HL Deb 03 May 1966 vol 274 cc318-406

2.43 p.m.

LORD ROYLErose to call attention to Cmnd. 2852, The Adult Offender, and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that this House takes note of Command Paper 2852, The Adult Offender. May I say straight away that I know there are many Members of your Lordships' House who are much more competent to introduce this subject than I am, and I can only express the hope that your Lordships may feel that thirty years as a lay magistrate to some extent qualifies me to initiate such a debate. I am honoured that my noble Leader has decided to intervene in this debate, because I feel that the White Paper stems from the report of the group set up by the present Prime Minister, when he was Leader of the Opposition, which was presided over by my noble friend, and of which I was honoured to be a member.

Last Thursday, during the debate on the gracious Speech, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, ventured into the realm of this debate, and for a time I felt sure that he was going to steal my thunder. If I repeat some of the things he said, I hope that it will be felt that the repetition is justified. The noble Earl drew attention to two articles which appeared in the Sunday Press the previous weekend, one an interview with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, and the other by Mr. Quintin Hogg. I join with the noble Earl in the commendation of those two articles, and I would add that I find myself in general agreement with both of them. I cannot resist the temptation to refer to one sentence in the noble Earl's speech. He said: …I would recommend the intensification of that reforming penal policy to which a long line of Conservative Home Secretaries have contributed".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 274 (No. 6), col. 240; 28/4/66.]

I am not quite sure who he meant, but I sat under a number of Home Secretaries in another place over many years, and with deep respect to all of them—because I hold them all in deep personal regard—I began to wonder, as the days went by, what they had accomplished. I feel that, in respect of penal reform, they were almost the complete opposite to the Tory slogan at the last Election, "Action, not words". It seems to me that over those years we have had some good words from succeeding Conservative Home Secretaries, but I wonder what actions they are able to show at this period of time.

The Longford Group, to which I have referred, published their Report in June, 1964, and it was an amazing coincidence that, two or three days later, the then Government set up the Royal Commission for the same purpose. Accordingly, after intensive work by the Royal Commission, I am not surprised that last week it was announced it is to be abandoned, and that we are to have in its stead an Advisory Council. I am perfectly confident that this is the right approach at this stage, and that much more useful work will be done. While I am on the question of advisory councils and committees, I should not like to continue without paying my tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, for all her work on Home Office committees of this kind. I feel that this is an example of what can be done with this kind of machinery.

I want to deal with a few of the items contained in the White Paper, and then pass on to ask my noble friend Lord Stonham a series of questions about the intentions of Her Majesty's Government. In the first place, I am interested in the suggestion that any prisoner may be released on licence after he has served at least one-third of his sentence, or twelve months, whichever is the longer. After all, this is what happens in the borstal system and in our approved schools, so far as the younger offenders are concerned. This, to my mind, is a further incentive to prisoners to respond to generous treatment and to help them with other steps to fit themselves for a reasonable life outside, and I hope that this may be one of the items in coming legislation.

I go on to the persistent offender. He is the great problem of our day in matters of crime. I believe that the constant return to crime and to prison is due to a large extent to the conditions which the discharged prisoner meets on his release. Employers are not very ready to employ men who they know have just come out of prison, and many people engaged in industry have not helped when they have found an ex-prisoner working with them. A certain amount of understandable suspicion pervades the workshop, and my plea to all concerned would be that a man should be given his chance of reestablishing himself, and that if the desire to make good exists, it should be encouraged. There is a problem here that often occurs to me; that is, the question or the unstamped insurance card. I do not believe that it is beyond the wit of any Government Department to find some kind of system so that the empty insurance card does not stamp a man as having been in prison.

The system which we know as the Norman House system is doing great work for the ex-prisoner, but at the moment I am interested in efforts which are being made in the County of Sussex to establish a temporary home for discharged prisoners, to find them work and to give them a friendly environment in which to re-establish themselves. But the Society, having found suitable places and houses for the purpose, is meeting opposition from residents in the neighbourhood. Is it too much to expect that the general public might assist in putting these ex-prisoners on the right road and might refrain from making objections when an opportunity is presented for ex-prisoners to re-establish themselves under the right conditions and circumstances?

I welcome the fact that in the White Paper it is suggested that corrective training and preventive detention should be abolished. To my mind, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here ", is a shocking slogan in the second half of the twentieth century, in spite of the terrible increase in crime. Is it wrong to suggest that no man is beyond redemption? I believe that if it had not been for this appalling increase in crime since the last war we should have had drastic penal reform a long time ago. We have insisted over the years on a policy of retribution and severe punishment. Where has it got us? Under that policy crime has increased almost beyond our imagination of twenty years ago. Is it not time that we tried something else?

That brings me to the treatment of the long-term prisoners. The White Paper says that men serving very long sentences because they are a potential danger to the community should have the advantage of "every reasonable endeavour "to make their lives "sufficiently varied", and they should be given "a wide range of interests ". Is this not a humane suggestion? Those of us who, over the years, have visited the prisoners of our country know that prison pallor, that look of hopelessness, that lack of interest in what goes on around them and in the world outside which is found in the case of long-term prisoners. In God's name let us make their punishment as humane as we can, commensurate with the security of the community.

My next point may be much less important, but the White Paper speaks of short-term imprisonment for drunkenness. To lay justices this is a great headache. We ask the police superintendent, or whoever is appearing in court, "Is anything known about the defendant?" and the answer is, perhaps, "Fifty-seven previous convictions for drunkenness, your worship". In the present circumstances what on earth do we do about such cases? I know that special units have been set up in certain prisons, but, as the White Paper says, how can five thousand cases a year be dealt with? Prison sentences of one, two or four weeks are at present being imposed because we have no other way of dealing with them. Surely the time has come when we should have special institutions for the treatment of these problem people, instead of having our prisons cluttered up with them while they serve short-term sentences.

This is all part of the general problem of short-term sentences. The experts tell us that a sentence of anything under six months accomplishes nothing. If this is true, why do we send them there? If we were to scrap all sentences under six months, 75 per cent. of the people in prison today would not be there. The simple answer is that we have no alternative methods of treatment. The outstanding need seems to be for more psychological treatment, leaving the prison sentences for the real "bad lots", who are a definite danger to the community.

I suppose it is true to say that there is no such thing as "crime", in the singular, but there is a whole variey of crimes which bring different problems; and so there is no single answer. The whole setup of our social services needs more men, more specialist institutions and, unfortunately, more money; and it is natural, in these clays of economic and financial problems in our country, that prisons and the general aspect of adult crime receive the last priority in our reasoning. I believe that we have to balance up the cost and the rewards of every course that can be taken.

So I come to the brief and direct questions that I want to address to my noble friend Lord Stonham, and perhaps he will allow me to say, not in passing but as part of what I want to say, how deeply I personally appreciate the liberal attitude on these matters that he has always shown in his speeches in your Lordships' House and in the answers to questions which have been put to him. I warn him now, however, that he will have to get his pencil really busy! First I would ask: is there any special section of the Home Office tackling this problem of crime alone? If there is not a department doing this, and this alone, surely the necessity for it is proved.

Then I go on to ask, what is the mind of the Home Secretary on suspended sentences? My own experience as a lay magistrate teaches me that conditional discharge pays dividends. I know that suspended sentences go further, and that imprisonment would be automatic if the defendant returned on another charge, but I think it is a deterrent well worth trying. It would keep a great many petty offenders out of prison, with all the costs involved, and would obviate the risk of making them into persistent offenders. Further, I think that the First Offenders Act, as on the Statute Book at the moment, might be extended (I shall get into trouble with other lay magistrates for saying this, but I firmly believe I am right) to provide that lay justices shall not in any circumstances send any first offender to prison; and that, if they felt no other way was possible, it should be the professional, with the wider experience of prison sentencing, who should decide.

The next question I would put is: what is the Home Office policy and programme for hospital treatment of marginal mental cases among offenders, people who are not certifiable but are so irresponsible because of their low mentality? Also, what is being done about treatment of drug addicts? And may I slip this one in? Can the Home Office persuade the Press to ignore the "Mods" and "Rockers"? I speak very feelingly on this matter as a Brighton magistrate. Really, the publicity which is given to them the way in which they are made into "heroes"! I sometimes wonder whether the right way with this bunch of youngsters is to try to make them look as ridiculous as possible. I have said facetiously—but I wonder whether it should be said facetiously— that it would not be a bad idea to put up stocks on the promenade and let people throw tomatoes at them. It would be making them look ridiculous instead of turning them into heroes of their own sort.

What is the state of development of the hostel system? It has undoubtedly been an outstanding success so far as it has gone. I would have hoped for a very drastic development of the hostel system. Again, if I may say so as a lay justice, in the juvenile courts the Probation Service is used to the full—the younger offender mostly comes under the control of a probation officer—but I feel that we do not use the Probation Service as we might so far as the adult offender is concerned. I am confident that there are many people who get into trouble who would gain very considerably from the help and advice of experienced, wise probation officers, and that they as much as anybody could put even adult offenders on the right road.

With regard to what I am going to say now, as I look round the House and see the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goddard, in his seat I wonder what amount of trouble I might get into for saying this. Can we cut down the High Court pageantry, the blowing of bugles, the blowing of trumpets and the great array of splendour on certain occasions? I always think of Judge Jeffreys when I see it, and I am quite sure that it frightens not only the defendants but the general public. I go on to ask very seriously what progress is being made in modern police buildings to cut out the horror of the existing ones. Can my noble friend tell us at this stage how many prisoners sleep three in a cell and what is being done about it?


My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt my noble friend. He said "modern police buildings". Did he mean that or is he referring to prisons?


I am sorry; obviously I meant prisons. How many prisoners still sleep three in a cell? Can my noble friend tell us if he has any figures—perhaps this is difficult, but he may be able to help me to some extent—analysing reception into prison of drunks, people in prison for non-payment of fines, those who have been sent to prison by lay magistrates because of arrears in separation orders? Further, can he possibly break down for us the committals to prison—say, from one to six weeks, from three to six months, and perhaps those in prison for over three years? I feel that if we could get them they would be fascinating figures and would show how much imprisonment could be avoided on the lines on which I have been trying to speak this afternoon.

My final question—and I have not time to develop it; it is a very big point—is, what progress is being made on industrial training and the variation of industry in prisons? I know that there has been difficulty here in the past because of the anxiety of the trade unions, very understandable anxiety, as to whether payment of prisoners and the engagement of prisoners in all manner of industry might aim a blow at the things they stand for. But I gather that in recent days the trade union movement has taken a different view on this, which I welcome wholeheartedly, and I hope that my noble friend will be able to say something about progress made in that respect.

In conclusion, I want to say this. The spread of crime is a phenomenon of this century, not just a phenomenon in the United Kingdom. In spite of this, perhaps because of this, a different treatment is called for. I believe that our penal system must be more liberal. It is too regressive; it produces stagnation. I believe that it needs great minds to tackle this problem. The White Paper does not go into close detail and I fear that it might be accused of some amount of woolliness, but I see the Government White Paper as an act of faith, and hope that the legislation to follow will contain the imagination which the White Paper envisages. In a moving passage in his speech on the Address, my noble friend Lord Soper said: I earnestly hope …that before very long we shall see a remedial and reformative process, which yields far more satisfactory results than all punitive and retributive efforts of past generations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 274 (No. 3), col. 26; 21/4/66.] In view of the quarter from which that passage came, perhaps it would be fitting if I ended by saying simply, "Amen!". My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Royle, for giving us the opportunity to debate this White Paper. I am sorry he should have tried to bring Party politics into it. In this matter we have different views of how to get to the place we all want to reach. They are not necessarily Party views. I am not going to enter into a long argument with him about previous legislation under Conservative Governments. I think that if he asks some of his noble friends, and his honourable friends in another place, for details of what, for instance, my noble friend Lord Butler of Saffron Walden did as Home Secretary, and if he looks at the legislation that was carried through under my right honourable friend Mr. Henry Brooke, he will appreciate the amount of Conservative legislation that went through. In that connection, I would say that at that time—and I think rightly—Mr. Brooke thought that the first and most urgent matter was the prevention of crime; hence the Police Act, I shall leave it there, except perhaps to ask what great penal reform legislation has come forward since the Labour Government came into power in 1964. I doubt whether the noble Lord can answer that.

May I start what I have to say by giving a general welcome to this White Paper'? I shall have certain criticisms to make presently, and I hope they will be considered constructive criticisms. It seems to me, at any rate, that this White Paper has been drawn up after consultation with practical men and women, whose ideas have been incorporated, doubtless with some alterations, in the White Paper, unlike the White Paper of last August on The Young Offender, when it seemed to me that the practical men had been rather pushed into the background and the theorists had been given a full run.

I should like to say one word about The Young Offender White Paper of last August. Among other things, it dealt with the age group of 16 to 21. I am of the opinion that it is in this sort of age group that most can be done to reform the offender. I have been recently in the United States, where I talked to one of the prison departments. I was interested to find that they were of the same opinion. The reason why I raise this matter now is that we are always being told that young people are now maturing earlier. That may be true—I do not know. I think it has yet to be proved. But I have not the slightest doubt that there are certain young men of the ages of 21, 22 and 23 who are not yet mature; and I should greatly like to try an experiment to give the courts power, when sentencing young men between the ages of 20 and 23, to decide whether they are, in particular cases, to be dealt with as young offenders or as adult offenders. I am not going into all the arguments about that now, but I think it is important that it should be looked at.

May I next say that my remarks this afternoon are largely about the adult male offender. The adult woman offender is quite a different problem, largely because there are many fewer of them and partly because most women who have offended and have gone to prison have the good sense not to go back a second time. May I come now to my criticisms? My first criticism of the White Paper is one of omission. Nothing is said anywhere in the White Paper as to who is going to recommend that a prisoner should have an early release on licence, and on whose advice he is going to act. I believe that if this experiment is tried these two factors are the most important factors in deciding whether the experiment will be a success or a failure.

May I give an example? Let us suppose that two men commit a crime in partnership. They both have previous records; they are both caught carrying out this crime; they are both convicted, and both get six years. As things are at present, these men, who are probably model prisoners (because many of those who have been in prison before know all the rules and behave themselves) provided they behave themselves will both come out after four years. Under this new experiment what may happen is this. The first man at the end of two years, may be released on licence. After two years, he will be considered a man likely to benefit from early release on licence, and he will be considered no danger to any member of the public. Out he comes. For some reason, either because he is not considered likely to benefit from early release or perhaps because he is a danger to but only one other person out- side prison, his pal, the second man, is not recommended for early release, and therefore will serve at least four years. Can one think of anything more likely to make a man bitter? It may give him such a chip on his shoulder that he becomes an ill-behaved prisoner, in which case he will serve not four years but something nearer six years.

If this scheme is to be a success it must be clearly understood who is going to decide these questions, on what advice and how; and although it is important for the public to know, it is far more important for other prisoners to know it. We are making no advance if, because of the experiment, one man benefits in himself, benefits morally, and a second man becomes worse. That is a matter we have to guard against. I hope that the noble Earl the Leader of the House, when he comes to reply will, if he can, have something to say on this point. I believe it to be of vital importance to the success of the experiment.


My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord is raising a matter of great importance. But I think he will agree that, however perfect a system, and however it is contrived, there will often be people left with a sense of injustice.


My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Earl. But we must try to do everything we can to avoid people having that sense of injustice, and on this point the White Paper tells us nothing. I would hope that the noble Earl—perhaps I am a little premature in asking' this—will be able to tell us something.

The next matter I want to come to is referred to in paragraphs 5 to 8, which describe the method of early release on licence. There is one objection I have to the experiment as set out. The way it will work is that a man will be released, after serving, say, one-third of his sentence, on licence. If he behaves himself, at the end of two-thirds of the original sentence he will come off licence and will be finished with his sentence. But if during that time on licence he misbehaves, according to these paragraphs it is intended that he shall be liable to recall up to the end of two-thirds of his sentence, not up to the end of his original sentence. I am talking about ordinary prisoners, not the special long-term prisoners to whom I shall come later. I believe this principle to be wrong, and I am not sure that it makes sense.

To start with, let us take the shortest sentence that comes in under this scheme, the three-year sentence. A man is released after twelve months, on licence. Supposing that, for one reason or another —it may be that he does not carry out the terms of his licence, or that he misbehaves— he is recalled after six months, it does not really make much sense to recall him to prison for six months, which is all that is left of his two-thirds sentence; because if he did not benefit by a year in prison, he is unlikely to benefit by six months in prison. My suggestion is that, just as with a man in prison who misbehaves, he shall be liable to recall up to the end of his original sentence. This again, I think, would stop a certain amount of ill-feeling as between one prisoner and another, because the man still in prison, not having had an early release, is running the risk of having to complete the original sentence. Why should not the man who has misbehaved while on licence not be treated in exactly the same way as the man who has been in prison the whole time? I believe that it is fairer as between one prisoner and another.

May I say, dealing with the special long-term prisoner, that the White Paper puts my point quite strongly, when it says that, being liable to recall for the full term, the prisoner will then be offered the strongest inducement to behave, and safeguards will be provided for society. Exactly the same is true of the shorter-term prisoner. Why should he not remain on licence? It would be a great help if the man outside who sees some of his old friends knows that he may have to go back to end his original sentence. Otherwise I think the terms of release mentioned earlier in the paragraphs are right.

