§ [FOURTH DAY]
Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [28th October]:
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ Question again proposed.
§ 11.5 a.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker (Smethwick)
The theme of our debate today will be these sentences in the Gracious Speech:My Government view with gravity the increase in crime. In the light of the most up-to-date knowledge and research they will seek to improve the penal system and to make methods of dealing with offenders more effective.I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary will be able to elaborate a little on that and tell us some of the things which he has in mind, in particular, whether legislation is to be introduced. Since the Gracious Speech is normally a catalogue of legislative intentions, if he can tell us whether he has legislation in mind, that will be a great help to us.
I think that everyone will welcome the decision of the Opposition to ask you, Mr. Speaker, to set aside this day in the debate for a discussion of the problems of crime. It is certainly very good that Parliament should devote time to the subject. The only way of getting progress is by informed and interested public opinion, and the best way of framing and formulating public opinion is by debates in Parliament.
There has been a very long history of parliamentary interest in crime. I found an instance in 1729—which is as far back as I could go—when a Committee of the House of Commons discovered that the Warden of the Fleet was selling the right to prisoners who could afford it to escape. In the middle of the eighteenth century, 477 the principle of private enterprise in penal matters was carried even further when the other place threw out a Bill which was trying to reduce overcrowding in prisons, the ground being that that would interfere with the income of the gaolers, which was mostly derived from selling gin to a very large number of prisoners. Fortunately, this battle over the merits and place of private enterprise has long since been won.
I begin by congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on his general approach to the matter. It is extremely important that we should have in office a Home Secretary who is very keen on penal reform and on the whole subject of crime. It is not so much necessary for him—I do not know that it is even possible—to have new, bright ideas. The essential thing is to have in that office a man who will give a green light to the implementing of the ideas which have long been in existence and which have been held up by lack of money, or lack of interest. There is a new spirit in this matter and I think that it is due to the right hon. Gentleman in considerable measure. I congratulate him on it, and say that we will support him in this work.
The actual results which have been achieved in his time in office are not quite so striking as the new atmosphere which he has succeeded in helping to bring about. Not much progress has been made towards the realisation of the ideals which he set out in his speech of 13th March. 1957. Indeed, there has been some relapse, but that is certainly not his fault. It has been due to the sudden increase in crime. After the encouraging fall between 1951 and 1956, there was a sudden upturn in the extent and amount of crime, of which nobody knows the cause and which helped to hold up the right hon. Gentleman's ideas.
I congratulate him on standing up so well to his supporters when, at the Blackpool Conference, they were baying for blood and wanting the return of the gallows and the whip. I wish that Lord Hailsham had stood up as strongly against the beating up of hecklers. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will continue in this way; that he will not be deterred by these blood-thirsty followers of his, and will not look too much over his shoulder at them. This 478 is a natural handicap for a Conservative Home Secretary, from which a Labour Home Secretary would be exempt.
The fundamental problem that faces us at the outset is to know whether we can rely upon the statistics that we are given—particularly the criminal statistics. Everybody seems to agree that they are defective. It is not even clear whether an increase shown in the statistics is a real one or merely a statistical one, or how far it is one and how far the other. This may always be a problem. The trouble with criminal statistics is that from their very nature they contain a very large subjective element. There is the question of the way in which they should be classified, and they also reflect changes in the social attitude to crime.
But we could have much better statistics, and until we do we are playing a game of "Blind Man's Buff". We could have much more uniformity. That these statistics rest fundamentally upon separate local police forces, which do not keep them on the same standards and within the same classifications, is a defect that could be removed. There could be much more precision in the definitions of crime, and a much more useful breakdown under the various categories of crime. Above all—and this is something which we really could bring about very quickly—they could be more up to date. We are always working with statistics which are lamentably out-of-date—whether they are the statistics of the Prison Commissioners or prison statistics. This aspect of the problem could be quickly remedied and dealt with.
But although we cannot be sure how far these statistics are accurate we have to deal as practical men with the problems facing us, and here there is a rather grim picture, even if one uses only the irrefutable tests—the hard tests which no one can get away from—such as the fact that the number of people in prison in March, 1958 was very nearly 25,000, and is the highest ever known in our history. Unfortunately, this great increase has come after a fall away, in which the numbers were steadily dropping for four or five years, up to 1956.
A second irrefutable test is that crimes of violence are up, and on the increase, in regard to the various age groups and all the rest, and the third irrefutable
479 fact is that there has been a great increase in juvenile crime and in the number of young offenders. The male Borstal population in 1957 was 25 per cent. up on the previous year, which is a prodigious increase. Whatever one may say about statistics, the prison population is a fairly hard test of whether or not crime is increasing.
There is, perhaps, one brighter ray in this rather grim picture. It looks from the figures—and I should be grateful if the Home Secretary would tell me whether his view coincides with mine—that there is a lesser propensity to crime in the generation born after 1948 than in the generation born between 1938 and 1948, although one cannot be sure about these things. We have no real knowledge of the causes of crime, and of what causes these waves, and ups and downs in the figures, but so far as we can project tendencies ahead it looks as if the youngest generation coming into these figures might not reproduce the same rate of crime—especially as of those between the ages of 17 and 21.
But even if we take the most hopeful view of these figures they present a very disturbing picture. The population bulge will reach Borstal age in two years' time and that population bulge will have the same sort of effect on prisons as it does on schools; it will produce an increase in absolute numbers. Whatever the percentage may be in regard to these younger people the absolute number that that percentage represents will be greater, because the bulge is greater.
If we look at the figure for the 8–14 age group in 1956 we are disturbed to find that in respect of indictable offences, in terms of absolute numbers and not percentage-wise, it was 2,500 more than in 1954, and I imagine that the figure for 1958 would be even more disturbing. We must look at the absolute figures as well as the percentage figures, because it is the absolute figures that fill up and overcrowd the prisons.
This is a tide which may begin to come upon us in two years and which may overwhelm the courts, the prison system and the plans of the Home Secretary. The first wave of this tide has already begun to do grave damage. If one reads the Prison Commissioners' Report one
480 finds that it is full of examples of hopeful and progressive things having to be reversed merely because of the increase in the absolute population in the prisons, particularly among the younger offenders. New Borstals are eating up prisons. Prisons which were being used for new experiments and hopeful things have had to be turned over to Borstals, and in many cases new and more hopeful developments have had to be reversed or greatly restricted.
Although we must keep going on the long-term plans, because they are vital, there is now a great emergency need to deal with problems that may become extremely grave and difficult in the next one, two, three, four or five years, and we must give priority and devote money to these problems. We cannot have law and order on the cheap. We have been trying to have it on the cheap for much too long, and many of our problems, in both the checking and treatment of crime, result from the fact that we have not given reasonable priority and money to this matter. We have to attack it as an emergency problem on many fronts, and many of the things which should be done to attack it as an emergency problem would help to solve the long-term problem.
The time has come for us to look very carefully at the question of the reorganisation of the courts. I understand that the Ingleby Committee is looking at the question of juvenile courts, but I think that we ought also to look into the organisation of the higher courts. We should consider whether even age-old things, such as assize courts, provide the best way of producing the proper sort of prison sentences, and the proper selection of prisoners for different sorts of treatment. We should not regard anything as sacrosanct in dealing with this extremely grave problem.
We must increase the chances of the criminal being detected, because, whatever the causes of crime may be, the more likely the crime is to be detected the greater probability there is that the tendency to that crime will be reduced. This means, first, that we must use our police to the best possible extent. We must certainly look at the question of the use of the police for the enforcement of the law against traffic offences. I am not sure whether the gravest harm here 481 is not the time wasted by constables having to attend courts, and the large numbers waiting there for long periods. This is a matter that we must look at again, although I agree that it is a difficult problem. I am not one of those who think that we should treat traffic offences as trivial. The number of deaths from road accidents in London in 1957 was 669, and the number of injuries was well over 50,000. These offences do very much more harm than crime. Certainly, the Queen's highway must be kept free. It is not the enforcement of parking regulations, but the violation of the parking regulations, which one sees wherever one drives, that is disturbing.
The real remedy is more police. We are about 8,000 short of establishment over the whole country, and we cannot say that we are fighting crime with vigour when we have a police force so depleted and so far below an already very restricted establishment. It is not an inflated one, but a very tightly drawn establishment, and to be as short of establishment as we are is a grave handicap to society in its fight against crime. There have been recent pay increases. back-dated to April, 1958, which need the Home Secretary's consent. I do not know whether he can tell us something about this matter. We shall have to look at the question of wages and pay again, if necessary, and we must certainly consider the question of quarters and conditions, and anything else that can not only stimulate recruitment but stop the wastage by retirement of police officers in the course of their police careers.
Another thing that can be done both immediately and as part of a long-term plan is to get on with remand centres. It is really shocking that there is not one of these centres in being at the moment, and I do not think that the first is due to be started until 1960. I cannot believe that we cannot do better than that. It is a very urgent matter. The figures are really rather startling and very disturbing. In 1957, no fewer than 39,000 people were received into prison not under sentence at all, but on remand or on remand after conviction awaiting sentence. Thirty-nine thousand people entered our prisons who really should not have been there because, at any rate, they had not been sentenced. An increasing number of young offenders was among them.
482 This state of affairs not only disrupts the prison service and makes it difficult to run it properly, but exposes people to prison life who should not be subjected to it. No one can say how far this stimulates crime, but it could certainly be a factor in the matter. We must get on quicker with these remand centres.
I think, too, that we must expand the probation service in this field. My hon. Friend will be talking about this at the end of the debate, but there has been a disturbing number of resignations from the service. I should have thought that the time had come for a proper committee of inquiry to be set up to consider the whole probation service.
Then we also have to tackle the question at the other end—the treatment of prisoners, the rehabilitation of prisoners, and try to reduce the extent to which prisons are breeding grounds of crime. One must deal with the matter all the time from both ends.
I should like—it is not always accepted—to praise very highly the work of the Prison Commissioners. It seems to me that their whole approach and attitude towards their work is admirable. If there were the money with which to carry out the things which they want to carry out we should work very great changes in this field.
I suppose that the long-term problem is to pull down and rebuild some of the old and very large prisons which were built on the principle of repression, and which, therefore, it is very difficult to adapt to a different and opposite principle. There was a time when we led the world. When the penitentiary in Mill-bank was opened in 1821 it was a model for the world and people came to this country to inspect it. This country should be leading in this field again, just as it did at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Again, it seems, one has to put urgent needs first. The overcrowding which is coming on the prisons will undo a great deal of the progress already made and will force us to revert to some of the bad things of the past. The figure of three prisoners in a cell has risen startlingly and shows how grave a relatively small increase in the prison population can be in this connection. Whereas at the end of 1956 the number of prisoners sleeping three in a cell had dropped to 2,000, by
483 March, 1958, that figure had gone up to 4,000. That is one in six of the prison population. If this goes on it will make any sort of prison reform impossible.
We must have more space in which to house the prison population. We must also face the fact that not only are the older prisons built on a repressive principle, but that they are often much too large. I should have thought that without building new prisons we could now treat the different wings of some of the older prisons as separate prison units under the control of different governors so that we could get the smaller numbers which every one agrees are needed.
We must extend the Norwich system which is an admirable one. Under that system there is a new prison-warder relationship which seems to have achieved one of our main objectives, which is to reduce the tension in prison society. That tension, of course, is always present, but it can easily get to a pitch which can destroy any decent relationship between the prison officer and the prisoner. I am glad that system has been extended to three or four other prisons. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the Cardiff system—the induction centres for new prisoners. This system ought to be extended, but I have a fear that, unless urgent steps are taken, these centres will be contracted as this great wave of prison inmates comes upon us in the next year or two.
We need more prison officers in order to put into operation a 48-hour week. The Wynn Parry Report says that we need 500 more officers for this purpose and another 500 to operate the three-shift system. This means 1,000 more prison officers, so that it can really be said that we are short of 1,000 in order to introduce the minimum decent standards which we require. We welcome very much the main Wynn Parry proposals, namely, for pay increases and increased differentials. It seems that in a service where promotion is bound to be slow good differentials are extremely important, and I hope that the proposals will be quickly accepted and put into force.
I sometimes wonder whether the prison service should not be less militarised. This militarised organisation is a relic of a past attitude.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the point about the need for a larger number of people in the prison service, may I ask him whether, in his researches, he has noted the large number of people who volunteer for the service and the very high proportion of good applicants who appear to be rejected? I cannot think of any other service where I have seen people of good character volunteering to serve who failed to pass the three months' service test. Are we satisfied that we are not rejecting many people who would make good prison officers?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I congratulate my hon. Friend on raising that point. I think that we may well be doing just that. Of course, we have to be careful about maintaining the proper standards, but it may be that we are missing good people who would make admirable prison officers, for whom there is an urgent need.
Now a word about detention centres. I went to Goudhurst the other day and I was impressed by what I saw. The idea that everybody in them does everything at the double is totally untrue. The courses are brisk and short, and I think that if the right boys are chosen very useful work can be done. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not over-emphasise the usefulness of these centres as a way of placating his supporters. I know what conference speeches must be like, but I thought that there was a tendency in the right hon. Gentleman's speech at Blackpool to put a little too much emphasis on this matter as one of the top things he was doing.
I believe that we want more detention centres, but they are only useful for a limited number of boys, and the more we develop diversity of treatment the more need there is for the better sorting out of prisoners. For some reason these methods have not been properly used because we are not sorting out prisoners according to the best type of treatment suitable for them.
I welcome very much the Institute of Criminology which is to be set up largely as a result of the drive of the right hon. Gentleman. This will make it impossible for everyone to have his own pet cause for crime, which, at the moment, he does 485 not have to test by figures. I think that the only thing to do is to distrust everyone who is over-confident about the cause of crime. What seems probable is that the factors governing crime arise out of a very complex interaction of social factors. One has to study the psychological reasons within that framework.
One theory which has been put about, and which is absolutely untrue, is that the increase in crime is due to the Welfare State. All the evidence we have shows that there is a correlation between craw and poor conditions and poor education. The figures show that, as far as one can see anything in this field, it is due to the failure of the Welfare State and not due to it. As a main remedy for getting at the root of the problem we must press ahead more vigorously than the present Government have done with the Welfare State.
We will support the Home Secretary in his general intentions in the new spirit which he has brought about, but there is a new urgency now. There is a greater immediate problem before us than the right hon. Gentleman thought when he made his last major speech on this subject, and we must have a new feeling and sense of urgency in the face of the problems which we shall encounter in the next two years and thereafter.
§ 11.30 a.m.
§ Mr. Peter Kirk (Gravesend)
I do not intend to follow the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) into any general discussion on this subject. I did not expect to follow him, and I am sure that he will understand. That does not mean that I am not in broad agreement with what he has been saying. On one or two points I was in very enthusiastic agreement, particularly in the tribute which he paid to my right hon. Friend for the new spirit which he has introduced into the whole question of crime and causes of crime. We have reached a point where some progress can be made. Public opinion is conditioned to accept changes in this matter, and it is purely a question of what the changes should be.
I said that I did not intend to make a general speech. I think that the true function of a back-bencher in a debate like this is to express one or two ideas, 486 which are bound to be pet ideas of his own, in the hope that they will help the Home Secretary in coming to his conclusions.
I agree very much with the right hon. Gentleman about statistics. Despite the increase in the statistical staff at the Home Office, we are still looking up the trains not in last year's Bradshaw but a Bradshaw about twenty years out of date. We cannot begin to make any progress until we have the latest information quickly provided. One of the great difficulties is the long delay in producing statistics. I hope very much that my right hon. Friend will be able to speed up this process. Until we have the statistics, and until the Institute of Criminology is going, we cannot make any analysis of the causes of the crime, and until we know the causes of crime it will be very difficult to achieve any major diminution in it.
In his book on the causes of crime, Lord Pakenham finally came to the conclusion that it was impossible to say, but I think he is just about right in stating that most of us have our own ideas. Mine is that a fairly large contribution towards it has been the breakdown of family life in this country. That is borne out by the increase in criminal tendencies in the 17–21 age group to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, the group whose family life was totally disrupted by the war. It seems to me there is a connection there which is worth pursuing. Sometimes I wonder whether part of the solution might not be greater Government help to such organisations as marriage guidance councils to try to ease the very difficult problem which is arising from the break-up of family life.
All I want to do is to throw out one or two ideas in connection with the general increase in crime, particularly violent crime, among the older age group. I sometimes wonder whether our method of sentencing is right. We get very large variations between different judges in respect of very similar offences, which is unfortunate, and I hope that in certain cases it will be possible for some guidance to be laid down by the Home Office. The guidance should not, of course, be binding on the individual judge, but there might be some suggestion of what the sentence might be for a certain type of offence.
487 I wonder whether we could examine—I do not suggest that we should adopt—the system in operation in some American States where people are not sentenced for a fixed term but are sentenced generally to prison and the length of the term is determined later on by a board, consisting of lawyers, psychiatrists, social workers and so on, in the light of the man's record in prison and his previous record and his rehabilitation possibilities. I repeat that I do not suggest that we should adopt the system, but I think it worth looking at. It has worked well in California and it might work well here.
I also want to mention psychiatric treatment in prison. I do not suggest that this is a solution except for other than a small number of men. However, if we have a proper psychiatric system I think there is a chance of catching dangerous psychopaths early, before they have the opportunity to commit dangerous crimes. There have been instances in America and Scandinavia of young men who are clearly psychopathic being caught when committing minor crimes and being prevented from committing more dangerous ones. I should like to know what progress has been made at the East-Hubert institution, and when we can hope for results from it.
I also want to deal with the question of compensation for the victims of crime. It is unfortunate, to say the least, that a person who is beaten up by a criminal and may thereby lose considerable earning power, if nothing else, will receive no compensation. I know the difficulties in that the earnings of criminals in prison are not enough for them to make any significant contribution, and, clearly, they are the persons who should be compensating the victims of their crime. However, I cannot help wondering whether it would be possible, on the basis of the Maintenance Orders Act, which was sponsored by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers), to attach some part of a man's wages for that purpose after he has left prison. This would have a double advantage. It might be possible to shorten the prison sentence because the man's punishment would continue after he left gaol in that he would still be paying compensation to his victim, and he would at the same time have a constant reminder of the 488 disadvantages of committing such a crime. It may be that my suggestion is hopelessly impracticable, but I think there is a chance that something along these lines might be successful.
The real problem in all our minds today is the sudden and very disturbing increase in juvenile crime. My right hon. Friend has developed two almost mutually contradictory ways of dealing with it. On the one side there are the detention centres, and on the other side a Borstal system which, in many cases, is tending towards the open camp type of centre. I have seen something of the work of both, and I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the detention centres have a tremendous value and that many stories about them have been exaggerated. It is obvious that they are only for a certain type of boy, and for that certain type of boy there is a tremendous advantage in the detention centres. I hope that they will be expanded so that there will be enough of them. For other types, particularly boys from broken homes, who have never known any love, affection or care, the other system, the almost open Borstal, is suitable. An instance is Huntercombe, of which I have personal knowledge as my brother has done a great deal of voluntary work there under the guidance of Sir Almeric Rich, who has done wonderful work in this field. In such a place it is a question more of training than of deterrence.
As I have said, many of the boys who go to the open Borstals have never known a normal family life. It is impossible to give them that, but I should have thought that a slightly less rigid atmosphere at such a place, without getting away from the fact that it is a Borstal and not a boys' school, might pay very big dividends. I see nothing wrong with the dual effort which is going on, on the one side the increased severity of the detention centres, and on the other a certain relaxation at the open Borstals, provided that the right type of boy is selected for each. Nothing could go further wrong than to send the wrong type.
