§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ VISCOUNT SANDHURST
My Lords, it is my duty to ask you to give a Second Reading to a Bill to amend the Criminal Law Amendment Acts, 1885 to 1912, and to re-enact with amendments the Indecent Advertisements Act, 1889, and Section 2 of the Venereal Diseases Act, 1917; and for other matters connected therewith. I do not think that I need detain your Lordships very long on this Bill, particularly having regard to the proposal as to procedure to which I shall presently allude. The Bill of which I am in charge deals with what is known as the social evil. For the main principle of the Bill I think I may say that I am almost sure of enlisting the sympathy of your Lordships. You will remember that last year in the House of Commons a Bill of this kind was introduced by the Home Secretary and passed its Second Reading, and was also considered for several days in Grand Committee, but the subject was full of difficulties and encountered some direct hostility, while even amongst those who were supporters of the Bill there were some whose opinions differed very much. There was in consequence a danger of its taking up so much Parliamentary time and of the proceedings being so protracted that it was unable to be passed through its remaining stages.
953 My noble friend Lord Beauchamp has another Bill dealing with a kindred subject on the Notice Paper to-day. If his Bill is read a second time, he has given notice of his intention to move that it he referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament. I was unaware that I ought to have put down a Notice for a similar procedure in regard to this Bill, but if I have fallen short of that duty I apologise to your Lordships. If, however, you see well to pass this Bill a second time, I shall ask that both of these Bills be referred to the Joint Select Committee. I think that there are good reasons for that suggestion. These are disagreeable matters to discuss across the floor of the House; though, of course, that should not and would not deter us from discussing this particular Bill in regard to which there has been so much difference of opinion. But in the circumstances it is safe to say that we might have more useful discussions in a Select Committee, that we might gain further opportunities of knowledge from investigation, and also that we might be able to avail ourselves of the experience and evidence of ninny expert and other witnesses, and especially of social workers. I think, therefore, that such a course would help to elucidate one of the most difficult problems that we have to encounter, and also perhaps help us to secure a certain amount of agreement. I might remind your Lordships that the Bill when it emerges from the Joint Committee would then go through the various stages in this House.
In regard to this Bill, I may make the changes proposed in the law more simple and clear if I recall to your Lordships the debate which took place in this House four Years ago on the Motion of the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London, who then introduced a Criminal Law Amendment Bill. That Bill was read a second time after an interesting discussion, and it went either through Committee or partially through Committee, but the right rev. Prelate eventually withdrew it. His Bill laid down four propositions—(1) to make it an offence to commit an act of indecency with a girl of sixteen whether she consented or not; at present consent is a good defence for an indecent assault if the girl is thirteen or over; (2) to make carnal knowledge of a girl under 18 a criminal offence; this generally is described as raising the age from sixteen to eighteen; (3) to abolish the defence that a man, having defiled a girl under age, had reason 954 to believe that she was of the age or over it; (4) to extend from six months to twelve months the time within which proceedings could be taken against a man charged with an offence.
Those of your Lordships who have had time to peruse this (the Government's) Bill will see that Clause 1 abolishes the plea of defence that a person under sixteen consented to the act complained of. Clause 2 withdraws as a defence the reasonable cause of belief that the age was sixteen or over, and the same clause extends the time to which I have referred just now from six months to twelve months. But the Bill does not carry out the second proposition of the right rev. Prelate to raise the age to eighteen. I merely mention this to make my reference in regard to that Bill complete. The Secretary of State knows very well that there is a certain volume of opinion in favour of raising the age to seventeen. The right rev. Prelate wished to raise it to eighteen. The Home Secretary has given that particular part of the subject the most careful consideration and has taken the best advice at his disposal, but he is unable to include that provision in the Government Bill. If it were inserted you could hardly escape from inserting the defence that a man had reasonable cause to believe that a person was of the age or over the age. Again, there is a great risk of juries not convicting. At any rate, the Home Secretary is advised that in all likelihood a large proportion of juries would not convict; for it is difficult to get convictions where the age is sixteen, to say nothing of seventeen or eighteen. Moreover, as pointed out on a former occasion when the noble Viscount and other noble Lords of legal experience took part in the debate, it might open a fruitful field for blackmailers—those ruffians who live upon the receipts of prostitutes, and who would levy their blackmail on men, young or of mature age, who had been entrapped into going with these girls, and then assert that the girls were under the age.
I come now to a clause which I venture to say is of considerable interest, Clause 3. This clause enacts that where a girl is convicted before any Court of being a common prostitute, of loitering and importuning for purposes of prostitution and solicitation, such a girl under eighteen may, until the age of nineteen, be detained in a home in lieu of punishment. The 955 clause contains provisions that such a course would be pursued only after the most careful and full inquiry and investigation by a probation officer or by a committee, of which two of the members should be women, into all the circumstances concerning the girl's home, her associations, her mode of life, her companions, and any other circumstances that may surround the case.
And I beg your Lordships to note this, that the object of the process which I have just described is not punishment, but protection. At present in such cases a fine can be imposed, or a short term of imprisonment. With great respect, I submit that both these processes fail in their objects. What happens when a girl has paid her fine? The very first thing she does is to rush to the streets to recoup herself for that loss, and if imprisonment is inflicted a girl is not unlikely to leave prison having learnt much more of vice and viciousness in ways, language, and other matters than she knew when she entered. Of course, that may be punishment, but you cannot say that it is improvement. Nor does the punishment act in any way as a deterrent. The downward path is easy; it is begun, and then the descent becomes more rapid, and the result is that utter recklessness ensues in most cases, and hopelessness, and sometimes disease.
If that is true—and I am told that it is so—I think that some other method should be found of treating these young girls who have lately become prostitutes. Perhaps this clause may help. Such homes would be specially approved by the Secretary of State, the necessary machinery for ensuring that the objects are being properly carried out would be set up, and after the careful preliminary inquiries, such as I have just mentioned, the order would be made by a Court of summary jurisdiction, an appeal lying to a Court of Quarter Sessions under the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914. I only desire in regard to this particular subject to emphasise what I said just now, that it is not by way of punishment but by way of protection for these young girls from evil men and evil women, and, I am afraid, too often the evil influences of their homes.
Regarding the particular clause which I am explaining, when the Bill was in the House of Commons the Secretary of State received a deputation. It was, as I think 956 any one would say, very representative, and as remarkable a deputation of its kind as ever sought audience of a Minister. It was introduced by the most rev. Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, accompanied by the Bishop of London and the Bishop of Winchester, by representatives of different denominations, including a direct representative of Cardinal Bourne, and also the Chief Rabbi; and another member of the deputation was a General officer who had passed a great deal of time as a young man in London and had also commanded the London District and surrounding area. There were a number of ladies also who represented the large army of social workers, including one who represented the National Union of Women Workers. It was, as I have said, a truly representative deputation. They all favoured the Bill, and they all favoured this clause except one, and that lady suggested that, while it might be a good plan, the voluntary principle would be better. But I submit that if this were to be a purely voluntary effort it would defeat its own object. No doubt an investigation such as we might hope for before a Joint Select Committee might help us because we already know that there are many homes of a voluntary nature which claim a certain measure of success. For example, I believe one is under the Church Army, which organisation supports Clause 3.
I am well aware that there is considerable opposition in some quarters to this clause, but I am inclined to believe—I am advised, indeed—that much of it conies from misconception and misunderstanding. It is suggested, for instance, that if this clause is passed no girl will be safe, and her life will not he worth living—that a girl waiting for an omnibus, or waiting innocently for a friend, or whiling away a short time in peering into the shop windows, would be liable to be seized, taken away, and incarcerated on the word of a single policeman. But, as I have already said, the policeman has to prove that the girl is a prostitute. Of course, as in anything else, certain steps or a certain line of argument may be so pursued and pressed as to make anything ridiculous, and a salutary measure may be so worked as to make it odious and oppressive. But I do not think that with the safeguards I have mentioned there should be any genuine fear on that ground, and I therefore earnestly commend Clause 3 to your Lordships.
