HL Deb 12 June 1974 vol 352 cc508-71

4.4 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, I wish to thank the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for opening this subject up for debate, and for the compassionate and imaginative manner in which he has dealt with it. I am sure that many of your Lordships will agree with me in this. I am sorry that I come between the noble Earl and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharpies, who is making her maiden speech. Perhaps she would like me to go on a long time to save the moment when she has to stand up. But I may say that last time I stood up in your Lordships' House it was my maiden speech and I can assure the noble Baroness that there is no more kindly or generous a congregation than your Lordships' House. I would infinitely prefer to address this House than a gathering of clergy.

My own experience in Wakefield prison has led me to certain conclusions. There are prisoners who need and deserve attention and from whom society should be protected. There are prisoners, many of them serving life sentences, for whom prison is wasting space, money and the time of those who have charge of them. There are prisoners who in the loneliness of their cells have come to terms with themselves and have found their way back from the far country; and truly for some prison has been the means of redemption.

I suppose some people tend to be sentimental about prisoners. Perhaps I may be guilty of this, but I am bound to say that I have many close friends in the ranks of those within Wakefield prison. I make a point of not knowing why a man is in prison unless he chooses to tell me; I prefer to meet him as he now is and not as he was at the time of his crime. My impression is of ordinary men who have lost their way in life, of fellow human beings who are no better or worse than I am, carrying for the rest of their lives the memory of what they have done. But the fundamental difference between us is that when I choose to leave prison I do so, whereas the prisoner does not. He is there, deprived of that which in the long term enables him to be a person —his freedom—and that is the agony of it.

I do not believe it is a sign of softness to make conditions in prison as tolerable as possible, for the real punishment is to be insidethose walls and no longer a free man. But as the noble Earl has said, our present prison population is far too large. The system is clogged by the large numbers of short-term prisoners serving sentences of a few months, so short a time that no remedial work is possible. There are drugs and drug addicts, many of them sick people. They are not criminals. There are prisoners on remand because the courts, I think sometimes for inadequate reasons, have refused bail; there are prisoners who are there because poverty has made it impossible for them to pay their fines or keep up maintenance orders. Such categories are swelling the prison population beyond the capacity of the prisons, and beyond the ability of the prison staff to cope with them without working impossibly long hours. Is it not possible to use remand hostels which would release the strain upon our prisons? The faot is that there are too many people in prison, and I would think more than there need be. In 1972 nearly 45,000 people were remanded on bail, yet 35 per cent. of these prisoners were not given custodial sentences, and 5 per cent. were acquitted. There is double punishment for some and injustice for a few.

I should have thought it would have been possible for there to be a new imprisonable offence for absconding while on bail. This is something more serious than losing your money. Yet the lack of a new maximum security prison, as recommended by the Mountbatten Commission, means a large number of prisoners are living for long periods in conditions which inevitably bring about psychological and moral disintegration. We would all agree that to be deprived for long periods of the opportunity to make decisions must inevitably unfit a man on release to take his place usefully in society. And surely—I know this is an old one—the deprivation of sexual freedom is responsible for a great deal of unnatural vice in prisons as well as for tensions which can often result in violence and make the work of the prison officers infinitely more difficult. I scarcely dare say this because I may be misunderstood, but I wonder whether there is not a possibility of mixed prisons. Do not misunderstand me. I am not proposing sexual promiscuity in our prisons. I am simply saying that the presence of men and women in the same establishment would produce a more natural environment and remove some of the dangers of an enforced monastic situation.

Then. I wonder, would it not be possible for men and women in prison to earn a full wage for the work they do, thus making discharge grant unnecessary? Of course, it might be unwise to give them all their earnings at once, for obvious reasons; but I should have thought that what they had accumulated in this way might well be administered to them according to their needs. I should have thought it would be possible to stamp their insurance cards while they are in prison, thus improving their employment prospects and preserving their entitlement to social security.

May I now say a few words about a group of men whose point of view is too little appreciated by the public, although the noble Earl has referred to them. I refer to prison officers—not "warders", as they are sometimes referred to in the Press. The first thing I say about them is that there are far too few of them, with the result that it often happens that they have to put in an 80-hour week. The total overtime working of prison officers for the year ended August 18, 1973, was 8,195,964 hours. Can we appreciate the effect that this has upon an officer's family life? It goes far to explain the resignations from the Service. I will not tire your Lordships with too many figures. Suffice it to say that the leakage of prison officers is 20 per cent. more than the intake. It is estimated that in 1973, 289 resigned from the Service. It has to be remembered that the basic grade officer is in contact with prisoners all the time and in a sense he is serving a sentence. These officers see their task primarily to be to keep men in detention and to prepare them for release, and to do these things according to the rules laid down by Parliament The prison officer has to bear the difficult job of passing on to prisoners unpalatable decisions made higher up, often by people who have never seen the inside of a prison. May I say that when Members of Parliament complain about treatment of prisoners, as they do from time to time, they should remember that they have been party to making the rules and the code of conduct.

There is a feeling between prison officers and those who come in to work under the Probation Service or welfare officers who are not subject to the same hours. I know many prison officers who feel it desirable that they should be more integrated in the other services. Indeed, many of them feel they are well fitted to undertake the work of welfare in the prisons. It would increase their status. They would not be, as it were, just custodial while the experts come in from outside to deal with things with which, I believe, prison officers would be well equipped to deal.

There is one matter which I do not think has been properly tackled arising from the problem of long-term prisoners now that capital punishment has been abolished. This affects a large number of prisoners. In 1957 there were 130 "lifers"; in 1973 there were 900-plus. What is to be done with such men? How are we to give them some kind of hope? The prison officers themselves have come up with a suggestion affecting long-term prisoners which seems to me to be a good one but which has not so far commended itself to the Home Office. It is that prisoners who behave themselves should earn an additional bonus of one-sixth remission. This would make the work of the prison officer easier; it would relieve pressure upon prisoners, and it would give the long-term prisoners some gleam of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel. I wonder, although I do not speak as an expert about this, how far the whole field of incentives has been explored in order that the well-behaved prisoner may find incentives which will enable him to reduce his sentence.

I ought to say also that many of the prison officers to whom I have spoken are not a little worried about the new regulation whereby a prisoner can apply at governor level for a restoration of his remission. This is something which will make the prison officers' work very much more difficult. I suppose it is true to say that the attitude to prisoners of the public, or certain elements in the public, is often sentimental and romantic. The Official Secrets Act makes it difficult for the problems of the prison officer to be given publicity. On the whole, he is not treated very well by the media. I wonder whether your Lordships realise that a prison officer with 17 years' service and 21 hours' overtime in a week takes home a wage of £43, which I would compare with that of a student in my diocese who is being paid £48 per week in a wool mill in Batley for a holiday job. Prison officers also have to face the possibility these clays of intimidation of their families—not unlikely in a world in which hijacking and kidnapping are becoming a regular feature of life in our society.

However, the problem remains about time of release—the problems financial, of setting himself up. A man comes out. He needs clothing. He receives his release grant of —6.50, I think it is. He needs fares. Of the 50,000 men released each year, it is estimated that 10,000 are homeless. What are they to do? Again and again they end up whence they came. I believe it should be possible to make a prisoner independent when he comes out on release. For the man who finds it hard to adjust to the kind of society he finds when he comes out after a long spell in prison, there ought to be some kind of halfway house, somewhere where he can live for a week or two until he has adjusted. Recently I saw a man on Wakefield station with tears running down his cheeks. He had just been released into a new world and the experience for him was shattering. They need some halfway house, and I should have thought that hostels could be developed in which they could be accommodated during this time. They might even be allowed to go back into prison, as guests if you like, for a few nights until they have come to terms with life outside. If they came out with their insurance cards stamped, what an advantage it would be to them in obtaining employment not to have to explain why their card has not been stamped for however long it may be.

The care of the discharged prisoner is given to the Probation Service and as the noble Earl, Lord Longford, has said they are terribly under-staffed. It is more than they can do to pay more than one or two visits to a discharged prisoner. Your Lordships may know that the Probation Service is now asking for volunteers who will share with them some of these problems. This is a practical matter that we who are concerned about the future of the prisoner could undertake.

My Lords, we have been very fortunate in having a series of humane and wise Home Secretaries, and I find that the prison governors whom I know, and prison officers have an enlightened and progressive attitude. They are dealing with a very difficult situation and it is all too easy for us outside the prison walls to pontificate about reforms. We must see the point of view of those who have to work the situation with inadequate resources in manpower.

4.22 p.m.


My Lords, I rise with great diffidence to address your Lordships but I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for giving me this opportunity of making my maiden speech this afternoon. I have been neither a probation officer nor a prison visitor, but for a number of years I have visited the wives of men in prison. I visited them in the London area. Your Lordships are well aware of the great efforts made to rehabilitate men on their release from gaol, and many improvements have indeed been made over the years. But what seems to me, and possibly to your Lordships, more important is what effect the severance from society has on the men inside.

Many prison governors now allow fortnightly visits instead of the usual monthly visits. At the moment, on receipt of their visiting orders, wives on supplementary benefit have to obtain their railway warrants for themselves and families from the social security office, but they are allowed these travel warrants free for only the monthly visit. This applies also to the earning wives who get their warrants from the Probation Service. Surely, if the prison governors feel that these extra visits will help the men— and it appears from all accounts that indeed they do—then, whatever the wives' income, these two-weekly travel warrants should be given free when visiting orders are granted. Cannot these orders and warrants be sent by the governor direct to the wives? It would save a great deal of time, worry and paper-work involving so many other people who are already overworked. I should like to know what the Minister thinks about these free fortnightly visits, which I feel very strongly should be encouraged.

In order to continue the maximum contact with their families, which can only help all concerned, could not the home leave now considered for men serving two years-plus be expanded, with the responsibility for the men, when outside prison, being that of the Probation Service and not that of the governor? If these extra home visits are allowed nearer the time of release, I do not think that there will be many, if any, absconders. When I recently visited a top security prison, the suggestions which I made were confirmed by all those to whom I talked. I feel that the men serving two to five years offer us the most hopeful rehabilitation and it is in this group that these ideas, which I am sure are not new, will help to keep the men out of further trouble which must be everybody's main concern, not least that of the wives.

What struck me most when visiting the wives, always on a regular basis, was that they were very lonely and, although suspicious of officials as they call them, obviously needing help and advice to assist them through a very difficult period. Hire purchase and other debts were their main problems. A woman with two children of ten and twelve now receives an average income of £18.85 from the State. With many of their husbands now in prison and a very long way from home, the added burden of the cost of travelling to see them puts them even more in debt.

Many immigrant families have the extra problems of a strange language and even stranger customs to overcome. I feel that perhaps consulates and embassies could do more to help. In spite of all their problems, with encouragement and sympathy, and not with financial aid so far as I was concerned, they all learned to cope in a most remarkable way. They clearly felt the vital necessity of keeping the family together and having as normal a life as it is possible for a one-parent family to have.

What I have hoped to show your Lordships is that our main concern when looking to the future is surely to make every effort to maintain and increase the family links throughout a man's imprisonment, so that on his release we may have more hope that he will keep out of further trouble. There are many welfare organisations besides the social services and probation officers who do a great deal to help in the rehabilitation of prisoners, and to all of these people we obviously owe a great deal. Between us all, if we can succeed to any degree in keeping men out of gaol in the future, our extra efforts will, I feel, have been worthwhile.

Finally, my Lords, may I thank you all for the great sympathy, consideration and courtesy which has been shown to me over the past year by your Lordships, and especially to-day.

4.28 p.m.


My Lords, I count myself extremely fortunate to be in this position on the list of speakers because it enables me to be the first of your Lordships to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Sharpies, on her maiden speech. It was highly informed. She spoke to us of her own experience, which is what this House always likes best. She was brief and the suggestions which she made were all practical. They were in the best traditions of a maiden speech, and I am sure that now we have heard her we shall wish to hear her again soon and often.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Longford for having introduced this subject for discussion to-day. In the past I have, I am afraid, been highly critical of many aspects of our prison system, and I am still so to-day. If one makes these criticisms it may be thought, if only inferentially, that one is criticising the Home Secretary who is, after all, responsible for the administration of our prison system. Therefore I should like first to make it quite clear that I intend nothing of the kind. I am a great admirer of the Home Secretary. I thought that he was a splendid Home Secretary when he held that office for a fairly brief period of only 18 months, and I am sure that he will be so again. But nobody with knowledge of political life could expect that by this date, June 12—it was on March 12 that Her Majesty the Queen opened this Parliament—he could have had a Criminal Justice Bill ready, or that we arc likely to see one on the Statute Book before November. So I mean no criticism of him in anything that I say.

