- (1) Where the prisoner is undergoing a sentence of penal servitude, the powers under this Act shall be in addition to and not in substitution for the power of granting licences under the Penal Servitude Acts, 1853 to 1891.
- (2) Nothing in this Act shall affect the duties of the medical officer of a prison in respect of a prisoner whom the Secretary of State does not think fit to discharge under this Act.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do now report progress, and ask leave to sit again."
There are several reasons for reporting progress now. The Law Officers have been mainly absent all the evening. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I said mainly absent—not absolutely—and the matter we are discussing seriously affects the liberty of the subject. The second reason is that fairly substantial progress has now been made. The Home Secretary, in opening the proceedings, announced that it would be arranged that we should get the Committee stage at this sitting. I do not know when the arrangement was made. It may have been made between the two Front Benches. When liberty is at stake there is almost sure to be agreement between them. I hope that the rest of the House will not consider itself bound by any such agreement come to behind the scenes. There is one point which I think the Government should take into consideration before finally disposing of the Committee stage of the Bill, and that is the question whether the licence period should not be 194 included in the sentence. The matter we are discussing is one of first-class importance. It is a question of coercion, and naturally the Government are applying the gag to their Coercion Bill.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I have not missed a single division. I only intervene in order to point out that the closure was moved on Clause 1 before there had been any opportunity of discussing Sub-section (4). I do not know whether that was in order, but it is my reason for supporting this Motion. It has influenced me in deciding——
§ Mr. BOOTH
I do not wish to challenge your decision in any way. But every proposal made to-night has been met with a blank negative. The Government might just as well be frank and tell us that no Amendment will under any circumstances be accepted. I am not usually in agreement with the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie), but I am sure he is sincere in his opposition to this Bill, and I submit that he is entitled to an answer from the Front Bench.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I support the Motion for adjournment. I have been here discussing this Bill ever since six o'clock, and I did a hard day's work before I came 195 here. I shall have to leave London early in the morning. I do think that in arranging the business of the House the Government should have some regard to the convenience of hon. Members. During the whole six hours I have only been out for ten minutes. That is the way we are treated under a Liberal Government. Under the Conservative administration we had better arrangements. There was a dinner half hour, and people interested in a Bill had time to get something to eat. We are refused it, even though we are discussing the question of forcible feeding. Whenever there is an agreement between the two front benches the independent Members should join forces; they are in such circumstances perfectly right in voting against the two front benches. I think it is time we went home to bed. The House seems to think that by means of the suspension of the Eleven o'clock rule Bills are got through more rapidly. That is an entire misapprehension, although I admit it has occurred on two recent occasions, and it was hoped it would be the result to-night. But it has miscarried this time, and I would urge the Government to be satisfied with the progress that has been made. They are not going to have a report stage, and whatever the merits of any point it may be desired to raise no discussion can take place on a report stage. It would serve hon. Members opposite right if the Government got the Plural Voting Bill through before Whitsuntide.
§ Mr. PIRIE
I rise with some regret, and with some amazement at the position in which I find myself, for I rise to speak on behalf of the Government Front Bench to make some answer to the request made to them that they should accept the Motion to report Progress. I see below me twelve more or less distinguished men, if not
§ Secretaries of State at least secretaries for nationalities. There are Junior Lords of the Treasury, Senior Lords of the Treasury, and others, yet not a word comes in answer to a most just request. Speaking on behalf of the Government, I say that it is a most urgent matter that we should pass this Bill without delay. I want to see a vindication of the law, and a relief from the disgraceful events which are taking place owing to the impotency of the law. I should like to see the successive stages of the Bill taken one after another until the Bill has passed through all its stages. Therefore, on behalf of the Government, I ask the Committee not to accept the Motion.
§ Sir GODFREY BARING
I am sure the Government are to be congratulated upon their new champion. I shall certainly support this Motion. The right hon. Gentleman has on several occasions this evening told us that the Bill is one of great urgency. If that is so we have a right to ask the Government why they allowed twelve days to elapse before they last brought it before the Committee. The Bill was last discussed on April 9th, and no further proceedings were taken for nearly a fortnight. On two occasions the House has risen early in the evening. If this is a matter of great urgency, it might have been possible to discuss it on one of those occasions. There are some important questions yet to be discussed. This measure is quite exceptional in its character, and deserves very serious treatment, but I doubt whether it will receive that treatment at this hour.
§ Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes: 19; Noes, 186.197
|Division No. 69.]||AYES.||[12.20 a.m.|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Hudson, Walter||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Bigland, Alfred||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Morrison-Bell, Major A. (Honiton)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Sutherland, John E.|
|Hardie, J. Keir||Touche, George Alexander||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Sir A. Markham and Mr. C. Duncan.|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Whyte, Alexander F. (Perth)|
|Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Ainsworth, John Stirling||Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Allan, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Beauchamp, Sir Edward|
|Adamson, William||Baird, John Lawrence||Beck, Arthur Cecil|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Barnston, Harry||Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)|
|Black, Arthur W.||Henry, Sir Charles S.||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Boland, John Pius||Higham, John Sharp||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Hope, Major John (Midlothian)||O'Shee, James John|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Horne, Charles Silvester (Ipswich)||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Parry, Thomas Henry|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Illingworth, Percy H.||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Butcher, J. G.||John, Edward Thomas||Pirle, Duncan Vernon|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pointer, Joseph|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Chancellor, Henry G.||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Joyce, Michael||Reddy, Michael|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Keating, Matthew||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Clough, William||Kelly, Edward||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Kilbride, Denis||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||King, Joseph||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Roberts, George H. (Norwich)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Robinson, Sidney|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Lardner, James C. R.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Roche, M. Augustine (Louth, N.)|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Lewis, John Herbert||Rowlands, James|
|Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lewisham, Viscount||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Dawes, James Arthur||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Delany, William||Lundon, Thomas||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Lyell, Charles Henry||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Devlin, Joseph||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.|
|Doris, William||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)||Sheehy, David|
|Duffy, William J.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Shortt, Edward|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks, Otley)||Macpherson, James Ian||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Farrell, James Patrick||M'Ghee, Richard||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Ffrench, Peter||M'Kenna, Rt Hon. Reginald||Stanley, Major Hon. George (Preston)|
|Field, William||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Flennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Malcolm, Ian||Tennant, Harold John|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Manfield, Harry||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|France, Gerald Ashburner||Meagher, Michael||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Furness, Stephen Wilson||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Waring, Walter|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Millar, James Duncan||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Gladstone, William G. C.||Molloy, Michael||Webb, Henry|
|Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Morgan, George Hay||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Grant, James Augustus||Morrell, Philip||White, James Dundas (Glasgow)|
|Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Muldoon, John||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Greig, Colonel James William||Munro, Robert||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Griffith, Ellis Jones||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Gulland, John William||Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Wills, Sir Gilbert Alan Hamilton|
|Gwynn Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Nicholson, Sir Charles (Doncaster)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Hackett, John||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wood, Samuel Hill- (Derbyshire)|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||O'Donnell, Thomas||Younger, Sir George|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Dowd, John|
|Hayward, Evan||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Geoffrey Howard and Captain Guest.|
|Hazleton, Richard||O'Malley, William|
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (1).
I do not understand the statement made by the Home Secretary on the first day we went into Committee. I understood him to say that in regard to the licence to prisoners sentenced to penal servitude he has powers to insert any conditions he sees fit. If that is so, why are additional powers to be given to him under this Bill to deal with prisoners in such a position as Mrs. Pankhurst is in at the present moment. I do not understand the Clause, and I shall reserve the remarks I have to make until after I have heard the observations of the Home Secretary on the subject.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I was going to reserve my observations in reply to the hon. Baronet until I heard some reason why I should accept the proposed Amendment. I understand my hon. Friend is not quite aware of the purpose of this Sub-section. There is now power under the Penal Servitude Acts to issue licences for the release of prisoners. Those licences are ordinarily issued in consequence of the good conduct of prisoners, and are not in the nature of a temporary discharge, but, subject to a prisoner not falling again into crime, usually amount to a permanent discharge. It is quite true that, under the Penal Servitude Acts, the Home Secretary has power to issue special licences, and I have done so in the case of Mrs. 199 Pankhurst, but in her case, inasmuch as a special licence only operates during the currency of the sentence—that is to say, whilst Mrs. Pankhurst is out of prison her sentence is expiring as I have already explained to the House—I have to take special precautions in her case in order to secure, as far as I can, that the sentence of the judge shall be executed. Under the present Bill it is proposed that when an order of discharge is given the prisoner is not to be considered as being in prison, and it is most desirable that the licence and the order should not be used one in substitution for the other. In cases where a licence is issued under the Penal Servitude Acts all the conditions of the licence ought to apply, but where a person is temporarily discharged from prison under this Bill then all the conditions of the order should apply, and not the conditions of a licence under the Penal Servitude Acts. That is the sole reason for this Sub-section. It is simply to make the law clear.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I am much obliged by my right hon. Friend's answer, but I would put this point to him. I think he would have met the objection if he could have accepted the principle of the Amendment to Clause 1, Sub-section (3), which principle is again raised here. This Clause has the same effect. Under it, for example, the time during which Mrs. Pankhurst is in a nursing home will not count as part of her sentence. Seeing that Mrs. Pankhurst's licence contains a definite statement that she shall return to prison on a particular date, surely the Home Secretary does not want to go further. If, therefore, my right hon. Friend could meet us on this point and strike out the Sub-section, I am sure all who are opposing this Bill would not raise any question on Report. I am perfectly well aware my right hon. Friend does not want to face a Report stage and