957 Clause 4 has to do with brothels and amends the principal Act of 1885. It will be admitted, I think, that the existing penalties, which do not exceed £20 or three months imprisonment for a first offence, and £40 or four months imprisonment for a second offence, are clearly inadequate. The trade is a very lucrative one; small does, if not laughed at, are not heeded, and we have been told that in their organisations provision is made in the accounts to treat these fines as working expenses. In the Bill the penalties proposed are £100 or three months imprisonment for a first offencem, £250 or imprisonment with or without hard labour for six months for a second offence, and, as you see a little further down, line 20, "or in any such case both fine and imprisonment."
In regard to Clauses 5 and 6, which deal with venereal disease, I should like to remind your Lordships that the position is much changed now from what it was when this Bill was drafted and introduced last Year. The Royal Commission, which was so ably and patiently presided over by my noble friend Lord Sydenham, made many recommendations, but those recommendations for the most part came within the responsibilities of the Local Government Board. You will remember that a Bill was passed last year which is now known as the Venereal Diseases Act, and the result was that much was done in the direction of diagnosis, treatment, and the building and organising of institutions institutions which have done admirable work, and, in many cases, much better work than a great many people anticipated. Clause 5 endeavours to cope with the evil by invoking the criminal law, and by making it a criminal offence for a person so suffering from disease in a communicable form to have sexual intercourse with any other person, or to solicit or invite any other person so to act with him or her. As your Lordships know, in the case of certain other diseases a person acting so as to spread infection commits an offence, and in the possible results to the race, to say nothing of the inherent horror of the circumstances, this, I think, should also be made an offence. It may, of course, be difficult to prove a charge, especially where the defence is set up of a plea of ignorance of communicable form. Your Lordships will also see that there may be a remand for a medical examination by the person's own doctor or a prison doctor. This applies to both sexes.
958 By Clause 6 an offence under Clause 5 is added to the list of offences which afford a ground for judicial separation under the Summary Jurisdiction (Married Women's) Act, 1895. Clause 7 is really for the simplification of arrangement, to consolidate and slightly to amend the Indecent Advertisements Act, 1889, and the Venereal Diseases Act of last session. With regard to the latter in its dealing with advertisements of bogus remedies, it increases the penalties, extends the scope of the Act by way of advertisement of the matters dealt with, and includes among such persons abortofacients and premises used for immoral purposes. These proposals led to very considerable controversy last Year. Dealing afresh now with the matter, we have to treat it on the lines of the Indecent Advertisements Act and the Venereal Diseases Act. Therefore subsection (1) reproduces all material powers of the Indecent Advertisements Acts, and extends them by including a penalty for the publication of indecent matter for transmission by post. Subsections (2), (3), and (4), reproduce Section 2 of the Venereal Diseases Act, and covers the ground of Section 5 of the Indecent Advertisements Acts. Penalties are also imposed in respect of abortofacients and premises used for immoral purposes. The long list of exceptions in the Venereal Diseases Act is replaced by a simpler and a more comprehensive formula—"any drug, appliance, substance, or thing."
Looking forward to your Lordships agreeing to my proposal that these two Bills should be refereed to a Joint Select Committee, I think perhaps, having dealt shortly with these clauses, I have said enough to enlist your sympathy for the principle of the Government's Bill and to obtain your support for its Second Reading. I am very sorry that last year the Bill, about which a great deal of trouble was taken and in which a great deal of interest was shown, did not pass through its various stages. I was allowed to attend the meetings of the Grand Committee, and I was very much astonished at the enormous number of differences of opinion—not necessarily very large—and the shoal of Amendments that appeared on the Notice Paper. It has been said over and over again that you cannot make people moral by Acts of Parliament. That is as true to-day, of course, as it is was when somebody first coined that phrase. But other 959 and moral forces must be employed. They have already been long at work, and I believe that they will always play the greater part in the solution of these most difficult problems. I hope that by proceedings in the Joint Select Committee some greater measure of agreement may be reached, and that the Bill may so emerge as to prove of real help to those devoted people who have so disinterestedly and for so long persisted in their labours in distressing circumstances to try and improve the social conditions. I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.(Viscount Sandhurst.)
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, as the noble Viscount has reminded the House, I had a good deal to do officially with the proceedings upon the former Bill brought in by the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London. I remember well that upon that occasion our difficulty in the debate was that the really crucial considerations turned on questions of detail in the clauses. As to the general principle, the House was very much agreed. The difficulties arose on the question of how to express and how to apply them.
I rise now for the purpose of making a suggestion. We have two Bills here. If the House agrees to the broad principle which underlies these Bills—namely, that the Criminal Law requires amendment in this respect, then the noble Viscount proposes on behalf of the Government that both Bills should be read a second time and should go to a Joint Committee of the two Houses. The result of that would be that the Bills will emerge as, I hope, a single Bill, and be put into a form, after consideration, in which we shall not he left straggling at large over details to the extent that is inevitable if we are discussing two Bills which attempt to deal with the principle in different ways. Therefore we shall be in a very much better position—first, because we shall have the Bill in considered form before us, and one Bill instead of two; and, secondly, because we shall be able to discuss the Bill as fully as at the present stage, with the advantage of noble Lords who have taken part in the proceedings of the Select Committee to assist us with the knowledge that they have acquired. I would suggest to your Lordships, therefore, that if you think the plan a good one we should not try to discuss 960 these Bills in detail now, but should reserve the discussion until we get the Bill as put into shape by the Joint Committee, when we shall he able to apply our minds to it with better effect than I think is possible if the two Bills are before us as they are to-day.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, very much has been done at the present time on the medical side to combat the grave national danger which arises from venereal disease, but there is a great deal of necessary legislation dealing with that matter which so far has been much too long delayed. As the noble Viscount has said, on July 6, 1917, the most rev. Primate took what was really a very remarkable deputation to meet the Home Secretary. He has described the persons who were present, and I think that no more representative body covering every aspect of these questions has ever been presented to a Minister of State. That deputation came to urge upon His Majesty's Government the speedy passing of the Criminal Law Amendment Bill as it left the Select Committee of the House of Commons. There was, I think, only one dissentient to one small detail of that Bill. All the rest of that deputation of sixty persons, representing thirty-six different philanthropic societies in London, were agreed. The Home Secretary expressed his complete agreement with the object of the deputation, and he added this—I assure you that there is no idea of the withdrawal of the Bill. I am confident that the vast majority of opinion in the House of Commons is favourable to the Bill.Ten months have elapsed since that deputation went to the Home Secretary, and invaluable time has been meanwhile lost. Measures which would certainly have helped in a great degree to check the increasing spread of venereal disease among the population have been held up during all those months, although by far the greater number of them met with no opposition of any kind.
I welcome the introduction of these two Bills because I think that they are overdue, but I deeply regret the great delay which has occurred in dealing with the matters with which these Bills are concerned. Much has been done meanwhile to enlighten the public generally as to the nature of venereal disease, its consequences, its treatment, and its grave effects upon the national health and 961 efficiency. The Local Government Board, as I think your Lordships all know, with the assistance of the hospital authorities, has set up clinics in every great centre of population, and the principle of free treatment for these diseases has been established in this country, but legislation on certain lines is still most urgently needed, and, though many plain warnings have been given, the means for combating the disease in this country are still inadequate and in some respects unsatisfactory. When peace comes I am afraid that the difficulties with which we shall be confronted will be most formidable, and the necessary legislation therefore seems to the on all grounds to deserve to be placed in a high category and to be treated, as it really is, as an urgent war measure.
