I have selected the Amendment in the names of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) and his right hon. and hon. Friends. This will not cramp the debate in any way. Any argument for or against the Second Reading of the Bill in addition to those in the Amendment may be advanced in the debate.
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This is a Bill of wide scope, and is concerned with how society treats children who are in trouble. It is long and complex, but the basic principles behind it are simple. Its aim is to prevent the deprived and delinquent children of today from becoming the deprived, inadequate, unstable or criminal citizens of tomorrow.
How do we propose to try to meet those aims? First, as a matter of social philosophy, as well as a practical matter, to build on the family and on the parents, to try to ensure that they assume the major responsibility for the welfare, control, care, and discipline of their children. The Bill aims to help the parents of deprived or delinquent children to bring those children up so that they become fully developed, mature, and law-abiding citizens.
Secondly, where the family and the parents cannot succeed without help, to provide effective support for those families through the social and other services which in such cases must supplement the efforts of the parents.
Thirdly, by these means to keep out of the courts all those children who will benefit as much, or more, from other treatment as they will by going to court, and I believe that there is general agreement about this.
Fourthly, to ensure as nearly as we can real equality for all children of all classes and backgrounds. When I say "equality" I mean "equality" and not "uniformity." It seems that some opponents of this aspect of the Bill have confused themselves into believing that equality and uniformity are the same thing. They are not.
These measures will not succeed unless they are effective, and effectiveness is, I hope, the keynote of the Bill. But that depends on understanding what has gone wrong, and then trying to put it right by offering the appropriate treatment, which may take many forms. The Bill is not in any way "soft", or permissive. It is a realistic Bill, because it is endeavouring to get to the root of the troubles with which we are dealing, and not just attempting to handle the symptoms and then forget the cause of the problems.
The Bill must not only be effective—I say that it is, but I shall welcome improvements in Committee to that end because, despite the Opposition's Amendment, which I regret; I do not regard this as a party issue—but flexible, and one obstacle to the present need for flexibility in the treatment of completely dissimilar children arises from the fact that in some respects the law has not yet caught up with the development of a variety of less formal methods for dealing with child offenders.
Much of the present law about court proceedings and powers relating to children and young persons is based on the recommendations of a Departmental Committee which reported as long ago as 1927, and the basic concepts have remained unchanged since the Children and Young Persons Act, 1932. There have been no changes in the law to reflect the growth since the war of social services for children, and the now well-established informal methods used by the police when they are dealing with children, such as, for example, cautioning. This method is widely used by the police, and I believe very successfully. There are thousands of children who, in the strict sense of the word, are delinquents, but who do not go near a court today.
I warn those who want to use the word "equality" in this argument that if they say—as I am sure they do not, because I do not think that the position has been fully thought through—that equality is what I call uniformity, presumably it should follow that all those children should in future go to court. In my view, that would set the clock back to a quite unacceptable degree. If they do not mean that, then, with respect, the Amendment should have been drafted differently.
I know that parts of the Bill are controversial, and I have just touched on one of them. The Opposition agree with a substantial part of the Bill, and it is not my desire, except in so far as it is necessary for the argument, to labour the differences because I hope in time to remove those differences and to show the Opposition that they should think again about their attitude.
The opposition is directed at some of the changes in the legal procedures proposed in Part I of the Bill. I should like to come back to those. Naturally, I would have started with them had there not been an Amendment, but as the Opposition acknowledge that there are important proposals in the Bill affecting the treatment of children with which they do not disagree, it would be unfortunate if we were to concentrate on the division and the arguments and gloss over in the tail end of what might be a controversial speech some of the other important matters. I should like, therefore, to take this a little out of order and to talk about the important issues on which there is no real disagreement in principle, but which are an essential part of the Bill.
I am referring, for example, to such matters as the treatment of children who have been before the courts, the organisation of residential establishments, and the control of private fostering, with which, in general, the Opposition agree, and about which I imagine there is no dissent in the House. I should like to deal with those parts of the Bill, but there is one matter of legal procedure to which I must turn before I do so, otherwise a large part of the Bill cannot be understood.
Clause 1(3) and Clause 7 give the courts three basic options which are available in all care and criminal proceedings. They apply to all children up to the age of 17. The first option is to bind over the parents. We regard this as appropriate in cases where the court judges that the parents are capable of taking the necessary action themselves, but have grown slack and need pulling up. It is part of the principle and the philosophy that where possible the responsibility should be put on the parents and upon the family. I trust that the courts will use this option wherever they believe it to be the right treatment. Binding over is something like a conditional discharge or a suspended fine, and I regard this as important in terms of the influence of parents.
The second option is the supervision order, which will take the place of probation orders, and supervision orders under the present law. The third option is the care order, which is very similar to the existing so-called fit person order. This jargon is well known in dealing with children. We tend to get a little inward-looking on some of these things and we must try to be as outward-looking as we can. The supervision order and the care order will fit in with what I am trying to put in the Bill. They will be extremely flexible, and will embrace a wide range of possibilities.
It will be interesting in our debates to go over some of those possibilities. They rest upon the principle that it is for the court to decide the nature and extent of the compulsory powers to be exercised and that, within well specified limits, the responsibility for decisions on treatment in individual cases should be placed on those who undertake the treatment.
But in all cases there is the safeguard of appeal to quarter sessions, and throughout the life of a care or a supervision order the Bill provides a right to apply to the juvenile court for a revocation for the variation of the order with, again, appeal to quarter sessions against refusal of an application. The courts will also retain their powers in criminal cases to fine, to order the payment of compensation, to discharge conditionally or absolutely and, in the case of older young persons, to order a disqualification or endorsement in motoring cases. We are, after all, dealing with those up to the age of 17 who may be involved in such cases.
Clause 13(2) defines the relationship between the functions of the children's service and those of the probation service in this field. It is generally agreed, I think, that the overall responsibility for preventive work is an essential part of the functions of the local authority children's departments. On the other hand, the probation service makes a great contribution to work with children and young persons and it has valuable experience which I would regret losing.
I have been urged by some that the logic of the situation points towards the children's service assuming all responsibilities in this field, at least to school-leaving age. I have not carried the Bill as far as that. It preserves an overlap at the point where the functions of the two services meet. The children's service will assume general responsibility for supervision under court orders for children under 14 and the courts will have the choice of supervisor for children between 14 and 17.
I referred to the flexibility in the new forms of treatment for children placed under supervision by the courts. Of course, they might not go to court, since there could be an informal agreement. This is in Clauses 12 and 19, where it is called "intermediate treatment": the House will see why. The object is to give the supervisors access to resources which are denied to many children from poorer backgrounds. providing them with opportunities for new experiences and relationships to help them to mature and to learn to stand on their own feet.
The function is to bring youngsters in trouble into contact with others taking part in the normal constructive activities of young people of their own age—social, educational, recreational, helping others. These activities may take place in the evenings or at weekend, and the children may go away under supervision, perhaps, for longer periods. They may involve going away, for instance, for adventure training or to a harvest camp. In some cases, a supervision order might involve spending as much as three months away from home. For example, a period might be spent in a community home, which I see that the Opposition welcome, or a term at a boarding school.
These are the new flexible kinds of supervision which I and my advisers believe can bring a new—I was going to say "excitement"—into the way in which we treat young people to help them grow up into mature citizens. None of this is written into the Bill, and this is deliberate. Clauses 12 and 19 provide only the administrative and legal framework. The actual arrangements will have to be planned and built up locally in each area, with the maximum possible participation of all the statutory and voluntary services, not only the children's service but also the other local authority services—the probation service, magistrates, the police, the churches, voluntary organisations of all kinds. The Home Office will help by mounting development projects with the aim of gaining experience of how local schemes can be worked out and set up to assess the results.
I regard this part of the Bill as a completely new and challenging departure, with immense possibilities and I think that we should all approach it in the hope that it will work. This part of the Bill looks not merely to the prevention of crime, but to the active promotion of social development. I believe, when we are dealing with the young saplings as distinct from the mature trees, that this is the most helpful and forward-looking of our prospects, where we can hope to influence these young people in the most formative stage of their lives.
Turning to the question of accommodation, when the Bill is fully in operation, local authorities will eventually have to accommodate those who are now accommodated in the approved schools and remand homes. That does not mean that all the buildings will be torn down and replaced, but probably upwards of another 10,000 children will pass, basically, into the care of the local authorities. Children in care, therefore, will be not only a larger group, but also a much more varied group than at present.
The facilities now provided will still be needed and the Bill accordingly provides for a system of community homes very much on the lines proposed in the White Paper "Children in Trouble", which, I am glad to say, have been generally accepted by representatives of the local authorities and voluntary organisations. This will aid the objectives which we have in the system of community homes—namely, that they will be flexible, and will be able to cater for a widely differing range of children. There will be integration between children who, perhaps, have different needs, but who can benefit from being brought into contact with each other. There will be variety and, on the administrative side, there will be a partnership between the local authorities and the voluntary organisations.
I stress that flexibility is important. It is obvious that a child going for residential treatment should be placed in the most suitable establishment that has a place available, but we are hampered in this at the moment by the division of establishments into various legal categories. For instance, a child who is committed to an approved school by a magistrate must be accommodated in an approved school and nowhere else. The effect of substituting a single legal category of establishment, the "community home", for the present separate categories, will be to remove this impediment and, I believe, represents nothing but gain within my limit of experience of this problem.
Groups of local authorities will establish regional committees which will plan an integrated system of community homes. It will be the aim to accommodate as many children in local homes as possible and also to provide much the same facilities as a family home and to use the local schools and other services. Most hon. Members know the housing estates and houses where these families live. They are frequently unknown, except to the immediate neighbours, and that is as it should be. The fact that we have been able to use these homes in this way is part of the process of ensuring that the children can develop in a way which will enable them to grow up into the kind of citizens that we hope to see.
But for some children more specialised homes will be needed. Some such homes will require secure accommodation. They must be provided, and the regional plans will enable authorities to co-operate in making the best use of the available resources to develop the wide range of specialised facilities which will be needed. I need not particularise; hon. Members will know some of my difficulties in trying to place children in suitable homes at present because of the fractionalisation of control. I believe that this will help to remove that.
The excellent facilities provided in establishments now run by voluntary organisations as approved schools or voluntary homes will, I hope, through partnership with the local authorities, become available to them. Part II of the Bill enables this to be achieved, while preserving for the voluntary organisations a part in the management of these establishments.
Two new forms of partnership are provided for, "controlled" homes and "assisted" homes. A controlled home will be one for which financial responsibility is assumed by a specified local authority, which will manage the home through a body of managers of whom one-third will represent the voluntary organisation. An assisted home will be financed by the voluntary organisation--which will charge fees to local authorities for accommodating children in its care—and managed by the organisation through a body of managers of whom one-third will be appointed by a specified local authority. [Interruption.] I hope that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) will soon get over his cold.
It seems that every time I speak in the House the right hon. and learned Gentleman is suffering from a bad cold.
Last June, I announced my intention of developing jointly with the Secretary of State for Social Services a new range of establishments to cater for the needs of severely disturbed boys and girls. They will combine the training and treatment facilities of a school, a children's home and a hospital. There will be substantial provision for psychiatric observation and treatment and an element of secure accommodation. I hope that the first of these establishments will be in use by the end of this year. It is planned that eventually there will be two more, one in the North and one in the South.
There will be an important rôle for establishments that we now know as approved schools within the community home system. I wish to emphasise, having seen their work, that a very considerable contribution has been made over the years in a great many approved schools, and that much pioneer work has been done in a very difficult field, although I believe that the system as a whole would agree that the results are uneven; that some are excellent while others are not quite up to that high standard. The new system provides scope for this contribution to be continued and developed, and there is still an important place for the spirit of public service that so many managers of voluntary approved schools have shown over many years.
I hope to call on the spirit of service that they have shown so far. There is a real job to be done here and the new system will give every opportunity to them and to the staff of former approved schools to fulfil a new rôle, which could be no less rewarding than the one they have played in the past and which, indeed, may broaden their experience in dealing with some children.
The Bill contains transitional provisions for the protection of the interests of the staff of approved schools, remand homes and of such approved probation homes and hostels as become community homes. There is provision for the payment of compensation where there is loss or diminution of remuneration as a result of any changes that are introduced by the Bill.
I will comment on the subject of foster children before coming to the more controversial parts of the Bill. I hope that the House will agree that I should go through the non-controversial, or less controversial, parts of the Measure first.
Referring to what the right hon. Gentleman said about special schools being established for mentally disturbed teenagers, can he say whether they will be restrictive from the age point of view and what assessment has been made of the special psychiatric treatment that will have to be available in them? Is he aware of the great need for this treatment in various parts of the country?
I am aware of it, not least through personal experience of having to handle some of these cases. We have had not only to make use of such facilities as exist now, but also to bring in a team of public-spirited people who have been able to make the necessary assessments. I hope that we will be able to strengthen these teams, to some extent on a voluntary basis, and I hope that in these places there will be resident psychiatric experts who are able to make the required assessments. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that this is the sort of matter that we can discuss in detail in Committee. I will not delay the House by going into it deeply at this stage.
The Bill provides an opportunity to make much needed improvements in the law on private fostering, which is contained in the Children Act, 1958. The present Act is not sufficiently all-inclusive—this point has been brought to my notice by hon. Members on both sides—and the powers of local authorities to protect foster children are in some respects inadequate. The number of privately placed foster children has grown considerably in recent years. There are over 10,500 in England and Wales as a whole, with a heavy concentration in the South-East of England.
I hope that the House will not mind my making use of the opportunity of the Bill to "tuck in" Clauses 48 to 54 which, perhaps, are not exactly germane to the principle purpose of the Bill. These Clauses help local authorities to concentrate more effort on cases most requiring supervision; by bringing de facto adoptions and similar arrangements within the scope of the law; by closing the gap which now exists between the Children Act, 1958, which only covers arrangements lasting for more than a month, and the Nurseries and Child Minders Regulation Act, 1948, which controls daily minding and only covers arrangements lasting not more than six days—there has been a gap in this respect which we propose to fill—by extending the powers of local authorities to inspect premises and to impose conditions about the keeping of foster children, and in other ways.
I have an announcement which I am glad to make and which I hope the House will welcome. It concerns an expansion of the training programme for child care officers. In 1968–69 courses leading to the Central Training Council giving what is called a letter of recognition for child care officers, saying that they have successfully and satisfactorily completed their courses, resulted in about 400 qualified students being produced during that year. Next year it is hoped that the number so qualified will increase to 640, and to 715 in 1970–71.
After discussion with the Central Training Council, I have been able to authorise—naturally, after consultation with the Treasury—a further programme, aiming at an annual output of about 1,100 students every year. With the cooperation of the local authorities in the provision of facilities for the practical part of the course, we hope to achieve this level of output in 1972–73 or 1973–74. This will enable us to implement the Bill, when it becomes an Act, since I have always been conscious of the validity of the criticism that we might be rushing provisions through unless we know that adequate staff will be available. I hope that this stepping up will match the coming into force of the Measure and that the necessary resources will be available to make the Bill work.
I come to the more controversial parts of the Bill, namely, the changes in legal proceedings. Basically, these are contained in Clauses 1, 4 and 5. It will be agreed at least that these Clauses fit together as part of a single set of changes in legal procedures. Clause 1(2) lays down the basic jurisdiction of the juvenile court. Unlike the White Paper of some years ago, it recognises and preserves the rôle of the juvenile court. It changes it, but it preserves it, because the juvenile court undoubtedly has a very useful part to play in these proceedings, although not an exclusive part. One of the difficulties that has arisen is the fact that the juvenile court has felt that it will be called upon to share some of its responsibilities with others. That is true, but it will still have an important part to play in our procedures.
The new "care or control" definition is a development of the original proposal in paragraph 14 of last year's White Paper which I published and includes the commission of an offence, which is included only as part of the definition. This is not something which, by itself, necessarily indicates a need for court proceedings and a court order.
Another new element is truancy, which has hitherto been divided between the Education Act and the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933. The new definition operates for all ages up to 17. It removes the need to retain criminal prosecution, as a separate kind of proceedings in a juvenile court, for younger children; and it opens the way to placing limitations on the prosecution of young persons.
Eventually, Clause 4 will abolish the prosecution of children up to the age of 14. This will be done by stages and will certainly not be introduced all at once. This does not mean that they cannot appear before the court. Care proceedings will be the only proceedings available for offenders and non-offenders up to that age before a juvenile court. Prosecution for an offence alone will remain possible for those aged 14 and under 17 as an alternative to care proceedings, but Clause 5 places restrictions on the circumstances in which a prosecution may be instituted. Homicide is a special case, and prosecution will remain possible from the age of 10 upwards.
The main effects of these Clauses will be to make clear that the basic test for taking court proceedings is whether a court order is required to secure that a child receives the care and control he needs, which is the whole underlying basis of the Bill. If there is no evidence to satisfy this test, court proceedings should not be taken. In some cases there is a clear need for action to deal with a situation which has come to light as a result of a child committing an offence or getting into some trouble—for example, not going to school. If, however, there is no dispute over the facts of the situation and no call for compulsion to secure effective action, that action can and will be taken without the need for court proceedings. This is the necessary treatment of the child which is the start of the Bill.
The transition from the care or control jurisdiction to the liability to appear before the adult courts in ordinary criminal proceedings should be in stages. Between the ages of 14 and 17, both care proceedings and criminal proceedings will be possible, to bridge this gap. Clause 5 requires the consent of a juvenile court magistrate to prosecution, and enables the Home Secretary to prescribe in regulations the circumstances in which consent may be given. These will include cases where the offence is a serious one, or where a simple deterrent such as a fine seems appropriate, or where action without the backing of a court order would probably not succeed, and motoring cases where disqualification or endorsement may be ordered.
Today, adolescents assume a considerable degree of control over their activities, and it is right that the law should make them to this extent, accountable for their actions. Responsibility in the young is not encouraged by a system which declines to accept that they can be responsible. Nor is it encouraged by imputing full responsibility at too early an age. The new legal procedures in the Bill as a whole provide a properly graduated system which introduces the notion of responsibility for one's actions and their consequences by stages.
It is quite wrong to think as some have suggested, that these changes will mean doing less about offences by young children. Not at all; they will mean doing more, but doing something different. Under the present system, because an offence in itself may seem trivial, nothing may be done about it although other factors in the child's background may be extremely disturbing. The new system will mean fewer cases where lack of investigation of an apparently minor offence results in a failure to take necessary remedial action while a child can still be handled in that way. It will also mean more cases reported to the police.
There is a natural dislike of treating young children as criminals, and a good deal of juvenile offending which is detected by people other than the police is not reported to them at present. Experience of the development of juvenile liaison officer schemes, which I dare say a number of hon. Members have seen in action, and of other informal methods by the police, shows that more cases are reported to the police by teachers, shopkeepers and parents. Problems often come to light at a stage before the child has broken the law in the full sense of the word.
This means that under the new system as I see it the police will be brought in at an earlier stage and in circumstances where they might not have been brought in at all and will be able to use their influence in a way which will be beneficial to the objectives which everyone has in mind. There is one possible point of misunderstanding. We are not doing less, but doing it in a different way. This helps to achieve one of the first aims of preventive work whether it is the prevention of crime or any other kind of trouble, to identify it early and to deal with it before it gets worse.
The Opposition has put down an Amendment which broadly accepts the case put forward by the Magistrates Association. At any rate, the terms seem somewhat similar to criticisms I have had from the Magistrates Association. They are none the worse for that. I say the Magistrates Association because not all magistrates or juvenile magistrates support the case put forward, but we have today speaking for the Opposition two distinguished lawyers, one of them practising and the other a former Solicitor-General.
I should not want to interfere in these internecine quarrels. In other words, it is a conspiracy?
My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) does practise his profession and it would be quite damaging if the idea got about that he did not do so.
After that natural break, we can resume the programme. I hope that both right hon. and learned Gentleman will accept this in the spirit in which it is said. I think it natural that there is sympathy between such distinguished people and the Magistrates Association's view. There is a natural temptation for these distinguished lawyers, less so perhaps for the right hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite than for others, that with their legal minds trained in the majesty of the law, accepting its exactness and integrity, they should believe that the view which is put forward about the law is one which must triumph above other considerations. We are dealing here with growing and developing children, not questioning the supremacy of the law. The point at issue is that a number of informal practices have grown up outside the courts in the treatment of children who commit offences and in their correction.
I said that by no means every child who commits an offence is taken to court. Last year at least 30,000 offences committed by children where the police were called in resulted in the police administering a caution and the police deciding that the case should not go before the courts. This is a factor which we should recognise in respect of the magistrates' view. I think that to some extent their view is limited by the fact that, naturally, they only see the children who come before them and do not see the thousands who do not come before them but who have committed offences.
The Bill codifies and lays down, as Parliament should, the circumstances in which children should go before a court and the circumstances in which other methods of treatment and correction are preferable. With respect to the distinguished lawyers who hold a contrary view, we are considering how to codify a system which has already developed and how to reinforce that system. In some cases there are better methods than going to court for ensuring that the child who has committed an offence grows up into a fully developed, healthy, law-abiding citizen. That is what the case is about.
We want them—I am sure that the whole House wants this—to escape from a system that so often ensures that the delinquent or deprived child grows up into inadequate adult, the kind who is frequently found in prison. Those of us who go in and out of prisons know the type of man, the person who is not there because he is basically criminal but because he is unable to cope with the problems of adult life and, therefore, yields to temptation when he finds that he is incapable of coping.
We want to get hold of these children at a sufficiently early stage to ensure—through the family, or with the support of the family, or by society, where the family fails to achieve this end, substituting for the parents—that the young sapling is not twisted or bent in ways that make the child grow up stunted.
In my view, it is not the case that there is at present equality in the treatment of children who commit offences. There is an interesting letter in The Times this morning from the Secretary of the Magistrates Association. Let us reflect on our experience. By and large today, is it not the case that middle-class children are kept away from the courts and it is the working-class children who go the courts? This is surely the experience of most people who examine and know the background.
Why is this? It is because the family of the middle-class child, his school, his social background, all the factors that surround his whole life, are there to provide facilities to support and correct him where it is necessary. I applaud this. This is what I want to see for every child. This should be our aim. I am not complaining because middle-class children on the whole do not come before the courts. What I am saying is that children, whoever they are, should not be brought before a court unless it is necessary. Part of the purpose of the Bill will be to ensure that children from a different kind of home from the one we have been considering will be given access to similar facilities for correction to those already possessed by the children who never go near a court.
In other words, they should come before a court only as a last resort. I want to see that the range of facilities which is naturally available to support the middle-class child who goes wrong—what is called in the letter from the Secretary of the Magistrates Association the "good" home as against the "bad" home—should also be available for other children and for all children and should be made increasingly available to them.
Does not the Secretary of State agree that this is whole of the nub of Clause 1? The trouble with the Bill is that it makes that position worse. It is written into the Bill now that the child from the good home is less likely to go to court, whereas the child from the bad home will. Many of our complaints about the Bill is that it will exaggerate this state of affairs.
It is that argument that I am trying to deal with at present. I certainly do not want, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not want, to write into the Bill a provision which would make it necessary for more children to go before the courts.
The hon. Gentleman agrees with me. He does not want the child from the good home to go to court. "Good" and "bad" are the words the hon. Gentleman used. This is not my language. This is the language of the argument which we are considering and which is used in the letter to which I referred.
The child from the good home does not go before the courts. The hon. Gentleman does not want him to go before the courts—of course not. What we want is treatment for the child which will ensure the best possible results. I am saying that, rather than take before the court many children from what are called "bad" homes, we should supply the supporting facilities that will make it unnecessary to take them before the courts.
This is an extremely important point. My right hon. Friend has said that it is not desirable for the child from the middle-class home to be brought before the courts. Does he not consider that in certain cases it may be very desirable indeed for such a child, who has been somewhat insulated from the wider world, to be given the short, sharp salutary shock which might arise in certain cases from being brought before a court and which will avoid his ever being brought back there again?
