HC Deb 09 February 1979 vol 962 cc646-741

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker

I shall, in due course, call the instruction, if there is time for it to be called.

11.22 a.m.

Mr. Raymond Whitney (Wycombe)

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

This is a very short and simple Bill. In essence, it seeks to enact one of the recommendations of the Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee which reported in 1975, and which met under the chairmanship of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs.Short). As I think that no one in this House would be prepared to describe the hon. Lady as a reactionary of the Right, I hope that it will be agreed that the recommendation proposed by her Committee, which is enshrined in this modest Bill, cannot be regarded as a highly controversial measure. Certainly it commands a wide degree of support among many people throughout the country.

Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it not be appropriate for a Minister from the Deparment of Health and Social Security, or from the Home Office, to be on the Government Front Bench while my hon. Friend moves his Bill?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Michael Cocks)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I apologise to the House that the Minister has been unavoidably detained. He is on his way and will be here as quickly as he can. I am listening carefully to what the hon. Gentleman is saying and shall certainly report it to the Minister when he arrives.

Mr. Whitney

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell), but I am distressed that the Government find it so difficult to be present at this discussion.

The Bill certainly commands very wide support. Many people are gravely concerned about the problems of juvenile delinquency and believe that legislation, on the lines that I propose, can make a contribution to an improvement in a very disturbing situation. The Bill aims at a modest increase in the powers of magistrates in juvenile courts by making it possible for them to commit to secure accommodation young people who have committed an offence which, in the case of an adult, would be punishable by imprisonment and who are themselves already subject to a care order under the provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969.

The term for which juvenile courts could sentence young offenders to secure accommodation would be limited to a maximum of three months. At the end of the period set by the court, it would be the responsibility of the local authority, operating through its social services department, to make a decision on the future disposition or treatment of the young offender.

The Bill allows for the provision of legal aid for young offenders in cases where juvenile courts are contemplating committal to secure accommodation.

I think that it would be very difficult—perhaps impossible—to find anyone prepared to say that the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 is working satisfactorily. Nearly everyone is concerned about the extent to which young people are increasingly involved in violence, vandalism and burglary.

During 1977, one boy in 12 in England and Wales between the ages of 14 and 17 was either found guilty of or given a formal police caution for a serious crime. Half the burglaries of which people are found guilty are committed by juveniles. On 25 January the Minister of State, Home Office told the House that the number of juvenile crimes had decreased. But it is very difficult to recognise that fact from the statement made by his right hon. Friend or in the statistics provided by his Department. For example, the Home Secretary was ready to concede: Juvenile offences are matters of serious concern to us all."—[Official Report, 27 January 1977; Vol. 924, c. 1758.] Home Office criminal statistics show significant increases in the number of young offenders between 1971, when the Children and Young Persons Act came into operation, and 1977.

I shall not weary the House with those statistics, not only because they are tedious but because they are a much less reliable guide than they should be. There is evidence that, due to the operation of the Act, the police are increasingly reluctant to institute proceedings against the large numbers of young people who are committing further offences while still subject to a care order.

However, there is one other set of statistics which I should like to draw to the attention of the House, because I think they are sufficiently important. In 1965, under 2,000 juvenile offenders were received into custody under sentence, representing 14 per cent. of the total for sentenced offenders between the ages of 14 and 20. By 1977, 7,000 juvenile offenders were received into custody, representing 28 per cent. of the total. In other words, the percentage had doubled. Therefore, more and more young people are getting into trouble, and the numbers incarcerated since the 1969 Act came into operation have very nearly trebled. The youngsters are confused and bewildered by the system, and magistrates, as many of us know from our postbag, are unhappy and demoralised.

Against this background, it is difficult for anyone to maintain that we can go on as at present. One school of thought, which is populated almost exclusively by professional social workers and lecturers in sociology, holds vociferously to the view that all that is needed is much more of the same medicine as offered by the 1969 Act. They plead that the eight long years during which the Act has been in operation are an insufficient period to show its beneficial effects, despite the fact that hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent in the name of the Act. They maintain that all would be put right if we stepped up that spending to a still greater intensity.

Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Ormskirk)

The hon. Member correctly referred to the number of children in custody and the way in which it has increased since the Act came into operation. One of the criticisms I would make of the Act is that in many instances it has led to an increase in the number of children in custody, whereas its intention was the opposite. The hon. Gentleman's Bill would exacerbate that trend, to which he has been drawing attention in a critical fashion. The Bill does not in any way contribute to solving the problem to which he has referred and which, I accept, is a very serious and difficult one.

Merely passing a Bill to provide magistrates with the power to commit juveniles to secure institutions will not provide one extra place. How can the hon. Gentleman justify the present situation in which thousands of young children go to adult local prisons and remand centres simply because we do not have the secure units to which he is asking magistrates to commit children?

Mr. Whitney

If the hon. Gentleman will do me the courtesy of listening carefully to my argument, I hope that he will see the entire illogicality of what he has proposed. I hope that he will be fortunate enough to catch the eye of the Chair so that he may have a second opportunity of making his own speech.

Therefore, when we examine calmly the achievements to date of the 1969 Act, it is difficult to resist the temptation to compare the advocacy of more of the same medicine—the sort of advocacy that we have just heard from the hon. Gentleman—with the plea of a drunken man to be given just another half bottle of whisky to sober himself up. The answer must surely be to look to some change, however modest, in the 1969 Act.

I recognise that for some people such a proposition amounts to little more than sacrilege. It may be that I have not been a Member of this House long enough, but I am yet to be convinced that any Act of this Parliament is so perfect that it must be beyond critical examination for all time. On the basis of its unhappy fruits, the 1969 Act would seem to most people eminently suitable for critical scrutiny and, indeed, for amendment. But its supporters manage to endow it with a special status and to present it as a magnificent breakthrough into some brave new world. It was, indeed, a remarkable achievement, but to a large extent an achievement of public relations.

But were the principles of the 1969 Act quite so new and revolutionary as its protagonists proudly thought? I draw the attention of the House to an earlier measure which was designed to amend the Law relating to the Protection of Children and Young Persons…and Juvenile Offenders", and about which its proposer, on Second Reading, had this to say: There was a time in the history of this House when a Bill of this kind would have been treated as a most revolutionary measure; and, half a century ago, if such a measure had been introduced it would have been said that the British Constitution was being undermined. This measure is not the development of the political ideas of one party, but the gradual development of a quickened sense on the part of the community at large of the duty it owes to the children."—[Official Report, 24 March 1908; Vol. 186, c. 1251–2.] That was a speech by the then Lord Advocate when he moved the Second Reading of the Children Bill.

I do not deny that the 1969 Act gave a turn to the wheel. The question is whether that push went too far. The Act was based on the soft Freudianism that was so much in vogue in the United States in the 1950s and which by 1957 was already being lampooned in the musical "West Side Story". Bearing in mind the terrible precedent set by certain politicians who burst into song at political conferences last autumn, I shall spare the House that. But, having denied the House Leonard Bernstein's music, I should like to quote briefly from Stephen Sondheim's words. This was a ballad entitled "Gee, Officer Krupke" which stated: Dear Kindly Sgt Krupke, You gotta understand, It's just our bringing up-ke That gets us out of hand. Our mothers all are junkies, Our fathers all are drunks, Gee, golly Moses, Natcherly we're punks.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to give the words of a song without singing them?

Mr. Speaker

That is the most provoking point of order that I have ever had.

Mr. Whitney

Those who know me well understand the risk that the hon. Gentleman ran and which was nearly inflicted on the House.

I come back across the Atlantic. Whereas the Americans were waking up to the dangers in the 1950s, as is so often the case with trendiness, we were something like a decade behind. I use the phrase "soft Freudianism" with no disrespect to the grandfather of the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr.Freud), but here, as in other cases, such as that of John Maynard Keynes, it is the acolytes and not the originators who have done the most damage. During the 1960s we had the soft Freudianism which produced two pretty worrying White Papers which finally gave birth to the 1969 Act. These produced a series of concepts that were unproven and, indeed, largely untested in sociological terms.

The Act was largely responsible for handing over the treatment of young teenagers to a new breed of non-specialised social workers, which had been created by Seebohm, of a type which is known in the jargon—and I have absorbed a lot of this jargon during the last few weeks—as the "generic" social worker. The experienced children departments were at that time broken up.

The 1969 Act set out deliberately to treat in a similar manner all young people who were suffering from problems, whether from neglect or ill treatment, whether they were playing truant or whether they had committed offences of a criminal nature. Not surprisingly, this created confusion and resentment, particularly among the young people themselves.

During the last two months, as a result of the studies that I have made of what has been written and said by most of the defenders of the 1969 Act, I have been struck by one fact—the almost total absence in all their outpourings of the concept of deterrence. Yet, when I talk to the young people themselves, many of them sadly enmeshed in the mechanism created by the Act, it has come through very clearly that they understand the principle of deterrence.

Even at the age of 10, most young people are well able to understand what is a crime and to accept that a crime should be followed by a punishment. They simply do not grasp the complicated relationships with the social worker which are involved in the operation of care orders under the 1969 Act, where a social worker is expected to proceed from a friend and adviser of the family to a prosecutor and then to a judge or even a gaoler or gaoler's accomplice.

In fact, I was reminded of that passage in that marvellous essay on the humanitarian theory of punishment written by that great Christian C. S. Lewis, who, when speaking of those who torment us for our own good, rightly said: of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. The point is that, to a large extent, we are dealing with rational human beings

In its evidence to the Social Services and Employment Sub-Committee, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said: The vast majority of delinquents show no evidence of psychiatric disorders", and there is a growing volume of evidence in recent years which shows that many of the young people who get into trouble are simply testing the system to see how far they can go. They may not use the terminology of Dr. Kissinger, who talked about risk analysis, but they understand risk analysis. They take a risk to see whether they can get away with it. For them, the panoply of supervision orders, attendance centres, fines that they do not have to pay and care orders when they are sent back home is generally interpreted as getting off. Before the young people know where they are, the getting off leads them from one crime to another. Then they are sucked into the road to criminality, which ends up in detention centres, borstals and a life of adult crime. This is precisely, therefore, why I believe that the proposal in my Bill to give a very much clearer rôle to the juvenile magistrates will help the children and could result in many fewer of them being locked up. I make that point especially to the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk).

The Government have steadily resisted an amendment to the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 on the lines proposed in the Bill on the ground, to quote the words of the 1976 White Paper, Command 6494, that it would blur the lines of responsibility between the courts and the local authority. I shall be surprised if we do not hear a similar argument advanced this afternoon, when we have the pleasure of the Minister's attendance.

The 1969 Act is already by definition a blur in the sense that it seeks to straddle the issues of care and punishment, between, for example, looking after the child who has been abandoned by its parents and sending to borstal a young tough with a string of violent crimes to his name.

Much more serious than the blurring inflicted on the governmental machine is the blurring caused for the young person. Consider, for example, the evidence given by the Justices' Clerks' Society to the Sub-Committee. That society is composed of responsible people experienced in this area. It said this about the 1969 Act. It considered that the Act failed because it deliberately confuses the distinction between the functions of the court, the police and the local authority. It fails because it blurs, —I ask the Minister to note these words— what is often the very real distinction between a child in need of care and a juvenile offender. It fails because it deprives society of an important part of the courts' criminal jurisdiction, namely, to protect the public. Surely the protection of the public must be another facet of this important question. However much we recognise that young people must be given help, this, too, which amounts to no less than the preservation of the fabric of society, is something which neither this House nor the Government can neglect.

It is therefore depressing indeed, although a Minister from the Department of Health and Social Security is now present, that not one Minister from the Home Office is present. Can the Home Secretary be sincere when he says that juvenile offences are a matter of serious concern to us all? That is certainly true of the vast majority of us in the country, but is it true of the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues? I hope that the Minister, when he responds, will be able to set our minds at rest on this point. There are many people who will look carefully at his reply, for one of the issues at stake here is precisely the rule of law. That is important to us all, whether we are 10 or 90 years old.

The law, however compassionately it is administered, at rock bottom rests on the concepts of justice and punishment. It is a function of the courts to put these concepts into practice. We all suffer when that function ceases to operate—society as a whole, the offenders or the potential offenders and their victims. The last category has been all too often forgotten as the 1969 Act operates today.

I am well aware that there is one point on which my Bill causes concern even to many who would otherwise strongly welcome it. This is the question of the availability of secure accommodation. Naturally, I accept that this is an important issue that must be looked at carefully by the Government.

There are a number of points to be made here. First, the Government have already recognised the need. On 17 November last year the Secretary of State for Social Services told the House that £4.9 million had been set aside for providing more secure places. Opponents of the measure are in the habit of quoting enormously high costs for maintaining young people in secure accommodation. Figures of up to £500 a week tend to be used. But for the great majority of the young people to whom this Bill would apply there is surely no need to think in terms of the intensive custodial care that those figures reflect.

As the joint working party of the Magistrates' Association, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the Association of County Councils pointed out in the report of July 1978: More could be done to contain difficult and repeated young offenders by turning a key in a lock for a day or two if necessary without the need for fortress security. Perhaps the most important point of all that I could make on accommodation—which I have tried to make already—is that there is every reason to hope that this Bill will result in a significant overall reduction in the number of people incarcerated, as many of the people who under the present system have found their way into the detention centres and borstals—7,000 young people—might well be pulled up at the first hurdle, or even before they get to that hurdle. Even the Home Secretary acknowledged that: Many…people … say that for many people sentenced for the first time the major factor is the shock of having a sentence imposed on them at all."—[Official Report, 27 January 1977; Vol. 924, c. 1756.] Recent research has indicated something that most of us would have assumed on the basis of common sense: that the mere threat of being sent away can itself act as a powerful deterrent and actually prevent crime.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

It may well be that the threat of incarceration is a deterrent. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would give figures of the reconviction rates of those individuals who have been in residential institutions, borstals, detention centres or local prisons, which clearly indicate that, however much deterrent it may be to put them in institutions in the first place, the actual incarceration does not prevent them from re-offending almost immediately they leave those institutions.

Mr. Whitney

I make two points. Will the hon. Gentleman compare the re-offending rates of care proceedings as at present operated by the 1969 Act? They are of the same order, if not greater. The deterrent effect before people get there—the drawing of the line which a great majority of young people respect—is what we aim at. Therefore, there is a deterrent effect not only to the young people but to their parents, because the parents become confused. So often, to use a phrase I dislike, they are families which we have to accept are socially inadequate. I accept that part of the problem. The parents become confused. They do not know how seriously their child is in trouble until he gets into very grave trouble indeed. It must be brought home to the parents that the diminution of parental responsibility must be reversed—and we must put the spotlight and onus on the parents to make sure that their children keep out of trouble. This is yet another beneficial part of this simple Bill.

In spite of all I have said, I accept that the availability of secure accommodation throughout the country is a problem. Sadly, I was depressed to learn in a letter I received this morning that that problem has been made worse, as it is planned to close another secure home in Todmorden. That seems an extraordinary step.

I accept that there is the problem of secure accommodation. It is important to give the maximum degree of flexibility and discretion to juvenile court magistrates, who are experienced people and who are, I suspect, in general, far more qualified to represent and to act in the name of the community—a concept so dear to the drafters of the 1969 Act. The juvenile court magistrates are far better able to represent the community than most workers in social service departments.

Taking account of these factors, I believe that it would be right to amend the Act to give power to the courts to commit children and young persons to secure or other residential accommodation. I invite the House, should it give the Bill a Second Reading, so to instruct the Committee on the Bill.

In preparing the Bill, I have benefited greatly from the support and expert advice of a number of my hon. Friends, although, as the authors of books say, they must in no way be held responsible for my own views or statements.

The Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Mr. Roland Moyle)

The hon. Gentleman seems to be coming to the end of his speech. He may have dealt with this point in the first two or three minutes of his speech, but I should be grateful if, given his party's increasing enthusiasm for cuts in public expenditure, he would give some sort of assessment of the resource implications of his Bill—not only the physical provision of buildings but also the costs of staff.

Mr. Whitney

I am beginning to despair, although I recognise that it is a Friday. I am not quite sure how many times I have to make this point. I do not believe that we shall have the problems that the Minister suggests. I should be reluctant to subject the House to the tedium of hearing me rehearse for the third time that I believe very strongly that the measure will reduce the pressure on the public purse. I refer the Minister to what has been said in a document produced not by his own Department but by the Home Office in December last year concerning the operation of the Act. It deals with youth custody and supervision and it shows that, whereas in 1965 there were 1,953 juvenile offenders in custody, in 1977 there were 7,078. There may be more now. I believe very strongly, therefore, that the resource implications of the Bill may indeed be positive.

I also draw the Minister's attention to the point that I made before he joined us, to the effect that there is a strict limit of three months as a maximum on the power of magistrates. I have been told again and again by social workers that they do not differ on who should be sent to secure care. I wish to bring out in the Bill a principle of law concerning the operation of justice in this country. The principle is that the operators of that justice must be the juvenile court magistrates and not social workers in the social services departments of the local authorities.

Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)

The hon. Gentleman suggests quite correctly that magistrates should have certain powers to provide for secure accommodation for young offenders. We know that burglary is one of the biggest industries in the world, never mind Britain. Does not the hon. Gentleman believe or accept that we should commence right with the parents, and that the parents should accept responsibility? I believe that if we could start by making parents accept their share of responsibility we should not need prisons or secure accommodation for young people.

Mr. Whitney

I am happy to agree with the hon. Gentleman. As he may have heard me say earlier, I believe very strongly that we must put the spotlight on the parents, so that they may accept their responsibility in this regard. But I cannot think of any Private Member's Bill or Government Bill which would tell the parents of this country to be more responsible. We can all try to do what we can in this respect, and I hope that we shall all be trying in the course of the debate.

My hon. Friends and I are therefore seeking to make—

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

The hon. Gentleman has not yet mentioned much of what is contained in his Bill. Will he give the House some information about the provisions concerning legal aid, which I find rather confusing? Will he explain exactly what he has in mind?

Mr. Whitney

I am not sure, Mr. Speaker, whether the hon. Lady was present at the relevant time, but this is an effort to ensure that the provisions for legal aid, if it should be thought desirable, should be extended. I should be very surprised indeed if hon. Members of the hon. Lady's persuasion were to find that principle in any way unacceptable or open to challenge. I was hoping very much that this would be an extension of a compassionate and caring part of this very simple measure.

