HC Deb 17 July 1968 vol 768 cc1583-604

10.5 p.m.

Mr. Ross

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

When the Bill first came before the House, right hon. and hon. Members gave it a warm and rather enthusiastic welcome. I recall one right hon. Gentleman saying that we were going in for a major pioneering scheme. The importance of the scheme and the strength of interest taken in it have been evidenced by the heavy work which has been done on the Bill and the number of Amendments which have been made during its passage thus far. I do not doubt that the Bill has been considerably improved, and the record of Government Amendments shows that the Government have been responsive to what was said in Committee.

It is not surprising that attention has tended to concentrate on Part III, since its provisions setting up a new system of children's panels and children's hearings are novel. They are, indeed, pioneering. The new arrangements embodied in Part III do not provide the answer to every problem of juvenile behaviour and delinquency and disturbance among young people. So long as boys are boys and girls are girls, they will continue to get into mischief, severally and jointly, and cause perplexity, if not anxiety, to their parents and to adults generally. No new arrangements, however well designed, will change that state of affairs.

However, we are concerned in the Bill with something different and probably more serious. We are concerned with the troubles and disturbances among young people which are socially destructive and destructive to themselves and to their own personalities. I am sure that the arrangements under Part III will open the way to major improvements in our ways of dealing with the young people with whom we are concerned and, when firmly established, will give a new impetus to experiment and to the development of improved methods.

We shall be heavily dependent on finding enough suitable people to be members of children's hearings and to be reporters. Here again, we must explore new ways of identifying those who can help, of attracting them to the work, and of preparing and training them for it. There has been scepticism in some quarters about our ability to find such people, or, at least, enough of them. I am absolutely certain that this scepticism is misplaced. There are people in Scotland today to do these jobs. They can be found. It is our responsibility to make every effort to find them by making as widely known as possible the challenge and the opportunities offered by the work, the satisfaction which it is likely to bring to those who undertake it, as well as the benefits which it can give to the young people and to society itself.

We are creating for the first time in the history of the United Kingdom, and, so far as I know, that of any other country, a single public agency whose sole concern is the entire range of social welfare, from the care of very young children at one end of the spectrum, through the care and welfare of the sick, the handicapped and the elderly, to the social support and rehabilitation of offenders who have been placed on probation or released from detention.

The range and scope of this work is great. It presents an immense challenge to all in the social work and related professions and a continuing challenge to the voluntary organisations which have taken part in it. The professions concerned are willing and eager to respond to the challenge. I do not deny that some have had their anxieties either about the ability of their own professional resources to meet it or about the willingness of the public to make available to them the financial and physical resources which are equally essential if the challenge is to be met.

It is right that the House should be made fully aware of the size and nature of the challenge which we are presenting to these professional people. But the challenge is not only to them. The problems are there and have been there. We have dealt with them inadequately in the past. The real challenge is to society. The Bill provides additional facilities and additional opportunities for all to rise to that challenge.

10.10 p.m.

Mr. W. H. Baker

The Secretary of State rightly referred to this Measure as a challenge to us all, in that it is a pioneering effort. The Secretary of State also said that we are dealing with the troubles and disturbances among young people. We have to bear in mind too, that to a large extent we are responsible for protecting society at large. I am not at all sure that the provisions of the Bill will take account of this.

In Part III, as the Under-Secretary was careful to point out in Committee, with the establishment of the children's hearing and panels, there will be no provision for the punishment of children coming before the panel. On the other hand, if a child commits an offence providing the offence is approved of, that is provided that the Lord Advocate considers that the offence has been committed, the child will go before the sheriff. It is foreseeable that in a number of cases, children should not go before the sheriff because they are in trouble either as a result of their background, or their home background.

Those are the very children who should be receiving corrective treatment other than punishment. It is equally true that young offenders who have got into mischief would be far better dealt with somewhat more severely than as we are told will be the case with the children's panel. One of the chief sanctions that the panels will have is to take children compulsorily into care. Again, I am not sure that this is the answer. This is a pioneering effort, but I hope that this and succeeding Governments will not close their minds and allow the Bill to go on for ever without further scrutiny, but will be prepared, if the experiment does not work, although we all hope that it will, to look at it again.

