Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to
Question [22nd June], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, whilst recognizing the necessity of measures being adopted to secure economy and efficiency in the management of Prisons, is of opinion that it would be inexpedient to transfer the control and management of Prisons from Local Authorities to the Secretary of State,"—(Mr. Rylands,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ THE LORD MAYOR (Mr. Alderman Cotton)
said, the Court of Aldermen and the Court of Common Council of the City had passed resolutions against the Bill, which resolutions had their origin in the feeling that the Home Secretary already possessed sufficient powers to carry out all that was useful in the measure. He had, since the Bill was last under consideration, carefully considered its provisions, and had watched the manner in which it had been received by the municipalities which had held meetings on the subject, and also by the magistrates at quarter sessions. Of the municipalities but few meetings had been held; but as far as he could analyze the results, from a statement in The Times of the number of meetings held for and against the Bill by various municipalities and courts of quarter sessions, it appeared that 25 meetings had been held, of which 13 had voted against the measure, 10 had been indifferent, and two had been neutral. It could, therefore, hardly be said that the measure had been very favourably received by those whom it would most immediately and directly affect. With regard to the magistrates, it was difficult to understand why it was attempted to remove them from the offices which for so many generations they had so well and efficiently filled, and when, as he contended, they constituted the machinery by which the good order and management of the prisons had been carried out. They were constantly replenished by new blood, and as they went with the times they were sure to take the lead in the improvement of prison management. He feared that the Bill would destroy 887 the efficiency of the magistracy, and it would, at any rate, impair their self-respect. The working of the Bill would be confided to five Commissioners, to be appointed by the Home Secretary, to work under his sole control. They would have the appointment of sub-Commissioners, and the magistrates would only be allowed to meet and to act when the Home Secretary and the Commissioners thought fit, and to visit the prisons when they might so determine. ["No, no!"] It was, at any rate, as he had stated, so in the Bill. Their decisions would have no force until reported upon by the sub-Commissioners, and submitted to the Commissioners and the Home Secretary. They all knew what the result of such a mode of dealing with business would be. In that House they were accustomed to receive Reports and to make Reports, and when the actual management of prisons was transferred to sub-Commissioners and Commissioners, and to the Home Secretary over all, they could easily imagine the result of such a vast centralization. The indifference and apparently submissive manner of the magistrates was inexplicable to him, and he could only account for it by remembering the late period of the Session and the glowing terms in which the Bill was introduced by the Home Secretary. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would not press the Bill forward during the present Session, as proper time had not been allowed to consider a measure of such magnitude and importance. If, however, the Government should determine to proceed with it, he trusted that the House would not allow the liberties of the people to be absorbed and neutralized by any Secretary of State. In a letter to The Spectator more than 100 years ago a correspondent advised the editor of that celebrated publication to take care how he meddled with the country squires, for they were the ornament of the English nation—men of good heads and sound bodies. Such advice, however, appeared to be thrown away at the present day, and for the magistracy to have to submit to the action of sub-Inspectors of Prisons was, he thought, a very serious matter. His own opinion was, that the course which was about to be pursued must lead to the destruction of the magistracy, and thus far in a very great degree to the destruction of English liberty. Indeed, 888 the attack which was made, through the Bill, on the magistrates of the country astonished him beyond measure, seeing that no censure had or could be passed upon them for anything which they had done, for they had administered the prisons under their charge economically and well. As a magistrate he had no objection to receive the recommendations of the Secretary of State, and he could not conceive why any prisons which ought to be closed might not be closed under the existing authority. He should like to ask, too, if the present was a fitting moment to transfer any charge whatever from the rates to the Consolidated Fund, seeing that that fund was so heavily burdened at the commencement of the Session that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to increase the Income Tax, and trade at the present moment was so terribly depressed. Another very great objection to the Bill was the enormous amount of patronage it would place in the hands of the Home Secretary. When the appointments of governors of gaols, chaplains, and other officers, with salaries ranging from £150 to £1,200 a-year, was distributed among a large body of magistrates, it was very different to concentrating the whole of the appointments in the hands of the Home Secretary, and that plan seemed almost certain to lead to great abuses, which were sure to cause great discontent. Such patronage would be far better exercised by the magistrates than it ever could be by the Home Office. Neither was it necessary to sweep away so many prisons, and to introduce so much centralization in order to effect some at least of the objects of the Home Secretary, for a uniform scale of diet and clothing could be introduced in the prisons that were retained. As to New gate, it was the most convenient prison for the trial of criminals, who came there from all parts, and who were frequently of the lowest class. Notwithstanding that, however, the total cost for food per week for each prisoner in Newgate was only 2s. 7d. per head, and he defied the governor of any other gaol to feed the prisoners under his charge for a less sum. In the face, he might add, of the report that the Home Office was already greatly overworked, he was surprised to find the Government introducing a measure which would throw upon it so much additional labour. Some municipalities 889 had already notified their objection to such a measure, and if time were allowed he felt sure that many more would do the same thing. The plumage of the Lords Lieutenant of counties had been lately to a great extent plucked away from them, for they had been deprived of the right of appointing officers for the Militia and the Volunteers, and it seemed as if they and the magistrates were to be put on one side altogether. For his own part, he was of opinion that, instead of pressing on the Bill, it would be well if a Select Committee were appointed to inquire into and report upon the management, expenditure, and patronage of the Government convict prisons, before Parliament was called upon to take a step which would seriously interfere with the liberties of the people, with the rights long enjoyed of appointing unpaid magistrates, and thus maintaining throughout the whole of the land a zealous, efficient, and influential body of administrators, respected and looked up to in their respective localities. Let it be seen how the work had there been done, and the House would then be better able to judge whether it would be safe to hand over such powers as were now asked for to the Secretary of State. He believed that the complaints of the prisoners would not receive so much consideration if the visiting justices were not interposed between the officers of the gaol and the Home Secretary. They gave considerate attention to those complaints, and at the same time they certainly did not pamper them. He opposed the Bill in the interest of liberty, in the interest of the country generally, and in the interest of the municipalities, which must feel that the measure was a direct attack on their privileges. If a magistrate had no power over the inmates of a gaol, he would soon cease to take any interest in their management. In conclusion, he must express a hope that the House would reject the Bill.
§ MR. WHITBREAD,
in opposing the Bill, said, he thought it had been put forward as a bait. It had been introduced for three distinct purposes—first, in order to secure uniformity of punishment; secondly, in order to do away with the present duality of government; and, thirdly, in order to secure a more economical management; and he would in regard to these three points read the Bill according to answers given to 890 the deputations which waited upon the Home Secretary, and according to the discussions which had taken place upon it during the debate. As he understood it, the right hon. Gentleman argued that the visiting magistrates were not aware of the present position; that if they were, they would see that the Bill left them nearly the same authority in prisons as they possessed now, save that they would have a new master; that instead of making their report as now to the court of quarter sessions, they would in future have to report to the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department. But how was the patronage to be exercised? He was told that the Secretary of State would appoint the governors, and that the visiting magistrates would have in their hands the appointment of the warders. Well, if that were so, who was to deal with the complaints which the governor might make against the warders? Would the magistrates, or would the Secretary of State, have the power of dismissing the offending warder? If the magistrates, then they would again have the evils of duality of government, which it was one of the objects of the Bill to remove, intensified. These and many other points ought to be cleared up before the House assented to the second reading. In reality, the visiting justices were to be left much in the same position that they at present occupied. [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS: No.] Well, if not, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would tell them so, for they were entitled to know distinctly what their position would be. There might be a great saving in prison administration if the system of centralization were thorough; but the Home Secretary bound himself by the Bill to maintain a prison in every county, leaving out of mind, seemingly, the fact that it was impossible to commence the attainment of real economy or perfection in the classification and treatment of prisoners, unless there were between 300 and 500 prisoners in a gaol. But out of the 40 counties of England there were 8 in which the average number of prisoners under detention was less than 100, while there were 13 other counties in which the average number was between 100 and 200. Thus, in 21 out of 40 counties there would exist the necessity of maintaining a very small prison. Again, in 891 Wales there was but one county in which the average number of prisoners under detention exceeded 30, and yet, according to the Bill, there must be a prison in each of the Welsh counties. Beyond that, in Scotland there were only two counties with more than 100 prisoners. The result, therefore, would be that if they were to have a gaol in every county, they would not be able to effect the economy which was anticipated. The right hon. Gentleman ought also to have given the House the estimate upon which his calculation was based that the annual cost of a prisoner would be reduced to £21. As to the saving expected, it was always said, when a new Government Department was started, that it would be sure to work economically, and yet the Estimates increased from year to year. Here the start was not a promising one. Why have a new Prison Board? Why not put these county prisons under the control of the existing Prison Board? The formation of a Prison Board would not conduce to economy, and if economy were taken out of the Bill there would be very little really left. The measure contrived to combine all the evils of centralization without a single advantage. They had been told by the Civil Lord of the Admiralty of the necessity of reforming our local government; but so far from being a reform, the Bill showed a despair of local government. He agreed that ratepayers were entitled to relief, but they would obtain no permanent relief through this measure. Ministers were pledged up to the eyes to strengthen the county organization, and the ratepayers really wanted a voice in the management of their own affairs. Instead of bringing forward a Bill which could not possibly pass in the present year, the Government should look seriously into local organization, the permanent increase of the debt of counties, and the wasteful expenditure which went on. The Leaders of both Parties, he said again, were pledged to endeavour to strengthen county organization, and yet the Home Secretary despaired of creating County Boards which could be entrusted with the management of prisons. In this measure they were endeavouring to please the ratepayers by giving them a sop which would not effect any permanent reduction of their burdens. The measures of the Government upon this 892 question were pervaded by no common principle. It was as though one Member of the Government had been told to prepare a Bill on Valuation, another a Bill on Highways, and a third a Prisons Bill, and it almost seemed that those three Members of the Government must then have been shut up in separate rooms and allowed no communication with each other. If there was one thing from which local self-government suffered more than another it was from too many Boards, and yet this year they were threatened with no less than three new Boards. He appealed to the Government whether the time had not arrived for taking up this question in a more comprehensive way, and he suggested that a Royal Commission should be appointed to investigate the whole subject. He protested against a mode of dealing with the question which consisted of adding Board after Board and authority after authority without doing anything really to touch the question of the economy. It was the duty of statesmen to gather up the threads of local government, to give the ratepayers a voice in the management of their affairs, and to place them permanently under a good sound county organization.