Mrs. Short

The hon. Gentleman has not answered my point. The Bill says that the court shall not impose the requirement that he is making unless the child is "legally assisted". What about the children who are not regarded as eligible for legal aid?

Mr. Whitney

I am certainly not a legal expert—

Mrs. Short

It is in the Bill. and I am asking the hon. Gentleman if he will explain it.

Mr. Whitney

I accept that clearly there are areas in which the Bill can be improved. I should be the last person to suggest that any measure passed through this House—and least of all the Children and Young Persons Act 1969—is incapable of improvement. Indeed, I look forward very much to co-operating with the hon. Lady in Committee, when I should very much welcome any suggestions for improving the legal aid provision. The Bill is designed quite simply to provide an additional measure of help and protection for those young people who stand in need of it.

What we are seeking is a modest improvement in legislation in an area which is of crucial concern and a source of great worry to everyone in our society. I believe that the essence of what we have proposed will clarify the system, which, after eight painful years, has proved to be inadequate in practice and, at least in part, very doubtful in concept.

I am optimistic that the measure will help young people who are tempted towards crime by indicating more clearly to them the limits set by society. I believe—certainly the widespread support that I have received throughout the country encourages me in this belief—that the Bill would restore some of the seriously damaged morale of those dealing with juveniles in the magistrates' courts.

Giving the Bill a Second Reading will show the country at large that this House is prepared to deal positively and constructively with a major problem of our day.

11.57 a.m.

Mr. David Weitzman (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

One of my hon. Friends very kindly suggested that I ought, as one in his second childhood, to declare an interest. I hope, however, that despite that possible defect, what I say will be listened to with some interest.

As I understand it, the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) by his Bill seeks to give power to magistrates to make what he calls a "secure accommodation" order where a child or young person in care is guilty of an offence that is punishable, in the case of an adult, by imprisonment. The hon. Gentleman, as he has said, has the support of a recommendation made in paragraph 25 of the 11th report of the Expenditure Committee, which dealt with the consideration of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, and also of some very contradictory views which were expressed on this point in the report of the joint working party in July 1978.

In my view, the Bill—as well as those opinions inasmuch as they favour the object of the Bill—is based upon a misconception of what the 1969 Act does. It does not appreciate the force of what makes the enactment so necessary. Magistrates are there to administer the law. They have the facts before them and they make their order upon the facts. The local authority has the assistance of a group of professionals—social workers, teachers, psychologists and psychiatrists. It is upon their observation and their assessment over a period of time, often several weeks, that the local authority comes to a determination as to how the child in care should be dealt with.

There is great flexibility in the courses open to the local authorities. In the necessarily brief court hearing, the magistrates cannot be expected to be able to decide what is best for a child. Therefore, the 1969 Act makes the fundamental decision that the order is to he made by the court and that the treatment shall be decided by the local authority on the advice of its experts. I believe that is the only way to determine what is best for a child.

Why should the Bill seek to depart from that procedure in the case of a child in care who commits an offence that is punishable in the case of an adult by imprisonment? I accept that the welfare of a child should be balanced by the need to protect the public. However, in justification of the Bill, it is said that, to protect the public, the court should be able to ensure a sufficient degree of physical control by local authorities to prevent the child from re-offending. In other words, whatever views are held by the social services department of a local authority, the authority is compelled to inflict a custodial sentence and place a child in secure accommodation.

Therefore, the court, in addition to its power to make an order placing the child in care, is empowered to say how that order should be carried out. I feel that is an unjustifiable departure from the fundamental nature of the legislation.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

The hon. and learned Gentleman knows from his experience that courts frequently order young offenders to be placed in secure accommodation. From time to time, they require the social workers of the local authority to find that accommodation. In Newcastle, in the 150 cases in which the courts ordered young persons to be placed in secure accommodation—that accommodation to be found by the local authorities—83 per cent. of the young offenders absconded.

Mr. Weitzman

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. The court can recommend secure accommodation, but it cannot make an order—otherwise the Bill would be unnecessary.

I agree that there are cases where children should be committed to secure accommodation, but the best judges of that are the experts in the local authority. Section 24 (2) of the 1969 Act provides: A local authority shall, subject to the following provisions of this section, have the same powers … to restrict his liberty to such extent as the authority consider appropriate. If the hon. Member for Wycombe wishes to depart from the Act, he should show that there has been a failure on the part of the local authority and that the power to send a child to secure accommodation should be taken out of its hands and forced upon it by the magistrates. I believe that no such failure can be shown. It cannot be shown, either, that sentencing a child to a custodial sentence in secure accommodation lessens the chances that that child will re-offend. Statistics show that the reverse is often the case.

Let us examine the case of a child admitted into care because of truancy, lack of control by parents, on moral grounds or neglect. The years pass and the child commits a first offence of petty theft. Under the Bill, that child can be confined to secure accommodation.

Mr. Whitney

That child would not be confined to secure accommodation. The point is that the juvenile court magistrates would have the power to consider the circumstances of the case.

Mr. Weitzman

Under the provisions of the Bill, it would be open to the magistrates' court to sentence that child to secure accommodation, and I believe that to be completely wrong.

The provisions of the Bill could not be implemented for many years, and I believe that the hon. Gentleman recognised this in his observations.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Will not my hon. and learned Friend go further and point out to the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr Whitney) that the Bill suggests that 10-year-old boys and girls should be locked up in conditions virtually identical to those in prisons—iron bars, slopping out, censorship of mail, and all the other indignities involved? Those conditions exist in secure units within community homes.

Mr. Weitzman

I agree with my hon. Friend, and I have no doubt that he will develop that theme in his speech.

Mr. Whitney

I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way, because I realise that I am replying to an observation. Let me make it clear that I am talking not about sending children away but about who makes the decision. The sponsors of the Bill believe that the three eperienced people appointed by society as juvenile court magistrates should make that decision. Clearly, it would be surprising if, as the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) suggests, a 10-year old boy was sent to a condemned cell, or whatever the hon. Gentleman was saying.

I refer the hon. and learned Member to my earlier remarks when I drew attention to the working party report. It said that, from time to time, turning a key in the lock for a day or two would achieve the required effect. The magistrate system has been set up to deal in that way with those cases.

Mr. Weitzman

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Wycombe for his further speech. The point that I am making is that under the Bill there is a provision that enables magistrates to confine a child in care. I am pointing out the obvious danger of that. How can the hon. Gentleman know the minds of the magistrates who will deal with individual cases? How can he know that the magistrates will be tender in one case but not in another? I am objecting to the power being there.

I return to the point that the provisions of the Bill cannot be implemented for many years. The figures reveal that there are now 205 secure accommodation places in England for boys and girls. Those places are normally full, and there is a waiting list. A further 66 places are planned. I understand that the cost of building 500 places would be £15 million and the cost of running the units would be £150,000 per week. Secure accommodation is expensive to provide and run. The capital cost is as much as £30,000 per place, and the revenue cost is as much as £300 per week. Even if that expenditure were contemplated, what would be left for the other deserving cases that have to be dealt with? How might other children suffer?

I ask the hon. Member for Wycombe what is the use of trying to put on the statute book a measure which could not possibly be implemented in the near future. No wonder the Magistrates' Association recognised in 1977 that a secure accommodation order to be made by magistrates was not a practicable consideration. With our resources as they are today, it is still less practicable. The better way, surely, is to leave it to the social services department of the local authority to decide what is best for the child in care.

Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

Is not the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that the Magistrates' Association at present supports this measure?

Mr. Weitzman

I have already said, and I understand that it is the fact, that in 1977—

Mr. Moyle

I should not like the House to be misled. I have before me a letter from the Magistrates' Association which says that the association is unable to support the proposal in the Bill that juvenile courts should have the power to require that a child or young person should be committed to secure accommodation, though it supports the residential accommodation idea.

Mr. Weitzman

I am afraid that that is the answer to the hon. Lady.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Let her explain that away.

Mr. Weitzman

I was saying that the Magistrates' Association recognised in 1977 that it was not practicable to adopt this idea of secure accommodation.

The House will know that the Association of County Councils and the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, as late as October of last year, set out guidelines to assist local authorities in deciding what was to be done. I hope that the House will bear with me if I quote from the document, because it is very important at this stage for the House to know what those guidelines are.

Paragraph 7 reads: Exceptionally there will be cases where the local social services authority will wish to exercise its discretion to allow a person remanded to care to remain in his own home; not because no alternative is available, but because in the judgment of the authority any other course of action would be severely detrimental to the child or young person concerned. A decision in this way should only be reached in rare and exceptional circumstances; should be taken at very senior level within the social services department of the authority; and should be reported to the magistrates, together with the reasons on which the authority bases its judgment. Paragraph 9 reads: When a care order is made there is, as with remand to care, a presumption that the child or young person will be removed from home to be cared for in a residential home or a foster home. It is not acceptable for the local social services authority to return to his own home a child or young person committed to care merely because the authority does not have adequate facilities for him. The authority must seek to use the most suitable available alternative among its own residential homes, regional community homes … or in regions other than its own. There is a further important guideline in paragraph 11: When first committed to care a child or young person should be the subject of an intensive period of observation and assessment—unless this has been undertaken on remand before the making of the care order. In a small minority of cases factors will come to light which make the use of residential care inappropriate, and the authority may decide to allow the child or young person to return home within a short time of committal. The decision to do so should only be taken at a very senior level within the social services department; and should be made known to the magistrates who made the care order, along with the reasons which led to it. Of course magistrates have the right to make a recommendation and, as a rule they make the recommendation in open court. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Griffiths) suggested that magistrates had the power to make the sort of order envisaged by this Bill. Clearly, he is wrong. But of course they can make a recommendation, and in that connection I note that paragraph 15 of the guidelines reads: Local social services authorities should always give very careful consideration to any recommendation as to the provision which should be made for a particular child or young person which the court makes at the hearing when the care order is made. Where it proves impossible or inadvisable to implement the court's recommendations the court should be told of the reasons. It is important to understand the present position. The magistrates have a child before them, and they have to judge whether that child should be put in care. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Wycombe has ever been to a juvenile court and seen how it acts. How much time do magistrates have to consider the matter? It is true that they can make inquiries, get a report and decide upon it. But, whatever steps they take, they have a very short time in which to consider what should be done with the child compared with what the local authority can do with its experts over a considerable period of time—often several weeks—going into the matter very carefully in the way that that guideline suggests.

The very subject matter of the Bill is referred to in paragraphs 17 and 18 of the guidelines. Paragraph 17 is headed "Persistent offenders". It reads: The magistrates, the police and local authorities are all required to be alert to the problem of persistent offenders. Such children form only a small minority of those who come before the juvenile courts"— I hope that the hon. Member for Wycombe will note this— but they pose immense problems for magistrates and social workers. Care, control and public safety are the joint concerns of the juvenile court and the local authority, which has a responsibility to do all it can to meet the needs of the persistent offender, within the limitations of the present inadequate facilities, and to protect the public. Paragraph 18 reads: A child who has been committed to care because of delinquent behaviour and who then commits further serious or persistent offences is showing that his needs are not being completely met. An immediate review of the case should be held by the local social services authority to determine whether an alternative placement, in secure or other residential accommodation, would meet those needs more effectively. If the child or young person is living in his family home when the additional serious offences are committed it should be taken as evidence that, unless there are compelling reasons otherwise, he should be cared for away from his home situation, at least in the short term. A decision to allow him to remain at home must be ratified by a senior officer of the social services department, at principal officer grade or above. We see, therefore, that the guidelines deal very effectively with the situation visualised by the hon. Member for Wycombe. In my view, under these guidelines the local authority has regard not only to the welfare of the child but also to the protection of the public. If it acts upon these guidelines—and there is no reason why it should not do so—its discretion cannot be interfered with, as it would be by this Bill, by magistrates who have not had the same opportunities to study what is best for the child. Why is it suggested that it is more likely that magistrates would be able to balance the welfare of the child with the protection of the public? Surely the local authority with all its expertise is more likely to do that. The Bill is unnecessary, in my view, and is based upon a complete misconception. I hope that the House will reject the motion to give it a Second Reading.

12.22 p.m.

Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) on introducing an extremely useful reformative measure.

The hon. and learned Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman), who has had a long and distinguished career not only in the House but in the courts, was speaking to a very bad brief. He emphasised the concern of social workers and of society as a whole with the welfare of the child. I acknowledge that the welfare of the child is of prime importance for all those bodies, institutions and social workers who are concerned with the child, but we must not overlook the welfare and needs of society. I do not make that distinction to emphasise any dichotomy between them, because, in the last analyis, the welfare of the child and of society are one and the same. The welfare of the child as much as the welfare of society demands that for a happy, useful life a child must learn the difference between right and wrong and that, in the end, if he offends, punishment attends the offence.

When dealing with the very young we have to bring moral issues home to them in simple terms. One of the major errors of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 was that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe said, it blurred the distinctions which ought to be absolutely clear in the minds of the very young.

The distinctions are that it is wrong to thieve and to assault. These, in the last analysis, are crimes. If they cannot be dealt with by the court as crimes when it is necessary to do so and if instead young people are handed over to experts, whose natural desire to do good in the circumstances nobody disputes, and they are then sent home and implored to behave better next time and no consequences attend the wrong-doing, the likelihood is that they will offend again and again.

That is what those of us who opposed the 1969 Act foresaw, and that is what has happened since. My hon. Friend was moderate in his criticisms of the 1969 Act. For many of us who see the end product in the Crown courts, that Act appears in many respects to have been little short of a disaster.

My hon. Friend spared the House the consideration of numerous statistics, and I do not want to inflict them upon the House, but we cannot escape statistics when they deal with the problems of juvenile delinquency, which is one of the greatest social evils of our day.

In a debate last year on the problems of crime, the Home Secretary spoke of its being due to deprivation, to the running down of inner city areas, and so on. That is the common utterance of all who, at the social level, are concerned with dealing with young offenders. But manifestly the argument is fallacious, because we have all seen that, as social welfare has increased over the years—quite rightly so, and I do not challenge that—we have seen an ever-increasing rise in crime, the most terrifying aspect of which is the increase in crimes by children and young persons.

I have here the report of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis for 1977. The few quotations that I shall make from it could be echoed in any report, whether in the criminal statistics for that year, in the reports of local chief constables or in that of the chief constable of the West Midlands, where my constituency is situated.

In London last year, arrests for indictable offences—that is, the most serious offences which, when committed by adults, would normally be tried in the Crown courts: crimes of violence and assault, including homicides—totalled 201 by children between the ages of 10 and 13 and 850 by young persons between the ages of 14 and 16.

I shall give the rest of the figures in each category because they show comparisons and reveal that a terrifying proportion of serious crime—indictable offences—is committed by children and young persons. The figures are as follows: crimes of violence, including homicides, in age group 17 to 20, 1,609; in the 21 to 30 age group, 2,372; over 30, 2,264. As I said, 201 such offences were committed by those in the age group 10 to 13 and 850 by those in the 14 to 16 group.

Robberies and other violent thefts in the 10 to 13 age group totalled 187; in the 14 to 16 age group, 623. Those figures compare with only a few more offences, 675, in the 17 to 20 group. The number of burglaries in the 10 to 13 age group was 2,236; in the 14 to 16 group, 3,928. When we compare those figures with the 17 to 20 age group, where a large number of crimes would normally have been committed, we find that the figure is 3,266. Figures for crimes connected with motor cars are: in the 10 to 13 age group, 1,483; in the 14 to 16 group, 5,861. Figures for other thefts are: in the 10 to 13 group, 5,129; in the 14 to 16 group, 8,053.

I will not go into fraud, forgery and miscellaneous crimes, but these figures I have quoted speak for themselves. We all know that they are the basis of every article written in the press about juvenile delinquency. They are not quoted all the time because we cannot swallow statistics wholesale, but they are there and they speak for themselves. I submit that they show what a disastrous failure the 1969 Act has been. Had that Act been a success, these figures would not have increased all the time. But they have increased. Although it is not always an argument to say post hoc ergo propter hoc, we can at least say that the Act has had no success whatever. That is the important point.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right about the increase in delinquency and juvenile crime. But surely he will concede that the courts have the power to deal with persistent offenders—the most difficult group—with whom we are almost always concerned. A very large proportion of them are sent to detention centres, attendance centres or borstals.

Mr. Grieve

It am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point, because once again it is a fallacious point. The whole philosophy of the 1969 Act was not to punish but to avoid punishment, whether by way of incarceration, for however limited a period, or of something more summary such as was at one time used. The governors of our borstals, when eventually the persistent offender gets to borstal, are faced with a youth who is already so steeped in crime that it is difficult to deal with him or, alas, with her. However, a short period of detention, such as my hon. Friend's Bill would enable justices to impose, might obviate such a sad and tragic history of offence after offence leading ultimately, after the age of 16, to a reference to the Crown court, the Crown court then possibly giving a chance and finally the youngster ending up in borstal.

When I first came back to practise at the Bar after the war, borstal was very proud of its success rate, but that success rate has been declining. I submit that one reason for its decline is that punishment is brought to bear upon the offender far too late.

Mr. Weitzman

Everyone accepts the figures given by the hon. and learned Gentleman. But why should he suggest that, if the power is given to the magistrates, they will be able to deal with matters in a more effective way than local authorities which have the guidelines which I have quoted in detail?

Mr. Grieve

I wholly reject that statement by the hon. and learned Gentleman. The justices, magistrates and judges in our courts have not only personal but institutional experience of dealing with offenders. They are concerned not only with the offender as such but with the protection of society and the reformation of the offender for the benefit of society.

The social worker is concerned with the child as an individual. All who practise or sit in the courts and have experience of these matters know that it is all too easy for the social worker so to identify himself with the person he is seeking to help that he loses sight of the real necessity of benefiting society by reforming the child. That is the key to the whole of this situation. Social workers—splendid though their motives and dedication are—identify themselves all too frequently with those whom they seek to help. We see this in the Crown courts—

Mr. Moyle

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Grieve

Perhaps the Minister of State will allow me to finish my sentence I shall then be glad to give way to him.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Make it a long sentence.

Mr. Grieve

I shall make it as short as I can, but it will be very long if the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) keeps interrupting from a sedentary position.

Even in the Crown courts one sees that identification. It is a very good probation officer indeed who does not so identify himself and is able to take a more detached attitude. The problem is that the social worker's attitude all too frequently is not detached.

