§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This is the Bill which I said that the Government intended to introduce forthwith when I made a full statement to the House earlier this month on the "mods" and "rockers" disturbances which broke out at Whitsun at three seaside towns in the South of England. I made it perfectly clear then that such happenings cannot be prevented by alterations to the law alone. They go much wider and deeper and I have had valuable talks about it with more than one of my hon. Friends whose constituencies were concerned, including my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) who, I see, has some suggestions of his own on the Order Paper.
Though there is much else which needs doing, too, it is a primary responsibility of the Government to make sure that the courts have sufficient powers—powers to maintain law and order and powers to protect persons and property. This Bill is a short and simple Measure to strengthen those powers in the one direction where I think that they are not already fully sufficient. Governments alone cannot control or direct the behaviour of the young, nor would anybody wish it so. Governments can see that there are deterrents to irresponsible actions which hurt and harm others, and can see that appropriate methods of treatment and punishment exist, but the moral outlook of the society in which young people grow up is something for which each one of us must answer.
We should all ask ourselves, the whole nation should ask itself, whether we grown-ups are setting the best example. Those of us who are parents must recognise the directness of our responsibility. Everybody who read the remarkable article which was published in The Times, shortly after Whitsun, must have been deeply disturbed by it. The Times, enterprisingly, interviewed many of the parents whose sons appeared in court after those Whitsun scenes. The article 240 revealed how little some parents knew about what their children were doing that weekend and how deeply shocked they were, when they found that their sons had been charged with hooligan offences and convicted.
I know that parents do not want to interfere as their children grow up, and there is good sense in that. There is also good sense in saying to parents, "Do not cut yourselves off from your children's activities and interests as if they were things that no longer concern you once they leave school." The year or so after boys and girls have left school is very often a time when they really need the support of their parents most, though they may think otherwise. It is a turning point in life, a time of new strains and possibly new temptations. The connection between delinquency and the special strains and difficulties of adjustment at that time is one of the first subjects on which my Advisory Committee on Juvenile Delinquency has decided to concentrate.
It is not enough for older people merely to condemn that Whitsun behaviour. We must try to understand the causes and find the remedies. We can also, I suggest, see what each of us personally can do to provide part of the answer. There are so many ways locally in which men and women, young or old, can help; through voluntary bodies and voluntary efforts; with youth clubs and sports clubs; by seeing that there are more opportunities for boys to do adventurous things without breaking the law and, perhaps most important of all, by trying by personal example to improve the image of the society in which these young people are growing. We should show that as a nation we have the will and intent to take constructive steps to fight and win the battle against delinquency.
At the same time—and this is Parliament's job—we must not fail to make certain that irresponsible behaviour can be dealt with severely by the courts and that those who damage the property of others can be made to pay for the damage they cause. The Bill will strengthen the powers of the courts at a key point, the power to exact restitution from the causer of the damage, who may find himself having to pay a substantial fine as well.
241 I have thoroughly considered all the other possible measures which have been urged on me since Whitsun from one quarter or another. I am not going to reintroduce corporal punishment; to do so in the face of its unanimous rejection by my very strong Advisory Council on the Treatment of Offenders would be a strange line to take. It has been suggested that these young hooligans should be disqualified from driving, or that their motor cycles or scooters should be confiscated. I treated that as a serious suggestion and considered it seriously, but, for one thing, I saw formidable difficulties for the courts in deciding whether there was a relation between the offence and the use of the vehicle, when the vehicle might be parked a couple of miles away from where the offence took place. One could not confine anything like that to offences of hooliganism, because hooliganism is not defined in the category of offences known to the law.
There is, in fact, a wide variety of offences with which these young people may be charged; under the Public Order Act, where we wisely increased the penalties by legislation last Session; or the Prevention of Crime Act; or the Malicious Damage Act; or the Offences Against the Person Act; as well as the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914, which the Bill seeks to amend. The Bill proposes to amend Section 14(1) of that Act so as to increase from £20 to £100 the limit on cases of malicious damage that may be dealt with by magistrates' courts. Section 14(1) of the Criminal Justice Administration Act, 1914, provides that a person who commits malicious damage to an amount not exceeding £20 may be prosecuted summarily.
If the amount of the damage is £5 or less, the maximum penalty is two months' imprisonment or a fine of £5. If the amount of the damage is more than £5, but does not exceed £20, the maximum penalty is three months' imprisonment, or a fine of £20. In either case, the court may, in addition, order the offender to pay reasonable compensation for the damage caused up to the amount of the damage. In view of present money values, this £20 limit is unsatisfactory. It is unsatisfactory not only because the maximum fine is 242 limited to £20, but, more especially, because the power to award compensation is restricted to cases in which the damage is £20 or less.
The effect of Clause 1(1) of the Bill is to amend Section 14 of the 1914 Act so as to permit proceedings under this Section in cases where the amount of the damage runs up to £100. This automatically raises the limit for compensation which the offender may be required to pay to £100; and the Bill also raises the maximum fine to £100. The Schedule to the Bill shows exactly how the provision in the 1914 Act will read if Parliament approves the Bill.
It is intended that the Bill should come into effect immediately on receiving the Royal Assent. I hope that, with the help of the House, it will be in operation before the August Bank Holiday. It will apply only to offences committed after the Bill comes into force, as is secured by Clause 1(2).
I believe that public opinion will approve the Government's resolve to deter the irresponsible types who go in for hooliganism by exposing them not only to fines up to £100, but to the likelihood, also, of being ordered by the magistrates to pay for the damage they have done up to £100. Their pockets will be at risk up to £200. This may make both them and their parents think.
I want the Bill also to be a reassurance to the long-suffering public. They were long-suffering at these holiday places, for many of them had their Whitsun holidays or their Whitsun trade spoiled by these young fools. I want to reassure them by showing that the Government mean business. I can tell the House that the police have all their plans co-ordinated in case there is further trouble. The youths who were sent to detention centres because of their part in the Whitsun disturbances are up at six o'clock each morning and go to bed each night thoroughly tired out by hard work. At the detention centres they are being taught good behaviour and proper manners as well as discovering what physical exercise does. The Bill will enact the one change which is needed in the law to nuke sure that the courts have full powers.
In the foreword I wrote to the Report on the work of the Children's Department 243 of the Home Office, which was presented to Parliament in March, I set out my longer-term views about delinquency. I repeated some of them in our debate on 27th April. I shall not lengthen my speech today by going over them again for they are on record. My Advisory Committee on Juvenile Delinquency has already set to work, and the Royal Commission on the Penal System also has a big task before it. Both of these bodies, I have no doubt, will have important contributiont to make on the long-term problem. But we must think responsibly about what we should be doing in the short run as well as the long run.
The Bill represents the one change in the law which, I believe, it is right to recommend Parliament to enact here and now.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) is not selected.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)
As the Home Secretary has said, this is a small Bill. It is also a hurried Bill, though a necessary one, in an effort to prevent on August Bank Holiday a repetition of the events on Easter Monday and Whit Monday of this year. At that time, some of the magistrates did fine very heavily, but I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that there is a gap in the law which the Bill will fill.
Even if there had been no trouble at Easter and Whitsun, it would be right for us to have this Bill before us, because it amends the 1914 Act and, as we all know, the value of money today is nothing like what it was in 1914. The Bill merely brings up to present-day values the fines which could be imposed under the 1914 Act. Twenty pounds then is about the same as £100 today.
I hope, as the right hon. Gentleman hopes, that these increased fines will deter young hooligans from a repetition on August Bank Holiday of what happened on the two previous occasions. The House must do all that is possible to prevent such behaviour, to see that ordinary people can enjoy their holidays in peace and quiet as they wish to do, and to prevent young people from doing harm to both people and property.
244 I know that there are hon. Members who consider that there ought to be remedies other than the one proposed under the Bill. Some think that there should be a return to corporal punishment. Some think that the best thing to do with these young people is to put them in prison, in borstal, or even in the Army. Others think that a longer period on probation would probably do them some good.
Like the right hon. Gentleman, I do not believe that corporal punishment is the answer. There is no evidence from the past to show that it has been a deterrent. When flogging for robbery with violence was brought to an end, the number of offences went down, not up. Moreover, I believe that there is a danger that, if we returned to corporal punishment for these offences, having regard to the type of person with whom we are dealing, there might be a tendency to show some sort of bravado; a flogging or a birching might even become a status symbol among these young people.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the article in The Times, on 22nd May last, reporting interviews with the parents of some of the young people who had been before the courts. I shall refer to some of the other matters in the article later, but I wish at this point to remind the House that one father said, according to the report:I tried thrashing my boy a year ago when he came in very late. It hurt me more than him, and I thought it disgusting and degrading. At the end of it he went out again. He did not come back until about 4 o'clock in the morning. For weeks after that he was much worse.There we have an example of one of the fathers saying that he had tried corporal punishment and it had failed.
What about prison, borstal and detention centres? It is true that some of these young people would benefit from a short period in a detention centre, but I hope that we shall not be sending them to prison or borstal. The young people whom we are now considering, the ones who go about as young hooligans, are not quite the same as the people who go about stealing and committing crimes of that kind. It would be utterly wrong to put this kind of person in prison, especially in company with the type of older prisoner who has committed crimes. I 245 hope, therefore, that magistrates will reflect carefully before sending them to prison.
The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) suggests in his Amendment, which is not to be called, that there might be some other kind of day centre to which these people could be sent. I remind the hon. Gentleman that we have already in various parts of the country attendance centres run by the police, notably in Liverpool, but also in London, Leeds, Manchester and many other towns. As I said in our debate on juvenile delinquency on 28th April, I was very disappointed that this attendance centre system had not developed nearly as much as I thought was necessary. In 1960, there were 41 attendance centres. By the end of 1963, the number had grown to only 52, and the number of orders made had risen from just over 4,000 to 5,800. I believe that we should have far more of these attendance centres and that those which we have should be expanded.
For one thing, attendance centres are much cheaper. The cost per order in an attendance centre is less than £5 10s., very much cheaper than putting a young person in residential accommodation. In any case, as I have said on many occasions, taking young persons from their homes and putting them in some kind of residential accommodation should only be a course of last resort when the home is utterly unsuitable. I believe that this kind of residential accommodation for young people does more harm than good.
As for the third course, probation, I do not think that the probation service, which is already overworked, ought to have these added duties.
I disagree very much with the Amendment which the hon. Gentleman has put down, although on the principle of it, that he wants more than there is in the Bill, I agree with him, because, while I hope that the Bill will go through, I know very well that the problem will still be with us. As the Home Secretary pointed out, there is a short-term problem and a long-term problem. The question goes far deeper than the Bill now before us.
On 27th April, we had a debate on the whole subject of hooliganism and 246 juvenile delinquency. Like the right hon. Gentleman, I have no intention of repeating what I said in that debate, when I and many others emphasised that parents had a responsibility, that society must set an example, and that events of this kind were to some extent a reflection of the kind of society we had as a whole. In my view, as I said then, there is not one cause and not one remedy. We can only try a variety of measures and see what will work.
The hooliganism which takes place today, although it has reared its head in rather unusual ways in Bank Holiday assaults on seaside towns, is not a new problem. It is being expressed in a different way today, but this, I suggest, does no more than reflect the changed pattern of life. Yesterday, everything was much simpler than it is today. A few years ago, if there were any young hooligans, they ran around the streets where they lived, making a nuisance of themselves to their immediate neighbours. Today, they have motorcycles and scooters. Young people can move farther away, and they have much more money. The whole pattern of life has changed in this respect.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us what the Government are doing. Committees and commissions are considering these questions and are advising him. I noticed that he gave an interview to the Daily Mail last week, which, on 17th June, reported what he had said about his long-term measures for combating hooliganism The article was headed:Thank Heaven for Henry Brooke!I must say that that is going just a bit too far. However, I read the article very carefully, and all I could see in it was that a committee was considering this, a commission was considering the other, an advisory committee was about to advise him on this and that. It is time that we had the results of some of the efforts which these bodies have been putting in.
The problem of juvenile delinquency has been with us a long time. It is not something we have known about only in the past few weeks or months. The right hon. Gentleman, according to this article, went on to say that he was having a survey made of the kind of young 247 persons who had been making a nuisance of themselves at Whitsuntide and Easter.
The article said:It is astonishing that these questions have not been asked before. But, at last, the steps are being taken.It is indeed astonishing that these steps have not been taken and these questions not asked before. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, The Times had already interviewed a great many of the parents of the children who were before the courts at Easter and Whitsun. It did so very quickly. The article underlined something that I said in our debate on 27th April. I told the House then that I thought parents were not taking sufficient interest in what their children were doing in their spare time. If we read the interviews quoted in The Times we see that, time and again, that is the case.
The article said:From parents' stories it would seem that these youngsters used their home as a lodging house—for meals and sleep only.Parents seemed surprised when asked if their children ever accompanied them on their outings.A mother trying to rear her family single handed, said: ' Sometimes my boy doesn't get in until 3 a.m., but I've never asked him where he has been. He wouldn't like that.'Another mother, who said that her son had always had everything he wanted, added: 'He has had three cars since he was 17. His Dad helps him to buy them.'Of course, all these young people were not like that. Another boy's mother told the Daily Herald that she hoped she would never see him again and that when he came out of prison he would go into "digs". This boy and his brother were sent to a children's home when they were babies because their mother could not house them. They did not see her again for 15 years. Now she was hoping that she would never see her son again.