I do not know whether my hon. Friend has heard the whole of my speech. If he has, he has taken what I said out of context. I was not saying that the middle-class child should not go before the courts. I was saying that what we are trying to ensure, and what basically the middle-class child already has, is a large number of supporting facilities, in his home and elsewhere, which make the necessary correction that everybody wants, as it were, flow naturally from the background of his life. I want to extend those facilities to other children.
Of course, there will be cases where the child, no matter what his home, will appear before the court. The Bill makes provision for that, certainly after the age of 14, and in one case it makes provision for it before the age of 14. In the case of those children there will be no difficulty, but it will be a matter of judgment—what is the right treatment for this child; should he go before the court, if he is between 14 and 17, for care and control proceedings, perhaps because the middle-class family is quite incapable of controlling him and, therefore, he should be taken out of their care; or should he go before the court for a fine or for other forms of treatment which are laid down in the Bill and which can be applied?
In other words, my hon. Friend is in some ways making my point. There is a whole range of flexible provisions here. What the Opposition are insisting upon is uniformity of treatment. They think that they are talking about equality, but they are really talking about uniformity. However, we shall hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman on this point.
One piece of pure fantasy on the part of the Opposition is the allegation of inadequate preparation and consultation. As this appears in the Amendment, I must deal with it. I do not know who advised the right hon. and learned Gentleman on this. The Bill has been several years in preparation. There has been a plethora of reports, papers and discussions. Two Departmental Committees have reported on the subject—Ingleby in England and Wales in 1960, and Kilbrandon in Scotland in 1964. A Labour Party group under Lord Longford published a pamphlet on crime. Then there was the White Paper in August, 1965 for the purposes of discussion. There was a wide-ranging debate, with a number of criticisms of it.
Normally, the next step would have been the publication of a Bill, but I came new to the Home Office and wanted my own White Paper and, with the consent of my colleagues in the Cabinet, took into account what had been said and the criticisms, modified the previous White Paper, and then introduced last April a new White Paper, "Children in Trouble". This was followed by a further round of discussions and representations. A series of memoranda were submitted by all sorts of bodies. I counted up 40 this morning when I read the Opposition's Amendment. I knew what nonsense it was to talk about inadequate preparation and failure to consult. Forty bodies made either verbal or written representations. The number of delegations has been numerous.
Having disposed, I hope, of the allegation about failure to consult, I wish to go on to say that most of those consulted have expressed themselves as very satisfied with the unusually large amount of consultation we have undertaken before at last publishing the Bill. How many more years does the right hon. and learned Gentleman want us to go on before we actually do anything? How many more White Papers does he want me to produce before anybody dares to publish a Bill? I think that the real point is that this is a case where a plea for more consultation, for more time, is the last refuge of those who simply want to block all action and make sure that nothing is done. So I cannot accept that criticism.
The Amendment also suggests—perhaps I have dealt with this point already—that the work of the police will be interfered with. This is not so, unless by "interference" the Opposition mean that the police will no longer prosecute very young children for minor offences. My own experience is that the police did not welcome these prosecutions of very young children. They did not have a great liking for the task which society imposed upon them. If the Opposition believe that children from 10 upwards ought to be prosecuted and punished whenever they break the law—this is what uniformity would mean—they had better say so plainly, because certainly I, and I hope my hon. Friends and most of the country, would disagree with them.
The fact is—I emphasise this—that the Bill will greatly increase the scope for informal, preventive work with children by the police, in conjunction with all the other services concerned. I am anxious to see this work develop. I believe that it can bring considerable dividends. It brings problems to light at an earlier stage. It improves relationships between the police and the local communities they serve, in just the same way as some other recent developments in policing do.
The Opposition are wrong to suggest that the Bill will interfere with the work of the police. It does nothing of the kind. It enlarges their sphere of interest and it has been welcomed, I am glad to say, by the police. Perhaps I should not bring them into this, but they were one of the bodies who were consulted and who made certain representations to me on the subject.
I am very sorry that the Opposition should have completely failed to understand this aspect of the Bill. Apparently, they wish to perpetuate the idea that the police should be concerned only with detection and prosecution. This promotes the constructive rôle of the police, a rôle that they wish to play.
Ideas for change have been under discussion for a number of years and the services concerned with children have been in a state of uncertainty about their future. This is one reason why it is important to bring the Bill forward now and, I hope, with the co-operation of the House, to pass it.
I shall certainly listen to the arguments which are advanced now and in Committee. I do not take a strictly dogmatic view on this. A number of points have been made of which I have made mental note for the Committee stage and I see no reason why we should not have serious discussions when they are brought up. But in my view, new legislation is essential and I hope that the House will give us the opportunity of carrying the Bill into effect.
The Bill, for the time being, completes the unfinished job of bringing the law on children and young persons up to date. I believe that it will provide a framework for development certainly for the next two decades; I would not like to look longer ahead. It is a landmark in the treatment of children in trouble who are taken to court, in the way we make available the facilities of the community for the treatment of children in trouble, and in the organisation of residential care for children.
The first aim of the Bill is to help parents and families to do what most parents and families want to do—to bring up their children well, making use of the services provided by the community and of the help which is available for children falling into trouble; but it provides means to ensure—and this is just as important—that where control of the children is needed, as well as help to the family, that control is available, and that those provisions can be implemented.
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
this House, whilst agreeing with certain aspects of the Bill, and in general approving the proposals for the provision of community homes and fostering in Part III, nevertheless declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill proposed without adequate preparation or consultation, and open to serious objection on grounds of principle in that
it is unjust as between different children in like case, it gives insufficient recognition to the constructive rôle of the juvenile court, and it will interfere with the work of the police in relation to children, especially with regard to more serious offences.
In rising to move the Amendment standing in my name and the names of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I will not read out its terms, which are long. It must also be very poorly drafted if the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has so completely failed to understand what it is about, which I regret. Listening to the strange, genial but rather discursive speech of the right hon. Gentleman in support of this Measure I felt rather like the Duke of Wellington who, when, confronted with his own troops, said, "I do not know what effect they had on the enemy, but by God they frightened me".
There was an almost total incomprehension about some of what seemed to me to be the bases of the problem he was trying to discuss. There was, of course, the usual tilt at my right hon. and learned Friend and myself because of our profession. I know that we belong to a very disreputable profession to which hon. Members in the last three centuries have also belonged. What he did not mention is that between us we have 11 children—middle-class children—which is perhaps a little more significant than our profession in considering a Bill whose primary purpose is to deal with children.
Much more serious than the slur he cast upon the name of my hon. and learned Friend and myself is the also almost total incomprehension he showed about how juvenile magistrates are selected. He said—and I am sure that when he reads his words in the OFFICIAL REPORT he will deeply regret both the words he used and the impression he succeeded in conveying to the House—that juvenile magistrates, naturally, only see children who are in trouble, naughty children. But if he really knew how juvenile magistrates are selected, which it is his business to know, he would realise that they are selected because of their knowledge of children and social conditions.
That is how they are selected from the panel. They are parents, school governors, and members of education committees who know children of all classes and types; and it is a most unjustifiable way of approaching the controversial Clauses of the Bill to pretend they are being criticised by a few pedantic lawyers, in one case non-practising, and by a number of people who only see bad children and do not know what good children are like.
I want to approach the Bill from a rather different angle from the right hon. Gentleman. It is a very long Bill, of 94 pages, and much of it is unintelligible to those who do not know the strange language in which our legislation is couched. The right hon. Gentleman twitted me with representing magistrates and lawyers, but in point of fact this is largely a civil servants' Measure and we suffer more and more in this House by government of civil servants by civil servants for civil servants. One of the things I do not like about the Bill is the ignorance that it shows of the real grass roots facts of life connected with this problem.
If I were asked what was wrong with the status quo of dealing with children, whether in relation to Part I or Part II of the Bill, that is to say, either in relation to the juvenile courts or to the children's homes and residential accommodation, the answer, I would say, can be contained in a single sentence: the thing which is wrong with the status quo is the absence of trained personnel available to the juvenile court in the first case, and the absence of bricks and mortar of suitable quantity and quality in the second.
To quote the London magistrates who put in a separate memorandum which no doubt the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has seen, what is required is not a sortie into new and untried methods, but an extension of the facilities available to the juvenile court. The Southport magistrates made the same complaint, that juvenile court magistrates have never been equipped with all the facilities that Parliament purported to provide as long ago as 1933.
The point about the Bill is that, faced with a shortage of personnel and material it proposes 94 pages of administrative structure which will not add a single course of bricks on another and which will not by itself—although I recognise and welcome what the right hon. Gentleman was able to say about training facilities —produce a single additional trained officer to handle it. If I had available to me now all the trained officers which the right hon. Gentleman proposes, outside the scope of the Bill, to produce by 1974, I fancy that I could use the present structure to produce a situation very much better than the Bill will produce.
I personally would say—and I do not mean this personally about the right hon. Gentleman because, as he knows, I entertain a great personal affection and respect for him and his objectives—that Parliament is being the least bit hypocritical if it passes through 94 pages of legislation which does not really ameliorate the situation when it will not be able to implement those provisions for years to come. If there were the facilities to implement those provisions now, the situation would be radically different and radically better than it is.
I know very well—this reflects nothing but credit on the right hon. Gentleman, though I am not sure how much I agree with him—how the Home Secretary clings to his responsibility for children. It is very natural. If ever I had his position and had to deal with immigrants drugs, murderers and prisons, I should, I dare say, turn to child care with great affection and relief. All the same, I have my doubts, and I venture to express them before I find myself in the right hon. Gentleman's position—if ever I do—about whether this branch of the public service ought to be with the Home Office at all. This is one of the questions inevitably raised by the Seebohm Report.
There is a valid criticism of the Government based on the absence of adequate homework, and the Home Secretary does not cure it by totting up all the pieces of literature on the subject and announcing the total as 40. Part of the evidence of inadequate homework of which complaint is made is that the Government ought first to have made up their mind about Seebohm, as their training programme cannot be implemented by these provisions for years to come; and if, as I suspect may turn out to be the case, they came to the conclusion that a unified Ministry ought to deal with a whole variety of different services, including this one, they ought to have legislated at the moment when the new Minister was able to give a new look at the whole problem.
The right hon. Gentleman asked how long one must wait before doing something, and how much study had to be done before action was taken. The answer is that we must go on studying until we have the answer at least approximately right. As regards action, because the defect in the present situation is material and personal rather than structural, in my judgment, one would have plenty of time to take action at the proper stage. This is where the right hon. Gentleman has gone basically wrong.
I come now to the three parts of the Bill. I shall not say anything about Part III, Miscellaneous and General, because it is difficult to deal with miscellaneous provisions in a Second Reading speech. On Part II, which deals with community homes, I have, as the Amendment makes clear, relatively little criticism to offer so long as two basic factors are realised, namely, that it does not alter the situation on the ground because the same buildings manned by the same personnel will continue to deal with the same children whether the Bill is passed or not, although it may make it administratively more convenient for the civil servants, and, second, that apart from the shortages to which I have referred it will not deal with the basic trouble which confronts local authorities. I hope that the House will not think that I am being unctious about this. I do not know what the answer is, and I should say at once if I thought that I did.
The basic trouble in dealing with local authority problems as distinct from the juvenile courts is that the local authorities have to deal with two quite different types of child. There is the child who is, perhaps, orphaned as a result of accident, who is handicapped or ill, or who, as we like to put it euphemistically, is deprived and who probably wants nothing so much as love and security in the world. There is also the child who has got into trouble, either because it is led astray, or because—God save the mark—it is depraved. I hate to use the word "depraved" about a child, but if one is dealing for instance, with the child which was the subject of, to my mind, a most unfortunate letter published in the Press from the Chancellor of the Duchy recently, it is difficult not to attach that epithet to what it has done.
The difficulty for the local authority consists in having to bring these children into association, bringing—as someone rather cruelly put it—the depraved and the deprived under the same roof. The Bill will do nothing to alter that basic dilemma. I make no complaint that it does not. I wish I knew what the answer was. However, it does not improve that situation, and that is really the only comment I have about Part II.
Now, Part I. My two main criticisms of Part I stem from the two great mistakes made by the Civil Service thinking behind the Bill. The Home Secretary spoke as though the difficulty was that the law had not caught up with modern methods of treatment. That betrays an insufficient study of what actually goes on in the juvenile courts, what they do, and what they can do. The criticism which I make, however, of all the thinking behind the sequence of events to which I shall refer, and which has emerged from the present Government—I suspect, although I must not say so, that it is the administrative substructure rather than the Ministerial superstructure which is to blame—is that it under-estimates the constructive rôle of the juvenile courts at present. It does not get it right. It does not really know what is going on.
The second mistake in the thinking behind the Bill is that a fundamental truth about children has not been realised. It is my belief that we can talk about a child's welfare with all the sincerity, compassion and love which we know the right hon. Gentleman can summon, but we forget at our peril that the child has a sense of justice, a sense of justice which, though unsophisticated and immature, like all its undeveloped faculties, is none the less as acute and as real as the sense of justice of the Lord Chancellor himself.
There is one child of which we can each speak with good claim to intimate knowledge. Speaking of myself and looking back on my own childhood, I confess to having been able to put up with all sorts of suffering, ill-health, or even plain unkindness, but the little incidents of injustice, stand out like pebbles in my memory, making a permanent mark on my personality. I speak of the times when I was punished for something I did not do, when I was accused of something of which I was innocent, or was treated, as I thought, as another child more favoured than myself would not have been treated. To my mind, it is the failure of the substructure to realise that fundamental fact about children which has led the Government astray on the Bill.
First, there was the unfortunate White Paper of 1965, which did not differentiate between the guilty child and the innocent child, suggesting, rather, that a council could decide what was best for little Johnny. But little Johnny is a human being. He minds whether he is being, as he would put it, punished, though not as the civil servants mean to do it. He minds whether he is being treated in a way that he regards as punishment for something he did not do. That is why it would be churlish of me not to say that the White Paper of 1968, for which the right hon. Gentleman legitimately claimed credit, and the Bill which improves on it do represent real advances on the unfortunate White Paper of 1965. They do, and I acknowledge that gladly.
But there are factors in the child's understanding of justice other than the pure question of innocence or guilt. The first, which I had written in my notes before the right hon. Gentleman used the phrase in another context and with a different meaning, is equality of treatment. Of course, equality of treatment does not mean uniformity of treatment, and the right hon. Gentleman was quite entitled to say that. But let us see where we shall be if the Bill passes into law, which brings me back to the inadequacy of preparation. The Ingleby Committee, which reported as recently as 1960, made a series of recommendations which I vastly prefer to the contents of the Bill. I do not accept them all, but I prefer the Committee's approach, and it is approaches that we are talking about on Second Reading.
If the Bill passes into law it is not enough, to bring a child before the court, that he has committed an offence. The decisive authority must reach the conclusion that in addition to having committed an offence, if that is the avenue through which the application is to be made, he is in need of one of the orders that the court can make under the Bill—supervision, care, or binding over of the parents, to take the examples given by the right hon. Gentleman.
Let us see how this will work in practice and how it affects the child's sense of justice. Let us take two joint offenders, who have been pilfering from the supermarket. The one led astray is the child of a deserted wife or widowed mother, who is out of work and unable to effect proper care and control. The boy is fanatically devoted to his mother. The other, whom one may call the ringleader, comes, if you please, from a middle-class home, or shall it be a working-class home? It does not matter. But the situation is such that no one would say either that the parents should be bound over, because the factors which govern that are factors affecting the parent, or that the child should be put under supervision or care.
Under the Bill, he does not go to court at all. To use the expression which the child would use, and forgetting about phrases like "criminal responsibility" and the rest of the gobbledy-gook we use when we talk about these problems, one is "had up" and the other is not "had up" at all. The child that is had up in those circumstances will say, if the Bill becomes law, that this is not justice, that it is not fair. That is the road along which administrative convenience and good intentions are leading the House and the Government if we pass the Bill into law.
If the two children are brought before the court, is the court to treat them both alike, irrespective of their home circumstances and all the other circumstances, or are we still to have one child saying that the other one has got off?
The children will not be treated alike, if the meaning of "treatment" is treatment after conviction. I shall come to treatment later, but the point I was making, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman's argument that bringing before the court is not treatment in that sense, is that the two cases must be heard together to get justice between them. We shall see in a moment where that will lead us.
Broadly, the answer to the hon. Gentleman is to be found in another defect of the Bill. It is well to remember that we legislated about this subject as recently as 1963, although the right hon. Gentleman never so much as mentioned the Act of 1963. The present situation is that the parents of a child who does wrong can be made to pay compensation to the victim. This cannot happen under the Bill.
If I may return to the perfectly legitimate question of the hon. Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Archer), under the law, with an adequate panoply of child care officers and the like provided by the new training system, one can fine the parents of the ringleader or make them pay compensation. Therefore, both the children do not get off. But under the law as proposed, one not only gets off but does not even get "had up". The House would be taking a retrograde step by passing this legislation.
If a mere lawyer is allowed to speak, I would just say that some of us care more about justice than almost anything else in the world, and in that the history of mankind sides with us on the whole. If we choose to disregard justice in our handling of young people we shall not achieve the objectives which the Home Secretary has in mind.
My next point can be handled better in relation to the proposals regarding young persons than children, although what I am about to say has some application to children as well. Before reaching it, may I tell the Home Secretary that I do not want every child that commits an offence to go to court. I do not share the view which was, I think incautiously, expressed by the Master of the Rolls in a recent case, when I was very nearly committed for contempt of court. It was suggested that the police should prosecute every offence. After all, until 1903 a person who admitted a Jesuit to vows in this country was liable to the loss of all his worldly goods, under an Act of 1829. I believe that the police should exercise some degree of caution in prosecuting any offences, particularly when it comes to prosecuting children and young persons, but especially children.
Therefore, it is quite an unfair point to make against us that there are all the liaison schemes and the various devices adopted. I think that they are good, but I share the view of the Ingleby Committee that in principle the commission of what in an adult would be an offence—I do not complain of the raising of what is called the age of criminal responsibility, although it is very largely eyewash—would be in itself in principle an adequate reason in law for bringing the case before the juvenile court, even though that was the only factor, and even though the police were encouraged to use a great deal of discretion before they brought it.
That brings me to the point I was about to make. If one asked a child what it meant by justice I think that its answer would have the following three factors. The first is guilt or innocence. That was got rid of by the 1965 White Paper, out is now quite properly reintroduced by the right hon. Gentleman into this legislation.
The second is what I have been trying to describe by "equality", which is an element in all human beings' ideas of justice, social or legal. The third is speed. There must be as short a period as possible between the commission of an offence—especially when dealing with a child or young person—and the way one treats the offender. One must never fail to bear in mind that the child's sense of time moves infinitely more slowly than the adult's. That is to say, three months is an age to a child but when, alas, one reaches the age of 60 it seems only like five minutes of one's childhood existence.
If we are to introduce all this red tape into the bringing of the offence before the court—as distinct from the apparatus of dealing with it—how long will it take for a young person to be brought to court after the commission of an offence? Anyone's guess is a good one. All I can tell the right hon. Gentleman is that, when I put that question to one of the associations which addressed our party committee—as, no doubt, it addressed a committee of hon. Members opposite—I was told that it would be three to four months on average. That is simply not good enough.
It is not only that the juvenile court magistrate wishes to disclaim the rôle of abiter assigned to him by the Bill. It is that the police can be trusted to use the discretion which will have the effect of keeping within our law—because it Is there now—the feature of rapidity which is essential in dealing with young people and children.
Does the right hon. and learned Member have any figures about the speed with which prosecutions are now brought to the juvenile courts? In my experience, three or four months was not beyond the normal.
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. I have no such figures and I would be the first to concede that the tendency is too long as it is. But that is precisely the reason why we should not make it longer still or put artificial barriers to prosecution. I feel that this action is a step in the wrong direction, taken with the best possible motives but in the name of administrative efficiency rather than from real, concrete understanding of cases as they happen.
One has to recognise that children come before juvenile courts for a great variety of different kinds of misdoing. One can take, as I thought the right hon. Gentleman was taking, altogether too tragic a view of what happens when they get there and the need for bringing them there for a variety of reasons—truancy, for example, or riding a bicycle without a light. If the child goes on doing it, inevitably he will find himself there, but must we go through the rigmarole of pretending that he has to have a supervision order or that his parents must be bound over?
Then there are various types of malicious damage. Under the present law, the parent can be made to pay and that is an end of it. But one cannot prosecute a boy if he throws a stone through the shopkeeper's window now unless he is in need of care, or, under the Bill, supervision, and even when one does prosecute him the parent cannot be made to pay, so that the shopkeeper will have to pay out of his own pocket.
I have tried not to be technical. It may be that the impression I have succeeded in creating on the Home Secretary is that of a dry-as-dust lawyer who does not know anything about children and who has taken nothing but legal points with the utmost pedantry. If so, I have failed, but my conviction is that this is a muddle-headed piece of legislation, although I admire his objective. If it were not for the fact that I know he would not, I would appeal to him to take the Bill back and bring us something better.
I have always admired the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) for his fertility of ideas. I should now congratulate him in respect of his fertility in other respects. I well recall having to defend two youngsters in a juvenile court. They had seen a bus standing on derelict ground. They were naturally attracted, went into the cab and started to play. Somehow, they succeeded in starting the bus, which lurched forward a few yards and then lurched back. They were brought before the juvenile court and, after a long hearing, were found guilty technically of taking and driving away a motor vehicle. They were, of course, discharged.
It was my submission then, and it is my submission today, that that case should never have come before a court. Of course, a caution in that case would have been adequate, but such procedure varies from place to place and it is one of the merits of the Bill—although there are defects in it—that it standardises the criteria for bringing children before the courts.
In so far as the Bill seeks to limit the number of cases which come before juvenile courts, with the object of trying to help and treat young people rather than punish them, it should be warmly welcomed. Although revolutionary in its long-term implications, it is almost counter-revolutionary in the context of the original White Paper, "The Child, the Family and the Law". It is essentially a compromise, but not necessarily the worse for that.
As the right hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned, the original White Paper contained a number of principles which gave rise to very great concern on the part of those concerned seriously about the rule of law. In attempting to do away with the concept of guilt, it risked the opposite effect of tarnishing all those brought before the proposed Family Council with guilt. It implied the fact that, where an accusation might have led the child before the Family Council, any treatment meted out by the council would have been regarded by the child and its family as punishment. Above all, it placed the parent in the rôle not of protector of the child, but, in the child's eyss, perhaps as a conspirator with the authcrities, in the shape of the council, in depriving him of his liberty. There was, in effect, a presumption of guilt without recourse to legal process.
Under the new procedure, which I welcome in general, only a minority of youngsters will come before the juvenile court, and there must be both offence and the need for care and control—a dual requirement—before an order is made. This largely meets the objection, but there are two very sincere and quite differing schools of thought—one of them put very adequately by the right hon. and learned Gentleman—which inevitably lead to different conclusions.
I refer to what was said b. Mr. R. F. Sparks, Assistant Director of Research at the Cambridge Institute of Criminology, who criticised the assumption that delinquency is basically a symptom of personal or social maladjustment curable by sympathetic caseworkers and that the prevention of delinquency and the protection of children are really identical objectives. This is a view which the right hon. and learned Gentleman shares. I do not share it in the case of a majority of the cases of delinquency which come before the courts.
On the other hand, there is a growing awareness, which has been shown in Home Office and Education Department circulars, that
… unsatisfactory home conditions are one of the long-term causes of juvenile delinquency.
The best example of the view opposed to the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that of Barbara Kahain, who wrote an interesting article in New Society in 1962. She was then, I do not know whether she still is, Children's Officer to the County of Oxford. She said:
A child who becomes delinquent is reacting to the same problems which produce maladjusted and deprived children and should be treated in the light of this.
