HC Deb 30 June 1932 vol 267 cc2069-95

Lords Amendment: In page 12, line 5, at the end, insert: and when the child is a male, to adjudge the child to be, as soon as practicable, privately whipped with not more than six strokes op a birch rod by a constable, in the presence of an inspector or other officer of police of higher rank than a constable, and also in the presence, if he desires to be present, of the parent or guardian of the child.


I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The Amendment is to restore in the Bill the provision for the whipping of boys under 14 which we took out of the original Bill. It might be useful if I mention to hon. Members the course of the discussions on that provision while the House were considering the original Bill. When I moved the Second Heading it was discussed by several hon. Members during the course of the Debate, and yet, as the House will remember, the Second Reading was passed without a Division. Subsequently in Committee an Amendment in more or less these terms was moved by an hon. Member. We had a long discussion on the point, my memory being that practically every one taking part in the discussion was on the same side, and in the end the Amendment was negatived without a Division. When the Bill came back to this House for the Report stage, no Amendment was put upon the Paper to remove these provisions, and finally the Bill, with the powers to whip removed, passed the Third Reading, again without a Division.

Hon. Members will realise that these provisions were not only fully discussed by the House and by the Committee, but at no single stage were they even challenged, let alone defeated in this House. In the circumstances, apart from any other consideration, I think that it would be proper for this House not to allow a decision which they had come to so unanimously and after such careful consideration to be rejected without a protest. I cannot help feeling that nearly all the opposition. to the abolition of these general powers to the whipping by magistrates of boys under 14 years arose from a failure to distinguish between the different types of whipping and their different effects. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), who I know will support me on this occasion, will support me for a different reason. He disagrees with whipping in any circumstances for any offence, no matter by whom administered. Those are not my views.

I believe that in certain circumstances for certain purposes whipping can still be an effective deterrent and punishment, but I am convinced that for the purpose for which this kind of whipping is imposed, and the circumstances in which it is administered, it is neither effective nor a deterrent. Hon. Members will realise that here you have a boy not receiving corporal punishment either from a parent or from a schoolmaster or from somebody whom he can trust and Whom he knows and to whom he has a feeling that he owes a certain obligation. Here it is administered by a policeman. That in itself, I think, makes a difference. But far more important is the fact that if the child is whipped in his home or in his school he feels it is all part of the game. It is part of the discipline he expects. There is nothing shameful in it. There is nothing frightening in it, although there may be occasions when it is painful.

It is not like what you get where whipping is administered by order of the court by a policeman. Here, not only do you get a feeling of resentment in the boy but, what is very often worse, a feeling of resentment in the parent, who, though he might be prepared to whip the child much harder himself, does not like to see him whipped in court by a policeman. You have, therefore, a child who has committed an offence, and who therefore ought to find in his home reprobation, and his parents angry with him, but you find instead that they sympathise with him and look upon him as a martyr. Therefore, a feeling that he has committed a wrong which ought to be kept alive by his home discipline, disappears in a sort of halo.

The mischievous boy, who, we are always told, is the boy best adapted to this form of punishment, I venture to say, is very often the worst adapted, because such a boy has usually committed rather petty offences out of a feeling of adventure and wants to show off before his companions. He wants to show the gang with whom he runs that he is a brave adventurous fellow. The effect, very often, of police court whipping is to make him a hero among his fellows. There is nothing romantic about being sent to an approved school, or even to be put upon probation. You cannot make a hero of someone like that, especially if he is taken away for two years. But you can make a hero of one who has stood his whipping bravely, and that, very often, is the case.

The most important thing of all is this: Hon. Members may think that I am opposing this whipping because we think whipping is often too severe a punishment for the type of case. I am not sure that that is always the case. I think that the whipping is often not severe enough. What hon. Members fail sometimes to appreciate is that you cannot combine whipping and any other punishment. You cannot whip a boy and put him on probation. You cannot whip a boy and send him to an approved school. The whipping that you can administer, whatever the offence may be, is a final and complete termination of the offence. I suggest that the punishment of whipping, painful as it may be at times, is not suitable for checking the offence for which it may be administered. It is often decided not so much by careful consideration of the type of offence and what is necessary to bring the boy back to the proper path. Whipping is cheap and quick, and whereas you can whip a boy at little expense, you can only keep him in an approved school at the expense of a local authority.

Although I know that it would be out of order to quote from the Debate on this subject in another place, which has resulted in this Measure, I think that I should so far be in order as to say that their opposition was largely influenced by a case to which reference was made. I should clearly be in order in referring to the case which many of us heard of outside when it was published in the papers. It was a case somewhere in East London where a gang of boys were tried for mutilating a flock of sheep. I think that there were 12 boys who mutilated in a most horrible fashion something like 20 sheep, and it was suggested in another place, and received with acclamation, that that was a proper case for whipping. I should disagree with that entirely. It seems to me that a boy when young may very likely pull the wings off a fly, and in later days tie a tin can to the tail of a dog in a spirit of mischief but when he gets to 12 or 14 years of age and he commits an act of mutilation in a horrible manner, there is something radically wrong with him and it does not seem to me that to that kind of psychology or that kind of person whipping is going to do any good. To whip boys of that kind and turn them loose again on society is to do nothing whatsoever to cure the root evil which caused the offence, and is likely to stimulate the commission of such an offence again. A boy like that needs a course of treatment. He requires removal from his influences. He wants to be sent to the hard, commonsesne, clean atmosphere of a school. Because whipping while it remains is an easy and cheap alternative to what I believe is the proper kind of treatment, one feels that it is not safe just to leave whipping to drop into desuetude, which it is already doing, but that we should take this final step and put it outside the power of all magistrates to do what nearly every magistrate in his own court has abandoned, that is to inflict corporal punishment.