10.15 p.m.

Sir M. Galpern

My right hon. Friend has rightly referred to this as the creation of a single public agency. The use of this phrase aptly describes this forward-looking reform. Unfortunately, I was not able to serve on the Committee, so this is the first opportunity that I have had of making any comments.

I want to deal with Clause 12, which is an important aspect of the Bill, apart from the revolutionary changes which have taken place in treatment of individuals. Clause 12 lays a duty on the local authority as follows: It shall be the duty of every local authority to promote social welfare in their area by making available advice, guidance and assistance on such a scale as may be appropriate in their area … How does the average citizen, who has never had contact with social benefits, but is suddenly in a sad plight through illness or unemployment, get to know about the many changes which this Bill will bring about?

There is a gross inadequacy of information. Someone who is in and out of employment and has contacts at the local Ministry of Social Security Office knows how to act in difficult circumstances and where to enquire about help, but the decent, ordinary citizen with a problem which he cannot resolve is often so grateful when told where help is available that one might think that one was making a personal sacrifice in telling him.

I would urge action comparable with that proposed by the Minister of Social Security, which is to post 14 million copies of a leaflet headed "Entitlement Campaign", to acquaint families with the benefits available should they require them. Would it not be possible to include in these leaflets in Scotland a description of the services which local authorities will now provide—for example, home helps? Many people, particularly unmarried daughters looking after aged mothers, do not know where to get a home help or that the local authority would pay all or some of the cost. This sort of thing could be explained in the way I mentioned.

But, if that is too early, could not these details be included in rate demands which, in Glasgow at least, include a statement of how the money is spent? There should be officers, and not just voluntary ones. Citizens' advice bureaux are often in back streets or are known by few people. Surely it would not be too much for authorities to establish offices telling people where to seek help for their problems, instead of them being directed to different departments.

Then there is the question of the variation in citizens' contributions for the services under this Bill. In the United Kingdom, there are 3,000 local authorities with 3,000 different means tests, which means that people are getting the aid they require not according to their degree of poverty, but according to the area in which they live. Some work has been done on the question of a national scheme of means tests so that there should be no variation between one area and another.

In the meantime, there are wide variations in the scales laid down by various authorities, and even between various departments in one authority, as to at what level an individual is entitled to help, either in cash or in kind. I hope that every effort will be made to centralise and unify the large number of means tests that operate in Scotland.

I speak now about Glasgow, but many other places could operate the same system. We have an information office. There should be a central office. One of the problems which was thrown up as a result of the storm damage in Scotland was that there was not one central office to which an individual could make application. There should be a central office to which an individual could apply for advice and guidance on any problem.

With these remarks, I wish the Bill every success. I believe that if a right is to be claimed by the citizen he should know that the right exists and there should be some place where he can go and get all possible advice and guidance to enable him to avail himself of the right.

10.21 p.m.

Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie

This is a very good Bill and one of the least controversial of the Scottish Bills which have passed through the House for some time. In view of the Bill's laudable objectives, this is very satisfactory. It is also very satisfactory to record that there was excellent co-operation in Committee. The Government will admit that they received very good help and co-operation from the Opposition. This has enabled the Bill to be greatly improved from the original draft. This augurs well for the future of the Bill when enacted.

Clause 27, which deals with probation officers, and Part III are very important. My part of Scotland does not have the problem of children who get into trouble in various ways—juvenile delinquency, and so forth. This is because we have a small population and chiefly because parents accept their responsibility and, if a child gets into trouble, think that it is a reflection on them, because everybody around knows his neighbour. This attitude should be encouraged.

The Bill is designed to deal with areas where there is a real problem. Special measures are required to deal with a special problem. I think that the Bill will be adequate. I hope that the Secretary of State realises that I am not under-rating the Bill in any way. I realise that it is necessary, although the situation in my area is different from that further south.

My party welcomes the Bill and is very pleased that it has reached this stage. We hope that it will have a useful part to play in dealing with what is a very urgent problem in Scotland.

10.25 p.m.

Mr. Dewar

This has been a long haul, and rightly so because this is an important Measure. I, too, give the Bill an extremely warm welcome as it reaches the end of its journey through Parliament. It is pleasant to be considering a piece of legislation which puts Scotland, in an important and complicated sphere, years ahead of the rest of the United Kingdom and many other countries.

