HC Deb 22 April 1959 vol 604 cc401-41

  1. (1) Where a woman is cautioned by a constable, in respect of her conduct in a street or public place, that if she persists in such conduct it may result in her being charged with an offence under section one of this Act, she may not later than fourteen clear days afterwards apply to a magistrates' court for an order directing that there is to be no entry made in respect of that caution in any record maintained by the police of those so cautioned and that any such entry already made is to be expunged; and the court shall make the order unless satisfied that on the occasion when she was cautioned she was loitering or soliciting in a street or public place for the purpose of prostitution.
  2. (2) An application under this section shall be by way of complaint against the chief officer of police for the area in which the woman is cautioned or against such officer of police as he may designate for the purpose in relation to that area or any part of it; and, subject to any provision to the contrary in rules made under section fifteen of the Justices of the Peace Act, 1949, on the hearing of any such complaint the procedure shall be the same as if it were a complaint by the police officer against the woman, except that this shall not affect the operation of sections forty-seven to forty-nine of the Magistrates' Courts Act, 1952 (which relate to the non-attendance of the parties to a complaint).
  3. (3) In this section references to a street shall be construed in accordance with subsection (4) of section one of this Act.—[The Attorney-General.]
Brought up, and read the First time.

3.50 p.m.

The Attorney-General (Sir Reginald Manningham-Buller)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker

Before proceeding, may I draw the attention of the House to the proposed new Clause—(Cautions)—in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and other hon. Members, which seems to cover the same subject matter. There is no harm in the two new Clauses being discussed together.

The Attorney-General

During the Committee stage of the Bill, we had considerable discussion concerning the cautioning system, which was outlined by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on Second Reading. Indeed, we discussed and debated similar proposals to those now contained in the new Clause in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I should like to remind the House that the main object of the cautioning system as we see it is that it should operate as a system to rescue those about to embark on a career of prostitution.

During our Committee debates, I outlined in more detail than did my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on Second Reading the procedure that would be followed in London. If I may remind the House, the system, put shortly, is intended to operate as follows. If a woman is seen loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution by one police officer and she is not known to him as a common prostitute who has had convictions, he will obtain the assistance of another police officer. They will then both watch the woman and only if they are satisfied that she is loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution will they caution her.

When they have cautioned her, it is intended that they should ask whether she will allow her name and address to be given to a moral welfare organisation and they will invite her to call at a police station to see a woman police officer, who will give her advice and, perhaps, put her in touch with a moral welfare officer.

Those are all steps designed and intended to help to rescue those starting on this life. The caution, if it is given, will be recorded at the police station and, in London, registered on a central register. It is only after such a person has been cautioned twice that a charge under the Bill will be presented.

As I said in Committee, we regard this cautioning system as a kind of fender pushed in front of the engine of the law to prevent people being caught up in its machinery. To achieve our object, we regard it as essential that the cautioning system should be administrative in character and not embodied in any Statute or in any code of statutory regulations. We regard it as of the first importance that this system should operate without the persons cautioned being brought immediately before the Courts.

From listening to the discussions uptairs, I know that there is a difference of view among many hon. Members on this matter, and a difference of view which is sincerely held. There are some who think that, rather than any cautioning system, it would be better that the new entrant should be brought straight away before the court, when the courts may be able to put her on probation and things of that kind. There are some who wish to formalise the cautioning procedure more than we consider desirable.

In Committee, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton thought that the caution should be administered by magistrates. In his new Clause, he has departed from that principle and he proposes that the caution should be administered by what he calls authorised persons. The hon. and learned Member's Clause does not specify what qualities authorised persons should possess. It merely refers to authorised persons.

If I may outline some of our objections to the hon. and learned Member's present proposals, objections which are similar to those we advanced before but apply, perhaps, with even greater force, they are these. We consider it undesirable that we should bring into this operation authorised persons, as the hon. and learned Member suggests, who are not concerned in any sense with the administration of justice. What would happen under the hon. and learned Member's proposals is that there would be a trial before authorised persons to decide whether a woman was loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution, and a trial with none of the normal safeguards, with the rules of evidence apparently not applying and with no rights of appeal, and yet, if the decision of the authorised person was wrong, it might lead to serious consequences for the person concerned.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

I do not know why the Attorney-General says that there would be no right of appeal. As I drafted the Clause and put it down originally, I provided for grounds of appeal. The right hon. and learned Gentleman then put down his Clause, which seemed to me to be quite acceptable. Therefore, I left out subsection (5) of my new Clause, accepting the right of appeal as provided in the Attorney-General's new Clause.

The Attorney-General

I am dealing with the hon. and learned Member's new Clause as it appears on the Notice Paper and not with his first thoughts. As it stands now, his new Clause—I am glad that the hon. and learned Member agrees —does not contain any right of appeal.

Mr. Paget

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's Clause is providing that.

The Attorney-General

The two will not fit together. That is quite clear, as I shall explain.

Furthermore, one other objection to the hon. and learned Member's new Clause is that it gives the power of arresting a woman so that she can be cautioned on her refusal or failure to visit an authorised person, and power to arrest her when she is not being charged with any offence. I regard that as wholly wrong. As I see it, the woman who is wrongly suspected and wrongly cautioned would, under the hon. and learned Member's new Clause, be in a worse position than she would be under the Bill as it now stands in that she would be liable to be arrested and taken before an authorised person.

For those reasons, which I have stated quite shortly, we are unable to accept the hon. and learned Gentleman's new Clause, which is quite contrary to our approach to the cautioning system.

4.0 p.m.

However, in Committee, as those who were present there will recollect, considerable fears were expressed about the position of a respectable woman who was wrongly cautioned, and I said that I would very carefully consider the various suggestions made, including an interesting suggestion put forward by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman), to see whether some way could be found of giving such a woman a legal right of redress. The result of much cogitation and discussion is the new Clause I am proposing.

I will now say a word or two about how we see it in operation. Under the Clause, a woman who is cautioned by a police constable in accordance with the system which I have outlined will be entitled as a matter of legal right to apply within 14 days for an order from the magistrate that her name should not be entered in, or, if already entered in, should be expunged from, any police records of those cautions. If she does so apply for such an order the matter will go before the magistrate.

Under this Clause the burden of proof will be upon the police. If, and only if, the police satisfy the magistrate that she was loitering or soliciting for the purposes of prostitution will an order expunging her name from the records or ordering that it should not be entered not be made.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say where the records will be, who keeps them, and to whom they will be made available? I submit to him very seriously that if he had a near relative, who was a woman, an innocent person, who received a caution, she would hesitate a very long time before she sought publicly in a magistrates' court to contest a publicly made allegation that she was a common prostitute, when, by keeping her mouth shut, and allowing the caution to go on, she need not have to face that undesirable publicity.

The Attorney-General

I will come to that point in a moment. It is a very real one. I am now seeking to explain, in quite ordinary, non-legal language, because I think it is important, if one can, to make the matter as plain as possible, what the rights will be and how we see this system will operate; but I will certainly come to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman.

I would just say this, that I hope that the new Clause will meet with the approval of the House as a means whereby the respectable woman who regards herself as wrongly cautioned will be able to obtain redress. I should like to say this, too, that I do not myself think that anyone who went to see what is going on in the streets of London tonight would regard the chances of the police making a mistake in cautioning as at all high. But one cannot exclude the possibility of error, and I think that we were all agreed in the Committee that it was right that some way should be found of giving a woman cautioned the opportunity of challenging the facts which led to the caution being given and the opportunity of doing so in the courts.

I hope, however, and, indeed, I believe, that, should a mistake be made in cautioning, the exercise of this right of access to the courts will be the last resort, because the sensible woman, if she is wrongly cautioned, ought to go immediately to the police station and make a complaint. That complaint will be investigated, and if the officer in charge of the police station comes to the conclusion that an error has been made there will be no entry in any register or police records of the fact that she has been cautioned.