I personally and my Department do not stand with the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) as the opponents of corporal punishment, in every circumstance and all circumstances. It is not merely on sentimental grounds that we take our present attitude. Under Home Office rules corporal punishment on proper occasions is still administered, but I do think that there is all the difference in the world between whipping a boy by his parents or his schoolmaster and whipping by a policeman at the order of the court. I hope that the House will join with us in disagreeing with the Lords in this Amendment, and that they will once more remove the power of whipping from the Bill.


I am sure that I am voicing the feelings of nearly every Member when I congratulate the Government on their attitude. [Hon. Members: "No!"] Without criticising what members in another place have done, I would say that they have forgotten two or three fundamental facts in relation to whipping. The first fact is, that the courts are gradually declining to order boys to be whipped. The number of boys ordered to be whipped is decreasing anually, and in a few years time I should imagine that whipping will disappear automatically, because magistrates do not want to order whipping. The other argument that is paramount in my mind is that we may have a backward bench of magistrates who may order a boy to be whipped in one town for an offence that is less serious than an offence for which a boy has been put on probation or sent to an approved school in another town. Therefore, it is possible that the law in those circumstances will be administered in an unequal fashion.

The Under-Secretary says that we are not entitled to quote what has been said in another place. I saw in the Press that one member in the other place had stated—and I want to contradict it, because the statement was incorrect—that the committee which inquired into the treatment of young offenders were unanimously in favour of maintaining the power of the court to order whipping. That member of the other House obviously had not a copy of the report before him. The committee reported in March, 1927. This is what the minority report said: We are not satisfied that whipping ordered by a court of law serves a useful purpose. We cannot therefore agree with the recommendation of the Committee on this point. Two members of the committee and myself signed the minority report. The majority report was rather half-hearted in favour of maintaining the whipping of boys. Even their Lordships do not want to whip little girls. It is interesting to note the exact words of their Amendment: and when the child is a male, to adjudge the child to be, as soon as practicable privately whipped with not more than six strokes of a birch rod by a constable, in the presence of an inspector or other officer of police of higher rank than a constable, and also in the presence, if he desires to be present of the parent or guardian of the child. I hope that some historian will pick out those words when he writes the history of the other place. The majority of the committee in their report said: We deprecate strongly any indiscriminate use of whipping. There should be a medical examination in all cases, and the parent or guardian should have the right to be present. The court should consider the character of the offender rather than the nature of the offence. Subject to these safe-guards, the court should be able to order whipping in respect of any serious offence committed by a boy under 17. Whipping should not be associated with any other form of treatment. There were 12 members of the Committee and even the majority were rather halfhearted in recommending that whipping should be ordered by the courts. Three members of the Committee were against that recommendation. This is not a party Bill. There are no political differences in regard to it. From the evidence that we received on the Committee referred to it was obvious that magistrates were discarding the power they possessed and decreasing every year the number of children ordered to be whipped. I read in a newspaper the other day that a bench of magistrates had ordered a child of eight to be whipped. What nonsense to order a child of eight to be whipped by a police officer, in the year 1932 in this country, where we boast, and rightly so, that we are rather intelligent people. I have been told on more than one occasion that the police officer told off to whip children dislikes the task so much that the whipping is only done as a sham. I do not blame the police officer who is ordered to whip a child of eight years that he does not undertake the task with severity. I congratulate the Government on declining to agree to the Amendment.


The Front Benches seem to be in agreement on this matter. We have heard from the hon. Member opposite that everybody in the House is likely to agree with him. I suppose that I shall be one against the whole House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I regret the disappearance of whipping, at any rate as an alternative punishment for certain types of boys who commit certain types of offences. There are various things said about corporal punishment. There is a well-known old story about Professor Mahaffy and his great rival, Professor Traill of Trinity College, Dublin. They were discussing the question of corporal punishment and Professor Mahaffy said: "I do not believe in corporal punishment. I was once whipped for telling the truth." "Well," said Professor Traill, "it effectually cured you."

My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary has used certain arguments and it seemed to me that some of them were mutually destructive. He said that it would not be consonant with the dignity if the House to accept the Amendment, seeing that the Committee upstairs was practically unanimous in condemnation of the use of the rod, as decided by the magistrates, and that the punishment would be too frightening and might cause resentment. Later on he said that whipping might possibly be too light a punishment. He cannot have it both ways. I have had some experience of boys and I always found that there are certain types of boys and certain types of offences in regard to which it is very much better to give the boys a good whipping, and say: "Now go away and do not do that again." The best and common sense way would be for the magistrate to take the boy into his private room and administer a whipping. It is said that the whipping should be administered in public, in court.


Nobody said that.


I understood so. I think the hon. Member opposite said it.




Then I apologise. The punishment would be administered in private. The Under-Secretary said that whipping might make a boy a hero. I do not agree with him. It would be much more likely to make him a hero if he was condemned to have some other sort of punishment. Even if I am alone in the House in expressing the opinion, I regret very much that the Under-Secretary has not seen fit to accept the Amendment.


