HL Deb 23 April 1958 vol 208 cc912-89

2.37 p.m.

LORD PAKENHAM rose to call attention to the present state of the prisons and Borstals, and to the after-care system; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion standing in my name is to call attention to the state of our prisons and Borstals and of our after-care, though in fact I shall be leaving the subject of Borstals and aftercare, along with many aspects of prisons, to other speakers. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is a special expert on Borstals, and he and other noble Lords are cooperating with me this evening, and at other times, in a special form of aftercare. As I say, I shall restrict myself to-day to prisons in the narrower sense.

I am honoured to be speaking in the presence of at least three ex-Home Secretaries, and glad to think that the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, will be speaking immediately after the Minister. I know that the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, and indeed the whole House, will wish me to pay tribute before we proceed to our business, to the memory of that brilliant, selfless woman, Miss Margery Fry. I suppose that there is no one who, since the death of Sir Alec Paterson, has contributed so much to penal reform in this country. A friend of mine told me just now that she went to see Miss Fry about a fortnight ago, when her end was certain. She was not interested in herself: she was much more interested in a scheme my friend discussed with her for helping pedestrians who suffer from deafness or heart trouble by equipping them with some kind of special badge, something to be seen by motorists when these people are using pedestrian crossings. Right throughout her life that was her predominant idea, the idea of service to others.

The House will remember that we held full-dress prison debates on May 4, 1955 and July 31, 1956. The first was initiated by myself, the second by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan. In each case the reply was given by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. We are all pleased to think that he is to perform a like function to-day, and I am glad that he is going to speak early because I believe that that will be for the advantage of the House. No doubt he will deal with the later speeches, with the leave of the House, towards the close.

The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, was making a real mark in the prison field when, as so often happens owing to our odd system, a Minister who was doing well was moved away from a topic he thoroughly understood to something which, though no doubt he understands it very well, is not so interesting to us penal reformers. On each of the last two occasions the House took a very poor view of the present level of our prison service. In the debate of 1955, perhaps the most weight was attached by the informed public to the very severe condemnation which was passed by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, a famous Home Secretary of former days. Perhaps the noble Viscount will not mind my quoting what he said on that occasion. I am sure he feels it quite as intensely to-day. The noble Viscount said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 192, col. 758]: We know what ought to be done, yet we do not do it. The result is that in certain respects, particularly in the matter of accommodation and work, so far from making any progress in a world in which a great deal of progress has been made in other walks of life, we have actually fallen back, I would almost say 50 or 60 years. To-day, there exists a thing unheard of in the days when I or my predecessors were connected with the Home Office. No fewer than 4,595 prisoners are confined three in a cell; they are shut up in that cell at about tea-time in the afternoon and left there with nothing to do until the following morning. A state of affairs like that would have horrified the great penal reformers of the past who made our system one of the best in the world.

The noble Viscount went on to make other acid and very well-justified criticisms. I myself on that occasion, in a speech which won an Oscar, if that is the right term, for occupying more inches of Hansard than any other of the year (the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, made a speech which lasted as long, though it did not cover so much space, so I do not know which one of us ought rightly to be awarded the palm) quoted Sir Lionel Fox, that fine man who presides over the Prison Commissioners. These are the words of Sir Lionel Fox which I quoted: …the purposes of the training and treatment of convicted prisoners shall be to establish in them the will to lead a good and useful life on discharge and to fit them to do so. I argued exhaustively at that time that we were not even attempting to perform that task, except perhaps in the case of one-sixth of our prisoners, housed in what are called our training prisons.

A year later we discussed this topic, and the condemnation was still more unanimous and severe. The noble Lord. Lord Glyn, who may not be with us today for a reason that arouses the very deep sympathy of us all, concluded that [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 199, col. 442]: The present conditions are, I think, degrading and are almost a disgrace to this country. The noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, described the conditions in our prisons as a disgrace to any country that calls itself civilised, and in that same debate, in 1956, the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Exeter said (col. 442): I hope that society will not be allowed to remain at all complacent, even for five minutes on end, while conditions in our prisons remain as they are now. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said (col. 457) that it was time that Her Majesty's Government, and the Home Office in particular, took up the problem of removing these sordid prisons from the face of the earth. So, my Lord, there was on that occasion a fairly solid all-Party and all-denominational offensive. From the point of view, at any rate, of his listeners, there was a marked difference between the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in 1955 and that which he made in 1956, though I need hardly say that both were carefully and courteously delivered. On the first occasion, in 1955, most of us thought his speech far too complacent; but his speech in 1956 won much approval inside and outside the House. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, at the end of the debate used these words (col. 486): We are … delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft admits that a great deal of our criticisms are justified. That debate in 1956 aroused a great deal of public interest. The general contention of the speakers in both of these years, that we were not making an effort commensurate with the degree of our enlightenment in other fields, was confirmed and epitomised in a leading article in The Times which was headed "Last in the Queue." But The Times pointed out an aspect of that debate to which I have already alluded. What was new "— said The Times in 1956— was the markedly changed tone of the Under-Secretary's reply. Lord Mancroft, though conscientiously reminding the House of the formidable obstacles to improvement, showed a new awareness that some of the familiar evils have been allowed to continue intolerably long". On that, we broke off, so to speak, for the holidays.

My Lords, it is not far short of two ears since that debate, and my first object this afternoon—indeed, I think it is the first object of all of us—is to ask for a progress report and to learn from the Minister, Lord Mancroft, what attempts have been made, and with what success, in the meantime to end a state of affairs which has been admittedly deplorable. Special interest is lent to the Minister's report by the appearance of the right honourable Gentleman Mr. Butler as Home Secretary early in 1957. I am not making any comparisons between him and other Home Secretaries, all of them eminent and high-minded men, of various Parties; but I think we all know that Mr. Butler made a deep impression by a speech that he delivered in another place on March 13, 1957.

He followed it up with an address, also of great interest, to the annual meeting of the Howard League last November. I cannot remember when any Home Secretary aroused such high hopes of enlightened and far-reaching reform as did Mr. Butler in March last year. Not only that but, as I said myself in a debate that we had here on the Address last Autumn, Mr. Butler and his Under-Secretary, Mr. Simon, who has, like Lord Mancroft, been since deservedly but regrettably promoted, had convinced everyone after a few weeks in office, and everyone who came in contact with him, certainly by discussion, of far more than ordinary zeal in contemplating penal improvements. We have not hurried the present Home Secretary. It is more than a year since he spoke so inspiringly, but we are now entitled to ask, without reference to Party considerations, at least in an interim fashion: Do his deeds match his words? What do these fine pronouncements amount to in practice? What difference, if any, has been or is being made in the life of the average prisoner or to the prison situation generally?

What was so remarkable about Mr. Butler's speech was not his concrete proposals; nor was it that he was saying things that had not been said before, though I agree that at the end of his speech he seemed to be giving a new emphasis to the idea of restitution. That, like much else in his speech, was anything but second-hand: it was clearly a very careful personal assessment. It was rather that in his immensely responsible position he recognised with candour and clarity the gravity of the problems themselves; that he accepted the diagnosis which has been broadly common for so long to penal reformers, and that he did so in a manner which convinced all who heard him that at last something on a large scale was going to be done. The problems which Mr. Butler singled out especially were those so familiar to all noble Lords in this House: of overcrowding, understaffing and what he called a shortage of simple work for the unskilled. Let us run through these three problems in that order, taking overcrowding first.

The first essential fact to grasp is that overcrowding in our prisons to-day is a good deal worse than when Mr. Butler spoke last year. That is perhaps the most important fact governing our discussion this afternoon. It is a great pity that the figures for our prison population—indeed, our criminal statistics generally—are published so long after the event. The most interesting, very full Report of the Prison Commissioners which covered the year 1956 was not published until December, 1957, when it was, of course, already beginning to be outmoded. I take the opportunity of asking the Minister a question of which I have given him some notice: whether the figures for the prison population could not be published quarterly so that we could make some effort at least to get up to date. I mention this point now because most Members of the House probably came down here to-day without being aware of the trend of the prison population since our last debate, though of course specialists are well aware of it.

In July, 1956, the number of men in our prisons and Borstal institutions was 20,739—nearly 21,000.—It is true that that figure was nearly twice the pre-war total of 11,000 or so, but it appeared to have become stabilised, with a tendency to drop. That was the background for our discussion last time; but, following your Lordships' debate, and almost immediately following it—though hardly post hoc, propter hoc—the figure began to rise and has continued to climb steadily ever since. If I may be allowed to be facetious for a moment, it almost looks as if the criminal world had read our discussion of overcrowding and had said, "If you call that overcrowding, we can soon show you what overcrowding amounts to in reality." Speaking seriously, I would say that that has happened, though I must regard it as sheer chance that the sudden increase in our prison population began to take effect immediately after our last debate. It can be argued that the doubling of our prison population since pre-war days is not due solely to the increase in crime but is due partly to heavier sentences. But so far as the increase since 1956 is concerned, the explanation must be sought. I am advised, solely in the increase in crime. There has been no development of sentencing policy.

I will say nothing this afternoon about the supposed causes of the increase in crime. It is a very mystifying subject about which I have a book coming out next month. I suppose I must not mention the name of the publisher, for that would be advertising: and I had better not mention the price for that would put your Lordships off. I will leave others to speculate on what an interesting book it is bound to be, but I do not promise that one month from now the final truth about the causes of crime will be revealed to the world by myself—I am afraid that that would be overstating my achievement rather widely. This increase of crime since 1956 has taken all the best informed people by surprise, and no one seems to agree at all on, or have any clear idea of, the cause. I mention the fact this afternoon because others may allude to it later. Whatever may be the cause of the increase in crime since 1956, the effect of the increase is evident in the prison figures, which have gone up from 20,700, past 21,600 when Mr. Butler spoke, to a figure of 24,309 at the beginning of April. That is an increase of about one-sixth since 1956 on a total with which, as we recalled in our last debate, it was already far beyond our means to cope. The figure to-day is the highest for a century.

Anyone with any measure of human feeling and sense of justice must sympathise with Mr. Butler. He told us in his major speech in March last year that the measure of overcrowding could be broadly illustrated by the number of men who have to sleep three in a cell. He pointed out last year that at the peak, in 1952, there were 6,000 men sleeping three in a cell; and when he spoke in March. 1957, in another place that number had come down to 2,000 and he was entitled to view the position with some small optimism. But to-day, after one year of his administration, the figure is 4,389, or more than twice as high as when he took office and who shall say where this figure will be next year?

By November of last year Mr. Butler was referring, very rightly, to what he called the "gross overcrowding" of our prisons, and what he called, also very rightly, our old, outmoded prison buildings. Since November things have got worse, because then there were more than 3,000 men sleeping three in a cell and now there are getting on for 4,400. The last time we debated this subject we were asked to look forward to the opening of a new prison near Hull which was the first to be built as a prison this century. Since then the rapid increase in our Borstal population has forced the authorities to use that as an extra Borstal institution, so that the prisons have been denied even this long-awaited relief.

No one in his senses would be so foolish as to attribute the present crime wave to the present Home Secretary or his service—those things can be left out of consideration—but, quite apart from personalities, it is an utterly lamentable position. Obviously there are only two ways, in principle, of rectifying it: one is by building more prisons and the other is by having fewer prisoners. I have no doubt that the Prison Commissioners, whose devotion and desire for progress are appreciated by all and have frequently been applauded in this House, would know how to build enough small, modern prisons if Her Majesty's Government gave the money. But when one looks at the Estimates for 1958–59, the current Estimates published not long ago when this situation had developed to roughly the present position, one finds that the amount for ordinary repairs is up by £50,000 (which is something) but that the provision for new buildings, alterations, et cetera, which is the key figure, is actually down by £16,000. In any case the figure is not much over £1 million—not a very colossal amount; and there is this drop of £16,000.

Do not let us put this down to some group of officials called "the Treasury". As the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said in an earlier debate (I believe he is forced to be absent now but will speak later this afternoon) the figure in the Estimates is the collective responsibility of the Government of the day and no one else. Whether other Governments have been as bad is beside the point, but once again Her Majesty's Government are failing to give the Prison Commissioners the support that they deserve.

So long as that position continues all talk of a new era of liberal prison reform is idle words. Given the prison accommodation and the crime wave, I believe we are at one (and I know the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary and the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, are with us) in trying to organise our sentencing policy and our policy of releases from prison to keep down the number of people in prison at any one time. I entirely agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, in an earlier debate [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 192, col. 784]: There is a certain irreducible minimum against whom the community has to be protected … but … a very large part of our prison population, at present and over these last years, consists of men who ought never to have been sent there. I remember that the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, also spoke very strongly to that effect during our last debate. I must leave this issue to other speakers, but as I am being somewhat critical I would certainly wish to join in congratulating Her Majesty's Government, and perhaps the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, in particular, on the Maintenance Orders Bill, which I believe will bring about some reduction in the number of civil prisoners.

I myself attach the highest importance to an increased use of adult probation, of treatment outside prison for many sexual cases and for major development of attendance centres; and also I should like to see established and extended a parole system as an alternative to prison. I must leave others to develop those and related themes. In regard to sentencing policy, the causes of crime and the means of preventing it, I agree respectfully but vehemently with what the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary said in March, 1957, about what he called the "vital question of research." Mr. Butler stated then his intention of giving that what he called "a first priority" in the administration of the prisons of England and Wales. What meaning has been given during the last year to that phrase "a first priority"? I know that these phrases trip off one's tongue rather easily, as no doubt they trip off mine; but on this one we must pause for a moment.

I am aware that something has been done, and certainly it would be quite wrong to pretend that things have been left entirely where they were. I give all credit to the Home Secretary for the fact that that admirable lone statistician—a sort of Casabianca for so long—the statistician of the Home Office, has been at last joined by three other officers to form a research unit. But these admirable gentlemen will have to handle all the statistics at the Home Office among them, so that the amount of criminological research they will be able to conduct will be very limited. I am not complaining about that, because I expect the House will agree with me if I say that criminal research is better conducted outside Government Departments. But if the Government do not largely pay for it there are no signs of anyone else doing so. It would be hard to name half a dozen professional criminologists in Britain to-day and with the passing of the years their number and the encouragement given to them seem to be diminishing rather than increasing.

Last November I pointed out that the amount allocated to research in 1957–58 was £3,000. I think that one noble Lord on the Front Bench opposite thought that I must have got the figure wrong, and that I must have meant £300,000 at least, or possibly something bigger; but it was, in fact, £3,000. For 1958–59—that is, for the current year—the figure in the Estimates is £11,000, which is better than £3,000; though I still think it derisory. I believe that the excellent officials concerned in the Home Office are showing a good deal of initiative in promoting projects of one kind or another, but it must all be on a pretty small shoestring at the moment.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will to-day be able to tell us something of what is being done in the field of research and to remove some of our scepticism and anxiety. But I hope also that he will be able to add something to what the Home Secretary said last November about an Institute of Criminology. The Home Secretary showed much good will for that conception, recommended to him by the Howard. League, and recognised, as do all penal reformers, that without some such organisation research will remain an affair of bits and pieces. I suppose that without that kind of set-up, without an Institute of Criminology, or something similiar, the research we do perform will, in practice, add up to very little, because it is so completely unco-ordinated, and it will fail, as now, to attract a reasonable supply of first-class men. But here again I beg to inquire what, apart from sympathetic noises, is being actually done as the months pass. If the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, is able to dispose of my suspicions as uncharitable and unjust, I will eat humble pie with the best will in the world, or at any rate with such good will as I can muster.

