HL Deb 25 April 1856 vol 141 cc1470-2

said, he would remind the House of the discussion which lately took place, and of the Motion of which he had given notice for the appointment of a Committee on the subject of Secondary Punishments. Since then, he had received a communication from Her Majesty's Government, informing him that it was thought, upon consultation, very desirable that the appointment of a Committee of the House of Lords should be postponed, since the Committee of the House of Commons on a similar subject would not wait for the completion of the evidence, but in a short time would present the evidence already taken by them; and Her Majesty's Government then proposed that it should be laid at once before their Lordships' House. Under these circumstances, he should not move for a Committee, but he did not mean to lose sight of the subject.


said, that the Government had every desire to promote the object the noble Earl had in view—that the proposed inquiry should be as effectual as possible; but they felt, on communication with the Members of the Government in the other House, and particularly with those who had taken charge of the inquiry there, that it would be better to postpone it for the present, since it would be attended with some inconvenience that Committees of each House would not have commenced and concluded their inquiries at the same time. There was, however, no subject, the inquiry into which it was more incumbent on the House and the Government and his noble Friend to pursue with diligence and zeal, than one which had in view the provision of an effectual system of secondary punishments. Having taken no part in the previous discussion, he was anxious to state that he was not of opinion that the system now pursued of granting tickets of leave had been so long tried as to lead to anything like a convincing conclusion. Nevertheless, without anticipating the result of impending inquiries, he could not but state his own impression that it was not possible that any system of secondary punishments would work well without the auxiliary of transportation. He did not, indeed, think that any one system of secondary punishment could be successfully resorted to, in exclusion of all others; but he thought that the great difficulty which existed as to the means to be taken to restore to society persons who might, if reformed, be valuable to it, would be best met by a system of imprisonment as a punishment immediately following the sentence, and by transportation as a means of restoring to the criminal the means of earning an honest livelihood in a distant land. To both the sys- tems—of imprisonment for a term of years in this country, and of transportation for a term of years in the colonies—the difficulty applied equally of providing for the transition state before the criminal could enter into society at large. He hoped both that and the other House of Parliament would keep this great and inherent difficulty in view, and that means would be devised to watch over the condition, state, and prospects of the criminal, and the end of his sentence. He could not resist the temptation of saying, without asking the House to draw any conclusion from the statement, that in one part of the United Kingdom a most important and, he hoped, successful experiment was now being tried in Ireland, both in the city of Dublin and in the city of Cork, where criminals discharged from prison were subjected to individual supervision, which, up to the present time, though the experiment had not lasted long enough to afford confirmed experience on the subject, had proved eminently successful. He must say, in conclusion, that the working of the ticket-of-leave system was one of those experiments which it was the duty of the Legislature and the Government to watch most carefully, for the purpose of providing for the return of these persons to society.


expressed his regret that if there was to be a Committee at all, there should be any delay in its appointment. There were three or four points in which legislation was urgently required, involving obvious improvements in the Act of 1853, and which, if recommended by a Committee, might be carried during the present Session; and since inquiry must precede legislation, a few days' delay might be fatal to the hope of doing anything this year. But, looking to the fact that we were now approaching Whitsuntide, he thought it was clear that if a delay of even a short time took place, legislation would be postponed for the present Session—a result which he much regretted, as every session and assizes was of course increasing the number of persons to be provided for.


regretted that the Government had not taken the matter into their own hands and legislated upon it at once, because he believed that the evil results of the ticket-of-leave system were great and were constantly increasing. He hoped, therefore, that the Session would not be allowed to pass without some decisive course being taken.

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