§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD AIREDALE in the Chair.]
§ Extension of power to promote welfare of children
§ 1.—(1) It shall be the duty of every local authority to make arrangements for such advice, guidance and assistance to be available, as far as practicable, as may promote the welfare of children by diminishing the need to receive children into or keep them in care under the Children Act 1948 or the principal Act or to bring children before a juvenile court 164 as being in need of care or control; and any such arrangements may, if the local authority think fit, include arrangements for giving assistance in kind or, in exceptional circumstances, in cash.
§ (3) A local authority shall from time to time make to the Secretary of State such reports on the nature of the arrangements made by them under this section as he may specify.
§ (4) In this section "child" means a person under the age of eighteen.
§ LORD LATHAM moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "to make arrangements for". The noble Lord said: I should like first to express the regrets of my noble friend Lord Stonham that he is delayed in reaching your Lordships' House. In those circumstances, I have been asked to move certain of the Amendments appearing in his name on the Marshalled List. Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 really go together, and my remarks will be applicable to them both collectively although, of course, I must first move Amendment No. 1.
This Amendment and Amendment No. 2 are not mere verbal niceties; they are of importance. Clause 1 of this Bill is one of the most important clauses in the Bill. It is the purposeful clause, as it were, as it is also the governing clause. The aim of the Amendment I am moving is to place on the local authorities themselves a primary duty to provide—and I emphasise the word "provide"—advice, guidance and assistance: in other words, to employ staff and to set up a proper organisation for carrying out the Bill's intentions. It is not sufficient, I submit, for the local authorities to have a duty merely—and I quote the words of the clause—
to make arrangements for such advice, guidance and assistance to be available …
for this could be interpreted—and such an interpretation, I submit, would be against the intention of the clause—as enabling a local authority to arrange for some other agency to act on its behalf. No one would then be in a position to control the work or ensure that it was developing in the way intended by the clause.
§ The proposed Amendment would not exclude local authorities from cooperating with suitable voluntary agencies in the work involved, but it would ensure that responsibility for positive action rested upon the local authority itself. I should like to make it 165 abundantly clear that in moving this Amendment I am casting no reflection at all upon local authorities or local government. I am, I think I may say, a local government man, and I have every apreciation for the zeal, zest, and ability with which many local authorities have carried out, and are carrying out, work for the benefit of children and young persons. Nor is the Amendment designed to criticise the work of the voluntary agencies, many of which, of course, have rendered splendid service to the community in the provision of welfare and protection for young children and young persons. The Amendment is intended to strengthen the sense of responsibility of the local authorities. The clause then, as it were, calls for positive action on the part of the local authorities, and I hope that the noble Earl may feel himself able to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 8, leave out ("to make arrangements for".)—(Lord Latham.)
§ LORD BURDEN
I should like to support the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Latham. I do not propose this afternoon to go over the ground which I travelled during the Second Reading of the Bill except to say that what I then stated was amply confirmed by an article in the Daily Mail which told the human side of the story. Further facts were brought to light in the Evening Standard of yesterday. I believe that so far as Manchester is concerned what I said has been challenged, but my correspondent now submits further details, and I am in a position, if I wish to do so, to give the name of the institution to which my remarks in particular then applied. But what I am afraid of is that if the Amendment, or something like it, is not accepted by the Government, the conditions which I ventured to describe on the Second Reading of the Bill will continue.
Like my noble friend Lord Latham, I am a. local government man, having served as many years, I think, in local government as my noble friend. I am proud of my association with local government officers, and no one would speak more highly than I of the wonderful work which they have done. But the whole point of the argument which we are submitting and which we wish now, 166 on this vital clause, Clause 1, to put right for the future, is the breakdown as between two good, separate departments of local government; that is, the children's department and the social welfare department. The children's welfare department obviously deal with the problems of children who are taken into care, but I should like to widen the position—because it is absolutely necessary, if we are going to put this matter on a right footing for the future and bring home the fact that the problem of the children cannot be divorced from and separated from the family. That is where the breakdown is at the present time: in the separation of the interests of the children from the family.
In connection with that matter, the leading article in to-day's Times fortunately quotes from an essay written by Professor Donneson and published today by the Fabian Society, which says:Fabians to-day should be increasingly concerned about a new problem—the tendency for large scale specialised (and frequently competing) services, organised to meet arbitrarily defined needs, to lose touch with the individuals and families that form the complex human reality they are dealing with, and to disregard human needs for which there is no appropriate administrative category.We want that "appropriate administrative category" somehow or other worked into this Bill and into Clause 1. We have the opportunity now. I am afraid that unless we grapple with the position to-day, or while we are dealing with this Bill, it will still be possible for a social welfare department to say: "We are sorry, but we cannot deal with your children; that is a problem for the children's department." And the children's department will say: "No, it is not our job; it is the job of the social welfare department to house you." The unfortunate people will go back to the social welfare department and will be told: "We are sorry, but we cannot do anything for you. You cannot jump the queue of the people who are waiting for houses." There is the dilemma in which we find ourselves to-day.
I am sure that the approach to this problem by the noble Earl in charge of the Bill is humane and sympathetic, and I ask him to bear in mind that, if and when this Bill becomes law, we shall have an opportunity, administratively, to end conditions which ought not to exist to-day, even if it means a searching 167 reorganisation of local government departments, a merging of departments; having one agency, one department only, to deal with children's needs—whether they be homeless with their families, or homeless because they are orphans or for some other reason of that kind—who can deal with the problems and put them right. I hope that The noble Earl will help us along that road, which is, I am sure, most desirable.
The way this Amendment is drafted does not make sense. It will read, if carried:… to provide such advice … and assistance to be available … as may promote …Surely that is not grammatical.
§ 4.20 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (EARL JELLICOE)
I think that here is no disagreement over aims and purposes so far as Clause 1 is concerned, and I, for one, was extremely glad at the warm reception which, on the whole, Clause 1 obtained on Second Reading. I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Burden, that it is very important in tackling this whole problem, certainly in the preventive stage, to try to deal with the family as a whole. That, of course, is one of the aims behind Clause 1 of the Bill. I have not yet had a chance to read the Fabian pamphlet to which he alluded; it came out only to-day. To paraphrase a famous saying, we are all Fabians these days; and I will, of course, make it my task—and it will be a pleasant task—to read that pamphlet at a very early stage. I also agree with what the noble Lord said about trying to pin these responsibilities down within the local authority. That, of course we have tried to do, rather against the Ingleby recommendation, by pinning these Clause 1 responsibilities specifically on the children's department. As I made clear on Second Reading, we have done that in Schedule 3.
That said, may I turn to the specific Amendment before us? I would say straight away that I agree with my noble friend Lord Raglan; as worded at present the Amendment does not make very good grammar or very good sense. I would not wish to labour what is, I am sure, a technicality, but it may be a rather important technicality, and 168 possibly the noble Lord, Lord Latham, even though speaking for his noble friend, may be able to help me. I think the Amendment really requires either that the word "for" should be retained in Clause 1 or that the words "to be available" should be deleted. If the word "for" is retained, the Amendment would of course be quite a minor one, and I should be very willing to look at it. But if both the word "for" and the words "to be available" are dropped, the Amendment makes a much more substantial change.
I assume that it is the rather wider Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has in mind here. If so, I would suggest (although I am not at all unsympathetic to the aims behind the Amendment) that it should be resisted. because, as I see it, it has two defects. In the first place, as I painted out on Second Reading, we wish to avoid the situation in which the sort of family casework which we want to see undertaken under Clause 1 is, as it were, forced down the throat of some unwilling family. As I read it, this would be the effect of the noble Lord's Amendment, even though it may well not be the intention.
Because it would be the duty of the authority to provide; and therefore, whether or not the family wanted this particular assistance and advice given to them, it would be given.
§ LORD LATHAM
Surely it would not provide far forcible distribution. You provide the fire brigade, but you do not necessarily have the fire.
I think that if one has the fire then the fire brigade is under an obligation to put it out. But I do not wish unnecessarily to labour that particular point. I may have misread the Amendment.
There is, however, a very clear implication behind the Amendment, and it was, I think, made clearer by what the noble Lord, Lord Latham, said. That is that the services covered in subsection (1) of Clause 1, "advice, guidance and assistance", should be, and indeed must be, provided by the 169 local authority themselves. If the word "provide" were inserted I do not see how one can escape that conclusion. I need not say (because the noble Lord, Lord Latham, has said it for me) how much use voluntary organisations are in this field. That was made clear in the Ingleby Report. It was made clear again by my noble friend Lord Ingleby in his Second Reading speech. It was made clear, too, by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, again at Second Reading; and the noble Lord, Lord Latham, has himself stressed the importance of the work of the voluntary agencies in this field. I think that the scope for this work may well increase as the result of Clause 1, because we want to pull in all the various agencies, both statutory and voluntary, which are available to us. By doing so we enable more preventive work to be done, and by so doing I think we shall, in the long run, end up with that better co-ordination of the voluntary and statutory services for which the Ingleby Committee were pressing. But as I read the Amendment, as drafted, by making it a clear and definite obligation to provide rather than to make arrangements for these services to be available, either directly by the local authority themselves or through voluntary agencies, we should be, in fact, cutting out the work of the voluntary agencies, even though that is not intended. That is my reading of the Amendment.
But in any event I do not think that noble Lords need fear that the clause as drafted would permit the local authorities in some way to shuffle off their responsibilities for seeing that preventive work is done. If some noble Lords do fear that, I suggest that their fear is not a valid one, because it will remain the clear duty of the local authority—and that duty is very clearly stipulated right at the beginning of Clause 1—to ensure that the "advice, guidance and assistance" required are provided, either directly or through voluntary agencies, and to secure that these arrangements are adequate for the purposes we have in mind. However, the clause does leave it to the local authority, as the responsible body, to decide what arrangements best suit the circumstances of their particular area, and it leaves the door open 170 for their co-ordinating and bringing in the voluntary agencies. That, I suggest, is right. I may have misinterpreted the purpose of the Amendment; I do not think I have misinterpreted its effect, given the way in which it is drafted. I hope that, in the light of my explanation, and given my feeling at least that we are certainly not very far apart on this particular matter, the noble Lord opposite will not press his noble friend's Amendment here.
§ LORD LATHAM
I must say that I do not think the noble Earl has answered the case which I sought to put forward. He has indulged in a good deal of, shall I say? chatter about grammar and semantics, and what would be the result of this Amendment in company with Amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 4. But the primary case for this Amendment he really did not deal with; and it is this. It is desired by this Amendment to include in the Bill, and therefore to cast upon local authorities, the primary duty of providing these facilities and then to make arrangements for their use and their application. That is the gravamen of the Amendment, and it is an important Amendment, as I sought to indicate. I am sorry to hear that at this early stage of the consideration of the proposals of this Bill the noble Earl is not more receptive towards what I have said and what is clearly the purpose of the Amendment.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Before the noble Lord withdraws this Amendment, if he is going to do so, may I ask the noble Earl whether between now and the next stage of the Bill the Government would consider an Amendment to make the opening words of the clause read:It shall be the duty of each local authority to provide or to make arrangements for …and so on? If those words were then used, there is a definite duty laid down to provide. They could either then provide it themselves, or if they wished to use one of the admirable voluntary associations they could do so. I think there is a good case here for the duty to provide to be definitely laid down. I know that in my own local area the Women's Voluntary Services particularly provide hot meals for old people, but they find it difficult to get the service and often to get the cash out of the local authority. Eventually it arrives, but there has been a 171 lot of difficulty in getting it. Local authorities, while recognising that they have a duty, often do not act as quickly as they should, and if we strengthen this particular clause I think it would meet the point made by my noble friend.
