§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, this Bill is concerned principally with two subjects which your Lordships will acknowledge to be of the utmost importance—namely, the treatment of young offenders who appear before the courts, and the aftercare of persons discharged from prison. It contains many other useful provisions in the field of administration of the criminal law.
It may be helpful if I start by saying something about the background against which the Bill is presented. Your Lordships will recall that early in 1959 my right honourable friend the Home. Secretary presented to Parliament a White Paper entitled Penal Practice in a Changing Society. The object of the White 1055 Paper was to indicate the problems with which crime confronts us and the agencies which exist to deal with it, and to outline the measures being taken or contemplated by way of research, development of penal methods, reform of the criminal law and provision of the necessary staffs, buildings and other facilities. It was thought that the publication of the White Paper would help to stimulate informed discussion of the problems and serve as a chart by which to plot a course in the difficult years ahead. Among other things, the White Paper foreshadowed some of the proposals in this Bill—those for amending the law relating to the treatment of young offenders and for the extension of statutory after-care.
On the 8th April, 1959, on a Motion introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, we debated in this House the subject of crime and penal practice. Our debate was a long one, extending over a period of nine hours; and at the end of the day the noble Earl described it, I think very properly, as a memorable one. The debate ranged over the whole field of Government activity as described in the White Paper in relation to the prevention of crime and the treatment of offenders, and far beyond this. Noble Lords recognised that crime and its treatment are matters which affect society as a whole, and that although the preservation of public order is a first charge on any Government, the causes of crime are deep-seated, imperfectly understood and to a large extent beyond the reach of Government action.
Do not misunderstand me, my Lords: the Government certainly have an immense responsibility; but if their efforts, and the efforts of their agents in the fight against crime—the police, the staffs of the various institutions for offenders, probation officers and others—are to be fully effective, they must have the backing of people everywhere; and in particular parents, teachers, the churches and all who come into contact with, and are in a position to influence, young people must play their parts.
In our debates on this Bill we shall be concerned with a much more restricted field of activity. The object of legislation is to support the operations we are conducting in other fields, and this particular Bill is, as it must be, 1056 limited to selected parts of these operations. Noble Lords will therefore not expect me to review the progress which has been made since the publication of the White Paper in the many different fields of Government activity there described.
I should, however, like to mention very briefly two developments of particular significance. In the White Paper, the Home Secretary mentioned, as the first of the State's weapons against crime, the maintenance of an efficient police force, and I make no apology for referring to the police now. In the Bill we are concerned mainly with offences and offenders who have been brought before the courts. Our object must be to reduce the number of such offenders and to devise for those who do offend methods of treating them which will serve to ensure, so far as is practicable, that they will not offend again.
Unfortunately, as your Lordships have just heard, the growth of crime has not been halted. Although, as was recorded in the White Paper, there have since the war been fluctuations in the volume of crime, there has been a steady and continuing increase during the last five years, and this increase has been particularly marked among young people. I am sorry to say that there is no sign of an end to this steady increase. There can be no doubt that, within the field of Government activity, our best hope of halting the increase, and in due course of reducing the incidence of crime, is to build up a police force, fully manned, fully equipped and fully trained to perform its most difficult tasks. The best way of dealing with crime is to prevent its occurrence; and the best deterrent is the likelihood of prompt detection. Since the introduction of this Bill in another place, the Royal Commission on the Police has presented an Interim Report on Police Pay. The recommendations for substantial increases in pay have been accepted by the Government and new scales of pay agreed upon. There is now good reason to hope that the deficiencies in police strengths, which have persisted particularly in London and in the large cities, will be progressively reduced and that the police will once more be in a position to play their full and proper part in preventing crime by their presence on the streets in adequate numbers and in bringing to 1057 judgment those who continue to transgress.
The other matter I should like to mention at this point is the building programme. I do so, because it has a particular relevance to the contents of the Bill. The White Paper pointed out that the Prison Commissioners were faced with a building programme of formidable dimensions and extreme urgency, and it outlined the Commissioners' proposals. Since then substantial progress has been made.
The rate of building is now four times as great as it was in 1958. Since the White Paper was published three new open prisons have been completed and three new detention centres have been opened. Twenty-five other establishments are in various stages of development. At the end of last year there were four detention centres for boys in operation: two for seniors (that is, boys between the ages of 17 and 21) and two for juniors—boys between the ages of 14 and 17. Since then, three more senior centres have been opened—one at Aylesbury, in Buckinghamshire one at Medomsley, in County Durham; one at New Hall Camp, in Yorkshire, and a fourth is expected to be ready by the end of the year. Next year it is hoped to complete three more centres for boys, with a fourth in early 1963, and a centre for girls. This will complete the programme envisaged in the White Paper. Experience will show whether these detention centres will suffice to meet the demands made upon them by the courts.
Priority must next be given to the provision of remand centres. Unfortunately, as your Lordships know, financial restrictions and the need to concentrate the limited resources available where the demand was even greater—on detention centres, new borstals to replace old prisons in use as borstals and new prisons to relieve overcrowding-shave until recently prevented any progress from being made in the provision of remand centres. These centres will, however, have an essential part to play in the arrangements for the treatment of young offenders provided for in this Bill, and they now have the highest priority. Preliminary work has begun on the construction of the first combined remand centre and observation centre—the latter 1058 for adults—which will be sited at Risley, near Warrington.