The figures which she quotes from her Oxford experience lend enormous support to the contention that offenders can satisfactorily be rehabilitated by the same methods as those used for bringing up deprived children, without resorting to approved school training, which incidentally, is usually more expensive.
If this is what is behind the idea of the community homes, then I welcome the proposal in the Bill. I have one reservation, and it is that all the reforming zeal of my right hon. Friend and his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will founder if it is not matched by the same generosity of financial treatment from the Treasury in respect of the new institutions, the numbers of personnel that will be needed to deal with these changes and with what is the growing problem of children in trouble.
I want to return to the central debate, which was very important. The Magistrates Association and my own juvenile panel in Manchester have made representations which follow what is basically the Sparks view, or the view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. They say:
These provisions, which give local authorities wide powers, are acceptable only when they are used to give relief to deprived children (e.g., orphans and deserted children) but are unacceptable when applied to juveniles who are offenders or beyond control.
This is far too sweeping a statement, and it is a distinction which is not valid over a broad section of the cases which come before the courts.
It certainly runs counter to the experience at Oxford, quoted in New Society, where 90 per cent. of those children who were treated in the same way as the non-delinquents benefited from such treatment. This compares very well with the 50 per cent. who appeared to benefit—in the sense that they did not appear before the courts again—from approved school.
It may be, and I have no figures to challenge this one way or the other, that these were the less serious cases. Many hon. and learned Gentlemen opposite have far more experience than I on this, but in my experience defending people on criminal charges, whether young children, adolescents or adults, I am completely convinced that in every case I have looked at there has been something unusual about the whole background of the delinquent. I am convinced that basically a happy home, where there is love and affection, where the family works together as a unit, does not, or very rarely, produce a delinquent child.
In spite of this, I have great sympathy for the magistrates and for one of two of the points put forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, because there is a third possibility, and it is that the child who is not a delinquent in the true sense of the word may be going through a phase. He may only be showing off to his friends at school, and may perhaps pilfer from a local store or a market. This was not unknown, even in the direct grant school which I attended. Such a child does not need to be sent away and he may not be in need of care and protection, but a jolly good jolt would be useful.
There needs to be some kind of contact with some sort of authority to put him right, and this probably applies to a third of the offenders who appear before juvenile courts. In these cases the right to fine and order compensation, or to discharge a person might be useful. The panel at Manchester which put forward the need for these measures misses the fact that under the new rules most of these cases will not come before the court, and that such powers will only be of value, and I agree that they would be of value, if the requirement as to the need for care and protection did not apply. It is no use having those powers when this dual requirement exists. There may be a few cases which will filter through, where this sort of treatment will be useful. Nevertheless, there is a point. These are experienced humane people, conscious of their responsibilities. They voluntarily give their time in this service and have a great deal of experience.
I wonder how many of them have seen the scene outside their court. I wonder whether they have seen the spectacle of an overcrowded ill-lit room, in which juvenile offenders, traffic and other offenders, police officers, court ushers, probation officers, children's officers, solicitors, counsel—all sorts of people—mill about, apparently aimlessly, very often aimlessly, while the children wait; while their nervous and uncomprehending parents have time to develop the neuroses which probably originally brought the children to court.
Perhaps my hon. Friend will hear with me.
This is a closely argued point and it comes to conclusions which are not perhaps on the same line of my right hon. Friend or the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It is an observation on the facts of life in some of the juvenile courts. If the Bill succeeds in reducing the number of cases brought before the courts, it will have done a service. If the provisions of the Bill enable children to forgo that experience it will be a good thing. Like the Association of Children's Officers, I would welcome it on that ground alone.
Prevention is better than cure. Reference has already been made to the Ingleby Committee. That Committee stressed that the great majority of offenders could be helped and diverted from their anti-social behaviour by means designed to build up their confidence and a sense of their own worth, to give them opportunities for developing their personality and capabilities. I agree with those sentiments. I have to concede that with all the good will in the world, and supporting this the Bill as I do, we have not yet disposed of the objections of the Magistrates Association, or the forceful criticism that the new procedure may lead to one law for the rich and another for the poor, particularly where there are co-defendants. It is true that defendants, once found guilty, are often dealt with differently, but it is also true that today middle-class children very rarely come before the courts.
My right hon. Friend has to accept that it will be very hard for parents to accept the difference in practice, not in the way in which the child is dealt after the hearing, but over the decision as to whether he should be brought before the court initially. It almost prejudges the capability of the parents. All this stems from the difficult compromise which we are seeking to achieve between, on the one side the concept of guilt, which is more favoured by the Opposition and the need for care, favoured on this side of the House.
Somehow, I believe that this is a genuine dilemma which has to be resolved. The anomalies arising from this compromise might have been avoided by a procedure put forward by the probation officers. This was the idea of a social worker trained in the law, who would decide initially whether a case should go before a court. He would filter the case in the first case. This would give a great degree of flexibility and would cover precisely the kind of case to which I have referred, when a certain jolt may be needed, but where there is no need for care and protection.
It would bring the child and parents into contact with a trained person, someone in authority who would be able, by the act of dealing with the matter, to show them the seriousness of the position. It would at the same time fit in with the main object of the Bill in preventing many young children from coming before the court who should not do so. The police caution may have the same effect. It is not standard throughout the country and it is not entirely satisfactory. It precludes the possibility of the flexible approach which the suggestion of the probation officers and myself would give.
In this context, I refer to what my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said about the police juvenile liaison scheme. I welcome its extension. It might be said, perhaps jocularly, that it does the police a great deal of good and there is no reason to suppose that it harms the children. But that would be very unfair. I must congratulate the police on their approach. The Police Federation have said that it does not like children who need socialising being branded as criminals. It is refreshing to hear of the cooperation and concern of the police in this matter. It is a recognition of the basic principle which makes this aspect of the Bill a welcome innovation, despite the problems to which I have referred.
I ask my right hon. Friend—he has given every indication that this will be so—to ensure that the Committee stage is treated as a forum for constructive debate to work out the answer rather than, as sometimes happens with Committee stages, an unfortunate necessity which the Government must go through to get a Bill on the Statute Book.
There should be flexibility in the use of the probation service and children's officers. There should not be a rigid distinction according to age. The probation service has a great deal to offer. It has much valuable experience of children in trouble. I see no reason why we should not draw on the different types of experience of the probation officers and of child welfare officers. I see no reason to oppose the suggestion of the panel of Manchester magistrates that they should be entitled to have investigations made by the probation service if they so desire, at least in the initial stage, when we are still trying to train a large number of children's officers, some of whom inevitably will lack experience when they come straight from training.
The children's officers point out, quite rightly, that they know
by experience that the difference between the young offender and the other is related more to the existence of administrative circumstances than to anything else".
If that is so—and I believe that it is in large measure—then by the same token there can be no objection to the extensive use of probation officers to deal with cases of that sort. If it works one way, it must work the other.
Would my hon. Friend agree that it would be especially unfortunate if, in the same family, one child over the age of 14 was being helped by the probation service and a younger child was being helped by the child welfare officer.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend.
This is a field which should attract a great many young people who are genuinely concerned about social problems and who perhaps give vent to their concern in ways which are not always regarded as desirable by authority. Their genuine concern could well be channelled into this work.
I welcome Clause 5 of the Bill. It is not dissimilar from my proposal for social workers, except that a magistrate, presumably one who is particularly experienced in these matters, will decide whether to prosecute. I still think that the idea of a trained social worker who also has had legal training would fill the bill as a sort of committal court before the case is heard. It would not be desirable that a magistrate who has already heard the case should again hear it when it comes before the juvenile court.
It is a pity that controversy over these questions diverts attention from the comprehensive range of residential facilities for young people needing care which are to be provided for under the Bill. I hope that this means a lot more than mere changes in names. I am particularly delighted that no offender under the age of 17 will be sent to a detention centre or borstal when the alternative facilities are made available. This is no criticism of those who run detention centres, but I have felt for a long time that frequently they fall between two stools. What is needed for some offenders is a very short, sharp shock and not three months detention. What others need is a much longer period of positive training.
I hope that financial stringency will not delay the progressive measures in the Bill. I am glad that the new forms of constructive treatment are welcomed by the Magistrates Association. My own magistrates feel that the Bill does not go far enough in this respect. They have fears about the priority in national and local authority finance which will be given to these projects. The great emphasis on controlling foster homes is another positive aspect of the Bill. In particular, I refer to Clause 49.
But lack of staff to deal with this matter could detract from the effectiveness of the Bill. If 1,500 local authority staff will be needed and about £2½ million required to pay for them, the problem of training will be crucial to carrying out the Bill's intentions. Good legislation needs to be matched by generosity in finance. This legislation is vital to the future of hundreds of thousands of young people and children yet unborn. Many sincere people have contributed to its discussion. It is very unfair to say that no time has been given for discussion. It has gone on for a long time, and it is to the Government's credit that they have listened to many of the representations made on the White Paper and have come up with a Bill which, with modifications in Committee, should be acceptable to all concerned.
The Bill is essentially a compromise between one type of valuable experience and tradition typified by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone in a very attractive and sincere speech, and another type of experience which is becoming increasingly important as typified by the children's officers. Compromises inevitably produce anomalies, and there are some in the Bill. I hope that thought will be given to their elimination in Committee. But I believe that the House should welcome the Bill generally.
I will deal later with the largely constructive and very thoughtful remarks of the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose).
The Home Secretary adopted a robust, common-sense attitude to our opposition to parts of the Bill, for which I am grateful. He said that he does not want to have a dogfight about the Bill. That certainly goes for me. He was indulgent enough to overlook what I had perceived to be a slip in our Amendment, to which I will call attention before somebody else does. We refer in the Amendment to "Part III". I think that we mean Part II. Perhaps I might add my weight to the Amendment by saying that the top three signatories of it have 16 children between them.
Like the Home Secretary, I am not deeply troubled by the differences between the two sides of the House over the Bill, but I am disturbed by one consequence, not only of the Bill, but of the White Paper which preceded it, and that is the polarisation—I think that that is the right word—of some of the principal bodies working in this field.
On the one hand, the children's officers and the child care officers, whose empire—perhaps that is an unfair word—whose responsibilities will be inevitably increased by the Bill, tend strongly to support it, with very few reservations. On the other hand, the juvenile court magistrates, who have come in for some discussion, whose judicial realm they feel will be diminished, have expressed reservations, some to the point of opposition. I accept what the Home Secretary says, that there are some who support the Bill, but I think that the majority have reservations.
The Home Secretary left us in no doubt where he stood. It would be a pity if bodies which are united in putting first their care and consideration for these children should become divided by the Bill, or by anything that we may observe among ourselves in the course of the debate, and I bear that in mind. These bodies share a common concern for children and young people in trouble and in most cases, although I have little experience of their work, they work together, and I hope that this will continue to be so. It is inherently probable that the case put by each side has some truth in it, and I find it difficult to reject one case and accept all the others. Broadly, they find common ground on Part II, as we do. There are differences in detail, but not in principle. They take a certain amount for granted, which I hope we shall not do.
As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) has hinted, the principal failure of the present system has not been so much the behaviour of the courts, but our inability to provide the range of facilities envisaged under the Acts that we have passed since the war for the benefit of the courts and to which they might resort. It is surely common ground that there has not been provided the diversity of facilities which first the 1948 Act and then subsequent Acts, notably the 1963 Act, all envisaged, and that has been a major failure.
I see no reason to think that these proposals will of themselves remedy those defects. Indeed, it is accepted that some time will be taken in finding personnel and bricks and mortar although it is less bricks and mortar than personnel. I do not want to develop that argument except to ask one question. Will the Under-Secretary, in winding up the debate, tell us what effect the Bill will have on the Government's thinking about Seebohm? The implementation of the Seebohm Report is given a degree of greater relevance by the provisions of the Bill, and a great many people are anxious about the future of the Report.
It is on Part I of the Bill that the major differences occur, and I think rightly. The Manchester Juvenile Court Panel—and I am speaking as one who is neither a magistrate nor a lawyer—put its finger on the point at issue very fairly in referring to its fundamental objection to State intervention in a juvenile's life through an executive rather than a judicial body. This has been the central issue since the first White Paper of 1965, "The Child, the Family and the Young Offender", and it remains a critically important one.
Where I believe that the thinking behind this plan is wrong and leads to a major defect in the Bill is the basic assumption that all children who commit offences can be subject to the same proceedings or, perhaps I should say more accurately, to the same lack of criminal proceedings. I am prepared to accept that there are children whose family background and home circumstances may be such as to mitigate almost any offence, and that in such instances the case for executive rather than judicial action is overwhelming.
I am even prepared to accept that there are children whose single offence may be an incident which should not occasion a court appearance and which would now, but not in future, probably lead to a police caution. The argument that this principle should be applied to all young offenders, for example, to all the 20,000 under the age of 14 found guilty of indictable offences in the last accountable year, is an argument which it is impossible to sustain, and that is my root objection to Part I.
Certainly, there are children, perhaps the very great majority, whose pressing need is for help and not for punishment, but there remains a minority, which may be small, whose family backgrounds are not unsatisfactory and whose offences cannot be shrugged off as part of childhood's experience, and a fair number of these are under 14. Experts will assure us that there are a certain number under the age of 10, although I am not for the moment arguing the age of criminal responsibility. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, disagreeable as it is to say so, there are depraved as well as deprived and, if we ignore that, we ignore reality, though it is unpleasant reality, and if we ignore reality as we proceed with the Bill we shall make a blunder.
Behind these proposals there lies a wholly well-intentioned but potentially dangerous notion that our primary role with the young delinquent is not to treat or punish offences but to prevent them Carried to its logical conclusion, that may lead to executive action on behalf of children who would not now appear in court. The Home Secretary lent some countenance to this reflection. He spoke of preventive work and of trivial offences which would now not be caught up but which, under the provisions of the Bill, may be dealt with. That intervention in a juvenile's life, perhaps with the full consent of feckless parents, without any judicial authority carries certain dangers. The judicial process may seem harsh, but it also carries great safeguards.
Is not that the whole basis of the present relationship between juveniles and the police? The police do not take the child to court, but intervene before the case occurs. Similarly, in thousands of cases the children's officers see trouble before is occurs and prevent it happening.
The hon. Gentleman mistakes my point. The point is that there will now be fresh causes for the executive as opposed to the courts to investigate the circumstances and actions of children, and this without the safeguard of judicial proceedings or supervision. I am entering a reservation about that.
Will the right hon. Gentleman apply his mind to the fact that Section 1 of the Act of 1963 already enjoins child care officers to give advice, guidance and assistance to young persons so that they will not appear before the court? What he is talking about is exactly the same as that.
I am careful not to suggest that we are incorporating a fresh principle; we are extending conditions which already exist. It is in this extension that I see certain dangers.
Open court proceedings, which we loudly extol in other circumstances, have virtues which, in the course of our consideration of the Bill, I hope we shall not overlook. On the face of it, justice administered by the Welfare State seems to be more just than justice administered by the criminal court, but the Welfare State is no more infallible than the courts, as we know from some instances arising out of the Welfare State which are brought to our notice, and it may well be less adequately staffed.
Part of this same thinking also dwells on the stigma of criminality involved in court appearances. This stigma would be associated with appearance before any tribunal, be it a family court or a welfare council, call it what you will, and this argument can be overdone. It is not the court from which the thinking behind these proposals shies, but the establishment of guilt or otherwise. That is the crux of it, and that is where I part company with this part of the Bill.
I go all the way with those who declare that seven out of 10 or nine out of 10 offending children require help and not punishment. I refuse to move with those who seek to conceal from the child whether it has offended or not, and that is what I fear that the consequences of this part of the Bill may be. That is not even a principle which is accepted in the English home, and it ought not to be introduced into our courts.
I can think of no move more calculated to confuse the young mind and create the sense of injustice to which my right hon. and learned Friend referred than this endeavour, however well intentioned, to blur a very important line. There is only one proper place to determine guilt or innocence in many circumstances where home surroundings are not a predominant factor, and that, in the interests of the child and the family, is the court. That function fulfilled, I see no reason why the bulk of the Bill's excellent intentions should not be fulfilled.
It seems to me that we have gone a long way to achieve what could be a good and much simpler process. Incidentally, I am sure that the Home Secretary, in preparing the Bill, has borne in mind how difficult it will be for children and their families to understand what it is that we intend. The Bill is extremely complicated. We are accustomed to deciphering 94 pages of a Bill like this, but will it be understood by the young and their families who may be involved in the hundreds of thousands of cases to which the right hon. Gentleman referred? I fear not. However, I put that in only in parentheses.
I hope that the courts will recommend as many as possible to social and welfare services. I do not take exception to that at all. They will wish as much as any to promote the welfare of the young. However, it is not necessary to require the Lord Chancellor in future to select juvenile magistrates of suitable outlook for this work. I question whether that is a wise move. Let the decision be taken in open court. Let it be arrived at openly. Let there be no suggestion of decisions affecting the future of the young reached behind executive doors, no matter how good the intentions may be.
There is another notion behind these proposals that too many appear in court unnecessarily. The hon. Member for Blackley made reference to that in his speech. I would like to see evidence of that. Certainly, it was not part of the Ingleby Committee's findings. It did not recommend any restrictions on bringing juvenile offenders to court. In any case, I would have thought that the police liaison schemes could be left to look after that.
From these excellently intentioned proposals, I see two dangers arising, both of them contrary to the cause of justice. The first is interference by the Executive, out of sight, so to speak, and outside the judicial framework. That sometimes can lead to the nastiest scandals caused by the nicest people. That is the tragedy of this. The second is this matter of delay, which is applicable particularly to the proposals for those between 14 and 17.
I have always ruled out any possibility of going back to the birch for young people, because the strongest argument against the birch, in the Departmental Committee's paper on the subject, was the intolerable delay between the sentence and the infliction of the birch. It is therefore consistent, it seems to me, to be highly critical of what I suspect will be protracted inquiries in respect of those between 14 and 17, lasting far longer than they should or than they do now. Weeks, even months, will be spent as the files circulate and a somewhat overburdened service, to say nothing of the police, pursue their inquiries. I fear that, in the last place where we desire it to happen, the Bill may have, in the literal sense of the word, a demoralising effect. I say that as one who generally tries to support all constructive measures of penal reform.
Those responsible for drafting the Bill are suffering from a fundamental and infectious confusion. I fear that they may inflict part of their confusion on the minds of a generation which needs and deserves something better.
I hope that the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) will forgive me if I do not follow his remarks, in the light of my own argument, though I found a good deal of force in much of what he said. Nevertheless, my own consideration has led me to give a warmer welcome to the Bill than he finds himself inclined to do.
I welcome especially the readiness of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to consult with bodies, and I share his astonishment at that part of the Opposition Amendment which criticises the failure to do so. Even the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) acknowledges the very great difference between this Bill, based on the most recent White Paper, and the earlier White Paper. This is a measure of the consultation, and the much greater degree of welcome for the Bill; and the second White Paper is an indication that the consultation has borne fruit. It has been a genuine process of consultation in which people's views have been taken into account.
Based as it is on the family, the basic principles underlying the Bill is sound, but I share with the right hon. Gentleman and others the view that it is essential to take account of the offender's viewpoint. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is right in arguing that one essential element in this is simplicity. It is important that the procedure to be followed should be simple and capable of being easily understood, not just by a layman but by people who very often are of limited intelligence. It is important, too, that proceedings should be obviously fair. It is not sufficient simply that they should be fair. They must be obviously and apparently fair. These requirements must be borne in mind.
In passing, I feel that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was very unfair in suggesting that administrative convenience for and by civil servants underlay very much of the Bill. Certainly, that is not my impression. I think that he lacked his usual charity and sense of fairness in making that suggestion.
I turn now to what has been described as the nub of the criticism of the Bill. It is suggested that it discriminates between offenders. As I understand, the arguments against that arise first from the suggestion that there may be a kind of social discrimination favouring the middle-class as against the working-class child and, in any case, involving great difficulty in defining what is a poor or unsatisfactory home. It is certainly my view that a middle-class home can be much more unsatisfactory in some ways than a working class home. It depends on the circumstances. But how do we arrive at an objective appraisal of those circumstances or define the criteria?
The point has been made that the involvement of the parents through the requirement about showing lack of care and need might seriously damage the relationship of the child with his parents. He might feel that they have let him down if he is sent to court whereas another child is not. He may feel it is through some fault of his parents.
The question of delay has been fully dealt with. I simply list it as one of the criticisms.
Some critics have queried whether a child is sufficiently safeguarded under the Bill against what might on occasion be rather narrow and arbitrary decisions by council officials, although perhaps well meaning. It must be borne in mind in this connection that the consent of parents cannot always be assumed, as perhaps would be required for this part of the Bill to work successfully.
Having said that and having fully recognised the force of the arguments which I have simply summarised, I feel that there are counter arguments to be made.
First, court action may well mean that the necessity of proving an offence may prevent early remedial-preventive action to deter a child from an apparently chosen path in time. It may inhibit early action if court action is required.
While I appreciate the contribution made by the juvenile courts, their sincerity, qualifications and merits, I am not sure that they are best able to be judge in their own case on this matter. After all, they lack one essential element in objective assessment of their own contribution to the process—an adequate amount of feedback of the consequences of their proposed treatment in their sentences. They have the history of a child before he comes to court and from that they award a certain course of treatment. If the child does not appear before that bench again it has no way of checking the effectiveness of its decisions.
I should point out to my hon. Friend that those who sit on juvenile court benches regularly dealing with all sorts of offences, great and minor, have machinery available to enable them to follow up these cases by means of probation case committees and visits to places. They are generally alive and alert to the responsibilities attaching to a juvenile court. If the juvenile court magistrates seriously want to follow up cases every opportunity is given for them to do so.
I welcome my hon. Friend giving me this information. But I cannot help wondering whether all juvenile court benches are able to find the time to use the facilities that are open to them. However, I accept my hon. Friend's correction.
When I first considered the Clause and this criticism, the example of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone seemed obvious and I found it difficult to answer. The question was: how do we treat two offenders charged with or guilty of the same offence but from different backgrounds? I recognise that this is a powerful argument which cannot be disregarded. The sense of unfairness that one or other of the boys can feel if there is a difference in treatment has to be measured or assessed. But we have to be careful that we do not sacrifice, on the ground of that very important consideration, the equally or more important consideration that the treatment should be suited to the offender rather than to the offence. Is it really suggested that because one boy comes from a less satisfactory home the needs of the second boy should in some way be subordinate to those of the first and that he should be penalised by not being given the treatment most appropriate to him? The right hon. Gentleman acknowledged that treatment after the court stage is different. Considering that there is no essential difference in principle or in effect of handling the two cases rather differently in the initial stage as in the secondary, one boy going to court and the other not, on balance I tend to come down on the side of the Bill.
I should like to raise one point of detail. Clause 5(2), I understand, requires that criminal proceedings can be taken only with the consent of a justice of the peace qualified to sit in a juvenile court. I cannot help wondering whether this is wise and necessary. I think that, in tenor with the general theme of the Bill, it would be better for that kind of decision to be taken by the social workers and others concerned at an earlier stage.
I now turn to the question of prevention. I hope that in the machinery to be set up we shall see much closer liaison with the schools. The classroom register is often the first indication about the tendency of a child towards delinquency. There may be recurrent truancy. It may not be enough to constitute an offence, but it may occur in a regular pattern on particular days. It might turn out to be market day. That might suggest to an alert teacher that perhaps a bit of petty thieving is going on. At that stage, without the necessity of proving that it is happening, it would be an admirable consequence of the Bill if it was possible to call in some kind of expert assistance.
I should like to see some provision inserted into the Bill concerning compensation to victims, From the point of view of the offender, natural justice, and public acceptability of the Bill as a whole, I think this is necessary.
