§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Ede)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
It is now almost five months since the Second Reading of this Bill, which during the interval has been considered with great care by a Standing Committee of the House. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my thanks to hon. Members of all parties who served on the Committee for the care with which the Bill was examined, and for the constructive manner of the approach of every Member of the Committee to the task which confronted them. As was said during Second Reading, this was a Bill on which party division did not arise, and on more than one occasion in Committee I found that when a point of controversy was taken to a Division the cross voting was considerable. I should like again to thank hon. Members for the way in which they approached the matter in Committee, and for the way in which they endeavoured to make the Bill as workmanlike a Measure as possible. We hacl—I was about to say the "advantage," but I am not sure that that is the right word—we had, at any rate, the presence on the Committee of a considerable number of hon. and learned Members.
§ Mr. Ede
They brought to the task their technical training and their experience in the courts. There again it was noticeable that no party division occurred, and on occasion one heard hon. and learned Members on the same side of the Committee advancing the most 1306 contradictory arguments, and finding supports and opponents on the other side of the Committee.
There has been, I think, only one substantial change made in the Measure since Second Reading. That was as a result of the Division which took place in the House on Wednesday of this week, when the House, by a majority, decided to insert a Clause suspending the death penalty for five years. Towards the end of that Debate, I said that it was one of which the House could feel proud as an example of the way in which difficult controversial issues could be discussed on a very high plane, and with tolerance on both sides. The Government accept the decision of the House, but before I leave this subject it is due to the tight hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) and myself to allude to a statement made by my hon. aid learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) in the course of the speech which he delivered after mine, when he closed the Debate for the supporters of the new Clause. He said:The main point made by the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) and by the Home Secretary himself was to ask us, 'What is your alternative? What would you do to these men'—who were referred to as wild beasts—'if you do not hang them?' Upon that question, the authority of Sir Alexander Paterson was referred to again and again. It was said, 'Here you have this great humanitarian, Sir Alexander Paterson who said that the death penalty in these circumstances is the more merciful.' The House may be interested to hear that before Sir Alexander Paterson's death, he joined the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment and became a subscriber to that society. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th April, 1948; Vol. 449, c. 1092.]Those are statements of two facts, or alleged facts. I am assured by the secretary of the society that neither of them is true. I am quite sure that everyone who was in the House realised from the volume of cheers with which those statements were greeted that they were regarded as very substantial points in the case that was being made by the hon. and learned Member, and I think it is only fair to the right hon. Member for the Scottish Universities and myself to make it quite clear that there is no public record of any statement of Sir Alexander Paterson subsequent to his evidence before the Select Committee on Capital Punishment contradicting the view he then gave. I repudiate altogether the idea that those 1307 were official views expressed for the Home Office and not personal views of Sir Alexander Paterson, and anyone who knew him would know that if any Department had asked him to give evidence not in accordance with his own personal views, they would not have succeeded in imposing that task upon him.
The House of Commons have decided to insert in the Criminal Justice Bill a provision suspending for five years the death sentence for murder, and, the Government having decided to accept the decision of the House, I have had to consider what ought to be done about persons who are now under sentence of death, or may be sentenced to death in the next few weeks. Until the Bill has passed through all stages in both Houses, and has received the Royal Assent, the law remains unchanged, but as there is now a prospect of the law being amended in the present Session of Parliament, it would, I feel, be abhorrent to public opinion that the irrevocable sentence should be executed in the intervening period.
The position created by the insertion in the Criminal Justice Bill of a provision for an amendment of the law is entirely different from the position created by a Resolution of the House of Commons disapproving of the death penalty, but not establishing the prospect of an early alteration of the law. It is the prospect of a change in the law taking effect in the near future which justifies and calls for a special course of action during the interim period. Merely to respite death sentences and to leave persons under sentence of death in a condition of prolonged uncertainty as to whether the sentence will or will not be carried out, would be an indefensible course, and after careful consideration I have come to the conclusion that, in view of the prospect of the law being amended during the current Session, it will be my duty during the interim period to advise His Majesty to commute death sentences, by means of conditional pardons, to sentences of penal servitude for life.
This Bill has been regarded in some quarters as a Bill for softening the treatment of prisoners. That is not an accurate description of what this Bill does. This Bill is an effort to ensure that every person who comes within the purview 1308 of the penal code shall receive that treatment which his individual circumstances require. This is the first comprehensive Measure of its kind to have got as far as this since the Criminal Justice Act, 1925, and although some of the issues involved are controversial, the controversy has not followed ordinary party lines. It has been a matter of pride to Members of the House that we have managed to keep this particular Measure out of the arena of party controversy, and the many useful Amendments which have been made in points of detail in Committee and on Report have come equally from both sides of the House. The long Title sets out in some detail the matters with which the Bill is concerned, and if I were asked to select from the long Title the words which most appropriately express what the Bill sets outs to do, it would be these words:to reform existing methods and provide new methods of dealing with offenders and persons liable to imprisonment.The idea of penal reform is one to which the best energies of many devoted and single-minded people have been directed in the course of our history and it has long been recognised that the time for a further Measure on this subject was overdue. The phrase "penal reform" is sometimes used loosely to describe any amelioration in the lot of convicted persons, or to denote any change in the law which mitigates the severity of its application, but the reformation of existing methods, and the provision of new methods of dealing with offenders—which is the purpose of the Bill—are not based on either of those conceptions. It is the aim of the Bill to provide more appropriate methods of dealing with offenders, either in substitution of, or as an alternative to, existing methods, and some of these methods are more severe or restrictive than existing methods, although others may be less severe.
It is not the intention of the Bill to make the path of the offender easier, nor are there any provisions in the Bill which will deprive the courts of the power of inflicting severe punishment where such punishment is required. What the Bill seeks to do is to provide for the authorities, both the courts and those who are responsible for the custody of convicted persons, means by which a greater variety of treatment of the individual is available, so that the treatment of the offender can 1309 be decided with reference to all the circumstances of his individual case. The progress which has been made in the past generation in the attitude of society to offenders and to the problems of delinquency is surely a growing recognition of the fact that the offender is an individual, and that it is only by careful consideration of each offender as an individual that the aims of the protection of society and the reformation of the offender can be achieved. The recognition of this principle is the foundation of many of the principles in the Bill.
In the case of young offenders there' is general agreement that imprisonment is an evil which ought to be avoided, unless there is no possible alternative, and it must be recognised, as I had unfortunately to point out to the House yesterday, that there is a very small minority of cases of young persons where there is no possible alternative. The provisions in Clauses i6 and 17 restrict the powers of courts of summary jurisdiction to impose imprisonment on young offenders by prohibiting such courts from imposing it on young offenders under 17 years of age, and also require, in the case of persons under 21, that a court, whether of summary jurisdiction or a superior court, must obtain and consider information about the circumstances of the case and be of opinion that no other method of dealing with him is appropriate. In order to provide an alternative to imprisonment in such cases, in addition to the alternatives provided under the existing law, the Bill makes provision empowering the courts to order detention in the new detention centres which the Bill proposes to set up for a period of three months or, exceptionally, of six months.
This provision, together with the provisions which amend and improve the law relating to probation, and provisions designed to improve and encourage the further provision of probation hones and hostels which are proved of value as a method of dealing with offenders, and particularly young offenders, will put at the disposal of the courts a more varied range of treatment for this class of offender than is available to them under the existing law, and will enable the courts to select the treatment most appropriate in the light of the circumstances of the individual case.
1310 I also wish to draw attention to the provisions of Clause 47, which will enable the Prison Commissioners, in the case of young persons sentenced to imprisonment, to authorise their release on licence subject to a requirement that they shall be under the supervision of an appropriate society or person for a period after release. In the provisions dealing with persistent offenders, on the other hand, the Bill recognises the fact that the interests of society, as well as the achievement, if possible, of the reformation of the offender, may require the relegation of the offender from society for a substantial period, and that the provisions of the existing law are inadequate to achieve either of those purposes in a large number of cases.
The Bill makes provision, in Clause 19, under which sentences of corrective training of not less than two or more than four years may be imposed on persons who appear to have taken to a life of crime but for whom there is still a last hope that reformation is possible. For those for whom ordinary people have come to the conclusion that hope is very dim indeed, and that society is entitled to protection from the persistent and incorrigible wrongdoer, there is a provision by which sentences of preventive detention may be imposed for not less than five and not than 14 years. This is a very severe sentence indeed, but I hope that the courts will not be deterred from using it in cases where they think that the known character of the individual makes it necessary for society to be protected from him.
We have abolished in the Bill the old divisions of the prison system. As a matter of fact that is more legalistic than practical. For a long time these divisions have in fact, disappeared, and their removal from the Statute Book merely gives the endorsement of Parliament to a reformation which has long since taken place in the system itself. It will enable the classification of prisoners to be carried on with greater efficiency, and will, I am certain, help in the reformative side of prison work. The Bill abolishes corporal punishment for offenders brought before the courts. This is the result of the unanimous recommendation of a departmental committee that considered this matter with great care, a departmental committee which was composed of men in many walks of life, who brought to the task of the investigation no preconceived 1311 notions; and the tact that their report was unanimous is, I think, a sufficient justification for our regarding it as a suitable basis on which to act.
In commending the Bill to the House for Third Reading, I am confident that it marks a great advance in the direction in which legislation on the subject of the treatment of offenders has, with the general approval of public opinion, been moving since the early years of this century. It provides methods sufficiently flexible to enable each one among the large variety of human beings who come before the criminal courts to be dealt with in the best way, the way which in each individual case is best calculated to achieve the joint aims of the protection of society, the deterrence and the prevention of crime, and the reformation of the offender. I believe that as this Bill operates it will enable those members of society who regard with sympathy the efforts to reform the offender to feel that our penal system is making a great effort to ensure that hope is only abandoned when the evidence that it has expired is quite irrefutable. I sincerely hope that in the years that lie ahead, this Measure will assist many who have taken early steps along the path of crime to retrace their way and become good and useful members of society.
§ 11.26 a.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
I was present at what might be called the concupiscence, the conception, of this Bill, because I was in the Home Office as an assistant Minister when it was being devised. I was also present at its birth when it was first brought in, because in essence the Bill is the same as when it was first brought in by the Conservative Government. I, therefore, take a pride in its parentage, and I am grateful to the Home Secretary for the very frank and generous admission he made that in the passage of the Bill through the Committee, and through this House, he has received every support from my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House, as indeed he has from hon. Members opposite. In regard to the greater part of the Bill—90 per cent. of it—there was, if I may say so, a spirit of amity in the Committee between both sides.
I am sorry to say that in the course of its growth the Bill has attained certain 1312 grave defects, certain abnormalities, which, in my opinion, very greatly lessen its value. With gloom and foreboding, which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and thousands of others, too, in humble positions, including the police, will share, I find in it today, on the occasion of its Third Reading, a Clause which in my opinion fundamentally alters the useful and essential character of the Bill as a remedial measure, and which will, as my right hon. Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Sir J. Anderson) said on the Report stage, make the whole of the prison system very difficult to operate and injure the remedial character of it, which the Bill seeks to attain.
Though it would be out of Order to state on what my hope is based, I desire to say here, from my place at this Box, that I most sincerely hope that the Bill will not pass into law in its present state. I intend to express my opinions with great vigour, as I feel extremely strongly on this matter, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen will be generous enough, as I am sure they will be, to realise that if they feel strongly against the death penalty on a matter of conscience, I feel equally strongly on a matter of conscience for its retention.
Before expressing my opinions I wish to deal with one of the most unpleasant incidents that I can recollect in my long experience in the House. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has been indicted—there is no other word for it—by the Home Secretary, in his opening speech, for making a statement which was absolutely baseless about someone who was a great personal friend of mine, whom I, like every one who worked with him, honour, and who is not here to answer for himself. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will take the opportunity, later in the Debate, to explain why he was betrayed into making the statement that Sir Alexander Paterson had joined the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment when that society says it is not so. By a curious coincidence, I would recommend the hon. and learned Member to study one of Kipling's poems called "Pagett, M.P." There are in it one or two lines which may cause him to think again before he makes a statement of that kind in the House. We shall all wait with interest the hon. and learned Gentleman's 1313 apology. It is a most unpleasant incident, which greatly offends all of us who were friends of Sir Alexander Paterson.
Though one is entitled, on the Third Reading of a Bill, to discuss what is in the Bill, I do not propose to state the arguments for that portion of the Bill to which I take such strong exception, except in very tabloid and truncated form, but I propose to make one or two points. The Clause on capital punishment is in the Bill against one of the most formidable weights of opinion on an issue of both justice and administration which I have ever heard expressed in the House. Everyone in the House who has been at the Home Office in a responsible position, and some of the most responsible legal opinion in this House, is against it, apart from the thoussands of humble citizens who, to judge from a recent ballot, are in a majority of 65 per cent. of the whole population. Much as they dislike, as I do, the necessity, they believe it better to hang a murderer than to allow the lives of law abiding citizens to be in jeopardy. The last has not been heard of that strength of opinion, which I would say is as sincere and humane as is the opinion of those who support the particular provisions of this Bill.