I am unsure whether what seems to be the growing practice of putting first offenders on probation is necessarily a wise one. I think there are cases where a boy caught out in his first offence might well benefit from a spell at a detention centre or a Borstal where it could be 489 ascertained whether he would be likely to continue to err. One of the difficulties is the appalling shortage of probation officers. Unless we can increase the recruitment of probation officers, a better way of handling the problem might be not to use probation quite so much in cases where an immediate shock will obviously do the boy much more good than trying once again. Again, it is a question of selecting the right boy.
I wonder sometimes whether we should associate the family more with a boy's offence. There are cases where a boy's father might be made responsible, which might mean financially responsible, for what the boy did. That might lead to the father taking a much greater interest in the boy's future and using every effort to restrain the boy from committing offences in the future. I do not know whether that could be done. I have heard the view expressed that in every case of a juvenile coming into court his father should be in the dock alongside him. That is going a little too far, but there are cases where it might have a salutary effect if the parents were regarded as just as much to blame as their child.
Obviously some of these measures will cost money. Although I am fundamentally averse to the spending of money by a Government, I think that in this particular respect the money would be extremely well spent. We are faced with a very difficult situation. Many other hon. Members may have ideas very different from mine but I do not think that matters in the least. Everybody must try to think for himself what is the best answer and should chip in on these discussions in the hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will benefit thereby in the plans he is making and which I hope he will announce to us later.
The three things for which I have been asking are a better statistical service so that we can find out what has caused the sudden increase in crime; better treatment and after-care, and, thirdly, acceptance of the principle that the punishment must not only fit the crime but must also be made to fit the criminal as well. If we proceed along those three lines I think we have a chance of halting, and possibly of reversing, the present regrettable trend.
§ 11.43 a.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) referred particularly to juvenile crime, which is one of the most disconcerting parts of the whole of this problem and also the part which is most likely to yield to treatment by social action.
In very crude figures, the situation seems to be that, allowing for the increase in population since the years immediately before the war, indictable crime is about half as frequent again as it was then, among the population as a whole. Among people between the ages of 14 and 30 it is twice as high as it was then. The exceptional increase is particularly noticeable among people between the ages of 17 and 21. I share with my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) the view that we shall have in time more people in that age group, so that, apart from the amount of criminality, the mere increase in numbers may give us more offenders who have to be dealt with.
I will not attempt to be dogmatic about the causes of juvenile delinquency. We have all been rightly warned against that, but there is one general consideration to which it is worth giving attention and which I will illustrate in the following manner. Not long ago I was asked to attend a prizegiving, in the course of which it was mentioned that a number of boys had been successful in an aeronautical competition. The opportunity to do that kind of useful and exciting thing is more frequent today than it was for young people of twenty years ago. Now I take the reverse side of the medal. One of the common offences in juvenile courts is that of taking somebody else's motor car and trying to drive it away. That offence is more frequent than it was a generation ago, partly because there are more motor cars and partly because more young people can either drive them or think they can.
Those two facts put together mean that we are living in a more sophisticated, richer and more complex society than we were and that this society offers to young people both greater opportunities to do interesting, exciting and useful things on the one hand, and on the other hand to do dangerous and anti-social things. It is also true that our young people are better paid than were the young people 491 of a generation ago. They therefore have more energy and spirit in them and they have more money in their pockets, which means that they can travel more easily and that the range of their activities is wider, whether for good or for evil.
If society is engaged in turning itself in that way into a more wealthy and sophisticated society, offering greater opportunities for good or evil, it has to face the fact that the process of training its young people and of equipping them for life in this more complex society needs to be longer and more thorough than it was a generation ago. It is a very old and hackneyed phrase that education is one of the cures for crime. I do not suggest that we can teach children good behaviour by set lessons, as we can teach them French or the multiplication tables. I do say, however, that young people who have had an opportunity of five or six years' secondary education instead of three years and a bit, who have had a chance of being taught in classes of reasonable size instead of classes that were too large, and have been at schools where, by virtue of the curriculum, the equipment and the qualifications of the teachers, they had constantly presented to them opportunities to do lively and constructive things with their minds—granted all these conditions they will be less likely to be anti-social when grown up than if they had not had those advantages. I do not think we need put it higher than that.
Even before we have conducted what I agree are very necessary researches into the causes of crime we can at least fix our attention on the point that a general improvement in length and quality of education for every child is an essential step that modern society must take.
The hon. Member for Gravesend said that he was fundamentally averse to the spending of public money, but he made an exception for the particular thing in which he was interested, which is what we all do. Modern society must not be averse to spending public money; a larger and more complicated social machine requires more lubricating oil than a smaller and simpler machine. When society as a whole gets wealthier it must be prepared to spend more of its resources on essential public services.
Education is one of those services. As I so frequently address hon. Members on 492 that subject I will not weary them with it now any further, but I would mention one or two other things relevant to the prevention of crime upon which society must face the need for spending a great deal of public money. My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick mentioned the shortage of police and the deficiencies of the prison service, and the hon. Member for Gravesend spoke of the deficiencies of the probation service. It is not sense that we should encourage private persons to buy things for their private enjoyment on hire purchase or by loans from banks and at the same time say that for some reason or another we cannot find money to get sufficient policemen, probation officers and decent prisons. It is silly to say that we can afford more money for private spending and yet are so poor that our prison, police and probation services are inadequate to cope with the growing volume of crime.
When a society is faced with a growing volume of crime it is the barbarian elements in it who begin to howl for severer penalties; it is the civilised elements in it who consider first the need for a greater certainty of detection and secondly for more intelligent and reformative treatment of those criminals who are caught.
Another Blue Book put into our hands recently is the Report of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis. He points out that in London the police force is 3,000 below establishment. As long as we are in that position we shall be faced with these disturbing figures of crime.
As to prisons, may I draw the Home Secretary's attention to one suggestion made some time ago by the Select Committee on Estimates? It was this. In a great many prisons we find there is a small percentage of prisoners, perhaps 3 per cent., who are really intractable and awkward, and are psychopaths. Their behaviour affects the whole character of the prison discipline. It makes the problem of security much more severe, and makes it very difficult to organise the doing of constructive work by the main body of the prisoners. If men of that type could be put in a special prison other prisons could be run both more economically and more usefully for the reform of the prisoners. We really ought to be able to run up a prison of that 493 kind. It is not so immense a task for a society of our wealth and resources.
We also need, particularly in London, a special remand home for at any rate the more violent lads who are put on remand by the juvenile courts. At present they get mixed up in remand homes with offenders of a totally different type, with most unsatisfactory results. I had occasion to write to the Home Secretary recently about a particular case arising, I think, directly out of that deficiency in the provision in London for juvenile offenders.
I would say a word, too, about the probation service. I see it has been said in some quarters lately that magistrates are in the habit of putting offenders on probation two, three or four times in succession and that they ought to apply sterner penalties. As far as I can discover, that allegation has no facts to support it. It must be very, very rare indeed for an offender to be put on probation three, four or more times in succession. How much we ought to use probation depends, of course, on the individual criminal, but I do not think anyone would dispute that by and large probation is a very valuable part of the whole task of preventing juvenile crime.
The Home Secretary told us some time ago of the disquiet in the probation service at his turning down of a pay award to certain probation officers, and that that disquiet was very much present in his mind. Without wishing to be unkind to him, I hope that that disquiet continues to be present in his mind, because there is a fair amount of disquiet about it in the minds particularly of senior probation officers, particularly when they compare their position with that of some of their opposite numbers in the prison officer service. It is not that they grudge increases the latter are granted, but the senior probation officer's position does compare now very unfavourably with that of his opposite number in the prison service.
I think it is true to say that there is precious little on the financial side to encourage, say, graduates to take up the probation service. I do not suggest that a university degree is necessarily a qualification for being a very good probation officer, but the pay and conditions in the probation service should not be such that 494 graduates abandon it completely and never think of it as a kind of service they might undertake.
To do probation work properly, in some areas one needs a motor car, and although an officer gets a mileage allowance for it he finds that, even with that and on his salary, it is very difficult to run his motor car, and very often without a car a man cannot do his work properly while the number of clients, if that is the right work to use, that a probation officer has to look after is what it is.
One last word. I think we would all accept that the behaviour of young people and juveniles is very greatly influenced by the example which their elders set them, not only those elders whom they know as individuals, their parents for example, but by the general standard of values which they see adult society is willing to accept. During the recent disturbances in Notting Hill it became apparent that one group of the offenders at any rate was of young men who had had no particular contact with coloured persons and no particular reason for resenting them. They were young men who, through deficiences of education and upbringing, were more likely to use their leisure in violence and anti-social conduct than in a friendly, constructive way. They had read or heard of grown-up people, who ought to have known better, making speeches inciting feeling against coloured people. That gave them a plausible excuse for using violence against coloured persons as being in some way less reprehensible than using it against anyone else. That is one reason why their violence and anti-social conduct was turned in that direction.
As to the recent events at Blackpool, I refer to them quite seriously. We had there a situation in which it is now attested by reliable witnesses that people were inexcusably beaten up. It is alleged to have occurred at a private meeting at which entrance was by ticket so that there would be no difficulty for those in charge in identifying the persons responsible for that behaviour and seeing that they are never employed in such a stewarding capacity again. From the point of view of setting an example, it is extremely desirable that those responsible for holding that meeting should make it quite clear to the public that that is what they are doing. 495 Some hold positions in the Government and some of the highest offices in the land. It is extremely regrettable if they do not make their condemnation of what happened there extremely emphatic and decisive.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that it is even more desirable that those who make these claims of having been beaten up, which, whether right or wrong, are in fact unsubstantiated, should bring a proper charge in a court of law so that their evidence may be subjected to cross-examination?
§ Mr. Stewart
I hope that if they are able to identify the persons who committed the offences they will do that, but if I had been responsible for holding the meeting, and such allegations were made against me in the columns of reputable newspapers by responsible persons, I would not dodge behind what might be done on the part of the persons who were the victims or their difficulty in identifying those who assaulted them, but would myself most diligently search out those persons responsible and ensure that they were not employed in such a capacity again.
§ 11.58 a.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department and Lord Privy Seal (Mr. R. A. Butler)
I am sure that nobody could take any possible exception to the tone in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) introduced this subject. It is one which is of the very greatest importance to the country at the present time. I shall attempt in the course of, I hope, not too long a speech to cover most of the subjects he mentioned. I shall probably leave the question of the probation service to be dealt with by my hon. and learned Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State when he winds up the debate, and one or two points about remand centres, but I think that, on the whole, I shall be able to deal with most of his points in the course of my remarks.
I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) for his various glances into the future, most of which, I think, are on lines which are, at any rate, interesting the Government at present, and I may have something to say about some of them; and I also thank the hon. Gentleman the Member for 496 Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), who has particular knowledge of juvenile crime.
The first thing I think I must do is to try to give a proper picture of what is happening about crime, and if that part of what I have to say is rather statistical I hope that the House will bear with me while I deal with it.
The right hon. Gentleman said that some people regarded the Welfare State as being responsible for crime. I shall have something to say in the course of my remarks about the duties of the family, the duties or responsibilities of the Church and the duties of other agencies in helping us in this matter, which clearly is not a matter alone for the Government. I would not say that the development of crime is entirely due to the development of the Welfare State, but I should say at the outset that in a society such as we have, the wealth of which has greatly increased, which has what is called social security, with a means of almost unlimited technological progress, it is with horror that we register that crime has not been banished by increased prosperity, nor has moral progress been ensured by the achievement of material satisfaction.
I believe that we should all be in agreement in recognising that and in realising, therefore, that in having this debate we are entering a discussion which is of the greatest importance to the country and which I think the Opposition were perfectly right to choose.
Turning to the statistics, I quite agree that we must have the latest Bradshaw. Looking at timetables is always dull, and if I spend a little time now doing it I hope that hon. Members will be lenient with me. I refer only to England and Wales, because I am most familiar with the facts there and those he within my sphere of responsibility; but on another occasion perhaps my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will be able to supplement what I say.
Let us get this into perspective. Crime was increasing during the 1930s, but during the war the figures took a sudden upward leap and in 1945 they were more than half as much again as in 1939. There were 478,000 indictable offences known to the police, or 11 per 1,000 of the population, in 1945, against a figure of 304,000, or 7 per 1,000 of the population, in 1939.
497 We must first reflect that that ground lost has not been recovered since. Since the 1930s there have been a series of rather spectacular peaks and troughs, and the last peak of crime in 1951 was followed by a steep decrease, almost back to the level of 1945. The recent increase started from right down there, and this increase, which began in 1955 and continued in 1956 and 1957, has again been steep. The total number of indictable offences known to the police and the number of persons found guilty of indictable offences in 1957 were both about 13 per cent. higher than in 1956.
The hon. Member referred to convictions for robbery. The increase in convictions for robbery was over one-quarter more; for breaking and entering one-quarter more; and for violence against the person the increase was about 18 per cent. I have just this moment received from the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis figures for crime in the Metropolitan Police district in the first seven months of 1958, and they show a continuing steep rise.
For example, the number of indictable offences known to the police in London during this period was 86,226, compared with 72,387 in the first seven months of 1957. That is an increase of 19 per cent. The Commissioner will be making a further statement, but I thought the House had better have the first indication of those figures from me as Home Secretary. These are very disturbing increases, yet the 1957 figures are only one-seventh higher than those for 1945.
Whatever we may say, whether we look at the increase or the decrease, the peak or the decline, we have more than half as much crime again as before the war. The House will, therefore, reflect that this is no sudden crisis but a deep-seated disorder in society.
Let me look at the types of crime, because I think that this may establish a little accuracy in the picture. I would say here that we shall certainly do our best to make these statistics as accurate and up-to-date as possible. It is a difficult task, but we are aided by the research to which I shall refer later. By far the greater part of indictable crime refers to cases of dishonesty. For example, larceny and breaking and entering alone account for 85 per cent. of the crime.
498 The offences which most disturb the public and usually get the headlines—sexual offences and crimes of violence—account for only 5.4 per cent. of the total, although in 1939 their share was only 2.6 per cent. There has been an increase in the proportion since 1939, but in relation to the whole they are comparatively few. Unfortunately, however, as is seen from my last figure, the number has increased steadily and is about four times the number in 1939, although recently there has been a slackening in the increase in the number of sexual offences.
These figures do not always tell the whole story. They refer only to crimes known to the police, and not all crimes are known to the police. I have little doubt that while the greater freedom, or laxity, which society permits in sexual matters may have led to the commission of more offences, it has also made people less shy of reporting them.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the early bad days. Having read some of the accounts of the lives of some of my predecessors as Home Secretary, I am quite certain that crime was worse under the great Lord Melbourne than it is now, but it was not set out in Blue Books before the House of Commons and in statistics. Nor can we be absolutely sure of the nature of every statistic. We must, therefore, be careful about the impressions which we derive. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the bad days of gin, which are certainly not quite as bad now as they used to be in the time of Charles James Fox, but it is difficult to make an exact comparison and I wonder whether the modern Bradshaw statistical aid gives an absolutely true picture.
Nevertheless, the number of known sexual offences—over 18,000 in 1957—is disturbingly high, and the fact that about 80 per cent. of them were committed against children under 16 causes grave anxiety to parents. It does not help to exaggerate the risks and I do not want the outside public to imagine that the country is overrun with dangerous sexual maniacs. In 1957, only 50 persons under 17 in the Metropolis—this huge area of the Thames basin—were victims of a violent attack with a sexual motive. That is one in 40,000 of the population in those age groups. Although it is 499 not very good to make the comparison, the House should remember that during the same year 8,000 London children under 16 were killed or injured in road accidents. I do not want to make absolutely the same comparison there, but we must get some of these figures clear in our own minds.
The figures of crimes of violence also need to be interpreted strictly by the facts. In 1957, there were 11,000 in the courts, but the great majority were not robbery with violence, as many would suppose, but woundings, of which, I am informed, about 90 per cent., in London at any rate, were woundings of one sort or another—some of them not very severe—which arose out of brawls or family quarrels, things which would not have been entered into statistics in the old days.
What is very serious is the high rate of crime among young men aged between 16 and 21, and this extends to offences of all kinds. There is reason to think that succeeding generations may be a little more normal, and the right hon. Gentleman was right to draw attention to that in his speech, but one is greatly concerned about the recent increase in the offences committed by children under 17, partly, of course, due to the increased population ratio of children born in the years from 1942 onwards. But it appears from what I have been able to find out that one encouraging feature is that at present children under 14 have a better record than their predecessors who are now causing us such anxiety as adults.
I suppose that although these figures are bad there are some general considerations from which we may draw some comfort. First, as in adult crime, there has been an ebb and flow in juvenile crime. The situation has been almost as bad before. We must, therefore, hope that the tide will turn, but I could not yet say that the tide has turned either in relation to adult or to juvenile crime.
I hope that that gives to the House some idea of the statistical basis upon which I want to approach the problem as we see it. Here is the essence of the problem. We have a much higher level of crime than before the war, with a proportionately greater increase in crimes of violence and sexual offences, and, 500 although this may be more temporary, a much higher rate in proportion to their numbers of crimes among young men.
What is the scope of the Government action? Except in totalitarian countries, Governments are not omnicompetent and nowhere this side of heaven are they omnipotent. A society's laws should be such as to encourage and protect virtue, but a moral basis of conduct can no more be imparted by the Government than can a religious belief. The roots of crime he deep in society and the sources from which they are nourished are almost wholly beyond the Government's reach. Belief in moral obligations, pride in integrity and respect for the rights of others can and should be instilled by the family, and my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend is absolutely right in saying that. Whether or not we can follow up his ideas about the parents being in some way associated with their children in court in these cases I do not know, but one of the objects of the debate is to hear what hon. Members have to say and to consider their suggestions.
It is not for me to say what is the duty of the Churches. I think they understand what is so often described by the religious leaders as the challenge before them. But I think there is an immense task to be done by the schools, and, in so far as in my time I have been responsible far encouraging education, my one disappointment is that in comparison with the immense amount of time and money spent by us and the local authorities an education we have had considerable disappointment in this one respect.
I would add only this. While we must continue to spend much of our time on the problems of buildings, administration and conditions, let us remember that it was partly to deal with this problem that we introduced religious education into the Education Act, and that it was partly to deal with this problem that we wished to see the influence of the teachers in the schools exercised to produce among their pupils moral behaviour and to encourage them to live the lives of good citizens.
There is, therefore, a great responsibility on the schools and teachers, the Churches, the family and others to help us out, and anything that Her Majesty's Ministers can do—I feel sure that I am speaking for leaders of the Opposition as 501 well—to meet these representatives of our society and help them through this problem we should do, with all modesty. The rest of my speech must be devoted to the limited part that a Government can play.
I heard the other day from a Borstal governor about what some of these young people are like. He said, "Lads now coming into Borstals do not speak the same language as the staff. When we discuss matters of ethics, dishonesty, deceit, lying and suchlike, and show that we consider the boys to have wrong standards, we are looked upon as not being part of this world. So often these warped ideas have become the accepted standards of whole areas and places from which our population comes."
That is precisely the problem of an educational type which the Borstal system has to deal with. This is partly an exercise in redemption as well as an exercise in discipline. Of course, this is not typical of the whole country, but what is disturbing is that there is today a tolerance of minor dishonesty and a reluctance to accept positive responsibility for the moral training of children.
