§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, in rising to support the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, in the Motion he has put down, I should like to explain to your Lordships that I have really very little knowledge of prisons. I did indeed visit one or two in the London area before the war, but that was in a purely professional capacity and not in the sense of a visit or, even an inmate. But I did read this pamphlet called Inside Story, with a certain amount of alarm. I should like to base the few remarks I will make to your Lordships on what I have seen in this pamphlet.
One of the things that I think one need not worry about is what is going to become of these particular prisoners who are mentioned in, or wrote, this pamphlet. They are people who were imprisoned for a comparatively short time and, so far as I gather, they come from reasonable family backgrounds and will not be likely to be badly affected by their experiences. They will go back to the same background from which they came. But when one realises that the same treatment and the same conditions will apply to what I might call, because I can think of no other phrase, the normal prison population—that is, those people who have not the advantages of a reasonable background, who come from broken homes, bad dwellings, and who have no fixed employment and no fixed abode—surely one sees that the effect on them will be to make them worse than they were before they first went into prison. This curiously brutish form of life which they spend during their months and years in prison cannot have anything but a bad and deleterious effect upon them.
While one of the functions of prison is punishment or retribution, call it what you will, surely another function is to try to reform the prisoner so that he will not offend again. If that statement is to be accepted, it seems that if these tales in the pamphlet, what the noble Lord has told us, and what one has read in other periodicals are true, that purpose cannot be carried out. I agree entirely that what we used to call in the old days of the Poor Law the doctrine of "less eligibility" must be accepted, and that 374 prisoners cannot be made more comfortable than are the people outside. But that does not mean that prisons cannot be places which are perfectly decent for the people who have to go to them.
There is another point that I should like to make. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that punishment must finish with the prisoner's discharge. Here I have had one interesting experience, because in the year 1947 I went as a Member of your Lordships' House upon a Parliamentary delegation to China—admittedly it was in the days of the Kuo Min Tang, which was rocking to its fall, but we visited the town of Shanghai and we were taken to what they were extremely proud of, their big new model prison. I am afraid I cannot remember the number of prisoners there, but it was quite substantial. But they were employed on valuable work. In one room they were making clothes, and they were paid the normal rates for the job, whatever those rates were in China at the time. The point is that when they came to be discharged they were given 25 per cent. of the money they earned during their time in prison; so they went out to start life again with a certain amount of money in their pockets. That was in the time of Chiang Kai-shek in 1947.
Then, again, in Questions in this House, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham has mentioned National Insurance cards, and the fact that if you want to write to prisoners they cannot be given an accommodation address, and also, the last indignity, that when they get their railway warrant it is marked "H.M. Prison" at the top. I do not want to go through these points; they have been dealt with at some length. But I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, entirely on what he has said on these matters. There are, however, just one or two specific points I should like to raise. The first is, why cannot prisoners have reasonable clothes? It seems that sometimes they are allowed to wear their own clothes—well and good. But I suppose that, if theirs is a long sentence, their own clothes will wear out. Why cannot they then be given reasonable clothes, and why cannot they be in sufficient quantity and of reasonable quality? It is mentioned in this document that pants with elastic tops for men cannot be obtained. They have to have terrible old pants with 375 buttons, which do not fit anybody. I cannot understand why. The elastic types are not more expensive and are far more hygienic and practical.
In the same way, if a prisoner gets a cold he is allowed two handkerchiefs a day. Why cannot they have Kleenex handkerchiefs, like most of us use now, and get rid of this perfectly filthy habit of dirty handkerchiefs? Then, they have to wear one shirt for a week during the day, and then have to wear the same shirt for a week at night. That seems a pretty demoralising, unnecessary matter, and the amount of money involved to remedy that would not be large at all.
While we are talking about clothes—if one can call them clothes—the noble Lorr, Lord Stonham, mentioned something about the use of straitjackets. This interests me enormously. I thought they were instruments of mediaeval torture which had gone out of use years ago. In the mental hospitals, certainly in the one associated with the general hospital where I am engaged, where we have a number of acute mental illness cases coming in, we should not dream of using a straitjacket now; and it seems to be a most extraordinarily backward view on the part of the prison medical staff that such a garment should be thought necessary.
There is another point mentioned in this Report—I do not know whether it is true—that prisoners who are taking medicines when they go into prison have those medicines taken from them. It was mentioned that one prisoner was suffering from asthma and he was made comfortable by having an atomiser. Why should that be taken from him? What would happen if a prisoner were a diabetic and had to be treated with insulin? Would that be taken from him? Supposing he did not say what he was suffering from. There are many other complaints where it is necessary for medicines to be given regularly to keep people in normal health.
That brings me to a point which I raised the other day when we were dealing with the Porritt Report—namely, why should the prison medical service not be part of the National Health Service? Why have this absurdly expensive, not very efficient, little medical service whereby the prisoner is separated entirely from his own general practitioner? There is no 376 contact at all, and all sorts of things can go wrong. Useful information could be passed on which the doctor could cope with. There are other foolish questions in regard to this sort of Victorian or 19th century discipline. Why cannot a prisoner report sick when he feels sick? Why has he to keep his sickness for 24 hours, until the next morning? Why cannot the medical staff go to see prisoners in their cells as a doctor goes into the home? It is these foolish little things that are so bad for, and do no good at all to, the prisoner.
Then, to come on to another point of hygiene, I cannot understand why there should not be a plentiful supply of hot water in prisons. It may be rather expensive to provide, but in the new prisons there should be a plentiful supply of hot water for people to wash with. Why should prisoners have to shave in cold water? It is uncomfortable and does no good.
§ LORD AMULREE
My point is that it does not do them any good; it seems to me entirely unnecessary at this time, and it is uncomfortable.
§ LORD AMULREE
I agree that it is perfectly harmless, but it is no good at all. There we are. Then, at the same time there is a great shortage of W.C.s and of places to wash. This all ties up with the lack of water and of general cleanliness. These are all things that surely could, and should, now be altered quite easily. At the same time, why should not a prisoner be given a clean sheet when he comes in instead of using sheets which may have been on the bed for two or three days? It is not good for the new prisoner to use somebody else's sheet. All of these things seem to me to be wrong.
Finally, I want to come to the question of food. At the present time it should be possible to supply reasonably cooked, reasonably served, reasonably prepared and reasonably chosen food at a price that is not going to be too great.
§ LORD AMULREE
There is a great deal of talk about the number of calories involved. It is indeed important that the diet should contain the right amount of calories, but calories are not the only thing that matters in the modern idea of nutrition and diet. It is possible to make up a full-calorie diet probably with things like bread, jam, margarine, and tea; but nobody would say that that alone is a satisfactory diet to give a person. Indeed one has seen old people who have been living on this sort of diet for a long time coming into hospitals and filling the sick beds. Therefore, I would put in a plea for some sort of consideration, on proper dietetic and nutritional principles, to be made of prison diets.
There are one or two more foolish things which one sees in this Report. For example, during kit inspections prisoners have to put their toothbrushes on top of their chamber pots. There is nothing at all wrong in that; it will not cause any harm; but it is an unpleasant and unnecessarily foolish thing to do. It is certainly riot going to encourage a prisoner to reform himself and to become a better man—nor to brush his teeth, which we are all told is very important. One would like to see some sort of principle established that if it became necessary for a man or woman to be admitted to prison for a second time, it meant that the prison system had failed in regard to that particular man or woman. That may be going a great deal too far, but I think that it is not a bad ideal to look forward to. It is in those terms I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Stonham.
§ 3.53 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ALBANS
My Lords., I have listened to the powerful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, with close attention, and I am certainly grateful to him for putting down this Motion, as I am to the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, for drawing our attention to the medical conditions which take a prominent place in the Report inside Story. When someone goes to prison for conscience sake that person has my admiration, and I am sure many of your Lordships are of the same mind. Therefore, I read Inside Story with great interest. I do not propose to spend my time commenting upon it, but rather to concentrate the few remarks I want 378 to make on the last section of this Motion—the urgent need for the strengthening and reorganisation of the After-Care Service.
Before I get to that point, I should like to make two comments. Inside Story gives a dramatic account of conditions inside prison—and I do not want the word "dramatic" to be misunderstood. At the same time it is to be noted that 75 per cent. of all first offenders are not re-convicted so that the methods of training and treatment may be not quite as indifferent as Inside Story implies. It would be helpful to know from the Government whether all the complaints have been considered by the Prison Commissioners, whether every governor concerned has investigated the allegations and, where details were given, whether they were found to be accurate. It would be most interesting to have the Government's reply to these questions.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords with regard to the statement that 75 per cent. of first offenders do not go back and the argument that that proves that prison is perhaps not quite so bad as suggested, I would say that the right reverend Prelate is no doubt aware that other methods of punishment produce exactly the same result. There is no special advantage to be obtained by going to prison.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ALBANS
I just wanted to mention that figure. In regard to the reforms which we want to see, it is clear that reform must come from enlightened Government policy, supporting an enlightened administration, working through a carefully chosen and fully-trained and adequate staff. Let us be thankful for what the prison directors—which I think is the correct title as from to-day—the assistant directors, the governors and assistant governors have done. They are conscious of their great responsibility towards their prisoners, they know many of them personally, they try to treat them as individuals, and they do their work from a sense of vocation. I believe that what I have said of the directors and assistant directors is equally true of very many prison officers.
Your Lordships' House will be well-informed of the excellent work done by voluntary after-care societies during the last century, and will have in mind 379 Many outstanding Christians and humanists who have been pioneers; but latterly the attitude in our country has somewhat changed. Voluntary societies now find it harder to balance their budgets, and not a few after-care societies in England and Wales face a somewhat precarious financial future. It is very much to be hoped that these organisations will be helped to carry on the more vital aspects of after-care when material aid has to be left to the National Assistance Board. Further, there will always be a time when guidance and advice from a friend will be needed. I understand that work is being done quietly and effectively to build up the Friends of Prisoners and the Associates of the Prisoners' Aid Societies, and the W.V.S. is active in looking for the Volutary Men Friends to befriend Borstal boys.
But here there must be careful selection. Relatively few people can offer the mature, balanced, compassionate, steadfast friendship which a prisoner needs, friendship which is not sentimental and which is free from morbid interest in the prisoner's story. And a friend must have a good character; he must be ethically and morally sound. One of the obvious problems to be faced is that of homosexuality. It is therefore imperative, I submit, that the selection of friends for prisoners be made with the greatest care, and no one approached about this most responsible work should be offended if he is required to name two or three referees who will vouch for his integrity. This is also for his own protection against blackmail.
The problem of after-care is many-sided. Many recidivists want it on their own terms only. They expect to be given money, clothes and tools, and lodgings to be found for them. That is not surprising, because many of them have character deficiencies and have not the insight to appreciate that their problems are often of their own making. One thinks of them with the deepest compassion. They are inclined to say, "If only I had not lost my job", or, "If only I had not been turned out of my 'digs'", rather than, "I have failed to keep my job", or, "I did not pay my rent". If these character deficiencies are not to defeat men, then everything 380 possible should be done to secure closer co-operation between penal establishments and those engaged in after-care, so that there is continuity of effort and prisoners are helped in prison and on release by men and women who share the same concepts of training and character building—and these should be Christian concepts.
It is a little too easy to say that when a prisoner has served his time he has paid his debt to society, and to leave the matter there. But on discharge society that has taken him apart from normal life has a duty to him, to help him make a fresh start and to persist in encouraging him. Yet what happens when a prisoner whose trial has filled columns in the Press completes his sentence? Is his privacy respected?—and he has a citizen's right to privacy. Is he allowed anonymity, or is he once again front page news? Does he again find his photograph splashed over the papers?
It may be that a new organisation for after-care is needed and that probation Officers should be drawn into it. But this, I submit, desirable development would be possible only if there were far more probation officers. Here let us acknowledge our debt to probation officers for their extraordinarily fine service—and let their salaries be increased to measure up to the new demands on their strength. Whatever the increase in the number of probation officers, however, voluntary workers will be needed, for without their help the problem would prove too great.
May I make another suggestion? As a result of the Maxwell Report, full-time welfare officers have been appointed to work inside prisons, and local Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society's after-care officers work outside prisons, visiting homes and employers and seeing discharged prisoners. Is not this system a little too rigid? Would it be possible to appoint a number of welfare officers who have a case load within the prison, comparable to that of a probation officer outside the prison, who would work both inside and outside the prison and maintain contacts with the prisoners' friends and families and employers?
The proportion of prisoners who are homeless, of the "no fixed abode" type, is so high that even the existing organisations such as the Church Army hostels, 381 the Salvation Army hostels and Catholic hostels are not sufficient to meet their needs. This work of the hostels is greatly to be commended, and there have been welcome developments in recent years. I think of the Langley Houses in London, where the secretary is a Church of England clergyman, and of a recently opened hostel in Manchester, William House, opened under the initiative of the Lord Bishop of Manchester. But many small hostels manned by sympathetic Christians, on the lines of Norman House, are needed not only in London and the big cities but scattered about the country where the prospects of employment are good. I should like to praise the work of police court missions, and I think particularly of the one in my own diocese. The secretary has told me that he finds that many of the men come to him to be helped, because they welcome the opportunity of being befriended. Their confidence has been gained by the secretary's visits to their families during the time they were in prison.
