§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (Command Paper No. 247).It is now a little over a year since we received the Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution. I do not think, on reflection, that the interval that has elapsed between the publication of the Report and this debate is a matter for regret. In fact, it may have been useful.
One of the most important services rendered by Sir John Wolfenden and his colleagues was to put before us a Report which sets out the issues involved in these subjects clearly, cogently and briefly. It has since been widely read and has stimulated discussion on topics which many people have so far been tempted to ignore. We now have an opportunity of considering the Committee's Report as well as the comments that have been made upon it since that Committee reported to us.
I should like, first, to express my gratitude, and I am sure that of the House of Commons, to the Committee and especially to Sir John Wolfenden. They spent much time, a very considerable time, studying these problems and distilling from the mass of evidence a Report which has provoked much talk and discussion. We now have before us not only the Report, but a considerable degree of evidence of public opinion about it. I realise that it is not altogether easy to consider both parts of this Report in one debate. In fact, I think it can now be said that the two parts of the Report have not very much to do with one another.
The difficulty has been that it is always hard to find Parliamentary time for such a discussion. I suggest that we just make the best use of our time, on the understanding that it is very difficult for me to cover so broad a subject shortly and that it will be just as difficult for every other hon. Member to do so as well. I will attempt to do so as succinctly as I can, 366 borrowing something, if I may, of the style of the Wolfenden Report's authors.
The Committee was asked in its terms of reference to consider the law and offences against the law. It is most important, at the outset, to make it clear, because this eliminates a large sphere from the debate, that questions of theology and morals were outside the Committee's terms of reference. Our main concern in considering the Report will be to decide whether its recommendations as to changes in the law are to be accepted.
Of course, Parliament has a dual function, being partly a deliberative and partly a legislative assembly. As a deliberative assembly we have, alas not frequently enough, an opportunity to consider the general health of the community and what is conducive to the greatest good, but when we do have such an opportunity our discussions should, and, indeed, sometimes do, both represent and influence opinion in the community. In our capacity as a legislative assembly we have to consider more specifically whether the law requires amendment and, if so, in what way.
The subjects considered by the Committee, as I think it fully realised in its Report, raise in the most acute form one of the perennial dilemmas of organised society. That is, how far the law and the compulsion of the law should seek to regulate the behaviour of individuals. I think we all agree that there is a sphere of conduct in which the behaviour of individuals must be controlled by the sanctions of the law, in their own interests, in the interests of others, and in the interests of society at large. I think it would be agreed that there is a sphere which it is proper to leave to the dictates of the individual conscience; I mean the individual and the individual conscience as fortified by the teachings of religion and the generally accepted standards of the society in which we live.
Where dispute arises is in defining the limits of those two spheres. To make the matter more simple, I would remind the House of the three postulates on which the Committee worked. The Committee stated that in its view the function of the law in regard to sexual behaviour was threefold: first, to preserve public order and decency secondly, to protect the 367 citizen from what is offensive and injurious; and, thirdly, to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption. These seem to me to be well stated and admirable principles, and we should at the outset examine them.
I personally have no difficulty in assenting to the first, which is that the law should be so framed or held, as it is, as to preserve public order and decency. I should have thought—I hope I am not giving a wrong impression—that there is agreement that the law should provide a safeguard against exploitation and corruption. It is when we come to the second function, as defined by the Committee, namely, the protection of the citizen from what is offensive and injurious, that we have the greatest difficulty and have to make up our minds. That is why I am trying to be as clear as I can and to bring that out at the very beginning of my remarks.
That raises but does not answer the fundamental question: what is offensive and what is injurious? What kinds of conduct, the Committee asked, are so contrary to the public good that the law ought to intervene in its function as the guardian of that public good? It is really on the answer to that question, which I took from the Committee's Report, that the discussion on the Committee's recommendations on homosexual conduct has turned. Is such conduct between consenting adults in private injurious to society, or is it a matter entirely for the private consciences of the parties concerned?
To get a proper answer to that question one needs to look back a little at history, but if we do we see that the questions of homosexuality and prostitution have been with us in the world, in every nation, since the beginning of time and that widely different views about homosexual conduct have been taken in different ages and in different societies.
In ancient Greece, for example, at times this practice was accepted and even admired. In some military societies or castes it has been cultivated as a way of life which, it has been alleged, has given cohesion to the group. In other societies, including those permeated by the Christian ethic, it has been abhorred as an unmentionable evil and visited with the severest penalties.
368 So, if we look back we get a variety of testimony. If we look at the past of this country we find that the extreme form of homosexual conduct has been condemned by the criminal law for more than 400 years. This derived originally from the ecclesiastical law, but is now our statute law. Lesser forms arise, in particular from the amendment moved by Labouchere, seventy years ago, which now forms Section 13 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956. Therefore, in considering this matter the House must realise that these are the facts and the point from which we must start is inescapable.
So much for the facts. The Committee, when trying to give us its views, drew a sharp and valid distinction between sin and crime. Applying the definition of the function of the criminal law, which I have already quoted, the Committee felt that while private homosexual conduct between consenting adults might be sin, and was commonly so regarded, it was not, or rather ought not, to be crime. I go on for a moment with the Committee's views. The Committee argued that to carry the criminal law beyond its proper sphere is to undermine the moral responsibility of the individual. The Archbishop of Canterbury in another place, and the Church Assembly by a majority, have emphasised the vital importance of maintaining the fundamental right of a man to decide on his own moral code, even to his own hurt.
No one who has studied the Report and the debate upon it in another place could fail, I think, to be impressed by the force of the argument that if conduct which is morally wrong is not—I say not—injurious to society, then it ought to be left to the operation of the individual conscience. I think that we should all agree that in a free society there are few things more important than to sustain the sense of individual responsibility, whether it be civic responsibility or responsibility for private conduct. But this argument can be accepted as a reason for leaving homosexual conduct to the private conscience only if one is convinced that society will not be harmed by so doing. That is a proposition which many people, after giving full weight to the Committee's arguments and to the views of the Churches, still find great difficulty in accepting.
369 Let us examine this further, because the Committee's case was very strongly put and, as we all know from the public Press, it received a wide measure of support among certain sections. Let us look at the other side. Can we be certain that homosexual conduct between consenting adults is not a source of harm to others The following arguments appeal, at this time, to many. The first one which strikes me is this; that a homosexual group—I understand that there are such groups—may tend to draw in and corrupt those who are bisexual by nature and capable of living normal lives, but are led by curiosity, weakness, or, in some cases, purely mercenary motives, into homosexual society.
While it may be argued that escape from such a group is easier if its activities are not illegal, it is equally arguable that resistance to its attraction is stronger in the first place if its activities are illegal as well as immoral. So we are not starting from the very beginning with an absolutely clean start. If we were drawing up a code for the first colonists of the moon, should we make this kind of offence a criminal offence? I am in some doubt whether we might or might not. What we have to decide here and now is: shall we remove the existing prohibitions upon it with all the consequences of so doing?
Here, I think, we come nearest to a correct diagnosis of the present position. I think that we ought to look ahead to the best approach to the future. An impression has undoubtedly gained ground—which I do not think is fair to the Wolfenden Committee—that the Committee desired to legalise homosexual conduct. That gives a sort of impression that it wished to make it easier. In fact, what the members of the Committee wished to do was to alter the law, not expressly to encourage or legalise such practices, but to remove them, like adultery and other sins, from the realm of the law. In my opinion, education and time are needed to bring people along to understand this point of view.
There is no doubt from the inquiries and researches I have made that many hon. Members and many people outside would at present misunderstand the removal of the prohibition as implying, if not approval, at least condonation by the legislature of homosexual conduct. We 370 have to reflect that many people who are outside the influence of religion find no other basis for their notions of right and wrong but in the criminal law. Can we be sure that if we removed the support of the criminal law from these people they would find any other support?
At any rate, what is clear, after taking this time to think it over and to receive all the impressions and consider the perplexities of this problem, is that there is at present a very large section of the population who strongly repudiate homosexual conduct and whose moral sense would be offended by an alteration of the law which would seem to imply approval or tolerance of what they regard as a great social evil. Therefore, the considerations I have indicated satisfy the Government that they would not be justified at present, on the basis of opinions expressed so far, in proposing legislation to carry out the recommendations of the Committee.
Having said that, I want also to add that I say it with full knowledge that much human suffering derives from the operation of the present law. It provides scope for the blackmailer, and there are no more convincing portions of the Committee's Report than those which refer to the danger of blackmail and the opportunities given to the blackmailer—and also to the retrospective effect of evidence given by somebody who wishes to blackmail somebody else, and the difficulty of not going back sometimes for years in a case of this sort.
It also so often results in prison sentences which make the victim's last state worse than his first. My own personal experience of visits to prisons which have in them those who have committed this type of what is called crime shows how very unsuitable in many cases a prison sentence is for the redemption of a person of this sort. I need not go into details, but in some circumstances such treatment could hardly be regarded as more unsatisfactory.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Would the right hon. Gentleman explain why he does not regard that last argument as conclusive?
§ Mr. Butler
I do not regard it as conclusive because I do not think we have yet with us a general sense of opinion which would regard it as right, for the reasons I have given, to alter the criminal 371 law in the sense suggested by the Committee. General opinion feels that it would be doing too much to condone a practice which so many people abhor.
Nevertheless, I should not have wished to make this speech had I not acknowledged that these difficulties are present, and I should like to draw the attention of the hon. Member, who has often taken part in our discussions on matters of this sort, to the fact that I said that I was thinking not only of the present but also of the best approach to the future. One purpose which I want the debate to achieve is the acceptance of a Motion taking note of the Committee's findings which will give the opportunity to state the Government's immediate intention; because I do not exclude the opportunity of hon. Members, quite rightly, expressing their own opinion in this debate and thereby assisting to form public opinion along the best possible path for the future. I honestly do not think that even some members of the Committee would expect us to go any further on this occasion.
I hope that the debate will do something to educate opinion towards the type of reform which may be generally accepted. Of one thing I am sure—that in this field, as in many others, we need more knowledge. We know little of the causes or extent of homosexual conduct, and in the absence of knowledge we cannot adequately judge the consequences of any action we might take.
The Committee examined the problem in the light of information available to it and drew attention to the need for research, and I am hopeful of making arrangements to meet this end. The only reservation I have to make concerns the size of the demand of other forms of research, the fact that we have just started a great variety of research within the Home Office and the capacity for it, both medical and sociological, and the other pressing important problems which arise. I will, however, undertake to follow up the Committee's desire in this respect.
I should like now to turn to the second part of the Wolfenden Committee's remit. That deals with prostitution. Here, also, although the Committee was concerned only with the law, we are bound to consider the social problem behind it and here again a great deal of thought has 372 been given to the Committee's findings. I think that we in the House are conscious of the gulf which separates what we wish to do and what we can achieve. Those who practise the art of government are often painfully aware that it is only the art of what is possible.
Discussion on the Committee's recommendations on homosexuality have, I think, disclosed deep disagreement upon what it is desirable to do. On prostitution the position is different. There is probably little disagreement on what is desirable; the question is: what is possible? I think that most of us would agree that prostitution is a trade which we should like our country to be without, but we should also agree with the Committee thatuntil education and the moral sense of the community bring about a change of attitude to the fact of prostitution, the law by itself cannot do so.That does not mean that the law should make no contribution to the redemption of the individual prostitute. We may accept for the time, as other nations and civilisations have done right through history, the fact of prostitution, but each girl who becomes a prostitute, with all that entails of eventual degradation and misery, is a reproach to our society. In my approach to this subject I can never forget the admirable and devoted work done by my own kinswoman, Josephine Butler. Since her time very much has changed. In considering these problems, however, I have been much exercised by reading the account of her life's work and influence.
For example, things are very different from her day, if we take the evidence of the Committee. The Committee was in no doubt that nowadays prostitution is a way of life deliberately chosen because it suits a particular woman's personality and gives her both freedom from irksome routine and the means of earning much more that she would earn in regular employment. It is no longer a way of life which a woman adopts because no other is open to her, and the opportunities for rescuing women from it are consequently limited.
All this is quite different from what happened in the time of Josephine Butler, when the girls she used to save were the poorest creatures of society, very often forced into prostitution to earn sufficient to keep themselves alive. That is an 373 entirely different picture from that which we have today. All our reports from the different areas where prostitution is rife show us that that does not apply in respect of the girls who take to prostitution today. I raise this matter because I want to ask this very difficult question: if we are to indulge in legislation, what form shall that legislation take? It may well have to take a form which would not entirely have pleased Josephine Butler, who took such a great part in this matter in the last century.
Nevertheless, the spirit which animated her must be kept alive. I am convinced that we have a duty, particularly with the young, to bring every means of redemption to bear before prostitution becomes a settled habit, and the law should, as far as possible, assist towards this end, although it cannot itself achieve it.
As the Wolfenden Committee said, we should take every legitimate chance of dissuading girls from adopting a life of prostitution by advice and help rather than by involving them in the machinery of the law. If they are warned at an early stage—and we have a lot to learn from the Scottish practice in this respect—and perhaps put in touch with one of the voluntary organisations which do such valuable work, they might turn hack before they have accepted prostitution as a settled way of life. If, despite the warnings and advice—which, as I say, we have discussed with police authorities and with our colleagues from Scotland—a girl continues on this path and has to he brought before the courts, everything possible should be done at that stage to see that she receives all the assistance which can be provided by the probation service and the other social services available. She should be given every encouragement and practical help to abandon the life before she becomes accustomed to it. As a preface, I would say, that we propose to practise every art of redemption which we can practise in dealing with this problem.
I come now to what the law can achieve. The criticism of the Wolfenden Committee which I have heard and which I first felt when I read its Report was that it was so severely practical a document that it hardly introduced morals at all. That is partly due to the terms of reference which the Committee was 374 asked to consider. The Committee believed that the function of the law in this field was to clean up the streets and to prevent exploitation. Its principal recommendation was that the law relating to street offences should be reformulated broadly in three ways—first, to eliminate the requirement to establish annoyance.
I see from a leading article in The Times today some feeling that the residents in the streets should still have the opportunity of helping to prove annoyance, but in my view we should accept the findings of the Wolfenden Committee in this respect, for the reason which the Committee set out in paragraph 255:In our view both loitering and importuning for the purpose of prostitution are so self-evidently public nuisances that the law ought to deal with them, as it deals with other self-evident public nuisances, without calling on individual citizens to establish the fact that they were annoyed.Earlier, in paragraph 251, the Committee said:Usually the prostitute pleads guilty, but if she does not the courts are usually prepared to accept the evidence of a police officer who witnessed the offence, to the effect that a person or persons accosted appeared to be annoyed.After studying this matter, it appears to me that the Wolfenden Committee is perfectly right to say that in new legislation we should do away with any provisions requiring the establishment of annoyance. I do not think that they would work from the point of view of the ordinary citizen, and I am quite certain that they will not continue to work from the point of view of the police.
The next proposal that the Committee made was that the maximum penalty should be increased, and a system of progressively higher penalties for repeated offences introduced; and the Committee's third recommendation was that this should culminate in sentences of three months' imprisonment for the third, and for subsequent offences. So much for the Committee's recommendations.
For myself, I have no doubt of the need to clean up our streets. I do not believe that this would, as it is sometimes said, be hypocrisy, or simply keeping up appearances. I have been impressed by the shame that decent people feel at the state of the streets in the West End, in Paddington and in Stepney—to name only 375 three areas—and by their fear for the well-being of young people who live in, or pass through, these streets. I do not believe that there is a single member of the House, who keeps his eyes open, who can be in the slightest doubt that this is a reproach to our capital and a danger to our young people.
I have not only my own impressions to go by. Just because my visits to these places have been private—because I have visited them, and they and not reported in the Press—it does not mean that I have not studied them carefully. I do not go only by my own impression or anyone else's, nor do I depend solely on my Under-Secretaries to go there—they usually go in pairs, which makes them understand the situation. What is more important, I have received representations from the authorities in those places—and I am thinking especially of Stepney.
Some people say that it would be possible to clear this up by a drive by the police. Of course, it is possible for the police to do something for a while. The police have been extremely effective in Stepney, and have appeared to clear up the situation there. But what I hear from the police is that a police drive can do no more than move on the trouble, and that—and I have studied this very carefully with the new Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, and with police authorities elsewhere in the country—it bobs up elsewhere.
Therefore, I do not think that a police drive, however estimable the police may have been in their handling of this very difficult problem, can be depended on alone. In passing, I would like to pay a sincere tribute to the policemen in their handling of this matter. They have shown great tact and efficiency in dealing with it, especially in the West End.
What I think we should do is to attempt to remove this reproach from the streets of our cities, and the question is: if we do that, how far has the law to go?
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is leaving the question of difficulties in certain areas, but before he does can he say whether he has any information to give about the situation outside these well-known areas of London, because there is nothing, or almost nothing, in 376 the Committee's Report on whether this is a national problem? What other places are involved?
§ Mr. Butler
I have myself been asked by deputations of hon. Members, and others about the position in other parts of the country. I do not want to make an accusation that is inaccurate, but I can say quite definitely that it is much more serious in London—in the West End, and in the areas of some of our main railway stations in London—than it is in any other city in the country.
A comparison between London, Edinburgh and Glasgow shows that there is not nearly the same evidence in the streets of the other two cities as there is in London. It is not only due, in Scotland, to the warning system, but to other causes that I have not been able to fathom. However, the fact is that the position in London, at present, is far worse than it is anywhere else. There are certain manifestations of the trouble in other of our big cities, of course, but not to the same extent, publicly, as in London—
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
May I ask what the right hon. Gentleman has in mind when he refers to the dangers to young people of prostitutes being in the streets, rather than somewhere else?
§ Mr. Butler
I think that it is really common sense. It is the example that is given to young people of what is going on. I do not believe that the ordinary young person, when starting work or leaving school, would expect to see the things that we do see in the areas to which I have referred. I am sure that that not only has a bad effect on them by bad example but, in some instances, it is possible for a young man, so to speak, to be caught, when it would not be possible if there was not the same manifestation on the streets as is now the case. I think that anybody who thinks about this would prefer the streets to be cleared up.
The Wolfenden Committee has made out a very strong case for its recommendations, and I can see now the lines on which legislation giving effect to them will be framed. This legislation we have been preparing. Before introducing a Bill, however, the Government would wish to be fortified by the opinion of the House and, in particular, in this debate today, I shall welcome the views of hon. 377 Members on some of the practical issues involved. Therefore, I now propose to go into some of the details, with a view to being helped by the House in making farther recommendations.
I have looked at the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee in the hope of finding a way of improving on them, but, so far, I have not succeeded in doing so. It seems to me that the essential thing in legislation is to find some means of reconciling the ethical, or moral, and the practical approach to the problem. For example, if we accept the findings of the Committee, many people will feel that it is inequitable that the woman should be punished and that the man should not.
That is a point of view with which I was, and still am, predisposed to sympathise. Many people feel that both the substance and the language of the present law relating to street offences is archaic, harsh, and unjust to the woman. This is a view that has been put most eloquently to me by a deputation from the women's organisations. Again, I have a natural sympathy with that point of view, but I now want to put the real difficulties to the House, and the travail of thought through which I have passed in approaching the subject.
If our object is to improve the present state of the streets, we cannot blind ourselves to the practical considerations. It is useless to create new offences, the law on which could not be enforced. It would be useless, and worse than useless, to redefine the law about soliciting in terms that would increase the difficulties of the police. In fact, if the law were not adequately defined the police simply could not administer it—and this is a point that they have put most graphically to me. We would thereby find ourselves much further away from clearing the streets than we are now.
At the same time, it is most important that the law should not be framed in terms that would expose an innocent woman to any danger of arrest for alleged loitering or soliciting. This is a very great danger. Therefore, when we come to frame a Bill—if I find the House in support of such an idea—any new definition of the offences must satisfy two main points. First, it must not expose an innocent woman, who behaves indiscreetly, to arrest, and, secondly, it must 378 not impose on the police an impossible burden of proof. Those are the two criteria upon which any ultimate drafting must be based—
§ Mr. S. Silvermanrose—
§ Mr. Butler
Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to finish this part of my speech and then, if he cares to, he may intervene.
For example, to protect the innocent woman it must be an ingredient of the offence either that the woman is a known prostitute, or that she has solicited with a degree of persistence indicating a habit, or a way of life. If that provision is not made, it is not lighthearted to say that it would be quite possible for an ordinary, innocent woman making a rendezvous with a man—particularly in one of these areas—to be caught by the very law that we are designing to clear our streets, and deal with prostitution.
I only say this to show to the House that if we do have to indulge in strict drafting it will be for these two purposes; to protect the ordinary, innocent woman who may, inadvertently, be careless, and to protect the police themselves in operating the law. Therefore, in any definition in a Bill, the woman must be so described that the police and the courts can perform their duty—their duty of identification and, finally, if necessary, of prosecution—without any shadow of doubt. I say that now because, otherwise, I think that at a later date there may be some misunderstanding if we come to consider this matter as a legislative assembly.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I should like to raise two short points. First, does not the defence which he advances involve the certainty that in any disputed case the record of the defendant is part of the evidence on which the prosecution relies for a conviction? Is that not wrong in principle? Secondly, how can we morally justify treating as a crime the sale of a thing without, at the same time, treating the buying of that thing also as a crime?
§ Mr. Butler
I am coming to the second point.
On the first point relating to a record, if we were considering a Bill, that would, I think, raise a point which the hon. Gentleman should then ventilate on the Bill, because it raises a very serious point 379 of the application of the law. He could reserve his position on that. It does not arise from the first conviction, because under the present law the police go on the habits, knowledge, and so forth, of the woman concerned. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to reserve his position on the second point he would be wise to do so, because it concerns our liberties, and would have to be raised in the House.
I will come to the hon. Member's query about the guilty man in a moment. It will thus be said that if we have a harsh definition in a Bill—and I have not attempted to define it here today, because I would rather not; I would like to hear what people have to say about it—this would presuppose no equality between men and women and would be grossly unfair to the women. By a strange coincidence, I am forestalling the interest of the hon. Gentleman in the man.
How, then, can the demand for equality between men and women be satisfied? Of what offence, in fact, is the man to be guilty? I have read all this Report and I have done my best to study the subject, and, with the possible exception of the kerb-crawler—a gentleman who is described in these pages who evidently drives about in a motor car for the purpose, who raises problems of his own—the man does not normally loiter, because he has no need to. He appears once on the scene and is gone. In the rare cases where it is the man who persistently importunes women, he can be prosecuted under the existing law, namely Section 32 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956, a copy of which I have here.
If we examine the facts of this case we find usually that it is not the man's persistent presence that is offensive or injurious. It is that of the woman. If the criminal law takes account of that, it is not, I think, imputing greater moral guilt to the woman or punishing one party and failing to punish another equally amenable to punishment. It is merely taking account of the facts of the situation as they are found.
To put this matter simply—and we should certainly have to revert to this if legislation were introduced—it is a fact that it is almost impossible for the authorities to identify the man, whereas it is comparatively easy for the authorities to identify the woman.
380 In facing the problem of clearing our streets, it is very important for me, in making this speech, to draw the attention of the House to the undoubted facts of the situation which must be clearly understood by all if we are to get to the right end of this matter. I have discussed this matter and have wondered whether there was adequate equality between man and woman.
I now come to a very important section of the Report of the Wolfenden Committee dealing with living on immoral earnings, starting at paragraph 298 and proceeding from page 98 onwards. There is no doubt in my mind that the man who exploits a prostitute by living on her immoral earnings presents a different and, in some respects, an easier problem than the problem of what is known as the customer. The majority of the Wolfenden Committee consider that the existing maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment is adequate and they concluded their remarks on living on immoral earnings with these words, referring to all the evils of immoral earnings and those who exploit the girls:With most of these evils the law attempts to deal so far as it can without unduly trespassing on the liberty of the individual; and, as in the case of prostitution itself, it is to educative measures rather than to amendment of the law that society must look for a remedy.My own feeling is that if it is decided, as it may well be, to take action on these matters, the conclusions of the Wolfenden Committee majority on this question are not firm enough, and I have no doubt myself that we should accept the reservation by Mrs. Cohen, Mrs. Lovibond and Lady Stopford, who say:We accordingly recommend that the maximum penalty for the offence of living on the earnings of prostitution be increased to five years' imprisonment.I have no doubt that after studying carefully the findings of the Committee, dealing with the law to which they refer, namely, the Sexual Offences Act, 1956, Section 30, which relates to living on immoral earnings, we should be right to raise the penalty to five years. I hope that in some respects that would be a consolation and balance for some other things that we may have to do. Of course, that in itself would necessitate a good deal of attention before we came to a conclusion.
381 There is one last aspect of the Wolfenden Committee's findings upon which I should like the advice of the House. That is the question of premises used for prostitution. This was examined in some detail in the latter part of the Report, and the Committee recommended that a magistrates' court should be empowered, on convicting a tenant or occupier for certain offences, to make an order determining the tenancy or requiring the tenant to assign the tenancy to a person approved by the landlord.
The Committee was obviously aware that this problem was one of peculiar difficulty, but I must say that I do not think that it has been able to solve it. The Committee based its recommendation on the existing provision for a "summary order for possession" made by the convicting court. But on most careful examination of all the legal advice at the disposal of the Government, we have come to the conclusion that this existing procedure is defective because it overrides the rights of innocent sub-tenants other than those protected by the Rent Restrictions Acts, and is rarely used.
We have come to the conclusion that to devise new procedure will involve the most awkward and, I believe, almost impossible dovetailing of the criminal law and the complicated civil law of real property. I must warn the House that I do not at present see a way in which we could provide a reasonably speedy and effective remedy and yet not do harm to innocent sub-tenants. I think that it would be a tragedy if any legislation which we envisage to deal with prostitutes were to fall upon an innocent sub-tenant who happened to occupy a building which is alleged to be solely under the care of somebody who had prostitutes as subtenants in the building. If hon. Members can give me any help in that matter I shall be ready to consider it, but I do not think at the moment we can accept the findings of the Wolfenden Committee's Report on that part of its very able conclusions.
I have in the shortest compass possible, in view of the difficulties of this matter, mentioned the variety of practical problems raised by the recommendations. I do not think they present insuperable obstacles to legislation, but I should like to stimulate discussion on them this afternoon. It will be the Government's respon- 382 sibility, after hearing what the House has to say, to decide what is the best course to take in the interests of the country and how best the practical difficulties can be overcome. The fuller and franker the debate and the more Members who can give their views, the better.
I have purposely said that although I am inspired by a desire to obtain equality of treatment as between men and women, there would be, in definition in such a Bill, grave difficulty in achieving that object. It is most important to ensure that we do not endamage the innocent woman, that we make the operation of the law by the police possible and that we do not endamage the innocent subtenant in an ordinary flat in an ordinary building who might otherwise be caught by our legislation.
There are great difficulties in our path. The final one is the great moral difficulty to which I referred earlier. When a Committee like this reports, its Report is set out in severely practical language. Nothing could be clearer, nothing could be straighter, and nothing could be more straightforward than this Report.
However, it leaves the great moral question of whether if we take action to clear our streets we are doing anything in the end to do away with the evils, difficulties, sorrows and tragedies of prostitution. We have to decide these things and I want to put them fairly before the House. In my own view, there is a great deal to be said for legislating upon Part Three of the Report. It would be better in the long run and I think that the arguments on the whole stand up.
However, the Wolfenden Committee and the Government would be very glad to hear what the House of Commons has to say about it, and I am thankful that today we can have a discussion on a great social problem and the allied social problem of homosexuality as between consenting adults. I hope that the House of Commons will rise to the occasion and give the Government the benefit of its advice.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
The Daily Mirror this morning took both the Government and the Opposition to task for what it called our timorousness because neither the Government nor the Opposition had at 383 that time declared a policy on the Wolfenden Report. I make no complaint about the delay in having this debate. The Government may well have been right to give a reasonable amount of time for opinion to crystallise, both inside and outside the House.
