HL Deb 07 July 1932 vol 85 cc697-707

Page 12, line 5, at end insert ("and when the child is a male, to adjudge the child to be, as soon as practicable, privately whipped with not more than six strokes of a birch rod by a constable, in the presence of an inspector or other officer of police of higher rank than a constable, and also in the presence, if he desires to be present, of the parent or guardian of the child.")

The Commons disagree to the above Amendment for the following Reason:

Because they deem it desirable that the birching of young boys by the police should be discontinued.


My Lords, we come now to the one matter on which the House of Commons has totally disagreed with the Amendment which was inserted in the Bill. It deals with the question of birching boys. I do not intend to go into the merits or demerits of whipping as a corrective of juvenile delinquencies. Your Lordships are perfectly familiar with all the arguments for and against. I propose, therefore, to devote the few words that I shall offer on this Amendment to the question whether it is desirable that your Lordships should insist upon your Amendment. I would point out that on the various stages of the Bill in the House of Commons, although divergent opinions were expressed, neither when this matter was before the Standing Committee, nor on Report or Second Reading or Third Reading did a Division take place upon this matter.

When your Lordships' Amendment was under discussion in the House of Commons there was quite a long discussion. It occupied something like two hours, and, as I have said, at the end of that discussion your Lordships' Amendment was disagreed to without any dissentient voice. I hope your Lordships will forgive me if I venture to say that I think from many points of view it would be undesirable that your Lordships should insist upon your Amendment, especially in the face of the unanimity of the House of Commons. It would, if I might be permitted to say so, put your Lordships in a rather unenviable position in the country if your Lordships figured as the body that wanted to maintain whipping. For those reasons I ask your Lordships not to insist upon your Amendment. I beg to move that this House do not insist on the Amendment at page 12, line 5.

Moved, That this House doth not insist upon the said Amendment.—(Viscount Snowden.)


My Lords, I have read and re-read many times the OFFICIAL REPORT in another place on the objections to this Amendment which was passed by your Lordships by such an overwhelming majority. I am afraid that the more I study it the less am I convinced that your Lordships were wrong in passing it. If I may detain your Lordships at somewhat unusual length I will try to deal with some of the arguments put forward against the Amendments in the House of Commons. Mr. Stanley said: The Amendment is to restore in the Bill the provisions for the whipping of boys under fourteen which we took out of the original Bill. He was addressing members of the House of Commons. It was not the House of Commons who took it out of the Bill. It was taken out as the Bill was introduced into another place. It was done by the Government without any reference to members of the House of Commons, and it was taken out in the face of recommendations to the contrary by such a sacrosanct body as a Committee appointed by Government is generally supposed to be. One can imagine what the arguments would have been supposing the Committee had recommended anything against whipping. The noble Viscount, Lord Snowden, would have shaken the document in your Lordships' faces and said "This Report is sacrosanct." Of course he would.

Then Mr. Stanley said that, although the topic was discussed, the Bill received a Second Reading without a Division. This however, is not a one-clause Bill dealing only with the abolition of the rod and it is unthinkable that its rejection should be moved solely on that ground. Then we come to the arguments that it is not the parent or the schoolmaster who administers the punishment but the policeman and also that this form of punishment is on the decrease. I can tell your Lordships why it is on the decrease. The magistrates all over the country frequently say to the father: "We have the power to whip this boy. Are you going to deal with him? If not, we will." If the power is taken away from the magistrates to inflict this punishment, this power of compromise is lost and the boy may get off without any punishment. The hon. Member talked of the boy best adapted to corporal punishment being guilty of petty offences. Surely you cannot regard endangering life or cruelty to children or animals as petty offences. Then he said there was nothing romantic in being sent to an approved school. I agree, but it is extremely expensive to the community at large and, if he repeated the offence, that would be soon enough to send him to an approved school.