I, too, regret the Government's decision, but I do so from a rather different standpoint. The situation at the moment is that crimes of violence among young people are, apparently, on the increase. It has been suggested to me that the power to order a whipping is very often known to these young people and that when they go before the court for the first time the fact that the magistrate has the power to order them to be whipped, and that he can tell them he has that power, acts extremely well upon a certain type of young person. It has been represented to me by some magistrates of experience that, while they would be ex- tremely slow to order any punishment in the shape of whipping, they find that the fact that they can use this threat is one which assists them in the carrying out of their duties.

6.30 p.m.

Punishment by whipping is one which should be ordered with very great reluctance by any court, but I cannot help feeling that there are some types of young person to whom that form of punishment is perhaps most advantageous and most effectual. Those of us who have spent years in the administration or in assisting in the administration of the law know that some years ago there was a great recrudescence of crimes of violence, and it was only because certain judges decided that they would see whether they could make the only possible appeal to a bully, namely, by ordering him to be flogged, that the Garrotters Bill was passed and crimes of violence were very largely put down. The retention of these powers would be a good thing for the administration of justice and a good thing in the interests of these young people. The fact that the existing power is used less and less shows that it is being used with great discrimination and I hope with great reluctance, by those who have the power to order it. It is not because I have any particular theory about punishing young people or dealing with various types of offenders, but because I believe that this additional power, kept as it were in reserve, may in some instances do good that I regret the decision which has been reached by the Government to disagree with the Amendment.


I feel some diffidence in rising to support the Government because in another place it has been decided that girls should not be whipped. We have got so far. One of the main reasons why we should do away with the whipping of young offenders is that it has been proved to be a failure. The hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson) spoke of the increase in crimes of violence. We shall have an increase in crimes of violence unless we train the young and punish them in the right way. If we continue this cheap and quick, and as I think useless punishment, of whipping we may watch the growth in this country of the very type of young men who may commit crimes of violence later on. Hon. Members who have read lately in the Press the life history of some criminals must have been struck with the number of cases in which, when they were quite young boys and were first brought into the court, they received the punishment of whipping. No one who considers this subject carefully can think that a boy who has committed some offence will consider it a greater punishment to get six strokes with the birch than to be put on probation or sent to an approved school.

In punishing young offenders we have to look particularly to the training for the future. When they are young we get the chance to train them, and I do not think that we are taking that chance if we merely whip them and send them away. The great advantage of this Bill is that it gives young people who may commit some offence early in life a chance of leading a better life; it does not bring them into contact with the courts. It is not much use quoting figures and statistics but I believe that the majority of hon. Members will agree that whipping has been a failure in preventing crime. It is not sentimental or soft-hearted persons who want to abolish whipping. Some hon. Members during the Committee stage thought that I was not only a very hard-hearted woman but a woman who was so hard hearted that they were sorry to see me as a Member of the House of Commons. It is not because of sentiment or a soft heart that I am putting forward this view. It may be that it is because of the hardness of my heart, because I do not consider the punishment is sufficient; that it is out of date, and not the best way of treating the young people of this country. It has been said that whipping is being used much less than formerly; and, therefore, what does it matter? Perhaps in the very cases where it has been used it has been used on the wrong people. It may be ordered in cases where it is the worst form of punishment and, therefore, I hope the House will support the Under-Secretary in giving us a better standard of punishment for young people and a better chance to train them for the future.


The Under-Secretary of State can rely on my supporting him in this matter, and I hope the House will support him also. I was rather taken aback by the speech of the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville). This is a subject upon which I should be very much guided by the hon. Member, who has such a sage experience in the handling of boys. He is a schoolmaster, and after a lifetime of experience he comes to this House and says that he is in favour of whipping. I know many schoolmasters who would not support his view. I think that he made out a very poor case. The hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson) is a King's Counsel and from his experience in the courts I should have expected him to put forward a more humane outlook on life, so far as young offenders are concerned. I want to register my most emphatic protest against this Amendment of the Lords. If ever there was a case for the abolition of the House of Lords this is it. Here are men who are set apart, supposed to be men with analytical minds, with judicial minds, not ordinary men, but men who are able to give unbiased decisions for the benefit of the common weal. The House of Commons is democratically elected to give expression to the will of the people. The House of Lords is not democratically elected. It is responsible to nobody but themselves. If they were dealing with their own sons or their own daughters I would not care; but they are dealing with the sons and daughters of my class, the working classes. None of the Lords would like to see their sons of eight years of age being birched. [Interruption.] Would you like to see your son being birched?


Yes, if he deserved it.


Then you are saying what is not true. I have more respect for you than to think that. No man would hand over his child to another man to be birched—and to a man who is paid for the job. You are going back to the days of slavery when they tied men to the whipping post and whipped them. The Lords think they are living in that age yet. There are some people who would whip not only boys but men and women who dare to differ from them. That is not general to the House. There has never been so intolerant a House of Commons as the House to-day. This House is more intolerant than it was when I came here 10 years ago; and here we have the evidence of it in this Amendment.

