HL Deb 05 March 1969 vol 300 cc171-270

3.52 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, if one may now return to the perhaps more pedestrian matters that we have been discussing in the Motion put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, I should like to start by saying that I have listened with interest and attention, as all your Lordships evidently have, to the various matters that have been raised by the noble Lords, Lord Donaldson and Lord Sandford. If I do not follow them in the different points of detail to which they have referred, it is not through any lack of sympathy for the objectives that they have in mind, or, even more so, from any lack of sympathy for the prisoners and discharged prisoners about whom they are concerned.

I was a little regretful that in opening this debate the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said that he did not think we were concerned on this occasion with the general principles underlying the penal and criminal law system in this country. I find it difficult to discuss this question of penal reform, and, indeed, even the limited question of what progress has been made in the field of penal reform since the passing of the Criminal Justice Act 1967, without making some reference to the underlying principles behind the whole administrative structure of the criminal law and penal system in this country. I cannot claim to speak with any special authority—I certainly cannot claim to speak with the authority which is vested in some of your Lordships—upon this matter but I have had a particular experience in this field. I am by occupation a solicitor, and throughout most of my professional life I have been engaged in court work, for the most part in the criminal courts. In recent years—certainly over the last ten or fifteen years—I have been engaged almost exclusively on behalf of defendants and alleged offenders. This experience seems to me to have one peculiar and almost unique advantage; but it has also a disadvantage.

The advantage is that I do not know of anybody who is concerned in the administration of the criminal law and with the problems of crime who meets the offender or the alleged offender on more intimate and confidential terms than does the solicitor who is instructed for his defence. It is almost a unique relationship. His relationship is far closer, for example, than the relationship between the alleged offender and counsel who represent him. It has that advantage. And also, very often, the relationship is maintained, albeit sporadically, over a period of time. I may say that some of my closest friends are the recidivists and persistent offenders who come back to me year after year after spending some time in detention. If a solicitor in that unique position is not able to understand something about the springs of crime and the springs of human conduct, about what gets people into trouble, then he must be impercipient indeed.

But the position has a disadvantage also, and it is one which I think is suffered by almost all people who are engaged in the work of criminal law—judges, barristers, magistrates, prison officers, policemen; namely, that our very familiarity with the criminal process blunts our minds to what we are doing. It is almost inevitable that those of us who are engaged in criminal work from day to day as a matter of ordinary regular routine should accept that the penal system which we have in this country is part of the nature of things, it is something preordained, and if it is possibly susceptible of minor improvement, nevertheless it is about the best that we can do. To those of us who are too close to the thing, and to whom the work of the criminal law is a matter of everyday routine, it is all too easy for us to accept that the system under which we work is inevitable, inescapable and really incapable of any substantial improvement.

When one reads, for example, the Report of the Prison Department on the workings of the prison system; when one attempts to digest the great library of literature which there is upon the prison system in this and other countries; when one sits, as I have done many times, at assizes, for example, and listens to a judge sentencing offenders to terms of imprisonment, sitting there in all the panoply and solemnity of the law; when it is part of one's everyday life to see people sent to prison—it is almost beyond nature, when one is so much absorbed in a system as that, to think it possible that the whole of this great apparatus and structure of imprisonment and punishment may be misconceived. It is almost beyond human scepticism, if that has been one's experience, not to believe that this great structure of imprisonment and punishment is based upon proved scientific principles and is the distilled wisdom of criminologists, penologists and sociologists over the years. My belief is that it is nothing of the kind. The great structure represented by the prison system was not constructed by conscious deliberate decision, by a considered act of social policy. It has become inbuilt into our social system only because over the years we could think of nothing else.

It seems incontrovertible to me that imprisonment, as the chief sanction of the criminal law, is a modern development. Years ago we did not deal with offenders by sending them to prison. Prisons were places where offenders were detained until they could be dealt with in other ways. The business of the judges at assizes was not to fill the prisons but to clear them. Offenders were eliminated, either by execution or transportation, maiming or torture. Over the years, the moral sense of the community revolted against punishments of that sort and in the end we were left with nothing but imprisonment.

Now, because we have had this sanction of imprisonment as the basis of the administration of criminal law for a century or more, the belief in the punishment of imprisonment as having a validity of its own has become embedded in the public mind and in the procedures of our criminal law. The result is that when a supposed eccentric challenges the whole principle on which our criminal legal system has been established, he is usually met with astonished indignation. We had the case the other clay of the unfortunate Chief Constable of Durham, who was so foolhardy as to ask whether there was not some alternative to the process by which some people are condemned to twenty or thirty years in prison and if it might not be a more humane alternative to eliminate such people from society altogether. I do not agree for one moment with Mr. Muir's alternative, but I agree with him that a society which is prepared to sentence people to thirty years' imprisonment is committing a moral outrage and, much more important, is making a declaration of its intellectual bankruptcy in the field of penology. Mr. Muir's offence was to drag into the light of day the skeleton in the public cupboard and to invite the public to think about where we have arrived, when we can find no other alternative in dealing with dangerous criminals to sentencing them to punishments of that kind.

I have long been persuaded that the penal system in this country, based on imprisonment, is without any intellectual or scientific basis and I think that this can readily be demonstrated. One only has to ask the simple question: what is the object of the punishment of imprisonment? What is society trying to do? Your Lordships will be familiar with the various justifications advanced for the use of imprisonment. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, referred to them briefly at the beginning of the debate. One theory says that the object of imprisonment is retribution, that the offender should get what he deserves. He owes a debt to society and the debt must be paid in the coinage of suffering. Another theory says that the object of imprisonment is to protect the public that it is a deterrent, either to deter the individual offender so that he will not commit an offence again, or to deter the generality of the public from committing offences. Then there is the theory that the object of imprisonment should be reformative, to rehabilitate the offender so that he is fit to come back into society.

At the top of all these there is the view, which was expressed most succinctly and effectively by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, in the evidence which he gave to the Gowers Committee on Capital Punishment, when he said this: This punishment for grave crimes should adequately reflect the revulsion felt by the majority of citizens for them. It is a mistake to consider the object of punishment as being deterrent or reformative or preventive and nothing else. The ultimate justification of any punishment is not that it is deterrent but that it is the emphatic denunciation by the community of a crime. I do not intend to say anything about the merits and demerits of these various theories in justification of imprisonment. I only want to say that they cannot all be right. They are mutually exclusive, and it seems to follow from that incontrovertibly that the punishment which is imposed on any offender must necessarily depend upon the theory of punishment which happens to be held by the judge who pronounces sentence upon him. If that is so, the law is surely in a state of vast uncertainty.

For example, if the object of imprisonment is to deter, surely the heavier the penalty the better, and the offender who happens to have that heavier penalty imposed upon him can, I suppose, have the satisfaction of thinking that he is making some useful, if involuntary, contribution to the maintenance of public order. If the object is to protect the public, again surely the longer the penalty the better, to keep the offender out of the way for as long as possible, as the law did with the train robbers.

If, on the other hand, the object is retribution, to give the offender what it is thought he deserves—though how in fact one assesses what anybody can deserve I do not know—obviously there will be different results in different circumstances. If, again, the object is reform, once more there will be a different result. Here again, I do not know how any judge who is intent upon the reform of the offender before him can devise a sentence which will be effective to achieve that purpose when the judge has no control over the people who will have to carry out the sentence or indeed over the treatment which the offender will be afforded when he arrives in prison. However, if that is the object, clearly the sentence that will be imposed by the court—


My Lords, may I interrupt? I agree with the noble Lord that punishment is a very difficult subject, but surely he is making it a good deal harder than it need be. He must be aware that all modern criminologists are agreed that punishment is not a simple phenomenon; that there can be more than one element, and one does not have to choose just one or just another.


Of course I accept that, my Lords, and I am not entirely unfamiliar with the various works upon criminology and the consideration of these problems of punishment. But I revert to the point I made just now, that these theories are very often mutually exclusive. One cannot combine together a sentence which is preventive and protects the public with a sentence which is designed to reform the offender; the two are mutually exclusive. The noble Earl shakes his head. I am glad to see that the noble Earl is to speak in the debate and no doubt in a moment he will be good enough to deal with the point.

Finally, if the precepts which were laid down by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, are going to be adopted—that in the case of grave crime the sentence of the court should also reflect the revulsion which the majority of the public feel towards that offence, the repugnance of society towards that offence—what is going to be done then? Is one going to decide, say, that a certain sentence is appropriate for the purpose of deterrence, or a certain sentence is appropriate for the purpose of reform, and then add on a few years to express the revulsion of society towards that particular offence? How indeed, I would ask in passing, is the judge going to assess the degree of repugnance of society towards that particular offence? He cannot hold a Gallup poll and cannot even ask the jury. Here are all these different theories, but I revert to the point that it seems to me they are very often mutually exclusive and that if one sentence is passed a very different result is achieved compared with the result of passing another.

I draw attention to these matters only to emphasise the quagmire of uncertainty upon which the whole of this vast system, this whole edifice, represented by the prisons of this country, has been constructed. And there is this oddity. One can look through the whole of the Statute Law of this country (I shall be corrected if I am wrong about this) and, so far as I know, one will fail to find anywhere any statement of the principles which a court should follow in pronouncing sentence upon an offender.

In recent years we have laid down the very good practice that when new magistrates are appointed they should, before taking on their tasks on the bench, be instructed in the elements of the administration of justice. I understand that very often they are instructed by the clerk of the court, who tells them about the rules of evidence and all the rest. But, whoever gives this instruction to newly appointed magistrates, there is one question to which the adviser can give no answer. That is the most important and most vital question of all. It is the question posed when the magistrate asks: "What am I supposed to be doing? What objects am I supposed to be achieving? What purpose am I supposed to be serving when I decide to send a man to prison? Upon what principle am I supposed to act?" What we do in fact is this. When we put men in prison we salve our consciences by grandiose theories about their treatment. Your Lordships will remember that in the Criminal Justice Act 1948 something is said about what is the purpose of imprisonment. It says this: The purpose of training and treatment of convicted prisoners shall he to establish in them the will to lead a good and useful life on discharge, and to fit them to do so". My Lords, I ask this question: does anybody here, does anybody in the world, believe that that works? Would anybody claim that it works?

If it does work, if the prison system establishes in people the will to lead good and useful lives on discharge and fits them to come back into society, why do we need hostels at the end of prisoners' long-term sentences? Why do we have this system whereby during the last few months of a prisoner's detention he is put into a hostel and given some elements of freedom? Do we not do it because we recognise that after years in prison he is unfit to come out into society and we have to give him a period of "convalescence" from his imprisonment and punishment before he will possibly be fit to come back again into society? If the prison system works and renders people fit to come back into society, why do we need long after-care; why do we need the support of after-care? The justification and the reason for after-care is that the prisoner when he comes out of prison is desperately vulnerable. For years, perhaps, he may not have been able to make any decision of his own. He comes out with a record, perhaps to be received by no one but criminal society, and he is desperately vulnerable. How can it be said that the principles laid down in the Criminal Justice Act 1948 are being carried out when we have to have these schemes for the long-term after-care of the people who come out into society? I do not want to say anything to denigrate in any way all the efforts that have been made, and are being made, by humane and interested people to ameliorate the lot of people who lie in gaol. But it seems to me that so often we are only scratching at the surface of the problem.

My Lords, I conclude with this observation. I have been reading the Report of the Prison Department upon the Administration of Prisons during the year 1967 and trying to work my way through this mountain of statistics. One reads this rather pedestrian and solemn language, but every now and then a shaft of light is thrown upon the reality of what our prisons are. One of the sentences which caught my attention was this: An important innovation at Albany"— that is of course one of the newest prisons— was the installation of electronic locking and unlocking of cells in one wing which enables prisoners to make use of the sanitary facilities on the landings at night and thus obviates the need for slopping out". For years past, humane people in the Home Office Prison Service have been engaged in trying to mitigate the conditions of imprisonment. It is an appalling commentary that in 1967 a procedure whereby a man may go out of his cell at night in order to perform a natural function should be a matter of experiment in one wing of one of the prisons in this country.

I do not know how many of us will still be here in 1979, but we may then have another debate in which a noble Lord will get up and ask whether the Government will report upon the progress of penal reform in this country. How far shall we then have gone under our present system? Will the Minister at that time be able to report that we then have working several experiments on the lines of the Albany one? Will he be able to tell us in ten years' time that there has been any substantial alteration in the whole system? My plea is that it is not sufficient, however anxious we may be to mitigate this system, simply to ameliorate the prison system. What we ought to be doing—and I hope we shall be doing it—so that there is some possibility of the system being radically reformed, at any rate, before the turn of the century, is to look at the problem of crime and punishment in depth. With all the great psychological advantages, and with the knowledge which we now have about the strength of the problem, our investigations into it ought to be far deeper and fuller than they have been.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, I agree with several of the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and with one in particular. We have this vast structure inbuilt into our social system because we could think of nothing else. It was not only because of that, of course; it was also because of inertia, of apathy, of man's inhumanity to man. So not only are we now saddled with this vast structure inbuilt into our society; there is also a condition of mind inbuilt into the great majority of our population, and one cannot move in Parliament without public opinion. In a good many ways we move somewhat ahead of public opinion, but there is also the question of finance. I feel quite sure that my noble friend Lord Longford would like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Foot, in a debate of this kind at some other time. But to-day I want to deal with the Motion moved by my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and to indicate that, despite the impossibility—as Alexander Paterson put it—of training a man for freedom in conditions of captivity, we are doing it, and that in the process we are rather more than scratching at the outside.

We are greatly indebted to my noble friend Lord Donaldson, for giving us an opportunity to debate this vitally important subject, and also for opening it with a wide-ranging speech which gives an opportunity for noble Lords to pursue so many topics. I did not know that we were going to have the basic philosophy brought into the debate. I counted 50 different points which my noble friend raised. I shall answer as many as possible although, to avoid speaking for what would be a quite unconscionable time, I shall have to leave some of them to my noble friend Lady Serota when she winds up.

Although penal reform and after-care are two halves of the same whole, I propose to deal with them separately. But, first, I am impelled to deal with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, about police recruitment, and the charge that, when at the end of 1967 we were well poised for a real break-through in the war against crime, we put all hopeful trends in jeopardy by the tragic blunder of checking the growth of the police, and that as a result the level of indictable crime has started to rise again.

I much regret that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, for whom I have the highest regard, should have descended to the level of Mr. Heath and his Party in this matter. Of course, I agree with him that the police are the keystone of the system, and that every action taken by the present Home Secretary and his predecessor shows an awareness of that fact. We are spending now a great deal more on the police services than any Government have ever spent before. This year the figure is £250 million—easily a record. There was never a time when the police were so well-equipped and efficient as they are to-day, and never a time when they stood higher in public esteem.

The police strength at the end of March last year was 90,782; by March of next year it will be 94,000. That is almost a 50 per cent. increase in 14 years. And it is not only the men in blue. The numbers of civilian aides and traffic wardens have increased out of knowledge. So has their equipment, all of it supplied under this Government. There are 15,000 police cars in service and, owing to the unit beat system, Panda cars are a familiar sight to 80 per cent. of our population. Another new factor since this Government came into office is the issue of personal radio sets. There are 20,000 personal radio sets and, because they are used in relays, it means that 60,000 officers are equipped with radio when on duty. The police are increasingly assisted by computers and other esoteric electronic marvels.

We have almost completed a major series of amalgamations, and they are working extremely well. No effort, financial, physical or mental, has been spared to ensure that our police force more than maintains its reputation as the finest in the world. Only last Friday I was on official duty in Birmingham, at a gathering which comprised all the local authorities and all the police forces of the Midland region. A number of chief constables who were present are in charge of some of the largest forces in Britain. One of them told me that his force was 19 per cent. below establishment, and another told me that his force was 22 per cent. below. But they stressed very much that every one of their men was equipped as I have described, and that that made an enormous difference to their potential and efficiency. So let us look at this matter as a whole.

Of course, the increase in crime is a matter of concern to the Government. It is a matter of concern to every responsible individual throughout the country. But let us look at the figures for indictable crimes in England and Wales and, at the same time, at the police strengths for the same years. It has been alleged that, because of what we were supposed to have done last year, crime has risen. Annual figures can be misleading, so let us take the figures for several years together.

Believe it or not, over the five years ended December, 1954, the number of indictable crimes actually dropped by 6 per cent. to 434,327. During the same five-year period, police strengths went up by 6 per cent. The next five years—and I would mention to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that these were very much Tory years—saw the start of the major increase in crime which has persisted until now. In 1959—five years later—crime was 56 per cent. higher than in 1954, while police strengths had increased by 9 per cent.

Over the next five years up to 1964, when Conservative rule ended, crime had increased by a further 58 per cent., while police forces had increased by a further 10 per cent. In the next three years up to 1967, when the Labour Government was in power—and that is the last full year for which I have figures—crime increased by only 13 per cent., while police strengths increased by 11 per cent. In ten years of Conservative rule crime increased by 146 per cent., which works out at more than 14 per cent. a year, whilst in three years of Labour rule it increased by 13 per cent., an average of just over 4 per cent. a year. In ten years of rule of the Party opposite police strengths on average increased by 2 per cent., against an average of the 3⅔ per cent. a year under Labour rule. I have not the full figures for crime in 1968, but in the first nine months of last year the increase was 6.7 per cent., which is less than half the Conservative average and less than for any year from 1956 to 1964. If vie had increased the police forces to the dramatic extent we did in 1967 the beneficial effects of this would have been felt during 1968. I should not wish to make this a political argument, but in view of what has been said, not only in your Lordships' House but outside, let us have the record straight; let us compare like with like, and I have given the record straight. We are not satisfied with it. We shall not begin to be satisfied until we get the crime curve going down again.

I should also like to make it clear that at no time has there been a ban on police recruitment, nor will there be. We need 7,000 recruits during the year ending the 31st of this month, and chief constables are confident we shall get them. During the next financial year we plan a net increase of 2,000 officers and 2,000 civilians which, because of the severe financial limitations on expenditure, must be regarded as a substantial, indeed a major, increase. These are the facts of what we are spending, and I do not think they can be denied or refuted.

But we have to consider not only the total number of crimes but their nature, because both are of importance to the police and to the penal and after-care systems. Every two minutes throughout the year five indictable crimes known to the police are committed in England and I Wales. Thirty-seven out of every 40 of them are thefts or offences against property, most of them minor. Most of these crimes are committed by casual, opportunist thieves who take what they can get when the taking is easy. They have neither the will nor the skill to make any great effort to obtain their gains, and they have neither the will nor the skill to make a real go of life in the community. Professionals and thugs apart, it is these social inadequates, whom the noble Lord, Lord Foot, counts as among his best friends, who comprise the great majority with whom the penal system has to deal, and the fact that the average age of the population of penal institutions is under 30 supports the belief that we are beginning to succeed.

My Lords, the main changes in the penal system made by the 1967 Act—and, after all, this was at least half of what the debate was supposed to be about—are the introduction of parole; the provisions designed to reduce the numbers of short prison sentences; an increase in the powers of the courts to impose fines; modified fine enforcement procedures and new powers to deal with persistent offenders. We shall be privileged later in the debate to hear my noble friend Lord Hunt, Chairman of the Parole Board, on the subject of parole, and therefore there is no need for me to go into detail. I can say, however, that the successful introduction of parole is an achievement of which this Government are very proud. The results, so far, have exceeded even my expectations, and I believe it is likely to prove one of the most beneficially significant penological developments for many years.

