HC Deb 02 December 1949 vol 470 cc1467-500

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Wilkins.]

11.38 a.m.

Mr. Maude (Exeter)

On this occasion I am raising the question of corrective training and, to a less extent, preventive detention with the object of enabling the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to tell the House, and in this way the judiciary—the High Court, chairmen of quarter sessions and recorders—something more than is at present known about any particular corrective training. I have hardly anything to say on preventive detention.

The difficulty is that probably the one outstanding feature of the recently passed Criminal Justice Act which gave hope of better things by way of the reformation of prisoners, was the provision in the Act for what, is called corrective training. I believe from what I have seen in the House that it will be the operation of those powers which will be of the most intensive interest to many hon. Members deeply concerned to see that prisons are effective by way of reform where possible.

The Home Office have undoubtedly suffered from difficulties by way of not being fully prepared for the operation of the Act in this respect and I do not in any sort of way blame them. What I want to do is to be useful to the judiciary, so that those persons when they sentence men and women and have it in mind that possibly they should be properly sentenced to corrective training should know, by the spoken word and the written word, if they read HANSARD, exactly what they are sending those persons to.

On 10th November, the Secretary of State answered a Question of mine which read as follows: how many persons have been sentenced to corrective training or preventive detention this year up to 1st October, how many of these persons at that date were detained in ordinary prisons and treated as persons undergoing sentences of imprisonment; and in what respect the treatment of a person sentenced to corrective or preventive detention now differs from a person undergoing a sentence of imprisonment? I pause there to say that the whole point of the Question was to try and get some information so that the judge would be able to feel quite certain that a person whom he believed would benefit by what the Lord Chief Justice described as an extended Borstal system—that is apparently what the High Court considers corrective training to be—should not simply be imprisoned and not subjected to corrective treatment. So many of us, indeed I think all, feel that in many such cases imprisonment is simply an evil and if the sentence is to be imprisonment pure and simple it will probably be awarded for a lesser period than would be awarded if the provisions and arrangements for corrective training were available.

The answer which the Home Secretary gave to my question was: On 4th October, 732 men and 36 women prisoners were serving sentences of corrective training …. I propose to omit that part of the answer dealing with preventive detention and to concentrate solely on corrective training. To continue by quotation from the reply: Three hundred and eighty-nine men and eight women sentenced to corrective training were in local prisons."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th November, 1949; Vol. 469, c. 137–8.] That is to say that of 768 men and women sentenced to corrective training, just over 390 were in fact in local prisons. The Home Secretary told me in the reply that he was sending me a note about the treatment accorded to prisoners sentenced to corrective training. He did so at once. As the House has not seen that letter, I will read it: Enclosed is a note which indicates the general nature of corrective training and preventive detention. At present prisoners sentenced to either are received initially into local prisons, where they undergo a period of observation to assess their suitability for training, or for removal to a ' second stage ' preventive detention prison, as the case may be. This period is spent under conditions identical with those of ordinary imprisonment. For persons sentenced to corrective training the initial period should last for only a few weeks while they are awaiting removal to a regional training prison. I pause there to ask the Under-Secretary if he would tell us, in relation to the statement that this period "should last for only a few weeks," roughly the average length of time which elapses before such prisoners are removed to the training prison. The note from the Home Secretary continued: It is hoped shortly to set aside Reading Prison as an allocation centre for corrective training prisoners, so that in the future these men will not serve any part of their sentence under conditions of ordinary imprisonment. I would ask whether that has been done, whether this accommodation has been set aside, whether the work has commenced at that allocation centre and how long the persons sent there are likely to be kept in the allocation centre, etc.—all the information which the Under-Secretary knows, I am sure, from his experience at the Bar, judges will wish to have. If the judiciary is not in possession of the picture of what is being done, then my fear is that sentences will become more or less automatic, and that judges of the High Court or lesser persons, will tend simply to feel that it is impossible to know what they must know if they are to consider what is best to be done.

In addition to the information which I have given to the House from the Home Secretary's answer and his letter to me, I would add that I also asked him the names and addresses of those penal establishments which on 1st October last contained persons undergoing sentences of corrective training or preventive detention, with the number of such persons held in such places. The answer appears in the OFFICIAL REPORT, and I shall not attempt to detain the House by repeating it. It is, however, interesting to those of us who are determined to do what we can to co-operate, both on the bench, in this House and in other ways privately, in trying to do better so far as penal matters are concerned, to see that dotted all over the country, in prison after prison there were, as will be seen from the OFFICIAL REPORT, persons who had been sentenced to corrective training. The numbers of such persons who were in prisons set aside for that purpose were a little disappointing. They were given in the reply as, Chelmsford 233, Holloway 28, Liverpool 54, Maidstone 24, Sudbury Park 6, and Wakefield 26, a very small number really in comparison—

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give us the figures for Peterhead?

Mr. Maude

Certainly, if I have them here. Would the hon. Member tell me whether that is the correct name of the prison? Peterhead is not so described in the answer. I now gather that it is in Scotland. I have not got the figures, for Scotland. The hon. Member will find this a very boring discussion; I do not think that Scotland enters into it,

The result is that the Home Office will, as I understand it, be constantly making an effort to have the accommodation available and I suppose the necessary instructors, etc., to impart the corrective training. So, from time to time the individual prisoner who appears before the judge will be more likely to be sent immediately to some corrective establishment than in the past.

The House might be interested to hear something of the circular which I know was sent to the Central Criminal Court, and which I think we have all had from the Home Office, describing the general nature of corrective training. I would say, I think not unfairly, that it was obviously carefully drafted and inevitably vague. It states: Under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, relating to corrective training a court will have power, in respect of an offender who is by age and previous convictions eligible for such a sentence under the terms of section 21, to pass a sentence long enough to enable him to receive such constructive training as may divert him from crime and fit him to take a useful place in society after his release. Training of this kind has for some time past been carried out"— that obviously means before the Act, by means of experiments by the Home Office— at special prisons known as regional training prisons, for selected prisoners sentenced to terms of comparable length to those which will be imposed under the new sentence of corrective training, and has been successful with many prisoners whose record of previous convictions is such that they would be qualified for the new sentence. There are four such prisons: two, Wakefield and Maidstone are in ordinary prison buildings, but have attached to them an open camp; the third, at Sudbury, is entirely open; the fourth, at the Verne, Portland, is of medium security. Reading that, one would imagine that a great number of persons sentenced to corrective training would be in such places as, for example, Wakefield and Maidstone, but there were only 26 in Wakefield at 4th October last and only 24 in Maidstone.

