We all want to keep children out of court, if we can. That is the object of Clause 1. The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) said that it was our duty to consider how best Clause 1 may be made effective. I believe that it is the primary duty of local authorities to consider that. I have a great deal of sympathy with the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) that it would be unwise for us to tie the hands of local authorities in great detail as to the manner in which, in the circumstances of their own area, they should carry out the general purposes laid down by Parliament.
I agree with my hon. Friend, too, that today's debate will be read with great interest by children's officers, chairmen of children's committees, town clerks and others. I hope that they will read the speech of the hon. Member forWidnes and study the ideas that he developed. I hope that they will gain ideas from his speech which will be valuable in their own localities. That, surely, is the better way, rather than tying the hands of local authorities in advance. If I have learned anything in my local government experience, it is that one does not get better local government if Parliament dictates in great detail the precise machinery by which local authorities should carry out their duties.
I appreciate that the hon. Member for Widnes is anxious to devise an alternative system to bringing children into court. We all desire to do that, but I remind the hon. Member of paragraphs 68–77 of the Ingleby Report. The Ingleby Committee, having very painstakingly examined these possibilities, reached the conclusion that there was no real alternative of a social welfare character to taking a number of children into court.
I could call attention to technical defects in the Clause, but my main reason for advising the House not to accept it is that I do not believe that we shall get better administration by local authorities if we tell them in such precise detail as this the exact machinery which Parliament requires them to operate, whether or not it seems to the elected members of the local authority the most appropriate for the problems of their own area.