I note that the Government Bill has been somewhat changed from that which passed the Select Committee of the House of Commons, and some of the changes, I think, are not quite desirable. I will mention only two points, although afterwhat was said by the noble and learned Viscount I have no desire to go into detail. The questions upon which I wish to say a word are really of importance and of principle. Clause 3 as it originally stood gave power to detain young girls under the age of eighteen when convicted of certain offences under the existing law, and to place them in approved homes, which were never to contain prostitutes over twenty-one years of age. That clause, to my mind, created no new offence, but merely provided that in place of being sent to prison, as now occurs—and I know that many magistrates dislike sending these girls to prison—these girls might be brought under kindly influences, medically treated if necessary, and helped to regain their position as useful citizens.
Unfortunately, a storm of opposition was raised to any form of compulsory detention except that of a prison, and it was raised by quite a small body of voluble objectors. The Home Secretary said with perfect justice that the attack on this clause was "based upon misunderstanding and to some extent upon misrepresentation." He pointed out that a London morning paper had said that he and the President of the Local Government Board—solemnly proposed to put it in the power of the police to arrest any girl who paused to look in a shop window, or who dared to wait on the kerb for an omnibus.962 Misrepresentation could hardly go further than that. No additional powers of any kind were given to the police; the only object of the clause was to prevent young girls from being sent to prison, and to give them a new chance to reclaim their lives. The effect of this organised opposition to the clause was to hold up the Bill for ten months, and a very heavy responsibility rests upon the agitators for the serious results of that long delay. Clause 3 as now altered is improved in many respects, but it now includes common prostitute, as there defined, and makes it very difficult to deal with a large class of girls who are in special need of those ministrations which kindly treatment in homes can best provide.
Clause 5 embodies a most important new principle, because it makes the communication of venereal disease an indictable offence; but there is a very proper proviso that no person shall be convicted if he or she can show reasonable grounds for believing himself or herself free from disease in a communicable form. This clause has been altered by striking out the words "or wilfully communicate such disease in any other manner to any person." The effect of this is to exclude indirect means of communicating disease from the operation of the clause. There is ample evidence of the danger to innocent persons thus caused, and some very bad eases of the infection of children have been recently brought to my notice. I think this alteration is a real defect in the Bill.
If I may say a word about the Bill which the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, is about to introduce, I think it is a most valuable and complete compendium of all the measures that can be taken for combating these evils in their several aspects. I do not think all the measures which are proposed are practicable at the present time, but they deserve very careful consideration, and I am sure that they will get it at the hands of the Select Committee, to which, therefore, I hope that both Bills will be referred.
I wish, however, to make one appeal to the Government of which I have given my noble friend notice. There has been, as I have said, far too much delay in dealing with legislation, and that delay has led to harm which I fear is now irremediable. I therefore urge that Cause 1 and Clause 5, or, if the Government prefer, Clause 5 only, 963 of the Bill as it left the Select Committee of the House of Commons may be made into a separate Bill and proceeded with as rapidly as possible. I believe that these clauses will meet with no opposition, and they are very important and might have an immediate effect in the direction in which we feel we must now move.
One result of passing Clause 5 would he to dispose of the strong objection which has been raised to Regulation 40D of the Defence of the Realm Act. The objections to that Regulation were forcibly stated the other day in this House and were brought out in strong words elsewhere. It is contended, and with much force, that this Regulation differentiates unjustly between the sexes, because while sailors, soldiers, and women are penalised, civilians who may infect women escape scot-free. On the other hand, Clause 5 places the two sexes in a position of absolute equality before the law, and if the Government would secure the passing of this clause with the least possible delay I believe the result would be most salutary. As the noble Viscount said, it is quite impossible to make people moral by Act of Parliament, but if the law brands the communication of a loathsome disease as an offence there will be at least a strong deterrent from some forms of immorality.
These matters are vital to the nation now and in respect of the years to come. There has been, unfortunately, a marked increase in the spread of these diseases, and they are, as we must remember, diseases which sap the vigour of the nation, which directly and indirectly check the birthrate, and which cause a terrible sum total of human suffering, combined with immense economic loss. I am afraid there can be no doubt that this increase of infection during the war implies some lowering of the standard of public morality, but I am convinced that public opinion is becoming wide awake to the peril which arises from these most insidious and devastating diseases, and I am sure that the Government will find strong support, especially among the working classes, in pressing forward this necessary legislation as urgent war measures. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will accept the suggestion which I have made. In doing that, we should save time, which is most valuable at the present critical moment.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I should like to say a few words upon this Bill, not that I am going to oppose the Second Reading of it, but because I think the great difficulties of dealing with a matter of this kind have been somewhat underrated; also, with reference to what Lord Haldane said, although no doubt many matters will have to have special inquiry in some form of Committee stage, yet really there are three or four points of principle in the Bill as it stands to which I should like to call your Lordships' attention. It is always a difficult matter when you are going to convert acts of immorality into criminal acts. Speaking for myself, I think you ought to be very careful when you embark on a course of that kind, and above all things you ought to have in your mind not the idea of punishment but the idea of reformation. If you are merely going to bring in the idea of punishment you further degrade persons, already immoral, into the position of criminals, and personally I must say there is no class for whom I have greater sympathy, as regards the need for reform and protection, as against their being made criminals, than I have for the unhappy women who are dealt with largely in this Bill. We have to recollect this—and I may as well state it quite clearly—that neither sexual incontinence nor prostitution is in itself a crime at the present moment, and with some experience of Criminal Law I should strongly oppose its being made a crime.
From that point of view I come to the first point of principle, which I think is a very important matter. Subsection (1) of Clause 2 says—Reasonable cause to believe that a girl was of or above the age of sixteen years shall not be a defence to a charge under Sections five or six of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885.The result of that is to create a new offence altogether. You make a man guilty who has neither guilty knowledge nor guilty desire, and I must say I agree in this respect entirely with what I think is contained in Lord Beauchamp's Bill—the rival Bill—where there is no provision which prevents its being a defence to say there is reasonable cause to believe that a girl is over a fixed age. I protest most strongly against this provision in the Government's Bill, because I think that nothing but harm will result from it.
Let me upon this point refer to what was said by the Home Secretary on the 965 occasion to which the noble Viscount referred, when the deputation came before him. He said this—and I want to deal rather carefully with the Home Secretary on that pointI knew and I still believe that both to raise the age of consent to seventeen—mind you not sixteen, but seventeen—and to abolish the defence of reasonable cause would be a grave error.It appears to me that immediately the Home Secretary has said this, he has practically given up the case for abolishing what has been known as the defence of "reasonable cause." Suppose he says that you have seventeen and then that "reasonable cause" is a sufficient protection to some young person who is not thinking of doing any harm, why should it not be a protection when the age is sixteen? I cannot see any difference in principle between the two cases.
But then the Home Secretary said this as regards the present law. He said the effect of the "reasonable cause" defence is that there have been too many acquittals, and there has been much difficulty in enforcing the law. When a defence of this character is raised, it is a question for the jury whether the "reasonable cause of belief" that the girl is above the standard age has been proved or not. I think the jury a very proper tribunal to determine a common sense business of that kind, and I am totally against Bills of this sort being introduced, not merely as a measure of reform, but a measure which might lead to blackmail on the one hand and undue punishment of a young fellow who has not really committed any crime in the sense of jurisdiction on the other. Therefore as a matter of principle I hope that this proposal that "reasonable cause" shall no longer be a defence will be deleted from the Bill in its final form. You are making a man a criminal who has not guilty knowledge, and I think that ought not to be done in a Bill of this character.