Many hon. Members have pointed out on various occasions that the advantage of having a separate legal system in Scotland and of having an almost separate legislative passage for Measures affecting Scotland is that we are able to push through Bills of a legal nature—and, in this case, of a social nature—quickly. The Scottish Office deserves the greatest credit for having got the Bill through at a time when the Seebohm Committee has either just reported or certainly its Report is still only being discussed. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Undersecretary for steering the Bill through Committee with admirable clarity and patience, particularly in view of the loquacity of his own back benchers.

There are still ends to be tidied up and I cannot help mentioning, even at this stage, the fact that—there may be a simple explanation for this—when looking through the Legal Aid (Scotland) Act, 1967, in a vain attempt to understand some of the Amendments contained in the Schedules to this Measure, I found that there were still references to prosecutions before juvenile courts of young persons under the 1957 Act. While I have no doubt that the civil servants have a fiendishly ingenious reason why that provision should still stand, I feel that within a year or two it will look pretty redundant.

Mr. Speaker

Order. On Third Reading, the hon. Gentleman cannot amend the Bill.

Mr. Dewar

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, I am getting authoritative advice from my own Front Bench that I am thoroughly cut of order.

Another end which needs tidying up is the position of the juvenile over 16 whose supervision order has been extended. I mentioned this to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary in Committee and he agreed that it might be worth considering. The difficulty is that if a young person between 16 and 18 who is still under supervision commits another offence, will he be dealt with at a children's hearing or be brought up for prosecution? It would be unfair if a first offender over 16 was dealt with in the normal way, before the courts, while someone committing the same offence, but who had been in trouble before, was brought before a children's hearing. The latter would, in effect, be protected. This would be an anomalous and unfortunate situation.

I do not support everything that the Government have done in the Bill. As the Under-Secretary knows, I and a large number of my hon. Friends have reservations about the retention of the large burghs in the new structure which is being created. However, as I have said before, what is done is done, and we must make the best of it. I cannot help thinking that the position has been complicated for the Government, particularly in the light of the hot debates which took place on the question of the probation service.

We now have a good Bill. It is the right vehicle for reform in this important sphere. However, it is one thing to have the right vehicle, but another to change the attitudes of those who must operate the system. I am sure that the Secretary of State will agree that complacency in this matter would be a mistake.

When I read the White Paper for the first time I noticed that paragraph 75 consisted of only one sentence. It said: The detention of children as a punishment will be abolished. This is an admirable sentiment, but I believe that it will be a long time before residential accommodation, once called approved schools, will lose the stigma of punishment. We have an enormous amount of education to do, not only among the general public but among those who will serve on the children's panels. According to the White Paper, in Glasgow we will need about 300 of these people.

I hope that every effort will be made to ensure that, in the training scheme, those who are picked to serve on these children's panels will be sympathetic to the outline which the Government have laid down; that they will accept that the juvenile who strays needs remedial treatment as much as punishment, retribution and punitive policies meted out to him.

I was told the other day about a recent television programme in which a prominent elected local authority person in the West of Scotland spoke about meeting violence with violence. I find this extremely alarming. It underlines that, however wise the Government may be in their legislation, they will also have to ensure that the people who are to carry out what is laid down in the Bill have a similar attitude.

Obviously, we will also need money and more personnel to back up the work to be done by the children's panels. An enormous amount will devolve upon the new departments, and the availability of staff will be important. It is because of that that I have laid great stress on flexibility, to ensure the maximum use of the expertise available.

Overall, this is a good Bill. I think that we have got it about right. If, in Part III, it shifts the enormous emphasis given in the past to the criminal aspect of the juvenile courts over to a greater stress on suitable treatment, that will be an achievement which may do a great deal to solve many of the problems rightly troubling people today in the field of juvenile crime.

10.31 p.m.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I want to make one general point and three specific ones about the Bill.