§ MR. HENLEY
said, he wished to explain the reasons which rendered him unable to support the Government on the question. This was a proposal on the part of the Government to meet a Resolution of the House which was come to some time ago—that the expense of gaols should not be thrown altogether upon real property. When he looked at the mode in which it was proposed to carry that object into effect, he could not say that he was satisfied either with the reasons given for the change, or with the protection afforded to prisoners by the Bill. A vast constitutional change was proposed, and we ought at least to take care that those unfortunate persons in the custody of the law should have at least as much protection by statute as they had now got. His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department said, in the first place, that if the prisons were taken into the hands of the Government there would be a general saving of expense—no doubt a very desirable object—and that saving would be brought about by two modes—first, the 893 shutting up of a number of small prisons; and, secondly, by a greater amount of labour being obtained from many prisons than was now the case. With regard to the first point, it was impossible not to feel that the shutting up of prisons might cause inconvenience to a great number of persons not convicted, but who were only going to be tried. The Bill provided that there should be at least one gaol in each county. That made provision for the prisoners from counties, but placed those from the boroughs completely at a disadvantage, because it was an enormous disadvantage to a prisoner to be taken 20 or 30 miles away from his home, as the difficulties of communicating with the persons preparing his defence, and the expense, if he were able to bear expense at all, would be enormously increased. Then, as to the question of saving labour, upon which his right hon. Friend dwelt very much. Some time ago, in the county which he represented, when treadmill labour was carried to a greater extent than at present, it was found so to debilitate the prisoners that representations were made, not only from within, but from outside the prison, which led to lowering very much its amount. His right hon. Friend said, with great truth, that prisoners condemned for the same crime to the same period of imprisonment, ought to suffer the same punishment. That was a right principle, no doubt, under the same circumstances; but his right hon. Friend did not take into account the unequal strength of the persons to whom the punishment might be applied. Viewing it in this light, he could not help looking at the state of the prisons where a large amount of labour was exacted; and, when he said he took the whole of Yorkshire, Lancashire, and Middlesex, counties which had nearly half the prisoners of England and Wales, it would be admitted that this was no small induction. There were two things to be considered—first, the amount of work done in those prisons, which was, no doubt, large, and the money earnings were considerable, and if there was no other consideration, that would be admitted to be a very good thing. But there was another consideration. The aggregate number of persons committed in England and Wales in 1874—the last Report we had—was 166,588, of 894 which Middlesex, Yorkshire, and Lancashire, contributed 82,500, or nearly half, but of this 82,500 no fewer than 35,000, or 43 per cent, were re-committals. Of the 84,000 furnished by the rest of England and Wales, the total of re-committals was 27,000, or 32 per cent. That certainly did not show a very great advantage in the large prisons. He next looked naturally to the question of health, and he found that whereas in the three counties he had named, out of 82,500, there were no fewer than 51,000 sick, or 62 per cent; in all the rest of England and Wales the sick were only 27,000, or 32 per cent. That was a point on which a satisfactory explanation ought to be given, and he felt very strongly that there was not time now for the consideration this large constitutional measure ought to have before so great a change was made. Then, as to the possible disadvantages of the change which might arise. A man now in prison, if he felt he had any considerable grievance, also felt that he had an opportunity of appealing, in various ways, to the Crown, represented by the Secretary of State, from whom he would obtain an impartial hearing, and if a wrong had been committed it might be repaired. It behoved them to be careful how such a power was done away with. That feeling was an advantage which would be swept away by this change; for, however much the Secretary of State might be disposed to chock anything wrong, still we could never make prisoners believe that it would be the case. Then he came to the rash change the Bill made in the power of the visiting justices, and to his mind the subject was dealt with in a very unsatisfactory manner. The Bill first repealed the whole statutory enactment as to visiting justices, and then it re-enacted their powers. They might imprison, flog, and put in irons; but when they came to the protection of the prisoners the language was very vague, and left almost all to be done by the Secretary of State. No doubt proper rules and regulations would be made; but they should take care that prisoners were not worse off by statute than they now were. How was this to be remedied? They must have one authority in their prisons. With a divided authority it would be impossible to maintain discipline. The 895 matter ought not to be left to rules; it should be provided for by statute. It was said that the Secretary of State might be disposed to leave the appointment of subordinate officers to the visiting justices. He thought that would be unpopular, and would tend to set up two authorities without any direct responsibility. There was another point on which he felt strongly. He lived in a county where there was comparatively little crime, and where the prison accommodation was considerably more than double what was required. The natural result would be that their prisons would be filled up from less fortunate districts. Nothing could be more mischievous than bringing a surplus criminal population into prisons such as he had described. Some 12 months ago such a proposal was made to take prisoners from a different county. He then said, whatever was done, they should take care, not only to secure plenty of cell room for their own prisoners, but that in the means of labour also they should keep the two sets of prisoners entirely separate. He did not think it would be fortunate to bring a criminal population among another slightly tinctured with crime. They heard a good deal about education, but they did not want the education of an innocent population in crime. These were the reasons—great as the money bribe was—that disabled him from giving his assent to the principle now proposed, without having a longer period for consideration, and he thought the principle ought not to be affirmed by the House until the question could be considered in all its bearings. If they took such a step in this matter, there would be no going back. For these reasons, though he said so with great reluctance, he was unable to support the second reading.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY
said, he was glad to hear the independent testimony which had been given to the fidelity and discretion with which the magistrates had exercised their duties. The Bill under the notice of the House was an illustration of the saying that we did not know the value of a thing properly until we were about to lose it. He thought the House had to ask themselves how it was that such a measure, which certainly seemed at first sight to take away from the efficiency of the magistrates, was proposed by a Conser- 896 vative Home Secretary, apparently with the consent of a large portion of his Party? When they inquired how that was brought about, hon. Members should put themselves in the position of his right hon. Friend, and then they would be reminded that the present Government came into office pledged very largely to remove the inequalities of local taxation, and to alter its unjust incidence, so that charges of an Imperial nature should not be locally levied in the manner of which complaint was made. This Bill had been introduced in accordance with the Resolution moved by the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes); but that was not the only motive that weighed with the Home Secretary. He had been urged to undertake the reform of prison management. The last 10 years had brought about a very different state of things. There had been a large emigration, and, on the other hand, there had been a great increase of trades. They had the experience of the Act of 1865, and the Home Secretary told them that greater reforms might be carried out. They had also to consider the utilization of the labour of prisoners, and the mode of its disposal. Matmaking had been almost universally adopted in prisons; and the practice had caused great complaint in that particular trade as being most unfair to them. Under that system, they wanted for governor not only a man who could maintain order, but a man who knew also how to dispose of the produce of the gaol. Under the Bill the matter would be remedied; for the Government itself would purchase the numerous articles which they wanted from the prisons. They already had the police clothes made in prison, and he trusted that their efforts would to a further extent be successful in this direction. It had been said that all the proposed improvements could be carried out under the existing law, if only the Home Secretary would issue some strong edicts and institute a thoroughly uniform system. But he (Sir John Kennaway) could not agree that that would be possible. The matter was really in the discretion of the magistrates at quarter sessions, and if they were asked to submit to a system of strict rule, they would decline to be responsible for the administration of the prisons. He was glad that by this Bill the Home Secretary 897 had shown himself desirous to avail himself of the local knowledge and high character of the magistrates, of whose powers the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) was afraid they were to be deprived. On the contrary, the visiting justices would be in a position to advise upon a great many matters of importance. They would, as before, be responsible for much that was connected with the prison management, and also for the appointment of the minor officers. They had also to thank the Home Secretary for the consideration which, under the Bill, he had shown to the Prisoners' Aid Society. He had no fear that the Bill was inflicting any serious blow upon local self-government, for there would still be ample scope in school boards, highway boards, and county boards for those who desired to serve their country in that way. He was, however, anxious that those who had hitherto borne the burden of prison management should continue to interest themselves in it; and he trusted, therefore, that the Government would consider the suggestions for giving those persons a somewhat more extended patronage both in connection with patronage and also with management. He protested against handing over the whole matter to a central despotism, and it was because the Bill did not involve that result, and for the other reasons which he had given, that he should support the second reading.