Here is a Bill which a young Tory piloted through Committee, the Under- Secretary of State. He gave us concessions and made speeches showing that it was a subject to which he had given some thought and that he had got away from the trammels which evidently are still afflicting the Lords. After all we have done, after all that the House has done, the Lords decide that a little boy of eight years of age is to be birched. Think of it, Mr. Speaker! Some poor little chap, who has never had a dog's chance in life, who has lived a life of poverty, who has never had a good feed, never known what it was to lie in a good bed, brought up under the most appalling conditions, the victim of this cruel system, which condemns thousands of children to live in the slums in our great industrial centres; and the Lords say that he is to be whipped by a constable, a man paid for doing the job. To show that they do not know what they are doing, they say that the parents may see their child whipped. What type of mind do they possess? What type of men are they? A low bestial mind. Think of a mother standing and looking at her own flesh and blood being whipped, under the Union Jack, in this land of liberty, this Christian land.

Where is all the Christian sentiment behind this? Where is this "love one another as I have loved you"? Is there any love there? Yet we are told we are not to have any sentiment. Is there any father here, I wonder? I am a father, and I have never whipped any of my boys, and they will compare favourably with the best in Britain- But I know that if I had been whipped when I was a boy I would have resented it. I know how it would have sunk into my being, and how. I would have hated it, hated the system that degraded me in that fashion. The less a boy feels he is being degraded the better. It is not merely a question of physical punishment. I could always stand any amount of physical punishment and can stand it yet. But I know that working-class boys have keener feelings than simply physical feelings; something deeper, something nobler inside them than that which would be indicated by simply resenting strokes of a birch-rod on their backs. It is the idea in the matter that counts. The Lords realise quite well to-day that they cannot crush -the working classes as they used to be able to do in bygone days. This Amend- ment is evidence of that. They would like now to be able to whip the offending members of the working class who dares to assert his right as a man, because the lord considers himself a superior person, although I have never met that superior person yet.

What do we find with those who have taken pains about this business? What does Sir William Clarke Hall say? He found that in 1915 and 1916, at Old Street, 99 boys were birched and that 35 who had been birched were re-charged later. This percentage of convictions was higher than for any other method of treatment. Then let us turn to the report of the Board of Education on the juvenile courts in four towns, which shows that 25 per cent. of the boys birched were re-charged within a month. On 21st January last the Recorder of Leeds, after having heard a joint charge against three boys and some adults, sentenced the three boys to a birching. On 12th February the same three boys were charged again with another similar offence committed after the previous sentence. Probation officers are practically unanimous in condemning birching. They find that it renders their task more difficult. Many of the worst boys for whom whipping is often advocated have been thrashed again and again by parents, and they regard a court whipping as a joke. It is a most unequal punishment. It means nothing to some boys, but it is a torture and a humiliation to others. Dr. Cyril Burt—you should read his book—while admitting that there may be a few cases and a few offences for which corporal punishment may prove a useful deterrent—he refers to cases of cruelty and wanton destructiveness of the kind quoted by Lord Atkin in his speech of 9th June—says: The infliction of pain is a negative and desperate form of discipline to be applied only as a last and exceptional resort. Once the boy has been flogged the psychologist finds it is hard for him to regain his confidence, and reawaken his self-respect. When all is said, in 99 cases out of 100 corporal punishment, however inflicted, is likely to make the recipient not more amenable to discipline but more defiant. Courts have no means of knowing beforehand whether the boy is one of the 99 on whom it will have disastrous affects, and now that the punishment is almost abandoned the courts which still exercise the powers of birching are the very courts which make little inquiry or discrimination. If this matter comes to a division I hope that Members before they Vote for birching will have due regard to those authorities which I have quoted. In this Bill we have got an extension of one year, from seven to eight, as the age before which a child cannot be brought before the court. We have also got concessions as far as habitual criminals are concerned. We have not got all we should have liked, and for myself I wanted to see it improved still further. But there was one outstanding matter which I thought we were going to eliminate entirely, and that was the birching of working-class boys. Others have taken exceptions to my stating that, but it is the working-class boys who are to be birched by the policeman, and I would ask the House just to have in their mind's eye the poor chance these boys have had. The Under-Secretary of State has made provisions whereby those boys will be treated to-day in a more intelligent and humane fashion. You have to remember in speaking of bad boys, that time and time again in this country the bad boy has become a great man, and you have to be careful that you do not make a mistake. All the evidence I have been able to get is against whipping and in favour of treating the boy in a more humane manner. The Under-Secretary in this matter can depend upon me supporting him against the House of Lords.


I wish to add my congratulations to those which have come from various parts of the House to the Under-Secretary on the decision that the Government should disagree with this Amendment. As one who heard his speech on the Second Reading I thought his analysis of the various types of cases dealt with, and his arguments against whipping, were so cogent and expressed so well the sense of this House, that after this Bill left us I thought we would hear no more about whipping in these circumstances. I think the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville) altogether missed the point of the Under-Secretary, for both in his Second Reading speech and to-night he made a very definite distinction between a father punishing his child or the master punishing a child and a child being whipped by a policeman under order of a court. Of course there are all kinds of opinions about punishment in general. I come of a fairly sound stock and I knew what discipline was, and I even got all I deserved and some more. I remember being what my parents called "walloped," and it was the best part of my education. But this is the case of boys being whipped by a constable by order of a court, and it is in a different category altogether. I do not think that the views expressed by the hon. Member for Windsor or by others have met that position, and it seems to me it has not been met in the other House.

7.0 p.m.

