The age of consent for young male persons shall he the same as the age of consent for young female persons, and any female person permitting a male person of less than that age to have carnal knowledge of her person shall be guilty of the same offence and subject to the same penalties under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885, or otherwise, as if said male person was a female person and said female person was a male person.—[Mr. Macquisten.]
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This sudden change in the order of Business is very unfair to hon. Members who are interested in this particular Bill, and who are not now present to deal with it. I submit it is not just for the Government to put Orders down on the Paper and then at the fifty-fifth minute of the eleventh hour suddenly change the order of Business in the way they have done to-night. I respectfully say it is not right. I am proposing this new Clause, which provides that the age of consent for young male persons shall be the same as the age of consent for young female persons, and which imposes on the female person permitting an offence the same penalty as male offenders are subjected to. This Bill is entitled
A Bill to Amend the Law with respect to offences against persons under the age of sixteen"—
and I find that in Clause 1 it provides that it is no defence to a charge or indictment for an indecent assault on a young person under the age of 16 to prove that he or she consented to the act of indecency. The Clause I am now, asking the House to add to the Bill is a natural sequence to Clause 1, which, as the House will observe, protects both males and females under the age of 16 against acts of indecency. Why under other Clauses that protection should be removed from the male, I cannot understand, for I hold that guilty parties should be punished for an act of indecency whatever class or sex they belong to, and to provide under one section that one sex should escape punishment for a grave act of I can see no justification for that. On the Second Reading I outlined the Amendments which would he moved in Committee, and in Committee this Clause was only lost by three or four votes, at the outside. I think it is a very necessary Clause. Everyone who has had any experience of life knows that there is not a great deal of difference in regard to rightness or wrongness between mankind, whether they be male or female. The Home Secretary, speaking on this Bill, spoke of the wickedness of old men. There are wicked elderly people of both sexes, and the experiences
of the War taught the community that young boys, as well as young girls, need protection.
Where I feel that this Bill will fail in its laudable object, although in many respects I think it is a very dangerous Bill—as to which I shall speak on other Clauses—is that it does not realise that, if you do not protect the adolescent youth from the possibility of being set upon the broad road of vice, if you do not attach similar penalties to his being led astray, you are going a long way to defeat the very objects of the Bill in protecting young females. Anyone who knows anything about life knows that time and again there are probably just as many boys of tender years who are set upon the wrong and vicious road by people very much their seniors, as there are young females set upon that path by older men. The danger to the young female is that, if a boy of 12½, 13 or 14 is once initiated into a vicious life, not only is there the moral damage to his character, the same onset of depravity, as in the other sex, but he becomes a source of danger to the very females towards whose protection this Bill is directed. Anyone who has had experience of Circuit Courts or other Courts where offences of this kind are tried, is astonished, very often, at the juvenility of both the parties, and I think that if an investigation were made into the cases of young lads who have gone astray, it would be found almost universally that they have been initiated into depravity by some person much their senior. It is a very common experience, at all events, and I do say that the code for both sexes should be the same. It is no use endeavouring to protect the chastity of young females if you are going to have young males initiated into vice by elderly females who ought to know better, and these youths in turn become, one might almost say, birds of prey upon the young females. That is where the danger arises. After all, the temple of virtue has two doors, and it is no use closing the one and allowing vice to rush in with double strength at the other. You will make no progress with this Measure unless you provide for both sexes.
One case in which the need arises for the protection of youth—of both sexes I admit, but of the male as much as the female—is this, that there is a horrible, dreadful superstition that prevails among large masses of ignorant people that, if they are suffering from complaints brought about by their own vicious lives, and if they can have relations with someone who has never erred before, then by some process of translation they will be bereft of their disease, and it will be transferred to the innocent person with whom they have had those relations. It is almost incredible that human nature can be so selfish and so wicked, but there is no doubt that superstition is very prevalent, and any medical man will tell you he has had experience in hospitals of boys of very tender years who have been infected for no other reason than the prevalence of that hellish superstition. These mere boys of tender years are just as much entitled to protection as girls of tender years. Objection is taken to the Clause by those responsible for promoting the Bill that this is overloading it. It is not overloading it. It is merely making it one whole. It is merely carrying out the provisions in Clause 1, where a youth is protected from indecent assault but not from something which is very much worse. I therefore appeal to the Home Secretary, and to those who are promoting the Bill, to believe that we who have criticised many of its Clauses are as deeply interested that it should be made a success and should carry out the results which they aim at, namely, the protection of the young, and should postpone to as late a period of life as possible, if not to make it unlikely that they shall ever engage in anything in the shape of immoral or vicious conduct. I ask the Home Secretary to he logical, to make the Bill correspond with Clause 1. If they accept this they will make it a much more complete Measure and, I believe, will attain the object they are aiming at, the protection of young people, in a far more complete fashion than if they leave it truncated and do not deal with both sexes of tender years.
It may he that this Claus is logical, having regard to the object of the Bill, but I hope the House will come to the conclusion that, at any rate, it is not desirable that it should be pressed at this stage. It is true that we all desire to protect young people from contamination, and that to some small extent, comparatively speaking, young boys are liable to contamination from older and vicious women. But it would be idle to suggest that the danger of contamination from those older than themselves to a young boy can approach the danger to a young girl. I am sure those who were in the Committee and those who remember the Debates this year know perfectly well how difficult this is. People perfectly sincere in their views, and I have no doubt all of them equally anxious to protect young people from contamination, have the strongest differences of opinion as to what is wise and what is unwise in legislation, and therefore I ask the House not to put into the Bill another contentious point when it is not really essential to the objects of the Bill. The protection of young boys is a very Proper thing, but to bring in a suggestion of this kind that you are to get a young boy, a well-developed boy of 15, who has been got hold of by a woman, say, of 30, and has been led astray by her, and to expect that boy to give evidence against her, is almost more than you can expect of human nature. It would be very difficult ever to make a Clause of this kind workable. It would be highly contentious here, and highly contentious in another place. It may be that it is perfectly logical that you ought to protect the boy as well as the girl [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I quite agree with hon. Members in that, but when you are dealing with a highly contentious Measure you have to consider your chances, and also consider what is the substantial and the material amount of benefit, and I do not think that anyone would suggest that a young boy runs anything approaching the danger from vicious women that young girls do from vicious men.
We have great difficulty in getting this Bill through, and every new suggestion that is highly contentious makes the difficulty of getting the Bill through more pronounced. We want, if we can, to get a Bill through this Session which will do something to strengthen the law for the protection of young grils who require protection. I do ask the House to try to get the Bill on that account, without running the risk of wrecking it, either here or in another place. If you are to follow unadulterated logic you would never get a Bill through. You always have to meet opponents, and you always try to do so. I do hope, therefore, that the House will see that this is really an unworkable Amendment. It would lead to very great difficulties. It is not half so necessary as the rest of the Bill, and I ask the House not to jeopardise the rest of the Bill for the sake of this Amendment.
I do not think the House has been impressed by the arguments of the Home Secretary. What is the Report stage of a Bill for if it be not to complete and render symmetrical the measures brought before it? As for the excuse that this is not the right opportunity to put straight the errors of omission in the Bill, I submit that if there be an error of omission, such as is clear from the arguments of the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Macquisten) this is the time to put it right, and this is the Bill in which it ought to be put right. I also demur to the suggestion that this Amendment is contentious. It ought not to be contentious. It ought to be agreed to by all sides who are anxious for the Bill not to be one-sided. It is a reproach to this Bill as it stands, that it is a one-sided Measure. With respect to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman that the girl can be got to bring evidence of this crime and the boy cannot be got, I do not think there is much in that. I should have thought the girl would demur just as much to have her modesty wronged by bringing her into a criminal court and putting her into the witness box as would the boy. As to the danger being less with a boy than with a girl, I also demur There was one case which came up in my own knowledge a long time ago in Edinburgh. It was the case of an immoral woman who had got hold of a schoolboy. She practically kidnapped him from his people. She kept him in her house for four months and killed him. She wasted him away. The police tried to do their best. They shadowed the house, and all that sort of thing, but there was no remedy, and they could not interfere. In a case like that, I do suggest that the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend does give a remedy and I do not see why it should not be adopted. It would make the Bill very much more fair and a very much better piece of legislation.
|Division No. 237.]||AYES.||[10.34 P.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Grentell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Oman, Sir Charles William C|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Duiwlch)||Pain, Brig.-Gen. Sir W. Hacket|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Hayes, Hugh (Down, W.)||Poison, Sir Thomas A.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G,||Ratclifle, Henry Butler|
|Berwick, Major G. O.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Remer, J. R.|
|Sowyer, Captain G. W. E||Hood, Sir Joseph||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Rodger, A. K|
|Churchman, sir Arthur||Hurd, Percy A.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Clough, Sir Robert||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Jameson, John Gordon||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Surtees. Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Colfox, Major Wm Phillips||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Cope, Major William||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||McLaren, Robert (Lanark, Northern)||Wills, Lt.-Col Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Windsor, Viscount|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Marriott, John Arthur Ransome||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godtray||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Wise, Frederick|
|Fell, Sir Arthur||Morden, Col. W. Grant||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Foxcrolt, Captain Charles Talbot||Naylor, Thomas Ellis||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Gould, James C.||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J.(Westminster)|
|Grant, James Augustus||Nield, Sir Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gray, Major Ernest (Accrington)||Norrls, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Mr. Macquisten and Mr. Green.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Bromlield, William||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty4|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Brown, Major D. C.||Entwlstle, Major C. F.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Bruton, Sir James||Evans, Ernest|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Finney, Samuel|
|Balrd, Sir John Lawrence||Cairns, John||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cape. Thomas||FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.|
|Banton, George||Carter, R. A. D. (Man., Withington)||Foot, Isaac|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth., Abertillery)||Casey, T. W.||Ford, Patrick Johnston|
|Barnes, Major H. (Newcastle, E)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox Univ.)||Forrest, Walter|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Blrm, W).||Galbralth, Samuel|
|Barrand, A. R.||Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Ganroni, Sir John|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Lelth)||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||! Gilbert, James Daniel|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Gillis, William|
|Boscawen. Rt. Hon. Sir A. Grimth||Davles, A. (Lancaster, Clltheroe)||Glimour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Davles, Rhys John (Wes thoughton)||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Davles, Thomas (Cirencester)||Gregory, Holman|
|Brldgeman, Rt, Hon. William Clive||Davles, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)|
|Briggs, Harold||Dawson, Sir Philip||Grundy, T. W.|
|Brlttain, Sir Harry||Doyle, N. Grattan||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon Frederick E|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Guest, J. (York, W. R., Hemswortin|
|Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Mailalleu, Frederick William||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Hailwood, Augustine||Manville, Edward||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Halls, Walter||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mitchell, Sir William Lane||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)|
|Harmsworth, C. B. (Bedford, Luton)||Molton, Major John Elsdale||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Hartshorn, Vernon||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Morefng, Captain Algernon H.||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Morrison, Hugh||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Hinds, John||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Sturrock, J. Lens|
|Hirst, G. H.||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Hogge, James Myles||Murray, Hon. Gideon (St. Rollox)||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Hope, Sir H. (Stirling &Crckm'nn'n,W.)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Sutton, John Edward|
|Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Myers, Thomas||Swan, J. E.|
|Hope, J, D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Neal, Arthur||Taylor, J.|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||Newbould, Alfred Ernest||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Houlton, John Plowright||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Insklp, Thomas Walker H.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Parker, James||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Jodrell, Neville Paul||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Johnstone, Joseph||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wallace, J.|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Perkins, Walter Frank||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Perring, William George||Walters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor|
|Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Waring, Major Walter|
|Kennedy, Thomas||Rae, Sir Henry N.||Warren, Sir Alfred H.|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Ramsden, G. T.||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Randies, Sir John Scurrah||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Reld, D. D.||Williams, Aneurln (Durham, Consett)|
|Lawson, John James||Rendall, Athelstan||Williams, C. (Tavistock)|
|Lewis, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Univ., Wales)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Lindsay, William Arthur||Roberts, Sir S. (Sheffield. Ecclesall)||Winterton, Earl|
|Lloyd-Greame, Sir P.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Lorden, John William||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)||Wood, Ma|or M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir H.C. (P'nrith)||Royce, William Stapleton||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Lunn, William||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Brldgeton)||Younger, Sir George|
|Macnaghten, Sir Malcolm||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Seager, Sir William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Maltland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Sexton, James||W. Ward.|
The second proposed new Clause on the Paper, in the name of the hon. Member for the Springburn Division of Glasgow (Mr. Macquisten)— [Offences by females]—is outside the scope of the Bill. The third proposed new Clause, ire the name of the same hon. Member—[Certification of age of girls of 16 and under]—I do not select. With regard to the proposed new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson)— [Exclusion of prostitutes from the Act]— I think that should take the form of an Amendment to Clause 2 of the Bill. There is an Amendment to Clause 2 in the name of the hon. Member for Watford (Mr. D. Herbert) which deals in a better form with the same subject.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
This is not one of the proposals which I moved in Committee, nor is it one about which I am as anxious as I am about the Amendment appearing next on the Paper in my name. Most of us realise that the Bill is likely to pass, the Government having taken it up, and it is necessary to see if we cannot deal with some of the flaws which exist in the Bill. This new Clause is one which the Government may see their way to accept. If we do not deal with the point in some way or other, the position is this, that we are going to extend the age of consent from 13 to 16 in the case of charges of indecent assault. Again, Clause 2 of the Bill is going to take away the defence which up to the present has always existed, namely, that a man who has had carnal knowledge of a girl of 15, had reasonable cause to believe she was over 16. One of the points very strongly urged in Committee was that, in carrying out the legitimate objects of the Bill, we might open the way to blackmailing. Nobody is more sorry for the fact than I am, but those with any knowledge of the subject are aware—and one need only ask any or our chief constables to find out—that there is in Great Britain a large number of girls of 15 living the lives of prostitutes. If we pass the Bill in its present form, and give them its protection, we are simply asking for blackmail. You have the case of a girl of 15 going about the streets; she manages to persuade some man to go with her; if he goes with her, and has connection with her—if he "indecently assaults" her, and "indecent assault" is a very wide term which may, in certain circumstances, include hugging a girl—he is open to this danger. Possibly it is a young man she induces to hug or indecently assault her. That young man, or it may be an old man, is absolutely at the mercy of this prostitute of 15. I am perfectly certain that is not the intention of the Government or the promoters of this Bill, and I am convinced from what they said in Committee that what they wish to do is to protect innocent girls of 15, and that no quarter of the House means that when you have a woman living a life of prostitution at 15—and you have no power to stop it, because if the police send them home the first time they snap their fingers afterwards—and you are going to give the protection of this Act to that woman, there is no sort of defence open to that boy or man, as the case may be. You therefore have a tremendous lever for blackmail at once, and I submit, knowing, as I do, that the supporters of this Bill intend simply to protect innocent girls under 16—I have heard Labour Members speak on this point time after time—that they should support me and accept this Amendment which simply says that where this young man, or whoever it may be, can show that a girl has been living the life of a prostitute—I am sorry to say that it is so in these naval towns of Portsmouth, Plymouth, and places like that —although it is difficult to prove, it ought to be a defence, and the extra protection you are giving to girls of 15 under this Act should not be given to girls of that class. If you do you are accentuating the evils dealt with under this Bill, and are simply asking for blackmail.
