HC Deb 01 March 1938 vol 332 cc954-72

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £61,900, 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, 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.

5.8 p.m.

Sir S. Hoare

This Vote is in some respects very similar to the last one, but it deals with boys and girls of a younger age. Here, as in the case of the boys and girls of Borstal age, we find that there is an increase in numbers in recent years. That increase has been due to much the same reasons as those which I have described to the Committee in the case of the Borstal young people, namely, the Children Act; the growth in the population; the fact that the country's interest is much more keenly stirred by questions of this kind than it was in the past, and that as a result, greater use has been made of the treatment in the approved schools.

The first sub-head of this Vote deals with the increase needed in the actual schools. We want more places in the schools and we want more schools. I have had more than one opportunity since I have been at the Home Office of discussing this question with the local authorities. We have made it clear to them that we would be very glad if they would provide greater accommodation than exists at present. Sub-head A deals with the additional accommodation that has been provided during the last few months. Sub-head C covers a very interesting development. Until 1933, local authorities had no locus standi in questions of this kind. Children if they were boarded out were boarded out either with friends or other private persons or with institutions. In recent months we have drawn the attention of the local authorities to the power which they now have themselves of boarding out children in suitable homes. I sent out a circular on the subject in December and I have sent out another circular to-day. We found that while some local authorities were making use of this new power, others did not seem to realise its importance and had not yet started to use it.

My advisers tell me that one of the most frequent causes which lead to these children being sent to approved schools is the fact that they have a broken home life. There is very often nothing particularly criminal or malicious about the case, but it happens that the home life of the child has been broken up, it may be only for a short time, and that what is wanted is not so much a long period in an institution as family life in a private house. What we are trying to do is to draw the attention of the local authorities to the fact that this is a better way of dealing with many children. As I say, I have sent out a further circular on the subject only to-day and I hope one result of this Debate will be to emphasise the importance of getting these children into respectable homes and finding substitute homes for them, whether for a short or a long time.

Mr. Ede

If a local authority reaches the conclusion that an order of the court sending a child to an approved school is not as satisfactory a way of dealing with the child as boarding out in the manner which the right hon. Gentleman has just described, can the local authority vary the order of the court?

Sir S. Hoare

I think I had better leave that question to the end of the Debate. Let me again emphasise the importance of this new development. It is important in two ways. First it is a better way of dealing with many children; and, secondly, though these children may be very well treated in these boarding-out homes it is cheaper from the point of view of the taxpayer than if they were sent to approved schools. Both those points are important. It is, therefore, desirable that this power should be used wherever it can be safely and properly used. One of the reasons for Sub-head (c) is that more money is being spent in this direction, and I think it is money which hon. Members will think is very well spent.

Mr. George Griffiths

Suppose a boy is taken from his parents and goes into the home of a foster parent; his parents, I presume, will have to help towards his keep and then he will go back to his own home?

Sir S. Hoare

Yes, if his own home is a suitable place. The court has power to order the parents to contribute towards the expenses of maintaining the boy.

Sir J. Withers

Will there be any strict rules as regards supervision?

Sir S. Hoare

Yes, certainly. There is an effective organisation for that purpose. I can assure my hon. Friend that we have that point very much in mind.

In regard to remand homes, there again there has been a considerable extension in recent times. We need remand homes for several purposes. We need them for the custody of young people; but we need them most of all for the purposes of inquiry. I have been to one or two of these remand homes—I opened one the other day at Hull—and I was much impressed with the value of these homes for the type of investigation to which more than one hon. Member has already alluded. During the time a child is in a remand home there can be the most careful medical and general investigation into the case, with the result that better advice is available to the court as to the best kind of treatment. If hon. Members have visited some of the newer remand homes they will realise the advantages of this kind of investigation, and that the subsequent treatment of the child is more sympathetic, more intelligent and more likely to be successful than if we had not had so thorough an investigation into the child's character and general surroundings.

