Motion For A Select Committee
rose to call the attention of the House to the unfair and ruinous competition to which the mat and matting makers are subjected by the extensive employment of Convict Labour in that trade, by the application of steam power in Wakefield Prison to that manufacture, and to the prices at which the product of Convict Labour is sold by the Prison authorities, to the great prejudice of the mat and matting makers in the free labour market; and to move for a Select Committee to inves- tigate and report upon the subject. The hon. Gentleman said that the manufacture of mats and matting formed an industry which had been in existence in the metropolis, in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, and in a very minor degree in many other towns and villages in the country for 50 years, and it employed 3,000 men, whose wages were from 16s. to 18s. per week, and 2,000 women and children, who received respectively half and a quarter of that remuneration. About 30 years ago convict labour was diverted in some of our prisons from the manufacture of woollen hearthrugs to the manufacture of coire mats and matting, and 10 years ago steam power was introduced into the Wakefield Prison, and applied to that manufacture. The product of prison labour was sold at a rate below its real value, and therefore an unfair competition was created with free labour, which had resulted in the reduction of the wages of honest operatives by at least one-third of the former earnings, whilst at the same time the decreased demand for free labour had deprived the bulk of the operatives of full employ. It was neither intended nor wished by those on whose behalf he was speaking, nor by himself, to deprecate remunerative labour in the prisons. He had read several opinions on the subject of prison labour lately, and they differed very widely. Some high authorities, gentlemen well versed in the question, were decidedly in favour of prisoners being confined to hard labour of the 1st class—that is, to the tread-wheel, the crank, shot drill, and the like. They dissented altogether from that view of the matter. They were of opinion that such labour tended to brutalize the prisoner, and they looked upon the introduction of industrial pursuits in the prisons of this country as a great step in the right direction. But they contended, at the same time, that the employment of their convicts in remunerative labour should not be concentrated on one trade, and especially on one of so limited a character as the mat trade, but that it should be fairly apportioned amongst many, and especially distributed amongst those greatly more productive, in reduction of the gaol rate, than confined to the comparatively unproductive trade of mat-making. The unfair competition was not only unjust in itself but had so deteriorated the free labour market that discharged convicts could not, even if qualified, find employment after their discharge from prison, the market being overstocked with unconvicted labourers, at little more than half wages. Again, the gaol supply of mats and matting is in surplus of the legitimate demand for those articles, and being sold in the market under value was inevitably driving the free labourer towards the workhouse. The gaol manufacturers enjoyed a virtual monopoly. Honest labour was placed at a ruinous discount in this hopeless competition in the field of industry, and it must succumb to its unmerited fate, unless by the intervention of the Legislature the gaol market be restricted to Government supply, and the work of the convicts be equally distributed over a number of industrial employments. From the Prison Reports he gathered that in Manchester Prison, out of 491 prisoners 110 were chiefly employed in the mat trade; in Leeds Borough Gaol, the mat-makers were more numerous than those engaged in five other trades, 110 out of 297 being engaged in that trade; and in Wakefield, 800 prisoners out of 1,187, or eight-twelfths of the whole, were put to mat-making, and realized £6,373. Many of the prison authorities gave no detail of the occupation of the prisoners, but stated only the results. One of the reasons against making the return particularly was the alleged expense; but everyone knew that, if the accounts of the gaols were properly kept, making the return would involve no expense at all. The Wakefield authorities had evidently evaded the obligation to make returns. A correspondent informed him that the Wakefield authorities justified their course by saying they were the first to introduce cocoanut fibre matting into England; but his correspondent also assured him this was not the fact. In the year 1870 Wakefield Prison presented a thorough commercial organization—was, in fact, just like a large warehouse. The Governor of the prison used to go to Liverpool to buy the raw material for the mats; but his continued absence was found inconvenient, and he discontinued the practice. Now, however, Wakefield Prison had its buyers, its commercial travellers, and its salesmen—and while he did not complain of the gaol authorities embarking in such a trade, he did complain of their selling the goods produced at less than their real value; and he complained of the introduction of steam power to aid them in the process. He did not deny that the prison price list was the same as that in London and other places; but mats of far superior quality were sold at the same price as inferior mats outside. At this prison they had one of the cleverest machinists in the country, and a great portion of the money made in the course of the year was devoted to the improvement of the machinery, so that they obtained machinery of a very superior character, and such as no manufacturer could venture to purchase with the hope of profit. He now wished to show that that this question was not limited to England. This subject had occupied the attention of the State of New York, and the Commissioners on Prison Labour had condemned the system of supplying contractors at a low price with shoes and other articles made by prisoners; but the witnesses whom they examined did not object to prison labour if the prices were the same as those outside. In Denmark 15 or 20 trades were imparted in the prisons, and in prisons in France 62 trades were carried on. Those whom he represented had no desire to interfere with industrial labour in prisons, and he might state that there was no more orderly or peaceful body of men in this country than the mat-makers. In the course of 50 years not one of them had been brought up at any police-court; and on behalf of those men he must express a hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department would grant the Committee for which he moved.
