HC Deb 04 June 1937 vol 324 cc1315-70

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £4584,266, 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, 1938, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Prison Commissioners and of the Prisons in England and Wales."—[Note.—£560,000 has been voted on account.]

11. 10 a.m.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir Samuel Hoare)

I would, on personal grounds, hesitate to address this Committee upon these important questions of Home Office administration within so short a time of my entry into this great office. At the same time I think that it would be unfair to Members of the Committee, and still more would it be unfair to the great company of zealous workers in the prison administration, if I did not, even at this early moment, give the Committee some idea of the work that is being done and the attitude with which I personally approach it.

I have a hereditary interest in prison administration. It does so happen that amongst my family archives are several letters recounting the history of the first Committee that was formed upon prison reform, of which my great great grandfather, now more than a century ago, was Chairman and of which the other members were Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, so well known in connection with the emancipation of the slaves, and my great great aunt, Elizabeth Fry. For many years past I have taken, not unnaturally, a great interest in the doings of my family predecessors and particularly in the career of that very remarkable woman, Elizabeth Fry. It seems to me that her work, great as it was in relieving the actual sufferings of prisoners, was chiefly valuable in concentrating public opinion upon a number of urgent questions of social reform. Hitherto there had been no interest in the many questions connected with the treatment of prisoners, and just as some years later Florence Nightingale concentrated the attention of the country upon scandals in the nursing service, so Elizabeth Fry, more than a century ago, concentrated the attention of the country upon the scandals in the prison service.

At that time the chief enemy of prison reform was not, I believe, the brutality or the cruelty of the people of the time so much as their ignorance. Nobody knew what was going on. The trouble there was inside the prisons, and the move for reform came from outside the prisons. Now I venture to suggest with great diffidence, coming new to these questions, that we still have to fight against the enemy of ignorance, and I believe today that the enemy is not so much inside the prisons, for I believe the most progressive reformers are connected with the actual administration of the prisons nowadays, but the ignorance of the general public outside, and on that account I welcome the opportunity that this Vote gives to the Committee for discussing these questions and doing what we can to dispel an ignorance that, in my view, is the chief enemy of further reforms.

Let me give the Committee one or two of my first impressions. I give them very diffidently, and I only give them as the result of consultations that I have already had with the men who are actually engaged upon these great problems of social life. The first impression that has occupied my mind is that the problem with which we are confronted to-day is the problem of the young prisoner; how are we going to prevent him from coming back again to prison once he has finished his sentence and been released?

Mr. Thorne

Stop him from going there!

Sir S. Hoare

Yes, by all means, but suppose he does, the problem is how are we to prevent him from going there again? I imagine that there have been two methods attempted to do that. First of all there was the method of making prison life so unattractive, making the discipline so rigid and the conditions so inhuman, that he would be deterred by fear from running the risk of going back to prison. In theory that might sound an effective way of keeping young men out of prison, but in actual practice—so I gather from what study I have been able to make of the problem—it has not succeeded. Indeed, the more humane prison administration has become the lower has been the number of habitual criminals, that is to say, criminals who go back time after time. For some time at the Home Office we have been trying the experiment, not of increasing the deterrent character of the prison, but of appealing to the prisoner's better instincts, to make him leave the prison with a less evil disposition, and most important of all, to give him an interest in the things which really matter in the world.

The form that it has taken is this. In the old days a prisoner on entering prison had no privileges, or scarcely any at all. He started in the hardest possible conditions, and if he behaved well, so I am informed, he gradually obtained further privileges. My advisors have come to the conclusion that the wiser course to adopt is to start a man, directly he comes into prison, with a share of certain privileges from the start, and to appeal to his better instincts, and also to his own interests, by letting him know that if he behaves badly he will lose the privileges he has actually obtained when he first entered prison. It is an interesting psychological problem which has cropped up in this experiment. Is it better to appeal to a man's desire of gain or to his fear of loss? On the whole we think it is better to give a man privileges and appeal to his fear of losing them rather than starting him with nothing, living in the rather indefinite hope of getting something better later on if he behaves better.

I am able to announce to the Committee that, as far as we can judge, the experiment of giving prisoners privileges from the start has been successful where it has been tried. It has been so successful that we are now prepared to extend it to the three convict prisons, Chelmsford, Parkhurst and Dartmoor, and give the convicts an opportunity of earning wages, and by their wages to buy such relaxations as cigarettes and things of that kind. I believe it is better in the case of men who are sentenced to long terms to give them these privileges soon after they arrive at the prison, and meet any form of misconduct later on by a withdrawal of such privileges. I give the Committee that as an example of the attitude with which the Prison Commissioners are approaching the problems of prison administration.

Let me give another example. I take it from the experiment which is being made at the large prison at Wakefield. A very interesting experiment in prison administration is being made at Wakefield, so interesting that I think the Committee will bear with me if I read a short report I have received on the subject: When the large prison at Wakefield was re-opened after the War the opportunity was seized by the Prison Commissioners to make certain experiments which would obviously be conducted more easily in a place where a new start was being made. Instead of being merely a local prison for men of all categories in the West Riding, Wakefield was set apart as a form of Training Centre to which selected prisoners could be drafted from the North country and the Midlands, why by virtue of their antecedents and their length of sentence appeared to be likely to respond to a period of character training. Between 400 and 500 men, each of whom is serving a sentence of at least six months are trained at Wakefield under conditions of greater freedom and responsibility than would be practicable in any ordinary mixed prison. A minimum degree of supervision is exercised. The men are divided into small sections. In each section the Governor appoints a 'stroke'"— a kind of rowing stroke— who has no authority over the men of his crew but is expected by his leadership and example to exercise a sound and wholesome influence. A system of paying wages according to the amount of work done each week has been introduced with the result that the output has been greatly increased. The men spend the wages, which they receive in coin of the Realm, in tobacco and other small luxuries. In order that the recruits to the English Prison Service might have a glimpse of how men can be handled in a system of co-operative discipline the Training School for Prison Officers has been established at Wakefield. Every man who has been selected for training as a prison officer spends nine weeks at the Training School at Wakefield. For some time it has been realised that a considerable number of men who have been convicted of offences are of a type that does not require the maximum security of high walls and prison bars. They can be trusted to work hard and live decently in conditions of comparative freedom. The Prison Commissioners were fortunately able to secure the lease of some 300 acres of scrub and woodland, about seven miles horn Wakefield. They have established a camp of wooden huts where 50 selected prisoners live and work. They have been busily engaged in felling the trees, grubbing up the roots and bringing the land under cultivation. The camp has been in existence for just over a year and no untoward incident has occurred. There is no doubt that these men are receiving better preparation for active life in the outside world by this hard and healthy life in the camp than can be given within the limits of a cellular prison. That is a very interesting experiment which we shall all follow with the greatest sympathy. I commend to hon. Members on all sides of that Committee the interest of this experiment. Let them follow it, let them take an interest in the general question of prison administration, and let them go down and see on the spot the work that is actually being done.

I come now to another impression that I have already formed in the talks that I have had at the Home Office. It seems to me that in the years to come we must carry still further the classification of offenders. A great deal.was done for children and young persons under the 1933 Act. I believe that we shall have to consolidate our efforts much more than they are at present consolidated in dealing with the next class of offenders, the adolescents, and last of all, in dealing with the habitual criminals. My advisers tell me that very different problems arise in connection with all these three categories of offenders, and I certainly intend during the time I am at the Home Office to look into the question of a further classification and to see what still needs to be done. It may well be that we shall find in due course that further legislation is necessary.

Another point which has struck me, and which probably has struck still more hon. and right hon. Members, particularly on the Front Bench opposite, who have been in close touch with the actual administration of this question, is that one of our difficulties is the antiquated character of many of our prisons. They were built generations ago in the centres of our great cities, at a time when the outlook on prison questions was very different from what it is to-day; and I own that I have at once been struck, particularly by comparison with the example which I have just given to the House of what is being done at Wakefield—where there is scope, where there are 300 acres on which men can go out and work—with the problem of the central prisons, out-of-date buildings in the middle of our great cities. To-day I make that allusion only for the purpose of assuring hon. Members that I am fully alive to the difficulties which a problem of that kind presents.

Lastly, I have been greatly impressed by the fervour and energy of a large company of men and women who are working voluntarily in one way and another on behalf of prisoners, men and women. There is a great company of these voluntary workers. They, together with the Home Office experts, are a very sympathetic body of men and women, containing among their number some of the best-known experts on prison administration in the world. They are doing great work, work which is little known to the country generally, work which hon. Members ought fully to recognise, in generally raising the moral and physical standard of the prisoners and in giving them new interests. The more one thinks of this problem, the more one is convinced that it is new interests that these men and women chiefly want—get them interested in the things that matter, get their minds turned away from morbid contemplation of the past, get them interested in their work, and get them interested in their physical health.

I believe that this body of voluntary workers, aiding my expert advisers, stimulated I hope by hon. Members on all sides, will be able to carry still further the great work of social reform which was begun a hundred years ago, which has been going on ever since, but which is even now by no means complete. Let us, then, go on along the line that I am suggesting, and let us remember always that the greatest prison reform is the reform that keeps people out of prison altogether. Let us remember that even more than all these beneficent movements within the prison walls, what chiefly matters is the general raising of the standard of life, mental, physical, moral, outside the prison walls. The problem upon which I am engaged today, and which the Committee is discussing, is only one part of the great field of social reform, which includes within its scope education in the schools, housing conditions, the campaign for greater physical efficiency, and all the many other branches of social betterment that will at once occur to the mind of every hon. Member. I think I have said enough to show to the Committee the kind of attitude with which I intend to approach these problems. I ask hon. Members to give me their criticism when it is needed, but also to give me their cooperation in a work of great national and social importance, for I believe that common effort made by all of us, with the public outside interested, can carry a great step forward the good work that has already been done.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

Will the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us something about the women prisoners, to whom I do not think he made any reference?

Sir S. Hoare

At the end of the Debate.

11.35 a.m.

Mr. Rhys Davies

I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.

In moving this Amendment I think I would offend the etiquette of the House of Commons if I failed to welcome the right hon. Gentleman as Home Secretary. He has had an extensive peregrination through various Government Departments. I have looked up his record, and find that he has been in the Colonies and that he has been in the Air—

Sir S. Hoare

No, the Colonies is one Department in which I have not been.

Mr. Davies

I must have been wrong in my references. But he has been in India, he has been concerned with foreign affairs—if my memory serves me aright he was not very happy about them and something happened to him there—he has been in the Admiralty and now, at long last, he has reached home, and comes before us as Secretary of State for the Home Department. I must say right away that his speech this morning was exceptionally sympathetic. It becomes him to be sympathetic after what he has told us of his distant relations and what they did in the remote past. I am afraid that most of us if we looked up what our great-grandfathers did, might find that they were the very prisoners who benefited by the efforts of the right hon. Gentleman's forbears.

