HL Deb 07 August 1877 vol 236 cc530-2

(The Lord President.)


Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.


, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, explained that it was drawn, as far as the circumstances would permit, on the same lines as the English Bill, though, in some respects, it had an advantage over the English Bill. The principal difference was this—the English Bill transferred the management of prisons from the local authorities to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whereas this Bill placed them under the General Prisons Board, subject to the control of the Lord Lieutenant.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a." —(The Lord President.)

EARL SPENCER, while protesting against the haste with which a Bill of so much importance was being pressed through their Lordships' House, and at so late a period of the Session, congratulated the Government in having been at last successful in securing the assent of Parliament to a measure of such importance. There was no subject of greater importance than the proper treatment of criminals. The subject had been many years before Parliament; the first Bill on the subject having been introduced by the late Lord Naas. Every successive Government had endeavoured to pass the measure. There was certainly great necessity for it. In some prisons there were very few prisoners, and in many the discipline was very lax. It had even been reported that criminals travelled from one county to another, that they might be subject to the more lax discipline. But while he admitted that a necessity had been shown for passing some measure dealing with the subject, he was bound to say that he considered the present Bill too centralizing. He should have preferred seeing the English Bill coupled with a County Boards Bill for England, and this Bill for Ireland with another Bill for the improvement of the Grand Jury system in that country—for he objected to too much centralization, unless accompanied with more local self-government. With these views he might be allowed to differ with Her Majesty's Government in the mode in which the Bill was conceived. He quite admitted the necessity of a measure of the kind, though he would have preferred a Bill on the lines drawn up at different times by preceding Governments. He should liked to have seen much greater power given to the Lord Lieutenant to close unnecessary gaols, to regulate authority and discipline in the various prisons, and to remove the longer-sentenced prisoners to a central prison, as was already successfully done in Scotland, where the longer-sentenced prisoners were removed from local prisons to a central prison at Perth. He could not help thinking that a Bill might have been devised on a plan which might have carried out all the excellent objects of the present Bill, without giving such a blow to the local self-government of the country. He would be glad to have some information in reference to the Prisons Board, and whether the 10th clause would deal with the present Board; and he would suggest that the Reports to be made to Parliament and the Secretary of State should also be sent to the Grand Jurors—the local authority in Ireland. In that country there was an anomalous body called Local Inspectors, and he never could see the necessity for having such officers. He hoped that power would be taken to abolish them, as he thought that the Visiting Justices and the Government Inspectors would be amply sufficient to carry out all the provisions of the Bill. Some clauses had been added to the Bill which he considered were wholly unnecessary. He trusted that the Bill would be a success, and that the evils which existed in different parts of Ireland, under the present system, would be quite eradicated.


said, that he would have been glad if more time could have been given to consider this Bill, which was only printed and issued yesterday. He thought that the Bill would greatly tend to economy in the management of the prisons in Ireland, and that it would promote uniformity of discipline.

Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accodingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.