HL Deb 07 February 1967 vol 279 cc1243-345

2.47 p.m.

LORD SIMEY rose to call attention to the Report of the Working Party on the Place of Voluntary Service in After-Care and on Residential Provision for Homeless Discharged Offenders; to consider methods of treatment of offenders, including residential treatment, otherwise than by imprisonment; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I wish to take note of the absence from his place this afternoon of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. We had hoped that this Motion would be debated in his presence and that he would take a prominent part in the debate. Unfortunately, as we all know, Lord Stonham was taken ill with a severe heart attack and was for a time in hospital. He has, however, been discharged; he is making a good recovery and, if my news is correct, he is at this moment leaving Southampton Docks for a holiday in the Canary Islands. I am sure we all wish Lord Stonham well, and we hope he will come back after his holiday refreshed and able to take part in the debates on the Criminal Justice Bill when it arrives before us.

Having referred to the Criminal Justice Bill, I must mention the fact that it is that Bill which gives this debate its background. In other words, this debate takes place with the background of the Criminal Justice Bill. That measure is now being considered in another place, and it will arrive before us in due course. It is hoped that if the humane objectives of that Bill are realised it will be easier to attain those which we have in mind this afternoon. I must, therefore, go on briefly to say how the objectives of the Criminal Justice Bill provide a cover for the objectives of this debate; I must say, perhaps in some detail, how those two sets of objectives interlock, and how this debate takes the objectives of the Criminal Justice Bill rather further and deeper. This debate shares the Bill's objectives and its philosophy; but this Motion is perhaps more social than institutional in scope.

Perhaps the Bill, though with general objectives, has rather more institutional than social objectives. The philosophy of the debate is to seek to develop the social treatment of prisoners; to seek to add social treatment to the institutional influence of the prison in the treatment of the offender. We seek in this debate to put the offender on the best and easiest road back to normal citizenship. We seek, therefore, to prevent a vicious circle which has sometimes come to exist—in fact it too often exists—whereby the prison system, which is designed to deter and cure crime, actually creates it. We wish, therefore, to make the treatment of the offender, when dealt with in the way we have in mind this afternoon, one step back towards normal citizenship, rather than one step further away from it.

In addition to the immediate objectives of the after-care of the offender, as an offender, an offender who has been dealt with first in prison, we seek to find substitutes for prison whereby he never loses his normal ties with the community and remains in touch with society as long as we deal with him. We must organise with this in mind. We must centralise our strategy so that there is a general strategy throughout the country for the treatment of the offender, in touch and co-ordinated with the prison system and, at the same time, local tactics. I will develop these points later in my speech. We need both a general strategy and local tactics which seek to arouse the interest and strength of the local community and put the local community behind law enforcement and the treatment of the offender, rather than to allow the local community, as it does so often, to oppose us rather than to support us.

We must thus consider ways this afternoon of treating the offender without sending him to prison at all. We may find that after-care services, which must accumulate a wide and deep experience of the characteristics and way of life of the offender, can be used for the even more important tasks of the treatment of those convicted of crime without imprisoning them, and the prevention of crime altogether. I am sure your Lordships will all agree that, if we can make after-care unnecessary, if we can make after-care totally unnecessary, we shall have achieved magnificently the task we are setting out to perform. But that, as things are, is only a hope.

In the first instance, I have to deal with the problem of after-care of the prisoner rather than with wider objectives. I have to assume that the system of imprisonment has done its work; the prisoner has been taken apart from society for a length of time, perhaps for years, and is discharged, having lost his ordinary daily social contacts. We have to find a way back for him to society, even when he may have no family, even when he may be a stranger to his family, which is even worse, and even when, therefore, he may have no home. The substance of the debate refers, therefore, to the Report of Lady Reading, who is the Chairman of the Working Party on assistance to the homeless prisoner. I shall rely on the noble Lady herself to deal with the Report in detail. I must apologise to the noble Lady for having been a rather long time in coming to her, for this Report is in the first instance about what she has done so fully and so efficiently. However, I leave the exposition of the findings of the Report to her, as I am sure your Lordships would have it that way.

As I say, there are other and wider matters with which this debate must deal, and the scope of the debate is therefore enormous, as indeed is evident from the Report itself. The noble Lady has drafted it in such a way that it refers to a number of matters which are much further-going than a mere account of the problems to be overcome when prisoners are discharged. She deals in her Report with much wider issues, such as the organisation of the community itself, and the way in which the community can support—for indeed it sometimes opposes—the services in which she is interested. But I must say at this stage of my speech that as your Lordships' House contains so many Members with detailed knowledge of these services, with wide experience of the administration of them, it is not necessary for me to do any more than follow the conventions of your Lordships' House and introduce these matters to you very briefly and then ask those Members to deal with them in detail as their knowledge enables them to do. I am speaking now in the presence of two former Home Secretaries, the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor; and they will be taking part with all their knowledge and experience as former Home Secretaries. They will have a special means of debating this Motion with a particular type of knowledge and experience at their command, and it is not for me to delay your Lordships at great length when there is all this talent available to us in the House itself.

As I say, however, I start by talking about the immediate problems of aftercare of the discharged offender. We have to face the fact that there is here a two-fold problem. We have to find a means of integrating the Probation Service, which is now our chosen instrument for this purpose, because we have to integrate it with the other national services. The Probation Service is a local service, but it is also a national service, and we have to find a way of interlocking it with the national Prison Service, the national welfare services, and so on, such as the Social Security Service. That is not a very difficult task, because central institutions can be established by the Ministries and they can make their own arrangements with the regional Probation Service which will now come into existence.

The Service is not only a national one from one point of view, but also primarily a local one from another point of view. The Probation Service, therefore, is already localised, and that is very fortunate; but the officers of the Service are apart from the local service. They are not with the local service; they are merely associated with the local service. They are somewhat removed from the common mould as officers of the courts; they regard themselves as officers of the courts and not as ordinary local government officers, and there is a certain distinction between the two which we have to break down. The opportunity which we are given by the Criminal Justice Bill to co-opt local representatives to the probation and after-care committees gives us a chance to achieve this end, and I hope that full advantage will be taken of it.

However, we have to bear in mind that not only is there the local liaison to be established over the national liaison, but that the local liaison has to be a particularly close one because ex-prisoners are especially in need of personal care, personal attention and personal understanding. The Service must be a very flexible one indeed, dealing with individuals. Furthermore, there is a necessity that the local services should be behind the "delinquency" service; the "delinquency" service should be supported by the local services. The local community, as such, needs to be behind the delinquency service, and the local government councillors need to take a definite and keen personal interest in what has been done.

It would be a disaster if yet another social service were set up, in the manner I am describing, quite apart from the other social services and, as it were, in a watertight compartment. Nevertheless, we have embarked on the process of setting up a service which may become a service apart if we are not careful. It is true that my professional colleague, Professor Titmus, advised against doing anything of the kind when the services for Scotland were under consideration, and in favour of entrusting the work of our prison after-care to a consolidated welfare service, and his advice has been followed in the Scottish White Paper Social Work in the Community. That having been done, it seems to me that in the long run the solution will be a much easier one for Scotland than the solution we have arrived at for England. It is not for me to argue that particular problem any further. This is neither the time nor the place to do so, and in any event a decision has been taken and it would be unfortunate if we endeavoured at this particular point in time to overturn it and go back again on our tracks.

The Probation Service has been made responsible for this task in England and Wales, and the Probation Service in fact consists of probation and after-care service committees. This leaves us with the problem of integrating that service with a wider prospectus of the services available to us. It also leaves us with the specific problem that the Probation Service, when the amalgamation took place, was undermanned and has been made much more undermanned by loading it with this additional responsibility. We have to face the fact that the Probation Service is badly short of manpower, so that approximately 1,000 probation officers and after-care officers are now needed and the Service has a long way to go before it can be regarded as being anything like adequately supplied with officers.

Not only has the Service been loaded with after-care services to perform; it also has the prison welfare service imposed upon it. We must not forget that fact. The prison welfare service has a relatively small complement of officers now active in the prisons, who have the task of bringing the Prison Service into association with the After-care Service, and your Lordships will realise how difficult it is to do anything of the kind when I say that in our own local prison of Liverpool the prison After-care Service is so short of manpower that it is only possible to arrange for a plan whereby each prisoner is visited by the prison welfare officer once in the course of his sentence; and one visit is certainly not enough to do anything effective in regard to current problems of the prisoner's welfare and the problems of his family, and only very little indeed can be done in linking up between the Prison Service and the After-care Service. People who speak with responsibility and authority say that the prison welfare service is now regarded as being trivial and ineffective by the people whom it was designed to serve. A lot more needs to be done for these wretched people and the prison welfare staff are in a poor state of mind.

Therefore, at this stage in my speech I ask for some reassurance to be given on behalf of the Government by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that the Government are aware that the morale of the welfare services is low and needs encouragement. We need to be told that a most serious attempt will be made to carry out a recruitment drive of adequate dimensions. It is now reckoned by the Probation Service that the Service was increased by 153 members last year, and that is a moderately fair beginning. It seems to me to show that much more can be done, and I hope we shall be told that there is some reason to hope that a great deal more will be done. I know the noble Earl is a very charitable man, and I hope he will extend some assurances to me later on. We need a special investigation; we need special measures. The whole after-care scheme which is now before us is dependent on work of this kind being carried out. Much will be said about this and similar matters by the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, who will speak with authority as the President of the National Association of Probation Officers, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, who has had so much experience in this field as a working probation officer.

The first point of need is more manpower, but we also need all the tools to be made available to probation officers to enable them to do an efficient job along the lines for which they have now been asked to become responsible. From this point of view, a service which must be made available to them is that of hostel accommodation. It is not much use pretending that one has started a welfare service for the after-care of prisoners if there is not much one can do for the homeless ex-prisoners and there are far too many of them. Again, we have a long way to go, both in recruitment and in the provision of these hostels. On the whole we have much further to go so far as the hostels are concerned because we have already a very on-going Probation Service, however over-loaded it may be.

The noble Lady's Working Party recorded surprise and concern at the grossly inadequate number of places available in existing hostels, and said: The disparity between the supply of suitable accommodation and the potential demand is startling". Our objective is to have at least one voluntary hostel available for the Aftercare Service in each of the larger probation areas. Each probation area must have available a number of places where the more difficult after-care cases can be tackled. Some of those places must be in voluntary hostels, because many of the men who are to be looked after by us in the future have been turned against the provision made by a public authority of one kind or another by their experiences in prison. That may be unfortunate, but I am assured on all sides that it is true. Therefore, we need to start with the provision of beds in voluntary hostels, and we need a number of hostels of different kinds to accommodate different types of prisoners. I feel sure the noble Lady will speak on that subject.

The Government have started to take action in this matter primarily by making capital grants available for voluntary associations in charge of hostels who wish to get something effective done. The need to make a start here and now falls on the probation officers. It is not any great alleviation to them to say, "You have the assistance of voluntary associations", when they have to play so large a part in the starting and running of voluntary associations themselves. Some of them are now attempting what is, frankly, the impossible. They are now busy collecting money and equipping hostels rather than carrying out what is, after all, their proper function; namely, casework with offenders and with the convicted offender after conviction.

It is therefore necessary that some authority should be available, perhaps to work under the Home Office, perhaps in association with or under other Government authorities, which will have power to relieve the Probation Service of this, for them, impossible task, and will be available to set about this activity in the immediate future. The planning of this service needs to be interlocked with the national services, and the execution of it needs to be interlocked with the local and regional services, such as in the matter of making available trained staff to hostels of one kind or another. Rather than relying upon the enlightened amateur, professionals must be available. Furthermore, we must have means available to the probation officer of training the ex-offender, so that even though he may be unfitted for any specific job, ultimately he may be placed in employment.

So far, my talk has been, I am afraid, a gloomy one. I go on from one gloomy point to another, and I seem to be slipping down the slippery slope ultimately into some sort of slough of despond. But at this point my talk takes a certain turn, and your Lordships will be glad to know that I now get a little more optimistic. The situation is not as black as it appears at first sight. There is a Government Department, namely, the Supplementary Benefits Commission, formerly the body known to us as the National Assistance Board, which finds it necessary to change its title once every fifteen years or so, and has just changed its title again, to the great confusion, I am sure, of everybody in this House. I have just learned to call it the Supplementary Benefits Commission with much difficulty, and if I talk about the Supplementary Benefits Commission in the next minute or two I mean what used to be called the National Assistance Board.

The Supplementary Benefits Commission provides some 2,000 beds for people at the bottom of our society, the people who are now known, in the polite jargon of the Commission, as the wayfarers, the long unemployed, and so on, so that there is always somewhere for them to go at any time. Any of us, your Lordships will be glad to know, may claim a bed at any moment, merely by proving that we are at that moment homeless. Whether or not the Commission will establish one of its hostels near this House, I do not know; I would certainly suggest that it should. Having been to look at these hostels and the beds provided in them, I should be very much inclined to take advantage of them if a bed of this kind was available for me in the region of Westminster. Your Lordships may be interested to know that I find it extremely hard to get accommodation made available to me commercially, and it might be better to have it made available to me by a Government Department. It is an idea.

There are some 2,000 of these beds made available with welfare facilities, particularly training facilities, and it is the rudiments of welfare together with training that the discharged ex-prisoner so badly needs. In the long run, one without the other is not a great deal of use. It is a very great pleasure indeed to see the people who occupy naturally positions at the bottom end of our society, who comprise what may be termed the sediment of our society, looked after so well, so efficiently and so humanely by the officers in charge of these centres.

Under Section 17 of the National Assistance Act there are beds available for homeless single men. By notifying the fact that they are homeless, they can be given a bed. Under Section16 they may be admitted to the re-establishment centre of the Commission because they need occupation, instruction or training. "Re-establishment "is a term of art which does not relate to this particular matter; I should have said "re-employment". These beds are distributed in centres of population throughout the country. The occupancy rate is about 50 per cent. for any night. That means that some 700 are free for use any day for the purposes we have in mind this afternoon. Therefore, probation officers, if they are encouraged to do so by the Service to which they belong, can find places to live for the men discharged from prisons where they will be given some training. That is the first discovery I have made which I regard as some reason for a certain degree of optimism.

As the predecessors of the present Commission have acquired long experience of providing hostel accommodation for a wide variety of people and purposes in the past years, particularly during wartime, I think it is more than likely that if they were asked to add to this accommodation to provide for the more difficult types of persons, occupying this undignified position of being part of the sediment, they would undoubtedly be able to do so. The service, in other words, can be rapidly adapted and extended to meet the needs of all types of newly discharged prisoners; all the more so because the reception centres of the Commission accommodate a population composed as to about 60 per cent. of people who have already served prison sentences. The Commission's officers know all about the difficulties arising from the accommodation of ex-prisoners, and they are fully able to cope with the behaviour problems that arise from doing so. This may be left to them in the future with a high degree of confidence. I consider, therefore, that the back of the problem may be broken in that way, but I shall say no more on that subject now, as I understand the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, who speaks with special knowledge of this subject is to speak later.

As public services may be involved, therefore, in the management of hostels, and as the public service must be rendered in close association with prisons, the central authority which acts as a co-ordinating agent must have a public element in it. Even though it works in association with voluntary associations and through the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, it must also have a public element as well.

I leave that subject there and go on to alcoholism, which occupies a substantial place in the noble Lady's Report. I need say very little indeed about this subject, because the noble Lord, Lord Soper, will be speaking on it and I shall be sitting at his feet. I was deeply impressed when I paid a visit to the West London Mission's Alcoholic Rehabilitation Centre, because before I went I did not know that the noble Lord was connected with it. When I was there I found that it was inspired by the noble Lord, and it bore the unmistakable imprint of his personality. It was a great source of pleasure to me to find that because, after all, the noble Lord is one of our colleagues, and one takes a certain vicarious satisfaction from what he does. But I do hope that the Government, who propose in the Bill to deal with alcoholics outside prison, will shortly set up a means of doing so. It will not officially begin to stop the imprisonment of alcoholics until hostel accommodation is available. I want to know how it will be made available. Perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will tell us about that, too.

Drug addiction, which the House has discussed recently, is a problem similar to alcoholism. It is a problem of health and a problem of the liberty of the subject. I would also refer briefly to the inadequate and abnormal personality, which gives prisons as intractable a population as does alcoholism. I can only add that such people need organised care and custodial service as well, and I hope that at least it will be possible for the Government to set up an inter-departmental committee to examine this most difficult question. We cannot leave things as they are, when the psychopath is as destructive as he is and frustrates so much useful work now carried out in hospitals.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, on the more general issues on the treatment of crime, there are, as the noble Baroness's Report says, other ways of turning the short prison sentence from a wasteful, frustrating experience for prisoners, staffs and magistrates, into a useful and economic first stage of a continued treatment programme. Ways of doing so can be the subject of general debate this afternoon, and I hope they will be.

The argument here is that, as we gain more knowledge (in the language of the Report) of how the community can be helped to consume its own smoke in the matter of crime, we can go on still further and, with more knowledge, quench the fire behind the smoke altogether. But a change of attitude is necessary, and means of changing it must be found. There is no short cut; there is only painstaking experience. Finally, there is the issue of having to provide better training courses for probation and after-care officers and the staffs of after-care hostels. I should like to speak at length on this. It is one of my professional tasks to supervise activities of this kind. But I feel I have spoken long enough, and I shall leave this matter, too, for general debate.

I wish to close on this note. The After-care Service is an exceptionally difficult one to administer because what it must be designed to give is not so much facilities and payments and allowances, much as they may be needed, as a means of satisfying the craving of the offender for those things of which he has recklessly denied himself by offending. He craves for personal interest, friendship and acceptance in society. The Service has to bring the concern of individuals and communities to bear on his problems. What is required to-day, therefore, to make the care of the ex-prisoner really effective is good will tempered by an accurate knowledge of what has to be done and how it can be done. This must be supported and implemented by public administration. An after-care system is called for in which provision can be made for diverse methods of meeting the offender's needs, made available to him by a wide variety of persons and organisations. In sum, therefore, I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will speak to us about the staffing of the Probation and After-care Services; the inauguration of a hostels authority with adequate powers; the use of the hostels provided by the Supplementary Benefits Commission, and the special treatment of alcoholics and psychopaths. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.25 p.m.


My Lords, I think we should all like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Simey, on his initiative in bringing this important subject before your Lordships' House this afternoon, and on the sympathetic knowledge and great experience from which he speaks. This Report of the Working Party presided over so ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, itself springs from an earlier Report by the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders which was submitted to me in 1963—a Report entitled The Organisation of After-Care. Several Members of your Lordships' House were concerned with that. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter was a member of the Advisory Council, as was the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, and also the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, who was in fact a member of the sub-committee which produced that Report, and whose future contributions to this and other subjects will, I am quite certain, be heard with appreciation in all quarters of your Lordships' House.

I accepted that 1963 Report on behalf of the Government and, as I shall seek to show, it was an epoch-making Report: epoch-making in its main contention, and epoch-making also in that it directly led to the setting-up of this Working Party that has now presented two Reports, one of which particularly is in front of us this afternoon. I think I am right in saying that on that Working Party the noble Baroness had as a colleague the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, so that your Lordships' House has individually been closely connected with the whole study of this subject. For my part, I know how keenly this latest Report of the Working Party on Residential Provision for Homeless Discharged Offenders was being looked forward to, not only by members of the former discharged prisoners' aid societies, but by many other interested people. But, of course, the simple truth is that there are not nearly enough people throughout the country who are interested.

This new Report describes what would be valuable if full resources were available. They are not yet available. They may not be for a great many years. Therefore it becomes especially important to establish priorities. But still more important than that is the need to widen the knowledge and understanding of the central problem, so that more and more people may become willing to give of their time to solving it. A valuable point established by this Report is that, whereas in days gone by the call to individuals was largely one to give money, now, thanks to Home Office assistance with money, it is much more a call to give voluntary service, to give time and understanding. The limiting factor is the shortage both of people who are willing to give of their time and energy voluntarily to furthering the work, and also of people who are willing to take up work in this field as their profession, earning their living thereby.