A prisoner cannot be considered for parole until he has served a third of his sentence and at least twelve months. This means that the majority of those who have been released were serving sentences of three or more years, and therefore virtually by definition had committed serious crimes. Up to the end of February, just a few days ago, 1,427 men have been recommended for parole, currently about one in five of those technically eligible. Of this large number, more than 1,400, only 36 men have had their licences revoked. That is a tribute alike to the great care with which the Board discharge their responsibilities, particularly for the protection of the public, to the value of the supervision which the men receive and to the efforts which the parolees make to justify the confidence placed in them.

I wish to emphasise as strongly as I can that parole is not a device for reducing the prison population. It was introduced as a notably humane measure which enables men and women to return to society when there are convincing reasons for thinking that they have benefited from training in prison, and further imprisonment can serve no useful purpose. The scheme has been launched with such success that it has gained complete acceptance by the public. This is supremely important, because it is only with the understanding and sympathy of the public at large that the re-making of offenders into citizens can be successfully accomplished. Our grateful thanks are due to the members of the local review committees and to Lord Hunt and the members of his Board, who are dealing with 50 or 60 cases a week; each one a hefty, detailed file involving a lot of preparatory homework.

Parole helps people who have to be sent to prison, but a number of provisions in the Criminal Justice Act are designed to avoid the need for prison, and the most important of these is the suspended sentence. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said it was a matter of regret to him—and I think he said to magistrates and probation officers—that it was not possible at present under the Act to combine a suspended sentence with probation. During the passage of the Bill we felt that the position was that a court must first consider probation as a disposal, and only after it has rejected probation as a disposal does the question of a suspended sentence arise; and by rejecting probation the court has in effect decided that supervision is not necessary. Of course, I know the arguments about this, and they are quite strong ones, and what I have just said is by no means immutable. But I do not think that 18 months after we decided that matter, with just this limited experience, the time is yet ripe for a change.

So far as suspended sentences are concerned, with some exceptions they are now mandatory for a sentence of six months or less on persons who have not previously been to prison or borstal. The courts also have a discretionary power to suspend sentences of up to two years. The suspended sentence is a last chance before prison. It is not in any sense of the word a let-off. Still less, as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice recently made clear, is it a soft option available to the courts. I cannot emphasise too strongly that it is the duty of the court, when an offender has been convicted, to consider first all the possible ways of dealing with him, and only when it has decided that prison is the only possible form of disposal does the question of suspending the sentence arise.

The suspended sentence first became available to the courts in January last year, so we have had little more than a year's experience of it. We must have at least three years before we can reach any firm conclusions. Your Lordships may find it helpful to have a progress report based on the information we have so far available, and I have the figures for the first nine months of 1968. Prison sentences on just over 24,000 offenders were suspended in the nine months. This at the same rate would mean 32,000 in a full year, about 600 a week. There was little fluctuation between the quarterly periods, but the rate for the second and third quarters was a little higher than in the first quarter. Out of the 24,000, sentences on some 4,000 offenders were suspended by assizes and quarter sessions. This means that the higher courts have made good use of the discretionary power to suspend sentences up to two years.

It is instructive to set alongside the figure of 24,000 suspended sentences the use by the courts of the other forms of disposal during the same nine months period. There were 1,627 fewer probation orders compared with the same period in 1967, but in case anyone jumps to the conclusion that these were replaced by suspended sentences I would point out the number of conditional discharges increased by 4,327, a significant increase. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, may recall that during our discussions on the Bill mention was made of the fact that the conditional discharge should be used to a greater degree. The number of sentences of imprisonment (excluding suspended sentences) went down by 7,670.

The really notable figure however is the drop of about 27,000 in the number of fines imposed, and even when this figure is adjusted to allow for the drop in the number of convictions for motoring offences, there was still a decrease of some 22,000 in fines. If the same proportion of fines had been imposed as in 1967, 18,000 more people would have been fined in the first nine months of 1968. The drawing of deductions from figures is a delicate operation, but the conclusion seems inescapable that whereas the practice regarding probation orders has virtually not changed, some courts at least are using the suspended sentence in cases where they would formerly have imposed a fine. This doubt apart, it is obvious that the courts have made encouragingly full use of this new power.

What about the debit side, the failure rate of offenders who have received suspended sentences? I am glad to say that the figures are encouraging. A large proportion of offenders put on probation are in the early stages of a career of crime. This will not always be the case with suspended sentences, and I shall be very well satisfied if the results achieved by suspended sentences are as good as those achieved by probation orders.

In the first nine months of last year, against the 24,000 suspended sentences 2,223 came before the courts again. From these, 2,042 persons were ordered to serve the sentences that had been suspended. Before any noble Lord works that out as an 8 per cent. failure rate—an impossibly low failure rate—I have to point out that during the period of nine months none of them had been at risk for the full period of suspension, and we must expect the percentages to increase during the next two and a half or so years because some of the suspensions were for as long as three years. Nevertheless, the figures we have are encouraging, so far as they go. They lead to the belief that the eventual failure rate may be as low as 25 per cent. or 30 per cent., which would be very good indeed, provided always that the suspended sentences are not imposed instead of any other non-custodial disposal more appropriate to a particular offence. We have made a good start, but it would be rash to draw firm conclusions until we have had three years experience. Meanwhile, the Home Office is making a wide ranging study of these questions, which in due course will enable us to give a fuller picture than I can now.

We also took steps in the 1967 Act calculated to reduce the number of un-convicted persons sent to prison by setting down conditions under which the grant of bail would be mandatory. I am glad to say that the predictions of dire consequences have not been fulfilled. The new arrangements are working well. We have not yet got firm figures, but it appears that during the first six months of last year about 5 per cent. fewer persons were remanded in custody by magistrates' courts as compared with 1967, and also there was a substantial increase in the number of persons remanded on bail. In the 1967 Act we also introduced additional restrictions on committal to prison as a sanction against fine defaulters, and provided the courts with additional powers to get the money, such as attachment of earnings and getting at the defaulter's income and assets—for example, his bank balance. These appear to be working, because in the first nine months of last year some 3,000 fewer fine defaulters were committed to prison than during the corresponding period of 1967.

Then there is the question of imprisonment of civil debtors. Over 3,000 civil debtors were received into prison in 1967 for a maximum period of six weeks. It has been known for some time that the Committee under Mr. Justice Payne on the law and practice relating to the enforcement of judgment debts would recommend the abolition of imprisonment for civil debt. This recommendation has been widely welcomed, because many people feel that a society which relies to such a great extent on the credit system ought, in the last third of the twentieth century, to be able to think of a more humane and efficient sanction that the one pilloried by Dickens a hundred years ago; namely, sending people to prison for debt. The vast majority of debtors received in prison are inadequate, unfortunate, feckless or irresponsible. Indeed, an investigation made by the Committee disclosed that over half of them were imprisoned for non-payment of sums of less than £20; and the hardships caused to such persons and their families, in the Committee's view, far exceed any benefit accruing to creditors. Of course, it is not enough merely to abolish imprisonment for debt: unless satisfactory alternative sanctions are devised neither creditors nor debtors will benefit. The Committee's recommendations to this end are now being examined by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor.

I turn from the Criminal Justice Act to deal with the other half of the Motion; namely, after-care. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Donaldson's most important service to-day, in my view, is in inviting your Lordships to give more attention to the important subject of after-care than it usually gets. The noble Lord, Lord Foot, is not here now, but I should like to tell him that after-care is not another name for welfare activities. It is an integral, final and very difficult part of the continuing penal process. We depend on the scope and efficiency of after-care for gathering in the harvest of all the hard work done in prisons.

My noble friend spoke in somewhat severe terms of the Home Office effort in this field, particularly on the financial side. I am quite sure that we, or our successors ten years hence, will still be asking for more, but I think I am entitled to point out not only that our contribution is rapidly expanding, but in many of the fields which my noble friend referred to it is this Government which either started the services, or was the first Government ever to contribute a penny towards the cost of voluntary efforts. So please do not let us forget that.

Let us consider the facts. The Probation Service—the beginning and end of after-care in the professional sense—is now some 3,000 strong. That is treble the strength of 18 years ago. Indeed, the net increase alone since this Government came to power is not much less than its entire strength as recently as 1950. I think this is a remarkable effort. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, quite properly asked me about the target of 3,500 by 1970. Well, the target has not changed. We consider it every year. But it is not only a question of target, it is getting the people and, as it were, fishing in a sea which is not very large and in which there are not so very many suitable fishes. He will know the very high standard which we have to demand for trainees, but he will also know that in the last three or four years our training facilities have very greatly expanded and also our intake, and I would say that we shall be about a year out in reaching our target. In other words, probably by the end of 1970, and certainly by the beginning of 1971, we shall just about be there. On the other point, about the extra load and the various duties which have been loaded on to them, these are being taken into consideration. But if we are paroling 1,200 men a year in twelve months, that is in relation to a probation service 3,000 strong, and although these are all important duties one nevertheless should apportion them out.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, was kind enough to thank my officers for their promptitude in producing these numerous figures. The figures of the additional tasks being carried out by probation officers—not only the additional services, but the larger number of cases which they are getting—are impressive, but one has to divide them by a larger number of probation officers. If one does that piece of arithmetic, one finds that in many cases the case-load has slightly gone down. The noble Lord shakes his head, but I will point out one specific and important example. He referred to Appendix C, "Total Cases Current". In 1966 the figure was 114.491 and in 1967 it was 120,693. It has gone up by 6,000. But the case-load in 1966 was 44.8, while in 1967 it was 43.9, simply because one has more people to handle the load. This is an important point.

All professional social workers in prison are now probation officers, who provide the essential after-care link with their colleagues in the community. Since January, 1966, the authorised number of prison welfare officer posts has increased from 101 to 185—almost double—and we plan further increases so as to reduce the average case-load to well below the present level of 130 prisoners per officer. The noble Lord asked me about a report on the Probation Service and said that we have not had one since 1965. We have them every three years. A report is in the course of preparation and I hope that we shall soon be producing it, so that these things can be seen in relationship.

The prison welfare officer is a key figure in after-care because, working as a member of the prison team, he prepares men for after-care on release both for statutory or voluntary supervision. Not all those who should accept after-care on a voluntary basis are prepared to do so. It is largely due to the work of prison welfare officers that in 1967 the numbers voluntarily accepting support increased by over 20 per cent., and this momentum was maintained last year. This is one of the most important aspects of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, and if we can get them to accept that this situation starts in prison the prison welfare officer can deal with them.

My noble friend Lord Donaldson alleged that we had signally failed to maintain family ties. This is not so. An ever-increasing volume of information about a prisoner's personal and family circumstances is being fed into prisons and used by welfare officers in maintaining and strengthening family ties. It is a major part of their work. This is being further accentuated by the fact that three-quarters of a student's training is taken up with practical work in the field, including work with families.

There is an ever-growing understanding and co-operation between probation officers working inside and outside prisons, and I assure my noble friend that there has been a transformation in the last two years, since NACRO commissioned a report on this subject and worked on information from 1966–67. I am confident that this improvement will lead to the successful rehabilitation of a much larger proportion of prisoners than we have had success with in the past, with consequent benefit to the offenders, their families and the community at large.

I should like to pay a warm tribute to the public-spirited men and women who give their services under the general guidance of the Probation and After-Care Service, particularly by befriending and assisting prisoners' wives and families while the breadwinner is serving a sentence. These volunteers do a difficult but important job extremely well, and the nation has reason to be grateful. I certainly am grateful.

I cannot understand how my noble friend, with all the information at his disposal, can say that there has been no initiative from my Department to make use of volunteer effort. We have done our utmost to foster it and at present there are more than 1,000 volunteers assisting the probation and after-care services.


My Lords, my criticism was in relation to families, not generally.


My Lords, I am grateful for that correction. But so much of the work done by these volunteers is in connection with the families, as I propose to demonstrate. We have given a great deal of advice to probation committees, about the sources from which volunteers may be obtained and the ways in which they may be used; indeed, my own urging on this subject has been constant.

I do not know whether noble Lords saw the article on this subject in the February 22 issue of Justice of the Peace, written by Mr. Worthy, the Principal Probation Officer of the City of Birmingham, an article that is well worth reading. In Birmingham they have carefully selected 52 volunteers—the number is still growing—to work on after-care, with a team of eight specialist probation officers. They make inquiries about relatives, general welfare, property, employment, accommodation, et cetera, and, in addition, they help prisoners' families. Last year, in addition to this general work, they assisted 90 prisoners' families. A probation officer interviews everyone who is sentenced to a penal establishment before the prisoner leaves the court, and it has been found that 40 per cent. have immediate problems. A special team of 10 W.R.V.S. members assists in this work and provides first-aid and on-going help to the families concerned. There are 10 additional volunteers, mainly housewives, whose sole function is to operate the two prisoners' wives groups meeting in the city, and two more groups will be commencing there shortly. This is just one example, and I could give a great many more.

The extent and efficiency with which volunteers are used depends on the probation committee and the principal probation officer. If any of them do not act in the knowledge that there cannot be a fully effective after-care service without involving the community, they are not fully discharging their responsibilities. In fact, co-operation with voluntary agencies in this field is an essential and major part of Government policy. We could not get on without it. NACRO itself is a voluntary organisation which replaced a statutory one. It was set up at the instigation of this Government and is receiving £10,000 a year of public money. We are fully aware that if an ex-prisoner went to a fully State-supported hostel, he would feel that he was submitting to a further criminal sanction; but if he goes to a voluntary hostel he is exercising a free consumer choice. That is why we have no State after-care hostels. All those that we support are run by volunteers.

I now come to my noble friend's challenge. As I understood him, he promised to raise from voluntary sources £50,000 a year for five years if the Government would do likewise. My noble friend can start work to-night, because we are, "upping the ante" not only by £50,000, but by £80,000 next year. In this current financial year we have spent £110,000, which is treble what we spent three years ago. In the financial year starting on April 1, we shall spend £190,0000. So we shall be spending something like five times what we were spending in 1965. I do not know of any growth industry like that in the country.


My Lords, I cannot let my noble friend get clean away with this one. If we are going to put in all the things that we have all done in the past, I shall "up the ante", too. My challenge is that from to-day I want £50,000 more from him, and he will get £50,000 more from me.


My Lords, when my noble friend is a Minister and realises what happens at the Treasury, he will know that on March 5 he is just a bit too late for anything of that nature. But my noble friend is wriggling, and is being far less than fair. I am not talking about what has been done at this moment. It is fair to say that this year we are spending £110,000 on these things, which are nearly all new, and that next year we are going to spend £190,000 on these and other things. That is an increase of £80,000 and we are matching his £50,000.

I should like to say how we are going to spend this extra money. At present the maximum grant per bed in ordinary hostels is £100 a year, and for therapeutic hostels—for example, for alcoholics—it is £200 a year. We are raising it to £125 and £225 per bed, respectively, and on a larger number of places. The number of places is now 670. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said that we had doubled it. But we started in October, 1965, and we have rather more than trebled it now. We hope to increase the present 670 places to 900 in 12 months' time, including 160 special places—alcoholic and therapeutic places—and we expect these figures to rise to 1,700 with 480 specialist places by 1975. This will still be well below the tentative estimate of 5,000 places made by my noble friend Lady Reading's Working Party, but on average, existing hostels are just under two-thirds occupied and we must feel our way to the number of places ultimately needed. But we have planned this expansion on a steadily rising graph, and the money will be made available for it.

This new, increased rate of grant for hostels means that an approved ordinary hostel with 12 beds can receive up to £1,500 a year—nearly £30 a week—and if it is 66 per cent. occupied this will, in effect, be for eight occupied beds, which is about £3 15s. per week per inmate. It means that the cost will be borne between residents, the Home Office and the voluntary committee, in the ratio of approximately 4:4:2. In therapeutic hostels, with their higher staffing costs—those which get the £225 per bed—my Department will bear an even higher proportion of the total costs.

We are increasing our grants to established voluntary bodies providing aftercare services, such as day clubs, housing associations and so on, from £10,000 to £15,000 a year. This is, of course, in addition to the grants to Bridgehead. For the first time we are making a substantial sum available for the training of hostel staff; and, again, for the first time we are making funds available for certain family services recommended by my noble friend Lady Reading's committee. Indeed, as from next month, I believe we shall have made a beginning with all the recommendations of the Working Party which required finance. All these needs will grow—


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, may I ask this? This is most interesting and very encouraging, but can I get clear whether he is talking here about a provision which is exclusively for discharged prisoners, or is some of this accommo- dation available for offenders convicted for being drunk and, for instance, on a probation order with a condition of residence?


My Lords, of course the special after-care hostels are for offenders who have formerly been convicted, some of them a long time ago —perhaps a year or two ago. But when I talk of special hostels, I mean in the main, though not exclusively, for alcoholics. These are not places in the community to take the place of prison for people who are sent there by the courts. We are not talking here only about hostels. For example, there are the Circle Day Clubs. They are in receipt of grant. The St. Leonard's Housing Association for prisoners' families is also included; and I hope that most of these bodies, at least, will receive a larger grant next year.

I said that all these needs will grow and I assure your Lordships that we are prepared for this. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, will know that although you get only one year confirmed at a time, you also have to plan ahead. We have allowed for these needs to grow, as will the expenditure for them, which is an added reason why we have to be sure, before we make a beginning, that there is a need and that it is one which the Government should satisfy. As my noble friend Lord Donaldson said, when you find out what should be done you do it, "and if you do it you have got to pay for it, and go on paying for it for ever."

This has a direct bearing on our attitude to some experiments. My noble friend himself said that the whole aftercare movement has been a series of unplanned experiments leading to divergent and untested conclusions. We just cannot guarantee to come to the aid of schemes which have started without any reference to us, and which have then got into difficulties. My noble friend rightly paid tribute to the trusts and I join with him in that. He could never have done what he has been able to do, and we could never have done what we have been able to do, without their generous and understanding guidance.

But when it is a case of efforts getting into difficulties, we really would like to know about them. Indeed, it may not be within my noble friend's knowledge, but some time ago we asked NACRO informally to let us have information about organisations known to be in financial difficulties, so that we could consider with the Treasury the possibility of a lifesaving fund. But we have not yet had that information supplied to us. I know my noble friend Lord Donaldson will not mind if I tell him that one supremely useful service which NACRO could perform is to give advice at the outset to voluntary organisations embarking on projects, and to make it clear to such organisations that they would be wise to avail themselves of the help which NACRO can give.

I know that we need the answers to a lot of questions and that research can help. But I also know that if public money is involved we must have a say in setting the questions to be answered. And research is not always costly. Some of our voluntary hostel committees, by planning early enough and keeping records, have come up with valuable information which has not cost a penny. From the information so obtained we learn a lot about our hostellers. For example, we know that 75 per cent. of them have five or more convictions, that two-thirds are unskilled and that 85 per cent. have personality problems.