The system of training aims at providing the maximum opportunities for the prisoners to exercise self-determination and responsibility. It comprises a long and arduous day's work "— so do all prisons—

Mr. Benson (Chesterfield)


Mr. Maude

We shall hear that it does, but I know what the hon. Member means and I agree with him. There are, I agree, too long hours alone in ordinary prisons.

Mr. Benson

At the moment it is difficult to get more than four hours industrial work in any prison.

Mr. Maude

The hon. Gentleman is quite right and I agree

—"with the provision of vocational training classes in skilled trades for suitable men, and an active educational programme in the evenings together with careful individual study and attention by the staff. There is more free association among the prisoners at meals and recreation, and less close supervision by the staff, fhan is possible in an ordinary prison with a heterogeneous population. Finally, the camps at Wakefield and Maidstone to which selected men are transferred in the latter part of the sentence, provide in quite open conditions with work on the land, the final test of responsibility and a bridge between the institutional conditions of the prison and normal life outside."

If I may pause in the reading from this document at this point, I wish to say what I said in so many words before. I am not criticising in any shape or form what has been done. It is to be encouraged in every possible way. We simply want to know exactly what does happen. In applying the provisions of Section 21, it is intended that offenders sentenced to corrective training, whose character and record are such that they would be selected for this form of training under the present system, will serve their sentences in one of these regional training prisons. But not all the men who receive this sentence will be such as can respond to and co-operate in these conditions of comparative trust and responsibility, and for these"— that is to say, I suppose, the probable failures— it is proposed to set aside one or more prisons as and when they can be made available and according to the need disclosed. The first such prison will be at Chelmsford. The methods of training here will be similar in principle to those in the regional prisons, with such modifications as are necessary to secure closer supervision and control. The final paragraph which appears to be important is this: An important distinction between corrective training and ordinary imprisonment is that men sentenced to corrective training will not be discharged absolutely when they have earned the appropriate remission of their sentence, but will be released on a conditional licence to the care of the Central After-Care Association. What I very much want to draw to the attention of the Home Secretary is that this inquiry is, I believe, one which will inevitably follow, of a series of inquiries, in order that the judiciary should be properly provided with the facts, though it cannot be forced to read or to listen to them. At any rate, the facts should be available in full. What I believe will happen unless the Secretary of State and the Lord Chancellor cooperate and introduce something new, is that this House inevitably will have to have a series of Adjournment Debates—I hope at lengthy intervals—in order that facilities can be given for information to be provided, not only for the judiciary, and I include such persons as chairmen of quarter sessions, but also that this House itself should be informed; and that to some extent the general public should understand what is happening.

In the year 1943, with the aid of the Prison Commissioners and the assistance of the then Home Secretary, I tried to forge a link by inviting a number of recorders to come to a meeting held under the chairmanship of the Recorder of London, Sir Gerald Dodson. I did not issue invitations to all of the recorders, because it was thought better to restrict it to the younger persons. The meeting was held in the Middle Temple buildings, kindly lent by the Benchers, and Mr. L. W. Fox, who is Chairman of the Prison Commission for England and Wales, talked to us privately—that was the essence of the proposal, that it was quite private—in order to answer questions about prison and Borstal; and in order to try to explain to us some of their difficulties which they believed we did not understand, and in order that we should try to explain to him some of our difficulties.

The matter was entirely private and confidential, and remained so until last night, when I spoke to Mr. Fox on the telephone and asked if he would object, after all these years, to my quoting the first part of what he said to us. He was good enough to say that he did not object, and that he considered it still to be quite accurate. I hope that the Home Secretary will 'consider it carefully after this Adjournment and see whether it would be possible to do something on the lines indicated by Mr. Fox, and for which we were striving so long ago as December, 1943. Mr. Fox said: You have been good enough to invite me to meet you today, as I understand it, because you want to know what we do in prisons and Borstal Institutions, and why we do it. May I say at once, on behalf of the Home Secretary and of the Prison Commissioners, that we are very grateful to you for creating this occasion. For myself, I am … stimulated … by the singular importance which it seems to me to bear … because I feel that we may today be taking the first step towards closing one of the greater gaps in our penal system. This gap, as I see it, may be described as the absence of any real integration of the purposes of the courts which pass sentence on the one hand, and the purposes of those who have to carry out the sentence on the other.

It may be that the shape and size of this gap, like the shape and size of the chamber of the House of Commons, are inherent in the nature of the Constitution. At any rate. I am not here today, as representing the Executive, even to hint at a trespass on the independence of the Judiciary in any part of its function.

The fact remains, and as we are speaking privately today I do not hesitate to put it bluntly, that the Courts may order an offender to be treated in this way, or that, with little knowledge of what that treatment entails in practice, while the appropriate organ of the Executive carries out the treatment with even less knowledge of what the Court had in mind in prescribing it. We are each concerned with one phase of the same process, but we do not necessarily approach that process from the same angle or even with the same intention.

But, the gap being given, it is still possible to throw bridges across it, even though they be reserved for one-way traffic. There is, at least, not the slightest reason why anyone whose duty may require him to pass sentence of detention in a prison or a Borstal Institution should not be fully acquainted with the way in which such sentences are carried out, and the effect they are likely to have on persons subjected to them. So much, I take it, is common ground amongst us. or we should not be here.

That such bridges as have existed so far have been both defective and little used is due, I think, to faults on both sides of the gap. On the one hand, although the Prison Commissioners have always been willing and indeed anxious to receive evidence of interest in their establishments from judges, recorders and magistrates, that evidence has in general been discouragingly slight. On the other hand, the pamphlet of information issued by the Home Office, under the heading of ' Notes on Imprisonment, etc.', has long been out of date and is now in many respects misleading. So far as concerns matters of detail touched on in that pamphlet, it may be more convenient if I leave them to be dealt with in subsequent discussion…."

Let me say that that pamphlet was of course revised long ago. The meeting which I am describing took place in January of 1943. I must say, as we have kept it private ever since and not talked about it, that I believe it is true that everyone present found it not merely immensely interesting, but really helpful. I am inclined to think that the Prison Commissioner himself would say without any doubt whatever, that he believes it to have been a success.

