HL Deb 24 June 1884 vol 289 cc1208-23

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.

Moved, "That the Bill be now read 3a." —(The Earl of Dalhousie.)


said, he would ask the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Dalhousie) if he thought it possible to carry the Bill that Session, seeing that there were no loss than 22 Amendments entered upon the Paper; so that, practically, the House must go into Committee again after the third reading? It was evident that Parliament was still so uncertain how to deal with this subject, that, in his opinion, it would be better to withdraw this Bill, and introduce a matured measure next Session.


said, he was of opinion that, as so many Amendments were to be proposed, the most convenient course would be to recommit the measure. It would be inconvenient to discuss the Amendments of which Notice had been given after the third reading had been agreed to.


said, that it would be unusual to take the course suggested by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Galloway), as Notice of the proposal to do so had not been given. The apparent great length of the Paper of Amendment was due to the repetition of particular Amendments, all of which had reference to one point. The fate of one of them, when decided, would determine that of all the others.

On Question? Their Lordships divided:—Contents 101; Not-Contents 45: Majority 56.

Resolved in the affirmative; Bill read 3a accordingly.

Moved, "That the Bill do pass."—(The Earl of Dalhousie.)


said, that it was really necessary to look at the character of the Bill, which created one felony, 10 misdemeanours, and six offences punishable by summary conviction. With respect to these cases, there was this novel and extraordinary proposition—that they might be heard in camera. In addition to that, the administration of the measure was intrusted entirely to the police. His excuse for calling the attention of their Lordships to the subject was its extreme danger and its impolicy, especially as it was provided in regard to several classes of cases, that they could be disposed of summarily. There was no one in that Assembly who had so large an experience in Criminal Courts as he had. For 23 years he had presided in them, while the noble and learned Earl on the Woolsack and the noble and learned Earl opposite (Earl Cairns) had scarcely ever been in a Criminal Court in their lives. The provision was not only bad in itself, but was contrary to public policy. If there was any excellence in our Courts of Law over those of other European countries, he believed it depended on this—that our Courts were open, while theirs were closed. In other countries, the accused did not see the witnesses; in ours, the witnesses and accused were brought face to face, and there was publicity at every stage. For his part, if he had still to administer the Criminal Law, he should be afraid to do so if the public were not admitted, and if his acts and words were not open to public criticism. It was that publicity which gave security to the subject in the administration of the law, and which secured for the law the admiration and respect which was to be found in no other country in the world. This Bill struck at the very foundation of all that. During all the years that he presided in Criminal Courts, he never had to hear a case in camera. On several occasions application to do so was made to him, but he refused. On the other hand, whenever an intimation was given to the public Press that the details of a case ought not to be published, he never knew such an intimation to be disregarded. In particular cases women and children ought not to be present, and in such cases he had always exercised his power of excluding them. He would appeal to the noble Earl in charge of the Bill (the Earl of Dalhousie), who would like, no doubt, to descend to posterity with the Bill in his hand, not to allow the measure to be disfigured with such provisions as those he had pointed out. As regarded the subject itself, he would call their Lordship's attention to the danger that existed in an enthusiastic and generous mind being allowed to run riot as regarded its sympathies upon it; and, indeed, he must confess that his (Lord Fitzgerald's) confidence was much shaken as regarded the noble and learned Lord (Lord Bramwell), on account of the general support which he had given to the Bill as it stood. He (Lord Fitzgerald) would appeal to him not to let his enthusiasm run away with him. He would conclude by moving to leave out the provision which gave power to any Court, Justice, or Magistrate to exclude the public from the hearing of the cases specified in the clause, with the view of inserting a general clause providing that the exclusion should only extend to women and all young people under 21.

