HL Deb 27 November 1946 vol 144 cc415-51

2.40 p.m.

VISCOUNT TEMPLEWOOD moved to resolve, That, in view of the serious increase of crime and juvenile delinquency and the urgent need for adopting more effective methods of dealing with it, this House is of opinion that a comprehensive measure of penal reform should be passed into law without delay.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I make no apology for raising the question of penal reform, and I am very glad to have the opportunity of raising it in this House where there is accumulated so great a body of expert opinion. Noble Lords will remember the history of this question in recent years. When war broke out the Government of the day was on the point of sending to this House a comprehensive Bill dealing with practically every question of penal reform. The Bill only needed a few hours of discussion to become law. The case was admitted by all three Parties at the time to be very urgent. It was indeed a tragedy that there was not time to place the Bill upon the Statute Book. I believe that if it had been placed there the situation to-day would have been a great deal less unsatisfactory than it actually is.

I shall hope in a few minutes to quote to your Lordships the more recent statistics which show a very formidable increase both in crime and in minor delinquency. The figures show that there is behind this picture a great moral problem, the basis of which is that, perhaps as the inevitable result of the war, moral standards have been lowered and, as a result, crime and delinquency have increased. It seems to me essential that we should all of us try once again to raise these debased standards. Particularly, if I may say so, is it incumbent upon the leaders of religious opinion to take a very close interest in these problems and to insist on every conceivable opportunity upon the need of making a concerted effort to improve the present position. It is also incumbent upon the Government of the day, whether it be this or any other Government, so to adapt its penal machine as to make it as easy as possible for a moral renaissance to be carried into effect.

With those introductory observations, I come to the actual position at the present moment. As I said just now, the case for certain reforms was very urgent in 1938, when, as Home Secretary, I introduced them into another place. Since then the case has become much more urgent. Let me give some figures. I take first of all the figures of convictions for indictable offences. The increase in the number of young offenders under seventeen has, during the war years, been 55 per cent. The increase in the number of offenders between seventeen and twenty-one has been 52 per cent., and the increase in the case of offenders over twenty-one has been 42 per cent. If I analyse the figures somewhat further, I find that crimes against the person have increased from 1,583 to 2,459—that is comparing 1938 with last year. Sexual offences have increased from 2,321 to 3,228; cases of receiving, fraud and false pretences have increased from 5,333 to 9,364; breaking and entering from 10,814 to 21,260; and larceny from 56,092 to 75,975.

If I make a still further analysis of the figures, I find that the increase in the case of women offenders has been even more formidable than the general increase. Offences committed by women have more than doubled in number during the war years. A sinister figure is that relating to cruelty to children. Women's convictions for cruelty to children have increased from 345 to 1,170. That is almost a fourfold increase. Larceny offences by women have more than doubled. Sentences of penal servitude upon women have more than doubled. So also has the daily population of women in our prisons.

Taking the picture a stage further and coming to young delinquents, there, again, all along the line delinquency has doubled or more than doubled. Take, for instance, cases of violence against the person and breaking and entering. In each category offences by girls have gone up more than fourfold. These facts show a very serious state of affairs. I do not suggest that they should create panic. I suppose there is bound to be an increase of crime and delinquency in the demoralized atmosphere of any great war. Home life is broken up, separations take place and marriages are dissolved with appalling rapidity. The black-out, no doubt, accounted for a substantial part of the increase to which I have alluded. But I take the very definite view that things will not right themselves automatically, that these demoralized conditions—even though the war has come to an end and even though there is no longer any blackout—will continue for some time to come. There is this very sinister fact of the number of broken homes. There is also the factor of the scarcity value of a great many ordinary commodities; this acts as a temptation to offenders young and old. As a result of studying these figures, I have convinced myself that if the case was urgent for reform in 1938, it is ten times more urgent now.

I come to the second conclusion that I draw from a very close study of these details. It is a conclusion which, indeed, was reached in 1938 and which has been confirmed over and over again during the war years—that is, that short sentences of imprisonment for the minor delinquents and repeated sentences of a more severe character for the habitual criminals have been proved to be ineffective. Here, again, I support my contention with actual statistics. I find that in the prisons of to-day there are thousands of cases of offenders with from five to over twenty previous sentences. There are one hundred women whose sentences range from five to over twenty. I am not now talking of habitual inebriates but of women guilty of more serious offences. I find, too, that in our penal servitude prisons there are 117 men with three or more previous sentences of penal servitude. When one remembers the gravity of these sentences of penal servitude it is a very significant fact that there should be these cases of men and women who, time after time, are given these sentences and yet come back to our penal servitude prisons. In view of these facts, it seems to me more essential than it was even in the years before the war that we should do our utmost to stop this crowd of offenders treating prison as if they were casual inmates of an institution, who come there time after time, to whom prison is no deterrent, and who (if they are minor delinquents) are brought into contact with the more serious criminals and gradually drift from the path of minor delinquency into that of the hardened criminal.

I cannot help remembering that when I was Home Secretary I made a visit to Dartmoor, and spent a considerable time in going through the records of the most serious criminals in the prison. Almost without exception, the story was the same. First of all some quite minor delinquency; a day or two's sentence, perhaps a week or two's sentence, in the ordinary prison, just enough to remove its deterrent effect, just enough to give the young delinquent the glamour of having had an adventure in prison, and just enough to give him the chance of losing the idea that prison is a disreputable affair. And so these young delinquents gradually drift into the most hardened criminals that we have in the country.

If that be so, when the whole body of expert opinion is against sending the young to prison, it is a very unfortunate fact that during the war years more and more of the young were given sentences of ordinary imprisonment. I give the House the figures of the offenders under twenty-one. In the year 1938, 1,226 boys were sent to prison; in the year 1944, the figure had risen to 3,021.


What age?


Under twenty-one and over fourteen. Now, let me give your Lordships the figures for girls between fourteen and twenty-one. In the year 1938, only 88 girls were given sentences of ordinary imprisonment. In the year 1944 (the last year for which statistics are available), the figure had risen more than ten times, to 904. How necessary it is, in view of those figures, to go back to the provisions that I introduced in 1938. They were not based on my own personal opinions, but upon the views founded upon a series of inquiries started by my predecessors—and particularly by the two noble Viscounts on my right, Lord Samuel and Lord Simon—the general body of agreement being that the first essential in the matter of penal reform is to keep the young out of the ordinary prisons.

Accordingly, we made proposals based upon the exertions of my predecessors, and upon the results of those expert inquiries, the effect of which would have been to prohibit courts of summary jurisdiction sending to prison any boy or girl under the age of sixteen, and only after special safeguards had been taken to satisfy the Home Office that there was no other effective means of dealing with the offenders in the case of boys and girls between sixteen and twenty-one. If a proposal of that kind is to be carried into effect, it is obvious that we must improve our present methods of punishment. Accordingly, as a necessary part of the first objective of keeping the young out of prison, it is necessary to take a number of other steps. I will not weary your Lordships with a mass of detail this afternoon; I will merely enumerate those steps very shortly and, I hope succinctly.

First of all, there are a number of improvements and developments which ought to be made in the law of probation. I have never been one of those people who regard probation as a kind of acquittal. My view has always been that probation is a serious affair, that it should take place after a definite conviction, but that the conviction should be erased if the period of probation is satisfactorily undertaken, and the probationer really shows that he is trying to turn over a new leaf. I will not, however, go into these minor details about probation, but your Lordships may take it from me that there are a number of changes which ought to be made in the law, with a view to making the system more definite, more comprehensive and more methodical. Next, my Lords, there is need for a further extension of remand homes to which the young can be sent, pending a decision about their ultimate treatment. I myself do not believe that this proposal would involve any substantial building programme, but it would involve an innovation to this extent—that the central authority, the Home Office, would have one or two central remand homes where cases of peculiar difficulty could be investigated, as distinct from the remand homes of the local authorities.