seconded the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That a Select Committee be appointed to investigate and report upon the alleged unfair competition by the employment of Convict Labour in Prisons, and the prices at which the product of such Labour is sold, especially with reference to Wakefield Prison."—(Colonel Beresford.)
, in moving, as an Amendment—
said, the question which had just been raised was one which had been foreseen some years ago by one of the greatest advocates of industrial labour in prisons, Mr. Perry, who, in his evidence before the Committee of the House of Lords in 1863, had said that if county or borough funds were to be used as capital to undersell the trader, a great clamour would be raised against labour in prisons. He (Mr. Kennaway) believed there was a growing feeling in the country in favour of industrial labour in prisons. It was felt that rogues should not live at the expense of honest men without being required to contribute towards the cost of their maintenance; and, further, that the influence of industrial labour had a very good reformatory effect. It was, therefore, desirable that the whole question should be inquired into, in order that the working classes might learn that it was to their interest that profitable labour should be carried on in prisons. Such an inquiry could not be confined to the operation of the system in a single prison, and with regard to one trade; but it would be necessary to ascertain the conditions under which there were confined in the 187 gaols of Great Britain an average number of 20,000 men, maintained at a cost, falling chiefly on the ratepayers, of £667,000. The present system, he thought it right to state, had been in vogue about eight years. Committees of that House had been appointed to investigate the subject in 1835 and 1850, and in 1863 Lord Carnarvon moved in the House of Lords for another Committee on the ground of the great anxiety which was felt as to the number of ticket-of-leave men then about the country, and more especially because the system of transportation had lately come to an end, and there was a strong desire to know what should be done with our criminal population. That Committee reported, and two years afterwards a Bill was brought in by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), who was at the time Home Secretary, which was the Act by which our gaols were now regulated. Its principles were strict supervision, accompanied by penal labour at the beginning of the imprisonment; then permission to engage in industrial labour; and, lastly, promotion of deserving prisoners to employment in the services of the prison as a reward. What had been the results of that Act? There were various opinions on the subject. There were some men of great experience who did not hesitate to denounce it; but it was regarded by Sir Walter Crofton as a step in advance, and as needing only further development to become a great success. In the five years from 1860 to 1865 the average commitments were 138,441; for the first five years after the passing of the Act they were 156,330. The fact that there had been an increase must not be too much relied on as a guide in this matter. The number of commitments did not depend altogether upon prison discipline, but very much upon the state of the labour market, upon the activity of the police, emigration, and other circumstances. He feared he was putting the figures too low if he said that at least 75 per cent of the crime of the country went undetected and unpunished. It was not satisfactory to find that 35 per cent of the males and more than 45 per cent of the females had been committed more than once, and that no fewer than 5,649 had been committed 10 times and upwards. We had, therefore, no great reason to congratulate ourselves or suppose that our system was perfect. The value of the prisoners' labour was estimated at £41,271, half of which was cash, half work useful in the prisons. That amounted to about 1½ d. a-day for each prisoner. But 45 per cent of the committals was for short periods of 14 days. When we considered that fact, and also how unskilled the labour was, and how unwillingly it was rendered, we could hardly wonder that the results had been so small. But what he wanted to know was whether the Act was intelligently carried out—carried out not merely in the letter, but in the spirit of the instructions sent out from the Home Office in 1865. Were the prisoners carefully classified, as recommended by the Committee of 1863, was a good mark system in force, and was the intelligent co-operation of the prisoner sought, whereby he might raise himself, diminish his discomforts, and so advance in the path of reformation? In the opinion of many persons there was a great want of uniformity in our present mode of proceeding. One gaol was all that could be desired. There the prisoners commenced with penal labour, proceeded to industrial labour, and their condition became gradually improved. In another the system of penal labour was enforced throughout the whole term of a man's sentence, while that of industrial labour was neglected, and the prisoner had no encouragement. If we compared the Reports of