Amendment moved, in Clause 2, page 1, leave out from line 20 to end of clause.—(The Lord Fitzgerald.)


said, he agreed with the noble and learned Lord (Lord Fitzgerald) as to the great danger of a too enthusiastic character in dealing with matters of this kind, and in proof of it he would refer to the enthusiastic speech of his noble and learned Friend. He said his confidence in him (Lord Bramwell) was much shaken. However much he might regret this, he was aware that the good opinion which he had of him was so much more than he deserved that he could afford to have a large piece of it taken off, and more than his due would be left. While his noble and learned Friend appealed to his 23 years' experience, he (Lord Bramwell) was able to refer to 26 years' experience. With regard to the point in question, there could be no doubt that there were many cases heard in public which were more indecent than those mentioned in the clause. He would, therefore, rather see the sub-section omitted altogether, because it was generally assumed that Magistrates and Judges had the power of excluding women and children at present; and the insertion of such a provision in the Bill would throw doubt on the right to exercise the power in other cases.


said, that on the part of the Government, he would agree to the Amendment. With regard to the Amendment to be subsequently proposed by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Fitzgerald), he should be prepared to agree to it, with the exception of the words "investigation or other proceeding."

Amendment agreed to.

Words left out accordingly.

Consequential Amendments made.


said, he hoped their Lordships would be induced to amend the Bill, and to take away many of the objectionable provisions which it now contained. He wished to propose, as an Amendment, that the age at which consent might be given, in the case of children dealt with by the Bill, should be reduced from 16 to 15. He wished to say one word generally on the Bill; and as regarded it, many of its provisions seemed to him to be very harsh, and he thought that an endeavour should be made to carry out the original intention of the measure—namely, to prevent outrages being committed on young children. He considered that one effect of it would be to make any young man or young woman liable to lose liberty and character at the dictation of the police. That, he considered, was not a right state of things. He contended that, if they drove professional prostitution from the streets, the consequence would be that seduction would increase; and the evil, when driven from the streets, would find its way into private life. He believed that legislation such as this would not redound to the credit or popularity of their Lordships' House in dealing with social questions. After a long experience of 40 years in the other House of Parliament, he thought he could say that the mode in which Business was conducted in their Lordships' House would not suffer in comparison with the manner in which it was carried on in the House of Commons. But what was more important than the way the Business was done was, what that Business was, and he did not think that this law would redound to the credit of their Lordships' House. Some of their Lordships appeared to think that, no matter what the provisions of this Bill might be, they ought to be passed, provided they were sufficiently stringent. He knew that, as regarded the right rev. Prelates, they always held to whatever was most stringent in regard to the provisions of the Bill, which reminded him of the Prelate who spoke of the "Blessedness of the lash," and who expatiated upon the excellence of keeping a man sentenced to it in ignorance of when it was to be inflicted, so that he might rise, every morning, to a day of mental agony and torture. From doctrines such as that, one would suppose that we were ready to resort to all the punishment of the Inquisition. The right rev. Prelate would, he thought, make a most admirable flogging-master. What the public expected of their Lordships was not gushing, unreasonable legislation—not that they should deal with this question from the point of view of a celibate clergy, and as if they had no knowledge of human nature —but that they should deal with it as men of sense, who had a knowledge of the passions, the feelings, the temptations, the trials, and the struggles of poor, feeble human nature. That was what the people of this country had a right to expect from their Lordships; and he ventured to say that, if this Bill passed their Lordships' House, and if their Lordships said "Content" to the measure in its present form, the result would be that they would not pass their measure eventually, and they would lose much of the good that otherwise they might gain; and along with the loss of the measure, which they were anxious to pass, there was the danger also of the loss of the confidences with which the administration of their Lordships' House had hitherto, on the whole, been regarded. In order to diminish that danger, he would move the reduction of the age from 16 to 15.

Amendment moved, in Clause 5, page 3, line 6, to leave out ("sixteen"), and insert ("fifteen").—(The Earl of Wemyss.)


, in opposing the Amendment, said, that with regard to what had been said by the noble Earl on the Cross Benches (the Earl of Wemyss), and in despite of the several compliments contained therein to their Lordships' House, he (the Earl of Aberdeen) must confess that he did not esteem it as a very high compliment that, because the Bill was not likely to be received as a popular measure in the country, therefore their Lordships were not likely to receive it favourably, or to do the thing that was right respecting it—in short, that they were to be influenced in doing what they were about to do by a regard for popularity. The object of this legislation was to protect children from outrage. Was Parliament to do nothing to find a remedy for admitted evils? He agreed with the noble Earl that the powers given to the police was a question which required the gravest consideration; and he ventured to predict that, if this Bill suffered shipwreck in "another place," the rook on which it would split would not be the stringency of certain provisions, but that too much power was given to the police. It was no argument to say that the Bill attempted to put down what had never been put down. If, by that, it was implied that existing evils must prevail to the same extent, he ventured to hold a different opinion; the present amount of evil was not inevitable; and men of sense and education were banding themselves together with strong determination to protest against and eradicate such a pernicious and demoralizing idea as that these evils were inevitable, and to protect girls, whom all regarded as children, from temptation, to which, by common consent, they ought not to be subjected. He, therefore, hoped that their Lordships would not agree to the proposed reduction of the age from 16 to 15.


