HC Deb 06 March 1939 vol 344 cc1802-18

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939, for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Prison Commissioners and of the Prisons in England and Wales.

Sir S. Hoare

The reason for this Vote is the same as that for the Broadmoor Vote. An arbitration, as I said just now, took place, and the result was to propose that rises of a minimum of 5s. a week should take place at once among practically all the prison staffs. That is the origin of this Vote, and it is the result of the arbitration.

5.51 p.m.

Mr. Rhys Davies

The right hon. Gentleman has been very brief in introducing this Supplementary Estimate; and although I do not intend to be critical I should like to put a few questions on these several items. It will be noticed that the Supplementary Estimate is not exclusively due to an advance of wages for the prison staff. On page 16 it says that the "Site for new women's prison and Borstal institution. Purchase of approximately 155 acres of land at an estimated cost of £57,500, including Stamp Duty," and so forth. The statement makes clear that no expenditure is to be incurred this year, but the object of the token provision we are now discussing is to secure Parliamentary approval for this transaction. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is at last proposing to start his campaign of building new prisons. In fact, I think we might take that for granted. Will he tell us, first of all, where this proposed new building is to be situated? Then, it will be interesting to know whether the right hon. Gentleman can tell us when the building is likely to be completed, because it is likely to mean such a lot in connection with prison reform which he has so much at heart. What type of training is to be given in this new Borstal institution? It is not proper for me to refer to the proceedings in Standing Committee on the Criminal Justice Bill, but I understand that the Home Office have in view some special training in this new Borstal institution with which we are dealing this afternoon.

The Prison Commissioners in their report deal very extensively with proposed new forms of treatment for these delinquents, and perhaps therefore the right hon. Gentleman will enlighten us on that point? What is to become of the Borstal at Aylesbury? I do not know the reason for this change of location, and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us. We are proposing to deal here with a group of people who, we understand, are persons to whom the right hon. Gentleman referred in what, I think, must be regarded as one of his most famous speeches. He delivered at Geneva some time ago another speech which made him famous. [Hon. Members: "Order."] I must not touch upon Geneva this afternoon, but the next speech which helped to make him famous was one on prison reform, and this afternoon we come to the first instalment of the proposals he made then.

It is proposed to build a new prison for that difficult group of inebriate women who are now housed at Holloway. I am glad that there is one Lady Member of the House in her place this afternoon when we are discussing this very important problem. What is it intended to do in dealing with this very stubborn group who are constantly in and out of Holloway? Are they to be submitted to some new form of treatment? Are they to have more medical attention or are we to understand that they will be called upon to do some physical work on this 155 acres which is to be purchased? Indeed, they are a difficult problem; and anyone who cares to read the report of the Prison Commissioners on the results of drunkenness and the consequent delirium tremens will get an insight into the work of the Home Office and the Prison Commission. If it were in order, I would say a word or two this afternoon upon the effects of strong drink and its connection with crime, but the right hon. Gentleman always becomes alarmed if I start on a venture of that kind. He will forgive me at any rate asking whether we are to expect a change in the treatment of this group of women. It must be remembered that 24 per cent. of the committals to prison in respect of women are due to strong drink; they violate most of the laws in relation to intoxicating liquor, and the right hon. Gentleman emphasised that point in the second famous speech to which I have already referred.

The Committee are under a slight disadvantage this afternoon in dealing with this Supplementary Estimate because the Prison Commissioners' Report, which would probably tell us a little more in regard to the details of these institutions and what it is proposed to do in them in future, has not yet been issued for the year 1937. I plead with the right hon. Gentleman not to allow a state of affairs to continue such as we have here by reason of the fact that it was as late as February, 1938, that the Prison Commissioners' Report for 1936 was issued. The Committee are under a disadvantage because the Prison Commissioners as a rule, and their medical staff in particular, give guidance to the public as to the good work which they are attempting to do. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will be good enough to reply to these questions, and I am sure in so doing that he will not to-day dwell on that other famous speech on another subject which he delivered at Geneva.

