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Corporal Punishment

Volume 113: debated on Tuesday 31 March 1987

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'(1) Any person who shall—

  • (a) unlawfully assault or beat any other person;
  • (b) make use of provoking language or behaviour tending to a breach of the peace;Or
  • (c) commit an act of criminal damage shall be liable on summary conviction in addition to, or instead of, current penalties, if the offender is a male child or male young person, to be whipped.
  • (2) The expression "child" and "young person" mean respectively an individual of or over the age of 10 and under 14 and an individual of or over the age of 14 and under 18.

    (3) The instrument used shall, in the case of a child, be a cane, and in any other case shall be a birch rod.

    (4) The court in its sentence shall specify the number of strokes to be inflicted, being in the case of a child not more than six strokes, and in the case of any other person not more than 12 stokes.

    (5) The whipping shall be inflicted privately as soon as practicable after sentence.

    (6) The whipping shall be inflicted by a constable in the presence of an inspector or other officer of police of higher rank than a constable or by some other person appointed by the Court, and, in the case of a child or young person also in the presence if he desires to be present of the parent or guardian of the child or young person.

    (7) The instrument to be used shall be—

  • (a) in the case of a male child who is under the age of 14 years a light cane not exceeding four feet in length and not exceeding half an inch in diameter;
  • (b) in the case of a male person who is over the age of 14 a birch rod of the following dimensions:
  • Weight not exceeding9 ounces
    Length from end of handle to tip of spray40 inches
    Length of handle15 inches
    Circumference of spray at centre6 inches
    Circumference of handle at top of binding3½ inches
    Circumference of handle 6 inches from end3¼ inches

    (8) In all cases where a court is empowered to impose a sentence of whipping a medical report as to whether the offender is fit to receive the punishment will be made available to the Magistrates before they consider sentence.

    (9) The whipping shall be inflicted on the posterior over the child's ordinary cloth trousers.

    (10) A medical practitioner shall be present during a birching and may at his discretion order the stopping of the punishment at any time.

    (11) Where a birching has been stopped on medical grounds a report of the facts shall be forwarded immediately to the Home Secretary.'.— [Mr. Hawksley.]

    Brought up, and read the First time.

    I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

    The new clause provides the House with an opportunity to debate corporal punishment and it is desirable that we should do so. In both the 1979 and 1983 general elections the Government were elected on a policy of law and order and our electors were looking for great things. They have seen an increase in expenditure of 40 per cent. on law and order, and 14,500 extra policemen, many of whom have been taken out of their panda cars and put on the beat, yet the crime figures tell a sad story.

    The latest figures show a tragic national picture. In my constituency they show a 10 per cent. increase in crime last year. I know that the Opposition led the criticism of those figures, and it is right that our constituents should call for action. If we have not seen the due results from the increases in expenditure and extra police, we are entitled to ask what has gone wrong. We should consider deterrent sentences with encouragement and enthusiasm.

    I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman a question so that we can consider his speech in the context of his answer. Is it his view that the United Kingdom should cease to be a signatory to the European convention on human rights?

    The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) should wait and listen, because I shall come to that matter in a moment.

    I shall deal shortly with the judgment of that court.

    Some people may be slightly confused about where I chose the details of new clause 3. Unlike the hon. and learned Gentleman, I am no lawyer and I have no experience in drafting, so I used the wording of legislation that has been applicable in the Isle of Man for many years, namely, the Petty Sessions and Summary Jurisdiction Act 1927, which has stood the test of time and has been of benefit by being on the statute book.

    5 pm

    On my last visit to the Isle of Man to see how they tackled law and order, I heard from the chief of police on the island that many visitors, even after the birch was no longer used, when they arrived at Douglas would ask the first policeman they saw whether use of the birch was still permitted by statute, and when the policeman said yes, the visitors invariably said, "Do not worry, we will not cause any trouble." I think that that indicates the success of a deterrent. This provision would be a deterrent. It worked on the Isle of Man and it would work here.

    If the new clause is accepted by the House in principle, I would be only too happy to see the details amended in another place to bring it into line with other legislation, rather than have what is applicable in the Isle of Man.

    If increased expenditure and more policemen have failed to defeat crime, and if the number of assaults is rising, what will solve the problem? Deterrent sentences work, and corporal punishment should be used as a deterrent.

    When I first raised this issue in Committee on the Criminal Justice Bill in 1982, the debate took place over one day and my speech proposing the amendment took one hour to make with comments from the Opposition. I have no intention of speaking for that length of time now, as this issue can be dealt with quickly.

    When corporal punishment was considered in 1948, crimes of violence against the person were running at 5,183 a year. By 1981 that figure had gone up to 100,000. Since 1981 it has risen to 125,500, an increase of 25 per cent. Those are the latest figures, which were published the other day. Action is needed, and I believe that the public support action. The last public opinion poll that I saw suggested that about 70 per cent. wanted both capital and corporal punishment. Letters that I have received over the last two weeks have shown support for my proposal.

    The clause offers, not a finite sentence, but punishment that would be available in appropriate cases to our courts to be used in addition to the remedies that are already available. I believe that most criminals who commit offences at football matches, or who mug the elderly, often for only a few pounds, are basically cowards and would be worried and frightened by the thought of corporal punishment.

    Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that those who commit horrible offences of violence will be worried if they think that they will be caught and sentenced to custody? The problem is that the people who commit such offences are rarely caught. Does the hon. Gentleman think that his proposal would change that at all?

    I agree that it is important that criminals are apprehended, and I welcome the 14,500 extra policemen that have been provided by the Government.

    When the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) had responsibility for law and order, he succeeded in getting the police into their panda cars. I welcome the Government's action, because it will ensure that more football hooligans and muggers are caught. Since 1948 we have failed to make any inroads into the fight against crime and criminals. I suggest that this deterrent sentence should be placed in the armoury of the courts.

    The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery started to shout foul and said that the European Court of Human Rights has said that this cannot be done. I would lose no sleep if we left the European Court of Human Rights. Some of its decisions are most extraordinary. The Tyrer case rested on article 3 of the convention, which says that no one shall be subject to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The court cleared us—although the charge concerned the Isle of Man—on the question of torture or inhuman treatment, and ruled against us only on the question whether it was degrading.