I should like to raise one or two detailed points on the children's regional planning committees. I welcome the Home Secretary's search for flexibility. This is essential. But I should like to draw attention to Schedule I, paragraph 1(2). On my reading, the Schedule seems to disqualify full-time practitioners from membership of the planning committees. This seems undesirable since presumably the people concerned with the treatment of children would have good experience from which to make a valuable contribution.
I hope that my hon. Friend will give us some information about the criteria to be used in determining the size of the planning areas. Clearly, these must not be too large, so that we can avoid remoteness from home except in the inevitable special cases, and, on the other hand, they must not be too small so that they are not able to carry a wide range of community homes.
Bearing in mind the time scale and the necessity to go ahead in stages, I wonder whether the Bill can be implemented on a regional basis? If the provisions of the Bill were introduced in their entirety in a selected region, it would obviate the disadvantage of a lack of resources and the necesssity of having to wait to introduce the Bill on a countrywide basis, and doing that would enable us to compare the results achieved there by the new measures with the results in regions where they have not been implemented.
I urge my right hon. Friend to allow plenty of scope for experiment in the development of the necessary facilities. The Bill provides some scope for experiment, and I welcome this. I hope that there will be scope for individuality on the part of those in charge of the various establishments, and that they will not be required to conform to any particular pattern of thinking that might be current at any time. Will these establishments provide for the denominational element in existing approved schools to be maintained?
The quality of the staff is crucial, and is much more important than any structure or methods. I am unhappy about the suggestion that there will not be a need for an increase in staff. I am concerned about the suggestion that, apart from what would normally be required, there will be no need for an increase in capital expenditure. I think that if the Bill is to work there will be a need for an increase in both staff and capital expenditure if we are not to be driven to a policy of make-do which might compromise the objectives of the Bill.
My right hon. Friend made it clear that the Bill contains procedures for dealing with staff who are displaced, but I think that he is receiving representations on behalf of teachers in approved schools. These teachers should receive treatment at least comparable to that of teachers employed in the education service.
In her report to the Teesside Children's Committee, Miss Forster, the Children's Officer, recommended the establishment of adventure training schools on our excellent North Yorkshire moors. I think that she envisaged youngsters staying there for perhaps a month at a time, and operating on Outward Bound lines, which many of us know were very effective in dealing with young people. In my constituency there is ample scope for providing such facilities.
Having put those detailed questions, and having expressed one or two doubts, I conclude by warmly welcoming the Bill, which I believe will make a real contribution to solving an astonishingly difficult and complex problem.
I hope to deal with some of the arguments put forward by the hon. Member for Cleveland (Mr. Tinn), but I should like to start by referring to the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose). The hon. Gentleman and I are in the same profession; indeed, we practise in the same town.
I very much agree with a great deal of what the hon. Gentleman said, and no more so than when he talked about the standard of the juvenile courts in parts of the North-West of England. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me when I say that the arguments and the concern expressed by the Manchester City Juvenile Court on both the last White Paper and this one are of a far higher standard than the premises in which they have to sit.
Like the hon. Gentleman, I, too, wish that we could see a tremendous improvement in the standard of these courts. I think that they confirm what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) said, that it is not so much the provisions of the Bill as the money, bricks and mortar that are required to put right that which is wrong in our approach to juveniles.
I turn, now, to the theme of the Home Secretary's speech, and indeed the theme of the White Paper and the Bill. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman's two underlying arguments are, first, his desire to ensure that fewer children and young persons appear before the courts, and, secondly,——
There is an important qualification here. I want to ensure that fewer children appear before the courts if other methods of treatment will be as, or more, effective.
I could not agree more about that. I wholeheartedly agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that he would like to see fewer children appearing before the courts, and instead being dealt with in other ways. I also agree with the right hon. Gentleman when he says that there is a need for more flexible means of treatment, particularly of offenders of this age.
What concerns me about the Bill is that this seems to be the wrong way of going about achieving those aims. I believe that to a large extent we are debating change for change's sake, without the change leading to anything better than the present system. I believe that the provisions about the courts will lead, not only to injustice between children, but, worse still, to substantial delay, and when one is dealing with children delay in meting out justice to a large extent becomes itself injustice.
I criticise the Bill because I believe that it takes powers from the courts and gives them too widely to local authorities. Above all, my objection is that in practice the Bill will to a large extent be unworkable, because I do not believe that the present child care authorities will be able to cope with the pressures which will result from the Bill becoming law. Having read Clause 31, I suspect that the Home Secretary feels the same way, because it seems that under this Clause the right hon. Gentleman can bring in part of the Bill at any time, in any year, for many years hence. One cannot help feeling that perhaps we are debating in a vacuum in that we are discussing provisions which, in effect, will not be brought in for a substantial number of years, because there will not be the men on the ground or the buildings to enable this to be done.
I want to concentrate on Part I and the Clauses dealing with the present juvenile courts. I was slightly surprised—perhaps it was my fault for not noticing it—that the Home Secretary paid no tribute to the work of magistrates in juvenile courts——
I thought that it was noticeable by its absence rather than its presence. If the praise was there, it was faint. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that they do a great deal of very hard work, which takes up a lot of their time, and that they show a good deal of concern about the cases before them.
For the children between 10 and 14, these proposals will not improve the situation. Someone mentioned the age of criminal responsibility, but the Bill does not raise that age to 14, since it specifically talks about children being "guilty" of offences. All that it does is say that a child can still be guilty of a criminal offence and can be brought before a court not for that offence but only as being in need of care and protection. I will not repeat the arguments against the principle of distinguishing between children from the homes with good control and those from homes with bad control.
But the Home Secretary ignored this problem, that, surely, the objection to the Bill—he talked about middle class and working class homes and said that it was wrong that one child would appear before the court while the other would not—is that it exaggerates that difference by specifically providing that in future, although committing the same sort of offences, the child from the middle class home—to use his own phrase—cannot be brought before the court but the child from the working class home is extremely likely to be brought before the court. It is because I fear that it exaggerates this distinction, which—the right hon. Gentleman is probably in right—already exists, that I object to that provision. But others speakers have already given various examples of this.
What worries me is that, under the Bill, before a child can be brought before the court, if he is to be, the local authority in conjunction with the police, must decide that he is, prima facie, in need of care and protection. Thus, all the detailed arrangements which today are done before the case is heard will have to be done even before a decision to prosecute is taken. Therefore, inevitably, the length of time which it takes to bring a child before the court is likely to be doubled. That delay in itself is a bad principle.
When one considers that there were, on the figures which the Under-Secretary of State gave me in answer to some Questions, 31,263 cases in 1967 of children under 14 before the courts, one sees the tremendous amount of additional work which will be placed on the children's department.
What happens when the child is brought to court? First of all, the offence must be proved. I appreciate that this may be a Committee point, but it must be proved by the criminal burden or proof. When it has been proved, the court will turn itself into a civil court and decide whether or not the child is in need of care and protection. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will remember that this raises certain problems in the granting of legal aid to children in criminal courts, because these will be civil proceedings and the court will not be able to grant legal aid as it can at the moment. Whatever the outcome of our discussions, if the proposal is adhered to I hope that this will be considered and arrangements made.
After a child has been found guilty of a criminal offence, the court will then say, "Now we must decide whether or not the parents are capable or incapable of giving the necessary care and control without the court's guidance". If the court decides that they are, the child cannot be touched and he gets the impression that he has got away with it. If, on the other hand, it decides that the parents are not capable of giving that care and control, by using this procedure we shall be taking a sledge hammer to crack what might be a nut. In fact, we are desperately limiting the powers of punishment and treatment which will then be available to the court by limiting it to a supervision order, a "bind over" order or a care order.
For example, it seems wrong that the courts will no longer be able to order the parents to pay compensation. What will happen over the 27 per cent. of children whose parents are fined at the moment because of their offences? What will happen to the 27 per cent. who are given conditional discharges? More and more children will, of necessity, because no other means of treating them will be open to the courts, be put into the care of the local authority or under its supervision. This is a further burden on the child care officers which I do not believe they are capable of coping with.
As the Home Secretary knows, and as another Answer to a Question of mine shows, there are just over 3,000 child care officers at the moment, which is less than the intended number to carry out the existing provisions of the 1963 Act, yet we are now bringing forward a great deal of additional work for them. I accept that the child care officers are excellent people, but it is a pity that the advice and assistance of the probation officers, who at the moment have in their care about 15,000 boys under the age of 14, is apparently to be removed. That is regrettable. Child care officers will have masses of other work to do in after-care, pre-release and parole board work, but the fact that about another 15,000 children are likely to come under their care strengthens my argument that the local authorities at the moment could not work the Bill.
I now turn to the proposals for those aged between 14 and 17. My general criticism is that this intermediate stage of the examining magistrate—if that is the right word—is utterly unnecessary. It will not do any harm, other than cause delay, but it is unnecessary. The local authorities and the police already operate through the juvenile liaison schemes. I was fortunate enough to see them at work in the early days in 1964 in Lancashire, and was very impressed. No harm is caused by the fact that this is not written into the Statute. Probably part of the success of the scheme is due to the fact that they can use their own discretion and are not limited by rigid rules.
But surely they can be left to use their discretion about whether or not to bring these people to court. In 1967, 88,000 young people between 14 and 17 appeared before the courts. In every case, apparently, the police will now have to notify the child care department of the local authority. They will then have to decide whether to apply to a magistrate for the grant of a warrant or summons; and, if necessary, the magistrate will have to adjudicate. In many cases this will be a formality, but in others it will not and additional work will be placed on the already undermanned child care officer staff. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, this will lead to further substantial delays in bringing people before the court.
Consider the case of a child aged 15 or 16 who commits an offence of breaking and entering.
Before considering that type of case, would the hon. Gentleman apply his mind to the case of some young rogues who cause trouble at or after a football match? At present they can be brought before the court and be given sharp deterrent sentences. What will be the process under the Bill?
I could not agree more with the hon. Gentleman, and, considering his long experience as a magistrate in juvenile courts, I look forward to his contribution to the debate. He has made a valid point.
Under the regulations which the Home Secretary may make a boy who is a perfect vandal and has caused trouble at a football ground—it may be at Oldham Athletic or Manchester United; if it occurred at Oldham Athletic there might be some justification for his behaviour [Laughter]—and has perhaps created damage might not be brought before the court. At present he can be dealt with quickly. He can be sent to a detention centre, and that at least prevents him from behaving as a vandal at Manchester United's ground or elsewhere for some time.
Under the Bill, however, his home circumstances must be considered and then a decision whether or not a summons should be taken out must be made. That will require the fixing of an appointment with a magistrate, the hearing of the matter and, perhaps, the granting of a summons, There will, therefore, be three causes of delay; the original inquiry, the application for a summons and the taking out of the summons, with, of course, the 14 days or so that it takes to bring the boy to court. Under this Measure days will become weeks and weeks will become months.
My criticism of the treatment side of the Bill is that the Home Secretary while he talks about flexibility, is limiting rather than expanding the power of punishment open to the courts. I welcome his references to intermediate forms of sentence. The courts at present need flexibility of this kind. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that he now has an advisory committee looking at the whole question of non-custodial and semi-custodial means of punishment. I hope that eventually a system of periodic detention centres, such as they have in New Zealand, will exist here.
The courts must be given alternative means of punishment or treatment. They must have the flexibility they require. What I do not like about the Bill is that it seems to take any such powers that exist away from the courts. The courts will place youngsters under the care or supervision of local authorities and it will then be those authorities which will decide whether or not they should go to any of these centres. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, if justice is to be seen to be done on behalf of the child, it is important that decisions of this kind are taken in open court rather than at an executive meeting of a local authority, which I fear is what will happen in practice.
I also fear the results of the removal of the right to send youngsters to borstal. After all, 500 children a year aged 15 and 16 are now sent to borstal. I welcome the idea of community homes, but as arranged, will not they lead to an even greater mixture of the depraved and the deprived under one roof than regrettably happens now?
I have been extremely critical of the Bill throughout my remarks. I still do not resile from the view of wholly accepting the two underlying principles of flexibility of punishment and trying to keep children away from the courts. It is because the Bill goes the wrong way to achieve those ends that I am glad that the Opposition Amendment has been tabled. I trust that the Home Secretary has taken note of the points made by hon. Members on both sides and that the Bill will be changed substantially to eradicate many of the faults to which I have referred.
The hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) is obviously genuine and sincere in his desire to see fewer children brought unnecessarily before magistrates' courts. In view of his experience, I accept what he says, but I cannot accept the thesis underlying the Opposition Amendment.
This is an excellent Bill, and I say that unreservedly. My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on introducing it because it affects deprived children, children with no parents, children whose parents are sick, and children who are in homes or staying with foster parents —we should pay tribute to the staff of these homes and to foster parents because they provide not only care and attention but also love to the children in their charge—and it deals with children who are in trouble. It is the latter aspect which is the contentious part of the Bill.
I am surprised that hon. Gentlemen opposite have tabled the Amendment. After all, all of them, including the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), believe in the principle that children should not be brought unnecessarily before the courts. The crucial question is whether we believe that or whether we are merely paying lip service to it. If we believe it, what alternative suggestions have been made?
The Bill has a worthy object. The Amendment, on the other hand, contains the words:
… without adequate preparation or consultation".
I will try to look inside the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite to see what they mean by those words. The Curtis Committee discussed this matter a quarter of a century ago. Hon. Gentlemen Opposite set up the Ingleby Committee in 1956 and that reported in 1960. When we came to power an excellent White Paper was produced by the then new Labour Government as a basis for discussion. It was not a White Paper designed to set before the nation a statement of definite policy that would be followed come hell or high water. It invited public debate, and we got it. My right hon. Friend listened to it and, as a result, last year he published "Children in Trouble", and even that was not the end of the story, because the Bill modifies the proposals set out in that document.
How much consultation and preparation can one have? Must another quarter of a century pass before we have legislation on this subject? Do we want the children about whom we are speaking to grow up and have children before we act? Are hon. Gentlemen opposite happy with so many children being brought before the juvenile courts? I suspect that this argument about inadequate preparation is an argument for doing nothing at all.
The White Paper has produced varied reactions. We had the Association of Children's Officers unequivocally in favour of the White Paper "Children in Trouble". The probation officers were also in favour of it. The Magistrates Association itself was against it on a majority vote. I stress that it was the Magistrates Association and not the juvenile panel of the Magistrates Association. This was the association as a whole.
It was critical of some of the provisions of the Bill, but I am speaking of the memorandum of the Magistrates Association, which was referred to earlier by my right hon. Friend and, I think, by the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone. That memorandum was prepared by the council of the association, and its members were not necessarily juvenile magistrates. I do not know the exact number who were and who were not.
I contrast that with the opinion of the Association of Children's Officers. I would prefer to listen to the advice of those professionally trained to deal with children—those who spend their whole professional lives at it, and in the case of children's officers not only their working lives but a great deal of spare time as well—rather than to a body of magistrates who, however they are concerned with juvenile courts, cannot have the wealth of experience that the Association of Children's Officers can have.
The other criticism in the reasoned Amendment is that the Bill
gives insufficient recognition to the constructive rôle of the juvenile court".
Listening to hon. Members opposite, I think that is the root of their criticism. They feel that we have slighted magistrates and magistrates' courts. I am a little worried about some of the views of the Magistrates Association and of its secrecy expressed in a letter to The Times today. In the memorandum and in the letter to The Times it is said that there is a danger that offending children might get off scot-free. What do the Magistrates Association and its secretary mean by the term "scot-free"? Are they asking that all offending children must be hauled before a magistrate's court as otherwise they get off scot-free?
If an offending child is disciplined by its parents, does that not count for something? If an offending child is disciplined by his teacher at school, does that not count for something? If a probation officer spends hours with that child, is that to be dismissed because no court has been involved? If the police rely on advice and caution as they often do—that is the potential success of the scheme—is that to be set aside because there have been no court proceedings? I cannot accept that if an offending child does not appear before the court he gets off scot-free.
I have listened with great interest to my hon. Friend, and to some extent I share his misgivings. Nevertheless, I think magistrates would not be anxious to do any child an injustice and their forebodings are merely that some children whose parents have not a great interest in them and who should receive corporal punishment and are admonished by their parents would perhaps be let off scot-free apart from that punishment.
I am certain that the Magistrates Association and individual magistrates do not want to do any child injustice. I want to analyse the term "scot-free". I do not accept that a child who has committed an offence gets off scot-free just because he does not appear in a court.
Before we discuss the majesty of the law or imagine that magistrates' courts have the clinical conditions of a psychiatrist's consulting room, we should look at the buildings and the type of thing that goes on in juvenile courts today. The room is invariably an ordinary court room used when the ordinary court is not sitting with the furniture tarted about and benches moved around, which makes the place look a complete chaos and shambles. That room is inside a police station or next to a police station. In very many courts the magistrates still sit in lofty isolation on their bench far removed from the children they are considering. The children stand bemused, often amused, in the well of the court. The parents stand behind them disconsolately or angrily, knowing little of the proceedings going on.
How often are the parents in the magistrates' court consulted? They are brought to the court and may resent it, but they listen to the police giving evidence and see the probation officer hand a typewritten sheet to the bench, where it is read silently. They may be given a copy. It is their children who are being considered, but they feel they are very little part of the proceedings. If they summon up courage to intervene and say something, they are usually wrong because they intervene at the wrong time. I find that clerks to magistrates' courts are particularly kind and lenient with parents. Nevertheless, the parents feel that they are out of the picture when in the magistrate's court.
What about the child's point of view? If the child is frightened in the magistrate's court—sometimes children are—at the very time when that child most needs its parents and their protection and love, his parents are standing impotently behind him. If the child resents his parents, what better way could be found for him to give vent to resentment than to be dragged before the magistrates' court? If a child need not be taken to the magistrates' court he should not be taken there.
My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) referred to the "snakepit" which exists outside a magistrates' court not in a waiting room but often in the corridors of the court. Children are there for all sorts of offences. Hon. Members should not think that children before a magistrates' court are either all little angels or all black sheep. They are a mixed bag. Coming before the juvenile court there is the child who has ridden his bicycle over the pavement. Should he be there? There is the child with a pathological aversion to school, who is a regular truant. Should he be there? There is the girl exposed to moral danger who is often of weak mentality. Should she be there? Should they be all mixed together waiting for hours, sometimes for a whole day, before appearing before the court?
These are the things which my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and I see because of our attendance at and practice in juvenile courts. I dislike attending and practising in juvenile courts, as no doubt my hon. Friend does, because—I say this unreservedly—unless it is a very unusual and complicated case I do not think the juvenile court is any place for lawyers. I think we should not be there. Children's officers know how to deal with the situation in juvenile courts far better than lawyers do. However, that is the picture of juvenile courts today. Let us dispel any idea of the majesty of the law.
Nearly half the children who appear before magistrates' courts are fined or given a conditional discharge or an absolute discharge. Should those children be brought before a magistrates' court at all, if clearly the magistrates decide that no supervision, either at home or in residential accommodation is necessary, a typical example being the boy who rides his bicycle over a pavement?
Mention has been made of that part of the Amendment which argues that the Bill is
unjust as between different children in like case".
What is "like case"? Equality of treatment is manifestly unfair unless all the circumstances of the offender are alike. Those who advocate that all should be treated alike, however unfair this may be, are saying that they do not trust anybody except a court to deal with an offender, however young and whatever the circumstances. This is an unwarranted slur on the police and on the children's service. If it were followed to its logical conclusion it would result in a far greater number of children being taken to court; tens of thousands of children who are now only cautioned would have to be prosecuted. That, as I am sure hon. Members will agree,
would be a dangerous and wasteful course which no one in his senses would contemplate.
I come, lastly, to the point which has been raised about inequality and the use of the phrases "good parents" and "bad parents". Those phrases do not appear in the Bill. I accept that they appeared in paragraph 4 of the White Paper, but they have been rightly excluded from the Bill. Hon. Members opposite proceed as though they were in the Bill. I do not wish to quote what hon. Members on either side have said about whether these words carry any meaning or whether the Bill carries the meaning that the Amendment says it does. I quote from the Justice of the Peace and Local Government Review of 22nd February this year. I do so because this journal combines the views of local government and of the bench. It says, dealing with this question of good homes and bad homes:
This, it was alleged, would create an undesirable double standard among child offenders—one for those from good and another for those from bad homes. In the event, this objection has been taken to heart and overcome in the Bill.
It is no good hon. Members opposite reiterating their criticism of the White Paper in the belief that if something is said long enough and loud enough it will be believed.
I warmly welcome the Bill. It will have untold advantages for countless generations of children to come, who will have cause to be grateful, and society will have cause to be grateful, to my right hon. Friend and to the House if it gives a clear and decisive Second Reading to the Bill.
It is essential that any legislation inflicting changes of magnitude on social patterns should have the full and wholehearted backing of those who will be called upon to implement it. Nobody would pretend after what we have heard this afternoon that the Bill has such backing. The Association of Children's Officers—the local authority side—backs it; and I believe that the Association of Approved School Headmasters and Headmistresses does, also.
However, those two bodies are not the only two which are implicated, nor the only two qualified to state an opinion. Perhaps it would be better to say that they are not necessarily the two best qualified to state an opinion. I would hate the debate to degenerate into a dogfight as to who is best qualified to speak up for the child in trouble. I remind the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes), who put the case so strongly for the biggest ear to be lent to what the children's officers said, that, although I yield to none in my admiration of children's officers, only about 30 per cent. of them are trained. I would greatly like to know what the police think about the Bill, because they will be deeply involved.
I am delighted to have that assurance. I hope that we shall hear more evidence of this later, because it is an opinion held in some places that there is a considerable degree of concern within the police force about this.
The magistrates have made their opposition to the important parts of the Bill very clear indeed. The Home Secretary and the hon. Member for Bolton, West rightly said that not all magistrates concur with this view. Similarly, not all child care officers go along with it. When presenting opinions of this sort we get ourselves into great difficulty if we seek to argue, "This opinion is not valid, because not sufficient of these people agree" when, after all, we have the Association's weighed opinion before us as the opinion of the Association. This is what we should take note of.
The National Association of Probation Homes and Hostels says this. Although it says it about the White Paper, it reiterates it very much in its view of the Bill:
The White Paper indicates that the recommendations made in the first document 'The Child, the Family and the Young Offender' were widely welcomed, whereas they were accepted only by the various local authority organisations and their employees and this assumption, which is unverified, undermines our confidence in the proposals"—
that is, not only the White Paper that preceded the Bill, but the Bill itself. All in all, there is ample evidence that the wisdom of the Bill is questioned in quite important areas.
I want briefly to raise the points on which I have reservations, and I hope that consideration will be given to the concern which has been expressed by various bodies on these points. First, the unfairness. The Home Secretary made great play with the question whether we are talking about equality or uniformity. Although I do not recall the name of the book, I recall a story in which some schoolboys were talking about a headmaster who was a particularly beastly example of his species.
The schoolboys were not particularly concerned about his beastliness. One of them remarked, in a quite famous comment, "He is a beast, but he is a just beast". [An HON. MEMBER: "Stalky & Co."] I hear mutterings from various parts of the House advising me of different names of books in which this gentleman appears. Above all, the schoolboy recognises and accepts justice. Beastliness is one thing. The schoolboy will take that if he has to, but justice he needs and justice he must have, and justice the Bill really will not give them.
Clause 1 provides that a young person may be brought before the courts only if he is in need of care or control which he is unlikely to get without a court order. My right hon. and learned Friend for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) instanced clearly the case of the two boys from different homes out on a shop-lifting spree. This brought home to the House how unfairly the Bill could work. It is not a bit of use hon. Members saying, "When these two boys are before the court one may be given different treatment from another". Certainly, that would be acceptable.
I believe that it was the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) who said sometimes one culprit deserves and needs a short, sharp rebuke whereas another needs rather longer treatment. As long as they both go before a court and are given the type of treatment which will best suit them, that is far fairer than one going before a court and the other not. It really is quite extraordinary for the Home Secretary to imagine that the principle of equality before the law is not of immense importance.