I come, then, to the very important question of Borstal treatment. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, will speak with great authority upon this subject, because it was during his period as Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office that a great step forward was made with those institutions. There needs to be an extension of Borstal treatment and, in particular, there needs to be a greater classification as between one institution and another. The efficacy of Borstal treatment depends upon intensive training and, in order to have intensive training, it is necessary to have a variety of different types of institutions. I am glad to think that the Home Office is very much alive to this fact, and has already started several new Borstal institutions. I will not weary your Lordships with further details on the subject, except to say that there are some people who think of Borstal institutions as places where the inmates do anything they like and from which they escape in large numbers every day. There is the other extreme view in which sentimentalists hold up their hands in horror and say what a terrible thing it is that a boy or a girl should be taken from his or her family for some considerable period of time and moved to a Government institution. Both those points of view are wrong. The effect of Borstal training on an inmate depends upon its duration and, although I admit that amongst the inmates there are backsliders and that the number of escapes from Borstal institutions has increased to a formidable extent during the war—probably mainly as a result of shortage of staff—yet I claim that, judged by results since this form of treatment was started, it has proved to be a most remarkable success.

There are two other forms of treatment to which I would make a short allusion. In 1938, when looking for alternatives to imprisonment for the young, I was audacious enough to suggest two new kinds of punishment. I suggested for the younger and less serious delinquents a sentence of attendance at centres on half-holidays, so that, as a result, offenders would lose their half-holiday and, possibly, their weekly football match. I suggested also that for the older and more serious delinquents there should be inaugurated residential hostels in which the offenders would have to live for a specified time, but from which they could go out to their daily work and keep in touch with their families outside, if their families were suitable. The proposal was made with a view to avoiding the breakup of normal family life. For a time both those proposals excited a certain amount of ridicule. At the same time, when we went through all the various Committee discussions, and it was found that those proposals were supported by a great body of expert opinion amongst social workers and experts in penal reform, they were accepted. I still say that I think they would be a most useful adjunct to this attempt to keep young offenders altogether out of the ordinary prisons.

I now pass from the young and minor delinquents to the case of the hardened criminal. Just now I quoted to your Lordships the cases of the small number of criminals who go in and out of Dartmoor with penal servitude sentences almost as if they were going into the casual ward of a workhouse. Here again our proposals were based upon a very representative expert Committee, appointed by one of my predecessors for the purpose of inquiring into the whole question of the treatment of persistent offenders. The Committee made a unanimous report on these two lines—first of all, that the present Persistent Offenders Act has been proved to be ineffective. There has been a prejudice against giving two sentences to a criminal—which is the basic principle of the Persistent Offenders Act—one for the actual offence, and one for his previous character. There has been a prejudice against the use of the Act, and the result is that we still have this number of "old lags" coming into Dartmoor for two or three years, going out of Dartmoor and then coming back again in a few years' time. The second principle on which the Committee based its recommendations was that there should be one sentence, but that it should be a determinate sentence. In most parts of the world the method of dealing with persistent offenders is to give them indeterminate sentences. Penologists tell me that that has the effect of removing from a prisoner any incentive towards better behaviour. The Committee therefore came to the view that there should be a single sentence, and that it should be for a definite time with power vesting in the Home Secretary, as far as I remember, of anticipating release subject to good conduct.

The need for this reform is very urgent. I admit that the number of cases affected is not very great. I am glad to say that the number of these hardened criminals is relatively small. Apart from actual numbers, however, it is essential, if we are to cling to what I believe to be the basic principle of penal treatment—hope of reform—that the change should be made, and that a man or a woman who has been convicted time after time for serious offences should be liable to be sentenced to a lengthy period of deten- tion for special training, if possible in a special institution, in order to avoid lesser offenders being contaminated by association with the more hardened criminals, the sentences being based upon the offence and previous character of the offender.

I have almost finished my description of the reforms I should like to see enacted and enacted in the immediate future, but, before sitting down, I must say a word upon two aspects of the problem which I am fully aware create considerable doubt and a measure of bitter controversy in the country. First of all, there is the question of corporal punishment. In the proposals of 1938 it was proposed to abolish it except for gross acts of assault upon prison warders. Your Lordships will remember that that proposal created a great deal of controversy, in my view out of all proportion to its importance in this wide picture of penal treatment. I feel now, as I felt then, that if we wish to base our system of penal treatment upon actual facts and actual experience, if we wish to make it a rational, effective system based upon recent teaching, there is no room in it for a continuance of corporal punishment.

To-day I do not ant end to enter into an argument with your Lordships upon the subject. I would refer you only to the report of what was known as the Cadogan Committee, a Committee appointed by my noble friend Lord Simon. That report analysed in great detail the cases of criminals who had received this punishment; it also analysed in detail the history of it, and it emphasized the fact that it was a kind of punishment that time after time resulted from waves of very ignorant and very emotional opinion. The Committee was unanimous in its conclusion that for the purpose either of reforming the criminal or of acting as a deterrent it was ineffective. Their argument, it is worth remembering, was supported by the fact that in Scotland, where it is not imposed for the crimes of violence for which it is imposed in England, the percentage of those crimes is substantially less than it is in this country. I do not wish to linger upon this question to-day, but once again I say there is no place for this punishment in a modern rational system of penal treatment.

Lastly, I come to another controversial question, that of capital punishment, if indeed it be controversial, and it is certainly not so controversial as corporal punishment. None the less doubts are raised in many minds in the country on this question of capital punishment. My own view, as a former Home Secretary, is that its abolition would make very little difference to the small number of murderers—murderers who are now executed in this country. I realize, however, that the taking of human life needs a very special punishment to emphasize its enormity, and I believe that public opinion at present would be opposed to the abolition of capital punishment. I am inclined to believe that public opinion is beginning to change, and it may be that in a few years time public opinion will definitely have changed. Meanwhile, whatever may be our individual opinions I would say that it would be wise to leave this question as one distinct and apart from any general measure of penal reform. It is essentially a question that ought to be dealt with upon its own distinctive merits quite apart from the many other questions to which I have made allusion to-day. I would therefore be ready to see the question omitted and left to a special measure to be brought before Parliament in the future.

There is just one further subject upon which I would say a few words. In our proposals of 1938 we included a number of useful provisions for dealing with mental and abnormal cases. The law in connexion with insanity, mental deficiency and abnormality needs a considerable amount of readjustment. The object of these provisions—and I will not say more upon the subject than this—was to enable a Court to insist upon certain kinds of medical treatment being given to doubtful cases..

I have covered, as your Lordships have seen, a very wide field, and your Lordships have been very patient in listening to these details. It is, however, a question that essentially depends upon detail. No part of it can be very well dissociated from the rest of it. The proposals I have just adumbrated are neither lenient nor oppressive—they are rational. They are based on fact and experience, and they are intended to avoid the waste in human life that is at present going on. They are designed to remove the remnants of an antiquated and ineffective system of penal treatment. It was once firmly believed, and indeed fanatically believed, that the main, almost the sole object of punishment was retribution and that the greater the severity of the law the fewer the crimes that would be committed. Over and over again hard facts have proved this view to be false; that the more ruthless the punishment the more savage were the crimes and the worse was the discipline in the prisons. Yet for centuries the general public was against the reforms. Great lawyers like Lord Chancellor Hardwicke threw the weight of their authority against more humane methods. Philosophers like Dr. Paley, of Cambridge, made the doctrine of ruthlessness one of the fundamental principles of their moral and political philosophy. The Act known as the Waltham-Black Act, starting from a panic over the night poaching of deer, eventually creating 350 separate capital offences, including the theft of rabbits and injury to trees and the banks of rivers, enshrined it as the basis of our criminal system for a hundred years.