Six years have gone by and we have never done it again. In all the circumstances, it is a little difficult for any individual person, either on the side of the Prison Commissioners, from whom the initiative should not come, or for an individual barrister, who might be thought to be a nuisance, to make the initial step to get that sort of meeting going. I hope it will be thought wise by the Lord Chancellor and the Home Secretary to see whether it would not be possible to make available a meeting, which should be held completely and absolutely privately, at intervals of two years or less, or whenever it is thought necessary by reason of some alterations which the Prison Commissioners have achieved or of something which Parliament has done.

At these meetings, to which the judiciary, including recorders and the chairmen and deputy-chairmen of Quarter Sessions, should be invited with a most formal invitation, they will be able to hear from the Prison Commissioners in what way they are thought to be successful with their sentences and in what way it is suggested that they may perhaps improve them, by being instructed in a certain amount of follow-up information on the cases, and indeed, about a lot of things which they do not hear about at present and which some of us feel they should hear about.

In conclusion, may I draw attention to the fact that, in the very old days, when somebody was convicted, judges of the High Court went round to see that the sentence was carried out, and, if a man was sentenced to be hanged, they saw that he was hanged, or, if his sentence was that he had to be imprisoned, they saw that he was shut up in some noisome hole, and that was that. All that was altered later on, when people were handed over to be shut up in some less unattractive place. Nowadays, we have a mass of reports on cases put before us so that we may be able to do our duty, and we have to digest and correlate all this information in order to reach the final decision as to the amount of liberty of which the man is to be deprived. It is extremely difficult.

I believe that unless we have a very much stronger link between the Prison Commissioners and the judiciary, the time will come when, if we remain here, we shall find—and, if not, our successors will—that the system at present in use is hopeless. The proper thing to do is to have sentences which are indeterminate, so that the judges simply pass a sentence that a man is to be detained for a period, though not stating so many years, and for some other body to decide how long that particular man should be detained. At present, there is the difficulty of judges in making up their minds, and, when they have made them up, in fact, in 99 cases out of 100, the man does remain in prison for that period which is ordered by the judge, less the usual remission. It is a most serious matter, and one on which they should inform themselves and be informed as to what in fact does happen.

I have had an opportunity of talking to the Under-Secretary of State beforehand, and I do not think that any of this will be news to him, particularly what I have said in respect of the judiciary, and I would hope for some favourable consideration by the Home Secretary of a matter which, as the House will have seen from what I have said, has been in our minds since December, 1943. I believe there is more than a grain of common sense in what I have suggested, and that there is no revolutionary suggestion in it at all. In fact. I hope it is acceptable to the right hon. Gentleman, and that, indeed, it will be made possible.

12.4 p.m.

Mr. Benson (Chesterfield)

I think the House is very much indebted to the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) for raising this matter, which is one with which anyone who is interested in penal matters is very greatly concerned. The hon. and learned Gentleman is also to be congratulated on having chosen such an advantageous Friday.

There are two points with which I want to deal. The first is in regard to what is happening concerning corrective training, and the second is a point which has been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman with regard to the better instruction of the judiciary. At present we are in danger of finding the whole corrective training experiment, because it is nothing more. than an experiment, break down under the weight of the sentences passed.

Mr. Maude

Would the hon. Gentleman allow me? It is a pure courtesy to me, but it did occur to me that I would not like the House to think that I have suggested, for instance, that the High Court is negligent about informing itself. I am not criticising it in any way.

Mr. Benson

I believe that something like 900 sentences of corrective training have been passed in a few months. The Prison Commissioners are quite incapable in the present exceptional circumstances of dealing with more than a fraction of that number. The hon. and learned Gentleman has given figures of the numbers of these corrective trainees who are in open prisons. The Prison Commissioners have set aside Chelmsford for those who are allowed greater freedom, but the accommodation available there is for not more than 150 persons without overcrowding. There are 95 cells and 60 dormitories available as accommodation, so that leaves us with approximately 700 corrective trainees, who will have to be accommodated in our local prisons, where, as anybody who knows anything about local prisons will agree, any attempt at training is little more than a farce.

With regard to preventive detention prior to the Act of 1948, there were 32 detainees. Something like 300 sentences of preventive detention have been passed. Again, how the Prison Commissioners are going to handle them I do not know. There is another point here of equal importance. Corrective training can be given up to four years for offences which carry maximum sentences of very much less. The effect of giving a longer sentence based upon a man's record, and not upon the maximum sentence for the offence for which the penalty is being imposed, is very greatly to increase the already appalling congestion of our prison system. If we send a man to prison for four years, it is equivalent to sending four men to prison for one year each.

The purpose of this House in reorganising sentences of preventive detention was to deal with the dangerous criminal, the man who must be kept in custody because he was a serious menace to society. Whether that is going to happen or not I do not know, but there were, prior to the passing of the Act, 32 prisoners in Parkhurst serving sentences of preventive detention, and there was not a dangerous criminal in the lot.

By some queer aberation of the courts, the persons who came into preventive detention were nothing but little petty criminals who happened to have had a very large number of sentences. I know there was the difficulty of proving habitual criminality, but it is fantastic to use what is one of the most severe penalties of the law—that is, preventive detention—for long periods for petty criminals. For instance, one detainee was a man who pinches bags from railway stations. He did nothing else. That is not the type of petty criminal for whom corrective detention was designed.

There is another matter. Preventive detention, which may range—I speak from memory—from five to 15 years for a final offence which might normally carry a sentence of not more than four weeks in prison, is not imposed for the purpose of punishment. It is imposed solely for the purpose of safe custody. It would be outrageous to impose for a comparatively small offence five to 15 years' custody unless that custody was vastly different from the conditions of ordinary prison. But under the statutory rules passed by this House a short time ago, one finds that the Prison Commissioners have adopted what is generally known as the dual track system, that is, that a portion—usually a considerable length of time—of preventive detention has to be served in a local prison under local prison conditions. That means that for a comparatively trivial offence a man may find himself in such an appalling place as Strangeways Prison, Manchester, Pentonville, Wandsworth, or Armley Prison, Leeds, four of the worst prisons in England. Preventive detention is detention and not punishment. The dual track system is outrageous and ought to be altered.

