I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
Five days ago, I did not know that I should be speaking on this Bill today and I am both glad and sorry to find myself doing so. I am sorry because circumstances have deprived a much-respected colleague of the opportunity of speaking today, and doing it more worthily than I can, but glad because I have had the opportunity of enlarging my own experience at the Home Office, even if at an unnerving speed, in a subject in which every hon. Member is deeply interested.
I am personally glad because I have in my own family, which was increased by one last night, a wide selection of children and young persons, young persons both doli capaces and doli incapaces, all of whom regard their parents as being in need of care and protection within the meaning of the principal Act and one of whom has the good fortune to be the godson of the noble Lord who so patiently and skilfully piloted the Bill through another place and whom I am happy to join as acting as godfather to the Bill.
It is a rather long but important Bill and it deals with a large number of separate topics, all of which are important in themselves and all of which have been very carefully and sympathetically drafted and scrutinised on their way to us. Although it covers a wide scope, I think that I can show that it is inspired by a single purpose and a single guiding principle, which is that of improving the arrangements which fall within the responsibility of my right hon. Friend for the general welfare of all young people.
The Bill follows a long line of such Measures which have been brought to the Statute Book by different Governments down the years. It has received a wide welcome among those concerned both professionally and otherwise with the welfare of children, and it reaches us after what was, on the whole, a fairly calm passage in another place, though I agree that there was one point at which the winds of controversy did blow with bracing vigour; and I commend it, with its increased merits, to the House.
Parts I and III of the Bill are based mainly on the recommendations of Lord Ingleby's Committee on Children and Young Persons, and I know that my right hon. Friend would like me to say at the start how grateful we are to Lord Ingleby and his colleagues for the work which they put into the preparation of their Report. We hope that they will find it some reward that so many of their recommendations have either already reached the Statute Book in the Criminal Justice Act, 1961, or are embodied in the Bill.
For most of Part II of the Bill we are indebted to another Committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Dingwall Bateson, concerned with the employment of children as film actors or in theatrical work and in ballet. Its recommendations have had to wait some time, but it is not a disadvantage because at the Home Office we have been able to carry out fuller consultations than usual with those who would be concerned with the administration of the scheme put forward in the Bill, and, moreover, there is now a good deal more experience on which to base decisions than a few years ago—for instance, as a result of the great development of television.
One last general point I should like to make on the Bill is that Part II and most of Part III apply to Scotland, and Part I, with one extremely minute exception, does not. The reasons for that are briefly that in Scotland my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has a standing advisory body, the Scottish Advisory Council on Child Care, a committee of which has been considering questions about the powers and duties of local authorities in Scotland to promote the welfare of children—in other words, the sort of questions with which Clause 1 of the Bill is concerned. Its report has recently been submitted and it will be shortly published. Its main recommendations are on much the same lines as those of the Ingleby Committee, and my right hon. Friend has asked the local authorities' associations to let him have their views on them as a matter of urgency.
As regards the remainder of Part I of the Bill, we cannot at present foresee the possibility of comparable Scottish legislation, because there is a Departmental Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Kilbrandon which is considering questions concerned with the law of Scotland relating to the treatment of juvenile delinquents and kindred matters, and I understand that it will be some little time before that report is received.
Before picking out the details from the very wide miscellany of the Bill, I think that it would be helpful to the House if I gave, by way of background, a few figures against which the Bill will have to be seen. Last year the estimated child population of this country between the ages of 8 and 17 was 6·2 million; that is an increase of 7 per cent. over 1938. Of those 6·2 million children, 64,284 were found guilty of indictable offences, and that is over 120 per cent. more than in 1938. The number of delinquents in every 100,000 children aged 14 and under 17 was twice as high for boys and three times as high for girls as it was in 1938.
Since the passing of the Children Act, 1948, the number of children in the care of a local authority is estimated to be fairly constant at about 60,000, and of those 60,000 between a quarter and one-third have been committed to care either for offences or as being in need of care or protection or beyond parental control. I think that these figures give a measure of the problem which faces the courts and local authorities and voluntary associations and the various services concerned with the welfare of the young.
Now I should like to say a word about the supporting services upon whose efficiency many of the changes brought about by the Bill will depend. They will depend, in particular, on the child care service, the approved school service, and the probation service. My right hon. Friend is, of course, anxious that those services should be sufficient for their job both in training and in numbers, and he is doing everything that lies in his power to improve recruitment and expand their training facilities.
Up to 1960 the annual number of students to qualify as child care officers was about 60. Since then the Home Office Central Training Council has been conducting a vigorous campaign to expand the proportion, and the expected output has been brought to 170 this year; in other words, nearly three times as much as in 1960. The new courses include courses for those intending to work in approved schools, and the Council intends to provide further training facilities for approved school staff as soon as possible.
I am aware that many of these students have been waiting news of an increase in the rate of maintenance grants, and I am glad to be able to say that these rates are to be increased. Child care officer students will be paid on the basis of the rates which local education authorities pay to students taking degree courses under regulations made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education. The amounts to be paid will have to be worked out to take account of some differences in circumstances. For instance, as a general rule a child care student is in training for a longer period during the year than a degree student spends at university, but my right hon. Friend will arrange for payment at the increased rates to be made as soon as possible.
Turning to the probation service, some of the most important recommendations of the Morison Committee related to its expansion. The service now numbers over 1,900 officers—that is an increase of 150 since the end of 1961; but it is, of course, essential that there should be a further substantial increase during the next few years if probation officers are to play their full part in the treatment of offenders of all ages, especially young offenders.
My right hon. Friend, naturally, has been very glad to be able to settle recently the difficulties which caused so much concern to the Government as well as the probation authorities and the probation officers. The negotiated pay settlement, which has been implemented by Rules, gave an increase of 21 per cent. on 1st January last, to be followed by two further increases which will bring probation officers' salaries at 1st December, 1964, to the level recommended by the Morison Committee. We find it encouraging that since its Report was published, last March, more men and women have steadily been coming forward for training in probation work, and we hope that now that the salary question is settled a still higher level of recruitment will be established and will be maintained. This Should be helped by the new rates of maintenance grants to students, of which I have already spoken.
These recruits, are they people who transfer from other professions or from business, or are they being recruited directly from university students? What sort of new recruits are they that my hon. Friend is hoping to attract?
But we are hoping to make these services, the child care and probation services, more attractive, and at least as equally attractive as other similar professions, and I am wondering where these recruits are coming from, whether they are coming from other professions, or are coming straight from the universities.
Whether the rates will have that effect, I cannot say. As to current figures, I should need notice to be able to give a breakdown of the sources from which people come.
I am obliged.
With that background, I turn to Clause 1, which results from the recommendations in the second chapter of the Ingleby Report. Under the Children Act, 1948, the local authorities have a duty to receive into their care any child in their area who is without parents, has been abandoned by his parents or whose parents are unfit or unable to take care of him. Having received a child into its care, however, the local authority is under a duty to return the child to his home, if he has one, as soon as the home is fit to receive him again. Everyone would agree that it is best for the child to be brought up whenever possible in a home of its own. It is, therefore, very much in the interests of the local authority by giving advice or material assistance or by "family case work", to improve the conditions in the home sufficiently to enable the child to return there.
The same sort of considerations apply where the child has been committed by a court to the care of the local authority. The sooner the court order can be revoked and the child returned to its home, the better for the child.
Where a child is in the care of the local authority under Section 1 of the 1948 Act, there is little doubt that the Act already gives the local authority power to offer this kind of help to the child's parents. Clause 1 of the Bill removes any lingering doubt which may exist on that point, but it also goes a stage further. If it is good to return a child quickly to his home, it is obviously better still if he need never be received into the local authority's care at all. Here, however, there is a grave doubt about the extent of the powers of local authorities. Some authorities already employ social workers to prevent children having to be taken into care and others do not do so merely because they fear that they would be exceeding their statutory powers if they did.
Clause 1 gives the local authorities, not merely power, but a clear duty to make available such advice, guidance and assistance as may promote the welfare of children by preventing the need arising for them to have to be received or taken into care. This will enable local authorities to take an important step forward. They need not—indeed, they should not—wait until disaster has overtaken a family, until there is nothing virtually for it but to take a child into care. They will now be able to help while the family's problems are still manageable, given skilled advice and help, and before the breaking point comes.
That help could take several different forms. It could be intensive social case work. It could be a matter of providing practical help to a mother who cannot cope with the burden of a large family. It could be paying off arrears of rent so that the children do not have to come into care because of eviction. It could be a matter of lending household equipment to a family which simply does not have adequate equipment or it could be a matter of advising responsible parents who feel that a teenage daughter is getting beyond their control.
We hope, too, that some local authorities will set up family advice centres to provide what the Ingleby Committee called "a door on which to knock" for people who want help with their family problems but find it difficult to know exactly where to go among the existing social services.
In all those situations, the single object is quite simple. It is to enable a family eventually to be able to stand again on its own feet. I am glad that the Clause has received a warm welcome from the local authorities who will have to implement it. Some of them are already doing preventive work under the existing limited powers. The extension will, I am sure, commend itself to the House.
Before leaving the Clause, however, I should like to draw particular attention to three of its features. First, the local authorities' help is only to be available. There is no question of compelling anyone to accept it. Secondly, the duty to make help available is placed squarely on the local authority, but in carrying out that duty the local authority is to be free to seek assistance from the various voluntary organisations, some of whom already have valuable experience in preventive work. This feature of the Clause has been brought out more clearly in Amendments that have been written into it in another place. I commend hon. Members to compare the original draft of the Clause with the wording as it now stands.
Thirdly, the provision made in the Bill differs in two respects from the Ingleby Committee recommendations. In the first place, it does not require local authorities to submit schemes to the Secretary of State for approval, but under subsection (4) of the Clause the Secre- tary of State must be given such reports on the work as he may call for. We believe that this will be enough to achieve what the Ingleby Committee had in mind.
The second difference is that the new powers are to be exercised through the children's committee of the local authority and not vested in the local authority at large. The reason for this is because the new responsibilities as we see them are an extension of the existing powers and duties already laid upon children's committees of local authorities and would be best grouped with them.
I do not intend to take the House through the Bill Clause by Clause, but the first Clause happens to be among the most important. Clause 2 also gives effect to a recommendation of the Ingleby Committee. Under the principal Act, a child found by a court to be in need of care or protection may be dealt with in various ways. For example, he may be sent to an approved school or committed to the care of the local authority. Clause 2 substitutes a new and somewhat wider definition for the present one, but I should like to make clear, because it will be relevant also to Clause 16, that this is not the particular extension recommended by the Ingleby Committee as part of its scheme for raising the age of responsibility, which we have not accepted.
It is always difficult to know how far to go in authorising the public authorities to intervene between a parent and child. That is especially true when there is power to remove a child from his own home. On the whole, we believe that Clause 2 strikes the balance about right although I know that some people may consider the new definition too wide while others would prefer to see it widened. We shall be interested to hear what the House has to say on this subject.
Clause 3, which is linked with Clause 2, is another beneficent one. It removes a power that a parent now has to bring his child before court as being beyond parental control. These proceedings, if they are necessary, are to be brought by the local authority instead. In this way, we escape the main objection to the present system which lies in the parent's rejection of his own child, at least in appearance.
I will jump a number of Clauses and turn to Clause 16, which deals with the age of criminal responsibility. Hon. Members who have followed the Bill through its earlier stages will be aware that this Clause did not appear in the Bill as orginally introduced, so I would like to give some of the background to it.
Children may begin almost as soon as they can walk to do things which, if done by their elders, would be criminal acts, but in every civilised country they are excused the full consequences of this in a number of ways. In England and Wales the law has four revelant provisions. First, no child under the age of 8 years can be capable of any offence. Secondly, a child between 8 and 14 years is presumed to be doli incapax—that is, not to know the difference between right and wrong—and so cannot be found guilty of his offence unless the presumption is rebutted by evidence of "a mischievous discretion". This rule is called malatia supplet detatem. Thirdly, it provides that young offenders shall come before specially constituted courts which will have power to dispense special methods of treatment. Fourthly, it provides that each of the more rigorous forms of punishment—imprisonment, borstal or detention in a detention centre—may not be imposed on children below a specified age in each case.
Thus, in the sense in which the term "age of criminal responsibility" is used to describe the situation in various foreign countries, its level here could probably be put at about 17 years. I do not, however, think that comparisons with the situation in foreign countries are relevant or necessarily helpful. Clause 16, in fact, deals only with the first element in the complex that I have just described, that is to say, the age below which it is conclusively presumed that a child cannot be guilty of an offence. The crucial question is: should that age be 8 or higher? The Ingleby Committee recommended an increase to 12, or even to 14, but it linked that recommendation to other recommendations intended, in the Committee's own words, "to ensure that the result would have no element of letting off."
At first, taking account of all the other elements to which I have referred and the rising figures of juvenile delinquency, the Government were disposed to think that there should be no change, at least for the present. My right hon. Friend's pre- decessor announced that decision in answer to a Question in November, 1961, but it became plain during the debates in another place that there was a widespread feeling that the age should be raised, and the Government, on reflection, decided that it would be right to meet that desire.
The presumption that a child below, say, 12 years of age could not be guilty of an offence would be only a legal fiction and a fiction which would be obviously more at variance with the facts than the present assumption. Children between 8 and 12 years of age would inevitably, I am afraid, go on doing wrong things. They would even do them knowing that they were wrong, such as taking other people's property or breaking their windows. They would have to be effectively dealt with in some way both in their own interests and other people's interests. But how? Here, we found widely differing views among those who favoured this change.
The first view propounded by Lord Ingleby and his Committee is, in effect, that the situation should be dealt with by a court, but by non-criminal procedure. The child should be brought before the court as being in need of "protection and discipline" on the ground that he had acted in a manner which would render a person over that age liable to be found guilty of an offence. The doli incapax rule would disappear on the Ingleby Committee's recommendation. The proceedings would be civil proceedings and the child's act would not have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, and where criminal intention is an essential ingredient of the offence, as in larceny, it would not be necessary to prove that intention beyond reasonable doubt.
Several advantages were claimed for this scheme by the Ingleby Committee. First, it would enable young offenders under 12 to escape the stigma of criminal proceedings. Secondly, it would reduce both the reluctance to bring a child before a court and the difficulty of establishing grounds on which the court would be empowered to act, so it would bring within the reach of the social services many young minor offenders who at present develop delinquent habits before a juvenile court has any opportunity of bringing remedial measures to bear.
Once the necessary facts have been proved by the easier means essential to this concept, the court would be armed with the same sort of powers as those which they can exercise at present after a finding of guilt, and would include powers which the Ingleby Committee recognised to be punitive, for instance, to commit to a remand home for a month's detention or to ensure attendance at a detention centre, and, finally, the parents could be ordered to pay compensation and costs.
The court would also have the same powers for cases of the kind now called "in need of care or protection", but to avoid stigmatising them as wrongdoers, distinction would be avoided, as far as possible, between those coming to the court under the one heading and those under the other. This is the Ingleby Committee's scheme and it is at first sight undeniably attractive. We have given it a great deal of thought, but the Government have not found it possible to accept it for reasons which I shall explain.
We cannot believe that it would be right to accept a scheme which, from the point of view of the child and the child's parents, has all the effects of a finding of guilt except in name, but, at the same time, deprives him of the present safeguards against his being found guilty of a criminal offence without full and formal proof beyond reasonable doubt of all the necessary ingredients in the offence. In fact, the very feature of the scheme which commended it to the Ingleby Committee, the greater ease of establishing what has to be established without technical formality, appears to us to be a fatal defect.
We do not believe that either the child or his parents will think of the consequences of a finding as being other than, partly at any rate, punishment for an offence. However excellent the intention of the court, and however desirable in the child's interests the consequences may be, we consider that if either the child or the parents consider the proceedings which establishes his eligibility for that treatment have been less than fair, the treatment itself is unlikely to succeed. As was very cogently pointed out in the Fabian Society pamphlet on this subject, children may not understand legal proceedings, but they have a strong sense of justice and fair play.
The one containing three critical essays. I am referring to the December one.
The other school of thought which favours the raising of the age of criminal responsibility to 12 does not want delinquent children under that age to be brought before the courts at all. Those who support that point of view are confident that delinquents can and will be dealt with by the social services without the intervention of the courts.
To try to examine to what extent this view is justified, I must offer to the House a few more figures. There are at present about 18,000 children under 12 who are found guilty of offences each year. Of these, about 13,400 are aged 10 or 11 and 4,700 are aged 8 or 9. Of the 13,000-plus between 10 and 12 who were found guilty in 1961, 700 were either sent to approved schools or made subject to a fit person order. In other words, they were taken away from their homes. Three thousand five hundred were put under the care of probation officers.
I think that we can assume that if these children could have been dealt with by other means they would not have been charged. Yet it is clear that some 4,000 of them were found by the courts, after all their useful careful inquiries in every relevant direction, to be in need of either removal from home or the supervision of a probation officer. In other words, they needed help, which they apparently could not be given except by the intervention of the courts.
The question is: what else could be done with them? The social services and the schools can, must, and do play an important part in checking delinquency and keeping children out of trouble. But we think that it would be unrealistic to expect them to cope without the backing of the courts with the 13,000 aged between 10 and 12 who are not at present responding to such remedial measures. We also think, however, that it is possible to distinguish between those of 11 and 12 and those of between 8 and 10 years old.
They are, as I have said, much fewer in number and their delinquency is of a less serious kind. They are more open to the influence of the social services and the schools, and we have come to the conclusion, therefore, that the age below which a child is deemed to be incapable of offence can safely and reasonably be raised to ten, and that is what subsection (1) of Clause 16 will do.
It appears from subsection (1) that the age of 8 is to be raised to 10, and the effect will be that after the age of 8 the doli incapax rule will apply absolutely. From the age of 10 to 14, is the presumptive application of the rule still to be applied, and will the prosecution still have to prove that a child between 10 and 14 is capable of knowing the difference between right and wrong, as now applies, between the ages of 8 and 14?
Yes, that is precisely so. The doli incapax rule will apply between the ages of 10 and 14, but will be rebuttable. Below the age of 10 it will be unrebuttable. I hope that takes care of the hon. and learned Gentleman's point.
I think that I made a small slip about the ages when I referred to children of 11 and 12. I meant 10 and 11, on the assumption that the age of criminal responsibility is itself the twelfth birthday, but I think that that was fairly clear to the House.
I have one thing to say on subsection (2). This will, at the same time, ensure that childish misdemeanours are not quoted against a person in later life, and when all these provisions have had a fair trial we think it may be time enough to consider whether any other change needs to be made, with which I hope the House will agree.
Turning to the later Clauses of Part I, I wish to mention only three, all of which I feel confident will be welcomed by the House. Clause 27, based on a recommendation of the Magistrates' Association, aims to save a young child who is either the victim or witness of a sexual offence from the strain of giving oral evidence both in the committal proceedings and at the trial whenever this is possible without prejudice to the ends of justice. I think the House will see how this is expressed in the clause.
Clause 28 deals with the form of oath to be used by children. The Ingleby
Committee received evidence that young children have difficulty in understanding the oath commonly administered, and the Committee was advised that a simpler form of oath "would be more meaningful to children and could, therefore, he more reliably acted on." The Committee accordingly recommended that the oath for children should read:
I promise before Almighty God to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Clause 28 consequently amends the Oaths Act of 1909 to enable this form of oath to be used for all witnesses, including adults, in juvenile courts, and by children and young persons giving evidence in other courts.
Lastly, on this part of the Bill I mention Clause 30, which deals with the penalties for offences of cruelty under Section 1 of the principal Act. The maximum penalties are, at present, on conviction on indictment, a fine of £100 or two years' imprisonment, or both, and on summary conviction a fine of £25 or six months' imprisonment, or both, and it is often said that they are inadequate.
As regards the more serious offences, it has to be remembered that charges can also be brought under the other statutes, for instance, the Offences against the Person Act, 1861, or the Sexual Offences Act, 1956, and under these statutes very severe penalties, up to imprisonment for life, can be imposed. Taking these into account, the Ingleby Committee came to the conclusion that the maximum penalties laid down by Section 1 of the principal Act were adequate except for the fine on summary conviction, which it proposed to increase to £100, and this we have followed.
I come now to Part II of the Bill, which deals with the employment of children. For a long time the law has protected children by placing various restrictions on the age at which, the hours for which, and the kind of work on which, they can be employed. This is both for the benefit of the child, for his health and upbringing, education and leisure, and to prevent his exploitation as a cheap substitute for adult labour.
Clauses 32 to 34 make small but useful improvements to the law relating to the employment of children in general. The main provisions in Part II are concerned with children in entertainment, and these result from the Bateson Committee's Report. In this country, as in many others, children employed in entertainment are exempted from the general restriction on employment, but safeguarded by a separate scheme which dates substantially from the Education Act, 1918, which has been amended from time to time.
The present scheme is to be found in Section 22 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, and Section 32 of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act, 1937. It provides that a child under school-leaving age cannot, in general, take part in any entertainment for which a charge is made to any of the audience except under a licence granted by the local education authority. A licence cannot be granted for a child under 12, or under 13 in Scotland can it authorise employment on Sunday.
These provisions are now out of date in a number of respects, and they suffer from a number of defects, of which I shall mention three. First, the scheme does not provide for the employment of children as film actors. This is an historical accident, and, therefore, this is subject to the law relating to the employment of children in general. This means that it is illegal to employ a child under 13 as a film actor. It also means that a child over 13 can be employed as a film actor without a licence, although he would need a licence to be employed on the stage in a theatre.