As it has been said of me before now, "Ah, you are in favour of immorality," I do hope no one will suggest that. I am simply saying that if this unfortunate position occurs—of course, it is immoral for anyone to go with a prostitute of 14, of 40, or of any age—when a woman is a prostitute you should not give this extra protection to her. In my profession I have to see cases of blackmail time after time. They do not come into Court, in spite of what someone on the Treasury Bench said about cases of this sort coming into Court. It is we who have to advise people in these matters, and we see case after case of the most cruel wickedness in the way of blackmail, of young and old people as well. If we are going at this moment to give this handle to these girls of 15, who know what they are about—take that from me, as I have seen it time after time—we, as a Legislative Assembly, will be making a very grievous mistake, and I hope the House will help me to make this Bill, as I think this will, a far more workable and practicable Bill, by accepting this new Clause.
I beg to second the Motion.
Not having spoken on this Bill yet, I should like to ask the Home Secretary whether he can state definitely that, if this new Clause be not passed, and the Bill passes as it stands, it will not positively place an incentive in the hands of foreign procureurs to ship over young girls to this country in the hope of making a livelihood and a trade out of this? I see that possibility in this Bill if this Clause be not passed. If it be passed, I think there is a certain protection against it.
I am sure no word has ever fallen from me to suggest that he, or any other opponent of the Bill—when I say "opponent" I mean those hon. Members moving Amendments—is actuated by any such motive or suggestion. I equally agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that this Bill is, among other things, for the protection of innocent young girls from offences on the part of evil-minded persons of any age whatever. That is one of its great objects, I agree; but there is something far more than that. One of the greatest curses that we can see in this country to-day is child prostitution. One of the things most difficult to prevent is child prostitution. One of the main objects of this Bill is not only to protect the innocent girl, and the girl who, in some outlying place where she has no protector, may be seduced, but to protect the evil-minded and prematurely-grown girls from themselves. What is the cause of child prostitution? It is that the children are brought up in evil surroundings; they get evil minds from their surroundings; they are prematurely matured—if I may use the expression—and drift into prostitution. How is that to be prevented? You certainly cannot do anything under this Bill if you make the fact that a girl has drifted, through her surroundings and her evil influences, into prostitution, an excuse for any crime, either for an indecent assault or for sexual connection with her when under 16. It is only by making sexual connection with a young girl so dangerous that you can get away from her her clientele; it is only by getting away from the child prostitute her clientele that you can stop child prostitution.
I hope, therefore, that the House will appreciate that we are considering something more than the mere protection of the pure young girl. We are trying to save the bad girls from themselves; we are trying to make something better of them and to prevent young girls from drifting into prostitution. My hon. and learned Friend said that when a girl drifts into prostitution you have no help and remedy in the law. To a great extent, and to a far greater extent than I care to see, that is true, but it is not entirely true. There is a provision under the Children Act, 1908, by which the parents of a girl who gets into immoral and evil habits, or becomes a prostitute, can be bound over to see that she behaves herself properly and refrains from her evil ways. Chief constables tell us from many parts of the country that the use of that prevention, which can force the parents to look after their children better, has been, at any rate, of some substantial advantage. I do not pretend for a moment it is all we ought to have, but at the same time it is something, and I hope the House will not weaken this Bill so seriously as would the passing of the Amendment.
As I have said—and I may be allowed to finish by repeating what I have said already—you can only stop child prostitution by stopping the girl's clientele. You can only stop the clientele by making it so dangerous to go with a child that any man who is addicted to that sort of thing will take care that he confines himself to mature women. That is the only way in which you can save the child, and I hope the House will not accept the Amendment.
I am a little fogged as to the Home Secretary's argument generally. Will he say if I follow him aright? He says that, in order to cure a particular evil, you should punish the victim of it. Supposing the Home Secretary wished to put a stop to profiteering in, shall we say, the grocery trade. He would not go for the grocer who profiteers, but would punish the customer who enters the grocer's shop, because he says that by punishing the man who goes to the grocer's he will drive him away from the profiteering grocer and send him elsewhere. That is the perfectly logical outcome of what the Home Secretary said. I would suggest to the Home Secretary that if he really wishes to put a stop to child prostitutes, the proper way is to get hold of these children and show them the evil of their ways, and put them in a proper mode of life. What inevitably happens is to encourage them in the very vice from which he professes to be trying to cure the child. I consider that of all the arguments against the Clause moved by my hon. and learned Friend, this is about the very poorest that can possibly be made, and I am perfectly convinced that the common sense of the House will not accept it.
I want to suggest that the causes of child prostitution are very much deeper than anything that the right hon. Gentleman has suggested, and that, if you want to deal with the real causes, you have to deal with poverty and overcrowding. I want to give an awful instance that came to my notice a few weeks ago. Going through a South London constituency, I saw two little children, whose age in each case could not have been above six years, were attempting sexual intercourse one with another on the doorstep of a house where they lived. One can imagine the conditions under which those children were brought up, the overcrowding in those places, where they see and hear things, which even in their very tender years are making marked and terrible effects on their lives. These children are undoubtedly damned in the world, so far as their moral and spiritual conditions are concerned, and I feel that in this House some voice must be raised to make it quite clear that some of us are under no apprehension that all this is not caused by mere vicious tendencies innate in the people, but are imposed upon them, and are part of the social system under which we are living, and for which, in a very large measure, some responsibility must be shouldered by this Government, who have not done very much to relieve the terrible overcrowding conditions which, in a very great measure, contribute towards this evil.
When this Bill, or a Bill like this, was before the House last year, I served on the Committee, and took some part in the discussion on Report. No one wishes to discuss Bills of this kind if they can avoid it, but if it happen that you have been in any criminal courts as an advocate, and served as a magistrate for a good many years, you have to face these facts, and I think it is perhaps more cowardly to sit silent than to put briefly to the House how one or two matters strike one. I appreciate the object of my hon. and learned Friend. It is, of course, as important to protect young boys as to protect young girls, and when he comes to his next Amendment I shall support that, as I did last year in Committee. But on this Clause, I hope the House will take the view which is substantially in agreement with the argument of the Home Secretary. If this Clause were passed, it would mean that intercourse between a man of any age and that most forlorn and pathetic figure in the life of our country, the child prostitute, would he practically encouraged. I agree that there is a great deal of difference between an act of immorality, it may be, between a lad and a girl hitherto pure. But if it were proved in Court that a girl of the age of 15 or so was already addicted to immoral practices, every judge and every tribunal before whom such a charge came would take fully into account that fact as bearing on the question of punishment. and of how to deal with the case. No one wishes for any lad to be punished in the same way if these he the facts of the case, and as if it were the destruction of the innocence of the child. But I believe the powers of the Court are sufficient to differentiate when the matter be proved. At the same time, I am convinced that it is for the public good that this Clause should not be passed, to give the indication that this occurrence as to the child prostitute should not be punished at all, and therefore the child prostitute would have every temptation to pursue her ghastly calling. I am convinced that the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman are right, and correspond to such experience as I have had in criminal Courts.
One fact in regard to the Clause has been overlooked. It appears to be indisputable that the effect of this Clause would not be to make it any less a crime to have common knowledge with any woman, prostitute or otherwise, under the age of 15. I take it that the intention of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Cambridge is to take a terrible weapon out of the hands of the blackmailer? Apart from the crime, we all know that prostitution allows a perfect harvest to the blackmailer. It puts it into the hands of those concerned to say: "You have not only been guilty of immorality, but guilty of a crime from which there is no escape." You are putting a weapon absolutely unnecessarily into their hands. Is it seriously suggested that a man will deliberately commit this crime—because it is a crime—knowing when he is so doing the defence which he will put forward when he is brought before the Court and charged with the offence?
I ask the Home Secretary for the sake of his own Bill to accept this new Clause. Prostitution is "prostitution of the body for money." That is the definition of it, and the Home Secretary's Bill, as it stands, will add enormously to the money that will be received for this business, because it will add to the ordinary wages of sin the enormous wages of blackmail. For one girl of tender years out on the streets, put there by some sinful woman or some still more sinful man—because it is they who run that wretched creature the girl prostitute—there will be a dozen now, for it will be infinitely more profitable. If you do not put this Clause in one can see the huge profession of blackmailers of London and the big cities licking their chops over the innocence of the Home Secretary. I am surprised at the hon. and learned Gentleman (Sir R. Adkins). He can have had no experience of the ramifications of the blackmailers. Without this Clause this Bill will be a perfect trap for these people. How is he going to provide for them—in view of the economic causes mentioned by one hon. Member?