It behoves me on this occasion to make some reference to the excellent work which was done and is still being done by one who was formerly a Member of this House, Mr. Edward Cadogan. I think he ought to receive a tribute from this country, especially in relation to the book which he published recently giving us the history of prison administration. In that book he brings out one fact which has concerned some of us for a long time past. He shows clearly that a great deal of the crime in this country is consequent upon poverty, and I hope to show later on from the Prison Commissioner's Report, to what an extent that is the case. Touching on some of the observations made by the right hon. Gentleman this morning, I welcome the idea of the payment of wages in prison. It is an innovation which I feel sure must have beneficial results. In regard to the classification of prisoners, I would, however, ask him to bear in mind one or two things. I do not believe that the classification of prisoners according to their criminal records is enough. There ought to be another classification made according to their mental and physical standards. The report of the Prison Commission is full of evidence to show that that is even more important than a classification made in relation to the criminal practices of the prisoners.

I regret very much that in the rejoicings which attended the Coronation, something was not done in respect of the prisoners. Some of us had the privilege of being in the Abbey and were also guests of the Government at the Naval Review, but I felt a little sad, amid all those rejoicings, that the Government had not remitted sentences on certain prisoners as an indication that the nation was celebrating a joyful occasion. A very remarkable hook has been written recently by an ex-convict named McCartney under the title "Walls have Mouths." Anybody who is interested in prison reform ought to read that work. Unfortunately, he pays me an unnecessary tribute, and I am not sure that I am so delighted at that.

I come now to a point of substance in a Debate of this kind, namely, that the average adult population in our prisons is declining every year. It is declining gradually, in spite of the fact that the total population has been increasing. It should be a great comfort to the whole nation to know that statistics show that the number of murders for example in this country has remained stationary while the population has more than doubled. If that is an indication of our standard of civilisation, I think we ought to rejoice. But while the prison population is declining, I do not think it is correct to assume that the behaviour of our people has improved proportionately. What has happened has been this. Changes in the law have eliminated from our prisons certain persons who would have been there if the law had remained unaltered. Hon. Members will recall the Money Payments Act, which came into operation on 1st January, 1936, in relation to persons who cannot pay their debts or fines to which they have been subjected.

I think we shall see a still further reduction in the prison population as a result of such changes in the law. Some parts of our legislation dealing with matters of that kind are still out-of-date. But if we want a correct picture of what is happening as to the relation between the total and the prison population, I do not think it can be presented better than in the following form. In 1913, the last year before the Great War, out of every 100,000 of the population there were 555 in prison. In 1930 there were 143, a decline of one-fifth, and in 1935 the figure was 114, and I would not be surprised to find that for 1937 it will have fallen below 100.

Mr. Goldie

Would the hon. Gentleman kindly repeat the first figure given by him?

Mr. Davies

I said that in 1913 out of every 100,000 of the population there were 555 in prison. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman or myself were in-chided in that 555.

Mr. Goldie

Not yet.

Mr. Leslie Boyce

The hon. Gentleman went on to say that there was a decline of one-fifth in 1930. I think he meant that there was a decline to one-fifth of that figure.

Mr. Davies

That is so. I was probably thinking in Welsh and speaking in English. There is one feature of the statistics about which some hon. Members may be suspicious when I mention it, but I do so merely as a matter of fact. The only figure which shows a substantial increase in this connection is that in rela- tion to drunkenness. If l had my way, the brewers of this country would be compelled to maintain their victims in prison, and then I suppose we would see a reduction in convictions for drunkenness. [An HON. MEMBER:"Or in the strength of the beer".]

There is another interesting feature of our criminal statistics. It is not generally known that while there is a reduction in the average adult prison population, in relation to both men and women—and it is to be remembered that women compose the majority of the population—only one-seventh of the prison population are females. But while there is also a welcome reduction in the criminal statistics relating to boys and girls in Borstal institutions, it has to be added that the decline in crime amongst youngsters is not as steady as it is among adults. A great deal is being done in this connection by the Prison Commission, and we ought to pay a tribute to their good work in fostering education in prisons. I can claim that I had just a little to do with that work myself. I visited Parkhurst. Holloway, Wormwood Scrubs and saw what was being done there, but I want to tell the right hon. Genleman this. I doubt very much whether, with all the sympathy and good work of the Prison Commissioners and their staff, it will ever be possible to do very much more to help the prisoners as long as those old prison buildings remain. When a shopkeeper finds that he cannot display his goods and carry on his business successfully, or when any local authority find that they cannot conduct the education of children properly, the first thing they do is to get a suitable building. The right hon. Gentleman would do well, therefore, to look into the problem of securing new prisons, especially in relation to Pentonville and Holloway. Take Strangeways Prison, Manchester. I almost feel that I am in gaol in Manchester when I am outside its walls. Why this hilarity about Manchester I fail to understand. Strangeways Prison is almost an abomination even from the outside.

I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman or the Under-Secretary, after a fairly long experience of Borstal, to tell us whether they are really satisfied with what is done for young people there. I have looked at the figures and find that the number of Borstal young men who come back into crime again is not very large, but I should like an assurance that everything possible is being done to prevent that. When I was a member of a Committee which inquired into the treatment of young offenders I went to Belgium to make investigations and report on what the Belgium Government were doing. I have never been able to understand why this country, which is in the forefront in matters of social reform—it has gone back in many respects since this Government came into power—should be behind in regard to our prison system. The representatives of the Prison Commission attend conferences of the International Penitentiary Congress and they have apparently seen the same places in Belgium that we visited where delinquent boys and girls are subject to examination by psychologists. They are studied very carefully and their ultimate destination and treatment are settled in those observation centres. I know that a good deal is done on that score at Wormwood Scrubs in regard to young men and young women, but I think the work ought to go much further.

Let me say how the prison system as I have studied it affects my mind. To sentence a man to prison is a very much more cruel thing than people generally suppose. He may for 10 or 15 years lose his liberty, lose contact with his family, lose all his eivil liberties and probably, in some way, our social insurance schemes are never available to him again. In spite of the fact that he has wiped out his offence in prison, he has not wiped it out in regard to some of our social services. His offence really follows him to the end of his day. I am not sure whether he is not deprived of some of our pension rights, because he has been a convicted prisoner. When we remember that he has lost all contact with society while in prison, I do not think that the community is entitled to be unduly cruel to him when he is inside prison walls. The sympathetic note struck to-day by the right hon. Gentleman might well therefor percolate a little further down into our prison system.

With regard to the prisons themselves, I have already said that a great number of them are out of date and of little use to-day. I welcome the experiment at Wakefield. Hon. Members know that I have no sympathy whatever with the Russian form of government, but I am told authoritatively that in that country, they are making some wonderful experiments in relation to prison life. I have seen it reported that Sir Alexander Paterson has been on tour visiting foreign prisons. The right hon. Gentleman would do well to let us have some comments on what he has seen there. Since I grew to manhood I have studied in my humble way some of these problems on the spot, and I am convinced that it is always possible for one country to learn something from another. I make bold to say that in respect of our social security schemes we have the best, but I am not so sure that in connection with our prisons that we are foremost in the world. I should like to know officially what is happening in other countries, and I hope that we shall have a report on what is being done over there.

Let me turn to this very excellent report of the Prison Commissioners. We have not the report for 1936 yet, and I fail to understand why we cannot get these reports a little earlier. I have been running an office for 30 years and I see nothing in this report that we could not get out before the end of May. In this report there is one pertinent remark which struck me. It states that four men and 10 women were released on medical grounds and nine of the women were cases of advanced pregnancy. I should be happy if we could be assured that no babies are now born in our prisons. When a baby is born in prison, what happens is that they give a fictitious address, say, No. 2, Sand Street, or something of that sort. It is accepted as undesirable to let the prison address appear in the books of the Registrar of Births. I should be glad, therefore, if we could be assured that no baby will be born inside a prison in the future.

In regard to the educational work which is done in prison, I understand music is now provided. I do not see why the Hallelujah Chorus and Diadem should not be sung in prison. Music has a very soothing influence on prisoners as on the rest of us, and I hope that the educational and musical work done in prisons will be extended. It is, however, true to say that nearly all the educational work done in our prisons depends very largely on the initiative and good will of the individual governor. There is no general standard throughout the whole of the prisons as to what should be or can be done in regard to education. You may get a very ardent and enthusiastic governor who will try his level best to spread education among the prisoners, and you may get another gentleman who has not the slightest interest in efforts of that kind, and who will do absolutely nothing. I trust, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will look into that matter very soon.

Let me touch on one other point with which I wanted to deal. I mentioned a moment ago about crime being a consequence of poverty. I am not foolish enough to say that all crime is a consequence of poverty, for it is not. I know some men who are rich beyond dreams who commit the silliest crimes imaginable. Let me read this to the right hon. Gentleman. It is on page 61 of the Prison Commission's 1935 Report. Hon. Gentlemen behind me who represent depressed areas will be as interested as I am, and I wish the Minister of Labour would have a look at it. This is what the governor of Bedford Prison says: While the transfer of young prisoners to this collecting centre has been reduced there has been over 25 per cent. increase in local receptions, due largely to the transfer of youths from the distressed areas in the North and Scotland to work in this committal area. Many of the lads seem to come from good homes but when away from their influence and discipline land into trouble as a result of a reckless search for excitement in their spare time. Many of these lads are by no means criminal; on the contrary quite, frequently they bear the stamp of a good upbringing. The governor very nearly blames the Ministry of Labour for their responsibility in transferring these lads without looking after their amenities and keeping them away from crime. I will leave that point with the right hon. Gentleman, and I trust that the Minister of Labour will be able to look at the problem from that angle.

I have now said enough to indicate what we on this side of the Committee think of the right hon. Gentleman and the work which lies before him. I need hardly remind him that an eminent statesman once said that more Governments had been shipwrecked on the Home Office than on any other Department. It metaphorically somehow or other hangs the wrong man or arrests the wrong woman. I trust that will not happen with the right hon. Gentleman. I was turning up a little volume this morning and I will quote, to conclude, the words of a greater man than anyone here—Shakespeare in "Measure for Measure." When we are dealing with these men and women behind prison bars, I am always reminded of his words— They say, best men are moulded out of faults, And, for the most, become much more the better For being a little bad.

11.58 a.m.

Mr. Goldie

My experience as a Member of this House leads me to the conclusion that its business would be greatly accelerated if hon. Members generally, and in particular hon. and learned Members, confined their attention to subjects on which they had some personal or practical knowledge. I cannot claim to have had the honour yet of accepting the hospitality of His Majesty's prisons under the friendly aegis of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pollok (Sir J. Gilmour), under the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or under the new Home Secretary, whom we welcome here. It happens, however, that my work for 30 years past, both at the Bar and as a Recorder, has been closely connected with the administration of justice. It is for that reason that I venture to ask permission to detain the Committee for a few moments on what is a matter of vital importance. I wish to pay my personal tribute to the officers, both men and women, of the prison service. We rightly hear a great deal about the excellence of our police force, but only those of us who have seen the kindliness, the consideration and the care with which both men and women warders and the higher officials treat those unfortunates in their, care, know the difficulty of the work they are carrying on. They are, indeed, fortunate in those who are their superiors at the Home Office. One has only to go there with suggestions or to put one's own views forward to know that they will be carefully considered and that, if possible, something will be done.