Nor do I apologise because the Opposition have not stated an official policy. Indeed, we do not propose to do so. We think that it would be wrong for a political party to lay down a line on a matter which involves so many grave considerations of public morality and private conscience. What I say today, therefore, is said on my own responsibility. It in no way commits the Labour Party, or any of my right hon. or hon. Friends. I hope, however, that during the debate, we shall all extend tolerance to each other and compassion to those minorities in our midst who are denied the happiness and fulfilment which is the lot of most of us.
This is a highly controversial subject, and it is, therefore, pleasant to open on a note of agreement. I associate the Opposition with what the Home Secretary said in thanks and tribute to Sir John Wolfenden and his colleagues, especially to those who are hon. Members, the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. W. Wells).
I hope that the House will forgive me if I reverse the order of dealing with the subjects and deal, first, with Part Three of the Report, that relating to prostitution. I confess that I do so because I find it more difficult to make up my mind about that than about Part Two, which deals with homosexuality.
The Home Secretary told us that he had been embarrassed by what he called the shame of our streets. I think that all of us are embarrassed by it. All of us regret the difficulty and embarrassment which is caused to the female members of our families. However, I hope that we shall preserve a sense of proportion in this matter. We do not know how many prostitutes there are in London. All we know is that there are far too many.
But that always has been the case. It is more than 110 years since Nash's Colonnades, in Regent Street, were pulled 384 down because they were providing a sheltered walk for prostitutes. The right hon. Gentleman will detect a familiar ring in the plea that was made in 1858 to his predecessor, Sir George Grey, by the clergy of Westminster and St. Marylebone, who sought from the then Home Secretary what they calledeffective measures to put down the open exhibition of street prostitution…carried on with a disregard of public decency and to an extent tolerated in no other capital city of the civilised world.Those words are very reminiscent of many of the comments which we have heard on the present state of London.
At least we can say that there are far fewer prostitutes in London than there were one hundred years ago. The Wolfenden Committee was perfectly frank in telling us that there was no reason to suppose that the number was increasing. The Report said:We have…no reliable evidence whether the number of prostitutes…has changed significantly in recent years.I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman was right in saying that what has happened has been that the women have changed their scene of operations to more residential areas like Stepney and Notting Hill, to the annoyance of the inhabitants and the embarrassment of the women and girls of the neighbourhood.
In those areas, and in the West End, the parade of prostitutes is sufficiently blatant to constitute a problem. Nevertheless, it would be a pity if we embarked on panic legislation without a very great deal of preliminary consideration. And I am not convinced in respect of prostitution that we should go quite as far in some respects as the Wolfenden Committee suggested.
When the Report first appeared, I was in favour of much heavier fines and even imprisonment for persistent offenders. Since then, I have changed my mind to some extent. I am still in favour of much heavier fines, but I am now opposed to the idea of imprisonment. If I had my way, I would reserve imprisonment for those who organise and profit from prostitution, rather than extend it to those who practise it.
At this stage, I must say how much I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's reference to the reservation to the Report which was put in by the three women members. Like the 385 right hon. Gentleman, I felt that the Wolfenden Committee did not pay due heed to that reservation, and I was glad to hear him tell the House that he proposed to accept the reservation and to introduce legislation which would cover its recommendations.
I am opposed to imprisonment for the prostitutes themselves for three reasons. First, there is the severely practical reason that if imprisonment were possible far more of these women would plead not guilty and our already overworked courts would, in many cases, be made quite unworkable. Secondly, if imprisonment were imposed, our prisons could not absorb any substantial increase in their population. Thirdly, I am opposed to it because crime is contagious and I am not anxious to make our prostitutes into thieves, or our thieves into prostitutes.
If there is to be detention, I hope that that detention will take place in special institutions directed to the redemption rather than the punishment of these women. I very much welcome what the right hon. Gentleman said about redemption.
§ Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)
To follow up my hon. Friend's analysis of the effects of a possible prison sentence for these offences, would he then say that because prisons may be overcrowded we should abolish prison sentences for other offences?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I fear that my hon. Friend's preoccupation with his immediate problems in Stepney has not allowed him to follow the tenor of my argument. The point I was trying to make was that I did not want to add to the number of prison sentences when our prisons were already seriously overcrowded.
I realise, of course, that (me of the motives in the right hon. Gentleman's mind is the idea that the threat of imprisonment would induce at least some women to accept probation. If that is so, it might be worth trying. I have not a completely closed mind on this subject, but I have a great deal of sympathy with the view of Mr. Dawtry, who, perhaps, has more experience of probation than anybody in the country, and who has observed that no one would regard this as a good basis for probation. My present inclination, therefore, is to reject arty resort to imprisonment.
386 I was disappointed with the right hon. Gentleman's apparent acceptance of the Wolfenden Committee's suggestion that the need to prove annoyance should be dropped. As I see it, that need at present is really a legal fiction, part of the sordid charade played in our courts between the police and the women. If that fiction were abandoned, it seems to me that there would he a danger of innocent women being charged. There might be a grave threat to personal freedom. If the House relinquished the need for the police to establish annoyance in cases of this kind, we should be putting the clock back seventy-three years, to the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, 1885.
On that occasion, the Government made exactly the same suggestion. It was turned down by the House on the advice of Mr. C. H. Hopwood, M.P., who said:You are going to give additional power to the police.'He went on to say:The London Magistrates make it an invariable rule that the person solicited should appear as complainant. I think they are quite right in that.Unfortunately, of course, since that time, the practice has changed and all to often the evidence of just the police is accepted.
There always is, however, the safeguard that if an innocent woman is arrested on this charge she can put on the police the onus of proving that she has solicited to the annoyance of a person. I would hesitate a long time before accepting the suggestion that we should abandon the need to establish annoyance in cases of this kind. But if the House, in its wisdom, should decide to drop this requirement, then I think that the Home Secretary must go a good deal further in ensuring that men and women are put on the same footing.
I would not have thought it impossible to devise a form of words which would ensure that if a woman solicits a man and the man accepts her solicitation, he should be made an accessory to the act for which she has been found responsible.
§ Commander J. W. Maitland (Horncastle)
Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that indictment of a sexual offence or an attempt to commit one carries with it great agony of mind to those accused? If that principle were 387 introduced with regard to men, has the hon. Gentleman considered that that agony of mind would be spread probably to many other innocent people? Are not the wives and families of a man so accused a point to consider?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. and gallant Gentleman's point of view, but I hope that he will extend the same sympathy to the women who must be going through a good deal of agony of mind at the same time.
To conclude on that aspect of the matter, I believe in stiffer fines, but not in imprisonment; I believe that we should retain the need to prove annoyance; I believe that we should step up the campaign against the commercial interests which profit from vice; and, perhaps most important of all, I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that more has to be done in the way of research.
I want to be as frank with the House as the right hon. Gentleman. Hon. Members must appreciate that the effects of these proposals would be very mixed indeed. They would not cure the disease; they would merely conceal the symptoms. I think that the result would be bad in that it would facilitate the work of the vice rings and might well produce a new crop of touts battening on prostitution.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that the removal of these women from the streets would not result in a diminution in the effective demand for prostitutes?
§ Mr. Greenwood
I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman wants to get into the debate and feels that he must put his number up. I am, however, coming to the point which he has mentioned.
I was about to say that I believe the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. The effect of the proposals would be that many prostitutes would give up their activities, and others would retire from the public view. I think that there would be less temptation to women to join the profession and less temptation to men to patronise it. I believe, too, that there would be a great deal less annoyance to pedestrians and residents. Like 388 the right hon. Gentleman I must refer to the article in The Times and agree that it is surprising how few residents avail themselves of the remedies which are available to them at present.
I now come to the second part of the Report, which deals with homosexuality. I want to emphasise that neither the Wolfenden Committee nor, so far as I know, anybody else has suggested relaxing the law on homosexual offences involving males under 21 years of age, nor the law with regard to such practices as offend against public decency. I do not think that anybody would press for a relaxation of the law in that direction.
What we have to decide today however is whether men who, for a reason we do not understand—and the right hon. Gentleman was very frank on this matter; the reason may be hereditary. environmental or physical—practise homosexuality should live their lives under the shadow of the law and at the mercy, as the right hon. Gentleman said, of the blackmailer. The late Lord Jowitt once reported that when he was Attorney-General 95 per cent. of all blackmail cases had a homosexual origin.
I cannot find it in my heart to believe that that state of affairs can be seriously justified. Life is harsh enough for these people without society adding to their burden. The fact that the law is largely unenforced, and, indeed, largely unenforceable, is certainly no reason for retaining it.
I am fortified in my view by the fact that it is shared by many of the great religious leaders of the country. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the variety of testimony given in the past, but there is a remarkable measure of agreement at the present time. So far as I can tell, none of our religious leaders believes that homosexual indulgence is anything but a sin; but many of them take the view that it should not be a crime. In the admirable words of the right hon. Gentleman, it is a matter which should be left to the dictates of the individual conscience.
Like the right hon. Gentleman, I was impressed by the arguments advanced in another place by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop of York has taken the same view and both of 389 them have pronounced in favour of the Wolfenden Report. The Archbishop of York wrote a most courageous letter to The Times earlier this week. The Church of England Moral Welfare Council, as well as the Church Assembly, have supported the Report. The views of the Methodist Conference were made unmistakably clear when, on the advice of its Department of Christian Citizenship, it passed a resolution endorsing the Wolfenden recommendation on homosexuality.
Before I leave this part of my speech, I should like to quote from the report of tie Roman Catholic Advisory Committee on Prostitution and Homosexual Offences, which gave evidence to the Wolfenden Committee. In its report, these words appear:It should accordingly be clearly stated that penal sanctions are not justified for the purpose of attempting to restrain sins against sexual morality committed in private by responsible adults. They are, as later appears, at present employed for this purpose in this country and should be discontinued because:
- (a) they are ineffectual;
- (b) they are inequitable in their incidence;
- (c) they involved severities disproportionate to the offence committed;
- (d) they undoubtedly give scope for blackmail and other forms of corruption.It is accordingly recommended that the Criminal Law should be amended in order to restrict penal sanctions for homosexual offences as follows, namely, to prevent:At this point it is right to add that the Archbishop of Westminster—whom we would all congratulate on recently being made a cardinal—left the decision to his flock as to whether any amendment of the law would seem to be condonation of a sin. I believe that it would not. I thought that one weakness in the part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which referred to that possibility was that all the arguments he used in respect of homosexuality could also apply to adultery and other sexual offences of that kind.
- (a) the corruption of youth;
- (b) offences against public decency;
- (c) the exploitation of vice for the purpose of gain."
With this weight of theological opinion behind me, I cannot feel that my acceptance of the Wolfenden Report is wrong. But I should be more prepared to retain the status quo if I felt that 390 the present law made any effective contribution to preventing homosexual practices or deterring those who indulge in them. I have not, however, discovered any evidence whatsoever that the sanctions of the law are an effective deterrent. I was impressed, as I think we all were, when the right hon. Gentleman said that when these men are sent to prison, in the last stage they are worse than at the first. It seems to me that one is as likely to cure a homosexual of his perversion by sending him to an all-male prison as one is likely to cure a drunkard by incarcerating him in a brewery.
The truth is that a serious attempt has not been made to deal with these people. Dr. Eustace Chesser tells us that of 1,065 men imprisoned in 1955 for homosexual offences only 15 per cent. were considered possible subjects for treatment, and only 6 per cent. were actually accepted for treatment. Mr. Peter Wildeblood, in "Against the Law", which I thought a most sensitive work, had this to say on the same subject:Out of 1,000 prisoners at the Scrubs, only 11 were receiving psychiatric treatment, at the time I was there, and only a small proportion of those were homosexuals…Once I was in prison…was not only not encouraged to take psychological treatment, but actively discouraged.There is, therefore, quite clearly great scope for penal reform in this respect, and I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's promise to do what he can to direct research towards discovering the causes and the cure of homosexuality.
Those are my own personal views on a matter which is not an easy one to decide. I take the same view as many religious leaders, and newspapers like the Sunday Times, the Observer, The Times and the Manchester Guardian, but I do not set my judgment up against that of any other hon. Member. If the majority of hon. Members are against me I readily accept their decision. But I believe that, ultimately, this reform will come. I am only saddened by the fact that it should come only after a still greater toll of human misery has been exacted by society.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Montgomery Hyde (Belfast, North)
I am very glad to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, because when I tried to raise this question last Session, by way of a private Member's 391 Motion, I succeeded in speaking for only the last minute of the day. I am glad that I have a little longer this afternoon.
At the outset, I would like to join my right hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) in paying a warm tribute to Sir John Wolfenden and the other members of his Committee—including two Members of this House—for the frank, outspoken, carefully considered and humanitarian document which they have produced. It is a courageous document, which would have been impossible to write not so long ago. We should also remember that this document was motivated by the action of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly), who originally raised the question of homosexuality in an Adjournment debate in April, 1954, and was supported by the then hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East, the present Lord Boothby.
The Report is concerned with possible changes in the criminal law. It is not concerned with causes, biological or otherwise, of manifestations of sexual behaviour; it is concerned merely with the criminal law as it affects them today. It is worth while remembering that the Report took three years to produce and, incidentally, cost over £8,000. Nearly 200 witnesses gave evidence, either orally or in writing, including such members of the community as the police, schoolmasters, social workers, magistrates, doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers and others, including homosexuals, but—and this is an interesting point—not one prostitute. The Report was signed in August of last year and was published in the following month, so that the public have had over a year to think about it before it has come here for discussion.
The most controversial proposal in the Report, and the one which has understandably provoked the most discussion, is that embodied in paragraph 62, which recommends that homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence. To some extent this proposal has tended to obscure the other proposals, set out on pages 115 to 117. I would mention particularly the proposal that, except for indecent assaults, all prosecutions for any homosexual offence more than twelve months old should be barred by Statute. In the field of prostitution, too, I see that 392 there is the proposal, about which we have heard something this afternoon, that it should no longer be necessary to establish annoyance in prosecutions for solicitation.
Whether or not one agrees with these proposals it will be generally conceded by everyone who has read the Report that it is a social document of the highest importance. There are 30 main recommendations in the Report. I do not propose to go through them, but I want to draw attention to the basic philosophy which underlies the Report and which has clearly influenced all these recommendations. It is expressed in paragraphs 13 and 14, where the function of the criminal law is indicated to the extent that it concerns the Committee's inquiry. It is one of the few quotations that I should like to make this afternoon.
Towards the end of paragraph 13 the Committee says, with regard to the function of the criminal law:In this field, its function, as we see it is to preserve public order and decency, to protect the citizen from what is offensive or injurious, and to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption of others, particularly those who are specially vulnerable because they are young, weak in body or mind, inexperienced, or in a state of special physical, official or economic dependence.14. It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private lives of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern or behaviour, further than is necessary to carry out the purposes we have outlined. It follows that we do not believe it to be a function of the law to attempt to cover all the fields of sexual behaviour. Certain forms of sexual behaviour are regarded by many as sinful, morally wrong, or objectionable for reasons of conscience, or of religious or cultural tradition; and such actions may be reprobated on these grounds. But the criminal law does not cover all such actions at the present time; for instance, adultery and fornication are not offences for which a person can be punished by the criminal law. Nor indeed is prostitution as such.Nor, I may add, is lesbianism or homosexual conduct between females, and here, indeed, is an anomaly. If homosexual conduct between consenting adults in private is to continue to be an offence, is homosexual conduct between consenting female adults in private also to continue not to be an offence?
Coming back to the basic philosophy expressed in these two paragraphs, a clear distinction is drawn between crime and 393 sin. In other words, it is argued that the acts of two people committed together should not come within the purview of the criminal law unless it can be shown these acts are harmful to a third party.
There are two further conceptions brought out in the Report, and I think that they are of the highest importance, namely, that minors must be protected and public decency must not be affronted. If we can accept those propositions—and I for one think that we can—then the way is open to accepting most if not all of the Committee's recommendations or a; least approaching them in a spirit of sympathy.
I think that we must consider, too, how far the State is justified in punishing the sinful but not necessarily socially harmful acts of two private individuals and whether the result of interference with private life and human liberty does not bring about mare evils than it sets out to prevent.
In the matter of homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private the evidence is almost invariably obtained by one or other of the parties turning what is called Queen's evidence and in consideration for not being himself prosecuted giving evidence against his partner. It may be considered as somewhat objectionable that in these circumstances a conviction should depend upon the evidence of an accomplice.
We have also heard something this afternoon about blackmail. I would only support what has already been said particularly by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Rossendale. In this connection, I should like to quote a letter which I received two or three days ago from a homosexual when he heard that this subject was being debated in the House this afternoon.
This is a man who was a consenting adult. He was convicted some years ago on the evidence of his accomplice for an act committed in private and he received and underwent a sentence of imprisonment. On his release from prison he got a job as a clerk in a solicitor's office. He held that job for two or three years and then someone wrote to his employers, sending a cutting of the trial at which he was convicted, and the result was that he lost his job. This is what he wrote to me: 394I don't wish to pretend I'm good—but I am like many of the homosexuals, cursed with the thing from the beginning. God in heaven only knows the fights I have put up against it—and I'm sure I'm one of many—and have lost each time. It seems so utterly ridiculous for two men, who wish to live together in their own home, to be classed as criminals and 'sex maniacs.' I know men and women who have committed far, far worse acts than homosexuals look upon us as worse than if we were murderers.I do so want to try and make you people look upon this coming debate with kindness and sympathetic consideration and think 'There but for the grace of God go I.' It is all right for people to condemn us so much, but they have no idea of the life of fear and dread we live all the time, in case our friends find out or we are caught. I know I did, and I know the hell I lived in when the police came to me, and I'm still living in hell now! You seem to be 'cut off' from everything, and can get no employment. Just because I was cursed with the homosexual trait, I was no more able to get rid of it than a man could get rid of cancer. It's in you from birth—I feel sure of that. I have studied so many cases and men I have met. When you understand, you feel terribly sorry.I do not think, having read a letter of that kind, that there is anyone who cannot feel the same spirit of sympathy.
I confess to a little disappointment that no specific course has been taken, except purely negative, in regard to paragraph 62 of the Report. We have heard and it was said in another place by the noble Lord the Lord Chancellor, when the subject was debated there, that Her Majesty's Government did not think that the time was opportune for legislation now and there could be no prospect of early legislation on the subject.
Of course, it can be argued that if there is a need to appoint a committee, the whole point of such a committee is that, common opinions on the subject, commonly expressed and canvassed, are often ill-informed and heavily biased by natural repugnance and preconceived moral judgments, and proposals for any change in the law should be based not on popular prejudices, but on accurate information and unbiased consideration of the views of those persons and bodies whose work has brought them into touch with the moral and social issues concerned—in other words, of people who knew what they were talking about. This is what, I think, we have in the Report.
One argument used by the Home Secretary this afternoon which impressed me was that, if there were no change in the law regarding consenting adults, it 395 would make the weak or weaker-minded individual less likely than if there were a change to be drawn into the homosexual group because the sanction of the criminal law remains. I would have thought—it is purely my own personal opinion—that, in fact, the continuance of this outmoded piece of legislation makes it more likely for such an individual to be drawn into such a group. When Oscar Wilde was sitting in Reading gaol and meditating on the trouble that brought him there, he wrote in "De Profundis", in regard to his conduct, that it was like "feasting with panthers—the danger was half the excitement."
I believe that when this reform comes, as undoubtedly it will come, the removal of the sanction of the criminal law will make the possibility of corruption less likely than more likely. So far as public opinion is concerned, it seems to be fairly evenly divided. When the Report was published, 14 months ago, public reactions were less violent than they would have been not so very many years ago. In the Press there were seven national newspapers, with a total combined readership estimated at about 61 per cent. of the population above the age of 16, which gave on the whole a favourable verdict. There were two exceptions, with a combined readership of just under 30 per cent. of the population, which were loud in their condemnation.
Perhaps a better clue can be provided by the public opinion polls. While a clear majority of those polls were for driving the prostitutes off the streets, rather more than half gave an opinion against the recommendations on homosexuality as they affected consenting adults; but it was not a great majority, only a little more than 50 per cent. What is remarkable is that so many people should have declared themselves in favour of the main change proposed, and the opponents would not appear to be anything like so considerable in numbers as may have been supposed from reading the two newspapers to which I have referred.
The comparative amount of favourable opinion has undoubtedly been guided, as has been brought out today already, to some extent by the outspoken views of the leading Churches, by the Church of England and the Roman 396 Catholic Church. I think that that is important. Specifically, these views have been expressed by the two Archbishops, the Church Assembly, the Church of England Moral Welfare Council, and by a Roman Catholic committee, as well as many leading spokesmen of the Free Churches. The Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church have united to say this:It is not the business of the State to interfere in the purely private sphere but to act as the defender of the common good.To conclude what I have to say on this part of the Report I should like to emphasise the fact that three popular fallacies have been exposed by the Report. The first one is that male homosexuality always involves sodomy. In fact, that is far from being so, and the misconception which has arisen is largely due to over-reliance on court cases. Homosexuals who come up in court are not typical, as, indeed, the Report points out. On the contrary, the evidence shows that the great majority of homosexuals merely indulge in an affectionate relationship, conduct which was not criminal in this country before 1885 and which is not criminal in most Continental countries today.
The second fallacy is that homosexuals are necessarily effeminate in appearance and behaviour and can easily be picked out. This, of course, has been disproved over and over again, particularly by the records of some of them in the last war.
The third fallacy is that most cases which come before the courts are of practising male homosexuals in private. The evidence again disproves this. There are two instructive tables in the Report, Tables II and VI. Table II makes it clear that the average number of persons against whom proceedings were taken in respect of homosexual offences in the past three years is between 2,400 and 2,500, and Table VI makes it clear that those who were convicted of offences committed in private with consenting adults numbered only 300 over the last three years. So that, in fact, only about one in eight of those prosecuted for homosexual offences come within this latter category. In other words, the considerable majority now penalised for homosexual offences would continue to be so 397 penalised if the main proposal of the Committee became law.
I come back to the importance of appreciating this point since the Report places great emphasis, as it rightly should, on the protection of minors, and, indeed, in one instance, which I do not think has been mentioned today, it actually proposes to increase the penalty for this type of sexual offence, in paragraph 91, where it is proposed that for an offence between an adult and a juvenile aged from 16 to 21, in circumstances not amounting to indecent assault, the maximum penalty should be raised from two years' imprisonment to five years'.
When Oscar Wilde came out of prison arid published "The Ballad of Reading Gaol", George Ives, the criminologist and historian of our criminal law, wrote congratulating him on his poem and expressing the view that the law on homosexual offences should be amended. Wilde replied in these words:Yes. I have no doubt we shall win. But the road is long, and red with monstrous martyrdoms. Nothing but the repeal of the Criminal Law Amendment Act would do any goad. That is essential. It is not so much public opinion, as public official, that need educating.I venture to think that those words are as true today as they were when they were written sixty years ago.
Now I want to say just a word or two on Part Three of the Report. Like the homosexual, the prostitute is an outcast in modern society, but with this important difference: she is not a criminal. What the Wolfenden Committee has done is, first, to acknowledge that prostitution is as old as civilisation, and, secondly, to advise that its conduct should be confined to strict privacy. In other words, the Committee accepts the fact that no change in the law, however severe, is likely to abolish prostitution. What can, however, be abolished, or at least mitigated, is the nuisance of public soliciting.
I quoted a letter from a homosexual. Let me quote a letter from a prostitute. It reads as follows:Why do you trouble yourself with long letters'? I want 50 gold pieces but no letters. If, therefore, you love me, pay up; but if you love your money more, then you needn't bother me any more. Goodbye.That was not written yesterday, but 2,500 years ago. It is one of the more interest- 398 ing but less edifying fragments of Greek literature of that period which has come down to us.
The Report makes two recommendations that the requirement of annoyance be eliminated, and an increased range of penalties for soliciting. Personally, I agree with the hon. Member for Rossendale. I feel very uneasy about the annoyance proposal. As he has very rightly pointed out, it was proposed to drop this requirement at the time of the debates in this House on the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1885, and it was not proceeded with for the reasons which have been adduced by the hon. Gentleman.
To drop this requirement would, in my opinion, put great powers in the hands of the police, which could be abused, and if it is incorporated in new legislation it could mean that any woman walking up and down Bond Street and looking into the shop windows could be picked up at the whim of a police officer and charged with soliciting. I do not suggest that that is likely to happen very often, but the possibility would be there, and the tendency also to encourage corruption among the police.
I think that we should remember the words of John Stuart Mill when giving evidence before the Royal Commission on the Contagious Diseases Acts, which regulated the activities of prostitutes for a time in the third quarter of the last century and which were later shown to have been abused and were repealed. He said:When power is given which may easily be abused, we ought always to assume that it will he abused, and although it is possible that great precautions will he taken at first, those precautions are likely to be relaxed in time.We should think very carefully before this requirement is allowed to go.
As for new penalties or range of penalties, I think that to increase the fines is reasonable having regard to the changed value of money since the penalties were originally introduced, but again I am very doubtful of the wisdom of giving magistrates powers to pass up to three months' imprisonment for third and subsequent offences. I am doubtful of the efficacy of imprisonment as a remedy for prostitution.
There is also the proposed power that magistrates should be able to remand in custody for a maximum of three weeks a 399 prostitute for social and medical reports. I think that that must be watched very carefully as well. If that proposal is to be put into effect, a prostitute should certainly not be remanded to a prison at all, but to a properly constituted remand centre.
I have spoken long enough already, and I shall say nothing about the other proposals, the very impressive proposals, about premises and living on immoral earnings, which I support. We should remember that in our understandable anxiety to clean up the streets there is a danger that when prostitutes are driven off the streets the process may lead to vice being organised on a more alarming scale. I need not remind the House of the "call-girl" racket, which has developed to such an extent in New York and other North American cities. Nevertheless, I think that the Wolfenden Committee has tried to grapple with this problem of prostitution, which I think we all recognise, especially since some of the streets in our own capital city and some of our provincial cities really are a national disgrace and, to my knowledge, deeply shock foreign visitors who come to our shores.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary spoke, as I was very pleased to hear him speak, about his distinguished great aunt, Josephine Butler, who did so much to reclaim women from the streets, and who said:The law shall be equal for all whether it protect or punish.If the Wolfenden Report has done nothing else, it has at least shown that in respect of two members of the community, namely, the male homosexual and the female prostitute, Josephine Butler's dictum still leaves much to be desired.
There is a plain duty cast upon Her Majesty's Government and upon the House by the Wolfenden Report to make an honest attempt to put these grave matters right.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)
I am very grateful for the opportunity to take part in the debate, particularly in view of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary referred to my own constituency in connection with Part Three of the Wolfenden Report. I want 400 to thank the Home Secretary and his two colleagues for the interest which they have shown in this vice problem as far as it affects Stepney.
When the Home Secretary speaks of prostitution being rife in Stepney, I want it clearly understood that it is not Stepney women who are connected with prostitution. These women are what we call imported people from other parts of the country who probably export themselves somewhere else after a time.
I believe that we should have had two separate debates on these two problems. The debate today is likely to become somewhat mixed up, much to the disadvantage of the Home Secretary, because some speakers will be mixing up prostitution with homosexuality and vice versa. In order to help the Home Secretary, and possibly the House, I propose to deal with only one of these subjects. I am sure that the subject of homosexuality will be thoroughly thrashed out in the debate, and therefore I shall deal with prostitution.
It can be said, and I think that it would be agreed by all sides of the House, that the Wolfenden Report is a great piece of social work. It certainly must have taken up a tremendous amount of time. Although I was one of those who wanted the Report debated much sooner than has been the case, I think that the time which has elapsed between publication of the Report and today's debate has served a useful purpose.