If there is an after life, I should think that Ribbentrop must be looking down on the House this morning with a certain sardonic satisfaction and saying, "They hanged me because they said I was the indirect cause of murders. They are not prepared to hang Englishmen for direct murder. It proves what Hitler and I have always said that when you are victors and on top you can do 'what you like and you need have no regard to moral consciousness. That is why presumably they are going to continue to hang Germans but not Englishmen."
§ Earl Winterton
I am certainly not going to give way. The hon. Member for Plaistow (Mr. Elwyn Jones) can make 1314 his own speech in his own way, and can interpret what Ribbentrop would say.
I want to ask the Home Secretary a very serious question. What is to happen to those Germans who are in this country at the present time and who are liable, as I understand it, to be tried for murder? Are they to be taken out of this country and sent to Germany? They cannot be hanged for murder here. What is the answer? [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite indulge in a series of interruptions about this, but it is a perfectly fair question. What is the answer? [Interruption.] I am not concerned with the answer of a back bencher but with the answer of the Government, and I put that question to the right hon. Gentleman. It is the first of the points I wish to make.
I would say what I have already said, that no one denies, myself least of all, the sincerity of those who support the Clause in question; but I want to say, as I ventured to say on another occasion, that sincerity is not enough. Sincerity based on a mistaken view can prove that black is white. As an old Member of the House, I should like to give some advice to aspiring young Members of the House. If they sincerely persuade themselves—and they have to be sincere—that black is white, all they have to do is to choose their occasion, rise to their feet in a state of emotional tension, wave their arms about, speak in vibrating tones, intersperse their speeches with a few Biblical quotations, and not only will they emotionally affect the House, but they will be acclaimed in the Press as having made a great speech, although all that they will have done is to prove that black is white. That is exactly the effect of the vote the other night.
I want now to make one or two observations which are directed mainly to the Members of the Government. We are about to pass the Third Reading of a highly important Measure and send it to another place with an altered provision in it absolutely different from anything which was in it when the Bill was introduced into this House as a major Measure. That major provision, no one will deny, is one to which His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department, who is in charge of the Bill and is responsible for its working, is strongly opposed. My 1315 hon. Friends on this side will agree with me when I say that this is a breach in every recent constitutional precedent with one exception—a very unhappy parallel to which I will come later.
Of course, the gravity goes much further than that. Important Members of the Government, who were actually in the House and on the Front Bench, refrained from supporting their colleagues on this matter of major importance. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department did the same thing. He was sitting here giving his sincere attention to the affairs of the Debate until the Division took place. Then he mysteriously disappeared from the House. We do not know what he was doing at that time, but one thing he was not doing was supporting his own Secretary of State on an important occasion. The hon. Gentleman seems to be rather pleased about it, but whether his constituents and the public will be pleased is quite a different matter. I would say to the House—[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think that this is amusing—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—but it is not an amusing matter when the Members of the Government are divided. It is not the view which the public takes, judging from the correspondence which I get. This makes the whole proceeding highly indecorous, because it slices Ministerial responsibility absolutely in half.
I said there was one precedent for this, and that was the famous agreement to differ in 1931. I and one or two others in this House at that time, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), made some wounding observations on that subject. We stated at that time, and I commend this to the rather noisy hon. Members below the Gangway, that we must assume—as indeed we did assume; anything else would have been very much out of Order—that the Members of that Government were honourable and right honourable Gentlemen. Therefore, we believed that, if not immediately at that time, then when they thought over the matter and communed with their consciences, they must resign as a result of the Division on that occasion. I make the same recommendation to those Members of the Government who did not vote for the retention of the death penalty, especially the Under- 1316 Secretary of State. I suggest that they consider whether it is in accord with their consciences to remain in office dealing with this matter of first rate importance, which is in very truth a matter of life and death. All I would say is that the moral path for Members of the Government is a very obvious one. Whether or not they will take it is, of course, their concern.
I said at the beginning, and the Home Secretary said the same, that as to nine-tenths of this Bill there was agreement between the two sides of the House. No doubt the Government would like us to vote against the Third Reading. They would hope that that would divert feeling against us for opposing a Measure nine-tenths of which we support and which, as a party, we initiated in the previous Bill. We shall not do so, because we support nine-tenths of the Bill. The responsibility for the utter illogicality of the objectionable Clause is theirs, due to their own ineptitude and cowardice in failing to put on the Government Whips in a matter of prime importance.
I would like to make another observation about what has happened. This may never have occurred to the sensationalists, the emotionalists, the people who shook hands and waved their arms. With an inconsistency surpassing anything in any recent Measure, men and women guilty of treason or piracy will continue to be subject to the death penalty under this Bill whilst murderers are exempt. There is a rather sinister resemblance—it may appear sinister, though I do not think it is: I think it is due more to folly than to any more serious reason—between the state of affairs as shown in the Bill and the state of affairs behind the "Iron Curtain." I understand that in more than one country behind the "Iron Curtain" they do not shoot people for murder. It would be very difficult to do that, because practically everybody in power has been a murderer himself. But they do hang or shoot people for treason against the State. Of course, I do not want to impute motives to anybody, but some of those who support this Clause may have in mind that they do not very much like Nazis or anti-Semites, or some people they are often talking about in this House, and that some day it might be convenient to hang them. They would not hang a murderer: they would only hang people whose views are distasteful.
1317 I wish to mention one result of this delightful illogicality—disgraceful illogicality would be a better term—which is so amusing to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but which I hope will not be so amusing to their constituents. I gather that in the country there is very great indignation about this provision. I hope that the people will note the frivolous attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite. How jolly, how funny, how amusing, how delightful, it is that the Government should be split in half. One result of this illogicality is that a criminal may hire a motor boat, get hold of a sawn-off shotgun, or what we used to call in the first world war an automatic, of which there are plenty in the country, and then go outside the six-mile limit. There he might hold up a trawler, relieve the officers and crew of their valuables, and when he conies back and is caught he is liable to be hanged. But if the same type of man outrages a little girl of five and then murders her, the conscience of those who support this Clause is of such an extraordinary character that that man cannot be hanged and will probably spend no more than 12 years in prison. It is shameful.
I am glad to say that there are many people abroad who admire our jurisprudence and legal system. I am proud that they should do so. They have every reason, because on the whole, throughout the ages, it has been the fairest in the world. I am afraid that when, they read of this particular provision, when they notice these fantastic inconsistencies, they may, if they are familiar with the Scriptures, quote the well-known text:Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.I do not myself apply that term. I think it might be held to be out of Order, and I am sure that half a dozen hon. Gentlemen opposite would be on their feet at once saying, "Is it in Order, Mr. Speaker, to call me a scribe or a hypocrite?". I do not apply that term myself; I only say that this Bill contains a gangster's charter in the form of a Clause which makes the task of every police officer more arduous and the life of every householder, dealing with armed burglars, more precarious. That is the effect of the action of hon. Gentlemen opposite—the hand-shakers, the people vibrating with emotion. I hope that it will be noted in the country.
1318 I am very glad to see the hon. Gentleman who has just entered the Chamber. I noticed with interest, and I hope that he is correct, that a well-known journalist friend of mine in this House said that there was every evidence to show that during the weekend those Members who had voted for the Clause would receive an absolute broadside, a landslide of protesting postcards. My suggestion, which I make to them as Father of the House, is that their protests should take this form; "I am on the side of the victims of murders; Why are not you, brother—or sister?". That would be a nice matey, democratic term which would be especially appreciated by hon. Gentlemen opposite. That is what I commend, through you, Mr. Speaker, and the House, to the people outside. Those are the postcards to send to people who voted for this Clause. I hope that they will receive them. I never thought that I would live to see the day in the House of Commons when there would be shown, as there was shown in the course of these Debates, more sympathy for murderers than for their victims.
§ Mr. Wilson Harris (Cambridge University)
The noble Lord made a reference to my entry into the House. I would be glad to know what the implication was.
§ Earl Winterton
I hoped that the hon. Member would hear the wounding words which I was about to say about him and others who voted for the Clause.
§ 11.48 a.m.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
The Home Secretary has thanked hon. Members for the assistance they gave during the Committee and other stages in bringing this very remarkable Measure into being. I believe that everyone who worked through this period would like to say how brilliantly the Bill has been handled by my right hon. Friend at every point, with tact, with reasonableness and with a real recipiency to new ideas. The atmosphere throughout has been friendly, and that is really perhaps the most amazing thing of all, because not only in the House but in Committee upstairs, we had present the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). At every single point the noble Lord wanted to quarrel with somebody. At every point we had this extraordinary quarrelsomeness, but fortunately—and I hope that it will be the same today—we left him to quarrel by himself.
1319 I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising the argument which I founded as to the change of mind which Sir Alexander Paterson had had between the time he gave his evidence in 1931 and his death a few months ago. I certainly am not here to recede from that point; indeed, I am here to emphasise it, because it is a point of very great importance. Sir Alexander Paterson, when he gave his evidence before the Committee in 1931, gave it with complete sincerity. Of course fie did, and nobody, least of all myself, has ever disputed that for one moment. Sir Alexander's evidence was to this effect. He had always been an opponent of the death penalty, but he regarded rotting in prison as worse. What he said then was this:The alternative to hanging is incarceration in prison, which, in my experience, brings about a deterioration and breakdown of the human mind and soul, and that I regard as more cruel and more destructive than execution.That was his position in 1931. He made it his life work to try to find an alternative, which was not available in 1931. He succeeded in finding that alternative; indeed, this whole Bill is the provision of that alternative, a form of imprisonment that does not rot and destroy the soul, but allows a life, not of separation, but a life that brings people together and enables reformation to take place where destruction formerly existed. The Wakefield experiment, in particular, for which Sir Alexander Paterson was largely responsible, was one of the things that effected his change of heart.
Mr. Dawtry, who for many years, had been one of the principal officers of the Prisoners' Aid Society and knew Sir Alexander Paterson extremely well, some two years ago transferred to the National Council for the Abolition of the Death Penalty. He talked to Sir Alexander Paterson before doing that, and received Sir Alexander's assurance that as he now felt that the alternative for which he had looked in vain in 1931 had been provided, he now supported that society and wished Mr. Dawtry all success. As I was about to get up in the Debate on the Report stage, I received a note from Mr. Dawtry. That note was handed to me here, and I read it then. I misconstrued it in one particular, and for that I wish to apologise to the House. The particular in which I misconstrued it was this. I 1320 misconstrued his supporting the society for joining it. He supported it, but he did not join it, since he could not have joined it, being a civil servant, but, though he did not send a subscription to its funds, he subscribed to its objects. I do apologise very sincerely for that mistake, which resulted from the misreading of a note which was handed to me just before I spoke.
I would, however, emphasise this. The point was that an alternative which did not exist in 1931, exists today. On that point, I do not recede in the least; it is an extremely important point, and the technical question whether he actually joined the society is quite beside and irrelevant to the point I was making.
§ Mr. Marlowe (Brighton) rose—
§ Mr. Paget
On the question of giving way, we have already had some examples from the other side of the House.
I think everybody, and certainly every good House of Commons man, will appreciate the loyal manner in which the Home Secretary has accepted the decision of the House. It was a decision which he felt he could not ask the House to take, but it is a decision which, in view of his own record, I feel cannot at least have been very wounding to his heart. If my right hon. Friend perhaps, felt that this was not the right moment, he, at least, unlike the somewhat more bloodthirsty noble Lord, will agree that it is a principle which he has at all times supported. Although I profoundly believe that we came to an absolutely right decision when we added this Clause to the Bill, I feel that it was not, perhaps, the ideal way to do it, but we felt we had no alternative. I think that perhaps the ideal way of removing the death penalty is by administrative action in the first place, followed by abolition when the administrative proof is obtained. I think that is the best way, for this reason.
If we want to deter this sort of crime, then the most essential thing is not to dramatise it. It is a form of crime which goes with violent people, and, as the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) said, the most important thing of all is that it should be made drab and the drama taken away from it. Although I am entirely convinced that the abolition of the death penalty will reduce the number of murders and reduce violence and lawlessness, none the 1321 less, when we have a tremendous lot of people like the noble Lord getting up and saying, "Of course, burglars are now going to carry arms; of course, we are going to have more violence," that is just the kind of suggestion likely to make them do it. In the interests of public safety—
§ Earl Winterton rose—
§ Earl Winterton
On a point of Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman has made a charge against me, and I am entitled to raise a point of Order. I never said anything remotely resembling that, and this is typical of the hon. and learned Gentleman. Having failed to apologise for his gross inaccuracy, he is now making a charge against me.