    The British judge in that case, Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice, not only ruled in our favour, but denied that corporal punishment was degrading. I believe that we should pursue that argument in that court. Is it really degrading to birch a youngster who is prepared to commit horrific crimes at football matches and to mug elderly ladies? I say no. If anything is degrading, it is the treatment that those criminals give to their victims.

    I hope that the House and the Minister will accept the arguments that we put forward on the new clause. If not, I ask that consideration be given to setting up an independent inquiry, such as the 1968 Barry inquiry, into whether the reintroduction of corporal punishment would be a deterrent. It is now time—20 years after that 1968 inquiry—to have another inquiry and to argue the case if necessary before the European Court of Human Rights. I would welcome such a report, and would look forward to it with interest. I believe that the public are asking for action now. By virtue of the new clause, the House has the opportunity of so acting. I hope that the House and the Minister will accept my new clause.

    I believe that the new clause is repugnant, regressive and thoroughly reprehensible. The hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley) asks not only that this House turn back the clock, but that the clock he turned back to a time that never was, a time when he imagines that public lust for punishment was gratified by corporal punishment. Where does the hon. Gentleman get this nonsense about successful deterrence by the judicial flogging of youngsters?

    The hon. Gentleman, in putting forward the view that these sentences would have some real deterrent value, is tearing up all the criminological research, including very detailed research that has been carried out by the Home Office under the successive Governments on punishment of young offenders. He is tearing up all the judgments as to how best to deal with young offenders. In addition, he is tearing up what is known of the experience of many schools, especially schools in the private sector, in which corporal punishment has been widely used over a long period. [Interruption.]

    I hear an interruption from a sedentary position from the hon. Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle), who suggests that it was used successfully. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman went to a public school, but my recollection, having been to one, is that corporal punishment had little, if any, deterrent value. Few boys felt in any way deterred by the fear of the cane.

    I am reminded that there have been those who have come to like it. Leaving that aside, my view and that of many in education who have been able to judge these things over many years is that corporal punishment in schools never acted as a serious deterrent to anybody for anything to any significant extent.

    Furthermore, the clause is absolute nonsense. It seeks to introduce into our law a new crime, that of provoking language. I have been subjected to provoking language for the past five minutes from the other side of the Chamber. Is the hon. Member for The Wrekin really asking magistrates courts in his constituency or anywhere else to decide what is provoking language? There is also
    "behaviour tending to a breach of the peace".
    What behaviour provokes such a breach? [Interruption.] I wish that Conservative Members would listen. Their pleasure in this new clause is all too worrying. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that behaviour tending to, but not causing, a breach of the peace should justify judicial flogging?

    Another part of the clause requires whipping, as they are pleased to call it, to be
    "inflicted privately as soon as practicable after sentence."
    Those hon. Members who support this new clause wish to deprive young people of their right of appeal, as is clear from that part of the clause.

    The hon. and learned Gentleman will recall from his public school days, as I do, that part of the punishment was the length of time between committing the crime and the punishment being inflicted. The clause says that that time should be lessened. The punishment always waits for the crime. The hon. and learned Gentleman is saying that there should be a great length of time between the time of the offence and the time of the punishment. That is worse than what the clause is proposing.

    With respect to the hon. Gentleman, what he is suggesting is more worthy of South Africa than of the United Kingdom. Next, we shall have the hon. Gentleman, whose views on South Africa are well known, introducing an amendment that includes rhino whips. He is saying that he and his colleagues in favour of this new clause want to get rid of the right of appeal. At least we now have it from the mouth of one of the sponsors of the new clause.

    No, I shall not give way, because we have other new clauses to debate.

    In addition, we have heard—at least he put it, as one would expect, frankly—from the hon. Member for The Wrekin that he believes that the 40 years that we have spent as signatories to the European convention on human rights should be thrown away, so that we can have judicial flogging. He also believes that all the advantages that we have had from the convention and the advantages that we have had from ensuring that other signatories adhere to the convention should be thrown away to enable judicial flogging.

    With pleasure. The Interception of Communications Act was promoted by the hon. Gentleman's Government during this Parliament, and most of its provisions were supported by hon. Members on both sides of the House. That is one occasion when this Government have taken advantage of the European convention, but there are many others.

    Do the supporters of this new clause really believe that medical practitioners, as required by the new clause, and police officers, as required by the new clause, are prepared to take part in judicial flogging? What a lot of nonsense.

    The answer to crime among young people is not flogging them. It is better education, which includes some understanding of the role and activities of the police. It is better policing, which places more police officers on the beat so that young people know who they are and expect them to be within the community. It is better sentencing provisions, non-custodial as well as custodial. The real punishment for a child or a young person who commits an offence is when a police officer, almost invariably politely and fairly, comes to that young person, tells him that he has been caught, takes him to the police station, interviews him, and ensures that, if necessary, he is brought up before the court, and when that young person feels the whole panoply of sanctions of the law brought down on him. This new clause is certainly not the way.

    5.15 pm

    I support my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley). I deplore the words of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile), who obviously has not learnt from the experiences that he, among many on both sides of the House, has had of suffering this form of punishment.

    The new clause is introduced on the basis of the further deterrent that should be available to the courts in language that the sort of people who perpetrate such crimes for which this punishment is available would understand. The House is right to say to those who physically abuse others, as they do, without thought of property or person, should receive exactly the same treatment at the hands of the courts.

    In any society, the courts have every right to punish such people in the way that they have punished their victims. This is the type of language that they will appreciate. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery talked about delay, but it is the very swiftness of punishment that the deterrent would give that is part of what makes it so attrative. I suggest to him that it is attractive because it is swift and has an immediate effect, rather than keeping those offenders— many of whom will be young—of both sexes waiting for some judgment, with the delay that inevitably occurs after these incidents.