I am glad to say that local authorities are more and more building remand homes and developing the work in them. That is the reason for asking the Committee for this Supplementary Estimate. It shows that this work is developing. We regard it as very useful, and I am convinced that we shall find in the end that the expenditure is an economy, that the money has been well spent, and that by means of the development of this system of remand homes, by means of a greater variety and a greater number of approved schools, we shall be saving money by preventing young people from drifting into crime. Quite apart from the moral side of the problem it will prove to be an economy from the point of view of the State. After all, crime is one of the most expensive features of civilised life, and I believe we shall find in the end that we are saving money rather than spending more money. With this explanation I hope the Committee will approve the Supplementary Estimate.

5.22 p.m.

Mr. Rhys Davies

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

Again I am moving a reduction mainly for the purposes of discussion. The right hon. Gentleman has taken us into a little wider field than on the last Vote. We are now dealing with children and approved schools. In the first place, it must be understood that while there is a considerable increase in the number of children being dealt with by the Home Office, we must not run away with the idea that child behaviour is worse because of the figures which have been given to us recently. I sat some years ago on the Departmental Committee which dealt with juvenile delinquency. It was the committee which made the recommendations on which the Children Act was based. I learned more by sitting on that committee than I have during the whole time I have been in the House of Commons. There is nothing to startle anybody in the increase of the figures which have been given, because of one important consideration. Up to the passing of the Children Act a child of seven was supposed to know the difference between right and wrong. We changed that and raised the age to nine in the Act of 1935. That distinction made a difference in the figures which were shown later on.

In this Supplementary Estimate a new category of child is being dealt with, that is the child which comes under what is called care and protection, as distinct from a child who is supposed to have committed an offence. This, I think, is the best part of the work of the Home Office, and a tribute should be paid in passing to the staff of the children's branch for the good work that is being done for these little ones who have committed no wrong. A considerable number of the children covered by this Vote are children of parents who have quarrelled, some have never seen their fathers, and some are children of parents who are in gaol. These little ones have committed no wrong, they simply require care and protection, and I trust that the Home Office will press on local authorities that this type of child ought not to be sent to an approved school at all, but should be put into the ordinary family life of foster parents.

That is the main plea I want to make. But I also desire to raise again the question whether the Home Office cannot proceed to do something to classify these children. If there is one thing doctors and schoolmasters in these schools will tell you it is that the gulf between the mentality of one child and another is simply tremendous. Some of them are mentally deficient, mentally backward; some of them are very bright and, indeed, some of the most wicked little chaps are the cleverest very often. We must, I think, bear that point in mind. I hope that in the extension of the provisions for these children the Home Office will apply itself to this matter, and I make that appeal to the Government. The Under-Secretary in replying on the last Vote quoted a German expert who said that if you want to see modernity and up-to-dateness in prison reform you have to go to England. Since when has he been converted by any German? I can understand a Frenchman making such a declaration and convincing him, but the Under-Secretary knows full well that there are a few countries in Europe which classify these little ones according to their mentality.

The Deputy-Chairman

Order, order.

Mr. Davies

Yes, I know.

The Deputy-Chairman

That is a question which the hon. Member can argue on a later occasion.

Mr. Davies

I was afraid that I was overstepping the Rules of Order and I will confine myself strictly to the Vote. The Secretary of State when introducing the Estimate almost made us believe that remand homes were places where you sort out children as if they were parcels in the Post Office. Quite frankly, remand homes are often there because there are no approved schools to which to send them. Hon. Members on this side feel rather strongly on the question of keeping these children in remand homes, and we insist that as their numbers increase the Home Office should become more active and provide proper places in which to receive them. We ought to be told today how many children there are in the remand homes waiting for admission to approved schools. I should not be surprised to hear that the number ran into a thousand. When the courts have decided upon the training which these children ought to be given, they are kept in remand homes instead of being sent to the institutions to which the court has decided that they should be sent. I think that of all the problems confronting hon. Members in connection with the work of the Home Office, this is probably one of the most important.

