HC Deb 17 December 1959 vol 615 cc1631-3
25 and 26. Mr. Iremonger

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether he will institute an inquiry into the merits of corporal punishment with similar terms of reference to those given to the committee which reported in 1938; and if he will arrange for the report of that committee to be republished for the information and guidance of the public today;

(2) when the question of corporal punishment was last made the subject of official inquiry; to what extent the report is now available; and if he will either arrange for it to be republished or institute a similar inquiry now.

70. Mr. N. Pannell

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will ask the Advisory Committee on the Treatment of Offenders to consider specifically and report further upon the advisability of restoring the penalty of corporal punishment and of extending its application to all crimes of violence against the person.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)

The last official inquiry into corporal punishment was that conducted by the Departmental Committee on Corporal Punishment which reported in 1938. The Committee's report was reprinted in 1952 and I understand that the Stationery Office still hold stocks and would reprint in the normal course of business if an increase in demand made it necessary to do so.

I doubt whether another inquiry on the lines of the Departmental Committee would be useful, but I am considering my hon. Friend's suggestion that the problem should be referred to my Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders.

Mr. Iremonger

While thanking my right hon. Friend for that reply, may I ask whether he will take note of the fact that there is considerable public anxiety on the question whether the Government are really more concerned with the protection of the criminal than with the protection of society, and that it would therefore be in the general public interest that the public should be reassured that the Government really have sound evidence for believing that corporal punishment it totally ineffective as a deterrent?

Mr. Butler

That is why I said in my Answer that I would see advantage in referring this matter to the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders, which has already given me such good advice, particularly about young offenders. I have not finally made up my mind, because I have only just had an opportunity of considering these questions, but the more advice we can get on this matter the more sense and perspective we can get both here and, I hope, in another place also.

Sir T. Moore

Arising out of my right hon. Friend's original reply, will he appreciate that economic and social conditions have vastly changed since 1938 when unemployment was rife and when people committed crimes of violence with robbery as a possible or inevitable consequence, whereas today much of the hooligan class commits crimes apparently almost for the fun of doing so, and certainly not always with gain as the reason? Things have altogether changed since 1938.

Mr. Butler

One of our puzzles is that with the greater prosperity we have certainly not got less crime, and in some respects we have more. I understand the anxieties on this subject. I have e expressed my own views, and if I can get good advice on the subject, so much the better.

Miss Bacon

Will the right hon. Gentleman not listen too much to the hysteria on this matter which comes from h is own back benches?

Mr. Butler

I think I have remained fairly calm, and I propose to go on doing so.