Thus, one cannot generalise about these young people. Some have been deprived and have had no chance at all, while others have perhaps been over-indulged by parents who thought it right to give them all the things they wanted including, in one case, three cars. We now have a shorter working day and more leisure. Work itself, with automation, is not physically so hard as it used to be, I am glad to say. A great deal of the work that these young people perform is mono- 248 tonous—sitting down doing one process all day long—and when they finish they look out for any enjoyment that they can get.
I would like to emphasise that only a very small proportion of young people behave in this way. The overwhelming majority are making a very useful contribution to society and filling their leisure time with useful pursuits. But we must see what we can do to help those who cannot see anything better to do than make a nuisance of themselves by giving them alternative outlets for their energy and high spirits.
Yesterday, we had a debate on leisure and sport. I believe that the Government have not done nearly as much in this respect as they might have done. They have not done as much as they should in the implementation of the Wolfenden and Albemarle Reports. I have a report here about girls climbing mountains. People are organising climbing expeditions to Snowdonia and other places. It is interesting to see that in Liverpool, which used to be perhaps the worst city for this kind of hooliganism, the situation is much better because of the growth of the "beat" groups. Instead of throwing stones through windows and damaging people's property, the youngsters are busy beating drums and strumming electric guitars. The answer has been found quite accidentally in that way. Perhaps Mr. "Billy" Butlin might be able to come forward with a bright idea for healthy competition for these young people.
Although the young people involved in this trouble form only a very small percentage, the trouble they cause is out of all proportion to their numbers. I said on 27th April—and I believe this to be very important—that we should do much more to ease the break between school days and working days. I believe that it is at that point that one of the right hon. Gentleman's committees should be looking.
Last week, a committee set up by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition under the chairmanship of the Earl of Longford, produced a report entitled "Crime—a Challenge to Us All". In this report the committee—I was a member—dealt at length with the problem of juvenile delinquency and how to 249 try to prevent it, because we realise that juvenile delinquents of today can so easily become criminals tomorrow.
We suggested the setting up of a family service, with family centres and family courts, because we believe that we cannot separate the child from the family of which he is a member and that the Home Secretary and the local authorities ought to look at the family as a whole and not just at the child. That is why we set such great store on the family service, which would embrace the education, welfare and health authorities and the children's departments.
Our proposals have been discussed seriously in most papers, with only one or two critics. One writer asked how we could be sure that our proposals would succeed. Of course, we cannot be sure that they would. No one could be sure. People who think that they have the answer to these problems are extremely foolish. Nevertheless, I believe that our report is a very valuable contribution.
The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran)—whose articles I see twice a week, because a Yorkshire paper publishes them following their appearance in London—wrote last week about our proposals. His article was entitled "Pamper or Punish". I think that the article was very unfair, and the title particularly so. In many quarters there is a discussion of this problem of punishment and reform as if the two were opposites. I do not believe that they are.
I am not against punishment. Small children have to be punished by their parents. Perhaps for bad behaviour they may be deprived of a little outing. They are not being punished for the sake of punishment, but so that they can know right from wrong. In other words, they are punished so that they can grow up in the right way. One can regard this punishment as a kind of reform of the young person. So I believe that punishment can be a part of reform, but punishment without any hope of reform, especially for the young, is purposeless and defeatist.
I believe that a term of custodial treatment of any kind which is merely to punish the individual and which sends him out of the institute no better than when he went in is absolutely useless. 250 I therefore do not think it right to talk about punishment versus reform. Reform is the aim, but sometimes it can be brought about by punishment.
The important thing is that, if parents need help in bringing up their children and young people, then the help should be there for them and that children and young people should receive the treatment best suited for them to make them useful members of society. I was very much struck by the words of Professor Radzinowicz, in a lecture to the Howard League for Penal Reform on 7th May. He said:I sometimes wonder how far, in this sort of context, we should pursue arguments about the principles of punishment. What use is it to discuss exhaustively the relative weights to be attached to the various elements in punishment, when we can never really assess individual culpability or its equivalent in individual pain, when we have little idea of how far we are really deterring offenders, let alone others; when we know we often do not know how best to bring about reformation?We do not really know all the answers to this.
We on this side of the House support the Bill, but in doing so we recognise, as I know the right hon. Gentleman does, that much more is needed. We need to see that our young people grow up in the way we would like them to, but we must also remember that the way they grow up is a reflection on our society as a whole and that we have a responsibility not only to punish them where necessary, but to see that they do not do these things again. It is the responsibility not only of the parents, but of everyone in the community, not only to punish them, but to reform them and lead them on to be better members of society.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Morrison (Devizes)
It is with considerable trepidation that I ask the House to extend its customary indulgence to an hon. Member addressing it for the first time. I speak with mixed feelings, because one of my ancestors, a Member of this House, rejoiced in the nickname of "Old Morality". I hasten to add that I am not referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison).
During the recent Devizes by-election many hon. Members will have discovered that I am now privileged and honoured 251 to be the representative of one of the loveliest constituencies in the south of England. For the past nine years this constituency was represented most ably by the late Mr. Percivall Pott. He was a modest and unassuming man, but his wide experience of agriculture and his great knowledge of local government earned him respect in the constituency and, I believe, in this House. His sudden death on the eve of his retirement came as a great shock to a very large number of people.
It is my belief that the problems of delinquency and the necessary measures to prevent it vary considerably according to the basic environment. In the Devizes constituency we have a diversity of environment. We have the social problems of the industrial towns. Many of my electors live on the perimeter of Swindon, a fast-expanding industrial and residential area. In contrast, there are the rural areas of the Kennet Valley and the Vale of Pewsey. In further contrast, there are the historic Boroughs of Marlborough and Devizes. Thus, my constituency provides a fairly typical cross-section of modern England.
I feel certain that my constituents in all these varying districts will welcome the Bill. They will do so because they share my anxiety at the increasing number of crimes of violence in which malicious damage occurs. There are, perhaps, two separate aspects worthy of consideration in examining the Bill. First, there is the effect of the Measure in protecting the potential victim, and, secondly, there is the effect in deterring the potential criminal.
In considering the victims, the House should not for one moment underestimate the fear of many people, in particular the elderly and the lonely, when they read of the increasing number of crimes and of gangs of young people bent on wilfully damaging property and injuring people all to no purpose. There is a general feeling that penalties have not been severe enough, and there will be corresponding relief that they are now to be increased.
I am delighted that the penalties which it will be possible to impose are linked with the principle of the criminal being made liable for compensating the victim for damage which he has sustained. Not 252 only does the person suffering damage gain retribution, and this is important, but the wrongdoer is struck by an embarrassing sense of personal responsibility which has a far more salutary effect than the normal payment of a fine.
What of the Bill's effect on the potential criminal? The Bill has been provoked by the irresponsible behaviour of a small section of young people, and I emphasise again that it is an extremely small section. As someone who has been closely connected with education and who has taken a great interest in the Association of Youth Clubs in my own County of Wiltshire, in recent years I have seen a great deal of the age group which is associated with "mods" and "rockers", and I say without hesitation that I am full of admiration for the general fervour and spirit of these young people.
I should like to remind those who harshly criticise the younger generation of the words of William Pitt in the House on one occasion, when he said:The atrocious crime of being a young man … I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny.Freedom from Hunger, World Refugee Year, and more locally, the close ties which Devizes Youth Club has with a home for crippled children, and the Christmas parties and treats arranged by other clubs for old folk, all have as their driving force young people applying their natural energy in fine and honourable work.
Nevertheless, the fact must be faced that this generation has new problems and, at the same time, enjoys greater freedom than any generation before. The majority are better housed and better fed, healthier and endowed with greater energy, and they can earn a wage, almost from the day they leave school which allows them to cast off family ties and go their own way in life untrammelled by any economic worries. Freed from the enforced discipline of school, suddenly they have to rely entirely on self-discipline. I believe that in the long term this will breed a more responsible and mature society, but in the short term these young people are suddenly subjected to the pressures of modern life.
It may be that many of them have never properly distinguished, or for that matter been instructed in, the boundaries 253 of good sense and it is not surprising, therefore, that some of them will overstep the mark and that some will cross the narrow line which divides high spirits and exuberance from hooligan behaviour unacceptable to society.
It must be accepted that there is a hard core of delinquents, but next to these there is the fringe who are inclined to commit the same crimes as the persistent delinquents, but who react much more quickly and more favourably to common sense measures of prevention and cure. This fringe misbehaves not because it is basically criminal, but because it has nothing better to do and because it is easily misled. This is the section of the community which provides the greatest challenge to authority and which authority must do its utmost to contain and guide.
These are the individuals who will find difficulty in solving the mental problem, either consciously or subconsciously, of what is right and what is wrong. I believe that their final decision is motivated to a great extent by the expectation of punishment or personal disaster. There is, therefore, a need for a powerful deterrent to influence the mind of the individual, and I think that one of the main additional causes of the increase of crime over the past years is that the deterrent power of the law has not been strong enough.
Undoubtedly, this is the negative approach to the problems of the young, but on the positive side great advances are being made and better facilities for young people are being provided throughout the country. But a youth organisation will be far more successful if it has the facilities of a purpose-built centre, and as yet these are far too rare. One such centre at Stratton St. Margaret, in my constituency, is to be opened shortly, but it will be the first in Wiltshire. The Churches, too, are facing this problem and it is greatly to the credit of one of my local Methodist churches, that in Highworth, that it is investing more than £10,000 in a youth centre. Local authorities, churches and employers must all combine to improve facilities and to make more facilities available at an increasing pace.
The advances which have been made are welcomed, but enlightened thought and theory take time and money to put 254 into practice in all areas, and those parts of the country which are covered by clubs and youth centres where young people can amuse themselves socially or constructively among their own age groups are strictly limited. The great diversity of youth organisations is sometimes forgotten. There are the Scouts and Guides, Red Cross, St. John's Ambulance Brigade, Y.M.C.A., youth clubs and young farmers, to mention just a few. All these are doing very fine work, but they greatly need more facilities and, even more important, more leaders.
I only wish that some of the people who grumble and grouse about the younger generation would devote a little of their resources and money to help to provide these young people with a relief from that great creator of the delinquent—boredom. It should be remembered that there are many people who would be prepared to come forward if they knew where there was a need, or where they could get basic instruction in youth work. I urge the Government, therefore, to improve their publicity to attract the many volunteers whom I believe to be available.
I welcome the Bill. I believe that it will be effective, that it is just and that it will deter. But it is not merely by strengthening the law that the problems of young people can be overcome. It is only by education and positive measures that young people can be helped to deal with the problems which assail them. I say with even greater enthusiasm that I shall welcome positive aid, for it is only with positive aid that legislation such as this will be less necessary.
§ 4.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Fitch (Wigan)
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. C. Morrison) on his pleasant, humorous and well-informed speech, delivered with such quiet confidence. I am very pleased, and I am sure that other hon. Members are, that he is so interested in penal matters which many of us find so fascinating. I hope that we shall have the opportunity to hear him many times.
As the Home Secretary has so aptly said, the Bill is short and simple and I hope that my speech will be short and simple in this best possible sense.
255 I think that the Bill is timely for two reasons: first, there is a great need for fines to be brought up to the general value of present-day currency; secondly, these fines must be severe enough to act as deterrents. I believe that the Bill will meet both cases.
As the Home Secretary rightly said, we have a problem which cannot be dealt with by fines alone. It is a far more complex problem than that. It is to be hoped that if the Measure does not eliminate vandalism altogether in our parks, on our railways, at our seaside resorts, and indeed, at some of our inland towns, it will go at least some way towards decreasing it.
One of the problems with which we have to deal today is that of an affluent society, which has given our young people more money titan any previous generation of young people had, and rightly so, but, unfortunately, some of them have not been able to find the best means of using this money in a period of ever-increasing leisure.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) said that only a minority of people engage in acts of vandalism. That, of course, is true. It would be very serious if the majority of people engaged in the sort of behaviour which we have witnessed recently, but I think that people are sometimes inclined to take the view that because it is only a minority, the problem is not very important. In fact, sometimes the term "minority" is used in a mitigating sense. I suppose that it was only a minority of Germans who persecuted the Jews, but the effect of that persecution was extremely serious and, indeed, evil. The fact that only a minority of our young people engage in this sort of conduct does not lessen the effect of that conduct on society itself.
I am sure that it was only a minority of people who, on 7th September last year, while travelling in a train in the north-west of England, and in which there were more than 1,000 passengers, caused damage to British Railways amounting to £341. The damage was done by a small minority, but the effect was very serious. Again, no doubt it was only a small minority who, on 5th October last, caused damage to the 256 extent of £30 to another train in the North-West.
On 16th November, damage to the extent of £19 was caused by these people. On 26th December, similar behaviour resulted in damage amounting to £25. I could go on quoting examples. It would be very interesting to know just how much damage has been done to British Railways' rolling stock since the railways were nationalised. It is wrong to say that because vandalism is carried out by a minority only we should not take it seriously.