Mr. Moyle

This is the only way that I can deal with the matter. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) said that everyone accepted the hon. and learned Gentleman's figures. In the sense that they are an accurate statement of arrests, I accept them. But I should have thought that the number of convictions was the most important statistic. The hon. and learned Gentleman did not give that figure.

Mr. Grieve

I did not bring in statistics on convictions, because I did not want to laden the House with statistics. If the Minister of State will give the House statistics on convictions which in any way controvert the point that I have been making, I shall be very happy indeed. However, they do not, and he should know it.

Mr. Ivan Lawrence (Burton)

And cautions.

Mr. Grieve

And cautions. They do not, and the Minister ought to know it. I am sure that he does. I suggest that he made a thoroughly false and bogus point.

Mr. Moyle

I shall deal with that point in my winding-up speech. The figures do not establish the point that the hon. and learned Gentleman is trying to establish.

Mr. Grieve

I shall wait with great interest to hear the Minister of State on this point. I have no doubt that some of my hon. Frends, who will be seeking to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will also have looked at the statistics in the meantime.

As my hon. Friend. the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said, one must look not only at convictions but at cautions. Indeed, as I said, arrests are also telling. Surely the Minister of State is not seeking to make the point that the statistics on arrests of children and young persons in any way put a false complexion on the matter.

My hon. Friend's Bill has been presented to the House at a time when not only juvenile delinquency but delinquency by young girls is on the increase. One of the most terrifying of the many nasty phenomena which we have in our present-day society is the increase in violent crime by young girls.

The House will be aware that it is in that situation that the Home Department is depriving magistrates of the power to send young girls who are utterly beyond control to safe custody in prison when there is nowhere else to send them. I should welcome there being somewhere else to send them, but there is nowhere else at the moment. If the Bill will help society to deal with the boys, I suggest that it will help society even more to deal with the girls.

Mrs. Renée Short

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman defending the practice, which still exists, of sending young girls into women's prisons? Does he not think that can have a very serious effect on a young girl? Does he think this is a defensible position in a civilised society? If so, I am staggered that he should dare to suggest it in this House.

Mr. Grieve

If the hon. Lady had listened to me, she would have found that was the precise reverse of what I was saying. I deplore the necessity—

Mrs. Renée Short

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman accept it?

Mr. Grieve

But I deplore even more the complete absence of any way of dealing with young girls who are so violent that they ought not to be at large.

The justices in my constituency drew three such cases to the notice of the Secretary of State for the Home Department when dealing with the proposed Home Office order. I think that I should quote those three examples to the House, because they clearly show the urgent need for a measure such as my hon. Friend's Bill. The clerk to the justices wrote to the Secretary of State: The justices ask me to say that their experience over the last two years shows that there has been a marked increase in violent behaviour on the part of female defendants under the age of 17 years, resulting in charges under sections 18, 20 and 47 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 and under section 1 of the Criminal Damage Act 1971. In one recent case a young girl had been asked by the licensee of a public house not to visit the premises. She had been refused intoxicating liquor because she was under age. She returned to the premises and unknown to the licensee was served with intoxicating liquor by a part-time barman. The licensee came into the bar and ordered the girl to leave. She responded by pushing a glass into his face, causing serious injuries. That girl was under the age of 17. In another case a young girl repeatedly stabbed her mother with a knife whilst the mother was asleep. The wounds were of such a serious nature that the girl's mother was lucky to survive. In a third case a young girl already in the care of a local authority left the home when she was in care and, in company with a boy of 12, purchased cider and was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. Additionally, the girl made a telephone call to the local fire brigade stating that the home was on fire, and this resulted in the attendance of fire brigade services. She was also charged with making a false alarm. When remanded by the Bench this girl and her companion attacked the police, aided and abetted by her relatives, and a scene of disorder resulted. Six men had to hold this girl to the ground and sit on her. She remained in this undignified position for 20 minutes, swearing and struggling, until she could be subdued. Eventually she was carried to a waiting police vehicle handcuffed and with her legs tied together with rope! This girl was kept in custody at Risley remand centre. The justices agree that it is undesirable for young persons to be kept in prisons or remand centres unless this is absolutely necessary"— I would say to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton. North-East (Mrs. Short) that that is my view, too— and they use their best endeavours to avoid this, but they would argue that there will be a continuing need for secure accommodation to be provided for persons like those mentioned above and that it is flying in the face of experience to imagine that local authorities can provide a practical alternative. I venture to mention this in the context of the Second Reading of the Bill. The measure has my unreserved support. In a sense, it does not deal with the whole complex of matters which has ensued from the passing of the Children and Young Persons Act, but it is designed to mitigate the Act's consequences and to serve the needs of society. For the reasons I have expounded, I fear all too inadequately, the Bill will serve the needs of the growing generation in our country. I personally commend it to the House.

12.41 p.m.

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)

It might puzzle the public that the House should be so thinly attended for a debate on what I consider to be one of the most important social problems of our time. It should be realised that it is thinly attended because of pressure on Members' time. It does not indicate that there is not a great amount of concern about this matter.

I feel that debates of this kind should not follow exact party lines. In the mind of the public generally, punitive and "flog and hang 'em" attitudes are more associated with the Conservative side of the House than with this side. I am not accusing those hon. Members who are present of necessarily having that tag around their necks. I do not want to be misunderstood. On this side of the House, there are also a few hon. Members who could be described, although it is a loose term, as members of the "flog and hang 'em" brigade. Most of us on this side are aware that some of our colleagues would not wish to be present in great numbers today.

I have some regard for the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve). He and I have known each other well, more than is usual in Tory-Labour relationships. We have both served on the Select Committee on race relations and immigration. I would be the first to bow to his knowledge of the law because of his legal experience. My experience in that regard is absolutely nil. I bring to this debate experience of a wide association with young people and more recently by my new role as a grandparent. In fact, I have a grandaughter aged 11. I mentioned the birth of one of my four grandchildren when apologising to Mr. Speaker on a Maundy Thursday for the delay in my arrival at this House. I try to measure the behaviour of children through that third generation.

One of the profound weaknesses of the argument of the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) in presenting this Bill and the ideas contained within it is that he seeks to put juveniles and child-rent in the same boat with people who have committed crime, sometimes horrific crimes. That is a weakness in itself. We should always address our minds to the need to treat young people differently. It is a common habit to allude to crime as being attritutable to social conditions and broken homes that often stem from social conditions. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Solihull that one cannot put an exact equation on these matters. Some abominable actions are committed by young people from well- to-do homes and a middle-class environment who do not lack care. There must be other reasons whey they embark upon a life of crime. Often, it is due to people with whom they associate.

In this respect, I find myself opposing the hon. Gentleman's Bill. The Bill speaks of power to commit to secure accommodation under the command of magistrates. This means that the child, the first offender, finds himself or herself with those whose unbridled attitude to society stems from all sorts of family and social conditions. There is no deterrent effect at all. Often, the effect is bad in the sense that first offenders can find themselves incarcerated with old lags. In the prison system, they have their own jargon and their own language.

As Members of this House, some of us have had communications from prisoners. We have to form our own judgments, as a result of those communications, about whether the prisoner is likely to be brought back from a habitual life of crime to a life of constructive endeavour in our society. We form our own judgments. At any rate I do. I mention this correspondence with people who are incarcerated because it is pertinent to the whole ethos and psychology of the Bill.

The hon. Member for Wycombe has had a distinguished military and diplomatic career. I see from "Who's Who" that he plays bridge. I have been checking up on him to see what qualifications he may have for presenting this Bill, as opposed to any qualifications that I possess for seeking to oppose it and advising the House not to give it a Second Reading.

Mr. Whitney

I am not so well versed in the background of the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) as he is in mine. That is my misfortune. I have experience, however, going back over 25 years, of dealing with young people in a variety of social work, mostly in England but also overseas.

Mr. Bidwell

I am grateful for that information. I believe that young people in Britain are rather different from most of those overseas, if I may respectfully say so. I had what might be termed a sheltered life in Britain until I became a Member of the House. As a Member of the House, I have had the opportunity [...] look round the world and measure our society against societies in other countries. I still believe that I live in a great country. The more that I go abroad, the more I have a sense of returning to a great country which works out these matters as we are doing today. I hope that we shall approach the debate in a spirit of constructive endeavour and on non-party lines.

I respect the experience of the hon. and learned Member for Solihull, but I always take statistics with a large pinch of salt. I was employed for some time in the Labour College movement and we used to sell a booklet called "How to lie with statistics". We have to use statistics, but they are never conclusive. Crime statistics have to be broken down in an inexhaustible way and they do not always add up to sense. That is certainly true in regard to average figures.

I have young relatives in social work. The hon. and learned Member for Solihull seemed to be dismayed that social workers are concerned about individuals and sometimes become attached to individual children in their care. I find that a matter not for worry but for commendation. The hon. and learned Member suggested that it would cloud social workers' judgment and that they are not concerned with reform. No social worker can carry out his work without being concerned with reform and without a sense of dedication to turn young people away from the path of crime. The hon. and learned Gentleman's argument was absurd.

Social workers oppose the Bill because they treat young people as individuals. Every hon. Member who is a parent will know that every child is an individual. Some have characteristics that are not shared by their brothers or sisters but are a throwback to a previous generation. Children must always be treated as individuals. That is more true when they are juveniles than at any other period in their lives.

I found it astonishing that an hon. Member, with the experience that hon. Members have of meeting people, should find it remiss that social workers and probation officers become attached to another human being and try to steer him away from the path of crime. It is exceedingly important that they should do that, because the misbehaviour of young people often stems from the absence of care in the home.

We all remember our own childhood and the influence of many factors upon us. I was a messenger boy at Paddington station at the age of 14. My father worked there as a wagon repair man—he was a brilliant craftsman—and he said to me "Don't let me down." That had much more effect on me, because of my great regard for him, than being urged to "Watch out for the police" or "Obey the rules". I was brought up in a working-class neighbourhood which I now represent in the House. That influence had a great effect on me and on the judgment that I bring to bear in a debate such as this.

We had high hopes of the 1969 Act and, indeed, still have high hopes of it. Of course it needs to be changed, but the purpose of an amendment is to improve a measure. If the theory of the Bill is to improve the Act, I do not believe that the hon. Member for Wycombe has made his case. I was most anxious to be here from the start and I told my hon. Friends that I would not intervene if I thought that there was an element of progress in what the hon. Gentleman proposed, especially in relation to the concrete realities of what we were likely to be able to do in our present economic circumstances.

The Bill is barbed with contradictions, not least of which is the question of public expenditure. If the hon. Gentleman is thinking of requiring local authorities to provide much more secure accommodation, that will mean extra public expenditure. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would have to make provision to assist local authorities to carry out that requirement and, whether that is desirable or not, I do not believe that my right hon. Friend would be able to do that.

The Chancellor would have to show where the money to assist local authorities was to come from. The hon. Member for Wycombe cannot escape that fact. What other social services does he think should take a step back? Has he in mind homes for children not involved in crime, old people's homes, meals on wheels or some of the other manifold services that welfare authorities have to provide? The hon. Gentleman must address his mind to that question.

The hon. Member may say that the problem of the crime rate is so urgent that provision must be made. His hon. Friends continually put up special cases for increased public expenditure. Added together, they would make a massive hole in public expenditure, and that is just not on. But the matter does not rest there. Expenditure is not the paramount weakness of the Bill, although it is a practical consideration. The Bill's great weakness is in seeking to equate children with young people. It charges about like a bull in a china shop.

With such an enormous subject for discussion it is only to be expected that our debate will be wide-ranging, but I should like to concentrate for a moment on the question of protecting young people from a life of crime. One central aspect of the Bill, so ably described by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman), is highly questionable. I have read many documents which have spelled out the views of the joint working party of the Magistrates' Association, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the Association of County Councils. These bodies between them can command a great deal of experience. My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. McKay), who so comparatively recently came to the House, brought with him a great deal of such experience as a magistrate and a member of a local authority. The House will benefit from his advice if he has the opportunity to speak today. His experience has been recent—he may even still be a magistrate, although I do not know.

Magistrates such as my hon. Friend not only hear the details of charges that are heard before their courts but as members of local authorities have an insight into other aspects of the problem. However, as my hon. and learned Friend pointed out, some magistrates have only the job of examining the specific case before them.

Mr. Lawrence

The hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell) is highlighting a most important confusion which arises from the conflict of interest that exists between the Department of Health and Social Security and the Home Office. Has the hon. Member noticed that for the last 20 minutes of his important speech the Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security has been absent? Further, no representatives of the Home Office has been present on the Treasury Bench. I am not suggesting that the Minister of State has left the Chamber to have a meal. Doubtless he has been drawn away by the important business that is visited upon Ministers who have to deal with all aspects of the Welfare State. But are such Ministers able effectively to deal with the questions of juvenile crime and law and order which this Bill raises for that Department? Would not the answer to many of the problems that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned be provided if this whole subject was dealt with not by the DHSS but by the Home Office?

Mrs. Renée Short

We have done that before, and it did not work.

Mr. Bidwell

As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) said, that would be putting the clock back. I suppose that this subject is the concern of several Government Departments, and it would be ideal if a whole galaxy of Ministers was present so that they could apply their minds to the problems. I am delighted that the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) intervened, not to challenge the magnificent content of my speech but to draw attention to the temporary absence of my right hon. Friend the Minister of State.

I am sure that when it comes to a decision the Bill will be rejected, but that will not be the end of the matter. The discussion will continue. I shall be delighted if my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, with whom I am in constant communication on other matters, particularly immigration—and he often disappoints me on that score—would listen to our debate and even speak. If he had addressed the House today for an hour, he could have provided a great deal of help in our discussion.

I do not detract from the desire of the hon. Member for Burton to see the greatest display of talent on the Government Front Bench today. Nevertheless, I urge him to examine his own Front Bench. It is a pity that we do not have the company of the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition, who has expressed great interest and care for children.

One common reason why youngsters go astray is that they have been involved in housebreaking and burglaries. Is it understood, however, that children of 10 years or more can come under the influence of young people who are out of work? Their activities cover the various gradations of bad behaviour, and some of it causes great pain and suffering—that applies especially to burglaries. In these circumstances I hope that hon. Members will bear in mind the effect that these unemployed young persons can have on their younger brothers and sisters.

I ask hon. Members to consider what we can expect from unemployed teenagers who are outside the compass of the Bill and are subjected to a life of idleness and to a feeling of being unwanted by society. Consider what happens to them when, in addition, they experience the feeling of being unwanted in the home. I invite hon. Members to consider also the repercussions of that environment on 10-year-olds who are then left to roam the streets.

I find the current level of unemployment totally unacceptable. It is criminal of us to allow it to persist, especially when old men are dying in employment and young people are out of work. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment takes second place to no one in this House in his endeavours to remedy that position, although that fact is rarely mentioned.

The Bill wrongly seeks to rectify these problems by general punitive action against children and very young persons. They need to be treated as individuals and to be put into the care of local authority social service departments which command the necessary expertise to deal with them. A magistrate may be competent to give guidance on legal problems, but he is not always competent to follow through the development of the child or young person when it leaves his court.

1.9 p.m.

Mr. David Howell (Guildford)

The House may find it useful if I set out now the views of my Front Bench colleagues and myself about the Bill. I am particularly happy to do so after the fair and open-minded speech of the hon. Member for Ealing, Southall (Mr. Bidwell). I do not agree with his conclusions or the final general drift of his remarks, but he brought considerable experience to the issue in a reasonable and constructive way.

I gladly join in the congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) on his endeavours to bring the Bill before us, on the way he moved it, and on his thorough work of preparation. He deserves the warmest congratulations.

The Conservative Front Bench strongly support the broad intentions of the Bill. I welcome the opportunity to discuss what the hon. Member for Southall rightly called one of the major social problems of our time. I am pleased also to see the instruction that the Committee should have power to make provision in the Bill to give magistrates power to commit children and young persons to secure or other residential accommodation. That clearly gives added scope for constructive consideration in Committee.

All hon. Members, and many people outside concerned closely with this problem, know that there are long-standing and strong differences of opinion about the part that magistrates' courts should play in dealing with juvenile crime. We shall not be able to skirt those differences, and that is one of the advantages of having this debate. I want to cover first, however, some of the ground that is common to all viewpoints in the argument.

First, while there may be disagreement about the interpretation of the crime statistics—we have had a flavour of things to come from the Minister of State in an intervention—we must all agree that the level of juvenile crime is appallingly high and that there is a disturbing increase particularly in crimes of violence by young people. I think we all agree also that there is a hard core of persistent offenders whose activities are causing grave public disquiet.

Secondly, I think that it is commonly agreed that, while there is no national shortage of places in community homes, more secure accommodation is needed. That is recognised and reflected in the commitment by the Government to build more secure places and to push ahead with the programme. No one disputes that there is need for more secure accommodation.

The third point which we have to recognise as a fact is that secure accommodation is extremely expensive, although, in the heat of the debate, I must confess that I agree with the suggestion that some of the figures tend to get adjusted to suit the argument rather than the other way round. Nevertheless, it would be myopic to deny that cost is a major problem and a major constraint on any considerable expansion in the future. We recognise that as clearly as the Government do. We cannot escape the fact, and that is why I am glad to see the instruction, which would allow us to consider in Committee on the Bill—which I hope will have the support of the Government—a more flexible alternative, bearing in mind the need for these considerations which all of us recognise.

Fourthly, we are agreed that the present provision for juvenile offenders is giving rise to much concern and is quite unsatisfactory. We see overcrowded junior detention centres. The rate of re-offending is miserably high, and I think that it is now realised, as reflected in the Government's Green Paper "Youth Custody and Supervision", that fairly substantial changes are needed in the whole provision for juvenile offenders. That Green Paper was mainly concerned with young adult offenders but addressed itself also to the issue of juvenile crime.

We therefore have a large area of common ground upon which to try to build the next stage in dealing with this desperately serious social problem. The differences really arise between us not in analyses of the kind I have set out but over what part courts of law should now play in tackling the problem. My conviction is that the courts and magistrates have a central role to play in combating juvenile crime but are not being allowed the full opportunity to play it, and that this leads to widespread public unease.

It may be said "Is that something that we should concern ourselves with? Is it not more important to get the courts, social workers and all the others dealing with juvenile crime together?" That is important, but the attitude of the public is crucial to the good working of the system and to the support of any reforms which may be introduced.