Reverting to the Government's position, what can a Government do? A Government must first ensure that the forces of law and order are adequate, and that has been referred to by hon. Members who have spoken in the debate. Secondly, we must see that the courts are armed with sanctions sufficient to enforce the law, and I shall say a word in reply to the right hon. Gentleman about the courts. Thirdly, it should promote study of the causes of crime and the most effective methods of dealing with it, and, lastly, do everything possible to ensure that the offenders who come into our charge leave it less likely to offend than when they came in.
I shall now refer briefly to each of these matters. First of all, the police. We must see that there are enough policemen, that they are well trained and well equipped. It is quite true to say that there are still deficiencies in large urban areas, including London, and I have a report here from the Commissioner to which reference has been made. Nearly all the county forces and most of the borough forces are well up to establishment. Indeed, it is true to say that in total we have never had so many police 502 men as we have today. It is especially important that training should be of the highest quality, and I am giving particular study to the training of the future leaders of the police service, bearing in mind that it is now recognised that the service should find its chief officers from among its own ranks.
I had the honour of laying the foundation stone at the new police college at Bramshill, and any hon. Member who can see that college will realise what an immense future possibility there is for the police and their training. I hope that all concerned will co-operate to make this a real success. In general, there exists a partnership between local police authorities and the central Government, and, without going into that in detail today, as I think has been evidenced by one or two actions that I have taken I am determined to play my part in this partnership. I intend that it shall be a partnership, as it should be, and that each of the partners should play their part.
As for equipment, it is of the greatest importance to the police. The modern criminal has fresh resources at his disposal. He is more mobile; he is more likely to commit crimes away from home and he is much more difficult to trace. He is more likely to make a getaway in a car and he is much more difficult to catch. So the police must and will make full use of modern methods.
I should like to make it widely known that there has been a spectacular development in the use of wireless by the police. Police wireless schemes now cover all but a few sparsely populated regions. We have greatly increased the number of cars equipped with wireless, so the police can respond quickly. In the last few years there has been a great increase in the number of motor cycles equipped with wireless. Last year we supplied 400 wireless-equipped motor cycles to the police, again the same number this year, and next year we are stepping it up to 500.
I will give an illustration of a recent case which has been brought to my attention. At 2.15 in the morning thieves broke into a shop. Scotland Yard were informed by telephone. With the aid of a wireless-equipped car and a police dog —for we do not deny the value of nature as well as the value of science—the thief was tracked down within an hour of the 503 receipt of the report; his accomplice was arrested by 7.0 a.m., and that is not a bad night's job. It is not an exceptional night's job and it will not be an exceptional night's job in the future. That gives some idea of the speed with which the police can get into action.
In addition to wireless, the police have other scientific resources in the forensic science laboratories. I do not know whether hon. Members have been able to visit them, but we have now got them in different parts of the country and they are of the utmost importance. There has been a parallel improvement in crime reporting and in recording techniques. All these are vital in the cooperation between the different police forces.
I have said that there must be a partnership between local forces and the centre. If this is to work, there must be the utmost technical efficiency and co-operation between one police force and another in catching criminals. Private citizens have a special part to play, and the Commissioner in the Metropolis is taking special measures to enlist the help of the public in order to help the police to help the people of London.
I should like to say a word of thanks to the Special Police, who do a remarkable job of work with practically no thanks and certainly practically no reward.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the complaint that too many people are employed on road traffic duties, but I was glad that he took the same line as I shall take, namely, that it is essential that we should not neglect the question of road safety. In the Report of the Commissioner to which the hon. Member for Fulham referred, there is a passage which describes a total of 632 other fatal accidents on the roads in the particular year in question in this Metropolitan area and the importance of police being used. It is on page I of Chapter I of the Report. I need not read it in detail, but I think that it is unanswerable. In a similar way, the Report by the Committee on Road Safety draws attention to the absolutely vital need for watching the question of road safety and the importance of keeping traffic moving, not only to our national economy but also to the safety of life and limb.
504 It will be absolutely essential to employ a proportion of police to prevent obstruction and to enforce restrictions on parking, especially in our major cities. I know that I was accused of having been rather forward-looking when I opened the Motor Show. Indeed, Osbert Lancaster said that if my views were true there would be total immobility in our great cities. If that, combined with doubling our standard of life in twenty-five years, comes about we shall need one or two policemen to shift the traffic about on the new roads which we, as a Government, are with such wisdom building.
If one looks at the position on the roads in 1950, it was estimated that the average police officer on the beat in the Metropolitan Police district spent only 6 per cent. of his time on traffic duties. There may be some increase in the proportion over the last eight years, but the number of police engaged whole-time on traffic duties is only 7.6 per cent. of the whole. So I do not think it can be said that the police are always wasting their time on parking or traffic duties or anything else.
There is also a close connection between the use of motor vehicles in many forms of crime; and many offences, some serious, come to light during the course of the police ordinary traffic duties. I think that, in general, one can say—and I have responsibility only for the Metropolitan Police Fore; my relation to the others is well known to be somewhat different—that the police forces of Britain have never been more mobile. There has never been a better spirit. In relation to pay and conditions, I shall be addressing the Federation in about a fortnight's time. when I shall be able to give the latest information on the subjects to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
I feel sure that I have the House behind me in congratulating the police on what they have done and in wishing them all strength in the future in dealing with this problem.
In passing, I want to say a word about research. The new research unit in the Home Office is now well established. I have had the co-operation of the Secretary of State for Scotland and it may seem surprising that we have not had one before. But now there is one. Although it has received quite a small sum of 505 money, we are very pleased with the preliminary work that has been done. I am also glad to say that in due course, although it will need a little time to collect the necessary money and organisation, the Institute of Criminology should be able to get under way at the University of Cambridge. In research we shall be able, in a modern way, to back the work of the police and the courts.
Research may sound academic, but I am quite certain that in this field of crime it is the absolutely vital basis without which we cannot work. Whether it be in sentencing, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend referred, or anything else, there has been a grave lack of knowledge. If we are to suit the punishment to the criminal, as well as to the crime, sound research and understanding is very much behind. That is one reason, when I describe some of the things I want to do, that I must have a little time before we carry them into effect. We must be sure of the basis upon which we are working.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the courts. I do not want to say very much about the courts, but I should like to remind the House that the penalties which the courts can enforce are very strict indeed. The job of the legislature is to pass laws which make sanctions possible for the courts to enforce, and, as far as I can see, all the more serious crimes are punishable with life imprisonment. I leave aside questions of homicide which I am not going to discuss this morning.
Manslaughter, rape, robbery with violence, burglary and felonious wounding are all punishable with life imprisonment. Robbery without aggravation, some forms of housebreaking and many forms of larceny can be punished with fourteen years' imprisonment; lesser forms of violence or dishonesty five years, and persistent offenders can be sent to preventive detention up to fourteen years under the Act of 1948.
It would seem, therefore, that the superior courts have ample powers to inflict severe punishment and, as far as I can see, they do not hesitate to use them. It is noteworthy that they have increased the level of sentences of imprisonment generally. The average sentence imposed by superior courts in 1956 for violence against the person, for sexual offences and breaking and enter- 506 ing was higher than that imposed about twenty years before. The powers of magistrates' courts, though less than those of the superior courts, are by no means negligible.
It is sometimes suggested that the courts do not pass heavy enough sentences and that the Government should compel them to do so. But I must make absolutely clear that it is a fundamental principle of our Constitution that the Executive does not interfere with the judiciary. The courts must be trusted to exercise wide powers with due regard both to the circumstances of a particular crime and also to the character of the criminal.
As the right hon. Gentleman suggested, it is vital to see that the courts have at their disposal not only the sanctions but also the information necessary for the sentences to be just. This is why the Lord Chancellor and I have set up the inquiry under Mr. Justice Streatfeild to investigate the best methods of providing the courts with information so that the punishment may suit the criminal and not only the crime. That is as far as we have gone at present, but I believe that it will be a great help. If Mr. Justice Streatfeild reports as quickly as Mr. Justice Wynn Parry did about conditions in the prison service, we may see some progress. It is very satisfactory to appoint a committee and, in the same Parliament, to be able to act on it—surely something quite extraordinary in the relations of Government and committees.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the fascinating question of the assize. The assize system was inaugurated by Henry II, really quite a long time ago. It is very much hallowed by tradition and much supported by the members of the Bar and, as far as I know, by the leading members of the judiciary. I have myself ventured to look at it, for a cat may look at Henry but I do not at present, subject to further consideration, see any immediate prospect of altering so fundamental a feature of our justice. But I should greatly value any constructive ideas put by right hon. and hon. Members on such a fundamental aspect of the administration of justice because I, like the right hon. gentleman, do not wish any subject to be left unexplored or unexamined.
507 Crime will be lessened if there is a healthy fear of punishment on the part of the would-be criminal, and, secondly, if punitive methods give some hope of redemption and renunciation of criminal practices. I did not intend, in the course of this debate, to give a full picture of what I have in mind for the future. This I hope to do in the most convenient form and manner some time during the next month or two and place it before the House. In answer to the right hon. Gentleman, I will say that I do not expect at this early stage that early legislation will be advisable. Here is a subject which one must proceed with after testing public opinion and obtaining the authority and guidance of those engaged in the administration of justice. There are, however, several lines of advance, which will need legislation eventually, which I can indicate broadly to the House. This aspect of the subject I should like to divide as between adult offenders and young offenders.
As regards adults, what we really have to do is to develop existing methods, which have been improving for a generation and more. We have not yet fully tested all the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948. Here I agree with the right hon. Gentleman: to say that the system had failed would be wrong. The Prison Commission is, at present, being administered in the most enlightened manner under its singularly experienced chairman, as anyone connected with it must know. Any hon. Members who have visited any of the institutions under its charge—I do not mean been received into the institutions, but merely visited them—will realise that.
I have here some figures which show some success in the work of the Prison Commission. Of 600 ordinary class prisoners released from long sentences in Dartmoor and local prisons in 1955, over 60 per cent.—a much better figure than was quoted a few years before—had not returned at the end of 1957. It seems a poor figure, but it is a great improvement on the figure of 39 per cent. which was revealed when a sample test was made a few years before, in 1951. The success rate for a similar span for the open prison Leyhill, in Gloucestershire, was 98 per cent. non-return, and for Wakefield, which I must acknowledge is one of our most up-to-date prisons, the figure was 94 per cent.
508 It will be seen that Britain is still leading in certain aspects of penal institutions. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether we were still leading the world, and I would say that we are leading the world in our open prisons. I believe that they are the most up-to-date and effective form of prison known in any country in the world. Of course, they are not suitable for every sort of prisoner, but, so far as those figures show, they have been very successful.
Referring to the present situation in the prisons, the right hon. Gentleman paid some attention to the prison service and the Report of Mr. Justice Wynn Parry. I am very glad that this Report has come in. The House will note, from a Press statement of 22nd October, that the Governmentaccept in principle the recommendations of the Committee relating to scales of pay, including their recommendation that improvements in the pay of certain grades should be dated from 1st January, 1958, though it may not be possile to carry all of them into effect immediately, or as they stand. These, and the other recommendations of the Committee, will form the subject of discussion with the appropriate staff associations. Negotiations…will begin as soon as possible.I am intensely grateful to the members of the Committee. This is the first time for thirty-five years that a thorough investigation has been made into the functions of the prison service, and I think that it is an indication of the importance which the Government attach to its development. I should like to thank the members of the prison service for their remarkable success in dealing with a system of overcrowding which has imposed a very severe strain on the service as a whole, and which, in general, except for one or two unfortunate occurrences, has been very successful.
Looking to the future of the adult offender, the first thing one must do is to provide adequate means for dealing with every prisoner as an individual. For this, there is needed a much more precise method of classification and the grouping of prisoners into units or buildings where suitable methods of treatment can be provided. It is quite obvious that the great problem in the local prison today, despite certain success and knowledge elsewhere, is the jumbling or grouping together of prisoners of all types and, not least, the mixing of the young with the old and, again, not least, having 509 to detain the young in prisons when they should be in other forms of establishment. This is all entirely due to overcrowding, and, if we are to make a success with the adults, it is essential that there should be a determined programme of building on a considerable scale.
I am glad to say that I have made progress in planning this programme with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a man whose sympathies he very much in the same direction as my own in this matter. I hope to make definite reference to this looking ahead in the general pattern of plans, to which I referred earlier, which I propose to take an opportunity of announcing in due course. This will, I think, give a pattern for the future which will not only cover the adult prisoner but the juvenile offender also and will give something towards which we can work. Meanwhile, we have as much work as we can possibly undertake in the immediate future. We are going ahead as fast as we can to improve a position which, in fact, has got somewhat out of hand.
For example, our new prison at Everthorpe, in Yorkshire—the first prison to be built for over half a century, which gives an indication of the nature of the problem—has had to be used as a Borstal. This indicates the great problem of crime among young offenders. Apart from this, and our classification, through the use of the wisdom of the Prison Commission in the best way in treatment and classification, and the rebuilding and reorganisation of prisons, all of which is now in hand, I propose to look at what has been referred to in the Press, namely, the extension of statutory after-care.
The Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders has recently made to me certain recommendations, and this is something else to which I shall refer in my future policy statements. Also, we have considerable plans for including the development of the Bristol hostel scheme, which is the most efficient way we have yet discovered not only of employing prisoners in the final stages of their sentences and providing them with legitimate earnings but of preparing them again to be normal citizens. We are already extending, with the aid of the Prison Corn-mission, the Bristol hostel scheme, which I think is the most successful thing we can do for the purposes I have outlined.
510 We are working with constructive ideas —here I should very much welcome the assistance and help of the trade unions—for the provision of work in prisons, a very serious matter for the prisoners.
The problems of compensation, restitution, and so on, raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend, must be dealt with in the longer term, because we cannot, I think, achieve immediate results, even if we follow up Miss Fry's own proposals for a State compensation scheme. However, I should be glad to have the help of hon. Members in the collection of constructive ideas when I am arranging for future progress.
The first rule in dealing with the young offender is to preserve elasticity of judgment and diversity of treatment suited to the individual young person. There has been a good deal of discussion lately about detention centres and the best method of treating young offenders. When I visited the centre at Goudhurst, on Monday, I was very gratified to learn that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick, together with Lord Pakenham, had visited it on Saturday. It is evidently in the news. These centres, of course, to which I made some reference earlier in October, are very valuable additions to the system. For certain boys they have a very great value.
I think, however, that it is important, in giving this short review to the House, to make clear that the young offender cannot be dealt with by a single method. There must be a variety of methods, ranging from the young prisoners' prison at Lewes to what can be provided through the range of the Borstal system and what can be done at detention centres. I thought that the régime of the detention centre which I recently visited, and of which I had already read full reports, was extremely satisfactory in the short term. The boys have a prospect of getting out and that keeps up their attention and they do not flag.
What we must do in devising our plans, with the aid of the Prison Commissioners, is to work out a revision of the system of training and detention of young persons to provide a greater opportunity, as I have said, for dealing with the individual and to provide, both for a short period and a longer period of detention, for those who are obdurate or who require more prolonged training.
511 As my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend knows, I put ideas on this matter to the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders, and the proposals would require legislation. The essential element in the proposals is that after sentence is passed—and here there is something in what the hon. Member for Gravesend said; this is dealing with the young—more discretion should be left to the Prison Commissioners, Borstal governors and others to handle young people as suits their nature. This would mean, in some cases, that there would be the opportunity of a quicker period of education, training, redemption, and cure. In cases which were more difficult and obdurate there would be the threat of a longer period of detention. I think that this would have a very salutary effect upon the young and would give more discretion to those who look after our young prisoners. I hope that when these ideas are finally brought out there will be full, popular comment upon them and the dual element of what I describe as the dread of punishment with the presence of discipline, and the opportunity of recovery and return to sane normal life. What this means, after fifty years, is to revise, review, and amend, but not to supplant, our remarkable Borstal system and the present basis of training for the young.
I hope that these indications of how we intend in future to deal with adults and young offenders, together with the determination to spend, by degrees, some more of the nation's money on this sphere of action, will show the House that the Government mean business. I shall be only too glad to listen to the whole of this debate and take note of any constructive ideas. My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend gave several good examples, including his references to the possible use of marriage guidance and psychiatric treatment. I shall be very glad to listen to hon. Members' constructive ideas. That is the object of the debate. It will enable me, when I come forward later with ideas, to be all the better advised by the House.
I am very glad that in this debate on the Address we have turned our attention to a great malaise of our modern society—the increase in crime and the overcrowding and blocking of some of the systems of improvement and redemp- 512 tion in our prisons and young offenders' centres. These problems of society are severe. They cannot be dealt with by the Government alone. We must enlist the co-operation of the House of Commons, of the country, of the family, of the Churches and of the schools. If our discussion here today can have such an effect and if the House and country will be patient—I refuse to operate on insufficient information; I propose to make this a thorough and lasting job—I shall be very glad that this debate was initiated by the Opposition and that hon. Members took part in it in the spirit that they have shown today.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
I am sure that the approach of the Home Secretary to this problem is one which we all enthusiastically support. I do not propose to address the House for very long, but I want, however, to refer to a section of the problem for which the Home Secretary has a special personal responsibility. He is in charge of the Metropolitan Police and, therefore, is directly responsible for the care of the Metropolitan Police area.
I am very alarmed at the tremendous increase in arrests and convictions in the London area since just before the war. The figures issued by the Commissioner of Police in his last Report show that, whereas in 1946 59,600 persons were arrested in the Metropolitan Police area, in 1957, 11 years later, the number had risen to 99,000. The problem of crime in London is not one which has peaks and valleys. The peaks are getting higher and higher as the years go by. Therefore, very special consideration is required by the authorities responsible for the police in the London area.
While I am not too sure that the special efforts being made to deal with the problem scientifically will prevent crime, because they only deal with the people once they have caught them, I am sure that a much greater effort ought to be made to get hold of the youngsters and train them and prevent them from developing into criminals.
I am very surprised to find that with the increase in crime in the London area there has been a very stiff increase in convictions for drunkenness. It has always seemed to me that there must be a connection between these two things. 513 In 1938, the number of arrests for drunkenness, as shown by the Report of the Commissioner, was 19,700 in a population of 8,700,000. In 1957, however, the number of arrests for drunkenness was 28,165 in a population which had decreased by 500,000. The number of people arrested for drunkenness in the London area has gone up from 2.2 per cent. To 3.4 per cent.
This is a problem to which the Home Secretary ought to give special consideration. I know that he is, at any rate, aware of it. However, when one looks further into it, the alarming feature is the increase in the number of young people who are being arrested and convicted for drunkenness. A study of the problem has been issued recently by the Christian Action Council which shows, to my amazement, that where drunkenness is concerned young women are even worse than young men. The problem of dealing with them has been intensified tenfold since 1948.
Good as may be all these proposals for improving the prisons and dealing with prisoners more scientifically, I suggest that it is infinitely better to try to get hold of the young people and train them so that they do not develop criminal propensities. I do not think that this Government, or any Government in fact, have yet done enough in the development of facilities for employing the leisure time of young people.
I should have liked to see a large extension in the London area, for example, of those excellent evening recreational institutes which the London County Council has started but which it has never been able to develop to the extent to which it would like. There is a good example of the enormous value of these recreational institutes in Lambeth, where one of them was started by the daughter of a former Member of this House and where everybody thought that there would be tremendous drunkenness, crime and all kinds of troubles. The development of this recreational evening institute has been a success. Youngsters are brought in, not necessarily to be educated, but to be taught how to live and to develop some sort of interest in, and love of, cultural activities while all the time being taught better habits.