I will now say a few words about good staffing. When I spoke in 1955 and 1956 about shortage of staff as the supreme bottleneck in preventing an adequate working day, and as responsible for the wretchedly short hours worked in the vast majority of our prisons (somewhere about twenty-five per week), I singled it out—that shortage of staff—as the clearest of all the signs that we were not carrying out our declared purpose of helping our prisoners to become good citizens. But credit where credit is due, even from the Opposition Front Bench. Let me therefore on no account fail to inform the House of the extraordinary improvement in the recruiting figures for prison officers during 1957. During the years 1954 to 1956 the recruitment of prison officers was little more than the wastage; there was just a sort of dreary balance at a very low level. But in 1957 there was an increase in the number of basic-grade established prison officers which can only be called sensational. In January, 1957, the figure of basic-grade officers was 3,636; and on April 1, 1958, little more than a year later, it was 4,093. It had gone up by 460 or so on a total of about 3,600. All that is very satisfactory, so far as it goes, but I am afraid that three things must be pointed out.

The first I have already mentioned; over the same period the increase in the prison population has been, if anything, faster. Secondly, and of course connected with what I have just said, we seem to be as far away as ever from what is called the three-shift system. The three-shift system is not some Utopian dream. Before the war it was in force in all our prisons; yet to-day it is in force in not more than a quarter, or a little more than a quarter. I think we are aware that without this three-shift system for prison officers, or its equivalent in some other form, the hours of work of prisoners must remain pitifully low; and serious training, whether technical training or moral training, must remain an impossible aspiration.

Thirdly, as the Minister is at the moment aware, the official Association of Prison Officers, while pleased to note the improvement in the recruiting figures, are seriously concerned lest the standard required from recruits should have been lowered, and appreciably lowered. Of the 533 male auxiliary officers who went to the Imperial Training School at Wakefield in 1957, only 43 failed to make the grade—a figure which represents a very much higher proportion of passes than previously. One is bound to be anxious about the explanation. The Prison Officers are quite sure that the standard has been lowered, and noticeably lowered. They have received a number of communications from their own members which leave them in little doubt that, whether intentionally or not, the standard has been allowed to drop and that an increase in quantity has gone hand in hand with a deterioration in quality.

I am aware that this view is resisted by the Prison Commissioners and I do not, therefore, pass it on except as the considered view of this very responsible body, the prison officers. But may I at least ask the Minister for this assurance: Can we have an undertaking that any concrete examples of a lower standard which the prison officers can produce will be examined dispassionately and thoroughly by the authorities? From previous statements I know well that the Minister, like the rest of us, and I am sure like the Home Secretary, would regard the deliberate lowering of the standard as deplorable.


Hear, hear!


I am glad that the Minister agrees. It would be far too high a price to pay, even for the indispensable increase of numbers. On this subject I should add, in fairness, that since our last debate the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby (I am glad to see that he is with us to-day, and I hope he will address us on the topic next time), when he was Home Secretary, announced the establishment of a Committee, which was finally organised during the régime of Mr. Butler to inquire into conditions of service of prison staffs. That is an excellent idea for which I am sure Lord Tenby deserves much credit. The Committee's report will be awaited with unusual interest.

I have little time to say much, although I have no doubt that others will say a great deal, about the all-important question of work in prisons. Except where the Norwich experiment is operating—and no one knows more about Norwich than the noble Viscount, Lord Temple-wood, who presides over things in that part of the world—it is difficult to see any improvement in work. Indeed, there has been in some cases, and it may be overall, a decline. I am informed that the hours worked in regional and central prisons are between 30 and 42 a week (and the lower figure is pretty wretched), but the great majority of prisoners are in local prisons. Here I am told (this is the official answer) that the official hours vary from 18 to 36 a week. But the higher figure—the 36 hours a week—applies to these few "Norwich" cases; and when Mr. Butler spoke last November he stated that the average working week in local prisons by prisoners was about 25 hours. I am sure that we all, and no doubt he himself, would agree that that is a shocking state of affairs. I have already mentioned the bottleneck of the staffing shortage, but I gather that shortage of work in local prisons as a whole is now a greater headache than ever because of the decline in Post Office orders for mailbags—not that anybody had any good to say about mailbags, but on the whole they are better than nothing, I suppose—and because of defence cuts.

When we debated these matters in 1955 and 1956, speakers on all sides, if I remember rightly, begged the Government to make a new and really high-level approach to employers and the T.U.C. regarding the whole question of what work would be permissible for prisoners. The Government seemed doubtful at that time whether this high-level approach was the wisest course. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, told us that he was of opinion at that moment that local contacts were more promising than contacts at national level. Is the noble Lord still of that view, or has he come round to ours, as I very much hope is the case? If so, and if his colleagues in the Government have come round to this view, what has been attempted and what has been achieved? And if nothing has been attempted or nothing much has been achieved, what are the real obstacles? My own opinion can be stated briefly—it may be dogmatic, if you like, but there are many other speakers and I must draw towards a close. I believe that we shall never make any real headway until the idea can be refuted, and can be seen to be refuted, that prison labour is slave labour in any sense whatever. And I believe that that, in turn, will never be achieved until the present ludicrous remuneration of prisoners, with earnings averaging about 2s. 6d. a week, is supplanted by a prison system under which prisoners will receive a proper living wage.

From what he said in March and November of last year, one has the impression that the Home Secretary is sympathetic. What is he doing about it that amounts to anything or can lead to anything in practice? He said in November that this is a very complicated matter, raising wide issues and imposing heavy additional expenditure. But, he said, we can hope to proceed with "all deliberate speed"—quoting an American phrase. Whether or not that was intended to be jocular—and jocularity must be forgiven even to a Home Secretary—this reference to "all deliberate speed", and another reference to "somewhere in the middle distance", if sustained in policy would discredit all the brave new talk of a great step forward in penal reform. The Home Secretary, as we know, is not a rigid man; he is big enough to have second thoughts. One of his most attractive qualities, I believe—I have not the honour of knowing him at all well—is a capacity to rise above his dead self to higher things. I hope and believe that on the subject of work and earnings we shall hear something much more positive and meaningful this afternoon.

There are the three main problems singled out last year by the Home Secretary when he took over and on which he was going to level this attack—over-crowding, under-staffing and shortage of useful work. The overcrowding position was dreadful then and is considerably worse now. The under-staffing position was dreadful then and, in spite of an unexpected increase in numbers, is no better now, owing to the crime wave. The work position was dreadful then and to-day is no better—some believe it to be worse. Circumstances, if you like, have been very unkind to the authorities in the last year, and I recognise that, at least in the view of the Government, there has been a special need for economy.

But there is one advance which has been made and is being made in our prisons to-day, under our existing system, without costing anybody anything, so far as I know, and it is a clear proof that progress in prison administration is not merely a question of getting more money—though, Heaven knows! much more money must be found before our prison service catches up with other services. The Home Secretary referred last March to what is called the "Norwich experiment", which had been begun in the prison at Norwich under his predecessor, the noble Viscount, Lord Tenby, and has since been extended to several local prisons. It is not easy, and I do not think that the Home Secretary found it easy, to state the Norwich doctrine in abstract terms, but let me say what it has amounted to in practice. In a local prison which I visited recently, where it was introduced last November, before the Norwich system was introduced the prisoners were out of their cells for five hours a day—four hours' work, one hour's recreation. Now, since the introduction of the Norwich system, they are out of their cells for thirteen hours a day. No extra staff has been required to operate the system, in spite of a great increase in the number of prisoners, because of the time saved in not locking the men in and out of their cells and in not serving the meals there. As a result, the staff have been free to supervise work for many more hours, and the hours of work have, in fact, gone up, without increase of staff, from 22½ to 35 a week. This is a splendid result. I have been informed by the Governor, who, I am also informed, is a most cautious man, that the longer hours spent in association have transformed the spirit of the prisoners. The prisoners have co-operated splendidly, in spite of the fact that there is relatively little supervision during much of the time.

That is one side, the prisoners' side of it. But the other side, at least as important, is an arrangement under which the prisoners are allocated on reception to particular prison officers, who are expected to take a special responsibility for their welfare and, I understand, for their moral development. For the first time in these local prisons—I am not saying for a moment that this system is followed in training prisons but those are in the minority, the local prisons forming the great majority of our prisons—the ordinary prison officers have been enabled to feel, and apparently do feel, that they have a vital, constructive part to play, not just as custodians, as "bung 'em in and lock 'em up merchants", but as social servants in the true sense. Their response, it seems, has more than fulfilled all expectations. It is realised, we hope, that if they are given a chance of this kind, the ordinary prison staff would grasp it with both hands. The whole spirit of the prison has been transformed, without costing anybody anything. And this has not occurred in other prisons where the "Norwich experiment" has not been introduced.

I withdraw nothing that I have said in the past about the need for more assistant governors, but if that is not to come about just yet—and indeed in any case, whether it does or not—the greatest of all prison questions, the relationship between the prisoners and staff, seems at last to be finding, in the "Norwich experiment", the beginnings of an adequate answer. But how long must we call this an "experiment", leaving out training prisons, where it may be argued that something of the sort has long been attempted? Why should we not extend this Norwich success to local prisons generally?

I have been told that in the larger local prisons, such as Wandsworth and Manchester, there might not be physical space available to accommodate all the prisoners for such a long period out of their cells. I hope that the Minister will tell us (and, of course, he has had notice of this) what, if any, are the objections to making the Norwich system forthwith general throughout our local prisons. In so far as they are psychological, the objections cannot surely be accepted in your Lordships' House for a moment. In so far as they are physical, they would be another illustration of how our prison philosophy is still largely determined by the physical condition of our prisons. It is a relic of another age and of an attitude to penal reform which, in theory at least, we have totally rejected.

Now I must close. No one seriously interested in prisons has any doubt whatever about the good intentions of the present Home Secretary. Some good little things have been done. I was asked by a prisoner recently to thank the Home Secretary personally for at last allowing prisoners a daily newspaper. And I would mention that Biro pens have just been permitted to prisoners. These small changes will no doubt continue in a beneficial way, but far too slowly. Eventually, I hope that the far too tight restrictions on letters will be lifted, even if it means some reduction in censorship. Some excellent governors of the new progressive school are being appointed to the leading prisons and, though it is hard to measure in concrete terms, I think this is having a good effect. Nevertheless, our prison services remain, as they were called two years ago in The Times, "last in the queue ". Indeed, if present trends continue, they will soon need a telescope to keep their colleagues in sight.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Temple-wood, said, in 1955: We know what ought to be done, but we do not do it. Why do we not do it? Well, it cannot be done without a new assessment of priorities, and that means a battle which can be won only in the Cabinet and by a Home Secretary who will not only talk but fight. Mr. Butler has aroused great expectations. He possesses the political stature, the social vision and the grasp of actualities to give effect to many of these expectations. Difficulties, not of his making and to some extent unforeseeable, encompass him; but if he wishes to undo the negligence, parsimony and callousness of past generations he cannot expect, and I am sure he does not expect, an easy life.

It has been said: God despises the peace of those whom he has destined for combat. We pray, irrespective of any Party considerations, that the Home Secretary, in conjunction with his colleagues, may be given the moral stamina to do what he knows to be right. I beg to move for Papers.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, on the last occasion upon which we debated the subject of prisons and Borstals, one or two of your Lordships suggested that it would have been more to their convenience if I had spoken at an earlier stage in the debate. They would thereby have had some indication of the developments in the Government's policy and would have been in a better position to apportion criticism or praise as the case might be. It is for this reason that I am intervening at this stage in your Lordships' debate, and I would seek leave of the House, if there are many points that remain unanswered, to speak briefly again at the end of the debate.

I hope your Lordships will find something to praise. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, albeit charmingly, has offered some criticism in advance. Dear Margery Fry, whose death yesterday is indeed a sad loss to all of us who are interested in this subject, expressed her views on our last debate with equal charm but in a slightly different way. She wrote to me after the last debate and said: I have read your recent speech on prisons and it has provided me with material for many interesting arguments with people who agree with you. Since your Lordships' House last discussed prisons in 1956, the present Home Secretary, in a statement in another place just over a year ago, set out in detail his views and plans. Your Lordships will therefore, as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has indicated, expect from me some account of progress since then, and I will do my best to give an indication of how prison and Borstal affairs stand at present, and of what we hope to achieve in the future. I must say candidly at the outset that our plans have been sadly affected by two factors, namely, the present financial stringency, and the substantial and unwelcome rise in our prison population.

The financial aspect is important enough, but I should not like the House to get the impression that all progress has ceased for lack of money. This, indeed, is not so. It is, however, inevitable that, in common with the rest of Whitehall, the Prison Commissioners should have to play their part in curbing expenditure. Some projects have had to be reduced or postponed, including one to which Lord Pakenham referred in a quotation from, if I remember rightly, Francis Thompson's The Hound of Heaven—namely, the question of an improvement in prisoners' earnings.

The Government have recognised that prisons have for too long been at the end of the queue. In their more important aspects, and particularly as regards staff and the building programme, the Commissioners' plans for the coming year have, however, not been restricted. Nor has our research programme. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has pointed out, the amount allocated to it has been very greatly increased. The noble Lord, however, thinks the amount is still "derisory". I shall hope to show your Lordships a little later that what we shall get for it could not be so described.

The second factor, the horrible increase in prison population, is much more serious, and I am afraid I must depress your Lordships with some pretty bleak facts and figures. The total population of our prisons and Borstals has risen, as the noble Lord said, in round figures from about 20,500 to 24,500 at the end of March this year. That is the highest figure yet recorded. There are two aspects of this grave situation which call for special mention. The first is the overcrowding of the local prisons. In July, 1956, the number of men sleeping three in a cell was 2,200 and was steadily declining. By the 8th of this month it had, as Lord Pakenham has told us, soared to 4,389. All one can say about that is that it is 4,389 too many. The second point is the high proportion of this increase among young men. In July, 1956, the Borstal population was 2,600. The population to-day is nearly 4,000.

These alarming figures are the outcome of an alarming situation. There have been, since the war, several clearly marked fluctuations in the level of crime, with peaks in 1948 and 1951. After 1951 there was a prolonged decline, which was checked during 1954 and 1955. In 1956 there was a sharper turn upward, and during 1957 the level rose more steeply still. In 1954 the number of indictable offences known to the police was 434,000; by 1957 it had risen to about 545,000, which is substantially higher than the peak of 1951. As a natural consequence, the number of offenders received into prisons and Borstals under sentence has increased from 29,000 in 1955 to 34,000 last year.

It is here, too, that we find the explanation of this flood of angry young men into our prisons and Borstals. In 1956 the number of males in the age-group 17 to 21 found guilty of indictable offences showed an increase of 19 per cent. over the year before. The first six months of last year showed a further increase for that age-group over the same period of 1956 of no less than 25 per cent. in the magistrates' courts and 26 per cent. in the higher courts. These figures disclose a situation which causes Her Majesty's Government the gravest anxiety.

I should be lacking in my duty if I did not give your Lordships full warning. These young offenders come from an increasing proportion of youth in the population. They are the early arrivals in the post-war bulge in the birthrate we hear so much about. If this dreadful level of crime is carried forward into the full effects of the bulge in the birthrate, the situation in a few years' time will be appalling. We might well expect the Borstal population to flood far beyond a figure of 5,000, and that might be almost unmanageable.