When at last the reformers raised their protest against it—Lord Holland in this House, Mackintosh, Romilly and Peel in the other House, and outside, a noble company of philanthropists amongst whom I am proud to think were several members of my own family—they were pilloried as sentimentalists, clamouring for, to use the words of the times, a "penal Utopia." Did your Lordships' House at that time not earn the ponderous praise of the Quarterly Review" for acting"—here I am quoting the actual words—"in the matter of penal reform as a floodgate against the tide of legislation which is now rolling so impetuously through the House of Commons."

To-day there is again a tide of legislation that is rolling impetuously through another place, but the position is, I hope, reversed. I hope and believe that it is this House that especially wishes to see enacted a measure of penal reform and that urges the Government to find a place for a Bill that is long overdue, that raises no Party issue, that is supported by men and women in every walk of life, that will raise our penal system to a foremost place amongst the penal systems of the world and that will show that, however much the standards of civilization have been debased by the régimes of dictators, we here are determined to maintain the principles of humanity and common sense that are not only morally right but practically efficacious. I beg to move.

Moved to resolve, That, in view of the serious increase of crime and juvenile delinquency and the urgent need for adopting more effective methods of dealing with it, this House is of opinion that a comprehensive measure of penal reform should be passed into law without delay.—(Viscount Templewood.)

3.23 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to thank the noble Viscount who has just spoken for his Motion and his speech and to offer to that Motion an unqualified support. Penal reform in this country has had a history of fits and starts. There have been times when the public conscience was aroused, when Parliament was stirred to activity and when important measures were passed; and there have been other times of complete neglect and indifference. The end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth was the great period to which the noble Viscount referred when, under the influence of Howard and Elizabeth Fry and of Bentham and his school, great changes were made in this sphere of legislative activity. The abominable conditions that had come down from the Middle Ages, and which had been worsened by the sudden and rapid increase in the population of the country and in the numbers of the criminal classes, were to a great extent swept away. What were called "model prisons" and a great variety of reforms were effectively carried through.

Then there was a strangely long period when very little of importance was to be noted until, in 1906, Mr. Herbert Gladstone became Home Secretary and went to the Home Office mainly with the purpose of carrying through reforms in this field. He had been Chairman of a Committee of Inquiry into prisons in the last Prime Ministership of his father in 1892–95. He did me the honour to appoint me as his Under-Secretary and together we laboured for more than three years at this task. It was he who initiated the Borstal system. He also introduced a measure for dealing with habitual offenders, although I agree that that Act, being a pioneer Act, has not proved fully effective for the purpose. I was able to initiate and propose to Parliament the establishment of the probation of offenders system which has since achieved such a large development, and also the creation of the juvenile courts and the enactment of a large number of other measures in the Children Act of 1908. But after that burst of energy, again for a period now of nearly forty years the subject has fallen into the background. In 1932 there was an important measure introduced and carried through Parliament by Mr. Oliver Stanley, who was Under-Secretary when I was again at the Home Office, which brought the legislation for children and young persons to a great extent up to date. That is now the principal Statute in that code of law.

But it was only when the noble Viscount (then Sir Samuel Hoare) came to the Home Office that a real effort was made to make good the arrears. His Criminal Justice Bill was a massive and comprehensive measure of some eighty clauses, which included a great variety of changes receiving general assent and recognized throughout the country to be in the highest degree desirable. One controversial point, as he has mentioned, was the question of retaining flogging as a judicial sentence. It was enacted by Parliament in 1863 on account of a sudden wave of garrotting in London which caused a great sensation, especially when a member of the House of Commons was one of the victims. Thereupon the House, with extreme rapidity and in a panic, passed the Flogging Act, which has remained law—it may have been amended, but I am not sure—ever since.

The then Home Secretary, Sir George Grey, made it quite clear that the wave of garrotting had ceased and that matters had returned to normal before the Flogging Act was passed. Subsequent Home Secretaries, particularly Mr. Asquith and Sir Matthew White-Ridley, have stated in the House of Commons that it was a delusion to suppose that it was the enactment of the Flogging Act that stopped garrotting. I believe it is the case, though there may possibly be some exception that has escaped my knowledge, that every Home Secretary in recent years after studying the whole of this subject most carefully, as it was his duty to do, has been opposed to the continuance of flogging as a judicial sentence. It is a punishment, like every other form of bodily torture which is as degrading to the Government that enacts it as it is to the criminal who suffers.

What is the experience of other countries? So far as adults are concerned and so far as judicial sentences are concerned—I except a sentence in prison where as a last resort there is no other possible alternative to something of this kind in the case of a man who is already sentenced to a long term of imprisonment and who commits cruel acts of bodily violence against the warders—what do we find is the practice of the civilized world? All the Scandinavian States and Switzerland abolished flogging long ago, and they stand, as we all know, in the very forefront of civilization. So have France and Germany, Belgium and Holland, Austria and Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Italy. Indeed there is no country in Europe, so far as I am aware, except this, which still retains flogging as a judicial sentence. Some of the British Dominions, under the influence of British practice, have done so. It is still continued in India and there are a few of the backward States of the United States of America, mostly in the South, which have it on their Statute Books. Otherwise this country has the pre-eminence of being the one country in the world of importance and, as is usually considered, of enlightenment, and a highly progressive democratic country, which still continues this barbarous punishment. That it is not necessary as a deterrent has I think been frequently proved. But no doubt if the Bill comes before us some day we shall have to argue it in some detail and support our assertions with facts.

As to capital punishment, that highly controversial subject, I agree in substance with what has been said by the noble Viscount. It would be a misfortune if the chances of a comprehensive Bill were imperilled by the inclusion of some provision as to capital punishment which had not been approved by the country at large. As to my own views, I would rather reserve them to a later occasion, and I think it would be useful if some day this House gave a short period of special discussion to this subject.

There has been, as the noble Viscount has said, a great increase in juvenile delinquency and adult crime during the war years. However, it is not right to view the statistical position except in proper proportion. Some people think that because a very high percentage increase has been recorded in juvenile delinquency, therefore our young people have become criminals. Percentages are always exceedingly dangerous. I have some figures here, which were kindly supplied by the Home Office last May, showing the number of children and young persons convicted of indictable offences in England and Wales. Before the war, in 1938; it was 27,000; in 1941 it had risen with great rapidity to 43,000, and in 1945 it was 42,000. The increase over the prewar figures at the end of 1941 was 16,000, or nearly 60 per cent., which is a colossal increase as a percentage. Add the non-indictable offences, and a small number of offences against the Defence Regulations and we have these totals: 1928, 55,000; 1941, 72,000; and 1945, 73,000, an increase from the lowest to the highest of 18,000. That means 18,000 additional children and young persons who have committed offences of this character annually during the war period. But the total number of children and young persons in England and Wales from the age of ten to the age of twenty is rather over six millions, and 18,000 in a total of six million is seen to be an exceedingly small proportion. A rapid arithmetical calculation shows that it is three thousand per million, or three per thousand. In other words, this problem of the increase is a problem of three children in every thousand who are affected by it, and 997,000 who are not. Looked at from that point of view, and not from the standpoint of percentages, it is rather a vindication of our young people and will perhaps correct the feeling almost of panic which the 60 per cent. increase figure has caused.