This is another of the questions which have to be answered, if we are going to do what the noble Lord, Lord Foot, suggested. What do you do with all these people with personality problems who are not insane or mentally ill? It is a tremendous problem, but these hostels are giving enormous help to such people. Records such as this provide a measure of our task and some guide to its solution. I should be very glad if others would follow the example of Kirkstall Lodge at Leeds, who have the most speaking records I have seen.

With regard to further expansion of voluntary effort, I am sure that there is still a large reservoir untapped, and that we should tap it rather than attempt to put the whole burden on the Exchequer. Nevertheless, as our record shows, we believe that a partnership between voluntary bodies and the Department is often best in a number of fields. I am at the disposal of my noble friend Lord Donaldson, or of any other noble Lord, if he wishes to put forward any plans or propositions for the longer term in which he thinks the Government have properly a part to play.

My Lords, I remember my noble friend Lord Longford saying some time ago that after-care could not be said to have failed because it had never been tried. We are beginning to try it now, and it is beginning to succeed. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, asked me to persuade my distinguished colleagues to provide the sums needed to turn this Service from a sketch into a reality. I hope I have proved that it is already more than a sketch; and the Government are determined now and in the years ahead to turn it into a reality which will beneficially revolutionise the penal system.

5.11 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to start what I assure your Lordships is a very short speech by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, for having led us in this Motion to-day. I shall devote my time to just one tiny portion of the whole—to the end of the Motion, which reads: …the lack of adequate long-term support for the after-care of prisoners on discharge… It is this question of support that I should like to raise very strongly. Although the point I am making is a small one, its implication is so vast that I make no apology for concentrating on it. However small the part is, its ultimate aim, its strength, its potential, is so great that it seems astonishing to those who concentrate on it that those who make discursive speeches on prison welfare and prison after-care seem to be unaware of it. In order to put before your Lordships the points I want to make, I should like to concentrate entirely on central support for local endeavour.

As we all know, the majority of men in prison, the vast majority, are not dangerous criminals. They are a cross-section of inadequate, but not dangerous, human beings. They are weak, very weak, in their resistance to those things which are forbidden them by society, and they are very easily tempted. The problem with which those of us who work in aftercare are confronted is a difficult one. It is to find out how to prevent a man who is weak from indulging in a tempting offer of a return to crime. After-care, rehabilitation, whatever you like to call it, is really only one thing. It is, in fact, the applied endeavour to prevent a man returning to crime. And, in the same way as education is a preparation for the individual to live his life, so I feel that aftercare is the same thing on a different level. What I am pleading for is an unusual extension of education. If this whole question of recidivism is to be tackled realistically—and we have talked a lot to-day in a previous discussion about being realistic—this can be done only by the involvement of the community itself on a really large scale. This can be achieved, although many people doubt it, as other things have been achieved, but it can be done only by hard work at local level throughout the country.

I am not unmindful of what has already been done by Her Majesty's Government; and here, like Lord Sandford, I should like to pay a tribute to the zest with which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has tackled these problems over the years, in the face of very difficult pre-occupations and frustrations. I am deeply grateful for many of the things that Her Majesty's Government have done, and in recent times I am especially grateful for their admonishment for more hostels and better conditions, as well as for the financial help which they are giving and for the other steps forward which they have taken. But to me the pace forward is something like a snail's progress in the nuclear age, and I find it very far from encouraging. Money is very important indeed, but it is not the most important thing. The most important single requirement is to have a lead in this field, and this means really caring for the whole problem from start to finish. I know that I am making a big demand, but that is because the problem is a great one. We require someone with giant vision, great purpose and tremendous courage. What I am asking for is not a long-term need: it is the establishment of something which, in turn, will make a shape for itself.

Everyone throughout the whole of the country is anxious about the crime rate. In fact, I think we can say that everyone in the world is worried about the crime rate at the moment. But I seem to sense that everyone is expecting someone else to find the panacea. There is only one solution, if we are honest with ourselves, and that is the strengthening of the will of the individual to resist the temptation, and this strengthening must be conveyed to the individual through a series of different methods.

Work to make communities aware of their responsibility and their potential value in this field has been undertaken in many parts of the country, and in a certain number of places there has been a real recognition that the community itself is responsible for the individual. Not enough communities have taken up the challenge, but they will proliferate as more and more leadership is given. I believe that the realisation which has been shown by some communities (which obviously must be extended) that responsibility for the individual is a definite responsibility of the community, is growing wherever good leadership is being given. But the efforts that have been made have been allowed to lie dormant. The weeks and months have slipped by without the required central support, and enthusiasm is already not only ebbing away but is, in many cases, dying down.

The brunt of the valuable work done in this field is borne by the modest worker, doing extraordinarily splendid work at the local level. He is an unostentatious fellow, doing what he believes can be helpful to the individual he is attempting to serve. It is his kindliness, the escape from aloneness that he provides, his involvement, which will in fact be of value to the ex-prisoner. We have already heard to-day—and we all know it: is true—that ex-prisoners are very wary both of organisations and, indeed, of the bona fides of people they meet. They come out of prison feeling bereft—bereft of friends, bereft of family —and worry accordingly. The ordinary, modest, good-natured worker knows nothing of central policy, of the regional hierarehy, or of the method of communication termed, "circulars". He is just a human being, activated by his own personal sympathy and outlook, and by the belief that he should do what he can for those who need his help within his own community. For him, "They" are the awesome pundits in Whitehall, and are terrifying in the power he believe s they can wield: and the letterhead of a Ministry carries for him an authoritative aura of virtue, without any relation to the person who signs at the end of the letter.

The worker, in his turn, is backed by a locally-formed committee of people interested in the whole problem of the recidivist. The members of such a committee are there to steer him and his co-workers; to supply information as to how, when and where they should act; to iron out the difficulties that arise; to explain conundrums and to solve problems. This committee, in turn, is constituted of persons who are sufficiently keen and personally involved to serve, and together they try to achieve action within the community. They have as their advisers officers from the local probation service, and from the local authority welfare departments. All these people are very busy and have to create the time to give to this job of serving on the committee. Therefore meetings are difficult to attend and, let us face it, easy to avoid. These committees need an easy access to information; they need support in their doubts; they need clarification in regard to nebulous instructions; they need advice of what to do in regard to grants and financial matters; and, above all, they need constant inspiration and renewal of enthusiasm.

My Lords, I feel that I have the right to speak on this particular subject for two reasons. I am a specialist in the field of voluntary work—and without such workers the schemes that I am trying to put forward could not exist—and I have been a member of a very hard-working band of people whose two White Papers were the result of concentrated work. Many of the recommendations in those White Papers, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has already said, have been adopted; but one of the most important of all has not yet been accepted. It was reached only after taking much evidence and investigating problems, possibilities, probabilities and potentials. As a Working Party, we came to the conclusion that the implementation of important recommendations in the field of after-care could be carried through only by appointing a small, active body to help central authorities in carrying through the schemes envisaged. We recommended therefore that for a period of three to five years an inde- pendent group of five people be appointed to help eliminate difficulties as well as to sustain those who wish to work at the local level.

We all realise the difficulties inherent in the great Departments and the problems of their manning, and it was partially for this reason that the Working Party recommended a central, small, well-selected body who could do the work of sorting out troubles, advising those who were worried, trying to get support for those who merited it and doing the odds and ends of backing needed from the centre by those at the local level. We made a mistake in calling such a body a "pentad" for I am afraid that the man to whom the recommendation went was a Latin scholar instead of a Greek one and did not understand what it meant. Whatever it is called, the value of such a body would be in the continuity of advice, knowledge from continuity of the subject and belief in the power of the work. To my mind, this is not the task for a Government Department, where officers are continually moved from one Department to another. It needs experiment, it needs flexible manœuvring, it needs a long-term knowledge of both the subject and the volunteers operating. It is a difficult field of endeavour and one in which continuity of experience is essential. Such worthwhile knowledge of experience is not to be found in files and there is a constant need to be free from official outlook without in any way transgressing accepted principles.

My Lords, I am not asking for anything on the grand scale; I am not asking for an advisory body of pundits for any committee of well-known personalities. I am begging for a small band of special people who in a very short time and without transgressing rules and regulations could supply the support the localities need. I am asking for something small, strong and active, short-lived but potent to counteract the lack of lead which is killing endeavour to-day. In the same way that our great national services have to be organised, so must this side of our national life also be organised. We need the same sort of shape and content: well-planned in order that it may achieve, well-organised to be carried through, and well carried through to its ultimate aim, so that men may be saved the degradation of prison life, so that crime may be reduced to its ultimate minimum and so that, above all, the population of this country can become a happier one.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to concentrate on one major topic and to lead the argument towards one major reform; but before doing so I should like to say how much moved we have all been by the speech of the noble Marchioness, Lady Reading, whose great organising vision never lets her stray from the individual, and how impressed the whole House clearly was by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. I suppose that nobody outside official circles—and not many in them—knows the whole field of prisoner after-care better than Lord Donaldson; and if I have any claim to fame it is that about ten years ago I helped to introduce him to this area. My noble friend Lord Stonham has received so many tributes from me that he may be embarrassed if he receives any more. I believe—I have said it before and I will say it again—that there never has been a Minister who has gone to the Home Office, who had so much knowledge of prisoners and who cared for prisoners, and that certainly there never has been one who kept faith so completely with his own ideals and with those who trusted him.

Having said that, in order to show that I am not entirely in his pocket I may say that I thought his speech was a shade over-cheerful when he dealt with aftercare. He appeased me somewhat by quoting me—which is an easy way of disposing of a critic—and at the end he said that we were only just beginning to do anything real about after-care; so that, in a sense, removes all criticism. But just before that, he seemed to take enormous pride in the figures he rolled out—which struck me as pathetically small: they were just a few thousands. I think that when those figures are looked at in the light of day and compared against, say, Defence or against anything else you like, they are frankly ludicrous; so I would not have shared quite that enthusiasm of the noble Lord for his own figures.

I am glad to think that the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, is to reply to the debate. If I may say so and not cause any trouble, she bids fair to become the "Lady Reading" of the Government—and I cannot say what seems to me a more graceful compliment than that. The noble Lord, Lord Foot, at one point in reply to an intervention of mine, called on me to state my own views on the theory of punishment. I will spare the House that experience as they were expressed in a small book called The Idea of Punishment seven or eight years ago; but if the noble Lord cares to edit and to bring out a new edition of that book he will have my imprimatur with enthusiasm. As regards the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, I felt that he was a little hard on me because he twice quoted me in a slightly critical way for actions or inactions of mine during the last year, apparently under the impression that I was still a member of the Government. Any public man must realise, as he goes on, that most people do not know whether he is in the Government or not. Many people still think I am, and a lot of people never realised that I got into it. But the noble Lord twice referred to alleged failings on my part in 1968 —the noble Lord shakes his head, but he will find that he did so—and I would only assure him that so far as I am concerned I think the Government has got on much better since I left it. The noble Lord shakes his head at that, too, but I think that it has got on much better since I left it and as I am not going to get any credit for its achievements I am not going to accept any blame whatever for its alleged delinquencies.

Now, my Lords, I want to come to my topic. I am sorry that I cannot deal with many other things and, in particular, with the plight of the prisoners in the maximum security wings of some of the prisons. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, would agree with that. Perhaps he is a bit inhibited in his present role; but possibly the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, is going to talk about it. If you visit the top security wing of one of our prisons—Parkhurst, for example—you will find everything that is possible is being done by the men on the spot to humanise the system. I would not say that the conditions were intolerable for anyone who was going to spend a few weeks or months there, but I would describe them as totally inhumane for anyone who is expected to spend several years there. I do not know whether we shall hear any more about that in this debate.

I want to come to the after-care of young people between the ages of 17 and 21. For reasons of time, I must select this particular aspect of the treatment of the young; but, of course, there are many young people who are inside institutions. There are young offenders under 17 and there are many young offenders who are not sent to institutions. I am not dealing with any of those categories, but simply with the young people who emerge every year from these institutions. Let us focus our gaze on the 12,000 or so young people between 17 and 21 who emerge every year from our penal institutions. The figure is the best I can offer, after being given some official help, and it is admittedly approximate. It covers rather more than 3,000 who come out every year, so far as we can judge—there are no exact figures—from approved schools; rather more than 5,000 who come out from borstals every year and rather more than 3,500 who come out from prisons. I will not throw in those who come out from detention centres. Possibly if one did, and took the people who went to detention centres, for, say, six months, one might have to add another 800. But we are talking of the young population of the order of 12,000; the exact figures do not matter very much.

My Lords, I cannot think, and I do not suppose that anybody here can think, of any substantial group in the population, except perhaps those who are severely handicapped physically and mentally, who so badly need our care and attention as those 12,000 people who come out from penal institutions every year. I would argue that that is so, whether we are thinking of the interests of society or whether we are thinking of the immortal souls of these young people; and none of us would deny that every one of them is as dear to Almighty God as we are ourselves. If we look at it from the point of view of the community, these 12,000 who come out every year are likely, on past showings, to provide a high proportion of those who will commit the most serious crimes in years to come and, it may well be, help to damage the characters of many others with whom they may be associated.

If we think of the young people themselves, surely, as Christians, we must think of them as calling for our attention especially; as the sheep who were recently lost and who may very easily be lost again unless we do a great deal to help them. Whether one looks at it from the point of society or of the individual, these surely are the critical years. The first year or so, when they come out of an institution like that, is perhaps the most critical in their lives. So they certainly deserve a very great deal of our attention.

What happens when a young person comes out of borstal for example? I will concentrate on borstals. He is placed under the care of a probation officer for a variable period. The better he has done in borstal, the sooner he probably reaches that stage, and very often when he has become fond of his instructors he is extremely reluctant to be cast out into the world. I am not arguing—it would be very unfair, in view of the well-justified tributes paid to the Probation Service—that no one does anything more for him at all, because, of course, there is the probation officer available; but one has to say clearly that, from the point of view of society, at this point the interest that the community takes in him slackens off. It is not disparaging the arrangements so far as they go, and it is certainly not belittling the devotion of the various officers operating them, if I say that it is now obvious that a totally new initiative is required; something far more imaginative is necessary than seems to be contemplated in any official circles.

If we focus our minds still on these young people, we must ask ourselves what it means to be under the supervision of a probation officer. How often would one of these young people see a probation officer? It is not easy—I am not blaming anyone because the facts are not readily available—to obtain a rough answer to that question, let alone a precise one. It seems fair to say that probably for the first two or three months this young person would see a probation officer once a week, and then, after the first three months, probably once a fortnight, or, later, once a month. I am trying to be very fair about it. What is really needed, and certainly what is not provided at present, is continued day-by-day contact with a beneficient, civilising, adult influence; and that continuous day-by-day contact is something that the Probation Service is not organised to provide and does not set out in any way to provide.

Let us take it, therefore, that the provision we make for these people is, on the face of it, very inadequate. It probably will not be laughed off or very quickly disposed of by palliatives. You can double the Probation Service if you like, and I am very glad to hear that the numbers are going up. I have always advocated a very great expansion in the Probation Service. Let us bring in more volunteers to help—above all, more young volunteers. I think that much more could be done to organise the young to help the young, and particularly the young with difficulties. But you can introduce every improvement into the present system that you can think of, and we shall still be merely scratching the surface of the problem. What is needed is imperatively a hostel system, a much expanded hostel system.

The word "hostel" is used in a great many different senses, and I am pleading for a hostel system on a much more ambitious scale than anybody in official circles has contemplated. The word "hostel" may be used to refer to hostels within prisons, or hostels outside prisons but still under the control of prisons. There are, according to the directory—I think this was the point the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, had in mind—23 probation hostels from which one goes out to work and seven probation homes where one works under official supervision, at any rate for most of the time. There are a great variety of these voluntary aftercare hostels and a number of them are assisted by the State. But the essential point that I wish to submit, my Lords, is this: if we know a particular boy in borstal and really care about him we shall often—I will not say always—be horrified at the idea of his going straight from borstal into the wide and, in his case, so often wicked world where ne came to grief before.

When he leaves borstal, for example, the community has virtually no influence on him and virtually no knowledge of him, except that which comes from his periodic interviews with the proba- tion officer. And the influence of the probation officer, dedicated though it is, will often take a form which is negative rather than positive; negative in the sense that it stops the boy, so far as the probation officer can judge, from going further astray. Seldom can it be positive in the sense of creating a positive atmosphere. What really hits the young man, arid may hit him fatally, is the revolutionary break between the atmosphere in which he has been living in borstal and the atmosphere in which he has now to live, an atmosphere on which the probation officer, with the best will in the world, can make only a marginal impact.

I suppose we have all known many young, and old, delinquents who learned to behave well in a disciplined atmosphere but who, out of sheer weakness, reverted to anti-social conduct when the discipline was withdrawn and they were cast on their own. Obviously, complete freedom has got to come some time. Young men cannot spend their whole lives in confinement. What I am saying, and saying with the utmost emphasis, is that in a high proportion of cases this freedom should come much more gradually than now. The young man or woman must somehow or other be helped to acquire habits of well-doing in partial freedom before he obtains complete freedom. It is, if you like, the well-known argument of the half-way house; but, in my opinion, the idea of the half-way house should not be, as hitherto, peripheral but central to the whole of our treatment of the young offender.

What are the present facts about the accommodation provided in hostels for young people in the category I have been discussing? I hope your Lordships will note these figures meticulously. At the present time 123 places are provided in State-assisted voluntary after-care hostels for the young. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was dealing with places provided for all ages; I am talking of the young. And may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, that I am not talking of probation hostels and homes. The State, it should be understood, does not provide any hostels of this kind, so the only places are those provided by voluntary hostels. And there are only 123 places which can be set against the figure of 12,000 young offenders coming out of borstal and other institutions every year. This provision is a drop in the ocean, a bagatelle. To quote the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, we may have made a start, but that is just about all we have made.

If I were going to be very fair I should add that there are a number of hostels which are not assisted by the State, but though I know that there are these institutions, the figures of places are not available and I do not feel bound to bring them in. On the other side, I would point out that this wretched figure of 123 places covers all the young people between 18 and 25, a wider group than the offenders I am talking of; so I am being generous in saying that there are 123 places to cope with these 12,000 young people. One or two figures have been mentioned and no doubt others will be given about expansion, but I gather that there is nothing drastic or sensational intended, and when we have this debate five or ten years from now the figure will not be greatly different from what it is at the present time.

Here I must be careful to place before your Lordships one reason for not enlarging the existing provisions, whether by voluntary or State action. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, told us—and here I gather he was speaking of all voluntary State-aided hostels—that they were only about two-thirds full. I can well understand the argument that if we did greatly increase the number of places for young people, most of them would be empty. The young people would not use them. That is one argument for not greatly expanding their number.


My Lords, I should not like that impression to be given. I was talking about an increase in relation to an estimated 5,000 which is a tentative estimate not based on evidence, and I said that we are going to get 1,700. I referred to the two-thirds occupied as being a reason why we could not say how many we should have. But what is important is this. If we had better welfare services in prison, I am convinced that we should get many more offenders using the hostels, and this would be another factor which would require more places.


