HC Deb 12 July 1923 vol 166 cc1745-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £642,935, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924, for the Expenses of the Prisons in England and Wales, including a Grant-in-Aid of certain Expenses connected with Discharged Prisoners."—[Note: £500,000 has been voted on account.]


I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £500.

I regret that owing to the Rules of this House it is not possible for me to discuss this important subject of prisons in the way I should like. There is no subject of so much importance to those who have to inhabit them as this question of prisons. I would like hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and my own hon. Friends as well, to accept my word on this question—and I was not treated badly in either prison which I was in—that there is no man good enough to be the governor of a prison under the present Regulations, and there are no men good enough to be warders under those Regulations, which give them powers of life and death over the poor men, boys, women and girls who come under their charge. I do not charge these men with being more brutal than I am myself, but the rules they have to administer and the system of discipline they have to carry out is, in my judgment, so barbarous that the best man or woman will succumb to its influence.

I want to say a word about religion in prisons, because of all the cant, humbug and hypocrisy indulged in by humanity, the Chaplains' religious services in prisons are the worst. I never in my life attended religious services where I have been more blasphemed in thought and word than in these prison chapels. The idea of thinking about religion when there are a dozen men standing on platforms to see that I do not speak a word to my fellow men or look in any way that is not straight ahead, and then to be told that we are "Dear, beloved brethren"—[Laughter]—that makes hon. Members laugh, but it made me weep. We who sit in this House, if it happens to be a quarter to three, pay some sort of respect to the form of religion, but I hope that some of us have got something else besides the form of religion in us. When I see this blasphemy, I wish to enter my protest against it. The men who administer—

It being Eleven of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.