§ 3.1 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD AILWYN in the Chair.]
§ LORD STONHAM moved, after Clause 20, to insert the following new clause:
§ Director of After-Care and Appointment of Officers
§ ".—(1) For the purposes of Part II of and the Third Schedule to this Act relating to the supervision and rehabilitation of discharged prisoners, the Secretary of State shall appoint a Director of After-Care, who shall have the status of a Prison Commissioner and shall be responsible for co-ordinating official after-care work, both statutory and voluntary.
(2) (a) The said Director of After-Care shall appoint and control a sufficient number of persons of both sexes (to be known as aftercare officers) for work outside the prisons, whose, duties he shall, with the approval of the Secretary of State, prescribe and who shall have the training and status of probation officers.
(b) The said Director of After-Care shall have the like responsibility in relation to prison welfare officers, whose numbers he shall so maintain that there is at least one such officer to every 200 persons detained in local prisons and at least one to every 400 detained in other prisons.
The noble Lord said: The basic purpose of this Amendment is to do something to remedy what we regard as the unfortunate situation in which we maintain a great organisation and spend £15 million a year to keep men in prison, and have virtually no central organisation and spend less than a quarter of a million pounds a year in the hope of preventing them from going back to prison. Fifty years ago Oscar Wilde, who knew what he was talking about in this context, said:
Society takes upon itself the right to inflict punishment on the individual. When the man's punishment is over, it leaves him to himself; it abandons him at the very moment when its highest duty towards him begins.
Last year, Mr. Frank Dawtry, who speaks on this subject with all the authority of the General Secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, wrote:
There is still substance in the statement that a prisoner's real punishment begins, not on
the day of sentence, but on the day of discharge.
So we have not progressed much in fifty years. A few details have been changed but, in essence, our treatment of prisoners remains what it was—a blot on the social conscience, and, incidentally, as a product of this neglect, a drain on the taxpayers' pocket.
§ It is from this last hard, practical standpoint that in the main I want to deal with this Amendment. In my view, it is a mistake to sentimentalise over criminals. I probably know as many prisoners and ex-prisoners as most laymen. There are some likeable rogues, but, on the whole, I rather prefer decent, law-abiding citizens to prisoners and ex-prisoners. But what makes me really sick and furious is that when they have served their sentence we do virtually nothing to help them regain their self-respect and a decent place in society. On the contrary, we do everything possible, as it seems to me, to make sure that, if it is possible, they will regain their place in prison.
§ This Amendment, which is based an the main recommendations of the Pakenham-Thompson Committee, is designed to change this state of affairs. It makes three proposals: first, for a Director of After-Care to co-ordinate all official after-care work; secondly, for the appointment of after-care officers to work outside prisons; and thirdly, far the appointment of welfare officers to work inside prisons. If we are to achieve any really worthwhile results there is a pressing need for co-ordinated, expert work. At present, most after-care is on a voluntary and a moral basis. Well-meaning people, many of them without special knowledge, give sympathetic advice and help to ex-prisoners, in the hope that they will act rationally. But to many ex-prisoners, the mind picture of the world which they have conjured up and re-created in prison, bears no relationship at all to the real world outside. They must be prepared, emotionally and physically, to bridge the gap betwen the sheltered life of prison and the competitive world outside. After two or three years out of the world, possibly through a long illness, even a normal person needs time for readjustment.
§ Most recidivists are not normal—they are abnormal people, otherwise they 733 would not continually go back to prison. The untrained worker often fails to appreciate the size of the job and the staying power needed, and feels let down when a man whom he has sincerely tried to help fails to profit from his help and advice. People get the feeling, "What is the use of trying to help these people?" It is, above all, essential for a prisoner to be shown the way to help himself, to sort out his own problems. This process should start long before he is discharged, not just after discharge or a week or so before.
§ The basic needs of a man on his release from prison are a home to go to, clothes or money for clothes, and subsistence until he can get a job and draw his first week's pay. He needs, too, a steady friend or adviser to whom he can go, not just for a week or two, but perhaps for months or even a year or so, until he is firmly on his feet, both materially and emotionally. In all but a few cases the prison system fails to provide any of these things in anything like the necessary degree. In 1958, some 32,000 men were received into prison. Well over 26,000 of them had previous offences, so after-care had not been very successful with them. Small wonder, because most recidivists are lost sight of until they go back to prison. At present, over 90 per cent, of discharged prisoners are entitled to voluntary after-care through local discharged prisoners' aid societies and the national association of aid societies. They see men in prison shortly before discharge, but in the nature of things they are not able to give much help. And most men face the world again armed only with a travel warrant, a minimum grant of 2s. 6d. and a letter to the National Assistance Board arid the labour exchange.
When I referred to this matter on Second Reading of the Bill, I made reference to a film which had graphically shown what happens to a man in these circumstances. In the film it was said that the man could not get relief from the National Assistance Board without an address. Since then, I have had a letter from Sir Geoffrey Hutchinson, the Chairman of the National Assistance Board. I am glad to say that he tells me that the film was entirely wrong in that respect, and I think it only right that I should quote his words. He says in this respect:
The alleged rule 'no address—no assistance', whether taken to relate to assistance applicants in general or to discharged prisoners in particular, is simply non-existent. Although the story that an ex-prisoner can get help from us only if he can give an address still has some currency, it has no truth.
I am glad to know that this is the case. But the point is that some ex-prisoners still believe that there is this rule—we still get these complaints. I would suggest, with respect, that it is not sufficient for the officials at the National Assistance Board to know and interpret the regulations. The men also ought to know, and any misunderstanding in that matter can easily be remedied by having a printed slip accompanying the letter which they take to the National Assistance Board, telling the men exactly what their rights are. In any case, it is very little that they are armed with when they come out of prison.
§ There is, inevitably, overlapping between the different voluntary commit. tees—indeed, in some cases, rivalry; and administration of the voluntary committees is very costly. In some small areas it actually costs as much as 25s. to administer £1 worth of aid. Even in London, for every £1 of aid given the administrative cost is about 17s. 6d.; and, of course, the Government provide a considerable proportion of that money.
§ Unquestionably, a co-ordinated system such as we are asking for in the Amendment would reduce the proportionate cost of overheads, although the near to employ trained staff would naturally increase the total cost. An increase of the total cost would be of small moment compared with the fact that it would enable the job to be done properly. For the fact is that, despite the devoted efforts of a number of dedicated, selfless voluntary workers, to whom I gladly pay humble tribute, it is not being done effectively at present. If this Amendment is accepted there will be, under the system which my noble friends and I propose, a continuing need for voluntary workers, as associates or friends of individual prisoners. But under a Director of After-Care the voluntary bodies would become purely advisory and, the discharged prisoners' aid societies would cease to do case-work inside prison.
§ Apart from the appointment of a Director of After-Care, there is nothing new in the suggestions we are making. 735 They were made eight years ago by the Maxwell Committee, whose Report, apart from a few minor administrative changes, has been virtually ignored. The Maxwell Committee recommended prison welfare officers with the status, training and pay of probation officers. After eight years there are about 30 such officers, but with virtually no training and precious little status in the prison hierarchy. And, of course, there is no course of instruction available for them, even now. Maxwell recommended personal after-care and the recruitment of associates; Maxwell recommended that local societies' welfare officers should be released from duty inside prisons and should act as after-care officers outside. All this was eight years ago, and nothing has been done. It sometimes puzzles me how the Government can continue to persuade distinguished people to sit and work for years on these various Committees, when so often their views, when they are published, are either pigeon-holed or ignored altogether.
§ But the Pakenham-Thompson Committee have now reached the same conclusions, plus the supremely important recommendation for a Director of After-Care with the authority and finance to run the whole scheme. It would make it possible for the prisoner's rehabilitation to start from the week he begins his sentence. His prison training can be related to the job he is going to do on release. It is a most depressing thing to go to a preventive detention prison, to see excellent, skilled workmen doing work in the workshops, and then, when you ask the instructors, "Do you know of any of your chaps who go in for the job you are training them for inside?" to be given their answer. I have never met one instructor who knew a single man who went out to do the job for which he was being trained. That is a disgraceful waste not only of money and effort, but also of manpower.
§ Under this Amendment, if it is implemented, when a man leaves prison he will be able to go straight to the job that has been found for him, and straight to a home or hostel if he has no home of his own and some 40 per cent. of those who serve long sentences have no home of their own to go to. Outside the prison the man would come under a skilled 736 after-care officer, who would have available the case notes which had been compiled on his case while he was in prison; and each ex-prisoner would have a friend to turn to. This may sound like common humanity, but it is also common sense. The public rightly demand that criminals should be punished for their crimes. But surely, when the sentence has been served, ex-prisoners should be treated like human beings and given a real chance of rehabilitation.
§ There may be points of detail in this Amendment which can be improved, but in my view there can be no possible valid reason why the Government should not accept it in principle. The present arrangements for after-care are ramshackle, under-financed, haphazard, short-term, insufficiently explained, uncoordinated, with no connection from the start of the sentence to the time when the man can be rehabilitated. It is quite intolerable on social, human grounds; and it is quite ridiculous on financial grounds and on grounds of efficiency. If our proposal, or something like it, is accepted, we can begin at last to start on a really humane sensible course. I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment and let us start on the road to sanity. I beg to move.
After Clause 20 insert the said new clause. —(Lord Stonham.)
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am sure that all who have any connection with after-care will be very grateful to my noble friend Lord Stonham for putting down this Amendment, and grateful to him for the way he has moved it. I must apologise to the Committee because my throat is rather awkward this afternoon. Medical assistance is very close to me, but I hope that I shall not have to invoke it.
There are, I agree with my noble friend Lord Stonham, extraordinary difficulties about providing adequate help for the ex-prisoner. To some extent that must always be so. But, of course, we make the difficulties much worse by our scandalous neglect. The prisoner probably suffers from some temperamental difficulties—not always, but probably—and there is a handicap there. There is probably a handicap as a result of his prison experience that can perhaps be improved. A prison, as we know 737 it, at any rate is seldom of positive benefit to anybody: it seldom provides an experience that we should want any of our friends to undergo, though it does occasionally benefit. There is also the question of the prisoner's record when he comes out, which in the case of a professional man must always be a liability. Nevertheless, unless we can make some effort to help these ex-prisoners far snore adequately than we do now, as my noble friend has said, we are simply pouring the money we spend on prisoners, such as it is, down the drain. It is like stopping in the middle of an operation.
I do not think that the after-care of prisoners will ever be a very glamorous kind of social work. There is more excitement, I suppose (and I do not say this by way of disparaging prison visitors, having been a prison visitor myself), in other work. From visiting prisoners one comes out with a sense of virtue and Martini: one feels one has done a good day's work. After-care does not usually leave one with that sense of virtue, but that is only because one is so often unable to help the ex-prisoner. He begins to seem even a bit of a nuisance after a certain time, after he has failed to gel a job or has got one and lost it. Nevertheless, I suppose that there is no social work—and there are many people in this House experienced in this and other social work—which is more rewarding. There is none which arouses greater gratitude, because an ex-prisoner is about as vulnerable and sensitive a human being as one will find. Therefore, I am bound to say that there is no work which seems more closely in keeping with Christian ethics. Nevertheless, there it is. It will be always very difficult to perform adequately, and it will always be hard to find the people to do it.
The Government are bringing forward proposals—I hope I shall not be out of order in alluding to them on this Amendment; they are actually contained in Clause 21—to extend the sphere of compulsory after-care. We all, I am sure, welcome those proposals. To those not altogether familiar with this subject, the language is extremely trying. Very confusing language is used in after-care, because one talks about statutory after-care as against voluntary after-care, meaning, by "statutory", compulsory after-care and, by "voluntary", after-care 738 that is voluntary from the point of view of the recipient, the ex-prisoner. But when one is talking, as I shall be talking in a moment and as we are talking on this Amendment, of the difference between State after-care and voluntary after-care, by "State after-care" one means after-care provided by the State and by "voluntary after-care" after-care provided by voluntary agencies; so one is looking at it from the point of view of the agency, and not from the point of view of the man.
Nevertheless, when we talk of the Government's proposals, when we welcome these proposals to increase the range of statutory after-care, we are, of course, a long way from in fact increasing the provision of after-care, whether it be for those who are to receive it under compulsion or other wise. The after-care is to be extended (I am talking of the statutory after-care now, the compulsory after-care) in this Bill, but it will be carried out through the agency of probation officers—and I think everyone in this House salutes the probation officers. There are, I suppose, about 1,500, already hopelessly overworked, as I said on Second Reading. I quoted something that was said by the Chairman of the National Association of Probation Officers recently at their annual meeting. He said that the shortage of officers has reached alarming proportions, and case loads are rising to fantastic levels. That is without the extensions of their responsibilities which are contained in this Bill. I hope we shall pass Clause 21, but when we pass some measure of this kind we are far, indeed, from actually providing any more help to prisoners. We must do far more to increase the status and the attractions of the probation service. I am well aware, as we all are, that a committee is examining this question, but it would be madness at this time not to lay a lot of stress on the failure in the past to provide sufficient encouragement to the probation service.