    We have suffered physical crimes in recent times. That is one reason why my hon. Friends are bringing forward tomorrow night the clause on capital punishment that I shall support. One of the reasons why we should inflict this type of punishment on these young offenders is that they so readily inflict it on others. I support the new clause. My hon. Friend for The Wrekin is absolutely right. I supported such a move in 1982 and I hope that the House sees fit to pass the new clause tonight.

    I am completely agnostic on the principle that lies behind this proposed new clause, but with some reluctance I have to say to my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley) that I shall not be able to support him. I accept that he is addressing two genuine matters. First, there can be no doubt that large numbers—I am not sure whether it is a majority—of our fellow citizens believe that there is a place for corporal punishment. They tell us that in our constituencies every week. Secondly, it is a fact that among our society today is a significant and growing number of vicious young beasts who, in my judgment, could well be more responsive to corporal punishment than they are to the range of punishments that are generally available through the courts.

    It was the common parlance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, when you and I were first elected to this House, that there was no such thing as a depraved child, only a deprived child, and that sociological dictum informed a good deal of our criminal justice and sentencing policy for some years. From experience, I have to say that that is not the case. It is a fact that perhaps the most serious crimes are committed now by youngsters between the ages of about 12 and 15, demonstrating, among other things, that whatever else the reason for their crimes, unemployment is not the main one.

    Much extremely brutal and violent crime is committed by young males between those ages. I shall detain the House merely to give one illustration. Not long ago, an elderly widow in her 80s was imprisoned in the airing cupboard of her council house. She was kept there for many weeks. When her body was eventually taken out, her weight had fallen to four and a half stone. She had lived in darkness amid the bodily juices that had accumulated during the period of her confinement and torture. She was kept there by three youngsters who had stolen her pension book and gone to the post office each week to obtain her pension by forgery. The old lady was about 84, and the youngsters who tortured and killed her were aged 14, 12 and 11. respectively.

    It is the common experience of the police that many extremely violent crimes are perpetrated by very young people. However, the new clause suggests—

    I am afraid that I cannot help the hon. and learned Gentleman, but the sentence was certainly not physical chastisement.

    The issue before us is whether—

    The hon. Gentleman has told us of an awful crime, although one such story does not prove that young people are more violent than older people. He said that the old lady died. If that is so, I presume that the offenders are now detained during Her Majesty's pleasure. One whipping would not be adequate to punish such a crime. How can he call that example into play to justify the new clause?

    The hon. Lady should listen more carefully. I said at the outset that I could not support the new clause. However, I was saying, and I repeat, that my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin is addressing a genuine problem, first because, whether we like it or not, many of our constituents believe that corporal punishment has a role to play, and, secondly, because it is a fact that there is in our society a significant and growing number of young beasts who inflict the most appalling physical tortures upon the elderly people whom they abuse.

    The question is whether the new clause would play a useful part in deterring such conduct, and my difficulties with that are twofold. First, there is no way that, in practice, we could achieve the intention of the clause, that whippings should be administered as soon as practicable after sentencing. There would be bound to be all kinds of prospects of appeal. The whippings would need to take place in the presence not only of parents or guardians, but of a medical practitioner. In some circumstances, it might be necessary for another party— for example, a social worker—to he present. The whippings could not take place in private; they would become a quasi-public exhibition. Inevitably, and rightly, the press would be interested, so the whipping would become a rather macabre and dismaying semi-public event.

    Secondly. subsection (6) states:
    "The whipping shall he inflicted by a constable"—
    presumably a police constable—
    "in the presence of an inspector or other officer of police of higher rank".
    I cannot believe that my hon. Friends—whose purpose I respect—can have consulted the police service before drafting that proposal. I have not consulted the police on the matter, but I am sure that the Police Federation of England and Wales, the Scottish Police Federation or the Police Federation for Northern Ireland would unanimously resist the proposal, for several reasons.

    First, a very large number of youngsters could fall to be whipped, and a police officer in a Bridewell—in this case a police station— might thus be required over a period of time to administer whippings to a great many youngsters. Any police officer who did that would become a pariah in the local community. Neither he nor his family could possibly live in the community if it became known that he was regularly administering whippings.

    Secondly, the overwhelming majority of police officers go into the service for a purpose entirely different from the administration of punishment. Their purpose is to prevent breaches of the criminal law and to uphold the Queen's peace. To turn them into surrogate whippers on behalf of the law would be to go against the whole purpose of the police service. Any police officer who was willing to undertake that duty, week in, week out, would not be the kind of man I would wish to have in the police service.

    Therefore, while I have a good deal of respect for my hon. Friend's purpose in the new clause, I do not think that, in choosing the police, he has chosen the right instrument. The whippings could not be achieved in the speedy fashion that he describes and, on balance, I do not believe that the new clause would fulfil my hon. Friend's purpose.

    I did not intend to speak in the debate. I have not put my name to the clause and I shall not support it in the Lobby because it is impracticable. However, the arrant nonsense talked by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Carlile) should not be allowed to pass without the injection of at least some common sense into the debate.

    A large proportion of my constituents deplore the appalling level of violent lawlessness in our society. However, whatever resources are made available and whatever action is taken by the Government to promote law and order—and I would be the first to praise the Government in that respect—still the violence increases and the peak age for offenders is 15. None of the 15-year-olds can be affected by economic punishment and, under article 3 of the European convention on human rights, none of them can apparently suffer physical pain, mental pain or anything degrading or humiliating. What then is left of punishment?

    When I go to Uttoxeter market or to the market place at Burton, people ask me, "What are you doing about law and order? What are you doing about our schools, which are churning out not only truants but young vandals and muggers who have not the slightest respect for others in society?" That is a matter for concern, which was not nearly as prevalent 20 or 30 years ago, before the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) and other hon. Members—mostly, although not exclusively, from the Labour Benches— decided that what was needed to deal with criminality was the soft, gentle, kind, caring, helpful and non-violent approach. It has been an absolute disaster.

    The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and other hon. Gentlemen laugh when my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley) puts forward an alternative proposal, which at least makes some kind of attempt to respond to the wishes and demands of the people whom we represent. Those who support the gently, gently, softly, softly, kindly, kindly approach, which has utterly and completely failed, ought to be quiet and not laugh.