My Lords, I understand that the Home Secretary's Advisory Council for the Treatment of Offenders has given detailed consideration to the issue of after-care for discharged prisoners, and their report is expected this summer. I confine my remarks to the needs of strengthening and encouraging the after-care system, and I am sure I speak for many church people when I say that we await this report eagerly and hopefully.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, all sides of your Lordships' House will be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for enabling us to debate this vital social topic. If at times I strike a slightly discordant note to what the noble Lord has said, it in no way diminishes the admiration which I personally have for him and for the great deal of research which he has done into prisons and into social welfare generally. I should also like to pay a tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for what he has done through the New Bridge Society. I have attended two of their soirées—one of them was addressed by the then Home Secretary, Mr. Butler—and this society has done some very good work on the rehabilitation side for these prisoners. I cannot speak from any experience of this 382 problem, but I had a relation once who was governor of Dartmoor for a time and I know several people in the prison service.
The young people concerned in this publication Inside Story were, as I understand it, convicted for activities concerned with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. I yield to no one in my respect for their views, although personally I cannot reconcile them to my own. But in some cases these young people flagrantly disobeyed the law even after having been warned of the consequences. They greatly inconvenienced large sections of the public, and they greatly inconvenienced the forces of law generally, and I think it is quite reasonable to suppose that they should have been punished.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? Nowhere in Inside Story will he find any kind of complaint from these people that they were sent to prison. In fact, some of them openly say that they expressly invited longer sentences than they otherwise might have had. They are not complaining about the sentences.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, I completely respect the intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and I was not in any way hinting that they were complaining about the sentences. But what I am saying is that I think it was right to send them to a closed prison. Whether or not the treatment they received was justified is another matter. I am coming to some of the points in this Report now.
First, there is one section in the Report which seems to me to be quite ludicrous, and that is the last section of all, Section 10, which complains of men and women prisoners being addressed by their surnames in prison. In the case of a woman I can understand it to a certain extent, but in the Services, in business, and in many other fields of life men are called by their surnames. It is a mark of respect, it is a mark of formality, and particularly as many of these young people are obviously in need of some kind of disciplinary treatment, I think it is quite justifiable for them to be called by their surnames. So I think that that section of the Report can be written off 383 as completely trivial. I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that these young people are not hardened criminals. They are, as I said, in the view of many persons, misguided young people, but people with sincere convictions. But on this occasion some of them tended to overstep the mark so far as the law of the land goes.
May I turn now to one or two specific points in the Report? First of all, on the section dealing with sanitation, I certainly agree that this business of slopping-out is thoroughly unhygienic. Whether or not the requirements of security will allow alternative means to be adopted, I am not in a position to say, but I would ask the Minister to instruct his Department to look into this question. I should like to ask him, further, whether inquiries could be made to discover if reasonable supplies of disinfectant are used in these recesses, because so often one hears about very objectionable smells which are no good to the prisoners' health, and if they were cleaned out, either by prisoners or by others under proper supervision and with the requisite disinfectant, it is possible that much of this unpleasantness could be reduced.
At this juncture I should like to ask my noble friend three questions: first, what is the average age of these young people who were in prison and who are the subject of the pamphlet under discussion; secondly, whether any have had previous convictions for any other crime; and, thirdly, as to complaints. It has been noticeable recently that complaints on prison conditions from what one might call the "old lags" have been lacking. Of course, security inside prison may preclude some of that, but the prison grapevine in these closed prisons is fairly active, and complaints leak out fairly frequently. I should like to ask for the comments of my noble friend as to how much of this Report can be called frivolous, and what kind of inquiry, if any, is going to be held. I wonder whether the Home Office is the right body to conduct an inquiry of this kind, because some of the allegations seem to be pretty serious. I have read the Report, but I am not suggesting that many of them can be substantiated in toto. Possibly, however, a Select Committee should be set up to investigate not only the conditions described 384 here but prison conditions generally. We are led to believe that in these new prisons the same type of sanitation as in the closed prisons is going to be employed. I should like to ask my noble friend what steps are to be taken towards seeing that these forms of sanitation do not cause the same problems as the ones in the present closed prisons.
Now I turn to the subject of exercise, which forms the basis of a complaint in this Report—and I certainly think that this particular aspect needs some investigation. I am certain that the reason why so many young people go back to prison after a first conviction is that they are cooped up in their cells for far too long and are not given enough work to do—and when I say "work" I mean manual work. There are difficulties here—staff shortages; and, of course, some of these youngsters may be of a violent and temperamental nature. But there are a great many outside jobs which could be done other than those which are done now, and it seems to me that with the construction of these new prisons there is an opportunity, for the young prisoners, particularly, to be given more outside work. If it is going to be possible to recruit more prison officers—and, as I understand it, more are being brought in—it should be possible for more men and women to work outside prisons rather than in their cells and in these very ancient and, in many cases, dingy workshops, where they make postmen's sacks and do other forms of workmanship. I am not saying that these are not necessary things, but surely this could be left to the older "lags", while the young ones are put on to something more active and productive.
Something has been said about the hostels scheme, and I believe that at Bristol this works very well. There was the recent very unfortunate instance of the man Thatcher, who committed a revolting crime while out on licence, but I hope the Home Office will continue and, if necessary, expand the hostels scheme, even if it has to be done under more supervision. Many men now in prison could, I am sure, benefit from this, because, as has been said, not every person in prison is an incorrigible criminal. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that there could be, for the more incorrigible ones, much more loss of remission. That seems to me an admirable punishment; but, here again, 385 this is provided they are at the same time being trained for their return to society. The noble Lord quoted from Lord Mansfield's statement about the treadmill. Personally, I hold no brief for this remark, but I should add that it was not made in reference to all prisoners. It was made in reference to certain cases; and I think that possibly the statement may have been taken out of context from a speech that he made. However, personally—and I am sure I speak for most noble Lords on these Benches—I can say that it is a statement with which, at its face value, we do not agree.
Regarding solitary confinement, I think that at time; there is a case for this for a violent prisoner who has conmitted an act of real brutality. Frequently a few days in solitary confinement can make him think of what he has done, and reflect; but I agree that the outmoded punishment of bread and water should be stopped. It does not seem to me to have a reformative value. I should far rather see such men made to work, even on Army lines; and I think that certain types of young prisoners could be treated on military prison lines. In this connection, I should like to ask my noble friend what is to be the future of the Shepton Mallet military prison, because it seems to me that in certain cases some of the more ruthless, younger criminals could be sent there, where conditions, although grim, do not seem to be as grim as in some of the closed prisons.
On the medical side there seems to be a case for the taking over of the prisons by the National Health Service. Does a prisoner on his release receive a medical examination, and is there evidence that prisoners who have been to the prisons referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, do suffer from health defects on their release as a result of their being in prison? That is something that needs investigation. I hope that the noble Earl, who, I know, has a great interest in these matters, will go into some of these points very carefully. I should like to recommend that an all-Party Commission from both Houses of Parliament should visit some of these prisons regularly—not just one flying visit, but regular visits.
Finally, I should like to pay tribute to those who man the prisons. One tends to hear too much about how badly 386 prisoners are treated. I do not suggest that the contents of this Report are entirely responsible for this; but some criticisms seem to me to smack of the language of the "angry young man". I hope, therefore, that, at the same time, a tribute can go out to the Governor, to the prison officers and to those in prison welfare who are doing their utmost to make sure that our prisons to-day are not as black as some would paint them.
§ 4.22 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I hope the Government will consider very carefully the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, that facilities should be provided for parties of Members of Parliament and Peers to visit our prisons. We have visited the different establishments of Her Majesty's Government. We often have invitations to visit the Army, Navy and Air Force; why not also invitations to visit Her Majesty's Prisons? I think it is agreed on all sides, that this is a matter which merits the most careful examination. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, that we are grateful to my noble friend Lord Stonham for giving us the chance of discussing our penal system. I am also grateful for his own impressive speech which, if the facts are not refuted, was a terrible indictment of prison conditions. I am glad that neither he nor any subsequent speaker allowed the debate to be side-tracked by Inside Story which, after all, is a piece of evidence, but only one piece of evidence, about prison conditions.
For my part, I should like to place the emphasis in my remarks on aftercare. Before I go any further, I should say that, like other noble Lords, I am not speaking for my Party; I am not speaking for any organisation with which I am connected (I am an officer of the National Association of Discharged Prisoners Aid Societies, called NADPAS), but only for myself. But my connection with NADPAS, which has given me a tremendous education in these problems through contact with people who have spent their lives on after-care work, and through the opportunity that I have had of visiting many prisons, inside London and outside, gives me an excuse for making a few remarks about after-care. Before I do that, however, may I join with the noble Lord opposite and the right reverend Prelate in the tribute to the prison 387 governors and prison staffs? My impression is that, on the whole, they are doing a tremendously good job under tremendously difficult conditions, and that they are not responsible for the conditions with which they have to cope.
I think it is generally accepted nowadays that after-care begins from the day a man goes into prison. When a man goes into prison he sees the prison welfare officer, who of course has an office in the prison and works there every day like the prison staff. Prison, therefore, is the first stage of after-care; and the success of those who are waiting to help a man when he leaves depends on what has happened to him during his sentence. I do not believe that the most efficient after-care service will do very much good unless there are drastic changes in our present prison system. Our prisons are manifestly failing to do what that excellent White Paper Penal Practice in a Changing Society (Cmnd. 645), published by the Government in 1959, described as their main function—and here I quote:…to prevent Me largest possible number of those committed to their care from offending again.When I speak of prisons I mean local prisons, where the majority of prisoners go, and not the central and regional prisons, many of which are doing a very much better job. The only success in preventing repeated offences is in the case of men serving their first sentences—the star prisoners—most of whom are not sent to local prisons. This point was referred to by the right reverend Prelate, and I was about to indicate to him that the fact that there is some success with these first-sentence prisoners was no proof at all that conditions were satisfactory in local prisons.
What are the changes required in prison conditions if they are to give their inmates a better chance of avoiding anti-social behaviour when they come out? Three important changes are required. These changes have all, I think, been referred to, at any rate in passing, by other noble Lords. First, a word on building and sites. Most of our local prisons are old county gaols, built in days when punishment was the sole object of imprisonment. Prison buildings are too large and prison sites 388 too small. We need a sufficient number of small prisons to relieve overcrowding and limit the sizes of prison communities. They should occupy sites large enough to allow for plenty of indoor and outdoor work. The Government's prison building programme, to which I pay tribute, compares favourably with past neglect but is moving far too slowly to remove within the appreciable future the appalling overcrowding in existing prisons. Moreover, new buildings are, to my mind, too large for a prison community of an ideal size, which should not exceed 150 to 200 prisoners.
Secondly, work in prison could, and should, be the most important form of therapeutic treatment, if a man is to be able to learn a skill he can use when he leaves prison. To-day there is enforced idleness, as a result of lack of work; and the available work is useless to the man who does it. This, I would certainly say, is the general rule. And there is lack of incentive to do any work at all. The best illustration of the tragic waste of prison life is the fact that most of the work done in prison at the present time is still the sewing of mailbags. What we need is more work, the right type of work and better pay for the men who do the work.
Thirdly, the shortage of prison staff, in spite of the better recruitment in 1961, makes it impossible to take full advantage of the limited training offered by present conditions; and if we have a larger number of prisons, as we certainly shall have (and I hope that we shall have a very much larger number), it must be accompanied by a substantial increase of staff. There should be a further review of the conditions of employment for prison staff, if we are to attract a sufficient number of young men into the prison service. So much for what, to my mind, are the three radical changes required in our prison system.
Next I should like to say a word about the After-Care Service and after-care outside prison. It is extremely important to remember that after-care outside prison is still mainly a voluntary service. This fact is reflected in the figures relating to discharges from prison in 1961—and these are the only figures I shall inflict upon your Lordships. In 1961, 42,060 prisoners were discharged to the care of the Prisoners' Aid Society, while 1,608 389 were discharged to the care of the Central After-Care Association. Everyone expects important changes in our present system of after-care when the Home Secretary has received the advice of the Committee that has been considering the whole matter for a long time; but until these changes are made, the present voluntary system must be carried on.
At the present time, as a result of uncertainty about the future, it is running down. Therefore, I beg the Government to do two things: first of all, to make up their minds as quickly as possible about the changes they want to make in the organisation of after-care and to bring these changes into full effect by legislation (I presume that it cannot be done administratively) with the least possible delay; and secondly, to make it plain to the voluntary workers in local societies, who at the moment deal with after-care, that, whatever changes may be made in the present system, their co-operation and assistance will still be indispensable. They need to be told clearly that the work they do is appreciated and that there will be a place for them and other voluntary workers in future.