However, it is fortunately possible to hope that this phenomenon will pass with the generation born just before or in the early days of the war. Whereas in 1956 youths of 18 or 19 showed an increase in indictable crime of over 60 per cent. compared with 1938, statistical studies show that those born ten years later show no abnormal tendency to crime Indeed, they are little or no worse than the same age group was in 1938. There is, therefore, a ray of hope.

May I say, before I pass on, that I will gladly consider what can be done to meet the wish of the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, that the figures of the prison population should be published at more frequent intervals.

There are only two ways in which this grave problem can be tackled: the first is the increase of accommodation: and the second is the reduction in the number of persons sent to prison. Let us consider how we are dealing with those. In 1955 my noble friend Lord Tenby, whose Under-Secretary I then had the honour to be, asked the Home Secretary's Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders to examine the possibility of devising suitable alternatives to some of the short terms of imprisonment now imposed by the courts. The Council recognised that for some offenders there was no alternative to short terms of imprisonment, but they recommended various means of keeping out of prison those for whom imprisonment was not really essential.

Your Lordships will be glad to know that action has been taken, or is being taken, on these recommendations. The Council suggested an experimental attendance centre for males of 17 to 21 years old. The Prison Commissioners hope to establish such a centre at Manchester this year. They suggested that maximum fines should be reviewed, since a heavier fine might be a suitable substitute for imprisonment. The Home Secretary has already put a review of small statutory fines in hand. They recommended that the courts should be enabled to attach the wages of maintenance defaulters as an alternative to committing them to prison: A Bill for this purpose was given a Second Reading by your Lordships last week. Finally. they recommended that Section 17 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, under which a court may not impose imprisonment on a person under 21 unless it considers that no other method of dealing with him is appropriate, should be extended to adult first offenders. A Private Member's Bill applying this recommendation to magistrates' courts is making progress in another place. From this, your Lordships will see that action is being taken on all the recommendations which require positive action on the part of the Government.

As the Advisory Council pointed out, the courts can help to restrict the use of imprisonment by the care with which they consider the penalty to be imposed and by using the existing alternatives to imprisonment where they consider them adequate. The Council thought that if magistrates made more use of their power to remand for inquiry, that might be the greatest factor in eliminating unnecessary short terms of imprisonment. This question of how to ensure that the courts can have before them all the relevant information about an offender, is among those to be considered by a new Interdepartmental Committee which my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack and my right honourable friend the Home Secretary are about to set up. But whatever the possibilities of reducing the intake may be, the immediate need is to find space for those already in prison or Borstal, and those who are about to enter.

Since our last debate the normal building programme to which I have referred has continued. A second junior detention centre at Wellington has been opened for 65 boys. A Borstal for 50 girls at Moor Park, Staffordshire, has also recently been opened. The new security prison at Everthorpe, near Hull, is expected to be ready in June, though, alas! it must begin its career as a Borstal, not as a prison. A second new prison at Hindley, near Wigan, is now under construction and should be completed in 1960. The main work on the new psychiatric prison, the East-Hubert Institution, should be completed by 1961. Work on a new central Borstal reception centre which is to be adapted from a children's home, has begun and is expected to be completed in 1960. Work on a new boys' security Borstal in Staffordshire, for completion in 1961, is expected to begin this year, and also work on a new security girls' Borstal in Essex for completion in 1960. The Commissioners are looking for sites for two more security Borstals for boys. And a search is in progress in the North of England for a site for the first remand and observation centre.

This is no mean programme for a time of stringent economy but, as your Lordships will by now have noted, it has one grave shortcoming. Most of these buildings will not be ready for some little time. They cannot be used to reduce the present acute shortage of accommodation. To meet this immediate need the Prison Commissioners have for some time been examining Government buildings likely to become available by changes in the defence programme, and much progress has already been made. A Ministry of Supply hostel at Drake Hall in Derbyshire is being acquired as an open prison for 480 male civil prisoners. Occupation should begin next month. Planning permission is also being sought for four more open establishments—that is, two prisons and two Borstals. I hope your Lordships will agree that this particular problem is being tackled with the vigour it demands.

I should now like to say a few words about research. This, of course, is fundamental to any consideration of either the causes or the treatment of crime. I shall read with great interest the contents of the noble Lord's book when it comes out. I was not interested to know either the price or the name of the publisher, as I am quite certain that, having answered this debate for three years running, I am at least entitled to a second-hand, if not a free, copy.

For several years the Home Office has been taking an increasing interest in research on the causes of delinquency and the treatment of offenders. Last year, as the House knows, my right honourable friend took the important step of establishing a research unit within the Home Office itself. At the same time, the support given to research projects to be carried out by universities and other institutions was considerably increased. Already a very extensive programme of research is under way or in an advanced stage of planning.

Your Lordships realise, however, that methods of research in criminology are themselves experimental. The problem that can be disposed of quickly is the simple one. The more difficult problems, which go to the root of society, in particular the discovery of factors leading to crime, and the reasons for the periodic increases in crime, such as we are now experiencing, are likely to require many years' study before much progress can be reported. While, therefore, these important matters are not being neglected, the Home Office research unit, and most of the private research workers with whom the Home Office is associated, are at present concentrating their efforts on the provision of factual information about crime itself, the work of the courts and the working of penal and corrective institutions and organisations.

One of the types of research being carried out by the Home Office research unit has become known as the prediction study. This method, though still in an early stage of development, is already being used and its further development pursued. Other researches being carried out by the Home Office and by the universities include studies of preventive detention, of the use of magistrates' courts of their powers of remand, of the sentencing practice of magistrates' courts and of the higher courts, of the nature and effects of various forms of treatment, including attendance centres, detention centres, approved schools and probation, and a comprehensive study of crimes of violence against the person in the Metropolitan Police District. The Prison Commissioners also hope to learn much of value to them from three projects planned for this year, which will carry out studies in three local prisons of the group-relationships and structure of the prison community. Another interesting project which will shortly be started will seek to find the causes of return to prison of those who have served a first sentence, and to apply the methods of prediction so that those who are likely to return may be recognised when first they come to prison.

The noble Lord. Lord Pakenham, asked for information about the proposal to establish an institute of criminology. This proposal is one in which the Home Secretary is much interested. It would, however, be generally agreed that it would not be appropriate for such an institute to be created and run by the Government. My right honourable friend is accordingly engaged in certain informal consultations with universities at which criminological work, both in teaching and in research, is carried on. He hopes that these consultations will produce useful results, but I am afraid that there is little more which I can say on the subject at the moment.

I now turn to the various aspects of the training and treatment of offenders, beginning with the most important group—namely, young offenders. The difficulties arising from the increase in committals and the consequential overcrowding to which I have already referred, have, I need hardly say, aggravated existing problems and created new ones. One matter which has caused the Commissioners particular concern has been the rise in the number of boys held in local prisons to await transfer to the Borstal reception centres, and the appreciable lengthening of this waiting period. It is all wrong that a boy sentenced not to imprisonment, but to Borstal training should have to spend several weeks in an overcrowded, over-thugged local prison.

To shorten the waiting period, several steps have already been taken. A Borstal holding centre has been set up in Stafford prison, where the boys are housed in a special wing and given a tonic régime under the supervision of an assistant governor specially appointed for the purpose. The system at the two Borstal reception centres has been reorganised, in order to speed up the process of allocation and transfer to training Borstals; and the number of training Borstals has been increased by converting two prisons, Dover and Pollington, into Borstals. It is still true that too many Borstal boys are waiting too long in local prisons. I do not think, however, that any further improvement can be achieved until more training Borstals are opened. As I have already indicated, two more secure Borstals will be opened, by taking over Everthorpe and Northallerton, in the near future, and we hope to acquire two establishments from the Navy and the R.A.F. for use as open Borstals during the year. Overcrowding is also, of course, affecting the training Borstals themselves. They are too full for good training.

In spite of these difficulties, training is not merely continuing but is steadily developing on new and interesting lines. Of these I should like to mention in particular the experiment of sending Borstal boys to sea and mountain schools of the Outward Bound Trust, the directors of which are good enough to offer a number of places each year to Borstal boys. Last year, eight boys, carefully selected, went separately to these schools, where they all acquitted themselves well and appeared to gain much from the experience. Selection is largely based on character and stamina. The training is tough and calculated to bring out the best in a boy. Apart from the element of adventure, and the opportunities for displaying initiative, there is the factor, very important to a Borstal boy, that the individual has to fit in with a group, and work with them, and in the course of this process to establish his own importance in the group.

To turn now from Borstal to prison, the increase in the number of young offenders sentenced to imprisonment, to which I referred earlier, has also created difficulties. Young prisoners, if their sentence is one of three months or over, are assigned to special prisons or parts of prisons set aside for their training and known as young prisoners' centres. Boys with less than three months to serve have to remain in local prisons. The régime in a young prisoners' centre is brisk and constructive, and combines personal, vocational, educational and physical training under assistant governors specially appointed for the task. The very small numbers of girls do not allow of separate centres for them. The increasing numbers have filled up these centres, and there is often undue delay in sending to them young prisoners who ought to go there.

Against this joint background of difficulty and opportunity the Prison Commissioners have thought it right to begin a study on fresh lines of the methods of treatment of young offenders. That a serious problem of adolescent crime exists is now all too painfully clear to us all. What is not so clear is whether the present system of dealing with it is the most effective for training the type of young offender at present being received. While the high ideals of those who built our present system must be preserved intact, it by no means follows that the methods they introduced and developed are necessarily the best answer to the problems of the present time.

The Commissioners have also felt for some time that the purposes and methods of the existing system of classification and training of adult offenders required review in the light of experience, and they are now undertaking that review. It was characteristic, I think, of the changing times, that as part of the review, the co-operation and advice of a small number of selected prisoners was sought, by arranging a meeting at Wormwood Scrubs between six prisoners, the Prison Governor and representatives of the Commissioners to discuss the problem of harmful influences in prisons, and similar subjects. Discussion was wide-ranging, open and free, and was found to be so helpful that the procedure is likely to be repeated when a suitable occasion arises. The advice of prisoners has for instance been sought when considering the merits of a new type of prison clothing.

One of the most important aspects of training, and one not unconnected with after-care, concerns the transition from imprisonment to the world over the wall. We have for some time been giving much attention to this aspect. The whole of a man's sentence ought, of course, to be a preparation for release, but there is no doubt that, particularly for those who have been in prison for a long time, some special preparation is needed towards the end of the sentence to help prisoners understand and face the problems awaiting them outside. Pre-release courses, consisting of a number of talks by experts, followed by informal discussion, have now been widely instituted and have proved welcome and helpful. Special pre-release training has been made available for those preventive detention prisoners (the great majority) who remain in second stage. During the last six months of their sentence they are now sent to Chelmsford prison where they live in a hut in the grounds, apart from the men in the main prison. They are employed on work outside the wall. They take part in lectures and discussions designed to help them after release. During their last three months they are unobtrusively escorted on outside expeditions to entertainments and shops.

The first and most important effort at pre-release training, the Bristol hostel, about which I had a good deal to say in our last debate, continues, I am glad to say, to flourish. Your Lordships will remember that the prisoners in this hostel, who are preventive detention prisoners in the third stage, go out to work with private firms in Bristol. They receive normal industrial wages, from which they pay an amount towards the cost of their board and lodging; make an allowance to their dependants, meet their own expenses and receive pocket money, the residue being banked for their use after release. They are free to go out in the evening and at weekends, and have leave to go home at holiday times.

We think the time has come to extend these arrangements to prisoners serving long sentences of imprisonment, and the Commissioners are in the process of establishing similar hostels at other prisons where suitable accommodation is available and where outside employment prospects are reasonably good. Initially the scheme will be restricted to prisoners serving sentences of over four years' imprisonment, and the Commissioners hope that it will ultimately be possible to extend it to other categories.

The prisoners, who will be carefully selected, will spend a minimum period of six months and a maximum period of nine months in a hostel. I hope that the first hostel will be ready by the early summer and that the scheme will be in full operation by the spring of 1959.

One of the most important elements in the training of prisoners is the requirement that a prisoner shall do a full day's work of reasonable quality. Last time the House debated this subject a number of your Lordships, as the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has reminded us, expressed anxiety about the lack of variety and the unavoidably dreary nature of prison work. Since then these problems have, of course, been aggravated by the substantial rise in population and, incidentally, by a reduction in orders from the Service Departments. Nevertheless, various steps have been taken to deal with them.

In November last year, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary appointed Mr. Albert Healey, a former director of Dunlop's, as honorary industrial adviser to the Prison Commissioners. Mr. Healey has already devoted much of his time to this work and has made himself familiar with all the problems. His wide knowledge of the general industrial field is already proving valuable to the Commissioners. The Chairman of the Prison Commissioners and I gave particular attention to this problem of work when we visited some French prisons a little while ago to see how they were tackling it.

The search for contracts for the use of prison workshop labour by outside firms has continued, and additional orders have already been obtained which we hope will provide work for between 700 and 800 men throughout this year. In this matter, I am glad to be able to assure the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, an approach on the highest level was made both to employers' organisations and to the T.U.C., and was met in a most cooperative and constructive spirit. Some progress has also been made in negotiations with the T.U.C. about the extramural employment of prisoners, but so far there has not been any increase in the number of prisoners employed outside the prisons. I understand that orders for mailbags, which have been very low for some three years, will probably return to their normal level next year. I know that many of your Lordships dislike this type of work. So do I. So do the prisoners. But it must be remembered that quite a high proportion of them are incapable of doing any but the simplest work, and mailbag sewing is better than nothing—though not much.

I must again emphasise that these problems, grave as they are, are peculiar to the local prisons. In all other prisons there is a wide range of interesting work, including much up-to-date industrial work, such as engineering, wood-machining. cabinet-making, electrical installation, and radio-mechanics. And in most of these industries the prisoners can and do qualify for the examinations of the City and Guilds and other external examining bodies. I find it dreadfully disheartening that, so far as the local prisons are concerned, so much effort should succeed only in maintaining the existing level and quality of work, rather than improving it: but when we remember the increase in prison population and the other difficulties I have mentioned, this in itself is something to be thankful for. I need hardly say that the effort to find more work and better work will continue. Your Lordships' suggestions would be welcome.

As your Lordships are aware, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has not merely accepted that prisoners' earnings are too low, and that as soon as financial circumstances permit they should be increased, but he has also called for a fresh review of the whole conception of prisoners' earnings. This will take time. The problem, as I myself found, is not so easy of solution as it looks. It is, for example, closely related to the intractable problem which I have just been discussing—that of providing sufficient and suitable work. My right honourable friend had hoped that in the meantime at least a modest general improvement might be made, but he has reluctantly come to the view that, except for making an increase in the beginners' rate (which he did last year by doubling it), any further improvement must be deferred until the national need for economy is less acute. This is a disappointment to him, as I know it will be to your Lordships.

Lord Pakenham's Motion refers specifically to the question of after-care. The recommendations of the Maxwell Committee on Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies, made in their Report published in 1953, which were accepted by the Government, are now in operation. The pilot scheme for the appointment of prison welfare officers at Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol and Winchester prisons has abundantly established the value of the services of these officers, both in preparation for after-care and in helping to resolve all the social and domestic problems that beset prisoners during their imprisonment and on discharge. Authority has been given for a number of further appointments to be made in the course of this year, and it is hoped eventually to have these officers in post at most local prisons. This will mark the greatest step forward in this particular field for many years.

