Juvenile Delinquency and Hooliganism

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th April 1964.

Alert me about debates like this

3.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Harold Gurden Mr Harold Gurden , Birmingham, Selly Oak

I beg to move, That this House notes with concern the continuing increase in juvenile crime and outbreaks of hooliganism among young people: urges Her Majesty's Government to ensure that the courts have adequate means of dealing effectively with young offenders; welcomes the action taken by Her Majesty's Government to promote the study of and research into causes of delinquency; and urges the Government to intensify the measures for its prevention. What I have to say is directed mainly to the last few words of the Motion. Several hon. Members have made valuable contributions to our efforts to deal with this problem, and I apologise to them for not making use of some of the material which is available in the Library. In particular, I apologise to my hon. Friends the Members for Bath (Sir J. Pitman) and Liverpool, Kirkdale (Mr. N. Pannell), who are not able to be here, the former because he is in America, and the latter because he is ill.

I do not intend to go fully into the many sordid incidents about which we read almost daily in the newspapers. I use the word hooliganism as implying vandalism, in the context of the recent incidents at Clacton, where, I was glad to learn today, the courts have imposed heavy fines on those concerned. This, at least, will be gratifying to some.

Perhaps I might briefly outline the size of the problem as I see it. Hooliganism and malicious damage to property has increased twelvefold since the 'thirties, and it has doubled during the last five years. Those are only the recorded figures, and they may not, therefore, give the complete picture.

During the last few days many local authorities have been trying to assess the cost to the rates of damage done by hooligans. They estimate that last year the damage done by hooligans amounted to about £500,000. It is thought that the actual figure is about £1 million a year, and to that must be added a considerable proportion of Home Office Votes, and what it costs to repair damage to public transport and to private property.

It is impossible to ascertain the correct figure. Everyone knows that nothing like all the damage is recorded; nor would it be alleged that some incidents due to other causes are charged to vandalism. Therefore, taking a very modest figure, it can be said that the damage costs many millions of pounds a year.

The figure has increased alarmingly. We did not have to spend anything like this amount of money to make good the damage which is now being caused. Further, what concerns most today is the danger to life and limb, not only to humans but to animals, and the entirely unprovoked bloody attacks which take place on young and old, mostly on people who can least manage to defend themselves.

To return to the local authority figure, Mr. Sutcliffe, the secretary of the Local Government Information Office, uses these words at the end of his report: The cash cost is surely not the only aspect to be considered. The cause of vandalism is a serious social matter and until early education attaches more importance to a child's appreciation of the public services than to his knowing which is the longest river or the highest mountain, there is no hope for tackling the problem at its roots. That admirably expresses the point I want to emphasise to the House.

Following those comments on vandalism, I turn to juvenile delinquency in general. Home Office statistics show that half the indictable offences are committed by people under the age of 21. One-third of indictable offences are committed by persons under 17. I look at the matter in this way. Taking the Home Office ages, which are often quoted, of 8 to 65—I suppose that this is with the idea that this is the more active part of life—in the first 13 years of that period half of all crime is committed.

People over that age—the next 44 years of that period—commit the other half of crime. This goes to show at least one thing. The experience gained by people as they grow older teaches the vast majority of them that crime does not pay. They become educated. For one reason or another, from one cause or another—perhaps from punishment, in some cases—they learn that it is better not to do it.

There is a Home Office publication entitled Delinquent Generations, which, presumably, most hon. Members have probably read. It shows that the peak age for crime is immediately upon leaving school. One wonders what the children have been learning at school. Let me admit at once that these figures for juvenile delinquency highlight the low high number of incidents caused by females. Girls are apparently far better behaved than boys. I hope that we shall try to get girls on our side. We should try to get the young girls, who are apparently so much better behaved than the boys, to teach the boys. They might make a better job of it than we do.

In 1960, I was privileged to serve on my party's education committee. We met upstairs on Monday evenings. We were very concerned about this problem, as the Labour Party's education committee must be. A few of us were asked to examine the whole subject, as far as we could with the very limited resources at our disposal. We reported in 1961. During our investigations we interviewed many people. We went to a number of schools. We saw many teachers, local education authority officers, youth clubs, youth club members, magistrates, the police, probation officers, teacher training colleges and their staff. We gained at least some idea of what their opinion was. We gained a general idea of their view of where the responsibility might lie.

This is an excerpt from our report to our colleagues: The education system can play its part in helping to prevent delinquency, and where parental control is lacking by correct discipline. Teacher Training Colleges: Most concentrate on academic training and methods of teaching. Until we talked to teacher training college personnel, we did not know that there was a lack of instruction in the problems of delinquency and associated problems.

We said this: Their curriculum"— that is, the curriculum of teacher training colleges— needs to be examined so that student teachers are given guidance to identify possible delinquents they will certainly meet. Religious instruction in State schools seems to be not sufficiently linked with modern training and social behaviour. The school is the best place for ascertaining which children lack parental control and good example and the best means to make good the deficiency. This was all very brief and perhaps did not carry much weight, simply because we were very limited. I was impressed by the possibilities which lay before us of what could be done at a very young age.

During this investigation we met all the old lists we have all read about so often in connection with the causes of delinquency and crime—boredom, television, and so on. The cinema, drink, drugs, coffee bars, unemployment, too much money, bad homes, bad parents, bad literature, and even the H-bomb, were responsible. These were trotted out by all those we met. One would expect to find some of the people who wished to support their profession, such as teachers, saying, "We want more teachers. We want more and better schools", and the police saying, "We want more police, more police stations and more facilities." That is the sort of argument that is put up generally.

No one denies that all these things are contributory factors and aggravating influences, but in many instances all these things come into play and take effect after a child's mind has been conditioned to delinquency, and because we have failed to inculcate into the child's mind just what we expect of him in our adult society. I suggest that if we do no more than merely accept all that we read in the reports of practically all the committees which have looked into this question we shall merely be repeating the mistakes that we made in the past, and the result is likely to be a further tragic increase in delinquency figures.

Past reports show exactly the same ideas at work. Ten, 20, 30 and 40 years ago people were saying that crime and delinquency arose out of poverty and hunger. It all sounded very reasonable, and I, for one, accepted it. Other contributory causes were later suggested, such as unemployment, the enormous amount of bad films, our penal practice, corporal punishment, and wars.

If we examine the figures which are produced regularly by the Home Office and by the police we can see that these ideas are wrong. The suggestions seemed sensible, and no doubt all these factors have a contributory effect. We are rightly still working on these factors, but we must not delude ourselves into thinking that they are the prime causes of a child becoming a delinquent or a criminal. The poverty and hunger of the old days has gone. There has never been less juvenile unemployment than there is now, and it is a very long time since we have had so few films and such small cinema audiences. Penal practice has been tremendously changed, most of us believe for the good. Corporal punishment in the prisons has been done away with, officially at least.

While all these developments have taken place, the figures for juvenile delinquency have been increasing regularly every year. The many committees that have been appointed to consider this problem have to some extent been innocently misleading us. I know that their members are people with very high ideals. Some call them "do-gooders". The only disappointing thing about them to my mind, however, is that so many have no experience of dealing with children in their homes. They are childless and unmarried. I do not criticise them for that; they may be very valuable. But that is an unfortunate aspect of the situation.

I hope that my right hon. Friend will be more successful with the Royal Commission that he is setting up. In 1959, his predecessor convened a conference of people in the Church and in public and voluntary services. Its purpose was to combat delinquency and to improve by positive measures the moral health of the nation. At that time many of us thought that we could detect in the setting up of this conference some change at the Home Office. We thought that we were, after all, going back to the very beginning of the problem, and seeing what was being inculcated into the minds of children. But this conference did not seem to have much effect. As far as I can see, the intention was good, but it did not get very far.

I suggest that if we are to solve this problem at all we must start at the very beginning. Even before school age, and certainly at primary school age, it is priority No. 1 to tell a child what society expects of him, and the difference between right and wrong behaviour. As Mr. Sutcliffe said at the end of his report, this is far more important than knowing which is the world's longest river. If we started to teach our children that our laws have been introduced to protect civilised society we should be on the right track.

We should explain to children of this age that our laws are not new ones, but well-tried ones, based not upon what this age has done but on experience of the past, and that they were set up in what some people call the Christian era. The Commandments, of course, date from the pre-Christian era, but at least they are the basis of our Christian standards of morality, and of our laws. We should explain to children why we have religious training in schools, and what relevance it has to civilised society.

We should also teach these children why discipline is necessary for people of all ages. We should explain why civilised society could not survive without it, and how we should suffer collectively and individually if we did not have it. We might then be able to get children to appreciate just what is expected of them.

I suppose that all this sounds extremely simple in our modern scientific age. If we study the Victorian and Edwardian ages we find that their people seemed to have a much better idea than we do of discipline. Nobody agrees more than I do with the abolition of corporal punishment as a deterrent in prisons, in detention centres and remand homes. But I am not so sure about its abolition in schools and in the home. Whatever else we may say about the Victorians, their discipline was certainly effective. At least, the delinquency figures were better than they are now. We are told that all that is in the past, and that we now have a new morality, with free expression for children, and that we have to study the psychology of the child. I am not so sure. What it comes to is that we should train teachers and parents so that we may achieve what we need to achieve.

Mothers take their children to clinics to safeguard the physical health of the children. But for what reason is the child's health so safeguarded? Is it so that he may go to an approved school or to prison? A great number of children go to those places. While we are affording to train mothers to look after the health of their children we should also think of the other question and try to train mothers in that respect. The mothers themselves may have come from bad homes. Many of today's parents were delinquent children and we have to recognise that they need training.

I suggest that it would be far better to arrest the difficult cases at school than at Clacton. We all know how distasteful is corporal punishment and we are aware how, in former times, this was applied in schools and in the home, and in penal institutions. But I suggest that it is a dereliction of duty on the part of teachers and parents if sometimes a little corporal punishment is omitted in the school or the home after a child has been taught to understand what is meant by discipline, and knows those things which we expect of him.

I wish to thank my right hon. Friend for attending this debate. I know that he realises the tremendous importance of these questions. Does he think that these are the basic essentials without which we shall fail in our task? To what extent is he calling on those people in the sphere of education—I hope not on Dr. Henderson? What will be covered by the contemplated research which, I think, may prove valuable? It might cover comparisons between schools. It is a proven fact that in the independent schools there is less delinquency and crime.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

I have listened as long as I could to what the hon. Gentleman has been saying, but this is really going too far. Does not he realise that when children in so-called public schools take to a little stealing, they do not appear before a court? The matter is usually settled in the headmaster's study.

Photo of Mr Harold Gurden Mr Harold Gurden , Birmingham, Selly Oak

I should not take issue with the hon. Lady on that question. I am saying that the figures for independent schools are better. There may be a sanction regarding these schools, in that the parents may be told to take their children away. I suggest that my right hon. Friend should examine the difference in the figures. If the hon. Lady says that I am wrong—

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

The hon. Gentleman has not got my point. The only recorded figures relate to cases which are dealt with in the courts. I said that in the majority of cases the same kind of petty pilfering which may go on in a public boarding school would not result in the offenders coming before a court.

Photo of Mr Harold Gurden Mr Harold Gurden , Birmingham, Selly Oak

I should not like to dispute that. I am saying that I should like my right hon. Friend to go into these things to discover what is the real situation.

I think it fair to ask my right hon. Friend what action is to be taken in the interim, because Royal Commissions take a long time to report and people are getting worried about the situation. Some people consider that this kind of behaviour among young people, with the increase in the figures for juvenile delinquency, is mortal to the soul of the nation. I appeal strongly to local education authorities to give children a chance, and see whether they could look at the teaching of social morality—

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Why does the hon. Gentleman put all the responsibility, or the great part of it, on the schools? Why does not he realise that a good school can never make up adequately for a bad home? Why does not he advocate tackling the problem of home life?

Photo of Mr Harold Gurden Mr Harold Gurden , Birmingham, Selly Oak

Had the hon. Gentleman listened, he would have heard what I said about parents. I might add that I do not disagree with him at all. I join with him 100 per cent. in praising the teachers for what they have done. I was about to say something with which I know that the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) will agree. I want to encourage teachers who are willing to fight the battle for the moral health of the nation, and, again, I use the words of my hon. Friend's predecessor. I appeal to teachers to enforce discipline, and more particularly to local authority officers to support the teachers who try to do that. They are not always supported when they are trying to enforce discipline.

May I also ask my right hon. Friend what is happening at the Ministry of Education, in view of reports which have been published and committees which have been set up, and the teacher training colleges which have been established. How do people get into these training colleges? It is all right to have A-level passes for the arts and sciences, but what about some O-level passes for moral behaviour?

