HL Deb 20 April 1948 vol 155 cc157-61

2.37 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.


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

Moved, That the Bill be now read 3ª.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, I do not think we ought to pass from this Bill without a few words of comment. The Bill has been marked in its stages through this House by extremely good co-operation between us all to see that as perfect a measure as possible goes from this House to another place on the all-important matter of the care of children who, for some reason or another, are deprived of homes of their own. I would like to take this opportunity once more of thanking the noble and learned Viscount and the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, for the way in which they have dealt with the various points made on the passage of this Bill. I know that the best and most reputable of the voluntary societies are now very satisfied with the revisions which, between us, we have been able to make.

There is on the Order Paper an Amendment standing in my name, but perhaps I may say now that I do not intend to move it, because the assurance which the noble and learned Viscount gave me on the Report stage completely covers the point which I then attempted—and attempted successfully—to make. That assurance will give a great deal of satisfaction to those societies most concerned in the proper emigration of these children from our shores. I thought your Lordships would forgive me for making those few observations on what I think leaves this House an extremely good Bill. We hope that it will be administered in the country—because it is in the administration more than anything else that this matter will count—in the same keen desire to do something worth while for these children that has been shown during the discussions in your Lordships' House.


My Lords I would like to add just a few words of appreciation and gratitude to the noble and learned Viscount for the great sympathy and patience with which he has met those of us who put down Amendments—I am afraid sometimes a large number of Amendments—to this Bill. We thank him also for the amount of time and thought that he has been able to give to this measure.

Before the Bill leaves your Lordships' House, there is just one general point which I would like to urge; and it rather reinforces what the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, has said about the spirit in which it should be administered. I feel very strongly that the success of our plans and our hopes for these handicapped children will depend to a considerable extent upon the relationship between those in the Home Office, in the centre, and those in local authorities who carry out this particular measure. I trust most earnestly that there will be real co-operation, friendship and understanding between all concerned. It seems to me that this is particularly applicable in the training for child care under Clause 44 of the Bill. I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount for the assurance which he gave of consultation over this matter, but I would urge that, particularly here, there should be a real partnership between the Home Office in London and the local authorities: and that those with whom the people who have been trained are to serve should have an effective voice in planning the extent and character of that training.

There is one further point which I believe is generally accepted; that is, that he who pays the piper calls the tune. In this case the local authorities are to find, I believe, 50 per cent. of the payment for the piper, in that it is deducted from the grants that would come to them. I hope, therefore, that they will have a considerable say in the character and the number of tunes and accordingly the amount of payment which will have to be made to the piper. I hope and believe that this Bill will do much to secure the welfare and happiness of a most deserving and unfortunate class who are little able to speak for themselves.


My Lords, I echo the sentiments which have been expressed by my two noble friends. My principal object in rising is to correct a mis-statement which I made in my speech on the Second Reading of this Bill. I was discussing the advantages of boarding-school education in relieving the pressure on family life, and I mentioned that certain local authorities had adopted a somewhat negative attitude towards the rights given to them under the 1944 Education Act with regard to boarding schools. I mentioned in that connection the London County Council. For this I have been taken to task, in a very polite letter from a lady who occupies a prominent position on the London County Council. I ask your Lordships' leave to read a short extract. This is what the lady said: I would like to tell you that the London County Council approved a scheme of boarding school education in December, 1946, and, as a result, already there are some 240 children in 121 boarding schools on the Council's responsibility. It is expected that the number will be increased to about 400 by September, 1948. These numbers could hardly be increased substantially without depriving other local education authorities of the opportunity of securing a reasonable proportion of the very limited number of suitable boarding school places now available for local education authority pupils. This is certainly not to be described as a negative attitude towards the question. I could wish, however, that it were still more positive. And I hope that in future a much higher proportion of local authority children will be able to go to boarding schools, as I am convinced that that is a sound and necessary measure with a beneficent, if limited, effect upon the problem of the unhappy home. I hope I may be forgiven for pointing out that had the London County Council felt able to co-operate with public schools, and to send some of their children to occupy places at public schools, the somewhat small numbers attending boarding schools might have been considerably increased. That, however, is hardly relevant to the present Bill.

I would add only one general point. A great measure of improvement will result if the Home Office are able to receive large priorities with regard to the building of homes for children. I am well aware how exceedingly difficult it is to obtain permits to erect new buildings, and I should not be surprised if many years elapse before adequate homes of the cottage type recommended by the Curtis Committee are available. At the same time, I am perfectly sure that it will be in accordance with the wishes of the majority of people in this country that such claims as the Home Office may make in connection with this matter shall receive most sympathetic consideration from His Majesty's Government.

2.45 p.m.


My Lords, on behalf both of my noble friend Lord Morrison and myself, it would be only courteous to thank those of your Lordships who have spoken for what has been said. I always feel that when we are on ground which does not involve divisions of Party politics—and how often we are on that ground !—an immense amount of useful work can be done by preparation behind the scenes and by my giving your Lordships the opportunity of meeting the various departmental experts so that we can discuss the whole matter round the table. So long as I occupy this position that, I hope, will always be so.

With regard to the hope which the noble Lord, Lord Addington, expressed, that there would be a kind of partnership between the central authority—the Home Office—and the local authorities, I may say that I very much hope so too. As your Lordships know, we attach great importance to the children's officer, to the fact that the children's officer should be a highly qualified person, and that he or she should not dissipate his or her energies on other matters. But of course there may be exceptional cases, and particularly those in which there is not enough work for the officer to do; and in those cases I am sure the Home Office will consider the matter sympathetically.

Then there are many respects in which the Home Office have the right to make regulations. I think it desirable that they should have that right, because they will be able to persuade various local authorities to act in an up-to-date way and in accordance with the light and guidance which has been accumulated by experience. I assure the noble Lord that local authorities will have a very wide measure of discretion in carrying out their work in the administration of this Bill. It is on the local authorities that success or failure will turn. Do not let us as yet think that we have solved this problem. We certainly have not. With the experience which we shall acquire let us be prepared for the many tasks which lie ahead in taking care of our children—our most priceless heritage. I am grateful to your Lordships for what you have said.

On Question, Bill read 3ª.

Third Schedule [Enactments Repealed]:


My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment. The words "where the expression last occurs" have been found to be unnecessary. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 47, line 31, leave out (" where the expression last occurs.")—(Lord Morrison.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Amendment (Privilege) made; Bill passed and sent to the Commons.