§ 4.31 p.m.
I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Latham, that I was certainly attempting to answer the case that he was making for this Amendment. If I indulged in semantics, I will of course apologise; but it was not I who took the lead in pointing out that the wording of this Amendment was quite defective—it was in fact my noble friend, and I had the temerity to agree with my noble friend that this Amendment, if one looks at it, is clearly defective in its drafting. I saw no harm in making clear that I agreed with my noble friend. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Latham, would appear to have taken that amiss. I am also sorry that he felt that I was merely trying to shuffle away from the substance of his case here and was taking refuge in vague words. I do not think I was. I was attempting to address myself to a defective Amendment as best that defective Amendment allowed me to. My real trouble here is that the wording in the Amendment would seem to me—and this I endeavoured to point out, and I think I was perfectly relevant in so doing—to cut out working through the voluntary agency.
§ LORD LATHAM
May I interrupt the noble Earl? Again the noble Earl is not concerning himself with the purpose of the Amendment, which is to see that the obligation to provide is fairly and squarely laid upon the local authorities.
If the noble Lord could have restrained his impatience a moment I was coming to that. I quite agree that, given the defectiveness of the wording of this Amendment, I should try to see behind the wording to the real purpose of it. I say straight away that if the real purpose is to put the primary responsibility upon the local authority to see that these services are available, either direct or through local or voluntary agencies in the area, that is a purpose with which I, for one, fully agree. Whether that purpose is best met by 172 the wording in the Bill, as I think it is, or whether it is better met by the sort of wording which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has now suggested, I should not, thinking aloud while on my feet, be prepared to say. What I am prepared to say is that I will gladly consider between now and the Report stage some such wording as was suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, but I cannot guarantee that, having done so, I will not think that our wording is better.
§ LORD LATHAM
I am pleased to find that we have become ad idem upon this question, and, having regard to the offer of the noble Earl that the matter will be looked at between now and later on, I ask permission to withdraw the Amendment.
I should not wish there to be any misunderstanding here, and I do not want to appear to be discourteous to the noble Lord; but might I just say that my offer was principally directed towards the sort of wording which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, suggested?
§ LORD LATHAM
In order to help the noble Earl I deliberately used the word "offer" rather than "promise".
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.36 p.m.
LORD LATHAM moved in subsection (1), to leave out "as far as practicable". The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Stonham I beg to move Amendment No. 3. Again, Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 are linked together. Here again, I rather fear that we may have a field for grammatical contest. I hope that we shall both refrain from entering those lists at all events. The clause places a duty on county councils and county borough councils
to make arrangements for such advice, guidance and assistance to be available, as far as practicable, as may promote the welfare of children by diminishing the need to receive children into or keep them in care under the Children Act 1948"—
or the Children and Young Persons Act 1933
or to bring children before a juvenile court as being in need of care or control.
§ It is felt that the use of the words "as far as practicable" after the word "available" could be interpreted as 173 implying that local authorities can provide a limited service on the grounds that nothing more was practicable. This, in the submission of my noble friends and me, would be a wrong interpretation of the duty which is cast upon local authorities. The service is essential and must be provided. It is up to the local authority to see that it is practicable. No social service can guarantee that its efforts will succeed; therefore it is suggested that the limitation introduced by the words "as far as practicable" should govern the word "diminishing", so that the local authority must aim at diminishing as far as practicable the need for children to enter into care or to remain in care or come before the courts.
§ Here, again, I should like to say that this Amendment is no reflection upon the local authorities; it is, in fact, a transposition of words. But it does have this effect: it places the emphasis where it should be—on the obligation upon the local authorities to provide. Provision must, under the terms of the clause, be made—not "as far as practicable"; it must be made. The result, namely, the diminishing of the need, may be subject to practicability. I am reminded in this connection of the reported statement of Colbert, the French Minister, who was addressing, I think, Louis XVI, and who said, "Sire, if it is difficult, it is done. If it is impossible, it shall be done." We want that kind of spirit to be embodied in the terms of this clause. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 10, leave out ("as far as practicable").—(Lord Latham.)
At the risk of affronting the noble Lord, Lord Latham, I should like to say that in my view these words "as far as practicable" wherever they appear in the clause are otiose. No sane person would expect a local authority to do something that was not practicable.
Here, again, I do not think that we are in dispute over ends or purposes; it is merely a question of means and wording. I accept the noble Lord's invitation not to get involved in a semantic dispute on this particular Amendment. I would, however, point out to him that the duty laid on the local 174 authority by Clause 1 has been expressed, and I think is deliberately expressed, in wide and general terms. That has been done to allow for flexibility and in order to suit the local circumstances of a particular local authority. It is, however, our feeling that a duty as wide as this must be limited in some way, so that a local authority is not required to take extraordinary action which might conceivably diminish the need for children to come into care.
I will take a deliberately far-fetched example, which is not a very serious example but rather a reductio ad absurdum. If there were no qualification whatsoever, a local authority might consider it necessary and desirable to attach a social caseworker to any family at risk, or even two house-parlourmaids to any family of over a certain number of children. That is the deliberately absurd example. But, more seriously, as I see it, if we have no qualification of the sort which is at present in the Bill, it might be read to mean that the local authority would have a duty to give an overriding priority to this particular responsibility among their many other responsibilities. It could be argued then that their responsibilities an this field should take priority over their responsibilities in other allied fields: for example, welfare, housing or education, all of which fields, of course, impinge very closely upon the welfare of the children in their area. This is not what the clause is intended to mean, nor, I think, is it what it should mean. It is right, in my view, at least, that the local authority should be free to concentrate on the kind of preventive work they consider the most likely to succeed in the circumstances of their area.
The words "as far as practicable", placed where they are, to which the noble Lord takes exception, are, I suggest, useful as indicating that the local authority should have a reasonable regard to the means at their disposal and should be able to decide how best to deploy them. Indeed, I cannot see that there can be anything objectionable in placing those words where they are placed. It almost suggests, if the noble Lord does object to them, that he is saying that by deleting or transposing this phrase we should encourage local authorities to do preventive work beyond the limit of what is practicable. That to 175 me seems a curious doctrine, as I think it does to my noble friend, Lord Raglan.
May I point out that there is another factor here. In other Statutes which impose a very broadly phrased duty on local authorities a limit is set by some form of Ministerial control. One finds that in Section 28 of the National Health Service Act, 1946, and again in Section 29 of the National Assistance Act, 1948, read in conjunction with Section 34 of that Act. I am sure noble Lords do not wish me to go into the details of that, but in fact where there is a wide statutory duty of the sort which is found in Clause 1 there has been in other not dissimilar Acts a qualification placed by the need for Ministerial approval. In this Bill, rightly or wrongly (and noble Lords opposite might say wrongly, because one of their Amendments would require that form of Ministerial approval) we think that this is unnecessary. That is an additional reason why we feel we must have some qualification, and I do not consider that the phrase "as far as practicable" is a very heavy or limiting one inserted here.
I would better see the real point and purpose of this Amendment if there were any grounds to suspect that this clause of the Bill had been inserted as a matter of "window dressing", and if we were not just as anxious as the noble Lords opposite really to get a move on and also to get local authorities to get a move on with this preventive work. I do not think there are any grounds for any such suspicions. I hope, in view of that, and in view of the explanation which I have given, that here again the noble Lord will not wish to press this Amendment.
§ LORD LATHAM
I am obliged for the explanation, as the noble Earl terms it, but really the insertion of these words in this clause would not prevent the local authority from doing unreasonable things; these words would not impose a limitation upon them. The most absurd things would be "practicable" under the provisions of this clause, with these words included. The example of the two parlourmaids would be practicable and would not be precluded by the use of the words "as far as practicable". I should have thought it was unusual, notwithstanding the references by the 176 noble Earl, to have these words in this form in an Act of Parliament. I hope that the noble Earl will be willing to consider this Amendment with Amendments No. 1 and No. 2, and to leave the matter to be raised at a later stage in the consideration of the Bill. If he is prepared to do that—without any obligation, I quite appreciate—I shall be willing to withdraw the Amendment.
I am anxious to try to meet the noble Lord at the outset of a Bill whose speedy passage into legislation most of us I think desire, even though we may feed it has certain blemishes. I am afraid that I must rest on my fundamental argument that, without the qualification, there is not, as it were, the Ministerial sieve available here as is available for other Statutes which have similar very broadly phrased clauses in them. In this case I think some qualification is required of the sort which finds itself in the Bill.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD had given Notice of his intention to move, in subsection (1), to leave out "control" and insert "protection". The noble Earl said: This Amendment is really consequential upon an Amendment which will come later, so may I withdraw it now?
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
With great respect, I should have thought that it was incorrect to withdraw the Amendment now. I am looking forward to supporting the noble Earl on the Amendment which comes later, but, if we allow this Amendment to be withdrawn now, are we not preventing ourselves from opposing the second Amendment to which the noble Earl has alluded?
I did not wish to be unhelpful here. I am equally looking forward to opposing the noble Lord at a slightly later time. It is my feeling that, since this Amendment really bites on Clause 2, it would be better if we 177 could discuss it under Clause 2. I do not know whether under our procedure there is any way in which we can defer discussion of this point.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
It seems to me that it must be possible to defer the discussion, and I leave it to the Deputy Chairman of Committees to say how it can best be done, and how the withdrawal can best be phrased.
THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
I wonder if it would be for the convenience of the Committee if the noble Earl were to speak to this Amendment, now, saying at the same time that the later Amendment he has in mind is consequential on this one.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
With respect, that is what I do not want to do, because we think discussion would come up much better on Clause 2. But if the Amendment were carried on Clause 2, something would have to be put in here. I think those who have gone into it closely would rather have a discussion on Clause 2, so I think all I can do now is to say that I will not move this Amendment.
§ 4.52 p.m.
THE EARL OF LONGFORD moved to leave out subsection (3) and insert:
(3) Local authorities shall submit to the Secretary of State schemes showing how they propose to exercise their powers under the foregoing subsection, and also annual reports on the exercise of those powers; and the Secretary of State shall each year lay a summary of such reports before Parliament.
The noble Earl said: This is an important Amendment, and I have no doubt that it will be pressed in various places, possibly in various words, before this Bill finally becomes law. I need hardly remind the Committee, after what was said on Second Reading, and least of all need I remind the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, whom I am so glad to see here to-day, that the Ingleby Report made a recommendation in this connection which is brought out in subsection (3) of Clause 1 of the Bill. May I remind the House what the Ingleby Committee said? They suggested that:
There should be a statutory obligation on all local authorities to submit for ministerial approval schemes for the prevention of suffering of children through neglect in their own homes; it should be made clear to which
government department a local authority should look for advice or approval on matters of co-ordination.
Whatever may or may not be said about our proposal, no one could argue that subsection (3) of Clause 1 meets the proposal that I have just quoted of the Ingleby Committee. So, Whatever may be said later about infallibility of the Ingleby Committee, here at least I should hope to have not only the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, with us, but all who support his Report in a general way.
I think that all of us are at one with the Government in one sense: that we are all anxious to give effect to the first few words of Clause 1. I refer to the very important words:
It shall be the duty of every local authority to make arrangements for such advice, guidance and assistance to be available, as far as practicable, as may promote the welfare of children by …
and so on. The question, in one sense, is a question of means rather than ends, though I often think that that is rather a misleading distinction: it often causes more trouble than it is worth. But, in a sense, it is a question here of finding the right means to give effect to this agreed purpose, this purpose of making sure that the local authorities do take the steps which we want them to take to help the chilldren.