I agree strongly with my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe that the protection of the public lies with the judicial system, and that if confidence is weakened that that protection will be given two things happen. First, it undermines public respect for the authority of the law, which should concern us all; secondly, it undermines respect among young people for the courts. My hon. Friend talked of the bewilderment of young people trying to comprehend the maze of orders and authorities to which they are subject under present legislation—and he touched on a fundamental point there. If young people do not regard the courts as a source of authority, we shall make no headway in establishing a less crime-ridden atmosphere for the next younger generation.

There are clear indications that lack of appropriate powers for juvenile magistrates and lack of court control over the handling of children in care lead the justices inevitably to push more and more youngsters into detention centres and borstal. We have been told that the Bill might lead to greater incarceration of young offenders. But my belief is that it is the present arrangements which are leading to an unnecessary, prolonged, highly expensive and highly inefficient and ineffective degree of incarceration of young people—just the sort of thing that the founders of the 1969 Act did not want.

I was surprised the other day that the Minister of State, Home Office said that there was no overcrowding in junior detention centres. That is not my experience. The experience of some of us who visit these centres is that they are very crowded and tend to have to deal with people at very short notice, often arriving without adequate documentation, and that the pressure now on the "sausage machine", as it were, of junior detention centres is higher than ever.

This is a profoundly unsatisfactory development and is in part reflected in magistrates' fears that, since they have no firm, decisive say in the area covered by care orders, they must resort more and more to detention centre orders or borstal training orders, and so on. The position is unsatisfactory. It is one that people with open minds, and concerned with the trend of juvenile crime, have to address their minds to. That is why my hon. Friend has done a great service with this Bill.

The question posed by the Bill and by this debate is whether an additional power to the magistrates would meet these problems and what kind of power it should be. My own belief is that if we were to give to magistrates, in the context of the Bill—we would be allowed to do so by amending the Bill somewhat in Committee—a residential care order facility, that would certainly help in a number of ways.

First of all—I place this at the top of the list—it would reassure the public. We have been asked earlier what authority and experience magistrates can have in dealing with juvenile offenders to match that of the local authority social services. A long list was mentioned of the experts and expert advice and guidance that is available to the social services. That is true. Expert advice is available to the social services. But magistrates are also experts in interpreting and reflecting one absolutely vital consideraion, and that is the views of the public and society on crime, the growth of crime, and on those juvenile offenders who cause it by their persistent offences and add to the statistics on crime, and about how those people should be treated and how society wishes to treat them. That is where magistrates have their say and should have their say.

If we were able to give back to magistrates a power of the kind implied in the phrase "a residential care order", that would reassure the public. It would restore the morale of the magistracy, which in recent times has been very severely challenged by the feeling that it lacks power over the field covered by care orders. It would do so—I emphasise this—without placing impossible demands on local authorities or on resources.

Therefore, I should like the Minister of State to consider this proposition very carefully indeed and to consider the reasons why I think the Bill is so important and so valuable that it should receive a Second Reading, and not to come back to us later this afternoon—I am sure that he will not do so—with arguments simply saying "The money is not available. It cannot be done."

Of course we understand the cost of the full-blown secure accommodation, particularly if it conforms to the last detail of the Department's requirements. Of course we understand the very heavy burden which would fall on local authorities if the programme that is in the pipeline had to be very substantially extended.

That is the view that my hon. Friends and myself take on this matter. As I say, that is why we welcome the Bill.

It may be argued that to give magistrates back this sort of power would limit the discretion of local authority social service workers, but I question whether it would do so. The only limit would be in one particular area. It would be on the opportunity for the local authorities to decide and be in the last resort the over-riding decision-makers in returning a young offender to his or her home. That is an area about which the public have been rightly very worried indeed.

Again and again, reports are brought to the attention of hon. Members on both sides of the House and to the public, and we read them in newspapers, of offences committed while the juvenile is already in care. The public are very disturbed to hear about these things. They are very disturbed indeed to hear it suggested—as it is suggested in the report of the joint working party, which several hon. Members have mentioned today—that, because of the powerlessness of the courts, in some cases the police hesitate to prosecute.

That kind of proposition, which appears in this authoritative joint working party report, is damaging to every effort by anyone who wants to see crime more effectively tackled and wants to see an improvement in the way in which the whole operation of the juvenile courts works. That kind of public worry is something to which we are sent to the House of Commons to respond.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths

I hope that neither my hon. Friend nor the House is in any doubt about this matter. The practical working experience of the police is that thousands of children who have committed serious offences are remitted to social workers in local authorities, run away after breaking out of the residential accommodation into which they have been placed, and commit further crimes. As one police officer put it to me only this morning, this is a shuttle. The police, of course, hesitate about bringing action because they know that there will be no effect.

Mr. Howell

My hon. Friend speaks from detailed experience and reinforces strongly the point I am making. I do not believe that this is a situation which we should allow to drift on if we are serious in our intent in this House of trying to beat or to curb the appalling rise in juvenile crime.

It may be argued that the Bill puts the cart before the horse and that the provision of secure places is so severely limited that a change in the power of the kind we are proposing, an increase in the power of magistrates, would be valueless. But it must be accepted that a residential care order, as opposed to merely the narrower form of secure care order, would allow a lesser degree of security to be used.

I know that there are difficulties in defining what we mean by "secure accommodation" in the broad sense, but I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe is right when he questions whether we need always to interpret the idea of secure accommodation as meaning fortress security. I think that a much better approach is adopted in the report of the joint working party, in which the Magistrates' Association suggests that more could be done to contain difficult and repeated young offenders by turning a key in a lock for a day or two when necessary without the need for fortress security. As long as we are able to move forward to the point where magistrates can be sure that some physical control will be exerted, we have taken a long step away from the present situation of doubt and lack of confidence in the whole care order system.

There may be another argument—the hon. and learned Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) touched on it—and that is that we do not need to worry because compromise over these matters has already been reached. The hon. and learned Member read out some extracts from the guidelines issued by the associations of local authorities on the way in which the truce line, the common ground, should be drawn between magistrates and the courts, on the one side, and the local authority social service workers, on the other side.

I fully concede that the will is there—I should be appalled if it were not—both in the local authorities and in the courts to try to sort things out, and that within the present law as it has been laid down heroic and continuous efforts are made to reach common understandings and to try to get agreement, both of the courts and of all those involved on the local authority side, about the handling of a particular young offender.

However, I return to the point about the public, who are also party to all this. We must be careful, not only in this area but in many others as well, not to assume that the answer to all questions of public policy is reached when the various interests and groups within a particular area have found some modus vivendi.

The values of the public should always come before the mere satisfaction of interests involved. If the spirit of compromise is strong—as I said earlier, I am convinced that it is strong in this area—it would be equally strong if magistrates had the additional power to make this kind of care order. On top of that, the public would have greater reassurance.

Far from being something which we are told all social workers oppose, I should have thought that a move in this direction would be something that many social workers would recognise as a confirmation and validation of the practical situation that many of them now face. It would give their work, and the work of the courts, the additional and priceless advantage of renewed public confidence, which at present it does not have.

If anyone thinks that that is a small matter, he has only to talk to those in the local authority social services—and indeed those on the bench—who at present operate in a system where they feel that they lack public confidence. That can be very undermining and demoralising, and it is something that we should do our very best to change.

Mr. Lawrence

Does my hon. Friend suppose that there might be more confidence if the public could be assured that the Department which deals with law and order, the Home Office, dealt with the question that we are considering today? Is not part of the weakness of the whole situation that the public do not think that the Department of Health and Social Security is adequately able to deal with questions of law and order?

Mr. Howell

I appreciate what my hon. Friend has said. I am not sure whether the public always think in the departmental and Whitehall language used by hon. Members. What the public are looking for is a reassurance of a simpler and more basic kind, namely, that the courts and the law should have a substantial say—possibly the final say—in the handling of those who do wrong, whether they be juveniles, young adults or adults.

There is a real fear today that that is not so. It is felt that the courts have been pushed into the background, not only in this area but in many other areas where it appears that the law is being broken and the normal standards of right and wrong seem to have become blurred and have disappeared into fuzzy explanations.

Although I do not accept every detail of the Bill as it stands—I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe would would expect me to do so—the instruction allows us now to move sensibly on a course along which Members on both sides of the House should proceed with some urgency.

Every hon. Member who has spoken—I have no doubt we shall hear it again—has emphasised the urgent and growing nature of this problem. I do not know what the Minister has in his brief, but it would be a great mistake to resist the Bill either on the grounds, which I hope he will not produce, of pure cost or on the grounds that there is no urgency at present. If he did so, it would betray an inflexibility of mind and a one-sidedness on an issue which urgently demands fresh thinking and fresh policies.

We support the broad aims of the Bill. I hope that as many of my hon. Friends as possible will also support it—if necessary with their vote, should it come to that.

1.34 p.m.

Mrs. Renée Short (Wolverhampton, North-East)

I was interested to hear the view put forward from the Opposition Front Bench. It appeared to be a slightly schizophrenic view. The Conservatives do not support some of the details of the Bill but, on the whole, they hope that people will vote for it.

My view is that the Bill is totally unnecessary, is badly drafted, and is inflexible. I think it is bad because it would remove some of the flexibility that is at present available to the courts and local authorities when dealing with young offenders.

The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell) indicated some of the teething troubles of the original Act which, I am sorry to say, are still with us. I absolutely agree that we need some secure accommodation for the hardcore, persistent offenders. That was the burden of the evidence given to the Select Committee on expenditure by the Magistrates' Association in 1975. It was not concerned with putting youngsters on a large scale into secure accommodation or prison.

Mr. Patrick Mayhew (Royal Tunbridge Wells)

My hon. Friend did not say that.

Mrs. Short

I did not say that the hon. Gentleman did. I am explaining what the magistrates did not say, because there has been some distortion of view about what the magistrates actually said and are still saying. Their views have not changed since 1975. They did not say that they wanted wholesale provision of secure accommodation for all offenders but they did say—and I agree with them—that there was a need for secure accommodation for hardcore and persistent offenders, young people who, over and over again, having been given a first, second or even third chance of remaining within the community, attending intermediate treatment centres or the other flexible provisions that are available under the Act, have then committed more serious offences. But such young people constitute a minority.

The hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) made a great deal of play about the statistics of juvenile offenders. The number of young persons who offend is precisely in line with the number of adults who offend. There has been a parallel increase in the number of offences. That is a reflection on the climate of society and on what we do not do, but ought to do, in our education system to give young people better guidance and preparation for adult life. I feel very strongly about that too. Presumably this is also a reflection on the lack of guidance and firmness from parents, who have also grown up within our society and our educational system.

We are left to deal with the problems as they arise. The Bill would require magistrates to take action in cases where a care order could be given for a fairly innocuous offence. The practice of courts differs and no strict guidelines are laid down—indeed, there cannot be—as to the penalties for certain offences, because all sorts of matters are taken into consideration by the courts, such as the child's family background. They can therefore give different penalties or sentences for similar offences, depending on the circumstances.

Mr. Mayhew

Is not the hon. Lady under a misapprehension as to what the Bill conveys? She said a moment ago that it removes some of the options open to the courts, whereas she has just said that it would require magistrates to take action. The essential point is that under the Bill they may—not shall—make a secure care order. That is a fundamentally important point.

Mrs. Short

There is the power for magistrates to take this action, and many magistrates would feel inclined to do so. If they are frustrated by a lack of other alternatives, it may well be that a secure care order would be made. That would bring the whole of the operation of the Act, if it were amended in the way that the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) wishes, into disrepute, because we do not at present have sufficient secure accommodation or residential accommodation for the increasing number of young persons who may well be treated in this way.

Mr. Edward Gardner (South Fylde)

Does not the hon. Lady agree that the Bill, in essence, deals with a power to commit to secure accommodation? That was a power which the eleventh report of the Expenditure Committee also recommended should be given to magistrates.

Furthermore, does she agree that another committee—the committee of the Society of Conservative Lawyers—looked at this problem and came to the same conclusion, and that the same conclusion was also reached by the study group set up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw)?

Mrs. Short

I thought that I had already explained the thinking behind the Select Committee's recommendation. I expressed the views of the Magistrates' Association, which gave the evidence which led to that particular recommendation. The magistrates said: The major concern is for the hard core, sophisticated young criminals hitherto considered and spoken of as small in number, but which one fears are increasing. The social services are unable to cope, firstly because of the shortage of places"— which is still a problem, and will remain a problem if the hon. Gentleman's Bill is passed— and, secondly, because of the shortage of manpower and the lack of training". To some extent the shortage of manpower has been relieved, and the problems dealing with training have to some degree also been relieved.

The magistrate witnesses were pressed again by a member of the Committee and were asked: If we regard these institutions as secure accommodation under your definition, and we are steadily locking up more and more already, how far do you want to push that process? The reply was: We do not want to push that process at all. We want to put it into reverse, and it would be put into reverse if you made it more effective at the earlier stages". That is the crux of my major argument about the Bill. We required the courts and the local authorities to take certain actions. A whole range of flexible solutions can be applied to an individual child. But with regard to secure accommodation, we have not yet got the number of places that we need. The numbers are increasing. Regional planning committees have been set up in every region of the country, and certain guidelines and instuctions have been issued both to them and to the local authorities, which can if necessary go outside their own regions in order to seek secure accommodation if it is felt to be the best solution in the case of a particular child.

Mr. Whitney

I have followed with great care what the hon. Lady has said. But I am still left with the impression that she is resiling from the recommendations from the Committee which she chaired. We accept the problem about the group of persistent young offenders. Because of my drafting limitations I failed to define that particular group. But surely this is where the magistrates must come in, in order to identify these persistent young offenders. If the hon. Lady has a better formulation, I am sure that the House would be pleased to hear it. I hope very much that she still shares the view, which she held in 1975, that what is required is an order in the hands of the magistrates to commit to secure accommodation or perhaps other residential accommodation.

Mrs. Short

The hon. Gentleman has not really taken on board the evidence which the magistrates gave. I disagree with his proviso about the care order already existing in relation to a young person. As I indicated, under the Bill it is possible for a care order to be made for comparatively less serious offences. That is what I find objectionable. A child can go before a court, have an order placed upon him, and if he appears again he could then be put into secure accommodation. That may not necessarily be the best kind of treatment for that particular offender.

The advantage of the Act is surely the flexibility that is allowed for different kinds of children from different back-grounds who commit different offences. If this Bill is passed, it will remove a degree of that flexibility.

I am also concerned about that part of the Bill which deals with legal aid. As I read it—no one has yet put me right—it appears that there is a certain amount of prejudice against a child who applies for legal aid. I know that in another place a Bill is being considered to increase the amount to just over £1,000 of disposable income, but even that is low enough nowadays.

I draw the attention of the hon. Member for Wycombe and of those hon. Members who support him to the words of the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) when Secretary of State for Social Services. At a meeting attended by chairmen and deputy chairmen of juvenile court panels from all over the country, the right hon. Gentleman said that he accepted the legitimate concern of the Magistrates' Association but the problem was how to make the Act work. He also referred to the resources that had to be provided, and added: The 1969 Act, despite its teething troubles, had set in train the developments that were needed. The Government had brought into force only those sections which it had accepted in opposition when the Act was passed". Therefore, the Act had the support of the Opposition at the time. Changes in the law itself had not softened it: prosecution remained available from age ten, borstal remained available from fifteen, detention centres remained available from fourteen. Present difficulties did not arise wholly from the Act. The right hon. Gentleman asked that local consultation between the courts and social services departments, which was of the greatest importance and would eliminate misunderstanding, should continue. He begged for intimate contact with local authorities and said that this had increasingly taken place. But he had heard of a few cases where local authority social services had been snubbed. He went on: Please don't spoil your admirable record of public service by, in any part of the country, making it difficult for the social service departments to consult with you, to explain to you, and to co-ordinate with you, when they seek to do so. Surely that is the position which ought to guide and advise us today. Yet some of the speeches from Conservative Members about the shortcomings of social service departments and local authorities make me feel very depressed. Of course, they are working under considerable difficulties and do not have the resources which will allow them to be as completely flexible as they would wish in dealing with young people committed to their care. Rather than seek to amend the Act in this way, we must put pressure on the Government to provide the resources required and which were sought when the legislation went through Parliament.

By implication, the Bill introduces a new custodial sentence for offenders under 14. That goes far beyond the old approved school order, whereby those who administered approved schools could say who should or should not be sent to those institutions. Therefore, this is a very reactionary proposal. It is inflexible because it could cut out many of the options at present open to the local authorities, including one which offers a good deal of hope for the future. That is the idea of fostering offenders.

That proposal is now being carried out by several local authorities and is backed up by a great deal of evidence from America and Sweden. The Select Committee went to Sweden and looked at the fostering schemes in operation there. In the whole of that country, very few young offenders are put into secure accommodation. I ask the hon. Member for Wycombe to have a look at what is done there in order to see how we can benefit from that experience.

The Bill is inflexible. Children subject to such a care order might not be sent to a residential school for the maladjusted or placed in intermediate treatment, which could also combine a period in residential care. All these schemes would be more appropriate than permitting a child to live in secure accommodation. What do we understand by "secure accommodation"?

Mr. Whitney

Surely the Bill is not inflexible. It merely adds another dimension. It does not make any ruling. It gives the opportunity to juvenile court magistrates to make one disposition. It may be, for example, that they would decide that one week in secure residential accommodation was appropriate. Thereafter it is written into the Bill that it is within the disposition of the social services to make their judgments. Therefore, it adds an element. It increases the flexibility.

Mrs. Short

That would confuse an already disturbed child much more than the provision in the Act. By far the more acceptable solution is what we are hoping to do and what has been done in some parts of the country—that is, to provide a small amount of secure accommodation attached to a residential home. That can be done by allowing the child to cool off. That is often what the child needs—a short period in which to cool off and then to be returned to the community, either to the home or elsewhere. To contemplate two different moves would be extremely difficult and disturbing for the child.

Hon. Members have prayed in aid the supposed views of the magistrates. I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman did not take into account what the magistrates have asked for in the evidence they gave to the working party—which was the residential care order. The magistrates want that, but they do not want this Bill. The Magistrates' Association does not support it.

