§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD PRIVY SEAL (VISCOUNT SNOWDEN)
My Lords, the Bill to which I now ask the House to give a Second Reading is a very formidable-looking document. It contains eighty-seven clauses, innumerable subsections and nearly forty pages of Schedules. I may at once remove your Lordships' fears by saying that I do not intend to explain in detail every one of these eighty-seven 448 clauses and the forty pages of Schedules. That would be a task beyond my powers and I am sure that it would inflict upon the patience of your Lordships an intolerable strain. I shall, however, endeavour to give your Lordships a general outline of the scope and purpose of the Bill. The details of the measure may be more appropriately left to a later stage of the proceedings. I had hoped that this Bill would be regarded in your Lordships' House, as it was in the other place, as a non-controversial measure, but I see upon the Order Paper a Motion for its rejection. I shall await with much interest the reasons put forward for the rejection of a Bill designed to promote the protection and welfare of children and young persons. This Bill passed its second Reading in the other place without a Division, it was exhaustively examined in Standing Committee, and again on Third Reading it passed without a Division to the accompaniment of the benediction of all Parties.
This Bill, my Lords, is largely based upon the Children Act of 1908 and upon the accumulated experience of 24 years of the operation of that measure. I had perhaps better just give your Lordships a very brief outline of the main provisions of the Act of 1908, which itself was to a large extent an amendment of then existing legislation. It dealt with cruelty to children, with what was known as baby farming, and with begging, and contained new previsions in regard to the overlaying of infants, the protection of children from fire, the taking away of children from immoral associations. It also contained another clause to prevent smoking amongst young boys and girls which, contrary to the popular impression, has not been altogether ineffective. It is gratifying to know that since the Act was passed there has been a very considerable decline, judged by prosecutions, in cases of cruelty to children. The number of prosecutions since the Act was passed has fallen by two-thirds. This Act of 1908 reformed the administration of industrial and reformatory schools. It raised the age of admission of children to those schools and it made it possible to send young offenders between twelve and fourteen years of age to industrial schools.
449 Since the Act was passed there has been a great improvement in the administration of industrial and reformatory schools and that, in a very large measure, is due to the wise and sympathetic attitude of the Home Office inspectors. The publication of the reports of the Children's Branch at the Home Office stimulated public interest in the problem of the neglected child, and this led to the appointment, in 1925, of a Committee to deal with the question of child welfare. That Committee reported in 1927 and the Bill which I now submit to your Lordships is based very largely on the recommendations of that Committee, which was known as the Young Offenders Committee. Perhaps the most important of the provisions of the Children Act of 1908, judged by later developments, were those dealing with the young offender. Among these provisions I might mention the abolition of imprisonment of young persons under sixteen except in very special circumstances, the establishment of places of detention, and, perhaps most valuable and certainly the most interesting of all, the establishment of juvenile courts. The juvenile court has led to a much closer study of the problem of the young offender, especially as it was coupled with the probation system.
These, my Lords, are the main provisions of the Act of 1908, and as I have said it is very largely upon the accumulated experience of the working of this Act that this Bill is based. A good part of the Bill which I now submit to you deals with the problem of the young offender. I need not impress upon your Lordships the importance of dealing with the young offender. The young offender, if neglected, becomes a hardened adult criminal. It is most important to take early steps to arrest the tendency to crime. Perhaps some of your Lordships will remember a novel that led to something of a sensation about thirty or forty years ago—"No. 5 John Street," by Richard Whiting. In that book there is a character, a woman, evidently with fine natural material, who had been neglected, and in her adult age efforts were made to reform her. She tried to help, but fell and fell, and at last she turned reproachfully upon those who would help her and said, "Why didn't ye catch me when I was a kid?" Investigations made by the Home Office into the his- 450 tory of Borstal lads show that over half of them had begun a career of crime before they reached the age of sixteen. They show that if different treatment had been given at an early age the lads would probably never have landed in Borstal. If training which ought to have begun at thirteen or fourteen is delayed to a later date, it is much less likely to be successful.
Perhaps your Lordships would like some figures as to the extent of juvenile crime. About 24,000 cases come before the juvenile courts each year, and in addition about 3,000 children are charged with adults; but I am afraid these figures do not indicate the full extent of juvenile delinquency. A good many cases never come into the courts at all. They are often dealt with by the education authorities, without any reference to the courts, and much too, of course, depends upon the attitude of the police and the magistrates. With regard to the offences with which young children are charged, larceny accounts for more than half. There is a rapidly increasing tendency to deal with these cases by binding over and probation, and less use is made of reformatory and industrial schools. It is to be feared that this is not altogether desirable, and its effect is to be seen in the growth of crime between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one. As this Bill makes whipping illegal, I might mention that the present power to inflict whipping has largely fallen into disuse, the number of cases having fallen from 2,079 in 1913 to 130 in 1930. This is because the juvenile courts have realised that this is a discredited method. It is a regrettable fact that serious crime is increasing in the sixteen to twenty-one and twenty-one to thirty groups. This calls for a revision of our methods of dealing with offences by children and young persons, so that the early years will not be a recruiting ground for criminals.
This Bill starts with the organisation of the juvenile courts, as this is the beginning of any scheme for dealing scientifically with the juvenile offender. The Home Office inform me that the composition and administration of the juvenile courts are very unsatisfactory. The justices comply with the law, but the spirit is disregarded. These courts are usually held in the ordinary court house, often before or just after the ordinary police cases, and the justices are not specially 451 designated for this work because of special qualifications. The courts have no contact with the education authority, and no realisation of the difference between the functions and the purpose of the ordinary police court and those of the juvenile court. The First Part of this Bill deals with the reform of the juvenile courts and makes proposals which I may summarise in this way: That the court is not to be held in the ordinary police court buildings without the special sanction of the Home Secretary; that there shall be a special panel of magistrates chosen for their qualifications for dealing with children; and that the procedure of these courts shall be governed by rules made by the Lord Chancellor. It also proposes to raise the age from sixteen to seventeen in respect of persons whose cases may be dealt with by the juvenile courts.
These amendments carry on their face their own recommendations. The reason why these courts are to be dissociated from the ordinary police courts is that their functions and purpose are different. The functions of the juvenile court are reformative and not punitive, although there may be cases where punishment is necessary. The regulation of procedure by rules made by the Lord Chancellor will enable the procedure of the court to be changed from time to time as experience may suggest. The Bill, in Clause 68, defines a young person, as distinct from a child under the Bill, as "a person who has attained the age of fourteen years and is under the age of seventeen years." The age at present is sixteen. The raising of the age to seventeen will bring offenders below that age within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, and also within the provisions in regard to imprisonment and sending to Home Office schools. The Young Offenders Committee, to which I referred, gave considerable attention to the question of the age at which a young person should be regarded as an adult for the purposes of trial and punishment, and they came to the conclusion that an experiment might be tried by raising the age to seventeen. The principal object to be aimed at is the desirability of keeping the adolescent boy and girl as long as possible from the police court. This question, therefore, must first be considered in relation to the juvenile court. 452 The principle underlying the juvenile court, as I have said, is that under a certain age the young offender is entitled to special consideration. In regard to procedure, a juvenile court has less of the stigma of crime, and its purpose is more reformative than punitive.
A strong argument for raising the age from sixteen to seventeen is that the year sixteen to seventeen is a very critical time, especially in the case of girls. The boy or girl who is thieving or committing other offences at that age is running the risk of becoming a hardened criminal, and the manner in which he or she is treated at that age is of the greatest importance. In raising the age to seventeen we are not taking a step in the dark. In many large towns the juvenile courts already deal with cases of young people under sixteen, and this has been done with marked success, and I may say that in a good many other countries the age is seventeen, and in some cases eighteen. The raising of the age is not confined to the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts. For most purposes of the Bill a young person will be defined as one under seventeen. For instance, under seventeen he cannot be sent to prison in future, except under a certificate of unruliness or depravity; and young persons between sixteen and seventeen will be eligible to be sent to the reformatory or industrial school, in future to be known as approved schools, where Borstal treatment would be quite unsuitable for persons of that immature age.
The raising of the age to seventeen not only affects the young offender but also the neglected child. Neglect and crime are very closely connected, and there is a very great need for helping adolescents who are falling into crime. There is one other point dealing with the alteration of age to which I may direct your Lordships' attention. It relates to the age at which a child may be kept in an approved school. Where a court orders the detention of a child—that is, under fourteen—he should be kept there for a period of three years, and, if at the expiration of three years he is still under fifteen, until he reaches the age of fifteen. This follows the recommendation of the Young Offenders Committee. If a young person, that is, a person over fourteen and under seventeen, is ordered 453 to be sent to an approved school, he must be detained if he is under sixteen for three years, and, if he is over sixteen, until he reaches the age of nineteen.