May I come to paragraphs 10 to 15, which deal with the abolition of corrective training and preventive detention? There is no argument, I am sure, on any side of the House on this matter. When we were in office we said that we were going to do away with these and said what we were going to put in their place. This Government have now—after a long pause, I may say—said that they will do away with them, and what they are going to replace them with. Speaking for myself, as it is experimental I like their scheme as much as I like ours. They are different, but I have no objection to that. I do, however, have one objection to paragraph 15(a). This deals with the persistent offender, the man who is going to have a specially long sentence for which he has qualified in certain ways. This paragraph says that To be a persistent offender, the convicted person must (a) be sentenced by a superior Court for an offence which is punishable with two years' imprisonment or more and was committed within three years of a previous conviction or completion of a custodial sentence …". I am strongly of opinion that that period of three years should be a period of five years. Whatever kind of penal reform we bring about, it is essential, of course, that so far as possible crime should not pay. In the case of some of these longer-term prisoners, there is a good deal of money tucked away to be enjoyed when they come out. I think that in many cases there will be money tucked away to look after them for two and a half to three years. When the money starts to run out is the time when one wants to see if they have benefited by early release. For that reason I think that the qualifying period should be five years and not three. I hope the noble Earl has got my point on that, which basically is that crime must not be allowed to pay. It would give the incentive to a man when he has got through his money to take up a job and get on with it.

If I may turn to paragraph 20, I am not certain if this is a pious hope or in fact what the paragraph means. The paragraph deals with the small time persistent offender, and says: Full use will be made both in the custodial part of the sentence and during the period on licence, of such special institutions, homes and hostels as are appropriate. There are an enormous number of these small time persistent offenders. Where are these hostels and special homes? When are they going to be built? Is there likely to be enough money available for them to be built, or is this all just a pious hope? The White Paper does not deal with one very special kind of short-term offender, and I do not think enough thought has been given anywhere to this problem—I refer to the repeated small offender who is more content, I do not say happier, to remain in prison. If one talks to prison officers, prison governors, indeed to some of the prisoners, one discovers that there is a large number—a number which is very much greater than we think—who are in prison because they cannot face the outside world. One finds this in the prisons themselves. A man will be recommended for an open prison, and he refuses to go because he cannot even face that amount of responsibility. During the war one met in the Army people who had had several short sentences. They were happy in the Army: they were under discipline and were told what to do. Are there going to be special hostels for this of man, or is any special treatment to be given to him? I consider that the whole of this paragraph has not been thought out, and I am not sure that enough thought has been given to the whole question of the repeated small-time offender.

To turn to paragraph 23, which deals with the provision of work for prisoners —and I mean proper, full-time, fully paid work in prison—I am wholeheartedly in favour of this practice. I was delighted to see from the newspapers, and I hope it is correct, that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has been given special duties in regard to this. I am sure that this is absolutely essential, particularly in relation to the longer-term prisoner. I have one strong objection to the wording of the White Paper. At the top of page 8 there is the suggestion that: An eventual solution may be a system under which prisoners receive normal wages"— and I believe that to be right— out of which they contribute to their own support"— that I believe to be right— and that of their families"— that, too, is right; but then it goes on to say and perhaps also to the cost of compensating their victims". We on this side of the House made it quite clear in our Election Manifesto that there ought to be no "perhaps" about that. if there is money over it ought to go first, only after they had paid to support themselves and their families, to where the damage has been done—that is to say, in compensating the victim. We are only playing with this subject if the result merely means that crime is going to pay; and for a lot of these people it does pay. If money is not going to be taken away from them to compensate their victims, crime will go on paying. That word "perhaps" ought to come out, and the paragraph ought to be reworded to say that where money is available it shall be used to compensate the victims. This is essential if we are to try these new experiments. I think that the country may well be behind me on this.

Then under paragraph 25 we come to a matter which was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Royle, the matter of drunks. They are an infernal nuisance outside prison, both to police and to public, and they are a similar nuisance inside prison. They take up room which is needed and they are not really criminals. Therefore, I am glad to see that this question is being looked at. But I think that money ought to be spent on drunks last of all. There is never enough money to go round, and although it may be convenient to remove the drunks to special homes, I believe that special homes and buildings are wanted first for other purposes. When the money is available well and good, but until it is do not let us get too excited about the drunks.

May I come to paragraph 34 and the following paragraphs which deal with after-care? I am somewhat concerned to see that these paragraphs refer to "a new and enlarged probation and aftercare service", which is what we all want. We must realise that all these new experiments throw additional work on the Probation Service, and this is bound to happen. But we have not yet got enough probation officers. They have already had extra work put upon them, and Heaven help them if the young offenders legislation goes through in the form of the original White Paper!—though I hope that for the moment that White Paper has been largely forgotten in terms of legislation. Is it not a pious hope that extra work may be given to probation officers just like that? I notice from newspaper reports of the Conference of Probation Officers that they are saying that because of the August White Paper many members of the Probation Service have left and recruiting has fallen partly because they disagree, as I did, profoundly with that White Paper. Are they more likely to agree with this one? Is this not a little hopeful? I hope that either the noble Earl or his noble friend Lord Stonham will tell us what is being done about the Service. It looks to me as if it will fall down through overwork, too many cases on the case books, and lack of personnel to cope with them.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt, may I say that I will deal with the recruitment figures. But I should like to say immediately that I do not for one moment accept anything he has said about overwork in the Probation Service; nor do I accept what he appeared to think was said at the Probation Officers' Conference.


My Lords, I merely said that the newspaper reported that that was said. As regards the overwork, it depends what is meant by "overwork". But I have been told by probation officers not that they are exhausted physically, but that they have so many cases on their case books that they cannot deal with them properly, which I am certain is the case.

May I then come to paragraph 39, which deals with the "half-way houses". This is, I think, an American expression. I met it in the States and we discussed this question. The idea of "half-way houses"—they may be homes, hostels or what-have-you—is that when somebody comes out of prison on licence he is allowed to take up ordinary work in the same way as any other member of the general public, but for a period while he is settling down he is ordered, in certain cases (and I am taking the American system) to live in a particular place, and to be in at a certain time of night.

This system, I believe, is most useful in the case of young offenders. Whether it is as useful in the case of old offenders with families, I do not know. But it is useful for the young offender, because it has two effects. If there is a broken home background it keeps him out of it. Also, if the system is carefully worked, and the young offender is made to go to a hostel some way from his original hunting ground, it keeps him away from his so-called friends who probably led him astray in the first instance. It gives him a chance of getting away from them. The scheme is being successful with the young offender in the States, and I hope that it will be well explored here. As we are always thinking about what we can afford and what we cannot afford, I may say that in certain parts of the States the Y.M.C.A. have been very co-operative in these "half-way houses", and I have little doubt that they would be co-operative here. Those are the only actual criticisms that I have of the White Paper, but I should like to make three more points.

I hope that this White Paper will not remain indefinitely as a White Paper. On the other hand, I hope that the August White Paper will remain for ever as a White Paper. I should particularly like to see legislation experimenting with this early release on licence. I believe that this would be one of the experiments really worth trying. If the Government say that they have not time for this sort of legislation, may I suggest to them that quite a number of things appear in the gracious Speech which might well be done without, and that they might produce this Bill instead. But I do beg this of the Government: if this work is going to be a success, I beg them to go slow. By that, I do not mean not to start at once: I should like them to start at once. But I hope that the reformers' enthusiasm will not be allowed to rush the early stages too much. because I believe that the public and the other prisoners need to be educated to this idea. If two men were serving a sentence, and one was left in while the other was taken out, that would be hard to tolerate.

What I should like to see is that for a year or eighteen months after a scheme of this kind came into force the only people to be released early on licence should be what we might call the certain cases, those where one had little doubt that the men would benefit and were likely to go straight. There are any number in prison. After a year or eighteen months one might start on the more doubtful cases. But if we rush this too much, and if some of the early releases do not answer to the treatment, then I think we may spoil the whole experiment. When I say "go slow", I mean that we should wait a year or two before starting on the more difficult cases.

My final word is this. All this costs money. Money is short, and money is likely to get shorter under this Government, day by day and week by week. I do ask the Government, in all these experiments, to try to spend the money very carefully where it is first needed, and to go after people like the drunks later. I believe that where it is first needed is in treating first offenders, whether they are adult or young people, and young people from 16 to, say, 25 —at my age I call them all young people. I think the two do overlap to some extent. So, where money is available for reform, let us spend it where it can do most good. When more money becomes available, if ever, then we can deal with the longer-term men, the drunks or the other people. But I do ask the Government to consider seriously, that the money should first be spent on the rather younger section of the prison population.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, we are all, I know, most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Royle, for initiating this debate with a speech which was, if I may say so, remarkably well informed, sound and prudent, and yet thoroughly humane and compassionate. His excellent speech was another proof of the constructive interest he has long taken in penal reform, as a vice-chairman of the Magistrates' Association and, not least, when he was my own valued colleague on the committee which he mentioned. We are all indebted, also, to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, for his thoughtful speech, which I felt went as far as was compatible with his integrity to understand our point of view, and was certainly not lacking in generosity. We were always grateful, when he was a Minister in the Home Office, for the great trouble he took to reply to our points. I know that he, like us, will always be deeply interested in penal reform.

It is my duty to-day to expound some of the main ideas in the White Paper, a task made immensely more easy by the fact that my noble friend Lord Stonham will be winding-up the debate. His concern for prisoners goes back at least as far as mine—indeed, I think still further. By the time he became a Home Office Minister in 1964, he had become accepted by prisoners generally as their most ardent and effective champion, becoming very suitably the first President of the Prison Reform Council. At that time he felt it his duty to pass some very severe strictures on the prison system, from which I am sure all concerned have benefited much. I am delighted to learn that the Home Secretary has recently asked him to take special charge, within the Home Office, of prisons. No one supposes that his sympathy for prisoners will have been weakened by this elevation. In his new capacity of "Mr. Prison", he will remain the prisoner's friend.


"Lord Prison".


But he has shown by his speeches, here and elsewhere, that he yields to no one in his prosecution of the war on crime. It is obvious that he fully echoes the priority laid down by the new Home Secretary, from whom we hope for so much.

"The most effective deterrent to crime", said Mr. Jenkins to Mr. James Margach of the Sunday Times recently, "is to increase the chances of detection; and detection means the Police." Nobody has shown greater interest in the strengthening of the police force than has Lord Stonham in this House, as indeed have the Lord Chancellor and other Peers. I stress this last point at the beginning of my speech because there is far too often supposed to be a clash between what might be called—if your Lordships do not mind a collection of nouns—the "law and order" point of view, on the one hand, and the "sympathy for criminals" point of view, on the other. Obviously, each point of view can be exaggerated, but perhaps the new Home Secretary, Mr. Jenkins, put it as well perhaps as it can be put, when he said in the same interview from which I have quoted: It is a question of trying to get the criminals the treatment which will prevent them from going on being criminals. We are trying to prevent them spending their whole lives in crime, half of it cluttering up our gaols and the other half in committing crimes. That is what was said by the new Home Secretary. The Home Secretary clearly sees, as my noble friend Lord Stonham has always seen, the task of preserving law and order and the task of rehabilitating offenders not as incompatible but as being two sides of the same medal.

What do we find in the White Paper? It is, incidentally, a White Paper issued while Sir Frank Soskice was Home Secretary, and some of us feel that in public discussions much less than justice has been done to Sir Frank Soskice. I do not suppose one could have found anyone who was more qualified in a general way to be Home Secretary—except, possibly, for his lack of interest in his own public relations. But, at any rate, do not let us underestimate the achievement of Sir Frank Soskice as Home Secretary. Perhaps the most important proposals in the White Paper are those that contemplate a new power to release prisoners on licence and the new provisions on persistent offenders. Those are, I think the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, will agree, the two leading proposals. These will require legislation, and will be covered by the Penal Reform Bill mentioned in the gracious Speech. There, I can reassure the noble Lord at once. I cannot promise that the start will be slow once we get going, but I can promise him that it will be immediate. The Bill will come forward in this First Session.

The essence of the proposed licensing power is that selected prisoners should be released on licence before the end of the term that they would normally spend in prison. All this, of course, is familiar to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, and to my noble friend Lord Royle, but it is perhaps right to set it out for the benefit of the House as a whole. This concept for prisoners serving fixed terms of imprisonment as 'distinct from prisoners who have received a life sentence (which is an entirely new departure in this country, although not, of course, in the world as a whole) has had a most encouraging reception in all quarters, and I certainly cannot complain of the reception given it by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. Indeed, we are grateful for that. It is now generally recognised that a number of long-term and medium-term prisoners attain a recognisable peak in their training, and at this point may well respond to generous treatment. If, on the other hand, they are further detained in prison at that point, they may well start to go downhill. This, I think, is common experience. To give these prisoners the opportunity of relative freedom at the right moment may make all the difference between bringing them back to ordinary civil life as decent citizens and stabilising them ultimately in a life of degrading crime.

The Government do not propose that the Home Secretary should be given power to release prisoners at any time. We accept, as the noble Lord is, of course, well aware, that there should be a minimum period, related to the sentence of the court, which must be served in custody. The proposal is that a prisoner should become eligible for release on licence after he has served one-third of his sentence or a year, whichever is the longer; so that, if a prisoner has received a sentence of three years, he will have to spend a year in prison and will then become eligible for release. Since prisoners are normally released, with full remission, after two-thirds of their sentence, the effect of the proposal is to introduce into the sentence a relatively limited measure of indeterminacy (to use the purely technical term), which will enable us to take the opportunity to release a prisoner at the right moment, with proper regard to his response to training and prospects on release.

This also should be noticed. Release on licence—or, as some people would say, on parole, although the word "licence" seems to be preferred in this country—will not be the same as the absolute release from sentence which takes place when a prisoner goes out, with normal remission, after serving two-thirds of his sentence. When a man is released on licence after, at the earliest date, one-third of his sentence, the Home Secretary will retain control over the offender by being able to attach conditions to his licence—all this is most important—and, if the circumstances warrant it, it will be the duty of the Home Secretary, and he will have the power, to recall him to prison. Supervision by a probation officer would normally be the main condition of the licence, and other conditions—for example, conditions as to residence—may be added to meet individual circumstances. So it is certainly not total freedom as we understand that term when applied to a prisoner released from prison at the present time.

On this, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, put a number of carefully considered points to me. I would hope that he will feel that in what I am saying now I am going as far as he can reasonably expect me to go, with his experience of the Home Office; but if he tells me that I have not answered all his points in detail, I can only say that what he has said and what others may say to-day will be carefully considered. I should not like him to think that the whole machinery has been worked out in detail. I think the essence of it is perfectly clear, but there are no doubt details to be refined. The White Paper proposes that the responsibility for exercising this power to release on licence should rest on the Home Secretary. That is one point put to me by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. He asked, "Who makes the decision?" The answer is that it is the Home Secretary. It is not some board, the Governor or somebody of that kind. In each case the responsibility will rest fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Home Secretary.

He will have the benefit of full reports on the prisoner's response to training, on his development in prison and on his resettlement prospects as they appear from time to time. There will be a continuing assessment process within the prison, although, of course, some outside consultations will also be necessary in many cases, such as with the Probation Service. We bear in mind that the welfare officers within the prison, as the noble Lord knows, are now members of the Probation and After-care Service. But there are further details to be worked out in the light of comments such as those made by the noble Lord, or as may be made by other speakers to-day, or by other experts. When the Bill is finally introduced in this present Session the Home Secretary will give a full account of how the proposed statutory provisions will work in practice, and I am myself confident that the proposed method will be found to be fair and in the public interest, although there is always bound to be room for argument on details.

My Lords, that sets out quite baldly our plans for release on licence—or, to use the word more common in America for similar arrangements, parole—but perhaps at this point the House will allow me to offer one or two personal reflections, in view of my long connection with these topics. Those who have given most thought to the philosophy of punishment, including some who are speaking later to-day—and that description covers more than one of the later speakers—are well aware of the paradoxes, some would say the contradictions, involved in the whole philosophy of punishment. I will not dwell on these at the moment, if only because my views are available elsewhere —frequently provoked and always inspired by the much weightier writings of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. I would only remind the House that "punishment" is defined by the Encyclopœdia Britannica in this way—and I am quoting the encyclopædia: Punishment is the infliction of some kind of pain or loss upon a person for a misdeed; i.e., the transgression of a law or command. How this pain or loss can be accomplished in such a way as to benefit society as a whole and at the same time the individual transgressor will always remain a bewildering problem, especially in the case of the more serious crimes.

The lighter offences, perhaps, can be dealt with by financial penalties, which can be represented as a denial of luxuries. We are bound to get—we shall always get while life remains on this planet—into philosophical difficulties when we try to punish the more serious offenders. I did not take the noble Lord, Lord Royle, too seriously when he suggested the stocks, with the throwing of tomatoes. I would remind him that we have rejected some of what used to be the more popular forms of punishment: transportation, mutilation, public indignity whether in the stocks or elsewhere, ostracism, corporal punishment, and now, thank Heaven!, at long last, capital punishment. So on the face of it we are left with imprisonment as the best of a bad lot.