the present year with those of five or six years ago a lamentable falling-off was apparent, and the reason was that the Home Office had not appointed additional Inspectors. The two Inspectors could just manage to go round the prisons once in 18 months, perhaps; but, when called upon to visit them once a-year, it was impossible to do so in a satisfactory manner. Accordingly, instead of personal inspection, we found in the Reports that it was "stated" there were appliances for hard labour; and in some the hours for hard labour were given, in others not. It was a waste of money to employ Inspectors who did no more than was done at present; but it was not the fault of Parliament, because by 4 & 5 Will. IV. there was power to appoint five Inspectors; and if that was necessary some time ago it was still more necessary now. Now, was it desirable to extend the system of industrial labour as far as we could, and was the amount of penal labour, as represented by the treadwheel, which was enforced by the Prisons Act of 1865, really necessary? It was true the Committee of the House of Lords reported in its favour, on the ground that penal discipline was the most deterrent of all, and that industrial labour, however continuously enforced, could never amount to hard labour. To carry out that view the county ratepayers had been put to great expense in putting up tread wheels, and tread wheel labour for three months was exacted at the beginning of each sentence. But that Report was against the evidence of two men who might be supposed to know more about the matter than almost any others, and whose testimony was to the effect that the punishment of the tread wheel was most unequal, and that while the tramp and the sailor could bear it without suffering much, it pressed very severely on those who had been accustomed to sedentary pursuits. He did not want to abolish the wheel; but he thought less restriction should be placed in the way of engaging the men in industrial labour. Sir Joshua Jebb and Sir Walter Crofton recommended the labour of the treadwheel or something similar, but to a limited extent. Sir Joshua Jebb was in favour of a system of encouragement, and of early selection and promotion from the third class of labour to the first or second; and Sir Walter Crofton after one month would allow a man "to work himself off" the treadwheel by industry at other occupations. It was clearly the opinion of the House and the country that productive labour in our prisons should be maintained; but we were very much at sea as to what kind the labour should be. At present a very large proportion of prison labour was employed in matting, and an inquiry was wanted to see how a more advantageous distribution might be effected. At Munich there was a self-supporting prison, where the whole of that blue cloth which was so well known in the uniforms of the Bavarian officers was made. Such an inquiry as he recommended was wanted for the convict prisons too, for we had the directors constantly suggesting new public works because they could not find satisfactory industrial employment for the men in the prisons. With the co-operation of the Government new branches of industrial employment might be easily opened. In Durham Prison articles were manufactured by the dozen; but everything depended on the heads of the prisons, and if they did not give encouragement the labour did not come to much. They were, however, working in the dark at present, for they did not find anything suggested from head-quarters, and they took up mat-making in despair. Some prisons were reported to be in a totally inefficient state as regarded the provisions of the Act; and it was necessary to adopt means for enforcing those provisions. The Prisons Act of 1865 had a schedule of condemned prisons which had since ceased to exist. It was found that the average number of prisoners at Oakham Prison was 5; Barnstaple and Tiverton, 7½; Lancaster, 16; Stamford, 5; and Appleby, 9. It was doubtful whether such places should be any longer maintained. One of the recommendations of the Committee appointed in 1850, on the Motion of Mr. Charles Pearson, was that there should be some central supervision over the local authorities. The local authorities were not encouraged or instructed as they ought to be from head-quarters. In Ireland 81 per cent was contributed by the Imperial Government for the repression of crime, and he could not understand why only 31 per cent should be contributed for a similar purpose in this country. He thought the question was one which ought to be further ventilated. Another point that deserved consideration was the sentences inflicted. One great prison authority was of opinion that we ought to look rather to the sentences imposed than to the treatment in prison for a repression of crime. The Liverpool magistrates took the same view, and had memorialized the Government on the subject. They suggested that the inflicting of cumulative punishment should be extended to secondary offences in the cases of persons who had been frequently committed. The Prisons Act had been in operation for seven years. That was a great step in advance, but we must not suppose that it was a perfect measure, and