If the Government do not succeed in getting the good will of the voluntary societies in the matter of after-care, there is a risk that the present system will break down before there is anything else to take its place. At the same time, I hope that the Government will have the courage to give the public the lead, for which I think it is looking, about the very considerable changes that are required in our present system of after-care. If they can convince people that these changes are needed to produce an efficient and up-to-date After-Care Service, I do not think that we need have any fear that the keener and most active voluntary workers will support them. What I should like to see, and what I hope the Government will give us, is a unified, highly trained, professional After-Care Service, acting in close alliance with the voluntary workers all over the country.
I should like to make two final comments—and may I say in this regard that I have always been in almost complete agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, who has done an enormous amount of thinking on the basis of her immense experience of voluntary work. Our penal system is, in fact, a social 390 service for the protection of society and the rehabilitation of social misfits, in which punishment and reclamation go together. The trouble is that many people do not recognise it as a social service but think of it only as part of the public administration of the country. The Government have a better chance than anyone to project the image that people ought to have. They must not be afraid—and I hope they will not be—to admit existing difficulties for the fact that they are admitted will serve to stir the public conscience. But in asking the Government to do this I must add that it would obviously not be fair not to ask other bodies to do the same thing. Why should penal reform not be one of the many policies about which there is general agreement between political Parties? It has never been a vote-catcher, so far as I know, and there is no temptation for any Party to use it in this way. A national appeal to put an end to the conditions, of which we are all ashamed, would carry much more weight than any Party appeal.
The second reason why I think it desirable that there should be agreement between the Parties about penal reform (which of course includes after-care) is that the necessary reforms of our present sytem will cost a great deal of money and, with the best will in the world, will require a long period of time—I imagine ten or twelve years—before they can be carried out. What is needed, I believe, is a long-term programme of penal reform, agreed between the Parties, which will catch the imagination of the public and which successive Governments, whatever the Party in power, will be pledged to see through. If the future greatness of our country is going to depend, as I firmly believe it will, more on its humanity than on its power, we could not do better than set the world an example in our treatment of offenders.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ BARONESS SWANBOROUGH
My Lords, I must start by apologizing to your Lordships for not being in the House a great deal earlier, but, due to the fact that I had to undertake a speaking commitment, agreed upon last October, I was unable to be present until much later than I should have wished to be. I gave notice to the noble Earl about this and I apologise most sincerely.
391 I should like to speak this afternoon on the second half of the Motion which, some of your Lordships may have noticed, originally appeared under my name in the Order Paper, and to confine myself entirely to after-care. In prisons as they are at present, owing to both over-crowding and staff shortage, any improvement obviously not only must be gradual, but also must be slow, as must be any reformative effort. What happens to a man in prison is the responsibility of the prison authorities and of the Home Secretary. It seems to me fitting that the British people should concern themselves with what they can deal with much more effectively—that is, trying to play their part in regard to what happens to the prisoner after he comes out of prison.
There are many organisations, as your Lordships know, and many people who are vitally interested in the fact that juvenile delinquency is so prevalent, as well as the sad truth that there is a great number of recidivists. The whole country is shocked at the number of persons who are being sent to prison. Although many people, with both an academic and a personal interest in seeing how they can help, are individually and collectively doing a good deal, I agree with the noble Earl who has just spoken, that a cohesive effort of the whole is absent. Until such time as there is a real pattern, within which those interested can have an opportunity to serve and those who are responsible can have the swift support of a higher authority, we shall not get very far in dealing with this situation. A comprehensive after-care system must be devised now. It must give the individual offender a fair chance to make good, and to the nation an assurance that the prison population is not being swelled by offenders who resort to repeated crime because they feel they have become outcasts from the whole of society.
The problem, as I see it, if one divests it of all its ramifications and adjuncts, is a simple one. Temptation presents itself, and is given way to; retribution comes, and during retribution the resistance to temptation is not heightened. The man whilst he is in prison is looked after. But his family, left to fend for itself, is often gradually embittered. The man coming out, meeting the embitterment of his family, out of habit of work, 392 out of habit of making decisions, out of habit of family life and out of habit of budgeting, which he has been spared during the term of his incarceration, loses his grip of things, is again tempted, and falls. This is the story of the recidivist with a family. The same is true of the brutal boy. He comes out of borstal with high hopes and believes he can make good. He is bored, lonely and vulnerable. He is once more tempted—and there are plenty of people to provide the temptation—and then he goes back.
The ex-prisoner or ex-borstal inmate who is discharged to compulsory after-care is, as we all know, the responsibility of the Central After-care Association, a statutory body which exercises supervising functions mainly through probation officers, who in turn are employed by probation committees formed in the main of justices. The remainder of prisoners released (without strings attached) are aided, if they apply, but on an uneven and often inadequate scale, by the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society and a number of other voluntary bodies, who endeavour to fill in the gaps, but are not able to do so without overlapping, and consequently mistakes take place.
I am quite convinced that to be successful an after-care system must be related to the needs of the individual. It must be simple, it must be unified, and it must be continuous. The present after-care arrangements are doomed to failure, despite the devoted work of those engaged in them, because they are complicated, inadequate and uncertain, with the result that many ex-prisoners are left with the feeling that no-one cares or is prepared to help, while others, by the exercise of guile, receive duplicated assistance from different sources.
The plan I should like to put before your Lordships is a national one for the after-care of prisoners, both in and out of prison, this after-care to start five minutes after sentence has been pronounced and to continue until the human being involved is once more able to play a full part in society. To do this, I think a really first-class service should operate. When we want our children to be taught how to read and write and live as ordinary human beings, we provide them with an education service. When we want our men and women, our boys and girls, to 393 learn how to abide by social customs and social laws, we should provide a service which can help them. This is something we owe to the country, and it is something that could mean much, both physically and spiritually, to the nation.
If such a plan is to be successful, it calls for differences to be sunk and for outlooks to be widened. A similar need occurred years ago, in the lifetime of a good many of us here, in a different direction; and to resolve that problem the National Assistance Board was born. At that time, I recall well that many voices were lifted against the proposal and many harsh things, were said. But the idea was adopted, the National Assistance Board was formed, and in its operation it has proved that it is possible to reconcile administrative efficiency with humanity and common sense. There is no one who has worked really close and hard with the National Assistance Board who would not subscribe to this view.
As I have said, statutory prison after-care is at present the responsibility of the Central After-care Association, and is carried out in the field in the main by probation officers, who have earned the confidence of the justiciary and the respect of the public. I would propose that this service be enlarged and extended into a Probation and After-care Service, the service to be a national one, and the probation and after-care officers to be recruited, trained and employed by a new Probation and After-care Board. In order to ensure continuity in after-care, the same service should be responsible for the work at present undertaken by welfare officers in the prisons.
I plead for a broad, courageous and effective plan which can give to the country a contribution greater than any envisaged for a very long time; for a nation-wide service which will link the probation service with after-care, so that we have a national Probation and After-care Service responsible for dealing with offenders in the community, where they have been allowed to remain in the community as a condition of a probation order, or where they have returned to the community after treatment in a penal institution. Because the basic problem is the adjustment of the offender to the community, it is not only necessary that trained and skilled workers should be available to assist, but it is essential for 394 there to be a continuity, without break or hindrance, in the help provided in all its various forms.
My proposal is for a Central Probation and After-care Board somewhat on the lines of the National Assistance Board, financed in the same way by the Treasury, to be appointed by the Home Secretary, who would be responsible to Parliament in the same way as the Minister of National Insurance is responsible for the National Assistance Board; the Board to have its own staff. Such a Board would be in keeping with the opinion expressed at the United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders, held in London in 1960. We should therefore not only be making a pattern for others to copy, but should, in addition, be putting into action a method of operating accepted in theory internationally. Financially this would not be an extravagance, but could prove to be a great saving; administratively there is a precedent; and physically the machinery is already almost in being.
The reasons why I am convinced of the supreme worth of such a Board are the value of a fresh start and the institution of a national service; the establishment of a service which is sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of individuals and the requirements of localities, as well as the bringing of a new slant on to the subject. To undertake this work and to carry it through there are certain pre-requisites. The Board must be a body of recognisable individuals with names. Local authorities and probation committees would have more confidence in dealing with such a body than with a series of organisations. The Chairman of such a Board must be a man of stature, who could take real charge of the plan as a whole. He must be of a standing that would be accepted and respected by the country as a whole; a man of integrity; a man who is a leader and who is prepared to spend himself in order to start the scheme in a shape in which a pattern of example would dominate; a man of the status of a field-marshal, a senior Cabinet Minister or a very able organiser or administrator.
Different sides of life, of work and of knowledge to deal with the problem would have to be represented on the 395 Board. Members of the board would have to throw themselves into the work, and individually make a personal and real contribution in the formative stages. This would result in local committees being supported through the strength of a central board on which would serve responsible people, magistrates, professionals, and so on and so forth. To my mind, the Board would, by its very existence, expedite and assist after-care services throughout the whole country. It would, through its inspectorate, be able to arrange exchanges of views on new experiments and make available fresh methods. It could, because it was its duty, unravel the tangle and cut the knot. It is not impossible to conceive that such a Board, with the dedication it would undoubtedly command, could ultimately be responsible for lessening the sad number of borstal boys and girls who go back to a life of crime, and recidivists who return to prison.
I am well aware of the fact that committees sit from anthill to Olympus, and are constantly effective in delaying action by methods of an accepted procedure, but I urge that this type of delay of necessity is not one that need be applied to the scheme I am suggesting. It is only a plan of common sense constructed from a worm's eye view, but put forward in this shape after serious consideration, much consultation and advice, and based on practical experiments. Great national voluntary organisations would stand behind such a service, and their cooperation would strengthen the whole endeavour.
Discussions have taken place, and the leaders of organisations, both male and female, are interested to help on a voluntary basis in a number of different directions. Experiments have been going forward in all sorts of directions, with men from all walks of life who act as voluntary men friends, and each take on the task of being a real and constant friend to the boy he is allotted. These men are prepared to make considerable personal sacrifices in order to fulfil their undertaking to the boy they befriend. Such men supply references which are dealt with by the probation officer; they meet regularly with the probation officers, and they present a real and worth-while method of working. Stem- 396 ming from the voluntary men friends, residential units are being set up for those boys who have no home, and in one such, in a period of one year, out of 25 boys who came out from borstal only one has gone back. This 4 per cent., compares well with the average figure of, I think it is, 52 per cent., and shows that, with collective effort and good will, not only is the lad set back on the path he should be on, but the nation benefits to a tremendous extent.
Members of the great national bodies would, as individuals and collectively, give substantial voluntary effort, and they would be guided by the professionals and, indeed, are anxious to prepare themselves by undertaking preliminary training. Voluntary organisations are viewing the help they can give really seriously. They are aware that one of the difficult features of after-care in the past has been the danger of homosexual influence, and they have, in consequence, evolved a form of reference which is taken up individually by the probation officer. In certain cities such a system has been developed with the voluntary helpers undertaking specific jobs and meeting periodically with the senior probation officer, the prison after-care officer and others, so that those whose legal responsibility for supervision cannot be deputed can see how they can be assisted.
One of the greatest tragedies of our times is the fact that the social services of the world have no variable by which they can be measured. Prevention can in no way be estimated either in figures, in bulk, in finance or in weight, and in consequence those whose interest should be captured shrug their shoulders and turn away. It is unthinkable that, because of the apathy of those who should care, of the lack of application in those who could do things, or the lack of interest in those who matter, human beings should be allowed to go back to prison again and again. I plead and, indeed, I beg of your Lordships, that this question be given really serious consideration.
The plan has, of course, been worked out in much more detail, but because brevity is appreciated in your Lordships' House, and because I am anxious that your Lordships' good will should be extended to this suggested plan, I am purposely not here and now elaborating it. 397 I beg of you to see the vision there is; to give this vision a chance of being made manifest. This is a way, a practical way, an opportunity, to fight juvenile delinquency, to help the prisoner and, please God!, in the long run, to put a limit on the number of criminals we have in our land.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, in contrast to the masterly, wide survey of this problem given by the noble Baroness, I propose to deal for a few moments with one narrow point; that is, the injustice of the identification of discharged prisoners by their unstamped insurance cards. This matter is deal with in Inside Story, on page 19, paragraphs 7 and 8. It was taken up with great vigour in your Lordships' House at Question Time on March 20 by the noble Lords, Lord Taylor and Lord Stonham. Unfortunately, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, is unable to be present this afternoon to pursue this matter further; and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, of course, had a much wider field to cover.