The provision of similar all-age centres, to cover the whole country, will take a long time and the Prison Commissioners have decided to provide in the first place remand centres for young offenders only. For the first of these, which will cover the London area, premises at Ashford, Middlesex, which it had been intended to use as a borstal allocation centre, will be used and this first remand centre will be open in July. It is estimated that a further seven remand centres for boys will be required. Sites for these, which will be purpose-built, are in view and my right honourable friend hopes that their construction will be completed in about three years.
Women and girls on remand outside London will be accommodated in the all-age centre at Risley and probably in three other centres to be built later on as annexes to the proposed young offenders centres. The arrangements to be made for the accommodation of women and girls on remand in London will depend on the decision taken regarding the future of Holloway Prison.
Then I come to approved schools. The enlarged approved school building programme, which will cost at least £5 million over the next few years, is also going steadily ahead. The programme includes schemes for the modernisation and improvement of most of the 117 schools now in existence. I am sure that this very necessary work will greatly assist the managers and staffs of these schools to carry out their important work. My Lords, I have spent some little time on this question of building because, as your Lordships will recognise when we come to consider the contents of the Bill, the successful implementation of some of its most valuable provisions will depend largely on having available, as quickly as possible, in adequate numbers, the institutions of the various kinds which we need for the new methods of treatment proposed. I think it will be clear from what I have said that the Government and the Prison Commissioners are fully alive to these needs and that although, for reasons which we all recognise, the building was slow to start, it is now in full swing.
Now I turn to the provisions of the Bill. Clauses 1 to 10 in Part I deal with 1059 the powers of the court in respect of young offenders. They give effect to proposals which were first outlined in the White Paper and considered in detail by the Home Secretary's Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders. The Advisory Council supported the proposals, and in a Report which was published towards the end of 1959 made a number of recommendations for their implementation.
The main objects of the proposals are to keep young offenders under the age of 21 out of prison, and to ensure that such offenders can be given the kind of training from which they are most likely to derive benefit. Courts wishing to sentence an offender under the age of 21 to a period of training in custody will have discretion to choose between three types of treatment—leaving the approved school aside for the moment—according to the length of detention which they consider to be appropriate. First, for short periods of detention from three months up to six months, there will be the detention centres, offering a sharp brisk exacting programme of training and a very high standard of discipline, which should prove more of a deterrent than short sentences of imprisonment. The salutary check administered to the young offender in the detention centre will be followed, and we believe made more effective, by a period of supervision on release. Secondly, for those offenders aged 15 or over who require more than six months of custodial training, and who are unsuitable or too old for approved school training, a new form of borstal sentence will be available.
The principle of the indeterminate sentence, which already exists in the borstal sentence, will be extended to all the other offenders for whom a court considers that a period of detention of between six months and two years is required. In this way the existing distinction between borstal training and a young prisoners' prison will be abolished and it will be for the Prison Commissioners to decide under what conditions and in which establishment or establishments a sentence should be served and after what period the offenders should be released. Experience in recent years has shown the value of an intensive régime in borstal training and the average period of detention is now about 16 1060 months. The proposal in the Bill to reduce the minimum period from 9 months to 6 months, and the maximum period from three years to two years is based on this experience. The shorter, brisker and more demanding form of training, the indeterminate nature of which will act as a deterrent, will also be followed, as I shall explain later, by a period of compulsory supervision.
Lastly, for those youths whose offences are so serious that they need to be detained for more than the maximum of two years provided by the new borstal sentences, the superior courts will have power to pass sentence of not less than three years' imprisonment, or, in the case of an offender under the age of 17, a specified period of detention in such place as the Home Secretary directs. And in the case of persons who have already been to prison for 6 months or more, or to borstal, the superior courts will be able to pass sentence of imprisonment of 18 months or more if they think a further borstal sentence is inappropriate.
The general plan will therefore be, first, to extend the existing methods of borstal training and detention centres to a greater number of offenders, and eventually, when there are enough places available in borstals and detention centres, to restrict imprisonment for young offenders to the limited range of cases where no other sentence is appropriate. The scheme will be brought into operation by stages as the new institutions are ready.
We are all very conscious of the position in local prisons which are so much in the minds of all your Lordships. As I think your Lordships have been recently informed, the Prison Commissioners are embarking on a special review of escapes. In spite of the cases of concerted indiscipline it is fair to say that in general discipline has been firmly maintained. Nevertheless, from every viewpoint all will agree that the more young persons kept out of prison the better. I think your Lordships will also agree that the Prison and Borstal Service continues to do remarkably good work in most difficult circumstances.
Under Clause 1, the minimum age for a sentence of borstal training is lowered from 16 to 15, and a court will be able to pass such a sentence if it thinks it expedient that an offender should be 1061 detained for training for not less than 6 months. If the offender is under 17, the court may not impose a borstal sentence unless it is of the opinion that no other method of dealing with him—for example, probation or approved school—is appropriate. Clause 2 extends the existing power of the higher courts to sentence children and young persons found guilty of grave crimes to be detained in such a place and in such conditions as the Secretary of State may direct. The only offences for which this sentence can be passed at present are attempted murder, manslaughter and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
Under the clause any offence punishable in the case of adults with 14 years' imprisonment or more—which includes offences such as burglary, house-breaking when a felony is committed and robbery—will be able to be dealt with in this way. This opens the way to the abolition of the remaining powers of the courts to sentence persons under 17 to imprisonment.
