The following Question stood upon the Order Paper in the name of Mr. KEELING:84. To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he can now announce the Government's decision on the question of setting up an inquiry into the methods of providing for children deprived of a normal home life.
As this is a matter of some importance, I will with permission make a statement in relation to this Question.
His Majesty's Government have had this matter under consideration and, so far as England and Wales are concerned, a Committee of Inquiry will be appointed as soon as possible jointly by the Minister of Health, the Minister of Education and myself. The terms of reference will be:
To inquire into existing methods of providing for children who from loss of parents, or from any other cause whatever, are deprived of a normal home life with their own parents or relatives; and to consider what further measures should be taken to ensure that these children are brought up under conditions best calculated to compensate them for the lack Of parental care.
The Government have also under consideration the question of the central administrative responsibility for such children which is at present shared between several Government Departments, and they hope to be in a position to make their views on this question known to the Committee as soon as possible after it is appointed.
As regards Scotland, a similar Committee of Inquiry will be appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland.
It is the normal practice of committees of this character to take evidence in private. In the case of this committee, however, there are arguments for and against the proceedings being held in private and it is proposed that the committee should be given a discretion to hear evidence in public where they are satisfied that that can be done without the risk of failure to elicit the truth or detriment to the public interest.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it clear that there are a great many of these homes which are splendidly run by consecrated men and women so that the country will not think that all of them are as bad as some people make out?
There is no assumption in my mind that these homes are necessarily badly run. I have no doubt that many of them are well run, but the Government think, and I believe the House will agree, that there is a good case for a comprehensive inquiry.
We will do our best to get the best chairman. Perhaps I ought to add, in answer to the question put by the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), that I think the point that he has raised, if the Committee wish to go into it, will be within the Committee's terms of reference.