    5.30 pm

    The hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned his constituency. Is it not a fact that the BBC programme "The Monocled Mutineer" featured a man called Percy Toplis who I think came from the hon. Gentleman's constituency, or from next door. The programme revealed that he was birched at the age of 11, and he finally finished up a few years later shooting a policeman after he had deserted from the Army. What good did the birching do him?

    That is very interesting, but I doubt whether such a confused individual could have come from my constituency. Of course it is possible to point to examples, perhaps many or them, of how corporal punishment at school has had a counter-productive effect and not produced successful results. I am not talking about that. I am saying that hon. Members should not laugh when I and my hon. Friends are expressing the genuine concerns, worries and fears of people who do not accept that corporal punishment in the home or in the school has to be thrown out of the window. The way to control youngsters in their early stages is to use a firm hand, if necessary. We have sold the pass, but if our schools had managed to control youngsters through the use of corporal punishment there would be less truancy, vandalism and violence among the 15, 16 and 17-year-olds in our society.

    I am sorry that in a matter of this kind, in which I think that the spirit is not only right but is a response to the proper demands of the people in our society, time has passed us by and it is no longer a practical proposal. There are too many obstacles and it is not something that the Government can countenance. I speak because I do not think that hon. Members should laugh at the kind of feeling that is enshrined in this clause.

    I rise to support my hon. Friend. My name is on the new clause— not because I get any pleasure from the thought that evil young people will end up being birched, but because constituents— [Interruption.] Hon. Gentlemen never listen to arguments; that is one reason for the situation that we are in today. The logic of the argument for the retention of corporal punishment was not listened to in the halcyon days when the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) was Home Secretary, when he talked about the kind of civilised society that he was creating, from which we are now suffering. The right hon. Gentleman obviously does not have the same concerns as his constituents and those of other hon. Members who live on the council estates and have to tolerate the awful, vicious, nasty youngsters that are running around those estates.

    I grew up on a council estate when youngsters like that did not exist. One of the reasons was that at that time the law had a much more effective way of dealing with those who transgressed. It is true that some may have graduated to much more vicious and evil crimes; I do not doubt that at all. But there were many more who were deterred, and it is the absence of adequate deterrents today that worries our constituents; it is the absence of what they see as adequate deterrents. It is quite right that this matter should be properly debated. Are we going to say in the House today that there is nothing effective that we can do about the growing number of young people who initially are basically nasty and who, if they are not deterred, can become evil and terribly vicious?

    It is a sad fact that those who get away with these basically nasty activities move on to more nasty, vicious actions. That is why we get increasing numbers of offenders. That is why 15 is the age of the majority of them.

    Is it not terribly sad that, when we have raised the school-leaving age to 16 as a statutory requirement, we should get this problem? The statutory age when I was at school was 14, but there were certainly no 15-year-olds at that time running around council estates causing mayhem and frightening old ladies, pensioners and others. That is the situation that exists on many of our large council estates, and it is quite wrong. I would have thought that Opposition Members, who often represent parts of the country where these large estates exist, would certainly have been much more concerned.

    This is not an occasion for personal abuse; it is not a matter on which we should attack each other or each other's integrity. That is what I find so disturbing—that if one wants to deter, one's integrity is attacked. I cannot understand that kind of logic.

    The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery is shaking his head. Perhaps when he reads his speech tomorrow he will realise how offensive he was and indeed how he suggested that there was no integrity among those who put their names to this new clause.

    Will the hon. Gentleman give chapter and verse of the evidence which justifies this absurd claim that what is proposed in the clause would have any real deterrent value at all? I believe that there is no such evidence, that the hon. Gentleman cannot point to any and that that is why we have heard nothing about any. I regret to put it this way, but in my view it is just their bigoted opinion.

    The hon. and learned Gentleman has again adopted the tactics of the clever lawyer, but he is not clever enough, because there is substantial evidence. The evidence that I gave was that when I was a schoolboy, when I was growing up on a fairly rough and tough council estate there were not the numbers of youngsters indulging in vicious crimes that there are today. That is a statement which the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot refute, because the facts are all there for anyone to examine. If one examines the figures for immediately before, during and after the war, one sees that there was nothing like the number of youngsters involved in those vicious, hideous nasty crimes that there is today, because deterrence was available.

    I sometimes wonder where the hon. and learned Gentleman and other hon. Gentlemen like him grew up, because I remember very well what the circumstances were. That is all I can say to hon. Gentlemen who attack the integrity of those who believe that we must look for and try to find alternatives.

    I take the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) that, sadly, we have moved into an era, as a result of the signing of the European convention on human rights and of other factors, in which Governments now find themselves boxed in. But the right place to debate these matters is in this House, so that the country knows that we care. At some future date, we may wish to repudiate agreements that have been entered into internationally, as indeed has happened before. We may wish to opt out at some future date. It is right that we should always put forward the views of our constituents so that they are on the record and at some future date may be acted upon. That is why I support this new clause.

    The hon. Gentleman is talking about council estates. Does he not think that prior to 1979 many of the kids he refers to, certainly in the mining communities, would have gone to work at 4.30 in the morning? Does he realise that of the 750 kids who left school in my constituency at the last school-leaving period, only 11 have found work? Those kids would normally go to the pits. Work is the deterrent for the youngsters.

    Without realising it, the hon. Gentleman has made my argument. If he reads carefully what he has just said, he will see that what he said in effect is that youngsters of 14 and over would be going to work. He has to realise that over 50 per cent. of those who commit crimes are under 15.

    Yes, but today over 50 per cent. of the youngsters who find themselves in trouble are under 14. That is what the hon. Gentleman has to realise. That was not changed by the alteration in the school-leaving age, it was the fact—

    The hon. Gentleman should listen to what I have to say, as I listened to him. Youngsters between the ages of 10 and 14 are appearing in our courts today. Things would be no different during the period he was talking about because they would still have been at school and would have been subjected to the disciplines of the school at that time, which included the use of corporal punishment and all the other deterrents I have mentioned. The hon. Gentleman has got it all wrong. Unfortunately, he does not want to face the facts.