The pre-war youngsters—I was a teen-ager in the years leading up to the war—had very little money. It was impossible for most of us to buy motor cycles and rush off to the seaside. In fact, it was impossible for most of us to travel very far. But we had one thing which is not so evident today. We had a sense of purpose. I am not claiming any credit for the pre-war generation by saying that. I think that the issues which faced us in those days gave us a sense of purpose. Mass unemployment and the rise of Fascism, to mention only two things, gave most young people, however poor they were materially, something to fight against. Many of the energies and enthusiasms of the generation for which I speak were canalised against the menacing things in those pre-war days. I do not think that the issues are quite as clear-cut today, with the result that in some respects we have the reverse situation of young people with plenty of money but with very little purpose.
One of our jobs is to find a purpose for our young people. The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling), whose Amendment is not to be called, wants some kind of centre to deal with these young people. I shall be interested to hear how he would run such a centre, because I believe that the present set-up of approved schools and detention centres covers what is envisaged in the Bill. I agree with the Home Secretary, on this occasion at least, that what many of these young people need—because I do not believe that they are criminals at all, but are misguided—is a period in a detention centre where they can learn what discipline, good manners, and hard work mean.
257 I am not sure of the definition of a "rocker" and "mod." I should like to see groups of these "rockers", who, I understand, are the people who race off to the seaside on motor cycles, rushing off on the same motor cycles, to the same sort of places, not to engage in acts of vandalism, but rather to take part in such things as the Freedom from Hunger campaign. I believe that if we could infuse into our young people a sense of purpose which would enable them to make use of their enthusiasms, their energies, and even their motor cycles, we would go a long way towards solving this problem.
Finally, I think that the magistrates ought to be a little more imaginative than they sometimes are. I am a magistrate myself, and I, too, probably suffer from the same shortcomings. Magistrates can, of course, impose heavier fines, which I agree are often necessary, but sometimes something more than a fine is needed. I am thinking of the Glasgow magistrate who ordered a youth who had been causing a lot of trouble at a football match—or perhaps it was on a football train—to report to his office every Saturday afternoon at half-past three, thus depriving him of doing something that he wanted to do. I think that punishments of this kind are well worth considering in addition to the fines which a court can impose.
This is a timely Bill and I think that the public will welcome it. I hope that it will deter young people, or go some way towards deterring them, but that is only a negative attitude. Ultimately, we must instil into our young people a sense of purpose which, if I may say so with modesty, was more apparent in the prewar generation that it is today.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Sir William Teeling (Brighton, Pavilion)
I should like to take the opportunity, as the first hon. Member speaking from tins side of the House since the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. C. Morrison), to congratulate him on a first-class speech and one of great thought. It is very encouraging for one of the older brigade like myself to see younger people taking an interest in this subject. It is easy to select one of the more glamorous debates for a maiden speech, but for my hon. Friend to choose this occasion is immensely encouraging.
258 I was also delighted to see out of the corner of my eye my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. J. Morrison) sitting here and listening to it. I can remember three occasions since I have been in Parliament when either fathers and sons, or mothers and sons, have been present when their sons made their maiden speeches. I am sure that no one could have been more pleased than my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury. I think that all of us on this side of the House agree that if my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes becomes as popular and as successful in this House as his father is he will certainly have done something very worth while.
I asked my hon. Friend whether the great Lord Shaftesbury's family did not live somewhere in his neighbourhood, and they did. We must not forget that it was the great Lord Shaftesbury who took a great interest in those days in the youth movement and in the development and care of youth. That is something which is vital to us at the present time and will be a tradition from his neighbourhood.
I think that we all realise that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has brought this. Bill in now because of the immense urgency of this subject. The Whitsun problems and troubles were particularly noticeable in areas such as my own, in Brighton, and that of the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James). We have both suffered a lot from this problem. Immediately after the events at Brighton I went to see my right hon. Friend and I was immensely struck by his up-to-date information and full knowledge of what was going on and of this problem. I explained to him how worried we were, especially from a financial point of view in a seaside resort such as Brighton, with the August Bank Holiday coming on fairly soon, and that we should like some kind of security there for the older generation who spend then-holidays in a town such as ours, and some protection for the hoteliers and boarding-house keepers. Not unnaturally, whatever is being done of an effective nature should not necessarily be shouted from the housetops, and there will be an unpleasant surprise, I hope, for any of the "mods" and "rockers" who go there on August Bank Holiday.
On the other hand, this is not just a question of the police and of fines. 259 Later, other Bills must be brought in—probably not in this Parliament—which will do more to deal with this problem. In the meantime, I would warn my right hon. Friend that "mods" and "rockers" are not all fools. They know about the Bill. My right hon. Friend may think that the Bill will prevent them from going to Brighton on August Bank Holiday, but why should they not go there before the Bill becomes law? I do not think that they will come to Brighton, because we are ready for them; but they might go elsewhere.
I have not forgotten that at the beginning of the war we were able to get a Bill through within a day or two. I am asking my right hon. Friend to see whether he cannot do something to get this Bill through more quickly than before the end of July. I am sure that he can with a little effort. I shall return in a moment to the question whether this Bill goes far enough. I think that something on these lines should be done. As this is such a narrow Bill it may go through all the quicker. If that is so, no one will be more happy than I shall be.
I agree with the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Fitch) and the hon. Lady for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) on many of the points that they raised, but to say that we are concerned only with a very small proportion of the youth of the country is not very helpful to us. There were no fewer than 5,000 young people at Brighton on the Bank Holiday morning and on the Sunday there had been only 2,000. The number of police there was extremely small in comparison. We tried to get police from other areas, but that was not possible because other events were going on in those places.
It was very alarming for many people to know what was going on and to wonder whether something frightening might happen. Nothing frightening did happen. That was possibly due to two reasons. One was because the police were absolutely marvellous. Some of them were aged only 19 and they had to work for 14 or 15 hours without a stop. There was not one really dangerous incident during the whole time.
The other reason was damage. In the main, the Bill deals only with 260 damage. There was practically no damage done at Brighton. I was in two or three of the different crowds and I listened to the conversation. I came to the conclusion that many of these youths were earning good money, in some cases as much as their parents—certainly far more money than they knew what to do with. Due to the Welfare State, or never having it so good, they do not have to pay for those things which, in former days, they would have had to pay for themselves, and they do not know quite what to do with their money. They go out and buy scooters or motor cycles, or get them on hire purchase, and that is about all that they can run to.
They go to Brighton and other places and, having arrived, they have no more money left. There is nothing for them to do. They cannot afford to go to the cinema, or to this, that or the other. They probably have girl friends with them and they are absolutely foxed as to what to do. They are not criminals; they do not break anything up. They are not drunks, they go along the front. I saw one or two of them doing silly things to which their friends objected and their only answer was, "What the devil are we to do? There is nothing to do here." Then they all rushed off to the beach, not unlike the Gadarene swine, jumped into the sea, pushed others in and thought it all a great joke. They knocked down a number of old people. That is the kind of problem with which we are faced.
Because I appreciated that it would not be in order in Committee on the Bill, I purposely framed my Amendment to include a reference to the question of increasing fines for attacking the police. To my mind it was the action of the police at Brighton which really saved the situation, yet the police receive very little in the way of compensation. I have a list dating right back to the 1880s in some cases and to well before the First World War in others, from which I gather that punishment for damage has always been roughly as follows: for wilful damage amounting to under £5, a fine of £20 or a sentence of three months' imprisonment; for being drunk and disorderly, a fine of £10—and, oddly enough, very few of the people of whom we are speaking are drunks; that is what is worrying the 261 brewers so much—and for possessing an offensive weapon, a fine of £50 or three months' imprisonment, or both. Under the Public Order Acts, insulting behaviour merits a sentence of three months' imprisonment, or a fine of £100, or both—and that sounds too much, in comparison with the others—obstructing the police, a fine of £5; throwing missiles, a fine of £2; obscene language, a fine of £2; and attacking the police, a fine of £20 or two months' imprisonment in default of payment of the fine.
We must not forget that many of these youngsters are the sons or daughters of comparatively well-to-do people. All that is necessary in their case, once they are fined or threatened with a fine and placed on remand, is to get their parents to pay the fine, so that their little darlings can go free. There is no punishment for those youngsters at all. This is extremely unfair on the police. As I have said, there is a fine of £5 for obstructing the police, and that dates back many years. There are only three examples of such fines I know of. The first is pulling the communication cord on the train, in respect of which the fine is £5, and the second is spitting in a bus, in respect of which the fine is £2. The third is obstructing the police. None has been increased for over 50 years.
We should do something for the police as well as dealing with the question of wilful damage, especially in view of the fact that, generally speaking, not very much damage is done. The hon. Member for Leeds, South-East mentioned Liverpool and the North. There we have had a particularly interesting development. As a result of the coming into existence of the Beatles and similar groups of musicians, the type of unruly behaviour of which we are speaking has been much reduced. It is very much less than in the South.
The hon. Member for Wigan asked for my suggestions about camps. My original idea was that for a certain period these young people could be sent to some form of national camp. They would undergo something like the training that our National Service men went through in the old days, but there would be no military service. The desirability to avoid that sort of thing has been brought out by various hon. Members, and I was never one who thought 262 that these youngsters should go into the Army, in any case. My idea was that they should be formed into training camps and be trained for six months or a year.
However, many theories are being put forward, including sending these young people in ships to different parts of the world. This has all happened before. I was interested in this subject before the war. I remember The Times sending me out all over the country and to the Continent to study the situation and to see what was being done in various camps. As far back as 1924 we had labour camps. They were voluntary camps, but people went into them because in those days we had many unemployed and there was a great need to help the young.
Today, exactly the reverse situation exists. The young have too much money, and they do not know what to do with it. Something could surely be thought out on the lines of earlier projects. These schemes were tried out in Austria, and also in Germany and Italy. I know that many people would think of Nazism and Fascism in the case of the last two countries, but I must point out that these schemes were tried out before Nazism or Fascism began. They were very useful in that they enabled the youth of the country to help in various job which would benefit everybody. In my constituency there is a project known as "self-help building" the object of which is to enable poor people who have just got married to build their own houses, at a much cheaper rate than normal. Why not help these?
I am against sending to prison the sort of people that were arrested in the Brighton disturbances. They are not evil boys and girls, and I do not think that they should be sent to prison, where they can mix with criminal types. We must try to work out schemes which will help these youngsters in the manner that I have suggested. On Saturdays, the Metropolitan Police give youngsters healthy physical training and drill, which does them a lot of good. I read in the Daily Express today of a magistrate who had the bright idea of making a boy who had stolen a lot of milk bottles go to all the people from whom he had stolen 263 them, pay back the money, and apologise. These punishments are not in the rules and regulations, but they are imaginative, and I am sure that many more magistrates could impose them.
The other day I asked my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour to instruct some of our labour attachés in foreign embassies to see what is happening abroad, because this problem is almost as bad in Sweden, France, Germany and other countries. If we found out what those countries were doing about the problem it might be a great help to us.
As I said earlier, we already fine fairly heavily for damage, and under the Bill we shall fine even more heavily. But a great deal of damage is not being done. What has developed is a hatred on the part of these young people for the police. That hatred exists throughout the south of England, and we must do all that we can to stop it. It it a great danger. Money is another problem. Youngsters between the ages of 15 and 24 are earning over £1,000 million a year. What steps, if any, are we taking to teach them how to spend that money?
The Cardiff National Savings Society is very keen on this sort of thing and has had great success throughout Wales. It is doing everything it can to help solve this problem. My right hon. Friend has suggested that we should do little things among ourselves to help. I can remember that in the days before the last war one of the greatest encouragements in this matter was given by the then Prince of Wales. It is only appropriate to mention him on his 70th birthday. He did a tremendous amount at that time. There was an immense rally at the Albert Hall at which he presided and where he coined the phrase "doing the nearby thing".
The nearby thing is just the sort of thing that we ought to be doing today. We know that Prince Philip is working very hard to try in every way to help youth movements in the country. It might well be that instead of suggesting that politicians, or civil servants, or people who might be considered by some to be as dry as dust, should run these things, we should, possibly, ask the Duke of Windsor to come back—he is not too old at 70, and his mind is very clear and active—to help us with this problem, which is not too big a one. 264 Someone has said that 90 per cent. of all youth are quite all right. Only 10 per cent. are in trouble, but most of these are not really wicked; but they are not quite certain what to do.
If only we could try and get this out of politics. We know that from now up to the General Election it is unlikely that any other Bill on the subject will be introduced. At the moment, we are only raising the amount of money that can be provided if damage is done, but we know that in most recent cases very little damage has been done, although there is the danger of attack on the police; and that bitterness is felt against the police. Let us try and raise the amount of money, which has not been raised since 1912, that can be asked in fines from anyone who obstructs or assaults the police.