In spite of the criticisms which I have made, I will conclude by observing that there has been a great improvement in the treatment of these children. My hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) will pardon me if I emphasise the question of the territorial and geographical location of these new schools. I would not like to see all of them congregated in one place, so that children from Lancashire were sent down to Kent, or, what would be more objectionable than anything else, children from Glamorgan sent to Cheshire. I think the Under-Secretary ought to give us some idea of the location and also some information as to how far the children are sent from their homes to the schools.

A very gratifying thing about the treatment of these children now is that they are allowed to go home to visit their parents, and I believe it is true to say that in many cases, once the children have visited their homes, they want to go back again to the schools for further training. That is stated in a recent report. If that be true, then there has been a great change in the treatment of these children. Of course, hon. Members on this side want this money to be spent and want to support the Home Office in the excellent work which they are doing; but I assure the Under-Secretary that we are not satisfied with having these Votes before us year after year—for this is not the first occasion—while there is a continuance of these remand homes and a shortage of accommodation in the schools for these children. The Under-Secretary will have to deliver a very eloquent speech to-day if he wants to secure this Vote without a Division.

5.33 p.m.

Mr. Benson

I suspect that it would be out of order for me to reply to some of the details raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) on the last vote, so I will not attempt to do so. I notice there has been a very large increase in the amount of this Vote, which has more than doubled in four years, and that increase has been much more rapid than the increase in the number of children sent to approved schools. Am I correct in assuming that the present amount includes heavy capital charges, that is, that where an approved school is built, the Treasury bears one-half of the capital cost? If that is not the case, it is difficulty to explain why, with an increase in the number of children from 6,500 to about 10,000, there should be an increase in the total cost from £220,000 to £480,000.

I was glad to hear the Home Secretary stress the importance of the courts dealing with children under the care and maintenance provision in preference to sending them to approved schools. It is unquestionable that, particularly in the case of small children, the children should go into homes and not into institutions, because the psychological development of the child demands a parent, even if it be only a foster parent. The Home Secretary also pointed out that the desirable type of treatment is cheaper than the less desirable type. I would like to carry that argument a step further. Under Sub-head A, which deals with approved schools, there is another category, special schools, at least four of which receive grants under this Sub-head. These special schools are for backward children and border-line cases of mentally defective children. That brings us to the question of the child guidance clinics, since a very large number of the special schools work in contact with those clinics. If a child has a satisfactory home and if the child responds to the influence of the child guidance clinic, it is not necessary to take him away from his home. Moreover, the cost is lower. The method of dealing with these children through the child guidance clinic is better than either of the other two methods.

I will give the Committee some details of the costs of the various methods of treatment. If a child is sent to an approved school, it costs approximately £86 per annum, and the child remains there, on an average, for nearly two years. To board a child out costs £39 a year. The cost of treating a child in the London Child Guidance Clinic is £8 15s., not per annum, but per child. Therefore, where a child can be treated by the child guidance clinic, there is the hope not merely of saving about £160 per child, but the hope that it will be possible to get rid of the child's delinquency without taking him away from his home.

I was glad to hear that the Home Secretary had been bombarding children's courts with circulars, pointing out the advantage of boarding the children out over sending them to approved schools; but I am not sure that circulars are enough. There is no need for me to remind hon. Members of what happens to most of the circulars that are sent to them, for hon. Members are experts in dealing with circulars. The fact that the Home Office send out circulars and that in many cases those circulars produce no result, suggests that a more intimate connection is necessary. In the last Report of the Prison Commissioners, the Medical Commissioner complained that no notice was taken of his circulars. If the superior courts do not take any notice of circulars, I am sure that the summary courts do not. Why cannot the Home Office get into personal touch with the courts? Why do they not send representatives to watch the courts at work? The presence of such a representative would not be resented, but welcomed. The magistrates, who are trying to do a difficult job without any training, for dealing with children undoubtedly is a difficult job, would probably be only too glad to have advice from a Home Office expert. I am convinced that if such a course were followed it would lead to the treatment of the children being far more suitable and economical than at present.