§ Mr. Paget
There is one further point, which does not concern the noble Lord. Indeed, it was the point in the Debate which most impressed me, and it was made by those who took the opposite view to myself. It was made by the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Gage) when he said that it may be quite true that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent but, none the less, the fact is that the police believe that the death penalty does act as a deterrent. At this time, we ought not to lose sight of this, which, to my mind, was really the only point of substance that was made against the proposal. Therefore, I feel, and I urge this upon the Home Secretary, that it should be considered, because, apart from that single point, I believe it was a case in which reason was supported by facts. All the reason and all the evidence were on the side of the abolitionists. Against them were the noble Lord and his friends, frankly believing that we could get some good by hanging. The only reasonable point was the one which I have mentioned.
I would urge that there is any amount of evidence from foreign States. There are the Belgian statistics showing that the police are as safe there as they are in England although there is no death penalty, while across the border in France 1322 where there is a death penalty the armed police have an extremely dangerous life. On the question of the safety of the police, we should consider the police in the abolition States of America as opposed to the much more dangerous life of the police in the States next door in which the death penalty is retained. There is the situation in Kansas City, which is divided almost in the centre by a State line between abolition on one side and the death penalty on the other. In the death penalty area the police suffer more from crimes of violence than in the other part of the city where the death penalty does not apply. All that bulk of evidence exists, and it is is very important—
§ Mr. Paget
That is the evidence of 1931. It is extremely important that that evidence should be brought to the attention of our police, and that it should be made clear to them that they are not endangered by this change. It is a point of psychology, which should be dealt with by some propaganda of the kind I suggest.
§ 12.3 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
I do not propose to intervene in the quarrel between the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and the Home Secretary, or in the quarrel between my noble Friend and hon. Members opposite. I propose to discuss what is in the Bill. As has been said, we recognise that the Bill is a nonparty Measure. It was introduced by the Tory Government in 1938 and it is being passed by the Socialist Government in 1948. That being so, it is possible for me, with a clear conscience, to congratulate both the House and the Government upon their composite achievement, with the one regrettable slip-up which occurred last Wednesday. I would say honestly that the Home Secretary has shown wisdom, humanity and common sense. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is listening to me. He may not hear such compliments later. [An HON. MEMBER: "He will read about them."] I was referring to the Home Secretary and I should be pleased to have his attention. I was saying that he has shown wisdom, humanity and common sense in steering the Bill through its various stages. I 1323 deeply commiserate with him in the unfortunate position in which he now finds himself and I do deeply deprecate the unwise decision that was taken on Wednesday.
I should like to add a word about the Under-Secretary. I understand that it is the custom on the Third Reading to make a few references to those who have been responsible for the passage of the Bill. I take a rather personal interest in the Under-Secretary of State, because he is the grandson of my distinguished predecessor in my constituency and a very good friend. On this Bill the hon. Gentleman has shown ingeniousness, a conciliatory manner and great capacity. I sometimes wonder, however, what George Younger would say if he could see the political complexion of the Under-Secretary and the tie which reflects it. I remember George Younger's tolerant humour. He would possibly say: "It's a post-war frolic, from which he will one day emerge as a responsible citizen and therefore a staunch Conservative." I must not omit to mention the Attorney-General. He has lost some of that masterful robustiousness which he has displayed during the last couple of years. Now that he is the father of a family and has a stake in the country he will no doubt follow the future which I have outlined for the Under-Secretary.
What does the Bill contain? I am not proposing to refer to matters which have been dealt with so ably by my noble Friend but to one or two points which affect the community as a whole, and especially innocent children, inoffensive old people and cripples. Those three sections of the community have been in the past, are sometimes now and no doubt will be in the future, victims of the vicious thugs and sadists who are scattered throughout the country to the extent of nearly 20,000. They are no doubt the tragic aftermath of every great social and physical convulsion, but we have to recognise that they exist. We are opposed to Clause 2 of the Bill which abolishes corporal punishment in such cases.
When capital punishment was before the House on Wednesday, the Home Secretary, well-meaning and well-intentioned as he undoubtedly was and is, invited the House to support the retention of capital 1324 punishment. He gave certain reasons for his advice. He said:We have seen the emergence in this country of a class of gangster and armed criminal which hardly existed at all before the war.Then, referring to the police, the right hon. Gentleman went on:They have the right to expect that all the while they are unarmed we shall make it quite clear that the criminal who uses arms or violence in his attempt to evade the police shall be dealt with with the utmost severity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th April, 1948; Vol. 449, c. 1087.]Those arguments are exactly the same as the arguments I am proposing to use for the retention of corporal punishment. They apply in every way to that issue.
This Bill is well termed the Criminal justice Bill. It certainly gives justice, and more, to the criminal; but what about the victim? In the whole of the vast tome of the Bill there is not one mention made of the word "victim." That is one of the greatest defects of the Bill. The other day the Home Secretary read out an impressive list of entertainments which he was devising for our criminals. I had the temerity to ask him whether he had anything else in mind to induce people to break the law. There was no reply. Those proposals were no doubt due to the zest for reform which seems to dominate many hon. Members opposite. But are we not inclined to lose our sense of proportion in this matter? Prison is and is intended to be a punishment as well as a reformatory. There are many people, as we heard last Wednesday, who are apparently suffering from a kind of sloppy sentimentality which blinds them to the fact that punishment is given in the first instance to deter an offender from repeating his crime.
I confess I am sometimes amazed at the reluctance of hon. Members—this is not a party issue and there are some in our own party who feel the same way, I am bound to say—to give to the ruthless, greedy and sadistic-minded young hooligan a taste of the physical pain which he has inflicted so wantonly and lightly, generally upon someone weaker than himself. Many of us in the past have, I believe, been bemused by these highfalutin words—pathological, psychological, physiological and heaven knows what—and the psychiatrist seems to dominate our attitude towards crime, instead of the judge. 1325 Why not face the cold truth, which is that there are amongst us, as I have said, 20,000 human beings who are homeless, lawless and possibly even hopeless, and that there is no doubt, as experience has shown us in the past two and a half years, that in many cases they prefer to give way to their natural sexual passions or desires, or just to plain greed? Those are the weak links in our moral situation which the ordinary, law abiding, normal citizen tries to strengthen.
We have these 20,000, and the law must be devised to deal with them. Judging by what happened last Wednesday, and in Committee upstairs, the House is at present apparently prepared to ignore the fact that these wild men are now proving a menace to our children and our elders. Why not retain the one effective means of stopping this indulgence, which is generally exercised only at the expense of the weak and the helpless? I know that in Committee many statistics were quoted, and they will be quoted again today, of what is happening in foreign countries. But statistics are not infallible and in any case we are dealing today with our own country, with our own people and with our own post-war problems.
One cannot fairly discuss this Clause without some passing reference to Clause 46, which permits corporal punishment for physical violence against prison warders. I have great respect for those officers; they perform a very difficult, often distasteful and disagreeable, and sometimes dangerous job, with tact, patience and courage, but where is the logic, where is the consistency, in treating the same crime so differently? Outside prison a brutal young thug may mutilate an innocent child, batter into unconsciousness an elderly and frail old lady, knock about a cripple, and yet be protected against suffering the very pain he has inflicted. Put him inside prison, however, and let him lift so much as a finger against presumably a tough and stout-hearted prison warder, and the order comes down, "Take him away, flog him, larn him a lesson." It does not make sense to me.
§ Mr. Ede
I am sure the hon. and gallant Member wishes only to state the facts of the matter. The only offence against prison discipline for which a prisoner can be flogged is gross personal violence—and "gross" has to be very clearly proved— 1326 mutiny and incitement to mutiny. What the hon. and gallant Member calls merely "lifting a finger" against the prison warder would certainly not entail punishment of flogging.
§ Sir T. Moore
The phrase "raising a finger" was only a manner of speech and there is no doubt whatever in the mind of hon. Members that after I referred to violence against unarmed civilians outside prisons, I was referring in the same way to violence against prison warders. I accept, of course, the right hon. Gentleman's explanation; it is one which we all understand. I am still of the opinion, however, that violence towards an unarmed and helpless civilian and the same violence towards a prison warder should be rewarded with the same punishment, and that is the "cat."
The only answer which the right hon. Gentleman has made is that a departmental committee had unanimously decided the point, but the departmental committee sat long before the war and long before the conditions which exist in this country today—the postwar conditions—to which he himself referred in his speech last Wednesday and to which I have referred today. The evidence of the departmental committee consequently means nothing. I say, why not trust the courts? We are taking away the power of the courts to inflict corporal punishment at a time when the courts themselves, in many cases, are still inflicting it, because they believe it to be necessary. Why not leave that power with the courts which we trust—the courts in which the country has every confidence? It is too late for this House to do anything to alter the weaknesses of the Bill to which I have referred, but I hope the more intelligent House to which this Bill now proceeds will rectify our error.
§ 12.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Benson (Chesterfield)
This Bill is a great milestone in the process of the development of our attitude towards the law breaker and also of our treatment of the law breaker. There are three quite clear strands in this matter. There is the desire for retributive punishment, as exemplified by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore). There is the necessity of protecting society by deterrent action. There is, of course, the desire to reform the delinquent.
1327 Over a period of years our law and our actual treatment of the criminal have steadily shifted from retribution to deterrence and from deterrence to reform. This Bill carries that process one long step further. It is very interesting, I think, to realise that our prison authorities, working not in the abstract but empirically, have followed exactly the same pattern. They are concerned primarily with the protection of society and experience has shown them that mere punishment brutalises and turns the casual criminal into the habitual, sending him out worse than he was when he came in. Furthermore, they have found that the most effective method of protecting society is not to bother their heads about making a penal establishment deterrent, but to concentrate upon the reform of the individual, realising that reformation and loss of liberty provide an adequate deterrent. They have come clearly and definitely to that conclusion by experience. We are facilitating that work.
The Home Secretary said this Bill is not a Bill to make the pathway of the prisoner easy. Of course it is not. I have been actively engaged in penal reform for many years and I have never yet found a penal reformer who was concerned to make matters easier for the criminal. On the contrary, we have been concerned to have a penal system which was intelligent and rational and which gave the results we wanted. Perhaps I may point out that reform, as instanced by Borstal, is a very much harder sentence than a sentence of imprisonment. Anybody who knows the ropes can lounge through prison. In Borstal they live an energetic life, and what the prisoner particularly does not like is that responsibility for his own actions is put upon him during the Borstal sentence. The Prison Commissioners' Report gives the instance of some boys who found themselves in Borstal after having been in prison, who protested against the harshness of Borstal as compared with the easy lethargy of prison.
§ Mr. Benson
There is nothing wrong. It is the hon. and gallant Gentleman who is wrong. We cannot make a purely negative system, like mere imprisonment, a deterrent without making it so harsh that 1328 it brutalises. If we want to make prison a deterrent and at the same time protect the prisoner from brutalisation, we have to introduce that which Borstal has and prison has not. That is why prison is so ineffective, and why it is such a lazy place; it is negative and suppressive, and the Prison Commissioners have found by experience that they dare not add any additional severities to that negative system. When we put boys in Borstal and put responsibility on them, asking that they shall work hard, we have an entirely different atmosphere from the negative atmosphere of prison, and people who have been accustomed to prison do not like it.
This Bill introduces mental treatment, and, despite the scepticism of the hon. and gallant Member about psychiatrists, it adopts the basis of our modern psychological and psychiatric knowledge, and one of the fundamental things about that knowledge is that most of our actions and conduct are conditioned by unconscious motives. The hon. and gallant Member is a firm believer in retributive punishment. He asked why we should not give the offender a taste of his own medicine. That is retribution, and he was perfectly logical when he asked why we should not leave these matters to the courts. Our prison system and our system of criminal justice have been steadily moving from retribution to reform.
What is retribution? IL retribution has any meaning at all, it is the equation of the punishment to the spiritual guilt, and if there is no equation, then the whole concept of retribution falls to the ground. The courts, by their crude attempts to vary sentences in accordance with spiritual guilt, are attempting to administer retribution; otherwise there would be a tariff for crime, a sentence of so much for robbery with violence, so much for murder, and so on. The mere fact that the courts have this power and use it in an attempt to fit the penalty to the weakness of the individual, is proof that they are attempting to administer retribution.
But this Bill, with its mental treatment, recognises that offences are very frequently the outcome of unconscious motivation. This is a result of our modern psychological knowledge, which has opened up a new world to us in the last 50 years. Everyone must recognise that an attempt to measure spiritual guilt is something beyond the wit 1329 of man, and that is why the New Testament says:Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.We have in this Bill a revolutionary Clause, and I am not sure that Members have realised what it implies. It is the Clause relating to Borstal. Hitherto, it has been possible for courts to choose two sentences, either a sentence of two years or of three years, but now there is no option if the courts impose Borstal. The courts do not say what shall be the length of sentence, but merely impose a sentence of Borstal training. They cannot, as they did previously, say that one lad deserves a sentence of only two years, and another lad a sentence of three years. We have taken out of the hands of the courts the right to make an attempt to assess the spiritual guilt of a lad who comes before them. We do not send a lad to Borstal for the purpose of punishment. The Home Office have repudiated the idea of punishment, and claim that the sole aim is reform.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
I know how the hon. Member feels about these matters, and I think he has some idea how I feel about them. Perhaps, therefore, he will allow me a few minutes to say that I respectfully disagree with his assessment of the approach of the courts to this problem. I would put it this way: That the two elements which the courts keep in mind are the public safety and protection of the public, and the reform of the criminal. The courts attempt to find a sentence which will have the best reformative effect and is compatible with their duty to the public, which requires the deterrent element. The hon. Member is arguing for the removal of the retribution element, but, after all, it has the very high authority, as he will remember, of Immanuel Kant, who said that the criminal uses society as a means to his own end, and that the reply of society—and this varies according to the crime—is to put the criminal outside society. As one who has had to administer justice for some years, I am grateful for this opportunity to put that point.
