§ Order for Second Reading read.
Mr. W. ADAMSON
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The use of probation as a method of dealing with certain classes of offenders was first given statutory recognition in 1887 by the passing of the Probation of First Offenders Act, 1887. Twenty years later this Act was replaced by the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, which empowered courts to provide for the supervision by probation officers of persons 108 released on probation orders. The Act of 1907, with some amendments which were made by the Children Act, 1908, and the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914, constitutes the existing law on the subject in Scotland to-day. Under the existing statutory provisions considerable use is at present made of probation by Scottish Courts.
In 1928 probation orders were made under Section 2 of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, in respect of 1,684 males and 500 females—a total of 2,184 persons, and there is no doubt that still fuller resort to probation could and should be made. There is reason to believe that, in present circumstances, many lads and girls are sent to prison who could have been dealt with more satisfactorily, from every point of view, in other ways. The whole subject was fully considered by the Scottish Departmental Committee on the Treatment of Young Offenders. In their report—published in 1928 under the title "Protection and Training"—the Committee say, with reference to juvenile offenders between 16 and 21:Many, but not all, of these offenders—for there are differences in character and temperament—are plastic and at a receptive age. If it is suggested that some of them have little to learn and much to regret, we can only reply that we dare not admit permanent failure in any lad or girl between 16 and 21. Many of them are at a stage of development at which the tendency to crime can he diverted. They are very impressionable, and a prison, with its sad story of failure, makes a definite impression on them. This is inevitable, despite the devotion of governors and of their staffs. After a short sentence the offender is released. Prison has lost its terrors for him, and he has lost his repugnance for it. What is much worse, he may also have lost any sense of self-respect.The International Prison Congress, held in London in 1925, expressed the hope that every endeavour would be made to substitute other penalties for short terms of imprisonment; and to this end recommended inter alia, thatthe system of probation should be extended to the utmost extent.The annual report of the Prison Commissioners for Scotland for 1926 stated:It is very desirable that every expedient be tried before committing a young person to prison.109 There are bound to be cases where probation is inappropriate—for example, cases where the offence is so serious that a severe sentence is imperative in the interests of the community. As the Young Offenders Committee says:Probation is not a convenient substitute for committal to an institution, and it can never be a panacea for all farms of juvenile delinquency.None the less, Courts have before them a serious responsibility in determining what is the best treatment for the first offender and the young offender. The objections to imprisonment, and especially to short sentences of imprisonment for relatively minor offences, are so strong that the utmost consideration must be given to other possible forms of treatment before recourse is had to imprisonment. This Bill, accordingly, is designed to improve the existing law in regard to probation in Scotland and to place at the disposal of the Courts a more effective probation system than at present exists. One of the main defects of the Probation of Offenders Act, 1907, is that it contains no provision to ensure the existence throughout the country of an adequate number of duly qualified probation officers. It empowered, but did not require, burgh magistrates and sheriffs to appoint probation officers, and it threw the whole cost of any appointment made upon the local rates. The result is that in many areas no probation officer has been appointed, and an unduly heavy burden has, in general, been placed upon the voluntary workers who have engaged in probation services.
The work of these voluntary helpers has been of the most admirable character, and the continuance of their assistance is indispensable to any scheme of probation. But it is not right that the placing of persons on probation should, at any time, be dependent upon the existence of voluntary helpers in any particular area. The responsibility for supervising persons on probation should rest upon a systematically organised service of salaried probation officers, backed up by voluntary probation officers. Parliament has already recognised this main defect of the 1907 Act by requiring, in Part I of the Criminal Justice Act, 1925, the appointment, throughout England and Wales, of paid probation officers, and by providing for the payment by the Exchequer of a contribution in aid of the expenditure incurred by local authorities 110 in connection with probation work, including the salaries, expenses, and super-annuation of probation officers.
A Bill was drafted at that time to make similar provision for the setting up of a probation service in Scotland, but it was decided to defer further action until the Scottish Departmental Committee on the Treatment of Young Offenders had reported. As already stated, this Committee, which was appointed in 1925, reported in 1928, and its report—"Protection and Training"—gives a comprehensive survey of the existing law and treatment of young offenders in Scotland, and makes valuable recommendations on various subjects, including probation. This Bill now before Parliament has been prepared, after careful consideration of the Committee's recommendations on probation, and in the light of the statutory developments that have occurred in England and Wales since 1925.
One other matter remains to be mentioned. The institution and general administration of a comprehensive Scottish probation service will throw a considerable amount of additional work upon the Secretary of State. Arrangements are accordingly being made for the appointment of a body, which will be known as the Scottish Central Probation Council, to give advice and render assistance to the Secretary of State on probation matters. The members of this council will be persons who are interested in the probation of offenders; they will be appointed by the Secretary of State and they will be unpaid. A Scottish Juvenile Welfare and After-Care Office has recently been set up in Edinburgh, the expense of which is largely defrayed out of the Scottish Office Vote. The Edinburgh Office will be available to the Scottish Central Probation Council for the purposes of its work.
No provision is made in the Bill for the appointment of the Scottish Central Probation Council, as this can be done administratively. The provisions of the Bill can scarcely be regarded as contentious, and I hope they will not prove to be contentious. I hope we shall pass the Second Reading of this Bill, after a very short discussion to-night, in order to give Scotland what England has already enjoyed for the past five years. It will provide more and better facilities for the treatment of first offenders and 111 young offenders, and will form a notable landmark in the history of probation in Scotland. I hope hon. Members in all parts of the House will see their way to give a favourable reception to this Measure.
§ 7.0 p.m.