    Like other hon. Members, I did not intend to speak in the debate. However, if such crude and silly things can be said in the Chamber, they need to be challenged, and we cannot let them go unchallenged.

    The Government are trying to support a myth and avoid the link that is known and proven whereby in any developed society, when unemployment rises, crime rises. The Prime Minister has falsely asserted that that is not proven but research evidence is absolutely clear. The Prime Minister has denied that twice from the Dispatch Box and she is wrong. The research evidence shows otherwise. The excuse she used—it has been used again today—is to suggest that no one over the school-leaving age commits crime. That is nonsense. We know that some crimes are committed by young people under the school-leaving age but masses of crimes are committed by young people over the school-leaving age and under 25. Conservative Members know that, but they just want to distort the facts and fabricate the evidence to justify their own ignorance and prejudice.

    Conservative Members have called in aid their own constituencies. In my constituency, there is an enormous problem of rising crime and a terrible problem of burglary, which means that most people are living with the fear of burglary all the time. It has risen rapidly in recent years There is an enormous fear of street attacks and all sorts of other crimes. However, none of my constituents has ever said that the answer is corporal punishment. It is obvious that my constituents have a great deal more wisdom, intelligence and understanding of the nature of the world and the nature of the problem than Conservative Members.

    Conservative Members have been exchanging views about where they grew up. I grew up in my constituency, and there was not that sort of fear and crime. I remember when we used to hear horror stories about the United States of America. We used to hear how everyone feared burglary, had alarms on their houses and used to take loose change in their pockets to give to the muggers. That was the society they lived in. We could not believe that, and we never thought that it would be like that here, but now it is getting like that. We must ask why. The answer is that society is more divided, bitter and nasty than it ever was in my youth and than I ever expected to see in my lifetime. It is creating a nasty, brutalised atmosphere, a lack of morality and a lack of sharing and concern for each other. This new clause would be a further brutalisation.

    5.45 pm

    What respect would we have for our criminal justice system if it took in young people and beat them when they committed crimes? More and more people would feel antagonistic to the system, they would reject it and lose their respect for it. That is what would come about. Conservative Members are not seeking to solve the problems of crime to make a safer and better society, but are seeking further brutalisation, and they would create nastier and nastier crimes.

    The extremely important question is, what evidence do they have that beating and whipping would reduce the rate of crime? On one occasion at my junior school, when I was about six, I was hit by a nun with a pointer. I still remember that, and I still have a sense of hatred towards her in my heart. She hit me twice on the hand. I also remember at my school many young lads who used to say, "I can take it." There were those tough kids who were always in trouble and who gloried in being able to be beaten and not mind. They were brutalised by the system and they had less and less respect for the school that hit them in that way.

    There is no evidence that it would deter crime. Conservative Members should not just keep asserting that it will because there is no evidence. I feel confident that we have not yet reached the stage where this society has so little civilisation that people would seriously recommend corporal punishment. However, if we ever reached that stage it would be just a further twist in the bitterness" division, polarisation, violent and nasty crime and the lack of respect for our criminal justice system.

    I support the basic contention of my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley) that corporal punishment should be available once more. It is a fact of life that we have some very nasty youngsters who just do not respect law and order. They have grown up in a permissive society under the poor parentage of people who do not believe in the punishment fitting the crime. These youngsters need quick and severe discipline as a way of correcting them and making them distinguish the difference between right and wrong.

    I have always believed that discipline breeds respect, and the new clause would certainly bring about some additional respect, just as we once had in the Isle of Man. I can give an example of the "baby squad" in Leicester, which went out of its way to be nasty, to intimidate elderly people and to break into elderly people's houses. Instead of receiving instant and proper discipline when the members of the squad were caught, they effectively got away with it. We have had football hooligans charging into Leicester City football club. They should have been birched. If the clause were to be passed, I believe that they would be birched, and that would be good. We need to correct the anti-social, criminal miscreants who are to be seen wandering on our streets today, within a mile of the House of Commons, and certainly in the Brixtons and Islingtons and many other places of high inner-city deprivation.

    Yes, even in some parts of Leicester.

    The fault must lie with the permissive society as advocated by softie Labour Home Secretaries, such as the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins). I want to see the punishment fitting the crime. The birch would certainly be an effective punishment. We must realise that many of our youngsters are potential law breakers. What punishment is available now? What sanctions are available to the courts today?

    It is all very well for Opposition Members to laugh and think that we are being nasty and enjoying speaking in this way, but I can tell them that the majority of parents want to see discipline brought back into society. They do not always discipline their children quickly enough. They believe, wrongly, that the schools will bring about the discipline, but the schools are now precluded from using the cane, which is a great tragedy.

    The one disadvantage of the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York was that on the eve of that wedding we had our important debate on corporal punishment. I was a teller for the Ayes in support of bringing back corporal punishment in the schools, but, because of the crowds outside in Parliament square, a number of hon. Members—12, I am told—were prevented from getting into the House to ensure that corporal punishment was still available in our schools. I think that it is a great tragedy that we do not have it.

    The sanctions that exist in schools— lines, cold showers, a cold bath, detention—are no deterrent. How would they correct anything? The short sharp shock that was advocated by the deputy Prime Minister—now the Leader of the House of Lords—was considerably more effective. So it would have been with the cane. It could have been used as instant or belated punishment. Other hon. Members might have had to wait outside the headmaster's door— as I did— to receive a good whacking. It was a nerve-wracking experience waiting to see if he would really cane me. Opposition Members might have a few laughs about the length and weight of the cane, but it is the most effective punishment that is available.

    The European Court of Human Rights has no right to interfere in our society. We did not ask it to tell us how to chastise our children. We did not ask it to interfere in the issue of wearing seat belts, either. Slowly, day by day, our rights are being eroded.

    Parents want the new clause to be accepted. It may not be perfect, but it is right to protect our young people from themselves and to give the courts the power to order a caning. I do not believe that no policeman wants to mete out some sort of punishment. In the old days, when a policeman caught a young lad scrumping apples, he would have clipped him round the ear or taken him home to his parents for instant discipline. Now, they probably say that the apples are on the other side of the fence and that the lad can get away with what he has done, that he must have gone to the wrong kind of school, or that his dad is, perhaps, unemployed.