§ Mr. Benson
This is a very complicated and philosophical point. I would try to draw the distinction between retributive punishment and the deterrent element in this way. Retributive punishment is an 1330 attempt to equate the penalty with the spiritual guilt, whereas the deterrent element is not concerned with the spiritual guilt at all; it is concerned solely with the protection of the community. As the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, in his legal capacity he says, in effect, to the criminal: "You have tried to advantage yourself, by breaking the law, but we will cancel out the advantage by disadvantaging you, and thereby try to remove the incentive." It is an entirely different approach from that which says, "You have committed an abominable crime, and you must be punished for it."
The effect may be the same so far as the criminal is concerned, but I am trying to point out that there is a fundamentally different approach. That is important in this respect: When people defend a savage penalty on the grounds that it is a deterrent, although they themselves may not know it, what they are asking for in reality is retributive punishment. A perfect example of that is the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs. Everyone knows that he is one of the kindest and most gentle Members of the House, but everyone also knows that he is one of the most enthusiastic supporters of capital punishment and flogging. I accuse the hon. and gallant Gentleman of being thoroughly muddled in his own mind; when he thinks he is demanding a deterrent he is really demanding retributive punishment. He may not think so but he, like many criminals, is subject, as we all are, to unconscious motivation.
§ Mr. Benson
I recommend a psychiatrist for the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I do not believe in retributive punishment, because I do not believe that human beings can assess it. My objection to retributive punishment is that it bedevils the whole of our penal system. The desire to punish, which is very deep down in us all, is the main obstacle, and always has been, to the development of a rational and intelligent penal system. The object of a penal system is the protection of the community against the law breaker. The method of the penal system, not its object, as long experience has taught our prison authorities, is reform, because that has been found to be the best method of deterrence. If we allow this deep-seated instinct of retributive punishment which is in us all to hinder the development of 1331 our penal system along rational and logical lines, then I say that we are weakening the defences of society against the criminal, and that that is a high price to pay for the pleasure and satisfaction of imposing retributive punishment.
§ 12.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Marlowe (Brighton)
The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) has interested the House with his very sincere views on the question of punishment. We respect his views very much, and we are always glad to hear them, but I believe they were founded on certain false premises. I cannot accept what I believe to be the hon. Gentleman's view, that almost the only principle should be reformative—
§ Mr. Benson
Perhaps I did not put it very clearly. The one fundamental right of the community is, undoubtedly, to protect itself against the law breaker. That is the object of our penal system. I then said that long experience has shown that that object is best achieved by attempting not to punish, but to reform.
§ Mr. Marlowe
I do not think I misinterpreted the hon. Gentleman, but in any event I do not, on this occasion, want to discuss any further with him the question of punishment, as I am more interested in a different aspect of this matter.
I particularly want to refer to the speech made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I was profoundly shocked at the speech he made today, and also by what he said on Wednesday night. What the hon. and learned Member said on that occasion undoubtedly influenced, I believe, a large number of votes. The accuracy of what he said then was very important, and I should like to recall to the House the circumstances in which the hon. and learned Member spoke. He spoke after the Home Secretary had made his winding-up speech, and he told the House something which he now admits was completely inaccurate. I confess that I was most impressed on Wednesday night when the hon. and learned Member said that Sir Alexander Paterson had joined, and had actually become a subscriber to, the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment. So that there is no mistake 1332 I will quote the hon. and learned Member's words. He said:The House may be interested to hear that before Sir Alexander Paterson's death he joined the Society for the Abolition of Capital Punishment and became a subscriber to that Society. …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th April, 1948; Vol. 449, C. 1092.]When I spoke to several Members outside the Chamber, after the hon. and learned Gentleman had spoken, I said I never knew that Sir Alexander Paterson had done that, and that I was very shaken when I heard it. It very nearly influenced me in my vote on Wednesday night, and I believe it may have influenced many other hon. Members.
Now I find, this morning, that the hon. and learned Gentleman has made no proper apology to the House, and is not now in his place. I make no apology for attacking him in his absence, because he was warned that this matter would be raised, and he said that he did not wish to be here when it was raised. When the hon. and learned Gentleman was speaking I endeavoured to interrupt, but he would not give way. I wanted to ask him what was in the note which was handed to him, and upon which, apparently he relied without any further inquiry. I would still like to know what was in that note, because I think the House is entitled to be told.
When a Member, apparently inadvertently, misleads the House, I think the House is entitled to be told on what information that Member relied. The hon. and learned Member specifically stated that Sir Alexander Paterson became a subscribing member to the Society, and he has now endeavoured to retreat from that position with the jesuitical explanation, "I did not mean a subscriber in the money sense; I meant a subscriber to the principles of the Society." I suggest that that is not the proper way to treat this House. The House is entitled to have from the hon. and learned Member, who is not only a Member of this honourable House, but a Member of an honourable and respected profession, an explanation. He knows perfectly well that in the conduct of a case in court he would not rely upon instructions so nebulously given to him at the eleventh hour.
§ Mr. Benson
I know that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was honestly under the 1333 impression that what he said on Wednesday night was true, because when I told him, after the Debate, that I thought he was mistaken, he was appalled, and said that he had had a note to that effect.
§ Mr. Marlowe
I would prefer that the hon. and learned Gentleman should be here to make his own explanation. I would remind the House that there is a degree of criminality arising from sheer recklessness and negligence. If a person acts upon information without sufficiently checking it, then he does so at his peril. At least the hon. and learned Member might have told the House that he did not know about Sir Alexander Paterson of his own knowledge, but that he had received a note which he had reason to believe. But he did not do that; he stated as a substantive fact that Sir Alexander Paterson became a subscribing member to the Society, and it now transpires that that was totally untrue.
There is a little more which I have to say on the Third Reading of the Bill as it now stands with this new Clause. I think that it is a most unhappy event, and I do not believe that the Clause represents the will or the wish of the great majority of the people of this country. There is one aspect of it which, although I sat throughout the Debate on Wednesday, I did not hear put forward. Although the question of sympathy with the victim was touched upon in many aspects, I did not hear anyone refer to the dangers which may arise from lynch law or mob law. The position at the moment is that because there is capital punishment, the relatives of a victim are satisfied that justice is being done. They are satisfied to leave the matter in the hands of the law. What will happen if large numbers of people are dissatisfied and feel that the law has not taken its proper course in relation to the crime committed against their relatives? Are we not creating the possibility of a State in which people may begin to take the law into their own hands. I believe that to be one of the most serious aspects of this Bill as it now stands.
On the question of principle, I cannot understand the attitude of mind of those—although I can well understand someone who says, "I hate the death penalty altogether"—who have acceded to the position that the death penalty is still to be maintained in the case of treason. 1334 That is uterly illogical. Surely, one abhors the death penalty altogether or one does not. I cannot understand how it is possible for those who still subscribe to it in the case of treason to take the attitude that they will not tolerate it in the case of murder. On this question of principle, we live in a world where we admit, apparently, that there are occasions when it is right to take life. If our own country is attacked, we take life, and we agree that a traitor from within may have his life taken from him. Yet we are going to leave murderers in the position that they are bound to come out of prison at some later time. That is one of the difficulties of the hon. Member for Chesterfield. He said that prison was a brutalising process. Those were the words which the hon. Gentleman used; yet, on Wednesday night he voted for a Clause which will subject people to a brutalising process for the whole of their lives. That is another attitude of mind which I am unable to understand.
What the hon. Gentleman and those who share his views on this matter have not properly taken into account is that either the murderer who is given a life sentence must have a real life sentence—that is, one which keeps him incarcerated for the rest of his days—or a life sentence of the kind now in use, which means a sentence of 12, or, perhaps, not more than 14 years. Which is it to be? None of the hon. Gentlemen opposite who have dealt with this question has faced this point. Is the man to be incarcerated for the rest of his natural life, or is he to be allowed out after 12 or 14 years? I can tell hon. Gentlemen that there has been a case of a man who was let out after 12 or 14 years, after a reprieve, who, within a very few months, committed another murder. Is that the sort of situation which the hon. Gentleman wants to see created, or is he really going to leave the murderer in prison for the rest of his life?
§ Mr. Benson rose—
§ Mr. Marlowe
I thought that the hon. Gentleman wanted to interrupt, but if lie does not, I am prepared to go on with the other aspect of this matter. The arguments on the statistics that have come from other countries are completely fallacious. One point has not been made 1335 clear. Many hon. Members have relied on these figures from other countries, but I think that I can show how they must be fallacious. I could understand it if it had been said that where the death penalty had been removed, there had been no increase in the number of murders, but it has been claimed that in many instances there has been a decrease. I must show the hon. Gentleman the illogicality of that. Suppose we had a country where, before the death penalty had been removed, there were 100 murders in a year, and, after the death penalty had been removed only 90 murders. If any inference at all is to be drawn from those figures, it can be only this: that in the year after the removal of the death penalty, there were ten potential murderers, each of whom said to himself: "Now that the death penalty has been removed, I will not commit my murder." That can be the only logical deduction.
§ Mr. Benson indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Marlowe
The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but there can be no other logical deduction. I agree that it is nonsense, but the reason is that the whole of the figures are nonsense and no inference is to be drawn from them.
I suppose that the Under-Secretary is to reply to this Debate. I want to know if we can have some assistance on the point taken up by the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). What is to be the position under this Bill as it now stands? What is the position of Members of the Government who ran away and failed to support their colleagues on this matter? What is the position of the hon. Gentleman himself, who is part of the machinery which the Home Secretary says is necessary? The Home Secretary has said that the death penalty is necessary for him to maintain law and order. The hon. Gentleman is his Under-Secretary, but, he apparently, takes a different view. Does the hon. Gentleman consider that his position is tenable in the circumstances? Does he agree with his colleague or not? The House is entitled to know the position in these circumstances.
What is the position of the four Law Officers, none of whom was here on that occasion? Most of all, I should like to know what is the position of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for 1336 Scotland, who has been a life-long abolitionist, and who had to make up his mind, because in Scotland he exercises the functions of Home Secretary. He had to make up his mind on Wednesday whether he would continue to be an abolitionist or Secretary of State. I will not pursue that matter any further, but I hope that we may have some guidance on it.
In conclusion, I want to say this: it has been the practice of many hon. Members taking part in the discussions which we have had on this matter to pay tribute to the sincerity of those who differ from their views. I would not be lacking in extending that courtesy. I have no doubt that many hon. Members who voted for the abolition of the death penalty had sincere views. I am also prepared to believe that many of them have not sincere views about it at all, but are merely cranks and crackpots, prepared to vote for anything which is out of the usual. Many of them have formed their views on the sort of information on which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northampton relied. If that is the sort of information on which hon. Members form their views, which subsequently has to be completely retracted, it does not give much value to a vote cast in those circumstances. It is scarcely surprising, in view of what happened, that I saw in the newspapers a rumour that the escaped convict, Zborowski, was said to have been seen in the precincts of this House. I would not have been surprised to have seen him in the Aye Lobby on Wednesday night, and I am bound to say that, had I done so, I should have found him indistinguishable from many of the hon. Gentlemen who were there.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Weitzman (Stoke Newington)
I do not wish to follow hon. Members in the discussion on the death penalty, but I must say how utterly illogical it seemed to me to be when the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) recognised the sincerity of the views expressed on this side which were contrary to his and then presented the appearance of the Father of the House behaving like a child.
I wish to turn to what I consider an important part of the Bill, namely, Clauses 44, 45 and 46. These Clauses give power to the Home Secretary to make rules and 1337 regulations with regard to the management of prisons and prisoners. I regard these Clauses as the most vital Clauses of the Bill. They affect thousands of persons who pass through the prisons during the years, whether for slight offences or more serious offences, or, possibly, for no offence at all. I am sure that every hon. Member will desire that, in the making of rules, every possible consideration shall be taken into account.
I suggest that there is great ignorance of the actual state of affairs. I have read with meticulous care the whole of the Debate on Second Reading and the proceedings in Committee. I was amazed to read statements of hon. Members, and even of the Home Secretary, about the excellent conditions in our prisons. Resentment was shown against any suggestion that they did not compare favourably with those in prisons in other countries. References were made to work, facilities for reading, and opportunities for writing. In reading the Debate, one might suppose that any criticism of the existing state of affairs was carping and was of very little importance.