The machinery of the paper work of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, clearly, was never designed for the purpose of showing up discharged prisoners. If it has that incidental and accidental effect, surely steps should be taken to prevent it, if that can reasonably be done, particularly when one bears in mind how harshly the rules of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance about unemployment benefit operate in the case of discharged prisoners. May I quote one single example to your Lordships? I had the case of a skilled man, now aged 62, who for 40 years was in continuous employment, with a stamped card, until he incurred his one prison sentence, from which he was released fifteen months ago. For those fifteen months he has received no unemployment benefit. He has not been qualified to receive it, because his appropriate insurance card was unstamped for the relevant period, owing to the fact that he was in prison.
This situation, which has now lasted for fifteen months, is certain, I understand, to continue until 1964. Only last week this man received a letter from the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, in which he was told:Any claim for unemployment benefit which you might make until February 2, 1964, 398 would be likely to be disallowed because you have not 26 contributions paid or credited in the 1961–62 contribution year.I understand that the Ministry dispute that an unstamped card is necessarily the sign of a discharged prisoner: they rightly point out that everyone must have a new insurance card approximately once a year. Their view appears to be that the unstamped card of the ex-prisoner gets lost in the welter of unstamped new cards which everybody else is required to have from time to time. That argument, however, fails to recognise the fact that, in nine cases out of ten, when a new card is issued the employer knows all about the man to whom the card is being issued. The man has probably worked for him for some years; indeed, the employer probably collects the new card for him. It is when a new face arrives on the employment labour market, out of the blue, presenting an unstamped card, that suspicion is aroused; and this, I understand, is a long-felt grievance.
I am not suggesting that the State should go out of its way to conceal from prospective employers the background of a prospective employee if he is a discharged prisoner. I recognise that many of the most successful cases of rehabilitation are the cases where the employer knows about the man's background, takes him into his confidence, places trust in him and the man makes good. But I do suggest that the employer and the employee in these cases ought to be allowed to keep their secret to themselves if they wish to; and it is not the slightest use when the secret about the man's background is going to leak out from the clerk in the pay office who puts the stamp on the National Insurance cards.
Can this problem be dealt with? In my submission, it really ought not to be very difficult. It cannot cost the State very much to stick its own stamps on to these cards and hand the card to the discharged prisoner. I suppose that could be done at about 2½d. a time for the intrinsic cost of the stationery involved. I recognise that the stamps, which are not paid for, should not rank for benefit, but that is no obstacle, surely. For at the same time as the stamped-up card is given to the man a form could be handed to him saying that stamps to the following value have not been paid for and do not rank for benefit. A carbon copy of that form could be sent to the 399 office dealing with the man's National Insurance records and the records could be adjusted accordingly. The people in Whitehall and Millbank could solve this problem in twenty minutes if they really set about it, and I do urge the Government to see that this reform is carried out.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I might do worse in these closing remarks, before we listen, as we look forward to doing, to the Minister, than repeat and try to rub in what has already been said; but the speeches have been so powerful, from the tremendous opening indictment over the whole field by my noble friend Lord Stonham to the limited but very well argued submission by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, that I feel that would be rather redundant and boring for the Minister and other noble Lords. I would, however, like to comment very briefly on one or two things said about after-care, if only to enable me to thank the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, for the generous references he made to my own small efforts in this field. Those references were made while I was out of the Chamber and, of course, I came rushing back as soon as I heard that that kind of thing was being said here, but I was too late, as often occurs.
I feel that the general principles were set out in outline by my noble friend Lord Listowel, and then worked out in a very careful and constructive plan by the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough. I am sure that nearly all of us can, certainly I can, heartily endorse their approach. I hope that the scheme of the noble Baroness in all, or almost all, its details will one day, and at not too distant a date, be carried into law. I hope that the probation service will accept these reforms. I hope that she will not find herself, if I may put it this way, in the position of Sir Edward Boyle—in a great struggle with the whole of the probation service. She would hardly be precisely in his position, but could be in an analogous position. Therefore, to put it bluntly, I would not wish to see the risk of a head-on collision with the whole probation service to achieve the results suggested. But I am sure that what she has put forward is the ideal kind of arrangement.
400 There is one aspect which may sound minor but, in my opinion, is not so minor when we bear in mind that the great difficulty will be to get enough probation officers and after-care officers to carry out the work. They are doing extra work already, to which the noble Baroness referred. I myself do not—and this is possibly a controversial view—think that, in order to help an adult who has been in prison, you require as intensive a training as you do to deal with disturbed children, and to report to the courts as in the way that is necessary for probation officers; so I hope that when this new service is built up we shall have some elasticity, because otherwise a great many people of the kind who are doing good work for after-care now will not in fact have been accepted as probation officers and will be lost to this combined service.
I should like to mention one other point, and maybe the noble Earl will be able to tell us something about it. I am deeply shocked myself to think that more than one-and-a-half years after the Criminal Justice Bill became law we still have, so far as I can understand, no after-care for detention centres. The noble Earl will perhaps be able to tell us what is in mind here. But there is no class of the community which needs after-care more and which has a greater claim on us than the young people who have been to detention centres or borstal. While there is a borstal after-care service, which should be strengthened, there is no detention centre after-care at all, as I understand it. For example, a warden at a detention centre got in touch with me the other day about a young man who was soon leaving that detention centre. This young man had been living a very undesirable life before entering the centre and the warden was greatly afraid that when he left the centre he would fall back into evil company. We did what we could in the New Bridge Society, though we are not organised for that kind of work and have not held ourselves out to do so, and I am afraid that all sorts of troubles have occurred to this unfortunate young man since he left the detention centre. I feel that it is a source of very great criticism that must be launched at the Government that they have not a lifetime before now introduced a system of after-care for those coming from these detention centres. I hope that they will be able to tell us they are going to do so.
401 Before I come to my general remarks, I should like to join in the tributes that have been paid to those who try to help prisoners, whether in the Prison Service or in many other ways. Of course, some of those concerned are no better than the rest of us, but, by and large, there is a marvellous spirit of dedication, as has been said by other speakers, both among professional workers and among voluntary workers in this field. The names of many of them who are known to a number of us in this House are written in Heaven.
To come to the general question of prisons, and endorsing the terrific criticisms made by my noble friend Lord Stonham, I should like to speak from a slightly different point of view, if only to avoid repetition. It seems to me impossible in a discussion on prisons to separate what might be called the quality—I mean the ultimate social value of the treatment provided—from the quantitative factors of all sorts, the buildings and number of staff and amount of money available, and factors of that kind. But it is perhaps worth pausing for a moment on what might be called the ideal issues, as distinct from those to which we have adduced in practice up to the present time. Even if we had unlimited people and manpower available, and even if we were much more generous in putting them at the disposal of the prisons and prisoners, the question would still arise: Is prison, in anything like its present form, the right punishment for the more serious delinquents in a country that claims to be Christian?
Let me say at once—and here I thought some very wise things were said by my noble friend Lord Listowel—that in any future that we can foresee in the lifetime of any of us here, we must accept the idea that legal punishment and, on occasions, very severe legal punishment, is necessary in the interests of public order. Indeed I have written a small book on the subject, with which I will not trouble your Lordships. Punishment cannot be pleasant. I think we must start from that. Perhaps I misjudged the noble Viscount, Lord Stuart of Findhorn. For a moment I thought he was thinking we were going soft on these Benches, Liberal and Labour, and wondered whether we were aware that people who break the law have to be 402 punished, and punishment cannot be something rational people choose for themselves. I may be doing him an injustice. In some ways we suffer in these prison debates because all the speakers except the Minister—not always excepting the Minister—are penal reformers. We never hear the other point of view. It is very different when we have a debate on hanging; then they come out in large numbers.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
My Lords, perhaps I may intervene, as the noble Earl referred to me. I do not think the noble Earl will disagree that prisoners must be punished; that is my view. The point is this—and I agree with the right reverend Prelate about the after-care—that replacement in industry and in jobs afterwards is, I think, very important; and so far as reform is concerned in that respect, I go with the right reverend Prelate all the way.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Then we are all at one as penal reformers, and I would try to enlist the noble Viscount as a generous subscriber to the New Bridge Society. That being so, the question arises how we can organise a humane system of legal punishment which is at the same time effective in doing its work. I think we could do worse than remember some words of Mr. Gladstone which he uttered in the Midlothian campaign of 1879 in a very different context. There he said:The sanctity of life in the hill villages of Afghanistan among the winter snows is as inviolable in the eyes of Almighty God as can be your own.Could anyone claim, after having heard Lord Stoneham's indictment, that in fact we treat our prisoners as though their lives were inviolable in that way? What I object to—speaking without any reference to personalities at all—in the attitude of those who rule us in these matters (and it is not, as the noble Earl Lord Listowel said, a Party question) is the unconscious, strong assumption—I think it is unconscious rather than conscious—that prison or something very much like prison on the present lines is the answer and that it is no good even working towards something else.
A lady came to see me at the end of our debate a few days ago on House of Lords Reform. Her husband came of a 403 criminal family; he had been convicted of crime since he was 9 and was now 31. He had been in prison many times; he is in prison now and comes out shortly. She, I am told, has done a great deal to improve his character—I am told that by those in close touch with the family. She put this question to me: why could she not have lived with her husband while he was in prison; why could we not have a prison village? I put that to the noble Earl. Why could we not have at least one prison village in this country? No doubt after a little rapid study he will be informed by the authorities that this kind of thing has been tried in South America and there are disadvantages and difficulties, and the idea can be gradually disposed of by perhaps asking the lady exactly how she would work it out, as though she would have the administrative know-how at her fingertips. I think it is a very good idea, and we should try at least one as an experiment. If the Prison Commissioners, or the Home Office, consider that it has its dangers, why could we not adopt the Swedish system of much more frequent home leaves instead of one visit towards the end of the sentence? In other words, why should we close our minds to these broad experiments?
I think that, whatever is done this year, or next year, we shall not be getting any-where unless we adopt a completely revolutionary attitude towards penal reform. I am convinced that prison, in any form in which we know it (I have said this before; and I am not the only person who has said it) is a rotten answer to the problem of legal punishment. First of all, there is incarceration and denial of freedom, which is more likely to stunt moral growth than improve it. Then there is separation from the family: that cannot do anybody any good. And herding together with the weakest elements in the community, so that if a man is bad it is extremely likely that he will become worse. The conditions are bound to be such as to make efficient work as difficult as possible. We would certainly make the assumption, even in the prisons most generously provided for, that the conditions were much more likely to do harm than to do good to anybody we ourselves are fond of, relative or friend.
There remains the problem of punishment, of penalising those who break the 404 law and deterring others. I would say, briefly, that in my view the real answer lies in the direction of compulsory work for the community. That idea can be applied in a great many different ways, but that idea of compulsory work—inside institutions in the extreme case, but for the most part in conditions of semi-liberty, rather than with incarceration away from one's family—is, I am sure, the right direction in which we should move. And it should certainly be linked with a far-reaching scheme of compensation for the victim. I would judge an existing system ultimately by whether it showed any signs of moving in that direction, and I cannot say that at the moment I see any signs in the case of our own system—unless, to be fair, it is in the hostel system, which I applaud and for which credit must be given to those who organised it and defended it against criticism. I would say that the movement towards the extension of compulsory after-care is also beneficial. That is also a point in the right direction, but at present it is far more theoretical than practical. However, I must return to things as they are, to the quantitative side of things.
Again and again in these debates (I think that I initiated the first one in 1955, and we have had them almost every year since) we have returned to the three great evils, overcrowding, shortage of work and shortage of staff, which lie at the root of so many of our troubles. The Foreign Secretary said in a recent Defence debate here that his memory was growing inconveniently long, and I can say the same of my memory of prison debates in this House. I was looking up the first of this series, the one which I initiated in 1955. I was reading, without any special enthusiasm, my own speech; but I read with a great deal more admiration the speech made by a famous Conservative Home Secretary and penal reformer, Lord Temple wood. He said some things that I venture to commend to the noble Earl opposite when he has a moment to spare. These things were not said by some Left Wing crank, but by some-body who was formerly a Conservative Home Secretary, and who held all sorts of other high offices in Conservative Administrations; so I should have thought that he was an utterly respectable figure.
405 I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, will read that speech made by Lord Temple wood in 1955. He said, among other things [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 192, col. 758]:This is not a problem of immense magnitude. It concerns about 21,000 men and women.I think that to-day it concerns another 10,000 or so, but it is still a small problem.We know what ought to be done, yet we do not do it.That was Lord Temple wood speaking, towards the end of his great career.The result is that in certain respects, particularly in the matter of accommodation and work, so far from making any progress in a world in which a great deal of progress has been made in other walks of life, we have actually fallen back. I would almost say 50 or 60 years:My Lords, that was the considered utterance in 1955 of a former Conservative Home Secretary. It is also interesting to notice that he referred to the Government building programme which then, as now, sounded impressive. Let me be fair. The programme has been enormously extended since his time. He said (col. 759):It is my view that we are never going to mitigate, must less remove, these evils if we make a new building programme the central objective of what we are doing.He went on to deal partly with work and the new approach to work; and partly with the urgent need for getting far more people out of prison. He thought that a great many people were in prison who should not be there. I mention particularly that second point. It has been stressed strongly and effectively by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, to-day, but it was expressed just as strongly eight years ago by the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood.