Although I have a great respect for my hon. and learned Friend who moved this Amendment and his supporters, I do not understand his point about blackmail, which is levied in these cases through fear of exposure. Often it is the mere fact of the man appearing in the public court that enables the girl or the woman to levy blackmail If this Amendment were carried it would mean that in the case of a prostitute it would be as if this Act had never been enacted at all, because the defence would still be available to the man who would be charged that he did not know that the prostitute was under the age of 16, but he will have to be placed in the dock and charged in precisely the same way under this Amendment. Therefore, this new Clause will not reduce the chances of blackmail by one iota, because the girl will say, "You are going to be charged, pay me blackmail as the price of me not giving evidence against you. It is quite true that you will have the defence under the law as it used to be, but you will not have the protection of the new law, because I shall say that I am a prostitute, and you will be in the dock, and, therefore, I can levy blackmail upon you. That shows that this Amendment will not be effective for the purpose for which it is intended. It seems to me, therefore, that as it will not be effective for the purpose, it has the great defect that it draws a line between the prostitute, who is so often the victim of other persons, and it makes her an outcast from society, and we do not want to do that. What we want to do is to make more difficult for those who would drag her down even if she is already, going down hill, and we want to make it more impossible for that to be done. For these reasons I think the House will be well advised to reject this new Clause.
Mr. J. JONES:
I shall not be charged by any Member of this House, I hope, with being a puritan. I am an ordinary working man, who happens to have a family of two boys and two girls, and I am just as anxious about the welfare of my boys as I am with regard to that of the girls. They are alike—equally bad and equally good, like their father—but I recognise that the risks of the girls are greater than the risks of the boys, and because the girls' risks are greater, I am going to defend the girls against the boys. The possibilities lying in front of them are of a greater character. If I thought that it would mean security for the people of the country, physically and morally, I would support the Amendment, but I do not believe that any of the Amendments will secure the objects of those who are bringing them forward. Equality is all very well, but there cannot be any equality between the working-class girl and the gentleman who has more money than he knows what to do with. People who have money to spend and the opportunity, can always bribe girls of my class, unfortunately, with their greater wealth.
I am not insulting them. It is an economic fact. The streets of our great towns are full of girls who, because of the conditions under which they have been compelled to live, have been forced by economic circumstances to surrender themselves to other people's opportunities. [Interruption.] I know you do not like it, but it is a fact, and I see an hon. Member opposite who used to admit it, and to say the same things from Socialist platforms, which he then adorned. He used to say there were thousands and thousands of my class who were, by bribery, compelled to surrender to people in a better economic position than we are in, not because we like it, but because starvation is our master. Some of you people are not so clean as you ought to be.
I am not quite a lawyer, but I understand that the Amendment is to secure equal protection for the members of my own class. If I am wrong, I am glad I am not gifted in the same way as some hon. Members who have spoken, but I understand the Amendment is that boys should be protected as well as girls.
I want to say one word with respect to the Amendment. I do not hope to convert the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones); his views are so absolutely divergent from my own. But I must answer one statement he made. I have worked among working people for thirty or forty years, and to suggest that every woman of the lower class can be seduced for a few pounds is an absolute libel.
I say that, as far as the majority of my class are concerned, they are more virtuous than the members of your class. [HON. MEMBERS: "You did not say that!"] I am always saying that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw!"] I will not withdraw anything.
Even of those of my own class I do not believe that that is true, but those who agree with the hon. Member will vote against my Clause, and I cannot help it. I want to address myself to those who really take a serious interest in these questions and face the difficulties. I want to answer my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Central Bristol (Mr. Inskip), who, I think, has misunderstood my point. If my Clause be carried, it will still be an offence to have connection with a girl of 15, whether she is a prostitute or not. The only effect of this Bill, as regards the girl of 15, is to take away the defence of reasonable cause, which I am sure is not what my hon. and learned Friend is referring to, and, therefore, I crave his assistance on this Clause. It will not in any way affect the fact that it will still be a criminal offence to have connection with a girl under 16. But by Clause 1 of this Bill you are raising the age of consent to an indecent assault—not to having connection—from 13 to 16; and, as I have pointed out, an indecent assault may be merely hugging, or, in certain circumstances, kissing the girl—very improper things to do, which I am not defending for a moment. Anything which protects the seduction of a girl for the first time I will support in any way that may be possible, but I am sorry to say that prostitutes often know very well what the law is, and if a girl who has been made a prostitute gets a young man of 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, or even 30, to cuddle her, or permits some act of familiarity with her, then, without my Clause, that is made an offence for the first time by this Bill, and I submit that it is simply a handle for blackmail. It is easy for a girl of 15 to persuade some young fellow to commit acts of familiarity of that kind, if she is going about the streets in the way that I have described.
The hon. and learned Member for Central Bristol, if I may say so, forgot one very important point, namely, that, unless this Clause be passed, the evidence which he suggests would be absolutely irrelevant to the charge made against the man, and it would not be possible to put it before the jury, though it might come in on the question of punishment. I am not, however, dealing with punishment, but with conviction. I have worked for a good many years now in working men's clubs in London. I know the temptations and troubles to which young men are subjected, and a charge of this kind will often lose a boy his job; while those in a higher class of life, and therefore, possibly, though not necessarily, more subject to blackmail, are also subject to the same troubles. If the law is now going to be altered now for the first time, and a prostitute of 15 persuades anyone to cuddle her, this Bill will for the first time make that an offence. My Clause will prevent that, and such a prostitute will know that the magistrate or chief constable to whom she may go to make the complaint will tell her that it is 'no use. We have warned you. You have been convicted once or twice. That girl is therefore out of the protection of the Amendment. I thought this was one of the non-controversial Amendments. I know my London pretty well, and some Members of the Labour party do. They know their own towns. No sort of harm to the object of the Bill can possibly be done by putting in this Clause. It will simply except these girls. No one knows better than I do the causes that lead to prostitution. Unless you put this Clause in you will be doing a great injustice and will be doing great harm to the Bill. One cannot effectively legislate ahead of public opinion, and if you get a few convictions under this Amendment which go against the whole of public opinion and cause resentment, it will do more harm to the Bill than any that we can do by moving Amendments.
At the beginning of the debate on this Amendment I was somewhat in doubt as to which way I should vote. The argument appeared to me to be strong that girls in the position described would take advantage of it. But I think, on more mature consideration, the House will agree with me when I say that a man who deliberately set himself up to make a prostitute would very soon find out what kind of girl she was, and if he pursues his conduct any further, in my opinion he deserves all he gets. The main object of the Bill is to protect young girls. The causes are not confined to slums, though they begin there. The causes spring from the mock modesty of the parents in not allowing children to know who they are, what they are and why they are. The father knows very well that the very innocence of the girl when she is sent forth into the world is her gravest danger. If any man is blackmailed or attempted to be blackmailed by a professional prostitute and can prove before any magistrate in the land that that is her profession I do not think the judgment of any common sense magistrate would go against the man at all. I am speaking as a magistrate myself, and if such a case came before me I should exercise what I thought my duty in dismissing the case entirely. I try to protect the boy, but the girl appeals to me more. We have heard, as the poet says, that the girl must have her golden hair hanging down her back. We have heard about Joseph and Potiphar's wife. A tribe has arisen, to-day that knoweth not Joseph. All men are not Josephs and all women are not Potiphar's wives to-day. All the arguments against the Bill are illusionary and of no substance.
I am willing to admit that many hon. Members who have passed to the mature side of life are only too willing to accept an Amendment such as this as one of the ordinary laws of life. But I refuse to sit here and allow it to go out that we have to accept it as part of the ordinary canons of life that we are to regard the normal living of a girl such as this to be regarded as of the age of M. I refuse to accept the interpretation placed by the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) on his knowlege of working men's club life, or any other working men's social life which would not revolt in honour at the idea of such a girl being put in such a category. If hon. Members who accept that view of the case would go home and read Sir J. M. Barrie's recent speech on youth they might look into the future and not accept for all time what they have been pleased to accept for the last generation believe we are marching on to a new phase in the development of the adolescent. Far better would it be to give the adolescent something to look forward to in the matter of training for the future rather than to pass legislation dealing with the effect and not the cause. You are driving these young girls and young boys out of the schools to go to work when many of you are leaving home to go to school. I resent the idea that because of these things we are to accept the finality of a Measure such as this. It is not fair to the younger generation, and it is not true of the great mass of the people, and so long as we place a deterrent in the way of crime I am certain we shall move upwards.
I listened to the Debate on the former occasion, and being ignorant of the law, I could not find any Amendment, which I thought would suit the case. In the Amendment now before the House I believe we have found an Amendment which the Home Secretary should accept. For the man who first seduces a girl I think there is no punishment which this House could pass which could be severe enough; but when a girl has been seduced and has learned vice, and she in her turn seduces a young man, surely it is not the young man but the girl who should be punished. In such a case there should be some Amendment which would protect the boy as well as the girl. The present Amendment meets the feeling of a great many hon. Members who, although they want to see this Bill pass, feel extremely uneasy about a certain portion of it, and would like to see this Amendment accepted.
May I correct what I think is a misstatement by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson). It is idle to suggest that, if this Amendment be not passed, this Bill will make it a criminal offence for a man to kiss a girl under 16. The thing is too childish. It is ridiculous to suggest that it would be made a criminal offence to kiss a girl at a Christmas party.
If the right hon. Gentleman thought that he heard me say that, he must have misunderstood me. Indecent assault is not a question of carnal knowledge in any way. It is a vague term. It may mean cuddling or hugging a girl, and in very exceptional circumstances, as for instance in a railway carriage, kissing might amount to indecent assault.
I disagree entirely with my hon. and learned Friend that kissing can be an indecent assault. I am told that numbers of members of this House have come to the conclusion that a man can be prosecuted for kissing a girl. I would ask members of the House have they ever heard of such a thing? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] It is true that the age of consent to an indecent assault is raised, but the point is that if you pass this Amendment, you make a distinction between the girl prostitute and the moral girl, and I say that of the two the girl prostitute is the one who unfortunately requires protection the more. This Amendment is taking from the girl prostitute the protection which we ask for her.
Sir F. HALL:
My hon. and learned Friend pointed out that if t he magistrates had a case of this nature before them they would dismiss it. I submit that there is not that power. If a case comes within the four corners of the law the magistrate is bound to convict notwithstanding any sympathetic feeling that he may have. The Home Secretary might consider this matter a little more closely. The Amendment will not do any harm to the Bill, but will strengthen it.
Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. HOPE:
I appeal to the Government to allow a free vote and to take the Whips off the forthcoming division? The necessity for that is shown by the fact that we have had two distinguished lawyers, the Home Secretary and the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) differing on the point at issue. We are in a difficult position. We are in doubt whether we shall not be sanctioning a criminal offence against a young man for kissing or cuddling a prostitute.
|Division No. 238.]||AYES.||[11.38 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Gould, James C.||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gretton, Colonel John||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Duiwich)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Hayes, Hugh (Down, W.)||Pain, Brig.-Gen. Sir W. Hacket|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Palmer, Brigadier-General G. L.|
|Bird, Sir H. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Poison, Sir Thomas A.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hood, Sir Joseph||Ramtden, G. T.|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Hope, J. D. (Berwick & Haddington)||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Hopkins, John W. W.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Heretord)|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Houfton, John Piowrlght||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur||Hunter, General Sir A. (Lancaster)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Ayimer||Surtees, Brigadier-General H. C.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hurd, Percy A.||Ward, Col. J, (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Jameson, John Gordon||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Cope, Major William||Kidd, James||Windsor, Viscount|
|Dewhurst, Liout.-Commander Harry||Lorden, John William||Wise, Frederick|
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Loseby, Captain C. E.||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Younger, Sir George|
|FitzRoy, Captain Hon. Edward A.||Macquisten, F. A.|
|Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Manville, Edward||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Meysey-Thompson, Lieut.-Col. E. C.||Mr. Rawifnson and Captain Viscount Curzon.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Evans, Ernest||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M,||Lunn, William|
|Adkins, Sir William Ryland Dent||Finney, Samuel||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Maclean, Rt. Hn, Sir D. (Midlothian)|
|Amnion. Charles George||Foot, Isaac||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Ford, Patrick Johnston||MacVeagh, Jeremiah|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Forrest, Walter||Maltland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Mallalieu, Frederick William|
|Banton, George||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Gilbert, James Daniel||Mildmay, Colonel Rt. Hon. F. B.|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Gillis, William||Mills, John Edmund|
|Barnston. Major Harry||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Morrison, Hugh|
|Barrand, A. R.||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton]||Murray, Rt. Hon. C. D. (Edinburgh)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Grant, James Augustus||Murray, Dr. D. (Inverness & Ross)|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Lelth)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Sir Hamar||Murray, John (Leeds', West)|
|Bennett, Sir Thomas Jewell||Gregory, Holman||Myers, Thomas|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Naylor, Thomas Ellis|
|Berwick, Major G. 0.||Grundy, T. W.||Neal, Arthur|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Newman, Sir R. H. S, O. L. (Exeter)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Norrls, Colonel Sir Henry G.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Breese, Major Charies E.||Hallwood, Augustine||Parker, James|
|Brldgeman, Rt. Hon. William Cilve||Halls, Walter||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Briggs, Harold||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Pease, Rt. Han. Herbert Pike|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Hartshorn, Vernon||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Bromfieid, William||Hayday, Arthur||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Bruton, Sir James||Hills, Major John Waller||Perring, William George|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A,||Hinds, John||Pollock, Rt. Hon, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Cape, Thomas||Hirst, G. H.||Rae, Sir Henry N.|
|Casey, T. W.||Hogge, James Myles||Rattan. Peter Wilson|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Randies, Sir John Scurrah|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Hope, Sir H. (Stirling &CI'ckm'nn'n,W.)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm. W.)||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Sprin)|
|Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Home, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Clough, Sir Robert||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Insklp, Thomas Walker H.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Rodger, A. K.|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Johnstone, Joseph||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Ciltheroe)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Sexton, James|
|Dawson, Sir Ph. Sir||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Doyle, N. Grattrn||Law, Alfred J. (Rochdale)||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Lawson, John James||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedweilty)||Lioyd-Greame, sir P.||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on T.)|
|Entwistie, Major C. F.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tlngd'n)||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Smith, w. R. (Wellingborough)||Iryon, Major George Clement||Wilson, James (Dudley)|
|Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)||Turton, Edmund Russborough||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Stephenson, Lieut.-Colons.||Wallace, J.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Sturrock, J. Long||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)||Winterton, Earl|
|Sutherland, Sir William||Waiters, Rt. Hon. Sir John Tudor||Intringham, Margaret|
|Sutton, John Edward||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Swan, J. E.||Waring. Major Walter||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Taylor, J.||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield||Young, E. H. (Norwich)|
|Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)||M'Curdy.|
|Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhlil)|
I beg to move at the end of the Clause, to insert the words
but the party so consenting shall be guilty of a misdemeanour if he or she is of the age of fifteen years.
This Amendment is undoubted of a controversial kind. If I may tell the House its history, quite apart from its merits, I think the time will be well-spent. The Bill was before the House last year. On the Committee stage upstairs I moved this Amendment, which was carried, I forget by what majority. When it came to be discussed on the Report stage in this House it was opposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Sir R. Newman). A considerable discussion occurred, but on a division the Amendment was carried by 167 to 37. The Whips were not on, and it was not open voting. The Amendment was sent up to the House of Lords, and was accepted by them I moved it again this year in the Committee upstairs, the Government opposed it, and 15 voted for it and 15 against. The Chairman, as is, of course, right in those cases, gave his casting vote against the Amendment, and it was therefore lost by 16 to 15. In the circumstances, I think I may say that the House of Commons has expressed a fairly strong opinion in favour of the Amendment.
The Amendment is that in the case of indecent assaults—that is, Clause 1—it should be an offence for the girl or the boy, as the case may be—in the majority of cases it is a girl—if she consents to these assaults if she is over 15. It would leave the Bill unchanged as regards girls of 13 and 14, but if girls of 15 take part in these acts it should be a misdemeanour within the meaning of the Bill. That was discussed very fully last year, and I am not going to take long this even-mg for that reason. On an open vote, 167 against 37 voted in favour of it, and another place accepted it. I do submit, with all respect to the Home Secretary, that it is somewhat cynical for the Government to refuse an Amendment placed in the Bill last year. Committees upstairs often spend a great deal of time and a considerable amount of trouble—certainly this Committee did on this Bill—over these measures. We sat up late last year, and discussed this particular Amendment which was carried on an open vote, as I have stated. I think that was a fairly strong expression of opinion by the House which should hear weight with the Government.
I know the Government say they do not put it in because they think the amendment a bad one, and we are told the Public Prosecutor objected to it, which is quite possible. When I put it forward last year I admitted, and I admit now at once, that it might in certain cases lead to your not getting convictions which you might get under the Bill if passed in its present form, but it is not necessary in all, cases for the girl to give evidence. In a large number of cases the parties do not give evidence at all. I would give this instance to the House. In the Divorce Court it is comparatively rarely that one of the parties admit the commission of adultery or give evidence on the point, except in the case of a general denial. It is the people who have seen the guilty parties in certain situations that give the requisite evidence. It is the same with many cases under the age of sixteen.
In the vast majority of cases it is the evidence, not of either of the parties to the alleged offence, but of people who have seen the parties in a particular position. For instance, in the case of an indecent assault as upon a child, it is a policeman or a person who happens to be walking by who sees it. It would be highly dangerous to convict a man—or a girl either, for that matter—of an indecent assault unless there were strong corroborative evidence of the statement she made. Therefore, I do not think that point carries us very much further. I agree at once that in a certain number of cases the evidence of the implicated parties is necessary.
Our object here is not necessarily to get convictions for this offence, it is to prevent immorality amongst young people under 16. The House rejected my last Amendment, and of course, I bow at once to its decision and say no more about it. The result, however, is that you are going to send this Bill out in such a form that, so far as children of the age of 15, who are living the life of prostitutes and may be seducing men or boys are concerned, there is no statute which in any way makes that an offence on the part of such a girl. The Home Secretary perfectly fairly admitted, on a previous Amendment, that it was true to that extent that there was nothing whatever to touch a young girl of fifteen, though he referred to the well-known provisions of the Children Act., 1908. I remember very well the discussions that took place upon that Bill, and the fights we had over almost every Clause. The House licked the Bill into shape before it passed it. There were just as many absurdities in that Bill at the beginning as there are in the present measure, but the Government then put in a large number of Amendments, which were very 'useful. I hope they will do the same with this Bill, though up to the present, they have accepted none.
You have got this position, that under the age of 16 it is no sort of offence for this sort of girl to go on leading the life she is leading. An hon. Member said a short time ago that a great deal of nonsense is talked about equality of the sexes. I quite agree with that remark, but there is something in it. After all, there is some sort of equality. If you have a girl who, unfortunately, is versed in vice and is making her living by vicious ways; if she goes about the streets as girls do to-day—magistrates, chief constables and others have spoken to me about it—it is no sort of offence for such a girl to go about and ply her trade, unless she solicits somebody in the same way as a woman of more mature years. What this Amendment, which was carried last year by this House, seeks to do is to say that if a girl under 16 consents to an indecency of this nature she shall be guilty of a misdemeanour. Although I quite agree that it is a controversial matter, I hope the House will grant me this Amendment to the Bill. I will not make a bargain, but if it does that, I think I shall catch my last tram home—is not that the right expression? Now that the County Council has allowed trams to be run all night, perhaps I must say the last 'bus home. I hope the Government will accept this Amendment. It would be a crime if we did not do something to make it an offence for these girls of 15 to commit acts of indecency.
I beg to Second the Amendment.
I do so from a point of view somewhat different from that of my hon. and learned Friend. He has been a sincere and an acute critic of this Bill in many particulars, and Las indicated that the objections to the policy it embodies have great weight with him. I, on the other hand, was last year, and am this year, a cordial supporter of the Bill, and, apart from this particular Amendment, which I am now seconding, I desire that the Bill should pass in the form in which it is now. I do not even support the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Altrincham (Sir G. Hamilton) which, I understand, has certain favouring winds sending it forward, because I think the time is come for the complete abolition of what is considered a reasonable cause of controversy with regard to girls under 16. The policy of this Bill I believe to be in substance sound, and the provisions of the Bill right, but I think the Bill will not be weakened in any way, and will be strengthened, and will command wider support if this particular Amendment be put in. My hon. and learned Friend has referred to the fact, which, I am sure, the House will be glad to keep in mind, that this Amendment has already been sanctioned and passed last year by this House and in another place, and the lawyers, who are so numerous in another place, while they fell upon various provisions of the Bill last year, and introdueed alterations which prevented it becoming law, did not alter this Amendment, which was then embodied in the Bill.
The Amendment seeks to provide that in the case of a girl of 15, if she consents to an act of indecency with a man, she should be liable to be prosecuted. Is not that right? A girl of 15 might very well, and properly, be free from prosecution for consenting to carnal knowledge, but she is old enough to know that she is doing wrong in taking part in actual indecency, and is it not in tile interests of girlhood, and public morality generally, that an offence of indecency between two persons, both of whom are 15, should alike be an offence in each case? This does not apply to girls between 13 and 15, whereas, quite properly as I think, where these things occur the man is punished if the girl be between 13 and 15. But in the case of a girl of 15, is it not reasonable that both parties should be punished? Years ago, in this country, and in many countries, there was a great flaw both in public morality and in public law in provisions and suggestions that what was wrong in a woman was not wrong in a man. Fortunately, we have got past that stage, but it is very dangerous to go too far in the other direction, and say that what is wrong in a man is not wrong in a woman. Where, therefore, you are dealing with these matters of indecency, and not the graver offence, is it not right and proper to say that a girl of 15 should be liable to be punished, or, at any rate, to be prosecuted, for doing what she must know to be wrong, just as the man is very properly liable to be punished for doing the same thing in the same way? I must again venture to use in support of this Amendment the argument which I used against the last Amendment, that is to remind ourselves of the necessary discretion exercised by all courts of law before which these offences are triable, and their having regard to the circumstances of the case. In cases of indecency it is very rarely that either of those concerned provide the evidence that is given by the police and third parties, and is a question for the court. If it was shown to the court or tribunal that the lad was much more guilty than the girl then they would judge accordingly. I would remind the House that in any criminal charge, theft and the like, where two prisoners are concerned it is the duty of the Court to find out whether one of the two is not really more responsible than the other. Any Court worthy of the name, and any judge, would take very great care to see that there was no excessive punishment, and which one of the two who were doing anything indecent was really the less guilty, so that there should not follow undue harshness or undue treatment. The Bill, I am convinced, as a whole is a very good Bill, which I want to see passed without any other alteration. It is a Bill adapted for the protection of girlhood, but we should frankly recognise that it is not right that girls approaching maturity should not be punished if they do what they know to be wrong. It is the interests of girlhood, and tends to a fair incidence of the law.