The Home Secretary referred to the large number of broken homes from which the children came. When a home is broken up, when there is a bad home or when there are immoral surroundings, the child has to be taken away; but from the Appropriations-in-Aid I gather that quite a number of these children do not come from that type of home. There has been a very big increase in these Appropriations-in-Aid, which are sums paid by the parents. Broadly speaking, although it is not an absolute rule, when children come from homes where the parents can be assessed for weekly sums for the maintenance of their children, the homes are not like those described on page 44 of the report dealing with children. Any hon. Member who reads the appalling list of 150 homes given in the report will realise that the vast bulk of those homes do not contribute to the Appropriations-in-Aid. The homes which contribute are relatively good ones, and when a child comes from such a home, every effort should be made to keep him there. This should be done by seeing that the magistrates are advised to send such a child to a child guidance clinic for treatment or to put him on probation. The Home Office have a great deal to do in connection with the education of the justices who sit in the children's courts. That cannot be done by circulars, and I hope that the Home Office will take some steps to see that the children's courts receive personal advice from Home Office experts.

5.44 p.m.

Mr. Morgan

I would like briefly to put one or two questions to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. In the first place, I suppose I am right in assuming that, since the Committee is being asked to vote an increase of £55,000, there will not only be additional buildings, but some improvement in the services and in the personnel of the teaching and supervisory staff. I think that possibly there might be some improvement in the inspection of these schools. I am not over-anxious to have a multitude of inspectors, but I think it would be a good thing if some competent inspectors visited the schools now and again in the same way that inspectors go to ordinary schools. I should like a guarantee that we are to have better supervision and more skilled teaching. We assume that we are getting everything in these schools as nearly perfect as the Home Office can make them, but I am sure the Under-Secretary of State will acquit me of any unfairness, because I have already given him notice of certain matters that I wish to raise, when I ask him whether the Home Office are satisfied at the way in which these things are carried out in the different schools. I have given him some particularly glaring examples of schools conducted in a way in which they should not be conducted.

The Deputy-Chairman

I think the hon. Member will have to raise that question on the main Estimates.

Mr. Morgan

Then I will get back to my other theme, and say that I think we might take a leaf out of the Board of Education's book, and if we cannot get some co-operation with the Board of Education—

The Deputy-Chairman

I am afraid that this is not the appropriate occasion on which to raise that question either.

5.47 p.m.

Mr. Ede

I do not know whether the Under-Secretary of State could at this stage give me the reply to the question which I put to the Home Secretary with regard to the point which he was making in his speech as to the power of a local authority to vary an order of the court where it seemed more desirable that a child should be boarded out than that it should be sent to an approved school.

Mr. Lloyd

It is only the court that has that power.

Mr. Ede

I was afraid that that was so, because that seriously affects the line of argument that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was adopting. I suppose the real remedy would be for the local education authority, if they were to do what this Committee may not do, namely, to criticise a magistrate, to suggest to the master of the approved school that the court had made an error, and to ask that when the child had been there for some time, it should be released on a licence which would involve boarding out. I take it that that would be the way for the local authority to get round the difficulty created by the order of the court. I share very fully the view of the Home Secretary that in a good many cases boarding-out is preferable to committal to an approved school, and I feel, as one who is a member of both a juvenile court and an education committee that has to deal with the provision of approved schools, that the approved school ought to be the last resort in dealing with these children.