Clause 3 restricts the imprisonment of young offenders to sentences of 6 months or less, or 3 years or more, with the exception that an offender who has previously been sentenced to imprisonment or borstal training may be sentenced to imprisonment for 18 months or more. Provision is made also for the abolition, generally or in stages, by Order in Council, of short sentences of imprisonment of 6 months or less when sufficient detention centres are available.
Clauses 4 to 7 deal with detention centres. Clause 4 enables a court, in the case of any offence carrying a sentence of imprisonment, to make a detention centre order. Where the offender is under 17 and is dealt with by a magistrates' court, the period of detention is 3 months. If the offender is 17 or more or is dealt with by a higher court and the offence carries a maximum sentence of more than 3 months' imprisonment, the period of detention is not less than 3 and not more than 6 months.
Clause 5 provides for the committal to a detention centre or remand home of persons under 17 who are in default of payment of a fine or of compliance with some other order of the court, and Clause 6 enables a defaulter aged 17 or more who is already in a detention 1062 centre to continue to be detained there for enforcement of the default.
Clause 7 allows offenders aged 17 or more to be sentenced by the same court on the same occasion to consecutive terms in a detention centre of up to an aggregate of 6 months and provides that the total period for which a person may be detained shall not exceed 9 months at a time.
Clauses 8 to 10 give effect to some of the recommendations made in the valuable Report of the Committee under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Ingleby, on juvenile courts and the methods of treatment of young offenders and children and young persons in need of care and protection. The Committee's Report contains many interesting proposals which are being considered by the Government in the light of the views expressed by the interests concerned; and I have no doubt that they will be the subject of legislation later on. In the meantime the opportunity has been taken to give effect to the recommendations on matters which fit into the framework of the present Bill.
Clause 8 raises to levels more in keeping with the present value of money the maximum fines that may be imposed on offenders under 17 and puts beyond doubt the power of the courts to order the parents of such an offender to pay compensation for loss occasioned by the offence. This will help the courts to achieve the object, to which we all attach importance, of bringing home to parents their responsibility for their children's conduct. Clause 9 removes a technical difficulty. Clause 10 deals with attendance centres. As recommended by Lord Ingleby's Committee, it reduces from 12 to 10 the minimum age at which a child may be ordered to attend one of these centres. Research by the Institute of Criminology, a report on which was published a few days ago, has shown that the junior attendance centres provide an effective means of dealing with first offenders and of checking an early drift into delinquency. The clause also contains provisions regarding the number of hours a person may be required to attend.
I now come to Part II of the Bill—Clauses 11 to 25, which deal with the treatment and supervision of prisoners and other detained persons. Clause 11 1063 reduces the maximum term of a sentence of borstal training from 3 years to 2 years and the minimum period from 9 months to 6 months. I have already indicated the reasons for this change. It also provides that a person released from borstal shall be under supervision for two years, beginning with the date of release, subject to the existing power of the Prison Commissioners to reduce this period where appropriate. Clause 12 provides that where an absconder from a borstal or a person under supervision after discharge from a borstal is convicted of another offence, the court may order his return to borstal. Clause 13 and the First Schedule provide for compulsory supervision for a period of 12 months for all offenders discharged from detention centres except where committal was for a default, and for recall to the detention centre by the Prison Commissioners in certain circumstances.
Clauses 14 to 19 deal with approved schools. Here we have drawn not only on the recommendations of Lord Ingleby's Committee, but also on those by Mr. Victor Durand in his Report on his inquiry into the disturbances at the Carlton Approved School. Approved schools have a long and honourable history and are playing a valuable part in training the children and young persons committed to them by the courts to manage their own lives and grow up to be responsible members of the community.
I have never paid a visit to an approved school without coming away cheered by the work that is being done and the spirit that I have found there. The Government believe that the system is soundly based, though it needs strengthening to meet the heavy demands made upon it, and we are seeking to strengthen it in various ways.
Clause 14 and the Second Schedule make new provision for the after-care of persons released from approved schools. The period of compulsory after-care during which there is a liability to recall will be two years from the date of release. After that the managers will be able to provide advice and assistance for a further period to those who want it.
Clause 15 provides for the temporary removal from a school on a justice's warrant to another approved school, a 1064 remand centre, or a remand home, of a boy or girl aged 15 or over if this is necessary to maintain discipline. Clauses 16 and 17 enable a magistrates' court to transfer an offender aged 15 or over, detained in an approved school, to borstal if he is unsuitable for approved school training and would benefit from borstal training. The provisions in these three clauses will be of assistance to the managers in dealing with a small but difficult class of young offender.
The development and success of the approved schools must depend in great measure on the managers, whether local authorities or voluntary bodies, who are responsible for running them. The Home Office, through its powers of control and by inspection and advice, exercises a kind of partnership with the managers and we are satisfied that, in general, this system works well. But exceptional circumstances may arise that call for more stringent powers of control. Clause 18 would confer on the Home Secretary a reserve power to give directions to managers where the provision made in the school is in some respect inadequate or unsuitable, and Clause 19 would enable him to make instruments of management for voluntary schools in order to improve and broaden, where necessary, the constitution of the boards of managers.
The Government have no intention of destroying the system of voluntary management; they mean to preserve, reform and guide it by means of the constructive measures provided for in the Bill. Voluntary managers have a distinctive contribution to make to the schools. The disturbances at Carlton School in 1959 focused attention on the shortcomings of the voluntary system at a particular time in a particular school. It is a pity that the same publicity cannot be given to the achievements of the voluntary system elsewhere, and to all the patient and devoted work on the part of managers and their staffs that makes those achievements possible. A readiness to give up time and energy to public service unsparingly and without material reward has been so long a feature of our way of life that we tend to take it for granted; but those who devote themselves to public service in this way are entitled to our gratitude, encouragement and respect. Clause 20, 1065 the last relating to approved schools, requires the Home Secretary periodically to lay before Parliament information a bout the approved school system.