Now these increases, in respect both of young children and of adults, are, of course, mainly due to war conditions which have been recited by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood. He did not mention one point which I have heard referred to, and I do not know whether it can be substantiated. Possibly the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack may be able to refer to it. It is that a very large proportion of the more serious crimes, especially that of burglary, have been committed by deserters from the Army, who are living the lives of outlaws. They have no identity cards, no ration books, and they live as they can and largely by theft and burglary. I do not know whether any measures are being taken by the Services in order to cope, if they can, with this very serious matter, which affects a considerable number of individuals.

Another reason in London—and I do not know how far it applies in the provinces—is the lamentable depletion of the Police Force. The number of policemen who have been called up for war services at various times amounts to one-third of the total body. The Commissioner of Police was kind enough to send me only a few weeks ago, in the course of some correspondence I had with him, a letter on the subject of the great increase of burglaries. In the street in which I live, out of twenty-four houses there have been recently twenty-three burglaries. They have not occurred in all houses, several having been burgled twice and one or two having had three burglaries, but the average is very close upon one per house. He communicated with me on behalf of the neighbourhood, who had sent a round robin on the subject to the borough council, and he informed me that the cause was very largely the reduction of the number of police. When I wrote him and said that that explanation could not be accepted as satisfactory, he replied that it was nevertheless the fact, to which I answered that I was not for a moment challenging the fact but only suggesting that the decrease in the number of police ought never to have been allowed to occur, and certainly ought not to be allowed to continue. The numbers have been reduced by just upon one-third and where there were three police at work in the streets of London for our protection there are now only two. I see that the Commissioner has appealed for the enrolment of special constables, but I would ask the noble and learned Lord if he can give some reassurance to the public—and particularly residents in a certain street—that adequate protection is likely to be afforded to well meaning and respectable citizens.

That is all I have to say on this subject. I earnestly hope that we may have an opportunity later of dealing, comprehensively and in detail, with an actual project of law. Whether the penal law of a community is good or bad, whether it treats its criminals with humanity or brutality, whether in a spirit of reforma- tion or in a spirit of revenge, is one of the tests of the civilization of a nation. This Bill of the noble Viscount, when it was introduced, received the support of all the social reform movements in this country. It was also approved by the experienced Home Office authorities, by the Government, by Parliament, by the Press and by the public. Why is it not on the Statute Book? Why have we not got this Bill before us? No doubt the lamentable conditions, to which the noble Viscount referred to to-day, are the result of the war, insufficient staff in the prisons and out-of-date buildings, but it is also due to the lack of up-to-date legislation. If the Government proceed with their intention and do not produce the Bill this Session it will mean that 1947 will have passed by and it will be 1948 before the Bill comes before Parliament. That will be just ten years, a whole decade, since the Bill was first brought before Parliament and the public. Parliament itself therefore is blamed for this long delay, but it is not the fault of Parliament. I am sure it would be ready to pass this Bill if opportunity were given to it, and I would again press the Government, as the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and I urged upon the debate on the Address, that this Bill should even now find a place in the legislative programme of this Session. If that were done, if the Government would only give us an opportunity, I am certain that your Lordships' House would most gladly and readily treat a measure of this character with care and due dispatch.

3.40 p.m.


My Lords, I think the places from which our prisons are filled are mainly the homes and the schools, and a fundamental condition for an improvement in criminal statistics is an improvement in both homes and schools. I do not want to enlarge on that point to-day; I have mentioned it on other occasions. Had I realized the good company I was going to be in this afternoon I would not have ventured to poke my nose into this debate, but as the punishment most prominently before the public eye is that of imprisonment, and as I have had the honour of serving several sentences of imprisonment in German gaols during the war, I think your Lordships would not mind hearing a few words from me on prisons from the point of view of the prisoner.

Ordinary imprisonment, in my experience, has two very marked effects. One is very good, and the other is very bad. When the inexorable door closes upon a man he feels really trapped. In many cases—I should think in most cases—he develops a tendency to hysteria. It is of the utmost importance that this tendency should be very promptly controlled and checked. A common manifestation of that tendency is that the man begins to bang on his door. In about twenty minutes' time, if that is allowed to continue, you have all the prisoners in that wing of the prison banging on their doors. The most effectual way of checking this is for the warder to come and open the door and then, either by rough words or, if necessary, by force, compel the man to sit down upon his bed. When he is sitting there quietly the warder gives him a scolding and tells him that that sort of thing is not allowed. That is the proper treatment for hysteria and it is nearly always effective. If it is not checked at the outset it might have a very permanent effect upon the prisoner.

I should like to put this point to your Lordships. Both the noble Lords who spoke referred with horror to the methods of punishment which attack a prisoner's body, but I do not think anybody can justify a method of punishment which attacks a prisoner's mind. Those of your Lordships who are interested in this matter may very probably remember the account of an extraordinary outbreak which took place at Barlinnie prison many years ago. That outbreak was simply an outbreak of mass hysteria, a thing which is quite familiar to me and one of which I have had experience. Although I did not follow the inquiry, I am perfectly certain in my own mind that that outbreak could have been checked. It was entirely due to the lack of the necessary firmness at the earlier stages in the history of that outbreak.

For the purposes of this control you require a type of man who will stand no nonsense. These men are not necessarily unjust or unkindly. I would like to say here and now that, though I had the greatest contempt for the jurisdiction and the men who sentenced me to various terms of imprisonment, I have no complaint to make of the German gaolers. They struck me as eminently capable and eminently good at their job. I have always regretted the prejudice which seems to me to be apparent in this country against the warders of a prison when they are publicly accused of exceeding their powers. If the public maintains prisons it ought to be fair to the men who are capable of running them. I do not for a moment mean to condone or excuse warders who exceed their powers and make use of their position to maltreat prisoners, but in accounts I have read of these matters it always seems to me that there is a tendency to believe what the prisoner has said, and a strong prejudice seems to be exhibited against the warder. I hope I am wrong.

There is another point, and I think this shows the good side of prison. I think it is the most effective way of convincing a self-centred man that there is a power stronger than himself against which it is useless to rebel. That is the beginning of wisdom for many men who go into prison. The modern idea of a prison is a place of reform. I would like to pause here for a moment and say what noble Lords before me have not said. I want to say how interested I am in the experiments which are going on in places like Wakefield and how much credit I give for them to His Majesty's Government. I would like to know more about these experiments, and I certainly wish them every success. But I think there is a very great danger of forgetting that the primary function of a prison is to deter and stop people doing wrong. If prisons are to be regarded as reformatories, then I think you certainly should have graduated prisons, so that people who fail to be reformed will have a serious objection to going back to prison. As I have said, I have a very great distrust of prisons as reformatories. I am not for a moment going to suggest to your Lordships that we should reintroduce flogging into this country as a form of punishment, but I would like you to reflect on this. Supposing a man commits a crime and the sentence is that he should be flogged, and he is flogged. Then he goes home. This has one advantage over prison—namely, that it does not take a man away from the normal responsibilities of his life. He still has the duty of supporting his wife and family and working for them, and whenever I hear of a man being sent to prison, the first thought that always crosses my mind is: What is going to become of his children?