Secondly. I should perhaps say that I am President of the Howard League for Penal Reform. I do not remember a time when I was not a member of the Howard League, and I was for some years on the executive and also for some years honorary treasurer. It is a body which has been very highly regarded in Government circles ever since Margery Fry was secretary. A great many of the reforms which have taken place in this field have been due to the Howard League. This is partly because their committees have always been staffed with magistrates, probation officers, prison visitors and people who really understand the subject, and because the proposals they have made have usually been reasonable and moderate. But I want to make it plain that I am not speaking for them to-day—in this House we do not represent organisations; and naturally I do not always agree with everything they say and they do not always agree with everything I say. To-day I am merely expressing my own views.

I want to deal only with two matters which I think are probably among the worst features of our prison system. The first, and much the worst, is overcrowding, and the second is the appalling atmosphere of secrecy adopted by the Home Office to everything which happens in a prison. I will take the second point first, because that is the shorter one. I do not think it applies to probation officers because they are not appointed by the Government but by local authorities, but everybody else in the prisons —the governors, the visitors, prison chaplains and prison medical officers all have to sign documents subjecting them to the Official Secrets Act. This means that if a visitor or anybody finds something radically wrong in a prison he is enjoined by law from telling anybody except a Home Office official. As I understand, this rule is applied very strictly. There is another thing about the Home Office policy: they seem to have a policy that if there has been appointed, not a Royal Commission or a committee sitting in public but a private. internal Home Office Working Party, nobody else is to be allowed to discuss the subject.

Your Lordships may remember on the occasion of the last Criminal Justice Bill we all welcomed an Amendment moved by the Government to provide that no convicted criminal, however heinous his offence, should be sent to prison for the first time unrepresented. He was to be offered legal aid, and when we all said: "That is admirable, but how can you possibly justify in those circumstances having no legal aid at all for applications for bail? There you are sending to prison for the first time unrepresented people who have not even been tried, let alone convicted", the answer was that nothing could be done about that matter because the Home Office had set up a private Working Party on Bail; so that subject could not be discussed until the Working Party had reported.

A little time ago the Howard League and Justice and NACRO appointed a joint committee of which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, is chairman, to consider the difficulties which undoubtedly exist about boards of visitors. On their approaching prison governors or prison officers to discuss the difficulties with them they were told: "No, there is a private Home Office Working Party on the subject of boards of visitors so you cannot discuss it with anybody at all except Home Office officials". I think there was a certain lack of tact on the part of the Committee in not clearing this with the Home Office at the start, and I believe that since Mr. Jenkins has been apprised of the position the situation has been relaxed. But surely in a democracy it cannot be right that nobody is to be allowed to discuss things simply because a Government Department has appointed an internal Working Party. It is six years now since the Fulton Committee said that there was far to much secrecy in our public administration; it is years now since the Franks Committee picked out prison conditions as being one of the things on which there was excessive secrecy and for which the Official Secrets Act was not necessary. Surely in a democracy we ought to be entitled to know what is going on in our prisons.

Turning to the major matter of overcrowding, the Home Office, I think rightly, usually provide as a test of overcrowding how many prisoners are sleeping more than one in a cell made for one. There are of course some who do not mind this—indeed, they rather like it; but there are others to whom it adds to their punishment. I take it we all agree to-day that people are sent to prison as a punishment and not for punishment. The punishment is the deprivation of liberty, the deprivation of family life, the deprivation of sexual life; and it is a considerable hardship to many that in addition they should have to share, sometimes with two others, a cell made for one. The figure for 1972 is the most up to date that I have, when 13,737 were living and sleeping more than one to a cell made for one. I believe the figure to-day is still over 12,000. This means that for practically one in every three prisoners there is a degree of overcrowding.

Of course it is not only a question of personal hardship. This gets in the way of all rehabilitation. I agree so much with what the right reverend Prelate said about prison officers. I have known some fine prison officers and I am always very much impressed, by them. I am quite sure that one of the difficulties of getting staff is that although they would like to get to know prisoners better and to be engaged themselves in the work of rehabilitation, they remain mere turnkeys simply because of the shortage of staff. It really poisons all relations in prisons, and where there have been riots or near riots, both here and in America, they are usually in the prisons which are the most overcrowded.

Then again, of course, this situation affects work. I am quite sure that there are many prisoners for whom it is essential that they be got into the habit and rhythm of work. Some of them have never before held down a steady job. But here the difficulty is, first, accommodation, because in many of these old Victorian prisons there simply is not room for another workshop; and secondly, if there is room for another workshop the prison staff could not carry out the necessary additional shift.

If it is agreed that the degree of overcrowding is the worst feature of our prisons at the present time, what are the remedies? There are about half a dozen. The first is, why not reduce crime, which in turn would reduce the number of people being sent to prison. To reduce crime all you have to do is remove the causes of crime. The answer to the question, what are the causes of crime? is a very simple one which can be expressed in four words: we do not know. Of course we all have our pet theories. It is broken homes; or it is because we have gone soft and do not punish people enough, like we used to do; or it is the decline in religious beliefs; or it is mothers going out to work instead of staying at home and looking after the children; or it is high rise flats or it is the Welfare State or, if you prefer it, the affluent society, or it is "the bomb". Everybody has his or her own pet theory, but nobody knows.

It is of course a fact that a higher proportion of criminals than should be the case come from broken homes. Then you immediately come up against what I always think is the oddest of all the criminal statistics, that there is one highly criminal group in the community from whence comes over 90 per cent. of the crime, and one group which is hardly criminal at all, and yet they come from the same homes, whether they are broken or not broken, because the only difference between these two groups is that one is called "male" and the other group "female". Of course, if only men behaved as well as women do, the whole crime problem would be solved overnight. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her support, if this is the truth of course. In any other field where there are difficult questions of fact, we call in science. We have always treated crime on a strictly amateur basis. Science might be defined as the art of ascertaining difficult questions of fact, and if you give it enough time and enough money, science will find out almost anything. If it does not, we say, "How odd it is that they can find the causes of all the other illnesses but not apparently the cause of cancer".

The noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, was the first Home Secretary who realised the importance of research work in this field, and apart from a very small amount of money for a Home Office Research Unit, he got money from industry for the Cambridge Criminological Institute. This takes time. We have not got the answers yet. I suspect we could well do with two more similar criminological institutes in other parts of the country, but what do we do meanwhile? We had to tackle this when in office. I remember having long discussions with. Mr. Roy Jenkins about this. The one fact which is perfectly clear is that if you go into any police district and look at what the local facts are, they are all the same. What they show is that if the conviction rate—that is to say, the proportion which convictions bear to all the crimes known to the police—goes up, crime goes down. If the conviction rate goes down, crime goes up. I do not know why that should be surprising. Few people would commit a crime with a policeman watching, and when you have a young man wondering whether to join a housebreaking gang or not, subject to exceptions—because every criminal is a unique human being—by and large if he thinks he will get away with it he will do it, and if he thinks if he does the job he will he caught and punished, he does not.

Since the war there has been a disastrous fall in the conviction rate. Before the war the conviction rate for indictable offences was always over 50 per cent., so if one committed a serious crime in England the probability was that one would be caught and punished. When we took office, the situation in London was that if you committed robbery with violence it was three to one that you would not be caught and punished; if you did a housebreaking job it was six to one that you would not be caught or punished at all; and if you stole something from a stationary car, it was 12 to one that you would not be caught and punished. What do you expect to happen? What was the cause of this tragic fall in the conviction rate? It is very simple. Some crimes have increased 200 per cent., some 300 per cent., some 400 per cent. We have never increased the police force to deal with the increase in crime.

I remember well on the day we took office there were fewer police in the Metropolitan Police Force than when the war broke out. This was obviously the first task to be tackled, but it was very difficult to recruit. It was a vicious circle. I knew C.I.D. officers who were doing a 70-hour week. Who wants a job with a 70-hour week? The average policeman got only one weekend off in seven—it was the condition. So recruitment proved very difficult. I am mentioning this only because we tackled this before and we may have to tackle it in the same way for prison officers.

We did two things. First, we stopped the police doing everything which a policeman did not have to do. At that time, there were policemen going round collecting maintenance money; policemen acting as Market Acts inspectors and Shops Act inspectors; there were policemen carrying the mace for the mayor, policemen with halberds standing about to greet the judge of Assize, and there were policemen acting as mortuary attendants. When I was a boy in London one never knew when one might meet the local "bobby" coming round the corner—and he knew his local people. At that time, you could often search for a policeman for 20 minutes, and when you found him, he was on traffic duty. We stopped all that. I asked the Chief Justice, "Do you really want all these policemen standing about with halberds at the Assizes?" The Chief Justice said, "No, I would rather they were out catching criminals".

We employed a large number of clerical officers, because there is so much clerical work to do. I have been in a police station and seen three sergeants standing waiting to use the one typewriter which they have had to share between them, and when I looked at the typewriter, it seemed to have come from the Ark. We got them clerical officers and a large number of traffic wardens to help the police with traffic duty, and slowly, recruitment improved. The other thing we did was to give them modern equipment, walkie-talkies, Panda cars, and, I think, even gave the preliminary order for a computer for Scotland Yard which has only just arrived.

Gradually, the conviction rate began to rise. Last year was the first time for 20 years that there has been an actual fall in crime. I put this forward quite seriously. I should like to know how far are the police up to establishment now. We did very well for a couple of years. At the time of devaluation and economic difficulties a halt was called to recruiting, and I am not clear how far it has ever picked up since.

Secondly, research work I have already mentioned, which is of great importance. Thirdly, what about reducing sentences? This is probably the quickest way of decreasing the prison population within a short time. Last year my wife and I attended a week's seminar by the Howard League on "Alternatives to Imprisonment". They invited a judge with great experience, Mr. Justice McKenna, to address us on penal policy. His main proposition was that we ought to reduce sentences. The idea about sentences being much less than they used to be is wrong. There has been an enormous increase in average sentences since the war. It has been the natural answer of the judges to a crime wave. They have increased sentences very greatly. For some reason which I do not understand, the last time I went into this and looked at the figures for sentences for crimes of violence, house-breaking and sexual offences, I found that since the war the average sentence had gone up most for sexual offences, and least for crimes of violence.

It is true to say, broadly speaking, that wherever you find three prisoners sleeping in a cell made for one, one of them would have been there before the war, the second is there because of the increase in crime, and the third is there because of the increase in sentences. The Dutch, two or three years ago, as an act of policy reduced all their sentences by half. It has not led to crime increasing. What Mr. Justice McKenna said was that we have tried everything else, we have tried increasing sentences; the only thing we have never tried is decreasing the sentences. Why not try it?

I see in this morning's issue of the Law Society Gazette a report of a speech—as a matter of fact, it was a delivery of the annual Riddell Lecture on penal policy—delivered by Lord Justice James, whom your Lordships will know as a man of great experience in this field. I cannot resist quoting just two paragraphs, though he made many other excellent suggestions, too. He said: …however great the care taken to get the offender's sentence right in the light of the information available to the sentencer, ' subsequent events in the working out of the sentence may reveal that an error has been made and nothing can be done to correct the position '. He was far from suggesting that all those whom doctors regarded as patients ' were not offenders. It was possible to be both a sick person and a criminal. There were however proven inadequate and immature persons and those like alcoholics for whom the criminal process can do nothing but for whom the social services should be able to do much '. Provided that their offences were not of such a gravity as to require society to be protected from their possible repetition, such offenders should be excluded from the criminal process altogether.' Secondly, Lord Justice James said: The power to release young adult offenders on licence which the Advisory Council on the Penal System had recommended should he vested in those responsible for the day-to-day administration of custodial sentences should be extended to offenders of all age groups whose rehabilitation would be enhanced by release from custody and whose continued detention was not necessary for the protection of the public. This would not involve any surrender of the sentencing process' by the courts; it was of the utmost importance that that power should remain vested in the judiciary and be operated without delay, in public and by an authority independent of both the Legislature and the Executive. The courts should also impose a minimum period—not more than a third of the sentence—during which the custodial conditions would have to be maintained. But beyond that, there was much to be gained by giving a measure of control over sentences to the Executive, i.e., the prison authorities and Home Office. Just as the courts now avoid imposing imprisonment while there is any other appropriate method of dealing with an offender, so no individual sentenced to imprisonment should be kept in custody any longer than is necessary ' in the balanced interests of society and the prisoner '. Speakers have already referred to the categories of alcoholics and inadequates. I think all those familiar with this problem recognise that they ought to be dealt with outside and not inside prison. I remain of the view that the prison population ought in part to be reduced by providing legal aid for applications for bail. Finally, although this has already been said, the most effective thing to be done, I am sure. is to make a really big switch of resources from prison building to methods of treatment within the community. This means more hostels and more probation officers. I would hope it would mean, too, incidentally, more prison officers so that they can get on with their work of rehabilitation inside prisons. But to keep people out of prisons we need more methods to be used in the community. I understand that there are plans for 110 probation hostels which many of us have been told for many years ought to be in existence. I think even now there are only 12. Having asked about the figures for the establishment so far as the police are concerned, I wonder whether my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich could tell us the position regarding probation officers, because it is quite clear—and I think some of us said this in this House at least a year ago—that current thinking on the extension of the probation service was on far too small a scale and would need to be substantially increased.