I should hope—this is rather a pessimistic thing for me to say, but I hope—that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, who is replying, will assure us that it is not intended under this Bill to impose new burdens on the probation service until the force has been strengthened. I believe an assurance of that kind has been held 739 out in another place, but perhaps the Lord Chancellor will confirm it to-day. It will certainly relieve the minds of probation officers. But we must certainly increase the size of the probation service. I myself believe—and I am speaking here purely in a personal way; I cannot say that informed opinion, or any particular opinion, is with me—that we could use women more freely in the probation service to supervise male ex-prisoners. Up to now, male ex-prisoners have been and are being supervised by men, and not by women; but if we are going to be short of probation officers, we should draw on the women. I think we shall, in fact, find that the women are at least as good as the men, and perhaps better, at supervising these male ex-prisoners. That is just a personal view expressed in passing.
However, the question of providing after-care for prisoners as a whole is not touched on in the next clause, Clause 21: it is touched on here. At the present time, compulsory after-care is in fact provided for about 700 men who leave prison every year. Under the Bill, in theory, it will eventually be provided for about 12,000 men who leave prison every year. So we can see at once what a considerable expansion of the probation service will be needed. I do not want to suggest that we have to multiply the probation service several times, as it is only one of their duties, but a very considerable expansion of the probation service will be needed if effect is to be given to the provisions of the Government's Bill. But here in this particular Amendment we are concerned to go further, because we are thinking of the other 30,000 prisoners who would not come under the Bill. Under the Bill, there might be as I say, 12,000 a year covered, but there would be 30,000 who would come out of prison without being covered. We are thinking of all the prisoners, and not just of those who would come under the compulsory after-care.
The noble Lord has explained the machinery which we regard as necessary if a really adequate service is to be provided for the prisoners as a whole, and not lust for any particular group. He has been kind enough to refer to the Pakenham-Thompson Report, and perhaps, since I am now called something else, I can view that Report with more 740 detachment. At any rate, I should like to pay tribute to all the members of that Committee, and in particular to a young idealist called Mr. Thompson, without whom the thing would never have been started at all.
I will not run over the ground covered so well by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, but in this Report it was argued strongly that the provision of after-care for an prisoners, at any rate up to a minimum level, should be regarded in the future as a duty of the State. But the special point to emphasise (and the noble Lord touched on it) is that this does not, in the view of the Committee, mean that voluntary agencies have shot their bolt, that their day is done. They say that there should be an even greater scope for voluntary agencies, assisted by State grants. I will not go into the details, which have been explained by the noble Lord: anybody can study them, if they wish, in the Report.
I do not want to speak too hardly about the existing set-up. I do not see the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery of Alamein, in his place to-day, although he has been here very often lately, I have been glad to notice; but I think the set-up would be described in his soldierly language as "a shambles", "a mess" or "nonsense". I seem to have heard all those phrases used by him, and I think they have been used by myself and others about the extsing arrangements. I am not, of course, alluding to the individuals concerned. A particularly fine man, Commander Haig, is now acting as secretary to what I will call, for short, the national system—that includes the State and the voluntary system. I am also glad to think that my noble friend Lord Listowel is assuming heavy responsibility in this field. So no doubt from the point of view of personnel they are very well looked after: but the whole system is chaotic, as anybody can find out for themselves by studying it for a moment or two.
In other words, we believe that the time has come for a complete revolution in after-care, under which the State will accept a responsibility for providing a minimum standard and for providing a national after-care service for the first time. That after-care service should clearly be combined with the probation service. At the same time, we say that 741 voluntary effort has a greater part than ever to play, and we hope that far more energy and imagination will be shown in encouraging the voluntary bodies to surpass even the best of their previous efforts. I have much pleasure in supporting the Amendment.
§ 3.29 p.m.
We must have a great deal of sympathy with the end of the Amendment, though I personally hardly qualify to say whether the means are the correct means. My noble and learned friend would not dispute that. I have no connections with prisoners' aid societies, but approach the matter as a taxpayer, and it irks me very considerably to think that these people come out of gaol and good money has to be spent catching them again and immediately popping them back, at the public expense.
A prison chaplain once suggested to me that their position would be considerably eased if they came out with a fully-stamped card. I wrote to the Home Secretary on the subject, and he was sympathetic. I do not know whether this practice has been put into operation. Undoubtedly the position of a man who comes out with no money is absolutely hopeless; he needs some money. One must not disguise the fact that prisoners, per se, must be a very difficult class of people, particularly those who have been inside more than once, because it must mean that they are, on the whole, people of very weak character. The only chance of their making good in civil life is to equip them with a skill, and a skill that is a wanted skill, particularly one which could be exercised in a small business. An ex-prisoner who starts work in a big shop of any sort, kind or description will sooner or later be picked out by somebody who finds out about his past, and some people will try to get him out, whereas if he is working in a small business with two or three people who probably know all about him, he has a much better chance of being accepted on his merits.
I know that it is extremely difficult to train anyone in prison, with the lack of instructors, administrative difficulties, and so on, but if we are to try to train people for a skill which is wanted in the outside world, which is at a premium, and is, moreover, exercisable in 742 a small workshop, let us always keep our eyes on the type of skill which meets those requirements. There is one skill in particular which, in my part of England, and I believe all over England, is a dying one and which is urgently required, and that is the leather-working saddler. Apprentices are not going into that business because it involves a very long apprenticeship. The result is that there is something of a crisis in all saddling and leather workshops, and, if anything, there is a growing demand every day for that sort of work. Another skill which can be exercised in a small shop is that of the motor mechanic. I do not know where the motor mechanics are who are going to service the millions of motor cars on our roads when they begin to get a little older. A further skill which is dying out, and which is in great demand, is that of the blacksmith. All of those are the types of skill which may be exercised among two or three men in a small workshop, and if it is possible to train men in that sort of way, I believe that ought to be done.
I believe that in an ideal society prisoners would not get sentenced to so many years' imprisonment; they would be sentenced to stay in until they had passed a trade examination Ito become a journeyman in some particular trade or skill. Or boys would not be sent away for any particular period of time, but until they got so many Ordinary levels or A levels in the G.C.E. That is an ideal society, but I am afraid we are rather a long way from it. I apologise for hanging on to a speech I have wanted to make for a number of years, when it is not particularly relevant to this Amendment, but I am grateful to your Lordships.
§ 3.34 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My noble friend Lord Longford, who is still more generally recognised under his previous name and will certainly go down in the history of after-care under that name, thanks to the Thompson-Pakenham Report, has had experience, I suppose, second to none in this field. I should like to take this opportunity, an opportunity I have not had before, of thanking him publicly on behalf of the National Association of Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies (if I have the whole of the title right, from start to finish) for his 743 extremely important contribution to the knowledge of the subject and for the very stimulating recommendations which he makes. Those thanks, of course, are to him and his colleagues.
The Amendment before us this afternoon recognises that our present system of after-care is very far from satisfactory. The Amendment goes on to put forward one of the possible solutions, about which many people are thinking and discussing at the present time, to the after-care problem. The Amendment also recognises—and I think this is equally important—that the rehabilitation, or after-care, of a prisoner is a continuous process (my noble friend Lord Stonham laid a great deal of emphasis on that point) which starts from the first day that a man goes into prison and should not end until he is firmly established in a job after his release and has settled down again, with every prospect of becoming an honest citizen. I have always thought—at least, I have not "always" thought, because I have not been thinking about the subject for as long as many other noble Lords; but since I have been thinking about it, it has occurred to me that "after-care" is a bad phrase. Perhaps I should say it is an illogical phrase; I do not mean "bad" in another sense. It is illogical, because it suggests that rehabilitation starts only after a man has left prison, which is not what any of us mean when we think of rehabilitation.
What is wrong with the present system? I suppose that is what we have to find out first. I have the feeling that public opinion in the country generally has not yet fully accepted collective and individual responsibility for giving a prisoner the things he needs to enable him to lead an honest life; and this (what you might call) remedial element, as distinct from the punitive element, in the treatment of prisoners has not sunk deeply into the consciences of ordinary people. The second thing, I believe, is that the principles of the Maxwell Report, which are the bases of our modern conception of rehabilitation and after-care, have not had time to influence the organisations which do this work, and have not had time to enable them to adapt their traditional methods to what is required today. Perhaps that, broadly, is what is wrong.
744 But the solution is the important thing, and, whatever it may be, I was very glad that both my noble friend Lord Stonham and my noble friend Lord Longford said that there would be plenty of scope and room for voluntary work and effort, as well as for a large extension of Government responsibility and support over the whole field of rehabilitation and aftercare. After all, voluntary workers have been pioneers in the field of social work. They have given many years of service in this field, and the very idea of after-care, as distinct from punishment, derives from their sense of responsibility, very often inspired by their religious beliefs.
May I conclude by mentioning two rather obvious defects, I think, in the present system, for which I cannot suggest a remedy, but perhaps the noble and learned Viscount may be able to suggest something? The first is the status and pay of after-care officers. This is so much below the status and pay of Probation officers and prison welfare officers that there is not sufficient future for a man to engage in this work of an after-care officer, or to attract others with the right qualifications. Until that is put right, that element in after-care work will be completely inadequate.
The second defect, which came to my notice when I was at Wandsworth Prison the other day, is an administrative one which arises out of the two systems of compulsory and voluntary after-care in relation to men in prison. A man who is under compulsory after-care is visited by a probation officer from outside the prison. I met a man who had seen a probation officer on three or four occasions while he was serving his sentence, Most of the prisoners who are under voluntary after-care see the prison welfare officer whenever they want to, because he works in the prison and is there every day of the week. It seems to me that in prison both prisoners under compulsory after-care and prisoners under voluntary after-care should be treated by the same persons—namely, the welfare officers. That would give the long-term prisoners under compulsory after-care a much better chance of getting the right adjustment while still in prison. Finally, I would apologise to the noble and learned Viscount because I have to leave the Chamber fairly shortly as I have some "constituents" 745 from Ghana waiting. I hope that he will forgive me.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUR)
I am grateful to the noble Lords who have taken part in this discussion. I should like to deal with one or two specific points before coming to the general problem. The first thing I would do is to commiserate with the noble Earl, Lord Longford, about his throat and to express the hope that, by the reasonableness of the answers from this side of the House, we shall give him the least possible occasion to use it. The second thing I want to do is to sincerely thank him for his share in the Pakenham-Thornpson Report. This Report, Problems of an Ex-Prisoner, is a most valuable document and I shall come back to it in time. I should like to assure my noble friend Lord Hawke that there are vocational training courses in motor mechanics and blacksmithing in both prisons and borstals, and I will look into the leather-working suggestion which he raised.
I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, for two points: first, for stating the fact that this Amendment constitutes one of the interesting proposals in the Pakenham-Thompson Report, which gives a number of solutions that may be applied; and secondly, for emphasising the importance of voluntary work. I think that it would be one of the saddest things, and one that would make life scarcely worth living, if improvement in State welfare organisations of all kinds, which we all welcome, was to result in a diminution of voluntary work. I think that noble Lords opposite will agree with me in this. I think they will also agree that one of the functions of voluntary work is to pioneer and experiment, and that another of its functions is to improve both the minds and the hearts and souls of those engaged in voluntary work, and I am glad that the noble Earl emphasised that point.
There has been a great deal of criticism, with strong words, of the present system, and I feel I ought to say something about that. I shall come to my personal interest in a moment. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, was perfectly right in the definitions he gave of voluntary after-care and statutory after-care. Voluntary after-care means aid after discharge granted to a person released 746 absolutely with no condition requiring him to accept help and no sanction unless he gets into trouble again and is brought before a court. Statutory aftercare is a form of obligatory acceptance of supervision as a condition of discharge and carries with it a liability to recall to confinement for a breach of any condition of the supervision. At present all adults discharged from prison, except those sentenced to corrective training, preventive detention or life imprisonment, and all young prisoners aged under 21 on conviction released from a sentence of under three months, are subject to voluntary aftercare. So are boys discharged from a detention centre. All persons discharged from prison other than those mentioned above as being subject to voluntary after-care, are subject to statutory after-care, as are all persons discharged from borstals and approved schools.