I want to draw the Home Secretary's attention to one or two points in which, I think, improvement is desirable. A distinguished judge said a few years ago that a criminal case tried itself. That may be so, but no more difficult task can be given to any man than that of having to sentence a prisoner. You know when to pass a sentence of imprisonment in the second division. You do that because a man has no criminal record and you are anxious to shield him from contamination with hardened cases. The difficulty I find is whether to pass a sentence of imprisonment with or without hard labour, because imprisonment with hard labour inflicts an extraordinary anomaly upon the prisoner. There is nothing more revolting to the public conscience nowadays than the infliction of pain by way of punishment, except in cases of the extreme penalty or of flogging—matters of controversy into which I will not enter now. Does the Committee realise that the only difference nowadays between imprisonment with hard labour and without is that for 14 days the unfortunate man who is sentenced to hard labour has to sleep without a mattress on a hard bare board for no reason at all? What earthly justification can there be for that? Think of the mental distress of men who are compelled for the first 14 days to sleep on a bare board. It is a relic of barbarism.

The Home Secretary has pointed out that many gaols have been closed and how antiquated they were. We have now carried the matter to the other extreme. Take the north of England, for instance. In the old days there was a county gaol at Carlisle for Westmorland and Cumberland, and we had prisons at Lancaster, Preston, Manchester and Liverpool. In North Wales there was one at Beaumaris. Now there is no prison for the reception of prisoners and of persons on remand whose guilt has not been established north of Manchester or Liverpool. Assume the case of a poor unfortunate servant girl or someone in that walk of life committing a crime in Blaenau Festiniog. Does the Committee realise that there is no accommodation for her when she is on remand? And while inquiries are proceeding, it may be for six weeks or two months, she is literally dragged from one end of the country to another. I had a case in my circuit of an accused man who travelled 1000 miles by train while he was on remand.

There is something wrong somewhere. Think of the mental anguish of a prisoner who is taken right away, not merely to the other end of the county, but almost to the other end of the country, perhaps, and forced to travel that long distance time after time in order to attend the local police court. The solution is so simple. It is true that prison jurisdiction has been taken away from the county authorities, but we ought to insist upon having in every county town a central remand station with, let us say, eight cells. It would be perfectly easy to put an experienced warder and wardress in charge. There would be no question of detention in the sense of punishment. I am sure that the local clergy would be only too glad to provide religious services, and the local doctors only too ready to do what was necessary should occasion arise. Why on earth cannot we face up to the facts and make it a condition of a town being an assize town that there should be in it some, shall we call it, remand home?

That brings me to one more point. An hon. Member below the Gangway said that the essential thing to do is to keep people out of gaol. I say, frankly, that I am one of those who, as long as I occupy a judicial position, will never take the responsibility of sending a boy to Borstal unless it is necessary to do so. Borstal is undoubtedly and beyond question the very finest remedy for the child who is down and out. If there is a poor little fellow who needs not merely discipline but assistance in getting his feet on to the ladder of life, and who has nobody else to help him, Borstal is a most excellent place for him, but in cases such as I used to come across in my younger days of children who have simply gone wrong—and the excuse used to be "too many cinemas"—to take such children from a respectable home and put them away from the influence of that home for three years is a proposition in which I am not prepared to concur.

I will give another instance to illustrate what I mean. Only three days ago I had before me nine youthful criminals. All of them had been before me at previous sessions within the last six months, and they were all cases in which the confidential report had recommended Borstal treatment, and the course I adopted was to put each of those boys on probation to come up for sentence two sessions later. I said to each boy, "I am giving you this chance and I want you to take advantage of the op- portunity I am giving you." I put each of the boys on probation under a Catholic or Protestant probation officer, according to their religion and I said to them "Here is your chance, do not let me down." At the end of the period eight of those boys came before me, one had absconded—only one out of the nine—and the report of the probation officers was that in every single case the boys had made good and were doing excellently. What I had told these boys before was this: "You are coming back in six months' time. Do not waste your time wondering what is going to happen to you if you do not go straight, because I will tell you now. In six months' time, if you have played the fool, and that is the only word for it, then with your record you will commence three years in Borstal, which otherwise you would commence to-day." I think the course I took has saved those boys and got them on to their legs.

The Home Secretary knows as well as I do of the wonderful work done by probation officers. The decrease in crime is due to the fact that when a lad goes wrong because of his environment at home he has got some older man who will take him by the hand and keep him straight, but the difficulty is that there are no, or scarcely any, remand homes at present. In Manchester, which the hon. Member opposite knows so well, there is a most excellent institution run, I think I am right in saying, by the Church of England, called Park Hill. I do not think Park Hill gets any Government grant and it is in serious financial difficulties. Recently I had to deal with a boy and wanted to do what I had done so often, and that is put him back to give him a chance, and make it a condition that he was to reside in a remand home. There was, unfortunately, no Catholic remand home in Manchester; I was told that the only one was in London, and to send him there would make it impossible for him to continue in his employment in Manchester. Nor, may I add, is there in Manchester where it is so necessary, a remand home for those of the Jewish faith. Of course we cannot have remand homes for every one of the religious denominations, but we ought to have in the large cities throughout the country remand homes for boys and others who have been put on probation.

I am anxious to pay my tribute, at a later stage, to the work of the Home Office in connection with approved schools, but I want to conclude my observations on this part of the subject with these remarks: We hear to-day a lot about juvenile crime, but to my mind juvenile crime is not the greatest problem. The problem of the present day is presented by those who are rather more than adolescents. We get cases of children going about and pulling pipes and lead out of houses, and they are dealt with, probably, by the juvenile course, but the problem, if we look at the criminal statistics, is how to deal with lads of from 19 to 25, or possibly 26, who after having had chance after chance given to them, have of deliberate choice decided to follow the wrong turning. It is the duty of all those of us who have to administer justice on the Bench and, if I may say so with the greatest respect, of the Home Office authorities, to do all we can to save them from themselves. Wakefield has been a most wonderful success, and I wish we knew more about it, because sometimes the question arises, "Shall I send a young man of 21 or 22 who has got too old almost for, dare one call it, school control, to Borstal, or am I to pass a sentence which he will serve at Wakefield?" We welcome Wakefield.

I cannot imagine any more difficult problem than that of the habitual criminal. What happens is that a jury is sworn to find out whether he is guilty of the particular offence with which he has been charged, and if the jury find him guilty then comes the question "Is this man a habitual criminal?", and, if you know your work, another jury is sworn to try that question. A record is put in which may be of the most appalling character, but you cannot convict him as a habitual criminal if there is the slightest evidence that he has made an endeavour to go straight at any time, and that is as it should be. The difficulty is that when the jury have found that he is a habitual criminal, you cannot send him away for five years' preventive detention unless you have first passed a sentence of penal servitude. One knows that the man's career is hopeless and that in the public interest he ought to be under preventive detention. I ask the Home Secretary whether it would not be possible so to amend the law that it would be possible to pass a comparatively, short sentence of imprisonment or imprisonment with hard labour, and then to make the man begin straight away on his period of preventive detention, which is the last chance he has got, without having to inflict upon him a sentence of penal servitude for what may be a comparatively small offence compared with his previous record.

I have detained the Committee far too long and I apologise. I speak rarely in the House, but I speak on this matter because it is one on which I feel deeply. The way in which the prison population is going down and down in England is magnificent, and I say without fear of contradiction that it is due to right hon. Members who have held the Minister's high office, due to those who assist them in the Home Office, whether on the Front Bench or in Whitehall, and it is equally due to the loyal men and women who are carrying out a really Christlike life in administering the law for fallen humanity.

The Chairman

I did not interrupt the hon and learned Member because his remarks were linked up very much with each other; but his last remarks went a little beyond this Vote, and it is a matter which cannot be developed by subsequent speakers.

12.17 p.m.

Mr. Ritson

I cannot speak with the experience and the eloquence of the hon. and learned Member who has just sat down. My experience has been rather different from his in that I have been both policeman and magistrate, and am now an administrator; I have gone through the whole course. I want first of all to pay a compliment and to ask the Home Secretary to continue the good that he did on my appeal. It was a case like this. I had a complaint, not from the individual but from a community, of a man who had been sent to Broadmoor as a criminal lunatic. He had been there 35 years and he is there yet. There have been many attempts made or appeals made from a medical point of view to have a medical examination of him. That has never been granted in this country as far as I know. Now we have succeeded in getting the Home Office to agree that there ought to be facilities of that sort to satisfy patients, relatives and the community that if there is a possibility' of a man having recovered from that terrible disease he should be relieved after 20 or, 30 years.

I must admit that I was afraid to go to the Home Office because it is a cold place to enter. It is known as the cold door. It is the senior service. Having been through all the services of the Home Office in my lifetime I knew the difficulty in getting there. I pay the Home Secretary the tribute that after a time he was wonderfully helpful. I must pay a compliment also to the Superintendent of Broadmoor Lunatic Asylum. I have been connected with a mental institution for 35 years, as a member of a Committee, and I have taken a keen interest in it. I asked whether I might have the services of this Superintendent. I might say that we look upon superintendents as rather officious, but I will say this for the gentleman concerned. When I went down to the Institution after having got the leave of the Home Secretary I went to the prison and interviewed this poor fellow. The Superintendent gave me every facility that I desired. He said, "Now, Mr. Ritson, go where you like and do what you like. You seem to know your job. I shall be either in the presence of this poor fellow or just outside." I met in him an official who not only knows his job but has a soul.

I feel that this work ought to be continued. When anyone has been locked up under conditions like these for any such term, there ought to be an opportunity for a mental examination. It is only now that we are becoming wise in the matter of treatment. It used to be the custom to lock people up and put them in strait jackets. You do not right a mind in that way, but destroy it. What we are doing now in mental institutions is to make them brighter. The brighter you make them the brighter you make your patients. If you apply that rule to prisons, instead of making them dark, the more you train the mind of a prisoner to like something bright in his homelife when he gets back. That applies to everything in our mental institutions and prisons. From my own town of Sunderland we sent the police band to Durham prison. This story may seem rather humorous. We had a man with a tremendous criminal record. It was not a question of a month here or there. One day he was seen listening to the police band outside. The Superintendent of Police who is now to be our Chief Constable, said to him, "What are you standing here for?" He replied, "I like music. When I was in one of the prisons they made me leader of the band, and I have liked music ever since." The police became so interested in him that they got him his unemployment relief, they hired a little place for him to live in and he lives there now, not as a stranger or a criminal but with a desire to go straight. As he said, "You can depend on me, Mr. Superintendent. You have pleaded with me not to steal. I cannot help it in any other place, but you can make sure that I will never do it in this town because of what you have done for me." If such a thing can be done there it can be done in the whole world.

I can assure the Home Secretary that some of us are very anxious indeed that every avenue should be searched before a boy is sent to prison for the first time. Before the Home Secretary can carry out that idea he will have to get the co-operation of the Lord Chancellor. We have benches to-day where the magistrates always give the First Offenders Act full play, while there are others who never think of it. Let me give an example. I shall not mention names. It is the case of a boy finishing his schooling. His father has been out of work for years and his parents were looking forward to the boy bringing in, this July or September, something towards their food. He has no money with which to buy books to develop his mind. He goes to a bookstall and picks up a book without asking the leave of the stallholder, because he wants to develop his mind to pass his examination. The book is not missed and the boy wades into the book. He cannot buy another book, but he finds some money in an envelope and he takes it out. The act is not discovered, but he goes along to the police and says: "My conscience is pricking me. I cannot rest any longer. I wanted to pass the examination, but I am poor and my father is poor."