I am glad to see that paragraph 69 of the Report stresses the need for training facilities for those who are going to staff hostels of this kind. That envisages a steady expansion in the work, which I am sure is coming, and, despite the shortage in the Probation and After-care Service to which the noble Lord has just referred, it would be a mistake to limit entry into the trained staff of one of the social services just because there is a shortage in another. What the whole country ought to recognise is that the people who devote their lives professionally to work of this character are still grossly underpaid. We are only slowly breaking away from the underpayment of nurses, which dated from the days when it was thought to be purely a vocation that hardly needed money to support it. We are breaking away from that idea in hospitals, but we are only slowly breaking away from it in other fields of social service. It appears to me strange indeed, and a condemnation of our society, that we are ready and content to envisage so much more money going to people who spend their time making things than to people who spend their time trying to turn bad citizens into good.

The cardinal task, therefore, I submit, is to make the nature of the need in this field better known. The Working Party, in paragraph 80 of their Report, include as one of the tasks for a dynamic association of voluntary societies the education of public opinion. They put this at the end of their list. Frankly, I would put it at the very top. The whole attitude of society to the ex-prisoner has to be transformed, and not transformed on merely sentimental or (shall I say?) compassionate lines. I would add something to the passage in paragraph 98, where the Working Party say: The more we study this problem the more convinced we become that if progress on the scale which is necessary is to be achieved a real attempt must be made to gain the sympathy of the community as a whole for the special problems and difficulties of the offenders. That is true, but it is not only a question of sympathy for the offender. It is also a question of a common sense approach to the needs of society, because there is a direct social interest for everybody in securing that as many as possible of those who have been in prison shall be helped by every reasonable means to become good citizens in future.

The old prison idea was that prisons should be made so grim and nasty that no one who had ever tasted prison life would go back to it. That idea was tried and failed. It failed because it brutalised prisoners and left them quite unfitted to take their place in the community as normal beings again, when they finished their sentence and came out. Many of them had become outcasts. That was followed by an era when prison conditions were ameliorated and when the idea developed that, on the day of a prisoner's discharge, his punishment ended and then charitably-minded people—and I mean that in the best sense—should if possible give him a helping hand to get started in the outside world again. That view was an advance, but its weakness was that the transition from incarceration to liberty was too sharp, and not enough had been done through the man's prison life to prepare him for the transition to freedom.

When I became Home Secretary I was shocked to find that the men in some prisons were being required to do only an 18-hour working week. That was partly due to lack of workshop space in old prisons, partly to a shortage of prison officers, and partly to lack of orders for prison goods. I set myself to get that altered as soon as possible, and I should like to express appreciation to my successors, one of whom I hope is going to take part in this debate, and very specially to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for the way in which he, when he became a Home Office Minister, threw his energies into following that up. It is a great loss to us all that he is not well enough to take part in our debate to-day. It is one of the keys to successful treatment of prisoners that the whole of their time in prison must be used so as to raise to the maximum their ability and their strength of will to earn their living and to live like decent, honest citizens when the time for which they were sent to prison is over. That is why I said the 1963 Report was an epoch-making Report—because it was that Report which established that point so decisively.

Clearly, it means, among other things, that working conditions and the working week in prisons must be as like as possible to the working conditions in which the man will have to earn his living in the world outside. In the old days prison work tended to be too brutalising. Subsequently, for the reasons I have mentioned, and also because of post-war overcrowding in many local prisons, the prison work tended to be too haphazard and not demanding enough. There is a reference to this matter in the Working Party's Report, where in paragraph 50 it says: …it is not easy for a man who has spent several years in prison to tackle an eight-hour day on heavy or exacting work. I am afraid that that is true, because of the relative shortage of worthwhile work there has been in prisons in post-war days. But it ought not to be so, and somebody coming to this country with no previous knowledge would be surprised when he discovered that we failed to send men out from a prison sentence in a fit state to do a full week of heavy or exacting work.

But all this is only one aspect of the truth which was embodied in the Advisory Council's 1963 Report, that thought and effort to get a man on his feet after discharge from prison must start, not from the day his sentence ends, but from the day it begins. The first part of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Simey, is concerned with what happens when a man comes out of prison with no home to go to. Perhaps on another day we may have the opportunity to debate what more is now being done, and can be done, during the man's prison sentence to make it more likely that he will go "straight" when he comes out. But in the second part of the noble Lord's Motion, on which I sensed that in his mind he placed the greater emphasis, he goes still further and raises the question whether, if we had a much more extensive and systematic hostel system, the courts could handle many characters better by requiring them to go and live in the right hostel than by sending them to prison at all. This is almost certainly true. Some judges who know the quality of the staff in some of the existing hostels, which are all too few, will even now withhold a prison sentence on condition that a man agrees to live in a place like Norman House, for which I had the honour to make a broadcast appeal a year ago. Indeed, this possibility of using appropriate hostels as an alternative to prison is brought right to the fore in the Working Party's Report, in paragraph 5.

The essential point which I long to see much more widely grasped and understood by the public, because it is plain common sense, is that when a man is sent to prison it is worth spending effort, and indeed money, to try to minimise the risk of his ever coming back to prison again. We cannot do that simply by making prison life horrible. It does not work. We can do it only by treating each individual prisoner as a problem case; building new prisons which are suitable for the treatment of different types of prisoner, unlike the old, vast undifferentiated buildings; thinking out the man's reintegration into society from the day when he first comes under prison discipline; and similarly building up in the outside world a structure of support for those who are obviously going to need support when their sentence is over, if they are not to drift back into crime and prison again as the easy way out.

One may think often of the shock it is to a man to be suddenly taken away from his home and family and put into prison. One thinks less often of the shock it is, after being under prison discipline for months or even years, suddenly to become a free man again; no longer to have one's days organised for one; having to assume the responsibilities of life again; to find a home for oneself, to find work for oneself, and so forth. This is what some have the strength of will to do, but many have not, and that is why there is need for some appropriate forms of support for those who will need it. Otherwise, since most prisoners have gone into prison not because they started as determined criminals, but because there was a weakness in their character which led them to yield to temptation, after a time, after their discharge, when they have not perhaps found it easy to get a job, have not found it easy to settle down, they will yield again to the temptation to commit some petty crime which will solve all their immediate problems for them by getting them sent back to prison again. Whether or not that is good for them, it is thoroughly bad for society that our prisons should be filled up by that type of man, who has just not been saved from the temptation to find his way back to prison.

This is the background against which I should like to see more and more people reading this valuable Report of the Working Party. It is, I would venture to say in the presence of Lady Reading, an essay in classification. Ideally, as the Report says in paragraph 27, there should be no need for what it calls the multipurpose hostel, because each man's problems should have been worked out while he was still in prison, and it should be known on the very day of his discharge what sort of support, if any, will be required. With the development of social work in prison this may increasingly happen, but, as the Report quite rightly says, very often circumstances will not develop neatly to plan when the man comes out, however well the plan has been made while he is still in prison.

For my part, I would give first priority to the multi-purpose hostels recommended in the Report, to the hostels for alcoholics, and to the specialised hostel for men discharged from the psychiatric prison at Grendon, which is recommended in paragraph 34. I do not know how many of your Lordships have had the opportunity to visit Grendon psychiatric prison, but it is one of the most fascinating and impressive prison establishments in our country. It has been in use for only four years, but the relationship built up there between inmates and staff is such that I would see no objection to that hostel, which is recommended in the Report, being run and staffed from the prison.

In advance of the noble Lady's own exposition of her Report, I shall not venture to comment on all the detailed recommendations of her Working Party. They have obviously done their work with great care, and I hope their findings will be sympathetically received in the Home Office. Do not, however, let us think of hostels exclusively reserved for former prisoners. In paragraphs 53 and 54 the Report makes reference to the possibility of places in hostels for all sorts of people being in part supported by Home Office grants, where an ex-prisoner is occupying one of them. I think there is substance in the view, strongly held by some people, that it is a mistake to insulate ex-prisoners in establishments exclusively reserved for them. In some cases that will be necessary—certainly, in some specialised establishments—but where there is a possibility I am sure it is better to try to carry forward the process of merging them in the community, and that the use, by the Probation and After-care Service, of places in hostels which are not exclusively designed for ex-prisoners should be vigorously encouraged.

I know the personal interest of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, in all these matters. I wish to apologise to him and to the noble Lord, Lord Simey, if this debate, which has obviously attracted a great many speakers, goes on so long that I am not able to be present at the end of it. I think the noble Earl will agree with me that the rate of progress here is going to depend very largely on the degree of public interest and support. Meanwhile, there must be priorities; and I would give a higher priority, in the first instance, to hostels for classes of ex-prisoner where the prospective success rate is fairly good than to provision for those whose cases may be terribly tragic but where the chance of saving them from themselves is very small. I know that is a hard thing to say, and I do not mean that there should be any discouragement whatever to those volunteers and voluntary bodies who are willing to take on the toughest assignments. But the gap between the present provision and the total need is dismayingly wide. I have seen a valuable Report by the Conference of Principal Probation Officers which strikingly confirms that.

I submit that we ought to try, first and foremost—if I may put it in medical terms—to cure the curable and set them on their feet again, rather than to allow them to be bereft of facilities through turning the limited resources towards the almost incurable. Meanwhile, we must make the optimum use of the accommodation which there is, and I am glad to see that the Working Party has recommended a comprehensive register of information which should be kept up to date, so that probation and after-care officers and others will be able at once to tell what facilities are available in any part of the country.

What we need most of all in this field is dynamic drive, and much of that drive should be directed, through the Press and radio and television, to arousing ordinary members of the public to what they, as members of the public, can do. I have no doubt of the keen interest of the Home Office. But this is a field where official action can bear sufficient fruit only if it is richly fertilised by voluntary support and determination.

3.50 p.m.


My Lords, the area covered by this debate, which the noble Lord, Lord Simey, has introduced, is so vast that I doubt whether any one of your Lordships would be capable of covering the whole field. So I propose to make a few short comments upon one or two matters only, which, as I think, arise directly from the Report of the Working Party which underlies this whole debate.

In the first place, I think we all owe a great debt of gratitude to the Working Party for having spelled out so fully and so carefully the need that the Probation Services have for help from the voluntary agencies. If the new plans for the aftercare of discharged prisoners are to be effective, then the probation and aftercare officers must have the maximum amount of support from private members of the community; and those private members of the community who seek to discharge this particular form of social service must themselves recognise that they can do it really effectively only in close co-operation with the Probation and After-care Services.

As a matter of fact, there is in the country, I am sure, a very great deal of good will waiting to be called upon, especially among members of the old discharged prisoners' aid societies. I do not suppose that the City of Exeter is in any way unique in this respect—I imagine that the same sort of thing is going on all over the country—but in Exeter the discharged prisoners' aid committee and the police court mission liquidated themselves and formed a new committee on which four of the principal probation officers serve, and they are now busy forming sub-committees in other centres in the county. To the members of these committees the probation officers can refer certain of their individual cases, and in this way the grievous case-load of the officers is to some extent relieved. Also, by the generosity of the City Council, and the magnificent support given to us by the Simon Foundation, we have been able to open within the last few weeks a sort of multi-purpose hostel. I instance this only as some evidence that there is a great deal of good will existing in the community waiting to be called upon.

I therefore welcome the suggestion in the Report of the Working Party that a national association of voluntary societies should be formed with the precise purpose of guiding and helping the various local associations as they exist or as they seek to come into being; and I also welcome the proposal for a national housing association to help these voluntary committees over the very difficult hurdles which lie between them and the provision of suitable buildings for hostel accommodation.

I now venture to offer one or two very mild criticisms of the Working Party's Report—not in the least hostile criticisms, but still, I suppose, criticisms. In the first place, I wonder whether it was really wise of the Working Party to recommend the provision of so many different types of hostel at this stage. Not, indeed, that all these kinds of hostels are not needed—I know that they are—but to list them all like this is very daunting and confusing to the ordinary reader, and I suspect that it is also rather daunting to the Home Office, which always has the Treasury breathing down its neck. Where do we start? What will it all cost? What is the order of priorities? I think it might perhaps have helped if the Working Party had made it a little plainer in what order they themselves would have put the need for these hostels. For myself, I think the first need is for the provision of a great many more probation hostels. When the Criminal Justice Bill becomes law and a system of parole comes into existence, I have no doubt that there will be a considerable number of cases in which the authorities will be willing to discharge a man on parole with a condition of residence in an approved hostel; but, because the approved hostel is not there, the prisoner will not get his parole, and there will gradually build up inside the prisons a very considerable feeling of discontent and injustice.

Again, if the present apparent policy of sentencing to imprisonment as only the very last resort is to be continued, and if every other kind of sentence is to be tried first, a considerable number of persons will be convicted whom courts would be willing to put on probation, again with a condition of residence in an approved hostel, but they will not put them on probation if there is no such hostel accommodation available because they consider that it would be too dangerous for society. Here, again, the whole policy of emptying the prisons will be to that extent jeopardised. Therefore, I would put first, as a matter of extreme urgency, with this new Criminal Justice Bill going through Parliament, the provision up and down the country of a great many more probation hostels. I think I would put secondly the provision of hostels for alcoholics; but as I know the noble Lord, Lord Soper, is going to speak about the problem of alcoholism, I shall not say any more about that.

I would press, thirdly, for the provision of what the Working Party call multi-purpose hostels. I see these hostels as a sort of 20th-century equivalent of the 19th-century workhouse—much smaller, of course; more humane, of course; with reasonable amenities, voluntary residence and residence paid for by earnings or by National Assistance and never by forced labour. I see differences in these ways, yet I see them as places run on the principles which underlay the 19th-century workhouse—a place where anybody can go if he needs. I see these hostels catering for discharged prisoners as short-time residents while they find themselves employment and lodgings; I see them catering for the in-effectives and the feckless as long-term residents, providing for them the discipline, the shelter, the routine and the rhythm without which they are not really able to cope with life; and I see them, also, as containing a certain number of vacancies for casuals as they tramp the roads of England from North to South and from East to West.

I think these multi-purpose hostels should be provided along all the main highways in the country. Those living in the South-West, as I do, have considerable experience of this particular type of citizen. They arrive in the spring from the North and from London, and make their way down to the coast where they obtain, or hope to obtain, more or less casual employment in the hotel industry; and in the autumn, like the receding sea, they go back again on their way to London, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow and elsewhere.

I have another mild criticism of the Report of the Working Party and I hope it will not be misunderstood: I wonder whether the Working Party does not perhaps lay rather too much stress on rehabilitation. They recommend that grants from public money should be made to hostels only for the additional cost involved in the appointment of additional highly-skilled staff for therapeutic purposes; yet the Report also recognises that most of the accommodation available for offenders is provided, and no doubt will continue to be provided, without subvention from public funds by such organisations as the Salvation Army and the Church Army. The hostels provided by the Salvation Army and the Church Army are not primarily orientated in a therapeutic direction. They seek only to meet need. And, where need is met, there are no strings attached; no questions are asked; there are no unsolicited attempts at counselling or rehabilitation. They meet a human need where it is conscious and felt, and they meet it without regard to whether the individuals they are serving are capable of rehabilitation or not. They meet it from the Christian point of view. This kind of care for the waifs and misfits in life should be at least as valuable, as worthy of support, as the more sophisticated kind of therapeutic work urged by the Working Party.

My Lords, I go further. I think it may well be that the first duty of the churches in this sphere of social service is to see that the Salvation Army and the Church Army are better supported than they are and that they are enabled to run more hostels than they do at the moment. I am bound to say that a little public help in the way of grants from the State to enable these organisations to improve and modernise their buildings could do a great deal of good. As the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, pointed out, the Working Party say that the contribution of volunteers in future in this social work will consist in personal effort rather than in fund-raising. This is all to the good. There is a great deal of untapped good will for personal services of this kind, not only among the elderly retired persons but among youth as well. The undergraduate population of this country is not typically represented by some of the students of the London School of Economics. One of the best and most efficient of volunteer helpers in my youth centre in Exeter is a student at Exeter University.

But I wonder whether the Working Party are completely realistic when they suggest in paragraph 75 that "the basic housekeeping expenses" of a hostel "should be met by the receipts from residents". That, it would seem to me, must presuppose that the hostel is at all times absolutely full and that it is full of residents who are in regular employment. But that is not generally so, at any rate with a multi-purpose hostel: some of the beds must be kept for casuals; some of the residents will be unemployed, if not unemployable, and if employed will be employed at the lowest possible wages because of the nature of the work for which they are fitted. I doubt whether any hostel will, in fact, out of the receipts from residents of that kind, be able to cover the rent, the rates, the salary of the resident warden, the laundry and repairs. If there are to be no grants from the public funds for the housekeeping money of these hostels there will be plenty of fundraising still to be done by private members of the community.

I agree entirely with the Working Party that the churches are probably in a better position than anyone else to persuade a local community, first of all to accept a hostel for discharged prisoners or in-effectives and tramps in their own neighbourhood; and, secondly, when such a hostel is opened, to treat its residents as they would treat any other of their neighbours. This can be done but it is a matter which takes time and patience. A very good example of what can be done is in Birmingham, where a hostel for discharged prisoners was opened last May, after great local opposition. The scheme was pushed through by the Birmingham City Council and, remarkably enough, in spite of the initial local opposition, soon after the opening some of the local residents asked permission to use the big lounge in the hostel for three or four mornings a week as a nursery school for local children under school age. This was done and in a very short time there resulted a complete integration and acceptance of the residents of the hostel by the parents, the children, the baby-sitters and, indeed, the whole community. But this happened because there was one particular person living in the neighbourhood who was determined to get this hostel accepted. It was her influence, I think, in the neighbourhood and in the community which brought about this happy result.

I suspect that it will always be necessary to find some local residents who are prepared to do everything in their power to convince their neighbours of their Christian and neighbourly duty to accept such a hostel in their midst and to integrate with the inhabitants of the hostel. I suggest to the Home Office that if they have not done so already—and despite what the noble Lord, Lord Simey, said about the already too onerous duties of the officers of the Probation and After-care Service—they should strongly advise the senior probation officer in each area to invite the heads of the local churches to meet with him to discuss what kind of hostel, if any, is needed and where it should be; to ask them how long it will take them to raise the necessary money to bring the hostel into existence; and to ask them to use their full influence to get the hostel accepted in the neighbourhood, even, if necessary, against the opposition of the local residents and the local planning authority. Pious exhortations from the pulpit by clergymen will not, I think be very effective in this matter. But persuasion to accept and to co-operate in a particular scheme in a particular place, if it is undertaken jointly by all the local churches in that place, will, I am convinced, be effective; and I have no doubt at all that wherever the probation officer approaches the local churches in this sense he will receive the utmost possible co-operation.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Simey, introduced this most important subject to your Lordships' notice this afternoon in a speech magisterial in scope and profound in its thought. He was followed by two other speakers who brought a massive experience to bear on this most vital social problem that we are discussing. There is a long list of speakers who wish to contribute, so I hope that my own contribution will be short. My Lords, it can be made short because already so much has been said with which I cordially agree. It is not the first time I have listened, in this House and in another House, to a most impressive speech from the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. I agree with everything he said, and I do not want to repeat it. I simply want to add a few words, may I say perhaps on the more close approach to this problem.

I am tempted to intervene also as, in a sense, the very indirect and modest progenitor of this valuable Report of the Working Party, because Lady Reading and her colleagues set about the work of preparing it at my invitation. Anybody who has had the great privilege of working with her in the various fields of social endeavour in which she has occupied herself has come to expect from her an exceedingly high standard of work. I think I can give no higher praise to this Report than to say that it amply measures up to expectations.