The reason for setting up the Wolfenden Committee was the national concern about homosexuality and prostitution in the country. Evidently people were disturbed about the situation four years ago when the Committee was set up, and I would say that the situation today is even worse, in both respects, than it was at that time. Part Three of the Report deals with prostitution and with the women who take part in it. Confining attention for the moment to London, I would say that anybody who lives or stays in the city knows that there is a number of different types of prostitutes in London. The type in the West End hotels differs from the type on the West End streets, and there is a different type of prostitute again on the East End streets. The fact that one cannot generalise about prostitution and those who take part in it makes a solution of the problem much more difficult.
401 I say without the slightest fear of contradiction that it is the worst type of woman who comes to the East End. Some hon. Members would not be so sympathetic towards what they call these poor prostitutes who are being chased about if they saw something of what goes on in the East End of London. If they saw not only the bad actions of this type of person in public but saw how after these people have had a good drink in a public house they threatened all sorts of people, including women and children, hon. Members would not be so sympathetic towards them. Frankly, I have no sympathy whatever for the type of prostitute that has been using the streets in my area.
The question is whether we can do anything to clean up the streets, whether of Stepney, Paddington, Westminster, Poplar, or anywhere else. Surely we have an obligation as hon. Members to see that the streets not only of London but of every big city should be kept clean from this type of offence if it is at all possible. How are we to attempt to clean them up? This offence was prevalent years ago. There is no provision in legislation other than the imposition of a fine of £2 for solicitation.
Obviously this offence has been going on for over 100 years, and yet the fine has remained the same during the whole of that period. I imagine that the original reason for fixing the fine at £2 was in order that it should be a deterrent, so that these offences should stop altogether. Obviously, the fine has not been a deterrent. In many cases our streets are more filthy today as a result of this type of offence than they have ever been.
When people who are sympathetic to prostitutes say that we should give them more education, it makes me wonder what' we have been doing about education in the last 100 years, because in spite of all the money spent on it during that time, the problem is worse today than it has ever been. In my view, there is only one way to tackle the problem, and that is to accept the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee.
The maximum fine of £2 was imposed over 100 years ago. If there is to be a deterrent, today £2 is nothing to people who are obviously making a great deal of money, and without paying Income 402 Tax on it. So the least we can do is to accept the recommendation about increased fines. Only recently the House passed the Litter Act and, as a result, if I drop a piece of paper when walking along a street I can be fined £10. The Commercial Road can be full of prostitutes, yet the maximum fine for each is only £2. So there seems to be some measure of favour shown to the prostitute these days as against the person who drops litter.
I am glad to know that my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) does not dissent from increased penalties, but I do not share his view, nor the view of the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Hyde), on imprisonment. As I have said already, if we see this evil getting worse and worse we must do all we can to prevent it. It is the case that in Scotland there has been imprisonment for this offence for many years, and I do not believe that Scottish prisons are overcrowded as a result; at any rate, that has never been made an excuse—
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
May I intervene to say that its effect has been to make the girls find out that it is much more profitable to do an honest day's work?
§ Mr. Edwards
I am glad of that intervention from my hon. Friend. It was a point I had intended to make. We must deter people from doing this as much as we can. Anybody who knows of the sums of money being handed over these days in the course of prostitution realises that a fine of £10 is nothing. The women will walk out of court after paying their £10 in the same way as they walk out today after a fine of £2, just laughing at the law. They would still laugh at the law after paying a fine of £45 for committing a second offence.
Neither education nor anything else will change some of these people who are motivated by the lure of gold to sell their bodies. After it has been proved by their actions and by several convictions that they are determined not to change their way of life, the only thing which will help is imprisonment, whether that fills our prisons or not. I am afraid that the law will come into disrepute if we reject prison treatment because of the lack of prison staff. As regards 403 people living on the immoral earnings of such women, I was glad to hear the Home Secretary say that he was in favour of a sentence of five years' imprisonment. I would make it ten years, because they are the dirtiest, filthiest lot in creation. This is the one weak point I have found in the Wolfenden Report.
I do not intend to take up much of the time of the House, because I know there are many hon. Members who wish to speak, but I would like to refer to three other points. I have looked through the Report and I can find no reference to deportation of people holding British passports.
§ Mr. John Arbuthnot (Dover)
Is the hon. Gentleman referring to people who do not hold British passports?
§ Mr. Edwards
No, people who do not hold British passports can be deported, though this is not always done. I was referring to people who do hold British passports, in the main not born in this country. Everyone who has had to study this problem knows that a fair percentage of people brought before the courts for living on the immoral earnings of women, sometimes three or four times in two years, serve one sentence, come out, and start the same trick again. I read in one newspaper that in one case this happened three times in two years. One of the biggest deterrents to the man who uses this country for that obnoxious purpose is to throw him out of the country as soon as we can. I believe that magistrates are crying out for this, because in the courts they see more of it than we do, and they know that this type of individual is useless to the country and a menace to women.
My next point applies particularly to the Metropolitan area, where, as far as I understand, vice is concentrated. When it comes to registering a club, even for the sale of intoxicating liquor, all that has to happen is for a person to take a number of signatures to the magistrates' court, and a book of rules which can be bought for sixpence from a stationer's, and I believe the magistrate automatically has to give the club a licence. In my opinion we should be much more careful. I do not want to encroach on the working men's clubs—that is the last thing I want to do—but there is a case for looking at 404 this practice in London where such a procedure applies. It is giving a haven to people who prosecute a nefarious way of life. In East London cafés remain open all night, and there is no real need for that. From the time of the closing of the public houses until they themselves close some time the next morning they are occupied solely by such women and by the men who are living on them.
I suggest to the Home Secretary that he might, perhaps, look at the question of these cafés in the London area from the angle of giving power to the local authorities with regard to their times of opening and closing. It occurs to me that in none of these cases is it absolutely necessary for cafés to be open longer than, say, up to 11 o'clock at night. To shut them at that hour would at least have the effect of taking another haven away from this type of person.
The Home Secretary referred to that part of the Report dealing with brothel keepers or landlords who keep disorderly houses and with the possibility of terminating their tenancies. One has to be careful about that, because in many cases sub-tenants are living in houses of which only parts are being used for immoral purposes. It would be very bad indeed in these difficult housing days if sub-tenants were to be thrown on the street as a result of such action being taken.
In conclusion, I wish to say that I agree completely with the changed penalties regarding brothel keepers and landlords as proposed by the Committee. I wish the Home Secretary every success in any attempt that he makes in the direction of the recommendations contained in Part Three of the Report. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that he will receive the gratitude of the people of East London if he can find ways and means, without affecting individual liberty and making it difficult for genuine women not to be arrested, of solving that problem. If the right hon. Gentleman can do that he will have done the greatest service to East London by cleaning up the streets as has never been done before.
§ 5.32 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Linstead (Putney)
I am sure the House will have listened with considerable sympathy to the hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards), because 405 he represents a constituency which, in recent months at any rate, has been faced with a very real problem. If I may be permitted one comment on what the hon. Gentleman said, it would be to say that I do not believe that the facts bear out his statement that prostitution today is worse than it was in earlier periods of history. If the hon. Gentleman looks at paragraph 232 of the Wolfenden Report he will find the contrary clearly shown.
As one of those who had the honour of being a member of the Wolfenden Committee, I wish to thank my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for the sympathetic way in which he has, in general, received our Report. In particular, I wish to thank him for not having shut the door completely and finally on some implementation of our recommendation about consenting male homosexuals who act in private. I gather from my right hon. Friend's approach to this problem that if public opinion can be shown to be further in favour of our recommendation than appears at the moment it might be possible for this subject to be reopened with him and with the House.
I should like personally and on behalf of my colleagues on the Committee to add a word of appreciation to our Chairman, Sir John Wolfenden, who did a most able piece of work in bringing us together as a team and in guiding us not only in our deliberations but in drafting the Report itself. With regard to the Committee, I hope that the House will allow me to say that it consisted of a very experienced group of men and women—I suppose that I must, to some extent, exclude myself from what I say—drawn from all sections of the community. I need hardly assure the House that we did not lightly come to our conclusions.
I think I ought to say that all through our deliberations we tried to keep in two separate compartments, firstly, our reaction as human beings to other human beings in distress, and, secondly, the duty of law givers to the community as a whole. Realising that there are very often these two separate approaches, our approach has always been the approach of public order and decency. If in safeguarding those things we can at the same time help the individual so much the better.
I would emphasise, too—and I was very glad that my right hon. Friend did 406 so the need for research both in the field of prostitution and in the field of homosexuality. We received a good deal of evidence, for example, on the causes of homosexuality, but no one would pretend that the final word has been said on that matter. In particular, no one would pretend that we yet know, if I may put it crudely, how to dispose of the homosexual, using the legal sense of the word "dispose", after conviction and what is the best way of giving him the chance of making a fresh start when, if he has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment, he comes out of prison.
I do not think that this afternoon it is possible for me or for most of us to discuss both sections of the Report adequately. As my right hon. Friend is disposed towards legislation dealing with prostitution, I think I might most usefully deal mainly with the homosexual part of the Report. I wish to make three very brief comments on three points which have emerged in the debate in regard to that part of the Report dealing with prostitution.
First, our recommendation that as a last resort it should be possible for a magistrate to send a prostitute to prison. We came quite reluctantly to that conclusion and only did so after hearing evidence from magistrates of the difficulties in which occasionally they find themselves. One has to realise that there is a hard core of confirmed prostitutes who come up before the magistrates time after time, pay their fines, and, ultimately, reach a stage virtually of contempt of court, that is to say, they no longer have any respect for the law. We felt that the only way of dealing with those people was to have the possibility of a prison sentence in the background. Whether the sentence is ever imposed will depend on its deterrent effect. The evidence which we had was to the effect that it might prove such a deterrent that it might never have to be used.
With regard to the removal of annoyance as an ingredient in the offence, that was urged upon us by the police authorities who said that they doubted very much whether police officers should be required to go into the witness-box and say on oath that they saw a woman speak to men and that the men "appeared to be annoyed". That type of evidence becomes very glib, and we felt that so 407 long as we retained the words "common prostitute" as an ingredient in the offence we could without any danger at all to an ordinary member of the public do without "annoyance" and so dispense with the rather casual evidence which the police have to adduce in order to support it.
Finally, a word about the inclusion of the man in the offence. None of our witnesses proposed at any stage in our inquiry that prostitution as such should be made a criminal offence. I do not believe that anyone in the House would want to make such a proposition.
§ Sir H. Linstead
The lesson of history surely is that were we to attempt to do that we should soon find that particular law in complete contempt. If that be so, it follows that if we are to prosecute the man and woman who go off together we are virtually reaching a stage where, at any rate for that group of men and women, we are trying to make prostitution illegal.
§ Mr. Silverman
I really have a genuine difficulty about this, and I should be very grateful if the hon. Gentleman could explain it to me in view of the argument he is putting forward. I asked the Home Secretary, who did his best to answer the point, but I am afraid that I was not satisfied. Would the hon. Gentleman explain how, if we do not want and feel we ought not to make prostitution itself a crime, we can possibly justify on moral grounds treating the sale of goods as a crime if we do not treat the purchase of goods as a crime?
§ Sir H. Linstead
I almost entirely agree with the hon. Member, and I am going to say that I do not believe that there is a moral or logical justification for this differentiation.
§ Sir H. Linstead
All I can say is that we came to that conclusion reluctantly, and we came to it simply because of the conduct of prostitutes in the streets at the present time, in certain parts of our cities, by their sheer numbers, by their unruly behaviour, by their staying in the streets 408 with their clients. On these grounds—crude and simple grounds of public order and decency—without, I agree, being able to satisfy the moral question which the hon. Member has raised, reluctantly we must use such crude methods as we have and as are open to us to persuade and encourage the prostitute to mend her ways, at least in public.
With regard to the section of the Report dealing with homosexual acts, I want to emphasise what emerged clearly from the evidence that came to us, how necessary it is clearly to differentiate homosexuality from homosexual acts. Homosexuality is not an activity, and one can be a homosexual without actively performing homosexual acts. I think equally it is important to indicate that it is not a disease. It is so easy, as Baroness Wootton put it in one of her writings, nowadays to extend the scope of disease at the expense of the scope of personal responsibility. I do not think that any of us on the Committee would want to defend what we propose in regard to homosexuals on the basis that it is a disease. I would say almost categorically it has none of the indices of a disease.
Again, it is important to remember that homosexuals are not a special class of the community. They are a cross-section, containing very brilliant men and the dullest oafs. They do not contain any particular proportion of very gifted or particularly dull people. It may be useful to the House to have as a useful working definition that homosexuality is a condition in which sexual affection is attracted to persons of the same sex and if they separate it entirely from the question of homosexual acts.
We did try to discover the quantitative size of the problem, and there are very many estimates available of the number of homosexuals here in Great Britain. The lowest one which I have been able to find is 4 per cent. of the community, and another very reliable estimate is 5 per cent. The highest we had, when Dr. Kinsey came to speak to some of us, was as high as 20 per cent. If we take the lowest estimate which came our way, that of 4 per cent., we have to realise that we are dealing in this country with a homosexual community which is not less than 2 million people. That is on the lowest of any estimate which I have 409 seen. Of this number, we can say roughly that half are men and half women, and that half are practising and half are chaste. That gives us some estimate of the magnitude of the problem.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
The hon. Gentleman has mentioned Dr. Kinsey's own evidence. Will he explain to us how it comes about that, in Dr. Kinsey's report on the American male, he says there that 37 per cent. of young American men have had homosexual contacts? Why is there such a large discrepancy, and can the hon Gentleman explain it?
§ Sir H. Linstead
If I may answer in one sentence, I would say it is because in Dr. Kinsey's estimate he includes the adolescents, but as we all know the adolescent passes through a homosexual phase and normally grows out of it and so can be excluded from consideration of the numbers of the adult homosexual community.
Mentioning that figure of half-a-million practising male homosexuals, may I at once contrast it with the number of people who are involved in our recommendation? There are 100 who are convicted annually, and that is the balance which one must keep in mind in looking at the problem with which we are faced. As we all know, at present homosexual acts of all kinds between males are illegal, and until 1861 the maximum penalty was death. Today it is life imprisonment. Our proposals are that what consenting male adults do between themselves in private should no longer be a criminal offence, and that, as I have said, affects directly 100 convicted people annually. What we are proposing is that the same law shall be applied to consenting males as is applied today to consenting females, and as is applied to men and women who commit what may be, regarded as anti-social sexual acts in private.
There are three difficulties which have been raised—on the words "consent," "private" and "adult". So far as "consent" and "private" are concerned, I believe that the objections can be disposed of quite briefly by saying that we regard the same criteria as applicable in regard to "consent" and "private" as apply to heterosexual acts; where consent is necessary to be proved in the case of a woman over 16, and where 410 indecent acts in public already introduce the word "public" into the law. We are sure, therefore, that there will be no difficulty in finding the necessary criteria in order to administer these two items in the offence.
As to "adult", that, of course, is more difficult. We have to put some figure into any Act of Parliament, as we all know. But each person becomes adult at a different age. There is no special virtue in the figure of 21 which we have chosen. Some of our witnesses recommended a figure as low as 16, and others one as high as 25. All we say is that 21 seems to us to be about the right age for most people for this purpose.
I do not believe that these three are serious objections, but I must say that there are serious objections to be raised, and I must mention three of them, which must command substantial support. First of all, it is said that if we recognise what consenting male adults do in private as no longer illegal, we will be encouraging the spread of homosexuality. Then, it is said that we have no right to alter a law that has existed for many centuries, and has supported, by its existence, a certain moral outlook and standard. Thirdly, it is said that by this recognition we are contributing still further to a current laxity in public morality of which we must all be conscious.
If I may take each one of those in turn, at the risk, perhaps, of boring the House, I would say this about the danger of extending homosexuality. On the basis of homosexuality as we understand it, there can, flatly, be no danger of extension because homosexuality arises out of causes quite apart from the criminal law. It may be hereditary. We do not know. It is certainly fixed in people at a very early age in their life, and whether or not the law says this or that will make no difference in whether or not a man's desires—
§ Mr. Hale
Believe me, I am with the hon. Member, but I think it is most important not to permit false reasoning to pass if it be false. If the hon. Gentleman says that, why has he eliminated entirely 411 the pedophiliac from any sort of recommendation in his favour? Why does the Committee say that we should send this poor man for five years, then for ten years and then for life with a judicial homily and a statement that he will be cured if he goes to one of these institutions, where he will, of course, be made worse? If it really is congenital, what is the excuse for doing nothing?
§ Sir H. Linstead
One of the duties of the criminal law is to protect the young. It may be in the case of the pedophiliac that he suffers. It may be that if one regards him from the point of view of a priest or a doctor one may say that he suffers unjustly, but from the point of view of the lawgiver, from the point of view of the community, there is a millstone round his neck and he has to suffer in the interests of the young who require protection.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), I am against the hon. Gentleman, and I want to make that quite clear. Is he giving us a summary of his arguments relating to this section? What he appears to be saying to homosexual activists is, "You must not do it in public because you may be penalised for so doing, but go and do it in private and you escape." Is that what the hon. Gentleman is saying?
§ Sir H. Linstead
I would rather choose my own words, and I would rather put it in this way, that what consenting adults do in private can morally be regarded as their own affair, a matter for their own conscience.
§ Sir H. Linstead
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue my argument, when what they do in public offends against public decency, then the intervention of the law can be justified.
I want to emphasise with regard to the dangers of extending homosexuality that by putting the age limit at 21 we are providing protection for the young. We are saying that what adults do may escape the law but that if any attempt is made to perform an act with a child that should invoke the fullest rigours of the criminal law.
412 The second point that has been urged against our proposal is that we are altering a law many years old and that by doing that we are weakening the moral support which the law gives to public decency and public morality. Anyone who has read our Report must, I think, be struck by the fact that of all the laws this one is probably more capriciously enforced than any other. Many of us who served on the Committee had the opportunity of going through sixty or more police files dealing with some of these cases. Two things emerged quite clearly.
One is that some chief constables prefer to put the telescope to the blind eye unless some specific complaint is put firmly in front of them. Other chief constables take the view that here is an offence with a maximum penalty of imprisonment for life and, therefore, that they must show the same zeal in following up possible offences as they would in a case of manslaughter or even a murder.
The second thing we found from those files is the curious and, I think, most regrettable tendency to prosecute extremely stale offences. Some of the examples which we give are shocking, of offences disclosed by accident three, four and five years after they were committed being followed by a criminal prosecution. So we would say that this law cannot be justified on the ground of its enforcement alone.
Also, we received evidence from a very substantial cross-section of the judiciary—magistrates, chairmen of quarter sessions and recorders, and High Court judges. It was clear that throughout the judiciary there is a wide divergence of opinion as to how seriously these offences are to be taken.
If there is a justification for any criminal law, it is that its sanction of punishment can be justified on at least one of four grounds, that it is preventive, reformative, retributive or a deterrent. If one applies any one of those four criteria to what consenting male adults do together in private one does not find that it is preventive. Homosexuality is increasing in this country for reasons quite unconnected with the law. Homosexual acts are increasing. It is not reformative because, by the very nature of homosexuality, one cannot in the vast majority of cases change the direction of an adult's affection.
§ Mr. Scholefield Allen (Crewe)
What is the basis of the hon. Gentleman's statement that homosexuality is increasing? No doubt there is more of it, but we are five or six times more in population than we were 200 years ago.
§ Sir H. Linstead
I am not talking in terms of 200 years ago. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will look at the table of offences known to the police he will see a spectacular increase in the number of those offences, which can be explained only on the basis of a considerable increase in the condition of homosexuality in the community. I do not think any competent observer would deny that.
The third criterion is the retributive effect. The object of a retributive punishment is to revenge an offended or injured person, but when one has two consenting adults one cannot say that retribution must he exacted, because neither of them has suffered.
Finally, there is the deterrent effect. It is clear that the law at present has no deterrent effect, because there are 100 people convicted each year, and there are at least half a million who practise and the chances of anyone being caught are so small that one can say with some assurance that there is no deterrent effect at all.
Finally, the criticism is made that the Committee's recommendation contributes to lax moral standards. I hope and believe that that is answered by our conclusion that the place where one must judge what male adults in private do is the field of morals and not the field of law, and when people say, as they do, about homosexual acts that they are disgusting, beastly or grossly immoral, they import exactly that element into the argument, that this is a moral and not a legal question.
It can be said that it is very easy to talk about transferring this to the moral field, but where are the moral assizes at which this can be judged and the man dealt with? There is a moral assize, which I do not think the House ought to under-estimate, and that is the force of public opinion. I claim that, by and large, the British community is a moral community. By and large, it still approves the good and rejects the bad. We may feel that it is more lax than it should be, but the disapproval of society, 414 in my judgment, remains a very potent moral weapon indeed.
I believe that it will be more, not less, potent if it no longer has to justify itself for propping up an unworkable and unjust law. On the legal side, to change the law may give licence. In morals, it seems to me that to change the law has no similar effect upon public opinion, Overnight, there will be no sudden change of public opinion if the law is amended. I believe that the British people can be trusted to deal harshly or humanely with the homosexual according to its own judgment in each individual case.
From the point of view of those forming what I may call the homosexual community itself, to change the law can put a new social and moral responsibiilty upon them. If we no longer impose on them a legal code of sexual behaviour which we do not exact from anyone else, we can surely expect homosexuals to accept the same responsibility as the rest of us accept for behaving themselves in public. It may be harder, because marriage is not open to them, but that does not lessen their responsibility, because the standard is a moral, not legal, one. The social aim of our recommendation is to swing the majority of homosexuals, practising and non-practising, on to the side of the law, against those whose preference is for boys and those who offend against public decency.
I shall try to sum up what I have said in this way. There are two courses open to the community, and the question we have to answer is: by which of those two courses is morality better served? The first course is to make no change. If we make no change, we are acquiescing in convicting a hundred men each year and letting half a million or more go scot-free. We are acquiescing in the continuance of a capriciously enforced Act of Parliament. We are acquiescing in deep divergencies in judicial opinion. We are acquiescing in different treatment before the law for the homosexual as compared with other sexual offenders such as adulterers, fornicators, lesbians and so forth. We are maintaining a law which, judged by the ordinary four standards of good law, fails. The alternative choice is to recognise that this is a moral and not a legal question and to let it be dealt with by the social and moral sanctions of public opinion.
415 I recognise, as my right hon. Friend's speech made so clear, that very strong opinions are held on both sides. There are many very grave doubts in people's minds about such a change as this. Those doubts, it seems to me, are mirrored in the following contrast. About three weeks ago, one of Her Majesty's judges said that it would be a calamity if the recommendation that we made were carried into effect. Another of Her Majesty's judges has signed the Report and has recommended that that change should be made in the law.
Let us put ourselves in the position of a man accused of one of these private offences, who may come up at the Old Bailey before either of those judges. Will anything persuade him that he will get the same trial before either judge, before the judge who described it as calamity or before the judge who recommends that the law should be changed? I agree at once that it is very probable that, in practice, the result may be the same, High Court judges being the sort of people we know they are and the law being clearly defined. Nevertheless, in such circumstances, faced with such a diversity of judicial opinion as that, I say that justice cannot conceivably be manifestly and openly seen to be done. In the circumstances, it seems to me that the benefit of the doubt, which, after all, is the running rule of the criminal law, ought to be given to the man in the dock.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)
First of all, I wish to congratulate the Home Secretary—a thing very seldom done from these benches—on the fair presentation of the whole subject which he gave us today. With a very difficult subject indeed to debate, in either Part Two or Part Three of the Report, he endeavoured to put both what I might call the legal and the moral issues fairly. I have no fault to find with the conclusions he came to as regards Part Two of the Report with regard to homosexuality, although I differ from him slightly, as I shall attempt to show, in the conclusions he came to about the legislation which, he seemed to indicate, the Government are now preparing with regard to prostitution.
Having read the Report, and, in particular, the reservation made by Mr. Adair, the only dissentient voice in the 416 Committee, I have come to the conclusion—I am reinforced in it by listening to certain of the speeches this afternoon, particularly that of the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead)—that this matter has been taken out of its true context and it has largely been only what I may call the psychiatric or medical issues which have been considered, to the exclusion of what I would refer to as the public good.
I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) appealed to all speakers for toleration, whatever their points of view. I wish to put a point of view which, I know, is at variance with the opinion of a good many hon. Members of the House and, judging by what the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Hyde) said, with the opinions of certain newspapers also. I will not say that I am not influenced by those opinions, but I wish to try to put my point of view as I would put it to my constituents and as I hope my constituents would understand it. I am bound to say that I am not at all sure that the average person would understand this Report or the implications behind it.
The subject we are discussing in one aspect is more for the psychiatrists and the medical people, or perhaps even for lawyers, than it is one for the House of Commons. None the less, we must not forget that we are not a collection of lawyers or psychiatrists. We are representatives of the people, the electors of the country. We must direct our attention to the average elector, not to any small select—"select", I think, is the right word—and exclusive minority. One cannot ignore that minority, because, from reading the Report, it seems to me that those forming it are entitled to some sort of pity if nothing else.
As the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary said, we have to decide whether the recommendations of Part Two and Part Three of the Report should be accepted or rejected. I reject the recommendations in regard to homosexuality. I believe that any arguments which can be advanced on grounds of logic are overwhelmed by moral considerations and the public interest. I hope, therefore, that my remarks will be considered by the House in that light.
417 It seems to me that the gist of the evidence given by those who came before the Committee is of a medical or technical character. It amounts to this, that homosexuality may be a sin, and probably is a sin, but it is not a crime. That, indeed, is what all the advocates for removing the legal penalties base their case upon, that it is not a crime, at least in private, but it is a sin. I took the precaution of looking up the definition of "crime" in the dictionary and this is what it says:An act in violation of the law; any great wickedness or wrong.I would say that in the eyes of most of our constituents, homosexuality, or what the hon. Member for Putney calls homosexuality as practised, apart from the abstract idea, if one may use that phrase, is wrong. Indeed, they are led to that conclusion by some of the cases that are brought before the courts. I shall refer to one that was the subject of considerable investigation by the poice and became, as it were, a cause célèbre in the newspapers.
I can well understand the pleas of those who say that those who practise this cult in private are inoffensive citizens. Perhaps they are, if it is meant that they do not break windows or behave riotously. Nevertheless, they are, in my opinion, a malignant canker in the community and if this were allowed to grow, it would eventually kill of what is known as normal life.
§ Mr. Bellenger
In a moment. My hon. and learned Friend will surely allow me to finish my sentence. I believe that humanity would eventually revert to an animal existence if this cult were so allowed to spread that, as in ancient Greece, it overwhelmed the community at large.
§ Mr. W. Wells
Does my right hon. Friend think that there is any difference in this respect between male and female homosexuality? If he thinks there is no difference, why is there a difference in the law?
§ Mr. Bellenger
I will leave that to my hon. and learned Friend to explain. I know something about homosexuality, having served with the Army in two world wars, but I know nothing or practically nothing, except what one may read, about lesbianism. My hon. and learned Friend can enlighten the House on that. After all, he was a member of the Committee and it is his duty, if he speaks to the House, to tell us what it is all about. I am dealing with male homosexuality and that will occupy most of what I want to say.
What I have just said may seem an extravagant phrase. I can only say, judging from what I know of male homosexuality and what we have all read about some of the cases that have been brought before the courts, that I am repelled by the dirtiness of some of those whose conduct is exposed to the public gaze. I want to strip some of this false sentimentality, this false romanticism, from homosexuality. We know how it has been presented.
