HC Deb 13 July 1977 vol 935 cc738-43

Amendments made: No. 165, in page 106, line 11, at end insert:

No. 170, in page 107, line 28, column 3. at end insert: 'In Schedule 3, paragraph 3.'.

No. 171, in page 107, line 53, column 3. at beginning insert: 'In the proviso to section 1(3), the words from "a cinematograph exhibition" to "in the course of".'.

No. 179, in page 109, line 20, column 3, leave out from 57(4),'to end of line 23 and insert: 'the definition of "indictable offence".'.-[Mr. John.]

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

I beg to move Amendment No. 180, in page 109, line 58, column 3, at end insert— 'In section 22, subsections (5) and (6). In section 23, subsections (2) and (3).' If we are lucky, we might get home for breakfast. Last year 5,042 boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 16 were removed to Prison Department establishments in England and Wales. Many of them went not to remand centres but to local prisons.

On 31st March this year there were 19 boys between the ages of 14 and 16 in adult prisons, 10 aged 15 or 16 in Holloway, an adult prison, and 330 boys and 11 girls in adult remand centres. The surprising thing is that none of these schoolchildren was convicted or found guilty of offences. They were technically innocent.

Experience over the last few years has shown that 50 per cent. of those children will subsequently be found not guilty or will receive a non-custodial sentence. In practice, they serve their prison sentences before conviction. In the case of the girls, they were not segregated from adult prisoners. We have no legal power to send schoolchildren to prison once they have been convicted and yet, ironically and paradoxically, we have the power to send up to 5,000 schoolchildren a year to prison or adult remand centres.

That is a shocking indictment of our society and of successive Governments, because they have failed to provide adequate resources. The children are sent to prisons and remand centres on the remit of magistrates who issue removal certificates when there is insufficient secure accommodation in local authority establishments. That situation arises because local authorities, under successive Governments, have failed to provide the financial wherewithal.

Governments have also failed to experiment adequately with alternative means of dealing with the children within the community through fostering and a variety of other schemes which I shall not describe in detail because of the hour.

After repeated demands from myself and other hon. Members over several years for something to be done about this scandal, the Government have fulfilled commitments to end the remand of 14year-old girls, which ended in March this year, to provide more resources for secure units under the Children Act and to tighten up the criteria for the issue of unruly certificates. That tightening up will not come into effect until 1st August and. unfortunately, will tend to make the imprisonment of schoolchildren more respec— table and even an acceptable part of our penal system.

In spite of all that, and in spite of all the sympathy shown on this issue by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and his predecessor, in this apparently enlightened, progressive and compassionate age schoolchildren still go to adult prisons and Prison Department establishments, and are doing so in increasing numbers. The figures for the first quarter of this year show an increase on the total figures for last year. The problem is alarming, and unless we do something positive, and quickly, we shall never have the incentive or motive to deal with it effectively.

The amendment would remove all the legal powers that enable the Government, local authorities and the courts to remand schoolchildren to prisons and Prison Department establishments. After a long period in which many organisations and individuals have been campaigning on the issue, in view of the relatively small impact that has been made upon the numbers held in prisons the only way to deal with the problem is to say "You will not in future have the power to remand schoolchildren to prisons."

We all agree that sending schoolchildren to prison is intolerable and wrong. We put our hands on our hearts and wish that we could do something else. None of us can justify it. Let us now put the matter to the test and say "If we do not have the legal power, we shall have to find alternative means of dealing with the problem", as I am sure we would. If we close one route, we shall find an alternative route to deal with the problem.

I suggest that my hon. Friend the Minister, who has been so magnanimous and helpful in meeting amendments from both sides of the House, makes one final gesture and keeps the ship afloat by accepting the amendment.

Mr. John

I do not know what gesture my hon. Friend expects me to make towards him.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Accepting the amendment.

Mr. John

It was an ambivalent expression.

I cannot accept the amendment, because it is not the right approach summarily to close off all the options without the necessary accommodation being available. One can say "It will happen somehow", but it will not. We know that the accommodation cannot be made ready in the time before the Bill receives Royal Assent, even if we start now.