§ MR. PEASE
said, that the Bill was divided into two parts; one of which referred to the discipline in prisons, whilst the other included the financial part of the question. Of these, that which related to prison discipline was much the more important, but the two portions touched each other very closely, and neither could well be dealt with to the exclusion of the other. It might be perhaps necessary for the Government to contribute to local burdens, and he believed it was right sense, and it possibly might be right sense, to have the prisons transferred to them; but he did not think that it would be wise to meddle with this question of prisons without going a great deal further into the question of local authority and local areas than they had at present done. Further, he did not believe that the mode in which that was pro- 898 posed to be accomplished by the Bill was a judicious one, or that the other results which it proposed to have in view would be obtained by it. The Bill proposed that, with some small exceptions, the Government should manage all and pay all; but he (Mr. Pease) contended that the Home Secretary had not shown that the evils he desired to get rid of could not be remedied under the present system, nor had he shown that the advantages of the proposed change would not be counterbalanced by corresponding disadvantages. As to removal, it was said that changes could then be made which could not now be made; but under Clause 5 of the Act of 1865 the Home Secretary had very considerable power to remove prisoners from one gaol to another, and, if he required more power, the House would gladly give it to him. The right hon. Gentleman recommended his Bill on the ground of the greater classification of prisoners of which it would admit; but the statistics relating to prisoners afforded but little hope of that. There were, he found, 18,000 prisoners in the borough and county gaols of the country, and of those only about 3,000 were in gaol under sentences of above six months. On the other hand, out of the 9,000 committals in the year, only 6,900, or in round numbers 7,000, were for periods of less than six months, while of the latter portion, those sentenced to imprisonment for terms ranging from six months to a year formed by far the larger proportion. They had the large number of 142,000 prisoners annually committed on short sentences, for offences which, to a great extent, were too widely different to admit of much classification. Out of the6,900 committals to which he referred, there were nine gaols in the kingdom that had received 2,800 of that average of prisoners on long sentences, and there could therefore be only 2,000 prisoners distributed in the gaols throughout the country under sentence for offences which admitted of any classification. That being so, they could not hope for any great classification under the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman; but even if there were room for it under the existing system, the right hon. Gentleman could effect it under the provisions of the existing law, or, if those were insufficient, the House would gladly make them more complete. 899 He thought the right hon. Gentleman's calculations on the increased value of the productive work of prisoners were equally unsatisfactory. Another object which the Bill was to accomplish was to make uniform the cost of maintenance of prisoners in the different gaols; but the cause of the discrepancies which existed in that respect was nothing else than the want of intercommunication between prison authorities and of a little central supervision. For that defect there was also a cause, which could be readily ascertained and remedied without the necessity for this Bill. The next point on which he based his Bill was uniformity of treatment. That was one of the objects of the Act of 1865, and it was the first time he (Mr. Pease) had heard that that Act had very much failed. There were Inspectors, and if they had anything to do it was to secure uniformity of treatment. He had read the Reports of the Inspectors, and while they were full of microscopic details, they were very empty indeed of matters touching on the great branches of prison discipline. He wanted to know if the new Inspectors would do any better than the old. It seemed to him they were left exactly in the same position with the new as they were with the old. Great cost was to be saved in prison management by turning the whole thing into a high Government Department; but there was no reason to suppose that the Government could manage the matter so much cheaper than the justices had done. They had not shown any great economy in the management of the Post Office or the Telegraph Department. Upon investigation Government prison economy vanished just the same as prison classification vanished, and he had not seen anything to make him believe that the Inspectors would do more duty to the Board than they did under the right hon. Gentleman. He wanted to know how this change of the administration of prisons would affect the numbers in the prisons. There were many cases in which it was a nice question whether there should be fine or imprisonment, and the decision might be somewhat affected by the knowledge that a prisoner would be kept at the expense of the country generally instead of being a burden upon the county rate. If so, he believed the tendency of the Bill would be to increase the number of persons 900 sent to gaol rather than decrease it. He was strongly opposed to Government contracts, and he held that if the prisons contracts were all to be managed in London, instead of being shared by the different counties, it would lead not only to centralization of the contracts, but to a decrease in the value of the commodity supplied and an increase in price. He therefore doubted whether the Government could contract for what was wanted in gaols nearly so advantageously as the justices had done. The right hon. Gentleman said the Bill would close about 50 gaols, and there they would effect considerable economy. That was true enough, he believed; and no doubt it might be done, for in Buckinghamshire, for instance, there were two gaols with but 90 prisoners between them, but it was not requisite, he contended, to pass a Bill like the present to provide for the closing of gaols. A very slight change in the existing system giving the Secretary of State the necessary powers would effect that object, and reforms and economies might in that way be satisfactorily carried out. The Commissioners and Inspectors, he might add, who would be appointed under the Bill would have to be paid, and it would, he thought, be very unfair to the Secretary of State and his successors in office if, when so much additional work would be thrown upon them, their salaries also were not increased. In whatever direction he looked, indeed, he saw very great objections to the Bill. It would produce no improvement in the management of our prisons, and give rise to very great increased cost. The visiting justices had very little feeling upon the subject of patronage, but were they prepared to hand it over to the Home Secretary and those who might come after him? He, for one, was not, and under the proposed arrangement the double patronage of the Home Secretary and the visiting justices would not work well. One of the results would be that the Home Secretary would be everlastingly troubled with hungry half-pay officers applying for gaol appointments. All the reforms that had taken place in our gaols had not come from the Government. They had been commenced by a Howard, a Fry, a Buxton, a Gurney, and had been followed up and carried out by the visiting justices, He was 901 in favour of reformation, but he was entirely opposed to revolution and to the system of double government which would be created under the Bill, which, besides, would trench upon the great principle of local self-government and departmental control, to which they owed so much of the independence and greatness that characterized Englishmen and the English nation throughout the world.
§ MR. J. R. YORKE
said, the evils of the present system of prison management were great and patent and were becoming intolerable, and the question was whether the Bill was the best remedy for those evils. It had always been pressed upon the Government by local taxation reformers that relief should be given to the local taxpayers; and it was because the Bill was a step in that direction that he considered it both opportune and worthy the support of hon. Members on his (the Ministerial) side of the House. Everyone was agreed in affirming the principle of the Bill, and many of the objections urged against it by the hon. Member for South Durham were applicable to the details of the measure, which he thought could be disposed of in Committee. It secured efficiency, economy, and uniformity of prison discipline, while the ratepayers were satisfied with the financial prospect opened up by the measure. It was, in fact, a continuance of our recent policy in the same direction. A Committee of the House of Lords inquired in 1864 into the discipline and management of our prisons, and the Bill of 1865, founded on their Report, had practically superseded the visiting justices, as far as their individual discretion was concerned. There were three points of view from which the Bill was to be regarded—the point of view of the justices, that of the ratepayers, and that of centralization as compared with local self-government. As to the justices, the Bill had undergone a searching ordeal at quarter sessions; but from a statement handed to him he found that it had been approved definitely at no fewer than 20 quarter sessions, while it was only disapproved, or partially disapproved, at seven. In his own county (Gloucestershire) Mr. Barwick Baker, a most eminent prison reformer, opposed the Bill, among other reasons, because it would put an end to voluntary efforts in the 902 matter of prison reform and the treatment of criminals, because country gentlemen would be intruders where they were now lords and masters, and would thus cease to attend to those matters as heretofore; and also because uniformity in prison management was not desirable, crime having its local characteristics, and the criminals of different localities requiring different treatment. These arguments prevailed, and Gloucestershire was one of the counties opposed to the Bill. But if every county were like Gloucestershire, and if every magistrate were like Mr. Barwick Baker, there would be no need for the Bill. In his opinion, every county ought to be brought up to the same standard, a result which could not be obtained without some such measure as this and without uniformity. The Home Secretary had manifested, by the concessions he had promised, a desire to consider the susceptibilities of the visiting justices, and had shown an anxiety, as far as was compatible with the principle of the Bill, to retain among them an interest in their work. The right hon. Gentleman had considered the importance of having the services of an independent body of local men to whom prisoners could have access, so that the public might be satisfied that any complaints of ill-treatment which the prisoners had to make would be looked into. Governors of prisons, however, would very much prefer one central authority to the many masters they had at present, and they would thereby obtain a better prospect of promotion and a readier recognition of any services they were able to give. As to the ratepayer, the Bill was a further step in the direction of relief to this poor beast of burden, now so overladen. Some relief had already been afforded to him by the present Government in the matter of police and lunatics, and the administration of justice was a matter in every way deserving to be dealt with by the central authority. Coming to the constitutional point of view, he denied that the magistrates were in any sense representatives of the ratepayers, except so far as they were ratepayers themselves. They were appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, and therefore in that respect owed nothing to the ratepayers, and were perfectly independent of them. He declined to regard the Bill as a blow to local self-government. No doubt 903 local self-government at certain stages of a nation's growth and history was a healthy and sound development of national energy; but with the growth of population and new social combinations a time arrived when centralization became absolutely necessary to the due administration of national affairs. He could not see that we ran any risk by accepting the Bill, while he did see a certain and very real amount of good that would be gained by accepting it. He should therefore give it his hearty support.
§ MR. MUNTZ
said, he was puzzled with the Bill. Who had asked for it? who had petitioned in its favour? He could not find out. All that he had heard in its favour was, that under the present system there was a want of efficiency, uniformity, and economy. No doubt there might be more of each, but that could be done without the centralizing provisions of the Bill. Hon. Members would be grievously disappointed if they expected that the Bill would conduce to economy. The Bill cast a slur upon magistrates, who were, as a whole, a most estimable and intelligent body of men, but they did not understand the measure. Why take away from them the power of managing their own affairs? Was not that a slur? If his hon. Friend the Member for Leicester (Mr. Taylor) had brought in the Bill he could have understood it; and doubtless some of the Sunday papers expressed their delight at it. He hoped that it would be withdrawn, and the whole subject re-considered before next Session. It handed over the whole country to Commissioners and deprived magistrates of the local influence and powers which they had as a body most usefully and most zealously exercised for the national benefit in their respective localities. The right hon. Gentleman must feel that the response to his Bill, alike in the boroughs and in the counties, had been of the most discouraging kind. He held in his hand a memorial agreed to by the magistrates of Birmingham unanimously, which was directly against the Bill. They had a large population, a large gaol, and not a few prisoners—for it was built to contain 400 persons, and he was sorry to say it was full—but they asked for no assistance from the Government; all they wanted was to be allowed to manage their own affairs. Neighbour- 904 ing corporations like that at Warwick were of the same mind. But now, for a farthing in the pound, hon. Gentlemen were about to sell their birthright. The hon. Gentleman who had last spoken (Mr. Yorke) was not afraid of centralization. But what had been the result wherever centralization had been adopted? It was proposed to begin with the gaols, the next step would be to the county and then to the borough police, for they, too, were for the protection of life and property. He had great confidence in the sagacity and good sense of the Home Secretary, but he was much surprised that he should ever have introduced a Bill of this sort. It was totally different from anything he could have expected. Knowing the magistrates of England so intimately, as the right hon. Gentleman must do, it seemed incredible that he should treat them as they were treated in this Bill. He should give the Bill his unqualified opposition at every stage, for he believed it was the thin, end of the wedge of centralization. He asked the House to take warning by what had occurred in France—the country where, from the Pyrennees to the Rhine, every policeman was appointed by the Government. A. mob might destroy the Houses of Parliament and burn Buckingham Palace, but the provinces would not bow down to the mob. Our local police and Militia would assemble and join together to put down disorder; and, was not that worth something?