Secondly, the B.B.C. and Independent Television are not treated equally under the law as it stands. A child of 12 or over may take part in sound or television broadcasts by the B.B.C. so long as the public are not admitted to the performance on payment, but there is no similar exemption for the independent television companies who cannot legally employ a child under 13 or any child at all on Sundays.
Thirdly, the present minimum age of 12 means that a child below that age cannot be licensed to take part in a play, even if the appearance of a younger child is essential for the artistic presentation of the part.
The new scheme is to be found chiefly in Clauses 35 and 36 of the Bill. We have not accepted certain of the Bateson Committee's recommendations, notably the one that there should be a central licensing authority, as well as a local licensing authority, but, in general, we have accepted the Committee's views. Between 1951 and 1956 they were discussed in full consultation with the interested organisations, film and theatre interests, the B.B.C., the I.T.A., trades unions and local authorities. The scheme now put forward in the Bill seems then to have been substantially acceptable. I am sorry that it has had to wait a long time for legislation, but I hope that the passage of time has not eroded the agreement which was then reached.
Broadly, the changes in the Bill in this context are three: first, the age up to which a child needs a licence is raised to 16 immediately, and later when the school-leaving ago goes up, to that age. Secondly, a child who takes part in a film or broadcast will in future need a licence, and the present exemption of the B.B.C. disappears. Thirdly, in place of the present fixed minimum age at which a child may be licensed, Clause 36 has the effect that there will be no minimum age in the special cases described rather elaborately in subsection (1) of the Clause, but for all other performances the minimum age will be raised to 13 and then to 14 when the school-leaving age is raised.
Many of the more detailed provisions of the new scheme will be liable to regulations made by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, which will be subject to the negative Resolution procedure.
I am aware that considerable complications are involved in the definition of "performance". Perhaps it will be possible to leave a fuller discussion of the matter to the Committee stage, as happened in another place, where noble Lords fairly let themselves go on the subject.
Before any regulations are introduced by the Secretary of State there will be full consultation with the various bodies concerned. We hope that the end result will be a more coherent and workable scheme, free from the defects which the Bateson Committee found in the present provisions.
Will the hon. Member devote a few words to explaining why a licence must be obtained for a child embarking on entertainment work below the age of 16, whereas the same child may embark upon any other kind of occupation as soon as he leaves school at the age of 15, without a licence?
I want to mention only one Clause in Part III—Clause 43, which is concerned with research. The Secretary of State already has power, under Section 77 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, to incur expenditure on conducting research into the causes of delinquency, the treatment of offenders and matters connected therewith, and it is this power which has led to the creation of the Home Office Research Unit, and the contributions which the Home Office has made to the valuable research carried out in universities and elsewhere. We think that the time has come to extend this power. The Clause does that by enabling the Secretary of State and local authorities to conduct or assist others to conduct research into the matters of child care and the adoption of children.
The Home Office is always ready to learn. I think that we have a great deal to learn under this and other heads, and that wise investment in research of this kind will enable those who come after us to do still more and still better for the unfortunate children who are in danger of missing a normal, happy home life, and whose interests I know the whole House has at heart. It is in that spirit that I commend the Bill to the House.
Six, is it? At any rate, I can claim that before I was a Member of the House I. dealt with hundreds of children in my capacity as a teacher, and learnt something of children of all ages and both sexes. This is a very important Bill, because it is about children who are unfortunate, or who are deprived, or neglected, or exploited, or children who themselves may he in some way inadequate, besides children who come before the courts. There are 12 million children under the age of 17—about a quarter of the population of England and Wales.
It is worth remembering that the great proportion of these children are happy, well cared for and healthy, and never get into any trouble at all. But the small proportion who do get into trouble, or are in need of care and attention, constitute one of our greatest social problems. They are mostly the victims of conditions for which they themselves are not responsible. Sometimes they have inadequate parents; sometimes their parents are separated. They may be living in very bad housing conditions. And there is a new factor, in that many school leavers today are unemployed. That may also lead to juvenile delinquency. We also have children who suffer from a lack of understanding.
As I have said, in some cases the children themselves are inadequate. They may be slightly mentally retarded or backward. Children sometimes get into trouble because they are too high-spirited, or because they cannot cope with the problems of growing up in a world which does not seem to make sense to them.
We welcome most of the provisions of the Bill. There is little with which we disagree. Our criticism of the Bill is that it is very vague in parts. It does not go far enough, and it certainly does not match up to the problems which we hope to solve. The Bill is based on two Reports. The second part is based upon the Report of the Bateson Committee on the Employment of Children as Film Actors, in Theatrical Work and in Ballet.
This Committee reported in 1950. It has taken the Government about thirteen years to produce any legislation on its very valuable Report. Even so, it is not yet clear what we shall get in the way of regulations, which will be laid under the affirmative Resolution procedure and against which we must pray if we disagree with them in any way. That is all I wish to say about Part II. I know some of my hon. Friends will be speaking at greater length about it.
The main part of the Bill is based on the Ingleby Report. That Committee reported in 1960, after four years of deliberation. Some of its recommendations were embodied in the Criminal Justice Act, with which we dealt two or three years ago. At that time we were critical of some parts of the Report. We thought—and we still do—that it contained a useful survey of the existing provisions for dealing with children and young people, besides a very few good recommendations, but that, on the whole, it was much too timid. I wish to quote only one of its recommendations to illustrate the way in which it attacked some of the problems before it.
All hon. Members know that the managers of approved schools exercise over the children in their care all the rights of parents. Yet, on page 125 of the Report, paragraph 438 says:
We think it is desirable too that the instrument should make provision for an age at which managers should be required to retire—there is no such requirement at present. The time must come when a manager is no longer able effectively to carry out the duties which he has so willingly undertaken in the past. It is difficult to be dogmatic in this matter, but we think that it would be not unreasonable to require a manager to relinquish his appointment on reaching the age of seventy-five, and we recommend accordingly.
That is not a very revolutionary proposal. I wonder whether many managers of approved schools are over that age. I
give that as one illustration of the approach of the Ingleby Committee.
The Committee does make a number of quite good recommendations. But if the Report was timid, the Bill is even more so, for some of the chief recommendations of the Ingleby Committee are completely ignored. Even so, the Bill is very much better than the original one which was introduced in another place.
As the hon. Gentleman said, many Amendments were made in another place. But they were made entirely at the instigation of noble Lords on the Opposition benches. That these Amendments were immediately accepted by the Government as obvious improvements shows, I think, that there was a lack of thought in the preparation of the Bill. This is a long Bill and in a Second Reading speech it is impossible to deal with all the changes that it makes. There will be an opportunity during the Committee stage to do so.
We welcome many of the smaller, but nevertheless important, changes, particularly the ending of the ability of parents to bring their children before the courts as being in need of care and protection. This public renunciation of their children by parents must have a tremendous effect on the children concerned which may remain with them for the rest of their lives. But sometimes it has been necessary for parents to adopt this course because it was the only way to obtain help from the authorities.
We welcome the proposal that a finding of guilt against a child under 12 shall not be cited in a list of previous convictions over the age of 21. We welcome the proposal that children under 13 shall not be required to give oral evidence twice in respect of sexual offences. I hope that during our discussions on the Bill we shall consider whether 13 is the right age. As was pointed out in another place sometimes adolescents, teen-agers, find it much more difficult than younger people to give evidence of this kind in a court; but we shall return to all these matters and many others during the Committee stage.
I now wish to deal with four or five of what I consider to be the more important and wider aspects of the subject, and among them are two or three which, I know, will prove controversial. Clause 1 may be considered as the heart of the Bill. Since prevention is always better than cure we welcome this attempt at prevention and we welcome the duty which is to be placed on local authorities to make provision to deal with problems in the homes of children when there is danger of them having to come into the care of local authorities or having to appear before the courts.
I have grave doubts whether the present wording of the Clause is adequate to meet the intentions outlined by the Under-Secretary. The Clause was strengthened by Amendments moved in another place. As it first appeared it would have been possible for local authorities to farm out all their responsibilities to voluntary organisations. It is now reasonably clear that a local authority will be required to make some provision, and, although the voluntary aspect is important, voluntary bodies will augment the work of local authorities and not replace them.
We feel that the drafting of the Clause reveals a lack of urgency. Subsection (4) says:
A local authority shall from time to time make to the Secretary of State such reports on the nature of the provisions made by them under this section as he may specify.
If a local authority is required to report only from time to time, it means that laggard local authorities will get away with doing very little, and with doing even that in its own time. We maintain that a local authority should be required to prepare schemes and submit them to the Home Secretary within six months, and thereafter be required to give annual reports to the Home Secretary about how it is carrying out its work.
There is a great need for the coordination of all our services, education, health and welfare, as was stressed in the Ingleby Committee's Report. Only by receiving schemes from the local authority in advance and sanctioning them can the Home Secretary be sure that adequate arrangements are made. The whole of Clause 1 needs redrafting in our opinion. I know that the Home Office has the services of good Parliamentary draftsmen. But I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. McColl) would be able to do even better, and produce a better Clause than the present one.
I turn now to a controversial subject with which the Under-Secretary dealt, namely, the age of criminal responsibility. Before the Bill was published, and, indeed, until it went to another place, the age of criminal responsibility in this country was 8, which is a lower age than in most other countries. The attitude of the Government to this matter over the last few years has been absolutely extraordinary. They have been "stringing the House along". It is always to be dealt with in the next Bill and never in the one which is before the House.
Three years ago we discussed a Measure relating to indecency with children and I moved an Amendment to the effect that for the purpose of that proposed legislation the age of 14 should be the age of criminal responsibility. Hon. Members who took part in our debate supported the Amendment. But the right hon. Gentleman who was then the Joint Under-Secretary, and who is now the Secretary for Technical Cooperation, resisted it on the ground that the Ingleby Committee would shortly report and would be dealing with the matter. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman acted in good faith. I do not charge him with bad faith.
The Ingleby Committee was to make proposals relating not only to sexual offences, but to all other offences. The Committee reported and recommended that the age of criminal responsibility should be 12 and should eventually rise to 13 or 14. In 1960 and 1961 we debated the Bill which became the Criminal Justice Act and which gave effect to some of the recommendations of the Ingleby Committee. But there was nothing in it about the age of criminal responsibility. My hon. Friend the Member for Widnes moved a new Clause which would have raised the age to 12, but the then Attorney-General, who is now Lord Chancellor, resisted it on the grounds that there would have to be a new procedure for those under that age and that we should wait for another Bill.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said
That is not a proper subject for the Bill, and there is a lot to be said for leaving that question over for a later Bill which will go into the whole matter." [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 21st February, 1961; c. 659.]
He also said that there should be a careful survey of the whole field, in conjunction with consultations about an alternative procedure which would have to be adopted. That was two years ago. We have had the other Bill and I should like to know what thought and consultation has taken place over the last two years.
When it first appeared this Bill contained nothing about the age of criminal responsibility. It was still left at 8, and had it not been for action in another place the age would not have been raised to 10. So it would appear that for the last two years, the Government having persuaded us to withdraw the Clause moved then by my hon. Friend, nothing has been done.
I know that the former Home Secretary mentioned this in a reply to a Written Question In November, 1961. It was rather strange that the Written Question appeared on a Tuesday, a day when the right hon. Gentleman did not usually answer Questions and was tucked away without many hon. Members being aware that the reply had been given. Originally there was nothing in the Bill about that; no thought had been given to the matter during the last two years. So far as I know, no consultation had taken place.
In another place and Amendment was carried to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12. Then there was an immediate whip round of some of the backwoodsmen and the age was put back from 12 to 10. During the passing of this Bill we shall try at least to reinstate the age of 12. I do not think that I need labour this point this afternoon, because I think it abhorrent to most people that criminal charges can be brought against children of 8, 9, 10, or 11.
I want to look at another aspect of this matter. I agree with what the Lord Chancellor said during passage of the Criminal Justice Bill, that there is a problem of how to treat those below the age of criminal responsibility who commit misdemeanours which, if they were committed by older people, would be offences. But, whereas he would avoid the problem and obviously the Government would avoid it because nothing was put in this Bill about it, I want to face it. I believe that the problem of how to treat young children below the age of criminal responsibility is perhaps even more important than the actual age of criminal responsibility.
What do we mean by the age of criminal responsibility? I shall not go into all the Latin phrases which were quoted by the Under-Secretary. Most parents do not understand those and I am certain that children who come before the courts do not. As the Bill is at present it does not mean that a child below the age of criminal responsibility cannot be brought before a court. He can. What it means is that a child below the age of criminal responsibility cannot be brought before a court and charged with having committed a crime. A child can be brought before the court as being in need of care, protection and control.
Take an example of what this means in practice. Suppose two boys take bicycles which do not belong to them. The one over the age of criminal responsibility can be brought before the court and charged with stealing a bicycle. The one below the age can be brought before the courts, before the same magistrates, as being in need of care, protection and control. At the end of the day they can be treated in almost exactly the same way. The boy who is in need of care, protection and control cannot be sent to an attendance centre, nor can he be fined, but he can be made subject to a supervision order, which can be very tough. They can both be sent to an approved school.
I am sure that in the minds of the two children who have stolen those bicycles there will not appear to be very much difference at the end of the day. This House must not think that we have done a great deal merely by raising the age of criminal responsibility if, at the same time, we do not devise a more satisfactory method of dealing with those under that age, whatever age is fixed.
I want to ensure not only that young children are not charged with having committed a crime—which is important—but that as far as possible we shall keep young children out of courts altogether. That is the important thing. It is not just the nature of the charge made in court; it is the appearance in court which can do so much damage to a young child. It is sometimes said that if a child appears in court that gives him or her a jolt, that it teaches him or her a lesson and that the child will never come to court again. Maybe that is true, but usually the opposite happens. The person coming before the court thinks of himself as a young criminal. Many children regard appearance in court not as something which they have to live down, but as something they have to live up to.
So far as possible we must find a way to avoid having children taken to court. I wonder what the Under-Secretary, who told me that he has six children, would do if one of his children were to steal something. Perhaps that is something they would never do, but I think that all families at some time or other have to face the problem of a young child taking something which does not belong to it. I know what every hon. Gentleman and every hon. Lady in this House would do if one of their children took something which did not belong to it. They would do their best to keep the child out of the courts.
The better-off children in our community have not reached the public schools at this tender age; they are still at prep. school. I do not believe there is any preparatory school in the country where the headmaster has not at some time or other had to face the problem of some children doing things they ought not to do and taking things which do not belong to them. What happens to those children? I never hear of them being brought before the courts. The matter is settled within the education system. Maybe the parents are called in for a talk with the head. We must devise an arrangement whereby parents can voluntarily accept provision for their children.
We have schools for maladjusted children, we have child guidance clinics and special schools. I am sorry, as I know a great many of my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite are sorry, that we did not get something more definite out of the Committee which dealt with training centres, but why can we not consider some other form of day training centre? Why can we not look at liaison schemes such as there are in some parts of the country? I know that there is an objection to some of those because they are run by the police, but why can we not devise some method of that kind?
The Under-Secretary, in his opening speech—I hope that I took a note of it correctly—when he was talking about young children coming before the courts, said that if those children could have been dealt with in other ways it would not have been necessary to have brought them before the courts. It is our job not to accept that, but to devise some other way of dealing with those children. That is the whole point. I believe that many of them could be dealt with under our existing education and medical arrangements. If they cannot be dealt with in that way, it is up to us to devise machinery by which they can be dealt with.
It may be that in Committee we shall have more definite proposals to offer. We could perhaps devise some system for bringing in parents and headmasters and asking parents to accept voluntary provision for their children and to go to the court only in the very last resort if there cannot be some voluntary arrangement. This is a very important subject, but it is something which the Government have tossed on one side and not thought about in the last few years.
I turn to another recommendation of the Ingleby Committee which has been omitted from the Bill. The Ingleby Committee said that in future only the police and local authorities should have power to bring children to court as being in need of care, protection and control. That would cut out the N.S.P.C.C., which now have this power. I pay tribute to the work of the N.S.P.C.C. There was no suggestion in the Ingleby Committee Report that other powers which the N.S.P.C.C. has of bringing parents to court for cruelty and neglect should be taken from that organisation. When the Ingleby Committee's Report was published, the N.S.P.C.C. did all it could behind the scenes to jettison this proposal. So great was the power which was exercised behind the scenes that this proposal does not now appear in the Bill. That means not only that the police and local authorities, but still the N.S.P.C.C., can take a child to court when that child is said to be in need of care, protection and control.
I believe that the Ingleby Committee was right in this and that the Bill is wrong, because under the new provisions in Clause 1 we are laying a duty on local authorities to take steps in the homes of children to try to prevent children from coming before the courts. I can foresee a situation in which, just as the local authority, with all its services, is dealing with a certain problem, the N.S.P.C.0 will take the child to court—just when the local authority is perhaps doing its best to keep the child out of court, and succeeding. There is the opposite situation in which the laggard local authorities, which perhaps do not want to do very much under the Bill, can sit back and leave some of these problems to the N.S.P.C.C.
It is worth while noting that if the N.S.P.C.C. bring children to court, for them the problem is over; that is the end of it. But for others the problem is just beginning. This is not just a matter of the wounded pride of any organisation. We should judge it solely on what is good for the child. In many cases local authorities have had powers taken away from them in all sorts of fields, but they have accepted that as moving with the times and as being in the best interests of everybody. I believe that we ought to reconsider this position.
Another problem, not specifically mentioned in the Bill, which worries me a great deal when thinking of provisions for children and young people is the way in which we deal with teen-age girls. The more I see of teen-age girls in institutions, particularly in approved schools, the more worried I am about our treatment of adolescent girls. This is quite a different problem from that of the teenage boy. This is shown quite clearly by looking at the pupils in our approved schools. In the boys' approved schools, 95 per cent. are there because they are offenders and only 5 per cent. because they are in need of care, protection and control. But only 36 per cent. of the girls are there because they are offenders and 64 per cent. are there because they are in need of care, protection and control. Almost all these, and, in fact, some of the girls who are offenders, are there because they have been in moral danger. They have been associating with men. They have been out late at night or all night. Their parents cannot cope with the situation.
This is not a criminal problem at all. It is quite a different problem from the rest of the problems with which we are dealing; it is a psychological and medical problem and should be dealt with in that way. Even parents in good homes, who exercise very great care indeed, know the difficulties which arise with teen-age girls. I often wonder whether an approved school is the best way of dealing with these girls.
I recall visiting two approved schools in the same week within the last year or two. Both in their way were doing a good job within the school, and I am not criticising them. One was run by a religious voluntary organisation, and the girls in that school were all of a lower-than-average intelligence. They were quiet and docile—perhaps too quiet and too docile. Perhaps it was because they were lower-than-average intelligence that they had become in moral danger and had been sent to an approved school.
The other approved school was quite different. It was run by a local committee for some of the most difficult girls we have in approved schools. Some of them were highly intelligent. About 50 or 60 of these girls were put together in the most explosive atmosphere. There was a good headmistress and a good staff, but the headmistress told me that there was not one of her staff who had not been attacked physically at some time by one or other of the girls.
Having visited both these schools, I could not help wondering whether it was the right thing to put these girls together, away from the community perhaps for eighteen months, two years or three years. I feel instinctively that it is not, although I must admit that I do not know the answer. It is just that something has gone wrong with the problem of growing up. These difficulties of adolescence are quite separate problems from those of other delinquency. I believe that we should not take these girls out of the community if it is at all possible to keep them in.
I hate to multiply the committees which the Home Secretary has sitting at present. Indeed, I sometimes criticise the fact that so many committees are sitting helping the Home Office, and that we then take no action on their reports. But I believe that here is something which ought to be studied by an expert committee of doctors, teachers, psychologists and social workers. I have brought the problem to the House and I admit frankly that I have not the answer, but I feel that an expert committee should deal with this matter and I hope that the Minister will turn his attention to it and see whether an expert study of it can be undertaken.
May I comment on approved schools in general? We have a shortage of approved schools and remand homes, and we still have only one remand centre in the country—and even there the conditions are not particularly good. During the passing of the Criminal Justice Act through the House we spoke a great deal about the management of approved schools, and I do not take back one word of what I said on that occasion—that approved schools ought to be in the hands of properly elected bodies and not of self-appointed local committees. I still feel very strongly about this, but I have also been thinking about the whole system of approved schools.
The good schools are very good, and there are some which are not so good. In content, they are supposed to be educational, and I admit that with smaller classes the children in the approved schools have more individual attention than perhaps in some of our State schools. But in the country they are thought of as penal institutions. They come under the jurisdiction of the Home Office. Having been to an approved school somehow puts a stigma for life on the girl or boy who has been there. I believe that we ought to be able to deal with children of school age through our ordinary educational facilities, and I think that at any rate we ought to lay it down that no child under 12 should be sent to an approved school in the beginning.
I have said in education debates that it is geography which determines whether a child goes to a grammar school or to a secondary modern school; it depends on how many vacant places there are in a grammar school in a particular area. That sometimes happens with some of these institutions. Every magistrate knows that where a child goes after he leaves the court does not depend so much on the child as on the vacancies in the remand homes, remand centres or approved schools.
We had some comments to make during the passing of the Criminal Justice Act about the Children's Department of the Home Office. The Under-Secretary today commented on the children's committees. I believe that the children's committees throughout the country have done a magnificent job over the last few years. But one experienced person on a children's committee said to me recently that what they had done over the years had been in spite of, and perhaps not because of, the Children's Department. We have been told that there have been some changes in the Children's Department, and we hope that we shall soon have evidence that these changes have taken place.
