§ 3.27 p.m.
§ BARONESS SWANBOROUGH rose to call attention to the need for a more comprehensive prison after-care and probation service; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the Motion I bring before your Lordships this afternoon is one which I set down last July, before the Report of the After-Care Committee had been published—the Report which has focused this whole question for a great number of people. In company with, I think, everyone else, I welcome tremendously the fact that Her Majesty's Government have now said that they favour a Probation and After-Care Service, and I hope very much that great things will come from this.
§ The points which I should like to put before your Lordships this afternoon are practical ones. I should like to try to suggest ways by which we could eliminate the endless frustrations, the difficulties and the complications that arise from the fact that, while many people are willing to do much, they do not know exactly how to do it, because as a nation to-day we lack a comprehensive and cohesive scheme to deal with the whole effort.1019
§ I think it is fair to say that throughout the whole length and breadth of Great Britain there are a vast number of men and women, ordinary and serious-minded men and women, who are longing to help not only in the prevention of crime, but in preventing the person who has once committed a crime from returning to any form of crime, and from being over-tempted towards crime.
§ In World War II one of the greatest strengths of the past was discovered to be one of the greatest weaknesses of the present, in the shape of the belief in "muddle-through". It had been the previous boast of our country, that we could "muddle through" anything. "Muddle-through" and "make-do" are obviously not worthy of great needs, and to-day we as a nation are in great need of a really good after-care service for helping both prison offenders and borstal dwellers. It is absolutely clear to all that a satisfactory solution to the problem of after-care can no longer be met by "patchwork", "muddle-through", or "make-do". I feel certain that many people associate themselves with me in wishing to have a fresh start, and to have something sufficiently comprehensive which, on a national basis, will make a foundation on which we can build for the future.
§ Many persons are working hard, very hard, in the field of voluntary service. They are doing all they can by voluntary endeavour under a variety of different headings, and I believe that their wish to help stems from three different things. Emotionally they long to help their own fellow men, and they realise that such help is necessary for those who are not able to resist by themselves either the wish or the temptation to do those things they should not do. Mentally, they are stimulated to try to fight an evil which they can glimpse very easily; and spiritually they are stirred by their hope that they may be able to do something to help a human being, not only by preventing him from committing crime but, if he has committed crime, when he is again prone to temptation.
§ The scene itself is set on a very broad canvas in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes. As the law stands, the Central After-care Association (which is, of course, a Government organisation) is 1020 responsible from a statutory point of view for the after-care of men and women, boys and girls who are subject to compulsory after-care on discharge from either prison or borstal. Roughly 60,000 persons are discharged annually, of whom approximately one-eighth are subject to compulsory after-care. For the rest, it is entirely a question of chance whether they receive valuable help from voluntary organisations, whether they make the rounds and see how much material aid they can get, or whether, not having had the aid, they go away feeling that the community has rejected them and does not want them. I suggest that, in the future, everybody who needs after-care should be able to have it; and that after-care should no longer depend on the sentence that a man or woman has served but on the situation of their own case. If this were accepted—and it would seem obvious that it should be—there must be one after-care system. The distinction between compulsory and voluntary aftercare would be eliminated, except in so far as there would be certain responsibilities for supervision in the person who had the statutory responsibility in regard to the ex-prisoner or ex-borstal boy.
§ One of the severe anomalies to-day is that the Director of Men's After-Care, who is responsible for by far and away the largest number of persons discharged to compulsory after-care, is also the Director of the National Association of Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies, the organisation which co-ordinates work for voluntary after-care through the discharged prisoners' aid societies throughout the country. The way this central after-care association works is that it relies on the probation committees at the local level, but it has no control in regard to this question. For outside contacts on behalf of the prisoner and his family the welfare officer has no machinery operating throughout the country, and he therefore has to work through a variety of statutory and voluntary organisations. Because in this field of welfare there are many other organisations in addition to the prison officers, the social agencies and others, the overlap results in a serious difficulty and the possibility not to be helped is there constantly in the case of a man who should, with a little assistance, be able to avert disaster.1021
§ I do not believe that the present system can succeed, because it is too "hit and miss" and too confusing both to prisoners and to those who want to help the prisoners. If, as we are now glad to hear, we are to have one after-care service, obviously it would have to be a nationwide service; and, in order to function with any degree of certainty and with the necessary drive and vision, it would require to have one central body which would be responsible for the service and which would cover welfare officers in the prison. In view of the size of the job this would entail, it is clear that the statutory body which undertook it would require a large number of professionally skilled workers as well as the assistance, on a very large scale, of workers who are prepared to be trained to give that assistance on a voluntary basis.
§ For long and difficult years many extremely line individuals and many valiant organisations have been labouring in this field of after-care. They have faced endless frustrations and have worked against really crushing odds, but, because of the size of the problem, and the fact that it must be tackled all over the country in a uniform way of high standard, they feel to-day that the whole undertaking really needs Governmental strength with professional help and voluntary support. The time has come, I feel, my Lords, for a bold and courageous step to be taken by those who are ultimately responsible. It would mean hard work, but there are plenty of people ready to do hard work. It would mean continuity of effort and interest, and that is also available if it is sought in the right way.
§ What is required, to my mind, is a unifying of the work being done to-day so as to weld it together into a cohesive whole, the statutory body having the responsibility and having available to it the assistance of trained volunteers. This would mean a really first-class piece of co-ordination which could result in a service which would function over the whole field in the future. The statutory body which carried the full responsibility with its team of skilled professionals could have as an additional help a pool of trained voluntary workers who could help on the human side.
§ The general consensus of opinion up and down the country to-day is that undoubtedly after-care for the prisoner 1022 and his family should start from the moment that sentence has been passed. Skilled help should be available for those most needing it. For others who are not in such need, the friendship of ordinary men or women to help combat loneliness and to re-establish them in the community should be available, and easily available. There will always be those who wish to return to a life of crime, but, for those whose families and friends can be ready to help them normal life can be resumed once more and temptation avoided. Much will depend on the skill of officers responsible for after-care in diagnosing the needs of the prisoner when he first comes out. The difficult cases would have to be dealt with by the social worker, and the easy cases could have the assistance of the volunteer working under the professional and helping in a way which is friendly and personal.
§ The responsibility for carrying out the work of such a service in the field must of necessity be in the hands of those who have a great deal of experience and knowledge—specialised experience and knowledge. It would obviously be a mistake to start a completely new service, and it is for this reason that there is much to be said for determining that the probation service of to-day becomes the probation and after-care service of to-morrow, to undertake work on a unified basis under the direction of a board of a special type working under the Home Secretary. This recommendation of a make-up, which will be new in one way, has a tried and successful prototype in the National Assistance Board. I venture to suggest to your Lordships that, on the same pattern, this board should be appointed by the Home Secretary and financed by the Treasury. The Home Secretary would naturally answer to Parliament, and would in this way ensure a complete control of expenditure. I would suggest to your Lordships that the board should consist of a chairman and a deputy, with a small number of part-time members.
§ I realise that I am putting forward a new suggestion, a big suggestion, and a suggestion that could be argued at very great length. I am suggesting this to your Lordships because of my knowledge of the work on the ground, after very careful thought and after research and discussion with many people. This new 1023 undertaking could operate as a national service within a reasonable time only if the board which steered and directed it had the ultimate responsibility for the employment, recruitment and training of those it controlled. This would ensure continuity of after-care to men and women who need it and make it available anywhere in the country. There would be endless problems to be dealt with and endless decisions to be taken. Probation officers, obviously, would have to be directly responsible to the courts for their probation work, and the whole of the impact of probation work, as it is to be stretched to be probation and after-care work would have to be agreed with those concerned. For the good of the scheme there would always, of necessity, have to be decentralisation and there would have to be close consultation with the work of the probation committee at local level, in regard both to appointments and to a variety of other matters.
§ My Lords, I would not for one moment underestimate the difficulties that such a changeover would involve; but I have learned through many years of very hard work that if one has the courage to attempt a long-term task and be ready to face difficulties, the decisions really have to be made with the ultimate result in mind. At the start of any new undertaking a tremendous amount of personal attention is required to overcome difficulties and to create methods; and this must be matched with both inspiration and direction. My recommendation of a directing board is made because, at the inception of a new experiment, unless one has the courage to alter wrong or untried rulings or to revoke mistaken decisions it is impossible to get into motion an enthusiastic movement which, as in this case, has to be based on a variety of contributory factors.
§ If a really strong beginning could be made on the problem we are facing, then we, as a nation, could hope to fight recurring crime by supplying adequate help and guidance, irrespective of the part of the country to which a man is discharged. To achieve this we must be able to supply a continuity of service wherever that man or woman may be. Much would obviously depend on the 1024 chairman selected to head the board. This man would have to be a Solomon. He should have wide experience as well as understanding of, and deep dedication to, the work itself. He would require in the members of his board knowledge of administration, experience in recruiting and training methods, knowledge of social services and case work and understanding of the integration of voluntary service into statutory aid. But, above all, he would require to have people who understood and who knew all about the prison and probation services and who were prepared to devote continuous effort and endeavour to the task.
§ The board would be dependent, in the first place, on the expert staff they could recruit initially; and this, again, has an analogy in the National Assistance Board. When the National Assistance Board was instituted there were many officers doing a first-rate job who came in and created the prototype for the N.A.B., and none of us who has worked with the N.A.B., can speak too highly of the way in which that work is carried out. There are to-day a mass of first-class officers working in the prisons and probation services, both voluntary and statutory, and these would obviously be able to do exactly the same piece of work.
§ The whole problem of welfare officers in prisons and who should employ them has been a controversial one for a very long time and I think it is one of the problems that will have to be handled courageously. The line is taken by some that they should be part of the team in the prison and on the staff of the governor. Other people think that if they are on the governor's staff their value to the prisoner is not as great as it could be because of the fact that they are on the staff. It has always been true to say, "By your work shall ye be known." In this case I feel that a long-term line will have to be taken and the best men and women selected for the job, so that they gain not only the confidence of the prisoner but the complete trust of everybody concerned. They should be interchangeable with the officers in the field because of the value to them of knowing the way the work takes place in the field; and, ultimately, when they were working in the field themselves, it would be of the 1025 greatest value to them to know how the work takes place in the prison.
§ There is of course—and we have discussed this often in your Lordships' House—a great shortage of fully-trained professional workers throughout the length and breadth of Great Britain; and a well-established service with a first-class reputation such as that of the probation officers would, to my mind, be more likely to attract worthwhile people as new entrants than a brand new service. If an entirely new service were to be established, the knowledge and experience of probation officers in their present after-care duties would be submerged; and officers of two or more services would in many cases be dealing with the same families and would probably be overlapping with each other. I will not go into more details at the moment other than to say that prison after-care at present is suffering not only from a multiplicity of agents but also from a multiplicity of ideas about its requirements; and, of necessity these are all to-day in the melting pot.
§ It is essential to have continuity and availability of after-care for everybody. Ideas would have to be examined, altered, adapted, discarded and sorted out; and eventually a conclusion would have to be reached. In fact, the requirement of a single after-care system is that it should be nation-wide and that it should have continuity. The Government should accept the responsibility to supply the leadership and put forward a realistic scheme; and I hope they will have the generosity to go outside the usual departmental machinery and invoke the help of people with the dedication, the imagination and the time to make the spearhead of a really strong service to be available for ex-prisoners and borstal boys and girls in all parts of the country.
§ As a nation, we are very anxious to see a diminution in crime; more anxious, in fact, about that than about any other thing; but, because as individuals we are completely and totally bemused as to what we can do, we do not as individuals act as we should. Those of us who are conversant with the workings of our national services understand the difficulty of embarking on a major undertaking unless we have a spearhead of great courage and mighty initiative 1026 to lead us on. The suggestion of a board would seem to supply this need. The experiment, as such, is sufficiently attractive to recommend it. The advantages of such a form of experiment would be the concentration in a small body of interest, energy and ability in the direction of doing something really tangible in which all levels of the community, from the individual to the probation committee, could participate.
§ My Lords, I submit that the success of the experiment would be the measure of the interest in the country itself to play a part in lowering the incidence of crime throughout the land. The reasons for the suggestion are the need for clear vision and understanding and the building-up of a sound system of after-care in the country. The ultimate problem is how to get continuity of this service, and how to have a continous and ever-available directorate who are ready to work at a moment's notice on a problem that has erupted in order to perfect the machinery. This job will take some years, and it must not be done by people who spend time learning the job and are then transferred to some other field of activity. It takes years and years to understand the intricacies, the difficulties, the tangibles and, even more difficult, the intangibles of this whole problem. And I believe that, unless we can have a hand of dedicated and devoted people in charge of the initial experiment, we shall go on muddling and shall attain nothing in the way of what we want to achieve. Therefore, I beg your Lordships to regard this Motion as of real interest and of serious impact, and to approach the suggestions I have made with open minds, with a long,-term view and with the courage to undertake those things which are not easy to attain. I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I feel especially fortunate this afternoon to be the first speaker to be able, on behalf of your Lordships, to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Swan-borough, on her equally practical and constructive speech. Her suggestions were based, as we all realise, on her immense knowledge of voluntary work all over the country and her very great administrative skill. I feel certain that 1027 the Government will give these suggestions very careful thought. We are also grateful to the noble Baroness for giving us a chance of discussing this matter now. We are glad that she revived her Motion, and she could not have revived it at a more opportune moment, when we have just had the publication of the ACTO Report and the Government's initial reaction to that Report. The fact that the names of so many of your Lordships are on the list of speakers shows how much interest has been aroused in the House by the noble Baroness's Motion.
Let me make a personal confession first. I am speaking this afternoon not for my Party which, so far as I know, has no official view about the work of after-care. After-care has never been a Party political issue and I hope that it never will be, even during an Election year. I think that noble Lords on both sides of the House would agree that that is a desirable state of affairs and one that we should like to continue. This is, in fact, one of those pleasant occasions when those of us—with the exception of my noble relative who will reply to this debate—who are not burdened with ministerial responsibility can say exactly what we think, and can do so at a moment when the Government's mind is still open about a wide range of matters in connection with after-care, so that they may have some chance of influencing the decisions that will have to be taken.
I think that I ought perhaps to add that I am not speaking here on behalf of the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies, though I have the honour to be Chairman of their Council. I take full and sole responsibility for everything I say. I should like to say a few words of thanks to the sub-committee of the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders, under their Chairman, Mr. B. J. Hartwell, for the Report they have produced on the future of after-care. It has taken them about two years to prepare it—a very long time and a very long effort for the members of the Council; but in producing it they have certainly rendered a valuable public service. I believe that in time this Report will be regarded as a historic document, because it will have laid the 1028 foundations, at any rate, of a new social service, an after-care service, which will take its place in due course beside the older social services as part of a system of which our country is justly proud.
There are certain matters about which I think there would be very general agreement. I will start with what I regard as the most important. I think it will be generally agreed that the time has now come for the State to accept full responsibility for the provision of after-care. The organisation of aftercare by voluntary societies is rapidly running down, and they have neither the money nor the personnel to meet the needs of the 50,000 persons (I am giving round figures) released from local prisons every year. In passing, may I remind your Lordships that there are exactly 23 whole-time after-care officers working for the local discharged prisoners' aid societies? I think that all your Lordships would also take the view, which was expressed by the noble Lady, that there should be a single after-care service, instead of the two separate services we have at the moment, which have grown up as a result of historical accident, one for compulsory and one for voluntary after-care.