I hope that when the juvenile court is considering what to do with a child, it will pay particular attention to the advice that it may receive from the probation officer, the head of the remand home at which the child will probably have been staying, and the teacher who has had an opportunity of observing the child in its normal school life up to the time when it has come under the observation of the court. I am sure that what is wanted in these cases, in the court as well as in the approved school, is an individual consideration of each case and a refusal to generalise unnecessarily with regard to any particular child or alleged type of child that is brought in front of the court. I happen to be a governor of one of these 14 new schools mentioned on page 18, and I am sure, from the little observation that I have been able to carry on there during the few months of the current financial year, that several children have been sent there who might with far greater advantage to themselves and to the community have been boarded out, at less expense and with a greater possibility of individual treatment. After all, in a reasonably small family, the child is more likely to be living a normal life where it can receive attention under normal conditions than in the best regulated school where it is living under school conditions and, quite frequently, under institutional conditions.

I also want to deal with the question of the remand homes, especially for girls. I think that the Home Office will have to give very serious consideration to a better grading of the remand homes, because the experience that I have had as a member of an education authority is that there is a greater variation in the minds and experiences of the girls who are sent to remand homes than there is in the case of the boys. Although we have had a remand home open for only a very few months, we have had two girls there who have rather melodramatically pretended to attempt to commit suicide. I do not think they really meant to do it, but they certainly gave great cause for alarm, and in neither case, I think, was it other than an example of melodrama and of a belief that if they could create a certain atmosphere about themselves, they would be rather differently treated than if they appeared at the court as mere ordinary juvenile delinquents who had not taken their present situation sufficiently to heart. Certainly one girl that we had there, a girl nearly 17 years of age, did present certain moral problems in association with younger girls that made her case exceedingly difficult.

We have not had to face the same trouble with regard to boys in the same degree, but I think there will really have to be, where it is possible, some grading of remand homes, so that even from the first time that a child is sent to a remand home it shall be sent to some place suitable to the grade, and that some of these children who are merely brought in because they are in need of care and protection—and this again applies more to girls than to boys—shall not be brought in contact with the type of child mind with which I have just been dealing. The child in need of care and protection is quite frequently—

The Deputy-Chairman

I have been listening carefully to the hon. Member, and I think that is a matter for the main Estimates and not for a Supplementary Estimate.

Mr. Ede

I will not dispute your Ruling, and I am grateful to you, Captain Bourne, for having been so kind to me as you have. I was hopeful that it might have come in under the wording with regard to remand homes on page 18, but I will leave that point. I do not share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) that what the magistrates want is a visit from a Home Office inspector. In fact, I do not know how he is going to get into a juvenile court at all, because the number of people who may be there is strictly limited by Statute, and fortunately Home Office inspectors are not included in the list.

The Deputy-Chairman

I am now quite convinced that, if that question arises at all, it arises on the Home Office Vote.

Mr. Ede

I am very glad to know that. I feel myself that we are at the moment still only in the experimental stages of this work. Undoubtedly, errors are being made, but I believe that the great majority of the people who are interested in the administration of this Act are very zealously trying to get the best possible results out of it, and that such errors as there may have been have been committed out of a desire to do the best that could be done for the children and perhaps on occasion to carry out some experiments by the courts which would be of a reasonably useful type for the benefit of other people. I sincerely hope that, as time goes on, these errors will decrease and that we shall get from this Act the great advantages that its authors hoped from it and that it ought to bring to the country. I can only say that anything that prevents the stigma of a conviction being placed on the child ought to be used to the uttermost, although I wish that on occasion it could be made clear that when a child is placed on probation, it really means probation, and that the visit to an approved school may be the only alternative if those opportunities are not used by the child. This is a very useful piece of legislation. I believe it has done a great deal of good already and that as our experiences accumulate, it will be even more useful to the community than it has been up to the present.

5.57 p.m.

Mr. Viant

I want to comment on the innovation that has been adopted by the Home Office in advising magistrates in the juvenile courts to adopt a new procedure, where possible in conjunction with the local authorities, of boarding out those boys and girls who come before them. As a nation we have always been proud of our homes and our family life. It has undoubtedly played a great part in the development of character, and I rather wish that the Home Office could find some ways and means of approaching the magistrates more intimately than by circular. I received a circular myself—

The Deputy-Chairman

I pointed out to a previous speaker that I thought I was mistaken in letting him raise that point, and I also stopped the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). It really comes on the main Home Office Vote, and the hon. Member cannot on this Estimate deal with circulars from the Home Office.