My Lords, the central feature of the Report is that there are about 50,000 annual releases from penal institutions and perhaps, at a very rough estimate, some 5,000 offenders who need what is so admirably described in paragraph 13 of the Report as that personal support in a home atmosphere without which they may again be tempted to slip into crime. There is not provision for this at the moment. Many admirable people have, by voluntary effort, contributed over the years in an endeavour to provide hostels of various sorts up and down the country. Anybody who has been to them knows the extreme value of the help they provide for discharged prisoners. But, as the Report points out, there is room for an enormous amount of additional accommodation, even if one adds the accommodation and training facilities provided by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. Nevertheless, there is need, and urgent need, for a great many more hostels specially adapted to deal with the special problems which attend the arrival of a discharged prisoner.

The right reverend Prelate was, I think, a little critical of the Report in that in his view it dwelt too much on the diverse character of the hostels required, whereas he felt that the major effort should have been a rather more direct one. Clearly, that is a very arguable point of view. I hope that the right reverend Prelate will not mind if I do not feel quite able to go with him on that. I feel that the Working Party's Report is so right in approaching the problem in this way. It looks at the prison population; it consider the persons discharged annually; it endeavours to classify them by what it calls degrees of dependency. The degrees of dependency have sub-classifications within them. When I think of the very many prisoners whom I have come across, I am not quite sure that I should be able to fit them into the sub-classifications proposed; but surely it is right in the first place to ask yourself who are the sort of persons you are dealing with and what kind of problem they present. I am quite sure, from the many conversations I have had with him, that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, spent a great deal of time going up and down the country trying to familiarise himself at first hand with prison conditions. I followed his example, if I may modestly say so, as I thought it a very admirable one.

Many of your Lordships have had a great deal of personal, first-hand experience of work in this field. I do not know whether those of your Lordships who have had personal experience would agree, but it seemed to me that a very different problem confronted the prison governor, whether of a local prison, a regional prison, or a central prison, with a wholly different set of considerations. Because of the locality, because of the type of prison, or because of the sort of crime committed in theneighbourhood—I do not know why it was—the population in each prison always seemed completely different. The admirable governors and their staffs who run the prisons have to adapt themselves to a completely different scene and set of emotional and psychological problems in each prison for which they are made responsible. As to the 25,000 or so prisoners under their charge, I think it almost impossible to say one can paint the picture with a broad brush, and say that prisoners are like this or like that. My Lords, they are not. They differ absolutely enormously. And I very much agree with the noble Lady and her colleagues when they say, in effect, that in the first place we have to try to divide them out, classify them, and have to think and suggest for provision over the years—not in five minutes; everybody understands that—of different types of hostels to deal with those from different prisons.

If one could find one common, or more or less common, characteristic which perhaps would be applicable in a number of cases, I suppose it might be summed up in the words which I dare say your Lordships who have had contact with this sort of situation have frequently heard. To the question, "Why did you do this?", the answer is, "Oh, I got fed up, and I met up with some of the boys and we thought we knew of an easy job. "The first time I heard that phrase was from a man who served a term of 10 years less good conduct remission. In the ordinary way, he was working outside the prison and living in a prison hostel. When he was within about two weeks of his liberty some evil demon possessed him. He "met up" with his friends; they thought they had an easy job which they could do, and this man, when I was talking to him, was faced with a further sentence of preventive detention of 10 years. He thought, as I thought, that the situation was utterly ridiculous. He could not justify it to himself at all, but he had done it.

That is one type. A prison hostel where there is a cosy, breezy, friendly, maternal matron, a good, solid, bluff husband and perhaps an attractive dog; a warm atmosphere in the evening and plenty of facilities for contact with the after-care officer will go a long way to prevent ex-prisoners from falling into that foolish, unreasonable depresssion which can lead them back into crime. I do not commend their attitude, but I understand it. Prisoners have earned the rightful indignation of their fellow-citizens. To try to pretend that they have not is to take an aureate view of things which is wholly unreal. I suppose that inevitably they fall into the habit of consorting with those in like case. They think of the world outside as "they", and of their fellow-prisoners as "we". That is an approach which we must break down. As the Report points out if, when they come out of prison, they go to a friendly atmosphere and have constant opportunity for personal support in those moments of difficulty in the evening, when they would be likely to come to grief if walking the streets, I believe we can keep them out of prison and help to make them again into useful and respectable citizens, determined to try to live down the past of which they are naturally ashamed, a past which may fester in their consciences, perhaps without their knowing it, as a kind of poisonous wound.

That is the general run of prisoners, but the noble Lady and her colleagues point to the fact that there are specialised types. There is the sort of prisoner who is institutionalised, who has been in Parkhurst or Dartmoor for many years. If you talk to him he is distant and remote, he seems to have no will, no interest, no aspirations, no hopes, and he is unable to make up his mind about anything because he has been used for years to a routine which involves his being told precisely what he has to do and what not to do. He has never had to make decisions for himself, he has been long out of touch with family and friends, with nowhere to go when he comes out—a person who, even if he has not become degenerate in personality, will almost certainly have developed difficult character complexes.

For that reason I was interested in the proposal, to which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, referred, which came from the medical superintendent at Grendon Underwood and which was commended in the Report. I am sure that this is an extraordinarily valuable approach. The proposal was for post-release hostels, managed and staffed from the prison, to which, as the Report says, those who have special character difficulties may be sent or invited to go. The Report proposes two experimental hostels. I would hope—and I think that the Report hints at this over the long term—there may be a number of others up and down the country, perhaps to deal with the institutionalised type of prisoner from Parkhurst and Dartmoor.

Recommendation K in the Report is rather like that—hostels staffed by retired prison officers for the type of prisoner who has really gone downhill and is completely degenerate after a very long term of imprisonment. I am sure that these are not only valuable, but are essential. It is difficult to deal with prisoners of that type unless there is this sort of accommodation available to which they can go for a long period, some of them perhaps for good, if there is no prospect of recovery to a sufficient extent to enable them to stand on their own feet in a puzzling outside world.

I was particularly glad to see these proposals for a rather different reason. To me they seem to involve a kind of subtle compliment to the prison officer staff. I am convinced that that compliment, if it was intended, is properly deserved. We have a most admirable staff of prison officers. Their work is difficult, often lonely, and sometimes dangerous, and it is work which is rarely recognised. I should like to hope that, in due course, when this period of severe restraint is passed, and in the longer term when we get our priorities right, their terms of remuneration might be reconsidered. I am not suggesting that at the present time of stringency, because it is hardly a particularly helpful suggestion. They would be able to render that sort of service in that type of hostel, and I am certain that they would be glad to try it. All my contacts with them have convinced me that they are anxious to be considered, in a broad sense, social workers. The one thing they thoroughly resent is being referred to, publicly or privately, as warders. They are just as keen as any of us to see prisoners going out and behaving themselves in the outside world, and they are ready to do their level best to achieve that result. An icy band of estrangement between themselves and the men under their charge is the last thing that they want. I think that the retired officers and those still in prisons like Grendon Underwood may feel somewhat flattered by the proposals of the Working Party in the Report, and would readily do their best to implement them.

There is the other type of prisoner, the feeble sort of man who knows how to do only one thing in the world extremely well. May I take a fictional example—I am not referring to any particular prisioner with whom I have talked; that would be unfair—of the man who knows only how to go to seaside resorts and swindle hotels. He is very good at that, and he will almost certainly be able to swindle three or four hotels before he is caught. He presents a special problem of his own. He should go, in the first place, to a multipurpose hostel.

The half-way house is also quite indispensable. Prisoners who have homes and families to go to on release may find it next to impossible to go straight back. Their period of prison might have been due to some domestic tragedy. If they are given a time in freedom to pull themselves together, to make their contacts with their families, with the help of third parties to assist them in what may be an extremely difficult and painful process, they may be able to go back and become sensible members of the community and valuable heads of their families once more.

There is one other reference I should like to make to the Report, before I close my remarks, and it is this. From beginning to end the Report insists on the great urgency of bringing in voluntary effort to further the purposes which the working party have in mind. I entirely agree. As the right reverend Prelate has said, so many people are so ready to help if one can only bring them in touch. I think it is important that the Report should have stressed the necessity of probation and after-care committees co-opting members of the outside community on a large scale. At the moment, they are made up largely of magistrates and principal after-care officers. I say nothing whatever disparaging of those members, whose work is admirable. They are among those public servants whose help we are lucky to be able to enjoy.

Those are the observations I should like to make. This is a most valuable, quite revolutionary, Report. It looks far into the future, and I hope that it will be possible to implement it. It must take its place, of course, with the expansion of other social services, but it deals with an extremely important social service. I commend it to your Lordships as a valuable piece of modern thinking in the effort we make to try to unravel our complex social problems of to-day.

4.30 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that I can count on your sympathy for what is something of an ordeal. Inevitably a maiden speaker feels a certain presumption in speaking in your Lordships' House, which is so rich in knowledge. I feel moved, however, to support the noble Lord, Lord Simey, in one aspect of this subject, which is of great interest to me. I speak of the young. I am the mother of three young people, a girl and two boys, none of them delinquent as yet, I assure you! Naturally, I am greatly interested in all their activities and those of their friends. But it is perhaps with more than a little anxiety that I sometimes contemplate their future in the difficult world that they have to face.

My reason for intervening in this debate is that I believe the younger generation is in need of much more incentive and guidance, no matter from what income group they come. Too often the essentials of discipline and sense of direction to guide them to years of maturity are lacking. For, surely, my Lords, prevention is as important as cure and aftercare. I believe it is futile to suggest that military service should be reinstituted in this country, though I would point out that, if we are on the threshold of joining the Common Market, we shall be one of the few countries in the Community which does not have some form of compulsory National Service.

Speaking to many of my friends about the problems affecting our children, I think I can detect a certain misgiving, a sense of regret, that the discipline which came from National Service has gone. It is true that there are excellent voluntary systems which help, such as Prince Philip's Award Scheme, the Outward Bound Scheme, and the National Sailing Organisation's recent launching of the training ship the "Sir Winston Churchill." All these schemes have a spirit of adventure, which appeals. What is more important, they help to build character. While on this subject, it would be remiss of me to ignore the splendid efforts of those people who devote so much of their time and money to older, but, nevertheless, magnificent youth movements. But I submit that these splendid individual efforts are not enough, for if we are not only to cure, but also to prevent delinquency, then we must take a much wider look at the problem, and devise methods whereby the strong can work together with the weak and so help them.

Therefore, I urge Her Majesty's Government to study the problem afresh, and to seek for some way with which to fill the vacuum which seems to face so many of the young when they leave school or university: because it is into this vacuum that disquieting influences can enter and corrupt. Meanwhile, I support most wholeheartedly the noble Lord, Lord Simey, for calling attention to matters of great urgency, and I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity of saying a few words about a subject in which I take a great interest, and which I have very much at heart.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, it is my privilege to be the first to congratulate the noble Lady on her maiden Speech. It is like the gem and its setting, and I am perhaps a little bemused as to which I ought to compliment the more. The noble Lady will, I have no doubt, be listened to with great attention in future if she pursues the kind of disquisitions to which she applied herself for a brief time to-day. If it is not inappropriate for me to say so, how important is the topic on which she entered, and how vital is her concern for the community to act to-day as a community, particularly in respect of the young! It would be improper for me as a pacifist to make in this debate any comment on National Service, but I am sure that all your Lordships were pleased to listen to what the noble Lady had to say. We look forward with interest to her next speech in your Lordships' House.

Then, may I apologise to my noble friend, Lord Simey, and to my noble Leader for the fact that I shall not be able to remain until the conclusion of this debate? Perhaps the excuse may be the better received if I say that I have an ecclesiastical engagement which is intimately concerned with the after-care of offenders; and I have to attend a service. I apologise for the fact that I shall not be able to hear what finally is said.

I will take my noble friend's suggestion, which is also, I think, a covert reminder, that those who take part in this debate should apply themselves to matters upon which they may be expert, or with which, at least, they may be cognisant. I will not venture upon some fields—I want in particular to say something about this subject as it is affected by the problem of alcoholism—but I will permit myself one or two general observations on the size and expanse of the issue raised in this contingent problem. For what has been said, and what will be said, in your Lordships' House to-day has at least two marks of coincidence with an after dinner speech. An after-dinner speech is only an after-dinner speech if there has been a dinner; and in some cases the quality of the speech is, to some extent, modified by the contents and liquidity of the dinner itself.

We are dealing with after-care, which presupposes the care which is there in the first instance. I cannot conceal my own conviction that the more I hear of after-care the more is my concern to prosecute the argument that it is after-care which should be the first, and not the last, of the remedial processes: in fact, the last shall be first and the first last, if indeed there at all. For I am convinced that the whole prison system is irredeemable, and that in the long run it is the establishment of a hostel system, as opposed to a prison system, which can offer the truly reformative processes which lie, at least to a Christian, at the heart of all penal reform and penal enactment. This, to me, is a large-scale operation and will require a great deal of money, a great deal of enthusiasm and much of what the right reverend Prelate was saying of communal responsiveness; and it is at long range. But if we are properly to regard this debate as a gate into a field, then we cannot ignore the sort of field which we enter when we open and pass through that gate.

There are one or two observations I should like to make about the whole concept of the hostel. It has, in the first place, the supreme advantage over prison segregation of offering a modicum, at least, of natural and ordinary life to those who participate in it. I am responsible for the Catherine Price Hughes Hostel, to which delinquent girls can be sent in preference to being sent to prison and where they are required to live for six months; and I can testify to the remedial processes that flow from this kind of punishment, which is reformative, and the access which these girls have during their time of detention in such a hostel to the kind of world to which a prisoner must necessarily seek to return after his discharge from a penal institution.

As I see it, it is only when we regard the prisoner as capable of responding to some kind of particular treatment that we shall wisely apply through the hostel system the sort of things which in the past have certainly failed almost entirely to be achieved by prison life itself. Therefore it is against the background of the general proposition of the transfer of after-care in hostels to the priority requirement of genuine penal reform that I wish to speak a little about alcoholism. I ventured to ask an Unstarred Question in your Lordships' House some months ago on this matter, and after making certain observations myself I received a number of kindly criticisms regarding statistics and revealing a certain disposition on the part of some of your Lordships to think that the matter was being exaggerated. I make no apology for returning to the theme that the problem of alcoholism is far deeper, more widespread and acute, than most of us are as yet prepared to realise. And when suggest that 400,000 is the number of alcoholics, I hope that those who feel that this is an extravagant exaggeration will be able to test, by such means as they possess, the kind of evidence which the Carter Foundation and others provide for such an assessment.

Furthermore, it seems to me that there is still a widespread misunderstanding as to what we are talking about. In this Working Party's Report, which seems to be so admirable in so many ways, there is, in my judgment, a quite inadequate reference to alcoholics and a misunderstanding attitude. I quote the first statement on specialist hostels for alcoholics: Alcoholics form perhaps the largest single category of men requiring specialised hostel facilities. The 1964 figure of 76,000 convictions for drunkenness… Now that is an interesting statistic, but it has nothing necessarily to say about alcoholism, and until we disassociate clearly in our minds the drunk from the alcoholic we have not come within a thousand miles of an understanding of the real problem of the alcoholic, whose conditions are specific and who must be regarded as belonging very largely to a category. On the other side of the page suggestions are made for hostels not specialising only in alcoholics but prepared to accept "mild cases". There are no mild cases of alcoholism, any more than there is a mild case of death. An alcoholic is an alcoholic, and having got to that stage he is so sick that he needs specific and assessed treatment or he will remain, in every ordinary sense of the word, morally and spiritually dead.

It is a problem. To enter upon it in a practical way yields only further evidence of its gravity. I hope I speak not with pomposity, and certainly not with solemnity, but with seriousness. in urging that far greater attention should be given by Her Majesty's Government to this specific kind of problem. When we think of the number of alcoholics who now languish in prison (and it does them no good whatsoever), when we realise that 40 per cent. of all the cases appearing before our courts have something to do with drink and perhaps 5 per cent. of them have something to do with alcoholism, surely we appreciate that the answer must be that we should press on with such provisions as are suggested in this Report and have been at least adumbrated in statement by Her Majesty's Government.

I want to refer to one or two quite clear and unmistakable problems. How do you get an alcoholic in prison to be prepared to go to a hostel, even if that hostel is available, on his discharge? If he has an addiction to alcohol he probably has an allergy against institutions. There is a rather sorry and, I think, unfortunate record of what has been attempted, for instance, in Gloucester Prison, by the National Council on Alcoholism. There is a lack of appreciation that if there is to be an effective hostel association or hostel continuity for the prisoner on his discharge, then he must be disposed in some way to receive that treatment. If that treatment is offered to him by the official body he is likely to refuse it, unless it is offered to him in a way which can be regarded by him as remote from and distinguishable from the official treatment. If he does accept it, then the best man to offer him that opportunity while he is still in prison is indeed the representative from the local Council on Alcoholism. Splendid work has already been done in this field. The preparation for the alcoholic to receive hostel treatment must be a personal application in friendliness and in suggestion to him, and it must be made by those who obviously do not come within his purview as being members of the Establishment.

Secondly, the kind of hostel that is offered must be one which is both morally and temperamentally fitted to serve his needs and medically equipped to combine with that remedial treatment the remedial treatment that modern therapy is now evaluating and with which, in some fields at least, it has already achieved results. I believe this is an outstanding problem, and I believe it can be the bellwether of other hostel institutions, such as one in which I am interested. Almost the last thing done in this field by the old London County Council was to set up a Commission to endeavour to deal with the problem of the crude spirit drinker, who, as your Lordships know, is the poor relation of the alcoholic. It is a long time ago since that was set in motion as a project. Nothing has happened, and it has not happened because, as the right reverend Prelate has just said, there is not as yet a sufficient liaison between the public bodies involved and the social and humanitarian and private bodies, churches and institutions, willing to help.

Finally, I want to support what has been said and what I think needs reiteration: that there is ample opportunity for a community effort to make possible in many areas to-day the kind of hostel which will be a centre of normal life fecundated by the voluntary effort of ordinary people, quite often from the churches—the kind of hostel set up by the local authority in a happy marriage with these local and philanthropic bodies whereby (and let me put it quite clearly) the local philanthropic body, the church or a combination of the churches, will seek to do the work and will look to the local authority for supervision in matters medical and sanitary and provide subventions in order to make the thing possible.

These are ways in which at this moment a supremely important problem can be tackled. And if I end on a rather sombre note I think it is necessary to say this. In the West London Mission we have now begun a hostel for alcoholic women, and the problem as it now seems to emerge is just as difficult, or perhaps is more difficult. It may be a greater shock to the community to discover now how many alcoholic women there are than it is becoming a shock to the community to realise how many alcoholic men there are. The great difference is that in a wardrobe in her bedroom, and in the many hours when many a housewife is by herself, she can conceal her alcoholism, whereas the man, in his public life, is liable to betray it.

It would not be fair to say that there are priorities here which should take the first place as regards their fulfilment as against many others which need to be done; but in such a debate as this, for which I am most grateful, it is necessary to realise the problem of alcoholism. To seek to do this work in hostels, and to endeavour to prepare prisoners before they leave prisons to be ready to accept these ministrations, is not only good in itself, but, by its application, may well give ample guidance in the various other particular categories. I hope one day the prisoner will be within a hostel for his recuperation instead of being sent to prison.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I should first like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Simey, as other noble Lords have done, for introducing this debate, and to congratulate him on the skill with which he covered so wide a subject. I should also like to thank noble Lords for the kindly references they have made, on the whole, to the Working Party of which I had the honour to be a member. This has been the first time I have had the pleasure of working with the noble Marchioness, Lady Reading, and I know your Lordships will not be surprised when I say the experience has been an exhilarating one. I must say that I have found the job immensely interesting and I have learned a great deal, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, who as Home Secretary appointed me to it. The noble Lord, Lord Simey, has already mentioned that I have another interest in the subject of this debate as President of the National Association of Probation Officers, and I should like to add that I have yet another in that I am a magistrate.