The second point about which I am very worried is age. I cannot for the life of me see why we in this House should go racing off on one track with the Representation of the People Bill and the Family Law Reform Bill, saying that young people today are more mature and more capable of exercising adult and sensible judgment, so we will reduce the age of majority from 21 to 18, and then dart off on a completely different tack, but this Bill, which seems to suggest that no one under the age of 17 ought to be too answerable for his actions. That is extraordinary. We ought to make up our mind which we believe.
If the first two Bills are right, then this one must be wrong. We cannot have it all ways. The Magistrates Association specifically recommended to the Home Secretary that the age at which children should become subject to criminal law should remain as it was and that no changes were needed in the treatment of the 10 to 17 age group. This was a considered opinion of the magistrates. Age, therefore, is another point about the Bill which worries me.
My third point is the question of the protection of the rights of the individual. It seems to me that under the Bill, if it goes through unamended, there will be too much power in the hands of the local authority, because there is no appeals machinery at all. I know that the National Association of Probation Homes and Hostels also takes this view. The question of the severity of punishment is no longer to be a judicial decision; and by and large it is perfectly true to say that judicial decisions are universally understood and accepted. The idea of a fair trial, even in juvenile courts, has always been accepted and that is a very good thing. Why should it go? Why should it be superseded by a decision of the local authority?
To make a single magistrate the arbiter between the police and social workers is really asking the impossible. If a child is to be charged with an offence that offence must either be proven or the charge dropped. In fairness to the child, once he has been charged, he must either be seen to be innocent or the charge must be proven.
I am most grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I wish to ask, on this part of her argument, whether there is any instance in the Bill of a local authority having power to inflict a punishment without the intervention of a court when the child does not commit the offence?
The point about which we are arguing is not the right punishment, but the right treatment. It is not a question of inflicting punishment, but of justice not only being done but being seen to be done. If a child has been charged with an offence, or there is any suggestion that it should be charged, surely it is only fair to him that the matter should either be gone into or that it be said that he did not commit the offence at all. That seems fair and clear.
Fourthly, I am concerned with the question of deterrence. If any of the repercussions of wrongdoing are masked there will be no deterrence at all in any dealings with the young miscreants. We have heard from the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) about football vandals and how much they need to be deterred from what they are doing. I absolutely agreed with him in that cogent intervention. It seems to me that sometimes we are quite mistaken in our desire to blacken the name of discipline. Discipline is not a harsh evil. Discipline is often the fence round the cliff or the fastened seat-belt If there is discipline and a deterrent that often stops young people from offending, that is to their advantage.
It is extraordinary that in the Bill the House is asked to accept that there is not much wrongdoing before the age of 17. I am told that the peak age for crime in males it 14. A memorandum which was sent to me by the National Association of Probation Homes and Hostels says:
It has not been appreciated that the peak age for crime for males is 14 and that these children can cause tremendous difficulties at that age and subsequently.
On compensation, various forms of treatment will be entered upon following the arrangements initiated by the Bill, but there is to be no punishment such as a fine. I consider that a fine is a good form of punishment and believe strongly that the court should retain power to order payment by a child or young person, or of course, his parents, of reasonable reparation for damage or loss. Take the case of young Johnny, who may be 13 years old, riding a bicycle with no lights. He goes racing off down the road on his bicycle and knocks down
an old lady who ends up in hospital with a broken leg.
At present, Johnny would be fined, but not under the Bill; and if Johnny comes from a good home the situation is different—and I deplore the fact that earlier in the debate it was said that good homes are middle-class homes and bad homes are working-class homes. This is not true at all. Good homes have nothing to do with class from that point of view. Good homes are homes where there is love, care and concern for the children.
Does the hon. Lady know that in my experience all the documents received by a juvenile court dealing with the background of an alleged offender speak of good homes and bad homes? I quite agree that it is very unreliable to bring in the other context. Magistrates should be purely concerned only with studying the social aspect.
I am most grateful for that intervention and entirely agree with the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member.
To follow up on little Johnny, if he comes from a good home—and I would see nothing wrong if the words "good" or "bad" in relation to homes were in the Bill—he is not even taken to court for knocking down the old lady. There is no visible punishment, or anything of the kind. What the views of the old lady on this might be I cannot think, but they could be very sharp. If, on the other hand, Johnny comes from a bad home, he can go to court and there, perhaps, have one or other of various forms of treatment ordered, not all of which, I add in parenthesis, may be regarded by everyone as thoroughly appropriate. If fines are to go, there is all the more need to retain some provision for reparation or compensation. I imagine that the old lady might well feel that way, too.
Finally, there is the question of the Bill's complications. It has been said that the law must be clear and simple if it is to be respected. This is of particular relevance in the context of laws governing children, since children in trouble, and their parents, are sometimes of limited ability. Anyone who has had anything to do with children in court or in care knows how true that is.
One is dealing very often with people without much ability to understand. They would find it impossible to understand a law which provides that children should be brought before the court, under the care, protection and control procedure, if they have committed an offence and they are not receiving such care, protection and guidance as a good parent might reasonably be expected to give or they are beyond the control of their parents. That sounds gibberish even, perhaps, to those of advanced mental ability. I cannot imagine what it will seem like to the parents of some of these children.
My last word is about foster children. A great opportunity has been lost. For the happiness of foster children, the first need to look to is not necessarily the place where they are or the regularity of inspections of foster homes by the local authority. The most important factor for a foster child is that he should be safe and secure in his foster home. Frequently, children are left in their foster homes for many years, their real parents paying no attention to them and not even bothering to go to see them or to write. If only an attempt had been made in the Bill to meet the needs of foster children from that point of view, making it illegal for them to be removed from their foster homes in the way they so lamentably are sometimes by parents who have never shown an interest in their existence until they are coming near wage-earning age, a great advance would have been made. As it is, an opportunity has been lost, and I am very sad about it.
I agree with parts of the Bill, but I have not touched on those because I did not wish to take too long. The aims underlying the Bill are good. No one questions the Home Secretary's sincerity when he speaks, as he did today, of his desire, which we all share, to give the best possible service for these young people. But, regretfully, I am of opinion that the Bill does not provide that assurance.
I have heard most of the debate so far. In my view, the speeches from both Front Benches were commendable for their broad approach and sympathetic to the main fabric of the Bill—though, perhaps, the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) will find comfort in a moment or two in some of the criticisms which I shall raise against it. In general, the Bill is excellent if we are thinking of deprived children or children in trouble. For them it is a good piece of machinery, and I am sure that every magistrate recognises that. However, the Bill deals also with, but makes no real distinction for, the depraved child and the offender.
I shall speak purely for myself here, as one who has sat as chairman of a juvenile court and had many years of experience of these matters before I came to the House. Most of what I say will be a reflection of that experience. As a preamble to my comments, perhaps I may say that, according to my experience, the first fact which a magistrate wishes to ascertain when a case comes before him is whether the offence was one of those lapses which can happen to all God's children. If it is, the treatment is simple and easy. On the other hand, the offender may be the one in 10 who is likely to offend again and later cause difficulties in society. It is at that point that the juvenile court magistrate is greatly concerned, and it is at that point that the Bill falls down.
I have no wish to be unkind, but, after the several contributions which we have had from members of the legal profession, I feel that I must say, without malice, that my experience has been that, when we have legal people appearing in the juvenile courts, they make decisions more difficult for the bench and they sometimes make treatment, too, rather more limited to the bench. However, having said that, I return now to the main burden of my speech.
Since 1963 we have had experience of lifting the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 10, but, so far as I know, there is no knowledge or evidence of what the effect has been, and no evidence has been presented to us. Such evidence has been markedly absent from our debate today. I have tried to fill the vacuum. I am informed by police authorities that the extent of would-be crime in the 8 to 10 age range is largely as it was before 1963. Let us consider what happens. The police have to prosecute their inquiries. Then, having established that they are unable to take a case to court, the normal thing to do, I understand, is to advise the children's department, which then says that the matter is in hand or it will be in hand. I gather that it can happen on two or three occasions, and the children's department says much the same each time.
The plain fact which emerges, I understand, is that 25 per cent. of children under the age of 10, free from criminal responsibility thus far, come back later to police notice. Let us consider that significant fact in the light of what I regard as the main principle in the Bill. We are to raise the age to include the age of 13. The hon. Lady the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) has already asked the question: can our experience of lifting the age to 10 justify our lifting it to 14? There must be reservations in many minds. I speak not only as a father but as a grandfather, and as someone with a little knowledge of what happens in some of our big cities and towns.
It is often noted now that the age of being grown up, as it were, comes a little earlier than it did. I put my view in this way. In the main, a child aged up to about 12 has an idea from his parents of what is right and what is wrong, though generally he will not have much conception of what is legally right and legally wrong. Doubtless, that was the reason why we raised the age of responsibility to 10. But at about the age of 12 and onwards, children become aware of what is legally right and legally wrong.
In the light of what has been done already in raising the age of criminal responsibility, in the light of the biological factors and the fact that at about the age of 12 children know the difference between what is legally right and legally wrong, ought we to raise the age to 13 as proposed? In my view, we should not at this stage bless the principle of including all ages up to and covering 13, but we should pause to cover, perhaps, the age of 12, putting a permissive provision into the Bill so that the Home Secretary may later on, with the concurrence of the House, raise it further by Order. We have no adequate evidence within a matter of six years which would justify our raising the age of responsibility to 14. I should prefer that we might have five years with the limit at 12, and then, as society moves, we could lift it further.
Television and other means of communication are having their impact on our younger boys and girls. It is very often undesirable, and I deplore it. Those of us who are older know what to think and do about these things, but children of 12, 13 and 14 are receptive to good or bad, and the only thing that fights the bad influence on their young minds, is the parental and school influence. That is what we want to succeed, but there are many attractions in society that tend to weaken the character we have tried to put into boys and girls. There is a case for writing into the Bill a limit of up to and including 12, with, perhaps, permissive power to raise it later.
Nearly every hon. Member who has spoken has mentioned Clause 1. Paragraphs (a) (b) and (d) of subsection (2) all refer to faults of the parents and not the child, but sub-paragraphs (c) and (e) deal with substantial contributing factors by the child. If we do not take them into account our treatment will be wrong. But the subsection continues
and also that he is in need of care or control",
which brings the subsection into complete contradiction. It cannot be sustained by normal logical reasoning, nor can it be understood by the ordinary parent who wants to do the right thing, who wants to be law-abiding and wants to see law-abiding citizens in his or her area. The House cannot say that it is sensible.
The example has already been given of two joint offenders, one from a good home and the other from a home lacking all sorts of things, including parental leadership, and the big difference of treatment that will result. I am not at all concerned with the argument of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in this case. One must look at it in the light of the children and parents concerned. If they go to court they want to feel that justice is seen to be done. If this is to be the law I doubt whether any magistrate will be happy about the matter in those circumstances if he pursues the law. I beg my right hon. Friend to have second thoughts about this in Committee. If he does not, I shall feel at liberty to press the other point of view. I hope that he will be flexible. I am not trying to argue the case for the magistrates but am merely drawing on my experience to say what I believe is required by the ordinary mother and father who may be in those unfortunate circumstances.
I now turn to what I regard as a serious omission in this and preceding legislation. In paragraph 6 of the White Paper we find 250 words of verbiage by psychiatrists and others trying to define what juvenile delinquency is. The word "family" occurs three times. "Parent" does not occur at all. I ask hon. Members on both sides to draw on their experience and recall that in about seven out of 10 cases the fault is with the parents. The Bill and earlier legislation have no deterrent effect as regards parents' neglect of their duty. I must state my argument strongly here. The parent practically has sovereignty in his rights with regard to his natural children, and I do not disagree about that. It is fair and proper, but there is another side to the coin. If the House rightly confers that near-sovereignty on parents, the parents have responsibilities as well.
My right hon. Friend said that the Bill provides that if an examining magistrate has agreed that a case should go for trial the court could bind parents over. May I ask the legal hon. Members what binding parents over means. Think of the unfortunate child who has been neglected, whose parents have not given him his elementary rights to enjoy his place in society. What does binding over mean to such parents? What deterrent is there if they break the conditions? There is none. Is not it a sham to talk of binding them over? The courts only put people on probation, bind them over or defer a sentence if they have reason to believe that there are hopes of recovery, that by education the person concerned can be got back on to the rails.
Therefore, I am not reassured that binding over parents who neglect their duty will have the effect I should like. Have not we reached the stage where we can begin to write legislation giving the courts and social workers a deterrent for defaulting parents? I have "read the Riot Act "to parents through the child before me, and others have probably done so, or would like to have done it. But, having "read the Riot Act", we can get no further. I cannot at this stage say what the deterrent should be, but I should like my right hon. Friend to consider this. Perhaps in Committee we could at least write the nucleus of legislation dealing with the defaulting parent, where the default is obvious.
I regard Clause 8 concerning fingerprinting and photographing as a considerable improvement. I am very glad that it will be only on a magistrate's order, and only on the application of a police officer not below the rank of inspector, and only for a serious offence, that finger-printing and photographing will take place. We all know that there are many thousands of cases of a lapse in boyhood or girlhood; that is liable to happen to all and any of us. Even when those involved become grown up they feel that somewhere in the book of history there is still a black mark against them, that there is still a set of finger-prints.
I beg the Home Secretary to relieve the minds of thousands of people whose careers after an unfortunate lapse are perfectly honourable—as honourable as those of anyone in the House. When the Bill becomes an Act, I should like my right hon. Friend to be able by administrative action to obliterate once and for all photographs and finger-prints in respect of minor offences, such as small larceny cases, which hitherto the police have almost automatically taken on a finding of guilt.
I turn now to the question of the examining magistrate. I believe that the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) is right in saying that this is an unnecessary provision. There will be considerable difficulties if the Home Secretary proceeds with it. Clearly, the police would utilise as examining magistrate the one most available, often the one most knowledgeable. This would rob the subsequent juvenile court proceedings of an experienced magistrate while presenting to the child's parents the feeling, "This is the same court as we appeared in a fortnight ago. What else could it be? It is the same band of people." There is a great difference between the kind of examination proposed and that which takes place in a local court prior to a case going to quarter sessions. The magistrate should be taken out of this as an examiner but preferably the provision should go altogether.
I may perhaps be somewhat controversial and in a minority in my views about community homes. All the Clauses relating to them are a facade because the existing arrangement of relying on local authorities for the provision of approved schools and centres has been tumbling down for years. I remember the case of a little girl who had to be taken from Oldham to Winchester. This involved an air flight in two directions and the loss of a police officer for three days. That is a regular result for journeys up to 100 miles. To Carlisle, two officers have to be employed for two days for this kind of thing.
It is no good erecting the machinery of planning boards. They can plan as much as they like but they will be no more successful in finding the necessary schools than those before them, and we shall still be left with the magistrate's clerk telephoning seven or eight places to find out where there is accommodation for a boy or girl.
I have long taken the view that the local authority or voluntary establishment should go. I believe that we shall get the required accommodation and the best standards of supervision only if the Home Office takes over the job. I am, no doubt, out on a limb in saying so, but that is the logic of the thing. I hope that in due course my right hon. Friend will give thought to this.
I want to see the Bill sharply differentiating between what I call the child in trouble through no fault of its own—the cause lying elsewhere, in the parents—and the other kind of child offender. We should not allow provision for children in trouble to get mixed up with the machinery for dealing with the other kind of boy or girl before the courts. If we do, we shall be at cross purposes and the Bill will fail.
Through my experience, and with some reservations, I have considerable admiration for the general work of the police. I believe that that uniform counts with a boy or girl. I believe that the teacher counts. In this context, I believe that the court counts. If we are not careful the Bill will see the police, the teacher and the court taking a smaller place in the work of correcting children. I should be sorry to see that come about because I cannot see the social agencies, well-intentioned as they are, ever reaching the decisive point about discipline. I think that the hon. Lady was trying to say this. Education and persuasion are what matter in 19 cases out of 20, but there is a point in some where discipline must be reached and decided upon. The social agencies are not geared to reaching decisions covering discipline.
I hope, too, that the Bill can be amended to make it simpler and more capable of understanding. There has already been complaint that it is complicated even for magistrates and lawyers. If that is so, what will happen to the parent caught up in trouble when he tries to understand the Bill's ramifications?
The Bill should be flexible and meet changing trends. I have mentioned the football match thugs. In five years' time the problem may well be something else. But, however it breaks out, can we allow this sort of thing, under the Bill, to go nearly two months before any short sharp sentence is inflicted?
I want the Bill to be firm and to carry certain basic principles. It should be speedy in administration. It must be administered so that children in trouble will be relieved and helped by it. I want the real young offender to realise that correction and reform must be society's answer and that, in any case, crime under any guise, never pays. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be flexible in his approach. Many parts of the Bill will involve, I hope, a non-political approach, and I am certain that the Bill can be improved.
I am sure that we appreciate the contribution of the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), based on his experience as chairman for many years of a juvenile court, but there is an air of unreality about the debate. We are trying to build castles in the air. If the Government are intent on trying to prevent juvenile delinquency, or arrest the increase, there is a simple remedy. They could provide the money to double the size of the probation service; they could provide specialised agencies to serve the juvenile courts; they could provide the money to build residential homes indistinguishable from other homes which are so helpful in many cases. All these things need to be done. We are really, in this debate, very much concerned with things which lie far in the future.
The Bill is of great potential importance to the well-being of the country, but it is still only potential. It is widely recognised, as has been reflected in the debate, that a child's upbringing, environment and emotional experiences in its early -years play a large part in determining how he is likely to behave as an adult.
There is a much more humane and sympathetic outlook towards juvenile delinquency. We have moved a long way from the attitude which dominated at the turn of the last century. I remember vividly my feeling of horror, as a young law student, when I was studying the technical meaning of "entering", in the term "breaking and entering". I read of a little boy of eight who was convicted, on the most technical grounds, of entering. To my horror I read that he was subsequently hanged for the offence. It took place at Eastbourne, 165 years ago.
On the other hand, while we have this more humane trend, which we all welcome, I find great anxiety among people concerned with children's welfare, and who are liberally minded on the subject of penal reform, as to whether we are not now moving too far in the opposite direction. We have to face the fact that we live in an era which has seen a vast increase in crime generally, and in serious and highly organised crime in particular. This has coincided with a time when there is a general feeling that many schools are ill-disciplined, when there has been a general challenge to the accepted concept of family and parental discipline. We have, in this House, passed Bills which clearly recognise 18 as the age of full adult responsibility. Yet at the same time, in this Bill, we are suggesting that there should be no responsibility whatever until the age of 14, and very dubious responsibility between the ages of 14 and 17.
We are bound to ask: is this right? This is one of the many anxieties which people are sure to have about the Bill. Are we really moving in the right direction? If so, are we, in parts of the Bill, moving too far and without a full appreciation of exactly what we are doing? My view is that in some spheres we have already moved into the realm of licence, as opposed to the realm of liberty. I fear that in parts of the Bill we are adding impetus to this process. I take the view that up to the age of 14 the prime responsibility for the behaviour of children should rest with the parents bringing them up. Anything which undermines the responsibility of the parents or enables the parents to avoid that responsibility is a bad thing and I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Oldham, East about the need to look at this aspect of the Bill again.
The second responsibility, which should reinforce the first, is the discipline of the schools. In many areas we have, as a House and as a country, greatly undermined the authority and responsibility of head teachers and teachers generally. I have been greatly disturbed by hearing from responsible teachers, particularly from some in our larger cities, descriptions of chaotic conditions in some classrooms. It is far better for the child to be disciplined in the home and the school than to be brought before the juvenile court. Yet the whole tendency of the last few decades has resulted in many more juvenile offences being dealt with by the juvenile courts rather than in the school or the home. It is not a kindness to young people that this process is taking place. It has been the inevitable result of the tendencies of our day.
It is against this background that I find the Bill to be rather like the parson's egg—good in parts and bad in parts. Naturally, I would hope to be able to separate the bad from the good. [HON. MEMBERS: "The curate's egg."] I would wish, whether it was a curate's egg or a parson's egg, to change the bad by amendment. I am bound to say that the Bill is drafted in such a manner that amendment will be very difficult. The form of drafting seems to be more akin to that adopted in hire-purchase legislation, which is intended to be read only by the lawyers. It is not a suitable form of drafting for a social Bill of this kind, which should be self-explanatory, and easily read by the vast number of lay people who should be interested in it.
Perhaps that is going a little too far.
I and my colleagues believe that this is an important piece of legislation, concerning a vital social sphere, and that we should support it on Second Reading. But, unless it is possible to make far-reaching Amendments during its intermediate stages, we may well oppose it on Third Reading. The good in the Bill, and there is good in it, is seriously marred by vital blemishes. It will take a great deal of effort to put them right and to put the Bill into acceptable form.
The blemishes I have in mind concern vital matters of principle dealing with children and young persons. Many of the points I would wish to make are inevitably really Committee points, because this is particularly the kind of Bill which should be dealt with in Committee. It appears that certain fundamental principles need to be stated before I could finally support the Bill. First, it seems that a clear distinction should be drawn between a child who, through no fault of his own, is found to be in need of care, and a child who has committed an offence. There is a difference.
The Home Secretary used the term "a child who is a delinquent and deprived". He linked the two, but there is a difference between a delinquent child and a deprived child. A deprived child may well prove to be a delinquent child, but a delinquent child is not necessarily a deprived child, as anyone who has had any practise in the law will know. It is a vitally important distinction between two types of children. Clause 1 simply lumps them together. It is not good enough merely to ask magistrates to sort this one out. A clear distinction should be drawn in the Bill.
Secondly, it should be made abundantly clear that the new community homes which are to replace, apparently, approved schools, and borstal institutions for those under 17 eventually, should be in separate places for those in care for offences and those who are in care through misfortune. It is a great mistake to put them together. The House should not be persuaded that a boy from a good home who has committed a serious offence, and is found to be in need of care, should be treated the same as a child who has lived impeccably, but has been so neglected by his parents and is so much the victim of circumstances that he is held to be in need of care.
Thirdly, the age of criminal responsibility should be kept to 10. The Bill virtually proposes that it should be raised to 14. The age of majority is now to become 18. The age of puberty is much earlier and it seems to be very odd to raise the age under which a child has no responsibility in law for wrongdoing to 14 in this setting. This is not to say that children between the ages of 10 and 14 who commit offences ought not to be very differently dealt with from those who are older. But in view of the slackening of discipline in schools, and in the community generally, the House should think very carefully before it encourages children to believe that they are not to be answerable at all for their actions, or to pay any penalty for wrongdoing up to the age of 14, unless they are also found to be in need of care. It is a fundamental error in the Bill. People are naïve indeed if they do not appreciate that by the age of 12 or 13 most children have very well-formed personalities and characters, and if they believe that some of them are not capable at that age of committing the most serious offences.
The fourth principle, which is important, is that it should be provided that children who commit offences can be made to pay compensation or a fine. It is a great mistake to lead children with a propensity to committing damage to think that they cannot be made to pay for it. There is an unhappy but inevitable impression given by some provisions of the Bill that it is weighted against one class of children. It is a vitally important psychological factor that children should think and know that they are equal before the law and not that one child is likely to get away with an offence when another child is not simply because the former child comes from what is called a good home.
The Bill puts a good deal of power into the hands of children's officers and the like. I fully appreciate the work that they carry out as probation officers do, but I always remember once defending a young man for the most serious offence with which anyone can be charged. When I got into conversation with him I found that he had a deep sense of resentment that at the age of 12 he had been sent to an institution virtually because of his poor home. He had a burning resentment against his parents and against society. Just imagine the situation that could arise with a well-meaning children's officer who has a poor view of a delinquent's home. The delinquent has committed a minor offence, but the officer thinks that this is a good opportunity to remove him from his own home and get him into an institution.