The major point which the hon. and learned Member had in mind was the education of the judiciary. I hope I have interpreted him correctly.

Mr. Maude

I think it must be described as that.

Mr. Benson

I gather that he suggested that Mr. Fox was the man to educate them.

Mr. Maude

We are obviously working to try to get something sensible out of this. I am not suggesting that Mr. Fox, in particular, is the man to educate them, but so long as he is the Chairman of the Prison Commission I should say that we would welcome him very much indeed. At any rate, it would, I suppose, be somebody from the Prison Commission. That is all.

Mr. Benson

I was using Mr. Fox as the symbol of the Prison Commission. I have a very great respect for Mr. Fox, but I suggest that the hon. and learned Member's suggestion is very little more than that the blind should lead the blind. The trouble is that so far as sentencing and treatment is concerned we have no clear idea of how to approach the matter. There is not the evidence and data available, and there never will be until we really get down to the subject and try to apply what I think can be described as the scientific method to penology.

The hon. and learned Member referred to a certain amount of follow-up. Heaven knows that follow-up is the key to any increase in accurate knowledge with regard to sentencing and the treatment of delinquency. But what we require are some years of intensive research into the whole problem of sentencing and into the whole problem of the treatment of delinquents which must be based on very accurate information as to what happens, not merely to delinquents in bulk—because that does not help—but to specific types of delinquents, because different types respond to different forms of sentence in different ways.

There has been a certain amount of background research both in juvenile delinquency and adolescent delinquency, and now, in Wakefield Prison, into adult delinquency. But merely to investigate the background of delinquency, to know what type of individual is sent to prison, is completely useless. Only by a very carefully controlled system of follow-up can we know how a particular type responds to a particular sentence. At the present moment we do not know that.

I will give one example to show how utterly in the dark, not merely are the prison authorities, but all concerned. Take the effect of a Borstal sentence. I presume that when a court sends a boy to Borstal it will have such information as it can pick up from seeing the lad in court for an hour or two. It will have the police record, it will probably have the probation officer's report, and it will have the boy's history, and on that the court will pass a sentence of Borstal. The presumption is that when a court has passed that sentence, it has come to the conclusion that the boy will respond better to Borstal treatment than he would to probation or prison. The evidence before the court—I do not mean the evidence of guilt, but of the boy's character and background—is utterly inadequate to enable any court to form an opinion, because it has never been connected up with either the type of boy, the type of treatment, or the subsequent conduct.

Mr. Maude

What happens is that one does not generally see the lad for an hour or so; one generally sees him for a minute or two, because most Borstal cases are not tried out. The lad nearly always pleads guilty and, consequently, of course, one cannot hope in the few minutes that somebody is in court to come to a correct judgment from one's own observations of the lad, of his home life, and so on. But we believe that we now get extremely good reports from the Prison Commissioners, and that they really take infinite trouble in these cases. I have taken the trouble to ask local prison governors what pains are taken to assess the likelihood of the youth doing best in Borstal. My belief is that they do not want to take people into Borstal unless they genuinely believe that they are suitable for that treatment. I am not very worried about that aspect of it.

Mr. Benson

Perhaps I shall be able to worry the hon. and learned Gentleman.

Mr. Maude

I hope not.

Mr. Benson

Admittedly, the information and advice given by the local governor is the very best he can give. When a Borstal sentence is passed upon a youth he goes to Latchmere House allocation centre or to Wormwood Scrubs. For six weeks he is "vetted" psychologically, physically, and educationally in every conceivable way. There is a very careful investigation, and anybody who has been to Latchmere House will realise the very great pains taken to find out all about the lad. The dossier compiled in Latchmere House is sent to the Borstal institution to which the boy is allocated, and then for 18 months the governor and the housemaster—men who are very carefully chosen for their abilities and their experience—get to know the lad. They live with him, they work with him, and they do their best to assess the material of which he is made. After about 18 months they have to make a recommendation to the Commission as to the lad's suitability for release and whether he is likely to go straight or not.

Compare their information with the information before the court. They have the very full dossier from Latchmere House, and they have 18 months intimate experience of the lad; they have lived with him. I have asked a large number of prison governors, "How often are you right in your assessment as to whether the lad will go straight or not?" The first one I asked said, "What with the boy who ought to go right and who goes wrong, and what with the lad who insists on going right when he ought to go wrong, I would not put the accuracy of my assessment higher than 50 per cent." I said to him, "In other words, if you tossed up a penny you would be about as accurate?" He said, "Yes, it comes to that." I asked a number of Borstal governors this question, and I have never yet found one governor who would put the accuracy of his assessment higher than 60/40, which is precious little better than guesswork. The best advice any prison governor can give prior to sentence cannot be any better than the assessment of the Borstal governor, who has handled the lad for 18 months. If his estimate is valueless, what is the value of the advice which is given to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Exeter when sitting as a recorder by the best intentioned prison governor in the world?

What applies to Borstals applies to corrective training. We have had considerable experience of Borstals. It has been going on for over 41 years, and after 41 years, when a boy has served his Borstal sentence, if the man who has lived with him has not the foggiest idea what is going to happen when he goes outside, what likelihood is there either of the judiciary or the Prison Commission having the slightest idea of what type is likely to respond to training and what type is likely to be a failure? Neither the judiciary nor the Prison Commission can do anything but guess, and guess wildly. The reason for that is that we have not got the information or co-related know- ledge, which connects the particular background and character of the lad with a specific sentence and the result of that sentence, and we shall continue to go on guessing until we are able to have that information.

What really is needed is the application of a scientific system. I am sorry that I am taking so long, but this point is of fundamental importance. How different is the haphazard rule-of-thumb method adopted in penology compared with the science of medicine. The basis of medical science is correct diagnosis and an enormous amount of time on research, and the teaching in the medical hospitals is directed to diagnosis. With regard to treatment, let us take cancer for a moment. Millions of pounds are being poured out in every country to try to find a method for the treatment of cancer, and certain methods of treatment have evolved. For example, there is prostatic treatment. The treatment is tested very carefully, and most careful statistical records are kept while the follow-up goes on for years. Again, to take another example, say, the development of a new drug, experimental results are carefully considered and again a follow-up is the basis of the judgment of the value of the drug. It is along these lines that we should work in penology.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

Is not the hon. Gentleman doing some injustice to himself, to me and to others, some of whom are no longer in the House, who sat on the Committee dealing with the Criminal Justice Bill in 1938, when he suggests that every method that could be adopted has not been adopted to deal with this problem? Is not the analogy of cancer a somewhat unfortunate one, for despite all the money that has been spent on cancer research as well as the great expenditure of human effort, we are no nearer a cure than we were before, which goes to show that human fallibility comes into either problem?

