§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Captain Bing.]
§ 12.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Austin (Stretford)
It is a far cry from Burma to the subject which I propose raising this afternoon. The subject of juvenile delinquency, however, is of the greatest importance, and, I am sure, one that commands the interest of all parties in the House. Since I put down this subject for Debate, I have been questioned on whether I am a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher, a psychologist or just somebody studying sociology and its various aspects. My only relationship with this subject is that of a layman, and approaching juvenile delinquency as a layman, I feel that I am raising a matter that needs ventilation, and certain aspects of which may have been overlooked by the experts.
It is a recognised fact that the main contributory factor in juvenile delin- 808 quency in the past has been poverty due to industrial depression. That poverty has brought with it conditions of squalor and misery in homes throughout the country, which gave rise to much of the juvenile delinquency and much of the crime that followed in the train of adolescent tendencies in that direction. It is a peculiar paradox that, with the coming of the war, we have had a certain dissipation of the poverty which existed, but this has brought in its train other features of an equally evil nature. I refer, first, to the wartime factor of lack of parental control. Throughout the length and breadth of the country, many a father has had to go into the Forces to serve his country; the wife has had to go into a factory, likewise to serve her country, and the children have been left at the mercy of circumstances and the vagaries of life, without any parental control.
Then we have seen the effect on many of our young people of the earning, in factories and in commerce, of abnormally high rates of pay. That has not been a commendable feature of present-day life, but it was unavoidable, owing to the shortage of labour. In consequence of it, young people have had an overrated opinion of themselves, and have been able to spend more money than is good for them. A third factor which has contributed largely to the increase in juvenile and adolescent delinquency has been one which is unavoidably associated with war time, and that is the consorting of our young girls with troops. I think it only fair to the troops to say that, in the main, it is not the fault of the Services, in any form at all. In the main, it is the diseased mentality of some of these young girls that leads them to throw themselves at the heads of the troops, and, in some cases, to affect their lives and future for many years to come.
I was very interested in the Report issued by the Board of Education entitled, "The Youth Services after the War." I propose to read one passage from the Introduction, which I think has some bearing on the subject under discussion. It is:It may seem rather late in the day to say anything of the spirit in which our young people have faced the test of total war. But we, who are in daily contact with them, wish to pay our tribute to the enthusiasm and endurance which the vast majority of men 809 have shown, in the Services, in their work, or in. the many and varied voluntary activities they have undertaken. We are convinced that they will respond to the challenge of the post-war world just as courageously as they have met the challentge of war, if only they can be offered as careful and thorough a training for citizenship as they are now given for battle. Given such training, we believe that the great majority of them will grow up to be individuals physically, mentally and spiritually playing their full part as adult members of the kind of society we wish to see, that is, a society which can only function effectively if all its members take an informed and responsible share in its activities. This is the end to which our recommendations are directed.If there is to be that courageous attitude of challenge by our young people towards the future, they must be helped to defeat the effects of the aftermath of war and the conditions it has created. I visited Germany last week, and there I saw the wreckage, and the trail of broken lives, and destruction and disease staring one in the face. Even then I thought of the broken lives and wreckage that stare us in the face in this country if we are courageous enough to face the fact. What are the reasons for this? Obviously, there has been a tremendous misuse of leisure amongst the young people of our country, and it is our responsibility to redirect the activities of our young people, in as parental and humane a fashion as possible, into channels that will make for a better life and a better spirit. Certain anomalies exist in our laws that rather puzzle me, and I shall be grateful if the Under-Secretary will give me an answer to these questions. The evil of drink, for instance, is fully recognised. But I do not know whether it was due to the manifestation of too much arsenic in beer, or the incidence of "Red Biddy," that we did eventually develop some agitation— though not without some difficulty— to control the evil of drink. I do not wish to be misrepresented. I do not speak as one who is not partial to a glass of beer now and again; indeed I rather enjoy a glass of beer. But I think all these things should be taken in moderation. If, in the past, we have recognised the evils of drink and created some sort of control of it, then, I submit, we must recognise today certain other evils, that are, in my view, equally important.
There may be an opinion that we have overcome, to a great degree, the incidence of the evils of drink, but, if we have, I submit that we have only done so at the 810 Cost of a greater incidence of other evils. Certain other distractions in modern life have turned our young people away from drink, I would refer, firstly, to greyhound racing and, secondly, to public dances. I do not approach this matter in any sense as a prude. I say that, if there is a law against the entry of young people under 18 into a public-house, then, in the same way, we ought to debar them from greyhound racing and public dances. From the information afforded me by the Under-Secretary, I learn that there is no limit to the age of people entering either a public dance hall or a greyhound racing track. I think we must assume, if we look at this in a broadminded spirit, that, on the greyhound racing tracks today, there are many young people under 18 who, whilst not permitted to bet, under the Betting and Lotteries Act, are yet allowed to frequent racecourses. Is one to assume that there is a policeman available to every juvenile, to see that he does not come into contact with evil influences? In regard to public dances, it may well be that our young people today are improving their style in regard to "jitter-bugging," and the other features of acrobatic dancing, but I can hardly feel that it makes them likely to be good citizens in future.
I have experience of public dances, particularly in wartime, and I say, in all humility, that they have a bad effect on our young people. I have no quarrel with private dances, because, in the main, at private dances one can be assured of a certain measure of adult association and surveillance. But, at public dances, I would assure the House there is a spirit that is a terrific menace to our young people. I hope that if the Under-Secretary and his Department cannot see their way to the introduction of legislation to prevent those under 18 from entering public dances, perhaps they may view sympathetically an age limit of 16, and make a compromise in this matter.
There is another feature in our public life about which I feel most strongly. If I may use the words of the song—and I speak as a Devonian—In Brixham, down Devon way,A-nestling by the sea,I was shocked to see, in 1941 or 1942, on a Sunday afternoon, a pin-table saloon, of all things. In that picturesque village this was what is euphemistically described 811 in other parts of the country as a "sports palace," or a "sportsdrome," or an "amusement arcade." I feel these things are closely associated with the superficial, garish, harsh forms of life which have developed here to a certain degree by American influences, and I would like to have the views of the Under-Secretary on whether it is proposed to effect some sort of control on pin-table saloons. There is a very dangerous feature in pin-table saloons. It is a well-known fact that humanity is gregarious. Even more so are the youth of the country gregarious. Where do they foregather? In these pin-table saloons planing mischief, because they are tempted by a type of life of which I am sure the House does not approve.