Yet what a very bad best imprisonment is. The White Paper begins by quoting the famous saying of the late Sir Alexander Paterson. I will read this sentence: You cannot train men for freedom," — said Sir Alexander— in conditions of captivity. And it is described, rightly, as the paradox which presents itself daily to every prison administration. As the White Paper points out: The paradox cannot be evaded; but it is all the more necessary to seek to overcome it by strengthening the links between the prisoner and the free community and by developing new ways to ease the transition back to freedom. That is the essential message of this particular White Paper. Indeed, that is the fundamental thought that we are discussing.

The central feature of the Government proposals"— says the White Paper— is that prisoners whose character and record render them suitable for this purpose should be released from prison earlier than at present. Obviously, the number in prison will be diminished by this reform, or at least will be lower than it would be otherwise, for, I am afraid, as I shall say a little further on, the numbers are still increasing. That, in turn, should enable us to concentrate our prison resources more effectively on the much larger number who remain. But this, while admittedly beneficial, is a subsidiary gain, in the Government's eyes, from the licensing or parole arrangements. I do not underestimate it; but it is not the object of the exercise. In the official view, which I share, the primary purpose is the transfer to a more suitable form of rehabilitation of such prisoners as are likely to benefit from it.

It seems to me that the time has gone when, in dealing with delinquents, we should be insisting on this sharp line between incarceration, on the one side, and absolute, uncontrolled freedom, on the other. Incarceration must clearly continue. In the future that we can foresee, it is somewhat inevitable as a deterrent. But for the reason touched upon by Sir Alexander Paterson incarceration may do as much harm as good in the case of any individual prisoner. In the first place, he is denied freedom and is expected to learn how to behave when he is free. In the second place, he is deprived of normal family life—a condition of sanity with most of us—and in the third place, he is thrust into association with a criminal community whose collective mind is likely to drag him down rather than to elevate him. You may have a handful of devoted prison officers who are doing their best to improve his moral tone while a large company of fellow prisoners, perhaps without intending to, are exercising an influence in the opposite direction. On the face of it prison cannot be regarded as a very promising solution for any particular prisoner in whom one might happen to have a personal interest. Nevertheless, we realise that in the foreseeable future we are unlikely to do without it.

It may be—I hope it will be—that the whole future of punishment will be quite different from most of what we see at the present time. I myself believe here—and I realise that I am entirely at one with the noble Lord, Lord Derwent—that the future of punishment will lie more and more in the field of restitution. I do not want to strike too egotistic a note, but he may remember that it was I who introduced a debate in your Lordships' House on the question of compensation for victims of violence which was followed not so long afterwards by a Bill which dealt with that subject. But this question of restitution is immensely difficult. If I were ready to accept an amendment—which I am not authorised to accept—in the White Paper, it would be to eliminate the word "perhaps"; but perhaps I should not be allowed to remove "perhaps". But I see what he means. The problem is to enable the prisoners to work efficiently in prison. It is about the most inefficient way one could find of mobilising human beings. That is no doubt why this wretched word "perhaps" finds itself in the document. It is difficult to make certain that while people are in prison they will he able to make this sort of restitution. Nevertheless, I am sure that the future does lie with restitution, whether this takes the form of direct compensation to victims (which has its own difficulties) or with compulsory work for the community. I do not think there is any difference between the various sides of the House.

But meanwhile, it seems to me, we must lay more and more stress on training outside prison. From this point of view the Government proposals make a beginning, albeit a modest beginning. I look forward to what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will have to say about the probation officers, which will be authoritative; but I am sure that he will agree with me and that we can all agree with each other that a very rapid expansion in the number of probation officers is essential if any of these proposals are to become realities and are not going to remain paper schemes. Still, a beginning is being made in this White Paper, and, in years to come, this White Paper may be looked back upon as a decisive moment, as the moment when we ceased to neglect prisoners.

For that is surely what we do at present. From the moment a man is sentenced we try to forget him. We forget him when he is in, and we forget him when he is out. As in the words of Chekov, I cannot bear the crying of children. When my child cries I do not hear". That is the real crime of our community in its attitude to prisoners: that we have neglected or forgotten them—rather that than that there has been any deliberate maltreatment. The real contrast, as I see it, is not between severity and softness but between a philosophy of concern and a philosophy of indifference. I hope and believe that this White Paper will mark the beginning of a period when concern is exhibited, not just by devoted prison governors and other prison officers, by the Probation Service and by social servants generally, but by the community as a whole, for the first time.

Now I turn to the proposals on the persistent offender which are set out in paragraphs 9 to 17 of the White Paper. After what was said by the noble Lords, Lord Royle and Lord Derwent, I do not think I need spend long this afternoon in justifying the abolition of the sentences of corrective training and preventive detention. Corrective training has long been an anachronism. I never saw the point of it anyway. Preventive detention has now been found to be unsatisfactory and unfair in its incidence by all those of any authority who investigated this form of sentence. The Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders came to that conclusion in 1963. May I here take the opportunity of saying how glad I am that the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood (may I call her the doyen of this Advisory Council?; perhaps the word "doyen" is not quite accurate, but she has served for a number of years on the Advisory Council) is to speak this afternoon. The Advisory Council on Treatment of Offenders decided to abolish it in 1963, and both the Conservative Government and the present Government have endorsed that verdict. Personally, I was always horrified by the philosophy that appeared to be behind preventive detention. It seemed to me to be particularly brutal, both in theory and practice, from one's own general contacts, to the petty criminal—


My Lords, as I said at the beginning, I do not want to introduce Party points, but it was, of course, introduced by a Labour Government.


My Lords, when the noble Lord does decide to introduce a Party point, I have no doubt he will let me know. It seemed to me particularly brutal to the petty criminal who commits a series of small offences. I do not know what the Conservative Government said at the time. I am afraid I am not so interested in that personally—


I do not remember.


The noble Lord would probably find that they were fervently in favour of it—


They still wanted to hang them.


Some-body said—but no, I will not say what somebody said. Let us return to this dispassionate criminological survey of the issues.

It seemed to me particularly brutal to the petty criminal who commits a series of small offences. He is certainly a nuisance, but, as the White Paper says, he is not the menace against whom special protection is necessary. Well, preventive detention will be no more. It will go, unhonoured and unsung. But we do not escape this problem by the use of bold language, such as that which I have just used. We have still the problem of the persistent offender. We cannot altogether—or most of us find it impossible to do so—avoid the conclusion that some of the persistent offenders, at any rate, must receive sentences which would not normally be considered appropriate to their particular offence. Power will be given to the courts to deal with such cases, but I would submit to the House that if, in the interests of society, we go as far as that—and it imposes quite a strain on one's conscience if one accepts the argument—a special onus falls on us, surely, to do everything in our power to rehabilitate the persistent offender. While I do not wish to argue with the way in which the noble Lord was presenting the priorities at the end, perhaps he would agree that in the case of the persistent offender we have a particular duty to see that he is properly looked after, if he is in fact to be detained for many years in prison.

This is where the new licensing power, the parole system which I described earlier, should make the whole difference. Indeed, I see these two main features of the White Paper fitting in together. The parole system should enable us to adjust the timing of the persistent offender's release to his own prospects of going straight when he is released. The extended sentence imposed on persistent offenders is especially apt for flexible administration and, as I say, I hope that in this way the persistent offender will be detained no longer in prison than can fairly be justified. But frankly, my Lords, without these new licensing proposals, I should not be happy about the plans for the persistent offenders. There are very difficult philosophical issues here. Taking these proposals together, I hope that your Lordships will agree that they hold a fair balance between the need to protect the public and the need to avoid harshness to individual offenders. Many other matters are mentioned in the White Paper which do not involve legislation. Some of them were touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Royle, and I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will deal with as many as time permits.

Before I close, I would try to cover one or two other topics. I do not think that anyone who has served a long sentence or a series of sentences in recent years in one of our prisons (and it is my fortune to know quite a few who have experienced that fate) would deny that a more humane and liberal spirit prevails in our prisons than prevailed, say, ten years ago, when we began a long series of prison debates in this House. That conclusion, I think, cannot be resisted and it has nothing to do with Party politics; for most of the period the noble Lords opposite were in power. But, alas!, the material and spiritual factors, the quantitative and qualitative factors in this discussion, cannot be divorced. There is once again mounting pressure on our prison accommodation. On April 19 the total number of people in custody, adult and young, was 32,600, compared with something under 31,000 last year and something under 30,000 the year before —32,500 now, and ten years ago it was 21,000, about two-thirds as much; and before the war 11,000, about one-third as much.

As Home Office Ministers are all too well aware, these figures are the background to all our attempts to improve the life of the prisoner. As a direct result of the recent rise we have not been able to continue the progress made hitherto in reducing the number of prisoners living three in a cell, a point which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Royle. Three years ago there were 8,600 living three in a cell. Last September the figure was down to rather fewer than 5,000. Now the figure is back again to 5,900. That is simply a reflection of the increase in the total of people in prison. There were also—and this may be news to quite a few in the House—when last it was looked into, 708 prisoners living two in a cell. This used to be regarded as quite impossible for reasons of moral danger, but in fact that has not proved so. The experiment has occasioned no difficulties and has done something, at any rate, to diminish the need for having three in a cell. But when we bear in mind the earlier discussions, it is rather peculiar that it has turned out quite all right after all.

At any rate, these figures prevent any kind of complacency when we examine the future. From the beginning of these debates more than ten years ago, we on both sides of the House, who describe ourselves as penal reformers (in the first debate of all the most notable figure was the late Lord Templewood, an ex-Conservative Home Secretary) singled out for vehement attack what I myself called the three evil ones: overcrowding, understaffing and shortage of work. From the very beginning we raised the whole question (I remember that Lord Temple-wood did ten years ago in that first debate) why it is necessary to send so many people to prison for such small offences and for such short periods, when no one supposes that any good will happen to them or to anybody else. We have raised all along (and I am now speaking of the House as a whole) from every angle the rôle of the prison officer; insisting that he must no longer be a turnkey but a social servant. Here the prison officers themselves have revealed a notable progress of thought in recent years. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will wish to pay a tribute to them, and I join, as I am sure that the House will join, in a very fervent recognition of their splendid work.

When I think of all that is going on I would submit that none of the activities is likely to prove more significant than those of the Working Party under the chairmanship of the Dowager Marchioness of Reading. They are considering—I am quoting from the terms of reference now: What contribution voluntary efforts could make to the after-care of discharged prisoners. They are advising the Secretary of State what particular projects should be considered for assistance from public funds. They have met 40 times in the last year, a fact that will not surprise anyone who knows the noble Marchioness. I shall not be surprised if they meet 50 or 52 times in the year ahead.

We must look at this in perspective. I give full credit to the late Government—the former Government; "late" suggests that they actually died, does it not?— for accepting the 1963 Report on After-Care of the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders. From that moment we have been committed as a nation, for the first time, to providing special assistance for all ex-prisoners and a recognition that they are indeed handicapped persons, handicapped by their temperament and, in many cases at least, handicapped by the fact of their sentences; handicapped by the attitude of the public, rational and irrational—and if that sounds like a glimpse of the obvious, may I point out that it was not accepted until two or three years ago. But the acceptance of a new national responsibility does not diminish the need for voluntary action on behalf of prisoners. Indeed, as the noble Marchioness would he the first to say, on the contrary, it enhances it. Voluntary help, in which we can all join, becomes more and more obviously indispensable as we uncover the deeper psychological needs of prisoners and begin to appreciate the many unpredictable situations which Government action call never cope with, or never cope with in time.

I should like to join in tributes paid to Mr. Mervyn Turner and Mr. Norman House and the work of the "half-way houses" generally. Mr. Mervyn Turner has brought a new heart and a brilliant imagination into the whole concept of work among ex-prisoners. If he were here this afternoon I am sure that he would disclaim any glories of that kind and would insist on paying his own tribute, in which I would share, to those following in the same path, many of them, as it happens, close friends of mine.

We are all in this business together. I think of the police who are trying to detect and defeat the criminal; the prison staff who are trying to contain and reform him; the Probation and After-Care Service who are trying to carry the latter work still further until the prisoner may take his place on a moral par with the best of us. I think of the many voluntary bodies who are seeking only the opportunity to serve; and I think of the general community, who can never be sure that in other circumstances they themselves would not have fallen. The general community means ourselves, in one capacity or another, whose attitude to the prisoner is so fluctuating and ambiguous and who, as my noble friend Lord Royle has said, are so ready to block a new prison or hostel for ex-prisoners, and then are so wonderfully kind when they get to know the prisoners and realise that a prisoner is only a human being like themselves.

This morning I came across in a small book by the eminent Congregational divine, Dr. Micklem, some verses from a poem called St. Paul, not known to me but which may be known to some of your Lordships, by Mr. F.W.H. Myers. It expresses far better than I can what should surely be our attitude towards prisoners. He begins by quoting the line: Only as souls I see the folk there-under … Then he goes on to the next verse: Then with a rush the intolerable craving Shivers throughout me like a trumpet call,— Oh, to save these! to perish for their saving, Die for their life, be offered for them all! My Lords, I hope and believe that this will be increasingly the spirit which prevails in this country in the years ahead.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, I shall be very short. The White Paper is a modest document, in both the scope and the depth of the reforms proposed. I should have preferred something more imaginative and far-reaching. Nevertheless, it is a step forward, though only a little step; and for that reason I welcome it. The White Paper deals only with offenders who have been sentenced to imprisonment, on the assumption that imprisonment is the normal way of dealing with an adult offender. It leaves aside the radical question of segregation: that is to say, does segregation from the community on the scale at present practised benefit either society or the offending individual? Perhaps the Government will think again and use as their yardstick the Ciceronian interrogation, cui bono?

Be that as it may, we must deal with the situation as it is, or, rather, as the White Paper envisages it. The judge decides whether segregation from the community is necessary, and the maximum and minimum duration of that segregation. But—and it is an imporant "but"—social workers and prison staff are to help to advise the Home Secretary in deciding whether the interests of the prisoner and of society are best served by his continuance in prison or by a release on licence, subject to supervision and recall. This is a welcome document, because it means that we are feeling our way towards a system of personal welfare for the prisoner and his family at the time of the sentence, during imprisonment and during the after-care period, and it now becomes possible, I think, to envisage imprisonment as one incident in a total plan for long-term community care for inadequate people. That is the first reason why I welcome the White Paper.

Here is the second reason. The White Paper proposes that when the protection of the public necessitates imprisonment for long periods, and perhaps for life, the conditions of the prisoner's confinement must be humane and tolerable, in the hope that the deterioration of personality will be minimised. In other words, prisoners must be respected and cared for for their own sakes, quite apart from any direct benefit that will derive to the community from keeping them normal, or as near normal a possible.

Here are three more reasons, which I express in a few words, why I welcome the White Paper. First, the White Paper is concerned with the employment of prisoners; secondly, it recognises the need to entertain family contacts; and thirdly, it envisages a greater use of homes, hostels and institutions as part of a new therapeutic approach. During the 30 years of my ministry I have had quite a bit to do with prisons and prisoners, and since I have been Bishop of Southwark I have had to concern myself with the gaols at Brixton and Wandsworth. I am not an expert, and I have no specialised knowledge. But inevitably, as one goes from cell to cell, and from prisoner to prisoner, one learns something. Perhaps my main impression is that whereas I used to regard prisoners as normal people who had deliberately chosen to do wrong, and who had justly suffered the consequences of their wrongdoing, I now realise that many, if not most of them, are inadequate personalities. To what extent we can help them to become adequate, I do not know; but at least we are moving in the right direction if we encourage them to employ themselves usefully and to maintain their family contacts.

I wish that the White Paper had been more specific. It makes no firm proposals with regard to useful employment; nor, so far as family contacts are concerned, does it suggest any radical change in visiting arrangements. True enough, pious hopes are expressed about increasing the possibility of providing prisoners with the best type of work and industrial training, and of making fuller use of homes, hostels and institutions. But there is no mention of a willingness to face the increase in expenditure that would be necessary to do this. We talk of reform, but to what extent has public opinion been prepared to support an improvement in therapeutics at the cost of increased taxation?

A few months ago I spent an evening with a couple of dozen prisoners. They asked two things: first, that they should be properly employed so that, among other things, they could compensate financially those who had suffered from their misbehaviour, and contribute towards the maintenance of their families; secondly, that before they returned to normal life they should live in small hostels to prepare them for the transition from prison to real life. I admit that something is being done, but not enough. Let us put ourselves in the position of the man who, having spent years in prison, finds himself suddenly on the other side of the gate. To what extent has our prison system prepared him to play a useful part in society?

It is at this point that we must rethink our basic attitudes. Society must be protected, and the law must be sufficiently severe to make clear that wrong-doing does not pay. I think that needs to be spelt out in very large letters to-day: "Wrong-doing does not pay. "At the same time, we must be sufficiently imaginative, compassionate and generous, even if it means increasing taxation, to devise ways and means for the defaulters, many of whom are subnormal and inadequate, to be trained to take their place in society. Unlike Sir Alexander Paterson, and, indeed, Lord Longford, I believe that it is possible to train men for freedom in conditions of captivity. After all, many of us in this House were at a public school—and if that was not a place of captivity, I do not know what was. It was while we were there that we were trained for the freedom that came to us when we left.