I make, first, the general point. We began discussing the Report stage over 6½ hours ago, and something like four hours of the intervening time has been spent on Government Amendments. The Secretary of State claimed that this was an indication of all the hard work which had been done in Committee and the responsiveness of the Government to suggestions made in Committee. But I find it hard to believe, with 185 Government Amendments down on the Report stage of a Bill which had already passed through the other place before coming here—and even at this late stage a manuscript Amendment—that it can be explained away entirely by the comprehensiveness of the discussions in Committee or the willingness of the Government to listen to representations.

I feel that the Government have treated the House with a lack of consideration and have taken up a great deal of time unnecessarily. Furthermore, the House has been expected to pass rapidly through a vast number of detailed Amendments which we have had no serious opportunity to consider properly.

Having drawn attention to the fact that we have spent so long on Report, it is incumbent upon me to keep my comments as brief as possible. For that reason, I do not intend to speak about the Bill as a whole, except to say that I accept that it is a major piece of legislation and incorporates many proposals which will be welcomed as extremely valuable.

I want to concentrate my remarks on three aspects about which I am still far from happy as one who was not a member of the Committee. They concern Clauses 1, 27 and 36.

On Clauses 1 and 27, my points are related. When the Bill left this House after Second Reading, the Secretary of State had given notice that he intended to introduce an Amendment which would have the effect of creating social work departments in the large burghs as well as in the counties. That happened upstairs. But it changed fundamentally the view which one could take about the allocation of adult probationer services to the social welfare departments. Will we get the right organisation for the adult probationer departments?

In paragraphs 28 and 29 of the White Paper, the Government clearly admitted that they had gone straight in the face of the recommendations of the Morison Committee. The only justifications which the Government gave in the White Paper, although I admit that we have heard rather different and wider justifications today, for overturning the recommendations of the Morison Committee were—

Mr. Lawson

On a point of order. Is it not the case that on Third Reading one must take the Bill as it is and not start to reargue on a Second Reading basis?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)

The hon. Gentleman is right. The debate on Third Reading is far more circumscribed than that on Second Reading. On Third Reading, it is wrong to refer to anything which is not in the Bill.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I am well aware that the debate on Third Reading is circumscribed. I thought that I was referring to matters which were in the Bill, because I am concerned about precisely Clause 27 as its effect has been amended since the Bill went to Standing Committee.

The point which I am trying to make is that the argument for allocating the adult probationer services to the social work departments, as is done in Clause 27, has been essentially that they could not be left out on their own, but that the probation service flatly disagrees with this and has always taken the line that the service is perfectly viable on its own, even when the junior department, which is to be removed by the Bill, is taken away from the service.

The main point of this is connected with the forthcoming Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government. Under Clause 27, there are to be discussions with the local authorities about the form in which they are to incorporate the probationer services and I hope that when we have the Report of the Royal Commission the Government will take this very much into account. I understand that in its submission to the Morison Committee the Sheriff Substitutes Association suggested that if the probation services were to be incorporated as a whole into the social work departments, it would be essential for the areas which were created to be on the scale of regional hospital board areas. This is the sort of thing which ought to happen and which might become possible under the new structure of local government which may emerge from the Report of the Royal Commission.

I hope that the Government will be thinking along these lines, because I am sure that it is only in the context of large units that we can have sufficient specialisation in the probationary work within the social work departments to enable the courts to treat those representatives of the social work departments who carry on the work of the probationer services with sufficient: confidence and, as has been said, the confidence of the courts is vital.

I am still worried about the qualifications to be required of the reporters by Clause 36. Not having served on the Standing Committee, I am still concerned about the Government's view of the qualifications of these officers. In Committee, the Under-Secretary reminded hon. Members that the Kilbrandon Report favoured a combination of legal qualifications and administrative experience in child welfare and educational ser-vices and very fairly added: … one has only to say that to see that the number of people who have in fact that kind of background must be very small indeed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 20th June, 1968; c. 412–3.] The hon. Gentleman went on to say that in the Government's view the reporter would not need legal qualifications. This is not the view of a number of authorities and sheriff substitutes. They feel that in cases where a finding of guilt is disputed, and an offender has to return to the sheriff court, and the reporter presumably has to present the case against him, then the reporter would need legal qualifications. I cannot judge whether this is a valid point but it causes me some concern. I am sure that the Under-Secretary was right to say that it will not be easy to find people with these important qualifications.