Now I come to the major evil and one about which I feel more strongly than any of which I have yet spoken—the influence of Hollywood on our young people. If there were any sense, any rhyme or reason about Hollywood, I would be inclined to view it with a little more toleration. I appreciate the cinematic value of the films, their educative value to our young people, if presented in the proper form, but I would submit that, in the main, Hollywood functions in this country only with regard to box-office profits, and the more mush they can put on the screen, the greater are the box-office profits. So we have our young people leaving the cinemas after two or three hours' session, enraptured by those wonderful profiles they have seen on the screen and confirmed in their view that they themselves resemble whichever sex they may be—Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, Greta Garbo or one of the most luscious young females who are forced on our vision every day. I submit that it is about time the Home Office, or whatever authority is responsible, did something about this growing menace of Hollywood and its influence. I appreciate that to-day we have the British Board of Film Censors which draws a line of demarcation between "A" and "U" films, but that is not enough. Whilst I did not approve whole-heartedly of the Hayes organisation of America, some such feature might be organised in this country with a view to protecting the minds and the emotions of our young people from some of the worst elements of America protrayed on the screen. I ask hon. Members not to mistunderstand me; I am not 812 referring to the individuals in Hollywood as the worst elements of America—may they rest contented in their glamour.
So far I have been destructive and critical. Obviously, there is a duty on my part to try to be constructive. In my view there are various antidotes existing in this country that are not being made use of as well as they might be. At the same time there are certain anomalies existing in this country, the removal of which would make for greater co-ordination in the beneficial treatment of our young people. Firstly, may I say that I fear, in a very large degree, that the age of magistrates functioning in juvenile courts, is often too remote from the ages of those they are trying. I would ask the Home Office to give this matter their immediate attention. If we are to have magistrates who are capable and competent and able in some degree to reflect the attitude and spirit of young people they ought to be younger. They ought to be within reach of the younger generation, those who, shall we say, have children and not grandchildren, from whom to draw their experience.
§ Mr. Austin
I am not in any way opposed to magistrates having grandchildren, but I feel that if they think in terms of a grandchild mentality, they are not fitted to deal on the bench with our juvenile offenders. I am not approaching this in a spirit of a Mrs. Grundy, swishing voluminous skirts and trying to stifle public opinion; I am not asking for a censorship of any kind or for a curfew on our young people. I want them to feel unrestricted and at liberty, not asked to go to bed at 9 or 10 o'clock. However, I feel we ought to have some more progressive outlook in this matter than has been the case hitherto. I would suggest then that we do all we can to encourage the development of youth organisations. I am the product of a youth organisation, where I indulged in physical culture and in certain exercises both of a mental and a physical nature. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may be amused. I may not be an advertisement for physical culture; I may not be an advertisement for youth organisations. But I contend that the youth organisations are essential to the 813 wellbeing of the country, particularly in the light of the conditions existing today.
Again, I have often felt that I benefited very greatly as an elementary school boy from the advantages that were offered me by evening-classes, and I would like to see greater encouragement offered to our youth in that respect. A new feature that has developed in wartime has been that of welfare work in factories. I hope this will be retained in the factories, primarily, of course, to deal with the difficulties that arise in the everyday life of the men and women working there, but one salient point in regard to that welfare work has been the treatment they have been able to offer to the young people working in those factories. I suggest, therefore, that the Home Office should do all in its power to encourage welfare work for the young people in our factories. Allied to what I have just said is the question of who is to be instrumental in "putting over" these youth organisations, this development of a new spirit amonst our youth. Would it be possible for the Home Office to cast a kindly eye in the direction of Class B releases for youth leaders? It is within my knowledge that there are in the Services today, many youth leaders who functioned very well in civilian life, and who did an excellent job in trying to mould the minds and the hearts and the spirits of the young people. If, today, we are building houses and reconstructing our social fabric in every shape and form, I submit there is an equally strong case to be made out for the release of youth leaders from the Services to help our young people to lead proper lives.
I would end by saying this, that we have seen, willy nilly, the development of a cheap, shallow, superficial outlook on the part of many of our young people and I would use the words of the Lord President of the Council who, in a Debate some time ago, described the spirit abroad as a "Piccadilly Circus atmosphere." What I see today amongst our young people is a Piccadilly Circus spirit allied with the "honky-tonk" of the saloons of America. I feel that spirit is prevalent and recognised throughout the country, and almost every parent to whom I have spoken has expressed concern about the decadence of our young people. I know it is often the case that when we leave adolescence, we like to look back in retrospect and consider how superior we were at that age to the young 814 of today. Making allowance for that—and I speak as a comparatively young man—I feel there is lurking in our midst this menace of a cheap, shallow, artificial atmosphere and spirit amongst our young people. They are lured by the things portrayed on the screen, their senses are corrupted by the everyday influences which I have outlined in some degree. On those grounds I feel certain that I have been justified in raising this most important matter. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will give me a satisfactory reply in regard to the question of legislation prohibiting young people under 18 years of age from entering a greyhound racing track, likewise public dances, and above all I would ask if he can give his attention to the evil of Hollywood and the menace it connotes for the youth of this country.
§ 12.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Bechervaise (Leyton. East)
I am glad this matter has been raised, if only to give the House an opportunity of expressing its appreciation of the work done by voluntary workers for adolescents and those in the upper age ranges of the elementary schools. There are thousands of people up and down this country who have been spending their time and their money in the interests of our young people, and I think they deserve a tribute.
This problem is not, of course, a new one. The late Government recognised it and early in the war, in a memorandum they published in 1941, endeavoured to draw the attention of local authorities to it. In the first four months of the war there was an increase of 28 per cent. amongst adolescents guilty of indictable offences, and authorities were circularised with a view to calling their attention to this very important and distressing fact, so that they might exercise such powers as they had to alleviate the situation. Unfortunately, however, by January and April, 1940, that delinquency had increased to 62 per cent. It dropped later, in May and August of that year, to 33 per cent. The counties—and I have in mind Essex and Middlesex—started to make inquiries, and in ten months—that is in 1941 and 1942—they discovered that in Essex, for instance, junior boys were charged with larceny to a considerable extent. There were 14 boys of the age of 17, 11 boys of about 15. Among the 815 seniors there were 55 charged. There were seven junior girls charged and 12 seniors. In the case of senior boys, in June of 1942 there were 41 charged. So there is some evidence that during that period serious crimes were committed by these young people.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin) has dealt with some of the causes of the trouble, so I will not go into those, but I will give some figures as a comparison between 1938 and 1942. The number of boys convicted in the County of Essex in 1938 was 437. By 1939 that figure had increased to 570. In 1940 it was still 570.In 1941 there were 609. Amongst the girls the position was not so bad. In 1938 there were 42; in 1939 there were 28; in 1940 the figure jumped to 55, and in 1941 to 63. However, I do not think those figures give quite the picture, because the child population in Essex decreased as a result of evacuation. The total for both boys and girls showed 74 per cent. in 1939, 97 per cent. in 1940, 98 per cent. in 1941, and 83 per cent. in 1942—just nine months in that particular period.