It is worth noticing that, even six years ago, Mr. Butler was talking in the same way. He said in 1957, in that most impressive speech that he made when he first became Home Secretary:We should welcome any recommendations to reduce the number of short-term sentences.He then faced the difficulty that this involved considerations which are the concern of the Judiciary, and he said that he was there venturing into a difficult subject. It is perfectly true that we have something of a constitutional problem.
406 The Home Secretary has a limited power in affecting the sentences which are given; and, if I understood him aright, I think Lord Stonham was saying that the Government as a whole must tackle this whole question of sentencing policy; and the sooner they can produce a new policy, the better.
I am assured by those certainly without any prejudice against the Government (to put it in a way that cannot embarrass them) that our Judges to-day are steadily increasing the penalties for a given offence. I am told that, statistically, that is difficult to prove, because we can never be quite sure that X has committed exactly the same offence in 1962 as Y has committed in 1963, though it may appear to be the same kind of offence. But if it is the case—and I believe it is—that ever since the war the Judges have been steadily increasing penalties for a given offence, we are really defeating, on the one hand, what we are trying to achieve, on the other. We are setting out a policy which certainly Mr. Butler, Mr. Brooke and the noble Earl, would all espouse, to try to improve conditions in prisons, while our excellent Judges—who do not come much to these prison debates, though I must say that they come about as often as they visit prisons—are defeating that object by filling up the prisons with far more prisoners than they would have done for similar offences a few years ago. That is a position which I think should be laid before the Government, and I am glad that the Lord Chancellor is here to take notice of what I am saying.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD DILHORNE)
My Lords, I certainly take notice of what the noble Earl is saying, but I do not think there is any justification for the observations. I know that all Judges exercise the greatest care before sending anyone to prison, and are most reluctant to do so. As for Lords of Appeal, who are Members of your Lordships' House, they, of course, exercise no criminal jurisdiction at all.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
Well, the last point seems to be, if I may say so, a most extraordinary red herring. I suppose at the Bar it would distract attention for the moment; but it really has nothing to do with what I was submitting to the House. I did not criticise the Judges; I simply said that they were 407 pursuing a different policy. I did not say they were not taking trouble. If they are taking trouble, it makes it all the worse because they are reaching this conclusion after profound thought and consideration. It seems to me to be the fact—nothing the Lord Chancellor said disputed this—that if you committed any given offence a few years ago you were more likely to get a lesser penalty than if you committed it now. That seems to be the fact; so that Judges, after much profound thought and for reasons best known to themselves, are filling up the prisons to-day as they would not have filled them a few years ago for the same crime.
§ VISCOUNT STUART OF FINDHORN
My Lords, if that be true about the length of sentence, it might be argued that the Judges' view was that it was an effective deterrent and that it might stop other people from committing such crimes.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, you can never prove anything in these arguments; but as crime has increased by 50 per cent. in ten years the Judges do not seem to have been achieving those results. They may say that it would have been double if they had not done their stuff. I do not think many of us would believe that. At any rate, I feel that we ought to have the facts in front of us, and if we are discussing the great difficulties before the Home Office at the present time we should bear in mind that those difficulties are much increased, rightly or wrongly, by the more severe sentencing policy which appears to be adopted with each passing year by the courts.
I must concentrate mainly on work to-day. I have already spoken rather longer on this subject than I wanted to, and I must leave out some of the items that I thought of referring to. We were told in 1959 in the Government White Paper that the work situation in most of the prisons had long been bad and was deteriorating. That seemed to be the position in 1961, when the Advisory Committee on Work in Prisons published their Report. They pointed out that while there was a reasonable amount of work in a number of prisons, in the prisons where the majority are housed the number of hours' worked was very small indeed. In some general local prisons, they 408 told us in 1961, the working hours were as few as 16 hours a week, and subject to interruption. That was 16 hours a week in some of the larger prisons. That appears to be the case to-day.
In the meanwhile, we had a debate in October, 1961. I do not want to make a personal criticism of the Minister at that time. He is a Minister no longer, though a valued Member of the House, and he tried to say that there had been a considerable improvement. He said, for example, in 1961 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 234, col. 6l4]:There was sufficient work last year to occupy all prisoners during the available working hours.I cannot attach any meaning to that sentence at all; but having occasionally been misreported in Hansard, I assume that something went wrong there. However, what that can mean I cannot imagine. At any rate, he saidWe were spared the shame of having mail bag machines idle.I should not like to upset him, but I am glad that I did not have the late Minister with me last Monday when I visited Wands worth. In Wands worth half the prisoners are working on mail bags, and in a large mail bag shop one could see these sewing machines idle, not being used at all. They were in full view of the prisoners. They had been specially brought in in order to increase the efficiency of prison labour; but there they were, absolutely idle, because if they were used the work would not last long enough. So a complete mockery of all they were doing was displayed, one might almost say brutally, in front of the prisoners. There they were, and the prisoners were sewing away with their hands in order to eke out the work. That is Wandsworth.
I may be told that it is not typical; but it was at any rate in the large prison that I visited last week. So without going into great detail I submit that the work situation is no better to-day—and that is my information—than it was in the autumn of 1961; and it is no better than it was in February, 1959, when it was said to be, in the Government's own Report "bad and deteriorating". In other words, it is a disgrace. I must say, respectfully, to the noble Earl, that it is all the more disgraceful because the Government have no excuse for not 409 knowing the facts; they have had them before these many years.
What is the alibi offered to-day? We were told for example, by the Home Secretary, in another place on March 20—and since I paid tribute in the past to the sincerity of Mr. Butler, let me pay tribute with equal conviction to the sincerity in these matters and all other matters, of course, of the present Home Secretary—that the real difficulty at present is not the shortage of work for prisoners to do, but the shortage of space in which they can do it. The excuse or alibi alters from debate to debate. I do not say that with nothing but sarcasm, because the situation may alter. It is worth noticing that in 1955 Lord Mancroft, who won so many good opinions for his work at the Home Office, told us that the workshop accommodation problem was no longer acute. So in the course of eight years the workshop accommodation has become very much worse.
Let us be fair and realistic. Of course, there has been a very great increase in crime since these debates started—in particular since 1956. There has been an increase of roughly 10,000 prisoners, or an increase of roughly 50 per cent. of those in prison and similar institutions, since 1956. That is what the Government have had to cope with, just as the educational authorities have to cope, and will have to cope, with the bulge in the population. But the Government are unable to hide behind the excuse that this is a bulge which was not expected, because crime has been increasing steadily for quite a while. This increase has made it much harder for the Government, but I am afraid they have failed to rise to the occasion.
I cannot help repeating what I have said before. Mr. Butler became Home Secretary early in 1957. Shortly afterwards he told us that he accepted the number who were sleeping three in a cell as a good index of overcrowding—and at that time he said there were a little more than 2,000 sleeping three in a cell. When we last discussed these matters at any length in October, 1961, the number sleeping three in a cell was 7,600. According to the last figure the noble Earl gave me the other day, the figure is now 8,500, more than four times the number Mr. Butler accepted as an 410 index of overcrowding. There is undoubtedly very severe overcrowding. If one discusses the matter realistically, that must be accepted. It is not merely an excuse for the Government, but it makes the provision of work very much harder.
In our last debate on this subject, I concentrated mainly on the shortage of staff. Here let me congratulate the Government. I have blamed them for the failure to produce the buildings, so it is right that I should congratulate them when the staff come forward in better numbers. I find myself in a similar position to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, who sent telegrams during the Cuba crisis to the great ones of the earth, Mr. Khrushchev and Mr. Kennedy, and at the end seemed well-satisfied that his telegrams had done the trick. So I feel that my speech and the speeches of others here have helped very much in this improvement.
There has been a big improvement—well, a big increase—in the staff since the last debate. There has been a recruitment, I think the noble Earl will tell us, of over 500 officers, and 1962 seems to be not only the best year in total recruitment of officers since the war, but also maybe the year in which more officers were recruited than at any other recorded time. We must take note of that. However, at the same time we must bear in mind that we have "recruited" about 1,500 prisoners, so that while the ratio has been slightly improved during 1962 it has not been very much improved. I am afraid this is all the more true when one bears in mind that we are rightly setting up a lot of new institutions, which, of course, mean more work for the same number of officers.
The Government tell us that it would not make much difference if we could get more orders at the present time. I cannot accept that; but that is what we have been told, and we shall be told it again. It certainly is not the view in Wandsworth. They are quite sure they could do much more work there if a few more orders were available. Therefore I do not find it easy to accept the Government's view that even if we get more work there is such a great shortage of space. Even on the assumption that we do not need any more work now—it is not an assumption I make—the noble 411 Earl will agree that we shall need much more work in prisons as the hours increase, with more workshop space and more staff, and as the work becomes more efficient. If we look a little way ahead there is need for more work. The prisons in future must be allowed to compete much more freely with other industries than in the past.
That seems to me to go hand in hand with the great reform which has been mentioned again and again in this House towards a system under which the prisoners would be paid proper wages for the working week. There are many difficulties about this, because as long as the work is inefficient one may say "What is their work worth?" There are problems of that sort. I am assured that in some prisons, at least, where a full week is being worked one could easily pay a man a proper week's wage which would not be out of relation to the work he is doing. I ask the noble Earl quite seriously whether he will do all he can to make a start on a full wage for a working week—at any rate in some prisons. I appreciate that a revolution overnight in this respect is hardly likely; but will he make a start in some prisons at least?
I draw to a conclusion on a rather more general point, but still dealing with work. Whatever view one takes about workshop space, staff and the amount of work available, everybody is agreed—certainly the Advisory Committee who looked into this are agreed—that work in prisons is nothing like as efficient as it might be, even allowing for the difficulties. There has been some increase in this since the latest increase in earnings recommended by the Advisory Committee, but nothing can shake my own conviction—which I think is widely shared by all who are interested in these things—that we give altogether too low a priority to work in prisons in terms of prison values. There is only one page in the whole Prison Commissioners' Report of 1961 dealing with the work of men in prisons, apart from an appendix, and there is another page dealing with the work of women, and one dealing with the work of young people. That gives some indication of the importance attached to it.
If one looks at Whitaker's Almanack—from which sometimes one gets a 412 glimpse of the real values attached to these things—one sees that the Director of Industries and Stores, the officer with a direct responsibility for work in prisons, is not a member of the Prisons Board, nor will he be under the present set-up. He was not a Prison Commissioner, and will not have corresponding status under the new arrangement, unless some change is made. In terms of salary this gentleman comes about tenth in the list of high officials in the Prison Service. I gather that this gentleman, a man of known competence, has not got any kind of industrial background (there was a predecessor who had, but that experiment seems not to have been repeated).
It appears that what is needed is a Dr. Beeching of the Prisons, someone who is going to come along and rationalise the prisons—and if he blows up a few, or pulls down a few, I do not suppose he would do any harm. I do not mean that quite literally, in the sense that I would not put him in extreme charge, but I would suggest that he should come on the next level under the Chairman of the Prison Department. Certainly, this Director of Industries and Stores should be a gentleman of first-class industrial background: he should be a member of the Prison Board and, under the new Home Office set-up, should certainly rank on a level which is only below that of the Prison Board Chairman.
I would seriously ask the Minister whether he would consider, with his right honourable friend the Home Secretary, the desirability of following an experiment which was carried out, I think with success, by the Government in the case of defence. They asked Lord Ismay and Sir Ian Jacob to look into the whole of the higher organisation of defence. I would think that a similar expedient might be adopted here. It would need a gentleman with first-class industrial background, and need someone with a long experience of the Prison Service, because I recognise that work cannot come absolutely first: it must be fitted into the life of the prison. But I myself believe, as I think would everyone else on these Benches, that reform without a full day's work is an illusion.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him? In that excellent body which 413 he is thinking of setting up, would he think of including a distinguished and leading trade unionist, because, if I remember rightly, in the days when I was connected with prison administration, it was the objections of the trade unionists to the widening of the scope for work, which were one of the principal obstacles. Have those objections been overcome? The French prisons, for instance, do nearly all the work done here by the Stationery Office. What would the English printing unions say, if we proposed such a course in this country?
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord, who is so well qualified to speak on these matters, is proceeding in what he says on rather different assumptions from those of the Government. My own feeling is that there is a great deal more work that might be obtained for prisons from outside; and I believe that there is a lot to be said for the inclusion of a high trade unionist in this inquiry. I myself find no evidence that trade unions have been difficult in recent years. The Government are not defending themselves on that ground to-day, as they were when I think the noble Lord was their spokesman and Minister. They are defending themselves mainly on the ground of shortage of space and, to a secondary extent, on the ground of shortage of staff. But in view of the wider ramifications of the whole issue, I entirely agree that the inclusion of a top trade unionist would be highly desirable.