There is the alternative of paying a fine or going to prison, and, therefore, the parents come along and pay the fines so that the boys and girls concerned, receive no punishment. We should remember, as I have said, that some £1,000 million is being spent by young people every year, and no one is really guiding them on how to spend it. All these are serious problems, much more than this Bill can help to solve, so, therefore, I ask my right hon. Friend please to think out a bigger one for later on.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. R. E. Prentice (East Ham, North)
The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) has made a very large number of suggestions, into which I do not intend to follow him. However, I should like to take him up on the phrase he used towards the end of his speech, when he said that this matter should be taken out of politics. It is a phrase that is so often used about many problems, and, in my view, it is absolute nonsense.
Any major social problem is a matter in which the Government and Parliament must be concerned. It may not be a party political matter, but it is a political matter in the wider sense, which is why we are debating these matters today. I think that it is an overworked phrase. It is a test of this Government and future Governments as to how they meet the problems with which we are 265 concerned. Most of us are groping among problems that we are only beginning to understand.
I had not intended to take part in the debate, but I welcome the opportunity to do so after having listened to it so far. First, I should like to join those who congratulated the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. C. Morrison) on his maiden speech. I was one of those who went to his constituency in an effort to see that he did not come here as a Member of Parliament. Although we were disappointed in the result, I think those of us who have listened to his speech have been recompensed in that he spoke so clearly and with such knowledge on the subject.
The hon. Gentleman said that his was a beautiful constituency. My mother was born in it and my grandfather worked ah his life in it as a farm worker. I have also many uncles and cousins working on the land there at the moment. Most of them, I believe, voted against him. I speak with some knowledge of the area and have memories of many pleasant times spent there.
I join with those who welcome the Bill as far as it goes. It is a very modest Measure, as the Home Secretary said. It is welcome from the point of view of putting up the penalties and particularly for what it has to say about payment of compensation. I should have thought it was clear that one element that we want to increase in sentencing policy is that, where practicable, the offenders should be made to compensate the victims. That is a good thing from two points of view. The first is that it may help to bring home to the offender the seriousness of what he has done, and the second is that it provides some element of justice for the victim.
I would point out that the victim in these cases will only get the benefit if the offender is caught—in far too many cases he is not caught—and if his arrest is followed by a sentence of this kind. The problem is that of compensating victims of crimes of violence. We are still waiting to hear from the Home Secretary about the amendments which he made in his tentative White Paper which we debated a few weeks ago. I hope that we shall hear more about this White Paper soon, including the date on which it is to come into effect.
266 I should like to join other hon. Members in venturing a few ideas on the wider issues involved, and I do that with a good deal of trepidation. There are more pompous speeches made and more pompous editorials written on the subject than on almost any other subject. It is a subject on which so many people think that they are experts. Some subjects are debated in the House, and outside, about which Members start by saying that they know very little or nothing at all and that it is a specialist subject. But this is the sort of subject on which everybody seems to think that he knows the answer We get people in the pub or in the bus queue pontificating on the answer.
This is very foolish because that sort of approach fails to recognise how difficult and complicated these matters are and how difficult it is to arrive at the right answers. I agree with those who say that there is need for more discipline in the bringing up of some young people who lack discipline. This is one of the causes of the increase in juvenile offences. I feel sorry for children who do not get enough discipline and who suffer from a lack of it, but to say that children reed discipline is only to mention one of the many things that they need. While we could agree as a generalisation that there is need for more discipline in some cases, I think that concentration on that one aspect of it may draw attention away from others.
Above all, what children need is to be brought up in a home where they will be loved and disciplined and where the parents will care enough to set them the kind of example and give the guidance which will help them to learn the difference between right and wrong and to make the right decision for themselves without difficulty as they grow older. This, of course, is what is lacking in so many cases. Here I wish to emphasise what my hon. Friend said in opening the debate about the proposals made by the Committee presided over by the Earl of Longford for family service units and family courts to help in these matters. I also was a member of that Committee I was brought on to it rather late because of the problem which it was discussing and, therefore, I can speak on the proposal without having been responsible for fomulating it in any way.
267 When we say so easily that parents should do more and that they are to blame, we assume too easily also that the parents themselves know what to do about it. After all, the young people whose conduct we are deploring are themselves going to be parents very soon—indeed, some are parents already—and very often it is the parents who need help and guidance where these can be made available to them. Therefore, constructive ideas for bringing together a number of welfare questions that already exist in the localities and for co-ordinating them as a family service can help with this kind of problem as well as with many others, and can help in many cases to provide a more stable home background which is obviously one of the needs in the situation that we are discussing.
The hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion said that this problem exists also in many other countries. It is one of the paradoxes of our times that in modern industrial societies, as they become more prosperous and as many of the old problems are beginning to be solved, there is an increase in the crime rate, particularly among young people. The United States, which has the highest standard of living the world has ever known, has had the most spectacular increase of all in juvenile offences.
It is very difficult to get to the causes, but we must. There is a need for more research into these problems, not merely into the more immediate problems of sentencing and what policy should be adopted to deal directly and immediately with offenders, but also research into the social background and the reasons why modern industrial society, becoming more affluent, seems to have this trend.
I venture only three suggestions to the House, and I do so very tentatively. I think that one reason is that modern affluent society has had as one of its features the relative decline of the influence of the Churches. I do not say This to start a theological argument. I merely say that the kind of conduct we are discussing is the antithesis of the Christian ethic, and many people have departed from the Church without finding any other kind of moral code to replace the kind of guidance mat their forefathers had from religion.
268 It is becoming commonplace in our society for some people to preach selfishness as a good thing in itself, even for parents to tell their children as they are growing up, "You must look out for yourself in life. You must make sure you are all right. You must not worry too much about others". That is the kind of advice we hear given. Criminal behaviour is merely the extreme example of it If one acts on that advice and takes it to its logical conclusion, it is logical to commit any crime one can get away with if one thinks that one can avoid being caught. What we need in society is a far greater emphasis on loving our neighbour and a far greater degree of kindess, courtesy and consideration and everything mat goes with it This is something to which a large number of people who are in no way criminals can contribute by improving their own conduct.
Secondly, modern industrial societies have become societies in which people live their private lives. The hon. Member for Devizes spoke of people who could give some of their time helping to solve social problems. I wonder whether if this is not to some extent an aftermath of the war. I was a Service man myself during the war, and I remember that so many of my contemporaries were so "fed up" with the demands which were made on them through being taken away from their homes and families to become soldiers that a common expression amongst them was, "When I get out of this lot they will not get me to join even a stamp club".
People coming home from the Services wanted to live their lives bound up with their jobs and their families. They wanted to be concerned with their homes and gardens, not with the outside world. It is those people who came back from the war in mat frame of mind who are the parents of many of the young people whose conduct we are discussing.
What is needed is for a far greater number of good citizens to spend some of their time outside their homes and families in all kinds of voluntary movements. They could engage in such things as helping with youth clubs, helping a local church, or helping the Freedom from Hunger Campaign. One of the failings of our modern society is 269 that there is a lack of people to take part in all kinds of voluntary work. If more were prepared to engage in voluntary work, we should create a new ethic in society which would help to conquer this problem.
The third thing I feel about our modern society is that, as we become more and more of a meritocracy, as we achieve in some ways more freedom of opportunity, life is often more unsatisfactory for those who get left behind. We are moving away from the old class divisions, and when we have a Labour Government, shortly, we shall move even faster from the old class divisions. That will be a good thing. Under the old class divisions, the man who did not do well ill life could often console himself with the thought that he did not have a chance.
As our means of selection become more and more sophisticated, I think that life has less meaning and less attraction for those who fail to meet the tests. The boy who, at the age of 11, fails the 11-plus and goes to a secondary-modern school, who then, when he leaves school at the age of 15, fails to get an apprenticeship and drifts into unskilled work, is already, at a very tender and sensitive age, being labelled as someone who has failed to meet the requirements either of academic or skilled work.
He leaves school at a time when he is energetic and has natural exuberance. He has very little opportunity for sport and physical recreation, compared with those who stay on at school. Educational inequality means inequality in sporting facilities also, a point which the House debated yesterday. Therefore, any rebellious tendencies the boy will have—most young people have some rebellious tendencies, and this can often be a healthy thing—are aggravated by being left behind to some extent at a very early age.
Only a minority of young people go on from that to become delinquents. I am worried about those who do not become delinquents, those who, nevertheless, suffer frustration and a feeling of injustice from the causes I have mentioned. Some will become delinquents, and will be encouraged towards it by this sort of social atmosphere. In the argument whether one should be a "mod" or a "rocker", one of the feelings held 270 among "rockers" is that "mods" tend to be the rather goody-goody types, the ones who will dress well, the ones who will be more conventional and be in youth clubs, and that it is rather a brave thing to be a "rocker".
One can understand how certain social pressures will work on young people and encourage that frame of mind, although I hasten to add that I am in a sense rather sorry that I introduced the terms "mod" and "rocker", because they have become so overworked. It is important to remember that many young people use these names for groupings among their friends without having any sort of criminal tendency.
I have made these observations merely to show that I think that much more research is needed into the causes of these things and that the Government of the day—this is one reason why this is a political topic—should devote more resources to research, research into the more immediate questions of treatment and sentencing and into the deeper question of the social conditions of our time.
I join in the argument which has gone on about the rôle of the Press. The Press has been condemned for the publicity it gave to the events at Easter and Whitsun at seaside resorts. I should have thought that the Press was bound to report those events. They were news, they were serious, and the Press was right to report them. I know that it is easy for people to lecture the Press on this, but I think that to some extent the Press should expect to have its faults pointed out, because it is very good at pointing out other people's faults. One of the things that the Press should do, I believe, is to give more attention to the exciting and constructive things that young people can do in so many other spheres.
I have in mind the work done by local youth clubs which help elderly people, very often helping them with their gardening, or decorating the front parlours of elderly people who cannot manage to do that themselves. I have in mind the type of work which was done by young volunteers in cleaning up the Stratford Canal. I have in mind the work done by those young people who go overseas with Voluntary Service Overseas, International Voluntary Service, and other such bodies. This work is exciting and challenging. I 271 should have thought that it was also news and something which people would like to read about; It is important that this work should be publicised as well as other activities in which young people engage.
I repeat that we are all merely groping with these problems. I think that it is probably a good thing that in the debate on the Second Reading of this rather narrow Bill we should venture a few tentative thoughts, in the knowledge that we have much more to learn.
§ 5.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (Billericay)
I wish to add my personal and warm congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. C. Morrison). All hon. Members on this side of the House admired the way he ran his by-election campaign. We also admired the way he ran at that campaign—with house to house canvassing, and so on—although some of us doubt whether that is an example which we should follow. I am sure that the whole House admired, without qualification, the excellent speech which he made this afternoon and the common sense which he applied to this subject.
I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon) that it is necessary, when looking at this subject of what to do with the person who goes out and commits malicious damage of the kind at which this Bill is aimed, to make up our minds that this sort of person is not necessarily—and, one prays, is far removed from being—a criminal as such. One must distinguish between dishonesty, which is the fundamental character of the criminal—be he a small-time criminal or someone who devotes his whole life to evil ways—and the sort of person who goes out in high spirits, undisciplined and irresponsible, and commits the sort of damage that is the grave subject of displeasure when young people go to seaside resorts and break up deckchairs, damage buildings and make hooligans of themselves.
Every generation—indeed, every century—has had to deal with this problem. It is right that we should recognise that this is, in time, something that is timeless. Indeed, in the Victorian years the people who, no doubt, 272 were our great-great-grandfathers, or beyond that, had to deal with this problem. People went out and broke up sea walls, went into public parks and cut down and otherwise destroyed trees, went into people's gardens and damaged plants and trees and some of them rioting, demolished farm buildings and damaged churches.
The Victorians took a very grave view of this. For throwing a stone on the railway line or putting a piece of wood in front of a train, for damaging trees in public parks and for damaging sea walls, such a person who committed these offences would expose himself or herself to a penalty of a lifetime of imprisonment. Even for tearing up plants in someone's garden there was a likelihood that a person would be sent to prison for as much as five years.
Today, we must deal with the high spirits of youth. There is, I suppose, implanted in almost everyone, whether or not they like it, a spirit or a desire to destroy. One seized with this impulse is in some way catered for commercially and, for example, at fairgrounds one can throw as many wooden balls at as many pieces of crockery as one likes. However, when this impulse is undisciplined, added to the high spirits of youth, something goes wrong and one gets the sort of damage with which this Bill is designed to deal.
How do we deal with it? Naturally, these young people can be sent to prison, but I do not believe that that is the way to punish them. I do not believe that imprisonment, by itself, is the proper answer. They should be treated by something that amounts to punishment, something that will deter others from following their example and something that is likely to reform them. I see great merit in detention centres and I am sure that this is a way of punishing these people which will not only make it an unpleasant example for others, but which will correct the people who are subject to this punishment and make it unlikely that they will again enter this type of folly.
I see great advantage in fining them and I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) that fining them does not do much good because the parents will probably pay the fine. I do not mind 273 if the parents pay. Indeed, I sometimes think that it would be a good idea if the parents could be fined separately and that punishment could be imposed on them. I see no harm at all in thinking that possibly the parents will be giving the money to satisfy the fine.