Children have been left in conditions which are morally dangerous and where they are most certainly likely to go to the bad, and it has long been felt by social workers that children should not be left in such conditions until they have embarked upon a career of crime. The Young Offenders Committee came to the conclusion that the powers of the juvenile courts to deal with such cases of neglect had to be strengthened, and that the best way of doing it was to bring such cases of children between sixteen and seventeen within the law. Your Lordships, I may say, will find particulars of this in Clause 9 of the Bill. You will see there that, instead of a long category of cases or instances of neglect, a more general definition of neglect is given. When the court is satisfied that the case comes within that definition, that is to say, that it needs care and protection, the court is given various alternatives. The parents may he bound over. The child can be placed under supervision. He can be committed to the care of a fit person, or he may be sent to an appropriate residential school. And the Bill proposes to transfer the responsibility for the bringing forward such cases from the police to the local education authority.
The juvenile courts will be given power to commit young offenders under ten to the care of the local authority, and this is intended mainly as a means of dealing with young children who are too young to be committed to a school, and the local authority will have power to board out these young children with foster parents. The two principal methods of dealing with the young offender are probation and schools. The choice between these two methods must obviously be left to the court, who can judge of the circumstances of each case. One of the factors in reaching a wise conclusion is a careful inquiry into the surroundings and circumstances of the child and medical examination. The Bill is assisting this by placing on the local education authority the duty of providing information for the assistance of the court.
454 Now I come to a point in connection with young offenders which was discussed at considerable length in Committee when the Bill was in another place. The Young Offenders Committee laid emphasis on the better need for observation and medical examination of young offenders. On page 43 of their Report they say:Once the principle is admitted that the duty of a court is not so much to punish for the offence as to readjust the offender to the community, the need for accurate diagnosis of the circumstances and motives which influenced the offence becomes apparent. For instance, it is not possible for the court to determine whether release on probation or some form of institutional treatment is called for without the fullest inquiries as to the antecedents and sursoundings of the offender. These inquiries can often best be pursued if there is a remand in custody. But more important still is the need for estimating the personal factors, including especially mental and physical health.As regards past and present environment, this Bill provides machinery which will ensure that full information will be available for the court. Clause 20 provides that whenever a child or young person is brought before a court charged with an offence, or on grounds of neglect, notice shall be sent to the local authority and the probation officer, and it is made the duty of the local authority, save in trivial cases, to make inquiries and report to the court on the circumstances, the school record, health, and character of the person concerned.
The Young Offenders Committee recommended the establishment of special observation centres for children and young persons on remand. The Bill makes no provision for the establishment of such centres. Apart from objection on principle, it would be impossible in present financial circumstances to embark upon such a costly experiment. The estimated cost of such a centre for London would be £50,000, and the annual cost of maintenance would be over £10,000. But it is hoped that, for the time being, something may be done to secure the same object by improved remand homes in a number of convenient centres. These places of detention will be transferred to the councils of the counties and the county boroughs, and the Home Secretary will be empowered to inspect these remand homes. These powers will be used to the utmost to provide needed medical 455 observation and examination. It is believed that on these lines, for the time being, the purpose of observation courts can be met.
In regard to reformatory and industrial schools, the Young Offenders Committee reported very favourably upon the administration of those schools. In the last twenty years there has been a marked improvement. The needs of the boys and girls are no longer subordinated to those of the institution. The scheme of education and training is such as to try to fit these boys and girls for a useful career in after life. Great importance is attached by the Home Office to after-care. It is furnished with full particulars of the records of boys—I think your Lordships will agree that this is rather interesting—and with the after-history for three years of those who have left school, and, judged by this standard, that means no further trouble for three years after leaving school. The schools are getting 90 per cent. successes, and many of the schools are reaching 95 per cent. The principal change in the Bill dealing with schools is the abolition of the distinction between industrial schools and reformatories, and the reduction in the period of detention. The schools will, in future, be known as approved schools, and will be formed into a single group but classified according to the needs of the person. Two other proposed changes may be mentioned. The age of criminal responsibility is raised from seven to eight, and the age below which sentence of death cannot be passed is raised from sixteen to eighteen.
I have now dealt with the principal provisions touching neglected and delinquent children, and there remains only the duty of explaining the employment proposals of the Bill. I can do that very briefly. The employment of children, except in occupations which are under the factory laws, is regulated by the Employment of Children Act of 1903 amended by the Education Act of 1918, and these regulations are now in force. No child under twelve may be employed except so far as the employment of children by their parents may be permitted by local by-laws. A child between twelve and fourteen may not be employed on Sundays for more than two hours. A child between twelve and fourteen cannot be employed on any day before 6 in the morning and after 8 at 456 night. A child between twelve and fourteen may not be employed on any school day before the close of the school. Those are the present regulations. The employment of children is largely regulated within these general restrictions and by-laws. There are about 1,000,000 children between twelve and fourteen attending school, and the returns show that 63,000 children are employed in some sort of part-time employment; about half of them are employed in delivering newspapers. Your Lordships will see the proposed changes in regard to the employment of children by looking at Clauses 48 to 61. They are mainly clauses incorporating provisions from existing Acts. The Bill proposes to raise the age below which street trading will not be permitted from fourteen to sixteen, subject to a limited exception where children are employed by their parents, and also to raise the age from sixteen to eighteen below which street trading can be regulated by the local authority.
When this Bill was before the other place there was some discussion on what is known as the employment of young persons in unregulated occupations. This question has been before the Home Office and Governments for a great many years. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, has repeatedly raised this question in your Lordships' House. In 1927 the noble Viscount introduced a Bill which had been framed by agreement with the Home Office. This Bill proceeded on the lines of giving to county and county borough councils the power to make by-laws in respect of all occupations other than certain industrial occupations which are regulated by the factory laws or other enactments. In March of last year the noble Viscount's Bill was again in this House. It was given a Second Reading, but an assurance from the Government of the day was also given that the matter would be dealt with in the Children Bill which it was then the intention of the Government to introduce. Viscount Astor's Bill, therefore, proceeded no further. Successive Governments have been definitely pledged to deal with this matter, and I think it is a situation which appeals to our sympathies on many grounds. There can be no doubt that it would have been dealt with in this Bill had it not been for the 457 financial crisis and the critical situation of the country. When this Bill was before Standing Committee in the other House this question was raised. The matter was fully considered by the Government, and the Under-Secretary of the Home Office was authorised to say that the Government gave a pledge to deal with the matter as soon as the industrial situation improved. The Government, I repeat, realise the importance of this question and they very much regret that it cannot be dealt with in this Bill.
I have now given your Lordships an outline of the scope of the Bill and its main provisions. I may say that the Bill will not increase calls upon the Exchequer. It increases expenditure in certain directions and it reduces expenditure in other directions. The Bill, I submit to your Lordships, is a humane measure. It will increase the real wealth of the nation, for the real wealth of the nation is in our children, the men and women of the future. It is with the greatest confidence that I submit this Bill to your Lordships' favourable consideration.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(Viscount Snowden.)
§ VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME had given Notice that on the Motion for the Second Reading he would move, that the Bill be read 2a this day six months. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in moving the rejection of this Bill I hope I shall not appear before your Lordships as the villain of the piece which the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill seems to think I must be. Protests have frequently been made in your Lordships' House against what is known as legislation by reference. These protests have passed unheeded. Now I suggest the time for mere protest has passed and the time for action has arrived. This Bill should be thrown out, not because the provisions of the Bill are bad or that we disagree with them, but because it is a most glaring example of legislation by reference. May I remind your Lordships that the Report of the Departmental Committee on which the provisions of this Bill are founded was issued as long ago as 1927? His Majesty's Government have, therefore, no excuse whatever for not presenting to Parliament a consolidating and amending measure as was done in the ease of the Children Act, 1908. Had that been done, 458 the Bill might have been at least intelligible.
§ As it is, I ask your Lordships to think of the difficulty and perplexity that would be inflicted upon magistrates. Even stipendiary magistrates who are experts in the law will have to delve into various Acts of Parliament to see to what extent they have been altered if this Bill should unfortunately become law in its present form. But, as your Lordships will observe, it is not always stipendiary magistrates who will be put to this trouble and anxiety, since under Clause 2 there is to be formed "a panel of justices specially qualified for dealing with juvenile cases." There would seem no necessity to appoint those who are sufficiently learned in the law to unravel with ease the complications of this dreadful form of legislation. I affirm, without any fear of contradiction, that the laws of a country should be so clear that they can easily be understood by those who have had no legal training, but in the present case even those acquainted with the intricacies of the law will only be able to grasp the law on this subject by a vexatious dovetailing together of legislative odds and ends. You have only to refer to the Second Schedule—so modestly termed "Minor amendments "—to realise what I mean; besides which, in the body of the Bill new provisions are substituted for or have been engrafted upon the principal Act. For these reasons I ask your Lordships to reject this Bill so that the provisions in it can be put into a consolidating and amending Bill in an intelligible form.