What is the real position? The court can order whipping for a first offence, and for almost any type of offence. I ask the House to bear in mind that the case mentioned in the other House was that of boys who had mutilated some sheep and that for an offence of that kind it was said that these boys should be sentenced to six strokes of the rod. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman quite rightly said that that type of offence is not one for whipping at all. I have in mind a case in which three boys, one ten years of age and two 11 years of age, of proved and unchallenged good character were, for a first offence, sent by a juvenile court to receive six strokes of the birch from a constable. The Noble Lords used this case of sheep mutilation in support of their position and to justify whipping. The magistrate in another part of the country for a. first offence sentenced boys who had stolen some essence of ginger beer to be birched. I ask the House to note the fact that although public opinion expressed itself there was no means of making a real protest against it. The whole of the north of England was against the sentence, and newspapers of all political colours protested against it. It could not be raised here, and once the sentence was carried out there was no means of making a real protest against it; and yet these boys have it against them that they have been whipped in a cell by a constable.

I submit it is time we ended that kind of punishment and took that power away from the magistrates. It is quite true that magistrates do not sentence juveniles to be birched very often, but there is distinct proof, in the particular case I have mentioned, that sometimes it can be used very unwisely. I therefore think the Government are to be congratulated on standing against the continuance of this power in the hands of the magistrates. It is not a test of discipline or a question of namby-pamby treatment; it is a test of common sense. As one who does not undervalue discipline I should say in this case that members of the other House are half a century too late and too old to give adequate consideration to this problem.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir VIVIAN HENDER-SON

I am very glad that the Undersecretary has asked the House to disagree with this particular Amendment, because I am certain that the sentence of whipping by juvenile courts is neither a punishment nor a deterrent. Unlike the hon. and learned Member who sits on my right, I am not acquainted with the everyday administration of justice, but I have had a good deal to do with the work both of the Home Office schools and Borstal institutions, and the one difficulty which faces both institutions is that they do not receive lads for training as soon as they ought to. Courts of summary jurisdiction are continually giving sentences either of whipping or putting lads on probation, so that when they eventually come for training they are very often past training. If anything can be done to take away a power like this from the juvenile courts, I am perfectly certain it would be a good thing and it might encourage the courts to send lads for proper training earlier than they would otherwise do.


Unlike the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), I have in my time enjoyed the pleasure of being whipped. I cannot say that whipping did me any harm, and indeed it probably did me good. I think the hon. Member is a little bit unfair on the Lords in the observations he has made, because after all almost all of them in their own time have been whipped, and if they prescribe the remedy which they enjoyed themselves they are at least consistent. I agree with the hon. Member that a constable did not whip them, but they were whipped by somebody who whipped considerably harder than the constable. My only reason for rising is that I feel there are two kinds of cases for which whipping still is or may be a deterrent. I quite agree that it is far better, as far as possible, to allow parents to deal with their children and to whip them if necessary, but you get the case of a spoilt boy whose parents will not do anything to keep him in order. He may not be a vicious or bad boy, but he gets into trouble and a "hiding" at home early on might very well put him right. You do not want to take him away and send him to an industrial school, and he is just the type that should be whipped before he develops worse tendencies. You have cases of cruelty, and there I differ with the Under-Secretary, because I believe that where you have got in a young boy a vicious tendency towards cruelty to animals in some cases much the best way to stop him is to make him feel it through his own hide. Our courts are on the whole intelligent courts and are not anxious to whip children. They are careful and they do it very little. Surely they might be allowed to have just this little bit of power of using their own discretion to deal with exceptional cases by means of exceptional measures?


The remarks which fell a short while ago from the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson) prompt me to detain the House for a few minutes before it comes to a decision. If I understood his argument aright it was that magistrates now possessed in the power of whipping a very valuable weapon to hold in reserve and to exercise only sparingly. That struck me as a specious, attractive and somewhat plausible argument, but it seems to me that there is far greater danger in that power than benefit, because it has the result of inducing magistrates to inflict less effective penalties, such as whipping is, when they ought to use other penalties. As has been pointed out, cases which should come to approved schools or Borstal institutions, are in fact dealt with by the penalty of whipping, which is easy and prompt, but are not thereby so effectively dealt with. They are cases in which the wrong remedy is used. I am in disagreement with the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. Somerville), though I know he has had certain disciplinary experience in this matter, but I am not quite sure whether his scholastic duties ever empowered him to inflict penalties. Perhaps I may quote what Dr. Johnson said about 150 years ago: Sir, There is now less flogging in our great schools than formerly, but less is learned. What the boys no longer get at one end they lose at the other. That leads me to my final point. In discussing this, is it not a fact that those who advocate the retention of this penalty mix up and confuse the infliction of whipping by parents and school-masters with whipping by the courts? It seems to me that the two are entirely distinct, and if they are not separated in our minds we shall certainly come to a confusion of thought. I hope the House will keep these two things in distinct categories, so that we do not confuse what may be salutary as a correction in the case of a parent or schoolmaster with the infliction of a similar penalty by a constable on the direction of a court of law.


The Under-Secretary has asked the House to reject this Amendment, not because so much whipping in itself is wrong. I do not agree with those who brag that they have never been whipped or that whipping should not be allowed. I believe a good sound whipping occasionally does every child good, and that we ought not to be too namby-pamby about this idea of whipping. We can be rather too lenient with a naughty child and I think whipping occasionally a very good thing. The hon. Member for South East Essex (Mr. Raikes) said he enjoyed his whipping and the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirk-wood) said he had never had a whipping. It is obvious that neither of these hon. Members was of the type that needed whipping. One enjoyed it and the other never had it. There has been a great deal of talk about whipping for the right type of child, but the weakness I see in giving powers to magistrates to inflict whipping is that there is no definition of what is the right type of child.

