HC Deb 07 April 1936 vol 310 cc2611-5

I beg to move: That leave be given to bring in a Bill to abolish the power of a court of summary jurisdiction to order a child to be whipped. I, and many other hon. Members, feel that birching is an undesirable part of the penal code. It is almost dying out in practice among parents and also in schools, and even when it is thought necessary to administer some form of corporal punishment, birching is no longer thought to be the most suitable form of corporal punishment. To-day, birching is very rare in any State-aided schools and increasingly so in the public schools; I mean those private foundations which are called public schools. It is still the custom in one or two of the bigger schools, particularly Eton, but we should not allow the fact that we have so many representatives of that school in this House to prejudice our judgment on this subject. To-day, only the very rich still feel a strong desire to preserve the right of buying the very doubtful privilege of birching for their offspring. We do not feel that we can follow the example of Eton on this subject. As on many other subjects, what Eton thinks to-day England thought yesterday. On this subject the ordinary decent Englishman's view ought to be adopted, and that is that birching should be abolished.

My second point is that any form of corporal punishment is undesirable in this particular case. I do not think that corporal punishment is undesirable in the school or in the home. It may be desirable to punish idleness or disobedience, but it is different in a home from what it is in a police court. Offences in the home or in school arc offences against discipline, but offences punishable in the police courts are definitely offences against morals. That makes a very great difference. In the school an offence against morals is punishable not by corporal punishment but by expulsion. To-day, we have this peculiar position either that the child may be punished twice, in the police court and at home, or else the parents may disagree with the punishment administered by the court, in which case the child is made a hero at home. That has a very undesirable effect both on the parent and the child. Certain cases were brought before the House when this matter was discussed before. It was suggested that when children mutilate animals, birching is a desirable punishment. It is not. If serious cases of that kind are brought up, birching is not the right punishment. It is not a serious enough punishment because once the birching is over the child returns to the streets and nothing is done to correct the unfortunate influence under which it has acted. We believe that where you have a child who commits a crime of that sort it should be subjected to some sort of treatment, so that it will not do that sort of thing again. It should be examined medically, and if necessary sent to a Home Office school and treated. There is nothing romantic about a Home Office school or probation, but there is something romantic about a child being whipped. When it is whipped in a police court it becomes a hero, and is inclined to show off before its family and its friends. Then more often than not the child comes back into the court.

There has been a very big decline in the number of birchings. In 1913 the number was 2,079, in 1930 it was 130, and in 1933 it was 151. Birching has declined largely because magistrates have not found it effective. We have to-day the unfortunate position that children are treated very differently in various parts of the country. There was a case recently at Newport where a child was ordered to be birched, but it was found that there was no birch available for the purpose. Therefore, the child had to be kept waiting for seven days while a birch was obtained and soaked in brine, and by the time the birch was ready the child had become ill through thinking about what was going to happen, and no birching took place. That sort of thing happens when you have courts acting in different ways in different parts of the country.

Many people say that it is necessary to enforce birching because of the increase in juvenile crime. To begin with, it is necessary to examine that question fully. There has been a very big decrease in juvenile crime from the War up to 1930. Between 1917 and 1929 the number of juvenile convictions decreased from 27,290 to 5,936. There has been an increase of convictions since that day, and to my mind that increase has been due to widespread unemployment amongst juveniles of 14 to 21. When there is much unemployment you have an in- crease in crime and an unfortunate example set to younger children. The right way to secure a decrease in that crime is partly by raising the school age; partly by providing better recreation facilities for children and young persons oved 14, especially in the way of clubs, playing fields and so on; and partly by placing new industries in the depressed areas so as to find employment for young people.

Experience has shown that birching has not been effective as a deterrent. The report on juvenile delinquency by the Board of Education Juvenile Organisations Committee states, after a study of four particular towns, that 25 per cent. of the children submitted to birching came before the court again in a month and that within two years 80.34 per cent. returned. That clearly proves that there is no case for birching as a deterrent. The House of Commons has very effectively shown its views on this subject. In 1932, when the Children and Young Persons Act was introduced, the then Under-Secretary for the Home Office supported a Clause to the same effect as this Bill. The Second Reading of that Bill was passed without a Division. An Amendment was later proposed but was not even voted on. On the Report stage

there was no opposition, nor was there on the Third Reading. In fact it was not even challenged in this House. An Amendment from the other place was disagreed to without a Division, and it was only when that Amendment was sent back a second time that the Under-Secretary for Home Affairs in order to save the whole of the Bill, agreed to the Amendment. It is not usual to bring up the same subject twice in the same Parliament. But this is a new Parliament and it is only right that the House should now have an opportunity to reaffirm its views and to give a considered and straight vote on this issue. I hope, therefore, that I may have leave to bring in the Bill.


I wish to oppose the Motion. I am not going to inflict a speech on the House, and I wish only to quote one passage in the hon. Member's speech, in which he said that he was even in favour of the abolition of any corporal punishment of children who had mutilated and tortured little animals. That alone would damn the Bill in my eyes.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes, 119; Noes, 166.