that we had nothing to learn on that matter. He trusted it had been shown that there was cause for inquiry, and a necessity for fuller inspection, and the time had come for some decision on the subject. They ought to put an end to the uneasiness that existed in the minds of the working classes, who deemed that they were being unfairly dealt with. It was for the Home Secretary to decide the time when the inquiry should be made. He was ready to adopt the sentiment of the philanthropic Howard, that "If you wish a man to be honest you must make him industrious." He had no desire to press unduly for productive labour, or to ignore the fact that deterrent influences had a wider effect than reformatory; but it was because he believed steady, active, honourable labour to be the basis of all reformatory discipline, that he sought for a more extended recognition of its principle. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Amendment of which he had given Notice."That the Committee have power to inquire also into the character of the labour now enforced in the county, borough, and convict prisons of Great Britain, and the extent in which such labour is productive as well as reformatory,"
To add, at the end of the Question, the words "and that the Committee have power to inquire also into the character of the labour now enforced in the county, borough, and convict prisons of Great Britain, and the extent in which such labour is productive as well as reformatory."—(Mr. Kennaway.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
said, that his hon. and gallant Friend who had introduced this Motion had cast some severe reflections on the visiting justices of the Wakefield House of Correction, and it was needful that these should be refuted. Wakefield Prison had ceased to be a convict prison for the last five years; but of 1,096 prisoners, only 584 were employed in mat-making. Others were employed as shoemakers, tailors, joiners, masons, &c. The time during which a large portion of the prisoners were thus employed was too short to teach them any sort of remunerative labour but mat-making, and he trusted the Legislature would not interfere with this. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had stated that the authorities of Wakefield Prison undersold other manufacturers with regard to mats. Such was not the case, for there were two firms in Wakefield at present who were driving a good trade in the same branch of industry. Another allegation was, that the prison authorities resorted to questionable means for the purpose of forcing their wares on the public. So far from that being the case, only one traveller was employed to conduct the whole of the business connected with the prison of Wakefield. They had no agent in London, or in any of the large towns. The competition was so great that it was no easy matter for the authorities of Wakefield Prison to deal with it, and the result was that more than half the product of the prison was exported to America and other countries. As to the machinery employed in the prison, this had not been provided out of the rates, but out of the prisoners' hard earnings, and it was only so employed in the manufacture of one particular kind of mat, which required two persons, while the prison rules precluded two men from being placed in one cell. Steam power was accordingly resorted to. The magistrates had no wish to "evade" inquiry, a rather discourteous term for his hon. and gallant Friend to use. Indeed, he himself invited him to inspect the prison, offering him the hospitality which distinguished the North of England; but his hon. and gallant Friend had not accepted the invitation, for reasons best known to himself, probably fearing that what he would then see would open his eyes too much to justify the Motion he had pressed upon the attention of the House. He thought that if similar regulations were adopted by this part of the country they would all get on much more harmoniously. It was high time this alleged grievance should be set at rest, and he could assure his hon. and gallant Friend that the magistrates were doing nothing to injure his constituents.
contended that in the mat manufacture free labour was being undersold by prison labour. In the course of a discussion which occurred when he headed a deputation to the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the subject, it was shown that the prison authorities charged only half the price charged by other manufacturers, the effect of which system was to drive the honest artizan, not into prison—for he would not commit crime—but into the workhouse. Many, indeed, had been obliged to abandon the manufacture, and to emigrate, or go where they could. He did not object to the more extended inquiry proposed by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Kennaway); but attention must not be diverted from the question whether the labour of criminals, fed and housed at the public expense, prejudiced honest artizans. The hon. and gallant Member (Major Waterhouse) had not stated the prices charged at Wakefield.
explained, that price lists were constantly exchanged between the Wakefield Prison authorities and other large manufacturers.