The third matter about which I believe there will be general agreement is that this new service requires trained professional skill, like the probation service, and that this professional skill should be available throughout the country, wherever a man may settle after he leaves prison. At the moment, as the noble Lady pointed out, the quality of the aid and advice that a man receives is a matter of chance. It depends entirely on the type of sentence he has served and on the place in which he finds a job after leaving prison. If he is especially unlucky he goes to a county where the local society has no after-care officer, and he gets no advice at all and no assistance in the difficult job in settling down after prison.
I think that the Report does well to emphasise, as our common end, that the type of after-care service we should like to see is a single public service, in this respect (but only in this respect) like the probation or prison service, staffed by men and women—because your Lordships are aware of the excellent 1029 work that women are doing both inside and outside prisons at the moment—with the highest professional qualifications. I think that we all agree about this as the goal towards which we are working. But there are many different views all of which deserve careful consideration, about how this public aftercare service should be organised and about what qualifications after-care officers will require. These, I believe, are differences about machinery and not about the purpose which the machinery is intended to serve.
The noble Lady, for example, wants a public board instead of a Government Department to manage the national after-care service and, of course, we all know that there is a very strong case for public corporations or boards, which have played an important part in work of national importance in time past. There is one difficulty about this which occurs to me and it is this: that it would still divide after-care. There would be a division between institutional aftercare and after-care given outside prison through trained social workers. What I think we want is the direction of aftercare by a single authority responsible for everything that is done for the prisoner, both inside prison and after he is released. It is most interesting to note that the Prison Officers' Association has just shown itself strongly in favour in taking an active part in rehabilitation. This is an extremely positive sign of the times, because it means that this idea of rehabilitation is becoming the most important principle in the minds of everyone who is occupied with prisoners, whether inside or outside prison. That is why I think it is particularly important that all those who are concerned in the same sort of work should be under the same sort of authority.
The other main difference of opinion about the recommendations in the Report is on the recommendation in favour of a combined Probation and After-Care Service. The noble Lady is in favour of this combined service; but others take a different view. I think it is certainly true to say that, as a general rule, a specialist is better than a general practitioner, and if we could recruit immediately a nationwide service of specialists in after-care they 1030 would do a better job than the hard-pressed probation officers, whose main interest, after all, is probation.
It is also true that sometimes the better is the enemy of the good, and I am satisfied—I agree in this respect with the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough—that if we want to have any nationwide after-care service in the near future and do not want to run the risk of a complete breakdown in the voluntary system, then this new national service must be grafted on to the existing probation service. But I hope that, whatever Government may be in power after the next Election, they will review the position carefully, and as soon as may be, at an appropriate moment, decide whether it is desirable and practicable to insist on a greater degree of specialisation in after-care work.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am glad to hear that, at any rate. It is most refreshing to find not only an Election pledge but a pledge to do something afterwards. I should like to ask my noble relative one question which is of great concern to prison welfare officers, and it is this: will they really be interchangeable with officers working outside prisons? Will there be interchangeability between social workers inside and outside prisons? That is a matter of great concern at the moment, and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Swan-borough, pointed out, will be of great importance to the future of this new service. There are obviously administrative difficulties, which I will not go into now, but I am certain that administrative difficulties are never insuperable if the Government are determined that something should be done.
I am glad that the Report paid a handsome tribute to the work of the voluntary societies, who, as it pointed out, have shouldered the main responsibility for after-care for the last hundred years. I am even more pleased that it foresees a partnership between professional and voluntary workers in the future in which the voluntary worker will continue to make an indispensable contribution to after-care. It has been the concern—using that word in the Quaker sense—of ordinary men and 1031 women about prisoners that has resulted in the building up of our present system of after-care. We still need the spirit that prompted this work, as well as the devoted people who will continue it, in association with the professional workers: because until the public really cares—and I cannot help feeling that this has been one of the greatest difficulties in the past—we shall not get the reforms in our prison system which are no less necessary than after-care if rehabilitation is really to succeed.
I am sure the Government will agree with the Report that a long-term partnership between the State and voluntary effort is essential to the future of after-care. But in the meantime—that is to say, for the next two or three years, before this new scheme comes into operation—the voluntary societies will have to continue to shoulder a large part of the work. We need the assistance of the Government if we are to be able to carry on through this interim period. I should like to ask the Government now (perhaps my noble relative will reply to this question at the end of this debate) if they will consider carefully two ways in which their help is required. First of all, as a result of the Report and of the Government's decision to accept it, in principle, our funds are rapidly drying up. It is quite natural, when people see that a concern is being taken over by the State, that they should not continue to contribute to its maintenance. We shall not be able to cover our expenses without a substantial increase in our present 50 per cent. grant.
Our other difficulty, again naturally arising out of what has happened recently, is loss of staff; because, of course, our officers have no sense of security. The one way in which we could really be sure of keeping our staff would be for the Government to say that our whole-time after-care officers will be absorbed in the new service. There are only 23 of these officers. The new service will be a much expanded probation service, because clearly probation officers are going to be asked to take on an enormous amount of extra work, and I cannot believe that 23 officers who have had a lot of practical experience would not be useful as members of this new service. But I must 1032 point out to the Government that this should be a public undertaking if these officers are to feel a sufficient sense of security.
My final plea to the Government is simply a plea for immediate action. I feel that what we all need is a firm decision to put the new scheme into operation at the earliest possible moment. If this new scheme is practicable and workable, I can assure my noble relative that it will have the utmost co-operation of the voluntary societies.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, we must all feel pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, has put down this Motion on the Order Paper. The large number of noble Lords down to speak shows that the questions of after-care and probation, too, are matters which are of great interest to your Lordships. I think one can assume, at the same time, that the principle is now fairly widely accepted that such services should be encouraged and expanded. It is, of course, difficult to give real proof of the effectiveness of such work, and one does not want to make too much of the statistical evidence available, but, so far as one can see, the effect of probation and after-care has been substantial and far more than one could have expected.
I should like to say a few words about the type of people who really require after-care, because the figures quoted by the noble Lady, that only about one-eighth of prisoners who are discharged each year receive compulsory after-care, are, I am bound to say, rather worrying. One can see that a certain number of prisoners do not require much after-care. They may want a certain amount of help in the first two weeks or so after their discharge; but they go back to homes and families, and some of them do not have much difficulty in finding a job to do. But there are a number whose rehabilitation and re-entry into society is going to be a long job and who will need a great deal of skilled help.
At the present time, quite a lot is done, but I am sure that a great deal more could be done to bring more people who have been in prison back to normal life again. Some, for example, may have complicated and difficult family problems which can be dealt with only by a 1033 skilled social worker. But, here again, one must be careful not to exaggerate the amount that is required in psychiatric and psychological treatment. Although there are certain people who require skilled medical treatment, I am not sure that this is not thought rather too much of now, and that maybe a certain amount of not very good psychiatry and psychology is applied to them which could be better supplied by more skilled people elsewhere. I am not sure that I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, that you want a team entirely of specialists and not general practitioners. There is a great deal to be said for the general practitioner around the corner. I feel that sometimes a good deal of general knowledge, without specialist knowledge, is a good thing to have. That is one of the points which the Report we are discussing mentions in paragraph 132, where it says that the care of these people must be administered with a warm heart, a clear head and insight, lack of illusion and preparedness for disappointment. That, to my mind, comes down to the fact that a good deal of common sense is required in dealing with the type of people we are now talking about.
One of the questions one has to consider if one talks on this subject is what are the real requirements of the person coming from prison. Surely, they can be very simply put. He wants money, work and some kind of security. There was another thing which I was pleased to read in this Report, and that is that a Committee of the United Nations on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders said roughly the same thing as I have been saying to-day. It says that the prisoners want clothing, lodging, means of travel to a place of employment and means of maintenance while obtaining employment. They want some kind of documents, and they want to get a job as quickly as they can. We talked a good deal last Session about the question of the National Insurance card. I think the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, brought that subject up on more than one occasion. I was pleased to read in paragraph 187 of this Report that the Committee said:We look forward to the time when prison industries can be so improved that increased 1034 earnings can be paid to prisoners and so enable them, among other things, to maintain their insurance contributions.I quite agree that it is not solely the ex-prisoner who gets an insurance card with no stamps on it, but it is a great drawback to him.
There is nothing very new in the idea of prisoners being paid a certain amount of money for the work they do. I think I have mentioned this to your Lordships once before, and if you do not mind I will repeat it. When I visited Shanghai in the year 1947 as a Member of your Lordships' House upon, I regret to say, a Parliamentary visit to General Chiang Kai-shek, there was a good and energetic Mayor there at the time called, as I remember, Mr. K. C. Wu. He had a brand new prison building in Shanghai where the prisoners were employed on work. The work they were doing was printing for the local Shanghai Government—forms and all that kind of thing—for which they were paid a standard rate of pay. A certain amount was kept for their keep, but it meant that when they were discharged they were not completely dependent, as people tend to be at the present time. They did not need to go to a National Assistance Board; they had money in their pocket and, according to Mr. K. C. Wu, that had done a great deal to stop people reverting to crime as soon as they were released. If that can be done in China in the bad old days of Chiang Kai-shek, why cannot it be done in Britain, in the more reasonable times in which we are told we are living at the present time?
The idea which the noble Baroness has put forward about a new central board is certainly a striking one which requires a great deal of consideration and thought. Certainly the suggestion that it should be based on the probation service seems to me to be a very good one indeed, because the probation service is a well-established, well-recognised and respected service. Such a board would be able to employ all the various people employed by the various authorities, both statutory and voluntary, at the present time. There would be good scope for voluntary workers, because I think—and I hope the noble Baroness will agree with me—that voluntary workers enjoy working under trained, skilled people, provided they are given a definite job to do. So I 1035 do not think there would in arranging for people this new board, if such to be set up.
Another point which I think is most important is that the same people should do what might be called after-care when the prisoner is in prison and when he comes out. It need be done not by the same individual maybe, but by people on the same staff. It would be an advantage if people who were working inside prison could sometimes work outside, so that they could interchange and learn about conditions in prison and conditions in the world outside at the same time. I do not think there would be any trouble about that. It is said, of course, that it is going to be difficult to recruit the right number of social workers to carry out this work. I think there is a good deal of truth in that, but that problem could be solved—if I may digress for a moment—by a more rational means of training social workers. At present they are trained in all sorts of ways by all sorts of bodies, and there is a good deal of overlapping. It seems to me to be a sensible thing that there should be one basic training given by one particular type of body in the country, and when these workers pass that they could move on to specialise as probation officers, almoners, child welfare officers, and that sort of thing. That, again, is going rather far from what we are talking about, but I mention it in passing as one means by which the number of people available might be increased.
I should like to say a final word about the probation officers, because although I agree that any new scheme should be based on the work of the probation officers, I think your Lordships will bear in mind that they are extremely hard-worked at the present time. Their numbers are extremely small, although they have gone up. In 1950, there were about 1,000, and in 1960 there were about 1,700. Their work has increased far more than that proportion. They have an enormous caseload on their shoulders, almost more than they can possibly do. I have seen it stated in the Report that the men each have a caseload of about 61 on their shoulders and the women about 40. That is a great deal for a single individual to carry. 1036 What is more, they have a tremendous amount of other work to do. I do not want to go into the matter in great detail, but they have to deal with the supervision of children; money payments; matrimonial proceedings; inquiries for the courts; matrimonial conciliation, and all that sort of thing. So I beseech the Government, if we are going to adopt this idea, not to put more work on the probation service, because at the present time they are really carrying as much as they possibly can and one wonders whether they are not even carrying too much. Certainly they are so pushed with work that one feels sometimes that they cannot give as full and detailed reports to the courts as they would like to do and as the courts would like to receive.
Finally, I would ask the Government to give careful consideration to what the noble Baroness has said about a central board and to consider whether such a central board could be established. It need not be put up as a permanent thing but as a temporary experiment, to be changed or modified if something goes wrong. I think there is a great deal in what the noble Baroness has said, and I should like to support her a very long way, with a certain reservation, in the plea she has made to Her Majesty's Government.
§ 4.20 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF BRISTOL
My Lords, I should not have dared to speak so early in my membership of this House had it not been that the right reverend Prelate, my friend the Bishop of Coventry, had hoped to speak to-day but has been prevented from attending. When he asked me to take his place I was glad to do so, because this is a subject with which I am deeply concerned. I have been in close touch with two local prisons and, like most members of my calling, I usually have one or two people in tow who are in need of after-care. This is also a matter in which the Church has pioneered, having one of the voluntary associations, and remains concerned.
There are just three points which I should like your Lordships' permission to make. First of all, I am sure that the Church and all voluntary agencies will warmly welcome the proposal in 1037 this Report that there should be a comprehensive, nation-wide and properly trained after-care service. I do not feel that I have the confidence to express an opinion as to the relative merits of the majority view in this Report and the Memorandum of Dissent, nor to weigh the arguments so cogently presented by the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough; but it is clear that all are agreed on this need for a comprehensive and competent service. Whether it would be best achieved by this or that arrangement or enlargement of the probation service, I do not feel I am competent to say. But I am quite sure that the Churches can only rejoice when voluntary and pioneer work, as in education or in health, becomes increasingly the accepted national responsibility, with larger resources and with a better trained personnel; and I believe that the Churches would be eager to cooperate with any such comprehensive, more competent service, both at the national and local level.
But, clearly, there will still be a need, as has been emphasised more than once, for a vast army of voluntary helpers and for a large reservoir of informed good will. However the new service is organised, there will still be plenty of room for local initiative and local responsibility; otherwise I fear there may be some danger that the voluntary organisations will feel somewhat crowded out and may have the impression that now somebody else is taking care of it. Therefore, whatever pattern of organisation is followed, I would plead that there should still be plenty of room for local initiative and responsibility.
This bears directly on my second point. Work on the scale envisaged will call for a large number of devoted, dedicated people working as what this Report calls "auxiliaries" and prepared to work on the level of personal friendship and commitment, with all the disappointments and discouragements that that can so easily entail. I believe that this kind of personal work is uniquely done through living with the men you are trying to help and caring for individuals, one by one. Your Lordships will be aware of the kind of work which is so splendidly done through the Norman House Committee and the Langley House Trust, and I know of three separate enterprises which it is desired to set on foot in 1038 Bristol for voluntary hostels in which discharged prisoners can be helped on a basis of personal friendship.
Obviously, projects of this kind need scrutiny and co-ordination; but, even so, it is very difficult for the voluntary associations to find the resources, especially capital resources, to start enterprises of this sort. I would venture to urge that public funds should be available to assist voluntary enterprises of this kind. It may be a valid analogy to remind your Lordships of the arrangement not so long ago made whereby £3 million of Government money was made available, through the British Council, for the setting up of hostels for overseas students. We were enabled in the Bristol Diocese, through this kind of help, which first offered £500 (later raised to £750) per student place to begin a small hostel for overseas students, of which there is growing need, in a way in which would never have been possible without public help of this kind.
Without using this analogy as one which too closely bears on this situation I would ask: would it not be possible for the Home Office to give some relevant authority in the localities discretion to set up voluntary associations of this kind; centres where personal and pastoral work can be done by those who are prepared to help these men, day in and day out? I do not believe that it would be possible for most voluntary associations to bring about centres of that sort without help, and help of a generous nature.