We now come to a group of clauses, Clauses 21 to 23, which are not concerned exclusively with young offenders. It is now recognised that supervision after release from custody is a valuable, and, in many cases, a necessary complement to custodial training, and Clause 21 and the Third Schedule provide for compulsory after-care to be extended by stages to additional categories of adult prisoners after their release from prison. The categories of prisoners, selected as being in the greatest need of supervision on discharge, may in broad terms be described as those who are still young, those serving long terms, four years or more, where a return to ordinary life presents special difficulties, and those who either have or are in danger of acquiring a bad criminal record. Supervision will last for 12 months and will normally be undertaken by a probation officer. Any breach of the requirements of a supervision order may lead to the person's being brought before a magistrates' court, and the court will have power to return him to prison.
Clause 22 of the Bill repeals Section 22 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, which has been found to have no practical value. Clause 23 increases the penalties, which experience has shown to be inadequate, to deal with those who assist prisoners and persons detained in approved schools and remand homes to escape, and Clause 24 makes some miscellaneous amendments to the Prison Act, 1952.
Clause 25 enables Her Majesty, by Order in Council, to transfer to the Secretary of State any or all of the functions of the Prison Commissioners, and if all these functions are transferred, to dissolve the Prison Commission as a statutory authority. A draft of any Order in Council must be approved by the Resolution of each House of Parliament. Immense changes have taken place since the Prison Commission was established in 1887 to provide and run establishments for the secure custody of prisoners. At that time and for many years afterwards the Home Office alone was concerned with policy. In recent years, however, the Prison Commission 1066 has played an increasing part in the development of policy, and it has taken over certain administrative duties from the Home Office. The result is that the original division of responsibility between the Prison Commission, as the executive authority, and the Home Office, as the Department concerned with policy, has disappeared.
In this new situation, the continued existence of the Prison Commission as a separate statutory body has become less important and largely unreal. The Secretary's responsibility for the Prison Commission is already the same as his responsibility for the Home Office, and the two agencies already work very closely together in the formulation of policy and in matters of day-to-day administration. There will be no drastic change, therefore, when effect is given to the provisions of this clause. I know that concern has been expressed in some quarters that with the loss of their independent status the Prison Commissioners and their staffs will acquire the anonymity of civil servants, and some of the benefits which come from close personal relationships will be lost. The Government are convinced, however, that this will not be so and that the new provisions will facilitate the very desirable integration of the work of those concerned in various ways with the treatment of offenders.
Part III of the Bill deals with a number of problems in connection with the movement of prisoners or ex-prisoners from one part of the British Isles to another. I do not think I need at this stage go into the detailed provisions of the individual clauses of this Part of the Bill or in Part IV. There will, of course, be later opportunities to discuss any of them which your Lordships may consider to need some elucidation or about which any doubts exist.
My Lords, I commend this Bill to you as providing the legislative basis for a further useful step forward in penal administration. We attach, as I have said, the greatest importance to the proposals for the treatment of young offenders and to those for the extension of the scope of after-care. Coupled with the implementation of the extensive building programme, which I have described, they will afford pus greatly improved facilities for giving to offenders, young and old, the kind of treatment 1067 which offers the best hopes of converting them into useful citizens. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, we are, as usual, very much indebted to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor for an extremely lucid and absolutely objective exposition. He would be the first to say that he has not, so to speak, yet joined in the argument; but I know his capacity for argument, including his capacity for answering any difficulties which are raised, and I have no doubt that before we finish with this Bill we shall have long and detailed, and it may even be controversial, discussion. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I use this first speech from the Opposition side—and we have some experts to follow me—for a broad kind of treatment. I have not made plans to say anything about the police, but I certainly should like to echo the important encouragement, in so far as it lies within my power, to the police and those anxious to support them, because we all agree that without a strong and effective police force the rest of our discussion will be futile.
We meet against the background of a continuing crime wave. We must not exaggerate its horrors. It has been pointed out before now, by my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger, for example, that delinquents are still a very small proportion of the population. And long may they remain so! Nevertheless, the basic facts cannot be avoided. There were 283,000 indictable offences known to the police in 1938, and 675,000, or more than twice as many, in 1959. We have just heard to-day from the Minister for the Home Office that the increase in 1960 was 10 per cent. on 1959; and so far as I am aware—and I think that the Lord Chancellor confirmed this—the figures are mounting again. The present situation, which, of course, we are very closely concerned with, has revealed this unhappy trend.
When the present Home Secretary took office in 1957 he dedicated himself, with a sincerity which no one has ever questioned—it has never been surpassed by any Home Secretary—to humane 1068 policies and also to overcoming the material evils whose continuance was bound, and is bound, to undermine the highest moral purposes. Those who have been in prison during the last few years (and quite a number are known to me) will testify that the prison régime, wherever physically possible, has been increasingly liberal; and I would not wish to criticise that or to try to detract from that. But the physical facts of the present situation, as a result of this same crime wave, make lamentable reading.