This Amendment was before the House last year Further, it was before the Committee upstairs. It is perfectly true that the voting was equal and that involved the Chairman's casting vote against it. When you are considering the practical results I do not consider it a defeated Amendment at all, or that it has been substantially defeated in Committee. The reason I mention that is that I do not feel myself bound in any way by the decision of the Committee in respect of this. It is quite evident that there is a considerable body of opinion in the House which feels that they would like to have some sort of safeguard of this kind put into the Bill. I do not say I have been converted by their arguments. I, personally, still think that the Amendment is not a good one. At the same time, I am quite satisfied it cannot do any real substantial injury to the Bill as a whole. I should have opposed it were it not for the fact that it is quite evident there is a large body of opinion who would like to see it put in, and who feel that it is some safeguard for the danger that they anticipate—I think wrongly anticipate, but which they sincerely anticipate—in the provisions of this Measure. In order to meet that feeling I trust the House will accept the advice I give on behalf of the Government and accept the Amendment.
I much regret the Home Secretary has taken the course he has, and if the House will bear with me for a few minutes I will explain my reasons. My experience in serving on many grand juries leads me to the conclusion that this Amendment if accepted will have a serious effect on the usefulness of the Measure. I do not think we need bother about prosecutions of prostitutes. My experience at Assize after Assize is that in nearly all cases in which a respectable girl has been assaulted it. is her mother or some relation who elicits the fact that the offence has been committed. It is not necessary to go into details, but what invariably happens is this, a girl comes home. Her mother notices she is rather upset and questions her with the result that she admits that some one has attempted to assault her.
if the hon. Gentleman will bear with me I think I can show him my remarks are in Order. As I have explained the girl admits to her mother that some one has committed an assault. upon her. The parents go to the police; the man accused probably confesses to the offence. It is not always boys who do these things: it may be a man of 30 or 40. Proceedings are instituted and the man is punished. But if this Amendment is agreed to, what will be the result? The girl will say nothing, for she will be warned that if she does she will have to take her place in the dock beside the man.
I have been subjected to a good many interruptions. I will try again to make my point clear. The girl has told her parents. She has probably admitted that she consented. I am not going to defend her. Quite respectable girls have consented under temptation from older men. But the mere fact she has told the truth and admitted that she did consent will have the result that no action will be taken as far as the man is concerned because of the fear the girl herself would be put into the dock. As far as this Amendment is concerned it really reduces the age of consent down to 14. Let me take the case one step further. Suppose the girl is brought before a judge and jury, what is the charge against her? That she has committed adultery! [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] Pardon me for one moment. Surely I am right in saying that if a man commits an assault upon a girl with her consent it is not an assault in fact: it is an immoral offence?
As I understand the object of the Amendment is that if there has been an indecent assault—or by whatever legal term you may describe it —if there is connection between a girl of 15 and a man of 25 under the present law, and without this Amendment, it can be charged as an offence against the girl whether she consent or not. I understand that my hon. and learned Friend wants to alter that and to say that if the girl is a consenting party she shall be punished as well as the man. Is not that so?
I would be the last person to interrupt the hon. Member, but I would like to point out that if man has sexual intercourse with a- girl under 15, he commits an offence whether the girl consents or not. This is not a. question of her consenting to sexual intercourse; it is a question of certain action being taken by the two parties which may be found to be indecent, but need not necessarily go to the length of sexual intercourse.
I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman. What he has said, however, does not alter my case that a girl would be liable to prosecution, and that being so in nine cases out of ten no action will be taken against the man because if he punished she also may be punished. That is plain English. If the Amendment does not mean that what is the use of it. What is the hon. Member's idea in proposing an Amendment which states clearly that he wants punishment to be meted out to girls in these cases? This is by no means the right time to create a new class of offence for young people. We want to keep them out of the dock; not to put them into it. After all said and done I maintain that parents will be the first to say: "Don't take action against the man because we do not want our daughter punished. "We want to see protection for more or less innocent girls, and the Clause as it stands will give that.
I only want to say two words on this matter, which I hope may have some weight with a good many Members of the House, and perhaps even with the hon. Baronet the Member for Exeter (Sir R. Newman). If I can first of all get this idea into his head—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order, order!"]—I do not think the hon. Baronet will consider that I am rude in saying that; he and I are very good friends. My object when I speak is to try and get the ideas which are in my head into the heads of other hon. Members. What I want to get into my hon. Friend's head is the difference between the two offences dealt with in Clause 1 and Clause 2 of this Bill. The offence of indecent assault, dealt with in Clause 1, is not adultery. The hon. Baronet used the word "adultery," but the indecent assault dealt with in Clause 1 is not sexual intercourse, and this Amendment, therefore, has nothing to do with adultery or sexual intercourse. It deals with the lesser offence of indecent assault, which does not amount to anything like sexual connection. It deals with exactly that type of misbehaviour which is the very way in which young girls are turned into prostitutes. If in such a case you can punish or put some restraining influence upon the girl by prosecuting her and binding her over, you can, by dealing with the lesser offence, stop those indecent practices which lead in the end to illicit intercourse and to the girl becoming a prostitute. This Amendment does nothing whatever to relieve any male person who is accused under this Measure, but it gives the opportunity of taking proceedings against those who are undoubtedly guilty, in a way which may be the greatest blessing to them in saving them from a life of shame in years to come.
I am very sorry the Home Secretary should have seen his way to yield on this Amendment. This Bill is, as it has been frequently stated to be, a Bill for the protection of young girls, and in Committee the Home Secretary told us that the Public Prosecutor was strongly opposed to this Amendment, because of the difficulty in getting a conviction. I emphasize that point, because, if this Amendment were carried, there would be the very greatest difficulty in getting a young girl to give evidence in connection with an offence against her. A great deal has been said to-night about Clause 1, on the ground that it merely deals with indecent assault, but I want to put the other side of the question. Very often a more serious offence is charged, and also, in a counter-indictment, there is a charge of indecent assault. Too often the prosecution is unable to obtain a conviction on the more serious charge, although a very serious offence has been committed, and then the Court commits on the charge of indecent assault. If this Amendment is carried there will be in practice an immense difficulty in getting a conviction at all under this Clause. I am sorry, therefore, that the Home Secretary should have given way, and I hope the House will firmly oppose the Amendment.
I should like to support what has been said by the hon. Member for Exeter (Sir R. Newman) and the hon. Member for Central Portsmouth (Sir T. Bramsdon), and I hope the House will consider well before it accepts this Amendment. It seems to me, and I think it must seem to the Horse if they consider what it really involves, to be the destruction of two-thirds of Clause 1 as it stands. Theoretically, there is a very strong case for the Amendment, but the House will see that it has the effect of raising the age of consent, not to 16, but to 15: and the object of Clause 1 is to raise the age of consent to 16. The object is to prevent men from being able to take advantage of the vicious inclinations and levity of young girls of 13, 14 and 15. The effect of the Amendment is to raise the age of consent to 15 only, and to leave Clause 1, so far as it affects girls of 15, a dead letter. That is not what the House wished when it gave a Second Reading to this Bill, and it is not, I am convinced, what public opinion wishes at the present time. There is a strong feeling among all who know anything of rescue work and social welfare in great cities as well as in country districts, that girls of 15 need protection just as much as girls of 13 and 14. The evil against which Clause 1 gives protection is not in the least comparable with, as one hon. Member put it, buying groceries from a grocer who is profiteering. I submit with some confidence that if this Amendment is passed there can be no conviction or hardly any convictions, of men who have committed an in decent assault on girls of 15, because, in 99 cases out of 100 the man will set up the defence that the girl consented. How can that be disproved? The best way is to call the girl herself; and if she be called she will have to give evidence and be cross-examined, and will be in the very difficult and delicate position of opening the door to a prosecution against herself for an offence under this Clause. That is one objection to the Amendment as it will operate. Another is that, as some of my hon. Friends have pointed out, not only will a conviction be difficult, but it will he difficult to bring a prosecution at all. In nine cases out of ten it is on the initiative of the parents that a prosecution is instituted against, a man who has committed an indecent assault on a girl of 15; and what parents are going to take the initiative in proceedings of this sort if they know that their own child is going to he liable to be proceeded against? It follows, therefore, that if the Amendment be carried, it will make the operation of Clause 1 a dead letter so far as girls of 15 are concerned. If the House wishes that Clause 1 shall be operative and effective against offences on girls of 15, it follows that the Amendment ought to be rejected, and I hope that, although the Government have weakened and wavered on this question, the majority of the House will stand firm and resist the Amendment to the last.
I should like to make one suggestion. The Home Secretary in saying that he did not object to this Amendment, did not in any way deal with the substance of the Amendment. He practically said that it would help to get the Bill through if he accepted the Amendment, because a good many Members of the House were clearly in favour of it, and he only just told us that it was a bad Amendment. I think it would help us if he would tell us whether he agrees with the arguments of the hon. and learned Member for Moss Side (Lieut.-Colonel Hurst), which have affected me and others a good deal, or whether he does not.
My view of this Amendment is that I do not think it would have very much effect. In nine cases out of ten, if there be really consent, but there is no possible evidence to prove the case, nothing more will be heard of it. It is when there is really no consent and the mother notices the disturbed state of the child that these charges are brought. It is rare, but, of course, it does happen, that a case is brought where the girl may have to admit consent. There are many cases, no doubt, where cross-examination would lead the jury—a jury it must be, because a case of indecent assault cannot be tried by the magistrate, it has to go either to Quarter Sessions or the Assizes—to say that in spite of the girl's denial there was consent. Clearly no prosecution would be able to follow on that. The girl is under 16, she is a young child, and nobody is going to prosecute her or send her to prison or punish her for that. They will probably tell the parents to take her home and punish her. My opinion is that I do not think the Amendment will stop many prosecutions, if any. I do not think it will have the slightest effect in punishing the girl. I do not think it will have any substantial effect upon the jury, but if I am wrong, and if the opinion of hon. Members opposite is correct, I am desirous that they should have the safeguard which they think necessary. I do not think that it is necessary.
If this Amendment be passed a girl goes into the witness-box and charges a man with indecent assault. She is the principal witness. She is then cross-examined, but the learned judge or the learned recorder or counsel will be bound to represent to her that she need not answer any question dealing with consent, because she might thereby incriminate herself. She would not be bound to answer, and she could not be forced to answer a question as to whether or not she consented. Therefore she cannot be bound in any trial to give herself away, or to make any confession.
I am speaking of the girl's admission. The evidence may be such that the jury would say they believe there had been consent, but I do not think in practice unless she had definitely consented, that anybody would prosecute her. However, if it is a necessary safeguard I should be quite willing that it should go into the Bill. I do not think that it is necessary.
The intention of Clause 1 is to raise the age of consent of indecent assault to 16. Those of us who have had any recollection of criminal law know how steadily public opinion has gone up from one age to another. It used to be 13; indeed, it used to be lower than that, and it was a complete defence for a man to make to a child of 10 that she had consented. Public opinion went up from that to 13, and it has gone up from that to 16, and is backed by the vast majority of official opinion. The effect of this Amendment is going to be this in practice as if you put the age of 15 instead of 16. As the matter is to be left to the House, I confess I hope the House will reject this Amendment.
May I just say a few words on this question, because I attach a certain importance to the Amendment which has been moved. I appreciate the purpose for which the Amendment has been moved. I think you have to look much more narrowly than the speeches of some hon. Members who have spoken, at the Clause to which this Amendment is proposed. Do not let us diverge into various other Clauses of the Bill or Sections of existing Acts of Parliament. Let us look closely at what this Clause itself provides. It is this: that in case of an act of indecency no person who is charged with making such an indecent act upon a person under the age of 16 is to be entitled to say that that young person under the age of 16 consented to the act of indecency. For my own part, I share the view of a number of lawyers as to whether or not that could not be made the ground of improper charges. But in dealing with
these cases of indecency—and only acts of indecency—do not let us forget that we are saying that there can he no defence by way of consent Some hon. Members have pointed out in the course of the Debate, on a previous Amendment, that the words "act of indecency" covers a very wide range of acts. While we have every desire to protect young people from these, we must not forget that in. removing any possible defence by consent to an act of indecency, we are laying open a large number of persons to attacks, cruel attacks, and sometimes very difficult attacks to repel. Upon that the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson) moves an Amendment, and he proposes to put at the end of this Clause the words
but the party so consenting shall be guilty of a misdemeanour if he or she is of the age. of 15 years.