I can speak only of Wormwood Scrubs, where many men are dealt with, where first offenders are supposed to go, and where there are men who have served previous sentences and men who are supposed to be undergoing what was called penal servitude. It may well be that the treatment in other prisons is different. If so, there ought to be some uniformity in the matter. So far as that prison is concerned, I suggest that there is room for immense improvement, and for rules to be made which would deal effectively with affairs as they are today.
Before making rules, I presume that the Home Secretary will wish to know what is the actual state of affairs and what rules are required. There ought to be a preliminary committee of inquiry. Its members ought to mix with the prisoners. They should visit the prison, and mix with the men and see their condition. They should not rely upon official visits when they are accompanied by an official. From what I have seen, they are hardly likely to glean the truth from official visits of that kind. I remember a visit of a magistrate whom I knew and who wanted to speak to me. He asked to speak to me and he was refused permission. He was told that he could not 1338 speak to me or to any prisoner. In fact, before a visit of the governor, or any official visit, prisoners are warned about their behaviour and told to present the appearance of working industriously.
What are the things against which rules should be directed? There is, first, the necessity for doing something about the complete and unholy solitude, of which it may well be said that nothing can be so soul destroying. Why keep a man in a small cell about 7 feet by 13 feet by 9 feet high, locked up from about twenty minutes past four in the afternoon till nearly eight o'clock the next morning? The lights are turned out at nine o'clock in the evening and turned on again at six in the morning. For a few moments the cell door is opened, so that the prisoner may come out to obtain some water or empty a chamber pot. It is opened again for a few moments so that he may take in his breakfast. He is locked in again from twenty minutes past eleven till twenty minutes past one in the afternoon. Thus apart from a few minutes for getting water, emptying a chamber pot or getting his meal, nearly 18 out of the 24 hours of the day are spent in complete solitude. At weekends it is worse, because there is no work on Saturday afternoons or Sundays. It is impossible for a person who has not experienced it to imagine the effect that it has on a sane, normal individual.
There is the question of food. I appreciate that there are difficulties in the outside world and that prisons must be affected, but is there any reason why the food provided should be so cooked that it is often absolutely uneatable, or that it should be so dished out that there is the minimum of cleanliness? I can say from experience that one day each week fish was served which was cooked in such a way that it was quite uneatable. There are many prisoners who, when they come in, take no food, or very little food, until they are compelled to eat the food or starve. Is there any reason why prisoners should not be given an opportunity for adequate exercise and permitted some measure of sport? At present the only exercise consists of two short periods of about twenty minutes each at eight o'clock in the morning and twenty past one in the afternoon, when prisoners walk round and round a small area, officered by a number of warders whose constant cries are, "Less talking," or "Get a move on there."
1339 I was glad to see that considerable attention was paid to a letter written by Lord Justice Wrottesley with regard to work. If ever there was a case for an inquiry into conditions and the making of rules, I suggest that it is in regard to the provision of work. No attempt is made to classify prisoners as to their fitness for any particular job. I myself was given the job of sewing buttons on trousers. There never was sufficient work. Some of the men were ready, anxious and willing to do useful work, if only to make the time pass more quickly. Yet at a time when the country requires the labour of everyone and when we have here many men who would be capable of performing useful work, very little is done in regard to them. After five weeks a prisoner is paid 4½d. a week. If he has committed an offence sufficiently serious to get a long enough sentence, he may in time have the opportunity of earning 1s. 5½d. a week. He may spend these munificent sums on tobacco or sweets. Surely a strong case could be made for giving to the men useful work which would benefit the nation and for paying a man a wage which would enable him to put something aside with which to face the outside world when released.
I have spoken of the solitude. This might be relieved by suitable reading matter and facilities for writing. I have read comments by hon. Members, and even by the Home Secretary, which might lead one to suppose that such reading matter is readily available and that prisoners can write in their cells, if they so desire. At Wormwood Scrubbs two library books were given to each prisoner twice a week. They were left outside the door of the cell. There was no choice on the part of the prisoner. The books were very often old and dilapidated, the remnants from public libraries, often with pages torn out. Is there any reason why prisoners should not be able to visit a library and select their own books? Is there any reason why a prisoner should not be permitted to see newspapers? With regard to writing, a prisoner can apply to the officer in charge and obtain, often with difficulty, permission to get some ink and a typical post office pen with which to write a letter, on the rare occasions when he is permitted to write a letter.
1340 If he wants anything more he has to apply, parade before the governor, make special application, and make out a case why he should have the special facility of pen, paper and ink. All these things ought to be readily available to every prisoner; and prisoners should be deprived of them only as an appropriate punishment for something he had done. I do not want it to be thought that I am suggesting for a moment that the governor and the deputy-governor were otherwise than courteous. They were readily available for requests on parade. But what I say is that under the prison rules one has to parade and ask for these things, and to make out a case for them as special concessions. They ought to be rights of the prisoner.
I have read suggestions that prisoners awaiting appeal are treated differently. Except that they are allowed visits from a solicitor, and to write letters in regard to their appeal, this is not true. Let me give an illustration of the mentality of some of the prison officers. I paraded before the governor and asked him for paper on which to write some notes for the purpose of my appeal. He readily agreed to my request and said that I could have 100 sheets of paper. Then, obviously remembering something, he said, "Oh, we have some writing books here. You can have a book." Well, I waited seven days, after which I was sent for, and an officer told me, "I am sorry about the delay, but we hadn't any books so we sent the sheets of paper to the bookbinders to have them made into a book. Here it is."
Wormwood Scrubs Prison is an old building and, as one would expect, the ventilating and heating arrangements are somewhat ancient. I had the doubtful privilege of occupying a cell with practically no heating, and I felt thoroughly frozen. There is a bell in each cell, the theory being that if a prisoner is ill in the night, or wants the attention of a warder, he rings the bell. I have been told by other prisoners that when they rang the bell—if it worked—very little attention was paid to them. The bell I had did not work. Here again there is a necessity for rules.
It has been said repeatedly this morning that one of the main elements in the treatment of prisoners is something reformative, something which would improve the criminal and make him a better 1341 man when he returns to the outside world. I saw nothing reformative at Wormwood Scrubs. True, after having satisfactorily served one-third of his sentence, a prisoner goes on what is called "association," where prisoners eat together, and can attend a certain number of lectures and entertainments. But until one-third of the sentence has been served there is nothing—and afterwards there is very little. I believe that one of the lectures—I was not permitted to attend—was given by the hon. Lady the Member for South Aberdeen (Lady Grant), and was called "The Work of the House of Commons." Surely practice should not be divorced from theory. Surely there is no reason why there should not be educational and training courses for prisoners? Surely, rules ought to be drawn up—after, of course, the most careful inquiries—to deal with this problem? No one suggests for a moment that we ought to be soft or sentimental, or that punishment ought not to play a part. But it is a terrible enough punishment to take away a man's liberty, and to remove him from those he loves.
While at Wormwood Scrubs I tried to find out something about the men there. I formed the view that 75 per cent. were good material—men who had made one slip, and because of it were condemned to a punishment which could only embitter them and turn them into citizens with a grievance against the world for the rest of their lives. I know that the Home Secretary is a wise, humane Minister. On behalf of thousands of unfortunate persons—a not inconsiderable proportion of our population—I beg him to have the system thoroughly investigated. Members of the Bar go on to the bench and pass sentences, little knowing to what they are sending these men. There ought to be some way in which, untrammelled by officialdom, they and the Home Secretary, and the persons who help to make these rules, could see for themselves how things really are.
Let us not merely talk of reforming prisons. Let us have rules which reduce that terrible period of solitude; which give the prisoner opportunities for doing useful work, at a remunerative rate of pay; which provide him with facilities for reading and writing; which deal with courses of education and training; which give some measure of sport and entertainment; and which permit proper food to be served 1342 under proper conditions. In short, let us have a system, not sentimentally applied—I do not suggest that for a moment—but practically applied, which will help the man when released, to face the world as a decent citizen.
There are many other suggestions I could make, such as rules governing visits and the clothes prisoners wear. One day I had a conversation with an official who must be nameless. He said: "We are not allowed to say anything about the system, but I hope that you get the opportunity of telling people what things are really like." Many prisoners have begged me to raise my voice in protest. I hope I can assist today, by raising my voice in protest, to get these conditions examined thoroughly and impartially, and to persuade the Home Secretary to make rules dealing with the conduct and welfare of prisoners which can be effectively carried out. This is a great Bill. It gives great opportunities. I beg the Home Secretary to see that the opportunities are not merely there in theory but are taken advantage of in practice by making rules to deal with some, if not all, of the matters I have put before the House.
§ 1.7 p.m.
§ Captain Marsden (Chertsey)
I have listened with considerable interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman), in which he related his prison experiences. I was in the House when Mr. Speaker read the letter from the Lord Chief Justice vindicating the hon. Member of any charge which had been made against him, and I joined in the general applause which greeted that statement. However, his experiences in prison are not what I would have expected after listening to statements of the Home Secretary. I was astounded to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that prison was such a pleasant place, knowing the unpleasant life the Government were endeavouring to give us outside prison. I began to wonder whether one would not be better off in prison. Indeed, the prisons are so crowded that one might almost believe that many people think they are better off behind prison bars.
I served on the 1938–39 Committee, and on the Standing Committee which considered this Bill. I have watched the various stages of the Bill with considerable interest, and perhaps because of that, feeling that I had some responsibility, I 1343 read of various crimes reported in the Press—which, I am glad to say, is the nearest that I have ever been to them. I have been astounded at the general falling off of moral values throughout the country. Look at the ordinary newspapers, the Sunday newspapers in particular, and what do we see? Murder, arson, rape, shoplifting and theft. Yet nobody seems to mind very much. Moral values have so deteriorated that recently a man prominent in public life was convicted of telling lies and defrauding the public, but on the same evening he was hired by the B.B.C. to entertain millions of people. In my earlier days such a man would have had to hide his face in shame for a long time before daring to appear in public. Now things are different; values have altered.
We are now framing laws to try to reform the criminal. I say "reform" because many hon. Members sincerely do not believe in punishment, as we have heard this morning: they believe in reformation? Can a criminal really be reformed? Many acts against God are punishable by our law: there, indeed, reform may be possible, and, we hope, occasionally takes place. But who will reform the ordinary criminal who breaks our laws? Why should he be reformed? He may attempt to commit crimes which do not come off, and if he is punished often and severely enough he may come to the conclusion that that form of crime does not pay. But with some hon. Members the very word "punishment" seems to upset them considerably. I have one complaint against the Home Secretary, and it is this.
This Bill was given its Second reading five months ago. The Home Secretary and the Government knew perfectly well then that one of the major questions to be considered was that of capital punishment. Yet that was finally introduced at a very late stage, only last Wednesday night. Surely, through the usual channels, or by some other process, it should have been possible to discuss this matter and to come to a conclusion a considerable time ago. All the time we have been discussing the Bill in detail in Committee, capital punishment still stood as the punishment for murder. Now it is no longer so. The Committee might have changed their opinions very considerably if they had known that capital punish- 1344 ment was not to exist for murder. They might have changed their minds about corporal punishment. The abolition of capital punishment for murder, the worst crime and the severest punishment in the calendar, must give a new evaluation to all forms of punishment.
A crime took place a few weeks ago very near to where I live. Three old ladies, one aged 84, another 78 and the third 69, were in their house in the evening playing patience and listening to the radio. In came two young ruffians, aged 22 and 24, threw pepper in the eyes of the old ladies, and started knocking them about, so much so that the oldest lady, the one who is 84 took up a poker and routed the young men. They were brought before a judge, a very capable and competent judge, with great experience of all forms of crime. He described the case in the following words:I have never had a case before me with greater degrees, of criminality, greed, brutality and cowardice.I think we would all agree with that. He then awarded the punishment, seven years penal servitude each and 12 strokes of the birch, a well deserved punishment. If ever there was a fouler crime outside murder it would be difficult to find it. But what would be the position of those men now that hanging is no longer a punishment for murder? It is idle to say that a man is sentenced for life, as 10 years is about the average which he serves. But such men, cool calculating criminals and murderers, think of every possible punishment they might get and every possible way of evading capture and punishment. They would say, "I can kill the lot, bump them off, and I can only get three more years, and no corporal punishment at all." I am not going to argue now about capital punishment or corporal punishment, but I say that if we had known on the Standing Committee that Capital punishment was to be done away with, it would have given us a different sense of values altogether, and we would have viewed the whole situation and the punishment for offences in the criminal code differently.