Four years ago, when the present Home Secretary launched his assault, he recognised, I think, that the number who were compelled to sleep three in a cell was a pretty good index of overcrowding. At that time, early in 1957, it was about 2,000 who were sleeping three in a cell. Now there are 7,400. To-day the total population in prisons and borstals is about 28,400—needless to say, a new record. All the figures I have here seem to be records, but that is a new record, as I say, and is 2,000 higher than a year ago. Of those 28,400 (speaking in round figures) 27,443 are men and 951 are women: the men number 27½ thousand, and women less than 1,000. We can say what we will, but one must admit that men are the delinquent sex.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I thought I might draw some support on that point. I warn any noble Lords who are proposing to bring up the argument that there are more women than men in mental hospitals, that they had better not try because they will get such a "pasting "from noble Ladies.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
They live longer. The noble Lord who raised that before, regretted doing so. I am just warning your Lordships that it is not a very fruitful line of argument. If anyone says, "The women tempted me," of course we recall that Adam tried that argument and it did not do him any good. So I do not feel that one need pursue this side, except to note that there is that remarkable discrepancy.
Of that 28,400, over 1,500—and it is these with whom we are particularly concerned—are under 21 and in prison. 1069 When we talk of getting the young people out of prison we are talking in particular of those 1,500. There are over 5,000 in borstals (I take it that they would all be under 21) to which we should add over 400 in detention centres who are not accounted for in that prison and borstals figure. That gives us, for young delinquents, rather more than 7,000 detained in penal institutions. That is putting it in broad terms, but it focuses our discussion, perhaps, of this Bill.
The House will not be surprised to hear that the under-staffing of our prisons is regarded by the Prison Officers' Association, to which the noble Earl, Lord Winterton, paid such a well-merited tribute the other day, as very grave. I am authorised to use those words on behalf of this Association—a very grave position in regard to under-staffing. They could do with 400 to 500 more officers at once, and 1,200 as part of a long-term plan. But they are not increasing their numbers. Last year, on balance, the prison officers recruited only eight officers. They may have got more, but lost others, so that, as I say, on balance, they recruited only eight. At the moment the number they are recruiting is no more than they are losing through wastage. When we talk of having new prisons—and the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor was quite right to make some points on the Government's plan in that direction—or new penal institutions generally, we must indeed ask: where are the prison officers coming from by which these institutions are going to be staffed?
There is little doubt that the increase in crime, the overcrowding and under-staffing are linked together in a vicious circle. The greatest obstacle to recruitment of prison staff is the discomfort and inconvenience in which the overcrowding and under-staffing involve them. Thus, while the present crime wave continues the career of prison service becomes less and less attractive; all of which means, I am afraid, that lofty ideals of reform are not given a fair chance (and I would say this specifically to any of our friends who are critical of the reforms) to prove they are worthwhile so long as they are being sabotaged by material factors of this kind. While we may be told that there is nothing the Government can do about 1070 those material factors, we on this side would not by any means agree.
What are the Government proposing to do about it in the present Bill? The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has explained it all with great clearness, and I need not go into it in any detail. He has, of course, presented it—and the Lord Chancellor was the first to present it, as did the Home Secretary in another place—as a small part only of the Government's approach to the crime situation and the penal problem. I certainly do not want to deride it as though it were the main form of the Government's attack on crime. It is certainly very difficult to separate what the Bill itself proposes apart from the administrative policies which are clearly wrapped up with it. But taken at its face value, what does the Bill actually do? The Lord Chancellor has set out the details very clearly, and I am really recapitulating the principles that he explained.
The two main things of which he told us are, I think, these. First of all, the Bill provides a legal framework for the eventual transfer away from prison for all, or almost all, of those under 21. They will be transferred to remand centres, to borstals or to detention centres. That is the one side of it. Secondly, the Bill greatly extends the area of compulsory after-care. Of course, that will be not only for people under 21, but for everyone. Instead of covering some 700 ex-prisoners released each year, this Bill, when it has full effect (though that is bound to take some time), could eventually cover as many as 12,000 released each year, though even that 12,000 would be a good deal less than the number of ex-prisoners who were not subject to compulsory supervision. I think that about 42,000 prisoners are released each year, so that, even when it covers 12,000, it will be covering only a relatively small proportion. As the noble Viscount the Lord Chancellor rightly stressed, the Bill takes the salutary step of introducing compulsory after-care for those who serve the so-called "short, sharp sentences" in detention centres.
Changes of a secondary character are also recommended in the fields of attendance centres and approved schools, but in neither case is the treatment at all fundamental. I have no 1071 doubt we shall want to go into all that in much greater detail later on. I wonder whether I am right in thinking from the debates in another place that the Government regard the clauses which relate to approved schools largely as stop-gap measures. I am not quite clear about that from what the Lord Chancellor said, and when he comes to reply at the end perhaps he will indicate the attitude of the Government there. Are we really waiting for new legislation about approved schools until the Ingleby Report is dealt with systematically, or is what is now in front of us the main body of the Government's proposals about approved schools? That is certainly a point which ought to be cleared up but we ourselves think that a much more fundamental approach should be adopted to approved schools than anything seen here. However, I will leave that for the moment.