If we are to make progress in all these matters, it requires great efforts by all of us—by local authorities, by social workers, by teachers and in the home. As an ex-teacher I know that the influence of the school is not nearly as great as that of the home. Whatever the authorities do, and whatever machinery is set up, the most important people in the battle against child delinquency are the parents. Even the best parents are faced with situations with which they sometimes cannot cope. Our job is to see that the services are there when parents need them. For this, we shall need more trained social workers and we shall have to spend more money, but it will be better than spending more money on keeping children in institutions such as approved schools. In any case, it will be money well spent.
I will end as I began. We are dealing with children today, and I hope that we shall not become too legalistic and talk too much in Latin legal terms which, as I have said, are neither understood by the parents nor by the children. We are dealing with children who are not responsible either for what they are or for the conditions under which they live. It is our responsibility, and in the Bill we can do something to show them that we are shouldering this responsibility and so take a constructive step forward in dealing with what I believe is one of our greatest social problems.
I welcome the Bill and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department on the manner in which he introduced it, in spite of the obvious anxieties which must have been in his mind a few hours ago. The Bill has come from another place and it has been improved, I think, by Amendments, from whichever side they came. I have no doubt that when it finally emerges from this House it will be even better than it is at present.
I believe that the thinking and intention behind the Bill is absolutely right. In my contribution to the debate, which I propose to make fairly brief, I only wish to refer to that part of the Bill which is based upon the Ingleby Report. This does not in any way mean that I think the other parts of the Bill are not important. I think they are. I think it quite proper to bring up to date measures dealing with the performance by young children in the theatre, on television and in the cinema.
I wish, first, to refer to Clause 1. This Clause, as we have already heard, extends the powers of local authorities, through their children's departments and children's committees, to bring children into care, to help to rehabilitate a family when it needs help and rehabilitation and to improve a family's living conditions—in short, to stop the development of conditions in a family and in a child's life which might lead to a child or children in a family becoming fruitful ground for delinquency and so for it to be necessary to put them into care or into some place away from their family. I think it is most important that we should do that, and that is why I think the terms of the Bill are so very important.
The Bill not only confers these powers but it imposes a statutory duty on local authorities to use them. It imposes a duty on local authorities to make arrangements for advice, for discussion of problems, for financial help, if need be, and for much else. I am sure that this is good. But it must be made abundantly clear that although this duty is laid on local authorities many of the most valuable voluntary organisations are still just as important and just as necessary as they ever were. In fact, I am quite certain that many of the local authorities will find it necessary to use the voluntary organisations, the information at their disposal and the organisation which they have built up in the work now imposed upon them by the Bill.
We must remember—and I am glad that it has already been mentioned—the great service which the Probation Service gives to the community, the work of other children's services and many other bodies which are working with great conscientiousness and devotion to help the children of the country. I hope that we shall make it worth their while to continue to do that because they give a very great service.
I do not think that at first, at any rate, these new powers which the Bill gives to local authorities will be easy to work. They will have to be run in, so to speak. There will quite clearly have to be a considerable amount of consultation between the local authorities and my right hon. Friend, and a way of working the provisions of the Bill will have to result from these consultations. I have no doubt that many have been held already and I am sure that there will have to be still more.
No one who is a Member of Parliament, and who has been one for very long, can fail to know from the letters which he receives and from the interviews which he holds in his "surgery" with constituents that the family circumstances which the Bill envisages really exist. All these things are happening, and the Bill can remedy them if used aright. We all realise, I am sure, how many circumstances in the life of a family can, if they are taken in time, be remedied. The essential thing is that the trouble should he dealt with early. We want to deal with the trouble before it develops into a state where it creates unhappiness in the family, which, in turn results in a child being brought within the ambit of the Bill.
Many misfortunes, illnesses, temporary financial troubles and emotional upheavals happen in homes. If the Bill is implemented properly they can be caught at the source and so prevent many of the troubles which exist today. If family life is preserved and children are adequately cared for they do not get into the sort of trouble which the Bill in some part is meant to deal with, but if children are not properly cared for then very often they become difficult and in need of the "care, protection and control" which under the Bill has to be given to them. It is better to prevent trouble arising rather than wait till it conies. If we wait till the trouble arises then there is much greater responsibility and much more grief. There is a family upheaval and the children go into care or enter an appropriate home.
I want, briefly, to refer to one or two other matters in the early Clauses of the Bill which I think are most desirable. First, the lifting of the burden upon the child witness in sexual cases to give evidence other than by a written statement, except in rare cases. I think also that the simple form of oath is a good thing. It is not so important to me as it is to many others, but I still think it is a good thing. I also think that the substitution of the words "care, protection and control" for "care and protection" is logical and that it will be valuable.
Especially valuable in my view is the procedure whereby parents now do not have to bring their children before the court as being beyond control. To do so, in my view, is quite wrong. It is also quite wrong for parents to throw away their children in this way, to abdicate responsibility for them and, in fact, to confess, more or less, their own inadequacy as well. The new provision is a good thing. The Bill includes many other excellent practical benefits which I will not take up the time of the House in mentioning.
I now come to the proposal that the minimum age of criminal responsibility—if that is what we should call it—should be raised from 8 to 10. This, I realise, is less than the Ingleby Report required. My hon. Friend has inferred that up to the age of 10 children are to be dealt with not by juvenile courts but perhaps just as naughty children. That is how one should treat children, certainly up to the age of 10. I am glad that the age limit has been raised to 10. I think that they should be controlled, and punished if necessary, by their own parents. If the parents are not adequate for the duty, some other means must be taken, perhaps either educationally or through the social services or if necessary, I imagine, by the processes of Clause 2. As a justice of the peace and one who occasionally sits in a juvenile court, I think that 10 is about the right age at present, although I may be wrong.
I sometimes wonder whether some of the methods of the older days might not be more effective—when there was a police constable on his feet on the beat, when he very often knew the type of child who was likely to get into trouble, when he could go to the parents and warn them early on, when occasionally he could put a hardish hand on the place where it mattered. In older days when there were less children and more policemen much work was done in this way and not in nearly so complicated a manner. I expect that the more psychiatrically minded and younger Members of the House will think I am a square for saying this. In fact it was done. Surely we want to introduce some such relationship between the local authorities and families through this Bill.
Nothing in the Bill and nothing that we do by the Bill can be a substitute for sound and happy home life. That is very important. Nothing in the Bill can be a substitute for proper discipline in the home. A local authority can never be a substitute for parents or for parental affection or for discipline in the home or for firmness of purpose. It can never do anything like that. That is something we must accept. It is a fact we must deal with.
Nevertheless, I feel that the Bill will go a long way towards being a substitute for the things which are lacking in some homes—not in every home by any means, and I am glad that this point has already been made. But the Bill will go a long way to provide what is lacking in a very small proportion of homes.
As I said earlier, I welcome the Bill. It is needed, although I am sorry that it is needed. I do not think that it will be easy to bring the provisions of the Bill into the most efficient effect. There will have to be considerable consultation between local authorities, my right hon. Friend and voluntary bodies. But I am absolutely certain that when the Bill is brought into effect my right hon. Friend has it in his power to make it a success. He can call for reports when he wishes. I believe that the Bill will do much good, and I welcome it.
When hon. Members read what the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Sir G. Wills) has just said, particularly the closing sentences of his speech, they will find something almost classic in his suggestions for what can replace parental control. We can all completely agree with his remarks. With the exception of the hon. Gentleman's remarks about the cuffing policeman and the fact that he is satisfied with the age limit of 10, I am in agreement with everything he said. Instead of taking up the points the hon. Gentleman mentioned, I intend to use them as I go along as I make my points.
I welcome the Bill, but I am in agreement with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) in offering criticisms, I hope constructive, rather than merely patting the Government on the back all the way through. I believe that this is the right approach. I believe that the Government want us to make suggestions. The Government want us to say what we think is wrong and particularly what is omitted from the Bill. It is in that spirit that I address the House.
On occasions like this it is very refreshing to get away from the party fights which take place across the Floor of the House. These are the occasions when we can get together as a House of Commons and consider some of the great social problems of our day without any party political rancour.
When thinking about the Ingleby Report, it is interesting to remember that in October, 1956, when the Committee was set up, there had been a fall in juvenile delinquency. In fact, the Home Office had closed eight or nine approved schools. It was in that atmosphere that the Ingleby Committee came into being. After two years, in 1958, there had been a complete swing. There was an increase in juvenile delinquency. The Committee had to switch its thoughts to a new situation. It may well be that it was the changing circumstances that produced the Report on which the Bill is based.
So, after forty-nine sitting days, examining 151 witnesses over a period of four years, the Committee reported. It made 125 recommendations. Two and a half years later a Bill reaches the Floor of the House of Commons based on those recommendations. I hope that I am not being disrespectful to the Home Secretary when I say that this is far too long and that what the Bill ultimately does is far too little based on those 125 recommendations. The Bill implements so few of the recommendations, and they were disappointing to some of us after the years which had elapsed.
As briefly as I can, because I always have inhibitions about speaking too long in the House, I want to look at a few of the questions of commission and omission. I come to Clause 1 straight away. This is the prevention Clause. In that sense it is admirable. For so long we have been concerned only with cure and have given no attention whatever to prevention.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East referred to the age limit for people who sit on the management committees of approved schools. I am now too long in the tooth to be a juvenile court magistrate, but I am on the management committee of an approved school and getting desperately near the age that my hon. Friend mentioned. I shall be very happy to give up at 75, or perhaps a little earlier. During the passage of the 1948 Criminal Justice Bill my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said in Committee that it was desirable that the father type rather than the grandfather type should he connected with approved schools and serve as juvenile court magistrates. I get a bit concerned when I look at my 6 ft. 1 in grandson and realise that I am in that category now.
I mentioned my experience of being on the management committee of an approved school. Hon. Members may be interested to know that we have divided the school into houses so that there is a closer contact between the managers and the boys. Four of us look after each house. It is an amazing experience to examine the after-care reports concerning boys who have left the school. The aftercare officers give us reports on the boys and the homes in which they are living. In this connection, it is interesting to note that 90 per cent. of juvenile delinquents who come before the courts come from unsatisfactory homes. Realising, therefore, that unsatisfactory homes are the basis of our juvenile delinquency problems, I welcome the Clause as far as it goes because it aims at tackling the problem from the root, that is, to do something about the homes from which the juvenile delinquents come.
In my constituency there is a fine family service unit which is mentioned in paragraph 30 of the Ingleby Report. Its members are doing a great job of work and I should like to see that concept extended to cover more homes. Clause 1 will help to achieve that. However, I feel that the Clause is rather vague and that its terms need strengthening from the local authority point of view. After all, the Clause will cost local authorities a considerable amount of money. I should have thought that this is more a national than a local authority problem and that the Government should take a larger share of the financial burden.
It would be interesting to know if the Government consider that sufficient accommodation is available to implement the Bill. For instance, Clause 9—which deals with the temporary committal of persons ordered to be sent to approved schools—depends for its success on the availability of sufficient accommodation. Likewise, Clause 11—concerning the designation of remand homes as classifying centres—equally depends on the availability of accommodation. Clause 23 relates to children and young persons detained in places of safety, but do we have enough of such places?
It should be remembered that Clause 5 will add a lot of additional work to that being done by probation officers. While I welcome the recent salary award granted to them, the Bill will place a great deal of extra work on their shoulders. Do we have enough probation officers, particularly those who are sufficiently qualified to do this work? The answers to these questions will enable us to decide if the Bill is practicable.
I am still concerned with the plight of a child who has not committed a specific offence but who is sent to an approved school. What will such a child's position be when the Bill becomes law? As I have said, I know something about approved schools and I am concerned about the influences which meet any child, particularly one who has not committed an offence, on being placed in one. I have in mind some nasty influences which can change a child, particularly one who has not committed an offence but who has been sent there because he or she is in need of care and protection. I am concerned to see that such a child is not turned into a juvenile delinquent. Clause 7 deals with this matter and I should like an assurance from the Home Secretary that my fears in this respect are not justified. I am inclined to think, however, that he will not be able to give me such an assurance.
It is a matter of extreme urgency that more homes should be provided for emotionally maladjusted children. I should also like to see provision made for the revocation of adoption orders in cases where it is shown that the adopted parent has committed an offence against the child or is engaged in criminal activities. I appreciate that this type of case does not arise frequently and that some provision is made in Clause 2. However, the Clause does not provide for adoption orders to be cancelled, and I hope that Clause 2 may be extended in this direction.
Although I have said that this type of case does not often arise, I could cite examples of it having happened. Because it can happen, there should be some way of dealing with adoptive parents who have proved themselves not worthy of being the parents-in-law of the child. I should like to see a Clause added to the Bill to enable courts, acting under the Guardianship of Infants Act, 1925, to make orders committing a child to the care of a suitable person. There is a serious gap in the Bill in this connection, particularly when one considers that such power already exists in certain cases; divorce and matrimonial cases which come before magistrates' courts. The law has gone so far, but it needs to go further. We could take that further step in the Bill. Some provision in this connection was made in a Private Member's Bill—which, I regret, did not get very far—introduced by the hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers). I hope that in Committee we can consider this point further and, perhaps, do something constructive about it.
A great deal has been said today about the age of criminal responsibility. I will save my remarks on this subject for the Committee stage, especially since my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East expressed my point of view far better than I could. The case she made out was unanswerable, and I look forward to debating the matter further in Committee.
I welcome Clause 19 in regard to juvenile court magistrates sitting with chairmen of quarter sessions in appeal cases. I know some chairmen of quarter sessions and I think that it would be desirable if experienced juvenile court magistrates could sit on the bench during appeal cases. I understand that the Magistrates' Association was responsible for the suggestion in the Clause that a woman should also be on the bench, particularly when the court has before it a case involving a girl.
Clause 27, dealing with evidence in proceedings for sexual offences, is a very good Clause. My late friend Sir Basil Henriques, in a long correspondence in The Times, did a great deal to influence public and Parliamentary opinion on this important topic. It is desirable that, in general, girls under a certain age should not appear in court to give evidence where sexual offences have been corn-mined against them.
I am concerned, however, about the provision in subsection (2, b) under which the police can require the attendance of the child for the identification of the accused. I wonder whether that paragraph might not make the purpose of the main Clause somewhat innocuous. In passing, I might add that some of us have had experience as magistrates of seeing girls of tender years who seemed to be enjoying the experience of giving evidence in court about a sexual offence, but, in the main, I think it is wise that we should not have them there.
There are so many things in the Bill that we can consider it fully only in Committee. Second Reading speeches are not the occasion to go through the whole gamut of its provisions. The Bill is good only because it does something. My complaint is that it does not do enough, and I am sure that the Home Secretary will agree with me when I say that in Committee we shall all be concerned to make it a better Bill.
I am glad to have the opportunity of following in the debate the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) with whom I have had correspondence about certain points which he has mentioned today. I know that he speaks from great knowledge and sincerity and I agree with everything he said and I, too, hope that in Committee we shall make some alterations in the Bill.
I should like to take up one or two of the points made by the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon), in her admirable speech. She knows that I am committed to raising the age of criminal responsibility. She knows this from the way I voted on a previous Bill and I hope that some of the points which she made will come within the research Clause.
I go all the way with the hon. Lady in what she says about the N.S.P.C.C. I am not saying that I do not think that the work of this organisation is excellent. I think that it does a wonderful job, but it would be unfortunate if two organisations, the Society and the local authority, were allowed to overlap in their work, both being able to take cases to court.
As to approved schools, I agree with the hon. Member for Salford, West and I should like my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to bear in mind that one of the most noticeable stigmas of going to an approved school is that certain jobs are now being closed to these young people. I hope that my right hon. Friend will watch this trend. It is most unfortunate that boys and girls who have been in an approved school, where we would hope that they had received training and were cured of their criminal tendencies, might be prevented from taking their rightful place in life afterwards.
I welcome the Bill because I think that it shows a further understanding of children and young people. I should like to pay tribute to the Association of Child Care Officers and to its president. When Bills of this kind are produced it is extremely helpful when the individuals who have to operate their provisions take the interest which has been shown by this Association. Most hon. Members have been circulated, before the Bill was altered in another place, with the Association's thoughts on every one of the Clauses. When we bear in mind how much work these officers have to do it shows the interest they take not only in their current work but in how they will work under the Bill in future. I should also like to pay tribute to the children's officers, who do a selfless job.
In this country, if we include voluntary organisations, there are over 76,000 children in care and this number presents a tremendous problem. As far as I understand, the Bill is in five parts. It aims at prevention being better than cure, to increase parental responsibility and to bring that repsonsibility home to the parents. It also increases the penalties for trouble-makers, for instance, by lowering the minimum attendance centre age to 10 years. It enables individuals to secure better supervision and aftercare, and it deals with the employment of the young people.
I understand that Clause 1 enables rents to be included in cash payments made in exceptional cases, but I should like to know whether a local authority is enabled to pay the rent of a person who may be evicted if that person is living under a local authority. I see no difficulty about private houses, but one of the main reasons for the division of families is often the eviction of a family. Will it be possible to help them on these occasions?
Will it also be possible to conduct experiments? I should like to draw attention to the experiment which is being conducted by a voluntary organisation in Plymouth. We in the organisation have taken a house and divided it into two to accommodate evicted families. They go there under an agreement that they will be supervised by various voluntary persons and that somebody will be responsible for collecting the rents. After a period during which they have given proof that they are in a better financial position, the local authority has agreed to rehouse them in a local authority house. This type of experiment is invaluable. Will it now be possible for a local authority to undertake this kind of work? This provision is quite different from Part II accommodation.
So many speeches have already been made in another place on the Bill as a whole that I should like to devote the remainder of my speech to specific points which may be answered if not today then at some later date. Clause 2 (1, a) refers to the child or young person as in need of care, protection or control if
… he is not receiving such care, protection and guidance as a good parent may reasonably be expected to give.…
I would hope that my right hon. Friend might consider whether it is necessary to satisfy all three of these conditions before action is considered necessary. Very often a family can be put right with
advice without the child necessarily needing care and protection.
Clause 2 (2, b) refers to
the lack of care, protection or guidance … likely to cause him unnecessary suffering …".
Does mental cruelty come under this heading, and is it possible to take action on that ground?
Subsection (2, d) refers to the child or young person being a member of the same household as a person who has been convicted of certain offences. There are cases of what somebody has called "immoral mums" who take in friends. They are not running a brothel, because the woman is probably the only woman in the house, but this is an extremely had influence, particularly on a young girl. If the woman has not been convicted, is it possible that if evidence is provided that the woman is conducting herself in this manner a children's officer can enter the house and ascertain whether the child is in need of protection?
I would have hoped, as the Ingleby Committee suggested, that there would be a statutory obligation on the local authorities to submit for Ministerial approval schemes for the protection of suffering children. I believe that it is essential that schemes shall be produced by local authorities so that a similar standard is maintained throughout the country, for it is extremely important to have a certain standard of administration fitted to all local authority areas. Of course, conditions vary to a certain extent in different areas, but, nevertheless, there should be some standard and some regulations under which the appropriate committee can work.
I should like to refer to the question of a parent taking action under Clause 1 and perhaps being over-demanding in what he thinks he should get in the way of assistance from a local authority. Would a parent be able to sue a children's officer on one or another pretext, or would the committee take responsibility? In other words, in the same way as we have a housing tenancy sub-committee which often deals with the question of priority and decides who should occupy a house, will there be some similar protection for the children's officer in the form of a committee to which he may submit these problems? I can see that there will be a great deal of anxiety, when the terms of the Bill relating to the various demands which may be made on children's officers are made known, if there is not sufficient protection for these people.
Clause 4 will be particularly beneficial. If a child is taken before a court in London he can be remitted to, say, Plymouth, his home town. I hope that the terms of this Clause will be carried out to the full, because this is the only way in which we can get full justice for the individual child.
I now come to Clause 8 and the question of religion. This problem might not have occurred had my Guardianship of Infants Bill been passed; at any rate, the problem would have been mitigated. There is a question of defining religion. A mother may say, "My child is a Roman Catholic and I want him to be brought up in the Church of England", or a father or guardian may say that he wishes the child to have a certain religion.
This Clause states that
If the parent, guardian or nearest adult relative of a person in respect of whom an approved school order has been made applies to a juvenile court for an order under this subsection and proves to the court that the religious persuasion of that person is not as declared … by the approved school order
action can be taken by the Home Secretary. But it would appear that no copy of the order is given to the parent and he does not always know to which school the child has gone. How will the parent know where to apply? He has to apply, I gather, within a limited period. I should be glad if this point could be considered.
I joint the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East in expressing the hope that we may have some more remand centres. We have both done hard work in this connection, and I think that the existing one has been beneficial and that more will be provided in the future. I was glad to see that remand homes are now to become classifying centres and I hope that magistrates will use these even more. I had been expecting to hear some protest about this Clause from hon. Members who are magistrates. Several organisations have written saying that they do not think that remand homes should be classifying centres, but I think that as long as there are enough approved schools this is an excellent idea.
I should like to refer to what I call the outpatients' work that can be done by these classifying centres. Such work is being carried out now at Stamford House. Magistrates are sending children to the centre from their homes and they are being classified. I should like to see this done on a much larger scale, for I believe it is proving very efficacious.