The police had to deal with him. He went to his principal, who tried to help him. He says: "I cannot rest. I must tell where I got the money and the books." The principal went down to the bookstall, where they had not missed the book; nobody could have found the boy out with regard to the money that he had -taken to get the books which he desired, but he was guilty, and had to come before the bench of magistrates. People said that the magistrates would never dream of convicting a boy for a first offence of that kind, and so no lawyer was engaged to defend him. The result was that he got two months. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame"]. He came up on Coronation day and his pitiful cry to me was: "When my prison sentence is finished, it will be only beginning when I come out." When we deal with the Board of Education in respect of this case I hope they will give us a sympathetic hearing. I hope also that the right hon. Gentleman will give us his sympathy, because that boy's life is ruined. Everybody would admit that his mind ought to be cultured and saved, instead of the boy being sent to gaol.

I used to he in the police force, and it was sometimes my duty to take people to goal. Very often a policeman is compelled to do things which he feels are wrong. Sometimes a boy is selling oranges or fruit on the footpath, and I have again and again had to bring such offenders before the court, and they have been sent for five years to an industrial school. I think that sort of thing is wrong. It is hard for a boy to be looked after in an industrial school. I never used to like to have a prisoner going to prison for the first time chained to a man who had been going there for many years. I remember the pitiful looks of the boy when he heard the loose gibes of the fellow who was hardly ever out of prison. It was a situation which, if you had any love for humanity, made you feel your position keenly. On one such occasion the boy who was going to prison for the first time was terrified at being linked to the other prisoner. I could not help it. The man set out to terrify the poor lad and I could not stop him. Although I was physically endowed and physically desirous of doing so, it would have been illegal for me to do so. It is wrong that you should link with an old prisoner one who is making his first journey to prison. They could be given separate compartments or sent separately. They should be treated as first offenders in a first offenders' atmosphere.

If the new Home Secretary is sympathetic towards developing a new atmosphere and a new outlook in prison life, I assure him that we will support him from this side of the House. He should not be afraid to develop new prisons. I do not know whether all prisons are dark and dreary. I have been in Durham goal a few times, and it does not seem a very delightful place to stop in. There are prisons that make one shudder to go past them, let alone go inside. On the other hand, looking on the surroundings of Broadmoor made one wish to be inside. If prisoners could be given companionship that will make their lives brighter, instead of a hard officialdom, I believe the result would be to make new minds in prisons. What must it feel like to thousands of strays in society in whom nobody has any interest and who look upon their goalers as people, not with a whip, but with a voice and a foot? I have taken scores of boys and girls, and they always believe that once they have got the hall-mark of prison upon them they are done for life. Let the new Home Secretary try to give these young people a new opportunity and a new avenue that will lift them from their slough of despond and make them feel that somebody is looking after them. I correct my own children when they go wrong, but I should never dream of destroying their characters. Those are the nation's children, and many of them are very clever.

When I visited Broadmoor the superintendent said to me: "We have some very clever people here." I said "I know you have. They would not be here otherwise." The Superintendent said: "We once had a man in here who compiled columns of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" under an assumed name. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) is very keen on quoting the "Encyclopaedia Britannica," but he little knows the source of its inspiration. Perhaps that is why he makes such witty speeches. If we can find minds like those within prison walls, it is the duty of the State to give them an avenue, and help and sustenance. I hope that the new Home Secretary will set out on a path that will be of benefit not only to our community but to the world.

12.34 p.m.

Mr. Maxton

I do not wish to speak in any extended way on this matter, because Scottish prisons are of more interest to me than the prisons in England; but I have a general interest in this problem, an interest that is different from that of the Home Secretary, the ex-Home Secretary, a policeman or a judge. My interest is of a different kind; I see the whole thing from a different angle; and I just cannot associate myself with the sort of "Oxford Group" spirit of general good will and congratulation that seems to prevail, and the idea that everything is going swimmingly so far as prisons are concerned. I hope that the new Home Secretary's arrival in that office will mean a big change in general administration inside the prisons. I do not, however, know of any office during my years in Parliament where a man has entered so full of good intentions and, within a very brief period, has fallen under the heel of the official dominating department.

Can any Member of the House, of several years' standing, think of any substantial improvement that has been made in prison administration during the times of all the various Home Secretaries that we have had? I cannot think of one. The general standard of life in the prisons remains what it was, and the essential conception of imprisonment remains precisely the same as it was. An hon. Member whom I know to be very benevolently minded on these matters shakes his head. I know of a whole lot of things that have been written in reports, and I have heard the Home Secretary to-day talking about the payment of wages to prisoners for work done. That presents itself to the ordinary person outside as a very great and benevolent advance, but look at the Vote which we are discussing. The Vote for wages for prisoners is £6,900 for the year, and there are 11,000 prisoners. If that is worked out, it will be seen to represent something like 10s. per head per annum, and the Home Secretary makes a very great point about this great reform by which wages are going to be paid to prisoners which they can spend on little luxuries. Ten shillings per annum is the average allowance made.

Mr. Muff

I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but this small recompense for good work done obtains in only a few prisons, and it is not fair to think that it applies in all prisons.

Sir S. Hoare

It is only now beginning.

Mr. Maxtor

I know that the special arrangement to which the tight hon. Gentleman referred this morning only applies to one or two experimental places, but the general question of payment for conduct and good work applies to all, and always has done; and this £6,900, as far as I can gather, is the total provision for the ordinary remuneration that is given to all prisoners for good conduct and good work and the special allowances that are to be paid to these special prisoners as well. I am very dubious as to what the special prisoners will get. When I was in prison—[An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"]—I do not feel any sense of shame at all; it was a bit of my life, and I take it with the rest of it. I hope it does not do other prisoners any harm to know that men in this House have been in prison. In that experience of prison, I found that what made men angry was the suspicion that there was favouritism, that so-and-so was a pet of the governor, or that there was nasty discrimination against a particular man. Where you have what are called privileges, that can be doled out by the governor to those whose faces he likes, and withheld from those others whose appearance he does not like, you are establishing the basis for very great disquiet and unhappiness among the prison population. I would ask the Home Secretary to watch that aspect with the very greatest care, and I would ask that, in regard to selection for special opportunities, special privileges, special advantages or special courses of treatment, some other authority should come in than the immediate officers, whether the governor, the chief warder or the warders, who are in day-to-day charge of the prisoners concerned.

I want to ask some specific questions about these matters. Prisoners now have a right of complaint to visiting committees and to the Home Secretary himself. Can the right hon. Gentleman give the Committee any statistics about prisoners' complaints against the prison authorities, showing how many such complaints have been made, and how many prisoners' complaints have been upheld, first to visiting committees and, secondly, to the Home Secretary himself? Is there any case, if I may put it in this bald way, where a prisoner making a complaint against the prison authorities has ever had his complaint substantiated, either by the visiting committee or by the Home Office? On the other hand, there are certain punishments that a governor can only impose upon prisoners with the consent of visiting committees. Can the Home Secretary give us any statistics as to how many complaints have been put forward by governors against prisoners to visiting committees, and how many of them have been rejected by visiting committees as unsubstantiated? I would also like to know how many prisoners are undergoing the preventive detention which has been referred to. I understand, Sir Dennis, that you ruled that some references made by the hon. and learned Member for Warrington (Mr. Goldie) were out of Order, but that, I imagine, was only so far as the legislative side was concerned.

The Chairman

With regard to remand homes, that matter comes under the next Vote, but the matter to which I referred in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Warrington as a matter which was entirely outside either of these two votes was a question of the administration of justice.

Mr. Maxton

Any prisoner undergoing preventive detention has a right to put forward his petition to the Home Office, either for release or for other things, and I want to know how many such petitions, say within the last five years, have been sent up to the Home Office, and how many, if any, have ever been granted. There is one other point to which I should like to refer. We are always told about the very sympathetic attitude of everyone, from the Home Secretary right down through the whole gamut of the prisons. Everyone is so sympathetic, so nice; indeed, one hon. Member went so far as to describe it as Christ-like. I must have been unfortunate in the warders, the governors, and the Home Secretaries that I have met in the course of my life. I must admit that I often wondered how a prison warder could spend a lifetime on that job and at the end of his service retain so many human qualities, but having admitted that, do not let us exaggerate.

I wrote a month or two ago to the Home Secretary. I had received a letter from an ex-convict in Chelsea. I had forgotten for the moment that that was the right hon. Gentleman's constituency. He ought to have written to the right hon. Gentleman and not to me. The right hon. Gentleman was his Parliamentary representative. At the best I was only a sort of trade union delegate, or something of that kind. He wrote to me from Beaufort Street, Chelsea, saying he was an ex-convict. He had been doing his best to go straight. He had been unable to get employment. He applied to the local public assistance committee for relief. They told him there was nothing for him but the workhouse. He said, "I cannot rehabilitate myself in civil life in the workhouse. I have to have some wherewithal to live." I wrote to the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary said, "It has nothing to do with us. It is no concern of ours." I think that is shocking. It is disgraceful. Perhaps they objected to my interfering because it was from Chelsea, but I find in every matter in which I have to do with the Home Office a curtness and a rudeness which I do not find in any other Department. They just say, "No,"—it is not written, but it is there on the paper—"to Hell with you." That is the Home Office answer. If they do that to a Member of Parliament, what will they do to some fellow in a prison cell in Dartmoor? What will they do to a fellow in Parkhurst if they cannot be decently polite to a public representative?

I understand that the Dartmoor prisoners and prison warders have been complaining year after year about the water supply. I am told it has been analysed and proved not to contain deleterious matter, but it is generally felt by everyone who has been in there that it is unpalatable to taste and disagreeable to look at. That is a simple elementary thing which could be put right in two minutes. Similarly with food supplies. Surely the Home Office buys decent food material. Why can it not be cooked and presented to the prisoners in decent fashion? We ought to run these things fairly, justly, economically, and efficiently.

12.49 p.m.

Mr. Edmund Harvey

The whole Committee respects and honours the hon. Member who has just spoken even when it disagrees with him. He has spoken from his own experience, but it is an experience of long ago. He challenged the Committee to say what changes and improvements have taken place under successive Home Secretaries. I wish I could have taken him on a joint deputation which I took to interview Sir George Cave 20 years ago. This group, representing members of every party in the House, went to him to plead for the abolition of the silence system, to beg for further medical care and examination and better classification of prisoners. The then Home Secretary considered that no change was needed. He made an adamantine defence of the existing position. He saw no need for further classification or for inquiry, and he would not consider a modification of the silence system. All the changes that were asked for then have been accomplished.

Two or three weeks ago I was at Wakefield. The then Home Secretary laid the foundation stone of a new prison officers' training school. I could wish that his eminent predecessor might have lived to hear the speech that he made. I endeavoured in vain to get Sir George Cave to admit that the reform of the prisoner was an object of the prison system. The late Home Secretary laid it down that the object that the Prison Commissioners had before them was that the prisoner should have an opportunity of going out a better citizen than he came in, and the Prison Commissioners themselves in a report some years ago made it clear in so many words that that was the object of prison training. We are very far from having attained the ideal, as they themselves would be the first to admit, but the Prison Commissioners have been for years the best of prison reformers, and the achievement that has already been reached is a very real one.