5.58 p.m.

Sir S. Hoare

It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I give a short statement before the further discussion upon what is covered by this token Vote for the new women's prison. When I rose to make a statement earlier I was dealing with the salaries question, an item which came also on the White Paper. I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. R. Davies) for his reference to, I think, three of my speeches. I am much obliged to him, and I am glad to think that anybody of that bench should pay so great attention to my humble efforts. This Vote covers some very important proposals, and I would ask the attention of the Committee for a moment or two while I explain them to hon. Members. Hon. Members will remember that when I was introducing the Home Office Vote in the Summer I explained to them what I then described as our housing programme for prisons. Our housing programme, let me repeat it to hon. Members, is as follows: That we build a new women's prison that will take the women prisoners from Holloway and possibly from some of the other women's prisons; and we then intend to use Holloway and also Aylesbury for men prisoners. As a result, we hope that we shall be able to do what the Prison Commissioners and a good many other people have wished to do for several years, namely, to shut Pentonville as a prison. We have already made some progress in this direction. We have been in active negotiation with the London County Council for the disposal of the Pentonville site for a housing scheme. The negotiations have reached an advanced point and I see no reason why they should not be successfully terminated. The effect then will be that Pentonville will be pulled down and the housing scheme will occupy the site. The women will go from Holloway to the new prison and the men from Pentonville to Holloway and Aylesbury.

This Vote covers the initial step in this housing programme, the provision of accommodation for the women prisoners who are to be moved from Holloway. Until we carry out this stage we cannot go any further with the Pentonville scheme and the Aylesbury scheme. The first move is the move for the new prison for women. Accordingly, during recent months we have been busy in attempting to find a suitable site for the new prison and in making our plans for the kind of institutions that we want to put upon the new site. I am glad to be able to tell the Committee that, here again, our negotiations have gone far. I think I can say that we have now got a site. I would rather not disclose the exact details about the site, as the transfer has not actually been signed, sealed and delivered, but I can tell hon. Members that it will be near London. It is essential that it should be near London, because most of the women prisoners come from London and the neighbourhood. It will be a country site, big enough to hold two institutions, quite distinct institutions, first, the prison which will take the place of Holloway, and, secondly, the girls' Borstal institution, which is to take the place of the institution at Aylesbury which is at present the girls' Borstal. Hon. Members may ask whether it would not be better to have two separate sites for these two institutions, but I think I can satisfy them that the site will be big enough to have these two institutions upon it quite distinct the one from the other.

Let me give the Committee the general outline of the kind of institutions which we wish to put upon the site. First, we are anxious that the site for the institutions should look as little like the old type of prison, in the manner of Holloway, as we can possibly make it. Accordingly, it is proposed to enclose the site, not by high walls, like the wall at Holloway, but by a sunk wall which will project some four feet above the ground level. The enclosed site will then be divided into two portions, one for the prison and one for the Borstal institution. We intend to make considerable use of screens of trees, hedges and planting of various kinds, in order to avoid the grim appearance of the early nineteenth century prisons, which we know so well, from one end of the country to the other.

I have said that the site is near London. As regards the prison for women it is proposed to erect a number of semi-detached houses, each of which will contain 25 women. Hon. Members will see at once the advantage of that proposal over a great institution like Holloway, where several hundred women are all gathered together, if not under the same roof at any rate in the same building. For many purposes these houses will be self-contained. Each will have a matron and a complete kitchen equipment. For central use there will be a medical unit, a chapel, work-rooms, recreational and educational facilities and a library. Very important will be the gardens and farming on a small scale. I am sure hon. Members must have noticed that even at Holloway a little garden is a great advantage to a women's prison. On the larger site, with a country atmosphere, we can develop to a much greater degree this very useful form of training in the women's prison. The total accommodation will be from 400 to 450. At present in Holloway there are about 350 prisoners. This accommodation in the new prison will give us room for some of the small number of women prisoners who are at present dotted about in existing prisons. It is impossible for me to tell the hon. Member for Westhoughton when the new prison will be completed. These things must take time, but we are anxious to see the buildings completed as soon as we can make the arrangements, and from my own point of view the sooner the better, particularly as this is the first move in the new housing campaign, and without this dispersal we cannot make the corresponding moves in the other parts of the housing scheme.