Hon. Members in all parts of the House have, I suppose, been presented with a copy of a book called "Against the Law". I hope that they have read it. Here is an exponent of this cult and in this book he gives evidence, some of which is very much against him. I do not believe in this fancy talk—for that is all it is—of love and affection for another man. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. W. Wells) may want to intervene again and ask whether I understand love and affection between man and woman. I do understand it, and every hon. Member, I think, knows it, but from the cases that I have read, I do not believe about this love and affection for another man.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is my right hon. Friend aware that in this book, written by Mr. Peter Wildeblood and which has been sent to every Member of the House, there is a paragraph in which he points out, no doubt quite honestly according to his point of view, that the consort of aristocratic people who are homosexuals with members of the working classes who are consenting parties is leading in the direction of an egalitarian society and is likely to promote social justice?
§ Mr. Bellenger
One should treat this book in all seriousness. It is part of the case that is being made, or will be made, in this House today and we must give serious attention to it.
That book discloses something which turns me and, I think, most normal people against homosexuality: that is, that it is not love and affection. It is nothing more or less, as this book discloses, than promiscuousness. In other words, to use the word used by Shakespeare, in many cases it is nothing more or less than whoring. Lot hon. Members think of that. This book shows it quite clearly.
The individual on whom the author of this book lavished his affections, or what he called his affections, was a male prostitute. Do hon. Members want to say that we should condone that sort of thing? Do we condone it when it comes to female prostitution? I do not think we do. Why, therefore, should we give preference to those who practise some abnormal and, quite often, dirty business. I mean that literally.
It would seem that we are all to be righteously indignant about the female prostitutes and even to send them to prison if they indulge too persistently in their trade. As for their male counterparts, however, so long as they do not go importuning and soliciting in public, they can indulge their nauseating practice in private and we are asked to alter the law for them.
Whatever may be said by the Churches in extenuation of private homosexuality, I cannot believe that our constituents would thank us for what would be considered an act, as the Home Secretary said today, of condonation if we altered the law. I shall be very interested to hear of those parsons, either of the Roman Catholic or of the Anglican Church, who would use this as a subject for their sermons in their pulpits. Indeed, I go further. I shall be very interested to hear how many Members of Parliament or candidates at the next election put this matter in their election address.
If the hon. Member for Belfast, North is right—and he adduced a lot of figures to show that opinion in this country, at least, is not against a change in the law and may, indeed, be in favour of a change—let us make this a political issue. Whether it be prejudice or bias—but I prefer to say that it is because of a 420 healthy assessment of these matters—we know that, in the main, our constituents would be against a change.
I believe that in these matters we as a House of Commons cannot ignore the moral issues. Although today we are debating a Report which says practically nothing about them, nevertheless we must bear this factor in mind when we are coming to a judgment as to whether we should accept the Wolfenden suggestions.
One matter has not been mentioned in this debate, I do not think it is mentioned in the Report, and I wish to refer to it. I am of opinion that there are too many presentations on the stage, either in private or in public, portraying homo-sexuality as their central theme. I notice that the Lord Chamberlain has recently permitted the public performances of certain plays. I regret that. After all, those who use the Lord's Prayer and who pray,Lead us not into temptationare entitled to ask what are we doing when we throw open to the public gaze both of the mature and immature, on the stage and on television and elsewhere—possibly because of some of those groups referred to by the Home Secretary—performances centring round a subject which can do as much damage as subliminal advertising?
The message can be presented in most attractive and dramatic terms. Anybody who knows of the actions, and the personalities—indeed the Wolfenden Report says so—of some homosexuals, knows that many of them are very ingratiating. They have powers, and sometimes occupy places of influence, whereby they can exercise an effect on the minds of those who otherwise would not be interested in this subject. I think that this House owes a duty to the large number of individuals who may be influenced in that way. I am not talking only of adolescents, but of adults too, and we should hesitate before doing anything which might permit this business to expand and extend. That is why I feel so strongly on this matter and particularly about the public presentation of plays dealing with homosexuality.
I do not set myself up as a moral teacher or even as someone possessed of virtue. I hope that I am no worse—certainly I am no better—than those constituents of mine who returned me to this 421 House. In other words, on this occasion at Any rate, if anybody could be so called, I am the "man in the street," and not, on this occasion, in those public places where apparently I could be accosted. As a family man I want to see the best possible chance given to the young to be inculcated with moral principles. That may not prove an absolute sheet-anchor for them, but it may serve to signpost their way through life. Because I should very much resent any of my children coming into intimate contact—or contact shall I say—with homosexuals, I would do all I can to keep such gentlemen as far away as possible from my own children. I think that is the feeling of most people in the country.
We were told by the hon. Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead) that there is comparatively little homosexuality in this country, when the number of homosexuals is compared with the size of the population—
§ Mr. Bellenger
Then I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. He was a member of the Wolfenden Committee. Does he therefore say that there is a great deal of homosexuality in relation to the size of the population of this country? Let him tell us. I gather from the Report that, in the main, homosexuals are in a small minority compared with the total number of inhabitants. I warn the House that homosexuality can, and I believe it has, increased since the period of some years ago about which we were talking.
I have a few words to say about that part of the Report dealing with prostitution. On reading it, I concluded that the Committee had reversed its actions. In the previous part of the Report the Committee wished to let up, as it were, on homosexuals, or at least on private homosexuality. But in the part of the Report which deals with prostitution the Committee completely reverses that attitude. It says that the only way to clear the streets of prostitutes—that is all the Committee is saying; it does not deal with the root of the problem—is to impose severe penalties, including imprisonment.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale. I think we should be acting unwisely if we implemented the 422 whole of the suggestions of the Wolfenden Committee regarding prostitutes. I agree with the Home Secretary that the system in Scotland although it does not eliminate prostitution, provides at any rate a chance for sociological workers to try to prevent it. Of course, we shall not eliminate it from our body politic. It is as old as Adam, or rather as old as Eve, as the Home Secretary said. But I believe that we should take steps not merely to clamp down the law harshly on prostitutes but to do something, perhaps along the lines of the Scottish system, to try to regenerate those who have not become hardened prostitutes. I am grateful to the Home Secretary for telling the House that he will set in motion research within his own Department into the problem of what might be termed female and male prostitution.
I can well understand those foreigners who call us Albion perfide. Why is it that we propose to deal only with prostitution because it has become objectionable to certain residents in certain places? I have no doubt that it has, although I have never been inconvenienced by these ladies as I have walked through the West End—[Laughter.]—I have never been one of their "customers", and I do not want to be. But let us be careful before we sweep them from our streets and in doing so, drive these practices underground—as the Committee suggests might happen—and create a situation which would be far worse. I do not know anything about this, except what I read, but I am told that in America prostitution has been cleared from the streets in certain cities and has gone underground where it has now become a racket as well as a vice.
Some police action may have to be taken. Incidentally, I notice that if the police want to move on a barrow boy, they can do it easily enough, and I should have thought that they might use similar methods to remove some of these females from streets where they seem to congregate at the moment.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he did not know what was the cause of prostitution and I should like to offer the House a reason why I think prostitution is more prevalent now in certain quarters of our cities. I do not know much about Stepney, but anybody who goes to the 423 West End can find out a good deal about that area merely by looking round. I should have thought that the reason why there is so much more ostentatious prostitution on our streets is that there is more money about. The supply is now coming up to the greater demand whereas in the old days—[Laughter.]—hon. Members may laugh at this, but I think it is true.
In the old days it was not easy for some of the customers to find the money to pay these prostitutes. I do not know what is their average fee, but I have a shrewd idea, and I should say that it is only because of the greater dispersal of money that many of the customers can afford to pay the price. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh it off, if they wish. I would not wish to say that we can get rid of prostitution by reducing salaries or wages. That was confirmed by an hon. Member who said it was gold they were after. The rewards of prostitution are greater than they were some years ago.
I now want to deal briefly with one point that the Home Secretary mentioned in the later half of the Wolfenden Report which deals with tenancies where prostitution goes on. The right hon. Gentleman warned us against stopping one evil and tending to create another which was infinitely worse. I know something about property law and sub-tenancies. I should have thought that it would not be difficult to protect sub-tenants, especially if they come under the Rent Acts or under the 1954 Landlord and Tenant Act, but I am a bit doubtful about some of the sub-tenants who are living in flats with known prostitutes. I should think a respectable sub-tenant would want to get away from that as quickly as possible. I do not believe that, with all the resources of modern civilisation, we cannot produce curative and preventive measures to reduce the evil of prostitution. I do not know about homosexuality. There I must defer to medical opinion.
I gather from the authors of the Report that once homosexuals have started on their way they can never return to normal life. The book I have mentioned showed quite clearly, if we are to believe this individual, that for them, home life or family life are impossible. It is because I believe that family life is the mainspring 424 of all civilised communities that I have spoken so feelingly against homosexuality. It is an evil, and if it were to increase, by whatever method, it would damage family life. Therefore, I am against the recommendations of the Wolfenden Report.
§ Several Hon. Membersrose—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. Before I call another hon. Member I wish to tell the House that I have been informed that a large number of hon. Members wish to speak on this topic, which has been introduced in a number of speeches already. What I am saying is no reflection on the speeches we have already heard, but I would ask hon. Members to consider, in speaking, trying to condense what they have to say, or to specialise on particular points which interest them. If hon. Members manage to do that they will earn the gratitude of other hon. Members and also, for what it is worth, my gratitude, because I am anxious to permit as many Members to speak as I possibly can.
§ Mr. Bellengerrose—
§ Mr. Bellenger
On a point of order. I would like to put one point, with your permission, Mr. Speaker. You will have noticed that we are to have two Front Bench speakers from the Opposition who are putting only their own point of view.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am not reflecting on any of the speeches we have heard. Probably hon. Members find it difficult to express briefly what they have to say. I do not think that the Home Secretary could have condensed his remarks more. I am not referring to that at all, but to future speeches, now that the debate has proceeded so far. I cannot enforce a time limit in any way, but I do ask hon. Members to enable me to get as many Members into the debate as I can.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. William Shepherd (Cheadle)
I will say what I have to say as quickly as possible, Mr. Speaker, and will try to follow your advice. In general, I accept what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said this afternoon about prostitution, but I have considerable doubt about the wisdom of making a prison sentence part of the deterrent in 425 this case. I would accept it as part of failure to pay a fine.
I hope, therefore, that my right hon. Friend will very carefully consider this point when he is drafting the proposed legislation. We can reduce the volume of prostitution by more effective processes, and make our streets more seemly than they are at the present time. My right hon. Friend could very easily eliminate the greater amount of the soliciting in the streets of London if he would adopt a simple device which I suggested in a speech in this House about twelve months ago, the establishment of night courts. If prostitutes were rounded up when soliciting and were taken to night courts and fined, the pressure on our day courts would he relieved and the women would be deprived of the most profitable tine for carrying on their profession. Night courts could deal very effectively with prostitution.
Some women's organisations have protested against stronger penalties against prostitutes on the ground that they would show up the double standard of morality in this country. I do not attempt to deny that there is a double standard of morality. It is regrettable, but it is there. However, I do not think there is any question here of a double standard of morality. In almost all cases of this kind—supplying drugs, illegal betting, drinking after hours, etc.—it is customary to go for the person who benefits financially from the transaction and not usually for the person who pays for it. I hope that the women's organisations who take the view I have mentioned will realise that this is not a matter of discriminating unfairly against women.
On homosexual offences I share the view of the right hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger), but I hope I shall be able to present my views with a little more detachment than he managed to achieve. As one who is strongly opposed to the opinions of the Wolfenden Committee, I want to be fair to the homosexuals in our community. I have taken more than the usual trouble to acquaint myself with the problems surrounding homosexuality, I am much less certain about the whole question than I was before I started. It is one of the most baffling of problems. I rejoice in the news that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is to institute inquiry and research into the problem.
426 In trying to be fair to homosexuals I must make it clear that there is more in the case against them than I have heard presented here this afternoon. I shall try to present the case against the homosexual as fairly as I can. Let me admit at once that many people will find it hard to understand the feelings of homosexuals. We must try to believe that there are men who find it as repulsive to have sex association with a woman as a normal man finds it to have association with his own sex. We must accept that there are men who, for various reasons, find it as repugnant to have an association with a woman as normal people do to have association with the same sex. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nonsense."] The hon. Member says "nonsense" but I assure him this is true. I say this as one who strongly opposes the recommendations of the Committee.
The other day I had a letter from a clergyman who talked about congenital homosexuality. No individual in this House, or outside, can talk about congenital homosexuality, because no one can prove that there is such a thing. A very small number of those who are homosexuals in fact go to anything like the full extent of homosexual acts. The majority of them do it for reasons best known to themselves, but for reasons which probably are not compelling. If we were dealing with those who find it impossible to have associations with the other sex, I should unhesitatingly accept the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee, but we are dealing in the main with the 90 per cent. who indulge in homosexual practices, and not with the true invert—in other words, the bisexual. I hope the House will bear this in mind when considering the appropriate action to take.
§ Mr. Shepherd
That is very probable. I would require the homosexual to exert a degree of discipline over his own tendencies. Two friends of mine when sober are as well behaved in terms of sexual behaviour as any individual I know who is normal, but if they have drink they revert to these homosexual tendencies. I cite this as proof, if proof 427 is needed, that by control and discipline one can get some sort of hold over these homosexual tendencies. I want to see these individuals compelled, by one means and another, to exert the maximum discipline over their own tendencies. I want to do it very largely for their own good.
I was rather surprised, in fact rather annoyed, at the Wolfenden Committee refusing to accept that these practices are unnatural. I was very surprised that the members of the Committee should jib at that phrase. This, I think, is an attempt to take the view of psychiatrists too literally. I do not want to be unkind to psychiatrists, but I am inclined to agree with Sir Ronald Howe that often they need a little psychiatric attention themselves. In the Church of England Moral Welfare Council and in the evidence given before the Wolfenden Committee there were disturbing indications of the way in which psychiatrists are prepared to absolve from personal responsibility on the ground of some irresistible tendency.
We ought to face the fact that homosexuality is unnatural and that in the majority of cases there are prospects of people overcoming these tendencies. Incest is a much more natural act than homosexuality. I hope the House will take the point that incest is a much more natural act; yet it is true that to most civilised societies incest is repugnant to the greatest possible degree. Why has incest become repugnant to most civilised societies? It is because of the building up of a discipline against that act which, I repeat, is a natural act. In the same way as we have had this discipline against incest, we ought to have it against homosexuality. I believe it our duty to discourage homosexuals as well as we can because, as to 90 per cent., they are not compelled to do the things they do. I quote Dr. West in his book on homosexuality, in which he said:Study of the sexual habits of Greece and Rome serves to confirm that homosexual instincts soon make themselves apparent whenever they are given free rein.It is perfectly true that if one adopts a lax attitude towards homosexuality one promotes its growth. It is no credit to this community that homosexuality is known on the Continent as vice Anglais, but it is a discreditable reflection on our society and I believe it our duty to try to deal with it.
428 In giving reasons why I feel we should reject the conclusions of the Wolfenden Committee, I want to give the reasons as they affect the homosexual and as they affect society. I want to discourage the homosexual by the discouragement of the law because the homosexual in society has a very difficult place indeed. He becomes against society. He becomes bitter, his mind becomes twisted and distorted because he feels he is not as other men are. It is essential in the interests of the man himself that we should do everything to discourage him. He is always beset by fears of discovery. The more sensitive ones wear a hunted look. They are not happy in their life. One hon. Member talked about promiscuity. Most homosexual associations are promiscous. If I may add a word of explanation for the benefit of the hon. Member, that is one of the reasons why I would deal with lesbianism on a different basis. Lesbian associations in many cases supply a social purpose, because they tend to be much more lasting or permanent than homosexual associations.
§ Mr. Shepherd
My hon. Friend says they are both homosexual, but it has been the custom to talk of the male association as homosexual and of the female as lesbian; and I think this makes for clarity. One of the dangers in homosexuality for a man is in his old age. It is true that one can survive with it when one is younger, but the constant search for new contacts is degrading and many men who start on this path of homosexuality end in their later years hanging about public lavatories, where they are apprehended by the police. If a man can be diverted from homosexual practices he and there is a very wide field for diversion—will become a better and happier citizen.
I shall quickly say why I think society has a right to be heard. I think there is far too much sympathy with the homosexual and far too little regard for society. Obviously, it does not require any intelligence to see that if homosexuality were extended over a wide range there would be no society. To that extent it is obviously not a good proposition. Homosexuals have written to me and said, "How glorious was Greece, where there was an idealistic homosexual society".
§ Mr. Shepherd
I agree that the homosexual society in Greece was more idealistic than it turned out to be in Rome, but I emphasise that even in Greece, where there was a certain amount of idealism in homosexuality, it could take place only at the expense of the degradation of the female. I take it as an essential part of the Christian civilisation that we uphold the position of the female in society.
I believe that homosexuality causes a great deal of human unhappiness. It appears to be commonly asserted by the Church that it is only the heterosexual offence, like adultery, which causes unhappiness in married life. How foolish and unreal is this point of view. What greater unhappiness is caused in human life than that caused by men in their middle age turning to homosexual practices? I know of two or three people whose wives tried to commit suicide because of this. Throughout the country there must be thousands of similar cases.
The last reason which I give for opposing the Wolfenden Committee Report is that homosexuality sets up a society within a society, and this is indeed sinister. I think that in certain fields of human activity it has already become disturbing to a great degree. It is the means by which preference is secured. One of my constituents, who a few years ago became a West End actor, told me that had he been prepared to indulge in homosexual practices he could have come to the West End many, many years before he did. It is perfectly true to say that in many spheres of activity today the ability and the willingness to enter into homosexual acts is a means of promotion. That is so in a great number of spheres, even in business and maybe in politics.
I believe that it is our duty as far as we can to stop this society within a society. I believe that to a great extent, perhaps 90 per cent. of the cases, these men could be deviated from their path and deviation is important, because once they have set upon this path it is very difficult to treat them. Wildeblood's complaint that he was not treated in prison arises because the view was taken that he was not treatable, not because we do not want to treat the Wildebloods of this world.
§ Mr. Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
Is my hon. Friend certain of those facts? Is there treatment which could be given? Does he know what are the circumstances which would enable treatment to be provided for these people in prison? I should very much like to hear about that.
§ Mr. Shepherd
I do not say that prison is an ideal place in which to treat homosexuals. I was merely saying—because I want to be brief—that I do not know of effective treatment for homosexuals in the great number of what I call the true invert cases. If my hon. Friend wishes to disagree with that he can do so when he speaks.
I have rushed over what I had to say but I have tried to put the case for the retention of the law as we know it at present. I believe that it would do damage to the interests of this country and in the long run to the interests of homosexuals to make the change which the Wolfenden Committee recommends.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
The hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) deployed his arguments with a restraint and a sincerity which will enable the discussion to proceed between himself and another layman interested in the same subject but taking a different view. If I follow his arguments for a moment or two it is not because I want to be distracted from the subject which I chiefly wish to discuss during the debate, but because I was deeply struck by the sincerity and responsibility of the speech of the hon. Member far Putney (Sir H. Linstead). In view of the circumstances of this debate and the Home Secretary's invitation to hon. Members to express their opinions, whatever point one wishes to raise in connection with one's constituency one has to take a stand on this issue at this moment and to say "Aye" or "Nay" to the Committee's recommendations.
Two colleagues of ours were invited to serve on the Committee before this subject was placed before it. They found themselves landed with it because it was added to the original terms of reference of the Committee. They spent some years in investigating the subject and then they put their recommendations to us. The same responsibility now lies upon us as has been accepted by the forceful leaders of opinion in the religious, educational and sociological world, and I think 431 that the House of Commons can do no less tonight than say, even as amateurs, how we stand on this issue. I want to deal with one point made by the hon. Member for Cheadle and to lead from that into my thoughts about the Committee's recommendations.
The hon. Member said that homosexuals are promiscuous. The Home Secretary, in deploying his own argument, was, I thought, less than happy when he introduced the description of groups of homosexuals proselytising, a term which has been taken up enthusiastically by subsequent speakers. One thing which has struck me about homosexuals with whom I am acquainted is that they do not proselytise among adult members of the public. They recognise that one either is or is not a homosexual, and the fact that they associate among friends of their own disposition is quite a different matter. The hon. Member said that they are promiscuous, but surely that can be put more kindly in this way—that, as has so often been commented on by those who study the problem, there is the difficulty, indeed the obvious impossibility, of any physical basis of establishing a stable and permanent emotional relationship.
If we are to help that section of the community to come to terms with itself and to help these people to come to terms with their own personality and with society, surely we ought to think very carefully about the Committee's recommendation in so far as it might encourage them to undertake the effort, which each one of them obviously has to undertake, to avoid landing himself into the kind of trouble which at present is fully covered by the law.
Indeed, the Committee's Report is not in the least sentimental. It is very severe on the subject of the offences committed by homosexuals and it lays down emphatically that the question of punishment and of prison sentences, as well as of remedial measures, must be considered.
There are many recommendations which the right hon. Gentleman did not find time to mention. May I mention one of them? There seems to be an extraordinary anomaly in the law that the prison authorities, even at the request of the prisoner, are not allowed to give the little relief which modern drugs and hormones might give to those anxious to 432 repress their desires in the particularly difficult conditions of prison life. Surely the Home Secretary can announce that he will adopt that recommendation.
I make one further comment in passing, on a subject on which some other hon. Member more expert than I might speak. Is there any alternative to the present methods of treatment in prison? Is the Home Secretary investigating the question of group therapy, which seems to offer a great deal more hope than the old individual psychiatric treatment?
I pass now to Part Three of the Report, which affects my constituency. I must confess that I did not know much about this subject. Like many other people, I felt that I was too old; that it was not possible to learn enough about it to understand it; that what with the doctors, the experts and the police, it was hardly worth while trying to catch up with what was already known about it. Nevertheless, I have tried hard to plot the extent of the problem, particularly in Paddington.
When one reads in the books, about Babylon and the Bishop of Southwark's stews, one gets into the frame of mind where one is tempted to say, "It has gone on for centuries. We can never cure it." Then one has to remind oneself that millions of our fellow citizens live and die without ever having come into direct contact with this problem, and know nothing about it except for what they have read in the newspapers.
We have to say to ourselves that we have to go on the basis that, even if it cannot be cured in our lifetime, like other social evils it will be cured in the course of time. It is just common sense. When we think of such masses of population as there are, even in the great industrial areas where people are closely packed together, we see that they do not suffer from this evil, nor from any great prevalence of psychological troubles, or multiplicity of other offences. That being so, we must accept that this problem is largely curable. If we do not, we are apt to get into the frame of mind in which we feel almost insincere in making any plea or suggestion. We get that sort of hopelessness that I sometimes think that the police must get on occasion when told to clear one area, knowing full well that the same trouble will break out in another.
433 I wonder if the Home Secretary can do anything about a big gap in our knowledge—I did not know the word aetiology before, but it is in the Report so I suppose it is all right. The gap in our knowledge is a study of the mentality of the customer. It is difficult to draw a parallel, but let us suppose that it was our responsibility to eliminate cigarette smoking; that the arguments of the medical men had led us to the conclusion that we had to attempt that. Surely, we should seek, first of all, to find out what it was about the habit that attracts people, other than the taste of tobacco.
In the same way, there must here be some element in the customers' attitude that we can identify when attempting to deal with the problem. From my own observations, I am perfectly certain that the trade, as a whole, is sustained by a number of casual customers, and that that part of the trade could he reduced if energetic measures were taken, in the spirit of the Report, to drive it off the streets. If I did not think that, I should feel insincere in asking the police to clear the Paddington streets. If it was likely to drive these people underground, only to make more trouble elsewhere, it would not be helpful.
I am certain, however, that large numbers of young men in London are attracted to spend their money in this way merely because the trade is in front of their eyes. I have seen that over and over again. Look at the traffic in Hyde Park—on the carriageways. It is not elderly millionaires in Rolls Royces, but commercial travellers going home in Ford Populars, seeing a car stopping in front of them, hesitating, and then doing the same. If it were never there, they would never miss it.
Having disposed of the casual customer, I think that the analysis gets more and more difficult, because what we now have to establish is why people purchase, prefer to pay, and are driven to a search in circumstances which sometimes get increasingly more squalid and more sordid. First of all, perhaps, there is the attitude of the person who feels, in some way, that sex is a problem that he cannot face and who, when he comes up against it, prefers to pay rather than commit himself emotionally.
Then we come to the person who is in an even worse state of mind, who fears 434 and hates sex, and feels that he has to demean the act in some way. There, we get into that twilit no man's land of rather sad human experience, of which not enough is known, and in which there are no real frontiers between one kind of perversion and another. It is a twilight so much typified by Hyde Park after dark—the moving shadows; the furtive figures; the peeping Toms; the handbag snatchers, and the protectors. The customers who appear in that place are at the downward end of the scale.
There may be a common pattern, and if there is this common pattern, it begins to explain the necessity of the protector, who has to protect the girl against the violence that to some people may seem to be an inherent part of the act they are themselves undertaking in demeaning circumstances. Perhaps there is some sort of connection—I do not know—but, any case, it is that sort of research that I should like to see undertaken.
The extraordinary thing about the common prostitute is not that she is a woman who gives herself to anyone, but that she is, in fact, a woman who gives herself to none. Hers is the frigidity that gives way only to the giant or the cripple, and perhaps that is why the protector has to be either a brute or a weak character. It may be that the customer is a person who has never given himself to anybody and, as a consequence, lets himself be driven in this way.
That is the hard core of the problem, but if there is one field of emotional human relationship which has a bearing on this to which we must pay more attention, and which effect can be achieved in social conditions, it is not the emotional relationships between adults but the emotional relationships between parents and children. If only more fathers would play with their children at night, would make toys for them and play with simple things instead of buying off their responsibilities by paying a deposit on some gigantic or expensive toy, what a difference that might make to the recruits to this traffic in the next generation.
Turning to the problem nearer at home, it seems to me, after hearing the Home Secretary, that if he felt that he had public opinion behind him, that if he could let the police understand that what we are saying is not just another general grumble but a demand for a determined effort to 435 clear things up once and for all, he would find that many of the powers that he and the police already possess would be adequate; and that a certain amount of ingenuity and energy would prove very effective.
I do not think that I weaken my case by saying that I have the very gravest doubts about the value of prison sentences, and some doubts about the recommendation to eliminate the necessity to prove annoyance. I do not think that it is so very difficult to prove annoyance. I am always annoyed when driving through Hyde Park when cars driven in the circumstances that I have just described make it difficult for me to continue on my way. The annoyance can be to the public as well as to individuals.
Again, we really must have some regard to the dangers that exist for individual women. I bring up this topic now because I have a case that has been in the hands of the Home Secretary for many weeks—no doubt he will find it in his tray some day. It is true that I had an acknowledgement to say that he was investigating the case, but I wish that I had had the reply before this debate took place.
A constituent came to me in the greatest distress. His wife was walking near their home, in a particularly notorious part of Paddington, when a police van swept down, halted, and the police bundled every woman in sight towards the van. Several of the experienced prostitutes ran away, but my constituent's wife was taken as far as the van and, indeed, was halfway into it, when one of the other girls said "Don't take her—she's not grafting." My constituent is convinced that if it had not been for the attitude of that girl, his wife's character would have been sworn away by a policeman the next morning, from which date she would have been a convicted common prostitute and could have been pulled in at any time on the word of a policeman which would never be contradicted. That is a very serious matter.
There are other points which I would like to have developed if there were more time. I am particularly concerned with the use of property. May I add a word of support to the suggestion that landlords who accept exorbitant rents should be assumed to be living on the earnings 436 of prostitution unless they can prove to the contrary. This is a most difficult legal problem. It involves complicated questions when the profession itself is legal.
I have in mind, in addition to those who make a regular business of letting flats, some of the despicable characters who own two or three short-lease tenement houses and who make their furtive little visits each night to get from the girl the extra £2 or £3 a day which they demand, although the rent book shows a perfectly normal rent. If there were a dynamic resolve on the part of the boroughs concerned, knowing that they had the backing of the opinion of this House, I am sure that these problems could be solved and the offenders identified and driven out.