But, really, it does not stop there. If she does not receive satisfaction at the police station, in London she will be able and ought to make a complaint without delay to the Commissioner of Police, and I am authorised to say that he is very ready indeed to investigate any such complaints as are brought to his notice about this cautioning system.

After those steps have been taken, steps which, I would suggest, any sensible woman would take, who thinks she has been wrongly cautioned, should the police adhere to the view that what the police constable did out in the street or public place was justified, then this new Clause will give her her right of demanding a judicial determination of the question of fact whether she was or she was not loitering or soliciting on the occasion for the purpose of prostitution.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's case, as I understand it, is to depend on the administrative system of cautioning which we are trying to follow. Would he be good enough to explain this? If the police constable wishes to caution one of the women, is she obliged to give her name and address, or is she entitled to withhold them?

The Attorney-General

We can discuss that, but it is departing a little from this Clause.

Mr. Paget


The Attorney-General

She may or may not give her name. That we recognise perfectly well, but I should be grateful if the House would let me go on with this explanation, because I want to come to the point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). I have been dealing with the new Clause, and I should like to get this explanation in one piece, if I can.

One question which troubled us in relation to this new Clause was the ques tion which the hon. Member for Oldham, West has raised, namely, should the proceedings be in public or not when a woman seeks access to the courts? On the one hand, it can be argued that if the police have made a mistake or have misconducted themselves in cautioning someone it is right that that error should be made public and not covered up. There can be disadvantages which follow from investigation of police activities in private. That is an argument on one side, and it is one which merits serious consideration.

On the other side, there is the argument which the hon. Gentleman touched upon, that the fear of publicity may deter a respectable woman from seeking access to the courts. We have given considerable thought to that. We were interested to read on the Notice Paper the original Amendment of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) and his hon. Friends. What I may call the revised version appears now on the Notice Paper as an Amendment to this new Clause, to insert a new subsection (3). I can tell the House that we are disposed to accept that Amendment as a satisfactory compromise.

Why I say "satisfactory compromise" is for this reason. If a woman feels so confident that she has been wrongly cautioned, if she feels so aggrieved by the conduct of the police, she may wish the proceedings to be in public. If so, they will be. The decision rests with her. If, on the other hand, she does not ask for them to be in public, then they will be in camera, and then the failure of her application to the court will not result in her receiving any publicity. It will not be known that she has been cautioned for this offence. It will not be publicly known in respect of the other persons cautioned and, therefore, she will not, because she has had recourse to the courts, be singled out as one of those who has been cautioned. I have done my best —I hope that I have not taken the words out of the hon. Gentleman's mouth—to explain the reasons which have prompted us in the view which we at present hold. We shall listen to what is said in the House, because it is an important question. It is not a light matter, in my view, to introduce a system, even in this limited field, where proceedings can always be in camera at the wish of one party in what will be a form of litigation.

Mr. Hale

The Attorney-General promised to say a word about records, about access to them and where they are kept. I take it that they are written, in the first place, in the policeman's notebook. I should like to know where they are copied down, who has access to them and how far they will be permanent and available in future.

The Attorney-General

There will be a record made at the police station to which the policeman is attached. That is where the first entry will be made. I imagine that it will be made in his notebook, too. There will be a central register in London, for obvious reasons. These are police documents and police documents only. Although I cannot speak for the Home Office, I understand that after a year the documents are destroyed.

I do not think that one need worry too much about this matter. Cautioning to a limited degree, namely, one caution instead of two, has been in operation in London for a considerable time. I understand that it does not apply only to London. I may be wrong, but I have never heard a complaint or criticism of the manner of its operation, nor any complaint or criticism of publicity being given to the content of what is recorded. Obviously, records must be made somewhere if we are to ensure that persons receive two cautions before they are prosecuted. I hope that I have said enough to commend the new Clause to the House.

The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) raised the important question of refusal of name and address. My answer to it is that there is no power contained in the Bill to arrest someone who so refuses. One hopes that the police will be able to persuade the new entrant not to refuse to give her name and address because the whole object of the cautioning system is to help, to avoid bringing those whom it is desired to help and to save within the ambit of our criminal law.

Let me take the case of the woman who does refuse her name or perhaps gives a false name.

Mr. Hale

Or the real name of someone else.

The Attorney-General

That may be, but, again, the policeman will make a careful note of the woman's description in order to help him.

Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

Even the colour of her hair?

The Attorney-General

If the hon. Lady changed the colour of her hair, I should still be able to identify her.

It may well be that the result will be that some of the people who adopt such methods may succeed in obtaining more cautions before prosecution, but I think that that is much better than a system of compulsory arrest because there is the suspicion that the name is false or on refusing to give the name. I believe that, just as no difficulty has been found in working the system up to now with one caution, in practice no real difficulty will be experienced in operating this system in relation to new recruits and new entrants. I am sure that all who operate this administrative procedure—the police and everyone else—regard it as a work not of bringing people into the clutches of the criminal law, but a work of salvation and will do their best to assist those whom they approach.

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood (Rossendale)

The Attorney-General has put the case for the new Clause very fairly. He said that this is a matter which has divided hon. Members on both sides. We on this side have our own differences of opinion about the desirability of a Clause of this kind and, indeed, about the desirability of a cautioning system altogether. As during previous stages of the Bill, we shall not apply the Whips, but will leave the decision entirely to a free vote of hon. Members.

Although we have our differences of opinion about the desirability of a cautioning system in general, I think that we have all agreed that, if there is to be a cautioning system, certain safeguards are essential. First, it should be uniform throughout the country; secondly, it should be contained in the Bill so that the public may know the safeguards available to them; and, thirdly, there should be a right of appeal to anyone who believes that she has been wrongly cautioned.

The new Clause goes a considerable way to meet the last two requirements that I have stated: the system of cautioning is now in the Bill and there is a right of appeal. It seems to me, however, that we do not have to make today a choice between cautioning and no cautioning, but a choice between cautioning by administrative process and cautioning under Statute. If I had to make a choice between the two, I would sooner have cautioning under Statute than cautioning by administrative process purely under the control of the Home Office, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and chief constables throughout the country. Therefore, I shall support the new Clause with, I hope, the additional safeguard contained in the Amendment.

There are certain additional questions which I should like to put to the Attorney-General beyond those which my hon. Friends have already put to him. First, I should like to know whether it is proposed that the power to caution should be in the hands of plain clothes policemen. It seems to me that if the Metropolitan Police use plain clothes officers for this work, there is scope for a great deal of trouble and apprehension, and I would have thought some scope for blackmail and bringing undue influence to bear upon these women by men in plain clothes who are not in any way associated with the Metropolitan Police. There might well be great dangers, therefore, if plain clothes men were employed on this work.

I should also like to ask the Attorney-General whether the Government have been able to give consideration since Second Reading to the suggestion I made then, namely, that as far as possible women police should be used in activities of this kind.

I confess that I am not greatly impressed by the assurances of the Attorney-General about the ability of the police to obtain accurate names and addresses from people who are cautioned, or, indeed, whether they have powers to compel women to give their names and addresses. When we questioned the Attorney-General in Committee on 11th March, I repeated a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) and said to him: Have the police any powers to compel any member of the public not accused of a specific offence to supply his or her name and address to the police?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee F, 11th March, 1959; c. 160.] In answer, the Attorney-General said, "I do not think they have". I understood that to be a general statement of the law and not merely a statement of the provisions in the Bill. I therefore still have great doubts about how this system will work out.

I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) about the possibility of women giving the names and addresses of other real and identifiable people. How will a policeman know whether a woman has been cautioned before, and whether on a particular occasion he should charge her instead of cautioning her? What will be the position if a policeman takes a woman to the station believing that she has been cautioned on a previous occasion only to find that that is not the case? Is it not possible that a policeman might be putting himself in jeopardy in a case of that kind?