As a mother I am of opinion that no one is capable of deciding whether whipping is going to do a child good except those who live with it and know its temperament. After all, punishment ought to do two things. It should prevent a child from repeating the naughty thing it had already done, and at the same time it should not spoil the child in its future life.

One holds a very responsible position in inflicting punishment on any young person. The great thing is to see to it that nothing which you do will prevent that child from growing into a useful citizen. There has been a great deal of talk by the hon. Member for Dumbarton about bad boys but I believe that no amount of whipping will cure bad boys. Bad boys are born bad and I do not think that you can cure them. Therefore I agree with the Under-Secretary when he says that whipping can do no good to boys who are cruel to sheep, for instance, and that they ought to be sent to some institution. There is a great deal of difference between badness and mischief and many children commit crimes not from any sense of evil but from a sense of adventure. I am pleased that the Under-Secretary has asked the House to resist the Lords Amendment because I believe that to give the power of whipping to a public body who have no real understanding of the child's temperament is not only barbaric but very brutal.


I wish to congratulate the Under-Secretary to the Home Office on resisting the Amendment from another place. It is difficult to comprehend how intelligent men and women can think that flogging will do any good, even to those who are designated "bad boys." The problem is entirely one of psychology and flogging is an easy method of dealing with it. It is the method which disposes of the matter somehow, within a few moments, instead of facing the causes which produce characteristics in the boy or, for that matter, in the girl, which are unsocial or antisocial. If we had better recreational facilities, particularly in our large cities, boys and girls could be kept off the streets. We have, of course, approved schools but we ought to have schools under the charge of eminent psychologists. The name of Mr. Cyril Burt has been mentioned and I should like every Member of the House to read his work, "The Young Delinquent." It is the work of one who is, perhaps, the most eminent practical psychologist in Britain and if hon. Members studied it, I think those who are in favour of the Lords Amendment would take a different point of view. Biology has not been taught in our schools and in connection with that subject there are many sub-sciences that ought to be explained to and understood by our young people. Atavism is a fact and the line of demarcation between the genius and the idiot is so thin that it is a problem for the psychologist. To support flogging is just doing a lazy man's job. It needs no thought. A brute can do it and somehow, sometimes, in certain circumstances, much of the brute comes to the surface even in those who may be termed refined people.

It is certainly not manly or womanly to beat a child. I speak as a father and I have never had occasion to hurt my children. They have been given freedom to move as grown-ups. They have been treated by my wife and by me as if they were intelligent people living in an intellectual world, where they can participate in discussions which are suitable to them. I believe that by listening to what we have to say, when we are talking of sensible things, it is possible for children to arrive at an understanding of the meaning of responsibility and proper conduct. I trust that the House will accept what the Under-Secretary has said, not only to-day but in his really brilliant speech on the Second Reading. He has met very fully all that has been said about the different types of children. I hope that magistrates will not at any time have these floggings, and I trust that in the future, perhaps in amending Measures on this subject, we shall be able to discuss other courses, other types of schools, other methods of dealing with the delinquent child. Meanwhile, poverty has much to do with the problem. Bad environment has much to do with it. Much of what we are is the result of environment, and, if we can produce the environment which will tend to a higher standard of culture, if we can permit the child to have better recreational facilities and teach it to do things upon right lines, I am inclined to believe that we shall have fewer and fewer bad boys and bad girls.


I have been wondering, Mr. Speaker, if you have in your possession a Book of Holy Writ in which I could find a quotation about sparing the rod and spoiling the child. I think it was Solomon who uttered those words and I ask has humanity altered very much since those words were spoken? The hon. Lady the Member for Cannock (Mrs. Ward) said it was difficult to find the type of child who deserved flogging. My father discovered it half a century ago. He found that I was of the type which required flogging and he proved conclusively that the flogging was necessary—and see what a success has resulted from the procedure. In my early days, whatever mischief happened in our house, I was always accused of it, and morning after morning I was turned over and had that administered to me which I often did not deserve. I well remember my tenth birthday. I used to keep on sleeping or pretending to sleep as long as possible every morning, because I knew that directly I got up I was to be thrashed. On that particular morning they woke me up and to my unutterable relief I found that it was for the purpose of giving me a birthday present.

It has been said by some members of the medical profession that wickedness is not a subject for chastisement but for mental treatment, and it is suggested that by some mental operation, by removing something from the brain, it is possible to turn even a man like myself into a respectable member of society. There may be a great deal in that theory, and I have no doubt that further research will enable us to see more clearly how to deal with malefactors and children of the unruly age or children of any age who appear to need correction. The parent and the child look at this matter from very different points of view. They see it in a totally different perspective. With my own offspring I have tried both ways. The hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams) said that he never had occasion to chastise his children. I am afraid that I cannot hold myself up to his level. I am afraid that I have found it necessary to do so, to my own great discomfort, though when my own father told me, "This hurts me more than you," I never believed him.