Before I leave this subject of prisons, I want to say that it happens that circumstances have brought me into contact with two or three prison Governors. Parliament ought to recognize and emphasize the very great debt that they and the country owe to the Governors of our prisons for their great humanity and their wisdom. I am perfectly certain that there are many prisoners who themselves would be willing to bear witness to the sympathy and the help they have received from the Governors of prisons. That fact makes me differ from my noble friend on the Front Bench. It makes it very regrettable to me that these prison Governors have really now no power at all to order, in the case of bad prisoners, a sentence of flogging.


They never have had.


Yes, they have.


They never have.


At any rate I think it ought to be granted. If it were granted, the necessity for its use would very seldom arise. Here I am going to take a little bit from the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and remind you about garrotting. It was the popular opinion that garrotting stopped before Parliament passed an Act ordering flogging. It stopped before the Act was passed. I think that is correct and it was the very threat—


I am sorry to interrupt, but I thought the Minister said it was due to the fact that many more police had been appointed and many more policemen in plain clothes were sent to patrol the streets.


In any case I do not know enough about that to enter into a discussion with the noble Viscount. A dog breaker, one of the best I ever met for breaking-in a young dog, gave me this advice: "Never go out with any dog without your stick—but never use it." That, I think, is the point. If the power were there the occasion for its use would never arise. The advantage would be this: there would be fewer cases of mutiny, of assaults on warders and of wanton damage to prison property. It seems to me that when you have such a fine body of servants of the State and the public as the Governors of the prisons you could trust them not to misuse a power of that kind.

Another point which I wish to make is this. I think that the whole of our police and criminal procedure needs tightening up. Crime statistics are not as revealing as they might be thought to be because in a good many cases offences are not reported and the offenders are not pursued. Only the other day, a friend of mine who keeps a shop told me that he had lost, as a result of the practice of a very cunning system of theft, about £20. He managed to catch the rogue, and the man was brought up at court and fined £2 10s. I did not know that that was really possible. I must say that it surprised me to learn that for a theft of that kind a man could be punished by being fined only £2 10s. Observe what has happened. The State has practically said to the delinquent: "For 12½ per cent. of your booty we will make ourselves your partners." My friend said to me: "After this, I will suffer a great deal of robbery before I run a man in for it."

Now a word about the treatment of young persons because that is a matter which has come in for severe criticism, to my knowledge, from parents in all walks of life. It seems to me that the probation system must have very great defects because everybody complains of the increase of juvenile delinquency, although a great many juvenile offences do seem to me to escape attention. I have heard more than once from people who say they know—and I only suggest that it is a matter for investigation—that young persons are actually employed by their elders for criminal purposes. If that be so, then just about one hundred years after Dickens with his book Oliver Twist roused such tremendous public indignation against thieves kitchens these will have been brought into existence once more in our country by the action of the Government. It appears to me that that is a matter that requires thorough investigation. The people of this country are divided into two classes irrespective of their walks of life—those who are willing to have their children birched for a fault and those who are not. I belong to the first class. My experience is that where people are willing there is very seldom occasion for the birch to be used. I think that members of the Party opposite cannot allow things to drift as they are doing to-day, and that something must be done to make our methods of dealing with juvenile offenders more effective and satisfactory.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, I would not venture to intervene in this debate but for the fact that I have long been occupied with probation work—for more than fifteen years on a committee which has attempted to find training and employment for a restricted class of boys on probation. I hope, therefore, that your Lordships will allow me to make some observations on our present system of probation and also, perhaps, on one or two changes which I hope that, one day, some of us may see brought about. I think that there are matters in the probation system which can be and should be changed. Many of your Lordships—and particularly the two noble Viscounts—will know that the probation system is of great antiquity. It dates back in fact to the reign of Edward III. It was during the lifetime of the Parliament which was convened in 1360 that sureties for good behaviour were first given in order to prevent people being imprisoned for trivial offences. Unfortunately, however, this privilege, or this obligation, fell into the hands of the rich and it was for a time only the rich man who was able to buy it.

Let me now, with your Lordships' permission, jump from 1360 to 1895 when the Police Court Mission was founded. As your Lordships know, under this Mission probation work was carried out on a voluntary basis and it was so until in 1907, when Viscount Samuel, as he has said, was Home Secretary, the first Probation of Offenders Act was passed by a Liberal Government. But even when that Act was passed the probation officers themselves were left out of it. They were still looked after by voluntary organizations such as the one to which I happen to belong. It was not until 1938 that the probation officers were taken over by the Home Office. Even then, complete control was not taken over, because the hostels were left out and the hostels to-day are still run by voluntary organizations. No doubt, many of your Lordships may know some of the hostels which various, societies tried to run. Some of them are not up to the standard which we should like to see achieved. The staff is consistently underpaid, the equipment is consistently poor and frequently the premises are bad in many respects. It is not surprising that in a great many instances this should be so. A matter which, I think, is very strange is that sometimes in court a young man or young woman is told by a magistrate or magistrates to reside in a certain hostel. The whole question of whether he or she can or cannot reside there depends on charity. It depends on charity and nothing else. That I think, with great respect, offers a ground for strong criticism of a part of our probation service.

Next I would like to make one or two remarks about the probation officers themselves. As your Lordships are aware, there are both men and women officers, for sometimes young women are naughty as well as young men and have to be dealt with under our system. One of the great defects of the probation system, in my view, is connected with the recruitment of officers. No probation officer can receive a permanent appointment until he is 23 years of age. Now most people want jobs before they are 23, and we look to try and get people for probation work—when it is possible—straight from the universities. Nobody can afford to wait two or three years until they can be appointed. I hope that, perhaps, when it is possible for things to be rearranged a system of training with pay for these officers can be inaugurated.

Another thing which has an adverse effect on the recruiting for probation service is pay. Quite frankly, according to modern standards the rates are inadequate. A man probation officer starts at £240 a year. After fifteen years—when he is somewhere about forty years of age—he gets up to £450 a year. A woman officer starts at £240 a year and in no circumstances can she get more than £360 a year. I think, considering the immense importance of this work, that the probation service should be better paid. They are remarkable people. Those of your Lordships who have worked with them, as I have done, will bear me out in saying that they are absolutely admirable. If I might, I would give one example of their success. In the course of the seventeen years that I have been connected with the probation service 75 per cent. of the boys (I deal only with that side of the work) for whom we have found employment have made good in the sense that in those seventeen years they have not gone through the courts again. I hope they will not. That shows, anyhow, that probation officers do their best, and, frankly, I think they deserve a little more money.

In conclusion, may I say this? Your Lordships will have seen what the Home Secretary said about juvenile crime in the first six months of this year; there was an average of 4,800 convictions, and he pointed out that that represented a drop from 6,000. That will show us all the immense problem presented by the young offenders, and the gravity and size of that problem. We have, in probation, a tool ready to hand; and I therefore hope that in the future it may be possible for us to see an improvement in those services, on which the welfare of thousands of young people depends.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, before the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, tells us the Government answer to this Resolution, I would ask leave to occupy your time to say something addressed to the practical purpose of the Resolution. My noble friend Viscount Templewood is moving a Resolution asking for the opinion of the House that a comprehensive measure of penal reform should be passed into law without delay. There are one or two points which perhaps I may be permitted to make in that connexion. Round me in this House I see quite a number of my old colleagues from another place—most of them, I think, there when this Bill was introduced by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood. At that time the noble Viscount did me the honour of asking me to allow mine to be the next name backing the Bill, which had then, and has now, my very warmest support.

