HC Deb 06 March 1979 vol 963 cc1079-81
9. Mr. Whitney

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what is the percentage of cases where those made subject to a care order under the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 subsequently commit offences which in the case of an adult would be punishable by imprisonment.

Mr. Moyle

I regret this information is not available.

Mr. Whitney

Does not the Minister agree that his answer shows the urgent need for a great deal more information on this subject to be made available to the House and to the public? Does he not also agree that such information as we do possess suggests strongly that there is an urgent need, in the interests of the public, society and young people themselves, for the Government to turn their backs on the outdated, trendy, psychological theories of the 1960s and seek an amendment of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969 on the lines frequently proposed on this side of the House?

Mr. Moyle

I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman feels that there is an urgent need for information, since he is therefore proposing substantial legislative action on the basis of not having information. I would have thought that a very foolish action. I do not agree that the 1969 Act is outdated. In so far as we have statistics relating to its performance, it seems to have had more effect on the level of juvenile crime than the system which preceded it.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

Will my right hon. Friend resist the introduction of the ill-founded, punitive measures frequently proposed by the Conservatives? Does he recognise that many of the ill-founded criticisms of the 1969 Act have their origin in the fact that successive Governments of both parties have failed to provide the resources so that the spirit and the intention of that Act can be properly implemented? Will he give an assurance that sufficient resources will be provided, particularly to enable more care to be taken of children within the community?

Mr. Moyle

I agree that the proposal made by the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. Whitney) in his Private Member's Bill should be resisted. In fact, I did so the other Friday with the help of my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) and others. On the question of resources, we are taking fairly substantial action to ensure that there is more secure accommodation. By 1980, we should have approximately 350 places. We are also retaining borstal for girls and boys aged 15 and over and detention centres for boys aged 14 or over. The Criminal Law Act 1977, by raising levels of fines which can be imposed on juveniles and providing means of enforcing payments, in some cases through parents, has also helped. Special requirements can be inserted into supervision orders, and sanctions can be imposed if they are not observed. The Department has increased the number of places available for junior attendance sentences—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but the length of answers is getting most unfair.

Mr. Hodgson

Will the Minister bear in mind that the victims of these offences also have their rights? In the light of his admission that there is a grave shortage of secure accommodation, does he not think that it is an error of judgment for the Government to press on with the implementation of the transitional provisions of the Children and Young Persons Act at this time?

Mr. Moyle

We are consulting local authorities on that point. We will reach our conclusion as a result of those consultations.