said, in ordinary cases a girl of 15 was more a child than a woman. Trained to obedience, she found it difficult to say "no" to those who spoke with the authority of age and station. She could not be expected to resist a procuress, or a man of strong will and experience. She could not realize the terrible results of the traps and nets set for her, more than goldfinches could avoid the nets concealed from their sight. It would be cruel to deprive these young girls, who were exposed to so many serious temptations, of the protection which they deserved.


said, the noble Earl who had spoken from the Cross Benches (the Earl of Wemyss) had paid their Lordships the compliment of saying that, after a long experience of the other House of Parliament, he thought the proceedings of their Lordships' House were conducted in a manner so orderly and efficient, that their Lordships need not be afraid of any comparison on the subject. He (Earl Cairns) was sorry to say, however, that his noble Friend went very far himself to overthrow the truth of that compliment, because anything more disorderly than the speech his noble Friend had just addressed to their Lordships, he (Earl Cairns) had never before heard in that House. Their Lordships had passed the third reading of this Bill, after a Division; and yet, after that, the noble Earl rose to make a speech which ranged over every section of the Bill from beginning to end; and he had so far forgotten himself as to say to their Lordships—" If your Lordships say 'Content' to the third reading of the Bill, so-and-so will happen." Well, their Lordships had said "Content" to the third reading of the Bill, although his noble Friend tried to prevent that vote being carried. The noble Earl had read a letter, too, calling attention to the action of the House and to the power of the House, and as to whether that power should be continued or curtailed. Then his noble Friend had made an attack upon the rightrev. Bench of Bishops, and, in particular, upon a right rev. Prelate opposite—an attack which, he was bound to say, was entirely unjustifiable, and was not in the best possible taste. The noble Earl next proposed an Amendment on one clause dealing with a particular subject. Their Lordships certainly had the power of amending Bills after third reading; and, whether that power was desirable or not, it was quite clear that it was not the habit of the House, where an essential feature of a Bill had been fully discussed in Committee and upon Report, and upon which Divisions had been taken, to raise that question entirely as a fresh question after the third reading of the Bill had been carried. If his noble Friend was really jealous and anxious for the order rather than the efficiency of the House, he (Earl Cairns) hoped he would not set the example of pursuing a course of this kind, which was altogether irregular, most inconvenient, and most repugnant to common sense. This question had been fully discussed. A Select Committee, chosen from both sides of the House, had been appointed; most important evidence, deserving of great weight, had been heard; and the Committee unanimously came to the decision that this change of the law was desirable. He must say that that finding was in accordance with a strong feeling that prevailed out-of-doors, and that had been expressed in numerous Petitions. His noble Friend had not advanced a tittle of argument in support of his contention, that the age of 15 would be better than 16. He had spoken about the difficulty of knowing the age of these persons; but an Amendment had been inserted to meet the difficulty as to mistakes occurring with respect to age. In fact, what the noble Earl desired was that there should be no change in the law.


said, he wished to say a word of a personal character. He had been a Member of the Committee referred to by the noble and learned Earl opposite (Earl Cairns), and, as the noble and learned Earl had said, the decision arrived at was, in one sense, unanimous. But he (Lord Bramwell) wished to point out that he moved an Amendment that the age should be 15. As no one, however, agreed with him, he thought there would be no use in dividing upon the subject, and, not seeing what the consequence would be, he did not divide.


I do not think my noble and learned Friend moved this Amendment.


Yes; I did, indeed. At all events, I expressed my intention to move that the age be 15.


No, no!