§ Mr. S. H. Marshall
Has the hon. Member any figures showing the number of men or women—parents—charged with child neglect during this period?
§ Mr. Bechervaise
I have not, but I have no reason to believe that the figures went up to any considerable degree, because it would be difficult to charge people who were out at work with child neglect. I have concentrated on the figures relating to adolescent delinquency. Middlesex, which I think the House will agree is a go-ahead county, held an inquiry into this matter, and they, too, found that in those years the problem was becoming a serious one. The number of children brought before juvenile courts in 1938–39 was: boys 2,705, girls 253, total 2,958. In 1939–40 there were 2,939 boys and 422 girls, a total of 3,361. The figures were going up as the war proceeded. In 1940–41 the number of boys went up to 3,327 and girls to 579, a total of 3,906.For those three periods the total of boys and girls was 10,225, out of a child population in that county of 263,000.
In the course of that inquiry they took out the age-groups of these juveniles, and of 1,844 offences they found that 381 816 came into the age group of 16, 368 the age of 15, 268 the age of 14, and 269 the age of 13. From those age-groups down to the age of eight the figures fall, so it would appear that the problem existed largely in the age-groups of 13 to 16.Various explanations of this delinquency were sought, and I will give the view of the medical officer of the Harold Wood, Essex, Remand Home. He divided the boys into different categories: the first group medical defectives, the second group the very dull, the third group below average, the fourth average. He discovered that the first three groups produced 75 per cent. of all the delinquents, so there does seem to be some evidence that this delinquency is found among persons suffering some mental or physical defect. It would appear, also, that there are various causes for this delinquency apart from those referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford. There is the biological factor—young people suffering from either mental or physical subnormality which results in an inferiority complex and a sense of frustration.
I have had a long association with the activities of youth clubs, and my experience has been that these young people are not able to take part with their friends in such exercises as boxing, wrestling, football and so on, because such activities do not appeal to them. It is true that the "tough guy" of the films makes some appeal, but when they themselves get down to things that call for physical strain or physical risk they are not prepared to take that risk. Instead they indulge in all sorts of things with a view to attracting attention to themselves. It is the spoilt-child attitude of mind being desirous of attracting attention to themselves. Some of us, I think, do not altogether grow out of that attitude of mind when we reach the adult stage. Then certain social aspects of the problem developed during the war. There were the home conditions; the father had gone and the mother was either at work or, perhaps, did not rise to her responsibilities. Adverse economic circumstances also came in. Again, many of these young people went to work. Owing to the war many local authorities had not been able to keep up their staff of inspectors, and quite a number of young people were able to earn fairly large money and spent it riotously.
817 But it is no good discussing these things unless we have some remedies. It is true that the war has passed and that we are getting nearer to conditions which prevail in peace, but I think this problem is likely to remain with us for some little time. I suggest that there should be greater co-operation between the parent and the teacher, and that every encouragement should be given to the formation of parents' associations in connection with schools, so that direct contact can be maintained. Local authorities have also been handicapped as regards school attendance officers. More often than not quite a number of these juvenile delinquents do not attend school regularly, with the result that such good influences as obtain in school are lost. School attendance should be tightened up, so that fewer get through the mesh. There should also be more provision made for backward children. The evidence of the medical officer of the Harold Wood Remand Home shows that in the main the child who is a delinquent or manifests a tendency to delinquency is suffering from some biological defect, and therefore there should be more provision for backward children.
Now I come to an important topic. The Government, recognising the importance of this problem, put through the youth service Acts. We have been administering those Acts wholeheartedly in the county of Essex and we are proud of our activities, but, unfortunately, the provisions that were made were primarily for those of ages ranging between 14 and 21, and whenever a juvenile organisation approached the regional youth committee to get financial assistance the membership roll was inspected to see what proportion were under the age of 14, and if there was a large proportion under 14 and some over 21 the chances of getting a grant under the youth service Acts was not so good as if most of the young people were in the age ranges 14–21. There has been some vexation about that and I feel there ought to be more concentration on children between 12 and 14 in the youth service efforts because it would appear that delinquency is more rampant among children between 12 and 14 than among those between, say, 18 and 21.
I think, too, we ought to help bodies that cater for these young people, such as the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides, the Boys' Brigade and similar organisations, 818 which were in being many years before the war and before the youth service Acts. They were finding the money and giving their time and their services for training these young people. Unquestionably the best youth organisations are associated with the main religious bodies, and we ought to take note of that, and of the importance of providing a religious background in the training of these young people. There must be some sense of moral sanction and responsibility, some thing higher than ourselves, and the religious bodies have provided that, with the result that all the juvenile organisations associated with religious bodies have been very successful. I hope that in the future their work will not be forgotten and that everything will be done to encourage them. The South-West Essex Technical College did arrange a course of lectures with a view to inculcating in parents, particularly young parents, a sense of their responsibility in connection with children. Again, there is the question of sex instruction. Reference was made to young girls consorting with troops. One does not want to go into that rather distasteful matter apart from referring to it, but it has been very disappointing to see young girls, many of whom have probably only just left school, hanging about the places where soldiers congregate. Therefore, there should be some extension of the arrangements for giving sex instruction. I know that this is an exceedingly difficult question and that perhaps more harm than good can be done by clumsy instruction, but we ought to do the best that is possible and provide the best people for the job. Further, I think no child, even when the school-leaving age is raised, should be allowed to go to work whilst attending school. More child guidance clinics should be provided, and more instruction given in the proper use of leisure time.
Those are some suggestions which I put forward, and whilst I recognise that the Minister or Ministers responsible may not be able to deal with all these things, if it gets outside that this House is prepared to support all these activities it will be a great encouragement not only to the paid workers but to those who have voluntarily given much time to the service of these young people. There should be co-operation, too, between the probation officer, when he comes into the picture, the parent and the school. If they can be 819 brought together it will be of great help in achieving the object we have in view.
Then there is the question of the release of requisitioned halls. I know a number of churches and chapels in my own district that would be prepared to extend their activities in the service of youth and of adolescents if they had their premises. But many halls were taken over for rest centres, or were requisitioned by the military authorities, and are still being used for purposes other than those for which they were intended. The activities of these bodies are, therefore, considerably restricted. I know one chapel which was bombed out of its main hall, and which had one of its minor halls taken over for the storage of timber and odds and ends, why, I do not know. Ordinary meetings are held under difficult circumstances, and it is utterly impossible to carry on the other useful work which they have hitherto done. Enormous sums of money have been spent in the service of youth, and in future I feel that most of it should be devoted to those between the ages of 12 and 14. These young people are the citizens of the future. Already, grave damage has been done, although one cannot apportion blame. There are at our disposal all the instruments that are necessary to do the kind of work that is wanted, provided we can be given a little more freedom in expenditure, particularly on those between the ages of 12 and 14.