Mr. Viant

I said that, Captain Bourne, by way of preface, in order to lead up to the difficulties with which the magistrates in juvenile courts are confronted at the present time, and—

The Deputy-Chairman

We cannot discuss juvenile courts on this Estimate.

Mr. Viant

If juvenile courts are mentioned, it is by reason of the fact that it is preliminary to the consideration of the approved schools and remand homes. I welcome this increased expenditure in connection with the remand homes, for this reason, that in the county of Middlesex alone we are sadly short of remand homes. I know of case after case in the Willesden Court where we have been held up, the probation officer not knowing where to place boys and girls by virtue of the fact that there were no remand homes available. I think I should be justified in making an appeal to the Under-Secretary of State this evening to use his good offices to prevail upon the county authorities to see that more remand homes are made available, so that the magistrates and the probation officers shall not be at their wits' end to know where to put these boys and girls for the time being. We invariably find that a number of remand homes are unsuitable for the boys and girls with whom we have to deal. I hope the Under-Secretary will see that the authorities responsible for the provision of remand homes realise their obligations.

I welcome the innovation of boarding out juvenile delinquents in good homes. The magistrates with whom I am associated in Willesden feel that it is a useful innovation, and I hope that greater publicity will be given to it. I rather fear that a number of education authorities may feel that it will mean greater expenditure being imposed on them. I hope the Home Office will use its influence with the Treasury to persuade it of the point of view that has been placed before the Committee this afternoon, that this is not a waste of expenditure and will ultimately lead to greater economy. Greater economy is to be effected by boarding out juveniles in good homes than by putting them in large buildings such as approved schools. I would also appeal to the Home Office to prevail upon the magistrates to appreciate the good work that can be done by the child guidance clinic as a preliminary to their being placed in homes. The main problem is to understand the psychology of these boys and girls, and if the magistrates can do that they can get a fairly good idea of the cause of the trouble. If they are unable to do it it is difficult to know how to assist the boys and girls and to put them on the road where the best traits in their character will develop and be used to the benefit of the community.

6.3 p.m.

Mr. Lansbury

I agree that good homes are the best places to which to send these children, but I am not sure that we always find the best homes. I have had a good deal to do with boarding out children, and my own feeling is that great care is needed, and probably much more inspection of the homes. I should like to ask whether the Home Office is working in co-operation with any of the county authorities which have residential schools, such as the London County Council. I heard the other day that there was a movement afoot to draft into these schools boys and girls who, for one reason or another, had become troublesome and chargeable to the authorities, instead of sending them to some special school. If that is to be done it is an excellent suggestion. I understand the proposition is that the boys or girls should go to a residential school and be treated like all the other children. If that is being done, I wondered how long it has been in operation and what has been the result. I have not been able to verify the matter, but I would like to know whether that is the case, because if a child is boarded out it has to go to school, and it usually goes to an ordinary elementary day school.

The more these children can be mixed with other children the better. If it is impossible to get sufficient homes for them, it would be well to use ordinary county residential schools, which used to be called Poor Law schools. There ought to be co-operation to that extent between the local authorities and the Home Office. I am not bothered about whether this would be a saving or not. I am concerned that, as far as possible, what are called the bad children or the children who are likely to become bad should not be segregated. It is better that they should be mixed up with others. I do not believe that as a rule, although there are exceptions, their influence would be injurious to other children

6.8 p.m.