Lord Simey's Motion refers to the Report of our Working Party, which of course deals with after-care, and also to methods of treatment of offenders other than by imprisonment, and it would seem logical to say something about the latter first. It is an enormous field in which a good many changes are in the air at this moment, and I should like to deal with one aspect about which I feel strongly. What I think is clear to anyone with any knowledge of this subject is that the range of different types of people who are convicted by the courts is great difficulty in classifying offenders. types of treatment now available for them, and this is the basic defect of the system. It is of course true that there is great difficulty in classifying offenders It is far easier to define categories than to allot people to them.

Nevertheless, it would be easy to pick out a large number of men who are now being held in prison under unnecessarily secure conditions. For these men, a secure prison is a pointless and expensive extravagance. In addition to making them more institutionalised and less capable of coping with life outside, it is making it more probable that they will find their way back to prison again after they are released. Doctor West of the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge in his book The Habitual Prisoner has written about a group of persistent offenders whom he was investigating: Contrary to the popular stereotype of a persistent criminal, few of these prisoners were prone to violence and hardly any were efficiently organised professional criminals. The majority were shiftless work-shy characters for whom petty stealing represented the line of least resistance. He found that over half of them came in the category of passive, inadequate deviants, whom he described as ineffective feckless people, conspicuously lacking in drive, many of them excessively solitary and friendless, but prone to dependency and parasitism when they get the chance. They generally go in for thieving on a petty scale, usually committed alone and on impulse when, as happens all too often, they find themselves faced with difficulties". As a magistrate one sees men like this only too often in court, and I must say my heart sinks every time. The old ones are bad enough—the sort of man who has spent his whole life in and out of prison for offences all over the country, very often with occasional spells in mental hospitals as well. He has now thrown a brick through a shop window, taken something out, and then walked down the street until he found a policeman. But at least one knows that there is really nothing that can be done for him now, and he will be happier inside than out.

Far more depressing are the young ones. The sort of case I have in mind is a young man who is brought in and pleads guilty to a charge of stealing. He has been going round the back streets of the town, getting into houses when the housewife was out shopping, and forcing the gas or electric meters to get the few shillings they contain. He has eventually been picked up by the police. He may well be found to have started with probation as a juvenile, been to an approved school, and had a number of other convictions in different parts of the country, perhaps having server' one or two short prison sentences. He has had many different jobs, also in many different parts of the country, sometimes leaving of his own accord, sometimes being dismissed for bad time-keeping or some such reason. He is now out of work, has no fixed abode and is living rough. Only too clearly he is heading for the same sort of life history as the old man I have already described. But what is one to do?

I must say now that I very much resent the view which seems to be quite widely held that magistrates enjoy sending people to prison and regularly do so when some other course is better and possible. I have no doubt that all magistrates when faced with the sort of young man I have been talking about feel nothing but despair. Again, what is one to do? A fine is pointless; he has no money and is not going to earn any; in any case, it would be impossible to keep track of him to collect it. Probation is no good; its success depends on a continuing relationship, but he has no fixed abode and in my part of the world at any rate there is no prospect of finding him lodgings. What is left? At present, nothing but prison. And so off he goes to prison, where he is protected from the worrying necessity of making decisions, from the tedious self-discipline of getting to work every day, from the embarrassments of human relationships, from any need to think or do anything except what he is told. Is it surprising that when he is pushed out into the world again he finds the problem of managing his own life even more overwhelming than before?

In our Working Party's Report we have put forward recommendations for hostels for a number of different types of discharged prisoners as a means of reducing the probability of their going back to prison. It is surely obvious—and we have said this, too—that the same sort of places would be just as suitable for many men as an alternative to prison in the first place. This would have many advantages. They would be cheaper to run than prisons. Providing them would reduce the pressure on prison places more cheaply than the building of more prisons. Above all, while no one would be so foolish as to expect any very striking success rates, whatever effect this sort of treatment might have on offenders it would at least be in the right direction; it would tend to increase their ability to cone with life rather than diminish it. If it is accepted that hostels are the right place for many of this type when they come out of prison, then surely their rehabilitation would have a better chance of success if it started on conviction without the intervening spell in prison.

I have been talking about one sort of offender, the inadequate petty criminal as seen in the magistrates' courts and at quarter sessions. In passing, may I say how pleased I am with what is forecast in the Criminal Justice Bill for another of our regulars—the drunk and disorderly. I cannot believe that any magistrates' court now sends a man to prison for being drunk and disorderly if there is a reasonable prospect of getting a fine out of him. But what the Bill calls suitable accommodation for the care and treatment of persons so convicted is what we have been waiting for for years, and I know that every magistrate in the country will feel a great sense of relief when this new alternative becomes available. The only thing I find rather exasperating is that it should apparently be thought necessary to compel magistrates to use it.

I do not propose to deal in any detail with men on long sentences. It is true that among them there is a small number of intelligent, determined professional criminals, who have set the chance of large, quick, tax-free gains against the chance of being caught, and have coolly made their choice. Not many are in prison, of course, because as a rule their gamble comes off and they are not caught. If the odds could be altered, if the number of criminals of this sort brought to justice could be increased, there would be fewer of them, whether in prison or out; but that is another matter.

Apart from these, the prison population is as varied as might be expected in a group selected in this way. But the fact remains that the majority are still of the same inadequate type as the petty offenders, only their offences have been less petty or more frequent. Indeed, Dr. West's book to which I referred was based on an investigation of preventive detainees.

In general, the objects to be pursued in the treatment of longer-term prisoners are clear, and a start is being made towards many of them. But progress is terribly slow and has not been helped by the ever increasing pressure of numbers. Classifying prisoners according to the degree of security necessary, and keeping them under corresponding conditions; the maximum use of open prisons for those suitable for them; better conditions for visiting and home leave; a proper working day at sensible work (I understand that experiments have been made in employing prisoners on useful activities, working from camps clearing and recovering derelict land, forestry, and so on, and this I think is admirable) and then the use of prison hostels as a stepping stone back to life outside—all these things are designed to fulfil the purposes of which I have already spoken, to return a man to society at the end of his sentence with at least no worse a chance of living a normal life than he had when he went in.

That leads me to after-care. I am glad that the Report of our Working Party has, on the whole, been received well by those whose comments on it I have read. I must say I am not altogether surprised at this, because I think we must have seen practically everyone who is interested in this subject and, broadly speaking, their evidence all pointed the same way. I shall leave it to the noble Marchioness, Lady Reading, our Chairman, to speak of the situation which our investigations revealed, and our suggestions for remedying it. I propose to concentrate my remarks on the place in all this of the Probation and After-care Service. The Service is, of course, the body responsible for all aspects of after-care of prisoners, and I am glad that the Report emphasises that hostels must play their part in the context of the much wider plans for after-care, and must therefore operate with the full knowledge and approval of the Probation and After-care Service.

Hostels, as we have envisaged them, are just what probation officers have been asking for. It is clearly of the greatest importance that they should be able to make the best use of them. It is equally important that the hostels shall be in the right places and of the right types. This will involve co-operation between probation and after-care committees. I am glad that discussions are now going on with the object of creating groupings of these committees within the prison service regions. This, I think, is essential.

One of the most difficult problems will undoubtedly be the staffing of hostels. The Probation and After-care Service knows something about this, having seen the difficulty of staffing probation hostels. Under the present arrangements, the only course recognised by the Home Office as the qualification for probation hostel wardens is the one which is also the qualification for approved school housemasters; and since approved school housemasters are better paid than probation hostel wardens, as well as being in demand, one can quite see where most of the qualifiers are likely to go.

Lady Williams's Committee is even now considering the whole question of the staffing of hostels and other forms of residential homes. It may be that that Committee will recommend something on the lines of a general warden service, with its own training arrangements and its own salary and promotion structure, from which all sorts of homes and hostels can be staffed. Of course that would be a great help. We have been told that the strain involved in running a hostel for discharged offenders is such that no one can stand it for more than a few years. A general service, which would allow wardens to do a spell in this type of hostel at the time when they have the strength and inspiration to do it, could provide a solution to that difficulty.

However, all this is in the future. Meanwhile, there can be no doubt that staffing will be a real problem if hostels are established on anything like the necessary scale. One regularly hears of local authorities being obliged to close residential establishments owing to lack of staff. I hope that, if the Government are waiting for the Report of Lady Williams's Committee, they will waste no time in taking action when they get it. It has been suggested that probation and aftercare officers may themselves do a spell as hostel wardens, but I do not myself see this happening on any large scale. The general feeling in the Service is that the skills involved have little in common, and that the training and experience of probation officers working in the open does not fit them for this sort of work. Of course, here and there there will be officers, and in particular husband and wife teams, who will have a special feeling for it. I think also that some young officers might like, and be suitable for, a period as assistant warden. But I do not consider that the use of probation and after-care officers as wardens is likely to provide the normal and general answer.

I was interested in the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Simey, that the S.B.C. (as I think we are now entitled to call it) might be invited to co-operate by providing places in its re-establishment centres. If this were acceptable to the Commission, it would certainly help. Some discharged offenders of the least inadequate type might want no more than this to get themselves re-established. But I am afraid it would be unwise to hope that many would be suitable for this type of hostel, even with the support of a probation and after-care officer working from outside or, for that matter, would be willing to go to a place which, even to that extent, was tainted by officialdom.

Hostels, while a most useful tool, are only a part of after-care, which is itself only a part of the probation and aftercare officer's role. During the past two years new tasks have been given to the Service. First after-care, and then prison welfare, and now parole looms ahead. The Service gladly accepts these tasks. It is glad to become the general casework service for delinquents, in prison and out, for that is as it should be. But if it is to be able to do all these things effectively something must be done to increase its numbers. The Probation Service itself is below strength and cannot do as much about after-care as it would like to. Prison welfare officers are lamently few.

It is accepted that after-care should begin immediately upon conviction, and if it is to have a reasonable chance of success it is essential that the prison welfare officer should have laid a good groundwork during the man's sentence. At present they are so few that they can only scratch the surface of the job, and cannot even attempt to do anything for short-term prisoners. It is surely obvious that, unless the strength of the whole Service can be greatly increased, there can be no question of adding parole to its burdens.

The planned strength of the Service is 3,500 by 1970, and as the noble Lord, Lord Simey, pointed out, it is at present 1,000 short of that target. The recruitment figures for last year were made known the other day. The target was 350 trained officers, and the entry into the Service was 231. The Service has been protesting for years at the continued admission of untrained officers, but with the present shortage of entries for training this is still found to be necessary. There were 70 untrained officers admitted last year, and these, with seven former officers reappointed, made a total entry of 308. Against this, 155 officers left the Service, making a net gain of 153. Without the 70 untrained entrants, the net gain of trained officers was 83. The target for this year is also 350—


My Lords, before the noble Lord continues, as I gather that many Members of the House will not be here when I rise to speak, I wondered whether I could clear up a point, where I agree with him and not with what my noble friend Lord Simey was saying. As the noble Lord has just told us, the Service is 1,000 officers short of the target of 3,500 which is to be reached in 1970. The noble Lord, Lord Simey, was understood by me, and I think others, to say that the Service was 1,000 short now, which is a different thing. I say that with the Press here. By the time I speak it might be lost sight of.


My Lords, I think I am right in saying it is 1,000 short of the target for 1970. I do not know what the total should be now. It is certainly short of that, too. However, I have said that the net gain for last year was 83. The target for this year is again 350. The new entrants due to complete training during the year are already in the pipe-line. They number 233, and not all of them will complete the course. If the total strength of 3,500 is to be reached by 1970 the annual net gain must be 250. With a loss of 150, as it was last year, that means an entry of 400. In 1967 the entry will be about 200. So obviously, there can be no hope of reaching the 1970 target.

What are the reasons for this situation? One is uncertainty about the future. Is the Service to become part of a unified local authority welfare service, as is proposed for Scotland? The majority believe that this would be a mistake, and I agree. But no one knows. Young people provide for many officers the most rewarding part of their work. Are they to be taken away from the Service? No one knows. The suggestion that this might happen resulted in officers transferring to the children's departments; and this situation has been aggravated by the fact that there, too, the shortage is acute; while the local authorities, not bound by national salary scales, can and do offer more attractive terms. At the same time more jobs are dumped in the Service's lap without much apparent consideration of the effects.

As a result of all this, it must be admitted that the morale of the Service has been affected. In fact, a principal probation officer told me the other day that he had never known it so low. And this has not been helped by the ludicrous muddle over the salary scales of senior officers, still unresolved after six months of stalling by the Government. The way that this has been handled is hardly likely to suggest to the Service that its morale is of the smallest concern to those in authority. Probation officers have always enjoyed the esteem of the general public, who have recognised the dedication which they have brought to their work. They are certainly dedicated, but they must also be highly trained professional men and women. To-day new and more enlightened methods of treating offenders are happily gaining acceptance. But let us not forget that it is to the Probation and After-Care Service that we mainly look to provide the instruments for carrying out these new methods. The least we should do is to give them the status, the self-respect and the confidence in their future which will make it possible for them to do what is being asked of them.

5.12 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships I should like first to pay a tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Simey, for having brought this debate to the Floor of the House. I should also like to say, reiterating his words, how truly we all regret the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, who is so keen on the whole subject, and who has provided so much help and support to all of us who have tried to get a little more knowledge and "zip" into the work we are undertaking.

It is a very long time since a distinguished Member of your Lordships' House told me that in addressing the House it was necessary to realise what not to say rather than what to say if one had a welter of ammunition at one's disposal. This is very true and this is why, realising the breadth and the scope of the whole problem, I shall have to restrict myself to hostels and matters directly concerned with them. It is, I feel, of really paramount importance to be honest about what is actually being done to-day, and not to translate either pious dreams or hopes into unreal figures. This is necessary if we are to succeed in what we are aiming to do, and I believe that the problems with which we are dealing to-day could result in our undertaking one of the biggest humane tasks this country has ever seen in the whole of its existence. But, as previous speakers have said, the task is a colossal one, and cannot be minimised in any way whatsoever. I am one of those people who do not believe very much in figures, and I consider that a good deal of the interpretation of figures is guesswork; and whatever figure is given to us for homeless men seems to me to be no more than an indication. Therefore, it is essential that whatever organisation emerges from discussion and effort it should be of an extremely flexible nature and able to be used in whatever way is necessary.

Each speaker in turn has shown how varied is the problem in different parts of the country. This, I know, is absolutely true. Unfortunately, one thing stands out supremely, and that is that too little is being done throughout the whole of the country in the field of aftercare of the offender. One thing leads to another. This is why the Working Party of which I am a member decided to devote this Report almost entirely to hostels. If as little is being done as we have discovered, it is necessary to start from some particular point, and we felt that the hostel would be a good place from which to start. This does not mean that other recommendations will not follow, but undoubtedly the hostel can and will be, the pivot from which other things will be able to work.

I think I can state categorically that the present provision of hostels is pitiably slight to meet the need. I have worked in this field for some considerable time, and I never realised how short were the number of places nor, alas!, how large the number of people needing those places. if a real impact is to be made and the result to be of any value, both to the offender and to the community itself, then the canvas on which the picture is to be painted must be very large indeed. The resident needs of offenders is, to my mind, of paramount importance and must be tackled as such. There are, of course, residential units to-day, and the people who are running them and those who in the first place set them up have done pioneer work, not only in blazing a trail of infinite worth to all concerned, but in showing unbelievable courage in the way they have endured difficulties—financial, social and official. This has all been done in their efforts to prove a principle which to-day is a challenge for all of us who are interested in this work to take up. Their initial courage and faith have set a standard far higher than one can hope to follow. Nevertheless, their lead should never be forgotten because of what they have done in starting something which is good and which should be followed.

The background from which I speak is obviously the Working Party which has been mentioned several times to-day, and which was set up by the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill. The Working Party was first assembled in May, 1965, and set itself a target of a two-year life. We anticipate hari-kari before we are quite two years old. I think some of my colleagues may feel that this is something which will be a well-earned rest, as we have met every Wednesday and have had to work extremely hard—and I am not sure that the stories I have heard of what I am called behind my back are not perhaps well-merited.

Probation officers to-day, and especially principal probation officers have, as Lord Hamilton of Dalzell pointed out, a very heavy burden indeed, a burden comprising several different loads. They require, amongst other things, something in the hostel line which they can use on a day-to-day basis. As their responsibilities widen, as has just been well shown, so must their numbers increase, and so also must their working accessories be strengthened. The recommendations we have made as a Working Party in regard to hostel requirements is that there ought to be greater variety, greater quantity, and very much more flexibility. In Great Britain to-day we pride ourselves on recognising the importance of the use of modern methods, and if the recommendations which we, as a Working Party, have made to have a regional pattern are accepted, then this should be supported by everybody who believes in modern methods and delegation of responsibilities.

Regionalisation, beginning with definition of areas should quickly be followed by meetings and consultations between the different areas which in turn would eventually constitute the regions. The Probation Service would have to provide the key man at the regional level. He in turn would be in a position to call together those who in meetings between all those concerned, including the voluntary bodies, could eliminate the wasteful duplication and could make a plan where everybody could be helpful and the maximum amount of good will could be engendered and used to good advantage.

With a regional pattern, the very first need, as the right reverend Prelate pointed out, would be a multi-purpose hostel. But I fear that there has been a serious misunderstanding by the right reverend Prelate of the recommendation of a multi-purpose hostel. The hostel we had in mind was in no way something like an old workhouse. It would instead be a home to which men could go, and in which they could be evaluated, and from which, having been screened, they could be moved to other specialised hostels. It would be a very difficult hostel to run, because the people who were sent out from that initial house to the specialised houses could very often be misfits, and they would have to be taken back by the parent multi-purpose house. This would mean, in the first place, that confidence, deep and real, as well as trust, must exist between the multi-purpose hostel and its satellite homes or hostels.

I was extremely interested to hear the observations made about the Working Party's Report, and I was staggered that it has not had a great deal more criticism and non-acceptance hurled at it. But I have, at the same time, taken deep note of the fact that the drafting of any paper is a very difficult problem indeed, and obviously very often what one has written, thinking of one thing, has developed into a quite different thing for the person reading it. The reason why we gave so many different varieties was not because there would be all those varieties at once in every area, but so that areas and regions recognising the need for hostels would be able to select a variety of steps which might be necessary from the point of view of classification.

As has already been said, we have suggested hostels for the inadequate—often called "halfway houses"—and for the alcoholic. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Soper, that we are very conscious, alas! through knowledge, of the difference between an alcoholic and a drunk. We have also suggested hostels for the re-establishing of a man who needs to learn how to hold his job and how to keep to time; for aged offenders, old men who want a warm home and to be well fed and who, if a certain amount of Rabelaisian entertainment is acceptable, might not want to throw that brick through the window in order to go back to prison; for those who are so damaged that, possibly, prolonged and permanent support would be needed; for men who are nearly well enough to start to face the world again, and who would need for a short spell of time the service of "bed-sitters"; and, never to be forgotten, there is the ordinary lodging-house keeper, who has done such a wonderful job in the past but who, because of the make-up of houses to-day, is rather less able to help. Because such a lodging-house keeper has often sustained difficulty, we have recommended that there might be some way of helping her financially, if she suffers any trouble or deprivation.

The experimental hostels which we have recommended have been mentioned already, in one way or another, by two noble Lords who have had foresight and have therefore. I think, put this idea into our minds. I refer to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill. We hope that the post-release hostel will be manned by the ex-prison officers and come within the prison department; and that the other, for the institutionalised man, will come within the Home Office ambit. These suggestions are a mighty undertaking. I do not for a moment say that it is an undertaking which is not able to be carried out. But it is, indeed, a mighty undertaking which will need a great deal of work, a great deal of help from everyone concerned and, above all, a great deal of understanding.