The institute has been so successful that drunkenness has disappeared in that part 514 of an area which I know very well. Those engaged in running it are stimulating in 3,000 people every year a desire to live a better and fuller life than ever they knew before we were able to establish and develop the institute. There are many other such institutes which, no doubt, hon. Members have seen.
I should like the Government to offer to give encouragement to local authorities, financially if necessary, in the development of these evening recreational institutes, where young people can be brought in but also where the middle-aged can come and, if necessary, the old. I saw a class of old people who were learning to jive. While I did not think very much of it, they were enjoying themselves. It is much better to do it in this kind of evening institute than outside a "pub" because they are drunk. That kind of work should be very much encouraged, not only by the Government, but by everybody concerned with trying to raise the general cultural level of the people.
The authorities might give much greater help in every way to the various youth organisations. I do not mind whether it is the Boy Scouts or the Boys' Brigade or some of the excellent clubs which have been founded in London by men who seemed to have the call for that kind of work. All of them are struggling for money and for premises. These people who are getting hold of the youngsters at a period when they can be most moulded, should be encouraged as far as possible by assistance either from the local authority or direct from State funds. I am quite sure that something of that kind would have much more effect in reducing the figures of crime than, perhaps, any other of the excellent methods of which the Home Secretary has spoken.
It is very nearly time that we did something about drinking in clubs. In some parts of the country, this is a particularly bad evil. People can go into towns on a Sunday where not a single public house is open but where there are many more clubs than "pubs" and it is possible to get all the drink they want, very often outside regulation hours. It seems to me that these places are one of the sources from which many of our young people get the drink which turns them into drunkards, which causes them to be arrested and which has an influence 515 on their lives which, at least, has a tendency towards making them much less reliable as law-abiding citizens.
I suggest to the Home Secretary, who, I know, is interested in this problem, that it is time that the law relating to the sale and supply of drink was applied as strictly to the clubs as to the ordinary publican in the public house. This might have some influence in assisting to get a real grip on this problem of drink and its effect on our young people.
I do not say that this is the only country to have this problem. I was interested the other day to see that Mr. Khrushchev was telling the Russians that they were drinking too much vodka. He even suggested a limitation of one glass per day—or was it one glass per meal?
§ Mr. Gibson
While I am not myself one who would support prohibition, I do say that in view of the known and proved dangers of excessive drinking of alcohol, and particularly its effect on the young people and what I regard as its inevitable connection with the increase in the figures of crime among young people, we should do more to control the supply of alcohol to the young.
I hope we shall not be afraid to tackle this problem because of the tremendously wealthy brewing interests, which will have to be dealt with. I confess that on the few occasions when I look in at television, I gel disgusted with the advertisements for this or that beer, ale or stout and I wonder why I am as strong as I am in view of the fact that I have never touched it. There should be some reasonable control of the excessive advertising which is done for brewery interests, if only because of its effect on the minds of young people.
While that would not be the sole cure of the problem of the increase in crime, I believe—and I speak with experience from the time I was a young man—that it would have a tremendous influence in helping to keep down the volume of crime and would raise the general conduct and living standards of our people as a whole.
If I had more time, I would quote what was said by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) who, fifty years ago this month, made a much more 516 violent speech than I have done today about the dangers of the effect upon young people of drinking alcohol. At least, let the House be sure that if something on these lines worked, we should be doing good for our young people.
§ 12.58 p.m.
§ Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr)
I hope that the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) will not be unduly disturbed if I do not follow the lines of his speech. Although many of his remarks were sound, the hon. Member has possibly exaggerated slightly the relationship between alcohol and crime.
My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) was unduly pessimistic in thinking that many of us would not agree with his views. I found his speech very much in line with my own ideas concerning the future treatment of criminals, especially the young. My hon. Friend has, however, missed the important point, to which I have referred on many previous occasions, that the courts should be given a power to hold in reserve, a power that would be exercised only against those who refuse to be persuaded, who refuse to be helped, who are anti-social by instinct and who are, therefore, more or less a menace to the law-abiding community. It is on the subject of that power that I will say a few words shortly.
As the right hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said, among the many stimulating passages in the Gracious Speech one of the most encouraging was the reference to the more effective methods of dealing with criminals. However, the question which concerns us is what those methods are to be. When speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, the Home Secretary gave it as his personal view that poison might well be included in the list of capital murders. Most of us will agree with that, but why does he draw the line at the poisoner? Why does not he include all other premeditated murders and let the judge and the jury decide what is a premeditated murder?
The Home Secretary is also quoted as having said that he was not prepared to put the clock back 100 years by reintroducing extreme forms of punishment. We are not asking him to do that. We merely ask that the courts be permitted 517 to deal adequately with those thugs and hooligans who themselves have put the clock back through 100 years of civilised behaviour. By putting the clock back in that way they have made life for the taw-abiding just as dangerous, just as menacing and just as intolerable as it was in the days of the thugs, the footpads and the boyos of a century ago.
I wish I understood what is in the Home Secretary's mind. He went a certain distance to explain it to us, but it was obvious that the final picture was not to be presented to us for some time. I believe that what is in his mind and in his heart is an innate humanity, but my hon. Friends and I and others who think like us claim to be humane too. The only difference betwen us is that my right hon. Friend directs his humanity more towards the criminal, whereas we direct ours to the victim, the relatives of the victim, and those still to be victims if the present law remains.
I listened carefully to his remarks, but I wonder whether longer or harsher prison sentences are in his mind. But prison seems to hold very little terror for the thugs nowadays, even if they can be kept there—and we have had numerous serious incidents lately showing how difficult that can be. In any case, where are the prisons to accommodate the increased number of criminals and where are the warders to control them?
In the last month, many conferences, both political and non-political, many organisations and individual citizens, and even the Socialist-controlled Corporation of Glasgow have protested against the present method of punishment for crimes of violence and murder. Indeed, so far as one can gather, the question seems to cut across all political boundaries. What, then, should Parliament do to respond to the almost overwhelming demand from the people who elected us?
Several months ago, I put a Motion on the Order Paper asking for the reintroduction of corporal punishment for crimes of violence, and the reintroduction of capital punishment for all crimes of murder. The result was astonishing. Within one week I had received 173 letters and one postcard. The 173 letters were in support but I was a little doubtful about the postcard because it said simply that I was "a proper Tory". On balance, 518 I imagine that the writer was "agin" me.
I know that the methods which I have already suggested, and which I am about to suggest again, may involve the Home Secretary and the Government in much bitter controversy in and outside the House, but the Government have shown great courage in many other directions. Why should they not show equal courage in this direction? If the Government feel that the present Session is unsuitable for such a controversy, let them give an undertaking that when returned again next year—as they will be, of course—their first task will be to reintroduce corporal punishment for violence and capital punishment for all types of murder. If they do that, I am confident that such an undertaking alone will be enough in itself, apart from the many other good reasons, to ensure a substantial Conservative victory at the next Election.
I do not intend to go over the reasons for my request. They were given in the House during the controversy on the Homicide Act, 1957, and the other discussions which took place over the Measure of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). Nor shall I quote the statistics, which have already been given rather elaborately this morning. There are many, all completely confirming my point of view and the request I have made.
However, I want to make one brief comment on the Criminal Justice Act, 1948. Nowhere in that great volume, that vast tome, is the word "victim" mentioned. That is strange, because it is the victim who is battered and maimed and mutilated and raped and it is the victim who is murdered. There seems to be a strange lack of balance in our thinking and in our actions. In this connection I must comment on the growing influence of the psychiatrists in matters of crime. With all respect, I think that they should never be allowed to usurp the position or the function of the judge.
As I have said, corporal punishment was abolished in 1948 and in all the ten years since there has been a growing and horrifyng series of attacks on old and young. Since that abolition, the figures have grown darker and more menacing, until in 1957 we had the monstrous total 519 of 10,000 crimes of violence, as compared with about 2,000 in 1938.
I do not know whether hon. Members listened to the B.B.C. last night and heard a discussion on the subject. The statistics were given very simply and most effectively. Crimes of violence in 1938 numbered 3,000; in 1955, 8,000; in 1957, 11,000; sexual offences numbered 5,000 in 1938 and 19,000 in 1957; juvenile crime was 10 per cent. in 1938 and 23 per cent. in 1957.
We have had our experiment, our costly experiment, and it has been fairly tested over a period of ten years. I suggest—and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will pay as much attention to these suggestions as he promised to pay to others—in the interests of our people, our young people, our children, wives, sweethearts, and so on, that it is now time to reverse that experiment and to teach these sadistic hooligans, young and old, something of the pain and suffering which they themselves so wantonly inflict on others. Mr. Justice Hilbery made some acid comments on that matter at Maidstone only a few months ago.
I now come to the question of murder. I do not like criticising my own Government, and I do not usually do so. On the whole, I believe that they have done a wonderful job of work for our country during the last seven years, and especially during the last six or eight months. But if ever criticism was deserved it was of the action of the Conservative Government, in 1957, in passing the wretched Homicide Act. It was such a stupid Act. It did not please or satisfy the Government, Parliament, or the country, and even the courts do not yet seem to understand it—and I do not blame them. The only people who might have been happier about it were the murderers. It was a mockery of justice, and I am bitterly ashamed that I ever voted for it.
I will not repeat the arguments against the unprecedented definition of murder, but we all know that whether murder is called "capital" or "ordinary" it still means taking the life of a fellow human being, and we must remember that the Home Secretary still retains his power of recommending a reprieve if he considers it justified. The immediate results of the Homi- 520 cide Act were exactly the same as in the case of the Criminal Justice Act of 1948. So as far as we can see, neither Act has proved any form of deterrent.
I end my speech with one last thought for the attention of the House. A man can rape a young girl and tear her to pieces, his action resulting in her death. That is not capital murder. Indeed, some misguided psychiatrists might find some obscure reason for this. A person can batter a defenceless old lady to death, and provided her meagre savings are not stolen in the process, that is not capital murder. What a farce! I do not know whether I have proved my case, but I do know that I have the support of the vast majority of our people in making the effort.
§ 1.12 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
The passion of the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) for corporal punishment, and his enthusiasm for the gallows, are well known in this House. He clings to his views with a tenacity that flies in the face of all the evidence, and I do not think that any words of mine are likely to change them.
I therefore content myself by saying that it is fortunate that the Home Secretary does not share those views in any measure. It is quite ridiculous for the hon. Member to suggest that there has been any substantial rise in the rate of murders since the passage of the Homicide Act. The figures of, I think, the first twenty-three months following the passage of that Act showed absolutely no change whatever in the rate of murders known to the police.
I do not want to deal with the general question of crime; I want to talk briefly about a specific crime which, in my view, ought not to be a crime at all. I refer to attempted suicide. The present legal attitude to suicide and attempted suicide seems to be a hang-over from the somewhat vicious attitude of the past. In Elizabethan days, when somebody committed suicide the practice was to drag the body to a gallows and hang it there for several days, and then to cut it down and bury it in a public highway, at a crossroads, with a stake through the heart and a stone on the face. That practice continued for several hundred years. In fact, I believe that the last 521 crossroads burial of a suicide took place not far from this House, the site of Victoria Station, as recently as 1823.
Further than that, it was the practice to make the goods and chattels of the suicide forfeit to the Crown, thus leaving his widow and children destitute. This sort of attitude may have been responsible for the fact that we still treat suicide and attempted suicide as crimes.
We are practically the only country left in the civilised world to do so. I believe that one or two States of America take the same view, but nowhere in Western Europe, and not even in Scotland, is attempted suicide prosecuted as a crime. The present practice in England seems to have arisen almost by accident, about 100 years ago, when some judge worked out very cleverly that since suicide was a felony, attempted suicide must he a misdemeanour, and could be prosecuted in the courts. There was never any decision of this House that attempted suicide should be a crime.
I am not suggesting that this is a vast problem, but our attitude to it in some ways symbolises what we think about human frailty and about mental illness—because people who commit or try to commit suicide are almost all mentally sick in one way or another. To drag them before the courts and perhaps give them a prison sentence at the end seems to me about the most ludicrous way of dealing with any form of ill health.
The crime of suicide is not on the increase; it is rather a steady figure. Each year there are about 5,000 suicides, and slightly more attempted suicides known to the police. I emphasise the words "known to the police" because the vast majority of attempted suicides never become known to the police. The estimated total is somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000. They do not become known to the police largely because the ordinary doctor, who is probably the first person called in, does not regard it as consistent with his Hippocratic oath to turn his patient over to the police. The same view is taken by many, though not all, casualty departments of hospitals, where attempted suicides are frequently brought.
Of the 5,000 or 6,000 cases known to the police, about one in eight finds its way to the courts. It is only one in eight because police practice varies widely from district to district. Some police 522 forces take no action at all, as a matter of course. As far as I can gather, there are other areas where almost every case is prosecuted by the police. There is no consistency in this matter. Over the country as a whole, however, about one in eight cases finds its way to the courts.
I readily admit that in the vast majority of these cases the prisoner is put on probation or discharged, conditionally or unconditionally; but the fact is that they are practically all found guilty of a crime. They thereby acquire a criminal record, and anybody who has a criminal record is very seriously disadvantaged in a number of ways. If he wants to emigrate to certain countries he cannot do so, and he is handicapped in his attempts to obtain certain types of job, where he has to make a declaration that he is not a criminal.
But not all the cases are discharged or put on probation. On an average, about forty people a year go to prison, simply because they have attempted to take their own lives. The sentences, on the average, are from two to three months, but in some cases they are as long as six months. Most ludicrous of all, every year three or four people are fined a sum of money for trying to take their own lives. This is a quite ridiculous situation. and it has lasted this long only because nobody has bothered much about it.
In February of this year I put down a Question to the Home Secretary, asking if he would amend the law in this respect, but he gave a negative reply and said that he did not think that there was any great public demand for a change in the law. Following that, however, one or two things happened quite unexpectedly. There was some correspondence in The Times started by Dr. Glanville Williams, who has made a great study of this subject. There were many letters which, with one possible exception, were strongly in favour of a reform of the law. Encouraged by this, I drew up and put down a Motion on the Order Paper calling in quite uncompromising terms for the removal of suicide from the category of crimes. Within a very few days 180 hon. Members of all parties, and, even more important, of all kinds of religious persuasions, had signed that Motion.
More recently there has been correspondence in the British Medical Journal following that very interesting paper on 523 what happens in one of the London teaching hospitals to attempted suicides. There, again, the overwhelming evidence has been in support of a change in the law. I have received a lot of correspondence on the subject, but not a single letter has opposed reform of the law.
More important still, there has been a report of a joint committee set up by the British Medical Association, on the one hand, and the Magistrates' Association on the other to look into the question of the law on suicide. The members of that joint committee came down strongly in favour of amending legislation. Their report has since been accepted by the two bodies concerned. I have seen no real opposition whatever to such a change.
The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary suggested that there might be, or was, opposition among the Churches to a change in the law. As far as I can see, there is no substance in that argument at all. The Churches broadly take the view that suicide is a matter for the religious authorities and not for the State, a sin and not a crime, and I think that is the view that most civilised people would take.
What are the arguments in favour of treating suicide or attempted suicide as a crime? Clearly, the fact that suicide or attempted suicide is an offence against the law has very little, if any, effect on the mind of the would-be suicide. If it had any effect whatever upon the mind of the person intending to commit suicide, which I do not believe, that effect would surely be in the direction of making him more determined to succeed because of the knowledge that he would be regarded as a criminal if he failed.
There is one argument which has a superficial attraction, which is that because these cases come to the notice of the police and of the courts there is the power to direct people to have psychiatric treatment as a condition of probation, whereas they might be reluctant to undergo such treatment if they had not come before the court. I have discussed this point with a number of psychiatrists who have unanimously expressed the view that treatment of a compulsory nature imposed as a result of an appearance in the courts, and, possibly, as an alternative to a prison sentence, is most unlikely to succeed. 524 They go on to say that in nearly all these cases there is no difficulty in getting the patient to undergo treatment and that the chances of success are very much greater if the treatment is undertaken voluntarily.
It is now nine months since I first raised this matter with the Home Secretary, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman considers that an appropriate period of gestation. The right hon. Gentleman promised me that he would at any rate consider the matter very carefully indeed. I hope that today the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, who, I gather, is to reply to the debate, can give some assurance that this long overdue, though perhaps not wildly important, reform in our law can now be made and that England—not Scotland, because she is much more civilised in this respect—will take its place in this matter among the more civilised nations in the world.
§ 1.25 p.m.
§ Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I am particularly glad to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), because I was one of those who signed the Motion on suicide which he tabled, and I propose to refer to it a little later in my speech.
I am speaking today as a social welfare worker, one who has worked for Government and voluntary organisations both in this country, and overseas. I have no legal knowledge. My job has been to try to keep people away from the law and to show them that they can lead a better life by keeping out of its clutches. This work has brought me into contact with many different types of persons. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that it is very difficult to legislate for the individual.
I wish to make one suggestion relating to the increase in crime, particularly among young people. It has been said that there is more general prosperity in the country today and that we now have a Welfare State. I suggest that the general prosperity of the individual plus the help given to him by the Welfare State have created the present position because people are fitter and better than in the old days, and they have developed more individuality.
In the old days when people were, perhaps, less well nourished and had less 525 education they had less chance of expressing their individuality. I am basing this suggestion on my experience of work in countries like India and Malaya. After the war, in Malaya, and in India, with its vast population, there was probably a less percentage of crime than in this country, especially among young people, because a number of them had not the physical energy or the wealth to commit it. Many young people get out of their own social class.
We are going through a tremendous social evolution and we must help people through education and, as was mentioned by the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk), through, perhaps, helping more on the question of broken homes. I put that forward very seriously, because I know the effect that broken homes can have upon the people with whom I came into contact through the Maintenance Orders Bill, particularly young people, and especially young girls. In this connection, I suggest, besides their usual duties, the police do excellent work. A good police force, such as we are fortunate enough to have in Plymouth, can counteract many evils even in a city like Plymouth, which has rather special difficulties due to its being a port. We could do with many more women in the police force. They have proved exceptionally effective and I hope that the force will be given larger numbers of women and that their status can be improved.
Probation officers have been mentioned in this debate. The probation service is an important service and one which must, I believe, be improved both in status and numbers. It is disquieting to learn how many breaches of probation occur. There were over 4,000 reported last year, which, I think, is far too high a number. I put that down to the fact that probation officers often have as many as 100 cases each with which to deal and, therefore, have great difficulty in following up the cases in the way they should.
I suggest, too, that we might, perhaps, have a furtherance of the Liverpool scheme. I have taken a great interest in that scheme. Some hon. Members may have seen the film which was shown in the House. I should like to know whether the scheme has proved effective and whether it is possible for it to be adopted in other cities.
526 With regard to prison warders, one realises, when living near Dartmoor, the number of difficulties with which they are coping. The housing conditions of prison warders, the places in which they and their families have to live, should be greatly improved. I feel sure that if conditions of housing for their families were better we should get, perhaps, even a better type of warder.
I wish to pay a tribute to those who are doing the very difficult job of running approved schools and remand homes. I would say to the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) that the remand home for boys at Hammersmith is being reorganised and will incorporate many of the suggestions he has made.
I do not want to go into statistics, because they have already been fully mentioned, but I would point out that a large number of young offenders have lacked parental supervision. In many cases the fathers were overseas in the Forces, or were working away from home, and their mothers were working so that they did not perhaps receive the home attention which they should have had. We hope that we may see some change in the future when they have both the father and the mother at home.
According to the statistics, crime by women does not seem to increase greatly. In certain categories, over the age of 30. it is actually decreasing. according to Command Paper 529.