Duchess of ATHOLL
The Secretary of State for Scotland may be quite sure that I do not rise to criticise this Bill in any aggressive spirit. He has reminded the House that the first step in setting up a system of probation in this country was taken by a Unionist Government in 1887. The Departmental Committee, of which he has spoken and on whose recommendations his Bill is in many respects based, was set up by the late Unionist Government and, as he admits, the Bill itself in many respects is modelled on the first part of the Criminal Justice Act, 1925, which was passed in the last Parliament. We fully realise the great importance of dealing in a sympathetic and constructive manner with first and early offenders and, of course, with the young offenders. For that reason, we are very anxious to see the system of probation extended in any way in which it may be felt that it can be extended, in order that it may be used in every case in which it seems to have a chance of setting the offenders on their feet again. We have, however, a little ground of complaint against the right hon. Gentleman in that he has given us so little notice of the Bill. The Bill was not in the hands of Members before last Friday and, although he has no reason to anticipate opposition from us to this opportunity of extending and making more effective a general system of probation, we might well have asked for longer time in order that we might obtain figures as to the working of the system in various areas, and also might inquire how the English Act of 1925, which is very comparable in its structure, was working. For reasons best known to himself he has not left us time to do that.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The Nable Lady will appreciate the fact that she will have ample opportunity of raising these points in Committee.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I do not wish to deal with these points in any detail on 112 Second Reading, but I am entitled to point out that the Second Reading has been brought before the House at very short notice, which is all the more regrettable because, although the Bill is broadly based on the 1925 Act, there are one or two differences. The main difference between the two is the fact that the Bill proposes to make it compulsory to have one or more salaried probation officers, whole-time or part-time, in each area. The 1925 Act set up committees for each area who were obliged to appoint a probation officer for that area, but it left it optional to them to give them remuneration. The Bill makes it compulsory that in each area there shall be one or more paid probation officers, whole or part-time, and therefore dispels the impression of eleventh-hour economy which was caused by the Bill we were discussing a few minutes ago. The difference between the Bill and the 1925 Act in this matter is rather surprising when one remembers England's denser population. The denser population necessarily means that English probation committees—unless Scottish Members are willing to concede that the incidence of crime is much higher in Scotland, which I am sure they will not—must be prepared to deal with a considerably larger number of cases. Again, in many parts of Scotland, particularly rural Scotland, the population is so scattered that it follows that a person placed on probation is much less easily reached from one centre than he would be in an English area.
With regard to the first point, I have been able to get figures only from my own county, but I find that there, between 1925 and 1929, only 10 boys on an average were placed on probation every year in Perthshire. That is taking all the Sheriff Court cases, but not the burgh police court, for which I have not figures. There was an average of three girls placed on probation a year. In Kinross, which is required to combine with Perthshire under the Bill, there were two a year, which makes a total of 15 cases a year, taking boys and girls for the two counties. I am bound to say that last year there was an increase of cases in Perthshire, which raised the number to 26, but, broadly speaking, cases have been few in the two counties. For some years, we have had a part-time probation 113 officer in Perthshire doing Perthshire and Perth together. That volume of work, 15 cases a year, is very small when one remembers that the Departmental Committee considered 50 cases as the normal number for a whole-time probation officer. Between the two counties we do not nearly get to that figure. The Bill does not require whole-time salaried officers to be appointed, but one has to remember, on the other hand, that the Bill, quite rightly, requires that girls shall be dealt with by a woman officer, so that even our average of three girls a year in Perthshire would necessitate a part-time salaried woman officer in addition to a man officer.
One has also to remember that the Clause in the Bill which empowers the Secretary of State to require a superannuation scheme to be brought into effect for these officers, will undoubtedly cause a tendency to make the appointments whole-time. Again, though areas may combine to appoint an officer, the qualities required from a probation officer who is really going to do his work, and to be in touch with the juvenile or adult offender, are very special qualities, and it may be that two committees from two different areas will not agree whether one individual possesses the qualities he ought to have. We must also take into account the infinite variety of treatment these offenders need. We know how largely personality enters into the question. If a probation officer who is in touch with an offender is to be successful, he must have the right influence with him. One probation officer may have influence with one individual where he does not have the same influence with another.
It is therefore obvious that, if we want to make this system effective, even in a small area, we should have elasticity so as to have variety of personnel in order to allow for the individual. When we consider the scattered nature of our population, the need for variety of personnel becomes even more marked, because it is clear, in the first place, that a probation officer travelling from the county town of one of our large counties to some offender in a very distant part of the county would waste a good deal of time and public money in getting there, and, what is even more important, when he gets there, it is almost impossible for 114 him to have the intimate knowledge of, and real influence upon, the offender which is necessary if he is to be effective in probation work. The probation officer to be effective must be the guide, counsellor, and best friend of the offender. For that it is essential that the probation officer ought to be someone who is in constant touch, and who is intimate with the offender and not merely a person who comes from time to time to see how he is getting on.
This struck me some years ago when I heard a learned member of the bench, who has had experience of putting offenders on probation, speak on the system. He was rather doubtful of its value, because he said that it often happened, when a probation officer was seen coming down a street on his usual visit, that there would be a lot of boys playing about, including the boy wanted. Then there would be a cry, "Rin awa', Johnny, here's your mon," and everybody would vanish, Johnny among the first. That bears out the point. If probation is to give a new outlook to an offender, particularly a young offender, the relation between the officer and the offender must be an intimate and an informal one, one which can be taken normally and naturally and which does not create on either side a feeling of shyness, particularly on the side of the young offender. I can well imagine that a boy might be extremely shy, and, possibly, rather resentful in the company of someone who had just come to town to see him. Surely a probation officer to be helpful is somebody who meets him in a normal way, and who is intimate with him, quite apart from the offence he has committed. It seems to me that in the officers of the juvenile organisations which are every day extending their activities in this country, the Boy Scouts, the Boys' Brigade, the Girl Guides and the others—
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
Yet the Noble Lady protests against the Russians organising on the same lines! The Boys Brigade and the Boy Scouts are making young soldiers of them.
Duchess of ATHOLL
There is nothing whatever of that kind in those organisations, as the hon. Member would see if he would join one of them. But the hon. Member's Front Bench realise the value of these organisations, 115 because I am glad to see that in the Bill they are prepared to include as probation officers persons engaged in social work generally which is an extension beyond that provided for in the 1925 Act. This intimate connection between the probation officer and the offender seems to me the kernel of the whole matter. Probation is nothing unless it is constructive. It is not a case of inspection, but of construction—of getting hold of these young people and getting them into some club or organisation, giving them new interests, a new outlook, a new aim in life. For that reason, it seems to me to be essential that there should be someone in close daily contact with them, and not merely a person who just comes on a visit which may be regarded as a visit of inspection. If that is the case even in a town—and the case which I have just given to the House was in a town—where the officer in question might see the boy any day, how much more will it be the case if the officer has to go half across Scotland, as he well may have to do in the case of one of our big counties? How much, for instance, could an officer in Perth know, if he is to be a real friend, of an offender in Aberfeldy? How can an officer in Golspie be of help to a boy on the West Coast of Sutherland? Or, if he is in Inverness, how can he be a real help to a boy down at Fort William, or perhaps even in Skye?
