HC Deb 22 February 1945 vol 408 cc942-4
41. Dr. Edith Summerskill

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many charitable homes for children are not inspected by Government officials; and how many children are resident in these homes.

Mr. H. Morrison

It is provided in the Children and Young Persons Act that any home or other institution for the boarding, care and maintenance of poor children or young persons, being a home or other institution supported wholly or partly by voluntary contributions, shall send prescribed particulars to the Home Office, and all such homes are subject to inspection by Government inspectors. There are a few charitable homes so well endowed that they do not depend on voluntary contributions: the number, I understand, is very small, but I am not in a position to furnish the statistics asked for.

Dr. Summerskill

In view of the general disquiet which has been caused by the disclosures about these homes and about cruelty to children, will my right hon. Friend acquire powers to inspect every home?

Mr. Morrison

That is a matter which will come within the terms of reference of the Committee which is to inquire into the provision of homes for children, and no doubt they will give very considerable attention to it.

Sir Joseph Lamb

Is not the whole of this trouble caused very largely by the shortage of staff, and also of inspectors?

Mr. Morrison

That is undoubtedly a difficulty which the House, and also the Press, must take fully into account. All these places, whether municipally or privately conducted, have great difficulty in getting adequate staff in present conditions.

Earl Winterton

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "subject to inspection"? Does that mean that there is a regular inspection, or only an occasional one?

Mr. Morrison

It means that, legally, they are capable of being inspected; and we inspect them as far as time permits and with such regularity as we can. But it is a very big job, and the number of inspectors is very limited just now.

Viscountess Astor

At this moment, when the country is so disquieted about some of the shocking homes and about the conditions of children, will the right hon. Gentleman tell people that there are some magnificent homes,, and magnificent women working in them, and that it is wrong to let the world think that England is behind any other country in looking after its children?

Mr. Morrison

I agree with the spirit of what my hon. Friend has said. I think there is some danger of our getting that wrong impression.

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