My Lords, my third point is rather more intangible, though perhaps from these Benches most important. Obviously the aim of after-care is to ensure that no one who has suffered a penal sentence should ever deserve to suffer another: that he should be fully rehabilitated. But such words reveal, or perhaps conceal, a widespread uncertainty and confusion in our minds. What do we mean by "penal"? In what sense is it deserved? What is "rehabilitation"? We speak of the discharged prisoner as having "expiated his crime"; as having "paid the price" of his misdeeds, and so on. But it is, I believe, at this point that society may well be in need of clearer standards. For the whole notion of punishment is a complex one, in the discussion of which the noble Earl, Lord Longford 1039 has contributed, notably in his book, The Idea of Punishment. There is also an extremely interesting pamphlet issued by a working party of the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility, which seeks to analyse what is implicit in the notion of punishment.
Briefly, there are three elements in the traditional conception of punishment, though they are subtly interrelated and vary according to presuppositions. But, generally, we recognise that punishment needs to be deterrent, reformative and retributive. Deterrent in the sense that it protects society, both by the restraint of a particular offender and by the discouragement of others; reformative, in the sense that it so treats an offender that he will not desire to repeat his offence. But retributive? It is on this point that we are least certain; for the idea of retribution is too readily confused with quite indefensible notions of rationalised revenge. But surely the essence of retribution is desert.
It is at this point that the effect of psychiatry, neurology, social science, and so on, has undermined to a large extent our conception of the reality of responsibility, and, therefore, of blame. Yet desert is the moral connection between crime and punishment. It determines the justice of a sentence. We do not ask whether a deterrent is just, but simply whether it deters. We do not ask whether a reformation is just, but only whether it is effective. But for a sentence to be just it must be deserved. If a man cannot be blamed, he is less than a man. It is part of his human dignity to be taken seriously in his responsibility.
Perhaps your Lordships would allow an illustration from the striking last page of a novel by John Braine, Room At the Top. I think it illustrates a widespread human tragedy. Joe Lampton, after a series of sordid tangles which issued in driving his mistress to kill herself in a horrible motor smash, is being consoled by another of his friends—"Nobody blames you, Joe, nobody blames you"—and he recoiled sharply and said, "Oh, God! that is just the trouble." And I believe that this depth of human personality which requires to be held responsible is some- 1040 thing of which every conception of justice that is to go deep enough must take account. Only a man who recognises that he deserves to be punished can be fully restored. Rehabilitation at its best is the social working out of forgiveness.
Of course, these considerations apply far more widely than to the matter immediately under discussion. But I do beg to raise them before your Lordships now because I do not believe that our immediate concern for after-care can be effectively considered without bearing them in mind. I stress it in this context because I believe that the Churches have a distinctive and unique obligation to contribute, as they can, to that whole social process in which psychiatrists, trained social workers, expert penologists, lawyers and so forth, must work together to arrive at a sense of responsibility for those whom society itself has felt obliged to penalise. Only so, I would suggest, can we have an organisation of after-care which not only is comprehensive, nationwide and competently trained, but also does justice to the whole complexity of human nature by treating those who are committed to its care not primarily as cases but as our fellow men.
§ 4.32 p.m.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
My Lords, I am sure I shall be expressing the views and wishes of this House in conveying our very real congratulations to the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Bristol for a most remarkable maiden speech. I have listened with the greatest possible interest to all that he had to say, and above all to the last words of his speech when he spoke about rehabilitation being the social working out of forgiveness. That, surely, is a very important and interesting way of putting it, and must give us all much food for thought. And I was also interested in the fact that he himself is in touch, as he says, with two very big prisons. We know the prison in Bristol is one of the largest local prisons, and I am quite sure that his interest in, and the influence he must have on those who are associated with, the prisons must be very great indeed. How fortunate they are to have a Bishop of that calibre to help them in that work! I hope the right reverend Prelate 1041 will speak to us many times on subjects of this kind.
I rise to take part in this debate and am very delighted that my noble friend Lady Swanborough has put this Motion on the Order Paper, because I think it is of vital importance at the present time. I am, as your Lordships know, a member of the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders. I have one other colleague who is going to speak after me, the Lord Bishop of Exeter, and I hope between us we can cover many of the points which the committee of the Advisory Council set up to study this matter Lave put down in their Report. I was not a member of the committee, but I took part in all the discussions which took place in the full Council after the Report had been brought before us.
I was under the impression during those discussions that even those who signed the Minority Report were in the main prepared to accept the committee's findings, and it was only, I think, at the very last that Professor Radzinowitz put forward the proposal for a large new central service controlled nationally. I said at the time, and I repeat it now, that a new nationalised and centralised force for dealing with an essentially localised and individual service is not, in my opinion, the way to go about it. The right reverend Prelate has emphasised, too, the importance of the local aspect of after-care work, and I am sure that is something we must never lose sight of.
If you were to embark on what Professor Radzinowitz suggests, in the first instance you would have to recruit people for such a service in a market which we all know is very short of professional and trained people, and that recruitment would be in direct competition with other professional services, and I believe this might do quite a lot of harm. Secondly, after-care is essentially to look after individual people, some of whom, we know, are very difficult and all of whom are scattered all over the country. They may well have been in central prisons, but they will have their homes all over the place. Some may have no homes at all, and we have to help them to find somewhere to live. It is, therefore, in my opinion, essential to put responsibility for caring for these people in the localities where they are 1042 discharged. The great percentage of prisoners will return to their homes, and, given some help and care, may never reappear in court or prison again. Where is one to find the most widespread service to care for them? Only, I think, in the probation service and in the child care service expanded as we recommend.
In Scotland both these services are organised in local authority areas. I know that in England and Wales the organisation of probation is slightly different, but to all intents and purposes it is a local service, and there is probably no person who on returning to his home after a prison sentence will not find either a probation officer or, if he is a juvenile, a child care officer in that locality.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Baroness simply on a point of information. She can tell us, of course, about Scotland far more than anybody else can. But surely in Scotland a report has recently suggested quite a different solution from the one suggested for England.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, is quite right. We have had a report from a committee presided over by Sheriff Leslie, but it has received a very unfavourable response throughout the country, and all the probation committees—I am chairman of a probation committee in Scotland—and a great many other of the interested parties are very strongly against the recommendation of the Leslie Committee. We have not yet heard from the Secretary of State whether or not he is accepting the recommendations, but it is interesting that the Council on which I sit, the Advisory Council for Child Care for England and Wales, has recommended exactly the opposite of what the Leslie Committee recommended for Scotland. And in the probation committee of which I am chairman we discussed the Leslie Committee and everybody was very much opposed to their particular proposal—there are other things in the committee's proposals which are good, but they are opposed to this particular proposal on which Sherh7 Leslie's Committee reported. So I personally am not in favour of the Leslie Committee report and the implication which it would 1043 have in Scotland, but we do not yet know whether the Secretary of State is going to accept it. He has not made a statement as the Home Secretary made in the House of Commons yesterday, I believe, accepting in principle the proposals of our Advisory Council.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I thank the noble Baroness very much.
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
Why I am so keen that the probation officers and probation committees should be the agency for after-care is not only because they are so widespread as to cover almost every locality, but also because they have other groups of people, probation committees and children's committees, who support these officers and help with the work to be undertaken. All of them are or should be cognizant of local conditions. They are part and parcel of the community; they know the area; they know its needs, its industry or agriculture, and what is the set-up in the county or the city. To me, this is far more valuable to the discharged prisoner or to the approved school boy than a centralised service which would have to fit in to the local conditions and to learn about them, and, in the matter of recruitment, be competing with them.
Of course, I realise—I think it was the right reverend Prelate or the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who referred to this—how important it is that we should not put upon the probation officers more than they can carry; and I realise, too, that in this work we shall have to have a recruiting drive for probation officers and for those who would help in this aftercare service. Nevertheless, I think that that could be achieved much better as a single recruiting campaign than as one that was, as it were, in competition with the recruitment for both children's services and probation services.
What I think we visualised in the committee was the building up of a combined service in which we would employ professional workers, professional probation officers, and in addition—and I say that this is most important—all kinds of voluntary workers and helpers who are interested in this work, who have done it in a voluntary society such as Lord Listowel presides over. There would be room in an enlarged service for 1044 all those people, and they would be working side by side with experienced and trained people, and they would learn enormously from that experience. I should like to see the voluntary societies working side by side with, but in this case incorporated into, the enlarged probation service.
We speak in paragraphs 120 to 124 of our Report of the auxiliary after-care officer. In our discussions about this we were visualising using the W.V.S. in every way that we could; the after-care and prisoner's aid organisations—people who perhaps are not at the moment associated with these services, but who are interested in it, and could take part in it; married women, whose children have grown up leaving them freer to do this work; widowed people who have perhaps no home to keep up and are therefore much freer. All those people could come into this enlarged service, but it would be, in part, the after-care and probation service, and it would be a joint service. In my opinion it is not really so novel a suggestion because in some scattered rural areas a considerable amount of after-care is done at present by the probation officers, and has been done for a long time. In my own area, for instance, we have two probation officers who do after-care and concern themselves with discharged prisoners when they are asked to do so. If they did not, it would be difficult for anybody to come down and do it because we are miles away from anywhere. That would happen in many rural areas.
There is another reservation by Alderman Robinson, a member of our Council, on the after-care of approved school children. Here, again, I disagree profoundly with this view. Approved school children are also a part of the community in which they live. The one truly family service that local authorities have is the child-care service. The children's officers know all the children in a problem family, and many who go to approved schools are from problem homes. Often they have been looking after that family or caring for them for many years before a child is actually sent to an approved school. It is only natural that the children's officer should take a continuing interest in the child before and after it is sent to an approved school. I should like to see children's officers encouraged to keep in touch with 1045 and visit a child when it goes to an approved school and when it comes out of an approved school, and the children's officer who already knows the child, who is its friend, should undertake the aftercare.
I am opposed to this chopping and changing of people in the life of what is often a most disturbed child. It is a great mistake. What children want is continuity—a background which they understand and know, and not people who are with them at one moment and vanish the next, only to be replaced by another stranger. Alderman Robinson in his Minute of Dissent was afraid that the after-care officers and approved school officers would lose their jobs and that they might not be able to find work in this field. But, again, I think that is wrong because those people can easily be absorbed into this larger joint aftercare and probation service. We should want all of them.
The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Exeter is going to speak after me, and I hope that he will pick up the point of the suggestion that has been made about the Home Office being the single organisation to supervise and advise on this service. I do not want to go over everything because it takes much too long, but I want to stress most sincerely the importance of the wide spread which is required of this combined service which we are recommending, and also the co-operation which would be developed with the other social services in any locality. If any of your Lordships serve on committees of county councils—like children's or education or health and welfare committees—you will know how disheartening it is to have to refer difficult cases to two or three different departments, which, in turn, means two or three different sets of people. Sometimes I feel quite despairing about this, and the man or woman, boy or girl, suffers delays in decisions and other complications result. Provided that it is organised many of our welfare services would be coming into a combined service in which the person best qualified to help a particular case would be available without the awful business of passing on a case from one committee to another.
1046 We have an opportunity in this proposal of the Advisory Council of setting up a new and far-reaching, widespread and comprehensive after-care service; to make it a unified service based on the existing personnel of the probation and child-care services with the voluntary agencies incorporated. I think it would be a thousand pities if we did not use this opportunity for this particular object: to co-ordinate and to bring into effect a unified service—not to try to start something quite different, an organised service from the centre which would cut across all the arrangements which are already there, which really would break up the whole of the local authority services in this country. To try to set up anything else would be immensely lengthy, and time is of the greatest importance. Our personnel is limited and time is most important. We have to get going straight away.
I hope that the Home Secretary will accept the views of the Advisory Council, that he will set about a single recruiting campaign for increasing the probation and after-care officers, and enlist the support of the voluntary organisations and auxiliary services as quickly as possible. To abandon all this, and to seek to start a great nationally and centrally controlled service of aftercare with no integration with the existing services would, in my opinion, be a great mistake. I hope that the Home Secretary will go ahead with our recommendations as soon as possible, and that the Minister in winding up will be able to give us that good news.
§ 4.50 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF EXETER
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships above a few minutes, for I have really nothing to say which is not already contained in the Report which is under discussion. I rise only in order to take the opportunity of expressing again my own personal conviction of the utmost urgency and importance of this subject and to draw your Lordships' attention to four important points.
The first of those points is this. We consider that it is of the first importance that everyone should recognise that the after-care of a person starts, or should start, from the moment that he passes through the prison gate at the beginning of his sentence. We regard it as of immense importance that social workers 1047 should be appointed to every prison, not only locally but also centrally, and that there should be easy and recognised means of communication between the social workers in the prison and the probation officers and after-care workers, whatever they are called, who are working outside in the areas where the prisoner and his family normally live. It is a prisoner's anxiety about his family or his ignorance about the conditions of his family which very often constitutes the greatest single obstacle to securing the co-operation of the prisoner in his own reform, without which co-operation no reform is possible at all. Therefore, my first point is that we regard it as of immense importance that the social workers should be appointed as soon as possible and machinery set up and instructions given by which they can easily make contact, and remain in contact, with the probation officers outside.
My second point is this. If the recommendations of this Report are adopted—and the Home Secretary has said that he accepts them in principle; so we may assume that in outline they will be adopted—obviously there will have to be a very considerable enlargement of the existing probation services. That means that there must be an energetic and well-conceived recruitment campaign. I am of the opinion that if such a campaign were launched it would be successful. I think that among the rising generation there are large numbers of young men and women who would be glad of an opportunity to devote their lives to service of this kind. Only one thing is necessary: the public must be convinced of the worthwhileness of the probation service and must be prepared willingly to accord to the probation service that respect and that status which is appropriate to a skilled vocational profession. Once that happens, I have no doubt whatever that all the recruits we need will come forward.
My third point is that we attach great importance indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, has said, to the co-operation of volunteer auxiliaries with the trained and skilled professional officer, but these auxiliaries must themselves in their turn receive some degree of training. This is immensely important. I am quite sure that there is an enormous reservoir of people of good 1048 will anxious to help in the after-care of prisoners but failing to offer themselves now because they simply feel that they do not know how to do it as they are not equipped to do it. The moment you offer them some simple training and guarantee that they will be under the supervision of a skilled profession, I believe such people will come forward in numbers. I am sure that all the churches in England will present to their congregations this piece of voluntary work as one of the most important ways in which they can discharge their duties to the community.
My fourth and last point is to remind Her Majesty's Government of the vital importance of founding many more hostels for the reception of discharged prisoners. These hostels serve two purposes. The first purpose is to act as an inn, so to speak, through which a man passes from prison back to his normal life—a place where he may rest for a few clays or a few weeks while he finds his feet, get employment and go back into life once again. This, too, is extremely important. But there is another function which these hostels serve, or some of them may serve, and that is as permanent residences for those unfortunate people whom our penal system has rendered quite incapable of living in the world entirely on their own. For such people you need a permanent house where they will permanently reside under a mild and gentle discipline, with all the major decisions in life made for them and only the minor ones left to them. This is what they need; this is how they are made happy. Only there are not enough of these hostels.
I am entirely behind the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Bristol, when he pleads for some kind of Government help for voluntary societies which are seeking to open hostels such as these. No doubt there is also need for some body to survey the country because the siting of these hostels in relation to employment, movement of population and that kind of thing is extremely important. If there be in any provincial town a voluntary association with knowledge of local need which has decided that a hostel is required in that place, then I would plead with the Government for money to be made available to that local association for it to get on with the job.