It seems to me to be essential that, in a country such as ours, provision should, be made for a variety of personnel wherever the offender may be situated, so that the probation officer may not be merely a formal inspector, but a real friend with a helpful interest. It does not seem to me to be quite consistent with the latitude given to probation officers to be members of any organisation engaged in social work that this obligation should be put upon probation committees to have salaried probation officers. I know it is quite true that the Government have not gone as far as the Departmental Committee wished. The Departmental Committee wished whole-time salaried officers to be appointed, but I doubt whether even part-time salaried officers would be necessary in all areas, and I think the 116 inevitable result will be that these officers will be whole-time officials more than friends.
Then I should like to ask if the county councils of Scotland have been consulted in this matter, because the Bill proposes to put upon them the responsibility of setting up the committees which will appoint probation officers, and it also requires them to pay at least half of these compulsory salaries, while I do not think we quite know how much of the pension the Secretary of State may require them to provide. I cannot help thinking that many county councils in Scotland, with the echoes of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's recent speech still in their ears, may deprecate being obliged at this moment to incur the additional financial responsibilities which the Bill puts upon them.
Another matter in which the Bill makes an important departure from the Act of 1925 is in regard to the form of the committees which it proposes to set up. The English Act provides that the committees shall consist of justices of the peace for the area, but under this Bill the committees are to be set up by the various, local authorities, under rules to be framed by the Secretary of State. I should like to express my hope that those rules will require very careful selection of the persons who are to serve on these committees. I do not know that it will always be quite easy in the rural counties to find the right type of person. It will be very necessary to have people who are known to be interested in the welfare of young people and of their fellow men generally, and it will be essential, I think, to have women members. I say that, not only because I suppose there will be on probation a certain admixture of girls in every area, but because. I think there are a good many women in Scotland who are interested in this question, and, if I might venture an opinion, I rather think that in some areas there are more women interested than men, while in particular I think that sometimes there are more women than men who can understand the case of the difficult recalcitrant boy. I hope, therefore, that the rules will make provision for the appointment of women to these committees. Otherwise, I think that in some areas they might be omitted.
117 I am glad that the Bill has gone beyond the Act of 1925 in some of its provisions, namely, in those in which the advice of the departmental committee is followed. I welcome the provision which makes it possible to impose a fine on the parent or guardian in addition to a fine being imposed on a juvenile offender. I feel that, however much we want to bring into the environment of the young person the helpful friend, the helpful officer, the helpful club or other organisation, it is most important that we should not do anything to weaken parental responsibility. Parental handling of a difficult case may often need guidance, but parental responsibility and authority very often need strengthening. In one of the counties of which I have been speaking, parents have very often been required to find caution when their children behaved badly, and I think we need to be very careful to see that we do not do anything to weaken parental authority by too much reliance on the probation officer. We want to see the probation officer working with the parents wherever the parents are such that they can give help in this matter. I do not wish to detain the House longer. The points to which I have drawn attention are points which can be dealt with in Committee. I am very glad to support the Bill, and hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.
§ Mr. MACPHERSON
I rise to support this. Bill. I do not blame the Government for bringing it on suddenly, because, as the House will recollect, when, the business for this week was announced on Thursday to-day was to have been devoted to a Foreign Office Debate. The Government had to fill up the time somehow or other, and I think they were right in bringing forward a Bill, of this kind, which, in my judgment, should not be contentious. The Secretary of State for Scotland was very adequate in his opening statement. He made clear what this Bill effects. In short, it brings Scotland into line with England, and it substitutes almost entirely paid service for voluntary service. There is, I understand, a proposal, though it is not in the Bill, to establish what is called a Scottish General Probationary Council, and the Secretary of State made special reference to that proposal. I am glad that such a council is to be appointed, 118 because nothing is so important as to have a body of that kind, composed, mainly, of voluntary workers who have a well known interest in causes of this-kind, to guide the feeling of Scotland and to guide the destinies of the people who will come under the provisions of this Bill.
It is probably not inappropriate that I should be preceded in this discussion by the Noble Lady the Member for Kinross, and Western Perthshire (Duchess of Atholl), because no one has done more in the interests of first offenders and probationers than the quondam Member for Perth City, Sir Robert Wallace, who has just retired, in his eightieth year, from the chairmanship of Quarter Sessions in London. Everyone will admit that he has done enormous work, and this Bill, if it gets in Scotland an impetus such as the English Bill was given by Sir Robert Wallace, will, I am sure, be of great benefit to all concerned.
The Secretary of State very rightly pointed out that this Bill cannot be a panacea for crime. It is obviously not intended to be a panacea for crime, but it is a Bill which regards every criminal as capable of being reformed, and it wisely regards it as no longer true that, when a boy or girl or a man or woman, is a criminal, they are always to remain criminals. In other words, as the right hon. Gentleman very rightly said, the Government cannot admit a permanent failure. I believe that, if the statistics were produced, they would show that the probationary system has been of very great advantage to England, and all of us who represent Scotland hope that the impetus which is being giver, to it by this Bill will be equally advantageous in that country.
It is quite clear that we do want as many full-time officers for this purpose as possible. Some people object to voluntary work in this connection, and I have heard voluntary workers called all sorts of names because they pry into the business, not only of a first offender, but of the whole family—[Interruption]— and my hon. Friend opposite says that that may be necessary. When, however, a salaried probationary officer is appointed by the Court, he will, if he is the right kind of man, bring to bear a much more potent influence upon the 119 young offender than anyone else can. As the Noble Lady has said, it is well that those appointed to these posts, whether men or women, should be people of tact, because in so many cases they have to deal with parents, and it often requires a very tactful person to deal with parents who have an offending child.