Let us consider this. At the age of 15 does a girl know what an act of indecency is or does she not? Is there any girl of 15 who does not know what an act of indecency is? Does not a girl know that she ought not to allow some man to put his hand up to her clothes and so on. It is an act intended for the purpose of indecency, and by that means in some cases there is the gratification of an incipient sexual appetite. That is what indecency is, and every girl in every rank of life knows perfectly well at the age of 15 what a man ought not to do to her. We are perfectly right in saying that girls in every rank of life have that inherent power to protect themselves. They ought to protect themselves, and we-may rightly call upon them to protect themselves. There is to be no defence to a boy or a. young man who has committed this act of indecency, although he may have been attracted—I will almost say invited—by the fact that this girl, able to protect herself, consented to the act. That opens the door very widely to charges and offences by these persons. Inasmuch as the person of 15 and upwards knows quite well what. Indecency is, and realises that when a man approaches her and takes her in a manner which is indecent such as I have suggested, her sense of shame ought to repel her. She ought to be able, of her own motion, to protect herself. We are asking her to take some part in assisting the Legislature
in protecting herself from what she at the time consented to, and at the very time knew what she was doing was wrong.
I must say just one word in answer to what has fallen from the Attorney-General, because I really think the House will agree with me that his speech is in favour of not raising the age beyond 15. This is the conclusion to which I must come from the argument he has addressed to the House. The whole case for the age is that a child of that age is not able to protect herself, and ought not to be put in the position of having to protect herself. If that breaks down then the case for the age breaks down. It seems to me on the whole that the Attorney-General's argument is wrong, because it proceeds as if this is a safeguard to the man. That was the argument that he put forward. I do not think this is sound. If he had said there are girls, unfortunately, who really incite the boy, I should have had sympathy with him. We have all seen cases in the courts. I remember hearing a learned judge say that they wished they had power to punish the girls in such cases as well. In the words of the Attorney-General, you must call upon her to assist in her own protection. That is wrong, and not in accordance with the whole point of this Bill. If you do this, it is really equivalent, or almost equivalent, to cutting down the age to 15. In practice you will not find any prosecution if the risk is such that if the girl cannot persuade a jury that the man's allegation that she consented, because there will always be that allegation made—if she cannot prove that the man's allegation that she consented is wrong she will be open to a criminal prosecution, and the result will mean that this Clause of the Bill would be practically inoperative as between the ages of 15 and 16.
I am most anxious that we should go to a division, but I simply cannot understand some of the speeches that I have listened to on this Amendment. The right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) does not seem to understand the effect of Clause 1 of this Bill. Clause 1 raises for the first time the age limit from 13 to 16. What is the object of Clause 1? It is extraordinary that no speaker, including the Home Secretary and the learned Attorney-General, has referred to it. It deals with boys as much as with girls, but somehow or other the House has got carried away by the idea that this Bill is really going to protect young girls, which I do hot believe it is going to do. It is going to do more harm to young girls than any other legislation. What is the real effect of this Amendment? The age under Clause 1 is raised from 13 to 16, and indecent assault on any person, male or female, under the age of 16 is made a criminal offence. What do we mean by indecent assault? I do appeal to the Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord R. Cecil) who spoke last. Surely the Noble Lord must agree with me that indecent assault can only be when there is no consent. I may put to him this proposition. Two children, one a boy and the other a girl, behave indecently with one another. Who is to blame?
I agree, but if the boy happens to be just 16 and the girl a day under 16 the boy is going to be the criminal and the girl will not be held to blame. What we aim at is to prevent indecent behaviour, not indecent assault. If the girl or boy be 15, they know just as much as older people that they are behaving indecently, if they have been properly brought up and taught. What this Amendment says is that if it is really an assault and done without consent, it is a criminal offence, and if it is done with consent it is still a criminal offence, but whether the young person is a boy or a girl, if they consent and behave equally indecently, and are 15 years of age, they, too, should be criminally liable for a misdemeanour. That is all this Amendment asks; without it if the boy or girl consents—or to put a better word to the learned Attorney-General—if the boy or girl is the inciting party, and the girl in many cases is the inciting party, and plays with a young man till she drives him almost mad, she being 15 and he 16, the boy is to be a criminal and she gets off scot free. Indecent behaviour is wrong. Let us punish it, but if the girl is the inciting party and leads the boy on, or if a young boy of 15 leads a girl of 16 on, then I say that boy or that girl if they are the inciting parties should also be punished for their own good. After all, the real object of this Bill is to try to prevent children from being immoral and to try to make them moral by law. I do not believe you can do it, but that is the object. That being so, do let us have this most sensible Amendment, recommended by the Government, which only says that the older person should be criminally liable, but provided the child is between the age of 15 and 16, and consents, encourages or incites, it should also be punished for indecent behaviour.
I regret that the Home Secretary is showing signs of weakening on this point, because if he does, it really destroys the value of the Bill. The intention of the Bill is in an unqualified manner to raise the age to 16. In 99 cases out of a 100 the man will say that the girl consented, and the parents will not raise the question in court. The whole intention of the Bill is to give effective protection for children under 16, both boys and girls, and I urge the Home Secretary to hold to his previous resolution.
Some of the speeches that we have had on this particular Clause are most peculiar. One Member sitting opposite me talked about adultery and criminal assault as if things were done by violence. I am definitely shocked to hear so much enthusiasm from the other side. God help the people of a girl of 15 or a boy of 15 who do not know the difference between right and wrong, and the Lord help the boy or girl and shame to the parents if he or she has not been instructed as to what is right or what is wrong. A perfectly shocking position is going to be created by this Bill, for a boy may be ruined by some forward young female. I came across an instance the other day. A girl had taken a flat for wrongful purposes and a man had been induced to go there. A few days after the girl's mother called and accused him of having tampered with her daughter who was under. 16. He said, "I did not know," and then a thought struck him that at her tender age the daughter could not have got the flat and he said "you took the flat and guaranteed the rent," and she had to admit it and went away defeated. These cases will not be dealt with. If she is not a consenting party, even the present law protects her from criminal assault, whether she is 16 or 60.
Sir A. STEEL-MAIITLAND:
Of course it is Quarter Sessions. An hon. Member who spoke laid stress on the hardship which might be inflicted on a young fellow of sixteen who had committed an indecent assault with a girl of 15.
I made legal inquiries before this Clause came on, and with all due deference, that was what I was informed was the position. It can be brought under the Probation of Offenders Act, and the course which the magistrate can take is either to dismiss the case or, without proceeding to a conviction, order the defendant to come up for judgment if called upon.
The case upon which was laid stress was a juvenile delinquent in connection with another. The other case is the extraordinarily anomalous state of the law to which we shall be reduced if this Amendment be passed. The girl in this case who consents to an act of indecent assault will have committed an offence. The girl who consents to the much more serious act under Clause 2 will not be an offender under the law at all. What therefore the effect of passing this Amendment will be is that this House will render legal the punishment of a girl of 15 who has committed a lesser offence and not render liable to punishment the girl who has connection with a person and has been a party to a much more serious act. I wish to impress upon hon. Members that the effect of this Amendment will be that the age will practically be reduced to 14 instead of 15. It is quite true that if a girl of the age of 15, if she has consented, will see that proceedings will not be taken under this Bill—nor will her parents take proceedings. But it may be that she 'has committed some innocent act of pleasantry and that after that the other party has gone on to an act of indecent behaviour. It may be that she has done nothing. But it is quite clear what defence the offender will always take in any proceedings in the case of a girl of 15 or over.
The first Committee I sat on after becoming a. Member of this House was a Committee dealing with this Bill. It was not a very pleasant thing for a woman to do, and it was not a very pleasant thing to take part in the discussion. The first time it came up in this House it was deliberately wrecked by some people who are to-night putting down clauses to wreck it now. It is said that the object of this Bill is to punish immorality. The object of this Bill is to punish men who take advantage of girls under 16.
I have listened patiently quite a long time to what you and your lot have said. I can be as insulting as you if I want, but I want to get something which every society in England which deals with girls is desperately anxious should be passed. It is all very well for Members who think they know about these things—[HON. MEMBERS "As much as you."]—You will not know as much about it as us if you live 1,000 years.
It is not very pleasant for a woman to be here to night. It is a most uncomfortable de bate for any woman, but we are quite willing to listen to anything said if we can do anything to protect the girls under 16. I think some hon. Members and the Attorney-General do not really understand women very well. I would like to know what is a misdemeanour. There are lots of girls who do not know half as much as men think they know. I think some hon. Members forget that you do not know what is a girl's mind. You take a few unfortunate girls. We are trying to protect just ordinary girls. There are thousands of girls in this country who do not really know, and it is possible that men, even sometimes at 16, will know far more than a girl of 17. If this Amendment be carried, it will wreck the Bill. I have heard of blackmailing. I have five sons myself, and I would not be likely to help a Bill that in any way was going to expose my sons to blackmail. It is not a question of blackmail. It is a question of the prostitution of girls under 16. It is something so horrible that if you go into it you feel you would take a few risks with your sons rather than have the sense of girls being prostitutes. The Bill has been wrecked once before, and it will be wrecked again to-night, and the wreckers do not honestly in their hearts want the Bill to go through.
If that be true, it. is obviously an absurdity. An indecent assault is an indictable offence. To commit the full offence of sexual relationship is not a misdemeanour at all. I cannot imagine that the Mover of the Amendment really intends to put the House in a position of passing a measure which makes it an indictable offence to consent to indecent assault and not to sexual relationship. It will be argued that it is better to commit the full offence of sexual relationship and not be liable to prosecution. The Home Secretary accepted that Amendment before he heard a single argument on the other side. He only heard the proposal of the Seconder and he immediately got up and said on behalf of the Government that he accepted the Amendment. I trust it is still not too late for the Government to insist on their attitude in regard to the Bill and to refuse to accept this very serious Amendment.
very vital point. There must be very considerable doubt as to whether this does not strike at the root of Clause 2 and so nullify, not only t his Bill but the Act of 1885. There are some of us who are opposed to this Bill because it widens what we consider to be a very proper defence, but we cannot be a party to an Amendment which would not only affect this particular Bill but would nullify the Act of 1885. I would ask my right hon. Friend if there is not very considerable legal doubt. You have created the very extraordinary offence of an assault by consent under Clause 1. Surely where the girl consents also to criminal intercourse that comes under the same head of indecent assault. [HON. MEMBERS: "Divide!"] There is a danger of the House voting under a misapprehension, and I would ask them—[HON. MEMBERS: "Divide! Divide!"]