had not been aware of that, but the House was still in the dark as to what the prices were, and even if the manufacturers were not injured it was obvious that the artizans were, their wages having to be reduced in order to meet prison competition. A statement was made at the interview with the Secretary of State for the Home Department to show that the price charged—he believed at Pentonville—did not interfere with free labour, but that statement, he afterwards learnt, was quite inaccurate. So far from the price charged by the Pentonville Prison being on a par with that charged by the manufacturer, it was not above half that amount. It was absolutely necessary that an inquiry into this question should be instituted when the 3,000 mat-makers in London were scarcely able to drag out a miserable existence, owing to the' competition they met with from the prisons.
said, he hoped the Government would not assent to the appointment of the Committee asked for. In the first place, he wished to know what such a Committee was to do when it was appointed? Was it supposed that the House would be willing to revert to the old principle that prisons were not to be made self-supporting, and were prisoners to be set to work at the crank instead of being employed in useful labour? Every shilling in the manufacture of mats at Wakefield was a saving to the country. It would next be suggested that the casual tramp was not to be required to break a certain quantity of stones in return for the food and shelter he had received, because his doing so would interfere with the trade of the professional stonebreaker. It was bad enough that the country should be put to any cost in keeping such people, and if the cost could be reduced from £20 a head to £15 a head, that was a benefit to the country. As regarded the Wakefield House of Correction, they had a price-list from the other large manufacturers of mats, and no attempt was made to sell mats below the average prices of the ordinary manufacturers. All that the manufacture of mats in prison did was to tend to keep down a monopoly. Great danger was to be apprehended from a reckless appointment of Committees in these days. In most cases the Government assented to the appointment of Committees to inquire into questions which had been brought forward by their supporters, not because they really believed that it was necessary that such inquiries should be made, but because they did not like to be rude and harsh towards hon. Members sitting on their side of the House. The consequence was that hon. Members whose opinions were of weight in the House declined to serve on such Committees, whose labours, they were aware, would lead to no practical result; and when those Committees had made their inquiries their Reports were "pooh-poohed" by everybody. He was of opinion that the great object of our penal system was to reform our criminal classes and to imbue them with habits of industry; and on that ground he should oppose the appointment of the Committee which had been asked for by the hon. and gallant Member.
opposed the appointment of a Committee. He adduced, as a proof that the course adopted at the Wakefield House of Correction was not likely to interfere with the general mat trade, the fact that the late Governor of that prison had become so convinced of the pecuniary advantages to be derived from entering into that trade that he had on quitting his appointment set up a mat manufactory on his own account. It was quite possible that mats might be sold to the wholesale dealer; but he did not think that mats came into the retail trade at a lower than the retail price. If the gaol honestly carried on the trade by legitimately and advantageously employing its convict inmates, it would be for the benefit of the country. But a gaol with fewer than 50 or 60 inmates at the least could not be supposed to keep its inmates at a reasonable rate. The question of punishment for short periods was one that could not be too seriously considered. If a person had been convicted eight or ten times the State should consider that such person was incapable of taking care of himself, and should look after him for two or three years at least.
also opposed the appointment of a Committee, and said, there was an Industrial Home in Wakefield for discharged male prisoners, in which mat-making formed part of the work done, but the private mat-makers in Wakefield did not complain of the competition either of the prison or the Industrial Home in that town. The other day he presided at a meeting held for the purpose of establishing an Industrial Home for discharged female prisoners at Wakefield. The object was to render the labour of prisoners, as far as possible, both remunerative and also reformatory. That female Industrial Home was intended to teach the inmates to do laundry work, and in doing that they would to some extent inevitably compete with free labour of the same kind; but so eager were the Yorkshire ladies to carry out the principle that not less than £6,000 was invested in support of that Industrial Home. If, therefore, the mat-making carried on in prisons competed to some limited degree with the trade carried on by the people of Southwark, it should be remembered that idleness was one of the most fruitful sources of crime, and that if every prisoner sent to gaol was compelled as far as possible to work while in confinement at some remunerative and deterrent employment, he would be less likely than would otherwise be the case to find his way there again after his liberation.
pointed out that there was another class of institution where that trade was carried on very largely, and, he hoped, remuneratively—namely, industrial and reformatory schools. With regard to the principles of political economy, he asked whether these principles were not favourable to the keeping down of the rates by making prisoners work, and thus checking crime. He was not aware that any complaint had been made about the work done in reformatory schools. He was opposed to the granting of a Committee of that kind, as it might tend to discourage the exertions of those benevolent institutions.