Mr. Lloyd

I would like to give as much satisfaction as I can to the Committee without trespassing on the Rules of Order. I think there is broad agreement about this subject and about the question of boarding out. Everyone agrees that, where it is possible, the circumstances of natural home discipline are best. That does not mean that every case is suitable, because some cases are really difficult and need the more rigid instruction of an institution. Anybody who has the slightest experience of remand homes or of juvenile courts knows that some of the offences committed by the children are things that quite a lot of us have done in the past. The younger ones particularly ought to be looked upon with an understanding eye, especially in care and protection cases where is is a question of trying to substitute for the lack of a good home something that will take its place. Obviously, to give them a good home is the best thing to be done.

I would like to make a point which is strongly felt in the Home Office. It really develops from the point I have made that some offences are very slight and develop more from the difficult circumstances in which the child lives than from any real vice in its nature. There is not much difference fundamentally between children who are in need of care and protection and children who have actually committed a small offence. The children in the care and protection class are those in bad circumstances who are, no doubt, just about to commit an offence if the process goes a little further, whereas those who have just committed an offence are those who have just crossed the border line.

Mr. Silverman

Is not the fact that in the case of some of the children who are care and protection cases, no fault on the part of the children is alleged?

Mr. Lloyd

I agree. There is a legal distinction between the two classes, but from a common sense point of view, there is no distinction. The Committee has been anxious to know whether our methods of pressing the importance of boarding out and seeing that those methods are sufficiently and properly adopted are satisfactory. We have sent out circulars to magistrates, but we have also adopted other methods. We have had conferences of magistrates and we are in intimate touch with the Magistrates' Association. A number of magistrates also come to consult us at the Home Office, and two were there this morning asking advice about this matter. It would, as the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) said, be an action, although well-intentioned, which was liable to be misunderstood, if we sent representatives of the Home Office to the juvenile courts. We had better keep off that.

We have sent out a circular to-day to the local education authorities who play a keen part in the question of boarding out, perhaps even more than they do in regard to general methods of treatment of children coming from juvenile courts, because they have a two-fold function in regard to it. First, they can suggest to the court—when they are giving the history of a child—methods of treatment, which may or may not be adopted by the court. Therefore they have the first say. Second, the court cannot just dump children on to the local education authority as fit persons to be boarded out without the consent of the authority. Therefore, the authority has another important position in that it can make plain to the court that it has to be consulted. We have sent out a circular to-day to the authorities emphasising the importance of adopting this procedure of boarding out in proper cases.

The other question concerned remand homes. I agree, and I know that my right hon. Friend does, that although useful work is done in remand homes it is not desirable that children should be kept in them for too long. Children have been kept in remand homes too long in recent times because of the congestion in the schools, following on the Children and Young Persons Act recently passed. I think the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies) did exaggerate the position a little when he feared that there might be thousands of children in remand homes, and asked the actual figure. I am glad to be able to tell him that it is not an alarming figure. Each quarter a census is taken of the boys and girls waiting in remand homes and at the end of December there were 310.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Is the number increasing?

Mr. Lloyd

No, decreasing, and it is quite a substantial decrease on the position earlier in the year, when I think a peak point was reached. Of those 310 97 were Roman Catholics, a point which should be noted, because the Roman Catholics are particularly keen to get children into their own schools as early as possible, and they are making increased provision for them. I think this Committee will be pleased that the figure is not so large as some of us might have feared, and that it is definitely tending downwards.

Mr. Ede

Can the hon. Gentleman say how long it is, when a Roman Catholic boy has been sent by the court to an approved school, before he can find a place in one? I heard only yesterday of a Roman Catholic boy who has been waiting 72 days for a place in a Roman Catholic approved school.

Mr. Lloyd

I could not say off-hand how long it is before a Roman Catholic boy can get into a school. There may be difficulties in a particular case, but I think the case the hon. Member mentions must be an exceptional one. I understand that the Roman Catholics are now very busy making provision for further approved schools, and perhaps it will be better if we leave it at that point, because they are doing their best.

Mr. Rhys Davies

In view of the very clear explanation of the hon. Gentleman, especially in relation to the hundreds in remand homes, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Resolved, That a Supplementary sum not exceeding £61,900, 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, 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.

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