|Division No. 239.]||AYES.||[1.10 a.m.|
|Adkins, Sir William Ryland Dent||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||pain, Brig.-Gen. Sir W. Hacket|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Hamilton, Sir George C.||Parker, James|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray|
|At key, A. R.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Hopkins, John W. W.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lanes., Stretford)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Horne, Edgar (Surrey, Guildford)||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Houfton, John Piowright||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. w. C. H. (Devlzes)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Jameson, John Gordon||Stanley. Major Hon. G. (Preston)|
|Borwick, Major G. O.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Brown, Major D. C.||Lort-Williams, J.||Tryon. Major George Clement|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Ward, William Dudley (Southampton)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Vacpherson, Rt. Hon. James 1.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Dewhurst, Lieut.-Commander Harry||Macquisten, F. A.||Wills, Lt.-Col- Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Manville, Edward||Windsor, Viscount|
|Eyres-M onsen, Com. Bolton M.||Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Worsfold. T. Cato|
|Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Morden, Col. W. Grant|
|Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Gould, James C.||Neal. Arthur||Mr. Joseph Green and Captain|
|Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Viscount Curzon|
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Acland, Ht. Hon. Francis D,||Briggs, Harold||Davies, A. (Lancaster, Clitheroe)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Brittain, sir Harry||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)|
|Ammon, Charles George||Broad, Thomas Tucker||Davies, Thomas (Clrencester)|
|Astor. Viscountess||Bromfield, William||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol. S.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Bruton, Sir James||Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)|
|Banton, George||Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Doyle, N. Grattan|
|Barrand, A. R,||Cape, Thomas||Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwelltyt|
|Barton, sir William (Oldham)||Casey, T. W.||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Foot, Isaac|
|Bramtdon, Sir Thomas||Clough, Sir Robert||Ford, Patrick Johnston|
|Breese, Major Charles E.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Forrest, Walter|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Gillis, William|
|Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Loseby, Captain C, E.||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Gregory, Holman||Lunn, William||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Grenlell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||M'Curdy, Rt. Hon, Charles A.||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Grundy, T. W.||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Hallwood, Augustine||Maitland, sir Arthur D. Steel-||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mallalleu, Frederick William||Sutherland, Sir William|
|Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Sutton, John Edward|
|Hartsnorn, Vernon||Mills, John Edmund||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Hayday, Arthur||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Morltz||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sir O. (Anglesey)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Morrison, Hugh||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Hinds, John||Murray, Rt. Hon. C. D. (Edinburgh)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Hirst, G. H.||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Hogge, James Myles||Morris, Colonel Sir Henry G.||Wallace, J.|
|Hood, Sir Joseph||Parkinson, John Allen (Wlgan)||Williams, Aneurin (Ourham, Consett)|
|Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & CI'ckm'nn'n,W.)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Col. L. O. (R'ding)|
|Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.||Perkins, Walter Frank||Winterton, Earl|
|Insklp, Thomas Walker H.||Rae, Sir Henry N.||Wise, Frederick|
|John, William (Rhondda, West)||Rattan, Peter Wilson||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.I|
|Johnstone, Joseph||Rendall, Athelstan||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Sllvertown)||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Lawson, John James||Rodger, A. K.||Sir Robert Newman and Mrs.|
|Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tlngd'n)||Royce, William Stapleton||Wintringham.|
|Lorden, John William||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out, to the word 'The' ["The limit of time"], stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.
Reasonable cause to believe that a girl was of or above the age of sixteen years shall not he a defence to a charge under Sections five or six of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1885 (in this Act referred to as the principal Act). The limb; of time mentioned in the second proviso to Section five of the principal Act, as amended by Section twenty-seven of the Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act. 1904, shall be nine months after the commission of the offence.
I beg to move, to leave out the Clause.
I am moving this Amendment because it has all along been my strongest objection to this particular Bill. I wish again to put to the Home Secretary the question which I put to the Government on the occasion of the Second Reading. What evidence have the Government that this Clause is needed? What sources have they consulted and upon what opinion have they based this? Have they been driven by the 60 societies who appended their names to a circular that was sent to all Members of Parliament, consisting very largely of what we know as rescue workers and the like: or have they gone to the persons whose business it is to deal with these particular cases, who see both sides of the point, have to study both sides of the question and who should be in a position to know more properly what should be done in such matters as these? We have had no sort of communication from the Home Secretary that he has taken the opinion of the High Court
Judges in this matter. We have no word from him that he has consulted any large number of barristers with a large criminal practice, especially, may I say, those who find themselves often in a position of defending poor persons in such circumstances as these. We have heard nothing of the kind. I have searched in vain for any such opinion that this Clause is necessary; on the contrary, 1 find by reference to statements made by learned Law Lords that their opinion is strongly against this Clause. They hold that it is unsound in principle and to use the words of one learned Law Lord
This is the kind of law which, if you make it, would break in your hands.
If it, be the intention of the Government to pass a law' which will break in the hands of those who administer it, then they have kept us up at an unreasonably late hour at night for very little purpose.
I will not repeat what I said on previous occasions with regard to this, but I wish to put on record that, if I had been met with any sort. of encouragement that the Amendment which stands in my name on the Paper and on this Clause would have been accepted, I would, despite my dislike to this Clause, have withdrawn my opposition to it. Let me at this stage ask the House to reflect upon the arguments which have been brought against the abolition of this defence during the various stages of this Bill. We were first of all told that the great reason for abolishing this defence of reasonable belief was that it was generally a dishonest defence. That argument, surely, was one which I think events have proved to be easily answered, the answer being, of course, that if it was a dishonest defence it should not succeed, and the question of whether it could or did succeed or not was not a matter to deal with in legislation of this kind, but was a matter which lay in the responsibility of the Courts. But now, that argument having apparently failed to have any effect, we have other objections raised. We are now told by the Home Secretary, among others, that the object of this Clause is to protect the young prostitute from herself. I want to examine that argument just for a moment. Of course it is an obvious answer to that argument as far as it goes to say that it is not right to punish comparatively innocent persons as compared with the more wicked persons. But there is another argument which should appeal to those who have supported this Clause hitherto and those who are so anxious to protect the young prostitute against herself. I want just to examine the point. The idea is that you are to protect the young prostitute against herself by prosecuting those with whom she carries on her trade. Is there a single Member of this House, with any experience whatever of matters of this kind, who believes that in cases of sexual intercourse with these young prostitutes there is one case in a hundred which ever comes before the courts? I have no doubt that I am right and I do not think anybody will contradict me. Of all the offences which are committed, under 5 per cent. are ever known and only 1 per cent. is ever the subject of a prosecution. Are you going to destroy the prostitute's market if you only interfere with 1 per cent. of this market I How can you protect them against themselves by methods of this kind? If these be the only two arguments which can be brought against the most elementary belief which surely supports our opposition to this Clause, the Englishman's ordinary sense of justice, surely those who have supported this Bill so strongly will see that we on this side have some good reason for objecting to this particular Clause. I do not want now to take up the time of the House with what under the circumstances must probably be an unsuccessful motion, but before I sit down, as one who has confined his attempts entirely to opposition to Clause 2, I desire to protest in the strongest way possible against the campaign which has been carried on by certain newspapers in this country, and I regret to say has been indulged in by the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor), of describing all those who have criticised this Bill or moved Amendments to it as wreckers of the Bill. The hon. Member was not on the Standing Committee which dealt with this Bill, and apparently she does not know what took place there, but I do suggest that if hon. Members take a real and serious interest in a Bill of this kind, in the interests of their case and in the interests of the Bill, they would do better in the future to meet those who support the rest of the Bill with some reasonable degree of consideration rather than at once abuse them because they do not happen to agree with every single word as it is first written, in a Bill of which at least one might say that it was the product of enthusiasm. None do more harm to a Bill of this kind than the enthusiastic supporters of it who nevertheless manage to ruin it and make it a worse Bill than it would be by an absolute refusal to treat as being as decently moral as himself or herself those who endeavour to criticise the Bill.
I must assure him that I certainly do not deserve it. I hope the House will not think me lacking in the sense of appreciation of this Amendment if I take a very short time indeed to ask the House to reject it. The question has already been debated on the Amendment moved by the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Rawlinson), and I think we really do know the pros and cons. In our view, and I think in the view of the majority of those who support the Bill, this Clause is essential. Experience has shown that the defence is not beneficial in the public interest. The defence is one calculated to defeat the ends which legislation of this description has in view, and those of us who support the Bill as an improvement to the present existing legislation look upon it as absolutely essential to protect that portion of the community which requires protection. For these reasons I ask the House to reject the Amendment.
I must make one remark. The defence you are abolishing is that a person should be allowed to say he had reasonable cause to believe the girl was above 16 at the time the offence was committed. We have been told that it might do a tremendous amount of harm if that Clause were allowed to go, but does it show a tremendous confidence in the democracy and knowledge of the jurymen who have to try the case? It is a question only for the jury. Do we really mean what we are saying here that we are absolutely unable to trust a mixed jury to try a simple case where a man has reasonable ground to believe that the girl was 16. I do think it shows very little sense of trust, either in your judges or your juries.
I beg to move, at the end of the Clause, to insert the words
Provided that in the case of a man of twenty-three years of age or under the presence of reasonable cause to believe that the girl was over the age of sixteen years shall be a valid defence on the first occasion on which he is charged with an offence under this Section.
I am encouraged in moving this Amendment by the fact that in Committee it was accepted by the promoters of the Bill and by the Government. I was given a definite pledge by the representative of the Government that on the Report stage they would support this Amendment. I understand one or two promoters of this Bill still differ as to whether they should allow this Amendment to go through. I should like to read to the House an article which I had given me after the Second Reading of the Bill took place in this House. It is, shortly, the argument which I have tried to put before the House on many occasions.
It is not held (by the opponents) just to award criminal punishment to a man who is deceived by another as to the nature of his action, and commits an offence in consequence without knowing it to be such. In this case the offence is constituted by the fact that the girl is under age. There
is probably sonic feeling that it is in any case an immoral action, and that if in an immoral action a man unwittingly commits a legal offence, then he deserves what he may get. This would seem to be a very irregular and confused kind of justice. Rightly or wrongly, the law makes a certain age limit the touchstone of crime. Then it goes on to say—or wilt go on to say if Clause 2 be accepted—that although a man is not merely ignorant that the girl is under age, but has reasonable cause to believe the contrary, though, that is to say, he has reasonable cause to believe that his act is no legal offence at all, yet he shall be liable to criminal punishment. Would it not he possible to attain the practical point, i.e., to prevent facile evasions, by substituting something more definite for the term 'reasonable cause.'
That was the leading article in a paper of some little note in Lancashire of some little influence among those who profess to uphold always the moral cause and would describe me and my friends as "one of that lot" because we dare to stand up in this House in regard to matters connected with the most disagreeable Bill that I have known during the ten years I have been in this House, and express the opinion that we are legislating not like grown up men but like fools. This article was written by the "Manchester Guardian." Those who read it as if it were the Bible every morning, will give some heed to what the "Manchester Guardian" says if they will not listen to us. This Amendment has been definitely accepted by the promoters of the Bill and the Government. But I do not know what the Government mean when they accept Amendments. They accepted the last Amendment and refused to put on the Whips. Some of us who have supported this Government through thick and thin will not forget this sort of thing. I do say in moving this Amendment that their definite pledge was given in Grand Committee by the representative of the Government that they would support this Amendment if it were put on the paper in the words I have given. Do they mean they are going to support it or are they going to run away from tine definite pledge given in Grand Committee?
I beg to second the Amendment. It is necessary to protest against the language used regarding some of us, both outside and inside the House, although we are as keen upon promoting the interests of public morality as the supporters of this Bill. I can give all credit to the supporters of this Bill, from whom I differ, but I do ask them to give us equal credit. I protest against the language of the hon. Member for Plymouth (Viscountess Astor) who talked about us as "that lot." I was working in the interests of public morality before the hon. Member for Plymouth was born. Those who do not believe in this kind of legislation are not immoral.
I understand that this Amendment had been accepted by two bodies of Members who were very much interested in the Bill. In Committee upstairs the representative of the Government accepted this Amendment, or rather promised to accept it when it was put on the Floor of the House. So far as I know, that agreement still exists, and therefore I am quite prepared to carry out the pledge given by the Government and to accept and support this Amendment.
I hope I may be allowed to say two sentences. If this has been agreed to by certain sections of the House and accepted by the Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "It has not!"] I only said "if." I would merely say, as one of those who supported Clause 2 in its original form, that I very much doubt whether this Amendment is likely to work well. It is difficult and dangerous to draw a purely artificial line like 23 between those who can claim this particular kind of defence and those who cannot. [HON. MEMBERS: "That applies to 16!"] Secondly, there is a great deal of difference between trying to get a date which is obviously a date at or about- the time when people cease to be children and become grown up and a purely artificial date like 22. I believe that the time has come to get rid of this peculiar defence. I am sorry that it should be still allowed. I think the Bill as introduced was a better Bill than it will be with this Amendment. I wish the Clause had been passed in its original form, and I am afraid there would be practical difficulty in working this.