Clause 23 enables the Secretary of State to abolish any or all of the functions of the Prison Commission. I think the Government are not taking the power for use at some time in the future, but that they mean to use it shortly. Here I think one should not be dogmatic, because I can visualise arguments on both sides, but I think that we on these Benches have satisfied ourselves that, under present conditions, the Prison Commissioners are a force making for enlightenment in penal affairs which is unlikely to be replaced by an alternative of equal value. We will certainly fight this clause, and we may well bring forward a constructive alternative. I hope that, when he speaks to-night, the Lord Chancellor, even in advance of that discussion, may be able to tell us whether annual reports are to be available. These have been one of the best features of the régime of the Prison Commission. We have not been able to look to the Children's Department of the Home Office for any such system of regular reporting, and I hope that to-night the Lord Chancellor may say at least something on that subject.
There are certain omissions from the Bill which we regret. The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, who was herself a member of the Streatfeild Committee, will no doubt speak to us about the need for providing the courts with much more adequate information before 1072 passing sentence. She may well have something to say on the vital question of the age of criminal responsibility. Again, we on these Benches—and I think this covers nearly all of us here, though it is not a Party issue in the ordinary sense, and certainty we have no monopoly of it—regard the retention of hanging as utterly evil, and we shall certainly wish to see how far we can press our views on the House in that regard, compatible, of course, with the framework of the Bill. On the other hand, we respectfully congratulate the Government on not yielding to the pressure for the reintroduction of corporal punishment. I say no more about that now, but I shall have much to say on it, perhaps, at a later stage.
For the rest, I want to concentrate on what I have singled out as the two main principles: first, the transfer of young people away from prison, and secondly, after-care. With after-care, we come to a subject which is almost intolerably intricate, or which has at any rate been made so by the various arrangements. Just to mention one point, when we talk of "voluntary" after-care, we may mean after-care which is voluntary from the point of view of the prisoner as opposed to compulsory, or we may mean voluntary in the sense that it is provided by a voluntary society. I mention that in passing only because the whole subject has been bedevilled by intricate language. I believe my noble friend Lord Stonham, who has done a great deal of work in this field, will handle the whole question fully later, but as someone who is Chairman of The New Bridge, which is a voluntary society for helping ex-prisoners, and as Chairman also (as I was until a few months ago) of the so-called Pakenham-Thompson Committee, which is an all-Party group which published a plan on rationalising our whole system of after-care, I cannot say nothing on the subject.
Leaving most of it to Lord Stonham, I would point out that we urged very strongly in that plan the need for the creation of a department of the Home Office devoted exclusively to after-care. We urged that a national corps of aftercare officers should be recruited on the same terms and standards of training as probation officers or prison welfare officers, and should be engaged and paid by the Director of After-Care. We also insisted that, for the first time, the State must assume a real responsibility for 1073 providing a minimum level of aftercare. But I should like to emphasise—and, as chairman of a voluntary society, your Lordships will realise that this would correspond with my views—that, so far from suggesting a diminution of the field for voluntary action, we were most anxious to give much more scope in the future than in the past to voluntary action in addition to statutory action. I break off to say how very glad I am to think that my old friend and colleague Lord Listowel is assuming very onerous and honourable responsibilities in this field.
At the present time one must admit that after-care is even more scandalously undernourished than other aspects of our prison arrangements. We reckoned in our report—it may or may not have been art absolutely perfect calculation—that perhaps £325,000 a year is spent on after-care. About 10 per cent. of that is raised voluntarily: but, taking the thing as a whole, we can say that the country seems to spend rather more than £300,000 a year, which I think one can fairly describe as a "bagatelle". That would be about 2½ per cent. of the Prison Commission's annual expenditure, or less if one brought in the Prison Commission's capital expenditure. It is not so long ago that The Times said that the prison services were last in the queue, and it is customary to talk of the prison services being run on a shoestring. Divide that shoestring by forty, and you have the provision for aftercare. One may ask: how far does this Bill do anything for after-care? It does not of itself provide any new facilities or services. It simply says that large categories of ex-prisoners will, for the first time, be brought under compulsory supervision. I realise that the House wants to proceed to something else, but unless I am asked to give way, perhaps the House will wish me to proceed.
In practice, this means that new and heavy responsibilities for supervision will be placed on our splendid but already overworked probation service. At the Annual Conference of the National Association of Probation Officers on Saturday, which I attended, the Chairman of the National Association of Probation Officers made both aspects of the position absolutely plain. He said:Surely no one will deny that the time has arrived when the present chaotic system of 1074 dealing with statutory after-care should be scrapped and a new combined probation and after-care service under one division of the Home Office established.That was said by the Chairman of the National Association of Probation Officers two days ago, and is in line with what I ventured to call the Pakenham-Thompson recommendations. But he also pointed out that, even at the present time, even without these new responsibilities,the shortage of officers has reached alarming proportions.Case loads are rising to fantastic levels. That is the actual position without this new responsibility which most of us feel should be offered to the probation service.
The probation service (and here I quote their views) regard it as important that the extended supervision should not be brought into effect until the probation officers are available to deal with the additional work involved. There have been certain assurances to that effect, but I hope that those assurances will be repeated and underlined in the House this evening by the Lord Chancellor. The lesson of it all is that far more active steps must be taken, and far more energy and imagination must be shown, in the recruiting for this all-important, almost heroic, probation service. Certainly, if nothing much is done in this direction, this clause could finish up by doing more harm than good. But the idea behind the clause is far-sighted and imaginative, and those of us of good will must insist and expect that this clause shall be given the proper support in administrative action.