I did not mean to take as long as I have. It will not, I hope, be deduced from what I have said that there are not other parts of our prison system of which I am highly critical. The most important single problem is this awful overcrowding. We now have a chance. I think I have read in the Commons Hansard everything that Mr. Jenkins has said in this field. I have read a number of speeches he has made outside Parliament, and I have not, if I may say so, disagreed with a single point he has made. I am hopeful that he is there long enough to see these matters right.

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, if one cannot be the first to congratulate a maiden speaker, the next best thing is to be the second, and it gives me real pleasure to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Sharpies, on a most informed, and caring and well-delivered speech. I was to finish the remarks I have to offer to your Lordships by saying something about the voluntary work which in my observation and experience is done and has been done for a long time by volunteers, with prisoners in the inside situation, either through the Probation and Aftercare Service or by independent bodies, among prisoners wives and their dependants. The noble Baroness covered the subject, par-eloquently than I could, and with so much ticularly the latter part, so much more more direct knowledge than I possess, that I would begin, rather than finish, by say ing that one of the things that moved me most during the seven years I was Chairman of the Parole Board was the loyalty of prisoners' wives for their menfolk, perhaps it was in some cases misplaced, but splendid it was, and also the care that is being given to the difficulties which they face, usually through no fault of their own, by such splendid volunteers as the noble Baroness. I should like to pay my tribute, and ask her to pass on that tribute to all who are working with her.

I think I can claim to have visited nearly all the prisons in England and Wales over the course of six and a half years, perhaps more than 60 visits. I claim no credit for this; it was a necessary part of my job as Chairman of the Parole Board. I suppose that I have become familiar, almost at home, in the prison scene. But I certainly do not claim to speak with authority about the prison situation, about the problems of management and administration and containment. Still less would I presume to represent the prisoners' point of view. These aspects of what we are talking about can properly be spoken about only by Home Office Ministers, past and present, by the governors of our prisons, those splendid people, and the prisoners themselves, who have now contrived a mouthpiece, referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, called PROP, and they seem to be increasingly able to publish letters in the Press.

I can be sure that some of the points that I propose to make will not be agreed to by any of those people I have spoken about. Indeed I doubt whether one is qualified to speak with knowledge of what it is like to be inside a prison if one has not served or is not serving as a prison officer, or has not served a prison sentence, or is not that rare bird, fortunately, who has had both these experiences. So far as I know, none of your Lordships have had either or both of these experiences, any more than I have. The contribution that I have to make derives at least as much from the reading of thousands of parole dossiers, and discussion of those with my colleagues. In certain respects this makes revealing reading about the effects on men and women in prison and on the work of those who have charge of them.

Perhaps for the benefit of those of your Lordships who have not been inside a prison I should dispel any belief that it is a grim and dreadful experience, and conversely that it bears any resemblance to a Butlin's holiday camp. Neither is true. I was frankly afraid before my first visit in 1967, and I hope I will not be misunderstood when I say that, with exceptions, I have come increasingly to enjoy those visits. In any case, the scene is one of infinite variety; from the maximum degree of liberty and opportunities that are offered in our open prisons to the maximum restrictions and limitations of the top security wings within our prisons; from a fairly high degree of purpose and responsibility given to prisoners, such as the industrial prison at Coldingley, to one of almost total containment when all but a few hours of the twenty-four hours have to be spent in prison cells, such as goes on at Wandsworth, It may surprise some of your Lordships to know that a prison containing exclusively "lifers" can he a relaxed community comprising mainly reasonable and responsible men. The right reverend Prelate made some references to this situation in connection with Wakefield. I was thinking of Kingston prison in Portsmouth, and also the fact that the grim image and repute of Dartmoor bears no resemblance to its reality, which is also one of relaxation and a certain esprit de corps. There is a kudos, a cachéattached to doing time on the Moor, which I suppose is a hangover from the past of this historic place and the type of inmate who used to be there.

I have always visited prisons and eyed the walls of prisons with a kind of sporting interest rather than a professional one. My reward came on one of my visits to Dartmoor when I was able to demonstrate an interesting route up the wall of that prison, interesting, that is, to anyone who would be so misguided as to want to get into the prison from the outside: and I was rather sorry on my next visit to find that they had sealed that rather good crack. The fact that my colleagues and I could enjoy our discussions with prisoners and our casual meetings with them on the landings and in the workshops and so on during our parole visits was precisely because, while there was usually a degree of bitterness, cynicism, and distrust in any one group, there was always absolute freedom to talk without inhibitions, and there was friendliness and humour, too.

No one can read the magazines produced by prisoners without catching all these nuances, especially the amount of humour that shines through. It is a great tribute to the governors and their staffs—my admiration for them is unbounded—including chaplains, medical officers, and probation and welfare officers, and to the large measure of good sense possessed by most inmates, that the ambience and atmosphere of most of our prisons is prevailingly tolerable and often good for most of the time. Nobody likes the idea of guard dogs, but guard dogs do not set the tone of a prison. In fact, they look quite amiable creatures, provided one does not take liberties with them or seek to gain one's liberty. As has already been mentioned by several speakers, by and large prison officers have long since shed the turnkey image and attitude that used to prevail. They do not like being called warders—and the right reverend Prelate mentioned this; they like still less being referred to as gaolers. As has also been said, some do quite a bit of welfare work on the side, and would like to do even more.

Of course there are exceptions to these generalities. I always found the visits to the top security wings—and particularly at Leicester prison—fairly shattering experiences, even for brief visits. These small units, prisons within prisons, insulated from the outside world where life goes on—or stands still—in a kind of aimless, listless, eerily unnatural state of suspended animation, are very unnerving. This is not necessarily to condemn the policy of segregation in small units, with a high ratio of staff to inmates, who, incidentally, share that same isolation. The objections to containing large numbers of the most dangerous criminals in a kind of Alcatraz or Devil's Island situation have always seemed to me to he much greater. The recent policy to disperse some of these top criminals among a larger population of 'A' and 'B' category men has certainly brought disturbance and caused trouble. I am thinking of what happened at Gartree Prison last year. There would seem to be no really satisfactory method of hold- ing such men under such conditions for long periods.

Let there be no nonsense about this; living in these wings are some dangerous and evil men. Not all of them are either or both, but there are some and society has to be protected against them. I would go on and say that the evil men are not only to be found in those conditions of top security, because not all prisoners are physically dangerous, but some of them represent a quite different but to me no less serious threat to our system. I have recently received from my noble friend. Lord Longford an article that he wrote in the Catholic Herald entitled—and I am sure that this is the sub-editor's choice of words—" Is prison on the way out?" My answer to that must be a sad, but emphatic, "No". The only societies where prisons are totally irrelevant and unnecessary are the so-called primitive societies, such as exist in countries like Nepal.

Fortunately, there are comparatively few evil people in our prisons. To say this is not to condone in any way the criminal deeds that are committed by too many people. For the most part, prisoners are not deliberately evil people despite what they have done. For the most part they include society's misfits, and some of them are identifiably products of the wrongs in our society itself. Such people seem unable to keep away from crime, to avoid criminal behaviour, without substantial support and some degree of control. It is for these that we should be mainly concerned to improve the system of treatment. There are far too many young people, albeit some of them guilty of violent and wicked crimes, for whom, except as a short, sharp shock, prison is the worst possible answer. Prison only corrupts them if they stay in for long.

Nothing like enough is being done inside to prepare men and women for release. Of course there are strict limits to what can be done inside at present. This is not to belittle what is being done. There is, of course, the downgrading process from one security category to another, which provides an avenue for increasing opportunities. Training prisons, such as Coldingley, and perhaps even more so the lower security prisons such as The Verne and Lewes, are very impressive places to visit. The trouble is not so much the quality of what is provided, but the amount of it. As everybody knows, and as has been mentioned, the root problem is that of large numbers, and the key to this problem is not more prisons but fewer prison sentences and shorter periods spent inside. I feel very encouraged, as do others, by recent pronouncements by the Home Secretary and the Permanent Under-Secretary, and I like very much the notion of the custody and control order for young offenders.

As regards the length of sentences, I listened with respect and interest to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner. I am among those who doubt, from observation at home and abroad, the real deterrent effect to the offender—in particular or in general—of the very long sentence. Evidence seems to point straight the other way. What is absolutely certain is that the longer a person stays inside, the greater the problems for him when he eventually comes out.

But it is obvious to all who have been involved that rehabilitation can only be really effective outside prison. This is what parole is all about. We have been paroling some 40 per cent. of those who are eligible at some point before they would normally have come out, anyway. Admittedly, some of these paroles have been for fairly short periods. I—and I can speak freely now, having handed over my duties as chairman—would like to see every prisoner serving a sentence in excess of, let us say, 12 months, subject to a period of supervision and, where necessary, support in the community. I also believe that part of the final one-third of the sentence, which is normally remitted without any strings for reasonably good behaviour, should be constructively and conditionally spent under supervision in the community.

These measures will entail a drastic overhaul of our penal system, including the parole system, but I think that is justified, timely, and indeed necessary. I was also interested, as was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, in what Lord Justice James, a former Vice-Chairman of the Parole Board, had to say on this subject. The main burden of all this falls on the Probation and After-Care Service. As President of the National Association of Probation Officers I know that I am speaking out of turn, and my views are therefore strictly my own. There would have to be a massive increase in that Service and, not least important, there would have to be a massive increase in the amount of voluntary support, which the Service deserves and could receive. Holland, once again, quite apart from reducing their sentencing, has shown what can be done by creating a very large degree of help for offenders.

In terms of this debate, perhaps the most important point about all these suggestions is that they would make it possible to reorientate the prison regime and training programmes towards preparation for release on parole, which would then become a normal feature of the fixed sentence. Of one thing I am quite persuaded; that is, that it is not generally helpful, nor is it morally right, to keep all prisoners and their dependants in a state of tension and anxiety about the question of their parole, and then turn down more than half of them without giving any reasons. I recognise that it is not practicable to do so at present. But if it were established that parole were built into the fixed sentence for the majority as a normal practice, leaving the question of parole and its timing for expert assessment by a Board only for the minority, this dilemma could be avoided. With these exceptional cases the reasons could be given.

My Lords, I finish by posing a question which I think has been dealt so much better by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner. What are the keys to the problems of crime in our society? It would be pretentious and highly irrelevant if I were to start a new debate on that subject. Of course, in our kind of civilisation there must be a framework of good laws, there must be skill and vigilance in upholding and safeguarding those laws, there must be a discerning and acceptable degree of sternness and compassion and constructiveness towards the law breakers. Those keys are basic to the whole of society and its meaning. The other keys, my Lords, are I believe to be found not in the framework but in the very raw material of the community itself, in the moral climate and the social conditions in which crime may either wither or flourish. Most of all, J believe the key, the golden key, is that of a more caring society.

5.11 p.m.


My Lords, if most good things come in trinitarian form then let me be the third speaker to congratulate the noble Baroness on her maiden speech which was compassionate and perceptive and for which we are grateful. Let me also add my gratitude to that which has already been spoken to my noble friend Lord Longford for introducing again this topic and evoking the kind of results that already I am sure have gratified him and given great opportunities for thought, and I think a large measure of agreement, to those who have listened to what has already been said. He has been concerned with these matters of penal reform for a very long time. It was 45 years ago that I first became a visiting prison chaplain, and how much I agree with what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, said about the prevailing atmosphere of secrecy which was all the more dangerous because it was accompanied by a general sense of indifference on the part of the community at large.