§ have all the points debated over again; but, at any rate, this is a substantial one, and by omitting the Sub-section my right hon. Friend would at all events meet those who think that the powers he possesses under the present Acts are sufficiently wide. As he said on the Second Reading of this Bill, his present powers are very wide with respect to the licensing of prisoners on ticket-of-leave, and I hope he will be satisfied with those powers.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
This Sub-section stands in a different position to any other part of the Bill. It is a proposal to amend existing Acts of Parliament. If at the present time the health of a person who is under sentence breaks down, and it becomes obvious that his continued imprisonment might lead to loss of life, I understand it is the common practice of the Home Office to discharge the prisoner on ticket-of-leave. The prisoner is under no obligation as to re-arrest. He has only got to comply with the ordinary conditions of the ordinary ticket-of-leave, and his sentence is running out on that ticket-of-leave. But if this Clause is allowed to pass as it stands a prisoner—it does not apply to Suffragettes only—released under an order under this Bill becomes liable to re-arrest if at any time before recovery it is thought fit by the authorities to re-arrest him. That seems to be quite an unnecessary change of the law. The Home Secretary has shown, as in the case of Mrs. Pankhurst, that he has the power now to release the hunger-striker, and I submit that the reasons deduced by him are not sufficient to justify asking for this fresh power. Therefore, if my hon. Friend goes to a division I shall certainly support him.
§ Question put, "That the words of the Sub-section stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 170; Noes, 12.201
|Division No. 70.||AYES.||[12.39 a.m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Clough, William|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Bigland, Alfred||Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Black, Arthur W.||Condon, Thomas Joseph|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Boland, John Pius||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Boyle, D. (Mayo, North)||Cotton, William Francis|
|Allen Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Brady, P. J.||Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian|
|Baird, J. L.||Brunner, John F. L.||Crumley, Patrick|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Davies, E. William (Eifion)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Cawley Harold T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)|
|Barnston, Harry||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Davies, Sir W. Howell (Bristol, S.)|
|Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Dawes, James Arthur|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Chancellor, H. G.||Delany, William|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Clancy, John Joseph||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Devlin, Joseph|
|Doris, William||Lardner, James C. R.||Reddy, M.|
|Duffy, William J.||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rld, Cockerm'th)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (Yorks., Otley)||Levy, Sir Maurice||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Lewis, John Herbert||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Lewlsham, Viscount||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Ffrench, Peter||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Field, William||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||London, Thomas||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Lyell, Charles Henry||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Lynch, A. A.||Rowlands, James|
|France, G. A.||Lyttelton, Hon J. C. (Droitwich)||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Furness, Stephen||McGhee Richard||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Macpherson, James Ian||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Seely, Rt. Hon. Colonel J. E. B.|
|Goldsmith, Frank||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Sheehy, David|
|Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||Malcolm, Ian||Shortt, Edward|
|Greig, Colonel J. W.||Manfield, Harry||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Gulland, John William||Meagher, Michael||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Hackett, John||Millar, James Duncan||Sutherland, J. E.|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Molloy, M.||Tennant, Harold John|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Morgan, George Hay||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Muldoon, John||Waring, Walter|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Munro, R.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Hayward, Evan||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Webb, H.|
|Hazleton, Richard||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C.||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Henry, Sir Charles||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Higham, John Sharp||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Hughes, Spencer Leigh||O'Donnell, Thomas||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Hume-Williams, William Ellis||O'Dowd, John||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Illingworth, Percy H.||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|John, Edward Thomas||O'Malley, William||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Wing, Thomas|
|Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||O'Shee, James John||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H'mts, Stepney)||Parry, Thomas H.||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Joyce, Michael||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)||Younger, Sir George|
|Keating, Matthew||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Geoffrey Howard and Captain Guest.|
|Kelly, Edward||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Kilbride, Denis||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|King, Joseph||Price, Sir Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Adamson, William||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Whyte, A. F. (Perth)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hudson, Walter||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Grant, J. A.||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Sir A. Markham and Mr. Booth.|
|Hardie, J. Keir||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Hill-Wood, Samuel||Touche, George Alexander|
Question, "That the words of the Sub-section stand part of the Clause," put, and agreed to.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (2).