§ In case, however, your Lordships decide to give the Bill a Second Reading, there are three points to which I desire to call special attention. They can, in the event of the Bill going to Committee, be dealt with fully then. Therefore I will not detain you at any length by attempting to develop any argument upon them but content myself with outlining them as briefly as possible. The first point is that a gross injustice will be perpetrated on those children who are innocent of crime. Under the present law there are two classes of school to which children can be sent—reformatories for the elder and industrial schools for the younger. There are two classes of children liable to be sent to industrial schools—namely, Child offenders and innocent children 459 whose only fault, it may be, is to be neglected or to be found wandering. Now it is proposed to abolish the distinction and they will all be sent to what are termed "approved schools" so that the innocent children will be brought into contact with the vicious, which may of course alter the whole course of their lives for the worse.
§ The second serious defect, to my mind, in this Bill is that, although pains have been rightly taken to prevent prejudice to juveniles from being associated in any way with an ordinary police court, yet no steps have been taken to prevent their being taken to a police station preparatory to their being taken before a juvenile court. I earnestly invite the noble Viscount in charge to consider sympathetically the suggestion that these juveniles should be taken to the Poor Law institution, which is a place of safety under the Bill, instead of to the police station. In such a place of safety they can await the order of the juvenile court. Their names would not have to be entered on the charge sheet, but the agent in the case could report upon it to the clerk of the juvenile court and there would be no need for an innocent child to appear before the court at all unless the court saw fit to make an order for him to do so. I fear that I may not have done justice to these points, but they are Committee points and if your Lordships give the Bill a Second Reading I can go into them more fully at the Committee stage.
There is one other point, to which the noble Viscount referred in his speech. He seemed to me to give no adequate reason for abolishing whipping. The excuse given was that cases in which whipping was ordered had decreased, but if your Lordships will look at the Report of the Departmental Committee on the treatment of young offenders you will see that on page 69 they say:
If, as we recommend, whipping is retained, we see no reason why it should be limited to certain offences. Cruelty to animals or wanton acts endangering the lives of others ought not to be excluded; but the character of the individual rather than the nature of the offence must be considered.
The committee say that "the character of the individual rather than the nature of the offence must be considered," and as cases of whipping have decreased this circumstance must have been taken into
consideration. I hope that if this Bill does reach the Committee stage whipping will be put in again. I beg to move.
Leave out ("now") and at the end of the Motion insert ("this day six months").— (Viscount Bertie of Thame.)
§ LORD SANDERSON
My Lords, I should like if I may to congratulate the Lord Privy Seal on having been given this opportunity of introducing a Bill for the protection of children. I congratulate him because I think it must be to him a very pleasant change from opposing—I am sorry to say unsuccessfully—Bills for the protection of commodities. I want to say at once on behalf of the Opposition that we welcome this Bill, but with this proviso—as far as it goes. With regard to Part I, we welcome the proposal to extend and to develop juvenile courts and we are glad that they are not going to be held in the ordinary courts. We also welcome the proposal for the appointment of special panels of justices to deal with children, but we urge that on each of these panels there should be at least one woman, and I hope there will be a good percentage of young justices.
With regard to Part II we think that the wider definition of a neglected child is a distinct advance, and we are glad that the local education authority is to be the body to make inquiries and investigations about the circumstances of children who are charged. We welcome also the abolition of whipping and the raising of the age of criminal responsibility from seven to eight, though we should, of course, have preferred it to be nine, which we think would have been young enough. We also welcome the proposal to group industrial schools and reformatories under the one head of approved schools. I think the noble Viscount, Lord Bertie of Thame, has perhaps a little misunderstood the object and meaning of that clause, but I have no doubt the Lord Privy Seal will deal with the point later on better than I can. We agree also with Part III of the Bill. We really agree with most of the Bill as it stands. We have no particular quarrel with what the Bill contains, but we feel that it might have gone much further and might have dealt much more adequately with some of the matters of which it treats.
461 The Bill, as the Lord Privy Seal has explained, sets out to amend the Children Act of 1908 and certain subsequent Acts. The Children Act of 1908, as some of your Lordships will remember, was known as the Children's Charter. This Bill amends that Act to some extent, but it will still leave the charter out of date, and we think that if the Government had been a little bolder and a little more thorough they might have produced an Act which would have been a Children's Magna Charta. There are many ways, we feel, in which the Bill might be improved and there are certainly some valuable additions which could be made which I believe many of your Lordships would like to see. I am not going to deal with all of these, but there are three points to which I should like specially to refer—omissions from the Bill which we regard as distinct shortcomings.
The first of these points refers to conviction. Under the present law children who are charged with offences, found guilty and fined have convictions recorded against them, but in the case of children who go to industrial schools convictions are not recorded against them. The present Bill makes things considerably worse for the children because under it convictions will be recorded against those who go to the approved schools. A conviction recorded against a child is a bad mark which is likely to be a handicap to the child all through life. It may prevent the child from getting various kinds of employment; it may prevent a boy from getting into the Navy—probably will—it may prevent a child from getting into the Civil Service and in all probability from securing any post of trust such as that of a bank clerk. I am sure your Lordships will agree that it is a real injustice that a child who has perhaps been fined a small sum for stealing apples or playing football in the street, should carry this stigma for the rest of his life. I hope very much that your Lordships will agree to amend the Bill in this respect in Committee by providing that orders may be given in the case of an offence proved before the juvenile courts that no conviction shall be entered, whether the offender goes to an approved school or not.
462 My second point is in regard to investigations. The Lord Privy Seal has explained that investigation and inquiry into the environment and circumstances of children who are charged or neglected are to be undertaken by the local authorities, which means the local education authorities, and that is a distinct improvement on the present state of things of which I am sure all magistrates will be glad. The Lord Privy Seal pointed out that probation officers are to be notified, in regard to any child who is charged, but the clause dealing with this is defective in this respect, that the probation officer is not to be empowered to make any of these inquiries. Why should not the probation officers be entrusted with this power of making inquiries and investigations as well as the local education authorities? They are in a strong position for making inquiries, and they would be of very great help to the local authorities. I hope very much that a small amendment may be made to that clause, empowering the probation officers to make inquiries and investigations into the circumstances of the children as well as the local education authorities.
Investigation or inquiry ought also to go much further. There is much more investigation needed than can be done by the local authorities and probation officers together, and we very much regret in spite of what the Lord Privy Seal has said there is no mention of observation homes, or remand homes—they are really very much the same thing —for investigation, made in the Bill. We do feel that very many more of these homes are badly needed. Of course, the day has long gone by when it was thought sufficient to bring a child up before the court and punish him if found guilty. It is now widely recognised that it is not enough to find out whether a child has done wrong. We must find out why he has done wrong. It is pretty generally recognised that many of these offences and crimes committed by children are not due to the moral depravity of the child, but to physical defects, and that those physical defects have got to be discovered and treated.
Perhaps I may, in this connection, just tell your Lordships shortly of a case that came before my notice. It is the case of a little girl, aged ten, the daughter of a friend of mine. It is a case of which I 463 had the closest personal knowledge. The little girl was at a boarding school for the children of rather well-to-do parents, and she suddenly took to stealing. She stole all sorts of things, and they could not stop her. They scolded her and talked to her and punished her, but this method had no effect at all. Then her mother took her to a Harley Street specialist, a child psychologist. He examined her very carefully, and he said she had better go and run wild. The words he used were: "Let her lead the life of Nebuchadnezzar." I do not think the child actually ate grass—certainly she did not live on grass—but she ran wild. The doctor said that he traced the trouble to a shock which the child had had about four years before, on hearing of the death of her father, who was killed in the War. He said: "Let her run wild, do not mention stealing to her at all," and he guaranteed that in three months she would have forgotten that she ever stole, and be perfectly well. At the end of the three months the doctor was proved to be right, and the child after that lived the perfectly normal and healthy life of a good girl. She is now, at the age of 22, doing very useful work in the world not half a mile from your Lordships' House.
I say that that child, if she had not been able to have that observation, care and treatment, would almost certainly have been in gaol before long, and in all probability be now forming one of the criminal classes. The Lord Privy Seal has quite truly said—he put it most admirably, if I may say so—that the neglected young offender becomes a hardened criminal. He also said, quite rightly, that there is a close connection between neglect and crime. I think that he could not have put better than in those few sentences the need for much more investigation and inquiry, and the only way in which we can have that is by properly equipped remand homes. I know that there are remand homes now, but they do not work very satisfactorily, and most of them are not properly equipped. I was glad to hear the Lord Privy Seal say that he hopes more homes will be established, but we want very many more. We want remand homes where thorough investigations can be carried out, which shall be visited regularly by child psychologists, which will be in charge of matrons, who must be trained nurses, and 464 in which there is a thoroughly satisfactory and right atmosphere.