During our last debate, your Lordships shared my concern about the shortage of prison staff. Your Lordships will therefore have been glad to learn, from the figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, of the very great improvement since the end of 1956. This might indicate that, if recruitment continues to go well, there may be some hope of improving the arrangements at the local prisons, which are at present staffed for single shift-working only, but your Lordships will remember that new establishments will shortly come into use and will have to be manned. Moreover, as your Lordships will be aware, a Committee, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Justice Wynn-Parry, is at present considering the pay and conditions of service of prison officers, and one of the questions before the Committee is a reduction in the twelve-day fortnight at present worked by the staff. Any such reduction would, of course, require additional staff.

The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, has suggested that this improvement in recruitment may be due, at least in part, to a lowering by the Prison Commissioners of their standards of acceptance. I can assure your Lordships without hesitation that this is not so. The noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, if he will forgive my saying so, sometimes looks rather for the cloud than for the silver lining, and he suggested that the much higher proportion of passes at the staff training school in 1957 supports his view. I would say, on the contrary, that this fortunate result is due to the great efforts made by the Prison Commissioners to improve and reorganise the system of selection and training of recruits.


May I interrupt for one moment? I was putting forward that idea not as a personal piece of tiresomeness, but as the considered view of the Prison Officers' Association.


My Lords I should never consider the noble Lord personally tiresome, but I am happy to tell him, in whatever capacity he put it forward, that he is not correct. I fear I mast add that the recruitment of women officers has shown little change, and falls below requirements, in spite of the scheme for the gradual introduction of equal pay.

For many years it has been our policy to encourage the whole staff at prisons and Borstals to approach their work in the spirit: of the prison rule which the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, quoted to us. My own experience convinced me that in the training prisons and the open prisons, and in Borstal institutions the régime leaves neither the staff nor the inmates in any doubt as to what the aim should be. We believe, however, that even in the closed local prisons a foundation for training can be laid by developing a constructive relationship between officers and prisoners.

As a means of helping the staff to approach the treatment of prisoners in a positive spirit, consultative committees have been set up in each establishment under the chairmanship of the governor. All sections are represented. Committees discuss matters referred to them by the Commissioners or the governor, or raised by members, and I believe that the staff find these discussions a useful and fruitful instrument for developing their own participation in the work.

In some of the local prisons it has been possible, since our last debate, to make important changes in the organisation of the prison. This new system, which was first introduced in my own native city of Norwich, has been well described by the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, and I cordially endorse what he has said about the effect of this system on the spirit of both prisoners and staff. The new arrangements have been introduced in full consultation with the staff, who have co-operated most willingly. It remains, however, to build on these foundations and to turn to full use the more favourable conditions for constructive treatment which have been created. The introduction of arrangements similar to those at Norwich has been effected, or is under preparation, at eight other local prisons of similar or smaller size. Plans are also being made to attempt something similar at four rather larger local prisons. It will not be so easy when we come to the largest, but already the Norwich spirit, if not the system, is beginning to be felt everywhere.

One of the greatest obstacles to prison reform in this country is the inheritance of a large number of old and unsuitable but solidly-constructed prisons. It would be unrealistic to make any plans on the assumption that these prisons can be replaced by modern establishments in the near future. As the Borstal and prison population declined, the Prison Commissioners began to make plans for modernisation and partial reorganisation of the existing local prisons. The Borstal population had dropped to a point where it was possible to convert one Borstal into a prison, and plans for a second to be so converted were well in hand. It was hoped that in this way, and possibly by the acquisition of other open prisons, enough space might be freed in the local prisons to allow modernisation to proceed.

The Commissioners had in mind the creation of sub-units within the local prison as an aid to induction and training, and the provision of adequate facilities such as classrooms and dining rooms. Unfortunately, as we have seen, the Commissioners, so far from having any spare room at their disposal, are at their wits' end to house the population they already have. Nevertheless, a substantial programme of modernisation and improvement has been undertaken, not least in sanitation, to which much attention was very properly devoted by your Lordships in our debate in 1956.

Central bathhouses have been completed at seven prisons, and improvements will be undertaken this year at three more. A large pilot scheme for modernisation of sanitary accommodation in wings, workshops and exercise yards has been begun at Wormwood Scrubs and should be completed next year. A similar programme is being undertaken at Dartmoor, and a programme for gradually modernising sanitary accommodation in all prisons will begin next year. In the meantime, considerable minor improvements are being carried out, both on sanitary recesses and also by the provision of wash-basins, with hot and cold water, in prison workshops. Ventilation of sanitary recesses by mechanical extraction fans is being undertaken and should be completed during the present financial year. A minor, but I think important point, is that toilet rolls are now provided in all the recesses. I labour this rather unpleasant point because sanitation was one of the matters about which your Lordships were so concerned during our last debate, and I had to take two noble Lords into a prison to convince them that the sanitation was not quite so bad as they seemed to think.

Other improvements, which are continuously being made, are the provision of new modern visiting rooms, the replacement of obsolete heating systems by new central oil-fired boilers, the modernisation and improvement of kitchens and a substantial programme of redecoration. A good deal has already been done in the last two years to provide bright modern colour schemes to relieve the drab monotony of prison halls and other buildings. Maintenance work to improve the general living conditions in both prisons and staff quarters goes on unobtrusively but effectively.

My Lords, I have taken much of your time, and I am sorry; but I had much to report. Some of my report has been gloomy, and not all of that is within the immediate control of the Government. But much of my report, I hope your Lordships will agree, has been a progress report, and a good report. That we have more progress still to make, the Prison Commissioners, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I all readily agree. I submit to your Lordships, however, that the progress we have achieved since I last addressed you on this subject has been real, energetic and imaginative. Your Lordships' comments and help will be welcome.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, I rise after two full and comprehensive speeches to which we have listened to make one or two very short comments, particularly on the speech of my noble friend Lord Mancroft. He has given a description of the many plans upon which the right honourable gentleman the Home Secretary is engaged. They seem to be excellent. One's only regret is that some of them were not started two or two years ago. We wish him every success, but I must say to him that we shall have to judge by results, and particularly by the speed at which the plans are carried out.

One of the troubles with reforms under the Home Office is that they are apt to be pushed aside. The ordinary member of the Cabinet who is not directly connected with such reforms is apt to consider them a nuisance and to say, "Why trouble about them when we have all these demands with education, health and the other social services?" It therefore needs very persistent pressure on the part of the Home Office and the Department to get anything done. If I needed any evidence of that, I would point to the slow progress that has taken place since 1955 and 1956, when the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, started his annual debates. I am not pessimistic but I give this word of warning: every one of those excellent projects about which we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will need a very special push from the Home Secretary (excellent as he is in the case of Mr. Butler) to get them really into operation.

My second point is also of a general kind. It is now just about twenty years since, after a long period of quiescence, special attention was concentrated upon penal problems, both legislative and administrative. It was then that the first Criminal Justice Bill was introduced and we made the attempt to classify prisons and prisoners in a way in which they had never been classified before. It was the beginning of all those alternatives—corrective training, preventive detention, attendance and detention centres and the rest—and also the beginning of improvements in the actual life of prisoners. It was then, for instance, that we made a step forward—a very small step but nonetheless a forward step—in the matter of prisoners' earnings. We also started the idea of letting certain selected prisoners go out on leave. Since then twenty years have passed. At that time we hoped that we were at the beginning of a new chapter. Everything pointed to a fall in the criminal statistics. I believe that there have never been fewer inmates of prisons than there were in the years immediately before the war.

What do we see to-day? We have heard a description of the present state of affairs from both the noble Lords, Lord Pakenham and Lord Mancroft. To-day there are more than twice as many men and women in prison. Crimes of violence seem to be just as serious as they were in the years before the war, if not more serious; and so far as we can judge the statistics about reconviction of offenders are little better than they were in those old, simpler days, when there was no attempt at detailed classification and no continuous research into penal questions. We have to face this fact. But we have to be careful not to be deflected from the line we are taking by the altogether ignorant contention that we see expressed fairly often nowadays: "What has been the good of all these penal reforms? Far from having made any improvement it looks as if things are worse. Why not go back to the older simpler and more perfunctory—and certainy cheaper—methods of the past?" I suggest that to follow that line would be the worst possible mistake.

We are not dealing with this or that' detail of criminal or prison administration that can be altered by changing this or that treatment. Let us face the fact that we are dealing with one of the greatest social upheavals that has ever taken place in the world. It occurred during the years of the Second Great War. I am quite convinced that the explanation of 99 per cent. of the depressing change in these years is due to the upheaval of family life and to the complete change in conditions, and that very often we run the risk of thinking that, now that the war is thirteen or fourteen years behind us, we can expect to go back to the conditions which existed before this tremendohs revolution.

Let us realise the fact that it is this revolution, more than anything else, that has broken up family life; that, for instance, taking women into employment has removed one of the greatest influences of the home. I am not criticising it or saying that it could have been avoided I am merely staling the fact that, until the world can adapt itself better to these new conditions, we must expect to see these great increases in crime and delinquency, and in the conditions that lead to them. This is not an argument for going back but an argument for going forward with plans and methods that we believe are better than the old ruthless methods of the past. On that account I have been very glad to hear to-day of the many schemes that the Home Office have in hand. Do not let any of them get pigeon-holed; keep them alive!

If, in passing, I may suggest an addition to them, I would say that I have never been able to understand why one of the key institutions of the original Criminal Justice Bill was never created—I refer to the remand centre, where the actual details connected with a criminal or delinquent can be seriously analysed. For some reason or other these particular institutions have never been started, and I would urge upon the Home Secretary to-day that he should put them among the very first reforms he intends to bring into effect.

My last comment, my Lords, is this. I do not think that this debate ought to end without a tribute to the Prison Commissioners.



The Prison Commissioners, as I know well from my own experience, have an almost impossible task. It is all the more formidable when they find it so difficult to get money for their improvements, and when a world war intervenes and starts a great increase in crime. I consider that in the face of these difficulties the Commissioners can claim a very remarkable achievement. They have somehow or other induced reluctant Governments to start a rebuilding campaign; they have revolutionised in many ways the internal treatment in prisons; they have pushed on with schemes for after-care; and I really take my hat off to them for what they have been able to do, when they have had almost everything against them.

As to the Home Secretary I shall say nothing. I do not think it is the business of one member of his Party to compliment another. But I know how keenly interested he is in these questions, and I feel certain that, in spite of the fact that, according to Lord Pakenham, the results up to the present do not seem to be quite as good as they might have been—I will not say "as good as might have been expected", because these results take a very long time to show themselves—he is going to leave a mark upon prison administration. My last word, therefore, will be to say: let the Prison Commissioners and the Home Secretary go on with their good work; let them go on with all the many schemes Lord Mancroft has described but let them constantly keep in mind the fact that a paper scheme is not sufficient, and that these schemes must be brought into operation in the next few months and the next few years.

4.16 p.m.


My Lords, I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said that he is prepared to answer questions at the end of this debate; otherwise, on looking at the list of speakers one might imagine that one was in the middle of a Socialist Government. However, that is not so, at least at the moment. My Lords, sincerity is always the keynote of all debates in your Lordships' House, and none is more sincere than those that deal with prison questions. Therefore I am very grateful indeed to the noble Lord, Lord Pakenham, for once more bringing to the notice of this House such an important question. I am also grateful to him for amending his original Motion by adding the question of Borstals. It seems doubtful whether punishment in Borstals and detention centres in actual fact comes within the scope of the Prison Commissioners. It takes a great place in the Annual Report of the Prison Commissioners, but I wonder whether we could once and for all clear up that matter and see whether Borstals and detention centres are part of the whole prison system. No one wishes more to keep young offenders out of prison when a prison sentence is unnecessary than I do. but to suggest that a Borstal sentence of up to three years and detention-centre sentences are not the equivalent of a prison sentence seems to me to be a little far fetched.

As Borstals are particularly mentioned in the Motion this afternoon I want to concentrate my few remarks on the subject of young offenders, because it would appear that about 50 per cent. of all first offenders are, in actual fact, young offenders; and if the success rate attributable to them, at least at the present time and in the present circumstances, continues, then it would seem that we are at least on the right way of solving the problem. And, of course, if you finally solve the juvenile problem, surely, logically, you in due course will solve the whole problem of the prison population.

Unfortunately, we have heard that crime is rapidly increasing and is now at an all-time "high" that even this success rate, which is continuing, does not keep up with the increase of crime as a whole, and that we are not likely to see any immediate change in the graph which will go upwards at least until 1961, the limit of the present so-called "age bulge" All this is purely a short-term argument, and I think we may well hope that this sudden jump in crime at a time when we expect the numbers to decrease can be explained by special circumstances that may well soon pass. If you compare this country to America, you will see that almost exactly the same thing has been happening there, particularly with young offenders. The numbers were decreasing in America, as they were here, until 1955, and then suddenly, for some unknown reason, they increased, as our numbers did, and in one State only in America I think there are over 400 boys waiting for detention in the equivalent of our Borstals.

When we look to the causes we find, of course, that there are many. I will wait with the greatest of interest to read Lord Pakenham's book. However expensive it is and however poor I am, that is a "must" for me. Some months ago there was a leader in The Times, headed "Youth in the Dock", which I think presented the position in its right perspective. It showed that the increase in juvenile crime was not out of proportion to the increase in crime as a whole. Far too many people are blaming the youth of to-day, when the actual fact is that an increase is taking place in all criminal activities rather than in the amount of juvenile crime.

The article gave several possible causes for the rise in the serious crime rate of those between the ages of 17 and 21—including the war years, too easy money resulting in an inflated opinion of their worth to the nation, and the lack of good home influence because of mothers going out to work. We have discussed all these things before, and all of them have probably played their part. In these clays I think we may well add the part played by television. When the children are interested in television, that is bad enough; but when adult eyes are glued to the television screen night after night, then a reasonably intelligent youth will become intolerant and go out and try to find his own amusement instead of getting it from his parents at home; and it may be that in the end that amusement will be disastrous and lead him to prison.

The war-time call to parents, accepted voluntarily or compulsorily by fathers, was in a great many cases accepted also by the mothers, with the result that children were evacuated to the country and left amongst strangers, with strange faces. These children had little or no education, and no home life, which is so important in early years. Without being complacent, I think that we can honestly accept these as special circumstances and hope that this phase will soon be on the wane. Nevertheless, the continuing desire of women with young children to go out to work instead of looking after their children cannot help, and the swelling of the family budget does not and never can compensate for loss of the mother's care. Apart from this, I think that all these questions are of a temporary nature. If they are not, then we have to consider the whole question of our policy towards prisons and Borstal.

For my part, I cannot believe that we are really on the wrong track. I would strongly support the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, in his praise of the Prison Commissioners and their staffs, who are fighting, and have fought for a long time, a tine battle, sometimes with little official encouragement and always with a serious lack of finance. So far as finance is concerned, do not your Lordships think that we are being too frightened at this word "inflation" when we are told that we must avoid spending money at all costs? If all prison demands were met, they would be completely negligible compared to the amount we are spending on welfare and defence measures, and would not make the slightest difference to inflation.

So far as staff is concerned, I would not agree with either of the noble Lords, Lord Pakenham or Lord Mancroft. I think that the reason why there has been an increase in staff is because of present economic conditions. There is a slight fear now of unemployment, a fear that it will grow, and the moment that fear conies people look for safe jobs. I think they are going into the prison service for safe jobs. It is the duty of the Prison Commissioners and the Government to see that the standard is not lowered. Now, by having a queue of people waiting to join the prison service, they have a chance they have not had for a long time of picking the right people. I do not believe that the standard has been lowered up to now, and I think that this improvement may well go on.