Another hon. Member argued that the boy may be ordered to be whipped in one town for a less serious offence than in a neighbouring town, but you have only to read the newspapers to see that magistrates all over the country mete out different punishments, especially under the Road Traffic Act. There is no better example than the Road Traffic Act of different punishments for the same offence. I would here apologise to that hon. Member for having stated that the Young Offenders Committee were unanimous in their recommendations for I find that they were not. It was stated in another place that this is not a Party Bill. I agree but I would ask the noble Lord why the Party Whips were put on when this Amendment was carried in this House. I saw with great regret that the magistrates in one place had ordered the whipping of a small boy of eight and I shall later on have a proposal to make to your Lordships on that point, which I hope will not only appeal to your Lordships but to another place. Then it is said that the police do not like the task, but such evidence as I have been able to obtain is that they look upon it as part of their duty.

In another passage an hon. Member said of your Lordships: If they were dealing with their own sons …I would not care; but they are dealing with the sons and daughters of my class. If any of your Lordships' children were guilty of endangering the lives of others, they would certainly come before the magistrates and would be convicted. There is not very much in that argument. Then the hon. Member seems to have argued against himself, because he said: There has never been so intolerant a House of Commons as the House to-day. This House is more intolerant than it was when I came here ten years ago; and here we have the evidence of it in this Amendment. But the Amendment was rejected by the House of Commons! In another passage the hon. Member said: Think of a mother standing and looking at her own flesh and blood being whipped. She is not obliged to. It is purely optional whether she goes there or not.

Finally I come to the proposal I have to make and it is that this Amendment should read in the following terms: and when the child is a male, who has attained the age of ten years, to adjudge the child to be And so on. The remainder of the Amendment will remain as before.


My Lords, I much prefer listening to the noble Viscount who has just sat down when he is speaking on grammar than when he is speaking about whipping, and I hope very much that your Lordships will follow the advice of the noble Viscount, the Lord Privy Seal, and not insist on this Amendment being retained in the Bill. I think it will really put your Lordships in a rather ridiculous light and add another page to the jokes always being made about your Lordships' House.




In the country, I am afraid. As to this question of whipping, I was whipped when I was ten years old and it did not do me any good whatsoever. I was whipped for organising a steeplechase in the dormitory of my private school. After I had been whipped I felt very bitter resentment against the master, who obviously enjoyed whipping me, and a firm determination to organise another steeplechase as soon as I possibly could. I do not believe that it is a corrective in any way. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort, who, in support of this Amendment, went back to history in order to support the argument in favour of the rod. I do not want to go further back than the early Victorian father, with his smoking cap and slippers and a rod in his dressing room. He used to take his children by the scruff of the neck and beat them. We have given up those methods. They are the methods of the lazy man who thinks it is a short cut to use the rod when other forms—much more difficult I own—of correction are much more efficacious. I am convinced that this is a very retrograde step. It will be regarded as such in the country. There is this further point, which was mentioned by the noble Viscount who has just sat down, that the fact that a constable is to administer the punishment, not a parent or a, schoolmaster but a constable who is a complete stranger to the child, adds to the undesirability of such a punishment being inflicted. I hope very much that the advice given by the Lord Privy Seal will be followed by your Lordships' House.


My Lords, I can hardly believe that your Lordships will have been much influenced by the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down. I rarely heard a more inconclusive speech than that of the noble Lord. He thinks that your Lordships will become ridiculous in the country if you insist on a particular form of punishment which has been used by schoolmasters in all times. I happen to have had some little experience of public schools as a governor and also of other schools when I was officially connected with the Government. Schoolmasters almost without exception used to say up to a very few years ago that the one thing you wanted to do by corporal punishment was to avoid prolonged impositions, prolonged detentions and other punishments very deleterious to a boy's health. The noble Lord did not say how he would avoid this. He said that he himself was greatly embittered by being subjected to castigation for a school offence. I do not think that in that respect or in any other the peculiar mentality of the noble Lord impresses your Lordships' House.

I would mention another case which occurred to me when my noble friend below me was defending the measure on the last occasion. I remember a case exactly the opposite. My father was at a private tutor's where his father was also a pupil, and I have heard him relate that his father happened to be a very troublesome little boy. It was almost impossible to get him to do any lessons. Various impositions had been tried and then the unfortunate preceptor, who did not even possess a cane, went out into the garden and cut a green holly stick and applied it to him with such success that he became afterwards one of the best, most virtuous and most reliable boys you could wish for at a public school. I am sure my noble friend would not wish to keep from others that advantage to which your Lordships possibly owe the intellect which we have seen displayed in the debates on this Bill. I have here a cutting from one of the newspapers this morning reporting that at Ramsgate Police Court yesterday two Minster boys were fined one pound each for cruelty by mutilating swans. It is quite obvious that those boys ought to have had half a dozen strokes of the birch. What was good enough for generations of boys should not be done away with in order to save other punishments less effective and much more deleterious to the health of those concerned. I think your Lordships should not be afraid of insisting on this Amendment on which you have as much right to an opinion as any member of the House of Commons.