It is quite clear that for the reformation of the criminal every expedient should be tried, and I welcome this Bill, as do all my colleagues, for the reason that it means, not trying a new expedient, but reinforcing an old expedient in Scotland. I see that we have before us, too, the question of expenditure. As I understand it, half the expenditure will be levied locally, and half will be taken, by block grant or otherwise, from the Exchequer. I see it is estimated that the Exchequer grant will be £9,000, and it therefore follows that the ratepayers of Scotland will be expected to pay £9,000 or £10,000. On the whole, if this Measure works well, that will be an economy, because it is a tragedy to think that a first offender does not get a second chance in life, and one knows from experience in how many cases, if the first offender gets that little help, that little chance, when he has begun his life of crime, very often unwittingly, he will cease to be a member of the criminal profession and turn out to be a good citizen. Experienced judges tell you that, when they were young petitioners at the bar, for the smallest offence against property; let us say stealing from an orchard, a man began at quite a young age a life of crime by a five years' sentence of penal servitude, and those men are known as laggers to this day. Rightly, a new spirit has entered into the life of the people of the country. They desire that in all cases, unless it is a case of exceptional badness, a man or a girl should get a fair chance in life. Consequently, I give the Bill my blessing, and I hope it will get a speedy passage through the House. I am sure, if it is well worked and the appropriate authorities elect the right men and women for this probationary work, it will be a great boon and blessing to the country.
§ Mr. LOVAT-FRASER
I should like to express great satisfaction that the Bill has at last been brought before the 120 House. Since the beginning of the present Parliament I have been asking the Secretary of State when he expected to bring it in. There can be no question of the enormous benefit that has resulted from the probation system. President Coolidge described it as the right-hand of justice, and the same phrase might be applied to it in this country. It has more and more taken the place of the industrial and reformatory school and the methods which have been used to deal with young offenders in the past. The child offender who is committed to the probation officer is handed over to a good Samaritan whose object it is to make him an asset to the community instead of a liability, as was so often the case in the past.
To those of us who are interested in the welfare of Scotland, this Measure must be a source of great satisfaction. It must be admitted that Scotland has lagged behind England in the matter. She has failed to face the problems arising out of offences by children in the way that England has. We hope now, with the passing of this Measure, that that state of things will come to an end. It is particularly satisfactory that the finance of the matter should have been put on the sound grounds which have resulted from the Bill. There is no question that in the past there has been a hesitation to put children on probation, because the expense fell entirely on the local authority. If boys or girls were sent for imprisonment, the Crown bore the expense, and it was not unnatural that magistrates preferred to send them to prison, where the expense of their keep fell on the Crown, than to put them on probation, where the expense fell upon the local authority. Some years ago the Judicial Statistics issued by the Scottish Prisons Commission lamented the state of things that I have described and pointed out that, until something like fairness was introduced into the financial arrangements, probation could not be expected to make headway. I am thoroughly satisfied that, although the expenditure that may result from this Measure may be £9,000 or £10,000, in the long run it will pay. There are carefully worked out statistics which prove that to the hilt, and I am satisfied that, even financially, Scotland in the long run will be the gainer by spending this money on the children.
121 There is one matter with which I should like to call attention, though it is perhaps a Committee point. Clause 5 proposes to introduce the system that now exists in England by which representatives of societies may be appointed probation officers, and that portion of their salaries which is paid for public work shall be paid over to the societies that employ them. The Church of England Temperance Society has an enormous number of its employés doing probation work, and there is a good deal of dissatisfaction in England with that state of things. One result is that probation service is almost entirely confined to members of the Church of England, and, however excellent the Church of England may be, it is hardly fair that, in order to obtain employment as a probation officer you should be a member of the Church of England. I warn the Under-Secretary that he may find considerable opposition to that Clause. If it is not passed, the result may be more expenditure on the Treasury, but I would ask my hon. Friend to have all the statistics and all the facts that are necessary to support that Clause ready for the new change. This, of course, is just a beginning. Many other things will have to be done to make the probation system a success, but, knowing how earnestly the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary are interested in the matter, I hope we shall see great things done at no distant date.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The Noble Lady opposite was rather disturbed in her mind on account of the wide areas that would have to be covered by probation officers in some parts of Scotland, and she argued that they would not have the desired influence with the offenders. I know that the Noble Lady in her educational work has always been opposed to anything being done by paid officials that could be done by voluntary service.
Duchess of ATHOLL
I do not know in the least what the hon. Member is referring to when he speaks of the substitution of voluntary for official service in educational work.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I was just going to explain that. The Noble Lady came into the education business through the ideas that she is expressing today from the Front Bench. You have the ordinary non-official and non - permanent supervisor. After all, if it is an adolescent, the question of influence depends entirely on contact with the home. In my experience in the past in connection with educational work, when we discovered that the trouble was due to conditions in the home and we had to prosecute the parents, then came the question "What were we to do?" How is a child to get this parental responsibility? I have had bitter and disappointing experience of this problem. I have had to sit on committees and give decisions where you have homes in which the parents were absolutely incapable of looking after the child. Your difficulty is to find a home where parental responsibility will make an impression on the conduct of the offending child. There is going to be tremendous difficulty in getting that. When we are boarding out children in connection with the parish, we know how difficult it is to get the right type of people. We all know that there are many who are seemingly very efficient and very desirous on a money basis, and we have had some sad experience of that fact.
There is another difficulty that is just as serious. Whenever you get into a small community where most people know each others affairs, in the first 24 hours everyone in the village or town knows that this is a ticket-of-leave boy. In five cases with which I had personal contact, the home was good enough and the people had a real interest in trying to improve the feeling of parental responsibility, but the great fight that they had came from the fact that, when the offending youth was mixing and playing with other boys, the moment anything happened that disturbed them, the first thing that was flung in his teeth was that he was a so-and-so boy. I do not minimise the difficulty. The parents try to check the other boys, but you make an everlasting impression at that most impressionable age, and you are, in a lesser degree, continuing that impression.
Duchess of ATHOLL
As the hon. Member seems to be looking at me, I really must say that that is why I am so 123 afraid that the visiting of a whole-time officer may sometimes give the stigma that an association or boys' organisation or club would not do.
§ Mr. HARDIE
I think I explained before I reached the last point that no matter what you might do in that kind of village before the inspector came everybody would know that he was coming to a ticket-of-leave boy. The whole of the community would know why the boy was there. The visitation by a probation officer will altogether be different from what the Noble Lady tries to imply. His function will be to see that conditions are such that the provisions of the Act are being carried out. If such conditions obtain, there need be no visiting at all. Suppose that you were to carry out the idea which has been used in argument to-day and that you had local supervision. Whenever you get, say the honourable Miss So-and-so, who lives at the school house or the Manse, and has nothing to do but to become busy about somebody else's affairs, to look after a child on probation or anybody else on probation, you simply make it impossible for the community to combine in their influence in order to do the best for an offending child or adult. If we could get sufficient support in the Committee stage it might be possible, instead of the hard-and-fast rule of visitation, with all its prying by the local busybody—in the end, when you come down to these cases, you find that it is the local busybody who is doing this sort of thing, and doing more harm than good—to have a more satisfactory arrangement.