Mr. Benson

The noble Lord is wrong in saying we are no nearer a cure for cancer. We know now a lot more in regard to cures in individual cases than we did. There is the prostatic treatment, radiology and the importance of early operations. I took the cancer analogy because of the length of time that had been taken. Let us take penicillin. We know how to use it. and the various sulphonamides through the application of scientific methods. In penology we never dealt with this question of research except for one small paragraph in the Criminal Justice Bills of 1938 and 1948. We allow the Home Secretary to spend a small amount of money on research. How much has been spent?

As a matter of fact, some research has been done in America exactly along lines I suggest. The most prominent names in that connection are Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon and Eleanor Gluect. They have blazed a trail, and they have shown by careful investigation of the background that they can connect the background characteristics with the sentence and the subsequent conduct of the delinquent. Until we have that here—and it is going to be a long time—and until we are prepared to apply the scientific method of research to delinquency; until we are prepared to find out how or what particular type of delinquent responds in a particular way to a particular type of sentence, it is no use pretending that either the judiciary or the Prison Commissioners are operating under any other system than hope or guesswork.

12.30 p.m.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

I did not regard the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) as in any way dull. Indeed, I found it intensely interesting. I have always had an admiration for the hon. and learned Gentleman's knowledge of the law, but when he failed to recognise Peterhead his knowledge of geography did not come up to the level of his knowledge of the law. The arguments he put forward are very interesting to those of us who represent Scottish constituencies, and so was the speech of the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson), to whom I believe the country owes a debt for the persistent attention he has given to what goes on in our prisons. There is a honourable tradition in this country which, I believe, began with Elizabeth Fry, and great credit due to this Parliament that in spite of the intention it has given to great economic issues, it has found so much time to devote to questions of criminal justice, both in Scotland and in England.

Only this week we have been discussing a Criminal Justice Bill for Scot- land, and I wish we could have had the advice of the hon. and learned Member, because he has brought to bear on this matter a very open and enlightened mind, such as we all need to apply in discussing crime and punishment. I am sure that the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) will, for once, agree with me when I say that we should make a great advance in treating convicted persons if we could abolish the word "Borstal." Although the significance of that word is very much more enlightened than was the case with the word "Newgate," people still associate it with someone who has got into the clutches of the law, and is regarded as absolutely hopeless from the point of view of being a respectable member of society.

I have known Borstal inmates, many of them, who have made good; I have known murderers who have made good. A young man who lived in my constituency was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for murder. In an English court he would have been hanged. While he was in Peterhead prison he saved the life of a warder. After he had served his term of imprisonment I tried to get him a job. I had the greatest difficulty in doing so, but I succeeded, and now I am glad to say that this man is living an irreproachable life. I think we should be mistaken in not keeping our eyes open to what goes on in our prisons and in thinking that everything is now perfect, although we have made so much progress in the way of reform. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter said that prisons were noisome holes. I say that they are not noisy enough.

Mr. Maude

May I correct the hon. Gentleman, as sometimes people read only a part of a Debate? I never described any existing prison as a "noisome hole." I said that in the old days many were noisome holes.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

I accept that. Today, there is much too little noise and far too much quiet. One of the troubles about our modern prisons is not that they are dirty holes but that they are so clean.

The hon. and learned Member referred to the stern duty of our judges. I wish he had been a member of the Scottish Grand Committee, to support me in a proposal for making our criminal legislation more humane. I hope there will be research and investigation into what we can do with prisoners who have been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. I believe that a prisoner should earn his keep. I do not believe that we are justified in spending so much money on prisoners unless, by working, they make a contribution in return. Productive industry should be encouraged in prisons, so that prisoners can do some useful work for the nation. I know that some money has been granted for research, and I think some of it ought to be spent in sending deputations of people who are interested in these matters—such as the hon. Member for Chesterfield, the hon. and learned Member for Exeter and the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton)—to other countries, to see what is being done there.

On Wednesday I referred in the House to Sweden, and their very advanced penal legislation. There is no death penalty there at all, and at the moment there are only four people in that country who are serving life sentences of imprisonment. I would like a delegation to be sent to Russia, to see what is being done there.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

It would not see, though.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

That is precisely where the hon. and gallant Gentleman is wrong.

Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)

They shoot them all there.

Mr. Maude

Could we not get back to corrective training?

Mr. Emrys Hughes

We should learn something of what is being done in other countries. In a prison in Moscow I saw people engaged in different kinds of work, learning to be useful in industry. I understand that that is precisely what the hon. and learned Member wants. We have much to learn from the U.S.S.R. in this respect. There, although certain kinds of penal treatment are cruel and the treatment of political prisoners is bad, we can learn from their treatment of those who have offended against the social laws of the community. I hope the Under-Secretary will give careful consideration to the arguments which have been adduced today, and that there will be that further progress towards the enlightened treatment of prisoners which is the hall mark of whether or not a community is civilised.

12.39 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

I would like to take this opportunity of saying a few words about corrective training, and follow up the remarks of the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I do not believe that we shall ever get a perfect form of corrective training unless we get rid of the word "Borstal." In the Scottish Grand Committee we argued for some time with the Secretary of State for Scotland as to whether or not this word should be eliminated from our judicial system. The Secretary of State said he could not find a way out of the difficulty.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and gallant Gentleman must not now discuss an Amendment that was put down on the Report stage of a Bill and which I did not select. That involves legislation, and we must not discuss now anything involving legislation.

Sir T. Moore

I bow to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker. I was only going to point out that the reason why our general appeal on this particular question was refused was that it would clash with the present English criminal justice code and the Criminal Justice Act, in as much as the word is used in England and in the English Act, and so must be used in Scotland. I think you will agree, Sir, that we Scottish Members cannot tolerate—I see you are going to stop me.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. and gallant Gentleman is referring to something that happened in Committee, and it involves legislation, and that is out of Order now.

Sir T. Moore

Well, I think I have, perhaps, made a point which will sink into the mind of the Under-Secretary of State who is to reply to the Debate, and I hope that when an opportunity occurs in the future this question can be reconsidered, and a solution to it found.