The Bill is impractical. The fact that there is not enough secure accommodation is highlighted by the number of young offenders who one might expect will need secure accommodation in one year. The figure of 2,000 youngsters who might be directed towards secure accommodation has been referred to in documentation and in the House. We now have 206 secure places. By 1980 there will be about 300. That means that we probably need another 1,700 secure accommodation places. The Minister will be able to confirm the figures.

Today's cost of providing that kind of secure accommodation is £30,000 a year, for which grants are now available. In addition, the running costs are about £300 per week for each child. That money must be provided by the local authorities. Therefore, we are talking about many millions of pounds.

It is extraordinary that day after day we hear at Question Time the Opposition demanding cuts in Government expenditure and Government borrowing. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition attacked the 2 per cent. growth in Government expenditure proposed in the White Paper. The Shadow Chancellor attacked the 6 per cent. increase in Government expenditure this year. The Conservative Party should make up its mind where it stands on this issue of Government expenditure. I wonder whether the hon. Member for Wycombe has consulted his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition to find out where she might possibly find the money with which to carry this rapid expansion.

Mr. David Howell

I have listened with great care to the hon. Lady's experienced contribution. She is answering a case, but she is not answering the case which I put from the Dispatch Box a moment ago. As I made clear, the question of heavy costs of full-blown secure accommodation is a serious obstacle to advancing rapidly in this direction. Both sides recognise that. That is why I argued—I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) made this implicit in the instruction he put on the Order Paper—that we seek an additional power to allow magistrates to make a disposition to residential care. That is very much in line with the wishes of the magistrates in the joint working party. That would be a great improvement on the present situation. It is one that we would be able to bring about by sending the Bill to Committee.

Mrs. Short

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman said. His views, however, have not been reflected by every Opposition speaker. There are those who would wish to go very much further in a much more punitive way. Their views may prevail—who knows?—if the Bill makes any further progress. I am concerned that there will again be clamour. Indeed, the hon. and learned Member for Solihull condoned putting girls into prison. I am afraid that if there are more secure orders put on children, there will be pressure to reverse the process, which has now gone almost its full way, in preventing girls from being put into adult prisons by the application of an order of unruliness. There will be pressure to find more prison accommodation if enough residential accommodation is not provided. There are considerable dangers there.

The conclusions of most of the research from responsible bodies that I have seen—whether from the Home Office research papers that are published from time to time or from the Cambridge study on delinquency development—are that residential accommodation does not prevent or reduce delinquency. The Cambridge study said that in comparison with equally badly behaved youngsters who escape conviction, the convicted youngsters still became more delinquent. That should have some weight with the Minister. We would be storing up much more trouble for ourselves if we proceeded on those lines.

We must be prepared to accept new ideas. It is no use going on with the old practices if we find that they are unsuccessful and do not bring the results we want.

I do not have time in which to refer at any length to the experiments in the treatment of young offenders and delinquents in Sweden or America. However, I should like to refer to some of the excellent schemes that are being introduced here now by local authorities, which took on board the recommendations we made about caring for young offenders within the community, especially in very well selected foster homes. I emphasise the words "very well selected". It is a difficult, tough job for any family if it is prepared to take on a young person who has come from a bad home background and has a record of persistent offending. The incentives must be commensurate with the responsibility that the families undertake. In Sweden the families were receiving £70 per week, whereas our fostering allowances were negligible. However, in Kent the fostering allowance now for these young people is about £50 a week, which is much more realistic.

Experience will show that if a child is translated into a good, stable background, where it is cared for, where its aspirations have some opportunity of being considered and where it is treated firmly and constructively, there will be good results.

I oppose the Bill as it is not necessary. We need to continue with providing more resources to make available what is provided under the Act. Let us hope that we shall carry on with the productive, useful experiments of caring for young people within the community without this punitive element being introduced in so many cases; and I believe that that will be much more successful.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Before calling anyone else, may I remind the House that hon. Members should not be misled by the number of hon. Members in the Chamber. I know that some hon. Members, who have been here all day, are now taking a little refreshment. I have more than enough names to take us comfortably past four o'clock. I say that for the information of the House.

2 p.m.

Mr. Charles Irving (Cheltenham)

I think that I should declare immediately a direct interest. I am still chairman of the Gloucestershire county council social services committee. I have been a member of it for nearly 30 years, and so I hope that I can, with some modesty, make one or two contributions to the debate. I am sorry that perhaps some of my views may be at variance with those of my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney). However, I believe that the Bill, for all its faults, has served an important purpose in enabling the House to discuss two vital and closely connected issues.

The first is the rapidly rising rate of juvenile crime, which has increased no less than threefold in the last 20 years. In my view, it is misguided to pin the blame for this alarming increase on the Children and Young Persons Act 1969. As the recent joint working party of the Magistrates' Association, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities and the Association of County Councils stated, There is no statistical evidence that the introduction of the 1969 Act and its implementation in 1971 affected juvenile offending. For one thing, there has been a similar threefold rise in adult crime over the same period, although there has been no comparable legislation concerning adult offenders. For another, the rise in juvenile crime showed a steady trend between 1967 and 1974 and there was no change in this trend associated with the implementation of the 1969 Act in 1971.

The second important issue raised by the Bill is the need for more secure accommodation for young offenders—an issue about which social services committees feel just as strongly as magistrates.

We need secure accommodation, first, to protect society from the small—and I emphasise small—minority of juveniles who pose a serious threat to the public. Secondly, a few young offenders need a secure place for their own welfare. These young people have such disintegrated personalities that they require treatment in security as the first step in a plan aiming towards their re-entry into society. Thirdly, we need more secure places for youngsters on remand to give the courts an alternative to committing thousands of young people each year to adult prisons and remand centres. It is a national disgrace that in 1977 over 4,000 juveniles were sent to such establishments to await trial or sentence in a criminal sub-culture of young adult offenders.

Finally, we need more secure accommodation to take some of the juveniles now sent to borstal, the number of whom rose from 818 in 1969 to 1,935 in 1977. This trend is especially worrying when we consider that 81 per cent. of the under-17s released from borstal are reconvicted within two years of discharge. It is a fact that some community schools are already operating at less than 50 per cent. occupancy, mainly due to the acute shortage of skilled staff.

There is also implicit, in the changes proposed in the Bill, the notion that magistrates would make better decisions in individual cases than social workers. I reject that idea. I have experience of it every week. I have been a magistrate—I am not now—and I know the way this works. It is a slur on social workers that would be totally unacceptable to those of us who have experience of the dedication that they show in their work.

There is much evidence to show that magistrates on different benches reach widely differing decisions about broadly similar cases. In 1977, for instance, the magistrates in the Cleveland police area committed into care 17 per cent. of the 10- to 14-year-old boys who appeared before them. The magistrates in Wiltshire committed into care only 3.6 per cent. of similarly aged boys during the same period.

Mr. Whitney

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Irving

I should like to finish this. I have already reduced my speech considerably. I also know that several hon. Members wish to speak.

Such figures must, of course, be treated with a certain amount of suspicion. They do not, for instance, take into account police cautioning rates in these areas. I do not doubt that magistrates, left to their own devices, might arrive at rates of detaining children in secure accommodation which would be so different as to constitute an injustice. I believe that social services personnel, trained and experienced in the care and management of difficult children, are much more likely to come to more consistently applied decisions about where children should be at any given moment in the currency of a care order. That is not to claim that they are infallible or that errors are never made—clearly they are—but, in the absence of proof that the magistrates can do better, I believe that it is in the interests of both the child and the community to leave these decisions to child care specialists.

The Bill assumes, first, quite wrongly, that social services departments are less capable than the courts of deciding whether a child needs a secure place. I can assure the House that local authorities take the utmost care in making decisions about the placement of children in care and have a genuine concern for both the protection of the public—that is vitally important—and the welfare of the child concerned. The two local authority associations stated in the report of their joint working party with the Magistrates' Association: When a youngster is at home and commits another offence it may indicate the need for him to be removed, but such action should not automatically follow. It ought to be a matter of judgment to be decided on the basis of a thorough assessment of the circumstances and of the need to protect society. Local authorities believe that they are better placed to exercise such judgment because they have opportunities for a more thorough assessment than is available to the courts. Secondly, the Bill would merely transfer powers from one body, the social services department, to another, the court. What it would not do is to provide even one more secure place for use by hard-pressed local authorities. Simply making legislative changes without the resources to make them effective would do nothing whatever to improve the position. This has been the one fault all through the period of operation of the 1969 Act. The Act was good in its intention, but the resources have never been made available to social services departments. It could, frankly, make matters worse. If a court made a secure care order—this is my main concern and anxiety about the Bill—a local authority would be obliged to accommodate the young offender in one of the few secure units available to it, even though his need for security might be less than that of other youngsters already in the authority's care. Look at what has happened because of the overcrowding of our prison system.

Thirdly, the Bill has the support neither of the local authority associations nor of the Magistrates' Association. It is well known that the Magistrates Association favours some amendments to the 1969 Act, but it also acknowledges that there is not enough secure accommodation to make a secure care order feasible. I have been here throughout the debate. None of the supporters of the Bill has explained why he persists in offering to magistrates a power that the Magistrates' Association clearly states that it does not want.

By introducing the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe has performed a valuable service in enabling us to debate a serious and growing problem. Regrettably, the Bill itself makes no contribution towards overcoming the problems with which it purports to deal.

2.11 p.m.

Mr. Robert Kilroy-Silk (Ormskirk)

It gives me much pleasure to be able to follow the eloquent, passionate and reasonable speech of the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving). His contribution has demolished entirely the case of the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney), who tried to pass off the Bill—I quote his word—as "a compassionate and caring measure". How a measure that seeks to imprison 10-year-old boys and girls can be described as compassionate and caring is beyond my imagination. I believe it to be an easy, cheap and empty gesture that will make no contribution towards dealing with juvenile delinquency. Every other hon. Member who has spoken today knows that it will not establish one additional secure place in the community for young offenders.

The 1969 Act enables magistrates to make a care order but gives the local authority the power to decide where a young offender or child in trouble should be placed and what care and treatment should be given to that child. The local authority determines the degree of security or otherwise that is deemed to be appropriate. The Act enables the social services department of the local authority to deal with a multiplicity of problems that confront an offender, delinquent or troublesome child. The authority can deal with those problems in a flexible, sensitive and imaginative way. I believe that would no longer be possible if the enabling power in the Bill were to be given to magistrates.

At present, local authority social services departments have at their disposal a wide variety of measures—boarding schools, community homes, youth treatment centres or fostering. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) pointed out, fostering has been extremely successful in Kent. It is also open to the local authority to place a child in his own home under supervision or in a secure unit within a community home. The Bill would remove that degree of flexibility, irrespective of whether an offence committed by a juvenile is a first or trivial offence or one that is extremely serious and grave.

I believe that we are too quick and ready to incarcerate young offenders. The Bill is a retrograde and unnecessary step along the path that we have travelled too willingly. I accept that there has been an increase in juvenile delinquency along with the general increase in crime, and it is our duty to ensure that the community is properly and adequately protected from the members in its midst—whether juveniles or adults—who behave in an antisocial fashion. However, I believe that the provisions for that protection already exist within the facilities and powers available to the courts under the 1969 Act.

The Bill is based on the assumption that the Act has failed. It has not. However, it has not been properly implemented and I believe that my right hon. Friend has much to answer for in the way that the Act has been brought into disrepute. The Act has been criticised before its operation has been tested fairly, not just because many of its most important provisions have not been implemented but because successive Governments of both parties have failed to provide sufficient financial resources to make real the spirit and intention of the Act. The Bill does nothing to correct that.

It is no good criticising the 1969 Act and bringing it into disrepute by examining its defects, which are more the responsibility of successive Governments. I applaud and endorse wholeheartedly the spirit of the Act.

There has been an increase in juvenile delinquency. As the hon. Member for Cheltenham pointed out when he quoted a sentence from the report of the joint working party in October 1978, There is no statistical evidence that the introduction of the 1969 Act and its implementation in 1971 affected juvenile offending. However, that accusation has been made by Conservative Members several times today. The remainder of the paragraph, that was not quoted by the hon. Gentleman, continues: Firstly, the ratio of juvenile offenders to all offenders has remained reasonably constant over the past 10 years—that is, juvenile offenders generally comprise about 30 per cent. of all offenders in England and Wales. Secondly the rate of increase in offending before and after 1969 is about the same for 14–17 year old boys and for men over 21. There is a slight decrease in the post-1969 rate of offending for 10–14 year old boys and a very considerable increase in the rate of young men between 17 and 21. The hon. Gentleman should have examined the facts, because the figures show that there has been a decrease in the rate of offending of the boys in the age groups to which he has referred.

We have become more reluctant to use social work supervision for young offenders. The hon. Member for Cheltenham and my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East indicated this disturbing trend. There are now fewer supervision orders than there were some years ago. Many children are sent to institutions without any attempt being made to deal with their problems within the community. Recent research by Ross Henn of the Home Office revealed that just over one-third of all juveniles entering borstals in 1977 had not previously been subject to a probation order or a supervision order. The figures for juvenile detention centres that have been quoted today are even higher.

Recent surveys of young offenders who are made subject to care orders show that those committed to residential institutions had not previously been the subject of any attempt to find a worthwhile nonresidential, instructive and positive solution to their problems. I believe that we have taken the easy way out and placed the children in institutions, whether attendance or detention centres, borstals or prisons—some local adult prisons. There are far too many young people and children in institutions.

The passing of the 1969 Act was supposed to ensure that children were kept out of institutions. Ten years after that Act and eight years after its implementation we are now sending two and a half times more schoolchildren to borstals and detention centres than we were in 1969. The new Act was supposed to herald in a new era of a sensitive, imaginative and passionate way of dealing with juveniles in the community.

It is a combination of successive Governments' failure to interpret the spirit and provide resources to ensure that the Act became reality in practice. Every day more schoolchildren are being sent to prisons and remand centres because we do not have sufficient secure units within community homes, however much the hon. Member for Wycombe would like to believe otherwise. Why else are 4,000 vulnerable 14 and 16-year-old boys sent to remand centres and local adult prisons every year? It is because there are no facilities of the kind that he would like magistrates to have the power to resort to in the case of 10-year-old boys. It is indefensible to make that kind of suggestion while we still have to deal with the very serious blight on our society of the scandalous incarceration of schoolchildren in adult prison establishments.

Today we find that the children in secure units in community homes are younger and less delinquent than those who were admitted to the same units in earlier years. We are catching them younger and putting them in prison-like institutions, and we are catching them when they are less delinquent.

Mr. Whitney indicated assent.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

I see the hon. Member for Wycombe nodding his agreement. He should have done a little more research before coming to the House today.

Mr. Whitney

Believe me, I did.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Well, it did not come out in the hon. Gentleman's speech. He admitted that he had never been to a juvenile court. I am also fairly sure that he has never been to a junior detention centre or to a secure unit.

The hon. Member for Wycombe would do well to read the result of a research study by the Dartington social research unit commissioned by the DHSS. It shows that, whereas in 1971 65 per cent. of boys in secure units in community homes were over 14½ years old, that figure had dropped to only 35 per cent. being aged 14½ and over in 1975. As I said, we are imprisoning younger and less delinquent children in secure units in community homes. A recent study of secure units by Pat Cawson and Mary Martell of the DHSS shows that There is no doubt that children are being referred and admitted who would, 10 years ago, have been cared for in open homes or schools. Yet the hon. Member for Wycombe wishes to increase this deplorable trend.

It is relevant to ask what institutions actually achieve. Let us consider the reconviction rates. There is a tremendously high reconviction rate for those leaving borstals and detention centres. They do not seem to have any real effect on weaning them away from a life of criminality or delinquency. The recomviction rates for juveniles leaving secure units in community homes are equally alarming. The Dartington social research unit's report found that, of 587 boys released from secure units and followed up for two years afterwards, 76 per cent. re-offended.

The short, sharp punishment which an Opposition Member mentioned earlier as being the solution to all the problems of juvenile delinquency is not borne out by the evidence of what has happened to the boys who were the subject of that short, sharp experience. It may be that they need to be there for the protection of the community. I accept that. But there is no point in trying to pretend that the institutionalisation of young people has any effect on their behaviour in the community. The evidence shows exactly the opposite and that very ofen institutionalising children causes great resentment and bitterness and their alienation from society, resulting in a greater propensity to criminality and delinquency in the future.

The researchers pointed out: For the majority of boys, the secure units provide a brief sojourn in an expensive anteroom to the penal system. More disturbing is the effect of the secure unit itself. The research by Pat Cawson and Mary Martell showed that those who had been in secure units had a much greater potential for criminality after they had been incarcerated in such a unit than they had prior to their committal.

One reason why secure units have such a damaging effect on younger and less delinquent teenagers is indicated in the Dartington social research unit's description of the large secure units at Kings-wood, Redhill and Redbank. I quote it to the hon. Member for Wycombe because he showed such ignorance of the conditions to which he wants to subject younger children. The researchers are writing here about institutions holding 10-year-old boys, which the hon. Member for Wycombe proposes in his Bill: Naturally, one expects to see bars in a secure unit. One also expects to hear the jangle of keys, but one prison feature we did not hope to find was the unlovely practice of slopping out. … Indeed, efforts to prevent the development of prison language among the boys seem rather pointless at the sight of a number of children, each clasping a potty, drifting to the latrines in the mornings … The scrutiny of mail, the careful restriction on telephone calls, the list of approved girl friends, the censoring of literature, the frequent searching of boys and their accommodation and the unnecessary restrictions on parental and friends' visiting all remind us of where we are and we feel that little of this has much relevance to intensive care. I say "Hear, hear" to that. I think that it is a scandal and a disgrace that the hon. Member for Wycombe can come to the House and ask for our support for more children being put in institutions and conditions of that kind. The high reconviction rates and the prison-like atmosphere of the larger secure units at least are two of the most important reasons for keeping their use to a minimum.

The other reason which has been mentioned many times is their expense. They cost between £25,000 and £30,000 per place. That is the kind of public expenditure which the hon. Member for Wycombe wants. That is the capital cost. It costs £300 a week to keep a child in such an institution. There have to be very good and compelling reasons on cost grounds alone, let alone the moral and social considerations, to put children into institutions of that kind.

I argue, further, that the existing powers of the courts are sufficient anyway. We already have powers to send 15 to 17year-olds to borstal and 14 to 17-year-olds to detention centres. We have powers to send others to attendance centres and, as the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) pointed out, virtually all those who had committed grave crimes would, presumably, be subject to section 53 of the 1933 Children and Young Persons Act.