§ 1.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Bolton)
I deplore the fact that this House is almost devoid of interest in the subject we are discussing today. Fewer than 30 Members are present, which means that this question will not get the attention it merits. I do not stand here to argue the case that Britain has gone where the Roman Empire went, because only the other day we paid a tribute to millions of clean-minded young people of this nation who kept us from something much worse than what we are now discussing. But the fact remains that we have a problem which merits the serious attention of our nation, and it is our job to seek the remedy. Many Members have left this assembly to go to their homes and I, like them, am very anxious to get to a home where there are six fine young people. The question of what happens in the 820 home and who is responsible for it is what really matters. I do not altogether agree that because children are brought up in a house with two bedrooms they are more prone to do the things that are wrong than some of the people who have been brought up in houses with 30 bedrooms. I often hear from this side of the House accusations against Members opposite of taking part in legalised robbery and many of them have been brought up in the stately homes of England. Just as many criminals come from the so called stately homes as from the homes of the working class population. There is no doubt that overcrowding has a tremendous bearing on certain aspects of immorality and the other curses that beset us.
I believe that the breakdown in home life in this country is not altogether attributable to the war; it was breaking down before the war. I believe the things that used to happen in our homes—old-fashioned ideas, some call them—the prayer before bed time, and the reverence that was paid before meals, had a great bearing in keeping our nation on the right path. It does not follow that because we have statistics proving child delinquency we did not have it before the war. More people today are being found out. In the old days this delinquency went undetected; today, more children find themseves before the courts. I do not think we ought to spend too much time discussing why this problem has arisen. We ought to try to find out how to cure it. Although I am a teetotaller and non-smoker I have a drink for my friends at home and I always have cigarettes. I believe sincerely that much can be done by the provision of educational films for matinees on Saturday afternoons and early performances at the cinema, instead of the junk and "tripe" which are being shown to children nowadays.
With regard to parental responsibility, a father in the forces and mother coming home from a factory do not feel disposed to spend the same time in looking after their children as our own parents spent in looking after us. Times have changed. Children are encouraged to leave their home surroundings and become what is called "independent." Why not healthy educational films instead of the gangsterdom and the sex business and all other types of film which are displayed for children to see on Saturday afternoons? Nothing has been said about the responsi- 821 bility of the Church. I agree that it has tried to do its job, but the question is: Has it been successful? The answer is that respect for our Church institutions has broken down. A lot has been said about the materialistic things of life, but little about its spiritual side. I do not claim to be better than anyone else, in fact, I never go to church, but I claim that I am as near the Almighty when I do a bit of fishing, or when I am looking after my chickens, as a parson who is in his pulpit. I may be wrong, but that is what I believe. It is not a bit of use decrying the rottenness of our young people, and forgetting the millions of splendid characters there are in the country. I do not want to subscribe to the position as it has been painted, although I agree that it is bad enough. If this House and the Government and all responsible, decent people who believe in things which are Christian and right would direct their attention to this problem with a view to seeing what can be done I am sure that that would be a good thing. I know something of youth movements, but I do not want to say what I personally have seen following meetings of young people of 18 and under. I could give detailed information about what was discovered in the school yards and in and around places where those meetings were held.
Therefore, my plea today is that we should spend a little less time in discussing material and financial profit, and more in discussing the spiritual profit that can come about by building up the home life of our people. A big proportion of parents today do not pay the attention to their children that our parents paid to us, and there, in my opinion, lies the root of the trouble. I hope that responsible authorities will be able to do something, and that it will be said in the years ahead that this discussion, among so few, contributed a little, at all events, towards bringing about what we believe ought to be brought about in this country—a spiritual sense, and not only a materialistic sense. I hope that we shall be able to provide for our young people Christian and recreational pursuits so that they will not spend their time in ways that are against the best interests of a happy and prosperous Britain.
§ 1.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Skinnard (Harrow, East)
I was very depressed indeed by some of the 822 remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin), who seemed to suggest that the problem of juvenile delinquency was greater than I think it to be. I speak with a little authority on this matter, because for three years I was in charge of what was euphemistically termed "a special difficulty class, or centre." For 21 years I worked in a neighbourhood which was the poorest in a very large industrial town, and in which the young people in the area had a very unsavoury reputation. Then, thanks to the vicissitudes of the war, I was able to make certain researches into problems of juvenile delinquency in a delightful rural spot in the Midlands, and I came to the conclusion that very largely it was due to a frustrated sense of adventure. I am aware of the fact that a very large proportion of those who are haled before the juvenile courts are of subnormal mentality, but somewhere in the background, often the one not caught, is the girl or boy who is really responsible for that delinquency. The ones who have been clever enough not to be caught have influenced the subnormal youngsters because they have supplied something for their companions which the community has not troubled to supply.
If we had given these children the opportunities of developing their talents, and pursuing their adventures in legitimate, instead of illegitimate, spheres, trouble would not have arisen. If there is one thing we have learnt lately it is that we do not want to waste the pure gold of the talents of these people. During the war we have given the opportunity for adventure for the first time in the lives of many, I am sorry to say, to 6,000,000 young men and women, and praised them for using the same initiative for which we clap kiddies into remand homes. If they had been six years younger, many of the young V.C.'s and D.S.O.'s would have been in Dartmoor, Borstals or remand homes, for exercising the very same valuable instincts of initiative and courage for which they have been rewarded in the Services.
We have to redirect a tremendous stream of energy from destructive anti-communal delinquency into channels in which they can prove themselves, and in which they can feel the adventure of life.I always hesitate when anyone begins to suggest to the Home Office or any other Ministry any repressive legisla- 823 tion. If there is one thing which we, who have spent our lives in dealing with young people and trying to lead them—not push them—into the paths of right living believe it is this: "Never say 'Don't,' always say 'Do.' "We are being asked to press the Home Office to introduce repressive legislation, saying "You are not to enter here—you are not to enter dance halls and greyhound racing tracks." Why do the young people flock to these places? I do not believe that they do flock there in the great numbers suggested.