The Lord Privy Seal tells us that we cannot afford it. I am very sorry to hear that, because I think that the lack of these homes is really false economy. I feel sure that if we take a long view—not so very long a view—we shall find that these homes are a good investment and an economy. They will ultimately mean a considerable saving in prison expenditure, a saving on health, and also a considerable diminution in adult crime, because what the Lord Privy Seal said about the neglected young offender becoming a hardened criminal is being unfortunately very much borne out by the facts of the case. There is no doubt that the numbers of criminals between eighteen and thirty have considerably increased in recent years. I think also there is no doubt that a considerable number of these criminals in that class are persons who have been neglected in their youth. I believe that if their cases bad been properly investigated, and they had been properly taken care of and had had the treatment of my little friend, there would be fewer criminals between the ages of eighteen and thirty than there are at the present time. If we cannot have the whole thing I hope we can at any rate make a beginning.
My third point has to do with juvenile employment. Part IV of the Bill deals with juvenile employment. It deals with the employment of street sellers, and we are glad for the changes introduced there. But it really does little more than reenact the present law with regard to children of school age. Of course, that is a somewhat controversial point, but I feel sure that anyone who really is interested in education, and anyone who appreciates the importance of those years from twelve to fourteen in a child's life will agree with me when I say that no children under the age of fourteen ought to be allowed to work at all while at school. I come to the question of juvenile employment, in the sense of employment of boys and girls between the ages of fourteen and eighteen. My noble friends behind me and the Opposition generally very much regret that that question has not been dealt with in this Bill. There is no reason why it should not have been, and we hope that the Bill may still be 465 amended to some extent in that direction. The juveniles to whom I am referring are the boys and girls who are working as shop assistants and in what are known as the unregulated employments, such as errand boys and girls, messenger boys and girls, van boys, ice cream sellers, petrol boys in garages, warehouse boys, lift boys in hotels, and many others.
That question, as the Lord Privy Seal has told us, has been debated over and over again in your Lordships' House. Government after Government, as he reminds us, has promised legislation on the subject, but the promises have never been kept. Both the Home Secretary in another place and the Under-Secretary for the Home Department have promised that the legislation will be brought in as soon as the industrial situation permits, or as soon as circumstances permit. That is not good enough. We have had those promises before, and we do not believe in them. We are afraid they will not be kept. The time can always be put off. "Oh, the industrial circumstances do not yet admit of it," it will be said. The matter is really urgent. We want something at once.
Now what is the law in regard to hours of labour? In the textile trades the hours are fixed at 55½ per week. In most of our other large industries they are 60 a week, but as a matter of practice the workpeople in those industries work round about 48 hours a week. The shop assistants' hours have not been regulated since 1886. Under the Act of 1886 the maximum is 74 hours a week, and there is no adequate machinery for seeing that even that maximum is not exceeded. With regard to boys and girls in the unregulated employments the hours are not regulated at all. So you get this extraordinary situation—something like 95 per cent. of the adult population working round about 48 hours a week, while half a million boys and girls between the ages of fourteen and sixteen may work anything from 60 to 80 hours a week. The Report of the Select Committee on Shop Assistants, a very excellent Report, which I think has not received the attention it deserves, gives numerous examples of the hours which these people work. It gives case after case of boys and girls working 60 or 80 hours a week. Of course, I am not saying that the whole of those half million boys and girls work 466 these long hours, but many of them may, and very many of them do, work excessive hours. There are cases quoted of van boys working as much as 90 hours a week. Surely it is ridiculous that a boy who has just freshly left school should work as a van boy for 90 hours a week—about twice as long, probably, as his father. The only satisfactory remedy is for the State to regulate these hours by law, and we hope that in Committee a new clause will be added, laying down that no person who is between the ages of fourteen and eighteen should be allowed to work for more than 48 hours in one week.
In another place, as the Lord Privy Seal has told us, that was argued against, and I am glad that he has not brought forward here the principal arguments that were used there. I hope the Lord Privy Seal does not believe in those arguments. They were, as I understand, that if those hours were regulated in those trades the businesses could not be carried on and most of those children would become unemployed. If that is the case, if those businesses cannot be carried on unless they employ young people 60, 70, or 80 hours a week, then I say those industries had better not be carried on at all. But I do not believe that will be the case. If, however, it should happen that children are going to become unemployed by the regulation of hours, then I am faced with a very serious alternative—the alternative of children being unemployed or working excessive hours. It is a choice of evils, but if I have to decide it, rather than see these children overworked to this extent, and see them gradually deteriorating mentally, physically and morally, becoming unfit for real work, getting no training, and growing up to be incompetent and unworthy citizens of a country like ours, I would frankly say that I would rather see them unemployed, because, bad as that would be, they might, and I hope they would, get at any rate some little chance of recreation, education, and training. As things are now, what chance have these young people, working all these hours, of getting any education, of going to evening schools or boys clubs? What chance have they of ever playing a game, or having any enjoyment in their lives at all? I need not point out 467 the obvious effect on their health and on their future lives as citizens.
From the time of the passing of the first Factory Act down to the present year whenever any proposal has been made to lighten the lot of the workers these arguments are used. It is said: "Oh yes, if you do anything of that kind you will ruin the industry concerned." Those arguments have been refuted over and over again by the facts, and they will be refuted in this case. You will find that the industries will not collapse. Some of the weaker employers may be driven out, but the hands of the better employers will be strengthened, and of course there are some very good employers. They will not have to face the competition of the weaker employers, and you will find that the industry will adjust itself to the new conditions. I hope, when we come to the Committee stage, that your Lordships will agree to add a clause to the Bill. I am quite sure that the financial situation or the financial crisis has really nothing at all to do with the matter. No financial crisis can justify us in working children to this extent, and I hope your Lordships will add a clause to help to remove what is really a very great wrong to the community, and a very wasteful and uneconomical feature of our industrial system, as well as a very great social injustice. I hope your Lordships will agree to embody a clause to regulate the hours of labour, as I have suggested. I hope also you will give consideration to the other two matters I have raised—the question of not recording convictions and the question of remand homes for investigation. I trust you will agree to amend the Bill in the ways I have suggested, and so produce an Act which may deserve the name of the Children's Magna Charta.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, I understand that the present Government were returned to decrease expenditure and not to introduce new legislation which would increase expenditure. It is evident that it is no use attempting to reduce expenditure with one hand if you increase it with the other and, therefore (as I hope to be able to convince your Lordships) as this Bill increases expenditure it should be rejected. However good an object may be, if it increases expenditure it ought not to be undertaken at the present 468 moment. We are now in the position of a man who has overspent his income, and whose only chance, if he does not wish to become bankrupt, is to reduce his expenditure and economise. He must deny himself many things which, if he had not been in that position, he would be entitled to have. We are in exactly the position of such a man.
We have overspent—I think all Governments are more or less to blame—for the last twenty years. Now we have had a National Government in power about nine months and they have done very little to reduce expenditure, because our total expenditure this year is as great as the total expenditure was in 1929. In face of that circumstance the Government bring in a Bill which will increase expenditure. I do not know by what amount that expenditure will be increased, but I observe that the noble Lord who has just sat down is not content with this Bill as it stands. He said he wanted more homes. That is what always happens. You introduce a Bill which you say is only going to cost a certain sum. As soon as you have introduced it you find a large number of people want to go further, and instead of the cost being what it was said to be when the Bill was introduced it is increased to a very great extent. I was in the House of Commons when old age pensions were introduced. We were told by Mr. Asquith that they were going to cost £6,000,000 a year. Their cost at the present moment is £39,000,000. I feel certain, if your Lordships pass this Bill, you will find that the increase in the cost will be very great.
There is another objection to the Bill besides that of cost. There are 87 clauses in the Bill, and in those 87 clauses the Secretary of State is mentioned forty-five times. If there is one thing which I should have said the majority of people in this country, and certainly a very great number of Judges, including the Lord Chief Justice, have objected to, it is the transfer of the powers of Parliament to a Minister. If your Lordships will read this Bill, you will find that the Secretary of State can do all sorts of things and impose unlimited charges. I will endeavour to justify what I have just said. If your Lordships will turn to Clause 1, subsection (4), you will find it provides that a juvenile court shall not, 469 without the approval of the Secretary of State, sit in a building mainly or exclusively used as a police station, or in a building mainly or exclusively used—I am paraphrasing the words—for the holding of courts not being juvenile courts. That means that there must be new buildings erected in which juvenile courts must be held, or rooms must be hired in a building which is not mainly or exclusively used as a police station or for holding other police courts in. When that is to cost I do not know, but it must be a very considerable sum.