I should like to know why, in Clause 14, the age of 16 has been fixed as the maximum of a person detained in an approved school and whose parents are compelled to inform the managers of the approved school of their change of address. I understand that their financial liability continues for a longer period than this. I appreciate that a person over 16 cannot be compelled, after release, to live with his parents, or even to communicate with them, but I think such a person should know where his parents are. I hope that we shall insist on schools obtaining the addresses of the parents and having them available for the girls or bays who may wish to have that information.
Clause 25 is extremely important. It relates to the attendance of a parent or guardian in court. It says that
… any person who is a parent or guardian…may be required to attend at the court ….
I should like to see the word "shall" substituted for "may". It is obsolutely essential to get the co-operation of parents, and preferably both parents. Far too often only the mother attends the court, the father may be working, and the mother takes all the responsibility during the proceedings. She is probably the only person who visits the boy in the remand home or approved school. If the father had taken more interest in the beginning, probably the child would not have found his way to court. One of the ways of bringing home to both parents their full responsibility is to insist that they shall both be in court when the girl or boy is before the magistrates.
I welcome Clause 26 because I feel that a doctor's certificate should be an advantage and help to magistrates in arriving at their decisions.
My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State said that the oath is to be changed, and I welcome this. I feel that "I promise before Almighty God" is much better than "I swear". In many of the homes from which these children come the word "swear" is understood to refer to the bad use of the English language. One often hears a mother say, "Do not swear before the children." I believe that the change in the wording will be a great advantage.
I now come to the only point that I want to discuss under the part of the Bill dealing with employment, namely, Clause 33. I am glad that the minimum age at which a person may engage in street trading is to be raised to 17, but I should like the Minister to consider not raising the age from 16 at present. The school-leaving age is still 15, and a young person, particularly in the period of unemployment, may take a job with his father as a street trader. Why should he not go straight from school to this job instead of having to wait until he is 17? I quite understand that if the school-leaving age is raised to 16 the other age could go to 17, but it seems to me that, at present, there might be quite a gap when a boy could not obtain other employment and employment as a street trader would be the only way of keeping him at work.
I am very glad that there is to be more research. I would like my right hon. Friend to tell us how much money is to be available for research and how serious are to be the studies. We continue to pass legislation—I hope that the Bill now before us will be of further help in bringing happiness to young people—but we still are without sufficient knowledge and the fruits of sufficient research. I want Clause 43 to be taken really seriously. I want my right hon. Friend to tell us how much research is going on now and how much money is being spent on it, and I hope that he will assure us that he intends to see that we have experts dealing with these questions.
It has been said that the extent of the problem is, unfortunately, growing. The hon. Lady put forward some suggestions which she would like to be followed up, but one of the first tasks, surely, must be to find out why, in this age of comparative affluence, children continue to commit so many crimes. This, I suggest, is something which calls for thorough research.
I was glad to note that in paragraph 40 of its Report the Ingleby Committee recommended that arrangements should be made for the protection of families at risk, as this is a particularly difficult matter. I feel that the Bill may represent a step forward, but it will need the cooperation of a great many people if we are to be able properly to protect families at risk in the early stages. For instance, a rent collector on his rounds will know that a family is not paying the rent. When the children do not go to school, the teachers will know. The trouble at the moment is that all the various people who have dealings with a child seem to have no central focal point to which they can pass their information. Can my right hon. Friend tell me who is to be responsible in the future? Could the children's officer, perhaps, collate the knowledge at an early date in order to fulfil the function we have in mind for the protection of families at risk?
Now, a word about the Press. I understand that reporters are worried about their position in taking a record of proceedings in an adult court when they are not aware that the proceedings had actually arisen from proceedings in the juvenile court. They fear that, by reporting such a case, they may be contravening previous legislation, and they suggest that it would be helpful if words were introduced into the Bill to the effect that the onus is on the magistrate or the clerk of the court to announce in some way that the proceedings have arisen out of earlier proceedings elsewhere.
That is a different question. I am raising a point on what is actually happening now. Press reporters are nervous about their position in such circumstances and they would like the matter cleared up. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will be able to tell me that something can be done. I agree with the hon. Member in the general point which he makes, but that was not the case which I was putting.
I welcome the Bill and look forward to it becoming law in the not too distant future. I hope that some of the comments and suggestions which I have made will be of interest to my right hon. Friend and will be considered in Committee.
I was struck by the appalling figures given by the Under-Secretary of State. I gather that, between 1938 and today, the number of children between the ages of 8 and 17 found guilty of indictable offences has risen by 120 per cent., and the proportion of boys guilty of indictable offences in 1961 was more than double that in 1938. Another figure worthy of note is that, since the passing of the Children Act, 1948, the number of children in the case of local authorities, despite all we have done in the Welfare State, remains steady at about 60,000.
These are appalling figures. Obviously, delinquency in children presents an enormous problem. Naturally, we must do all we can by way of legislation, but what we can do in that way is limited and certainly not good enough. Delinquency in the child is often due to family conditions and circumstances, yet bringing a child before the juvenile court and punishing him by taking him away to an approved school may often be a bad thing for the child and for the family, too. It should not be done if other methods can be use.
I was much struck by a report in last night's Evening Standard which I hope other hon. Members have noted. It referred to a mother in Ramsgate. Apparently, her child, now 12 years of age, was, in December, 1961, committed by a juvenile court because he had been kept away from school for two months. According to the mother, she had given him private tuition, but he was handed over to the care of the children's department of the Kent County Council. Apparently, he was a very bright lad and passed his 11-plus examination with flying colours. But he was separated from his mother. She became ill. His whereabouts were discovered by a friend and, according to this report, the mother was, after a year's separation, permitted to see him for one hour only.
I can only hope that the report is wrong in some of its particulars. If it is not, it discloses treatment of a most callous kind. I refer to it because it is an illustration of how the separation of the child in such circumstances may lead to ill-health and serious disruption of family life.
Obviously, a great deal can be done by work of prevention and by family rehabilitation. There are voluntary organisations which do such work and do it quite splendidly. Like hon. Members on both sides, I welcome Clause 1 because of the duty—I emphasise the word "duty"—it imposes upon the local authorities and the welfare powers it vests in them. It is a positive duly, to make available "advice, guidance and assistance", and the specific object is to promote the welfare of children. Of course, one must remember the definition of children, that is, those under the age of 18.
Clause 1 (2) gives the local authority an opportunity, which, I am sure, it will welcome, to make use of the voluntary organisations. I have had many cases of parents, whose children have been sent to approved schools, pleading that their children should be restored to them. How often have we felt that, if preventive action could have been taken, if the parents could have been approached and advised before such a step was taken, many a mother would have been spared long periods of anguish and many a child would have been better for it.
I listened to the criticism, properly made, in the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl). I think that a good deal can be done to tighten up this Clause. I think that a fair criticism of it is that it is vague, and I hope that in Committee something will be done about it. I trust that, whatever is done, expeditious action will be taken to make the Clause effective. It is extremely important that a real effort should be made to deal with children who are not in any sense of the term criminals, but we should deal with them in the light of the fact that they are socially handicapped.
I welcome certain changes made in the Bill, and I wish to refer to only one or two of them. Clause 52 extends the existing restrictions on publicity in newspapers of particulars calculated to identify children and young persons in court proceedings. It refers to three sets of cases: proceedings arising out of proceedings in a juvenile court; proceedings in any court, whether or not they arise out of a sexual offence or immoral conduct, if the court so directs; and to sound and television broadcasts.
I welcome the Clause because the extraordinary situation today is this. One may be concerned with a case in which it is thought wise that the name of the party should be kept out of the Press. A request is accordingly made to the trial judge, who often says, "I have no power to order this, but I can request the Press not to print these particulars", and the request is usually complied with. There is no power to insist that the name shall not be disclosed.
I welcome the Clause because of an instance I should like to quote. I defended a young man of about 15 years of age who had committed a murder. It was an appalling case and his parents were in a most dreadful state because of it. During the case I asked the judge whether he would be good enough to ask members of the Press to keep the names of the parties out of the newspapers. He thought that it was a proper request and he accordingly made it.
The Press loyally suppressed the names, except in one instance, and I take the opportunity of quoting it. John Gordon took the opportunity, in his column in the Sunday Express, of writing words to this effect, "A request was made to suppress the name in this case. I do not think that it ought to be suppressed. Here is the name and address", and he published them. I welcome the Clause because of the power which it gives to suppress information of that kind.
I want to refer to Clause 27, by which the evidence of a child of 13 years in proceedings in a sexual offence before the examining justices is not to be given and in substitution a statement in writing is given. We often come across cases of the most dreadful kind in which children and, for that matter, their parents suffer. The children go before the court and have to go into the most horrible details, particularly before the examining justices in the lower court. This is, therefore, a very good provision. It must, in the nature of things, be subject to exceptions, but I welcome it.
Also very satisfactory is the provision in Clause 19 which requires justices qualified to sit in a juvenile court to sit with a recorder and act as assessors in appeals from juvenile courts or when dealing with persons committed by juvenile courts. I should like to say a few words about the compromise solution adopted by the Government in raising the age of criminal responsibility to 10. I use the word "compromise solution" advisedly. I was sorry to see that the decision in another place to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 was reversed. I hope that in Committee we shall restore the original decision. If the Government are ready to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 10, surely there is no reason why they should not raise it to 12. Every argument which the Government used against raising the age limit to 12 applies with equal force to what they have done in raising it to 10. I am aware of the figures quoted by the Under-Secretary on this matter.
To talk about a child of 8 years as a criminal is absurd. To talk about a child of 10 as a criminal is also absurd and to put on the record of a child under 12 the fact that he was guilty of a criminal offence is equally absurd. Even the Government recognise this by providing in the Bill that such a record may not be used against him in later proceedings up to the age of 14. Children who pilfer or cause damage are mischievous. They should be reprimanded and punished, but not branded as young criminals. Their acts create domestic and family problems which should be dealt with, but they should not be the subject of a criminal prosecution. To prosecute a small child causes not only harm to the child, but intense misery to the parents.
I was reminded by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) of the debate that we had on this matter and of what the Attorney-General said. He said that we should not discuss it because we could not do that without discussing the alternative which was referred to in the Report. The alternative was the civil, or quasi-civil, procedure to which the Under-Secretary referred. But it was said in another place and it was said today by the Under-Secretary that there can be no question of adopting that alternative procedure. I do not know what the position is. Why we should compromise on the age of 10 and not agree to what we all want, namely, to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12, I do not know.
I should have liked to deal with other provisions in the Bill, but I appreciate that other hon. Members wish to speak. The Bill, as far as it goes, is good and I welcome it subject to certain amendments which I hope will be made. However, I cannot help but feel that the opportunity has been lost of dealing with the problem of delinquent children on much broader lines. We have had juvenile courts for half a century and in that period delinquency has increased. We have failed—and we should recognise it—to tackle the problem with any degree of success. The whole matter wants rethinking.
Many suggestions have been made today and I do not want to go into them, but surely we need many revolutionary changes. The Ingleby Report could have dealt with this matter much more effectively and on much broader lines. The Report was a good one as far as it went, and it is to be regretted that its recommendations have not been fully implemented. Perhaps we shall have to wait for a Government which is more alive to this problem to deal with it in a more radical fashion.
I share the disquiet expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) about the figures which were given to the House by my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State. They are very alarming and shocking. As was said by the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon), this is a most important debate because it touches upon legislation which has as its object the welfare of children, a subject which inevitably pricks the conscience of us all.
It is only right that one should not be too optimistic about the possible effects of legislation in this field. Just as one cannot create happiness by giving a person money, so one cannot ensure wisdom by legislation. And it is just as well to remember that more than fifty years ago, when juvenile courts were first introduced into this country, Parliament was promised—and these are the words used at the time—a large diminution of youthful crime. Unhappily that hope and that promise have not been fulfilled, and today we have to face a sombre background against which to carry on this debate.
My hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State has reminded the House about the increase of indictable crime among young people. The number of children and young persons—those from 8 to 17—has increased since 1938 by 7 per cent., but, as he has told us, indictable crime by people of that age has risen by 120 per cent. The rate of crime among young people is three times the rate of crime among adults, and it apparently reaches its peak at the age of 14. These figures have been rehearsed again and again in this House, in another place and elsewhere, but they never lose the quality of shock and they are something we have to contend with.
Whenever one sees a child standing before a juvenile court charged with a criminal offence, one cannot escape the feeling and the conviction that he should not be where he is—that in his place should be standing his parents. It is because of this that I for one—and in this I am joined by many hon. Members —warmly welcome the provisions of Clause 25 which give the magistrates a discretion to ensure that the parents of the child should be present when the child comes before the court.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to consider the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) that this power should be made obligatory. There may well be something in the suggestion that both parents should be compelled to go to court to hear what has happened to their child. What more important business in life have they, and what possible reason can there be for excusing their absence?
Of course, as the hon. Member for Leeds, South-East said, the heart of the Bill is to be found in Clause 1, which provides the possibility and the hope of preventive measures which, we all hope, will be wide enough and effective enough to do something to steady and finally to reduce the appalling rate of juvenile crime.
I should also like to welcome Clause 27, which deals with the need of a child to give evidence in sexual cases and proposes to replace the present oral evidence which would be given in committal proceedings by a written statement unless the defence objects. This is a very beneficial step forward. It does not need a great deal of imagination, even by an adult, to appreciate the appalling effect that giving evidence of this character can have upon the tender mind of a child. I also ask my right hon. Friend to consider whether in Committee he can raise the age at which it becomes necessary to give oral evidence twice in court, because, as adolescence approaches, perhaps the sensitivity of the witness becomes even more pronounced.
I am also very pleased to see that Clause 28 substitutes in the oath to be administered to the child the words "I promise by Almighty God" for the words "I swear by Almighty God". This may seem a trivial matter, but those who have sat in court and have seen the difficulties in which children find themselves in appreciating the nature of the oath will, I think, welcome this alternative means of administering it.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport said, the child frequently associates the word "swear" with the use of bad language, and the difficulty of making him understand the oath—and, of course, a number of evidential points of great importance depend on this—frequently centres round the word "swear". The new word "promise" may well overcome that.
I also applaud the introduction by Clause 52 of the extension of restrictions upon the publication of identity of young people who have come from juvenile courts to proceedings in another court. It has always seemed slightly anomalous —indeed, more so—that a child can be given the protection which society thinks is important before the juvenile court, but that the moment he goes on, appeal from a finding in juvenile court the cloak of anonymity can be taken from him with consequences Which can only be harmful to him.
I should like also to deal with Clause 30, which concerns cruelty to children and the penalties which can be imposed on summary conviction. Of course it is right that the derisory fine of £25, which is the maximum which can be imposed under the present law, should be increased to £100. I hope that hon. Members will not think this a legalistic or niggling point in any way, but I feel that as the Bill deals with punishment and seeks to amend the principal Act of 1933 by increasing fines in this way, it should at the same time—and this surely would be a simple matter—increase the maximum period of imprisonment which may be imposed upon parents for cruelty to their children.
I fully appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary that the authorities, that is, the prosecution, can rely on other Statutes, such as the Offences Against the Person Act or the Sexual Offences Act, which would allow greater and more apt punishments; but it should not be left to the authorities in this rather haphazard way to decide under which Act they should proceed. If they are to go for a parent who has been guilty of cruelty to a child, the Bill ought to amend the principal Act by giving the courts power to impose appropriate penalties.
It is a curious and, one might even say in another context, a comical anomaly that there is a Victorian Act still the law which allows a court to impose upon an offender for wounding a cow or other cattle a sentence of imprisonment of fourteen years. Under the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, as we well know, on indictment a parent of a child who has assaulted it or has blinded it, or who has caused the child to lose its hearing, or even its sanity, can be sent to prison as a maximum punishment for only two years. I should like to see the Bill amended in such a manner that it brought the penal provisions of the 1933 Act into line with those penal provisions contained in statutes such as the Offences Against the Person Act and the Sexual Offences Act.
I want, finally, to deal with something which is omitted from the Bill. It is the radical alteration of what has been called the age of criminal responsibility, the absence of any provisions in the Bill to abolish what we call the doli incapax rule. May I first get my understanding of the rule correct?
As I understand it, under the present law, until the age of 8 a child is presumed by the law to be incapable of forming a guilty intent in his mind sufficient to make him guilty of a criminal offence. From the age of 8 to 14, it is presumed by the law that he is incapable of forming in his mind such a guilty intent, unless the contrary is proved. The rule, as I understand it, is that the rebutting evidence which will overthrow the presumption of the rule of doli incapax must be clear and strong and beyond the possibility of contradiction and doubt.
The Ingleby Report suggests that children under the age of 12 should be brought before a court as being in need of protection or discipline. We as a House have to bring to bear upon this difficult problem our own experiences and our own views and our own consciences. For myself, I find the arguments one way and the other finely balanced, but I must confess that over the last year or so I have veered towards the view that we should keep the rule of doll incapax and should not fully follow the recommendations of the Ingleby Committee.
I will briefly state my reasons. The rule that a child is incapable of forming a guilty intent until he reaches the age of 8 is wholly artificial and, for most children, wholly unreal. We all know the story of the boy who says to the police officer when caught in the act of stealing a bicycle, "You cannot take me in; I am only 7". Those of us who are parents and those of us who have any dealings at all with children know full well that at a very early age the average child has a very full and dramatic appreciation of what a crime is.
When one tries to apply or thinks of applying the rule of doli incapax, one is dealing with something which is artificial. Let it be said—and I am sure that those right hon. and hon. Members who sit in juvenile courts will agree with me—that frequently, if only because of its artificiality and the difficulties which come from that, this rule is applied with various degrees of strictness in various juvenile courts. I do not dispute that for one moment.
However, I cannot help thinking that the rule is still something of a safeguard to a child. This rule, together with the rule that it is the prosecution's burden to prove a criminal offence beyond all reasonable doubt, is an additional safeguard for the child who comes before a juvenile court charged with a criminal offence. It is all very well to say that if we do away with this rule and it disappears, the proceedings before the juvenile court will be translated into some form of civil proceedings. The fact remains—and the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East said this—that in the minds of the parents and the child, however the matter may be seen in law, it is regarded as something in the nature of a criminal proceeding. The child would not be helped by abolishing this rule. Indeed, as I see it, its abolition would be removing from the prosecution one obstacle which may be necessary to protect a child from an injustice.
Furthermore, if we do away with criminal proceedings for children and transfer them into civil proceedings, we alter the whole balance and weight of the burden of proof. It no longer has to be said that the court must be satisfied so that it is sure, so that it is satisfied beyond all reasonable doubt. It then has to be said, as a judge in a civil court can say, "All I want to be is satisfied on the balance of probabilities". In adult life no one—and this is the pride of our law —would accept that as a proposition. Are we to accept it for a child? What is the reason for reducing this burden of proof which now lies upon the prosecution and which should still remain on the shoulders of those who accuse a child?
The hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) should appreciate that what the Ingleby Committee was doing was offering a package deal. It was saying that if the age of criminal responsibility were raised to 12, it was then prepared to see the common law presumption go between the ages of 12 and 14 and that in order to meet the needs of children below the age of 12, care and protection proceedings were needed. I do not think that the Ingleby Committee necessarily wanted any one of those without the others. They all go together.
I fully appreciate that, but the counterpoint which I am trying to make and which is something which agitates the minds and consciences of us all is that by doing what the Ingleby Committee recommended—and this is recognised by that Committee—these two safeguards are removed. It is not without interest or significance that in paragraph 66 of its Report the Committee said that it accepted the basic principle that where a criminal offence was alleged it was for the prosecution adequately to prove that criminal offence. In my submission, to prove a criminal offence adequately, it has to be proved beyond all reasonable doubt. By accepting the recommendations of the Ingleby Committee we would remove that prop, and it could be said, and it may be said and sometimes it can be said, that injustice could be done. To my mind it is as important—and some of us may think more important—that justice should be done to a child as that justice should be done to an adult.
I fully appreciate the argument which is frequently employed in favour of the Committee's recommendations on this issue, namely, that we should educate and not punish children, and that punishment is not the way to reform the child. However, I see a very clear and important fallacy in that. Can it not be, and is it often not the case, that punishment is part of the education? We all know the fear that the young boy stands in when he sees a policeman and is thinking, perhaps for the moment, of going slightly on the wrong side of the law. We all know the apprehension which comes into the mind of the child when it is threatened with the possibility of appearing in a criminal court.
I should have thought that in the ordinary way the greatest danger here was that such a fear, such a threat, might leave a stigma on the mind of the child, or might leave a mark on him, which would last for life. If this were so, I can say quite frankly that I would at once be in favour of implementing the Committee's recommendations, but in Clause 16 the Bill does something which is absolutely essential if we are to implement the provisions of the Report. It lays down that all offences by children under the age of 14 shall in later life, that is, 21 and over, be disregarded by the court.
How often has one seen in court a man of 40 or 50 standing in the dock and having read to him a childhood history of petty crime, the court saying, "We disregard that and we do not want to hear that and it will have no effect upon our mind when we come to the question of the sentence we have to pass"?
I believe that this is a safeguard, and it is because this Clause appears in the Bill, because the age is raised from 8 to 10 and because I believe that it would be wrong for the House to take the respon- sibility of removing the protection, which undoubtedly would be removed if we followed the Ingleby Committee's Report, that I suggest that the Government are right in their decision not to introduce into the Bill that part of the Ingleby Committee's Report which suggests that all children under the age of 12 should be considered as having no criminal responsibility.