My Lords, it is so easy to think in terms of "we" and "they". When we do that, we stick at the stage of retribution: "These people are getting what they deserve." No doubt there is some truth in this, and I certainly should not wish to say anything that would seem to advocate a soft attitude towards crime. But I hope your Lordships will not think me sentimental when I say that when, most Christmas and Easter Days, I celebrate Holy Communion in the prison chapels in my diocese, and give the sacrament to these men, I do not think of them as "we" and "they". I find them lovable people, weak and inadequate maybe, but keen to take the hand that is extended towards them in understanding and compassion. It is because the White Paper points the way towards understanding and compassion that I, and those associated with me on the Episcopal Bench, welcome it.

4.23 p.m.


My Lords, I too welcome the White Paper, particularly because it represents a step forward in the penal philosophy which has its eyes set more upon the future than upon the past, particularly the provisions about parole or licensing which are designed to pay attention, not so much to what a man has done, but to what he is likely to do in the future. In that sense it is part of that penal philosophy which I think is winning over the old retributive philosophy whose roots were set in the past.

I think we must recognise that these proposals are on quite a modest scale. If I have worked it out correctly, nobody whose sentence is less than eighteen months is likely to be effectively influenced by the new proposals for licensing. That means that it will be less than 10 per cent. of the men who are in prison, and probably less than 4 per cent, of the women. So we are beginning with a very small proportion of the quite exceptional long-term prisoners. It is, of course, true that even if this means something of the order of about 4,000 men admitted each year, and something of the order of only a handful of women, in every case to the individual it is a matter of enormous importance. The effect upon prison accommodation is increased by the fact that the long-stay prisoner occupies a disproportionately large proportion of the prison space.

The White Paper itself says nothing about the machinery of licensing. It uses some very confident phrases. It speaks about men who are likely to respond to licence. It does not say by whom that judgment will be made. It speaks of men who are not regarded as a risk to the public. It does not say regarded by whom. It speaks of men who have shown a promise or determination to reform. It does not say who has recorded the promise, or been convinced of the determination. I was very glad indeed to hear my noble friend Lord Longford say that the intention is that these vital decisions will be made by the authorities in control of the penal system, and not by parole boards. I have thought a good deal about the alternatives of the parole board and the Home Secretary taking on this job, and I have been unable to convince myself of what additional experience any outside person serving on a parole board can bring which is really of value. I have seen the operation of parole boards in other parts of the Commonwealth, and it confirms this scepticism. After all, if we are thinking about whether a man is likely to respond, the only people who can give effective evidence on that must be the people who have some first-hand direct knowledge of his character and background and his progress in the penal system.

I think it may be relevant here to remind your Lordships that the nearest thing we have had in this country to a parole board was the advisory boards which in effect determined whether the preventive detention prisoners should serve two-thirds or five-sixths of their sentences. I think it is worth recalling that these advisory boards were in effect —I would almost say disastrous failures; certainly disastrous failures in respect of their predictions. They did this by the simple method of adding up a number of what they thought to be adverse factors in a man's character, background or experience, and if he totalled a large number of adverse factors they then sentenced him to stay five-sixths of his sentence, and if he had a relatively small total he was to be released after two-thirds. The Home Office research unit, after it had checked up on these adverse factors, found that by the simple accumulation you had really no guidance at all as to the probability of reconviction and, indeed, that some of the adverse factors in certain circumstances were indicative of a good prognosis. That was an unfortunate experiment, but the Home Office research unit succeeded in showing that, if you used a much more sophisticated calculation, it would be possible to pick out factors and to weight them appropriately which would give you some indication of the probability of reconviction.

Your Lordships may say, of course, that prediction after the event is not quite the same thing as prediction before the event, but at least I think the moral of this experience is obvious. The moral is, surely, that in any kind of licensing system, or any experiment in the penal system, there ought to be a built-in system of evaluation of the results: that is to say, if we are going to licence we must have effective recording of the consciously recognised signs on which licencing was given, and of the correlation between those signs and the subsequent progress of the released prisoner. I hope my noble friend Lord Stonham will be able to assure us that we will have that kind of built-in evaluation in any future experiments that may be made.

I come to some of the other aspects of the White Paper. Nobody, I think, is going to shed any tears about the abolition of corrective training. Some of us may feel that the phrase in the White Paper which justifies this abolition on the ground that training is in any case always given to suitable prisoners, owes its optimism to a corresponding pessimism in the definition of "suitable". But I will let that pass. We then come to the abolition of preventive detention, and this is the one point where I feel some considerable disturbance on the proposals that are now offered in place of preventive detention. There are a number of fine phrases about this in the White Paper. It is said, for instance, and quite rightly, that the public have a right to be protected from offenders who persistently commit serious offences. Note the word "serious". It goes on to say that there must be a definition which makes it apply only to delinquents whose character and record of offences are such as to put it beyond all doubt that they are a real menace to society, and so excludes the petty criminal who commits a series of lesser offences. We know one of the criticisms of the old P.D. was that it caught the inadequate petty offender in very much larger numbers than it caught the criminal who was a serious menace to society.

There are some new terms of definition to qualify for the new sentence. I think the most important changes are, first, that the persistent offender in future must have committed offences within a relatively short interval. I think for the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, this interval is a little too short. It also requires that the persistent offender should have been serving an aggregate of 5 years' imprisonment, but that does not exclude the persistent petty offender, and I am disturbed by the answer given by my noble friend Lord Stonham last January, when he said that of the 178 persistent offenders who were sentenced to preventive detention and whose cases were examined by the Home Office Research Unit, 176 would still be liable for the new special sentence which is to replace P.D., and that of the 176 a high proportion—91 in fact—would be sentenced for offences against property, without violence, involving values of less than £100. Therefore, it looks very much as though we are still going to catch the persistent petty offender as well as the criminal who alone we were promised it would cover—namely, the one who commits serious crimes and is a menace to society.

Also I think the White Paper is rather curiously titled. It is called The Adult Offender, but it omits any reference to the vast majority of adult offenders. Well over two-thirds of them do not appear here at all. Apart from the drunks, it really deals only with offenders who are likely to be imprisoned, and mainly with offenders who are likely to be imprisoned for a considerable time. It does not give any help (and I hope the Government will be able to do so later) to the unfortunate magistrates, ridden with guilt because they are still imposing short sentences of imprisonment just as much as they did even ten years ago. In the past ten years there has been practically no change in the proportion of admissions to prison and of prisoners, certainly in the case of men, who are sentenced to less than three months' imprisonment. I am certain my noble friend Lord Royle, who has been a magistrate for nearly as long as I have, will agree with me that we are still doing this, week in and week out, because we simply do not know what else to do. As I have said, we are ridden with guilt in consequence and we should be deeply grateful if, when the Bill comes before us, it suggests something else.

I hope the Government may have something to say about introducing what is common on the Continent of Europe, namely a suspended sentence. We still have conditional discharge, which in a sense is a suspended sentence, but in my experience the conditional discharge is not really commonly understood, and when a person is sentenced as a result of a breach of a conditional discharge he is very apt to think he is being sentenced twice for the offence which he has subsequently committed. If such a person knew that a definite sentence was hanging over him he would appreciate the position much better, although I hope we shall also have a loop-hole which will allow the court in certain circumstances to waive the suspended sentence.

Perhaps one might also indulge in looking to the long-term future. I must say I agree profoundly with my noble friend Lord Longford, and I was glad to hear him say that we shall eventually get away from the idea that there is incarceration and not incarceration. I hope and believe we are moving to a stage in which we realise that the rough, go-getting, every-day world in which most of us live outside this House is not an environment to which everybody is well adapted. What we have to do is to provide varied environments in which different types of persons and different types of experience can realise themselves without detriment to society and perhaps even with benefit to society. This rough world of ours offers to some temptations which are irresistible, and of others it makes demands which are impossibly exacting. Weaklings are not able to fulfil these conditions, and what we really need is a wide range of alternative environments, some of them in the community, some segregated from the community, some half in and half out of the community, in which these different characters can fulfil themselves and make such contribution as is possible to the rest of the community.

I think also we eventually have to recognise—and this is a hard doctrine—that there are among us many weaklings who will never keep out of trouble with the law unless they are provided with actually a better environment than they ever had any hope of winning for themselves. That means a profound revolution in our ideas of justice, but it is, I think, a revolution which is already in progress in some of our better open prisons, and I submit that it is a revolution which is absolutely necessary if we are to make an effective attack upon the rising figures of crime.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to take part in this debate wondering whether, as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has said, I am a doyenne of this subject or a relic. I am inclined to think I am probably a relic because I think I am the only member left of the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders appointed by the late Herbert Morrison when he was Home Secretary, I think before 1945. I cannot remember the exact date that we were first appointed, but I do remember receiving a letter from him and joining the Council at the Home Office and serving on it for a great many years.

When the noble Lord, Lord Royle, was speaking about the former Home Secretaries I made a rough note of the number of Home Secretaries who were in office during the years in which I was a member of the Advisory Council. I began with Herbert Morrison; he was followed by Chuter-Ede; we then had Maxwell Fyfe, then R. A. Butler, and then Henry Brooke. I may have left out someone.


Lord Tenby.


Oh yes, and then Mr. Gwilym Lloyd-George, as he was then. So I think one can honestly say that the recommendations and the work which has been done on this fascinating but in some ways depressing subject that we are now discussing has covered all the Parties in this country, and Members in all parts of the House. As I find myself continually in agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, on this subject (I should not like to say how much I would doubtless disagree with her on other subjects) I can only conclude that the agreement on this particular subject of criminals and the way we treat them is something that transcends many of the Party boundaries.

As I have listened to the speeches I have remembered with great vividness the contributions which many of the members of the Advisory Council made to the subjects your Lordships are discussing today. I cannot remember the first Chairman, but the second was the late Lord Birkett. He was a man of immense knowledge, experience and humanity. I do not think I have ever served under such a remarkable Chairman. We had on the Council until she died Margery Fry; we had George Benson, who was a great authority. We had several Recorders from different parts of the coun- try at different times; we had Lady Inskip, from Bristol—a magistrate of great experience. We had many different magistrates, and we had, of course, the Prison Commissioners who were always ready to help and advise, and the Prison Department of the Home Office. I was amazed to hear Lord Royle ask whether there was a department in the Home Office dealing with prisons. In all the deliberations which we undertook during those many years on penal reform, we had the services of some of the most able of the civil servants in the Home Office.

When I look back and think of the very beginning of the work we did, we were actually closing prisons. We had a problem of people coming up and complaining because approved schools were being closed; there were not enough children to fill them—not enough delinquent children. Some of the very old prisons were being closed because we had enough accommodation in other prisons. I agree that I am a relic, but this is within the living memory of nearly all the people in your Lordships' House to-day. What a change there has been! It is the most extraordinary situation we find ourselves with to-day, and not for the want of trying. That is also one of the rather depressing things. We have all tried. Many Members of your Lordships' House have tried even more than someone like myself, who is not a magistrate, on this subject of penal reform; and yet the answer escapes us all on both sides of the House. All I can say is that in the years in which I have been concerned with this subject one has increasingly seen improvement in, for instance, prisons and prison life and the way in which people are treated in prison. I know that there is a long way to go, but things have improved. Only last week I happened to go (I had not been for a long time) to Saughton prison, in Edinburgh; I had not been inside it for fifteen years. I was very much impressed to see how the present arrangements there are so much better than they were fifteen Or twenty years ago. There is now a new section for young offenders, which has just started, and it is dealing with the most difficult people, the people who have been through the whole gamut of approved schools, borstals and the rest, and still turn up in the courts. The fact is we do not appear to be very successful as regards the numbers of people who appear before the courts.

I was interested in the discussion that has been going on, and is going on at this moment, on the subject of preventive detention and corrective training. If I remember rightly, we had enormously long discussions, certainly on corrective training, at the beginning of the work of the Advisory Council. If I remember rightly (no doubt the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, will correct me if I am wrong), we were asked to do away with a sentence called penal servitude for life. This had been in existence for a hundred years or more, and was considered to be very unsuitably described and unsuitable in its effects. After a great deal of discussion we came up with this idea of preventive detention and corrective training. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, said that it was passed by the Labour Government—and this is, indeed, true, because it was during the 1945–50 Government that this sentence first started.

Let it be said at once, too, that in that period we discussed at very great length the Criminal Justice Bill which was put through in 1948 by the then Labour Government. Every clause of that Bill was discussed with the Advisory Council. I do not say that everything put forward by the Council was accepted—it is such a long time ago that I cannot remember; but I remember the discussions that went on—they were absolutely fascinating—and we had the whole range of Home Office help and assistance at that time. I think everybody will agree that the Criminal Justice Act 1948 was a great step forward on questions to do with penal reform. No doubt one learns by experience, and I am very glad indeed that under this White Paper we are going to do away with some of the things which we recommended in those early years. That shows that we move forward and that we are prepared to scrap what may have served a purpose, if only to show that it is not right, which is also a purpose; and then we may try to do something better. So I do not feel apologetic about the things we did in those days; we were experimenting, and in a very different atmosphere from that of to-day. The figures of crime were nothing approaching what they are to-day.

Like other noble Lords, I welcome this White Paper, and I hope that it will help to deal with this extremely difficult problem. There are one or two points that I would make on this document (I will not detain your Lordships long), because I think it is interesting, and, as noble Lords have said, there are things that we should like to see stressed. First, there is the question of prison work. I am sure that in many ways members of the staff of the Home Office must be sick to death of this subject, because they have wrestled for so long with this question. Nevertheless, there are some improvements. Last week, when I was in Edinburgh, I saw there some new training. For instance, I saw some house decoration being done by young adults, who were being taught to decorate a house and make things look attractive. And they appeared to be doing the work with a considerable amount of interest, and with some competition between one section and another. So I think that there are some improvements in this question of prison work. But the effort has a long way to go.

I should like to say here how glad I am that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is undertaking this special job to do with prisons, as he has made a special study of it. I am sure that that is what is very much wanted: effort by somebody who specialises. I hope that he will look at this question of work. I seem to remember that during the war in the prisons it was far easier to organise, since a considerable amount of rather intricate and difficult tasks were done—certainly in the women's prisons—with regard to electrical equipment. I suppose it must have been for war purposes; I do not recollect exactly. But far more interesting work was being done in those days for national service. The products were not being sold on the open market, but there was a desperate shortage of labour in industry, and an enormous demand for people to produce more, and we were pushing people into industry wherever we could. We may well come to that in this country to-day, since in many areas the shortage of labour is terrific. Surely it would be possible to use prison labour for work, not to sell on the open market, but for national work, for the national institutions and nationalised services, of which we have far more to-day than ever before. At any rate, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will look at this very carefully indeed.


I am grateful to the noble Lady for her kind words and her good wishes. I would say at once that we do not accept that it is going to be impossible to sell prison-made goods on the open market. I am quite confident that if we pay the rate for the job, and charge proper prices, we shall sell on the open market.


That is very good news, because I know the very great problems raised by questions of underselling, and if that difficulty can be overcome, that will be excellent.

The point that was mentioned by the right reverend Prelate, in regard to housing men in hostel accommodation before they leave prison, is an excellent one. In the particular prison I happened to visit last week they have a delightful hostel. It is part of the prison, but it is a separate house to which prisoners go for the last six months of their sentence. They have to come in at night, but they are free to go out to work. They go every day to work. I was talking to the people there, and some of them, though not all (one can hardly expect 100 per cent. success), appreciate this greatly. This is having a good effect, and I hope that it might be developed further.

Paragraph 24 of the White Paper, which refers to hostel accommodation, makes most depressing reading. It says that there are 250 places, and that the prison population is 23,000—though the noble Earl, Lord Longford talked of something over 30,000. But the fact that there are only 250 places means that only a small proportion of people can be treated in hostel accommodation, instead of in prison accommodation. I hope that we may, with the materials with which we can build hostels to-day—by means of prefabrication and so on—try to develop this idea further, because I am sure that it is a good one. I think also that there are experiments going on in prisons where they have no hostel accommodation of a separate character, but where they can put aside some accommodation in the prison for premises of this kind and thereby let prisoners go out.

I want now to say a word about some experiments which are beginning to be undertaken at this moment by a committee presided over by the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough. I do not refer to the committee which is mentioned in this White Paper, but to something which she is undertaking with a group of people in the Home Office and from outside, and for which the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, of which I am Chairman, is providing some finance. I think this experiment (though perhaps it is not exactly an experiment) may lead the way to future development along various lines. The first hostel that we are going to finance and help is called the "Old Lags' Home." It is a hostel for old men who are ex-prisoners. The object is to try to provide a home for elderly men who are homeless and who would not settle down satisfactorily in any old people's home. Often, these are the people who go in and out of prison always for some petty offences.

Then there is to be a boarding house, which we have called the "Bed-sitter House". The object here is for prisoners, when they come on release, to live a resident life, and in privacy to the extent that they will have their own rooms and so on, and then, we hope, will be merged into family life. What we do not want to happen, and we hope will not happen, is for them to treat this as a permanent residence. It must not be that; it must he a means of transition into their own life. I think it will provide a point at which the difficulties between coming out of prison and getting into ordinary life may well be met.