Because bricks and mortar speak much louder than paper and pencil, application was made in 1965 to the Carnegie United Kingdom Trustees for help in trying out five experimental hostels. With great generosity the Trustees provided a sum to help with the running of a series of such hostels on a two-year basis. It has, however, taken a whole year to establish the five hostels, not because of either sloth or lack of energy, but because of the ever present trouble of "change of usage". Everybody in turn says, "What a wonderful thing it is to do this job", and without exception everybody says, "But not here". The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said that he felt that the education of the public was of tremendous interest, tremendous importance, and I believe this is so important that it must be approached in many different ways, for when the Carnegie Trustees made the grant, they laid down that their finance was to be used only for the running of the hostels. It was therefore necessary to acquire the hostels, to set them up, and to get them going. The acquisition and setting up of the hostels has provided endless and very difficult problems.

My plea, and it is a very real plea, is that it would be futile to move at the pace of starting a dozen or so hostels a year. We need a body, Government-backed and well-manned by courageous, determined and devoted people, with a knowledgeable staff. This body should be responsible for obtaining and setting up the necessary houses, and backing the local voluntary bodies who would run them, and who in turn would take full responsibility for the houses. It is not fair to expect local interested members of any voluntary organisation to have to overcome all the tremendous difficulties which there are in the acquisition—the change of usage, the setting up of the houses and the schooling, in the first stages, of the committee. Therefore, the Working Party recommend the immediate setting up of a housing association, which would have to be registered in the usual way, and which would have at its disposal the right, which any housing association has, of obtaining loans from local authorities and of working directly with building societies.

The financial assistance for such a housing association must, of course, be provided by the Home Office via the Treasury, and it would be quite easy to invoke the right safeguards so that the Home Office and the Treasury become the residuary legatees of any house or other (as I think it is called) hereditament being held by the housing association on their behalf. The ultimate responsibility both as regards finance and standards of hostels must be vested in the Home Office. This may sound an ambitious idea, but it is not impossible. It has been worked out in other ways by other people, and it has been successful. It needs courage at the start, and it needs force behind it for the first two years. But it could easily be carried out if Government Departments, local authorities and health services would all work together for a common aim.

We have examined at great length in the Working Party the fact that if the hostels are to be worked properly, there must be per capita grants. To do this, a series of individual grants, loaded as to the therapeutic aim of the particular hostel, will have to be recommended.

The noble Lord, Lord Simey, has said that it is important that the probation officer be given the tools to do the job, and with the deepest conviction with which I am able to speak I would say that voluntary service could be among the most useful tools which a probation officer could have. Those tools, however, must be fashioned to his hand. and he must know how to use them.


My Lords, before the noble Baroness turns from housing associations, may I ask her whether she is aware that one of the problems of housing associations is the question of management, and that if this were left to these people without any other organisation it would break down. I would suggest to her that it might be possible to get a cost-rent housing society to do the management of the housing association. Otherwise, on a practical basis, she will find that the people she is talking about will not, in fact, be able to manage the housing association.


I am very much indebted to the noble Lord, but I speak with some authority. I run three housing associations myself, and one a cost-rent scheme, and I naturally felt that the people who would be manning the Home Office-backed housing associations would be better able to cope with these situations than somebody like myself.


Perhaps I may say, as chairman of a cost-rent housing society myself, that I understand that this question of management has been the problem with housing associations up till now, and that unless they can get someone to carry out the management then a housing association is inclined to break down after possibly only three or four houses have been built.


I am very grateful to the noble Lord, and I should like to say that many of us are thinking about housing associations along the same lines—in fact, on the basis that they should have a very strong central committee, with responsibility being handled by people of authority and of known merit. I am quite sure that if there were time I could explain this whole problem, as I should like to explain many others, but I know that your Lordships have been very patient, and I must turn to something which is of great importance and which has not been mentioned up to now.

At the moment we are seeing the birth of a new co-ordinating body of voluntary organisations in the shape of N.A.C.R.O. Many people ask us what N.A.C.R.O. stands for. It is the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders; and we all hope that it may be possible for this to become the co-ordinating body for all voluntary bodies, working to and for the Probation and After-Care Service. The Probation and After-Care Service has a colossal job, and if the new concept of a close link between the statutory body and the voluntary services could be made manifest, this country would be very much the richer.

The Probation and After-Care Service has the statutory obligation; it has all the responsibility. The knowledge, approval and backing of the probation and after-care officers is of paramount importance, both as regards the specialisation, the hostel as such, and finally, in any event, the siting; and it is only if the Probation and After-Care Service feels that the hostel is right that there can ever be any success at all. But voluntary service could very easily be the mortar between the bricks of officialdom, and to my mind this would be the best way of getting the involvement of the community.

Noble Lords who have listened to our debate must be asking: what is the objective? It might seem to some that the objective is to try to lift a man out of his background, and perhaps to endeavour to make a different person out of him. I believe, however, that we should think of how we can strengthen a man so that he can resist temptation and can eventually go forward to live a decent and normal life, first of all with props to help him and then, little by little, those props being discarded and he becoming an ordinary, normal man once more. In all social problems to-day everybody always lays emphasis on loneliness. What does this mean? I believe it really means a call for friendship; and I think we should remember that Emerson said, a very long time ago, that "friendship consists in being a friend, not having a friend". As we invoke modern methods of handling individual interests, we must understand that individual participation is the only way to get community participation, and that the community must look after its own, whether good or bad.

I have no doubt that your Lordships all heard Her Majesty's broadcast on Christmas Day, and I have extracted two sentences from that broadcast on which to wind up my speech. Her Majesty said: Society cannot hope for a just and peaceful civilisation unless each individual feels the need to be concerned about his fellows. And she then went on to say: Mankind has many blemishes, but deep down in every human soul there is a store of good will waiting to be called upon. I am convinced, my Lords, that that good will can be invoked. The urgent need is for hard work, for effort devoted and sustained, because we are advocating that by treatment we can do what the noble Lady, Lady Semphill, suggested. We can help with prevention as well as with treatment; we can in fact lighten the number of people in prison and, ultimately, the number of people sent to prison; we can give men an opportunity on a humane basis to avoid a prison sentence; we can save the nation money; and we can offer to the community the opportunity to help its own people.

In the long run, the attitudes of individuals and of communities are decisive in establishing the atmosphere of the nation, and this is as true of voluntary service as it is of anything else. To-day, very few hostels are being run by voluntary bodies, and the whole question of their use, their cost, their management and, indeed, their value, is in its infancy. Many of us who have worked hard on this problem believe that there is a prospect of great worth in the establishment of many more homes, and we strongly advocate their setting up.

5.36 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join those of your Lordships who have congratulated my noble friend Lord Simey on introducing this Motion in your Lordships' House to-day and the noble Baroness for the Report of her Working Party on Residential Provision for Homeless Discharged Offenders, which I think every one of us will agree is a Report which has made a most helpful contribution to the thinking on this matter of the treatment of offenders. Your Lordships have given a good deal of time in recent months to the growing social problems stemming from crime. As a former probation officer myself, as a magistrate and as now a member of the Inner London Probation Committee, I would prefer to make my contribution to this debate by referring to the valuable contribution which is being made by the Probation Service—a Service which is being called upon more and more to tend to the needs of the offender, including the homeless offender.

I shall, if I may so put it, resist the temptation to repeat what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, because he has put the position of the probation officer, and in some respects the service, so forcibly that there is really no need for me to try to cross his "t's" or dot his "i's", except to say that I am in wholehearted agreement with what he has had to say. However, I should like to make one reference to the Probation Service. It is now clear that the Probation Service is expected to have a growing responsibility for all delinquents, for probationers, for the aftercare of those who have been in approved schools and borstal, for ex-prisoners and, if the scheme is introduced, for the supervision of those who are likely to be paroled early, as well as the extension to their work by way of prison welfare. I think we have to face the fact that the Probation Service has become the willing horse, and that we are not going to achieve a great deal in the matter of the treatment of the offender if we are content to try and get a quart into a pint pot. I do not think that the Probation Service, and in particular the probation officer, is getting either a fair deal or a square deal.

My noble friend (I hope I may refer to him as "my noble friend") Lord Hamilton of Dalzell gave the figures of those who left the Probation Service last year. May I go back a year and tell your Lordships that, in 1965, 176 probation officers left the Service? That is roughly 7 per cent. of the total strength. I forget the figure for last year. It was somewhere in the region of 6 per cent. or 7 per cent. We cannot afford to let this kind of situation continue. It is not an answer for anybody on the Government side to say that recruitment is good. The plain fact is that the Probation Service is losing a substantial number of first-class, experienced officers. Their experience cannot be replaced immediately; it cannot be replaced for years. That is what we are facing at the present moment.

There are many factors causing this exodus. The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, gave quite a number. I recognise the difficulty that the Government are facing in matters financial. I support the Government without reservation with regard to the steps they have taken to deal with these financial problems, but it seems a little surprising—I was almost tempted to say "stupid"—that the situation now exists where some senior probation officers are getting less than some ordinary probation officers.

The Working Party Report, to which we have made many references this afternoon, directs our attention very forcibly to what really is the problem. It reminds us that there are about 50,000 prisoners discharged from penal institutions every year. Of that number, approximately 10 per cent., 5,000, are homeless—and this is not just one year; this is every year. This is a recurring problem. Five thousand homeless prisoners are discharged every year, many of them requiring special accommodation. I do not quarrel with the recommendations made by the Working Party. I think we would all agree that, by and large, they are admirable. The need for many more hostels, multi-purpose hostels, hostels catering for special problems—this is of supreme urgency, of supreme importance.

It is recommended that the Central Council of Probation Committees and the Conference of Principal Probation Officers should consider setting up regional groups to determine need in a region and to advise on the type or types of hostels required. Again, my noble friend Lord Hamilton of Dalzell has informed your Lordships that arrangements have already been made to do precisely that. Where I differ from the Report is in the Working Party's belief in the provision of hostels by voluntary societies. The noble Baroness has almost invited criticism; she said she was surprised that criticism had not been hurled (I think that was the word she used). Perhaps she will allow me to hurl one small brick.

A NOBLE LORD: A pebble!


Yes, a pebble. I think I am right in saying that the Working Party—and perhaps the noble Baroness in particular—feel that hostels should continue to be provided by voluntary sources.


My Lords, I am sorry, but that brick has missed. In fact I suggested that the hostels should be provided by a housing association; and it was at that point that the noble Lord, Lord Ogmore, and I joined issue. The housing association acquires the house, sets it up and hands it over to the local voluntary organisation to run. This would prevent the voluntary organisation from having to raise the cash to buy a house or to raise the money to convert a house which was leased.


My Lords, I am much obliged to the noble Baroness. I do not know whether she feels that this can be done in respect of every hostel. The point I wanted to make is this. I feel that the provision of hostels should be taken out of the voluntary sphere completely and entirely. I know from firsthand experience of the immense contribution made by the voluntary societies in providing hostels. But many existing hostels, we know, leave much to be desired.

Reference was made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter to the work being done by the Church Army and the Salvation Army. I should be the last to say anything which would appear to detract from the value of their work. When I was a probation officer—far more years ago than I now care to remember—I know that often the only hope we as probation officers had of getting a boy into a hostel was that of putting him into a Salvation Army or Church Army hostel. The plain fact is that a well-run, efficient and effective hostel, providing everything necessary to help discharged prisoners on the road back, is too costly for a voluntary organisation to undertake. Most of the voluntary organisations find it difficult to make ends meet. Often they can do so only because they have a devoted but—and I am sorry to say this—not necessarily a competent staff. New ventures these days can be started only if one of the big trusts puts up several thousand pounds. I think that those of us who are, and have been, connected with voluntary organisations realise that the big trusts are getting a little concerned at the multiplicity of effort in a particular field. With their help it is fairly easy to start a new venture, but it is quite another matter to try to maintain or to develop it.

Raising money to continue a piece of community voluntary service is the biggest headache of all the voluntary organisations. I think we should be living in a fool's paradise if we were to think that an appeal for a hostel for discharged prisoners would make a great appeal to public generosity. It may be that it should do so, but I do not think it would. The public is not as yet favourably disposed towards delinquents, and in thinking in terms of the future we have to face this fact. New hostels—and we need quite a number—and their maintenance should be provided by the local authority and the Government on a financial basis to be agreed.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the question I put to the noble Baroness? Why cannot all that he said be done by a cost-rent housing society, provided, of course, that it is not a hostel in the normal way but something which I consider much better for this type of person, a series of maisonettes or flats or some such places that a man could call his own?


My Lords, may I, with permission, reply to this question? Is that all right?


My Lords, with great respect, I do not think it is. If a Member of the House who is not the main speaker replies to a speaker who intervenes we shall be in difficulties.


My Lords, I hoped that the House would allow the noble Baroness to reply, because I know nothing about cost-rents. I cannot give an answer to the question. If it could be done in the way that the noble Lord suggested, I am in favour of it. But I am anxious that we should bear in mind that the provision of hostels of the kind and in the numbers envisaged in this excellent Report cannot, I think, be undertaken through voluntary sources. This is the only thing I can say.


My Lords, I was merely trying to help the noble Lord, as I tried to help the noble Baroness, but my help was not received with the gratitude that I should have expected.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord. I think that the existing hostels maintained by voluntary societies should receive special equipment grants from either the Government or the local authority, or both, to bring their hostels up to the standard necessary ultimately to provide the amenities envisaged in the Report. I do not know whether my information is correct, but I understand that the Government grant at present is £100 per annum per bed occupied by a discharged prisoner. If this is so, it is quite inadequate and I do not think we can hope to have the kind of hostel envisaged in the Report while the grant remains at that level.

To me the real value of the Report lies in the recognition that hostel staff need to be trained adequately. I think this the most important part of the whole Report. If we are honest, we have to admit that social work, whether done professionally or voluntarily, tends to attract some very peculiar people. Not all of them are capable of dealing with their own problems, let alone trying to deal with those of other people. This is why I am frightened when I hear my noble friend Lord Soper and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter talking about calling upon a vast army of voluntary workers in the community to come forward and help. One thing we must not let loose on the public in this connection is the woolly "do-gooder", and, as I said a moment ago, social work tends to attract a fair number of them.

Hostels have to cater for a variety of people, and discharged prisoners have a wide variety of problems. Many of these people, as the Report rightly states, are immature and feckless; some have mental and physical disabilities; others need psychiatric help. Some are quite incapable of being helped. It takes an experienced person to make an assessment. This is so often why the voluntary worker fails. These prisoners are going to be helped whether they want help or not and whether they are capable of receiving it or not, and to do this work we must have people who can make correct judgments. Whatever may be the condition of prisoners, I think they need more than just a kindly approach and a sympathetic hand. They need to have always available in the hostel someone who, because he or she has been rigorously selected and carefully trained, is able to assess their wants and needs and, what I think is much more important, understand their thoughts and feelings.

I would go so far as to say that the hostel warden of to-morrow will have to be far better equipped than the warden of to-day. He will have to be a counsellor in the realsense of the word, capable of understanding the peculiarities of others and temperamentally suited to be a warden. Lots of us, my Lords, have the idea that we are temperamentally suited to do all sorts of things, but we are not; and I think that when we propose to deal with the personal problems of other people someone ought to make a very careful assessment to see whether we are temperamentally suited for this kind of work. We let loose on the community far too many people who, in the field of social work, are not themselves balanced, integrated personalities. The Report states on page 17: Training is not an end in itself and will be useless if the right kind of men and women with the necessary qualities of personality and character are not recruited into the hostel service. By and large, I would not disagree with that. The only thing I should like to say is that this, in my view, means that there has to be selection, perhaps residential selection, followed by very careful training. I hope that the Home Office will insist on these procedures and see that they are established.


My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like to explain that the point I made was that with a housing association such as I adumbrated, the suggestion was that the residuary legatees would be the Home Office and/or the Treasury. I do not believe that the Treasury would ever agree to finance a scheme unless it had the ultimate ownership of any houses, hereditaments or whatever were bought. This is why I, wrongly, tried to give an answer earlier to the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell.

5.56 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Simey, who invited me to take part in this debate, as it is a subject in which I have been interested for a very long time. Like everyone else, I have read this very remarkable Report. What appeals to me, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, is that part of the Title which states that it is the Report of the Working Party on the Place of Voluntary Service in After-Care. I should have said that if anybody had to be Chairman of such a Committee the choice of Lady Reading would be a natural one, because the noble Lady has probably done more, and knows more, about voluntary service than anybody else in this country. I have had the pleasure of serving under her, and I always felt that to be a privilege. If the noble Lady wishes to know what she was called behind her back, I can tell her that we used to call her "the Green Queen".

I think that this Report is valuable because it bridges the hiatus between treatment in prison, for whatever reason, and complete rehabilitation. At present there is a hiatus between the time a person spends in prison and when he comes out of prison and returns to ordinary life. There are certain losses of discipline in our national life which have accentuated this hiatus. One was mentioned by the noble Lady, Lady Sempill; namely, the loss of discipline which the young used to have in those days when there was National Service. Though no one could imagine national military service coming back, I do not see why there should not be some form of national service for boys and girls to enable them to serve the community, perhaps for six months, nine months or a year, because in that way we should get the strong mixing with the weak and a good mixture of youth at an age when they could help each other.

There is also a loss of religious discipline which is considered serious by those who believe, as I do, that delinquency is fundamentally a spiritual maladjustment. There is the breaking up of family discipline. We see that at its worst in the Communist countries. But where you get a great deal of State interference and the removal of parental responsibility, and where you get high wages for juvenile teenagers, you get a breakdown of parental discipline at home which is a very bad thing. I have always looked upon the father as the judge and the mother as the probation officer, but that has gone also. The loss of all these disciplines leaves a vacuum for the young which they find extremely difficult to fill. Those of us who are gardeners know that a young tree needs a stake, and that is what our young people have not got at the present time. The probation officer is the bridge between prison and getting back to ordinary normal life.

Much has been said about this service for which I have the greatest possible admiration. I agree with a great deal of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. and the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, about the lack of incentive and pay, and shortages, and so on. At the same time, I should like to say this: I spent some six years serving on the Home Office Probation Committee and the work included the interviewing of future probation officers. I could not agree more with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, about the very odd people who think they could be probation officers. You get such people in the voluntary service, but if you can exclude them from the Probation Service, I do not see why you could not exclude them also from voluntary work. There is, however, a certain professional resistance, such as I found when I urged that older people should be taken into the Probation Service. In those days the age limit was something like 35, and during the period I was on the Committee it was raised to45 or 50. I think the Committee wanted to get married women and widows into the service. They are invaluable. I find that in the Probation Service there is also resistance to the use of voluntary helpers. This is a pity. A great deal could be done to strengthen and enlarge the Probation Service if they would co-opt suitable people to help.

This brings me to paragraph 55 of the Report, which suggests that suitable landladies might take in single men and provide homes for them. But heavy taxation, rates and building requirements are driving landladies of this type out of existence. The next paragraph suggests that these landladies might be helped by some form of insurance. I think that this would help them considerably. One side of the problem is, I think, rather alarming. In numerous council houses there is a restriction on taking lodgers. I do not know whether the Government think that something might be done about this, but at the present moment a suitable couple or landlady in a council house who would like to take in a former prisoner as a lodger are restricted from doing so.

I feel that the more State control we have over housing, the more institutionalisation we have in the way of providing hostels, the more difficult it is going to be to cater for the individual misfit. In the end, if we classify everyone, we should require an institution to fit every single misfit. This ideal could be reached through individual enterprise, but never through State control. The old Elizabethan Law of Settlement had a good deal of sense behind it. It implied that every small community had to deal with its own failures. That meant that prevention loomed larger than cure. If we could get hack into the community that Elizabethan spirit, that we have to look after our own failures, it would be very salutary.