12.41 p.m.

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

We have had an extremely interesting Debate. I think it is a very useful one, and I hope I may be able to contribute a little more information which will add to its usefulness. I shall confine myself to the question that I understood we were discussing, namely, preventive detention and corrective training. I would say to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) and to the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) that whatever one's view may be about the use of the word "Borstal" it cannot affect the problem of corrective training in the sense that it is used in the Criminal Justice Act, because the two systems, corrective training and Borstal, are, in fact, mutually exclusive on the ground of age.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

May I ask the hon. Gentleman one question? Is it not possible to alter this word "Borstal" not by legislation but administratively?

Mr. Younger

If the House will allow me, I shall not answer that. I have quite enough to say if I stick to the question of preventive detention and corrective training. It is very useful that this matter should have been raised, because it may very well be that there are mis-conceptions in various quarters about what is involved, because, after all, this is a very new system. Although it was incorporated in the Criminal Justice Act it was begun, in fact, only in April this year, and anything I may say can scarcely be based upon experience of the working of it, since experience has been really too short to enable us in any authoritative manner to vary the views which were expressed at the time when it was put forward when the Criminal Justice Act was going through Parliament.

Before the system actually came into effect information was circulated to all courts concerned in the form, firstly, of statutory rules, which are fairly explanatory on both topics, and in the form of a circular from which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) quoted. So far our experience is not yet sufficiently great to enable us to vary them in any great particular.

I think I may divide the subject up, first, into the nature of the treatment, although I shall not say very much on that because the hon. and learned Gentleman read very largely from the circular explaining what this corrective training involves, and there is not so far very much to add to that subject.

Secondly, the House will, I think, be interested to know how far we are, in fact, able to implement this system and this training at the present moment. Finally, I shall say a word on the question of disseminating to courts and others who may be concerned the necessary knowledge about the matter.

First let me say one word as to preventive detention. The hon. and learned Gentleman passed it over fairly rapidly and my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) spent more time upon it. I think the House appreciates that this is a very long sentence ranging from five to 14 years, and that, in the words of the Act, it is a sentence which is imposed when it is considered that … it is expedient for the protection of the public that he "— that is, the offender— should be detained in custody for a substantial time. It is essentially a preventive measure, although one tries, of course, to incorporate as much training and reformative treatment as one possibly can.

As the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Exeter said, in October persons who had been given this sentence, numbering something over 300, were scattered among many prisons. That is because, as the statutory rules show, the initial stage of preventive detention is served in local prisons. It has been thought best, in giving long sentences of this kind, to try to split them up. The sentence starts in a local prison. Then, after anything from a year to two years, a prisoner is passed on to a central prison. The intention is that it should be Park-hurst.

Finally, no more than 12 months before the date for release, it is proposed that the prisoners who are considered suitable for such treatment should undergo a course of re-adaptation for civil life which would probably have to be served at some new establishment which does not yet exist. But, of course, the House will realise that as we only began in April this year, and as the sentences are necessarily of a minimum duration of five years, this is not one of the matters which is considered of first urgency, and it will have to be settled in the future, and a solution reached when the time comes.

I do not think I need say any more about that at the present moment, and I should like to come on to corrective training. The purpose of this was, of course, principally to enable the courts to sentence somebody who had the necessary number of previous convictions, to a period which would be long enough to enable the Prison Commissioners to give him some kind of constructive training, instead of, as in the past, being compelled simply to sentence him for the particular offence which, was before them at the moment, and, therefore, to sentence him probably to a term of imprisonment too short to allow of any constructive training to be given. The hon. and learned Gentleman did refer, I think, to somebody else's having referred to this system of corrective training as being a sort of extended Borstal.

Mr. Maude

The Lord Chief Justice.

Mr. Younger

It is true, of course, that there must be a good deal in common between different systems of detention, all of which have as their object fairly long term training. In that sense there is a considerable degree of comparison, but I think it is right that I should remark that it is, after all, a prison sentence, and it is probably more comparable to the type of prison sentence which the prisoner serves—certain types of prisoner—in the regional training centres, Wakefield and Maidstone, than it is comparable to a Borstal training sentence.

As the House knows, in these regional training centres, Wakefield and Maidstone, and also at Sudbury, and at the open camps attached to the training prisons, a system of what is in effect corrective training has been in force for some time, but the type of person who would now be likely to receive a sentence of corrective training, would have been very unlikely to be considered eligible for Wakefield. Training in the regional centres is, I gather, reserved as far as practicable, as to 60 per cent. for star prisoners who are undergoing a first sentence, and the remaining 40 per cent. for selected prisoners who, though they have been in prison before, are nevertheless considered to be of a type not to contaminate first offenders.

Many of those who are sentenced to the new form of corrective training are people with a considerable number of convictions, people who are far gone on the road of crime, and who would not in the past have been considered suitable for Wakefield. Some of them, no doubt, will be, and we hope that a number of them will serve their sentences of corrective training in the regional training prisons, but there are bound to be a very considerable number for whom separate provision has to be made.

The object of the training is to give a sense of responsibility, and the main methods used for that are, first, a hard day's work, with the satisfaction that comes from it; and a particular effort is made to make it useful work. That has a bearing on the point made by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire. I appreciate the point that he makes. The question of labour in any penal system is a very important one. It is important that, if possible, it should be useful labour, because otherwise it does not contribute much to the self-respect of the man who is doing the work. A special effort is made to give these men useful work, so far as that is possible. They also get vocational training and facilities for education superior to what they would get in an ordinary local prison. Moreover, they get a good deal more free association at meal times and at times of recreation.

Mr. Maude

I should like to ask about that. My recollection of the last time I went to a local prison at meal time—that is to say, the main meal of the day—is that the prisoners were associating absolutely freely. They were allowed to talk and to associate, sitting at long tables. Not for the first month, of course, but after that there was this free association. What is the difference in these new places?

Mr. Younger

I am afraid I cannot answer in detail what is being done in any particular prison, but my impression is that, except in the training prisons and under this system of corrective training, it is only selected classes of prisoners within the prison who would have association of that kind. There are considerable variations in the degree of association, but my impression is that—I am not now speaking authoritatively, because I have not checked this—it would be perhaps only one wing of the prison, where there were star prisoners for instance, which would have that degree of association. I think it would not be general.