But my hon. Friend was right to say that constructive steps are being taken to deal with the matter. The order made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on 7th March excluding the committal to prison of girls under the age of 15 is one such step. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services, who has responsibility for accommodation, is to discuss with local authority associations in the near future the next steps in phasing out this type of remand.

The order under Section 69, which comes into force on 1st August, makes it more certain that no young person will be remanded to prison unless it is absolutely necessary. So far from making it respectable, I believe that it would make

Division No. 194.] AYES [7.10 a.m.
Callaghan, Jim (Mlddleton & P) Maynard, Miss Joan Ward, Michael
Corbett, Robin Ovenden, John Wise, Mrs Audrey
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Parry, Robert
Evans, John (Newton) Richardson, Miss Jo TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Flannery, Martin Robinson, Geoffrey Mr. Andrew F. Bennett and
Kerr, Russell Skinner, Dennis Mr. Ian Mikardo.
Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Anderson, Donald Golding, John Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Goodhart, Philip Noble, Mike
Armstrong, Ernest Gould, Bryan Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Ashton, Joe Graham, Ted Palmer, Arthur
Bates, Alf Grant, George (Morpeth) Park, George
Bean, R. E. Hardy, Peter Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Small, William
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael Horam, John Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Coleman, Donald Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Snape, Peter
Cook, Robin F. (Edln C) Hunt, David (Wirral) Stallard, A. W.
Cowans, Harry Hunter, Adam Stoddarl, David
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Slott, Roger
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) John, Brynmor Srradling Thomas, J.
Daiyell, Tarn Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Davidson, Arthur Jones, Barry (East Flint) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Deakins, Eric Khufman, Gerald Tinn, James
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lamble, David Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Dempsey, James Lamond, James Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Dormand, J. D. Le Marchant, Spencer Watkinson, John
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lester, Jim (Beeston) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Dunn, James A. McCartney, Hugh Whitlock, William
Dunnett, Jack McElhone, Frank Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth MacFarquhar, Roderick
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) McGuire, Michael (Ince) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Ellis Tom (Wrexham) Mallalieu, J. P. W. Mr. James Hamilton and
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Marks, Kenneth Mr. Joseph Harper.
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Freeson, Reginald Mayhew, Patrick
George, Bruce Mitchell, Austin Vernon (Grimsby)
Question accordingly negatived.

it rarer. The sum of£.3½million for secure accommodation, which we are providing under the Children Act 1975, is an earnest of our good intentions.

The Government have a great deal of sympathy, as expressed in the White Paper, with the point of view which has been put forward, but I ask my hon. Friend, in view of the fact that no accommodation can be provided in the time scale of which he has spoken, not to press his amendment.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

We have just had the kind of remarks and comments that we have been hearing for the past five years and more. The fault is not that of my hon. Friend the Minister, but in view of the nature of his answer we shall have to press this to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 15, Noes 83.

Amendments made: No. 181, in page 110, line 6, column 3, at beginning insert— 'In section 41(6)(a), the words from "and in" to "Scotland)" and the words "in each case".'.

No. 182, in page 110, line 12, column 3, at end insert— 'In section 59(5)(e), the words from "and" in the first place where it occurs to the end.'.

No. 183, in page 110, line 14, leave out and in paragraph 34 'and insert in paragraph 34(1)'.

No. 184, in page 110, line 15, column 3, at end add 'paragraph 34(3) and in paragraph 48(a) the words "14, 16, 21(c)

No. 190, in page 111, line 45, at end insert—
1975 c. 21. The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1975. Section 17
Section 325
In section 403(1), the words from "if" to "of payment of the fine"
In section 403(4) the words from "or that Table" to the end.
Section 403(5)
In section 463(1), in paragraph (a) the word "17", in paragraph (b) the words "325" and in paragraph (d) sub-paragraphs (i) and (iii)
In Schedule 9, paragraphs 15 and 35.'.—[Mr. Merlyn Rees.]
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