We must not be too prudish, but must talk more freely about the increase in the bad moral habits of the population. In the Victorian era people were brought up to believe that these things should not be discussed, but it is only by bringing these things out that progress against these evils can be made. In Command Paper 529, on page 7, we find that items 16, 17, 19 and 20 have greatly increased, as has, in particular, item 23, incest, which ought not to have increased, in view of the much better housing. We must discuss these questions, and we must create a public opinion against these habits and offences. It is no good hiding facts. The more people know about them, the better chance there will be of improving the situation.
It is very disturbing, in view of the better standard of living, that housebreaking has risen so greatly. In this 527 case, also, public opinion can help. I was recently visiting a remand home when there were brought in six small boys who were accused of stealing or housebreaking, and I noticed that they seemed to have no shame; in fact, they were rather proud.
Many young boys have too much money and very little knowledge of how to use it. The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) mentioned boys' clubs. I support the excellent work that they and the evening institutes do, but a boy of 16 or 17, earning £7 10s. a week, is not likely to want to go to such a club. He will be more likely to want to go out in the world to spend his money. My experience is that boys earning such sums of money have been brought before the courts more than once. These boys should he educated in the spending of their money. We might get the schools to do more of this in the child's last year at school.
A tuck shop has been instituted in a remand home in which I am interested. The boys do not hold money of their own, but are given tickets on which is stated the amount of pocket money which they have been allocated according to their conduct, and they are allowed to buy an equivalent amount from the tuck shop. Some spend it all in the first two or three days of the week whereas others spread the amount over the whole week.
This is a very useful system, for it gives the children some idea of how to spend money, and, at the same time, has been of benefit to the remand home, for out of the profits of the tuck shop a television set has been bought. This gives children who are at a remand home for, perhaps, only three weeks, an opportunity to realise that they are doing something to improve conditions for others.
I am disturbed about the number of young boys going into remand homes. I wonder whether we could get quicker action in respect of such boys. There is, for instance, the small boy who takes three oranges from a barrow. In the old days the vendor was able to do a little chastisement and the boy went off to his home, or a policeman would address a few corrective words to him. Now the boys are brought before the courts and then sent, at the age of eight or nine, into remand homes.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
That is a fantastic statement to make. Why should an intelligent juvenile court send a child of eight to a remand home for taking fruit from a barrow unless there was a very good reason for making inquiries? Otherwise, the court would remand the child on bail to obtain a probation officer's report, or deal with the case. There is no causal connection between the two things entitling one to say that because it is a trivial offence the eight-year-old child must enter a remand home.
§ Miss Vickers
I am quoting a case which actually happened. My point is that, had the police been able to deal with the matter on the spot—
§ Mr. MacColl
If the case was so serious that it was necessary to remand in custody for inquiries to be made, which is a very major step, then it would be wrong for the policeman to deal with it, because he would make no inquiries.
§ Miss Vickers
My point is that I think that today we are making too much out of such an incident. I should like more power to be given to the policemen to take immediate action. Quick punishment is more effective. That would be better than bringing children before the courts and sending them to remand homes. One boy who had been before the court and had been sent to a remand home told me that he had become a "problem child," besides having been in contact with boys who had been in remand homes more than once. That is the sort of thing I want to avoid. I certainly do not think that it is always necessary to have such lengthy proceedings as at present. The Home Secretary has been very successful in educating public opinion. Whatever may be said about the recent Conservative Conference, he had the full confidence of the Conference by the time he had finished his speech at Blackpool.
I should like to know whether the numbers going into the prisons are diminishing as the result of the Maintenance Orders Act. I am not certain of the date of operation of the Act, and should be grateful if I could be given some information on that point. My hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) suggested that compensation for victims of crimes might be deducted from 529 the wages of convicted persons once they had left prison. When the Maintenance Orders Act was going through the House an assurance was given that money would not be deducted from men's pay for any other purpose than that of the Act.
I support what the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North says about suicide, a subject that I had intended to raise. It is interesting to note that more than 308 persons went to prison between 1946 and 1955 for attempted suicide. Mistakes can happen. A suicide verdict was returned at an inquest in Singapore on a young boy in the Royal Air Force. The parents were not satisfied with the verdict, and I took the matter up with the Air Ministry, who could not act. Having lived in Singapore, and knowing some individuals there, I got the case reopened. Eventually, the verdict was changed to an "open" one, which has made an immense difference to the young fellow's family and relations, for there are disadvantages attached to the committing of criminal offences in regard to immigration and pensions for the immediate family.
The Answer which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave to the hon. Member for St. Pancras. North, in February, said that he was prepared to consider introducing legislation on the subject, but was not aware of a body of public opinion in favour of a change. Many women's organisations are now interested. The Federation of Soroptimists supported the resolution of the Council of the British Medical Association and the Magistrates' Association for amendment of the law, and passed its own resolution, of which I will read only a part:That this conference regards the legal attitude towards attempted suicide and suicide as archaic and retributive and causing needless distress to relatives and friends; urges that suicide and attempted suicide be removed from the category of criminal offence.On the question of imprisonment for debt, I understand that defaulting trustees, solicitors and certain others can be sent to prison for the offence. There is a practice of firms employing collecting agents for their debts. Recently, a man was to be sent to prison, as he had signed a declaration guaranteeing the payment of £24 for a suit. He had been unemployed for seven years, was an epileptic, 530 and had no chance of paying. I am wondering whether the agents always give the right facts. As this man's child developed poliomyelitis and was in danger, he did not want to go to prison, and so action was taken. I should like to know how many collecting agents give evidence before judges when the persons concerned do not necessarily appear in court.
As we are to have a debate on the Wolfenden Report, I will not refer to this matter in detail. I would mention that on page 143 of the Report it is stated that in 1906 there were 10,873 prosecutions and 9,632 convictions, and that in 1955 there were 11,916 prosecutions and 11,878 convictions. That is not much of an increase, but it is disappointing, as the figures for the years 1929, 1930 and 1931 were so low. Prosperity again shows its dangers; people can now pay for their pleasures.
Of the people in prison, more than 13,000 are stated to be sent to prison without option of a fine. I should like to have a breakdown of the figure and to know for what they were sentenced or whether it is a higher proportion of those sent to prison. I hope also that it may be possible in the future to deal with all-night cafés. Young people who gather there meet an undesirable type. There should be some power, when these cafés are licensed, for knowledge to be obtained about the type of owners, as is done with licensed premises selling alcohol.
The Moral Welfare Council of the Church of England has recommendedthat women police be encouraged to take every legitimate opportunity to dissuade young girls from adopting a life of prostitution by giving advice and help rather than by involving them in the machinery of the law.We should, therefore, have an increase in women police, so that they can protect girls at an early stage before they get into trouble.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to take note of some of the suggestions I have made.
§ 1.46 p.m.
§ Mr. G. H. R. Rogers (Kensington, North)
The whole House listened with a great deal of pleasure to the extremely interesting speech made by the Home 531 Secretary. He approached these difficulties and problems calmly, and without any of the atavistic emotions which characterise the outlook of some people about the treatment of criminals. The only controversial remark which the right hon. Gentleman made was when he referred to the wisdom of the Government. Otherwise I have no desire to challenge what he said.
I do not propose to detain the House for very long, partly out of concern for other hon. Members who wish to speak but partly because I have a number of matters which are awaiting my attention. It is not often that Whips get an opportunity of taking part in debates. Those much-maligned people do not usually take part in debates on controversial issues, but I feel quite safe in that respect on this debate. It is of great importance to our country that we should all give this subject increasing attention and, by pooling our knowledge and ideas, help to provide a solution. We shall thus be serving our country very usefully.
The debate has been extremely interesting. Few of the remarks which have been made met with my disapproval. The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) referred to compensation for victims being paid by the criminals concerned. That was a very interesting suggestion. Perhaps the suggestion that we should attach the wages of men when they come out of prison is dangerous. We have approved the principle of attachment in the particular case of child maintenance, but before we extend it into other fields we must give the matter very careful consideration. If a man were sentenced to ten years' imprisonment the victim would have to wait a very long time for compensation until the criminal started work again. Even then, I suppose, the State might advance the compensation to the victim and recover from the criminal later.
Like other hon. Members representing West London constituencies, I have been worried about the increasing degree of crime in our part of the world. Owing to the sterilisation of parts of London as residential areas by the increasing building of offices, West London appears to be moving westwards. Not only do we 532 get more bright lights than before but we seem to have some share of criminal activities which formerly centred around the West End. The way things are going suggests that Hammersmith Broadway may take the place of Piccadilly.
This has certainly brought problems to us who represent constituencies in the west of London, and I am very much concerned by the deterioration in my own constituency since the end of the war. The development of crime, not only among adults but particularly amongst juveniles, both small crime and serious crime, has been a matter of very grave regret and disturbance amongst the people in West London, and I feel that some special sort of treatment is necessary for the problem that we have in our areas.
I shall not deal with the problems of prostitution because if present form is confirmed we are, I believe, to have an opportunity of discussing the Wolfenden Report at a later stage, and I shall hope to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, when that subject is debated. I say now only that there is undoubtedly a number of very undesirable people who centre their activities around prostitution. It is a very lucrative business. There is no doubt about it. Lots of people find it so.
Undoubtedly, these groups of people who live upon prostitution form cankers in the midst of social bodies, and there seems to be a good deal of proliferation of their activities with resultant harm to the morality and peace of any neighbourhood where they are found. I am convinced that the Government will have to take very serious steps to deal with this problem if it is not to make our great City of London even more notorious in the world than it is today—and heaven knows, parts of our City have a very bad reputation amongst our foreign visitors. I think the problem of these people must have very much greater attention than it does have at the moment, but I shall leave that for a future time.
I want to talk of the question of clubs. Reference has been made to all-night cafés and to the danger spots they become as centres of crime. This is equally true of some of the basement clubs which are multiplying in derelict houses or in condemned basement flats. They are often opened by irresponsible people whose only object is to form an organisation which
533 will enable them to escape the laws affecting the sale of liquors and other things and will result in a large personal income.
In West London we have found these basement clubs to be a source of considerable nuisance and considerable harm, and they often become centres of things like the brothel traffic and the drug traffic. I am convinced that, difficult though the problem is, the Government will have at some time—and I hope they are already considering it very seriously—to bring in legislation which will enable us to control the kind of persons who open these clubs.
For my part, I can see no very great difficulty in passing legislation to enable magistrates to reject an application to open one of these clubs unless the sponsors are representatives of a bona fide organisation. At the moment, as most hon. Members will know, a licence for one of these clubs cannot be refused, even though planning permission has not been obtained from the local authority. A magistrate is bound, providing the premises are suitable from some points of view, to grant an application for a licence. The result is that almost any Tom, Dick or Harry, whatever his record in other countries, when he comes here is able to open one of these clubs. I cannot see why it cannot be made possible for a magistrate to have power to refuse a licence except to desirable people.
I see that according to the Press the Home Secretary has refused to tie this question to planning, but it seems to me quite reasonable to say that a magistrate should be able to refuse a licence unless the applicant has first obtained planning permission from the local authority, for the position we have today is that, however undesirable a club may be, whatever source of nuisance or criminal activity it is to a neighbourhood, if the club owner employs a clever solicitor he can prevent the operation of the planning requirements for something like three years, and when eventually his lawyer is defeated and he has to vacate the premises, he has meantime bought a basement flat two doors away and can open up the whole problem again; and so the problem is shifted only two or three doors away. I beg the Home Secretary to give this problem his serious attention, if we are not to have a recurrence of many of the unpleasant incidents which have taken place.
534 Many of us feel considerable humility in attempting to say what are the causes of the increase in crime. I suppose it is a very creditable thing that we are so humble about it. The fact is that nearly everybody who has any ideas at all on this subject is right, because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) said, the causes are so complex that almost anything one cares to put forward as a cause has something to do with the increase in crime.
For my part, I think there are numerous aspects of our social life which have deteriorated during the past few years and that that has something to do with it. I think our society is becoming increasingly commercially-minded. That in itself has, I think, a corrupting influence. To many, material welfare has become more and more important, and that, again, has a corrupting influence on certain types of men who seek an easy life and a high standard of living. I think, too, that the deterioration in moral standards is due to the lack of belief by the great majority of people in any after-life.
When I was a boy, living in a very poor working class district, and whenever I felt inclined to do something which was not sanctioned by the law, I always felt that my activities were known to God above, and that when I passed from this earth I should have to answer for them. I still do; and I believe that a lot of us who, in Sunday school, in church and in Scripture classes at school, were taught that we were personally responsible for our lives were saved from activities which would have harmed our fellow men.
Lack of belief in that personal responsibility, largely amongst adults, so that, therefore, belief is not passed on to their children, has much to do with it. I sometimes think that Darwin's "Origin of Species" was one of the greatest blows to the spiritual progress of mankind that any single man has ever delivered; that is to say, of course, if ill-informed and uneducated people attempt to digest it; because even today it is amazing how many people have a complete misconception of what was Darwin's theory of the origin of species. Many people still, even people who have been to Eton—
§ Mr. Rogers
—think that Darwin said that we descended from monkeys. That 535 was not the origin of species at all as Darwin points out, but certain types of protagonist of materialistic views at that time seized upon this as an answer to the Christian view that man has some sort of spiritual origin and has a spiritual future—seized upon the superficial aspects of the theory and propounded them as an argument for saying that life starts in the mother's womb and finishes in the grave. I am sure that as this idea developed and found its way through our schools and into our social life it had something to do, though not everything, with the deterioration of morality in this country.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
Does not my hon. Friend see that only two positive things have emerged from this debate today? One of them is that there has been an increase in crime since all the schools of this country, under a provision brought in by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, have started each day with an act of religious observance. The other one is that crime has increased steadily since the advent of the Tory Government. The result seems to be that young people have been either led or driven to crime.
§ Mr. Rogers
Unfortunately we do not all achieve the good results which we set out to achieve. There are times when I set out to convert people into Socialists and only make them stronger Tories. I am afraid that the things about which my hon. Friend speaks may be the result of good will wrongly directed.
A great many things are involved in the increase of crime. I think that bad social conditions and bad housing are among them. I sometimes wonder whether it is not tied up with the worry about mental deficiency and the increase in suicides. All this must be very seriously worrying to people who try to improve the life of our people. In our youth many of us thought that prostitution was caused by economic hardship. We thought that drunkenness was often the cause of poverty. Many of us realise now that drunkenness was an effect of poverty. But it must be worrying to all social reformers to note that the more we succeed in raising the standard of life of our people, the more we seem to get these disturbing social factors like suicide.
536 There is something wrong with our society, and we cannot absolve ourselves entirely from blame. I sometimes wonder what we have done to deserve the kind of youth we are producing and whom we see on some of our streets. Again I refer to the days when I was young in a slummy, working-class area. People used to get drunk regularly on Saturday nights and fights and brawls were common. The Irish were present then, as now, in these incidents. But there was rarely any of the brutal cowardice we see today. In those days men fought against each other, and if one fell down, the other waited until he got up. He would never dream of kicking the other man's face in. Nowadays, in the street gangs, as I have seen, the first thing they want to do is to get a man on the floor and to use their boots to kick in his face and ribs.
That mean, sadistic brutality is new, at least in my experience, and I wonder what we have done to produce this type of youth. It may be the effect of the war. Personally, despite all the arguments against it, I think that the low presentation of our television and films in making violence seem the normal behaviour of adults is a very serious factor. People tell me that that is all nonsense and that in their youth they were told that the "penny dreadful" was responsible, whereas now they are told that it is television. In my opinion, there is no comparison between the effect of a "penny dreadful" on the mind and the visual effect of watching men engaged in violence, as we have seen it for so long on the films and television.
Why should it be imagined that television for the schools at 2.30 p.m. has an educational effect because it influences the mind of the child who watches it but if it takes place at 7.0 p.m., and contains violence, it has no effect on the child's mind? Clearly, if that is true, there is no meaning in education. It is much easier to educate people for bad than for good, and the teaching of bad things is therefore always more readily assimilated by the impressionable child's mind than an attempt to inculcate high moral precepts.
The deterioration in our film presentation, our literature, and other aspects of modern life which affect the child's mind has much for which to answer in the 537 deterioration of the attitude of the young towards their fellow creatures. These are some of the things for which I think the State has a responsibility, and I believe that the Home Secretary, through the Minister of Education, could do much in trying to raise the standard of our children.
In all parts of the country, but particularly in London and my constituency, we have recently seen a disturbing growth in street violence. People wander around with knives in their pockets, knuckle-dusters and sharpened bicycle chains, and these incidents break out, often unreported to the police and sometimes with horrible results. It is not often that anyone is killed or seriously injured, although occasionally that happens. But on the whole it presents a constantly recurring scene of violence in the streets which makes it difficult for ordinary law-abiding citizens to go about their business.
I think there should be a much stricter application of the law about the carrying of offensive weapons. These Teddy boys and hooligans, who are so easily recognisable, should be regularly searched by the police, whatever the colour of their skins, as they go about. Recently, when a strict search was made, a number of these youths were found to be carrying weapons prohibited by law. I think that this kind of search for these forbidden weapons ought to be made constantly. Often it would prevent the outbreak of street violence, because basically these people are cowards; they hunt in packs, and if they have no weapons they do not want to take part in these scenes. Taking away their weapons, whether a knife or a milk bottle, would do much to stop the recurrence of these incidents.
In considering street incidents and many classes of crime we come back again to the shortage of policemen. I want, with the greatest of humility, to make two suggestions. The Home Secretary, in his excellent speech, referred to the small proportion of the police engaged in traffic duties. He said that it was 7 per cent. If my arithmetic is correct, that works out to about 1,100 police engaged in traffic duties. I think he will agree that those 1,100 police could very well be used in tracking down some of the bank robbers, for instance. Anything he can do to relieve those officers of 538 their traffic duties would be a great help in tracking down criminals.
A suggestion has been made that a special corps of officers should be recruited to deal with traffic offences, such as parking, and other traffic operations which do not require the standard which the nation normally requires from its policemen. If we had a corps of custodians we might attract the older man, who need not necessarily be as fit or as strong as the normal policeman. He might also be more interested in taking on the job if he had not to work the full 24-hour shift which the normal policeman has to work and if some of the element of risk and danger which is always present in the normal policeman's life were absent.
It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman ought to consider this question of relieving the police of these traffic duties. He might easily recruit a larger body of men for this purpose than he would recruit for the normal police force, because it would enable him to relax the standards in many directions.
§ Mr. F. P. Crowder (Ruislip Northwood)
I am particularly interested in that observation. I wonder whether the hon. Member is aware that the detection of crime is largely in the hands of the C.I.D. I think I am right in saying that 80 to 85 per cent. of the crimes which are detected comic into the hands of the C.I.D. through informers. It is typical of the parsimony of the Treasury that those informers, in receiving cases which might amount to £4,000 or £5,000, are allowed to be paid only £1 or £2 for priceless information. Would not the hon. Member agree that if the Commissioner were allowed to pay these informers properly through the C.I.D., 30 to 40 per cent. more serious crimes would immediately be detected?
§ Mr. Rogers
That is interesting, but I am not qualified to give an answer to that question. I do not know much about informers and I do not know the figures. I am not qualified to say whether the payment of more money to "grasses," as I believe they are called, would result in an increase in the number of convictions.