The officer may think that this is a good thing to do from the child's point of view. The child knows that his child neighbour, possibly much more affluent, has committed a more serious offence and got away with it. That child can bear resentment for the rest of his life because he has been differently treated. I am convinced that children have a deep sense of justice. It may be an unformed sense, but it is a very deep sense. We want to be very careful about what we are doing in this context.
Fifthly, we should remove from the Bill those provisions which enable major decisions—for example, on the age of responsibility and the age at which treatment can take place—to be decided by Statutory Instrument by the Government. In Clause 31 the widest possible power is given to the Secretary of State in this respect. I do not think that he should have such power. Questions of age and different treatment should be decided by the House and by nobody else.
Sixthly, I share the misgivings which have been expressed about whether we are giving far too much power to the local authorities and taking too much power from the courts. Who exercises power in the local authority? The children's department will have a tremendous influence. Children's officers, like other people, vary greatly in quality. Only 30 per cent. of them at present are trained. Do we think that we are doing right by giving so much power to local authorities with no right of appeal?
There are many defects in our present system, and we are very much aware of them. We can regret very much the wide variations in attitude and in sentences. We know that juvenile courts are over-burdened, but I do not believe that the average delay between the commission of an offence and the case coming before the juvenile court is anything like the three or four months which was suggested by an hon. Member opposite. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State would deal with that point.
The justice of our courts is open to all. The public have access to it and it is always open to question. Now it is proposed that the local authority is to have more power over what is to happen to children. It is vitally important that there should be the right of appeal, and there does not seem to be provision for it in the Bill.
I have been deliberately critical, because this is potentially a vitally important Bill. I hope that the Home Secretary will be true to the tone of his speech and will keep a very open mind about the Bill in Committee. If I had to vote finally for it now, I would vote against it rather than for it—if I thought that it would become law tomorrow. But it contains so many good things that I hope that it will be possible virtually to restructure it in Committee. If that proves to be impossible, on Third Reading, for the reasons which I have given, I would vote against it, although I am very much in favour of giving it a Second Reading and allowing it to be discussed at length in Committee.
We must take the greatest care. We have already made fundamental mistakes—for example, in our gaming laws—which no one foresaw. We are moving far too quickly with some of our legislation. Before we have even had time to enlarge the probation service and to enable the juvenile courts to function properly, we are rushing headlong into something new. We are not properly digesting some of the social research which has been done. We are often changing for change's sake. We must take great care that we do not move too fast and put too much control and power over some children outside justice.
I find myself in a quandary similar to that in which the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) found himself. The good parts of the Bill are spoiled by parts which those of us who have criticisms to make find unacceptable. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp), who told us of his experiences as a magistrate and, in particular, as a juvenile court magistrate, I sit each week in an adult court and as deputy chairman of a juvenile court. Although I cannot claim to have the experience of the Bar of the hon. and learned Members who have spoken, the magistrate has a view on these matters, and I was sorry that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes) criticised, rather unfairly, the attitude of the Magistrates Association to the Bill.
I have an interest to declare in that I am a member of the Magistrates Association. For a year I was a member of its General Council. But that was not a financial interest in any shape or form. I do not accept that a majority vote on whether the Bill was good or bad necessarily condemns the whole of the Magistrates Association in the eyes of my right hon. and hon. Friends. This is a matter which concerns magistrates just as much as probation officers, child care officers or anyone else. Magistrates have more than a passing interest in the Bill. They are appointed to administer justice in the juvenile courts. I was surprised that neither my right hon. Friend nor the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) referred to the changed position of magistrates under the Bill. No one has referred to the method by which magistrates are to be appointed.
We have heard many criticisms of what takes place in the juvenile courts. If my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West were here, I would criticise his remarks about certain juvenile courts. It may well be that difficulties arise in some of them because of the inadequate or old premises, but that is not general. Magistrates courts and, in particular, juvenile courts are conducted in the best possible manner with the equipment and facilities available. Therefore, I do not accept his criticism of the Magistrates Association and the way in which justice is administered in the juvenile courts.
Under the Bill the juvenile court panels will be appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Under the present system, they are appointed by their colleagues on the bench. It is suggested that invidious choices may result from the present system because members of the bench may not be closely acquainted with many of their colleagues. It seems strange that those who are in regular contact with the other members of the bench are not is as close contact as the Lord Chancellor or the Advisory Committee when it comes to making appointments of this kind.
Under the Bill, will juvenile court magistrates be appointed without having served on the adult bench? I hope not. It is most important that people dealing with juvenile problems should have had experience of the adult bench. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will clear up this point.
I welcome the fact that the juvenile court is to be retained even though there may be variations in its function. This is less of a problem than the problem we faced in the 1965 White Paper, which would have abolished juvenile courts as we know them. But I agree that it is essential to retain the atmosphere of the courts, even when juveniles appear for the first and, one hopes, the last time. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery that it is unfortunate that changes are to be made in the present system regarding children under the age of 14. I accept that cases may be brought to court which could have been satisfactorily disposed of in other ways, but many children under 14 years of age are brought to court for quite serious offences. I know that some actions can still be brought, but the more cumbersome procedure which is being laid down leaves much to be desired.
My right hon. Friend will already have heard of the cases where two or more juveniles are involved in an offence. Even at this age they sometimes work in gangs, as anyone with experience of juvenile courts will know. It is nothing to have four, six or even more juveniles charged with the same offence. I regret as much as anyone that we are talking about good homes and bad homes, but it has now become the pattern for the debate that we must have regard to the circumstances of the home before arriving at a decision. It is extremely unfair to a boy from a "bad" home to be brought before the court for an offence which he has committed, whereas his friend from a so-called "good" home will go off scot-free because it will be considered that he is not in need of care and control. This is a ridiculous situation which does not reflect the realities.
Not many months ago there was a case in my court which concerned two such boys. One came from a "good" home and the other from a "bad" home; one went to the grammar school and was extremely intelligent, and the other went to a secondary modern school and was not quite so intelligent. They were friends outside school and they lived fairly close to each other. During the holidays they went on an expedition, not pilfering from the supermarket, but arranging for flowers and wreaths to be delivered to and for undertakers to call at the home of someone they did not like. They even rang up the Hilton Hotel and fixed a banquet in the name of these people. I was surprised that the Hilton management accepted confirmation on a dirty piece of paper which no one here would even recognise. Who is to say that these boys are in need of care and control? It is necessary to take drastic quick action to bring them to their senses. We did what we thought was the best thing possible. They said that it was the school holidays and they were bored, having nothing to do; so we said, "For the next 12 Saturday afternoons we shall find you something to do. We shall send you to the attendance centre for two hours each Saturday afternoon to learn a bit of discipline." This is the sort of action it is necessary to take in such a situation. The cumbersome process laid down in the Bill surely cannot commend itself to hon. Members.
I should like to refer to the system of cautioning by the police in some areas. My hon. Friend will have seen the system in operation by the Metropolitan Police who recently conducted a pilot scheme in two divisions of their area. What will happen in that cases will be dealt with by summons rather than by the usual method of charge, and the decision whether or not to prosecute will be made not by a magistrate or an examining magistrate, as an hon. Member said, but by officers of senior rank. This will allow for the cautioning procedure to be adopted in suitable cases, particularly for the very young first offender with a stable background. The chief inspector will be in charge of the procedure and all the arrangements. He will have trained officers who will be responsible for getting as much information as is available about the juvenile from the children's department and the probation and education services.
The chief inspector will then decide whether or not to issue a summons for the offence, but, even if he decides to caution as against issuing a summons, there are three points which will have to be determined. First, the offender must admit the offence; secondly, the parents must agree that the child should be cautioned; and, thirdly, the person aggrieved, or the loser, must be willing to leave the matter to the police. Where it is decided to prosecute, an appointment will be made for the juvenile and his parents to attend the police station, where the summons will be served by the arresting officer.
The major point about this procedure, and my hon. Friend may well say that this will continue, is that if two or more persons are charged together with the joint commission of an offence all will be dealt with in the same way, either by summons or by caution, irrespective of previous character or background, so that the good home and the bad home do not come into it. This procedure is fairer than the method in the Bill.
I do not accept that magistrates in general, whatever my right hon. Friend may say, want to see themselves sitting as examining magistrates—in other words, as social welfare workers—deciding whether or not a case should be brought to the court. what we should be deciding here is whether the present system has fallen down. If the number of juveniles repeatedly appearing before the courts had increased, we should say that a complete change was necessary. Happily, it is true to say that many juveniles do not appear in court a second time. The success rate differs in various parts of the country, but in some areas it is as high as 70 per cent. This shows that the present system, in relation to both the age of the juveniles and the procedure, is working reasonably well. Probation officers have rendered excellent service, particularly with juveniles between the age of 10 and 14. Under the Bill they will have a reduced rôle; yet they have been even more successful in these cases than in adult cases.
Many of the views which I have put forward are in the minds of magistrates. I do not always agree with the views of the Magistrates Association, and I am not necessarily arguing for all the points that have been made on their behalf, but I hope that my hon. Friend will take note of their observations on some of the issues which have been raised.
We all want to reduce juvenile delinquencies, whether we are magistrates, probation officers or barristers. We all want to see in operation a system which is fair and reasonable, and from which it can be seen that justice is done. I welcome many of the principles embodied in the Bill, particularly those referring to community homes, but I am sorry that, because of the criticisms which I have expressed, I cannot give my wholehearted support to the Bill.
I am not a lawyer, a magistrate or a children's officer, and I therefore feel that I am stepping into the lion's den. One aspect of the debate which has mystified and somewhat saddened me is the partisanship which has been shown by some hon. Members in voicing the views of the magistrates on the one hand and the children's officers on the other. To that extent I agree with the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Harry Howarth). Indeed, I agree with much of what he said.
I should like to spend a little time on two aspects which are relevant to members of the lay public and to the way in which they will look at the Bill. It is perhaps unfashionable to do so because it is rightly recognised that Parliament has been in advance of public opinion in penal reform. But it will not have escaped the attention of the House that there is considerable public concern about some of the matters which were raised by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson).
The first matter which will attract public attention is the decision to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14. The second is the blurring of the distinction between the services of the local authority and those of the law.
The point has been made, and it is worth emphasising, that Parliament is
simultaneously lowering the age at which people attain full citizen responsibilities and raising the age at which they accept responsibility for their criminal actions. In other words, it is concertina-ing the area of transitional development. Listening to the debates both today and on the previous occasion, I find the two very difficult to reconcile, and I think that people outside the House will find similar difficulty. I thought that the Bill recognised the difficulty, and it may do so, but, not being a lawyer, I have not been able to discover where. However, the White Paper says on page 5 that for children under 14
Proceedings will remain possible where they are necessary for the protection of society or for the sake of the child.
That may refer simply to what used to be termed "fit person order" proceedings. If it refers to criminal proceedings, I shall be interested to hear.
The example has been quoted by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) of the two boys who undertake some criminal act together. As I understand Appendix A of the White Paper, though it was not mentioned by the Home Secretary, where an offence is committed in company with another person, the statutory regulations will require both persons to be brought before the court. However, my understanding is that that will not apply to children under 14.
By raising the age of criminality, we are, it seems, creating a difficulty for ourselves which need not apply. I have given one example of it. Presumably, the reason is that the age at which criminal responsibility begins is, to some extent, artificial, so where it is fixed is a matter of choice. But the Home Secretary is seeking to develop a transition between what is now the age of criminal responsibility and what is the age of full responsibility at, say, 18, and he has done this by a two-tier system. I do not like his system for 14 to 17, but even if he extended that system to those between 10 and 14 he would be satisfied. No prosecutions of people of that age would occur unless the conditions laid down in that procedure were satisfied. It would be very much to the benefit of the public, because it would enable the right hon. Gentleman to solve the problems raised in the debate with regard to such matters as compensation and fines which could also be applied to children of 13 but which it would not to be open to the courts to do under the Bill.
The second criticism which the lay public will make of the Bill is that it blurs the distinctions between local authority services and the law. I do not underestimate the importance of this. It may be slightly old-fashioned, but there is a mystique about the law which I should not like to see diminished. In itself, it has a value in the enforcement of order in the country. There are some doubts cast upon this mystique. I recognise and applaud the changes which have occurred in the procedure of the police. But let me take two examples which occur to me and which may happen under the new procedure, and ask whether the introduction of the new procedure diminishes the standing of the police in the eyes of the public.
Take a situation in which the police decide that they wish to prosecute. I do not believe that that will be unknown to the person involved in the offence. However, as I understand it, it will be possible for a dispute to arise between the local authority and the police, and for the juvenile magistrate to adjudicate between them. Should he decide against the police, they will not be able to bring their case. I regard such a situation as being different from one where the police bring a case and it is judged against them. That distinction may not be real to other hon. Members, but to me it is a genuine case.
I understand from Appendix B that it will be possible for the police to arrest and hold a person for 72 hours while they are considering whether or not they wish to bring a case. In those circumstances, what I was saying just now is reinforced. No person in those circumstances could doubt that the police wished to bring a case if they were given authority to do so.
There is another distinction between local authority services and the law which I hold to rigidly. It has been said that there is no appeal from a local authority. There is an appeal in the sense that if a care and control order is made it will be possible from time to time to go back to the court and ask for it to be revoked. However, at present, someone brought before a juvenile court will be allotted to one of a number of categories of home or detention centre. The sort of régime applying in those centres is fairly well known. Now that person will be sent to a general community home which may be one of many different kinds. For the sake of flexibility, all existing buildings will be thrown into a pool. The person before the court will be put into that pool and moved round by executive order. There will be no appeal about the type of treatment given under the order of the court. To that extent, for the whole period during which a person is subject to an order, he will be under the control of the local authority against which he will have no appeal. It would be interesting to know the Under-Secretary of State's version of that.
To summarise, in my mind there is a difference between informal procedures which grow up, which we applaud in this House and which make the working of the law sweeter, and institutionalising those procedures so that a person cannot get out of them if he wants to. The grave danger of this Bill and the procedure involving an examining magistrate is that it is producing a rigid institution where at the moment we have a flexible off-the-cuff arrangement.
I cannot understand why the Home Secretary has brought forward this part of the Bill. From the point of view of people outside listening to this debate, there will be these two major criticisms, which I share. I consider them to be matters of great weight. The object of the Bill is to provide a situation in which we shall keep the majority of children out of the courts. But we are already applauding the way in which it is done at the moment, to the entent that 30,000 cases were cautioned last year and thus kept out of the courts, and we know that the cautioning procedure is not yet applied all over the country. Is the Bill then, necessary, or are we already moving in the direction in which we want to go?
The point has been made again and again; if we take the present arrangements and encourage the present trends and add new facilities to them in terms of the buildings and staff required and the new flexibility of sentences proposed in the Bill, should we lose very much by not having this new procedure? Are we not taking a bigger risk by losing a great many of the safeguards to which we have become accustomed for a marginal gain?
For those reasons, I have no hesitation in supporting the Opposition Amendment. However, the Bill is one of great interest to many people. I hope sincerely that it will be possible in Committee to safeguard against the difficulties which I have outlined so that hon. Members on all sides of the House can be united at a later stage.
I want to follow one comment made by the hon. Member for Walthamstow, West (Mr. Sylvester). He said that one of the difficulties about this discussion on the Bill was how it would be interpreted by the general public. In removing from the White Paper the offensive phrase,
guidance as a good parent may reasonably be expected to give
the Home Secretary was trying to meet a situation which was open to wide interpretation. But what has struck me throughout the debate is that he need not have bothered, because everyone has argued as though it was still in the Bill. This also applies to those who have talked about getting off scot-free. There is no suggestion in the Bill that children not brought before a court are to get off scot-free. From my reading of the Bill it seems that what would happen to them is the treatment that is given now.
If anyone is to be confused, it will be those who listen to the confusion which has come through the debate and who have read such letters as that in The Times today, which put good and bad in inverted commas as though that is in the Bill, and also went on to say:
If this becomes law it is only a matter of time before it is popularly (if inaccurately) believed that the grammar school boy will not be brought to court for the very things for which the secondary modern school boy is brought.
This seems, whether deliberate or non-deliberate, a misrepresentation of what the Bill is trying to do. We all accept that it is enormously difficult to lay down rules and regulations for young people or adults who break the law or, in the case of children, who get themselves into trouble. There will obviously be difficulties.
When we get to the stage of talking about poor compared with good or bad, middle-class or working-class, we need to go back to first principles and decide what we are trying to get at and what is our fundamental aim in trying to meet the needs of children who break the law and get into trouble.
There are exceptions to any rules we may lay down. But at least the House will agree that a large proportion of children coming before the courts are from unsatisfactory backgrounds. This is well established. Further, we all know that the child from an inadequate home, the child from an emotionally deprived home, the child with ineffective or inadequate parents, stands a better chance today of getting into trouble than the child from a more fortunate background. I do not define it in terms of class or good or bad.
This is not the fault of the people administering the law. It is as society exists. I wish that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) were here, because it emphasises something that he missed. He was trying to argue, in a sense very fairly, that the law must be seen to be fair and just. But the difficulty is that although we are all equal at birth, the moment we come into the world we begin to be unequal, and inequalities manifest themselves. It demonstrates to me that some children from the moment of birth are at greater risk than others. We have all recognised this, particularly the Government recently, in picking on certain areas of social deprivation and trying to give extra help there because we know that there have been certain difficulties among people brought up in unsatisfactory and inadequate environments. We try to compensate them for some of those difficulties.
If the basic intention of the Bill is to keep young children out of court, or as many as we can, we must try to work, as it were, from the first principle, which is how this can best be achieved. If it is true that inadequate backgrounds produce inadequate children and inadequate parents, obviously we must work with the parents and with the backgrounds to try to change the environment. In courts in present circumstances much of the emphasis on the treatment and guidance of the child, and the parent is in that direction. We try to grapple with and change the environment from which the child has come.
We do not have to go to court now to recognise this. It has been recognised over a long period of time. Where a child comes from a home situation which is socially responsible, it seems more likely that one can avoid going to court simply because there is a greater chance of co-operation. If this chance of cooperation is extended, in the first place, to those homes which appear to be inadequate, it seems we are on the right road to dealing with the root cause of the difficulty. We do not need courts to tell us about that.
I think that the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone over-stated the case of fairness, of which we must be conscious, because in the eyes of the public and in the eyes of children fairness is important. But looking at the differences in background, anyone who argues that it is fair to treat all young offenders the same, in view of what we know about environmental influences on young children, is being completely unfair. They have been treated unfairly and differently from the moment of birth. There are those who have made the point that there is a difference between a temporary lapse by somebody from a particular home and a child from a totally inadequate home and undesirable environment, who, therefore, needs to be removed from it. I think these are two different standards and sets of circumstances.
I return to the point about fairness. Some of the people who argue for the retention of things as they are, or very much as they are, see the standard of fairness as appearing before a court. They believe that that is the place where fairness is measured for children who have got into trouble. Everyone recognises that there are many reasons why children get into trouble, many of which—indeed most—are not the fault of the children. But the measure apparently is that they must all be seen to go to court, as if there is something good in a court appearance. I do not believe that this is true. I do not believe that there is any evidence to support the claim that there is something to be admired in having gone to court and that this is a criterion that we must keep.
Anybody who has experience of children who have got into trouble and gone through the courts knows that there are differences in treatment before they get to court. Many of them do not even get to court. There are also differences in what happens to them when they have been to court. Probation officers and others will tell of the difficulties that they have in trying to explain to one child why another child was let off or sent to an approved school. These complications and differences already exist in the system.
I know that hon. Members may say that this is no reason, therefore, to increase them. But the difficulty is that in dealing with different children in different situations we must have different standards of treatment. It seems that what we are arguing about so much today is what part a court appearance plays. Everybody accepts that there are differences and that we must try to compensate for inadequacies in background. Also, there are degrees of social responsibility. Often children who get themselves into trouble and appear to be anti-social for a variety of reasons never get to court at all. This is not only because they are not found out, but because arrangements are made for help and guidance to be given and going to court is thereby avoided. We all know this. Although I accept fully that in the eyes of many people it will be seen to be unfair, we must not lose the benefit of trying to avoid court appearances and concentrating on improving backgrounds and social environments. Otherwise, it may be felt that there is more discrimination. It is a pity that it exists, but society is discriminatory.
I should like to raise two other points on this matter. We cannot stress too much the enormous service that is done by those connected with child care—child care officers and everybody else. I was delighted to hear the Home Secretary say that training and so forth is to be increased. I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) say that so many child care officers were not trained. This is true, but magistrates are not trained either. It does not seem a very strong point to bring out. Obviously child care officers should be trained. People dealing with young children in trouble ought to be trained. We need far more training. However, this cannot be used as an argument against what we are trying to do.
I have been interested, too, in the recent situation with regard to child guidance clinics, because these have had an increasing rôle to play, and I think that they will continue to have a rôle to play in dealing with children who show early signs of mental disturbance. One of the difficulties is the unevenness in the distribution of many of our child guidance clinics. Another difficulty is the lack of facilities, psychiatric help, and so on, in various parts of the country. But more important than anything else is the time lag between a child being referred to a child guidance clinic and its being given treatment. I think that this situation will have to be looked at, and that something will have to be done about it, because this aspect will become more and more part and parcel of the child care services. I believe this to be a valuable aspect of the services, and I think that the attention of the Home Office will have to be directed to it if the Bill is to succeed in its aims.
Often when looking at the records of children in school I have been struck by reports of signs of mental disturbance at the age of 5 or 6. This fact is recorded, but very little is done about it or can be done about it until some offence is committed and the child finds himself in court. If it is known that a child is suffering from this kind of disturbance, why cannot it be made compulsory to send that child to a child guidance clinic, in the same way as it is compulsory to send a child to school? If this is to be an important part of treatment, parental responsibility must be increased, and we must try to ensure that people take advantage of the treatment and the services that are offered.
The hon. Lady the Member for Edgbaston raised a matter which is not in the Bill, and I think I can see why it is not. My right hon. Friend has made some worth-while propositions relating to the whole question of fostering, and I think that everybody welcomes these long-overdue proposals, but nothing appears to have been done about what is becoming known as the tug-of-war child. I think that the reason why this issue is not dealt with in the Bill is that it is almost impossible to legislate for such a situation, but it seems to many of us that although we cannot lay down a law which states that after a certain period of time a foster child, and often a privately fostered child, cannot be returned to his natural parent, much more attention needs to be paid to whether the parent has functioned as a parent during the fostering period. This should be among the prime considerations, because this is one of the tragedies that one often meets in cases of this kind.
In most circumstances the child ought to be with his natural mother, but part of the job of a parent is to function as a parent. If that is not happening, if the child is likely to be put at risk by being returned to his natural parent, if the child has no wish to return to his parents, and if he is in a good home local authorities and the courts should be directed to pay more attention to those factors so that some of our children, a minority, but nevertheless an important minority, do not find themselves in tragic circumstances which produce all sorts of repercussions in later life.
This matter is not dealt with in the Bill, so perhaps I could say a few words about it. As my hon. Friend knows, I am conscious of this difficult problem. I hope to get advice from a number of quarters, and perhaps the people concerned could reach an agreed conclusion because this is essentially an issue on which we ought not to have a division of opinion if that is possible. I hope to carry this problem a stage further quite shortly.
I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, as I am sure all those who are concerned with this problem are, too. We know that my right hon. Friend has co-operated with us in our discussions on this difficulty.
I welcome the Bill, but not because it is a perfect Bill. When dealing with imperfect human beings, and imperfect circumstances, I do not think we can have perfect Bills. Nevertheless, I welcome it because, more than anything else, it has accepted the philosophy which has been growing in the past few years in relation to child care. It is a philosophy which has been working for some time, and the Bill is now trying to make it legal.
I think that the Bill diminishes, even if it does not abolish, and perhaps it cannot, the artificial damaging distinction between deprived children and delinquent children. In most cases the circumstances are very much the same, and I think that when we look at the Bill from the point of view of deprivation, social need, and the effort that is being made to help the environment from which children come, we realise that we are moving away from regarding children as depraved or delinquent, and looking at most of those who get into trouble as being in need of help.