The smaller the boxes people live in, the less margin there is to take in the family failures. I presume that there are many noble Lords who have had family failures for whom room has had to be found. The greater the taxes, the less saving there is and margin for voluntary help. The more State legislation and controls, the more delinquents. We shall all be delinquents sooner or later if this Government remain in office for many years.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness if she is saying this seriously or facetiously?


My Lords, I am saying it seriously: I always talk seriously. We are heading for the dangerous Socialist slope where people become cases and are depersonalised.

Delinquency, I believe, is not so much a matter of material deficiencies or circumstances as of profound disturbance and sickness of the soul. It is an internal disease of the soul and mind. While I agree with the main part of the Report, that we must have hostels and in certain cases specialised staff to man these hostels, I would plead that the volunteer side should be brought in, enlarged and made to do its full job. Delinquents are people who are sick at heart and need the personal touch of friendship to bring them back into ordinary life.

6.6 p.m.


My Lords we are all indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Simey, for the informed and interesting speech with which he opened this discussion this afternoon.

The value of the Report of the Working Party, over which the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, presided, lies largely in the emphasis which it places upon the part which voluntary service can play in the problems of these destitute men whose conditions we have been discussing this afternoon. It has always been my experience that men of this sort are very suspicious of official agencies of all kinds or of anyone who seems to be identified with an official agency. I think it is possible for the advice and help of a voluntary worker to be accepted when help from an official agency might be refused.

To-day much voluntary effort is expended in organising accommodation and services for elderly people. Without underrating in any way the value of the work which is done, I should think that that problem is passing more and more into the responsibility of the local authorities, and it might well be that some of the effort which at present is devoted to that form of voluntary service could usefully be diverted into the organisation of accommodation for and the personal treatment of discharged prisoners.

In her Report, the noble Baroness puts first emphasis on the provision of more hostels. The hostels which she desires to see provided she described as multi-purpose hostels. In her speech, she emphasised again that the fundamental problem which confronts us is the shortage of accommodation. This is not due to the fact that there are not many hostels. There are up and down the country many hostels of different sizes, of different purposes, different aims and different degrees of management. We sometimes confuse the type of hostel where it is desired to lodge a destitute man and the type of hostel where the last thing that ought to happen to him is that he should be allowed to enter it. I shall say something about hostels in that class in a few moments.

I am not sure that I understand what the noble Baroness meant by "multi-purpose hostels". Certainly if hostels are to be fully effective they ought to be multi-purpose in the sense that they cater for different classes and different types of men. There are some excellent, well-managed hostels to which nevertheless a certain class of discharged prisoner would never go. Take the case of a man who has perhaps been a clerk or an accountant, who has allowed himself to play with his employer's money and found himself in prison. When that man comes out and finds himself homeless, it is useless to point to the Salvation Army hostel, good as it is, because a man of that background would never go into a Salvation Army hostel or a hostel of that sort. I do not desire to be understood as casting any reflection on the Salvation Army. It is a body for which I have always entertained the greatest respect. I know something of its work, and have seen it at first hand. But the type of hostel which it provides is not the type of hostel where a man of the class to which I am now referring would be likely to go.

Valuable work can be done by small hostels which are run more on the lines of a home, where men are willing to go, and where they can be rehabilitated without any great difficulty once work is found for them and they are induced to settle down. In the provision of hostels of that sort I should have thought there was considerable scope for voluntary effort. When the noble Baroness speaks of multi-purpose hostels, I think she has in mind that type of quite small hostel, as well as the much larger hostel run by a different sort of body for a different purpose.

In a hostel of that sort the inmates ought not to be entirely composed of discharged prisoners. I think it is a good thing for the discharged prisoner to mix with people who have not been in prison, but have fallen down in life for other reasons. When I was at the National Assistance Board I visited a certain number of small hostels of this kind, providing accommodation for about 20 people. Of those 20 people, perhaps 6 or 8 might be discharged prisoners. The warden was quite clear that if he increased the number the result would be that the persons who were not discharged prisoners would not be willing to go there. So this is a field which presents opportunities for hostels of many different sizes.

The noble Baroness spoke of another class of person who provides accommodation; namely, the lodginghouse-keeper. I agree with her that the lodginghouse-keeper can play an important part. I think the most useful part the lodginghouse-keeper can play is to supplement the work of the larger and central hostels. You cannot: provide a hostel in every town in the country. You must to a large extent concentrate your hostels in the larger urban areas. This means that there is a great deal of the country which is not covered by an adequate hostel service, and it may happen, as it used to happen when I was at the National Assistance Board, that at four o'clock in the afternoon a discharged prisoner may come in to one of the Board's officers and say that he has no money and nowhere to sleep. What is the manager to do with him? Well, most of the managers keep a little list of lodginghouse-keepers who are prepared to take in men of this class. It has always surprised me how successful they are in getting these men housed for the night, and on the following morning sending them on their way to the central hostel. Indeed, I understand that since I left the National Assistance Board, or the Supplementary Benefits Commission as it is now called, most of the hostels are provided with transport (something that I always wanted), so that they can go round and pick up these men and bring them into the hostel.

I should like now to say a word or two about hostels provided by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. These are hostels which are certainly used quite extensively by discharged prisoners. The Commission estimate that about 56 per cent. of those using their hostels have been in prison at some time; and they estimate that about 20 per cent. have been in prison at some time within the previous two months. So the use of these hostels by discharged men is quite substantial.

What happens to them? I think I might say a word or two, if I do not detain your Lordships for too long, about how it came about that the Supplementary Benefits Commission and their predecessor became responsible for providing this accommodation. During the war the old casual wards in the institutions up and down the country were closed, it being considered that the service which they gave, such as it was, was unnecessary. But when the war was over the casual wards were reopened, sometimes the old casual ward in the institution, and sometimes other rooms which were available in some other part of the institution. The National Assistance Board set up by the Act of 1948 was entitled to call upon the local authorities to manage these places for them, and, indeed, the Board had no alternative but to do so.

In the first place, it is exceedingly difficult to run a hostel within reasonable financial limits otherwise than in conjunction with some other form of institution. The old casual wards that were taken over by the Board were run in conjunction with the institution, and largely depended on the institution for some of their services. These places really made no valuable social contribution; all that they did was to provide a man who was homeless with a doss-down for the night, a bath and something to eat in the morning, and then he went out again on the road. They had been used in years gone by by the old tramping fraternity. But the tramps have disappeared from the roads to-day. I used to see one occasionally, but, generally speaking, the tramp has changed. He is no longer the "Weary Willy" of our childhood; he is a different type of man. He is a young man, who hitch-hikes on lorries and does not tramp. He is a different man altogether, and if he could be rehabilitated he could easily be placed in work.

What did we do with him when we got him in the centre? For a few days the warden, if the man was willing to stay—andwe had to get his agreement, because there was no power to compel him to do so—would employ him on work about the hostel, and get an opportunity of sizing the man up and seeing whether he was suitable for placing in work. If he seemed to be a man who was able to hold down a job, the warden endeavoured to place him and the wardens had a fair measure of success in doing that. When the man is settled in a job the danger point comes. If he has to to leave the hostel, go out to lodgings and to that extent fend for himself, it is not long before he takes to tramping or he takes to crime again.

Accordingly we tried to arrange our hostels so that the man who seemed likely to settle down in work when he was placed in a job continued to live in the hostel, in different and more private quarters. He left the open dormitory and went into a cubicle of his own; his meals were served, and altogether he was offered a better and a higher standard of living. After a few weeks of that treatment the warden usually felt that the man could be allowed to go into lodgings. We never had any rules about that. I always refused to make any order or to give any instruction about the length of time for which a man was to remain in a hostel. I left that to the warden. When one is dealing with capable staff one can leave a great deal to them, and it is much better to do so.

I have been speaking about these hostels at some little length because it seemed to me that the treatment we were able to give in those hostels was exactly the sort of treatment which would be likely to resettle a man who was homeless and penniless and without any support in the world. It took us some years of experimenting before we got the right thing, but I believe we were always on the right lines. I think that treatment would be successful, not only for the man who was just destitute, but for the man who was destitute as a result of a prison sentence.

I should now like to say a word or two about other classes of hostels. First of all, I should like to say something about the common lodging house. I do not know how many of your Lordships have ever been in a common lodging house. It is a most astonishing experience. Of course there are good lodging houses. I have seen some excellent lodging houses: the Greater London Council provides an admirable service, so do the Church Army and the Salvation Army, and so do quite a number of local authorities. But in this field of private lodgings there are some places which in this age are almost inconceivable. When I first went to one I was reminded of Sir John Tenniel's illustrations to Oliver Twist. I believe your Lordships can have no conception how dirty, unwholesome and evil these places can be. Unfortunately local authorities have a very limited and restricted control over them. They have power to inspect them, and I believe it is one of the oldest sanitary powers that the local authorities possess; indeed, I believe it dates back to Disraeli's Public Health Acts of the 1870s.

Local authorities can do very little about these places because if they close the hostels, as I think they have power to do, the men simply become destitute. Where are they to go? Where are they to sleep? It may be that the local authorities should be encouraged to provide hostel accommodation of their own which would enable them to replace some of these common lodging houses. But I am quite sure that the problem of the common lodging house is not one which can be neglected for long. It is perhaps acute in certain places. It is acute, for instance, in Glasgow. Some of your Lordships may have heard of what are called the "Glasgow models". They may have been models when they were opened; they are models no longer to-day. In the other great cities, including Liverpool, I have seen some common lodging houses of which no one could be proud.

I am afraid this afternoon I have tended to be a little reminiscent, and perhaps that arises from the fact that for ten years of my life I had a good deal to do with hostels, with their management and their organisation. There is one point I should like to make. I agree heartily with what the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, had to say about the training of staff. I am quite sure that this is one of the first and most urgent cares. It may well be that if our aim (and I think the noble Baroness's aim is this) is to increase the number of hostels quite substantially, some central authority should be created which could exercise a measure of supervision which the hostel proprietors will accept, because if you are working with voluntary people, supervision is a little difficult. It should be a central authority which would pay the grants and would perhaps undertake at some central point the training of the staff which these hostels will certainly require.

May I go back for a moment to the work of the Supplementary Benefits Commission? We learned there the importance of training, and I think there can be few organisations which give a more complete training to their staffs than the Supplementary Benefits Commission does to-day. I believe one cannot make any social service work satisfactory, however well conceived it may be, unless one has a staff who understand it, who know what is wanted and are prepared to learn how to do it. I recruited my staff through the ordinary Civil Service channels, and I found among my staff men who were quite devoted to work of this kind, who were willing to live in the rather depressing atmosphere of a hostel and to devote themselves and their wives to the work of the hostel. They were devoted men, and I think it is right that, having now parted with all connection with that body, I should make my modest tribute to the work which the staff of that body has done, particularly in this field of destitute persons.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he could answer one question? The noble Lord, Lord Simey, suggested that the hostels of the Supplementary Benefits Commission might prove a major answer to the problem of the care of the discharged prisoner. Is the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, with his great experience, of the same view?


Yes, my Lords, I am of that view. I hope that when the noble Earl, Lord Longford, comes to reply to the debate he will say that the Supplementary Benefits Commission will gladly co-operate in the care of these destitute men. I should be astonished if he did not assent to that proposition.


I am very grateful to the noble Lord.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, I have to apologise for the fact that I have to leave shortly after making my speech. We are indeed grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Simey, for initiating this debate based on the Working Party's Report. On such occasions one realises the potential within your Lordships' House to become an increasing sphere of influence, as my noble friend Lord Francis-Williams put it recently. At this late hour, I think it is fair to curtail my speech to a bare minimum. I shall therefore follow the lead of my noble friend Lord Soper on alcoholism, as I did in the debate he initiated on December 2, 1965. This problem has also been emphasised, but not sufficiently, as Lord Soper observed, in Appendix B of the Working Party's Report.

My own experience of alcoholism in industrial groups, some of which has been very tragic, leads me to believe that the critical age is from 30 to 50. I expect this is true in the case of discharged prisoners. But from what I have been told, the critical age in drug addiction is in teenage and early twenties. It is therefore right to surmise that, if we are thinking in terms of hostels, it would mean some definite form of segregation and, therefore, much greater expense than we now envisage.

In the debate on December 2, my noble friend Lord Soper asked what facilities are available for the treatment of alcoholics in this country, and whether there were any plans for the extension of those facilities. In replying on behalf of the Government, my noble friend Lord Champion said that among 10 hospital authorities there were 12 special units, with some 270 beds in all, and in the plans for extended facilities there were facilities for another 7 units, making a further 100 beds available, a total of 370. I think it would be appropriate to ask whether anything has been done to increase the number of beds since December 2, 1965, because on June 10, 1966, in the Report of the Working Party on the Place of Voluntary Service in After-Care, we still have the 12 units and no mention of the additional 7 units. Is it a question of money?

The problem of alcoholism and drug addiction has been on our plate for a long time. Even the superhuman efforts of the voluntary bodies have failed to stem the increase. I think some figures are needed here. If we disregard the 1966 Budget increase, the price of alcoholic drinks has increased by 20 per cent. over the last 10 years; that is, up to April, 1966. The consumption of drink in the same period went up by 70 per cent. in value. The figures are from £832 million in 1955, to£1,417 million in 1965. I have no idea of the increase in the number of known alcoholics in that period, but I should not be surprised to find the rise in proportion. We might therefore have to budget for an alarming increase and without, perhaps, adequate means of dealing with the problem, unless we first take legislative action, as they have done in New Zealand, where they have already passed the necessary legislation in their Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Act 1966. I have not heard this mentioned at all in the various debates in this House. The New Zealand Act provides for the detention of alcoholics for a period not exceeding two years. The object is, of course, to enable each sufferer from these two diseases, due to excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs, to have every opportunity to recover under specialist treatment. The New Zealanders have found time to pass the necessary legislation and to provide the money for it. Can we afford to lag behind?

The consumption of alcoholic drinks has now been established as normal social behaviour; it is part of the social structure. But the awakening of the social conscience to the abuse of alcohol resulting in disease has not been so great as it has to drug addiction. My Lords, I suggest that the time has come to give this conscience a jolt, and in case the realisation of the terrible consequences of this increasing problem be too severe I should like to indicate a way to clear the burden. We must first of all legislate, as they have done in New Zealand. Then we have to provide the money for hostels and staff. This cannot be done without money. Much as we believe in the voluntary system, because of the immensity of the problem it cannot be solved in that way alone. I want to make a serious suggestion: that we who enjoy the social pleasures which are enlivened by alcoholic drinks, be allowed to ease our consciences by subscribing to a rehabilitation fund to provide the hostels required. Let us keep the figure of £1,417 million in our minds. Just 1 per cent. of that figure would yield £14 million. This is a tax which the Treasury should declare would never be used for any other purpose; and I might add that no tax could be used for a worthier purpose; there are few higher priorities.

Alcoholism is a disease, and those of us who can consume liquor at the rate at which I have been able to do all my life are damned lucky that we have not got the disease. Alcoholism will be with us so long as we are here; it is one relief from tensions and everything else. Those of us who benefit from the pleasure of drinking should realise how lucky we are to be able to take it and be immune. We can never tell till we start. This is a disease from which, by the grace of God, the majority of us are free; it is by the grace of God and not so much by our own effort. To end on a less sober note: in the absence of a more appropriate toast, we who contributed to the fund could then raise our glasses to the success of the rehabilitation of the less fortunate, because we who drink and benefit from its sale will then be involved in something worth while.

6.38 p.m.


My Lords, I will be brief. I want to express the hope that the Government will act upon this Report with speed and generosity—with speed because the need is urgent, and with generosity not only because people are more important than money, but also because in the long run it must be cheaper to keep a man out of prison than to keep him in. It is becoming ever more difficult to find lodgings for a man just out of prison; to find him something really suitable is often impossible. It is not hard to imagine how discouraging this situation is for someone who has already lost his job, his friends and his reputation, if indeed he ever had any. It is in fact one of the reasons why a man may give up the struggle—it is a struggle for some people—to lead a normal life, and revert to a life of crime.

Incidentally, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, referred to the regrettable number of well-meaning do-gooders who try to help in this sort of situation. As that description fits me perfectly, I should like to say that the only reason why I want to help these people coming out of prison is that there does not appear to be anyone else available. If there were sufficient qualified, expert, sensible people waiting to meet any man coming out of prison, I should be only too glad to stand aside and let them get on with it.


My Lords, in my recollection the noble Lord referred to "woolly-minded do-gooders", which description does not fit the noble Marquess at all.


My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his kind intervention. It still may fit sometimes. However, there is one small thing I would ask—it has been mentioned before, but it is so small that it is something that could well be done, and I hope it will not be overlooked. One of the recommendations of the Report is that most urgent consideration be given to the question of providing some assistance to those landladies who are prepared to let rooms to ex-prisoners. They can, and sometimes do, lose money on it, and they need and deserve a little help. I do not think that would be too complicated.

There is general agreement about what should be done. I am sure that the present Administration are moving slowly in the right direction. I hope that we shall not be put off with talk of the need for economy. The suggestions made in this admirable Report are not extravagant. They are sensible and important, and I hope they will not be ignored.

6.43 p.m.


My Lords, everybody interested in this subject must be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Simey, for introducing this Motion. I wanted to speak because I am on the board of visitors to a borstal and detention centre, I am one of the managing board of an approved school, and I am a magistrate. An additional qualification, perhaps, is that my governess became a probation officer—a post for which she said she needed little more training. So I find myself equipped, I think, at least partly, to understand some of the reasons which make people, especially young people, do what society says they should not do.

Like Lady Sempill, it is with the young people that I shall principally concern myself now, because, unless they are properly treated, they are the prison inmates of the future. I think that the past 20 years must in many ways have been sad ones for many people who thought that poverty was the chief cause of crime. Of course it is the cause, or it can be the cause, of some crime. It used to be said, "Eradicate poverty and the crime rate will drop". In the event, it has not dropped, but has risen with increasing wealth.

I know of one case where riches had something to do with the cause of crime. Several houses in a rich district of an American town were broken into and wrecked. Then, one millionaire's house was likewise smashed up inside, with the paintwork scored, the pictures torn down, the carpets ripped, paint thrown over the chairs and that sort of thing. A gang of five boys was later caught, one of whom was this millionaire's own son. I was a little surprised when I heard the story, but not amazed. The boy may have come from a good family, or what we call a good family, and I am sure his would have been classed as a good home. But so often it does not seem to be that which counts. What counts so much is one's parents. What can be done about this luck of the draw I do not know, but surely we can try to help somehow. To send children out into the world as badly equipped to cope with it as some of them are is surely itself irresponsibility bordering on crime. It is a crime to the child, and a crime to the society which has to suffer them and look after them.

The vast majority of the cases which come before me, as a magistrate, are motor offences. I am sure that there is some peculiarity about the temperaments of many of these offenders. The vast majority of the boys of borstal are normal children. They look much like the boys with whom I was at public school. So far as I know, none of those has gone to prison. They may be called inadequate; but really their parents are inadequate. Anybody who wants to do something for the boys starts off with a permanent handicap, which is that the most impressionable part of their life has already passed. They have to start off to try to mend a complicated temperamental machine whose personality may well be disabled beyond repair, and often the best that can be done is to patch it up and send it on and hope for the best.

I do not think that this is a pessimistic view. I think it is realistic, for there are influences in a child's life up to the age of about 15 which, once made, are hard to undo. This is especially so when the child is not too bright, like most borstal and approved school inmates. They are a dull and feckless lot, and are an awful problem, although I admit that the intelligent ones can be the worst of all. Yet giving these boys responsibilities can sometimes work wonders. But although the boys must be treated, by the time they are of borstal age, as responsible human beings, what can we do about their parents who have allowed them to get where they are? I think that more and more we shall have to look into the surroundings in which children are brought up and risk the charge of being nosey, interfering busybodies. We shall have to try to alter the attitudes of some parents to their children. We shall have to try to educate people to have a more responsible attitude towards having children, so that they do not have so many they do not mean to have. We shall have to try to get them to understand that if the child gets into trouble it is far more likely to be their fault than the child's.