Voluntary after-care is the responsibility of 37 local Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies and the National Association of these Societies, of which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, spoke. Half the approved administrative expenditure of the local societies, and the whole of that of the National Association, is borne by the Exchequer, as is half the cost of prisoners' discharge clothing. For the rest the Societies depend on voluntary subscriptions.
I hope your Lordships will not mind if I say that it is 30 years since I first became President of a local discharged prisoners' aid society. About l7 years ago, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, when he was Home Secretary, asked me to resume a local presidency where there was some difficulty, and I have also had the honour of being asked by the National Association to make an appeal for them on "The Week's Good Cause", so that I have had some experience of the work of these associations, although I would not equate my experience or compare it with that of the noble Earl, Lord Longford. This voluntary work and the amount of effort, public spirit and human kindliness that is put into this work, is something which anyone who has seen it will feel is very precious, and therefore, despite the criticisms, I hope that nothing but encouragement will go out from this debate in your Lordships' House to the work of these societies.
747 Statutory after-care (and voluntary after-care for certain long-term prisoners) as respects former prisoners and borstal inmates is the responsibility of the Central After-Care Association, which is governed by a Council appointed by the Secretary of State and has the whole of its expenses met from public funds. It is organised in three divisions—one for men, one for borstal boys and young prisoners, and one for women and girls. As the noble Earl indicated—and I hope he will not mind if I make it quite clear—the director of the men's division is also the general secretary of the National Association of Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies. The Association employs a number of welfare officers, but the great majority of persons discharged to its care are supervised by probation officers. I assure the noble Earl that it is not our intention to make the work of the individual probation officers harder or to put more upon them, because I think that they work as hard as is humanly possible at the moment.
Government interest in the problems of discharged offenders has steadily increased since the passing of the Criminal Justice Act of 1948. The recommendations of a Committee on Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies (which has been referred to in this debate as the Maxwell Committee) came out in the early days of my Home Secretaryship. The Committee was set up in 1951 by my predecessor; I accepted all the recommendations when I was Home Secretary, I think some eight years ago, and they are being gradually implemented. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said that they were bound to take some time in implementation. But in 1957 the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders were asked to consider whether statutory after-care should be extended to further groups of prisoners. In the following year they reported in favour of the gradual extension of this system to certain categories of ex-prisoners. This Bill contains provision for this, and also for the extension of the system to detention centre inmates, for which there has long been a demand by persons interested in the problems of young delinquents.
It is easy to make the general charge that Committee recommendations are not implemented. I once went through the whole body during a debate in your 748 Lordships' House, and when one considers the number of Committees and, on the other side, the limitations in the Government's legislative time, it is extraordinary how many recommendations have, in fact, been implemented. At some time I hope the Committee will debate that particular point, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said, it is important from the point of view of those who give up their time. The Committee can take it from me that it is surprising, when you analyse the matter, to find how much implementation has taken place. I will not say more at the moment, because it is something that I should have to prove at considerable length, by going through the Reports; but I am quite prepared to do it. So far as I am concerned, I accepted the Maxwell Committee's recommendations at once, and we have not let the matter sleep, because the Advisory Council were asked to consider again four years ago, and this Bill has now been before Parliament for several months.
The increase in the number of prison welfare officers has also substantially increased the cost to the Exchequer of after-care. This cost will be further increased by the proposed extension of after-care, and we are quite prepared to face that increase. The extension will also inevitably bring with it new problems of organisation which have been put before the Committee in this debate, including the relationship between wholly voluntary workers and officials and members of quasi-official organisations. It was because of these developments, and of other impending developments, that my right honourable friend announced to the other place on the Second Reading of this Bill that he intended to invite the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders to undertake a review of the arrangements for the organisation of statutory and voluntary after-care. This will cover aftercare for persons discharged from prisons, Borstals, detention centres and approved schools.
There has recently, I am glad to think, been a marked and welcome degree of interest in this question on the part of the general public. Not only have we had the Committee under the chairmanship of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and its interesting Report on problems of the ex-prisoner, but a member of the 749 Committee, Mrs. Pauline Morris, a psychiatric social worker, published somewhat earlier another interesting booklet, entitled Prison After-Care; Charity or Public Responsibility? I should like to assure your Lordships that the Advisory Council, if they have not already read both these publications, will certainly keep them in mind. I am sure they will be helped by them and will share my gratitude to those who have produced them.
In those circumstances, when the matter has been referred to the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders, who have been asked to review the existing arrangements and to consider whether any, and if so what, changes are advisable, we cannot accept this Amendment, because that would be prejudging the work of the Committee. If noble Lords opposite feel that as a gesture they have to divide the Committee, I shall not take it amiss. But I think that anyone would understand that to accept what the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, called one solution of a problem, when a body of great responsibility has been asked to inquire into possible solutions, would not be right and would be contrary to the proper position of a Government who have asked that responsible body to make the inquiry.
I have the fullest sympathy, as my noble friend Lord Hawke put it, for the aims and objectives, and I welcome the increased interest. One sometimes felt in the past that one was battling in rather lonely company when one was doing this work. I want to assure noble Lords that this is a matter of profound interest to my right honourable friend and all who work with him. As I say, if noble Lords feel that a gesture is necessary, I shall not take it amiss; but I shall ask my noble friends to agree with me that it would be unreasonable to make this selection until we have had the Report of the Advisory Committee.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am grateful to the Lord Chancellor for giving us such a careful and detailed reply, but he will forgive me if I express a feeling of disappointment, in that I feel he has not really answered the main points put to him. I join with him in agreeing that it would be a sad thing if improvements in State welfare organisations were to 750 result in the diminution of voluntary work. Then I have to say, "Yes, but if the voluntary work (and I join with the noble and learned Viscount in the tribute he paid to the devoted and selfless workers who are doing it) is not providing a satisfactory after-care system, we have to take other steps." My noble friend Lord Longford's throat has been referred to, and in order to obviate the need for him to make another speech I will mention one body of voluntary workers who do wonderful work on behalf of ex-prisoners—I mean the Women's Voluntary Services. In my view, it is solely clue to their great efforts that women's after-care, though still far from satisfactory, is so mach better than would otherwise be the case.
I am grateful for the Lord Chancellor's guarantee that probation officers will not be burdened with more work. But this is the kind of thing we are up against. On Second Reading I asked for a rather similar assurance about the movable feast when this Bill is applied, and I was glad the noble and learned Viscount gave the assurance that Saturday after-care would not be implemented until the probation officers were available. I was somewhat less pleased, however, when he drew my attention to the fact that the Morrison Committee had had plenty of opportunity to study this particular problem. Since the Morrison Committee first met in May, 1959, that is a bit of an understatement. When we realise that this urgent problem has been under consideration of that Committee for two years and find that we are reassured in that way, it saps our confidence in the Government's drive in this matter. Perhaps the noble and learned Viscount could let us know whether, on that particular point, there will be an Interim Report from the Committee, or how much longer we shall have to wait for a Report on the Probation Service from the Morrison Committee.
We are glad to know that the Government have not allowed the matter to sleep. Reference was made to the Maxwell Committee and the fact that four years' consideration by the Advisory Council has had the result of bringing in this legislation we are now considering. But the whole point before us today is this. We have had the advice: I quoted the advice of the Maxwell Committee, given eight years ago, when the 751 noble and learned Viscount was Home Secretary, and when he accepted their recommendation. Now to-day, in 1961, eight years later, we are moving an Amendment embodying precisely the same provision, and we are told by the Government: "We must again refer the matter to the Advisory Council for their opinion."
The Home Secretary made an announcement early last December that the matter of after-care was being referred to the Home Office Advisory Council. A week ago we were told that the Home Office Advisory Council were
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ LORD LATHAM moved, after Clause 20, to insert the following new clause:
§ Remand Homes
§ ". No person shall be committed to a remand home unless the managers thereof or person authorised to act on their behalf shall have informed the court concerned that there is a place available."
§ The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to protect remand 752 then considering it for the first time—five and a half months later. That really is not good enough. While thanking the Lord Chancellor for his courtesy and patience, which is invariable and which we appreciate tremendously, I assure him that it is far more than a gesture when I say that we are dissatisfied with the answer given. I feel so strongly about this matter that I shall ask my noble friends to divide on this Amendment.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 32; Not-Contents, 56.751
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Iddesleigh, E.||Sinha, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Killearn, L.||Somers, L.|
|Amwell, L.||Latham, L.||Stonham, L. [Teller.]|
|Burden, L.||Lawson, L.||Taylor, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Listowel, E.||Twining, L.|
|Colwyn, L.||Longford, E.||Walston, L.|
|Crook, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Williams, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Meston, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Harmsworth, L.||Pethick-Lawrence, L.||Wise, L.|
|Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Henderson, L.||Ravensdale of Kedleston, B.|
|Abinger, L.||Falmouth, V.||Milverton, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Ferrier, L.||Newall, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Foley, L.||Newton, L. [Teller.]|
|Ampthill, L.||Fortescue, E.||Perth, E.|
|Baden-Powell, L.||Gage, V.||Radnor, E.|
|Bathurst, E.||Goschen, V.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Grenfell, L.||Robins, L.|
|Birdwood, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Blackford, L.||Hastings, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Brecon, L.||Hawke, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Brentford, V.||Jellicoe, E.||Saye and Sele, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Jessel, L.||Spens, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Swinton, E.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Kinnaird, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Crookshank, V.||Lansdowne, M.||Teynham, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Long, V.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Margesson, V.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Wolverton, L.|
|Exeter, L. Bp.||Merrivale, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ homes from dangerous overcrowding, which is the case at the present time, very largely because they are accommodating persons awaiting places in approved schools, the accommodation in which is, of course, very seriously inadequate at the present time. A fairly substantial programme of building and reconstruction is, I understand, in process, but there is a great pressure on the limited accommodation in remand homes.753
§ The local authorities have the responsibility of providing these homes, and it ppears that they do the best they can to discharge this duty, but particularly in times like the present, when children and young persons are appearing before the courts in increasing numbers, it is not always possible to create specialised accommodation of this kind quickly enough, bearing in mind the difficulties of finding suitable sites free from objections from local residents—and those objections are not diminishing, as reading the Press will soon convince one—difficulties of recruiting staff suitably qualified and experienced, and other general difficulties. The court order which commits a person to a remand home specifies the name of the home, and the great pressure on and overcrowding of individual homes might sometimes be avoided if the court had first to be satisfied that a place could be provided. That is the purpose of this Amendment. It is really a question of administration, and I hope the Government may find themselves able to accept it. I beg to move.
After Clause 20, insert the said new clause. —(Lord Latham.)
THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL AND MINISTER FOR SCIENCE (VISCOUNT HAILSEIAM)
The effect of the new clause would be 1.0 prohibit by law a court from committing anyone to a remand home unless the court had been informed that there was a place. The noble Lord, Lord Latham, in moving the Amendment said the purpose is to protect remand homes from dangerous overcrowding. I do not think the passing of the Amendment would in fact have this effect. Perhaps I had better give a certain amount of background.
As your Lordships will be aware, Section 27 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, requires a court, when remanding a person under the age of 17, or committing him for trial or for sentence, to commit him to a remand home instead of to prison, unless he is aged 14 or over and is too unruly or too depraved to be detained there. Secondly, a court may order a person under the age of 17 to be detained in a remand home for up to a month as a punishment for an offence 754 or as a sanction for a default. This emerges from Section 54 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, as amended by this Bill, and from Clause 5 of the Bill, on which we have had previous discussion. Thirdly, a remand home is a place of safety for children under 17 who may be in need of care or protection.
I think it would be correct to say that a 65 per cent. user of potential places would probably achieve the purpose of making sure that there was always a place available in a remand home within the locality whenever an order was made. We are running at a much higher rate of user of potential places than that. Section 77 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, makes it the duty of every county council and county borough council to provide remand homes for their area. As I have indicated, the rate of user is such that the demand for places in remand homes, although of course it fluctuates, at present outruns the supply, although steps are being taken to remedy the deficiency. So the noble Lord is quite right in saying that the case can, and at times does, arise that there is no place available for a child or young person in the local remand home. And, of course, in such a case an order of the court committing him there could not be executed. The result is that the prohibition in that case could not relieve the overcrowding in the local remand home. Some other provision has to be made for his custody, and what is done is usually for a place to be found in a remand home provided by another local authority, which, although it is unsatisfactory, is not intolerable to either the court or the person remanded. The duty of making the arrangements for custody elsewhere would, of course, fall on the local authority responsible for providing the remand home places in the county or county borough where the court making the order is situated.
