HC Deb 04 June 1937 vol 324 cc1370-94

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £319,450, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1938, 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."—[Note.—£97,000 has been voted on account.]

2.35 p.m.

Mr. Short

I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100

I move this reduction not in any spirit of opposition to the Vote, but merely to enable the right hon. Gentleman or the Under-Secretary to make a statement in connection with these approved schools. The matter was raised when the Estimate was before the House on 3rd March, and there was some criticism because of what was considered to be the incompleteness of the statement of the Under-Secretary. In saying that I am not making any com- plaint, for the way in which the Vote reached the House at that time made it very difficult for the hon. Gentleman to make a considered statement. Consequently, we have called for this Vote again, and we hope that any misapprehensions which may exist in the minds of hon. Members will be dispersed by a statement later in the afternoon.

I have however, one complaint to make, and I hope that it will be remedied. There appears to be no information available to Members, from the Home Office or from any authoritative body associated with the Government, in connection with approved schools. Naturally, when I was told that this matter was to come before the House, I turned to my documents thinking that I should find among them the necessary information with regard to approved schools and to the operation of the Children and Young Persons Act. No collected data on the subject appear, however, to be in existence. I went into the Library, where three librarians search the indexes for me, but, although there were such headings as "Approved Schools, Children's Branch," and so forth, no collected information appears to have been made available to Members. This is a gap which I hope will be filled at the earliest opportunity. Up to, I think, the year 1928, the Children's Branch issued reports which enabled Members to obtain some clear idea of the progress of the administration on these matters, but those reports are no longer issued. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take immediate steps to ensure that some report upon this great child problem, this great human issue which is attracting the interest and support of many of our best citizens, will be issued. On 30th September, 1936, there were 7,927 children in these schools, whereas the daily average prison population was 11,306. A very large number of young offenders are being drafted into these schools, but, as far as I know, no considered statement is published and no data are collected for the information of Members to enable them to discuss these problems in a more enlightened manner.

Obviously, these schools are linked up with juvenile crime, which, unhappily, has been showing a large and persistent increase, certainly since 1930. In the Debate on 3rd March, the view was ex- pressed that many children were being drafted by magistrates into these schools without proper care and thought. The view was expressed, particularly by the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Max-ton), that these children would be much better in their own homes than in these schools. I do not make that assertion, because I have not the requisite knowledge to do so, but I know that many of us have received complaints from parents who believe that grave injustice has been done by magistrates in this concern, and I have no doubt that many questions have reached the Home Office through Members of the House. I think it would be well that, if these fears which have been expressed by hon. Members are groundless, they should be dispersed, because, if they are widely circulated when there is no ground for them, that must of itself be inimical to the best interests of the scheme and the treatment of juvenile offenders. In the course of my experience at the Home Office I met large numbers of people who for some reason or other desired their names and activities to be associated with juvenile courts and with matters affecting young offenders, but in many cases I regarded them as busybodies who had no real contribution to make. I do not say that that was so in all cases; I could cite, happily, many cases in which they were not only active but active in a useful sense.

Some time ago I put a question to the Home Secretary on this matter and was told that in 1935 the number of persons found guilty of indictable offences was 69,849; that, of these, 25,543 were under the age of 17; and that, of the offenders under the age of 17, nine per cent. were sent to Home Office schools, 51 per cent. were placed under the supervision of the probation officer, eight per cent. were bound over without an order for supervision, and in 24 of the cases the prosecution was dismissed. The figures for 1936 are not available, but I should say that there has been an increase in the number of such offenders, and I have no doubt that a larger percentage have been sent to these approved schools.

In recent years we have displayed a more intelligent approach to the whole problem of juvenile offenders and juvenile crime. Juvenile courts are an excellent thing in themselves, though I should like to have seen a judge ap- pointed for children's affairs. Having got the right man, I think he would have codified the system and method, and would have been of great utility to our lay magistrates who have to administer the law in those courts. The probation system is another contribution, but I do not think it is used as widely as it might be. Magistrates are frequently tempted to send children to prison or to these schools when, I think, a better process would be served if they were dealt with under the probation system.

Then we have the approved schools, which follow on the reformatory and industrial schools. We shall be glad to learn that these schools have brought a new attitude of mind and that those responsible are approaching the problem in a different spirit from that which existed in the days when I went to school. I think a full statement from the Under-Secretary would not only encourage those interested in the promotion of this class of treatment, but would also remove many doubts that may be in the minds of Members and of the public at large. I feel sometimes that greater care might be taken in connection with the selection of magistrates to preside over children's courts and generally those who assist. I should like to know whether the Home Office administrators are satisfied with the progress up to date. What further developments do they contemplate and what experiment have they in mind? We have a rising tide of juvenile crime, and the Home Office must have learned something from the operation of the Act and from their experience in the juvenile courts and we should like to know whether they are satisfied with the progress that has been made and whether they contemplate making any contribution to the solution of this very difficult problem.