My Lords, I have seldom been interrupted more helpfully. What the noble Lord says is very encouraging, but it does conflict with the argument put before me by those well placed to know the official argument, to the effect that one danger of increasing the number of hostels rapidly is that they would not be used. At any rate, there is the argument that young people as a whole are reluctant to make use of these hostels. I can understand that. One of the greatest problems of helping young adolescents, not only in this connection but in all connections, is that those who need help are the most reluctant to seek it. That is something we always encounter when trying to be of assistance to the young.

If we are to try to expand these hostels to cater for a high proportion of the 12,000 a year, we shall have to introduce an element of compulsion. That is the gist of my argument. I am not shirking it. I am placing it fairly and squarely before the noble Lord, Lord Stonham and the House. We should have to insist, not that every young person but that a very large number, when they left borstal or some similar place, should go to a hostel. I am not saying that they would necessarily have to remain longer in a restricted existence. The time in a hostel may be added to their period in borstal or go hand in hand with some reduction of the period in borstal. I am simply saying that the element of compulsion will have to be introduced, if we are to make sure that the idea of a half-way house is carried out widely, as it should be, throughout the young offenders.

The State already possesses powers to induce young people to go to the probation hostels about which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, was telling us, but the State possesses no power to say to young offenders that they will go to borstal for so long and after that to a hostel. So what I am suggesting would apparently require some sort of legislation. I am not shirking that fact. If we think that this is necessary, then we must ask ourselves seriously whether we are ready for legislation which would bring about this change.


My Lords, is it not a fact that in the Criminal Justice Act 1961 there is the necessary legislation to bring this about, but regulations have yet to be brought into force? I imagine that the reason is that the Probation Service is not strong enough to carry this load.


My Lords, I think that that is a point we should put to the Minister, and I am glad that the noble Lord has raised it. The advice which I received, and which no doubt was carefully given, was that what I am suggesting would require legislation. If the noble Lord is right, my proposal is easier. But perhaps we could get a ruling from the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, when she winds up to-night. In short, I am asking this House to visualise a far-reaching change in our treatment of the adolescent offender who commits a serious offence. What I propose, whatever may be said about the conclusions on which I have attempted to build up my case, is entirely in keeping with the theory and practice which so many noble Lords have helped to establish. It may well be that my own experience among the young in recent months has brought home to me with fresh vividness the importance of the atmosphere in which one lives. So much of what I am trying to say this afternoon depends on the contention that we must not pass so rapidly as we do now from the borstal atmosphere to virtual freedom.

Be that as it may, I am sure that if the State takes on these new responsibilities it will have to construct and man the greater part of these hostels. I am not for a moment suggesting that voluntary hostels will not be needed. Some of us have pressed for years—and certainly the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is among them—for a much bolder assumption by the State of the responsibility for the ex-prisoners in general. We have always said—and the noble Marchioness has always said—that there is no conflict between wider State responsibility for those who have been in prison and active encouragement of voluntary effort. There are activities which will always be better performed by voluntary bodies, particularly where pioneering and flexibility is required and where a special kind of attention is necessary.

I would say that we look some way on. The great majority of the hostels that I envisage will have to be built by the State. And so I ask the Government to make a start now. I would ask them, even under the existing law (and we shall know more about its definition to-night) to experiment as widely as they can. I am informed that at the present time the Government do not need legislation to start hostels outside the borstal system. They could start hostels outside the borstal system to-morrow if they wanted to, but as I am advised they could not force people to go to them. The Government do not need legislation to start hostels outside the walls of a borstal. I am informed that there is already one such Case inside the system. But for some rather mysterious reason the borstal hostel operates at the beginning and not at the end of the sentence. So it is not quite what I am suggesting.

I am informed (and I shall be glad if it is not so) that if you really want to have State hostels to which people know they must go, and which are outside the borstal system, then legislation will be needed. But that is a point to be cleared up later this evening. My main contention is there. We have reached the point where we have as a community accepted full responsibility for the welfare of these people of all kinds, and particularly for the young people about whom I am talking to-day. But we have not willed the necessary means and we shall never bring about the real change that we all desire until we are ready with much bolder action than has been contemplated hitherto.

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Donaldson for inviting me to join him in speaking to this Motion. I am grateful, also, to my noble friend Lord Stonham for agreeing to the proposition that I, as Chairman of the Parole Board, should speak on this subject. I believe that the questions uppermost in the minds of most of your Lordships are not whether the innovation of parole into our penal system is a right one, but how it is working, to whom it is appropriate, and on what basis; perhaps for how many it is working out (and we have had the answer given by the Minister), and what changes may eventually seem to be appropriate. On this latter point, it would certainly be too soon, and I am sure inappropriate, for me to voice in your Lordships' House the views which I have at this paint of time.

Before attempting to speak about the other questions, I should like to say a few words about parole and the public. The Parole Board are very alive to the vital significance that parole has to the public. We are aware, also, that for a number of reasons there are a good many anxieties and misapprehensions in the mind of the public as to its safety in the paroling of prisoners. I would draw the attention of your Lordships to a programme on television a few weeks ago, and which some of your Lordships may have seen. It was on B.B.C.1, on that excellent programme, "Softly, Softly", and I think it was called "A Second Chance". It was because it was such a good programme, and so widely viewed, that I watched with dismay the misrepresentation of at least three vital points about parole, which would continue to cause misapprehension in the public mind.

There is no doubt that this kind of misunderstanding will persist for some time yet. It is for this reason that the Board feel that we have a responsibility to help the philosophy and the operation of parole to be better understood; and, indeed, to do what we can to enlist a measure, if only a small measure, of public support. For this reason, too, we believe that the sense of outrage, whether it be in the mind of the public at large or in a particular section of the community, when a certain crime was committed, which may still be very much alive in people's minds, must for some time yet be one of the considerations that we as a Board must take into account. On the other hand, there is the difficult but inescapable fact that the benefits of the system, its scope and its form can be determined only by experiment, and by research which is based on that experiment.

I should like to assure the House that the Board are equally concerned about the individual offender and the public; that we are guided by the principle outlined in the White Paper, The Adult Offender, that parole should be granted in circumstances where the interests of the prisoner and, of course, his dependants if he has any, on the one hand, and the interests of the public, on the other, are both likely to be best served by the return of the man under certain controls to complete the balance of his sentence in the community.

In the short term, I think it can already be said that a good many offenders have benefited from parole. We have heard the figure mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, of 1,427 up to the end of February. One of the most heartening indications of this is the report on these paroled men that the Board receive from time to time from probation officers around the country at the termination of their parole period. But it will be some time yet before it can be shown by research that parole has fulfilled the expectations; that it will redeem many of these same people who might otherwise, but for parole, have continued in a life of crime. Meanwhile, there is really no other way than to press on with the release of more prisoners under parole licence, in order to prove its benefit to the public. It is unfortunately true that we can prove nothing without incurring the inevitability of certain failures.

The Board started their work on a policy of caution. Indeed, your Lordships will probably remember that last April, at the time when the first releases were made, the main burden of Press criticism was that 350 prisoners (it was later raised to 402) out of a total of something like 4,300, many of them with only a short time to serve before they would normally have been discharged (about 9 per cent.), was an indication of far too much caution on the part of the selection procedure. The reasons for starting on this note of caution would need no justification in this House. But your Lordships know that the process of assessment has since been modified, and all cases of prisoners who have been favourably recommended by the committees of the prisons are now referred by the Home Office to the Board, together with a number of other cases which have not been recommended favourably by those committees. One can now say that the parole unit of the Home Office functions in a positive rather than in a negative sense.

I thought your Lordships might be interested to know that, since April 1 last year, the percentage of releases on the first review has now risen to 14 per cent., and on the second review—that is, twelve months after the first if it was not successful—to 23 per cent. So far the failure rate of 36, which was mentioned by the Minister, is 2.5 per cent. or one in 40. I think it is not injudicious for me to forecast that the Board will progressively recommend to the Home Secretary more prisoners for release than they do at present, as and when the current results and their apparent acceptance by the public appear to justify it.

It is possibly worth pointing out that, while being very careful not to draw any conclusions from our studies and tours in other countries last year, our investigations show that in several countries the relative numbers of men on parole have reached very much higher figures than ours are at present. We looked at the position in the United States, for instance, and found that in the State parole boards and the Federal board the figure of releases was between 30 per cent. and 50 per cent., and consequentially the failure rate was about 11 per cent. or 12 per cent.

I should like to turn briefly from policy to practice and say that, essentially, the 16 months of the Board's existence have been devoted to three spheres of activity. First, to improve the collection and processing and presentation of all the relevant information about the men whose cases we are looking at, and gaining experience in the criteria for selection and how to evaluate them. Secondly, to improve communications and to establish personal relationships throughout the system. Members of the Board accompanied by senior officials at the Home Office have visited many prisons in England and Wales to discuss criteria with members of local review committees, and we have always taken the opportunity to talk to prison officers, to prison welfare officers and to other people who are concerned with the collection of information for the case dossiers; and, not least important, to talk informally with the inmates of the establishments about parole. I believe these contacts to be a most important part of the work of my Board. Thirdly, we have been helping to inform the public about the idea and the operation of parole, at Press conferences, by radio interviews, by television appearances, by speaking at conferences of interested bodies and by writing articles, including articles in prison magazines.

It may not he entirely without significance that the covers of several recent prison magazines have depicted hordes of prisoners, inappropriately attired for mountaineering and furnished with equipment evidently fashioned in the prison workshops, making desperate efforts to climb an impossible-looking Mount Parole, a mountain I should not dream of attempting to climb myself.

There is a great deal more I could say, about the activities of my Board in the last 16 months, but we are just about to produce our first annual report for the Home Secretary, so your Lordships will be able to obtain more information when it is presented to Parliament. But it might he of interest if I say a very few words about the criteria for selection. We are of course guided by the criteria given to your Lordships in this House in June. 1967, ahead of the event, but to some extent we have had to develop these in the light of our own experience.

I would divide the areas of selection into three: the past, the present, and the future. As to the past, we have before us details of the social background of the prisoner: his home background, his upbringing and schooling; his work record, which is an important aspect; and details of his previous convictions and his pattern of crime, if any. We look particularly for the response to any previous period he may have spent under a probation order or in after-care. We look especially at: the particulars of the current offence. We have available not only the police reports but the records from the Court of Appeal where applicable. Then regarding the present—by "the present" I mean the prison sentence itself; and for so many men time stands still in prison—we have of course to look at his conduct and his work reports, but, more important, at any indications of positive response in prison; whether he has made the most of opportunities such as they are, training, recreational facilities, association and so on. We look for any reports to indicate that he may have become more social in his attitude, more responsible, more concerned about his family and the world outside; whether he has matured and begun to grow up.

Then, most important—this is our main concern—as to the future, we are concerned to know the prisoner's domestic situation or, if there is no domestic situation, what are the prospects of appropriate accommodation; whether there is a prospect of his having work, and what is the likelihood of his associating with his former criminal associates; and, finally, what he is likely to do under supervision and with after-care—is he likely to respond? All these things have to be taken into account and with them we take careful note of what the prisoner himself has said orally to a member of the local review committee and in writing. We have all this information as well. It would be quite impossible to give any formula or pattern as to how we arrive at our decisions, because the variations are legion. Sometimes the decision turns on a particular criterion, but much more often it results from a balance between conflicting factors. But, as I have said before, we are concerned most of all about the future.

In all fixed-term sentences, other than those of young prisoners and those serving extended sentences, we have to weigh both the risks and the benefits of releasing a man under supervision and with after-care earlier than he would normally be discharged, against the chances of his committing a crime anyway when he is discharged, without any strings attached, a little later on. I should like to stress this point because the fact that a prisoner is going to be discharged in a matter of months is often a cardinal point which frequently faces us with a dilemma. Often we have to compromise. Sometimes we decide that the risk would be too great when the period between the date of his eligibility for parole and the date of his discharge is a long one.

In these circumstances we have many times called for an early review, or decided to reduce the period of parole. But, equally, we sometimes believe that the longer a man is to spend under compulsory supervision the better. Even with young prisoners and those serving extended sentences the fact that such a control will be imposed for the whole three-thirds of the original sentence has led us to decide that the additional period of parole supervision added to the final third will be all the more valuable. Sometimes we have been able to arrange that the date for release on parole should be preceded by a period of working out from a prison hostel, so ensuring a more phased return to the community. I said I would say nothing about change, but it is in this general area that I think we may be looking for changes in the future.

Your Lordships will know that the Board have a specific responsibility for advising the Home Secretary on the life-sentence prisoners. It will be understood that these include some prisoners who, but for the limitation and the later trial abolition of the death penalty, would probably have been executed. In this connection, we feel a very heavy burden upon us for these cases and we realise that, unless we can make a positive recommendation for parole at some stage, they will languish in prison indefinitely. So far we have looked at, and made recommendations about, some 70 of these cases.

The Minister mentioned the number of cases the Board are now dealing with. It works out at something up to 200 cases a month. Until recently we were working in two panels. I mention this detail only to make the point that we have now found it necessary to divide into three, and to ask the Home Secretary to increase the number of the Board so as to provide an adequate representation of expertise on each of the panels. But I would not have your Lordships think that we are becoming three watertight compartments, because there is a free and frequent interchange of membership and debate among the three panels.

To sum up, the success of parole, which implies its full integration into our penal system, depends on the following factors. First of all, it depends on the successful combination of all the selection echelons: the local review committees, the Home Office and the Parole Board. The communications and relationships between each echelon are growing closer and are improving all the time, and this reflects great credit on everybody concerned. This matter of relationships is all the more important, simply because, unlike elsewhere, our parole system is not a single structured entity with a chain of command emanating from the Parole Board. It is a loose, advisory association.

Secondly, success depends on the selectors, ourselves, and although our experience must be growing we are, of course, fallible. We have noted that in some countries members of Parole Boards are salaried parole officials, and while we have noted the attractive salaries they receive across the Atlantic I believe it to be of great value that the members of our review committees and our Board should retain other profesional connections and other wider experience.

This brings me to my third point, which is that it follows from this that the independence of the Board in fulfilling their function of advising the Home Secretary, is of quite cardinal importance; and the same applies to the advice of the local review committees to the Home Office and the Board. I have already stressed the importance of good relationships between them, but there is absolutely no incompatibility between this necessity and an element of disagreement. About this, I am glad to say that we are now agreeing with the recommendations of the local review committees to the tune of between three-quarters and two-thirds of their recommendations. I am keeping my fingers crossed, when I say that so far the Home Secretary has not disagreed with the Board.

Fourthly, success depends on the Board's continuing regard to sentencing policy and to the intention of the courts and vice-versa, and on the regard of the courts to the eventuality that part of the sentence imposed by them may be served on parole. I cannot stress too strongly the importance of retaining the harmony which I believe exists at present between the judiciary and the Board.

Fifthly, it depends upon the widening of the opportunities within the Prison Service, especially to enable prisoners serving the longer sentences to prepare themselves as candidates for parole, to the point where the whole treatment of the offender, starting with his committal, can be said to be, "on going". A certain amount has been said about this during this afternoon, and I listened with great interest and respect to what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, had to say. But I am sure he agrees that, for reasons we all understand, there are severe limitations at present in most of our establishments to the realisation of this ideal.

Sixthly, our success depends on the strengthening of the Probation and After-Care Service to accept, supervise and help more parole offenders, possibly in larger numbers. I was interested to have the support of my noble friend Lord Sandford, and to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, had to say about that. Obviously, we depend also upon research, without which there can be no change for the better.

Finally, success depends on the offenders themselves. After all is said and done, it is about the offenders that the whole scheme is concerned. Those who are granted parole have a key part to play in proving the system. So far they are doing pretty well. But there is a need to give them more hope, to make them feel more involved in the process, and to create a new atmosphere of reconstruction in their treatment. I hope that there may eventually be better reasons in the minds of the prisoners for justifying parole for themselves, than the reason given by a prisoner when I was at Winson Green in Birmingham the other day. When this prisoner was asked by a member of the local review committee why he thought he should be granted parole, he said, "Well, you can all see that this prison is grossly overcrowded and I think I should be doing a considerable public service by getting out and making room for the others".

For some time yet it will be a minority who can be granted parole, but the climate of hope engendered in prison, the improved amenities required to give more men the best chance of succeeding, can benefit the prison population as a whole. It is early days yet, but I venture to claim that we are laying sound foundations and that we have made a promising start.

6.15 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend who introduced this debate, but I must ask the indulgence of the House and the understanding of my noble friend for leaving before the end. Perhaps I may be forgiven, because I have to take the chair at the monthly meeting of a committee of an approved hostel for the care of girls in need of protection, and this is part of the process of the subject which we are debating. In saying how grateful I am to my noble friend Lord Donaldson, may I take up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that one of the chief contributions that NACRO can make is in advising and helping the voluntary bodies to do something about this problem as a whole and particularly, as in this case I have every reason to know, trying to do something about the problem raised by my noble friend Lord Longford.

I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, for making available to us in the West London Mission the good offices of NACRO in the intention which we have to set up a hostel along the lines suggested by the noble Earl, Lord Longford—a hostel for the care of those between 17 and 21 who have emerged from borstals and similar institutions. This is a small effort, but it may be of interest to make two comments about it at this point. There is widespread hostel allergy among young people to-day, and therefore it should not surprise anybody that many of the hostels, adequately provisioned and splendidly run, are only two-thirds full. I believe there is a need for another kind of hostel, and by another name; much more like a system of "bed sits" with a father, such as in Israel, and much more likely to attract the young man who wants as much freedom as he can properly exercise, but is willing to accept a kind of paternalism for a time before, later on, he becomes a full member of society again.

I am quite sure that my noble friend Lord Longford is also right in saying that there will have to be some statutory obligation, as in the system whereby girls are admitted to the Catherine Price Hughes Hostel, for which I am responsible, where there is a term of residence of six months, which is obligatory unless they choose to take the alternative, which in many cases is prison. Therefore I am grateful, not only for the opportunity that this debate has offered of presenting and listening to arguments and projects in this very important field, but particularly, if I may just say again, to the good offices provided to us by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, through NACRO.

I listened to the sombre and penetrating speech of the noble Lord, Lord Foot, with almost a sense of increasing despair; the number of questions he asked, to none of which he seemed to find, in his own experience, an appropriate answer, at least for this debate; the kind of situation in which he regarded the law as a "quagmire of uncertainty", as he said. I can find some temporary comfort by thinking that if we are making a mess of the divine law as parsons, the solicitors and barristers are not doing too well with the criminal law; but that is cold comfort and would be unfair to the noble Lord because he was asking the questions that have to be asked. Although he did not present the answers which satisfied me, to look much more widely at the immediate provision of institutions and the immediate projects that are involved in this debate is, I think, pre-emptive if we are to take the matter sufficiently seriously.

The debate gives me the opportunity of saying that I welcome the general direction in which it seems to me Her Majesty's Government are proceeding. I have experience of thirty years as a prison chaplain and I have never believed that prison is a good thing. I hesitate to think that it has ever done any prisoner any good, though I am prepared to admit that it has prevented a number of prisoners from continuing to do harm, at least for a limited period. Therefore I welcome what seems to me to be the general purpose that lies behind the Criminal Justice Act, and behind the developments from that Act and the various projects to which your Lordships have already heard reference to-day. I hope that custodial treatment will, once and for all, sooner or later, reject the whole concept, which is irremediable, I think, of prison.