Like every other hon. Member who has addressed the House on this Bill, I welcome it. I listened with great attention to what the hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) said. I would say to him that I have had my own misgivings about the age below which criminal responsibility should not be expected of a child. The curious thing is that whereas the hon. and learned Member appears to have been influenced one way by paragraph 66 of the Report, that was one of the paragraphs that persuaded me that the age of 12 is about right. I approach this from another angle which brings me to the same conclusion.
An ordinary child's education is now divided into three progressive stages, primary, secondary and beyond. Primary is up to about 11 or 12 years of age and beyond that age the child moves forward into a new educational atmosphere in which it has to face new responsibilities. I think that it is a good thing to make the changes in a child's life wherever possible simultaneously. That is why on occasion I have advocated putting the age of 15 into a Bill for certain responsibilities rather than the age of 14 because compulsory attendance at school now ends at 15, and beyond that age a young person may have to encounter further responsibilities.
Inasmuch as a child leaves the primary school where he is a child, speaks as a child and is taught as a child and moves to the secondary school where he is supposed to be able educationally to carry further responsibilities than he was expected to do in the primary school. I think it is a good thing to make that the age, if we are to make any age at all higher than 8. I know that some people advocate raising the age to 15, which is the end of compulsory attendance at school. Having taught a good many boys in my time, I am quite sure that well before the age of 14 or 15, whether they have a sense of criminal responsibility or not, they can be very awkward indeed. I should not like to have to say how far some of their decisions are non-criminal and others are not, if we used the word in the broad sense which I am sure the hon. and learned Member was using it.
I congratulate those promoting the Bill on the form of it. Never before have I seen an Explanatory Memorandum as full as this. It was quite easy to follow the argument of the Joint Under-Secretary of State in introducing the Bill by merely picking up in the Explanatory Memorandum the gist of the Clause he was explaining. It is a great advantage to the House when discussing a long Measure of this kind which covers a wide range of new Clauses to have it set out in this clear way, and I thank the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for giving us this assistance.
I also welcome the Ingleby Report and this effort at implementing some of it. Here again, in the pages referring to the contents, we have set out an analysis of the Report which enables one to pick up the various points that are raised, and on this most contentious point of all about the age of criminal responsibility I think that paragraphs 78 to 82, 93, and those in the 200s which deal with this matter admirably, enable one to get the whole argument before one and see where it is leading. I sincerely hope that we shall be able to persuade the right hon. Gentleman that it would be a good thing to follow the recommendation of the Ingleby Report in this respect, and I say that after having had some misgivings which in the main have been removed by the arguments set out in the Ingleby Report.
I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that there were seven justices of the peace on the Ingleby Committee, and those who served in this House when Lord Ingleby was Under-Secretary at the Home Office feel that here we have guidance from people who are not likely to be deceived into taking any unnecessarily soft line with regard to this matter, and I sincerely hope that we shall be able to get the Bill passed in its improved state, that is, with the Amend- ments made by certain noble Friends of mine in another place.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) made some fun of the age of certain managers of approved schools, and most pointedly looked at me while she was doing it. I am not a manager of an approved school, I have never been one and I have no intention of becoming one, but I see that the Bill falls back on an age for the introduction of which into this kind of legislation I am responsible.
When in 1948 we were discussing the age of magistrates, everybody said that a good many of them were too old. We had quite a serious discussion on what the age should be. I hope that I am doing nothing in breach of the Official Secrets Act if I tell the House exactly how we arrived at the age of 75.
My noble Friend Lord Jowitt said that if we made the age 65 he would not be able to staff the benches in the country, but if we made it 70 he would be able to. One bright lad at the Cabinet said, "Well, whatever we put in, the House will want to reduce it, so if you want to get 70 I suggest you put in 75 and then let the Home Secretary get up after a couple of hours' debate in Committee and say that he recognises the feeling of a Committee and will accept 70." So we put 75 into the Bill. What happened? There are one or two people here now who were here then. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Scotland (Mr. Logan), one of the few hon. Members who is older than I, and another of my hon. Friends who then represented Rossendale, said that they were both over 75 and that if this came into operation they would find in their retirement that what they had most hoped to do would be denied them. The House took such compassion on them that we decided on 75. The old trick to get the age of 70 just did not work.
It is desirable that a limit should be fixed to the age of managers of approved schools, because if they come into contact with the actual inmates of the schools it is highly desirable that they should not appear to be so remote from juvenile life as persons of that age seem to be.
In many respects this Bill builds on the Children Act, 1948, and, in fact, imposes certain duties on the children's committee created by that Act. There are still some friends of mine who will not forgive me for having insisted on a children's committee. This provision was put into the 1948 Act for three years, after which it was to be reviewed. When the three years expired, no one suggested that the work should be transferred to any other committee or that the children's committee should be abolished, and I regard it as a sign of the success of what was done that this Bill now relies on the children's committee to carry out most of the duties that will fall on the local authority under the Bill.
I should like to read a letter which I have received from the County Councils Association on the matter. The Secretary says:
I think it would be appropriate to let you have a brief note about the Association's general views on the Bill prior to its coming up for the Second Reading in the House this week.
Naturally, we have been waiting with some impatience for the Government to introduce legislation on the recommendations of the Ingleby Report; we were beginning to despair of the Bateson Report! Therefore, on both counts the Association warmly welcomed the advent of the Bill…The present position, so far as we are concerned, can be summed up as follows:—
Then it deals with the problem of the age of criminal responsibility. I think it would be helpful if I read its views to the House. It says:
The Association do not think that the Government has yet gone far enough. In our evidence to the Ingleby Committee we recommended that the age when it should be conclusively presumed that a child cannot be guilty of an offence should be raised from under eight years to below the upper limit of the compulsory school age, which is fifteen. The Association's representatives who gave oral evidence before the Committee referred to the rebuttable presumption of innocence for children between the ages of eight and fourteen and to the wider understanding in recent years of the psychological and environmental factors contributing to delinquency in children The Association did not suggest that children of, say, thirteen, fourteen and fifteen did not know right from wrong; their view was that children of those ages and younger should not be treated as criminals if they did wrong. That was why they suggested they should be dealt with outside the criminal code. Training and education rather than punishment was needed.
I welcome the reference made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East to the problem of girls in approved schools. For many years I have been perturbed at the number of girls who have first been brought before the courts as being in need of care and protection and have then seemed to move into approved schools as if, in some way, they had been delinquents themselves. As a rule, the girl who is sent to an approved school as being in need of care and protection has been more sinned against than sinning. Frequently there has been an absence of parental sympathy and advice. When we were discussing the Criminal Justice Bill I recollect my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East raising this point on several occasions. I do not want to see girls—especially those who have committed no offences, and have had no findings of guilt recorded against them—drifting in some way into approved schools and becoming associated with girls who are there because they have been before the courts and have had findings of guilt recorded against them, and have been sent to the approved schools for that reason. I hope that in the arrangements that are made from now on it will be possible to ensure that not so many girls will be
unfortunate enough to find themselves in that position.
I had an interview with some approved school teachers who raised with me a point concerning Clause 8. It was a point that I welcomed, but which they regarded with some apprehension. The Clause states:
The school to which a person is to be sent in pursuance of an approved school order shall not be specified in the order; but the order shall be authority for his detention in any approved school and the school in which he is to be detained at any time shall be determined by the Secretary of State.
As persons who have been working for some time under the Home Office those teachers quite reasonably regard the Home Secretary as a person who has many duties to discharge, and they wonder where, in his order of priorities, he places the question of the determination of the approved school to which a child is to go.
I imagine that there has been no change in this respect from the existing practice, and, that the responsibility is that of the Secretary of State. He will be advised by people who are skilled and practised in this matter. I would not be at all surprised if, on occasion, a child's name is put on the list and that child is dispatched to an approved school two or three days before the list reaches the Home Secretary's table. But I am sure that he can assure me that the provision contained in Clause 8 will not mean that there will be any delay in dealing with the allocation of a child—after it has been observed in the classifying school—to the school which it is to attend.
We had some very unpleasant experiences at the Carlton House Approved School, as a result of which an inquiry was held by Mr. Durand, who made a number of recommendations, one of which was that a guide should be issued to approved schools setting out the Home Secretary's views about the way in which such schools should be conducted. Has that guide yet been issued? Have the other recommendations contained in that Report been carried into effect? When I was Home Secretary I had to deal with a similar episode, in which, unfortunately, a young assistant master in one of these schools was shot by boys who were lying in wait not for him but for the headmaster. This young man happened to come along first, and he was shot.
A youth who is going to an approved school is told, "If you behave yourself and are co-operative, you may be released on licence". In the school to which I have just alluded there was a youth who was so helpful and co-operative that he had really become an unsalaried member of the staff. In fact, he was so valuable that it would have caused some difficulty in the school if he had been released on licence. So he was retained. He was never recommended for release on licence.
Children have very heterodox views on law. If a silly rule is made which they do not regard as meeting the requirements of the situation, no child in school will regard anybody else as being really disobedient if he fails to carry out that rule. All the docile children who accept the rule admire those who have the pluck to resist what they regard as a stupid rule.
A child has a wonderful sense of natural justice, and whoever outrages that sense of justice inflicts considerable harm on the child in its future relations with any community in which it may find itself. It is essential, therefore, that the managers of approved schools should regard this duty of licensing as a heavy charge on their consciences.
A group of forty, fifty or sixty boys living together very soon acquire their own standards which they apply to the conduct of those associated with them. If they see that there is a boy in the position of the one to whom I referred, a boy who is being helpful and co-operative and assisting to run the show to the advantage of everyone, and who because of that is deprived of his licence, seeds of rebellion are implanted in their minds and soon those seeds will begin to grow.
The hon. and learned Member for Billericay and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) alluded to the alarming figures relating to the problem which we are attempting to tackle by the provisions in this Bill. Whether duties as school managers are undertaken voluntarily or the people concerned are employed in the schools, the success or failure of the provisions in this Bill regarding approved schools will depend on the way in which those duties are discharged in respect of the boys and girls that the school managers have under their care.
I appreciate that the staffs of these schools have a high sense of their responsibility. By means of the provisions in this Bill we seek to provide wider opportunities for them and for the local authorities to prevent problems from arising rather than having to cure problems which may arise. Anything which can be done to save the break-up of a family, or provide new inspiration for its members to live together, is eminently worth while. There are mothers who are not criminal but merely feckless. No matter what domestic science lessons they may have received at school, it has left no impression upon them when it comes to providing a home for three or four children.
I recall arrangements being made with the Salvation Army in respect of a home which the Army had at Plymouth, called the Mayflower Home, where such feckless women might be taken—sometimes with their children—and given an opportunity to learn how to make the sort of home in which their children might obtain a sense of security and enjoy reasonable happiness. I should far prefer to see an experiment of that kind multiplied than that homes be broken up and children taken from their parents. Children in such circumstances get into a false relationship. Their parents are not really bad but unfortunate, because their temperaments do not enable them to build up the kind of home which will be good for their children.
This state of affairs presents a very human problem. We are dealing with families whose sense of security may be shattered by the widest possible range of different incidents. I hope that the provisions in this Bill will be operated in a manner which will prevent families from breaking up and that homes may be provided which will be comfortable places for the children. I hope that we may be able to secure that their homes are places where they may find loving care and experience a sense of security which will enable them to face the childish troubles which may confront them which, to them, may prove severe. I hope that they will be able to overcome the difficulties which so often make family life a much different thing than the source of strength that it ought to be.
I wish to begin where the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) ended. Anything which we can do to prevent the break-up of family life is well worth doing, and for that reason I add my welcome to the general welcome which has been given to the proposals in the Bill which are designed to maintain family life.
I agree with the right hon. Member for South Shields that this Bill follows on the Children Act of 1948. For that reason I wish particularly to address myself to the provisions in Clause 1, which, as was said by the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon)—and I agree—is the heart of the Bill. I have had some experience which I can contribute, because I was a member of a committee which dealt with children from the time when it was first established in 1948. I was a member because I belonged to the local authority in my native City of Birmingham.
Indeed, I was associated with the matter earlier than 1948, because Birmingham set up an interim committee in 1947 so that the authority could be ready to discharge the obligations imposed upon it when the Act came into force. I believe that the 1948 Act was a great step forward in the provisions made for caring for and helping children and for bringing under one umbrella the various services which were then available, though not so fully effective as they could become.
The operation of the Children Act improved the quality of the care given to children and the supervision of children who were fostered out. That, indeed, was the beginning of the story. It was because a foster child was cruelly ill-treated, and died as a result, that the Curtis Committee was set up. Following the Report of that Committee, the Children Act was passed. Even though the quality of care given by children departments throughout the country is very good and children are provided with comfortable homes and do not want for warm clothes, good food and all the things which other children have, there is still, for them, one thing which is lacking. It is a sense of belonging.
When I was more active in this work, which I had to give up when I became a Member of Parliament, we frequently arranged parties for the children with good friends in Birmingham and we found people to act as "uncles" and "aunts". We always found that a child would "mop up" all the food which was provided and take a little more "For me lunch", or take a little gift for itself. They had so little that was their own. That is why I stress that, good though the care of a substitute home provided by the local authority may be, anything we can do to keep the child in its own home with its real parents is far better.
Even though the home may be deficient in many respects, in that it may be very dirty and inadequately furnished, so long as the child is really loved and cared for there, it is preferable to a substitute home provided by the local authority. The Children Act still left gaps, some of which the Bill will fill. I think of one in particular. Those of us who worked in the children department in Birmingham felt that some of the children who did not come into care and, therefore, were not the responsibility of the local authority had needs which no statutory body could fill. There were children in their own homes who, for one reason or another, lack of money, or a feckless parent, to which the right hon. Member referred, never stood much chance of getting a holiday or a present at Christmas, and who, when they started work, found that there was no money to buy the tools which they required.
So some of us set up a charitable organisation called the Friends of the Children Benevolent Society. I still have the very great pleasure of being a subscribing member and a trustee. Some quiet, but very good, work is done in that direction. I am not suggesting that that particular piece of work is anything which one could include in a Bill and lay down by Statute. It is work which is still best done by the impulse of the human heart to care for others, and best done by a small voluntary organisation, but, because I can instance that as a gap which was not catered for by the Children Act, I think that there are others. I am sure that Clause I of the Bill, with its emphasis on advice, guidance and assistance, and even in exceptional circumstances making cash available to families, will help to fill some of the gaps and provide a service which will enable children to be kept and maintained in their own homes rather than coming into care.
On the practical side, that has advantages. I do not know whether the right hon. Member for South Shields would agree, but when the 1948 Act came into operation the number of children Who come into care increased steadily in the early years because, I regret to say, a number of families found in it a way of evading their responsibilities. They used to bring their children to the children department with all sorts of reasons why they, the parents, could no longer be responsible for them. We learned to get hard and tried to bring into operation all the other services of the local authority to prevent that stage where children themselves had to be accepted as being in need of care under the children department.
This point ties up with the provisions in Clause 1. In many instances parents are not aware of the existing services which are available, either local authority services or voluntary organisation services. To the extent that Clause 1 provides for advice and guidance it may help in putting parents into touch with services which can help them and can prevent children eventually coming into care. I am not suggesting that in this development we ought to provide permanent props for families which are failing in some way. We ought to bolster them up for the time being and put them in touch with organisations which can help them, but the aim of it all ought to be to make the family independent and able to stand on its own feet.
I had to read the Report of the debate in another place to find that this new power under Clause 1 would be exercised by the children departments of local authorities. That was confirmed today in the opening speech of my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State. I think that this is right because children departments over the years have gained a great deal of experience which can be useful. I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to do his best to ensure that liaison is operated with the other services of the local authority because, in the first place, the report of a family in need of advice, or assistance, or cash, may come from the servant of another department of the local authority. I am thinking of the health visitor, or perhaps the psychiatric social worker, or even the midwife.
A particular case was brought to me by a midwife who reported a family where she thought some action needed to be taken by someone. She had attended a confinement and was appalled to find that the husband was a work-shy and a drunkard who ill-treated his wife and children. I think that she felt that she exceeded her authority in getting in touch with someone such as myself to see whether something could be done. Here is another reason for supporting the Bill. Local authorities have not been sure how far their powers extended. So I repeat to my right hon. Friend that I hope that he will ensure that there is liaison between the children department, which will operate the provisions of the Bill when it is enacted, and servants of other local authority departments.
I think that the extra duties which will be laid on children departments will mean that they must strengthen their personnel. I should like to know from my right hon. Friend what action he is taking to do this. We must continue to improve the quality of people who work in children departments. I was very glad that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary referred to the considerable expansion in child care training. I can assure the House that that is needed. Again harking back to 1948, children departments took on many people who had had no real training for this work. Many of them have now had years of experience and since then there has been considerable expansion and improvement in the quality, but we must have the right people to do this job, particularly the preventive work which the Bill envisages because here we are treading on rather delicate ground.
I do not believe that any public authority ought to intervene or interfere in private family affairs unless it is really necessary and action is needed in the interests of members of the family. I am sure that my right hon. Friend is seized of this because my hon. Friend, in his opening speech, referred to the fact that it was not the intention to impose these services but to make them available where the need exists. This is the delicate balance. We should have the ser- vices available, but we must not intervene to a great extent in private family affairs.
I also welcome subsection (2) of Clause I which enables the local authorities to use the services of voluntary bodies for the work that they are now being given to do. I pay tribute, as others have done, to the work already being done by voluntary bodies. I am sure that they are capable of continuing and expanding that work.
I recall instances dealt with by the family services unit in Birmingham and some of the problem families with which it tried to deal in order to keep them going as a family unit. In one case a man could not get up in time to get to work in the mornings and therefore could not keep a job. The family services worker bought herself an extra powerful alarm clock and used to get up desperately early at the settlement and dash down to get the man to work. This answered the problem, and it prevented the need for the children going into care. I use this only to illustrate the importance which I attach to the contribution which voluntary organisations can make to this work.
I urge that local authorities be reminded that they have power under the Children Act to co-opt to their children committees persons who are not members of the local authorities. This power is too little used from what I know of the work of the children departments, and it has perhaps been forgotten. The Act says that the children committees
may include persons specially qualified by reason of experience or training in matters relating to the functions of the committee, notwithstanding that they are not members of the local authority",
and in this expansion of the work of children departments I should like people who can make a special contribution to be given their chance as members of children committees.
I have deliberately confined myself to Clause 1, which is the point about which I know most, and I hesitate to trespass on the legal provisions, but I draw attention to the provision in Clause 30 to increase the fines in summary courts or jurisdiction from £25 to £100 in the case of cruelty to children. I agree with the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) on the wisdom of doing this and I have considerable sympathy with the view which he advanced that not only ought the fines to be increased, but serious consideration ought to be given to the length of the prison sentence which might be an alternative to the fine.
I am appalled at the cruelty to children which still goes on in this country, with its present high standard of living. I have long thought that we have not got quite the right sense of proportion. Our hearts ache for dumb animals which are ill-treated because we feel that they are inarticulate and unable to help themselves, but we tend to forget that there are equally dumb and inarticulate children who can be made to suffer the most severe punishment and cruelty by their natural parents. I shall never forget two cases with which I had to deal. One was a small boy, only about two years old, who had been inflicted with second-degree burns by his own mother. This came to light through the health visitor in the neighbourhood reporting it. When we investigated the case we discovered that the woman had three children and that for some unknown reason she hated this child. She was expecting another baby. We had to bring the social services into play to help this woman.
Another case which I remember is of Sheila, a small girl about three years old, who had to be taken into care because her own mother ill-treated her so much. I spoke to her some four or five days after she had come into care because I attended a Christmas party at the residential nursery. The matron said to her, "Sheila, who gave you two black eyes?". The child replied, "My mummy threw me against the wall". Those are the sort of cases with which we have to deal.
I am not sure that the answer is always either a fine or a prison sentence. The answer is often to bring into play these advisory services for which the Bill provides. But it is necessary to extend the services which are already available because we are dealing with children, and children must always be given the best chance that we can give them. I am not starry-eyed and I do not think that all children are angels; indeed, some of them can be the reverse. But they are young, and we have responsibility for them in Parliament just as parents have responsibility for them outside. If we can improve the machinery which is available to help parents give their children the happiness which they deserve, then it is right that we should do so, and it is for that reason that I welcome the Bill.
I am in a great measure of agreement with the remarks made about cruelty by the hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame Edith Pitt), and in any case I intend to return to that point during the few remarks which I shall make. The Bill has generally commended itself to the House, although on each side of the House there are reservations. I appreciated the moderate and responsible opening speech by the Minister, and I hope that I shall not be more critical about the Bill than my conscience feels that I ought to be.
I have a feeling that the Ingleby Committee got itself bogged down on details. After some years on the bench and in the juvenile court and with some responsibility as a past chairman of such a court, I feel that the Ingleby Committee might have lifted its sights much higher. It might have said, in effect, that since 1933 we have been working our juvenile courts system—here and there with a change of furniture—based, as it were, on deterrents for children. I reached the opinion some years ago when I felt that the question of deterrents for children, though not for parents, is the wrong approach in juvenile courts, in particular, and I should have welcomed a new concept from the Ingleby Committee which should have indicated, in respect of children up to about 12 years of age, that the only yardstick which matters is not penalties but how we can get children back on the right road. The main preoccupation should be educational.