I pass from the prison to the Borstal institution. The Borstal institution for girls at Aylesbury will be transferred to this site. The new institution will be generally on the lines of other Borstal institutions, such as the Hollesley Bay institution, the details of which I gave a few months ago. The system of small houses in which the girls will be in comparatively small numbers, where they will be able to live very much their own lives and do their own work in small parties, will be adopted. The last time we discussed this question hon. Members generally agreed that to put boys and girls in these small houses is a much better way of dealing with them than to put them in some great central institution. There will be complete segregation of the girls in the Borstal institution from the women in the prison. Although the site will be the same, it is a very big site, and the girls and the women will be kept separate. They will have separate governors and separate staffs, with the possible exception of the chaplain and the doctors. Otherwise there will be a complete separate system for the two institutions.

A question was put to me by the hon. Member opposite regarding that very difficult class of woman prisoner, the habitual inebriate. Anyone who has been to Holloway must have meen depressed at the number of old women who come in week after week, with no apparent advantage to themselves and to the great disadvantage of prison life. Obviously, it makes it much more difficult to organise successfully the life of a prison upon any reasonable system of training when it may be that one-third or one-half of the prisoners come in on a Monday, go out, it may be, on a Friday and come back again on the following Monday. I have thought a great deal about this difficult class of woman prisoner, and perhaps the one feature that has done something to comfort me in dealing with them is the fact that their numbers are steadily decreasing. That is satisfactory. The younger women seem to have other and better interests than drinking large quantities of methylated spirits and Red Biddy over the week-end. Accordingly, the numbers are falling very quickly and substantially. None the less there is still a number of these women, and we have to deal with them. We intend to put them into some institution of their own. We do not intend to take them to the new prison for women. We think that if we did they would once again be a great obstacle in the way of the kind of training that we wish to see started in the new prison. We think also that in an institution specially adapted to their needs we can deal with them much better than we could under the conditions in which we are now working.

I have tried to give the Committee a picture of the programme that is covered by this Token Vote of £10. It is a big, comprehensive picture, and it will take time to fill in all the details. It will be an integral part of the whole scheme of penal reform that we are discussing upstairs in connection with the Criminal Justice Bill. These are two essential sides of the same programme, two essential sides of our attempt to deal with these unfortunate people in a sensible way, in a way which is most likely to diminish crime and make it less likely that prisoners come back again to prison when they have served their sentence. Whilst no doubt hon. Members will wish to ask further questions and make criticisms on this and that detail, I hope they will approve generally of the objectives we have in view.

6.16 p.m.

Mr. Edmund Harvey

The Committee will realise that this token Vote marks the beginning of a series of measures which the Home Secretary is undertaking in his great project of constructive penal reform. Although there may be some difference of opinion upon the details, and important details, there is no difference of opinion in the House or in the country in the confidence which everyone feels in the Home Secretary's insight, his humanity and wisdom, in the way he is planning this great reform. He has indicated tonight what is in his mind, and has relieved some of us from an anxiety we felt when we read the Supplementary Estimates, that it might be proposed that the same institution should house the women's Borstal and the women's new prison. I am glad to know that this is very far from this thought. Although the new estate is a large one, I think there is some reason for appealing to the Home Secretary to consider a separate site altogether for the women's Borstal. The name will attach to both institutions, and there will be a danger of a prison association clinging around the Borstal institution although it may be separate and under separate government. One does not wish girls going to a Borstal institution to come out with even the slightest association with a prison site. I hope it is not too late for the Home Secretary to consider the possibility of a separate site, perhaps a few miles away, for girls who are sent to a Borstal institution. Of course the further away the better from the point of view of association, but if it is unfortunately inevitable to go on with planning them on the same site I hope they will be given different names. I think that is a very important point. It will make a great difference to the girls concerned if the institution has a different name.