Some say that this increase in juvenile crime is due to the lessening of parental control. That is an easy criticism. I find in all the literature of the novelists of the last century criticism of the way in which parents manage their children, and I cannot think that that in itself is a justifiable contribution to the problem. Some hold the view that the cinema has had a bad effect on the minds of young children. I do not think it has been a contributory factor to any great extent: I think, however, that unemployment and the long period of depression through which we had been passing has had its effect upon the morale and the minds of our young people. I do not think it is wise that we should continue to tolerate a social system which denies the right to useful employment to young children. I agree with Mr. Edward Cadogan, who says in his book that it creates a tendency in the minds of these young people to feel in these conditions that they are under no obligation to regard the law. I do not condone it at all, but I feel that it is a contributory factor to the increase in juvenile crime. Mr. Cadogan also points out that there has been a large increase in amenities during the last 25 years—the cinema, swimming pools, lawn tennis and so forth—and these young people, perhaps mixing with others more fortunate from a financial point of view, are not able to take advantage of these things and they turn, perhaps, to stealing. He does not think that there is any criminal intent, but that is the effect of unemployment and the increase in amenities. It is a great temptation, and I agree that harshness is not in itself the best remedy. I am happy to think that encouragement and advice are more and more finding expression in juvenile courts and elsewhere than used to be the case.

We have some 87 approved schools—that is in 1935–36. I have not the figure for 1936–37. From 1930 right down to 1936 there has been a consistent increase in the number of children ordered by the court to go to these schools. In 1930 the figure was 6,119, and in 1936 it was. 7,927. I do not feel that I can make any reflection on the administration of the juvenile courts in sending these children. to approved schools because, whatever may be the right hon. Gentleman's knowledge, it is not at my command, but I think the House and the country are seized of the importance of this rise in juvenile offenders and they would like to feel satisfied that we are making a proper and adequate contribution to its solution.

I have one or two further observations to make, and I should like to ask some questions about the staff. A report was made on the conditions of service of the: staff of the approved schools, and, I understand that the recommendations have been generally adopted. That is all to the good, because I believe that those recommendations were of a most useful and excellent character. I should like to know what qualifications are possessed by the staff, who appoints the headmaster and staff and to what extent the Home Office have supervision and control? I know that this is linked up with the finance of the local authorities, that half the expenditure comes from the Exchequer and half from the local authorities. I should also like to know what interest they have in the administration of these approved schools? Have all the education authorities agreed to make themselves "fit persons" under the Children Act? I think that the Home Secretary knows to what I am referring when I use the words "fit persons." Have the education authorities realised that they are primarily responsible for dealing with children in need of care and protection as defined by Section 61, and are the approved schools regarded as an integral part of our education system?

There is the question of boarding out and making provision for foster aunts and uncles or something of that kind, and I should like to know to what extent the Home Office are moving in this direction. What has been the experience and are they satisfied with the adoption of that principle? Is the system making a useful contribution to the problem which I have raised this afternoon. I have endeavoured to put clearly and precisely, without making a long speech, the points which seem to me to be of importance and some of which found expression by hon. Members in a previous debate. I hope that the result will be a statement from the right hon. Gentleman or his colleague which will clear the atmosphere and be an encouragement to those who are administering juvenile courts, and taking an active interest in young offenders and approved schools, and will generally remove any feeling of doubt and suspicion that may lurk in the minds of the general public.

3 P.m.

Sir S. Hoare

I am obliged to the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Short) for the tone and the matter of his speech. He has a great advantage over me to-day, as he knows so much more about these questions than I do. At the same time, let Me tell him that my public life seems to have gone a curious circle. I began it in London as chairman of what was then called the Special Schools Committee of the London County Council, which dealt with what were then called industrial schools and reformatories, and I think that a little of my old interest has been rekindled in the course of the debate to-day.

Let me assure the hon. Gentleman at once that in future there will be a regular report upon these schools. The House is entitled to have a report of that kind and the schools also, and I think that when hon. Members come to read it, they will find that the schools, or at any rate a very great part of the schools, have a very fine record, and in justice to them that record ought to be more widely known. The Committee know that there are two classes of children who go to these schools—the children who have committed some kind of offence, and the children who are sent there because they need protection and because the conditions of their homes are so bad as to be a danger to their future.