This is a long-term project but it comes immediately before most of us when we think, as I have thought to-day and indeed have thought for some time now, of the prison sentences meted out to train robbers and thugs. I immediately want to repeat what I was saying in a louder and larger place today to a very critical audience: I have no sympathy for those who think sentimentally about people like the Kray brothers, and I believe that for them segregation, perhaps for life, is a necessary procedure. But the deadening process of putting them away and then forgetting about them and allowing them to rot until one by one their moral dimensions decline and disappear is, in my judgment, an even more horrible fate than the quickness of the rope; and though I am heartily opposed to capital punishment I am also heartily opposed to the long-term prison sentence, which is a confession of failure and needs to be remedied. It is for that reason that I am so glad to look at the various proposals in Her Majesty's Government's pipeline as well as the Criminal Justice Act of 1967, and to hope that this process will in fact be the representation in practical deeds of an entirely new philosophy, and might indeed answer the questions so pertinently raised by the noble Lord, Lord Foot.

I want to pin what I have to say in this particular debate to one aspect of the problem only, Other aspects have been adequately and most felicitously dealt with by other speakers. I want to talk about the problem of alcohol, and to begin with not the alcoholic but the drunkard, the man who is drunk and disorderly, and to rejoice with your Lordships, as I think you will rejoice, at the provision, Section 91 of the Criminal Justice Act, which now no longer makes it possible for a man who is drunk and disorderly to be sent to prison—or, rather, that is the intention of the Act but as yet it cannot be put into effect until there is adequate alternative custodial accommodation for such a man. That has not yet been provided, as we know, and the last available figure of those committed or received into prison for the general offence connected with drunkenness and disorderliness in 1967 is 4,402. What in the name of common sense is the good that is done by putting a drunk in prison? None at all. And what, after all, is the terminus ad quam of such a programme? It is that the crime that he has committed or the peccadillo he has committed, lie has not committed under a strong sense of rational project and the deterrent prospect of being caught. The fact that he has behaved in a drunken fashion is prima facie evidence that at the time he performed the act which got him into trouble he was not in possession of sufficient faculty to know what he was doing.

I believe that the whole process of putting the drunk in prison has been rightly recognised by the Government as inopportune, ineffective and, shall we say, an evasion of the responsibility which must be faced at a far more consistent level, and can I think be seen much more clearly in the light of the alcoholic problem. Therefore, what applies to the alcoholic applies almost as much to the man who cannot be classed as an alcoholic, the drunk. It is necessary, I think, for me to make a confession here. When I first spoke in your Lordships' House on the question of alcoholism I was replete with a certain amount of dogma about the alcoholic which I had sought out from people who professionally ought to have known much more about it than I did, and presumably did. I told your Lordships then that alcoholism was a recognisable disease of which there are three constituent parts: first, compulsive drinking; second, blackout; and third, a change in the chemistry of the body. I have to say to your Lordships that it seems to me that the general trend of official and expert opinion would not support those three clear propositions any longer, and there is an increased tendency, far which it may be we ought to be grateful, to regard the alcoholic as a much more complex problem, much less easily diagnosed, and certainly less easily treated than perhaps some of the ebullient first-timers in this doing good were prepared to think, and to recognise how many calamities there have been along the road of so-called remedial treatment.

What have we learned? My authority for saying that we have learned anything conies from the two hostels, St. Luke's and St. Mary's, one for men and one for women, the two second stage hostels in which we care for those who have been dried out and to a certain extent rehabiliated, and are now fit for the conditional or supported freedom that these hostels or these, houses could provide. There is an immediate need for medical treatment for the alcoholic. Apomorphine and antabuse and other chemicals are available to give him nausea if he touches alcohol and to produce in him the situation in which other processes can then be taken in hand. But immediately the problem arises, how do you persuade the alcoholic to undergo the kind of regimen which alone can really begin to rehabilitate him? Psychologically it is argued by psychiatrists that there is plenty of evidence, and there are witnesses to bear the proof of that evidence, that if you apply psychiatric processes to the alcoholic he will improve. I always feel a little churlish about this, because ii seems to me that most of the psychiatric processes turn out to have been quite well known by the Saints of God years ago, and the therapy for conversion, though it is mostly ignored in talk of alcoholism, ought not to be ignored, but is not in the first instance a piece of practical programme.

What is necessary is not so much the antabuse and the various other medicaments, not indeed the psychiatric examinations, not the couch method, but a domestication of the alcoholic in conditions in which he will himself become rehabilitated and no longer a pariah in a society from which he has been extracted. In fact our experience has been now over seven or eight years. The most potent of all the influences is the kind of simple, decent companionship in which he recovers a sense of his own dignity, by his contacts with Alcoholics Anonymous and others to whom I cannot pay high enough tribute in that they have recovered many an alcoholic. This process of domestication, of living again in a community in which he is supported, is the one method whereby this relapsing disease can be halted, and a stage perhaps of more or less permanent convalescence can be achieved. But I have to say immediately that when that situation of convalescence has been achieved we have made the experiment then of transferring the recovered alcoholic to the second stage kind of hostel, and our success has been only partial. The alcoholic tends to relapse, and whatever is done, however high his hopes and however firm his faith and however assiduous his attendance upon the various clinical opportunities or the fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, it would be foolish and quite inaccurate to pretend that we have anything like the kind of optimistic prognosis of every alcoholic that we would desire.

Nevertheless, I am satisfied that short of an abandonment of the alcoholic and the drunkard to a continuing process of degradation, this is a valuable process and an increasing hope, something that should be continued and multiplied, but not multiplied merely by those who have good will towards the alcoholic. In saying this, I hope that it will not be misunderstood—I am sure it will not—but there are plenty of energetic and enthusiastic church people who, looking round for a piece of social service to undertake, say, "Let us care for alcoholics", and the next stage is very often a tragedy alike for the alcoholic and for those people who have undertaken this service. I would hope—and I would say this to the Minister—that the fragmentation of the care of alcoholics which now takes place can be halted. I believe that there should be the most careful and continuous relationship between the hostels, between the Government or the local authority or the central authority itself and the voluntary bodies. Of one thing I am certain, that is, that it is a voluntary body alone which can make the first inroad upon the sense of pariah and the sense of outrage and the sense indeed of abandonment. If he comes into a friendly, free atmosphere, that is the best hope for his partial, and maybe his continued and final, recovery.

Therefore, looking at the general outcome of this debate, I see it in intention as a proliferation of the sort of voluntary, small, friendly hostel, which I think can provide not only for the alcoholic but for other delinquents the sort of rehabilitation which, though it may sound somewhat "corny" and old-fashioned, depends much more—as I think the noble Lord who has just spoken would agree—on the sense of belonging to a community which is fundamentally decent and helpful rather than on the provision of scientific aids and even the most sophisticated of medicines.

May I be allowed to make one final comment? It is a strange and rewarding thing to meet alcoholics, for, as maybe some of your Lordships will know, apart from this disability, this moral disease, this catastrophe, how delightful they are! Many of them are splendid people, apart from this one disability. And how earnestly we desire, if we can, to remove this one stumbling block which stands between them and the treading of a straight and narrow path, and indeed of a path of prosperity and of happiness!

I think there is no immediate prospect of finding within the alcoholic some organ which can be treated; some particular medicament which, when applied, can produce an immediate cure. But my mind ranges—and you will understand this, my Lords—over the field of those who are permanently crippled and incapacitated in ways which are far less agreeable, and indeed are entirely distasteful. What a blessing it would be if somehow those who have become criminally addicted to sexual offences could be relieved, because it is their one stumbling block! Though it may not be agreeable to most hearers to say this, what experience I have of such sexual perverts is that in many other ways—and perhaps in all other ways—they, too, could be agreeable and decent citizens.

I therefore would venture to introduce into your Lordships' debate something which I imagine my noble friend Lady Stocks will also be talking about. Is it beyond the bounds of our programme and prospect that having, as I believe, begun with hormone treatment for some such people in our prisons already, we should take the next and radical step and ask ourselves, not whether sterilisation—voluntary, of course—is permissible, but whether, in fact, it would be possible on a programme of voluntary castration to offer—in a mutilated life, let us agree—to some of those who now are very properly incarcerated because of ineradicable sexual perversions at least some freedom, some happiness? Unless your Lordships should think this is an extravagance which comes ill from the Church, may I remind you of a text which is not inappropriate, and which comes from the highest source? It says: If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, …, it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire". This is not out of court in a discussion of the long-term treatment of the offender, and it may meet one of those colossal and hitherto ineradicable problems which vex us all and give us great sorrow if we think of it—those who languish in prison. And if we were courageous enough to think of long-term projects and not merely put them away and hope we can conveniently forget them, it might be that we should be offering a measure of life to those to whom now we only offer the prospect of a slow death. I agree that this is venturing very wide, but it is part of the conclusion to which I think your Lordships may well indeed come if you proceed upon the road which, I rejoice to see, is a road already taken by Her Majesty's Government.

6.35 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, has performed a most useful service by the way in which he has directed our attention this afternoon to the real and pressing problems of the reform of the penal system and the aftercare of prisoners. I doubt if there has ever been a Government more alive to the need for the reform of our penal system than there is at present. I doubt if any Member of either House of Parliament has ever proved himself so active in this matter as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. I do not suppose that the Prison Department of the Home Office has ever held staff of such high calibre as it does now. The whole atmosphere of life in prison is changing in the most, satisfactory way.

Nevertheless, my Lords, it was with a feeling of dreamlike unreality that I read the OFFICIAL REPORT of our last debate on this subject about two years ago. Such noble aspirations, such truly Christian sentiments were then expressed. And yet, so relatively little has actually been done. The after-care of prisoners has been something in which I have been actively concerned for the last five years. I know that there are several Members of this House who have much longer experience and know far more about these matters than I do. That applies to most subjects, which is why I so seldom venture to raise my voice in your Lordships' House. However, I think that n y experience is just enough to entitle me to raise one or two points.

I would begin by asking, why do prisoners need after-care? Is it, as the noble Lord, Lord Foot, suggested, simply because they have been in prison? I tend to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Foot. If that is so, then is there not something seriously, terribly wrong about a prison system that sends a man out into a world with which he is quite unable to cope without the help of an after-care service? Should not the task of the prison authorities be to send out a prisoner who is more, not less, fitted to cope with ordinary life outside? Please do not think that I am trying to underestimate or simplify the difficulties inherent in what I am suggesting. Prison life cannot precisely resemble life outside. Problems of security and of basic administration would alone prevent that. There is just one thing that could be done to prepare the prisoner, both mentally and physically, for his return to real life: that is, to give him a job; a real job, not a pointless pastime; a job that is broadly suited to his mental or physical capabilities, that keeps him occupied for the full working day, five days a week; and one by which he can earn some sort of reward.

I believe that this, more than any other single thing, would make it easier for an ex-prisoner to get, and above all to stay in, his first job outside. Many of us are able to help a prisoner to get into a job; it is almost impossible to keep him there. This is not a new idea; it is already being put into effect, in a very limited way, in some places and in certain cases. My plea to the Government now is: For heaven's sake! get on with it. Push through the necessary negotiations with the trade unions. Build new prisons that incorporate factories and modern working premises. Get rid altogether of the Victorian concept of punishment by locking a man in a small cell for 18 or 20 hours a day. The old system was no good: it failed as a punishment, it failed as a deterrent, it failed to reform. Give it up, and try to be a bit more constructive.

At this point, I know full well that I shall be told that we cannot afford to scrap the old prisons. Perhaps we shall not have to scrap them entirely. Perhaps Wandsworth Prison, for instance (whose gates resemble exactly, if noble Lords have ever noticed, the illustration in The Wind in The Willows of the prison to which Toad was sent and from which, like others since, he so brilliantly escaped) could serve a useful purpose as a transit camp in which prisoners could be sorted out for transference to more suitable places. Many of the old prisons ought to go; and we can afford it, if we have to. We have scrapped other failures before now: the ground nuts scheme, the TSR 2—I will not dwell upon a painful list. The point here is that we are dealing not with machinery but with people; and I will repeat what I have said before: that it is so ridiculously expensive to keep a man in prison that it must make economic sense to spend a certain amount of money on keeping him out of it.

While still on the subject of money, I must refer briefly to the marvellous work that is being done by the Probation and After-care Service. Marvellous it is, and one can only marvel that so much is achieved for so relatively little financial support. Once again, one must ask: could not the Government be a little more generous? One is not asking for another Concorde, or Q.E.2, or Channel Tunnel; one is merely suggesting a reasonable level of salary for a reasonable number of qualified people who are engaged on a most difficult, thankless and often unrewarding task.

Before I finish—and I am not forgetting the saying, attributed, I believe, to the late Lord Brabazon, that if a Peer cannot say all he has to say inside 20 minutes he had much better go home and write a book about it—I should like to turn to an entirely different point about our prisons and to put to the Government a tentative question. It concerns that small number of prisoners who are probably not capable of being reformed in any way, who serve very long sentences and who could be regarded as a source of potential danger to the public if and when they are released.

I am thinking particularly of the murderers of children, some of whom are legally sane; and I am thinking particularly of sexual perverts who molest children. To keep such people in prison does them no good whatever; it merely weakens, to the point of destruction, their already weak characters. To punish them with a long sentence and then to let them out to repeat their offence is surely quite irresponsible. It is, to put it mildly, unfair both to the pervert and to any child he may molest. Yet at present that is the situation. A man commits an offence which may mark a child's character for life, he serves a term of years in prison and he is then let out until, as often happens, he is caught doing it again. There is no certain cure for sexual perversion. Psychiatry can sometimes help and so can some drugs, but not in every case. I am not in any way going to argue against the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Soper, but I very much doubt if many prisoners would agree to voluntary castration.

My question to the Government is this. Would the Home Office give some thought to the possibility of establishing a permanent home for a limited number of these unfortunate but potentially dangerous people? To prevent their escaping, I am afraid it would in fact have to be a prison; but if we can assume that whatever punishment is demanded by society for such crimes had already been inflicted elsewhere, the interior of the prison could at least be made a good deal more civilised than is usually the case. It is a dreadful thing to commit anyone to prison for a full lifetime because of a basic defect in his character; but it seems to me to be even more dreadful to take the risk implied in the present policy, which is just to let him out and hope for the best. Finally, may I say that I am quite sure that what the Government are doing about prison reform and the after-care of prisoners is absolutely right. I only wish that all these good intentions could be put into effect at once.

6.45 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to refer to only two matters in the Motion which has been moved by my noble friend Lord Donaldson, They relate to the second part of the Motion, which reads: …to draw … attention to the lack of adequate long-term support for the after-care of prisoners on discharge… It has already been pointed out that in February, 1967, my noble friend Lord Simey initiated a debate on the report of a Home Office working party on the place of voluntary service in after-care, and on residential provision for homeless discharged prisoners.

Your Lordships were informed in that debate that about 50,000 prisoners are discharged from our penal institutions every year, and that of that number approximately 5,000–10 per cent.—are homeless. We must keep in the forefront of our minds that this is not just one year, but every year, and is therefore a recurring problem. It suggests that 5,000 discharged prisoners need immediate help with accommodation, and 45,000 may require varying degrees and types of assistance if they are minded to seek it. If, as the Motion implies, there is a lack of adequate long-term support for the after-care of prisoners on discharge, we ought to look at what may be the reasons.

The Probation Service is now the recognised instrument for dealing with the care of discharged prisoners. But it is also true that, in the past two or three years, the Probation Service has become the Probation and After-Care Service, responsible for the after-care of persons discharged from approved schools, borstal institutions, detention centres and now those who are released on parole. It is also true that probation officers who are appointed prison welfare officers are responsible for the welfare of persons serving prison sentences. This means, having regard to the prison population and the number of prison welfare officers in post at present, that a prison welfare officer's case-load is, as my noble friend Lord Stonham pointed out, 131 persons.

At this very moment, we are nine prison welfare officers short in the inner London area, and in Liverpool, where they are also short of prison welfare officers, the prison welfare officers in the Liverpool prison are each responsible for no fewer than 182 prisoners. Whether one is a probation officer or a prison welfare officer, it is a gigantic task, and that suggests to me that at the moment their duties and responsibilities are too onerous. This must be borne in mind when one talks about the inadequacy of after-care.

It is difficult for those outside the Probation and After-Care Service fully to appreciate what those duties and responsibilities mean in terms of time and energy and stress. The noble Marquess, if he will allow me to say so, put it very well indeed. We do not realise what probation officers do, nor do we fully appreciate the value of their contribution. I do not suggest that these added responsibilities for after-care and prison welfare should not have been given to the Probation Service, but we may have to accept disappointments and some ineffectiveness when a service responsible for so much is so under-staffed, and when recruitment to it is hampered by inadequate salaries. I am not unmindful of the recent awards.

The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, reminded the Minister of a statement he made on November 16, 1965, and of another on May 3, 1966. I quote the Minister's words: …we shall reach the target of 3,500 probation officers by 1970 "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3/5/66, col. 404.] On December 31 last year—that is, only a matter of weeks ago—there was a total of 2,960 probation officers, a substantial number of whom, my Lords, were untrained and whose usefulness in the Service, therefore, of necessity, must be limited. In 1968, 396 men and women entered the Service, 83 of them—over 20 per cent.—without training. In the same year, 181 probation officers left the Service; so there was a net gain of 215. I doubt whether the target of 3,500 probation officers will be reached in 1970, but I am not complaining about that. Assuming that it is reached, there will still not be a sufficient number of probation officers to discharge fully the responsibilities assigned to them, or to supply the long-term support which many offenders need on discharge from our penal institutions.

I have referred to the position of the prison welfare officers and to the way they are grossly over-loaded with cases. In London (or perhaps I ought to say in Inner London) we find it extremely difficult to get male probation officers. We seem to be able to attract women, but not men; and while, on paper, we may be up to strength, it is because we have more women than we would need and they are replacing the men. In Inner London we have a situation in which women probation officers are supervising men.


Why not?


My noble friend asks, "Why not?". One of the essential things in the treatment of people on probation is to be able to visit them in their own setting, in their own environment. I question the wisdom or the usefulness of a woman probation officer visiting a man who is living on his own in one room, as I know many of them do; and I wonder whether in fact this kind of home visiting is done or can be done. I am sure I shall be told that this is an interesting experiment which everybody is watching with considerable interest, but I am wondering whether it is not a question of making a virtue out of a necessity. I may be quite wrong about this; but I question the wisdom of it. This is a situation which has arisen because of the difficulty of finding a sufficient number of male officers in the Inner London area.

If we as a community are to give adequate long-term support to discharged prisoners—and the Probation and After-Care Service is in real measure doing this; I really believe this—then we need to build up the Probation Service numerically. I believe that the only way to do this is to make the Service more attractive financially. My noble friend the Minister suggested that there was not a sufficient number of suitable people available for the Probation Service. I am sorry, but I do not accept that for one moment. The fact is that the salary is not sufficiently attractive to attract them, and we lose a number of really first-class people to other forms of professional social work. This is the reason why so many of them are leaving the Service every year. A young police officer—


My Lords, may I interrupt my noble friend? He said that this is why so many of them are leaving the Service every year. Surely he knows that in the last two years a smaller proportion has left the Service, that the wastage has been less. Also, when I referred to the number of suitable people not being enough, the other social workers to whom he referred—child-care officers and others—are the same type of people, and it is collectively that we find that there are really not enough for all our needs.