Well, possibly it might be so; in the next Committee, if he should be on one, he should do better. But he remembered well that he expressed the opinion he now expressed. Their Lordships must make an allowance for his inexperience. He thought that 15 was a better age than 16. If this clause were one which dealt solely with cases of original seduction, the circumstances would be very different; but this was quite impossible, and it might be that, under this clause, a youth who was himself seduced by a girl under 16, who had long been immoral, would be convicted. He was afraid that if the Bill passed without the Amendment, the Act would be brought into contempt by the injustice to which it would lead and the ridicule it would cause.


said, he trusted the House would adhere to the clause as it stood. He had to complain of the question being raised at so late a stage of the Bill, and after it had been decided by their Lordships. There could be no doubt that the subject was a very difficult and delicate one to settle; but it had been many times debated, and the Government had heard nothing to induce them to change their opinion that 16 was the most desirable age to fix. This was a matter of degree, and the age of 16 had been fixed as a compromise as between the noble Lords who desired to see it placed at 20, and those who would have it remain as now. The Bill was not to suppress immorality, but to protect young children; and the case mentioned by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brain-well) would be met by the Proviso in the clause.


said, the Proviso would certainly not touch it.


said, the sole argument that had been used in favour of 16 years being fixed was that it had been unanimously recommended by the Committee. But the unanimity, or rather disunanimity, of the Committee was shown by the fact that one Member of the Committee (Lord Bramwell) desired to alter 16 to 15; while another (Lord Mount Temple) suggested 17, and had actually made a Motion to that effect in the House, and that Motion was supported by three other Members of the Committee—Earl Cairns, Lord Norton, and the Bishop of London; therefore, he held that it was perfectly absurd to assert that that House was bound by a compromise which even the Members of the Committee had not adhered to. Reference had been made to the foreign law on this subject; but in France, Belgium, and Germany the age was, as now in England, 13. He strongly objected to its being raised.

On Question, That ("sixteen") stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 70; Not-Contents 58: Majority 12.

Resolved in the affirmative.

Clause 8 (Defilement of girl by guardian).


said, he should like to know the reasons for this clause, and what guardians had done to earn this special distinction under the Bill? Why were they to have a term of hard labour apportioned to them if they offended against the provisions of the measure? Why should not the same enactment apply to fathers, and to the family doctor, and the family lawyer? He had never heard that this particular offence was one that was frequently committed.


, in reply, said, he was in some measure responsible for the clause; and he should have thought that if there were a subject upon which opinion was unanimous it would be this.

Clause agreed to.

Clause 10 (Amendment of 2 & 3 Vict. c. 47. s. 54., and 10 & 11 Vict. c. 89. s. 28., as to prostitutes).


, in moving to omit the clause, said, he would make an appeal to the Episcopal Bench. In Committee on the Bill the Lay Peers had negatived the clause by 12 votes; but that majority was converted into a minority of 3 by the action of right rev. Prelates. He (Lord Brabourne) would be the last man in that House to say one disrespectful word of the Episcopal Bench, or to deny their perfect right to vote as they pleased. But he would humbly submit to the right rev. Prelates that they, of all men in the House, had probably the least knowledge of the administration of the Criminal Law; and, therefore, they ought to be careful when those who had a knowledge of it told them that this clause would make fresh complications, and render more difficult the effectual administration of that law. This was not a question of morality against immorality. All their Lordships were, no doubt, equally anxious to promote morality; but the question was whether, in the attempt to do so, they were not about to legislate in a direction, and to a degree, beyond that which public opinion would sanction, and thereby to cause a reaction against their legislation which would be positively injurious to the morality they desired to promote. The noble Earl in charge of the Bill (the Earl of Dalhousie) had told their Lordships that the Bill was not one to put down immorality, save when it affected young girls. Well, then, this clause was alien to the objects of the Bill — it mentioned no age, and was simply a new police regulation, giving to the police new and most dangerous powers. Moreover, it was a police regulation not demanded by the police, and would place in their hands an enormous temptation. There was not only the danger that a policeman in collusion with a man or a woman might get up cases against innocent persons; but there was also the danger of making the police unpopular, which was the very thing they ought to avoid. He was convinced that the wisest course the Government could take in the interests of the Bill would be to assent at once to the omission of the clause.