I was about to say, finally, as regards the nature of the training, that perhaps the most important single feature of it is that a very real attempt is made to give the man personal attention, to get to the root of the trouble which has led him into a course of crime, and if possible to set it right—particularly, for instance, in helping him to straighten out domestic troubles, which are so often at the bottom of these difficulties. To that end, in corrective training establishments there are, and we hope there will continue to be, a larger number of senior supervisory officials than there can be in the ordinary prison. For instance, in Chelmsford Prison there is a governor and three deputy governors, each of whom supervises particularly one group of prisoners, and the groups are sufficiently small to enable the deputy governors really to get to know the men under their care. I think that that, possibly more than any other feature of the training, is likely to lead in the long run to reform.

Now I come to the question of how far we are at the moment able to implement this form of training. With a total prison population somewhere around the 20,000 mark, with something like 2,000 prisoners still sleeping three in a cell in many prisons, with the shortage of prison staff, and with the great difficulty prison governors find—as other people find—of expanding because of the difficulty of getting any new people, it must be appreciated that in trying to devise a new and specialised form of treatment the Prison Commissioners were up against an exceedingly difficult task.

The latest figure of the numbers who have received this sentence since the system began is 1,028 men and 48 women. Now, as there was virtually no spare space anywhere within the prisons at the time this new system was introduced, it was not to be expected that the Prison Commissioners could immediately make completely suitable provision for the large number of people who have been sentenced to this particular type of training.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

The congestion in prisons simply does not apply to Scotland. In Scotland, instead of there being three people to one cell there are three cells to one prisoner.

Mr. Younger

I should have thought that by now my hon. Friend would have appreciated that the Home Office is not responsible in this respect for Scotland. But if he needs to be told it, I tell him it again. I am talking about conditions in England, which are those that have been put to me in the course of the Debate.

For those 1,028 men and 48 women provision made was as follows. First, I deal with the men. Chelmsford Prison, which can hold 268 people—and although my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) may think that is too many, the prison is not overcrowded, certainly by the standards to which we have unfortunately become accustomed; it is less overcrowded than many other establishments—was ready for 268 people at the time the system was introduced. Of course, the Prison Commissioners could not know with any accuracy how many would be sentenced to that form of training. Since then, two wings at Liverpool Prison, accounting for 221 persons, and one wing at Wormwood Scrubs, accounting for 340 persons, have been brought into use for this purpose.

Mr. Maude

Fully occupied?

Mr. Younger

Yes. That makes a total of 829, as against the 1,028 who have been sentenced. There is now one other wing at Wormwood Scrubs which it is hoped to add to the accommodation, and although I have not before me the figure of the accommodation it would hold, I imagine it would account for the present balance, leaving out of account further men who may be sentenced to this form of training in the meantime. That accommodation will be made available as soon as it is possible to bring into operation another establishment, an open camp, which it is hoped will relieve the present congestion.

It is hoped that perhaps in the course of the next six months we may be able to absorb the total number of those who are serving this type of sentence in prisons or wings of prisons specially adapted for the purpose. A limited number have been sent to regional training prisons, where of course they get the same treatment, at Wakefield and Maidstone. It must be recognised that it will always be a rather limited number of persons receiving this sentence who are in fact suitable to receive training along with the star prisoners at Wakefield and Maidstone, but I think it will not be long before we shall be able very greatly to increase the number who go there.

In addition, there is an allocation centre at Reading, which has already been referred to, which we hope to have operating within a week or a fortnight from now. That will be for allocating and classifying the prisoners with a view to sending them to the most advantageous place. That should have the effect of greatly reducing the length of the initial period during which at the present time they unfortunately tend to be in local prisons. My information is that the worst cases have been kept as long as five months, but that in no case has it been worse than that. Of course, in many cases, as I know from having myself recently visited Chelmsford, they go to a special prison like Chelmsford within a few days, or at any rate weeks. However, it has been as bad as four to five months in the worst cases.

As far as the women are concerned, I need only say that there is a wing of Holloway Prison available for them, and those who are suitable for open training go, if so selected, to Askham Grange. I do not think the accommodation problem on that side is very acute. I hope the House will therefore appreciate that, while there are very great difficulties, and while it is true that some of those sentenced to corrective training have not in fact received it in the first month or two after sentence, the period during which they do not receive it has never been very long, and we are hoping to reduce and almost eliminate it within the next six months.

I turn finally to the question of the dissemination of knowledge about this. We are anxious to give the courts every help we possibly can. Inevitably, any guidance that can be given by the Prison Commissioners and by the Home Office must, to some extent, wait upon experience, and as none of these people has been undergoing this treatment for more than six months it is probably premature even to form a final opinion as to whether some of those who are given this form of sentence are unsuitable for it. There are certainly some who are not responding freely to it, and who may turn out to be unsuitable; though, of course, even then it does not follow that on the information which was available to the court it was in any way unreasonable for the court to have to decide to give this form of sentence. I think we mostly realise that there is what the hon. and learned Member referred to as a gap—I think he was quoting Mr. Fox—in our penal system. I certainly appreciate very much the great difficulty that faces any court, with the information which is made available to it, in reaching the right conclusion.

From the Home Office point of view we have to remember that sentencing still is, and no doubt will remain, entirely within the province of the courts, and that all that we can do, or that any of the officials concerned in the treatment of offenders can do. is to submit reports and information, and, if asked, to give advice and to make recommendations. It is with the courts that the final judgment and final decision lie. We are anxious that every possible facility that the judiciary wish to have available should be so. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Maude) mentioned conferences which had been held in 1943, and he suggested that that system ought to be developed. I know of no objection in principle to that. He showed his awareness of some of the difficulties involved when he said that the initiative for them should not come from the Prison Commissioners.

This is a matter which I shall certainly report to my right hon. Friend as having been raised here. We can consider whether anything along these lines can be arranged. Responsibility for sentencing lying with the judiciary, it is for the judiciary to say whether they feel that they are not getting sufficient information and whether they would wish to get more. In that case. I think that they would meet with an exceedingly ready response. I think it is the case that in recent years most members of the judiciary have taken an increasing interest in what goes on after sentence has been passed. There has been an increased number of the judiciary at all levels visiting all forms of penal establishment. I cannot say more about that point now. but I am with the hon. and learned Gentleman in spirit in believing that the closer the contact there is between the judiciary and those who have to administer the sentences the better.