Then we are going to have a rehabilitation hostel. This is a scheme for reestablishing in work a person who has not worked for a considerable time. This would apply to those people with long sentences, who, on coming out, do not know how to get going again. I think this is something which would be quite helpful. Then there is to be an experiment—perhaps I ought not to call it an experiment, because so much has been tried—in relation to alcoholics. We hope that the hostel for alcoholics will support them more or less indefinitely. We know that their condition is practically incurable, but experiments will be conducted to try to help them to get over this disease. Lastly, we are to have a multi-purpose hostel, the object of which is to provide lodgings for discharged offenders, either on a short-term basis or, in certain cases, for long periods. It may also be useful as an allocation centre, where men can be transferred to one of the other hostels.

All these experiments are going to be looked at and assessed by a small team of trained social workers, and we hope that perhaps we may get some line on what can be done on a big scale to try to keep people out of prison. I so much agree with what noble Lords have said, that keeping people out of prison is what we want to do, not to put them into prison. So many people go to prison through sheer inadequacy, through the fact that their mental capacity is not up to standard and clue, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger said, to the rough and tumble of life in which we live.

A good many of us are in a position to vary the background of the activities in which we engage. This meets the needs of the moment. But a lot of people cannot do that. They get frustrated and feel hopeless. The next thing is that they have a bang at something, and what happens is that they are brought before the court. These people are not criminals at all. These are people whom we want to be able to keep outside prison, where we can really do something which would help them. So these are experiments which we are going to try. I do not know whether they will work. Lady Swan-borough and I are in close consultation. I think it is an act of faith. I have been able to persuade my colleagues to provide some cash, and she is providing the workers and the background, and I hope that in a year or two we may be able to do something for the Home Office in this whole field, because I am sure that it will be most useful.

Lastly, I should like to refer to the Report dealing with the inclusion of aftercare in the Probation Service. I am not a magistrate but I am Chairman of the Probation Committee and I know something about the Probation Service. It is a service which is short of workers, and we do not want to put on to them more than we must. On the other hand, there are many people who I am sure agree that the service that we give now in aftercare is inadequate, and that there would be a much more economic use of the people interested in this work if we brought it within the orbit of the Probation Service. I hope that the Government will follow this up as swiftly as possible, and will do something about it, because it is most important. It is one of the ways of preventing people from going back to prison. Again, I do not speak as an expert on this, but I am sure that magistrates here will be heart-broken at seeing people coming back again to prison, following a failure of the services outside prison when their sentences are finished. So I hope that the Government will implement this proposal as quickly as they possibly can.

Equally, the question of building is important. I have great sympathy with anybody who tries to put up buildings or to spend money on prison building, or who tries to find new places for building, because the public is so uncooperative about these things. They are even unco-operative when the kind of work one is trying to do is to save them a great deal of money—because, after all, the prison service is extremely costly. The expense has to be met from the taxpayers' pocket. If only we could persuade them that in the end this is going to be something which will pay them and be of value! Quite apart from the fact that we should all feel keenly and strongly about the individual personalities, and that we all have to try to prevent people from becoming criminals, this question of building hostels and finding accommodation for prisoners is a difficult one; but I hope that the Government will take heart and go ahead with it, and that they will be successful, because prison building is something which we badly need.

I was interested to hear that there is going to be a new Advisory Council, which is to take the place of the Royal Commission and is to be an active body, as was the body upon which I served for so many years. That body came into being on a letter from Herbert Morrison. We went out in a sort of cloud. I do not mean "under a cloud" because we did not do our job, for I think we did, but we just faded out. I do not know how we ended; we just faded. In place of this rather active body, we had the Royal Commission. I had great hopes for the Royal Commission, particularly when I saw the people on it; but I think that a Royal Commission is not what is wanted, and. I feel that an active body of people to which the Home Secretary can refer matters all the time when he has a problem is a better system.

I very much hope that the Government will find for the new Advisory Council the kind of people who were found for the original body. I must say that we were fortunate in our Committee. We had on it Marjorie Fry, George Benson; we had at the end Professor Radzinowicz, who is now head of the Cambridge School of Criminology. In fact, we had a number of distinguished people, who did an amount of good work. I hope the new Advisory Council will be an effective body, and I very much hope it will make some inroads into the rising crime figures and throw some light on the subject. It is a matter upon which the whole nation is focusing attention and everybody should play an active part in trying to help. I hope that, on whatever side of the House we sit, we shall give as much help as we can in carrying out this programme. I believe that it will be another step forward in the long struggle against crime.


My Lords, I wonder if the noble Baroness would permit me, before she sits down, to clear up something which she said in the early part of her speech. I did not talk about a department for prisons. I talked about a department for crime, meaning the incidence of crime.


I see. No doubt the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will answer on that one. I only wanted to say that in the 20 to 25 years I served on that Committee at the Home Office, we had magnificent help from the Home Department, who were people of enormous experience.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene in this debate 4o add my voice, such as it is, because of the praise given to the White Paper in all quarters of the House to-day. This is a subject which has brought all Parties together, in a way that I, in my short experience, have never heard the Parties brought together before. But is this really a wise thing for us to do? I start with remarks which are to a certain extent cynical, and for which I apologise; but at the same time we have to recognise that we are discussing an endeavour which is extraordinarily difficult.

We have arrived at a moment of time which appears to me to be the moment of truth. We have a White Paper which everybody seems to like, with hardly a dissenting voice. We have a new Standing Committee appointed by the Home Office, which is going to get down to business and to achieve things—not in the way of talking about the main, fundamental, underlying principles which have never brought anybody anywhere so far as crime is concerned, but ready to do really practical things and to get on with the job. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has now been given a commission to undertake specific practical endeavours in this field. It seems to me that the first and most important thing I have to say is that Lord Stonham deserves very well indeed of us, because the endeavour to which he is now committed is so extremely difficult. We cannot expect that remarkable reforms are going to be put through in a matter of weeks, months or even the next year or so. We have had a steady increase in the prison population over the last year or two, and must expect that that population is going to go on increasing over a fairly long time.

The trouble is, as has been said before, that consideration of principles of penal reform leads one to consider serious and worrying paradoxes. It has been deemed necessary in the past to segregate offenders from the society of which they are members, to take them away from their families and to lock them up—not in solitude, so much as to segregate them in the company of other offenders. We do this, not because we are confident that imprisoning people does them or society any good, but because we cannot think of any better alternative. We have to do something about it. Why is it, I ask myself, that we cannot devise any better alternative?—when as a matter of fact we can think of several much better alternatives at once, although somehow or other there is something in us which inhibits us from using those alternatives. I myself said early last year in a debate in this House that we can use one alternative, and that is compulsory attendance for the adolescent and young adult offender. But, for some reason deep down in us, nobody likes to do this.

When, for a time, I had the responsibility for dealing with questions of penal reform in the Caribbean, I suggested then compulsory attendance for people who stole my bicycle, for young adults who pillaged my house, as they had done recently to my great discomfort and loss. But when the local judges and law officers invited me to meet them to discuss questions of penal reform they started by arguing that I was adopting a merely sentimental approach. "You cannot do that kind of thing", they said, "for anybody's benefit ". But then I said," Look at the question from the commonsense point of view. Would it not do a great deal of good if young men were compelled to do things they strongly disliked doing which at the same time did not happen to cause anybody any financial loss?" "Ah", they said, "you cannot treat our young men like that; that is cruel." So I said, "Who is sentimentalising now, you or I?" Is it sentimental to do something which provides them with healthy exercise in the open air? I refer to parade ground drill, for instance, which strikes me as being a very good thing indeed for the young man who removed my bicycle in highly irritating circumstances to me. In the end, they said, "You have got something there".

As the country concerned was Barbados, a country inhabited by very commonsense local citizenry—much more commonsense than the people of this country appear to be—they introduced legislation and now have compulsory attendance in Barbados. I believe that if I return to that country in the future and my house is pillaged by a young housebreaker, he will find himself doing "square bashing" under the eyes of the non-commissioned officers of police. I recommend that sort of consideration to the people of this country.

Let us try to take our minds away from sentiment, look at the thing squarely and concentrate on trying to find an alternative to prison sentences rather than deploring them, which I shall, of course, later in my speech go on to do. It is the loneliness of it, the segregation of it, which is distressing, but that is prison at its best and not at its worst. At its worst, prison officers have to cope with the enforced association of prisoners within the prison. There is the ordinary run-of-the-mill sort of offender who is so often a rather disturbed and distressed person, as the right reverend Prelate has pointed out. When that kind of prisoner is put into close association with the homosexual and the sadist and the violent prisoner it is simply asking for trouble, and to a large extent, as we all know, we get it. Therefore, let us try to turn our minds to the problem of finding better alternatives, rather than removing distressed people from the companionship of their relatives and a life of intimacy and love within the family. From a common sense approach, the only thing to do about prisons is to abolish them and to provide better alternatives. Let us get on with the job now and do it as quickly as we can.

First of all, let us consider the commonsense alternatives very seriously. Is it not high time that we used modern principles of administration to examine the whole of this prison paradox, to examine it very carefully and very thoroughly now? Do we not need to use modern cost benefit analysis, for instance, in looking at the cost of providing an alternative, against the return which the alternative will give us? Do we not find that if we can in any sense abolish these colleges of crime and reduce crime in one way or another, the return is very great? Do we not also find that prison reform, which is never thought of as doing this, does in fact pay a high dividend?

The second sensible alternative is one which is in the White Paper; that is to say, release on licence. We may release on licence after we have first been through the sorry business of imprisonment, which rather reminds me of what we did in the old colonial Empire. We then got a representative Party going, trained in the art of representative government, and when our colonial leaders in due course became rumbustious, arrogant and so on, pretty well the whole lot found themselves in gaol. Was gaol the best education that we could provide for responsible and representative government? Of course it was not. We were all sorry and guilty about that. But is imprisoning a man the best preliminary to release on licence? We have to use all the energies we can command. All the Queen's horses and all the Queen's men, as it were, have to be put on to the job—using the words of Sir Alexander Paterson—of trying to provide an education for life in the commonwealth, in prison, which is not a common world.

The nearest thing to a prison is a public school, as the right reverend Prelate has told us; but in the public school, unlike prison, you get used to injustice. Nobody expects to be treated justly in a public school, and the main difference which I have experienced in my own life between a public school man and an ordinary common or garden citizen is that you never expect to have to treat the public school man justly. He will always take the knocks of life cheerfully and without complaint. Therefore, if you are dealing with public schoolmen you can at least release them on licence without grumbles, which is not likely to happen with the ordinary person. But even so far as the ordinary person is concerned, when we have done all these wrong things to men and come to release them, can we not at least try to create another point of view: that in releasing people we are looking to the future and not to the past'? For we have the best hopes for a response to the opportunity we are providing for certain people if we consider that they have a potentiality of that kind of response.

I did not quite understand whether the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, was suggesting that we ought to have a parole board, or whether release on licence can be left to the Home Secretary and his officials. It seems to me that the only reasonable hope of getting this done properly is if we bring in the Home Secretary and his officials to determine who shall be released on licence, and when. We cannot release on licence perfunctorily. It has to be done after intimate knowledge of the individual and of how he has responded to life in prison over the years; whether he has grinned and borne it and put up manfully with the petty frustrations in prison life, or whether he has been a grumbler and so on.

Release on licence offers hope for the future, and I agree that the time has now come to try it courageously and to try it on a large scale, not necessarily at once but soon. Release on licence can be for the whole time, in the sense that a person can be given a release for a stipulated period each day to go out to work from a hostel attached to a prison, or part of the prison service, or from a prison itself. Cannot release on licence also be, as is now the case, an extended form of release for part of the week, whereby a prisoner can keep contact with his family and relatives? I recommend that strongly. But, please, may I ask the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, if he can avoid it, not to give us a prison board of parole. I should have little confidence in such a thing. I would as soon be treated by a board of parole as I would be treated by a board of doctors. There are the medical boards of the forces, of which many of us have recollections.


My Lords, will it help my noble friend if I say immediately that I do not think there is a stronger opponent in this country, let alone in Parliament, of parole boards than I am?


I am delighted to hear that. Therefore I proceed on the assumption that as the noble Lord is an opponent of parole boards, we are not going to have them.

Lastly, as to after-care, we are going to have, as the White Paper sets out, a social service to run the after-care service. I do not think that that point has been made so far in the debate this evening. As the after-care service will be part of the work of the Probation Service, and as after-care officers will rank as probation officers on secondment, they will do their work in the community and with the community, which is the only way to do it properly. But, of course, in the first place they will have to work with prisoners on discharge, and it will be extremely difficult, and a task which will intimidate many people when they try to do it, to get the ordinary person into the frame of mind of doing work in the community with a will.

At the same time we have to take into account the fact that the community as such will be prejudiced against the prisoner—that point has been made—and how are we going to overcome the distaste which ordinary citizens in this country have to associating with ex-prisoners, to welcoming ex-prisoners as members of work groups or as members of a local community? That will be an extremely difficult problem to overcome, and I do not think anything like enough attention has been paid to that matter so far. I shall not go into any detail as to how we endeavoured to deal with that in the Caribbean area, other than to say that we took every possible opportunity to bring the prisoners in our discharge prisons, particularly the farm prisons, into the ordinary life of the community round about. It is, of course, a community very unlike our own in many ways, but I may say that the local church choirs were often supplied by choirs of prisoners, and the local cricket teams were often teams of prisoners—and the prisoners were welcomed both as cricketers and as members of choirs. That was a beginning, and I think a thoroughly healthy beginning, and I should like to see if more things of that kind can be found to be done in this country of ours.

Therefore, in summary, let us try not to have any more prisons if we can possibly avoid it. We must have special institutions to deal with offenders, but let them be part of the apparatus of social administration of this country, and let them be as like ordinary institutions as may be. That seems to me to offer the best way ahead in this matter.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my thanks to those addressed by other noble Lords to Lord Royle for giving us the opportunity of having this debate—a debate which is taking place under the shadow of the dissolution of the Royal Commission. There has been very little reference to this this afternoon. Apart from the noble Baroness opposite, nobody has referred to this. I must say that, faced with resignations by something like half of the members of it, it is difficult to see what other course the Government could have taken but to wind it up. On the other hand, for many of us this is a calamity.

It is over a generation since we had a Royal Commission to go into this exceptionally difficult subject. I do not think there is any subject in the whole range of the social sciences which has changed so completely as this over the last generation or so. Yet, in spite of the astonishing increase in knowledge and the great amount of research which has been going on over the last years, I think there is no area in the whole of the social set-up of this country in which there is a greater need for close research, for discussions and for the hearing of evidence such as takes place before a Royal Commission. It therefore is a calamity that this should have happened.

The work of such a Commission is, of course, very largely concerned with the ascertainment of fact. Royal Commissions have opportunities which are not open to ordinary scientists in fields like this. And, as your Lordships know, very many people have put a tremendous amount of time and energy into getting ready to give evidence. Many organisations and societies which are particularly concerned —and this type of organisation is one of the prides of this country—have put a tremendous amount of work into the evidence which they have prepared. This, to a large extent, has now been thrown away. Some evidence has been taken and it is all very well, of course, to say that this will be put before the new Advisory Council, but it will be very frustrating indeed to the people who have been working so hard at this business over the last two years or so to find their work, I do not say completely wasted but to a considerable extent thrown away and that they will have no opportunity to come before the Royal Commission, with its many expert members, to give the result of their work and their experience.

I had the impression from the start that the personnel had not been very skilfully chosen—and it was a very large Commission, too. It may well be that it had in itself the seeds of its own decomposition, so to speak, from the start. I think much more care ought to be taken in this sort of case than sometimes is taken. We can only wish, as did the noble Baroness opposite, that the new Council will have a great success and will be very actively used by the Home Office. It can clearly do a great deal of work—again, of course, on the basis that it is well composed and that the members of it have sufficient time to give to the work that they are called upon to do, which is obviously going to be the great difficulty. Real knowledge in these sort of matters is quite rare, and a little learning can be an exceedingly dangerous thing. I think there is hardly any other area in which a little learning is so dangerous a thing as in this business of criminology.

The White Paper, of course, covers a lot of ground, a great deal of which we have in fact traversed in our debates here, which have been referred to by my noble friend the Leader of the House, and it does not add a great deal to this. Indeed, in many respects it is rather superficial; but it is no doubt addressed to the general public more than to experts in penology, and it is in that sense well expressed and should have a reasonably good impact, I think, on the general public, or on the more thoughtful part of it. Its most radical proposal—and this is certainly an important and progressive one, in my view—is that for increasing remissions for good conduct, which has been referred to by most speakers this afternoon. its proposals about that are, as other speakers have said, left in a somewhat vague state and certainly are in need of a good deal of clarification. I do not think it will be necessary for me to add a great deal to what has been said on this score, but before I do address a few remarks to that subject I should like to make some comments of my own.