I have seen the other side of the picture—a club filled, night after night, by young people, 300 to 400 strong, in a neighbourhood formerly honeycombed with police cases, which it is now a pleasure for a constable to visit. I have seen the result of 20 years' constructive work in one of the poorest districts of North-West London. I have known the day—and this is a confession which I have to make—when for the first six weeks of my volunteering to go down there I walked in fear and trembling. I was pelted and sworn at. It was the most unhappy six weeks of my life—the most unhappy occasion until I came to make my maiden speech in this House, when I was so nervous that I could hardly stand. Yet it is a neighbourhood which, today, I claim as a model of working class neighbourhoods. Its dramatic club has won the all-London award for a magnificent production of "Hamlet." Hamlet in a working class neighbourhood! I would not have dared suggest it 20 years ago. But now, every year during the war, in spite of flying bombs and rockets, the local modern secondary school of working class children—where there used to be a delinquency centre we cannot support it now because we cannot find a delinquent to put there—has produced for the Red Cross fund a full scale production of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera, and there was a full house five nights a week, while the alerts were to be expected hourly. That is the kind of thing that can be done everywhere if we approach this matter from the right angle. "Don't say 'Don't,' always say 'Do.' "Let us say" Here is a chance for you to turn your talents in this direction. What about helping us to do this?"
824 I say this is not the job of the Home Office at all. It is pre-eminently the job of the Minister of Education. I would like to see remand homes and juvenile delinquency homes always under the constructive aegis of the Ministry of Education, and not under the necessarily repressive aegis of the Home Office. I have no doubt that the hon.Gentleman on the Front Bench is very pleased with what I am saying. He does not want more work, and I am sure he sympathises with me, and that he would rather hand over to the Ministry of Education the provision of opportunities for adventure. This is a matter of encouraging young people to find outlets for their energies in a constructive way.
§ Mr. Austin
I did not press for legislation to restrict the entry of young people into dance halls and greyhound racing tracks simply for the sake of legislation. I pressed for it on the grounds of parity of legislation, which does not allow young people to go into public houses. I want to make that quite clear. It is a question of bringing the law in regard to certain entertainments, as they are called, on to an equal footing with that which prevails with regard to drink.
§ Mr. Skinnard
I have always believed in adventure, and never believed in seeking security. As Stevenson said:This world is so full of a number of things I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.If there was one thing that ever gave me, when I was a youngster, the incentive to go over the mark dividing right from wrong, it was for someone to say, "You cannot do that; you cannot go there." There are so many places where it is rightful for young people to go, and so many places where there is fine fun and a splendid job of work to do. That is the spirit that has won this war. We have taken these young people into our confidence and tried, during this war, to put square pegs into square holes, and to harness all their energy, courage and resource. We encouraged youth because the country was in desperate need on account of the war. The country is still in desperate need. We have now to wage war against disease and ignorance, and we have to conquer by the same methods and by using the same valuable resources. 825 I was pleased to hear an hon. Member mentioning family life. Family life must be encouraged. We must get back to the little community within the larger. We want to help parents not to shelve their responsibilities, but to realise them more fully, and seek advice and assistance which could be freely offered. I would urge that in the future every county school to which there is not attached a parent-teachers' association should see that there is not only a parents-teachers' association, but that the children are encouraged to form their own clubs and run their own club life. One hon. Member spoke of the horrible things happening when a group of young people met, and there was no one over the age of 18 to take charge. I like to see these young people's clubs run by themselves. I do not want to see venerable-looking old buffers like me do more than start them. I claim that my work fails if young people cannot carry them on by themselves, after I have given an incentive and provided the first essentials of their preparation for community life. A community association should never rest without making complete provision for club life for its young people. The village colleges in Lincolnshire have shown us the way—where the senior school in the village is not only a senior school but akin to the wonderful high schools of the American Middle and Far West which are centres of the live social life of their townships.
In Cambridge we had something of that kind. The work done there is worthy of emulation by every county in this country. Presently we are going to have county colleges. Surely one of the jobs we must do in connection with these colleges is to create a community spirit, and then this delinquency problem for the age range within these colleges will disappear. When you know that what you are tempted to do is anti-social and you have been trained to be social, the problem of delinquency disappears.
I would like to see a more constructive view in the juvenile courts. The magistrates, I think, have greatly changed their former views. In this and many other parts of the country great help has been afforded to us by getting rid of the worst aspects of juvenile delinquency through the co-operation and understanding of enlightened benches. Now we have 826 understanding instead of repression, and I want to see the juvenile court principle extended and the juvenile court entirely divorced from the police buildings and younger magistrates appointed—the more teachers and young doctors appointed the better I shall be pleased. In every city there should be a juvenile organisation committee to help. Where these committees work properly they do not appear except as a sort of financial fairy godmother. Young people have their own sports association and can get training in social responsibility which they can never have in any other way.
One other matter which has been-tried in Dorset is to have juvenile delinquents placed on probation through their teachers. I have also heard it suggested that it would help very much if we were to put parents on probation instead of the children. These are a few suggestions out of 21 years' empiric research in this matter of juvenile delinquency. I am not despairing. I believe that juvenile delinquency is a result very largely of a misdirected, adventurous spirit, so strongly a feature of the make-up of our young people during the war. I would urge that rather than that we should think of ways to stop them from doing wrong or mischievous things, we should use our collective efforts to think of ways of encouraging them to do useful and interesting things.
§ 1.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
I rise to support especially the remarks of the last speaker. I thought that the Debate was coming on later and I apologise for not hearing the opener. I am glad to agree with the last speaker because on the occasion of his maiden speech, although we were old friends in matters of education, we found ourselves on opposite sides. I agree with his approach to this subject, and I hope that the Under-Secretary is going to give a new lead to the Government in its approach to the subject. At the time of the passing of the Education Bill I pleaded that this problem should come more under education and less under the Home Office. I will put the case to the Home Office as it was put to me in order to destroy it. This is the case I have heard: if you take away this juvenile work from the Home Office you take away one of the most constructive parts 827 of its work. That point has been put by the present Lord President of the Council. If you cease to have this healing work going on in the Home Office, that Department becomes too much concerned with the penal side. I know that the Under-Secretary would not dream of advancing that argument. But it has been put very seriously for many years. There is nothing in it. If the only excuse is that you are going to exercise some sort of healing influence on the general work of the Home Office it is time we stopped talking.
Let us look at this question from two angles. First of all take the age of so called delinquency, which is not delinquency at all in many cases; the peak period is between 11 and 14. I put down a question to the right hon. Lady last week asking if she would give assistance to voluntary bodies running clubs for children between the ages of 11 and 14. While I agree that the work done by local authorities is good there are many voluntary people willing to assist in this work. I read her sympathetic answer. I now make a second appeal.Will the Government repeal the tepid circular issued by the Coalition Government, which merely stated that local authorities may do it, and ask them to get a move on? When we issued the circular, "The Service of Youth," we started a campaign up and down the country, we had regional conferences from one end of the country to another, and now, for good or ill, there are several hundred paid persons in that work. In my opinion it is the only thing which stands between the 14–18 group and something about which I am very worried.