At present in my county, we hold our juvenile courts in a building which is adjacent to a police station, and when young persons are charged with an offence what we do is to clear the court of all persons except those required as witnesses and the members of the Press. What there is in that room which is going to defile or injure a young person I cannot see. I should have thought myself that a young person taken to a court would be more likely to be frightened and prevented from doing wrong again than if he or she were taken into some special room, which young people will soon find out is a special room, and will begin to regard themselves as a sort of heroes to be dealt with in an exceptional manner. But whether that is so or not does not really matter. The main point is that we really cannot afford to build special places, or to hire buildings or special rooms for the purpose of dealing with these young offenders.
I do not think there is much expense incurred by Clause 2 which appoints special magistrates who are to be specially qualified. The clause does not say what the special qualification is. I think the Lord. Chancellor has to find out what it is. I do not know, nor does any one else.
Then we come to Clause 9. That clause also costs money. That clause begins by saying:Any local authority, or any constable and any authorised person (as defined in this section) who have or has reasonable grounds for believing that a child or young person comes within any of the descriptions hereinafter mentioned, that is to say:—All that is going to cost money. The fit person to whom he is sent will want to be paid.
may, after these things which these three bodies can find out are ascertained, bring that child or young person before the juvenile court, and the court may either—
- (i) A child or young person who, having no parent or guardian or a parent or guardian who is unfit to exercise care and
470 guardianship, or is not exercising proper care and guardianship, is falling into bad associations.…"
- "(a) order him to be sent to an approved school, or
- (b) commit him to the care of any fit person, whether a relative or not, who is willing to undertake the care of him, or
- (c) order his parent or guardian to enter into a recognisance to exercise proper care and guardianship, or
- (d)without making any other order, or in addition to making an order under either of the two last preceding paragraphs, make an order placing him for a specified period, not exceeding three years, under the supervision of a probation officer, or of some other person appointed for the purpose by the court."
Then if we turn to Clause 10 we find there an excellent clause for enabling a parent who does not want to spend money on keeping his own children—it is his own fault that he has got the children and nobody else's fault—to go to a juvenile court and say that he is unable to control his child. The juvenile court may take away the child from his father or from his mother and send him to an approved school and keep him there. The approved school, of course, will have to be paid for either by the unfortunate ratepayer or by the unfortunate taxpayer, and the father or the mother who ought to look after the child will be exempted from having to do so and somebody else will have to do it for them.
I pass to Clause 23. Subsection (7) of that clause says:The Secretary of State, in any case where it appears to him to be for the benefit of a boy or girl who has been committed to the care of any person, may empower that person to arrange for his or her emigration.The boy or girl may be sent abroad—of course at the expense of the ratepayer or the taxpayer. The Secretary of State of course will not do anything of this kind himself. He will appoint some official. The Secretary of State has to be satisfiedthat the boy or girl consents, and also that his or her parents have been consulted, or that it is not practicable to consult them.471 That, of course, makes the provision for consultation nonsense. The official will not take the trouble to consult the parents. He will say it is not practicable to consult them. And again we are dependent upon the Secretary of State or his official. If he chooses to send these children abroad he will have to pay a considerable sum to send them wherever they go. There will be the expense of the voyage and the expense of keeping them when they get there, wherever that is. And what they are going to do when they get there I do not know.
Next take Clause 24. That clause says:The local authority shall for the purposes of the provisions of this Part of this Act relating to the making of orders committing children and young persons to the care of fit persons be deemed to be a fit person and accordingly orders may be made committing children and young persons to their care and they may undertake the care of children and young persons so committed.That also is going to cost money. The local authority is not going to do this without money, and where is that money coming from? It will not drop from the skies. There is no hole you can dig in which you will find money. The money will have to come out of the pockets of those who have been industrious, have worked hard and saved money.
There are several things in that clause which will cost money, but I will pass on to Clause 29. Under that clause a court may order a young person to be sent to an approved school and be kept there until he attains the age of nineteen years. I should have thought that a good many young people ought to be working long before the age of nineteen. I read in the obituary notices of the noble Earl, Lord Inchcape, that he said that when he was in his early 'teens he worked from 9 o'clock in the morning until 7 or 8 o'clock, sometimes until 10 or 11 o'clock, at night. It does not seem to me that the result of that did him any harm. On the contrary, he turned out to be a citizen of great value to his country.
I come now to a clause which I suppose may be held to diminish some of that expenditure. It is Clause 31. That clause says that a court may require the father—and, I suppose, the mother or the guardian—to contribute such weekly sum as the court having regard to his means think fit.472 If it turns out that he is not in receipt of very high wages it may be that the court, as they must have regard to means, may impose a very small contribution. Suppose that a very small sum is imposed that sum can be recovered in the way set out at page 24 of the Bill. Subsection (4) of Clause 31 says:(a) A contribution order shall be enforceable as an affiliation order…Those of your Lordships who are accustomed to sit as magistrates will know what that means. If a person against whom an affiliation order is made refuses to pay, the only alternative offered to the magistrate is to commit him to prison, and the committal to prison wipes out the debt. Therefore a clause which says that a parent may be ordered to contribute something according to his means and that the order shall be enforceable as an affiliation order, means very little.
I am sorry to have to detain your Lordships so long but this is really a very important matter and unless one reads the Bill carefully it is difficult to find out what it really does. I am not sure that I know yet although I have read it several times. I will pass to Clause 37. The marginal note to that is, "Provision of remand homes by councils of counties and county boroughs." That clause says:It shall be the duty of the council of every county and county borough to provide for their area remand homes…The noble Lord opposite wants more remand homes, but remand homes do not drop from the skies and they too will cost money.
In Clauses 63 to 67 we have five clauses which are the only good clauses out of all the 87 in the Bill. They do not cost money, but as far as I can make out strengthen the Criminal Law. In cases where people have advertised offering to take care of babies the places in which those babies are to be received have to be inspected. That is good. It does not cost any money because it can be done by the police in the ordinary way. Clause 68 raises the age of young persons to seventeen and in Clause 79 you see that:A local authority play, for the purposes of their functions under this Act, acquire, dispose of, or otherwise deal with land—473 which they cannot do without having money and which therefore costs money. On page 59 of the Bill you read that:A local authority may borrow for the purposes of this Act—I have had some experience of finance in my life and my opinion, an opinion not held by me alone, is that local authorities at the present moment are greatly over-borrowing. Their debt is already far too great and yet under this clause they may borrow—more extravagance where there ought to be retrenchment!
Under Clause 81 there are to be more officials. If there is one thing we ought to reduce it is the number of officials and yet the Bill provides:The Secretary of State may appoint for the purposes of the enactments relating to children and young persons a chief inspector, and such number of inspectors to act under the direction of the chief inspector as the Treasury may approve, and may pay to the persons so appointed such remuneration and allowances as with the consent of the Treasury he may determine, and they shall perform such duties as the Secretary of State may from time to time direct.Here, my Lords, is the Secretary of State with a very nice little patronage. He may appoint inspectors and pay them apparently anything he likes, and tell them to do anything he likes, and we shall find that here also we are adding to our expenditure. We shall also find it very difficult to get rid of an official once he is appointed. We shall have noble Lords on the other side of the House saying that here is a poor man getting so much and if you do not keep him on what is he to do? We shall have the official and his wife and children over twenty-one voting for the election to another place of the members who says that the official is not to be dismissed. In other words we shall have what I am afraid is getting very common, the member getting in by spending, not his own money but somebody else's.
Clause 83 of the Bill provides that:
There shall be paid out of money provided by Parliament—
No amount is specified under paragraph (ii). I thought we were going to reduce the charges for elementary education which at the present moment, unless I am mistaken and I do not include what the ratepayer has to pay, costs the taxpayer £50,000,000 a year. I thought great efforts were to be made to reduce that cost. Yet we have this provision for the payment of
any sums by which any education grants under any other Acts are increased by reason of the additional powers and duties conferred or imposed by this Act upon local education authorities for elementary education.
What on earth this is all going to cost I really do not know! The noble Viscount does not know either and that is the reason he said very little about it.