My Lords, I should like to say one or two words on this subject and to express the hope that we shall not insist on this Amendment. I believe that the principal argument alleged as the reason for putting in the Amendment was the illustration of the case of Solomon. Solomon had at least three hundred children. If any right rev. Prelate were here I might ask the exact number. In a family of that size it would be no uncommon thing if Solomon thoroughly lost his temper. Having to control these three hundred odd children he was quite right in acting just as modern parents act and in quoting or creating some axiom in support of what was plainly and palpably loss of temper. I can give you an instance which I think has a considerable bearing upon this matter. What you have to do with children who are difficult and who are perhaps prone to acts of cruelty is to preserve the instinct of self-respect in them. If you ruin it, if you destroy it, you have parted with your last hope of saving that child from deteriorating in character.

I myself suffered severely from the cane. I will tell you the occasion. I do not think my nervous system was especially acute. What happened was this. A master told me to come to him at noon. I was a very small boy and I had not the ghost of a notion when noon was. I thought it was nine o'clock, and I went to him at nine o'clock. He was very angry, told me to take off my coat and caned me. When he had finished I was burning with indignation and I said: "I wonder, Sir, whether this performance makes you feel as great a brute as it does me." His reply was: "Take off your coat again." That I had expected. I took it off and I stood before him again. Suddenly he changed his mind and said: "No, stay to tea with me." From that day forward I felt a certain degradation and I felt that the instinct of self-respect in me had been permanently wounded. I would ask your Lordships to consider what would be the effect upon children of these public whippings. I believe it would be to destroy the one hope you have of training these children to be useful citizens. Therefore I hope your Lordships will not insist upon this Amendment.


My Lords, I will not detain your Lordships more than three minutes. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, said he was beaten once at school. I was beaten many times at school and every time it was a deterrent, I have not heard anything from the noble Viscount the Lord Privy Seal except vague talk about the abolition of whipping. I have heard nothing to make me change my opinion that it would be a very dangerous thing to abolish whipping for juveniles. Since the Second Reading of this Bill I have taken the opinion of many people who have to administer justice in this country and almost every one of them told me that it would be a serious thing if whipping was done away with. I think that they surely are qualified to judge in this matter. I should like to put one point to the noble Viscount, Lord Snowden. He said that great discredit had been brought upon whipping. I have not yet discovered who has brought the discredit, but I do know that two days after I had had the honour of speaking on the Second Reading of this Bill I received a communication from the secretary of one of the branches of the Anti-Blood Sports League. It consisted of a long cutting from a Bristol newspaper with a large headline saying, "All Peers have been whipped" and then there was the ordinary propaganda of the organisation. The only thing I could gather was that I was a monster and your Lordships who voted against the abolition of whipping were monsters and that whipping was a blood sport. I must say that I think, and I hope your Lordships will agree, that the old motto of "Spare the rod and spoil the child" is just as true to-day as it was in the days of your Lordships' grandfathers.


I should like to correct one point in Lord Ernle's speech. He seemed to suggest that we contend that the man who himself had cause of offence might in hot temper be the person to administer chastisement. That is exactly the opposite of what is proposed.


My Lords, the speech—I think the powerful speech—of the noble Lord, Lord Ernle, disposes of one of the main arguments which induced your Lordships, I think, to pass this Amendment when it was before you some time ago. He has given emphatic reasons why Solomon believed you might spoil the child by sparing the rod, but I think none of us to-day is faced by the problem which apparently drove Solomon to this conclusion. The noble Earl who has just sat down has surely given us a very strong reason from his own experience why whipping should not be imposed. He told us that he was whipped upon a great many occasions and that it was always a deterrent. May I then ask him how it came to pass that these repeated whippings were necessary? It is evident that the first, second, third and fourth did not act as a deterrent, and if any inference is to be drawn from the remarks of the noble Lord it is that the whipping had the very opposite effect. The noble Earl wanted some evidence for the statement that whipping is discredited. It is discredited by the fact that it is falling into disuse as a punishment inflicted by the courts and for the very reason that it has been proved by practical experience not to be a deterrent.