§ MR. LEIGHTON
believed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) and the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) had stated their individual opinions rather with regard to this Bill than those of the magistrates throughout the country. The right hon. Gentleman, the Lord Mayor had expressed his surprise that the country gentlemen of England had remained so quiet after this Bill was brought forward; but the reason was they were satisfied with the Bill of the Government. If they believed that a blow was thus struck at the weal of England he was sure that they would have made the country ring with their complaints. It had been said that only a certain number of quarter sessions had expressed a modified approval of this Bill. Speaking for Salop and Montgomery, 905 where he happened to act as a magistrate, he could say the Bill was approved with one dissentient voice in Montgomeryshire, where it was desired that certain appointments should be left in the hands of the magistrates—and he understood the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State was disposed to concede that point. And Salop had some right to be heard on this occasion, for it had absolutely no debt at all. It was said the Bill cast a slur on the magistrates and country gentlemen of England, but that was not the case; and he begged to say that the country gentlemen of England performed their duties not for the sake of a little local importance, but from a simple sense of duty, and he repudiated the idea that they desired a retention of power for the sake of giving themselves importance; and he was quite sure that if those duties could be performed more effectually by any other body they would gladly see their own power at an end. He believed that the Bill would secure a better classification of prisoners, greater efficiency in regard to prison discipline, and greater economy. ["No, no!"] He accepted the statement of the Home Secretary in preference to the statements of those hon. Gentlemen who objected to the measure. Questions often arose between friendly Governments as to the treatment of foreign prisoners, and he therefore urged that the principle of supervision independent of the managers which was adopted in regard to lunatic asylums, should be extended to all prisons, and that all alike, including convict establishments, should be visited and inspected by committees of local magistrates. He further suggested that it should be obligatory on the committee of visiting justices to report not only privately to the Home Secretary, but every quarter to their own court of quarter sessions, such reports when adopted to be sent to the Home Secretary and published as a Parliamentary Paper every year. In this manner the light of publicity would be thrown upon the internal management of prisons, the interests of the prisoners would be protected, the hands of the Government would be strengthened, and an encouragement would be given to prison officials by their work being regularly brought under the notice of a body of independent and intelligent gentlemen. 906 It would also be an advantage to many magistrates to have the opportunity of seeing the different ways in which varying sentences were carried out, and thus realizing the operation of the law which they were called upon to administer. Such names as Howard and Barwick Baker suggested that it was from the outside unprofessional world that reforms in the management of prisons had mainly come; and, although he admitted to the full what had been accomplished by Sir Walter Crofton, Sir Joshua Jebb, and Colonel Du Cane, they seemed to have broken professional and official restraints, to have accepted useful suggestions from any source, and to have encouraged the co-operation of non-professional workers. A stereotyped system might, perhaps, be worked best by a high class of officials; but, as long as the repression of crime remained an unsolved problem, so long he hoped the Government would be willing to adopt to its fullest extent the mixed system of official management and unprofessional independent visitation and inspection which were provided for by this Bill, and which he believed to be the surest security to the public for the improvement and development of our prison system.
§ SIR HENRY JACKSON
said, that the division on the Bill would probably exhibit as much cross voting as any division of the Session. He should support the second reading, and hoped that the Bill would be passed this Session, for he recognized in it the first step towards the reform of our local government, on which so much stress had been laid both by the opponents and the supporters of the measure. Grave doubts had been expressed whether this measure would secure economy; but it was obvious that a large reduction in the number of prisons must certainly diminish establishment charges, and that uniformity in the management of prisons must produce better results than the present fantastic differences which had been so often alluded to during the debate. As to the attitude of the magistrates being adverse for the Bill, he, for one, would not believe that English magistrates would shrink from doing their duty, even although they might be subject to diminution of dignity or loss of patronage. With regard to the visiting justices, whose treatment was one of the 907 principal complaints against the Bill, except that they were to be called "a visiting committee of justices" instead of "visiting justices," he failed to see that the Bill would make any substantial alteration in their functions or powers, for the Bill conferred upon the visiting committee all the powers that were now vested in visiting justices by the Act of 1865, and under their new name the same persons would retain all the disciplinary authority which they now exercised, and from which he should have thought they would be glad to be relieved. The only power which would be interfered with was the power of expenditure, and this had belonged to them in theory rather than in practice, and it certainly was not one which falls within any proper definition of self-government, or one which hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House should be desirous of maintaining. Moreover, he was doubtful whether the justices ought to be anxious to retain it. No doubt there were signs of strong opposition to the Bill. Some of the objections the Home Secretary had foreseen, and he had rightly anticipated that they would come from places where prisons are maintained. Among others, the Town Council of Nottingham had presented a Petition against the Bill, and a very instructive document that Petition was. The framers of it seemed to think that an appeal to the memory of our ancient liberties would always find favour with the House, and they therefore raised the cry of no interference with local self-government, but they could not fail to see that government by magistrates appointed by the Grown hardly came within that idea, and so they suggested that it was for the interests of the community that some men of merit should be entrusted with certain powers over their fellow-citizens, provided they exercised them under the eyes of a Town Council; and in this way they alleged that they now had some power of controlling the expenditure, and they expressed a belief that the administration of gaols by visiting justices acting under the eyes of town councils would be far more economical than by the Government. That and similar Petitions had confirmed him in the belief that a good deal of the opposition to the Bill was based on the interference which it would exercise with the pur- 908 veying of meat and stores for these prisons, but he hoped that the Home Secretary would not be discouraged by that species of opposition. Then it was said that this plan would tend to centralization, and to some hon. Members this was sufficient to condemn any measure. But they must not be misled by names. Many functions of Government were better discharged by a central authority, and was not the management of prisons one of them? Certainly, the question of prison management was in no sense one of local self-government, and in what sense could it be said to involve self-government at all? The Act of 1865 prescribed a code within which the visiting justices were obliged to move, and they formed, in fact, the local machinery for carrying out the Act. Doubtless that Act left a certain amount of discretion within the general rules which it prescribed, but that very discretion had resulted in the discrepancies in discipline which called for the present Act. The administration of justice was in every respect an Imperial function. Our criminal law was administered in the name of the Crown, and the Courts of Quarter Sessions were the Queen's Courts, and administered justice in her name. By the Common Law, all prisons were vested in the Sovereign, the legal estate of the gaols being, according to Black-stone, in the Crown. The gaoler had always been the officer, not of the county but of the Sheriff, and the Sheriff was the servant of and was appointed by the Crown. That the prisons should ever have passed under local management was, to a certain extent, an anomaly, and was probably adopted by Parliament, with the consent of the Crown, merely for greater convenience and for facilitating the discharge of the administration of the law, which had always been the first duty of the Sovereign power. What substantial difference would be effected if this Bill should pass? He could not find a single point, except in regard to the question of patronage, and that could not be really an essential matter of self-government. The officers who would have to carry out the Act ought to be, and under this Bill would be, trained men, and, as there would be opportunities for promotion and a much larger field for selection, he could not doubt that the civil servants whom this Bill would provide would be much 909 better qualified to carry on the government of a prison than the present prison staff. He wished to say nothing disrespectful of any persons connected with any gaol in the country; indeed, he could bear testimony to the efficiency and zeal of many governors of prisons: but still he thought that a better officer would probably be secured by selection from trained employées, than by an active canvass on behalf of some retired colonel or captain at quarter sessions. In regard to the minor appointments, the Government had shown a disposition to give way. No arguments against the Bill had been used which could in any sense counterbalance the great benefits of economy, efficient management, and last, but not least, relief of local burdens. At the last General Election a great and powerful Party came into office so intimately connected with the landed interest that it was hoped they would be able to deal with matters of local self-government and local taxation more successfully than the somewhat heterogeneous Party which had previously occupied the Ministerial benches. The latter had, indeed, great ideas and grand schemes which he hoped they would one day be able to carry out; but in their very greatness would be found the chief difficulty in carrying them. He and others, however, had hoped for some consolation in their Party defeat, in the expectation that the Party opposite, who out of office had made this question a Party cry, would in office seriously grapple with it. They could do what the Liberal Party could not do. Hon. Members opposite would follow the present Prime Minister wherever he would lead them, and no more powerful Government for such questions as these was to be hoped for. Well, then, when this Government, after a long delay, fairly attempted to take a step, which if simple was at least effective, and if not comprehensive was at any rate practical, the Opposition would have none of it, because it was only a small measure and not part of a great scheme, and hon. Gentlemen opposite either possibly supported or opposed it because it interfered, forsooth! with their vested interests in patronage and power. Before long the establishment of County Boards would be a practical and a pressing question, and could any one deny that their establishment would be facilitated by the transfer 910 of the prison jurisdiction to the State. That would be one element removed from the chaos with which the Minister, whoever he might be, who took up that question would have to deal. If the Bill went into Committee there were one or two points of detail to which the Home Secretary would probably give his attention. Amongst others he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would adopt Clause 53 of the Act of 1865, which allowed any magistrate acting in his jurisdiction to enter any prison at any time to make a report. He regarded the measure as a Bill not merely to relieve the land from burdens, but as one for the improvement of our prison laws, and he hoped the Government would be able to pass the measure during the present Session, because he, for one, could not find in it any of those dangers of centralization which hon. Members had denounced.