I think somehow that the Bill is meeting the future in a half-hearted way. It accepts that children are mischievous. Of course, we are all mischievous. I want to differ from a comment made earlier that we should not take the view that children can be mischievous. I take the candid view that if a child cannot be mischievous there is something wrong and a doctor is required. Children are naturally mischievous. But while the Bill recognises that point, it still hankers after the assumption that young children can be criminals. I differ basically from that point of view. I think that the whole concept of the approach to children under the age of about 12 on that assumption is wrong, and I therefore feel that the Committee might have widened its approach on more imaginative lines.
We are in 1963, 30 years since the principal Act was put together, and in those 30 years we have had a most revolutionary time, including war and all its effects on the minds of growing boys and girls. While the figures which we have been given from the Front Bench are serious and certainly something about which we should search our hearts, I am not one of those who believe that our boys and girls are going to the dogs. Let us be frank and admit that our yardstick of measurement and our recording of these incidents about boys and girls is far superior to when was a boy. Many things which my colleagues and I did in that era never became statistics. Society is now more statistic conscious. No magistrate now sitting in a juvenile court can deal with a little boy or girl who has pinched a comic, for example, without thinking whether thirty years ago such a case would have reached the courts. Yet I have had to deal with such cases, and I have said to myself, "That should never have come to a juvenile court". The panoply of the criminal law and the present court system is not the right way to deal with what I call schoolchildren offenders.
I do not regard the machinery of juvenile courts in quite the same legalistic way as some hon. Members who have spoken do. Hundreds of girls and boys of various ages have appeared before me and, whatever the law may say about criminal responsibility, I have had doubts more often than not about whether the younger boys and girls before the court recognised, as I or any other adult would recognise, that they had committed what otherwise would be a criminal offence and committed it knowing what the criminal law would demand of them. I have felt throughout that they knew there was mischief. They knew that there was an extreme form of mischief, but I do not think that we should apply the panoply of the law in cases like that in 1963.
The Ingleby Committee has been helpful in many ways. It had courage in saying frankly, after considering all the pros and cons, that twelve is about the right age to fix as a minimum for criminal responsibility. I myself would be prepared to accept the school-leaving age as the minimum age of criminal responsibility. Despite the fact that the Government have had second thoughts arising out of the debate in another place, I hope that the Home Secretary will give still further thought to this question. Most experienced people in the social services—probation officers whom I know; those who are dedicated to the job of reforming or rehabilitating boys and girls who nave stepped over the line—do not want the law to take them into its clutches at such an early age. They want them to be dealt with by some vehicle of education.
I notice that Clause 1 contains this phrase:
giving assistance in kind or, in exceptional circumstances in cash".
I do not know what the Minister has in mind. I am certain that every magistrate has met with circumstances, either in the Probation Service or on case work, when the official accountancy system—call it what you like—has been unable to provide the necessities wanted there and then to help a boy or a girl. I hope that the Home Secretary, after making all the reservations which will be necessary, will arrange that finances will be available with proper accountability. The appropriate officers should be given some freedom to act in special cases.
The question of cruelty is dealt with in Clause 30. The Clause deals with it in a very limited degree. I may be unusual, but I believe that in our anxiety to recover boys and girls who have gone off on the wrong path or who have been neglected we should have real deterrents so that we can deal with the parents if there are circumstances in which one or both parents have wilfully resigned their responsibility. The public is uneasy. I myself am uneasy about dealing in a reformative way with a child who has never had a chance, a child who physically is partially starved, a child who mentally has no hope and no help at home. Are we in danger of having better legislation and better administration to secure the welfare of animals than we have to secure the welfare of children? I do not want to be cynical. The public conscience has alerted itself much faster than many think. The social conscience is saying that we do not want to deal with unfortunate boys and girls in a criminal way but that we cannot afford to let parents who callously resign their responsibilities get away with it in a way which most people would regard as unfair to society.
Clause 2 contains this definition:
A child or young person is in need of care, protection or control within the meaning of this Act if—
Subsection (1) (b) and paragraphs (a) to (e) of subsection (2) contain the conditions which must operate before a child or young person can be deemed to come within the ambit of the Clause.
The three principles should be reversed. May I make my point abundantly clear? The first and overwhelming principle, clear and without any ambiguity, should be that such a person is in need of care, protection or control if—
he is not receiving such care, protection and guidance as a good parent may reasonably be expected to give.
I am thus removing those words from where they now stand in the Bill so that they become an operative and decisive definition and are not hinged to some earlier condition. I regard this as the vital pillar. If a child is not receiving the kind of parental care and guardianship that a good parent should give, I believe that the social services should intervene.
I was distressed when the Joint Under-Secretary spoke earlier about the duties of local authorities and children's committees, because he was careful not to say that there was any obligation on the part of the parents to receive guidance. There may be a gap in the Bill in this connection, because while I am not legally minded it seems wrong that one should lay an obligation on a local authority to initiate inquiries and be constructive if, the authority having done that, the parents can say, "I do not want that guidance; I do not want you to interfere". We can discuss this in Committee, and I hope that if this sort of gap exists the Home Secretary will do something about it.
In view of the suggestions which I and other hon. Members have put forward, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to have second thoughts on certain Clauses in Committee, not from a politician's point of view—for in essence this is not a matter for political argument—but from the point of view of those who are directly concerned with this matter and who are trying to save children and young people from going the wrong way. I know that I can speak for all those directly concerned with this subject when I say that we are always fully prepared, and indeed, value, the guidance we get from trained workers and others.
While I give the Bill my blessing, I must admit that there are omissions. I regret that it is based on being a gradual improvement instead of representing an enlightened march forward. Nevertheless, I welcome the Bill and hope that in Committee we can discuss the many suggestions put forward today.
Like all hon. Members, I give the Bill a warm welcome. It would certainly be unfair to other hon. Members should I attempt to deal with its 61 Clauses at any length at this stage. I will, therefore, confine my brief intervention to one quite narrow point arising out of Clause 52—the Clause which strengthens the existing law regarding the publication of matter identifying children under 17 concerned in court proceedings.
The Clause does this in three ways. It extends the automatic restriction on juvenile court proceedings in a juvenile court. It extends it by requiring that the discretion of the court to impose restrictions on publicity about a child under 17 should extend to every case in which a child under that age appears in court other than a juvenile court, and, most important in my view, it extends these restrictions to sound broadcasting and television. All this is commendable and overdue.
However, does my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary think that the Clause goes far enough? I have in mind the kind of case where publicity is given in the Press, before an arrest, of the name and address of a person under 17 who has been the victim of a sexual assault. While this sort of offence is rare, it does occur and when it occurs it causes the most intense grief and distress not only to the victim, but to the unfortunate parents as well. I wonder, therefore, whether we can do something in the Bill to either prohibit such publicity effectively or, at least, make it less likely.
I am not putting a hypothetical case to explain my argument. A year ago in Croydon, in the constituency next door to mine, we had a very bad case of an assault on a 12-year-old girl. Prior to court proceedings a London evening newspaper published a report about the case, giving the girl's name and address. This action defeated the whole object of the law; and it would equally defeat the objects expressed in Clause 52, for it could still happen. Although one may say that it does not happen often, I repeat that the intense grief and distress it causes is something about which we should think most seriously.
The Croydon Education Committee was concerned about the case and felt—and I agreed with the Committee—that some statutory prohibition should be made to prevent the Press publishing the name and address of the victim before an arrest is made when there are reasonable grounds for knowing that the victim of the assault is under 17. So, at that time, I took the matter up with the Home Office—with my right hon. Friend's predecessor—and the reply I received, while on the face of it reasonable, led me to wonder whether it went far enough.
The then Home Secretary told me, in effect, that the Press was usually discreet and sensible and played the game in cases of that kind. I do not dispute that, but it is the occasional blackleg whom I am after. The second part of the reply I received from the then Home Secretary was to the effect that there might be a situation in which early identification might help in the apprehension of the offender. I appreciate that one must weigh that consideration in the balance when considering what should be done.
In these days, when so much that is sensational, violent and sordid is pub- lished, the temptation to publish details of this kind is great. I do not know whether or not this sort of thing can be prevented by legislation and I imagine that if one tried to do so one would meet all sorts of arguments concerning the freedom of the Press. One can imagine some high-falutin' arguments against such legislation. However, I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider this matter carefully because it would be a great shame if the wise and sensible provisions of Clause 52 were to be frustrated by this kind of action happening again.
I said at the outset that my intervention would be brief. The point I have made is the one most troubling to me. I commend its consideration to my right hon. Friend and hope that we may return to it in Committee.
In taking part in a debate such as this, one is conscious of the fact that there is no obvious solution to the problems we have been discussing; the young offender, the maladjusted, the educationally subnormal and the habitual school absentee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) suggested that many European countries were ahead of us in their researches into juvenile crime. That may be because we have in this country a puritan tradition which, in the past, has laid great emphasis on punishment and, in my view, not enough emphasis on reformation. In discussing a Bill of this nature, therefore, it would be quite wrong of me to be in any way dogmatic, because the problems are so complicated and vast and we know so little about them.
The first part of the Bill is based partly on some of the recommendations of the Ingleby Committee which was set up in 1956 and reported in 1960. I regret that a Committee which could sit for as long as four years should produce such a disappointing report, in the sense that there are no really radical proposals in it, unless the proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility from eight to twelve years is regarded as radical. The Report was disappointing, but I cannot say that the Bill is very much better. It would be wrong to call it a bad Bill, but I would call it an uninspiring Bill. The last comparable Bill was introduced fifteen years ago, in 1948, and it seems strange that after fifteen very eventful years the Government cannot produce a better Measure. They do not seem to have taken full advantage of the opportunity for a radical assessment of the problems affecting children and young persons.
Clause 1, which has been the subject of a great deal of discussion and which is based on the Ingleby's Committee's recommendation, gives powers to local authorities to do something, but at the moment children's welfare at local authority level seems to be split up a great deal. It comes under the health committee, the children's committee, and the education committee, and co-ordination has been lacking between statutory and voluntary bodies. In some cases there has even been overlapping.
If I may digress for a moment, I feel the same thing about after-care. We need a central after-care association, authority or unit which will deal with the problems of the after-care of those from 8 years to 80. In many respects, the same thing applies to these cases. We need a central unit under local government which will deal with all the problems appertaining to children and young people.
In discussing this Clause, we must ask ourselves what the practical results would be. Is it the Government's intention to advise local authorities to work through the children's committee's? I gather from the Joint Under-Secretary of State that that is so. If it is, what form of organisation will this take? Will it be a family service and advice bureau which will co-ordinate the work of all local authority committees dealing with children?
I should like to see an extension of the hostel system for maladjusted children. I know that this is not the direct responsibility of the Home Office but the responsibility of the Ministry of Education through local education committees. It is a very useful work. At the moment, there are about fifty hostels—and I am not referring to schools—which seem to be run on lines which will bring some results. In dealing with maladjusted children one is not dealing in the main with those who have any kind of criminal record. One is dealing with children who have a potential criminal record. I have seen one or two of these hostels and they seem to be the ideal institution for this type of person.
Voluntary work has been mentioned in the debate. The Ingleby Report suggested that although voluntary workers and organisations did excellent jobs the initiative should come from the local authorities and the police. I think the Committee was right. Nobody wants to decry the work of volunteers or of voluntary organisations. In many cases it is extremely good, but it depends on the sort of work that these people volunteer to do. There is no doubt that this type of highly specialised work, dealing with maladjusted, subnormal or abnormal children, is not work for volunteers but one for the trained social worker. In many cases, quite unwittingly and with the best intentions, volunteer workers have got in the way of people who are better trained and better able to do the job.
I have spoken in the last two or three days to a senior probation officer about this problem. He said that when would-be recruits appeared before him he asked whether they could stick at a case even if they had no results and even if the person began to bore them. Some voluntary workers tend to have great enthusiasm for a short period but often they lose some of their enthusiasm eventually with the result that a case may well go by default.
I think that the Under-Secretary was quoting the Ingleby Report when he said that we must have a door at which to knock. I agree that there should be one door and not ten or a dozen. In other words, if the Clause is to bring practical results it must mean setting up a unit which will co-ordinate all the work so that somebody who is having difficulty with a child about school attendance, somebody with a maladjusted child, and somebody with a child in need of care and protection can all knock at the same door though there may be different departments inside the building.
I welcome Clause 3. It improves the method by which parents can take action. It puts the problem the other way round. It still admits the failure of the parents whether they go directly to the courts or to a local authority. It is an admission of failure, but the Under-Secretary was quite right in saying that it was not such an obvious admission. The Clause gives the parent some loophole so that there is no direct antagonism between parent and child. At least, the Clause is not likely to make worse any existing antagonism. It will encourage some parents who would not have taken action under the old scheme to take action under the provisions of the Bill.
Much has been said about the age of criminal responsibility. I do not want to argue about this at any great length because other Members who have spoken have done so far more competently and with far more knowledge than I. I am not a lawyer, anyhow. I am a former miner, and it would be impudent of me to argue in legal terms which I do not understand. However, I wish to make this comment. The Ingleby Report suggests 12 as about the right age. The Government suggest 10 years of age. I suggest 13—not that I want to be awkward, but for the reason which has been advocated by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). If that age were adopted, the whole primary stream in our educational system would be outside the age of criminal responsibility. I think that is a suitable age.
I also welcome Clause 16 (2) by which any offence committed under the age of 14 is not to be taken into account when a person over the age of 21 appears before a court charged with an offence. I hope this provision will help the bench to take a more balanced view. It has been suggested this afternoon that the bench would discount any juvenile crimes. But would it?—Not necessarily. When one is hearing a case—and I am a magistrate, although I am not on the juvenile bench—one is bound to be influenced by any sort of record when determining sentence. One's mind is subconsciously affected when one hears a long string of convictions against a person, even though he was very young at the time that he committed the offences. I therefore think that this is a very good move.
There are one or two omissions from the Bill. I refer to the sort of things which, if included, would make the Bill more radical and would bring it more up to date. One such factor is that the maximum age for instituting proceedings in a juvenile court should be raised from 16-plus as it is now to 17-plus. This would not be departing from any kind of principle. The fit person order is effective up to the age of 18. The Youth Employment Service provides for persons up to the age of 18. Conscription usually starts at the age of 18, and many of our young people enter universities and training colleges at 18.
I am not so sure that the time has not come when the Government ought to consider some sort of training course for magistrates, particularly juvenile court magistrates. I am a magistrate and I must admit that at times I have felt in need of some kind of training. I do not mean that magistrates should be sent to college for a year or anything like that—that would be impracticable—but I suggest that there should be at least a fortnight's or a month's training at some Home Office college set aside for the purpose, because I am sure that magistrates in adult and juvenile courts are in need of some kind of training.
Reference has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) in an intervention to the Fabian pamphlet published in December, 1962, containing some interesting proposals. I have no doubt that the Home Secretary and the Under-Secretary have seen it, and should like them to look at it again. There is an interesting proposal about juvenile courts by Mary Stewart. Briefly, the proposal is that there should be two types of courts, a juvenile court for those between 13 and 17 years of age for indictable offences, and a welfare court dealing with non-indictable offences for all ages up to 17-plus. If we could make this sort of division, we would probably have more satisfactory results. Anyway, the experiment is worth trying.
The second part of the Bill is concerned with recommendations based on the Bateson Committee. That Committee sat thirteen years ago, and no one can say that the Government have been unduly hurried to push legislation through. It is certainly time that something was done. I have no particular quarrel with Part II of the Bill. Clause 32 changes the times at which a juvenile may be employed from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. till 7 p.m., and this is a very good idea.
Coming to Schedule 3, I notice reference to two additional sections in the Education Act, 1944, dealing with school attendance. This matter ought to be dealt with, for it is worrying local authorities because of the present time lag. I know of one case—and there may be many more—where action was taken as long as three months ago, and the case is only now coming into the courts. There has been a tremendous lapse of time, and in that time the reason why the person was originally summoned has almost been forgotten. That is far too long for these matters to be hanging about.
I am not enthusiastic about the Bill. I think it is heading in the right direction, but somewhat at a snail's pace. The Government have missed a golden opportunity to introduce some really radical measures. I hope that when we bring forward some new Clauses in Committee the Government will not use their massive majority to throw them out but will consider them on their merits.
Certainly more money must be spent on research. This is extremely important, because without research on which to base our facts we are, in some circumstances, experimenting in the dark. I welcome the Bill, but I wish that I could do so with more enthusiasm.
I wish to join with most hon. Members on both sides of the House in welcoming the Bill. So far we have had a really interesting discussion, and I feel privileged to have listened to the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) who has drawn on his great knowledge and fund of experience as a past Home Secretary. No less have I enjoyed listening to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame Edith Pitt) who speaks with a great deal of experience on the subject of child care.
The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Fitch) made several interesting suggestions, particularly when he referred to four points on which he would like some alteration to be made. He included in his suggestions the better training of magistrates, and mentioned a four-week training course. I share his view that magistrates especially the younger ones, need some training, but it is impracticable to suggest that they could spare four weeks of their time because most of them are busy men employed in industry and trade. They could not spare four weeks to go to a training college, perhaps some distance from their homes. I think that training should be given to them, but I suggest that the best way would be for them to be more fully briefed both orally and in writing than they are now. Then the average new magistrate who had his wits about him would listen quietly for a bit on the bench, being guided by his chairman who would generally be a man of great experience, and in this way he would more easily fit himself to take his proper place on the bench.
I join with those on both sides who have given a general welcome to the Bill. I refer in particular to Clause 27, to which the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) directed attention. I join with him in welcoming the provision that a child of 13 should have to give only written evidence when this type of offence comes up for consideration. I welcome this provision, but I, too, have a suggestion to make. It is harrowing and really almost impossible for a child to be required to give oral evidence during such a hearing, and I should like our young persons legislation to go further and make it possible for children under 13 to be required to give only written evidence in divorce proceedings also. When a child is asked to give oral evidence in court where divorce proceedings between its parents are in issue, this may well be an experience which will mark the child for life even more than that to which Clause 27 relates.
In welcoming the Bill, I would remind the House that over the past few years, especially since the war, a great deal of thought and attention has been given to juvenile care. To mention some of the major inquiries and Measures which have been undertaken, as far back as 1933 there was the Children and Young Persons Act. This was followed by the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act, 1937. In 1946, there was the Curtis Report, followed by the Children Act, 1948 the Bateson Committee's Report in 1950 and the Children Act, 1958. The Ingleby Committee reported in 1960, and the Criminal Justice Act, 1961, was based in part upon its Report. Now, we have before us the present Bill. Enormous attention and countless hours of work have been devoted to the various Measures and Reports which I have mentioned. In general, the trend throughout has been towards a more sophisticated and enlightened treatment in dealing with juveniles or young people who go off the rails.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State referred to some really alarming statistics, and his examples went back to 1938. He showed what a vast increase there had been in juvenile crime since then. I have looked at some more recent stastistics which show that during the past ten years juvenile crime has been increasing even more rapidly than adult crime in the same period. For instance, since 1951, juvenile crime has increased by 58 per cent., whereas adult crime has increased by about 47 per cent. In 1951, for all offences, the number of juveniles found guilty was 75,000. In 1961 the number was 120,000. In particular, the number of juveniles found guilty of offences of violence against the person has multiplied since 1951 by more than five times.
On the one hand, we have this wonderful display of legislation and Reports containing the fruits of the labour of many hundreds of people. On the other hand, we have the alarming record of statistics during the past few years showing that there has been and still is a most serious increase in juvenile delinquency. It seems to me, as it must seem to anyone, that something is going wrong. I feel that the sophisticated and enlightened treatment which has been accorded to the problems of juvenile delinquency during the past few years should have been, and should now be, coupled with some form of physical deterrence. I shall not go back over what has been said in some of the speeches on this subject in the past, but I put the matter in this way. In my view, the minds of young people are extremely simple. Generally, as they grow up to adulthood, they find great difficulty in comprehending much of the world in which they live. They do not understand, and many of them rebel. I am certain that if magistrates once again have power in really bad cases to order the use of the birch—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—there would be a big decline in the present tragic and alarming list of offences committed.
I am referring only to cases of really bad violence. Knowing very well the feelings of many hon. Members here, I should not express this view tonight without having in mind one or two examples of which I have close knowledge. In my own constituency, old ladies have been robbed by thugs and Teddy boys of 16 and 17, being knocked senseless by their assailants, their handbags stolen, and so on. This sort of thing has happened on repeated occasions.
These Teddy boys and thugs may have minds, but they are very simple and dull minds. However, they do without a shadow of doubt understand and fear physical deterrence. I suggest that the inclusion of such a provision in the Bill for use in very extreme cases of the type I have in mind would be of value. I accord a general welcome to the Bill. I regard it as a fine Measure and I hope that it will have a speedy passage through the House.
It is most unfortunate, in my view, that the speech of the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Farr) should have marred what has otherwise been a very good and successful debate. I am appalled that the hon. Member should, in 1963, while welcoming the Bill say that it does not go far enough because it does not include physical punishment for some young people.
I shall not go over all the arguments which have been developed about this matter. Perhaps it is sufficient to remind the hon. Gentleman that he ought to examine the statistics more closely. None of us has any time for the young thugs to whom he refers. None of us would ever condone their actions. I am not here to make excuses for them, but if the hon. Gentleman examines the statistics which he has given he will find that many offences of this type are committed by the same person—in other words, he repeats the offence. In addition, of all the thousands of offences, there is about one in a thousand of that type. That is one too many, but we should try to get the matter in proportion. We now have a new and up-to-date method of arriving at statistics. There are now more instruments defining what offences are. There are now more offences for which young people can be charged. Police methods are more up to date, and many more people are being discovered and brought to the courts than before.