I can remember a man and his wife being killed as the result of a certain accident in Ayrshire. I was at school at the time the boy and girl belonging to that father and mother came under the charge of the parish. I can remember the boy and girl coming to the school clad in what was called Poor House clothes and the attitude of some of the boys and girls towards those who were previously their comrades and friends. Because they happened to have come within the charge of the parish, the boy, who was wearing a pair of old trousers, and the girl, who was clad in an old white straw hat with a black ribbon and a light blue dress, were looked down upon. It is 124 these things of which we want to get rid. While this Bill goes a great distance in that direction it does not go far enough in the interests of children as a whole or in the interests of the particular offender, who, instead of becoming perhaps a criminal and a charge on the nation, would, if given proper influence and guidance, become a useful citizen.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I think the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Under-Secretary of State will agree that on the question of prisons and detention possibly I worry them far more than all the other Scottish Members put together. It so happens that my Division and one or two other Divisions are in poverty-striken areas and that I and certain of my colleagues are brought into contact with persons who have been detained. I want to raise one or two points in regard to the Bill and to say that I should have liked the Secretary of State for Scotland to have tackled one or two things which it is very desirable should be tackled. The Bill deals with the adult as well as the young, but in connection with the provisions of the Bill we more or less have the juvenile offender in mind. There is no doubt that in 99 cases out of 100 it is the juvenile offender who is in mind.
I should have liked the Secretary of State for Scotland, when he was dealing with this matter, also to have dealt with the courts which try the youthful offender. I will take the situation in the city of Glasgow, because, although Glasgow is not Scotland, it at least represents about one-quarter of the population of Scotland. There you have a large number of youthful offenders. Only a few weeks ago I appeared at the court, as I often do on behalf of my constituents, to look after the interests of three boys who were charged with the terrible offence of setting a pillar-box on fire. Their ages ranged from eight to 11 years. They were summoned to appear before the Glasgow Sheriff Court. They were tried by the same Sheriff, attired in the same wig and gown, before whom the day previously an alleged murderer had appeared. These children were taken before the same Sheriff, in the same court, with the same officials, and the same police. There was no difference in 125 any way. I should have liked this Bill to have provided that when children, comparatively young in years, should be tried before someone attired in a different dress. I am not against the Sheriff trying them. In some respects, I would sooner it be the Sheriff than a local magistrate, but at least the Sheriff should not be attired in his usual court dress. I should like in such cases the court to be staffed in an entirely different way. I should have hoped that the Secretary of State for Scotland would have undertaken to have done something in this matter.
As to the merits of the Bill, I think it is good as far as it goes. I notice, as everybody else must have done, that in the last year or two there has been a growth in the number of persons put on probation by magistrates at the various courts. Recently, in Motherwell and in the city of Glasgow, certain of the magistrates, Labour and otherwise, have been much more pronounced in their views about the value of probation and putting people on probation. I think that on the question of probation the Bill, in some respects, is even worse than the Act which it seeks to alter. In Clause 8, Sub-section (2), of the Bill it is proposed to alter Section 1, Sub-section (3), of the Act of 1907. You insert a Sub-section to take the place of Subsection (3) of Section 1 of the Act of 1907. Sub-section (3) of Section 1 of that Act, as far as I can see, lays it down that a sum not exceeding £10 can be levied upon the parents where a child is convicted of a malicious offence, such as the destruction of property. Here you are introducing what, in my view, may become a very vicious Clause. You are putting in a new Sub-section raising the sum in the case of a court of summary jurisdiction to £25. I wish we had had a little more time to give to this Bill. I do not blame the Secretary of State for Scotland for arranging the business, but I did not get to know until 4 o'clock this afternoon that it was going to be taken.
When the last Government was in power I got out figures relating to both adult and juvenile crime in the city of Glasgow. I found, when I took my own Division of Gorbals and the Division of Cathcart—two Parliamentary Divisions within the same city differing but little 126 in size—that there were nearly three times the number of persons convicted of juvenile crimes in the Gorbals Division than there were in the Cathcart Division. In adult crime it was twice the number. I will dismiss the question of adults. Nobody is going to say to me that the boys and girls in Gorbals are by nature more vicious than those in the Division of Cathcart, or that their parents are any worse. You have a poverty area, shocking housing, shocking conditions generally, and therefore this sort of thing leads to boys possibly committing what is technically known as crime. In dealing with crime, I am anxious that they should be properly charged, but I am also conscious that on many occasions they ought not to be charged at all. We have in our poor districts a totally different relationship between the police and the child from what you have in the well-to-do districts. The time has arrived when the police, particularly in Glasgow, should be told that they must treat the poor as decently as they treat those who live in the well-to-do districts.
I will take my own district, the district where I live. It is not a very wealthy district, but it is looked upon as being slightly better off than some of the districts. The police there handle the children with great care and a good deal of kindness. It is rarely that children appear at a police court. If they appear at the police court they are treated with every kindness and consideration. What happens in the eastern and southern districts? My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) represent the eastern Divisions, and I represent the southern Division. Take the west, Queen's Park, as against the south and the eastern Division. You have a totally different relationship between the police and the child. In the poor districts it would seem as if the superintendents and others considered that it was their duty to "gaol" people; as if it were their purview and right to plant people into prison. In the wealthy areas the relationship between the police and the child is totally different, and the police consider that it is their duty to guide and to help the children or the youthful offenders rather than to plant them into 127 prison. The time has arrived when not merely probation is important but when action before arrest is a matter of importance. Even if a person is put on probation it appears in the newspapers, and it is made to appear that the person is a criminal. It is, therefore, very important that the police should act with great care and great kindness in the poor districts. That is more necessary in the poor districts than in the other districts. I have visited the police courts, and there can be no doubt that the magistrates and superintendents of police in the better class districts have a different approach to the people who go there. They treat them with more kindness and consideration. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will see, particularly in Glasgow and in the mining districts, that instructions are given that there is to be no differentiation of treatment, and that the poor are to get fair treatment.