I am delighted with the plan for cottage homes for girls in a Borstal institution. One of the defects of the older Borstal system has been the fact that a large number of Borstal boys, and to some extent girls, have been kept together in one institution. It is an unnatural life, and the transition to ordinary life after training is made much harder when the young person has been trained in one of these large groups. If they can receive their training in a group nearer to the family in size and in spirit the training itself would be much better, and the prospect when they go out into the world would be much brighter. In making this appeal to the Home Secretary I wish to say how heartily I approve of the scheme as a whole, and in that I am sure that I am not alone. I am sure that hon. Members in all quarters of the Committee wish the Home Secretary God-speed in his great work.

6.21 p.m.

Dr. Edith Summerskill

I am sure we all welcome the statement of the Home Secretary this afternoon. We felt that we were advancing tremendously in penal reform. For my part, I was rather disappointed when he told us that negotiations for a site for the new prison had not been completed and that there is even a possibility they may fall through. I hope that is not the case. I could have wished that the Home Secretary would have been able to tell us not only of the completion of the negotiations but of the date when the new prison work would be commenced. Not only has the site not been settled, but the detailed plans have not yet been drawn up, and this reform is so urgent that every week and month of delay means that some unfortunate woman is not benefiting fully from the new methods which have been prescribed by the most modern reformers. Those who know the work which is done at Holloway know that it is cramped because there is not sufficient room to institute this kind of home life. The new conception of prison reform is an ideal one, and I hope that not only will the women be housed in small villas, 25 to each, but that when we build the new prison for men the same methods will be used.

The results of these methods are astonishing. In Aylesbury, which is a prison for young offenders who are considered to be intractable, the result of this new treatment shows that 65 per cent. of these young offenders never return. In fact, on looking at the figures I am amazed to find that out of the total prison population women comprise only 7 per cent., in spite of the fact that we are numerically superior—there are 2,000,000 more women than men—but only 7 per cent. of the total prison population are women. I am not suggesting that this is because we are more moral. It is not sex which determines who shall be labelled as a criminal, and we must admit that very often men have more temptations, there is more urge for a man to steal because of his family responsibilities. It is rather remarkable also, on looking through the criminal statistics, to observe that immediately women have unemployment benefit the number of convictions for theft decreases.

The Deputy-Chairman

I think the hon. Member is now getting a little wide of the Vote.

Dr. Summerskill

I admit I am, but I am trying to prove that this reform is very urgent, so urgent that I am hoping the Home Secretary will expedite the building of the new prison. May I also remind him that not only have the numbers decreased but that we do not now have any fighting or screaming or any of the disturbances which were known in women's prisons? I have only one other thing I desire to say, and if the Home Secretary's illustrious ancestor, Elizabeth Fry, was here to-day she would approve of it. Will he consider in the new prison relaxing certain regulations, or will he consider relaxing them in Holloway today? There is one regulation which is still observed, and that is that women must still be silent during recreation. I am not going to provoke anybody into saying how difficult it is for women to be silent, but it will be admitted that recreation is associated with leisure and relaxation. Can we regard it as a modern way of treating women prisoners to expect them to be silent during recreation, at a time when perhaps it might be a great relief to some over-burdened mind to have a little chat?

May I also ask the Home Secretary to allow women prisoners in the new prison to walk about during the recreation period, as young offenders do at Aylesbury and Borstal, in twos and threes instead of in single file, which I think dates from at least 100 years ago? My final point is with regard to recidivists, the inebriated ladies who go out on Friday night with a strict injunction to the governor to keep their room open until the Monday morning. Besides these inebriated ladies there are other recidivists, and I should like to know whether the Home Secretary intends to separate them. I hope he will be able to answer this question. Not only are the chronic old drunkards a bad influence on the newcomers but they nullify the effort which the staff makes to keep an atmosphere of hope and good cheer in our prisons, and I believe that this atmosphere is very necessary if we are to institute the most modern method of prison reform.