I would make one point which bears upon what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield about research. It is clear that in the present state of science the classification of human beings is not as yet an exact science. Whether it ever will be an exact science one does not know. A good deal of progress has been made, and a great deal more is known by those who seek to classify human beings than was known 10 years or 20 years ago.

Mr. Benson

Does the hon. Gentleman really think that anything more is known on that subject than was known 20 years ago?

Mr. Younger

I thought that my hon Friend was rather over-stating his case about the chancy nature of the judgments that are made and the sentences that are passed. It is true that there are a great number of failures, and that some people who are sentenced to Borstal training do not in the end turn out to have responded to it, but quite a considerable proportion of those who receive that training, and we hope of those who will now receive corrective training, do not get into trouble again, in the sense of having further convictions, within quite a long period.

I am told that those who are concerned in the Borstal system claim that something approaching 70 per cent. of those who receive the full training get no more than one conviction in the courts within a period of five years after their release. I think there was a time during the war when the figure for that period would have been much smaller than that, and when a large number of people left Borstal earlier without having had the full Borstal training.

Mr. Benson

I was not suggesting that Borstal does not produce good results in some cases. I was trying to say that when the Borstal sentence has been served our ignorance of its effect is so great that even the Governor of Borstal could not give anything but a guess as to which boy would respond well and which would respond badly to the treatment.

Mr. Younger

I must leave the matte; to my hon. Friend to fight it out with the social workers and psychiatrists who study the effect of the training upon the various classes of people. I should have thought that the people engaged in this type of work would claim that great progress has been made, although the position is very far from being perfect.

My hon. Friend said that we have not had sufficient research in the past into the results of sentences, by cases being followed right through, or upon a statistical basis, to see what has happened throughout the whole penal system. Of course, I agree with him. I can say that we are very seriously considering in the Home Office at the present moment what we can do to improve, both on the statistical side and on the side of the case work, following through the individual cases from the court to the training and to the results of the training.

This is a very vague and indeterminate subject. It lends itself much less readily to scientific research than, say, a physical ailment. While I believe that a scientific method can be applied to this problem, my hon. Friends will appreciate that we have to avoid, particularly at this time, launching out large and expensive schemes of research unless we are quite satisfied that we have found a sphere of research sufficiently definite to be able to promise us some kind of result. It is easy to find oneself in the position of collecting innumerable people's opinions differing from each other, but it is not easy to define a sphere of research. We are trying to improve our criminal statistics. I believe that these things are very important.

I hope that the House will get the impression from this Debate that this is a valuable new experiment, on the results of which it is still much too early to pronounce, and that the Prison Commissioners have, on the whole, done a very creditable job in finding accommodation within a period which is still much under a year for this large number of people who have been sentenced. It was quite impossible for anyone to say whether the number of persons so sentenced would be 200, or 500, or, as it has turned out to be, 1,000. Already we have a large number of them undergoing training in three prisons or wings of prisons which were not designed for the purpose. The training is certainly designed for the purpose although unfortunately the buildings were not, but the result is very much to the credit of the Prison Commissioners.

1.8 p.m.

Earl Winterton (Horsham)

In taking part in this Debate I do not feel qualified to express an opinion on the original point raised by my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Maude), more especially as I was unfortunately called out of the Chamber by an important telegram in the middle of his speech. I want to make three observations. We have had a very good speech from the Under-Secretary, especially the last part of it. He has given a most effective answer to the hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson), who has allowed his most sincere enthusiasm in the cause of penological reform to overstep the bounds of what is reasonable.

The fact is that there has been a long and continuing process of inquiry into the reasons for misdemeanour. Under successive Home Secretaries, the Home Office can claim to have as high a position in that regard as any Minister of the Interior in any other country. I said in a friendly interruption of the hon. Member for Chesterfield that his analogy with cancer could not have been more unfortunate. In spite of everything that has been done to investigate that disease, cases of cancer are increasing every year. Speaking to doctors—many of us have intimate friends among doctors—we realise that, after all that has been done, the medical profession are almost as much in the dark as ever they were. It was not, therefore, a very fortunate analogy.

I think it is a credit to this House as an institution that, certainly in recent years, on the subject of our penal system generally and on the subject of the criminal law, there is practically no division of opinion between the parties. There was a controversy, to which I do not wish to revert now, on the subject of the penalty for murder, but, speaking generally there are no party differences. That is a good thing from the point of view of the position of this country and this House; we can say to the world that, while no doubt there are many defects still to be made good, on the whole we have no reason to be ashamed of the criminal justice system of this country. That is putting it mildly; we have reason to be proud of it.

I cannot refrain from calling attention to two matters merely in order to emphasise them. I think that the Under-Secretary will not dissent when I say that the seriousness of the position about the overcrowding of prisons cannot be exaggerated. I think that my hon. and learned Friends will agree with me that in the whole of our history—certainly in the last 70 years—there has never been such a condition of overcrowding. I have no doubt that the Home Office realise the immense importance of improving the position in spite of the difficulties of the times.

The other matter which I should like to mention—it would be inappropriate to call attention to it at any length on this occasion—is the difficulty of recruitment for the prison service and certain grievances from which the prison service suffers. When I was the assistant Minister at the Home Office in 1937, in connection with the Criminal Justice Bill which was then in preparation, I visited a number of prisons, and I should like to testify here and now that I was immensely impressed by the quality of the warder service, both male and female. The warders are doing an extremely difficult, arduous, embarrassing and, in many cases, dangerous life task exceedingly well. Through the courtesy of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown), who is connected with the Prison Warders' Association, I addressed the annual meeting of that organisation a year ago.

I hope that the two matters of the overcrowding of the prisons and the doubts, to put it no higher than that, which exist in the minds of many members of the prison service about their present and future position in regard to emoluments and other things, will be removed. It is only fair to say that this is no new question. A civil servant occupying a very high official position at the Home Office at the time I was occupying another official post—it would be most improper for me to mention his name—told me 10 years ago that he was very disturbed at the pay and emoluments of the prison service compared with similar employment under the Crown elsewhere. I hope it will be possible for the Government to announce before many months are out that these two very serious difficulties have at any rate been partially overcome.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Fourteen Minutes past One o'Clock.