I do not know who has agreed to this Amendment. We have had absolutely no explanation. We are merely told that some arrangement was made upstairs by certain people. Neither the hon. Member who moved nor the hon. Member who seconded produced one argument in favour of the Amendment. Here we have a Bill founded on the principle that ignorance is not to be a defence. Then we are asked to make an exception of a perfectly arbitrary kind in favour of a man of 23 for the first time. I cannot conceive on what ground we could do that, and I trust the House will reject it.
The arrangement to which the Home Secretary referred is one that I did not make. I think the hon. Member who did make it is now in the House, but I was aware of the proposal that some sort of arrangement should be made. It was an arrangement that those who were critics of the Bill should take no steps to resist the Bill or move Amendments. I say nothing as to whether that agreement has been kept or not, but I may be allowed to say on behalf of one or two who made the arrangement that they desire to observe the arrangement in the spirit and the letter. I am reluctant to consent to it, but I believe that if the Amendment is put into the Bill it will only be a short time before we have an amending Bill that will put the matter right.
I, too, regret what has happened to-night in regard to this matter. I know nothing about these arrangements, but if arrangements were made they ought to be carried out in the spirit in which they were made. Those who are proposing this Amendment have fought this Bill as vigorously and as bitterly as ever they fought it.
I do not altogether approve of this Amendment. I think it only fair to myself to say that I was present when that bargain was made, and I expressly exempted myself from being a party to it, and reserved my absolute freedom. But as I do not altogether see eye to eye with my hon. and gallant Friend with regard to the Amendment, perhaps I may explain what happened. It was an arrangement between certain Members who were concerned and who fought for all the points they wanted as strongly as they could. It was felt that this Bill would not have a chance of getting through Committee, and the result of that was that the Members of the Government in charge of the Bill, in order to get the Bill through, made, so far as they were able to do so, an arrangement which, I believe, has been perfectly well carried out, so far, by those who were parties to it, of whom, as I have said, I was not one.
I was one of the guilty parties who made the arrangement, so far as there was one. The arrangement was made between some of us who were keen and anxious supporters of the Bill with the hon. and gallant Member for Altrincham (Sir G. Hamilton) who was one of those—I think I am not misrepresenting him—who really dislike the Bill as a whole and particularly take exception to the absence of any protection in the case of young men who might be charged under Clause 2. It was not the Government who made any engagement of any sort at all. It was really that the Government were willing to say that if all parties were agreed on this kind of Amendment they would not stand in the way. I only wish to say in this matter that the Government were not parties to the agreement in that way and were not committed. The position stands in this way. So far as some of us were concerned we wished to try to obtain the passage of this Bill in the easiest way possible. It was quite understood that we could not actually upstairs in Committee commit all the supporters of this Bill on the Floor of the House here on Report. Quite obviously we could not do it. It is equally true that the Member for Altrincham and his friends could not bind some of those who oppose this Bill. The agreement was this: that, as far as we concerned, we would be willing to consent to an Amendment of this kind, little as we like it, if, on the other hand, the hon. Member for Altrincham and his Friends were willing to agree to Clause 1 passing in the form in which it stood on amendment, and also to there being no additional Clauses imported into the Bill. I am perfectly ready to admit at once that the hon. Member for Altrincham could, if he had wished, have spoken in favour of the Clauses. I am going to put the case perfectly fairly. It was no question of the Government. It was a question of those private Members who are supporters of the Bill and those private Members who are critics of the Bill, and so far as it was an agreement between private Members in support of this Bill it was torn up. So far as I am personally concerned, I would stand still by that agreement.
The right hon. Member for Peebles (Sir D. Maclean) said this was the first he had heard of any agreement. I seem to recollect that he was present in the House during the Second Reading when the Home Secretary gave a distinct pledge that something would be done. I asked the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Government would support the Clause without any other kind of reservation and whether hon. Members who oppose this Clause could put in new Amendments. He said Yes. It was an absolute undertaking on the part of the Government.
This Amendment ought not to be accepted by the House because it is, perhaps, one of the most serious of all the attempts that have been made to defeat the purpose the Bill has in view if you are going to permit full licence to the young manhood up to the age of 23 to commit an offence. [HON. MEMBERS: "No; just once!"] Just once can be no condonation of the offence. It is just that once that may give them the right that they had reasonable cause to believe, as though no man of 23 years of age has any power of discrimination equal to a man of 24, 25, 26 or 30. It is asking me to believe something and it is asking the public outside and the country to believe something that I am certain they will refuse to harbour in their minds for a moment. If the purpose of the Bill is as I believe it to protect the girlhood of the country against these debased persons, you will have every man up to the age of 25 offering that excuse and putting it as a means of defence. You will thereby give encouragement and licence to these people up to that age. I should ask the House that there has been no agreement that could bind me to support any such Amendment, and I hope the House will resent any such introduction finding its way on to the Statute Book in this connection.
Sir WILLIAM BARTON:
I am not in any sense a promoter of this Bill, but I happened to be a Member of this Committee and I want to know a little bit more about this alleged agreement. I listened very carefully to the hon. Member for Erdington (Sir A. Steel-Maitland), and from what I could gather it was an agreement between certain persons and the hon. and gallant Member for Altrincham (Sir G. Hamilton). Is the House to be committed and give up its privileges in order to buy off one vote? I have considerable respect for the rhetorical powers of the hon. and gallant Member for Altrincham, but that is too high a price to pay. It is clear that this arrangement was only with one man and that the arrangement has not been kept, either in the letter or in the spirit. In these circumstances I want to ask the Government what is their position now in the matter? Are they going to leave this to an open vote or stand by the Committee? I think we are entitled to expect that in the circumstances which have now transpired they are bound to stand by their Bill.
Committee. So far as I am concerned I have kept the agreement, because I remember it was quite clear. On Clause 1 the assurance was given by the Home Secretary that the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, applied fully to Clause 1. It was understood that if that was not so, I could take any action on the Amendment that I chose. The Home Secretary accepted that. Then we were informed by the learned Attorney-General that the Probation of Offenders Act did not apply. My hon. Friend and I spoke and voted on that Amendment, but otherwise we stuck to the agreement which is in "Hansard." In the words of the Under-Secretary to the Home Office:
that is to say, if the hon. Member for Louth will withdraw the Clause and the hon. and gallant Member for Altrinham will move a Clause so that the age is reduced to 23 the Government will support that Amendment on the Report stage.
After all, a great deal of the time of this House has been saved on the Report stage. The reason I did not speak on the Amendment is that I spoke on the Second Reading and in Committee, and I thought everybody knew the arguments.
I am not concerned in the agreement that has been made on the question, but whether this Amendment is a reasonable one. In my opinion a man of 23 is far more qualified to judge the age of a girl than a man of 40, and I consider that the Amendment is bad in substance. It is bad because it gives liberty to people who are better qualified to judge the age of a girl than older people; consequently, if the thing is taken to a Division, agreement or not, I will vote against the Amendment.
|Division 240.]||AYES.||[2.6 a.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Guthrie, Thomas Maule|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Davies, Sir William H. (Bristol, S.)||Hailwood, Augustine|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Doyle, N. Grattan||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)|
|Armstrong, Henry Bruce||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Hamilton, Sir George C.|
|Atkey, A. R.||Evans, Ernest||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Baird, Sir John Lawrence||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Barker, Major Robert H.||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Hope, Sir H. (Stirling & Cl'ckm'nn'n, W.)|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Forrest, Walter||Hope, Lt.-Col. Sir J. A. (Midlothian)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Houfton, John Plowright|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Ganzonl, Sir John||Hurst, Lieut.-Colonel Gerald B.|
|Bridgcman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Gibbs, Colonel George Abraham||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Briggs, Harold||Gilmour, Lieut.-Colonel Sir John||Jameson, John Gordon|
|Bruton, Sir James||Gould, James C.||Kellaway, Rt. Hon. Fredk. George|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Green, Joseph F. (Leicester, W.)||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm., W.)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (H'tingd'n)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. Frederick E.||Lort-Williams, J.|
|Loseby, Captain C. E.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Lowther, Major C. (Cumberland, N.)||Parker, James||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Maryhill)|
|Lowther, Maj.-Gen. Sir C. (Penrith)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Tryon, Major George Clement|
|Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||White, Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Macquisten, F. A.||Sanders, Colonel Sir Robert Arthur||Wills, Lt.-Col. Sir Gilbert Alan H.|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Scott, A. M. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Windsor, Viscount|
|Manville, Edward||Shaw, William T. (Forfar)||Winterton, Earl|
|Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz||Shortt, Rt. Hon. E. (N'castle-on-T.)||Wise, Frederick|
|Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Smith, Sir Allan M. (Croydon, South)||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Morden, Col. W. Grant||Stanley, Major Hon. G. (Preston)||Young, Sir Frederick W. (Swindon)|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Morrison, Hugh||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Murray, Rt. Hon. C. D. (Edinburgh)||Sturrock, J. Leng||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Mr.|
|Neal, Arthur||Sutherland, Sir William||M'Curdy.|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis D.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Grundy, T. W.||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Ammon, Charles George||Guest, J. (York, W.R., Hemsworth)||Rae, Sir Henry N.|
|Astor, Viscountess||Hartshorn, Vernon||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Banton, George||Hinds, John||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Barrand, A. R.||Hirst, G. H.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)|
|Barton, Sir William (Oldham)||Hogge, James Myles||Robinson, S. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Birchall, J. Dearman||Hurd, Percy A.||Rodger, A. K.|
|Bowyer, Captain G. W. E.||Inskip, Thomas Walker H.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Seely, Major-General Rt. Hon. John|
|Broad, Thomas Tucker||Johnstone, Joseph||Shaw, Thomas (Preston)|
|Bromfield, William||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, W. R. (Wellingborough)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, J. J. [West Ham, Slivertown)||Sutton, John Edward|
|Casey, T. W.||Lawson, John James||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Lunn, William||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. Sh. O. (Anglesey)|
|Clough, Sir Robert||Maclean, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (Midlothian)||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Williams, Aneurin (Durham, Consett)|
|Davies, A. (Lancaster, Ciltheroe)||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Stourbridge)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Malone, C. L. (Leyton, E.)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Mills, John Edmund|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Murray, John (Leeds, West)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Gillis, William||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Mr. Hayday and Mr. Foot.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
Question put, and agreed to.
Any person who is convicted of an offence against Section thirteen of the principal Act (which relates to summary proceedings against brothel keepers, etc.) shall be liable on summary conviction—
or, in any such case, to both fine and imprisonment; and, in addition to any such punishment, may be required by the Court to enter into a recognisance, with or without sureties, to be of good behaviour for any period not exceeding twelve months, and, in default of entering into such recognisance, such person may be imprisoned for a period not exceeding three months in addition to any term of imprisonment awarded in respect of his said offence.
I beg to move to leave out the words "and, in addition to any such punishment, may be required by the Court to enter intro a recognisance, with or without sureties, to be of good behaviour for any period not exceeding twelve months, and, in default of entering into such recognisance, such person may be imprisoned for a period not exceeding three months in addition to any term of imprisonment awarded in respect of his said offence."
I think these words are put in to strengthen Clause 3, which relates to the conviction of people keeping brothels. These words were added to the Clause to give more effective control to the Courts. But the reason why I move to leave out these words is to strengthen the Bill. A most experienced police magistrate has called attention to the fact that the insertion of these words, instead of adding to the powers of the magistrate, limits them in the case of houses of ill-fame. The magistrates have power in such eases to bind over to enter into recognizances without any limit at all. In the words which I propose should be left out the period is limited to 12 months. This is a cutting down of the powers exercisable against those persons over whom we wish to have the most powerful control possible. These words are unfortunate. I believe the Court has power to require persons to enter into recognizances under the Common Law and under the old Statute Law, if these words are not put into the Bill. These words, which were intended to be of assistance and to increase the penalties, have the effect of decreasing and restricting the powers which can be exercised by the magistrate.