I am not speaking only from a study of books. For some 16 years I have been into prisons as a visitor. I had a weekly class in the prison at Armley in the days of the old silence system. I saw the change of atmosphere when the silence system was abolished. Only 18 years ago if a prison officer found a young lad in prison for the first time, weeping, broken down, as I have seen them again and again, if he laid his hand on his shoulder and said, "Cheer up my lad, this need never happen again. Make the best of it, and with God's help it will be a turning point in your life," if he were overheard by another officer, it would have been the duty of that officer to report him to the governor, and it would have been the duty of the governor to reprimand him for undue familiarity to a prisoner. The whole of that has been swept away. The prison officers are themselves encouraged to try to help men and youths to make the best of their opportunity in prison and, as the Home Secretary said in his most sympathetic speech, a very great deal has been done already in that direction. It is most important that from this Committee there should go out to the Prison Commissioners and the prison service a message of encouragement and thanks for the great work that they are doing. They themselves will always welcome criticisms and suggestions which are intended to improve that work.

I agree with the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) that something could, and should be done for the improvement of prison diet in the matter of monotony. I hope that the Home Secretary will look into that. I cannot see why a prisoner, if in prison for years, should never have fresh fruit. I do not ask for pampering or luxuries, but the question of prison diet and the monotony of it—not the wholesomeness of it, because it is wholesome—should be looked into, and some attempt should be made to get a greater variety. I think that every Member in the Committee will have heard with great satisfaction what the Home Secretary said about prison buildings. That is the greatest obstacle now to prison reform. We have, all over this country, prison buildings that were built on the plan devised by Jeremy Bentham in his famous work which has been taken as a model all over the world. I have seen in India, in Germany and in America prisons modelled on the English prison plan, with great galleries like the four outstretched fingers of a hand leading up to the observation centre, so that there should be the control of the prison with the minimum of prison officers. It is all based upon a mechanical idea of economy utterly remote from the whole spirit of the present Prison Commissioners and from the spirit of the Home Secretary. These prisons have been built most substantially to last not only for generations, but for centuries; nothing can be done with them, as they are, and in many cases, they need replacing by other buildings.

I am very glad that the Home Secretary mentioned the wonderful experiment, although it is a small one, which is being carried on near Wakefield in a little, quiet woodland valley, where prisoners are working in conditions approximating to freedom, trusted and responding to the trust, living not in hideous prison buildings, but in simple wooden barracks which they put up for themselves. That can be carried out in other places, and I hope that the Home Secretary will lay down the plan for that during his term of office. It may not be possible to do it at once. There are national economic conditions that make that difficult, but it ought to be possible to have the plans made now, to have the land purchased where it is necessary, and to have a great scheme ready prepared and to make the beginning. I hope that the first beginning will be in the direction of a special prison in such rural conditions for junior offenders—young men between the years of 19 and 25. In Holland, the Netherlands Government are already undertaking that, and they have actually in force there a measure which I wish we could see here. In all cases of young offenders, I believe that now there is an opportunity of remand to a special observation institution where these boys and girls are given class work, and, if they are older, they are given manual and other work to do under observation and training. Sentence is not passed finally by the court until they have had three months under specialist observation and training there, and the result of course, is, that there is far fuller knowledge available for the court before sentence is passed, and in a great number of cases imprisonment is not necessary at all. That is something which, I hope, we may be able to emulate before long in this country, but, in particular, I hope that the Home Secretary will go forward with the proposal that he has outlined for the replacement of the out-of-date prisons of to-day, by better, simpler and more human institutions. Any visitor who went to the great, massive prison at Armley and looked at it could well imagine that there might have been inscribed upon the gateway the words which Dante saw inscribed over the portal of the infernal city: All hope abandon ye who enter here. The whole of the buildings are permeated with that atmosphere, and it is a terrible handicap on the prison staff; who are bringing the spirit of good will and sympathy into their work, to be working under such conditions. I do not want to see any fanciful motto painted or engraved over the prison of the future. I think there is an irony in the motto that you see on the French prisons. If you see a prison in France you see: Liberté, égalité, fraternityé. over the door. But I want to see the spirit of fraternity expressing itself to some extent in the building, and still more, as it is increasingly to-day, in the administration, of our prisons. No system of buildings and no system even of wages, which I welcome—it is really not a question of wages but of an allowance and an encouragement to work—can give us what we want. There is no mechanical method which can be supplied. At the end of all there is the mysterious element of human personality. It is the contact with the right kind of personality and the right kind of spirit that is needed. Under the present system the Prison Commissioners are appealing to the esprit de corps, to the spirit of comradeship in their great experiment at Wakefield, and the prisoners respond to that. They will do it increasingly, I believe, as the Home Secretary and those in the Department for which he is responsible bring into the prison work of the future that spirit which was so delightfully manifested in the speech that he made to the Committee to-day.

1.3 p.m.

Mr. Muff

I should like to congratulate the Home Secretary upon taking up his new office. He is most fortunate in his very efficient Under-Secretary, and I trust that the association will continue to the benefit, at any rate, of our prison life. I was very glad to listen to the remarks of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Warrington (Mr. Goldie) when he mentioned plank-bed punishment. I remember the governor at one of our largest prisons coming to me and saying, "When you sentence a man to go to prison, I hope, if you can do it at all, that you will say second division?' The only difference it makes is that he will not be able to sleep upon a plank-bed." I have tried it myself, and I certainly did not like it: I am glad that the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey) has mentioned Leeds Prison, because, for my sins, I am one of the official visiting justices for that prison, and the visiting justices for years have been endeavouring for instance to get the minor reform of having the prison properly lighted. If any hon. Gentleman has been anywhere near Armley and has seen that terrible looking, grim Bastille as we call it in the West Riding, he will agree that, at any rate, we are entitled to electricity, if not to floodlighting. I am glad that the Prison Commissioners have at long last agreed to the better lighting of that prison.

I would ask the consideration of the Home Secretary to the plea of the visiting justices that Leeds Prison is not suitable for men serving penal servitude sentences. We have appealed time and again to the Prison Commissioners. 1' am aware that the policy of the Commissioners is to send men serving penal Servitude sentences of three years to what we call our county and district prisons, but the Prison Commissioners should take into serious consideration the type of prison. Sometimes we have had 20 or 30 penal servitude prisoners in Leeds Prison, a prison without any means of extensive recreation or even the means of expanding one's lungs by a decent bit of walking, The only chance for the prisoner to exercise is provided by the rings for the morning manual walking for a prescribed period. That is the only chance for recreation that a prisoner has in Leeds Prison, owing to the lack of room.

I would also suggest to the Home Secretary that no, long-tem prisoner should be sent to a prison like Leeds, and there are other similar prisons owing, to the restricted type of occupation. If, there is a deadening influence upon a prisoner it is that he is subject to a prescribed task which is absolutely mechanical. Some weeks ago a question was put asking the Home Secretary whether it was true that oakum-picking had been re-introduced into Leeds Prison. I am pleased to say that that rumour was wrong. There had, however, been a suspicion that oakum-picking had been re-introduced into this prison. Someone who knew something about prison administration asked: "Why do you not mention the treadmill e the same time?" I should like to say that in Leeds Prison the work is done admirably by an admirable governor and a good staff, but under the most restricted conditions, and I would again emphasise that it is not a place suitable for the serving of long sentences.

The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) asked whether anyone could quote cases where the Home Secretary has acted on the advice either of a governor or of a visiting committee. From my experience of years I have known instances where the Home Secretary has acted upon the advice of the visiting justices. On very few occasions during my visits, which are very regular, have I found any prisoner penalised. Prisoners appeal with confidence to the visiting committee, for the same reason that some of us like to get up in this House in order to hear the sound of our own voices. Some prisoners suffer from speechitis. They like to go before the visiting committee and make a speech on their grievances. If the grievance is well-founded, it is remedied. I will quote one instance. A man serving a sentence of penal servitude appealed. The Prison Commissioners turned down his appeal. If he had appealed again to the Home Secretary he would have been in danger of his remission marks being knocked off, because his complaint would have been judged frivolous. The visiting committee appealed on his behalf and appointed a deputation to wait on the Prison Commissioners. The deputation happened to be myself. The Prison Commissioners turned me down. We came again with a petition. Like Oliver Twist, we asked for more, and the result was that the Prison Commissioners, on the medical reports, saw that what we were asking for was reasonable, and the man has been sent to a more congenial prison, where there are more extended opportunities for diverse work.

I should like to pay my tribute to the experimental work that is being done on behalf of prisoners. I was present at the inception of the work on Lord Allendale's estate, seven or eight miles outside Wakefield. I went there when it was scrub land, with a cookhouse and a lean-to building where prisoners might shelter when it was raining. The men at that time slept in prison at Wakefield and had to make the journey morning and night. I have been present when only one warder was left with half the prisoners in the reservation, while the others had gone back to prison. Those prisoners could have walked out of the reservation, because there was only one warder to prevent them, but the men made no attempt at escape. The men are placed on their honour, and there has never been one attempt at escape from that beautiful place which has been set up for the benefit of prisoners seven or eight miles outside Wakefield. That is an experiment which might well be extended.

I am pleased that the Home Secretary has extended the policy of payment for extra work done. The hon. Member for Bridgeton said that very little progress has been made, but progress has certainly been made at Wakefield. The Wakefield experiment is the direct result of the presence there of distinguished inmates, conscientious objectors, during the War. Since those days that prison has not been allowed to revert to the type of an old lag's prison. I have gone to the prison on various occasions to visit distinguished colleagues of mine, public servants, who were His Majesty's guests, shall I say, on account of trying to evade Excess Profits Tax. I was pleased to notice that in that prison the house system is in operation. There is St. George's House, St. Patrick's House and two other houses with the names of patron saints. I found the keenest competition in sports between the houses. In cricket they could do better than the House of Commons cricket team, who were put out for 36 the other day. I found that under the house system there is the keenest competition in cricket and football and the various houses are very anxious that they shall not be let down by any slackers in their midst.

The brilliant idea of establishing the crews system is in operation. Instead of wearing the broad arrow on the tunic, prisoners wear a blazer with crossed oars on it. There has been psychology at work. The crews receive so many marks for merit. If they are able to earn a few marks extra, or if they are not on crew work but are weaving some beautiful cloth which is well worth weaving, or making some of the mats that we find in the smoking-room and other parts of this building, some of which come from Wakefield, they receive special recognition. When they have been set a merit task and the task has exceeded the allotted task they receive a special reward which may be, say, 6d. Sixpence is a lot if you have not got it. They may also get a packet of gaspers. It is a nice privilege to be able to smoke and to earn an extra sixpence. Whoever evolved that brilliant idea is to be very warmly congratulated. I am glad that the system has been extended to other prisons. This payment for accomplishing a little beyond the allotted task, whether in producing cabbages or a little extra cloth, is a very good principle. Stationery and printing business has now been introduced into Wakefield Prison.

I am glad that the Home Office has recognised the brilliant work of the governor of that prison, and have asked him to commence similar work at Wormwood Scrubs. I have visited Wormwood Scrubs and could tell at once that there was a decent atmosphere. I listened to a lecture given to 100 boys—I was sorry to see so many boys there—who were being told something about football. It may be a very mundane subject, but it was all to the good. I should like to ask how the experiment of paying this extra sum for a little extra work is getting on at Maidstone, where I am told the system has been introduced. I was delighted to find that one of the most distinguished ornaments of the City of London was the highest paid man in Maidstone Prison, and that he actually earned is., the highest amount they can earn, under the new system of payment. I should like to pay my tribute also to the voluntary work done by people who give lectures in our prisons. The hon. Member for Bridgeton entirely misunderstood the hon. and learned Member for Warrington (Mr. Goldie). The work done by these voluntary bodies should receive the warmest commendation of all decent-minded men and women.