I was interested when the Home Secretary cast some doubt on the value to the Committee of the large number of lawyers who were on it. As far as I am concerned, that opinion is unanimous. It was a great relief, after those long, platitudinous, repetitive arguments—if they 1345 were arguments—of the lawyers to come down to the plain, clean, basic English of the Home Secretary. I compliment him on that. During the lawyers' speeches I listened and said to myself, "Good God, are they getting refreshers for this?" Those lengthy talks could have been put into a few clear words by the Home Secretary. I wish to reassure him that on Wednesday night, during all that ebullition of feeling and over flowing of emotions and applause—led by a lady in the gallery—[Horn. MEMBERS: "Oh "]—I was sitting where I am now standing, and could see what was happening behind him better than the Home Secretary could. Although a large number of those who felt that the death penalty should be abolished were perfectly sincere—I do not doubt that for one moment—a large number went into the Lobby for the joy of rebelling against authority and because they wanted to show the Government who are the bosses—
§ Captain Marsden
That is the truth. I hope this Bill will be greatly improved by another place. In general, proceedings on the Bill have been fairly and freely conducted. I do not think that in my time—and I say this even in the presence of two ex-Home Secretaries—there has ever been a Home Secretary who has shown a greater and clearer knowledge, largely from study, but greatly from experience, of the lower orders of crime, of dealing with juveniles, methods of the Borstal stystem, the prison and reform schools, and so on. In all those matters I have not the slightest doubt this Bill will prove of the greatest help and use to magistrates, and generally, in the suppression of minor crime and the reform of those who can be reformed.
But for the major type of crime I am apprehensive. Murder—that is the big crime in all crime, and there is no doubt that murder was held in abhorrence even by hardened criminals, who would not hesitate to help the police to bring murderers under the authority of the law, because they held this crime to be so different and so abhorrent to their ideas of what was right and wrong. Now, unfortunately, there may be a different evaluation of that form of crime altogether; time will show. We shall now 1346 learn from experience. What will be the experience? It may be that the situation will improve, but it may be that there will be more murders. When I first went to sea there was an old captain on the various boards which examined midshipmen who always asked a question. It was, "What is the most valuable thing in a ship?" The answer he expected was, "a human life." A human life then was repaid by a human life, but in future it will be repaid by only 10 years imprisonment. This is a matter which I hope will be put right in another place before the Bill comes back to us.
§ 1.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
The hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) is very representative of a certain section of the community who are generally bewildered and mystified by many of the arguments which are brought forward to support this Bill. I ask him to realise that if Judge Jeffreys came back today, he would be even more mystified than the hon. and gallant Member, because since the time of his death a great deal has happened to bring home to the ordinary people a better understanding of the way in which crime and the criminal should be treated. That is why it is almost a commonplace now to say that we should not treat criminals in the way in which that judge treated them. Perhaps in the course of time—and I think this likely—perhaps even Do years from now, people will be as amazed-at the reluctance of the hon. and gallant Member to accept the underlying basis of this Bill as in our time we are amazed that people should not have seen more clearly the right treatment of crime in the time of Judge Jeffreys.
I suppose that the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey like the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore), assumes that those of us who have supported this Bill have done so for emotional reasons. In fact the hon. and gallant Gentleman rather suggested that the applause which registered the majority decision a few days ago arose purely out of an emotional impulse. Might I suggest to him and others like him that, in fact, the emotion is not all on one side? Those who give way to the perfectly natural instinct of simple revenge are really just as much emotionalists. It is true, as has 1347 been said by another hon. Member, that the rational argument against the continuation of capital punishment was almost overwhelmingly strong, and that it was an emotional impulse which led so many Members of the House into the Lobby against the abolition of that penalty.
For example, the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs deplored the removal of the punishment of flogging except for certain well-defined offences in prison. No doubt he is quite genuine in expressing his dubiety and disgust. On the other hand the overwhelming majority of Members of this House and of the Standing Committee actually welcomed the abolition of that kind of punishment. Many of the arguments which obviously heavily weigh in the minds of some hon. Members opposite, including the hon. and gallant Member for Chertsey, are arguments which could be just as much used against the abolition of flogging as against the abolition of capital punishment.
What is the alternative to an enlightened and scientific understanding of this problem? It is to obey those instinctive impulses to which I have referred. That takes one further back even than the Mosaic Law. That Law was an advance on what had prevailed previously. The instinct of all of us is not "eye for eye, tooth for tooth," but as many eyes for one eye and as many teeth for one tooth as we can get—unlimited vindictiveness. The Mosaic Law registered a limitation of that impulse. No doubt there were many in the days of the nominal author of that code who were against that suggestion that there should be a limitation placed upon human instincts and impulses.
We have gone further even than the Mosaic Law, and even though from time to time "eye for eye, tooth for tooth," is quoted in this House as being a valid criterion, in fact we have long since accepted in some measure the principle of reclamation and reformation. Our present penal system is a mixture of many elements. There are still some elements of vindictiveness; there are other elements of social deterrence; and other elements, gradually expanding, based on the reformative and reclamatory principle. In course of time, the hon. and gallant Member will understand the wisdom of expanding that third element, for we shall 1348 come to understand that the only criterion by which we must try to settle our social problems is the criterion of believing in the sanctity and dignity of human personality, even when that human personality goes wrong and becomes debased and degenerate, as it can do. We have only to see what has happened in recent years to remember the terrible depth to which human beings can descend. But we still have to believe that there is a capacity even in the lowest which it is our moral obligation to try to re-establish, nourish and develop.
It is in some measure the embodiment of that principle of moral understanding inside our prison system that will be accomplished by this excellent Bill. We should hold this Bill as one sign of hope at a time when life is indeed dark and gloomy. It is quite true that many crimes and offences are being committed in these days which show that brutal cynicism has unfortunately flowed through the blood of many since the end of the war. There are some who are inclined to believe that the Western world is beginning its Spenglerian decline to absolute collapse. That in these days this House of Commons can pass a Bill of this kind which is based increasingly on the principle of reclamation and reformation is in some measure a most powerful counter-balance to those unfortunate tendencies which are moving among us at the present time.
I support wholeheartedly the abolition of capital punishment, not because I am an emotionalist at all. I accuse those who try to prevent that reform of being the real emotionalists, who would rely upon the emotion of vengeance, of spitefulness or of vindictiveness.
§ Mr. Sorensen
That is my point of view. I do not say that all are like that, but I would say that that is an element. One previous speaker obviously feels that the right treatment for anyone who has done some violent wrong is for him to be given a dose of the same medicine which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) points out, is based purely on unscientific premises. It does not arise out of any rational reflection but out of a desire to do to offenders the evil they have done to another or to society. If we are to be logical in obeying this purely emotional impulse, it means 1349 that we should not merely flog the violent person and hang the murderer, but that we should try to give to every offender the same kind of penalty which he has inflicted upon another person or upon society. We should literally try to carry out the injunction "eye for eye, tooth for tooth." It means that if someone has perpetrated some torture, we should torture that person; that if someone has violently attacked a particular victim with a heavy weapon, that criminal must in turn also be attacked with a violent weapon. That is logical, but no one in this House would stand for that. There is at least some limitation on our instinct, some restriction on our emotion now accepted by most of us.
This Bill, which is being passed into law, registers not an advance of foolish and empty optimistic emotion but an advance of enlightened moral consciousness. That is why I am glad that this time this House has agreed to the abolition of capital punishment, not because it is easier but because it is infinitely harder to consider what we shall do with a murderer. It is relatively easy to say to a brutal and violent murderer "You deserve execution and you shall have it." The real problem still remains, What are we to do with those who have the capacity to commit these cold and calculated or alternatively impassioned crimes? I do not know the answer fully and completely. It is a problem which remains with us, because these human beings are our fellow human beings. They have the same capacities that we have but unfortunately in some ways those sadistic and homicidal capacities have become personified in a criminal murderer. The problem remains with us but in so far as this Bill goes some way towards establishing the principle not merely of necessary social deterrents on the one hand, but also of therapeutic consideration of the individual on the other, I welcome the Measure as a splendid step forward in the further legal registration of that moral consciousness which replaces the blind instincts of the past.
§ 1.30 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Hackney, Central)
Tributes have been paid to the way in which hon. Members on both sides of the House have co-operated in the Committee 1350 and other stages of this Bill and to the ability of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary in handling the Measure. I should like to be associated with those tributes. One of the consequences, however, of this Measure being non-party and to some extent non-controversial is that there has been a certain amount of compromise in its terms. That is inevitable, and I do not say that it is a bad thing, but it leaves me in the position of being able only to give a qualified support to the Bill. In my opinion, it contains blemishes, and I propose to mention only two of them.
In the first Place, I believe that the new provision for preventive detention under Clause 19, enabling a court to send a person into preventive detention for up to 14 years is a bad thing. This term "preventive detention" is an unfortunate term to appear in the Bill. We have heard those words before. They are associated with totalitarian countries and not with democracies like ours. I regret the introduction of this provision. Similarly, under Clause 16 the courts are still given the power to send a boy or a girl of 15 years of age to prison. Here again I must register my protest that that is far too young an age for anyone to face the conditions that were described to us a few moments ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman).
I do not want to dwell on the imperfections of the Bill. I welcome it, as does my hon. Friend the Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), as a valuable advance in social progress. However, the real test of the Bill is not to be found so much in what is in the Bill, which is a lengthy document of 73 Clauses and so Schedules, as in the spirit in which it is carried out. That is why I place so much emphasis on the Home Office attitude to the rules and other provisions that they have to frame in order to administer what is laid down in the Bill. For example, there is the introduction of corrective training under Clause 19. That training may be very good or very bad, entirely dependent on what is laid down in the rules for those new establishments. Similarly, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke Newington has talked very bitterly and properly about the long terms of solitary confinement in the cell. Without in any way being too sentimental in 1351 my attitude to those who have broken the law, I suggest that there is ample scope for more work, education and other useful ways of occupying a prisoner's time.
The probation powers have been extended, which is a welcome provision. I am glad to see, too, recognition of the fine work done by probation officers. I would emphasise the importance and necessity of using the utmost care in selecting the right people for this work, in seeing that they are adequately paid when they are proved to be the right people, and in giving them every possible encouragement. Probation service is not a profession but a vocation, and if we are fortunate enough to have the right people to fill those jobs, they are going to be a very useful element in our treatment of this problem.
On that point I have some hesitation in one respect. I do not think that sufficient emphasis is given to controlling probation homes and hostels. We still have too many of these homes and hostels run by private organisations and individuals, and, although there is provision under Clause 68 for a certain amount of supervision, I should like to see not only closer supervision but probation homes and hostels set up by the Home Office where there is no adequate private provision. After the Home Secretary objected to an Amendment along those lines, he himself took powers for the Home Office to set up remand centres, and I do not see why he should not provide probation homes and hostels as well. In all these matters, if we are going to err on one side or the other, the right side on which to err is the side of humanity.
I wanted to say a word about the abolition of capital punishment. Time is passing, so I will content myself with being very brief about it. I must resist the temptation to descend to the level which was set by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). When he said that people on this side of the House were vibrating with emotion, I do not know what he was shaking with, but it was with something. I am an unrepentant supporter of the Clause to abolish the death penalty for the experimental period of five years, and if critics opposite throw it in our faces that it is retained for treason, for arson in the Royal Dockyards, and I believe for certain 1352 offences against the Princess Royal, we reply that they should get those things altered in another place if they are anxious to get them altered, and we will support alterations along those lines. When we hear the antediluvian views of certain hon. Members on the other side of the House on the abolition of the death penalty, I cannot but believe that in 20 or 30 years' time a new generation will look back with amazement to the fact that in 1948 we were still capable by the process of law of executing people in this country. They will flock to the Tower of London to see the gallows set up side by side with the execution block and the instruments of torture which we today regard as relics of barbarism, and they will regard the gallows as a relic of the barbarism of 1948.
§ 1.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
The Debate on the Third Reading of this Bill has covered a pretty wide range and has been singularly free from any degree of repetition. On the whole it has been conducted in a harmonious spirit, and I certainly would refrain from using toward the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary any expression of the sort which has fallen from the lips of the hon. Member for Central Hackney (Mr. H. Hynd) when he described as antediluvian the views of the Home Secretary on the question of capital punishment. I have not had an opportunity of expressing my views on that subject, but I had no hesitation in casting my vote in support of the right hon. Gentleman.
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the tribute he paid to the work that lawyers have done in the discussions on this Bill. I am sorry that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chertsey (Captain Marsden) was not able to join in that tribute to lawyers on both sides of the House, but he may find as time goes on that lawyers serve a useful purpose. I should like to join in the tribute which has been paid to the Home Secretary for his conduct throughout. He showed himself in our discussions in Committee and also on the Floor of the House not only to be good tempered, but also extremely persuasive. I remember one occasion when his arguments persuaded me to give him my support, and then to my surprise, because of the pressure that came from the back benchers, I found that I was deserted by the right 1353 hon. Gentleman. History has repeated itself. The pressure has come from the back benchers again. Last Wednesday I was glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman stood among those who were prepared to give him their support.