That brings me to the end. In my opinion the most satisfactory debate on prisons that we have had in the last eight years was the one in 1956, which was replied to, as were one or two others, by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. That debate, which was followed by a famous leading article in The Times called "Last in the Queue", was particularly satisfactory, because the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, came down to the House quite frankly, with or without the consent of his advisers, and admitted that a great deal was wrong and needed doing. It put new heart into everybody. People said, "At last, here is a Minister who does agree that this is…"—I must not put undue words into his mouth—but, "At last here is a Minister who considers that very large changes are long 414 overdue, and we must press on with them immediately."
It was not very long after that, and it was in that atmosphere, that Mr. Butler became Home Secretary and embarked on what was certainly a far-sighted programme at that time. But, my Lords, something much larger, still more generous-minded, much more far-reaching, is necessary to-day. I do not know if that speech helped the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, with his political career—he was not thinking of that then. I do not know whether what I am suggesting is a reasonable proposition to place before the noble Earl who is to reply. But I ask him to emulate and, if possible, surpass the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. If he does so, he will be honoured, as is the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, wherever prison reform is studied.
§ 5.44 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has initiated this debate to-day. It is of course particularly timely since, as The Times and the noble Lord himself have remarked, to-day marks the birth of the new Prison Department of the Home Office. But the main reason why I am glad that the noble Lord initiated this debate is that I believe it reflects a growing public interest in this whole matter. In the long run, I suppose, we shall get the prisons in this country which we as a nation deserve and want.
I am one of those who hope that in the future, as in the past, this country will have a very special contribution to make in matters of penal policy and penal reform. I should like to echo what the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said in that respect. But I am quite certain that we shall not make that contribution unless those responsible have the backing and, if need be, the spur of an informed public opinion. For that reason, I am not particularly worried at the strong note of criticism which has run through most of the speeches which we have heard this afternoon. If I may say so, I think some of the criticisms voiced, especially by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, himself, have been in some respects a little wide of the mark. But I know that every noble Lord who has spoken in this debate has done so with a constructive purpose; and, quite candidly, I am not surprised that 415 most speakers have wished to shade in the black, rather than the white or even the grey, in our penal system to-day.
Before I turn to some of those criticisms, may I just describe the stance which I should like to adopt in this whole matter this evening? I am comparatively new in this particular job, but I have made it my business in recent months to fit in as many visits as I could to our penal establishments. In that respect I should like to say how much I welcomed the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Auckland, that we should consider providing more facilities for visits by Members of both Houses of Parliament to our prison establishments. I am speaking off the record, but I should like to say that for my part I welcome the suggestion, and I am quite certain that we can arrange to have suitable facilities provided for noble Lords who wish to visit penal establishments—the more the merrier so far as I am concerned. Having seen a number of our prisons, I have gained one dominant impression from those visits. It is that one cannot possibly judge our prison system as a whole on the basis of one or two visits, however prolonged, to particular establishments. One must have some firsthand knowledge of the whole range and variety of our penal system.
Coming before your Lordships as I do, as something of a new boy in these matters, I do not lay claim to the expertise on this subject which many of those who have spoken in this debate this afternoon undoubtedly possess. However, although I approach this subject humbly, and certainly with an open mind, I trust that I do so with a due sense of responsibility. I, for one, am very conscious that there are some 40,000 unseen witnesses to this discussion: some 11,000 prison staff and some 30,000 prison inmates.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I was afraid the number of inmates had gone up while we were debating the subject.
I noticed alarm spreading on the Benches opposite. This debate has ranged very wide this afternoon, and I shall not be able, I fear, to pursue all the points raised. But I should like to deal with what I think are the five major topics which have been discussed. The first was contemporary 416 prison conditions, with particular reference to the Report Inside Story; the next were the three great evils, as I think the noble Earl, Lord Longford, described them—the overload of our prison system, under-staffing and work; the fifth and last, but by no means least, was this vital topic of after-care.
May I turn first to prison conditions? The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, painted a rather lurid picture—as I think the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack described it—of prison conditions in our debate last February. He has repeated that lurid description. In doing so he has drawn freely on the criticisms made in Inside Story. I shall have some criticisms to make of some of those criticisms, many of which I consider exaggerated or distorted, and some indeed untrue. But before doing so, I should like to tell your Lordships how I, at least, have approached this report,
We cannot be—and of course we are not—complacent about conditions in our prisons. There is a gap, an admitted gap, between our penal theory and much of our penal practice. We know it, and we admit it. Because of this, we welcome constructive criticism. I recognise that the intent behind this report is sincere and constructive, and it is always useful to have a first-hand account from those who have served a prison sentence. Thus, while I am bound to say that I dissent from much in this report, the last thing I wish to do is to suggest that it is not worthy of serious attention. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, appreciates that, since I recently received a deputation led by him as President of the Prison Reform Council, when he was accompanied by, I think, six members of the group who compiled this report. He will recall that I assured his deputation that the points raised by him and by them would be carefully considered. This is being done.
If I may reply to the question put to me by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans, all the complaints made have, in fact, been investigated; all the governors of the prisons where the authors were inmates were sent copies of the report, and they have commented on the specific allegations in it.
Now for the report itself. My general complaint of it is that many of 417 its criticisms of existing conditions are misleading in that they suggest that the conditions which are said to exist in certain establishments may be typical of the system as a whole. Again, many of the proposals made in the report have for some time been carried out at regional and training prisons, at open prisons and even in some closed local prisons, and the reason why they cannot at present be carried out in the large closed locals is that the conditions of overload there make it impossible.
Apart from this general question of emphasis, there are, I think, a number of quite important mis-statements of fact in the report. I do not think that your Lordships will wish me, at least in this debate, to deal with all of them, because there is a lot of ground to cover, but perhaps I could mention at least some of the more important. One of the most critical sections in the report deals with food, and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has echoed some of those criticsms. I remember that in our debate last February he implied that food was served in prisons which was not normally considered to be for human consumption, and he spoke, I think, of a Hottentot standard of living. Such criticisms may be good for headlines, but they are not good, I suggest, for fact. In recent months I have myself seen, smelt and eaten a good deal of prison food. For my part, I am prepared to vouch, from that personal experience, that there is no substance in a general complaint that prison food is usually badly cooked and badly served, that it is made from unwholesome materials, and that it is insufficient for health purposes. I am not foolish enough, however, to make exaggerated claims for institutional cooking of any kind, especially in a system housing over 30,000 inmates in 93 establishments, 26 of which are over-crowded, some grossly over-crowded. It would, indeed, be surprising if no occasion ever occurred in which the cooking and service in our prisons fell below the proper standard.
Be that as it may, I would claim—and I do this again from personal experience—that a very real effort has been put into this side of prison administration in recent years. Every year in the Commissioners' Annual Report there is an account of the further progress made in the modernisation of kitchens and dining 418 rooms, and their equipment, and I have seen with my own eyes plenty of tangible evidence of this. I think that the general standard of the prison kitchens and their equipment is, by and large, very creditable indeed. Another example is that each hot meal is now served on a specially-designed steel mess tray which can be, and is, kept warm in a hot cupboard until the food is placed upon it. Of course, the Prison Commissioners have given great attention to training in this field. I am not saying that they have been invariably successful, and that all prison cooks are good cooks, but serious attention has been paid to this matter of training, and the Department have also enlisted the valuable assistance of an eminent member of Lyons as their honorary catering adviser. I am sorry if I "bang on" a little bit—
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, before the noble Earl leaves that point, since he has enlisted the help of an eminent member of J. Lyons and Company Limited, will he please confirm that the figure I quoted, of 12s. a week as the average cost of food per prisoner throughout the country, including food grown in prison, is an accurate figure? Then people can draw their own conclusions about food in prisons.
I was coming to that point in a moment. But I should like first to stress that every care is taken in specifying the quality of the food to be supplied by contractors, and that in fact only wholsome food is delivered. The contract states that the meat must be in a good and sound condition. The meat is inspected on delivery at the prison, and if it is not in good and sound condition it is sent back. That is my understanding of the practice. Moreover, the contractor is required to state the country of origin. I have not been able to track down, one way or the other, this question of Yugoslav meat. I understand that it is usually Argentine and Australian meat which is supplied but I should myself have no objection to the use of Yugoslav meat, if it is in good and sound condition. If it is not, then it should be rejected: and that is, I understand, the practice.
My Lords, while I am dealing with this question of the quality of prison foods, may I try to nail one hoary old legend, I hope for good and all? I should like 419 to repeat what my right honourable friend said in another place recently, that there is no truth, no truth whatsoever, in the theory that prisoners' porridge is made from Grade III pigmeal. This myth was resurrected in Inside Story, and in view of the recent and categorical denial of its truth by my right honourable friend, I confess that I was surprised to hear it repeated this afternoon by the noble Lord. He said, if I recall correctly, that three of the authors of Inside Story had themselves seen oatmeal labelled "Pigmeal No. III". I do not know the explanation of that, but I understand that a possible explanation is that they had their legs pulled by some "old lags"; because, in fact, the oatmeal supplied in prisons is "Pinhead No. III", and it does not need much changing of lettering to read, "Pigmeal No. III". I have seen the oatmeal supplied, and I can vouch for its quality.
§ LORD STONHAM
This has been done in six prisons. Did they play the same trick in six different prisons?
I think it is quite possible, but I should wish the noble Lord at least to take cognisance of my fairly strong denial of this particular story. So much for the quality of prison food, and its ingredients.
As regards quantity, I should like to give a few facts about the scale applying to the majority of prisoners—that is, the scale in local prisons for men. This provides for 3,500 calories a day, of which 19 per cent. consists of animal protein. The total amount of protein is about 73 grammes a day. I understand that the figures I have given comply with the standards recommended, for example, by the Army Catering Manual for men employed on heavy work.
In our debate last February, and again to-day, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, made considerable play with the question of the cost of a prisoner's food. He quoted a figure of 11s., which I think he raised to 12s. this afternoon. I have looked into these figures very carefully. I find that the actual cost of the local prison scale is, in fact, 13s. per head per week. As the scales in open prisons, closed central and regional prisons are higher, and in borstals and detention centres substantially higher, the overall 420 average works out at between 13s. and 14s. per head per week, including the cost of food transferred from prison farms to prison kitchens. Of course, as the noble Lord pointed out, no housewife could feed her husband at that price; but the housewife buys at retail prices. I have therefore had the cost of the prison dietary scales worked out on the basis of current retail prices, and the answer comes to 30s. 9d., which is nearly three times the noble Lord's original 11s. That said, I would grant that the prison diet is not luxurious.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, is the noble Earl seriously saying that there is a difference of between 13s. and 14s. wholesale and 30s. retail in food prices?
My Lords, in these particular conditions, yes: I am saying that. As I have said it is not luxurious and we shall all agree that it would be wrong that it should be so. But the scales are under constant review and an increase has just been made. The milk ration for adults is to be increased from three to three and a half pints per week.
Another critical section of the report dealt with hygiene. I will touch later on "slopping out", but I would say now that I cannot accept the statement about the general standard of cleanliness in prisons. If it were true, our prisons would not have the excellent health record they have. I would grant that it is not easy to maintain a high standard of health in the older and often grossly-overcrowded local prisons; but anyone who has seen these recently is bound to have seen the great sanitary improvements which have taken place in all of them. In the past five years nearly £500,000 has been spent on improvements in sanitation and the provision of hot water at existing establishments. I noticed that the report recommended the introduction of polythene chamber pots. The noble Lord may be interested to learn that, in fact, 5,000 have recently been introduced. I should add, however, that I have had carefully checked the statement in the report that, at certain prisons, prisoners are told to scrub the floors with their personal nailbrushes and that at kit inspections toothbrushes have to be laid on top of chamber pots. I have had those criticisms looked into, and I am assured that they are simply not true.
421 The report is critical of prisoners' clothing. Here I am personally on dangerous ground (and I am lucky that I share this with other noble Lords opposite) since I recognise that, sartorially, I am no great credit to my tailor. Nevertheless, I recognise that decent clothing and self-respect come, as it were, off the same peg, and I concede straight away that there is substance, at least so far as the closed local prisons are concerned, in many of the points made in this section. To provide a constantly changing population with reasonably fitting clothing yet prevent a shortage of particular items at particular times is not easy. It is true that there have been improvements in the standards of prison clothing in recent years. It is equally true that there is plenty of room for further improvement—and here I agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Amulree. Nevertheless, I am glad to be able to inform your Lordships that next year we intend to start a programme providing for all men at regional and training prisons to have two suits for day wear, and also pyjamas, which have for some time been issued at open prisons and at prison establishments for young offenders. We also propose to carry on with the improvements in design and quality of women's clothing where improvements are badly needed.