There are a number of these schools over the country, and the hon. Member is quite correct in saying that the number of children sent to them has tended to increase in recent years. I am told that it is difficult exactly to define the reasons for that increase. Perhaps it is that the existence of juvenile courts and the greater interest taken in the conditions of these children have led to that increase. Perhaps it is, for some reason or other, that there have been greater temptations to children to commit some of these offences. It is interesting in that connection to note a paragraph in the latest Report of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in which he draws attention to the curious fact that the age of 13 seems to be a very dangerous age for children, and that a very large number of these offences are committed by children of 13. But whatever may be the reason, the number has tended to increase, and the increase in the numbers has brought with it a new problem.

The hon. Member asked me whether the Home Office were satisfied with the present position. In one respect we are not satisfied with the present position. We have not sufficient accommodation at present for the increasing numbers, and the result of this deficiency of accommodation means that from time to time chil- dren have to be sent to remand homes until there are places for them in the approved schools, and that they have often to be kept in remand homes much longer than we should desire. I would venture to take the opportunity of this Debate to appeal to the great local authorities to help us to increase the available accommodation. Several of them have been adding to the number of schools, but we still want more schools, and I hope that they will co-operate with us and try to avoid the possibility of what now happens of having to keep children in remand homes for prolonged periods. As far as the records of these schools go, they appear to me to be so remarkable as to be well worth allusion by the Home Secretary in the course of this Debate.

Let me give the Committee a few facts which show that, as far as we can judge, the schools as a whole are turning out a very good type of boy and girl, and that the boys and girls are making good in after life. The latest figures are based on an analysis of subsequent conduct over a period of three years of the boys and girls released during the years 1928–29–30. Arrangements have been made with the managers of the schools to forward information showing how the boys and girls were three years after they had left school. The answers show that the managers were still in touch with 95 per cent. of the former pupils. The fact that the percentage is so high, when it is remembered that the boys and girls are distributed all over the country and that some are in the Army or abroad, is good evidence of the efficiency of the after-care arrangements.

As regards the 95 per cent., the statistics for the schools for the older boys show that 83.5 per cent. out of 1,605 can be regarded as satisfactory young citizens—a good result in view of the unemployment at that time. The school results for the older girls show that 76 per cent. out of a total of 127, were satisfactory. It must be remembered that this percentage is based on a small total number and that the older girls are a most difficult class to deal with. The results of the schools for the younger boys average 83.2 per cent. of successes out of a total of 2,009. The results of the schools for the younger girls show an average of successes of 92 per cent. out of a total of 394 cases.

When I come to further details I find that not less than 40,000 old boys from these schools are known to have served in His Majesty's Forces. Reckoned on an infantry basis, that is equivalent to four Divisions, or one Army Corps. I find, further, that Farm Schools have been successful in winning the County Clean Milk Championship against all comers. The handicraft work of the boys is seen at great advantage at the biennial exhibition organised by the Turners' Company at the Guildhall, where the pupils carry off many prizes. The Southern schools have been allowed to hold their annual boxing competition under the auspices of the Army Boxing Association, at Chelsea Barracks, and have aroused very favourable comment from the commanding officers who have given away the prizes.

Perhaps I must not be too explicit about the individual records of particular boys, as it may be they would not wish me too closely to identify them with their past; but I think I can say without compromising anybody that at the present time there are several of these boys playing first-class cricket, one or two have been distinguished Members of this House and one of the old boys has made so good and has such a feeling of gratitude for his past training that: he has been giving no less than £100 a year to his old school for various prizes and other activities in connection with the school. These facts seem to show that on the whole the record of these schools is good. We want more of them, and we shall be prepared to make experiments with them. In line with the experiment in which we are at present engaged in connection with the classifying of the children, we are dealing, for instance, with children who want only a short period of training, in whose case there is no need for them to be taken from their homes for long periods of time, and also with finding foster parents for children through local authorities. We are alive to the need of these experiments and I hope that the re-issue of the report, will bring the facts before the notice of the Committee, and that they will continue to take an interest in these schools. Here and now I invite hon. Members on all sides of the Committee, if they have an opportunity, to visit these schools and see for themselves whether the facts I have put before them to-day are not well justified by the record of the schools.

3.12 p.m.