The hon. Member for Harborough indicated that many of these people were simple-minded. The job of Parliament is to try to provide means by which they can get over their difficulties. Unless we understand their problems, we shall have a repetition of the circumstances to Which the hon. Gentleman referred. I am on the side of the vast majority of the 10 million or 12 million people whom the Bill covers. They are good-living young Citizens and very keen to learn. Musical appreciation classes and concerts are better attended .by young people these days than they have been for some years. No section of the community resents the transgressions of the young people against society more than the young people themselves. They are very angry about this.
I should like to agree with everything which the hon. Gentleman said, but I threw in that suggestion because I feel that as our legislation is going at present we have to pause and think that perhaps the time has come to undertake some other method of treatment of juvenile offenders. The hon. Gentleman referred to the increase in crimes of violence of juveniles against the person. Roughly, in 1951, they were one in every 500 of juvenile crimes. Ten years later, they have increased to such an extent that they are one in about 75 of juvenile crimes. If they continue at such a headlong pace we shall have to adopt different methods.
I cannot begin a second speech in order to answer the hon. Gentleman's intervention, but I am sure that a close examination of the figures which the hon. Gentleman just quoted will lead to the conclusion which I have indicated.
I feel that a wonderful opportunity has been lost in the Bill to deal with this subject more comprehensively. A social service in the real sense of the term might have been brought out of the present jungle of bits and pieces which the Bill represents. The overall picture is one of confusion, of indecision and overlap- ping of the various departments with consequent misapplication of time, money and energy and the use of outmoded buildings.
The hon. Member for Harborough referred to the Criminal Justice Act. If he had been here earlier he would have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) refer to that Measure. For thirteen years the Government have had the opportunity to provide remand homes and remand centres. There is only one in the country. There is not one in Scotland, even after thirteen years. There is a lack of trained staff and probation officers, certainly in Scotland. I hesitate to congratulate the authorities in England and Wales on the use of probation when young people appear before the courts, but it is far ahead of the use of the Probation Service in Scotland. I notice that the noble Lady the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is present. Therefore, she has been made aware of this point.
There is even confusion in the provision of—and I hesitate to use the word—institutions. There are children's homes, both voluntary and those provided by the local authority, probation homes, probation centres, remand homes, remand centres, detention centres and approved schools. Many young people think that this is a graduated scale up which they should climb.
Paragraph 47 on page 19 of the Ingleby Report says:
It may be that the long-term solution will be in a reorganisation of the various services concerned with the family and their combination into a unified family service … Any such reorganisation at local authority level might well involve a corresponding reorganisation of the functions of the different government departments concerned. These are matters well outside our terms of reference, but we urge the importance of their further study by the Government and by the local interests concerned.
I believe profoundly that while, taking a long term view, it was not within its terms of reference, this is one of the most important features of our society with which any Government have to contend and which should be faced at the earliest possible moment.
I commend the words of the noble Lady, Baroness Wootton, in the (other place, who, when speaking on the Second Reading of the Bill, said that most of us who are fortunate in our social and family life, when confronted with young people who have been mischievous and who have broken the rules, would consult headmasters, teachers, and doctors, but above all we would try to keep such matters within the ambit of the educational field. Why was it that we thought that for other people's children criminal charges were more appropriate? I emphasise those remarks.
I recognise that the heart of the Bill is in Clause 1, which, like Clauses 2 to 31, does not apply to Scotland. In these circumstances, do we take it that we have not so many recalcitrants in Scotland, or that there will be another Bill for Scotland to do what Clause 1 does for England and Wales?
I commend Clause 25, but I agree with the hon. Lady the Member far Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) that it should be compulsory for both parents to appear in court. In far too many instances, men, willingly or otherwise, escape their responsibilities and do not attend the court. I recognise that there may be economic difficulties here. A man would probably have to leave his job and go to a court at which the case is not heard. But in far too many cases his wife, the mother of his children, is left to face authority. Many people have cause to thank their mothers for their courage and tenacity in these matters.
In Clause 35, which deals with entertainment in licensed premises, there is mention of the Licensing Acts of 1953 and 1959, but no reference to the Licensing (Scotland) Act, 1962, under which the Government extended licences into hotels and restaurants where young people are likely to mix. Is there any safeguard in this respect?
The research proposed in Clause 4 will be very valuable but it will cost something and will be carried out mainly by large cities where there is a greater prevalence of juvenile crime. Will they make it available to others? Certainly they should receive a specific grant for this work and not have it included in the general grant.
I welcome the provisions in Clauses 46, 47 and 48 because they mean that Orders made in England and Wales will also be operative in Scotland and vice versa. I am specially interested in this and I welcome it because I had the honour of introducing a Private Mem- ber's Bill in 1956 which stopped a loophole in the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act, 1937, through which children under the care of local authorities could be transferred illegally across the border from Scotland to England and could not be got back. Children transferred from England and Wales to Scotland could not be taken back either.
Lastly, I ask the Home Secretary to indicate whether in Committee on the Clauses which have particular reference to Scotland a representative of the Scottish Office will be present. I welcome the Bill, but reluctantly and with no great enthusiasm. It is only bringing bits and pieces together. It is not the kind of great social measure over which people will enthuse. Yet Measures concerning the aged and the very young are among the most important to come before this House.
I welcome the Bill, along with all other hon. Members who have spoken today. The only major criticism I have noticed has come mainly from hon. Members opposite, and that is criticism of the lack of regimentation or co-ordination in dealing with the problem of young children. I do not accept that proposition or agree that this problem can be dealt with, as one hon. Member said, by knocking at one door, by making one approach.
I have a special interest in the problem because for a number of years I have served on the Central Committee of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. One thing that impresses me is that cruelty to children may be in secret or done quietly, and the question of bringing it to the attention of the court depends upon information given by neighbours or friends or perhaps the education authorities—indeed, by very many different methods. It would be wrong just to have one door through which all these various complaints would be channelled, because there are people who would not be prepared to go through it.
Our Society has local inspectors who provide the link whereby people can bring the attention of the Society, and through the Society the attention of the court, to what is going on. Because of the work that they do, I want to pay tribute to the inspectors in tackling the problems with which our Society was formed to deal. Indeed, it was the pioneer in the sort of work that we are talking about today.
Secondly, I welcome Clause 1, which enables the Society to work in cooperation and liaison with local authorities. It is most important that these two influences for the health and protection of children, local authorities, on the one hand, and the Society, on the other, should be fostered and strengthened and brought together. I congratulate the Government on having provided the ways and means of bringing together the best of local authority work and the best of voluntary society work.
I want to refer to one matter which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) concerning one of the partial recommendations of the Ingleby Committee—whether it should be only local authorities which should bring an action before the juvenile court. The Society strongly feels that its uniformed inspectors must have the right and the sanction to be able to say to a mother or father who may be ill-treating a child, "If you do not take the advice which we are giving you, and you will not try to mend your ways, there is the sanction that you or your child might be taken before the court".
In practice, the vast majority of the thousands of cases with which the Society deals every year are handled by consent, advice and guidance and not by actual court action. If the inspectors lose that ultimate sanction, there is no doubt that their influence in the thousands of homes which they visit will be diminished.
Is not the hon. Member a little confused? The Ingleby recommendation dealt only with taking a child to court. Any powers which may or may not exist for prosecuting parents are not affected.
I apologise to the House. I was not here when my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport was speaking and I only thought that that was what she was saying. If it was not, I shall not take the matter further.
Because of the way that Clause 2 (2) is drawn, there is a possibility that it might be read to mean that when there has been an assault on a small child by the father and the father has been sent to prison, one would have to wait for the father to come out of prison and commit another assault on the girl before action could be taken. I am sure that no hon. Member would wish that to be the result of the provision. There have been discussions with the Home Office and I have been assured that my fear would be covered by taking Clauses 1 and 2 together. However, I want to put it on record that some have expressed the fear that that is not so, although we would be satisfied if my right hon. Friend could assure us that under the Bill as now drawn one does not have to wait for another offence to be committed before appropriate remedial action can be taken.
I welcome the Bill. I hope that it will lead to greater and closer co-operation among the local authorities and the voluntary bodies, and I wish the Government well in their campaign.
In the first place—and the first place will be close to the last place in view of the shortage of time—I should like to deal with a number of matters which have not so far been raised in the debate.
Clause 1 gives a very fine opening to local authorities, and we hope that they will take full advantage of it. If not, I hope that the Home Office will take all possible steps to compel them to do so. I see that reports are to be made; I trust that they will be called for at frequent intervals.
The Home Secretary has had a fair experience of another Ministry. I hope he realises that prevention of juvenile delinquency mainly depends upon the family life of the young person, that the family depends upon the house in which it lives, and that the house depends upon the home which has been made in it. In other words, the problem of the shortage of houses has to be dealt with rapidly if we are to prevent a further vast increase in juvenile delinquency.
A long time has transpired while this problem has been investigated by committee after committee, and it has been stated that we have had to wait ten or twelve years for this Bill. I hope the same state of affairs will not prevail with other committees which are set up. Some time ago I referred to a committee for the reform of the jury system. A delay of twelve or fifteen years over that matter will not be tolerated.
If the provisions of Clause 1 are adequately put into effect fewer persons will appear before the juvenile courts. The juvenile court magistrates are chosen because of their specific knowledge of the behaviour and the rearing of youth. This devoted set of people is as anxious as anyone to see that children shall be kept away from crime and protected so far as is humanly possible. I shall refer to some of the problems which have been raised by the chairmen of the London juvenile courts. I have to put the points fairly quickly, but I hope that the Home Secretary will be good enough to reply to them if he can do so in the time at his disposal.
In Clause 3, the time limit of 28 days after the notice seems excessive and would make the whole process too slow compared with the present position, when normally the longest delay is one week. The chairmen submit that a limit of not more than fourteen days is more appropriate. If a parent applies to a local authority for a child to be dealt with because the child is unmanageable, the local authority should make up its mind within a much shorter time than a month, otherwise that position might deteriorate and, consequently the child's interests could be considerably impaired.
The procedure proposed in Clause 4 might lead to evidence having to be given twice, as in almost every case the court would require to hear a minimum of evidence before coming to an opinion. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman could deal with that and, instead of having two tribunals, limit it to one so as not to have to call a person to give evidence twice.
With regard to Clause 7 (2), when a juvenile who is subject to a fit person order is committed to an approved school, it is sometimes necessary to allow the fit person order to continue. The juvenile may have no parent or guardian or other relative. It may be in his interests for the fit person with whom he has established a friendly contact to continue to take an interest in him when he has been licensed from the school. This appears to be the intention underlying the new provision in Clause 15 (2). It is suggested that this provision should be strengthened by amending Clause 7 (2) so as to enable the court to commit the juvenile to an approved school without revoking the fit person order. It is contended that under the Clause as drafted this would not be possible.
I come now to Clause 8. Under the existing law the court has a duty to endorse an approved school order with the name of the school selected. The Ingleby Committee recommended that where the choice of training school rested with the Secretary of State he should be required to take into account any recommendation that the court might make. The Clause, as drafted, gives the court no say at all as to the approved school to which the juvenile should be sent. This is a regrettable position because, in my view, and I think in the view of most people who practise in the courts in London, it is not so much the evidence which is given in writing, but the evidence being given orally, the manner in which it is given, and the nuances which do not appear in any written document, which enable a satisfactory decision to be made, and I therefore consider that this decision should not be left entirely to the Minister.
The present Act states that the Secretary of State shall, where practicable, select a school for persons of the religious persuasion to which the child belongs, but now the orders go back for signature to the court which made the approved school order, and this gives a real protection to the child in regard to religion as well as other matters. Having given the Secretary of State full powers under Clause 8, nobody will know whether a school of a different denomination has been chosen. The courts like to follow up cases which have come before them to see whether they can help the person concerned in any way.
The proviso was originally made because there might have been only one or two children of a certain religion involved, say Jewish girls, and there cannot be a separate school for a couple of children. Incidentally, there are no Jewish girls at approved schools at the moment. It is not possible to run a school for every religion, and therefore there has been power to send children to schools of other denominations; but this safeguard has been removed by Clause 8 (1), and it is therefore essential that the orders should continue to be sent back to the court for approval.
I draw the attention of the Minister to Clause 35. There is no mention of any exemption for bona fide youth clubs and play centres. Very often the young people and the children give performances in aid of the funds of their own club, or for club week, or for other good causes. If this matter is not cleared up it will cost them time and money, and they will be put to a lot of inconvenience that they can ill afford. It should not be beyond the Government's drafting powers to insert a proviso to deal with this, for it was surely not intended that such clubs and play centres should not be exempted.
Everybody has been talking about the increase in juvenile delinquency. It will be of interest to the House however, to know that there is at least one good feature, whereas, in 1922, boys and girls in approved schools numbered nearly 10,000, in December, 1962, the number was 8,500—a drop of 1,500. It may be some kind of encouragement to people to know that the numbers in approved schools had fallen. I am happy to say in respect of my religious denomination the numbers in approved schools have become very small. There are now only eleven boys—nine seniors and two juniors—and there are no girls.
I hope that the Minister will take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Bill, and will improve it by acting on the many points now raised and which will be raised in Committee, so that it will be made into a first class Bill.
First, I should like to tell the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary how pleasant it is to see him again. If, inadvertently, I find myself slipping into the general grant formula it will merely be from force of habit. I would also like to tell the Joint Under-Secretary that we all feel for him in the very difficult job that he had in explaining the Bill so clearly, at short notice. We appreciate the way in which he deployed for us the main points of the Bill.
The hon. Gentleman did, however, make a rather unkind dig when he flaunted his fertility. Neither my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) nor I can be regarded as having made any notable contribution to the population, but we have both, in different ways, had to concern ourselves a good deal with other people's children. For many years my hon. Friend was a teacher, and when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) was talking about children's legislation having existed for just over fifty years it hit me forcibly that I had been a juvenile court magistrate for just over twenty-five years. I am bound to say that as the years have passed I have grown more and more conscious of my own ineffectiveness for constructive work in it.
Many hon. Members have criticised Clause 1 as being a rather inadequate summarising of what is not the best part of the Ingleby Report. Much criticism has been made of the Ingleby Committee as being more qualified to deal with points concerned courts—those being of more interest to its members—and that the preventive parts were put in really because of the rather curious terms of reference under which the Committee worked.
The reason they were given the two jobs to do was, I think, simply that Lord Tenby, the then Home Secretary, was under pressure from many people who were interested in the courts side of the matter to set up an inquiry into the working of juvenile courts, and from the Fisher group to set up an inquiry into the family services. As a result, the Home Secretary gave the two jobs to one Committee.
Clause 1, in its present form, is clearly inadequate for the job that it has to do. I hope that in Committee it will be strengthened and made a good deal more specific. I do not like the limitation of cash grants. It is necessary to have power to give them, and I do not see why it should be regarded as exceptional. In many cases it is essential to be able to spend money quite liberally in rehabilitating families that have gone on the rocks—problem families, or families which have been evicted. These people cannot be rehabilitated unless we get quickly on to the job. Speed is essential. If we lack the finance we cannot begin to carry out the more constructive social work which is done by bodies like the Family Service Unit.
There is another point on Clause I which I should like to clear up. The hon. Gentleman said that he hoped that authorities would try the experiment of establishing family advice bureaux. I did not think that they had powers under the Bill to do so and I should like to know whether authorities who wish to start a family advice bureau, not specifically directed to dealing with the problems of children, but with the problems of the whole family, would be permitted to spend money on such a project. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will deal with that point now, rather than when we come to the Money Resolution.
I welcome Clause 3, as many hon. Members have done. Here, I think that the Government have improved on the recommendations of the Ingleby Report. Many people have desired for a long time to get rid of the beyond control procedure. But we have been confronted with the dilemma that were that done parents who felt that the local authorities were not helping them sufficiently would be left with no remedy. The proposal in the Bill is, in my opinion, a neat way round, and I think that it will work.
While discussing Clause 3 1 should like to underline the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East and the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) about the N.S.P.C.C. No one is saying that the Society should not continue to play an active part in relation to child welfare. That is not the point.
I am not one of those who have been engaged in a feud with the N.S.P.C.C., like Sir Basil Henriques and other magistrates have. I am fairly neutral. But it seems to me indefensible that there should exist a situation in which the right of a parent to have access to the court is taken away and a private voluntary organisation is in the unique position of being able to take the children of someone else before the court. In logic, that is indefensible, and I hope that before the Bill emerges from the Committee stage the Government may have been able to do something about it. We on this side of the House will certainly move to have the "power of the authorised person", as it is termed, removed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) raised a point which has not been previously referred to. To discuss it I will put on the hat of the magistrate rather than that of the politician, and, consequently, I may not necessarily carry with me every hon. Member on this side. I most strongly object to the provisions in Clause 8. This is a typical example of what is happening continually throughout penal legislation. More and more responsibility is being given to the Executive and taken away from the courts. Many magistrates have been using attendance centres in what they considered a useful and constructive manner by varying the number of hours. But, suddenly, it was considered that the Home Office knew best and this power was removed.
For a long time the Home Office has desired to have more control over the choice of schools and there is something to be said for that. But the picture which is painted is that, on the one hand, there is the bumbling magistrate who knows nothing about the schools, or how to choose the right one, and, on the other, there is the wise, all-seeing professional who, calmly and dispassionately, and after looking at all the reports, chooses the right school for a child in a much more professional manner than a bumbling amateur would be capable of doing. In some cases there may be no dispute. The Department will choose wisely, but in a considerable number of cases this power will be used to cloak from the courts the fact that a child is not going to the right approved school, or, indeed, is not going to a school at all.
Where the dispute between courts and the Home Office arises is when a court becomes annoyed at perpetual re-remanding to a remand home because there is no vacancy in an approved school. A child is pushed into an approved school which is not chosen on any careful, professional, psychiatric, or any other ground, but because there is a vacancy; or is remanded to a remand home. The residual power of the court to refuse to renew the order and force the hand of the Executive is a very important safeguarding power.
I think it quite wrong for the Government to take this power away from them. In the critical case, the case where the thing is breaking down, the court, as the body responsible for sending the child to an approved school, should have a say in protecting its interests when administration breaks down.
I wish to say something on the question, which has been discussed a good deal, of the age of criminal responsibility. The hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) said that this was a nicely balanced question, and I am bound to confess that it is. It is like the Common Market: only when one has talked to someone for a long time does one realise on which side of the fence he is. I have been surprised that some people whose judgment I value take a different view from mine about it.
What happened in the Magistrates' Association is probably typical. When it prepared its evidence the Juvenile Courts Committee, without any dissent, came out in favour of the age of 12 and the Council approved that. After the Ingleby Committee had reported on the basis of the Association's evidence, the Committee of the Council came out in favour of 10. After the Bill was published the Committee, without dissent, came down in favour of going back to 12. The Council, by a majority of one, rejected that recommendation. So it is clear that there is a good deal of difference of opinion on this matter.
I shall try to put the case as I see it. The present position raises the most acute practical difficulties. I am a convert on this. Over the years I have had to wrestle practically with these problems and have come more and more to the conclusion about the right thing to do. I am not taking a theoretical view. In the first place, it is quite arbitrary as to who goes to court and who does not. This point has been made already by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East that different classes are treated differently. If the boy goes to a good independent school, and has parents who will take steps to deal with him, normally he is not taken to court. Children of most poor parents who have not access to the same facilities, and cannot take their children to a psychiatrist in Harley Street, go to court.
Secondly, it is different in different places. Liverpool, for better or worse, has a liaison scheme, with the result that many children who, in other parts of the country, would go to court in Liverpool do not. Some chief constables, as a practice, give a caution, but others do not caution because they think that all such children should go to court. It is different in different schools. Some headmasters consider that if the offence takes place outside the school the school should with the consent of the parents still deal with it, while others consider that as it is a matter of a breach of the law the school should not interfere. It depends on what school a child goes to whether or not he is brought before the court.
Finally, if he steals from store A—I shall not mention names of stores as I do not want to assist my clients—as a matter of practice store A does not prosecute, but store B, as a matter of policy, does prosecute. So there is complete uncertainty of whether or not the child will go to a court or not. Then there are most difficult problems of interpretation. The hon. and learned Member for Billericay said that the rule of doli incapax was applied with varying degrees of strictness in different courts. That is true and if it were applied rigidly and strictly I have no doubt that in many cases children would be acquitted. Quite often, even when legally represented, the prosecutor has a very inadequate idea of the sort of evidence which is required.
If that clear and strong rebuttal of which the hon. and learned Member spoke were, in fact, always demanded, there would be a great many more acquittals than there are. But, on the whole, magistrates who are welfare-minded tend to say that they must deal with the child for his own good and therefore they will not worry about niggardly legal points, whereas magistrates who are judicially-minded tend to say that they must interpret the law strictly and that, therefore, if there is no evidence of criminal responsibility, they must find him not guilty.
I recall having sat many times with a much-loved former Member of the House who was a very distinguished stipendiary magistrate, Dan Hopkin. He, I am sure, judged quickly what he wanted to do before he looked at the boy, and he then interpreted the rules in order to make what he thought was the right decision. He took a very practical view of it, as many stipendiaries do about points which worry amateurs.
People get up and make speeches about children over 8 years of age knowing the difference between right and wrong and being responsible for what they do. I do not imagine that there is a parent in the House who has not at some time in his life said to his children, "If only you would think, you would not do a thing like that". That is the whole difficulty. It is not when one lectures a child in cold blood, as it were, about right and wrong; it is a question whether, when he is running with a gang of other little boys, he always remembers everything that he has been taught.