§ Now, my Lords, I think I have shown that this Bill is going to cost a considerable sum of money, and whether the provisions are good or bad it ought not to be passed for the simple reason that it is going to cost money. The noble Viscount alluded to the Act of 1908, which was called by the noble Lord opposite the Children's Charter. I remember it perfectly well. It was passed when the present Home Secretary was Under-Secretary at the Home Office. The noble Viscount alluded to a clause under which he said boys under sixteen, the age now to be raised to seventeen, could be prevented from smoking. He omitted to say that the clause also included girls. Personally I do not like this increased smoking and if there is a thing I object to it is to women smoking, but at the same time I believe in liberty and if a man or a woman or a boy chooses to smoke I do not see that it is any business of mine. What did this Children's Charter do? It said that if a police constable in any public place saw a girl or boy that he thought to be under sixteen smoking, he could take whatever they were smoking out of their mouths and if it was a male he could search him; if it was a female he could not.475
§ Why the Women's Equal Rights Association did not object to that I do not know, but as a matter of fact they did not and so we have a woman put in a superior position to a man. I never remember a case where a police constable did take anything out of the mouth of a young person or search the young person, and I do not know how the unfortunate constable could tell whether the girl was or was not under seventeen. My experience is that all girls of seventeen look about twenty-five and all women of thirty look about seventeen, and how on earth the unfortunate police constable could find out their ages I do not know. My hope is that if we do not reject this Bill—and I trust my noble friend will go to a Division—it will be a dead letter like the Children's Charter.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, I hope you will not take too seriously the speech of the noble Lord because we have it on the authority of the Under-Secretary when introducing this Bill that it is going to save £8,000 a year. I shall not pretend to go into the details of the Bill, but we have the authority of the Under-Secretary for this saving, and if I know the present Lord Privy Seal well enough he will keep an eye on the finances as he did before on the national finances. I come here at the request of the Archbishop to apologise for his not being here and to say a few words in really earnest support of this Bill on behalf of the Church. I do not think all your Lordships realise what a large part the Church has taken in educating the conscience of the nation on this matter. I remember the Children's Charter twenty-four years ago, but it is fifty years since the Church started the Waifs and Strays Society, which has saved over 35,000 children, which has proved over and over again that prevention is better than cure, and which is now spending £500,000 a year on 4,500 children. It was before this effort that Dr. Barnardo gave his lead.
Who started the probation officer? Fifty years ago a journeyman printer gave 5s. because he thought it was a shame that these poor people should have to go to the police court. That 5s. has become £50,000 a year. We have now 200 police court missionaries, and it is from the success of those missionaries that the probation officers have sprung. A 476 few years ago Lord Haldane paid a fine tribute to the Church Temperance Society for starting this idea. The noble Lord on this side rather made fun of the Children's Charter. Let me remind the House that in 1849 17,000 children under seventeen were condemned to transportation and imprisonment. That was the state of things before this Act, which the noble Lord rather smiled at, was introduced. When I was in Australia I saw things which for the first time filled me with shame for my own country. I found a very distinguished man whose grandfather had been transported because, as a baker's boy, he was unable to account for one loaf. Instead of opposing this Bill we, as a Church, say, "God bless this country for getting a conscience at last on the children question."
Personally, I am only surprised at the moderation of this Bill. In this Bill there are some things with which I heartily agree and other things on which I agree with the noble Lord on the Bench opposite. For instance, I think all your Lordships will agree that children under ten should be boarded out or put in some home, and not in some institution. We have found that to be advisable and all our 4,500 children are in homes. The next thing is that this distinction between the industrial school and the reformatory should be abolished and a decent name given to these approved schools. We have found that it makes all the difference, for instance, to our sick people whether they are in St. Stephen's Hospital, Westminster, or in the workhouse infirmary. Then we agree that a limitation should be put on the residence. We have in London two excellent homes, one for girls and one for boys. Our London magistrates send us 200 a year to our two homes for six months or three months showing that the small period of residence is better than a very long residence. Therefore I entirely agree with the limitation of residence. I also agree with no capital punishment under eighteen and no crime under eight.
When we come to whipping I read with some amusement the speech of the Under-Secretary in the other House when he said that there were some members who were going to oppose the abolition of whipping because they were such 477 shining examples of the benefit of whipping themselves. There may be some in your Lordships' House who recognise the advantage of such punishment, but do remember the difference between your Lordships being whipped and these children being whipped by policemen about whom they know nothing. Archbishop Temple was very proud of a letter written by a boy who said of him:" He is a beast but he is a just beast." It has been proved, I assert, that whipping is a mistake and therefore I wholly approve of the abolition of whipping.
I think the noble Lord on the Opposition Bench made two or three extremely important points. It was a very important point which he made that these children should not have a black mark against them in consequence of being sent to an approved school, as it had such an effect upon them in after life, and I have been asked to try to get an assurance that there shall be no black mark against these children. I think that is a very important point indeed. I am very doubtful about the raising of the age for juvenile courts to seventeen. Many of our workers say that these persons of seventeen are young men and young women, and that if you allow them to be dealt with in these children's courts you will spoil the atmosphere of those courts. However, it is proposed and supported by experienced men and therefore I am not going to oppose the raising of the age, but I ask those responsible to think over whether it is wise to mix up these young men and women with the children. With regard to the 400,000 van boys and so on—the point made by Lord Sanderson—it is rather sad that we should have to drop it again. I am sure that both the Lord Privy Seal and the Home Secretary would like to deal with this matter if they deemed it possible at this time because these boys do have too low hours. If an Amendment is going to be moved I shall support it, but at the same time I look upon this Bill as a great step forward and hope it will be passed on its Second Reading without any opposition.
§ LORD LLOYD
My Lords, before the noble Viscount replies may I ask him a question? I listened very carefully to his remarks but I could not get any clear 478 statement as to what the Bill was going to cost. We have just heard that some of your Lordships are under the impression that we are actually going to save money on the Bill. I would like to know if that is the fact. I think the Lord Privy Seal stated that we were going to save money in some respects, and I gathered by inference that it would cost more in other respects. Will he give us a definite estimate of the financial effect of the Bill? At a moment like this, in a crisis of national finance, what will the country think if we pass a measure of this kind without having even an estimate of its cost? I feel strongly on this question of economy and I think we are entitled to ask for a clear estimate of what the expenditure is likely to be in the near future. I entirely agree with Lord Banbury of Southam that, however good the Bill may be, it is a thing which we may have to wait for if necessary if it is going to increase the charge on the public.
THE EARL OF FEVERSHAM
My Lords, my excuse for presuming to detain you on this interesting debate is that I have had experience myself as a social service worker in putting into practice the provisions of the Act which has been referred to, the Children Act of 1908, which your Lordships' House sanctioned twenty-four years ago when I myself was a child of very tender age. During the course of that experience I believe I may have seen the working of the juvenile court from a rather different angle from that from which members of this House are accustomed to see it, and consequently I am tempted to offer my observations upon the Bill now before the House. I saw one or two noble Lords smile at the last sentence, but I do not wish in any way to implicate myself as coming to your Lordships with criminal tendencies, nor to imply that your Lordships have been concerned with the proceedings of criminal courts in any but an administrative capacity.
The Bill must, I am sure, be welcomed by all those who are seriously concerned in child welfare, for it amends and brings up to date the Act of 1908, which has won for itself the title of the Children's Charter. Twenty-four years ago there were certain provisions in that Bill which were regarded by some 479 as revolutionary, but twenty-four years of progress and increased understanding of the problems of child life have shown those who have been closely connected with the work of children in the juvenile courts that what was then considered revolutionary is now looked upon as almost obsolete. During these days of economic and industrial depression it is a very pleasant and, I believe, a comparatively unusual occurrence that a measure for amending any social service should effect a financial saving. We have this afternoon been informed by the Lord Privy Seal that in certain respects the provisions of this Bill will cost more and in certain respects less. The Under-Secretary of State has assured us in another place that a saving of £8,000 per annum can he effected, and on that ground at any rate I am sure the Bill will commend itself to all sections of your Lordships' House. I have worked myself in a juvenile court as a probation officer, and the experience I gained there leads me to believe that far greater economies than those promised by the Under-Secretary of State could be effected, even without this additional legislation, if only we could ensure that the practice of social work in the courts was not allowed, as it is, to lag so far behind the letter and the intention of the law. With this in mind, I cannot but agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bertie of Thame, who moved the rejection of the Bill, in one respect, and one respect only, and that is that this Bill is one of numerous references to other Acts, and, further, that an outstanding feature of its clauses is a too frequent use of the word "may."
These defects in my opinion indicate compromise, and tend to complicate what would otherwise be a comparatively simple subject, for implied doubts lead obviously to argument and to confusion. I very much fear that too many discretionary decisions, left to so many authorities, will not promote the most efficient and economical administration of juvenile court work which this Bill hopes to supply. Many provisions in this Bill, I am sure, will provide what those social workers engaged in the interests of child welfare have been wishing to see for many years. An important provi- 480 sion is that which raises the age of the jurisdiction of juvenile courts from the sixteenth to the seventeenth birthday. One of the most difficult problems of social workers is caused by their inability to assist those parents of uncontrollable children over sixteen years of age. Time and again such appeals have been made by parents, but the existing age limit has rendered the juvenile court impotent to help, and the adult court is powerless until the delinquent actually commits a criminal offence. A case recently dealt with from the East End of London will, I think, illustrate my point. A girl of sixteen years of age, whose parents were entirely indifferent to her welfare, left home and occupied a room, the rent of which was paid by three young lads of a similar type. Nothing could be done either to protect or control that girl until she actually committed an offence. By extending the control of juvenile courts by that one important year, the sixteenth to the seventeenth birthday, such irresponsible persons may be saved from a life of wastage and crime.