The feature of the Bill, which I applaud, is the ability it gives to magistrates to make an order for compensation to be paid to the person aggrieved. This is by far the most effective way of teaching a person who commits damage that he has done something wrong, something that must be put right at his discomfort and to his personal cost. It is because I am so anxious to see this principle of the Bill exercised as often and as effectively as possible that I have one small but, I hope the House will consider, important reservation about the present form of the Bill.
If a magistrate is to impose a fine on someone who merits such punishment, then to make certain that that fine is paid and that that form of punishment is not avoided, he can impose as an alternative a sentence of imprisonment. This, I should have thought, in almost every case ensures that the fine will be paid. But what happens in the case of magistrates who make an order that compensation should be paid by the defendant who has caused malicious damage to the person who has suffered from that damage?
How is the court to be certain that such an order will be fulfilled? How is the money to be recovered if the defendant decides, having got out of court with a fine of, say, £20 or £50, that he will only pay the fine—we know that he will pay it because if he does not he will probably go to prison for six months or more—but will not pay the compensation to the person aggrieved? I can see nothing in the Bill as it is framed that will make certain that the compensation is paid in the same way as the fine.
I would be very happy to know from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary that I am mistaken in this, but it seems to me that at the moment all that can be done is to institute civil proceedings against the defendant and recover by way of civil proceedings the amount of compensation ordered by the magistrate, in the same way as if a magistrate, having 274 imposed a fine with an alternative of imprisonment, makes an order that the defendant should pay the cost of the prosecution. These costs can be recovered only by civil proceedings.
I should like to see some machinery in the Bill whereby a magistrate ordering compensation to be paid to the person aggrieved can order as an alternative that it that sum of money is not paid within a time at the discretion of the magistrate the person against whom the order is made should suffer a term of imprisonment, in the same way as he would have suffered if he had not paid a fine. Apart from that one criticism, I approve wholly of the Bill and welcome my right hen. Friend's initiative in bringing it before the House.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. David James (Brighton, Kemptown)
Except for the General Election prognosis made by the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), I find myself in complete agreement with hon. Members on both sides of the House who have delivered sincere speeches on this subject.
Like everyone else, I am particularly glad to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. C. Morrison) on his maiden speech. He and I have suffered from the disadvantage of having our maider. speeches listened to by our fathers, although I was one up on him in that my father, as an ex-Member, was on the other side of a wall, as it were, under the Public Gallery. Incidentally, the late Mr. Percival Pott was good enough to congratulate me on my maiden speech four years ago. Therefore, although this is a melancholy occasion in some senses, I am glad to congratulate his successor.
I was no in Brighton during the weekend to which references have been made, but I arrived there later to find a sense of horror and outrage felt by the people who live there. It was almost as if one had been to a city which, at least emotionally, had been recently hit by an earthquake, and as if all the conventions and values of life had been completely flouted. This was deeply felt. Consequently, this Measure will be welcomed by the people of Brighton.
There are, nevertheless, silver linings to the cloud. One was the immediate and spontaneous outburst of gratitude to 275 the police for the remarkable job that they carried out. This was referred to in the magistrates' court within 48 hours and has been referred to today by hon. Members. I make no apology for referring to it again. There are 12,000 teen-agers in Brighton, but only a couple of handfuls of them were involved in any way and, therefore, it is right that we should continue to emphasise, even at the expense of boring each other, that this is a problem which concerns relatively few young people and that there is no greater disservice that we could do to young people in this country than to dissociate ourselves in some way from them and not regard them as a part of a living, growing organic community.
I was in the Navy and was, fortunately, removed from these distinctions, but I was told during the war that when the Eighth Army went on leave in Cairo if an infantryman was found to be having a jolly evening in a "pub" it was considered a bad show, but if members of a well-known cavalry regiment were involved they were deemed to be "showing form". I hope that we shall not fall into the error of making that kind of distinction. The distinction that we can make, however, is that the only alarming aspect of the episodes in Brighton at Whitsun was the large number involved, because, if no one knows the cause, everyone knows that there are psychotic elements which enter into the behaviour of a crowd which do not arise, for example, after an ordinary rugger club supper.
Many people fear the possibility that if this were to go unchecked we could have a situation like that appalling affair in Lima after a football match a few weeks ago. We like to believe that in this country we have temperamental advantages brought to bear upon us, presumably by our appalling climate, which prevent us from showing these emotions, but we cannot ignore the brute facts of human nature. We cannot forget that if a large group of young people are allowed to congregate then, sooner or later, a powder trail might be lit which would do far more damage to life and property than we have seen hitherto.
It is for these reasons that I should like to see the mobility of young people 276 cut down where they cause trouble. In this connection, a most useful step was proposed by the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon). I am sorry that she is not here, if only because I should have liked to congratulate her on an outstandingly thoughtful and constructive speech on this subject. Certainly, the greater use of attendance centres would be an enormous disincentive and would go far to keep down the possibility of large numbers of young people getting together.
Although we may not be able to do anything within the ambit of the Bill, I should like my right hon. Friend also to look more carefully once again at the suggestion that the driving licences of young people who get involved in this type of episode should be removed from them. My right hon. Friend has pointed out, quite rightly, that there is no connection between the commission of an offence and any sort of vehicle which may be parked some distance away, but this presupposes that the right to drive a 30 cwt. vehicle on the highway is absolute provided that one is 17 years of age, mechanically competent and sober at the time.
We should not regard this as so little a matter of cause and effect that nothing should stop the relationship between the motor car owner and the highway. I should have thought that the one thing that a person to be considered competent to drive any vehicle should be expected to be these days is to be emotionally mature and not the sort of person who will get excited and be led astray and be persuaded by a "ton-up" character who passes him on the road, with a rush of adrenalin in the system, to go faster still.
I ask my right hon. Friend to consider that there should not be an absolute relationship between the nature of the offence and the existence of the motor vehicle. First of all, this would keep down mobility and, as my right hon. Friend knows very well, there is a great deal of professional evidence to suggest that it is this mobility angle that most worries police authorities. It would cut down mobility and it would mean yet another test of whether someone is competent to drive a motor vehicle and that 277 is whether he is emotionally stable and old enough to do so.
To deprive a person of his driving licence is a penalty which is particularly hard to bear. While I entirely agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Leeds, South-East that reform and punishment should not be considered contradictory concepts and that they are convergent, nevertheless if we exclude hanging, transportation, or sending to prison, or any of the other eighteenth century and early nineteenth century methods, it is difficult to think of penalities that can be applied.
I am sure that increasing the fine and making people responsible for damage hurts them in a way which will prove effective, but experience shows that there is nothing that inconveniences the average man more than the possibility of losing his driving licence. Whether the offence is directly connected or indirectly connected with consuming purple hearts on the beach and breaking up property, I should like my right hon. Friend to re-examine the question of whether these offences can be kept down by hurting the offender in the place where it hurts most.
I do not want to air any other views, although I think that many of the views that have been put forward from both sides of the Chamber have been extremely valuable. In the Bill we have all that we can possibly get in the short time which is available to Parliament. A more controversial Bill would certainly not have got through all its stages in time, and I would very much rather have a bird in the hand, politically speaking, for the August Bank Holiday, than even three or four birds in the bush in a Parliament of the future whose shape, unlike an hon. Member opposite, I shall not venture to predict.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)
I am sorry that the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) is not in the Chamber at the moment, because I am sure from what he said that he would agree that there is no place for party politics in a discussion on criminal law—party politics are best left out when we are discussing this subject—but I should like to make one small political point.
The hon. Member said that he was a member of the committee that produced 278 the Labour Party's pamphlet "Crime—A Challenge to Us All". With very much of the thinking in that pamphlet I heartily agree. Hon. Members on both sides would like to see more done to temper justice with mercy, and to improve and modernise our criminal law practice.
But in Chapter I, headed "Justice with Mercy", the following words appear:The imbalance in our mixed economy, between the private sector (constantly reinforced and encouraged in the years of Conservative Government) and the far smaller public sector, combined with the exaltation of acquisitiveness already noted and the constant sneers at the nationalised industries, may well excite an immature mind to regard all property, public or private, as legitimate loot.That is complete and absolute eyewash. Is it really seriously being suggested that because half the country does not wish to see an extension of State ownership this encourages people to steal? It is nonsense. It reveals a background of political prejudice which, I hope, will not run through that party's thinking on this important matter.
In the same chapter, one reads:Of these evils, the external ones—poverty and squalor—are much less extreme than in the days of Dickens, but the gulf in living standards between the poorest and the best-off. is hardly more tolerable … This is relevant to our theme because the poor are more vulnerable to some obvious temptations than the better-off are; for the strain of their living conditions must tend to weaken their resistance to such temptations.The problem we are discussing now—malicious damage—is caused by young people who are not so poor; in fact, they are reasonably well off. Part of the problem is that they have not learnt how to spend their money sensibly or to use their leisure wisely.
Having said that, I accept that our attitude to crime should be one of a balance between enlightened sympathy towards the conditions that cause the existence of criminals and, at the same time, sensible but fairly strong punishment for those who are selfish and do not respect other people's property. We must not be carried away either by over-sentimentality or by the extreme views of those who wish to bring back corporal punishment and other severe measures. I therefore welcome the Government's thinking on this matter.
279 My final word is this. In many magistrates' courts today, when defendants are fined they are given considerable time in which to pay. Immediately a fine is imposed a defendant will ask for time to pay. The court will ask him what obligations he has—what hire-purchase agreements he has, and then, in many cases, will give him considerable time to pay. A fine as a punishment would be far more effective if the method of payment were not made too easy by the courts. I hope that courts will explain to young people who have caused this considerable hardship that the punishment is meant to hurt, and that hardship is intended to be caused to them, so they will understand that this petty crime simply does not pay.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I am sorry not to have been present at this debate for an hour—I had to do something else—but before I went I had the pleasure of hearing a delightful maiden speech from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devizes (Mr. C. Morrison)—a speech in which we all shared his father's pleasure. He came to this House after winning a by-election against the stream, and his doing so was, I think, a tribute to the great services both of his family and of his wife's family, if I may say so, in Wiltshire.
I deplore the amount of hysteria engendered by the scraps that took place between the "mods" and the "rockers". These young people are not criminals; they are not criminal types. There is nothing either particularly modern or particularly shocking in the fact that young men do today—and have, I think, as long as history is recorded—sometimes find that it would be rather fun to go out and have a fight. That certainly happened on "rugger" nights at universities. On 5th November, at Cambridge, people went out because they thought that it would be fun to have a fight—and did so.
Earlier on, in the Middle Ages, this proclivity to go out and have a fight for fun was organised on what seems to me to have been rather sensible lines. On public holidays, an area would be declared a tournament area, and to that area those who wanted to fight could go. Battle took place with the first comer, 280 the loser lost his steam, was stripped of his armour and vestments and, at the end of the holiday, an auction of trophies took place outside the tournament area. I do not know that the right hon. Gentleman would consider fixing areas of beach as tournament areas in which these young chaps could work off their high spirits—I am afraid that it is an idea too sensible for adoption.
What struck me about these particular occasions was, basically, the gentleness of what happened. In all these scraps, I do not know that anybody was entertained in hospital for even a couple of days. Was anyone seriously hurt? I believe that the casualty rate after a "rugger" night was much more serious, and much more severe. Indeed, my own impression of the modern generation is that they are far kinder, far gentler than we were, and they are much kinder to each other, both in the school age and in the adolescent age.
We really should not mistake this sort of performance with criminality, any more than one mistakes a "rugger night rag" for criminality. Certainly, it is something that has to be controlled, and these young chaps must pay for the damage they do. In the sense that this Bill enables the courts to see that these people do pay for the damage they cause, plus something more, I am in favour of it. But I deplore the idea adopted by some magistrates and canvassed and applauded in the newspapers of sending young men of this sort to prison. That is a lamentable answer to this sort of performance. We have also had hysterical observations about sawdust Caesars. These people are nothing of the sort.
Certainly there is a criminal element among young people. Certainly this is a serious and difficult problem. There is probably a higher percentage of criminality among young people today than there was in the past, but these young delinquents, or whatever we may like to call them, should not be confused with exuberant types on holiday. They are in a different class and need to be dealt with differently. The delinquent element is a major problem, and the question of how we are to deal with it requires a great deal more observation and imagination than is being shown. This problem is different from the problem created by weekend scraps.
281 That was what I wished to say, largely because of the exaggerated statements which have been made.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Miscampbell (Blackpool, North)
Like every other speaker, I welcome the initiative of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in making the fines more realistic and making provision for proper compensation. We have listened to a number of views. As the hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) said, everyone has a view about this matter, but it is very difficult to know the answers.
When we consider the problem as a national problem, the most perplexing aspect of it is why very little of what happened in the South has happened in the North. Why is it that Blackpool was not visited by the same mobs which went to the southern resorts? Is this due to housing differences, as was suggested in an immediate reaction by the right hon. Member for Belper (Mr. G. Brown)? That can hardly be so, because I think we all agree that housing conditions in the North are worse than they are in the South.
It has been suggested that in Liverpool the groups have taken up part of the slack. That again may be partially true. It may be true of Liverpool, but it cannot be true of other towns in the North. Is it due to a more affluent society in the South? Are there marginal differences in the income of people in the North and the income of people in the South? Is it due perhaps to the Liverpool "mum" or northern family life which appears to be holding together better in an age when it is being attacked? The trouble is that we simply do not know the answers to these questions and until we know them attempts to change the law are simply guesses or jumps in the dark.
