HC Deb 10 June 1937 vol 324 cc2094-6

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed. "That the Bill be now read a Second time."

10.46 p.m.

Mr. Westwood

I hope that we shall have some explanation from the Government side of the House of this Bill. We have gone part of the way on Scottish Bills and have given our support, and it only proves that, with a good working team on both sides of the House, we can at least get something done for Scotland. It is obvious that we ought to have some explanation of this particular Bill. I understand that it is a consolidating Bill. Those who are responsible for the initiation of this work will definitely welcome a Bill which seeks to consolidate the various Acts particularly dealing with children and young persons in Scotland. There are one or two points in connection with which I am not sure whether it will be possible, even in the Scottish Standing Committee, to move the necessary Amendments. The Secretary of State for Scotland knows all the difficulties which have been facing local authorities in the setting up of these juvenile courts, which are very necessary in the administration of justice and in the interests of trying to save young persons from being branded as criminals, when, in many instances, it is merely a misdemeanour which has brought them before the courts.

I understand that at the present time there are only three juvenile courts under the Children and Young Persons Acts already in operation in the whole of Scotland. Difficulties have been created, because it was understood that no provision had been made for the payment of the expenses of these courts. In another place, that matter was finally disposed of last Monday, and now there is definitely a House of Lords decision as far as the Fife case is concerned. Not only is there need for consolidation, but if we are to make effective the operation of the Children and Young Persons Acts in Scotland there will have to be some provision to enable local authorities to meet the necessary expense. My coin-plaint on this Bill, which deals with consolidation, is similar to that on the preceding Bill. New duties are being cast upon the local authorities and no financial provision is made for the purpose of enabling them to carry out those duties. I should like to know whether it will be possible, even on a consolidating Bill of this nature, when we reach the Scottish Standing Committee, to move an Amendment which is suggested by the County Councils Association, which would enable these courts to be set up more rapidly than has been the case in the past. The Amendment I would suggest—and I want to know whether it could be considered in Committee after this Bill has passed its Second Reading in this House—is that there should be an addition to Subsection (7) of Clause 101 as follows: Notwithstanding anything contained in the foregoing Sub-section of this Section the local authority shall not be liable for any part of the expenses of juvenile courts Those of us who are responsible for administration are desperately anxious to assist in the good work that could be carried out by giving effect to the Sections of the Children and Young Persons Acts that enable us to set up these juvenile courts, and would like the expenses of the courts to be borne by the State instead of wholly by local authorities, as is the case at the present time. I trust that we may be able to get some guidance and information from the Lord Advocate. We welcome the consolidation on this side and there will be no opposition.

10.50 p.m.

The Lord Advocate

In saying, as the hon. Member did, that this was a Consolidation Bill, he really answered the question that he subsequently put. All that is contained in this Bill is provisions, not all the provisions but the relevant provisions, relating to persons under 18 years contained in four Statutes—one in 1910, one in 1928, one in 1932 and certain provisions of the Education (Scotland) Act, 1936. As the House is probably aware, the Bill has been submitted to the Joint Committee of both Houses on Consolidation Bills, who have reported their opinion that the Bill is pure consolidation and represents the existing law of Scotland. It is not for me to indicate, even by way of an estimate, what would or would not be in order on a subsequent stage of the Bill, but having regard to the limited nature and purpose of the Bill, the hon. Gentleman will see for himself the difficulty of framing an Amendment to this Measure in relation to the case which was decided this week and to which he referred. Whether that question should or should not be dealt with in a further Measure is another question which I have not considered and have no authority to speak on. So far as this Measure is concerned, I present it to the House as one which puts the existing law in a convenient form without introducing any change, and as such I submit that it be now given a Second Reading.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole House, for Monday next.—[Captain Dugdale.]