How many constables do the Government envisage taking part in operations of this kind? On Second Reading the Home Secretary told us that one officer would be engaged. In Standing Committee, apparently by accident, the Attorney-General informed us—

The Attorney-General

It was not by accident.

Mr. Greenwood

I am very glad to hear that, but it makes it more confusing. In Standing Committee, the Attorney-General told us that it would be done by two constables. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) said that two constables would do the job. Later, I pressed the right hon. Gentleman and he said, "I said two advisedly", but the new Clause on the Notice Paper says: Where a woman is cautioned by a constable… not by two constables.

The Attorney-General

It is a pity to waste time on a point when there is nothing between us. Where a policeman sees a woman behaving in this way he will get the assistance of another constable. That will be two constables, and they will watch the woman to see if she persists in her behaviour. If she does, they will go up to her and one of them will caution her. It will not be a chorus of the two constables.

Mr. Greenwood

That is not in the new Clause. If this was the last and definite answer from the Government that two constables would always be engaged on occasions of this kind, it would go some way towards putting our doubts at rest.

How widespread will this practice be? We heard in Standing Committee that the chief constables in 12 police areas outside the Metropolitan area had agreed to operate a system of this kind. If we are to write this into the Act, the procedure should be universal throughout the country. The Government should tell us how many chief constables, and how large an area, will be covered by the new Clause which we are asked to accept.

Mr. Paget

I felt that it was a little barefaced, if I may say so, of the Attorney-General to accuse me of not having provided a method of appeal. I invented it. I put it down upstairs and the Government rejected it. The method of appeal was stipulated in my Clause when I put it down for the Report stage. When the Government provided a method of appeal, out of courtesy to them I withdrew that part of my Clause as an indication that I accepted the Government's proposal. Indeed, the Attorney-General's attack on me on this issue reminds me of the chap who punched another man in the mouth and then complained that his knuckles had been bitten.

We are agreed that there ought to be a method of appeal. As a matter of practice, as against principle, I quite agree that it is not very important. I shall be surprised if this right of appeal is exercised once a year, but as a matter of principle and civil liberty it is of the greatest importance that it should be there.

There are two aspects of cautioning which one will have to consider. First, as a piece of machinery preliminary to bringing people before a court, will it work? Secondly, as a means of preventing girls from adopting a life of prostitution, will it work? In my view the proposed method of cautioning will fail in both respects.

As a piece of machinery, it has been said that the present system adopted by the Metropolitan Police has worked. In my submission, it has worked for one reason, and one reason only. It has been quite unofficial; nobody has known anything about it; the girls have given their names, and it has been possible to note their names in a register so that next time one knows whether she has been cautioned or not. But the girls will now know that they do not have to give their names. Certainly, before they get the second caution they will know that they are entitled to turn round to the police officer and say, "Are you arresting me or are you not? If not, 'buzz off'". Thal will become the standard reply.

What will be the position of the police officer when he is given that reply? He can either "buzz off", or bring the girl into the police station, thereby taking the chance either that she has been cautioned on a couple of occasions or has a previous conviction. If he is wrong, there might be an action for wrongful arrest. By the time that has happened even once, the nerves of the policemen will be substantially broken and they will not take the risk of taking these girls in but will just "buzz off".

There will be a few old warhorses, if I can put it that way, who will be known to the police as having a string of convictions, but any girl who is not like that will be safe unless she has met the particular policeman on a previous occasion and he recognises her. A certain amount of changing round of beats will be necessary to achieve this, but it will be extremely difficult to work once the girls know that they do not have to give their names.

If the girl gives somebody's else's name, she commits no offence by doing so. She can give the name of the hon. Lady the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, or any other name that she chooses.

Mr. Hale

She can give the name of another prostitute in the same street, and very likely will. That would create a very real problem.

Mr. Paget

Exactly, and no offence would be committed by doing so. As a piece of machinery, apart from its purpose of reform, once the girls know their rights the whole system becomes unworkable.

4.30 p.m.

So much for the machinery aspect of the Government's proposal. I come next to what I regard as more important, because I think that this is a bad Bill which will cause more evils than it cures. Therefore, provisions which the Government introduce that will simply make the Bill unworkable do not have any particular disapproval from me. I am much more concerned about the chance of reforming the girl. That is what is important. I am not concerned with the girl who has made up her mind to take up this life, or with a girl who is spotted for the first time but has been on the streets for some time.

I am not concerned with the experienced girl. I am concerned with the girl who has came from Jamaica and has no idea whatever of becoming a prostitute but has not known where to go and, in ignorance and at a loss, has gone an the streets. I am concerned with the girl who has come over from Ireland to a job which she cannot find, or a job which has turned out to be unsatisfactory. I am concerned with the girl who has had a row with her parents and has been turned out and is too proud to go back.

What is the effect on that sort of inexperienced young girl when two policemen walk up to her? It is fear and panic. I and most hon. Members opposite have for all our lives regarded policemen as people who are something in the nature of being our servants. We have regarded the policeman as a person who was there to look after us. But that is not so with everybody. There has been a fear of police from childhood in a great many working-class people. Girls from Jamaica, girls from Ireland, and foreign girls fear the police. Their fear is a very real and panicky thing. Do not let us delude ourselves about that.

When, in that atmosphere of fear, a girl is told that she can go to a voluntary organisation, or can have a talk with a women police officer if she likes, she is too panicky to listen if she is not an experienced type of girl and is the sort of beginner whom we seek to help. Therefore, I do not believe that the sort of cautioning which does not bring to the girl an alternative choice will do any good. Having had this cautioning system, may I ask whether the Government have any figures to show how many girls it has deterred and what proportion? I am very doubtful whether it has deterred any.

Here, having criticised the Government, I come to my own proposed new Clause, entitled "Cautions".

  1. "(1) No common prostitute shall be prosecuted for loitering or soliciting for the purpose 415 of prostitution unless she has within the previous two years—
    1. (a) been convicted of committing offence as a common prostitute; or
    2. (b) received two cautions.
  2. (2) The Secretary of State for the Home Department shall appoint and authorise a person or persons in each police district in the United Kingdom either individually or as holders of a specified office or appointment (hereinafter referred to as 'an authorised person') to administer cautions in accordance with the provisions of this section.
  3. (3) A constable may require any person loitering or soliciting for the purpose of prostitution to visit an authorised person in a private room at some place other than a magistrates' court house, at a time specified by the constable and if such person refuses or fails so to visit the authorised person, a constable shall arrest such person and bring her before the authorised person.
  4. (4) An authorised person shall receive such person and shall give her an opportunity to state informally any reasons she may give as to why she should not be cautioned and shall if he thinks fit, hear any other person or arrange for such person to see any other person either separately or in his presence and shall then at his absolute discretion decide whether in all the circumstances it is desirable that such person be cautioned, and if the authorised person shall so decide he shall caution her not to loiter or solicit for the purpose of prostitution and the caution shall be entered in a register to be kept for that purpose, and the said register shall be evidence that the said person was so cautioned."
It is designed precisely to get over the difficulty in the Government's scheme. The first thing that I do is to put the cautioning provision into the Bill. I can see the object of having a cautioning system which is purely informal and which the police can carry out if they like, but which is not a condition precedent to prosecution and which involves no question of a legal right of appeal from it. But the Government's proposal is something in between, something which has the Home Secretary's authority and the authority of his undertaking to Parliament and something which, although it is not in the Bill, we are to have a legal ground of appeal against. I can see no point at all in this half-way house which is neither informal and without legal effect nor part of the law of the land.

In my proposed new Clause, therefore, I make a conviction or two cautions in the previous two years a condition precedent to prosecution. But it is said, "When you come to prosecute again and you have to prove the condition of two previous cautions or a conviction in the previous two years, are you not prejudicing her trial? "What hypocrisy. Does anyone really imagine that magistrates are so dumb that they do not know this procedure? Does anyone think that there is a single magistrate who will not know that any girl brought before him has been through the caution procedure? The fact that this condition is put in the Bill does not make it either more or less prejudicial than it is today.