The new clause proposed, therefore, would make no difference to the present situation. In practice the court finds it expedient, before making the committal order for a child or young person to be sent to a remand home, to inquire, through the local authority officers who are present in court, whether there is a vacancy in the local home. Our view is that if the clause were passed it might create the impression, which I think all 755 would agree to be unfortunate, that it is for the courts to restrict their demands to the number of places available rather than for the responsible authorities to provide the number of places required by the courts. If that impression got abroad it would be contrary, as I think noble Lords will agree, to the intention of Parliament as expressed in the present law which I have tried to expound. Therefore, whilst we have a good deal of sympathy with the purposes underlying the clause, our advice to the Committee is that it is not one which we should accept.
§ LORD LATHAM
I must confess that I am disappointed at the reply of the noble Viscount. As he will know, or will have been informed, about ten years ago the remand home places provided by local authorites far exceeded the then existing and, so far as could be seen, the foreseeable need, and with the encouragement of the Home Office a number of homes were closed. Now the situation is in reverse, as a result of persons awaiting places in an approved school. However, in the circumstances, and in the hope that the Government will energetically pursue their policy of increasing the accommodation available in approved schools, by new schools and other devices, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 21 [Supervision of certain prisoners after release]:
§ 4.22 p.m.
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (EARL BATHURST)
This is a purely drafting Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 15, line 2, after ("of") insert ("Part I of").—(Earl Bathurst.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 21, as amended, shall be agreed to?
§ LORD STONHAM
Before we leave Clause 21, I wonder whether I could just deal with a point which I raised earlier. I do not expect the Lord Chancellor to be able to reply to my question; but I think we are on common ground in that we all want this clause 756 implemented as soon as possible, and we all know that it will not be implemented until there are sufficient probation officers. As I understand it, the position is that the probation officers feel that their strength must be increased from 1,500 to 1,800 before they can begin properly to undertake all the work at present on their shoulders, and then to 2,000 before they can undertake the work that this Bill will bring upon them. As this is an urgent matter that we should all like to see put right, I wonder whether the Lord Chancellor would make representations to his right honourable friend about the Interim Report from the Morrison Committee, with particular reference to their suggestions for improving and increasing the Probation Service.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I shall be happy to make the representation. I should like to discuss it with my right honourable friend before I say more, but I will certainly convey to Mr. Butler my sense of the importance of what the noble Lord has said.
§ Clause 21, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 22 agreed to.
§ Clause 23 [Increase of penalties for assisting escape from prison, etc.]:
EARL BATHURST moved after subsection (1), to insert:
(2) If any person knowingly harbours a person who has escaped from a prison or other institution to which the said section thirty-nine applies, or who, having been sentenced in any part of the United Kingdom or in any of the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man to imprisonment or detention, is otherwise unlawfully at large, or gives to any such person any assistance with intent to prevent, hinder or interfere with his being taken into custody, he shall be liable—
(3) In the following enactments (which make provision for the application of sections thirty-nine to forty-two of the Prison Act, 1952) that is to say, subsection (3) of section one hundred and twenty-two of the Army Act, 1955, subsection (3) of section one hundred and twenty-two of the Air Force Act, 1955, and subsection (3) of section eighty-two of the Naval Discipline Act, 1957, references to the said section thirty-nine shall be construed as including references to subsection (2) of this section.
§ The noble Earl said: Section 39 of the Prison Act, 1952, makes it a felony to assist in the escape of a prisoner from a prison, and the maximum punishment for the offence is increased from two years' to five years' imprisonment by Clause 23 of this Bill. It may surprise your Lordships' to know that under the existing law it is doubtful whether it is an offence at all to harbour an escaped prisoner, and it is the intention of this Amendment to make it quite clear that that is an offence. Harbouring an escaper, as well as assisting an escape, is made an offence in relation to approved schools and remand homes under the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, and to mental hospitals under the Mental Health Act, 1959, so it is anomalous that there should be no offence committed by a person who harbours an escaped prisoner.
§ This Amendment makes it an offence for any person knowingly to harbour a person who 'has escaped from a prison or other institution to which Section 39 of the Prison Act, 1952 applies; this includes borstal institutions, detention centres and remand homes (under Section 43 of that Act). The Amendment, by referring to persons unlawfully at large, extends the offence to cover the harbouring of persons who have escaped from prisons and other places of detention in the British Isles outside England, who are hiding in this country. The Amendment covers parole-breakers, escapers who have escaped before they have reached their place of detention and fine-defaulters. It also makes provision for the application of the new offence to harbouring escapers from Service prisons.
§ The Amendment is on the same lines as Section 129 (2) of the Mental Health Act, 1959. The offence can only be committed knowingly: a wife or mother who is not aware of the circumstances rendering her husband or son an escaper or unlawfully at large will not be liable to prosecution. The Amendment departs from the precedent of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, and the Mental Health Act, 1959, in not providing the same penalties for the offences of assisting in an escape and harbouring an escaped person. The reason for this is that to assist an escape of a dangerous prisoner may well be a serious offence, and account of this fact 758 is also taken in this Bill by increasing the maximum penalty to five years' imprisonment. Harbouring art escaper, however, although a serious crime, does not call for such a severe penalty. I beg to move.
Page 15, line 38, at end insert the said subsections.—(Earl Bathurst.)
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am sure we are grateful to the noble Earl for his clear exposition of this subsection. Some of us have not had time to study it carefully—that is no fault of anybody at all—and should we think of anything we wish to raise on the Amendment, no doubt we could do so at a later stage. But I have no reason to suppose that we shall wish to raise anything on it.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 23, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 24 agreed to.
§ Clause 25 [Management of prisons, etc.]:
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD moved to leave out Clause 25. The noble Earl said: This Amendment urges the Government to abandon what 'appears to be their fixed intention of transferring all the functions of the Prison Commissioners to the Home Office, or, as the public have generally understood it, of abolishing the Prison Commission. I do not expect to get an answer to-day, but perhaps I ought to ask at the beginning whether this is, in fact, the fixed intention of the Government—whether they intend, so to speak, making use of powers which they wish to take in this clause. If that is not their intention, of course the case for our Amendment is, if anything, stronger, because there is really no point in the clause. But I assume that they do, in fact, intend to transfer the functions of the Prison Commissioners to the Home Office.
§ Assuming that it is their intention, I should like briefly to explain why we regard what the public at any rate would call the liquidation of the Prison Commission as a retrograde step. I do not say that it would be impossible to think of anything better than the present arrangement, but we regard this as a retrograde step unless we are given a much clearer idea than we have been 759 given hitherto of some better alternative than the present arrangement.
On Second Reading in another place, the Home Secretary stated that no drastic or dramatic change was foreshadowed. He said it was not intended to place in fresh hands the duties of those who, as the Commissioners and others, are responsible to the Secretary of State for administering the prison system. He said that the dissolution of the Commission as a statutory authority would not mean the dissolution of the Prison Board as a team of administrative and professional officials. To quote his actual words, he said:
The large staff of public servants of all ranks who man the institutions and the head office will have every encouragement to foster and maintain the pride in their service which they have developed to a remarkable degree.
§ The question naturally arises: why make the change at all? The various Ministers in another place were pressed to answer this question: "What is the point of taking the step if this is all that it comes to?" It might be very difficult to provide an intelligible answer. Will there be any practical effect at all, or will this simply be a legal move which eliminates on paper what has been a constitutional anomaly?
§ Taking the Government replies altogether, I would say that up to the present it seems fair to suggest that two types of answer have been given. I do not say they are necessarily in conflict, but there are two types of answer, with different emphasis, that have been given. According to the first type of answer already given, it would be possible, if the clause went through, for the Prison Commission to become eventually part of a wider organisation absorbing all the Home Office responsibilities for criminal justice and treatment of offenders. That was the exact phrase, I think, used by the Home Secretary on Second Reading. He pointed out that it would possibly need a new integrated set-up to bring the prison and probation services closely together and to bring closer together the approved school and borstal services. I can well understand that a strong case—I am not saying that it would be overwhelming—can be argued; I can understand that a strong case can be made out for an eventual integration of that kind. But when it came about, it would clearly be what the Home Secretary has 760 said this is not intended to be in the immediate future; it would clearly be a drastic and, indeed, dramatic administrative change, if all Home Office responsibilities for criminal justice were merged under one body.
§ Clearly, if that were going to be done it would all have to come before Parliament as part of a carefully worked out scheme. It would have to be done if that were the intention. If what I call the "full integration plan" were the intention, it would clearly be done, or one would think it would naturally be done by means of a new Bill whose details would have to be debated and, if necessary, amended by Parliament. Something of that magnitude would hardly come about as a result of an Order in Council of the kind arranged for in the Government's own clause. I cannot imagine that something of that kind is immediately foreseen. Nevertheless, that was one type of answer that pointed to a far-reaching, possibly desirable, change; but it could not be done in this way.
§ The other answer, which the Government relied on more and more as time went on, suggested that there was no change on that scale in any immediate contemplation; and, indeed, as time went on the Government treated the change proposed as more nominal than real, as giving legal effect in words to what already exists. The opponents of change elsewhere argued, of course, that much value attached to the separate and corporate existence of the Commissioners. References were made to the fine tradition of independence in pursuit of penal reform which the Prison Commission had built up. The Minister of State replied, in effect (I do not think I am distorting what he said), that this alleged independence was a fiction. He said, in effect, that the Prison Commissioners were just like civil servants already, and that they had no more independence and no less independence than other members of the Home Office staff. I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but that is the general effect of his remarks. One gathered from him that there were certain economies of a minor character—they were touched on lightly—which could perhaps be brought about by the proposed fusion. But we were left at the end of it all to conclude that in the foreseeable future, so far as the general public were concerned, and even 761 so far as people who take a special interest and so far as we ourselves were concerned, there would really be no visible difference at all.
§ If that is so, it is extraordinary that so many well-informed commentators have been alarmed and have expressed disquiet about this change. I do not need to run over the quotations, but I think that if one claimed that The Times, the Observer, the Guardian, the Economist, and possibly other papers, had shown a good deal of disquiet one would be true lo the facts. If the change is quite so negligible as it was made to appear, it is rather odd that these well-informed commentators should be alarmed. It is odd, if independence is such a fiction, that some of these commentators, who give quite a part of their lives to studying these matters, should be so deluded. They have been taken in too, apparently, by this sort of quasi-independence. It is, frankly, a little hard for me, and for many of us, to accept the view that this independence is quite such a myth as our Government spokesmen were representing it to be towards the end of the debates.
§ I feel sure—while I do not want to exaggerate the difference—that the Prison Commissioners, for good or ill (and I am not saying it is right or wrong), have not been in exactly the same position as ordinary Government servants, some of whom I see very close to me now. I do not think that any of these high Government servants whom I see as I look around me have been themselves in exactly the same position as the Prison Commissioners in their career. I do not want to exaggerate the peculiarity of the Prison Commissioners' position, but I cannot believe it is quite the same situation as that of ordinary Government servants.
§ The fact that the public have looked upon them as possessing a measure of independence alone has surely been important; because if one is looked upon in that way one develops a certain corporate tradition. One tends to respond to what is looked upon as being one's quasi-independent duty. I cannot believe that the Prison Commissioners themselves have been, in effect, unaware of the way they have been regarded by the public. Certainly in this House and elsewhere Ministers have occasionally—maybe frequently, but certainly occasionally 762 —referred to the Prison Commissioners in a slightly different way from that in which they would refer to their own servants and advisers. They have talked of them as experts to whom matters were referred, and as people whose opinions were of expert value. As I say, I do not want to exaggerate the position. We all understood that they were Government servants. I am only submitting, rather strongly, that they have occupied a very unusual position, for good or for ill, which it is now intended to destroy.
The Report which has been published every year through the Home Secretary has not only helped to educate public opinion but made the Prison Commissioners themselves responsive to public opinion; it has put them in psychological contact with the public in a way that certainly has not operated in the case of the Children's Department. I am afraid that the Children's Department have a very poor record of publishing Reports. I am told that there is one on the stocks—I do not know when it got on the stocks or when it is going to come off the stocks—but I think the last time they published a Report was in 1955.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Seven in 53 years. My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth was Home Secretary during the war, when perhaps they were not able to produce as many as otherwise. But I think he would agree that, normally, seven in 53 years would not be one of the strongest achievements of this Department.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I appreciate that.
I am aware, of course, that under subsection (3) of Clause 25 a report on prison matters will have to be issued annually by the Secretary of State. Previously, if I understand aright, it was the Commissioners' Report which was made to the Secretary of State and then published by the Secretary of State. I think it was in the power of the Secretary of State to request alterations; but, at any rate, it was the Commissioners' Report, and we all treated it as such 763 and formed our opinions, for good or for ill (I am glad to say for good), about the Commissioners on the strength of their Report. In future, I gather, the Report will be issued by the Secretary of State himself.