Mr. Lawson

On a point of order. Is is not the case that whether or not the hon. Gentleman is concerned, nothing can be done about it now? We are on Third Reading? Is it not out of order for the hon. Gentleman to go on talking about what he might have raised earlier, had he been here to do so?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

This is a very difficult question. The general theory is that on Third Reading hon. Members talk about the Bill as a whole, and what is in the Bill. I cannot rule the hon. Member out of order for commenting on Clause 36, and saying that he feels concern about it. It would not be right for him to dwell on it at any great length.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

I am concerned to emphasise that as we leave the Bill there are many aspects which the Government will have to consider carefully.

I wonder whether a major piece of social legislation such as this is wisely introduced a few months before we receive the report of the Royal Commission on Local Government. Many of the functions of this Measure could be seriously affected by its findings, and I cannot see that we would lose much by waiting a few more months to see what the Commission reports, so that we could fit major changes in the structure of social welfare and social work organisations in Scotland into the Bill.

10.45 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Wolrige-Gordon (Aberdeenshire, East)

We who were on the Committee will recognise the validity of the points of my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne). They are issues which have concerned us all. I wish the Bill well, and I wish even more good will to those whom it will affect, and those who will have to operate it. I voiced certain fears, on Second Reading about Part III. Although one or two matters have been clarified, many fundamentals still remain as woolly as the woolliest among us could wish.

One proof is the acreage of Government Amendments today. I hate to think of how many more they would have produced had this Third Reading debate been held tomorrow. There is no guarantee that the Government's capacity and desire to increase their productivity ratio of Amendments would have halted with another day's grace.

Some issues have not yet been clarified. It is the issue of dealing with young offenders which disturbs me. It has a flabby feel to it. Guilt is out, punishment is out and offences are nearly out. There is a kind of forbidden phraseology which reminds me of the old story of the lady who was discussing with a friend the delicate and troublesome question of sin. "Oh", the lady cried, "let us not use that word. I hate the word 'sin'." "Very well", replied the friend, "let us call it rheumatism". "Do not call it rheumatism", shouted the lady, "I am full of that." The only moral from that story I want to draw at this stage in our discussion is that whatever word we use, the people involved know full well what it is meant to mean.

It is no help to a young offender who has done something wrong to try to pretend that it is not in some sense wrong and that he should not be punished for it. I believe that young offenders would far prefer us to hold the line so that they know immediately they kick over the traces instead of our trying to pretend that there are no traces. That latter course is dishonest. Any young person worth his salt will know it and will resent it.

Nor does that mistake stop there. It is compounded by the legal concealment behind the children's panels. I fear that every endeavour will be made, and has been made in the Bill, to foster the illusion that these panels do not represent the arm of the law and that they do not have legal sanctions and powers of enforcement behind them. But they have. We would do far better to admit it openly. Offending children will know quickly enough and they will not think much of anybody who tries to pretend that it is not so. They would be far more impressed if we said frankly that we felt that the standards of behaviour in our countries had sunk to an unacceptable level, that we are all to blame for that in some sense and that for our part we are prepared to pull up our socks and, that we think perhaps, the most effective way of getting young offenders to pull up theirs is the children's panels. I do not think that there is any hope of persuading children to pull up their socks if we pretend that they are not down at heel in the first place.

That is what I have against the Bill. It is not so much the system, which will depend to an alarming extent on the reporters particularly and on the personnel of the children's panels. It is the philosophy behind it, which seems to find it more acceptable to set up a vague new structure of social ambivalence instead of inviting the young to participate in a wholehearted move by all of us to repair the social quality of the nation.

10.48 p.m.

Mr. Alex Eadie (Midlothian)

I am to some extent breaking my self-denying ordinance—because I was a member of the Standing Committee—in rising to speak on Third Reading. I do not have to apologise too much for giving a welcome to the Bill, because as we come to the fag end of a long debate it is necessary that somebody should give it a welcome.

I believe that the Bill is a good one. When we start to talk about the philosophy, I prefer to think of the philosophy of Martin Luther King, who was assassinated in America, and who said that if we pursue that philosophy of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, there will soon be no eyes left in the world. Therefore, the new approach that we are making towards the problem of juvenile delinquency and all the problems dealt with in the Bill is a courageous one by the Government.