Nor would I forget the discharged Prisoners Aid Society to whom we owe a great deal for the work they do. I know a business man who gives one night per week to this work. They see every prisoner who leaves and the number of jobs which have been found is amazing when one considers the many difficulties there are in these days of finding work for men. These men and women get very little of the spot-light, but they are all the more to be commended because they bring home to prisoners the fact that they are not forgotten men or forgotten women. As a result of my experience in this House and sitting under your chairmanship, Sir Dennis, I compiled a few notes on Parliamentary procedure, and I have been permitted to retail them in one prison after another. I have found that the men—sometimes I have had as many as 500—are keenly interested in Parliamentary procedure and appreciated my explanation of Supply, and what it means before Parliament votes money to remedy their grievances. I found that they also appreciated Question Time, and when they heckled me it was apparent that one man who was in for poaching had a great grievance against country magistrates, as he hoped that this honourable House would pass a Bill for the abolition of country magistrates.

Let me also pay a tribute to the work which is being done by the heads of most of our Borstal institutions. They are working miracles, because they appear not merely to have a mechanical touch but an ethical touch and—I am not ashamed to use the phrase—a spiritual touch in their work. The experiment of training warders at Wakefield is a most valuable one. There are always 60 or 70 probation warders in residence, and there will be more when the new building is finished. I find that the men who leave Wakefield are radiating a new influence and a new spirit throughout our prisons, which is what we want in these days. We want the spirit of Wakefield carried throughout the land. These men are receiving a training which does not lead to any sloppy sentimentality but to what I would call a comprehensive sympathy, which is quite a different thing altogether. I trust that this experiment will be allowed to develop and that these men will be told that if they make good they can become governors of prisons. I hope that the governorship of a prison will not now be a close corporation.

I wish the hon. Member for Bridgeton would come with me to one or other of our prisons. Mention has been made of Russia and what they are doing there. One hon. Member has said that they have schools and workshops. So have we, and we had them even before Russia was thought of. We have playing-fields, cinemas, music, swimming, and all these things have been developed quietly without any stunt during the past few years by far-seeing Prison Commissioners who may have been in some cases pushed along by this honourable House. There has not been much mention of women prisoners, probably because their numbers are few. I saw a lady Prison Commissioner some time ago. I was almost afraid to meet her, she was rather fearsome looking, but when I heard her talk I found that she seemed to know most of the female prisoners by their Christian names, and to have a personal interest in them. It is interesting work, and it is good that in a debate of this kind we are able to contribute a little of what we know on the matter. I have a right to go into His Majesty's prison by night or day, and neither the Prison Commissioner nor the Home Secretary can stop me. When work in the prison is stopped and they say: "Visiting Justice. Have you any complaint?", the prisoner can make his complaint as a right and quite freely. That is something to be thankful for in our prison administration.

Mr. Maxton

Does the chief warder accompany you?

Mr. Muff

The chief warder has nothing to do with me, and the prisoner can talk to me quite privately. I have had very few complaints, and chiefly it is advice that the men want. They are anxious about their wives and families and wonder if I can do anything to help them. These men are not forgotten, and as long as the Committee does its duty on Supply day, as it is endeavouring to do it to-day, they will not be forgotten. Shakespeare has been quoted to-day, and sometimes when I see these men, I say: Forbear to judge, for we are sinners all. We are sinners all—on Coronation day 62 spoons were "pinched" from this House, either by hon. Members or their intimate relatives and friends. So I say, Why should be judge? That, at any rate, has made me charitable in the remarks that I have made.

1.26 p.m.

Mr. Lyons

There is no doubt that all hon. Members will join in paying a tribute to the efforts that have been made to humanise prison conditions in recent years. I would like to add my word of praise for the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff), and the invaluable work which is being done throughout the country by probation officers. Many important matters have been dealt with in this Debate, but I wish to deal with one topic only. I wish to ask the Home Secretary what developments have taken place in connection with the experiment which was started in August last when 19 long-term star convicts were sent from Maidstone to Dartmoor where they worked as a party and were usefully employed on agricultural work? That experiment seems to me to be capable of very great development, and I think it may do a great deal to help in humanising the lot of people who are in prison for long terms. I will quote one passage from the report which will, I am sure, have the approval of everyone who has directed his attention to this matter: Segregation from the ordinary convict population was easily arranged, and the experiment fully realised its object, which was to provide a change of scene and healthy outdoor work for these long-term men. All hon. Members will realise what a great benefit it must be to those who are undergoing long terms of imprisonment to be taken away from the unhappy monotony of their ordinary surroundings and to do outdoor work in another place where they can perform useful service in which they can take some interest. Those of us who are interested in these matters appreciate the efforts of those who were responsible for this experiment. I would like to know whether it is proposed to continue the experiment and whether it may even be extended to those who are undergoing terms of imprisonment which are not as long as those of the 19 long-term star convicts to whom I have referred.

I could not give notice to the right hon. Gentleman that I intended to raise this matter, and consequently I shall understand it if he cannot give an answer today, but I hope that at some convenient time either the right hon. Gentleman or the Parliamentary Secretary, will be good enough to let me know what further experiments are being considered and whether the experiment could be adapted to the case of men undergoing shorter sentences. I think this sort of experiment might well be attempted in the case of other classes of prisoners and that nothing but good could come from it. The Debate to-day has dealt with matters of high importance, and I am sure all hon. Members will join in expressing the hope that the right hon. Gentleman and the officers under him, considering the successful efforts which have been made in recent years to humanise the whole system, will carry those efforts still further in years to come.

1.31 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

The remarks made by the hon. Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff) about the Wakefield reforms having been in operation before Russia was heard of, are a demonstration of the superficial attitude of the hon. Member towards this question. The hon. Member did not show any understanding of any side of the problem confronting us. I know the hon. Member is a visiting justice. I have seen many visiting justices, and all of them were simply pests to the prisoners. The visiting justice, accompanied by the chief warder, goes round and asks the most trifling and foolish questions, and then passes on. There may be 1,000 prisoners for him to see. He comes to the cell door, which is open, and asks, "How do you find yourself?" "Very comfortable." "That's good." Then he goes to the next cell and stops there for a moment.

The hon. Member spoke about spoons disappearing from the House, but if as many spoons had disappeared as there have been tributes thrown across the Floor by hon. Members, there would not be a spoon left in the place. There has been some talk about the terrible character of the prisons. We had a prison in Edinburgh, which was opened a year after Waterloo, and which has now been demolished. It was a ghastly place. The Home Office would be well repaid if they visited Edinburgh and walked round the new prison which replaced the old Calton Gaol. The new prison is a series of small two-flat buildings in the main, although there is one large building rather on the same lines as an ordinary prison. There are no heavy clanging doors, but light ones; and there are inlaid wooden floors.

The Temporary-Chairman (Sir Malcolm Barclay-Harvey)

The hon. Member may not discuss Scottish prisons, which come under the Scottish Vote.

Mr. Gallacher

Some hon. Members have said that the Home Office should go to see the prisons in Russia and others have suggested that they should see the prisons in Belgium; I was suggesting that they should go to see the prisons in Scotland.

The Temporary-Chairman

The hon. Member is in order in inviting the English authorities to consider that, but he is not in Order in discussing.those prisons.

Mr. Gallacher

I was simply inviting the Home Office to go to see that prison and the character of the reforms that have been made. The prison is quite different from any other prison. That is the only point I wanted to bring out. I know that the Scottish prisons are under the Scottish Office.

Reference has been made to the abolition of the silence rule. I have been in prison when the rule was being operated and when it was very difficult indeed to get even a whisper here or there with somebody else. I have also gone to the prison and have been informed that the silence rule was abolished, but that is only a trick in many prisons. I want the Home Secretary to give particular attention to that fact. I know that in some prisons they are allowing the prisoners to walk in pairs occasionally on the exercise ground.

Mr. Muff

In association.

Mr. Gallacher

I know. I have worked in association and talked in association. I have walked across the yard at Wandsworth with one of the warders, and coming back it sounded like a market. Everybody was talking and the noise was deafening. It all depends on the warders. The position is that the silence rule is abolished and that you cannot be punished for talking, but the warder can say to the prisoners, "Stop that talking." If a prisoner continues to talk he can then be brought up before the governor for disobeying an order, and if a warder has the slightest feeling against a prisoner that kind of thing operates. Some warders will not allow any talking at all. I think, also, that something ought to be done in our prisons to make life easier for the warders themselves. Warders have spoken to me time and again and said that they are anxious to make things as easy and as humane as possible for the prisoners, but they are always afraid of another warder spying on them and reporting them to the governor. I know one or two warders here in London who are exceptionally humane men. They are ex-soldiers, and they are coming near to their pension period, and they are always afraid, if they stretch the regulations the least bit in favour of the prisoners, that some of the other warders will report them.

But the big question which I want the Home Secretary to consider is that of torture in British prisons. When I say "torture in British prisons" I know that many hon. Members will say to themselves, "There is no such thing." But there is torture in British prisons that surpasses anything known under the Inquisition. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes. The main feature of the torture of the Inquisition was that it was physical torture. There are hon. Members here who get into a ferment of indignation—and I can understand it—about the flogging of juveniles, and even of adults. But a prisoner who commits some offence can be sentenced to flogging by the visiting magistrates, or he may be sentenced to flogging by the court when he is sent to prison. It is a terrible thing, but it is nothing to compare with the torture of the dark and silent cell. The most terrible torture that a man can experience is mental torture. There are men who can stand all kinds of physical suffering. They can allow their bodies to be racked and torn. But to be shut up in a cell day after day and night after night, only able to move six steps either way, is an experience that few men can stand.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and I were in prison together, and I think hon. Members will understand what confinement in a narrow cell meant to a man like my hon. Friend who expresses in all his being the desire for freedom and movement, the desire to raise his face to the skies, and to shout to the mountains. He was put into a little cell, and even the warders in the prison understood what it meant to him. One of them said to me, "Willy, this is no place for a big decent fellow like that, though it is all right for you." He seemed to think that prison was the proper place for me, and I am sure a number of hon. Members would be in complete agreement with him on that point. But he could sense the difference in temperament between us.

There are prisoners who are nervous and sensitive. They cannot settle down to read or to study; they cannot entertain themselves in any way. It may be that a warder says something to them which they resent. They are nervous and irritable, and they make some retort to the warder as a result of which they are reported and sent to the silent cell. What does that mean? Every book is taken out of the cell, everything is taken out except the stool, and they have to sit on that stool or walk about all day and all night. I have seen them come out of that with their heads trembling and without any control over themselves. Perhaps the warder speaks to them again with the same result, and back they go to the silent cell. There is no torture like it anywhere. It is a torture that drives men mad. Are you going to stop it? I appeal to the Home Secretary to consider this matter. It is a terrible punishment to impose on any human beings, and it does not help them. It only destroys the men to whom it is applied. I have seen and the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) has seen the results of it. One of my own comrades, a young sensitive fellow, but one of the finest lads anyone could wish to see, was subjected to this treatment and one day he lost control of himself and smashed everything he could smash within reach, and when I went round to his cell the roofs and sides were covered with his blood. It is the terrible solitude and silence that threaten a man with complete mental breakdown.