I agree that the most likely way of dealing with the present outbreak is the one which has been suggested today, namely, to increase the fines. Anyone who goes to the police courts must know that this is a long needed reform, but one's experience in the courts leaves one very much in the dark. We think that fines are the right way of dealing with this matter, but do we know how they are paid within the family? Are they 282 paid by the person who is fined? What is the effect of the fine? What is the capacity to pay of the person who is fined, not simply in the way in which the probationer officer tells the court that the defendant has a certain income? What is his job record? That may be known in part. It would help if there were research in depth into the background of these people who are getting into trouble We must learn the background of the people we are trying to reform. Without conducting a real inquiry into their family and financial background and the social effects which fines have on them and their attitude to the fines, we are only guessing at the answers.
I urge my right hon. Friend to add to this excellent and correct step forward a determination to inquire into the background of these people so that when we debate this, matter again, as no doubt we shall, we shall have more knowledge and be more certain that what we are doing is right and realistic.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
This has been a very interesting debate. I speak principally because I do not agree with some of the observations made by certain of my hon. Friends. I do not for a moment agree that matters relating to crime, the law and punishment are anything other than political matters. They are political, and strongly political. Secondly, I think that we are approaching an era when to quite a substantial degree they will be matters of partisan politics. That emerges strongly from the reasoned pronouncement of Lord Gardiner and his Committee—
§ Miss Bacon
To which Committee is the hon. Member referring? Or is he confusing Lord Gardiner's Committee with Lord Longford's Committee?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
No, I am not I am concerned with Lord Gardiner, and I have in mind the Society of Labour Lawyers and other institutes of that kind which are helping him, as a member of the Labour Party, and his Committee. I am not thinking of Lord Longford's report, which is of an infinitely more limiting nature. I see a clear endeavour to make party politics out of this 283 matter. Far from making a complaint about it, I think that there is probably a divergence of view.
I think that we on this side would be almost unanimously of the view that law reform and matters relating to it are matters of evolution rather than revolution. It may well be that that is not a view which would be subscribed to by Lord Gardiner. In matters of a more emotional nature—and they may be very important matters, such as the question of homicide—we may see quite a sharp divergence of view. Therefore, it cannot be said that matters of crime and punishment and conscience are not political matters. They are the stuff and heart of politics.
§ Miss Bacon
I must put the hon. Gentleman right. When matters like capital punishment, corporal punishment and many other things have been debated in this House over the last few years, we on this side have had a free vote, whereas hon. Members opposite have had the Whips on to take them into the Division Lobby.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
That is not true. I tabled a number of Amendments to the Homicide Bill of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). I was campaigning for the retention of the death penalty when he was campaigning the other way. The votes went across the Floor of the House. Although it is predominantly true that members of the Labour Party were in favour of abolition, there was an entirely free vote. I think the hon. Lady is justified in intervening to this extent—that this matter has been the subject of very little partisan politics in the past. Little was done by the Labour Party about law reform until the Tory Party came into power. The Home Office, the present Home Secretary and others have campaigned vigorously for many of these matters of law reform and of changing the attitude towards crime.
I see this Bill as fitting into a pattern of a far wider measure of reform by evolution which the Home Secretary and his colleagues are pursuing. It is a small Measure in itself, but it is part of a much wider pattern for those of us who have been closely associated over many years with the work which the Home Office 284 and successive Home Secretaries have been doing. My right hon. Friend's eminent predecessor was probably one of the greatest Home Secretaries, and my right hon. Friend has himself been undertaking great work in pursuance and furtherance of work done earlier.
The important feature of the Bill is that it makes the criminal repay. It is not merely a question of the fines being increased, although they are being increased. What matters is that if somebody goes out to do damage by wanton behaviour he will have to repay the damage, to pay the compensation, himself. I entirely share the view of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner)—I discussed the point with him—that it is of great importance that the repayment of compensation should be absolutely clear. It must be part of the penalty. It may be so in the Bill, but, if not, I hope that we can amend it to make sure that it is so.
The purpose is that these people shall be fined so as to hit them in the pocket, and, secondly, that they shall pay for the damage which they have done. At the same time, we propose to compensate the victims of crimes of violence. Those who suffer through going to assist the police in the apprehension of someone else will receive compensation. In this we show a lead to the world.
But what will happen when people go into detention centres or prisons? Since I last spoke on the matter, before the "mods" and "rockers" went to Margate, in my constituency, there has been a change. I know that Brighton, which is a much bigger place, had all the damage and that we had relatively little, with much talk and not very much harm. Be that as it may, the point which I want to stress is that there should be a repayment in respect of the damage done.
This is all part of the direction in which we are trying to move—that when people go to prison they shall work in prison to repay the damage which they have done. I understand that trade union views are changing and that we shall be able to put people to work in prison and to train them properly. For years the trade unions would not accept this attitude, but at last they have begun to see the light—and I am delighted.
285 What is our aim? In the Bill it is to put up the fines, to encourage increased fines and also to encourage repayment. Thus, it begins to fall into the overall pattern—and we have another Bill for Second Reading shortly which follows the same general pattern that we begin to see.
The hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), in a speech full of charm and intelligence, fell into this trap: he said that this was all a matter of politics but not of partisan politics. I am sorry that the hon. Member has left the Chamber. He pointed out that we have not pursued methods of research. That would have been true if said some time ago, but today the picture has completely altered. First, we have the advantage at Cambridge University of the Criminological Institute and the valuable work being done by that study. My right hon. Friend is setting up a Royal Commission. A number of excellent working parties are going on in almost every field. There is an advisory committee on law reform and another on criminal law reform. There is a plethora of first-class committees, including one on juvenile delinquency. It cannot be said that we have not at least got all these parties working on the various forms of research we can possibly want to arrive at a conclusion. I agree that we have not yet received the outcome of all this work.
Hon. Members know that if we ask lawyers to report on matters of law reform it will be a long time before we get the answer. A circular has to be sent to all the associations, such as the Bar Council and the Law Society, and other organisations, and their reply awaited. It is six months before we get it back, and after having received replies from the various associations there must be a report to the Minister and then to the Home Office for their conclusions before the matter ultimately comes to the House.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
But where we have a unanimous recommendation of the Lord Tucker Committee on the taking of evidence in committal proceedings as far back as 1957 and no action taken to implement that recommendation even to this day, is not that an example of the need for some machinery of reform to be con- 286 tinually in existence to bring about change?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
No, I do not agree, because we had a report only six months ago which was implemented by a Bill from my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir H. Ashton). It is a question of where there is a will there is a way. In the matter to which the hon. Member referred there is no doubt that there were two views about that recommendation. There was no difference of view about the matter covered by the Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford, and consequently it reached the Statute Book expeditiously.
Provided that it follows the general theme that the criminal shall repay and the general rule of evolution rather than revolution, I am content. I want it to be on the record that if the Labour Party say that they believe in all these radical changes with a completely new machinery, then it will undoubtedly become a party political matter. I have no doubt that we should have continuing evolution in a modern society rather than revolutionary methods when we are dealing with matters of law reform.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)
I suppose that we can all welcome the Bill for two reasons. First, it is based upon affirming the principle of personal responsibility. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) that it is this part of the Bill much more than the increase in the fines that matters. We are seeking to make the people who engage in these disturbances personally responsible for what they do. It seems to me highly desirable that we should do that and that we should continue to do it in dealing with lawlessness in general.
Secondly, the Bill is to be welcomed because it recognises, at least to some extent, the one new fact about post-war crime. I am not here to offer either blanket theories or blanket remedies for crime, but it is common ground that the one new fact about post-war crime is that, for the first time in our history, it is possible for young people to obtain incomes which make them independent of their parents. There has been a weakening of the family since the war 287 simply by the pressures of affluence and full employment. After all, the family never existed in a vacuum. Parental authority was always based ultimately on the economic foundation that the parents provided for the children and that the children had to go to the parents for support. In our post-war society, for the first time this is not the case with a great many teen-agers. They are able in the labour market to command incomes big enough to put them outside the control of their parents.
That is something which the Bill makes an attempt to deal with by increasing the fines. It may well be a question of how much further we should go in coping with this new fact. It seems to me to be very much a question of whether we should allow young people who are not old enough to be citizens to enjoy the unfettered control of incomes on a scale which makes them economically independent while they are still in a state of immaturity. This, however, is a question which is marginal to the Bill. We are dealing with one aspect of the breakdown on parental control. There are other aspects of it which we should deal with, but we need not deal with them or discuss them here.
There is behind this matter the larger question of whether crime among young people is increasing. There is no doubt that it is. However we may argue about the statistics, it is a fact that in spite of the removal of the social conditions which in the past were blamed for crime, crime continues to multiply. Nobody now can argue that crime is the product of poverty, slumdon, illiteracy or bad social conditions. Even since the war we have seen that as social conditions improve, so lawlessness increases. It is idle for anyone to suppose that the way to get rid of crime is to improve social conditions.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
Does not the hon. Member have experience from the courts that obsolescent centres of cities are notorious breeding grounds still, particularly of juvenile delinquency? In any city where I have had the burden of responsibility on the bench, it has emerged at almost every sessions that centres of decay and slumdom inevitably breed crime. There is no doubt about it.
§ Mr. Curran
I wonder whether the hon. and learned Member would be prepared to show that the incidence of crime can be correlated with slumdom. Would he be prepared to argue that in the areas where prosperity is high, there is little or no crime? It would be an interesting argument if the hon. and learned Member would care to make it.
§ Mr. Emlyn Jones
What I venture to say is that areas of great poverty and slumdom are more likely to produce crime than areas of decent living conditions.
§ Mr. Curran
I hope that the hon. Member does not suggest that I am trying to argue that poverty and slumdom are socially desirable and provide either a model gymnasium in which people behave well or the opposite of a gymnasium in which they behave badly. It cannot be argued in 1964 that having got rid of bad social conditions, we thereby reduce the volume of crime. I think that I can carry the hon. and learned Member with me to the extent that there is no correlation between rising prosperity and diminishing crime. Equally, it is not possible to blame the acquisitive society for the rise in crime.
I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) is prepared to support some of his colleagues at least who tend to suggest that they can no longer blame poverty but that they can blame prosperity, who ask, in effect, how anyone can be surprised that crime increases when we live in the dreadful candyfloss world of "I'm all right, Jack" and who say that the development of acquisitive appetites by society is a process which produces crime.
That explanation will not hold water either, because when we look across the Iron Curtain we see that although there is no acquisitive society in the Soviet Union, where the motives on which society is based are radically different from our own, the Soviet Union nevertheless appears to be facing a crisis even greater than ours. The Soviet Union has now been forced to introduce the death penalty, not only for murder but for a whole range of other offences, including forgery, arson, burglary, rape and even currency speculation. Faced as it is with the growth of crime, the Soviet Union has been obliged to go 289 back to methods which make it resemble England in the eighteenth century. How long is it since England put men to death for forgery? The Soviet Union is doing it now.
I cite that simply to support my assertion that it does not hold water in logic to argue that the acquisitive society can be blamed for the growth in crime. I suggest that the experience of the totalitarian planned economies, which are run on a radically different basis from our society, demonstrates plainly that the causes of crime cannot be explained quite as simply as is suggested by people who think that the acquisitive society can be saddled with the responsibility. Any explanation of this kind—the explanation either of poverty or of the wickedness of the acquisitive society or any such explanation—is necessarily superficial.
I invite the House to agree that, on the whole, there is a certain amount of evil in human beings and that the amount of evil in the world is rather like the amount of matter it is constant. The utmost that we can do by any kind of social change is to change the forms in which evil expresses itself. I do not believe that we shall ever be able to eliminate evil. That we shall always have to cope with it is a permanent fact, and the utmost that we can hope to do by any kind of legal or environmental change is to make the volume of evil in the world more manageable and less of a nuisance to society in general. What is possible is not anything like the exalted aim which some people preach of supposing that we can ultimately eliminate evil or eliminate crime. It is difficult for anyone nowadays to believe either in the perfectability of man as an individual or still less in the perfectability of society.
We must content ourselves with a much more modest aspiration. We must seek only to ask, granted that the amount of evil in the world is constant, how we can arrange matters so that the evil causes the minimum amount of nuisance to other people. I suggest that if my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is able to devise methods whereby the volume of crime is made less of a nuisance to other people, he will be doing all that can be expected of him. I regard this Bill as a step in that direction because it insists upon personal responsibility for lawlessness. I wish that it had gone 290 further and had done something to insist on parental responsibility also.
It seems to me highly desirable—I use the word "desirable" in the sense of wishing to maintain order and resist disorder—that when young people who are not old enough to be citizens get into trouble, responsibility for their delinquency should be placed not only on their shoulders and in their pockets but on the shoulders aid in the pockets of their parents.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Up to what age would the hon. Gentleman suggest that that should be so?
§ Mr. Curran
As the law now stands, we do not regard anyone as a citizen until he or she is 21 years of age. I shall not argue it now, though I should be glad to on some other occasion, but there may well be a case for lowering that age. Nevertheless, so long as we run our society on the basis that people under 21 years of age are not competent to take the burdens of citizenship, we have the right to say that their parents must take those burdens for them.