I do not want to tell horror stories, but I was a little provoked by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) who seemed to think that this problem did not affect young people. In Paddington we require the recognition that it is possible to get these people off the streets. There is no reason why the residential areas should suffer. The residential areas in particular do not deserve it. As far as young children are concerned, it is not just a question whether there is some strange woman standing about the streets. It is a question where these acts take place.
I have myself seen between fifty and a hundred used contraceptives in the side entrance of a house in Paddington which had been standing empty for a short time. I have known people who have come back to their little basement flat after a holiday and have found the yard in a filthy condition because of this squalid trade which moves from one street to another. I have been told of a policeman who found a little child on his way to school picking up one of these things. What is the policeman to do? Does he tell the child's mother? Does he take the child to the police station and wash him?
These are the real facts of life in the residential areas which have been afflicted by the spread of this evil in London —an evil which I am sure is limited and can be tackled. Indeed, I am sure it would be tackled with great enthusiasm by local authorities, property companies and 437 public opinion as a whole if a right lead were given by the Government as a result of this Report.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
Various hon. Members have referred to the Report and have paid tribute to the authors. I, too, would like to subscribe to that tribute, for we have certainly been given a great deal of help by this document.
I should like to refer in particular to Part Two of the Report, which deals with homosexual practices. I oppose this section of the Report. We hear a lot these days of the potential danger to future generations from the fall-out of strontium. I believe that these homosexual practices are not a potential danger but are a present danger to the youth of our country.
I also feel that it is the sentimental psychiatrists, and people who support their sentiments, who increase this danger. There are far too many people looking into the mind of the murderer and not at the agony of mind of the relations of the murdered person. There are far too many people looking into the minds of the Teddy cosh-boys and not into the minds of the old ladies who have been coshed. In exactly the same way, too many people are looking into the mind of the homosexual rather than considering the repugnance which is caused to millions of decent people all over the country. There can be no question that this practice is a social evil and that it undermines the morals of the country.
One only has to look back into history to find that it was the condoning of this sort of offence which led to the downfall of the Roman Empire. I feel that it was the condoning of these offences which led to the fall of Nazi Germany. [Laughter.] Yes, that is perfectly true. I believe that here at home if these offences are allowed to continue unchecked our moral standards will be lowered.
§ Mr. Dance
That may be so from the point of view of the war. I was referring 438 to morals in Germany, which were deplorable.
I should like to quote from the words of Mr. Adair in the Report, who sums up the situation as follows:The presence in a district of…adult male lovers living openly and notoriously under the approval of the law "—and that is the point—is bound to have a regrettable and pernicious effect on the young people of the community.I subscribe to that point of view.
I have mentioned psychiatrists, but I should not like it thought that I do not think they do a good job of work. It is the sentimental attitude that I deplore. Of course, I am in favour of psychiatrists endeavouring to cure these unfortunate people. Indeed, I should like there to be further research into other possible cures. But to the gentleman who, I know, meant well and who must have spent a lot of money in sending these books to us, I would say that that money could have better spent in helping these people by promoting research into a cure for them. Hormone treatment has been suggested, although I am informed that that can be very dangerous. However, that is the sort of line which should be pursued, and I hope that in the near future some cure will be established.
I should like to make a practical suggestion. I do not think it would necessarily work now, but when a cure is available I suggest that in the same way as one sees those venereal disease posters in male public urinals, similar notices should be put up advising homosexuals that there is a cure and mentioning the nearest clinic where they can get that cure. I would go even further than that. When we have this cure and its availability publicised—free, if need be—the full severity of the law should come down on homosexuals who carry on these practices.
It is said in the Report also that the Committee feels that consenting males over 21 years of age should not be regarded as committing a crime if they practise homosexuality in private, because it really will not affect anyone else. I do not altogether agree with that. Whereas males over 21 may be content to associate together for some time, I greatly fear that, as age advances, they will search 439 for someone younger. I believe that to allow this sort of thing to continue would be a great menace to the youth of the country.
Time is short, and I shall speak for only a few moments more. Please let us keep sentiment out of the whole question. Let us look at it on a factual basis. By all means, let us try to find a cure. I do not believe that it is beyond the power of medical science today to find some way whereby these people can be treated and cured. I sincerely hope that the cure will be found.
In the meantime, we must not take away any powers from the law. I do not say that we should increase them; let us leave them as they are now. We can always change the powers of the law in the future if desirable. I sincerely hope that, by keeping the law as it is and by encouraging our scientists to pursue their research, the beastly and horrible problem which faces us today will gradually minimise itself so that the law enforcing punishment will no longer be necessary.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Dr. A. D. D. Broughton (Batley and Morley)
I was very surprised that the Wolfenden Committee should have been asked to investigate and report upon two such very different vices. However, the Report contains recommendations on both subjects, and I wish to speak for a few minutes on both.
The subject on which I have less knowledge is prostitution. I have little knowledge of this because it presents 90 problem in my constituency, and few prostitutes come to psychiatrists. Psychiatry is the branch of medicine which I practise. I understand that the psychiatrists who gave evidence before the Committee provided some very useful information about homosexuality, but they regarded prostitution as a social problem and did not supply the Committee with any helpful advice. I can see their point of view, of course, but I think that we must all recognise that there is something psychologically abnormal about a woman who chooses that way of earning a living.
Years ago, when I first heard of prostitutes, I assumed that they would be highly sexed women who entered the 440 profession in order to satisfy abnormal sexual desires; but my professional experience has taught me otherwise. Those whom I have met in my professional experience are women who have been deprived of the love of one or other, or both, of their parents in childhood.
In the light of the limited experience I have had in this matter, I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) who said that these women are incapable of giving or receiving love. At least, those whom I have come across I have found to have been attracted to prostitution because it was an easy way of earning a living, and they were drawn towards it by what I regarded as a deep desire for the real love which they were incapable of giving or receiving. They all suffered feelings of isolation and worthlessness. I must say that I feel very sorry for them. It would, however, be wrong for me to generalise from so few cases.
I agree entirely that there is need for a great deal more research. I maintain also—this is not original; other hon. Members have said it—that there is certainly need for research, if it can be done, into the mentality of the men who resort to prostitutes. Let us remember that there would not be one prostitute in England if there were no clients.
Although I blame the men principally, and I do pity the women who make themselves outcasts from decent society, I feel that, when we consider this Report, we must think of what is best for the community. I am of the opinion that the sight of prostitutes in our streets is displeasing to respectable men, is offensive to respectable women, and is a thoroughly bad example and a temptation to the young. For those reasons, I agree with the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee.
If we accept those recommendations, let us be quite certain in our minds that we are not effecting a cure. All we should be doing would be trying to drive prostitution off the streets. It is better, I think, if we have a festering sore, to keep it covered and out of sight rather than have it exposed, a revolting sight to decent people and a possible cause of infection among the young.
441 I turn now to the part of the Wolfenden Report which relates to homosexuality. First of all, of course, one would like to know what its prevalence is in the country. It is probable that there is a large number of male homosexuals. Some authorities give the figure as 4 per cent. Others put it as low as 2 per cent. If we accept the lower figure, that means that there are half a million male homosexuals in the British Isles.
Some of the causes have already been mentioned by, for instance, the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Shepherd) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North. The causes of homosexuality are deeply embedded in a person's mental make-up. Undoubtedly, fin some cases at any rate, there are constitutional factors which play a part, but we believe that the environment and upbringing of a child are the most important factors. The book written by a known homosexual, which, I understand, was sent to all Members of Parliament, was, I thought, quite good on this particular aspect of the subject. The author states:A baby is interested in nothing but itself; a mall child directs its affection towards other people regardless of their sex; an adolescent boy begins to feel attracted exclusively towards girls; a grown man chooses a woman as his partner. That is the normal pattern. In some cases, however, the process is arrested or reversed. The man remains as the child was, failing to discriminate between the sexes; or he develops in the abnormal direction of being attracted only towards his own sex".I think that that is quite true. If we accept that, then we can regard heterosexuality—that is normal sexuality—as part of the process of growing up. Most of us make the natural transition into normality, but there are some in whom the natural process of development is arrested and even reversed.
We come across some homosexuals who take the male or active part. They appear of the masculine type. I believe that they have been directed along the path of homosexuality by what I might call an accident. For example, in childhood they may have been made to avoid girls and, therefore, have come to regard the fair sex as repulsive. They may, when boys, have had sexual experience with an adult woman and that has filled them with some feeling of disgust.
There are other homosexuals who have a femaleness of outlook. In psychological language, we say that they are the 442 people who probably had a bad father-image and because of this bad father-image they had more interest in what the mother and the sisters were doing. It is worth noting that people of this particular type are very vain and are apt to indulge in exhibitionism. It is in that group that we find the really decadent types and the male prostitutes.
It has been said by one hon. Member that it is possible for homosexuals to repress their desires. I think that that is true to a large extent, but I would ask the House to understand that the sex urge is not weakened in a man by his being a homosexual. A normal, healthy, virile man knows what sex is, and I believe that sex can be and often is just as powerful in the homosexual.
The matter of treatment has been referred to by the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance). I wish I could share his optimistic outlook. Treatment is extremely difficult. Many homosexuals look upon the suggestion of becoming heterosexual as quite absurd. We must realise that it entails their changing their whole life pattern. I think that hon. Members can best realise that by imagining that someone said to them that they wished to change them from what they are, normal heterosexual persons, to homosexuals. That would mean an entirely different outlook. Women would become no longer attractive and men would be sexually attractive. The idea is absurd. It would mean a change of their whole life pattern, and I can assure hon. Members that it is equally difficult for the homosexual.
§ Dr. Donald Johnson (Carlisle)
May I ask the hon. Member to elaborate on this matter a little for the benefit of the House? Is it not correct that hormone treatment merely lowers sexuality in general rather than makes any change in homosexuality?
§ Dr. Broughton
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that is the effect at the present time.
I feel very sorry for these people. They do not know what they are missing. There is no doubt that the law is savage in dealing with them, and the question which we have to ask is: should the law be changed? Should it be modified in the way recommended by the Wolfenden Committee, namely, that homosexual 443 practice among consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence? If we accept that recommendation the general public would gather the impression that Parliament condones this practice. Should we condone it? The question that we might ask ourselves is, does homosexuality strike against normal healthy family life?
Among the voluminous correspondence that hon. Members have received, much of which I have read, I came across a sentence in a letter which said:Men and women joined in true marriage are complementary the one to the other; the man with his strength, ruggedness, thoughtfulness and protective love and respect for his wife; and the woman with her sweetness, intuitive wisdom, love of beauty and reverence for her husband.I suggest that that is the type of love that we want to encourage. There is no getting away from it. We must say that homosexuality is biologically wrong.
If we accept the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee about homosexuality, I have a fear, based on what I know of homosexuals, that some, certainly not all, homosexuals will repress their homosexual feelings less. They may go to the extent even of showing some signs of the affection that they have for one another in public. I can envisage men walking along the street arm in arm, possibly holding hands, and at dances perhaps wishing to dance together and even caressing in public places. I think that that is possible, because, as I mentioned when I was trying to describe one of the types of homosexual that we come across, that particular type likes to be exhibitionistic. If we see a man and woman walking along arm in arm, we approve of it. If we see a boy and a girl holding hands, again society approves. But if we see men showing affection for one another in public it gives most people a deep sense of disapproval. It is unnatural, it is biologically wrong, and, worst of all, because it is biologically wrong, it is a shocking example to young people.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way and I think that we have all listened to his speech with the greatest possible interest. Having said what he has about the homosexual whom he has described, let us now suppose that he is right in what he is 444 saying; does he think that that is a justification for sending homosexuals to prison, because that is the inevitable result of not changing the law?
§ Dr. Broughton
As I have already said, I believe that the law is very savage. I think that the penalties are too severe. As I have also said, however, I fear that if we modify the law, the impression will go out to the general public that Parliament is condoning the offence. We are in a difficulty. It is a great pity that such heavy penalties were ever imposed, but, since they have been imposed, I fear that if we were to alter them at this particular time, the public would probably misunderstand our motives and many people would be of the opinion that we were condoning these offences.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
We respect my hon. Friend's knowledge in this field, but I would like to pursue the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). Would my hon. Friend send homosexuals to prison? That is the simple question.
§ Dr. Broughton
—for two reasons. Long-term imprisonment is too severe a penalty. Furthermore, prison is quite the wrong place to send these people. That, however, is not a very original idea of mine. It has already been mentioned today and I hope that the Home Secretary has taken note of it. By sending homosexuals to prison, as we do at present, we are doing little, if anything, to change them and it may well be that they are changing other prisoners who have previously been able to lead a normal sexual life.
§ Mr. Silverman
May I ask my hon. Friend one more question, the same question as I asked the Home Secretary? In view of what he has said in the last few seconds, will my hon. Friend explain why that argument is not conclusive?
§ Dr. Broughton
I did not say that the homosexual should have no punishment. I fear, as I am trying to explain, that unless some punishment is imposed, there is a danger of others becoming acquainted with this practice and indulging in it.
445 I should like to make just one other point. I apologise for taking up so much of the time of the House, but I have been delayed by interruptions. Hon. Members will remember that the Home Secretary referred to groups of homosexuals. Later in the debate, one hon. Member said that homosexuals were promiscuous. I suggest that just as normal people with their wives and families band themselves into groups and others are promiscuous, so there are the same different types amongst the homosexuals. It is a well-known fact that homosexuals band themselves into groups, and I fear that if the law were changed so that homosexuals did not have this fear of punishment, those groups might elevate the practice of homosexuality to a cult.
I have heard of cases where homosexuals meet in groups and that a considerable amount of trouble has been taken by certain members in the seduction of others. Drinking parties have been organised as an introduction to the practice of homosexuality. I believe that the organisers have no sense of sin they are homosexuals and they do not see that what they are doing is sinful. I fear that if we were to accept and implement the recommendations of the Wolfenden Report, that practice might grow.
I have said before that I am very sorry indeed for homosexuals. I think that the penalties of the law are too cruel and savage. For the reasons which I have given, however, I am not in favour of accepting the recommendations of the Wolfenden Report concerning homosexuality. We have, most unfortunately, both prostitution and homosexuality with us. I wish that they could both be cured, but, until they can, I think it best that we should keep them out of sight of the general public.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Dr. Reginald Bennett (Gosport and Fareham)
Everybody will agree that the discussion we have had so far today has been conducted largely with detachment and with as near a factual appraisal as the knowledge of facts allows anybody in the House to consider these distressing subjects.
Like the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton), I have for many years followed the same branch of the medical profession and both before and 446 since becoming a Member of this House I have done a good deal of practice at the request of the courts in reporting upon the state of mind, and, indeed, undertaking the treatment of, homosexuals. Therefore, I am particularly content to know that my colleague on the other side of the House, the hon. Member for Batley and Morley, who has also engaged in this practice, agrees with me, because, frankly, I feel that few other members of the psychiatric profession similarly agree. I thought I was in a minority of one. I see now, however, that I am in a minority of two.
I assure the House that I shall be as quick as possible. I was interested to hear the observations of the hon. Member for Batley and Morley, which, I thought, came right to the nub of the whole subject of prostitution. Surely, what we in this House are trying to do is to take the advertisement of the wares of these people off the streets, even if the practice is historically insuppressible.
For the sake of shortness, I will merely quote a remark which I found in the works of Dr. Flexner, who wrote in 1904 that 15 per cent. of men will find a prostitute no matter how great the effort, 15 per cent. of men will refuse to go to a prostitute no matter how much the offer is made to them, and that the rest will respond in accordance with the ease with which a prostitute may be obtained. It is surely that 70 per cent. that we in this House can take a great hand in preventing being submitted to the temptations which will encourage what is not only—let us face it—an occupation, but a highly organised industry.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has asked for our comments on the changes in the law, if any, that we advocate. I would certainly say that we should heighten the penalties, but we should beware of doing so to such an extent that every case becomes defended, that the turnover of the courts drops to next to nothing and that the defence of these women becomes more and more an undertaking for the monarchs of the industry.
I also endorse my right hon. Friend's observations that we should certainly penalise very heavily those who exploit this industry, if we can catch them. My information, however, has always been that these men are very well protected by 447 those whom they protect, who are very commonly in love with their protector, however brutal he may be, and that catching them is a very different matter. By all means let us penalise them heavily, but what can we do to catch them? Parliament is up against a very different problem in this regard.
On homosexuality, I have had a certain amount of practising to do for the courts in investigating states of mind. In the light of such humble experience as I have had, I find it difficult to understand why the Wolfenden Committee came to the conclusions it did. My only hope of explaining that to myself is by reference to paragraphs 56 and 57 of the Report, which talk about the adult male who has sought as his partner another adult male and whether or not he would seek boys as partners, too. On the strength of assurances from expert witnesses—to wit, psychiatrists—I gather thatThey are in no doubt that whatever may be the origins of the homosexual condition, there are two recognisably different categories among adult male homosexuals. There are those who seek as partners other adult males, and there are paedophiliacs, that is to say men who seek as partners boys who have not reached puberty.The argument continues:We are authoritatively informed that a man who has homosexual relations with an adult partner seldom turns to boys, and vice versa, though it is apparent from the police reports we have seen and from other evidence submitted to us that such cases do happen.That may be true, though personally I doubt it, and I think that we should have much more information before we accept that. I absolutely decline to accept that the man who accepts another adult male as his partner will not seek an adolescent male above the age of puberty, because I think they all do. That is why, if we were to make indulgences in private not offences we would be permitting the spread of an activity which would inevitably lead to a greater evil in proselytising adolescents.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
In 1947 the Cambridge Institute of Criminal Science made an inquiry embracing 1,000 cases from 14 police districts in the United Kingdom. There were in those 14 districts 275 indictable offences for homosexual practices involving 406 accomplices or victims. An examination of the records showed that 448 the majority of victims were under the age of 16 and only 11 per cent. over the age of 21 and only one case of one adult with a consenting adult.
§ Dr. Bennett
That is not, I am sure, far from an average sort of figure. It so happens that in my attempts at practice in aid of the courts I have seen a fairly large number of homosexuals and I have been struck by the proportion of them who were adolescents who had been picked up. They were late developers, slow in maturing, uncertain of their sexual direction and they had been pushed into that direction.
I found that it was remarkably easy to cure these people with the aid of hormone treatment which has been already mentioned today. By reducing sexual tension of the individual, provided he is under suitable treatment, this treatment can so suppress it that a reorientation of ideas has time to take place so that when sexual desires are allowed to return on the cessation of treatment they take a more natural form. I am happy to say that if patients are suitably selected it seems that there is a good prospect of curing these men. That shows that we cannot regard homosexuals as hard and fast incurables nor as hereditary, congenital or even environmentally produced people who must have a separate way of life.
In my belief, a big part at least in the influencing and the curing of these young men and restoring them to normal life has been, so far as we can ascertain, the fear of the sanction of the law. I would respectfully take issue with anyone who says that the law is not a deterrent. I believe that it is a profound deterrent especially in the case of people of whom we have most hope of success. Therefore, I say that it would be disastrous to abandon the law on that point.
For these reasons I cannot accept the findings of the Wolfenden Report on homosexuality. My submission of evidence to the Commission was rather an odd thing and perhaps the House might take note of it. I worked in a public clinic in psychiatry and the staff were circularised about their opinions and evidence to be submitted to the committee. A questionnaire was circulated, which had already been prepared, and I found increasing difficulty in filling it in. There ultimately came a paragraph which 449 I could not in any way fill in without agreeing to the resolution which the Wolfenden Committee has accepted. I wrote back that I refused to fill it in because it was impossible to do so without agreeing to this. I saw afterwards, in a paper, that in a Government clinic the staff had unanimously reported in favour of this so-called reform with one exception, and I wonder if that was me.
I do not think that the evidence produced by the psychiatric profession can necessarily be accepted as being as sound as it has been accepted as being by the Wolfenden Committee. That is all I wish to say on this subject. No doubt there will be ample opportunities of debating it in the future, and I should now like other hon. Members to have their turn to speak.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
I want to say only a brief and dispassionate word in support of the Wolfenden proposal to make homosexual acts between consenting adults in private no longer a criminal offence. The present law seems to me, in the words of The Times this morning, to be "obsolete and unjust," mainly, among other reasons, because, I believe, it infringes a basic principle of personal freedom.
I do not believe that the State or the criminal law has any right to interfere with the conduct of the individual, unless that conduct has some effect upon some otter people. That seems to me to be a basic principle on which one ought not to compromise. It also seems to me that that is true whatever the nature of the act we are considering. Therefore, many of the arguments that we have heard today are strictly irrelevant to the real issue before us.
The only issue is whether the practices in question have some effect on the rest of society or not. And if it is contended that they do—and I am not going to argue that tonight—I believe that it must be shown that the effect is clear and that it is substantial. I do not believe that a case has been made out in the instances we are now discussing nor, from the evidence that I have seen, can it be made out.
Once we depart from that principle and start arguing that, because we dislike some practice, or because we ourselves 450 think it morally wrong, we should therefore legally prohibit other people from doing it, even though it has no effect upon anyone else, we are on a very slippery slope. This seems to me to be the beginning of all intolerance. It is a road which leads—much further on, but going in the same direction—eventually to concentration camps and to the persecution of heretics. The Home Secretary quite rightly mentioned today the argument that, if we remove the legal prohibition, the practice might actually spread as a result.
That argument can be used, and has been used, in favour of persecuting all sorts of heresies. I would prefer not to have even a foot on the road that leads, in that direction.
Therefore, I support the proposed reform, with all the safeguards, of course, for young people, which are not in issue at all in this debate. I believe that in the world in which we live we ought to give the benefit of the doubt, if there is a doubt, in favour of toleration and the liberty of the individual. Personal liberty as this 70-year-old controversy has again shown, is something very easily lost and very hardly won.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mrs. Evelyn Emmet (East Grinstead)
I am very grateful for having caught your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I think the women's societies and the public at large would have been rather surprised if no woman had intervened in this debate, and I hope that there will be one or two more women who will be able to take part. I shall be very brief, but I should like to take up two points relating to prostitution, on which I have noticed women's societies have been most interested.
There has been great objection to the proposal to drop the establishment of "annoyance". I am inclined to the views of the Wolfenden Report and the Home Secretary on this because, from records one has seen and from police evidence, it is almost impossible to establish annoyance and it seems to me that if it is not a practicable proposition then there is no point in keeping it in. The object of those wishing to keep it in is to insure that the client can be brought forward as a witness. We know very well that that never happens and that the evidence of 451 the policeman has to be relied upon in any case.
I think that the annoyance is not so much the speaking of a woman to a man and soliciting in that way but annoyance to the public by the quantity of prostitutes haunting the streets. That is the real annoyance at present. It does not seem to me that the establishment of annoyance needs to be maintained to deal with that. We can surely deal with it under proceedings for loitering with intent or for being a public nuisance. I feel that is the most practical way of proceeding.
It has been said, and I think the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) raised the point in an interruption, that if we can prosecute a woman for offering wares we should be able to prosecute a man for accepting them. But we have to prove that, and to prove it we must catch him in flagrante delicto, and there is no chance at all of prosecuting a client unless we pursue the matter to the final end.
I am not at all sure that prostitution has increased as much as one would think from looking at the streets. I have the feeling that the difficulty of obtaining accommodation, the expensiveness of accommodation, the shortage of customers since the Services have shrunk and the war came to an end have driven the women more into the streets than they were before. For the same reasons parks also have been made more use of. I think we ought to proceed as recommended in the Report. Whatever the danger from clearing the streets, there are, as has been said, great advantages to the young in removing temptation which justifies our doing it.
I should like to deal briefly with the second point taken up by many of the societies, and that is the label of common prostitute. I should like to see the Scottish method brought to England, the caution. I feel that if there is one caution on the spot and one caution at the police station there is very little doubt that if there is a third time the fact is established that we are dealing with a common prostitute, and if we are dealing, with a fact we must admit the name. I do not see anything to quibble about in that.
452 The caution enables the police to put a girl in touch with voluntary societies which can help her at an early stage. I feel that there should be a greater variety of treatment specially for these girls. I should like to see it made possible to bring them before the juvenile court and put under supervision as being in need of care, I should like to see the older ones sent to an approved school from the juvenile court.
Where I vary from the Report, and, perhaps, the Home Secretary, is that though I think the fine should be increased as suggested I should not like to see imprisonment as the only alternative on the third offence. I should like to see fines, or other suggestions by all means, and imprisonment also, but I should not like to see imprisonment as the only measure which can be taken.
§ Mr. W. Wells
I should like to point out to the hon. Lady that we did not, of course, recommend that that should be the only course open to the courts, but that that course should be open to the courts and that the courts should have power and discretion to impose a sentence of imprisonment if they thought fit.
§ Mrs. Emmet
I thank the hon. and learned Member. I hope that will be made clear in the summing up of the debate tonight. It is not clear at present, whatever the Wolfenden Report may have said. The point is not made by the Home Secretary today.
All the suggestions we have had up to date have really been negative ones, that is, on the repression of prostitution. There is one matter, however, which we should consider carefully. The type of girls we find on the streets are on the whole poorly educated, some of them are of low mentality, and most of them have left school early and come from bad homes. The result of that is that they will not be able to obtain a really remunerative occupation. They will be competing in the lowest markets for wages. We can see, therefore, the temptation of prostitution; we can also see that if they are driven underground they are not the type of girls who would be able to organise themselves, for they would not have the mentality for it. If they wished to pursue this trade they would hand themselves over to be 453 organised. That is a matter we must bear in mind.
I was for some six years chairman of an approved school, and I studied a great many case histories there. We had a lot of girls of this type. It was quite obvious that the two principal factors in their background were bad homes and low mentality or poor education. It seems to me that if we are really going to do something about this matter other than try to repress prostitution we have to take a very much longer view.
We have to rethink in the educational world. I was very much in sympathy with what an hon. Member opposite said who talked about the family. I am certain that that is where we have to start, because bad homes mean there have been bad parents who do not realise their responsibilities.
I have a feeling that we have gone the wrong way about sex education in schools in recent years. Sex has been far too great a headline. What we ought to be doing is training our boys and girls in the responsibilities of married life and parenthood, of which sex naturally would be a part of the instruction. It has been taken out of its context and dealt with separately and given far too great importance.
There is a great deal to be done, particularly in training the girls. Hon. Members will know of the famous saying of the Jesuit, "Give me a child for the first seven years of its life and you can do what you like with it afterwards." The mother has the principal responsibility for the first seven years of a child's life. We teach our girls a certain amount of domestic science and how to wash and look after the baby physically, but I do not think we have begun to teach our girls how to conduct themselves when they become the mothers of future citizens.
I do not think that girls have realised that all the raw material will be going through their hands and that for the first seven years they will have a tremendous effect on the child, which may even by that time have the foundations laid for being a good citizen, a prostitute or the client of a prostitute. This tremendous responsibility which girls have as future mothers needs to be studied and the whole of the educational side gone into 454 very carefully. I suggest that in this connection we ask our two bachelor Ministers in the Ministry of Education to consider seriously the setting up of a special committee to inquire into what methods are necessary to bring up not just educated youngsters but future parents.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
I hope that the hon. Lady the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) will forgive me if I do not follow her in her remarks and I return to the Wolfenden Report. I have never known a Report which was so well boosted. There has hardly been a week since its publication when the author has not been appearing either in the Press or at public functions or on the B.B.C.
Talk about the ten days' rule! How wonderful that last Friday, on "Any Questions", it was three to one. There was Sir John himself, there was Victor Mishcon, who wants us to follow Paris, and also someone from the Observer. I do not know the opinions of the fourth. I do not say that this was deliberately arranged for last Friday, but it was deliberately arranged for a date when it was known that the Wolfenden Report debate was bound to be in the offing. And, as usual, there were three cheers from the audience. There are always cheers, but particularly when it is represented that there will be prosecutions where there is an attempt to contaminate the young.