I listened with great interest to the hon. Lady the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), and hope to pick up some of her arguments in my brief contribution to the debate.
I think that it was the hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) who said that the Bill was a compromise. I do not think that a compromise between the comparative sense of the present system, and the nonsense of the original White Paper, "The Child, the Family and the Young Offender" is necessarily worthy of commendation, and I rather suspect that the hon. Lady would have been even happier had the Government brought forward a Bill to embody the proposals in the ill-fated White Paper which was so widely deplored.
I respect the Government's sincerity and that of the Home Secretary. I respect the motives of the Government and those who have been responsible for the preparation of the Bill. It is well-intentioned, but, having heard the debate, and thought a great deal about the problems raised in the Bill, I am far from convinced that its implementation will be in the long-term interests of the children it is supposed to help.
First, there has been no real answer from the benches opposite to the point which has been made more than once about the child from a good home and the child from a bad one. It is true, as the hon. Lady said, that there is nothing in the Bill about the good home and the bad home. But when we say that only the child in need of care and protection should be brought before the court, we are saying that the child who offends after having had all the advantages of a good home will not have to face the court of law, whereas the child with none of the advantages, who comes from a bad home, and has offended in precisely the same way, will have to face it. I agree entirely with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) that children are very astute to recognise justice and injustice. It is important to see that a Measure like this does not offend the sense of justice of the children whom it is trying to help.
Another unfortunate consequence of these proposals is that the use of the care and control procedure for children under 14 means that we cannot hit the pocket of the child. Plenty of young children under 14 have substantial pocket money and I would have thought that there has been abundant evidence, recognised in other Bills in the last few years, that a fine can be a potent weapon in the enforcement and observance of the law. We are taking from the juvenile courts one of their best weapons. It follows that, if a child is brought before the court only if he is in need of care and protection, as he cannot be convicted of an offence, he cannot be fined. Even within this framework, we could give the courts power to order a young person to pay compensation, but there is no provision for that, either by the child or by his parents. That, also, is quite wrong.
I have practised in the courts and have the highest regard for juvenile court magistrates. I cannot see why they have to be appointed in future by the Lord Chancellor instead of by their fellows. It would be a thoroughly retrograde step to appoint them on a recommendation of a body sitting in secret rather than by the votes of their colleagus, who must know, better than anyone else, whether they are qualified to do the job properly. We all know the great care which is already taken to make juvenile courts different in character and atmosphere from ordinary courts of the land and I question whether much will be gained by keeping children who go wrong out of what are, after all, the very tender clutches of the existing juvenile courts.
Not prosecuting these children may give them the impression that they have got away with it. It is vitally important, at this time of all times, to keep clear in the minds of our young people the difference between right and wrong, between guilt and innocence. I know that hon. Members opposite are well-intentioned, but we are running into the danger of blurring in their minds the difference between right and wrong, guilt and innocence, social and anti-social behaviour. In the end, I would stick to the humane system, ameliorated by the highly successful system—the Home Secretary conceded its success—of juvenile liaison officers.
On treatment, I do not like the wording of the Amendment of my own Front Bench. I am not prepared to say that I am entirely happy about the new system of community homes which the Bill proposes. If it is implemented in toto, approved schools will go and all these institutions will come under one umbrella and all be community homes. The local authorities will be responsible for placing the children in them. At present, in some of these institutions, bad lads are mixed with the merely deprived children, but, if the Bill became law as it is, there would be even less separation, and that would be a preposterous situation.
It is absurd that only a week after discussing implementing the proposals of the Latey Committee, which give young people at the age of 18 all the rights of full citizenship, we should be arguing in favour of the proposition that up to 17 a boy or girl should not be held fully responsible for his or her criminal acts. It is the sort of thing one would expect from a madhouse rather than the House of Commons. There does not seem to be a logical theme running through the many Measures which the Government have introduced in recent months with such speed.
The Bill includes a welcome amendment of the Children Act, 1958, by providing that a child whose care and maintenance are undertaken by a person other than a relative or guardian shall be treated as a foster child, even though no question of reward may arise. A recent case in my constituency, however, tends to show that the law is still not strong enough to ensure the welfare of foster children.
The case I have in mind—the details of which I have furnished to the Home Secretary—involve the illegitimate child of an 18-year-old mother. When the child was only 16 days old the mother handed the baby girl to an elderly widow who lived nearby, and then the mother disappeared. The matter came to the knowledge of the local authority because a welfare officer happened to call at the old lady's home. If that had not happened, some time might have elapsed before the authority would have had any knowledge of the disappearance of the mother and the placement of the child.
Unfortunately, the story had a sad end because the elderly widow became ill, could not look after the child and called in the local welfare officer to sort out the problem. The child was taken into care. Some time later, when the widow became fit again, she wanted the child back. But the local authority decided—I do not criticise it for taking this line—that she might become ill again and that it would not be in the interest of the child to return her to the elderly widow.
Before any child is placed in the foster home of a local authority extensive inquiries are made. Officers of the authority examine the prospective home and make sure that the child will be placed in surroundings as nearly ideal as possible. However, the case I quoted highlights the fact that under the present law—and this will be the position even when this Measure is enacted—an individual can foster out a child privately without any inquiries being made.
Under the Bill the law will be complied with if the would-be foster parents notify the local authority two weeks before receiving the child, or, in the case of an emergency—one does not know how an emergency will be defined—two days afterwards. This must be wrong. The time has come when the mother should have the responsibility of notifying the local authority before the child is placed. The Minister should reexamine this part of the Bill to see if, by amendment, it can be altered to cover the sort of case I have quoted and so place an obligation on somebody other than the receiving foster parents to report to the local authority his or her intentions.
I appreciate full well that no legislation can altogether prevent parents acting irresponsibly, but not long ago Mr. Brown, Secretary of the Association of Children's Officers, was reported in the Press as saying:
Even now there is nothing to prevent a woman in a fish queue from saying, 'Here's my baby. Look after her'.
That seems odd indeed.
I think that the House will be grateful to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) for at least one observation which he made in the debate. From time to time there have been references to the effect of the Bill upon the freedom of the individual and about some sinister powers which are being acquired by the local authorities which they ought not to have. I had been wondering just what those powers were. The hon. Member has now explained with his usual clarity that the powers in question are powers which will follow the making of a care order.
To some extent I appreciate his argument, although I should have thought this was a necessary concomitant of introducing flexibility in dealing with a child once a care order has been made. But from a number of contributions to the debate I had the impression that these sinister powers of local authorities were associated with the provision to avoid bringing certain children before the courts, as though being brought before a court were some safeguard for individual freedom. Let us at least eliminate this confusion. The proposal to avoid bringing certain children before a juvenile court is to offer the child and its parents an alternative method of dealing with the situation if they want to avail themselves of it. If they insist on going to the court, all they have to do is to refuse to co-operate in any other way of dealing with the situation.
I hoped that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne would set my mind at rest on another matter. It would not be the first time that he has brought to my mind clarity where formerly there was obscurity, but this was an omission from his speech. I have listened to a number of speeches about the very real fact that many juvenile courts are struggling on deprived of accommodation and the wherewithal to perform their functions as many of us would hope they could do. But I have not been able to understand why this was an argument against the proposal by my right hon. Friend to relieve them of some of their burdens.
I should have thought that the fact, on which no doubt all would agree, that over a long period, services dealing with children have been starved of resources to do their work would give support to the proposal of my right hon. Friend to make greater use of voluntary organisations, youth clubs and voluntary workers, many of whom are already doing a magnificent job.
I support the Bill because I take the view, as I think my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor) did, that it is a step in a long process. That is a process not only concerning the way in which we deal with our children, but relating to our whole penal system, a process towards a more rational and compassionate way of dealing with these problems. In the beginning, when society was in its infancy, it reacted to abnormal behaviour as any infant does when it is hurt—it hit out. It hit out instinctively, whether anyone was to blame, whether the whole situation was an accident, whether even it was hitting out at an inanimate body. Whether it could do so effectively, and whether any purpose was to be served—it hit out.
Occasionally even now, for all of us, this kind of instinct is very near the surface. We get it in public outcries when there has been a particularly atrocious crime. Occasionally, I suspect a faint echo of it in the expression which has been repeated from time to time about getting off scot-free.
From that stage it was not long before it received a more formal and more respectable kind of mythology. It was declared that something metaphysical and impersonal called "The Law" insisted that in the natural order of things certain conduct should be visited with certain consequences; and the law was majestic in its impartiality. It distinguished only between conduct, not between persons or circumstances or reasons.
I suspect that that still survives. I do not condemn it. That, too, is probably very close to the surface in many of us. I thought that it survived in the letter to The Times from the secretary to the Magistrates Association which has been referred to in the debate, because in a very fair and moderately stated argument about the psychological consequences of a certain provision, the whole thing suddenly became erected into a grandiloquent juristic concept about equality before the law. It was no such thing. Equality before the law does not mean that the law treats everyone alike. As my right hon. Friend said in opening the debate, it does not mean uniformity. Equality before the law means that the law makes only distinctions which are relevant to fairness and common sense.
Incidentally, although I saw the force of the argument of the right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg) when he spoke of the very real sense of fairness in children, I wonder whether he did not under-rate the equally real sense of what is going on, the very aliveness and intelligence that many children display, too. If two children, in the kind of circumstances which the right hon. and learned Gentleman described, appreciated that each of them had had the whole situation investigated, had been brought before a magistrate or a children's officer or before the kind of juvenile bureau described by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Harry Howarth), I should have thought that it would not have been beyond the wit of the officials dealing with the matter to explain to the children just what in fact was happening and what decision was being made.
I believe that one of the matters which they would have very much in mind is the effect of a distinction of this kind. This might be one of the reasons why they decided to bring both children, or neither, before the court. If it was decided to bring one and not the other, I suspect that the reason might well be—I think that the child might appreciate this—the reaction of the children, the likelihood of this kind of offence being repeated, whether the seriousness of what had happened had really been brought home to the children.
From that stage, the next stage in the process was what many writers on the subject have called "social defence". It goes past the instinctive reaction of society to hurt somebody, past the law's demand for a sacrifice, and becomes an inquiry into what will produce the best results for the community and the individual. It is what my right hon. Friend called "the appropriate treatment." It does not entail sentimentality or universal leniency. There are some kinds of conduct which must be discouraged by an appropriate deterrent. There are some occasions when the community can be protected only if the individual is physically restrained. I noticed that the Court of Appeal reminded my right hon. Friend yesterday that in the rehabilitation of offenders he owes a duty under the common law to others who might be affected by his decisions.
But usually the community is most likely to benefit if the individual is reformed and rehabilitated and equipped to make a positive contribution. Particularly at the outset of a potential criminal career, the community benefits best if the individual is induced to adopt a different course. That is where this process has been leading; and that is what Part I of the Bill is about.
I appreciate something that has been said about two dangers which could be involved in this process if they are not carefully watched. The first is the danger of eliminating from our language the terminology of morals, what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne called the difference between right and wrong. The concepts of goodness and wickedness still have a part to play, and particularly the concept of deserving, if only because, whatever other considerations might apply, it is important that an individual is not treated more harshly than he deserves.
There is sometimes a danger that the concept of right and wrong may disappear from our vocabulary. Certainly, if the Magistrates Association is implying that it ought to be someone's job, even in the course of a caution, to bring home to an offender that he has committed an offence, then to that extent I agree with the Magistrates Association. Incidentally, I hope Clause 4 will not be interpreted as meaning that anyone who commits an offence when under the age of 14 is not responsible for his or her actions. Originally, the rule which applied to a child up to the age of 8 was based on the presumption of common law judges that a child under that age was incapable of forming the intention to commit an offence. They must have been a little remote from reality. Any parent who believes a child is incapable of forming the intention to misbehave must have very docile children.
As I understand, the purpose behind Clause 4 is very different. Its purpose, surely, is to ensure that before a potential professional criminal becomes a real professional criminal and has to be dealt with as such, every consideration should be given to preventing that life of crime. I thought that the Association of Children's Officers from time to time rather obscured the distinction between a child with a problem and a child who has quite deliberately committed an offence, particularly when they noted the statement in paragraph 10 of the Ingleby Report:
It is the situation and relationships within the family which seem to be responsible for many children being in trouble, whether the trouble is called delinquency or anything else.
It is rather dangerous to suggest that every child who commits an offence must have this offence laid at the door of its parents. Children, like the rest of us, are notoriously unpredictable and many of us, with the best intentions, can take a wrong course in dealing with them. But many parents who have tried hard have found that in the end their children have committed an offence; and it would be very unfair to suggest to them that it must necessarily be the fault of the parents. We are not, any of us, wholly a product of our environment.
We all have a great deal of original sin within us. And I would certainly agree with the suggestion that has been made from time to time that it would help to bring home to an offender what has happened, and its effect on the victim, if the provision for making compensation were retained within the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) mentioned this—and I would certainly support him in Committee if he moved to include such a provision—that the idea of beginning again with a fresh start has much to recommend it in rehabilitating someone who appreciates that he has committed an offence.
The other danger I foresee, if it is not guarded against, is that having quite properly dispensed with the law as a majestic and impersonal avenger, we may also dispense with it as a quite proper protector of individuals. I hope juvenile magistrates will not be so intent on helping children that they will overlook the requirements of the Clause. It is still a very real stigma to be found to have committed an offence, and certainly I hope that, in practice, they will not attempt to consider together whether a child has committed an offence and whether it is in need of care; because it would be difficult, having discovered perhaps that a child comes from a bad home background and that the father has just served a long term of imprisonment for assault and battery, then to go on to consider fairly whether the child has committed the particular offence of which he is accused. An innocent child has a right not to be helped.
If time had permitted, and if this were not a Second Reading speech, I should have added a little to what my hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough said about the rigid distinction between adoption and fostering, and I warmly welcome the intervention of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on that matter. I appreciate that one cannot eliminate the distinction; adoption is a more permanent relationship, it requires more careful consideration, and there is a difference between the foster parent who is not responsible for maintenance of the child and the adoptive parent who is. However, we all know of the heartbreak which occurs from time to time, and someone ought to have at least a discretion to prevent it.
The proposal which I offer for my right hon. Friend's consideration is that Section 2 of the Children Act, 1948, might be amended so that, in certain circumstances, the local authority had at least a discretion to assume parental rights. I put it no higher than that. It would not follow as night follows day that the parent would lose any rights, but it would mean that someone was at least entitled to look at the whole matter again.
I welcome the Bill, though recognising its shortcomings, shortcoming which, if given the opportunity, I shall try to repair in Committee. It is a serious attempt, after careful thought, to bring together two concepts which, in the last resort, are indivisible—the well being of the community as a whole and the well being of the individuals who make it up.
I welcome and support what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight) about foster children. Why has the Home Secretary dealt with foster children in the Bill at all? A far more appropriate place would be the Family Law Reform Bill, in which the problems of illegitimate children and not delinquent children and children in need of care for other reasons are dealt with. Perhaps the Home Secretary will consider that point.
Without taking sides in any way, I commend the excellent work, noted by the Seebohm Committee, which is done by children and child care officers. The recent Home Office report shows that nearly 250,000 of these young people were helped in 1967, and guidance was given to over 133,000 children, a total greater by 26,000 than the number of young children found guilty of indictable or non-indictable offences. Plainly, the Act brought in by Mr. Henry Brooke, now Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has begun to work, and I hope that more progress will follow.
I come now to one or two aspects of the Bill which worry me, and I take, first, the question of community homes. It seems to me that there should be some protection to ensure that cases are reviewed from time to time. Otherwise, as I understand, a child could remain in a residential home for as long as six years. If a child is removed from its home, with the consent of the parents, that situation should not be allowed to continue for more than six months without reference to a committee, perhaps the local authority committee.
I am concerned also about Clause l (2)(e) as it stands, because the words "guilty of an offence". It could be any offence, however trivial, whereas previously the offences were restricted to those which, if committed by an adult, would be punishable by imprisonment. If the Clause passes unamended, a child could be taken away from its parents for a quite minor offence, and I should prefer to go back to the limitation in the previous Act.
Next, as I understand, magistrates will no longer have power to commit a child to the care of another person; in other words, they could commit a child not to a grandparent or an aunt but only to the local authority. If I understand aright, I regard that restriction as objectionable. It could well be in the interests of the child to go to a relation, and I hope that the restriction will be removed.
The provisions concerning the control and supervision of children in moral danger are excessive in relation to children in their 16th year. They can get married if they have their parents' consent, and they should take on the adult responsibilties and rights at that age.
Clause 5(1) deals with the laying of information in writing, and Clause 8(1) deals with finger-printing. If the young person is found innocent, where does the Bill provide for destroying the written evidence or the finger-prints which might be very dangerous to him or her in later life?
I am glad that it is covered.
Probably because I am not a lawyer, I should like an explanation of the following words in Clause 5(8):
If at the time when justices begin to inquire into an offence either as examining justices or on the trial of an information, they have reason to believe that the alleged offender is a young person and that consent under this section has not been obtained for the proceedings, it shall be their duty to quash the information, without prejudice to the laying of a further information in respect of the offence; but a failure to obtain consent tinder this section shall not invalidate proceedings in respect of the offence …
To my non-legal mind it seems rather unfortunate that this should be in the Bill.
Clause 21 provides that a court may order that a care order shall continue in force until a person attains the age of 19. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Edgbaston that that provision will prove very difficult if the age of majority is to be 18, and I hope that this may be changed in Committee.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) for cutting short her remarks. She always contributes much to our debates on these subjects, of which she knows a great deal, and in her short speech she has given the Under-Secretary of State many questions to answer.
If one comes into the Chamber at about this hour and hears an hon. Member saying from the Front Bench that we have had a very interesting debate, it usually means that the House has had an inordinately dull afternoon and evening. I shall not say that about this debate, because the subject matter could never be dull, and the manner of the debate has not been dull either. It began with a lucid and careful explanation of the Bill by the Home Secretary, for which we are very grateful. He revealed his patent sincerity about wanting to do something in this matter. It was followed by the most stimulating and exciting speech of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg). As he announced that we have 11 children between us, I should like to say that I am in the majority by one. Though the Home Secretary seemed to forecast that the argument would be arid, we can at least say that the attitude of this team is not one of sterile lawyers.
As the Amendment obviously foreshadowed, a real and sincere conflict of opinion exists over Part I. I pay my tribute to the impeccable intentions of the promoters of the Bill, all of whom have the worthiest objects. They want to ensure that children do not, as some unfortunately do, turn along paths which end with their being recidivists. One has often been struck in one's professional life with how many major criminals have had a history of crime early in their youth. Anything that can be done, and sensibly and rightly done, in that respect is something that we should all welcome.
The Home Secretary is here again, so I want to repeat my tribute to his sincerity. But I had to object to his lack of accuracy when he cast me as a retired silk. I am glad that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone was here to interject on my behalf. In the proceedings to which my right hon. and learned Friend has referred, when he wrote a robust and sensible article in Punch and was had up for contempt, I was his counsel. I also had the experience of cross-examining not long ago the former Foreign Secretary. Both my right hon. and learned Friend and I are practising lawyers, and make no apology for approaching the changes which the Bill makes in the law from the point of view of whether the objective of the promoters will be carried out or whether, as I fear, the new system will be at the expense of a very important principle—fairness.
I think that the Home Secretary now sees in clearer perspective the reasons for our Amendment and that our objections to Part I are on principle. I am sure that he realises the sincerity of our views just as his sincerity is clear to us. We fear that this Bill contains a wrong approach which could be harmful.
It is right to look at the problem in the context of the present situation. I am informed that in 1967, some 30,000 under 14's were convicted and some 17,000 under 14's were cautioned in the courts. Of this total, 26 per cent. were fined and 27 per cent. received conditional discharge. I must repeat the question which my hon. Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) posed. What will happen to these cases under the Bill? It was thought by sensible men and women, trained and experienced magistrates, that this was the appropriate thing to do with these children, and there is no reason to doubt that they were right.
Then again, in the case of children between the ages of 14 and 17, some 13,000 were cautioned and 83,000 convicted. Of these, about 60 per cent. were fined and 12 per cent. conditionally discharged. This makes in all about 150,000 children and young persons who got into trouble in 1967, and if we take account of their parents we bring the figure up to about 400,000 individuals concerned.
Figures have been supplied by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) in an article in the Daily Telegraph. In the Metropolitan area, the arrests for burglary reveal that, out of every 100 cases, 13 concern children between the ages of 10 and 13 and 29 in the age group 14 to 16. Again, 33 out of every 100 cases of shopbreaking involve persons under the age of 16.
We have to face the fact that there is a serious situation which must not be underestimated, whatever our motives or ideas of how the situation can best be resolved. There is a high level of juvenile crime, and it has to be dealt with. This is no time for softness, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman accepts, and he made it clear that there is no intention of going soft. It is firmness which is needed to deal with the investigation of crimes and in dealing with them thereafter. Our common aim is surely to keep children out of the courts, and we have to find the best way of preventing them from committing crimes. We keep the children out of court best if they do not commit the crime.
Secondly, there is the system of cautioning about which we have heard from people who know far more about it than I do. It seems to be a system which is reasonable, rational and fair. None the less we have to face the problem that some children have to be faced with the serious consequences of their serious behaviour, and this is something from which we must not flinch.
I want now to say something about the form of the Bill. This is a song that I have sung often from this Box. If there has been so much time to work out this Bill, as we understand has been the case, with all these consultations, and if it has been in the minds of so many people for so long, are these 94 pages the best that could be produced? I know that we are in a great straitjacket over drafting and that it is sometimes unfair to turn against the Parliamentary Counsel. But is it not time that we got out of this manner of making our laws? Let me quote from Clause 3(3), which says:
If in any care proceedings the relevant infant is alleged to have committed an offence in consequence of which the offence condition is satisfied with respect to him, the court shall not find the offence condition satisfied in consequence of the offence unless, disregarding section 4 of this Act, it would have found him guilty of the offence if the proceedings had been in pursuance of an information duly charging him with the offence and the court had had jurisdiction to try the information;".
I know that one can be unfair by reading it too fast, but the point I want to
make is that the only part of this Bill which is a first-class piece of drafting is in the interpretation Clause. I see in Clause 66 the following:
'police officer 'means a member of a police force".
That seems to be the most sensible and clear piece of drafting in the Bill. I know that it is a difficult problem, but it is something which faces all of us in the machinery of government. If something is too complicated the public will not respect what they cannot understand. Somehow, we must escape from this straitjacket.
I turn now to the matter of the Bill. I share the suspicions of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Marylebone. I feel that this Bill, not only the form of it but the matter in it, bears the stamp of the Department. I get the impression that, for all the Home Secretary's desire to carry out sincere and useful alterations in the law regarding children, the Home Office has imposed its attitude to the administration of justice upon it. This may be a different attitude from that of the Lord Chancellor's Department. We have this ridiculous dichotomy whereby the Lord Chancellor's Department deals with civil law and the Home Office with criminal law.
We have a trichotomy, because the Board of Trade comes in with its own law-making activities. There will come a time when the power to initiate law in civil and criminal proceedings will come under one department, and I would personally recommend that it was the Department which knows most about the law.
The public confidence element, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington) referred, is a very important one. The public confidence element is that the public believe that there should be a prosecuting authority, impartially putting the facts where an offence has been suspected, before an appropriately constituted court, and that court should then judge the guilt of the accused person. Thereafter it should apply the appropriate treatment. The constitution of the court can and should be special, as it is in the juvenile court.
There the magistrates have special experience. But they should first of all—this is where there should be the equality we are all demanding—be exercising ordinary judicial powers to determine guilt. When they have done that they have to impose the appropriate treatment. Then everything is different, because people and their circumstances are different. They have to impose the appropriate treatment with the appropriate resources given by Parliament.