Apart from one signal instance, it is true to say that this Measure has been very greatly Unproved in the course of the discussions and Debates. In saying that, I am not in any way seeking to detract from the hard work and careful thought that must have been devoted to the preparation of the Bill in the first place. I am sure that those who drafted it, those who studied the many problems which arose from its proposals, are themselves to be congratulated. But when this House works well—and I think that it has worked well on this Measure—then it means that a Bill of this sort, if it is given careful consideration by hon. Members on both sides, can be considerably Unproved. I think that this one has been improved except in regard to one most important particular. It is true to say that those who served on the Committee upstairs did useful work in which they may feel pride. I do not propose to enumerate the changes that have been made since this Measure was first introduced to the House. They are considerable in number. I think I can say with regard to nearly all of them, if not all, that I was glad to see them made.
We still have some hope that some further changes will be made in another place in the light of considerations addressed to the Home Secretary in the course of the Debate in the last few days. Last Wednesday we had the Debate on capital punishment, a Debate of which it was said, I think correctly, that the House could feel proud. I myself do not think that hon. Members, when they come to look back upon the vote they cast for the abolition of the death sentence, will feel proud of the decision which they induced this House to take. I do not regard that decision as a right one. I do not believe for one moment that it is wanted by the vast mass of the population of this country. It is my belief that that decision will be fraught with very serious consequences. The Government have no option at this moment but to accept the decision of this House. There is no alternative at this moment, but I hope that we shall have the opportunity of re- 1354 considering that decision, particularly as it is my belief that quite a considerable number of votes were influenced by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget).
I have known the hon. and learned Member since he was a young man. We come from the same county. We played together as children. He sits for a neighbouring constituency, and I have known his family for many years. We belong to the same profession. Consequently, it gives me no pleasure to comment ad Tersely upon his conduct, but I must say that it would be wrong to pass by his conduct without subjecting it to very serious criticism. No voice has been raised from any member of my profession on either side of the House in defence of the conduct of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton. The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) will interrupt me without hesitation if he thinks that the conduct of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, in making statements to this House last Wednesday which were quite untrue, and his conduct today, was really justifiable.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
It must be remembered that what was said was said at the very last second, and that it was absolutely impossible either to inquire into it or to verify it.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman. We are all familiar with what consequences may ensue at Parliamentary elections from a last-minute lie. Votes may be influenced in this House by a last-minute inaccuracy. In passing, I may say that in making my criticism of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton it should be clear that I gave him notice last night, and again today as I saw him leaving this House, that I proposed to make some observations upon his conduct. This House has had no apology from the hon. and learned Member for his conduct. He has told us, as if it was a matter of little moment, that he misread a note and so misled the House. I really am astonished that, after saying that, he should then have had the nerve to ask the House to accept further evidence from him. He did not tell this House what was in that note. I would have found it easier to accept 1355 his explanation if he had told us what the note contained. He says now that at some time, to some person, before his death, Sir Alexander Paterson, for whom I had a great regard, expressed some sentiments in favour of the abolition of the death sentence.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
A death-bed recantation in a conversation to some person. I should have thought that any note which any person received, whether it be in this House or when in court conducting a case, seeking to convey that piece of information, could not possibly have conveyed the statement that Sir Alexander Paterson had joined the Society and had become a subscriber to that Society. I am afraid that I cannot say that I regard it as safe to accept as accurate the statements of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton. I believe that many people in this House may have been influenced in the decision which they gave last Wednesday by that statement which came in the forefront of his speech, right at the very beginning. I do not doubt that it had a great effect. It had an apparent effect upon this House. I think that on that ground alone we ought to have an opportunity for reconsideration of that issue. We ought to have an opportunity for reconsideration and a fair determination of the question without any misleading and inaccurate statements of that nature.
I hope that in another place action will be taken which will enable this House to think again upon this matter. What the decision would be then, one does not know. It was reached only by a very narrow margin last Wednesday, and that narrow margin may well be due to the misleading speech of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton.
§ Mr. Bing (Hornchurch)
I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) does not want to mislead the House. In fact, 17 Members who voted against the Motion entered the House when the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was speaking. Had he not spoken at all the vote on his side would have been 17 less.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
That sounds to me an extraordinarily ridiculous argument. It is not worthy of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I hope that this House will have an opportunity for reconsidering this issue. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary made a powerful and convincing speech against the new Clause. In particular, I am concerned, as I am sure he must be, with what is going to be the position of the police under this new Clause. What will the effect be on the police forces of this country? Indeed, I must say that I thought the hon. and learned Member for Northampton showed signs of a sort of last-minute repentance when he rather indicated that the police need not be worried about this matter, but, if the Clause is to remain in the Bill—and I must say that I hope it will not—I suggest that it would be right to extend the list of exceptions to this Clause and to except from its operation any person who murders a policeman seeking to perform his duty.
At no time in the course of our Debates have those who support the abolition of the death sentence stated the answer to the question what is the alternative. I should like to hear what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) would say was the right sentence for those who murdered British soldiers in Palestine by putting them up against a wall and shooting them in the back. If this sort of offence takes place in this country—and it will be within the recollection of hon. Members that we did have outrages before the start of the last war committed by people coming in from overseas—what is to be the right sentence, or what is the alternative to capital punishment? We have never had an answer to that question, and, although the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) may talk about people speaking with emotion, I must say that my sympathy lies very much more with the victims of these crimes than it does with the perpetrators of them. In considering what is the right sentence and proper punishment for these crimes, one has to bear in mind that the public conscience has to be satisfied if the law is to continue to be observed. If we weaken the law too much, we shall 1357 find the people taking the law into their own hands.
I do not propose to say much more upon that issue. I think that some of us feel sorry for the Home Secretary, deserted as he has been by so many of his Government. The right hon. Gentleman resembles the boy who stood on the burning deck. The deck may be burning, and, when the explosion comes, the right hon. Gentleman will depart with the rest of the crew who have not stood by him. My noble Friend talked about the position of the Under Secretary. I propose to make no comment upon his conduct, though I observe that he put his name to this Bill in its original form, and it appears on the back of this Measure. I do not suggest to the hon. Gentleman what his course should be, but I must say that, if I were in the position of the Home Secretary, I should feel very disinclined to carry on with the arduous duties of his office when it has been so signally shown that one had lost the confidence of one's supporters on the back benches, not only the confidence of his colleagues in the Cabinet and upon the Front Bench, but also the confidence of his Under-Secretary, who has worked with him throughout the whole of this Measure.
I do not propose to comment any more upon the Government. Many people may ask what sort of a Government is this, when 44 Members of it abstain from supporting the Government's view on a matter of high principle of this sort.
This Bill covers a wide variety of subjects, and, while I agree with the hon. Member for Central Hackney in wishing that we knew more about corrective training and treatment in detention centres, there can be no doubt that the Bill greatly improves, in all other respects than the one to which I have referred, the administration of criminal justice. I hope that, if the right hon. Gentleman retains his position, he will not rest upon his laurels, however many they may be, but that he will bear in mind that this Measure, which is great in many respects, ought to be the prelude to a number of others dealing with such matters as the codification of the Summary Jurisdiction Acts and the compila- 1358 tion of one code of the criminal law which would facilitate the administration of justice. While recognising that this is not tackled in this Measure, I think both sides of the House can unite in wishing this Measure well and in hoping that it will lead to an improvement in the administration of justice and to the reformation of those who break the laws of this country. I hope that, if law and order are to' be maintained in this country, the Clause which has been moved into this Bill will disappear before it finally becomes an Act of Parliament.
§ 1.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The discussion this morning has tended to centre round the controversial aspects of this Bill. Indeed, one hon. Member went so far as to say that, unless the Clause to which he objected was not altered in another place, he hoped the Bill would not be passed. I hope that will not occur. I think it would be a tragedy if it did. We lost a very good Bill in 1938 or 1939 owing' to the controversy about flogging and about capital punishment, and I think it would be a real tragedy if the country lost this Bill, which was introduced as a very good Bill. I join with the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) in saying that it is an even better Bill now after its consideration in Committee.
I would like to join in the expressions of appreciation which have been tendered to the Home Secretary, not only for the humanitarian spirit which has inspired this Bill, but for the patience with which my right hon. Friend has met the various suggestions made to him in Committee and has received the Amendments and improvements put forward by hon. Members. On Second Reading, the Home Secretary said that this Bill sought to rationalise and make more flexible the methods already available for dealing with convicted offenders and to add new methods. These aims have been realised, and I hope that this Bill will have a happier fate than that which met such an untimely end for extrinsic reasons in 1938.
I think it is worth considering the growth of the Home Secretary's problem since 1938. Criminal statistics show how much more formidable that problem is today than it was in 1938. Not only is the police force weaker in number today than it was then, but the incidence of crime is 1359 greater, as is evident by just two figures to which I will refer the House. The number of persons found guilty of indictable offences in 1938 was only 78,000, whereas, in 1945 it had grown to 115,000. These and other figures that are available in our criminal statistics might discourage the faint-hearted but they have acted as an incentive to the present Home Secretary, as to all reformers, to devise means of reducing the incidence of crime, reforming criminals, saving the adolescents, inspiring them with hope and assisting them to a nobler way of life. These are the very things that the Bill aims to do and, in fact, does.
I would like to refer to the rather metaphysical but none the less sincere arguments propounded by my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson), who suggested that the Bill placed too much emphasis upon retribution and too little upon reformation. I do not agree with him. I do not think he is right, for the Bill rightly gives the, cold shoulder to outworn ideas of retribution and applies itself to the character of the criminal rather than to the character of the crime. That is why it abolishes penal serviture, hard labour, prison divisions and privilege. That is why it introduces a graduation system and aims at keeping the young offender out of prison, the first offender from offending again, and at reclaiming the old lag, while making prison a better and more hopeful place.
The Bill sets so high a standard that I hardly like to refer to its minor blemishes. A number of objections have been made of a major kind to the Bill. I regret that two Amendments which I ventured to suggest have not been acceded to by the Home Secretary. One of them related to the right of peremptory challenge of jurors, a very valuable right for accused persons, particularly in racial, religious and colour bar and political cases. It is right that an accused person should be enabled peremptorily to challenge jurors without showing cause. An accused person may know that the juror about to take the book belongs to some antagonistic society, race or creed, and he may not be able to show cause for his objection. He ought to be entitled to object without showing cause. The Bill has whittled down his right so to do. There are one or two other points which I should like 1360 to have made, but I will keep my observations brief. Notwithstanding any apparent criticisms that I have to offer, I give a wholehearted welcome to this very fine, humanitarian Measure.
§ 2.4 p.m.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)
I join with other hon. Members in commendation of the Bill, the more so since it has been improved by the new Clause which we added on Wednesday. I am very glad about the Bill, because of the provisions in it regarding a large number of persons who otherwise would have had to be dealt with in an unsatisfactory prison system, but now will be dealt with under the better system of probation. We must all have felt how unsatisfactory the prison system is while we listened to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman).
I will not bother to draw the attention of the House to the Clauses dealing with probation, but I hope to secure from the Home Secretary or from the Under-Secretary some statement regarding their operation. I believe that in two respects it is worse than the earlier Acts of 1907 and 1914, because the issue is not so clearly defined as it was in those earlier Measures relating to the offering of probation for offences caused by drink and drugs. It was at that time within the right of a magistrate, and it was stated to be the duty of a magistrate, definitely to aim at securing from a person so convicted recognizances and a pledge that he would not again indulge in the practice that was proved to be the cause of his offence. I believe that has been the cause of the rulings given in the Committee and here. The matter can still be dealt with under the Bill.
I am very glad of that, but I want to be assured by the Home Secretary and by the Home Office itself. When the Bill of 1938 was being discussed, the then Solicitor-General drew attention to the fact that the mere dropping of provision that hitherto had existed might lead to magistrates arguing, "It was in the former legislation but it has gone from this one. It has not the same effect as it used to have." I wish to have that impression corrected. This matter of drink and crime, despite much carelessness on the part of those who should have been responsible in the matter, remains of 1361 prime importance. I would quote the view of Judge Beazley, who said, in 1947, that if we could get rid of drink and gambling our courts would have only one-tenth of the crime to deal with that faces them today. That is the view not of a layman but of a judge who has been dealing with these issues for many years, and who knows the facts.
It is clear that though this legislation is not so well defined on this point as was the older legislation, magistrates still have the duty, when a man is convicted of an offence caused by drink, of asking him when he is put on probation to refrain from the drink which had caused his crime.
§ 2.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)
I rise first of all to try to bring the Debate, in so far as the question of capital punishment is concerned, from the level it reached in the course of remarks made on the opposite benches to what is perhaps the proper level on which the matter ought to be regarded. The suggestion has been made in the Debate that because an hon. Member made a statement in this House which, owing to misunderstanding, was not quite accurate—
§ Mr. Janner
The statement was not accurate but the hon. and learned Member informed the House that he made the statement in error. It is taking a very poor view of the intelligence of the House to suggest that that statement was responsible, in the course of a very interesting Debate, for influencing the minds of a large number of Members. I do not believe for one moment—
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
Is it not quite obvious that the statement had only been made for that sole purpose?