The next point is the question: who should do the cautioning? This is where I am really concerned, because I want the girl to be given an alternative and I want that alternative to be put to her quietly and persuasively. In Committee, I suggested that the right person to do this would be a magistrate. I still think that the magistrate is the best choice, because he has available all the various people who can help. He can call in the probation officer, or a woman police officer, or people from voluntary organisations. He can bring in whom he likes to have a talk with the girl. He is in a position to select the machinery which will be most helpful.

I should like the magistrate to be the appointed person, but there are localities where that may not be possible. The magistrate may be too busy or it may be difficult to arrange. Therefore, I leave it to the Home Secretary to say that in that district it shall be a probation officer or an officer of the women's police force above a certain rank or some other person whom he thinks suitable. The discretion is given to him to choose the suitable person in any district.

Next, I come to the question of how we bring the girl—she is not a prostitute at this point—before the person who will caution her. Here I get over the difficulty that she can simply say, "Buzz off", by giving the constable legal authority to require her name, and legal authority to arrest her if she fails to attend before the authorised person who is to caution her. I am told that this is an invasion of civil liberty. Again, that is the highest hypocrisy. Under the law of this land, which has endured since the fifteenth century, there is power to arrest anybody who is considered to be of evil repute or to be behaving in a disorderly manner, without making any charge against them, and to bring them before a court where they must show cause why they should not be required to enter into sureties of the peace.

Mr. Hale

This was always only applied to Socialists.

Mr. Paget

Yes, it is applied to Socialists, and it is applied to prostitutes; it is applied to anybody the authority does not like. To say, when we have that law, that a girl who has been soliciting on the street —which is behaving in a disorderly manner—cannot be arrested if she refuses a request to attend before an authorised person; to say that to provide that power is an invasion of civil liberty considering what our law of the subject is, I submit is the highest hypocrisy. I regard that as a necessary piece of machinery if we are to make either the Government form or my form of caution work.

Thirdly, as to where she shall go. I provide that she shall go to an appointed place which shall not be the magistrates' court house. I say it shall not be the magistrates' court house for a simple reason. At every magistrates' court house there will be in the rows at the back pimps waiting to pick up young girls. So if the girls are taken before the magistrate, the boys will be there to collect them in. Therefore, we want to keep them away from the police court as much as we can.

Where should the appointed place be? It may be the probation officer's house. It may be the police station. It may be any place which is convenient to the particular organisation which has been selected. This is flexible. It can suit the particular district and arrangement, but to somewhere the girl goes. When the girl goes there, the atmosphere is entirely different from what it is when she is accosted by two policemen under a lamppost and told that she has done something wrong. There is somebody experienced who can talk to her and can use such power and experience as he has to persuade her. Also he has available to him three quite vital things. Here I am thinking particularly of Jamaican and Irish girls.

First, he is a position to arrange hostel accommodation for her. That is vital. Secondly, he is in a position to offer her a job. It is easy to get jobs for girls in the present employment situation. Every probation officer can place these girls. Thirdly, and I think not less important, he will have some funds, which can be in some part official or it may be voluntary, in order to pay for her lodgings for a week. With these he can provide her with the necessary power of payment to get her over a short period until she is herself earning and can perhaps repay the money. All those things become available if we adopt this form of procedure.

4.45 p.m.

Then I am told that this is a form of trial. I say that the approved person can hear what the girl has to say, he can hear what the police have to say about it if there is an argument, he can hear anybody else whom he thinks may help, and he can ask the girl to see anybody else whom he thinks may help her. If that is a trial, I prefer it to the trial without right of answer, without right of reply, without any form of hearing, conducted by two policemen under a lamppost. Either of them results in a caution. I prefer the quieter, friendlier examination resulting, it is true, in an executive decision, because a caution is an executive decision.

In my submission, both as to workability and as to the chance of reform, the method I suggest is vastly superior to that suggested by the Government. When the Attorney-General says that the two Clauses cannot stand together, I say, frankly, nonsense. The only difference is that we would have to change caution by a constable to caution by an authorised person. There is no great problem there, and therefore I urge the Government to have second thoughts on this matter.

Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)

Since the Bill has been upstairs in Committee it has been improved considerably, and the right of appeal which has now been introduced is one which I think will be welcomed by Members on both sides of the House. I am rather disappointed, however, that it has not been carried a stage further. We have listened this afternoon to the learned Attorney-General on the question of cautions and I am not sure, having done so, whether this system of caution will be universal throughout the country. In fact, I think that it is extremely doubtful whether that will be so.

The Home Secretary, for whose courage and honesty I have the greatest regard, seems on this occasion to be refusing the responsibility which would put him in the position of having to answer in this House for anything which happened in any of the areas outside the Metropolitan Police area. It seems an extraordinary thing that, when we are introducing new legislation, we should be saying that it shall operate for the Metropolitan Police area and that the Home Secretary will instruct—I repeat, instruct—the Commissioner of Metropolitan Police on how he should interpret the law. Outside that area, however, we have no interest in the matter, and merely hope that those in charge outside it will interpret the legislation in the same manner.

We were all agreed in Committee that there should be a right of appeal to almost anybody who could assist the person who was about to be charged. But here is an extraordinary thing. If they choose, which is not unusual, that their Member of Parliament shall be the person to whom they turn, the Member of Parliament will have to say, "I am sorry, but I cannot help you. Although I am your elected representative, to turn to me is useless, because when I go to the House of Commons I shall be told that the Home Secretary cannot answer any questions on this matter because it is outside his jurisdiction. If you appeal for a debate of any kind you will be unsuccessful."

I do not want to take up the time of the House, but I would ask the Home Secretary to take sufficient power to enable any hon. Member to ask any Question he likes in the House on behalf of his constituent. Without introducing new legislation, he should not hide behind any idea that this would involve national police forces, and so forth. That is a red herring, which should not be considered. In new legislation it is easy for the Home Secretary to say, "I will take power to answer any Question in this House that any duly elected Member of Parliament cares to ask me."?

Mr. Hale

I thought that the Attorney-General made a very good case for his Clause, and I was very impressed by what he said. It is a civilised Clause, a decent effort to improve the Bill. I merely want to raise a few points as briefly as possible.

First, it is something of a departure to say that we shall not put this provision into the Bill but that we shall introduce a new quasi-judicial system which may be operated by the police without any statutory authority, and without any special rules being laid down except such as are agreed privately between the Home Office and the persons directing the police forces. That is a point about which most lawyers would feel some hesitancy. On the whole, however, as it has worked in Scotland, and as Scottish judicial procedure is in many ways so much better than our own, I should be quite willing to say, "Let us forget these hesitations for the moment and try this system to see whether it works. If it does not it can be taken care of in regulations." I would leave it at that.

It is possible to raise all sorts of suppositious postulates as to possibilities arising under any legislation, but I suggest, without wishing to say a rude word against the ladies concerned, that the police experience the same difficulty when interviewing these ladies as afflicted Lord Malvern in his recent conversations with Africans. It is not a suppositious proposition to say that if a policeman is giving a caution for the first time he presumably does not know the lady concerned very well, because she has not been cautioned or prosecuted before.

In those circumstances she could give the name of the girl working the next street. That name will be written down and the other girl will never hear about it until she is "pinched" three years later and charged as a prostitute. At that stage, the policeman will swear that she was the girl he cautioned, and he will believe it.

Hon. Members may smile sympathetically, but they should realise that those who give evidence on matters of form arising out of conduct relating to our practice of the service of documents never really recollect what happened. We must face this. If I am required to swear that I served a document upon a certain person four years ago I look up my records, and, if they indicate that I did serve the document on him, I go into the witness box and I swear that I so served it, knowing that my records should be correct.