We must hesitate before differing from the magistrates. We have had the advanage of hearing the hon. Members for Oldham, East (Mr. Mapp) and Welling-borough (Mr. Harry Howarth), who told us of their own personal experience. One of the strengths of the House of Commons is that people can speak from personal experience. Juvenile court magistrates are selected from all age groups and from people of all attitudes. They are chosen for their knowledge, and they observe the conduct and behaviour of accused juveniles. They can follow up that conduct after the juveniles have been sentenced. It is, therefore, right that we should pay great attention to the attitude of the magistrates. There has been reference to Mr. Brayshaw's letter in The Times today favouring the Ingleby Committee's recommendation that the offence should be sufficient ground for bringing a child before the court. I think that is right.
My criticism of Part I of the Bill is that it is unfair because there is a distinction between the background of one offender and another. Advantage is given to the offender whose circumstances are comfortable. That is unfair, and it is wrong for Parliament to perpetrate such an unfairness. When examined, it will be found to be wholly repugnant. I think that the public will reject it. When one child who comes from a comfortable home gets off scot-free and another, who comes from another sort of home does not get off scot-free but is taken to court, there will be trouble.
I can see the aim, idea and purpose, but this is an artificial and theoretical solution which will not work. It breaches one of the basic principles of the administration of justice. We cannot exclude children and young persons from their right to justice. I do not see why we in the House of Commons should. If we think that this is a right system, test it by reference to the age of 18. Would we apply that principle to people of the age of 18? People of 18 are only a few years older than the people to whom this principle will be applied. This is a major change for the worse in trial procedure which will be found to be wholly unacceptable.
Then there is the matter of delay. First, there will be an inquiry into and assessment of the home. Evidence will have to be given. Objection may be taken by a parent. Somebody may have to investigate that before it is decided whether to prosecute the child. Secondly, with a young person, there will be the preliminary investigation by an examining magistrate. That could easily take weeks, perhaps months. What does "satisfied" in Clause 5(4) mean? If a magistrate or court is to be "satisfied", somebody will have to prove the case. Will it be proved beyond reasonable doubt? All this procedure must be gone through before the young person comes before the court. A young person is as much entitled to his rights as anyone else. What parent in the House, if his child said that he had been accused of something and he did not do it, would not ensure that that child had every possible advantage and a fair chance before a court?
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). I have always been an opponent of corporal punishment as a judicial punishment. I have always rejected it because of the delay between the offence and the sentence and appeal. Delay is an important matter which should not be overlooked.
The hon. Member for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Rose) referred to the rule of law, and my third objection is that this is a distortion of the rule of law. Justice demands the conviction of the guilty just as much as the acquittal of the innocent. The interests of the State demand that an offence shall, generally, be prosecuted, irrespective of the circumstances of the accused. It is an odd principle for this House of Commons to accept that a person should not be prosecuted because of his circumstances. We are making a very big departure.
What if a child is attacked and injured by another, and the parents of the injured child find that there has been no prosecution, though it may have been a particularly brutal attack; or suppose one attacker is prosecuted and not the other? Suppose there is no prosecution where a shopkeeper has had a brick through the window and his goods have been taken? What will be the public's reaction to this artificial and theoretical proposal?
Justice must be administered formally. It is the voice and act of the State, of the people, of the Crown; it is society saying the offender must come before them and answer the charge. So, the basic distortion is the unfairness, and the Under-Secretary must explain how this form of injustice can be justified. One has only to pose the issue to reject it.
If the Home Secretary can squeeze from the Treasury the money to do all the things it is suggested in the Bill should be done, why should not he develop and extend the present system, and give to the courts all those facilities which they have been denied since the last war? We have always tried to get our justice and our penal policy on the cheap. This has been a great mistake; it has meant a waste of materials and of human beings. This Cinderella of the social services should have greater priority. It is easy to say that when there are no Treasury Ministers lurking on the Benches before us, but it is essential for the proper organisation of our society that priority should be given to it.
I turn to the points made by my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Mrs. Knight), Walthamstow, West (Mr. Silvester) and Nelson and Colne (Mr. Waddington). Does it not strike everybody, as it did them, that it is ironic that a week or so ago, and a few months before that, we were paying our middle-aged tribute to youth in legislating about the age of 18. We were saying that people should be mature enough at 18 to vote, and to be able to judge whether X or Y should sit on these green benches and contribute to our debates. Only a few weeks ago we were saying that a lad of 18 should be able to assume all the responsibilities of entering into contracts and should not need to shelter, as he has done in the past, behind his parent. We said that he should have all this open to him because nowadays people are more mature physically and intellectually. Now the House of Commons is saying that up to 16 years 11 months, only 13 months off that age, such a lad is not able to face up to whether or not he has been guilty of an offence such as where, for instance, he has gone on to the platform after a football match with a juvenile gang, as sometimes happens, and has beaten up somebody. If these young people are to be given the rights, they should be able to take upon themselves the responsibilities.
In many respects, the Bill has much to commend it when one thinks of community homes and the fostering of children, which was commended in the attractive speech of the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Miss Lestor), who knows a great deal about these matters. Much of what she said appeals to me, but the fact remains that there are considerable objections to Part I.
A number of questions have been put to the Under-Secretary of State, and I would ask him specifically to take up the two which practically every hon. Member has posed. Why is the child against whom there is evidence that he has committed a crime not to be prosecuted before an appropriate juvenile court unless he comes from a bad family? Secondly, why should a young person of 16¾ against whom there may be evidence that he has knocked down and kicked another person not be prosecuted without the rigmarole of appearing before an examining magistrate? So far, we have had no convincing answers, and the Government have not explained the necessity for the Bill. If the resources are available, they could be used to do what many experienced child care officers and magistrates would like to see in terms of the provision of attendance centres, with the necessary facilities and proper staff.
The Bill offends against the major principle of fairness, it introduces unnecessary delays and cumbersome procedures, and is the fruit of a philisophy of penology which is unacceptable to the public. For that reason, I commend our reasoned Amendment to my right hon. and hon. Friends.
We have had a spirited and edifying debate. There have been clashes of opinion, as one would expect, because there are divers views deeply held by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
The right hon. and learned Member for Epsom (Sir P. Rawlinson) has allowed me a substantial period of time in which to reply to the debate. Even so, I regret that there will not be sufficient time to take up in detail all the points which have been raised. Many of them are Committee points, and I have no doubt that they will be raked over and dealt with with great thoroughness and considerable rhetoric in Committee.
The fundamental idea underlying the Bill is that the time has come for Parliament to lay down a new legal framework for the way in which society deals with children in trouble so as to reflect developments in the organisation of the services concerned and the current practices, and also to provide the necessary room for further development in the future. The Bill also reflects the growth of our understanding of the development of children and the ways in which behaviour and attitudes are moulded.
Increasingly, we realise how personal and environmental factors during childhood and adolescence may influence the whole of an individual's later life. The injury and damage caused by juvenile delinquency are a proper cause for concern. But, in dealing with each child, we must never allow any immediate punitive reaction, however natural it may be, to divert our attention from the need to base the action which we take on long-term considerations, for it may affect the whole of his future as a useful member of society.
We should not forget the deprived backgrounds from which many delinquents come—the inadequate or broken homes and the squalid neighbourhoods which are so often associated with juvenile misbehaviour. Nor, indeed, should we forget that the modification of behaviour—the whole process of growing up into a mature personality—depends upon the child's personal relationships, above all, with his own family. These are the reasons why the Bill seeks to create a system which is flexible, so that there are no longer legal barriers which prevent the most appropriate action being taken in each case, and which makes maximum use of all the resources— especially the human resources—available in the community for dealing with the problems of children in trouble.
Nothing in the Bill has been spawned by sentimental notions of curing all problems by kindness alone. The compelling motive, as my right hon. Friend said in opening the debate, is not softness or permissiveness, but rather a realistic appreciation of the range and the variety of assets which modern society has available and which can be further developed to deal more effectively with the problem of juvenile delinquency.
The Bill seeks to strike a balance between the need to control unacceptable behaviour, on the one hand, and the duty, on the other, to offer help to those who need it, while, at the same time, preserving judicial safeguards which are necessary for the freedom of the individual.
It seems to me that the unhappiness of many right hon. and hon. Members concerning Clause 1, particularly subsection (2), stems from not paying due regard to the fact that this provision is nothing more than the progression of a system that is already in existence.
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Hogg), in his excellent speech, which we all admired, said that he cared more about justice than probably anything else in life. That is an ideal that all of us will salute. He went on to say, "Just look where we will be getting to with the Bill". I put it to right hon. and learned Gentlemen and to the House that we should consider the position that we are in already before contemplating any changes which might be brought about by the Bill.
Let us look at the position which now obtains in the treatment of juvenile offenders, particularly in relation to cautions. These are the round figures for the year 1967. In the age group of those from 10 to 14 the total number of offences was 47,000, out of which came 17,000 cautions. In the range of 14 to 17, there was a total of 73,000 offences, 13,000 of which resulted in cautions. Therefore, taking the total ages from 10 to 17, we have 120,000 offences, in respect of which 30,000 persons were cautioned. Thus, broadly speaking, of the juvenile offenders within the range 10 to 14, a third were cautioned, whilst of those over 14 and under 17, between a fifth and a sixth were dealt with by way of caution.
Taking the two age groups together, we have an average as near as anything of one-quarter with respect to both indictable and non-indictable offences. This is a phenomenon which has developed over the decades, and it is one which I submit must weigh very heavily with regard to any decisions that we arrive at on this issue. It is strange that in the ample memorandum which the Magistrates Association has distributed it has not seen fit to make one reference to this most material and relevant point.
But even more important than the fact that only three-quarters of persons under 17 are actually prosecuted for offences which they are known, or at any rate believed, to have committed is the pattern of application of this system from one area to another. I was staggered to find how enormous are the differences. The highest percentage of cautions for any police area is well over 65 per cent. The lowest—and the House will find this difficult to believe—is under 5 per cent. It is, therefore, on the reality of this situation that we must build our plans and frame our policies.
I put it to the House that the questions we must face are these. Accepting that very few people would advocate, and no one in this debate has suggested, that all children over 10 should automatically be prosecuted in respect of each and every offence they commit, on what basis should it be decided which children should be prosecuted and which should not? Should it be left to a system——
Before my hon. Friend deals with which should, and which should not, is not one bound to ask why there should be a prosecution in any case under a certain age group, say 16, as was recommended by the Seebohm Report? Why should not we go from the notion of criminality to the full acceptance of not bringing any child under a certain age before the courts?
I do not disagree with the general principle behind my hon. Friend's remarks, but it nevertheless comes to this, that generally we accept the fact of a discriminatory system, and it is, therefore, implicit in that system, if we leave it as it is, that the decisions upon which that system rests must inevitably have the appearance of being capricious and arbitrary.
We have been talking, with absolute sincerity, about equality. We should ask ourselves whether this system should be shared with the agencies which have responsibility for children. Should the chances of a young offender being prosecuted be left to the mere accident of geography, whether he lives in a police area where perhaps 60 per cent. of the cases are dealt with by way of caution, or whether he lives in a police area where under 5 per cent. are dealt with in that way? I believe that in asking such questions we place Clauses 1 and 5 in their proper perspective.
Broadly speaking, we have three courses from which we can choose. First, we can allow the position to remain as it is, that is with all its inevitable and obvious inconsistencies. Flexibility is one thing, but to have an area in which the percentage of cautions is more than 13 times that in another area is stretching flexibility a little too far, and must of necessity undermine the validity of any system.
Secondly, we could legislate to provide that prosecutions should automatically follow the commission of an offence in every case. I put it to the House that this would elevate the punitive aspect of criminal law in this field to the status of a narrow and sterile theology. Few right hon. or hon. Members, if any, would subscribe to that idea.
The third possibility is to lay down guide lines in the law itself as to how the diversities with regard to prosecution should be applied. Whether the criteria in Clauses 1 and 5 will apply in exactly the way that they are set out in the Bill is not a matter for a Second Reading debate, but must be treated and further pursued in Committee. The issue at the moment is whether there should be guidance or a perpetuation of all the immense variations of practice in different areas.
If there is to be guidance, should that guidance come from Parliament? I put it to the House that to suggest that it should come from some other source would amount to an abrogation of our responsibility in an important area, perhaps the most important area, of the administration of our Jaw. The provisions of Clauses 1 and 5 are substantially what we have lived with for decades. No hon. Member has suggested that we should change this basic system.
I could put it as bluntly as this. Is it not time that we regularised the position and made an honest woman of this informal situation? The proposals in the Bill are largely the fruits of over 30 years of experience. They constitute a simple clear and eminently fair solution of this problem. They will give the present system a greater consistency and it is entirely misconceived to suggest that they would prevent court proceedings in cases where they were required. The only court proceedings which they would restrict are those where there was no evidence that they were necessary.
Several hon. Members have asked how Clauses 1 and 5 will work in the case where two or more persons are jointly concerned in the commission of the same offence. The short answer is that they will permit the joint offenders all to be taken to court or all to be dealt with out of court where that seemed the right course and would also permit some but not all to be taken to court where that seemed right.
It was clearly stated in Appendix A to the White Paper that being concerned in an offence with another person who was to be prosecuted would be prescribed as a ground on which the single magistrate could consent to a prosecution under Clause 5 and that remains the intention. Equally, Clause 1 does not prevent joint offenders from being taken to court in care proceedings, but we need to be very careful about suggestions that this should always happen. There are many situations in which it would be grossly unfair to make any such absolute rule. There is no present rule of law or of practice which results in joint offenders necessarily being treated alike and there are situations in which the police, perfectly properly, distinguish between members of a gang whose circumstances are fundamentally different.
We have heard a great deal about equality. As my right hon. Friend said, a clear distinction must be drawn between equality and uniformity. One must beware at all times of elevating a false notion of uniformity of treatment into a principle of paramount importance because we would, in the process, lose sight of our first aim, which is to ensure that each child receives the care or control which, as an individual, he needs. We would also distort the genuine concept of equality, which is that the same treatment should be given only in the same circumstances. The fact that the circumstances of young offenders are rarely precisely the same means that to act as if they were would not only be ineffectual in terms of results, but also unjust. It is necessary, therefore, to leave an element of discretion in the law.
The right hon. and learned Member for St. Marylebone and many other hon. Members suggested that we were devaluing the status of the juvenile court because we had failed to understand the constructive rôle which magistrates had to play. This is turning the whole argument on its head. We are seeking to emphasise the constructive rôle which other bodies and agencies can play. I am sure that magistrates do not say that they have the sole monopoly in this connection.
We also had from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the bricks and mortar argument, if I may call it that, which was alluded to by the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson). We were told that the Bill by itself did not give any new assets; that it did not provide any fresh resources.
It is true that there is no new channel of additional resources here, but the Bill, by obliterating distinctions which now exist, will make available all the resources of which we are possessed. For example, on 31st January of this year there were in approved schools available places totalling 9,100, of which only 6,800 had been taken up. When, under this Measure, we have a fully integrated system, it will be possible for those remaining 2,300 places to be taken up, but not before then. It is not that we are providing fresh bricks and mortar, but that we are fully utilising the bricks and mortar we have.
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that that is exactly what some of us are afraid of; that the Government will, for administrative purposes, take the vacant places in approved schools. which are basically for those who, rightly or wrongly, have been described as depraved, and fill them up with people who, rightly or wrongly, have been described as deprived?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has only to remind himself that that is the exact situation at present. It is possible for children who have committed offences to live side by side—indeed, they are doing this in their hundreds, if not in their thousands—with children who are there solely under care and control proceedings.
Is my hon. Friend saying that because we have so many places in approved schools we can take over the same buildings in entirely the same circumstances and call them community homes'? If he is saying that, his interpretation of what is meant by community homes is very different from mine.
No, but by obliterating the present distinctions it would be possible to use those buildings. No doubt there would be a great deal of flexibility within the system, but there would not be the wastage we have at present on account of the 2,300 places which are not taken up.
Mention of the Seebohm Committee has been made by the right hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and other hon. Members. I remind the House that the Committee informed my right hon. Friend that nothing in the White Paper cuts across its proposals. The short answer, therefore, is that there is nothing in this development which could restrict the Seebohm proposals in any way. My right hon. Friend wishes to see the most effective and efficient service for children themselves. He is in consultation with other Departments.
I refer the House to the reply given a few days ago by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security to my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Paneras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger), which said that the Government will seek to make an interim statement about the Seebohm Report after the publication of the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government. That is the Redcliffe-Maud Commission.
It has been put to us that this system would break down because of the protracted inquiries that would have to take place in tens of thousands of cases. This point was made by Front Bench spokesmen opposite and by the right hon. Member for Ashford. The studies made by the Home Office in this connection show that the pattern at the moment with regard to inquiries in many thousands of cases is a very varied one. In London, for example, these inquiries may take no more than a week, but in a rural area they would perhaps take as much as three or four weeks. It is certain that the assessment of three or four months quoted by certain hon. Members is completely unrealistic. We do not see why the time expended should mean a delay very much more substantial than the time lag which occurs at present.
The right hon. and learned Member for Epsom, in winding up the debate for the Opposition, went through all the preliminary arguments. He said that there had not been proper consultation. There has been more consultation in regard to this Bill than on hardly any other comparable legislation introduced by this or any other Government. He went on to say that the Bill was tainted with the hand of bureaucracy. It was perfectly obvious that the one central and deeply sincere idea he held about this Bill was that it could not work because he subscribed to the ritualistic theory that it is necessary for children to appear before the courts as defendants and that any change in that situation would be a change for the worse.
The right hon. and learned Member said that children were prosecuted because of their circumstances. They are not prosecuted because of their circumstances; they are dealt with in different ways on account of their different needs. Unless this problem is approached from the standpoint of need, it will be an entirely unrealistic assessment of the whole situation.
The Amendment makes a point about consultation which has already been corrected by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, ably supported, in his excellent speech, by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes). I would like to summarise the result of our consultations on the White Paper. These included all the associations primarily concerned with child work. They all agreed, even those which disliked some of our specific proposals, that these proposals were a definite improvement on previous ones. The majority of the bodies consulted, which cover between them a vast area of experience of dealing with children in all kinds of trouble, including some of the most difficult of delinquent children, welcomed our proposals as a whole, with no reservations of principle.
Some bodies took a view similar to that of the Opposition and expressed dislike of the proposals which appear in Part I of the Bill. These were bodies primarily concerned with the operation of the present juvenile court system. This is a system they have grown up with and one to which they will cling tenaciously and will be most reluctant to give up. There were several bodies which took up positions in between. There were also those which were disappointed—it is right that we should remind ourselves of this—that our revised proposals were not very much more far-reaching.
When a Government undertake wide-ranging consultations of this nature and discover, as in this case, that there are substantial differences of view on some fundamental points, it is obvious that the eventual decisions will not satisfy everyone. It would be intolerable if, as the Opposition seem to be suggesting, this situation was taken as an absolute barrier for any action whatsoever. The Government cannot accept such a view. Our proposals stand firmly on middle ground, between the views of those who would prefer no action or more modest changes and the views of those who would wish to go much further.
The Government could not accept the proposition that some of the bodies concerned, which happened to be those
whose inclinations are towards doing nothing whatsoever, should be regarded as having a greater right to be heard than other bodies. We have listened to the views of all with care and courtesy, and we have examined the views of all. The proposals in the Bill are relatively modest by comparison with some of the things we have been urged to do, such as raising the age of criminal responsibility to 16, or even 17. They are, however, based firmly on principle and, at the same time, are practical. They recognise the impossibility of simply letting the law remain as it is.
It should be the aim of every enlightened society to make laws which are a modest distance ahead of public opinion. It is the closing of that distance and the subsequent movement to fresh legislation which represents the restless dynamic which constitutes progressive social development. The law which Part I seeks to supplant has served us for 37 years. It is, however, already a day's march behind current practice. The Bill will not only make up that lag, but also, I trust, inspire society to realise how much it has to contribute in care for those whose problems are so varied and whose needs are so immense.
The Bill provides that all approved schools and similar institutions—children's homes—will be known as community homes. It is important for headmasters and school teachers that the word "school" be retained. Will the Under-Secretary give a definite assurance that it will be retained?
|Division No. 115.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)|
|Astor, John||Black, Sir Cyril||Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Blaker, Peter||Buck, Antony (Colchester)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Bullus, Sir Eric|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Body, Richard||Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)|
|Balniel, Lord||Bossom, Sir Clive||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Carlisle, Mark|
|Bell, Ronald||Brewis, John||Clark, Henry|
|Clegg, Walter||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Cooke, Robert||Jopling, Michael||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Costain, A. P.||Kershaw, Anthony||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kirk, Peter||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Dance, James||Kitson, Timothy||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Dean, Paul||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Royle, Anthony|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Lane, David||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Eden, Sir John||Langford-Holt, Sir John||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Emery, Peter||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Foster, Sir John||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||McMaster, Stanley||Silveter, Frederick|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maginnis, John E.||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Mawby, Ray||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Speed, Keith|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Stainton, Keith|
|Coodhew, Victor||Miscampbell, Norman||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Gower, Raymond||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Tapsell, Peter|
|Grant, Anthony||Montgomery, Fergus||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Grieve, Percy||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Temple, John M.|
|Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Murton, Oscar||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Neave, Airey||Waddington, David|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Walters, Dennis|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Hay, John||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Heseltine, Michael||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Hiley, Joseph||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hill, J. E. B.||Percival, Ian||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Pounder, Rafton||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Powell, Rt. Hn. Enoch||Worsley, Marcus|
|Holland, Philip||Pym, Francis||Wylie, N. R.|
|Hunt, John||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||TFXLERS FOR THF. AYES:|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Mr. Reginald Eyre.|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Anderson, Donald||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Archer, Peter||Dickens, James||Horner, John|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Doig, Peter||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Dunn, James A.||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Barnett, Joel||Eadie, Alex||Hoy, James|
|Baxter, William||Edelman, Maurice||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)|
|Beaney, Alan||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Bence, Cyril||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Hunter, Adam|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Ellis, John||Hynd, John|
|Bidwell, Sydney||English, Michael||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)|
|Binns, John||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Blackburn, F.||Faulds, Andrew||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Finch, Harold||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)|
|Booth, Albert||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Boyden, James||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Ford, Ben||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Buchan, Norman||Forrester, John||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Fowler, Gerry||Judd, Frank|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Freeson, Reginald||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Chapman, Donald||Galpern, Sir Myer||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Coleman, Donald||Gardner, Tony||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Ginsburg, David||Lawson, George|
|Cronin, John||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Gregory, Arnold||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Harper, Joseph||Loughlin, Charles|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Luard, Evan|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek)||Hattersley, Roy||Lubbock, Eric|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hazell, Bert||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Heffer, Eric S.||Lyons, Edward (Bradford. E.)|
|Dampsey, James||Hooley, Frank||McCann, John|
|Macdonald, A. H.||O'Malley, Brian||Small, William|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Orbaoh, Maurice||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Mackenzie Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)||Orme, Stanley||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Oswald, Thomas||Thornton, Ernest|
|Mackie, John||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Tinn, James|
|Maclennan, Robert||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Tomney, Frank|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Palmer, Arthur||Tuck, Raphael|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Urwin, T. W.|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, 8.)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Manuel, Archie||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Mapp, Charles||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Marks, Kenneth||Pentland, Norman||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Weitzman, David|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Price, William (Rugby)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Millan, Bruce||Probert, Arthur||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Rankin, John||Whitaker, Ben|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Rose, Paul||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Morris, Charles, R. (Openshaw)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Winnick, David|
|Moyle, Roland||Rowlands, E.||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Ryan, John||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Newens, Stan||Sheldon, Robert||Woof, Robert|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Norwood, Christopher||Silverman, Jullus||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Oakes, Gordon||Skeffington, Arthur||Mr. Charles Grey and|
|Ogden, Eric||Slater, Joseph||Mr. Neil McBride.|