During the war we had 700,000 boys and girls in pre-Service training units. One boy in every five between 16 and 18 was in the A.T.C. Why did boys, after nine hours' work, cycle a couple of hours to do arithmetic? It was unnatural, even though the arithmetic was called celestial navigation. It was because they wanted to pin "wings" on their breast, preferably with the D.F.C. underneath. There was a specific relation between the training and the objective. I do not suppose that there are today 300,000 or 400,000 in those youth units, and I prophesy that in a year there will be about 100,000 or less. There are many Members on the 828 other side of the House who would welcome that decrease, because they do not like the training. I am no militarist. I do not want to see boys and girls dressed up in uniform for the sake of it, but if there is not to be that there must be an alternative. The problem before the post-war world is to find a moral equivalent for "wings." As far as I see it neither in Europe nor in America is there one person who knows the answer. Sometimes I think that the ideas implicit in the Soviet society may give to their young people some such impetus, but I do not like people being attached merely for political reasons.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
If the hon. Member will talk to J. B. Priestley when he comes back he will find that the young people are not necessarily attached to the party. Some are attached to sport and other organisations.
§ Mr. Lindsay
I was not thinking so much of the political attachment but that there is something in the idea behind the system of that great country which seems to give to young people the feeling that they belong to something very much bigger than themselves. It is not necessarily that they are attached to one political group. There was the same sort of feeling during the war in this country. There was one great objective. Now we are getting back to the days when we are to have parties and certainly scores of youth organisations. One is glad to see honest divisions of parties; I do not regret that. I hope that young people will join all kinds of organisations and that there will be a great variety. I have been roaming a little, but only because the previous speaker hit the nail on the head when he said that the only alternative to the present position is a positive policy. My main point is that there must clearly be a positive policy.
We want to see a much closer relationship between the school and the home and this problem which is called delinquency. In fact these children are not delinquents; they are bored. I have talked to them in forestry and harvest camps. I have spoken to boys from South Wales. They say, "When we have a month's holiday we stay in the same home and look at the same buildings. We want to get out. If you will have a camp in Scotland we will go, because it is further away." In the 829 same way, Scottish boys want to get somewhere else. Therefore, the problem is. How is this boredom to be relieved? If one goes down to Winchester and sees the best home for backward children in this country at Larkhills, Mr. Duncan, author of "The Ordinary Child," will tell one that the children who come into his home come from 60 in a class—they are bored stiff. They will remain bored until we tackle that problem, and if this Government do not tackle it I have no hope of any Government doing so. I want to see the problem tackled at the primary school end. The problem is as important and as urgent a question as many other things which we discuss in this House. Why should we not have a full dress Debate on this? There are scores of children today in the courts in London who have come back from evacuation. They are not delinquents; but they are personal problems. The chairmen of those courts have said that if they could only give time to them as individuals and get at the root of the problem—very often a broken home—they could, perhaps, begin to mend them again as individuals.
There are two points I wish to stress. One is that the whole machinery of juvenile courts and the relationship between the home and the school has to be revolutionised. I do not want to go into details to-day. It means that we must not be quite so anxious to level out all the secondary schools until all the primary schools have been put on a proper basis. First things first, even down to the nursery school. The second thing is: we have to find an alternative to "wings" for the children between 14 and 18.I make only one suggestion. As one goes about the country one sees that there is nothing particularly wrong with young people. Go to the conference I have just left. There is a great interest in this problem, in America, in Belgium and in France. Yet they often look to this country. There the same problem—la jeunesse, in France, la lutte scolaire, in Belgium. It is not a British phenomenon. What is wrong? Young people do not want to be fooled by adults, they will not accept things second hand. They want to work this thing out for themselves, and the only example they will follow is that of craftsmen who know their job—the trade unions might pay a little more attention to the young workers—and to living examples of 830 Christianity, not merely the people who preach. If they see these two things they will follow, not blindly but because basically they are decent. They look around them: they are taught things in school and when they go outside they see a complete denial of what they have been taught. It does not make sense. They are not delinquent for the most part, except those who are victims of diseases, which are as identifiable as typhus. They are a fine lot and our problem now is to provide a great variety of voluntary youth organisations. For these, we need some of the men who are coming back from the Forces, for example, some of the men who trained Commandos. The best side of that Commando training is good enough, it is exciting. I am not talking of the military side.
We are losing men every day. There is this week another circular about county colleges—20,000 teachers wanted. Yet, we are losing daily first-class material from the Navy, Army and Air Force, many teachers among them, who have had a unique experience in the world. I would have sent round two years ago and earmarked those men and asked them, "What about a year's training for teaching work in the county colleges?" Now they are going to be solicitors—they have told me so—or going to their family businesses, etc. Give them an opportunity and £700 or £800 a year. Why not? We should probably achieve the renaissance of this country. As the postwar era creeps on, some of us are nervous that the high hopes raised by the war will not be realised. I hope that the Under-Secretary, in his reply, will take this matter out of the atmosphere of his own Department, and say that, in future, the Ministry of Education is to be the major Government Department responsible for children and young people whether in school or in their outside activities.
§ 1.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Paton (Norwich)
I intervene for two special reasons. One is that I happen to have been associated for many years now with the organising work of the Howard League for Penal Reform, and in those activities I have at least acquired some knowledge of this very serious problem. The other special reason is that I have myself been a juvenile delinquent. If the present methods of dealing with juvenile delinquents had 831 been in operation when I was a boy, living as I did under the conditions of every normal working class child of my time, I should have figured as a unit in the juvenile delinquency statistics. I am not sure that I should have not have finished up in Borstal, because practically everything with which these children are charged today I did, and the great masses of the children with whom I was associated did precisely the same thing. The difference between myself and most adults of mage is that I have retained the most vivid recollections of my own actions as a child, but great numbers of adults manage completely to submerge their earlier recollections under the later layers of respectability, and are apt, therefore, to judge these children in ways that are completely unjustified.
I wish at the outset to try to correct a tendency which is very prevalent to get this problem of juvenile delinquency completely out of focus. There are two problems of juvenile delinquency. There is the one problem which we face at this moment, the completely abnormal swelling of the volume of juvenile delinquency arising out of the disturbances and conditions of totalitarian warfare. I am sure that that is likely to prove a passing phase. What I am anxious to do is to try to bring into its proper focus the permanent problem of juvenile delinquency in peace time. It is a very grave problem, as every Member of this House knows, but no good purpose is served, only bad purposes, in exaggerating and distorting it. I am afraid that some of the remarks in this Debate did not do any good service to those of us who are trying to get effective methods adopted for dealing with this problem. In 1938, which is the last year for which we have any official figures for the state of crime in Great Britain, of the 70,000 indictable offences committed in that year, just half were committed by young people under the age of 17. The peak period of crime for boys is 13 years of age, and for girls 16 plus. No doubt that is an extremely startling figure for indictable offences, offences serious enough to be treated on indictment in our courts, committed by young people under 17 years of age.