I do not know whether the change will amount to anything, but it could amount to a great deal. If there were a general movement, so to speak, in the direction of whittling down the Commissioners, of course we should gradually lose contact with them in that way; but the change could amount to a relatively small one. If, in fact, they are already exactly like other officials, it would not amount to much, because there is really no change possible then. I am submitting, however, that they are not exactly like other officials; and that this fact has helped to give them this measure of difference. If this right of theirs is modified in the way suggested, it will all help in the process of cutting them down below their proper size. I recognise that this is not a Party issue, and not a matter on which one should grow fanatical and begin producing all the arguments on the side one is supporting.
I would readily concede that the position of the Prison Commission is something of a constitutional oddity, with its origin in past history. I confess that there was a time some years ago, when I wondered whether it would be better to abolish the Prison Commission, because I thought that, in that way, one would induce the Home Secretary to take a more direct responsibility. I thought that if there were no Prison Commission there would not be any buttress between him and the public. However, I rejected that argument. I do not think that the present Home Secretary, certainly, has used the Prison Commission as an alibi, and, therefore, I do not think there is anything in that argument for getting rid of it.
We are left, therefore, as it seems to me, with this position. In favour of the Government's proposals, the new plan Is constitutionally slightly more tidy than the old; and I suppose that, if it causes no trouble, something which is more tidy is better than something which is less tidy. That is an argument, even though it is not a very powerful one. There is virtually no practical benefit, so far as I can see, claimed for the clause, at 764 any rate in the immediate future. Will the Government clause do any substantial harm, or is it a case where it does not much matter which side one takes? It certainly seems to me (though one can never be sure of constitutional changes and what will flow from them) that this clause will do harm in two ways. In neither of the ways can the damage be easily assessed, but I am convinced that it is more likely than not to do some considerable damage, and to do it in these two ways. First, the change proposed by the Government will convey to the public the idea that our prison services, in the widest sense, are to receive a lower priority than hitherto. That, I think, will be the general effect of this change. This will make even harder the already hard task of arousing public interest in penal questions.
The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor mentioned just now that there seemed to be some stirring of public interest in penal questions, and regretted that it had not been easier in the past to arouse such an interest. I think the general public, if it notices any change at all (and one cannot think that any change will never become observable) will conclude that penal reform has gone down rather than up in the scale of values. That, it seems to me, will be the effect on the public mind—and a very unfortunate effect it will be, too! As has been said before in this House, there are no votes in penal reform. It will never be a subject to arouse any great interest except among those who are social reformers in one way or another. I think the effort needed to arouse interest will be harder in the future than it has been in the past.
I am sure of that disadvantage: I am almost as sure of another one, though it takes us into a world within Whitehall which is rather mysterious and veiled from many of us in these latter days. I think that, behind the scenes in Government and official circles (particularly in official circles), it is always going to be difficult to fight this battle on behalf of the prison services which the Home Secretary has been fighting so valiantly, against considerable odds, during the last few years. I remember, after one of our debates here in 1956, The Times referring to the prison services as being "last in the queue". Despite 765 the gallant efforts of our Home Secretary, I would say that our prison services are still last in the queue. I cannot help recalling as an illustration of what I mean the fact that, as I said the other day, when the present Home Secretary took office in 1957 there were 2,000 three in a cell. To-day there are 7,400. Certainly it is no fault of his: no man could have worked harder.
But, in fact, in these days it is very difficult to get a sufficient priority for the prison services, not only among the general public but inside the official circles of Whitehall. Up to now, in spite of these transfers that we have been told about between the individual members of the Home Office staff and the Prison Commission staff, we have had in the Prison Commission a collective body with a corporate tradition which has been concerned to fight this battle of penal reform. The Home Office, I am sure, will not neglect their duties, as they understand them; but penal reform is only one issue in the Home Office—and, to judge from the decorations that are handed out to the Prison Service, it rates very low in official circles. If anyone can recall any member of the Prison Service proper who has received a decoration higher than the O.B.E. in recent times, I shall be glad to be given his name. In the world of official values, the Prison Service rates very low, whether you take the salaries as shown in Whitaker's Almanac, or whether you take the decorations meted out. I think that, in the official world, the loss of this powerful body is going to do considerable harm. It certainly cannot do good.
Unless one of my noble friends wishes to follow me at once, perhaps the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor would be ready at this stage to help us by telling us whether this power is being taken because it might come in useful in the future, or whether it is in fact the intention to bring the Prison Commission to an end in its old sense—or, if it is more accurate to put it in this way, to transfer the functions of the Prison Commission to the Home Office. I wonder if I am right in thinking that this power is being taken with the intention of actually taking that step, and not, perhaps, because the power might come in useful in the future. I beg to move.
Leave out Clause 25.—(The Earl of Longford.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I will gladly respond to the noble Earl's suggestion. It is intended to take this action. I am not pledging myself to any time, because clearly it has to fit in with a number of other things which we not only hope to do but which we are being urged to do at once. I think I need refer only to two matters in the clause itself, to both of which the noble Earl referred. In subsection (3) the question of reports is dealt with. The noble Earl is perfectly right that, by subsection (5) of the Prison Act, the Prison Commissioners must make to the Secretary of State an Annual Report, which the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament; but the Order in Council must require that such Report must be made to Parliament by the Secretary of State so far as the transferred functions are concerned.
The other point the noble Earl had on the clause itself was that this should not be done by an Order in Council if the matter were important. I should like him to reconsider that point of view, because the reason for proceeding by Order in Council is that eventually it will be necessary to include in the Order in Council technical provisions which will have to be worked out. I think the noble Earl, if he considers his own ministerial experience, will come to the conclusion that that is the convenient way of doing it. As he knows, there is a great difference between modern legislation and nineteenth century legislation, in that in modern legislation there is much more consultation and much greater effort to keep the legislation right up to date. I think it is an important and good development in legislation that there is as full consultation as possible with all bodies who are likely to be affected and interested. Therefore, I think that when one comes to do this, it is convenient to have a flexible instrument of subsidiary legislation by which it can be brought up to date.
If I might make the analogy, there was the Act passed by the Government of which the noble Earl was a member, the Ministers of the Crown (Transfer of Functions) Act, 1946. The procedure under that Act was by Order in Council, and for the very reason I have just 767 given: that they used that machinery to keep up to date according to the needs of Government at the time. It is not a complete analogy—all analogies are difficult—but I think it is nearly a complete analogy, because here we are making a change in a function of a Minister, although it is the same Minister who is concerned. Of course, it does give Parliament another chance if they think the actual contents of the Order are in any way disagreeable to them, as the noble Earl knows full well, and as, if I may say so with respect, the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, knows even better. For, although you cannot amend an Order in Council, if the contents do not have the general approval of the House that fact is usually conveyed to the Minister, and it is possible for him to withdraw, and amend in that way. Therefore, I do not think that, on the premise which the noble Earl has assumed for this purpose, this is a wrong method. I do not ask him to accept that at once, but I know that he will consider it before the next stage of the Bill.
Now I come to the dilemma with which he faced me. That was that it had been stated by Government spokesmen in another place that, on the one hand, no drastic or dramatic change would take place, and, on the other, that there would be a useful integration. I think the noble Earl overworked (if I may put it that way) the adjectives. He knows my own personal dislike for using over-strong adjectives, but that is a mere foible of mine. The fact is (I have not analysed all the various words) that the personalities will not change, of course, between the day before the Order in Council comes into force and the day after. The personalities will be the same, but I am going to deal with that in a moment. It rather reminds me of a preface to one of Mr. P. G. Wodehouse's books, when he said:When my last book came out, the critic's said: 'This contains all the old Wodehouse characters under new names'. I've fooled them this time; this contains all the old Wodehouse characters under their old names".I think that would be the position here. There would be the old characters under their own old names, and there would be no change in personality.
There is, however, an important problem of integration, and I should be very 768 grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, would think over this question from both points of view—that is, as one of the great trade unionists (to which union we both belong), as an ex-Home Secretary; and, on the other hand, as one of the few writers on the political side of government, from the political angle, this country has produced. We have never had a Machiavelli to write about a prince for us, but at any rate we have the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, to tell us how Cabinet government really works, and we are very grateful to him, as he knows, and as I have most sincerely said before.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
So I come to the speech of my right honourable friend to which the noble Earl, Lord Longford referred. As the noble Earl has made reference to it, I want only to take three points, which I will put quite shortly. Your Lordships will remember that my right honourable friend said:… The original division of responsibility between the Prison Commission as an executive authority and the Home Office, which is the Department concerned with policy, has disappeared".That is obviously a development which everyone would welcome, because the original idea put the Prison Commission in exactly the position which the noble Earl does not want. That development has come in the Home Office. There is not the sharp division that there was in the nineteenth century between executive functions and policy. The second point which my right honourable friend made was the modern need for further integration. His words were:… links between the prison and probation services and between approved school and borstal services may … be brought closer and … lead to better working".Again I think that is a good thing. From my own experience, I would say that one wants to look at the whole purview of treatment, and I should have thought it was a good thing that everyone who is working on it should be working together.
My right honourable friend also made the point that he, as Home Secretary, was answerable for everything in that House. I think that the last thing the 769 noble Earl, or anyone who is keen on penal matters, would want is that the Home Secretary should be able to shelter behind anyone else. He would not want the set-up, which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, will remember we had to use once or twice during the war, of having a commission to which a Minister could only give directions, and a Minister responsible to Parliament only to the extent to which he had given directions. That is not the sort of thing we want. We want the Home Secretary to be responsible to Parliament and able to be pressed in Parliament on anything to do with the work of prisons and any incident in them.
I think that these are three important points. I should like to expand one of them. With regard to integration, to my mind it is a primary need that all forms of prison and related services should be dealt with comprehensively. I do not think that the desirability of this is open to dispute. May I remind your Lordships that the Home Secretary's responsibilities in this field are much wider than those of the Prison Commission? They include responsibility for approved schools and the probation service as well as a general responsibility for the development of penal policy, based both on the experience of workers and the results of research. It would not really make sense if that part of the Home Secretary's responsibilities which relate to institutions for which the Prison Commission have now the responsibility should have to be exercised through a separate body.
I do not think that the noble Earl would suggest, and I certainly could not agree to the suggestion if it were made, that we should have separate bodies to run approved schools or the probation service. A fragmentation of authority of that sort would militate against efficiency and also against the fuller understanding of the problems that are involved, which can be gained only from the closest integration of the different services. I think that the reason why the dilemma has arisen in the noble Earl's mind is that this really recognises and gives a further impetus to trends which have been in motion for years and which are the inevitable accompaniment of what I hope is a growing understanding of the problems of crime in society to-day.
770 I am not going into the constitutional position, because I want to keep this to the practical points of administration, but if any of your Lordships are interested in the constitutional position, they will find it well summarised in the Report of the Departmental Committee on Scottish Administration, 1938, which, among other things, recommended the abolition of the separate Prisons Department for Scotland.
I come to the opposition to the clause which has been so formidably deployed by the noble Earl. I think there are three counts: first, the belief, which is mistaken, that the Prison Commission at present enjoys a valuable measure of independence, which it would lose. The noble Earl really recognised that it was a mistaken belief, but he stood fast by the power of illusion: even if it did not exist, it was a good thing that people should believe that it existed.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I did not make myself plain. I felt that the Prison Commission had a special position, not totally independent—we know that they are under Government control—but with a certain measure of independence. I should not consider, therefore, that they are on exactly the same footing as other Government servants.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
If I stated the noble Earl's second point wrongly, I am sorry. The Home Secretary's responsibility for the Prison Commission and their relation to him are precisely the same as in the case of the Home Office. I am sure that in answering questions in the House of Commons when we held the office of Home Secretary, neither the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, nor I ever distinguished between our responsibility for the Prison Commission and our responsibility for any of the innumerable matters for which we were responsible. I do not believe that it would make any difference in that respect.
The second point is the innate conservatism which one finds strongly in the Labour Party when one touches an institution of this kind. And I think that sort of conservatism, with a small "c", is deeply rooted in the people of this country, whatever their politics are. But what we suggest will not destroy what is valuable in the traditions 771 attached to the Prison Commission. The change will not make the individuals concerned with prison administration less devoted or less enlightened. As the noble Earl fairly and frankly quoted, the dissolution of the Commission as a statutory authority will not mean the dissolution of the Board as a team of administrative and professional officials. They will have exactly the same opportunity to put their points of view.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
May I ask a question on this matter? Obviously this would bind the present Home Secretary and his colleagues, but I suppose that at some future time a Government could alter it, once this Bill went through. They could simply bring the whole thing to an end, if they wished to do so.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I do not see how they could, because these functions have to be performed. Someone has to look after prisons and borstals and detention centres. Whoever is going to perform the function, the Home Secretary is responsible, and it would be administrative lunacy if the Home Secretary did not have an official, a civil servant of great position and ability, to run that part of the office. I cannot imagine anyone of any Party not having someone of great ability, experience and strength of character to do this work.