We are entitled to some explanation about the meaning of this Sub-section, which says, "Nothing in this Act shall affect the duties of the medical officer of a prison in respect of a prisoner whom the Secretary of State does not think fit to discharge under this Act." We are entitled to ask what is veiled under this cloud of words. What is it meant to conceal? The Home Secretary ought to be able to tell us whether it is part of the duty of a medical officer in the prison to forcibly feed a prisoner. Under what regulation, what Act of Parliament, what rule, is the obligation imposed upon the medical officer of a prison to forcibly feed a prisoner? It is true he has a duty 202 imposed upon him to attend to the health of a prisoner; there is no doubt about that; but does he understand that forcible feeding is part of the duties imposed upon him when he accepts office? Whatever may be the opinions about the necessity of forcible feeding, there can be no two opinions about the unpleasantness of the duty cast upon the medical officer who has to perform this most disgusting operation. I ask the Home Secretary whether this Sub-section is intended to legalise forcible feeding by the prison doctor? If his reply is "No"; that the prison doctor already has that power, what is the use of having this Sub-section in the Bill at all? What is it there for? I hope we shall have some kind of satisfactory explanation, and I will reserve what I have to say on the main subject until——
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The Home Secretary says "So shall I"! I hope the Committee is not going to be treated with that kind of contempt.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
I am asking first of all what this mass of words means. Why are they put in at all? Is it because at the present time forcible feeding of a prisoner by a medical doctor is illegal? If it is legal now why put these words in to legalise it in future? I want to understand what is in the mazes of the Home Secretary's mind, and when he tells us that we shall be in a better position to discuss whether or not they should be there.
§ Mr. McKENNA
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is nothing more in the mazes of my mind than the precise meaning of the words which are contained in this Sub-section. If it is now illegal for the medical officers to feed prisoners forcibly it will remain illegal after this Bill is passed. If it is legal for a medical officer to feed a prisoner forcibly it will continue to be legal after this Bill passes. These words in the Bill will not affect the legality or illegality of forcible feeding. They will leave the practice of forcible feeding precisely where it stands so far as legality is concerned at the present time.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I should like to know if it is the case that the words leave the law of forcible feeding where it now stands, what are they put into the Bill for? The Home Secretary has given a most astonishing reply. He seemed to complain that the hon. Member had raised the question at all, but we are entitled to ask for some observations and explanations from the Home Secretary on the meaning of the Clause. If this Sub-section leaves the law where it is, in the name of conscience why is it put into the Bill at all? There must be some reason. The Home Secretary says the words do not affect the question one way or the other. If that is the meaning what are they put into the Bill for?
§ Mr. McKENNA
The hon. Baronet does not state accurately what I said. I said that the insertion of these words left the law precisely where it stood. It is not the 204 same thing to say that if the Bill passes without these words the law will be the same as it was before. By the insertion of these words we leave the law exactly where it stands now before the passing of the Bill.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
That is a distinction which, I am bound to say, my mind does not quite fully appreciate. I presume that the Clause has reference to the duties of medical officers in respect to the forcible feeding of prisoners, and that that is a part, at any rate, of the reason for introducing it into the Bill. That being so, I take it that I should be in order in dealing with the duties of medical officers as imposed under the provisions of the Bill. The Committee, I think, knows very well by this time the disgusting kind of duty which is thrust upon the doctors, the warders, and other prison officials by the action of the Home Secretary. All I can say is, that I do not think it is right to force upon public servants a duty which it would be repugnant to any Member of this House to have to undertake, and which is contrary to anything that has been done in prisons before. I think that the words of the Clause are unnecessary, and, in any I could not follow the explanation given by the Home Secretary as to why they are in the Bill, if my hon. Friend goes to a division I shall have to support him.