It is necessary either that you should have been in the House of Commons at the time, or at any rate should have been following very closely the debates there, to realize the universal and warm support which this Bill received. It was not a Bill which depended upon a Government majority, or upon anything of the kind. The debate on Second Reading lasted two whole days—I have refreshed my memory by reading the report of the debates this morning—and from every side there came the considered support of men who were not sentimentalists, who were perfectly practical in their approach to the problem, and who without exception declared that this was a most valuable and most urgent measure. I do not believe there has ever been a Bill proceeding from the Home Office, dealing with these difficult subjects, which ever had such a sustained and unanimous welcome. The reason was, partly—with all respect to my noble friend—not simply that it was an emanation from his own brain, but was the result of very close study of the problem by a series of Committees and Commissions which had dealt with various aspects of the subject, and a result of close consultation with the Prison Commissioners—by no means to be disregarded in this matter—and with many other authorities, both official and unofficial, who had devoted their lives to considering what ought to be done. I beg most respectfully to convey that piece of information to your Lordships' House, because it was a matter which never came before us, owing to the outbreak of war.

In that connexion, may I be allowed to quote an observation made by Mr. Attlee, then Leader of the Opposition and now Prime Minister of this country? I am sure that nobody questions the sincerity with which he spoke when, on November 9, 1939, he interposed in the debate to ask: Will the right honourable gentleman give further consideration to this, in view of the general desire that the important reforms contained in the Bill should be passed and that all that work should not be lost? There was no difference of opinion as to the urgency and the importance of the subject. Speaking for myself, the side of the matter which I regarded as most important of all was the masterly treatment which the Bill found for the problem of the young delinquent. It embodied the principle that young persons of either sex, still less children, should not be subject to imprisonment by magistrates. That was one of the main objects of the Bill. I have been most profoundly convinced of this, both then and since, because as Lord Chancellor I met such cases in another way. Do your Lordships realize that it not infrequently happens to-day that when a young person—even a child—is brought before the magistrates on some charge with which they can deal, it is necessary that there should be an interval for inquiries? What is to be done in the meantime with a young person so charged if he is not to go home?

There are, of course, institutions called remand homes. The Bill which my noble friend Viscount Samuel introduced long ago—the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, a very fine piece of work—provided in terms that local authorities should have power to provide remand homes for young persons. Yet to-day, or at least very recently, to my certain knowledge, there are cases in which a child has gone to the common prison during this period of remand, because there is not a sufficient number of remand homes. I see that my noble friend Lord Lindsay of Birker seems to know of the case in Oxford. I heard of a case, and I took very prompt action about it. In that instance, a boy on remand by the magistrates was put into Oxford prison, which is a prison that deals with the cases of old offenders, "old lags"—the worst place in the world in which to put a young child. What is the result? It is not that in such cases the child is mal-treated; he is petted, and favoured; and no doubt for the time being is treated most mercifully. But what happens when he comes out? He is a hero; he has met some of the leading criminals of the district. He meets his young friends, and tells them that after all prison is nothing very dreadful. You have set him, beyond all question, on the way to a life of evil.

The point in the Bill of my noble friend Viscount Templewood, about which I felt most keenly, was that which sought to put a stop to all that. Here we are at this moment — nine years afterwards—and Parliament has never yet been able to do it. You cannot simply prohibit one form of treatment unless you provide another. I thought, and I think now, that the reforms proposed in that Bill for dealing with young persons were quite admirable. I welcome very much what has been said by the noble Lord opposite about probation officers and the treatment of people on probation. He has in mind, I am sure, the provisions contained in this temporarily lost measure. For instance, there were to be remand centres for young persons, which would, of course, be used exclusively for young persons, in order to stop forever this monstrous thing of sending young persons into the common gaol. It was a most invaluable reform. There was a provision that, since there were not enough remand homes—notwithstanding the admirable privately-provided homes which some of us know; I remember quite well going to one in Birmingham which was due to the energies of the Cadburys—there should be a new form of remand home, to be called, I think, a State remand home, not only for the purpose of accommodating children and young persons for the short waiting time, but also to provide for the case of the problem child, with regard to whom, without some close medical or psychological help, one could not really ascertain what was the matter. All that is there in proper form waiting to be adopted into law. In the same way, with regard to this plan of residential control, as I think my noble friend called it, all that, by consent, is quite admirable.

With great respect, I want to appeal to the noble and learned Lord Chancellor, because I am sure he will see the strength of the case. I can understand it being said that we cannot have this Bill just now because, after all, look how occupied the draftsmen are, look how overwhelmed the Departments are, and all that sort of thing, and I think that we can say with accuracy that that is a formidable argument. I know how very much overworked the draftsmen are. I know that Government draftsmen must have their way and that they do not care about amateur drafting or anybody's drafting except their own. But this Bill has gone through the whole of that process. It was drawn up by a Government draftsman, after the fullest consultation with the Home Office. It did not merely have a Second Reading, it went to Committee in the House of Commons, with the draftsman in constant attendance. The Bill, as it was reported to the House, was a finished work, not open to be attacked by Government draftsmen and not requiring great new efforts by departmental officials. This is a case of a Bill which is ready for legislation in a form of which the advisers of the Government approve.

I admit, if you like, that there may be some provision open to contention; that is another matter. But we are really dealing with a Bill which does not raise any Party issue at all, a Bill with regard to which the debates of nine years ago in the House of Commons and comments outside, showed that the whole public wished to see it carried into law. It was a Bill which not merely rested on the sympathy of sympathetic people but was approved by every expert body that gave its mind to it. And yet the position is—and the noble and learned Lord is very shortly going to deal with it—that it is not possible in these circumstances for a measure which I hope I have quite accurately described to be passed into law without delay. It may be that my noble and learned friend may think, or may have been informed: "Ah! well, there are some objections in that it would involve some building." Well, that is not really the essence of this measure at all. It would be far better to pass it, and put in a provision about the building to the effect that that should be "as soon as may be" than not to pass it at all. Therefore, with very great sincerity and full comprehension of the many burdens thrown upon the Government and their advisers, I say that, so far as I can see, there is no case for refusing to let this Bill, as far as this House is concerned, be put on its way to the Statute Book this Session.

It reached the House of Commons. Am I to be told that the great majority of sympathetic Socialists, who have in many cases studied this problem with care, and who are not at all hide-bound in their views as to how improvements might be made, are going to say, "Away with it! There is no time to deal with it, because we are going to be occupied with other things"—which I will not criticize, and which no doubt will take a lot of time? I do not believe it. I believe that if this Bill were now introduced, with the intention of being carried through this House into law, it would be carried in the course of the early part of the Session, when we are not so very greatly occupied, and it would have an extremely good chance of becoming one of the achievements of the Lord Chancellor's present Government in this year of grace.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that the whole House is very grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, for raising what I regard as a very grave problem. It is a very grave moral and social problem. But I believe that it is a problem which cannot be solved by the Government alone. I believe, as the noble Viscount said, it is a problem, if ever there was one, which calls for all the assistance that can be obtained from the leaders of organized religion in this country. May I say in view of that fact I am sorry that we have not had the advantage of any representative of the Lords Spiritual during the discussion. I believe that this problem calls for the support and collaboration of all good citizens, who must strive to set an example, so that we can get to the stage when what looks like the lowering of our moral standard is checked and that standard is restored.

