§ (1) No person subject to the Naval Discipline Act who is of or over the age of sixteen years shall be liable to corporal punishment, but nothing in this Subsection shall be construed as rendering any person liable to such punishment who would not have been so liable if this Section had not been enacted.
§ (2) The maximum number of strokes which may be inflicted upon a person liable to corporal punishment shall be twelve.
§ Proposed Clause brought up, and read the first time.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I beg to move, on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. George Greenwood), "That the Clause be read a second time." I understand that the object of the proposal is to bring the law in regard to corporal punishment into harmony with the practice and Regulations of His Majesty's Navy. I remember long debates in this House about flogging in the Navy, and I thought that perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would explain how far those punishments have been abolished. At any rate, the object of this Clause is to make statutory what is already in practice.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
My hon. Friend will remember that the only corporal punishment now in force in the Navy is caning. He will remember that flogging has been definitely suspended since 1881, and it could not be reinstituted except by the special authority of the Board of Admiralty.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I have stated that it has been suspended and could not be reinstituted except by the authority of the Board of Admiralty. He is aware that birching for boys has been similarly suspended since 1906. There remains the punishment of caning. That punishment may be administered to boys who are about the age of sixteen and under eighteen. Here, again, my hon. Friend will remember that in recent years we restricted the permission to cane. We went into the question very closely, and set up material restrictions. Up to 1906 the captain could delegate the power of caning to the commander, but in that year strict orders were issued that the caning should only be imposed under the actual order of the captain. Then, early in 1913, we issued instructions that caning was to be restricted to the serious offences of theft, immorality, drunkenness, insubordination, and deliberate and continued disobedience of orders. Further, at that time instructions were issued to the effect that, in the absence of the captain, the commanding officer is not to order caning to be inflicted unless the captain be absent from duty by permission of superior authority for more than forty-eight hours. It was also laid down that the punishment is not to be carried out in public. I may say further, in reply to my hon. Friend, that the instructions provide that the punishment is to be inflicted with a light and ordinary cane on the clothes. I trust, therefore, that my hon. Friend will not enter upon a discussion at this time.
§ Lord C. BERESFORD
May I point out that I am an example of corporal punishment. In one school I attended I was more flogged than the whole of the rest of the boys put together, and it did me a great deal of good. An impulsive, ener- 1358 getic, high-spirited boy often gets into more trouble and rows than the other lads, and he takes his flogging, and the thing is over. If you are going to punish him in some other way, if he is a high-tempered, spirited boy, and he is kept indoors, or otherwise punished, he will resent it, and the punishment will not have the moral effect which is derived from the use of the cane. The lad takes his caning, and thinks no more of it. He takes his punishment like a man, and it does him a great deal of good. It is true that a boy may be a thief, and a thief is a cur, and it is a very good thing to flog a cur at times; but I am speaking of high-spirited boys who get into mischief and submit to caning without thinking more about it. In the Service corporal punishment has been done away with, but when I joined the Service we had no discipline and plenty of "cat," but now it is thought a good thing to have plenty of discipline and no "cat." When I joined the Service, if a man offended he was flogged. Often a man would use rough remarks about the captain, and, if it was discovered, he was called out. It was a bestial punishment; it was a punishment suited to those days when men could not read or write, and when many of them were convicts, and when many of them were very bad characters, but it would be absolutely horrible now for a man to be tied up and get four dozen. Times have changed, but I still feel that the cane for the boy is good. It is not as if I had not had it myself. I had plenty of it, and I think it did me a great deal of good in those days.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I do not think that this is the time to discuss the ethics of flogging, but if it were I could find a good deal to say in reply to the Noble Lord, who, no doubt, is a fine specimen of the mature honourable man, notwithstanding the flogging he got in his youth. Neither he nor my right hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary have met the point, the only point I made, namely, that this is an attempt to make the Statute agree with the practice. The right hon. Gentleman has explained to us what the practice is in the Navy with regard to flogging, and I should like him to tell us what can be the objection to making that practice statutory.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Without going into that question, I am afraid it could not be done in this Bill, which we bring in as an emergency measure.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill reported; as amended, considered; read the third time, and passed.