Photo of Mr Harold Gurden Mr Harold Gurden , Birmingham, Selly Oak

Cannot we see to it that these teachers have the ability to teach the things that are required in our schools?

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

The hon. Gentleman persists in talking about teachers and the need for schools to deal with this problem of delinquency. Does not he think that the factories and the industrial institutions where boys and girls go after leaving school are the places where they experience the frustration which could lead to delinquency?

Photo of Mr Harold Gurden Mr Harold Gurden , Birmingham, Selly Oak

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but all such things would have taken place after a child had gone through the primary school where the right sort of instruction should be given. I do not suppose that the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) would disagree that we must start with children when they are young. Surely he will not say that we should leave these matters until the children go into factories.

I appeal to local education authorities. I say to them, "You may be getting the quality which you deserve. If you do not look to the type of curriculum and the type of training of young children, you may need to go on suffering."

To return to the interruptions to my speech. Perhaps I should apologise at this point and comment that it might have been better had I said earlier what I now propose to say. We must be grateful to the teachers and our education system for all that has been done. The police, youth leaders and probation officers deserve much credit. I have always been impressed with the high quality of the people interested in youth. Things would have been much worse had these people in public service not been of such a high calibre.

I cannot close without saying that it is wrong to blame youth as a whole. More than 95 per cent. of our children are not delinquent. Most of them are probably a lot better than most of us were as youngsters. The youth of today is, by and large, excellent and capable of accepting responsibility.

Hon. Members may be interested in a letter which recently appeared in the Birmingham Post. It was signed by a boy named Andrew Sindle, of Alvechurch. He wrote: I am sick of my generation taking the blame for the crimes of a minority. We teenagers are unable to do anything about the problem simply because we have no authority to exercise. If some of the rope were given to us, then I am sure that the graph of juvenile crime would be considerably depressed. He went on to say that he would like to have courts in which juveniles sat as magistrates over the wrongdoers, and concluded: The heart of the trouble is that the 'liberal-minded' older generation have let discipline fade and have found no substitute. There is no substitute. To be kind you have to be cruel, so give us a crack of the whip to cut out this weak-minded nonsense before it is too late. Among the many letters, telegrams and telephone calls I have received from people wishing to express opinions on this subject, the House might be interested in this letter: You are sure of the support of millions of parents all over the country as these young toughs are, in fact, in control. Home Office measures are a laugh. Physical violence needs physical punishment. That is how strongly some people feel on this issue. That letter was written by an elderly person. I read it so that the House has before it one letter written by a youngster and one written by a more mature person.

It is fair to recall that many people who are now parents were once themselves juvenile delinquents. It is difficult to discuss this matter without becoming somewhat controversial, although I regret if I have provoked controversy between the two sides of the House, for I am sure that all hon. Members are agreed on the subject generally. Perhaps somewhat belatedly—by expressing my thanks to youth leaders and others and by pointing out that the majority of our youth is excellent—I have helped to bring unanimity between hon. Members on this issue.

I appeal to all hon. Members, irrespective of party, and all those in authority, to consider the remarks I have made and the speeches which will be made in this debate to see what can be done to improve the situation. I can assure my right hon. Friend that the public has had about as much of this delinquency as it can possibly stand.

4.14 p.m.

Photo of Sir George Benson Sir George Benson , Chesterfield

It is possible to take the problem of juvenile delinquency much too seriously. In the Chamber today are 15 to 20 hon. Members and, in one way or another, each one of us has been a juvenile delinquent of a sort. Honesty is something that must be learned. One is not born honest. One is merely born with the capacity for becoming a social individual. Which hon. Member can honestly say that he or she has not committed even the slightest act of violence against a younger brother or sister? The danger of juvenile delinquency must not be exaggerated.

Statistics reveal that the most dangerous age—the peak age for delinquency—is between 11 and 14. During the next three years delinquency is not so pronounced and among 20-year-olds the amount of delinquency is about two-thirds that of the 11 to 14-year-old group. As I say, it is a question of learning to be good citizens. Some juveniles learn quickly while others do not. Some never learn.

We must keep a sense of proportion about all this. I agree that many acts of vandalism are annoying, to say the least. In many cases they are due to the insufficiency of facilities for our youngsters to deploy their energies. It is usually found that where there are sufficient playing fields and adequate facilities for exercise there is not so much delinquency and vandalism. It is no use constantly talking about punishment being the cure for vandalism.

As I say, one is born an anarchist, but with the ability to learn to become a social individual. It takes time and it is clear that as youngsters enter their teens and proceed towards manhood and womanhood the rate of delinquency and vandalism drops. It takes time for juveniles to learn to become good citizens. Only a small proportion become habitual criminals.

4.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr Leslie Seymour Mr Leslie Seymour , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) on bringing this matter to the notice of the House, for it is one of the most serious problems facing the country today. Hon. Members may have heard on the B.B.C.'s one o'clock news that we had an outstanding example in my home town over the week-end of what can happen to youth. The chief constable called two rival gangs together in an effort to settle their differences. In the midst of it all they had a glorious fight among themselves—with the police superintendent there. Bottles and tables were smashed and police reinforcements had to be sent for.

The tone of my hon. Friend's speech was that prevention is better than cure and that we should do more for our youth both before and after they leave school. It is obvious that idle minds and hands must find outlets for their energies. In 1961, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Cleaver), my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak and myself investigated this problem and made a report, although it has not been acted upon. We pointed out that it appeared that the strength of character among young people had not improved with the increase in the standard of living, and that laziness, selfishness and lust were still the root cause of the difficulties.

We recommended better moral training for the young at home, in school and in youth clubs. In the majority of cases the seeds of delinquency are sown in the home, particularly when delinquents lapse into crime. The causes of broken marriages, betting, and drunkenness are obviously well-known, but it is not appreciated that the moral standards maintained by parents have a most vital influence on their children.

We also urged in that report that more trust should be placed in teachers so that they would have no cause to fear summonses for assault after disciplining children. Teachers, we said, can spot potential delinquents at quite an early age and much more can be done to help to prevent crime among young people in the "dangerous" year before they leave school. We have a duty to them.

I am convinced that spending money on and for youth is an investment for the future. So let us help with finance. Why should the chairman of a branch of the Association of Boys' Clubs in my area have to beg for funds? I read from his letter: Dear Mr. Seymour,I write to ask for your help for boys' clubs in this area.… I am anxious to double the number of clubs and this costs money. He goes on to say: More boys would respond if there were more boys' dubs and… I emphasise the need for us to continue to help boys to emerge with right attitudes and understanding. And he hopes that he will have my financial support.

I advocate a considerable increase in the number of youth club leaders. Let us encourage more men and women to undertake this vital work by paying them better salaries and making it an honourable profession. Let us give more financial help to Boy Scouts' and Girl Guides' organisations. In them the best is brought out from boys and girls. Let us have more Air Training Corps. Most boys have a desire to fly and are interested in aircraft. This is an outlet for their extra energies. I want to start a corps in my constituency. I have been trying to do so now for three months, but I have been told that it costs a lot of money. I have all the offices ready and am waiting only for the word "go".

I have said all this about prevention; now what about punishment for these delinquents and hooligans? Young people—boys and girls—today mature early. They get married early. I welcome the report on the position in Scotland, saying that young offenders aged 16 and over should be dealt with in the ordinary criminal courts. I look forward with considerable interest to the report of the newly-appointed Royal Commission. I hope that it will not be so softhearted as we have been in the past.

We have recently had two examples of what might be real value. On a council estate a gang of youngsters frightened old people by shouting outside their homes, tried to start fires with paraffin, swore at passers-by, put bricks and boulders on a road, tore telephone directories, daubed paint on shop windows and smashed milk bottles and bus shelters. When apprehended, their only reply was that they were "fed up", as there was nothing for them to do on the estate.

By contrast, I report something which took place in the juvenile court in my town last week. The chairman said that during his 20 years' experience as a magistrate he could not remember such a large number of offences having been committed by one group. The boys of the gang admitted breaking into houses and other premises, driving away motor vehicles without permission and insurance, or aiding and abetting these offences. A 16-year-old was ordered to pay £11, a 15-year-old was ordered to pay £10, and two of the gang were sent to detention centres.

These are things that we must be concerned about. I sit as a magistrate in Birmingham. The maximum fine a lay magistrate can impose for common assault is £5. It is the same amount for willful damage to property to the extent of £5, plus compensation. This does not worry young people a bit. It is only about half their weekly wage. I should like to see the figure considerably increased.

I heard an hon. Member opposite suggesting that on the lines of "Spare the rod and spoil the child" some of us on this side of the House may have had corporal punishment when we were young. My father believed in that maxim and on a number of occasions I was unable to sit down. I hope that more serious consideration will be given to the reintroduction of corporal punishment for malicious attacks, particularly those on young girls and old people who cannot defend themselves.

I should also like to see extended powers for magistrates so that punishment can be dealt out in the courts to fit the individual offender. I want the Government to consider a system for delinquents, in appropriate cases, to be dealt with at evening centres instead of being sent away from home. I urge that the courts should be given power to sentence offenders to part-time imprisonment with confinement at night and work outside the prison during the day. I should like courts to be able to suspend sentence on young convicted men provided they join Her Majesty's Forces, where they will be trained to be full and proper members of society.

This House has a duty to educate our youth to a happy, respectable and law-abiding life; to see that offenders against the law are fairly, but not unduly, punished. We have a duty to the public to protect their persons and their property from young hooligans.

4.28 p.m.

Photo of Mr Maurice Edelman Mr Maurice Edelman , Coventry North

The whole House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) for drawing attention to a matter which is not only of national concern, but one which concerns the whole Western world. Although I do not accept either his diagnosis or his prescription, nevertheless there is one matter on which everyone will agree with him; that is, on the correctness of the facts set forward in the White Paper, The War Against Crime in England and Wales, 1959–1964. All hon. Members, no doubt, will have read that White Paper. I quote from it only one section, which, I think, confirms what has been happening. It says: …the actual volume of crime has increased substantially. This is a fact and, of course, the increase in crime usually includes the general rise in delinquency. In the two speeches we have heard from hon. Members opposite, although not in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Sir G. Benson), it became perfectly clear that there are two approaches to this whole question of the analysis and treatment of crime. On the one side, as was illustrated by the hon. Member for Selly Oak and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Spark-brook (Mr. Seymour), there is the penal, flagellatory approach, while on this side there is what I might call the social approach.

I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Selly Oak, reinforced later by his hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook, speak about the desirability of increasing corporal punishment in the home and in the schools. He is possibly not aware of, or if he is aware it was not in the forefront of his mind, that the number of crimes of violence against children in this country is higher than it has ever been in recorded history. In that social context I certainly would be very wary of entrusting to people the opportunity of giving corporal punishment to people when the whole problem is what to do to reduce the atmosphere of violence in which we live today. Equally, when the hon. Member for Selly Oak spoke about the desirability of giving a moral examination to teachers before they were accepted it seemed to me that the idea of introducing moral tests of that kind is as pernicious as the older system of introducing the religious tests.

Photo of Mr Harold Gurden Mr Harold Gurden , Birmingham, Selly Oak

Does the hon. Member not realise that selected teachers in Jewish schools are very valuable in giving training to people, just as are the teachers in the Church of England and Roman Catholic Schools?

Photo of Mr Maurice Edelman Mr Maurice Edelman , Coventry North

The hon. Member is missing the point. I made the point that he was suggesting that moral examination should be applied to teachers before they go to the schools, but who is to decide on the moral qualifications of the teachers who will be accepted? What standard of morality is to be applied in order to assess those teachers? This is wholly pernicious and it takes an extremely narrow view of the concept of morality as such. I hope to return later to the question of morality, because in the whole debate there has been undue emphasis or one section of morality, namely, sexual morality. The wider issues have been ignored.

Photo of Mr Maurice Edelman Mr Maurice Edelman , Coventry North

The hon. Member for Sparkbrook spoke about an incident yesterday when a well-meaning police superintendent, to whom I pay credit for his excellent intention, gathered together two gangs of young men and, presumably, young women. The police took off their helmets and it was hoped that the police and the young people would have a sort of love-feast of reconciliation.

The intention was excellent and the motives which inspired the meeting were ones to which I would pay tribute. But I ought to add that since this celebration—and I can only call it that—took place in front of television cameras and invited journalists it was a demonstration of the wrong way of tackling juvenile delinquency. If, as some of us believe, part of the reason for juvenile delinquency is the aggressive exhibitionism of adolescents, this was a sure way of encouraging it.

This is exactly what happened. As soon as the television cameras appeared the young men started throwing bottles and chairs and the whole thing ended in a general rumpus. Perhaps in anticipation of the drama to follow there were police with police dogs in action to deal with this juvenile riot.