1049 Finally, it is the conviction of ACTO that this more comprehensive national scheme of after-care should be based, set-up and directed by the Home Office. We are happy about that because we believe that the Home Office is profoundly aware of the importance of this matter and will give to this work the utmost drive and enthusiasm. I like to believe that the Home Secretary is already thinking of whom he is going to ask to serve on the central council or the central board, whichever it turns out to be. I should like to think that it is almost ready to meet to begin to take some of these policy-making decisions. I hope he is also busy in his own mind selecting the persons to be asked to serve on the other council, the Probation and After-Care Training Board. I do not think there is any time to lose before that begins, so that it may be given the kind of syllabus of study, the kind of course of instruction which probation officers and auxiliaries should be asked to go through. Lastly, I hope that the Home Office is already considering its plans for this great recruitment campaign.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am greatly encouraged by what the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Exeter, has just said about the urgency and drive with which the Home Office are going to attack this particular subject. However, having been long in this field, I am a little sceptical, because it seems to me that the truest statement in the Report which is now under consideration is that in the Memorandum of Dissent, which concludes with these words:There has been enough tampering with after-care over the past fifty years. Next to the local prisons it is the weakest link in our system for dealing with offenders.Throughout those fifty years we have had committees sitting; we have had determination of respective Home Secretaries to carry out the recommendations that have been made, yet to-day, in my experience, our after-care system, so far as it exists, is a shambles. So that I accept with some reserve the promising and encouraging statement which the right reverend Prelate has made.
My Lords, I join most sincerely with all those who have spoken in thanking 1050 my noble friend Lady Swanborough for giving us the chance to debate this subject, and also for her opening speech in which she painted such a broad canvas and gave us the benefit of her very great experience in this field. I am very grateful that it falls to my lot to be the first from these Benches to congratulate the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Bristol on a truly remarkable maiden speech, which was at the same time moving, thoughtful and thought-provoking, and which I am sure will be read again and again. We hope that we shall have on other occasions the benefit of his deep insight into this and related problems.
I hope that I do not appear too cynical, but in reading the Report we are now considering, and again in rereading it, I felt that the most remarkable thing about it was a major omission. The Committee appeared to think—or at least they gave us no reason for not assuming that they appeared to think—that the condition of our prison system and of our prisons had nothing whatever to do with after-care; almost considering the question of after-care, as it were, in a vacuum. I thought that the most tragic statement in the whole Report was this statement:We think that the system should be made more elastic, more capable of being adapted to the special cases of individual prisoners; that prison discipline and treatment should be more effectively designed to maintain, stimulate or awaken, the higher susceptibilities of prisoners, to develop their moral instincts, to train them in orderly and industrial habits, and, wherever possible, to turn them out of prison better men and women, physically and morally, than when they came in.The tragic part about that statement, my Lords, is that it was made not by the present Committee but by the Gladstone Committee of 1894. This Committee has merely reprinted it. But in many respects the prison system to-day is further from the achievement of those ideals than it was 70 years ago.
The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Bristol, in a truly remarkable sentence, said:Rehabilitation at its best is the social working out of forgiveness.My Lords, I think that the forgiveness should begin, and be seen to begin, in a real and practical way on the day a man begins his sentence. It does not make any sense whatsoever to subject 1051 a man to every hardship and every possible humiliation, and then begin his rehabilitation, his after-care, on the day that he is released from the prison gates. It is true that we no longer flog prisoners; and we have abolished penal servitude and hard labour. But in local prisons conditions are worse to-day than they were 70 years ago, because those same prisons are now 70 years older and we are crowding into them twice the number of men they housed in 1894; and in real terms we are spending less on their maintenance than we did in Gladstone's day.
Last year, the total gross Treasury-borne expenditure in prisons exceeded £23 million, but out of this total only £1,311,000—less than 6 per cent.—was spent on maintaining 31,063 men and women for a whole year. That means 16s. 3d. per week for everything—food and drink, clothing, bedding, furniture, equipment and medicine. Of that 16s. 3d. per week, 12s. 6d. went on food and drink. That is the equivalent of less than 2s. 6d. a week in Glad-stone's day, so they were better fed then than they are now. Yet in his Report for 1962, the Director of Medical Services blandly assures us that,The dietary takes an important place in prison administration"—and the aim is—the provision of adequate meals served as appetisingly as possible in the circumstances.We also learned that there were no actual dietary changes in 1962, although for a period the potato ration was cut by 50 per cent. My Lords, the operative words are "in the circumstances"—the circumstances of providing an adequate meal for 6d. And it cannot be done.
The noble Lord, Lord Derwent—who for a moment has left his place—knows that two or three weeks ago I drew his attention to the conditions about food in Her Majesty's prison at Nottingham, and he agreed that the complaints were justified. Two weeks ago I learned from a prison chaplain of trouble at Wormwood Scrubs, because of worms in the food. I do not know what kind of worms they were, or whether they were served dead or alive. But if you put three men in a cell which in 1894 was considered fit for only one man; if you spend only 16s. 3d. a week on the man's 1052 entire subsistence, and then pretend that with all else that goes on in prison you are awakening his higher susceptibilities and turning him out of prison a better man physically and morally than when he went in, I say that that is cruel hypocrisy. It is small wonder, my Lords, that last year 29,000 offences were punished in our prisons, and more than half of the inmates were punished for at least one offence during the year. If we treat them as sub-humans, then that is what many of them will become, and, unfortunately, remain when they are released.
It is virtually useless, therefore, to talk of building up an effective aftercare system, unless at the same time we subject our prison system to an enlightened revolution; and I am astounded that this Committee did not say so. They rightly placed the greatest possible emphasis on the need for starting after-care when a man begins his sentence, but is this all to be left to the welfare officer—the social case worker, as they prefer to call him—working as a member of a prison team? How can any prison team buck the present system, and what chance has the welfare officer to do any real good, when in a single year 4,215 cases have to be dealt with at one local prison?
The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, spoke of the case list of probation officers—some 40-odd for women and some 60-odd for men probation officers; and we know that some probation officers have 100 cases. But there were 4,215 cases in a single prison, and the largest number of welfare officers in any prison is 3, so that works out at 1,405 cases per officer. How can one man deal with 1,405 cases and do anything effective about them? At this particular prison the Commissioners report that 2,093 prisoners were discharged, all of whom had been seen and helped by a welfare officer with arrangements for their after-care, and in addition 2,295 other prisoners applied for welfare services. It is not surprising that the Commissioners report that the volume of work was so great, with so much "first aid" to do, that there was a danger that the vital work of planning after-care would be neglected.
My Lords, this is not a criticism of the staff—indeed, there is one governor of an unnamed prison who makes sure 1053 that no man leaves his prison without lodgings to go to, and also he tries to see that he has a job. But the pitiful inadequacy of the resources in relation to the need is a grave criticism of the administration, and this pitiful inadequacy applies to every single aspect of the present prison system, whichever way we look. For this reason, although I support the overwhelming majority of the Committee's recommendations—indeed, I am very glad to see in their Report so many of the things which, in evidence, I urged them to accept—I am utterly opposed to their confused and contradictory proposal for a decentralised aftercare service. I am at a loss to understand the kind of discussion which has been going on. I regret that the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, is out of her place for the moment; but to suggest that, if we have central direction of an after-care service, we shall lose something of local value, I just do not understand. We have the National Health Service, which is a centrally directed service; but no one says that you cannot go to your G.P. and have local care. We have the National Assistance Board, which is another independent corporation, or semi-independent corporation; but, again, no one says that, in any local village or in any town, you cannot get attended to.
I think the distinguished dissenters, although perhaps too scathing in their criticism, are absolutely right. There must be a Director of After-care, with the necessary status and power. The dissenters rightly say that the committee's schemeignores the broader questions of community provisionandgives no worthwhile centre of direction at any level".What this service needs now is real dynamism, belief, energy, determination that it is going to be put over—and that can never be done by a sub-department of a sub-department of the Home Office, or, indeed, any other Government Department. I was delighted to hear the right reverend Prelate say how utterly convinced everybody at the Home Office is that this must be done. But I am bound to ask myself, having worked and fought in this field almost without avail for twenty years: if they have thought about it for so long, why have they not 1054 done something? Why are we met all the time by this wall of obstruction, of evasions, of excuses and of half-truths'? Indeed, again the dissenters are right. Only if there is, as they put, "centralised initiative and effort" shall we "evolve a policy of after-care in relation to the social and economic structure of the country". As long ago as 1894 the Gladstone Committee called for "central organisation and supervision". I wonder how much longer we must wait before someone sees the light.
My Lords, I am also with the dissenters in rejecting the suggestion that aftercare should be tacked on to the duties of the already overburdened probation service. It is scarcely necessary for me to say in this House that I give place to no one in my admiration of the great work which is done by the members of the probation service; and certainly, of course, they can, and they must, play a useful part—an essential part—in the after-care service as agents. But they should not have this task piled on to them, so that they will have to do a bit of after-care when they have finished their other back-breaking tasks. I object, too, to after-care becoming, or remaining, a sub-department of the Home Office; and that is why I most warmly support the suggestion made by my noble friend Lady Reading, that there should be a separate, independent corporation. We have had this century of talk—literally, since 1862, when the Home Office first started to make statutory contributions to after-care—and almost no "do". It is time that we began to give an independent corporation full responsibility for aftercare, so that it would co-operate with the Prison Department of the Home Office in exactly the same way as the National Assistance Board co-operates with the Ministry of National Insurance and the Ministry of Labour.
I am fully aware that such a major change must await a General Election and a new Government; but since the Government have accepted the Report in principle, I urge upon the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, who is to reply for the Government, to let us know whether the Government will now start doing some of the things which can be done now and which are recommended by the Committee. First of all, can we know whether the Home 1055 Office proposes now to increase the grossly inadequate financial provision for after-care? At present, the annual total from both public and private sources spent on material aid to ex-prisoners is £58,000. My Lords, £58,000 for a year for well over 50,000 prisoners! Can we seriously begin to talk about after-care at the rate of £1 per head per year? I am fully aware, of course, that ex-prisoners have recourse to the National Assistance Board, but there are all sorts of genuine needs outside the remit which the experienced welfare officers of NADPAS should be in a position to satisfy but which, through lack of funds, they are not. That lack of resources at the moment of need is one of the major causes of recidivism in the social inadequates who form a large part of our prison population. I think it should be attended to now, and it would be an economy, not an expense.
The second step which should be taken at once is the implementation of the Committee's recommendation that National Assistance, where due, should be paid to a prisoner before he is discharged. It is grossly unfair to release a man, as men are being released every day, with 10s. and a railway warrant in his pocket. Four out of ten long-sentence men have no homes to go to, and it means that the day they are released they have to find a bed for the night, go to the National Assistance Board, then to the Ministry of Labour and then back to the National Assistance Board again before they can get the money to pay for their bed. It is useless to deny that the lack of an address does, in fact, deprive many a man of the basic initial financial help he must have unless he is to start working his way back to prison. I have, in your Lordships' House, given irrefutable proof from Ministers' letters of the difficulties which can and do arise. Some of these, and much bitterness and frustration, can be avoided if whatever is due to a man is paid when he leaves prison. It does not cost any more if he gets the money at Parkhurst at 8 o'clock in the morning instead of at 5 o'clock at night in London, but it will make a lot of difference to his feeling of security, and I hope the change will be made.
1056 Another vitally urgent need, and one to which the right reverend Prelates the Lord Bishop of Bristol and the Lord Bishop of Exeter both drew attention, is of financial assistance now towards voluntary bodies for the provision and running of hostels for homeless ex-prisoners. I had a case just a few weeks ago when I was in Newcastle and spoke to the Newcastle Council of Social Service. I was told that the Bishop of Hexham had given a house for that purpose, and that it would be run without public cost by a charitable organisation but that they needed a grant for furnishings and equipment. So, on their behalf, I applied to the Home Secretary for a grant, only to be told that he could not give it but that we must await the outcome of this Report. My Lords, we have the Report now. The Margery Fry Memorial Fund has a Halfway House for ex-prisoners. They will start another when the funds are available, and that is only the beginning in the provision of small hostels for ex-prisoners run as family life homes.
I entirely endorse what was said by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Exeter about the great anxiety of people to help. They want only to be told. They want to be given leadership. They ask, "What can we do?" One is sick of having to write back and not being able to tell them. I am sure that a comparatively small capital sum and modest advances for maintenance would make it possible to provide a hostel place for every discharged prisoner who wants one—a decent, clean, friendly home to go to when he leaves prison.
The old established D.P.A.'s, as my noble friend Lord Listowel said, had become discouraged of late and were short of funds. There is need for help, for Government action and leadership; and I hope that the Home Secretary will do much more than take note of the Committee's recommendation to encourage religious bodies and voluntary organisations to take part in this work. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London has given a lead by making available a guild church—St. Botolphs Without—in the City of London. Next month it will start as the headquarters of an after-care organisation, with the vicar of a London church, who has 25 years' experience as a prison chaplain, as full-time director. 1057 He will be supported by an experienced lay committee and by social workers, and I hope that this and similar voluntary efforts will be given financial support from the Government.
My Lords, I apologise for keeping you longer than I expected; but my last point, which is a major one, is to urge the Government to consider now inviting the Law Officers to review sentencing policy with a view to drastic reduction in the prison population. It is virtually impossible to do anything in the way of serious rehabilitation in our older local prisons while they are as grossly overcrowded as now. Those prisons are, to a large extent, overcrowded by people who should not be there at all. I will mention one or two examples. Let us consider the matter of preventive detainees. It is twelve months since we had a Committee Report recommending the abolition of preventive detention. In those twelve months we have waited for a decision of the Home Secretary. Meanwhile, despite a practice direction from the Lord Chief Justice advising to the contrary, men are still being sentenced to prison for seven, eight, ten or fourteen years for trivial offences. I have corresponded with literally hundreds of them. Many of them are obviously mentally subnormal or borderline mental cases.
I had a letter from one of them this week. I have corresponded with him regularly; I am probably the only one who writes to him. His letter is dated the 29th of November and he tells me that he came out of prison in July from eight years' preventive detention and that he is now doing another seven years' preventive detention., having been convicted in October for stealing a radio and a £5 note. What social purpose is served by sending a man who is, in any case, a hopeless social inadequate and who has already been in prison for most of his life and has just done eight years' preventive detention, again to prison for seven years at a cost to the nation of around £2,000 a year? Is that the way we should deal with people? If we cannot trust Judges not to pass sentences of that kind then we must take out of their hands the power to pass these sentences and we must abolish preventive detention. Why should they not be sent to farm colonies? I wrote to 1058 NADPAS about another case with which I am concerned. I will read one sentence. It has to do with a man in Wandsworth Prison.R— has a long history of mental disorder and his present offence was committed whilst a patient in a mental hospital.He was a patient in a mental hospital and was arrested for larceny and sent to prison.
Now my Lords, we come to remands in custody. Some 35,000 untried men are remanded in custody every year; and more than half of them, if convicted, are not sent to prison after conviction. Why crowd our prisons with people whose offences, even if they are found guilty of them, do not merit a prison sentence? Why brand them with the prison stigma? Well over 3,000 alcoholics are sent to prison every year. One admission to Pentonville out of every six is a drunk. Some of them have been back fifty times. Is it sensible to go on sending such people to prison? If we have no treatment centres for alcoholics, then we should wait until we have provided them so that they can be dealt with properly. As regards first offenders, we are not supposed to send them to prison if there is another way of dealing with them. I moved the Third Reading in another place of the First Offenders Act. Yet we send 6,000 of them to prison every year. One of them, a first offender, for stealing 200 cigarettes a few weeks ago got four months. What kind of social good does it do to act in that way?