Comments in the memorandum on the medical services contain a number of criticisms of the medical staff which I would ask your Lordships to consider unjustified. On the other hand, the organisation of the Prison Medical Service is undoubtedly a matter which needs examination in the light of present circumstances and conditions. That is precisely why my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has recently set up a Working Party consisting of members of the Home Office and of the Ministry of Health, with two distinguished independent medical men, Professor Denis Hill and Dr. Peter Scott, to look into the whole question of the organisation of the Prison Medical Service. They have already started their investigations. I think it is too early to say when they will be finished, but they are bound to take some months. I should like, therefore, to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and to confirm what I have already privately told him: that the question of the 422 abolition of the Prison Medical Service, as such, would fall within the terms of reference of that Working Party.
On the question of this Medical Service (I do not wish to go into too great detail), I have listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, had to say in this respect, and I respect his knowledge of these matters. I should like to deal with three of the points which he mentioned. So far as drugs are concerned, they are removed from prisoners when they come into prison for obvious reasons; but where needed they are prescribed and given under supervision. Prisoners needing atomisers are allowed to have them, and seriously ill prisoners can be seen, if necessary in their cells, without delay. Those are the existing provisions.
As the debate went much further than Inside Story I do not want to dwell too long on the criticisms there made, many of which have been echoed in your Lordships' House this afternoon. But I would touch on one of the more constructive sides—and there were constructive sides—of that report; that is, the section on letters and visits which contains a proposal that the censorship of prisoners' letters should be abandoned altogether. That proposal my right honourable friend could not accept. It contains also an implication which I consider quite unjustified, that officers make use of censorship to make taunts and jibes against prisoners. Apart from these specific points, I would agree with the general views, in that section, about the great importance to prisoners of letters and visits. I would say much the same with other sections of the report, such as that on libraries.
The section on discipline is the last that I will deal with specifically. That contains mis-statements about practices at Wormwood Scrubs and Eastchurch and expressions of opinion on the principles of prison discipline which do not make sufficient allowance for the various types of prisoners with whom the staff have to deal. Those principles are clearly set out in Rule 29 of the Prison Rules. Considering the magnitude of the task with which the men and women of the Prison Service are faced already, I do not think there is much wrong in the way they interpret this Rule, and I would take this opportunity to say how glad I was to hear the tributes paid to the 423 prison staff by all noble Lords in this debate. I shall deal with the question of working later, and I feel that I should not weary your Lordships with detailed comment on the remainder of the report. I hope, however, that I have already said enough to explain why my right honourable friend cannot regard the report as a fair and accurate description of the needs in our prisons to-day, or of the measures which have been taken to implement the policy announced in the 1959 White Paper. But, that said, I would add that much of the report is constructive, many of the suggestions are valuable, and many of them are, indeed, being put into effect.
I think that most noble Lords would recognise that many of the problems we have been discussing, the admitted gap between penal theory and practice, stem from the overloading on our prison system—the gross overcrowding, especially in our great local prisons. Of course, one way to reduce the overload would be to send fewer prisoners to prison, and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has suggested various possibilities in that respect. These suggestions will receive our careful consideration. I do not wish to trespass too far on the territory of my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack, and therefore I must tread a little warily here.
Nevertheless, I should like to make one general and some particular observations here. My general comment is this. The categories of prisoners to which the noble Lord drew our attention account, it is true, for a large proportion of receptions into prison. But they do not account for a large proportion of the daily average population, because the time which they spend in prison is, for the most part, comparatively short. Even if it were possible to reduce very greatly the number of receptions of prisoners in these categories, the contribution which this would make to the relief of overcrowding in our prisons would be less than noble Lords suppose.
If I could just deal with one or two categories—I do not think that there is time to deal with all the noble Lord mentioned—there are remands in custody. I would remind noble Lords that when some of the recommendations of the Streatfeild Committee were implemented in the 424 Criminal Justice (Administration) Act, 1962, it was hoped that these would, among other things, have the effect of reducing the time spent by prisoners on remand and thereby of reducing the total population of such prisoners. It is as yet too early to reach any final conclusion about the effect of the Act. Nevertheless, the average population of untried prisoners has in fact decreased to a quite marked degree since the Act came into operation. During the first half of this last year, the population varied between 1,400 and 1,500, but since the Act was brought into force the figures have been about 300 less.
Then, there are the first offenders. I listened very carefully to what the noble Lord had to say here. If he will look at Table C.6 in the appendices to the Prison Commissioners' Annual Report for 1961, he will see that the number of males received under sentence who had no previous proved offences declined steadily from 1952 to 1960. In 1952, they represented 24.7 per cent. of total receptions and, in 1960, that had dropped to 13 per cent. In 1961, this figure went up to 14.6 per cent., but since the figures for males include boys sentenced to detention, this may be the explanation of the rise. Finally, there are short sentences. I would remind noble Lords that the alternative to short-term imprisonment has been carefully considered by the Advisory Council on the Treatment of the Offender. Their report on this was published in 1957. Since then almost all of their recommendations have been followed up by the Government in one way or another. Clearly we could reduce the great overstrain on our prison system if we could reduce the number of men subject to maximum security conditions, the hard core. I really do not know on what evidence the noble Lord bases his view that only 60 or 70 men in a large local prison need maximum security conditions. He may be right, but I do not believe, from the information I have received, that this is true of such prisons as Wandsworth, Pentonville, Liverpool or Manchester.
Nevertheless, we must go for more open conditions wherever possible. Considerable progress has already been made in this direction. The Norwich system has been extended to Shrewsbury, Bedford, Gloucester, Swansea, Bristol and 425 Dorchester. Again, the number of men transferred to open prisons has also increased from 1,600 in 1956 to 3,200 to-day An increasing proportion of men sent to open prisons are recidivist prisoners, and in August of last year an interesting experiment was inaugurated at Ashwell Prison, in Rutland. This has now been set aside as an open prison for ordinary prisoners, who are selected by the governor from among the population of the three nearest closed prisons. I think that this is the sort of experiment which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, had in mind. I would merely say that we do not close our minds to experiments of this nature, and certainly will not in future.
This brings me to the other side of the overcrowding coin, the need for more prisons. I know that it is possible to say, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham has said, that the Government's only answer to more prisoners is more prisons. But, in a sense, that must be the answer, not only mathematically, but also and indeed primarily because, unless we can drastically reduce overcrowding within our prisons, we cannot introduce the active, constructive régime which we all want to see. The usual criticism has been rather the reverse—that we have been in fact too niggardly in our expenditure on new prisons and too slow in providing extra accommodation. What is the present position? The present position, as your Lordships know—and this is the grievous fact to which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, drew attention—is that some 8,500 prisoners sleep three to a cell. That has arisen despite the progress which has been made in providing more accommodation over the last five years.
In 1956, our whole prison system could have accommodated some 18,500 male prisoners. Now the system could accommodate some 24,000 male prisoners without overcrowding, but there are 5,700 too many prisoners and hence the three in a cell. Thus, since the downward trend was reversed in 1956, accommodation has been provided for 5,500 prisoners and borstal inmates. That has proved to be not nearly enough. In total, since March, 1959, the date of the White Paper, 23 new establishments have been brought into operation. I will not weary your Lordships with the details of these; they are easily ascertained. Of these 23 establishments, 11 have been opened 426 since our last full-scale debate on prison conditions in October, 1961. I claim that this represents a massive programme and a considerable achievement, but I also recognise that it is not enough. We do not for one moment pretend that it is enough.
Those 8,500 prisoners sleeping three in a cell are the measure of the still existing gap. Those who have seen the overcrowding in our local prisons, and in a great many others, know what that gap means both for staff and prisoners alike. That is why twenty further establishments are under construction or planned for sites which have already been settled. Again I will not weary your Lordships with the details, but of those 20 establishments, some 10 should open within the next two years.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I ask one question? It may be a bit of a trick question, but the noble Earl will know how to handle it. A certain large building programme was drawn up in 1959, and we were told about it in the White Paper on February of that year. It was presumably based on certain assumptions of the increase in the number of prisoners. I imagine that the number of prisoners has increased faster in the last four years than was expected at that time. Is the programme being speeded up or increased in order to keep up with a larger number of prisoners than was expected?
Yes, the programme is being speeded up. I have not the exact details in my head, but I will gladly communicate them to the noble Earl.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
Perhaps I might put a further question on that. Is the noble Earl sticking to the average number of prisoners contemplated in 1959 for each of the new prisons; and could he give the approximate number?
I was, in fact, coming to this question of prison design. I listened carefully to what the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, had to say on that. I think he was pressing for 150 as the optimum size. I am again speaking without the book on this, but it is my understanding that at present we are going for something like 300 to 350. However, I should like to check that.
427 I did listen, and I would pay due attention to the noble Earl's remarks in that respect. I certainly share his general view, and, what is more important, the Prison Department of the Home Office share the view, that we should have a larger number of smaller prisons with a wider area around them. There is no difference in principle between us on that point.
The new prison at Blundeston, for example, a model of which many of your Lordships will have seen exhibited a short time ago in this House, will come into operation very soon. It is buildings of that kind which will help us to achieve the sort of régime in prison which we all want to see—not only the authors of Inside Story; not only noble Lords, sitting wherever they may be in this House, but, I am glad to say, the Government as well. That is an active régime, full of constructive features, with plenty of exercise—a point the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, was calling for—and yet preserving security and control, with as little regimentation as the conditions of the prisoners and their disposition permit.
There is one particular aspect of modern prison design about which I had intended to say something (in view of the time, I will say it quite shortly), and that is the question of "slopping out". All I should like to say there, as I have not the time to go into details, is that this question of how in modern prison design to get rid of this most displeasing aspect of prison life is one which is engaging our serious attention. In view of the time factor, I confine myself to that broad statement in this respect.
I have noticed that in some of your Lordships' previous debates on this subject—which, funnily enough, I have read, and, therefore, I am not totally unacquainted with the remarks of Lord Templewood—considerable attention has been paid to the staff position. I was a little surprised that so little attention was paid to that to-day, save by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. Perhaps that may be explained by the predilection of some noble Lords for looking at the darker side—and there is a darker side—of the prison picture. In any event, I can confirm that there has been an encouraging rise in the recruit- 428 ment of men officers in 1962. Nearly 800 new officers have been trained, and there has been a net intake of over 550 basic grade officers. And what is more important is that this rise in recruitment is being maintained into this year. There are now two training schools for prison officers—at Leyhill and Wakefield. I think it is impossible to overestimate the importance of that type of training, and I was glad to note the emphasis laid down it by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. Clearly, the object now must be to keep the recruitment of men officers at this level and to do all we can to accelerate the recruitment of women prison officers.
This upward swing in the recruitment of men officers has resulted, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, very fairly said, for the first time for several years in an improvement in the basic ratio between prisoners and staff. It is only a slight improvement, I grant, but it is the reversal of a very disappointing and disconcerting trend which has been manifest for several years. I would lay great emphasis on the maintenance of that improvement in the ratio, because it is one of the things which will enable us to do more than anything else to close the gap between our penal theory and our penal practice. Our first priority must, of course, be the needs of the new establishments we are opening. We must also ensure that existing establishments are given any reinforcements they require; and when those basic requirements have been met, we must then provide the extra staff necessary to make much needed improvements in the officers' working conditions, including the abolition of the need for regular overtime, and, above all, to provide a longer working day for prisoners.
I now turn to the question of work and employment. If my remarks on this are somewhat cursory, it is merely because I have an eye on the clock.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, devoted most of his powerful and informed speech to this question of work in prisons. He was not wrong to do so. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has already made it clear that he attaches great importance to this matter. Indeed, given 429 the reasonable progress which we are now making with the building programme, and given the improvement in the recruitment of staff, I would myself single out this question of employment as being the aspect of our prison system on which we now most need to make an intensified and sustained attack. What is the broad employment position to-day? So far as the men are concerned, a full working week is in fact worked at all borstals, detention centres, open prisons and at certain closed prisons—I think the smaller ones. Thirteen thousand inmates of our penal system in fact work a full week.
The position is not nearly so good in the closed local prisons; in fact, it is not good at all. These house nearly 18,000 inmates. These 18,000 include about 11,000 working in workshops, 5,000 on maintenance and domestic jobs, and some 2,000 who are non-effective, because they are sick or for other reasons. The 11,000 working in workshops are made up of about 3,000 in shops working 17 hours a week (a deplorably low working week); some 4,400 working 18 to 25 hours a week, 1,500 working 25 to 30 hours a week, and the remainder some 30 hours a week or more. Some of those working in other than workshops—for example, those in kitchens and on outside parties—work an extremely full week. That is a point worth remembering, although I do not wish unduly to labour it.
