HC Deb 06 May 1954 vol 527 cc555-7
13 Mr. Dodds

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, following disturbances at St. Mary Cray, Kent, on 24th April, how many youths dressed in Edwardian suits were taken to the local police station for questioning; and in how many cases charges have been made.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

The answer to the first part of the Question is 37, and to the second, eight.

Mr. Dodds

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman appreciate that there is a great deal of concern over a large area of north-west Kent that this hooliganism can be repeated in the quieter parts of the Kent countryside? Would he say whether he considers this hooliganism a dangerous tendency or something about which we must not be too concerned? If he thinks it is dangerous would he encourage the public in the quieter parts, for example, in country railway stations, to contact the police when these youths appear and ask them to keep an eye on them?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

There are two main Questions on the Order Paper to which we shall come in a moment and I would rather not comment upon a case which is sub judice.

Mr. McGovern

Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman give an assurance that these summonses were not taken out just because these youths were wearing Edwardian suits?

14 Mr. H. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he proposes to take to stamp out the hooliganism practised by young persons who have in various parts of the country banded themselves into gangs known as Edwardian gangs and who by the reason of their brutality are becoming a menace to law-abiding citizens.

20 Lieut-Colonel Lipton

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what complaints he has received about the conduct of juvenile gangs in Edwardian garb in various parts of South London; and what action he is taking.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

I have received few representations on this subject, but I am aware that in certain parts of London youths affecting the dress mentioned associate together, and the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis assures me that the police are on the alert to suppress any tendency to hooliganism on the part of these youths.

In the six months ended 31st March last, 24 persons under 21 years of age, and operating in groups of three or more, were arrested in the Metropolitan Police district for indictable offences involving violence against the person, and 456 youths were arrested for other offences involving rowdyism.

I have received reports on isolated incidents in other parts of the country, but on present information I have no reason to suppose that the problem is widespread or that the police are not taking appropriate action.

Mr. Johnson

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that many magistrates who serve in juvenile courts are very deeply concerned at their lack of power to deal with these youths of 16 and 17? Will he consider introducing amending legislation to give additional powers to the magistrates and also consider amending the legislation relating to cases involving assault and battery, so that magistrates can impose suitable corporal punishment?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

On my hon. Friend's first point, I am very surprised at the suggestion in his question, because the powers that are open to magistrates are of almost infinite variety since the passing of the 1948 Act. On the second point, I have nothing to add to the speech that I made in the House.

Lieut-Colonel Lipton

Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that these louts who, long ago, should have been smacked on the behind by their parents, are, for the most part, weak characters who are easily led to a course of violence? Would he encourage social workers to establish contact with these empty-headed youths before the problem gets out of hand?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

Certainly; I shall do anything that I can to encourage all people of good will who are ready to help in dealing with those who are addicted to crime.

Mr. G. Thomas

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that, bearing in mind the population of the Metropolitan area, the figures that he has given are not as bad as the Press might have led us to believe? Is he aware that an experiment has been made by the Rev. Douglas Griffiths, of Friendship House, which looks like having very successful results? Will he watch that experiment?

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

As the hon. Member can see, I have in front of me Press cuttings dealing with that experiment. I shall certainly watch it.

Sir T. Moore

On a point of order. Is it not out of order to frame a Question with a descriptive adjective which casts a reflection or an implication on someone alive or dead? Instead of using the word "Edwardian," would not the proper description be "young thugs," leaving it at that?

Mr. Speaker

I see nothing unparliamentary in the use of the adjective "Edwardian."