§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.176
THE EARL OF BELMORE
, in moving that the Bill be now read a second time, said, the experiment proposed by that Bill had been tried with great success in America, and he also learned that the Government of two of our most important Colonies—Victoria and New Zealand—had come to a conclusion in favour of legislation of that kind. He understood that that Bill had passed through the House of Commons with universal assent and without any amendment; and also that the measure was approved by persons who took an interest in philanthropic enterprizes. The hon. Member who had charge of the Bill in the other House had received a letter from Mr. Hill, a gentleman who in the earlier part of his life had for 15 years held the office of Inspector of Prisons, and had thus gained much insight into the working of the Criminal Law in this country, stating that he felt sure that the Bill, if passed, would do much good. In conclusion, he hoped that their Lordships would pass the measure as readily as he understood that the House of Commons had done; and he now moved the second reading.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Earl of Belmore.)
§ LORD SUDELEY
(for the Home Department) said, he hoped that their Lordships would not consent to the second reading of that Bill. There could be no doubt that if the measure was passed it would be absolutely necessary to have a very large increase of the Police Force throughout the Kingdom. It was not correct that the Bill was unanimously passed by the House of Commons. What happened in the other House was that the Bill was blocked, and that it passed through quite accidentally. The provisions proposed under the Bill involved very considerable alterations in working the Criminal Law; and it was quite evident that nothing of this kind should be done in a hurried manner. However good some of the provisions might be, it was due to the importance of the subject that close inquiry and investigation should take place before the Bill became law.
§ LORD HALSBURY
said, he shared very much the desire that some provision of that character should pass into law; but it seemed to him that that Bill was absolutely unworkable and con- 177 tained no machinery by which it could be carried out. It would, he thought, be an evil example for their Lordships to assent to a Bill deeply affecting the Criminal Law under those circumstances.
§ LORD FITZGERALD
said, he hoped that the noble Lord would withdraw that Bill, which he agreed in thinking would I be perfectly unworkable as it stood. If a well-considered measure which would carry out the same object was introduced in a future Session their Lordships would probably give it their support.
§ LORD ASHBOURNE
sympathized entirely with the object of that Bill, and thought it might readily be put in a shape which would obtain the support of that House. A Public Department specially charged to look after such legislation could have brought forward any technical objections they thought proper to the form of the measure, and then it could have come before their Lordships in a satisfactory shape. He trusted that in a future Session the matter would be dealt with in such a way as would remove all objections.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (Lord HERSCHELL)
said, he concurred in thinking that it was impossible to pass that Bill in its present shape. He admitted it might be expedient in many cases to draw a sharp line between a first offence, as regarded the way in which it should be treated, and any subsequent offence. He was not himself in favour of limiting a measure of that description merely to the case of children; but if it was to be extended to adults at all, a great deal more guidance ought to be given to the tribunal than was to be found in that Bill. Clause 2 gave far too wide a discretion to all tribunals, because it applied to any Court of Summary Jurisdiction, which might impose such conditions as it thought right, having regard to the reformation of the offender—a very vague provision. If, as he hoped, the Bill was re-modelled and re-introduced on a subsequent occasion, it should contain greater guidance and more safeguards than were now included in it.
THE EARL OF KIMBERLEY
said, that although the supervision of the police as exercised over prisoners sentenced to penal servitude formed a very useful part of our convict system, anyone who had paid attention to the subject knew that it was attended with considerable difficulties and some hardships.
178 He did not believe that general police supervision throughout the country over all classes of criminals could be worked with advantage, and he hoped they would not lightly adopt such a system.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
said, he agreed in the observation as to police supervision, but was of opinion that it should be limited much more than it generally was to cases of the kind which had been alluded to. In the case of ordinary offences it did much more harm than good.
§ Order discharged.