§ Mr. Fletcher
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that parents should in some way be responsible for the delinquencies of their children up to the age of 21?
Certainly. As the hon. Gentleman will recognise, this is, to a large extent, a class matter in this country. A parent who has children who are university undergraduates would be quite prepared to say that he has some responsibility for what they do. He would be quite prepared to accept that responsibility because they are economically dependent upon him. I am suggesting that we ought to consider whether the sense of parental responsibility should be intensified in this country by means of making parents answerable for the damage or delinquencies committed by their children.
§ Mr. Curran
Obviously, one cannot make a blanket assertion that, in all circumstances, parents should be held liable. 291 I agree that one must have reference to the circumstances, but it seems to me that it would be a very good thing if we imported into our legal treatment of the matters we are discussing this afternoon the general notion that when damage is done by young people there are circumstances in which the courts can make the parents as well as the offenders financially responsible. I am not asserting that this should be so in all cases, but I am saying that it would be highly desirable to bring it in as something which the courts could do if they thought fit.
Basically, the Bill is to be welcomed because it re-establishes and reinforces the principle of personal responsibility. If it is to be criticised at all, it is to be criticised because it does not go further, because it does not strengthen in the same way parental and family responsibility. I believe that, ultimately, if we want to re-establish the authority of the family in this country, we shall have to tackle the question whether we can allow young people to have incomes which make them economically independent of their parents. I believe that we shall have to tackle also the question whether we are prepared to impose upon fathers and mothers responsibility before the courts for the delinquencies and illegal acts of their children. I wish that we had done this in the Bill, but, so far as it goes, the Bill is to be welcomed and I shall support it.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Bearing in mind the slender scope of the Bill, we have had a very instructive and interesting debate, covering a wide field. With all respect to the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), I do not regard this as a partisan issue at all, and I am glad that most hon. Members have approached the problem in a bipartisan spirit, considering its national importance.
I wish to add my tribute to those which have been paid already to the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. C. Morrison) on what, I know, the whole House regarded as an admirable maiden speech. I thought it most refreshing to hear the authentic voice of youth dealing with these problems of juvenile delinquency and to hear what the hon. Gentleman said in such engaging and 292 attractive terms. I was particularly impressed by what he said about the need to adopt a positive as well as a negative approach.
The hon. Member for Devizes referred to the number of youth clubs and other organisations in his constituency, some run by the Churches, particularly the Methodist Church to which he referred. Listening to the hon. Gentleman, I thought that, if those youth clubs are of importance in a predominantly rural constituency such as his, how much more necessary it is in urban and suburban constituencies that there should be other avenues for healthy activity by adolescents. Those who live in rural constituencies have opportunities to engage in healthy activities and pursuits in their leisure time which are denied to many of our young people who live in the congested areas of urban centres.
I cannot help feeling that the general problem of juvenile delinquency stems to some extent from the artificial conditions in which many young people are condemned to live by modern society, without adequate opportunities for amusements, sporting activities and other worthwhile diversions. In considering this whole subject of juvenile delinquency, we should put in the forefront of our minds the national need to provide for our youth much more abundant opportunities to enjoy useful and healthy occupations in the leisure time which our affluent society offers them.
I do not share the view that this is a great national problem. There is a danger of exaggerating its extent. On the other hand, I am sure that we all listened with great admiration, sympathy and agreement to the constructive speech of my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice). He pointed out, with complete justice, that one of the serious defects of modern society, which has a bearing on juvenile delinquency, is that the Churches now have a diminishing influence. My hon. Friend referred to the decline in the efficacy of the Christian ethic.
Regrettable though a great many of us feel it is, it is a fact that the demands and disciplines of the Christian ethic have ceased to have the appeal or to evoke the response which they did in 293 this country until comparatively recently. It is very sad that no alternative ethic that one can point to has taken its place. The Christian ethic is not the only ethic. The Greeks had a standard of values. Other non-Christian societies have had their standards of values. The Communist countries have standards of values. It is a sad reflection on our society that it is not particularly easy to say what has replaced the Christian ethic as the obvious standard of values to which young people can look for guidance.
§ Mr. Curran
I am listening to the hon. Gentleman with a good deal of interest and a good deal of agreement. I do not dissent from what he is now saying, but may I put this question? If it is the fact that we have not substituted any sort of humanist ethic for the Christian ethic which we have lost, is not the hon. Gentleman forced to the conclusion that, if the only sanction which the mass of people accept is fear of the law, it becomes imperative that society should maximise this fear, whether it really likes to do so or not?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I should very much hesitate to draw that conclusion. It is a truism that the most immediate and most important thing we can do in Parliament is to pass Bills of this kind in order to strengthen the penal remedies available to the courts in dealing with delinquency, but I could not agree with the hon. Gentleman that Parliament completely discharges its duty to the nation by passing Measures of penal reform.
It may well be that the day has passed when anyone regards it as the duty of Parliament to give a moral lead to the nation. I should myself like to think that that day has not passed, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North pointed out, the decay in the influence of the Churches in giving moral guidance to the nation has, in a sense, left a great void.
It may or may not be the duty of Parliament to fill this void. I should like to think that Parliamentarians could regard it as part of their duty to give a moral lead to the nation, apart from their function as legislators on matters of penal reform. However, I emphasise also what has been said by several hon. Members on both sides, that there is a 294 particular duty on parents and, perhaps even more important, on school teachers in this matter.
Inasmuch as the State is today very largely responsible for education—I suppose that it was almost entirely responsible for the education of those who engaged in the delinquencies at Margate, Brighton and Clacton—I myself consider that it is worth while examining in that context, perhaps in a debate on education rather than on this Bill, whether our school teachers are sufficiently prepared and encouraged to give moral guidance to the children coming within their care. It may well be that, in the stress of competition among children for the passing of examinations, there is less emphasis in our school than there used to be on principles and on moral values generally.
If this is so—I believe that it is, from my own rather limited experience in visiting some of our schools—I regard it as a sad reflection on our society today and a subject calling for just as much consideration as the desire to increase parental responsibility, whether by making parents responsible for the delinquencies of their children, as the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) suggested, or otherwise.
Having said that, and having expressed the hope, in agreement with the hon. Member for Devizes and others, that we in this House should do all within our power to urge a positive approach to the removal of the causes of juvenile delinquency, I must express disagreement with the hon. Member for Uxbridge when he suggests that the amount of evil in any society is necessarily always constant.
Nor do I think that it is true to say that, whereas in Victorian times one could perhaps point to crime largely as the result of poverty, today one can point to crime or juvenile delinquency as being largely the result of affluence. For example, from reports I have read, most of the young people brought before the court at Clacton had no more than about 10s. or £1 at the most in their pockets at the time of the Bank Holiday escapade.
The truth is that one cannot really judge the moral standards of our youth by the behaviour of those eccentrics who 295 produced the hooliganism at the seaside resorts which resulted in the introduction of the Bill. Nevertheless, I am sure that the Bill is necessary. Where young people pass over the borderline of youth exuberance, either as the result of boredom or of the desire for excitement which is generated by so many activities in our social life—the Press, television, and so forth—it is the duty of Parliament and society to see that effective remedies are imposed on those who indulge in behaviour which not merely satisfies their own desire for exuberant outlets, but causes malicious damage to others and hardship, fear and disorder of the kind that occurred at Easter and Whitsun. But I do not think that one can escape either the desire for excitement among young people or condemn them for wanting excitement.
Therefore, like every other hon. Member who has taken part in the debate, I support the Home Secretary in desiring that the courts should have increased penalties made available to them for dealing with those guilty of these misdemeanours so that the offenders will know and fear a really serious deterrent to their activities.
Something has been said in the debate—the right hon. Gentleman himself referred to it—about the kind of penalties which are appropriate. Speaking for myself here, I share the views of the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. David James). I hope that the Home Secretary will give further thought to the desirability of giving the courts power to impose alternative penalties on young adolescent offenders. A case in point is the withdrawal of a driving licence.
On 4th June, announcing the introduction of the Bill, the Home Secretary said that he had considered various suggestions for giving the courts new powers to deal with hooligans. He gave as examples the suggestions that the courts should have the power either to confiscate their vehicles or disqualify them from driving or to inflict corporal punishment. He added that he did not think any of these suggestions provided the answer.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider. I think that the majority of us regard corporal punishment as being barbaric. Some of us regard imprison- 296 ment for hooligan offenders of this kind as being, if not barbaric, at any rate something not very suitable. It is obviously important that these young offenders should feel that there is an effective deterrent. Certainly, one effective deterrent would be to take away their driving licence or suspend it.
It is no answer to that suggestion to say that the offence we are considering has nothing to do with driving, or to say that such a penalty would be capricious because some might have a licence and some might not. When we are considering juvenile delinquency and alternative methods of legitimate punishment by modern society, there is no reason why we should not regard it as appropriate to deprive an offender of a privilege granted by the State. It seems rather reactionary and rigid to think that the State should be confined to the old punishments of corporal punishment, imprisonment and probation.
It may not be a complete analogy, but when undergraduates engage in hooliganism, as they often do, they are exposed, very sensibly, to other penalties. They may be sent down, or gated, or deprived of privileges. All of these penalties in such cases no doubt have a deterrent effect and are thought to be reasonable. Equally, why should not the State, in dealing with juvenile delinquents who have overstepped the mark, deprive them of a privilege?
§ Mr. Curran
How far would the hon. Gentleman take that argument, from which I am not dissenting? He is saying that we have substantially two methods of dealing with offenders against the law—fining and imprisonment. He suggests that we introduce a third penalty for juveniles—deprivation of driving licences. Would he be prepared to introduce such a new penalty for adult offenders, irrespective of whether the offence was connected with the use of a car?
§ Mr. Fletcher
I hope that the House would consider the whole idea of introducing an additional variety of new forms of punishment in order to replace forms of punishment, such as hanging, corporal punishment and imprisonment in overcrowded prisons, which experience shows are completely out of date and are repulsive to the modern mind and do not produce the consequences which society wants to bring about.
297 I suggest that the Committee which is considering penal reform should go into the question, as a matter of principle, of what is wrong in giving the courts power to impose alternative forms of punishment which would have a deterrent effect. Whatever might be said about such forms of punishment, they could not be more serious in their operation than imprisonment. If one imprisons a man, one deprives him of liberty. If one deprives him of a licence, one is taking away a privilege. In these days of the State conferring privileges of various kinds, it is not beyond common sense that we should give the courts powers to deprive offenders, either juvenile or adult, of some of those privileges which have only been exercised by them by grace and favour of the State.
Nor does it seem an answer to the proposition to say that such punishments are only appropriate to those who commit motoring offences. That does not seem a logical argument. It may well be a more obvious case for depriving someone of his driving licence if he has offended against the motoring laws of the country, but one is doing that as a punishment and not merely in order to prevent him committing the same kind of offence again. If a youth offender has a car or a motor bicycle, then, whether or not he uses it to go to Clacton, or Margate, or Brighton, a more useful form of punishment in many cases would be deprivation of his licence to use that vehicle. Such an alternative form of punishment would also, incidentally, ease the strain on our prison service, borstal and the probation officers.
Having made this suggestion, I express my hope that the Bill will have a speedy passage through the House.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Miss Mervyn Pike)
We have had an interesting debate and all hon. Members who have spoken have done so with sincerity and a great understanding of the problem. I am very tempted to follow some of the more interesting byways and paths of thought, but it is my task to try to answer as many points as possible.
I am sure we all agree that the most enjoyable highlight of the debate was the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. C. Morri- 298 son). He brought freshness, vigour, sound common sense and understanding to the debate. We are grateful to him and look forward to hearing him again on many future occasions.
The hon. Member for Leeds, South-East (Miss Bacon), in a very thoughtful speech, rather under-estimated the value of the work of the committees and inquiries which are, among other things, at present investigating the problems under debate. I know that we are all impatient about this. We all want to know the results of the researches and inquiries and to find as quickly as possible some solution to these problems. But the fact remains that the greatest danger is that of acting on preconceived ideas and of not giving sufficient weight to valuable long-term research and scientific evaluation.
It is tremendously important that we should all recognise the very wide cross-section of experience and knowledge in such committees as the Advisory Committee on Juvenile Delinquency which my right hon. Friend has recently set up and that the problem we are debating is a fairly recent one. We all know that the incidence of crime in pre-war days was caused, we believed, by very different factors and certainly in the 1950s we were led to believe that possibly the immediate post-war peak in crime was going down.
It was only when we recognised that this problem was not the result of the war that we instigated so many of the valuable researches that are now taking place. Many of these were only started in the late 1950s and, of necessity, it will be some years before we can get the full results. Meantime, we have had the advantage of reports from committees like the Albemarle and Wolfenden Committees and the Government have taken certain action.
The hon. Lady also referred to the necessity, in her view, for a family service which would have more specific statutory functions than at present.