Mr. Sexton

I also deplore the fact that so important a debate as this, affecting as it does so many unfortunate children, should be delayed to the last half hour on a Friday afternoon. I also deplore that so little information is to be obtained about these schools. I readily agree that the Act has only been in force for a few years, but there should have been sufficient information forthcoming to the Home Office to issue something for the benefit of hon. Members. On 3rd March, 1937, the Under-Secretary said: I will go thoroughly into the points which have been raised, and will be prepared to make a detailed statement on the whole subject at a later opportunity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd March, 1937, Col. 434, Vol. 321.] Unfortunately, neither the Under-Secretary nor the Secretary of State himself could give a detailed statement on the whole subject at this late hour of the day. These approved schools have changed their name. They used to be called reformatory and industrial schools; now they are called appproved schools. Approved by whom? I suppose it is the Home Secretary. But the responsibility does not end with the Home Secretary. The ultimate responsibility is on hon. Members, and it is not a small responsibility when you consider the number of schools, the number of pupils and the annual cost. The figures which have been produced as to the number of schools and pupils and the cost proves the question to be a very important one. The flotsam and jetsam of child-life gathered together in these schools may seem a small thing to some people when compared with a large number of ordinary children undergoing education, but you must remember that normal children have their homes and the goodwill of their parents, while these poor unfortunates have to be sent away and trained to make them better citizens.

We who are the custodians of the welfare of these unfortunate children rejoice to know that the community is taking a greater interest in child life than ever before. We can find many tragedies in the Blue Books of the past of the exploitation of children. We can read in Dickens harrowing accounts of child life 100 years ago. We have got a long way from that stage now, and we rejoice that the country and the Government are taking a lively interest in this unfortunate class of boys and girls. I have been looking at a report issued by the Committee on Approved Schools in January, 1936, and I find in that report that some of these schools are voluntary and that others are partially voluntary. The report says that the teachers in some of those schools before 1920 were compelled to over-work the boys and girls, and later on it says that the lack of funds resulted in standards all round being low and staffs being poorly qualified and very much underpaid. I hope that when the next report comes out, we shall find that some improvement has taken place, and that the boys and girls who are sent away from their homes are not overworked and that the teachers employed are properly qualified and paid decent remuneration.

My experience as a teacher is that the more difficult a class of pupils is, the better qualified should be the teacher. In those schools many of the classes are very difficult ones, and if the teachers are unqualified, we do not do our duty by those bairns. It is not that the bairns have an extra dose of original sin; it is very largely due to hereditary environment. They are taken into a new environment, and that environment ought to help to eradicate some of the failings which have been handed on to them by their forefathers. The environment does not consist only of the school building and playing fields, but includes the teachers and the curriculum. I hope that the 1933 Act will deal more humanely with these boys and girls than they were dealt with in the past. Much has been done, but are we sure that all has been done? Teachers' emoluments have been improved and the schools have been wisely graded, but I want to know whether there is increasing efficiency all round and not low standards. As regards teachers, is there a good measure of co-operation between all members of the teaching staff? I have been rather disturbed to read in the report to which I have referred, the following sentences with regard to the dismissal of teachers: Dismissals of a member of the staff rests with the Managers, but, as a matter of practice, the Head of a school may, in the case of the serious misconduct of any member of the staff, at once suspend him or her and report this to the Managers. It has been alleged that in some instances this power of dismissal has been used in an arbitrary manner, and Officers who have given satisfactory service in a responsible position have been dismissed merely on the report of a headmaster, and have been given no opportunity of stating their side of the case before the managers. Such arbitrary action as that is un-English, and the heads ought to be recommended to give up such dictatorial methods. As to the children, I find a still more disturbing paragraph on page 11 of the report, which reads: We have been informed that there is considerable divergence of action in regard to any complaint by or on behalf of the children against a member of the staff. Further on, the report states: We have, however, evidence that Ion occasions serious charges made by the children against a member of the staff have been dismissed after insufficient investigation, on such grounds as that the evidence of these boys and girls is unreliable. The report goes on to say: Quite apart from the question of securing just treatment for these children, who are more or less deprived of adequate support from their parents, it is definitely in the interest of the Officer concerned that a thorough inquiry should be held into any substantial complaint made against him or her, and a full report made to the Home Office. I wonder how many of those reports have been received at the Home Office. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us when he replies. I also wish to know whether it is possible to have the reports of the inspectors upon these schools. With regard to the question of after-care, we have had from the right hon. Gentleman certain figures showing that some of these boys have gone into the Army, Navy or Air Force, while others have gone abroad. I understand that under the Act it is possible to send these boys or girls away without the consent of the parents. It all depends upon the reliability of the parents. May I ask how many boys have been sent into the services and how many boys and girls have emigrated without their parents being consulted in the matter? I know it is early yet to expect a full report, but I hope that what has been said to-day will induce the right hon. Gentleman to consider presenting a real report at an early date. I would also like to know whether during the last year there have been any cases of whipping in these approved schools; whether the Home Secretary is satisfied that complaints made by or on behalf of children against members of the staff are thoroughly investigated and reported on, and, lastly, whether there are any cases of teachers having been dismissed without a thorough inquiry? I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that we are to have a report on this important question, and I hope that it will be published at an early date.