6.28 p.m.

Mr. Benson

I want first to say a word on the increase in salary for the prison staff. I welcome it heartily. The part played by the prison officers is very difficult, and if prisoners are to be reformed it is very essential that we should get the right type of man as officer. You are not going to get the right type unless you can offer them conditions which are sufficiently attractive. I, therefore, welcome this increase. Like other hon. Members I welcome the new prison for women and the new Borstal, but I am really shocked to hear that the Home Secretary proposes that the two institutions should be on the same site. We have been told that there will be no communication between them, and that the only link between them will be the chaplain and the doctor; but the mere lack of communication is not anything like an adequate separation. The two institutions ought to be in entirely different places, and I agree with the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey) that they ought also to have different names. I think that the proximity of the girls' Borstal to the prison will have far worse effects on the girls than would be the case with a boys' Borstal near a prison. There is only one girls' Borstal, whereas there are 10 boys' Borstals. It is unfortunate that the one Borstal institution for girls should be placed close to what is likely to be the biggest women's prison in the country.

I think that girls are far more likely to be influenced by that rather intangible, but very important, thing which is generally called atmosphere. There are several differences between the population of the boys' Borstal and the girls' Borstal which ought to be taken seriously into consideration. Apart from the fact that, in general, the boys are a great deal tougher, the age of admission to the girls' Borstal is lower than that to the boys' Borstal, and on the average the girls also have a smaller criminal record. Moreover, I think it is true to say that Borstal girls are considerably more neurotic than the average Borstal boy. For instance, admissions at the age of 17 and under, in the case of boys, amount to only one-third of the entrants, whereas in the case of girls, they amount to one-half. With regard to the conviction record, two-thirds of the boys who go to Borstal have more than one previous conviction, whereas only one-half of the girls have previous convictions. The girls are younger and their criminal record is smaller. The emotional and neurotic instability of the girls is shown very clearly by the high incidence of "smashing up" that takes place in the Aylesbury Borstal institution. If hon. Members do not know what "smashing up" means, it is this, that when a prisoner gets into a sufficiently high state of emotional tension, when something has to be broken, he sees to it that it is prison property that he breaks and not himself, and he proceeds to demolish everything within reach. If that happens when the prisoner is locked in a cell every piece of furniture and the windows—everything that can be broken—is reduced to fragments. It is an emotional explosion produced by emotional tension. Perhaps it is very useful as a safety valve, but the snag is that it is rather expensive, from the point of view of Government property, and therefore, cannot be encouraged.

This "smashing up" gives an indication either of neurotic conditions, or that something is wrong with the regime in the institution. If one compares the incidence of "smashing up" at the Aylesbury Borstal institution with other types of prison institutions, one finds that it is very much higher in the girls' Borstal. For instance, in men's and women's prisons, comparing the number of "smashings up" with the daily average population, I find that both in men's and in women's local prisons, the number is 3 per cent.; in boys' Borstals, where, of course, the conditions are not quite as strained as in prison, it falls as low as 1½ per cent.) but at Aylesbury, it jumps to the enormous figure of 10 per cent.; in other words, "smashings up" are nearly seven times as frequent in the girls' Borstal at Aylesbury as in the boys' Borstals throughout the country. I think that the Home Secretary ought to look into this great discrepancy. It suggests, first of all, that the average girl who goes to Borstal is far more neurotic than the average boy. If the girls who go to Borstal are younger, have a smaller criminal record and are more emotionally unstable than the boys who go to Borstal, I think these are very strong arguments against putting the girls' Borstal in proximity to the new women's prison. Of course, the "smashings up" may be due to the fact that there is something wrong with the regime at Aylesbury. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look into the matter and see why the incidence of "smashings up" is incomparably higher at Aylesbury than anywhere else.