The next matter of principle—there has been no explanation of it—is this. Why is twelve months now put in subsection (2) of Clause 2, whereas the present law says six months? This, again, is an inducement to blackmail. Surely, if an offence of this kind has been committed, one knows from practical experience in trying these cases that a complaint is made at once in a genuine case; it is made practically immediately. I hope that this extension of 966 time will not be granted. I do not believe that it is any protection with regard to the matter with which the Bill is designed to deal, and I think also it is a case in which blackmail may arise.
Clause 3 contains a matter of considerable principle. If this clause carried out what the noble Viscount suggested I should be entirely in favour of it. I think that what we want to have are homes of this character for the purpose of reformation as against imprisonment, which practically leads to greater degradation. But what I want to point out is this—and this, I think was the real reason why Mrs. Bramwell Booth objected to it at the deputation to which the noble Viscount referred—there is no guarantee that there will be any such homes at all. The Home Secretary said to the deputation that he hoped the Government might provide some funds so that these homes might be equipped, but in the Bill as it stands there is no guarantee of these homes. What you are doing is this. You are creating a new offence under the plea that you are going to provide for reformation in these homes, whereas under the Bill itself we have no guarantee that any such homes will ever be provided. What I want to make clear, in the fist place, is that if you are to have a provision of this kind—in my opinion a most important provision—that these poor girls should be sent not to a prison but to a home, you should make it a term of the Bill that such homes should be provided of a proper character to which they can be sent. There is absolutely no guarantee of that kind in the Bill at the present moment.
Secondly, I should like to make it quite clear on Clause 3, which I think is a very important clause, that if you provide these homes, it is only optional that girls who are thought to be under eighteen may be sent to them. I would make it imperative. These girls ought not to be sent to prison. It ought not to be in the power or jurisdiction of any Court or magistrate to send the girls to prison. There is the alternative of reformatory homes to which they could properly be sent. I speak strongly on the point, because I do say we ought to have the greatest sympathy with the poor girls with whom we are dealing in this Bill. If the Bill is looked at, you will see that the whole matter is in the option of the magistrate, who in lieu of awarding punishment may send the girls to a home. Take that option out and say that girls in this un 967 fortunate condition are to be dealt with in properly equipped homes, and then I think some real reformation may be introduced in the terms of this Bill. I want to say one more word as regards Clause 3. The noble Viscount says there is no new offence created under Clause 3. There is certainly a new offence created under Clause 3. If you will excuse me for saying so, 3 (b) is an old offence—that is, being a prostitute and behaving in a riotous or indecent manner—but being a common prostitute and loitering is not an offence at the present time.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I thought the noble Viscount did. Clause 3 creates a new offence of a very serious kind against these poor girls. Although you provide a reformatory home you create a new offence and make them have a criminal taint, and they have to go to prison. I do not call that reformation; I call it cruelty. I do not call that improving morality, but increasing crime. There is another matter which requires more careful consideration in Bills of this kind, and that is to see that where they are reformatory in the true sense they carry out the undertakings which have been given. I say without hesitation that the Bill as it stands gives no guarantee for these reformatory homes. I apologise to the noble Viscount. I thought he stated that the Bill created no new offence, but it does create an offence which is not known to the law at the present time. When this matter was before the Borne Secretary, if I recollect aright he said that the question dealt with under Clause 3 ought to be dealt with only by a Quarter Sessions or Court of Appeal. My own view is the other way, and that when these poor girls, under the age of eighteen, are brought up before the magistrates, there ought to be proper homes of a reformatory character provided, and they ought to be bound to send them there. There ought to be no power of sending them in the alternative to the ordinary prisons. I will not trouble your Lordships with all the terms of this Clause, but I think the provisions throughout are most unsatisfactory and do not carry out the purposes which the noble Viscount has in view.
Then as regards Clause 4, which relates to the owners of brothels, my only comment on it is that I think the penalties should be 968 much higher. I can never understand why brothel-owners, who are at the bottom of this abominable traffic, are not more severely dealt with. Even now on the third conviction they have the option of a fine, and the maximum imprisonment is only for a term of one year. Contrast that with the penalties in Clause 5, which deals with a very important subject. I do not want to differ from what Lord Sydenham said that you have a dangerous matter to deal with, but I ask your Lordships to consider for a moment how the Bill proposes to deal with it. As the Bill now stands it is a monstrous proposal. Clause 5, subsection (1), refers to a person who is suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form, and who under these conditions solicits or invites any other person to have sexual intercourse with him or her. That is to say, any young fellow or any girl—I do not care about the sexes—who is said to have solicited or invited a person under those conditions to have sexual intercourse is liable to the penalties of the clause. Now what are the penalties? Compare them with the penalties under Clause 4. A person who solicits under these circumstances, and there may be a great doubt about the solicitation, can have two years' imprisonment, whereas the brothel-keeper can have only twelve months.
The noble Viscount will also see that by subsection (4) of the same clause an offence under this clause shall be deemed to be an offence under Section 19 of the Larceny Act, 1916. Now that section contains the highest punishment known to the law—namely, penal servitude for life—and the suggestion is that as regards these new offences which are to be dealt with two young people, one of them soliciting the other, might have either two years imprisonment or penal servitude for life. What do your Lordships think of a proposal of that kind? I want most distinctly to say that I would not leave such discretion as that to His Majesty's Judges, let alone to other tribunals, because it is notorious—I say it without any fear of contradiction—that this is a matter about which an enormous difference of opinion exists as regards the amount of sentence which ought to be given. One Judge will give a month while another will inflict a penalty of ten years penal servitude. It is inconsistent with every notion of our Criminal Law that in dealing with offences of this 969 kind for the first time you should give any one the power of sending any young fellow or girl into penal servitude for life, or imposing the maximum term of imprisonment of two years. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, who said there were provisions against the spread of disease. That is quite true; but what are they? In the case where the man is concerned, £5 is the maximum penalty. There are no cases where the spread of disease can be punished by penal servitude for life, or by two years imprisonment.
I think it is perfectly monstrous to have a punishment of this kind, and if it is included in the Bill I think there will be no prosecution under the clause at all. It is quite clear that the clause will lend itself very easily to the principle of blackmail, because the blackmailer can now say, "You must pay my demands or you are likely to have penal servitude for life." I think there will be new opportunities for blackmail. In proviso (b) it is said there must be corroboration in some material particular. That is a very vague phrase which is known in the administration of law in this country. As regards Clause 7, which deals with advertisements, I have riot a work to say. It is really nothing more than is in force at the present time. I hope on all these points, which it think it is necessary should be brought to your Lordships' attention at an early stage, the Bill may be amended.
I want to say one word with regard to sending the Bill to a Joint Committee. This is a Bill which has started in your Lordships' House and it ought to be kept here. We should have the Committee stage in this House, and for this reason. Your Lordships' House is well equipped to deal with legal questions of this kind, as a considerable number of members have experience either as Judges or as chairmen of Quarter Sessions, and though I should not be prepared to oppose the proposal which I understand the noble Viscount is to make I will ask him to reconsider it. We have ample time in this House to deal with a Bill of this kind in Committee. It is a Bill which raises questions of principle, and I shall be very disappointed if these important matters are not dealt with in this House itself, apart from being sent to a Joint Committee. I do not oppose the Bill, but I hope we shall have Amendment on the points to which I have drawn your Lordships' attention.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, in spite of the able criticism which we have just heard, I hope the Government will not be at all discouraged from proceeding with this Bill. I ought in gratitude to thank them for embodying three out of the four proposals which I brought forward in my own Bill in 1914. I am sorry that the fourth point is left out, but I feel certain that public opinion, especially backed up with the full pressure of 6,000,000 women's votes, will soon raise the age of consent at least to seventeen. Still, I am not going to argue that point to-day, because the Government have not seen fit to put it in the Bill.