The real issue is whether, as this clause now stands, that effect will be secured. The present subsection (3) states:
A local authority shall from time to time make to the Secretary of State such reports on the nature of the arrangements made by them under this section as he may specify.
But, of course, the Secretary of State may not specify any reports. Though the first Secretary of State might do so—and I have certainly no reason to suggest that the present Secretary of State may not do so—the time may come when a later Minister may cease to specify such reports. If you say, "Why might he cease to specify these reports?" my answer is that he might find that the local authorities, or some of them, were too much for him. Here, therefore, there is perhaps some difference of priorities in our social thinking. Most of us on this side would probably hold the view shared widely elsewhere I should have thought, and also, I imagine, by the noble
Viscount, Lord Ingleby, and his colleagues on the Committee; that is, that it is essential to make sure that, in the last resort, the inferior authorities, the slack and backward authorities—and in any group of organisations some are usually found to be inferior in this wicked world—mill be induced to do their duty. If the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, informs us that what we are saying is not necessary, I shall be glad to hear him explain how the backward authorities will the induced to do their duty under the Bill as it stands.
I do not intend to speak much this afternoon, if only because I am afraid that I intend to speak at some length to-morrow, and I have a fixed quota of loquacity per week. But I will, if I may, use up a moment or two of your Lord-Ships' time now, to quote from one or two other Acts which I think are usually acceptable. For example, in the Children Act, 1948, Section 42 provides that:
Local authorities shall exercise their functions under … the general guidance of the Secretary of State.
The National Health Service Act, 1946, is rather closer to our case. Section 20 of that Act lays on every local authority the duty to submit to the Minister proposals for carrying out their duties in relation to local health services. So far as I know, that is not challenged by the Government in any way—at any rate, they continue to operate it. Under Section 20 (5) of the National Health Service Act, 1946, it is laid down that:
If any local authority fail to submit any proposals which they are required to submit within a period specified by direction of the Minister, the Minister may himself make proposals, and they shall have effect as if they had been submitted and approved ".
If you take the National Assistance Act, 1948, you will find that Section 29 (4) specifies the kind of arrangements which may be made, including those,
for informing persons to whom arrangements under that subsection relate of the services available".
Then Section 34 requires the submission of schemes to the Minister—though I will not quote at length.
§ Without saying that any of that wording is exactly appropriate here—though some of it might well be—I would submit that there is very strong precedence, and I should have thought generally 180 accepted precedence, for making far more certain than is made by subsection (3) of Clause 1, that the objects of the clause are carried out. I do not think I need say more now, but I may, of course, wish to exercise the right of reply when the noble Earl has spoken, and I have no doubt that I shall be supported from one quarter or another. But I would submit to the noble Earl, that whether the exact words of our Amendment are the best ones, it would be very rash not to recognise that there will be very strong feeling in this House and elsewhere, now and later, in favour of some such Amendment as this. Many of us will find it impossible to believe that, unless some such Amendment is adopted, you will in practice give effect to the main object, the universally accepted object, of the first clause of this Bill.
Page 2, line 1, leave out subsection (3) and insert the said new subsection.—(The Earl of Longford.)
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
I listened to the noble Earl with great interest. I thought myself, as I listened to him, of what would happen, for instance, on a children's committee—and I have been chairman of one for about fourteen years—if each year we had to submit a report and its summary which had to be incorporated in a report to Parliament by the Secretary of State. It conjures up a sort of mad Parkinson's Law in which one would have to employ Goodness knows how many extra secretaries and typists and things to get all this boiled down to a point at which it could be incorporated in a report to Parliament.
I think a very much simpler way of doing it—I cannot imagine anything which will delay matters more than doing it this way—is the way it is actually done now. What actually happens on a children's committee—and I think this happens everywhere, although I know only about the ones in Scotland—is that we work for a year, and we then make a report to the county council on the year's working of the children's committee in the same way as they do in the health service or in any of the other local government services. It is a fairly full report, and it is presented to the county council. It then goes, I think, or 181 at any rate it can go, to the Secretary of State for his use, so that he knows what is going on all lover the country. I have seen reports from large children's committees such as they have in Glasgow, Kent, which is a very big one, and London, where there is an enormous one. These reports go out every year, and it is part of the routine of a children's committee. I think that if one were to lay upon the Secretary of State the job of trying to boil down all these hundreds of reports (because it would be hundreds) to a report which was a summary and could be laid before Parliament every year it would be doing something which would be quite unnecessary, which would use an enormous amount of labour and time and would, I think, get us nowhere at all.
I think that the proposal in the Bill which says that:A local authority shall from time to time make to the Secretary of State such reports on the nature of the arrangements made by them under this section as he may specifyis in fact much more useful. The county councils themselves, whether they be borough councils, city councils or county councils, require the children's committees to make their reports to the county council each year, so you have it there. I think myself that it would be most time-wasting and money-wasting, and altogether unnecessary, to add the further burden to the Secretary of State of having to boil all this down and produce a report to Parliament every year. If anybody wants to know what is going on, he can do so because those reports are there, and I think that would be a much better way of doing it. I think that under the Bill as it stands the Secretary of State could call for any of those reports if asked to do so, or could make reference to them in speeches in another place (or here, as the case may be), and could give Parliament all the information it wanted, without laying a further obligation of great detail, of unnecessary detail, on to local authorities. I think it would be a mistake if we accepted this Amendment.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD MILVERTON
I hope that the Government will not accept this Amendment. I am given to understand that it has the very strong opposition 182 of local authorities—and, indeed, causes them some concern. The clause as it is at present drafted provides that a local authority shall from time to time make to the Secretary of State such reports as he may specify on the nature of the arrangements which are made in pursuance of the powers contained in this clause. Objection is not made by local authorities to the provision that they should submit reports when required to do so; but The Amendment goes so much further than this, and not only proposes that reports should be submitted annually but also provides that local authorities should submit schemes as to how they propose to exercise the powers which will be conferred on Them under Clause 1 of the Bill.
Underlying the whole thing is this feeling, with which one is familiar, of mistrust of giving authority to local authorities. The Amendment, to this extent, seems to implement, it is quite true, The recommendation of the Ingleby Committee, but local authorities are relieved to know that it has not at present been accepted by the Government in this Bill. The reason given by the Ingleby Committee for the submission of schemes by local authorities is the need to secure the co-ordination of services concerned in one way or another with child-care work. The desirability of such co-ordination is fully appreciated by local authorities, but they do feel that the answer does not lie in the compulsory submission of schemes as recommended by the Ingleby Committee.
It is appreciated, too, that there are precedents for such schemes; but the experience which has been gained under the National Health Service Act, 1946, and the National Assistance Act, 1948, has convinced the Association of Municipal Corporations, a body which incorporates a great deal of experience, that the practice is not worthy of extension or even of retention. Schemes tend to be restrictive in their operation if they are very detailed, while if they are prepared in outline only their value is very small. Moreover, the procedure for submitting schemes usually involves a great deal of administrative work, and when this has been completed the schemes have achieved nothing in themselves. The local authorities upon 183 whom the duty of promoting the welfare of children has been placed are, after all, responsible authorities who are anxious to develop and coordinate their child-care services to the full extent of their resources, and in pursuing this policy I suggest that they should not be subjected to that detailed control by the central Government which the submission of schemes inevitably implies.
The needs and circumstances of each area differ to such an extent that it would surely be unduly restrictive not to allow local authorities the discretion and the flexibility which is precluded if they have to plan their future arrangements so as to fit some stereotype form of scheme. We feel that if Parliament deems it necessary to ascertain the extent to which local authorities are carrying out their duties, this can best be achieved by the authorities' submitting to the Secretary of State such reports as he may require. This is the course which is at present provided in this Bill; and although it is true that reports possibly, or even probably, would be required annually, it would nevertheless be unfortunate if it were specifically provided in the Statute itself that such reports must of necessity be annual. In the course of time it may be that circumstances will arise in which the submission of reports at such frequent regularity will be inappropriate, and I can see no particular merit in imposing a fetter which would prevent the exercise of any discretion in the future.
So, not only from the point of view of the child-care service but also for the future of local government generally, it would, I suggest, be most unfortunate if this Amendment were accepted. The extension of the practice of submitting schemes can be only a retrograde step. That, I am informed, is the view of the Association of Municipal Corporations, and I have no doubt some noble Lord will be in a position (which I am not) to say what are the views of the County Councils Association. So I hope that this Amendment will not be accepted.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I am not entirely happy about the wording of the Amendment, but I see that there is a lot in it. It seems to me that we have already decided that there shall be a degree of 184 choice left to the local authority as to what they should do. The words which we sought to omit, "as far as practicable" remain, and that means that the poor local authorities—and in this connection I mean the bad ones—can very well slide away from some of their obligations. As those of us who have been engaged in local government know well, where the same duty is imposed upon local authorities one finds that some local authorities are enabled not to do as well as others. I think of the Education Act, for example, where one county council's local authority will make a first-class job of education in its area, while that in an adjoining county may do a very poor job. We have to try to find some means of "screwing up" the local authority who do not do as much as they ought in improving the services provided under this extremely important section. For that reason, I support the spirit of the Amendment, though not its exact wording.
The noble Earl, Lord Longford, made rather heavy weather of this matter at Second Reading of this Bill, and he has also made fairly heavy weather of it at the Committee stage. In view of that, I think I should explain why the Government have put, in this case, some water in the normally excellent wine of Ingleby and not taken the advice of my noble friend's Committee to make these preventive schemes subject to the approval of my right honourable friend. The schemes contemplated under Clause 1 will need to be worked out with the particular needs of individual authorities very much in mind; and those needs will vary. The question of what can be done, not only by the local authorities, under the existing or the new powers, but also by the various voluntary bodies on the area, must be taken into account. The performance and type of those voluntary bodies will again vary, perhaps considerably from area to area.
All in all, I would submit that there is a great deal in what my noble friends have said, and that the local authorities are really the people best placed to assess what needs to be done in their area and to judge how best that can be done. I grant that the position might be different if, in this field, there was a generally-accepted doctrine. But that is not 185 the position. I think that we shall all be feeling our way—Parliament, the Home Office, and, above all, local authorities—when we embark on this Clause 1 voyage. To a large extent I feel that our whole approach must be in some way experimental, and that seems to me an additional reason for not seeking at this stage to place local authorities in this respect in some sort of Whitehall straitjacket. Those are the two main reasons why we have not followed Ingleby here.
It is not quite clear to me, from the wording of this Amendment, whether the purpose of its sponsors is that my right honourable friend should have power to approve or amend Clause 1 schemes submitted to him by local authorities—I think that is the purpose of the immediately following Amendment which stands in Lord Stonham's name. If they do, then, as I see it, their Amendment is open to the objection I have advanced to the Ingleby proposal. If not, their Amendment seems to me to be rather pointless, unless one Wishes to argue—and I think the noble Earl, Lord Longford did so argue—that statutory requirements would make local authorities who were otherwise disinclined to do so, take these new responsibilities seriously.
I would merely point out that those local authorities with whom I have discussed Clause 1 are clamouring to have these new responsibilities laid upon them. It may be that there are other local authorities who are not interested in doing all they could do to prevent children coming into care in their area. I should hope not, but I certainty agree with the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that the performances of different local authorities vary. If there are inferior local authorities (to use Lord Longford's term) who, in fact, wish to duck this new responsibility I am sure they will find good ways of doing so, even if they are obliged to submit a paper scheme for my right honourable friend's approval. I do not share the touching faith of noble Lords opposite in the efficacy of paper. All in all, the Government think it sufficient, and indeed better, to be able to call, as the Bill at present drafted provides, from time to time for reports from local authorities on the substance of arrangements they have made or, if they have introduced a scheme, to ask about 186 its programme or about any major changes in their scheme which experience has dictated to them as desirable.