Similarly, it will be quite reasonable for the policeman, having had to deal with 400 or 500 women since, and not being able to remember individual cases, to go into the witness box and say, "I cautioned May Jones, a common prostitute, two years ago. She has been convicted twice, and, therefore, is liable to prosecution." When the girl says that she has never heard about all this she will be liable to a term of imprisonment for three or four years for perjury. I know that we sometimes make rather wild suggestions, but I insist that this is a possibility. We really come to the point when, if the system is to work, the policeman should caution only a girl he knows. I do not mind if the system operates in that day. I am inclined to think that it is a well-intentioned, decent and civilised system.

I did not agree with every word of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). I do not always find myself in that happy position. The most important part of his speech was his suggestion that the Attorney-General was on false ground when he said, "We are not arresting these girls; we are having a more civilised procedure. We are just cautioning them under the lamp-post and letting them go." We all know what happens in such cases. If the policeman is nice the girl is let out on bail straight away and told to go out and earn the fine, and if the policeman is unpleasant she is kept until the next morning, and she misses a night's revenue.

It is no hardship to provide that if these girls give their names they shall be ordered to report at a certain point, and there is a strong case for saying that that point should not be the petty sessions court. I know that if a new address is fixed it will become known in the end, but at the moment we must remember not only that pimps hang about the courts, but that the atmosphere is singularly unpleasant for a woman, if there has been a possible miscarriage of justice. There will also be some hard-boiled customers leering down from the benches. The atmosphere in a police court is not a very happy one for any woman.

I hope that the Home Secretary will be prepared to adopt the suggestion put forward by my hon. and learned Friend and agree that these girls should report to an authorised person. He will prob ably be a magistrate with some experience in these matters. He may be a lay magistrate, who is willing to see these girls at his house. He will exercise the same judicial process of being satisfied that the police were right in apprehending the woman, and he will give her such advice as she is willing to accept and such help as he deems appropriate.

Mr. Paget

It may be a woman magistrate.

Mr. Hale

As my hon. and learned Friend says, it may be a woman magistrate. I hope so, although some are tougher than men. It might also be a woman policeman. At any rate, it should be a humane, decent individual with experience, who is prepared to render this service.

Why should not the Home Secretary agree to this proposal? The Attorney-General may say that we have hardly had time to work the thing out, and that discussions might be required. If he says that the Government are prepared to incorporate this provision in another place I am sure that my hon. Friends would not obstruct the Bill when it came back. The combined effect of the best of both Clauses would make a substantial improvement, and would he welcomed by most people.

Miss Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)

In Committee, I moved a far better and more definite proposal. I believe that the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) lifted some of my suggestions. I therefore have great sympathy for what he said, and I do not want to go over all the points he made. What worries me is that the Government Clause begins by saying: Where a woman is cautioned… "Where" may mean "if". It raises some doubt whether she should be cautioned. It is not definite, and it gives no real protection. Many areas do not operate the cautioning system which is carried out in the Metropolitan area of London. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider that point. The present wording is far too vague.

Later, the Clause provides that such a woman may not later than fourteen clear days afterwards apply to a magistrates' court… We understand that the Clause is really for the benefit of new entrants—women who are probably new to the district and are not known to the police or to people in the district. How are these women to know where to apply? Women in this category are not generally intelligent. How are they to know when the 14 days' period is up?

I hope that the police will be provided with leaflets, or printed slips written out by the chief constable, which they can hand to these women and which will state their names and will give the exact date within which they must apply to the courts. I cannot imagine that new entrants will have much knowledge of the area.

If the woman does not apply within 14 days she will automatically have her name placed on the register, or so I understand. Is that an accurate assumption? Will registers of areas other than London be interchangeable? I can see a great deal of difficulty arising in this connection in the future.

As I have said, the Clause is designed to protect only the innocent woman and the new entrant. What will happen to the woman who has previously been convicted for soliciting, but who may be innocent when charged on a later occasion? Will the Clause cover her? I do not think it will. It refers to "a woman" and not "a common prostitute", and if a woman has once been convicted it is likely that at some considerable time later she will be considered to be a common prostitute. She will receive no protection under the Clause, although she would have under my Clause, because I included a definite period of time.

I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will consider this matter. The Clause is not definite enough, and it does not give sufficient instructions to policemen outside the Metropolitan area.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)

I was puzzled, as I believe many of my hon. Friends were, at the lateness of the stage in our discussions when the Government revealed what they had in mind in regard to the administration of the cautioning system which the Home Secretary mentioned as an intention, and which did not appear in the Bill. We are very grateful for the explanations which have since been forthcoming, and also for the form of the proposed new Clause. I rise only to ask whether the reason for the delay was that the Government assume that they will be using the cautioning system at present employed by the police.

I had a disturbing constituency case, with which I will not weary the House again, except to point out that in the letter which the Home Secretary sent to me he wrote, "She was cautioned." I suppose that most of us have been cautioned. "I should not leave it there, Sir, if I were you," is a caution, is it not? I do not know whether these cautions have ever had any administrative or legal validity. We must assume that the police know their job, and know what they are looking for. They frequently say to a young girl, "You had better move along or you'll be getting into trouble around here." That is a caution.

We must be careful that such cautions do not go on the record under the new system. Magistrates know the way in which the police work at present, and they have confidence in the efficiency of the police. if a magistrate is to be made aware of the fact that when a girl appears before him it is the third step in the process, and that she is by that time on the register as a second-class citizen, he will not insist on a great deal of evidence. According to the terms of the Bill she need only loiter: she does not have to solicit.

I do not want the Home Secretary to abandon the old system of cautioning. That would be stupid. It is merely a case of a policeman doing an ordinary day's work. He cautions and warns people about all sorts of offences, and not only those mentioned in the Bill. But I wonder whether there should not be a distinction between the friendly sort of warning to an apparent newcomer that the place where she is is no sort of place to hang about, and that prostitution is no sort of life to lead—which will probably still regularly be given—and the more formal caution suggested in the Bill. The policeman ought not to be obliged to think to himself, "If I say this it must be written down. It will have to go on to the central register, and two of these cautions will really amount to a conviction."

Will the policeman have to tell the girl not only that he is cautioning her, but that the caution will go on record? Secondly—and this may not be entirely in order—the Attorney-General said something about the destruction of records. It would be useful at some time to know when these girls will have a chance to make a fresh start.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

I start by congratulating the Government, and the Attorney-General in particular, on drawing up a wholly admirable Clause. It is evident that very close attention has been paid to what was said by hon. Members on both sides in Committee about cautioning and ensuring that the liberties of the subject are protected, particularly in the case of the new recruit coming into the profession of prostitution, or of the woman who may be improperly or wrongly arrested.

The new Clause is admirable and requires very little change, but I have one or two points to make about it. First, I am satisfied that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) is right and that the proceedings in this matter should not normally be heard anywhere but in private. I hope that that will be included in the new Clause.

I am sure that both my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) and the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) are right in what they have said about the cautioning of a woman by a constable. The woman may not appreciate that she has any rights in the matter. She may not know that she is being cautioned, or she may not appreciate it to the full, and unless she is given some document she will not appreciate that she has a right of objection.

There are two ways in which this can be met. The first is to add to the new Clause that where a woman is cautioned by a constable she should receive a note in writing to that effect. I do not suggest that that should be done by an Amendment now, although it could be done in another place. The wording could be that she shall receive a notice that she has been so cautioned.

The second way is purely administrative—for this is all a matter of administration, in any event. It would require a directive from the Home Office that a constable on his beat shall give the lady concerned a ticket which indicates the caution and that on that ticket there must be—not, as in the case of a railway ticket, on the back, but on the front—an extract of this Clause showing what right she has to appeal against the caution, if I may use that phrase.

Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)

Is it not possible that they might transfer these tickets, as Cup Final tickets are transferred?

Mr. Rees-Davies

I do not know whether the hon. Member means that it might be as valuable as a Cup Final ticket to the girls.