I shall not speak in detail of the efforts which have been and are being made by so many admirable men and women who either voluntarily or in the prison service devote themselves to dealing with crime and delinquency. Nor do I propose to criticise the penologists, those admirable men and women who are constantly seeking to investigate the origins of crime, but I would like to add a comment on one matter which has not yet been touched upon except by my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield which goes to the whole root of the matter.

My hon. Friend said, quite rightly, that the problem of every individual is to make a social adaptation in the course of growing up. The climate of opinion in which young people are growing up today is one in which acquisition is promoted as the ultimate good, in which acquisitiveness is the ultimate virtue, in which in newspapers and on television and in all the media of mass persuasion acquisition is put forward as the most desirable technique of living.

Inevitably, if we have an acquisitive society which promotes the take-over bidder and the tycoon to be the heroes of society, the young imitate those examples, and if they cannot achieve what they want legally they turn to crime. The public has been exercised in recent months by the great train robbery. While I deplore the robbery and I am glad that some at least of the criminals have been found and sentenced, it seems to me that the robbery was a sort of take-over bid by other means.

If we have a society which, through mass media, constantly puts forward people who make great "killings" on the Stock Exchange, on the pools, or by gambling, as examples who are admired and announced in the gossip columns; if this is put forward generally as the type of activity which deserves to be admired and these people are publicised as the epitomes of success, we must expect to have young people imitating them and to have thereby an increase in the crime rate.

I speak deferentially in the presence of magistrates of great experience, but I believe that, generally speaking, the chief offence of juvenile delinquency is the crime of petty violence, the punch-up, the general offence of hooliganism illustrated by the sort of violent action which, in my boyhood, one would never have heard of. Nowadays, the term commonly used in the Midlands and probably elsewhere is "putting the boot in", which would never have occurred to any boy who had grown up in the usual school atmosphere where, if there was a problem, it would have been solved by fisticuffs. This atmosphere is present not only in society generally, but in the thinking of the youths whom we are now considering.

Without wishing to trot out a whole series of reasons for juvenile delinquency, I believe strongly that with the rise of mass media of communication we have imported into Britain exemplars of behaviour in which the activities of the anarchic cowboy, who is a moral thug in fancy dress on Main Street, is imitated in our High Streets. In postwar years we have seen television, and particularly commercial television, in order to hold audiences and to acquire the highest T.A.M. rating—with the B.B.C. having entered the arena and trailing not far behind—projecting Americanised serials in which violence is put forward and the anarchic person who rejects the rules of society is projected as someone to be admired.

I do not think that the Home Secretary needs to do more than look, first, at the manifestations of television. Let him then take a stroll in a suburban or provincial street and he will see how immediate, and in some cases of delinquency how deadly, has been the impact of the examples put before young people. I know that there is a committee in session on this subject, but it is not enough to set up a committee. We must take action.

I do not want to conclude on a pessimistic note, because I do not feel pessimistic about our young people. I say that not as a generalisation, but for a particular reason. It is that during the course of my own work on the British Council, and in other connections, I have seen how great movements, like that of the Voluntary Service Overseas, have attracted the enthusiasm and the energies of young people who, after leaving school, want to serve overseas and go to the most difficult places.

Not long ago, I saw a letter from a young man who is working in a school for not only backward but incapable children. He had volunteered to serve in a wild and primitive place. I believe that this impulse of service is one of the great human qualities in which the young generation, whom are are talking about today only because we have statistics of delinquency, is only seeking the opportunity to serve.

I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he might apply himself to considering in what areas these great energies might be applied, and what opportunities of service, not only abroad but also at home, might be created. I would urge him most particularly, if I may offer this as a constructive suggestion, to consider with his colleagues whether it might not be possible to set up in Britain, as a counterpart to Voluntary Service Overseas, a collective system which will give young people who want to do voluntary service in all sorts of different fields and all kinds of social service an opportunity to apply their energies and to show that the youth of Britain is not represented only by delinquents but by decent, devoted and determined people whose only object is to serve.

4.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Rees-Davies Mr William Rees-Davies , Isle of Thanet

Before I put forward a few proposals which, I hope, may attain some of the limited objectives that we seek, I must, I hope gracefully, criticise the speech of the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman).

The hon. Member, for whom I have high regard in other fields, and certainly when he is dealing with the arts, the British Council, or with matters of social service, about which I know he has considerable knowledge, manifested a complete lack of knowledge of what I might call criminological research work or the effects of delinquency.

It is clear that the hon. Member has never had, as I have had, knowledge of the handling of delinquents, otherwise he would not have expressed those views. His was an empty speech, because it made no constructive and immediate suggestions as to what we can do to deal with this very serious increase in crime. It was also wrong for another reason. He was "not with it", if I may use that phrase, in throwing out the charge that we on this side of the House are flagellatory in our approach and hon. Members opposite are social in theirs. That is better than the Liberal Party, admittedly, which is not even present for the debate at all.

What is really called the social approach could be defined in this way—do-gooders and do-nothing. The nation is sick to death of that approach. It wants us to tell them what we propose to do to stop this very marked increase in crime. That is what I propose to try to do this afternoon.

First, I am immensely indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) for having brought this subject to our attention today and given us an opportunity for a brief debate. We also ought to pay a tribute to the tremendous efforts made in recent years by the Home Office over the whole sociological field. In legislation, it has dealt with almost everything, and it has been a heavy programme which many of us have had to suffer over the years.

It has varied from an Act, which is of great value to both sides of the House and to the country, the Children and Young Persons Act, to the Street Offences Act, the whole of licensing, and betting and gaming; and the Streatfeild Committee has been set up to deal with matters of penal reform. A wide rangy of other Measures to bring the criminal law up to date are still being worked on hard and fast.

A most valuable White Paper entitled War against Crime has been put before the House, which has had the honesty and fearlessness to state the facts to the people in Blain language. The most startling fact is that there are more crimes of breaking and entering today by people under 21 than there were five years ago; that is to say there has been in five years an increase of very nearly half as much again, and two-thirds of all breaking and entering is by those under 21.

My qualifications on this subject are practical. I have had to handle and deal with a very large number of the young criminals and see them personally. During the course of this experience, I have inquired of them what are the causes and the reasons why many of them have perpetrated this class of crime.

I have also had to consider from the point of view of my constituency many acts of wanton vandalism that have been suffered by many of us, including myself, in my own home, from time to time—acts of vandalism against works of art, which we saw only the other day in a foreign country; and it is true to say that other nations are suffering from the same difficulties that we are suffering from in this country.

What are we to do? First, the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) stumbled across something accidentally when she rose to interject. It was pointed out, quite accurately, that there is infinitely less crime among boys in the public schools of Britain than there is among boys of an equivalent age who do not go to independent schools. There is a very good reason for it. I went to some of the rougher schools around London, in Shoreditch, Paddington and, indeed, in Chelsea, which is one of the worst, to find out what was the difficulty.

The real difficulty is that in a public school, if a boy is guilty of violence against the person, of breaking or entering, or of stealing, he comes up, inevitably, before the headmaster, and he will get sacked. He leaves that school with a smirch on his name which will last for the rest of his life. This is one of the most serious deterrents, because it not only hits the boy, but, happily, hits the parents, too.

What I suggest—I failed completely with the L.C.C. and I have waited for an opportunity to put it before this House—is that the most important thing that we can do is to give the power in the secondary schools, grammar schools and all our schools to sack a child entirely from that school for delinquency. I will tell the House how I would deal with those who are sacked.

What is the difficulty? In a Shore-ditch school, for example, on the blackboard was written "Up with Hitler", and all the rest of the Fascist stuff, and the master's car was overturned and set on fire. What happens? The teacher has no power to deal with the child. He cannot cane him—and I would wholeheartedly agree that the cane would not be of the slightest use in such a case. So what can be done? One cannot keep the child in at night, because there are not sufficient teachers to give it the jolly good physical training that it really wants. One cannot sack the child. One cannot send for the parents and say, "You pay for the damage". The only thing to be done is to get rid of those children from that school immediately.

At a school in Paddington, for example, a friend of mine who was a master there had two boys in the school of 14½ years of age, both of whom had been convicted of breaking and entering. When they came back and the next term began, there were six such boys and by the end of the year there were 16 out of 23 who had been guilty of this type of offence. It spreads like a disease. If we want to stop it, we have to be able to get rid of those children from the school, and quickly.

What are you going to do? Are you going to say that they shall not go to school at all? No. There is only one answer to this and that is that you must have special schools for that class of child who is so sacked.

Photo of Mr William Rees-Davies Mr William Rees-Davies , Isle of Thanet

It is no good grimacing like that. The nation wants something done and you have not got any decent proposals.

Photo of Sir William Anstruther-Gray Sir William Anstruther-Gray , Berwickshire and East Lothian

Order. It would be better if the hon. Member remembered that he is addressing the Chair.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

I am interested in what the hon. Gentleman has said. He said that when he was at school, children were sacked. That was presumably from Eton. Can he give me an example of any boy who was expelled from Eton and sent to a special school?

Photo of Mr William Rees-Davies Mr William Rees-Davies , Isle of Thanet

I can give many examples of boys who were expelled from public schools and who afterwards were sent to special schools. In most cases they were sacked and they went to other schools. I would rather not give the names of those other schools to which they went, because it would not be a good thing for those schools. They went to other schools because the parents could afford to pay to send them elsewhere.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he would like to be a teacher at one of those schools for criminals that he has suggested?

Photo of Mr William Rees-Davies Mr William Rees-Davies , Isle of Thanet

If the hon. Gentleman wants to know, yes. If I had the time, I cannot think of any class of work more rewarding. It is directly the same class of work as is being done and ought to be done in approved schools and borstals today.

This happens to be the next feature that I was coming to, and it is the most rewarding class of work that one can have. At least, I had this advantage, which I am sure the hon. Gentleman did not have, that when I was serving during the war and men got into trouble, they were usually put into my platoon afterwards in order to cure them of the ill effects. So I have had certain experience of this problem.

However, I do not want to lose my train of thought. This is the first time that this approach has been publicly stated, and I believe it to be intensely practical and one which the nation will support. A letter was written to my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak by a young boy. He made one very good point in that letter. He said that that boys themselves can do a lot to arrest delinquency. I am a great believer in what is generally called the prefect system. Another reason why the public schools do not have very much crime is that the main burden of discipline falls upon the prefects. As one who had to administer the cane, and who frequently had to deal with discipline, I can say that it was very much easier to do it oneself with one's authority, being a reasonably good sportsman and so on. The boys would take their punishment much more readily than they would from a master.

I urge that in our schools, and particularly in the bigger schools such as the comprehensive schools, we should institute the prefect system, choosing boys who are respected in the school. The boy need not necessarily be the brainiest boy in the school, but he should be well respected. He should be given the responsibility of maintaining a certain amount of discipline, talking to the other boys and setting a decent example. This is an approach which could be extended very greatly throughout our schools.

I am bringing forward these points in this order, not because I believe that education is the only aspect but because it is the first in point of time. In many of the cases that I have had to deal with, most of those who have been sent to borstal and to approved schools have told me that they began crime at the age of 12 to 14 years. Therefore, we have to consider this problem first of all in connection with boys of 11 to 12 years of age. I should like the Home Office to gain a little more power over the Ministry of Education. I know that they are liaising closely, but the more influence the Home Office can have on the educative process at an early age to ensure the eradication of crime from schools at an early age the better.

Because I can advocate very little of a practical nature in connection with parents, I say nothing on the subject. Of course, we all agree that the parents are largely to blame for the whole problem, but I cannot think of any method of dealing with them other than possibly that parents should be made vicariously liable for the damage occasioned by their children. I think that suggestion is worth looking at. It can be done with school books and matters of that sort to a limited extent. When damage is done by school children, the parents ought to be held financially responsible, and I believe there are some schools where this is carried out to a limited extent.

I believe chat we might approach this problem rather more widely, and I invite the Home Secretary to consider whether it is a practical proposition—and I do not assert that it is—by which we might introduce some miscellaneous provision to hold parents vicariously responsible for the damage created by their children. I shall leave the question of the rôle of the police until last. What we want to see is the young person who causes damage repaying the fruits of the crime completely.

I urge that all magistrates should fix the quantum of the damage and impose a fine of that degree, by an indictable charge if necessary. It may be said, "This may amount to £100 or £150." So it may, but there is no harm in making a youngster pay that amount of money over a period of two or three years, especially in these days. I can think of no greater deterrent. I have been told over and over again, "If you hit them in the pocket you hit them harder than if you hit them on the backside." It is being hit in the pocket which really hurts them. Today, they earn anything from £10 to £15 a week. They should be made to repay, say, at the rate of £3 a week until they have paid £75 or £80, whatever the amount of the damage, and this would reduce vandalism in this country by half.