Indeed what good are short sentences at all? Anyone who knows anything about this subject knows that short sentences are useless for rehabilitation. Why go on "dishing" them out? Why do we give magistrates the power to send men to prison at all if the maximum is six months? Why not give them the power to award suspended sentences so that if a man sins again he can really be dealt with? My Lords, I put forward these views very seriously because if we begin sensibly to empty the prisons now and really use the probation service and plan in society as a whole, we can convert most of our prisons into open prisons. With the 5 per cent. or 7 per cent., whatever it is, of the real thugs and desperadoes who need maximum security left in their private hell, we can really treat the rest in an enlightened way.
1059 Finally, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, will say something about this; I hope he will recommend what I regard as the most revolutionary and beneficent development in the world of prisons—I was going to say in my lifetime—in the last twenty years. This is the recent declaration by the Prison Officers' Association. I have more faith in that than I have in anything that will be said in this debate or in any promise from the Home Secretary or anything in this Report, if prison officers have now decided that their task is rehabilitation and if they have said—in my mind very rightly—that they are the people who are close to the prisoners and they are the people who should be the social workers and the rehabilitation officers. "Train us", they say, "if there is a shortage of social workers."
There is no real shortage of prison officers in the prisons—at least the shortage has been to some extent alleviated. There will be no shortage at all if you cease to have a position where 80 per cent. of the prison officers' time is taken in locking men in, in unlocking them, escorting them for their meals, telling them to stand up, or sit down, or shut up, all the time, as if they were turnkeys in the early 19th century. That is the way prison officers spend their time and they are sick of it. They realise they will become as institutionalised as the men, and they do not want it. They want to have things changed, and changed in a sensible way, as I believe do all noble Lords to-day.
My Lords, I make no apology for the fact that on this subject I speak with perhaps more heat than is customary in your Lordships' House, but if every day of the week you get, as I do, these problems brought to you and you worry about them and work at them and then some up against obstructions and apathy and no action, then when an opportunity like this arises, if you are going to speak at all you have to speak up and from the heart. I hope that this time we shall get a reply from the noble Lord which will indicate that something will be done.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT AMORY
My Lords, if your Lordships will not rule me out of order and instantly move "That the noble Lord be no longer heard," I should 1060 like to start by expressing my great pleasure, after a little over two years absence overseas, in finding myself once again able to participate in the deliberations of your Lordships' House. I am sure that many of your Lordships envy me the great privilege I have enjoyed of spending two very happy years in that great and exciting sister country of the Commonwealth, Canada, among the most friendly and hospitable people in the world. I can never hope to be able to repay the kindnesses I received during these two years.
While it is true that during my absence I have noted a slight tendency on the part of some Members of your Lordships' House to "break out", I can assure your Lordships that I was equally concerned to "effect a re-entry"; and, having done so, I hope to stage something like a sit-down strike for the rest of my life. I should like to say also, strange thought it may seem for an old politician like myself who has so recently obtained sudden release from the gentle restrictions and discretions imposed on a temporary civil servant, that I propose on this occasion to inflict on your Lordships a speech of no prolonged length.
First, I would say how sincerely I join in the gratitude that has already been expressed to the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, for giving us this opportunity of considering this important matter of the after-care of discharged offenders in the light of the recommendations of the recent Report of the Advisory Council. The noble Baroness has a wide knowledge and experience of these matters which all of us greatly respect and admire; and in no field, if I may venture to say so, have her services been of more outstanding value than in the leadership she has so unselfishly given over many years to that excellent movement, the Women's Voluntary Services. It was only a few days ago that I participated in the opening of a project in my own county which was yet one more example of the spontaneous voluntary service to the community which is so devotedly rendered by members of that splendid movement.
I would also associate myself with the tributes that have been paid to the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Bristol. I 1061 find that the felicitations I keep in stock for a maiden speaker do not seem quite appropriate in this case. I usually say that the speaker must feel greatly encouraged by the success of his first venture into the field of oratory, and I express the hope that he will seek any further opportunities that come his way of developing his talents for exposition. As I suppose the right reverend Prelate has preached more sermons than all of us here, added together, have made speeches, this does not quite seem to fit. But certainly we greatly enjoyed his contribution.
I confess straight away that I have no special knowledge or experience in this field of social service. Therefore I have no comment of value to make on the technical or administrative aspects of the problems we are discussing. In fact I have ventured to intervene only because, as a citizen, I am sure that it is right that we should be giving urgent attention to this problem of the rehabilitation of offenders into the normal life of the community, and that it is very timely that some pretty bold action should be taken to develop further and make more effective the work that is being done in so many quarters.
When we consider the whole problem of the treatment of offenders, as laymen in these matters, we realise that there is practically no other aspect of our society about which we have less reason to rest on our oars or feel anything like complacency or satisfaction. Those who have caused damage and injustice and suffering to their fellows, and have broken the law, must be dealt with firmly and severely, when necessary. Softness by itself is no policy. Deterrence must always be an important consideration. And many offenders have inevitably to be segregated and punished. I rather agree, however, with what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham said: that we should take every care to see that people are not put inside and locked up unless that really is the appropriate punishment and treatment in their particular cases.
But, my Lords, though many offenders must be segregated and punished in this way, merely to segregate and shut up our fellow human beings cannot be accepted by any of us, I think, as an 1062 adequate or acceptable policy by itself. It simply cannot stop there. If it did, it would surely be a most despairing and I terrible commentary on the potentialities of our civilisation and the power of human beings to influence those of their fellows who have failed in their personal responsibilities for their good. It is sometimes felt, I know, that too much attention is concentrated on the welfare of the perpetrators of crime and too little on that of their victims. But the justification for making our after-care work as effective as we possibly can is that, while it does directly concern the welfare and provide help for the offender—and when he has expiated his crime it is very right that charity and help should then be extended to him—it goes much wider than that. To give this matter really proper attention is surely just enlightened self-interest on the part of the community which in any case has to receive these errant members back again into society. It must be true that very many of these people, on leaving prison, have a genuine desire to do better, and unless we treat after-care not only as a part of importance, but as perhaps the most important part of treatment, then we are leaving the whole conception of incarceration in prison in a very negative, unhappy and depressing condition.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary said a day or two ago in another place that offenders emerging from prison needed somewhere to live, a job and a friend to whom they could turn. How very true that is! An offender must so often need positive help in finding these three things. In passing, may I say that I was glad to note that my right honourable friend said that progress is being made in providing in prisons opportunities for really useful constructive work, as an alternative to that old-fashioned mailbag sewing which was surely the most devastating of conceptions.
In considering what better arrangements we can make, I am sure that we are right in paying tribute to the devoted work that is being done by so many full-time people, and also to the tremendous amount of voluntary service, as well as to the prison staffs themselves. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, refer to the statement made recently by the prison staffs: that is excellent news. Though, clearly, we need 1063 greatly increased numbers of trained workers in this field, it will surely always be true that here is a field where voluntary service has a tremendous part to play. I agree very much with what my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood said in this respect. May I say to my noble friend that I thought how fortunate she was to be so impressively escorted into this debate, sandwiched between two Bishops, a right reverend Prelate, as it were, immediately preceding her, scattering rose petals before her as he went, and another right reverend Prelate following behind, as it were, carrying her train. I was interested, too, in the observations of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Exeter—"my Bishop", if I may so call him, because I am a member of his flock: I nearly said one of his constituents, but he used to be one of mine.
I should also like to say a word about the probation service. Again, I know it only as a layman, looking at its work, from a distance, as it were; but I feel that it is doing wonderful and constructive work and has immense experience in this field. I am glad to know it is agreed that in any future arrangements the fullest use should be made of the experience of this service. As regards the particular pattern of the organisation recommended, I realise that my lack of knowledge makes me incompetent to express a useful opinion; and to try to do so would, I think, be rather an impertinence. My own admiration for the achievements and the humanity of the National Assistance Board leads me to see a good deal of force in the suggestion made by the noble Baroness who moved the Motion, that the advantages of such an organisation should be secured in some way. But I have no experience to enable me, at this stage, to judge as between one organisation and another. I know my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to be a man of the greatest courage and dedication, and, of all men, I think, the least likely to be deflected from what he believes is the best course by considerations of what may be easiest or least controversial. Therefore, in a matter of this kind I should attach much weight to his judgment.
But, my Lords, whatever the administrative pattern may be, I hope that the 1064 structure will be such as to give the fullest scope for the injection of that degree of inspiration, driving force and leadership which will be essential if aftercare, side by side with the probationary work, is to be given full opportunity of playing the positive and constructive part in the treatment of offenders that we all believe it can do. In giving scope to local knowledge and help—one sees the immense importance of that—we must, at the same time make sure that our objects are not defeated by any efforts that fall short of sustained and increasing momentum. My Lords, let us give our firm support to a great forward move now when we have the opportunity of doing so, and so make it our aim to try to see, so far as we can do so, that those 60,000 offenders who, I understand, emerge each year from our prisons have the best chance we can provide of becoming responsible law-abiding citizens and useful members again of the community.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I think that possibly I ought to begin by apologising to your Lordships for taking up so much of your time at the moment, because I seem to be speaking almost every day. It so happens that just now a series of topics is being discussed which is particularly in the centre of my interest, and I am afraid this will go on next week. I will therefore do my best to keep my remarks this evening as short as possible. I, too, would like to pay tribute and express my thanks to the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, who introduced this Motion this afternoon. I hope she will not mind my saying that I think this is a good example of the great value which we are deriving in this House from the fact that we now have women amongst our Members. There are quite a number of these matters, social matters pre-eminently, in which in many ways women are better equipped to express opinions and to advise than are men, and this is very much one of them. Everybody who listened to the noble Baroness this afternoon must have appreciated her speech.
I should like, first, to comment a little on this Report which we are discussing to-day. It is a little puzzling in some ways and does not quite seem to reach the standard one expects from 1065 the Home Office. It seems to be in the nature of a Report by a sub-committee which was adopted by the main Committee, though so far as one can see that appears only by inference. The signatures are the signatures of the sub-committee, and nowhere, so far as I have been able to find, do the members of the main Committee sign it, though possibly the Chairman's letter at the beginning might be taken as appending their signature by inference.
Another peculiar thing is that in the index there is nothing about the Minority Report. Anybody taking this document a little casually might not realise, looking through the index, that there was a Minority Report. The Minority Report of dissent is at page 83, but if you look at the index you do not find anywhere that there is a page 83. I think this is rather inexcusable, because, although it is only a short Report, there is a great deal of pertinent observation in the Report of the minority. They do not, in a way, dissent from most of the recommendations of the majority, but they emphasise, as my noble friend Lord Stonham has emphasised, that if this Report really is to be of great value to the community, it must be implemented with decision and courage, and not just by way of lip service, which is what is so often happens when these Reports are received by Ministers, and years afterwards we are still where we were when the Report was first received.
I should like to underline that the whole of this distinguished Committee who have been working on this subject for many years are quite unanimous in the view that aradical revision of the present arrangements is essential if after-care is to achieve its aims.I hope that the Home Secretary will have that printed in large letters on a placard and put on his desk in the Home Office so that he sees it every time he appears in the office. In that way perhaps he will see that there is not a delay of the kind which my noble friend Lord Stonham has been pointing out has dogged this problem ever since the time of the Gladstone Committee, and even before.
Of course, the fact that yesterday the Government accepted the recommendations of the majority carries us a long way and makes it unnecessary to discuss some of the matters which are argued 1066 at length in the Report itself. But I feel it is perhaps necessary to say a word or two on the question to which my noble friend Lord Stonham referred, as to whether there should be one service or two; whether the probation and aftercare service should be a united service for dealing with this problem, or whether we should have a separate and independently organised after-care service. My noble friend seemed to be a little in favour of the two services. I do not feel that the minority really took that view, although possibly it is not quite clear. But it is fairly obvious, from the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon, that the great weight of opinion is that this should all be one service, and I must say that I find myself on that side.
Of course, the answer to this question depends upon the proper assessment of the problem of recidivism, because that is the problem this business is aimed at. I entirely agree with those speakers who have said that the great mass of these people who are within the ambit of this scheme are not vicious, wicked men, but are just ineffectual sort of people who cannot cope with the very real difficulties of modern life. Putting them into gaol is a very rough and inefficient method of handling this problem—an old-fashioned one, but one we cannot completely get away from. The more we do, and the more quickly, the better it will be. As chairman of quarter sessions, taking part in not a great number of sentencing decisions, I and my fellow magistrates on the whole have come to the conclusion that the more you can keep people out of prison the better. "Keep them out as much as possible" is our policy, and I find that more and more of my fellow magistrates up and down the country, and Judges, tend to take that view.
I think it is a very progressive policy, and I hope that it will soon become generally adopted. We keep them out of prison, and have been doing over this last fifty years and more, by the excellent probation arrangements that we have. Very few people now, especially among the youngsters, go to prison for a first offence, and I think the sort of people with whom we are concerned this afternoon are very much like the chronically ill—the people who are run down or otherwise incapacitated, but have not reached the stage of hospitalisation 1067 under the National Health Service and should be kept out of hospital so far as possible. I equate hospitals with prisons for the purpose of this analogy.
The probation service should tackle the young criminal or the initiate criminal in the early stages of the "illness", and in a large number of cases it not only tackles them but succeeds in effecting a cure. Certainly in my county only a minute number who are put on probation are brought back before the court, just as the general practitioner in the Health Service succeeds on the whole in keeping his people out of hospital—certainly the best of them. They both fail sometimes, of course, both the National Health Service and the probation service, and hospital or prison has to be tried. Then we are faced with this problem of what we shall do when the man comes out of hospital or prison. Of course, if he comes out of hospital he almost always goes back to his National Health doctor, which is the obvious way of dealing with him. Is not the analogy again an effective one: that a man who comes out of prison should go back to the probation officer who helped him, very often for quite a long time successfully before some backsliding made it necessary to put him in prison? That seems to me to be the important argument in regard to linking up the after-care and the probation services together and making them one service.
In so many of these cases the probation officer knows the man. When he comes back it is re-establishing the personal relationship which may have temporarily failed, but so many of these people are just like the chronically sick who have their spasms of illness. I have had men back who have gone straight for a couple of years and then, usually under the influence of too much alcohol, they break out again, and they are very sorry for it. Sometimes we can put them on probation again, but sometimes they have to go to prison. It is interesting to note that at Wandsworth recently a very promising organisation has been established called Recidivists Anonymous, in parallel with Alcoholics Anonymous which, as we all know, has done fine work for many years. Although Recidivists Anonymous has been going only a short time, I have every reason 1068 to believe that it has already achieved a good deal of success.
It seems to me that not only, as has been pointed out several times this afternoon, will it be much easier to get an effective after-care system going quickly, and not only is the practical argument in favour of this, but also the real policy argument points in the same direction. Quite apart from the fact that it is the most practical way of doing it, it is the best way as well, and I am sure this would be an argument which would appeal to the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, who very properly directed our attention to the long-term element in this difficult situation.
I think the one serious objection is the one whch is argued at some length in the Report: that it might easily happen that the probation side of the service would swamp the after-care side. That, I think, is a very real possibility. The probation service is already overloaded, as was particularly pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, and if the Home Office think that they can unload aftercare on to the probation service without expanding it (to use a phrase which I think my noble friend Lord Listowel used earlier on), the whole thing will quite obviously fail. Not only must it be substantially expanded, but a great deal of effort must be put in at a high level in seeing to it that those men and women who have perhaps formed patterns of thought and conduct by spending their lives in the probation service are really encouraged and pushed, so to speak, into the after-care work as well. This will require an organisation and inspection from the centre, and the really devoted work of the kind which the noble Baroness advocated so eloquently.