said, he would not have obtruded himself upon the attention of the House had he not been anxious to bring to its recollection the fact that this Motion had been made at the instance of 3,000 working men and women, who were in a state of semi-starvation at the present moment, from a cause which they said they could prove before a Committee—namely, that the article they manufactured was sold at a price scarcely above the value of the material used in the process. If that were true, he, as a manufacturer, said it ought not to be so. At any rate, the subject was one fit for investigation. He was not about to press for an immediate acceptance of the Motion by the Home Secretary; but he hoped his right hon. Friend would be able to give the House some assurance that either now or next Session there would be some general investigation of the nature suggested by the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Kennaway) with reference to labour in prisons. He (Mr. Morley) was a decided advocate of labour in prisons, and that productive labour. He believed that it was bad moral economy to keep prisoners unemployed, and bad political economy to make their labour unremunerative. To make their prisons self-supporting, if that were possible, was worth any attention that could be given to the subject by those who were interested in the condition of the prisons of the country. He was satisfied that the employment of prisoners in honest labour had a reformatory tendency; but he contended, upon every principle of political economy, that they had a right to demand, on behalf of the working classes of this country, that the labour of the criminal class should not be forced into the market at prices utterly ruinous to them in the form of competition. A large body of persons, to whose condition he could personally testify, were at this moment suffering very deeply in the City of London and elsewhere, from mats, made not only in the Wakefield gaol, but in the London prisons, being sold at the prices he had indicated.
MR. J. G. TALBOT
said, he thought that if this had been a local grievance, affecting Southwark only, it might have been met by a deputation to the Home Office rather than by a Motion for a Select Committee. But mat-making by prisoners was not confined to Wakefield, nor was that kind of competition confined to Southwark alone. Mats were made in many large prisons, and in Kent, with which he was connected, that was certainly the case. The House was much indebted to the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Kennaway) for showing that that question ought to be looked at from a larger and broader point of view. The administration of prisons was one of the most important subjects that could occupy the attention of the House, affecting as it did not only the criminal class, but the interests of the whole community, and being also intimately connected with the pressure of local taxation, at present so onerous and oppressive. He did not know there was any subject, looking at it from the reformatory point of view, the deterrent point of view, and every point of view, which demanded more serious attention from the Parliament and Government than prison discipline. At present there was an extraordinary diversity in the treatment of discharged prisoners in different counties. In some counties scarcely any assistance was given to them, in others they were very liberally assisted; and in Kent the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Society systematically dealt with every case of a discharged prisoner who was worthy of assistance, and dealt with it in a most satisfactory manner. It was worth while having a Committee to consider whether, by helping such societies more than was done at present, they could not diminish crime. Industrial Schools hardly came within the terms of that Motion; but the whole penal system of this country required close looking into. With respect to recommittals, as a chairman of quarter sessions, if they must have prisoners, he would rather have old prisoners than a crop of new ones coming into their place. Judges and courts of quarter sessions might be armed with larger power to deal with cases of recommittal; but, if that were done, care ought also to be taken that those powers were acted upon, and that a minimum sentence in such cases was laid down by law. He had observed with amusement the sentences passed by some Judges of Assize; and he had heard a learned Judge sometimes say that chairmen of quarter sessions knew the habits and occupations of those who were brought before them better than they did, and were more likely to apportion their sentences to their crimes than the Judges themselves were. If the Amendment should be pressed to a division he should cordially support it, because he considered the whole subject of penal discipline well worthy of the attention of Parliament.