What is the case for putting the Borstal institution and the prison on the same site? In the Report of the Prison Commissioners for 1937, economy is suggested as a reason. It is true that if there is a small penal institution, it is much more economical to base it administratively on a larger institution. For example, the Wakefield prison camp is based administratively on Wakefield prison, but the two institutions are many miles apart. Moreover, according to the Home Secretary, there is to be very little administrative liaison between the Borstal institution and the women's prison. If there is to be no common administration, apart from the doctor and the chaplain, what is the point of putting the girls' institution and the women's prison together? Perhaps it is a question of stores and what may be termed central administration, but if Wakefield prison camp can be separated from Wakefield prison, there is no reason why the girls' Borstal should not be separated from the women's prison, while still retaining the hidden administrative link. How will economy be served by putting the girls' Borstal and the women's prison on the same site rather than by putting them on sites which are 5, 10 or 20 miles apart?

I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that, instead of having one girls' Borstal institution for the whole of England, he should consider establishing more. Just as Wakefield prison camp is dependent upon Wakefield Prison, there is no reason why there should not be established a North Country Borstal for girls administratively dependent upon Manchester Prison. There is no reason why there should not be two, three or four girls' Borstals. I know that the problem of numbers arises, for the daily average population at Aylesbury last year was 128, and one cannot go on indefinitely subdividing a population of 128; but one of the essential factors of the Borstal system is that there should be classification and segregation. There can be no classification and segregation if there is only one Borstal institution. The different groups of girls may be put into different cottages, but contact cannot be prevented; and if there is any question of the worst corrupting those who are not as bad, it is bound to happen. As there are 10 Borstal institutions for boys, it is possible to make classification and segregation a reality, but if the Borstal girls, although their numbers may be small, are to be put into one Borstal institution, no matter how much there are cottage homes, it will not be possible to segregate them. I maintain that there can be no very great economy in placing this Borstal institution in close proximity to the women's prison, and there is a great deal to be said against it. I think there ought to be one or two Borstal institutions away from London.

There is one other matter to which I wish to refer. The right hon. Gentleman is piloting through Committee a Bill which will provide Howard houses. I do not want him to make any too elaborate preparations for girls Borstal institutions until it is possible to see what is the effect of Howard houses on girls. It may be said that that will depend upon the courts, but that is not so, for once the courts have sentenced the girls, they will be at the tender mercies of the right hon. Gentleman, and he has full power to change the institutions and to transfer persons from one type of prison to another. I suggest that the authorities in charge of the Borstal institution will be far more likely to be good judges as to how a girl should be dealt with than the courts, which see the girls perhaps for one or two hours. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that as far as possible— I do not know how far it will be possible, for one does not know exactly what the Howard houses are going to be like— instead of making preparations to house the whole of the 120 or 140 Borstal girls, he should see whether they cannot be scattered about and taken away from the deadening effect which any institution is bound to have.

My hon. Friend the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill) has referred to institutionalisation. I want to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to a book on women's prisons that was recently published—" They always come back," by Miss McCall. The author has had experience of Holloway and Aylesbury, and refers to the institutionalisation of girls in Aylesbury. Some of them have never lived outside an institution. Perhaps because of juvenile delinquency, they were taken into Home Office schools, and from there, they went to the Borstal institution at Aylesbury. As the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham said, institutionalisation makes it very difficult for them to adjust their lives to normal conditions afterwards. The more these girls are not put into Borstal institutions, but are put into Howard houses, the easier it will be for them to adjust their lives to normal conditions. Although in delinquency restraint may be necessary, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to aim at the minimum of restraint as the ideal.

6.45 p.m.

Sir S. Hoare

I find myself in full agreement with the last proposition of the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson), and in general agreement with most of what has been said in this discussion. Indeed, I think the hon. Member for Chesterfield gave the answer to the criticisms which have been made. This is not a final programme. This is the beginning of a very big programme. I should be very disappointed to feel that it was to be the end of our building programme for the future. It deals with a large part of the problem, but by no means with the whole of it. I agree with the hon. Member that we are going through an experimental chapter. We are going to try out the experiments that are included in the Criminal Justice Bill and nobody, here and now, can say how many boys and girls will go to Howard houses, compulsory attendance centres or Borstal institutions in the future. Experience may show that we shall want far more Borstal institutions than we have at present, but that does not mean that we should not go on with the first chapter of the programme.