There was an unpleasant tendency towards an increase of crime, and juvenile crime in particular, in the years before the war. It is as well to remember that. We cannot, I think, assert that this increase is entirely due to the exigencies of war. I take the five years 1934–1938. The number of young persons found guilty of indictable offences moved up from 10,000 odd in 1934 to 14,000 odd in 1938—that is males; females from 1,300 odd in 1934 to 1,600 odd in 1938. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, gave us some statistics about the increase so far as the total population is concerned and, of course, it is quite obvious that it would be ridiculous to make a charge against the young people of the country as a whole. I am sure he did not mean that these figures are not figures which should give us cause for apprehension and which should merit our very close consideration. When we have the figures of 14,000 young men and 1,600 young women going up to the sort of figures we have to-day, for the total number of persons—78,000 in 1938, moving up in 1945 to 116,000—and the proportionate increase for young people is rather bigger, it is quite obvious that we have here a very real problem.

I have got some little excuse to talk about this matter. First of all, I should disclose the fact, I suppose, that I am a lawyer. You therefore may remind me of Lord Hardwicke and Lord Ellenborough, and you may say that the lawyers pointed out, as they did, that if you removed the penalty of death for stealing a sheep there would be an absolute breakdown in our morals. There have, of course, been other lawyers, and the name of Lord Romilly is worth considering in this matter. I cannot help feeling that because I am a lawyer I am not therefore to be treated as though I were a kind of "Colonel Blimp." On the other hand, whilst I am not making the slightest suggestion against any noble Lord who spoke, I do think in these matters there is a danger of the sentimentalists getting control.

Although you most certainly have got to have regard to the criminal and to what you can do to help him to reform, it is as well sometimes to have some regard to the person who is wronged. I had a case brought to my notice the other day which I thought was the most terrible case I had heard of. It was a case of what I can only call a mass rape, of a perfectly respectable girl aged 18 who was sitting in a park in the North of England. Seven young men, varying in age from seventeen to twenty-one, one a deserter from the Army and one a deserter from the Navy, and every one of the seven having committed some small offence before, thought to themselves that they would rape this girl, took her off into some shrubbery nearby and tore off her clothes. The two youngest, two seventeen-year-olds, held her down and the other five one after the other thereupon raped her. I think that is the most terrible thing I have ever heard of. The five older ones were sent to Borstal, and the two younger ones, who had not raped the girl but had held her in a suitable position, were bound over.

Well, the father acted as I must confess I think I should have acted in his place. He had a rifle and he went out very ostentatiously and took practice. Asked what he was taking practice for he said that he was going to shoot the two young men who were bound over. I do not suppose that he was really going to do that, but it did get the agitation going and the Home Secretary got resolutions from a great number of societies in the neighbourhood protesting about this. I took the matter up with the then Lord Chief Justice, Lord Caldecote, and he very much shared my view of this case. But he gave me a Roland for my Oliver in another shocking rape which he tried, sending a young man to three years' penal servitude. This sentence had been altered to three years' Borstal, and during the exigencies of the war after some six months the man came out.

It may be said: If that is what happens whenever penal servitude is awarded how can you blame the Judges for awarding Borstal? I only tell you this story because I would say this to you, and I would say it from the bottom of my heart: Do not let us think that we shall necessarily find salvation in leniency. Deterrent punishment, retributive punishment, punishment which reforms—they are separate ideas; they are none of them ideas which involve undue leniency. I am sure that the three noble Viscounts who have spoken, all of them with great experience, will agree with me about that. You can be severe, but you can at the same time let your punishment be of a reformative character and in those cases which require severity that should be our aim.

I have for a long time had an interest in this subject, and I would like now to say something on the very vexed subject of corporal punishment. I am not going to express any opinion, except to say that I should not be at all sorry if the last cat-o'-nine-tails was burnt in the fire. Do not let us base our objection on humanitarian grounds unless we consider also the alternative punishment and compare the two. I was at a prison a few weeks ago and I saw there a young boy who had been a Borstal boy; he had been let out, failed in his recognizances and was recalled to prison. He was spoken to in prison, as he thought, harshly by a warder and ordered back to his cell. Whether the warder had been harsh to him or not I do not know, but I am sure that the boy thought he had been. He was a pretty bad sort of a boy, aged about eighteen and a gang leader. He went to his cell and he just saw red. He managed to prise up from the floor a sort of parquet block about half an inch thick, and with that he smashed his cell to smithereens. Having got one piece out he proceeded to get some more out and he finally got out about half of them.

The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, was quite right in his interruption. As the law stands now you could not award any corporal punishment for that. There is no question of corporal punishment. This boy was awarded 28 days in a punishment cell, and when I went to the prison he had done 3 of them. I asked if I might see this boy; I did see him, and I saw him alone. I spoke to this boy. I was determined to do what I could to help him and I think I did. I spoke to him, and after I had gone on for a bit tears came into his eyes. He stretched out his hand and grasped mine; then he clasped my hand with both of his. I felt at that moment that I really had done some good. I went out and saw the prison Governor, a most delightful, humane fellow, and I said to him: "Cannot you let that boy off these extra 25 days?" He quite rightly said that he could not; there the boy had got to be for the 25 days. I did not ask that boy, but if it had been me I would far rather have bent down and had a good caning and got it done with than have to stay in that punishment cell for another 25 days. I should not claim that I am very humane because I make that boy stay the 25 days in the punishment cell. If I had myself had the choice I would far rather have been caned and have got it over, but I do fully realize the danger of conferring upon anybody the power to inflict that sort of punishment, which might so easily be abused. That is a different and I think a far more serious objection and it is from this angle that the problem should be considered.

Let us come now to some of the concrete matters that have been suggested. I am well aware, and so is the Home Secretary, of the Bill which the noble Viscount introduced in 1938. The noble Viscount would not regard that measure as in any sense verbally inspired, and there has been a lot of time since then and a lot of chance to get experience. Some of the suggestions he then made would, I think, in the light of more modern experience and views, be doubted. So far as probation is concerned, I am entirely at one with him. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Simon, that it is a dreadful thing that children should be sent to prison for short sentences. There is the old saying: "They cry as they go in, they laugh as they come out." You have no chance in the short sentence of any reformation and all you are able to do is to teach them that prison, after all, is not so bad as they thought. Let it be remembered that today young persons under fourteen cannot be sent to prison and young persons from fourteen to seventeen can only be sent to prison on remand if there is a certificate from the magistrates that the young person is too unruly or too depraved to be sent to a remand home.

Of course, the more we can increase the number of remand homes the better it will be. There is nothing between us there. Neither is there anything between us on the matter of probation. Out of the 116,000 cases found guilty last year, no fewer than 53,000, or practically half, were dealt with by means of probation. If it is said that probation needs to be more comprehensive and more methodical—"methodical" was the word used by the noble Viscount—then there for the first time I venture to question. My own belief about all these problems is that the fewer set ideas you have, the better it is. Each problem is intensely individual and has to be considered on its own merits. It is very difficult to lay down any methodical system which will apply to the infinite variety of cases there are. I should, however, like to tell the noble Viscount that we are doing all we can to enlarge the system of probation. We are now paying towards the maintenance of probationers in hostels. The noble Lord, Lord Holden, will be glad to learn, if he does not know it already, that the salaries of probation officers are to be improved as from December I of this year. He would agree with me, with his great experience, that the whole success of the probation system depends upon getting the right type of trained man or woman. If you get the right type of man or woman, properly trained, he or she may do an immense amount of good, but if you get somebody who is untrained and not proficient, he or she may do an infinite amount of harm.