It is here, I think, that I find myself in much sympathy with the minority who are afraid that the whole thing will break down unless rather more drive is put into it. I was interested in the reservation of one member of the subcommittee, who indicated that she would have liked to see the Majority Report couched in much stronger language, and with a much greater incentive, so to speak, to the politicians and the bureaucracy to get on with the job. I find myself very much in sympathy with this, in view of all that has happened in the past.
1069 I think this appeal which the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, made for having an independent board, with a really first-class, whole-time chairman, ought to be pressed and pressed very hard upon the Government. I am quite sure that she is absolutely right when she says that this thing cannot be made to work in a subsection of the Home Office, where the civil servants are being swapped about from one department to another at short intervals. I think—and I have said this before and it is probably a little peripheral to the main argument—that the considerable advances which have been made over the last years in the general field of penal work have been largely due to the fact that the Prison Commission was, in a sense, somewhat independent of the bureaucracy in Whitehall; and it is a great pity that this has been brought to an end. If we think we are going to get a good after-care service on the basis of its being conducted from a room in the Home Office, I am afraid we shall all find ourselves very disappointed.
My Lords, I should like to suggest, in conclusion, that the whole of this problem of crime and its handling has to be discussed at two levels. We have, for the most part, been discussing it on what one might call the technical level, with which this Report is extremely concerned and which one can go on discussing in detail for quite a long time. I feel that what one might call the general humanitarian level, which shone through so much of the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, is even more important.
Until the community of this country becomes emotionally involved in the solution of this problem of criminality it will not be solved, however much dedicated people, and the sort of people to whom the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Exeter referred, are doing their best and pulling their weight. I do not agree with him that most of the community is yet involved in this problem. Unfortunately, most of the people are just interested spectators, and the cheap newspapers encourage this sort of outlook on their part.
There is another and important section of the community which is more concerned with revenge and hate than anything else, and then there is this important 1070 section which looks at it in what one might call a Christian spirit and wants to see a new attitude taken upon it. As yet, I am afraid, that is only a small minority. Our job is to make the people understand, as somebody said this afternoon, that we are all involved in this business. If we are to be a sane and healthy community we must, I will not say stamp this out, but cure it, again going back to the analogy of health.
Very few people are yet ready to give active sympathy and help. Many people, but still too few, are, in a general way, prepared to be sympathetic, but the number of people who are really prepared to give active sympathy and help is very small, and I am sorry that in this Report something less than a page is given to the problem of public relations, which is really vital to the whole of this business. If the noble Baroness, Lady Swan-borough, could be given just a quarter of an hour on the wireless by the B.B.C. some evening, instead of a good deal of the nonsense which goes out, I should like to see her talking to the people of this country in the sort of way she has talked to your Lordships this afternoon, and get it across to the people and make them really understand, for example on this business of after-care, that it cannot succeed unless they are all trying to help.
That, of course, involves this question of getting in the voluntary workers, which is most important. I was very glad, therefore, that the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, whom we welcome back and whose witty speeches we always enjoy, not least this afternoon, paid attention to this important matter. Bringing the voluntary workers in is obviously an essential part. No doubt, the thing cannot be made to work without a good strong cadre of professionally-trained men and women, but it will not succeed also unless the voluntary workers who have been doing the work in the past can be kept interested and enthusiastic.
I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, is already doing a great deal through the W.V.S. It is interesting to read in this Report that the W.V.S. have already, at several prisons, embarked upon what appears to be a successful scheme for looking after the families of persons who are in prison, and that is undoubtedly a valuable 1071 initiative which one hopes will soon be spread all over the country. But they could do even more for the men themselves when they come out. Perhaps they are already doing so, but it does not appear so from this Report. The Report pays very proper tribute to the work which is done by the after-care organisations which already exist and by societies and individuals up and down the country. It needs to be made known much more and orgnised much more, and I think the W.V.S. is obviously in some ways better equipped for helping with this work than any other organisation. So I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, will be able to give it a push and see that her people are used in this way; because it seems to me that we shall thus be able to get the interest and commitment of the community for the solution of this problem, which, up to now, I am afraid, we have not got. With that thought, I will leave it to the next speaker to carry on the debate.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD SANDFORD
My Lords, it is usually the merit of our debates in this House that we hear the views of Members who have close personal and inside knowledge of our subiects, but I am afraid I cannot claim any inside knowledge of prison life. Nevertheless, it is important, while we are discussing this subject in a comprehensive and national context, that we should also think of it from the point of view of individual people, and, of course, particularly of prisoners. That being so, may I mention one or two local features from my own part of the world, not because they are in any way typical but because I think they illustrate one or two matters which are important from this point of view?
I live on the borders of Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire. Bedford has a gaol with about 200 or more people in it. There is now a prison welfare officer and a prisoners' aid society, with one whole-time combined secretory and after-care officer. Hertfordshire has none. Hertfordshire has a probation staff of about 50, and Bedfordshire rather fewer. So much for the more official side of the situation. On the unofficial side there has over the last 1072 fifteen years been one man working for the St. Albans Diocese, covering both Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, whose responsibility it has been to visit the families of men in prison from the moment they begin their sentence, and to continue to care for them and the man himself when he comes home. It is becoming the regular practice of the probation officers in both these counties to report to this man the home address of each person living in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire who is committed to prison from any of our courts, and he acts on behalf of all prisoners, irrespective of their creed or denomination, whether they are to be under the aftercare official or whether they ask for after-care or not. I am glad to say that he has been successful in enlisting the support of all sorts of people from all over both counties. So much for the counties.
In my own town, of about 18,000 population, very much at the instigation of my noble friend, the Lady who has introduced this debate, my own parish church obtained the services, unofficially, part-time, unpaid, of another person ready to act as a prisoner's friend towards anyone residing in the town who may have need of his services, either on discharge from prison or after conviction in the courts. This prisoner's friend has at present three people in our town under his care. There are a total of 24 people in the care of the probation officer. Of these three, one young man has just been discharged from borstal, one is on probation and another is on probation and also on remand. Each of these three cases the prisoner's friend has discovered for himself; they have not been referred to him by anybody. In one case he has been able to enlist the support and influence of the probation officer in order to help obtain accommodation for the man and his family. So far the liaison has not extended beyond that; no doubt it will improve.
From all this I should like to make three general points; first of all, concerning the relationship between the prisoner and the public. As stated in paragraph 49 of the Report we have been considering this afternoon, prison welfare officers now have the duty to report to aid societies and other appropriate agencies in the community upon those prisoners who are willing or likely 1073 to benefit from after-care. In our experience (and this has already been said several times this afternoon) it can safely be assumed that every prisoner's family, if not every prisoner, can hardly fail to benefit from care and friendship from the moment the man is convicted by the court and committed to prison. I submit, therefore, that his home address should be reported as a matter of course at once to those who are willing and able to give friendship to his family. So far as I have been able to ascertain, this duty, or that part of this duty which is so far imposed on the prison welfare officers, has not yet caught up with the unofficial arrangement which has already been established between our diocesan representative and the probation officers in the two counties, but I do not see any difficulty in getting it going as this service grows and takes shape; and I am sure it should be done.
The second point concerns the relationship between the official probation and after-care officers, if such they become, and unofficial prisoners' friends. If the proposals in the Report are accepted as they stand, these two people, the ones in my own town serving the St. Albans Diocese I have been referring to as prisoners' friends (because that is what they are), will, so far as I can see, be re-styled "after-care auxiliaries". In one place the Report rather generously refers to them as "warm-hearted aftercare auxiliaries with sound common sense". But neither warm hearts nor sound common sense will save these two people from having to face area auxiliary after-care committees before they can be presented as fit partners for the probation officer.
Great care and discretion must, of course, be taken in selecting the right persons for this sort of work, but I doubt whether quite the sort of bureaucracy suggested in this Report is necessary; and I am quite certain that this dreadful jargon is not. Your Lordships may remember that at the beginning of the last war there were created Local Defence Volunteers—a title, I think, very properly rejected in favour of "Home Guard". I am sure that we can do better than "area auxiliary after-care committees" as a title; in- 1074 deed, I am not sure that we need the committees at all under any name or in the form that is proposed. I am not convinced that chief probation officers and their staffs are quite such bureaucrats or so out of touch with their own neighbourhoods that the procedure outlined in the Report is necessary.
Paragraph 152 says:The responsibility for seeing that area auxiliary after-care committees were set up would rest with the Home Secretary … advised by the Central Council for Probation and After-care.The Home Secretary, the Committee recommend:should, in consultation with the probation and after-care committee, consider inviting the civic leaders of that area to call a meeting of interested local bodies … with a view to those bodies subsequently nominating persons …who then start looking for the people to look after the prisoners. Our own county probation officers and others, the "interested bodies", I am glad to say, are meeting in February at the house of my friend, the Lord Bishop of St. Albans, and I have a feeling that there, over a glass of sherry, most of the prisoners' friends that are needed to partner our probation officers in this new scheme will be mobilised and organised; or, at any rate, will be found shortly afterwards without further ado. There are, of course, other jobs to be done—hostels to be set up and staffed; but we do not want committees of people interested in after-care; what we want is to have people who care caring.
My third and last point concerns relations between the whole of this service and the public—public relations, as has been mentioned already this afternoon. This is touched upon in paragraphs 165 to 169 of the Report, but not, I think, very realistically. The annual reports of the Prison Commissioners were welcomed, in the words of the Report, as a step forward in public relations. Can this really be said? These Reports are weighty, solid official documents, admirable of their kind, but presented to Parliament largely, I would say, for the use of officials and others engaged in the actual service. As the authors of the Report on after-care themselves rather coyly say, something more may well be needed; and I am quite certain that it is. I suggest that it would be very wise to get outside professional 1075 expert advice before anything is produced.
But, my Lords, whatever form or medium is chosen to present the challenge of this new service to the public, I think these three points will need to be considered. First, there is the need to enlist part-time partners for the probation officers, as well as further probation officers themselves, so that these additional burdens of after-care do not break the back of an already heavily-laden service. Secondly, to be borne in mind is the need to make a better job of reconciling offenders to society, and society to offenders, by involving many more ordinary citizens in the job. And, thirdly, I believe, there is the need to persuade our people as a whole to come to grips to a greater extent than they are willing to do at present with the real frailties and perversities of our own natures and the nature of our own society.
No one will be drawn into this service among prisoners, whole-time or part-time, just for the fun of it. But, after all, we have it on the highest authority, on Dominical authority, that this work, visiting and caring for prisoners, is among those that, in the end, earn the highest accolade of all. I should therefore like to end by adding my thanks to the noble Baroness who, by introducing this debate, has done so much to raise what could be, and should be, a fine service to its true status.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
My Lords, unlike most of the speakers in this debate, I am not an expert in this subject. My only knowledge of it is derived from service as a magistrate and as a member of a borough probation case committee. I therefore hope I shall be forgiven if I concentrate on one part of the field, the probation service and its rôle in after-care in the light of this Report of the Advisory Council which we have been discussing.
The first thing that I should like to say, as several noble Lords have said before me, is that this field of after-care is one in which we as a country have not in the past done as well as we should. The present arrangements are not adequate, and there is need for action now—not only, I think, or even mainly, because it offers any great pros- 1076 pect of reducing crime, but because more is required of us on the simple humanitarian and, indeed, Christian level. I therefore greatly welcome the proposals in the Report, and I hope that we shall not settle down now to a long wrangle about the details, but will get something going as soon as possible.
In 1957 the Advisory Committee on the Treatment of Offenders were asked to consider whether compulsory aftercare should be extended. They reported that it should, and the Criminal Justice Act, 1961, made provision for certain extensions, and the first extension, under which those coming out of detention centres will come into compulsory aftercare, comes into operation on the 1st of next month. And here we are, only now talking about how these extensions are to be catered for. It will take years to organise and train the men and women who will be required for carrying out further extensions, so that the urgency of the matter must, I think, be obvious.
The question is, how is it to be done? I myself am sure that the recommendation of the Report is right, and that there should be a single service dealing with compulsory and voluntary after-care, and that it should be a combined probation and after-care service. I am glad that the Government have accepted that in principle. It seems to me that the two tasks are sufficiently alike to make it both sensible and, at the same time, economic in manpower to have one service. The qualities required of a worker in after-care are described in the Report in these words:It requires a warm heart, but also a clear head; compassion combined with insight; lack of illusion and preparedness for disappointment.I think all the probation officers that I have met are possessed of these qualities to a marked degree, and it seems to me only logical to make all the use of that fact that we can.
Another advantage of the combined service is that a larger service would provide a better and more attractive promotion structure than two separate services could offer. It will also provide better geographical coverage in the more scattered areas. I know that the suggestion has been made that some offenders resent after-care, and they do so all the more if their after-care officer was previously 1077 their probation officer, whose report may possibly have resulted in their going to prison. But I should have thought that it would more often be an advantage to the offender to have the same person concerned in his affairs throughout. If in a particular case this produced any difficulty, it would always he possible to assign a different officer to him.
Finally, I think that the extension of the probation service offers the best prospect for getting something workable reasonably quickly. But, even so, this is where the real difficulty arises. Even as it is, the demands on probation officers are continually increasing and the service is finding it difficult to recruit enough people to cope with the situation. The out-turn from the detention centres which, as I say, is coming into compulsory aftercare from January 1, was over 3,000 in 1962, and will rise to 6,000 or 7,000 over the next few years as more detention centres come into operation.
The other categories of offenders who may, and should as soon as possible, come into compulsory after-care under the 1961 Act amount to another 6,000 or 7,000 a year. By that time, the Report says, after-care is likely to represent a quarter of the case load of the combined services as against one-eighth now. In addition, there will be an unknown, but probably increasing, proportion of the 45,000 adults who are discharged from prison each year, all of whom can claim voluntary after-care. In my own area at present the probation service deals with about the same number of voluntary after-care cases as compulsory cases, and though it is true that many of those who claim voluntary aftercare do so only to collect the benefits in cash and kind which are available on discharge and thereafter are never heard of again, nevertheless, they create a good deal of work. I have seen no estimate of the actual number of extra people who will be required to implement the proposals up to the point envisaged by the Criminal Justice Act, 1961, in addition to those available from the existing after-care service, but the Morison Committee said that it would be quite considerable.
The Report makes suggestions about recruiting and training additional officers. But when one considers the qualification and the length of training which 1078 we quite rightly require of entrants to the probation service, it is clear that something dynamic will have to be done on the lines suggested by the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Exeter. But I should like to suggest, as a temporary measure, that use might be made of those applicants for the probation service who have most of the necessary qualifications but do not quite make the grade, perhaps on academic or other grounds: and also that a shorter course than probation officers now take would be enough to make them fit for the task of after-care. I think it can be accepted that useful work can be done in after-care, as indeed it is now, by people less highly qualified than probation officers. But I would emphasise that I suggest this purely as a temporary measure, to tide things over until the full number of properly qualified officers is available.
Lastly, I should like to say something about hostels, reinforcing really once again what the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Exeter, has said. Whatever the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, may say, my experience has been in accordance with that of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley—namely, that the practice nowadays is to send to prison only those offenders for whom no alternative can be found. In the lower courts, at any rate, this means those rootless and shiftless people with no secure home background, from whom there is no prospect of extracting a fine and who would not be able to benefit from probation, and for whom there is really no alternative left but prison. For people of that kind hostel accommodation is likely to be required when they come out, and it may be required for a long time. There is a shortage of hostels of this sort. That shortage has been aggravated by the closing of the National Assistance Board residential centre.