But please let us try to understand what is involved. A large proportion of the large number of breakings and enter- 832 ings that appear in these criminal statistics were breakings and enterings into unoccupied premises—the sort of thing that I did often enough when I was a boy, breaking a window and entering unoccupied premises, incited to do it, of course, from a sense of adventure and by some sort of desire for exploration. I am convinced that it is precisely that kind of spirit that actuates very many of our juvenile delinquents today to do precisely the same thing.
When we are faced with these staggering figures of juvenile delinquency let us realise—I say this without any desire to minimise the seriousness of the problem, but merely in the interests of truth—that very largely, the inflated volume of modern juvenile delinquency is a matter of statistical recording. After every Children's Act in this country we have witnessed within a year a very interesting phenomenon. For instance, after the passing of the Children's Act, 1908, the figures for juvenile delinquency in 1910 shot up by 40 per cent.—40 per cent. in two years. After the passing of the Young Persons' Act, in 1933, the figures for juvenile delinquency shot up by another 30 per cent. in 1934. Obviously, what we have been doing during the last 40 years is to make the large mass of our population conscious of the problem of juvenile delinquency and of the methods for dealing with it, but in addition we have actuated the police in all sorts of ways in which formerly they were not actuated, with the result that we swell these figures enormously. Sir William Clarke Hall, a magistrate with probably more experience of this kind of problem than any other, once wrote in one of his books that the number of juvenile delinquents in any locality can at any time be doubled, trebled or quadrupled merely by the police themselves deciding to tighten-up or to expand their activities in relation to this particular class of crime.
Let us first of all get the problem into focus, and then let us remember this extremely heartening fact, which I think proves what I have just been saying, that while those figures of juvenile delinquency have been steadily soaring the general trend of adult crime has been steadily downward. The figures of juvenile delinquency, therefore, have not been expressing themselves in adult criminality, and it is one of the very heartening things that 833 one type of crime particularly—crimes of violence against the person—have been showing a steady and completely unchecked decline since the beginning of this century. We must keep in mind facts of this kind in order to get the picture really into its proper perspective.
Having put that point to the House, because I think it is of very great importance, I wish to say how heartily I agree with the two hon. Members who have preceded me in this discussion on the necessity for treating this not as a criminal problem but as an educational problem. It is my view most emphatically, and it has been expressed by others before me, that when we open a school we can close a prison. I use the word "school" in that connection of course, in the sense of education in its widest possible form. Using "education" in that way, I would also relate it to the raising of the general living standards and social conditions of our people, because one very famous penologist, the late Clarence Darrow, once said that if you solve your social problem you will also solve nine-tenths of your problem of criminality, and that is true.
I want to add my voice to the other voices which have asked that this problem should no longer be treated as a criminal problem, to be dealt with by penal measures, but as an educational problem, thereby bringing those young delinquents as we know them within the scope and purpose of our education machinery and taking them out of the control of the Home Office altogether. I want to see young children in this country who are proved guilty of offences of this kind, or who in fact are known to have committed them without the formal process of proving guilt, taken out of the criminal courts altogether and dealt with by an extended and developed system of education, which seems to me to be the proper angle of approach to the problem.
I desire to make one or two constructive suggestions for the consideration of the Minister before I conclude. First of all, I think a very valuable part in the curative and preventive work of dealing with juvenile delinquency could be played by a wide development of child guidance clinics where expert advice and counsel could be given to distressed and distracted parents who would like to obtain the benefit of such advice. Secondly, there is the problem of the 834 handicapped children—children who are maladjusted physically and mentally and who so often figure in swelling this volume of juvenile crime. Here we want a series of observation centres associated with all the great aggregations of population in the country, where the handicapped and maladjusted child can be diagnosed and given the opportunity for proper corrective treatment. We have seen the beginnings of that by voluntary efforts in one or two parts of the country, and the work done in that direction by voluntary institutions like the Institute for the Scientific Treatment of Delinquency in London is absolutely invaluable to our community. I want to see that sort of thing made available on a much wider scale right throughout the whole country.
The third constructive point I wish to make is this. Where we have residential schools which are necessary for certain groups of these difficult children, it is no use trying to make them the responsibility of the local education authority as they are now, getting merely the "fag end" of their attention, because the Home Office cannot think of any better way of dealing with the problem. Residential schools ought to be in proper buildings designed for their purpose and their function. They ought to be properly staffed. They cannot be dealt with by the local authority in the way in which they are dealing with them now. I suggest the Home Office ought to face the problem by taking State responsibility for institutions of this kind so far as financing them is concerned, and having taken that responsibility, placing them for their administration and control under the direction of the education authorities, which may sometimes have to be combined in order to cover the needs of a particular area.
The last point I wish to make is that in the treatment of these cases of juvenile delinquency, there ought to be in the minds of the Home Office one governing principle: The worst conceivable thing that anybody can do to an adolescent, or even a child younger than the adolescent stage, who has been found guilty of a social offence, is to put him into a prison even for one day. For me it is one of the saddening factors in the conditions of our time that in the centenary year of Elizabeth Fry, probably the greatest of the prison reformers, we are still sending boys and girls of 15 and 16 835 to prison. I say frankly that the development of the conditions which make that sort of thing at the moment more or less inevitable are a disgrace to a country calling itself civilized. I therefore ask the Home Office to keep in mind the declared intention of the Criminal Justice Bill, 1938, that every boy and girl under the age of 21 years should be kept out of prison, and that for no reason at all should they find themselves there. I hope the Home Office, in their consideration of this problem and in their proposals and policies in the future, will keep that idea steadfast before them.
§ 1.58 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Oliver)
The Debate this morning has ranged round a wide number of subjects pertaining to child delinquency, but I think it would be right to say that much of it has been more or less confined to the factors which contribute to making child delinquents. This is an aspect of the matter which, I readily concede, has no place in the Home Office: it is a matter which is essentially one for the Board of Education or some organisation established, not by the Home Office, but by someone connected with an educational institution, whether it be the Minister of Education or a voluntary association. The function of the Home Office is corrective. The function of the Ministry of Education is preventive. To that extent, it is not a matter for which the Home Office alone can be responsible. I heartily agree with the hon. Member for the Combined Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) that this is a matter which should not be considered from its corrective aspect but as a question of prevention. and this as I say does not lie with the Home Department.