What is the other punishment which should go with it? It must be a deterrent. We need the new remand homes and detention centers—I would rather they were called detention schools—which are to be provided. It is intended that all those under 21 who formerly would have received sentences of imprisonment shall go to these detention schools, as I hope they will be called. I believe there ought to be two classes of detention school. There should be one to which a boy is sent for a short period of very sharp training. In the main, I would have thought that this would be not longer than 16 to 20 weeks. There should also be the alternative kind of detention school which would have only evening classes. I accept what my hon. Friend has said. I think that some of these young vandals who create a certain amount of damage can be kept out of trouble by being made to report to a detention school for evening classes only, for a given period of time.

The purpose that one wants to achieve is to get some proper physical training into these offenders. It is no use the hon. Member for Coventry, North talk- ing about opportunity for recreation. Good gracious me, in my constituency there is every conceivable opportunity for recreation of every kind. It is not a question of opportunity. It is a question of providing hard and severe physical training until the person gets into the world. The most successful way to deal with delinquents that I have ever known is the method that I experienced when I was in the Guards Depot at Caterham. I can think of nothing to beat a good drill sergeant in the Brigade of Guards for rapidly teaching a young man some manners and proper behaviour. I really believe this to be true. Many of these people are retiring and leaving the Army, and there are some whom it would be well worth while getting out of the Army so that they could be put in charge of centres where first-class physical training could be given. To use an old tag— Mens sana in corpore sano"— "A healthy mind in a healthy body". One gets the body healthy first, and then one trains it hard and rigorously. It is not a question of whipping or flagellation. It is a question of teaching these young men some manners and discipline. We do not want to keep them there at public expense for two years, as in borstals. We want to get them into the place for 16 weeks and give them real, hard training. Of course, if we fail, we fail. W cannot succeed in every case, but in many we would. At the same time that they are receiving physical training they should be given training for a job. We should see that we have on the staff at detention centres one good personnel officer responsible for placing the boys into good and interesting jobs when they leave.

Many of these vandals are very good boys. I have met lots of them. There is a great deal of good in them and if one talks to them straight, and says to them, "If you had an interesting job, and knew that you were a good athlete, you would not be up to that trouble, would you?", they will say "No". The fact is that they have no general interest and a lot of exuberance, but no hobby and no real interests. If they became, for instance, good carpenters, and used their hands skilfully, or good rugby players, or cricketers, that would be a great help.

I remember years ago that I used to go to the East End to teach boys how to bowl fast. I know that I was a bad bowler, bowling fast bad long hops, and they bowled them, but at the end of the day we all went away after a very good evening having enjoyed a very good hobby together. These missions, schools and clubs are only good for the boys who are drawn into them if those who are running them know what they are doing. What is the good of going to clubs where the boys only lay about and have a little fun? That is no good.

I would urge that we should look at the detention centre, which provides sharp, rigorous physical and mental training for a short period, and see whether, by the eradication of the bad boys from the schools who are sacked and who are sent on to these special schools where they can be developed, we can deal with the problem. Most of those who commit criminal offences in these schools come from the lower grades in the class. They are the more backward children, and, therefore, these schools would be the answer for them.

I have dealt with training and punishment centres, and I now want to say a few words about the rôle of the police in modern society.

Photo of Mr Maurice Edelman Mr Maurice Edelman , Coventry North

I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman with interest. The only thing that I am not clear about is who is to decide and what right of appeal there would be if a boy is expelled from a school and stigmatised by being sent to a detention centre, which I think the hon. Gentleman put forward rather lightly.

Photo of Mr William Rees-Davies Mr William Rees-Davies , Isle of Thanet

I think that consideration will have to be given to those questions, though I will answer merely with an interrogatory. What right, in fact, has any boy who is sacked from a public school today? The answer is "None." It may well be that it is right, but I would certainly debate that. The details of matters of this kind will obviously require to be carefully worked out. I only want to deal with the general principle.

The police at last are beginning to get ahead. We have not the success in the modern age which we ought to have achieved. We have increased the pay of the police, which is admirable; we have another 10,000 police, which is also admirable, but the force is not modernised. Much is being done by the Home Secretary to catch up leeway, and now with new methods which we have brought in under the new Act regional crime squads are being brought in, and there is a new section dealing with research and pay, which is about time.

There is one aspect, however, in which we are particularly backward. I refer to the scientific aspect. If we want to stop crime, then, of course, we want to detect it. We have been dealing with prevention and are now turning to detection. If we want to secure detection, then scientific means are vital. We are well behind the Americans in this field. How should this be done? The whole question of real science is not easy for an ordinary regular, modern police officer. He has not been trained for it. I make this recommendation most strongly, that the question of scientific research, particularly the question of all matters which normally fall to Scotland Yard, should go under a university, Cambridge University for preference, because of its approach.

We have recently had set up, through the magnificent gesture of Sir Isaac Woolfson, the Woolfson Foundation, under Professor Radzinowicz, dealing with research. We should have universities with laboratories in which the whole scientific approach to crime detection could be pursued, including the actual exhibits in the criminal cases of today. I believe that in addition to those laboratories there should be two others only, one at Scotland Yard and the other in the north of England. At present, the police have far too many. They are ill-equipped for the purpose, and they have insufficient personnel. It is difficult to get highly qualified scientific personnel.

Once it comes under the universities and they feel that they are working in the professional field I do not think that it will be at all difficult to get the people needed. Meanwhile, if we want to catch the criminal today we must make use not only the scientific officers which they have in Scotland Yard and elsewhere, but we must use professional men from outside. The difficulty is that in almost all crimes much of the success or failure in securing a conviction depends perhaps on one small piece of fibre. Is it a nylon or a wool fibre? If so, what root does it come from? That requires consideration by experts who are highly skilled in every field of science. I urge that we should look very carefully at doing this through the universities and then set up not only that research, but train those who will become the Bernard Spilsburys of tomorrow.

I hope that what I have said will have given some food for thought, even on the Opposition benches. I believe that it will have done and will have been of some assistance to those at the Home Office whose great work, and that of the Home Secretary recently, is now beginning to be seen. But if we are to succeed in the eyes of the public, then my party certainly must do something about it. We must not have the shilly-shallying attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite.

First, we must immediately get rid of our bad children so that they cannot infect the good. Secondly, we must see that those who cause trouble repay the fruits of their crime. Thirdly, we must see that they are trained to be fit, with a healthy mind in a healthy body, so that they can better take their appropriate place in modern society.

5.9 p.m.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

I am sorry that the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) referred to the shilly-shallying attitude of my hon. Friends, because the Labour Party has been struggling with the matter for years. The problem with which we are confronted is the direct result of the age-old attitude of people who support the party opposite.

I am sorry, too, that at the beginning of his speech the hon. Gentleman dished out a nasty sneer at people whom he termed "do-gooders". There are hundreds of thousands of people who do voluntary service in the towns, countryside and great conurbations, who run boys' clubs and who encourage all sorts of social activities. I am very sorry that that sort of sneer should be levelled at them when they are doing such constructive work. This idea about "do-gooders" is, of course, the sort of remark that one finds in the popular Press, which always bolsters up even the problem which we are discussing today, in order to create news.

Certainly, in the first two speeches this afternoon there was, I thought, a significant under-emphasis on parental responsibility, although the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet did refer to it. I am fully in favour of the penalty being laid on the shoulders of the parents. I think that if the head of the family had to take financial responsibility for misdemeanours, not only for juveniles but also for adolescents, it would have a good effect.

But in none of the speeches made so far has this significant point been made. Why is it assumed that the problem is peculiar to this country? It is not. I do not know how many hon. Members saw, about 2½ years ago, a televised film about adolescents in Sweden, in which the Swedish actress Mai Zetterling took part. In that remarkable film, Miss Zetterling made clear exactly the social attitudes and behaviour of Swedish youth today. If the evidence produced in the film was accurate, and I have no reason to suppose that it was not, British youth has nothing on Swedish youth. Moreover, the problem is to be found in other countries, too. I believe that it is serious in Japan, and I have read that it exists in Russia as well.

It might be useful to find out whether this is a global problem. Reference was made to it in that sense in the White Paper referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman). What is the global problem, and what is its origin? One can pick out one or two possible reasons. I do not myself underestimate the bad effect of certain forms of literature which have been coming to this country from the United States ever since the end of the war. I do not underestimate the influence of certain American films.

However, these twin products of American life are not, in my view, typical of America at all. They are possibly typical of a demand which has been fed by private enterprise in the United States, catering for perverted tastes and largely coming from urban life in that great country, but they do not at all represent the moral and law-abiding people of the—speaking geographically—great areas of America. There is no doubt that certain forms of literature coming to us has a bad effect. I am referring not particularly to pornography, but to literature which describes what my hon. Friend spoke of as the acquisitive form of attitude to life. Admittedly, this has been an example of a very bad influence in our lives.

There may well be other reasons. As a result of the general increase in world wealth, certainly in Western countries and, probably, I think, in Russia, too, there is a tendency towards overcrowding and a tendency, certainly in this country, for vast new estates to be developed without the necessary amenities to provide a full social life. Time is left on the hands of children and adolescents, and there are not enough co-ordinating influences to prevent people from getting into mischief.

However, looking at the matter as a whole, I have no doubt that it is parental influence which matters. If parental influence is bad, it produces this problem. If it is good, it can prevent the sort of moral danger into which we appear to be running.

In the delicate way which we expect from him, my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Sir G. Benson) made a significant remark. He referred to the particular age group within which juvenile crime seems to be highlighted. In blunter words, of course, this is a reference to the physiological situation with which young people in the early stages of their lives are confronted. It is at this point, of course, that the majority of children are leaving, or are about to leave, school. This is the danger moment.

When the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet said that in his constituency there were immense possibilities for recreation and letting off steam, I interjected to say that that situation was not typical. I do not think that it is typical. In the areas of great urban sprawl, to say nothing of our densely populated towns, there are hopelessly inadequate facilities for recreation and letting off steam, and so we get the little gangs at the corners and mischief being made because there are not the sort of facilities which the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet and I—there is no need to be mealy-mouthed about it—enjoyed when we were schoolboys.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) will forgive me if I say that I am sorry that she brought in the public school issue.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

It was an hon. Member opposite who did it.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

Yes, but my hon. Friend questioned with hon. Members opposite the position of public schools. In my view, most public schools give academically a very good example.

Where I disagree with hon. Members opposite is in their theory that less crime originates from public schools than from other forms of school. I do not believe this to be true. The trouble is that crime originating from the public schools tends to be covered up. A few minutes ago the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, in response to an intervention from my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North, asked rhetorically what protection there was for a boy sent down from a public school. Ultimately, of course, by and large, the protection is that the parents of boys or girls at public schools are richer and, therefore, can help their children when they go wrong. This, surely, is obvious.

One hon. Member opposite referred to the curious fact that the incidence of crime and delinquency among females was rather mild. If one reads the reports about the disorders and rows which go on, one sees one theme occurring throughout almost all of them, that the girls egg the boys on. This is a process of nature. It is nothing to be surprised at. Of course they egg them on. This is something we must accept as a fact and as part of the problem, and not let statistics lie more than usual. In fact, the problem is just as serious among girls as it is among boys.

I hope that the House will pay a good deal more attention to the position of parents. More often than not, it is trouble in the home or inadequate supervision or an inadequate lead by parents which results in trouble among adolescents.

5.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

I hope that the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) will forgive me if I do not follow him in all his interesting argument, though there is one matter which I wish to take up with him. When one or two of my hon. Friends referred to the public schools, I thought that they were referring to all independent schools of one kind and another. I am certain that, if one took in religious schools under the same heading, one would find a considerable distinction between religious schools and non-religious schools. It might be very interesting to have the figures, if such exist, of delinquency in religious schools as opposed to others.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Member might have a shock.

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

I hope that I would not, and I do not believe that I would.

There have been references already to the question of the origins of juvenile delinquency. In my view, the origins come from all sorts of things in our modern age, from our modern hopelessness in some ways, from our lack of control as a result of disintegrating faiths, but they come also, I am sure, from the fact that no child of under 26 has lived under anything but a sort of sword of Damocles. No child of under 26 has lived a life in which he or she has not known, either consciously or unconsciously, that the whole world could be extinguished tomorrow by nuclear bombs.

I believe that this fact, taken in conjunction with the growing godlessness of the world and the growth of individual freedom in every context, makes the problem of the control and upbringing of youngsters extremely complex. What have they to lose in enjoying themselves while they still have time to live?