I do not want to enter into an argument with my noble friend, but I do not see how one can say that there is only a small number leaving the Service every year when in point of fact 181 left in 1968 and 396 came in. As I said a moment or two ago, in that year there was a net gain of 215. The point I was about to make is that a young police officer of 22 years of age receives, plus added fringe benefits, what the average probation officer, often with a university training, gets at the age of 27. I am not objecting to the police officer receiving what he receives at the age of 22. I do not think it is any too much for the job he has to do. But I think that a probation officer, by virtue of his training and the responsibility that he has to meet every day, should, at the age of 27, get something more than he is getting at the present moment. Further, I would ask my noble friend the Minister if the Home Office would consider paying a more adequate salary while in training. I think my noble friend would agree with me that the present salary is far from satisfactory, and that it prevents a large number of suitable people coming forward.

However effective we succeed in making the Probation Service, we shall not achieve a satisfactory long-term system of after-care without the assistance —and this was a point made by my noble friend the Minister—of a vast army of voluntary workers. I believe that there is an important role for the volunteer in the field of after-care provided he or she is carefully selected, effectively trained and properly supervised; and the more that we decide to use voluntary workers the more skilled and competent probation officers we shall need in order to release some of them to supervise the work of the volunteers. That is inevitable, and that is why I say that even if we achieve in 1970, as I hope we shall, the figure of 3,500 probation officers, it still will not be enough.

The Inner London Probation Service, of which I have some personal knowledge, has built up a sizeable force of associates and voluntary organisations to assist with the after-care, and procedures of selection, training and supervision of volunteers are being evolved, the purpose being to supply aids to probation officers able to provide long-term supportive relationships for their clients. There is more long-term support given to discharged prisoners than I think many people in the community realise. Certainly in the Inner London Probation and After-care Service the contact is made long before the offender is released from prison. In some instances, this means contact with the prisoner every two, three or four weeks during the whole of his prison sentence' in order that the probation officer who is to undertake the after-care can establish some kind of relationship with him or her and is thus able, while he or she is still in prison, to plan and prepare for the release period.

I should like to give your Lordships some figures relating to 1967—the latest year for which we have information of this kind. I am referring now to ex-prisoners voluntarily seeking help and not to prisoners who are subject to statutory after-care. In England and Wales there were 21,428 such persons. After-care which extended for six months or more was given in 2,097 instances. After-care of three months or more was given in 5,570 instances; and in 1,041 cases the contact and the after-care was undertaken by a volunteer.

In the inner London area—and I think I ought to remind your Lordships that a good many inadequate, homeless ex-prisoners seem to gravitate to the inner London area—they are faced with quite a serious problem. In 1967, 3,213 ex-prisoners applied to the Inner London Probation and After-care Service for help. After-care which lasted for six months or more was given in 547 cases; that is, about 17 per cent. compared with the national average of only 9.8 per cent. After-care was given for three months or more to 913 ex-prisoners, which represents 28.4 per cent. against the national average of only 21.3 per cent.; and the after-care was undertaken by a volunteer in 522 cases. The total number of ex-prisoners befriended by the Inner London Probation and After-care Service in 1967 showed an increase of 26.3 per cent. over 1966, and the comparable figure for England and Wales for the same year was 21.7 per cent.

I want to turn very briefly to the provision of accommodation for homeless discharged offenders. Your Lordships will remember that we debated the report of the Home Office Working Party which met under the chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, and I think that many of us at that time said that we were sincerely grateful for that Report and the amount of obvious thought that had gone into it. But I want to draw the attention of the House—because it is still true to-day—to one comment made in the Report. It is this: The disparity between the supply of suitable accommodation and the potential demand is startling. When we discussed this matter I took the view that the provision of new hostels (including those catering for special types of problems) should be the responsibility of the Government and of local authorities. I was quite firm about that. I should not now be so definite; arid, if I may say so, I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, was perfectly right when she said that this was essentially work that should be undertaken by voluntary bodies.

If there has been any change of opinion on my part it is because I recognise two things: the difficulties in these days of financial stringency and the fact that we are living at a time when there is so much to be done, both by Government and by local authority. More especially, I feel that more Government support is essential if we are to get the necessary hostels to give the long-term support needed by so many discharged homeless offenders and, particularly, those requiring special help. But I am persuaded that we shall need a substantial number of voluntary hostels—and I must emphasise the word "voluntary"—for this reason: that many ex-prisoners, because of their experiences in prison and of their dealings with authority, have little if any confidence in authority and in officialdom. For that reason I think we must concentrate on the provision by voluntary organisations of hostels for the homeless, discharged offenders.

I believe that by making capital grants available to a number of voluntary organisations to get hostels started, the Government have been particularly helpful. Perhaps the Government's most significant contribution was the setting up of a Committee which subsequently formed into a housing association to assist the community to provide residential accommodation for discharged, homeless offenders. Here, again, I think we ought to pay tribute to the Working Party, because this idea of setting up a housing association stemmed from their Report. This housing association has, in fact, been set up and its title, "Bridgehead", was chosen because it was known that every project would be a battle and that every success would be a bridgehead which must be widened until ordinary people realised their responsibility to give others the same chances which they would want in similar circumstances.

Your Lordships know, and have known all the time, that the Home Office pays a per capita grant; but I should mention that the Home Office pays the cost of the administration of the Bridgehead Housing Association and that the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility has provided the office accommodation and an excellent secretary in the person of the Reverend Ben Harrison. The Home Office also make a modest grant to the Association from which, should it be necessary, the difference between the purchase price of the property and the amount of mortgage can be found.

One of the regrettable factors is that the public is not as yet favourably disposed towards delinquents and ex-prisoners; and, for that matter, neither are some local authorities. It is not always easy to acquire property when its ultimate use is disclosed, or even to secure a change of usage from a private dwelling house to a boarding house for homeless discharged prisoners. The idea of having in their midst a house accommodating homeless offenders does not appeal to some local people, and one planning authority, against the advice of its own town clerk, refused permission for an existing boarding house to be used for the same purpose but, in this case, for discharged homeless offenders only.

So the Bridgehead Housing Association faces a good deal of difficulty and a good many problems. It uses its borrowing facilities to purchase property and provide the special support needed for a particular group of residents. The properties are managed by voluntary local committees whose task is to meet the running costs, which include major charges like mortgage payments, house overheads and adequate salaries for a trained and understanding staff. The income from the residents (that is, from the homeless discharged offenders) plus the statutory grant paid from the Home Office still leaves—and will leave, even though the Home Office is proposing to raise the amount from £100 to £125 per boarder—a substantial amount to be raised from voluntary sources.

This is the matter which exercises my mind, because it seems very doubtful to many of us whether the local committees will be able to do this. The attitude of the public may be gauged by the response which the Bridgehead Housing Association recently had to its Mansion House Appeal, which was launched at the end of last January by a number of distinguished people, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London. Although the appeal was well-organised and adequately sponsored, to date it has brought in little more than £1,000, hardly enough money to pay the difference between the purchase price of the property and what the local committee can get by way of mortgage.

The purpose of the appeal is to raise a substantial fund to enable the Housing Association to ease the burden on local committees, particularly in these days of high interest rates. But I think we have to face the fact that this is going to be extremely difficult. At the moment the Bridgehead Housing Association is working on 30 houses and planning to provide up to 200, bearing in mind that it may be required to face the fact that there are 5,000 homeless discharged offenders every year. Its work must succeed if we are to have an adequate number of hostels of varying kinds to meet the needs of homeless discharged offenders.

Without these hostels, I doubt whether it will be possible to provide the continuous specialised after-care which so many of the homeless offenders need. The working party to which I have already made reference is, I think, to be congratulated yet again for suggesting a housing association. I think, also, that the Government are to be congratulated on making the existence of the housing association possible.

7.12 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and to the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, for missing the greater part of their speeches, because I had two Committees of this House to attend between 3 o'clock and 4 o'clock this afternoon. But I shall, of course, read to-morrow, with very great interest, the report of their speeches in Hansard.

The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, will not have forgotten the far off days of N.A.D.P.A.S., because he dragged me into it. He was (I should like him to hear this complimentary remark) one of the livest wires of what was at that time the National Organisation for After-Care —succeeded later by NACRO. When I was associated with this organisation I had a great deal of opportunity for discussing the defects and shortcomings of our system of after-care, with those responsible for working it at that time—voluntary workers, prison officers and Home Office officials. If those defects had been put right in the intervening years, there would have been no reason for me to speak this afternoon.

The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, is drawing attention in his Motion to the lack of adequate support for the aftercare of prisoners on discharge. I agree with him that provision for after-care is still painfully inadequate. My understanding of the rehabilitation of the delinquents is that it is a continuous process, which begins on the day when a man goes into prison through the prison gate, and does not end until he becomes a normal member of society. Whether you call this process "welfare work" while a man is in prison, and "after-care" when he has been released, seems to me to make no difference at all, because it is all part of the work of rehabilitation which must be continuous if it is to be successful.

It is, of course, a big step forward that after-care has now become a social service with a professional staff, like education, or housing, or any of the other social services; and that it is no longer left, as it used to be, to the valiant but often ineffectual efforts of the voluntary workers who pioneered the way, and who now have other useful roles to play. But although the State has added responsibility for the after-care of prisoners to its traditional responsibility for their security, I am afraid that since the Mountbatten Report, it looks as though one of these responsibilities has become more important than the other. What I should like to emphasise is that, if what we are aiming at is to prevent crime rather than to contain it—that I think is what we all wish to do— it would be a mistake for that to happen. Because one thing is certain. If the competing claims—of improved security on the one hand, and improved welfare and after-care treatment on the other—to a limited quantity of money and staff are met at the expense of welfare and aftercare, many more prisoners will return to prison, possibly several times, than would otherwise have been the case.

There is a lot I should like to say about the improvements that I want to see in the treatment of offenders, among them the provision of the right sort of work in prisons—a point that was very properly emphasised by the noble Marquess, Lord Hertford. But I do not wish to take up too much of your Lordships' time, especially as it is getting rather late. Therefore, I will limit my remarks to what I regard as the most neglected area of rehabilitation, where we fall furthest behind more progressive countries. I am thinking of the family relationship of prisoners. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, said that we had singularly failed to maintain family ties, and I am of the same opinion. I am afraid that I cannot share the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, who did not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, on this matter.

I think everyone would take the view that it is of the utmost importance to rehabilitation that family ties should not be severed by imprisonment. But although we take this view, very little positive effort has been made to prevent it. Inevitably, of course, prison punishes the family of the offender and imposes a very great strain on the relationship between husband and wife. We know perfectly well that we should do all we can to ease this strain and prevent separation from breaking up the marriage. Yet apart from short visits to the prison, we allow some longer-term prisoners only one terminal home leave during the whole course of their sentences. In Sweden all but maximum security prisoners have week-end home leave at an interval of about two months throughout their sentences. Prisoners without homes are the week-end guests of families with whom they can share their home life. This is done in Holland as well as in Sweden. What I should like my noble friend Lady Serota to consider, is whether we might try, at any rate as an experiment, this system of home leave for Category C prisoners, and for certain Category B prisoners. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is in the Chamber and I should be equally grateful if he would consider this suggestion.

There remains the far more difficult problem of the maximum security prisoners in Category A, who for obvious reasons cannot be allowed home leave. I think it is sometimes forgotten that long-term prisoners, serving sentences of 10 years or more, give rise to two entirely separate but really devastating problems. There is the problem of the prisoner himself who, after a long sentence, will be destroyed as a human being unless he has something to look forward to and to make life worth living while he is in prison, and someone who wants him and can make him feel that he is useful when he is released. There is also the problem of his wife and children. How are they to overcome the appalling hardship of a semi-permanent loss of husband and father?

What can society do, because it is really society's responsibility to lessen the injury that it has caused these innocent people? I think that the answer, inadequate as it must inevitably be, is that it should be the duty of the Probation and After-Care Service to give whatever support it can to such families. This would be in addition to its present duties and, heaven knows! I agree with my noble friend Lord Wells-Pestell that at the moment it is already overburdened. But the wife of such a man may need psychiatric treatment. The children—and I am thinking particularly of the children of a murderer, who have to grow up with this terrible stigma—may have to go to a child guidance clinic, if their resentment makes them seriously antisocial. This is a very important responsibility for the Probation and After-Care Service. But sound advice from outside the family can be no substitute for genuine family contacts.

I am aware that the Home Secretary has turned down the idea of extended family visits. But I am told that his reason for doing so was that the visits would probably be too short and infrequent to make useful family contacts. Yet surely the present system of brief visits under strict supervision cannot be defended, except on security grounds. Here, again, I should like to commend the Swedish system, where families of long-term prisoners can spend whole week-ends together, in suitable prison accommodation, about every three months. This is surely the only way to give the children a chance to have it out with their father, and for the husband and wife to renew the emotion that unites them.

I shall not ask my noble friend to give sympathetic consideration to these remarks, because I know that she will do so. I have known her for many years —indeed, since we were both members of the old L.C.C.—and I know her well enough to realise that she would not overlook the human aspect of any situation. But I should like to ask her to do one thing; that is, to ask her right honourable friend the Home Secretary to make time to read the Report of this debate in Hansard, because I think that it would be worth his while to do so. I have listened carefully to all the speeches, except those I most unfortunately missed, and I strongly believe that it has been a constructive and practical contribution to serious thought about penal reform.

7.23 p.m.


My Lords, I want to concentrate my brief remarks on the type of case referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and by the noble Marquess, Lord Hertford—the persistent compulsive sexual offender. Many years ago, I was a member of a Departmental Committee dealing with recidivism and I remember one case that worried me very much, the case of a man who had 12 convictions for sexual offences, involving terms of imprisonment of increasing length, beginning with indecent exposure and ending with the raping of a nurse. He was then serving a severe sentence for that offence. What, I thought, was going to happen when that man came out of prison? Would his last conviction be for murder?

Many cases of this sort occur. One can read about them almost every week. A few years ago there was a particularly interesting case reported in the Press. I found it in the Daily Mail. A man, whom I will call Mr. X. a persistent sex offender, was having his case considered by the Court of Criminal Appeal. Three Judges were asked to authorise an operation, never before done in this country, which the prison authorities refused to carry out. It was not legal, I imagine, for them to do so. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Parker, said that what took place in prison had nothing to do with the court, but he continued to say that, according to the evidence of one of the psychiatrists, Mr. X might find himself in the dock on a very serious charge, even of murder, unless something was done. Mr. X's counsel spoke of the operation, so far carried out only in Denmark, which had been recommended by two famous doctors in this country. The counsel added that if it was not done, this young man was likely to spend the rest of his life in prison. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Parker, ended by saying that there was some hope, if and when the new Mental Health Bill became law, that the Home Secretary would have power to order that such a man should be taken to hospital and receive treatment. Of course, this has not been done. Meanwhile, some form of treatment for this particular aberration is being tried in Wormwood Scrubs. Sex offenders are being cured of their abnormal urges by being injected with female hormones. The Home Office has said that two years of experience had shown a marked decline in the abnormal sexual tendencies of prisoners.

When we consider the most serious remedy indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and mentioned by the noble Marquess, one thought springs to mind. We know that if castration is carried out at an early age, the person on whom it is carried out is robbed of that kind of desire. If it were not so, we should not find oriental potentates employing eunuchs to look after their harems. But doubt arises where it is a question of performing an operation on older offenders, in whom that compulsive desire has taken root. Then one wonders whether such an operation would be successful. We can get some light on the subject by considering the procedure which is followed in Denmark at the detention centre at Herstedvester, under the direction of the Principal, Dr. Stürup. The persistent sex offender is offered the option of voluntary castration as a condition of early release. The operation is performed by plastic surgery so as to leave no external marks. That system was described at some length in The Times of June 23, 1961, and in the Observer of July 4, 1965. I think it is worthy of consideration by the Home Office, because it may throw light on this question, which troubles us all, of how far an operation of this sort can be successful at a later age.

I discussed the matter a few years ago with a reputable psychiatrist, who knew something about what was happening in Denmark. I think he had visited the detention centre. He said that it would not be always effective and he thought that as a psychiatrist he could diagnose cases where it would be effective. I asked whether he would advocate an experiment here on the lines of the Danish system and he replied, "No, for ethical reasons." Well, I did not follow up with him the question of ethics, but I am prepared to follow it up anywhere.

We all know who is said to be able to quote Scripture for his own purposes. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, quoted Scripture for his own purposes and I will risk that classification by quoting Scripture for my purposes. He quoted a well-known passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew, which says: Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. For "everlasting fire" we could read "persistent incarceration", as a victim of unsatisfiable desire, away from one's fellow men, and with no hope of ever being other than a danger at large. If we can save a few unhappy, abnormal mortals from that fate. I think it is our duty to take all possible steps to do so.

7.31 p.m.


My Lords, like other noble Lords. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Donaldson for having given us the opportunity of this debate, which has inevitably and properly, I think, ranged somewhat beyond the precise terms to which he has addressed himself. In the course of the debate noble Lords have raised many of those tormenting problems which still beset us in this field, and for which we do not seem to be yet in sight of agreed and satisfying solutions: such problems as those to which the noble Baroness who has just spoken referred; problems of how, indeed, it is possible to maintain a real family relationship during a period of long imprisonment; whether we are not, in fact, as a society imposing an even heavier penalty upon the wife and children of an offender than we impose upon the offender himself; what regime can indeed be prescribed for those who in the interests of society, and sometimes in their own interests, must be incarcerated for very long periods. These, as I say, are tormenting problems for which we do not yet seem to be in sight of an agreed solution.

The debate has given an indication also of the way in which penal policy has been developing, and I should like, if I may, with respect, to pay my tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for the vigour, humanity and leadership of the contribution which he has made to the development of penal administration and penal policy, mainly, of course, since he became a Minister at the Home Office, but not entirely during that period. I should like to address myself primarily to an aspect of the subject which has not had great emphasis so far in the debate. I refer to the position of the staffs of the Prison Service. I speak from the background of experience of having had the privilege for nearly 15 years of acting as adviser to the Prison Officers' Association.

I stress this aspect of the subject because it has long been recognised (I think in this country it was Sir Alexander Paterson who gave first and most emphatic expression to this truth) that in all the processes of penal treatment, and especially in those of a rehabilitative character, the most vital element of all is the relationship between the prisoner and those in whose charge he finds himself. I am referring particularly in this context, not to governors, assistant governors and the other higher staff, but to the rank and file, disciplined uniformed ranks with whom the prisoner has his greatest number of human contacts. It is on their shoulders that the responsibility for the treatment of prisoners actually rests, and it is they who are the human instruments by which the penal policy which the community approves is actually put into operation.