The noble Viscount, Lord Bertie of Thame, raised one or two minor points. He said we had been told that this was not a Party Bill. If that expression was used it was not used in the sense that this was a Bill on which loyal supporters of the Government could vote just as they wished. It can only be regarded as non-Party in the sense that the provisions of the Bill are generally accepted by all Parties. It is a Government Bill and the Government is, of course, responsible for its provisions. The noble Viscount corrected an inference we might have drawn from his first references to the Report of the Committee on Young Offenders and may I therefore also make a correction? I said I was under the impression that whipping could not be inflicted on a child between the ages of eight and ten. I find that whipping can be inflicted on a child between eight and ten years of age.

I think I have dealt with the points raised since I spoke last, but I would again repeat that this is a matter on which there is a great deal of difference of opinion and I would beg your Lordships not to put this House into conflict with another place upon a matter of this sort. I think it would be a great mis-

take and there is no likelihood that the other place would be prepared to agree to your Lordships' Amendment. It is very undesirable that upon this matter there should be a conflict between the two Houses, and a conflict which might involve the loss of the Bill.


My Lords, the Reason given for the Commons disagreement is that "they deem it desirable that the birching of young boys by the police should be discontinued." We have not heard very much about that particular side of the argument, but I should like to ask the Lord Privy Seal whether this Reason means that the Commons are not opposed to birching by some other authorised person, but are opposed only when it is administered by the police. I think a good many of us would be satisfied if they would accept a modification in the sense that the birching should be given by some person authorised by the magistrates, the Home Secretary or some properly qualified person. The words seem clearly to indicate that the only objection is to birch-other person.


My Lords, I do not think the disagreement with your Lordships' Amendment could be interpreted as confined to birching by the police. Those words are put in rather as being the phrase of the Bill and I am sure that all who followed the discussion in another place will agree that the objection was to whipping by order of the magistrates. I am sure there would be no difference in the attitude of the House of Commons as between whipping by the police and whipping by some other person.

On Question, Whether the Motion, That this House doth not insist upon the said Amendment, be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 33; Not-Contents, 41.

Sankey, V. (L. Chancellor.) Poulett, E. Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)
Snowden, V. (L. Privy Seal.) Allendale, V. Ernle, L.
Mersey, V. Gage, L. (V. Gage.) [Teller.]
Reading, M. Ullswater, V. Hanworth, L.
Hay, L. (E. Kinnoull.)
Cavan, E. Alvingham, L. Joicey, L.
De La Warr, E. Arnold L. Latymer, L.
Lauderdale, E. Askwith, L. Marks, L.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Cawley, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Plymouth, E. Clwyd, L. Rhayader, L.
Ritchie of Dundee, L. Sanderson, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Rochester, L. Stanmore, L.
Templemore, L.
Salisbury, M. Bridgeman, V. Gladstone of Hawarden, L.
Burnham, V. Heneage, L.
Bradford, E. FitzAlan of Derwent, V. Howard of Glossop, L.
Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.) Irwin, L.
Addington, L. Jessel, L.
Fitzwilliam, E. Banbury of Southam, L. Lamington, L.
Halsbury, E. Barnard, L. Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)
Macclesfield, E. Bayford, L. Monckton, L. (V. Galway.)
Mar and Kellie, E. Clanwilliam, L. (E. Clan- William.) Mount Temple, L.
Midleton, E. [Teller.] Phillimore, L.
Morton, E. Cranworth, L. Somerleyton, L.
Onslow, E. Danesfort, L. Strachie, L.
Selborne, E. Darcy (de Knayth), L. Teynham, L.
Fairlie, L. (E. Glasgow.) Vivian, L.
Bertie of Thame, V. [Teller.] Forester, L. Wharton, L.
Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment insisted upon accordingly.