I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East that the way to deal with the prob- lem is by attempting to prevent further offences, and this lies in well-thought-out programmes of intermediate treatment involving young offenders in constructive activities such as community service or work experience and basic education so as to enable them to build up what many of them have never had in the past, proper relationships with their parents and with stable, decent, civilised and law-abiding adults. That is what many of them have lacked. That is what can be provided. That is the harder, longer, much more arduous and difficult but much more sensible approach than the easy, glib solution proposed by the hon. Member for Wycombe.

Unfortunately, however, intermediate schemes are too few in number and patchy in their geographical distribution. The Government said in their White Paper on the Children and Young Persons Act 1969: The main problem is not that we have too few powers to lock youngsters up. It is that we have too few intermediate treatment schemes. Let us have a few more of them. If the Government agree that this is the right way to deal with the problem, let us get down to the task of dealing with it in a sensible and sensitive way. It is much better to keep the existing family and community ties intact than to alienate and make a child bitter and resentful by taking him out of his community. It is much better to provide professional guidance. compassionate help and support within the community than to incarcerate children in a community home. It is important to make individuals members of a society in which they can play a constructive and positive role and in which they are made to accept their responsibilities and duties to that society and to the community, rather than simply putting them into our social dustbins of institutions. It is not achieved by removing children from society and taking them away from their duties and responsibilities. It is not achieved by putting them in a harsh and punitive environment.

Mr. A. W. Stallard (St. Pancras, North)

I remind my hon. Friend that this year is the international year of the child. All the matters that my hon. Friend has mentioned will be discussed in great depth by many experts throughout the country. At the end of that exercise, it is to be hoped that we shall be able to discuss, in the all-party parliamentary group being set up to discuss the international year of the child, the need for legislation. Will it not be more appropriate to discuss this and all the other matters touched upon today, including this Bill, when we reach that stage?

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

What we could do to make a more positive contribution to the international year of the child is to legislate to end the remand of schoolchildren to prison department establishments. It is a scandal that of 1,031 of the 3,841 boys committed to adult prisons and remand centres in 1977 were given non-custodial sentences and 33 were found not guilty. Of the 231 girls, 147 were given non-custodial sentences and three were found not guilty. All of them had spent a considerable time in adult prisons and remand centres. That is the imprisonment of the innocent before they have been convicted, because many of them are subsequently found not guilty.

Yet we see this marvellous Act. We boldly state to the rest of the world that we are a civilised and compassionate country, that we are not like Governments behind the Iron Curtain, and we do not imprison schoolchildren here. We have an Act of Parliament that says so. We have an Act of Parliament which says that we do not even punish schoolchildren but give them care and treatment and compassion. Yet it is everyday practice to put them into adult prisons and remand centres.

The hon. Gentleman might have done a lot better by paying attention to that fact and doing something about removing that power rather than by asking for additional powers. This Bill will not reduce the incidence of juvenile delinquency or crime. It will make no contribution whatever to removing crime, and it will not increase the amount of secure accommodation within the community homes. Indeed, the imprisonment of schoolchildren has not done so, the imprisonment of alcoholics has not increased the number of detoxification centres, and the imprisonment of mentally disordered offenders has not increased the number of secure units in psychiatric hospitals.

Why should the hon. Gentleman believe that his silly, cheap little Bill will sud- denly produce an increase in the number of secure units, which has not been possible for many years and for many much more important services? This Bill will substantially increase the severe administrative problems which will arise. What is more important is that the present limited secure accommodation will be taken up on a first-come, first-served basis rather than—as it should be—on a rational, objective and thorough assessment of individual needs. That can be done only under the present system where the priority should be need rather than a first-come, first-served system. The Bill is a confidence trick. It pretends that the problem is susceptible of easy, quick solution. It is not, and to pretend otherwise misleads the public and serves no function in educating them in the very real and difficult problems with which we are confronted in the matter of juvenile delinquency and crime.

To suggest that there is any way round that problem is to mislead the public in a way that Members of this House have a duty to prevent. The Bill distracts attention from the real issues of how we should deal in the community with those juveniles who are delinquent. How, indeed, do we attempt to eradicate the causes—social, economic, education or family—that give rise to that crime and delinquency? That is where our resources should be directed. This Bill is asking us to divert resources away from the real issues, asking us to take them away from where they could be most effectively, usefully and imaginatively employed.

I believe, and I give the hon. Gentleman credit for this, that we have had a very sensible debate. The Bill has served that function. It has been recognised by the Association of Directors of Social Services, the Magistrates' Association, the police and local authorities, and by every sensible Member of the House, that the way to deal with this problem is as we are attempting to deal with it now. The problems will not be solved by the proposal put forward by the hon. Gentleman. I hope that my hon. Friends will follow me into the Lobby to deny it a Second Reading.

2.33 p.m.

Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)

The House has become accustomed to speeches such as that we have just heard from the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk), with his emotional and lurid phrases, and once again we have heard him completely distorting the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney). Time is short, and so I do not intend to take up his arguments.

I think that I express the thanks of all Members of the House for the opportunity given by my hon. Friend in introducing this Bill to discuss the original measure, which is now 10 years old. It is perhaps not surprising that there has been a good deal of confusion about its operation since it was a Bill brought in by one Goverment, implemented in a part by another and has since been overlaid by further rules and regulations. A year or two ago we had the Criminal Law Act, which amended it in various ways. Whereas in theory the juvenile courts are working under the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, it would be a waste of time to give a copy of that Act to any budding juvenile court magistrate, because he would have an incomplete picture of the duties of the court.

I do not express wholesale condemnation of the 1969 Act. It has many good features and, as one who sat as a juvenile court magistrate, before and after the period when that Act came into effect, I believe that it attracted a good deal of criticism from various quarters, not least from magistrates, the police, directors of social services and justices' clerks. The Act was also subject to investigation by the Expenditure Committee.

A particular criticism of the Act was about the way in which to an extent it reduced the powers of the juvenile courts by the abolition of the approved school order. On the other hand, it introduced the concept of the supervision order and the care order. The thinking behind the Act was that the supervision order would be used for a child to be supervised in its home environment and the care order would be used where supervision was required in an environment away from the child's home. The effect of a care order is that it leaves to the social worker the ultimate destination of the child who is the subject of the order. The child may go to a community home where, if it chooses, it can walk out of the front door. The child may go back home or simply be left at large in the community.

I was sitting in a juvenile court a few weeks ago and before it appeared a young man charged with burglary. The court inquired as to his background and was told that he was living in a squat and was the subject of a care order made by another London borough. So much for the value of that particular care order. Yet, what could that court do other than take the extreme course of sending him to a detention centre, which would be for only a couple of months, or sending him to the Crown court for a borstal sentence? All that court could do was to make another care order—and what would have been the effect of that?

This matter was considered by the Expenditure Committee. In paragraph 25 of its report it made a recommendation which this Bill seeks to implement. I listened very carefully to the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) and I could not follow her argument as to why she did not support the recommendation made by her own Committee. The recommendation was rejected in the White Paper of May 1976 in response, and consultation was indicated as being preferable.

The Magistrates' Association has made it clear on a number of occasions that it would like specific powers to insist upon some kind of residential accommodation if it was required. That was quite clear from the report of the working party in July of that year.

Mrs. Knight

This is a matter which ought to be cleared up since the Minister himself has thrown some doubt on the attitude of the Magistrates' Association towards this Bill. I have in front of me a letter from the Magistrates' Association which asks me specifically to support this Bill. I think that that indicates that the Magistrates' Association supports the Bill. I have had other letters, including one from the justices' clerks, which make clear support for the Bill. I think it is important to make that clear.

Mr. Sims

My information from the Magistrates' Association, centrally and from individual benches, is that while some magistrates may have reservations about secure care orders, they are united in supporting the concept of a residential order.

Mr. Moyle

I had not intended to intervene in the hon. Gentleman's speech. However, in case there is any doubt about the attitude of the Magistrates' Association, I have here a letter signed by the secretary and I should like to quote the opening sentence of the third paragraph.

Mr. Whitney

What is the date of the letter?

Mr. Moyle

It is dated 2 February 1979. It reads: The Association is unable to support the proposal in the Bill that the juvenile courts should have the power to require that a child or young person should be committed to secure accommodation.

Mr. Whitney

Read on.

Mrs. Knight

Read on.

Mr. Moyle

I have already conceded that, when it comes to the question of a residential care order, the magistrates— [Interruption]. I said that earlier. One of the main purposes of the Bill is to secure a secure care order. The magistrates are totally, categorically and unqualifiedly opposed to it.

Mr. Sims

I think that the Minister's intervention has clarified the point that I was trying to make. While there may be some reservations on the secure care order, on the residential care order there is a great deal of support. My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe suggests that the Committee should be given power to consider it, and that seems a good reason to allow the Bill to proceed.

It is unfortunate that, in the working party last year, agreement could not be reached. Various parts of the report have been quoted. I shall not detain the House by quoting more. It seems clear that there was a compromise decision and that a code of practice was not the wish of all parties there. Consultation is not adequate. Indeed, what I have said seems to confirm that there is an argument for rather stronger powers for the courts.

Contrary to some of the views which have been put forward, I suggest that it is desirable that the court should decide whether a child should be accommodated away from home. It is not a new principle and it is not contrary to other parts of the Act. The court has always had power to make a detention centre order and to send to the Crown court for consideration of borstal training. Both courses have been used increasingly. Why? Perhaps the answer is that the courts have found that one of those two courses was the only way to ensure that a child was kept in secure accommodation.

The court has substantial powers when remanding a child. If insufficient secure accommodation is available to look after a child who has to be remanded, the court has power to make an unruly certificate so that, alas, the child has to be accommodated in prison accommodation. None of us welcomes that. The hon. Member for Ormskirk is not alone in deploring that that happens. However, it happens because there is insufficient secure accommodation.

This issue was discussed in the House on 23 November on a Home Office order which sought to preclude from the courts the power to make unruly certificates in respect of girls. On that occasion I quoted from the already well-quoted working party report. After referring to the passing of the 1969 Act, that report, at paragraph 56, reads: Initially the Department of Health and Social Security also did not fully recognise the priority which should have been accorded to capital projects for children. That point came out clearly from the earlier part of the debate—that there is not enough secure accommodation. That is the nub of the matter.

In the debate on 23 November the Minister of State, Home Office claimed that there was enough secure accommodation and that was why the order should be passed. Unfortunately, no representative from the Department of Health and Social Security was present, and that Department is responsible for providing or failing to provide secure accommodation.

I am delighted that at last we have present a Minister from the Department of Health and Social Security. Perhaps he will ensure that we have the correct information which his hon. Friend from the Home Office was unable to provide in that debate. Either there were enough secure places or there were not. If there were enough secure places for girls on remand, there was no need for that order to be brought before the House, because no social worker would ask for a certificate of unruliness to be made. If there were not enough secure places, it was wrong of the Home Office to produce that order and wrong of the Department of Health and Social Security to connive in its being brought before the House.

If there were enough secure places for girls, why, on 13 November last, should the Brentwood juvenile court have before it five applications for certificates of unruliness for girls? The court was told that only one secure place was available. Therefore, it had the alternative of sending the other four girls to Holloway or of allowing them out on bail with the risk that they might commit further burglary offences which had brought them before the court in the first place. The court decided to take the latter course. Why was that necessary if there were enough places?

Why, in November last year, according to a reply I had from the Home Office, were 13 unruly certificates for girls issued? Why was it necessary to issue those certificates if, as the Minister claimed on 23 November, there was adequate secure accommodation for them?

Why was a girl in Birmingham made the subject of an unruly certificate? There were supposed to be places available in Birmingham. In fact, there are five places in Birmingham. They were obviously occupied. That was why the court was asked to make an unruly certificate.

Exactly the same applies in Woolwich. A girl in Woolwich was sent to Holloway. Why? There are eight places at Cumberlow Lodge and eight places at Middlesex Lodge. Clearly there were not enough secure places.

It is no use the Minister saying, as he did, that there were enough places, because the evidence is that there were not. Was the Minister on that occasion and is the Minister on this occasion saying that the social workers in those various cases—there are many more—unnecessarily applied for certificates of unruliness to send girls to prison accommodation? The court cannot issue an unruly certificate if it feels like it. The application for the certificate must be made to the court by the social worker. Does the Minister think that those applications were unnecessary? Is he suggesting that the social workers did not try hard enough to find alternative accommodation? Or does he admit today that there was and still is not enough secure accommodation? If so, the order to which I have referred should not have been made.

My complaint is that the DHSS has been dilatory in using funds which it has available for the provision of secure accommodation. Various figures have been quoted. No doubt the Minister can put us right on them. I understand that on 1 November there was a total of 272 secure places in England and Wales. According to the reply to a question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wanstead and Woodford (Mr. Jenkin) on 17 November, a further 188 places were under construction with plans eventually for about 600 secure places. Grants for some of those places have already been made. Perhaps the Minister will be able to clear up the question of additional expenditure. Some of the cash is already there for the provision of these secure places. It is simply that the Department and the local authorities have been dilatory in providing them. Even when those secure places are available, the problem will still remain of who shall decide who shall be placed in them. At present, the social worker decides.

One of the criticisms voiced today by my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irvine) and by the Association of Directors of Social Services was that, if the Bill were passed, available secure accommodation would no longer be allocated on the basis of careful, objective assessment of the child most in need. I do not necessarily accept that criticism.

Of course, the child's need, as assessed by the social worker, is important—indeed, paramount—but there are other considerations, not least the interests of the community as a whole. That is especially so when the court has before it a child who has already committed an offence whilst in care. It seems reasonable that the decision whether that child should be put in some form of more secure accommodation should rest with the court, because it can take a wide variety of reports and considerations into account in coming to that decision.

There is a strong case for a residential order, which has been argued from various quarters. There are certain cases when a court, if it decides that the child should go into a community home rather than go home, should be able to say so. It would be desirable if the local authority could be left with a decision on the degree of security which that child should undergo. I am pleased that there is an instruction on the Order Paper that the question of residential orders should be considered by the Committee.

This whole problem was examined in the eleventh report of the Expenditure Committee on the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 in Session 1974–75. We looked at the problem which arose from children in the care of local authorities who committed offences and where the responsibility lay. We found that the law was extremely unclear on this issue. One of our recommendations was that the Home Office should examine the legislation with a view to defining more clearly where responsibility lies. The Government's reply was in extremely vague terms. The Government replied to the effect that the interpretation of the relevant statute was a matter for the court. They said that they did not at that time consider that amendment of the statute was called for but would continue to keep under review the development of case law in the area.

I should like the Minister to say whether such a review has taken place and what has been the outcome. The whole problem appears to turn on section 55 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, which refers to the responsibility of parents or guardians, which is what the local authority is when a care order is made. It can be held responsible unless the court is satisfied that the parent or guardian… has not conduced to the commission of the offence by neglecting to exercise due care or control of the child or young person. The law on that issue at that time was obscure. It remains obscure. There have been various cases—R. versus Croydon Juvenile Court; Somerset County Council versus Brice, Somerset County Council versus Kingscott and Leicestershire County Council versus Cross. All these cases leave the law very unclear on the responsibilities of the local autho- rity when a child is in care. I suggest that just as a parent is held responsible for the activities of its own child when a child is in its own care, so the local authority when in loco parentis should be equally responsible for the child. If the law could be clarified, there would be less need for a secure order. If the child was then put into care, the social worker would know the propensities of the child and whether it was likely to abscond or repeat offences, and it would then have the responsibility itself of deciding whether that child needed secure accommodation.

That would be a far more satisfactory situation. But until the law on the responsibility of the local authority is cleared up, we shall still have the problem of whether a child who offends while in care can be contained. I hope that this matter will be more fully ventilated when the Bill goes into Committee. Meanwhile, I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.

Several Hon. Members


The Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

I understand that the Minister wishes to have 20 minutes in which to reply to the debate. There are about six hon. Members still anxious to take part. We have roughly 40 minutes for those six Members. I appeal to hon. Members to be as brief as possible.

2.54 p.m.

Mr. Edward Lyons (Bradford, West)

The purpose of the Bill is to deal with children between the ages of 10 and 14 who have committed criminal offences. The object of the Bill is to transfer from social workers to magistrates the power to make secure care orders in respect of these offenders. That is the plain reading of this short Bill. It is admitted generally that there is a shortage of places where children of this age can be kept securely. The passing of a Bill of this kind will do nothing to cure that shortage.

On 1 January this year, there were 205 secure places in England and Wales. There were 103 places for boys, 64 places for girls and 38 mixed places. What the Bill proposes, for example, for the East Midlands, East Anglia and South-East England is that the non-existent ability of social workers to put children into non-existent secure places will be transferred to magistrates who will also have no secure places into which to put them. What sort of power is that?

In Yorkshire, including Humberside, there are five places for boys and three places for girls. One morning, a bench of juvenile magistrates in some small town in Yorkshire can decide to send three girls to secure places. They make an order, and that kills it for all other magistrates throughout the whole of the region because there are no other places available. That is absurd.

I would be like a local headmaster in Leeds saying that he was sending 10 pupils to a college in Cambridge to read history and that the college at Cambridge must accept them. Those in charge of the Cambridge college would have to tell all the other schools in England "We are awfully sorry. You have brighter pupils, but we have an order saying that these 10 got in first. The order was made first and they therefore take the 10 places."

That is ridiculous. Magistrates do not compare like with like. They do not compare the criminals, if that is the proper word, before them with the criminals before other juvenile courts. Social workers do. They look at the availability of accommodation, which is next to noththing, and decide which people would benefit from a secure care order. There may be 100 of them. With six vacancies available, they have to choose the worst six or the six who will be most helped. They have to decide that the remaining 94 cannot go because there is no place. The 94 who cannot be put in secure places may commit other offences while in the community. Everyone, including the magistrates, throws up his hands and says "Isn't the terrible? We did not send them away. Now they have committed more offences."

If the magistrates have the power, they could do no better than the social worker, because the places do not exist. That is the fundamental issue. Any Bill should be directed to drawing attention to the failure of successive Goverments to provide more accommodation and to the failure of will of the British people and the lack of care in the British people to allocate resources. We should stick to the present arrangements which require a system of screening by qualified people so that the existing places are given to those who most need them.