The second method which I have suggested has two advantages. A cautioning ticket would be admirable in that it would set out the rights which the girl has to appeal and state to whom she may appeal, but it would also be valuable because the other half of the ticket could be retained. It would not be transferred but would be taken back to the police station and placed in the records to show the details of the person concerned. It could go in the register of cautions.

I therefore suggest—and I put it no higher than this—that it might be better to do this purely administratively by a circular from the Home Office rather than by an Amendment to the Clause. I do not know. At any rate, I suggest that the word "caution" requires to be elaborated, that the woman should receive a ticket in writing and that the constable should keep a duplicate of the ticket, which would be taken back to his office to ensure that there is no mistake.

Mr. E. Fletcher

Would not the hon. Member agree that his system would be all the more dangerous in the event of a false name and address of the woman being given?

Mr. Rees-Davies

We cannot help where a false name and address is given. I do not pay very much attention to this point, because I do not think that the ordinary woman on the street, having been cautioned for the first time in her life, will give a false name and address which happens to fit that of another real person. She may give a false name and an erroneous address, in which case the address will relate to no one else, but I think that in the main we shall probably obtain the true information. In any event, if she gets away with it, it will cause no injustice.

I strongly agree with the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) in the two main points which he made and which I think ought to be still further underlined. First, I object very strongly to any of these ladies being required by a police officer to go to the police station. That would be a semi-judicial process giving the constable power of arrest. I object to that very strongly, and I can see no reason why the woman should be compelled to go to the police station.

The second reason for which I object is that I do not like the system of authorising some other body of persons to do the work. I think that the proper person to deal with this—dealing with the cautioning system and with the ultimate question of conviction—is the magistrate. If the Amendment is carried whereby the magistrate may sit in camera, it would meet points made by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton and others. It would meet the argument that pimps and ponces might be at the police court. There would be very few, if any, of the cases which we have in mind, and I see no reason why they should not be considered on a day other than that on which the magistrate normally deals with cases concerning prostitutes. We can leave it to the commonsense of a magistrate that if he were to consider on a certain day whether a woman was or was not a prostitute, he would not choose the same morning for that hearing as that on which he was dealing with prostitutes.

I warmly welcome the Clause. I hope that either the question about cautioning will be dealt with by later Amendment or, alternatively, that we may be given some information about the system which will be set out in the circular and the written notice. Subject to that, I believe that the Bill will be materially strengthened and the liberty of the subject improved by this admirable new Clause.

Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)

I do not like the Bill and, with many other hon. Members on both sides of the House, I am opposed to a system of cautioning. Indeed, if there were to be a system of cautioning I should prefer it to be done by a magistrate. Nevertheless, we must be practical. We all realise that the system of cautioning as outlined by the Attorney-General is the system which will be put into effect. We realise that the system adopted in the past will be that used in the future.

In those circumstances, my sole object in discussing the matter is to see that it is made as effective as possible. That was why I put down a Clause, to which the Attorney-General was kind enough to refer, which had very much the same object as that now before us, and I am glad that the principle of it has been put forward now. I want to point out some criticisms which can be made not of the Clause itself but of the fact that it is written into the Bill in this way. With this Clause inserted, the Bill is untidy. There is no reference to cautioning at all until, suddenly, we reach the new Clause now before us which simply says: Where a woman is cautioned by a constable…

The Attorney-General

Would the hon. and learned Gentleman read the words which immediately follow?

Mr. Weitzman

I am merely saying that we suddenly come across a Clause which begins: Where a woman is cautioned by a constable, in respect of her conduct in a public street or public place… It is untidy. If a cautioning system is to be adopted, I cannot for the life of me see why it should not be written into the Bill.

I remind the Attorney-General that in paragraph 268 of the Wolfenden Report reference was made to the fact that if it can be proved that a woman has been reasonably and justifiably cautioned, that is presumptive evidence that she is a common prostitute. I should have thought that the Bill could have contained something to that effect.

I listened with great interest to what the Home Secretary said in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, when he dealt precisely with this point and put forward reasons why he said the system of cautioning should not be written into the Bill. He gave two reasons. First, he said that he did not want there to be any question of arrest for the purpose of cautioning. That does not arise with the new Clause as it now stands. Secondly —although I do not quote his words—he said that he did not want cautioning to be made a constituent part of the charge.

With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that is sheer nonsense. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said, every magistrate who has a woman charged before him with this offence knows perfectly well that she would not be before him unless she had twice been cautioned. He therefore knows perfectly well that it is a constituent part of the charge. I cannot for the life of me see why this was not incorporated in the Bill.

5.15 p.m.

Another point seems to me of great importance. In his speech on Second Reading, as reported at col. 1274 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, the Home Secretary said: I can assure the House that the practice of informal cautioning will generally be adopted in the Metropolitan Police District."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1959; Vol. 598, c. 1274.] Home Secretaries come and go. Home Secretaries change their views. Police chiefs may accept their advice or not. There is nothing to bind them to do it, and the practice may vary. Unless we have something written into the Bill saying what the practice should be for cautioning, what safeguards have we about what will be done?

I suggest that even at this late stage consideration should be given to writing into the Bill the system of cautioning which will prevail. I think that the Attorney-General has done a very useful service and that the Government have acted very properly in bringing forward the new Clause, of which I strongly approve, but, at the same time, I suggest that they ought to go just a little further. Let them consider carefully what are the objections to writing into the Bill the system of cautioning. I hope that if they do so they will come to the conclusion that it would be far better to do so. It will then be in the Bill. It will not be subject to whatever the Home Secretary may advise, or whatever advice a police chief may accept. There will be a uniform procedure in the Bill.

Subject to that criticism, however, I am glad to see the new Clause on the Notice Paper.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I think that it is almost the universal desire of the House, both of those who are strongly in favour of the Bill and those whose enthusiasm for it is more restrained, that there should not be, certainly in respect of young women or first offenders, a prosecution without two previous warnings. We are all at one in that—or nearly all of us—including those who attach less importance to the question of cautioning than do others.

The difference between most of us is whether the machinery for those cautions should be administrative or statutory. I should like to join those who have continued to urge upon the Government that to make it statutory, to make it a condition precedent to a conviction by the Statute, is very much the better way of doing it. Everybody knows there are objections to it, but everybody knows there are objections to any form of administering cautions. The real question is: which proposal has the least objection to it?

I suggest to the Attorney-General and to the Home Secretary that this matter might very well be reconsidered. I do not think that anybody is absolutely dogmatic about it. It is a question of how one assesses the relative argument on both sides. I suggest to the Government that this may seem to weigh the balance in favour of making a statutory procedure.

In the first place, I suggest to the Attorney-General that there is something a little anomalous in the new Clause itself. It is an improvement, and we are all glad to see it, that the Statute with the Clause as proposed by the Attorney-General will, in fact, refer—this is quite new—to a caution, but is it not anomalous to have an elaborate procedure of appeal against something which, according to the Statute, need never happen at all?

What the Clause provides is that if a caution is administered there can be a complaint against it and, if there is a complaint against it, the question between the complainant and the cautioning police constable shall be tried—subject, of course, to it being heard in camera—exactly as if the woman had been arrested and the charge made in the first place. So we have a full machinery for a full trial according to the ordinary laws of evidence by way of appeal against something for which there is no statutory authority at all.

That seems an unnecessarily clumsy and anomalous way of proceeding for an appeal against a caution which most of us think ought to be administered anyhow. I should have thought by itself it would not have been a bad reason even, if it stood alone, for making the caution a statutory caution.

The second point I make, and I hope not to be too long about making one or two points, is that there is a constitutional objection. It may not be very important in that it may not affect a great number of people, but in principle it is a breach of the Bill of Rights. Under this system, the Home Secretary, so far as he has power to direct it—and that is limited to the Metropolitan area—and in other places chief constables, are given a dispensing power. It is said that the caution will work in this way, and police constables will be instructed where an offence is committed in their sight not to prosecute for it.