I did not share the view of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Austin), who opened this Debate, when he spoke of the youth of to-day and seemed to suggest that they had lost moral fibre and could not compare with the youth of yesterday. That reminds me very much of arguments which I heard, and I am sure other hon. Members heard, from time to time in their youth, suggesting that they were not as good as their fathers and yet, in a short life-time of 50 years, we have seen the most magnificent scientific achievements and the most 836 productive period in the history of this country. I have no doubt that when the people who did these things were young, they were told by my generation that they had the Piccadilly-life complex and were not as good as their fathers. The same applies to the young men of today. It was the youth of 18, 19, 20 and 21 who won the battle of Britain, turned the course of this war in favour of the Allies, and certainly saved this country.
I do not believe that there is any loss of moral fibre in the youth of this country. The problem has a tendency to become a little exaggerated. I am not saying this for the purpose of trying to condone or find an excuse for not dealing with this matter, but we should not overlook the fact that, although there has been an increase in the number of children coming before juvenile courts during the war, when we compare the position of what is called child delinquency with the position during the last war, we get a much better idea of the problem. I want to get this matter into its right perspective. Today the whole subject is inflated by the abnormal circumstances which obtain. The increase of juvenile offences during this war was expected, because of the experience which we had in the last war. We had that experience to guide us. The number of children and young persons charged before juvenile courts rose in 1917, the peak year of that war, by 37 per cent. compared with 1913, but only four years later the number had declined to a figure well below that of 1913. That shows clearly that the circumstances obtaining in war conditions conduced to an increase in child delinquency.
For the purpose of comparison between this war and the last, it is better to take the number of juveniles under 17 who were found guilty of indictable offences. This group of offences represents, roughly speaking, the serious offences and excludes the minor contraventions of good manners such as playing football in the street or riding cycles on the footpath. On that basis we get the following results: In 1939, there were 30,543. In 1940, the percentage increase on that figure was 37 per cent. In 1941 it was 42 per cent., and that was the peak year of this war. In 1942 the figure had fallen to 25 per cent.; in 1943 it was slightly more and in 1944 it was slightly less. It is always 837 varying year by year. One or two hon. Members have pointed out that the peak age of crime before the war was at 13 years and that in the succeeding ages crime began to fall. It is a consoling fact that many of the children who find themselves inside a juvenile court today do not continue to lead a life of crime. A very small percentage ever go inside a court again, and they become decent citizens.
What are the factors which conduce to this abnormality during wartime? I have drawn the attention of the House to the position in the last war and in this war. The factors conducing have been actually greater in this war than they were in the last—the absence of fathers on war service and the consequent slackening of discipline in the home; mothers out at work and children left to look after themselves; the closing of schools, one of the greatest contributory factors. Schools were closed by reason of the fact that children had to be evacuated, and that generally meant the break-up of the whole of life for the younger children. Could there be a more fertile soil for the dislocation of family life than has been present between 1939 and 1945? For children over school age we recognise the influence of the black-out, the bombing and the consequent being out at night, not to mention the general upset caused by bombing in places like London. These brought a very disturbing element and undoubtedly very largely contributed to the difficulties. It is expected that the figures for 1945 will be much better and by 1946 will be even better, and we shall probably get back to the figure which prevailed in 1939. Thus we shall have had a reproduction of the experience we had during the last war.
We now come to the figures for 1939. I do not think that when the abnormal period has passed, the problem of finding some means of reducing what we may call the hard core of 1939 will be beyond the wit of man. I endorse the view of my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities and my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich (Mr. Paton). I believe it is possible, by giving youths the opportunity of finding a purpose in life, to minimise child delinquency to a point when only those children with some mental abnormality will be brought before any court. I agree 838 with my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich that child delinquency and its related problems requires further consideration than I have time in which to deal with it to-day. I have made inquiries of hon. Members and people in different walks of society—parsons, doctors and workmen—and each and all, like my hon. Friend, declare that had they been found out in their early days they would have been juvenile delinquents of their day. Therefore, it is necessary to realise that many of the offences for which children go before juvenile courts are those which are common to children, and it is necessary to find some ways and means of directing their mis-directed energy into useful paths. It has been proved that camps and the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements have been great contributing factors in finding and keeping the attention of children and making it possible for them to have an interest in life. The records show that there is little trouble from the class of youth who are in such organisations.
A number of questions have been put to me with regard to dance halls, pin-table saloons, greyhound racing, cinemas, Hollywood functions and a host of other matters. I do not think any purpose would be served by the Home Office attempting to embark on a lot of prohibitive legislation to prevent children going into dance halls, or to greyhound racing tracks, provided they are not permitted to bet, or to frequent amusement arcades, although I want to say nothing which will encourage them going into these places. The children who go to amusement arcades are no doubt attracted by the bright lights and other interesting things which they find there. It is a duty of the Home Office to consider any of these new features in life which attract the youth, and, if there is any very serious moral effect, to consider what can be done to deal with it. It has been found impracticable to prohibit children frequenting amusement arcades—
§ Mr. Austin
Implicit in the answer which I have just been given by the Under-Secretary, has been a case for the removal of the prohibition on young people under 18 going into public houses. My approach to this problem was that there is an equal to the drink traffic, in greyhound racing and dancing, and that there should be the same prohibition in 839 these cases as there is against young people going into public houses.
§ Mr. Oliver
That may be true, but would my hon. Friend suggest that there is anything immoral in going to a dance; and would he prohibit a young person under 18 from going into a dance hall? That seems to be drawing the bow a little too long. I am sure that 99 per cent. of the Members of this Assembly, as it is now constituted, if they danced in their youth, went into a dance hall before they were 18.
§ Mr. Oliver
With regard to a prohibition on young people going to the cinema, that does not come within the province of the Home Office. There is a Board of Film Censors who do their work reasonably well and consider the pictures which are for adults and those for universal exhibition. Because of the rise in juvenile delinquency during the war, it is suggested that there should be some other prohibition on children going into picture houses, but I do not think that would meet with the general assent of the House.
§ Mr. Austin
I did not intend that at all. The question is not one of preventing children entering cinemas, but of raising the standard of the films.
§ Mr. Oliver
I think that we would all agree with that. We would all give moral assent to any factor which would contribute to making the pictures of a higher and more educative standard. It is, however, one thing to make a contribution so far as it lies within one's power, but it is another thing to endeavour to get legislation to prevent these things being shown.
I had a number of questions on youth organisations, evening classes, youth leaders being released from the Army, and sex instruction. All these matters do not fall within the compass of my Department. They are questions of general education. Although child delinquency is a question for which the Home Office must take some responsibility insofar as it controls the juvenile courts and things of that kind, I want to make it clear that the Home Secretary does not appoint the magistrates sitting in those courts. That is a matter for the Lord 840 Chancellor's Department. With regard to their age, their looks and their capacity, representations must be made to the Lord Chancellor. Some useful suggestions have been made during the Debate, and I will see that my right hon. Friend's attention is drawn to them. I believe that some substantial progress could be made to deal with the hard core of this problem.