The Report seems to suggest that the provision of hostels should be left to voluntary bodies, who are of course doing great work so far as their means permit. But I, personally, feel that we should face the necessity of providing more than can be expected from voluntary bodies from their own resources. To sum up, I welcome the Report and its proposals, but I would stress that this matter is urgent, that we should quickly make up our minds 1079 what we are going to do about it, and that we should be prepared to find what is needed in terms of both men and money.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I followed with great interest what the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell has just said, and I agree with his stress on urgency. I was rather discouraged a little earlier when he said that we must all recognise that it would take years to organise and equip a service of this kind. It is true that in a pessimistic moment the Report says the same thing:We recognise that the fulfilment of our proposals for the future organisation of aftercare will necessarily extend over a period of years.That, of course, is a fairly ambiguous statement. I think we ought to remember what a very small number of officials we are talking about. If we look at the numbers engaged in social work, we find 300,000 in teaching, 200,000 or more in medicine (either doctors or nurses), and about 2,000 probation officers. Certainly we could go a long way to build up this service if we recruited several hundred more officers of that kind. If we were engaged in a national emergency, certainly in the event of war, we should find that this could be done overnight. Therefore, I hope this doctrine, that it will take years, will not go out; and I hope that the noble Lord, who struck a rather more optimistic note towards the end, will repudiate the idea, emphasised in the Report, that this will take years. I think that is the wrong way of looking at it. I agree with what has been said about the immense urgency of the task.
§ LORD HAMILTON OF DALZELL
My only point in saying that was that, under present arrangements, it takes three years to produce one probation officer.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I must avoid running against my noble friend Lord Listowel's plea that this must be regarded as a non-Party matter, and therefore I must not point the obvious moral. But it need not have taken two and a half years to collect a few probation officers to deal with detention cen- 1080 tres. It is a disgrace that that should have occurred. It was not anything inevitable in the nature of things—and I am not alluding to any one Party or to any one Government. But it was a signal failure. However, I am not going to accept that as a proof that we need to spend years collecting a few hundred officials when we are training thousands of teachers, whose work, after all, requires even more prolonged training than the officers we are discussing. That is my general approach.
We have had a debate of very high quality, as I think everybody would agree, particularly if they had been concerned with this subject for many years. The noble Marchioness, as I hope I may refer to her (and I see the Minister agrees with that nomenclature), is one of the most creative minds of her time in the social field. She possesses the double gift of being able to dream a dream and make it come true in terms of administration and benefit to her fellow human beings, and she has given a very strong lead to-day. We have listened to many notable speeches and I hope that I may be forgiven if I single out my own colleagues, my noble friends Lord Stonham, Lord Listowel and Lord Chorley, but I would pay tribute to all speakers in this debate.
We were immensely struck—and I say this with some hesitation, because he was kind enough to mention my little book—by the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Bristol. He said so many things which we shall want to treasure that I can pick on only one—I have not perhaps taken it down quite correctly, but it was to this effect: that only the man who recognises that he deserved to be punished can be fully rehabilitated. This is tremendously true. It so happens that even to-day I found a man who has been greatly punished and who recognises he deserved it; and I came away with a feeling that he was a better fellow or in a greater state of grace than I am. What the right reverend Prelate said on that point was very true.
We all know that the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Exeter, is one of the best speakers in this House. I am glad to find the clerical influence, even when slightly disguised, slipping round behind the Government and 1081 taking them in the rear as well as in the flank. I have listened to all the speeches with great interest. We have all felt (and here I vie with my noble friend Lord Stonham), in the past, and we shall for quite a while yet, I am sure, feel it our duty to denounce the total inadequacy of the after-care arrangements which exist in this country. We do that while at the same time paying tribute to those who have laboured with little reward—certainly with no perceptible commercial reward; but they were not looking for that—in this field for so long. I am glad that the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, taking part in one of these debates in this House for the first time, recognised that there is a great deal to do and not much time in which to do it.
If I am asked why we have done so little, or why we spend, as the Report shows, only about £300,000 altogether from public funds on after-care, I would submit this answer—though I do not think it is capable of proof, and I do not know that anyone has worked it out in exactly this way. I feel that even since the coming of the Welfare State, since we have recognised the responsibility of the community for helping all those in distress, or those who are old, or young, or weak, there has been a kind of feeling, half-rationalised, that the prisoner was not someone who needs any special help; that the Welfare State was available, with the labour exchange, the hospital, and all the rest. We have not recognised until now, as a community, the proposition that the prisoner is someone specially handicapped. I myself would say—and I have said this before on a number of occasions—that all too often the prisoner is four times handicapped: handicapped by his temperament; handicapped by the fact of his sentence (and, as Lord Stonham has shown, under present conditions it is so often more likely to do harm than good); handicapped, inevitably, in the opinion of his fellow citizens by his record—though, speaking as an ex-chairman of a bank, one is bound to admit that banks, at this stage of civilisation, can hardly be expected to employ those who have been convicted of theft; and, fourthly, handicapped, unnecessarily and irrationally, by the prejudices and unenlightened outlook of the community as a whole. He is a 1082 handicapped man who needs a special service to help him.
I would venture to say this—and this note has been struck by more than one speaker in the debate—that if we do nothing, or virtually nothing, for a man when he leaves prison, we are breaking off, and therefore stultifying, the whole treatment which we were setting out to offer him. We have a heavy responsibility on ourselves when we deprive a man of liberty for some years and then, when we bring him out, say to him, "It was good while it lasted; we are not going to bother you any more, and we hope you will not bother us". We have betrayed the responsibility which we have assumed in giving a man that punishment. Therefore, it seems to me that as a country we have now moved to a point where those most concerned, including the leaders of the various Parties and the Churches (with the Churches well to the fore), have reached a point where we recognise the need for setting up a special service.
I was chairman of a fairly representative committee which drew up a national plan for after-care some three years ago, shortly before the setting up of the Committee whose Report we are discussing to-day. In our Report we made this comment—one which perhaps is fairly obvious, and certainly has been widely accepted in the House to-day:We believe that a system of professional welfare officers … inside and outside the prisons, in combination with vigorous and experimental local voluntary movements, could provide an organisation which would be capable of dealing with the problems of the discharged prisoner. This would at least make sure that those who needed help were offered it and that it was appropriate to their needs.We went on to say that while the hard core would consist of professional social workers, the scope for voluntary action would be greater and not less under a plan of that kind. I am not suggesting that this Committee which was set up afterwards was incapable of arriving at its conclusions without our assistance, but its general findings are in harmony with those which we reached three years ago.
There was, however, one very important issue, which I cannot regard as one of detail, which we left over specifically and which speakers have tackled in various ways to-day. That is the question of whether a national after-care service 1083 should be, so to speak, on its own, a separate service distinct from the probation officers, or whether it should be combined with the probation service to form a probation and after-care service. When people say—and I think I have heard the expression used to-day in the House—"Well, for Heaven's sake let the Government now get on with it!", of course they cannot get on with it until they settle that particular question. Therefore, before any of us asks them to get on with it, we must each be ready to offer our own view at least on that question. I do not mean that they cannot do anything at all to get ready for the new service until they settle that question, but obviously that crucial decision will have to be taken, one way or the other, before the new service can operate.
It happens—and I do not want to labour this point—that I have recently been asked to become chairman of a working party, which will offer advice, to be accepted or otherwise, to the Labour Party. Therefore I must be particularly cautious to-day, and not seek to offer any personal views on this extremely difficult issue on which opinions can be very easily held either way. I would submit that there are, in fact, three main courses open, or three courses which have come before us to-day—and no doubt others are theoretically possible—between which it seems we have to choose, in giving effect to this general philosophy that now seems to be common to all parts of the House, to the majority and the minority of the Committee, and to all people who care for these matters.
On the one hand, as I say, we could set up a separate after-care service; on the other, we could do what the majority Report recommends—that is to say, organise a combined probation and aftercare service on the present decentralised basis. The Report, among its tenets, holds very strongly that this service ought to be decentralised. It does not say simply that it should be a combined service; it makes a virtue of the fact that this service should be decentralised. I am bound to say that I cherish the suspicion (and the distinguished representatives of the Advisory Council who are with us to-day will force me on to my knees by way of apology if it is an 1084 unworthy one) that they thought the only way this could be organised was through the probation service, or through the expansion of the probation service. And as the probation service happens to be organised on a decentralised basis—I imagine for reasons of historical accident—they worked out a sort of philosophy under which this combined service had to be decentralised. I am afraid that I read that into the Report. Be that as it may—and, as I say, if forced to apologise, I shall do so—there is what I call the third course, the course of organising, establishing, a combined probation and after-care service, but one which is much more centralised and has much more positive leadership than the present probation service.
So the three courses are: first, that there should be a single service, the after-care service on its own; secondly, the proposal of the Majority Report, and, thirdly, the proposal which the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, has brought before us to-day, which is for a combined service, but a combined service which works in a much more centralised way and with much clearer leadership than the probation service as of now. Particularly as I have become chairman of a Labour Party advisory group, I do not feel able to offer my view in favour of one of those courses more than another. All, it seems to me, have strong attractions. But I would add this: that I hope the noble Baroness's proposal gets at any rate a good run for its money. I think that is the very least that it should receive. I say that because, obviously, there will be quite important influences which will promote both of the other two courses. So I hope that this scheme of a combined service, under a board organised on the lines which the noble Baroness has unfolded to us, will receive the most careful attention by all whose decisions matter.
My Lords, I do not want to say much more, in view of the fact that at the beginning I emphasised my own conviction that any Government worthy of its salt, whatever its political complexion, would not lie down under the thought that this idea is bound to take years to work out. I believe that we have to show more imagination in recruiting people. I have a little bee in my bonnet over this point. I believe that there 1085 are large numbers of people in this country, as has been said—particularly middle-aged people—who have become available for social work; and I mean full-time social work, paid work, as they have to earn their living. But I very much fear that at the moment we are not using them sufficiently, and are not likely, unless we bestow ourselves with much more imagination than we have shown hitherto, to use them to the full.
The particular bee in my bonnet is the widow. On the whole, I think the best social worker is the widow. She has enjoyed the experience of marriage and she has suffered the experience of widowhood. When I think of all the widows who are doing invaluable social work, I do not at all accept the view that they are incapable of becoming professional social workers. We must not be hypnotised by that word "professional". The word "training", too, can become something of a snare and a delusion. It seems to me that there are great numbers of middle-aged people in this country who require to earn their living. They are not working for much money, and if we are going to build up this service we must draw on them much more actively than we hitherto have seemed likely to draw on them.
I should like to raise one other point before coming to the end. I do not think we have heard anything to-day of a certain paragraph, No. 181, of the Report, where we find this suggestion:If the new aims of voluntary effort in the field of after-care are to be developed to best advantage throughout the country, there may well be need for a new national voluntary organisation to co-operate with the probation and after-care service and to co-ordinate and encourage such effort and stimulate public interest.Rightly, the Committee decided to leave that very open. They did not say how that was to be done. But I am quite sure that a national voluntary organisation of some kind, to provide leadership in the voluntary field, must come into existence. I support what appears to be the outlook of the Committee in that respect, and one would hope that the churches—and most of all one looks, if I may say so respectfully, to the Established Church—would take a very strong initiative in seeing that a national organisation of this kind comes into being before many months are out.
1086 My Lords, we have in this country seen very little after-care up till now. I remember—it is not so very long ago; in the last two or three years, I suppose—a distinguished accountant coming into my office when I was a banker. He gave me his name and mentioned his son who was a well-known man, and one who was just completing a long sentence. This accountant said to me:'I have just been to see the governor of my son's prison, who is a very well disposed person. I said. 'You have now had my son in your care for several years. What do you or the State propose to do about him?'. The Governor with complete candour said to me, 'Nothing'. He said, 'I wish I could give you a different answer. It would be misleading you to suggest that we are going to do anything at all'".The accountant asked, "What can I do?", and then the governor referred him to me, because I was chairman of a voluntary society. If we bring about what we hope will be brought about, that will alter this revolution in after-care, and I hope and believe that the State will undertake far greater responsibilities.
However, if we ask whether that is going to be enough, I return to the theme which has been very prominent to-day. I remember a few years ago, ten years ago, giving lunch to a prisoner who had come out of Parkhurst. Though still quite a young man he had been doing preventive detention. This was before I had so many dealings with prisoners as I have had since. I gave him lunch and shook hands with him—feeling quite good myself, of course—and I bade him a cheery goodbye, saying, "Well, now things are fine. You are out of prison after all these years, and the world is at your feet", or words to that effect. He said, "Do you realise I know no one? The only people I know are prisoners and suchlike, whom I am not supposed to consort with. Therefore, I am going out into a completely empty world".
Various people, including myself, must be thought to have failed that man hitherto, but now, ten years later, there is every sign that he is going to make good. He is now on the hostels scheme, having been back to prison twice since then, and is winning golden opinions. He writes to me from the Midland town where he is on the hostels scheme. He has been befriended—this is the point—by a family in the neighbourhood who took him into their house 1087 regularly on Sundays and introduced him to their friends. Such families are the real Good Samaritans of to-day. This man writes:I have been accepted as an honorary member of the local sports club and have made lots of friends of the members, who treat me as one of themselves and invite me into their homes and introduce me to their parents and brothers and sisters … I enjoy my work, and life is good.He adds, with a certain amount of whimsicality:Do you know, this honest life has its compensations.There is a man who is making good, and if he makes good it is partly through the goodness that is in all of us and partly, more immediately now, because a very devout Christian family were ready to take all that trouble, not just to give him lunch, which I did years ago, but to take him into their house regularly and introduce him to their friends. That is the scope which will always be open to voluntary service, whatever the State does. But I hope and believe that the State will do far more to provide, for the first time, a framework worthy of a country like ours, which tries to be Christian.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD DERWENT)
My Lords, may I, too, thank the noble Marchioness—I use the noble Earl's nomenclature—for introducing this important and extremely complicated subject? The noble Lady and the devoted workers of the Women's Voluntary Service have made a very notable contribution to recent developments in the field of aftercare. Their work in prisons began in Holloway with members of the W.V.S. visiting women who needed help with domestic problems, and it has since been extended to men's prisons. Many prisoners have reason to be grateful to the W.V.S., and help of this kind can be an important influence on a prisoner's response to his training and his prospects after release. We are also very grateful to the W.V.S. for establishing in different parts of the country hostels for boys discharged from borstal who have no homes of their own to go to.
Two years ago—and I am sorry the noble Earl, Lord Longford, is not in his place, as I will explain in a minute— 1088 during a debate on a Motion by the noble Earl, the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 234, col. 572] that after-careshould be a way of … re-entry into normal life so that the person concerned will not wish once more to return to crime";that after-care should be started in the institution and continued [col. 573]on release consecutively right through until complete re-establishment has been achieved";thatstatutory and voluntary after-care should be one service";thatthe participation of the voluntary worker in such a service would benefit the community as a whole";and finally [col. 574] thatif the probation service were widened and strengthened so that its officers could take care of this work as a whole, a tremendous amount of overlapping would be avoided and a real and excellent result obtained".May I congratulate the noble Baroness on her foresight? These are the very recommendations made by the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders after over two years given by their sub-committee to detailed examination of the many problems involved.
The only reason why a moment ago I regretted that the noble Earl was not in his place was that I thought it might be a suitable opportunity to wish him many happy returns.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I thank the noble Lord very much.
§ LORD DERWENT
On behalf of the Government, I wish to thank the Advisory Council, and in particular the chairman and members of the sub-committee which prepared the Report on The Organisation of After-Care. They gave a great deal of time to their task, often at some personal inconvenience. I hope they will feel rewarded in some measure by the appreciation which has been expressed to-day. I am sure they will have been gratified to learn that the Government have accepted their recommendations in principle. The announcement of this acceptance, made here and in another place two days ago, especially mentioned the Advisory Council's emphasis on the continued need for voluntary effort in the field of after-care, and explained that there would be consultations with the interests concerned 1089 on a number of specific questions arising from those recommendations. The Government attach great importance to both these matters.