Moved, To leave out Clause 10.—(The Lord Brabourne.)


supported the clause as it stood.


said, that the great feature of the debate appeared to be the frequent appeals made to the Episcopal Bench, and the strong lectures —such as the one they had just listened to—given them by noble Lords as to what they ought and what they ought not to do. The noble Lord on the Cross Benches (Lord Brabourne) had said the Bishops had no knowledge of the administration of the Criminal Law. He quite admitted that charge, but they had heard the practice of Courts of Law explained by noble and learned Lords; and he did think they were quite as sensible and capable of forming a judgment upon the evidence before them as any of their Lordships, and most certainly so with regard to the clause under consideration. They were capable of knowing and seeing whether the condition of the London streets was a credit to the Metropolis; or whether it required some further interference on the part of the police. It was because the clause was intended to mitigate a monstrous evil that he would vote for its retention.


said, he would call their Lordships' attention to the fact that there was no register of prostitutes in this country; and, therefore, how could the police say whether a woman was a prostitute or not? The police was placed in an utterly false position by the clause, and one that was exceedingly dangerous, for they must depend upon hearsay testimony alone. Every woman who belonged to the class of unfortunates was not outrageous and degraded. He believed that there were very few of their Lordships who had not, when young men, been guilty of immorality. He hoped that they would pause before passing a clause within the range of which their sons might come. He would ask them whether their class was so desperately moral that they were entitled to insist upon all people being moral? They might rely upon it, the more they attempted to prevent the indulgence of natural passion, the more they would force unnatural crime.


said, that the police were given power by the clause to arrest women as prostitutes; but the character of the women so arrested would, of course, be subsequently investigated. There would not be any difficulty in deciding whether a woman was a public prostitute or not, as they were all known to the police. The subsection of the clause was inserted by the House against the wish of the Government.


said, there could be no doubt that a policeman, after arresting a woman as a prostitute, would have to satisfy a judicial authority that she really was a woman of bad character.


said, that under the clause, as it stood, a lady speaking to one of their Lordships in the public streets would be completely at the mercy of any policeman. No doubt, before conviction, it would be necessary that a judicial authority should be satisfied that the woman was of bad character; but the mere fact of arrest, which would be left absolutely to the discretion of the policeman, might irretrievably ruin a woman's character.


said, that, in his opinion, the clause was entirely foreign to the real object of the Bill, and ought to be rejected.


said, he could not think that the clause was entirely alien to the Bill, or see how the Bill was to be complete without it. It was necessary, in order that the first object of the Bill should be completely carried out, that the streets should be cleared of this sort of traffic. That was the right way to protect boys and young men who came to spend a holiday in town. The head of a great penitentiary had recently told him that the great cause of the corruption of boys was the state of the London streets. Young lads were corrupted in London, and then carried corruption into their native villages. A noble Lord had recently laid stress on the supply of prostitutes coming, as he said, from the poorer classes; but he had not explained with equal clearness from what classes came the demand. It had been said that all men alike were guilty. He protested against that, for all men were not guilty. He knew well soldiers, sailors, and men in every rank of life who were pure as children. The promulgation of such a doctrine as that, from that place, was likely, he feared, to be a corrupting influence. And it was not true. A noble Lord had said, on a former occasion, that it would be better to divert their attention to the houses of the poor than to pass a Bill like the present; but the wretched condition of the dwellings of the poor was not the sole reason of the extensive corruption that existed. Miserable as were many of the hovels of Ireland, there was no such immorality there as there was in England. In London, people sometimes talked as if the poor were bent on polluting and corrupting the rich; but there were tens of thousands of poor people who were as pure and good as they could be, and as jealous for the honour of their families as any of their Lordships, and they were very anxious to see their Lordships do justice in this matter. He considered it strange that it should be expected that the clergy, to whom so many interests here and hereafter were committed, should stand aloof, and not vote on this subject. He rejected with horror the suggestion that if these fountains of vice were cleared away, the evil would break out in private life. He had too much confidence in the morality of the English people to subscribe to the opinion that, if they put an end to the open violation of morality, worse fountains of evil would burst up within their own households.

On Question, "That the said Clause stand part of the Bill?"

Their Lordships divided:—Contents 62; Not-Contents 43: Majority 19.

Resolved in the affirmative.


