HC Deb 27 February 1936 vol 309 cc744-974

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £21,500, be granted to His Majesty, to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936, for grants in respect of the expenses of the Managers of Approved Schools in England and Wales: the expenses of Local Authorities in respect of children and young persons committed to their care; and the expenses of the Councils of Counties and County Boroughs in respect of Remand Homes.


When you rose from your seat, Captain Bourne, I thought that I had transgressed the Rules of the House, and I was relieved when I found that it merely indicated the coming of an august visitor. The good of the child must be the paramount thought in the minds of the magistrates, and I join with the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) in the appeal to the Minister that the staff recruited for these eight new schools shall be people who are qualified by temperament, experience and training for dealing with this particularly difficult type of child. If we can get these children back, as we generally do, into the path of good citizenship, education will have achieved a great triump. If we are to put these children who are inclined to err back into the category of good citizens it requires on the part of the staffs of the schools a particular temperament and outlook and the realisation of the causes that lead some children into what are called delinquencies. It is no use trying to impose the adult sense of right, wrong and justice on the child. You will never convince a boy that taking an apple is wrong.


I think the hon. Member is now developing an argument that would be more appropriate to the main Estimate.


I was trying to follow the point that was made by the hon. Member for Bridgeton in regard to the staff of the eight new schools. I do not wish to labour the point, and I would only say that I support everything that he said that was in order. I will not attempt to follow him along the very narrow road which he followed so successfully. I hope that the Minister will be able to impress on the staffs of these schools the importance of the task which the House has submitted to them in dealing with this section of the child population. While we do not like to see the figures that have been quoted, I believe that a great deal of the apparent increase is merely due to the fact that the new Act gave wider opportunities for bringing into the purview of the schools children who before were excluded and ought to have been taken in.

7.54 p.m.


Some of the previous speakers have spoken as teachers and others have spoken in their capacity as justices of the peace. I am speaking from my experience in the courts as a practising solicitor. I should like the Under-Secretary to tell the Committee with regard to the eight new schools whether any differentiation is to be made between these schools, to which are to be committed children who have been convicted of what the Act describes as moral delinquency and those children who have not been convicted of any moral delinquency, but have been found by the court of competent jurisdiction to be in need of care and protection. It would add greatly to the value of the administration of the Act and would largely take away the sting from the increased figures in so far as they are due to the causes to which the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has referred if the Under-Secretary could see his way to differentiate in the way I have suggested. The Act of 1933 gave to the courts this new power, which might be of very great benefit but might also be of very great danger. I do not want to say anything in the way of criticism but my knowledge of the courts of competent jurisdiction which exercise that jurisdiction is this, and all of us whether we are on the bench or whether we practise before the courts know, that not all magistrates are of the same mind. Some have a forward-looking, progressive mind and others have not. The Under-Secretary will know what I mean when I say that the Department has always recognised that fact. It has attempted and in some degree succeeded in persuading benches in different parts of the country to form from among their number a select group of magistrates with special qualifications to sit in juvenile courts and to exercise jurisdiction over children and young persons.

Without criticising anyone, it is impossible not to recognise that some magistrates who have more progressive minds have taken a more enlightened view of their functions under the Act than has been taken by other magistrates. That has sometimes had the result that children or young persons who have been found by the courts to be in need of care and protection, children who have not committed any moral or legal delinquency, have been taken away from the homes and sent to approved schools where they have been in association with young persons who have been convicted of moral delinquencies. One can easily see what the results of that might be if it were carried too far. It might possibly find children taken from an atmosphere which itself led to a justifiable view that they were in need of care and protection and, under an order of the court, taken into an atmosphere which was of greater danger to their moral well-being, owing to the fact that the children and young persons among whom they found themselves were people who had been guilty of moral delinquency.

It may be—and if it is so, I hope the Under-Secretary of State will be able to reassure me and a large proportion of the public in whose minds the same anxiety exists—that one way of dealing with the point would be to see that some of these schools are used exclusively for those young persons who have been guilty of repeated moral delinquencies, and another section of the schools for the purpose of sending young persons who have not been convicted of any moral delinquency of that kind, but who, for other and different reasons, have been found to be in need of care and protection.

8.3 p.m.