I should like to deal with the point about which the noble Earl is worried—namely, whether we can make a contrast between the Home Office and the Prison Commission. The headquarters of the Prison Commission on the administrative side have been strengthened in recent years in order to enable them to take a greater part in development of policy. This has been done by the secondment of administrative staff from the Home Office, and no one has suggested that the results have been anything but beneficial.
May I put it on the personal plane? All the Chairmen of the Prison Commission since 1895 have been drawn from the Home Office. Some, having spent some years in the Prison Commission, have returned to the Home Office for other duties; and similar movements have taken place in recent years at a slightly lower level. The noble Earl suggested, rather than averred, that one 772 could have a difference in the terms of contribution to progress made by the Prison Commission and the Home Office. I do not think anyone with direct experience of events would suggest that progress has been the result of victory by a progressive Prison Commission over an obstructive Home Office. I cannot think of a time when it has been suggested. The implication that the Home Office has a policy distinct from that of the Home Secretary (I think the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, will agree) is entirely unjustified.
The noble Earl referred to various comments on the work of the Prison Commission. I think the article in the Lancet is typical, where they say that the main obstacles were hostile public opinion and money troubles. These are pre-eminently matters of concern to the Home Secretary as the Minister responsible for the work of the Prison Commission. Here I come to the public interest point put by the noble Earl. I say that that is essentially a matter for the Home Secretary as the Minister responsible for the work. It is he who has to ensure that the importance of this work is understood by Parliament and the public; and it is he who must see that the prison service has its full share of national resources—often a most difficult task. The progress in the prison service which has taken place in recent years is the result not of any independent action on the part of the Prison Commission but of the development of the plans outlined in the White Paper on Penal Practice in a Changing Society. That was a statement of Government policy prepared by officials of the Home Office and the Prison Commission, working together under the direction of the Home Secretary.
I should like to assure the noble Earl that the new set-up will not prevent those who are doing the work and looking after prisons from performing what I may call the public relations side of it; they will not be in any different position regarding lecturing. There are restrictions on anyone who is in the Government service, as the noble Earl knows, but, as I say, they will not be in any different position. If I may put it the other way, a future Sir Lionel Fox will be equally able to write a book on prisons, although I think it will be some time before anyone will write so good a 773 book. This is an important point, and I wanted to assure the noble Earl on it. There will not be any change in the type of person who works, because members of the Home Office have worked in prisons and they have also worked at the headquarters of the Prison Commissioners. I am sorry to have been so long, but it is, as I say, an important point; I thought the noble Earl was interested in it, and I had prepared myself to deal with it rather fully.
Another point that occurred to me that might be worrying the noble Earl was the position of boards of visitors. I want to assure him that the functions of a board of visitors do not differ from those of the visiting committee of a local prison, appointed by the justices of the committing courts and not by the Home Secretary. Both bodies are wholly independent of the Commissioners and the Secretary of State, and their independence will not be in any way affected by the Bill. They will continue to have the right of direct access to the Secretary of State, and any official actions or policy on which they may disagree will be no more and no less than heretofore the action or policy of officials responsible to the Secretary of State. I therefore suggest, for the consideration of the noble Earl and the Committee, that the fears and misgivings expressed are not well founded: that, on the other hand, the clause is desirable both to enable a constitutional anomaly to be rectified and to make it possible to remove any legal barrier arising from the existence of the Prison Commission as a statutory body in the way of the most effective organisation of the resources at the disposal of the Home Secretary for discharging his multifarious duties over the whole field of delinquency. Finally, may I as a Scotsman be allowed to point out that the separate Prisons Department for Scotland was abolished more than twenty years ago without apparent detriment to the prison service of that country and without any of the dire consequences which had been feared.
I have tried to keep my arguments broad. If the noble Earl is still worried about any points, I can go into the various details of the interlocking of the staff and interlocking of functions which show that by this stage they are interlocked in a way which leads me to the view that a full integration is the better 774 course. I have tried to answer the noble Earl. I apologise for intruding so long on the time of the Committee, but I think these points are extremely interesting, and perhaps other noble Lords will allow the noble Earl and me to indulge our interests.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
For the second time this week I must apologise in advance, but I have a train to catch for Rochdale, where I am catching up with my wife; naturally, the last thing in the world I should want would be to miss it, and I hope the Committee will forgive me if I have to depart hereafter. The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has some charming qualities: he is reasonable; he is persuasive; he is courteous—and you really have to keep your head on your shoulders not to be convinced by his arguments. He has done very well today in all these respects, and we are, indeed, grateful to him. But I am afraid that I still agree with my noble friend Lord Longford. My noble friend admitted, and the Lord Chancellor rather confirmed, that we are all skating on ice, and somewhat thin ice. I admit it; my noble friend admits it; and I think the Lord Chancellor does. It is a fine point. Nevertheless, I think it is a point of importance and substance.
I must say that I should have thought that, if this not unimportant change was to be brought about whereby the Prison Commission is, apparently, to be abolished and its functions transferred to the Secretary of State, it was of sufficient importance to command a Bill rather than taking powers to do it by Order in Council. Not that I am prejudiced against delegated legislation—not most of it. I have done a lot in my time, and I have defended it. It is not a new thing. It started with Henry VIII, if I am not mistaken, if not before. There is nothing new about it. I am certainly not shocked about the principle of delegated legislation, though, Heaven knows!, I was denounced in violent terms by the Conservative Party in another place for using delegated legislation and for championing its use. But I am not unaccustomed to Parties, when they have been in power, coming into Opposition and contradicting the line they took before; and when they become a Government again adopting 775 the opposite line to that they took in Opposition. This is part of our democratic Island story.
But I thought this was of sufficient importance (because it is exceptionally important; it is not only a detail of public administration) to give Parliament the opportunity of considering specific Amendments which, of course, as the noble and learned Viscount has said, Parliament will not be able to do on the Order. It can challenge the Order, and I agree with him that, if the feeling of Parliament were sufficiently strong, the Government would have to take notice of it and probably take the Order away. But there cannot be Amendments. The Lord Chancellor is right that under delegated legislation the processes of consultation are somewhat easier. They do take place on Bills in modern practice. There is greater flexibility. If you make a mistake you can cancel that Order and bring in another one. That is all true, and part of the case that I and others have made for the idea of delegated legislation.
It still remains, however, that if a Bill on this important matter had been introduced, Amendments could have been considered. It is not so in the case of an Order in Council. I had a responsibility for the Minister of the Crown (Transfer of Powers) Bill. I remember it very well, and it is true that that transfer could be done by Order. That was the transfer of existing functions as between one Minister and another, whereas this is a transfer of a specialist body having an identity of its own and being merged in the Home Office. I do not think it is quite the same.
It is quite true that we must not go so far as to confuse the Prison Commission's powers with the much greater powers of a public corporation. A public corporation are responsible for day-to-day management. There are certain things upon which they must get Ministerial consent, and the Minister has powers to give general directions. I do not go so far as to say that the Prison Commission is a body of that sort—it is not. They are all civil servants. They are all meticulously subject to the directions of the Home Secretary. That is true, and that really is the strength of the Lord Chancellor's case.
776 But they are a body who specialise in prison administration, a corporate body who live in their own offices and have something of a life of their own; and whilst, in my experience, the Commission always came to the Home Office or to the Secretary of State on any matter of importance, or the Home Office or the Secretary of State could send for them, not only on a matter of importance but on any other matter as well, nevertheless my assumption was, and my belief is, that within the law they could do a lot of administration with a degree of flexibility and initiative on their part that it is very doubtful would be exercised by an ordinary civil servant. When I say "ordinary" I am not at all deprecating the conventional civil servant in Whitehall. I therefore think the Commission have something of a life of their own. They are continuously settling problems, and I suspect that they have made quite a number of modest, but not unimportant, changes in prison administration without having to go cap in hand to the Home Secretary or the higher officers of the Home Office. That is the real difference.
Take the instance of a man like Alexander Paterson, who was a famous prison reformer and a very distinguished member, at any rate for some years, of the Prison Commission. There is some writing about the subject in a very attractive book by Sir Harold Scott. He was evidently a man of great character and, I should say, determination. He seemed to live something of a public life of his own, and never seemed to get into trouble with the Secretary of State or the Home Office, which I think was a very great achievement. He was a great man. He was a great prison reformer. The fact that he was on the Prison Commission probably gave him just that amount of greater freedom and initiative—not revolutionary, not like a public corporation, but nevertheless a degree of identity, of freedom and of initiative that it would have been difficult for him to exercise as a member of the Civil Service hierachy in Whitehall.
That is the real point of my noble friend's objection and his Amendment. We do not exaggerate it. He was careful not to exaggerate, but I think he has a point of substance. These fellows are working together. They have a corporate capacity, and in what is presumably their Annual Report they can 777 express views. I have no doubt that they would be careful not to express views in violent conflict with the views of the Secretary of State. Nevertheless, they have a freedom of expression that will not be so easy when it becomes a chapter of the Annual Report of the Home Office.
The Lord Chancellor said that the Home Secretary is answerable in Parliament for everything they do. That is quite true, and I concede him that right away. I do not suppose there will be any more or any fewer Parliamentary Questions as a result of this change than there would be otherwise. It is a matter of balance. It is an abnormal institution with few analogies in British public administration. I think there was something good about the idea to establish it. Therefore, though I have listened, not antagonistically but with a good degree of understanding and not entirely without sympathy, to the speech of the Lord Chancellor, I still feel that my noble friend is right, and that it would be well for the House to leave this clause out of the Bill.
§ 5.28 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
In company with your Lordships, I have listened with great interest and attention to what the noble and learned Viscount has said. I do not think it an unfair summary (he will tell me if it is) that in fact he described this more or less as a tidying-up operation. The same people will be doing the same job under the same name.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I want to make it clear, if I have not done so already, that I attach great importance to the integration, so that the Home Office will be dealing with all matters in the field of delinquency. I do not want there to be any misapprehension on that point.
§ LORD WALSTON
I thank the noble and learned Viscount for making that clear. I still think I am correct in saying that there is a large element of tidying-up, or integration, as the noble and learned Viscount would also put it, to bring the whole matter of crime and punishment under one heading. That, to my mind, is a reason for opposing the suggestion and for supporting this Amendment. It may seem rather contradictory to do so, but we have heard 778 from the noble and learned Viscount, from my noble friend and from other noble Lords, about the need for more than simply punitive treatment; indeed, the whole tenor of our debates of the last few days, and the whole tenor of this Bill, is directed towards this change in the treatment of the criminal. In our view this Bill goes too slowly and not far enough. But undoubtedly it marks an advance in that direction.
We must—not face, but welcome, the fact that to-day we are coming to look upon the treatment of crime as something which does not concern itself only with imprisonment but with many other things. I suggest that what we should be looking ahead to doing, in the near future I hope, is to integrate, as the noble and learned Viscount said, these various functions: not only the actual treatment of the prisoner while in detention but his rehabilitation afterwards, and especially, in the case of the young offender, what I may call his pre-crime treatment, so that he does not become a criminal—the youth centres, youth clubs, followed by approved schools, remand homes, detention centres and the rest.
There we have a much wider concept than existed at the time when the Prison Commission was first set up. It seems to me that what we should be thinking about now, and aiming at achieving, is a new form of Prison Commission which will embrace all those functions. Whether it should be divided into two, one part dealing with youth and the other with adults (and, on the whole, I am of opinion that it should be, because they are somewhat different activities and problems), or whether they should all be grouped under one heading, is perhaps a matter for future consideration. But if we are going to move towards that, it is surely a mistake at this stage to abolish the existing Prison Commission and integrate it into the Home Office. It will then be very much harder to reconstruct anything on the lines I have just described. Would it not be better to allow the Prison Commission to go on for the next few years as at present? Nobody has criticised it to-day; everybody has been full of praise for it. Allow it to go on for these years, figure out the correct way of making use of modern ideas in the prevention of crime and form that into a 779 reconstructed Penal Commission, or whatever you like to call it.