, in moving to insert, after Clause 10, a clause enabling the Court in which a girl under 16 had been convicted under that clause to send her, in substitution for any punishment to which she might be liable, to a certified home within the meaning of the Act, said, that he was only moving for what was in the Bill at first, but was subsequently omitted, because there was no provision for, or definition of, a home for the purpose. As it was now proposed to be re-inserted, this defect would be supplied. The Secretary of State might certify homes as special reformatories under the provisions of the Act of 1866, only omitting the infliction on girls admitted to them, of a previous imprisonment. The Industrial Schools Act, 1880, enabled Justices to send children living with prostitutes to such schools, often very young, and never after the age of 14. This clause would admit girls up to the age of 16, convicted, under the previous clause, of soliciting prostitution in streets, who had no guardianship, or lived with prostitutes, to special reformatories for such cases. Other reformatories would refuse to admit them. Some guardianship was necessary to rescue such girls from ruin, and train them to decent life. There were some few voluntary homes now established by benevolent ladies for this class; and if by this clause they could be certified and brought under inspection, it would be all the better. It was desirable, if not essential, that such homes should be small—say, each not admitting above 12. There would be power under the Act besides to board out suitable cases in cottage homes. The noble Lord concluded by moving the insertion of the clause.

Moved, after Clause 10, to insert the following clause:— Where any person convicted in pursuance of the last preceding section is in the judgment of the court a girl under the age of sixteen years, the court, if satisfied on inquiry that such girl—

  1. (a.) has no proper guardianship, or
  2. (b.) is lodging, living, or residing with common or reputed prostitutes, or in a house resided in or frequented by prostitutes for the purpose of prostitution,
may, in addition to or in substitution for any punishment to which she may be liable, order such girl to be sent to a certified home within the meaning of this Act. One of Her Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State may, in manner provided by the Reformatory Schools Act, 1866, certify any home in- tended for the reception of girls sentenced to be sent to a certified home under this section as a special reformatory school for that purpose. To any home so certified all the provisions of the Reformatory Schools Act, 1866, and any Acts amending the same, shall apply, except that any girl may be sent to such a certified home without any previous sentence of imprisonment."—(The Lord Norton.)


said, that he was sorry he could not accept the Amendment of the noble Lord. The original clause he had referred to had been struck out, because, on inquiry, it had been found that it would be extremely difficult to work.


said, that the Bill did nothing whatever for the reformation of the girls, who were left by it precisely in the same state in which they disgraced our streets.

Clause negatived.

Moved, in page 5, before Clause 11, to insert the following clause:— When any trial takes place in relation to any offence under this Act, it shall be lawful for the court or presiding judge or magistrate, in their discretion, to direct that all women, and also all persons being or appearing to be under the age of twenty-one, shall be excluded from the place where such trial is being heard or conducted."—(The Lord Fitzgerald.)


, in opposing the clause, said, he believed it would throw a doubt on the existing power of Judges to exclude the public from their Courts when they might consider it advisable to do so. It would, he thought, be better to leave the matter as it stood.


supported the clause.

Motion agreed to.

Clause added to the Bill.

Clause 12 (Summary proceedings against brothel keepers, &c.).


, in moving the rejection of the clause, said, he did so on the ground that they would be overburdening the Bill if they adopted its provisions. He was as anxious as any of their Lordships to promote morality; but he believed that they would defeat their object if they made their legislation too drastic. The retention of the clause would be likely to lead to the resort to public-houses and hotels rather than the homes of the women, who could not be got rid of by merely driving them from their lodgings. He therefore moved its omission.

Moved, To leave out Clause 12.—(The Earl of Limerick.)


said, the clause did not make any substantial addition to the present law, although it rather enlarged the definition of the houses and of the keepers of them. By instituting a summary mode of procedure it would greatly facilitate the working of the law, which at present was very ineffective.

On Question, "That the said Clause stand part of the Bill?"

Their Lordships divided: — Contents 49; Not-Contents 15: Majority 34.

Resolved in the affirmative.

Clause 13 (Future tenancies determinable for keeping brothel).

On the Motion of The LORD CHANCELLOR, Clause struck out.

Question, "That the Bill do pass?" put, and agreed to.

Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.