But an account of the Report in its entirety is never given. It is pointed out that there will be no prosecution of male adults who misconduct themselves privately, but who can object to that? It sounds to me quite good. It would never be found out, would it? Intercourse in private is not found out. If it is found out, it cannot have been in private. All people with normal minds accept that if it is conducted in private there will be no prosecution.
I think, however, that we had better have a definition of "private", and for that and other things I must return to the Report. I believe that very few people indeed have read it. I think that very few Members of Parliament have read it. I know that a great many people say that they have read it. It has been in my hands since September of last year, when I was asked by Granada Television 455 to debate it one night. I find that I have had to return to the Report again and again. It is one thing to read a paragraph but quite another to get its full import.
One thing stands out a mile—that statutory authority is given to all adults to approach other adults and attempt by invitation or otherwise to get them to go to a private place for homosexual behaviour. These are the words of the one dissentient, James Adair. He says that to give statutory authority to all thisis in my view a retrograde step and may readily lead to many undesirable scenes and to an increase in the amount of the behaviour itself.No one has any right to talk about this Report without pointing out these implications.
The Report states in paragraph 115:…we recommend that Section 13 of the Sexual Offences Act, 1956, be amended in such a way that a person is not guilty of an offence against that section merely because"—Yes, merely because—he procures or attempts to procure the commission with himself of an act which is no longer a criminal offence.That is what we have to offer the public. Do hon. Members want to go to their constituencies with this—"What Wolfenden offer you"? If so, let them thumb-index it, and give it a good glossy print. Adult males can get other adult males to go to some private place. They can set up as lovebirds anywhere.
At present, it is no legal offence for a woman to take a separate dwelling. It would be if there were two of them, but if one woman takes a separate dwelling that is not an offence. The courts have held that it is not. Nor is it an offence if in her apartment the woman entertains her gentlemen friends. The Home Secretary has told me so.
The right hon. Gentleman goes further and informs me also that she can do this for the purpose of habitual prostitution. He has added that it would be no offence if another lady across the landing or in the same block of flats also took a separate apartment for the same purpose. Therefore, one might have this sort of thing spreading across a certain district. Thus we should open the door for the male who is now demanding equality with the female—and I have always held that he should have equality.
456 There are other facets of this Report which in my opinion show the Committee's deductions and conclusions to have been arrived at on a far from scientific basis.
Is the number of homosexuals increasing? That is a vital point which is referred to in the Appendix under the heading "Statistics Relating to Homosexual Offences", with a subheading, "Homosexual Offences Known to the Police". Then there is a table of figures from the years from 1931 to 1955. This shows that in 1951 there was a total of 622 offences and in 1955 a total of 6.644. What do our friends say about that? That does not impress the Committee, not a bit. The report states:…homosexual offences known to the police will therefore be conditioned to a large extent both by the efficiency of the police methods of detecting and recording, and by the intensity of police activity.Now, Sir, you and I might think that the Chief Commissioner of Police knows his business, and in his crime report he makes the deduction that if there is at any given period an increase in the cases coming before the courts, there is usually a far bigger increase in the cases that never come before the courts. One would expect the Committee to agree, but not so. This wonderful Committee in fact states in the Report:In brief, therefore, it would be dangerous to argue from the police statistics alone either that there was an overall increase or that homosexual behaviour was most prevalent in those areas where the number of cases recorded as known to the police was the highest.There is another thing you and I might think, Sir. It is that our police have been working short-handed. Indeed we have heard that they have been very shorthanded indeed, but the Committee does not think so. The Committee deduces that the police have had such a surplus that they have been able to chase up all the homosexuals in the various districts of London.
Here is another example of a fallacious argument about homosexuality in the Report. After stating that it is a misconception to think that it belongs only to the intelligentsia, the report states:Our evidence shows that it exists among all callings and at all levels of society…457 Then there is this argument that:…among homosexuals will be found not only those possessing a high degree of intelligence but also the dullest oafs.Then the Report states that because a prominent man gets great newspaper publicity, we all deduce from this that the practice is particularly active in the upper classes. Why gaze in the crystal when we can get police statistics? The police statistics and indeed all records of crime would show where homosexuals come from. Yet the Report gives nothing beyond an argument, with no logical reasoning behind it as to whether this practice comes from a university or anywhere else. An argument cannot be sustained when it is taken from the particular to meet the general case.
§ Sir H. Linstead
Will the hon. Lady allow me to intervene for a moment? I feel that she must want to do complete justice to the Committee. She has selected a number of extracts which suit her argument and she might at least include the final words of paragraph 46, in which we sum up by saying:…the incidence of homosexuality and homosexual behaviour must be large enough to present a serious problem.
§ Mrs. Mann
It is still very inconclusive as regards the police report. Again I ask you, Sir, to look at this fallacious reasoning in paragraph 218. Here the Press is blamed. Of all people, the Press is blamed for giving far too much publicity, and the Report states that the reporting of such cases is "almost wholly bad." Now let us look at what the "bad lads" of the Press have been doing. The Report goes on:We have, incidentally, encountered several cases in which men have got into touch with homosexual offenders whose convictions were reported in the Press, with the result that further homosexual offences were committed.Being an ordinary person, my feeling is that a report in the Press of a homosexual case would scare the wits out of most potential homosexuals. The Committee takes the opposite point of view. Even the Press is wrong. I should imagine that the Press was doing a mighty lot of good in reporting these cases. I should think that those who had any tendency towards homosexuality would say, "We had better watch our P's and Qs." As a mother, I would welcome that; I would feel that it would scare the life out of any young boy.
458 Now I will return again to the Churches who have supported this, with the exception of the Church of Scotland. Mr. Adair points out that most of these organisations were either advised by, or had evidence given to them by, psychiatrists. Neither psychiatrists nor the Churches condemn criminals. Ask the clergy what kind of sentence they would give to anyone. They would not want to give a sentence at all, regarding these people as poor, beloved sinners. They say we must hate the sin but we must love the sinner. They know all about sin—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Is my hon. Friend aware of the Christian sentiment:He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…"?
§ Mrs. Mann
Oh, yes. Quite an old one that, but it should not be used, and surely never was intended to be used, as an incentive towards the furtherance of crime. I am reminded of the man who, coming back from church, met another man in a quiet road in Scotland. He said, "Jock, you are a very faithful attender at church". Jock replied, "Aye, I go every Sunday. I love to listen to that parson, because he kens all aboot sin."
I notice that professional bodies and the Church are mentioned, but I do not notice mention of the trade unions. There is not one trade union here. I cannot imagine the miners' lodges welcoming a Report which will mean that it will no longer be an offence to procure an adult male and to set up a house in a mining village for a male friend. I cannot see the Co-operative women's guilds welcoming this, or the townswomen's guilds.
A very limited but very powerful and influential body is behind the Report, and behind the expense of the sending out of the Report. It has very wide ramifications. The evil thread runs through the theatre, through the music hall, through the Press, and through the B.B.C. It has international ramifications. When this Report tries to soften our hearts about blackmail, we must think how often we have heard of the poor fellow whose name appears in the Press and is blackmailed. But we are not told of blackmail in reverse. Have none of us heard about fellows who are passed over, in favour 459 of someone who is willing to render service to someone up above? We have heard of contracts that are lost, or of engagements that are given for services rendered. This blackmail of the vilest type is running through our society like an evil thread.
We are told about lads who do not get promotion because they have a Scottish accent. I wish the truth were known about why many of them do not get promotion and why many others get both promotion and contracts.
Now I want to speak about this idea of homosexuality in private. We should have a definition of what is meant by "in private". Mr. Adair says:…it will make legal acts which have in the past been the subject of some notorious and highly objectionable cases.In other words, they will be kept out of the Press because they will be quite legal in the future. Mr. Adair goes on:I refer to acts in rooms and cubicles of hotels, lodging houses and hostels where even the owner, occupier or manager may be a principal participant.Though parents with sons and daughters growing up to manhood and womanhood be ever so careful, there comes a time when the children must leave the family home. Many of them go to boarding school. If, in a boarding school or university hostel, two adult males are constantly together night after night in a bedroom, they set a very bad example to other boys and it gets talked about. Let hon. Members make no mistake about that; the boys will talk about it.
Today the boys can say, "That is illegal", and the adult males concerned dare not do it for fear they are found out, when they will be brought before the magistrates. If effect is given to this Report, that will be all right; they can do it, Parliament will have decided that it is O.K. I will not go into all the facets of this problem, but on Friday night I heard it said on the radio that it is indulged in for no other reason than that it is perhaps fashionable.
Some people are genuinely afflicted and deserve all our sympathy and all our help. We should have a care for them and let them have the treatment which is available. There are others who, like women on the street, take up the job 460 because there is good pay, it is easy work and they like it. Those who might be tempted and could have treatment will find they do not need to bother any further about taking treatment, as they are never likely to be impugned by the law. They will never see their names in the newspapers for having committed these acts. There is blackmail in reverse. When a man of 21 and over goes to a young fellow of 18, the younger can say at present that this is a crime as well as a sin. He will not have that reinforcement behind him. The tempter will be able to say to him, "It is all right, Parliament has approved it."
There is the anxiety of parents. I quote from what was said about homosexuality by an Oxford University preacher. He said:I know this sort of thing is afoot in the university. People, particularly parents, are anxious about it.In his sermon he had said:It is open to any senior member of this university to corrupt our undergraduates with considerable security callously filling the lives of these young men with misery and sin.This Report shows how to stimulate and encourage it. In what way should we deal with it? By heavy penalties and long imprisonment? I do not think so. In cases which appear from time to time, one feels that no amount of imprisonment will ever cause the hurt that those concerned have caused to their wives and probably to their children. Imprisonment, however severe, never pierces so deeply as these actions on the remaining members of the family of the one who is imprisoned. I am not enamoured of that method at all.
I should like to get to the cause of this problem. I thought we were spending £8,046 to get to the cause of it. I think the Report is worth the odd £46. There is no attempt in the Report to get to the cause of it. There is only a recommendation that perhaps we could try to get to the cause of it, and I hope that we shall. I hope, too, that we shall give some detailed study to the treatment of it and I hope that we shall review our ideas about whether putting homosexuals into prison will help or hinder.
I should like to see the Scottish system introduced. I do not like to see a man listed at once but not tried for perhaps six weeks or two months. It should be 461 left to the Procurator Fiscal to make the charge and at that time to fix the trial. There are some reforms to which we could turn our minds, but I am sorry to see that they are not in this Report.
May I conclude with a word of warning that wherever I find the Wolfenden Report moved, as it will be, into discussions public or private, I shall follow it to show that the Committee is asking for an amendment of the law to allow male adults to procure male adults and to allow male adults to set up house together. The public ought to be properly informed.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril W. Black (Wimbledon)
I think the hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) has done well to draw attention to the very high pressure campaign which has been undertaken in recent months in support of the recommendation of the Committee on which she has been speaking. Those who are in favour of the recommendation arid who seek to effect an alteration in the law are perfectly entitled to organise themselves for the purpose and to undertake any publicity and propaganda that they may wish in that direction. But I think the House should have its attention drawn to the fact that such a campaign has obviously been in progress and that there is a fear that, as a result of that campaign, we may be led into thinking that that view represents a majority of public opinion, when in my view exactly the reverse is the case.
Statements have been made this afternoon about the attitude of the churches oil this matter, and this is only one of the particulars in which the campaign which has been undertaken has misrepresented the true position. It has been stated, for instance, by the Homosexual Law Reform Society that the utterances of the churches have been overwhelmingly in favour of the implementation of the recommendation. I do not believe that that is an accurate statement of the opinion of the churches at all. It is a fact that the Church of Scotland, the Church of Ireland and the Salvation Army have all expressed themselves against this recommendation. My own church, the Baptist Church, is certainly not in favour of it, and when we come to the other churches which have given 462 more or less qualified support it is interesting to look at what the voting figures have been.
Let me take the Assembly of the Church of England in order to see the extent of the support in the Established Church. At the meeting of the Church Assembly in which a vote was taken on this matter there could have been 735 members present. That is the strength of the Church Assembly. When the vote was taken, 155 members voted in favour and 138 voted against, so that out of the whole body of the Church Assembly, 21 per cent. voted in favour of the recommendation of the Report, 19 per cent. voted against, and 60 per cent. either were not present or abstained from voting.
§ Mr. John Mackie (Galloway)
I do not say this in any hostile spirit, but may not that have been due to the fact that the Most Reverend the Primate of Canterbury made a speech in the debate in another place on the Wolfenden Report, strongly favouring the recommendations? Perhaps the 60 per cent. who abstained may not have wished to offend the Primate.
§ Mr. Black
Possibly. I only say that it is quite incorrect to state that the churches' utterances have been overwhelmingly in favour of this recommendation. I think that it would be much fairer to say that the leaders of the various churches have shown themselves to be more or less equally divided on the subject. When we come to the rank-and-file membership of the Churches, however, my impression is—and I give it merely as an impression, because no one can prove or disprove what I am about to say—that in this matter the instinct of the rank-and-file has been more sound than has that of many of the leaders, and I think that among the rank-and-file there would be found to be a considerable majority against the proposal.
I am singularly unconvinced by the argument that a hard-and-fast line can and should be drawn between sin and crime between sin, which is to he tolerated by the law, and crime which is to he punished by it. I cannot but feel that the attempt to draw this distinction leaves the great mass of ordinary people entirely unimpressed—
§ Mr. Black
If the hon. Member will wait for a moment I will develop my argument, but I will develop it in my own way.
On this attempt to draw the line between sin and crime, the case has been most admirably put by Lord Justice Denning, a great lawyer and a great churchman, who has said:It is impossible to draw a hard-and-fast line between crime and sin. So far as the right standards of behaviour are concerned I say most emphatically these standards and these morals are the concern of the law whether done in private or in public. Without religion there can be no morality and without morality there can be no law. A great part of our legal system is concerned with laying down the right standards of behaviour, and to a great number of people these are the only standards they know…The law influences public opinion and, conversely, public opinion influences the law. They act and react on one another, so it is of the highest importance that the law should lay down the right standards, standards that commend themselves to right-thinking people as being correct. Law in the wider sense governs most of the spheres of human activity, and I say it is impossible to draw a hard-and-fast line between crime and sin.That sums up the matter in very much better language than I could command.
I also find myself differing from the view, so frequently advanced in this debate and in discussion in the country, that to relax the law in favour of the homosexual would not lead to any considerable increase in this type of behaviour. Quite frankly, I do not believe that. It seems to me to be contrary to all human experience and I think it certain that the proposed relaxation of the law would inevitably lead to a great increase in this type of practice.
In this connection, it is interesting to see what Mr. James Adair, the dissenting member, said in his speech to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He told the Assembly of homosexual clubs in Britain affiliated to an international organisation with a membership of 14,000. He said:We are being asked to consider as being no longer unlawful something which is practised for its own sake. Sinning, it may be said, for the sake of sinning.This was something which was organised, as was well known in the South. There were a number of clubs composed of this 464 class and they were propagating this practice.
He continued:Within five weeks of the publication of the Wolfenden Report one of the smaller clubs received forty applications for membership. The international organisation had a publication which gave out a directory telling members of places in principle cities where they might meet those of their own kind. It included hotels and restaurants.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
Was any evidence given on how this information was obtained? It seems to me to be rather detailed information, and if it was known to the police presumably police action was taken.
§ Mr. Black
The sources of a great many statements made in this connection have not been disclosed. I am simply quoting what Mr. James Adair said as a man of responsibility, a member of the Committee and a man who would not make that kind of statement without having evidence to support it. To relax the law now in favour of the homosexual would be accepted as a signal that the State tolerated and condoned unnatural acts between men. The moral stigma would be lifted, not only from this conduct thus taken off the list of crimes, but from other conduct far more damaging, such as acts between adults and boys. What is admissible for those over an arbitrary age, it would be felt, could hardly be very wrong for those just under that age.
We have all, been greatly impressed this afternoon by two speakers who are practising psychiatrists, one from either side of the House, and each has condemned with qualifications this proposal and has expressed his own views about its unwisdom. Their testimony is of particular value and force, as it so often happens that psychiatrists as a class are to be found among those who would take a light view of moral responsibility and the moral consequences of acts of a sinful character.
The British Federation of Psychologists welcomed this recommendation. I am quite clear that twenty-five years ago this recommendation of the Committee would never have been seriously considered either in this House or in the country, but since then the intensive operations of a large body of psychologists have done much to weaken the sense of personal responsibility.
465 There seems to me to be a dangerous tendency in this country at the present time to suggest that no criminal can really help or should be held responsible for what he is doing. When a vicious young man nearly batters an old woman to death and steals money from the till some people are inclined to say that he cannot help it, that his mother was unkind to him when he was young or that he had a bad home environment. That may be true, and one is sorry for people in that position, but that is not a reason for not pitting the law into operation, because the public must be protected against acts of violence.
The same sort of argument applies in the case of homosexuals. It is no doubt true that some of them are so constituted by nature that they cannot help being homosexuals, but is that a reason for altering the law and making it easier for them? If one applies the principal logically, then one must apply it also to other forms of mania. For instance, what about kleptomaniacs?
I was brought up to believe, as I think many hon. Members were brought up to believe, that men and women are responsible moral beings, that every day in which we live we have the choice either of walking in the straight and narrow way that leads to life or treading the broad and slippery path which leads to destruction. The consequences follow according to the moral choices that men and women make, day by day and year by year, in the course of life. In my opinion, anything which has the effect, as I believe this proposal would have, of weakening that sense of moral responsibility, should be opposed by this House.
These unnatural practices, if persisted in, spell death to the souls of those who indulge in them. Great nations have fallen and empires been destroyed because corruption became widespread and socially acceptable.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
To the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), I can say that he could have made that speech in any century in history without fearing any prosecution for heresy.
I understand that I must be brief. I have listened to many speeches today. I listened with particular interest to the brilliant and moving speech made by 466 my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin). I have listened always with doubt. I have no certainty on this matter. It is to one limited aspect that I wish to devote my time, but if I may I will say one thing in opening. The vice Anglais is not buggery but hum-buggery. This is said also on the Continent. It is one of the things we ought to make a very great effort to avoid. I think that both sides in this controversy should make an effort to avoid it. I believe that the sort of propaganda which has been circulated round the House during the last week or two, and through the post, has done much more harm than good to the cause it tries to serve.
On the subject of homosexuality, I go no further than this. I am in favour of trying what is proposed as an experiment. I am in favour of supporting the Report. I came to that decision with reluctance. I was a little frightened when I began to receive organised support of this kind. I am perfectly in favour of saying that as a sinner myself I am anxious to be tolerant to my fellow sinners, but I am not in favour of establishing a corps d'élite of sexual perverts.
A few sentences, if I may, on the subject of prostitution. I note with some surprise that a great deal of the attention of some reverend gentleman is devoted to Sodom and Gomorrah and very little is devoted to the woman who annointed the feet of Christ. I do not, of course, ask anyone to believe that the ladies who can be seen in Compton Street today are Magdalens, but I do suggest that they are a public responsibility. We should have regard to that responsibility.
I can think of very little worse than putting them in prison. It would be bad for them, and it would be worse for the other women prisoners, very seriously worse. My hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) made that remark. I agree with it of course. I appreciate that it was his desire for brevity which prevented him from developing it. I wonder whether that does not show so much of the evil of the prison system that a few other questions are made relevant.
Yesterday morning, I talked to a young, bright-eyed, rather fine looking young man who was about to embark on a new life. In a very few months, he will seek a new existence, in circumstances which 467 are rather unusual. He appeared to me to be a boy of 23. I was told that he was 30. About eleven years ago he was sent to prison. I said, "It has to be a fairly serious crime for a man of 19 to be sent to prison for eleven years". I was told that it was; he was sentenced to death for the murder of his father. I know that a number of hon. Members opposite will say that I have no sympathy for mothers and fathers and will put forward an argument which has been used ad nauseam over the years. That man has had the hard discipline of a French prison under a director who is seeking to cure his patients. He has had to do hard work for fifty-six hours a week for ten or eleven years. He started with what might be called nine months' solitary confinement, which might sound brutal but which is really segregation.
In a prison of 400 people there are ten highly qualified observation officers to watch the progress of that man and to find out whether there is any hope for him and to move him a little from one section to another until finally, after about ten years, he may graduate to a dormitory society. There is no fear of homosexual activity or anything of that kind, and ultimately he may go outside to work and come back to the prison at night. All that is done in an organisation in a country which we rather sneer at in relation to the work done for the reform of prisoners. If he had been condemned in this country in all probability he would have been sewing mailbags for twenty-three hours a week.
We do not even make the men work. A constant allegation against penal reformers is that they want to pamper prisoners. The first thing that a prisoner should be called upon to do is a full week's work—productive work. I did not see the figures for the prison in the Forest of Fontainebleau yesterday morning. I had only a few hours, having to come back to vote on motor cars. I would hazard a guess that that prison costs less per head to run than the average British prison, which has a larger number of warders and which is wholly unproductive. The men in the French prison are working exclusively for the French Government, the United Nations and the Council of Europe. They were providing excellent material like filing cabinets, doing steel work, printing 468 and bookbinding and so on. Provided they worked jolly hard and preserved good discipline they could win a few privileges.
I talked to a lad who had just gone into the segregation section. He had raped a girl of 14 three or four years ago. He will have fifteen years of penitence for it. I have a great deal of sympathy for the girl, who may be ruined for life. The State should be looking after her. It may be that it is. But we should adopt the attitude that these matters are the responsibility of ourselves. We have to do something about it.
I do not accept in toto the suggestion that homosexuality is nearly as widespread as has been suggested. My view is that it tends to become an urban crime, and the fact that it tends to become an urban crime shows that it can be acquired by other means than by hereditary or congenital means. There is no question that this can have a psychic infection. The conditions in Berlin immediately after the First World War showed that this sort of thing can spread and is dangerous.
I agree entirely that if we make the experiment it will be a risky one. If we make it, I suggest that we should do it on the two grounds which the right hon. Gentleman put so clearly. After all, Oscar Wilde was not a very attractive figure. I do not regard him as a very considerable figure in literature, but he had wit and he had talent. By and large, he was from many points of view a singularly objectionable individual. He was arrogant and ungenerous. He played no part in society. He had a melancholy genetic history, but the public still feel a considerable responsibility for the way in which he was harried down by self-righteous people with less virtue than he.
We all feel a responsibility to these men, who, we know, may in the main be victims of genetic conditions and who are placed in a situation in which the very mention of a charge of this kind against them commences a social ruin; in which the charge is so difficult to defend; in which it is so brutally punished and in which it leads, at present certainly, to no particular obvious opportunity of reformation; and, as the Home Secretary fairly said, it is so unevenly applied. It 469 is applied unevenly geographically because some police forces are much more active than others. It is applied unevenly because so often it comes to light only as a result of somebody else, and it is applied in circumstances that excite a certain amount of reprobation.
I have referred to what has been done in France and I would like to say to the Home Secretary, who, I know, feels deeply about these matters and whose interest in mental health is not the subject of any suspicion, that I am sure that he is sincerely interested in these matters. I would like him to go to the little institute at Utrecht and see the work that is being done there. If he would talk to Professor Baal and Professor Rosenberg there, he would find out that they are embarking upon a really new voyage into the interior of the human mind. It is a fantastic experiment.
I am not depreciating the work which has been done in England. The Utrecht people refer with admiration to Dr. Maxwell Jones, at Belmont, and with' great interest to the limited group at Wormwood Scrubs. We are making our contribution. The people at Utrecht, however, have adopted the legislative principle to start with that if a man is certified as suffering from a mental condition which diminishes his responsibility and, at the same time, is capable, in their view, of remedial treatment, he is treated at once as a patient. He is not convicted in any way. He is ordered to be at the disposal of the Government, which means that he may lose his liberty in a treatment institution for up to two years; and even that can be extended if necessary. He is from the start a patient.
Those engaged upon this experimental work found that they were committing many errors, which they frankly confess. They found, amazingly enough, that the psychiatric treatment had detrimental physical results, that it was possible to light up old infections and even to light up a dormant tuberculosis or to excite a gastric ulcer because of the strain to which the patient was being subjected. As they studied they came to a conclusion, which should be sufficiently obvious, that when one is dealing with a psychiatric sufferer, the one place where he should not be sent is prison, because the world of a prison is a restricted and abnormal world, whereas the task is to 470 lead the sufferer back to normality. Prison is a confined world, and the aim is to build freedom of the mind. It tends to become a renounced world, because, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows the prisoner tends to become a victim of a quite unreal persecution complex and to develop a sort of inverted esprit de corps with his fellow prisoners against the State, against society, and so on. These are the difficulties with which we have to contend.
I have the greatest admiration for our prison staffs. I consider that Gilbert Hair, at the Scrubs, is doing a marvellous job in almost impossible conditions. He has a vast variety of races and religions to look after—all types of prisoners, 1,400 of them. As far as I know, he has three deputy-assistants, that is, four skilled officers for 1,400 men. Brixton is just a darned great passenger station with chaps wheeling in and wheeling out, and no time to find out who they are. And so it goes on. We who used to lead the world in penal reform are now definitely behind in the struggle to get results.
I listened with great attention and respect and, I hope, with understanding to my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) and to his colleague on the other side of the House, the hon. Member for Gosport and Fare-ham (Dr. Bennett). It would be impertinent of me to express any doubt even about their conclusions. All I would say is that from all the information which I have been getting in visits recently the view that the arrogance or isolation of the homosexual makes him unresponsive to psychiatric treatment is beginning to be broken down.
The division between invert and pervert is recognised as a false division. Reliance on the endogenous theory now gives way to the view that, more often than not, sociogenous and psychogenous factors intervene in early infancy. Often, of course, in a quite different class of case, association with boys, producing a condition of things which it is our duty to protect parents against—of course it is; no one disputes that—there may be a lighting up of a latent endogenous condition by the temptations of fortuitous opportunity." But light is coming. The psychiatrists know that they are working in a long and almost interminable tunnel. 471 groping in the dark and sometimes groping backwards by mistake, but always borne on in their work by the feeling that there is a little light at the end which seems to them to get a little clearer and brighter as time goes on.
I have seen, time after time, the pitiable state of the helpless man—not merely the homosexual; all kinds of sexual complexities come into this—the man who never did any harm at all but who commits an habitual, perpetual and foolish act of indecent exposure. We send him to prison, out he comes and does it again; the man who commits some rather tiny indecent assault sometimes on young girls and sometimes on girls of a certain age and goes on doing the same thing in a hopeless, helpless and repetitive way.
The experts have been trying to deal with repetitive crime which can include almost anything from stealing a bicycle, never a tricycle, robbing a poor box and never a safe, assaulting a girl of seven and never attempting intimacy with a girl of 20.
For years I have seen men, otherwise decent, go through the agony of prosecution, go through the horror of communication with their wives and go through the misery of giving up their job. They go to prison and come out absolutely resolved that they will never do it again. No one can question that. Then some little circumstance occurs and it happens again. Let us never forget that physical conditions operate too. It is very easy to develop a hate complex against crime. It is always useful that we should have a reservation of indignation, but we all know that some simple disease can affect a man's mind to the extent that he becomes irresponsible for a short period to temptation. He may be a perfectly reputable and decent man, but he suffers a dose of influenza and he may develop a suicidal complex or a curious lack of responsibility, a susceptibility to temptation which may ruin a brilliant career and leave him utterly hopeless in the face of an accusation of a shameful nature.
It is in the sense of feeling sympathy for those who have gone through this terrible misfortune that we should consider the matter and see whether we cannot remake these broken lives so that 472 when the prison gate opens after due punishment there will be hope for them in the future.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
We have all listened with interest to the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), who sometimes serves us a souffle and sometimes a more robust steak and kidney pudding. His speech in this debate has not been in the same light vein which has characterised many of his speeches to us.