The principal argument that I have heard against raising the age in the juvenile courts is that of the dangers of contamination of the younger children by the older and more depraved lads and girls who come into the same juvenile court. Unhappily in my opinion greater moral dangers to which those young children have to be exposed are to be met with every day in the streets, or even in the very buildings in which they have been brought up and live; and, compared with these dangers, I think the risk that they will run in a few hours by attending a well-organised and conducted juvenile court must be very small indeed. In the modern juvenile court I think we have now gone far enough in removing the fear and terror of the majesty of the law, and I would like to see proper safeguards for ensuring that such courts shall be indeed courts of discriminating justice, conducted with all the dignity that should appertain to a court of law in this realm.
The Bill provides for the separation of a juvenile court from the buildings used for other court purposes. In large cities like London and Birmingham this is a very excellent provision, especially if certain public-minded citizens will come forward and of their own munificence build 481 new and suitable premises for the purpose, as was done in the case of Birmingham. But what will happen in the many hundreds of small towns where new buildings cannot be erected, and where the existing suitable premises are limited? We may find that our juvenile courts will be held in the education committee offices, or in parish halls or institutes. In such surroundings I think it will become essential that we do not follow the tendencies of our American friends, and allow our juvenile courts of justice to deteriorate into inquiry offices where kindly old gentlemen interview young offenders, or even budding gunmen, across a green baize-covered table. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the Home Secretary will exercise one of those "mays" that the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, referred to, and that he will, under Clause 1, which empowers him to do so, allow a juvenile court to remain in the same building as that in which other courts are held provided that no other suitable premises are available. Equally important it is that inspection should be given to the premises which juvenile courts will occupy outside police court buildings. I should like to have the assurance of the Lord Chancellor that he will make rules governing the inspection and approval of such buildings.
During the Second Reading of the Bill in another place the Under-Secretary said that the success of the whole system of juvenile courts depended on choosing whether the right treatment for a child was committal to an approved school, to what is now an industrial or reformatory school, or to probation. I consider this to be an extremely important point. The magistrate, in making the necessary decision, is to a great extent dependent upon the information given by the investigator, and since the passing of the Probation of Offenders Act of 1907 those investigations have usually been made by the probation officer of the court concerned. Clause 20 of the Bill, which deals with this aspect of juvenile court work, has led to a very great deal of misgiving amongst probation officers and to a certain amount of speculation amongst the officials of local authorities, because it appeared to leave the whole question of preliminary investigations—an important point—in the hands of a local authority. This was pointed out to the Under-Secretary of State, and the Bill was amended, but its 482 wording is still so ambiguous that I am certain it will lead to considerable doubt and endless confusion.
Probation, very simply stated, means discipline and reclamation of a young offender in his own home, but under the supervision of the probation officer. The whole work naturally falls into two parts: first, the preliminary investigation which shows why the offender has got into trouble, and then the important and often tedious and lengthy job of reclaiming the offender. The success of the second part is dependent upon the efficiency of the first, and it is essential that the probation officer should make his own investigations himself. There is no suggestion that the local authority have not their own important part to play in the making of these investigations, but it is essential to successful probation work that the probation officer should make the inquiries himself concerning those persons for whose reclamation he will be held responsible by the court. To clear up the present ambiguity that exists in the wording of Clause 20 I propose at a later date to propose an Amendment to this clause.
I am disappointed—and I am glad to know that there is another noble Lord who happens to sit opposite who shares my disappointment—that the Bill retains an altogether unnecessary relic of the criminal courts by the retention of the term conviction. We no longer concentrate attention upon the offence. We look now at the offender, and there is nothing to be gained by starting our treatment of him by formally recording a conviction against him. I know that the Under-Secretary is with me in this matter, for he has stated in another place that he proposes to overcome the difficulty by recommending to the Lord Chancellor the framing of a regulation that will eliminate the use of the words conviction and sentence from the juvenile court, and the substitution of more suitable words. It has, however, been suggested to me that such a regulation as the Under-Secretary had in mind might be held to be ultra vires, because it would affect what is the power of Statute Law. I should, therefore, like to take this opportunity of asking the noble and learned Lord Chancellor whether such a regulation could in fact be made under Clause 6, subsection (1) of this Bill. If the regulation could be made I should then 483 like to know what advantage it would possess over a clause in a Bill which would make the alteration by Statute. If, on the other hand, such a regulation is impracticable, I should again at a later date like to propose an Amendment to overcome the difficulty. It is far from my intention that there should be any sentimentality whatever shown in the treatment of a young offender, and I have no desire whatever that proper records should not be kept in the juvenile courts, but if the only objection to this alteration of the curtailment of the conviction is a sentimental one, I would appeal to this House to waive the objection, and to remove what appears to be an unnecessary relic of obsolete and repressive methods.
The noble Lord, Lord Banbury, has this afternoon emphasised the fact that many of the eighty-seven clauses in this Bill will mean an increase to the expenditure whether through rates or whether through direct national taxation of the citizen. I wish, if I may make so bold, to contend against that argument of the noble Lord, for the short practice I have had in the administration of probation and juvenile court work in general has shown me that we can improve to a very considerable extent the letter of the law as it stands to-day, and, although I do not hold that this measure before the House is an ideal one, I hope that by your Lordships sanctioning this Bill it will at least enable those officials and workers to further greater economies. To-day we find that the work of investigation, the work even of supervision, is being carried out by those whose numbers could be reduced and I contend that it is a false argument to imply that trained investigators, that trained officials who deal specifically with juvenile work, will not be an economy.
On the other hand, reference has been made to observation homes. It is a matter of great regret to all those interested in delinquency that observation homes have not been established at the present day, but I entirely support the noble Viscount, the Lord Privy Seal, who said that he hoped that such observation homes will be able to come into force when the present depressed circumstances improve. I do, however, hope that power will be given to authorities to establish such observation homes at 484 a later date without the matter having again to come before your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, has at some length referred to the matter of children in unregulated trades, and the restriction of hours. I believe I am correct in repeating that the noble Lord mentioned that no financial crisis can prevent us from working children to this extent. May I suggest to your Lordships' House and to the noble Lord in particular that a financial crisis can, and very nearly did, prevent us from working not only children but adults to any extent. I again support the Government in the hope that we will see that children in unregulated trades have greater regulation of hours when time permits.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SANKEY)
My Lords, as the noble Earl has appealed to me I am sure I am sensing your Lordships' opinion when I venture to congratulate the noble Earl on the speech he has just made and thank him for the very valuable contribution he has made to the debate. I hope that we may often hear him on future occasions. With regard to the appeal which he has made to me I will certainly carefully consider the matter, and may I add that it would be of great assistance to me if he would send me any suggestion he may desire to make to accomplish his purpose.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
My Lords, although it is not a popular role to say anything which may seem, in any way, to criticise a measure of this kind, which as far as I can see in its main provisions is useful, yet I feel I must in a few sentences support my noble friend Lord Banbury and my noble friend Lord Lloyd on the question of economy. If twenty Under-Secretaries in another place stated that this Bill would save £8,000 a year I would beg respectfully to say that they were misinformed. I have never come across an Act of Parliament which did not increase costs to the taxpayer and the ratepayer. As a matter of fact the London County Council estimate that the Bill will cost them £10,000 a year and my own county council estimate that there will be, not a very large but still a material increase of expenditure. It seems to me, therefore, that if you read all the various clauses in the Bill to which my noble friend Lord Banbury referred 485 and some which he did not mention you must be quite convinced that an increased charge will fall upon the taxpayer and the ratepayer.
Therefore it comes to this. Is the need of this Bill so urgent that at the present moment we should face this extra expenditure? Risking taking the unpopular side, I say advisedly that no increase of public expenditure at the present moment is justified. We had a statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made to the bankers a week or two ago, that the Government are contemplating drastic and quite new economies. It seems strange if we are going to have drastic new economies that we should also have a Government Bill which is going to increase taxation. We had the First Commissioner of Works stating last week that the financial crisis was by no means over and that in fact we could look forward to a worse time in a very few months. We have had the Lord President of the Council referring to that speech but not really disagreeing with him. In view of all that it seems to me that, however good the object of the measure may be, it is a mistake at the present moment to enact a further charge not only on the taxpayer but also on the ratepayer. A feeling has been growing up lately among the great local governing authorities, the borough councils and the county councils, that a stop should be put to the passing by Parliament of Acts which, without the consent of those local bodies, impose duties upon them and consequent charges upon the ratepayers which the local authorities have no chance of avoiding. They must carry out Acts of Parliament, and unless a halt is called to this increasing expenditure I see no hope at all of any decrease in taxation, but rather an increase.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, we have heard a great deal about the economic side of this Bill and quite rightly so. I agree that this is a time not for spending but for saving. There is, however, one point which has not been dwelt upon to any great extent, although we have heard it mentioned I think by the right rev. Prelate who spoke, and the noble Viscount also mentioned it. That is the provision doing away with whipping. It is rather hidden away in one of the Schedules to the Bill. I gather that under the provisions of this 486 Bill a boy under seventeen can be sent to prison. If that is so, then I think it is important to remember that certain overseas countries refuse to take lads who wish to emigrate if they have been to prison in this country. It seems to me, therefore, that whipping would be a better thing for the boy than being sent to a prison. I am quite sure that the noble Viscount himself would never have reached the high position he has reached in the estimation of his countrymen if it had not been for castigation in his youth. What is there against whipping? They say it has a hardening effect, but when I look round your Lordships' House —and I doubt whether there is any one of your Lordships who has not been whipped at some time of his life—I see no sign of that hardening process among your Lordships. I would ask that some consideration should be given to this point by the noble Viscount, for whipping is a strong deterrent. I myself have been whipped in youth and it was to me a very strong deterrent. I am perfectly sure that it would be a mistake to do away with such a deterrent.