I should like to say, in the first instance, that I find it very strange (and other noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon have made the same point) that the authors of the White Paper, who seem to appreciate the essential futility of prisons and realise that prisons clearly do very little good in the way of rehabilitating the people who go through them, should have devoted so little attention to keeping people out of prison. In the other White Paper, dealing with juveniles, a good deal was said about keeping juveniles out of prison, but in this White Paper the authors seem to assume that with an adult offender, at any rate one who has committed a serious offence, you have to start by sending him to prison. The irony of the whole penal system is that it is so difficult, if not impossible, to get away from the use of prisons. That was underlined by the noble Lord, Lord Simey, whose speech preceded mine, and has been referred to by a number of other speakers. The leitmotiv of the whole of this White Paper seems to me to be, "Prison is vicious; let us see what we can do to make it less vicious, to mitigate its effects ". Why not start by not sending men there at all? Much of the White Paper is taken up with the arrangements for using the Probation Service to help men who are in prison—and that will be very valuable experience, I am sure, for probation officers—and to help prisoners on their discharge, and that the Probation Service have said they are very anxious to do. But there is practically nothing in this White Paper about using the Probation Service for helping offenders not to go into prison at all. It seems to me that the more people we can keep out of prison the better; because we very seldom do any good with them while they are in prison. Many of them make vicious contacts with wicked men while they are in prison and come out much worse than they were when they went in.

Many sentencers take the view that probation should not be used (or should be used only in very exceptional cases) for adults, or, at any rate, for those who have passed the first flush of youth. On the face of it it looks as if the authors of this White Paper adhere to this doctrine. I think it is a mistake. One noble Lord this afternoon said that in his view a great deal more use should be made of probation in connection with the adult offender; and, generally speaking, I entirely agree with that. I know, of course, that one must not be dogmatic about punishment for there is probably no area of social science in which it is more dangerous to be dogmatic. For generations we were completely bedevilled with the pernicious doctrine of making the punishment fit the crime rather than the criminal; and although it has been discarded by the penologists for quite a long time it is still widely held by sentencers. Nor is it completely pernicious, because, up to a point, you cannot get away from it, even if you wish to, when you are engaged in the practical business of sentencing. You have to concern yourself not only with your prisoner, but with the effect of your sentence on others. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, had this in mind when she was talking about the feelings of guilt which all sentencers must have, after a bout of sentencing, when they look back in the small hours of the night on what they have been doing. Therefore, I admit there are many cases—at any rate in the conditions of the modern world in which we ourselves are punished by living—where there is no alternative but to send people to prison.

I admit that the use of probation for adult offenders raises problems of its own some of which are particularly difficult. I should have liked to see them discussed in this White Paper, and one of the weaknesses of the White Paper is that it does not discuss them. It is curious that the White Paper is so strangely silent about the whole business of putting adults on probation. I have done so in my court from time to time. Often it has been successful; sometimes it has not. But I do not think that the problem has received adequate discussion. From my experience, I agree with the right reverend Prelate that the average offender is just a feckless, incompetent sort of person without much viciousness in him. The description of an "inadequate personality" which is used in paragraph 20 of the White Paper is a description which should not be confined to the persistent offender (who is being dealt with in that paragraph) for it seems to me to cover the great majority of average offenders, at any rate those who come before the courts at Quarter sessions, where most of my own experience is gained.

These people get into trouble in all sorts of ways: sometimes because they have had too much to drink; sometimes because of emotional strain—perhaps because they have had a row with their wife; sometimes just because they are confronted with a rather strong temptation and, being inadequate, are not able to stand up to it. This happens to them throughout their lives and they get into trouble. But, on the whole, they do not do much more harm to their fellow citizens than the man with a severe attack of influenza who goes coughing to work in the Tube and whose activities result in the sickness of perhaps six or eight other persons, perhaps putting them off work for a week or a fortnight. In fact, I have suffered from this from time to time myself.

We usually deal with the average, feckless type of offenders by giving them short sentences, which are often quite useless from their point of view and which, as I said before, may do them a great deal of harm because they come across vicious people in prison. It is an expensive business to send a man to prison even for three or four months; it costs the community money and it does not do any good.

If a man can be put on probation—and sometimes probation orders have to be renewed more than once to keep a man like this out of prison—then, although he is not usually a good worker, being often a casual and rather inefficient one, he can usually keep himself in food and clothing. Sometimes he is really quite a good workman and probably does not backslide more than just occasionally. I have known cases where we have kept a man like this out of prison for three or four years during which most of the time he has been working and earning his own bread at no cost to the community—and when he backslides it is usually for a pretty small sort of offence.

The longer these people are kept out of prison the better. I appreciate that it is impossible to go on doing this all the time. If a man begins to feel that he is not to be held to the conditions of his probation order, he begins to treat it with contempt, and eventually it will be necessary to give him a term of imprisonment. Of course, there is the other point: that if other people see that probation orders are being renewed after being disregarded they are more likely to give way. The more valuable part of the deterrent effect of punishment is its effect not so much on the man himself but on other citizens, many of whom are of the same feckless type, and who can be deterred from adopting the same sort of life by seeing the unpleasant consequences which befall the neighbour who behaves in that sort of way.

It may be that these difficulties mean that the ordinary sort of probation is not perhaps suitable for this adult, feckless type of offender. The ordinary Probation Service is, on the whole, a service for the young and has many young officers who do not find it easy to deal with middle-aged offenders of this kind. I can understand why many judges feel that it is not satisfactory to make probation orders in this sort of case. It may be that we need some other sort of system, possibly a binding-over, on condition that the man is put under a member of an auxiliary voluntary probation service and not under a professional probation officer. I have made this suggestion before. It did not receive any support; but I make it again. Prison visitors have often been able to bring a good influence to bear on this type of feckless offender. I have never been a prison visitor myself—I have had no time for that—but I have several friends who have done a great deal of good work in that way. From what I have known about the results in respect of some of the prisoners helped, the work has had a good, permanent effect. I think men of this kind could be used in the auxiliary probation service and could help the feckless type of not-very-serious offender who sometimes commits offences which are technically felonies, but from a common-sense point of view are not so serious as all that.

It seems to me that, with the assistance of a man of the kind I am thinking of, very often a person of this kind would be able to go straight for quite a long time. I am not optimistic about him. I remember going to Wandsworth and seeing the group doing interesting work in connection with "Recidivists Anonymous". The Assistant Governor there said, "You know, you cannot expect all these people to keep out of trouble altogether. Some of them will, but others are of a type who will backslide from time to time." That seemed to me an understanding and common-sense attitude. The probation officer, the auxiliary man that I am thinking of, might succeed in keeping such a person straight for a year or two. If the offender could be working during that time in the community, even if he did backslide a little, it would not be all that serious. We should have done a good job by keeping him out of prison.

That is the main contribution which I wish to make to the debate, but while we are reforming the law there are a few points which we might try to improve. One of the difficulties we are always up against in sentencing at quarter sessions is that we cannot send a man to prison and fine him at the same time or put him on probation and fine him. In the conditions of the modern world, the fine has become a much more useful punishment for a certain type of offender than it was a generation ago, and very often it would be quite useful to be able to send a man to prison for a short sharp term—say, six months or something of that kind—so that he would experience what prison is, and at the same time make him pay a fine, which he could pay over a period of months. That would hit him in the pocket, as well as give him experience of a prison sentence and make him uncomfortable.

My Lords, this policy that courts may not both fine and imprison goes back a long way, and I have never been able to understand the sense of it. Until somebody can show me that it is sensible in the conditions of the modern world, I shall continue to advocate that sentencers should be enabled to use not just one particular weapon in their armoury but such of them, provided that they are not absolutely incompatible with each other, as they consider sensible in the circumstances of the case. The suspended sentence, which has been so well argued for by Mr. Brian Leighton in the Magistrate, and no doubt in communications which many of your Lordships have received, is another type of punishment which has been referred to this afternoon. I entirely agree with the arguments mentioned in its favour, I think by my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger, who supported it, and I should like to add my support to hers. There are two final points which I should like to make, more particularly arising out of the White Paper: first, in regard to persistent offenders and secondly relating to the remission for good conduct.

Parliament has made two attempts to deal with persistent offenders by means of preventive detention, and both have failed. I think that to some extent, indeed to a large extent, they have failed through the maladroit use of this weapon by the sentencers. On this matter I disagree with my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger. I do not think that sentences of preventive detention are necessarily wrong in themselves. They certainly have the disadvantage that prisoners, or many of them, think that they are being dealt with unjustly. A man understands a sentence for the particular crime he has committed, but he cannot feel that a separate sentence relating to things which happened in the past, and which he thought he had expiated by serving his sentence, should be brought up, and that he should be sent away for a long time in respect of them. The present proposal does, to a large extent, get over that very real pyschological difficulty. It may be that it has its drawbacks, and I would agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, that up to a point we have to experiment in this business; and this is an experiment which, on the face of it, is well worth trying.

As regards the proposal for more liberal remission of sentences, there is one argument which I regard as quite a weighty one and which so far has not been advanced in support of this matter. It is the fact, so convincingly brought out by Sir George Benson, whose name has been more than once mentioned this afternoon, that the great majority of prisoners do not become recidivist. It was the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, who said that women prisoners are too sensible to go back to prison. That is true also of the great majority of men. One period in prison is enough for most of them, and therefore I think that the sooner we get them out and hack at work, keeping themselves by their own exertions and not being kept at great expense by the taxpayer, the better it will be. Undoubtedly that will be the case in respect of a very large number of the people who get this extra amount of remission. It will be very much better for them that they should be returned to society, and much better for society that they should be so returned. Therefore I think that this is a very forward-looking proposal, and I hope that it will very quickly be put into practice.

5.46 p.m.


My Lords, having been very critical of the White Paper, The Child, the Family and the Young Offender, I should like to add my tribute to the Government on the admirable aims and what I feel are the imaginative proposals contained in the White Paper, The Adult Offender. I hope it will be possible for the Government to put some of these proposals into operation at a very early date. I say "admirable aims" because the White Paper covers a very wide field, as we have learned this afternoon. It deals with release on licence, the persistent offender, parole for the persistent offender, treatment of long-term prisoners and visits to and work for prisoners, and goes on to deal with prison buildings, prison staff and after-care. I feel that the White Paper indicates a sincere and sustained effort on the part of the Government to reorganise our prisons and to deal more effectively with our prison population.

Its chief aim would appear to be the improvement of the present prison system and the parole system, the intention being to give long-sentence prisoners a chance of making good by releasing them earlier than is done at present. The White Paper states what I think many of us would say has been felt for some years by many with expert knowledge of our present system: Long periods in prison may punish, or possibly deter them, but do them no good—certainly do not fit them for re-entry into society. It goes on to say: Every additional year of prison progressively unfits them. This seems to me a realistic appraisal of the prison system today, and suggests that prison, as a method of treatment, is non-existent. While some reference is made to both training and treatment, I hope that more thought will be given to these two essentials than the White Paper suggests at the present moment.

A progressive and enlightened community (and I do not know whether we can claim that we are) must move quickly towards a prison system which aims to treat rather than to punish. I am surprised—and I wish to emphasise this —that the problems presented by short-term sentences are not dealt with in the White Paper, particularly when there are upwards of 5,000 inmates still sleeping two or three in a cell designed for one person. I want also to join issue with my noble friend Lord Royle. He said in his opening speech that he would probably get into difficulty with some of his lay magisterial colleagues when he questioned the wisdom of lay magistrates sentencing first offenders.


To imprisonment.


Yes; to imprisonment. May I say that he is in difficulty with one of his lay magisterial colleagues here and now? I cannot, for the life of me, see how anyone can feel that the professional magistrate or judge is better equipped to sentence a first offender to prison. Their training, in the main, has been purely a legal one. They are appointed because of their legal knowledge, and not necessarily because of their knowledge of people or of the community or of how people live. What I would say—and again I say this with a good deal of emphasis—is that lay magistrates, along with professional magistrates, hear and see much when they are sitting in court, and I rather fancy from experience that the lay magistrate understands a great deal more. I know that there are plans for building more prisons and modernising others. I think the question is whether the proposals in the White Paper can be implemented until the needs have been met.

The most significant proposals in the White Paper, at least from my point of view, are the ending of preventive detention (and, as your Lordships have been told, there are only about 500 in preventive detention at the present time) and the ending of corrective training (and there are about 260 persons receiving corrective training at present), the early release on licence, and the parole for persistent offenders. Those in the know have long since come to the conclusion that preventive detention is neither just nor effective.

The White Paper suggests that a prisoner reaches a "recognised peak" in training, and that when that peak is reached he goes downhill. I should like to ask my noble friend Lord Stonham how this peak is recognised and how it is measured, because I have a rough idea that a good deal of it is really guesswork. The proposal for release on licence will make release possible after a prisoner has served, as we have been told this afternoon, a third of his sentence. He will then be under supervision until the date that he would normally have been released, allowing for remission for good conduct. Hence, a person serving six years would in the normal way be released after four years if he behaved himself. The White Paper proposal envisages release after serving two years, followed by two years' supervision, with the possibility of being recalled during those two years for misbehaviour.

The conditions of parole for a persistent offender are much the same, except that he will be under supervision for the whole of the remainder of his sentence. This means that a persistent offender serving a nine-year sentence could be released on parole after three years, good conduct permitting, but he would remain under supervision for the whole of the remaining six years and be liable for recall at any time for misbehaviour. I fully realise that one cannot expect in a White Paper details of the working of such far-reaching proposals, but a good deal of thought will have to be given to the actual details.

We have heard a number of noble Lords say this afternoon that they view with horror the setting up of a parole board. I do not know why. We have been told that it will be left to the Home Secretary to make the decisions in relation to release on licence. I cannot imagine for one moment that the Home Secretary will be able to do this. It will have to be done by a group of people, whether we call them a parole board or not. But I would ask the Minister and his Department to pay some attention to the view of the National Association of Probation Officers. I would, with great respect, suggest that in the National Association of Probation Officers there is a wealth of experience and a fund of knowledge in this field. The National Association of Probation Officers advocate that the progress of every prisoner should be regularly evaluated by an assessment board, where the prison officials, instructors, appropriate officers and prison welfare officers could review the progress of the prisoners and deal with such matters as allocation to appropriate employment, grading, choice of educational activities, suitability for home leave and suitability for parole. Breaches of prison discipline, as we all know, often arise because the best possible use is not made of the prisoner's time. I suggest strongly that there is a responsibility on the prison authorities to see that a prisoner is usefully employed so that he can behave himself. I feel sure that some of us would fare very badly in prison.

I want to make only one other point with regard to parole, and that is the necessity to see that the conditions of licence are clearly and simply set out, as in a probation order, and that it is understood quite clearly by the offender that those conditions are enforceable. There is nothing simpler than a probation order. The conditions that he has entered into are clearly understood by the probationer before he leaves the court, and it is clearly understood by the probationer before he leaves the court that those conditions are enforceable. We do not need to have a long, detailed, involved document. What we need is a simple document, similar to a probation order.

One of my chief concerns arising from the White Paper is in respect of the responsibility for after-care or the supervision which the White Paper envisages. It seems quite clear to me that the responsibility will fall on the Probation Service, already overstrained, its staff overworked and grossly underpaid. Release on licence will mean supervision continuing in some cases for several years. As I pointed out to your Lordships a few moments ago, a persistent offender sentenced to nine years' imprisonment could be out on licence and under supervision for six continuous years.


My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend? I should like to know what the justification is for that statement. It certainly is not our general intention. I think that if he reads the White Paper more carefully he will see that the liability for recall will be one of either six months, or to the end of the sentence, meaning the end of two-thirds of the sentence when release would have been automatic. That will be the position in all but a very few cases.


Perhaps I have misunderstood the White Paper. I understand from the White Paper that in the case of a persistent offender he can he released after he has served a third of his sentence, but he will be under supervision for the whole of the remainder of the sentence. I may be wrong, but that is my understanding of it. The Probation Service is already responsible for the supervision of probation cases. I should like to point out to your Lordships that the Probation of Offenders' Act is widely used in the case of adult offenders. It is not, as has been suggested this afternoon, used mainly in connection with juveniles.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will excuse my interrupting, I would say that it is undoubtedly the fact that some judges, and some benches, do not make probation orders for adult offenders who are really mature adults. I have had too much experience of that not to know that it is true. I am not saying they are never made; I am saying that some benches and some judges take that view.


The noble Lord is quite right. There are some unenlightened judges and some un- enlightened courts in this country who do not use the Probation of Offenders Act as much as they could for adult offenders. But we must look at the picture as a whole. I grant that we have these black spots. But taking the country as a whole, the Probation of Offenders Act is used very widely in the case of adult offenders.

Probation officers, in addition to being responsible for the supervision of probation cases, have the after-care of those on licence from borstal and approved schools. As the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, pointed out, they are now responsible for looking after those in prison, and they are also responsible for the aftercare of those on release. I would add that they also undertake the matrimonial work, which is considerable in this country, and other social work which is to be found in magistrates' courts. As your Lordships know, there is a suggestion that undefended divorce proceedings should be dealt with in the county courts, and if this comes to pass I imagine that yet another job will be found for the probation officer.