I concede that there might have been difficulties in the fact that the Royal Commission on Local Government was meeting in Scotland and might alter geographical areas, which might create administrative difficulties, but I believe that the Government were right in bringing forward the Bill, because we could not wait that length of time to deal with the problem of social work.

In briefly welcoming the Bill, I wish to deal with a point which is very important within the Bill. On Amendments and on Third Reading to some extent we have discussed the problems which will attend the professional staff in working the Bill, but there will also be great difficulties for the people who serve on the children's panels.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) talked about trying to publicise the Bill, its implications and effects. I hope that my right hon. Friend will try to publicise the fact that the panels will be comprised of people from all walks of life. I want to see on the children's panels a variety of people. I want to see miners on the panels; I want to see electricians on them; I want to see dockers on them. I do not want to see only one aspect of life represented on the panels.

The point I made in Committee is, therefore, very important, that it should be publicised that the people who are prepared to go for training and are prepared to be nominated for the panels will receive reimbursement of loss of earnings. I mentioned my experience of 20 years as a lay magistrate. I was a miner working on night shift all night and went to the juvenile court by day. I do not want people to go through what I considered to be a harrying experience as a magistrate. Therefore, I hope that my right hon. Friend, in any publicity he gives to the Bill, will make it perfectly clear that this new experiment we are about to try will involve people from all walks of life and not just those who are said to be "do gooders".

With that, I welcome the Bill, and I hope that it works well.

10.52 p.m.

Earl of Dalkeith (Edinburgh, North)

I shall be incredibly brief. This is one of the rare occasions on which I find myself unable to agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie), who welcomed the Bill in as much as he thought it had been greatly improved in Committee. I am sorry to say that I believe that in one major and fundamental respect it was greatly disimproved.

Like many, I welcomed the Bill on Second Reading as being a glorious concept which had the power to do so much good, but I think that much of that power to do good has been negatived by the change which was made by the Government in Clause 1 in relation to the large burghs. This has gone a long way to undo the major power of the Bill to help Scotland and to unify the social services, as we would all like to see them unified.

It absolutely beats me why the Government, with the Royal Commission about to report so soon, could not have used a little intelligent anticipation of what the Commission's recommendations are likely to be and could not have conformed to what those recommendations are almost certain to be. Therefore, I believe, with real sorrow and disappointment, that the Government have spoiled what could have been such a good Bill.

10.53 p.m.

Mr. Mac Arthur

Now that we are at the very last stage of this long Bill I should like to express my personal thanks to the Under-Secretary of State for the courtesy and clarity with which he handled the Bill, particularly at its earlier stage. I appreciate that very much, and I appreciate the trouble he took in writing to me before Report to deal with some of the points we raised in Committee.

The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, in moving the Third Reading, claimed that the Government had been very responsive. To some extent the Government have been responsive, but where they have responded—goodness me—they have responded very late in the day.

I want to refer to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne) about the conduct of the Report stage today. I do not believe that it was necessary for the House to be confronted with 199 Amendments on the Notice Paper. Only 16 of these were non-Government Amendments, so that 183 Government Amendments confronted the House at 4 o'clock today. Of these, 10 were starred, last-minute Amendments, and even that was not good enough for the Government in their scramble to force through Amendments at the last moment. We were then inflicted with a manuscript Amendment, too.

The scramble has been such that I am left with an uneasy feeling that these last-minute Amendments may not be the end of the story. I feel that the way in which the Bill has been handled today is an abuse of the co-operative spirit in which we have approached it, and, more importantly, I suggest that this is an improper treatment of the House of Commons. We have spent six hours on the Report stage, placing an unnecessary burden on hon. Members and, with great respect, on Mr. Speaker and Mr. Deputy Speaker.

I think that all of us can share the credit for a Bill which is a good Bill, and which, I believe, could be a better Bill. The Kilbrandon Committee, which was the start of this long journey, was set up by the Conservative Government, and the Bill which largely resulted from it was introduced by this Government, so I think that we can both share the credit.

I said that the Bill could have been improved further because I am still very doubtful about three matters in the Bill. I trust that the Government will give the greatest possible care to the need to protect the rights of the child before the children's hearings. I am not satisfied that the Bill has yet gone far enough in that regard, and a lot will depend upon the rules laid down by the Secretary of State for the conduct of children's hearings.