I can assure noble Lords that subsection (3), as at present drafted, has not been put in as a polite but platonic bow in Lord Ingleby's direction. This subsection will in fact be operated and, I would suspect operated not only by the present Secretary of State but also by successive Secretaries of State. We are as anxious as anyone to learn from experience of the local authorities what are the best methods of carrying out preventive work and seeking the absolutely essential co-ordination of local authority functions in doing so. That is why my right honourable friend has armed himself in Clause 43 with additional powers to promote and encourage research.
So much for the statutory obligations which the noble Lord wishes to lay, by his Amendment, on local authorities.
§ LORD LATHAM
Before the noble Earl passes on to another subject: what would he expect would lead the Secretary of State to call for a report?
His desire to know the experience of local authorities in this field. I explained that we should like to know, once they have the system operating, what their experience has been and what is the substance of their schemes.
By the normal processes of administration. I do not feel that it is in any way necessary to lay this particular statutory obligation, as the noble Lord wishes to do, on local authorities. But he did not deal with the other two parts of his subsection which, oddly enough, my noble friend dealt with at greater length on his behalf. For example, his Amendment requires the reports to my right honourable friend to be submitted annually. I could see the point of that if such reports were the only means by which my right honourable friend can keep in touch with what local authorities 187 are doing. But there is, of course, another perfectly good means—I would not say better, but certainly good means—by which he keeps in touch with local authorities in this field.
For example, the Home Office Children's Inspectorate, which is in close and constant touch with local authorities in this field, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Latham, knows.
The Amendment also proposes that a summary of local authorities' reports should be placed before Parliament. I should be the first to agree that it is right that Parliament should concern itself very closely with the welfare of our children and with what local authorities are being required to do and are doing in this field. To do so effectively, of course, Parliament requires adequate information, but perhaps I may remind noble Lords of the present arrangements for reporting to Parliament on the child care work of the Home Office and of local authorities. First, a statistical statement on children in care in England and Wales is presented annually. In fact, the last statement was presented only a few clays ago, on November 28.
It was not; it applied to last year, I can assure the noble Lord: to 1960–61. Secondly, there are the full reports on the work of the Children's Department of the Home Office—I think that is what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, had in mind. The Eighth Report was issued in 1961. In future—and I think this answers the point which he had in mind—in accordance with Section 25 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1961, these Reports will be published at three-yearly intervals, the next one in 1964. These future Reports of the work of the Children's Department will each contain an account of the development of preventive work during the period to which the Report relates. I would suggest that this is a very good way of keeping Parliament generally informed of policy developments in this field, but if it is thought that there should be a year-to-year check upon developments in this 188 field, my right honourable friend is very willing to consider whether material relating to preventive work carried out under Clause 1 can be included in some form in the annual statistics upon children in care, though that sort of work may not lend itself very easily to statistical analysis.
We are just as anxious as noble Lords opposite that local authorities should make the fullest possible use of their powers under Clause 1 of this Bill. I think that that will emerge clearly from the circular we are proposing to issue to local authorities as soon as this Bill becomes law. We are just as anxious as noble Lords opposite, too, to learn from the fruits of local authorities' experience in operating these schemes, and we will certainly ensure, through the mechanism of subsection (3) as at present drafted, that we are kept fully informed of any significant developments in this field.
We also recognise that Parliament has a right to be kept fully in the picture here. Nevertheless, we consider, and I can assure your Lordships that we have not come to this view at all lightly, that the proposed Amendment is neither necessary nor indeed very desirable, and I cannot in honesty recommend it to your Lordships.
§ 5.25 A.m.
§ VISCOUNT INGLEBY
As the Report of the Committee over which I have the honour to preside has been called in aid in support of this Amendment, perhaps I may just say two or three words. The Committee knew perfectly well, and I think, expressed fairly clearly in the second chapter of their Report, the sort of things they wanted local authorities to do in this field. But, having decided what we wanted to be done, we then had to go on to consider what means should be adopted in order to achieve those purposes. In paragraph 50 of our Report, which the noble Earl, Earl Longford, has quoted from, we suggested that the method might be the submission of schemes by local authorities to the Minister concerned, whom we suggested, in paragraph 51, should be designated in this Bill.
That was obviously one way of going about it, but our proposal stopped short at the submission of schemes by local authority. The Government have chosen to adopt a different method. In Clause 1 (1) they have imposed a positive duty 189 upon local authorities, and in subsection (3) they have given the Minister, who will clearly be the Home Secretary, a power to call for reports on what they have done. It seems to me that the method which the Government have chosen is just as good, and indeed, for many of the reasons given by noble Lords who sit behind me, may be more effective, than the method which my Committee had in mind. In point of fact, we did not think of this other method. If we had thought of it, I dare-say that we should have recommended it in our Report. For my part, I am satisfied with what the Government are proposing, and if this Amendment were to be pressed to a Division I should be unable to find myself in the Lobby in support it.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
The noble Earl opposite is far too intelligent to suppose that any of us on this side of the Committee will be in any way satisfied with his answer or will feel that he has made any very great mental effort to understand our point of view. He seems, however, to have been more successful with his own side. He said that he had injected some water into the wine of the Ingleby Report and, if I may say so with respect, he seems to have injected some water into the wine of the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, himself. So we have a very watered down Report and a very watered down Lord Ingleby with us this afternoon.
I was startled by—I will not call it one argument, because as one it would be so inconsistent—the two arguments, which I suppose were drafted by different sections of the Home Office for the noble Earl. At one moment, he told us that local authorites could be trusted to know best what needed to be done and to do it, but later he conceded that there might be local authorities—he was kind enough to follow my words and say "backward authorities"—who did not know what should be done or, at any rate, did not do it. He admitted that there were some of these local authorities. Neither he nor any of the other noble Lords who spoke made any attempt to deal with the problem of these authorities. I am not sure that the others recognised that it was there, but the noble Earl dealt with this in the moist extraordinary way. He said, "You know what they are; if they want 190 to duck their responsibilities, they duck them." Coming from someone dike the noble Earl, that was perhaps the feeblest argument, he has ever presented in your Lordships' House, and I should think the feeblest argument that he will ever present in the distinguished career which lies in front of him.
What I was saying was that if local authorities wished to duck their responsibilities, the mere requirement on them to submit paper reports would not, in fact, prevent it. There are, of course, many other ways in which my right honourable friend could bring pressure, moral and otherwise, on a local authority which sought to evade its responsibilities in this field, but the mere requirement—
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
May I interrupt? I was interrupted at fairly short notice. Will the noble Earl tell us what these other methods are?
I think I have already said that there are many ways, both informal and formal, in which a Secretary of State who is anxious that local authorities should carry out their duties can ensure that they carry out their duties. One way—I use it as a particular example—is sending a circular to local authorities. But there are many other means open to a Secretary of State, as the noble Earl perfectly well knows.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
I should be glad if I thought that they were in the mind of the noble Earl at the present moment. At any rate, I think it is much harder to bring the local authorities to book by unorthodox or irregular methods. But here is a regular machinery which, in spite of what I might call a deuteron-Ingleby—the Ingleby of these latter days—was clearly laid down in the Ingleby Report. I am afraid that we on this side are rather disgusted by the manner in which this proposal has been disposed of. I do not know how these things work out. We come forward and support the proposal of the Ingleby Report, and we are told that we are rather infantile even to suppose that this is the right answer. We are shocked and pained, and a little contemptuous, if I may say so, of the answers submitted, because we know that the noble Earl is exceptionally intelligent, and the 191 answers were not up to his standard at all.
We realise that there is another Amendment coming in a moment which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, will move, and this avoids the difficulty on which the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, concentrated—this question of written reports before Parliament. I still feel it is desirable, but I recognise that it is an extra complication. If that is removed, it may be that we shall have the noble Baroness with us. Therefore, with apologies to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for having to speak so plainly—his reply, I am afraid, forced it upon us—I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment, looking forward to an even keener discussion with an even more exciting conclusion on the next Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.33 p.m.
LORD STONHAM moved to leave out subsection (3) and insert:
(3) Every local authority shall, within such period as the Minister may by direction specify, submit to the Minister for his approval proposals for carrying out their duties under this section and shall make to the Secretary of State at such regular intervals as he may specify reports on the nature of the arrangements made by them under this section.
§ The noble Lord said: I apologise to noble Lords, and particularly to my noble friends, for my lateness on this occasion, which was for reasons beyond my control. I am glad that I arrived in time to hear the discussion on the previous Amendment, because if arguments were needed I have been provided with additional ammunition. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, told us that local authorities are the best people to judge what should be done in their areas and how it should be done. With that contention I am wholly in agreement. He then assured us, first, that the approach should be experimental and, secondly, that his Department was in such close touch with the local authorities and what was going on in local areas in this field that, as it seemed to me, the two ideas of experimental approach and the vast and intimate knowledge of this subject which resided in his Department were to some extent contradictory. I have read the Ingleby Report and we 192 had, a few minutes ago, Ingleby according to Ingleby, and the two, to my way of thinking, do not exactly agree. Nevertheless, I submit that there is nothing whatever new in the proposal in this Amendment.
§ Only a year or two ago we were considering the Mental Health Bill. There we had a similar set of circumstances, where the Minister of Health has required local authorities within a given period—exactly what I am asking for in this Amendment—to submit their proposals to him for the care of the mentally sub-normal and the mentally ill within the community. I submit that that is an exactly parallel case. There are, in fact, far fewer domiciliary arrangements in that field, and it is of a far more experimental nature, but the Minister, in that case, with the full approval of your Lordships' House, decided that it was necessary to get not only a detailed but an overall picture of the kind of service that would be provided. Indeed, we know that the picture that has been revealed shows a very wide diversity in the practices of different local authorities. In that field you have some, I will call them, good local authorities, who are able to show, for example, that they have a place for every afflicted person, if I may use that term, who needs one. Other local authorities have no places at all, and will not have for five years.
§ We find the same kind of disparity, if not in the same degree, between the ways in which various local authorities deal with their responsibilities to children and young persons. There is this very wide disparity. The good local authorities suffer because of the shortcomings of the bad ones. These children do not stay exactly in one place; they do not offend only in the area of one local authority, and they are not seen only in the area of one local authority. This, to a large extent, is a national business. It is imperative that the responsible Minister, the Secretary of State, should at a very early stage get an overall picture; that his knowledge should be far more complete than it is at present.
Reference has been made to the local authorities' view in this matter. I will disclose that the drafting of my Amendment is due entirely to the fact that it was drafted by the Parliamentary section of the London County Council, the
largest local authority in the whole country. They want precisely what is stated in this Amendment:
Every local authority shall, within such period as the Minister may by direction specify, submit to the Minister for his approval proposals for carrying out their duties under this section and shall make to the Secretary of State at such regular intervals as he may specify reports …
That is not because the London County Council are afraid that the arrangements which they propose will not satisfy the Secretary of State or, if they do not satisfy him, that they will not be able to make such changes in their arrangements as he may require. What they are afraid of is that many other local authorities in the country will not make satisfactory arrangements, and that, because of that, children throughout the country v ill suffer and the local authorities who make proper arrangements will suffer.
§ I want to impress upon the noble Earl that this is a very real fear in the minds of important local authorities, the best local authorities, the authorities who are likely to give the least trouble and the most satisfaction in this particular field. It is not my brain child; I have not just thought this one up. It cannot be shrugged off, as it were, in the manner which the noble Earl has tried. I want to impress upon him that his charm has just as profound an effect on me as it has on everyone else, but this is an Amendment which cannot really be charmed away.