3.23 p.m.

Captain Gunston

Anyone who has had experience of these schools will be able to assure the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken that the conditions now are considerably better than those to which he referred and which existed in 1920. May I congratulate my right hon. Friend, not merely on attaining the office of Home Secretary but on showing the sympathetic attitude on this question which he has shown this afternoon? I am sure that anyone who has ever visited these schools must have been interested to hear my right hon. Friend's remark that he had had previous experience of them when he was a member of a committee of the London County Council. As I say, he will find when he visits these schools now as Home Secretary that they have improved greatly since the days when he was on the London County Council. My right hon. Friend said that the approved schools catered for two classes of children—those who had been in trouble and those who needed protection. I presume that the children who need protection are not sent to the same schools as those who have been in trouble, but I would like an assurance on that matter.

We were all interested to hear of the wonderful records in after life of the boys and girls who have been pupils of approved schools and I am sure it has, been gratifying to hon. Members to hear that the old boys on the whole have a better record than the old girls. We are sorry however that some of the lady Members of the House are not present so that they might hear this testimony which we are paying to ourselves. I only wish, indeed, that more hon. Members could have been in their places to hear the important statement by the Home Secretary, but I understand that several Members of Parliament to-day are attending proceedings at some school which, I believe, is situated in the Windsor division of Berkshire. I do not know whether it is an approved school or hot, though I should think it is a school which is probably more approved by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade than by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, the Under-Secretary, or myself.

I can perhaps give a little illustration, from some of my own experience, of meeting the boys of one of these approved schools, which I know fairly well. Some years ago there was going to be a charity fête in my division, and it was thought that it would be rather an attraction if various villages made replicas of old Tudor houses. They would be made on a framework and painted on canvas. I asked the headmaster of an approved school whether his boys would like to make one of these houses, which the other villagers could copy. They came to my house, worked very hard, and made a very excellent job of it. Naturally, one asked the boys in to tea afterwards, and they were very delightful boys, but I was a bit shocked when I received a letter from that headmaster some time afterwards thanking me and saying how grateful the boys were at having been asked to tea—nobody would think anything of that—because, he said, they felt they were being looked upon as ordinary members of the community. It had never struck me before that they would be looked upon as anything else. They had done their punishment and were being trained apart for civil life, but I think that shows the sort of work that we want to do to rehabilitate them and make them feel that they will not become criminals.

Reference was made earlier this afternoon, I think by the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), to one of the numerous books which have recently appeared, written by people who have had unfortunate experiences. I remember one written by some man who had been a burglar, and he said in that book that, owing to an unfortunate home environment, once he went wrong as a child he naturally began to associate with other unfortunate children, and he never had a chance of getting back. I think these schools give a great opportunity to boys and girls to get back and start as ordinary citizens, but if these schools are to do the right work, they ant every assistance which they can get from public opinion, and, what is more, it is necessary that we should use every endeavour to get these schools the best possible staffs. It is obviously a much harder and more difficult task to be a headmaster of one of these schools than of an ordinary school. You have not only to maintain discipline, but you have also to gain the confidence of your pupils and to try to make them see that the whole world is not against them but will give them a helping hand.

That is why it is so necessary that we should get the best possible staffs, and I would like the Under-Secretary, when he replies, to give us, if he can, a few more details, in answer to the last speaker, in regard to how the recommendations of the Departmental Committee on the Remuneration of Services in Approved Schools is being carried out. It is pointed out in this report that headmasters must have a deputy, an assistant headmaster in certain cases, or a principal who can carry on when they are away or taking their holidays, and it is suggested in the report that, in regard to the intermediate schools and the older ones, there should be an assistant headmaster in practically every case. I would like to ask the Under-Secretary of State whether that is being carried out.

It is also pointed out in this report that we are unlikely to be able to find in future men sufficiently qualified for this technical work from outside the service. We have to take men from inside the service, from those who have been attached to approved schools. It is, therefore, necessary that special training should be given to the men who are likely to become headmasters. It is suggested that assistant headmasters should undergo special training and have a special course. I should like to ask whether these courses are being set up so that we can get the type of men we want to see at the head of these schools. I am making no criticism of the present headmasters. The men I have met are doing wonderful work, and we are fortunate that the work has attracted such a fine type, but nobody can say that they are overpaid and that their hours are too short. It is suggested in the report that their remuneration should be increased and that their hours should be reduced. I should like the Under-Secretary to tell us how far, this is being carried out.