One of the greatest problems with which the world is faced is the lack of respect for law and order, which is spreading throughout the world. I have spoken many times on this matter in the House. This is aggravated by the fear of early extinction, latent or present, on the part of many millions of people. If these people have no religious faith to hang on to, what is left for them? One can hardly be surprised that people who have no faith, little property and little upbringing are inclined to have a lack of respect for man-made law and order.

The picture gets worse as one looks at it more deeply. We live in a world in which great people set the worst conceivable example. I shall always be proud to have been a member of this great and distinguished House of Commons. But even this House, the greatest Parliamentary institution in the world, has not set—I do not want to exaggerate this—in every respect the sort of example to the people of Britain which might have been set over recent years.

This goes for both sides of the House. I do not suppose that there is a single hon. Member who can stand up and say, "I have set the sort of example that I should have set on every count". If asked, I doubt whether I could say that I set a good example when I called a former Prime Minister a national disaster. I have no doubt that I should have moderated my language.

The example set to large numbers of young people by certain very distinguished men in religious and other callings, in inciting them to break the law, has been appalling. Lest any of us should get sententious about this, I am sure that we should all examine our consciences about it. But I do not recall the occasions on which Bertrand Russell and Norman Collins, to take just two instances—[HON. MEMBERS: "Norman Collins?"] Not Norman Collins—Canon Collins. [Laughter.] I should not for a moment laugh at Norman Collins.

When they were leading young people on various marches, I do not recall them making it perfectly clear that they would leave the movement at once if any of the youngsters broke the law. They knew perfectly well what they were leading thousands of young people to do. They knew that they were leading and inciting them to break the law. However good the purpose in their minds may have been, it was wrong, and could not have been more wrong, than to lead, at this time of uncertainty in people's minds, thousands of young people to have an even greater contempt of the law than many of them already had.

It is a shocking thing that many leaders of opinion, people in high places, have given so bad an example to the young people and have then wondered why juvenile delinquency had reached the heights that it had. I have a vested interest in hoping that the Home Office, with the encouragement of the suggestions made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), will be able to deal with this, because in Great Yarmouth, in my constituency, we have a town which, I hope, will never suffer the ravages which Clacton suffered. I hope that people in leading positions will take this matter seriously, for we owe to the youngsters nothing if we do not owe them a good example.

5.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

This debate has been characterised by deep sincerity on both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) always impresses me by his sincerity and by the courage with which he proclaims his views. I pay him that tribute, because I propose to go on to disagree profoundly with some of his observations.

I believe that no one in the House or in the country can put his finger on the cause of juvenile delinquency. The person who could tell this House the basic cause for so many young people spoiling their lives early on would be a modern Solomon. I want to pay my tribute, as a schoolmaster, to British youth today. More than matching our juvenile delinquents are the Duke of Edinburgh award winners and the young people in youth clubs who give voluntary service and their time to care for old folk and find that their character is strengthened in the process.

I believe that we have never had a better generation of young people than we have now. Unfortunately, the bad are following excesses which are bound to command the attention of the Press and organs of publicity and which are bound to disturb us all. I have paid my tribute to the quality of young people today, but I do not want to underestimate the grievous social problem which delinquency presents. A strange feature of it is that it presents itself in village communities as well as in our large cities. It has spread to the most remote corners of our land; and obviously there must be a cause.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden), who introduced the Motion—and I join those who have thanked him for so doing—spent a lot of time in dealing with the responsibility of the teacher and with the part that the schools can play in combating delinquency in modern society. I do not believe that the schools can do more than they are doing. The quality of young people entering teacher training colleges today is as good as ever it was. Only idealists will join the teaching profession in a generation which is as money-minded as this one.

If the schools cannot do more than they are doing, and if we cannot get inside the homes to ensure that parents are good parents, what can we do? The hon. Member for Selly Oak wanted parents to be trained. That was a tall one. Who is to train them and where are they to be taught? The hon. Member seemed to believe that those with larger families were better able to look after their youngsters than those with small families, working on the principle that if they did not have any family at all, they could not do anything for young people. We need to remind ourselves that the atmosphere of our times plays upon the weaknesses of adolescents and that only those who are in good homes—and the great majority of our young people are—have the right values taught them at home.

My natural inclination is to agree with the hon. Member for Yarmouth that if we had more religious instruction, somehow it would protect our young people. I believe that the Christian religion—which stands for more than high standards of morality—is a tremendous help in the life of individuals. Unfortunately, however, religious instruction alone is no guarantee of good morality.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said on an earlier occasion, although not here in public, this is the first generation when we have had compulsory religious instruction in our schools. The figures from church schools are, I know, no better than those from the other schools, unless there has been a change in the last fortnight, which I doubt. The hon. Member for Yarmouth must not press me, because I know this. We had better leave that alone.

Let us look at the sort of society that we are creating. The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), with his great knowledge of the law, spent a lot of time dealing with punishment fitting the crime and also helping to recreate the individual. I listened to him with great interest. I believe, however, that we in this House must accept a great deal of responsibility for the climate of our times.

It was in this Parliament that, under the leadership of the Government Front Bench, we opened the door to the greatest gambling craze in modern history. There is no one in the House who is not aware that young people are being undermined by the gambling craze in Britain. It was the present Foreign Secretary who, when Home Secretary, told the House that he trusted the British public, that we were a mature people and that I was wrong in opposing the freedom to gamble. I believe that the Betting and Gaming Act and the greater opportunities for drinking afforded by the Licensing Act have been factors in undermining the weakest of our youth—obviously, I do not say all of them; the figures would be against me. Those who are weak, however, have had opportunities for their weakness to be exploited.

Therefore, the Government, who took the lead—supported, I know, by many hon. Members on this side of the House—in both those Measures cannot get away from responsibility for having created the climate of "Look after yourself and let the Devil take the hindmost" and "I am all right, Jack. Pull up the ladder."

My hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) said that this was a world problem. It is hard to deny what he said, but the problem takes a different form in different countries. If delinquency reveals itself in excesses all over the world, we must ask ourselves what there is in common to disturb the youth of the world.

The hon. Member for Yarmouth put his finger on it. There is insecurity among the weaker youth in all lands. They are being taught that might is right, and then we expect them not to follow it in their private lives. When they are taught by people who should know better that to be strong enough to insist upon having their own way counts in governmental circles, we should not be surprised that young people who do not have much of a background at home accept that philosophy for themselves. One of the tragedies of the nuclear world in which we live is that it has undermined youngsters who do not have the love and protection of a good home to balance fears which otherwise have been created.

I do not know what the Home Secretary will tell us when he replies, but I hope that he will accept the idea that far more research into the causes of juvenile delinquency is needed. I believe that we are better advised to put our emphasis on finding out the causes of delinquency than on questions of punishment. Punishment there must be. Let me not excuse the young thug who should be made to feel hurt; that is as far as I go. I know that when a young thug spoils the life of a young girl or ill-treats an old person who is quite incapable of defending himself, society has a right to be protected from these young people.

I believe, however, that this House has a responsibility, first, to find out why we are creating that sort of young people in our midst. Then we shall be better able to deal with the problem.

5.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tom Iremonger Mr Tom Iremonger , Ilford North

During the course of my one or two observations, I shall refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) and also to the interesting and thoughtful speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow). This is a debate in which we are all extremely prone to indulge in generalisations and abstractions which are a peculiarly unattractive indulgence, but I should like first to make two particularisations. The first is to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) for raising the subject at this time and for having done so in such a thoughtful and sincere way. The second is to thank my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for being present.

The House should give my right hon. Friend a little praise and encouragement. He is, at the moment, the whipping boy of the intellectual Left. His back is broad enough to bear all this, but it would not be a bad thing if occasionally tribute were paid to his humanity and to the insight which he brings to bear upon the peculiar, painful human problems which are always brought to his Department and, in particular, to the thought which he has so manifestly given always to these penal problems, in which I happen to be particularly interested.

We are discussing this matter in the context of events which took place not long ago at Clacton, when these young people made an abominable nuisance of themselves and everybody rightly took grave exception. We should, therefore, ask, first, what we will do about those who are now at risk of being delinquent round about that age. All that we can do about them is negative and defensive. I do not think that it should not be done for that reason, but I do not think it is really with them that we can hope to have our greatest success. I think we have to have regard, as far as they are concerned, to the operation of the present penal system and the deterrents and the encouragement to improve their lives which that offers.

If I may say so with great respect to my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), who, I thought, made a most interesting and constructive speech, I could not help thinking as I listened to him that my right hon. Friend may well be reflecting, if we examine what my hon. Friend was saying in the light of the actual structure of the penal system and children's service at the moment, that there is very little of what my hon. Friend was saying which does not have its place in the present organisation and administration.

Photo of Mr Tom Iremonger Mr Tom Iremonger , Ilford North

And the whole basic conception of the penal system.

But apart from the penal system, I think that when we look at those juveniles who are at risk the great solvent and cure is time, because the maximum incidence of juvenile delinquency comes round about these years and these young people are soon going to be subject to the greatest possible cure for irresponsible behaviour, which is marriage. The women will soon put them right.—[Interruption.] I do not agree with my hon. Friend who, I think it is, says they will egg them on.

These people will soon be married, for the age of marriage, fortunately, is becoming younger and younger, and I think that marriage and the responsibility of marriage will steady a great many of them up. I shall make an observation later on the relevance of this in connection with delinquency. It has already been observed that women are very much less delinquent than men. I do not think that they need take particular credit for that. I think it is part of their whole social situation.

Secondly, those who are at present at risk will be sobered up by responsibility and by achievement, and to the extent that they are less responsible and have less achievement in society they will become increasingly chronic delinquents—of whom, in fact, there are very few, but of whom there will always be some.

The hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth referred to the major fact which I think we ought to have in mind when considering this whole problem in this country, which is that the enormous volume of juvenile delinquency in this country is not a phenomenon unique to us. It is something which extends to many other parts of the world, and it is worth asking where in particular it is to be found.

I think—and this is subject to confirmation—that it is found in the rich and expanding industrial countries, mainly of the Western world. It makes one wonder whether perhaps this phenomenon of delinquency in this particular kind of society does not give us a clue to the reason for it. May it be that it is, perhaps, something universal in a particular kind of society, in a society which has a high level of new prosperity and in a society which is peculiarly subject to the stress of change? That is what it seems to me to be.

I believe that if one follows through the common factors and then sees what conclusions we can draw, it comes to this, that those who are delinquent are those who are most likely to break down under stress, and that the stress is a stress which comes whenever we impose upon people a new and alien culture. In the change of an expanding society with a new and unaccustomed prosperity, we are putting on people a kind of stress which we put on them when we impose on them an entirely alien kind of culture. Then they lack the great governor and stabiliser in life, and that is a sense of purpose, a sense of familiarity, a sense of belonging, a sense of identification with the rhythm and tenor of the life which goes on around us.

I am fortified in this thought by the fact that if we look at those countries which are most different from the rich, new, expanding industrial nations of the world, they are the poorer rural, agricultural societies in which there is a strong, ancient, traditional culture and way of life, very often fortified by religion which commands the adherence and allegiance of the people—rural Italy, rural Spain, for example.

I lived for years among people who were the most desperately poor, in material resources, we could possibly have in the world, people whose life, if one condemned to it the delinquent youths who sacked Clacton, would be a life of intolerable exile and deprivation, and yet it was a society in which the values and rhythms of life were accepted and understood, and in which delinquency was something which was simply not there at all. The only crime, which was made a crime by the British administration, was adultery—and the prisons were, I admit, full; but adultery was not a crime in the concept of the native society as it was of this society from which the administrators came.

It may be a crime, but that is another question. This was a society which was confident and happy in itself, which knew what it was doing and what the purpose of life was, which was, very largely, to keep body and soul together by ancient and difficult and highly skilled crafts, of living and of getting sustenance from the sea, and maintaining their rather flimsy fabric from destruction by the elements. That is what is lacking in the kind of society we have, where criminal youth is most in evidence today. The Dutch have a saying that there is no such thing as a happy criminal, and I think that that is a very profound and wise observation, if one believes that happiness consists in a sense of purpose, of endeavour, of belonging and of being of importance to others.

Various observations have been made about the rôle of the home and education. I think that the rôle of parents of delinquent children, if one may make such a hideous generalisation, is particularly difficult because they are handicapped, so often, in this way; these are parents who were brought up themselves by parents who were richer than they were, who were stronger than they were, and who were able to exert discipline and maintain their superiority in the ordinary business of life, whereas the young delinquents giving trouble today are living in homes in which their parents are often—in the sense of having a spending, disposable income—poorer than they are. These are the standards, no matter whose fault it may be, of an acquisitive society, and the parents, quite often, and the teachers, are poorer than the child or the pupil is, and they are put into a difficult psychological situation in their trying to maintain standards of conduct.