I sometimes think it ought to be made a crime to have a delinquent child. I should like it to be obligatory for both parents to attend at juvenile court. It so often happens that, if you do get one attending, it is just the mother; fathers are most unwilling to turn up. I should like to see far more use made of the power of binding over parents in their child's good behaviour, and the compulsory payment by parents of restitution or compensation. In fact, the payment of restitution has had an excellent effect whenever I have seen it used. This is the sort of means by which we can effect prevention of crime, which is far better, as well as cheaper, than cure. If as much attention and money were given to prevention as is now given to cure, so many of the worries with which Lady Swanborough's Report is concerned would be lessened.

I suggest that the attitude to crime still tends to be directed more to the chaining up of evil spirits and the casting out of devils than to seeing that the spirits and devils do not get there in the first place. Even with the great advances which have been made in making our penalties and our reformatories less savage, I still sometimes think that it is as if the faulty products of a production line were shoved on one side with a sigh, to see whether particularly clever specialists can somehow make them serviceable, instead of exercising some sort of quality control from the beginning, which is what should happen.

This is where the children's departments of the local authorities come in, or should come in. Some of them are very good. I believe that the one in Liverpool is excellent. But some are under-staffed and over-worked, and show other signs of carelessness. I have heard it said that they have lost that essential driving force of dedication and concern since they ceased to be voluntary; but it seems more likely that they are, as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said in his strictures, simply not professional enough in outlook. Furthermore, they are not bound to look after a child if they do not like the look of its face. So an enormous amount of sorting out of family problems devolves upon the Probation Service. Nobody seems to know where the Children's Department ends and the Probation Service begins, and this leads to a lot of arguments and manœeuvrings which may not be in the best interests of the boy or girl or the family, or of the Children's Department or the probation officer. I may add that I know a clerk of the court who will not have representatives from the Children's Department in his court because he feels they are such a waste of time.

I am sorry if I have been speaking a little outside the terms of the Motion, although the noble Lord, Lord Simey, did touch on this matter at one point, but I feel so deeply and think it so important that we should try to prevent crime by trying to cure the conditions which allow or encourage it. The philosophy should be, very briefly, "A stitch in time saves nine". For the records of prison offenders must be drearily familiar to your Lordships—in need of care and protection, sometimes probation, then borstal, then prison. Once a young person gets into the courts, he or she tends to be marked unless or until he or she leaves the district. I realise that it would not be possible to keep children out of the courts entirely. When they get there the Probation Service sometimes works marvels and does a great deal which is never heard about and which is never reported, even by them. Approved schools do excellent work. I am in two minds however about the effectiveness of detention centres; and even borstals, where a devoted staff do their best in difficult circumstances, leave much to be desired as reformatories, even though the figures for recidivism include such offences as parking without lights and so on.

As for prison, it is a dreadful, destroying place. It is useful as a threat to the man who has not paid his alimony, poor chap!; and dangerous or violent criminals must be locked away for the public safety while they can be treated and rehabilitated. But as a commonplace punishment for errant youths, prison is only an expensive way of producing hardened criminals. The cost of keeping a man in prison and his family for a year is the same as one probation officer's salary for a year. Even if probation officers' salaries were doubled the value for money would be marvellous. How much better, let alone cheaper, it would be to put much more of the treatment of offenders into the hands of the probation officer, working in with a hostel or other residential system, so that an offender then would be free to work to pay back a fine, together with restitution or compensation!

Here I return to something which I mentioned at the beginning of my speech. The crime rate has gone up, not down, with increasing affluence. There is some connection between the two, which I will not go into here. But I think that it will be found that the fine, together with an order to pay restitution or compensation, is far more effective than some people think. What is the use of sending to prison a youth who has robbed a shop or a widow of her savings? What good is he doing there? Let us try to guide him back and let him work to give back what he has taken and to settle himself in society. It is on these lines I think we should work. We must not get into the habit of thinking that the cases with which the noble Baroness's Report deals are inevitable, nor, at any rate in the present quantities, their supply everlasting.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, I will detain your Lordships for only five minutes. It is relatively easy for me to do that, because the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, made a notable contribution on the subject on which my noble friend Lord Simey has asked me to say a word, and that is the subject of the psychopath on discharge. The noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, pointed out that Doctor Donald West has made a valuable analysis of habitual prisoners on discharge. Doctor West found that about 15 per cent. of habitual prisoners were professional criminals, people who did not need rehabilitation, and could not be rehabilitated, because they had decided to follow the profession of crime. But 50 per cent. or more of habitual criminals are passive, inadequate psychopaths. These people will certainly benefit from hostel care, but they are likely to go on benefiting indefinitely—that is to say, the problem is to get them out of hostels once they are in. As the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, said, if you get them out too quickly they may go wrong; and they can be held there almost indefinitely if there is some motherly person to take care of them. With severe passive inadequates, the only way to prevent relapse is to keep them in hostel care indefinitely.

The third group of habitual, persistent criminals is the aggressive, active psychopaths, who make up about 25 to 30 per cent. of this group. These are the ones for whom we have nothing to offer save imprisonment. The reason we have nothing to offer save imprisonment is that they can be treated only by compulsory care. They cannot be retained in any hostel—they will not stay—and it is impossible to certify them as medically in need of treatment. Once they pass the age of 21 if they are not in an institution, or 25 if they are in an institution, there is no way of retaining a psychopath in care in the National Health Service if he or she does not commit a crime. It is these people who present some of the greatest problems of criminality and certainly the greatest disturbances in our psychiatric institutions. We have simply failed so far to provide any kind of institution to cope with them, save for Grendon—which is a beginning, but a small beginning when one remembers that in Denmark they have a similar institution which is full for that small population.

What I am sure we need is one secure psychopathic institution in every hospital region, run by the National Health Service. We shall need to change the Mental Health Act in order that dangerous psychopaths can be certified and retained in such an institution. As to how we can get it, I am quite sure that my noble friend Lord Simey is right when he says the best thing we can do at the moment is to ask the Government to set up an interdepartmental committee. This is a problem for the Ministry of Health, the Scottish Office and the Home Office. I sincerely hope that my noble friend will convey Lord Simey's suggestion to the Home Secretary, and I should like to reinforce it by saying that this is the best possible thing we can do at present. We cannot ask for bricks and mortar at the moment, for we know how difficult things are, but to be in a position to ask for bricks and mortar and to know what is the right thing to do would, I suspect, make as big a contribution to the solution of crime, to the happy running of such hostels which are established, as any single action we can take.

7.0 p.m.


My Lords, may I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Simey, for introducing this Motion. It is always fascinating to listen to an expert, and I hope he will not mind my saying that he spoke very well. May I also congratulate my noble friend Lady Sempill on her maiden speech. If she thinks that she has now done her work, she is quite mistaken. After the way she spoke to-day, she will be required to speak again by those of us on this side.

There has been such a large measure of agreement that I must apologise for introducing a slightly discordant note, although I have come to the conclusion that discordant notes are rather a good thing if one wants to put a point over. The discordant note is not as regards the Report of the Working Party of the noble Marchioness, Lady Reading. I agree with most of that, except for certain minor details which I will not go into, and I am not going to cover the debate as it has gone, because I am glad to say that that is the job of the noble Earl the Leader of the House. But although I say a "discordant note", I am not causing the discord. As is so often the case in life, the discord is caused by a shortage of money.

The first thing I want to say to your Lordships is this. There is so much to do in this field that we are in danger of doing nothing very well. That danger looms ahead of us all the time. Certainly we do nothing perfect in this field, and I am sure that we could do much of it much better if we organised ourselves better. It is well to remember in this connection that for all these things, including the prisons themselves, the money comes out of the same kitty. That is something which I think some speakers are apt to forget when we hold these very wide debates. Most of the money comes out of the Home Office kitty. A little of it comes out of the Ministry of Health kitty, but it is virtually the same kitty.

So as my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor said, it is essential to plan properly and to have a list of priorities. But there does not seem to be any real list of priorities. What I am suggesting to your Lordships is that all of us who are interested in this matter should decide—and I shall suggest a method in a moment—what are the priorities, and then press for one or two and push the others temporarily more or less into the background, though not entirely into the background. Of course, your Lordships will ask: who is going to settle the priorities? In this connection priorities have to be settled by the Government of the day, but I suggest that they would be well advised to consult people like the noble Marchioness, Lady Reading, and the noble Lord, Lord Simey, and between them they may then get a proper list of priorities.

If I may say so, I think that this Government who believe in planning, or so they tell us—and I think they do—seem singularly inept at it; rather worse than we were, and I think we occasionally had our faults in that connection. But I will go further into what I mean in a moment. One of the troubles about trying to do everything at once is that it gives the Treasury—that bugbear to all of us, particularly those who have been in any sort of office—a chance of saying, "That is too expensive", and no additional money is forthcoming at all. But if one presses for only one or two things, one may, with a bit of luck, get some of the extra money which one needs.

I think we can start discussing the money side, which is what I want to do, and that only, by dividing it into capital costs and running costs. May I start with prisons? I repeat that the money for prisons comes out of the same kitty as the rest and, as has been said by one or two speakers this afternoon, after-care must really start from the day when a man goes into prison. We have had the Mountbatten Report, which I know was dealing with security, and it was made abundantly clear in that Report—and many of us have known it for a long time—that the sort of liberal regime which is going to do any good inside prisons cannot be operated without proper buildings. That is quite clear.

When my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor was Home Secretary, he started the largest prison building programme we have ever had. Virtually all the prison building which is going on at the present time was either started or planned in his day, and largely by him. But that was for the prison population of that time, and since then the prison population has increased. But what have the Government done about that increased population? They have cut back the prison building programme. With all respect to the Government, that really does not make sense. In my view, the first aim on the capital side should be to get the prisons properly built, and of the type we need. I think we must start there, because that must be done to achieve security. Until we have the security we cannot have the comparative freedom inside the prison which, I think, is essential for any rehabilitation of prisoners.

We then have hostels. One can argue about which should have priority, but I agree with my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, that one ought first of all to provide hostels for those people whom we have a reasonable chance of doing some considerable good to, fairly quickly. I suggest to your Lordships that if we are going to build any hostels we ought to start with hostels for the young, particularly the young on probation, and then go on to the homeless young who have come out of borstals or detention centres, because I believe we can do something for the young.

I know it is not popular to say it, but there is a large prison population for whom for many years we shall not be able to do much in after-care, except to provide a roof for them when we have the buildings. So I think the first money ought to be spent for the young. There is a good deal of work being done at the moment for recidivists, largely by voluntary hostels. I am not suggesting for one moment that any of that work should be cut back, but I am talking largely about any further money which we can squeeze out. So as regards the capital costs, I would suggest that the first priority is prisons and the second is hostels for probation and for the young who have come out of borstals and so on, and who are homeless.

Then we come to the running costs. It seems to me sensible that the voluntary hostels which are operating now, and which I hope will be started, should be helped with additional Government money where necessary, because even to take the most selfish point of view, it is cheaper for the country to help voluntary hostels than to run them completely itself. I will not go into the question of additional grants for hostels, but I would recommend the interesting paragraphs of the Report suggesting how grants should be paid and when. I do not want to go into all of that, but I think the Report is right on that matter.

Then there are a number of things which might not cost much money and which are therefore easy to push through. I think we ought to try for those. The suggestion of the Working Party about landladies has already been mentioned. It is a small point, but the Working Party suggest that probation officers should be allowed to recompense a landlady if an ex-prisoner whom the probation officer persuaded the landlady to take leaves without paying the rent or causes damage. What does that amount to in money?—practically nothing. The cost would be very small. I cannot see any administrative reason why that should not be done at once, without even going to the Treasury, out of the existing Home Office money available. It is little things of that sort which one can get on with, even if they are not of the first importance.

May I now say a word about alcoholics? I will not go into great detail about this problem—the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and other noble Lords have dealt with it—but I think it would help all of us if we had a proper costing operation carried out. I have never seen a figure; and I suggest that, if they have not already done so, the Home Office might set up a committee, comprised of one actuary and one accountant (that seems to me to be quite large enough) to find out the cost of a cell in a prison for an alcoholic. It costs a good deal because, quite apart from the room space and the alcoholic himself, it keeps out of that cell somebody who should more appropriately be occupying it. There is therefore room here to save building costs. When that sum is arrived at, it might be put against the cost of special hostels for alcoholics, and I should not be at all surprised to find that the difference in cost is not very great. It would be interesting to know, and I merely put that suggestion forward. I do not think it would cost much to find out that figure.

The only other thing I want to mention has been referred to by two great experts to-day, my noble friend Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, and the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell; that is, the Probation Service. As regards the running costs of the After-Care Service, it seems to me that every additional penny that can be spent should be spent on the Probation Service. In my view we are wasting our time and our money on practically everything until we get a proper Probation Service. The probation officers must be properly paid; and, even more important than that perhaps, they must be properly trained—and that costs money. But what is the good of playing about with after-care when we do not yet have a proper Probation and After-Care Service? That will cost some money, but we must have it if we are to do any good. I would suggest that, when it comes to annual expenditure, this should be given absolute priority, and that everything else should wait, if necessary even two or three years. In my view, everything that is not now running should have to wait, if I may put it in that way; I do not want to cut anything back.

I do not want to keep your Lordships at this late hour, but may I repeat what I said before? I think we are in great danger of doing nothing properly. Let us at any rate try to do one or two things satisfactorily. If we are to do that, we must have a lead from the Government—and, my Lords, at the moment I do not think we are getting it.

7.13 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, speaking with his usual charm, said he was going to strike a jarring note. I do not think it jarred very seriously on our nerves. He laboured the financial point a little strongly, perhaps—and I might be able to say a word about that later. As to the total cost of after-care, I would just point out that, although it is rather hard to make a precise calculation in view of the difficulty of knowing how much of the Probation Service is devoted to after-care, the figure with which I am supplied as being the total cost of after-care from the point of view of the State is about £750,000, and one cannot really pretend, when one is talking in this modern age, that a service is in danger of costing too much if it costs the State only £750,000. That is simply a fact which I offer to the noble Lord if he is concerned about the money.

However, I would agree with the noble Lord that for the most part the debate has been very harmonious, and one of the happiest harmonies has been the series of tributes paid to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham—and I see that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, is the first to agree. I think everybody feels that in him we have an exceptional man. I would venture to think, with all respect to others who have served in the Home Office, that no one ever went to the Home Office with so strong an interest in prisoners, and I do not think anybody would claim that he had weakened in his interest, or had been "taken for a ride", since he entered the official world. He has lived up to everything he preached when he was on the attack from outside. I know that everything that has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, and by all others, will bring great encouragement to him to-day.

In all my 21 years of speaking from one Dispatch Box or another in this House, I cannot remember a debate where it was so difficult to comment at all adequately in the space of—shall we say?—half an hour on the many grave and important utterances. I would therefore confine myself to paying one or two tributes, in the first place to the noble Lord, Lord Simey, who began this debate in the manner we expected of a professor with a deep social conscience—one of the strongest combinations one can find, although one does not always, of course, find it. At any rate, he spoke profoundly about fundamental things; about, as Oscar Wilde would say, De Profundis. His was a speech which inspired all later speakers.

I would also join in all the tributes paid to the noble Marchioness, Lady Reading. We congratulate her and thank her for her magnificent Report, and for her speech to-day, which was of the same quality. I gather that she used to be called "The Green Queen". We were told that. It may have been untrue, but it is alleged that that is what she was called. But I think that to-day, in view of the revolution she may be effecting in this field, she may be called "The Red Queen" with even greater aptness. Then I must congratulate the noble Lady, Lady Sempill. I gather she is not a Baroness because there are not any Baronesses in Scotland, so I am told. But whether she is a Baroness or a Lady, or however she should be addressed— she is, I gather, just "Lady Sempill"—hers was a delightful speech. Her combination of gentle charm and burning conviction will, I am sure, prove irresistible on many occasions in your Lordships' House.

I realise that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, had to go, but it is only right to mention and single out the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill—two notable Home Secretaries. I feel that the noble Lord, Lord Stow Hill, in particular, must be regarded as the grandparent of this Report, as it was he who, as it were, set up the noble Marchioness and her Working Party; and we were naturally interested in all he had to say.

As the noble Lord, Lord Simey, has said, the issues raised have been vast. We have had, on the one hand, for homeless discharged offenders hostels as a form of supplement to prison, but we have ranged, as indeed did the Report, a good deal wider than those terms, and have included hostels as an alternative to prison. I am quite ready to agree with what seemed to be in the mind of many noble Lords—the noble Marquess, Lord Hertford, for example; the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, and many other noble Lords—that in one sense a hostel, even if you look upon it as a purely after-care institution, is an alternative for prison, because it prevents a man going to prison the next time; so one cannot, perhaps, draw a definite line between those two things. But we have ranged a good deal outside after-care, and even outside offenders, because we have been concerned with alcoholics, whether offenders or non-offenders. We have also become involved (and I may become involved myself) in the whole fundamental question of the relationship between national, local and voluntary initiatives.

I will not weary the House with too many thoughts of my own about the future of punishment, but I would say only this—and here, perhaps, the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, who is in these latter days more conservative (shall I say?) than I am in most of these matters, would agree—that when we are talking about punishment (and we must expect some measure of punishment to the offender in any future we can foresee) the deterrent factor cannot be excluded; and if one is looking to the whole future of punishment, one must ask oneself what form the deterrents, or, if you like, the sanctions, will take when we move away from prison on the present scale and in the direction of the kind of freer existence that most of us have in mind. I am not going to involve the House in my own thoughts on this point except to say that in my eyes the future of punishment for the delinquent lies largely in the direction of compulsory work under supervision for the community, at any rate in the earlier stage, and then passing to the state where he is allowed to work for himself, still under supervision; and, finally, where he lives freely and where a hostel may be available. But in all those stages there is no doubt one will need to have different kinds of hostels; and if the hostel is going to supplant prison in the end, one will need many different types in addition to those we have been discussing this afternoon. Those are my own thoughts on the rather distant future.

Coming to the Report which, as Lady Reading intends and as we all intend, could be implemented immediately, I would recognise that if her proposals were carried out as she wishes and as her colleagues wish and as we all wish, here would be a beginning of an alternative to prison for many offenders. I need not dwell on that subject for very long, because those ideas are embodied in the Criminal Justice Bill. When we have that Bill in this House we shall be able to discuss those particular things. In all the debates on prisoners that we have had in this House, going back to the middle 1950s, many of us—I think the noble Viscount, Lord Templewood, was the first in the early debates to do so—laid stress on the fact that many people are in prison who should not be. This has always been common ground. Starting from that, we can all agree that there is great scope in those cases for hostels as an alternative.

The proposals of the Report are very much in harmony with the Government's preference for treating offenders, so far as possible, in freedom rather than by imprisonment. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has written to me and asked me to stress this point most emphatically. He wrote: We are committed"— meaning the Government, the Home Office and all of us in the Administration— to a policy of treatment in freedom for all so-called offenders for whom prison is not the answer. That is the point he asked me to stress particularly; and this has been generally accepted in the debate. I will not therefore continue along that line because I am sure we shall be coming back to it in later debates.

My Lords, I will turn to after-care in the ordinary sense. One of the threads running through the whole Report that appeals to me most strongly, as it does to almost everybody who has spoken, is the recognition that each offender is an independent personality which must be respected. That runs through the whole Report. In some ways it makes the Report rather stiffer reading, or—should I say?—it calls for more mental effort on the part of the reader than if one or two categories had been defined and it had then told us how they were to be dealt with. But it is analysed with immense care, ingenuity and human knowledge and we are given all the different alternatives. I have no doubt that Lady Reading will tell us that even that list of alternatives is much shorter than the actual list which will be operated when hostels begin to be set up.