I would like to meet the possible criticism of some noble Lords who may ask, Why have any legislation at all? I was twitted by the Leader of the House not long ago with having a child-like belief in legislation. I can assure your Lordships that after thirty years work in London I am not so mistaken as to what the law can and cannot do. We who are in the midst of the practical work know that it is only moral and spiritual influences which can raise any one, and we only come to this House to ask for help when there is some "stone" on the people which prevents us getting at them. Legislation has a very subsidiary part to play. If I may use a scriptural illustration, it cannot raise Lazarus but it can take away the stone. There are five stones proposed to be taken away in this Bill. I represent every Christian denomination, Roman Catholics, and Jews, all of whom sit with me every month over this matter, and I come here as a practical worker speaking for practical men and women to ask your Lordships to give us this help.
The first stone is with regard to the raising of the age of consent for assault upon these children. Lord Parmoor did not criticise that, and I presume that he agreed with it. I think that your Lordships hardly realise the number of children who are injured in this way. I quoted last time Mrs. Bramwell Booth, who spoke of the Salvation Army receiving 316 children under sixteen who had been so assaulted in twelve months. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children had during the last six years had an annual average of 400 ewes reported to them, and in the Church of England we have special homes for the same kind of case. We are grateful that this great difficulty, 971 this first stone, is to be taken out of our way, so helping us to deal with these particular cases. Then I must entirely differ from the noble Lord, Lord Parmoor, that these changes with regard to reasonable cause of belief and the extension of the age are unnecessary. I can say that all the workers of all denominations who are dealing with this feel convinced that they are necessary. A barrister of great experience gave instances not long ago of a great number of men who had escaped under one particular clause, the reasonable cause of belief clause, and the Association of Poor Law Unions of England and Wales, a body which no one can accuse of taking what may be called a too Churchy view, recently reported as follows—The Council and Association in 1912 considered and agreed: that having received into the workhouse lying-in wards several girls under the age of fifteen and sixteen, and being informed in every case that no action could be taken for prosecuting the offenders responsible for their condition, the six months limit having expired before the entry of the girls into the workhouse and consequently before the discovery of the offence by the guardians, the guardians desire to call attention to the absolute necessity for extending the time for proceedings under the Children Act, 1908, in such cases from six months to twelve months, the present limit being adopted to ensure as far as possible the immunity of offenders.The Council a year after that reaffirmed their former decision and called upon members of the Government to deal with the matter without delay. I am sure that Lord Parmoor is absolutely sincere with regard to this matter, but I am bound to give on the other side the experience of those hundreds of practical workers that this must be changed, otherwise the offender again and again escapes unpunished.
I come to the famous third clause, and I would like, in order that your Lordships may really understand how urgent this is, to picture to you what takes place before a very well-known magistrate. I have no difficulty in mentioning his name, for I believe his speech has been sent to your Lordships. He is Mr. Cecil Chapman, and he recently spoke of what takes places in his Court every morning. He said—I ask you, ladies and gentlemen, what am I to do? Girls stand before me one after another, morning after morning. I send for a girl's mother from Northumberland or the North. I have the mother down. I pay for it out of the poor box or from some other source, and so get the parent down. I plead with the girl, and the mother pleads with the girl. The girl says, "No, I 972 prefer to go on with my life." Now am I really to sit down and listen to that? Am I to say there is no power whatever to save that girl from herself? Am I to leave her to go and to have her own way?I think that when your Lordships picture this happening to hundreds of girls morning after morning you will feel that we must do something for the sake of the girls. We want to help them, to drag them away from this life, and put them into some home where they can be brought up in the kindest possible way, and where they can have a real chance of moral reformation.
I know the three attacks which have been made upon this clause. The first line of attack is that you are only punishing the women, and leaving the men to go unscathed. I personally stand and always have stood for equality of treatment for men and women, and I believe that our laws have been too unjust to the women. But as a matter of fact we find this answer from Sir Reginald Brade, Secretary to the Army Council, with regard to a very similar case—In the case of the infected woman she is only liable to a fine of £100 or six months imprisonment, and it is necessary for the soldier concerned to give evidence in open Court against the woman. On the other hand, if the woman has been infected it will only be necessary for her to communicate with the soldier's Commanding Officer either personally or anonymously to secure the immediate medical inspection of the suspected man, who, if found to be suffering from venereal disease, is liable to a penalty of two years imprisonment with hard labour without the option of a fine.It is, therefore, a mistake to suppose that the man is being let off. When this question comes up in Committee, I shall be prepared to go into it in more detail. It is not fair to say that we are acquiescing in the guilt of the woman alone, and in her alone being punished, and in the man being let off entirely.
Lord Parmoor has criticised the homes and rather hinted that there would be none forthcoming. But we have already existing and working, I would ask the noble Lord to notice, homes where the detention is compulsory and yet voluntary. Here, for instance, is the account (which I believe has also been put into the hands of your Lordships) of the Queen Elizabeth Home, a rescue reformatory school for girls, carried on under the care of the Church Army—One aspect of this voluntary detention is apt to be overlooked. The girl who enters a home is not altogether a free agent. In numberless instances such a girl after being wisely influenced 973 and carefully trained to be a useful member of the community is, against her will, removed from the borne by undesirable relations.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
This home has for its leading principles self-government, personal liberty, and progressive freedom.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I think I pointed out that every one ought to go to a home, and that homes should be provided.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
The noble Lord rather hinted that there were no such homes. I am actually describing one that is in existence. Therefore, I feel that we must not be misled, or led away from the usefulness of such homes, and induced to believe that no such homes have been established. We must realise that some are actually in existence at this moment.
There is another objection to which the noble Viscount who introduced the Bill alluded. He thought that some girls merely loitering and looking into windows might be taken up by mistake. I myself heard the Home Secretary make the assertion which I have in print before me—We have inserted, or we propose to insert if the House of Commons agrees, some further safe-guards. We propose to confine the operation of the clause to those who are in fact leading bad lives. And that would have to be proved; so that no one could say that an innocent girl, by some accident of behaviour in the streets, could become subject to this provision. Secondly, we propose that the Order shall be made not at once by the magistrates, but after inquiry by a higher Court, the Court of Quarter Sessions, whose duty it will be to consult the probation officer or a Committee formed for the purpose which would be bound to include women. Thirdly, I quite agree that there must be some provision for the interim detention of a girl so that in the interval between the charge being made, and the Order being made under the section, she shall certainly not require to be dealt with as if she had in fact been committed to a home.I am sure that we can trust the Home Secretary who made that speech to see that this difficulty will be safeguarded. Having faced the three objections brought against the clause, I am prepared to ask your Lordships to pass it in order to assist us in rescuing and helping the girls whom we seek to help.
I will deal very shortly with the last two difficulties to be removed by the Bill. One 974 has been powerfully backed up by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor. I wrote a letter to The Times a few months ago calling attention to what I described as a disgraceful fine of only £20 upon a woman who had been proved to be making thousands a year by keeping a brothel. The magistrate quite rightly wrote to me a gentle expostulation privately to say that it was all that he was allowed to give. But when you think of that miserable fine and of the woman who was raking in thousands of pounds by her trade you must all admit that Lord Parmoor is not wrong when he says that, if anything, the Bill errs on the side of leniency to those for whom we can have no pity, however much we may pity the innocent girl.
The last point is one that has hardly been alluded to, although it is contained in this Clause 5, and that, is the great mischief which I think your Lordships would hardly realise unless you have watched what is happening at certain shops in London from the exposure for sale of preventives and other rubber goods which the young watch, laugh over, and buy in thousands. Tremendous fortunes are in these things. We had a shop watched by our Association the other day in a certain street in London. There were hundreds of young people round it. These couples one by one went in, bought some of these means by which they can sin, as they think without any consequences—a most fatal illusion only too often, I may say—and went away. I contend that it is a positive scandal to our civilisation and Christianity to-day that these things should be sold in the open in chemists' shops all over London, and no doubt in other places too. I see both in Lord Beauchamp's Bill and in this Bill provisions which will enable us, I hope, to deal with that scandal and which will enable us to safeguard the life of the young from this most mischievous influence.