An important point was raised by the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Lovat-Fraser) with regard to payments to churches. The Secretary of State for Scotland is embarking on a particularly dangerous course in that respect. I have in my district probably more religions than are to be found in any other district. I represent Jews, Poles, Catholics, Protestants, and people of no religion. There are all sorts of religions there, and yet I have known people to get into trouble. If the Secretary of State embarks upon this question of payment to churches in my Division, he will embark on a very dangerous and very difficult problem. Imagine making payments to a, Jewish society or to other religious bodies. It would give rise to very serious and very dangerous repercussions, and not merely in the town districts. Do not forget what might happen in the Highlands, where you find portions of Catholic populations still remaining. What would happen if payments were to be made only to some other religious body? Even if part-time people have to be appointed, they ought to be appointed without any religious qualification.
My view is that the appointments, wherever possible, should be full-time appointments. Part-time appointments are undesirable. What happens between the offender, whether adult or juvenile, 128 and the probation officer ought to be confidential. The person who is charged with a crime ought to have absolute confidence in his conversation with the probation officer, and you can never have that with a voluntary person or part-time officer in the same way that you can have confidence in a full-time officer. The person who is a full-time officer is usually subject to a local authority and exercises greater care than a person appointed on a part-time basis. Wherever you have a full-time officer definitely appointed and trained for the work and responsible to the public authority, you probably get a more careful person. The full-time officer is subject much more easily to scrutiny by the local authority. Therefore, far from encouraging part-time employment, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will encourage full-time employment.
I welcome the Bill as a very small step forward, but I maintain that prevention is much better than probation. It is the poverty question over again. It is the poor areas that are mostly concerned. Probationers are seldom needed in the well-to-do districts. If the Government would do something to raise the incomes of the poor people, the difficulty would be overcome. The trouble is that the poor people are unemployed. The have no income. They have no place where they can go; they are even denied the right of attending a cinema or music hall. They are being driven to the street corner, where they are labelled gangsters and gaol birds. Let the Government tackle the question of finding incomes for the homes of the poor. People get into gaol because they are poor. If they had more income, such as the well-to-do and the middle class Or comfortable class, they would not need health visitors or probation officers, whether part-time or full-time, visiting them, because they would be as capable of looking after themselves as any other section of the community.
§ Sir THOMAS INSKIP
I share a good deal of what the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) has said about the Bill. No one in any part of the House desires to prevent the Bill passing into law. It is a very small effort to help the young people, of whom we naturally think in connection with probation. I should have thought that a great deal more might be done if the Secretary of 129 State for Scotland had really put his hand to the task of bringing about some alteration of the law on the lines proposed by the Departmental Committee, of which he was a member, although he was unable to sign the report, owing to absence. This Bill is a skeleton and makes certain provisions in connection with probation which will hardly touch the problem of child crime. My own view about the offences which children commit against the law is that we ought to get out of the habit of thinking of them as crimes, and try to understand that the offences which children, especially in our great cities, commit are what in a different walk of life we should call mischief.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
Or horse-play, as the hon. Member suggests. It is for that reason that I entirely disagree with the hon. Member for Gorbals and the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) as to their preference for full-time salaried probation officers. What we really want in order to prevent mischief or horse-play becoming crime is to give these young people somebody to whom they may look as a friend, counsellor and guide through the difficult years of youth. This Bill only touches the question of probation officers from the point of view of the establishment of a class of officials, who are to deal with these children as if they were criminals. I will not say that the probation system in England has been a great success; it has been a success so far as it goes; but unless you get down a little further than the establishment of a new system of officialdom you will not really do very much to help the young criminals—if I am to use that word, although I would prefer not to use it—with whom the House is dealing in this Bill. The probation officer is much more likely to be the friend and counsellor whom we desire if he is a voluntary officer. The moment you have a salaried one you immediately get into the region of the administration of the police, because he is an official who has certain duties to perform, with the eyes of his superior officers upon him.
If you have a voluntary probation officer, you get someone who is doing the work for love of the task and for love of the person whose welfare is in question. I do not believe that if you have 130 a voluntary probation officer you will have any lack of necessary secrecy. If you have a salaried probation officer paying the frequent visits which I suppose he will have to pay, if his duties are performed, you get inevitably the publicity which hon. Members opposite do not desire. The report to which I have referred points out the undesirability of giving any particular probation officer more than a certain number of cases. I think that they recommend that the number of cases that one probationer officer should undertake, is 50. It would be much more satisfactory that any person who takes up the duties of a probation officer should have, perhaps, six or 12 cases. By that means you would prevent the publicity which would be caused by the frequent appearance of the probation officer who has as many as 50 cases. If you can get a number of men and women interested in child life, prepared to undertake the care of the welfare of these young people who come into conflict with the law, but who cannot be said to be criminals, you would do much more for the young people than if you establish a number of officers, paid by the State in part, whose activities are known to be connected with the criminal law.
The hon. Member for Gorbals suggested that the real way of dealing with this problem was to redistribute the wealth in such a way that the poor would have the same opportunities as the rich. That may he an ideal, but if we have to wait until that day comes about for dealing with these young people who come into conflict with the law, I am afraid that many of us will see nothing done for these young people.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
There is a great deal that the right hon. Gentleman can do before that day comes about, if ever it does come about. If we are to talk about lack of opportunities for the poor, the right hon. Gentleman might encourage the giving of opportunities which the poor would enjoy if the Government were to be a little more sympathetic. For instance, the report to which I have referred states that such associations as guides, scouts and cadet corps are useful places where young people can learn those habits of discipline and loyalty 131 which will prevent them from getting into conflict with the law; but the Government has shown no disposition, indeed, they have refused to show any disposition to encourage cadet corps, which many lads have joined, with profit to themselves and with advantage to the community. The report also made reference to the desirability of playing fields. If anything will keep young people from coming into conflict with the law, it is giving them opportunities to play, and disport themselves. Yet, a little while ago, when an effort was made by the National Playing Fields Association to increase the number of playing fields, the Minister of Health in England showed a hostility to the de-rating proposals—
§ Sir T. INSKIP
—contained in a Bill which would have made it more certain that poor boys would have more playing grounds in which to learn and enjoy sports. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs says that it is the landlords who are to blame. He must be in complete ignorance of the proposals in the Act or the objections which the Minister of Health took to the Measure during its progress. These are some practical ways to assist young people not to become criminals. In the first place, provide them with opportunities of social recreation and comradeship which are connected with cadet corps, boy scouts and girl guides and, in the second place, give them playing fields. Encourage them to find friends in what are called the probation officers. In that way you would begin to clothe the skeleton which the right hon. Gentleman is offering to the House with flesh and blood. The same report to which I have so often referred makes proposals which the Secretary of State for Scotland has not seen fit to include in this Bill. For instance, they propose that there should be a simplification of the probation bond which young people might understand more easily than the rather complicated legal provisions of the existing law, and they suggest that there should be a bond which would be appropriate to the young boy. For some reason the right hon. Gentleman has not seen fit to include obviously common sense proposals of that sort within the four corners of the Bill. Another proposal was that powers should be taken to re- 132 quire a person to make some sort of deposit as a guarantee that he would provide the necessary control over his son instead of leaving it to the imposition of a fine when the son has committed some damage to property or to the community. The right hon. Gentleman has not included that proposal in the Bill.