Your Lordships may remember that when Amendment No. 36, the first one moved this afternoon, was opposed by the noble and learned Viscount, he opposed it on the ground that this problem was in fact being dealt with; that a Committee was considering it, and that it would be a pity to be precipitate and make changes at this stage. He told us to wait until the Committee had reported, in the hope that their recommendations would be similar to those of that particular Amendment. That argument of the noble and learned Viscount found favour with your Lordships. I suggest that we can use the same argument to ask for support for this present Amendment. So far, unfortunately, no Committee is sitting to discuss this whole wider question, but undoubtedly many minds are thinking about it, and we hope that it will not be long before some more formal expression of that thought will be given effect to. I am quite certain that the recommendations of any future body set up to consider this problem will be very much easier to accept if what is an admittedly satisfactory and workable system, such as we have at present, is still in existence, rather than if only two or three years previously a change has been made and a somewhat new organisation has been set up. For those reasons I ask your Lordships to support this Amendment.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I am sorry to prevent my noble friend from replying to the noble and learned Viscount, but as one who has had a very long interest in these penal problems I feel that I ought to take part in this discussion. I listened with dismay to the announcement by the noble and learned Viscount that it is proposed to abolish the Prison Commission as and when opportunity serves. I am quite satisfied that will be one of the most serious blows that has been struck at penal reform for a very long time. It is an unfortunate Government decision.
I am sorry this Amendment appears to be, in effect, an Opposition Amendment, because there is not really any politics in this; it is a matter of what is best in the interests of penal reform. In the 780 Committee in another place the Division, which was a very close one, cut across the Parties; there were members of different Parties on either side. My noble friend Lord Conesford, who is at the Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting at the moment, would, I think, had he been able to be present, have supported the view that the Prison Commission should be maintained. I had discussions with him about it last week. I hope that there are other noble Lords on the other side who take the same view. This is not a new proposal. It was in fact contained in the 1948 Bill. It was dropped then because of the very strong opposition to it.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I was not going to refer to that. It was dropped, but I think the noble Lord should have in mind that in the Bill produced by the Government of which he was a distinguished member it was proposed to be done by Order in Council. That is one point to me!
§ LORD CHORLEY
The noble and learned Viscount is always bound to score more than one point in any argument in which one has the pleasure of crossing swords with him. But in fact I am quite sure that this particular proposal has been endemic in the Home Office for a long time.
I had the great honour of serving in the Home Office for quite a time during the war. It is a very splendid Department, and if I am criticising it at the moment it is not because I have not the greatest respect and affection for the men working there. But an old friend of mine who has now retired, who was in the pre-war Home Office, told me, "Ever since I was there there was the party which wished to get everything into Whitehall itself, and there were those of us who favoured these outlying institutions"—and of course the Metropolitan Police is another one which is anomalous and which yet works admirably. We have now reached the stage when the integrating party, the centralisers, in the Home Office apparently have won the day. I regard that as most unfortunate, because on the whole one does better by devolving, especially when there are, as it were, compact areas of administration which have been successfully evolved by institutions like the Prison Commission.
781 I am going to refer later to the correspondence in The Times. One of the writers to that paper was Sir Harold Scott, who was a distinguished Chairman of the Prison Commission and afterwards Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, and was of course a typical Home Office man, if I may say so. Because apart from the times when he was working so well in those outlying areas of the Home Secretary's responsibilities, he was a civil servant working in the Home Office in Whitehall. It is significant that he, with all that experience, should have written an admirably convincing letter to The Times to which I propose to refer again later.
I think it is significant that this proposal had a very bad reception from outside the Home Office itself. The correspondence in The Times started with a letter from Mr. Hubert Secretan, who is, I suppose, perhaps better known than anybody else as a leader in social work of this kind, and whose work for borstal is known to everybody who has given any attention to subjects of this sort. Mr. Secretan's letter was followed by one from Mr. Llewellin, a brother of one of our most beloved Members of this House—a borstal governor whose work has been tremendously distinguished; and who really put Loudham Grange, perhaps the most famous of all borstal institutions, on the map—strongly supporting Mr. Secretan's point of view.
These were followed (I have read these letters only this afternoon) by a retired prison governor; then by Sir Harold Scott; then by the Warden of the Alec Paterson Trust House, and he was the only one out of eight letter writers who supported the proposal to abolish the Prison Commission. He was followed by Lady Cranbrook, whose work in connection with prison visiting and that sort of thing is very well known. Then there was another ex-governor; and then Mrs. Joan James, who is the chairman of a board of visitors. So it was a most representative group of the people who are tremendously interested in this problem, and who have a great deal of practical knowledge of the working of it. And with one exception—a man who had not, in effect, had the same experience as the others—they were unanimously against this proposal. I think that is a most significant point. Anyone 782 reading the correspondence would, I am sure, agree that the supporters of the Commission not only had a numerical majority of 7 to 1, but they had the overwhelming balance of the argument as well.
Most of these arguments have been made again this afternoon. I do not want to repeat them all, but we have all heard how important this matter is, and I feel that one ought perhaps to spend a little time, even at this late hour, in dotting the i's and in crossing some of the t's. Of course the first point—it is the one with which the noble and learned Viscount used to twit the Opposition—is that the Prison Commission has worked very well indeed, and has never worked better than it is working at the present time. That seems to us, at any rate, to make it absolutely absurd that it should be changed. On this occasion, certainly, I am happy to be regarded as conservative, because when a thing is working as well as this I think it would be quite ridiculous to alter it, and I am surprised that this view of the matter does not make more appeal to noble Lords on the other side of the House.
Now I should like to deal with the letter from Sir Harold Scott, which really is a convincing argument. He was Chairman of the Prison Commission for seven years, and Sir Lionel Fox was Chairman, I think, for eighteen years. That is a significant thing. Sir Harold Scott says:As a former Chairman … I share the misgivings expressed in recent letters to The Times about the proposal …He says:It is true that, as stated by the Under-Secretary in the House of Commons, there is a closer relationship than in the past between the Commission and the Home Office and this is all to the good. But this need not involve the disappearance of the Commission as a separate entity, and any economies that might result could only be of a most marginal kind. They would, in my view, be more than offset by the loss of that very personal and valuable relationship which for so long has existed between the Commissioners and their staff and the great body of voluntary workers in our prisons.The latter have to a great extent been drawn into this work by the direct appeal of the Commissioners' own character and example.Once they are absorbed into the anonymity of a department of the Home Office this personal approach will be difficult to maintain, all the more so if those responsible for our prisons in future are to be subjected to the 783 practice—very proper in relation to many departmental functions—of frequent transfers to other duties.That, I think, is the answer to the noble and learned Viscount's point that the work would go on as it has been going on in the past. I suggest that it would not, because anybody who has worked in one of these Departments knows quite well that it is an axiom of administration that any civil servant can do any job; and civil servants are in fact moved about at intervals of two or three years. The work in connection with prisons is highly specialised and requires years of concentrated attention. It is significant, as I mentioned before, that Sir Harold Scott himself was for seven years Chairman, and Sir Lionel Fox, who had been Secretary for quite a long time, was afterwards Chairman for no less than eighteen years. It was under these outstanding men that the Prison Commission made such substantial advances.
Sir Harold Scott goes on to say:So long as the Commissioners retain their own corporate status they must feel a very special sense of personal and intimate responsibility for the prison service. It is too much to hope that here will be a similar response from a purely administrative department.It is the simple truth that over the last forty years it is the Prison Commissioners themselves and not the Home Office who have originated almost every project of development and reform. With Messrs. Secretan and Llewellin I sincerely hope that these intangible but very real advantages of the present system will not be sacrificed for the sake of a very doubtful administrative convenience.Another point which arises in connection with this proposal is that if the Commission becomes an ordinary department in the Home Office, with the civil servants being moved about by the establishment officers in the way that everybody who has worked in a Government Department knows is done it will lead to the anonymity which Sir Harold Scott stressed. It will also have a more important consequence—one which was indirectly brought into the discussion by my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth; that is, that the outsider to whom the Prison Commission has in the past owed so much—people like Sir Alexander Paterson—will disappear from the scene. Alexander Paterson was not a civil servant. He was a person brought in from outside. His early career was in social welfare work, in settlements on the river, and it was 784 not until he had established himself in this sort of way that he was brought into the Prison Commission, to work there.
I think it is known to everybody that less and less do the great Government Departments bring in people from outside. Civil servants now have to start with examinations and go right through the hierarchy. I think there can be no doubt that if this change takes place in the Prison Commission, and if it becomes a department at the Home Office, the recruitment of people like Sir Alexander Paterson will come to an end, and the really valuable original work which he and others like him have contributed to the solution of the penal problem, will be lost. That seems to me to be one of the most important reasons why this proposal is such a retrograde one.
Sir Harold Scott's third point is the personal and intimate responsibility of the Commissioners, which again will be lost in a great department in Whitehall. His last point is on this question of policy. It is only people who are intimately working for long years who have the knowledge and understanding to originate valuable now lines of policy. In a great Government Department, in which people are moving in and out, you just cannot prepare yourself to do that sort of thing.
The final point, which I think has been only indicated, though it is of great importance, is that when the Chairman of the Prison Commission and the Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office disagree, as from time to time they have done, as anybody who has been in this business knows, they can argue it out, so to speak, as heads. They can, if necessary, appeal to the Home Secretary himself, and he will adjudicate on the matter. That very important point will be lost if the Prison Commission is absorbed into the Home Office and becomes a department of it. Because the head of the new department will be an assistant secretary or principal assistant secretary, or of some sort of rank of that kind; and he will, of course, report to the Under-Secretary of State; and in that way the valuable dialectical play of argument and discussion will be lost. I think the result will be that it will become an ordinary working department of the Home Office and all the exceedingly valuable work it has done as 785 an independent Prison Commission will be lost. I am therefore very sorry indeed that the Government have decided to push ahead in this way.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I am very grateful to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor for answering my own points so carefully and fully. I hope he will feel, in turn, that he has been fully replied to by noble Lords on this side of the Committee. I hope,
§ Clause 25 agreed to.
I beg to move this Amendment. It is consequential on Amendment No. 35, which my noble and learned friend who sits upon the Woolsack described in detail to your Lordships when we met the day before yesterday. It proposes the inclusion of statistical returns relating to remand homes and attendance centres in the proposed returns on approved schools.
After Clause 25, insert the following new clause:
§ Reports to Parliament on approved schools, remand homes and attendance centres
(.—(1) The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament—
(a) in every year, a statement of statistical information relating to approved schools, remand homes and attendance centres in England and Wales;
therefore, that he will not think me discourteous if I do not continue the argument with him at this stage. I think we have all now set out our points of view; and, in the circumstances, I should like to press this Amendment to a Division.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 50.785
|Airedale, L.||Kilbracken, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Latham, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Amwell, L.||Longford, E.||Stonham, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Taylor, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Monson, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Nathan, L.||Walston, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Pethick-Lawrence, L.||Williams, L.|
|Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Foley, L.||Newall, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Fortescue, E.||Newton, L. [Teller.]|
|Auckland, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Perth, E.|
|Bathurst, E.||Gage, V.||Radnor, E.|
|Belstead, L.||Goschen, V.||Ravensdale of Kedleston, B|
|Birdwood, L.||Gosford, E.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Brecon, L.||Grenfell, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Carrick, E.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Salisbury, M.|
|Carrington, L.||Hastings, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hawke, L.||Somers, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Crook, L.||Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor)||Templemore, L.|
|Crookshank, V.||Luke, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Denham, L.||Malmesbury, E.||Twining, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Margesson, V.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Wolverton, L.|
|Ferrier, L.||Merrivale, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ (b) in the year nineteen hundred and sixty four and every third subsequent year, a report on the functioning of the approved school system in England and Wales (including supervision after release) and of remand homes and attendance centres in England and Wales, and on the work of the Home Department in relation thereto.
§ (2) The information to be comprised in any statement laid in pursuance of paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of this section shall include the following particulars, that is to say:
- (a) in the case of approved schools, the number of such schools, and the numbers of admissions, releases and recalls during the period covered by the statement;
- (b) in the case of remand homes, the number of such homes and the number of admissions during that period;
- (c) in the case of attendance centres, the number of such centres, and the number of orders for attendance at such centres made during that period,
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.787
§ Clause 26 [Transfer to serve sentence]:
§ 6.0 p.m.
EARL BATHURST moved, after subsection (2) to insert:
(3) Where a girl or woman has been sentenced to borstal training in Northern Ireland, the Minister of Home Affairs for Northern Ireland may, without application in that behalf, make an order for her transfer to another part of the United Kingdom, there to serve her sentence or the remainder of her sentence, as the case may he, and for her removal to a borstal institution in that part of the United Kingdom.
§ The noble Earl said: The effect of this Amendment—and Nos. 42 and 43 are consequential to it—is to confer on the Northern Ireland Minister of Home Affairs a power to transfer compulsorily to England and Wales or Scotland girls who have been sentenced in Northern Ireland to borstal training. The Northern Ireland Government have requested this Amendment in order to overcome the difficulty that they have experienced in providing adequate training for the small number of girls that are committed to borstal in Northern Ireland.