said, he thought that the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Kennaway) had been most justly complimented for the interesting statement he had made to the House; but the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark (Colonel Beresford) had, perhaps, some reason to complain of it, for the larger subject had completely eclipsed the smaller one which the hon. and gallant Member introduced to the notice of the House. The discussion afterwards deviated into the general question of prison discipline, and whether the sentences to be inflicted by the Judges should or not be further regulated by Parliament; but he would endeavour to restrict his observations to the two subjects which had been first brought before the House. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark that when complaints were made by 3,000 working people to the effect that they were injuriously affected by the system pursued in gaols, the subject was not unworthy of the attention of the House; but he was at a loss to know on what grounds the complaints could be justified. Prisons were divided into two classes. There were, on the one hand, convict prisons under the superintendence of the Government, and, on the other hand, the county and borough prisons. Of the ten convict prisons, it was only in two that the making of matting was carried on, a great variety of trades being conducted in the remainder. The number of trades taught amounted to no less than 38, and of 89 convicts dismissed from one gaol, no less than 75 had acquired some degree of skill in trades, of which they had previously known nothing. In Pentonville and Milbank, no doubt, the trade of mat-making was, among others, followed; but generally the object had been to find a multiplicity of employments, in which prisoners might, after their discharge, earn an honest livelihood. It might be true, as had been said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, that the matting trade had been overdone, and that the discharged prisoners were not likely to find employment in that trade; but the reason why the prisoners were trained to mat-making was because the majority of the prisoners in the country prisons were confined for a short time, and they could not, therefore, be trained to shoe-making or other trades, which it required some time to acquire. It must be recollected that the modern system of imprisonment was founded upon the separation of prisoners, and therefore it was necessary to find work that could be done by individuals separately. As to price, he had made inquiries, and found that the prison authorities got the best price that they could for their goods, and did not undersell the ordinary traders, though no doubt the very fact that they manufactured large quantities of articles would affect the interests of those engaged in the trade. As to Wakefield Prison, it had been remarkable as an extremely well-conducted prison, and he was informed that the application of cocoanut fibre for mat-making was first introduced there 30 years ago. He said this because it had been alleged that a manufacturer claimed to have introduced it 25 years ago. The steam engine was introduced in Wakefield in the year 1853, and it was employed for various purposes besides the making of matting. There was a difficulty found in disposing of the work unless the broader matting could be made, and as they could not employ two prisoners together to make broad matting, it became necessary to introduce the steam engine; but the prisoners working in the steam department only amounted in number to 61 out of upwards of 1,100, the rest being employed on mat-making generally. It was said that this matting was produced in such large quantities that the trade was undersold; but the answer to that statement was, that a great firm, the principal of which had been connected with Wakefield Prison, had set up at Wakefield a mat manufactory, which still existed, and employed people at good wages, and close to him there were two other similar manufactories. This was enough to demonstrate that mats were not sold by the prison authorities for less than the cost price. He did not think that the subject, as regarded Wakefield Prison, deserved the attention of a Select Committee. The hon. and gallant Member particularly objected to the employment of steam machinery; but it appeared that there was only one prison in all England where steam machinery was employed in mat-making. He therefore thought it was hardly worth while to appoint a Committee to inquire into that subject, and thereby increase the labours of the Members of that House, many of whom were already engaged on Select Committees. He was, however, inclined to question the policy of employing in Wakefield Prison so very large a proportion of the prisoners in one branch of industry. He found that in some other gaols—such, for instance, as Salford, where there were 800 or 900 prisoners—there were more trades taught, and yet the earnings were considerably larger, and the cost to the ratepayers of course proportionately small. At Wakefield the average cost of a prisoner was £17 or £18; at Salford and Preston, only £10 17s. 6d.; and at Durham, where there were more kinds of employment than anywhere else, the cost for each prisoner was £13. In 1869, the cost of the county and borough prisons was £498,000, whilst the labour of prisoners produced only £41,000. In prisons, however, where the prisoners were kept longer in confinement, the result was different, and therefore, while the cost of the convict prisoners in 1870 was £299,000, the value of their work amounted to £184,000, and at Portsmouth and Chatham the earnings of the prisoners actually exceeded the cost of their keep, though of course Woking and Dartmoor, which were invalid prisons, could not show so flourishing an account. That showed that very considerable results might be produced by the proper employment of prison labour, and it also showed the difficulty of applying that system generally. He would now advert to the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Kennaway), and it appeared to him that anyone who heard the speech of that hon. Member would come to the conclusion