I now turn—and it will take me some time—to the last main issue, which is, indeed, the main conception of the Bill: the plan to empty the prisons, as far as possible, of young prisoners, and to transfer them to remand centres, borstals or detention centres. We are all at one in our desire to keep young people away from prisons. We want to keep them away from infection from older prisoners, and keep them away from the prison label so early in life. We want to keep them away from the horrible places that most of our prisons are, particularly in the circumstances of to-day. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chief Justice, who I am glad will speak this afternoon, has that very much in mind, although he and I would differ 1075 on certain ways of tackling the problem. But that goal is, I am sure, in his mind as much as in any of our minds. That does not mean that there is any special magic in an institution in which one is compulsorily detained with other delinquents because it happens to be called a remand centre, or a borstal, or a detention centre, although I admit such institutions are likely to be much more attractive than prison. They will be smaller than the existing fortresses themselves, which in itself is greatly welcome.
I speak for many of those on these Benches, and I am sure for many others of your Lordships, when I express my anxiety about the confusion and ambiguity which hangs over our policy towards detention centres, actual and proposed. I hope these debates, among other purposes, will serve to clarify the real intentions of the Government about these detention centres. Not long ago some of your Lordships may have seen a television film about a detention centre, in what is certainly a well-intentioned and, on the whole, valuable series called "Probation Officer". This particular picture was a lapse, and in my view a serious lapse, though, there again, one may blame the Government if one wishes for, at any rate, some of the ineptitude, because the confusion and ambiguity of Government policy must have given the producers a hard task. In this film a warden breaks down an aggressive young delinquent by the most brutal form of psychological bullying, though it is true he (so to speak) puts his arm around his neck later and befriends him. But the warden, dealing with this young man, reminds him that his father hanged himself, and generally his accent is on making the place so tough that no one would dare offend again. My Lords, I have visited that detention centre. I have visited it recently and in the past, and I have visited the centre where this film was made. It is regarded by the staff there as a gross travesty, and I am sure it is in fact a gross travesty. I hope the approach which was adopted by that film will be repudiated by the Government.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, would the noble Earl allow me to intervene at this stage? I am a director of the programme company who produced 1076 this particular programme. I should like to ask one or two questions of the noble Earl, and ask him whether he is aware of certain facts. First, is he aware that there has been a change in the warden at this particular detention centre—a very recent change?
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
My Lords, may I ask that question of the noble Lord: whether he is aware of that fact? There are other questions which require answer as well.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, if they are as infantile as that question, then I can deal very easily with them. I am shocked by the noble Earl, whom I know very well and like very much, for assuming that I would solemnly get up and make a statement of this kind without equipping myself with the most elementary facts about the centre.
THE EARL OF BESSBOROUGH
Is the noble Lord aware that the former warden of this centre went through the script with the scriptwriter; that two representatives of the Prison Commissioners attended personally; and two residential probation officers also approved the script?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I will not accept that remark about approval for a moment. I do not know what "approval" means. I am sorry if I have been rude to the noble Earl, but he has astonished me by assuming that I would deal with this matter in detail without the facts; and, since he has (so to speak) slowed me up, perhaps I may reply in detail, because it is rather an unusual situation. I did not see this film, but it was reported to me as an extraordinary affair. I asked the company with which the noble Earl is associated whether I could see the film played over. They very courteously enabled me to do so. I saw it played over. The noble Earl will see that I took some trouble over this. I went down afterwards to see the detention centre, which I had visited in the past. Many of the people there—certainly some of them—had seen the film and regarded it as a gross travesty, so I see no reason whatsoever to withdraw anything that I said, except any suggestion of rudeness to the noble Earl, which I would certainly withdraw.
1077 If he asks me where the Prison Commission come into this, may I say that I did not want to bring them into it, but I asked the Prison Commissioners whether they felt that some protest was due. All they said was that when the film was first produced it was very much worse; much worse, I believe. It was submitted to the Prison Commissioners, who persuaded the producers to make alterations and remove some of the worst features. Having done that, the Prison Commissioners felt, as they were not taking any responsibility, that they could not do more. If anyone says that they should have done more, that could be argued; but, as I say, I did not want to drag them into it. I am not concerned to attack the company, whose total efforts, I think, have probably done a lot of good; but this is a vital question. This film has been shown to millions of people, and I must ask whether, in fact, the film in which a warden reminds a boy that his father had hanged himself is within the policy of the Government, I do not believe that that is anywhere near the policy of the Government.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
The film was shown during the period of office of the present warden, and I must assume that if you show a film about an existing centre it must be related to a former warden. To the best of my belief, there is no warden in this country who would ask a boy that kind of question, whether he be a former warden or a present warden. I remember the former warden extremely well; he was a very high-minded man, and I do not believe he would ever put that kind of question. If I have spoken too strongly, the noble Earl will forgive me, but that is the fact, and it is a matter of great public importance. There is no attack launched upon his company, but there is an attack launched on this film, which, in my opinion, was a disgrace and should not have been allowed by the Home Office or by the Prison Commissioners to be shown. However, that is what the public are told: that that kind of thing goes on in our detention centres.
My diagnosis of what is actually happening is totally different. In my opinion, these gentlemen, whether the former war- 1078 den (for whom I had great regard when met him), or the present warden, are compassionate Christian people who simply would not deal with young men in that sort of way at all. They recognise that in three months you cannot enable a young man to acquire new habits; but you can enable him to form a strong desire to acquire such habits. They believe—and I am sure they are right—that in many cases, but not in all, you can help the man to improve his character permanently. Whether this so-called short, sharp treatment will justify itself, time alone will show. It is an experiment It would be absurd to say that it has yet proved itself, but it is an experiment with which we certainly ought to proceed. But we will be asking many searching questions about the Government's real intentions with regard to the purposes of these centres.