Mr. Ede (South Shields)

What authority is there for anybody doing that?

Mr. Silverman

That is just what I am saying—that there is no authority—yet it is being suggested that it shall be done administratively. That is the point I am trying, perhaps a little clumsily, to make. If it is done by administrative directions there is a breach of the Bill of Rights, because it amounts to an instruction to police officers to dispense with a prosecution even though the offence is committed in front of them.

Mr. Paget

Has my hon. Friend considered the position of the private prosecutor here, where one organiser decides to run the other organiser's girls off?

Mr. Silverman

I do not want to be led off to other illustrations, although I am sure there is a great deal in what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has said. I am content with the main, broad point I am making. Although it may very well be argued, and argued with reason, that it is a small breach—that not many people are affected and in many cases it has a useful result and one ought not to take it too seriously—nevertheless it is in prin ciple a breach of the Bill of Rights because it amounts to a ministerial dispensation against prosecutions and convictions for statutory offences.

If there were no other way of dealing with it, one might perhaps stomach that and not make too much fuss about it, but if we can achieve the same purpose without involving ourselves in this constitutional peccadillo—if we like to call it so—but, nevertheless, an impropriety, it would seem a good reason for doing it in a way which avoids that difficulty rather than doing it in a way which involves us in it.

The third point I make is what I think my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) had in mind. The Home Secretary has no mans whatever, unless he makes it a statutory part of the offence, of seeing to it that the virtually unanimous wish of the House in this respect is carried out at all. Such authority as he has is limited to the Metropolitan Police. There, he may have power, I think he would have power, to give directions to the Chief Commissioner of Police.

Suppose he does and suppose the Chief Commissioner carries out those instructions—which, in so far as they amount to a requirement that he shall not obey the law, there is no guarantee he will do—even if he does and passes on those instructions to individual police constables, there is, as I said in Committee, no reason in the world why any police constable should take any notice of them at all.

A police constable is not subject to any direction of anybody, in the force or out of it, as to when he shall or when he shall not effect an arrest. That is his statutory responsibility. He is clothed with individual authority; he is an institution in himself and no one has the power—no one ought to have the power—to interfere with him.

Mr. W. Edwards

Is not the police constable liable to dismissal from the force? He is not a law unto himself.

Mr. Silverman

My hon. Friend is right up to a point, but I do not think he can carry that point all the way. It is true that a police constable can, in certain circumstances, be dismissed, but there is no absolute authority in anybody to dismiss him. If he is improperly dismissed he can appeal to a watch committee. If he is not satisfied with that, he can appeal to the Home Secretary. He can say in such a case, "I have been improperly dismissed. I have been dismissed for making an arrest of a person who committed an offence and who was convicted of that offence. What have I done wrong? Why should I be dismissed?" I hope my hon. Friend will accept from me that that is the position. It may be a position he likes or does not like, but there is no doubt that that is the position.

It would be wholly wrong for the Home Secretary to support the dismissal of a police officer for doing what is his statutory duty. That would be the situation. I should have thought that from every point of view if we want to say to a police constable, "Do not make an arrest unless cautions have been delivered," the simplest way of producing that result, and the effective way of producing it, is to put it in the Bill. That is beyond doubt. Then there would be no question about it. Then the police officer, who arrested first without administering the caution, would lose his case, and, secondly, would be properly answerable for a disciplinary offence in having effected a wrongful arrest.

When there are such manifest advantages to be gat out of writing the procedure into the Bill, it is very difficult to see what there is to be urged on the other side against it. I most earnestly ask the Government to 'reconsider it.

5.30 p.m.

The Attorney-General

With the leave of the House, I should like to reply to the debate which has taken place on the new Clause in the name of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, the new Clause in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) and on the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Anthony Greenwood) to the new Clause in the name of my right hon. Friend.

What I think is interesting is that the question of holding these proceedings in public or in private has not been the subject of any controversy at all. It might well have been, but it is not. Therefore, I can say straight away that we will accept the hon. Gentleman's Amendment. Indeed, I said so when moving the new Clause.

I think that it is true to say that we have had today not only an interesting but a better debate on these subjects than we had in Standing Committee. The debate has traversed a wide field, and I would hope that, perhaps, we need not traverse such a wide field on the later Amendments to be considered. I make no complaint about the time that we have taken up in debating this important new proposal, or of the fact that discussion has ranged somewhat wide.

It is true, of course, that nearly every hon. Member who has spoken in this debate spoke in Committee on the same matters, when we concentrated attention upon them for about four hours. I hope that the House will forgive me if I try to condense my replies to the large number of questions put to me into a comparatively short compass. I want to answer all the points that have been raised.

I will take the questions in the order in which they were made. First, the hon. Member for Rossendale asked me a considerable number of questions. One was whether plain clothes police would be employed on this work. I understand that it is not the practice in the Metropolitan area that they should be. Of course, I have not had time to consider, or, indeed, to ascertain, what is the practice all over the rest of the country. I would agree with the hon. Gentleman that there are obvious dangers about the employment of plain clothes policemen on this work, although, and I hope that he would agree, a situation may exist in a particular locality which renders the employment of plain clothes policemen necessary.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the employment of women police. I would be the last to underestimate the valuable services which women police could perform in this field, and, as the hon. Member will know, one of the things that I mentioned in moving the new Clause was that in the cautioning system envisaged efforts would be made to bring the woman or girl cautioned into contact with a woman police officer. That would be part of the system and I would hope that it would be effective.

A subject which, I think, troubles the hon. Gentleman a great deal, and one which has troubled a large number of hon. Members, was the question about false names and what is to happen if the girl gives a false name. It may be, as the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) said, that the girl gives the name of someone else. One has to bear in mind that this cautioning system is intended to apply not to the hardened prostitutes, who are well-known to the police, but to the new entrants into that occupation. So far as I can ascertain—I have got only very hazy figures which I obtained when I saw a police officer on this matter —the number of entrants is by no means large per year.

It should be possible to get hold of the girls at an early stage, and that, surely, is what is wanted. When police officers go up and speak to them, and speak to them as they normally do, I see no reason despite the pessimism of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton, to suppose that they will not be prepared to tell the police their names and addresses. It depends largely on the approach.

The system of giving one caution, which is now being elaborated into giving two cautions, before a prosecution is instituted, is a system which has been going on for a long time. It was going on before the beginning of this century and during all the tenure of office of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), and it is a system which has worked satisfactorily.

Mr. Ede

Some conversation is going on near me. I heard that remark of the right hon. and learned Gentleman better than what he was saying just previously. Would he mind going back just to the beginning of the sentence

The Attorney-General

I was saying that the system of giving a first caution, which is in operation now, has been in operation for years. It goes right back to the last century and was in practice during the time that the right hon. Gentleman was Home Secretary. That is all I said.

Mr. Ede

That was not in the last century.

The Attorney-General

No. Our sufferings were after the last century, I agree.

That system has worked quite well, and I see no reason in the light of experience to assume, as the hon. and learned Gentleman as assumed, that it will not work all right in the future. I believe that it will. This matter has, of course, been carefully considered by the police and they are quite satisfied that the present system should continue without the kind of powers which the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests for obtaining names and addresses and for seeking to secure that if they are refused the girls should be arrested and taken into custody.

Mr. Paget

Surely it worked in the past on the basis of the girls not knowing that they could refuse to give their names. They were quite right, because, if they did, they were taken to the police station. Now it is proposed to take away the power to take them to the police station and to tell them that they need not give their names. Will it work?

The Attorney-General

I do not agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman for this reason. When he talks about the girls he means the large number who are normally frequenting the streets. I am talking about this system in relation to its application to the new entrants. I do not believe that they will have the knowledge of the tricks of the trade that the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests. However that may be, I can say to him that the police who have to administer this system do not want powers of the nature which he suggests.