There is much talk by Conservative Members about the need to reduce public expenditure, but the provision of 500 extra places would cost £15 million to build them and £150,000 a week from the taxpayer to maintain them. It costs less than £100 a week to maintain an adult prisoner but £300 a week to maintain a child.

The most that can be done to a child offender aged 15 is to send him to a detention centre or borstal. The term at a detention centre is said to be three months but is actually only six weeks. The Bill is iniquitous because it gives to lay magistrates the power to sentence children aged between 10 and 14 to three months in custody, while an older child can get only six weeks in a detention centre. The older the child, the more leniently he is treated. It would be nonsense to give magistrates such a power.

What would happen if magistrates made an order that a child should spend three months in a secure place and investigations showed that the child was disturbed and ought to be in a home for disturbed children? That could not be done because the Bill provides that a child cannot be taken out within the three months. He must be kept there, even though it may be bad for him.

What is the evidence that putting such children in a secure place has any effect? There are statistics covering these matters. The Dartington social research unit has shown that 76 per cent. of those who have been in secure units have re-offended within two years. In addition, 81 per cent. of the boys leaving borstals and 70 per cent. of the boys leaving detention centres re-offend within two years. Where is the evidence that being in those institutions makes young people come out as paragons?

The only effect of putting a person in an institution is that, if the institution is secure, he cannot commit any further offence. Putting a murderer away for 20 years because he is a danger to the community, may be understandable. It will not improve him, but it will protect the community.

The Bill suggests that children should be taken from their homes and put away for up to three months, which could have the most enormous psychologically disadvantageous consequences. After that three months, the children will be put back in the community. The most that such a sentence can achieve is the protection of the community from that child for three months—at a cost of £300 a week. How many milk bottles has a child to break to make it worth while for the community to pay £30,000 for a secure place for him and £300 a week to look after him? That is a question which the Conservative Party, with all its talk of cutting public expenditure, ought to consider. There is no chance that a Conservative Government would find the money for that sort of operation.

It is clear that the Bill is bad because it is not based on reality. It is based on an absence of places and we are arguing about virtually nothing because there are no places to argue about. The Bill would take away the flexibility of the social services to move a child from one type of treatment to another as seemed best for the child.

Mr. Patrick Mayhew (Royal Tunbridge Wells)


Mr. Lyons

If a magistrate, without regard to the social service people, orders a child to go into a residential home, that child, who may have committed a number of offences, will be put with children who have committed no offence and who are there only because they were, for example, neglected or in moral danger. They will suddenly find in their midst a child who is virtually a recidivist. He cannot be put in a secure place because none exists, and if he is put in a residential home he may corrupt the other children.

Children aged between 10 and 14 are impressionable and it would be wrong to allow children who can have an evil influence to be put in the same place as youngsters who have committed no criminal offence and have shown no sign of doing so.

The Bill has not been thorough. That is demonstrated by the fact that its nature is sought to be changed by the instruction that has been laid. It is alarming that there has been an increase in juvenile crime, but the increase is no greater than that among other groups in our society. Crimes of violence and dishonesty are increasing at least equally rapidly among other sections of the community. Indeed, it is interesting to note that over the past 20 years the rate of increase among children aged between 10 and 14 is less than that among young people aged between 14 and 17 and those aged between 17 and 21.

The Bill concentrates on children aged between 10 and 14. No one suggests that they do not present a serious problem. They do. I refer to those who repeatedly return. But the Bill will provide that a child who has had a care order made against it—and it could have been because the child had been neglected—and who, two years later, is caught shoplifting can be sent to a secure institution. That would apply even though the care order was imposed on grounds totally unrelated to crime. That cannot be right, and I hope that the hon. Member will concede that.

Altogether, there are so many bad aspects to the Bill that it is impossible to go through them all. I refer only to legal aid. There will have to be an adjournment of the court every time a secure care order is sought under the Bill so that legal aid can be considered and a lawyer can be instructed. That will impede the courts and will produce delays in the administration of justice. The only way to get round it will be to give legal aid to all children appearing before juvenile courts. That would incure great public expense, to which the Conservatives, if in power, would never consider allocating the necessary funds. Altogether this is a ridiculous Bill.

3.6 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Mayhew (Royal Tunbridge Wells)

The enthusiasm with which the hon. and learned Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons) addressed himself to the Bill would perhaps have been better directed had he taken the trouble to be here when my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney), in an excellent speech, moved the Second Reading. Instead, the hon. and learned Gentleman arrived about two hours later. The Minister of State was not present when the debate commenced, although he came in after about five minutes, which was still about one hour 55 minutes sooner than the hon. and learned Member.

Mr. Edward Lyons rose

Mr. Mayhew

I will not give way. Had the hon. and learned Gentleman heard my hon. Friend speak, he would have heard many, if not all, of the points he has listed dealt with in a convincing manner. 1 shall take a short time to deal with a few of the most salient points.

The hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the availability of secure accommodation. His point was dealt with before he was able to join us today. We all know that there is far too little secure accommodation and that more is needed. That is common ground between the two sides of the House. But every argument that the hon. and learned Gentleman addressed to that aspect would apply equally to the power of magistrates to make detention centre orders. Is the hon. and learned Gentleman proposing that we should withdraw from magistrates the power to make detention centre orders because only a limited amount of such accommodation is available?

The hon. and learned Gentleman then said that the Bill was concerned only with children between 10 and 14 years. I cannot imagine why he takes that view. Surely he knows that care orders are available for people up to the age of 17—

Mr. Edward Lyons rose—

Mr. Mayhew

I shall not give way, because the hon. and learned Gentleman denied me the courtesy of allowing me to intervene.

Let not the hon. and learned Gentleman suppose that any child who is suitable for a detention centre is ipso facto suitable for a care order or vice versa. Nor should he suppose that secure accommodation in a care order institution is the same, or that the regime is the same as at a detention centre—.

Mr. Edward Lyons rose—

Mr. Mayhew

I am not giving way.

Mr. Edward Lyons

The hon. and learned Gentleman might at least acknowledge that I cut my remarks short so that he would have the opportunity to speak.

Mr. Mayhew

I come next to legal aid. I never thought I would hear a Labour Member, let alone a member of my profession, speak against the award- ing of legal aid, especially to young persons and children who may be risking the loss of their liberty.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe is to be congratulated on using his good fortune in the ballot to bring before the House a matter which arouses deep anxiety and concern among a great many people in this country. It is the common experience of our constituents that the incidence of crime among children and young persons is increasing and is deeply worrying. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) mentioned that and was taken to task by the Minister of State, who contested his assertion that this was a rising problem. I invite the Minister when he replies to refer to the criminal—

Mr. Moyle

The hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) has no grounds for saying that I indicated that there was not a rising crime wave. I shall deal with the matter when I intervene at the end of the debate.

Mr. Mayhew

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman is correcting an impression that he gave not only to me but to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull. Be that as it may, if the right hon. Gentleman refers to the criminal statistics for England and Wales for 1977, table 5.3 on page 83, he will see that in each of the three categories 10 to 14 years, 14 to 17, and 17 to 21 the incidence of crime in 1977 was higher than it was in 1976. In two out of those three categories it was at an all-time high since at least 1957, and in the category of 14 to 17 years it was only a whisker under the peak reached in 1974.

The question is—what are we going to do about it? High among the reasons for the rise in crime I place these factors. First, there is an increasingly frivolous attitude towards divorce and marriage; secondly, the economic pressures upon young mothers to go out to work if they have young children; thirdly, the blighting influence on family life and particularly upon the children of an addiction to television; fourthly, the effect that the loveless and self-centred behaviour of parents can have upon their children and, through them, their children's children. All of these are profoundly important influences bearing upon the rise in juvenile crime.

There are children in my constituency—and I dare say that this is true of most constituencies—whose first year at school from five onwards has to be spent not in teaching them to read or write but in teaching them to speak. The reason is that their parents do not speak to them at home. That is a measure of the abdication of responsibility amongst many parents, unhappily, for the upbringing of their children.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that children from such homes—and I agree that the problem is not limited to one particular economic level or class background—do not grow up as we would like them to do, and our primary efforts should be devoted to helping put these things right in the interests of the children who are 5, 6 or 7 years old now and of the children who are as yet unborn.

But we cannot just concentrate on that and proceed as though nothing can be done either for or about the children who are between the ages of 14 and 17, for example, children whose course seems to have been set irremediably for trouble. We have to try to help them. We also have to try to help the community, to which they constitute an almost intolerable nuisance and very often a frightening nuisance.

The Bill, with its instruction, is designed to try to help both them and the community; and their interests, if one looks at them properly, do not overlap. I think that it is a dishonourable distortion to suggest that those who support the Bill simply want to lock children up. We do not. I think that we can be given the credit for knowing enough about the subject to know that simply locking up a child does not make him a better child necessarily but can make him a worse one. But so can sending him home in certain circumstances make him a worse child. For example, when the court has put him in the care of the local authority, and when the home has been the source of all the trouble he has got into, if he is sent home from local authority care that can make him a worse child because he is thereby enabled to commit further offences and get himself into deeper trouble.

The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) knows well, from the memorandum submitted to her Committee by the Magistrates' Association in 1974, that that factor was worrying the association, and that the observer from the Department of Health and Social Security on her Committee said that it was usually done from a social worker's choice rather than from necessity when a child was sent home.

That is why magistrates are worried. On visits to secure accommodation units, such as intensive care units or youth treatment centres, I have heard the view expressed that some social workers dislike the community homes because they see them as the old approved schools in a new guise, and therefore they send children back home. On other occasions I have heard it said that it would be far better for the children who will ultimately be going to secure accommodation to be sent there sooner, because more could be done then to help them. They would chalk up less serious crimes in their history.

Therefore, there is a serious argument in favour of magistrates being given the power to make secure care orders.

In any event, I think that a measure of control ought to be restored to the courts—of course to be exercised in partnership with the social services departments—as to what should happen when a child is made the subject of a care order. I am prepared to agree that social workers may be better equipped to know what is best for the needs and the interests of a child. But magistrates must also assess the needs and interests of the community, and I think that on balance they have the better equipment for that job. Therefore, it is a partnership.

How is that power to be exercised? We all agree that it is a very distasteful fact—but it is the truth—that there is a very hard core of, perhaps, 400 or more really intractable children who must be kept in secure accommodation. If it is the case that some would be better if they had reached that secure accommodation earlier, that suggests that there is a case for making a secure care order available to courts.

However, against that, one must acknowledge that there is a shortage of accommodation. One must acknowledge, for example, that in the St. Charles youth treatment centre at Brentwood there is room for only 12 children in the secure house, but last year 450 applications for places were made by local authorities. It is disgraceful that in Kent and throughout the whole of the South-East south of the river no secure accommodation is available.

Therefore, one must acknowledge that there would be no point in a court making a secure care order if no accommodation were available. Therefore, it is not a simple matter. But if it be the case that certain children, a very small number of hard-core offenders, ought to get secure care at an earlier stage in an intensive care and secure unit, that suggests that there may be circumstances in which, if magistrates could make a secure care order—as the hon. Lady's Committee recommended four years ago, after careful thought—those children might be helped.

But, however that may be, a residential care order would not be subject to any of the objections which have been ventilated today. The child would merely be prevented from going back home. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe that there is a very salutary effect in the making of a care order by a court being seen by a child to lead to the removal of himself from his home in a proper case. In other words, this curious, confusing and uncertain relationship, to which my hon. Friend has referred, between the social worker and the child —now one thing, now the other—would be made a little easier for him to understand if the court that made the order, as seen by the child, was also able to order, in a proper case, that the child at any rate went into residential care and could not go back to his home where it was his home that was the cause of the trouble. The nature of the care that the child would get would be dictated by the court only to the extent that it would be residential.

I am sure that in Standing Committee it would be perfectly possible to ensure that residential care would include foster care. That is something that we in Kent have developed with very promising results. I am sure that it would be possible to bring the community more into the task of looking after these children, whose condition needs our help.

All that is being said by those who support the Bill, as significantly affected by the instruction on the Order Paper, is that it is not only the children that need our help and whose interests need to be considered; it is the interests of the community as well that need to be considered.

Therefore, let there be a partnership between the social services departments and the magistrates, and let there at least be power for the magistrates to say "This child shall not go back to his home, where he is already the subject of a care order and has committed a criminal offence. He shall go to residential care and after that it will be for the social workers to determine how best he shall be looked after." I hope that the Bill will get a Second Reading.

3.20 p.m.

Miss Joan Lestor (Eton and Slough)

I would not totally disagree with much of what the hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells (Mr. Mayhew) said. But what he said is not what is said in the Bill, and nor would it require a Bill of this nature. Although I was not here for much of the debate, I was here when the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) opened the debate. I was very interested in whether he would simply ask for more places to be made available or for the magistrates to make the direction.

I do not want to go over what has already been said, but it seems to me that some of those who are supporting the Bill are doing so for different reasons from those contained in the Bill, or indeed from what the hon. Member for Wycombe said. I do not think that anyone would disagree—the Select Committee did not disagree—with the fact that there are not enough places for those youngsters whom social workers and magistrates alike consider should be in secure forms of residential accommodation. That is not disputed.

The Bill proposes that the decision about certain young offenders should be left to the magistrates. It does not give any discretion to or remove the responsibility of social workers; nor does it, as has already been said, provide any more places. I agree with what the hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells said about the need to extend foster work in relation to young people in difficulties. We do not need a Bill for that. We simply need more good foster-parents. Many local authorities—and I believe that the authority of the hon. and learned Member is one of them—have done a great deal of work trying to attract foster-parents for children who are in certain difficulties. We do not need a Bill for that.

What the House should be concerned with—and I hope is concerned with—is how one can get more secure accommodation if it is needed. Another matter touched on by the hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells—though perhaps we shall draw different conclusions from the material—is that when one concentrates, as some hon. Members have today, on saying why certain young people need secure accommodation, one overlooks the fact that the reasons why a certain group of young people become so anti-social ignore the conditions that gave rise to that situation in the first place.

I do not want anyone, as usually happens in these debates, to say "You do not care about the victim ". In spite of what the hon. and learned Member for Royal Tunbridge Wells said, I am not saying that there are no hard-core offenders. What I am saying is that, if one concentrates on saying "Here is a hard core of offenders. Let us have more facilities and let us give the discretion to magistrates to lock them up or remove them", one is not dealing with the conditions that gave rise to the situation to which the hon. and learned Member referred, nor does it deal with the point, made at least twice in my hearing, that over three-quarters of those who have already had the experience of detention centres or borstals re-offend within two years of coming out.

If one is concerned with combating anti-social behaviour and crime among young people, one cannot disregard that fact. One cannot say "Let us put another hard core in, and just remove them from society". There is always an argument, in relation to adults particularly, for saying that we do not know how to treat them and we do not know how to avoid this situation, so we must protect society. But here we are talking about very young people.

The hon. Member for Wycombe said that many youngsters who were not put in secure accommodation re-offended—I think that was his phrase, or words to that effect—as well as those who were put into secure accommodation. In fact, the rate of re-offending by those who come to court, where social workers have had non-custodial care orders placed upon them, is nothing like as great as with those who have gone into borstals or detention centres. That may well be because the type of offence is different—I take that point immediately. But when I look at the tremendous number —over three-quarters—who offend within two years, it seems to me that when we are talking about secure accommodation, detention centres, and so forth, we should look very carefully at what we are producing at the end of it, as well as at the superficial attraction to people who are rightly concerned about the anti-social behaviour of some young people.

There has been some argument about the increase in the rate of offence. The point is that the rate of crime and antisocial behaviour among young people is much the same as the rate of increase among the adult population. Therefore, if one becomes too obsessed with advocating the same sort of treatment for the young offender as for the older offender, at the end of the day we may well have achieved nothing at all, because the rate of re-offence among the adult population is also very high.

We must look at this question in a wider context. I am also concerned with causes, and perhaps at another time we can devote ourselves to a discussion about what is happening to society and about why some young people and adults behave in the manner in which they do. When we discuss these things we talk about the behaviour of young people but overlook the fact that young people learn from adults. As I have said, the rate of adult crime is no different from that of crime among young people.

From the way in which some sections of the press have looked at this argument, and from the way in which several hon. Members have spoken about it, it is as if magistrates and social workers were in conflict over the treatment of young people. In fact, that is not true. By and large, there is agreement between magistrates and social workers about what is required. I am nervous about this Bill, because I believe that the emphasis in the Act was to give greater weight to non-custodial care, where treatment within the community was of the first priority. I want to see such treatment extended. But the idea that there are punitive magistrates, on the one hand, and permissive social workers, on the other, is just not true. In fact, there is often a great degree of accord as to what is necessary for a particular young person. I am disturbed by the Bill, because the purpose of the Act was to concentrate more on treatment within the community.

I do not believe that the Bill does what the hon. Gentleman intended it to do. Instead of making further provision, it opens dangerous doors, adopts a first-come, first-served philosophy and fails to deal with the causes of crime. Moreover, it distracts attention from the intractable problems which many young people and their families face today.

The ever-increasing divorce rate has been mentioned, as has the fact that the increasing number of one-parent families are by and large poor families. It is not the one parent that is the problem—I am a one-parent family—it is the financial restrictions that go with the existence of a one-parent family. Because of that, the children are deprived. Various other instabilities are also emerging in our society. Repeated surveys have demonstrated that a combination of low income, poor housing and inadequate backgrounds of one kind or another contribute to the antisocial behaviour among certain groups in society. That is seen very early on in a child's life.

Very often, when one looks at the histories of the youngsters we are now discussing, one sees the same pattern repeated year in and year out. As a result, in 10 or 15 years' time we may discuss another group of youngsters and arrive at the same conclusion, that the only course is to provide more secure accommodation. If we do so, we shall have contributed nothing to solve the problem that confronts us today. We shall not have made any contribution towards discovering why it is that in 1979 we still have the problem of a certain group of anti-social young people.

3.30 p.m.

Mr. Eldon Griffiths (Bury St. Edmunds)

No group in this country has more interest in this Bill than the police service. Whenever an offence is committed, the police are subsequently involved. No group has paid more attention to what is proposed or done more research and work than the statutory body of the Police Federation, in respect of which I declare an interest. I am sorry that, for lack of time, it will not be possible to give the House the benefit of the Police Federation's views on this matter.