§ MR. HARDCASTLE
said, that the question raised by the Bill was whether the magistrates had done their duty in respect to the prisons well or badly. If they had done their duty well, there could be no pretext for passing this Bill; if badly, there could be no question that it was a slur and rebuke upon them. In his opinion, they were not deserving of either. It certainly could not be argued that the business of the magistrates had been badly managed universally; and although a saving might be effected by the union of small gaols generally, yet in certain districts, and especially in those counties the prisons of which were now well conducted, the result of the Bill would, he was afraid, be anything but economical, as the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department expected. In the county of Lancashire, in particular, with which he was connected, that measure would, he feared, inflict a very considerable fine on a large section of the taxpayers. The expenditure under that Bill would probably amount to a farthing in the pound on the income tax, whereas at present in Lancashire the corresponding burden was less than a farthing in the pound on rateable property. There was a great difference between paying a farthing in the pound on a rental of, say, £40 and paying a farthing in the pound on, say, £200 of one's yearly income, even allowing for the new exemptions from the income 911 tax. The Bill took the management of the gaols from the magistrates and transferred the patronage connected with them to the Government. The minor appointments, it appeared, were still to continue to be vested in the magistrates; but he was inclined to think that so much inconvenience would arise from dividing the patronage, that he doubted whether that arrangement would work well. It was said that the services of the visiting justices would be retained, but such experience as they had was opposed to this hope. At Lewes they had been invited to visit the Government Prison, and had done so; but the result was that they practically found themselves so much snubbed by the Government officials that they had all, with one exception, declined to perform that duty. If they were to have independent governors and officers appointed by Commissioners and superintended from London it was obvious that magistrates who took an interest in their duties would feel that their power for good was taken from them, and that henceforth they were to be virtually set aside as regarded the management of prisons. In conclusion, he regretted that he was compelled to take refuge from the startling Radicalism of the Home Secretary in the unexpected and reassuring Conservatism of the hon. Member for Burnley.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that immediately after the last debate on the second reading had taken place the Home Secretary received a deputation of justices, and he told them that he was glad to see them, and that he was sorry he had not been able to say what he had desired to say in the House when the second reading was moved. What was the meaning of that? Surely, if the right hon. Gentleman had really made up his mind on the previous evening to make the concessions which he made to the justices when they called upon him, he might easily have announced the fact to the House through the mouth of one or other of his Colleagues who then addressed it, even though he might himself on that occasion have been suffering from what might be called "suppressed speech." Then the House would have been able to discuss the new and altered phase of the measure with advantage. But the real explanation was, that the concessions which he made to the justices were 912 the result of after consideration. The debate had shown him that he could not carry the Bill as it stood when he introduced it, and upon reflection he agreed to alter it. The right hon. Gentleman had taken to himself the appointment of governors, chaplains, surgeons, and superior officers, and had left to the justices the appointment of warders, servants, and cooks. Many hon. Members had spoken of the dualism to which that would lead. But the House had not simply to deal with a question of privileges and patronage. The justices did not think of the petty patronage attached to their office. Leaving that out of the calculation, he (Mr. Goschen) said that the question raised by the Bill was not a question between the justices and the Government, but a question between the State and local authority. And it was a question of self-government generally. The Bill would take away the power of the latter, and put it into the hands of the former, and therein lay its great danger. His right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor would forgive him if he said he regretted some portions of his speech, because he accentuated more the privileges which attached to local authorities than the duties which they had to perform. Many men belonging to the non-professional classes were harnessed to the work of the State and did the work of the State. There were many hon. Members on both sides of the House who felt it was of great importance that those men should continue harnessed to that work. He believed it was admitted that this Bill would effect the transfer of one great branch of local Government to the central Government; the quarter sessions would have to retire from the position of being responsible for the gaols, and the Commissioners were to take their place and occupy that position. The heading of the 4th clause was "Maintenance of prisons and prisoners out of public funds." The heading of another clause was "Prisons to vest in Secretary of State"—that was centralization. And as a result of that there came this heading, "Appointment of Prison Commissioners"—that was patronage, and the whole system of bureaucracy, with assistant Commissioners and all that appertained to them. After the Bill became law, who would be responsible for the gaols, and who was to have the credit of the gaols being well or badly 913 kept? The gaolers. But the gaolers would be appointed by the Government, and although the justices would endeavour to do their duty they would not be responsible for the conduct of the gaols. The argument set forth on behalf of the Bill was that it would promote economy, efficiency, and, last not least, relief to local taxation. It was a fair inquiry in what degree these considerations were likely to influence the majority that might possibly pass the Bill. Was it efficiency or economy that would be appreciated—or the three farthings in the pound that it would save to the ratepayers? There were no statistics to refer to with regard to the points of economy and efficiency; but suppose the Bill had not offered a relief of three farthings in the pound to local taxation, would the eloquent arguments as to the advantages of superior discipline and uniformity of arrangement, and the great argument with regard to the remunerative character of mat-making, have persuaded hon. Members to support it? Suppose, again, that this saving of three farthings in the pound to the ratepayers had been offered, without the attack upon quarter sessions—he believed that the Bill would then have been accepted with acclamation; and therefore the real origin of the Bill was not those considerations which had been put forward. He knew that the question of local taxation must be dealt with; but he hoped that it would not be constantly cropping up in all their legislation, so as to induce the Government to introduce Bills that they would not otherwise have introduced, and to postpone Bills that they would not otherwise have postponed. As to the statements in respect to efficiency and economy, they had not seen the statistics upon which those arguments were said to be founded. He wondered, however, whether they were as convincing as those upon which they bought the telegraphs, or as those upon which the Licensing Bill was founded. Even if the statistics proved that there would be increased economy and efficiency, did it follow that the increased economy would continue for many years? Was that their experience of Government administration? Could any figures persuade them that Government management would be a cheap management? If the late Government had introduced a Bill which would cut away one of the 914 chief functions of quarter sessions in order to save £50,000 or £100,000, would they not have been denounced upon every hustings? Therefore, to those who sat on the Opposition side of the House, it was perhaps a little diverting to hear the Home Secretary discussing the question whether he would be able to do the very same thing. He did not think that this question turned entirely upon the point whether or not the State would be able under the provisions of this Bill to show a good balance sheet at the end of each year as the result of its management of our prisons. He might, however, observe that it was remarkable that in some of our large prisons in Lancashire the cost per head of the prisoners was only £16, whereas the Government estimate put the cost under the proposed State system at £21 per head. He did not know how far the opinion was shared by hon. Members near him; but his view was that it was not merely because the State could do something cheaply and efficiently that therefore such duties were to be east upon it. He believed, on the contrary, that if such a principle were acted upon, it would lead to changes of a most dangerous character which we might live to repent. It might lead to the transfer of the police to the State. If the Government could manage the police more cheaply and better than the local authorities, would the House be prepared to place them under the Government? ["Hear, hear!" from the Ministerial benches below the Gangway.] He called the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the cheers which came from below the Gangway on his side of the House, which showed that in the opinion of hon. Members who sat there this Bill contained but an instalment of that which had been asked for, and there was no knowing how much further they might be asked to go. Were those hon. Members really ready to hand over the police to the Government? ["Hear, hear!"] Then the police would become mere Government officials, and instead of the local authorities the State would be answerable for public order. Before he sat down he asked the Government most earnestly to let the House know whether this measure was an exceptional piece of legislation in the direction of centralization, or whether it was intended 915 to carry into effect the view of the hon. Members who had just been cheering? Those who now sat on the Opposition side of the House had often been charged with false economy, but they had never been so falsely economical as to hand over the police to the State, and make them an Imperial constabulary, in order to save the local rates. He regretted extremely that the question of local taxation appeared to have reached a phase in which it induced hon. Members opposite to set aside all constitutional principles for the sake of a small annual saving. The hon. and learned Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Rodwell) stated the other evening that this was not a centralizing Bill, because the local justices were, under the existing system, simply acting under regulations, and could not exercise any self-government at all, their duties being prescribed for them by statute. But in putting forward that argument the hon. and learned Member appeared to have fallen into a confusion of ideas as to what was meant by self-government. Government consisted not in passing laws, but in executing them; and he wished to know whether those which affected the localities should be executed by the local authorities or by Imperial officers? The principle of self-government was that the State looked to others besides its own servants to perform the duties required to be discharged in the various localities. The distinction between privilege and duty had been too much kept out of sight all through the debate. In the English public service were included not merely those who were representative and elective, but even those local authorities, such as the Lords Lieutenant and the High Sheriffs, who were appointed by the Crown, but whose local connections made them to all intents and purposes local authorities. The State said, and was wise in saying—"We will press into our interest the strongest bodies in the localities, and we prefer to use those persons rather than our own paid officials." He, therefore, differed from the hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Thomas Acland), who always spoke so well on these local taxation subjects, when he said that what was an Imperial concern became a national duty. Why, at that moment, that great statesman, Prince Bismarck, seeing the great advantage England was 916 deriving from this system, was decentralizing, and was anxious to press into the service of his country that principle which in this country had so long held society together, and stood between the population and the State in times of dangers and at critical junctures. It was not a slight thing to hand over the police and the gaols to the Imperial Government, so that the people could no longer say—"These are our servants whom we pay ourselves. "The distinction was not fanciful; it was real. He heard with pleasure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) speak of the importance of the connection between the criminals and the custodians of the gaols, for he thought the right hon. Gentleman was not alone in that opinion. He had not gone into statistics in reference to this branch of the subject, but had contented himself with calling attention to a few of the general considerations which in his view bore upon the main principle of the Bill. He felt sure that there were many hon. Members sitting on the opposite side of the House who agreed with him in the view that with regard to this Prisons Bill decentralization had been pushed too far. They were against centralization, against increasing the patronage in the hands of the Government, against diminishing the work to be done by the county authorities; and it was only for the very strong exceptional case made out by the Government in dealing with the prisons that they would now support the present Bill. It had been said that the counties could be better organized if they parted with the administration of their prisons. The hon. Member for South Derbyshire (Mr. Evans) said that if they parted with the prisons the Government would be more able to frame a Bill to deal with County Financial Boards; but the public did not want County Financial Boards, but strong county institutions. Why was the Bill brought in? He would tell them. The House was called upon to inflict this serious blow upon self-government, because the Government was under a pledge to deal with local taxation; but was this the only mode in which they could give relief? He appealed to the House whether it was not time some authoritative statement was made as to what relief was still due, and how far this system was to go. The first year 917 they subsidize; the second year they do nothing; and the third year they centralize. It was a system of biennial sops. The candidate who was now fighting West Worcestershire said the other day—"At the same time I regard the measure as only a small instalment of that to which those engaged in agriculture are entitled." The Government had already given £1,000,000, and now £300,000, and he wanted to know what were the acceptances held by the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), and how much he yet expected to get from them? Nothing could be more unsatisfactory than that, and he believed he spoke the unanimous sentiments of the whole House when he bade the Government to make a clean breast of it, so that hon. Members might know what they had yet to pay for the relief of the local ratepayers, which would be far preferable to this system of annual doles, granted in a manner which was not approved of by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and many hon. Members on the Government side. He had observed that the Government Bills had precedence according to the amount of public money to be paid under them. Let them look at the Bills before the House at that moment. All the Local Government Bills were put together in a heap, although they did not press on very many of them. The Minister, like the hero of the old nursery rhyme, "put in his thumb, and pulled out a plum" now and again, like a good boy; but where was the Valuation Bill? It was shunted—it carried no money with it—it was run into a siding to let the Prisons Bill pass. Where was the Pollution of Rivers Bill? It carried no public money, and it was shunted to make way for the Prisons Bill. Where was the Highways Bill? Shunted to let the Prisons Bill pass. It had no money in it—nothing but an income tax Inspector to screw up the valuation—and therefore they did not push on that Bill, that the Prisons Bill, with its ¾d. in the pound, might be introduced, and pass safely on its way, a measure which was open, he considered, to very serious objections. He had no objection to the relief of local taxation, but he had, he thought, a right to ask the Government, "What is your policy with regard to local taxation?" If they had such a policy the House would 918 be grateful for some frank exposition of it, instead of seeing the Government introducing Bills the only tendency of which could be towards centralization, and that for the sole reason that the Government appeared to be unable otherwise to deal with local taxation. He put those views before the House, which, he submitted, were entitled to serious attention, both as regarded the interests of the ratepayers and the reform of their local institutions.