The hon. Member who has just spoken made an important reference to the question of the appointment and dismissal of the staff. It is wrong that the headmaster should be able to dismiss, as I believe he can in some cases, an assistant without the assistant being able to put his case before the managers; I am not sure that he ought not to have the right to appeal to the Home Secretary. There ought to be some system by which the staff can feel more secure. The other point mentioned by the hon. Gentleman was as to complaints by children. As the hon. Member who has had experience in dealing with children knows, this is a difficult question. Children, especially those who have been in trouble, might make frivolous complaints. They might get evidence which is not very sound which might possibly lead to injustice being done to the headmaster and his staff. We have to guard against that. On the other hand, there is always the danger that the evidence of children might be insufficiently considered and bullying and injustice might be done to them. I do not know what is the best method of getting over these difficulties. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will tell us whether the Home Office have gone into this difficult problem.

I am sure that many Members will gladly accept the invitation of the Home Secretary to visit these schools. I hope they will, because it is necessary for the schools to have public opinion with them. If the approved schools can be visited by Members of the county councils, rural district councils and urban district councils and important people in the locality, showing that they take an interest in them, it has an enormous effect. Pupils begin to feel that somebody is looking after them apart from those who are paid to do it and the whole tone of the school is raised. My experience of these schools is that the education and the teaching given in them is second to none. In fact, it has been said that in some cases it is easier for a boy who has been a little naughty and perhaps shown some initiative to get a job from these schools than if he had acted on the right lines. We do not want to encourage too much initiative in that sense, but very often boys who have done something out of mischievousness rather than real evil who are at these schools do turn into useful citizens, and we thank the Home Secretary for the encouraging words which he has spoken.

3.35 P.m.

Mr. Goldie

I trust the Committee will forgive me for intervening again. My only excuse is that only some six months ago the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor did me the honour of asking me to investigate the affairs of an approved school. That was naturally a confidential matter to which I cannot refer, but in the course of a careful investigation I came to certain conclusions which may be of some assistance to the Committee. The first point that struck me was the real excellence of the surroundings under which those boys were working and living. They had playing fields which make the playing fields of Eton and other academical establishments—I will not mention my own school—look mere hovels. Every possible thing was being done for boys who—one cannot get away from the fact—were there because they were already youthful criminals. As I left the thought passed through my mind, "With all these facilities given for real development, how is it that those who administer justice in other places are certain to find in the next confidential document which comes before them 'This is an ex-approved school case.'"

What I am really concerned about is whether what is going on in these approved schools from the educational point of view is the very best we can do. Obviously they exist for education and for training rather than for punitive purposes. I wonder whether the Minister realises that the children are there from the age of 15 to 19, and that from the moment a boy enters an approved school at the age of 15 he is being handicapped in the labour market against boys who leave school at the age of 14 or 15 and begin their training in their life's occupation. In my own constituency, and I dare say it is the same in the constituencies of hon. Members opposite, there is at the moment no real juvenile unemployment problem. The problem arises far more seriously for boys when they reach 17 or 18. As I have said, the ordinary boy when he leaves school goes straight on to the labour market and begins his training as a plumber or an engineer or in some other trade.

What happens to the boy in the approved school? He leads an excellent healthy life so that he comes out a really strong and healthy citizen, but in 9 cases out of 10 he is given simply an agricultural training. In the school to which I am referring, although 99 per cent. of the boys came from industrial areas, the whole basis of the training was agricultural, and I am told it is the same in other schools. What is the good of training a boy who is not going to live in the country to milk cows and to recognise a turnip from a potato and then turn him loose into the labour market at the age of 17, under the clemency of the Home Office, to compete with boys who already have a trade at their finger-tips? I believe that a good deal of the recidivist juvenile crime is due to the wrong training which is being given, because when the boy finds that he cannot compete in the labour market against those who have already received their preliminary training he loses heart and relapses into crime.

I suggest that the Committees who manage these approved schools and manage them with great success, should consider whether it is not possible to fit the boys for their industrial lives by training.them in the elements of engineering, or m turning or joinery and carpentry, so that when they have completed their period at the school they can go out ready to compete with their fellows. I believe such a course would go far to solve the problem of recidivism among juveniles. Can any one imagine a more difficult task than that which the staffs of these schools have to undertake. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. Sexton) with his vast experience as a schoolmaster, would like, with a staff of perhaps two or at the outside three certificated teachers, supported by others who are not certificated at all but are most excellent men, to control a crowd of 150 to 300 boys, every one of whom is there because he is already of criminal tendencies? The hon. Member would know, from the very nature of the case, that for a serious moral offence he has no power of expulsion at all. He can have no monitorial system, because the whole essence of that system is that a boy becomes a monitor because of good character. There is no more difficult task in the world of schoolmasters.