On one occasion, however, I thought I would try other measures of correction. In the case of a boy aged about nine, who was in the habit of helping himself out of the sugar basin in the absence of his mother, I warned him three or four times that if he did it again I would give him mustard to eat. He did it again and then I put some mustard on a piece of ham and made him eat it. To my great surprise he asked for more. I did not know how to deal with him after that. When a boy develops a liking for mustard it is difficult to know what to do with him. But I think it would be a hardship on this generation if they were denied the privilege of thrashing their children just as they were thrashed by their parents. I think we have a right to retain that privilege. No matter how civilisation progresses we must apply the rod or we shall certainly spoil the child, and it will be many generations before we can dispense with that method of correction.

At a further stage in life it is only the fear of personal punishment that deters certain types of men from ill deeds. Take the garrotting cases in Manchester in the old days. The cat-o'-nine-tails was the one measure which stamped out that nefarious practice, and in these days of "smash-and-grab" raids and attacks upon defenceless women and children, which are becoming such a menace, I would put up both hands for the reintroduction of the cat-o'-nine-tails for the punishment of men convicted of offences of that description. As I have said, it is doubtful which method is best adapted to the child, but there is one point to which I would like to refer. Up to the present we have spoken only of boys as if this problem did not concern girls at all. There are many girls worse than boys and although there are some honourable ladies present, I would say that I have heard of girls riding on donkeys and sticking pins in the donkeys in order to see what the effect would be. I think that is a wicked business and I think that sometimes a good slapping for a girl under the age of 12 will certainly do her good and may help to make her into a good wife and mother in the future.

7.30 p.m.


I do not know whether I should have risen but for the fact that while I was listening to the remarks of the hon. Member who has just sat down, I wondered whether he himself might be a magistrate either to-day or at some future date, and if he and people who hold similar views to his became magistrates, with jurisdiction in the juvenile courts, I wondered what would be the fate of a child who was brought before them for correction. It is because of the fact that human ideas with regard to questions of correction differ so widely that it is not safe to put in the hands of any set of magistrates, no matter what other abilities they may have, discretion in this matter. I do not say that my hon. Friend opposite is vicious in his views, but merely that he holds the wrong view on this matter, and I think the major portion of the House will have been similarly influenced by the speeches of those who are opposed to the Motion moved by the Under-Secretary of State.

Two things should be very carefully considered in dealing with this question, and the first is that whipping is not so much a question of pain. Hon. Members have been bringing forward illustrations of the flogging of vicious criminals, but we are not dealing here with the question of flogging in the sense that it creates an impression of such extreme pain that that person will not do the same thing again. We are dealing here with whipping a child, and that whipping is forgotten, the physical pain is forgotten, as some of those hon. Members who have spoken have forgotten their various whippings, but the danger lies in the very important effect that the whipping may have on the mentality of the child. The danger lies in the fact that when a child is whipped by an officer of a court—and, after all, the intention of the Bill is to deal with the psychological effect upon the child—it may mean that that will remain in his memory till the very last day of his life, and if it does, it would be of such an injurious nature in the case of some children that it would bring continual mental torture in its wake. In many instances it would not only not have the effect of bringing the child into better ways, but it might make that child feel that, after all, it was not worth while to reform, as the worst that could happen had happened to him; and he would continue in his old ways.


What about Solomon?


I am in a position to disagree with Solomon, because I am almost in the direct line of descent, but I do not disagree with Solomon to this extent. I have no recollection that at the time of King Solomon juvenile courts had been instituted, nor indeed that this method of birching had been suggested for dealing with children as it is suggested here. To be perfectly serious, however, you have to face this important issue: Is it not better even, to put it at the very worst possible, that 12 children who deserve whipping should escape that penalty than that one child's life should be ruined by the fact that it was wrongly whipped? In these circumstances, I say that the Committee should accept the opinion that has been put forward by the Under-Secretary of State in all its fullness, definitely and finally.

It is not that the Lords have intended to exercise, as one hon. Member would have us believe, a great and mighty power over the child of the working class. I am not convinced that the child of the working class is meant, when juvenile courts are being considered, any more than the child of any other class. I do not believe that the child of the working class is any more vicious and comes any more frequently, proportionately speaking, before the juvenile courts than the child of any other class. It is nonsense and monstrous to introduce these things into this question. The child as a whole is being considered, and indeed, if it is a question of inflicting pain, the child who had been more used to buffeting and knocking about would not feel the pain so much if that pain were inflicted as the child who had not been so brought up, but it is the mentality of the child, whatever its class, that we are concerned with; and I hope that those who have opposed the Motion of the Under-Secretary of State will not press their opposition to a division, but will accept the view which is obviously paramount here and will realise that the intention of the Under-Secretary of State is an exceedingly good one and should be supported as fully as possible.


I came hurrying down from the Committee Room upstairs in order to support the Government in carrying this Amendment from the Lords, but I was amazed to find that the National Government proposed to ask the House to reject the Lords Amendment. I could not believe that a National Government could reject such a sensible Amendment. I could not imagine that so virile a thing as a National Government, representing Great Britain, the most virile of nationalities could say that a properly constituted court should be forbidden any discretion to give six smacks with the birch to a very naughty boy. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] Somebody says "Nonsense," but it is nonsense for him to say so. [Interruption.] I am sure the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood), who interrupts, would give any naughty boy a smack in a minute, because he is or the same robust constitution as I am myself.