It is intended also to open a detention centre for girls. Here perhaps my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger would be better qualified to put the questions. It is more necessary to know what the régime will be there. The Advisory Council, which recommended this wider plan of detention centres, considered that it would be impracticable to use such centres for girls. Nevertheless, while accepting the opinion of the Advisory Council in other matters, the Government have set aside their opinion here and are setting up a centre for girls. If there is going to be only one centre for these young girls, coming from all over the country and far from their homes, the problem of home visits and other contacts with ordinary life is a grave one, and I feel that we shall certainly be asking many questions about these centres, particularly the one for girls.
One amendment which, in one shape or form, I am sure that we shall press to the best of our power is that social workers will be included in the staffs of such centres, to make plain, once and for all, that this business of reminding people that father hanged himself will be "out". A completely different philosophy will prevail. Of course, the whole policy will depend on the speed with which remand centres and detention centres are constructed. We realise that the Government are pressing on with them fast, though to some extent at the expense of prisoners, but at this stage we do not necessarily dissent, until we 1079 know more, from that order of priority. But we shall wish to raise various questions about the transitional period.
Where is all this leading? We seem like the unhappy ancient, rolling a stone up a hill and seeing it fall back on us with renewed force. Is prison the only answer—or the main answer? Many of us are beginning to think that the idea of restitution, of atoning for what one has done or of paying back what one has taken, is a major clue to the penal policy of the future. But paying back means work, and to organise men in prison is just about the most inefficient way of organising them for effective labour. I am disappointed that the Government have not yet been able to announce even the beginnings of a plan of compensation for the victims of crime, a plan which has been associated with the name of Miss Margery Fry and, in your Lordships' House, with the name of the late Earl, Lord Drogheda. At any rate, we hope that some plan of compensation will be announced before long. I myself would submit that an effective plan of compensation will never be arrived at while our prison system remains in anything like its present form. That would be true owing to the so-called intrinsic evils of prisons—segregation, incarceration and the abnormality of it all—even with a much better prison system than ours.
So long as we are thinking in terms of detention in institutions, there is no way round the problem, long ago spotlighted by Sir Alexander Paterson, when he showed how impossible it was to train men for freedom in conditions of captivity, in what he called "a monastery of unwilling monks." When I think of all the high-minded people who draw up plans for brighter and better prisons, I am reminded of what was said by Pascal about Plato and Aristotle:If they wrote on politics, it was as if laying down rules for a lunatic asylum.And if anyone suggests that something, quite different is too eccentric to be taken seriously, I am fortified by another saying of Pascal:Men are so necessarily mad that not to be mad would amount to another form of madness.If, in these last sentences, I seem to be departing from what is regarded as 1080 ordinary basic common sense, the House will feel that there is something to be said for it.
I remember taking the chair at a meeting for an outstanding prison governor, who began as follows:Yes, I am a prison governor and I suppose you haven't got much use for prisons or for prison governors either. Perhaps you would prefer to execute delinquents, or mutilate them, or humiliate them publicly in the stocks, or perhaps transport them for life to the ends of the earth. Well, all those plans have been tried and could be tried again, but if you won't have any of them, you might find yourselves forced to fall back on prisons.One must recognise a great truth in that argument. Prison is a rotten solution, but if one moves away from it what is the suggested alternative?
We on these Benches consider that the time has come for a completely new approach to penal policy—an approach which would combine effective deterrence with far-seeing reform and would be accepted as such by the community as a whole. We recognise that the country is divided to-day between those who believe that the only way of tackling the crime wave is to make punishment more severe and those who believe that we are going to abolish crime only by rescuing the actual and potential delinquent, particularly the young delinquent, by treating him as one would like to see one's own child treated. The division is not simple. I am not trying to stick a label on any noble Lord who disagrees with me by saying that he is either reactionary or not as good a Christian as I am. We on these Benches belong to the second group of reformers, but there is no monopoly of this view in your Lordships' House and in the country. But if we could discover a new and united national approach to legal punishment, it would strengthen the law immeasurably by placing behind it that public opinion which, in this country, has an even stronger force than the law.
We believe that a new and far more hopeful approach can be made to the crime problem if we can establish training outside prison as a new and evermore powerful element in our penal system. Some of your Lordships will have been reading what Sir Basil Henriques has been saying on this subject, as a result of his study of the experiment in Boston. We will certainly be pressing his ideas on your Lordships' 1081 House, as the most constructive contribution that has been made for many years. I must not stop to dwell on details now, except to say that under his scheme young delinquents would spend two hours every weekday evening in compulsory training. Of course, this could be combined with probation and might run for three months—there is no magic in figures—and it could be something like 130 hours. I expect that your Lordships will hear a good deal about the Henriques scheme and I am sure that there is no one whose views would carry greater weight than Sir Basil Henriques. But the scheme has to be judged on its merits. To me, the scheme represents not just a small corner of the plan, but the germ of a whole new penal philosophy, which will reconcile, as nothing else can, the need to make punishment unpleasant with the instincts of criminal ethics as interpreted in the 20th century.
I believe that the House has the opportunity to pave the way to the greatest step forward in the penal field since the probation service was established in 1907. This Bill will do good; at any rate, it will do little harm—I hope, no harm—but we hope that the Government will join with us in seeking for deeper truths and more far-seeing solutions than any contained in its limited clauses.