First, there can be no doubt, on statistics or experience, that juvenile crime is one of our fastest-growng industries. Roughly speaking, half of burglaries and one-third of violent crimes are now committed by juveniles.

Secondly, as a matter of experience, the problem is becoming worse, not better. The experience of victims is horrifying. I think of a 70-year-old widow in Nottingham who was terrorised over eight weeks by a group of youths, who broke her fingers, kicked in her kneecaps, cut off her hair and forced her to drink urine. There was the experience of the 3-month-old baby who was used as a football and kicked down the streets by a youngster. There was the experience of the college lecturer, playing with his children in a Birmingham park, who, along with his wife and daughter, was brutally beaten by a gang of 30 children aged from 6 to 13. As a matter of statistics and experience this is the problem before us.

The police are involved at the sharp end. They do not see the young offender when he is tidied up and looking innocent. They see him when it really counts —in the howling football mob and at the point where the beating takes place. The police arrive there and see the blood on the victim. They must deal with the harsh reality of this matter and not simply with the questions, important as they are, when they come to the courts.

I should like to give the results of a survey I made his morning of a number of collators in the headquarters of the police forces on juvenile crime and the workings of the Act.

In Essex, for example, where a great deal has been done to care for young offenders, the position is this. In nearly all institutions where children are cared for under the authority of local government, large numbers climb out of back windows, are re-arrested after committing further offences and, according to the senior officer to whom I spoke, there is virtually a shuttle service. Indeed, on one occasion he took back to the local authority home a child who had been guilty of more than 20 serious offences and who had escaped yet again. By the time he returned to the police station, after delivering that child to the care of the local authority, he received on his radio the information that a further offence had been committed by that child.

In Brentford, in Leicester and in Newcastle, all the evidence is of the children placed in local authority care who in a serious minority of cases—not in all—commit further crime while in the hands of the local authority, causing the police to re-arrest and re-charge them, and the courts to re-try them. Again, the courts are not able to deal with them. That is why the views of the police service on this Bill should be made known to the House.

The Police Federation favours power being given to the magistrates to commit young persons to secure accommodation. It is all too well aware that because the summary courts at present do not have that power, a young person in desperate need of a safe haven, for his own benefit as well as for the benefit of society, is remanded on bail, often to the guardianship of a social worker and, as a result of the lack of accommodation, is simply sent home. It may often mean being sent back to the home where the original problem started, and where there is absolutely no control or moral guidance by the parents. Consequently, that young person cannot and does not come to appreciate the seriousness of his crime, and he simply returns to the streets to commit further crimes, but with the difference that in many cases he has now acquired a prestige. He has become virtually a hero in the eyes of some of his mates, who know that if he gets caught for a further crime while on bail the consequences will not be particularly severe.

The Police Federation supports the general tenor of the Bill, particularly with the instruction that my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) has added. I want to make clear that in no way does the police service in this country want to condemn, criticise or attack the social services. We know that they have a very difficult task with such youngsters, because it is contrary to the very nature of a welfare service to lock up or to take any form of action which will be regarded as punitive. It is well understoood that there is a difference of approach. None the less, the police service believes that the time has come to alter the law and that my hon. Friend's proposal for doing so will help.

There are all kinds of reasons for juvenile crime—unemployment, racial tension, irresponsible parents, slack discipline in the schools, violence on television, and so on—but it is not all the fault of society. It cannot all be explained away by bad housing or lack of facilities. Not every young punk is a victim of his environment, nor is every depraved child a deprived child. There are and there always will be young villains, and they need to be dealt with as such.

3.37 p.m.

Mrs. Jill Knight (Birmingham, Edgbaston)

I shall confine myself to a few very brief remarks, Mr. Deputy Speaker, although I had intended to make several important points in support of the Bill.

It is true that, ever since the passing of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969, we have been bombarded by the magistrates, who have now written to us again, individually and through various associations, asking us to support action. The present system has led to youngsters frequently regarding the courts as a bit of a joke because the courts have so little power. The public are neither pleased nor protected by a system which returns a violent or thieving youngster back home free as a bird.

In the document from the local authorities, to which the hon. and learned Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Mr. Weitzman) referred, I should like to take up one point. It says that there will be cases in which the local social services authority will wish to exercise its discretion to allow a person remanded to care to remain in his own home ". There is the nub of the objections by the magistrates, for we have allowed the local authority to override the views of the courts. This seems to me to be totally wrong. As hon. Members, we frequently write to constituents who have approached us, because they have a case in the courts, and we rightly say to them that Parliament has no power to overturn the judgment of the courts. But in this particular respect the local authority has such power, and I believe that that is wrong.

As to the argument between secure accommodation and a residential care order, I am not very happy about the residential care order for reasons that I should have liked to examine in Committee. If it is suggested that a child should go into residential care when that child has been before the courts, the public will be worried at a time when there is growing concern about reported cases of children in local authority care getting up to all sorts of trouble while in that care.

I am also nervous as a result of the experience I had as chairman of a local authority children's committee. We knew that, if an offending child were put into an ordinary local authority children's home, what happened frequently was what might be called the bad apple in the barrel syndrome. The child who had been sent to be with other children had an influence on them, and this in turn caused a widening spread of trouble from other children.

I have kept my promise to be brief. I warmly support the Bill.

3.40 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Health and Social Security (Mr. Roland Moyle)

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for sitting down at this juncture. I apologise to the House for not being present when the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) opened the debate. However, I congratulate him on achieving a high place in the Private Members' ballot and I thank him on behalf of the House for the opportunity to discuss the serious problem of the increasing degree of unruliness among juveniles. The problem needs airing—the views and solutions of hon. Members have done so. Having made those remarks, that is the last piece of common ground that I can find between myself and the hon. Member for Wycombe.

As my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. Stallard) said, it is very sad that in this international year of the child we are considering a Bill of this kind. I wish that we had been able to find a different peg on which to hang our hat. The provisions of the Bill must be among the most illiberal ever presented. The Bill applies not only to about 19,000 delinquent children but also to nearly 30,000 other deprived children in care, whose only crime is that they may have been born to inadequate parents. The hon. Gentleman may not have intended that but it is the effect of his Bill.

If a child regarded as potentially at risk—a potential battered baby—is taken into care by the local authority, and remains there until the appropriate age group, that child—as opposed to a child who is not in care—can be made the subject of a secure care order. In addition, there is an astonishing reference to detention "for an indefinite period". Those two facets together seem to reflect thinking that reintroduces the welfare principles of the Victorian poor laws.

The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Howell, asked me why the Government opposed the Bill. The Government believe that the Bill is wrong in principle, in drafting and in practice.

What are the principles of the 1969 Act? That Act attempted to resolve the problem of young offenders by leaving with the courts the power to determine whether a child was guilty of an offence. The Act placed on local authorities the onus of balancing the interests of the child with the important need of the public for protection. The Government believe that, on the whole, that division of labour has worked and that the framework provided by the Act for dealing with children in trouble is basically sound. That view is supported by the Expenditure Sub-Committee, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, North-East (Mrs. Short) pointed out.

More recently, a joint working party representing the Magistrates' Association and the local authority associations reached the same conclusions. Those associations accepted that, wherever possible, youngsters should be dealt with by voluntary rather than by mandatory powers. They concluded that for most of those whose liberty had to be restricted for their future welfare, that objective was best achieved by a care order that allowed maximum flexibility. The proper body to take decisions about future welfare, including decisions about where the children should live, is the local authority in whose care they have been placed.

The local authority has the great advantage over magistrates' courts of being able to build up a lengthy and stable relationship with the offender. It is able to review any mistakes that the offender makes within wide parameters in a flexible manner and without having to return to the court. However, the Government are prepared to look at proposals for the amendment of the 1969 Act, and we do not adhere as a matter of principle to every provision in it.

In the present drafting of the Bill, for some reason, Crown courts are to be denied the power that the hon. Gentleman wishes to bestow, although Crown courts deal with the most serious cases.

Admittedly, there are two conditions controlling the magistrates' exercise of power. The first condition is that a child is subject currently to a care order, and I have already dealt with the defects of that. The second condition is that he is guilty of an offence punishable, in the case of an adult, by imprisonment. This is a fairly hollow safeguard because no care order of any kind can be made in criminal proceedings unless that condition is fulfilled anyway.

The other safeguard is the requirement for a local authority to review a child's case every three months. That is already in the current community homes regulations for all children in local authority secure care accommodation.

I concede, however, that most of the worst defects of the Bill probably are due to defective drafting and ignorance of the present law rather than to positive intention.

I want now to deal briefly with the concept of the residential care order, which has received a somewhat more favourable mention than the secure care order, especially by Opposition Members.

I should like to establish that the residential care order probably is largely an irrelevance under the conditions of modern practice under the 1969 Act. The representatives of the local authority associations have contended that only a tiny proportion of those children subject to care orders who commit further offences have been left at home and that it is the normal practice to take into residential care a child made subject to a care order after committing an offence. However, the local authorities attach great importance to the discretion which they have under the Act to take other courses. The guidelines which have been distributed to local authorities as a result of the joint working party of the Magistrates' Association and the local authority associations should ensure that all authorities review the practice of their social services departments in this respect.

It is not easy to see how the provision for magistrates to make a residential care order could affect the issue other than by making it possible to order into residential care a child who needed careful assessment and had been shown to be unfitted for it and, of course, that it would undermine the basic philosophy of the 1969 Act, anyway, by putting these decisions into the hands of the courts rather than those of the local authorities.

There is a great deal of mythology surrounding juvenile delinquency, especially juvenile delinquency in the pre-1969 period. We come, therefore, to the statistics. Juvenile crime has been increasing since the 1950s. But I agree with the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Irving)—and this is where I take issue with the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) —that the fairly steep increase in juvenile crime began in 1967, and not after the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 was passed.

Anyone attempting to make out a case for this Bill has to show that any rapid increase in juvenile crime occurred after the passage and implementation of the 1969 Act, whereas the increase has nothing to do with the 1969 Act and has not been caused by it—or even accelerated by it. In fact, the level of juvenile crime fell quite sharply in 1975 and 1976, after the Children and Young Persons Act had been placed on the statute book. It is no consolation in itself to know that adult crime and juvenile crime have increased at generally the same rate, and one or two of my hon. Friends have already made that clear.

Putting all the statistical evidence together, it can be said with confidence that there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that the 1969 Act and the changes that it introduced in connection with the powers of the courts and the local authorities increased the rate of juvenile offending. If there is any evidence at all, it is to the contrary.

There is another bit of 1960s nostalgia which also must be dealt with, and that is the role of the approved schools, which were supposed to have had such a controlling effect on juvenile crime. In fact it is not so. By 1971, when they went out of existence, the re-offending rate of those discharged within three years of leaving an approved school was approaching 70 per cent. We have heard a number of references to people breaking out of community homes and to education in community homes. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmonds (Mr. Griffiths) is among those who made this point. Even under the approved school system, absconding was an increasing problem. They were never secure institutions.

Mr. Whitney

I did not say they were.

Mr. Moyle

The hon. Member for Wycombe did not say so, though some of his hon. Friends did and they have participated in the debate. Approved schools were also experiencing increasing problems in the control of young people. Some Members will recall the troubles at Carlton House School which led to a formal inquiry.

As a result, whereas the number going to approved schools in 1963 was 9,000, that number had fallen to 7,000 in 1970. It is therefore very difficult to make any sort of argument about the good old pre-1969 days. The real question is what a civilised society does with children who, despite every effort to help them, continue to break the law.

Most people believe in the capacity of even the most difficult children to be reformed, and they desire to support measures which are designed to help them rather than to punish. The hon. Member made that point and it is borne out by our experience. I believe that locking children up is rightly repugnant to all of us and it is difficult to recruit staff for the purpose of locking children up. That, I believe, reflects the basic attitude of society.

On the other hand, I concede that it is right that other citizens should be protected against serious damage, to the person and to property, which children of this type can inflict. The case against the secure order is not that the 1969 Act has proved to have no defects. I have already said that we are not committed to a dogmatic defence of that piece of legislation, which is over 10 years old. We have amended the Act twice since 1974—in the Children Act 1975 and in the Criminal Law Act 1977.

What we are unable to accept is any change which would fundamentally alter the balance and functions between the courts and the local authorities, by transferring to the courts the power to determine the treatment of children on the basis of what is a relatively brief confrontation between the offender and the court, as opposed to the prolonged period of supervision which is inevitable in the relationship of the local authority with a child in care. That point was highlighted by the hon. Member for Cheltenham in his very able speech.

The point was made by the hon. Member for Solihull that, because local authorities have a statutory duty to promote the welfare of the child, it is sometimes alleged that this obligation blinds them to the need to protect the public. I believe this allegation to be unfounded, and the local authority associations, which depend after all upon the votes of their constituents to stay in power, also rejected that point of view. They pointed out that local authorities share with magistrates a concern both for disturbed youngsters, who behave in a delinquent fashion, and for those members of the public who have been the victims of their offences.

So, the question of protecting the public is of equal concern to the authorities and their social service departments. The hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds produced anecdotal evidence to the effect that the police were not pursuing cases because of frustration. The statistics do not bear this out. In 1977, 195,000 children and young persons were found guilty of, or cautioned for, indictable offences in England and Wales.

In over half of those cases the police were satisfied that prosecution would not be appropriate and that a caution was the best way of dealing with the matter. The courts found it possible to deal with the remainder by giving a conditional discharge to about 24,000, fining about 30,000, placing 16,000 or so under supervision and sending 9,000 to attendance centres for their Saturday afternoons. Of the remaining 15,000 who may be judged the more serious or persistent offenders, the courts made just over 5,000 subject to care orders—5 per cent. of those who came before the courts, or 2½ per cent. of all offenders appearing in the criminal statistics. But not all this group will re-offend. Recent research suggests that between one-third and one-half only will do so. We are therefore talking about as few as 2,000 young people each year—mainly boys but some girls—aged 10 to 16 spread across the whole of England and Wales who are placed in care for a wide variety of offences—theft, forgery, criminal damage, violence, and so on. For this wide diversity the Bill offers but one solution.

The local authority associations, in a move which has been welcomed by the Magistrates' Association, have recently issued "guidelines" to local authorities on the treatment of offenders made subject to care orders. That seems a constructive move.

There has been a great deal of talk about the provision of secure accommodation. I am quite clear that there is not enough by a substantial amount. Indeed, when we took over, the situation was even worse.

My Department is continuing to make grants to meet the full capital cost of new secure accommodation, and in the past three years the number of long-term secure places in community homes has doubled. The Department has also built a secure place youth treatment centre for 54 children in care. But more places are needed. A further 66 places are under construction in community homes. There are plans for about 40 more and for 12 more secure places to be added to one of

the Department's existing youth treatment centres. So, in the not too distant future, we estimate that there will be about 400 long-term places of all kinds compared with the 150 available in 1974.

Of course, it would be possible to build even more secure places to accommodate all the children who might be made the subject of an order under the Bill and placed in secure accommodation if we had more resources. If we went ahead with the Bill, our best estimate is that, in addition to the 400 places that we are planning, we should need a further 500 places. It is all very well for the hon. Member for Wycombe to express views about what might be the future effects of the Bill, but we have to take into account what might happen if his ideas are wrong. We would have to provide an extra 500 places if the Bill were passed. That would mean expenditure of at least £15 million in capital terms, according to our estimates.

Locking up children—indeed, locking up anybody—does fearful damage to the average citizen's income tax position. Therefore, it is a difficult problem, even for this Government, to cope with the desire to maintain a reasonable level of public expenditure. With the Conservative Party's desire substantially to cut public expenditure, there would be no possibility of ever being able to meet the consequences of the Bill.

Without a considerable increase in their budgets, social services departments all over the country would have to cut back on services for the other 95,000 children in their care as well as services for the elderly, the mentally ill and the handicapped and would be left with the choice as to what services should get the benefit of expenditure. Therefore, the resources that the 1969 Act—

Mr. Whitney rose in his place, and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question put, That the Question be now put:—

The House divided: Ayes 91, Noes 23.

Division No.75 AYES [3.59 p.m.
Aitken, Jonathan Bennett, Dr Reginald (Faregam) Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)
Alison, Michael Benyon, W. Braine, Sir Bernard
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Blaker, Peter Brooke, Hon Peter
Bell, Ronald Body, Richard Buck, Antony
Burden, F. A. Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd) Percival, Ian
Carlisle, Mark Jessel, Toby Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Channon, Paul King, Tom (Bridgwater) Prior, Rt Hon James
Clark, William (Croydon S) Knight, Mrs Jill Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Cope, John Langford-Holt, Sir John Raison, Timothy
Crouch, David Lawrence, Ivan Rathbone, Tim
Dykes, Hugh Le Marchant, Spencer Rees-Davies, W. R.
Emery, Peter Loveridge, John Ridsdale, Julian
Eyre, Reginald Luce, Richard Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Fell, Anthony Macfarlane, Neil Sainsbury, Tim
Fisher, Sir Nigel MacGregor, John Shepherd, Colin
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Mates, Micheal Smith, Dudley (warwick)
Fookes, Miss Janet Mather, Carol Stanley, John
Fry, Peter Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stradling Thomas, J.
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mayhew, Patrick Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Tebbit, Norman
Glyn, Dr Alan Moate, Roger Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Goodhart, Philip More, Jasper (Ludlow) Townsend, Cyril D.
Goodlad, Alastair Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Viggers, Peter
Grieve, Percy Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Wakeham, John
Griffiths, Eldon Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Weatherill, Bernard
Hannam, John Neubert, Michael Wells, John
Hayhoe, Barney Newton, Tony Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Higgins, Terence L. Onslow, Cranley
Holland, Philip Page, John (Harrow West) TETTERS FOR THE AYES
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Mr. Roger Sims and
Howell, David (Guildford) Pattie, Goffrey Mr. Raymond Whitney.
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Lamborn, Harry Skinner, Dennis
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Lawrence, Ivan Stallard, A. W.
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Tilley, John
Deakins, Eric Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Faulds, Andrew Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Weltzman, David
Graham, Ted Orbach, Maurice
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Janner, Greville Pavitt, Laurie Mr. Robert kilroy-silk and
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Price, C. (Lewisham W) Mr. Michael Ward.
Kerr, Russell Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)

Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER declared that the Question was not decided in the affirmative, because it was not supported by the majority prescribed by Standing Order No. 31 (Majority for Closure).

It being after Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Friday next.