In this talk of the family service, no mention was made of the very important step forward which we took quite recently in this Parliament in the Children and Young Persons Act, which the House passed in 1963 and which puts on local authorities the responsibility to set up and co-ordinate a service to deal 299 with the prevention of juvenile crime by strengthening the family and for the first time puts a positive responsibility on families. We believe it is from the way in which this service has been founded that the variety comes from different approaches by different local authorities, the marrying of voluntary efforts and the distinctive approach which one gets in different parts of the country, that we shall get the richness and diversity to enable us to advance more firmly to some of the solutions.
Hon. Members have remarked in Liverpool that it is the "beat" which has done a great deal to absorb the energies of young people. My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell) mentioned that in the North Country, the area where I come from, these difficulties do not appear to exist to the same extent. I would say to all those who want to support the family service that, if we go ahead on the present lines, with the diversity of approach which comes from different people in different localities trying to weld together the different strands of voluntary and statutory effort, this is possibly one of the most valuable fields in which we can work.
The hon. Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice), who has apologised for not being able to stay for the rest of the debate, made a very valuable contribution in this direction of thought, and he also mentioned the necessity of strengthening voluntary effort. We talk a lot about strengthening voluntary effort, but possibly we do not give sufficient thought to the ways in which this can be done. The Children and Young Persons Act is one of these ways because we shall direct the focus of the problem down to the local authority. All of us, however, want to examine fresh ways in which we can quicken the imagination of young people.
I think that we all welcomed last night's Adjournment debate, when we heard of a very valuable voluntary effort now taking place among young people in London. I think this effort concerns 1,500 young people who are helping to alleviate the problems of older people, and we heard my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary for Education and Science say that the Government were 300 giving £3,000 this year to help that effort and that it hoped to be able to do so in the next two years.
Efforts of this sort are very valuable. We are watching this effort in particular, and, more generally, we are helping wherever we can to stimulate voluntary effort. However, do not let us ever have the dead hand of centralisation trying to organise these things, which of necessity must spring up of their own volition. We can help and guide them, but we cannot give them imagination nor initiate them by central effort.
The hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. Fitch) echoed the feelings of all of us when he said that to a great extent the present set-up of approved schools, detention centres and attendance centres very well meet the needs of rehabilitation in our society, but, of course, we are not satisfied that we have all the answers. This, again, is where the Royal Commission under Lord Amory will be of such tremendous use to us. It will enable us to look at these things again to see whether there are other ways in which we can go forward with rehabilitation.
He also mentioned—and this was echoed by other hon. Members and was inherent in what the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) said—the need for greater imagination in sentencing. The magistrate can often find more imaginative ways in which to bring home to young people the nature of the crime which they have committed and possibly to provide a greater deterrent. I do not want to follow the hon. Member for Islington, East too far in any discussion of new ways of achieving this, because this, again, is a subject which the Royal Commission will be considering in the very near future, and this, too, underlines the value of the Royal Commission.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Sir W. Teeling) had some interesting things to say, and we particularly welcomed his tribute to the police over the Whitsuntide weekend. The disturbances at Margate, Brighton and Bournemouth over the Whitsun weekend put a very severe strain on police resources, which were already under pressure from the large holiday crowds. Despite the numbers involved, 301 which at Brighton reached a peak of 4,000 or 5,000, the police did not lose control. We know that they will be able to contain—at least, we believe that they will—any future outbreaks which may occur. We believe particularly that the firm line taken by the courts together with this Bill will have a helpful deterrent effect.
Of course, the maintenance of public order is an ordinary police responsibility, and outbreaks of disorder on a large scale may always necessitate police from neighbouring forces providing assistance. A regular machinery for this exists and has been very valuable in the past. Nevertheless, as my right hon. Friend has said, the chief constables in the areas likely to be affected if similar outbreaks occur next Bank Holiday weekend have been in touch with each other to streamline their arrangements.
The hon. Member also mentioned the penalties for assaults on the police. The answer to his question of why the Bill failed to provide increased penalties for assaults on the police is that penalties for this offence have already been revised by Section 51 of the Police Act, 1964, which comes into force on 1st August, this year. But it is not correct to say that the maximum penalty under provisions now in force is a fine of £5.
Among the provisions at present in force and relating to the offence of assaulting a constable are Section 38 of the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, which carries a maximum penalty, on indictment, of two years' imprisonment, and Section 12 of the Prevention of Crimes Act, 1871, which has a maximum penalty, on summary conviction, of a fine of £20 or six months' imprisonment, or, if the offence is repeated within two years, a maximum of nine months' imprisonment.
As my hon. Friend said, the maximum penalty for obstructing a constable is at present a fine of £5 or two months' imprisonment under Section 2 of the Prevention of Crimes Amendment Act, 1885, but this and other provisions in the Special Constables Act, 1831, and the Town Police Clauses Act, 1847, and the Metropolitan Police Acts and the City of London Police Acts are replaced, in so far as they relate to the offence of assaulting or obstructing a constable, 302 by the provisions of Section 51 of the Police Act, 1964, which, as I have said, comes into force on 1st August.
This will make the offender liable for an offence of assaulting a constable on summary conviction to up to six months' imprisonment, or, in the case of a second or subsequent offence, up to nine months' imprisonment, or a fine not exceeding f 100, or both and, on conviction on indictment, up to two years' imprisonment, or an unlimited fine, or both. The same provisions increase the penalty for the offence of assisting the offences or obstructing a constable, to a maximum of one month's imprisonment, or a line of £20, or both.
I apologise for giving hon. Members the whole history of this matter, but it is very important for the record that it should be known what the fines and other penalties for assaulting the police are at present and what they will be as from 1st August, this year.
My hon. Friend also put forward the idea of non-military centres where these young people could have more rigorous training. In fact he was describing detention centres as we have them at present. Ws have power to send young persons to these detention centres where the régime is very brisk and very firm and where they get the maximum of physical exercise and physical fitness and where they have good discipline which builds up their own self-respect, as well as their own physical condition. There are 15 detention centres already provided for boys and one for girls, and there are more on the way. As I have said, in all these centres the régime is based on hard and useful work and one of the senior centres, the North Sea Camp near Boston, provides training in open conditions for inmates employed on farm work and land reclamation. The primary purpose of this centre is to receive committals from the courts in the North-East, the Midlands and East Anglia. Boys committed to other centres may be transferred to the North Sea Camp if they are suitable for open conditions. About 20 boys committed to other centres following the Whitsun disturbances have been transferred to this camp.
I think that all hon. Members who have seen (he results of the detention centres will recognise their value, and 303 the fact that about 5,000 boys are going through these detention centres at the present time will have a deterrent effect in society, because they talk to their friends and there is no desire on the part of many of them to go to these centres.
§ Sir W. Teeling
Does the hon. Lady think that we have enough of these detention centres, or are we hoping to have some more?
§ Miss Pike
There are more on the way. When they were in the experimental stage, doubts were expressed about whether they would fulfil a useful purpose, but we believe that they have proved themselves, and we are building more. In this context it is interesting to note that people in Europe who in the first instance were somewhat sceptical about this scheme are now coming to us to learn from our experience because they recognise the value of the results that we have had from the centres. The results will improve still further from this year onwards, because from 1st January last there was compulsory aftercare, so that all young people coming from these centres from April onwards will have the benefit of after-care. This again will help to rehabilitate them into society. Allied to that, there is the provision of attendance centres. The hon. Lady said that we need more of these. I think that most of us in the House would agree that they play a valuable part, and that their use can be extended in many areas.
Many hon. Members spoke about the need for research into the social backgrounds of people who cause these disturbances. As I said at the outset, we have instigated research on these lines, and I think that we are playing a valuable part within the Council of Europe in the co-ordination and the extension of our research into these problems. As we have all recognised in the House today, this is not just a United Kingdom problem. It is a problem which is facing all industrialised nations, and with the mass communication of the present time something that happens in Brighton can have effects in Italy or Sweden. We hope that the effects of what happened recently in Sweden will not be felt in this country.
304 It is important that we should have this co-ordination of researches in this important field. We can never do enough research. There are never enough research workers in this new field of research, but all the time we are giving more and more support to new projects which are coming forward.
I think that it was the hon. Member for Islington, East who referred to the effect of different schools on children, and the example which school teachers can provide. Research is going on to try to assess why different schools have different delinquency records. We do not as yet know the results of this valuable research which is going on in co-operation with the Ministry of Education.
My hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran), and many other hon. Members, talked about the breakdown of parental control and suggested that parents should be answerable for the misdeeds of their children. I think that my hon. Friend was talking about young people over 17. Under Section 55 of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, the fines of children and young persons under 17 years of age can be paid by their parents, but I think that my hon. Friend wished to extend that provision to young people under 21.
§ Mr. Curran
Would my hon. Friend care to say anything about the Home Office view of making parents financially responsible, in some circumstances, for damage done by their children when breaking the law?
§ Miss Pike
If my hon. Friend is talking about children and young persons under the age of 17, that power exists. If my hon. Friend is asking about young people over 17, I can only say that until the Royal Commission has looked into this matter there is no Home Office view on it. That does not mean that we are not thinking about it, but this is something which will be looked at by the Royal Commission.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) raised an important point about the power to enforce the payment of compensation. The answer to that is that if the compensation is ordered by a magistrates' court, under the provisions of the Bill, it will be enforceable in the same way as the fine. The money is paid in the first 305 instance to the court, and the court has power to commit the offender to prison in default of payment of the compensation. My hon. and learned Friend can therefore rest assured that that point is covered.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. James) and the hon. Member for Islington, East referred to the question of driving licences and disqualification. It perhaps would be useful if I were to repeat the substance of my right hon. Friend's remarks. My right hon. Friend has given consideration to a number of suggestions for strengthening the power of the courts, but he has come to the conclusion that none of them provides the right answer. My right hon. Friend gave particularly careful consideration to the suggestion that a court should have power to deprive of his licence any offender who was proved to have driven to the scene of the offence, but, as he pointed out, there would be difficulties in framing legislation to meet that point because of the question of the definition of the circumstances under which that power should be available. There would be difficulty in defining the offence of hooliganism, and it would be equally difficult to differentiate between those offenders who went to the scene of the crime by train or by public transport and those who went by scooter and parked it some distance away.
I was only repeating some of the arguments, and I was going to end by saying that this would be looked at again, but, I think, particularly in the context of what is being looked at by the Royal Commission. We have not closed our minds to it, but, having looked at the matter, we find that the complexities of it rule it out from being dealt with at the present time. I do not think that hon. Members would wish me to go through all the arguments. My right hon. Friend has given great consideration to this point and has decided that the difficulties which exist at present do not justify him bringing forward legislation to deal with this matter.
§ Mr. David James
I do not think that the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) or I suggested that the culprit need have gone to the scene of the crime by car. What we are suggesting is that 306 people who are so immature as to behave in this manner might well have their licences withdrawn, as these are a social privilege which they are not mature enough to enjoy.
§ Miss Pike
I appreciate my hon. Friend's argument. I was trying to show that the case was so complicated that it would be difficult to resolve it in this Parliament, and the category to which he referred raised a bigger problem and was one which we could not resolve at the present time, but should leave to the Royal Commission to consider along with the more imaginative approach which we all want to see. As the hon. Gentleman suggested, it might then prove possible to consider providing varying penalties for people who indulge in delinquency and hooliganism.
§ Mr. Fletcher
I would be happy if the hon. Lady would emphasise that, while we know what the Home Secretary said on an earlier occasion, this is still an open question, and that the Home Office will preserve, a completely open mind on this and related questions until the Royal Commission has reported.
§ Miss Pike
I gladly give the House that assurance. We are anxious to do all that we can to get the right penalties.
I hope that I have answered most of the points raised by hon. Members. Tonight's debate has inevitably ranged over a very wide field. Although this Bill is important, it deals with only a very small part of a very broad and complex problem. It is a problem in which the main themes are the prevention of crime, the punishment and reformation of the wrongdoer, restitution to the injured party, and the protection of society from lawlessness and violence.
This is essentially, of course, a field for specialists and experts, but it is one in which most of us have a fund of experience and in which we have very strongly held views. I, like most people, have my favourite hobby-horse, but I shall not delay the House tonight in developing my own ideas or by reiterating the important points which have been made in this and other debates on allied subjects. These debates have shown that in recent years we have made important progress in our more 307 enlightened attitudes to punishment and reformation, and advances have been made in the practical measures which are essential to progress in this matter. It is a world wide problem, and we are making a significant contribution to the co-ordination and the extension of criminological thought and understanding in other European countries.
We have attempted to quicken the pace of our own research, inquiry and training, and we have sought to reinforce those forces in society which strengthen the community and encourage self-discipline, self-reliance, vigour and responsibility to the individual. All these things are of supreme importance, and we must always be seeking new ways, new ideas and a greater sense of urgency and a much wider recognition that it is the responsibility of individuals in society.
At the same time, we must not fall into the error of thinking that our desire to strengthen society, prevent crime and reform the wrongdoer will meet with an instant response from the irresponsible and evil elements in our community.
Reformation and prevention must take place within the strong framework of effective protection of the public, and the Government always puts this protection first. The importance of the Bill is that it seeks to strengthen this protection by giving added powers to the court, and I commend it to the House.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Hugh Rees.]
§ Committee Tomorrow