I will say no more at this stage on these five points. Those whom I represent and work with every day see great help to our work in this Bill, and they ask you to lift away these stones so that, freed from them, they may go on with their moral and spiritual work.
My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, said very truly that Bills on this sort of subject ought to be looked at very narrowly and approached with great caution. I have 975 looked at this Bill with some narrowness, and I am bound to say that on the whole it seems to me to be a Bill which may very well be supported in all its main provisions. Naturally, your Lordships are not familiar with the details of these subjects, and I therefore took the opportunity of consulting some of my friends who practise at the Central Criminal Court and who come across the kind of evil which this Bill is intended to remedy, and I furnished myself with their opinion upon it.
I should like to begin by dissociating myself from the last words said by the right rev. Prelate who has just sat down. So far as I can see—the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill will correct me if I am wrong—in this Bill there is nothing dealing with contra-conceptives, as you might call them, and personally I should be very much opposed to legislation on that subject. The right rev. Prelate said it was in this Bill, but I have not myself been able to see it in the indecent advertisements clauses. Clause 1 raises the age to sixteen, and I think there would be no objection to that. But objection was taken by the noble and learned lord, Lord Parmoor, to Clause 2, and there, I think, there is very definite danger, and almost more than a danger—an injustice—as he says in the administration of the Criminal Law, by removing this defence of reasonable cause. If your Lordships will consider for a moment what the defence is which is put before a Court, it is that the defendant says, and succeeds in satisfying the jury, that he had reasonable cause to believe that the woman was over the age of consent. Well, it seems to me that a roan in that position would have the feeling of the Court against him, and would have a good deal of difficulty in satisfying the jury that he had reasonable cause so to believe, and it seems to me that, if he had good grounds for satisfying the jury that he had such cause, it is a very proper defence for the very reason which Lord Parmoor gave—that he had neither the knowledge that he was committing the crime nor the intention of committing it. I was informed the other day by a very experienced criminal Judge who had tried many of these cases that people are actually entrapped in cases of this sort, that these girls get themselves up to look older than they are, and then come into Court for the prosecution with their hair down their back looking about fifteen, and have to admit in cross-examination that they were not dressed in such clothes nor had so 976 dressed their hair when they enticed the defendant. Probably a serious injustice would be done if this protection were removed, and that is a matter which ought to be very seriously considered. As to the limit of time being twelve months, I am aware that there are technical reasons for that, and I need not go into it.
With what the right rev. Prelate said as to Clause 3 I find myself in almost entire agreement. I think we should all wish, if possible, that girls of this sort, so young, should be, even by some sort of compulsion, given a reasonable opportunity of giving up this life. It will be noted that the clause, as now drawn, applies only to those who have actually become common prostitutes—I think I am right in saying that. It seems to me that the real dangers which lie in Clause 3 are dangers of administration, and lie perhaps at the two ends of the clause, or the two ends—shall I say?—of the proceedings. The first danger is the hastiness or the injudiciousness, or conceivably in some cases the untruthfulness, of the constable who makes the arrest and gives the evidence. That, I am afraid, we shall have to leave to the experience of the magistrates who try the cases and to the evidence which can be produced on behalf of the girl. There is a good deal of protection provided by this system of remand and inquiry from friends and relations, and so on, against accidents of the-nature of the Cass case, which your Lordships will remember. Then it seems to me that the other danger is at the other end of the proceeding, in reference to these homes. First of all it is necessary that there should be these homes, and then I think it is eminently necessary that they should, as far as possible, be not of a penal character; they should be as far as possible homes which are attractive to a girl, which provide her with work that is interesting, and which give her some interest in life, because she will already have lived an irregular sort of life, and will naturally be averse from-any regular life. And therefore, if the home is in itself unattractive and penal, you will go very far towards diminishing any possible chance of reformation, and will merely leave her with a sense of impatience.
The provisions in the clause itself as to the discretion of the magistrate seem to me to be absolutely reasonable. One knows that magistrates do not always exercise their discretion in what one might think the best way, but still the man who is 977 sitting on the Bench, and who sees the defendant before him and hears the actual circumstances, is probably on the whole far better able to judge than anybody else what is the appropriate course to be taken in a particular case, and I should be rather sorry to see that discretion interfered with. I have considerable confidence in the way in which these tribunals administer this kind of justice.
I have nothing to say on Clause 4 except to express my agreement with what was said by Lord Parmoor, but it should perhaps be subject to this proviso, which is worth remembering. Probably the majority of your Lordships when you speak of a place like a brothel think of something on the Continental model, which is run on a system of book-keeping with all sorts of elaborate arrangements, and run for profit; but you must remember that nowadays people are convicted of brothel-keeping on rather slight evidence, not by any means amounting to that—people who allow their room to be used by the women who take men home are very often convicted in London of keeping a brothel; and, of course, the gravity of the offence is very different in the one case from that which it is in the case of the Continental model; and it may be that, for this reason, it has been thought wise not to make the punishment more severe.
Clause 5 is one which it seems to me will in practice present almost insuperable difficulties. In principle, we are all of us, I think, agreed that an offence of the character described in Clause 5 is about as bad an offence as you can imagine, and one which well deserves punishment. But it is a matter for discussion in Committee rather than on Second Reading, although it is well worth calling attention to it now in order that it may be borne in mind. In discussion with my Old Bailey friends we have had a great deal of difficulty in seeing how the legal evidence will be provided that will actually convict a person of the offences which have to be charged. It is to be noticed that the offence is "suffering in a communicable form at the time of the intercourse." Anybody who thinks about that will see that there will be very great difficulty in proving that offence—in many cases an almost insuperable difficulty; and it is not made any easier by the proviso—no doubt a perfectly reasonable proviso in the case of a crime which involves such heavy punishments— 978 that the evidence must be corroborated in some material particular by evidence implicating the accused by some third person. I have very great difficulty in seeing what third person will be available and on what particular material he can corroborate so as to constitute that offence. If the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill will ask the Home Office to consider this with the able advice they have, they will see that the matter is not so easy as at first sight it appears to be. I have nothing to say on the clause with regard to advertisements, of which I am entirely in favour as it stands, subject to the proviso I have made, that I understand it correctly.
It will be out of order for me to refer in any detail to the other Bill which will be before your Lordships shortly, but as I do not want to make any further observations on that Bill I think it will be convenient to say that on the whole, so far as it goes beyond or differs from the Government Bill, I prefer the Government Bill, with the exception that there are one or two minor or Committee points of which Lord Beauchamp has taken hold in this Bill, which escaped the net in the Government Bill. As to whether this Bill should go to a Joint Select Committee or be discussed in this House it is hardly for me to offer an opinion. There are points of principle involved, and it may be that after it came back from a Joint Select Committee it might be necessary to discuss them on the floor of the House. But I do believe, with a Bill which involves rather minute legal consideration and a great deal of detail, in the points being threshed out in Committee across a table in the first instance. I have no opposition whatever to offer to the Second Reading of the Bill.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I suppose it is true to say that the course which this debate has taken has brought us to the point that the only question before us is whether or no this Bill should be referred to a Joint Select Committee. Nobody has so far suggested any hesitation as to the Second Reading. I think the question of the reference to a Joint Committee is a difficult one. On the whole I am disposed to believe that we should act rightly in reading both the Bills a second time and then ask a Select Committee to consider them; partly because the very reasons which were brought up against some of the 979 clauses by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Parmoor, seemed to me so eminently points for a Committee before which evidence could be taken, besides the mere discussion across the floor of this House. Therefore I believe that we should gain a great deal by reference to a Committee.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that reference to a Committee now may involve most harmful delay. The noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, referred to the very long delay that has occurred, and is occurring, since this matter was discussed before. That delay might have been prevented had we been able to get legislation of this kind ten months ago. I feel that the reference of the matter to a Committee now has the disadvantage, although I do not think it is insuperable, of delaying legislation which might be immediately operative, by common consent. Therefore, as Lord Sydenham has suggested with great force, if I understood him rightly, it might be possible for the Committee to suggest the division of the Bill into two parts, one of which might be speedily passed by common consent while the other part was still under consideration. There is a great deal to be said for that; but we want motive power to force through a Bill like this. Remove the parts on which consent is large and you diminish the power of getting things on which consent is less. Arguments may be used either way; and, although they are fairly evenly balanced, I think we shall gain by referring the matter to a Select Committee in the way that has been suggested. There the Committee would have some of these points pressed home, and cross-examination would be possible with respect to them; points about which words have been bandied backwards and forwards to-night.