Another reason why I am talking mainly on young prisoners this afternoon is that last year was the jubilee year of the Borstal system. If we look back over the history of Borstals, I think that we can do so with a sense of pride. If we compare the chances of young men who got into trouble fifty years ago with what they are to-day, we see that they are vastly different. Nowadays, not only have young offenders a chance of improving themselves morally and physically, but also they have a chance of learning a trade which will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives; and after-care, an integral part of the whole system, is infinitely better than it has ever been before. I do not think I should leave this question without a word of praise and of gratitude to the many people who during those fifty years have devoted their lives so unselfishly for the benefit of these unfortunate young men, many of whom, I am sure, would be prepared to get up to thank the authorities for what they did for them in the years past.

I do not think it is the principle that is wrong; I think it is the gaps in the principle; and the first and most important, to which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has already referred, is that of allowing young offenders so much time in local prisons before they go to Borstals. It is an appalling and inevitable start to any sentence. Even if they are not in association with hardened criminals, they are adjacent to them and this can do them irreparable harm. Up to eight weeks can be spent in a local prison before young offenders go to one of the two reception centres, both of which I visited last year, and both of which are doing a first-class job. But it is no good having young offenders there after the tainting received in the local prison. This must be high in the priorities of any improvements that are going to be made.

Also, there is nothing between Borstal, with the indefinite sentence of three years, and the young prisoners' centres, the chief of which is at Lewes. These centres take boys with sentences from three months to three years. Though the instructional training is very good indeed, they cannot really start training boys with sentences of less than a year, and training at Lewes is hampered all the time by the continual exchanging of short-time prisoners. It appears to me that nearly all the long-term prisoners in Lewes and Liverpool could well go to Borstals in the first instance. There are few cases that could not be taken originally to Borstal. What is really wanted is a centre for those with sentences of between three months in a detention centre and an indefinite period at Borstal. I know that the whole question of young prisoners is under consideration, but there is this gap in the system, and I hope that when this decision is made by those who are looking into the question this particular point might be considered.

There is one small point I should like to mention. Borstal training is indefinite—that is to say, when a boy goes to Borstal he knows that three years is the maximum, but he never knows when he is coming out whereas if a boy goes to Lewes as a young prisoner, he is given three months, six months, a year, or whatever it may be. When a boy commits minor offences inside Borstal or in prison, one of the punishments, which is quite salutary and effective, is a few days' less remission in sentence. That can mean infinitely more to a boy in Lewes, who knows when he is coming out, than it does to a boy in Borstal, who has no idea of when he is coming out. I would suggest, therefore, that a Borstal sentence, though indefinite at the start, should be made a definite period after perhaps six months.

So far as detention centres are concerned, I spoke at some length on these last time, but I should like to say now how well I think they are carrying out their work. This is simply "putting a boy through it" in the true meaning of the words. There is far too much softness these days, and a little hard discipline, where there is no lack of understanding, is a good thing. I am still horrified that the young prisoner with up to three months to serve has in many cases to serve the whole of his time in a local prison. I know that we are all agreed on this matter, but I would ask: can it be right at the top of any priority when improvements are considered? I was told only the other day of at least one case of somebody who was given six months' sentence and spent the whole of the six months in a local prison simply because there was not room in one of the juvenile centres. I am against young people spending any time in local prisons, and I hope, as I have said, that in principle this will be almost the first thing to be tackled in any consideration of improvements.

Another small point is this. Is it not possible for sentences passed on young people to be reconsidered while they are in prison? This is done in respect of courts-martial sentences. I know that it is much more difficult to do it in civil law, but surely it would be possible? A boy is given a Borstal sentence, or even two years at Lewes, and perhaps after a few months the governor realises either that the boy, for reasons unknown at the time of sentence, should never have been sent to that kind of punishment or that he has learned all he can from it. Surely that boy's case could be reconsidered, and possibly a remission of sentence given. I put forward that suggestion because I think there are a few cases, anyhow, where the rest of the sentence does a great deal of damage.

Finally, I come to the question of after-care. The success of after-care cannot be decided just by the percentage of people who do not return to prison; nor can it be decided by a study, however careful, of the whole problem. Basically it is the effect on the prisoner that is important, and his co-operation is essential for the success of the whole scheme. It would seem to me that the Boys' Division of the Central After-Care Association stands out on its own. I am not happy about after-care in general, but I am not proposing to go into detail this afternoon—time is too short to cover such a vast subject. I would say, however, that I think, from the boys' point of view, they now really have a chance of first-class advice front first-class people. We all know that after-care starts as soon after sentence as possible. The Boys' Division is tackling this problem in the right way. It cannot take boys directly after sentence, because they go to local prisons; but as soon as they get to their reception centre the Boys' Division starts on their future, and looks after them, not only until they have left their Borstal or their juvenile centre, but also during their time on probation afterwards.

These people, however, cannot do their work alone; they must be helped from outside. And first and foremost they must rely on the trade unions. We have heard a certain amount about that aspect this afternoon. I am quite satisfied in my own mind that the position is much better than it was, but it seems to me that that is due to the help received from the local trade unions rather than to a central policy from the Trades Union Congress, I think a great deal more could be done from the top than is being done at the moment. I know that trade union members are often skilled crafts-men, but Borstal training in itself makes a skilled boy: they have first-class training in all the centres, and the result of the examinations, of which we have also heard this afternoon, show that the Trades Union Congress need not fear accepting these boys as full members of whatever association or local trade union they join after their release.

Heads of firms, too, can do far more than they are doing at present. They are now completely divided between those who really will help and those—I am afraid the majority—who just will not have ex-prisoners at any price, be they adults or young prisoners. For once, I would give a word of praise to other Ministries who are doing their share in this way, and would cite them as an example of what could be done. Particularly would I say how well the War Office are tackling their side of the question of young people. Then (although a smaller number are concerned), the Disabled Persons side of the Ministry of Labour are accepting those referred to them and giving them every possible help.

But the chief problem in after-care is the attitude of the public. We must try to banish once and for all this fear on the part of the public that everyone who comes out of prison is going to wring their neck or stab them in the back at the first opportunity. Most of these boys (I think it is right to say most of them, but certainly it is a great percentage), when they come out, are homeless, or their homes are such that it is infinitely better that they do not go back to them. Their chance of success is determined by the atmosphere in which they find themselves on release. If more people were ready to take these boys and help them, that would, I think, be the greatest step forward in preventing first offenders from committing any further crime in the rest of their lives.

The Press and the B.B.C. can do a great deal to help in this way. So far as the Press is concerned, it would appear that crime is news only when it is sensational. I should like to refer the Press and your Lordships to an official pamphlet that has been issued called WantedA Home, which shows what the public could do for these boys who are homeless when they leave Borstal, and how they could help in giving these boys a chance in life which would probably make the whole difference to them. With almost no publicity given to it, hardly anyone has heard of this pamphlet. I think the Government, with the help of the Press, could do a lot in this way. Could not the Home Office also issue a documentary, which could be put on television, to show the public what these people are really like; that in most cases they are quite genuine and reasonable people when they leave their Borstal? There was a good documentary on the Borstals a few years ago. Perhaps now that it is the jubilee of the Borstals that might be revived and shown on television once more.

We have heard about offences of violence, and that their numbers are rising. In actual fact I do not think that is so. So far as I can see, about 5 per cent. of the total number of crimes are violent crimes, and of that 5 per cent. only a few offences are by people under the age of twenty-one. Again, I think the Government might help by advertising these facts to the public. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, mentioned the question of the Outward Bound courses. I think it is a great triumph that eight boys from Borstal had such a successful result last year, and I understand that the numbers at the courses this year are more than double.

I think I have said enough to show how important I feel the question of aftercare is. Statistics can be misleading, but according to the figures, something like 50 per cent. of the boys who leave Borstal are considered satisfactory and do not get into trouble again. But what is far more important is the number of those who do get into trouble again but subsequently lead reasonable lives. I do not think I am giving away any secrets if I say that, from a recent analysis of nearly 1,000 cases of ex-Borstal boys who were discharged in 1953 and who have since been re-convicted, it would appear that in 1958 35 per cent. were leading normal lives and only 20 per cent. heading for recidivism. The remaining 14 per cent. were considered hopeful, and 31 per cent. still doubtful. Taking those figures, it means that between 65 and 70 per cent. of all Borstal boys are a success after a period of four or five years. That is worth clinging on to: it is worth improving, if we can. I therefore think that we, and the public particularly, should encourage this after-care in every possible way.

The average person does not think of prison unless a friend of his has gone there or he finds himself there. We must change that attitude. I do not want in any way to suggest that crime should not be punished. Moral standards to-day are low—very low—and to go on in the soft way that some people would wish is not the answer to the question. Our duty is that, while people are being punished, everything must be done to rehabilitate. That is what I am asking for this afternoon, particularly in the case of the young prisoner; and we must also try to make the public remember that when his punishment is completed he should be considered in all respects the same as anyone else, and no stigma should be allowed to remain.

4.45 p.m.


My Lords, I have felt it right to put my name down to take part in this debate, not because I am in any sense an expert or have close personal knowledge of the details of the questions about prisons. Borstal institutions, or after-care. But, quite certainly, these are matters which are of great interest and concern to all bodies of people, for their purpose is to make, by the grace of God, even of the greatest sinner, a good man, or at least a better man. That must include a better citizen, and that, as I take it, is the purpose of the State in its treatment of those in prison or in Borstal institutions.

As we have been reminded time and time again this afternoon, the major problem facing the prison administration to-day is overcrowding. I need not labour that point again. But anything that can be done to lessen the number of prisoners is of supreme importance. Therefore, it seems to me that aftercare is, in one sense, the most important of the subjects with which we have been dealing this afternoon, because after-care should make the number of prisoners who return a second time or even more times to prison less and less. Therefore I should like to stress the great importance of after-care. After-care, of course, begins long before the prisoner leaves the prison; indeed, it should begin on the day when a man is received into prison. But here, too, the overcrowding and the shortage of prison staff make constructive work difficult. I suppose it is human nature that there is a tendency, when the staff is hard pressed, for them to think primarily in terms of the smooth running of the prison as an institution, rather than to look forward to see how the prisoner can best be fitted to take his place successfully in the outside world when he is released.

As we have been reminded in this debate, the fact that the staff, particularly in local prisons, is on a two-shift system, means that the prisoners spend many hours locked up, and their work is spasmodic. They lack the discipline of steady work for periods comparable to those in industry. In fact, it has been stated to me by chaplains and welfare workers that in prison people are taught to be idle, which is certainly not something we should desire. I had already heard something about the promising experiment at Bristol for men from preventive detention, and I was glad to hear that this experiment is being pressed forward and that it is hoped to extend it.

What I was going to say about the Borstal institutions has been said more than once in the course of this debate, and therefore I will not labour it. But I should like to stress the tragic results of the overcrowding, which means that after sentence boys are put in prison for a considerable period before they can be sent to an allocation centre. Beyond doubt, these young people should be kept out of prison. I had intended to ask whether any remand centres, such as were proposed in the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, had yet been set up, but the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood. I think it was, answered that question in the negative in the course of his speech. I was further going to ask whether, if such centres ware put up, they could be used not only for young persons before trial or sentence, but also for those awaiting removal after sentence to an allocation centre.

The after-care work begins in prison; but obviously this must be followed up by after-care after the prisoner is released. To be fully effective, these two aspects of after-care should be brought into close co-operation. I was glad to hear an answer to a question which I had meant to ask about the prison welfare officers. I was glad to hear that such people are now being appointed and that the number of them will be increased, for these officers should be the channel of co-operation with the probation officers outside the prisons. The probation officers during last year, I am told, had over 7,000 ex-prisoners under their statutory after-care. These probation officers over the years have been seeking, and at last now are getting, much more adequate training in social case work. They are most anxious to undertake this task, but they themselves are short in numbers.

Again, I should like to follow up what the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, said just now about something which local branches of the trade unions can do to help prisoners when they come out of prison. I have heard of two cases recently. One was a case of a man who had been in prison and was now released on parole. In prison he had been trained in weaving and had become quite pro- ficient. The after-care officer who was looking after him approached a number of firms and was there received sympathetically, but on each occasion he was referred to the local trade union executive. Not one of them was prepared to accept this prison training as adequate to allow the man to be employed in their particular trade in the textile industry. The other case which I have come across was of a lad from a Borstal institution who had an excellent vocational training certificate in bricklaying, but again that was not accepted by the trade unions. Whether I should say this I do not know. The probation officer in that particular case, by means of a trick, did get the boy in. I am not sure whether the end justified the means, and certainly it was not a good example to the boy who had just come out of Borstal that he should be set on his feet only by means of a rather questionable trick.

One can quite understand the hesitations of the local trade union executives, but I hope that they will be sympathetic and understanding, both for the sake of the men themselves, the ex-prisoners, and also for the sake of society; because if these men cannot get into work they will drift back to prison again. The purpose of all this after-care work is obviously to make the prisoner a good and useful citizen and to save him from constantly returning to prison.

Experience of such after-care work is, I think, very encouraging. For instance, in the large city in the North which I know best, the experience of the probation officers there who have been able to specialise in the after-care of long-term prisoners is that for two and a half years there has not been a single re-conviction of any man from preventive detention. If, in that case, they were so successful, there is hope that adequate after-care on a much larger scale will lead to saving a much larger number of prisoners from returning to crime. It points to the need for the extension of such after-care to other categories of prisoners. That can be done only if both the prisons and the probation service are adequately staffed and if those joining these services are, by vocation as well as by training, equipped for the work which they will be called upon to do. I was glad to hear that the number of prison officers has risen. I hope very much that there will be a similar increase in the number of probation officers, for both alike can make the most invaluable contribution to this problem of reducing the overcrowding of our prisons and, even more important, of saving some of the prisoners for good citizenship.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, one of the most important points brought out in this debate is that of the bad influence on young offenders through making early contacts in prisons, either in their sentences or awaiting their turn to go to Borstal. I think there was a time when the local policeman or the local gamekeeper was allowed and able to give a young offender a good hiding without being later hauled up by the offender's parents, and I believe that in those days many people were saved the bad influence of being brought before the juvenile court and perhaps later, for more serious crimes, even going to prison. I personally should like to see the reintroduction of more corporal punishment, but naturally on a very judicial and fair basis.

The policeman particularly, I think, used to be allowed to "clip" the young offender for perhaps some insult or some small crime, and it was not necessary for the offender to be brought up to the juvenile courts. It is surely far better to have some form of immediate punishment than that overcrowding should be increased by sending these young offenders to prisons and Borstals. Many of your Lordships will no doubt agree that not all those who received beatings in their youth turned out to be psychiatric cases. Corporal punishment has been to a great extent ruled out by modern, enlightened views. However, these modern, enlightened views are not necessarily correct, and the number of young offenders has certainly risen. I think that the case against corporal punishment has been rather trodden down. It is much better, I feel, to forget the kid-glove treatment towards young offenders and return to the birch for a great many offences.