Perhaps my noble friend Lord Stonham will allow me to refer to the position of probation officers. At this point, perhaps I should remind your Lordships that I was at one time—I grant you many years ago—a probation officer. I am now a member of the Inner London Probation Committee. I know that much is being done to increase the number of probation officers. My noble friend Lord Longford assured me in your Lordships' House on July 14 last that it is intended to bring the Service"— that is, the Probation Service— up to a strength of 3,500 by 1970.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 268, col. 239; 14/7/65.] On that occasion my noble friend also stated the Probation Service is undertaking …new and strenuous tasks in the form of aftercare. My noble friend Lord Stonham gave a similar assurance again in your Lordships' House on November 16 last.

Anyone who has read carefully the White Paper The Adult Offender knows that the success or failure of what is set out there will depend on a number of factors, not least new buildings, but certainly upon the effectiveness of the Probation Service in making the contribution which is envisaged for it in the White Paper. It seems to me very doubtful that the additional 1,300 probation officers required and promised by 1970 will be found in the next four years. I cannot see the recruitment of probation officers into the Probation Service at the rate of over 300 per year for the next four years, any more than I can see the Home Office providing adequate training for that number each year, even if they succeed in getting them.


My Lords, we have been, and indeed are, providing adequate training for that number now. If my noble friend would look at the figures for new entrants last year, he will see that we are training sufficient for the number required.


It may well be that the Home Office view and the probation officers' view of adequate training differs. I think that is quite likely. I know that the Home Office are doing all they can by way of advertisement to encourage the right kind of person to come forward for selection and training, but I feel that this will have a very limited effect, and I do not think it will produce the 1,300 probation officers needed, and promised, by 1970.

The real answer is to make the Probation Service more attractive financially. Probation officers do not have a 40-hour week; many of them are lucky if they get away with a 60-hour week. Some work longer than others, and some have their week-ends broken into. Magistrates' courts in London function for six days a week and, apart from Sundays, only close on Christmas Day and Good Friday. There are no overtime rates for probation officers. It is always invidous to make comparisons, because comparisons can be misunderstood. Although a number do succeed in getting into the Probation Service at an early stage, it is unlikely that a -person will be able to enter the Probation Service much under the age of 27 years, unless he has been to a university and obtained a degree in sociology or a diploma in social science. As I say, it is unlikely that the bulk of them will be able to enter the Probation Service before the age of 27 years. And when they do they are paid £820 a year. A young police officer of 22 years of age gets £850, plus a number of fringe benefits which I need not go into. After 13 years, the probation officer who started at £820 reaches his maximum of £1,510, and he goes on at that level until he retires at the age of 65. The police officer who gets more money five years earlier, retires on a two-thirds pension at the age of 55. I am not suggesting for one moment, and I do not want it to be thought I am, that the police are overpaid. Of course they are not overpaid. I am merely saying that when you are trying to recruit a body of men and women with highly specialised knowledge, many of them graduates, many of them academically qualified, it is a little unreasonable to invite them to come into a Service at the age of 27 and to offer them £820 a year.

Those of us who are interested in this field of probation and prisons, and the need to reform our prisons and prisoners in order to stop them from going into prisons, want to see the proposals in the White Paper implemented as soon as possible. I congratulate the Government on presenting a White Paper which is so imaginative, and I hope that facilities will be available that will enable them to put many of these proposals into operation at a very early date.

6.9 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join in the applause for the evident intention of the White Paper to recommend a more flexible sentencing policy, and for the achievement of a reduction in our prison population. I should also like to welcome some specific suggestions, as have all noble Lords: the suggestion that the artificial and obsolescent categories of preventive detention and corrective training should both be abolished; the suggestion that prisoners should be paid normal wages for the benefit both of their dependants and of their victims, and that they should increasingly go out to work with local employers to earn these wages; the suggestion that alcoholics—of whom currently 5,000 are sent to prison each year, which is a ludicrous practice—should receive more intelligent attention, and, in particular, the recognition in paragraph 41 that hostels and sheltered workshops will have to be provided for those who for the rest of their lives will be unable to manage in ordinary society and for whom the only and unsatisfactory alternative is the security of prison.

But, centrally, I should like to confine my remarks to what has been said to be the most important aspect of this White Paper, namely, the proposal that remission should be earnable on the middle third of a prison sentence, within the limits of only beginning to come into effect where the sentence is for longer than eighteen months. On this, I should like to question whether the suggested system is in fact the best way of achieving flexibility. Of all imaginable systems for remission, the present one must be the worst. All prisoners are entitled to it, without being subject to subsequent recall, and according to the worst of all criteria—that of their good behaviour in prison. It is notorious that the worst criminals will tend to be the best behaved in prison.

I recognise that the middle third remission will be subject to recall, and I assume from the White Paper that the criteria will be different and that it will be at the Home Secretary's discretion according to a calculation of the chances of successful release. This is stated, but, as other noble Lords have said, it has not really been explained. But it is limited; it fully applies only where the sentence is for three years or more, and not at all where the sentence is for eighteen months or less. It neither extends over the final third nor does it extend down to cover the lesser offences, which make up the greater number of offenders. In 1964 only 9 per cent. of all offenders sentenced to imprisonment received sentences of eighteen months or over and would therefore become eligible under this system. Unless the intention is to abolish imprisonment for terms of less than eighteen months, which is not stated in the White Paper, I see no reason in principle for the exclusion of the smaller offender from the application of the same principle of flexibility, used according to whatever chances of rehabilitation the prisoner demonstrates. Nor do I see the reason for the retention of the old system of remission.

Possibly the worst danger this system could hold would be in the development of a judicial discount system in sentencing, whereby sentences are simply increased to take account of the uncertain middle third. There is well-documented evidence that sentences have in fact tended to increase, and in particular that they have increased by about a third since just before the war. There are examples, of which the most notorious is that of the train robbers, which have indicated a judicial determination to evade the discretionary powers over length of service of the Home Office. There is even a suspicion at the moment among some people who are concerned with the administration of criminal justice that already, since the publication of this White Paper, sentences have been increased. There is a clear danger of this happening where there is a certain specified area in which administrative discretion can be exercised and where its purpose could easily be stultified by the development of a pattern of rising sentences originating from a mistrustful Judiciary, or a mistrustful element within it.

In view of these factors I should like to suggest two alternative proposals for consideration, the first of which has been mentioned by other noble Lords. This is the proposal for a suspended sentence, which the White Paper neither includes nor refers to and which would enable a sentence to be passed without being served. It could be confined to certain crimes and, to preserve the deterrent of imprisonment for first offenders, it could be one of the powers that a court could have in certain specified cases. It could easily be effective as a deterrent to the commission of a second crime; and, after all, that is all one can be interested in after the commission of the first. It could be used in such cases as, say, serious motoring offences, and offences by "white collar" workers or by professional men. We are almost alone in Europe in not using it in some form or another in our system, and in some countries it has been spectacularly successful. I suggest its introduction in a limited form, and I am sure I should be speaking for the rest of my noble friends if I asked the Government to consider it seriously as a penal measure. Certainly it would no longer seem to deserve the description it received previously of being wrong in principle.

The other proposal which I should like to put forward for consideration is already practised in the State of Victoria, where I understand it has worked well. There the judge is asked to pass both a maximum and minimum sentence, the maximum to correspond to what the judge would have passed before the new system was introduced. Those sentenced to imprisonment have to serve the minimum sentence and it is then up to a parole board to decide whether the prisoner should be released. If they decide that he is fit for release, he is released on a licence for the remainder of his sentence, and until the end of that time he remains under a liability for recall.

On the question of overburdening the Probation Service by the introduction of new methods of penal treatment, since the cost of the Probation Service as measured per offender has been calculated to be approximately one-twentieth of the cost of imprisonment, there seems to be such room for the economical improvement of the Probation Service, where that Service is called in to assist in the working of substitutes of imprisonment, that a refusal or a failure to achieve this would denote a spectacular incompetence of the Government in its proper reallocation of resources.

Finally, I would refer to something which is not mentioned in the White Paper, namely, the question of the imprisonment of civil debtors. The noble Lord, Lord Royle, asked the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for some figures on this matter which I am sure will be given in a moment. It seems to me that it would accord with the feeling that this was an improper way of dealing with the non-payment of debt and with the agreed and increasingly desirable objective of reducing the prison population if some other method of treating them could be found. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will correct me if these figures are wildly out, but the figures I have are that currently about 7,000 people annually are sentenced to imprisonment for failure to meet their debt obligations. This compares with a figure of about 1,000 ten years ago, and I would suggest that this increase is clearly associated with an increase in the granting of credit. One course, therefore, that must be right (unless these figures are substantially wrong) is for the Government to investigate the system of the granting of credit and to take some action to see that credit is not made readily available to those who have but a small chance of being able to repay it. I would, of course, welcome some comment on these proposals by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham.

In conclusion, it seems to me that the most important principle at this stage, because there is the greatest opportunity for its extension, is that of flexibility in sentencing and the recognition that more is lost and wasted than is saved by the unnecessary extension of imprisonment for individuals about whom more has been learned since the day they appeared in court for sentence, and by the use of imprisonment unnecessarily in the first place. That the wider application of this principle will serve at the same time to release a strain on our resources that is becoming ever more intolerable, is a lucky accident, and this exigency may serve to hasten a policy that is correct in its own right. It is in so far as it serves this principle of flexibility that this White Paper, in its principal proposal and in any legislation that follows it, must be blamed or praised.

6.20 p.m.


My Lords, we are very greatly indebted to my noble friend Lord Royle for a stimulating and constructive debate, one that has revealed what I regard as a heart-warming measure of agreement, expressed in some of the, best-informed speeches that I have heard in a single debate for a very long time. It is an agreement which is not confined to your Lordships' House. I think that my noble friend Lord Simey expressed the present position exactly when he said that we have arrived at the moment of truth. Indeed, my Lords, I think we have arrived at the moment for action, and when the only words which should be spoken are those which lead to action.

My noble leader, in his speech, which we also very much enjoyed and appreciated, has already referred to the views of the Home Secretary which were published in the Sunday Times on April 24. On the same day, an article by Mr. Quintin Hogg, the shadow Home Secretary, called for a determined effort to free our prisons of many of their present inmates". Last Thursday the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, speaking from the Opposition Front Bench, asked the Government to: pursue two objectives with absolute determination. The first is to reduce, by every safe and sensible means, the size of our prison population. The second is to see that the residual population of our prisons are trained —above all by hard, adequately paid and purposeful work under modern conditons—to reenter society as useful citizens."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 274 (No. 6) col. 239; 28/4/66.] To-day my noble friend Lord Royle and almost everyone who has spoken in the debate—notably my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger and the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, whose views, as she herself said, on many matters are often divergent—have spelled out their views on the steps necessary to achieve these objectives. I think this all adds up to a consensus of opinion among all Parties which I regard as of the greatest importance, because the necessary changes call not only for a lot of careful thought but for very considerable courage; and their implementation will be much easier for the knowledge that we can move forward in broad agreement.

My noble leader had some embarrassingly kind things to say about me in referring to my new responsibilities. They are merely the somewhat mundane ones that, under my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, I have direct responsibility for prisons, and the probation and after-care services, which indeed do cover the whole field of the two objectives suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. It is a task in which I shall need no urging, but I shall be deeply grateful for all the help and advice that my noble friends in all parts of the House are able to give.

I begin this task against the sombre background of a sharply rising prison population. In March last year, the total population of our penal institutions was 30,396. In March this year it was 32,600 —a 7 ¼ per cent. increase. Your Lordships may ask: why such a sharp rise? The noble Lord, Lord Reay, said that there was documentary evidence to suggest that increased sentences are being awarded. I have not yet seen that evidence myself. I would say that, broadly speaking, it is because larger numbers of people are committing crimes and a proportion of them are being caught and going to prison. But the plain fact of the matter is that the prison population, unhappily, is sharply on the increase. I think that part of the explanation of this increase is to be found in the figures which the noble Lord, Lord Royle, asked me to provide, and which I propose to give now, at the beginning of my speech, so as to put the whole situation in proper prospective.

I will give the figures for the year 1964, which is the latest year for which they are available, fully analysed. First, drunkenness, A total of 5,414 persons were sent to prison for drunkenness, the highest for 25 years. Of women, one in six of all received in prison under sentence was a drunk, and with men the proportion was one in ten. Of first offenders, 6,991 persons received under sentence or in default of payment of a fine, other than for drunkenness, had no previous proved convictions. That is the definition of the first offender, whatever might be said on some occasions about their having committed other offences. This meant that approximately one male in seven and nearly one female in four sent to prison, borstal or detention centre was a first offender.

The noble Lord, Lord Reay, as well as my noble friend, raised the question of debtors sent to prison. I will call it noncompliance with financial obligations, because there are several categories. The first is 10,281 persons sent to prison for non-payment of fines and an additional 9,045 sent to prison by county and magistrates' courts for non-compliance with payment orders. That means a total of no fewer than 19,326 people in prison for debt of one kind or another during 1964. It also means that three out of every ten people received under sentence into penal institutions or committed as non-criminal prisoners were sent there for debt.

My noble friend asked me to give an analysis of people sent to prison. I will give it in three ways: first, by length of sentence, still keeping to 1964. I have already mentioned the 19,326 who went there for debt. I cannot analyse their length of stay, but it is quite safe to assume they were all short-term guests. Of the 43,814 persons who are technically described as received under sentence, 22.6 per cent. of the men were sentenced to from one to five weeks, 49.6 per cent. (almost half) were sentenced to from one week to three months, 73.5 per cent. (nearly three-quarters) were sentenced to from one week to six months, and 85.5 per cent. were sentenced to twelve months or less. That means that (assuming they all qualified for full remission) half of those people sent to prison served for two months or less, three-quarters for four months or less, and only one in seven served more than eight months.

At the other end of the scale my noble friend asked for figures of those sentenced to more than three years. Only 932 men received sentences of more than three years. This is important when you are considering parole, because these are the only men affected by the provisions of the White Paper. Only 932 received sentences of more than three years. That was 2 .2 per cent., or one in fifty, and, of course, would include almost all the criminals who cause us the most grave concern. In the whole country only fifteen women received sentences of more than three years—0.7 per cent. I think it was Lord Simey who suggested that the best way to relieve prisons was not to have any, or at least not many. Possibly he is right about the women.

Secondly, may I give the analysis by broad classes of offence?


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord because this is most interesting. But has he got the figures of those men who are now serving sentences of more than three years —not the ones who were convicted last year?


I propose to give those in a moment. I wanted to give first of all the broad classes of offence. Out of 63,324 people received into prisons under sentence (that is, criminal) or on committal (non-criminal) no less than 33 per cent. were fine or debt defaulters, or other non-criminal prisoners or drunks committed without the option. Another 6 .5 per cent. were in for Highway Act offences or taking vehicles without consent, and 43 per cent. were in for breaking and entering, larceny, receiving and fraud. These two analyses deal with the numbers of people sent to prison.

But to see the effect of Lord Royle's proposals we must look at the average population of our prisons on any given day. Obviously short sentence people represent a far higher proportion of total sentences than of prison population. I have only the figure for people technically described as serving sentences of imprisonment in a prison. It is 19,629 out of nearly 30,000 of all people in prisons, borstals and detention centres, and the thousands of non-criminal short-term people are excluded. Even so, of the 19,629, the category of from a week up to six months but less than 12 months accounts for 33 .4 per cent. of prison population; twelve months to less than three years, for 35 .3 per cent.; three years and over, 31 .3 per cent. Slightly less than one-third are people who would be dealt with by the parole system in the White Paper. If, therefore, it were thought desirable and found practicable to take the steps advocated by my noble friends Lord Royle and Lord Simey, and others, it might well mean eventually, other things being equal. reducing the present prison population by up to one-third.

I have for many years, mainly in Opposition, both here and in another place, advocated changes, the need for which has, to me, been blindingly obvious. My experience as a Minister has, if anything, strengthened those views. But it is one thing to advocate the desirable and another to achieve it. People cannot be permitted to offend with impunity; and even though for certain types of offence prison is now generally regarded as an unsatisfactory or even the wrong treatment, there would also be general agreement that we cannot abandon prison for those offences unless or until we have something better to put in its place.

My noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger said that magistrates want us to provide a whole range of alternative treatments. I could not agree more. That, in fact, is what we are doing, and will now do to a much greater extent. But at the moment, so far as the Bill which we intend to introduce later in this Session is concerned, all I can say is that the measures foreshadowed in the White Paper are not to be considered as exclusive. Criticism has been expressed by noble Lords that the White Paper did not discuss this, that or the other. All I can say is that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has indicated that he is carefully considering what steps it may be possible to take to achieve the objective that we all have at heart, as evidenced by this debate; and in this connection I know he will find your Lordships' views of great assistance.

Meanwhile, it might be helpful if I said a word or two on some of the points which have been raised and indicated what we are doing and what we have it in mind to do. First of all, with regard to drunks, there is, I think, general agreement that if rehabilitation is the objective for drunks, prison is not the place. Yet we are still sending 5,000 or 6,000 people to prison every year for this offence for from 7 to 28 days. One man was sentenced over 200 times in less than two years. Lord Derwent urged us to spend last on drunks. We are in fact spending first on drunks. If we are sending 6,000 of them a year to secure prisons, to expensive fortresses, one could not possibly imagine a greater waste of public resources than is going on now.