Another point to which I would like to draw attention is the provision of books for prisoners. The situation sometimes develops in a prison that the library is in charge of some old chaplain who, being no use for anything else, has been found a job in the prison service. I have heard the warders themselves talking with contempt about prison chaplains and especially of one, here in London. But the chaplain is the man who censors the books, and decides what the prisoners are to read. When books were sent in to me and to some of my friends in Wandsworth Prison the chaplain stopped them, or if he did not stop them from coming to us, he did not allow them to be put into the library. I am not sug- gesting that the prisons should be made centres of Communist propaganda, but there are many books to which, I am sure, the Home Secretary would not object, but which the prison chaplains will not allow the prisoners to read. There should be some other method of dealing with this matter.

In regard to the lectures that are given in prisons, I do not know whether the Home Secretary will consider broadening them. I remember, down in Wandsworth, getting the opportunity to go to lectures, and a very nice little fellow was giving a lecture, but it was such stuff he was giving. In the middle of it I said "Excuse me, sir, but you cannot tell stuff like that to us. It is not possible that we should have to listen to it." Then, of course, one thing led to another, and I mentioned something about the proletariat, and there was a lot of trouble with the Governor about politics. But I can assure the Committee that for an intelligent prisoner to have to sit and listen to the kind of stuff that they get from some of these people—well, it might be a good thing if the Home Office arranged for these people to have a class, or a course, so as to endeavour to get them to understand something like the proper method of dealing with prisoners. There are some of these people who are very good. One or two from London whom I met have given a lot of time and service to that sort of thing, but others of them have the idea that when they go into a prison they are dealing with men in a mental condition similar to that of children, and they seem to want to talk to them like children. They are very anxious—Oh, so anxious—to be nice, and it is altogether the wrong method, so I would like the Home Office to give some attention to this matter.

I would also like the Home Office to take the suggestion of the hon. Member for Bridgeton about the food. Sometimes we had a terrible time with the food. When you have rung your bell, after getting your food shoved in, because you want to make a complaint, and the warder comes along, he is generally in a great hurry. He does not like to be held hack from going home for his own dinner, and he says to you, "Here, what is the matter with it? You fellows are never satisfied." It would be quite easy to avoid all that sort of thing if care was taken with the character of the food that was sent in and if time was allowed for preparing the meals and for the proper service of the food. The other thing that I would urge upon the Home Office is that they should give the prisoners work to do. I worked at making tags for mail bags, and I am an engineer.

Remember that all these men who are in prison are, in the main, just the same as you or I, but up against unfortunate circumstances; they have made a bit of a mistake that maybe you or I have made without having been discovered. I am satisfied that whenever I was in prison I never deserved to be in prison for what I was charged with, but it is quite possible that I have done many other things for which I was not charged but for which I might well have deserved to be in prison. I have met people coming into prison, young and old, and sometimes I have had very deep sympathy for some of the elderly men. It is a shame to put elderly men in there just as though they are the same as young men. I have seen elderly men coming in, of 65 and even 70 years of age. I saw one old fellow who had occupied a very important position. He was what, in my more venomous moments, I would call a bourgeois. He had made a blunder, and he came in there. It was terrible to see what that man suffered. I spoke to him many times and tried to encourage him all I could—and incidentally the Committee will gather that I did a lot of talking while I was in prison—but this old fellow suffered a hundred times more than the ordinary young or middle-aged person would suffer in similar circumstances. His whole past life meant that prison was such a complete change. It meant pulling him up by the roots and throwing him into surroundings that 'were absolutely different.

In setting up or building new prisons, consideration should be given not only to the young—though, of course, consideration should be given to the young prisoners and to the stars—but to the older men as well. I have seen some of these older men. Every time this old fellow of whom I was speaking just now came into the exercise yard, I tried to have a word with him, and it took him some time before he could answer back. He would always start, crying, and it is the most pathetic thing in the world to see a man of 70 years of age crying. You understand,.he had not been sleeping, and every morning, as soon as you spoke to him, this old fellow would break down. I have seen many other cases of that sort, and I do ask the Home Secretary that in putting up these new prison buildings he should not only consider the young, who are important and must be considered, because their lives are all before them, hut that he should do away with anything that could impose upon men, especially, old men, any unnecessary suffering such as that to which I have referred. I would again ask the Home Secretary to look into this question of the silent, dark cell, It is a terrible thing for any man, and before anyone condemns anyone else to the silent cell, he ought to be locked up himself in a silent cell for a week, and then he would understand what it Means. I do ask the Home Secretary to look,into these matters.

1.52 p.m.

Sir Robert Tasker

I cannot claim to have enjoyed, the same experience as the last speaker, never having served any time in prison., He might have been anything but a, placid and genial prisoner. But I rise to make a plea for the man who has been punished for his crime and who, on his release, is offered very little help from the Home Office or from anybody else. There is in London the Prisoners' Aid Society, and there is the Sheriff's Fund, supported by members and friends of the Corporation of the City of.London. I hold the view very strongly that very few men commit crimes from choice, I believe that there is good in every man, if you know how to find it. To one you can appeal to his sense of reason, and.to another to his sense of honour. I have found that among a certain class of the community the quickest way to get to a man's heart is to give him a good hiding, and I believe that, those who are in authority, if they dared—and I am one of those who did dare 20 years ago—could do a lot of good in, that way. At the time I am speaking of I had a very troublesome man in the battalion. I discarded my tunic and told him that we would have a little boxing contest, which, of course, was not boxing at all but was a fight. I came to the conclusion that I was bound to be winner either way, because if I beat him, he was friendly with me afterwards, and if he beat me, it had precisely the same result.

I think that one of the most dreadful things for a man who has served a sentence is to be discharged at the prison gates and met by some of his old pals. They point out the hopelessness of his position and induce him to get back into crime. If there was real sympathy shown to these men; if there was an opportunity offered to them to make good; if they could be taken away from their old environment; if an attempt were made to give them a clear start free from their old associations, the results would be most gratifying. The statistics of the Sheriff's Fund show that we have reclaimed something like 97 per cent. of the men who have served a term of imprisonment. There are no public funds for that purpose. I wish there were. Knowing the kindliness of the Minister, I was wondering whether something could be done, some machinery set up, to help the man who has paid for his crime to help him to get away from his old associates and his old environment and to make a fresh start.

I sometimes think it is a pity that men have to report to the police, for it always reminds them of terrible days I do not agree with the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) about corporal punishment. I would without hesitation, if I had the power, administer the cat to any brute who assaults children or commits robbery with violence. They generally pick on somebody who cannot defend themselves. Garrotting was stopped by flogging, and the cat would stop outrages against children and violent robberies. I agree with the hon. Member, however, when he talks about torture. There is something worse than physical torture, and that is mental torture. It is that mental torture from which I want to save these men. If we could set up some machinery to help the men who have been punished—for, after all, they have paid the penalty and ought not to be reminded of what they have done—and to give them a chance in life, the number of criminals would decrease year by year much more rapidly than we have seen during the last decade.

1.58 p.m.

Mr. Denville

We have been talking on a somewhat morbid subject, of those who are incarcerated in His Majesty's prisons and of certain injustices that might be remedied in connection with those unfortunate enough to be His Majesty's guests for a period. I would like to put to the Home Secretary a point concerning a section of the community who are outside His Majesty's prisons. I refer to the many injustices being suffered by little theatrical companies owing to the advantage taken in certain districts of the law as it applies to stage plays and stage play licences. Years ago we had several hundreds of little companies going round the country. They were the training ground for the great actors of that day. There were also many portable travelling theatres which went from town to town.

The Temporary-Chairman

I should be glad if the hon. Member would refer his remarks to the Vote under discussion.

Mr. Denville

I understood that we could raise the whole Home Office Vote.

The Temporary-Chairman

We are now on the Prisons Vote.

Mr. Denville

I will, then, address the Home Secretary on a future occasion about the point I have in mind.

2.2 p.m.

Mr. Kelly

I wish to refer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Holborn (Sir R. Tasker) and to ask the Home Secretary to consider whether discharged prisoners might report to the probation officer instead of to the police? I ask that, even though the police might be inclined to disagree. One finds through experience in dealing with people who are placed on probation that these wonderful officers and that is a deserving description of the probation officers—are able to receive reports on those who are placed under their care without the employer knowing about what has happened and without their neighbours and friends knowing that they have been before the court or have been imprisoned. The probation officers are not only able to deal with these reports and present them in the right quarters, but they are able to render great assistance. In view of the difficulties, hardships and cruel conditions attaching to the discharged prisoner who finds that everyone is against him, and that it is difficult to re-establish himself, I suggest that the probation officers rather than the police should have the opportunity of dealing with them.

2.4 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Geoffrey Lloyd)

It is some years since there has been a debate on this Vote, and the Committee and the Home Office will be grateful to hon. Gentlemen opposite for having put down this Vote to-day, because everybody who has been present will agree that we have had an exceptionally interesting debate. With certain exceptions which I shall mention in a moment, the speeches of hon. Members have been decidedly friendly to the general spirit of prison administration, tempered from time to time with constructive suggestions for improvement. The exceptions were the speeches of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). I was impressed with the fact that while the hon. Member for West Fife started with his usual bellicosity—I am sure he will not quarrel with that description, for it is a recommendation—nevertheless, as he continued, his tone became more intimately personal and he made a genuine appeal to my right hon. Friend for consideration of the matter which he raised.

I think that our strongest critic to-day was the hon. Member for Bridgeton. I am not objecting to his criticism, for; while we invite friendly and constructive criticism, it is perhaps good for us to have a sharper bite in the tone of criticism. The hon. Gentleman, however, may have been influenced a little in his tone by what I was sorry to hear him say, namely, that he had received rather scant attention from the Home Office. I am sure he will accept it from me that I am genuinely sorry that he should have been given that impression. Although it may be that sometimes he raises questions as to what the attitude of the Home Office is bound rather rigidly by conditions of Statute or administration, I hope we may be able in the future to give him the impression that there is not the least intention to show any personal discourtesy. Personally I hold very strongly the view, and so does my right hon. Friend, that points put forward by Members of Parliament deserve at all times to be given the most careful consideration. That is the case particularly with this Debate, and my right hon. Friend authorises me to say that at the Home Office we shall go very carefully into all the large number of points which have been raised to-day.

Of course the Committee will not expect me to enter into details about every point, because that would be clearly impossible, and I know that another subject is to be brought forward, but there are some points with which I should like to deal at once. I think the Committee will agree when I say that we shall certainly pay particular attention to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Warrington (Mr. Goldie). There were points from many other speeches, particularly those of the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Ritson) and the hon. Member for East Hull (Mr. Muff) and others, which will require special attention, but I think the Committee was particularly impressed by the strong opinions which were expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Warrington, and I shall have a word to say later on some of his points.