I think that nearly everybody has ceased to defend that clause which in old Bills used to give the idea of reasonable cause for supposing the age to be different. I know that it is possible to have cases prepared in the way the noble Earl described a little while ago, and that it is possible that men may be misled, even into something which Lord Parmoor described as creating a new offence, through their not knowing that they were acting criminally when they were so acting. I should take a large principle in that matter. I am not very particular to surround with precautions and extreme care a man who is sailing so near the wind as that.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
Are we here to try and guard a man who admittedly is sailing very near the wind, who is going in for fornication, and who is doing it with young girls? Are we to say that we must take care lest he has made a mistake and did not know that he was placing himself in a criminal position? Let him realise that he is doing a risky thing, that we will not protect him; and let him take a little more heed to his ways. That is what I feel, and I think it is a principle that we might fairly press. Personally I have no anxiety to safeguard that man with scrupulous care from possible dangers such as those of which we have heard, tonight.
We have been told to-day, as we always are on these occasions, about blackmail. For many years past I have asked details as to the extent of the blackmail peril. I believe the peril to be a reality, but it has, in my opinion, been exaggerated into a monster of difficulty far beyond its true proportions. The danger which is commonly spoken of that people will suffer in that way, that all kinds of efforts will be made to arrange for the blackmailing of innocent men, I believe to be greatly exaggerated. Then we pass to the question of the owners of brothels. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Pannoor, supported the Bill, and desired to make it even stronger than it is. But is there no fear of blackmail there? The owner of a brothel might be blackmailed, it seems to me, as well as other people. But I am entirely with the noble and learned Lord in desiring to strengthen the clause, notwithstanding. The owner of a house ought to know about it as well as the occupier; and if we had had our way in this House some ten years ago we should have had means, which many of us at that time wanted and which the Government of the day for the most part wanted, to secure that somebody should be registered as the owner of every house and should be ultimately responsible. We all know that the difficulty now is that nobody can find out who is the owner of the house, and therefore there is fear of bringing the thing up lest it should fall upon somebody at present out of sight. I do not want them to be out of sight. I desire that they should have the responsibility for the use of the places which are theirs, and therefore I should agree even 981 to increasing the limits of the penalties. For all these reasons I believe the questions before us are eminetly suited for discussion in a Select Committee of both Houses, and I hope that these Bills may go to such a Committee, and that the Joint Committee will then consider whether it is desirable to divide them, so as to secure that certain more urgent matters may be speedily dealt with while other matters are being considered.
THE EARL OF DESART
My Lords, I do not intend to detain your Lordships with any detailed observations on the Bill, because I think that nearly every possible point has been raised in this discussion, and if the Bill goes, as I hope it will, to a Committee, the points will be more adequately and I think better dealt with in that Committee and brought down for discussion in your Lordships' House on a subsequent occasion, I think there are many points here upon which it will be advantageous to have the opinion of men of experience in all branches of life, so as to enable us to form our opinions whether what we desire will be best attained by the Bill as it stands and what possible danger or cause for objection there exists in any particular provision therein.
With regard to the second clause, the one which may be said mainly to raise a point of principle as distinguished from a point of detail, I do think, with the very greatest respect to the most rev. Primate, that he regards rather more lightly than I should the question as to the propriety of convicting a man who quite innocently—I mean innocently in the sense of supposing he has had anything to do with a woman under age—commits this criminal offence. What he is really in that case convicted of is the act of fornication, because he has neither desire nor knowledge, and would in fact probably shrink from the act if he knew what he was doing; and therefore whether it be morally right or wrong that a man should suffer in that sense, what really he has done so far as his knowledge is concerned is merely to commit what he believes to be a perfectly legal act and one which in the society in which he moves might hardly be considered blameworthy. To make him into a criminal and inflict a penalty, although the reasons for it may be overwhelming, seems to me to be a thing which requires very full consideration before you go to that length. I think there 982 has been a tendency, and there always must be a tendency in seeking to get rid of an evil, to overlook the old principles of protection which have been the essence and spirit of our Criminal Law, and especially in these times when for the purposes of the war one has seen, to an extent which would have startled one in the old days, the shifting of the onus of proof from the prosecution to the defence.
The right rev. Prelate the Bishop of London said there had been numerous acquittals in cases affecting young girls under the Act. The question really is whether those were proper acquittals or not. That is the real question. It may be there was argument either way, but the conclusion to be drawn from what he said was that if the law had been what it was proposed to be, those people would have been convicted. I am not sure that that makes me more in love with the principle embodied in the clause. I do not at the present moment want to go further than to say that I think the subject deserves most careful consideration. With regard to the question of blackmail, which the most rev. Primate said he thought had been greatly exaggerated, I do not wish to contest that, because I do not know, and with great respect to him I do not think he knows, whether it can be so or not, because the essence of blackmail is that you do riot find it out. There can be no record of blackmail, and speaking quite as generally as he did I can only say that after over thirty years close connection with the administration of the Criminal Law I certainly should not call it by any means a "bogey." I think it is a very serious consideration that in dealing with this class of offence you must always bear in mind and never overlook the possibility of blackmail.
There is one point on Clause 1 to which I should have referred. I think when passing a definite Statute like this it would be rather a good thing to put an age limit to the person accused as well as to the accuser. A boy is capax deli at fourteen, and I do not think it is intended that a boy of fourteen should be prosecuted for an offence of this character. On Clause 3 I have really nothing to add to what has been said, or on Clause 4. On Clause 5 I see all the difficulties that were referred to by Lord Russell. I think they are very serious, but what presses on me is that apart from the case where the police or some authority may have evidence, and 983 may bring somebody under their control forcibly in to prosecute, I rather apprehend this may be very nearly a dead letter. A voluntary prosecutor or prosecutrix seems to me to be a very unlikely creation, because think of what that person has to do. He or she has to go into the witness box and swear on oath, first that he or she has been immoral, and, secondly, probably that he or she is diseased. I think very few people will face that ordeal. I, of course, am in sympathy, as everybody else must be, with the desire to punish these appalling offences, for they are appalling, but I see very great difficulties in the carrying out of what is intended by the law, and again I think in these particular cases there are very grave dangers of blackmail. They are very grave indeed, because although I think a decent person would be unwilling to prosecute, I think a professional woman, having obtained the name and address of her paramour, might threaten to charge him with communicating the disease to her. However difficult she might find it to prove that charge if it came into Court, she would so alarm the man that he would be at her mercy for the rest of his life. I recognise that something of this kind must be passed, but I confess I am afraid that it will not go far to carry out the wishes of my noble friend Lord Sydenham, or do much for the suppression of venereal disease.