My first duty is to reply to the points which were put to me by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), who has himself had considerable experience at the Home Office, as well as of many other questions. I should very much like to satisfy him if I could. He asked me, first of all, where these schools were being established. The answer is that they are, as he is aware, being established by local authorities, and, therefore, it is occurring all over the country in the places where the need is felt. With regard to the actual distribution of the schools, I could not tell him where every one of them is, but I understand there are some in London, Essex, Cheshire, and Sussex. With regard to the point about the period of time in remand homes, I think I can satisfy him on that point, because there are very few cases indeed in which the period exceeds two or three weeks of waiting in remand homes. The third question related to the time it would take to establish these schools, and when there would be enough schools. Eight new schools are open already, but we think it will take about a year to have enough schools altogether to meet the conditions which exists at the present time.

Turning to the remarks of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), he and several other Members raised the general question as to why there should be an increase in the numbers which fall to be dealt with in this way. I think the hon. Member will recall that the age was increased, under the Statute, at which children could be sent to these schools and, of course, thus become care and protection cases. It has been the case, we believe, that local authorities have in fact been active in bringing these cases forward, and the courts have made more use of the Statute of 1933 than was expected at the time, but I do not think there will be many people in this Committee who would think that that was a fair ground for disquietude.

With regard to dormitories, in the large schools there are large dormitories and in the small schools small dormitories, but in some of the smaller schools there are separate cubicles for girls. With regard to the question of teachers, a very important question indeed, I think it is true, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton said, that in the past, in the far distant days when these questions were only beginning, some of the teachers were not up to the standard that we should like to see to-day. The Home Office have been making great efforts to improve the standard, and I think the standard to-day is equal to that to be found in the public elementary schools, and we are continually making efforts to improve it. In fact, there is a report now before the Secretary of State dealing with this very subject. I think I can assure the Committee that we shall take every step we can to see that the qualifications of the teachers, which admittedly need to be high for this work if it is to be successful, shall be fully maintained and indeed improved.

If I may say a word, in conclusion, about these schools, our past experience has been that they are training establishments, and in the part over 90 per cent. of the boys and girls in the schools have not got into further trouble. I think the Committee will agree that that is a not unsatisfactory figure. We hope to see it maintained, if not improved, in the new schools, and I ask the Committee to consider this Supplementary Estimate as one making further provision for a, very progressive social service.


I would like the hon. Gentleman, before he sits down, to deal with the question I asked, namely, whether it is the intention of the Department to differentiate between the schools which they will use for the housing of young persons committed after being convicted of moral delinquencies, and schools exclusively for children who have not been so convicted, but have merely been found to be in need of care and protection.


Is there any ground for the suggestion that the teachers appointed to an approved school are of any lower qualification intellectually than those appointed to the ordinary elementary schools?


None whatever at the present time.


But is it not the case that the teachers in these schools have a less salary than the teachers in the ordinary schools?


I am afraid I could not answer that question without notice. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), I have certain information on the subject, but I do not think it would be sufficiently complete for me to furnish to the Committee. I will give further consideration to the point.

Question put, and agreed to.

  1. CLASS II.
  2. cc749-73
  3. COLONIAL AND MIDDLE EASTERN SERVICES. 10,082 words, 4 divisions
  4. CLASS V.
  5. cc773-800
  6. MINISTRY OF LABOUR. 9,766 words
  7. cc800-20
  8. POST OFFICE. 7,950 words, 2 divisions
  9. CLASS 1.
  10. cc821-60
  11. CIVIL SERVICE REMUNERATION, &c. 15,693 words, 4 divisions
  12. cc860-96
  13. MISCELLANEOUS EXPENSES. 14,205 words, 2 divisions
  14. c897
  16. CLASS VI.
  17. cc897-945
  18. CLEARING OFFICES. 19,597 words, 8 divisions
  19. cc945-64
  20. BOARD OF TRADE. 6,691 words
  21. cc964-70
  23. cc970-2
  24. CIVIL (Excess), 1934. 676 words
  25. c972
  26. ADJOURNMENT. 15 words
  27. c972
  28. CONSOLIDATED FUND (No. 1) BILL. 17 words
  29. cc972-3
  30. ELECTRICITY (SUPPLY) ACTS. 151 words
  31. c974
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