I shall never forget the shock which I received in being brought face to face —though not in the more intimate way in which a prisoner has to face these matters —with what prison is all about and what are the conditions which can be perceived only from the inside, and only imperfectly perceived by those who do not go through the rigours of actual imprisonment and deprivation. One thing is clear, or has become increasingly clear to me, that over the last 45 years there has been a vast increase in awareness, not necessarily at a deep level but superficially, and a great deal more has been known about prisons. This particular publicity, which is I think both superficial and provocative, has underlined that favourite report that I always associate with matters like this and the boy who was thus described, "His handwriting is so much improved that now for the first time we are able to see how really bad his work is". I have a complete and absolute conviction now of how real and dreadful is the issue of crime, and though I would shift a good deal from a traditional point of view of culpability resting particularly and inescapably on the criminal, I am more and more convinced, as the noble Lord who has just sat down has said, that to treat lightly or sentimentally this blot on the society in which we live, and this very dangerous element in that society, is an exercise in escapism and has no real part in this kind of intelligent discussion.

For various reasons, the incidence of crime has increased. The noble and learned Lord said that he does not know where it comes from. Professionally, I have to tell him that it comes from sin, but I also would heartily agree with him that the way in which it expresses itself in these days is much more complex. It is for that reason that it is most dangerous for us to assume that we can pin the causes of crime upon individual idiosyncracy or behaviour patterns, whereas a great deal of it has to do with the setting in which modern society finds itself and the various stresses and strains which are brought to bear on those who are frail in moral and mental make-up.

The first thing that impressed itself on me over the years during a fairly extensive acquaintance with prison conditions is how real is the problem that still has to be faced and how much more effort and money have to be put into the facing of it. The other is that the prison system itself should be condemned and ultimately must he removed. It is not a well-found ship temporarily on the rocks to be refloated and repaired; it is an outdated junk seen upon the rocks and only fit to be salvaged in so far as we can preserve certain parts of it for the breaker's yard. That may sound somewhat obdurate and a fairly dogmatic statement, but it comes out of a certain amount of experience and I think is highlighted and corroborated by the wealth of proposition and suggestion that now is available for those who would see things in a better shape.

What the Advisory Council has propounded and indeed the Howard Reform League and others have been saying has now amounted to a very impressive edifice of suggestions and propositions. I believe they are worth considering, not in order to maintain the system of the prison but in order to provide at least some, shall we say, metal and machinery and wood that can be put into an entirely new system. But while we have this system let us make the best of it, recognis- ing that you cannot ultimately put new wine into old bottles but you can and must preserve the security of the community in which you live and the reformation as best you can provide it for the prisoner, even in a system which I believe sooner or later must be regarded as outdated and ultimately to be replaced.

What I have to say about the various reforms which are indicated on the Order Paper as the second subject of this particular debate has to do with a number of matters which can immediately I think be undertaken, and some of which have already been underlined and set forth in the documents to which I have referred. Let me begin with sentencing. It is no accident that in this publication III-Founded Premises there is the advocacy that no sentence in prison for more than 10 years, except for life sentences, should be imposed. I heartily agree with that; indeed I would reduce it to four years, and say that if you imprison any man under custodial conditions which are unrelieved by change and unadorned by hope then by the end of four years you are likely to have destroyed one of his moral dimensions beyond repair. That does not mean for one moment that you should then let him out, bid him goodbye and give him a hail-fellow-well-met assumption that he will be all right in the future and need not consider the past any more. It means that unless the kind of treatment wiih which you begin offers an increasing hope as it goes on then I believe that that particular kind of imprisonment is not permissible.

I am sure that, as you may see on yellow lines—and the text here is suitable for sermons addressed to relatives at funerals—"Do not enter the box until your exit is clear" is admirable in the realm of penal reform. You can deny a man liberty, you can deny him access to normal occupational enjoyment, in some circumstances (not all prisoners are married by the way) you can reduce to a minimum his opportunity of social life and sexual opportunity, but you must not take away hope from him. That is the one undeniable right to which he is entitled whatever he has done, and unless you have provided that hope—it may be at long distance and the tunnel may be indefinitely extended—I believe you have done him a permanent and irremedial injury, and you have no right to do it.

I move on now, if I may, to those suggestions which come within the general framework of non-custodial or only semi-custodial treatment. How eagerly do I welcome the propositions in the Advisory Council's Report of the sort of hostels—and I will specify some of them—which I believe can form the basis of a semi-custodial and controlled alternative to prison or, as in some cases, can be the next stage in the redemption of a prisoner and in the protection of the society against which he has transgressed.

I start with a "commercial" about probation hostels. I offer the Minister a brand new probation hostel in Highbury which we shall finishnext week. I want to ask him whether he is prepared to allow us to use it, but not as a segregated one-sex hostel because we are convinced after many years of experience that if probation hostels are to be provided then there are greater dangers in segregating persons than in exposing them to some of the risks which necessarily will follow from multi-occupation by young men and young women.

The hostel system, as traditionally understood, is a pretty poor do, but the hostel system in which there is also flexibility, whereby a probation hostel can also include others who will not necessarily be subject to the same regulations, has ample opportunity of success. An intelligent, enterprising Government will, I hope, believe it worth trying. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether he can give me any help about that matter because time is short and our money has run out. With regard to other types of hostels, the Advisory Council surely makes sense when it indicates the need for a proliferation of hostels of various kinds. I will not beat the alcoholic drum again, for I think everybody now realises that in dealing with alcoholism it is sheer idiocy to require a fine from an alcoholic and if he cannot pay it to put him in "clink". Furthermore, the treatment of the alcoholic must go in three stages. He must first be dried out at the reception centre; he must then be rehabilitated as well as can be undertaken with comfort, care and by some medication. Then, as is highly likely, if you are to preserve his sobriety you must ensure that he has the opportunity of some kind of supported living. For he can get on all right with that, but if you expose him to the full rigours of the world in which he has collapsed, he is most likely to collapse again.

Hostels for the third stage of recovered alcoholics is the next priority. Hostels for girls in need of care and protection, and hostels where pregnant girls can be cared for, are also requirements. Let me make a confession. Years ago when we set up a hostel for pregnant girls I insisted that it should be a hostel in which these girls should be segregated. That was wrong; it was a failure, a mistake; and just as it is right and proper that men and women, young boys and young girls should have the opportunity of living socially together in properly disciplined hostels, so I am sure—as, by the way, this particular Advisory Council suggests—there should be an opportunity for pregnant girls also to find their way into such hostels.

We come next to the matter of hostels for young recidivists. May I again, without impertinence, give your Lordships a piece of personal experience. In the mission where I work we run two hostels and we find that there is ample need for the hostel for the serious-minded youngster who is really trying to make good but has nowhere to live and has just come out of Borstal. Then there is the hostel for the young scalliwag who does not intend, or has no strong desire, to go straight but who ought to be protected and disciplined in some way from the kind of life which will ultimately debauch him. We have had some measure of success in that.

I offer these suggestions, not out of any impious idea that we know better than the Government—of course we do not—but out of the experience which has come to us over the years. It is clear to me that the prison system based on the retributive process is a failure. It is morally objectionable to me that there should be a prison system based on the exemplary principle. I am convinced that the kind of prison and the kind of noncustodial or semi-custodial control and discipline which has as its first requirement and objective the reformation of the prisoner does not automatically palliate the crime of which he has been guilty, and does not lead to some kind of sentimental attachment to the idea that, after all, he is no better or worse than other people. It can be as realistic as any other intentional programme of retribution and restitution; but ultimately it is my conviction that a prison system which moves towards the reformation of the criminal as its first objective will not only have a better chance of such reformation in the life of the criminal but, ultimately, will be the best disincentive to evil behaviour on the part of the community and to less security to the social life of all.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples, on an excellent maiden speech. She obeyed all the rules of the maiden speaker: clarity, brevity and getting clearly to the point she wished to put across. I have been a Member of this House for a number of years and, like most of your Lordships, we have various rules which we all stand by. This was one of the rules that I was taught when I joined the House: "Speak on subjects you know about, otherwise come in on any Bill on an Amendment. But if you do not have a great deal of detailed knowledge on a general debate far better to told your tongue." My Lords, I am breaking that rule to-day, if only for one reason—I happen to have a great friend who has worked within a Department of the Home Office in the 100-strong group of doctors who do the streaming of prisoners.

Not being an expert, I have possibly an added advantage because, like every other noble Lord, and the right reverend Prelate, who spoke, I can make suggestions which possibly I can get away with; for noble Lords can only say that, "He does not know much about the subject so it does not matter." The remarks I intended to make and which I spent a considerable amount of time in preparing were covered by the right reverend Prelate. Therefore my speech will be brief. I agree with everything the right reverend Prelate had to say and he left me few points that I wish to explore.

Surely, my Lords, we have reached the state now in the research into the prison service where we have experts, with the money available, who are able to stream these prisoners into the right categories where they serve sentences in an environment which is obviously limited by prison conditions. The money available to the Home Office is as essential for this purpose as for any form of human society. I was extremely interested in the right reverend Prelate's ideas in looking ahead to mixed prisons. That concept is probably bound to come and in many ways there is much to be said for it. But we must take into consideration, as always the concern of the general public, and such an advance must necessarily be slow. Gracious me! We hear it often enough from the Dispatch Box, whatever Government may be in power, that Parliament is Parliament and that the Government must take into consideration the public as well. But so long as advance is made, slow as it may be, it seems that is the law that really matters.

I was extremely interested in what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, said. He is quite naturally a great expert on matters concerning the hostels outside the prison system. This is obviously an area where an enormous amount not only of research but also of improvement—trial and error—has to go ahead. It has been done from the Borstal angle and a great advance has been made in the type of work that these young people can do. They are being encouraged obviously by people of high ability who have the right idea of what type of encouragement to give in any job they may undertake.

My Lords, can we not take this matter one stage further? Here I can be cast out quite happily and thrown down by the Minister of State. Would it not be possible with the slightly older group than the Borstal group, the young and tough—after all in prison these days prisoners are healthy, well fed and medically superbly looked after—to have some form of Outward Bound for these young men? Can this not be thought about? I am not asking for anything more than that it should be thought about and considered. Whether the staffing of this would come from the prison officers themselves, or whether it would need some special type of staffing is another matter. I know there are problems of security and again of streaming for the right type of young boy to go into this project. Having been in the Army I suppose it is easy for people to turn round and say to me, "It is all very well for you as an ex-Army person to talk about how good the conscription years were for a young man". But on a highly skilled programme these young men could be challenged to the utmost of their physical and mental ability. As we have got so far in research and streaming in the various prisons and categories could not this idea possibly be considered?

Every other possible point I could mention has been covered, so I should just like to thank the House for listening to me on this occasion on a subject about which I have been not well briefed nor have learnt a great deal before the debate and now do not consider myself any form of expert.

5.33 p.m.


My Lords, first of all, I should like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for having initiated this debate. Secondly, I should like to give a special congratulation to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples, for her maiden speech, because I am the only woman Peer in this debate with her. This debate is most interesting and very humane, and I should like to speak mainly this evening on the young adult offender, because that is the subject I know best. I have worked for 13 years on the board of visitors at an open Borstal, and I have also been helping to run some summer camps for under-graduates from Oxford, and also for boys from Borstal and severely disabled men. Over the years, I have found that I can create a much better and much longer lasting relationship from outside than from inside. Therefore, I like very many of the things in the Young Adult Offender's Report, some of which need looking at very thoroughly.

I should like to tell your Lordships very briefly about the result of one of our camps for boys from Borstal and very severely disabled men, some of whom could not cat, were very disfigured and could not speak. Nobody offered to take these men who live in hospital all the time for a holiday. So we arranged with volunteers from Borstal that they should do this job under canvas in the Lake District. What I am now going to say will illustrate how groups can live together and understand each other better. On going back to Borstal after 10 days together. one cocky young man from Newcastle said to me, "I used to take the mickey out of the likes of them, but after living with them for a week, I will never do it again." He understood that these severely disabled men were people just like himself. There is a tremendous amount we must do to educate the public, though progress has been made in the last few years. A scheme which is now working is the Community Service Pilot Scheme, and I hope it will be extended. Some of the young men who took part in it have stayed on a voluntary basis and that is very encouraging.

I should also like to say from my experience that I am waiting hopefully for the Rehabilitation Bill of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, because sometimes young men whom I am interviewing in Borstal look at me and ask, "How long do we have to have these records tagged on to us?" I should like to say to them, "If you do well and stay out of trouble the records will be destroyed."