Meanwhile, pending fresh thought and action, the prison service is doing its best to cope. Lord Derwent may have some sympathy with me in this in that I feel now at the receiving end of a cataract. But we are trying to cope. We have six treatment centres in prisons, and recently, as an experiment, we have used the open prison at Spring Hill to house men who have hitherto served short-term prison sentences for drunkenness at Wandsworth and Pentonville. In the six months up to the end of March of this year more than 200 men were sent to Spring Hill, some of them two, three, and in one case even four, times in the six months. The majority have fitted in well with life at Spring Hill. They have benefited from fresh air, warmth and good food, and especially from the fact that they feel they are being treated as human beings and not as a residual element in a large prison. Curiously enough, despite the open conditions, they do not appear to crave for drink, certainly not to the extent of going to the village to get it.

Of course, we have regular visits from probation officers who are establishing a basis for their after-care. But while in the prison they and the other prisoners have made plain their mutual preference for separate living and recreational accommodation. They do not want to mix. But, once given this, the two groups have shown tolerance in the work setting. The medical officers and psychologists of Grendon psychiatric prison have made some investigations into their characteristics; and their conclusions, which have some support from researches elsewhere, suggest, unfortunately, that only a few of these men could respond to medical treatment. Most of them are at the present stage of medical knowledge, untreatable.

They are cripples who must be expected to relapse again and again and for whom the only answer is perhaps continuous support in a sheltered atmosphere. This is confirmation of the widely held view that for alcoholics we need, not prisons but ordinary homes, hostels or establishments, with facilities as to food, fresh air and medical supervision similar to those provided at Spring Hill, to which magistrates can send offenders for treatment, but I should have thought for longer periods than the present terms usually awarded for drunkenness.

A number of well deserved tributes have been paid to my noble friend Lady Reading and the work that she is doing. Her Working Party is going forward, under her terrific and dynamic energy, with the provision, among other things, as Lady Elliot of Harwood pointed out, of hostels for alcoholics. This is one of the ways in which progress is being made.

My noble friend Lord Royle mentioned first offenders. I have given the figures, and it is a matter of particular grief to me—because in 1958 I moved the Third Reading of the First Offenders Bill in another place—that it has been of so little effect that nearly 7,000 first offenders have been sent to prison in a single year. I do not know how many of those went for short sentences. I am having the figures analysed, and I will let your Lordships have the information as soon as I can. But, as your Lordships recall, the 1958 Act stipulates that first offenders should not be sent to prison if they can be dealt with in any other way. In the case of short sentences, and despite what my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell said, I cannot see why some other way could not have been found in the case of first offenders. The sort of case I have in mind, for example, is that of a workman, a first offender with a good record of long service with one firm, who takes something worth a few shillings belonging to his employer and is sentenced to six months. He loses his job, his house and his character; his life, and that of his family, is in ruins. We must surely find a way to avoid this sort of thing, and an increased use of probation for adults (on which I totally agree with my noble friend Lord Chorley), increased use of fines, and a power to award suspended sentences, which have been advocated by many noble Lords, may provide a substantial part of the answer.


My Lords, I should like to make one thing clear to my noble friend, and that is that I did not say, nor did I imply, that first offenders should be sent to prison. What I was saying is that I disagree with my noble friend Lord Royle that it should be left solely to the professional magistrate to decide.


My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for that explanation. I am sorry that I misunderstood him. The last thing I would ever do would be to enter into an argument between two magistrates. That is something I leave to them.

As to debtors and fine defaulters, I should have thought that it would be obvious that a creditor's chance of recovering his money are not improved if the debtor is deprived of his means of earning, whilst unwillingly ensconced at public expense in one of Her Majesty's prisons. Equally obviously, if prison is not the answer we must provide other effective sanctions against those who default on their financial obligations to the courts and to individuals. The machinery for enforcement of civil judgments is now being examined by the Payne Committee, which is proceeding urgently with its study. I do not know when the Committee's Report will be available, but we shall study it with great interest and urgency. Meanwhile, it is relevant to mention that when the Maintenance Orders Act 1958 became operative committals to prison for nonpayment of wife and child maintenance orders were halved, and the climate may well be favourable now for an extension of the system of attachment of earnings. The Payne Committee remit does not cover fine defaulters, but the Committee's recommendations regarding civil judgments will help us with the problem of fine enforcement. It is notable that in Denmark, where crime has decreased, fines with attachment of earnings are extensively used instead of imprisonment.

My noble friend Lord Royle and the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and others, made reference to this vital question of employment in prisons. It is a matter in which I have taken a very great interest for the last thirty years indeed, it was a subject that I raised in debate the first time that I ever moved a Motion in this House. It is vital work, and the achievement of the objective of hard, adequately paid and purposeful work, under modern conditions, to fit prisoners for re-entry into society as useful citizens is of prime importance. Useful work is as important a constituent of life in prison as it is of life outside. There need be no conflict in prison between work as training and the economics of employment.

These two objectives can best be served by very greatly improving the efficiency of prison industries, for good training marches with sound economics. You cannot give prisoners training which will serve them in good stead outside unless, in prison, you provide work which is typical of modern industry and organised on the same lines. This is certainly the view of the Advisory Council on the Employment of Prisoners, the value of whose reports I gratefully acknowledge. There have been substantial improvements in recent years. The value of prison output, for example, has increased 83 per cent. in the last six years, but we still have a very long and hard row to hoe.

Last year my right honourable friend Sir Frank Soskice appointed an industrial expert to take charge of the development of prison industries. I was particularly gratified by this, because some nine years ago, as a Member of another place, I went to the Home Office, to try to persuade the then Home Secretary to make such a full-time appointment. It took nearly nine years. This expert has completed a preliminary survey, and we are now implementing his first report, which is devastatingly frank, constructive and unanswerable. It reveals that, although prisoners' wages represent only a small proportion of total costs, we made a loss. This is partly because sales were mainly to other Government Departments on the basis of cost of materials plus 10 per cent. We are looking again at the pricing formula to see whether it does justice to prison industry.

Prices and costs are supremely relevant to our eventual objective of paying the rate for the job and providing weekly earnings in prison comparable to those outside. It is as necessary to increase productivity within the walls as it is without, and we have to start a long way further hack. First, we must drastically reduce the number of industries. We have already decided on several which are to be abolished including blacksmithing, tag-making, ropework, mop-making, chain link fencing and a few more. They are not especially good training; we cannot produce on a really large scale; and in some cases the cost of production is several times the amount we receive for the items produced. I do not call that good business. Streamlining will go much further. Other industries which are now unprofitable are under review to see whether they can be made viable. We intend to concentrate on those industries where there is an assured and steady flow of work; which are suitable for semi-skilled and unskilled workers, and where there are good prospects for employment on release.

Of course not all prisoners, for reasons of health or age, can be given normal industrial work. We shall retain for them some classes of work which would otherwise be discarded. But every industry will have to justify its place or go, although naturally in the transition we shall protect the interests of the prison officer instructors and provide whatever training or retraining is necessary. Eventually I envisage a streamlined organisation concentrating on about nine major industries which we can do really well, instead of dabbling in more than thirty.

Secondly, we are bringing in outside consultants to conduct investigations into management at the prison level and at head office. We are now appointing experts to conduct studies in market research, management accounting and work study. I am convinced that the way to overcome the inherent disadvantages of prison labour and conditions is by the intensive application of modern management techniques. Our aim will be facilitated if we can gradually adapt or transfer existing prison workshops to a single industry, which is the system we have started at the new prison opened last month at Gartree, in Leicestershire. There a large light engineering industry is being established, in co-operation with a private firm. It is equipped with modern machinery, and production will be on the most modern lines. In this field I am convinced that there is a considerable, and largely untapped, fund of interest and good will among both employers and trade unions, and I hope that we shall organise many more such arrangements. They are good for training, for the economy, and for post-release employment.

Incidentally, our production at Gartree has a substantial export element. We shall seek more export orders, because it helps morale if prisoners know that their work is making a real contribution. But at present the average prisoner's pay of 5s. 9d. a week is an awful handicap, because it is so difficult to provide incentives within the overall money available. If we can get our sums right, and prove our point on efficiency, I am hoping that we shall be able to justify higher payments to prisoners based on the profitability of the work they do. This will be the first decisive step towards the hoped-for system of paying prisoners normal wages, stamping normal insurance cards and making it possible for them to support their families and meet their other commitments. It will also be a huge stride towards turning them into normal, decent working men.

My noble friend asked me to tell him about progress with the hostels scheme, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood. I should be grateful not to have to mention it in any detail, but it is a scheme which is doing extremely well. It is much sought after by the men, but at present we have so few hostel places—some 200 in number—that we can still consider only those men who are serving more than four years. We should like to have more hostel places so that we could consider for the hostel, men serving shorter sentences than four years. We have opened two more hostels within recent months and have two more planned. We are pressing on as fast as possible. Here we are dealing with those who may be considered the worst criminals serving the long sentences, but we are having this great success—not with everybody, of course, but with a high proportion. This is a result of the six months when they work outside and go back to sleep in the prison hostel but become adjusted. We are training prison officers to become hostel wardens. Because of the shortage of hostel places we are, where possible, sending suitable men out to work in the ordinary way from the prison. They have to come back to the ordinary prison at night to sleep, but they go singly to employers. This scheme, too, we are trying to develop.

My noble friend Lord Royle asked me whether we have a special section tackling the problem of crime. I could answer the question facetiously, by saying that the whole of the Home Office is a special section tackling the problem of crime. I must confess that we have nothing in the Home Office quite analagous to James Bond, "M", or 007, but we have very greatly extended this work recently. We have, for example, five Home Office Ministers now—only one in the House of Lords, but four in the Commons. There is one additional Under-Secretary. We have recently appointed a third Deputy Permanent Under-Secretary, which quite definitely means a greater concentration of these problems under one Under-Secretary. We have an additional Assistant Under-Secretary of State attached to the strength of the Police Department. He started only yesterday and I met him at the Albert Hall Police Boxing Championships last night. We also have—as, indeed, my noble friend's committee recommended—a great expansion of the effort devoted to research in criminology, with a substantial staff and particularly effective police research and planning branches.

I was asked what we are doing about drug addicts. Here again, this is a class of ill person, if ill persons are criminals. But drug addicts are criminals because they are sick people. I can say that we do what we can with them. They are treated locally in the prison hospital by the prison medical officer, and in the normal course of treatment the drugs are withdrawn and tranquillisers and sedatives are administered to cover their withdrawal. If the patient is willing and likely to respond, he is given psychiatric follow-up treatment. In general, the drug addicts respond well to the treatment they receive in prison. The withdrawal of drugs is usually accomplished successfully, and marked improvements occur in the physical condition and morals of the patients.

My noble friend also asked me about border-line mental cases. I should not like to have to define a border-line mental case. We are all agreed that the great majority of those in prison are inadequate. Are they border-line mental cases? If the person in question, either before conviction or afterwards, is thought in any way to be suffering from mental illness or mental deficiency, of course we take precautions with him. He might go to Grendon, in the Prison Service, where we have 150 patients and a staff of six psychiatrists, or into a normal mental hospital. The situation is not ideal, but it is the way in which the Prison Service is coping with a situation thrust on them when people, who it might be argued are mentally ill and should not go into prison in the first place, have to be dealt with by the Prison Service.

My Lords, I think I have come almost to the end.


I asked too many questions.


Other noble Lords asked questions. I come to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, who asked a number of questions, some of which my noble Leader answered. He raised a point about paragraph 20 and, quite frankly, we do consider it a fair criticism of his that the paragraph does not give a very clear picture of what is envisaged in the way of treatment of the small-time persistent offender. But what we do envisage (and this is part of the answer to the very fair point which my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger made, in her objections to our proposals for classifying persistent offenders) is this. If she is right, and if it happens again that 176 out of 178 are sentenced—in my view unwisely, having regard to the class of person—to long terms, we shall have our parole system, but we shall have our allocation centre. I also hope that before very long we shall have places and régimes appropriate to that kind of person.

I think it was the right reverend Prelate who said that prison can now be envisaged as only one factor in a long-term community treatment of inadequates, He said that they were inadequate, and not ordinary people who had chosen to do wrong; and we wholly agree with that. He disagreed with the statement that it is impossible to train men for freedom in captivity. But the point is: What is captivity? it has been said by several noble Lords that public schools were captivity. Open prisons are captivity from which people can freely walk out, so it depends what you mean by captivity. Prison is a place where people have to stay, but it may not be onerous.

I am afraid that I have been going on too long, and it would not be right for me to detain noble Lords now. But every word of this debate will be very carefully studied. From now on I shall regard this debate as the textbook, and will go through it as a series of matters which have to be done. And they most certainly will be done—I am firmly convinced of that. It may well be that I shall be writing to every noble Lord who has taken part, but I shall certainly do so if I have not completely answered all the points.

My Lords, I hope I have not given the impression that I approach the general prison problem in a spirit of easy optimism. I do not. But, my Lords, faith and hope may succeed where cynical realism and resignation would certainly fail. We are burdened with this oppressive weight of more than 32,000 prisoners crowded into prisons, many of which are quite unsuited to the work they have to do; and our substantial building programme cannot in the foreseeable future provide us with the breathing space we need. If we could find ways to make room, as has been suggested in this debate, all sorts of things would be possible—the end of three to a cell; improvements in night sanitation; room for industries, for assessment and allocation centres, for the division of the great majority who do not need maximum security from the small minority who do, and the provision of regimes appropriate to both.

Meanwhile, we can rejoice in two great assets: the prison officers and the Probation Service—two of the finest, but perhaps the least appreciated, public services in the country. Despite what has been said in the debate by my noble friend, recruitment in both services is proceeding satisfactorily. Last year we had nearly 7,600 prison officers in post—nearly three times the 1947 total—and applications are now coming in at a very pleasing rate. That also applies to applications for the Probation Service, which are also coming in at a very pleasing rate. With regard to the Probation Service—and I do get about the country among probation officers; not just haranguing them, but having informal discussions with them—I am confident of two things: first, that our target of 3,500 probation officers will prove adequate for the work we want them to do; and secondly, that we shall reach the target of 3,500 probation officers by 1970. They will all have great work to do. Every prison welfare officer is now a probation officer; and, with full co-operation between the members of these two services and the sensible enlargement and diversification of their roles, we can work for the day when a prisoner's rehabilitation starts on the day he goes in, progresses during his sentence and continues when he comes out. In this work we can be assured of the help of an augmented and enthusiastic band of volunteers, working under professional guidance, and, I am certain, playing a more important part than ever before.

My Lords, the defeat of the criminal, success in the war against crime and the protection of the public must always be the first concern of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, but without prejudice to that requirement there is much that can be done to make society's treatment of its offenders civilised, humane and reformative. Indeed, it will contribute to the wellbeing and protection of society through the reduction of recidivism. I firmly believe that when the Government's plans for legislation are published your Lordships will see that we intend to take the vital steps necessary in this direction, and to propose penal reforms of the greatest importance.

7.4 p.m.


My Lords, you will be relieved to know that it is not my intention at this hour to attempt a winding up speech to this debate. Rather would I suggest that my duty now is one of expressing thanks—first of all to my noble friend Lord Stonham for his amazing and fascinating reply. After twenty-odd years in one or other House, I do not remember a speech coming from a Minister of the Home Office which has held out such hope and which has answered the points which have been made throughout the day with such facility. I go away from your Lordships' Chamber to-night not only with a great sense of relief but with a great sense of satisfaction—a feeling that at last, at long last, Her Majesty's Government are getting down to this very great problem.

I therefore extend to my noble friend a very sincere word of thanks for the trouble he has taken in replying to all the points, not only those that I made but those made by other noble Lords. The other thanks I would offer would he to each Member of your Lordships' House who took the trouble to prepare a speech for this day. I feel at this moment that you might think that in putting down this Motion I did not waste your Lordships' time; I feel it has been one of great value.

There are only two other things I would say, and one of them is to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent. I am sorry that he thinks I got under his skin on the question of Party politics. The difference between the noble Lord and myself is that I had twenty years in the other place, and this fighting across the Floor on little Party political points is much more easily accepted in that House than in this. I was only replying to something which had been said a week before. I am sorry if I in any way caused him any embarrassment, but it was not intended in the slightest degree. This subject is not a question of Party politics: it is a question of attitude of mind, and my relief to-night is that that attitude of mind has been unanimous in every corner of the House.

The only other thing I would say is to my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell. I hope he has not got me wrong. I am a bit touchy about his criticism, but what I wanted to make perfectly clear was this. The First Offenders Act, which has been on the Statute Book a long time now, says that nobody shall be sent to prison for a first offence unless the magistrate finds that there is no other way of dealing with him. In spite of that, 7,000 have so been sent to prison. This, to my mind, sug- gests that in the case of some magistrates they have found it far too easy to find that there was no other way of dealing with the offender. I have the feeling that if some of these cases had been sent up to a higher court we might easily have found that those higher courts did not find as the magistrates found, and therefore many people would have been saved from going to prison. I do not want to say anything more, except to come back to where I began: to express a deep sense of appreciation for the interest that has been shown in this debate. I beg leave to withdrawn my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.