I have one suggestion to make with regard to the advertisement clause; otherwise, I think it is merely the consolidation of the existing law. I do not think it hits a very grave evil. You will see in certain newspapers advertisements of people who are prepared to treat applicants for female irregularities. What it nearly always means, and what the person who goes to have the irregularity cured nears, is to stop conception or really to produce abortion. I have read this clause very carefully, and I do not think it meets that evil. They advertise no drugs and no appliances. They merely say "Come and consult me." I have made some inquiry into this, and I know that hundreds and hundreds of pounds are obtained from uneducated and ignorant people under a pretence which may he false pretence. They may give the people a harmless thing, calomel or something of that kind. It has been suggested to me that words something like this, "All advertisements likely or calculated to suggest that a medicine or treatment is to secure abortion," or some varia- 984 tion of these words, would meet the evil. I think Lord Sandhurst will find that it is not really covered by anything in the Bill.
There is another question I should like him to consider on Clause 5. Has he contemplated that it shall apply to the relations of husband and wife? I do not ask for an answer now, but I think it is a thing that ought to be considered, because the whole relations in that respect were considered in the case of the Queen versus Clarence in 1888, on the charge of occasioning bodily harm and malicious injury. All the relations of a husband and wife and how they bore on a question of this kind were discussed by a Court of thirteen judges. Whether the intention of the Government in introducing this Bill is that a prosecution for transmitting venereal disease should be extended to people in marital relations I do not quite know. If it is, I think it should be considered whether something should be done about evidence, because all you have done at present in this Bill is to import Section 4 of the Criminal Evidence Act, in which the husband or wife is a competent but not a compellable witness. If you bring husbands and wives into the section it probably would be advisable that they should be in certain cases compellable witnesses. I do not think it is in the least necessary to say more. So far as I can judge everything has been considered from all points of view, and personally I should support reference to a Committee, because I think we should get most valuable assistance and should be able to debate the Bill with greater advantage when it comes downstairs.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I want to speak only for a few minutes, because I hope the Bill will be referred to a Select Committee, where, as the most rev. Primate said, evidence can be called. I do hope that we shall not go hastily into legislation of this kind without having taken every means in our power to consult the feeling of the organised body of women in this country, and that Parliament will realise that women have now got the vote and that they intend to make their influence felt. This is a Bill which concerns women very nearly indeed, and, however important legislation may be, it will be most unwise, to put it at its lowest, to blunder into legislation of this kind without having consulted the organised bodies of women in this country. I suppose that this Bill will take the place of 985 the celebrated Defence of the Realm Regulation 40D. Will it apply to soldiers as well as civilians? I suppose it will. We will not ask for an answer now, but that is really germane to this discussion, because, if it does, certain clauses in this Bill will remove a great deal, or at least some, of the opposition which is very widely expressed against Regulation 40D.
Fisrt of all—and I believe another noble Lord is going to refer to this later—the women felt it very keenly that, so soon after they had got the vote, it was attempted to legislate on things which concerned them very nearly by an Order in Council rather than by an Act of Parliament. Rightly or wrongly, they felt that this was arbitrary, and it created a grievance. One thing about Regulation 40D which was resented by women's organisations was that it applied only to women and not to men. In this regard I should like with great respect to submit to the most rev. Primate and those who instructed him in this matter that it really is not very much protection to say that a woman who is infected by venereal disease by a soldier has a remedy by writing to his Commanding Officer. It will not quite do. First of all, in a great many cases of promiscuous sexual intercourse between a member of His Majesty's Forces and a woman, the woman does not know the name of the man, or the name of his regiment, or the headquarters of it, and I submit to your Lordships that, even if she did, whatever type of woman she was—whether she was a common prostitute, or what in the jargon of the day (I do not speak irreverently) is known as a "flapper"—she would be most unlikely to disclose her condition to anybody, and, even if she were a common prostitute, if she knew the name of the man, the last person to whom she would write would be the Commanding Officer of his regiment. These two Bills will remove some of the grievances felt under Regulation 40D.
With regard to the ultimate effect of legislation of this kind upon the opinion of organised bodies of women in this country, it is very difficult to say. That is why it is so highly desirable to refer both these Bills to a Select Committee, where the opinions of women who are qualified to speak for their sex on this very grave subject can he consulted. The other night I went to a largely-attended meeting which was addressed by people, both men and women, who know what they are talking 986 about. One speaker was a Member of Parliament who had thoroughly studied the subject. The meeting was to protest against Regulation 40D, and the whole tone of that meeting—I do not think it was right—was dead against any legislation with regard to prostitution or venereal disease in any shape, form, or description. It was quite evident that this largely-attended meeting based its objection on the old idea that any attempt to legislate, especially if it involved anything like medical examination, was bound sooner or later to revive what a very strong body of people in this country view with great abhorrence—the old Contagious Diseases Act. I do not wish to take sides about this, or with them, because I am one of those who think that legislation of some kind ought to be attempted to cope with this terrible evil, and I should like to warn the noble Viscount that that point of view is largely taken by influential people. I hope he will examine such witnesses before the Select Committee in order that he may be fully seized with their opinions when the proper time comes.
§ VISCOUNT SANDHURST
My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to say one or two words in reply to some of the observations which have been made. I think the debate has been a very helpful one. Of course, one would naturally not object to any criticism of any kind, but all the criticisms which have been made I accept in the proper spirit. In regard to what was said by my noble friend who spoke last, he knows that Regulation 40D was passed in regard to soldiers and sailors, and I believe it was pressed for by those in authority in the Overseas Forces. At least that is what the Earl of Derby gave us to understand on the last occasion when he addressed us. I have made inquiries and I understand that when this Bill comes into force, in the form in which it now is, it will supersede Regulation 40D and will therefore apply to both sexes.
The speeches to which we have listened this evening prove the extreme difficulties of the case with which we have to deal. A great amount of experienced opinion has been expressed showing the difference of opinion and the difficulties there may be in assimilating opinion, but I am grateful for the support I have received in the suggestion that the two Bills should go to one Joint Select Committee. From what I have been able to observe during the 987 debate, and from many hours observation in another place, I should almost have despaired of getting any agreement without the advantage of more evidence and the consideration before a Joint Select Committee. My noble friend, Lord Sydenham and the right rev. Prelate were afraid that the proceedings on this Bill might be rather protracted as a consequence of sending it to a Select Committee, and, Lord Sydenham inquired whether the Secretary of State in another place, or myself in this House, would not bring in a short Bill of one or two clauses. I believe it is the opinion of my noble friend that there would be very little opposition to a Bill of that character. My noble friend may be right; but, on the other hand, it is the opinion of the Home Secretary and the President of the Local Government Board that there would be considerable discussion on such a Bill at the present time. The Home Secretary, Sir George Cave, considers that the best course would be for Lord Sydenham to make the proposal to the Joint Select Committee when it is set up, and it would be open to the Committee to recommend a. short Bill of the character described. With the backing of the Committee the position of the Bill would be different, and the Government would be anxious to do all they could. As to what was said by Lord Parmoor about the creation of new offences. I should be the last person to suggest that I knew more about such matters than the noble and learned lord, but I am informed that the offences that the Bill creates are offences under the Military Police Act, 1838, and the Towns Police Clauses Act, 1847. They are Acts which are not in force over the whole kingdom. When the noble and learned Lord said that under certain circumstances a man could get a sentence of penal servitude for life, I am informed that the reference that was made really had to do with the blackmailer and not with an offence under the Bill. That is how I am instructed. I do not think I need further protract my speech. I can truly say that I am very gratified with the line the debate has taken.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a.
§ Moved, That it is desirable that the Bill be referred to a Joint Committee of both Houses.—(Viscount Sandhurst.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to: Ordered, That a Message be sent to the Commons to communicate this Resolution and to desire their concurrence.