Division No. 143.] AYES. [4.5 p.m.
Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple) Gardner, B. W. Maxton, J.
Adams, D. (Consett) Garro-Jones, G. M. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Messer, F.
Adamson, W. M. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Milner. Major J.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Groves, T. E. Montague, F.
Anderson, F. (Whihtehaven) Guy, J. C. M. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Nicolson, Hon. H. G.
Banfield, J, W. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Paling, W.
Barnes, A. J. Hardie, G. D. Parkinson, J. A
Batey, J. Harris, Sir P. A. Potts, J.
Benson, G. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Price, M. P.
Bernays, R. H. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Quibell, J. D.
Bevan, A. Hicks, E. G. Rickards, G. W. (Sklpton)
Buchanan, G. Holland, A. Riley, B.
Cape, T. Hollins, A. Ritson, J.
Cassells, T. Hopkin, D. Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Charleton, H. C. Jagger, J. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Chater, D. Jenkins, A. (Pontypool) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Cluse, W. S. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Rowson, G.
Clynes, Rt. Hon. J. R. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Sanders, W, S.
Cocks, F. S. Jones, L. (Swansea, W.) Sexton, T. M.
Compton, J. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Short, A.
Daggar, G. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T, Silverman, S. S.
Dalton, H. Kirkwood. D. Simpson, F. B.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Lathan, G. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Lee, F. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Leonard, W. Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)
Denman, Hon. R. D. Leslie, J. R. Smith, T. (Normanton)
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Lovat-Fraser, J. A. Stephen, C.
Ede, J. C. McGhee, H. G. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.) Maclean, N. Stewart, W. J. (H'ghfn-le-Sp'ng)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) MacMillan, M. (Western Isles) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) MacNeill, Weir, L. Thurtle, E.
Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) Marklew, E. Viant, S. P.
Foot, D. M. Marshall, F. Walker, J.
Gallacher, W. Mathers, G. Watkins, F. C.
Watson, W. McL. Williams, D. (Swansea, E.) Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Welsh, J. C. Williams, E. J. (Ogmore) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
White, H. Graham Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Whiteley, W. Wilson. C. H. (Attercliffe) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Wilkinson, Ellen Windsor, W. (Hull, C.) Mr. Parker and Mr. Tinker.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Eckersley, P. T. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G. Emery, J, F. Morris, O. T. (Cardiff, E.)
Albery, I. J. Emmott, C. E. G. C. Munro, P.
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'kn'hd) Emrys-Evans, P. V. Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.
Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. J. (Armagh) Everard, W. L. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Findlay, Sir E. Peake, O.
Apsley, Lord Fox, Sir G. W. G. Penny, Sir G.
Baxter, A. Beverley Ganzonl, Sir J. Perkins, W. R. D.
Beaumont, M. W. (Aylesbury) Gledhill, G. Plugge, L. F.
Beit, Sir A. L. Glucksteln, L. H. Porritt, R. W.
Blair, Sir R. Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral) Pownall, Sir A. Assheton
Bossom, A. C. Grattan-Doyle, Sir N. Procter, Major H. A.
Bowater. Col. Sir T. Vansittart Gridley, Sir A. B. Ramsden Sir E.
Bower, Comdr. R. T. Grimston, R. V. Rathbone. J. R. (Bodmin)
Bowyer, Capt. Sir G. E. W. Guinness, T. L. E. B. Reed, A. C. (Exeter)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Hannah, I. C. Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury) Harbord, A. Remer, J. R.
Bull, B. B. Hartington, Marquess of Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Butler, R. A. Harvey, G. Ropner, Colonel L.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Rowlands, G.
Cartland, J. R. H. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Carver, Major W. H. Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)
Cary, R. A. Hepworth, J. Salmon, Sir I.
Cautley, Sir H. S. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Samuel, Sir A, M. (Farnham)
Cayzer, Sir C. W. (City of Chester) Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Sandys, E. D.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hopkinson, A. Scott, Lord William
Christie, J. A. Howitt, Dr. A. B. Selley, H. R.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Shepperson, sir E. W.
Clarke, F. E. Hulbert, N. J. Smith, L. W. (Hallam)
Cobb, Sir C. S. Hunter, T. Somerset, T.
Colville, Lt.-Col. D. J. Jackson, Sir H. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.) James, Wing-Commander, A. W. Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
Cooper, Rt. Hn. A. Duff(W'st'r S.G'gs) Kerr, J. G. (Scottish Universities) Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
courtauld, Major J. S. Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R. Sutcliffe, H.
Courthope, Col. Sir G. L. Kirkpatrick, W. M. Tate, Mavis C.
Critchley, A. Lamb, Sir J. Q. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Crooke, J. S. Leech, Dr. J. W. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Lees-Jones. J. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Cross, R. H. Lennox Boyd. A. T. L. Touche, G. C.
Crowder, J. F. E. Levy, T. Tree, A. R. L. F.
Cruddas, Col. B. Lewis, O. Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.
Culverwell, C. T. Liddall, W. S. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Davies Major G. F. (Yeovil) Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J. Ward, Irene (Wallsend)
Davison, Sir W. H. Loder, Captain Hon. J. de V. Warrender, Sir V.
De la Bère, R. Mac Andrew, Lt.-Col. Sir C. G. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Dixon, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Wells, S. R.
Donner, P. W. McKie, J. H. Wickham, Lt.-Col. E. T. R.
Dorman-Smith, Major R. H. Maitland, A. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Drewe, C. Manningham-Buller, Sir M. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop) Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Wise, A. R.
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Markham, s. F. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Dugdale, Major T. L. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Wragg, H.
Duggan, H. J. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)
Duncan, J. A. L. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) TELLERS FOR THR NOES.—
Mr. Radford and Mr. Petherick.