I want to follow by giving the practical experience of a professional member of the Bar. In my practice and in the course of my duties I have seen at close hand some of the tremendous personal tragedies which arise from these cases, and if there are any hon. Members, whatever their views are about this Report, whether they think that recommendation should be accepted or not, who are prepared to pooh-pooh the extent of this human tragedy, then they are very wickedly wrong, because the penalty which society demands, which society obtains, arbitrary as it may be, for one single act to be paid perhaps after years of service with distinction, is such that to see it and witness it is something one can never forget.
I can only say from my personal experience that I have left the court at the conclusion of some trials sickened by injustice, not so much of the verdict, but sickened by the injustice which does surround so many of this kind of crimes. To sit there and see a man, perhaps of talent and distinction, in the box, and to see the worthless wretched creatures being paraded there as witnesses for the Crown, pampered by the police as persons upon whom apparently there has been cast the mantle of perfection, to see it is to feel that it is a mockery by society, the mockery of the administration of the law, and it leaves an impression wellnigh inerasable.
I want to make it quite clear to all hon. Members that my principal concern and my greatest aim here is with the administration of the law rather than the law itself. I do not approve of procedures, which have arisen in these cases, of rearrest on other charges, of the impression of other people involved to secure conviction of a particular person. They 473 illustrate so much the temptations there are to the police and show the need of revision of the system of prosecution and of those persons in charge of prosecutions. I can only say, apart from any of these cases I have seen, that for the persons convicted of offences, which even under the present recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee would still be offences, the tragedy is immense.
While I listened with the very greatest of interest, if I may be impertinent enough to say so, to the extremely good speech by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), and while I have tremendous sympathy with these persons, nevertheless I cannot personally accept the main recommendation of the Wolfenden Committee in regard to homosexuals. I do believe as an individual —I may be right or I may he wrong—that there do exist private realms in which the State should intrude.
I believe that the removal of this offence from the Statute Book would be at this time against the public interest. I think that as the State does not allow that any two people are entitled to batter themselves to pieces in a prize fight, that no person is entitled to say, "I will put an end to my life", that no person is entitled to commit even in privacy the offence of incest, and as the State can intrude to uphold these laws, so it has the right and duty to say, "You may not do this even though it is done in the privacy of your own home".
One has to accept straight away the implications of this argument, that this will condemn these people to an existence of extreme loneliness and celibacy. It is a desperate penalty to pay and an enormous burden which is thrust upon them. Nevertheless, I feel that the recommendations which are made involve such difficulty that I personally cannot accept them.
We cannot, as these recommendations appear to do, equate somehow the position of men and women in this problem. We cannot really talk about, or at least we shall find it difficult to disagree that, one act is natural and the other unnatural. Surely everybody knows which is the ordinary natural function. Protection, of course, is given to a young girl at a certain age, and the 474 legal age of consent is 16. It may have been in years past, in the times of our great grandfathers or beyond, that young girls if they had reached a certain age of physical maturity were able and did indeed get married. But can we in making a recommendation like this draw an arbitrary line and say that at a certain age a man can engage with another man in an action which is in fact, whether we accept it or not, unnatural?
Which is it to be? At 20 or 21? Is it to be at 18 or at 16 years of age? The difficulties are acknowledged in the Report. I found it very difficult to follow the differences and distinctions brought out by some hon. Members with reference to the pedophiliac who prefers the young boy. My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett) referred to the subject. What is to be the position of the adolescent? Will not the person who says, "I can do this with a man of 21", not perform in that way also with younger persons? There is this fear of proselytisation, and I think that is a very serious fact which must be considered.
The whole of the debate has turned on this one recommendation, but there are other recommendations which in my view should be acted on straight away. The administration of the law in these cases should be humane and should be sensible. There should not be a prosecution without the leave of the Attorney-General. Leave has to be given by the Attorney-General to prosecute in cases concerned with the Prevention of Corruption, offences under the Official Secrets Act and incest, unless proceedings are brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
I have been shocked in reading the Report at some of the extraordinary cases involving blackmail which are quoted in various paragraphs. I have always understood that if a person went to the police and told them a story of blackmail that person was given, straight away without question, unless the circumstances were very remarkable, the protection of the police. Why was not that given in the case to which reference is made in paragraph 112 of the Report? Who was it who gave approval to a prosecution in that case? The police, of course, have a duty, but I should have thought it was clear that if we are to maintain the 475 law the police must not entertain in any shape or form a prosecution in a case where complaint was made arising out of blackmail.
At least one hon. Member representing Scotland has spoken in the debate, and I would recommend to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary a very close study of the Scottish system of law. It appears to me that when we have these debates in the House and we have the one balanced against the other the Scottish system of law always comes out very much to advantage. I speak with very little knowledge of Scotland and with no understanding of the language, but I believe that the Procurator Fiscal, who is responsible to the Lord Advocate, prosecutes and his overriding consideration is the public interest.
It is interesting to note from various paragraphs in the Wolfenden Report that in the three years ending March, 1956, 449 out of the 480 persons over 21 in England, or 94 per cent., made confessions or admissions to the police, whereas in Scotland that was so in one out of the nine cases. In England about 300 acts were committed in private and in Scotland seven. I asked my right hon. Friend for the figures since 1956 but he was unable to give the information. It is important that we should have the information in order to be able to decide how great is the problem, how many of these people have been convicted, and how many are being sent to prison if they are convicted.
The views of the Committee were clear, that the prevalence of homosexual activity in different parts of Scotland and England was comparable. Yet there are all these prosecutions and convictions in England and very few in Scotland. Why? Because there is a discretion in the Procurator Fiscal to prosecute only when it is in the public interest.
Secondly, there arises the great matter of the taking of statements, which involves prisoners in eventually arriving in the dock. Under English law the taking of these statements and the procedure of the police is governed by the Judge's Rules. A police officer can question, subject to a caution, up to the time the prisoner is taken into custody. Even then, even if that caution is not given in breach of the Judge's Rules, neverthe- 476 less that evidence may still be admissible at the discretion of the judge. In Scotland, however, they are much more strict. A person may not be questioned so as to incriminate him, and if one thinks that the person is the perpetrator of the offence, he must be cautioned and questioning must cease. Then, if he wishes to make a statement, he sends for his adviser, his solicitor or even a magistrate.
Of course, justice includes the convicting of the guilty just as much as the acquitting of the innocent, but why is it so important to take statements in cases of this kind? It is because in homosexual cases often the only corroboration is the confession. The greater the necessity therefore to obtain it. The temptation of the police in the exercise of their zeal, the inducement, through fear of publicity, that if a statement is made nothing more will be heard about the matter—all these are abuses of the procedures of the court, and therefore the corrupting of officers in the most important of their duties, the sanctity of truth and the sanctity of the rules of procedure. Therefore I ask my right hon. Friend to see that these changes are brought about and brought soon. As there is to be no change in the law there should only be prosecutions with the leave of the Attorney-General, and they should be brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
We have heard about the variety and the uniformity of practice. Let us recollect that no hon. Members in this House can ask any questions of my right hon. Friend about county police forces. We must remember the different position of the police forces compared with the Metropolitan Police Force, about which we can ask questions of my right hon. Friend.
Then there is the question of stale offences, which gives great offence to all of us. Again there should be the Scottish procedure, where no proceedings can be brought in the court of summary jurisdiction after six months. They can, of course, try on indictment and then they have to go to the Crown Office—not to the chief constable or whoever prosecutes in the county, but to the Director of Public Prosecutions, so that he can make his decision and can say whether it is in the public interest to bring the proceedings.
477 There is another change of the law I wish to see, and it is why I say with all respect to my right hon. Friend that legislation is needed, even if it is not intended to implement the main recommendation of the Committee. Importuning is not now triable by jury, it should be. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has expressed in this House greater confidence in the ability of magistrates to convict, than he has in juries. I believe, however, that a man who is put on a charge of importuning—again the fine does not matter, the penalty does not matter; it is the charge that is brought against him that matters and on which the whole of his future career depends. I believe that such a man should have a right to be tried by his peers and that this should be brought into operation immediately.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
The hon. Gentleman has mentioned my name. I have never spoken on this issue in the House. I did deal with the question of the kind of case which could, with advantage, not go to a jury, but it had nothing to do with the sort of case with which the hon. Gentleman has dealt or with the consequences which he has just mentioned.
§ Mr. Rawlinson
I remember the occasion very well. The hon. Gentleman had been speaking of persons who were charged with being drunk in charge of a motor car, and he said it would be better if they were tried by a magistrate instead of by a jury because juries had a strange tendency—these are almost the hon. Gentleman's words—to acquit. On the other hand, I would take the offenders whom we are discussing now before a jury, where they would have a far better, a proper, form of trial than they have before a 'magistrate, or before a London stipendiary whose list is usually so full and the pressure on whose time is so great that he would welcome a proposal that these people should he given a chance of trial by jury.
I disagree with the Committee on one further matter. There is a distinction between buggery and gross indecency. One is a more serious offence and it should be retained as an offence because it is an abuse of a natural function. The penalty should be greater. I want to make it clear that I do not think a term 478 of imprisonment should ever be imposed for offences between consenting adults in private. It is the wrong penalty for this crime. Let us retain it as a crime. The punishment is not what happens when the persons have been found guilty and the magistrate or the judge passes sentence. The penalty has been paid long before, innocent or guilty, mark my words. The mere accusation, as such, makes the penalty quite out of proportion to the offence that may have been committed.
Prison is as useless in these cases as it is for attempted suicides and for persons who commit incest. The offence should be retained, just as it is for attempted suicide, to mark our disapproval of this conduct, but it is quite sufficient 'to fine the offender, or put him on probation, or impose any of the other penalties which still exist and do not involve going to prison.
I recollect very well the words that you spoke earlier this evening, Mr. Speaker, about the length of speeches. I would only add that I believe there are grave difficulties about the question of prostitution. There are 500 registered prostitutes on the list at Bow Street and that list is nothing like the list at Marlborough Street. There is a pretty large list of practising prostitutes in our community. Are we to drive them underground? If we do, shall we not thereby create a system in this city in which there are far greater opportunities for corruption and for much graver evils, in which other persons earn and enjoy more of the fruits of the labour of these women? The fine should be increased. The existing 40s. is quite out of date, and out of relation to the value of money at the present time. I would ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to think very carefully and to take the advice of those who have to deal with these people in courts—I am sure he will—before bringing in the legislation which is promised.
There are further points which I should have liked to raise on Part Three of the Report. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."1 In view of what you have said, Mr. Speaker, I do not think it would be right for me to take up more time. These are urgent matters. Many people say that a great deal of the time of the House is wasted over matters which are not of 479 very great concern. As a very junior and younger Member of this House I say that this subject affects the lives of many people. It behoves us to examine carefully what legislation may shortly be laid before us. I can only ask my right hon. Friend that when he is thinking of the legislation about Part Three of the Report, to legislate on these matters in the interests of the administration of justice so that there can also be reforms on the lines of the other recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee's Report.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Yardley)
I am sure the whole House will agree that we have listened to an extremely interesting speech. Not being a lawyer, I hope that the hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) will forgive me if I do not follow the points he made. I want to make it perfectly clear that anything I say is said with great diffidence, for I know a little about this subject, but only enough to know how little I do know.
I start by taking up one point made by the hon. Member for Epsom. He seemed to argue very eloquently that we should retain upon the Statute Book a crime for homosexual relations between adults, but that the penalty was unimportant and that prison should never be an element of that punishment. He went on to say that he thought buggery, as distinct from gross indecency, had a different connotation and was a crime, a more abominable crime. I do not believe we can easily draw a line in this matter. I should ask the man who holds that particular view whether he would agree that anal intercourse with a prostitute is not just as abominable a crime; but nevertheless that is not a crime, it is not regarded as so abominable a practice.
§ Mr. Usborne
It may be a crime, but it is seldom brought to the courts, and most people do not regard it with the same abomination as they do homosexual acts. It seems that those who oppose the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee Report do so on the argument that we cannot in fact draw a line, but I feel that we have to draw a line and that in all legislation dealing with 480 moral problems we are constantly drawing a line. It is never an easy thing to do. Precisely because adultery is not a crime and homosexual relations are a crime we have drawn a line which I do not think it is sensible to draw.
On the problem of prostitution, I accept the Wolfenden Committee's Report to the extent that it is now necessary to do something to drive blatant prostitution off the streets, because clearly this is a conclusion which society now demands. I also accept the view of the Committee that although an increase in penalties probably may, and certainly might, drive it off the streets, that cannot prevent it. It merely brushes it under the carpet. To the extent that the object of imposing increased penalties on prostitutes is merely to transfer their activities to some other place, or some other way, it seems perfectly logical—indeed I should think it essential—that a penalty should also be applied to the men who are soliciting on the streets.
It does not seem impossible to work out a definition of soliciting in such a way that the law could effectively be enforced in the courts. This is particularly important, because I believe that if the men who use the prostitutes knew they were risking arrest by soliciting girls they would not dare very often to do so on the streets. The best way of getting the girls off the streets is to show that the street is the place where they will least easily find customers.
Many people who represent London constituencies have said, I think rightly, that the incidence of blatant prostitution in the streets in the parts of London which have been mentioned is a temptation to local young people who see these girls and, because they see them, are liable to use them. There must be some force in that argument, but I am inclined to think that a great many men who make use of prostitutes are not local people at all. Someone has mentioned cars which may belong to commercial travellers. I believe people come great distances from their homes and places where they are known in order to make use of those prostitutes and thus, in a sense, the demand tends to create the supply.
I do not believe that by increasing fines and penalties we shall reduce the 481 incidence of prostitution. We can change its habits and forms, but I do not think that the imposition of heavier fines will abolish the trade in prostitution.
There are, however, other things one ought to look at. I suggest, most tentatively, that there is a connection between fie second part of the Wolfenden Committee's recommendations and the third part, because when we examine the circumstances I think we are all struck by the fact that a very large percentage of girls who take to prostitution come from broken homes and are children of parents whose marriages have been a complete and utter failure. If, therefore, we would try to prevent the breakdown of marriages and to prevent unhappy and miserable homes, this, and only this, would he the effective way of reducing the number of girls who take up prostitution.
I make a plea for a broad-minded attitude generally to the fact of abnormality in sexual relationships. I believe that superstitious taboos, odd and terrifying ideas that there is a norm of sexual relations and that anything which is abnormal, particularly homosexuality, is an abominable crime, for which people will certainly be burned in hell—these simple. superstitious taboos which the existing legislation supports—may be Lund to be the cause of more marital distress and trouble and to be the background to more broken homes than most of us ever realise.
If we could at least say that, as with adultery so with homosexuality between consenting adults, it is deplorable, it may be a sin but it ought not to be a crime—-if we could equate those two things, then at least we should begin to impress upon our society in some way that these deviations, which I believe are perfectly natural although they may be very unfortunate, are not things of which we need to be so hideously frightened, and not things which we must not dare to talk about before our wives.
If it is possible to make it easier for people who suffer the terrors of recognising in themselves what they call sexual deviations from the norm; if only they can be helped to discuss these things themselves, and with their wives, I believe that it would be possible to reduce quite considerably the number of broken homes, and, in that sense, we might even begin 482 to have some effect on the incidence of prostitution.
Therefore, I wholeheartedly support the view on the Wolfenden Report that my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) put in a brilliant, eloquent and moving speech, with which I wholly agree. I would say only that it is more important than he seemed to suggest to accept the recommendation of the Committee in Part Two as well as in Part Three. I am sorry if I have taken too long, but I wanted so much to put these points to the House, and I thank hon. Members for having listened to me.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)
I believe that one thing will have emerged from this debate, and that is, if I may very humbly put it, that in this debate the House has lived up to its best traditions of expressing its free opinion, with one hon. Member differing from another. I say that, because it will help me to indicate that my view differs from that of the hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Usborne), from whom I differ so much, although I preserve for him my very great respect.
My approach to this whole matter is not a new one, but at least it is mine, and I believe it to be that of many hon. Members and, perhaps more important, of most of the people of this country. That approach is a simple one. Whether or not one calls it an unnatural act, this practice of homosexuality, or any other term, most hon. Members and most members of the public abhor the practice in any shape or form whatsoever.
I will go further and use an old-fashioned word that has been used once or twice in this House today, thanks be; I regard this, as I regard some other things that do not appear in our criminal law, as a sin. I am not ashamed of saying that, and I know that in saying it I shall have the support of most men and women.
To say that, however, does not mean that I am directing all my force and energy against the individual. In this country, we preserve in the Christian ethic the basis of loving the sinner whilst hating the sin. It is from that viewpoint that I look at Part Two of the Report. I do not want to provide any more 483 opportunities for or in any way seem to condone what I and most other people believe to be a sin, whether it is called an unnatural practice, a deviation or anything else—
§ Mr. Cole
I do not want to make a debating point of it, and I can only think that the hon. Member was not listening to me with the attention he normally gives to speakers. I said that we preserve in the Christian ethic the hating of the sin, whilst loving the sinner. If, in hating the sin, I am committing another sin, I regret it, but I still hate the sin, and I think that the majority of people feel the same way.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary used three points to show why he did not feel that we in this House should be called on at present—and I hope that we never shall be called upon—to implement Part Two in law. Perhaps I may put the points in a rising crescendo of importance as follows. First of all, he did not think the public at large would like the suggestion that this House was condoning homosexual conduct. That is very true. Then he went further and said that it would be an offence to the moral sense of the majority of the public. I believe in the moral sense of the majority of the public. I believe that when the House of Commons or any other legislature is in some doubt as to how far it should move, it is a pretty safe plan to rest on the majority feeling from the point of view of morals. I certainly am quite prepared to do that.
The third point was that if the practice of allowing this kind of act to take place in private was not regarded any longer as a crime, the group might tend to draw in others to its society. I think that is an understatement of the position which might possibly arise. I wonder if the public at large who know about this Report have visualised a number of places where this practice, even on its present scale without spreading, might be taking place and known to be taking place—as it were, a society within a society—and, despite the condemnation of the public at large, the State having no power to intervene.
484 One of the factors which have been mentioned in connection with driving the ordinary female prostitute off the streets—both Front Bench speakers have referred to it—is that there is some kind of worry that it might tend to drive it indoors or underground. It has been admitted on both sides that that is one of the worries. Yet in the same Report there seems to be no worry expressed about driving homosexual prostitution off the streets and indoors. I suggest that we are either consistent in these matters of morality or we are not. We cannot have it both ways. If it is wrong for prostitution to be covered up, surely it is even more wrong for this unnatural crime to be covered up.
I should like to refer to Part Three of the Report dealing with something which is equally important but perhaps more recognisable on the streets. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend mention as his first premise in this matter—and, indeed, it is so very true—that we and all authorities should practise every art of redemption that we can in the case of these unfortunate women. But on the point made by my right hon. Friend about the psychology of mind of these prostitutes, this task of redemption is going to be far more difficult than a hundred years ago.
I hope this quotation from paragraph 223 of the Report is wrong; I believe it was said in all sincerity, but I hope it does not represent the truth. It says:As one of the women witnesses put it—'Prostitution is a way of life consciously chosen because it suits a woman's personality in particular circumstances'".If that is so, how true it is, as has been said in this debate, that our society has a responsibility for this state of affairs. This way of life is chosen, not by any force majeure, not by broken homes, as has been suggested, not because they have been seduced in early life, but because it is a deliberate choice as one would choose any other way of life—because it suits their particular personality in certain circumstances. That is an appalling condemnation of something which is radically wrong with our society today.
§ Mr. Usborne
Is it not true that the word "personality" in that context refers to that which is created as people are brought up in the home? It is the home 485 background which creates the personality, which makes some people take to prostitution.
§ Mr. Cole
I would not disagree with the hon. Gentleman for one moment. I say that there is something radically wrong with our society, and I am sure that he, too, would include the home as part of our society. I am not concerned that he or I or anyone else should be proved right. My concern is that we should find the reason for this new cause of prostitution, which, in my limited experience of this kind of matter, I find appalling. It is a choice. No woman finds herself in that kind of life. It is a deliberate, objective choice at some stage, taken according to her personality, which may derive its cause in the home, as the hon. Gentleman suggests, or from some other factor.
A great deal has been said about the impossibility of dealing with the male part of the female prostitution problem in our streets. Today is 26th November, and it is almost 10 o'clock in the evening. I venture to suggest, and I do not think that any hon. Member will disagree, that, if there were no men walking or riding about the West End of London at the present moment likely to be customers of prostitutes there tonight there would be no prostitutes on our streets. That is a fact which must be faced and reckoned with. Of all things in this world, this is one where there would be no supply if there were no demand. We do less than our duty, irrespective of viewpoints expressed in any particular quarter, if we do not regard the responsibility of the man as at least equally great as that of those who provide the supply.
With very great respect to my right hon. Friend and others who have spoken, I do not believe that it is impossible to bring the man in as an accomplice in this matter. If it is possible under the present law, irrespective of any strengthening which may take place, to prosecute a woman who is seen soliciting because she is known to be a common prostitute, surely, if she is seen to go away with a man who has accepted her offer it is possible for them both to be apprehended and dealt with. Except for the difficulty of tradition and making a change in our procedure at law, I see no impediment there which cannot be overcome.
486 In my view, it would be a good thing to drive prostitution off our streets. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), who quoted the remark by a doctor that the vast majority, 70 per cent., of the people who were clients of prostitutes took the offer because it was made to them and probably would have desisted if the prostitutes were not there. I believe that to be absolutely true. I do not believe that many people who take the offer because prostitutes are there in front of their eyes in the streets of London and other cities would go to the trouble, risk and difficulty entailed in trying to find prostitutes in houses or some particular haunt. I believe that if we take away the availability of the supply and make it much more difficult we shall find that the whole industry, as it has been called, will be reduced to much smaller proportions.
That is all I have to say. As always in this House when matters of conscience, above politics, are concerned, I as a Member have tried to put my viewpoint. It is. I believe, a simple viewpoint which represents the opinion of the majority of our people.
§ 10.0 p.m.
The Rev. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
The only justifiable approach to the recommendations of the Wolfenden Committee is one as free as possible from emotionalism and pharisaical self-righteousness, that self-righteousness which says, "God, I thank Thee that am not as other men."
Some words are very highly charged in their emotional content, and the word "homosexuality" is one of these. We should, therefore, be as free from emotionalism as possible in our analysis of these problems and difficulties. I admit that it is not easy for the so-called normal person, such as myself, whose physical and sexual life is happily integrated in a satisfactory marital relationship, to be unemotional or objective in these matters. I confess that it is only on the basis of knowledge acquired by extensive reading on the subject plus a deliberate act of a sympathetic imagination that enables me to understand or even to try to understand the problems and difficulties of a homosexual. But the effort must be made, otherwise there can be no progress in dealing with this admittedly difficult problem.
487 One's approach must be as enlightened and unemotional as possible and that certainly was the approach of the Wolfenden Committee. I find myself, after much serious thinking and much heart searching, able to accept the recommendations about consenting adult homosexual behaviour in private. The distinction between a crime and a sin which has been made not only by the Wolfenden Committee but by representatives of the Anglican Church and Roman Catholic Church is valid. I do not accept the rather hysterical notion that this will lead to wild orgies. The heterosexual will remain heterosexual. From my reading, I gather that a percentage of homosexuals are homosexuals because of inborn or innate tendencies which in the majority of cases perhaps cannot be eradicated. Dr. J. A. Hadfield, lecturer on psychopathology and mental hygiene in the University of London, insists that radical cures are possible in many instances. He says this in an article in the British Medical Journal of 7th June, 1958. He admits to many failures also.
As the Wolfenden Committee recommends, there must be much more research into the cause and origin of homosexual behaviour. I believe that the Committee rendered a service by insisting that there should be no distinction in law between heterosexual behaviour involving adultery, fornication and seduotion which takes place in private and homosexual behaviour between consenting adults which takes place in private. The operative words in this context are "in private" and "adult". I would have no mercy at all for homosexual adults who offend against young boys. The maximum sentence for such people must be the severest possible, exactly as there are severe, and rightly severe, sentences for heterosexual adults who commit rape and serious offences against young girls under 16 years of age.
I sometimes wonder whether Jesus Christ was thinking of this type of shocking wickedness when He used this most biting condemnation.And He said unto His disciples, It is impossible but that occasions of stumbling should come—but woe unto him through whom they come. It were better for that man if a millstone were hanged about his neck and he were thrown into the sea, rather than that he should cause one of these little ones to stumble.488 There is not much of a gentle, meek and mild Jesus about that denunciation. But the Wolfenden Report deals with homosexual behaviour between consenting adults and in private. It recommends that while society could never give moral approval to that type of behaviour, nevertheless, since it takes place in the privacy of a household, it should not rank as a criminal offence any more than heterosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private, such as adultery and fornication, to which again society could never give moral approval, should rank as a criminal offence.
In the very nature of things, the law must take more cognisance of public behaviour than private behaviour. The latter can be dealt with only by the sanctions of morality. That is why the Committee recommends the stiffening of sentences for persistent solicitation amongst prostitutes on the ground of public annoyance. It even considered—in my opinion, rightly—the question of making kerb crawling for immoral purposes by men in cars a criminal offence. This detestable practice is increasing and causes much offence to decent women. The Committee, however, could not find an adequate legal solution to this matter. I hope that, one day, the law can operate the scales of justice equally between female prostitution and this indiscriminate soliciting of women by these prowlers.
Another sphere in which a uniform and standard law should operate is in the open promiscuity in our public parks and on our sea shores. This has really reached scandalous proportions and one feels that there must be a stop to this open flagrant exhibitionistic love-making before the very eyes of young children. To use a cliché, there is a time and place for everything. Even our public transport, the Underground particularly, is not free from this business. For goodness sake, let us preserve some of the basic dignities and decencies of life. I know of no other country in the world where such licence is enjoyed in these affairs.
I conclude with a brief word about the Committee's recommendation on prostitution. Prostitution is as old as the hills. Whatever changes may take place in the law, it is not likely to disappear in our generation. The existing penalties, however, are farcical and absurd. I agree that there must be a stiffening of sentences. 489 I am, however, rather chary to accept the imposition of a maximum penalty for a third or subsequent offence of three months' imprisonment. I can accept that change in the law with regard to persistent offenders only if Recommendations (xxi) and (xxii) are first introduced. Recommendation (xxi) isThat consideration be given to the possibility of introducing more widely the more formal system of cautioning prostitutes which is in force in Edinburgh and Glasgow.Recommendation (xxii) is to the effectThat consideration be given to the practicability of extending the practice of referring to a moral welfare worker particulars of a prostitute cautioned for the first time.I want the maximum possible reclamation work to be done with and for prostitutes, but I agree wholeheartedly that the noxious, widespread solicitation which goes on in the West End of London must be contained and reduced to something more consonant with a decent civilised society. The penalties for the landlords, agents and pimps who batten on to this filthy trade cannot be too extreme in my opinion.
We who legislate in this House should not be too timorous in supporting these recommendations because public opinion may be lagging behind. In a sense, we are the creators of public opinion. Certainly, someone must give a lead in these matters. The Wolfenden Committee has done its job splendidly in this regard by presenting us with this great social document. We should do our part in revealing a similar sanity, understanding and determination in implementing the Report.
§ 10.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Younger (Grimsby)
In rising to make the last speech from this side of the House in this debate, I must say, as was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) in opening, that I speak for myself alone. We are not here speaking for our party; we are expressing our own views. Speaking at such a late stage in this long and interesting debate, I cannot hope to be able to say anything very new.
As the Home Secretary said, these two subjects that we are discussing do not have much connection with one another, but in each case important moral issues are involved; and I think it would be agreed that in each case the existing law is unsatisfactory.
490 The Home Secretary's recommendations to us are very different in each case. On homosexuality, he offered us no hope that he would make any substantial changes in the law, whereas on prostitution, he virtually promised early legislation, while leaving somewhat vague the exact form it would take and indicating that he was prepared to listen to representations made in the House today.