This is work which, if it is to be carried on in a constructive way, is of its nature very difficult; and it has to be carried on often under conditions which make it more difficult still. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Foot, who referred to the continued existence of "slopping out", which has for so long now been recognised as a feature of prison life which ought to be got rid of. But I am sure he will agree that this is only one particularly striking aspect of the squalid conditions under which much prison work still has to be performed, and lives in prison have to be lived by those who staff them, as well as by those who are inmates of them.

The overcrowding which still affects so many of our prisons again adds to these difficulties. When one bears in mind the continuing physical difficulties of the accommodation, and the accentuation of this by overcrowding, and even when one makes allowance for the considerable progress that there has been in providing a number of new buildings and a considerable amount of accommodation, it is a remarkable thing that so high a proportion of our prison staffs carry out their duties with a high degree of conscientiousness and humanity, and make their contribution in a very real way to the kind of penal policy which we in this country are seeking to follow.

Gradually, the whole concept of the role of the prison officer has been changing—and even within the period that I have had some degree of knowledge of this 1 have myself seen a distinct change —from the old conception of the turnkey, the guard, to the new conception of someone who is much more a social worker. Speaking for myself, I have always felt that there would be great value in an examination of the possibilities of interchange of staff and experience between the Prison Service and other closely associated services, such as the Probation Service, the staff of approved schools and so on. I believe that this would be a valuable idea to examine.

Although this changing concept in the role of a prison officer is going on, the change is not complete, and I should like to emphasise the importance, especially at a time when penal policy is developing and changing, of securing on the part of those on whose shoulders I suggest the real final responsibility so often rests a sense of participation in the development of policy. I believe it is vital to give to them a sense that their experience is taken into account in the formulation of policy, and that they should be given the kind of leadership which their difficult tasks demand. This is to a substantial extent already being done by the Home Office.

There is as the focus of this the rather remarkable Working Party consisting partly of officials of the prison department and partly of representatives of the Prison Officers' Association—the majority of these representatives actual serving prison officers of the various grades —which has been in existence now since 1963. It has made a series of valuable progress reports, and has con- cerned itself in a most constructive fashion with all the aspects of penal practice and policy: with after-care, with the important question of classification becoming still more important with the appearance of the parole system. As a consequence of its concern with these subjects it has been overseeing the very valuable development of training for prison officers, carried on often by extramural departments of universities or local education authorities, and a wide variety of arrangements for training in the skills of the social worker have been made available and are on an expanding scale being made available to those concerned in prisons, who are finding that they are able to perform their duties as prison staff more effectively because of these training opportunities.

My Lords, the hour is late and therefore I will not develop in more detail the work that has been done by this Working Party, but go on to express the thought that it is also of importance in securing this participation by prison staffs at all levels, and ensuring a full understanding of the development of prison policy, that there should be, and that there should be seen to be, effective opportunities for people from the basic grades of the Service to rise to the highest grades. I know that my noble friend Lord Stonham appreciates this, and I know that his right honourable friend the Home Secretary has taken a great interest in this aspect of personnel problems, of personnel policy, in the Prison Service.

Indeed, some twenty years ago there was accepted by the then Home Secretary, Mr. Chuter Ede, the principle that the vacancies for governors should be filled from within the Service by those who had practical experience of the day-to-day problems of handling prisoners as prison officers. He accepted that principle, subject of course to the Service's being able to provide enough people of the right calibre to fill the vacancies. It is very welcome that the Home Secretary has recently indicated that he thinks the time is appropriate to review this position and to see whether more rapid steps should not be taken and cannot be taken in a practical way to ensure that a substantially larger proportion of those who exercise the governing responsibilities in prisons are people who have had this experience of the direct work of the handling of prisoners as prison officers.

In this connection I would invite my noble friends Lord Stonham and Lady Serota to examine the question of standards of entry to the Prison Service class. This is a matter which has been debated and discussed on more than one occasion. If they will look at the academic standards which are required, I think they will feel some doubt whether they are adequate for the demands which are being put on prison staffs and the increasing demands which are likely to be put upon them. Nobody would suggest for one moment that academic standards alone are anything like enough in judging the suitability of a man or a woman to enter the Prison Service, but when one thinks of the changes and developments which are taking place in our public educational system and of the increasing demands made upon prison staffs, there is, I believe, a case for setting a more exacting standard in terms of public examinations for entry to the Prison Service. It has, for example, been suggested in the past that three passes at "0" level, in English, in mathematics and in some other subject, might be an appropriate minimum which should in present circumstances be expected for this Service.

My Lords, I hope that my noble friend will give consideration to the points which I have made, and I am sure that he and his ministerial colleagues will recognise that the staffs upon whom devolve the responsibilities for the actual implementation of a developing penal policy deserve, and I am sure will indeed receive, the closest consideration from him.

7.46 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend to make a speech, but I am grateful to both my noble friends, Lord Stonham and Lady Serota, for allowing me to intervene for one moment to comment on the suggestion put forward by my noble friend Lord Soper about the castration of certain sexual offenders. Here I am not referring to voluntary castration of these men. After all, I suppose that a man—


My Lords, all of us who spoke on this matter were re- ferring to voluntary castration. My noble friend Lord Soper referred to voluntary castration, so did I, and so did those concerned in Denmark.


My Lords, I am sorry if I have misunderstood my noble friend Lord Soper. I thought my noble friend was putting the idea forward as a method of dealing with certain sexual offenders. In any case, it is not a suggestion that I personally find at all attractive. It is not even certain, as I understand it, that castration eliminates all sexual desire. I wonder what kind of sexual offences my noble friend has in mind, and who is going to decide the gravity of such offences. Those who can obtain sexual satisfaction only by murder are already dealt with by the law and are best incarcerated for life. For the rest, we are, I hope, continually seeking a better understanding of all deviations and exploring all psychological and physical therapeutic aids, and trying to discover any flaws in upbringing and education which fix people in that particular sexual mould. I utterly reject this suggestion and find it unacceptable—even voluntary castration—as a therapeutic method. After all, in this debate, so ably introduced by my noble friend Lord Donaldson, we are trying to make prisons more humane and our after-care a real success.

7.49 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that castration for offenders will not be the only reference to this debate we shall find in the Press tomorrow, because truly this debate deserves far more thoughtful attention than that. We all owe a debt to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge, for introducing what has proved to be an extremely interesting and I think a very valuable afternoon's debate. I can at least claim to have heard every word of it, and I feel that at this time of the evening it is appropriate not just to deliver a previously prepared speech but rather to comment constructively, or perhaps damagingly, on some of the remarks that have been made and to note gaps and perhaps attempt to fill them.

Fortunately, as a debate on this subject should be, it has been almost entirely free from Party political controversy The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, led in astray once. I would say to him on the question of police numbers that it really is better for the Government to stand by the true reason why they took their action of a year ago. The true reason was that there was a financial crisis and it was felt by the Cabinet that cuts had to be made. It was no doubt agreed by the Cabinet that one of the restrictions had to be on the rising strength of the Police Service. I do not think it was a right decision, but that is an understandable reason for it. But if the noble Lord seeks to defend the position by the use of figures. I can only quote at him words which he used in a subsequent part of his speech: The drawing of deductions from figures is a very delicate operation". No doubt the figures which he used to-day from which to draw certain deductions will look as foolish 15 years hence, as if some stupid Conservative in 1955, pointing to the rise in crime between 1945 and 1951, followed by the fall between 1951 and 1954, had ascribed that to a Conservative Government. I assure noble Lords that I have never fallen into a trap like that. But I should like seriously to ask the noble Baroness one question, and in doing so I take the opportunity of congratulating her publicly on the important new appointment which she has just received.



The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, mentioned that the Government were planning for an increase of 2,000 in the strength of the Police Service over the coming year. Perhaps the noble Baroness will be able to make clear whether that is an estimate or a maximum limit, because if it is a maximum limit then this is something which has not previously been revealed, so far as I am aware.

The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, who introduced the debate so comprehensively, so moderately but with such obvious feeling behind his words, at one time expressed the view that both Governments—Conservative and Labour—did not know what they were letting themselves in for when they accepted the Advisory Council's Report on After-Care and sought to implement it. I can assure him that I, as the Home Secretary who accepted that, did know what I was letting myself in for. What I also knew was that a tremendous task lay ahead, of picking up the unsystematic pattern which had existed hitherto and trying to remould it into something more systematic and comprehensive.

I never had any doubt that the Advisory Council was right in saying that this could not be done by statutory authorities alone, but that voluntary assistance was essential; and I recognised from the outset that finance as well as manpower was likely to be a limitation. But I am not seeking to make any Party point here, because I am sure, just as the noble Lord was criticising both Governments, that my successor felt the same way about that and I certainly have no complaint as to what has gone forward.

The noble Lord spoke, also, of the neglect of prison building during the last 50 years. I think this needs to be analysed a little more carefully, because in just one or two phrases of that kind he seemed to me to be not holding the balance of history quite fairly. The truth was that up to 1939 there was no sense of urgency about prison building, because the prison population could easily be held within the existing prison buildings, which were then 30 years less old than they are to-day. From 1945 onwards a new situation arose, because the prison population rapidly increased. Yet in those difficult days after the war it was impossible for any Government, either Labour or Conservative, to give a higher priority to, say, the rebuilding of Dartmoor or Pentonville, than to the building of schools and houses for the people. I have no criticism whatever of the fact that it was not until 1959 that my predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, was able to launch the extensive programme of prison building which is now being carried on by his successors.

I thought, also, that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, was a little optimistic in saying that an instruction, to produce within five years, work for all fit prisoners in prisons, could be implemented. I should just like to put it on the record that in 1963 I gave a directive in the Home Office that, as rapidly as possible, there was to be at least a 30-hour week for all prisoners fit for work in prisons. That was to be taken not as a final aim, but as a step on the road to producing a full working week for all prisoners. I was shocked when I went to Wandsworth (I think it was in 1962) to find that few prisoners were doing more than a 19-hour working week. I do not suppose for a moment that my directive was countermanded when I ceased to be Home Secretary, and I am sure it has simply been the difficulty and the cost which has led to the situation still being relatively unsatisfactory, though I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has being doing in this direction, and I think he deserves every credit for what he has done in the matter of developing prison industries.

The noble Lord, Lord Foot, gave us an interesting and powerful discourse of a philosophic kind, which was perhaps slightly out of accord with the general tone of this debate. Yet I had a great deal of sympathy with it, because I believe these fundamental questions need to be asked more often. I am bound to say that it has been one of my disappointments that the Royal Commission on the Penal System, which I was instrumental in getting set up in 1964, was subsequently brought to an end before it completed its work. I certainly envisaged that Royal Commission as carrying out over a period of years exactly that kind of examination in depth to which the noble Lord referred. Also, I felt that the presence of my noble friend Lord Amory as Chairman of that Royal Commission, would ensure that the work done by it was both compassionate and comprehensive. Though I know that the present Government have sought to do their inquiry work in other ways, through an Advisory Council with ad hoc subcommittees, nevertheless I feel we missed an opportunity when we cut short that work of complete examination in depth of the whole penal system.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, said a great deal with which I found myself in sympathy, on the subject of hostels for young offenders after discharge from borstal. It seems to me that this is another sphere in which we have to do fundamental re-thinking. I have no cut and dried solutions for what I might call the "borstal problem", but of one thing I am quite sure; the material which borstal is now being asked to cope with is different from the material which the bor- stal system took over when it was first established 60 years ago.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the idea that instead of sending a boy to borstal for a period, which used to be up to three years and is now up to two years, after which he comes out as a free man and is under supervision then for a period, we should look at this matter afresh, with a view not only to widening the varieties of borstal treatment but also to seeing whether the transition can be Arranged more constructively. I know that a number of hostels for boys who have been discharged from borstal have been set up. I wonder whether, now that the principle is established that aftercare begins when somebody goes into custody and not when he comes out, and that the after-care work is being done by the Probation and After-care Service and the social workers while in custody, we could supplement that by establishing hostels for boys coming out of borstal in the neighbourhood of the borstal where they have been, if there is work and employment available in that area.

I am not thinking now of the boy who has an established home to go back to. In that case it is far better that he should go home, particularly if he has a family who will give him some stability. I am thinking rather of the type of boy who, I know, is such an anxiety to borstal governors, the boy who seems to have been getting over the hump while in borstal but it is known that he has no sort of home to go back to and that when he leaves borstal the chances are that he will be taken up again by his old companions and be in trouble again in no time. To those who have been watching his progress in borstal it is a bitter sadness that there seems no chance of saving him from that. That is why I suggest that if we could get some hostels set up in the neighbourhood of the borstal where the boy has been, for boys who have not got a real home to go back to, some continuity might be established, because he would still be in touch with those on the prison staff with whom he had probably made friends, and one could thereby bridge the transition in a constructive way through continuity of personalities and friendship.


My Lords, the noble Lord will be very interested to hear that we have one such hostel as he describes. In connection with the Hollesley Bay Borstal we have a hostel at Ipswich, and to a lesser but not complete degree at Rochester Borstal the boys going out for apprenticed training, those who have not got a home to go to, are being found lodgings in the Medway area. So we are starting in an embryo way what the noble Lord wants.


I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I was not presenting it as a discovery of my own, but as a line of thinking. In the past one has tended to think of hostels for borstal boys as being in the big cities, whereas it seems to me we should be trying to develop some hostels in proximity to the borstals. I must say I have a good deal of sympathy with the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, in her plea that the Government should accept her Committee's proposal of a small central group to press on with the development of after-care provision and hostels. It would be essential that this should be done with the goodwill of NACRO and not in the teeth of its opposition. But I think that here we have a situation which is not of a normal character in the collaboration of Government Department and voluntary effort. Here we have a situation where the Government, of its own accord, has accepted a strong recommendation from its advisory council that there should be a big expansion, a big development of a certain kind, and that development can be successfully carried out only by collaboration between voluntary effort and the statutory authorities. It seems to me that the case for appointing a small group of people who could help to make sure that there is complete mutual understanding between the two and could bring difficulties quickly to the notice of both of them, should be considered afresh.


My Lords, may I say that I did sign the noble Baroness's Report? I have never been against this, and we in NACRO welcome it.


My Lords, I am very glad to hear that, and I hope the Government will give fresh attention to this matter.

I think we all took it as a compliment to your Lordships' House that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, felt able to speak as he did about the Parole Board, and we highly appreciate the work that his Board and particularly he himself is doing. 1 believe he is right in thinking that the Board is winning the approval and confidence of the public, which is all-important, and I would say the Board can be sure that the public will judge it by the rates of ex-prisoners released on licence and re-convicted while they are on licence; and that rate so far has been very low—all credit to the Board.

It gave me some concern when he said that at present the Board were rejecting between a quarter and a third of the recommendations of local review committees. I am not necessarily criticising the Board in this; I may be criticising the local review committees. But, for my part, I always have a great belief in the judgment of the man on the spot, if the man on the spot is fully informed as to the facts and the criteria to be applied to any particular question. I hope that that difference of, say, 30 per cent. will narrow as time goes on, partly through the Board getting greater confidence in the local review committees, partly through the Board drawing to the attention of some local review committees, as no doubt is necessary, the fact that they seem to be proceeding on rather different principles from those which are guiding the Board. I am sure that ideally that gap should be reduced to a very small one. There will always be a gap, because there will always be cases where the local review committee cannot be fully acquainted with the facts which are relevant to the Board's final consideration.


My Lords, the split decisions also go to the Board.


That is another factor. One point which did give me concern was when the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said at the beginning of his speech that one of the factors which must be taken into account by the Board —I hope I am quoting him correctly —is the sense of outrage at the crime in the public's mind. I should have thought that the sense of outrage in the public's mind was exactly what the judge has to take into account when he is passing sentence, and if the Board then takes that into account again the scales are being weighted against the prisoner. Of course, if the judge says in any particular case where he passes sentence, after the Criminal Justice Act 1967, "I think that the Parole Board should be very chary of granting you release on licence", obviously the Board would take that into account.

I would not myself say that the public would expect a sense of outrage at the crime to be taken into account as an extra factor by the Board, because it would expect the judge to have taken that into account in deciding what the right sentence is. I know how scrupulously careful the Home Secretary has to be—and indeed all his officers—in never questioning the decision of the judge, though all Home Secretaries, all Home Office Ministers, must often have thought that some offenders had got off rather lightly and some been rather severely punished. But that is a given thing, that is a datum, and one must proceed from that.


My Lords, I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, and I speak in no sense with a view to justifying or correcting what I said. I would just mention that I linked what I said to the concern which the Board feels is one of its responsibilities; that is, the present lack of understanding about parole in the minds of the public. When I mentioned what the noble Lord correctly quoted, I said, "for some time", and the Board stands by this at the present time.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said, but I still feel a concern because I think the Board will justify itself to the public by a low rate of reconviction while on licence. I believe that the public will feel some concern if it thinks that the Board is erecting a barrier and refusing to release on licence any prisoner who has, in fact, behaved himself well in prison, if the risk of his returning to crime is judged by all concerned to be negligible and he is favourably recommended for release by the local review committee.

I listened with great interest, and a good deal of sympathy, to what the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said about the Probation Service, and what the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, said about the prison officers. I do not think any words of mine can be too warm in appreciation for what both those Services do. I think the Probation Service is highly regarded by the public, though not highly remunerated. The Prison Service is not as highly regarded by the public as it should be, but they are doing a quite invaluable service. I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, that the career structure of prison officers is not all that it should be, and I should like to see a larger proportion rising to the higher positions. At the same time, I should be very sad if the Home Office were to do anything to cut short the influx into the higher ranks of the Prison Service of well-qualified men who are now first rate governors. The quality of the governors of our prisons and borstals is, I think, extraordinarily high.

When I became Home Secretary I did not have the advantage of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, of being closely acquainted with prisons beforehand. I do not mean that in any derogatory sense, but it was an advantage to him when he first became Minister at the Home Office. I sought to make this good. I think I was the first Home Secretary to embark on a very wide programme of visiting prisons, and in two and a half years I personally visited 40 out of the 100 prisons, borstals and detention centres that were in existence at the time. Through that I learned how much more there was for me to learn before I could speak authoritatively on this subject. Nothing made a stronger impression on me than the ignorance of the vast majority of the public about prisons; what it is like in prison, and what is being attempted in the prisons. I would say that this ignorance must be continuously broken down if the objects of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge, in introducing this debate are to be accomplished.

Fortunately, we have a better opportunity now than ever before, because the well-devised television programme can bring this knowledge right into the homes of people—whose minds might otherwise be closed to the subject—in a way that no previous medium could have done. We have to get over to people, for example, that after-care is not just an attitude of compassion towards people who possibly do not deserve it—as some unthinking people imagine—but is a policy of action which is supported by all the logic of law and order and public economy. Even if one sets aside all personal care for the individual—as I certainly would not do myself—nevertheless there is an unanswerable case in that a proper after-care system would keep people away from crime and out of returning to prison, who otherwise would be a nuisance to the public and an expense to the Chancellor. There is a cast-iron case on both grounds.