With great respect I would point out an extraordinary anomaly in the punishments, corporal and deprivation of privileges. In the inquiry to which I have referred I was amazed to find that what in a public school is regarded as a serious offence is a normal every-day practice in these institutions, namely smoking. It is regarded as part of the normal every-day life of these boys of 15 to 19. That is a minor matter. They are punished by being deprived of smoking. But what happens in very serous cases? Earlier to-day we were discussing Borstal. Borstal can only be inflicted by courts which can try indictable offences, except under the Children Act. Under the Children Act the managers can take the child, if he has run away and has been caught, to where? Not to the local quarter sessions, presided over by a qualified lawyer, not to the assizes, where he will be dealt with by a judge of the King's Bench, but down to the local bench, who can say "You naughty boy; you shall go to Borstal for two years." That is an amazing position. How it ever got into the Children Act that a local bench should have the power of sending to Borstal passes my comprehension.

I suggest that the Home Office themselves ought to have the power to send really wicked lads to Borstal, where a stronger discipline can be inflicted than in the approved schools. The country owes a very gfeat deal to these approved schools. It is only a very small percentage of the boys who go wrong. I say this in no critical spirit, but I cannot avoid thinking that if there was just a little more practical sense and a little less of the Institute of psychology, it would be better. I do not think there was anything very bad in the education and discipline we had in the public schools and the board schools of the country forty years ago. If we run approved schools on practical rather than theoretical lines, there is a great future for them. I say God-speed to those who are doing this work.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Ede

We have to be careful in this discussion not to make hasty generalisations from particular instances. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken was, perhaps, a little unfortunate in the school to which he was recently sent to conduct an investigation, because in some of the other schools instanced by the Home Secretary the widest possible forms of practical and technical education are available. The hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned prizes. I believe they are almost consistently won by the scholars in one of those schools, so consistently that most other schools think: "We may get a second, but we know where the first will go." The same holds goods of the problem as a whole. One must recollect that when the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, was passed, it applied to approximately one-third of the population of the country. At that time, the population over the age of 17 had reached its maximum in the history of the country. From present indications it is not likely to approximate during the next few years to anything like that figure.

Magistrates throughout the country have, I believe rightly, regarded this as an opportunity to see what could be done by wise experiment with the most difficult and, if successfully solved, fruitful problem which confronts them. I do not think there is any evidence of an excessive wave of what my hon. Friend called juvenile crime. The Acts uses the term "juvenile delinquency," and I understand that magistrates are desired to use it. In spite of the smile of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that term conveys something different in the eyes of laymen from the term "juvenile crime." We have to look at the matter of crime and delinquency through the eyes of the child rather than through the eyes of the adult. When taking apples, the ordinary English boy does not think he is stealing, but taking strawberries is theft. The only crime about taking apples is in being found out. I notice that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has just gone out; I wanted to say that every boy seems to be a Communist, with regard to apples. The magistrate who would regard the taking of apples as the same thing in the mind of a child as the taking of strawberries would prove himself unfitted for his post.

I hope serious efforts will be made in the newer schools which are being established to find out the causes which led some of the children to take what adults are apt to regard as the wrong step. I am sure that careful individual analysis of the child's attitude towards his own wrong-doing would be very valuable to those who have to sit in juvenile courts and elsewhere and deal with such boys. I do not think the cinema has very much to do with the present juvenile delinquency. About 45 years ago the blame was put upon the "Penny Blood." The "Penny Blood" was supposed to be the cause of juvenile wrong-doing and it was believed that if that type of publication were suppressed all the trouble would disappear. The cinema now appears to have taken its place. That belief resembles the attitude of the fond mother who said to the nurse: "What is Johnny doing? Whatever it is, tell him not to!" Because a child apparently likes the cinema, there is no need to think that an unnecessarily large proportion of juvenile crime is due to it.

I would like, in conclusion, to express my thanks to the Home Office for the very helpful circular which they have issued to local authorities in the neigh-bourhood of London with regard to the new Banstead Hall approved school, which is one of the short-term schools. I had hoped to have a longer time in which to deal with the wording of that circular, but I am sure that, if the local education authorities and magistrates in the area will try to use that school in the spirit suggested in the circular, it will prove to be a very helpful experiment along the lines that the Home Secretary has been asking for this afternoon. After all, at 15 or 16, three years seems a long time, and, if you can give to the child some sort of hope, if he or she can make good, and give substantial evidence of having made good, in the early months of the sentence, I am sure it will do a great deal towards removing these children as soon as possible from an atmosphere which may quite possibly, through companionship, lead them further astray.