The same remarks, I feel, apply in the case of adults. There is tremendous overcrowding in prisons, and I believe that the re-emergence of the birch, which has almost disappeared now, would, for many crimes, do a great deal of good and stop a number of first offenders from having to serve their first prison sentence. Whether other punishments are possible, punishments that take a short time and are very severe, to avoid sending criminals on their first offence to prison, I do not know—perhaps some form of punishment incurring public ridicule, or some other such thing. I do not think these ideas have been thought of very much, and perhaps there are some people who would say that that is going back to the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, I feel that corporal punishment and punishment by ridicule might have their uses in certain cases and might to some extent alleviate the overcrowding. I also feel that if somebody who has had his punishment over a short period talked to his friends about the punishment he had received, it would provide a greater deterrent than if he is imprisoned, out of contact with his criminal friends and unable to inform them of the unpleasant punishment he is receiving.

My last point concerns the public feeling about old people. Many people have said to me that many old people who live on their pensions have to live a very boring life; they cannot afford television sets and they cannot afford to go out; they have just to exist. However, a great number of prisoners who have special treatment have their television sets; they have free board and lodging paid for by the country, and they have a much better time than the innocent old people. Furthermore, there is a great deal of sympathy with murderers and criminals, but, again, seldom any sympathy for the old people or the widows of murdered men. My Lords, there is much feeling on this point, and I think that prison reform and the improvement of prisons should be tempered with that thought.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I am rather disappointed to hear the speech of the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat. I thought that up to this point the debate this afternoon had been exceptionally forward-looking and constructive, and rather typical of the movement of these debates in your Lordships' House during the last years. I should have thought this question of corporal punishment had been finally settled, and I was extremely sorry to find the noble Lord suggesting that it should be revived. Even with schoolboys, there is a great deal of difference of opinion among educationists as to whether corporal punishment is justifiable. For older people (and, after all, the young fellows who are sent to the Borstals are reaching the adult stage and are not to be treated like small schoolboys) I should have thought that the review of this business of corporal punishment by tile inter-departmental Committee which sat before the war had finally settled this problem in the negative, without any doubt at all. As I say, I am sorry to think that the noble Lord should have revived it. I am quite sure that the great mass of enlightened opinion is entirely against him on this point. I thought he was on much sounder ground when he suggested that we should look round for some other method of bringing the distaste of society to bear on these people, possibly by some method of ridicule or something like that, which I am quite sure is a much more sensible line of research.

Having said that, I should like to express my thanks to my noble friend Lord Pakenham for again giving us the opportunity of discussing this important problem. Unfortunately, I was not able to hear his speech, but he kindly indicated to me the main points which he intended to make. I had the pleasure—because it is always a pleasure—of listening to the full review of the problem that was given by the noble Lord, Lord Mancraft. Whenever I hear him speak on this subject I feel, for a short time, that the sun is rising above the horizon. A little later, when one tries to make a survey of what has been done, it is still just a glimpse of the sun above the horizon; and the sun seems never to rise. However, I agree that the Home Secretary has been unfortunate in that he is confronted at present with an exceptionally difficult and worrying rise in the prison population, and indeed in the general increase in indictable offences which has been going on for the last two years or so and which the noble Lord, quite properly, described as alarming. It is good to know that the Government are worried about it, because if they are they may be prepared to do even more—and a great deal more does, in fact, need to be done.

After making these preliminary observations. I should like to address a few remarks to three or four of the topics which have been already touched upon by Lord Pakenham and by several others of your Lordships who have addressed the House. In the first place, I feel that the most basic of all these matters—I suppose this results from my having spent most of my life in university work—is the question of criminological research, on which I entirely associate myself with what Lord Pakenham has said. In the last discussion we had on this subject, during the debate on the Address in reply to the gracious Speech last autumn, I criticised the Home Office most severely for its remissness in the past, in that, having had for something like ten years the opportunity, the financial means, of embarking upon research work in connection with criminological and penological matters, they had been spending the money at a derisory rate.

The noble and learned Viscount—not so much in reply to me as in reply to Lord Pakenham; I do not think he troubled to reply to me—indicated that a rather more serious amount of research was going to take place. And the sum has now, we are told, been stepped up to the magnificent total of £11.000 a year. But, when one considers the problem of crime, and what it means in the community, surely it is derisory to allocate £11,000 a year. What does that mean in the light of what is being spent on the development of atomic research, and all sorts of research directed to the destruction of human life rather than to its improvement? Possibly it is not practicable to spend substantial sums of money on research at present, because this particular problem has been so neglected in the past that it just is not possible to get the qualified personnel to do this research work.

I have remarked more than once in these debates (I am sorry to bore your Lordships with the information) that I have been President for some time of the Institute for the Study of Delinquency; and time after time we have found, after training a research worker to do an important job of work that he has had to leave and take up some other sort of work, simply because there was not the money there to give him a long-term contract. That has been typical of criminological research in this country over the last years. So it is not to be wondered at that when, at last, the Home Secretary persuades the Chancellor of the Exchequer to spend a little money on this important matter, it is difficult, if not impossible, to get the necessary research workers. Therefore, we are obviously going to have to walk for some time before we can learn to run. This is entirely due to the sloth of Home Secretaries in the past, and to the Governments of which they have been members, and I do not think that the explanation which has been given by the noble Lord will "wash".

Of course the recent and, as Lord Mancroft said, alarming increase in crime, which is almost entirely among youthful offenders, calls for urgent research into its causes, in order to see whether steps can be taken to prevent, or at any rate reduce, the increase. The projects which the noble Lord has referred to, and which I think were described by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack in the last debate, although most interesting and valuable in their own way, are hardly directed to this particular problem. I should have thought that it was especially important at present that we should make a real attempt, on a scientific basis, to get at the causes of this new increase in the crime wave among these young people. There are all sorts of theories about it which one hears discussed but they are largely guesswork, and I think it is high time that some real attempt was made to go into this problem on a scientific basis.

On this particular question of research I should like to expand what I said in the earlier debate on the work being done outside the Home Office. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, indicated that some Home Office money is being spent on assisting the work which is being done in the universities. I believe that it is very important that research of this kind, which is particularly the line of work carried though at universities, should be fostered there. It is really a question of how far the Home Secretary and Her Majesty's Government are prepared to help.

We of the Institute for the Study of Delinquency have more than once offered our services—an offer which, so far at any rate, has not been accepted. But I am glad to know that the question of founding an Institute of Criminology, which is obviously very much in the line of work pursued in universities, is under active consideration. I hope that what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, about the need for getting on with things of this kind as matters of urgency, will receive the attention of Her Majesty's Government, because the question of an Institute of Criminological Research is one which has, in effect, been before the public for almost as long as I can remember. I feel it is a crying shame that it should be still under urgent consideration and that no practical steps would yet seem to have been taken.

The next matter on which I should like to say a few words is one that has been touched upon by the right reverend Prelate and the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood—a request for money and work to be put into the building of remand homes and remand centres. This is a very important matter, and it is a crying shame that nothing, has been done to implement the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948. in this respect. The fact that the increase in crime is largely among juveniles and young people makes the adequate provision of remand homes, and in particular of remand centres, quite essential at the present time, because of the need for adequate information about these young criminals at the stage when they are being sentenced.

The most important aspect of modern penological science is the number of different methods of treatment which are now available and which have been introduced, particularly by the 1948 Act. The tribunal which sentences now has to consider a substantial number of different ways of dealing with these people, and the treatment must depend to a considerable extent on the personality of the particular prisoner. In my experience a court seldom has adequate information on which to reach this important decision; the sort of decision which lies at the very centre of the subject. The value of the remand home is that the boy or young man can be studied for a time and an expert report given to the sentencing court, so that it will have a much better chance of giving a really sound decision in the case.

The problem of sentencing is an extraordinarily difficult one and the irony of this is that after the lad has been sentenced a lot of trouble is often taken in trying to classify him for the different kinds of treatment available. Yet any sensible person would say that the most important time of all was before he was actually sentenced; and that is the very time when no really satisfactory arrangements are available. Taking first the young adults, the people for whom the remand centres were intended by the 1948 Act, the fact is that here we are, ten years later, without a single one of these centres yet set up. I suggest that that is a scandal. I believe it is one of the first things that ought to be put right.

Remand homes for younger delinquents go back to a time substantially before the war, but I believe that most people who have given careful attention to the problems of penology are far from satisfied with the present remand home system. The Home Office have, of course, relied almost entirely on local authorities for the provision of these remand homes, and undoubtedly in some cases the local authority have done their job very well. I believe everybody agrees that outstanding success has been achieved in the London remand homes, where there are many experts—psychiatrists, training officers, psychiatric and social workers and others—who are able to deal with the requirements of the children. A really capable personnel has been built up which is doing, this work very well. It should be a lesson to the rest of the country, but so far as I can make out that is not so at all.

The 1938 Bill, to which the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, referred, envisaged a number of State remand homes, which were intended to set a kind of standard for local authorities, resulting from the studies of an inter-departmental committee which had been set up a year or two earlier and had examined the position in Continental countries. I believe that this problem is better handled in Belgium than anywhere else. It was on the basis of the very satisfactory experience of the Belgian authorities that this proposal was made, and I think it was a pity that it was dropped from the 1948 Act and that the proposal switched over to provision for the rather older prisoner. There is no doubt, however, that Her Majesty's Government would have been equally remiss in regard to the provision of remand centres for younger delinquents, and I do not suppose we should have got very much farther with those. These needs could be met at a cost much lower than that of building the new prisons which are proposed.

I was very interested to hear the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, say, in effect, that it was a scandal that these young fellows on remand had to be sent to prisons, the noble Lord apparently not realising how serious a criticism he was making of the conduct of his own Government in failing to implement the Act of 1948.


No, no!


The kind of remand centre envisaged by Sir Lionel Fox, Chairman of the Prison Commission, in his great book on prisons, is an ideal which ought to be carried through as quickly as possible, but I believe that something of the kind could be provided on a rather less elaborate basis, and I gathered from the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that something of that kind was contemplated by Her Majesty's Government. I am glad to know that Her Majesty's Government are going ahead with the provision of new prisons. The promise was made by the noble and learned Viscount that one new prison would be ready this month. It would appear that that is a month or two behind, but it is satisfactory to know that the prison in Yorkshire is practically ready. Yet it seems to me that the main object which we should have before us is to keep people out of prisons altogether.

I should just like to say a word or two on the question of short sentences, which seems to me to be still a mailer on which magistrates, and even higher judges, who ought to know better, are still making mistakes. When I, as chairman of quarter sessions, have to consider the record of many of the young prisoners who come before my bench, it is astonishing how often my colleagues and I still find, as we did only at the last sessions a week or two ago, cases where somebody has been given three months' imprisonment, and then six months, then nine months, and six months again, often seven or eight times, before some court sentences him to a really effective term of imprisonment. It is a scandal that this sort of thing can go on. It is not easy to see how it can be stopped, but it is a scandal and I feel that the Home Secretary could do more by urging benches of magistrates, and not only benches of magistrates but often judges who ought to know better, to make a great deal more use of the probation system than they do, because probation is still not being used sufficiently in these cases. In the case I mentioned the man concerned had never been on probation during a period in which he underwent the long number of short sentences.

Another point about probation is this. The right reverend Prelate, I think, and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, pointed out how difficult it is to persuade employers to take these ex-prisoners into their employment. It is not always only the employer who is concerned; often it is the workpeople who make difficulties about working with a man who has been in prison. The curious thing is that there is no sort of stigma attached to a man on probation. So far as I can make out, our probation officer never seems to have difficulty in placing his probationers in work. Employers are quite ready to take them, and there seems to me to be little or no objection on the part of work-people to working with them. That is an astonishing thing, because the offence is just the same and sometimes it is the accident of which bench deals with the case that decides whether a probation order is made or the young fellow is sent to prison. This is an important element in the situation, because I think that something like 70 to 75 per cent. of the probation orders achieve success, and the lads concerned do not come before the court again. And the lad, of course, is at work, and benefits from being at work; and the country benefits by his work. Therefore the more we can keep these young fellows out of prison, particularly by the probation system, the better.

The preliminary work of the remand homes, to which I have been referring, and the remand centres (if only they existed), is, of course, necessary for the purpose of getting more efficient sentencing. I come back to this matter of efficient sentencing because it seems to me to lie at the heart of the problem of criminology, which we are dealing with this afternoon. The sentencing of prisoners is a most difficult problem. The more I do it, the less I feel confident in myself; and I am sure that that is so with other judges and other people who have to deal with this sort of case. And many judges who have to do it are, of course, for a long time inexperienced. I have the great advantage of sitting with experienced magistrates, men and women of the world who have had a good deal of experience of the administration of the law and also of business and industry. What I should feel like if I had to decide on these cases by myself, I do not know. I think the position of the High Court Judge who goes around on circuit, often having had practically the whole of his experience in the commercial court, or in some other court where he has never seen a criminal in his life, and then somehow or other has to give a correct sentence to a prisoner who is brought before him, is not an enviable one. It is really quite unfair to put on him a burden of this kind, and it is a puzzle to me how the judges succeed in discharging the burden as well as they do.

I think that in the last debate Lord Pakenham suggested that this matter ought to be investigated by a Royal Commission or an inter-departmental committee or something of that kind, in order that arrangements could be made for assisting judges. The situation now is so different from what it was when criminal administration grew up; the possibilities are so much more complicated, the situation is so much more diverse, that the judges ought to be helped a great deal more than they are in this business. I have often thought that a judge on assize would welcome it if he could have a small panel of magistrates to help him, with whom he could talk before he passed sentence. If I were a judge on circuit I certainly should welcome something of the sort. Perhaps this is a little off the main subject of the debate this afternoon, but I feel that this problem of sentencing is, as I have said, at the heart of the subject; that not enough attention has been paid to it, and that not enough provision is made for the assistance of judges, in particular, who are faced with carrying this intolerable burden.

The only other point to which I should like to refer is this question of the provision of work in prisons, which I have already mentioned and which was specially stressed by the right reverend Prelate in his very constructive and sympathetic speech. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, was, I thought, rather optimistic on this point: he said that provision was being made for rather more employment in various ways, including the horrible return to the sewing of mailbags, which is the worst type of employment—it is almost as bad as picking oakum which used to be the standard form of work in the prisons. In spite of what he said, I do not feel at all satisfied about the situation in regard to the provision of work in the prisons, and I sympathise very strongly with what was said by Lord Templewood on this particular matter, when he urged that we must keep pegging away at this the whole time. The provision of work for prisoners is perhaps the most important of all things inside the prison, and a system under which only something like 20 per cent. of the prisoners' time is occupied in useful work cannot result in the reform of the prisoners.

The situation is now particularly serious, because the open prisons, where until recently most of the prisoners were occupied in working for farmers or for the Forestry Commission, or on land drainage or something of that kind, are. I am told, in quite a number of cases facing a serious shortage of work. If that is so, experience in the open prisons will cease to be so satisfactory. I am quite sure that the splendid record of open prisons, from which so few prisoners hive tried to escape, will cease to be so good. When the men get "browned off because there is no work for them to do, the inevitable result is that they will try to escape; and in escaping they will break into houses of neighbouring farmers and other people, and the result will be that the excellent reputation which the open prisons have earned for themselves over the last few years will be lost.

I believe that the Government will have to take a strong line about getting work for these people. It is not the trade unions at the centre which are the cause of the trouble. I am sure that the right reverend Prelate is right when he says that it is the local people who are responsible. I think the Government will have to take a strong line on this matter, because this is one of the most important with which they are confronted at the present time. But all these matters are, I feel, of substantial importance, and I hope that the Government will pay real attention to them.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, I should, in beginning, like to pay my tribute to Miss Fry, whose sad death we read of in the newspapers. During my youth I was subjected to meeting a great many reformers in the house, both male and female, and, contrary to what one would think, they were at least as good company as those who came to enjoy themselves. She was one of the most settling and one of the most charming and amusing people it was our privilege to know, and her death is a great loss to this country.