    There is no excuse for ever breaking the law. The new clause would bring back a corrective balance and stop the rot. Tomorrow's parents are today's children. Those children are getting away with their crimes. Their parents want better from all of us, and only Conservative Members can bring about what those parents want.

    Slum childhoods are often a matter for hilarity in the House. We have heard about a slum childhood in Lancashire. I grew up on a slum in Sheffield, and there were two murders in the back yard of the house in which I lived before I reached the age of seven. Then, Adolf Hitler flattened the area in the blitz. There may have been more murders since then, but it was a rough neighbourhood. One of the two people was murdered by strangling, and the other was stabbed at a party by someone who had jumped off the toilet roof. It was the type of neighbourhood about which people do not brag when they are older, but they have an expert knowledge of crime and criminals.

    I knew a man who had been birched as a boy. He lived in the next yard, and received 12 strokes of the birch for stealing half a hundredweight of coal. Another acquaintance got six strokes of the birch for stealing the co-op milkman's horse and running away with it. He looked after it very well at the local recreation ground for three days, and the judge said that he would have let him off if he had not stolen the money as well.

    It is funny to look back at such events 40 years on, but the man who stole the coal and was birched for it brought up five sons to be the biggest villains and criminals that the city had ever known.—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Name them."] I could name them. Three of them later deserted from the Army and finished up in the glasshouse, which did not do them any good, either. They may be getting on in years now, or they may have faded away altogether. I have lost touch with the area.

    The other week the BBC televised a classic case of what I am talking about. Percy Toplis was birched at the age of 11, and finished up leading a mutiny in the Army and shooting at policemen when he emerged from it.

    Caning is no deterrent. It hammers revenge into men's bodies and burning iron into their souls. They want to make society pay for the indignity and humiliation that is meted out to them.

    Will the hon. Gentleman concentrate on the figures from the Isle of Man, which are relevant? Corporal punishment is used there, and those caned up to 1982 show a recidivist rate of 28 per cent. In this country, the rate is 75 per cent. Why?

    The hon. Gentleman is talking about an isolated place that does not suffer from the problems of our inner cities—problems such as homelessness and the absence of a stepladder to better things. Crime went down in the 1950s and 1960s. The incidents that I have described occurred before the war—I was only seven at the time of the blitz. Now, as in the 1930s, people at the bottom are becoming full of despair. There is no stepladder, no hope and no future. People do not expect to jump to the top of the stepladder, but a big strong lad bursting with muscles wants to use his strength in a job.

    There was no crime in 1950s and 1960s— [HoN. MEMBERS: "None?"] Practically none, because lads left school and went down the pit, into the steelworks or the shipyards, or down to the docks—to Bermondsey—to unload sacks of potatoes for £100 a week. When they came home they were too tired to do anything but have three pints in the pub and go to bed. There was no football hooliganism then, because there were other outlets for their energy—conscription, for example. People played more organised sport and the jobs were physically demanding.

    Many of us who worked on the shop floor or in the pits can tell Conservative Members that we went home, had our tea and fell asleep on the settee. We were so tired that we slept for an hour before having a couple of pints. We started work at 6 am and were too tired to go out at 11 pm to a disco to play reggae music and keep the street awake until all hours of the morning.

    Will the hon. Gentleman please address himself to what is indisputably the major problem of crime in this country—those who are under 15 years old? How will he deal with them? Does he not think that this type of punishment will make them understand that the physical pain that is inflicted on them corresponds to the physical pain that they have given others?

    I accept the hon. Gentleman's statistics, but he is discussing petty crime—stealing milk money.

    The hon. Gentleman is referring to children who go to supermarkets, grab something and run out— [HON. MEMBERS: "What about mugging?"] A youngster of 14 is not big enough to mug someone. It is a matter of petty theft. Children on their way to a football match run into a supermarket and pinch a bottle of sherry. They drink two mouthfuls of it and start acting like hooligans. That is not the sort of heavy crime that we are discussing.

    The whole history of punishment, going back to the mutiny on the Bounty, on which vessel British seamen were flogged and mistreated, shows that the worse criminals are treated physically, the worse they will react. Hon. Members should consider what happens when children are battered. They will invariably find that those children's parents were battered themselves. In every case involving battered children, the parents' history shows that they were battered as kids. Often their grandparents, and their parents before them, were battered, too. That is the result of physical punishment, handed down from generation to generation. It does not eradicate, prevent or stop anything. It puts physical violence into a person, and that must come out somewhere else.

    It is not fear. The deterrent is being caught. Any criminal who knows that it is a cast-iron certainty that he will be caught will not commit the crime. Paying the rates is a perfect example of that. People do not dodge them, because they will be caught. If they do not pay them, they will end up in court. They cannot shift the house and run away, so they pay.

    With rape it is different. Only one in three rapes ever gets reported. The criminal sees from the papers that women are scared and do not want to go through the hassle. They do not report the rape, so the rapist reckons that there is a two in three chance that the rape will not be reported, and he takes the risk. The deterrent is the absolute certainty of being caught. That is why the number of bank robberies went down in recent years.

    Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will say what on earth is the deterrent for a young person who is caught if, having been caught, he is not to be punished.

    6 pm

    There is a punishment, a great deal of punishment, for young people, and it is not to make them heroes. All too often they would wear these stripes while strutting around with their mates. We have seen them at football matches, as we saw it on the picket lines and everywhere else. If there is a television camera, it enhances the status of the idiot who runs on the field, or takes a punch at someone, or knocks a bobby's helmet off. This sort of punishment would give him a status too. He would parade his stripes to the rest of the kids and he would be the macho hero who took the knocks, the lumps and the stripes awarded to him. The punishment would do the reverse of what hon. Members intend.