This is something which this House cannot do anything about, but if one comes to the schools I think that it is of value to the House to recognise that the education of young people, particularly those at the end of their school careers, is absolutely vital. Because, am I right in thinking—the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chesterfield (Sir G. Benson) is undoubtedly able to confirm this, because he is the statistical expert in this House on these things—that the age of maximum risk of delinquency is the last year at school and the year after leaving school? Does that not perhaps tie up with my proposition that the great difficulty comes when the human personality has to adjust to society and is put under maximum strain?

The young person has to ask himself, "Where do I fit in? What is my purpose? How can I be important and how can I help?" I am sure that in most cases they do not ask what people can do for them but what they can do for people. That is what makes it so terribly difficult for children leaving secondary schools and going out to work in jobs which they often feel are without purpose. They may find big wages at the end of the week, but nevertheless they are left idle and purposeless. It does not let them have a feeling of being purposeful.

I wonder whether the challenge which comes in the last year at school and in the first year after it does not lie in trying to bridge the crossing from childhood into the adult world, and whether there is not something which could be done by the Home Secretary or the Secretary of State for Education and Science in this respect. Lord Eccles is owed a great debt by this House and an even greater debt by the teaching profession—greater perhaps than the profession will admit. He set up the Newsom Committee, whose Report went to the heart of delinquency and the maladjustment of the young in our society.

This debate has shown one point of common agreement—that it is somewhere in the schools that we have to put responsibility. I am not criticising the schools. The very moving passages in the Newsom Report on the rôle of schools in moral, religious and social training are a well-deserved tribute to the work done in them. But that is where the root of the problem lies. It is not a matter of blame but of opportunity. It is there that we should train the spotlight today.

A Royal Commission has been set up to consider the whole subject of penal policy. I hope that it will approach its task with humility and in the frame of mind to recognise that, in considering the problems of society, we are working in the kind of ignorance that doctors were working in before Harvey discovered the circulation of the blood. It would not be a good thing for the Royal Commission to compartmentalise the life of society and its problems into delinquency, into schools, into homes, into mental health and other individual aspects. It is the whole fabric into which we are all woven that it must consider. I hope that, when it comes to crime and punishment and the penal system, it will take the view that the whole of life is woven together and that, when studying delinquency, one has to study the schools in which children are brought up, the homes in which they are bred, the jobs in which they work and ask how they can all be knitted together. The object must be to achieve for the country the kind of unity of society which will enable people who have the will to accept it and who welcome the opportunity for duty, the path of service and sacrifice in the community from the beginning right through their lives therein finding the kind of fulfilment and happiness in the sense of the Dutch saying I quoted, which is the only true cure for delinquency and hooliganism.

5.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr Cyril Bence Mr Cyril Bence , Dunbartonshire East

The problems raised by the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) are in the minds of every hon. Member. He made an excellent speech. He made one or two points which I intended to make, but in slightly different terms. Most of us spent our childhood in good homes, went to good schools, attended to our church duties regularly and looked upon our lives as being a unity and cohesion of education, religious training, background and discipline and parental discipline. This was the sort of trinity which formed the basis of almost all our lives.

In the last 50 years, another very important factor has arisen—the factory. Fifty or sixty years ago young men leaving school went into industries or businesses which were very often run by the people who owned them. Industry was a series of personal units and not of impersonal institutions. It may sound peculiar now, but in 1918 I attended daily prayers in a factory in Newport, Monmouthshire, before we started work. The gentleman who owned the factory, Mr. W. A. Baker, had prayers said for every one of his workmen before they started work each day.

There are no factories like that today. They are all in big units. The boy leaving his home, school and church enters a commercial world which is grossly materialistic and with which the values and ideals of home, school and church seem to be in conflict.

The hon. Member for Ilford, North is right in saying that it is the first year after school, when the child emerges into a world in which the values taught to him by parents, teachers and church, are completely distorted from his point of view, that is the most difficult age of adjustment. When I was an apprentice I was a member of the Y.M.C.A. Instead of going into lodgings I stayed there for 9d. a night, bed and breakfast. I spent my formative years at the Y.M.C.A. When I was transferred by my company to Birmingham I spent 1s. 2d. a night on bed and breakfast at the Y.M.C.A. there. Wherever I was sent by my employer I always stayed at the Y.M.C.A.

Our adolescents are suddenly flung free from the habits and practices of good homes and find themselves, with high wages and the disciplines of home and church and school, cast off, in an impersonal institution in which no one cares. In these big plants no one is concerned about moral welfare. That is one of the great problems.

This, of course, links up with the position the hon. Member described when talking of conditions in poorer countries, where they do not get the problem of delinquency which we encounter. But we must be very careful here because, in the rural areas of some countries, young people between 11 and 15 commit all sorts of offences against one another and steal and pilfer. They get away with all sorts of things in a rural environment which they could not do in urban conurbations without more attention being paid to them. In our great conurbations the slightest delinquency is something for the juvenile courts, so we build up long records of delinquency.

I do not believe that the boys and girls in these backward or poor, pastoral countries in this difficult age are any better than our boys and girls. Our boys and girls generally behave themselves very well. They just cannot help it in an urban conurbation. They have to conform to the general pattern of commercial and industrial society. If they do not, they are quickly in trouble.

Hon. Members meet many young people. Looking back over the years, I think that we are now blessed with a tremendous number of the brightest, healthiest and most virile young people we have ever had in any generation. We have more good young people than ever before. When I was one of a group taking a party of Scottish young people to Spain and Portugal, I found that they were admired on every hand for their stature, physique and quality of outlook. It may be that the price of a liberal outlook and a liberal culture and having some of the finest youth in Europe—and I am convinced of that—is that we have to have a very small minority—and it is very small—expressing this great vitality in excesses which take an anti-social direction.

We are producing fewer mediocrities and a tremendous number of very able, competent and fine young people who are socially inclined and who have the right values and who behave as well as the best of any past generation, and it may be that the price we have to pay is an increase in the small number of young people using the same vitality in an anti-social direction.

It has been said that the first year in the factory, the bank, the insurance office, or any other huge institution is the most difficult. Anyone who has worked in industry knows that a boy coming into a factory from school at the age of 15 or 16 is often a bit difficult. We have discussed the responsibilities of the teachers, church and parents. It is time that a fourth factor was brought in—the responsibility of the professional managers who run industry.

I have worked in modern factories where there have been first-class personnel managers and welfare officers. The chairman of our company was as fine a chairman as one could wish. If he found what he considered to be a breach of the right moral standards, he took the appropriate action. Factory managers and executives cannot be let off their responsibilities in this connection. They have a far greater responsibility than the school teacher, for they have to deal with a more mature person and the school teacher is burdened with too many children in the class and overburdened with tremendous responsibility for training young people to think, to understand and to appreciate all sorts of ideals. In the factory, however, from the chargehand and foreman to the departmental manager, there is an opportunity for a study of young people.

Modern industrial executives should exercise some responsibility for the wellbeing and the general pattern and behaviour of the people they organise. That is well within their capacity. Perhaps more training should be given to managers and it may be that we could learn some lessons from the Americans. British industry today is run not by the owners, but by the managers—that applies tight across the board. These are the people who accept the boys and girls of 15 and 16 and it has to be brought home to them that they have a responsibility matching that of the parents, the teachers, the Church and the State for making a contribution to the general well-being of our young people.

6.5 p.m.

Photo of Mr Richard Thompson Mr Richard Thompson , Croydon South

It would be a bitter paradox if one of the concomitants of better education, better housing, better living standards, higher wages and increased leisure were to be the increase in hooliganism, vandalism and the senseless acts of pointless violence which we have been debating. Many hon. Members have pointed out that only a small minority of our young people is involved, and I absolutely agree that that is so. Nevertheless, we must draw the right conclusions from it.

What we do for our educational services and our living standards, and so on, cannot be wrong. It must be right to go along these lines. Any Government of any party would dedicate themselves to such things. Nevertheless, if this kind of cynical indiscipline, this pointless destructiveness, is not checked, we face an alarming situation already causing more and more concern to people everywhere.

At one time, it evoked a good deal more indignation than it does now. We have become rather case hardened to the reports we hear and too many of us, especially those of us in positions of influence and authority, tend to dismiss them with a shrug. If we lose the will to condemn these things and to try to act to put them right, we shall soon lose the power, let alone the right, to prevent them.

Much discussion ranges around the subject without identifying the root cause. For instance, it is sometimes asked whether the penalties for this kind of thing are stiff enough. I think that they are, if applied. A day or two ago my right hon. Friend was answering Questions on the subject and he pointed out that the remedies were available to the courts to deal with these crimes severely if the courts so chose.

Photo of Sir George Benson Sir George Benson , Chesterfield

Light penalties appear to be as effective as heavy penalties for the individual. I will not speak of the effect on the general public, but there is effective statistical evidence to show that light penalties are just as effective.

Photo of Mr Richard Thompson Mr Richard Thompson , Croydon South

I would not take the view that penalties were not sufficiently severe, but I sometimes wonder whether we act sternly enough with first offences. I know that it is often felt that a first offender should be given a warning and allowed to go, but I wonder whether this kind of crime or misdemeanour ought not to be treated more sternly when it is a first offence.

I believe that the root trouble is boredom. A number of recent hooligan activities in my constituency of Croydon have not had robbery as their main motive. The motive appears to have been just an orgy of pointless destruction—equipment in offices destroyed, liquid thrown over the walls, typewriters hacked to pieces with axes, and so on. I believe that the root trouble is boredom and that the new generation, for whom much is rightly provided and from whom not enough is demanded, is bored and sick and fed up with not being drawn sufficiently into our affairs. We cannot shrug it off and what we have to do is to find some cause, some ideal, to inspire these young people.

I agree with the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow), who laid a great deal of this trouble at the door of parents. I do not think that there is any means of compelling parents to carry out their responsibilities properly, but I believe that a great deal of the trouble starts there. I am not talking about the broken home which is said to be the cause of so much of the trouble. I am talking more about neglectful parents, those who are always out at the bingo halls and bowling alleys, and are never at home when the children come back and want a little help and advice. Those are the people who, in a passive way, do a great deal to contribute to this problem.

What are we to do about it? It is not possible to legislate people into behaving properly. It seems to me that in the home, and then in the schools, we can do more than we do now to try to put a little moral stuffing, a little more sense of right and wrong, and a little more sense of social obligation into the children. Some of us are a little too afraid of being thought old-fashioned and square to stress this enough. Unless we start teaching the child these things—and we cannot only leave it to the teachers in the schools to do it—we shall never get the responsible kind of society that we all desire.

I believe that youth today is better educated and healthier than it has ever been. It has a better future, but we must harness all this energy and enthusiasm by setting it to work in worth while tasks, otherwise we shall fritter it away in petty crime, violence, and hooliganism. We do not ask enough of our young people. We think it sufficient only to give and to make things easy, but they rightly despise us for what is achieved without fighting for it and without effort.

The answer lies, first, with the parents. They must remember their duties. It lies, secondly, with the schools. They must aim, first, at turning out decent citizens, and not simply cramming the youngsters for examinations. Finally, it lies with us all who are older and in positions of authority to use all our personal influence not to disengage ourselves from these problems, but to do everything that we can to support and sustain the many public-spirited people and bodies who are giving their efforts and their energies to this great cause.

I commend the Motion to the House.

6.13 p.m.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

We are all indebted to the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) for giving us the opportunity to debate a subject which is causing great concern to everybody. However, I cannot help thinking that perhaps we are debating the wrong Motion, because this Motion puts the juvenile in the dock. I think that today we ought to have been debating not only juvenile delinquency and crime, but adult crime as well, because it is not only among young people that one finds hooliganism. I wonder how old the people were who were responsible for hooliganism on the football trains? I have a feeling that many of them were well over 21, that is, much older than the people whom we are discussing today. Juvenile delinquency and hooliganism reflect the pattern among adults, and the pattern in society generally.

We have had a good debate today. The only part of it that I regretted was when two hon. Gentlemen opposite sought to say that there was less juvenile delinquency in the public schools than there was in the State schools. As I tried to point out when I intervened, the only figures that we have are those in respect of the young people who come before the juvenile courts, and the chances of a boy who is at a public school coming before a juvenile court are almost negligible.

Photo of Mr Harold Gurden Mr Harold Gurden , Birmingham, Selly Oak

In that context perhaps the hon. Lady will consider the colleges run by the Royal Navy, the Army, and the Air Force. They obtain wonderful results with the young boys there.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

That is a different subject. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) pointed out, this is a very difficult subject, and nobody can be dogmatic either about the causes of it, or about a cure for it.