§ He said that his right honourable friend may be prepared to consider an annual report in some statistical form. He assured me that in future the reports to which I refer would not be rendered some five or six years after the date to which they refer, but only three years. Just think back three years, or more than three years, to the position with regard to children and young persons! There has been a very considerable change in that time. There has been a very considerable difference in the number of young persons affected and in the amount of the arrangements which have been made for dealing with them. It is quite impossible for the noble Earl to submit to your Lordships that his Department knows all that is necessary to know at this moment; that they can wait for years until the matter can be dealt with administratively, and, 194 as it were, the Department suddenly realises that they have not heard anything for two or three years from a particular department about what their arrangements are likely to be.
§ I should like to refer to Lord Jellicoe's mention of the fact that the mere submission of paper reports would not induce backward local authorities to do their duty. Of course, it will not. But if proposals have to be submitted and are not submitted, if there is that statutory obligation, then, of course, his Department is going to get in touch with local authorities and insist on the submission of these proposals. Then, when they have been received, if they are not satisfactory the Home Office will insist that amendments are made in the plans. Thirdly, the will insist on those plans being carried out. But if no report is submitted at all, if there is no statutory obligation to submit a report, then there are endless delays—there are going to be delays in just those areas where the service is at present unsatisfactory.
§ I therefore submit that it is absolutely necessary, in the interests of the children and the young people of the country as a whole, for this particular Amendment to be written into the Bill. I also submit that, within whatever stage the Home Secretary may specify, it is going to provide his Department first of all with a comprehensive picture of arrangements as they now stand; and, secondly, in due course, with the opportunity to compare arrangements suggested by good local authorities with those of authorities who are not at present doing their job properly; and I say that that picture does not at present reside in his Department. It is just not there at the present time and it will not be there unless and until the Secretary of State specifies a date by which local authorities must submit their proposals.
§ The Bill as it now stands in this respect is wishy-washy. It could be all right but, judging from the long experience which my friends and I have had in this particular field, it does not inspire us with the necessary confidence. I therefore feel that on this occasion—although in principle I am suggesting very much the same thing as my noble friend suggested in the previous Amendment but with one or two essential differences—the Government really must 195 accept this Amendment or give us and your Lordships very much stronger, better and more cogent reasons for refusing it than they did on the last occasion. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 1, leave out subsection (3) and insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Stonham.)
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, if I understood him correctly, said that his Amendment was not open to some of the objections to which possibly the previous Amendment had been open and was, of course, in certain ways different in kind. I would be the first to recognise that there are, as I see it, three important differences between his Amendment and that moved by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. In the first place it does not call for annual reports from local authorities, and I think that this is an improvement.
I should like to explain what perhaps I did not make clear in speaking to the last Amendment. I said that we had many ways at the Home Office of being informed of the work of children's departments other than through reports, and I then alluded to the children's inspectorate which keeps in very close touch with local authorities. There was no contradiction here between what I was then saying and what I was saying earlier about this being a new and experimental field. I was merely saying that in the normal course of the work of the children's department we have this very effective means of keeping in close touch and running touch, as it were, with the work of the children's committees and children's departments throughout the country. That is the first difference; it does not call for annual reports; and I think that is a blessing, if I may say so.
The second difference is that it does not call for reports to be submitted to Parliament on all these matters as the first Amendment did. I think that that again is an improvement because, as I sought to explain on the first Amendment, there are already many ways in which we inform Parliament of the work of children's departments throughout the country and I fully recognise, as indeed do the Government, the right of Parliament to be kept fully informed of this 196 important work. But I think it would have been a mistake to lay this annual obligation, as the first Amendment did, on the Government. So there are those two improvements.
The third difference is that the noble Lord's Amendment makes it quite clear—I was uncertain in this respect as regards Lord Longford's Amendment—that these schemes are submitted for the approval of the Secretary of State. But that being so, the noble Lord's Amendment is, of course, open to the objections which I tried to advance against making it a statutory obligation for local authorities to submit their schemes under Clause 1 for the specific approval of the Secretary of State. It is, in fact, open to all those objections which I advanced to the particular scheme which was to be found in the Ingleby Committee Report, and I am sure that noble Lords will not wish me to go over all that ground again. But what I should like to do is to summarise in a sentence or two my arguments here.
First, I claimed, and I claim again, that local authorities are the people in the best position to assess what the needs are here so far as their particular areas are concerned. They are far better placed than the Home Office in Whitehall or, indeed, Parliament is to assess the needs of their particular areas, and I thought the case for that was advanced very strongly by my noble friend Lord Milverton. The second point is that the preventive work to be done under Clause 1 is entering a completely new field. There is no corpus of knowledge here, and there would therefore be no firm criteria against which the Secretary of State could rightly judge a scheme submitted for his approval by the various local authorities. I think those two objections are fundamental and stand.
Let me say here that I do not wish there to be any misunderstanding about my right honourable friend's intention to inform himself of what local authorities are doing. He has every intention of informing himself. Subsection (3) of Clause 1 of the present Bill makes that perfectly clear. May I draw your Lordships' attention once more to it:A local authority shall from time to time make to the Secretary of State such reports on the nature of the arrangement made by them under this section as he may specify.197 Again, as I said, my right honourable friend has every intention of operating this mechanism. It might be helpful, possibly, if I gave an indication of what our intentions in this field are. In the first place we should want to know what all the local authorities were doing over ill, whole field, over all the 145, I think it is, county councils and county boroughs. Later, we might well follow that up by asking specific local authorities what they were doing in this particular field, or again we might at intervals request full reports again from all authorities. But what we wish to avoid is placing ourselves and local authorities in the position of submitting schemes at the outset for our approval. I would submit there are very strong reasons against that, and those reasons should lead your Lordships to reject this Amendment if it is pressed to a Division.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
As I understand it, the noble Earl's main objection to the Amendment is to the words "for his approval"; in other words, that the Minister is required to give approval to the plans proposed by local authorities. The noble Earl has said, and he has repeated it twice, that the local authorities, Parliament and the Home Office will be covering new ground; that there are no firm criteria. We gather from that that the local authorities may have a limited knowledge about what needs to be done, what can be done and the mechanism to be used. Therefore, I should have thought it would be better if the local authorities, instead of working in isolation (as the noble Lord said they have a better knowledge of the needs of their localities), having assessed the needs, then put their proposals in writing and submitted them to the Secretary of State.
The Secretary of State would be receiving a variety of recommendations and proposals from many local authorities. And, with his own experience and knowledge—which no doubt is superior to that of the local authority where the mechanism is concerned—and with the proposals that would be coming in from other local authorities, he could then say, "We have noted your proposals and we recommend that you make the following amendments for the improvement of the scheme." I do not think that is asking too much of the Minister. I 198 should have thought it would be of great benefit to local authorities if there were a pooling of knowledge; and the Minister, with his experience of looking at the problems from all over the country, could readily assess the problem and would be in a much better position than anyone else to make recommendations to the local authorities. As I see it from the Bill, and from the way the noble Earl has spoken, local authorities setting out on this new road will be setting out with some feeling of isolation. It may be that they will be receiving circulars and advice through the usual Channels from the Home Office. But I should have thought they would be better off producing their proposals and then submitting them to the Minister in the first instance. The Minister would then say, "Yes, in essence it is very good, but if you alter it in this way or adopted a different method you would be better off." I do not think that the Bill as drafted will give the local authorities this service that the Home Office undoubtedly could supply.
Even if the exact words of the Amendment may not be acceptable to the Minister, I would remind him that we frequently move Amendments which may be faulty in some respect, but that, by discussing the matter involved, either in this House or outside, we are able to find the right words to meet the principle. What is at stake here is the principle; certainly that is laid before the Committee by my noble friend Lord Stonham. I hope that the Government will accept the principle of this Amendment about which my noble friend has spoken and on which I have tried to put a different point of view. It is put constructively, and I hope that the Government will accept it in that spirit.
I very much appreciate, if I may say so, the terms in which the noble Lord has addressed himself to this question, and I should be the first to recognise the constructive intent behind his remarks. But I think he understands that we see serious and grave objection to the principle embodied in the Amendment, of submitting schemes for the approval of the Secretary of State. On the other hand, I would go a long way with the noble Lord in recognising, first, that this is a new field in which we are embarking 199 with the local authorities, and that there is obvious advantage in collecting as much information and as much expertise as possible on how various local authorities see their problem, and in disseminating that information, putting the best experience of the best local authorities at the disposal of all local authorities. That, I would claim, can be done quite simply; in fact, it is precisely our intention under the existing mechanism of subsection (3) of Clause 1 of the Bill as drafted.
If the noble Lord reads to-morrow, if they are comprehensible, the words I used in giving expression to my right honourable friend's intent in this question—calling, in the first instance, as soon as local authorities go into action on this, for reports on their experience, and thereafter calling for reports, either from selected local authorities or from all local authorities—in conjunction with subsection (3) of Clause 1. I think he will find that he and I are not necessarily far apart.
§ LORD STONHAM
I find the noble Earl's reply both surprising and disappointing, and particularly his answer to the remarks of my noble friend Lord Shepherd, which I thought provided an opportunity for him to look at this matter again. We just cannot accept his rejection of this Amendment, with no suggestion that he might look at it again and find another form of words, and his retention of subsection (3) as it stands. Subsection (3) provides merely that a local authority shall from time to time make to the Home Secretary "such reports on the nature of the arrangements" as he shall specify. All we are asking is that something shall be written in the Bill to say what the Home Secretary is going to do with the reports. There are only three things he can do. He can ignore them, which we fear; he can make suggestions as to their amendment, which may happen; or he can approve them. I would remind your Lordships, and particularly the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, that in paragraph 50 of his Report he said that there should be a statutory obligation 200 on local authorities to submit for ministerial approval schemes for the prevention of suffering of children through neglect in their homes.
It is abject nonsense to have this subsection saying that the local authorities shall submit reports, and not to say what is going to be done with them. That is precisely what the noble Earl has now said, and he has said it two or three times. It seems extraordinary to me that your Lordships should be satisfied with this subsection as it stands. It is utter nonense. It is not worthy of the Home Office that they should put before us a subsection like this, and say that reports are going to be submitted. We do not know whether they are going to be stuck on the shelf, put in the wastepaper basket or sent back to the town clerk. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said that my Amendment had three merits which were not possessed by the one which was previously moved. That uplifted me. Then he said But, of course, this Amendment is open to objection in that it imposes a statutory obligation on local authorities." What a demerit! What an objection, that the Government should require a local authority to do its duty to the children and young persons in its area!
Then again, the noble Earl said—and I agree with him in this—that local authorities are in the best position to assess the needs in their areas. Of course they are. There is nothing in my Amendment which would prevent them from assessing the needs in their area. All my Amendment would do would be to require them to assess the needs, to make up their own minds as to what was necessary and to submit their plans to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State would then have an opportunity of coordinating. We are assured again by the noble Earl that the Home Secretary has every intention of operating this mechanism. Read the noble Earl's words tomorrow, and everybody will know that the Home Secretary has this intention! What we are asking for is that that intention should be written into the Bill, not only for the purpose of the present Home Secretary and the present Government, but for the benefit of future Governments and future Home Secretaries, and, above all, for the benefit of children and young persons.
201 I ask the noble Earl again whether he will say that he will look at this point again, finding his own form of words to meet this situation, but words which will at least lay on local authorities a statutory obligation in that regard. I think it is reasonable to ask for that. I think it is the irreducible minimum necessary. If he cannot give that assurance, then I will ask your Lordships to go through the Division Lobby with me on this Amendment.
