HL Deb 25 May 1937 vol 105 cc224-7

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a third time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a.—(Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal).


My Lords, on the occasion of the Second Reading of this Bill I thought it my duty to give expression to the anxiety which is felt by local authorities in Scotland at the conditions which exist at present in the matter dealt with by this Bill and kindred Bills, from the point of view that so little advantage has been taken of the provisions for setting up juvenile courts. In only two counties has action been taken. I expressed also the fear that this Bill consolidating a number of Acts would consolidate this position and "dig in," so to speak, rather increasing thereby the difficulty. The noble Lord who introduced the Bill gave me an assurance that this Consolidation Bill was merely for the purpose of consolidating the various Acts dealing with children and young persons and that no possible new matter could be introduced. That assurance was confirmed and emphasised by the noble and learned Viscount who sits upon the Woolsack in advice given to me privately afterwards. But in spite of that, and in spite of the fact that the Bill subsequently came before a Joint Committee, this anxiety still exists.

I may say that that anxiety has not been removed by the fact that the Joint Committee which made an investigation of the Bill has introduced certain Amendments. In fact the introduction of these Amendments has rather indicated that the fears which I expressed were not groundless. While, therefore, it would be out of order and inappropriate at this time to suggest any amendment of the Bill, however much one might feel that the conditions would thereby be improved, I still feel it important to remind your Lordships, first of all, of the fact that the conditions under which we are operating in Scotland do not encourage local authorities to set up juvenile courts and that the position has not been improved in any way by the introduction of this Consolidation Bill, although the consolidation of a large number of Acts is warmly welcomed by any one who has to operate any of them. My point is that the anxiety in reference to a Consolidation Bill of this kind is in appreciating the difficulties of any draftsman in amalgamating in one Bill sentences which appear in different Acts and thereby ensuring that the same interpretation is given. That anxiety is a real and great one, and I would like; to suggest that even if we are assured, as we have been assured, by the Joint Committee which has investigated the Bill that the language of the present Bill is in accordance with the Acts which it supersedes, there is none the less a possibility that, by implication if not by language, there may be some further influence introduced which will make the difficulties which exist greater and lessen the possibility of concrete and definite action in the way which is desired.

I should like specially to draw the attention of the noble Lord to a comparison between Clause 50 (5) of the present Bill and Section 1 (6) (a) of the 1932 Act, which illustrates the point I have in view. Section 50 (5) of this Bill says: … any power or duty conferred or imposed on a juvenile court may be exercised or performed by any court of summary jurisdiction having jurisdiction in that place … So far as I can trace, the provision in the 1932 Act which this seeks to interpret is in the following words: … any power or duty, conferred on a juvenile court shall … be exercisable by a court of summary jurisdiction, acting in pursuance of Section III of the principal Act. It is very difficult for a layman to follow exactly legislation by reference in the case of a number of Acts, but I suggest it has increased the anxiety which local authorities feel regarding this Bill that some further power of coercion is introduced transferring—which is the main point of the appeal by the County Council of Fife, which is one of those who have established juvenile courts—not only the jurisdiction from the Crown to the justices, but transferring also the payment for these courts from the Imperial Exchequer to the local ratepayer, without making any proper provision for it in the Statute. That is the point of anxiety which exists, and I hope the noble Lord may be able to reinforce the assurance which he gave to me on the Second Reading.


My Lords, I was aware that the noble Earl intended to raise this point at this stage of the Bill, but I find some difficulty in seeing my way to satisfy him because the matter has been already dealt with by a Joint Committee. The noble Earl referred to the difference in the wording between Clause 50 (5) and Section 1 (6) (a) of the 1932 Act. I am given to understand that the Select Committee satisfied themselves that the Bill does not alter the law. I am also informed that while the language may differ the effect is exactly the same. The 1932 Act contains provisions applying to the specially constituted juvenile courts substantially identical with those contained in Section III of the 1908 Act. It was therefore unnecessary in the Consolidation Bill to re-enact Section III, and it was much simpler to apply to all juvenile courts the provisions of the 1932 Act. I think the noble Lord may rest satisfied with that explanation. I would also remind your Lordships that the Joint Committee sitting on this Bill said that they had made such Amendments as seemed to them to be required to bring it into conformity with the existing law, or to be necessary for the improvement of its form. They went on to say: The Committee are of opinion that the Bill, as amended, is pure consolidation and represents the existing law of Scotland. I hope the noble Lord will feel assured, therefore, that no substantial change has been made or is contemplated in this measure.

On Question, Bill read 3a, and passed, and sent to the Commons.