I now come to hostels. This subject has been covered very thoroughly by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, but I should like to quote from the Report of the Young Adult Offenders: The Prison Department should continue to seek sites in or near urban areas for establishments for young adult offenders; and planning authorities should recognise and give proper priority to the obligation of the community to make provision for the treatment of young adult offenders in the places where it is most likely to be effective. The Report stresses the need for hostels for homeless young offenders. It is essential that these homeless young people have help and support in a community, otherwise they will fail. My Lords, what will the Government do about getting planning permission for these hostels? The open Borstal to which I am attached has been trying to get planning permission for a hostel for the last three years. Now that we have a successful Home Secretary, perhaps he can do something about organising planning permission without delay. Our staff at Borstal are disillusioned and sickened by the attitudes of the community. We live in a very mercenary-minded community; it is perfectly all right having a hostel so long as it is not in my town and in my street.

Also, there is difficulty in implementing the Children and Young Persons Act. I do not think adequate resources have been made available to implement this Act. Children's homes cannot hold the con tinual absconder and the violent and aggressive child. Therefore, there is a great increase in 15 and 16 year-old boys in Borstals—and these are generally closed Borstals—or even in adult prisons. Can something be done about this matter?

The Young Adult Offenders' Report states: Where it is necessary to remand a young adult in custody he should be remanded to the nearest remand centre, provided this is within a reasonable distance or, if it is not, to a local prison. I cannot agree to the last part, except in exceptional cases such as for murder and mugging. I have sat in Durham Prison and in Strangeways, and watched these young boys standing on the landings waiting for their lunch. I do not think this can be good for them. The experience may leave a lasting scar which marks them for life as members of the criminal class.

If allocation centres are to go, there must be enough efficient remand and assessment centres. These will not succeed unless there is proper leadership for treatment in the community. This is excellent but there needs to be an adequate team. I do not feel that a large number of young men, some of whom are very sophisticated. can all be put in the Probation Service. There is a need for a strong team and for continual treatment with social workers, doctors, psychologists and remedial teachers in the Probation Service. I should like to stress the need for remedial teachers. I have a son aged seven who is in need of remedial teaching, and there are not enough remedial teachers in the community for non-custodial people. I sometimes think that within the Borstal system there is better teaching than in the community generally.

Another question to be asked is: are there adequate sports and cultural facilities in the areas where these people become delinquent and where they are to be treated? Serious thought needs to be given to alternatives to drinking. So many of the boys I have seen would never be in Borstal but for the influence of drink. I should like to congratulate NACRO on its conferences and on the work it is doing in spreading education within the community in different parts of the country. The Bristol New Careers Project is of particular interest to me. It concerns young offenders, ex-offenders who are trained as ancillaries to the Probation Service, and they become part of the rehabilitation team. As a spinal injury person, I can fully understand that someone who has had a similar experience will be far more acceptable when giving advice, than someone who has not experienced the real immediate situation. I welcome this.

We have lost some very good people from the Prison Service to the United State of America. One of these was a very good friend of mine—actually, an assistant governor at a closed borstal. It is because he was not allowed to put his ideas into practice and was not given enough scope that he went to America, where he is now working with young people in the community. I think a great deal of further research is needed, and I should like to ask the Minister, if it has not already been done, whether he might do something about this. There is a high illiteracy rate in the prison population, particularly among the young offenders. I should like to see figures given on how many of these are suffering from dyslexia or similar problems.

I used to take a discussion group at Northallerton, in a prison for young prisoners. One very lasting impression which was left with me was of the need for more productive work. The one thing that frustrated these young men more than anything else was that when they took the trouble to make something it had to be broken up, because of lack of material. I feel that they could be doing—and in some prisons and borstals they are doing—some excellent, work for the community, and this should he extended. I also think there should be good career prospects for staff who want to work with young people in the community. Many of the staff who now work in borstals, especially assistant governors, would give valuable service to the development of new community alternatives to custody. There needs to be greater flexibility. So much stress is put on whether you are a Governor 3 or a Governor 1 or an A.G. 3 or an A.G. 1. I think that there should be much more flexibility, and that these people should be able to go in and out. This would also help to bridge the gap.

Also, the 72-hour detention power which could be given to probation offi cers needs very very careful scrutiny. It could be that the one to one relationship between a probation officer and an offender would be lost if he had this power. Our large computerised monster prisons are worrying. Let us at least keep our young people out. There needs to he a major educational campaign and encouragement of new relationships with the public. I am certain in my own mind that, in the long run, it is kindness and firm understanding which breaks through the barrier which the offender has put up against society, rather than an impersonal hard line. Without good leadership, my Lords, progress cannot be made.

5.46 p.m.


My Lords, may I start by adding my congratulations to the many others which have been extended to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharpies, by saying how much I admired her really excellent maiden speech. I also greatly admire her courage in tackling such a difficult subject in a debate which was bound to be well-attended. I made my own maiden speech not very long ago on a rather quieter afternoon, when your Lordships were discussing the imprisonment of animals rather than of people. That was during the debate on the Control of Zoological Gardens Bill. I am glad that more interest tends to be taken in the imprisonment of people than of animals. I think that the people, on the whole, have the better of it, although very few zoos to-day house, in old and dilapidated cages, two or three times the numbers that the cages were originally designed to hold. However, most of the people will eventually be released, whereas all too few animals in zoos "do" anything other than "life"—literally. Of course there are some people who are imprisoned for extremely long periods, and at least once a judge has said that a "life" sentence should mean just that.

It is about these very long prison sentences that I want to say a few words this afternoon. Here I shall really be expanding on one of the points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, and on what seems to have become one of the themes running through the debate this afternoon. The length of prison sentences passed by the courts has increased dramatically in recent years. In 1970, prisons contained 225 men serving sentences of exactly ten years; 218 men serving over ten years; and 159 men serving "life". The number of years a lifer "actually serves is also increasing. In 1968 there were 47 life sentence prisoners in prison who had served over nine years. By the end of 1971 there were 85 lifers who had served nine year and were still in prison, and 16 of those men had served over 13 years. The numbers may seem very small in relation to the total prison population, but the impact of long-sentence men on the total prison population is considerable.

For example in 1967. although men serving sentences of over three years made up only 2 per cent. to 3 per cent. of the annual receptions to prison, they made up no less than one-fifth of the population of men in prison at the end of 1967. I apologise for the fact that these figures are rather out of date. I think I can safely say that the passage of time will have seen at least as rampant an inflation of these figures as has been seen in the financial world. Indeed, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield said, by 1973 there were no less than 900 "lifers" in prison.

The problems which these long-term prisoners pose for the prison system. the Parole Board, the Home Office and so on, have received quite a lot of attention. In the past, security seems to have been the major preoccupation. I must say I feel it is extremely unfortunate, to say the least, that over the years the Home Office appears to have been influenced far more by the hysterical concern that the media, and possibly some of the general public have shown over prison security, than by the work of penologists, criminologists and penal reformers.

A telling illustration of this came after the Mountbatten Report on prison security. Prisons that had been crying out for redecorating and repairs for years suddenly had thousands of pounds spent on them. But it was the perimeter walls that were redecorated, with white paint, and it was the perimeter walls and gates that were repaired or rebuilt. So I think that problems of security, internal as well as external, have received considerable attention in the past. What I feel has received less publicity and far less public concern, and possibly less official consideration, is what exactly society is doing to the people who are given these very long sentences.

Here I should like to quote what a couple of prisoners themselves feel. One wrote in a letter to the Guardian last year: A hangman's noose did at least terminate life. The present system warps and destroys the man; it is slow death and a terrible torture upon the mind and personality. These men live not as human beings; in the majority, they are reduced to vegetables. Another long-term prisoner described his own feelings: My intellect has not faltered; but it has grown dim. I have never resigned myself; but resignation has entered me, has bent me down to the ground and told me: ' Rest '. To tell the truth. I'm not sure it didn't tell me: ' Die slowly'. Of course, it has long been known that very long terms of imprisonment. especially when there is no certainty of any release date, have this sort of effect.

In one of the classic pieces of prison research. Pauline and Terence Morris found that their two years in Pentonville Prison were sufficient for them to: ‡observe several prisoners on the downhill path, men who made fewer and fewer jokes, whose appearance became increasingly untidy and who became progressively uninterested in everything around them". This withdrawal from the outside world is particularly likely, maybe inevitable, where prisoners are serving very long sentences in maximum security conditions. As two criminologists, who did some research on the prospects for (as they called it) the psychological survival of these types of prisoners, wrote: In a situation where friends are particularly needed there are special difficulties placed in the way of making or maintaining them…. Links with outside intimates become tenuous because of difficulties over visits and letters, changes in the personality and sensibility of the inmates, and because of the impossible prospect of twenty years' physical separation. These authors conclude that, inevitably, most long-term prisoners will eventually lose touch with their previous life situation, friends and families, and that they will turn in to the closed and meaningless life of the prison. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples, said, visits to prisoners are vital, but unfortunately all too often long-term prisoners find visits and contacts just too painful for them to be able to endure them and these visits and contacts inevitably in the end tail off.

What then, my Lords, should be done about all this? Certainly, one possibility is for society to decide that, even if sentencing a man to serve ten, fifteen or twenty years in prison is to condemn him to a slow, lingering, living death, that is what we actually want to do. Society may feel that, having got rid of the unpleasant and messy suddenness and finality of the death sentence itself, we are content to let people die slowly but surely in prison—so long, I suspect, as we are not too often reminded of what is actually going on. I hope that that will not be society's answer, just as I hope that society will not decide that if long sentences are bad the reintroduction of capital punishment is the way to avoid them. What we need to do, in my view, is to rethink the purposes that these long sentences are supposed to serve, particularly as research tends to show very little difference in reconviction rates after long or short periods of imprisonment, or indeed after non-custodial sentences.

Three categories at least of those receiving long prison sentences should be identified. First, there are those people who are felt to be so bad that they must be locked up until they are old and senile and incapable of performing whatever were the deeds that they did to get them into prison in the first place. I suspect that very few prisoners really fall into this group. Secondly, there are those people who have "something wrong with them": some aberration or "disease of the mind" so awful that they must be locked away until they are "cured". Again, not many prisoners in ordinary prisons fall into this category as most of this group will be held in special hospitals under sections of the Mental Health Act, and they will not have been sentenced in the ordinary way by a court. Lastly, we have the bulk; those prisoners who are sentenced to punish them, to deter them from doing it again, to deter others or to mark the public's abhorrence of their crime, and for various other reasons. Here, if nowhere else, we simply must reduce the length of sentences.

The bulk of prison sentences in this country are far too long, as has been said by nearly every noble Lord who has spoken this afternoon. Experience in other countries has shown that there is nothing magical about long sentences. They could be dramatically reduced over the whole range of prison sentences without having a disastrous effect, or indeed probably without having any effect at all on society as a whole. In saying that I refer to society outside prison; it would of course have a dramatic effect on people in prison.

Before I finish, I should like to give your Lordships an example of what I mean about prison sentences that are being passed that are too long. I should like to refer to a specific case, because I have a feeling that constant harping on length of sentence without reference to the crime committed might make some people think that I was ignoring the horrifying things that some people do to receive long sentences. The case I shall mention also illustrates two points about sentencing which I have not yet touched on. First, once we have started, as we have. on the slippery slope of ever longer and longer prison sentences, there seems to be little that judges can do except pass yet longer prison sentences. Secondly, the case brings up the question of indeterminate sentences. This is something which has not been referred to in detail this afternoon. I think the danger when was pass new penal measures that are supposed to be much more liberal than the existing situation is that we slip unwittingly into a trap of one kind or another. This is certainly the experience in California where indeterminate sentences were hailed as a great progressive measure. and one ends up with somebody who steals a bicycle being shot in prison while he is serving a life sentence, having never left prison since he was originally incarcerated.

The case I would mention is of three young people, aged 16, 15 and 15, who attacked and robbed a man. They beat him to the ground and dragged him to some nearby waste ground where they stole 30p, some keys and five cigarettes. Two hours later they returned to the same place and, finding the man still there, they attacked him again. Again they left the scene, and again they later returned and attacked him for a third time. Later one of the boys rested the man's head on a pillow and two of them called an ambulance, and it was as a result of that action that they were eventually caught and arrested. The eldest boy pleaded guilty to attempted murder and robbery and was sentenced to be detained for up to 20 years under the provisions of Section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act. The two 15-year-olds each received ten years' detention.