Secondly, I am dismayed about the lack of advance regarding the structure of the probation service, which we debated at length today. Above all, I share the view expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) about the damage done to the Bill by the Government in Clause 1. We talked about the reintroduction of the large burghs. I think I must make clear that it is not the large burghs as large burghs we are worried about; what concerns us on this side of the House is that the number of administering authorities has been so enormously increased.

I cannot believe it was sensible—indeed, it flies in the face of the Government's own intentions in the White Paper —to expand the number of local authorities to 56 at a time when we know that the number of local authorities in Scotland is shortly to be reduced as a result of the work of the Royal Commission.

The hon. Gentleman was good enough to give us an assurance in Committee that he would consult the local authorities about the possibility of voluntary amalgamations, which would at least have gone some way towards meeting our objections. I was not very encouraged by what he had to say to us today about the progress of the consultations, although I do take some hope from the fact, if I understood him aright, that local authorities have suggested that the Govern- ment should take an initiative as soon as the Report of the Royal Commission is in their hands.

If that is so, I hope that it means that the local authorities will themselves agree to adopt a course of voluntary amalgamation which will substantially reduce the number of administering authorities below the figure of 56, and begin to conform, so far as common sense and intelligent anticipation make it possible, to the shape of the local authority structure which will in time follow the Royal Commission's Report.

I would say, in passing, that, if that can be done, that in itself might well overcome many of the objections which have been raised about the proposed introduction of the probation service into the social welfare departments, and, in particular, the fragmentation of the probation service which would follow the Bill as it stands.

We have conducted our long debates on the Bill against a background of rising crime and frightening violence in Scotland. I listened with great interest to what my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. WolrigeGordon) had to say about the treatment of young offenders. I have great respect for his views, but this is primarily a matter of emphasis, if he will allow me to say so. I am not convinced that the Bill represents a soft, easy treatment of juvenile delinquents. I do not believe that it is an extension of the permissive society. On the contrary, I believe that it is not. If we can, through the Bill, identify and treat circumstances which, if properly handled, may save the child in trouble or the troublesome child from turning into a teenage thug, we shall have made a major advance towards beating this enormous problem in Scotland.

The Bill does not deal only with problem children: it covers all ages. It covers the whole range of deprivation and difficulty caused by sickness and old age. The Secretary of State described the Bill as a major pioneering scheme. I believe that it is. The quality of the pioneering has been endangered by the changes made to Clause 1, and I hope that the voluntary amalgamations which will come will remove that danger completely, but I have doubts about that. If the Bill works, as I trust it will, then it could build in Scotland a social work system which may become a model for other countries to admire and adopt.

11.2 p.m.

Mr. Millan

I am glad that the Bill, at all its stages, has had a general welcome from the House. I was very appreciative of the approach taken in Committee by all the members of the Committee, including the hon. Gentleman the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur), who led for the Opposition. The Committee stage was constructive, and the Bill was considered with an absence of rancour which is perhaps not so common in the Scottish Standing Committees as some of us would like it to be.

We now have a major Measure of social reform. In reply to points that have been raised, I will say a word about the two particular aspects of the Bill. The first is the establishment of the social work department. At the end of the day this will perhaps prove to have been the most fruitful part of the Bill. In the wide range of activities covered by the social work department, whether dealing with delinquent children, with children generally in need of help or with adults right up to the elderly, there are tremendous problems still to be solved and tremendous jobs to be done. There is also the need for society as a whole to recognise that in the future it will have to devote more resources to the kind of work done by the social work department.

By bringing within one department a whole range of social welfare services, including the probation service, we have laid the framework which will allow that job to be done more effectively than it can be done with the present dissipated services.

The question of the probation service has been raised in this context and has been a feature of our discussions throughout. I do not now want to go over the arguments again, but I say to the probation service and hon. Members who may still feel concerned that it should be brought into the social work departments that I hope they will not allow short-term difficulties—and there will be some —to obscure the long-term advantages which I am confident will come from in- corporation of the service in these departments. From the long-term point of view I think that this is the right solution and the fact that it is will be increasingly recognised, I am sure, by the probation officers themselves as the new departments come into operation and begin to make an impact on the problems with which they will have to deal.