I endorse also all that has been said here to-day about the value of voluntary effort in this field. Indeed, it is essential, as the Advisory Council pointed out, if after-care is to be available to all those who can benefit from it.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question? When he refers to some specific questions on which the Government wish to consult the voluntary societies, does he include such matters as finance and personnel?
§ LORD DERWENT
I will come in a minute to the noble Earl's speech, in which he mentioned that. I am not leaving that out, but I have not yet come to the noble Earl's speech.
It is also important as a means of enabling the community to accept responsibility for offenders and to play their part in combating crime. A feature in the Advisory Council's Report is their recommendation that the voluntary workers who act as auxiliaries to probation and after-care officers shall be selected with care and trained for the work. A great debt is owed by the community to all the various organisations and individuals who are already concerned with after-care, whether on a voluntary basis or in the course of their professional work. They have borne the heat and burden of the day while public opinion was disinterested in, and sometimes even resistant to, the idea that prisoners were deserving of special help on their release from penal institutions.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be glad, in particular, to give most careful consideration to the views of the National Association of Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies. Those views have not yet been put before him. I have not the slightest doubt that they will be. I would suggest that the question of financial help, apart from the question of hostels, which I shall mention in a moment, will be a suitable matter to take up in detail in the representations.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am very much obliged to the noble Lord for his, reply.
§ LORD DERWENT
My noble kinsman Lord Listowel, of course, speaks with great authority as the Association's Vice-President and Chairman. He has been closely associated with the growth of the prison welfare service and with the other developments which have taken place in the local aid movement in recent years. I am glad that the Advisory Council's recommendations have, in general, his support. Perhaps I might at this moment answer two specific questions that he addressed to me.
The first one, I think, was: will prison welfare officers and after-care officers be interchangeable? The answer is, yes, my Lords, just as they are already, when they so wish. A few probation officers have applied successfully for appointment as prison welfare officers and one or two prison welfare officers have passed to the probation service. This movement will continue and will be encouraged. Another question the noble Lord asked was: will the 23 full-time Discharged Prisoners Aid Society's officers be absorbed into the probation and after-care service? As the Advisory Council recommended, they will be considered for appointment to the probation and after-care service, if necessary after appropriate training.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, could the noble Lord be more explicit about the meaning of the words "if necessary"? Are these officers going to be employed?
§ LORD DERWENT
I am sorry. I do not quite understand. If they are already trained they will have to do no further training.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, do the words "if necessary" refer to training or "if necessary" in the new sevice?
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, they refer to training, naturally.
The Advisory Council, after much consideration, recommended that an expanded and reorganised probation service should undertake after-care in the community. In approved school after-care they proposed that the childcare service should also undertake a substantial part of the work. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will wish to consult representatives of the approved school managers and the 1091 local authority associations about the detailed arrangements. The Council's recommendations, and the Government's acceptance of them, are in themselves a tribute to the probation service, which has been hard pressed for many years but has nevertheless contrived to develop its skills and keep abreast, indeed in the van, of modern case-work methods.
The noble Baroness has suggested that a separate board should be set up to exercise in the new organisation of after-care those central functions which the Advisory Council recommend that the Home Office should undertake. The Government have, however, accepted the recommendations of the Advisory Council that after-care should be undertaken by the present probation service—and this is the point the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, raised; but he is not here to hear the reply—strengthened and expanded but still employed by local committees composed of magistrates and others.
The functions she envisages for a board are, under the scheme put forward by the Advisory Council, to be exercised partly by the eighty or so probation and after-care committees covering the whole of England and Wales and partly by the Home Office, where there is already a fund of experience in relation to the probation service, and to after-care both for children released from approved schools and for older offenders released from borstals and prisons. The Advisory Council thought that this experience could be of great value in bringing about their new concept of after-care.
They made these proposals after examining the possibility of reorganising after-care as a central service directed by a board similar to the National Assistance Board, and they were at pains to obtain all available evidence on the subject. They decided, however, in favour of building a new after-care service on the probation service employed as at present by local committees whose composition would be widened to include persons (other than justices) with knowledge and experience of after-care. Within institutions, they attached the greatest importance to a concerted effort by all the staff and they concluded that this could best be achieved if the social worker 1092 were a member of the prison staff. The integration of the social worker with other staff would, I apprehend, be impeded if he alone were answerable to a separate board.
For these reasons, while I fully share the concern of the noble Baroness that the new scheme of after-care shall be founded soundly at the start, I feel it right to say that the advisory bodies proposed in the report to assist my right honourable friend in the discharge of his responsibilities for the social rehabilitation of offenders seem more appropriate than could be a board modelled on the National Assistance Board. I would add that the Advisory Council have themselves recommended that the arrangements they proposed should be reviewed after an appropriate interval.
My right honourable friend intends to watch the new arrangements as they develop, and there will be ample opportunity to examine and test their efficiency because, as the Advisory Council recognised, the fulfilment of their proposals will necessarily extend over a period. This is inevitable, because fulfilment depends upon expanding the probation and after-care service: that is, recruiting and training more men and women to undertake confidently and successfully the multifarious responsibilities of the new after-care scheme.
The Advisory Council did not exclude the possibility that from the new arrangements they propose there might eventually develop a separate and specialised aftercare service, if that is considered better after trying the other method out. While keeping that possibility in mind, it is important that it should not act as a brake to weaken the impetus without which the new arrangements will not be brought to fruition. We feel that the noble Lady's suggestion might, in fact, delay matters.
The services working in the wide field of treatment of offenders have done, in their various ways, devoted work in furtherance of after-care: often they have laboured under great difficulties, not the least of which—as has been said—has sometimes been public apathy or even hostility. The Advisory Council's recommendation for fundamental changes in the organisation of after-care does not in any way devalue the vision of those who had the enterprise and compassion 1093 to pioneer after-care when it was esteemed only by the understanding few. It is of vital importance now to use to the best advantage the great fund of public goodwill that has been spoken of here to-day on all sides of the House: to use it to enhance the value of all the sympathetic understanding and skill possessed by those experienced in dealing with the intractable problems facing offenders of all ages on release from custody.
This may mean some painful adjustments, some sacrifice of cherished interests. It certainly requires a united effort by all concerned—and I agree with the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Exeter that that effort will be necessary—to make a success of the new order so that after-care, in the full sense of the term, may at last be available for all the great diversity of offenders who need this help on their release if there is to be any hope of their assuming in the life of the community a Rile that is acceptable to their neighbours and to themselves.
The Government are deeply concerned about the social problems of delinquency and recidivism. It is their confident hope that all who deplore the waste and misery endured and inflicted by unredeemed offenders will join together, first to hammer out a generally acceptable scheme from the blue-print prepared by the Advisory Council, and then to give it the loyal support without which no plan of after-care can succeed. May I add that at the Home Office my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has given orders that the whole of this after-care problem must be treated by everyone as a matter of urgency, although the House must remember that recruitment and training will take time and must precede the full implementation of the Report on a country-wide basis.
My Lords, may I at this point, just before finishing, answer one or two further questions that have been raised? I would first of all refer to a sentence by my noble friend Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, on which, of course, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, could not resist trying to make a political point. It was rather ill-founded, I thought. My noble friend said that this is bound to take some time. The noble Earl said: "Oh, it need not take any time at all. We can get on 1094 with it at once." If those were not his exact words that was the impression he gave. My noble friend was, in fact, saying that it takes time to train probation officers. If they are under 30 years of age it takes three years' training, and personally I think it not wise to reduce that period of time. If the man is over 30, because of his added experience of the world it takes only a year to train him. But, in any case, it is bound to take some time.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I accept any rebuke which the noble Lord chooses to offer me, however unjustified, in view of the fact that he has congratulated me on my birthday. As the years pass, one is so glad to be alive at all that one accepts any tribute of that sort. But I hope that the Minister, who, of course, as we know is new to this work, is aware of the proportion of probation officers now functioning who have not trained in any sense at all.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, is the noble Earl really suggesting that new recruits should not be trained? I cannot believe it. But that is the inference from his remarks. Further, there are many people over 30 and over 40, including widows and married women, who are considered for training, and several have been taken on. I mention that because of the point the noble Earl made about widows.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord does not think that he has answered my question. That is an illusion under which I hope he will not go away.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I am not answering this debate; I am referring to remarks made by my noble friend Lord Hamilton of Dalzell and which the noble Earl misrepresented. May I add my congratulations to the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Bristol on his most inspiring speech, which was listened to with something more than great interest on all sides of the House? The only question he particularly asked me was whether Government grants can be made available to voluntary bodies for setting up hostels for offenders on release. The Advisory Council recommend that this should be done. The Government are ready to consider any proposals, but as yet we have not seen any put forward. The right reverend Prelate will realise 1095 that I cannot undertake any financial commitment, but if he has definite proposals we should like to see them.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I mentioned that I had already sent a proposal to the Home Secretary, but the right honourable gentleman did not ask for details of the scheme. Is the noble Lord now suggesting that the proposal should be re-submitted?
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I have not seen this particular proposal, but if there are definite proposals at this moment we should like to see them. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, asked about material aid for prisoners on discharge before they actually leave the prison gates. The Advisory Council recommend that National Assistance should be paid to a prisoner before he is discharged. This is already being implemented by the National Assistance Board in some cases, and they have agreed to give sympathetic consideration to extending the practice. The Government have under consideration at this moment the level of expenditure required during the coming year on material aid for discharged prisoners, and have already decided, as recommended by the Advisory Council, that prisons will provide any necessary clothing for men on discharge.
I have spoken for long enough, I think, but I should like to tell your Lordships that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has given orders that the whole of this problem of after-care must be treated by everyone at the Home Office as a matter of urgency. It is not for me to thank noble Lords who have spoken, but I would say that the interest shown by your Lordships to-day in this subject will be of great encouragement to my right honourable friend, to myself, and to all of us who are trying to find the solution to this very difficult problem.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ BARONESS SWANBOROUGH
My Lords, when he started his speech this afternoon, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, said that this was a non-political debate, and indeed it has proved to be so. I should like to thank all noble Lords who spoke and who have devoted the whole afternoon to this subject, which, in my opinion, deserves a great deal 1096 more than one afternoon and more than the amount of thought we have been able to give it today.
I should like to say briefly that the things I carry back from to-day's debate as being extremely valuable are, first, that the noble Earl stressed, very usefully, the long-term position of a new social service, which is what we hope it will be, and the need for immediate action. The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, who addressed us as a doctor, pointed out that there should be no exaggeration, in medical terms, of specialist attention to things which are often better dealt with by common sense than by specialists. He also suggested that any effort to expedite this scheme might be tried out on an experimental basis, so that we could find out what would be the quickest way of handling a situation for which attention is long overdue.
I do not wish to associate myself with anybody else in congratulating the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Exeter, because I would thank him entirely on my own behalf, for all time, for the note he struck, which I hope we can all hold on to and wish to see brought into our debates again and again. I would thank him deeply on my own behalf and on behalf of the cause which we are debating. I feel that he brought many important points forward that are worthy of special examination—the question of individual responsibility and of national responsibility, the need not only for voluntary organisations but also for the Churches to give their contribution and to use it in productive ways.
My noble friend Baroness Elliot of Harwood misunderstood me, I think, when she thought that the National Assistance Board would have control whilst not decentralising. I do not think that anybody who has worked at local level would ever think of working except on a decentralised basis, but I am quite convinced that centralised control can give direction which is often lacking in slow and backward areas; can give the strength of clearing which often does not arise easily at local level, and goes through many strata to get to an ultimate answer; and can again and again give inspiration and new ideas, which strengthen the local effort to the extent that it can achieve something quite outstanding.
1097 The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Exeter, who intimidates us all by his good speaking, immediately brought forward the importance of urgency. This point, I think, has been put forward in the contributions of every noble Lord who has spoken to-day. The right reverend Prelate stressed the need for hostels and the co-operation of voluntary bodies. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, also put forward the hope that the after-care system would be tied up with the whole of the prison system. Obviously, that is the long-term view of what we are discussing. He also raised the question of whether National Assistance should be paid while an offender is still in prison or immediately on release. That is one of the details which should be gone into in handling the scheme.
I should like to say how glad I am to see the noble Viscount, Lord Amory, back and especially to hear him put a very light touch into something that had been pretty heavy up to that moment. I should like to associate myself with the tribute he paid to the Home Secretary. However much I do not agree with the Home Secretary on this subject, I agree wholeheartedly that he always acts on what he believes to be absolutely right, and I think it is necessary to say so when one is cross with him, as I am this evening. The noble Viscount, Lord Amory, said that there was no reason for complacency. That is what is worrying all of us. The matter is urgent; it has been urgent for a long time, and has been accepted as being urgent. I am afraid that unless we go on emphasising that it is very urgent, it will be a case of "the same mixture as before".
The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, in urging the need for overcoming delays, brought forward something new which perhaps some noble Lords had not heard of before, in the shape of "Recidivists Anonymous." I earnestly hope that this scheme may be of real value in the long run. I do not know whether any of the Peers of my sort of vintage feel like me, but I hope very much that there will come a day when we hear the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, with a different sort of collar speaking from a different Bench. I think that undoubtedly he deserves to have a chance to go towards that height which we all wish him. He 1098 tackled his speech on two different levels with great clarity in exposition and with understanding of subject.
One of the things that has thrilled me to-day is that I do not think that a single person has spoken from a brief, but each has spoken from individual knowledge and interest. I hope this means that the present challenge that we have seen will be strong enough to keep the zest for seeing that something is done. The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, as he brought forward the need for urgency, also brought forward the point that has come up again and again: the fact that we require this after-care because of humanitarian and Christian reasons. This is perhaps the only reason why one can return to the attack on something that one believes is necessary to be dealt with, even if in expanding the reason why it should be done one sometimes does not do so well as one should! The noble Earl, Lord Longford, was, as usual, able to cast one or two flies, which I do not think got any fish but just began to achieve something in that direction. His theme, like that of all of us, was to act now and remember especially that the prisoner is somebody who is particularly handicapped.
In winding up, I should like to say that the first thing that stays in my mind is that dynamic action is needed. This has been agreed by all who have spoken, whether they backed the Motion or whether they did not. To inject that dynamic action in a long-term view is the thing that I am most anxious for. I am quite convinced that it is necessary to get action now, and I am equally convinced, from years of experience, that this can be done only through experiment at the local level, with background support. At the local level, one is not strong without backing. Central control means, as the National Assistance Board have shown, central backing, central clearing of difficulties and central drive, and central inspiration. I feel that a combined Probation and After-Care Service is an ideal form of looking after the person who comes out of prison or out of borstal. I am quite convinced that even a combined service will need a great deal of drive if it is to achieve what it should achieve. The probation service will obviously have to be strengthened immeasurably, but why 1099 should it not be strengthened on a short term, by putting into its ranks people who are there, as the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell suggested, and later filling in with fully trained people?
Lastly I come to my own theme, that of the voluntary worker. There is available as much voluntary work as will ever be required. The only difficulty is how to tap it and use it continuously. This can be done only by a careful philosophic outlook and excellent organisa- 1100 tion, to bring the need for action to the person who does the work and the means of carrying it out. So, in withdrawing my Motion, I should like to say that I hope very much that I am wrong and the Home Secretary right, and that immediate action will be forthcoming. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty-six minutes past seven o'clock.