I am naturally anxious to meet the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, but I do not think I can do so. I am able to meet him so far as the latter half of his Amendment is concerned,
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2:
§ Children and young persons in need of care or control
§ 2.—(1) A child or young person is in need of care or control within the meaning of this Act if—
- (a) any of the conditions mentioned in subsection (2) of this section is satisfied with
§ because that is close to the wording of the existing subsection (3) of Clause 1, making it clear that local authorities have a statutory obligation to submit reports on the nature of the arrangements made by them when required to do so by the Secretary of State. I should be the first to agree that if we can find better wording to express that, then let us find it. But on the second point, which is that these schemes should require the prior approval of my right honourable friend, I am unable to meet the noble Lord.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 60.201
|Adrian, L.||Lawson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V||Longford, E.||Stonham, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Strabolgi, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||McNair, L.||Taylor, L.|
|Champion, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Walston, L.|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Rusholme, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Kenswood, L.||Sainsbury, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Ailsa, M.||Ferrier, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Margesson, V.|
|Albemarle, E.||Fortescue, E.||Merrivale, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Molson, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Furness, V.||Napier and Ettrick, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Newton, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Haddington, E.||Perth, E.|
|Boston, L.||Hailsham, V.(L. President.)||Radnor, E.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Hastings, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Hawke, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Horsbrugh, B.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Howard of Glossop, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Ilford, L.||Somers, L.|
|Crathorne, L.||Ironside, L.||Stamford, E.|
|Denham, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Swansea, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Long, V.||Teynham, L.|
|Devonport, V.||Lothian, M.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Mabane, L.||Wakefield, L. Bp.|
|Falmouth, V.||MacAndrew, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Ferrers, E.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.||Yarborough, E.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ respect to him, and he is not receiving such care, protection and guidance as a good parent may reasonably be expected to give; or
§ (2)The conditions referred to in subsection (1)(a) of this section are that—
- (a) he is falling into bad associations or is exposed to moral danger; or
- (b) the lack of care, protection or guidance is likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or seriously to affect his health or proper development; or
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER moved, in the first line of subsection (1), to leave out "control" and insert "protection". The noble Lady said: With your Lordships' permission, I should like to take Amendments Nos. 10 and 12 together because Amendment No. 12 is purely consequential on 10. These Amendments are purely matters of language, but I do not think that for that reason they are necessarily unimportant. I notice that the Government have thought fit to change the language that stands in the principal Act. In Clause 2 of the Bill the Government are redrafting the definition of "children and young persons who are found to be in need of care and protection", as the principal Act now has it.
One of the motives which apparently lie behind this redrafting is one with which we have a good deal of sympathy. It is apparently the intention to make it possible for the court to find a child or young person in need of care and protection without casting too many aspersions upon his parents. As the principal Act now stands, it is necessary to find that the parent or guardian is not exercising proper care and guardianship. We now have a new phrase, in subsection (1) of Clause 2, which says that the child is in need of care and protection if he
is not receiving such care, protection and guidance as a good parent may reasonably be expected to give;".
That appears to me to be an admirable phrase. But when we come to the end of the clause we find that "protection" has disappeared, and we are to use the expression from now on that the child or young person is "in need of care or control", instead of the current phrase "care or protection". I think it is regrettable that we should have torn up "care or protection" and substituted "care or control".
§ I think perhaps the fact that this is proposed is indicative of a certain attitude which I detect in many points in this Bill. It has been said that at one point the Government were watering the Ingleby wine. If I may continue this rather bibulous metaphor, it might be said the Government seem to have gone through the Ingleby Report picking out the less mellow sections and 204 ignoring those which were more sympathetic from the child's point of view. In this particular instance they have not used the Ingleby language, since the ingleby formula contained the word "discipline", but they have stiffened up the present language and substituted "care or control" for "care or protection". In doing this I think they are emphasising what we may call the stiffening aspects of this Bill, rather than imaginative sympathy and understanding for children. It seems to me quite illogical that in subsection (1) (a) we should find this admirable phrase of "care, protection and guidance" and that we should lose that phrase thereafter and speak of "care or control".
§ For that reason, I should like to go back to the old language and to say, not that the child or young person is in need of care or control, but that he is in need of care or protection. After all, many of the cases which come under this clause are cases where protection is surely the primary consideration—as, for instance, where the child or young person is a member of a household in which one or other adult has been convicted of an offence of cruelty or incest. In consequence these children are defenceless in a tragic situation, and are in need, surely, not of control, not only of care, but definitely of protection. The fact that some of the children who will come under Clause 2 are there because they are found to be beyond control, is nothing new. The principal Act has similar language and yet, even in the case of children who are beyond control, the principal Act in, I think, a more imaginative way, says that a child who is beyond control is clearly in need of care or protection.
§ For those reasons I should like to go back to the language of the principal Act, which seems to me admirable, and I beg to move.
Page 2, line 7, leave out ("control") and insert ("protection").—(Baroness Wootton of Abinger.)
The Clause as it is now drafted provides that a child or young person is in need of control if it be that he is beyond the control of a parent or guardian. So I should have thought that a child or young person, 205 who is beyond the control of his parent or guardian, is in need of control. I fully realise What the noble Lady has said, but I should like to suggest that the clause would read better if it began by saying:A child or young person is in need of care, protection or control …".
§ BARONESS ELLIOT OF HARWOOD
I want to intervene for only one short moment, because so many of the people to whom I have spoken about this Bill are very pleased at the introduction of this new word. I have heard some opinions from the Child Care Officers' Association, who are operating in this field the whole time, and they say:It is our opinion that the definition of a child or young person in need of care or control is an improvement on the present legislation regarding children in need of care or protection. A positive element of definition to be welcomed is the standard of care of the good parent as a criterion.I think that the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, is possibly right, that all three words might be included, but I think it would be a pity to return to the phrase "care and protection", which has up to date been the phrase always used. I think that this introduction of a new word implying, I believe, a wider vision of how one might be able to help such Children, is one which I would personally support. I think it would be a pity if we did not include this definition and this word in the new Act, because I believe it would enable a wider differentiation of treatment to be included than the definition, "care and control".
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
Like the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, is right in what she affirms and wrong in what she denies. I value the word "control", but I should be very sorry indeed to lose the word "protection". There I find myself in agreement with the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, whose work is mainly protective, though they also do some preventive work and a little after-care. But their essential work is protective work, and they look forward increasingly to working with the local authorities on that task. They feel that that co-operation will be more fluid, more easy and more practical, if the local 206 authorities continue to use the word "protection" as they have done in the past. There are also some children's officers who would regret the passing of the word "protection".
In this connection I should like to call attention to one imponderable, and that is the effect on recruiting. In the long run the children's service is dependent on young boys and young girls, people in their late teens, saying, "I am going to give my life to this work. I am going to study the tedious subject of sociology I am going to undergo a long training I am going to accept very hard and difficult conditions, because I believe that this is a noble work which I am called on to do." To such a boy or such a girl, the words "care and control" will have very much less appeal than the word "protection", which suggests a kind of Joan of Arc-like quality that is going to assist us in recruiting the right material for our service.
My own feeling is that the work of the children's department, both the work that it is doing now and the work that it will do under this Bill, when it becomes an Act, is well summarised by "protection", immediate action., stepping in; "care", the long-continued process;—and, of course, "control", too, the control of our very disturbed, very difficult charges, which we have to undertake. I trust that on Report wiser counsels will prevail, and that we shall be allowed to retain the three words that I have mentioned.
§ BARONESS HORSBRUGH
Surely if we keep the word "care", that will also include protection. If somebody takes a child into his care, surely that person or that association is going to protect the child. If we keep "care and control", are we not having two words one of which, "care", includes the other "protection"?
§ 6.25 p.m.
Perhaps I may first deal very briefly with the general observation which the noble Lady ventured to make in introducing her Amendment. I think she suggested that the Government had very carefully combed through Ingleby for its least sympathetic parts—I think those were her words—and then had carefully selected those and stuck them together in the Bill. All I would say is 207 that that is a travesty of the facts, and I think it hardly explains the existence of Clause 1 in this Bill, which we have been discussing at some considerable length in the gathering fog.
I turn now to the noble Lady's particular Amendment, and I will explain why the Government chose these words. In the first place, we agreed with the Ingleby Committee that the present definition had its faults, and I think our reasoning there was not very far from the reasoning set out in Appendix III to the Committee's Report. That being so, and because we felt that a new definition was called for, we decided that it would be a good thing to try to select a new phrase which would meet the new definition. Why did we choose this particular phrase, "care and control"? I think it can best be explained with reference to the structure of the first part, subsection (1), of Clause 2. That falls naturally into two distinct albeit not exclusive parts. Paragraph (a) of that subsection deals with children and young persons who are coming to grief through lack of parental care—the concept of care. Paragraph (b) deals with children and young persons who are being beyond parental control—the concept of control. I noted, in passing, that the noble Lady had no objection to paragraph (b) of subsection (1) as it stands in the Bill.
This new term, "control", also recognises the fact that many people dealt with under Section 62 of the Act of 1933, the principal Act, need not only care or protection but also, of course, a measure of control as well. There seems no reason, I suggest, for us necessarily to run away from this fact in our choice of definition, even though it may not be a particularly palatable one. As a matter of history, I may say that the new phrase was, I think, suggested by the National Association of Probation Officers, as an alternative to the Ingleby Committee's choice of, "in need of protection or discipline". It is true that Clause 2 does not embrace younger delinquents as such, as the Ingleby Committee's definition would have done. Nevertheless, it seemed to us, rightly or wrongly, that the phrase suggested by the National Association was a good one and fitted the facts, and fitted also the structure which is based on the facts, of subsection (1) of Clause 2. I should perhaps add 208 that the local authorities association, whom we consulted on this matter, saw no objection to this particular definition.
That said, all I should like to add is that I have listened very carefully to the arguments advanced here by the noble Lady, by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, and by my noble friends Lord Raglan, Lady Elliot of Harwood and Lady Horsbrugh. Of course, what is important is not a question of semantics: it may be what lies behind those semantics. I would assure the noble Lady that in choosing the definition which we have chosen in this Bill, there were no dark, reactionary or repressive thoughts running through the mind of the Home Office. I think that I can make that assurance doubly sure (by saying that, in the light of all that has been said in your Lordships' Committee this evening, and in the light of the various suggestions which have been made, I shall be very glad to consider this matter further between now and Report stage. I hope that, in view of that assurance, the noble Lady may not wish to press her Amendment at this stage.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I am a little puzzled by the noble Earl's suggestion that the reasons for this change are to be found in Appendix III of the Ingleby Report, because Appendix III of the Ingleby Report, as I read it, seems to be almost entirely occupied with that limb of the clause of which I hope I expressed wholehearted approval. That is the limb of the clause which is designed to avoid the present situation, where a child cannot be found in need of care or protection unless his parent is failing to exercise proper care and guardianship or he has no parent.
I am interested in the suggestion which has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, supported, I think, by the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, that the three words might appear, "care, protection or control"; and I hope that, as the noble Earl has said he will look at this matter again, he will look very particularly at that possibility, because I would remind your Lordships that, as the noble Earl has said, these questions of language are indicative. There must be some reason why the Government have thought fit to alter the definition in the principal Act—which definition, in 209 my experience, has worked admirably—which says that a young person is in need of care or protection in circumstances such as those described in the various subsections of Clause 2 of this Bill and in Section 61 of the principal Act.