My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern) raised the question of getting over to those who may need the services of the new departments the fact that they are available. I would not pretend that the establishment of the departments will solve all the problems of communication, because there are profound problems here, particularly in dealing with certain sections of society who obviously need help, but are not amenable to the normal processes of mass communication or public relations, as it were.

But the establishment of a single department is obviously in this respect as well a considerable step forward because it reduces the bewildering complexity of services separately organised which the person in need of help faces at present. Now we are bringing these services together and are putting them on to a more coherent and comprehensive basis and this can only be a help from the point of view of communicating to those who need help the kind of services available.

In the establishment of the social work departments, one of the points of controversy has been the Government's decision to allow the large burghs to continue to provide the services most of which they are already providing under existing legislation and to make large burghs social works departments as well as counties of cities and county councils. Again, it is rather late to argue this matter in detail once more, but I think that what is provided in the Bill will be compatible with a movement towards larger units if that is what the Royal Commission recommends and what the Government, on the receipt of the recommendations, decide.

There is nothing in the Bill which is incompatible from the long-term point of view with having the social work departments organised on a wider basis and with larger populations than we shall have under the Bill as expressed at present. I have already given information to the House about the reactions of the local authority associations towards combinations and I do not take the pessimistic view about it which some hon. Members have shown today.

Then there is the question of whether we should have waited for the Report of the Royal Commission. The Kilbrandon Committee was set up in May, 1961, by Jack Maclay, as he was then. It reported in April, 1964. In view of the urgency of the problems, which the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire has mentioned—particularly problems of juvenile delinquency—it would have been irresponsible of the Government to defer this major element of reform any longer. It was right to bring it forward now. This has disadvantages in relation to the Royal Commission but I do not believe that what we have done will prove in the event from the long-term point of view to be incompatible with what the Royal Commission is likely to recommend.

The other major matter dealt with is the establishment of children's panels and hearings to replace juvenile courts. I have been gratified to see that, at all stages of the Bill, this major change in our method of dealing with young people has had a general welcome. I do not think that it has had a unanimous welcome. For example, I do not think that the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker) or the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon) is happy about the procedure which is laid out in Part III of the Bill. But I think that what we are doing is on the right lines. I am sure that as the panels come into operation they will provide potentially a much more fruitful and effective way of dealing with young people who, for one reason or another, come before them than we have at the present time in our juvenile court system.

The hearings will not only deal with offenders; they will deal with children who may be before them for a wide range of other circumstances. In many of these cases my view would be that the children concerned are much more offended against by society, because of their home background, than offenders against society. We should keep in mind that we are dealing with a whole variety of circumstances and children, and it would be wrong to look upon all of them as having offended against society. Certainly, it would be terribly and tragically wrong to look upon them as children who require to be severely punished if they are to be turned into responsible citizens.

The children's hearings will have substantial sanctions. I do not like to look on this in terms of whether the sanctions are tough or soft, because that is the wrong way to look at what we are doing in Part III. We require sanctions in Part III which will allow the children's hearings to deal with the individual children that come before them in the most effective way possible for the good of the children, and also, in certain cases, for the protection of society. I think that we have here a range of sanctions which will provide the children's hearings with the means of doing the job that we are placing on them.

The personality of the individuals who make up the panels will be extremely important. I have already said in Committee that we do not intend to have the members of the panels drawn from any narrow section of society. We shall look to people in all walks of life whom we think have the right kind of background and human approach to do the job effectively. I take the point which has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie). If we get the right people and establish these new panel procedures in the right kind of atmosphere, I repeat that I think that potentially this can be a very fruitful way of dealing with these young people in trouble.

I have been pleased at the general welcome that has been given to the Bill. I think that sometimes in Scotland we pride ourselves on being in advance of the rest of the United Kingdom when in fact, unfortunately, we are not. But this is one major piece of social legislation which puts us very far ahead. It is taking imaginative and bold measures of reform. We have every reason as a House, and particularly as Scottish Members, to be very proud of this Bill and I hope that in that spirit we shall see it implemented in the future.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with Amendments.