We know that outbreaks of juvenile delinquency have hit the headlines, but we must remember that for every case that hits the headlines there are 100 law-abiding youngsters who are a credit to this country. Juvenile delinquency and hooliganism are not peculiar to this country. One of the first things that President Kennedy did was to appoint a committee on delinquency, following which an Act was passed providing grants for research and training in personnel management.

Only last weekend we read of a senseless act of destruction—the mutilation of a famous and beautiful statue. That was not in London; it was in Copenhagen, and Russia, too, has a similar problem with what they call their "stilyasi".

I thought that the interviews on television following the Clacton incident were a great mistake. They showed the low mentality of some of those concerned. But not all hooliganism is committed by young people of that kind Our university population should be the most intelligent in the country. Universities are the last place at which young people ought to be bored, yet rag weeks are an excuse for hooliganism of the worst kind.

Photo of Mr Tom Iremonger Mr Tom Iremonger , Ilford North

I am sure that the hon. Lady would not want to be unfair. Would not it be fairer to say that the undergraduates are organised by a responsible student union to raise funds for charitable purposes? The trouble is caused by those who take advantage of that to indulge in acts of hooliganism. I think that one ought to blame the right people.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

I am sure that what is true of universities is true of young people outside them. It is the one per cent. who cause the trouble. The point is that we have that 1 per cent. in universities, too. They are to be found amongst educated people, just as they are to be found amongst those who say that they are bored. Hooliganism is not confined to one class of people, because from time to time we read about "debs'" parties where high spirits are displayed.

But all this is not to lessen in any way the gravity of this behaviour. We have to ask ourselves why this is happening, whether it can be prevented, and what treatment we can give to those young people who are persistent offenders. This is not a simple problem, and there is no simple solution to it. There is no one cause, and there is no one remedy.

I think that we have been confusing two distinct problems. The Motion refers to hooliganism and juvenile delinquency. I think that we must distinguish between the juvenile delinquent who is probably unloved and unhappy and who takes to stealing and truancy, and gang hooliganism, when young people shout and break things up for a lark. The latter are not neglected children, or deprived or unhappy young people. If anything, they have too much money. Their parents are not guilty of child neglect in the ordinary sense of the term. They are guilty of what I would call child indulgence, but they are just as blameworthy as if they were neglecting their children in the old familiar way.

As I said, there is not one cause, there are many. The home has been mentioned, but I believe that to be the most important cause. I believe that it springs from our education system—I do not mean just the teaching—from the times in which we live, from the kind of society in which we live, from the mass advertising directed at young people, and from some television programmes.

I want to say a word, first, about homes, because I believe that it is within the family that everything in connection with this subject is so important. Over the last 20 or 30 years we have seen great changes in family life, and today there appears to be a great gap between parents and their children. In some homes family outings have become a thing of the past and all members of the family have interests and pursuits away from the family circle. I do not want young people to be tied to their mothers' apron strings, but I believe that young people are left to their own pursuits at too early an age and that parents should know where their children are and what their children are doing.

I turn now to the education system. I do not think that everything can be done in the schools, but I am not talking about the schools and the work done in them as such, but about the education system as a whole. I hope that everybody who has spoken today has read the Report of the Newsom Committee, "Half our Future", because I think that a good deal of the cause lies in what is shown in the Report. Our education system designates three-quarters of our children as failures at the age of 11. I do not think that we should minimise what that does to those in the 11–15 age group.

Mention has been made of the last year at school. The official figures show that more indictable offences are committed by those in their last year at school than by any other age group. The extraordinary thing is that, when the school-leaving age rose by a year, this went up a year as well, although I stress that these are indictable offences and that we have not got, because of the way in which the figures are given, the comparable figure for non-indictable offences.

Young people today are growing up quicker and have boundless energy, which in some young people is misdirected. We should look very closely, as one of the causes of juvenile delinquency in the after school period, at that sudden break from school to work about which my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) spoke. The times in which we live today are much more complicated. In olden days a boy would steal an apple—perhaps there was very little else to do in his village—and he would get a cuff on the ear from a policeman. Today, there are complicated gambling machines, motor-cycles and scooters, and a barrage of advertising directed at the young.

I believe that, on the whole, television has been an influence for good. The school programmes are excellent. The travels and features are excellent. However, there are exceptions. Some of the programmes on television have far too much violence and are written in such a way that the viewers' sympathy is with the criminal. I watched a programme on Saturday, 28th March, in a series called "G.S.5"—"Pay up or Else"—on the A.T.V. network.

This was simply a series of cold-blooded shootings and knifings and protection racket gangs. There were close-ups of dead people, and people went into houses just sweeping everything off the mantelshelf and breaking up everything they could see. There was absolutely no point whatsoever in the programme. Yet so many of the programmes that we watch are of this type. The ordinary, average child from a good home looking at such a television programme would suffer no ill effects, but many people would be adversely affected by such programmes.

What can we do? There is no one magic remedy for this. We must try a variety. To say merely "Beat 'em" is easy and evokes applause, but there is no evidence whatsoever to show that judicial corporal punishment has any deterrent effect. We must enlist the parents and the schools, though, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West said—I know that he is right in this—the schools are doing a good deal, the social agencies and the police. Above all, we cannot separate children's problems from those of the family.

It is not only a children's service which is needed. It is a family service which is needed. Parents must take greater responsibility for their children, but sometimes the problem becomes too much even for the parents who want to do everything they can. I believe that a family service, with family centres where parents could get help, could do a great deal to combat juvenile delinquency.

With regard to what can be done in the education field, I have said that the last year at school seems to be a danger point. In the past we have concentrated on clubs, youth clubs and social activities for those who leave school. I believe that we ought to do far more for those who are in their last years at school and who have a great deal of time after school in the evenings, at weekends and on holidays, because these 13 and 14 years olds seem to have a great deal of time on their hands and need an outlet for their energy in the evenings, at weekends and on holidays.

I believe, too, that it would be a good thing if every big school had on its staff a social worker to help the child and the parents. I believe, too, that we could do a great deal with positive instruction in schools. There are experiments at present whereby police go into schools and talk to the children about breaking the law. In Leeds, at present, we have an experiment as between the police and the teachers where the police are to put into operation in certain selected schools a syllabus drawn up by the police and by the teachers.

We have just heard about the break between school life and working life. It is now 20 years since the Education Act, 1944. Two of the things for which that Act made provision were the raising of the school-leaving age and county colleges where there would be part-time day education for everybody up to the age of 18. It is now 1964 and there is no sign of this compulsory part-time day education. I believe that, if there was not this very severe transition from school life to working life, we could prevent a good deal of trouble that arises just after leaving school.

There are many Government committees sitting. I do not know whether the Home Secretary will tell us today of any others that are to be appointed. Committees can be very useful. So can Royal Commissions. What we want as well as more committees is more action on those Committees which have already reported. We have not yet had action on the Report of the Albemarle Committee on the Youth Service and the Report of the Wolfenden Committee on Sport and the Community. We were all pleased to hear last week that the Prime Minister has set up a Royal Commission on penal reform. I must say that it has been left rather late in the life of this Government to set up this Committee. I understand that it is to deal with juveniles as well as adults.

Some months ago my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition set up a Commission on the causes of crime and on penal reform. I must say, although I was a member of it myself, that it was a very distinguished Commission. It had some very distinguished people on it—Lord Gardiner, the Earl of Long-ford, and many people who are very distinguished, including the chairman of the London Children's Committee. We have heard evidence from many people over the months and will be ready to report within the next few weeks.

We welcome the Royal Commission which is being set up by the Government, but Royal Commissions usually take a very long time to come to their conclusions. When we become the Government, in the autumn—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—we shall feel ourselves free to go ahead on the basis of the Commission which my right hon. Friend appointed rather than wait several years for the Report of the Royal Commission which is now being appointed.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

I have not much time left.

Photo of Mr Tom Iremonger Mr Tom Iremonger , Ilford North

The hon. Lady started by calling the Commission a Committee and finished by calling her right hon. Friend's Committee a Commission. Will she get clear that a Royal Commission is one thing and a little private committee is quite another?

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

It does not matter what it is called. The results which we produce will be the test of the kind of committee it has been and I can promise that it will be a very good report. I have had a few interrupters, and I promised to sit down in a few minutes.

What do we do with those young offenders who persistently break the law? They must be taught that this kind of behaviour does not pay. We have heard today about increased fines. Under the Criminal Justice Act there were some increases in fines, as the right hon. Gentleman will probably point out. Last week we had from Scotland the Report of the Kilbrandon Committee on juvenile delinquency and juvenile courts. This Committee suggested that in Scotland juvenile courts should be brought to an end. It suggested that panels should be appointed by which, if everyone agreed, and the parents agreed, the necessary treatment would be given. I could point out to the right hon. Gentleman that About a year ago my hon. Friend the member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and I moved an Amendment to the Bill which became the Children and Young Person's Act. The Amendment was almost in those very terms, but the right hon. Gentleman, at that time, thought that it was quite impracticable.

If at all possible, I think that we should keep children out of courts. That does not mean that children who break the law ought not to be dealt with. I think that, so far as is possible, we should keep them out of courts because putting them into courts sometimes gives them the impression that they are "big" rather than anything else. We should try to see that they get the treatment they deserve without going to a juvenile court.

If it is something which is deep-seated emotionally which causes juvenile delinquency the proper treatment should be given. If it is sheer hooliganism time after time, we ought to be able to deprive the offender of something of value. After what happened at Clacton, I could not help thinking that it would have been a good thing to deprive the young people concerned of the use of their motor cycles and scooters for two and three months, but, of course, courts are not allowed to do that. The only people who could do so are their parents.

Mention has been made of various institutions, such as approved schools. I think that it was the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) who talked about attendance in the evenings. Already, we have attendance centres, to which courts may direct young people to attend on Saturday afternoons and where they may use their leisure. I have been very disappointed at the slowness with which attendance centres have been developed. In the last three years the increase has been from something over 40 to something over 50. I believe that attendance centres are an answer to some of this hooliganism and provide somewhere for children to go on Saturday afternoons while their friends go to football matches and other entertainments.

There are no short-cut solutions to the problem. I do not believe that we can wake up one morning and find that it has been solved. We shall need to exercise patience and perseverance. Old restrictions have gone, and somehow we have not found anything to put in their place. We have muddled and mixed-up young people in a muddled and mixed-up world. The example which adults show to young people at the present time is not a particularly good one.

We are considering a Resolution which calls upon this House to do something. But hon. Members of this House have been as blameworthy as many of the people outside. There are things which in the past we could have done and did not do. We could have implemented the provisions of the 1944 Education Act and the recommendations contained in the Reports of the Wolfenden and Albemarle Committees. So we in this House are just as much to blame as some people outside, or the young people about whom we are talking.

I agree with my hon. Friends who said that there seems to be something wrong in the acquisitive society in which we live. As adults, we do not give the right example to our young people. Until we, as adults can show in our behaviour the kind of life we should like our young people to lead, we cannot be very much surprised if sometimes young people take a wrong turning. I think that this has been a very useful debate. There has been a great deal of ground to cover. It is a subject which is the concern of everyone in the country and it is a good thing that this House has had an opportunity to discuss it.

6.36 p.m.

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I have expressed my own views on many aspects of this subject in the foreword which I wrote to the Report on the Work of the Children's Department of the Home Office which was presented to the House, as House of Commons Paper No. 155, a few weeks ago. I hope that this personal contribution is worthy of the generous tribute paid today by my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger) to my deep interest and concern. I will not repeat what I said in that foreword. This is a short debate and I trust that the speech which I am now going to make will be read in conjunction with it and as a kind of supplement to it.

At any rate, from that foreword the House can guess rightly that the Government welcome this Motion and warmly recommend the House to endorse it. We are all grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) for having used an opportunity to bring before the House this intensely important subject. I do not think that he can be criticised for including both hooligans and juvenile delinquents within one Motion, as the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) suggested.

Photo of Miss Alice Bacon Miss Alice Bacon , Leeds South East

I did not criticise the hon. Gentleman.

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

There is an overlap between them, but I appreciate the distinction that she was seeking to make.

My one criticism of the debate as a whole is I think that a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House concentrated in their speeches overmuch either on the social approach or the penal approach. I am quite certain that there is no successful answer to this very serious national problem unless people are willing to combine both those approaches and to think very hard about them both; and not simply repeat, as all of us are tempted to do, words which have been spoken by our predecessors. My greatest plea would be for new thinking about both the social and the penal approach.