As far as Borstal institutions are concerned, that matter, I agree again, is something with which we should press on. Your Lordships would like to know whether we are pressing on. We have been doing all we can to find the necessary additional accommodation. Five additional institutions for youths have been taken into use this year, and a sixth is to open shortly. In addition, a second Borstal reception centre at Latchmere House is now in use, at which those sentenced to Borstal training can be carefully studied so that they may be sent to the institutions most appropriate to their needs. Thank goodness, we are now approaching the time when it will no longer be necessary to detain in prison for long periods persons who are ultimately going to serve their sentences in Borstal. The institutions we now have are of very varied types. Sometimes they are in a camp and sometimes they are in a country house, where the inmates can be engaged on agricultural work. We have also opened a new Borstal institution for girls at East Sutton Park in Surrey. That is a small institution and will take some fifty girls.

In addition to that, we are developing the minimum security prisons. The Wakefield experiment, as your Lordships know, has been going on for a long time. We have recently taken over a former hospital at Tortworth in Gloucestershire as what is called a minimum security prison for selected convicts. In that way we can do much towards their rehabilitation and their ultimate reassimilation into ordinary civilian life. I mention these facts particularly to show you that although we are not passing this Bill and cannot pass it in this Session, there is an immense amount of work which we can do and are doing, such as the development of Borstal and the development of probation. I have already given you illustrations of those.

The noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, then raised various other matters. The idea of compulsory attendance centres is a very good one, and an old one. The young offender continues his normal work and is not incarcerated but he has to come round to the compulsory attendance centre on, let us say, Saturday afternoons so that he misses the local football match or something of that sort. That sounds a very attractive idea, but let us stop to consider it for a moment. Suppose you have twelve of these young fellows. On a Saturday afternoon at this time of the year, they all want to go—I think this was the illustration given—to see Chelsea play football. Therefore when they come to you they are very disgruntled. They are of all ages up to twenty-one, and you have got twelve of them. What are you going to do with them? You could, of course, read them a lecture on constitutional history or read them some extracts from Georgian poetry. It seems to me that if you do not watch it very carefully the place might become absolute pandemonium. I can see myself, after a tomato had narrowly missed me and an egg had got me, saying: "Well, boys, you had better ran away quickly. You have got time to see the last half of the match!"

Unless you have thought out in advance some disciplinary powers, the whole thing, although the idea is admirable, might break down. The Home Office have not promulgated their final views on this matter as yet, but the question of whether you can in this sort of case, with a lot of fellows who have fallen into crime, enforce the necessary discipline is a matter which is causing them some anxiety. The same with the Howard Homes. That again is an admirable idea. You take these young offenders away from their homes—wretched homes in slums or something of that sort—and put them into a hostel. You remove them from their wretched surroundings and you make it a condition that they do their work in the ordinary way but come back to the hostel or the house at night. Of course, when they have finished their time in the house, they have got to go back to their homes again. The problem here seems to be the same as in the case of the compulsory attendance centre. With carefully selected boys it offers a real prospect, but do let us remember that unless you can enforce some measure of discipline or get the good will of the children in these Howard Houses the whole thing may end in absolute failure. It is so largely a matter of getting the right personnel. That again is a matter which is receiving the most careful consideration of those who understand this problem far better than I do.

Then persistent offenders. Here I find myself entirely in agreement with the noble Viscount. I have always thought that for these persistent offenders you really want—and I think he would agree—a new sort of prison. It wants to be as little harsh as possible. The punishment is the fact that they are going to be confined for a longer time in order that society may be protected from them. I should personally like to see these persistent offenders dealt with in the sort of way that they have to undergo a longer sentence, but with regard to visitors—perhaps visitors coming to stay—amenities and that sort of thing, they have facilities quite different from those which you would allow in an ordinary prison.

On the broad question of the persistent offender being dealt with, of the fact that the existing system has broken down there can be no difference between us. That then is the view we take. In so far as the 1938 Bill involves substantial physical rebuilding, the noble Lord will certainly agree that that cannot have first priority. We have obviously got to concentrate on the homes of the people before we rebuild our prisons. And so also with these various other suggestions. It is quite wrong to say that we can take the 1938 Bill, and that as it is drafted by a Parliamentary draftsman, therefore we can introduce it straight away. It is the fact that it is drafted by a Parliamentary draftsman, but the fact is that in some respects we might not find ourselves in agreement with the provisions of that Bill. I would at any rate say this, that before we commit ourselves to all the principles in that Bill we should want very carefully to consider the matter again for ourselves. I have given illustrations of the Howard House, the compulsory attendance centre and various other matters of that sort. We certainly need to consider those matters afresh, and to convince ourselves whether we can make those very attractive ideas really work.

With regard to probation and Borstal, we can certainly do much to improve matters without this Bill. I do not pretend that there are not many Ministers who want permission to introduce their Bills in any particular Session; I do not pretend that I myself was not among the claimants; I do not pretend that I should not have liked very much to have had the Civil Proceedings Against the Crown Bill and, if I could have got the time of Parliamentary draftsmen, the Bill to carry out the Rushcliffe Report. Equally, the Home Secretary would have liked the Bill for dealing with penal reform in a comprehensive manner, but we have had to consider all the other claims as well. It is impossible to introduce this Bill this Session, and although I must not make promises for were I to do so I should certainly get into trouble, yet I will say that I do regard it as almost certain that this Bill, a comprehensive system of penal reform, will be one of the major Bills to be introduced next Session. We should use the time between now and next Session in thinking out further the detailed provisions of that Bill, and we should further use the time in pressing ahead with our system of probation and our system of Borstal treatment. I would tell your Lordships that there is a great deal we can usefully do between now and then in addressing ourselves to what I regard as the very serious problem which confronts us.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, the Lord Chancellor always makes so persuasive a case that it is difficult for any of your Lordships to disagree with him. At the same time, I cannot but say that to-day at least I am gravely disappointed with what he has said. It is true that in the field of administration it was said that the Government will do what they can. I should have expected nothing different, but to-day we are talking principally about legislation, certain legislative provisions which urgently need to be passed if the reforms we all desire are to have their full effect. As I listened to the Lord Chancellor it seemed to me that he was condemning the provisions of the 1938 Bill with very faint praise. I agree with him that the provisions of 1938 were by no means verbally inspired. It may well be that subsequent experience showed that they should be modified in certain respects, but let me say to him in passing that that was not the view of Mr. Attlee in 1938. Every objection which the Lord Chancellor raised to-day, first of all against the provisions about half-holidays, and secondly the provisions about attendance were raised over and over again in the course of the discussions in 1938. At the end of those discussions the general view was that they were the best alternatives which could be found in the circumstances.

The noble and learned Lord devoted an effective part of his speech to an appeal to your Lordships' House to avoid sentimentality. The instances he gave about this or that terrible crime gave point to his argument. I would only say that in this big question of penal reform it is very dangerous to base a comprehensive argument upon a particular case; and secondly, so far from the proposals that I suggested to-day being sentimental, at the time I made them many of them were criticized as being too severe. They were founded, as I said earlier this afternoon, upon the reports of expert Committees, consultations with prison workers, with prison visitors and with prison Governors. They were the result not of the ideas of sentimentalists, but of the ideas of men and women who were up against the hard and actual facts. The Lord Chancellor, having warned you against sentimentality and I am not sure whether he included me in that subject—


If I may interrupt the noble Viscount, I thought I made it quite plain that I did not, and I think that if he reads my speech he will find that that is so.


I am very glad to have that interjection from the Lord Chancellor. I felt that from the time the Lord Chancellor gave to this part of his argument he was attempting to make it appear to the House that these proposals were based upon sentimentality. It was nothing of the kind. The Lord Chancellor has said quite definitely that the Government have no time for this measure in their programme for 1946. That statement will cause great disappointment, not only to many of us in this House, but to a great body of social

Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.