§ In general the powers of transfer from one part of the British Isles to another, under Part HI of the Bill, may be exercised only on the application of the prisoner. The powers of compulsory transfer are limited to the following circumstances: first, if there are no proper facilities in the place of sentence for giving effect to the sentence; secondly, when the person detained is required to answer a further charge in another part of the United Kingdom; and, thirdly, where a person detained has escaped from lawful custody in another part of the British Isles. We are satisfied that the circumstances in Northern Ireland with regard to the training of borstal girls are such as to bring them within the category which I first mentioned, and consequently to justify a compulsory power of transfer to enable proper effect to be given to the sentence of the court. This is not an entirely new provision. It will not apply to boys in Northern Ireland, because there is a borstal for boys there. This provision applies only to girls, and they are few—only some six or seven were sentenced to borstal training in the course of the year. I beg to move.
Page 18, line 16, at end insert the said subsection.—(Earl Bathurst.)
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
Some anxiety is felt on these Benches about this Amendment, because it will mean that girls may be sent a very long way from their homes, across the sea, and may therefore be quite out of reach of their relatives. It would seem that a much more satisfactory solution is that borstal training for girls should be provided in Northern Ireland, as it already is fin the case of boys. I think we may want to come back to this question at a later stage.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 18, line 19, after ("Kingdom") insert ("there to serve his sentence or the remainder of his sentence").—(Earl Bathurst.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 18, line 20, leave out from ("if") to ("(and") in line 21 and insert ("that sentence").—(Earl Bathurst.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 26, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 27 to 33 agreed to.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM moved, after Clause 33 to insert the following new clause:
§ Supervision Orders
§ ". Section seventy-one of the Magistrates' Courts Act, 1952 (which authorises a magistrates' court, on summary conviction, to make a supervision order pending payment of a fine) shall apply to courts of quarter sessions."
§ The noble Lord said: I hope that this Amendment will commend itself to the Government, because it provides an opportunity to remove an anomaly which I think should be removed. Until the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, it was not possible to fine for a felony. Obviously, if you could not fine you could not have a supervision order. Therefore, courts of quarter sessions are still without that power. Thus, an offender cannot be fined and put on probation at the same time. The Magistrates' Courts Act, 1952, made it possible for the first time for a magistrate, on summary conviction of an offender, to impose a fine and, at the same time, to make a supervision order pending payment of that fine. The supervising officer, of Course, is always the probation 789 officer, who can thus keep an eye on the offender, usually with beneficial effect.
§ May I give an example of the kind of case where this has been done? In February of this year, at Leicester, a young lad of 17 admitted four charges of making indecent telephone calls from kiosks to telephone operators. He was fined £3 on each charge, and was placed under the supervision of a probation officer until the fines were paid. Now a comparable offence, if it went to quarter sessions, could not be dealt with in that way. We are all fully agreed—and it is essential to this Bill—about the undesirability of short prison sentences where other means can be found, and it is thought that, given the power to make supervision orders, the chairmen of quarter sessions might in suitable cases impose a fine and, at the same time, make a supervision order instead of a committal to prison, which might otherwise be the only alternative. It seems to me absolutely logical that, in similar offences, quarter sessions should have the same powers as the magistrates have. I have indicated that I appreciate the historical reason for this anomaly, but opportunity should now be taken to put it right, and I hope that the Government will take that view. I beg to move.
After Clause 33 insert the said new clause. —(Lord Stonham.)
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
This is not an Amendment with which we are at all out of sympathy. Indeed, when a similar Amendment was moved in another place my right honourable and learned friend the Attorney-General said that the Government would consider whether anything could be done to meet the point in the present Bill. In pursuance of this undertaking we considered the matter further, and carefully, but I am sorry to say that we had to come to the conclusion that it would not be wise to deal piecemeal with the problem—that is, the problem of fines imposed by the superior courts.
Technically, the present Amendment has two, I think probably insuperable, defects, to which I must now draw attention, but I will deal with the essence of the matter in a moment. First of all, I think it would create a new anomaly by not applying to Assizes the power which it is now proposed to give to quarter 790 sessions, and I am bound to say that if it is right to give it to quarter sessions it would, I think, inevitably be the case that you would have subsequently to give it to Assizes, in order not to perpetuate an anomaly; and I very much doubt whether that could be done in the present Bill. Secondly, the Amendment is technically outside the scope of the present Bill, because it has nothing to do with young offenders. Nor, I think, would it be acceptable for young offenders alone. The noble Lord who proposed it will see that it applies to all ages, and I think it should apply to all ages if it is to be legislated here.
As I say, this is not a suggestion with which we are out of sympathy—on the contrary, we are in sympathy with it—but the difficulty lies in the fact that the procedure for the enforcement of fines imposed by the superior courts—that is to say, both quarter sessions arid Assizes—is really quite different from that in the magistrates' courts and is such that the method of supervision in the superior courts, until it is radically reformed (which it perhaps ought to be), does not really give the same scope for supervision as it does in the magistrates' courts. The system of supervision, the admiration for whose virtues I share with the noble Lord, is geared to a system where the term of imprisonment in default of payment is not normally fixed at the time when the fine is imposed, where the defaulter cannot be committed to prison without due inquiry into his means, and where committal may be postponed after default in order to give him a further chance to pay, under the guidance of a supervisor.
This, of course, is a modern system of fine enforcement, and on the whole is much more attractive to me than the system inevitably used at present in the superior courts. That system really renders the supervision system inappropriate, because in the superior courts a term in default of payment has to be fixed at the same time that the fine is imposed. There is not—and I think cannot be—any means of inquiry before committal, and there can be, I think, no further formal proceedings in court once the fine has been imposed, although I am told, and I was not previously aware of it, that a judge or a chairman may subsequently consider out of court a written application for an extension of 791 time to pay. The responsibility for recovering the fine in the superior courts rests, of course, with the sheriff, and it is the sheriff's duty to enforce payment by distress or by committal in default as soon as the time for payment has expired.
These are two factors which would make the task of the supervisor quite impossible. In magistrates' courts the functions of the supervisor, which I may quote for the purpose of reference, in contrast are:to advise and befriend an offender with a view of inducing him to pay the sum adjudged to be paid and thereby avoid committal to custody and to give any information required by the magistrates' court about the offender's conduct and means".If these functions should operate at all under the present law of the superior courts, they would obviously, to say the least, be severely limited. Our present procedure in the superior courts dates back, I will not say to a forgotten age, but at any rate to a very much earlier age of penology. It dates back to the Levy of Fines Act, 1882, and to the Queen's Remembrancer Act, 1859, and I would say that in several respects those ideas are not adapted to modern ideas on the treatment of offenders. I would say that the most obvious need would seem to be for some provision for a means inquiry before committal, to correspond with the magistrates' court, and I have no doubt that, if that were done, supervision would be a useful supplementary power.
We are not yet able to make definite proposals for a general revision of the existing procedure, although I frankly agree it seems desirable. However, it is a matter which we have very much in mind. In the meantime, I am bound to say that I am certain it would be a mistake to try to introduce a system of supervision which, so long as the limitations of the existing law remain, could not produce the beneficial results that it ought to produce, and when, in any event, it seems to me that, with the state of the law I have sought to describe, it is obvious we should be tinkering with a state of affairs which would ultimately have to be dealt with as a whole, and more radically.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am most grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for that detailed and helpful reply, 792 although I am bound to confess I feel almost blinded by science. However, I shall read the reply much more carefully and consider it further. I was not quite so blinded as to be unimpressed with his rejection of the Amendment on the ground that, although it would remove an anomaly in effect at quarter sessions, it would not remove an anomaly with regard to Assize courts. It would seem to me to be an advantage at least to reduce (shall we say) the extent of this anomaly by 50 per cent. The noble Viscount's objection on the ground that the Amendment was outside the scope of the Bill was, of course, much more impressive and certainly more difficult to get over.
I was encouraged to learn that the Government have sympathy with the point of view expressed. I think the central point, the main merit of the Amendment, was that it endeavoured to provide for a court higher than a summary court the means of fining a person who might otherwise have to be sent to prison. I think that is generally in line with what the Government would like to do. I take it the noble Viscount can hold out no hope that an Amendment could be framed between now and Report stage so as to achieve the purpose I had in mind but, at the same time, have none of the objections he had to voice. I should like him to look at it in case there is any such possibility, and I shall certainly read his remarks again and may come back with a different Amendment which might satisfy the Government a little more.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I will certainly undertake to draw the noble Lord's views to the attention of my right honourable friend. However, I am not at all hopeful myself, because I think a frontal assault on the Levy of Fines Act, 1822, and The Queen's Remembrancer Act, 1859, would be rather beyond our powers here.
§ LORD STONHAM
I appreciate what the noble and learned Viscount has just said, and that it is a difficult matter. But if he will look at it again, I shall be grateful; and with that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clauses 34 to 37 agreed to.793
§ Clause 38 [Construction of references to sentence of imprisonment, etc.]:
I beg to move this Amendment standing in my noble and learned friend's name. It is consequential on Amendment No. 38A which I moved, and which deals with the harbouring of escaped prisoners. I beg to move.
Page 24, line 40, leave out ("section") and insert ("sections twenty-three and").—(Earl Bathurst.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 38, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 39 [Interpretation]:
Page 25, line 35, leave out ("or treated as sentenced").—(Earl Bathurst.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 39, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 40 to 45 agreed to.
§ First Schedule agreed to.
§ Second Schedule [Supervision of Persons Released front Approved Schools]:
LORD FARINGDON moved to add to paragraph 3:
Provided that on a second or any subsequent release of a person from detention in an approved school, the period of supervision shall extend for a minimum period of at least six months or until such person attains the age of twenty-one years, whichever is the earlier, but subject always to any power of recall as provided for by this Schedule.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment and the following one are to be read together and are intended to meet what I cannot help feeling must have been an oversight in the drafting of this Bill. The object of the Amendment is to secure that, where a child from an approved school is recalled and then released a second time, the period of supervision shall not be less than six months.
§ It is perfectly possible that a child released on a first occasion, who had not broken down for twenty or more months, owing to the fact that the total amount of supervision to which he has been subjected is only two years, may find that the total amount left to which he 794 can be subjected is a quite nominal length of time. It is clear that that would be extremely undesirable. We have therefore suggested that, regardless of how long a period had previously been served (if I may use that word in this context), another period of at least six months on second release could be imposed. I beg to move.
Page 30, line 23, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Faringdon.)
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I am grateful to the noble Lord for moving this Amendment, but it is not, I think, an oversight in the Bill and I will seek to explan to him why the Bill is drafted as it is. The Bill institutes a new provision for the after-care of persons released from approved schools which is designed to remove an anomaly on the lines of the recommendation of the Ingleby Committee. The anomaly referred to was thata child who is released from an approved school early, because he has responded well to traning, is subject to after-care for a longer period than a child whose release is deferred because of bad behaviour or because he has made poor progress.The new scheme provides for a period of two years' compulsory supervision, with a liability to recall, from the date of first release, followed by a period of voluntary supervision, without a liability to recall. Thus, a person recalled to his approved school towards the end of the period of two years may not be subject to compulsory supervision on his next release. This is how the new scheme will work.
The noble Lord's Amendment would provide that a person recalled to an approved school while under supervision should, after release, again be under supervision for at least six months, even though the original period of two years' supervision, calculated from the date of his first release, had expired. It is certainly true that a former approved school pupil who has had to be recalled has shown already that he is in more need than others of the managers' support on release from the approved school, and it would probably be helpful for every approved school pupil to have at least some short period of compulsory supervision on 795 release whenever that occurred. There I am in agreement with the noble Lord. But if the Bill were to provide for compulsory after-care for the approved school pupil at whatever stage he was released, that would involve each period of recall to the approved school bringing with it a further period of compulsory supervision, and this would inevitably mean a liability to recall for a further period. In the end, this might involve an indefinite prolongation of compulsory supervision in this way and we feel that this would be contrary to the whole spirit of the new provision for aftercare made in the Bill. In our view, the liability to after-care of persons detained in approved schools, like that of other categories of offenders, must be clearly defined and limited in time. For this reason, we feel that the Committee should not be advised to accept the Amendment.
Although I recognise that the noble Lord's suggestion is a constructive one and in some ways feel sorry that I am not able to adopt it, I feel that the argument I have presented is really conclusive. I would say by way of consolation to us both that the voluntary supervision available under Part II of the Second Schedule will nearly always enable the managers to help, though it will not enable them to recall to the approved school, a person formerly in their care who wants help after his liability to compulsory supervision has ended.
I ask permission to withdraw this Amendment, on the understanding that I will go carefully into the noble Viscount's reply, which I am afraid I do not consider satisfactory, and if I think it necessary, I shall raise this matter again at a later stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House resumed.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.