Why I mentioned the question of release from traffic duties to other duties was because of the great preventive value 539 of the policeman on the beat. There are many incidents on the street, and minor crimes, which would not happen if there were the ever-present menace to the law breaker of the policeman making his regular rounds. The provision of cars and wireless, by increasing police mobility, has to some extent helped to compensate for the lack of numbers, but in areas such as mine nothing quite replaces the good policeman, who often becomes a friend of the neighbourhood, on his beat.
I know that the Home Office has recruiting problems but I do not see any vigorous attempt to recruit more men. We see dignified advertisements in the newspapers about the policeman's present conditions and rates of pay, and I suppose that "Dixon of Dock Green" helps even more than the Home Secretary's advertisements by presenting the police in a sympathetic light. I know that many men join the police force but, even if they meet the standards required, often they and the police force do not get on very well together. Sometimes after a few months or a year or so, or whatever is the probationary period, the man leaves.
We notice the number of men who leave the police force after relatively short service. Often they are attracted by more lucrative offers from outside, because people wanting a reliable man offer a policeman good remuneration for his services. I was recently asked whether I knew of a good policeman who wanted a job at much more money than he was then being paid. The Army has a method of paying men more money when they sign on for a long term. Is it possible to consider this for the police force? After men have passed their probationary period, and in order to avoid the temptation of their leaving within a year or two, could not we give them extra pay if they sign on for a period of years? I have discussed this subject recently with members of the police force, and it seems at least worthy of consideration.
That is all I propose to bore the House with at the moment. As I said at the beginning, I hope that we shall have an opportunity of watching this aspect of our national life with increasingly close attention during the coming years until 540 all of us have at least done something to reduce the terrible growth in crime.
§ 2.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)
It must be a unique experienec to follow an Opposition Whip in this House, but it is a pleasure to follow one who always paints such a perfect picture. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. G. H. R. Rogers) has had to delay his many duties this morning and I am also sorry to hear that so many members of the Opposition are apparently on the carpet.
I was particularly pleased when I heard that time was to be given to discussing the question of crime and punishment. One of the things which we must fully understand is that we are in danger of becoming far too technical on this subject. We look backwards and forwards, we quote statistics and we talk about many things, but I do not think we quite realise that the fundamental reason for crime is still greed and lust. We have largely forgotten that if wealth is worth anything at all, it is usually the wealth for which we have had to work.
One of the subjects to which I feel the House should give a few moments thought this afternoon is the glorification of the cult of the thug. A large number of people glorify the thug because they see him on television and hear him on the radio presented in an attractive manner. They see programme after programme in which, for at least 90 per cent. of the time, the thug is successful and enjoys the fruits of his activities. Children are apt to be affected by this. The Press is not innocent in this matter, because we see in our Sunday newspapers, in particular, articles bearing such extraordinary titles as, "I was a cosh boy" and, "The life story of an old lag." These stories are paid for. It is putting a premium on crime when a person of this kind can sell to the general public the sort of story that appears under those titles.
There is one thing which the country ought to do to enable it to get away from an increase in crime, and that is to return to a more religious way of life. I am quite certain that as a whole we in this country find our activities preventing us from devoting that time to religious thought which we ought to give. We in this House are not entirely blameless in 541 this matter. We start every day with prayers, and it seems to me rather remarkable that so few Members are attracted here in those five minutes, whereas when the five minutes are over Members pour through the doors to hear such important things as the Answers to their Questions. A little thought along those lines would help considerably.
It was interesting to hear the Home Secretary speak of the possibility of the introduction of a form of detention, which seemed to suggest setting up a camp. We must make absolutely certain teat if this form of detention is introduced those camps are places of work and progress and not holiday camps. The type of youth sent there detests two things in particular. One is discipline and the other is hard work. He must be instructed in both.
On the subject of prison authorities and prison warders, I do not think that a single hon. Member of this House would disagree with me when I say that they are men who do a fine job of work with great understanding and often in the most difficult circumstances. During the last twelve months I have visited three of Her Majesty's prisons and I have been agreeably surprised at the manner in which the warders and the governors have explained and shown things to me and have been tolerant enough to listen to what I have had to say.
With regard to the magistrates, who must play an important part in this matter, I am told that sometimes, before a case is concluded, the magistrate has to telephone the Borstal institution to see whether there is room should the prisoner be convicted.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
Magistrates have no power to send people to Borstal. My hon. Friend probably has in mind detention centres.
§ Mr. Lagden
I am obliged to my hon. and learned Friend for his correction. It is a terrible position to be in when magistrates have to decide what to do with a person according to whether there is room for him in such a place, rather than according to whether the person deserves to go there.
I would also urge magistrates to give sufficient thought to the young offenders in front of them to make sure that when they leave the court and go back to 542 their gangs they are not hailed as heroes with whom the courts are not able to deal. That does an enormous amount of harm. I have seen it happen. A young thug has been talked to by a magistrate in such a foolish manner that on leaving the court he has made a vulgar sign with his fingers to the officer who arrested him and has gone back to the gang and explained that the court could do nothing to him. Psychologically, that is very wrong indeed.
Now I should like to deal with the policeman himself. We in this country are in the habit of hearing foreigners say, "Your policemen are wonderful." Foreigners usually say that after having received a smile of welcome and a direction. We know our police are wonderful, but we should know for a very different reason. They are the people who stand between us and the thugs. They are the people who, in the most inclement weather, at night in winter and summer, are doing their job and doing it very well indeed.
There is, however, a great danger that they may not be so happy in their relation with the general public if they have to carry out duties which the general public consider unfriendly. I refer to duties connected with motor cars and the like. It was rather disquieting to read a short time ago about a crowd of the general public standing by and refusing to assist a police officer who was endeavouring to do his duty and make an arrest and was getting badly manhandled at the same time.
That brings us to the question whether there should be compensation for persons who are injured while assisting the police. The Home Secretary said that he wanted suggestions. I should like to ask him to look into that question to see whether there could be some fund out of which a person injured while doing his public duty and helping the police authorities could be aided.
On the question of encouraging more policemen of the right type to the force, it is obvious that their pay should be increased. We should also consider the question of widows' pensions. The policeman's widow's pension is far from adequate I know that I shall be told that it has been improved, but, frankly, would one of us dare to suggest that the wife of a policeman who has served us so well 543 over a long period is adequately remunerated, especially having regard to the fact that in the country areas she is a second unpaid policeman?
There are two other classes of person who can do a lot in this fight against crime. First, there is the parent. It is not the slightest good for us to pass legislation if the parent cannot and will not instil into the mind of the child the difference between right and wrong. That must be done at home. It must also be done in the schools. I should like to see much more time given, possibly by head teachers, in our big schools, to teaching the children to live socially and do away with a lot of this anti-social behaviour which now exists.
There is no doubt that throughout the country a lot of money is wasted by malicious damage. We all know that if a new swimming bath is built, as in my constituency, or if a new town hall or anything of the sort is built, within a short time thousands of pounds' worth of damage is done by young persons, many of them not children but youngsters of 16 and 17 years of age. Those young persons come before the courts. Sometimes they are put on probation. I am not arguing about the verdict, but sometimes they are fined £2 or £3, which does not hurt them in view of what they earn. But I understand that there is no real way of making them or their parents pay for the vast amount of damage that is done.
I should like the Home Secretary to look into this question and see whether that state of affairs can be altered. I am certain that in many cases in which boys of 15 and 16 do a lot of damage their fathers would take a very different view if the damage had to be paid for.
§ Mr. MacColl
In the case of a young person the court may make it a condition of the probation order that compensation is paid. In fact, it is commonly done. I do not understand the criticism that the hon. Gentleman is making.
§ Mr. Lagden
The point I am making is that hardly ever does the court say that the damage must be paid for. In 99 cases out of 100 the courts merely impose a fine of £2 and do nothing else.
§ Mr. MacColl
That is a very sweeping statement, and, like many statements 544 made about the administration of the courts, it is quite misguided. It is not true either in law or in fact. It is obvious that payment under the money payment orders cannot be enforced unless it can be shown that there is the means to pay. That may be part of the difficulty, but there is no difficulty in law about making an order as to compensation.
§ Mr. Lagden
That is the point that I was asking the Home Secretary to consider, whether some means could be devised to make it known to those who do a vast amount of damage that they will have to repay the damage if they are convicted.
§ Mr. F. P. Crowder
Is my hon. Friend aware that in cases of this sort it is usual for the magistrates to order that the damage should be paid for? That is my experience, as one who is in the courts nearly every day. Could my hon. Friend say where he gets his information?
§ Mr. Lagden
Yes, I shall be delighted to do so. In my own constituency a vast amount of damage has been done, and in no case that I can trace has anybody been made to make good the damage.
I will quote a current example, if I may. What I believe is the only new swimming bath to be built in this country since the end of hostilities has been built in my constituency, Horn-church. A very beautiful building it was. I say "was", because £2,000 worth of damage has been done to it. Certain people who have been taken to court for doing damage to it and to pavilions in sports grounds, and so forth, have been convicted, but they have not—I repeat, they have not—been in any way made to pay for the damage.
§ Mr. John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)
Will my hon. Friend agree that the power to make an order for payment of compensation can be coupled only with a probation order made against the offender? Is it not desirable that, if somebody is sent to a detention centre or fined, there should be coupled with such an order power to make an order for payment of compensation, and that it ought also to be within the power of the court to order the parents responsible for a child to pay the compensation even if the juvenile does not have to do so himself?
§ Mr. Lagden
I heartily agree with that, and I thank my hon. and learned Friend very much for his intervention. That is one of the things I was asking the Home Secretary to consider and, after that very lucid intervention, I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend will know even more about what I am suggesting than he did when I was suggesting it myself.
I was delighted this morning to hear the Home Secretary say that he was trying—I think these were his words—to ensure a greater partnership between the various police forces. I do not want to encourage a great deal of intervention, and I am not at this stage suggesting a national police force. I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend say what he did, but I hope that he will consider, at the same time, a matter which I have raised with him on several occasions. In my view, Members of Parliament whose constituencies are outside the Metropolitan area, Members, that is, who sit for constituencies in county force areas, should have a right to question in the House the actions of a chief constable.
There are over 100,000 people in my constituency who have no right to my protection on police matters, and I am forbidden, by the rules of the House, to put a Question to the Home Secretary. The chief constable knows that he is protected in that manner. I ask that this point be very thoroughly considered and, furthermore, I ask also that consideration be given to the fact that a Member of Parliament representing a constituency outside the Metropolitan area, such as I am, has no right to bring to the House in the Adjournment debate a question on any particular case where the police are involved. I feel that Members in these areas should have exactly the same rights as have Members for the Metropolitan area.
§ 2.31 p.m.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
All of us, I am sure, want to approach this problem in the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary approached it, the spirit of uncertainty and humility about all the difficult and complicated issues involved. Not many have fallen into the trap today, and anyone who feels that he knows the answer to these difficult questions of crime is wrong. Certainly, my own feeling is one 546 of profound agnosticism about the whole matter.
I do not even share the crumb of corn-fort which my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) and the Home Secretary shared about the younger generation, the 1948 age-group. There is, I think, a challenge to those young people, to which they will probably respond, and I should not be in the least surprised if the next delinquency statistics show a quite incalculable and inexplicable rise among them.
These matters proceed in an extraordinary way. The problem is not confined to this country alone, of course. It is found all over the world. It is not confined to the Welfare State countries, to Communist countries or to liberal, capitalist countries. It occurs all over the world in an apparently inexplicable manner; waves of crime develop, and then, we hope, they recede. Certainly, they have receded in the past. It is true, therefore, that we are faced with a baffling situation.
I wish to direct attention particularly to the probation service. I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State knows that I do not say this out of anything but the greatest feeling of regard and admiration for him, but I was very sorry that the Home Secretary said nothing about the probation service and left it to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I say that not because I do not think that the hon. and learned Gentleman will deal with it with his usual great Parliamentary skill. My regret is founded upon a firm belief that this is one of the most important questions which the Home Office should be actively considering, and there is a feeling in the country that it is indifferent to the situation. The Home Secretary left with me the impression that he was closing his mind to the subject, that he was concerned about prisons, concerned about playing about with detention centres, and so on, but that this major subject of the probation service was something which he was leaving to other people to look at. This is, I feel, most unfortunate.
We are faced today with the flooding of our prisons and the overcrowding of remand homes. There are, we have been told, waiting periods for detention 547 centres. The important factor in this situation is that these difficulties are likely to increase in the future, as my right hon. Friend said, because of the increase of the population in the "bulge." The probation service and the use of probation skilfully, well and effectively is not only far and away the cheapest method of treating crime, but it is also the method most likely to bring the delinquent back into the community. It tackles him against the background of temptations which he has to face in the ordinary way of life.
The great disadvantage in all institutional treatment is that it does not solve the problem of bringing the child, the young person, or even the older person, back into the community after the institutional treatment has stopped. The probation service is the only link there is between the temptations of life in the home, the job, the "pub," the street and all the rest, on the one hand, and the guidance and moral direction which we all recognise is required, on the other. It seems to me, therefore, to be an act of lunacy to take the risk of the probation service being run down, losing its status and position in the country, for the sake of saving a few pounds of public money. We have had the Report of the Committee on Remuneration and Conditions of Service of Certain Grades in the Prison Services. I suggest that there is urgent need for an equivalent committee to look into the status of probation officers. The time has come when a thorough and dispassionate review should be made of recruitment, training and remuneration in the service.
The present situation in the service presents us with three dangers. First, owing to dissatisfaction with conditions, people are leaving the service. This leads to mobility of officers. Probation officers have to be switched from one court to another, the personal link between young delinquent and probation officer, which is so essential, thus being broken. A boy who has never before had a personal link with anybody he can respect develops such a link with a probation officer—who is there to befriend him, as the probation rules say—and, just as he is getting used to the officer, there is a sudden switch round. The change may be administratively convenient, putting pegs into the holes which 548 satisfy the Home Office, but the basic problem of the case work is left unsolved because the whole thing has to begin again with a new probation officer. That is the first major difficulty to be faced.
Secondly, heavy case loads are created. Case loads of 100 have been quoted. Certainly in the adult courts, case loads of approaching 100 are not uncommon, and even in juvenile courts case loads of 60, 70 and 80 are to be found. Again, the whole point about probation is, surely, that the ordinary services which provide training on a large scale, the work of the school teacher with his class, membership of a club dealing in numbers, and so on, have broken down.
These young people are the very ones who need special, careful, individual and detailed attention. Quite often, special care has to be given to quite simple things like learning to read. A probation officer often has to devote considerable time to the elementary task of teaching a child who has passed through the education service without learning to read he has to get down to the basic business of teaching him to read before he can embark on the work of training and rehabilitation. This kind of detailed, intimate and personal work is, I feel, completely ruined if there are heavy case loads.
Earlier this week, I was present at a meeting of a probation case committee and one probation officer, who happened to have a low case load, said to me that, as a result, it had been possible for him to spend an hour a week with one particular delinquent who had certain very worrying and difficult family problems. There were all sorts of complications. The care and attention which that officer was able to devote to the case may save the boy from a career of crime which would lead to his being in and out of prison for an indefinite period in the future.
What is required is that there should be somebody with the time to give, time which may seem extravagant in terms of the immediate situation but which, in the perspective of the future, would be wisely given—time to deal with the boy's individual peculiarities and personal problems. To provide that kind of service, we must have small case loads. Therefore, to attempt to economise, to use the probation service as a means of economy 549 in public money, is, I feel, shamefully irresponsible. We must face the need to develop the service.
The third difficulty which I fear may arise is this. As a result of dissatisfaction on the part of officers in the service with their conditions, and the feeling that they are not getting a fair crack of the whip, there may well grow up in this very devoted service a sense of having a chip on the shoulder. Members of the service will have too much of their time and attention absorbed by matters of status and problems of economics rather than their true job and vocation, which is the care of the children and adults under their charge. Therefore, I beg the hon. and learned Gentleman not to be put off by any kind of administrative argument or any kind of Treasury brief, but to give this matter his direct personal attention and particularly to look at the question of setting up a committee to go into the whole matter.
In considering the probation service, I think that we ought to look also at the shortage of other ancillary institutions, such as hostels. It should be possible to be able to deal with a delinquent quickly. Delay is most disastrous. People say, "Why is not pore done to remove children from had conditions when probation is breaking down?". One of the reasons, for example, is that it is almost impossible to get a vacancy in a probation hostel without a long wait. When a youngster who is not settling down at home appears in court it is not possible to remove him quickly from those surroundings except by committing him to an approved school. These are already full and the treatment may not be the best for him.
If the probation hostels have any value at all—and I think that they have—it is that they keep a young person in the community. He is not supported out of public funds and is made to stand on his own feet. We should not mess about with such a person. We should have an adequate supply of probation hostels which are properly staffed and properly financed. That is another problem at which the Home Secretary ought to look.
It is a great tragedy that when the delinquency figures were going down there was a wholesale closing down of 550 remand homes and approved schools. This is a case of sinning against the light, for the Home Office was warned of what would happen. People who have had long years of service and experience in dealing with delinquents were being dismissed as redundant which, of course, meant that not only the teams were lost but the service was made one into which people were afraid to enter. It is a thankless enough service at the best of times, but when, in addition, there is uncertainty whether one will be thrown out and treated as redundant, it is all the more difficult to get people into the service from other spheres of social work. It is a disastrous thing and has left permanent effects on the administration. Now we need the approved schools and cannot get the teams with the necessary skill and experience because they have gone into other jobs and it is not possible to get them back.
I should now like to say a word about detention centres. My right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick will, perhaps, excuse me, but he spoke about his visit to a detention centre and said that he did not find it too bad. I have to remind him that he was at Wellington. Any hon. Gentleman who has had the privilege of an expensive education, and who goes to a detention centre, may not find it so frightful. It may appear, on the whole, to be a comparatively mild institution, but there is a good deal of disquiet about detention centres. I do not particularly share it. I have had the privilege of an expensive education. But it is not only "cissy" magistrates, like myself, who are unhappy about them. A number of magistrates who originally were prejudiced in favour of them have visited them and been rather alarmed at what they have seen.
I think that the Home Secretary pointed to what I think would be a great advantage. Sentences in detention centres should be shorter. A detention centre ought to be unpleasant and should be primarily based on getting people on to their toes and teaching them that orders are orders; and it should be done quickly. Three months is quite long enough for most people to have that kind of unpleasant treatment. If a more permanent job of training is wanted, approved schools or Borstals are the answer. The detention centre is not a kind of cheap Borstal. Its job is to deal 551 with the person for whom long-term training is not required.
One of the disadvantages of the 1948 Act, for which my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) must bear responsibility, is that the sentence to a detention centre is rigid. It cannot be varied except in exceptional circumstances and these powers are rarely used. The sentence has to be six months, and I think that that is too long.
§ Mr. MacColl
In many cases a shorter sentence would be an advantage for the ordinary boy who wants pulling up sharply. A sentence of three months is too short for real training; it would not be worth while trying to train a boy in that time.
My complaint is that when the Home Secretary said that he was going to consider varying the length of the sentence he made it clear that he did not propose to give any more discretion to the courts and that he proposed to do it administratively through the Prison Commissioners or within the Department. A major criticism of the Department is that in its attitude towards the courts it is so dogmatic and rigid in its outlook. Although everybody, as I have said, has a feeling of agnosticism about the problems and treatment of crime, only the Home Office, when it gets a bright idea, insists on laying down the law about it in a rigid way. The length of a sentence at a detention centre is an illustration. Classifying schools is another. Many people think that there is a case for it, but there are many who think that it is not a good idea. There is no room for experiment or flexibility. Discretion is taken away from the courts and given to the executive. That is a pity, but it arises largely because in our judicial system, although we have a fine system for producing people who can hear a case, weigh the evidence and adjudicate upon it, we have no training at all in sentencing policy.