3.52 p.m.

Mr. Lloyd

I should like to reply as shortly as possible to some of the points which have been raised. I think it is quite clear that the Commttee as a whole are strongly in favour of dealing with young offenders by this method, though there is a feeling in the minds of certain hon. Members, which was expressed by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Short), that it is possible that the courts are making too frequent use of the remedy of the approved school, and the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has just pointed out the desirability, in certain cases, of using other methods, or, indeed, of adopting the experiment, mentioned briefly by the Home Secretary, of a shorter period in the approved school.

Reference has been made to the probation system. At the Home Office we fully recognise the great value of the probation system, and we feel that there can be further development in the "fit person," scheme for dealing with delinquent children. With regard to the fear that has been expressed, that the Courts are making too frequent use of their power to send children to approved schools, we certainly have no reason to think that that is the case. Under the rules governing the procedure, parents can make their views known to the Court, and, in particular, the Court is required, unless it thinks it undesirable to do so, to inform the parent or guardian, if present, of the manner in which it proposes to deal with the case, and to allow the parent or guardian to make representations. Naturally, parents are reluctant to believe that they are not looking after their own children properly, although there are undoubtedly cases, as all those of us who have investigated the circumstances are aware, in which certain children are better away from the particular parents in question. The Courts are particularly enjoined to have regard to the welfare of the children themselves; they have means of obtaining very full information from the local education authority and the probation officer; and the Home Office has no ground for thinking that children are being taken away from their homes and sent to approved schools unless the circumstances really necessitate it.

The hon. Member for Doncaster has suggested that there has been an increase in the number of juvenile offenders, and that a larger proportion are being sent to approved schools. This is a very crucial point. It if were the case that a larger percentage of children who had been proved to be offenders were being sent to approved schools, I think the House would require an explanation of the reasons—for example, whether it was decided that there was greater advantage from this method as compared with other methods, or something of that kind. But as a matter of fact that is not the case at all, and I think the House will be interested to have the figures. It we go back to 1928, we find that in that year the percentage of children found guilty in the juvenile courts who were sent to approved schools was 9.75. In 1929 it was 8.89; in 1930, 9.84; in 1931, 9.76; in 1932, 9.57; in 1933, 9.59; in 1934, 10.00; and in 1935, 9.21. That is less than the figure for 1928. I think the Committee will broadly agree that there is no evidence that the courts are making increased use of this method of dealing with juveniles.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to what he called the increasing wave of juvenile crime, but I was very glad that the hon. Member who spoke last threw doubt upon that conclusion from his own practical experience. We feel at the Home Office that there is a great deal of loose and unjustified talk about a wave of juvenile crime. There are many reasons why one might take this view. First of all, we are experiencing at the moment a very considerable rise in the juvenile population. It is the "bulge" that we referred to in our discussion on the previous vote. We should naturally expect more offences by boys if there were, say, four boys for every three that there were before. One of the most important points is that there is undoubtedly less reluctance among the authorities to bring cases of juvenile delinquency before the courts, because of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933. They feel that the welfare of the child itself is going to be more considered than it has ever been before when children come before the court, and they have not, therefore, the same reluctance to bring them before the court. They have not the same incentive to deal with it by a mere cuff on the head and tell the child not to be silly in future. They feel in an increasing number of cases that it is really going to help the child.

I ought perhaps to refer at this point to the argument raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thornbury (Captain Gunston), as to whether care and protection cases and actual juvenile delinquents are dealt with in separate classes. They are not dealt with in separate classes, which may surprise my hon. and gallant Friend, but the reason is one which I believe, will be most appreciated by those who are most closely connected with this work. It partially springs from the point made by the hon. Member who spoke last, that the delinquency in many cases is not in itself serious, but it may be felt that it is likely to be repeated and may lead to more serious crimes in the future. But those who have most experience of the work seem to take the view that the borderline between care and protection cases and actual delinquents is a very misty borderline indeed. After the Iast Debate, in which the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) said he thought these schools were something in the nature of prisons and not little Etons and Harrows, I made a special point of visiting some of them and I was more than ever impressed by the work that is being done. There is no question whatever of their being prisons in the ordinary sense, and in fact there are better grounds for comparing them with the public schools. On the last occasion when a selection had to be made of a master in an approved school, we had an application from a former Housemaster at Harrow and another from a master at Marlborough. This illustration may serve to give the Committee some idea of the nature of the training and instruction that is provided by our schools.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

Whereupon Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Mr. Munro.]

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

The remaining Order was read, and postponed.

Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.

Adjourned at One Minute after Four o'Clock until Monday next, 7th June.