§ Mr. KEIR HARDIE
The Home Secretary's explanation—I say it without meaning any offence—was the most extraordinary one that I have ever heard given in the House of Commons. There is nothing in this Bill that alters the duties of the medical officer. I make that statement on my own responsibility, and not quoting the Home Secretary. That being so I would like to insist on the Home Secretary explaining the need for these words. He has told us that the law stands exactly as it did. I should like to ask this: If a Clause is required to legalise something which a medical officer may be called upon to do under this Bill when it becomes law, why is there not a similar Clause relating to the prison superintendent and other officials connected with the prison? Has there been a revolt of the doctors engaged as prison medical officers against being compelled to continue this most degrading and disgusting practice of forcible feeding? If the Bill does not alter the law, what is the need for these words in the Clause unless it be to legalise something, the legality of which has been 205 doubtful in the past, and of which it is intended to make sure in the future. So far as the Home Secretary's statement went, I could not see that it explained anything, and, therefore, I shall certainly carry my protest against this into the division lobby.
§ Mr. WHYTE
I think the existence of this Sub-section in the Bill is really the whole secret of the proceedings which we have witnessed to-night, because it enables the Home Secretary, as I understand it, to retain all his present powers, including that of forcible feeding, and to add to them the powers which this Bill gives him. It is perhaps because a good many of us believed that the measure which would be proposed would have enabled the Home Secretary to abolish forcible feeding altogether that such a great degree of disappointment has been shown to-night by the proceedings through which the Committee has passed during the last few hours. We have not had a very clear answer given to the question asked from below the Gangway with respect to this Sub-section. We have not been told, for example, what are the particular duties which the Home Secretary wishes to safeguard, unless they are those connected with forcible feeding. If they are, then I think the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) is fully justified in raising the matter, though I admit that nearly all the evening the sense of the Committee as a whole has been against the small minority below the Gangway who have been discussing this question. I do think, however, that a valuable service has been done in forcing a discussion on this question, and I shall, a little later on, propose a Clause which will bring up the matter again.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
I cannot allow this Clause to pass without understanding it, and I can honestly tell the Committee that at the present moment I do not know what it means. I submit that when you have language put in a Bill which a layman with an ordinary amount of common-sense cannot understand, then the Committee is entitled to know from the Minister in charge what the precise intentions of the Government are. Will the Home Secretary tell us what this means?
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
The hon. Baronet has twice addressed that question to the Home Secretary, and the Home Secretary has twice 206 made a reply, satisfactory or otherwise. I must remind the hon. Baronet of that fact, and ask him not to repeat the same question interminably.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
May I submit that it has always been a practice in this House to allow a Member, who is not deliberately repeating himself for the purpose of obstruction, to press sometimes again and again, for information. I have said all along that I do not know what the meaning of these words is, and I have heard a question repeated many times in this House when Members have not understood an answer which has been given from the Treasury Bench.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
Do I understand it to be your ruling, Sir, that when the Home Secretary has made a reply the meaning of which I am unable to follow, and has contented himself with making a single brief statement, that I am not entitled to ask him what is the meaning of the Subsection? I see that the Solicitor-General is present, and perhaps I may be allowed to ask him to tell the Committee what this means. I say frankly that I do not understand it, and I want to understand it.
§ 1.0 A.M.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir John Simon)
I am sure all of us wish the hon. Baronet to understand the Sub-section, but I do not think, if he will look at it again, he will find that it is very obscure. The Clause is described in the margin as one dealing with "Savings"—that is to say, when the new Act of Parliament comes into force the draughtsman has to be careful to consider whether the language of the Act, though not intended to have any such effect, may seem to suggest some other changes in the law in addition to those which it professes to make, and the object of this Sub-section, which if I may respectfully say so to the hon. Baronet, is in a quite common form is to make it quite clear, in case any ingenious person may think otherwise, that the Clause is not intended in any way to affect the difficult duties which medical officers in prison do discharge, and we all admit, discharge to the very best of their ability in what they conceive to be the performance of those duties. That is the whole purpose of the Sub-section.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Sir A. MARKHAM
had given notice of the following New Clause:—No proceedings shall be entertained in any court of law against the Secretary of State or any prison official in respect of any proceedings taken by them in the exercise of the powers conferred under this Act.The hon. Member said he did not desire to Move the Clause.
§ Mr. McKENNA
This Clause would prevent proceedings being taken. I do not accept it, so that there is no conflict.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.