Why one has a little suspicion about the word "control" is that it seems to be a move in the direction of trying to avoid making changes in the age of criminal responsibility, about which there is an Amendment lower on the Paper, by way of blurring the distinction between delinquents and children who are in distressable circumstances and in need of care and protection. The word "control" seems to some extent to bridge these two categories. I therefore hope that your Lordships will stand firm and see that a provision which is designed to deal with the unfortunate child does not use language more appropriate to the delinquent child. But in view of the noble Earl's assurance that he will look at the whole matter again, and that he will perhaps particularly consider using the three suggested words, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER moved, in subsection (2), at the beginning of paragraph (b) to insert: "physical or mental". The noble Baroness said: This Amendment is also designed to deal with a very difficult situation. I think I can best illustrate it by taking a concrete example. If a young person of the age of, let us say, sixteen years and ten months runs into difficulties and is brought before the court at present as in need of care or protection, the court can make a supervision order; and the order may be for, let us say, twelve months. But after the seventeenth birthday the young person is no longer under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and if, during the supervision but after the seventeenth birthday, the young person does not observe the terms of the supevision order, or if the person supervising thinks it desirable to bring him before the court again in his own interests, the court has no sanction because the young person over the age of seventeen is, in fact, no longer a young person; he is out of the jurisdiction of the court. The object of the clause in the 210 Bill clearly is that there shall be the same sanction after the age of seventeen as before the age of seventeen, if I have interpreted it correctly.
I apologise for interrupting the noble Baroness, but I think that she is addressing herself to Amendment No. 13, which also stands in her name, rather than to Amendment No. 11.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I apologise. I turned the page too quickly. Perhaps I might delete what I said. I may be able to say it much more shortly later. Amendment No. 11, which seeks to insert, "physical or mental" before "cruelty", is perfectly straightforward. On Second Reading, the noble Earl gave an assurance that the words of the Bill as they stand cover mental cruelty just as much as physical cruelty. In the Bill, the words with which we are concerned say that a young person may be found in need of care or control ifthe lack of care, protection or guidance is likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or seriously to affect his health or proper development;I am sure that the intention is that "health" should mean physical or mental health, but I have very much in mind the great body of judicial decisions that relate to definitions of cruelty in other contexts, particularly in relation to marital cases. It therefore seems to me that this is an occasion where it is absolutely necessary to make it doubly clear that when we say "health" we do not mean simply physical health, but mean to cover also an unhappy child, a damaged child, a child who suffers, as children sometimes do, from fits of irrational depression which are caused by (in the words of the Bill)the lack of care, protection or guidance …".For that reason, I cannot see that anything would be lost, except the use of a little print, and I am sure that a great deal of security would be gained, if the noble Earl would consider accepting these words, "mental or physical" cruelty.
§ THE DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (THE EARL OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE)
Before I put the Amendment, perhaps I should point out that I think that the noble Lady intends that the words, "physical or mental", should come after the word, "his".
§ LORD CONESFORD
I think that, by a misprint on the Paper, the noble Baroness has proposed to insert these words in line 19, whereas she means them to go in line 20. They should come at the beginning of line 20.
§ THE EARL OF BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
I beg the noble Baroness's pardon. I misread it. It should be page 2, line 20.
Page 2, line 20, at beginning insert ("physical or mental").—(Baroness Wootton of Abinger.)
I support this Amendment. At the approved schools we often have cases of boys experiencing mental cruelty from wicked stepmothers and such creatures of fiction, and cases where the children are, not knocked about but ignored and neglected, or generally treated with contempt. I think insertion of these words would be an improvement.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
This Amendment has the strong support of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. It is admitted that benches ought to recognise that mental health is a part of health, just as much as is physical health. But we have to consider what the benches in fact do. I have been fortified with several cases from the courts, of which I shall venture to read one. This is a case where the bench sat, not in some small, unprogressive, rural area but in one of our very great industrial cities. The case was as follows. A boy aged fourteen lived with his widowed mother who was a neurotic and mentally unstable. This caused the boy emotional stress which led to a nervous condition requiring urgent medical care. His mother refused to let him have the medical attention prescribed, or to agree to his admittance temporarily to a suitable home where treatment could be given. The Society brought him before the juvenile 212 court as in need of care or protection and the following is an extract from the evidence of a fully qualified child psychiatrist:His mother has a marked obsessional element in her personality and cannot tolerate the boy's symptoms and peculiarities. When he is at home she is irritated by him, threatens and beats him because of his symptoms.That report ended with a strong recommendation that the boy should be taken into care as an urgent case. But because it was the mental health of the child and not the physical health that was concerned, the bench dismissed the case. I realise that there is a strong case for not putting into an Act one word than is not entirely necessary, but I believe that the necessities of this case overrule that general practice.
As the noble Lady said, she raised this matter during the Second Reading debate, and I then gave her the assurance that "health" in the context of Clause 2 includes mental as well as physical well-being. I am very happy to repeat that assurance in emphatic terms. There is nothing, either in the words of the clause or in the context, or so I am advised, to limit the concept health to purely physical health. In the words of subsection (6) the words "health and proper development" are so very closely linked that the implication is precisely the contrary. In view of that I would suggest that the Amendment is indeed superfluous, but many noble Lords may feel—indeed, the view has been expressed this evening—that there is no harm in dotting our "i's" and crossing our "t's". There may, in fact, be some positive merit in so doing. I think, however, that there are also some dangers, and perhaps I may point them out to your Lordships.
For example, I am advised that one effect of qualifying the word "health" in this case might be to restrict the scope of the words "unnecessary suffering" or "proper development" in the same subsection of the clause unless they are similarly qualified. It would not be a great matter of drafting so to do. It would not greatly increase the length and weight of this Bill, but I am also advised that the Amendment, if accepted, could suggest that even in a context such as this Parliament has taken the view that the word "health", unless qualified by specific words to the contrary, can mean 213 only physical health. That is the sort of danger to which the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, alluded—of taking in more words than may be required. I am sure that if it had that effect, what we are doing would run counter to the wider and more liberal interpretation of the word "health" which all noble Lords, including noble Lords apposite, would doubtless prefer to see generally adopted. Those are the reasons which led to my suggestion that the Amendment is, in fact, unnecessary and, in addition to being unnecessary, might he a little dangerous.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I am glad to hear the noble Earl repeat his assurance that he gave on Second Reading, but I am bound to say I do not find an assurance from the Government Benches of the meaning of an Act of Parliament quite so reliable as words in the Act. I have very much in mind assurances given at the time when the Commonwealth Immigrants Bill was before your Lordships' House, or, at any rate, when it was before another place. The sense of those assurances was that it would be used in certain circumstances and our experience since has been not altogether consonant with those assurances. For that reason I should very much prefer to see this point spelled out unmistakably in the Bill.
I am not deeply impressed with the dangers the noble Earl has put before us. The danger that it would require additional drafting at an earlier stage in the Bill seems to be quite trivial. The same words could be added at a later stage. The danger that it might encourage the belief that Parliament thinks "health" does not include mental as well as physical health seems to be hypothetical and abstract. What Parliament means by "health" Parliament had better say, for there is confusion in the public mind, if not in the Parliamentary mind, where the limits of health are drawn—where, in fact, physical health merges into mental health. And in the present state of confusion I should be very much happier if it were spelled out exactly. But the noble Earl has given assurances that he will look at it again, and he may then find the dangers not so formidable as they appear on first sight. On the strength of that I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.214
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
§ Clause 6:
§ Extension of s. 66 of principal Act
§ (2) The age up to which a person may be brought before the court and dealt with under the said section 66 shall be eighteen instead of seventeen years.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER moved to leave out subsection (2). The noble Baroness said: I am sorry to repeat myself, but this is the Amendment that I spoke to in error earlier. This is intended to meet the case where a supervision order is made on a young person approaching the age of seventeen and the order runs after the seventeenth birthday. After the seventeenth birthday, if the young person fails to observe the terms of the order, or if the person supervising thinks it in the young person's interest to bring him back to the court, he can be brought back to the court. But the court then has no sanction. It is unable to take any of the measures which would be available in the case of a young person under seventeen, and I have no doubt it is for that reason that this subsection has been added. But we have to think whether this is the right way of dealing with the difficulty.
§ Young people are becoming steadily more mature at earlier ages and the typical case where a supervision order is made at an age approaching seventeen is usually that of a girl. It happens sometimes with young men, but it is more common with young women. They are girls who are perhaps out of the control of their families and who are indulging themselves in sexual licence, which is felt to be improper at their relatively early age, although they are above the age of consent. While I fully recognise the existing difficulty that there is no sanction if the order is flouted after the seventeenth birthday, I do not think that the sanctions this subsection would give would be appropriate ones.
§ If a young person is brought back before the court at the age of seventeen or more, there are only two courses open to the court if it wants to take some further action. It must either send the young person to an approved school 215 or put him or her in the care of a fit person. A fit person, in this context, nearly always means a local authority. And young people of seventeen upwards are not very welcome to local authorities and difficult young people, as many of these may be, are still less welcome. Neither do they mix very well with the young people and children with whom they must be, if the local authority is expected to provide for them.
§ The sanction most commonly exercised in cases where young people are brought back under a supervision order is approved school. I think that it would be absolutely disastrous to send boys, and probably even more disastrous to send girls, of seventeen upwards—they could be seventeen and eleven months—to approved schools, which are intended for those of a much earlier age and which are in this connection educational establishments, or should be, of a totally unsuitable kind. For that reason, I think that we have to put up with this anomaly and perhaps bluff our way through the fact that we have no sanctions, which is what we do at present, not always successfully. The court has to think very carefully about making supervision orders in the latter months of the seventeenth year. After the age of seventeen, merely to impose the kind of sanctions which are appropriate for people of a younger age, and to do that at a time when young people are more and more reaching maturity earlier, is not only an inappropriate course but it might well be disastrous. I beg to move.
Page 5, line 1, leave out subsection (2).— (Baroness Wootton of Abinger.)
§ 6.55 p.m.
I should like to support this Amendment. The idea that boys (I do not know so much about girls) of seventeen are children is very much to be discouraged. I remember that when I was a Chairman of a juvenile court, although the court did not meet very often, as we were in a rural area, we were solemnly asked to try a hulking great lad of sixteen for riding a bicycle without a light. I do not object to the legal limit being seventeen, but any suggestion to raise the limit from sixteen to eighteen, as this does, is very 216 much to be discouraged. Every day young boys are brought before our courts, charged with such offences as stealing motor cars, dangerous driving, burglary and assaulting the police. It does not follow necessarily that they would come under this clause, but they might do and they might be sent to an approved school. I think it is most inappropriate that boys of so advanced an age should be sent to an approved school. Borstal is the place for them.
The noble Baroness has very clearly explained the background to her Amendment and also to the subsection. I would first wish to point out that the pedigree of subsection (2) is perfectly respectable. It does not derive from the dark recesses of the Home Office, but rather directly from a recommendation of the Ingleby Committee, as the noble Lady herself made clear. May I quote what the Ingleby Committee said here? It stands in paragraph 120 of their Report:… supervising officers … are faced with a serious problem in dealing with some of their charges for whom they may be responsible up to the age of eighteen, or in some cases even longer, though there is no sanction that the courts can apply to any who have attained the age of seventeen.The Committee thought it necessary to fill this sanctionless void and therefore recommended that the upper age limit of Section 66 of the principal Act of 1933 should be raised to eighteen. This is done by the subsection which we are discussing and which the noble Lady seeks by her Amendment to delete.
The Ingleby Committee also recommended that a supervision order should terminate when the person subject to it reached the age of eighteen. That is done by paragraph 2 of the First Schedule to this Bill. I feel myself that we are right to follow the Committee in this respect. Now the noble Lady has claimed that boys and girls between seventeen and eighteen should not be sent to approved schools, and found support for that contention from my noble friend Lord Raglan who has considerable knowledge in this field.