Taking the Motion point by point, the House is quite right to note with concern the continuing increase in juvenile crime and outbreaks of hooliganism among young people.… I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak described it as mortal to the soul of the nation. Reference has been made to Clacton. Some of the reports of what happened at Clacton over the Easter weekend were greatly exaggerated. I should like to add that what did happen there was not a bit typical of the way in which young people spent the Easter weekend. I happened to be in Surrey and I saw literally hundreds and hundreds of boys and girls roving and hiking over the Surrey hills, which was as good a thing as any Londoners could have been doing that weekend. They were thoroughly enjoying themselves and getting lots of exercise. But these are not the young people whose doings get reported in the newspapers.

The hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) asked whether there should not be something in this country comparable to Voluntary Service Overseas. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is. An organisation is developing for organising Community Service Volunteers, with which I am in touch, and as a result a number of young people are being very helpful in spheres connected with the Home Office. I hope that it will grow.

I must add that the newspapers could themselves help if they would give more space to the activities of the young people who are doing admirable things—not only to those doing mischievous things. At Clacton more than 1,000 young people came by one means or another, apparently with little money on them, intending to sleep wherever they could find some form of shelter. The weather was bad over the Easter weekend and there was little or nothing for them to do. They became bored, tempers flared and a certain amount of fighting broke out. There was nothing like a riot or gang warfare. Clacton was not sacked.

On the Sunday afternoon a crowd of these youngsters gathered in the centre of the town. The police had everything under control and eventually the crowd dispersed without any serious incidents occurring. There were, however, a number of isolated acts of assault, theft or malicious damage committed by small groups or individuals. It has been estimated that the damage done over the weekend amounted to some hundreds of pounds, probably less than £1,000 altogether, to public or private property.

Those arrested over the four days were almost entirely teen-agers. Seventy-six were charged with offences, ranging from larceny or assault on the police. Twenty-four were under 17; 51 of the other 52 were aged 17 to 21. A dozen or so were sentenced by the courts today. One was sent to prison, one to a detention centre, while others were fined amounts of up to £75.

As hon. Members have stated, the percentage of all our young people who get into trouble with the law is very small, but that small percentage makes an intolerable nuisance of itself. The serious fact is that the proportion of our young people found guilty of indictable offences is rising every year. It is fair to mention that the same is happening in most other industrialised countries, including, if the Opposition will permit me to say so, some Socialist countries, although I agree that there is no reason why we should be complacent about the trend. Between 1938 and 1962 the number of boys aged 14, 15 and 16 found guilty of indictable offences more than doubled—from 11 to 26 per 1,000—and for those aged 17 to 20 the proportion more than trebled—from 7 to 24 per 1,000. When my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak says that girls are better behaved than boys, that may be so for offences against the criminal law, but girls can be as troublesome in other ways. Most of these offences committed by boys and youths were offences against property, and not against the person.

When young people are charged with crimes of violence it is usually violence against one another rather than against older people, but none of this alters the fact that the trouble is continually growing. One point I wish to make clear is that when young people misbehave the forces of law and order must be capable of dealing with them resolutely. It is our duty as hon. Members to see that those forces exist.

The Motion endorses this and urges the Government to ensure that the courts have adequate means to deal effectively with young offenders. It is sometimes said that the courts are liable to be too soft and that they do not have sufficient regard to the importance of deterring from crime and protecting society. It should be made clear that the courts are their own masters within the limits laid down by Parliament. It is for them and for no one else to decide the appropriate punishment.

There should be no misunderstanding anywhere about Section 44 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933. Under that Section the courts are obliged, when dealing with a child or young person, whether as an offender or otherwise, to have regard to the welfare of the boy or girl. This is important, but there is nothing in the wording of the Section to say that regard for the offender's welfare must override all other considerations—that the court can properly forget about all else. That is not so. The Ingleby Committee put this matter well in paragraph 106 of its Report, in which it stated that the court …must try at one and the same time to protect the public, to promote the welfare of a child and to stress the responsibility and respect the legitimate rights of the parents. Finally it must satisfy public opinion that justice is being done". That Section of the 1933 Act to which I referred deals only with people under 17, but the same sort of considerations apply in deciding the appropriate punishment for offenders of 17 and over. There is nothing in the law to prevent the court from imposing exemplary sentences when necessary on young criminals and trouble makers aged between 17 and 21.

The question of prosecutions is entirely for the police. The strength of the police has been brought up by about 7,000 in the last three and a half years or so and is now higher than ever before but, as I have said in public, we could do with 10,000 more police. It is particularly in the big cities that the police forces are short. If we could make good that shortage it would have a quick effect on many forms of crime and delinquency because the best deterrent to the would-be offender is the knowledge that he is almost certain to be found out. Hon. Members can be sure that the police do everything in their power to protect the public from young hooligans and to make sure that the offenders are brought to book.

Reference was made by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) to the importance of the application of science. I can assure him that a very great deal of advance has been made in this respect in our forensic science laboratories, and I have recently established a Research and Planning Branch in the Home Office. We certainly wish to co-operate with the universities in every way and I would not wish the House to think that nothing is being done by way of scientific progress towards crime detection.

On the question of criminal proceedings generally, I have a twofold concern as Home Secretary. The first is to see that hooliganism and other anti-social behaviour is adequately covered by offences known to the criminal law and the second to see that adequate penalties are available to the courts. I think that the law is adequate in both respects. In cases of malicious damage, under Section 14 of the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914, if the damage is not more than £20 the court can impose a fine of £20 or three months' imprisonment, as well as ordering payment of compensation for the damage. There is also Section 51 of the Malicious Damage Act, 1861, under which, if the amount of damage exceeds £5, the offender may be prosecuted on indictment and is liable to two years' imprisonment if the offence was committed by day, and five years if it was committed by night. I do not think that anybody would suggest that these are inadequate penalties.

Then there are the offences of carrying offensive weapons and using insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace. Under the Prevention of Crime Act, 1953, the penalty for carrying an offensive weapon in a public place may be two years' imprisonment or a fine of £100, or both. Under the Public Order Act, 1963—which we passed last year to amend Section 5 of the Public Order Act, 1936—the penalty for using insulting words or behaviour with intent to provoke a breach of the peace may now be 12 months' imprisonment or a fine of £500, or both. These are not light as maximum penalties; but, as I said, it is for the court, which has heard the case, to decide what the right penalty is, within the maximum.

Then some of these hooligans may be guilty of theft or violence. If so, they can be prosecuted under the Larceny Act, 1916, or the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861. Here the penalties will vary according to the precise nature of the theft or assault, but, as an example, the penalty for an assault occasioning actual bodily harm may be five years' imprisonment. The law also empowers the court to order payment of compensation by the offender to the victim on any conviction for felony, on summary conviction for malicious damage, or in conjunction with the making of a probation order.

If the person charged with an offence is under 17 the court has power, under the Children and Young Persons Act, 1963—which we also passed last Session—to require either or both of his parents to attend the hearing. If it imposes a fine or orders the payment of damages, compensation or costs, the court may require the parent to pay the money or go to prison in default.

Any boy or girl over 15 and under 21 may now be sent to borstal. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet spoke about expulsion from ordinary school, but I am not sure whether he was paying quite sufficient attention to the powers which already exist to send boys or girls to approved schools or borstal. Every court in England and Wales has a detention centre available to it for offenders aged 17 to 20. We intend, as soon as possible, to make sure that every court also has a junior detention centre available to it for those aged 14 to 16.

Photo of Mrs Bessie Braddock Mrs Bessie Braddock , Liverpool Exchange

The right hon. Gentleman has left out something from his statement—the fact that the juvenile court has the right to require parents to see that their children are of good behaviour over a period.

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I am afraid that in a very short debate of this kind I have to leave out a number of things.

I assure the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East that we have not been slow in setting up attendance centres. An idea which I think commended itself to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Thanet was that of part-time detention, in the evenings. That was examined by my Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders, which recommended against it, although it made certain other suggestions of interest. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has just announced the setting up of a Royal Commission on the penal system. It will be suggested to that Commission that in its studies it should give first priority to the treatment of offenders under 21 years of age. That is the clearest evidence that the Government want to get our system for dealing with young offenders still further improved if it can be improved.

In paragraphs 51 to 53 of the White Paper, The War against Crime, we have raised some of the questions which we think a Royal Commission will wish to look into. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Seymour) suggested, for example, that there might be greater variety of sentences available, though I do not agree with what he suggested about corporal punishment. There has not been a thorough-going inquiry into the penal system since the Gladstone Committee appointed by my predecessor, Mr. Herbert Asquith as he then was, in 1894. I assure hon. Members that the appointment of a Royal Commission will not hold up anything which is already going forward on this problem.

The Motion asks us: to promote the study of and research into the causes of delinquency… I agree with what has been said from both sides of the House about the importance of probing into the causes of delinquency. It is then that we quickly come to the mysteries and the great puzzles. My hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) spoke of the absence of religious training. I think there is much in what he said, but that is not a complete explanation. He and I, one a Roman Catholic and one a member of the Church of England, must remember that it is in the Jewish community that there is the least delinquency. I believe that the relationship between children and parents is very near to the heart of this matter. The first responsibility is surely on the parents throughout.

It has also been rightly said that the moral outlook of the whole of society affects the young. I do not think any of us can contract out of that. We cannot contract out of it by claiming that it is due to materialism or any other "ism". Responsible as we all are for playing our part in creating the moral atmosphere of society, we must recognise that this is a condemnation of us all.

Another cause is said to be violence and false glamour seen on television. As the House knows, I have set up a Committee to guide long-term research into that question. A large programme of further research is in hand, details of which are given in the appendices to the White Paper, The War Against Crime. I would call special attention to the study of the school in relation to society which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and I have commissioned from the National Foundation for Educational Research. This involves not only finding the facts about the influence of schools on children, but later testing the effect of carefully controlled experiments in altering the factors in the organisation and life of a school which previous research has shown to be relevant. I hope my hon. Friend the Member for Selly Oak will take note of that. It is long-term work, but I believe it will be intensely important.

I have created the new Advisory Committee on Juvenile Delinquency, and I shall be taking the chair at another meeting of the Committee next week. Its virtue to me is that I have the opportunity of meeting regularly face to face some of the people most closely concerned with these problems all over the country. It also has the virtue that it brings together all the Government Departments concerned and I can focus through it, I hope, the resources of all those Government Departments including Education. I entirely agree with what was said about no compartmentalisation.

The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) will be pleased to hear that the period of transition from school to work is one of the matters in which that Committee is already specially interested. I think this concerns the year before leaving school as well as the year after leaving school. The school authorities and the unions as well as management are all closely concerned with this.

Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act, which we passed last year, gives new preventive powers which I hope will be vigorously used by local authorities to try to step in before the actual break-up of a home comes about. There we are addressing ourselves particularly to the parents. We all want the exercise of these powers by children's authorities to be coupled with the functions of the authorities in education, housing and social welfare generally. I look forward to the first reports I shall get at the end of the year from local authorities as to the exercise of those powers. I agree with the hon. Lady in hoping that there will be experiments in the setting up of family advice centres.

The courts have to deter and reform. Magistrates and many others must often ask themselves whether something effective could not have been done much earlier, before the child came into court, to save the situation arising. Right treatment after the offence is very important, but prevention is more important still. As I said in that foreword, much juvenile delinquency is due to greed, malice, selfishness or mere mischief, but it cannot all be explained in terms of original sin. A great deal of it is the outward symptom of stresses and strains within society.

The whole atmosphere of the time plays upon the weaknesses of our young people as the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) said. We are all affected by our environment. We thought at one time that poverty was the main cause of delinquency and crime. We now know that delinquency and crime flourish in the affluent society. We thought at one time that it might be the effect of war, yet countries which were not in the last war are suffering in this way. The hon. Member for Chesterfield (Sir G. Benson) said that opportunities for exercise might get rid of energy which otherwise finds bad outlets. As he knows, I have spoken out for more opportunities of adventure without lawbreaking, but I am not so optimistic as he is in thinking that this is the whole solution.

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

We must take juvenile delinquency more seriously than the hon. Member did.

I should like to end by referring to some words I used in the foreword to the Report published the other day, because I believe they touch the heart of the matter. Those who wish for the bygone days back again may be forgetting that in those days there was often less willingness to understand than to condemn. Simply to condemn misbehaviour is an incomplete and unproductive reaction. It gains value only when it is a spur to action; and the basis of action must be a fuller understanding. Understanding may be enhanced by practical contact with boys and girls in their difficulties, or by systematic research, or—best of all—by both in combination. These are the lines of advance which the Government are encouraging.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,That this House notes with concern the continuing increase in juvenile crime and outbreaks of hooliganism among young people; urges Her Majesty's Government to ensure that the courts have adequate means of dealing effectively with young offenders; welcomes the action taken by Her Majesty's Government to promote the study of and research into causes of delinquency; and urges the Government to intensify the measures for its prevention.