I have described the offence in some detail because I did not want to be accused of glossing over what was done. I think these sentences were excessive, and while the sentences were passed for two reasons that were acknowledged by the judge who passed sentence, I think myself there was another reason that was not acknowledged. There was no apparent motive for this attack and this, in the Lord Chief Justice's words, made it obvious that there was a danger that these boys could do such acts with equal lack of excuse again. Secondly, the Lord Chief Justice said that a sentence such as this was imposed by judges on the footing that there was no limit to the time at which consideration for release by the Home Office might be ordered. I hope that my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich might be able to say whether this really is the case—that a sentence of this kind is kept constantly under review, and that release on licence might be considered at any time during the sentence.

Lastly, there is the factor which was not mentioned by the judge when he passed sentence but which I feel must have influenced his decision. This case was tried at the height of the "mugging" scare of last year. I was slightly sorry to hear the noble Baroness who spoke before me mention the word "mugging", as I had hoped it was dropping out of vogue altogether. The case was seized upon by the media as the mugging to end all muggings. Sentences passed for so-called "muggings" have already increased dramatically since the invention of the offence by the Press a few months before. If this case was an extremely serious offence, as undoubtedly it was, the appropriate sentence had to be increased in proportion.

The recommendations of the Advisory Council's excellent Report would not have affected this case. The ever more frequently expressed good intentions about keeping people out of prison would not have affected it either. What we need, as others have said, is a radical reduction across the board in the length of prison sentences imposed by the courts, coupled with the many measures that have been mentioned this afternoon, which would help to keep people from going to prison in the first place. I would have certainly gone along with the 10-year maximum mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and supported by the Howard League. But I prefer the Dutch solution mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, of halving all prison sentences. Then the noble Lord, Lord Soper, suggested a four-year maximum. This seems better still. I was tempted to go lower, but I think I will stick to that for the time being.

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, may I first apologise to the first four and a half noble Lords (if I may so put it) who have spoken and whose speeches I missed, not because of any wish to do so, but because I have been dealing with a non-criminal matter in another forum elsewhere, and I could only be in my place by 5 o'clock. Fortunately, I have had the advantage of a very full note of what was said by those who have spoken, and I hope therefore I am apprised of it and may properly comment upon it. I very much agree with my noble friend Lord St. Just that one should try to speak on things that one knows about—I am not criticising him because I thought he made a very helpful contribution in his speech. I am also well aware, having for two years been in charge of the day-to-day running of the Prison Service, with the very substantial amount of detail that this involves—the prodigious number of letters that have to be answered and the small queries dealt with day by day—that perhaps I may be rather too much imbued with the good points, or what are thought to be the good points, of the system as it exists to be able to see through them to the way in which the system ought to develop. I hope that I have not taken this cul-de-sac in thought, but if I have then I stand to be criticised for it.

What seems to me to arise from the little experience that I had was that whereas one may have occasionally a fairly dramatic step forward, such as the introduction of parole and, indeed, its remarkably adroit use under the Parole Board run by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for so many valuable years, the main progress, as indeed my noble friend Lord St. Just said, in this field is slow, steady and to many people perhaps almost imperceptible. I am very much afraid that this will continue to be the case in this field. What one must not give up and despair about is if, in a period of about two years, one looks back and finds that one has not radically changed the whole matter. To have made some improvements is perhaps as much as anyone can do in that time—at any rate, that was the view that I took. I do not know whether or not the noble Lord, Lord Soper—he might have been perhaps a right reverend Prelate had the two Churches come together, but I think I can continue to refer to him as the "noble Lord"—was merely expressing a millennial view when he spoke in terms of prisons one day withering away. But I agree with him that for the moment we have to accept them as part of the system and see what we are to do about them.

I say this because certainly when the Tory Party was in power—and I doubt whether anybody would disagree—my right honourable friend the then Home Secretary said that his attitude towards prison was that it must be there to accept and contain people who had to be taken out of circulation for the protection of the public. So the description of prisoners which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, mentioned in his speech as including some very evil and dangerous men among, I agree with him, a large number of much less dangerous misfits of one sort or another, is a fundamental point that has to be taken into account when we are discussing this matter.

I also think, and would suggest to the House, that when contemplating this matter it must be borne in mind that if you are to contain very dangerous and evil people, then you must face up to this fact and not try and run away from it. There are two things which it seems to me have emerged in recent years and may not have been sufficiently taken into account: first of all, I wonder whether those who think about these matters have really followed through what is involved in the abolition of the death penalty, because it is undoubtedly the case— and figures for life sentences have been quoted this afternoon—that we have in the system, and will continue to have in increasing numbers in the system, people who have committed dreadful murders. There is no getting away from that. In the days of the death penalty those people would have been hanged. Now they are not, yet they are people who will probably have to be kept in prison for a long time. Incidentally, by their side, for all the criticism there may be of long sentences, fhere are also people in the system and. I regret coming forward from time to time, who have committed crimes of such a daring and sophisticated nature, and carrying with them such enormous acquisitions of "booty", as would never have been contemplated by criminals even a short time ago. For them too I believe there must be containment because the public have to be protected from such people. Moreover, anyone who chooses to follow in their footsteps—and I am afraid there is an element of deterrence in this—must realise what is involved as they get caught, as caught I hope they will always be.

That is the first element. The other one is this: I would be prepared, from a very non-professional and perhaps not well-informed point of view, to take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, about what I thought in his speech seemed to he a clear distinction between cases which are dealt with under the Mental Health Act, and cases which are dealt with by other custodial means in the prison system. It is not entirely a matter of chance by any means, but it is, after all, an artificial dividing line whereby the conduct of one person and the state of his mind is considered by two doctors to be sufficient for him to be treated as a patient under the Mental Health Act, whereas another person who, on account of a different diagnosis or set of circumstances, falls to be dealt with under the prison system. I believe that the boundary between these two approaches is much too rigid at the moment. Surely it is this that the Committee under the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, is at the present moment inquiring into.

If the noble Lord, Lord Melchett. thinks that the prisons have in them very few psychopaths or people with psychopathic tendencies, or, indeed, with schizo- phrenic tendencies, then he is sadly mistaken because there are a large number of them indeed, and they are exceedingly difficult to deal with. Certainly on the analogy of what happens to such people if they are bad enough to be dealt with under the Mental Health Act, certainly in the case of psychopaths, they may have to stay in hospital custody for a longish period of time until they mature out of that illness. Therefore, I would hope that the House will realise that there are those two elements in the prison population which should not be taken lightly or dismissed as being of no account, because they are people who will have to be contained somehow, somewhere—I do not know whether it will be in prisons or, in some cases, in mental hospitals. Certainly they will not be able to be contained in the present mental hospitals, because they are desperately overcrowded.


My Lords, will the noble Viscount forgive me for interrupting him? I wonder whether he would like to guess at what sort of percentage of the present prison population the psychopaths and schizoids that he mentioned actually represent.


No, my Lords; I think I. should be far better not to try to put percentages on this, because it is not so much people who are diagnosed as suffering from a recognisable and bad set of symptoms of this sort; it includes people who have these sort of tendencies. The noble Lord may make a face, but if he had to see what they do and what they have done in the past, and compare their behaviour with that of those who are recognised as psychopaths, I think he would understand the sort of parallel that I am drawing. Of course I am not saying for one moment that everybody in prison by any means comes into this category: I am just pointing out an element in this which may sometimes be overlooked.

My Lords, if, then, we have to contain, let us make certain that the containment is secure. Again, those who criticise the degree of security that is provided are, I think, overlooking one very important corollary of it, one which was of the essence of the Mountbatten Report, and that is that if you provide a secure peri- meter, then inside that perimeter there is room for a great deal more freedom. I should think that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield knows very well what that means in the prison with which he is so familiar, and anyone who goes there will recognise at once the quite important degree of freedom that the population of that prison have enjoyed within the prison walls. So it is not by any means a waste of money, nor does it lead to anything but, I should have thought, an amelioration of the prisoners' life. So if they are to be contained securely, then worthwhile activities and the best possible way of life must be provided for them.

My Lords, that is a problem on which I entirely agree with the right reverend Prelate that it is not softness in any way to try to provide all sorts of extra facilities for people to work and people to learn. This is not softness at all: it is good common sense—because, like him. I know from what I have learnt from reading and talking to many people that it is the loss of freedom itself which is the real penalty. That is the thing which is really hated and disliked, and that is the penalty which imprisonment involves.

My Lords, surely the dilemma that this debate throws up is that if we have a limited amount of money, how can we at the same time improve the prison system itself and provide a really successful and effective alternative along the sort of lines that the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and others have been talking about? We need new prison buildings. It is no use supposing that the remand centres, for instance, for young people are adequate. We need Glen Parva in the Midlands; we need North Weald to the North-East of London. These need to be built. We desperately need to replace dreadful old prisons like Armley, Leeds and many others, although Armley, I think, was the first one to be chosen. But, my Lords, how right the Howard League are to say that these, or at any rate many of them, should be in central sites, because of course it is correct that there are many people who wish to come to visit the prison, whether it be the relations of the prisoners or whether it be probation officers or any of the countless other people from outside who have to come and go.

The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, was right, and put her finger on it: how on earth do you get planning permission or the agreement of the local inhabitants that you should ever site one of these things in the centre of any built-up area? Wakefield is a remarkable case in point, where a top security prison is in the middle of the city, and has been for many years, and so far as I know the citizens of Wakefield live with it without any undue worry. But if you try to suggest putting something of that sort in a town where there has not previously been a prison you will have a major demonstration on your hands.

I agree with the noble Baroness that this is a large problem, and it is one which I think must be overcome in a number of different ways, one of which I will come to in a moment. So there is this question of buildings. But it is not only the bricks and mortar which have to be considered; it is also the regime, and on this a good deal of money can, with advantage, be spent as well. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Harris, can tell me how the staff recruiting is going because. without an adequate and well-trained staff with a high morale. the prison system is never going to get anywhere; and with the desperate shortages into which we were coming towards the end of the time when I was in charge, this was becoming a very serious problem indeed.

The work of education and the provision of employment for prisoners—two of the most important aspects of prison life—are dependent upon proper buildings inside the prisons, inside the existing establishments. Money is needed for these. I entirely agree with the noble Baroness about the importance of the remedial education that goes on. Wetherby is a very good case in point. and so is Rochester, for instance, and many other borstals. I strongly suspect that the Prison Service has the finest body of remedial education knowledge in the country, because the lamentable fact is that a very large percentage of the inmates or the trainees, I think up to about 15 per cent. in some establishments, if not more, need remedial education—and a sad reflection it is upon our school system. But this has got to be done with up-to-date equipment and in up-to-date buildings.

I mentioned the provision of employment. That must be done in workshops with decent working conditions. It is no use trying to get prisoners to work in dreadful old sheds with no ventilation and bad lighting—buildings which would never, I should think, have complied with the Factories Acts if they had not been put right. All this requires money. What the Treasury would say to those well-tried runners for those who espouse the prisoners' cause, higher pay and the stamping of their National Insurance cards while they are in prison, I really do not know, but the cost and indeed the other problems—accounting problems in some cases, when you are dealing with National Insurance cards—are very large indeed.

As for visits (and I wish I had heard the speech of my noble friend Lady Sharpies), again this is a very important point. But even then, there is an element of money in it, because many of the families of prisoners are reliant upon grants from the Department of Health and Social Security for the fares to take them and their children to visit their husbands, their sons or whoever it is in prison; and there is a good deal of administrative detail and staffing in the D.H.S.S. which is involved in this. I, like her, would wish to see progress being made, but again I am aware of the financial and the staff constraints upon it.

My Lords, under the heading of "régime" we have also to consider whether there is anything that can be done, as I think one noble Lord mentioned, about incentives. The last Government carried out a very thorough exercise on what we called the rewards and punishment Working Party to try to see whether there was any room for further incentives, and indeed different forms of penalties as well, to be brought in. Although we tried very hard, the net result now appears in the amendment to the prison rules which I think have recently been laid before the House and are subject to the Negative Resolution procedure. They have not, I think, been debated here, but there was some suggestion that they should be in another place.

Finally on the question of regime, I believe that a number of noble Lords—the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, and my noble friend Lord St. Just—have made a very important point about what can be done by way of contact with the community outside. It is much easier in an open establishment. Then one is faced with the problem of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. When he was in charge of the Parole Board he used to let out on parole all the people who were suitable for open establishments. There was, therefore, a shortage of people who were suitably allocated as category "D" prisoners. But there are young offender establishments which are open, and if one looks at what is being done in some of them I think that my noble friend Lord St. Just might be rather encouraged, because the noble Baroness mentioned the various things that go on at Wetherby. That is by no means the only place that does it. I have seen a good deal of community involvement from a detention centre like North Sea Camp. It was the boys from Hewell Grange who finished digging out the Stratford-upon-Avon canal which was opened only the other day. Incidentally, why was it that neither they nor anybody from Gloucester was allowed to go to the opening? I know that the boys from Hewell Grange had set their heart on that project. On the back of every dormitory door there was a map of how the work was progressing. It was one of the main talking points and one of the main enterprises in that establishment and I wish they had been allowed to go and take part in the opening.