    I do not believe that anyone of a mature and balanced disposition and who has read the wording of this new clause would vote for it. It talks of people who

    "make use of provoking language or behaviour tending to a breach of the peace".
    If they are under 10 they will be caned—"whipped" is the word, "with a cane"—and if they are 14 they will be whipped with a birch. I put it to Government Members who have been talking about this that they would not do it to their own children. If they tried to do it to their own children, their own children would be likely to be taken into care because they would have failed as parents—and every one of us knows this.

    These hon. Members do not support the new clause with any intention of voting for it. They are doing so, knowing that they are going to withdraw it, because they want to get their names in their local papers and pretend that they are getting tough on crime. I challenge any Government Member. They can prove me wrong by calling for a vote and putting the tellers in. I will wait until the time comes to see if they do.

    One thing that a number of my hon. Friends have made clear—some Government Members believe this too—is that violence begets violence. I have worked with an awful lot of very violent people in my time—

    If I had to break down how they voted, I would have to say that a goodly number of them voted for extreme Right-wing parties like the Conservatives and the National Front.

    One thing that I can say with absolute certainty is that of all those people only a tiny handful did not have violence used against them as children. My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) is absolutely right to talk about the parents of battered children, because we usually find that one parent or both have also been battered.

    The only bit of hope that the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley) could bring up was the experience of the Isle of Man. We all know that crime is low in the Isle of Man because it does riot have, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Ms. Short) said, that splintered, disintegrated community that we have in most of Britain but primarily in the inner cities. This is what has driven up the crime rate. The reason why the crime rate has risen faster under this Government than under any previous one is precisely because they have done more to rip apart the fabric of society and undermine family relationships than any previous Government by means of the general pressure that they put on people, particularly those on a low income. It is no wonder that the crime rate is going up in those families and communities which have collapsed.

    The hon. Gentleman quoted figures for the Isle of Man. He forgets to say that many people birched and caned there did not come from the Isle of Man. The figures are not comparable. It is no good using the absurd argument that they do not go back, because research shows that such offenders would not necessarily have gone back anyway, if given another type of sentence. Those who are fined, for example, in the Isle of Man do not particularly go back either. So the recidivism rate in the Isle of Man tells us nothing.

    As my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw said with clarity and force, the thing that deters crime is the chance of being convicted. What we are talking about in this new clause is things like criminal damage. Children are going to be whipped for criminal damage, for scrawling a slogan on a wall. That is what we are talking about. We are actually talking about a clear-up rate which is tiny, because the vast majority of people who commit such offences are not caught. So to talk about any type of sentence as a deterrent is absolute nonsense.

    Government Members should remember something else. Not only would they not do it to their own children, but they must ask why it is that a normal healthy adult wants to do this only to a child. Hon. Members will see that adult males are not included, so this will be done only to children. Interestingly, it will not be done to women—it has to be a male child. That tells us a great deal about the psychology of those who wrote this clause, with its careful definition of the length of cane:

    "Length from end of handle to tip of spray 40 inches … Length of handle 15 inches … Circumference of spray at centre 6 inches".
    Who on earth worked this out? It is a sign of people who have not come to terms with their own problems. They need to think about that very carefully if they are to pursue the matter further.

    I have already said that Government Members will not push this new clause to a vote. If they do, it will be for one reason—to be able to stand up in their own areas and say that they voted for toughness. Of course, the message that their Government were elected on has failed. Their tough law and order policies have not worked because they have destroyed the very fabric of the communities, the family structures and links within families that prevent crime. In so doing, they and they alone bear the responsibility for the most dramatic increase in crime of all time.

    We on the Government Benches have endeavoured for many years to correct this trouble with law and order.

    Yes, it is getting worse. We wish to see a country in which women can walk freely without the fear of being molested or raped. We wish to see a country where the elderly can feel safe inside their own homes and out after dark. We also want to see a country where our children can play safely without fear of being abused or killed. That is the sort of vision that we have. This is the sort of thing that we have worked towards.

    The provisions of this new clause have no great appeal for me, but I must say that Opposition Members have been most unhelpful about other forms of correction that we have put forward, in terms of sentencing powers and provisions under the law. Many of our judges, too, live in a different world. Parliament sets the sentences, but the judges often fail to award them. By the time our judges have read medical reports, psychiatric reports, social reports, probation reports, they look at them and, like the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), they say, "Poor devils, never had a chance in life." They do not think about the victim and the victim's family.

    This is what we are ignoring. It is very hard for a political party which believes in law and order, which fixes the tariff for sentences and the rest, to be undermined in many ways not only by the judiciary but also on many occasions by Opposition Members who do not seem to vote for things that we would wish to put in place to correct the law and order situation. Time and time again we are frustrated.

    If the new clause were put to the vote, I would not vote for it. As it happens, I am not one of the "hang 'em, flog' em, whip 'em" brigade, but tomorrow I shall be voting for the reintroduction of capital punishment. Let me explain.

    Order. I think it might be for the convenience of the House if the hon. Gentleman sought to do that tomorrow.

    Let me explain about the matter that we are discussing at the moment. What are we talking about? We are talking about deterrents.

    If I had a whip, I would show the hon. Lady. I am sorry, Mr. Speaker; we are digressing.

    I think deeply and sincerely about the protection of the citizen. It is the state's duty to protect its citizens. We are not protecting the citizen sufficiently. The proposed new clause is a typical example of the feeling that we have not come to grips with the problem of law and order. People want extreme measures because they are frightened. We are not winning the war on law and order. Try as we will, we are not, and we are getting precious little help, or none at all, from the Opposition.

    We must work towards stability on law and order. We must not let the criminal get on top of us. We must think more about the victims and the relatives of victims than about the defendant standing in the dock. We must apply the strength of law and order to the criminal as we do in defence. We say that we must be strong on defence. The balance of terror is the strength in defence that has kept peace for 40 years. We must show the same strength and the same tenacity when we deal with criminals otherwise there will be extremisms.

    The House is grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Hawksley) for allowing us to debate a matter which has proved to be of considerable interest. Despite the fact that he made a speech which was both eloquent and persuasive and the fact that he was supported by many of my hon. Friends, I cannot commend the new clause to the House. When I adopt that position, I do so both on general grounds of principle and on grounds of detail.