§ Mr. Janner
No, no; indeed not. In the course of many reasoned statements by the same hon. and learned Member, he introduced this one. He introduced it, of course, with the object of convincing, but I am quite satisfied that those who took part in the vote or proceedings the other day were not influenced by that one statement to such an extent as to overcome any judgment of their own which they had formed either before or in the course of the Debate.
§ Mr. Janner
I would like to know whether there is any evidence at all that even one member was so influenced by that statement. I would ask that Member if there be such a Member—to rise in his place in the House and say, "Because of that statement I voted differently from the way in which I intended to vote." I challenge him to do it.
I am convinced that this attack is drawing a red herring across the track. I regret that the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) who has insisted throughout the whole proceedings that this Bill should be regarded as a non-party matter and debated from a non-party point of view, in which the opinions of all people irrespective of their party should be considered as being reasonably and honestly given, should at this stage suddenly use abusive language against those who have honestly come to a different opinion from his own. He should not overlook the fact, when he talks about "gangsters" and so on, that he is not only attacking honourable Members of this House but honourable States outside this House, who for years have been convinced that this is the correct attitude to adopt and who for themselves have found that by abolishing capital punishment they have met with successful results rather than the reverse.
The proper method of approaching this question of capital punishment was accurately given in the leader of "The Times" in which it was said, after explaining the different points of view held:It is fair, however, to impose a burden of proof upon those who would retain it. Capital punishment is so repulsive that no civilised people would continue it unless convinced that there is no other means of protecting life Any Debate will and should turn mainly upon the unbiased examination of abundant evidence which may now be found in the comparative experience of those countries, of like special conditions, which have or have not dispensed with the death penalty.I think that every Member of this House not only was entitled to come to a conclusion but was compelled, in consequence of the importance of the point at issue, to weigh up the evidence which he had examined and to give the benefit of his decision not only to the House but to the country by voting in accordance with the 1363 honest conclusions he had formed. It is quite evident that not only was the conclusion to abolish capital punishment in certain cases come to by those who voted in favour of the abolition, but there were many others in the House who I am sure, had it not been for the strong suggestion made to them to abstain from voting, would have done likewise.
I am sorry to have had to devote so much of the short time at my disposal to this point, because I believe we have emphasised this particular matter too much, so far as the Bill is concerned, in the course of this discussion today. This Bill has a much wider significance. This Bill has attempted to give an opportunity to those social reformers who have useful views for enabling society to help in that direction. It has given that opportunity so that society shall ultimately be protected not only by deterrents in the ordinary sense of the term, not by retribution, but by the proper handling of the problem of crime and criminals.
I want to compliment my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on the manner in which he has dealt with these questions. Not only have we witnessed his helpfulness on the Floor of the House, but in Committee he has been most painstaking, and I am convinced that when he comes to put into practice what my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) asked him to do, he will exercise the spirit he has shown in the Committee stage. After all, it is true that it is not the actual wording of the provisions of the Bill which are important but the manner in which the rules will be framed under the Act to enable the spirit of the Act to be carried into effect. I believe my right hon. Friend will take steps to improve the bad prison conditions. He must take steps under those rules to do away with cruel punishments for ever. He has taken steps to help probation officers who are so desirous that the probation work shall be carried out in such a way as to reform men and women from ways of crime which have resulted in many cases in the commission of capital offences. May I express my gratitude to him and the gratitude of the country and of all reasonable people for the manner in which he has conducted this Bill through Committee and on the Floor of the House?
§ 2.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)
The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) was undoubtedly trying to convince himself about something on which he feels very uneasy indeed and that was the reference to the statement made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), in the Debate on Wednesday. Apart from that, I do not think much purpose would be served by a post mortem on the issue. When it comes to a question of voting one way or the other, or the number of defections from the Home Secretary's Lobby, one has to remember that the Whips were taken off on both sides. The matter was left to everyone's conscience but I am perfectly certain that everyone in. the House voted in accordance with what they thought proper and with the dictates of their consciences. For that very reason I am concerned about this statement by the hon. Member for Northampton. One has to remember the context in which it was made. It seems to me a great pity that a historic debate such as we had on Wednesday should have been marred by this incident and, not only that, but that it should have been marred by the circumstances which surround that incident. I feel that as a member of the same honourable profession as that to which the hon. and learned Member belongs it would not be my duty if I did not say the one or two things which I have to say very frankly and bluntly.
How did this come about? The statement that the hon. Member for Northampton made was a categorical statement —it was not some mere generalisation. He said that he had a note presented to him which was in front of him. Now his is a very acute mind. He has a very well-trained draftsman's eye, and therefore we must expect that if he gave even a free rendering of the note, it would have some fair resemblance to what it contained. We have not seen the note, and we do not know when it was delivered and who delivered it. This is what he says was contained in the note. He said, quite explicitly, that Sir Alexander Paterson had now joined and become a subscriber of the society in question. He has admitted this morning in this House, by the version he gave of it, that there were no words in that note which justified that interpretation, or anything near it. That is the first point. But what makes 1365 it worse—and let us have no nonsense about this thing, because it is too serious —this was a bull-point on this matter of conscience, in regard to which a number of people were wavering, were uncertain and were very anxious. Even if certain Members were not anxious and wavering, does anyone mean to tell me a statement that an eminent man who had given public evidence on this question, had been consistently opposing the abolition of capital punishment, and then had changed his views just before his death, would not influence their minds?
The hon. and learned Member, if he did not know any other thing, knew at least that the abolition society had not only been indulging in propaganda for some time, but were, in view of this Debate, engaged in very active propaganda indeed. He must have known as a lawyer and as a man with a penetrating mind that there was no foundation for that statement, otherwise it would have clearly been contained in that propaganda. No point could have been more powerful for advocating the abolition of capital punishment than that a man who had for so long opposed the abolition of capital punishment should have changed his mind almost on his death bed. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. J. Paton) has been associated with this society for years. I do not blame him for what happened, but he must have known that Sir Alexander Paterson had not become a member of this Society.
§ Mr. John Paton (Norwich) rose—
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
Let me finish my argument. When I hold convictions strongly, I am not afraid to speak. The hon. Member does not like it, because it hurts. The hon. and learned Member must have thought it very strange, as this was a most powerful and convincing point and he must have thought it an extraordinary thing that the hon. Member for Norwich, who has been officially, continuously and enthusiastically associated with the campaign for the abolition of the death penalty, did not use it if it was the fact. After all, Sir Alexander Paterson has been dead for some months, and it must have been known to the society whether or not he was a member and a subscriber.
After that statement, it is no good coming along and saying something else. The 1366 hon. and learned Member cannot convince me that he was not shrewd enough and thoughtful enough to suspect it was an extraordinary thing that neither the propaganda of this society, nor the hon. Member for Norwich who had spoken in the Debate, had said a word about it. The truth is, because we know it now that there was not a word of accuracy about the statement he made, and that it had no relation whatever to what the note, which it is now stated was received, said. There is no doubt about it that this statement was held back until the last moment. It was obviously held back for the deliberate purpose of using it at the last moment.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
The hon. Member cannot tell me that this gentleman suddenly got this inspiration, by some flash from heaven, which made him make his statement to the House. I say that it was deliberately held back, until the Home Secretary and every one else had spoken in the Debate, as a smashing point.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
That is a gross exaggeration. I expressly said that I did not blame the hon. Member for what had happened.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
I said that the hon. Member must have known whether or not Sir Alexander Paterson was a member of the society.
§ Mr. Paton
It will be seen what was said in HANSARD tomorrow. I must make it quite clear that the charges which the hon. and learned Member have made against me are completely and wholly without foundation. I am sorry that this matter has now developed into what seems to me to be a squabble. The issue is much too grave for that. I had no knowledge of the truth or otherwise of the statement made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, because I 1367 ceased to be secretary of the council in question in 1946. I assumed, when he made it, that Sir Alexander Paterson had taken the logical action which would follow from the change of mind that I knew he had experienced, because it was within my knowledge that Sir Alexander, with the passing of the circumstances in connection with prison methods which caused him to make his statement to the Select Committee in 1930, had now come round to the opinion that capital punishment could be safely abolished.
§ Mr. Speaker
Sir Alexander Paterson does not really come into the Debate on the Third Reading of this Bill. I allowed the reference to him to be made by the Home Secretary, and I allowed the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) to make his own defence. The matter has since been pursued, but I do not think, it would be advisable to go on debating it, as it does not arise on the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ Earl Winterton
On a point of Order. Would it be in Order—because I feel very much minded to do it—to move to appoint a Select Committee to inquire into the conduct of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), in view of the charges which have been made against him, from both sides of the House, of direct inaccuracy?
§ Mr. Speaker
Such a Motion could be put down on the Order Paper, but it is not a matter with which I could deal at short notice.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
I am sure that you, Sir, will agree that when a question of the magnitude of the abolition of capital punishment or its suspension has been before the House, and it is alleged that a grave misstatement has been made, and the matter has then been discussed, it must be right for any Member to express his view upon it. I am very sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich should have misunderstood what I said. I say, quite deliberately, that I made no attack upon him. I did not even say that he must have known that Sir Alexander Paterson was a member of the society. What I said was that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, before he made the statement on Wednesday that he did make, should have apprehended that the hon, Member 1368 for Norwich might have known that, and that it was strange in those circumstances that he made no reference to it. The idea that I made any attack against the hon. Member for Norwich is quite wrong. The hon. Member spoke very movingly indeed on Wednesday, I respected his sincerity greatly, but so far as I was concerned it did not convince me on the matter in issue.
I would have been glad to hear the hon. and learned Member for Northampton give a reasonable explanation. In my opinion he has not given that explanation. What I thought was most objectionable was this: the hon. and learned Member is a skilful and trained advocate, and he did what many advocates do when they have no case. He proceeded to abuse the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), on the points he raised. That might be all very well in court, but in this case it seemed to aggravate the conduct of the hon. and learned Member because, once he realised that he must have misled the House, it was his duty to give a frank and unequivocal explanation. The hon and learned Member did not give that explanation. I am very dissatisfied and perturbed. What has happened has marred what was otherwise a most historic and vital Debate.
§ 2.33 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Younger)
I think I need refer to only a small number of matters on which information has been asked for, but before I do so I would like to say how grateful I am for the kind remarks that were made about myself by the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore). As for the rather less kind remarks that were made by the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), and certain other hon. Members opposite, I would only say this, which I am sure they will accept: I did not await advice from anybody before I searched my conscience as to what my proper course was, and it is to my conscience that I am answerable.
When I spoke in the Second Reading Debate, I pointed out that the issues of corporal and capital punishment, however important they might be, were a relatively small part of this Bill. That has been borne out by the amount of time which has been occupied by them as 1369 compared to the much greater amount of time occupied by many other important issues. I would like to add my thanks to hon. Members on all sides for the co-operation which the Government have received throughout the proceedings on this Bill. My right hon. Friend enumerated many of the important changes in this Bill, and all I need do now is to refer to two which have been specifically mentioned. Prison conditions were described in a most interesting and sincere speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman). We all recognise that present conditions are far from perfect, although a great improvement has been made over the years. The admitted difficulties are due, principally, to a combination of out-of-date premises, shortage of staffs, and the difficulty of providing a sufficient amount of attractive work to keep prisoners fully occupied. My right hon. Friend said last night that he was appointing a committee to deal with the whole question, and I think we can look forward to a very considerable improvement, always of course, within the inevitable limits of material conditions and training of new staff.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ealing (Mr. J. Hudson) raised the question of probation. I can assure him that, despite the change in the former Act which is being made by this Bill, the courts still have ample power to impose a condition relating to intoxicating liquor in any case where that would be proper. If my hon. Friend looks at Clause 3 (3) he will see that there is no restriction on the power of the court to impose that condition. The reason it was not put specifically into the Bill was that experience has shown that some justices have been led to think that because that condition was specifically mentioned it was, if not the only condition, at any rate the principal condition with which they had to concern themselves. Important as it is, it is not more important than many other conditions, and it was felt that it would be better to leave the power quite general.
§ Mr. J. Hudson
If there is any doubt in the mind of the Home Office that this matter is being neglected, would the Department send out a circular or an instruction? It can so easily be forgotten.
§ Mr. Younger
It is rather difficult to answer a hypothetical question, but we see no reason to suppose that any difficulty of that kind will arise. Should it do so, I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will be among the first to bring it to our notice.
I think it is clear that when this Bill becomes law there will be a great deal of work to be done by all those concerned with the administration of justice —judges, magistrates, Prison Commissioners, prison services, probation services, and others. We need considerable material changes in the way of buildings and so on, as well as new staffs and new training for staffs. This Bill will give plenty of scope for some years to We most energetic reformer.
Some Members have drawn a distinction between those whose first concern is for the criminal and those whose first concern is for the victim. I think that is a wrong distinction. When there is a dispute it is between two rival methods of protecting society, and in both instances I believe that the objective of the disputants is the same. The last 100 years of our history in this matter have been largely a history of the growing ascendancy of the rational over the emotional approach to the treatment of offenders. I believe that it is the rational approach which dominates in this Bill and for that reason, among others, I commend it to the House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.