MR. ASSHETON CROSS
said, that one great advantage, at all events, had followed from the adjournment of the debate the other evening—they had got rid of all that had been so forcibly pressed upon the House by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands)—namely,that there had been great exaggeration on the part of the Government in stating their case against the present system of prisons. Hon. Members on both sides had had time since to refer to the facts stated in the Blue Books on the Table of the House, and had found that, so far from the statements of the Government being exaggerations, they were, if anything, practically within the mark, and the result had been that evening they had not heard a word from any opponent of the Bill to bear out that assertion. He was happy to say also that in the few days which had intervened since the adjournment of the debate they had got rid of another long-sounding and ugly word—the word confiscation. That word, which had formed the staple of the speech of his hon. and gallant Friend behind him, had that evening also totally disappeared. He had refrained from addressing the House on the former evening as he knew the debate was to be adjourned, but it was in reference to the word confiscation he was anxious to address them. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Mayor had stated that the Bill was replete with centralization, and therefore it was that he (Mr. Cross) was glad he had since received and addressed a deputation on the subject of the Bill; and the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken (Mr. Goschen) had taken the trouble to cut his speech to pieces, not by argument, but physically—the only way he could cut it up—and in reading the speech he was led astray by not having put the pieces together properly. It was not on the question of patronage he 919 wished to speak, as had been represented, but on the question of confiscation. When he said that the State would undertake the management of the prisons for the future, they declined totally to relieve those who at present held jurisdiction over the prisons of the obligation which rested upon them to provide gaols—every prison authority was bound by law to provide its own gaols for its own prisoners. The gaol might be provided in one of several ways. The local authority might build a gaol and pay for it, or they might build it and borrow the money to pay for it; or they could provide it by letting out the prison to some third person who would build it for them. But when a gaol was built it could never be used by the local authority for any other purpose than that of a gaol. They had no power to get rid of it. They could not sell it; and if with the consent of the Secretary of State they were allowed to pull it down, it was only on condition that they built another elsewhere, entirely to his satisfaction. Their obligation was permanent, and they could not get rid of it. But if the State stepped in and relieved them of what he had before called this white elephant, the State should have the use of it so long as they maintained the prisoners. They must have power to enlarge the prisons, and of adapting them to those particular plans which were best suited to carry out improved prison discipline. It was for that purpose the State required to have possession of the gaols. But they held them not as private property, but as a trust. The State would hold them for State purposes. The authorities at present held the gaols as trustees for State purposes, and so it would be in the case of the Secretary of State, who would hold them precisely for the same purposes and on the same trusts as they were now held, and when he ceased to do so he would have to restore them back on certain payments to the local authorities. That was not confiscation, but putting it precisely on its old footing. Although technically the property was transferred, the legal estate becoming vested in the Secretary of State, it was put on the same footing as that mentioned by the hon. Member opposite, when he said that the old gaols were practically vested in the Crown. They now re- 920 verted to that practice, holding them for like purposes and no other. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down certainly made a strong speech in answer to his right hon. Friend the Lord Mayor. For his part, he (Mr. Cross) was surprised at the statement of the right hon. the Lord Mayor; and he could not see anything more calculated to do harm in a matter of this kind, or to injure more those who were doing duty so well throughout the country, than to say that the office of a magistrate was not worth holding when such slight privileges and advantages as those to which the Lord Mayor referred were discontinued. How could that in any way lower the dignity of the office? As a magistrate of a good many years' standing, he could not see how the Bill threw the slightest slur upon the magistrates. His hon. Friend (Mr. Hard-castle) also, who represented a division of the county for which he (Mr. Cross) had the honour of sitting, said that where the magistrates were doing well the Bill did them injustice; where they were not doing well, the Bill threw a slur on them. He denied both of those assertions. He spoke for the magistrates of his own county, where the gaols were administered economically, efficiently, and with zeal for the public service. But that was not the question. The question was as to the managing the gaols from one end of the kingdom to the other. He ventured to say that, owing to the conflict of local jurisdiction which at the present moment existed, it was absolutely impossible for the magistrates, however good might be their intention, however hard they might work, to carry on prison jurisdiction effectually throughout the country. An hon. Member opposite (Mr. Pease) had said, "Why don't you accomplish your object in another way? Why not take further powers? Why not remove prisoners from one prison to another, and exercise the powers you have with regard to the amalgamation of the several gaol jurisdictions?" The answer to that was complete. The local jurisdiction, as at present constituted, would not allow him to do so. He might, no doubt, remove prisoners from one prison to another, but he had no power to compel another prison to receive them. He defied any Secretary of State to carry out an efficient system of prison disci- 921 pline if things were left as they were at present with regard to small gaols. It was not the fault of the men. He believed the justices did their utmost to secure efficiency and economy, but a staff which was necessary for a small prison with half-a-dozen or a dozen prisoners in it would serve for a very much larger number of prisoners. What was the result? In the first place, from want of actual duties to perform, the officers deteriorated; and, in the second, from want of a sufficient number of prisoners, they could not find proper instructors to teach them the work they ought to do. They could not have a proper system unless they had a total change from one end to the other. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen) said by this Bill they struck a great blow at local self-government. That he (Mr. Cross) entirely denied. When they talked of local self-government they thought of bringing up people independently to govern themselves. Did they mean to tell him that in the matter of prison discipline a single man besides the visiting justices had the slightest voice in the matter? The people had no voice in it. He did not say it was right that they should; he thought it would be very wrong if they had. But the local magistrates themselves had no power. Their hands were tied by the Act of 1865. The strictest rules were laid down under that Act in its Schedule; and, further, the visiting justices were subject to the quarter sessions, which had the power of making additional rules for their guidance. The power to make these rules was now to be vested in the Secretary of State, and the first thing he would have to do would be to draw up a code of rules for the guidance of visiting justices, who would exercise all the powers of managing prisons under those rules. It also had been said that the Bill interfered with the privileges of the municipalities, and would destroy their self-respect. But very few of the municipalities had separate gaols, and with reference to them, speaking of his own county, could it be thought of such towns as Preston, Oldham, Rochdale, and Warrington, that their self-respect and power of self-government were not just as great as any other town which had a gaol to manage? Towns like Bolton and Wigan, 922 which might have a gaol to-morrow if they chose, had never thought it necessary for their dignity or authority to go and build a gaol. They had wisely sent their prisoners elsewhere, and had no jurisdiction over them. This question had nothing to do with local self-government, and to tell him that the looking after 18,000 miserable prisoners was necessary to preserve the dignity of local self-government or the self-respect of local authorities, was really an insult to his common sense. What, then, was all this fuss, disturbance, and row about? They had at the present moment 28,000 people who were undergoing punishment in prison, of whom about 18,000 were in prison under the management of certain gentlemen up and down the country, and 10,000 were under the hands of the Government. Did any hon. Gentleman suppose that the dignity of the counties or of the towns or cities was infringed because a prisoner was sent to a convict prison and not to an ordinary gaol? He saw a statement the other day in a Welsh paper reporting a conversation between the grand jurors of a Welsh county. One of the grand jurors asked—"If this man gets six months' imprisonment, will the cost fall on the county or the State?" He was told it would fall on the county, when he said—"He had better not find a bill," and the grand jury then ignored the bill. Was a Judge to say—"If I sentence this convicted prisoner to five years' penal servitude I shall lessen the dignity of the mayor, who is sitting by me; and therefore I will send him to the county gaol?" Surely the principle of convict prisons had a direct bearing on this question; and if the monstrous argument which had been put forward were to be followed out to its logical result, the prisoners sent to penal servitude must be chargeable to local jurisdictions. He put the argument which he had just mentioned, therefore, out of the question, and the point to which he would specially direct the attention of the House was that Secretary of State after Secretary of State, though a Gaol Act had now been passed 10 years, found he was powerless to promote efficiency, uniformity, and economy. It was true, indeed, that in many counties and boroughs that Act had worked well; but in how many, he would ask, had it not failed? That was 923 not owing, as he had pointed out, to any want of willingness or ability on the part of the magistrates to do their duty, but to the impossibility of carrying out the Act because of the multiplicity of jurisdictions. The main features of the present measure ought then, he thought, to command the assent of the House and of the country, for under its operation we should be able so to classify our prisoners as to instruct them better when in prison in industrial labour, which would be of use to them when their period of confinement came to an end, and also secure that essential point, punishment by imprisonment; for when a man was sent to prison in a county for three months, it would make no difference whether the county were A or B, the punishment would be the same. He had been talking, he might add, to a very illustrious foreigner since the Bill had been introduced, who had said to him—"I observe, Mr. Cross, you stated that in different counties men sentenced to undergo three months' imprisonment are subjected to totally different treatment. Is not your law the same throughout the length and breadth of England?" His reply was—"Nominally, yes; but, practically, no, because three months' imprisonment in my own county is a very different thing from the same period of confinement in another. "It was, then, for the purposes of securing uniformity of discipline, diet, treatment, and the classification of prisoners mainly that the Bill was proposed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) had been good enough to raise a laugh at his expense by referring to something he was supposed to have said the other day; but the right hon. Gentleman was entirely mistaken as to what fell from him on the occasion to which he alluded. He believed it