My complaint is that the Bill concentrates far too much upon the provision of a salary for a number of extra officials. If the night hon. Gentleman had shown more imagination and taken a little more time to study the report of the Committee of which he was a member, and had included many of their proposals in the Bill, it would have been a far better and bigger Measure. Let no one say that this House has had no time to consider proposals of this sort. This House has been engaged upon Measures which have nothing to do with the life of the people but which have had as their object the conciliation of some group or section of the supporters of the Government. If the right hon. Gentleman had spent his energies in doing something for the childhood of this nation by putting into law the proposals of the Committee which sat in 1928 he would have erected a monument which would have made his name gratefully remembered by the youth of this country. Here we are dealing with this Bill in these circumstances because the Government had to find a way of filling up the gap consequent upon their inability to make proper arrangements for the business of the House, and in circumstances when complaints have been made by hon. Members that they have not had time to consider the provisions of this Bill with that fullness and attention which they desire to give to them. I do not know what opportunities there may be in the Scottish Committee upstairs to improve and extend this Bill, I am afraid I shall not be eligible to be a Member of that Committee—
§ Sir T. INSKIP
I have been a magistrate in Scotland for a good many years although I have never been called upon to perform any duties. The hon. Member for Gorbals has referred to the absence of any proposals for the consti- 133 tution of juvenile courts. Everybody knows that Scotland has been far behind England in the matter of juvenile courts. In this Bill we are dealing with probation offenders and there is not a single word in it about juvenile courts or a single word to suggest that the right hon. Gentleman intends to rearrange the duties of the sheriff or the magistrate, or make any recommendations which will enable juvenile courts to be established and thus prevent the young coming into contact with the sordid facts of police courts and criminal tribunals. I hope that when he is relieved, as he is in process of being relieved, of the necessity of considering what they call first-class measures he will perhaps take this Measure and make it a first-class Measure, so that the children of his native land may not be driven into contact with the administration of the ordinary criminal law.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
Although I have been very many years in Scotland I have not yet reached the dignity of a magistrate, like the hon. and learned Member, but as one who has spent 22 years in the work of administrative bodies dealing with the life and welfare of the youth of Scotland I welcome this Bill. Not that it is perfect by a long long way, but I believe—I am speaking on behalf of those associated with the administration of education particularly—that Members of administrative bodies welcome this Bill and particularly its reference to probation as far as juvenile and young persons are concerned. With reference to probation officers. Despite what the hon. and learned Member has said I do not believe that you can get the best results out of voluntary workers who may be appointed as probation officers; I do not deny that there are a few single-minded persons who do good and useful service in that direction, but for every one of that kind you would get two or three who are really "nosey-parkers," that type of individual who the less they have of a family, or if they have no family at all, or if they have never married, are usually able to tell the head of a large family how best to deal with children. That is the experience. I have met them for 22 years, and if you are to get the best results out of a probation system you must not have voluntary workers.
134 I do not suggest that you can get perfection by an expenditure of £18,000 and I feel sure that the hon. Lady the Member for Perth and Kinross (Duchess of Atholl) was using the economy argument not necessarily to suggest that we ought not to spend this £9,000 of the national money plus the £9,000 drawn from local rates in Scotland for dealing with these young offenders.
Duchess of ATHOLL
What I said was that in several areas I did not think it would be necessary to have a salaried officer.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
She was not seriously suggesting that we should not spend this sum of money at all. Indeed, I think the facts of the case will justify an even larger expenditure. It is far better to spend £18,000 in keeping adults but mainly juveniles under this Bill, out of prison, out of a Borstal institution and industrial asylums and reformatories, rather than spend money in keeping them in custody, with the taint of prison life upon them afterwards, ultimately leading them to a life of crime in which we should have to pay anything from £2 to £3 per week to keep them in prison. It is much better to spend money in their youth and give them a decent chance of life. I believe that in appointing probation officers, we shall have to choose those possessing the greatest tact imaginable. The probationer will not be an individual who will be anxious to visit the homes. I understand that in England there is very little, if any, visiting of the homes by the whole-time probation officers. When a person sees a child he must not be in a position to say, "Here is a child who has been let out of a reformatory, and here is someone coming to look after him." The tactful officer will arrange to meet the individual, and will be very seldom known as a probation officer, even in the locality. It will be his duty to give advice to the child, and occasionally to the parents.
Take Clause 5 of the Bill. I think we would be very wise if we used only to the minimum the so-called voluntary organisations that we have. I am speaking now with the experience of voluntary organisations that have been brought into administration in Scotland. I have in mind the Blind Persons Act, under 135 which blind persons are not getting the justice that they would get if the administration was solely in the hands of the local administrative body. I hope that there will be a minimum use, if not an entire discontinuance, of the service of the voluntary associations. Then on the probation committee there must be a minimum of two women so that the point of view of the womenfolk can be expressed. Women are often far more tactful than men in dealing with youthful offenders. There is the point mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last, and by my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). This Bill will not be complete unless Scotland gets the same conditions as England in connection with juvenile courts. There are juvenile courts in Scotland at the present time, but there is no juvenile court in the county of Midlothian, or in the county of Peebles, or in the county on whose administrative bodies I work now.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Certain charges in the case of children must go to the court which is presided over by the sheriff. It is called a children's court, but in all its atmosphere and in its judgment it is a criminal court.