I think that at the moment the prisons in this country are much in the same position as the hospitals: they have a wise and sensible direction at the top, a devoted but overworked staff, and obsolete buildings, which are very over-crowded. It is expensive to keep a person either as a prisoner or as a patient. Therefore, it is important that only the, right people should go into prison, as it is important that only the right people should go for hospital treatment. Their stay should be the optimum one, hut if they are curable, it should be as short as possible; though we have to face the fact that we have incurable criminals just as we have incurable patients. Our aim must he to seek every means of reducing the load which the system has to bear.

We have one forward step in the reduction in imprisonment for debt, which will reduce the annual intake by something like 3,000. Another point where an effort could be made is in the reduction of the number of prisoners who are not given bail. At the moment 38 per cent. of prisoners on remand are not subsequently sentenced to imprisonment. That is like an intake of 8,000 a year or a continuous prison population of between 2,000 and 3,000. Might not Her Majesty's Government point out to every chief constable that every time the police oppose bail unnecessarily, and to every magistrate that every time he refuses bail unnecessarily, they are making it harder to deal with the real criminal who is in prison? Could we not have an intensive study of whether bail could not be more extensively used?

Prisons are in the position of hospitals where patients have been sent by doctors who have had no specialist training whatsoever, who have not had the benefit of extensive laboratory tests on the exact nature of the disease, who ail too often never go into hospitals at all or who rarely visit the patients they have sent there, who prescribe merely an amount of medicine the patient is to receive, with little expert knowledge of its chemical contents, and whose future has little to do with the percentage of successful treatments of patients. If we ran our hospitals on those lines, what a chaos and shambles there would be! But that is what happens to-day in our prisons. Our judges, our magistrates and our recorders have no real training in penology. They do their best by common sense and the gradual acquisition of experience as they go along, and sometimes they are influenced by feelings of righteous indignation at the position of prisoners; but it is extraordinary that we have not yet brought up legal education in these subjects to the necessary level.

Is it not extraordinary that in this debate not a single Law Lord has taken part or been in his place for more than a few minutes? Does this not show the extraordinary detachment of judges towards the question of prisons? We cannot blame members of the Judiciary, because the development of penology is comparatively modern. With the work of Freud we had a real break-through in the study of mental health, such as happened in medicine at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries. A new and exciting chapter in the knowledge of how the human mind works, of the causes of crime, of what makes people go wrong, of how treatment is likely to affect them, is now open to us. As has been mentioned, we have had not only the academic approach, but also the statistical and empirical approaches, along which units of the Home Office and university professors gave their attention to these subjects. Finally, we have had the application of the work of a series of reforming Prison Commissioners.

I should like to follow the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and suggest—I put this out as a cockshy, to be shot at and improved—that the education of a barrister should be extended to include, at some period in his career, an elementary knowledge of psychology and a study of penology, although it may be said that his education is already overcrowded. Surely there is nothing more sacred in the career of a lawyer than the time when he has to judge the fate of his fellow man. Surely that is as important as the correct conveyancing of property. This education should not only be theoretical, though that is indispensable; the barrister should follow the usual life of young prisoners. He should devote himself, even if only for one night a month, to some form of practical work—prison visiting, helping discharged prisoners or doing probation officer work—so that he gets the feeling of the practical side of the question with which he has to deal.

May I suggest, with all humility, that this will not be sufficient? The time from when a barrister qualifies until he becomes one of Her Majesty's Judges is probably twenty years. During that time there may have been great progress in these sciences, which are going forward at a great rate at the present time. A Judge may have spent his entire career in Chancery, where he would not meet questions of prison life. I suggest that on appointment a Judge should be given six months' sabbatical leave, which he should use for study to make himself up to date, for visits to prisons. Borstal institutions and remand homes, for making contact with the Prison Commissioners and the police and with the academic units of penologists, so that he would start his career on the Bench equipped with the latest knowledge of these questions. Such a programme should be talked over informally by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice and the Home Office.

I suggest that for recorders and magistrates courses and conferences should be arranged, which they should attend on appointment to their posts; and during their career conferences or summer schools could equally be organised at which members of the Judiciary of all stages could meet together and discuss these problems so as to keep their information up to date and have a real meeting of minds with both theoretical and practical experience. Surely that would not be below the dignity of a most learned Judge. After all, a Captain R.N. or a Rear-Admiral does not find it beneath his dignity to go to Staff College or the Imperial Defence College before he has the lives of his fellow men in his hands. Surely, equally it should be a normal part of those taking judicial education to have the equivalent of the Imperial Defence College in their lives. It would have the advantage of creating a closer association between the Judges and the penologists, and when these difficult questions of increase in crime and things we cannot quite understand crop up, the Judges should be able to say to the academic penologists and the statisticians: "You go to work on this matter and see what help you can give us as a result of your studies."

That is a practical suggestion which I wish to put before your Lordships' House for thought, and perhaps, one day, for action. Saying this implies no disrespect to any holder of any office to-day. With the knowledge at their disposal they have done a very fine job. We make these suggestions so that their knowledge may be increased. We make them not from any soft feeling towards the criminal, but from a feeling that, by the amplification of the maximum intelligence, research and training, we may have a greater diminution of crime and more adequate protection of the community.

5.41 p.m.


My Lords, every speaker who has spoken in this debate so far has addressed your Lordships with the greatest possible authority: from Home Secretaries to former members of the Department of the Home Office; from people who have devoted a large part of their lives to the problem to others who have given great thought, academically and practically, to it. I think I am the first who approaches this question without any practical knowledge of the subject. I suppose that I ought to apologise for taking part in the debate: I feel that it is somewhat of a "closed shop". Every speaker who has spoken has addressed your Lordships on previous occasions in almost every other debate on the subject, and it may be that the House will benefit by hearing somebody who has never spoken in this kind of debate before. In a sense, this is my first offence.

One of the difficulties one has in approaching this subject as a newcomer is to get reliable up-to-date information. The first thing one naturally turns to is the Report of the Prison Commission. I find that in the latest Report, which as my noble friend Lord Pakenham has already said is for the year 1956, we get statistics for that year; but even that Report was submitted to the Home Secretary only in July, 1957, and was not published until December, 1957. So by the time it becomes available to the public, it is already a year old; and if one is relying on figures, the moment a figure is mentioned in this House it is obviously out of date and is corrected with a more up-to-date one. The other difficulty is that there is little one can turn to in the way of literature on the subject. When I made inquiries as to what I could read on the question of penology, apart from highly technical books, I was directed to a Penguin and to a long article in the New Statesman some months ago. But virtually there is nothing much else of a practical nature—I know there are legal textbooks, of course—and I am looking forward to the publication of the book by my noble friend. He has not told us how much it is going to cost, but, like the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, I am going to get it whatever it costs.

The debate has proceeded, with one exception, which was a rather lone voice from the nineteenth century, along one line. I think all speakers are of the same mind: that we must improve our prisons and the conditions in which prisoners are held, and we must reduce the number of prisoners. The criticisms that have been levelled against the administration of the Home Office are those that have been levelled in every preceding debate: matters of overcrowding, sanitation, lack of useful occupation for the prisoners, the character of the work provided and the derisory payment made for it, the monotony and boredom, the shortage of prison staff, and, I would add, the shortage of probation staff. Tributes have been paid to the after-care work that is being done, but that, too, is inadequate. I was therefore interested to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, in which he told us what the Home Office have done after the admirable precepts that we have heard from the Home Secretary soon after he took office.

I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that we have all been looking forward with great expectation to the report that he had to make. I can only say that it is promising, rather than a report of any substantial realisation. I do not say that in any jeering spirit. A start has been made on a large number of projects; but it is all much too slow. Let me give your Lordships an example. The noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, talked of completing a certain building (I think it was a prison) by 1961. Why should it take all that time to complete this particular building, which I presume has already been started? The whole pace seems to me to be much too slow. I hope the noble Lord may be able to explain to us whether this slowness is due to lack of finance, so that the existing money has to be spun out for as long as possible, or whether the Home Office are really taking trouble to ensure that the work is being done as quickly as possible and that this is, in their opinion, the shortest possible time in which it can be done.

I have referred to the question of aftercare, and perhaps I may say a word or two on that subject. One of the difficulties about after-care is that prisoners often leave prison without any resources. Obviously they cannot save money out of their earnings, and from the moment they leave prison they are dependent on the National Assistance Board. Sometimes they are left without resources, and without even the opportunity of approaching the National Assistance Board, so that for a day or two they are entirely without means of subsistence; and it is quite often during that period that they get into trouble. Would it not be possible to provide every prisoner who needs it on leaving prison with a minimum amount of money, two or three days' subsistence, say, so that he does not get into that particular difficulty?

In the time I propose to take—which I hope will not be long—I do not think I need press the question of the criticisms to which I have referred. They are obviously well known to the Home Office, and I should like to believe, and do believe, that within the limited resources available—and they are much too limited—the Home Office are doing their best to cope with them. Whether or not the Home Secretary is putting up a big enough fight to increase the resources I do not know, but I should hope that he might be doing that and trying to get a little more money to carry out this vital social work. After all, the total expenditure on our prisons is only £11 million a year, and a 10 per cent. increase would do wonders. I should have thought that that was not within the realm of impossibility, especially when we have recently given away £3 million or £4 million a year in sacrificing the 2d. stamp on a receipt.

I do not propose to pursue the question of these deficiencies in the prisons, because I would rather deal with the other side of the question which has been referred to by a number of noble Lords, including particularly the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, to whose speech I listened with very great interest. That is, how we can reduce the number of prisoners in our prisons. If we can do that, a good many of our problems will have been solved. Of course, one can reduce them by bringing about a reduction in crime, but that is not within the scope of this debate, and until a great deal more research has been done into the question, and we really know what are the causes of crime, it will not be possible to talk about large-scale reductions. But we could, even within our present means, bring about a reduction in the number of persons who are actually sent to prison. We could effect a marked reduction, and we can do this bearing in mind the oft-quoted statement of Sir Lionel Fox, which was mentioned this afternoon by my noble friend Lord Pakenham, that the purposes of the training and treatment of the convicted prisoners shall be to establish in them the will to lead a good and useful life on discharge and to fit them to do so. That is the central purpose of the prison system. On the interesting "cockshy" suggestion of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, I would suggest that every judge should have that statement written over his desk before passing sentence, and he should be quite satisfied that the purpose of the sentence—apart, of course, from those criminals who are beyond redemption and who have to be detained for the protection of society; one must except those—is in the spirit of this admirable precept, the reform of the prisoner.

It is, of course, possible to question whether our prison system can possibly achieve this end. Is it really possible to enable people to establish in themselves the will to lead a good and useful life on discharge, and to fit them to do so by sending them to prison, and particularly by sending them to prison in the conditions in which they go at the present time? That is an open question: I personally doubt very much whether it is possible. One thing is quite certain; and that is that people can be made worse while they are in prison. I fear that a good many are made worse as a result of the contacts they make while they are in prison, particularly those who have to sleep three in a cell. I believe that there are in prison a great many people who need not be there at all—admittedly people who have committed offences against society, but whose term of imprisonment is doing no good to them acid no good to society. We are not using to a sufficient extent the means we have at hand at the present time. We are not using the probation system as much as we should do. Possibly that is due to a shortage of probation officers, but I think many more people could be put on probation, instead of being sent to prison.

Let rue give two examples, which are fairly topical. One is the case of a man who was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment not long ago for certain frauds in connection with a company—I will not particularise more than that. That man will presumably behave himself and will be discharged at the end of nine months. He is a man of over fifty. I would suggest that neither that man nor society will benefit to any extent by his having served that term of imprisonment, and that some other method of dealing with him would have been preferable. Already he has suffered in disrepute. To a man of that type, that is a far greater punishment than having actually been put in prison. If society could find some other way of dealing with that man than sending him away to prison for that period, I am sure we should all benefit. In the meantime, it creates congestion.

Let us take another case—and I do it with all diffidence—that of a man who has been charged with negligence in dealing with his vehicle. If that man is convicted and sent to prison, what good is it going to do him or anybody else? He will have suffered quite enough as a result of the injuries he has inflicted through that negligence, assuming that negligence is established. I do not know how many cases there are of people who are sent to prison automatically because they have committed an offence, and because prison at the present moment is the appropriate method of dealing with them. It is laid down that a man is to serve not less than twelve months and not more than three years, and therefore he has got to serve that sentence. But if we apply this precept of whether prison can have a reformative effect, whether it is going to benefit either society or the individual, I am sure we could find other ways of dealing with such cases. We could use more frequently the method of the absolute discharge or the conditional discharge. That is permissible to-day; it is part of our system. Yet there is not enough being done in that direction, and in the direction of the more frequent use of parole.

The suggestion has been made—I think a most interesting suggestion—of giving earlier release. At the moment, people can get remission of their sentence after having served, I think it is, two-thirds of their sentence. Why not after one-third, if they have been of good behaviour? I see no particular reason why not. I put that forward as a suggestion. Then there is the suspended sentence, especially as an alternative to the short sentence. I do not know whether here I agreed with the noble Viscount, Lord Astor; he seemed to be in favour of short sentences, but as against a longer sentence—perhaps I did not appreciate his point. At any rate, if you believe in the prison system and if you believe you can reform a person by sending him to prison, you certainly cannot do it in three months or six months. That sort of sentence is, to my mind, useless.


My Lords, I do not think my remarks bear the construction which the noble Lord put on them. I referred only to the analogy of a hospital. It would be very queer if you put a patient in a hospital, and the doctor said that the patient was cured and perfectly well, yet none the less, because the doctor who put him in said he ought to stay a year. he ought to stay. That, to my mind, is an argument for allowing earlier release.


The last thing I want to do in a debate of this kind is to be controversial, but I wanted to be quite clear what the noble Viscount really meant. The point I am making is that although it is said that the purpose of sending a man to prison is reformative, it is impossible to reform him in three months or six months. If you believe in that method and you think it is effective, it should be for such period, again taking the analogy of the noble Viscount, as is necessary to cure him and nobody can say, when a patient enters a hospital, how long it is going to be before he is cured.

Then there is the whole series of imprisonments in default of payment. I am very glad indeed, as other noble Lords are, that the Maintenance Orders Bill is now before your Lordships. There are about 5,000 such persons in prison who may have defaulted in payment of alimony and maintenance, and it is hoped that a substantial number will be released from prison, or will escape being sent to prison when this Bill becomes law. Incidentally, I believe I am right in saying that frequently when a fine is imposed on a person for an offence and the fine is not paid, that person goes to prison automatically, whether he is in a position to pay the fine or not. I do not know whether the court has any discretion in the matter. If you fine a working man £100 for an offence and then find he is not in a position to pay it, it is not much good sending him to prison for non-payment. But, as I understand it, there is no inquiry as to his means at all. It is an automatic thing. On the other hand, it would be possible to use the imposition of a fine more frequently than is done at the present time.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? With regard to what he has just said, I think he will find it is not so, and that a man cannot be sent to prison automatically for failure to pay a fine unless the court, in imposing the fine, gave him at the same time an alternative sentence of imprisonment and stated the reasons for doing so—normally because the case was regarded as a serious one. I am not entirely certain that I am right, and the noble Lord may not have been quite accurate.