This is clearly a tremendous step forward, something which, I am bound to say, I had not fully realised myself, though, as your Lordship know, I have a good deal of connection with the aftercare of prisoners, as has the noble Marquess, Lord Hertford, and many others here. Most of us, even when we try to help prisoners, are inclined to consider offenders in groups, in large groups, and to think of after-care as a medicine, like cough-mixture. I would not say we always think like that, but certainly we are tempted to do so. The truth is, as we know—and the Report says this again and again—that every human being is a potentially infinite personality possessed of an immortal soul. In spite of the erosion of prison, which seems often, on the face of it, to turn people into stereotypes, the immortal soul of man remains intact. I am sure that this will be one of the most lasting contributions that arises from the Report.

The Report basically recognises what the prime role of the Probation Service is—and we must all be very happy and proud to think that the Probation Service has chosen one of our number once again as President. We who have been in the House for some years, and particularly those who have taken part in this kind of debate, think of the late Earl, Lord Feversham, with special admiration and I can see that the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, is continuing in the Feversham tradition. That is absolutely right; the priority must be given to the Probation Service. They are the trained professionals who provide the foundation on which the restcan build. But, just as emphatically, stress is laid on the need for voluntary action. The Working Party recognise the potential value of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders—known to many of us as NACRO. It was formed last year and recently a high-grade director, as called for in paragraph 80 of the Report, was appointed.

I am glad to be able to tell the House that the Government have agreed to contribute towards the running costs of NACRO and that whatever words, goodwill and sympathetic energy can do will be done by the Government, who place themselves firmly behind NACRO while not wishing to invade its province as a voluntary body. Quite a few of us who have known him a long time will be very pleased to think that the chairman is Mr. Jack Donaldson, a man of distinguished talents. When he was a young man at Cambridge a book called Five Types of Ethical Theory was dedicated to him. I think the time will come when five types of hostel will be called after him; and this, I am sure, he will regard as an equal compliment.

The Report calls for better conditions for hostel wardens and for training facilities. The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders has appointed a sub-committee to deal with staffing problems, and their report is awaited with interest. I, too, await it with interest and with a certain nervousness. There is no doubt that the question of staffing these hostels—and if one knows of them or goes to them one realises this—takes precedence over everything. I visited four of them the other day and in one case the warden and his wife had resigned; in another case two of the essential staff had just resigned and in another a change was also likely. That was out of four that I visited. I do not say that that was the average. I was taken under official auspices and I think there was no desire an anybody's part to choose the unhappy cases.

I hope the House will not be shocked if I give one small illustration of the problems confronting a warden and his wife in some of the hostels—although not, perhaps, the newest. The warden and his wife shared the bathroom and lavatory facilities with the "family", and the warden's wife—in one case this lady was leaving for this reason among others—had to make use of the same lavatory. In the morning she would find it, putting it mildly, in an unpleasant condition. That is the kind of thing that is sometimes involved in what is called "family life". It is no negligible task to get a warden and his wife who are ready to put up with this existence, who must be people of the highest quality and sensitivity to human beings and human relationships, but who yet must be not too sensitive to stomach this kind of situation. I think when we are talking about staff as though it were a statistical problem, we must realise what is actually involved in getting and keeping them.

I am a little disappointed, if I may say so with great respect, that the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, was so discouraging about the supply of probation officers for this purpose. He said that there might be one or two available. I would hope—even after his remarks, I hope—that they would see in this a challenge. It really is difficult and almost impossible to get enough wardens; and, after all, the whole thing is still on a very small scale. When it really gets going, it will be a good deal harder.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl, but is not the difficulty that you cannot get enough probation officers for probation work? If you are going to make them wardens as well, is the situation not going to be rather impossible?


Well, my Lords, the numbers we talked about are very small. If we have between 2,000 and 3,000 probation officers, and if we can get even 20 or 30 wardens temporarily, I think it would be a worthwhile operation. I am only putting that to the noble Lord. I am aware of this objection, but in their more heroic moments, of which I think there are many, the members of the Probation Service might recognise that this could be one of their biggest challenges in the next years.

My Lords, I come to the question of obtaining suitable premises, to which the noble Lady and her Committee gave such tremendous thought. We know how difficult that is. As she herself said, everyone says, "Wonderful! Let us have a hostel. Rather! Yes, and where are you going to put it?" But when you tell them, "It is coming next door, "a very nasty tone creeps in; although again, one finds from experience that when people get use to it, human nature works out much better than appeared likely to be the case at the beginning. The Report suggests the formation of a housing association, and in advance of the general review of the Report, which is not yet completed, the Government have accepted the proposal of a housing association; and the housing association is accordingly in the process of formation. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has been good enough to agree that one of his administrators with considerable experience in this field shall act as secretary of the association, at least for the time being, and certainly on behalf of the Government I take the opportunity to thank the most reverend Primate.

The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, who, along with many other noble Lords, apologised to me for having to leave early, suggested that local authorities should play a very large part in the provision of housing for the purposes of these hostels. I am not authorised to say anything about that tonight on behalf of the Government. It is a proposal which has not been put to the Government, at any rate in that form. I can only say that it will be most carefully studied, but I am not opening any doors or closing them at this point. Looking at it a little more broadly, before I leave this co-operation between the official or professional service, on the one hand, and the volunteers, on the other, I should like to suggest a special reason why voluntary action is more than ever necessary in this kind of social work. There are many reasons for voluntary action in almost every branch of social work. Voluntary action may well be more flexible, more audacious, more sensitive in various ways. I do not say that it is, but it may be; and it can often go ahead where State action has to follow behind more laboriously.

Here there seems to me to be a special reason—a reason which has been brought out or (shall we say?) implied in all the speeches, from those of the noble Lord, Lord Simey, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, onwards. We all seem to agree that what is so difficult in this matter of after-care is to get the community interested and sympathetic. This is a vital point. In other words, when we are talking of voluntary action, it is not just a question of getting a small group of people interested; it is a question of getting a whole neighbourhood interested. That cannot be done if you rely on the centre alone, so that here—I do not say it applies only in this case, but it applies more glaringly in this case than in any other that I know—unless you do rely in a large measure on voluntary action, the whole operation will be doomed from the beginning. I think that this is the special, overwhelming reason why voluntary action is all-important in the case of after-care.

Regarding the administrative side, the House will appreciate that the Government are going to study this debate carefully, and they certainly have not sent me here with some very detailed administrative blueprint to impart to your Lordships to-night. But I should just say this. We all agree that it will be necessary to develop a network of regional groups of all interested services, to assist local need, to advise newcomers and to coordinate work among offenders generally. NACRO recognises this and is considering ways and means. The Conference of Principal Probation Officers and the Central Council of Probation Committees have accepted that such groups should be created. They are in consultation with the Home Office, and the Home Office has a strong hope, therefore, that before long it will be possible to establish regional groups representing the voluntary movement, probation committees, the Probation Service and the Prison Service. It may be said that local authorities ought to be represented on these groups also. Here, again, I can only lay that view before the Home Secretary; I cannot commit him at the moment.

I am sure we all feel that co-operation between the official world and the voluntary world is the clue to success, and in its absence there would be failure. On that point, I am altogether sanguine. Take individuals—take men like Mr. Frank Dawtry, now retiring after so many noble years of service; take someone like Merfyn Turner, the pioneer of the halfway houses, or, in an area which I know best, Mr. Douglas Gibson and Mr. Jack Filmer. Take people from the official side or the voluntary side, and when you talk to them you do not know to which side they belong. When they have been working in this field as long as some of these people have, that particular issue does not arise. But it is quite vital that harmony should be achieved, and I am sure that it will be.

There are one or two particular points which I should attend to before I draw to anything like a conclusion. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, stressed the need for priorities. I am sure that is right, up to a point, but I do not think that I agree with him altogether—I do not think I am with him altogether in spirit—because I do not feel that we are in the slightest danger of spending too much money on after-care. I should be lying if I gave the impression that I thought there was any danger of Britain's spending more money on after-care in the next five years than was desirable in the interests of the national economy. If I thought that I would say so, but I think that the danger in this case is that it is far more likely that we shall spend too little, as we have done for many years past.


My Lords, evidently I did not make myself clear. I was not suggesting that too much money was likely to be spent. I was suggesting that if we were able to squeeze out a bit more money, it should be spent more or less on one thing at a time and that we should not try to spread it too thinly. I was not suggesting that there was too much money for after-care.


My Lords, I still think that what I said is my position, as compared with that of the noble Lord. I think we want to encourage people who are going to try to get something going, and not always to be asking whether X's proposal ought to wait for Y's which has a higher priority. I do not think that everything depends on priorities and planning, if that involves priorities, but I do not want to carry the difference too far. It is just worth noticing, for the benefit of those who have sat throughout this debate, that different speakers have allotted different priorities. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, joins with his noble colleague Lord Brooke of Cumnor in allotting a very high priority to curable offenders, people who it is thought have a good prospect. On the other hand, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter, speaking for Christianity more authoritatively than any of us (I think that he made what we shall all agree was a remarkable speech) put the priority the other way round. He felt that the more distressing the case and, in a sense, therefore, the less likely the cure, the more the Christian heart went out to it: so that at once you do get a considerable difference of emphasis. That does not prove that you should not have priorities, but I would suggest that differences are possible. His priority was—


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl again, but his priority was for probation hostels.


I was only pointing out the difference on this subject. I was dealing with hostels. The noble Lord was not following me as closely as usual. I was talking about the hostels.


The noble Earl was talking about probation hostels.


My Lords, the noble Lord said that just now. I very nearly said, "I am not deaf," but I thought that might be regarded as a sign of increasing testiness. I was dealing with hostels. There was a difference about how priorities should fall. The noble Lord and his friends took one line, and the right reverend Prelate another. Others, like the noble Lady, Lady Sempill, pleaded for priority for youth, others for multi-purpose hostels. If I may be allowed to have a personal priority—though it might be dangerous—I agree with those who want to lay stress on hostels for youth. Here the noble Marchioness has done exceptional work in the shape of hostels for borstal boys.

On the question of probation officers, this is rather a case of Box and Cox. Frequently, when on that side of the House, I said that probation officers were grossly underpaid, and from this side we had that argument refuted. Now the roles are reversed. Without making a Party point, I suggest to the noble Lord that there were 13 years in which they grossly underpaid people) whom they could have paid a little more generously. That is a fairly obvious thing to say, but I am afraid it is something that must be said. When noble Lords opposite had the responsibility, they did not greatly increase the pay. That is a matter of record. The question arises whether pay should be increased now. Everybody would like to see the pay of probation officers, of nurses, of child care officers and of many devoted public servants increased.

I thanked the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell, for taking part in this debate, and said how proud we were of his position. I was rather sorry that he spoke roughly and said that the way in which the standstill had been applied to the Probation Service was clear evidence that the Government attached no importance to the morale of the Service. I thought that that was rather an unworthy comment on the Government. The noble Lord knows perfectly well that the rise for some probation officers was caught by the standstill, along with rises for many other members of the community. Vast numbers of people in the country were caught in the same way. To argue that the Government had small feeling for the Probation Service because they shared the fate of so many others is very superficial.


My Lords, there is no doubt that the way it was being handled and allowed to drift along in a series of abortive meettings over six months, when the probation officers fondly thought that something was going to come through and nothing ever came, although it might have been inevitable, certainly has had a bad effect on the morale of the service.


My, Lords, I am sorry to say it, but I do not think that the noble Lord's comment helps morale. He must know that the Government, including Members of this House, are just as keen on the Probation Service as he is; and to imply that the Government have no interest in the morale of the Service is not what I should have expected of him. The Probation Service has not been singled out for this standstill. In fact, the Service as a whole received an increase of 11.8 per cent. in 1966, but a certain class was caught by the squeeze. I only hope that, on reflection, the noble Lord will feel that his language was somewhat unfair.

I hope that I did not interrupt him imprudently on the question of whether or not there is a shortage of probation officers. I was only trying to clarify a point in what he and the noble Lord, Lord Simey, said. I am sure that there is no real difference between any of us here. We are some way off the moment when we have to achieve or fail to achieve the 1970 target, so we cannot be said to be short of that, although I concede that we are not going so fast as we should be going if we are to hit it. At the moment progress is not fast enough. What I have just conceded is true, though in fact the number of established probation officers rose by about 160 during 1966 and this is the highest single rise we have ever recorded. So I do not want to give too depressing a picture. If anyone wonders whether I am keen on increasing the number of probation officers, he may look at the speeches I have made in your Lordships' House. I do not wish to alter a word of what I have said on the rate of progress towards our proper target.

Another point made by the noble Lord, Lord Simey, and also by the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, who has had to leave us, was about the insufficient use made by ex-prisoners of the facilities offered by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. I am advised that if the noble Lord is anxious that after-care officers should be encouraged to recommend ex-prisoners to the Commission for care and re-training in hostels (though it is felt by the authorities that rehabilitation or resettlement would be a better word), this can be done. The noble Lord's suggestion has not yet been formally put to the Supplementary Benefits Commission, but he may like to know that a number of ex-prisoners are already accommodated at reception centres. The Commission would be happy to do more in that direction if desired. I hope that I have given the noble Lord some satisfaction.


My Lords, I take it that this is desired and that the Supplementary Benefits Commission will be told that it is desired now.


My Lords, I can only tell the noble Lord what I obtained to-day as an official guide for my remarks, and I hope therefore that we can all draw the encouragement these words seem to permit to us.

A good deal was said about alcoholics, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, who has done almost unique work in this field. He has had to leave, and I will not keep the House with details which perhaps can be obtained elsewhere. But I should like to put one or two things. Since October, 1965, suitable offenders in Pentonville and Wandsworth, convicted of offences involving drunkenness in public places, have been sent to Spring Hill Open Prison in Buckinghamshire, and good progress seems to have been made. A study has been made by the staff of Grendon Psychiatric Prison of a sample of these prisoners, and this has shown that very few of them could be cured by medical treatment, and that the long-term solution will need to be found outside the prison system by the provision of some such form of supportive environment. In the meantime, in the absence of such a solution the Spring Hill method seems to be the best means available of dealing with offenders sent to prison for drunkenness, and consideration is being given to extending the scheme to other parts of the country.

What perhaps may be more acceptable to the House is the question of hostels for alcoholics of the extreme sort, like that started on the initiation of the noble Marchioness, colloquially known as the "skid-row" type, which has been opened in South London. I have attended it myself—I do not mean for treatment, but as a visitor—and formed a high impression of the work being done. I know that the noble Marchioness has many similar ideas.

I was going to say something about psychopaths, but my noble friend Lord Taylor, who has made a great study of this, kindly answered the question of the noble Lord, Lord Simey. My noble friend put one point to me in return, asking whether I could hold out hope of an Interdepartmental Committee. That is one of the easiest things to promise, I suppose, but I cannot promise it firmly to-night. It sounds an excellent idea to me, and I will commend it to my colleagues, with the blessings of my noble friend Lord Taylor, of the noble Lord, Lord Simey, and, I hope, of your Lordships' House.

Before I close, let me just say one or two general words. It certainly was a great step forward when the late Government called for a Report on the whole future of after-care from their Advisory Council, and a still greater one when the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, the then Home Secretary, accepted that Report. That was an historic moment. From then on we as a nation were committed for the first time to provide a minimum service for all those who had been in prison; and this was to be a new service, in addition to the facilities already available through the Welfare State. We accepted as a nation at that time, it seems to me, that ex-prisoners are especially handicapped and require special help. That I am sure we shall never go back on.

To-day we have been concentrating on the role that can be played by voluntary effort to provide what Sir William Beveridge in the old days used to call the "ceiling", where the State could only provide the floor. Lady Reading's Committee records surprise and concern at the extreme paucity of the accommodation; and I agree with her entirely. I think it is a shocking reflection on the values of our country that the situation has lasted for so long. The figures today are slightly higher than those given in the Report, because time has moved on a little. But still there are only 350 places provided in 31 hostels. I think that all the words she uses about "piffling inadequacy" should be echoed by me.

I wonder how the position will look five years from now? I think all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate are dedicated to a complete transformation of this picture. But none of us, I hope, is likely to underestimate the difficulty of bringing that transformation about. To return to my earlier retort to the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, I do not think that this can be a question of money. The national economy might be wrecked if we began paying out greatly increased sums on education, health or pensions, but this country, even with its sometimes vulnerable balance of payments, will not be ruined or distorted by an attempt to do the decent thing in after-care. We could do this financially and economically.

What perhaps has not been said, and must be said before the debate closes, is that here we are attempting a task which is complex, delicate and novel. What we are all demanding is a nation-wide voluntary service, built admittedly on certain rather slender voluntary foundations; but it is a demand that we should go far beyond anything that has been seen hitherto. The Government are absolutely committed to encourage the establishment of such a voluntary service. I believe that any other Government in this country would do the same. But the Government cannot establish this service. To do so would destroy the whole voluntary idea. I said something earlier about the partnership between the State and voluntary bodies, and the kind of structure that it may involve. We can only press on, believing as we do that there is an answer to be found here. There is the good will available, and I can only hope that we do not consider that we are doing so extraordinarily well at the moment that we are entitled to sit back and be a little complacent. I much prefer the approach of the noble Marchioness. The record up to now is bad: there is no reason why we should not make it magnificent in the future. We are all much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Simey, for initiating the debate.

7.54 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not keep your Lordships for more than a minute or two, for obvious reasons, one being that our evening meal is not likely to be had if I make a long speech. I should like to start right from the beginning again and traverse the whole ground once more, but it seems to me that the only thing that remains in the line of possibilities before me is not to discuss this once more this evening, which would no doubt end in bloodshed, but to go off and write a book on the State and voluntary action. The suppositions as to what is the State and what is the voluntary body seem to me to be terribly wrongheaded as expressed in this Chamber this afternoon, and short of writing a book about it I cannot see that I can do anything; and whether I am going to write a book remains to be seen.

This has been an interesting debate. Noble Lords who have taken part in ft have shown much erudition on the subject and it seemed to me that for the most part it was running very well. But about three-quarters of the way through it took a pessimistic turn. I said that I was pessimistic at the beginning, but that I was pessimistic in such a way that it invited denying. I hoped that the noble Earl, in replying to me at the end of the debate, would give me certain assurances for which I asked. But instead of giving assurances, the noble Earl gave me a number of scraps of nourishment. I am obliged to him for giving me those scraps of nourishment, and they will carry me until tonight. I should have liked one or two more forthright assurances to be given; but that is for the future, and not for the present.

The debate was pessimistic, because it ended on the note that recruitment is not very good; it is much lower than we want it to be. We have 350 places in the hostels; we should like more, but it is difficult, and we are not going to get these places in the immediate future. It remains for us, the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, myself and our associates or accomplices, whichever you like to call us, to try to find some ways and means, as the years and months go by, of taking action in this field. I am sure that the noble Lady has every intention of aiding and abetting me in doing this, and we will now set about doing it.

The only other thing I have to say is this. We had a maiden speech in the debate. Any debate in which there is a maiden speech must be a sensible debate, otherwise a maiden speech would not be made in it. Therefore, I am obliged to the noble Lady, Lady Sempill, for having spoken to-day, and I only hope that we shall hear more from her in the future. If she makes such remarks about the attitude of older people towards the goings on of the young, to which we all listened carefully, I am sure that her Party Leader will see to it that she makes many more remarks of that kind, and perhaps a good deal more pointedly as time goes on, and we shall again listen to her with great interest.

My Lords, I have nothing further to say. I shall be speaking on the subject again in the future. It now only remains for me to ask for leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.