552 As problems get more complicated and as alternative methods of dealing with crime become greater, it is all the more important that there should be adequate training in sentencing policy. A conscientious lay magistrate has more opportunity these days for being trained in his job than a High Court judge. Under the Justices of the Peace Act, methods of training are available to the magistrate. Yet a person who has had no experience of social work at all and who has operated in a narrow field with great skill but, nevertheless, in a narrow field as an advocate, becomes a High Court judge or, if I may venture to suggest, a recorder—although perhaps I had better keep off that ground in the circumstances—and makes important decisions affecting the treatment in future.
§ Mr. Peter Rawlinson (Epsom)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that most types of judges have had experience of judging as recorders or chairmen of quarter sessions. I understand and appreciate what the hon. Member is saying, but would he not agree that the time would come when as recorder or chairman of quarter sessions, an advocate would be able to obtain the necessary training of which the hon. Gentleman is speaking?
§ Mr. MacColl
It is not for me to suggest how these great and good men should get their training. I would leave that matter entirely to the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice. I am not trying to be rude to the judiciary at all. It is a serious question which should be part of the duties of the High Court judge and of the recorders and chairmen of sessions. They should know what is going on and what the background is and they should know what they are doing. That is something which is recognised in the case of magistrates, who often have had a wide experience in social work and who visit schools, remand homes, and so on. Therefore, I do no more than say that the only way of strengthening the judiciary in relation to the Executive is by ensuring that the standard of sentencing is kept up to a high level.
I do not want to take up the time of the House in making some of the many other points in my notes. I agree with everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, North (Mr. G. H. R. Rogers) said. He was abso- 553 lutely right in what he said about clubs, but that is rather off the point from what I have been talking about. I am sure that he is right about the use of the Prevention of Crime Act to stop the carrying of offensive weapons and about the effect of films which show violence.
I have always been inclined to laugh at anybody who suggests that a person has committed a crime because of what he has read in a book or seen in a film. It is, however, an extraordinary situation. We are faced with this appalling outbreak of violence. However much one may play about with the figures, the fact remains that it is there. We are faced with a grave social problem, yet clay after day, on television—this applies to the B.B.C. and to I.T.A., as well as to the commercial cinema—there is a continual play on the motive of violence.
I do not suggest that, if a child goes to see the fight in the stockade in "Treasure Island," that alone will send him out to "chiv" people with razor blades, but violence of that kind is repeated again and again, especially in "Westerns." If hon. Members took the opportunity of watching television during the Recess, they would have seen how continually the children were brought up against violence in one form or another —shooting, fighting, corpses and everything. The continual emphasis and the playing upon that to the exclusion of almost everything else seems to me to be indicative of a profound social malaise in the country. It is somehow felt that this play on violence is essential to hold people's attention.
Secondly, I suspect, it is leading to the growth in young people's minds of an attitude towards violence which older people find extraordinarily difficult to understand. With comparative tolerance, they accept these things as not really very alarming.
This is not a question for censorship, but rather for the good sense of the responsible people who run the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. and, to some extent, of some of the film people. They should ask themselves whether they could not have a self-denying ordinance and cut down very much the emphasis on violence. It is ridiculous to have had all the fuss that we have to stop horror comics and yet there has been no attempt to mobilise public opinion against what 554 is going on under the control of these quite respectable and public-spirited organisations. When we have finished hurling abuse at the youngsters, let us remember our own responsibilities as adults in providing them with this sickening stuff which is put out so continuously in these ways.
The Prevention of Crime Act must be enforced. While violence is as grave as it is, it should be made clear that no youngster should carry a flick knife, a bicycle chain, or anything of that nature; and that if he does carry it he is "for it." This may not at times seem to be quite fair, but it is the only way to prevent the cumulative effect of these crimes.
§ 2.53 p.m.
§ Colonel Richard H. Glyn (Dorset, North)
I am happy to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, because I can say a word from personal experience of that very low form of judicial life, the chairman of quarter sessions, in which capacity I acted for some years before I was elected here. I can reassure the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) that chairmen of quarter sessions have equal facilities with the other magistrates, because they themselves are sitting in part as magistrates, for accumulating knowledge of the latest thought in penology and evolving a deterrent which is likely to help the prisoner not to offend again.
§ Mr. MacColl
The hon. and gallant Member has the priceless privilege of membership of the Magistrates' Association, if he wishes to take advantage of it, and all the facilities available. The unfortunate higher people do not have that advantage.
§ Colonel Glyn
I was coming to that. I said that I spoke as a member of the lowest form of judicial life. It is from the ranks of people who have, perhaps, served as chairmen of quarter sessions and progressed to recorderships that eventually the High Court judges are selected.
I can, perhaps, set the hon. Member's mind at rest by saying that long before achieving such an appointment, one has had experience of criminal work in the courts. Starting at the very bottom, in preparing a speech in mitigation for a criminal who is pleading guilty, the very first thing that is put before one is the 555 psychiatric side, if there is one. One becomes familiar and accumulates knowledge of the psychiatric side of crime especially as put forward by the defence. Later, as one's practice grows, one sees the same thing from the viewpoint of the prosecution. I should not like it to be thought that High Court judges, recorders and others were entirely without knowledge of these sciences, because I do not believe that that is the case.
I do not want to detain the House by going into all the points raised, but there is one matter which I should like to mention. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary brought out the fact that the considerable increase in crime since the war has been more marked in certain aspects. He bracketed together sexual offences and crimes of violence. I was rather sorry that he bracketed those, because although they are the two forms which have increased most—they have increased more than housebreaking, breaking and entering and other things which have been mentioned—in my opinion they are not in any way in the same category.
The ordinary run of crime has increased by nearly twice since before the war. Sexual offences, although we read so much about them, have increased by only two and a half times, or little more than the average, but crimes of violence against the person have increased by about four times. There is a much faster increase in crimes of violence by young male persons. Such offences by young males under the age of 21 are no less than eight times the pre-war figures and the number of offences of violence by young male persons has actually doubled in the three years between 1954 and 1957. This increase is much more marked than in any other branch of crime as at present shown in the statistics.
I agree that the statistics are presented in a somewhat out-of-date manner and could be improved, but using the only yardstick we have, there has been no increase in any branch of crime equivalent to the tremendous increase in the crimes of violence by young males between the ages of 14 and 21. I regret to have to say it, but the number of convictions has increased almost as fast in the 14–17 age group as it has between the ages of 17 and 21.
556 The other regrettable aspect is that these crimes of violence are all too often crimes of wounding. The offences of felonious and malicious wounding, taken together, are now the most frequent of any of the offences against the person. Their percentage has increased very greatly since before the war. I believe that these crimes of malicious wounding and of violence by young people are being committed by an entirely new type of criminal. Having seen their record sheets, which one has to study before one is called upon to sentence them, it has become clear to me that a great number of these young men have never had a conviction for any form of stealing or larceny. They are not thieves, which makes it extraordinarily difficult to deal with them under the present penal system. They have been put on probation once or twice, and then the question of fining arises. Whether a fine is a suitable punishment for a young man who has taken a knife and carved up someone with it is a matter of opinion. What are courts to do?
It is very difficult, because courts throughout the country are beginning to realise that if a young man with several convictions for violence, but not for stealing, is sent to an institution, remand home, detention centre, approved school, Borstal or prison, whatever the situation may demand, he will tend to rub shoulders with thieves and people brought up in a criminal background and with families regarding crime as not unusual and the police as enemies. There is a great danger that a young man who went into that institution as a high spirited young thug would come out of it a young criminal with a full determination never to do another day's work in his life and with the pathetic belief that he could pit his wits against those of the police and successfully lead a sort of Raffles or Robin Hood existence.
That is a most deplorable state of mind for any young man to develop. I am afraid that in my experience I have found that there is no doubt that in some cases such a state of mind is developed by high-spirited young bullies who get sent to penal institutions, simply because they have been indulging in repeated violence, there coming into contact with other young criminals who think that work is foolish and that crime is clever 557 and who tell wonderful stories of their tremendous successes in crime.
In such an institution the young bully has the whole course of his mind altered and the whole course of his future determined by the stories which he is told. When he leaves the institution, one is able to see the unfortunate slide into a career of professional crime, the longer and longer prison sentences separated by shorter and shorter periods of larcenous liberty, and longer and longer lists of offences asked to be taken into consideration by the court, all those offences committed since he last came out of prison, until eventually some court has to exercise the grievous duty of sending him to preventive detention for a very long time. His young life is absolutely shattered and ruined by having been brought into contact with thieves in penal institutions, thieves with whom he would never have come into contact in any other way.
What is the answer to the problem of the young men who go about with knives at night and think it clever to be armed in that way? It is not for me to say. but I believe that this greatly increasing form of crime should be studied as a separate form of crime, and that the people doing it should not be classed as ordinary criminals and treated as such and put into places where they will meet professional criminals, perhaps becoming indoctrinated with their ideas.
One idea which has been put forward by magistrates, and which is possibly not without merit, is to alter the nature of the punishment of fining. At present, if large, the fine is habitually paid by the relations. In most cases, a prison sentence has to be made the alternative and, doing anything to avoid prison in a respectable family, the relations pay the fine and the young man goes scot-free, all too often boasting of how much he was fined—"I was fined more than you", a most regrettable state of mind.
If the fine had to be paid by the offender in instalments at a time and place to be directed by the court, it would he regarded in a very different way. If the young malefactor had to pay the fine in eight instalments at the police station at three o'clock on Saturday afternoons, no matter who 558 found the money, he would at least be deprived of visiting the football match or attending the first house of the cinema that afternoon—whatever his inclinations were—and that would have a greater deterrent effect than the present system. That is a possible solution.
There is another point of view to be considered. Many of these young men are still at school, but their offences of violence are not usually committed at school. If they committed these offences at school, they would be in peril of four strokes of the cane from the headmaster. They do not commit the offences at school where they could be caned. They commit them out of school where there is no power at present to order a caning.
I know that many people will say that that is advocating flogging and going back 100 years. There is no question of that. There is no time in the history of our penal code when courts have had the power to order the cane for young boys of schoolboy age who have gone in for repeated crimes of violence and malicious and felonious wounding. That is because it is a new development in crime. It used not to happen. In the old days violence was always associated with robbery, or, at worst, with racecourse gangs and people who were well indoctrinated with crime, in respect of whom there was no doubt of the need to send them to prison for a long time. These boys of today, however, present an entirely new problem, and I should like to think that the Home Secretary will see that when research is done into these matters and figures are presented they will separate the young malefactors who are merely hooligans or high-spirited desperadoes—those who see themselves as reincarnations of the old Regency bucks—from the young thieves who can properly be dealt with by prison and Borstals.
I should like everything to be done that possibly can be done to increase the deterrent to these young desperadoes, who are not thieves but whose numbers are increasing at such a fearful rate. The number of persons under the age of 21 convicted for violence between 1954 and 1957 has in fact doubled. This is perhaps the most serious part of the whole unfortunate business.
§ 3.6 p.m.
§ Sir George Benson (Chesterfield)
One hon. Member opposite suggested that we should not get too technical and should not deal so much in statistics. I shall have to plead guilty to doing so because my view is that we are discussing a highly technical subject, and that among the most effective tools we have for understanding the problem is statistical analysis.
The hon. and gallant Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn) referred to crimes of violence, particularly by youngsters. The Home Secretary pointed out that crimes of violence have a much lower reconviction rate than other forms of crime, and that the majority of them are really trivial offences. That may be quite true. Our experience—and it is also the experience of other countries—is that there is a far lower reconviction rate of persons found guilty of crimes of violence than of those found guilty of offences against property. We are passing through a phase in which violence is much more common than it was, but I am not sure that it is quite as serious as the crude figures seem to suggest.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman was quite wrong in associating violence with robbery.
§ Colonel R. H. Glyn
I most particularly stressed that I was separating the two. I was saying that the modern form of violence by young persons is not associated with robbery.
§ Sir G. Benson
I beg the hon. and gallant Gentleman's pardon. I misheard him. Certainly, robbery with violence represents a very small proportion of the total number of robbery crimes.
Eighty per cent. of first offenders do not offend again. Our problem, therefore, is to learn how to identify, as early as possible, the 20 per cent. who are likely to recidivate. In the case of habitual offenders there is an odd correspondence of figures. Eighty per cent. of habitual offenders also cease their activities sooner or later. If we take the scum of the prison population—the Dartmoor or Parkhurst type—we find that between the ages of 30 and 60 no less than 80 per cent. cease to commit crime. The odd thin, is that the order in which this is done forms a perfectly simple and straightforward graph. Taking 100 men of the 560 Dartmoor or Parkhurst type, of the age of 30, we find that they will cease recidivating at the rate of 2½ per cent. per annum, and by the time they ere 60 years of age 80 per cent. will have stopped for reasons other than death.
Our great problem is to be able to pick out the first offenders who are likely to recidivate and to pick out of the habituals those types who are likely to respond, and to concentrate on them. Frankly, that is a very grave and difficult problem, but we have a research unit, and had there been time I should like to have dealt with the valuable work which it is doing. I am very fortunate in having been associated with it since it was formed, but we are only just beginning.
Penal research of a fundamental character is really long-term research. The Mannheim Wilkins research into Borstal has already been produced. That was the book which, I believe, was the cause of the establishment of the research unit. It lays down the pattern of research which is being pursued most actively at the present moment. We have on the stocks in the research unit investigations which will cover young persons, first and second sentences of imprisonment, corrective training, probation and various other matters.
I do not know whether hon. Members saw last week in the newspapers that the Ford Foundation has made a grant to University College of about £23,000 for research into crimes committed by young persons. That research would be quite impossible were it not for the fact that University College will have the full cooperation of the Home Office research unit.
Practically every statement that has been made today has been a statement of opinion. It is no use spinning theories about how to treat crimes any more than a couple of centuries ago it was any good spinning theories about how to cure diseases. Medical science has made progress because it has taken the trouble to do research and to find out. If we are to find a way of dealing with delinquency we must follow the same methods. It is no use just thinking up theories about how to cure crime.
I should like to have said a lot more, but time is getting on. However, I want 561 to say that all of us who are really concerned with the problem of learning more and more about the basic problems of delinquency are extremely grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary for the interest that he has shown in the matter.
§ 3.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)
I am sure that the Home Secretary would agree that this has been a useful and very valuable debate. I think it has justified the wisdom of the Opposition in proposing to devote part of the time during the debate on the Gracious Speech to discussing a subject which is uppermost in the minds of many people at the present time. I hope that before long we shall have an opportunity of having equally useful debates on the Wolfenden Report, on the Government's proposals for dealing with lotteries and gambling, and, perhaps, also with the subject of suicide which was discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson).
I believe that during this debate we have shown how easy it is to get the problem of crime, and particularly of juvenile crime, ow of perspective. I greatly appreciated the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn). If we look at the figures given in the Criminal Statistics for 1957 we find, in paragraph 13, that the percentage of indictable offences committed by the various age groups has remained remarkably stable during the years.
The percentage committed by young people between 8 and 14 in 1938 was 19.9. Last year it was 19.3. In the case of those between 14 and 17 it was 16 in 1948 and 15.2 in 1957. The age group of 17–21, which worries all of us, committed 14.4 per cent. of the indictable offences in 1938 and 14.31 in 1957. Therefore, it looks as if there is no grave cause for alarm about any general increase in delinquency committed by young people, but crimes of violence, to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman drew our attention in particular, have caused a great deal of public alarm.
§ Colonel R. H. Glyn
To assist the hon. Gentleman, in Appendix A on page 44 he will find the figures which I quoted.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am most grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I know the figures that he had in mind. The trouble is that there has been an overall increase in crime. That is what ought to be worrying us rather than that we should be concentrating only on the percentage of crime committed by young people.
I wish my lion. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Sir G. Benson) had had more time at his disposal to discuss the work of the research unit at the Home Office. The right hon. Gentleman referred to it with justifiable pride; we understand the pride that he takes in it. We are glad that he is going ahead with establishing the Institute of Criminology. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield said, there is not very much point in spinning theories about the best way to deal with these problems until we are absolutely sure of the facts and until we have established the right methods of dealing with them. I hope that the Institute of Criminology will be able to help us in establishing the causes of crime and finding the best way of dealing with the criminals.
So far we have had a great deal of evidence of the Home Secretary's good intentions, but we have not seen much done in practice. We understand that the right hon. Gentleman has not had a great deal of time at his disposal, but he told the Conservative Party Conference that he proposed to increase the number of detention centres. It is clear from our debate that the opinion in the House on the value of detention centres is a little divided. I have no doubt that the truth of the matter is that we have not yet had enough experience to come to a very firm conclusion one way or the other.
My right hon. and hon. Friends themselves have not been of one mind on this subject, and I know many magistrates and probation officers and a number of psychiatrists who are far from convinced that the detention centre is the right method of dealing with these people Nevertheless, others are convinced that detention centres, in the case of certain young criminals, have a very valuable part to play. I think the hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) was right when he said that they were suitable only for certain types of boys and that it 563 was necessary to make sure that only those boys were sent to them.
I have no doubt that the Home Secretary read the article by Dr. Brian Welbeck in Reynolds News last weekend in which he quoted the assistant warden of one of the detention centres as saying that he was disturbed that a number of boys were sent there who were really in need of psychiatric treatment, which was not available at that centre. That is the sort of thing for which we ought to watch, We shall need a great deal more evidence on this matter before we are certain that the detention centres are being as useful as it was hoped when they were established.
The Home Secretary said at Blackpool that they had a deterrent effect. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to expand on that a little and tell us upon what evidence the Home Secretary based his conclusion. We have so far very little evidence to work on. After ten years, four of these centres have been established and they have taken only 2 per cent. of the offenders found guilty of indictable offences in magistrates' courts and only 6 per cent. of the offenders found guilty in the higher courts. From a statistical point of view I think that is inadequate evidence upon which to base so firm a conclusion as that which the Home Secretary gave to the Blackpool Conference.
I do not want to speak at length on the question of indeterminate sentences, but I should not like the Home Secretary to think that on this side of the House we necessarily accept that suggestion because we do not debate its merits on this occasion. A number of arguments can be adduced in favour of the suggestion which was made by the hon. Member for Gravesend, but there are also grave disadvantages in the method, and all of us would want a great deal more time before committing ourselves wholeheartedly to accepting the suggestion which he placed before us.
There is one failure which is particularly serious, and that is the failure to set up remand centres in the way provided by the Criminal Justice Act. The 1957 Report of the Prison Commissioners reminds us, in page 44, that we can only hope that the first of these centres may be started in 1960. I would have favoured pushing ahead with remand 564 centres rather than extending the number of detention centres. The Prison Commissioners say, in page 43 of their Report:We regret that we must continue to call attention to the numbers of young persons received under sentence of imprisonment who had, so far as is known, no previous proved offences. The numbers for 1957 show an increase over last year's figures, which were 304 boys and 14 girls, to 321 and 41.So many years after the Act was passed, the tendency ought to be for the numbers to fall instead of to be steadily rising, as they are doing at the present time. As hon. Members on both sides of the House have argued, we are, through this dereliction on our part, increasing the potential number of future offenders and criminals.