I think every hon. Member will agree that whatever may be the disadvantages of institutional treatment for girls, they will be much less conspicuous in the kind of institution which we are contemplating, in which the girls will be in smaller houses and will have a good many opportunities for outdoor work. Anyhow, this is a great step forward. As far as the question of segregation between the two institutions is concerned, let me tell the Committee what actually happened. This is, incidentally, an answer to the criticism made by the hon. Lady the Member for West Fulham (Dr. Summerskill). It is a very difficult job to get a big site for a new prison in this country. We have no compulsory powers of purchase, and as soon as we make an attempt in this or that part of the country to secure such a site, there is immediately a great deal of local opposition. That is the reason for the delay in obtaining this site —the difficulty of getting the kind of site we require. We require a site near London and a very extensive area, and I think the extent of the site in some degree supplies the answer to the criticism that has been made against having the two institutions on the same site. It has been hard enough to find one site, but if we had to find two, it would take us months and months to do so. On that account, although we gave full consideration to the drawbacks of having these two institutions near each other, we took the view that when we had got, as we have got a really extensive site near London where there is plenty of room, it was better to secure that site.

Mr. E. J. Williams

Why is it necessary to have a site near London?

Sir S. Hoare

I think almost every hon. Member will see the reason. Most of these girls come from the neighbourhood of London. I think I would be right in saying that by far the greater proportion of them come from the neighbourhood of London, and, as the hon. Member will recognise at once, the friends and relatives of the girls are placed in a great difficulty if the girls are so far away that their relatives cannot visit them and they cannot visit their relatives.

Mr. Williams

I was thinking of the evacuation scheme.

Sir S. Hoare

I am no longer responsible for A.R.P. and I will leave my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal to deal with that problem. As I was about to say, however, this site is a big one and the two institutions will be quite separate. Further, I can assure the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. E. Harvey) that we shall call them by different names and keep them as distinct as we can. In the girls' Borstal, by means of the system of small houses, we shall be able to have much better classification than has been possible in the past. The hon. Member for Chesterfield, who has studied this question, knows how difficult it is to deal with a number of girls in a Borstal institution, but I think we shall be able to deal with them better than we have a number of small houses each containing, say, 20 or 25. The hon. Member asked me why the girls in the Borstal at Aylesbury seemed to be more unruly than the boys in the other Borstals about the country. I must not be drawn into a comparison between the virtues and vices of the two sexes, but I am told that the reason is that quarter sessions and Assizes are inclined to send to Borstal only girls who have committed some serious offence or who are connected with some grave situation and the standard of gravity of the offences, if I may use such an expression, is higher in the case of the girls than in the case of the boys.

Mr. Benson

I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that smashing up has nothing to do with the moral turpitude of the individual. It is a purely emotional explosion, and is neurotic rather than moral.

Sir S. Hoare

Again, I must refuse to be drawn into a psychological discussion, but I should have thought that it might be taken as a symptom rather of the seriousness of the case. However, I hope that when the girls are in this new country institution, with plenty of outdoor life and exercise—incidentally they are to have playing-fields and a swimming bath at this new institution—-they will get so tired during the day that they will be disinclined to use their energies in this manner when they return to the institution in the evening. I hope the Committee will feel satisfied that we are determined to keep these two institutions separate, and that we take the view that this is by no means the last word in prison reform. We shall take into account what the hon. Member for West Fulham has said. As she knows, one of the difficulties, in the past, in these prisons has been the absence of any means of effective classification, and conversation very often meant contamination. But I think we are passing away from that chapter to a better chapter, and, with that explanation, I hope the Committee will now give me the Vote.

Resolved, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding£10, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1939, for the salaries and expenses of the office of the Prison Commissioners and of the Prisons in England and Wales.

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