When he is asked, "Did you intend to do it? Was there any animus furandi? What were you going to do with that bicycle?", he looks at one as if one were mad. He had never thought about that at all. These are the intolerable difficulties and dilemmas which we have to consider when we are really deciding whether a child needs the social services—the medical services, or the educational services. That does not depend on whether he has fallen one side or the other of the Larceny Act.
In the case of the little boy who lights a bonfire, in a warehouse at 3 a.m. the question whether he is guilty of arson does not matter; what matters is that he should not be wandering about at 3 a.m. But that is not a criminal offence. Therefore, one may be tempted to stretch the provisions and to find him guilty, when under a strict interpretation he would not be guilty, in order to open the door to the social services which ought to be available to him without that and which for richer people are available. What is wanted, perhaps, is that he should go to a boarding school or to see a doctor or to get some kind of training which for the child of wealthy parents is available. That is the farce and the injustice of the present situation.
The hon. Member made a very fair point that some people say that Ingleby was too cissy and others say that it was too sadistic. The cissies and the sadists are always fighting over this ground. I am regarded by some of my colleagues—for example, Lady Wootton—as being a sadist, and others of my colleagues regard me as being a cissy. The point is that if we have available the family services provided by the authority, we need never bring a young child before the courts at all—and I think that the age of 12 is the lowest one can talk about here. This should be the case as long as we have the consent of the parents, because we can deal with the child as we deal with any other child who misbehaves. As long as the parents are anxious to see that he is helped, one acts by consent. There is the case in which the parents refuse to co-operate, as they are entitled to do. As this is a matter of the liberty of the subject, I think that in such a case the courts ought to make the final decision, that is the kind of case which, I think, should come before the court.
That is the value of the proposals of the Ingleby Committee and the Magistrates' Association, which some people regard as cheating, for extending the care and protection proceedings by adding to the definition. What interests the court is not the exact degree of intention or the exact shade of knowledge of the difference between what is crime and what is just generally naughty. The question is whether the behaviour is of such a type that the child requires help and treatment, including, quite likely, punishment. The hon. and learned Member for Billericay asked whether punishment might not he part of education. The answer is that, unhappily, in the case of most of us, it has been. That is true. The important thing is that the key should be there to enable the unlocking to be done.
I do not want to develop this point any longer, except to make clear what the argument is about. It is not an argument about people who want to pat children on the head and give them sweets. It is not an argument about people who want to birch them. It is about people who disagree about the trouble we are trying to cure. I think we are trying to cure this general behaviour, some of which is criminal and some of which is not criminal. What is wanted is preventive help rather than punishment after the event.
The hon. Lady the Member for Devonport said that we ought to make parents always attend. I have never had much difficulty, and I do not think that there is any difficulty, in getting parents to attend under the present law if they are wanted. It might help if the present law were tightened a little. The difficulty about always insisting on the attendance of parents is that a great deal of upset can be caused. I have often found that when a father does not attend one of two things are true. One possibility is that he is not the father and that comes out in the row because he says, "I am not going to go because you are not my child", which is not the happiest time for the child's bastardy to be discussed. The second possibility is that when the magistrate looks at the father he knows why he has not wanted to come; the magistrate can see that he is extremely unstable and neurotic and the court gets on very much better without him. These are the exceptional cases, but in most serious cases both parents should be present.
Another point which the hon. Lady raised is about the reporting of cases. I welcome the proposals to limit the reporting so that, when a young person is committed for trial, the case will not be reported. However, as I understand it, this will not apply in the reverse case. When a child appears in the first instance in an adult court and is then sent down—"sent down" is an irritating phrase which I must not betray myself into using; the best expression is "sent across"—to a juvenile court to be dealt with after being found guilty by the adult court, what very often happens is that when the case is called on the magistrate is informed in a hoarse whisper by the probation officer, "This case was in the 'Daily Howl' in terrific headlines all last week".
The damage has been done already, because when it was in the adult court there was no protection. I think that many newspapers are very reasonable and do not report such cases. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North said, it is in the case of the odd man who is, if I may use the phrase, Mr. Speaker, bloody-minded about it, who does it on purpose just to be difficult and unpleasant, that the law ought to be fairly tough.
I want now to look at one or two other smaller points. I shall not say very much about the later part of the Bill because those points can be examined more carefully in Committee. It may well be possible—I hope that it will be—to extend the provision safeguarding young witnesses from having to appear in court at the first hearing to one or two other types of cases by extending other parts of the Children Act. We can look at that point in Committee.
The age of 13 should be raised to 16, because, while I do not pretend to be an expert on teenage female psychology, I am told by the experts on this erudite subject that an assault on a girl aged 15 can have greater psychological effect than an assault on a younger girl, for the younger one does not appreciate the full implications of it and that, provided she has not been bullied or hurt, she does not take it so very seriously. It is, therefore, a great pity to stop at the age of 13, since a great deal of injury may be caused to some of the older girls.
Naturally, the rights of the accused person must be safeguarded. We all know that often the defendent is wrongly accused and, therefore, in our thought for the innocent victim, we must be careful not to load the dice too much against an unjustly accused person; and that person must not be handicapped in his defence.
I would like to express my agreement with the comments of my hon Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East about teenage girls' approved schools. We are a long way from understanding exactly how to deal with young girls. After all, life for most males—and I can speak with some authority institutional on this—is, however much disliked, reasonably tolerable. We saw that in "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner". Even the most frustrated and maladjusted anti-social boy can find the kind of community life in the Army of in an approved school—with its physical exercises, boxing, dirty stories with friends, and so on—something to be tolerated, even if he dislikes having his liberty taken away.
However, girls at that age are individualist. They are not particularly interested in being associated with other girls. They are more interested in competing for the attentions of the opposite sex and the last thing they want to do is to associate entirely with other girls. The answer, I suppose, is for someone to invent an approved school to be run by someone prepared to give the girls teaching in deportment, cosmetics, how to refuse a proposal of marriage, how to act in the cinema when a boy sitting nearby asks a question. As against that sort of social training we must avoid having compulsory needlework and lacrosse as the basis of approved school life.
I am in favour of the Bill—whatever may be thought from my remarks—because, by and large, it represents an improvement. I hope that, if the right hon. Gentleman is more reasonable than sometimes I have known him to be in Committee upstairs, we may improve the Measure. However, I would certainly not advise my hon. Friends to vote against it at this stage.
During the past six years I may possibly have introduced more Bills than any other Minister. It is a joy to be responsible for one which, seemingly, no one, not even the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), wishes to oppose on Second Reading. I am anxious to express my appreciation for the debate, the spirit in which it has taken place and the many valuable suggestions which have been made by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
At the outset I wish to utter my personal thanks to the members of both the Ingleby and Bateson Committees. Whether or not we agree with every one of their recommendations, I think that we would be at one in feeling that they have covered a difficult field with great care and devotion.
Without wishing to sound a jarring note, would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that it was a pity that on the Ingleby Committee there was no probation officer and no teacher?
I am not going over the members of the Ingleby or Bateson Committees. The latter was appointed in the time of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). One can always review the membership of a Committee, but nevertheless I think that they both produced valuable reports.
Above all, I want to express my gratitude, and I think that of the whole House, to all those people who are at work in the field of care of children, whether they are doing it on a salaried basis or voluntarily in voluntary organisations or as managers of approved schools or as members of local authorities. In that I include probation officers, child care officers, housemothers and housefathers, and staffs of the reception homes and the remand homes and the approved schools.
Since I became Home Secretary in July, I have been making it my business to get about the country and visit a wide variety of these various establishments. This is far and away the most fascinating part of a Home Secretary's job, largely because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame Edith Pitt) said, it is concerned with children, and it is children who matter more than anybody else. Despite the carping words of the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) about the attitude to the Home Office, I have found wherever I have gone tributes paid to the helpfulness of the Children's Department of the Home Office. I take no personal credit for that because that Department was built up under my predecessors.
As to the question to which the hon. Member for Widnes referred at the end of his speech and about which other hon. Members spoke earlier, the question of approved schools for girls, it is of course for the court to decide whether it is right in a particular case to send a girl to an approved school rather than to deal with her through probation or in any other way. I entirely agree that approved schools for adolescent girls present special problems. The Home Office Inspectorate has studied this question.
It seems to be clear that adolescent girls get on better in fairly large approved schools which are divided into separate groups under the house system. It is on that basis that the new approved schools for girls are being built. I certainly give an assurance to the House that the extent and the difficulty of this problem are fully recognised. I must say in fairness that when I went to an approved school for adds at Staines the other day I thought that it was magnificently run.
As the House knows, we are embarked on a vigorous policy of expansion of approved schools designed to win us 2,000 additional places within a period of five years, over and above the expansion of the remand homes which is going on, and I hope that the intense pressure on vacancies is already easing a little. Though the statutory requirement has not yet come into operation, I am proposing to bring into force this year the provision in an earlier Act for an Annual Return to Parliament relating to approved schools and remand homes and the like. Before the Summer Recess I hope to have laid Returns both for 1961 and 1962.
There was one class of people which I omitted to mention—foster parents. This Bill may not be directly concerned with them, but in the visits I have paid I have been profoundly impressed with the devotion to the children which I have seen in various foster homes. This country can be intensely proud of the fact that there are husbands and wives who are willing to take into their homes and bring up with their own children the children of others who have been abandoned, orphaned or neglected, of whom they have known nothing before and to whom they are giving the most valuable gift any parents can give—the experience of a happy home life.
The hon. Member for Widnes asked me about my attitude to Amendments in Committee. I am quite sure that together we all ought to try to improve and perfect this Bill. The hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East perhaps did not make quite the most auspicious impression on me when she indicated that if the Government accepted an Opposition Amendment she would read that as proof that the Government had inadequately considered the Bill before presenting it. I have been leader of the opposition in another authority where it was regarded by the majority party as a loss of face if they accepted any amendment from the other side. That is not my approach at all. I think that is a foolish one, particularly on a Bill like this where there is virtually no contrasting political philosophy involved.
The truth is that juvenile delinquency is the greatest and gravest problem that anyone holding my office today has to face. We have to recognise, as an hon. Member has said, that a very large proportion of it is due to the broken home; to the lack of sense of belonging to which my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston referred in her admirable speech.
I have my own ideas, and my own purposes, which I hope I may be able to further, but let us be frank. No one knows all there is to know about this subject. If any of us did, we should be supermen. The truth is that the problem of juvenile delinquency is puzzling people in all the industrialised countries of the world, and I say quite frankly that I am ready to learn and to receive good ideas from any quarter, to which I shall seek to add my own.
On some Clauses we shall find in Committee that the arguments are nicely balanced. I do not believe that it is possible to give absolutely certain proof that the age of 13 is right and that the age of 14 is wrong, or vice versa. On many of these matters I shall listen with interest to the discussion in the Standing Committee and attempt to guide the Committee to the best of my ability.
There has been hardly any criticism of Part II of the Bill. I do not demur at all to the criticism of the long time that it has taken to embody the Bateson recommendations in legislation. That Report was published sixteen months before the Labour Government fell. But we shall certainly have achieved some success if we have worked out a scheme which manages to modernise what is now a rather messy field of legislation and which proves to be a scheme generally acceptable.
I noted what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) said about the Scottish aspects of this matter. I can assure him that Clause 35 (2, b) is correctly drafted in referring to the 1959 Act and not to the 1962 Act, but maybe he will wish to satisfy himself further on that in Committee.
As to Part III, my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) also made a most constructive speech. Clause 43 is needed because at the moment we have no powers to spend money on research into child welfare. We can under existing legislation spend money researching into the causes of delinquency and the treatment of offenders, but in this Bill we are particularly concerned with the welfare of the child. I am sure that she will agree that it is a good and progressive action to extend our research powers in that way. I cannot say how much money will be needed for this purpose.
The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Fitch) suggested that the Continent was far ahead of us in research into juvenile delinquency. If he investigates the matter further, he will, I believe, find that this is not so. I know of no country on the Continent which has anything comparable with the Home Office Research Unit whose scope we are seeking to extend by the Bill.
Clause 52 relating to Press publicity has been generally welcomed. I take the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir R. Thompson). It strikes me as a very difficult one to cover, but this, again, is something we may be able to consider in Committee. The House as a whole has made clear its desire that something on the lines of Clause 52 should be put on the Statute Book.
I come now to the main part of the Bill, Part I. The age of criminal responsibility may be the most contentious and controversial issue in this part, but I do not believe that, for the benefit of the children, it is the most important. I shall, therefore, come to that a little later in my speech and deal first with some of the other Clauses which deserve notice.
Clause 30, which deals with penalties, has been generally welcomed although questions have been raised as to whether it goes far enough. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner), with whose speech I very largely agreed, doubted whether the maximum terms of imprisonment were sufficient. To that I reply that the Clause is directly based on the Ingleby recommendations, and the Ingleby Committee clearly took into consideration the sentences of imprisonment as well as fines. My hon. and learned Friend will bear in mind that the penalties contained in Clause 30 are additional to any penalties which may already be provided for under other legislation such as the Offences against the Person Act and the Sexual Offences Act.
A universal welcome has been accorded to Clause 27 which relates to methods for trying to secure that a girl who has been the victim of a sexual offence does not have to give evidence twice in court. Here again, several hon. Members, including the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay, questioned whether the age of thirteen was right. This is a matter on which I should be glad to listen to the views of both sides of the Committee in due course. It is relevant to mention that, under the Sexual Offences Act, as the House will know, far more severe penalties are provided in the case of an offence against a girl under 13 than in the case of an offence against a girl over 13. So the age of 13 is not completely arbitrary. However, I have not got a closed mind about it, if there are strong feelings that we should alter this age.
Can we improve the drafting of Clause 25? As hon. Members may know, the Clause was redrafted in another place. If we can express its purpose more clearly, I shall be only too happy. The purpose of it—here I think I carry the whole House with me—is to ensure that, whenever both parents ought to be in court, they can be made to be in court. That purpose I strongly support, but I do not think we should go too far and say in the Statute, as some hon. Members have suggested, that on every occasion both parents should be in court. It seems to me to be excessive if we seek to write into the law a provision that both parents must be present if a boy of 16 is up before the juvenile court for riding a bicycle without a light. There are offences of very different gravity.
We are, I think, all at one in believing that in the case of the more serious offences both parents should be in court to hear what is said and to take cognisance about the court's view of their child. At present the law does not adequately provide for that. Clause 25 is designed to ensure that courts can insist on the presence of both parents whenever it thinks it necessary, but, as I say, I do not claim perfection for the wording, and if we can improve it in Committee we will.
I come to the question of the age of criminal responsibility. I respect all the views which have been expressed. The hon. Member for Widnes was good enough to say that this was one of the matters which had to be regarded as nicely balanced, although he definitely came down on one side. The same is true of much of the evidence given to the Ingleby Committee. The hon. Gentleman spoke of the Magistrates' Association. The London juvenile court magistrates were deeply divided about what the age of criminal responsibility should be. We have no need to be ashamed of ourselves whatever view we take, and we should be able to argue it out among ourselves not as a matter of one age which can be proved conclusively right as against another but as a matter on which in the end we have to use our practical judgment, and no one should be better able to do that than Members of Parliament.
I ask the House, before the Bill goes to Committee, to examine the real difficulties. Listening to some hon. Members, I felt that they had not probed the matter as deeply as we in the Home Office have had to do in the course of our duties.
Assume that the Government had accepted the Ingleby recommendation, as a number of hon. Members have suggested we should have done, under which the age of criminal responsibility would be raised from 8 to 12 years, but with a special procedure relating to children between 8 and 12 years who had been brought to court for something which now would be a criminal offence, but which, under the Ingleby recommendation, would not be a criminal offence. Then suppose that two boys of 13 and 11 years go stealing together. The boy of 11 years, under the Ingleby recommendations, would be brought to court as in need of "protection or discipline", which are the words used in the Ingleby Report. The boy of 13 years would be brought to court charged with an offence, and, as he is over 12 years, the offence must be proved if he is to be punished, and it must be proved, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay cogently said, not on the balance of probabilities but beyond reasonable doubt.
Now consider the boy of 11 years. Both boys have done exactly the same thing and the evidence is the same in both cases. The boy of 11, under the Ingleby procedure, would be brought to the court as being in need of protection or discipline. But a lower standard of proof would be required to bring about his punishment, and the Ingleby Report frankly recognised that he would not have available to him the defence and the protection that the law allows to someone charged with a criminal offence. Thus, on identical evidence, the older boy might get off because the offence was not proved beyond reasonable doubt, while the younger boy might be punished. I stress that word "punished" because the Ingleby recommendations envisage punishment.
I doubt whether it can be right that when two boys have committed identical offences, and have identical evidence against them, the younger one should be punished while the older one gets off. In Committee we must address ourselves to this sort of problem, and if the Bill does not find the right way of solving it we must seek to find some other way, because the Ingleby proposal itself is open to very grave criticism on that count.
This is an interesting point and one which I raised about stealing bicycles. But surely the example would apply whatever the age of criminal responsibility. One can choose a year below or a year above, but whatever the age of criminal responsibility the position described by the right hon. Gentleman will still obtain.
I grant that, but the contrast becomes much more acute when the age is 12 years than it is when the age is eight years. Two boys aged seven and eight may do something together but it is unlikely that they will engage in grave crime together, whereas I am sorry to say that the figures show that real crime becomes all too common at the age of 11 or 12. The hon. Lady has made a point but I do not think it is a very powerful one.
The hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East suggested some other form of machinery for dealing with the boy under 12—perhaps some educational or social provision. It is all very well to say that, but one must define what it is to be. If a boy of 11, seeing a door open, goes into a place and steals something, or does damage, what is to happen to him? The hon. Lady said that it is abhorrent that the boy can be charged with a criminal offence, but many people will think it abhorrent if nothing effective can be done about him. Somehow or other we have to find the right way. I attach great value to subsection (2) of Clause 16, which provides that an offence committed below the age of 14 shall not remain on a person's record after the age of 21. We have gone further than Ingleby in that matter.
In the last few minutes I want to come to the remaining Clauses of Part I. I assure the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Sir B. Janner) that the Home Office would take into account any recommendation of a court regarding the approved school that the boy should go to. But I say to the right hon. Member for South Shields, whose contribution I naturally very much appreciated because of his wisdom, that this Clause embodies no fundamental change from what has been practice if not law for many years.
For many years, when there has been no classifying school place available, magistrates have normally consulted the Home Office as to where a boy should be sent. I can assure the right hon. Member for South Shields that we have acted on the Carlton School inquiry recommendations and that a managers' handbook has been issued and has been welcomed by managers. A number of other recommendations have also been implemented.
The reform in Clause 3 has been universally welcomed and provides that a parent can no longer put his child up in court as being beyond control. Clause 2 gives a new definition. It uses the words "care, protection or control" which are more satisfactory than "care or protection" as in the existing law. I expect that in Committee it will be desirable carefully to study subsections (1) and (2).
Finally, I come to Clause 1. This is by far the most important part of the Bill, as all local authorities recognise. I appreciated the action of the right hon. Member for South Shields in reading a letter from the County Councils Association with its generous tribute to the main purposes of the Bill. Though I am naturally accustomed to hearing from hon. Members opposite that Bills introduced by the Government are timid and so forth, nevertheless, when I have been visiting local authorities and others who are concerned with the care of children on the spot, I have heard no carping criticism of that kind against the Bill. I have heard nothing but enthusiastic welcome for it.
The wording of Clause 1 makes the duty of a local authority quite clear, and it provides properly, as we should all wish, for co-operation with voluntary agencies. Here, again, if we can further improve that in Committee, nobody will be happier than I. I am sure that local authorities will act on this Clause and will perform their new duties with vigour.
Suspicions were raised as to whether they might seek to be sluggish about it. We have our excellent Home Office inspectors who will be watching what they do and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Sir G. Wills) advocated, there will certainly be consultations, not only among local authorities and the voluntary organisations in an area, but with the Home Office too.
It will be possible under these provisions for any local authority which wishes, to set up what I might call a family advice bureau where people can seek advice about the problems of their children, and where the local authority will arrange to help them with all the skill and knowledge at its command. It will be possible, as my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport asked, for local authorities to experiment in various directions. That is just what we want.
The hon. Member for Wigan suggested a central unit, but I should like to see as wide a range of experiments as possible, because I do not think that any of us sitting in Parliament can say that there is one scheme which will be ideal for all local authorities. There was some criticism of subsection (4) and I was asked why I had not by Statute required local authorities to submit
schemes instead of merely that I would call for reports. I can best answer that in the words of the right hon. Member for South Shields in answer to a similar plea when he said:
… this is not a service that lends itself to the preparation of a scheme.… We desire that there shall be the greatest possible variety in dealing with this work, and we think that the local authorities should be getting on with the job of looking after the children, rather than drawing up paper schemes for submission.… I have no doubt that, should there be slackness, it is far better that the inspectors of the Home Office and the other members of the authority should be the persons to see that the work is done, rather than that we should give them some excuse in some way far not getting on wish the task which the Measure will assign to the local authority."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 10th June, 1948; c. 195.]
I want local authorities to get on with the job and not spend too much time drawing up schemes. This new work is to be built on to a great deal of existing work.
I hope that the message which will go from the House will be that we desire local authorities to press on as rapidly as they can, always bearing in mind, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston said, that it is the children who matter most of all.