My Lords, we were asked by the noble Lord, Lord Mount Temple, whether this Bill is so urgent that it need be passed now. I have just come from a great meeting at the Mansion House held by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, for which I have worked for more than forty years, and I declare to you that this Bill is looked forward to by that society with the greatest possible hope and with a belief in its absolute urgency. It must have been a great pleasure to the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, to go through the clauses of this Bill.
I thought he was rather pleased in going through the clauses. Anyhow he went through them with a good deal of care. He picked out from the Act of 1908, which we call the Children's Charter, the only blot in that charter. That charter in 1908 established that the child as well as the parents had rights. But just because there was one little flaw in that Act the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, has thrown ridicule so to speak upon it. I do not know whether 487 your Lordships realise the extent to which cruelty to children obtains. Oddly enough for one bearing my name I am not going to appeal for money. I am only going to let you know that last year the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children protected no fewer than 106,000 children from every sort of brutality which inhumanity could invent. This Bill is the outcome of consultation between the society and the Home Secretary.
I do not understand the procedure of your Lordships' House well enough to know the answer to the question whether this Bill can go to a Second Reading and be amended afterwards, but it would be absolutely deplorable if this House divided on the Second Reading of the Bill. There are three clauses in the Bill which are absolutely necessary for child life—that is perhaps rather an exaggeration; but here is a clause, Clause 9, that for twenty-four years we have been trying to get. At present it is impossible by procedure in courts of summary jurisdiction to remove a young girl from a home where her mother, residing probably in one room, lives as a prostitute unless the child is neglected physically or found wandering. For twenty-four years this has been a great failing, and it would be a thousand pities to allow the present opportunity of adjusting that evil to go by. Your Lordships would scarcely believe the number of cases in which we shall act under that clause.
Then with regard to Clause 63. For years the society and others have been pressing to have the law altered so that persons receiving a child for adoption shall give notice forty-eight hours before they receive the child rather than forty-eight hours after because, with forty-eight hours before the adoption, we can make proper inquiry as to the person who is to take charge and whether the accommodation is fit. Clause 66 contains another provision we have wanted for years—that it should be an offenceto publish any advertisement indicating that a person whose name and address are not disclosed will undertake, or will arrange for, the nursing and maintenance of an infant under the age of nine years.We thought we had scotched baby farming, but recent cases show we have not. This clause will certainly materially help. I say most earnestly that it would be 488 deplorable for the whole country if we did not pass the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ VISCOUND SNOWDEN
My Lords, may I be permitted to associate myself with what the Lord Chancellor has said in congratulating the Earl of Feversham on his very successful first speech in this House? It was not only a very eloquently-expressed speech, but it showed a very keen sympathy with the subjects dealt with in this Bill and a very practical knowledge of these questions. I had the pleasure of being a colleague in the House of Commons with the father of the noble Earl, whose premature death was a great loss to the country, and it is a satisfaction to know, as it would have been a great pleasure to his father to see, that his son is following in his footsteps in public service.
I want to thank your Lordships for the generally very favourable consideration and approval you have given to this Bill. Naturally there has been criticism or observations upon detailed points in the Bill, but I think the Committee stage will provide a more suitable opportunity for dealing with those matters. I was very relieved to discover the reason which had induced the noble Lord to put down the Motion of rejection. I gather it is not that he is opposed to the provisions of the Bill, but that he objects to this abominable and outrageous example of that pernicious system of legislation, legislation by reference. Well, I think few of us who are not lawyers like legislation by reference, and I believe there have been efforts made in recent years to try to restrict as far as possible that method of constructing legislation. But I am afraid the noble Lord will have to live long if he lives to see that ideal state where legislation is so framed that it will be understood by everybody and that no two constructions can be placed upon it. That will certainly not be a very idealistic state for the lawyers.
The noble Viscount, Lord Bertie of Thame, raised three points. He referred first of all to the injustice of mixing up delinquents and neglected children. If the noble Lord will refer to the Bill and to what I have said in explanation of it, I think he will see that the Home Secretary is given powers to grade these schools according to the character of the inmates. I think that will in large 489 measure meet the noble Viscount's point. In regard to arrest and taking children to the police station, under Clause 14 of the Bill the constable who takes charge of a child can convey it to any place of safety, not necessarily to the police court. There have been many references in the debate to whipping and expressions of regret by some noble Lords that the Bill proposed to abolish whipping. In my speech I said that this has largely fallen into disuse. The courts very seldom inflict a sentence of whipping on a child or young person because their experience has been that it is neither desirable nor effective. It is considered, as, I said in my speech, a discredited form of punishment.
The noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, raised a few points and may I thank him and his Labour colleagues for the support they are going to give to the Bill? Their criticism is not so much of the contents of the Bill as of what the Bill omits to do. Lord Sanderson has been supported by other noble Lords in his wish that convictions should not be recorded against these youthful offenders. The noble Earl, Lord Feversham, explained that the Under-Secretary had stated in another place that it was hoped, perhaps by regulations or some other means, to effect the same object, and I am sure it is an object which will have the sympathy of every member of this House. Lord Sanderson also pleaded that the probation officer should be associated with the inquiries into the surroundings of the children. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent that. The inquiries will be undertaken by the local education committees and I should think it would be extremely likely that they would call in the assistance of the probation officer. In regard to observation centres I think there is contemplated an extension of remand homes which will supply, for the time being at any rate, something of what the supporters of observation homes hope to get from such centres.
The other criticism of the Bill has been on financial grounds, and I see that the noble Lord, Lord Banbury of Southam, is still very zealous for economy in public expenditure. But the noble Lord, if I may be permitted to say so, has, I think, never yet appreciated the wisdom of the scriptural saying, that 490There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.There is a true and a false economy, and I can imagine no economy more false than economy at the expense of the physical, moral and spiritual welfare of the children of the nation. One would imagine, from the list of clauses quoted by Lord Banbury of Southam, all of which he says are going enormously to increase expenditure, that the cost of this Bill would run into millions of pounds a year. I made a general statement near the conclusion of my speech, that if we balance the contemplated savings and expected expenditure under the Bill, no additional expenditure will fall upon the State.
Lord Mount Temple said that he attached very little importance to the estimate that had been furnished to another place by the Under-Secretary. I would not for a single moment challenge the noble Lord's claim to be a greater authority upon the finances of the Bill than the Under-Secretary to the Home Office. An explanatory Memorandum was issued when the Bill first made its appearance, and there an estimate is made of the contemplated savings and expected expenditure. It is estimated that the inclusion of this new age group, from sixteen to seventeen, based upon the estimated number of young offenders, will cost the Treasury £23,000 a year, and then there is, as an additional expenditure, the provision which makes the local education authority the body to whose charge children have to be committed. The education grants in regard to maintenance will cost another £25,000 a year. That is an increase of £48,000 a year.
§ VISCOUNT SNOWDEN
Lord Banbury of Southam in his fearful picture of the tremendous burden which the Bill is going to entail was, I think, suffering from the failing of all zealots—namely, something of exaggeration. On the other side it is expected that economies will be effected. It is estimated that the sending of 491 children to the approved schools, instead of to Borstal, will effect a saving of £56,500 a year. Those were the estimates before the Bill emerged from Committee in the House of Commons, and an Amendment was made raising the age at which children must be detained in these approved schools from fourteen to fifteen, and that will involve an additional expenditure of £8,000 a year. So it is estimated that the savings and expenditure will just about balance.
§ VISCOUNT SNOWDEN
There is no direct charge upon the taxpayer, as I have said, but I am not in a position to give any estimate as to what is the increased expenditure upon local authorities.
§ LORD LLOYD
Will the noble Viscount agree that it will probably be very considerable—quite considerable?
§ VISCOUNT SNOWDEN
It all depends upon what you mean by considerable—whether the noble Lord would consider £10,000 to be considerable or £20,000 a
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.