In the second part of his speech, the hon. and learned Gentleman expressed a great dislike of the whole of this cautioning system. He advanced as an argument in favour of his new Clause that it would provide an alternative at the same time as the caution, and he devoted a considerable part of his speech to the kind of alternatives that would be available to either a magistrate or an authorised person. I think that correctly summarises the point which he made.

My answer, quite simply, is that we hope and believe that under the cautioning system which is envisaged help and assistance can be given at an earlier stage, namely, immediately and without bringing the woman before any other person either the next day or at any other time. As I sought to explain, the efforts of the police when they find one of these girls starting this way of life will be directed to trying to get her to put herself in the hands of the moral welfare officer, or to get the assistance of the probation officer or a woman police officer. It is a rescue operation. Although I may not have satisfied the hon. and learned Gentleman, that really deals, I think, with the main points that he made.

I do not think that the power to arrest in order to secure that recognisances are entered into could really be any justification for giving a power to arrest for with-holding a name or giving a false name on refusal to come before an authorised person. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) supported my view about that.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West asked me two questions. One was about the giving of false names. That, I think, I have answered. The hon. Gentleman went on to express some doubt about the informality of this procedure. I confess to him that when it first came to my notice I was doubtful about the informality. But on consideration and further reflection I have reached the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that there are advantages about this informality. There is the advantage of flexibility—it is not unusual to talk about the flexible approach—and the advantage, when dealing with these young people, of keeping the matter out of what might be called the ambit of the law and legal rights.

I agree that a case could be made—as the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) sought to do—for saying that we should get away from the cautioning system by bringing these people before the courts immediately, and that that would be the best way of putting them on the right road. That has been considered. We may be right or wrong, but we believe that the system which has been so frequently outlined is preferable. If our approach be accepted, it means that it must be kept informal. We have gone to the extent of providing for a woman who has been cautioned, when she should not have been cautioned, the right to get the matter corrected.

There there was the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers). I did not entirely follow her observations. With respect to my hon. Friend, it seemed to me that she had not read this new Clause sufficiently. The effect is clear. It is not where a woman is cautioned by a constable but Where a woman is cautioned by a constable, in respect of her conduct in a street or public place, that if she persists in such conduct it may result in her being charged with an offence under section one of this Act. That is the caution— if she persists in such conduct it may result in her being charged with an offence under section one of this Act. No particular formula is laid down about the words the police constable should use. I do not think that is necessary. But for the caution to operate she must be told, "If you persist in this conduct, you will render yourself liable to a charge." I find it difficult to think of any wording which could make that clearer, more specific and more satisfactory.

The hon. Lady may be puzzled by the use of the word "woman" in this context. She may say that Clause I refers to "common prostitute". She may ask why the word "woman" is used in this Clause. I will tell her frankly that the word has been used deliberately here because we want this cautioning system to apply to young girls entering on this occupation before they have become common prostitutes. It is no use waiting until they have become established in the profession before attempting the rescue operation.

But the conduct which would entitle a police officer to caution her is soliciting or loitering in a street or public place for the purposes of prostitution. That is made clear by the last words of Clause 1. If the right to caution is challenged, that would have to be established by the police. They have to see what happened and then they have to tell, the woman that if she persists in that conduct it may result in her being charged with an offence under Clause 1.

The hon. Lady also asked whether some form of slip or leaflet should be given. We considered that. I do not think that it is necessary. This right of appeal is not likely to be used in many cases, because if there is any error it is much more likely to be corrected before it gets to the magistrates' court. To give a slip or leaflet to all those who are cautioned would be unnecessary, in my view, bearing in mind that legal advice is now available and that any woman who considered that she has been wrongly cautioned could easily find out what remedy is open to her.

5.45 p.m.

The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) made some interesting observations and put them very shortly indeed. I wish to answer him just as shortly. It is quite true that there is something in the point that this Clause may look a little odd standing by itself with no reference to cautioning elsewhere in the Bill. But I do not think that that overweighs the advantages of the informal cautioning system as we see them. This new Clause will bite only when there has been the kind of caution which I have indicated.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that this system of cautioning was a small breach of the Bill of Rights and was a ministerial dispensation. There may be something in that, but even assuming that there is, it is a breach which, obviously, has been in existence for a long period of time. The system of a first caution must involve a breach just as much as a system of two cautions.

Mr. S. Silverman

With respect, I should have thought not. It has never been part of a policeman's duty always to arrest when he has the power. The fact that he does not always arrest would be very stupidly raised against a man as an exercise of the power of dispensation. The difference here is that the Home Secretary has undertaken to Parliament to make this the universal practice. That is the dispensation.

The Attorney-General

I do not think that it amounts to a dispensation. I think that a police constable will always have a discretion in this sense. Suppose a woman is guilty of disorderly conduct. He cannot be prohibited from exercising his discretion about arresting her. He will not be arresting her for this offence. It must be something quite apart from that. It is an interesting point. We discussed it in considerable detail during the Committee stage, and I do not think that it is one which should make it necessary to recast the whole of the system which has been under contemplation.

Mr. Paget

The point about the Bill of Rights is not a question of arrest; it is a question of prosecution. We have here a direction by the Secretary of State not to prosecute.

The Attorney-General

I do not think that a direction not to prosecute has been given. There would be no arrest and she would not be brought before the court. A prosecution can be instituted by anyone. There is no legal restriction against instituting a prosecution.

Mr. Silverman

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that even though he thought I was right, and even though the point were of greater importance, it would still not be thought right by the Government to recast the whole of this machinery to meet that point. It is not necessary to recast the whole machinery. Earlier, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the informal procedure was better, and no one contests that. But even though we make it statutory, it could still be as informal as was wished.

The Attorney-General

I am not sure about that, but I have listened carefully to the hon. Gentleman and we have covered much of the same ground. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members will forgive me if I express the hope that I may soon be able to terminate this speech and that we may make further progress with the Bill.

One other point was made by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, that the Home Secretary had no means of seeing that the wishes of the House, about the adoption of this system, were carried out, and, apart from the express statutory power, that is a valid point which has also been made by other hon. Members. I can say this to the hon. Gentleman. Some time has elapsed since my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made his Second Reading speech and the point cannot have escaped the notice of chief constables. My right hon. Friend has already received assurances from no fewer than 12 chief constables of some of our major provincial cities that they will put this system into operation; and he has no reason whatever to suppose that other chief constables will not be equally willing and desirous of putting it into operation.

If this system works, as we hope and trust that it will, in saving people from this way of life, I do not believe myself that one has any reason to anticipate any reluctance on the part of the police anywhere to seek to implement it in order to save these young girls from disaster. Having taken some time on this new Clause, which, I am glad to note, meets the wishes of many hon. Members, I hope that we may now get on and make progress with the Bill.

Question put and agreed to

Clause read a Second time.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

I beg formally to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 18, after subsection 2, to insert: (3) Unless the woman desires that the proceedings shall he conducted in public, an application under this section shall be heard and determined in camera.

Mr. Weitzman

I am in the very unusual and happy position of dealing with an Amendment to this new Clause, which has instigated much of the discussion that has taken place, and which, I understand, will fall on receptive ears.

What prompted us to put down the Amendment to the new Clause was the fact that was mentioned in an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale). The new Clause moved by the Attorney-General, which has just been given its Second Reading, makes it clear that a woman can, within 14 days of being cautioned, if she so wishes, apply to a magistrates' court for an order directing that no entry shall be made of any caution, and I gather, and I am very glad to see it, that it is only after the court is satisfied, presumably on the evidence, that the record will remain setting forth that caution.

Our Amendment seeks to have a hearing in private, and, clearly, there is a strong case to be made out for it. I would only repeat that a woman who is mistakenly accused and cautioned, and who resents it, if it means that she has a hearing in public in court, with the possibility of newspaper publicity, despite her innocence, will obviously be exceedingly reluctant to lodge any appeal. The Amendment will do away with any such difficulty, and I am very glad to hear that the Government intend to accept it.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.