was absolutely necessary that all the superior officers in our prisons should be appointed by the Secretary of State; but he cared very little about the inferior posts, for it was very likely that persons living in a locality might know a great many who would be fitted for the inferior posts, and it would be a great advantage that an officer who had served well in a gaol should not be confined to the gaol for the whole of his life, or until he was superannuated, but that he should have the chance of being 924 promoted in case a vacancy occurred to a larger gaol, and in that way reap the benefit of his good conduct. Therefore the officers would gain largely by the Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman said—"We want to know whether this is the end of all things? "The right hon. Gentleman was like a celebrated clergyman who always set up a man in the pulpit for the purpose of knocking him down. From the beginning to the end of his speech the right hon. Gentleman made observations which proved that he had not read the Bill at all. [Mr. GOSCHEN: I read the clauses.] It was true the right hon. Gentleman read the headings of the clauses in the index, which were not part of the Bill, and therefore he (Mr. Cross) was strictly correct in saying that the right hon. Gentleman never dealt with the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman summarily dismissed this question of the gaols, because he knew he was treading on delicate ground. Every hon. Member in the House felt that, although a great deal had been made of the question of centralization, the right hon. Gentleman himself did not really think there was much centralization in the matter after all that had been said. But in order to impress upon the House the arguments which he would have used if the Bill had been one of centralization, the right hon. Gentleman said—"I will tell you what you are going to do. If you pass this Bill, it will be necessary to have the police under the control of the Government." Then some hon. Member cried—"Hear, hear," whereupon the right hon. Gentleman said—"I call the Chancellor of the Exchequer's attention to that cheer;" and so the right hon. Gentleman starting off again said—"When the Government have got the police just think what a blow that will be when we see the policemen walking up and down every town all over the country and hear people say, pointing to them—'Look here, those are not our own men now, but they are Government officers that have come down as spies.' "Thus, the right hon. Gentleman had described a state of things that had no real existence. The right hon. Gentleman did not want to convince him (Mr. Cross), because he knew he could not do so. There was no ground whatever for that line of argument; and the right hon. Gentleman seemed to adopt it only 925 because he was not able to press the danger of centralization, confiscation of the gaols, or the fatal results to the magistracy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) had pointed out, with his usual acuteness, that if the prisoners had any grievances they would lose their present right of appeal through the visiting justices. But they would really not do so. In introducing the Bill he (Mr. Cross) had stated, and now repeated, that if the gaols were to be in the hands of the Secretary of State it was absolutely necessary there should be a body of independent justices who should be able to look after the interests of the prisoners. This was precisely what the visiting committee would do under the Bill, and what any body of English gentlemen would gladly do. There would be vested in the visiting justices all the powers of Sections 58 and 59, but the diet tables and other like matters would be settled by the central authority, and the visiting justices would see that the regulations thus laid down were properly carried out. That would be their position, and he was sure they would accept it. He had now explained the main grounds upon which the Government based the Bill, which, as he submitted, struck no blow at local self-government, or at the duties of the magistrates, but, on the contrary, showed every wish to recognize what the magistrates had done and would do. The Government were of opinion that the Bill involved no question of centralization, while it offered the greatest possible advantages in securing greater efficiency, greater economy, and better discipline. In order to arrive at these results it was imperatively necessary that the Government should have possession of the gaols. The right hon. Gentleman complained that he had placed on the Table no statistics as to the advantages and economy of the Bill. But such statistics had really been on the Table for years. They were contained in the Blue Books relating to prisons, which showed what the cost would be, and might be made to be, by proper classification. From the reports of the proceedings at quarter sessions, it was clear that the magistrates, as a body, did not think the Bill a slur upon them. If ever a Bill had gone through a severe ordeal it was this measure, which, in the middle of a debate, before 926 the responsible Minister had spoken, and without any thorough discussion in the House of Commons, had been discussed by the visiting justices and courts of quarter sessions throughout the country; and any person who read the resolutions adopted at these sessions must come to the conclusion that the magistrates did not see the dangers which had been pointed out as the result of the Bill. Those resolutions contained no word of confiscation or centralization; they merely claimed a little more power for the visiting justices. If, on the other hand, hon. Members looked at some of the municipalities which had memorialized the Government at the Boards of Guardians and the Chambers of Agriculture, they would find a unanimous opinion in favour of the present measure. In conclusion, he would express a sincere hope that the House would not only read the Bill a second time, but that it would consent to pass through all its stages a measure which, in his opinion, and he believed in the opinion of the magistrates also, would prove to be of great advantage to the country.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he had carefully read the Bill, and would point out what it really did. It transferred from the different courts of quarter sessions that were not over pressed with work to the Secretary of State, who was so over-pressed with work that he did not know where to turn, the charge of above 100 prisons and 18,000 prisoners. Moreover, as if we had not enough public Departments already, it created a new public Department, with five Commissioners, he knew not how many assistant Commissioners, and a large body of Inspectors. Within the last few years two important measures had been passed on the subject of prison discipline. In 1863 a measure relating to penal servitude was introduced after a careful inquiry by a Royal Commission, of which he was a Member. That Bill made slight changes in comparison with those which would be effected by the present measure. In the following year a Bill was brought in relating to the prisons dealt with by the measure now under consideration. That also was considered very carefully by a Select Committee before it was allowed to pass, although the changes it effected were not great. But the present Bill was introduced late in 927 the Session, and it was expected to be passed without further inquiry, and only with debates on the second reading and in Committee. Again, the whole object of prison discipline was the prevention of crime. But neither in the speech of the Home Secretary, nor indeed once in the debate, had it been stated that the prevention of crime was inefficient, and that this revolution in our arrangements was required for such a purpose. The one argument used in favour of the Bill had been economy, but he doubted very much the plea of economy when it was advanced, not by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but by the Secretary of State for the Home Department. He (Mr. Childers) suspected a cry of economy in support of new establishments. The right hon. Gentleman had already a Prison department which had at its head the Surveyor General of Prisons. That department had a Chief Commissioner, three directors, and a considerable staff, who cost some £6,000 a-year. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the work of that department as justifying in one important respect the proposal he now made. One of the main arguments urged on the introduction of this Bill was that the transfer from the justices to the Secretary of State would lead to the same results as in the Convict Department. The right hon. Gentleman said—We have no reason to doubt that if all these prisoners were under the same discipline and properly grouped together the amount of money they earn would not be as large as is now earned in the best managed convict prisons."—[3 Hansard, ccxxix. 1543.]Why, then, did the right hon. Gentleman propose to create a new department? Again, the scheme was utterly crude and bald. The Bill of 1865 had been explained to the House in minute detail; but no details had been given with regard to this Bill; all they were told was that there would be a saving of a lump sum of £100,000—namely, £50,000 in consequence of more labour, and £50,000 from concentration of prisons. Now, he had had some experience at the Treasury, and that experience convinced him that if there was anything that ought to be regarded with suspicion it was lump sums. So, again, as to the absence of explanations as to which prisons would be discontinued, the right hon. Gentleman had appealed to the debates of 1865 928 in confirmation of his statement that prisons could not be closed until they were out of the control of Quarter Sessions. But the Act of 1865 laid down most distinctly what prisons were to be retained and what to be amalgamated, and if the right hon. Gentleman had proceeded on the lines of the Act of 1865, he would have attained his object without any of the harshness of the present measure. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he would not have been able to make the local authorities combine. But in the case of the lunatic asylums they had combined, and those asylums were brought into a state of great efficiency under the control of Parliament, although still managed by the counties. Then, as to the question of economy, the right hon. Gentleman would have the House believe that there would be a saving of £100,000 on an expenditure of £600,000. Was that likely to be the case? Let hon. Members compare what it was said the cost of managing the telegraphs would be, if transferred to Government, with what had turned out to be the case. The expense had been doubled and even trebled. He did not speak of the gross expense now, but of the cost of the establishments, and this was distinctly a question of establishments. In the case of the additional duties undertaken by the Board of Trade, it was said that they would be discharged at a moderate expense. But here, again, the expense had been doubled and trebled. In fact, whenever the Government was about to take over new establishments the cost was always under-estimated by at least one-half. He ventured to say, therefore, that within the next eight or ten years, instead of a saving, there would be an increase of expense to the amount of £200,000 or 300,000. In regard to the question of economy, it was a notable circumstance that neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer nor the Secretary to the Treasury had said a word in defence of the Bill excepting on the question of Adjournment. Besides the speeches of the Home Secretary and the Under Secretary, no speeches had been made from the Treasury Bench in support of the Bill, except by the hon. Baronet who held the office of Civil Secretary to the Admiralty (Sir Massey Lopes), and he had not spoken on the subject on account of his official position, but because this 929 was a measure in the direction of his views of local taxation; and what were those views? That hon. Gentleman proposed in 1871 that the expenses of the county and borough prisons should be transferred to the Government, but he also proposed on that occasion that the whole of the Poor Law expenses and of the turnpike roads and of the police should be defrayed by the central Government. That being so, the Bill, he believed, was only the commencement of an agitation for charging on the national Exchequer not £500,000 only, as would be done by the present measure, but £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 which were now charged on the local rates.