I understand very well the reason for both his decisions. In the one case, as we have seen from today's debate, there are very great differences of opinion on the subject of homosexual offences and, in the other, there is the feeling that there is a very real demand for certain action to be taken and the fact that he is under pressure to which he feels he must respond. I understand these things, but I must say that I am not very happy about the decision in either case.
If I may turn first to the question of prostitution, on which there seems to be some prospect of the Home Secretary taking action, I do not think that any hon. Member has attempted to deny that there is a real measure of public anxiety and complaint about street solicitation and real annoyance to residents in some areas.
It may be that this is not entirely confined to London, but when I asked the Home Secretary about his information regarding other areas, his reply led me to believe that he has in fact no substantial evidence about the problem elsewhere, one way or another. He did not specifically say that it did not exist, but he said that it was on quite a different scale in London from the scale on which it is found elsewhere and, so far as I have been able to make any investigation, that confirms what I have found.
In my own constituency of Grimsby, not a very large town, there are only 100,000 people but it is a seaport with numbers of foreign seamen coming in. It appears that for the last 30 or 40 years this street problem has scarcely existed and there have been only four prosecutions for soliciting in the streets since the end of the war. It is probably larger in some other towns but clearly this is, by and large, a London problem and even within London, agitation has arisen only with regard to certain areas where it is something new, areas which formerly (lid not suffer from this pest.
491 The Wolfenden Committee was not able to say in its Report whether there had in fact been an overall increase in this or not. The prosecution figures are not very reliable, because they depend to a considerable extent on the time that the police can spare for this work from one year to another. Probably most people would agree that there has been, in very recent years at any rate, some increase—how big we cannot say. That being, so far as one can get it, the picture of what the problem is, surely we should pause rather carefully before we radically increase the severity of our criminal law to meet what is clearly a limited and perhaps even a local problem and one which may even be temporary.
The big rise in the figures of prosecution have corresponded very much with the big rise in delinquency generally covet the last three or four years. We all know that the causes of that rise are rather hard to get at—they are not simple. It is very unlikely that we can solve this any more than we can solve the wider problem of delinquency by some simple solution. It may turn out that this is purely a temporary phenomenon, but the new pattern of the trade, if I may so describe it, which may be caused by changes recommended in the Wolfenden Report, will be permanent.
We welcome what the Home Secretary said about research and his intention to develop other means of redemption. I thought that was very vague in the Report, and I am not clear what in fact he thinks he can do. I hope that he will pay great attention to it.
On the main question of penalties proposed by the Wolfenden Committee, I should like to recommend a cautious approach of the kind recommended in a leading article in The Times today. I think that most people accept the necessity for higher fines. I think this might by itself deter some girls when they are beginning, who at present are told by those in the trade that it really costs almost nothing and that it is only a form of small tax on their earnings. It might make a difference to some of them, but nobody really supposes that by itself it will clear the streets. So I recognise that there is a problem.
Nevertheless, I should like to put some considerations about the prison sentence to the Home Secretary. My own guess is 492 that this would drive prostitution off the streets, and might also do what some hon. Members have already suggested, namely, reduce the total volume of prostitution simply because the women would not be there to be seen by those who would not go out of their way to go with a prostitute but do sometimes fall for the temptation when they see them there. If it were to happen that many of these women would go to prison, I think the Home Secretary would agree that, from the general prison point of view, this would be extremely unfortunate. It may be that we cannot regulate our criminal law according to the capacity of our prisons, but nobody supposes that short prison sentences are going to do these girls any good, and most of us, I think, believe that the presence of these women in prison would do the other inmates of the prisons a great deal of harm, and I know that the prospect is not at all welcome to the Prison Service.
People use the facile phrase about sweeping it under the carpet. Is this really less objectionable—I am not sure—than what we have today? The possible dangers of sweeping it under the carpet are mentioned in paragraphs 286 to 290 of the Report, the possibility that there would then be closer organisation of the trade, that there might be increased attempts to bribe the police, and so on. These were made light of. I do not think the Committee dealt adequately with the realities of these dangers.
Its findings about the present situation, with which I do not quarrel, are that there is at the moment no really large-scale organisation of vice, no major white slave traffic, or anything of that kind, and also that the police in this respect are fairly free from corruption. I would accept both those. So far as I know, those are true. But what would be the effect if the law were made more repressive? This is only guesswork, but we do know that both these things, organised vice, and corruption of the police in relation to this matter of prostitution, do exist on a very large scale in many other cities abroad, particularly cities where prostitution in the street is heavily penalised and the whole thing is done on the call-girl system or some highly organised business way.
Does the Home Secretary really think that it would be better if every taxi 493 driver, every hotel bell hop, every door-man, every commissionaire were getting a rake off from some big-scale business-man sitting somewhere in the background? Does he feel quite sure we are not running a risk, very well known in America, of the corruption of what are called the vice squads of the police? I understand that in practice in the major American cities it is almost always the vice squads which fall victim to corruption. I do not say that these things would necessarily happen here, too, but it is evidence that a somewhat serious risk has to be run, and I do not think that the Wolfenden Committee considered this as fully as I should have liked. I hope that the Home Secretary will pay great attention to it.
The only other point I want to make on this aspect of the Report relates to the proposal to drop the requirement for proving annoyance. I agree that this is rather a farce at present, and that it is workable only because almost all prostitutes plead guilty. On the rather rare occasions when they do not, I think there have been cases where the magistrate has refused to convict because it turned out that the police evidence on the point was exceedingly thin. I can appreciate the attitude of the police on this, for they feel that they themselves are being abused in this matter. Their officers are expected to go into the witness box and say that the customer appeared to be annoyed, when really they are not sure that it is true. But I feel that to make the penalties for this offence heavier and simultaneously to remove from the charge the only element and the only point at which the police evidence is seriously open to challenge by someone who chooses to fight the case is to put these women too much at the mercy of the police. That again can open the way to corruption.
I should also like to make the further point on this, that the serious nuisance in those areas of which we have heard a great deal is not so much the annoyance caused to men who are solicited. Some men, no doubt, passing regularly along these streets have found these women annoying, but more important is the general annoyance to the residents in the streets, not men only but often women and children who live there and who are annoyed not by the solicitations of a 494 particular woman but by the visible existence of so many of them in those streets. The Wolfenden Committee in respect of that kind of annoyance said that the law was a dead letter, just as in the case of individual soliciting where the customer will hardly ever give evidence.
I am inclined to challenge this. If it were true that I was annoyed by a prostitute standing night after night near or outside my house I do not think that I would refuse to give evidence. I do not see why people who are genuinely worried about this and write to the newspapers about it should not co-operate with the police. I believe that they would get some convictions if they did so. This is a point which the Home Secretary might well consider before taking the step recommended by the Wolfenden Committee.
My conclusion on this part of the Report is that, firstly, there is here a strong element of guesswork. We do not know, the extent of the problem, except in relation to a few streets in London. We do not know what effect a reform of the law would have. If the Home Secretary introduced legislation broadly on the lines of the whole of this section of the Report, it would be a rather unpalatable addiction to our penal law.
Looking at the recommendations as a whole, it seems to me that the Report is pretty severe on the women in the streets and it is notably weak on what I have called "the trade." It has not found any ways of getting at the trade and, of course, the proposals for higher penalties might well increase the power of the trade. The Report is also weak on discrimination between the male customer and the woman prostitute. On practical grounds some discrimination must be accepted. We realise that, but discrimination between the sexes in this matter becomes somewhat more objectionable as the seriousness of the penalty is increased.
If this is to become a really serious offence, the inevitable discrimination is altogether more unpleasant and will be more strongly felt by women's organisations. The Report is complacent about driving this traffic off the streets into other channels. I would impress upon the Home Secretary the need for very great 495 care and a cautious and moderate experiment rather than the full recommendations of this part of the Report when he brings legislation before us.
As to Part Two of the Report, I want to spend nearly all my time on the main issue of principle contained in paragraph 62 and the first recommendation—the proposal that homosexual acts between consenting adults done in private should be taken out of the criminal code. I should like to say, in passing, that I agree with the suggestions made in a very fine speech only an hour or so ago by the hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) about many of the minor reforms in the administration of the law. I hope that the Home Secretary, who I think was not in the House at the time, will read the speech very carefully. I think that there would be a very wide measure of agreement if he introduced reforms covering the kind of points which the hon. Member for Epsom made, even if the right hon. Gentleman feels that he cannot meet some of us who would like to see a more sweeping reform of the law.
In his review of the homosexual problem, the Home Secretary showed himself very well aware of the effects of the existing law. He said, if I may put it in my own words, that the existing law causes a great deal of suffering, that it offers opportunities for blackmail—
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
The right hon. Gentleman has just referred to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson). I heard every word of it, and I thought it a very remarkable speech.
§ Mr. Younger
The Home Secretary and I are in agreement on that, and I am delighted that he heard this speech, because I thought he came in afterwards.
If I may resume what the Home Secretary said—I hope I am quoting him reasonably accurately in my own words; he said that the existing law on homosexual offences undoubtedly causes a great deal of suffering, that it offers opportunities for blackmail, that it affords an opportunity for old, stale offences to be raked up at an undesirably late stage and, finally, that prison is a thoroughly unsuitable medium for the rehabilitation of this type of offender. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman 496 argued much of the case on merits against the Committee's recommendations. He really based his decision not to accept the recommendations almost wholly upon his appreciation of the unreadiness of the public mind for a change of this kind, which he felt would be generally regarded as implying approval by the Government and by Parliament of homosexual acts.
It is not unnatural that the public mind should be in this condition because, after all, this subject was almost undiscussed in public until the Wolfenden Report was published. I hope that the Home Secretary and the Home Office, who are clearly aware of the need for public education in this matter, will play a positive part in this respect. I believe that on such a subject people start by being ignorant and accepting as normal and natural whatever has been in the past. There is a long tradition in respect of homosexual offences and the criminal law. People naturally have got this into their heads and positive steps must be taken if we are to get these in many ways old-fashioned ideas out of their heads. My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams), who spoke before I rose, referred to the necessity for making a deliberate effort to understand the problem. I believe that is so, and I hope we can have the co-operation of the Home Secretary in helping us to persuade the public to look rationally and calmly into this problem, when I believe there will be a fairly rapid evolution of opinion.
I would like to clear out of the way one or two misconceptions that seem fairly prevalent about what the Wolfenden Committee has recommended. To hear one or two speeches—not many, I am glad to say—one would think that Sir John Wolfenden and his colleagues had in every respect been lenient to homosexual offenders, but this is far from being the case. The Report is not lenient to anyone who engages in homosexual acts with the young; indeed, so far as it makes recommendations it strengthens the law against them. It is not lenient to anyone who employs any method of duress or force or undue influence to procure homosexual acts, and it is not lenient towards any homosexual act which offends in any way against public decency.
497 So far as some homosexuals may be attracted both to adults and to boys, which we are told by the Report is unusual, although that was contradicted by an hon. Member of this House who is a psychiatrist; in so far as that is the case, I think it is fair to say that the proposal of the Wolfenden Committee to remove adult practices from the criminal calendar would probably tend to divert any such persons away from the young towards adults. I do not make a big point of that, but it was one made to the Committee not by psychiatrists but by the Netherlands police, who have had experience of operating a system in which adult acts are not criminal. It was part of their evidence that they thought this was a tendency it was having. So any who have doubts—and we know there are some who have—can feel happy that to accept the Wolfenden recommendations would not in any way increase danger to the young.
How big is this problem, and who are the people with which this major recommendation deals? It is clear that this is like the iceberg, of which only a small part is visible above the surface and most is submerged. Very few people know much about the homosexual problem taken as a whole. The police see few instances and what they see I believe is untypical, because they see that section which is most likely to get into trouble with the law in any event.
The doctors and the psychiatrists see a bit more of it, but they all admit that their view of it is incomplete. There are certainly many of them who think, unlike the hon. Member for Gosport and Fareham (Dr. Bennett), that they would have a great many more of these people coming to them for help but for the fear that they would have to admit a criminal offence. There is a wide feeling among doctors that they would have the opportunity of treating people at an early stage if they were not afraid to trust the confidence even of the doctors.
A good deal has been said—
§ Dr. Broughton
Is it not possible that it works the other way, that at the present time homosexuals come to psychiatrists in the hope that they may be changed because they fear the law? If the law allowed homosexuality among consenting adults they would not be so worried about it.
§ Mr. Younger
That is, of course, perfectly possible. On this, as on so many points in this argument, one cannot reach a 100 per cent. conclusion. There is room for argument both ways. I did not know that this was the view of my hon. Friend. I referred to the hon. Member opposite. I am aware that there is a division of opinion but as far as I have been able to get the opinion of the medical profession the majority take the opposite view.
May I make one or two generalisations about what seem to me to be the broad medical conclusions on the matter because I think it is something which helps us to decide our attitude towards the people with whom we are dealing? I need not recapitulate what has been said about their numbers. Clearly, there are very large numbers. The hon. Gentleman opposite made the rough estimate that there might be 500,000 who actually practise homosexuality, and, of course, there are many more who do not. Therefore, it is not a tiny group of peculiar people but a substantial section of the community. It is clear that they are not a race apart. There is what Dr. Kinsey called a continuum, a sort of spectrum going from those who are mostly heterosexual to those who are homosexual. Therefore, there is a gradation. They are not a group of people to be regarded as untouchable and peculiar.
Nor is the practice peculiar to a particular class, either a social class or any particular profession. Least of all is there any correspondence between these people and the people who otherwise get into trouble with the criminal law.
I think it is agreed that in many cases the question of whether a man has or has not homosexual instincts is not in any sense a matter of choice for himself. It is a matter of his constitution just as such things as colour blindness are matters of constitution. It is more true to describe the condition as a diversion from the normal than to use the common phrase "unnatural."
I think, therefore, that we should avoid setting these people apart as an untouchable class irrespective of the effects which their action may have on the public. They are a large minority and as varied as any other cross-section of the community one wishes to choose. So far as 499 their private voluntary acts are concerned—this is what this recommendation deals with—I suggest that the harm caused by those acts to the public is non-existent.
Many would say that this is a private matter, or, to put it in a more moderate way, that it does only such harm to the community as any other private act of immorality which any of us might commit in our personal relations. It is no more harmful than heterosexual acts or any other immoral acts which have nothing to do with sex at all. I think that that is as high as we can put it. It is the crucial judgment which we have to make. Some people believe that the harm to the public even of a private act between consenting parties is something greater than that.
This is a matter of making a judgment on rather scanty evidence. I can only say that I agree with the Committee, and, I believe, with the balance of Church opinion and of informed opinion among social workers who have studied the problem that these acts should definitely fall on the non-criminal side of the line and should be treated as immoral but not criminal.
It is worth noting in this connection that with regard to Lesbianism, homosexual acts between women, no one seems to take a different view, yet I am not sure in what respect they would claim that Lesbianism is in fact different. The real difference is that people know nothing about it. It is not talked about and is not referred to in the Old Testament. I have never been able to find any fundamental difference except that one is talked about and the other is not. I have never met anyone who, in relation to Lesbianism, does not share the views put forward by the Wolfenden Committee in respect of male homosexuality.
On the integrity of the law, a letter by three or four distinguished people, headed by the Archbishop of York, appeared in The Times saying that the law was widely discredited. How far is that true? It cannot be enforced. We have had figures showing approximately the numbers of prosecutions for this sort of thing committed in private. The Report says there were 300 convictions in England and Wales in the three years ended March, 1956, and seven in Scotland. After what we have heard about the numbers of 500 homosexuals likely to be engaged in some form of homosexual acts in private, it seems likely that that touches only a tiny minority of the offences committed.
That might not matter quite so much if the small section who are prosecuted were those specially suitable to be prosecuted, but there is no reason for believing that. There is every reason for believing it is entirely capricious. Two classes can be prosecuted. The first class is of those cases in which one of the partners, having been a consenting partner, later informs the police and the police persuade his partner to own up. The second class are those in the area of a police force which, for perfectly reputable and responsible reasons, take the matter more seriously and prosecute more strenuously than in other areas. I think this variability is undesirable.
I would commend the Scottish practice to the Home Secretary, but I rather wonder whether the hon. Member for Epsom was right in thinking that this sort of difficulty can be entirely dealt with by an alteration in the procedures. In any case, I think the other cause for capriciousness, namely, whether confessions can be obtained, is a much more serious matter. No doubt if the Scottish practice were adopted we could do something to make the position better.
There is no doubt that our present law gives rise to the possibility of blackmail out of all proportion to blackmail in other matters. I do not pretend that if the practice were taken out of the criminal category that would stop blackmail, for after all there is a great deal of blackmail in regard to heterosexual irregularities; but the victim then can complain to the police and we get cases concerning "Mr. X" when his reputation is safeguarded. We see examples in the Report of how very far this is from being the case when a homosexual matter is under discussion. I feel that blackmail is so much more a corrupting factor in our society than these private homosexual acts that we should be prepared to take a considerable risk to get rid of this particular danger. I also find it impossible to believe that this would open the flood gates. We cannot prove this, either. Why do people insist in all these matters in ignoring foreign experience?
501 I did not appreciate that I was speaking for too long; and I at once sit down, leaving the matter where it is, to allow the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department to wind up the debate. I am sorry that I have kept him for too long.
§ 10.41 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)
My right hon. Friend, in opening the debate, said that he hoped that he would have the help and advice of the, House in helping the Government to reach conclusions at a later stage about what proposals to put before the House on these difficult matters. My right hon. Friend gave the House some indication of the way in which his mind was working. He said that the Government would not be justified at the present time in proposing legislation to carry out the Wolfenden Committee recommendation that homosexual behaviour between consenting adults be no longer a criminal offence. In listening to the debate we have been interested to hear the very varied advice which we have had about that. We have had some most moving and sincere speeches and, although I am net trying to take particular comfort from the fact, we were very interested that the only two doctors in the House who are practising psychiatrists were both against the Wolfenden proposal.
I wonder whether, in the short time which I have for discussion of the matter, I could start by trying to find some common ground between the two divergent points of view. I should have thought that it is clear, from the facts given in Chapters III and IV of the Report, many of which have been repeated by hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood), that there is at least a small minority of men whose affections are exclusively homosexual throughout their lives after their adolescence. As my hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Sir H. Linstead), who was a member of the Wolfenden Committee, pointed out, such men include a high proportion of genuine inverts, people in whom homosexual behaviour is so natural and so strong that there is little hope of their ever being different from what they are.
The trouble is, however, that besides these people, with their unalterable impulses, there is a wide range of others, 502 varying from the psychopathic pervert to the opportunist male prostitute and including vast numbers with homosexual tendencies which they manage to control. My hon. Friend the Member for Putney mentioned that altogether there may be as many as half-a-million practising homosexual men in this country, although I must say that I was very surprised when, apparently referring to that half million, he said that their homosexual tendencies were in no way a matter of choice. I do not think that we can accept that because, as I say, they are of such a wide variety of personalities.
The Government are faced with the problem that if they were to legislate to protect and absolve that genuine minority, they might foster the growth of that larger group of homosexuals which surely should not be allowed to spread. It was pointed out, and perhaps stressed, by my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Hyde) that the Wolfenden Committee considered that danger and discounted it; but, with great respect to the views of the Committee, the Government have to take note, both of the risk of homosexuality spreading, and of possible corruption and degradation in society if it does, if the law is changed. In our debate on crime and punishment three or four weeks ago my right hon. Friend, referring to the crime wave, described as,no sudden crisis but a deep-seated disorder in society."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October. 1958; Vol. 594, c. 497.]I am therefore sure that it will be understood if the Government, exercising their responsibility as a Government, show some reluctance to run the risk which I have mentioned; for nobody can say with certainty—and the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) admits this—that allowing freedom of homosexual practice to consenting adults in private would not increase still further that disorder.Ill habits gather by unseen degrees, As brooks make rivers, rivers run to seas.In this matter, particularly if there is a question of doubt, I suggest that we should consider our special duty towards the rising generation and those who follow after.
Of course, as the Committee said, it may be possible that adult homosexuals are not likely, if given freedom, to turn their attentions to those under 21, and if they did they would, of course, still be 503 punished. So, although it is a danger, as my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom (Mr. Rawlinson) said, in a very fine speech, it is not the principal danger.
There are other dangers, however, and the worst is that adolescents who have both homosexual and heterosexual impulses before 21—as, we are told, many have—would indulge freely in homosexual practices when given their freedom after 21 years of age, whereas at present they nearly always grow out of homosexual practices—perhaps the criminal sanction helps them to do so.
There are other results of granting that freedom. The hon. Lady the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) mentioned the effect on children in a locality seing two notoriously homosexual men living together. Sex is no longer, as D. H. Lawrence called it, a "dirty little secret". It would be known, and it is hard to believe that the knowledge would not be harmful to boys in adolescence. Again, in boys' schools, where the difficulties are sometimes great enough as it is, the knowledge that homosexual practices amongst masters were not unlawful might have awkward results.
The results of such freedom in the Armed Forces, although mentioned in the Report, have not been mentioned in this debate. The Committee recognised that an exception to its general proposal might have to be made here, and Mr. Adair commented on this in his minority report, and said that if possible we should avoid making differentiating offences unless there were something peculiar to the Services and not likely to be met with in civilian life. That, of course, would not be the case here.
That is why we believe that it is the instinct of most members of the public and of most Members of both Houses of Parliament to decline the Wolfenden proposal. Nevertheless, there are, as I say, some homosexuals who, perhaps, cannot help themselves but who can be helped, and we shall consider what more can be done for them. The moving speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) has stimulated thoughts about that, and we shall study his suggestions with care.
I see that I must now skip along very quickly. Psychiatric treatment is already available to men in prison. There are 504 units at Wormwood Scrubs and at Wakefield. There have been some successful experiments in group therapy, and we hope that these will be extended. The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) asked about oestrogen treatment, and I am glad to say that the Wolfenden recommendation on such treatment is being implemented. There is also the question of research.
The attitude of the churches was mentioned in the debate. I do not want to cover that ground again, but I do want to mention one thing. The Archbishop of Canterbury wished to leave what he euphemistically called the "full offence" as a crime. That, I think, is significant, and it is interesting to consider what would have been the effect on public opinion if the majority of the Wolfenden Committee had qualified their first recommendation by saying that the full offence should remain a crime. I think that the hon. Member for Batley and Morley (Dr. Broughton) had that in mind when he referred to the biological effects, and that, also, is what my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom would have preferred.
I must, perforce, turn now to the subject of prostitution. The first question to be decided—and it has been very hotly debated here tonight—is whether we want the streets cleared or not. I have been trying to take a sort of Gallup Poll as we have gone along, and I find opinion rather divided on that, although, paradoxically enough, nearly every hon. Member who spoke on the subject said that the fines should be increased. Perhaps, however, those views are consistent.
There are those who say that we should not try to drive prostitution off the streets at all, that that is merely sweeping it under the carpet and not solving the problem, but creating other and greater problems by driving it underground and letting it become a highly organised trade with sinister possibilities. That argument must not be ignored, but I think that most Members were certainly worried, as indeed we know the public are worried, about this present known evil of women offering themselves blatantly on the streets, if in curing that evil other evils arise we must deal with them as that becomes necessary.
505 This, I hope, would be of some comfort, that if we were to accept the last reservation in the Report, by Mrs. Cohen and her colleagues, that the maximum sentence for living on immoral earnings should be increased from two to five years, we should be hitting at those who might stand to benefit from the increased organisation of the trade, so we would be anticipating that trouble at the same time as taking other measures.
It was generally agreed that pecuniary penalties should be increased, but many doubts were expressed about introducing imprisonment. Doubts were expressed also about the need to prove annoyance. Some Members pressed us to accept the recommendations concerning premises used for prostitution, and I think that everybody agrees that we should increase the penalties for living on immoral earnings.
Now a brief word about annoyance. Having to prove annoyance in practice undoubtedly adds to the difficulties of the police, although I should at this moment like to refer to the latest figures for prostitution offences. The last figures given in the Report were those for 1955 when there were nearly 12,000 convictions in England and Wales. It was almost exactly the same number in 1956, but in 1957 the total number of convictions was 15,486.
Answering the right hon. Gentleman's question about where the trouble is worst, it is mainly in London, but in some of the large cities of the North as well. But in places like Grimsby and, I am glad to say, Huntingdon—in the mass of smaller country and provincial towns—although this problem is known, it is a very minor problem. In the rural places it is only in the region of Army camps that it causes any trouble.
To return to the question of annoyance, in practice it is not often found necessary for the police to prove annoyance, because the women like to plead guilty, pay the fine, get out of the court as quickly as possible and on to the beat again. But if imprisonment were the ultimate sanction, more women would undoubtedly plead not guilty, and there might then be very few convictions if annoyance had to be very strictly proved in every case. However, we shall consider everything that has been said in the 506 debate, and we shall consider the arguments for and against accepting the recommendation with regard to annoyance.
In any event, surely the principal aim of the Wolfenden Committee was to get the women off the streets rather than merely to prevent them from causing annoyance to people while on the streets. The Wolfenden Committee came to the conclusion that the streets could not be cleared without the sanction of imprisonment. The Committee's reasons have, as I say, been mentioned, and they are explained in paragraph 275 of the Report onwards.
The Wolfenden Committee regarded imprisonment as a last resort. The Committee felt that it would be useful not only as a deterrent but also for the reformative element in punishment. By that the Committee clearly did not mean that a short term of imprisonment would be much good for reform—the right hon. Gentleman appreciated this point—but that with imprisonment in the background prostitutes would be more willing to accept probation and heed any warnings which might be given to them. Both those things would be of special value in the case of the young prostitute. The problem of crowding the prisons with women really does not arise. I can set that fear to rest. In any event, if many women did have to go to prison for prostitution, that would not cause the same difficulty as would a great increase in the number of men going to prison, because. while the men's prisons are seriously overcrowded, the numbers in women's prisons, I am glad to say, have been declining.
Perhaps an even more unpleasant thing than seeing so many women offering themselves for hire upon the streets is the knowledge that they have fallen into this way of life and what lies behind it. To my mind, the most important question considered tonight is how we can prevent this endless flow of young and sometimes beautiful girls, many of them from good homes—not all come from bad homes—from reaching this terrible market.
The fact that the problem is an old one makes it no less a challenge to us. All the Wolfenden proposals on prostitution can be said to have a direct or an indirect bearing on that question. In our 507 opinion, provisionally formed, and subject to scrutinising what has been said in the debate today, the sanction of imprisonment, even though it is intended only in the last resort, will in itself go a long way to help, partly because girls will be reluctant to enter into a way of life which will lead them to prison, and partly because it will give probation officers an opportunity of persuading them from their folly before they are beyond redemption.
The hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. W. Edwards) has a special problem in his constituency. I myself went down to Stepney one night—well chaperoned by the police, I may say—and saw what there was to see there. I should like to assure the hon. Gentleman that the problems of his constituency, thanks to the representations made by the two deputations seen by my right hon. Friend and myself, are very familiar to us. We have noted what he said about night cafés, and we shall consider it.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bassetlaw wished us to do something about premises. As my right hon. Friend said in opening, we welcome help and advice on that very difficult problem, and we shall study his suggestions. It is a 508 most complex subject, in which we find the criminal courts having to be used to decide difficult points on the law of real property. I can, as a lawyer, assure the House that that is not a very promising prospect.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) asked for an assurance about proposed penalties. I can assure her that they would be maximum, not fixed, penalties.
I am sorry that I have had so little time to answer the points which have been made during the debate. Although we live in an age of rapid material and social progress, of great advances in scientific knowledge, we have today been discussing two of the oldest problems known to civilised man. The House has shown a sincere understanding of them without, if I may say so, being either sentimental or sententious. We are grateful for what has been put before us, and we shall consider it most carefully.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Report of the Committee on Homosexual Offences and Prostitution (Command Paper No. 247).