Unfortunately, ever since I have held any position of responsibility, this country has been afflicted by recurrent balance of payment crises which have imposed on Chancellors of the Exchequer an almost permanent policy of rigid economy. I believe that that is the greatest obstacle to the accomplishment of the object of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge. He is calling for a stronger sense of public responsibility; a stronger sense of public responsibility which must reflect itself in making more money available. It is a tragedy that, when we all see the additional sense of public responsibility that is needed, we read in the papers on the same day that ten men on unofficial strike for their own purposes are bringing a great industrial organisation to a standstill. If we cannot shake ourselves out of that state of mind, how are we ever to overcome our balance of payments problem and put the Treasury in a position where it no longer need inflict this rigid economy, and thereby enable both public and private resources to provide the money which is an absolute necessity if these objects are to be secured? I congratulate the noble Lord on this debate to-day. I hope he feels that it has been worth while. I think he can be certain that there is all-Party support for his objectives.

8.18 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships on all sides of the House have welcomed the opportunity that my noble friend Lord Donaldson has given us to-day to debate the Motion which he put down on the paper. After a debate that has been going on now for several hours I hope I shall be forgiven by noble Lords if I have not picked up any particular point of detail, but I will try, within a broad framework, to answer the points made within the general context of the Motion.

I think what has been very noticeable —and I hope that it has given my noble friend, Lord Donaldson, the sponsor of this particular debate, particular pleasure —is that throughout the debate all noble Lords who have spoken, whether they have concentrated mainly on the field of the provision of after-care for offenders on release from prison, or on the prison system itself, have adopted what I think we all now agree is fundamental to our approach to these problems; namely, an integrated approach. Whenever vie have considered the problems relating to the care, treatment and rehabilitation of offenders, it has been a very broad-ranging debate, and the noble Lord, Lord Foot, reminded us very near the beginning of it that we should set it in the wider context of how society is prepared to deal with its erring members, with its dangerous members, with those who are merely unruly, or even, as we know when we go round our prisons, simply inadequate. Also—perhaps a situation which would not have occurred ten years ago but for the activities of certain Members of your Lordships' House—there has now been a broad acceptance of the principle that aftercare to be fully effective must be conceived as a continuous process integrated with the work in the prison in which the offender serves his sentence.

To all of us to-day this seems a first principle, but as a member of the Sub-Committee of the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders who reported to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, when he was Home Secretary on the question of the after-care of offenders, I recall that this was by no means the principle from which everyone started when we embarked upon that inquiry. To those noble Lords who sometimes feel that debates in this House and outside it have no effect on public opinion and public attitudes, I may say that we can all take pride and pleasure, although, of course, we shall never be satisfied, that this fundamental principle of statutory responsibility for after-care has now been firmly welded into our penal system.

Looking first at the developments in the treatment of offenders, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Foot, for starting us off on the philosophy of punishment. It is far too late an hour for me to embark on this subject, and very few of your Lordships followed his line of thinking, but throughout the debate I have noticed general agreement that prison should be the final sanction which is available to the courts, and that wherever possible offenders should remain in the community, following their normal occupations and supporting themselves and their wives and families. In this group of thinking came contributions from almost every noble Lord who spoke in the debate to-day. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, talked about the needs of families and the ways in which families suffer when their wage-earners go into prison. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, talked about the needs of the young offender, which I will deal with in greater detail. But in every case we were considering the effect of imprisonment upon individuals, and we accept that this should be seen as a situation of last resort, a matter for decision by the courts which must be affected by the nature of the offence and must reflect the need to inflict punishment or to protect society. To be fully effective, it would also have to take into consideration the needs of the individual offender.

In this field, the Government can proudly claim progress. There was the Criminal Justice Act which was passed only a short time ago, and I will not repeat the points which were made earlier in the debate by my noble friend Lord Stonham on the suspended sentence, the extended sentence, and the fact that the successor of the Royal Commission on the Penal System, the Advisory Council on the Penal System, has now set up a sub-committee under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger and is currently investigating ways and means of extending our methods of providing non-custodial penalties for offenders. This is the other side of the coin—indeed, to my mind the first side—when one looks at the treatment of offenders and the provision of adequate services for their after-care.

One of the unique features of the debate to-day has been the contribution by, I think I can call him, my noble friend Lord Hunt. I believe that it is the first occasion—I may be wrong—when he has spoken in public as Chairman of the 'Parole Board. His appointment was widely welcomed. Although many of us were fully in support of the Government's decision to introduce a parole system, we were conscious of the difficulties which this presented for the Probation and After-care Service, for the local review committees, for the Home Office, for prison staff and governors, and for the Parole Board itself. Parole is a most sensitive and difficult operation and it undoubtedly did, and must, create tensions among staff and among prisoners. The way in which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has set about his business, as was evidenced by his speech to-day, can only give one confidence in the future development of this service under his able leadership.

I join in the tribute paid by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and on behalf of the Government and my noble friend Lord Stonham I wish to thank Lord Hunt and his colleagues on the Parole Board, and also those men and women who work sometimes in difficult circumstances in the local review committees, the Probation and After-care Service and the staff of our prisons, for the progress which they have made—slow but albeit steady progress—in the development of our parole system.

My noble friend Lord Stonham answered a large number of points which were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, but he did not speak about the tremendous progress and development which have taken place in our prison system. This was partly due to his natural modesty, because every noble Lord who has spoken has paid tribute to his personal work; it was also due to his anxiety not to weary your Lordships. But it would be a pity if this debate were concluded without putting on record the achievements of the Government in a field which we know to be difficult. Penal reform is not a great vote winner, and yet at a time of great economic stringency the Government have gone forward and have tried to deal with some of the problems which were mentioned by Lord Donaldson at the outset of his speech, particularly that of prison overcrowding.

The noble Lord asked what we had done to remedy the negligence of fifty years. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, reminded us that it was not really fifty years, but only the post-war years. I would part company with him on this matter. I feel that it was a tragedy, if one looks back at the history of the prison system, that we did not redevelop our older prisons in the time when there was no pressure on them, in the pre-1939 period. Clearly, no Government of whatever colour could have begun to touch this problem earlier than the middle-50s; when we had tremendous pressure on our housing, education and social service programmes. The pre-1939 period was the time when the problem could have been tackled. Now we have an inheritance of outworn capital which, I personally think, creates socially degrading and inhumane conditions in some of our older prisons.

This is a vast job, particularly as in many cases the Government have had to start from scratch. For the first time now at least we know the approximate proportion of prisoners requiring what the Home Office call "A", "B", "C" and "D" class prisons. For the first time we know the relevant amount of accommodation needed for each class and the number and type of prisons required. For the first time, too—and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, can take personal credit for this—we have a five-year building programme based on starts, moving forward each year, so that all the time we can look ahead five years. The programme includes new prisons, renovation jobs and even building with inmate labour. This relates to our plans for increasing our inmate labour building force from 3,000 to 6,000 men.

Many noble Lords have touched on the question of prison work, a field in which my noble friend Lord Stonham can truly claim to be an expert in his own right. The prison building programme is in turn related to the training and rehabilitation of offenders. We are first giving the men trade training, then putting them on site work, and then bringing in the district officers of the Amalgamated Union of Building Trades Workers who look at the men's work. Then, if they are satisfied with the standard of a man's performance they admit him into the union and try to get him settled into a job. This was exactly the point made by my noble friend Lord Delacourt- Smith. It is to the eternal credit of the union that they have agreed to implement this practice on a national scale. The Home Office are now approaching other unions to see whether they will participate in further developments of this kind. In the meantime, we cannot do without our older prisons. So my noble friend Lord Stonham and the Secretary of State are attempting to give fresh momentum to the refurbishing and replacement of what Lord Donaldson called the Victorian barracks of our out-dated prison buildings, many of them in our built-up urban city centres.

Simultaneously, the Government are building new prisons to relieve gross and persistent overcrowding, which gives rise to the conditions which we all deplore. Two categories of prisons are needed most urgently: first, the "B" class modern, secure prisons where enlightened forms of treatment may be applied to those prisoners who have to be kept in conditions of high security; secondly, the purpose-built "C" class prisons, with much less elaborate arrangements, for the high proportion of male prisoners who are comparatively easy to control and who have little or no inclination towards plotting escapes, but who are not sufficiently stable to be trusted in open conditions. Here, although I am sure this will not meet fully the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Foot, I would say that in the first type of prison we are making special arrangements for prisoners to have access to lavatories at, night. This was the point that the noble Lord made, when he said what a tragedy it was that in 1969 we still had to make provision for this kind of natural, normal, human function.

In the second type of prison prisoners will have free access without special arrangements. Here, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Foot, will feel that progress is being made. We must, surely, eventually, and sooner rather than later, do away with the older prisons, where this unpleasant and thoroughly degrading ritual of "slopping-out" continues day by day. That this is a very difficult problem the Government are very conscious indeed, but at least in our new buildings we are providing proper amenities in which human beings can live and not lose their self-respect.

Much of the money and resources which are available to the Prison Department over the next five years will be devoted to these two particular categories of prison that I have mentioned. Their programme envisages starts being made on seven "B" class and six "C" class prisons, which will have about double the capacity. In the same period one old prison—that at Oxford—will be replaced by new buildings at Culham and a start will be made on the re-development or improvement of several others, including Reading, Portsmouth, Leeds, Liverpool, Durham, Swansea, Nottingham and Bristol. As I said earlier, I think this is a programme of development and advance which stands to the Government's credit at a time of very grave financial difficulty. Of course, in these new prisons—again replying to a point made by several noble Lords in the debate—there will be adequate workshop space equal to modern factories, and opportunities for using modern industrial methods. We are also trying to provide equal facilities for redevelopment projects in old prisons, subject, of course, to the usual problem, which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, will know so well, namely, limitations of space.

My Lords, I should now like to turn to the questions on staffing which several noble Lords raised. I am very conscious that I am not answering every point in individual detail, but the time is late and I know that many noble Lords have other engagements. I listened with very great interest to the speech of my noble friend Lord Delacourt-Smith, when he spoke about this really vital issue of the recruitment, training and employment of prison staff. I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Donaldson for the remarks he made regarding the calibre of our present-day staff. Any system for the treatment and rehabilitation of offenders is surely only as good as its staff and, like a chain, its strength really is that of its weakest link; and if we are to develop a modern and progressive system of treatment of offenders we surely must move towards a more effective prison staffing.

Here, again there has been improvement and change. In fact, in recent years there has been a significant movement towards the greater involvement of the prison officer with his charges, and this aspect of his duties is becoming increasingly important. Since 1964 their initial training has included a social studies course designed to provide recruits with a modest introduction to modern ideas of penal and allied social questions, and an insight into human relations and the principles of man-management.

My noble friend Lord Delacourt-Smith asked a number of questions and spoke about the work of the Working Party to which my noble friend Lord Stonham and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State attach very great importance indeed in developing the role of the prison officer. He also mentioned—and indeed, I think, welcomed—the recent decision of the Home Secretary to have promotion outlets to the governor grade examined and indeed improved. He also raised at the end of his speech the very important question of entry qualifications and the possible raising of the level in the future as our educational services develop and as more and more young people go into further and higher education. I think there are great opportunities here for raising the level of entry qualifications into the Prison Service.

My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Longford (who unfortunately had to leave for an earlier engagement), together with the noble Lord, Lord Soper, and several other noble Lords, drew our attention in this debate to the needs of young offenders—and by "young offenders" in this context to-night I mean the 17 to 21 age group. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, asked specific questions, but as he has not been able to stay perhaps it would be easier if I were to write to him about his question: Have the Government power under the current Criminal Justice Act to provide a hostel for borstal boys? This whole area of the young offender is clearly one which is causing great concern. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, put his finger right on it, I think, when he said that the kind of young person going to borstal to-day is very different from the one originally envisaged. I think this particular aspect of change is particularly well set out in Roger Hood's study, Borstal Re-assessed. The House will be aware that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has asked a sub-committee of his Advisory Council to look at the whole question of detention centre training. Quite recently they came up with their interim report, recommending the closure of the detention centre for girls, and they are giving further study to the treatment of —I was about to say boys, but I would to-day regard them as young men—in our detention centres. I understand that the Howard League for Penal Reform, has recently submitted a memorandum to the Home Office on the whole question of a new look at the treatment of young offenders, and the Home Office is studying this with the greatest interest. When I say "the treatment of young offenders", here I personally would include non-custodial treatment, custodial care and also the point which so many noble Lords have covered—the need for after-care and a gradual transition back into society if they have to be kept in custodial care either for their own personal needs or because society needs to be protected from their anti-social behaviour. This is a whole area of inquiry and concern that has come up in various forms during this debate. As I say, we look forward to hearing from the Advisory Council, first on detention centres and then, I hope, on borstals.

My Lords, the specific subject of sex offenders has been raised to-night in the debate by three noble Lords, with the suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Soper, that prisoners should be allowed voluntarily to submit to castration. The noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, raised this point and also the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell. The Prison Service is of course fully alive to the need to offer treatment to sex offenders in suitable cases, and the prison staff is certainly very conscious indeed of the kind of problem that the treatment of this particular kind of offender requires—and also, in certain cases, the difficulty that this presents within the prison population itself. But just as it would seem wrong to minimise the effort which is being made in this field, I think it would be equally wrong not to recognise the intractable problems that such offenders pose and the limited scope for treatment in our present state of knowledge.

On the specific question of castration, I can only say that the carrying out of such an operation on the prisoner, I think even voluntarily, would raise difficult legal and ethical questions. In any event, experience in countries where castration is allowed is that it does not necessarily have the desired effect of stopping the prisoner's sexual activities. The noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, pointed this out to us very forcefully a little while ago. Such operations are not offered to prisoners in this country.

The noble Marquess, Lord Hertford, raised a point which I think many people to-day are turning over in their minds; namely, is there not a place to which we could send very dangerous offenders, never to release them? This raises fundamental and I think serious penological problems. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, made the point that for many people it is difficult to contemplate a "no hope" situation in which more harm than good will be done. Moreover, we feel that it would involve a relatively sm111 and highly-charged community in which treatment, as at present we construe the term, would be difficult if not impossible. It would seem undesirable to give any particular encouragement to the noble Marquess on this particular proposal, for the reasons I have given. I do not think he would wish me to hold out hope that this was a possibility that the Government would be prepared to consider, if it were felt by those expert in this field that it would be an unwise; move and one not penologically tenable.

My Lords, conscious that I have made no comment on the questions affecting women offenders upon which the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, touched, but conscious also of the time and lateness of the hour, may I turn broadly to the other aspect of our debate; namely, the after-care social services in the community for offenders and their integration with the treatment of offenders in prison? There is no need for me to repeat the principles with which all noble Lords were fully in agreement throughout the debate. I listened with interest to the effective, powerful and pungent plea made by the noble Baroness, Lady Swan-borough, for her "pentad" or "pentagon", which was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and, I understand, welcomed by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. I am not quite sure whether this was in his capacity as Chairman of NACRO or as the initiator of this debate.

To the noble Baroness and to others who asked whether I would be sure that the Home Secretary reads this debate, I can only give the undertaking, certainly on behalf of my noble friend, Lord Stonham, that this debate will be read with great interest and care in the Home Office and that we will draw the attention of the Secretary of State to the fact that Lady Reading has once again put forward the plea which was put forward by her Working Party. I gathered, listening to her speech, that this was because she feels that we have not yet quite got the right balance between statutory activities in the after-care field and the voluntary after-care activities. This is a difficult field. It is a new and developing field and one in which, as noble Lords have said, we have only really just begun.

I turn for a moment to the specialist provision which one needs to see within the wider range of after-care provision. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, speaks to us on these matters with a wealth of special knowledge, of alcoholics, of unmarried mothers, of every kind of social deviant and isolate, and of difficult groups. He seems to know all about them—not just from books but as the provider of places for them. The work of his mission in this particular field is beyond praise, and I know of some of it myself. I find his thinking on the treatment of alcoholics of particular interest. One special point he made I think we might all bear in mind in relation to hostels for offenders and the after-care service; namely, that he was coming to the conclusion that it was best not only to have alcoholics in hostels for alcoholics, but to move towards the mixing of problems rather than to the one-purpose type hostel. This, I know, is a line of thought which is being developed in certain groups, and certainly in the local authority field. It is already possible, and has been for many years, to provide hostels for boys in care and out at work or released on licence from approved schools and also to provide places in the same hostels for boys who, for one reason or another, require accommodation. This principle of mixing rather than of having one-purpose hostels is of great interest.

The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, rightly drew our attention to the current burden on the Probation and After-care Service. This is a recurrent feature of our debates on this particular area, yet I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and the present Government, in their turn, were right to expand our Probation Service into a Probation and After-care Service. Although none of us is satisfied with the resources available or with the speed at which we are going, nevertheless I believe—and I think the noble Lords will agree—that this is the right basis from which to develop; although many of us are very conscious that we are not going fast enough. While talking about services in the community, the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asked me to draw the attention of the Home Secretary specially to the problem of offenders and their families. I was going to speak about this at some length because it is a subject very close to my heart; but I am sure that would weary your Lordships at this late hour.

I hope that I have answered most of the individual questions. I know that tucked under this pile of papers there is a particular question on the police from the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. I hope that he will forgive me if I answer this later in the evening. The answer to another question he raised I should prefer to give in writing, because it relates to exact figures on prisoners with extended sentences which 1 do not have at the moment. I think there would be agreement that we are now seeing, certainly in the after-care field and I hope in the prison building field, under the direction of this Government, the small beginnings of a major social advance. The object is to lead to a successful rehabilitation of a much larger proportion of offenders than we have succeeded in getting in the past. Not only is the object of the exercise to benefit the offenders themselves—not everyone is humanitarian in his approach to this problem, though all noble Lords who spoke to-night are—but it is the social cost, both economic and human, that one is deeply conscious of when one looks at a broad-ranging debate of this kind. I can give the House this assurance—I am sure with Lord Stonham's agreement—that this Government will press on as resources allow with a programme of penal reform and with the development of after-care in co-operation with voluntary organisations and all individuals.

My Lords, I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Foot, among others, who said that we need new knowledge and new thinking in dealing with the problems of deviant behaviour. We certainly need more research and more experiment, and we ought to monitor the research, particularly the operational experiments that we undertake, so that we know what we are doing. I hope that the noble Lord who initiated this debate will agree that a discussion of this kind in this House of some of these intractable problems, to which we do not yet know all the answers, has served a purpose. It has taken forward our thinking in certain directions, and I hope in the world outside has created a stronger sense of public responsibility for the treatment of offenders.

8.50 p.m.


My Lords, it only remains for me to thank noble Lords. I said at the beginning that I hoped they would fill in the gaps that I left. I think this has been admirably done. I can think of three particular gaps that I knew I had left, and all of them have been filled. I want to make only one very short point: that in this field the more you do the more there is to do. As an example of that my noble friend Lord Stonham referred to 131 case loads of a prison welfare officer. At Grendon we have now reduced it to 65, and our three officers are completely overworked. I do not think that we shall get anywhere near a satisfactory situation until we get the number down to 35, so we have a very long way to go. When these people undertake that work, they do so because it is there to be done; we did not know that it was there before. That is my only point. We have had a very full answer from my noble friend Lord Stonham; a very interesting summary of the debate from the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and a very satisfactory summary from my noble friend Lady Serota. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.