§ SIR MASSEY LOPES
said, what he proposed was that one-half the cost of lunatics, one-half the cost of the police, and the whole cost of the administration of justice should be transferred to, and borne by, the Imperial Exchequer.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that was the compromise which the hon. Baronet offered to accept in 1872, when he carried his Motion, and not the proposal put forward when he was defeated by a majority of 36 in 1871, when he made the speech from which he (Mr. Childers) was quoting propounding his own views. These circumstances entitled him to ask, Where are we going? Where will this end? It was remarkable that the proposal embodied in this Bill was not put forward in the programme of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1874; but, on the other hand, a distinct promise was then made that if the remissions of local taxation proposed were allowed, in the following Session a scheme of improved local administration would be brought forward. Nothing, however, was done in the Session of 1875, nor had any proposal been made this year. It was true that at the present moment there were five Bills before the House in which the question of local administration was dealt with; but the effect of them would be to unsettle everything and settle nothing, and they could not be regarded as in any way fulfilling the promise made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1874. A new body was to be formed under the Rivers Pollution Bill, and another under the Highways Bill. Boards of Guardians were to have educational functions, and further valuation powers were to be given to Quarter Sessions; but all this was mere 930 tinkering. Under all the circumstances, he wished to know whether the House was prepared to go on dealing with fractions of the subject, frittering away the public money and making petty changes? It was of the utmost importance that no time should be lost in dealing with the larger question of local self-government, and that it ought to be dealt with as a whole. Their object should be to increase, not decrease, the work done by really efficient local bodies. Parliament was now overworked, because they attempted to do that which would be much better done by such a county authority as the Conseils Généraux in France. And it was because the Bill would postpone the formation of a really efficient county government that he hoped the Government would pause before they pressed it upon the House during the present Session.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that one of the great difficulties in the way of the advocates of this Bill was to bring its opponents to the discussion of the measure before the House. In the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, for example, it seemed to him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) the subject had been treated as a text on which to preach a sermon, dealing with a variety of remote topics rather than with the view of discussing the subject before the House. The right hon. Gentleman said that no one had spoken from the Government Bench except the author of the Bill and the Minister responsible for the administration of prisons, the Under Secretary for the Home Department (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), and the Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Sir Massey Lopes), who had, for reasons well known, taken great interest in the matter. If other Members of the Government had not spoken, it was not from any reluctance on their part, but because they had not been brought face to face with any objections that required an answer. The measure was simple in character, it was easily stated, and the objections were of a partial character, and had been pretty well disposed of. If hon. Members would look at the Bill as a measure by itself there would hardly be any appreciable portion of them who would vote against it. Those who wished to throw impediments in the way of the passing the Bill were therefore obliged to look 931 outside the measure itself. He trusted that the House would consider the Bill on its merits. Upon what did it rest? It might be considered in its economical and administrative aspects, and one could not be dissociated from the other. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Childers) had challenged him to say that the Bill would be productive of very great economy, and to discuss the savings that might be effected. But at that hour of the night he would not again go over the statistics, and the question did not rest on statistics. The economy did not depend upon the £100,000, or whatever the sum might be, which it might be thought would be saved, but upon the introduction of a system of administration which was in its nature more economical than that which had hitherto prevailed. If he might recall a saying of his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government which was much applauded at the time, and had often been quoted since, it was one of those cases in which "expenditure depended upon policy. "And if they desired that prison discipline should be effective and under economical management, they had better get rid of the complications and difficulties that had led to the introduction of this Bill. The question of prison discipline had been under the consideration of Parliament for many years. There had been Select Committees and discussions in that House, and they were not approaching a new and untried subject. It was, therefore, the less necessary that, at the end of these discussions, the House should take further time to consider a Bill that was the outcome of what had gone before, and the principle of which had met with general approval. The great matter was to be able to carry out a system of prison administration with economy. The Government did not say crime was increasing and that the measure was required to repress it. On the contrary, the improvements of late years in prison discipline had tended to reduce crime, and the Government now proposed to take a step further in that direction. Nothing was more conducive to the repression of crime than certainty of punishment and uniformity of punishment. And nothing was more likely to bring about that state of things than central action, which could most effectively bring the system into harmony. Well, admitting that central action in 932 such matters was the best, the magistrates, if charged by the Government to carry it out, would be in a most embarrassing position with respect to the ratepayers at whose expense the change was to be made. He knew from his own experience how frequently it happened that magistrates saw the necessity of some improvement, but refrained from carrying it out, because the ratepayers whose pockets were to suffer had no voice in the matter. He remembered sitting as chairman of quarter sessions when there was an even division, and he gave the casting vote against the expenditure, not because he thought it unnecessary, but in order that the question might be reconsidered. Some persons said—"Bring in the ratepayers to have a voice in the expenditure." Did the Government think that ratepayers would furnish them with the best system? Would it be wise to give the ratepayers control over prison management? There, to his mind, lay the whole question. If bodies elected by the ratepayers could be safely entrusted with that business well and good. But if, as the Government believed, that was a matter of administration which ought not to be left to bodies of that kind, the only resource was to treat it from the point of view of the central Government, which was what the Bill proposed to do. He believed this system would greatly hasten and facilitate reform in prison administration, and indeed in the local administration of the country generally. The Government, he might say, were desirous as far as possible in connection with this subject to avail themselves of the assistance of the local magistrates, whose patriotism and public spirit he was sure would not be found wanting. In matters connected with administration, it was the earnest wish of the Government to facilitate and not impede their proper and useful action. He believed that that proposal of the Government was one which would have for its primary effect a great improvement of the prison discipline and the penal system of the country; secondly, that it would greatly facilitate the improvement of our system of local administration; and, thirdly, that it would take a very important step towards the settlement of the question of contributions to local burdens. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pontefract had done injustice to his (the Chancel- 933 lor of the Exchequer's) former statements on that subject. He had never said that that matter was not within their purview. What he stated in 1874 was that the Government then proposed as much as they could at that time propose in regard to two or three of the subjects embraced in the Resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for South Devon (Sir Massey Lopes), and he remembered in that Session pointing to reasons, not merely of a financial character, why they should put off dealing with the administration of justice, because inquiries were then going on for the result of which it was desirable to wait. Certainly, last year, when speaking of the expenses of prosecution, he said that was a point to which they were looking, and it never had been out of their consideration. It was a measure which had not been casually taken up and introduced, and when it was asked why they gave precedence to it over others which had been introduced before it, he answered because it had been mentioned in the Queen's Speech, while other Bills had not, and therefore it formed part of their programme of legislation for this year. He hoped the Government had dealt fairly and frankly with the House in that matter. The explanation of the measure lay on the face of it, and the Government were not actuated in regard to it by any desire of grasping at power, still less was it their intention to cast any reflection on a class of gentlemen who had rendered valuable services to the country, and if any further vindication besides that already given had been wanting for that measure, it would have been found in the arguments of those who opposed it.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir Tomas Chambers.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he was sorry that the hon. and learned Common Serjeant had made that Motion, for he could not help thinking it was somewhat unreasonable. Considering that the second reading of the Bill had now been discussed for two nights, and, that night especially, with great variety and vigour on both sides, he thought the question had been fairly exhausted. Moreover, 934 at that period of the Session they must feel as practical men that the Motion for further adjournment was not justified, and therefore he must give it his opposition.
§ MR. RYLANDS
appealed to the Government to agree to the Motion, as many hon. Gentlemen on both sides were still anxious to speak, and it was only reasonable they should have the opportunity.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
supported the Motion for Adjournment. He contended that the discussion was by no means exhausted.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, if he could regard this Bill as the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary regarded it, mainly as a departmental measure, he should be entirely disposed to agree with the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that it had been fully discussed. But he was of opinion that this Bill raised very important questions besides those departmental questions to which the Home Secretary had referred. Those points had, he thought, been very ably laid before the House by his right hon. Friends the Member for the City of London and the Member for Pontefract. He thought those points had scarcely received sufficient attention from the Government or from hon. Members who had addressed the House on this subject. He was therefore very much disposed to think that the discussion which the measure had received was inadequate, and that the House would do well to consider it further before giving it a second reading. He was disposed to think that it would be perfectly impossible at that period of the Session that the measure could receive the attention which it ought to receive, looking at the various important subjects which it opened up, and that the Government and the House would do well to come to the determination not to proceed with it that Session any further. For those reasons, though he should be sorry to enter into a conflict with the Government, yet if his hon. Friend should proceed to a division on his Motion for Adjournment he should be disposed to support him. When the Motion of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) was put from the Chair, he admitted that he should give his vote with some doubt and hesitation, for though he agreed thoroughly in a great 935 many of the objections that had been taken on that (the Opposition) side of the House, he was disposed to admit that there was a good deal in the Bill which possessed considerable merit. He thought, however, the Bill dealt with a most important subject in a very fragmentary manner. He must repeat, that as he did not think the subject could receive that Session the attention which it ought to receive, the Motion for Adjournment was one that he could vote for without any doubt whatever. If that Motion were negatived, he should be obliged to vote, although with some doubt, for the Motion of the hon. Member for Burnley.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 122; Noes 298: Majority 176.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, he would move the Adjournment of the House. His reason for doing so was that the Bill was to be followed by one of a similar character for Ireland, and experience had shown them that the discussion of the question would be taken altogether on the English Bill. As an Irish Member, and having had some experience as a magistrate in county business, he had insuperable objections to the Bill, and wished to have an opportunity of stating them.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Mitchell Henry.)
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, after the significant majority against the Adjournment he hoped the hon. Member for Galway would not persevere with his Motion. He had certainly given a rather fanciful reason for proposing it. He (Mr. Disraeli) could not recall an instance of the kind where an Irish Bill was not fully discussed, because a similar measure relating to England had already been considered. The House having by an almost unprecedented majority expressed its opinion, he hoped they would be allowed to proceed to a decision on the second reading.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
also hoped that the hon. Member for Galway would not press his Motion for the Adjournment of the House. He (the 936 Marquess of Hartington) had himself voted in the minority just now, not from a wish to oppose any factious opposition to the Government proposal, but merely to give effect to his view that such a measure as that should not be proceeded with at that period of the Session. He did not think that any large number of those who voted in the minority were opposed in principle to this Bill, which contained many excellent provisions. He, therefore, trusted that the hon. Member would withdraw the Motion. It would be for the Government to consider, after the Bill had been read a second time, whether the time remaining at their disposal would enable them to pass the measure in the present Session.
§ MR. RYLANDS
joined in the appeal of the noble Lord to his hon. Friend the Member for Galway to withdraw his Motion for Adjournment.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
said, he would accede to the request; but, at the same time, he must say that he had moved the Adjournment of the House at the instance and request of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) himself.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 295; Noes 96: Majority 199.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday 17th July.