to advise the release of prisoners who have only been in prison for a few days out of a sentence of one month, or two months, or four months, or even eight months, I have had to release them unconditionally. I would like to remind the Committee of the prisoners who are now in prison, and are being forcibly fed, whom I would release conditionally to-morrow if I had power to release them. These are prisoners who are in prison and in these circumstances I think they ought to be dealt with permanently under an amended law. I hope the hon. and learned Member will not press his proposal which would make the law temporary only.


I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill reported without Amendment; to be read the third time to-morrow (Tuesday).