I equally am not certain that I am right, but I am quoting what I thought was an authority. However, the noble Lord may be right. Even if he is right to the limited extent he is mentioning, even when the fine and term of imprisonment are announced simultaneously, I would say that I probably am right there: that imprisonment follows the non-payment of the fine without any further inquiry as to the financial position of the prisoner.


But the proportion of those cases is, I should say, a small proportion of the total, a really small proportion of the fines inflicted.


That may be so. I cannot question that at all; I am prepared to accept it. The point still remains, for what it is worth; it is one of the large number of points I am making to reduce the prison population, and I suggest that every little helps. I agree that in all these matters it is not within the discretion of the Home Office. These are matters for the courts; they have to interpret the law and it is their interpretation that decides what happens. Nevertheless, I think the Home Secretary can create a climate of opinion on the matter. If the Home Secretary were desirous of substantially reducing the number of people who were sent to prison, I think he could do so, even though, technically, the judges, magistrates, and chairmen of sessions would still have the last word. I do submit to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that this is a very important method of dealing with the problem that confronts us.

There is one other thing, and that is the number of people who are in prison before conviction, because bail has been refused. Is it not likely that the police object too frequently to the granting of bail? According to the Report on Prisons, in 1956 there were 8,225 people who were sent to remand prisons and who were not subsequently sent to prison after trial—either they were found not guilty, or the court decided that their offence did not justify their being sent to prison. But it is a reflection on our present system that over 8,000 such people who were not sentenced to prison after trial should have been sent to prison before trial.

Furthermore, I should like to make this reflection on what we commonly pride ourselves on—namely, that the prisoner is deemed to be innocent until he has been found guilty. I would ask whether the "Black Maria", and the whole procedure in which people who are charged are conveyed by this very conspicuous vehicle, and the conditions inside the vehicle, are consistent with our statement that the prisoner is deemed to be innocent until he has been proved guilty. I have never been inside a "Black Maria"—I hope that I never shall. But I am told that the lighting and ventilation are exceedingly bad and that prisoners are cramped. According to the description given in an article in the New Statesman by Mr. Rolfe, they are so cramped that the prisoner cannot even get to his pocket for his pocket handkerchief; and they sometimes have to spend as much as two hours in these conditions. So Mr. Rolfe makes the suggestion that the prisoners might be conveyed in ordinary coaches, possibly with a form of glass which would prevent inquisitive people from looking inside. There is no reason why they should be made uncomfortable before they are convicted and go to prison.

I made a number of suggestions for reducing the number of people who would be sent to prison. But have we sufficient information as to the likely effect of doing this? To a certain extent it would be a shot in the dark. We do not know how far the fear of prison is a deterrent. To some extent it certainly is, and no doubt we should have more people committing offences if there was not looming in front of them (if they have the imagination) I will not say the knowledge that they will go to prison, but the possibility that they will go there. I believe that less than half of the offences result in convictions; that more than half the people who commit offences other than crimes of violence are never discovered at all; so that a criminal has an even chance of not being discovered, and he starts off with that advantage. Nevertheless. I would not say that prison is not a deterrent at all; to a certain extent it must be. But how far is it a deterrent? We do not know. We shall not know many things until there is far more research into the whole question than is being carried out at the present time.

It is all very well for individuals to carry out research, but it should be done on an organised basis, with money provided by the Government; and I would hope that it will be found possible to increase the miserable £11,000 a year that is at present allocated for research. I regard this as possibly the most important thing of all: to discover, if we can, what are the causes of crime. Everyone in this Chamber would, no doubt, have a different idea as to why crime has increased. A number of people during this debate have put forward their views as to the reason for the increase in crime, but nobody can speak with any authority. I believe that we can discover the reasons. Obviously, there will be more than one reason. If we discover the reasons we are on the road to finding the solution to them. So I would ask that much more money than is at present being provided should be made available for research But, having got the results of the research, I am quite sure that there is a need for fresh thinking on the whole subject.

I was encouraged by what the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, said, that there is a certain amount of thinking; but I believe that we have to re-orientate our whole ideas about dealing with crime. I think, therefore, that the time is now ripe for a Royal Commission to be set up to consider what are the causes of crime, how we can prevent crime, and the method of dealing with those who commit crime. We could carry out researches as to what is being done not only here but in many other countries, some of which are ahead of us in certain aspects of this problem. I should like to see investigations carried out in the United States and in France, in Germany, in Italy and in many other countries; and we ought not to be too proud to learn, if there is anything to learn, from the experiences of the U.S.S.R. and their friends. I believe that they have made exhaustive investigations into this problem. They have a criminal problem in those countries just as we have. I think the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said that he had been to the Soviet Union and had discussed this matter with them, and I believe we may have something to learn.

It may be—I believe it will be—that the recommendations of such a Royal Commission will more speedily and more satisfactorily provide the answer to the deficiencies of our prison system by drastically reducing the number of prisoners. If we can achieve this, then I am quite sure that this debate, if for no other reason, will have been well worth while, and that my noble friend Lord Pakenham will have been fully justified in introducing this Motion.

6.17 p.m.


My Lords, I was asked some little time ago to make one or two points in the next debate on prisons in your Lordships' House. Much to my surprise, these points have not, I believe, so far been made. Prison can mean either rehabilitation or retribution. If we are going to have rehabilitation, obviously we must have work, because idleness does not make for rehabilitation. If we cannot provide work we cannot have rehabilitation, and we shall therefore end up by having to fall back on retribution and deterrence. I believe the problem is as serious as that.

The work can be divided into four categories. There is, first of all, indoor work or outdoor work, and then work suitable for long-term prisoners or short-term prisoners. The indoor work suitable for short-term prisoners appears to present a fairly grave problem, and I cannot, for the life of me, see what is wrong with the sewing of mail bags which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, decries. This is work that can be done by a short-term prisoner inside a prison; it has to be done by somebody.

But when we come to outdoor work suitable for long-term prisoners, and again with an admixture of short-term prisoners who perhaps provide the less skilled work, we find the country is bristling with works that want doing. By tradition, in the olden days a great many public works were carried out in this and other countries by convict labour. I believe that the Portland breakwater was one. Did not we find Jonathan Short sweating in the Andaman sun on the breakwater there, with the great grievance of knowledge of treasure burning his breast? And there were great breakwaters built at Capetown, I believe, by convict labour. Our coast is surrounded with works that need doing—works for sea walls and, in the minor ports, for building piers and harbours.

The whole of the North of England is a rash of ugly tips and dumps from old mine workings. That can be beautified, and why should it not be done? I understand that at the moment afforestation is to some degree carried out by convict labour, as is land reclamation. Then there is hedging and ditching, and one can even imagine that the lost art of dry stonewalling might be taught to some of the "lifers" in prison. There is no reason why there should not be enough work of this type to go round and provide a full day's work for convicts, provided it is in their locality and that the financial circumstances permit. Because I believe that the root of this evil is that, to a large extent, it may be much cheaper to keep men idling in prison than to put them to useful public works.

That brings one to the question of accommodation, and I am glad that Her Majesty's Government are looking at vacated Service camps. After all, camps have housed many millions of prisoners of war during the last war, and there is no reason why they should not house civil prisoners. Those could be open camps, but it could also be the task of the inmates to build a wall around themselves, if it was desired to turn a camp into a closed place; and existing prisons could be reserved for those prisoners who have to be kept firmly shut up.

If we succeed in laying in prison the foundation for rehabilitation, that does not solve the next problem, which is the step out of prison into civil life. Obviously a man has a better chance of rehabilitation if he comes out of prison in a position to stand on his own feet; and at the moment he does not. He comes out more or less penniless, without a stamped National Insurance Card—which is almost vital in obtaining employment. If he has no stamped card, that immediately "gives the show away" as to where he has been spending the last months or years. My very rough calculation of the cost of giving a prisoner a stamped card is that it would be of the order of £1 million—perhaps a little less—but probably that would be as good a reform in the prison system as any that has been put forward in this debate so far in the shape of bricks and mortar.

When it comes to employment, the top men in the trade union movement are full of the most liberal sentiments. It is when one burrows down to local activities that one tends to run up against "man's inhumanity to man". It is there that problems have to be overcome. In any case, the idea that prison labour, the labour of 25.000 people which could be, effectively, perhaps the equivalent of a labour force of 15,000, could depress the standard of living of over 20 million workers is really too ridiculous to hold water for a second. At the present moment we are full of humane ideas for lessening the bodily hardship of prison life, but there are still one or two directions in which we have to tackle the ways of mending a man's soul.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords. I can speak again only with your Lordships' permission as I have already spoken once. I seek that permission because I should like to answer two or three points which have been raised in the course of this interesting debate and on which I did not touch in my opening remarks. I should like to welcome one or two newcomers to the Prison Debaters' Club, notably the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who made a most interesting speech and raised several technical points which will require examination. I am sorry that the noble Lord has never been in a "Black Maria". I have—for educational purposes only; and I shall be very happy to arrange for the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, to carry out a similar experiment, on one condition: that he promises I may be there to see the experiment carried out.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, agreed with the noble Lords, Lord Chorley and Lord Pakenham, that the £11,000 we are spending on research is not enough. I take note of their view, but I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, who I believe put his finger on the real difficulty when he pointed out that the amount of money which can be spent is really limited by the number of trained research workers available. That is a serious limitation. I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, on the proper functions, of the remand centres. They will provide for juvenile delinquents who are unsuitable for remand homes, and, as I have told the House before and would remind noble Lords who have shown particular interest in the point, a site for the first remand centre is now being sought and others will follow as soon as we can afford them.

I can assure the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will use all his influence to maintain and accelerate the progress which, he was good enough to agree, we have made. The noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, made some observations concerning the softness of the age, with not all of which I agree. He painted a picture of the old couple who cannot afford a television, sitting sadly at home, while luxurious prisoners are loafing about with all "mod. cons." in Dartmoor or Norwich Gaol. I once asked a prisoner what was the worst thing about being in gaol and he said simply. "Being in gaol"—and no amount of television, conveniences, Biro pens or ventilated recesses will change that. To others who may consider that those in prison are being pampered I would say, "Go to the best, most up-to-date, most comfortable prison in the land, and you will never make that remark again".

The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Ripon made some helpful suggestions concerning the attitude of the trade unions and of all of us towards discharged prisoners and prisoners seeking work. The noble Lords, Lord Hawke and Lord Chorley, added to that. We have made some progress in the attitude of the trade unions, the workers in those unions and of the public generally, towards work being done in prisons, about extra-mural work by prisoners who are fit to work outside the walls, and about sending work into prisons; but we have not made enough progress. I do not believe we shall solve this problem until everybody is aware of it and does his best to help. I particularly liked the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, that a work force of some 15,000 people cannot possibly affect the standard of living of the employed population of this country.

My noble friend Lord Astor has had to leave, and I need not, therefore, join issue with him about the education of our Judges. I can only say in his absence that the proposed Institute of Criminology will, I believe, help his idea that barristers and others who may become Judges should know something of the treatments that they order from the Bench. The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, in the course of a particularly instructive and well-informed speech, asked whether the prison system covers Borstal institutions and detention centres. The answer is that both these types of establishment are the responsibility of the Prison Commissioners and there is a quite considerable interchange of staff at all levels between prisons, Borstal institutions and detention centres. The fact remains that both Borstal institutions and detention centres are intended as an alternative to imprisonment.

The noble Lord also suggested that it might help in the training of Borstal boys if they could receive a more definite indication of the date at which they might expect to be released. He put forward the suggestion that some additional remission might be considered for young prisoners who were serving very long sentences. There is certainly much force in the argument that it is particularly important that young offenders should have some idea of the probable length of their detention, in order that they may have something to work for. The point the noble Lord made will, I know, not be overlooked in the course of the general review to which I have referred; and that applies equally to the other points made in the course of this debate. I say that, not as the cliché so often used from these two Dispatch Boxes, and in proof I offer my own opening remarks. Your Lordships may remember that I referred to many of the subjects which your Lordships mentioned in the last debate eighteen months ago, and I told your Lordships what had been done about the suggestions that were made and the criticisms you then had to offer. May I end by thanking those of your Lordships who have seen fit to pay tribute to the Prison Commissioners? I think, constitutionally, as they are my advisers this afternoon, I am not entitled to join in a loud chorus of praise for their work. But perhaps on one occasion I may be unconstitutional and do so.

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, I know that all those on this side of the House, and I have no doubt in all parts of the House, would wish to echo what the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has just said about the dedicated way in which the Prison Commissioners approach all these problems year after year. I should like to be as brief as was the noble Lord, for I was, I am afraid, unbearably long at the beginning. But as I initiated this debate I must extend my own sense of gratitude to all those who have spoken; and, of course, I would single out the noble Lord, Lord Man-croft, for the very thorough way in which he has replied to my points and the points of other speakers. If I may say so, I do not think anyone handles a debate of this kind better than the noble Lord. While that could apply to many topics, we have always felt on this subject, at any rate after the first year, that his heart was in the right place.

I was a little sad when the noble Lord could not say more about the Institute of Statistics. I quite agree with what he said just now; that it is no use having research unless you have the people to do it. But the object of the Institute would be to build up a corps of people who as the years passed could undertake the research in question. Because the noble Lord answered my points so carefully, it was rather a surprise that he did not deal with one of them: the particular assurance asked for about the quality of the staff. He did not promise that any concrete complaints about quality would be looked into, but I am not going to ask him to rise and say anything about that. I daresay I should take it for granted that if any complaints are brought up they will be treated in that way.




I felt like the noble Lord, in that, while all of us have no doubt played our part, it was a particular pleasure to hear Lord Silkin speak on this matter; his ideas were particularly interesting, including his reference to a Royal Commission. I entirely support his idea, stated in general terms, that it is time we had a Royal Commission which would inquire into the whole question of how we ought to treat crime, including sentencing policy and treatment in prisons. The noble Lord suggested that an investigation into the cause of crime might be part of the work of that Commission. Having been concerned with that job on my own, I am the more anxious to see it undertaken; but I have a feeling that, even if it is done in the best possible way, an investigation into causes of crime might take longer than the rest of the inquiry. So, while I endorse the general approach of Lord Silkin, it might be that a psychological investigation into the causes of crime would take longer than the rest and might require to be undertaken in some separate way.

I do not want to end on an acrimonious note. I remember that on one occasion in the war I was acting as personal assistant to the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, who was then inquiring into the use of skilled manpower in the Army. We went to the War Office, where they explained the use being made of skilled manpower in the Army—and those who are familiar with the picture will know that at one time very little use was made of it. After the great military authorities had explained to us what was being done, someone turned to Lord Beveridge (Sir William Beveridge, as he then was), and said "Well, Sir William, what do you think of our story?" To that, Sir William Beveridge replied, "I call it a miserable show." As a matter of fact, great changes were subsequently made by the Army. I am not going to apply Lord Beveridge's remark to our prison régime, although I sometimes think it of particular aspects. I will recall instead what was once said to me when I played tennis with a very good tennis player, a champion of some kind. Every time I missed a shot—and I missed a good many shots—he would say, "Idea good; execution faulty." That is my verdict on prison arrangements at the moment and on our present Government in regard to them: idea good; execution faulty. But by next year, as I said earlier, let us hope that a great change will have come about; and if it has I know that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, will have done all in his power to see it achieved. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.