The debate has also rightly covered the question of alternatives to imprisonment. On this the Conservative Party have a reasonably good record in the Criminal Justice Act 1972. We have at least shown that we are prepared to act upon it and I put it in as the other side of progress. The dilemma is how to split the financial cake. However, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, pointed out—and this was very much the subject of the noble Earl's speech—there are a number of things which we have to consider in this respect. I will not go into the analysis that the noble and learned Lord spoke about because, unfortunately, I did not hear it all, but from the notes I have seen it seems to have been a most acute speech upon this subject.

One thing, however, which we must be sure about before we go too far ahead with alternatives is that the Probation Service upon whom it practically always turns out to depend are ready for it. This applies very much to the new Report from the Advisory Committee on Young Adult Offenders. I would not expect the Government to say very much about it this afternoon because it has only recently been published and it will need a good deal of thought and probably, I suspect, another debate in this House. If, however, as I believe to be the case, the noble Earl said that in this field we have experimented too much and too long without getting on with it, I would not altogether agree with him, because experiment in this field is essential if one is going to get two things: one is proof for oneself that it is a scheme that is worth while; the second is proof to convince the public that here is a piece of useful armoury which the courts may properly use to deal with people instead of sending them to prison. It is no use introducing these things without being able to carry public opinion with you that you have got something which is a genuine and a proper alternative to imprisonment, otherwise it will carry no respect. And it will not be respected in the end, either, by the people who are sentenced to it.

If your Lordships want an example of something in the way of change which was not thought out, may I respectfully once again chide the Socialist Party for a very premature introduction of part of the Children and Young Persons Act whereby the approved schools were abolished. Any magistrates in this House who have had to try to deal with young offenders in areas where there is no secure local authority accommodation will have had their fill of disappointment that there has not been adequate provision. I hope that the liaison between the Department of Health and Social Security and the Department of the Environment to get the local authorities to provide these homes is going ahead hard.

My Lords, I would therefore be very much inclined to support experiment in these fields and, of course, any other suggestions that can be brought forward. I do not think that we need legislation for hostels. The noble Lord, Lord Soper, spoke of one example that he is putting forward. I know that it is by no means the only hostel which his church runs, and the more variety that we can have through NACRO, through hostel schemes, through methods of this sort which require no legislation, the better, because all these are experiments in their turn. All these keep people out of prison. All these get rid of overcrowding which is particularly the bane of the local prison. I come back therefore, my Lords, to this position: that I entirely welcome a constructive debate like this whereby people put forward, from a wealth of experience and knowledge, a number of suggestions for further advances in non-custodial treatment. The Government will have to examine them to see whether they are feasible and how much they will cost, but the more suggestions that there are in this field the better.

On the Motion itself, on the prison side I hope that it is not a sign of sterility on my part but what I really wanted to do, so far as I was able, was to tackle rather unspectacular things like the diversification of work; the provision of trade certificates; union recognition of schemes whereby people could get jobs when they went out, which involves contacts with trade unions and employers' associations. I wanted very much to go on with the improvement of education and the provision of Open University courses which are wanted in more and more establishments, and also I wanted very much to improve the morale and training of the staff and, indeed, their numbers, because upon all this the whole matter depends.

Finally, I do not believe that we shall ever get a sensible approach to the prison system with the degree of ignorance that prevails about it—not in this House, but in the country at large. That is the reason why the noble Baroness and her colleagues at Wetherby are finding it so difficult to get the hostels in one of the West Yorkshire towns. It is because the public do not know about borstal boys. The public do not know about prisoners. The public have dreadfully misconcieved ideas. That is why the Howard League is crying for the moon when it talks at this juncture about setting up new prisons in central sites unless the Home Office are prepared to override all expressions of public opinion and to put it down there in defiance of the local authority and everybody else. I very much doubt, however, whether the Home Office wish to do that.

My Lords, let me therefore make one last constructive suggestion of my own. It is nothing new, but let us, if we have anything to do with any particular prison, see how the public can be involved; again that is one of the things which I attempted to do. It is quite possible to have open days in most establishments. It is even possible to take the Press into part of Wakefield Prison, because we did it. It is only too possible to bring in individual members of the public to take small, informal groups and teach them hobbies, teach them music. The boards of visitors are all members of the public and they can encourage other people to take an interest in the establishment locally. There are many channels which are open. People can go into the prison. In some cases the prisoners or the trainees can go out. What we have got to do is to encourage a good deal more openness. I do not think it would be resented on the Prison Service side at all if there were a good deal more accessibility so that people understand what this problem is about and can get a very much better perspective of a prisoner and prison life. I think that they may then become a good deal less hostile to some of the schemes that are put forward.

My Lords, that may not be a very dramatic solution, but I believe that it is the gentle way forward by which we shall be able to ameliorate the conditions for those who have to be in prison, even if it is for a very long time indeed. At the same time, I most heartily endorse all the suggestions about sensible alternatives which have been put forward this afternoon.


My Lords, if I may, I will begin on a personal note. I am sure that I express the thoughts and views of all your Lordships when I thank my noble friend Lord Longford for having initiated this debate. In my very limited period in this House this is by far the most interesting debate I have had the pleasure of listening to, and I think it will be a great benefit to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, who at the moment has the range of issues we have discussed here to-day at the forefront of his mind. Secondly, I think we would all wish to associate ourselves with my noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner in what he said about the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples. It was a most distinguished speech from which we all derived great pleasure, and I am sure we all look forward to hearing from her on a subsequent occasion. Thirdly, I should like to say something on behalf of another noble friend, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge. I know that he is one of the more frustrated Members of your Lordships' House because, owing to his present Ministerial responsibilities, he cannot participate in this debate. But he followed the early stages of the debate with keen attention and I know how much he regretted not being able to take a leading part in it.

Before coming to the subject that is the main element of my speech I should perhaps say that I think it will be impossible for me to answer all the detailed points which have been raised in this debate. I apologise in particular to my noble friend Lord Melchett who gave me notice of the issue he was to raise. Frankly it is a highly complex question and I should like to write to him about it because otherwise I shall have to devote a substantial amount of time to explaining the circumstances of this particular case. I think he stated it with great fairness: it was a brutal assault, but the case raises complicated questions and if I may I will write to him and explain how this matter is in fact to be handled.

I think it is some time since this House has had the opportunity of such a wide-ranging debate on this particular issue. This debate comes at a particularly fitting moment because it is probably true that we are at the moment at something of a watershed in the development of penal policy. Currently there is a much more cautious view—and this is perhaps something of an English understatement—of the reformative capabilities of custodial regimes. There is a growing feeling that fewer people need to be sent to prison. There is considerable doubt, which has been reflected in this debate to-day, as to whether it is right to devote to the custodial system the kind of resources that would be needed to provide adequately for an ever-expanding prison population.

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary shares many of these views. They have also been reflected in the recent Report on young adult offenders by the Advisory Council on the Penal System. My right honourable friend has already made it plain that he welcomes the broad changes of direction suggested in this Report. This Report proposes a shift in the emphasis for young adult offenders from treatment in custody to treatment in the community. There is no reason why thesame principle should not apply to people over 21; although obviously exactly the same methods would not necessarily be appropriate. In parole, about which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, spoke earlier, we have a flexible instrument already available to enable us to combine custodial and non-custodial treatments in a sentence. Moreover, we are building up experience of new measures, such as community service and day training centres. If I may, I want to devote some time to these, as the noble Lord was responsible for prisons when he was at the Home Office and I have some personal involvement in the Department in regard to these particular activities.

I should like to make one point where I disagree with my noble friend Lord Longford. I think he rather chided the present Government and their predecessors over a certain degree of caution in this matter, but I think to be frank one has to he cautious because in the development of projects such as day training centres, and the development of community service orders there are first substantial public expenditure implications which must be taken extremely seriously at a time when the Government are reviewing the overall level of public expenditure. Secondly, they are labour-intensive in terms of trained manpower. These are two crucial questions which have to be faced up to.


My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I should like to say that I did not chide the Government for any over-caution they have displayed so far because I do not think they have had time to display over-caution. I said that if past experience was any guide they would be over-cautious, but I hope I shall be proved wrong.


My Lords, I think I took what the noble Earl said rather more personally because I recall that the word to which he took exception was the word "experimental", and after he had objected to the word "experimental" I began to cross it out on the several occasions where it appeared in the notes of my speech this afternoon. The question of day training centres was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton. Within the last few weeks I have had the opportunity of visiting three—if the noble Earl will forgive me for using the word—experimental areas where these schemes are in operation—in Kent, in Inner London and in Nottinghamshire.

I must tell the House that all the probation officers to whom I have spoken in these areas have agreed on the basis of their own experience that the initial stages of these schemes were exceedingly difficult. In a few cases, obviously, mistakes were made. This was quite inevitable. But I must tell the House that I was deeply impressed by the enthusiasm among all those working in these three schemes, and I was also deeply impressed by the exceptionally high calibre of the probation officers who were involved in them.

The importance of community service orders cannot be over-stated. These orders are made both by Crown Courts and magistrates courts in the six areas, including the three that I have already mentioned. In the overwhelming majority of cases these orders are made against men and women who would otherwise have been sent to prison, some of them for quite substantial periods of time. The court can make a community service order ranging from 40 to 240 hours, although I should add that almost everyone I spoke to agreed that in the majority of cases 240 hour sentences were far too long. The order has to be completed within 12 months, and of course the offender has to give up a substantial amount of his spare time both in the evenings and at weekends in order to discharge the task allocated to him by the probation officer.

I should like to give a few examples of what these offenders do during the course of working out their orders. Some work in the gardens of old people who cannot do the jobs themselves. In Inner London, which is one of the areas I visited, there is an old church hall which is being converted into a community centre for the disabled and elderly and for a pre-school play group. Several groups of offenders are helping to construct adventure playgrounds. The examples are endless, but I think what I have said already indicates two things: first, there is a need when introducing these schemes to analyse with care the problems and aptitudes of the individual offender. Some have heavy family commitments and these have to be taken into account when deciding where and when they shall discharge their tasks. On the other hand in the case of others it is desirable that they should form part, for instance, of a supervised group.

Secondly, it is essential for a great deal of effort to be expended to gain the co-operation of voluntary organisations so as to create an adequate supply of work opportunities for offenders in community service. Thirdly, it is vital that the schemes are introduced with care and sensitivity. These schemes are wholly dependent on public good will. It is necessary to carry the local communities along with these schemes, and it is even more necessary to ensure that a good relationship is created both with the local magistrates and with the local Crown Courts. Otherwise, the orders will not be made and a number of people will go to prison, when the entire objective of this policy is to avoid sending them to prison at all.

My Lords, as I have said, it would be foolish to pretend, that some mistakes have not been made in the experimental areas where these schemes have been introduced. It would be remarkable if there had not been, because we have had no previous experience of orders of this character. But, overall, I am convinced that they are an outstanding success, for which the right honourable gentleman who was then Home Secretary should have a very considerable personal degree of credit. Indeed, I think the initial experience has been so promising that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has now decided to consult with the representative organisations of the Probation Service about the possibility of extending the schemes to other parts of the country.

I turn now to day training centres. Again, these have been introduced on an experimental basis in a few probation areas. My noble friend Lord Longford told us of his visit to the new day training centre in Camberwell. Indeed, as he probably knows, I preceded him to the centre by a few days. So far as Camberwell is concerned, their first group of offenders, or call them what you will, are just about to leave; indeed, they have already left, having discharged the order. As a result, it would be absurdly premature even to make a preliminary judgment about the success or failure of the scheme. However, it was extremely encouraging to meet the admirable staff gathered for the centre by Mr. Pearce, the chief probation officer for Inner London, and previously one of the colleagues of my noble friend Lord Hunt on the Parole Board. In the fairly long discussion I had with them, the staff recognised the very real difficulties which will confront this scheme. While I am dealing with this point, one of the difficulties raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, was the question of planning permission, but I will come back to that in a moment. The noble Baroness mentioned to me earlier that she intended to raise this point. This was a problem associated with the Camberwell scheme, as it has been in the case of many of the others.