We have heard of the unfair privilege of the rich and the well-to-do, but there is not a person who has ever been to any of the richer seminaries of this country who has not been thoroughly well birched, and I think I heard the Under-Secretary of State himself, on a former occasion, say that he had derived great benefit from having been whipped. He did not say so himself, but we believe that he would not be the very excellent fellow that he is if he had not been well birched. I greatly object to the idea of class distinction of any kind, but if you could say that there is one class of the community which is perhaps better than any other class, less snobbish and a better style of person, I would pick out the naval officer. I have always been told, when I have asked people connected with the Navy why the naval officer as a class was so efficient, so unassuming, non snobbish, and so acceptable to all classes of society, that the reason was that practically every day of his life as a midshipman he had been well birched. There you are, and why should you withdraw this discretionary power from a court? I think that as a rule magistrates are reasonable people, and if they were trying to exceed their jurisdiction, I have no doubt that some court of appeal could put them right.


I do not know how my hon. Friend proposes that a court of appeal should be able to withdraw the whippings that had been given to a boy already.


If a court of magistrates was in the habit of ordering whipping unjustly, I feel sure that the attention of some appeal court or the Home Office would be drawn to it, so that that a miscarriage of justice would be stopped; and I think that interruption was not very material. My recollection goes back to a month or two ago, when there was a most deplorable case of boys killing sheep and calves by beating them with iron bars—a most horrible case of brutality—and we know that there are cases of brutality of that kind. Do you mean to tell me that boys who do such an act as that should not be whipped? I am glad to say it is not common, though, mind you, young boys of all classes are perhaps the cruelest thing in creation. [An HON. MEMBER: "And girls."] We are not concerned with girls on this Amendment, and if we were, we should have to call in our lady Members to deal with the matter. We are only concerned now with the male sex, and many boys, as we know, are very cruel.

Most of the magistrates are very much like ourselves, and can be trusted to exercise their jurisdiction fairly, and it is monstrous to say that boys like that should not have up to six strokes with the birch-rod. We have recently seen in the papers how certain boys from Eton got very excited at a cricket match at Winchester, and did certain damage to a railway carriage on their way back to Eton, breaking windows and so on. There has been no talk of any injustice, and every one of those boys has been soundly birched, and has received a good many more than six strokes with the birch. There is no outcry throughout the country about this terrible abuse of authority. [Interruption.] I do not care who administers the birch, and I venture to say that anyone who has seen the birch administered in a public school will say that it is much more thoroughly done by a headmaster than by most other people.

Do let us get back to the facts of the case. Where you have a cruel boy, it is not only kinder, but better, that he should receive not more, according to the Lords Amendment, than six strokes with the birch-rod, and I say that it is a reflection on the magistrates of this country if you cannot trust them to give a sentence of up to six strokes with the birch-rod to a boy who has been cruel and has been guilty of acts such as smashing animals' heads with an iron bar. This House, I am afraid, has become so namby-pamby that the public will feel it is not fit any longer to govern the country, and if anyone will go with me, I shall go into the Lobby in support of this very sensible proposal of the House of Lords.


I want to speak in opposition to the last speaker, for several reasons. First of all, he said he Was amazed that we had attempted to alter the Lords decision, but when the Bill went up to the Lords it included the Clause to stop any birching at all, and the Lords have overruled the Commons in this matter. If only on that ground, I should be strongly opposed to anything that the Lords recommended to this House.


I am not so touchy as that.


Probably not, because generally the Lords are of the hon. Member's way of thinking, but whatever the Lords do, I always think it is against the policy that we on these benches advocate. Secondly, I think that as we advance in civilisation, the kind of thing that might have been appropriate and fitting in times gone by is no longer required, and a child can be far better dealt with nowadays without the use of force. Any child who has been to school knows very well that the administration of the cane or the birch leaves a very bad impression on the mind, and a teacher does far more good with a child at school by persuasion than by using the cane. In this case also far more good would be done by eliminating altogether the use of the birch. I am pleased that I am able to go with the National Government on this Amendment. When I read the Debate in the Lords when they decided to insert this Amendment, I wondered whether the Government would be firm and stand against it. I am glad that the Under-Secretary has done this and that he is so progressive as to stand by what the Commons have already decided.


I am surprised at the line of argument of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. He supports the Government because another place has reversed our decision. I hope the hon. Member will keep that in mind when we are dealing with later Amendments. I regret the decision of the Government because in some cases benches will be forced because of the circumstances to inflict punishment of another kind. If we withdraw from the court the power of inflicting in appropriate cases some form of physical punishment, the alternative is that some of the young people will be sent to some place of detention. The worst thing that can be done is to send anybody to gaol or a place of detention for the first time.


We are talking about children under 14, who cannot be sent to gaol or to any equivalent.


They can be sent to a place of detention where they are brought under a system of control where they lose their freedom. Give it any fancy name you like.


When I was at a public school, and for three terms a year lost my liberty, would the hon. Member say that I was in gaol?


The deprivation of liberty in school is not the same as deprivation of liberty in a place where people are put because they have offended against the community and are subject to a degree of restraint which is not true of the ordinary school. We hear this vague sentimentality about punishment of the body, and yet people are willing to inflict a much more dreadful punishment to the mind. This is a misguided form of sentimentality, and probably if we decide to-day to disagree with this Amendment many people will become criminals who would have been saved if there had been a little bit of appropriate punishment at the right moment.

Subsequent Lords Amendments to page 14, line 11, agreed to.