I find it difficult to know what to say about the speech of the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore). We all hold him in affectionate respect, but we sometimes find it difficult to deal with the arguments that he adduces. He said this morning, in the absence of the Home Secretary, "I wish I could understand what is in the Home Secretary's mind". We all wish he could, but long experience of the hon. Gentleman shows us that it may be difficult. It would take more time than is at my disposal to put the hon. Gentleman into that state of grace. We wholly repudiate the views he expressed. They have been adequately dealt with by the Home Secretary and others, and I think that the best and most courteous thing to do would be to leave the hon. Baronet to be answered by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department.
I thank the Home Secretary for telling us that he has decided to accept the report of his Advisory Council on the treatment of offenders and to approve its recommendation that after-care should be extended to second-sentence prisoners. That was a point on which I wanted to ask him a question and I am delighted to know that the right hon. Gentleman has come to that decision.
All of us welcome everything that he said about his policy on prisons. We should like to associate ourselves with the thanks which he expressed to all who had contributed to the Wynn Parry Report. It was good news that the Government have decided to accept the recommendations contained in that Report and 565 I hope that they will not delay in doing so.
It is an extremely difficult job for the Home Secretary to increase the number of prison officers and at the same time to maintain the high standard of the service, but I should, nevertheless, like to draw the attention of the Home Secretary to the point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) about the percentage of applicants for employment in the prison service who are being turned down. It is a difficult question. My hon. Friend has been advancing it in this House consistently ever since he became a Member—not, I am hound to say, with any great satisfaction from any Home Secretary, but I hope that from this Home Secretary at least we shall get careful consideration of the figures and an attempt to see whether we cannot accept more of these applicants without lowering the high standards we want to maintain in the prison service.
That brings me to the question of probation. I very much appreciated everything that was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), the hon. Lady the Member for Devonport (Miss Vickers) and my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) about the probation service. I should at this stage like to express my condolences to the hon. Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden) on the sorry state of affairs which he showed to exist in his constituency. I can only assure him that that was very far from being the state of affairs when Mr. Geoffrey 13ing was the Member for that constituency, and we shall hope for a marked improvement after the next General Election.
My hon. Friends and the hon. Lady have drawn attention to the very valuable work which is done by the probation officers, and I have no doubt all of us will have read with appreciation the leading article in The Times of 23rd October. It referred to the report which has recently been issued by the Cambridge Department of Criminal Science and which analysed the results of certain studies made of offenders whose period of probation ended in 1948, 1949 or 1950. As The Times summed it up:The results are reassuring, for they suggest that the courts are choosing well.566 It went on to show what a small percentage of boys and girls placed on probation had, to use that rather appalling word we have heard today, "recidivated" during the period under consideration. So that the probation service is, I think, achieving very marked success and at the same time getting very little in the way of thanks.
I shall come to that in a moment, but I should like to touch on one point which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Gravesend raised when he talked about the growing practice of the courts to put offenders upon probation. In fact, of course, the opposite is true, and if the hon. Gentleman will compare the figures for 1938 and 1957 of persons convicted of indictable offences, he will find that a smaller percentage of people were put on probation and a higher percentage were fined or discharged on various conditions.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I am very grateful I am sorry if I misunderstood. I thought the hon. Gentleman was dealing with all offences.
One of the things which I find a little disconcerting myself is the fact that probation is not being used enough and that there is more reliance upon conditional discharge or upon fining than was the case a number of years ago, because I believe that the probation service is successful and is one of the most valuable contributions to the clearing up of such juvenile crime, and indeed of such adult crime, as does exist.
Perhaps one of the reasons why the courts are resorting less to probation than they were is because the probation officers are carrying a heavier case load than in the past, and that is partly because we are not getting recruits to the service, and a number of the officers are leaving. I ask the Home Secretary once again—I have on several occasions put this point to him, and so have a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House—whether he will do something for what The Times the other day called an "overworked and underpaid profession."
567 I make this plea to him—and I think hon. Members in all parts of the House will agree with me. I ask him to reconsider the cut in the salary award to the senior and chief probation officers and once again to see whether he is not able to set up a committee to investigate the scope of the service and the training that is required for recruits to it.
But all these methods of treatment cannot be tried unless the offender is first caught, and in some classes of offence it is alarming to find how small is the percentage of the offenders brought to book. If hon. Members look at the Report of the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis for 1957 they will find, for example, that there were 7,837 cases of burglary and housebreaking but only 1,175 arrests and there were 10,053 offences of larceny and 1,257 arrests.
It may be that it is here that the fault lies. In what I shall say now I do not want any hon. Member to think that I am in any way criticising the police. I join with the hon. Member for Horn-church in the very generous and well-justified tribute which he paid to the police forces in this country. But it is in the last resort in the existence of a police force which is capable of catching the criminals that the real deterrent lies, and I am not at all sure that that is the position now. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the police forces now have more constables than ever before, but of course the population is greater, and when a Select Committee of the House reported on the subject only a few months ago it said, in paragraph 22—and it seems almost a truism to say it:The presence of adequate numbers of police is undoubtedly a deterrent to crime.It went on to point out how it thought the efficiency of the police forces could be increased. It told us that the police forces are still under strength, that it is difficult for some of the smaller forces to be efficient, that the Home Secretary had made no regulations for mutual aid, that some policemen were engaged on what were described as extraneous duties, and that many policemen were engaged on traffic control. It seems to me that we have now reached a position in which although the police forces throughout the country—and there are exceptions to this rule—are below strength, a greater pro- 568 portion of their time is being spent upon traffic control.
The Home Secretary gave us one figure which I must say I view with a certain amount of suspicion. He told us that only 7.6 per cent. of the police were engaged whole-time on traffic duties. I had thought that the figure for whole-time occupation on traffic duties might be even smaller, but what we want to know is the percentage of police hours throughout the year which are spent upon this problem. There has been a fantastic increase in the volume of traffic. Between 1946 and 1956 the total number of vehicles in use increased from 3,106,000 to 6,916,000.
I do not want to get this problem out of balance, but it seems to me that it is difficult to resist the conclusion that many police today are engaged on the work of controlling traffic who could be better employed in preventing crime. In one Metropolitan Borough recently, for example, there were three smash-and-grab raids at a time when the police were busily engaged on a campaign to stop residents parking their cars in the streets and to make them put them in garages which do not exist.
Last night, on my way home with my hon. Friends the Members for St. Pancras, North, and Edmonton (Mr. Albu), we found large numbers of policemen drawn up in Trafalgar Square and the environs of Trafalgar Square and we were forced to the conclusion that some important personage was to pass through those parts in the very near future. I am quite sure that all the members of the Royal Family would be the last people to wish the police to be taken off their ordinary duties of preventing crime in order to control traffic on occasions of that kind. I hope that the Home Secretary, as one of Her Majesty's principal advisers, will give a little thought to the problem of the use of police on occasions of that kind.
Two years ago at Blackpool I parked my car on the promenade, which was so brightly lit as to hurt the eyes, and I unfortunately left it without the lights being switched on. Six weeks later I was visited by a policeman at my home. I was summoned and fined 25s. It was therefore with a certain amount of wry amusement that I read in the Report of the Select Committee on the Police that 569 in Blackpool there is a higher number of indictable offences per constable than anywhere else in the country and that the Chief Constable, giving evidence to the Select Committee of this House, said that the main types of offences were various forms of larceny, housebreaking and shop breaking.
Although I do not want to get it out of proportion, I have a good deal of sympathy with those of my hon. Friends who have suggested that perhaps a rather better balance might be struck between the amount of time which is spent on traffic offences of that kind and that spent on the rather more important task of preventing old ladies from being battered to death and all the other crimes of violence to which hon Members have drawn the attention of the House.
I am hound to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the police themselves do not like the position which is developing. I should like to read to him the views of the Police Federation:A man who is told that he may not leave his car in the street outside his own front door has a natural grievance and he tends to visit it upon the police officer whose duty it is to keep the traffic moving, Many motorists have come to feel that they are harried and badgered by the police whose only wish is that the streets should be broad enough and capacious enough to spare them from the invidious tasks that have been thrust upon them in the last few years. The work of traffic control in all big cities has become increasingly distasteful in recent years because of the deterioration in relations it has meant between the motorist and the Police Service.I do not blame the police for that state of affairs, but I do feel that it is one to which the right hon. Gentleman ought to apply his mind. As my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington, North (Mr. G. H. R. Rogers) was speaking I felt that there was something to be said for his suggestion that there might be some separate force, a non-police force, engaged upon the control of traffic and activities of that kind.
I should like to support those hon. Members in all quarters of the House who have called for a positive approach this problem. I should like us to approach it in the kind of way that bodies like Christian Action and the British Council of Churches have approached it. I am not defeatist about the future of our young people. Indeed, the general impression that I get travelling about the country is that they are 570 a good deal better than my generation was at their age. It is a comparatively small number of people whom, in some respects at least, the rest of society is failing to lead and direct into the paths along which we would like them to travel.
There is a problem, and no one denies it. There is the problem to which my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) rightly drew attention, and that is the appalling increase in drunkenness on the part of young people; but I should not like anybody to think that the drunkenness which exists among young people is in any way attributable to the kind of clubs which are run by the Club and Institute Union. If it stems from clubs, it is the kind of proprietary clubs over which there is no democratic control and over which magistrates have very little power of supervision. That is the kind of club to which I should like the right hon. Gentleman to direct his attention.
There is also the problem which we have been discussing of the high incidence of crime. I believe that that is due largely to boredom on the part of young people, boredom because they are in blind alley jobs, of the sort which are almost inevitable so long as we have a period of conscription, boredom with the lack of amenities that society provides for them during their perhaps excessive leisure time. The right hon. Gentleman was right in saying that the State or the Government cannot impose religious and moral standards upon the people, but what the Government can do is to create the atmosphere and to provide the facilities which will make it easier for our young people to absorb those moral and religious standards.
Yet when the Select Committee on Estimates reported upon the Youth Service it criticised the Government's policy in this way. It said:The impression gained from the inquiry is that the Ministry"—that is, the Ministry of Education—is little interested in the present state of the Service and apathetic about its future. Your Committee considers that this apathy is having a deeply discouraging effect on the valuable work done for the Service, much of it voluntary and unpaid…My last appeal, therefore, to the right hon. Gentleman is to use his very great influence inside the Government to encourage them to do rather more to 571 develop the Youth Service than they have been able to do in the past, so that we can have more recreational centres, more clubs, more playing fields and more swimming baths. Unless we provide those, we as a society are failing. If there is a continuing increase in juvenile crime it is not the Teddy boys who are in the dock; it is the people of our country and we in this House as their elected representatives.
§ 3.41 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Renton)
It must be many years since the whole of a day in the debate on the Address has been devoted to the problems of crime and punishment. If I may say so, the Opposition are to be congratulated, as my right hon. Friend has said, on having chosen this subject. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is grateful for the interest which has been shown, very often a deep and expert interest, by so many hon. Members in all quarters of the House.
It is quite clear, also, that the debate has shown that my right hon. Friend's policy and general approach to the problems have the support and approval of hon. Members. My right hon. Friend was careful to point out that the Government cannot be omnipotent in these matters, and I should like to add that neither can we be omniscient. Certainly, hon. Members on both sides of the House have added greatly to our knowledge today. They have given us a great deal to think about and we shall study with careful attention what they have said.
I want, first, to answer some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood). He asked on what evidence my right hon. Friend based the hope that detention centres provide a deterrent. The most recent answer that can be found of experience of detention centres—the most recent on record, at any rate—is on pages 85 to 87 of the Prison Commissioners' Report for 1957, where our experience at Campsfield House junior centre and at Blantyre House senior centre is given. I will not trouble the House with further details at this stage on a Friday afternoon, but there is some very impressive evidence of the success of these two detention centres.
572 The hon. Members for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and for Rossendale, as well as my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Kirk) asked quite rightly what our attitude is towards the probation service. We were accused by one hon. Member of indifference. I should like to dispel any belief that we are indifferent towards the probation service. Indeed, it is very improbable that we should be indifferent because, to a very great extent, the success of my right hon. Friend's policy for penal reform must depend upon the work of the probation service. I stress that. We are conscious of it; we fully recognise that we depend upon the probation officers; and we value their work. We are anxious that they should be happy in it.
It has been suggested from time to time that there should be a committee on the probation service. The last time there was one was in 1936, twenty-two years ago. The mere effluxion of years is not in itself a good reason for having a committee; there must be good reasons. We have the feeling that the desire for a committee is prompted by a desire for higher pay. That is understandable. But there is negotiating machinery, well established by now, for dealing with pay. My right hon. Friend, of course, has the last responsibility and is answerable to this House. Therefore, on grounds of pay alone, we do not think that there is any reason for a committee.
The matters which are troubling hon. Members in connection with the probation service are the problems of recruitment, training, the filling of vacancies and the weight of case loads. Here, I can give a rather more encouraging picture than I was able to give to the House in an Adjournment debate over six months ago. I am glad to be able to say that we have at this moment in training, or just about to begin training, for the probation service, no fewer than 200 people. This is without lowering our sights at all with regard to the quality of entrants.
Of those 200, 43 will enter service before the end of this year. Another 100, and probably more as further recruits come along, will enter service in 1959. The strength of the service at the moment is nearly 1,400, not including 40 temporary officers. That is an increase of 6 per cent. over the figure 12 months 573 ago. The present vacancies are estimated to be about 60. However, the shortage may be a little greater than that, because there are probably some vacancies which are not advertised.
I have the figures of case loads for the end of last year only. For men probation officers, the figure was 62.5 per officer, and for women it was 38.7. That was somewhat higher than it was at the end of 1956. As hon. Members know, the position varies a good deal in different parts of the country. In my own constituency, a rural area, the probation officer has a comfortable case load.
In the Hornchurch division, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Horn-church (Mr. Lagden) spoke, the position is, perhaps, the worst in the country. We are, however, trying, as we fill the vacancies, to even things out as well as can be. The position is improving rather than otherwise, and, as I have said, my right hon. Friend is deeply conscious of the importance of the probation service and is showing an anxious care about the feelings of those who are in it. We are all anxious to help.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Widnes asked about probation hostels. We agree that they are most valuable, and that there is a need for more outside London. Two or three projects are under consideration at the moment, and we should welcome further proposals from voluntary bodies willing to run more hostels. As the hon. Gentleman realises, of course, the hostels are run by voluntary bodies.
§ Mr. MacColl
I welcome that, and I am sure that everybody does. The difficulty, however, is that, if the voluntary bodies have not the resources or cannot, for whatever the reason may be, provide them, one cannot increase the number of hostels unless the Home Office takes the initiative. The hon. and learned Gentleman ought not to shelter behind the voluntary bodies, though I agree that they ought to be kept in the forefront of the picture.
§ Mr. Renton
I quite agree, but, as I have pointed out, we are taking some initiative in this matter.
The hon. Member for Rossendale wanted to know what was being done to 574 make the Youth Service as fully effective and helpful as possible in overcoming the present level of juvenile delinquency. I have been in touch with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education, and I should like to draw attention to the work which is done in this service in providing leisure time activities for young people from 15 to 20. especially those who have already left school.
The 1944 Education Act of my right hon. Friend made the provision of leisure time facilities for young people over compulsory school age one of the obligations of local education authorities. Their expenditure on social and physical training facilities for that age group, 15 to 20, for 1957–58 is estimated to have been about £2¾ million—quite a sizeable sum. In addition, many voluntary organisations are active in useful work, and their affiliated membership among that age group alone is reckoned at over half a million in a great variety of clubs and local units.
Those voluntary organisations receive at present£200,000 a year from the Minister of Education in direct grants. That is not the end of the story, because the Government realise the importance of the work or the Youth Service, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education intends to set up a committee of inquiry into the Youth Service to review its work, and hopes to announce its terms of reference and its composition shortly.
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) asked about remand homes. He suggested that there ought to be a separate remand home in London to which exceptionally violent or difficult boys could be sent. The law, of course, already makes that possible under Section 27 of the Criminal Justice Act. When a court remands in custody somebody who is not less than 14, but is under 17.he shall he committed to a remand home…unless the court certifies that he is of so unruly a character that he cannot safely he detained…or of so depraved a character that he is not fit to be so detained.Where the court grants a certificate, in practice the boy has to go to prison, where special arrangements are then made for his custody. The remedy, therefore, lies to some extent with the courts, and I feel sure that the courts will be ready to grant certificates in 575 appropriate cases when the circumstances which the hon. Gentleman has in mind are drawn to their attention.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
I know that there is that power, but I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that it is not suitable to send boys to "the Scrubs". We want not only an Act of Parliament, but a place to which they can be sent.
§ Mr. Renton
We have to remember that "the Scrubs", as the hon. Gentleman quite rightly calls it, and other very large prisons, are not merely one unit. They are greatly diversified and divided up. There are special arrangements made inside large prisons for the detention of such boys. I think that that answers the hon. Gentleman's point. However, that point, along with many others, will be considered by Lord Ingleby's Committee, which is still sitting. It is hardly surprising that it will take some time for the Committee to cover the very broad field which it has to cover.
The right hon. Member for Smethwick complained about the failure to provide remand centres. The 1948 Act, of course, empowered the Secretary of State to provide such centres for offenders under 21, but so far none has been provided. I am glad to say that a site has been found for the first of these centres at Risley, in Lancashire, and preliminary work will start next year.
The hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) made a very sincere and interesting speech about the question of attempted suicide. He appreciates, of course, that his proposals would need legislation, and that might well be controversial. At any rate, at this time my right hon. Friend has no statement to make, nor I on his behalf.
The hon. Member for Rossendale made various comments about the use and deployment of police forces, in spite of the very cogent arguments that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary put forward in explaining how the police forces cannot ignore these motoring offences, how they have to consider a vast range of offences which Parliament creates and have to ensure that the law is enforced. My right hon. Friend gave some figures which I hoped would convince the hon. Gentleman. We must be 576 realistic about these motoring offences. Not only are they the most numerous of all types of offence, but there are more motoring offenders—57 per cent. altogether of the total—than any other type of offender, and it is no exaggeration whatever to say that they cause much more death and physical injury than all the crimes of violence put together. The hon. Member, somewhat frivolously, I thought, mentioned the question of leaving his car somewhere without lights. It so happens that the father of a Member of this House was killed because somebody had left a car parked with the lights off.
§ Mr. Renton
The illuminations do not go on all night. Chief constables and the police acting under them have to use their best judgment to try to stop the terrible slaughter on the roads. We in Parliament must do what we can to ensure that we do not create unnecessary offences which occupy the time of the police. I hope that when we come to abolish the quite absurd offence of driving a car at Election time, we shall have the support of the hon. Member.
My hon. Friend the Member for Horn-church and others referred to what I can compendiously call blood, thunder and sex on television, in films, magazines, and so on. It was pointed out by the hon. Member for Widnes, quite rightly, that this is not a matter which, in a free country, we can easily control, or that the Home Secretary should attempt to control. I hope, however, that those who are responsible for these performances and publications will, if they want to help us overcome this problem of crime, take good note of what has been said in the House today.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) was almost a lone figure in the debate today. It shows how public opinion and opinions in this House change over the years. It is certainly within my time in the House that if he had raised the question of corporal punishment and homicide, we should have had a fairly evenly balanced debate. Today, however, in asking for a repeal of the Homicide Act and a restoration of corporal punishment, my hon. Friend was a lone voice. That is a sign of the 577 change—if we may say so, the enlightened change—which has taken place. It is not only an enlightened and more humane attitude, but an attitude which is more practical. The facts do not bear out my hon. Friend's case.
There are many other points to which I should have attempted to reply. I assure hon. Members that all that they have said will be most carefully considered. To the extent that it is necessary, I will write to those to whom I have not been able to reply today.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Chichester-Clark.]
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.