So far as Camberwell is concerned, not least of the problems will be the problem of a man who has, perhaps for the first time in his life, formed some good personal relationships while at the centre, largely due to the intensive care he has received there. Of course, he then faces the problem that after this period of intensive care he has to leave. This is a very difficult problem, and I know it is one which occupies the attention of the very devoted group of probation officers now working at Camberwell. I think they are right, because I am bound to say that it is was one of the problems which was very much at the forefront of my mind. I know they have taken steps to deal with it as best they can, and I hope—as, I am sure, will your Lordships—that they succeed.

I turn next to probation hostels. We hope to provide 1,700 hostel places over the next three years. So far—and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Gardiner, raised this point—around 500 places have been provided, or will shortly come into use. This brings me to another problem. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Mon, raised the question of planning permission. This is exactly the sort of problem that the Home Office is having to face every day. In the case of many of these schemes, there is the most passionate opposition from local interests. One must take these complaints very seriously. It is of crucial importance to carry local communities with one. I am totally opposed to central Government simply imposing things on people when there is substantial local feeling, as there is. We must try to explain that many of the fears held in the local communities are unreasonable. We must try to bring local residents on to the committees of these hostels, or whatever they may be—day training centres in the case of Camberwell—so that local residents can see the kind of work done by these schemes. This, I think, will go some way to lessening the degree of local opposition. But this is a difficulty.

Undoubtedly, we would be proceeding more rapidly, as would our predecessors have done, if it were not for the fact that in a number of cases there have had to be long planning inquiries with the most tenacious opposition being expressed by many of the local communities. Government must take this seriously. We should take positive action. We should not use this as an excuse for slow progress. We should try to explain to the people in the areas—


My Lords, may I ask a question? Is there some way of assuring the residents that the value of their houses will not go down, because I think that is what is behind quite a lot of the problems?


My Lords, I am sure that is probably right. I do not think there is any simple solution to this problem. I do not think there is one overall answer, but that is probably one answer. We shall have to do what we can to remove this fear which is probably at the forefront of the minds of a number of the objectors.

My Lords, that brings me to a point raised by my noble friend Lord Soper and touched on, although in a rather different context, by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Wakefield. My noble friend told us of his interest in the Katherine Price Hughes hostel. I know he will be pleased to hear that we have to-day decided there is no objection to the hostel taking men as well as women. That is a matter for the organising committee. I say this in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. I think I shall be answering a Question by him on the slowness with which the Home Office tends to respond to questions, letters and so on. I think that was his implication. I am sure he will be impressed by the fact —I must admit I am myself—that the noble Lord, Lord Soper, raised this matter with me only last night, but fortunately the answer was on its way through the Home Office machine to me. As a result of the fact that he raised this matter with me last evening, we were able to process it this morning. I welcome this, because it is an excellent idea. As my noble friend indicated, in the case of hostels of this sort, where the committee or management or whoever it may be, wish to do this, they should be encouraged. I welcome it and hope it goes exceedingly well, as I am sure it will.

May I now turn to the overall prison situation? The prison population has remained on something of a plateau for the past year or more. The present figure of approximately 37,000 is much the same as it was a year ago. I need hardly emphasise the great benefits that will flow if we can prevent the prison population rising steeply again or, better still, if we can achieve our object of a significant reduction. There is no simple and straightforward way in which the Government can control or determine in advance the size of the prison population. We do not determine how many people should be convicted by the courts, or prescribe the sentence to be imposed. On the other hand, it is now widely accepted that governments have to give a lead to public opinion in order to demonstrate their belief that many of those now in custody could and should be dealt with by other means. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is determined to give this type of leadership.

My Lords, the courts are making less use of custodial sentences. For example, in 1953 of men over 21 years of age, 440 out of every 1,000 convicted of indictable offences were given custodial sentences. By 1972, the number had dropped to 197. Unfortunately, the problem is that in that period there was in fact a substantial increase in the amount of crime, a point touched on by my noble friend; and as a result of this it did not have a particular impact on the size of the prison population itself. My noble friend asked me in passing the general situation so far as the establishments in police forces are concerned. I fear the figures are not particularly satisfactory. In the Metropolitan Police area there is still a deficiency of 20 per cent. on the authorised establishment of 26,000, and in England and Wales generally there is a deficiency of around 11 per cent. The figures indicate, of course, that in the more agreeable areas such as Dorset, the police are totally up to establishment; but in the large cities, where carrying out the job of being a policeman can on many occasions be highly unpleasant and disagreeable, there is, and has been for many years, a substantial shortfall; we are doing everything we can in terms of stimulating recruitment to deal with this matter.

What we can say, however, returning to the general prison situation and the situation confronting the courts, is that the current stability in the conviction figures, coupled with increasing recognition of the alternatives to custody, give us an opportunity to relieve the pressures that have built up on the Prison Service. We are, for example, given the opportunity to make some inroads into overcrowding, another point made by my noble and learned friend; to deal with the substantial problem of overcrowding which still affects a large number of our antiquated Victorian prisons. There are still 17,000 prisoners being held in prisons built before the end of the 19th century.

Some people think that the simple solution is to redevelop the old prisons on their present sites. Certainly something can be, and indeed is being, done to refurbish them and to make a number of improvements. But in fact the city prisons are for the most part on comparatively cramped sites, as the noble Lord, from his own experience, will know. If they are going to be redeveloped to provide modern accommodation and facilities for staff as well as for prisoners, demolition, or partial demolition will have to precede this, and in the meantime the prisoners, or at least a good proportion of them, will have to be accommodated somewhere else. If only for that reason, the prison system must have certain amount of new accommodation. I think in fact one can over simplify this problem of the prison building programme. The problem is still a major and continuing anxiety to all Home Office Ministers in this Administration, as I am sure it was for their predecessors.

It is in fact easy to distinguish some categories of people whom we all want to be kept out of prison—the vagrants, the habitual drunken offenders and so forth. Also, at the other end of the spectrum, it is not too difficult to distinguish those kind of offenders who are an obvious danger to the community and must be removed. The real question is to what extent prisoners in this middle band can be dealt with in a non-custodial way, and how quickly public confidence can be gained for a radical change in emphasis in dealing with offenders in this category. This is in fact why, when speaking about the non-custodial forms of treatment we are at the moment involved in, I come back to this question of public confidence. It is crucially important to be able to persuade people that in fact this is a meaningful and successful alternative and a much more constructive alternative to prison. If we can do that, I am sure we can for the first time start making major inroads into this general problem of getting people who can benefit far more greatly from a life outside prison out doing far more useful and constructive work for the community as a whole.

I think, however, we have to face another difficulty, and it is this. One of the consequences of keeping more minor offenders out of custody will be that proportionately the prison population will be made up of more difficult and intransigent people. This is already becoming evident. And the fuller prison régimes become the more difficult these problems also become. More recreational association for prisoners, more education classes, more visits, more contacts with the outside community, which we all agree are urgent and desirable, bring with them the added problems of supervision, particularly if in the general prison population there is a larger proportion of intransigent people. This will raise diffi cult questions of control and management.

The prison population is likely to contain a bigger proportion of more difficult people as time goes on. The Prison Service has acquired a great deal of expertise in dealing with the problems of medium and long sentence prisoners. Régimes have been developed in a number of closed prisons—at Wakefield, which the right reverend Prelate referred to earlier, Wormwood Scrubs and Portsmouth, and in the open prison at Leyhill—all of which have achieved some success in the difficult task of maintaining people through long sentences. This is a particularly difficult problem confronting the Prison Service, and it is one which I think so far has been coped with, and is being coped with at the moment with some degree of reasonable expectation of success.

However, this brings me to another problem. It is one which has been touched on by a number of noble Lords, and it is the general question of research. I think this question has been preoccupying Ministers of both Governments for a very substantial period of time. We all want more research. For one thing, we want to see that the operational problems in the prison system can be identified, and include within it a research programme that is action-related. We have been making a certain degree of progress in this matter. A good deal of research is now being undertaken: for instance, on the general question which the noble Viscount who preceded me touched on, that of life sentence imprisonment. It is predictable that the number of life sentence prisoners will increase considerably in the next few years, as it has in the recent past, and for some of the reasons which the noble Viscount identified in his speech.

At present, there are approximately 1,000 life sentence prisoners, and it is likely that the number will have increased to around 1,400 by the end of this decade. This represents a formidable problem. To meet it we are taking two steps. One is to establish special centres in two particular prisons where the case of each life sentence prisoner can be looked at in depth over a fairly long initial period after the sentence has been imposed. These centres will have expert staff, particularly medical staff. Their job will be to sustain the prisoner during the particularly difficult period after sentence has been imposed and to plan a career for him within the prison system.

The other step is to reorganise that system so that more prisons are capable of dealing with life sentence prisoners. I readily agree that the preparation of discharged prisoners whether long-term or not, must be improved, and this indeed was the point which the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples, made in her maiden speech. The particular point she raised is largely a matter for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. There are inter-Departmental discussions now taking place on this matter. It would be foolish, indeed reckless, of me were I to say that I can give a firm assurance that action will be taken, but I am sure that everyone is conscious of the urgency of this particular problem and we will certainly do our best to resolve it in the context of the wider economic problems the country is facing at the moment.

I think the key to the prospective changes I have so far been discussing is the general question of the availability of resources, in this as in other matters. In some respects it is a matter of redeployment of existing resources, which will be helped as and if the Prison Service can be relieved of some of its present burdens. But we must recognise the fact that there is still a very great deal to be done—and the noble Viscount will be even more aware of this than I am, because of his knowledge of the system—to bring the organisation and management of the Prison Service up to date. A review has already taken place which has led to the reorganisation of the Prison Department headquarters and the establishment of regions. The review is continuing with the organisation and management of Prison Department establishments.

Over the last two decades, specialist services have been introduced to a wide range of prisons, but there has been little change in the basic hierarchical patterns of management, which date from the time when the task of prisons was seen to be virtually exclusively custodial. The more complex task of prisons to-day calls not only for changes in organisation and structure, but also in management style and in the pattern of internal com- munication. But it is not just a question of organisation, deployment, or indeed even of management of staff. Experience has shown that if all staff are not involved in the management of the prison, with effective communication and consultation, any attempts to engage prisoners in consultative processes within the prison are almost certainly doomed to a high likelihood of failure. We are anxious to deal with this problem now, and changes have already been made in staff training with the objective of doing something in this area.

As was inevitable, this debate has covered—as indeed has my speech—a very wide area. Nevertheless, I am sure that it has been extremely valuable. I can assure the House that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is determined to make the creation of a more rational and a more civilised penal system one of the central objectives of his policy. I am sure that, as I have done, he will find to-day's debate of the greatest assistance to him in fashioning that policy.

7.2 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, has already proved himself a real addition to this House in the short time that he has been with us. To-day he has made another excellent speech, and I am sure that there will be many other excellent speeches from him to follow. I hope that I shall be forgiven by the other speakers if I do not single them out by name. They were all so good and so eminent, that once I began mentioning three or four I should feel very bad about the others and would mention everybody. If I may, I shall simply mention the noble Baroness, Lady Sharpies, whose maiden speech has won an acceptance that, in my now all too long experience, I can hardly recall. I should like to thank everybody for their participation.

If anybody asks me, which they have not, whether I go away encouraged or discouraged, I shall recall the words of one of P. G. Wodehouse's characters who said that he was not disgruntled, but he was not exactly "gruntled" either. I suppose that roughly points to my condition. I was already very much encouraged when I came here, knowing the ideals of the Home Secretary which have been restated today. I should need to read the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, very carefully to be sure whether he has taken us further or whether, as I think Lenin said, it is "One step forward and two steps back", or was it "Two steps forward and one step back". It was a little bit forward here, and a little bit back there, and therefore I shall not go into that in detail. I shall not even get involved in that question of experiment. I worked for three years, as the House may know, with the late Lord Beveridge. Certainly, any great social reforms in this country and, if you like, those introduced by the late Aneurin Bevan were not based on years of experiment. If we had waited for years of experiment in social reform in this country, we should not have had much social reform. While I favour experiment, I do not want to wait too long.

Looking to the future, we all seem to agree in theory that there are a lot of people—we talk of a lot of people, and we must mean some thousands—who ought not to be in prison but who are now in prison. The question is: what is to be done about these people, not in years hence but in the next few years during the period of the Home Secretary's stewardship? Either we leave them in prison, or turn them lose without any particular attention being paid to them, or place them in the way of a new and alternative remedy. If we are to do that, we cannot wait for years for the so-called experiment. That is my point of view. I am happy with Lord Harris's speech, happy with all the speeches, and yet I wonder at the end whether we are further forward than when we started to-day. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.