    I should like first to deal with the general grounds, which are grounds of principle. We must understand the scope of what is proposed in the new clause. It proposes that all courts, including magistrates courts, should, in respect of offenders between the ages 10 and 18, have the power to impose a birching order for a wide range of offences. Leaving aside assault, for which there is a possible argument, the offences are making use
    "of provoking language or behaviour tending to a breach of the peace".
    Should those offences attract a birching order?

    Not since 1847 have justices had the power to impose a birching order in respect of persons over 14; not since 1861 has a higher court had the power to impose a bitching order for offences of the kind now defined in respect of persons under the age of 14. I am very sceptical about a proposal which is designed to reinstate a legal system which went out of fashion in the days of Lord Palmerston, 150 years ago. That is the premise from which I start—extreme scepticism.

    6.15 pm

    Now we come to the question of deterrence. It was right that my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, North (Mr. Carlisle) and my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin should concentrate on deterrence. I must tell my hon. Friends that all the examination into this matter that has been undertaken does not disclose any evidence of deterrence; indeed, quite the reverse. For example, the matter was examined by the Cadogan committee in 1938. I quote a summary of that:
    "They"—
    that is, the Cadogan committee—
    "examined the records of 440 men convicted between 1921 and 1930 of robbery with violence, and compared the subsequent records of those who were flogged with the records of those who were not. They concluded that sentences of imprisonment or penal servitude without flogging were no less effective in deterring offenders from subsequent offences of robbery with violence than sentences of imprisonment or penal servitude with flogging. As regards subsequent crimes other than robbery with violence, they found that those who had been flogged, including those without previous convictions of serious crime, had worse subsequent records than those not flogged."

    Just in case someone thinks that there was something peculiar about the period between 1921 and 1930, let me tell the House of a further analysis that was undertaken in respect of the period between 1941 and 1948. The whole question was considered again in 1960 by the Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders. It considered the subsequent convictions of men under 21 who had been convicted between 1941 and 1948 of robbery with violence, armed robbery or robbery in company. Of 704 offenders in this group, 125, or 18 per cent., received corporal punishment; 579, or 82 per cent., did not. The proportion convicted of further offences of violence was 18·4 per cent. for those who had been flogged and 12·4 per cent. for those who had not been flogged.

    The statistics that my hon. Friend has given related to men under 21. Can he enlighten us on whether there are figures for those under 15? Half the crimes that we have been talking about have been committed by children of that age. My hon. Friend is talking about mature adults. He is also talking about a report relating to the period before 1960. Does he agree that since 1960 the rise in crime has been horrific and that the crimes committed, particularly by youngsters under 15, have been equally horrific?

    No. My hon. Friend is over-refining the matter. I have quoted from two authoritative reports made to the House. I say to my hon. Friends, who have spoken about the Isle of Man that during the whole of the 1970s only five juveniles and six adults were flogged there. Between 1973 and 1978 no juvenile was flogged. To try to extrapolate lessons from that is simply not a helpful exercise.

    I say with no apology that all the evidence shows unequivocally that flogging is not a deterrent for any offence. It would constitute a breach of article 3 of the European convention, and I do not choose to commit a breach of that convention. Furthermore, it would constitute a breach of article 7 of the United Nation: covenant on civil and political rights. Again, I do not cart to advocate such a breach.

    One thing we must understand on this matter of principle is that people in this country and in this House feel a deep revulsion against the proposal. If we introduce it, I fear that it will bring the whole corpus of criminal law into disrepute.

    Those are matters of principle, but I have not finished yet as there are matters of detail to consider.

    I am delighted to hear that all my hon. Friends are behind me.

    I was about to consider the detail, because we cannot ignore detail on such an issue. The idea that there can be a rapid penalty swiftly following the commission of an offence, is an absurdity. Anyone who knows anything about criminal courts will know that weeks, if not months, pass between the commission of the offence and the imposition of a penalty.

    My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin requires in his new clause the presence of a doctor. That understandable, but the entire British Medical Association is against it. In all probability, it would be unethical for a doctor to attend the carrying out of such a penalty.

    Then there is the question of the police officer. My hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths) made an important and telling point when ht said that a police officer would not choose to be in any way tarnished with the imposition of such an act. My hon. Friend is right because, as a matter of principle and for long past, the House has been clear about the role of a police officer, who is not involved in the imposition of a penalty. It would be intolerable for the police to have to play such a role in our criminal system.

    Despite the eloquence of my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin and of those who have supported him—and I speak quite as passionately as them—I am against the new clause and I hope that it will not receive a Second reading.

    I wish to reply to a few of the points made in the debate. It has been a good debate and I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing it to take place.

    As I said earlier, I believe that new clause 3 is desirable, although I was interested to hear the comments from the Opposition which I did not find so surprising. However, I wish to pick up one point made by the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) who mentioned "The Monocled Mutineer". I received a report that the author admitted on a BBC Radio 4 programme that the story had been created from his imagination and that it was in the interests of pacifism. That suggests that the evidence from the Opposition is not very strong.

    The main argument against the new clause has been its wording. I stressed at the start that I drew my wording entirely from the Isle of Man legislation. I accept that if the new clause were accepted in principle it would need amending in another place. The problem raised by my hon. Friend the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Sir E. Griffiths), concerning police officers and doctors could be corrected. After we discussed the matter, when the BMA made it clear that it would not support such a proposal, I received a string of letters from doctors offering to officiate at such occasions.

    The important point that we have missed is the matter of principle—whether corporal punishment would be a deterrent. Earlier, I quoted the figures relating to the recidivist rate on the Isle of Man. I believe they confirm that corporal punishment would be a deterrent. I believe that the electorate are looking to us to introduce such a deterrent. They believe that we should think about the victim more than the person who has committed the crime. For that reason, I leave it to the House to decide whether it wishes to agree to the new clause.

    The question is, That the clause be read a Second time. As many as are of that opinion say Aye.

    Question accordingly negatived

    On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am not sure whether the new clause is being forced to a Division.

    Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that I have collected the voices, and my judgment was not challenged in that respect.