that the existing state of things was one of continually increasing crime, and that some new efforts were necessary to stop that increase of crime. About eight years ago this subject received the most earnest attention on the part of Government, transportation having ceased, and prison discipline having been shown to be very imperfect. In 1865 the Prisons Act was passed by his right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey). Now, let him call the attention of the House for a moment to the facts with respect to the supposed increase of crime. The idea was that the number of committals showed an increase of crime; but it should be remembered that there was now a better and more vigilant police; the streets were better kept, and there was a greater number of committals than formerly. But he would test the figures as to the more important crimes. In 1840, when the population of England and Wales was 15,730,000, no fewer than 3,105 prisoners were transported. Coming down to the year before transportation on a large scale ceased—in 1852, when the population was 18,200,000—the number of prisoners sentenced to penal servitude was 2,896. The year before the Prisons Act was passed, the population being 20,900,000, the number of prisoners sentenced to penal servitude was 2,445. In 1870, when the population had increased to 22,100,000, the number of prisoners sentenced to penal servitude was only 1,788. So that with respect to the graver class of crimes the number of prisoners had decreased 50 per cent, while the population had increased 30 per cent. The number of committals had diminished nearly one-half, while the population had increased one-third. But it might be said that modern practice had diminished the severity of punishment, and various Acts had been passed which enabled magistrates to deal summarily with offences. In 1860, when the population was 19,900,000, the number of persons sentenced to imprisonment was 11,799; in 1870, the number of such sentences was 11,150, while the population was 22,100,000; so that, while there was an increase in the population of more than 2,000,000, there was a considerable decrease in the number of convictions. This was very cheering. There was an improved system of punishment, a better system of prison discipline, industrial schools were established, education and every other good influence told in diminishing the criminal population. It did not, however, follow that there might not be further improvement; and it had been suggested that there should be more uniformity of prisons and more inspection. With re- spect to uniformity, that subject had been most thoroughly considered by the House in 1865. Lord Carnarvon, who had earned the respect of the whole country by the ardour, zeal, and intelligence he had brought to bear on the question, was Chairman of the Committee of the other House which reported upon it, and he suggested that imprisonment during the first period of three months should be entirely penal, and limited to the treadwheel, cranks, and shot drill; that there should be no sort of remunerative labour, and that it should be made as disgusting and deterrent as possible. But Parliament did not accept that view. They drew the same distinction between penal and reformatory punishment. They laid down the principle that the earlier period of punishment should be penal, with the power of relaxing it; but they absolutely declined to lay down a new principle. Under the Act of 1865 a certain amount of unremunerative penal discipline was necessary. There must be in every prison a treadwheel or crank. There were a certain number of prisons at this moment where the treadwheel and crank were never used during the first three months of the sentence; but the 9th section of the Prisons Act defined the alternative in these words, "or such other description of hard bodily labour as may be appointed by the Justices in Sessions." The Justices had acted differently; some thinking it advantageous to have the treadwheel, while others dispensed with it altogether. The other point referred to by his hon. Friend was inspection; the present system, he said, was defective because the inspection was insufficient. The recommendation of the Committee was, that every prison should be inspected every year at least. That was done now, and the Inspector was enjoined to put himself in communication with the visiting justices, and call their attention to any defect he might observe in the discipline and management of prisons. He was assured by the Inspectors that they found every year greater interest exhibited by the justices in the, discipline and management of the prisons. No doubt, one or two blots had been hit; but they were mostly old and well known. There was the case of Cumberland, where, from a difference of opinion among the magistrates, there were two bad gaols instead of one good one. The attention of the Home Office had also been drawn to Portsmouth, and it was hoped that what had been complained of would not much longer continue. Was there any case made out for the larger inquiry suggested? He had shown that, instead of an increase, there had been a great diminution of crime—he had shown that on the part of the prison authorities the tendency was to enforce labour, and to do what the public interest demanded, to fit prisoners to return to an honest life by teaching them some industry, and he had also shown that the inspection was such as the Act of Parliament contemplated. The necessity for increased inspection was obviated by the fact that stringent rules had been laid down in 1865 by which the management of prisons in future was to be guided, and Schedules were constructed to introduce a certain amount of uniformity. No case had been made out for further inquiry. In conclusion, he asked the House to support him in resisting not only the original Motion, but also the Amendment.
, in explanation, denied that he had ever charged the Wakefield Prison authorities with having appropriated the county rates to the purchase of steam machinery. He was satisfied with the ventilation the question had received, and would not press his Motion.
Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.