The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) asked first about the prison population. The decline in the population is, as I think everyone will agree, very satisfactory. Last year the average population in all our establishments was about 10,000, and the present population stands at approximately the same figure—it was checked on Tuesday of this week. The numbers have been decreasing since 1932. There are several causes for that, with which the House is familiar, and one is the Money Payments Act, which has undoubtedly had a considerable influence on the prison population. The Committee which reported on that matter pointed out that in 1932 out of 53,000 imprisonments for all causes more than 20,000, or about one-third, were for default in the payment of sums of money—failure to pay fines or to make other financial payments. The Act did not come into operation until 1st January, 1936, but there was a slight fall in the figures of imprisonment for failure to pay money penalties in 1935, which was probably due to the effects of public opinion following the Report of the Committee, but since the Act has actually come into operation there has been a considerable fall. In 1932 the number of persons in prison in default of payment of fines was 11,244, next year it was 11,600, in 1934, 11,128, and in 1935 it fell to 10,542. In 1936, the first year of the operation of the new Act, the figure was 7,424. If we take the total of all imprisonments for failure to pay fines or to meet maintenance orders or affiliation orders or to pay rates, in 1932 they numbered 20,416 and in 1936, 11,623. I think the Committee will be to a considerable extent satisfied with that trend.

Another factor having an effect on the prison population is the extended use of the system of probation, and there are also a number of other considerations into which I will not enter now, but I think the Committee will be interested to hear the figures with regard to recidivism. It is only recently that actual figures have become available in this country in regard to the extent to which those who have been in prison return to prison again. The only figures from which useful conclusions can be drawn are those concerning the period since 1930. Of 30,000 persons received into prison for the first time during 1930 to 1933, 24,326, or 80.7 per cent., had not, so far as is known, returned to prison a second time up to the end of 1935. I think the Committee will agree that that is a satisfactory figure, and we shall all watch with interest to see how the record continues.

The right hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Pethick-Lawrence) asked about women prisoners. The decline in the prison population has been most marked among women. The daily average population of women prisoners in 1910–11 was 3,581, and in 1935 it had fallen to 719. On Tuesday last it was only 685. As a result of this, a great reduction in the number of women's establishments has been possible, and there is now only one prison exclusively for women, namely Holloway. The remaining prisons for women are the women's sections of the prisons in Manchester, Durham, Birmingham, Hull, Exeter and Cardiff, and, as the hon. Member for East Hull will probably know, the women's section at Hull will shortly be closed. The one Borstal institution for girls is at Aylesbury.

Mr. Pethick-Lawrence

It has been pointed out that whereas there are certain prisons, like that at Wakefield, in which men have the opportunity of leading a fuller life, owing to the paucity of the numbers of women prisoners there is no similar provision for women.

Mr. Lloyd

I cannot off-hand give an explanation on that point, but it is an interesting aspect of the problem and we will look into it. The hon. Member for Westhoughton asked about the figures for Borstal. The figure for Borstal reached its peak in August, 1934, when there were over 2,000 inmates. From that point the figure fell for a short time, but it is now steadily increasing and is well over 1,800. The main reason for that is the increase in the age-group with which Borstal is concerned. We are all aware of the bulge in the juvenile population, and have thought of it mostly in connection with the elementary schools, but the Borstal age-group is slightly different, and we are now feeling the effects of it in regard to Borstal. The Committee will no doubt be aware that the Secretary of State last year made an order raising the maximum age limit for Borstal from 21 to 23. I shall not at this stage of the afternoon go into the reasons why the order was made. Broadly speaking, the reason was that the Home Office had been impressed with the results of Borstal treatment in the higher age groups of boys and also with the results of the segregation of some of the younger recidivists from the adult prisoners, and they had come to the conclusion that Borstal treatment would have a good effect on these age groups. Therefore, the age was raised by this order.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about the industrial training scheme and whether it was going on satisfactorily. It is going on satisfactorily. Of course we have introduced an important change recently. It was felt that the work in the work-rooms at Borstal institutions was being done too much from the point of view of production and not sufficiently from the point of view of instruction. A change has been introduced in which much greater emphasis is laid upon the instructional side of the work, and in particular, Saturday mornings are now given over to a theoretical course of instruction in relation to the practical work that the boys have been doing the rest of the week. That is satisfactory, but it is particularly satisfactory to know that the output has not decreased as a result of the change. Although there is less time devoted to it, the boys appear to take more interest in their work during the rest of the week.

The question of their training from the point of view of the work that they are to take up afterwards is very important, and in that an interesting change has been made recently. It is connected with the question of psychological examination, which the hon. Member also raised, though it was not in the broad scheme of what he mentioned. The Institute of Industrial Psychology have been assisting in the work of the Borstal institutions and have worked out a considerable system of examinations of individuals from the point of view of helping to decide for what work those individuals are most fitted. I have here the report of the Institute on this experiment. It makes rather remarkable reading. The hon. Member for Durham City (Mr. Kitson) and others emphasised the fact that many of the people in the prisons and in Borstal institutions are quite intelligent. I have most remarkable examples here of cases examined from the point of view of vocational instruction. A boy was sent from a north-country industrial centre. His mother had died when he was four years old and his father had been in trouble on at least one occasion for cruelty to his children, had deserted him. The boy came to London in an attempt to get office work and on his way he stole. He was caught and put on probation, but again he stole and was caught and he found himself in Borstal. He was examined by the officials of the Society who described him in these terms: He was not a sociable individual and he kept himself as strictly as possible to himself. The greater part of his enforced leisure had been taken up with the working out of colculations and the writing of essays. The test results made it clear that he was a boy of outstanding intellectual ability and on an intelligence test considerably above the average of University students. He had an astonishing knowledge of Stock Exchange news and ran an imaginary exchange of his own. Some of,his essays related to his ambition to become Prime Minister. He held strong Liberal Protectionist views. (This be it noted, was in 1930, some time before the formation of the first National Government.)

Mr. Goldie

Did the boy consent to be examined or was he examined compulsorily?

Mr. Lloyd

I imagine that he consented to the examination. The conclusion of the experts was that in spite of his ambi- tion to be a Liberal-Protectionist Prime Minister, they thought he would make a very excellent rating surveyor. I would conclude references to these matters by saying that they are very carefully gone into in these days and they have been worked out on a scientific basis. The point really is that the Home Office make a definite practical test with regard to the work that the boys do. We are arranging to train housemasters in the carrying out of these tests, and as the training of housemasters has only recently been begun, it is too early to report on the result, but we hope it will be really satisfactory. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warrington raised many points and made certain suggestions. I think the Committee was much impressed by what he said about the fourteen days spent by male hard-labour prisoners without a mattress, which is the difference between hard labour and simple imprisonment. That indeed is, I understand, the only substantial remaining difference between the two classes of prisoners. Of course, it does not apply even now to those who are aged or medically unfit. This matter, as my hon. and learned Friend knows, is at present governed by Statute, and therefore, the Prison Commissioners are not free to make a change, even if they would, without the consent of this House. My hon. and learned Friend would not expect me in the circumstances to go in too great detail into it, but I am authorised to say that my right hon. Friend will consider this and other matters to which the hon. and learned Member has referred when the question of legislation arises. Particularly I would extend that assurance to the other important questions he raised with regard to the habitual criminal, the recidivist, from the point of view of giving Courts power to pass a sentence of preventive detention to follow an ordinary sentence of imprisonment. Those are very important matters.

I have caused inquiries to be made into the question which was raised by the hon. Member for Bridgeton regarding the water supply at Dartmoor. My information is that the water supply is perfectly good. Water in a peat district is apt to go brown when it is boiled. It is no different from that which is used by the ordinary householders of the district, and, as at present advised, we cannot see that there is a real grievance with regard to the water. This is not the sort of matter about which the Home Office would wish to be obstructive, and if there were a real defect in the water supply there is no reason why we should not want to do everything to put it right. Possibly the hon. Gentlemen will make a further investigation and will let us know if he finds that there is a further grievance.

The question whether local prisons are fit places for convicts sentenced to three years and upwards was raised by the hon. Member for East Hull. We do not in fact send men sentenced to more than three years to the places he mentioned, but we are ready to consider any individual case in which transfer to a convict prison is thought to be desirable. We do not feel that we can abandon the policy of keeping convicts in local prisons. We have a reason for that, as the hon. Gentleman knows. It has been the idea in prisons that convicts are superior persons, and important people. That idea is, of course, really wrong, and it is wrong to encourage it. I can tell the hon. and learned Member for East Leicester (Mr. Lyons) that we are pleased with the result of the experiment of sending long-term convicts from Maidstone to Dartmoor for continued employment, and that we intend to extend the experiment of outside employment for long term prisoners.

A reference was made in eulogistic terms by the hon. Member for Westhoughton to the Belgian experiment with young offenders. We agree that the experiment is highly organised and systematic, and is on lines upon which there might be some development in this country. It must not go out to the world, however, that we are doing nothing in the matter, because we do a great deal. We report on all cases eligible for Borstal. After sentence, all Borstal boys are collected at Wormwood Scrubs, and are examined as to their antecedents and mental and physical circumstances, before it is decided to which Borstal institution they shall go. The examination is for the purpose of finding out the best institution for particular cases. When a court asks for a special report it is always carried out, or when the medical officer or the governor asks for a special examination. The observation and examination are made the basis of treatment. We think it is better to concentrate on cases calling for special examination and to act on results rather than to collect data.

I would just like to make one or two references to drunkenness. The important factor in the situation is that the figure for the year 1935 was 6,886, whereas the figure in 1910–11 was 54,000 odd.

Mr. Rhys Davies

May I point out that the Commissioners' report for 1935 calls special attention to the fact that it was only on account of cases of drunkenness that there had been an increase in the number of prisoners?

Mr. Lloyd

I believe it is the second offences to which attention is specially drawn. Alterations and improvements have been effected in recent years. A large number of prison workshops have been built and equipped, as well as hospitals, chapels, and classrooms reconstructed and modernised. At Manchester, the Commissioners have recently acquired a large area of ground behind the prison, which will enable much needed improvements to be made in that establishment. At Brixton, more land has been acquired, which will enable the reconstruction and modernisation of that prison to be completed. I believe hon. Members will have been pleased to notice the sympathetic remarks made on this subject by my right hon. Friend at the beginning of the Debate.

I do not think that the hon. Member for Bridgeton was altogether fair in taking the line that he could not remember any considerable change or improvement in our prison system under any Home Secretary. It was particularly unjustified, as was indeed pointed out by the hon. Member for East Hull, in view of the Wakefield experiment, and the important extensions of the privileges of the wages system which was announced by my right hon. Friend. Without going further into details, I think the Committee feels that the present administration is generally satisfactory. Of course, it can be amended in detail, and the Home Office would be the last to say that it could not, but I think the Committee will be satisfied to know the sympathetic and progressive attitude which has been shown.

Mr. Gallacher

Would the hon. Gentleman say something about the silence rule?

Mr. Lloyd

Not having had the personal experience of His Majesty's prisons that the hon. Gentleman has had, I prefer to be allowed to look into that matter. I will communicate with him.

Mr. Gallacher

Would he consider also the provision of separate halls for the older men?

Mr. Maxton

I asked for certain information. May I take it that it will be sent to me?

Sir S. Hoare

I cannot give any undertaking with regard to statistics, but I assure the hon. Member that I will certainly communicate further with him on the matter.

Question, "That a sum, not exceeding £584,166, be granted for the said Service," put, and negatived.

Original Question again proposed.

Sir S. Hoare

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.