It would therefore be quite wrong to represent that short working hours are a practice throughout the whole system. The hard core of the problem is confined to closed local prisons, housing under 60 per cent. of our total prison population, and even there a substantial number of prisoners are working longer than 22 hours or so, which is usually quoted as the normal stint. The provision of a full working week for those prisoners who do not at present work one is a crucial object of policy.
I must make three things quite clear here. This is not, in our view, an insuperable problem. We are determined to solve it; but the solution is bound to take time. Success here depends on three factors. We must have more space to provide workshop employment. Here the new building programme should in time, if our prison population does not rise too fast to match it, substantially help. Secondly, we must have more staff at 430 those prisons which at present, with a single shift of prison officers, cannot give the prisoners more than eight hours a day out of their cells. Here, again, the new momentum of recruitment of staff should also help. Thirdly, we need outlets for prison production. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, suggested that this might become the main problem. I think—leaning perhaps a little unduly on the experience of a recent visit to Wandsworth—he may have exaggerated the problem.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I did not say it was becoming the main problem; I said it was far more important than the recent statement of the Home Secretary would lead one to believe.
I am glad the noble Earl has corrected me there, but even so I would say that his fears are somewhat exaggerated. Like the noble Earl, I have been exasperated to learn that it is necessary in some cases to sew mailbags by hand while machines stand idle. The reason for this—which I have looked into very carefully, as I think he has—is not primarily a shortage of orders for canvas work. It is, first, that for certain types of prisoner the hand sewing of mailbags, or some equally simple work, is the only kind of work some men can be given. Secondly, given the present necessity to provide work in seriously overcrowded prisons, some prisoners must be given work which needs no more space than that for the man and his chair. This means in most cases the hand sewing of mailbags—a practice which, as the noble Earl knows, has been strongly criticised by the Advisory Council on the Employment of Prisoners.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt again, but so far as we are concerned the night is yet young. I must question that part of the noble Earl's answer if it applies to Wandsworth, because he must be resting his information on what he was informed at headquarters. I was given the account on the spot of why the machines are not being used. I do not want to argue it, but on the face of it there is a complete discrepancy here.
I was talking about the sewing of mailbags in our prisons as a whole, but I will indeed look into the Wandsworth position, in the light of the 431 information which the noble Earl has given the House. I think he can rest assured that his informant will in no wise suffer for the information he has given. If, as we intend—and this was the point on which I entirely agreed with the noble Earl, Lord Longford—prisoners' hours of work are increased and the efficiency of workshops improved, then certainly there will be a formidable problem of finding more work for the prison population. I think this problem, too, can be solved. It is in essence the same problem as has been faced and, indeed, solved in providing additional work during recent years to cope with the increasing prison population. It is not different in kind; it may be different in degree.
Taking prisoners and borstal inmates together, I would say that work is in fact provided to-day for some 30,000 prisoners compared with 20,000 in 1956, so we have succeeded in finding 10,000 more jobs, although they are not fully employed jobs, I grant. We not only need to provide a full working week; we also need to provide useful work, and work that will help a prisoner to find his feet and regain his self respect when he re-enters society. All this entails greater efficiency in prison employment. As your Lordships know, the Advisory Council make a number of recommendations here, and those recommendations—including that for better pay—were accepted, and changes along the lines recommended by the Advisory Council are now being, or have been, introduced.
I am glad that the progress made so far enables me to report to your Lordships that the efficiency of prison workshops has demonstrably increased. There is, of course, a long way to go. The value of the output of prison industries rose from £1.8 million in 1961 to £2.5 million in 1962. That has been matched by a striking rise in the productivity of certain individual industries. In terms of output per man, they rose by the following percentages between 1961 and 1962: tailoring and light textiles 36 per cent.; heavy textiles, 40 per cent.; weaving, 19 per cent., and mats and matting, 14 per cent. Those are some of the industries which employ pretty large numbers of prisoners. I therefore feel that we are moving, albeit too slowly, in the right direction in this field.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I am sorry to keep interrupting, but it is only for the sake of amplification of the very interesting speech of the noble Earl. I am glad to hear—I have heard a rumour—that there has been this big increase up to 40 per cent. in some important cases. But do I gather that the improvement in the total value of the product has gone up from £1.8 million to £2.5 million?
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
May I ask (I hope the noble Earl will forgive the interruption) whether, when he speaks of the "right direction", he means that this expectation in the shape of increased pay should lead to a bigger incentive or bigger pay which will be more closely related to pay outside?
By "moving in the right direction", I meant we were moving towards fuller and more effective employment by following, among other things, all the recommendations of the Advisory Council, including a different system of remuneration.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, made two specific suggestions in his very interesting speech. The first of them was that my right honourable friend should invite two, or possibly three, persons, one an industrialist, one an expert on prison administration and the other possibly a trade unionist, to recommend changes in the organisation of our prison industries. I shall naturally study what the noble Earl has said, but at first sight it is not entirely clear to me what advantage this would have over the present Advisory Council, who include a number of highly experienced members from both sides of industry, and who have the expert advice as assessors of those who are familiar with prison environment. Prima facie, I am inclined to wonder whether his suggestion of introducing two or three further wise men might not cut across the excellent work which the Council are doing.
The noble Earl's other suggestion was that the post of Director of Prison Industries should be upgraded, and should be held by somebody with outside industrial experience—a sort of second eleven Dr. Beeching.
The idea is not entirely new, as the noble Earl said. I understand that until 1956 that post was held by somebody with outside industrial experience. But here again I shall be glad to have the noble Earl's suggestion carefully examined.
The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, raised the vexed question of the blank insurance card. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, also raised the question of the change in the basis of remuneration for work in prison. On both those points I will, if your Lordships will permit me, write to the noble Lords, although I know that I am going back on something I said in answer to a question. But I listened very carefully to what the noble Lord had to say and I will, if I may, send copies to other noble Lords who are interested in this important matter.
Finally, I have followed very closely what has been said in your Lordships' House this evening on the subject of after-care. I know, too, the expertise behind those who have spoken on that subject. Let me straight away assure noble Lords that my right honourable friend entirely accepts that this is an area of crucial importance in the further development of our penal policy. That was why the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders was invited two years ago to consider how best aftercare might in future be organised in this country. The subject is, of course, one of great complexity—I almost said of incredible complexity. The Sub-Committee of the Advisory Council which is charged with the matter has had before it a very large weight of evidence from those who have had experience of the system and have put forward proposals relating to it.
I understand that among those who have already given evidence to the Sub-Committee were the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham; and I would echo what other noble Lords have said about the value of the contribution of the noble Lady to our debate this evening on that topic. I do not know the nature of the noble Lord's and the noble Lady's evidence to the Advisory Council Sub-Committee, and I am sure that they will 434 not expect me to comment on what they have said, or what others have said, before we have had an opportunity of considering the Report of the Advisory Council. Nevertheless, I do not think that I am disclosing a secret when I say that this Report will not now be long delayed; and since this matter is, as it were, coming up to the boil I think the remarks which noble Lords have made this afternoon have been particularly timely.
For my part, I am glad to give two undertakings here. The first is that speeches on this topic will be very carefully examined by my Department. The second is that my right honourable friend will give not only careful but also urgent consideration to the Report of the Advisory Council as soon as he receives it. I understand the anxiety voiced by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, about this subject and I fully appreciate that continuing uncertainty about the future organisation of after-care is bound to dissipate energy and hold up progress.
But that said, I would not wish it to be thought that during the time the Sub-Committee has been considering the problems of the future nothing has been done to improve the existing system. For example, a good deal of progress has been made in developing the system of prison welfare officers, and I understand that there are now 64 in post. I am also glad to be able to announce, in reply to the invitation by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that from the beginning of next year it is proposed to extend statutory after-care to those discharged from detention centres. As he said, provision for this was made in the Criminal Justice Act, 1961, and now that the staffing situation in the Probation Service makes it possible to ask that service to undertake this very heavy additional load, it will, I hope, be regarded by all noble Lords as a very valuable extension to the principle of compulsory after-care in a much-needed field.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, if the noble Earl was going to say that it was being extended from the beginning of this financial year I could understand his expecting me to be pleased; but as I gather that this will not come into force until next January, I am horrified at the delay.
The delay is due entirely—and this was a view voiced by many noble Lords during the passage of the Criminal Justice Act, 1961—to our desire not to throw on the Probation Service a load heavier than they could bear. I think that would be extremely unwise. It is our judgment, in view of the heavy responsibilities which they are assuming, that January 1 next year is a sensible and suitable time to inaugurate this new departure, which will add a very heavy load to their already heavy responsibilities.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
The noble Earl was referring to the prison welfare officers. I am sure he will want to give credit where credit is due, and that he will agree that these welfare officers were posted by the National Association of Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies, a voluntary body, by whom they were employed and not by the Home Office.
I was aware of this and did not wish to extract credit where credit is not due. I accept the noble Earl's point; and it was merely a desire for speed at this stage which prevailed.
I have only one further comment to make as regards after-care, but it is an important point. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, drew our particular attention to the work of the voluntary societies. Historically, after-care has its roots in voluntary and often personal and individual effort. I know of the contribution which the 36 Voluntary Private Aid Societies have made over the years. I have learned something of the extension of this voluntary effort in this field more recently. I am aware of the various admirable schemes sponsored by the W.V.S. I know something of the devoted work of the British Council of Churches, and of the various initiatives taken by the university settlements. I also know something of New Bridge. I have also been, if I may say so, particularly interested in the recent development of small hostels for younger boys and lads who have been in trouble or for the homeless discharged prisoners, a point to which the right reverend Prelate very rightly drew our attention. We all wish to see an expansion of this very valuable form of activity.
Furthermore, in the interests of rehabilitation, we all look forward to a further harnessing of the desire to serve, which so many people in our society 436 fortunately possess. All in all, whatever changes may be made in the present structure of after-care in the light of the Advisory Council's recommendations, I am, myself, quite certain of one thing, and that is that voluntary effort will continue to have an absolutely indispensable part to play in helping to resolve the problems facing discharged prisoners.
My Lords, at the start of this over-lengthy reply—and I realise that I have left a great deal of ground uncovered and many questions unanswered (and where I have done so I will write to noble Lords)—I referred to the range and variety of our penal system and the need to judge it as a whole. It is one important lesson that I have learned from my short period at the Home Office. I have also learned another, and this is the essential interdependence between our penal system, what goes on inside our prisons and all the other elements which compose our society.
I hope that noble Lords will agree that in this field we are advancing on a very wide front, for it is no use considering our present system within a self-contained box. We must also consider what goes before and what goes after; and that is certainly an aspect which is very much in the Government's mind. But, having said that, I should just like to add two comments. One is that I have sought to show that in certain respects the position may not be as dark as some noble Lords feel it is. Nevertheless, I hope that noble Lords will feel that neither I nor, what is much more important, the Government are in any wise complacent about the present situation. We are not. We realise that there is a vast job to be done in this field, and I think that this debate has shown what a formidable job there is to be done here. I only hope—and here I should echo, in conclusion, the thought of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel—that we can address ourselves to this challenge as a nation and not in a spirit of Party or in any way of political bias.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I feel sure that you will agree that it was right, and has been quite useful, that we should give the new prison régime at the Home Office a send-off from your Lordships' House on its first day; and I thank the noble Earl, and congratulate him most sincerely, on the fact that he has come 437 to your Lordships' House and has said quite frankly, and emphasised in his closing words, that we have still a very great deal to do.
I am sure that everyone in your Lordships' House with an interest in prison reform will be only too pleased to do whatever we can to help the noble Earl and the Government in these matters. I am certain that the most useful part of this debate is reading it and re-reading it and studying it afterwards, and from it I am sure we can all learn a very great deal. I would express my very grateful thanks to those noble Lords and the noble Baroness who have taken part and who have made it such an extremely well informed and varied debate. It would be quite invidious to mention everyone individually, but I feel that the ground has been extremely well covered.
I believe I should be doing a disservice to your Lordships if I made any real comment on the speech of the noble Earl, except this. I have been gratified to find that his criticisms of the report which is mentioned in the Motion have been on a surprisingly narrow front and a comparatively few points, and I feel that he has indicated that the report, Inside 438 Story, has justified itself, has proved useful and has made a contribution. If it is the case that prisoners can be adequately fed on 13s. a week, which is now the official figure—less than 2s. a day—I am sure the Home Office will now be inundated with inquiries from caterers all over the world to find out how it is done, and certainly from the hospital service, where in my hospitals I feed 2,000 people a week and it costs 30s. a week per person, at wholesale prices, buying everything as cheaply as possible and looking at every halfpenny. That is one of the many things we have learned to-day, if we can develop it and find out how it is done. Until I do find out, I regard what I said about that, as everything else, as quite accurate. I think it has been an extremely useful debate which will be studied by us, and I hope other people, in the weeks and months ahead. I trust that we shall continue to do our utmost to achieve the aspiration of the noble Earl, that this country will one day have a prison service which will be the admiration and envy of the world. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.