§ Mr. WESTWOOD
That is my point. We in Scotland have not got the same provision for dealing with child delinquents as they have in England. There ought not to be the atmosphere of a police court about these juvenile courts, nor ought there to be an atmosphere of crime in dealing with young persons under 17 years of age. This Bill will fail to do its work unless it sets up in Scotland juvenile courts with full power to deal with the young. In these juvenile courts we must have women magistrates. That is a subject which the Secretary for Scotland must take into consideration. He must try to change the law, if necessary, so that we can have more women justices in Scotland. The only way to do that is for the Secretary of State for Scotland, and not an English Lord Chancellor, to have the right to appoint justices. I wish the Bill every success. I trust that the beneficent powers contained in the Bill will be used to the full.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The hon. and learned Member for Fareham (Sir T. Inskip) rather gave us the impression that he was totally unaware 136 that in Scotland there was anything in the nature of a juvenile court, and that while such courts were operating in England under the Act, of 1908, they did not operate similarly in Scotland.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
That was the impression that the hon. and learned Gentleman gave us. I speak from some personal experience of the matter. When I was a magistrate, now many years ago, I never recollected any juvenile offender having been tried in the police court in my town, unless in a juvenile court with the Press and the police excluded. It is not correct to say that the Children Act of 1908 has been operated in England and not in Scotland.
§ Sir T. INSKIP
The hon. Gentleman must not fasten on me statements which I did not make. I said that Scotland was far behind England in the way in which juvenile courts were administered, and if the Under-Secretary will take the opportunity of reading the report to which I referred, he will find set out categorically the way in which Scotland does come behind England, and that even in the sheriff courts the children do not get the advantage of what is called the juvenile court.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
What the hon. and learned Gentleman said was that there were no juvenile courts in Scotland.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
If the hon. and learned Gentleman did not say that, I can only repeat that that was the impression that he created in my mind. Where this Bill has been attacked, it has been attacked, not for what is in it so much as for what is not in it. Hon. Gentlemen have expressed a desire that the whole atmosphere of the courts should be changed. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) said quite truly that the great bulk of crime in this country is due to poverty. With that I agree. But what we are dealing with in this Bill is the recommendations that were made by a committee set up a year or two ago to deal with the question of the protection and training very largely of young offenders in Scotland. Is there any need for the Bill, and, if so, what? I have here a letter which I received this morning from a gentleman 137 who probably knows more about this subject than any other man living. I refer to Major Speir, who has devoted his life and his fortune to this kind of work, and, in connection with the Borstal Visiting Committees has done a great deal on behalf of juvenile offenders. Within recent months this gentleman has discovered in the prisons of Glasgow a number of cases of which I give the House one example. In the Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow he found a lad of 17 who had been an omnibus conductor and who had been fined two guineas, with the alternative of 20 days' imprisonment, for allowing his vehicle to become overcrowded. The owner was driving the omnibus at the time, but this lad, who had not the means of paying the fine, was sent to prison.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I did not say that the case was tried at a juvenile court. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would do me the honour of listening to what I am saying he would realise that my point is that it is not true to say that in no case are juvenile courts operating in Scotland. I am adding that there is a necessity for this Bill and that one of the reasons for it is because the protection that is given to these juvenile offenders has been grossly insufficient. There are other cases in our Scottish prisons to-day similar to the case which I have just mentioned. There is a boy in a Glasgow prison on a charge of stealing 4½d. and it is his first offence. The father of this boy was unemployed for a long time and could not pay the fine imposed and the boy was sent to prison. There are boys in prison to-day for playing football on the streets, for breaking various by-laws, for loitering on the pavement, and other offences of that kind. These boys are being made criminals, actually at a great cost to the community and the nation, apart altogether from the ultimate cost which will arise from the creation of a class of criminals in this way. Boys are sent to prison in cases where there is no criminal intent what- 138 ever but only high spirits such as I wish every boy in the country could possess.
The hon. and learned Member for Fare-ham (Sir T. Inskip) has asked why the Bill does not deal with this, that and the other case? This Bill deals with the problem on exactly the same lines as the hon. Gentleman's Act of 1925. Under that Act power was taken, as regards England and Wales, to provide probation officers. No similar Measure was adopted in relation to Scotland. Now, after four or five years of the operation of that Act in England and Wales, and after the holding of an inquiry in Scotland, we are bringing forward this Bill which seeks to ensure that we in Scotland shall have the same power for dealing with these matters as the authorities in England and Wales have possessed since 1925. The annual report of the Prisons Department for Scotland for 1929 shows that in our major prisons there were received in that year 882 boys and 58 girls of 16 years of age and under 21.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I was about to point out what the Secretary of State for Scotland has been doing, administratively, and I suggest that he ought to get credit for what he has done. I think I am correct in saying that in about 100 instances where a boy who was in an institution could get a job, and where any individual would stand sponsor for him—in other words act as a voluntary probation officer for him—my right hon. Friend has released that boy and in not one case of the kind has there been any complaint or recurrence of the trouble. That is a remarkable thing and my right hon. Friend has achieved that result, as I say, by administrative act.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
But it cannot be done voluntarily in every case. There are boys and girls in whose cases you cannot get sponsors and there are areas where you cannot get sponsors—where you cannot get suitable voluntary probation officers.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Not necessarily poor people. They may be the children of 139 drunken parents or something of that kind. It is not a case of poverty. I agree, absolutely, that we should not begin subsidising various organisations, and there is no intention of doing so, but surely the Secretary of State or the probation committees should have the widest possible option, to draw from the widest possible areas those willing to assist in saving boys and girls from the criminal fate of association with old "lags." It should be our duty collectively to find these young people employment, to look after them and to give them a chance in life. I say so the more strongly because of the experience which I have had on education authorities and as a magistrate. That experience convinced me that the overwhelming majority of young men and women who start a criminal career, do so, not because they are naturally criminals, but because society as at present organised made it impossible for them to be anything else.
Various points have been raised by hon. Members which I think are Committee points. A question has been asked about the £25 fine. That is a recommendation by the Committee of Inquiry but we are willing to consider all these questions on their merits in the Committee stage of the Bill. Nobody wants to make things worse for these young people and everyone wants to make things better for them. There is no political issue involved, and surely we can get the co-operation of all parties in the House to give 1,000 of our young men and women a better chance in life than they are likely to have if this Bill does not pass. It is because I hope that we shall get that co-operation that I ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.