I would be the first to agree with the Committee that it would be a mistake if young people over seventeen should normally be sent to approved schools on first committal. That was made very clear in their Report. But I would also ask your 217 Lordships to agree, again with the Ingleby Committee, that the approved school system should be able to cope perfectly well with the small number of seventeen-year-olds on first committal likely to be affected by subsection (2) of this clause—I really feel that we must not be too obsessed here by the question of chonology. It is true, of course, as the noble Baroness said, that young people are becoming physically if not emotionally, mature much younger these days than they did even in the immediate post-war era. That I would grant. I would also grant that it might well be that some particularly mature and sophisticated boys and girls of seventeen are quite unsuited to be sent to approved schools, especially on first committal. But I do not think that age is necessarily the only criterion here and, of course, the maturity of young people varies enormously.
Again I would suggest that it might well not be necessary, if we leave subsection (2) as it stands, to send the young persons concerned to an approved school. The noble Lady suggested that that was the sanction most commonly to be exercised. All we are suggesting here is that the supervising officer, whoever he may be, should have this additional sanction. The mere fact that he has it, possibly in reserve, as it were, may suffice to give him that extra control over a young person in his charge which may be all that is required to tide him over a tricky passage in this admittedly very difficult age of seventeen or thereabouts. That applies to having this sanction, as it were, in reserve and not necessarily to its being exercised. Unless subsection (2) is left, that sanction would not be there, in reserve or otherwise.
I therefore suggest that there are solid reasons for following the Ingleby recommendation here, and I should hope that the noble Lady would not feel constrained to press this Amendment. I feel that all the more strongly because she herself has not been able to suggest any means by which we can bridge this gap or fill this particular void. It seems to me at least—and I acknowledge that my experience in this field is minuscule compared with hers—that it is highly unwise to leave a gap unbridged or a void unfilled. For those reasons, therefore, both positive and 218 negative, I would suggest that subsection (2) should be left to stand.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I am not very much impressed by the noble Earl's arguments. He seems prepared to apply what I still think is a totally inappropriate sanction, merely because he has not any other. I am glad to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, who sees from the approved school end the extreme difficulties of this subsection. I would remind your Lordships that the young persons who will be dealt with under this subsection are not delinquents. It is very important to have that in mind. They are not persons who have been found guilty of any offence; they are persons who are the subject of supervision orders because, as the law now stands, they are in need of care or protection.
There may be some argument—I do not know whether there is; we may hear one later—for extending the whole age for the juvenile courts up to eighteen. I myself do not see the argument at the moment. But if that were done it would clearly be necessary to make radical reconstructions in the approved school system to meet the older age group. But I cannot see an argument in favour of opening the approved schools to a very small number of over seventeens who are by definition non-delinquents. This, I feel, is tackling what is a difficult problem quite the wrong way round. I would much rather that we accepted the realities that after the age of seventeen people can more or less order their lives (provided they do not commit criminal offences) as they wish to do.
The noble Earl has spoken about filling voids and bridging gaps. There are always voids and gaps to fill and bridge, and I sometimes wonder what is going to be the age at which people are to be allowed to live their own lives. We are creeping up—sixteen, seventeen and eighteen—as people are getting more mature and more prepared to take responsibilities at younger ages. I cannot feel that from seventeen to eighteen is a void that has to be filled. I think that provided they do not commit criminal offences, after the age of seventeen young persons are entitled to arrange their own lives. They may well arrange them quite 219 as well as their elders do, and I think they often do, though they may frequently arrange them in ways of which their elders do not quite approve. This is only a minor point, and I do not think it would be proper to press it to a Division, and I therefore beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 6 agreed to.
§ Clause 7 [Extension of powers of juvenile court to deal with persons in the care of local authorities]:
§ 7.4 p.m.
LORD STONHAM moved to add to the clause:
(3) The age up to which a person may be brought before the court by a local authority and dealt with under the said sections 65 and 84 (8) of the principal Act shall be eighteen instead of seventeen years.
§ The noble Lord said: It would appear that in moving this Amendment I am in disagreement with my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger. Those of your Lordships who know me well will be aware that that is quite impossible, and, indeed, had her Amendment been accepted it would have been quite unnecessary for me to move mine.
§ My Amendment merely draws attention to an anomaly which appears to have been created by the Government's action in including in Clause 6 subsection (2) because the position now will be that children who are in a local authority's care under the Children Act, 1948, or who are under a court order which commits them to such care, may remain in care up to the age of 18, but the local authority cannot take juvenile court action, if it is considered necessary to do so in the child's interests, after the age of 17. A difficulty will thus obviously confront the local authority. My Amendment suggests, therefore, that Clause 7 should be amended on the lines of Clause 6, so that there shall be the same power in relation to children in a local authority's care as is proposed by subsection (2) of Clause 6 in respect to supervision orders.
§ I do not know whether I have made my point clear to the noble Marquess, but it is an apparent anomaly and if the Government are determined, as appar- 220 ently they are, that subsection (2) of Clause 6 shall remain in the Bill and the age will be 18 years, then it seems quite obvious and logical that the age should be 18 years under Clause 7. I beg to move.
Page 5, line 44, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Stonham.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
The noble Lord's Amendment, when one looks at it, really concerns two different categories of persons, and I think, therefore, they should be dealt with separately. As the noble Lord knows perfectly well, under Section 65 of the principal Act a local authority may receive a child into their care under the Children Act, 1948, and these are cases where, as a rule, parents are lacking in some form of virtue. They may have abandoned the child, or they may be unfortunately ill and, therefore, cannot look after it. What happens is that the local authority in effect become a substitute parent. The upper age limit of 17 under Section 65 is the same limit up to which the child in the care of his own parents may be brought before a juvenile court as being beyond parental control.
The Government feel in this case that there is no reason why a local authority, which has a child in its care because its parents cannot look after it, should have greater powers than its own parents would or, indeed, are allowed by law. The other category of persons to whom the Amendment would apply concerns children who have already been committed by the court to the care of a fit person. In this case the Government quite agree with the principle the noble Lord was getting at; and, indeed, the object of his Amendment so far as Section 84 (8) of the principal Act is concerned has actually already been achieved. It is rather a complicated and technical matter, which I might try to explain.
The noble Lord will have noticed that the words, "and who is under 17 years of age" have been omitted from the new version of Section 84 (8). They were in the original version but they are now no longer there. I am sure that he is aware that in Section 84 of the principal Act a child or young person has, under 221 subsection (1) of that Act, the special meaning of any person with respect to whom a fit person order is in force, and under the law as it stands that runs up to the age of 18. I hope I have made myself clear to the noble Lord. It is rather complicated, but I can assure him that I am advised that that is the case. We consider that this part of the noble Lord's Amendment is superfluous, as its desirable object has already been achieved. As I said earlier, I am afraid that we cannot agree with the rest of the Amendment. At this stage I do not think we shall be able to accept it, and I hope the noble Lord will not press it.
§ LORD STONHAM
I am most grateful to the noble Marquess for his explanation which, contrary to the general belief, I did understand; and for that reason I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 7 agreed to.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ Clause 9:
§ Temporary committal of persons ordered to be sent to approved schools
§ (2) Any provision made in pursuance of subsection (1) of this section shall, unless extended under this subsection, cease to have effect at the expiration of twenty-eight clays; and any such provision may, on the application of any person, be varied by a juvenile court, and from time to time be extended for not more than twenty-eight days by a justice of the peace, and may be so extended in the absence of the person to whom it relates.
§ 7.12 p.m.
LORD STONHAM moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "any person" and insert:
either the managers of the approved school or the person in whose custody the person who is the subject of an approved school order has been temporarily committed under this section
§ The noble Lord said: This is quite a simple point, and if it is conceivable that anywhere in the briefs of the noble Lords opposite there is the simple word "Approve", then it should apply to this particular Amendment. The Bill, as it stands, uses the words "any person" as someone suitable for providing the temporary custody of a child who is 222 awaiting a vacancy in an approved school. My Amendment draws attention to the fact that the words as they now stand in the Bill might lead to quite irresponsible applications. The position is that if an order is made with regard to a child going to an approved school, the order has immediate effect, and the child goes to one of a number of places for temporary periods and can be temporarily committed to the care of any parson, That would permit the child's parents to make application in an attempt to vary a temporary custody order, and this surely would be inconsistent with the fact that a parent who might make such an application had himself been deprived of the custody of the child by that very order. It may be that somewhere else in the Bill there is a definition of "any person" which could make it quite impossible for the contingency which I put to arise. But unless that is the case, I submit that instead of the words "any person" we should use the words in this Amendment. I have not the skill of the noble Earl but I venture to hope that on this quite simple point I have made myself quite clear. I beg to move.
Page 6, line 40, leave out ("any person") and insert the said new words.—(Lord Stonham.)
I can assure the noble Lord that he has made himself quite clear. What he fears, as he pointed out quite clearly, if we left the clause unamended, is irresponsible applications. I wonder whether there is any real ground for supposing that dangerous numbers of irresponsible applications are likely to be made. I would remind the noble Lord that there is no similar limitation in subsection (5) (a) and (b) of Section 27 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, which also, of course, deals with remanding in custody. Many more children and young persons are dealt with under that section than will ever be committed under Clause 9 of this Bill. So, on the matter of past history in this field, I do not think that there should be a flow of irresponsible applications. That is a matter of practical effect.
I think also that there is a matter of principle here. We think it is right that others beside the actual custodians 223 and the managers of the approved schools should be able to apply for a variation of the order of temporary custody. The noble Lord suggested that it was wrong for the child's parents, for example, to be able to apply. I am not certain I would necessarily go along with him there, because there might well be a change in home circumstances which would make an application by the parent desirable. But, in any event, I do not think that any real harm can result from leaving the present clause unamended, since the last word rests with the court. No final harm would therefore be done, even were this power to apply for a variation abused, and on the basis of our experience with the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, we do not think that there is any risk of such abuse on a scale to warrant the proposed restriction. That is why my brief on that reads, disappointingly perhaps to noble Lords opposite, "Resist".
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I think the noble Earl is unduly optimistic in his view that there would not be a considerable number of applications, and no doubt a fair proportion of them might fall into his category of irresponsible. It might well be, of course, that parents would discover that they had this right, and if they discovered that they had a right to make an application to have a child in custody pending its admission to an approved school, I think it would be found that such applications were exceedingly common and that the courts were inundated with them. Whether they ought to have the right or not is another matter, but the noble Earl is basing his argument on the case that they will not exercise the right. I am quite certain that if they know they have it they will exercise it abundantly.
I think I was resting my argument on two legs. The first leg was that it was right in principle that others, apart from the actual custodians or the managers of the approved school, should have this right. The second practical leg on which I was basing my argument is that I know that under the Criminal Justice Act, 1948, where there is no similar restriction to that which the noble Lord would like to introduce into this Bill, there has not 224 been, as I understand it, a great mass of irresponsible applications.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I think the noble Earl will find that his practical leg has been amputated.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
My noble friend has had to go out for a few moments on an urgent matter, but he asked me to make just one point. I do not think there is any dispute in principle between either my noble friend or the noble Earl, but there is some doubt on our side whether the wording in the Bill is adequate. The noble Earl may feel that it is, but he will recognise from what my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger has said that equally there is a doubt. May I ask him, without prejudice of course, whether he will look at this matter again between now and the next stage?
§ LORD SHEPHERD
In those circumstances, on behalf of my noble friend I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER moved, in subsection (2), to leave out "justice of the peace" and insert "juvenile court". The noble Baroness said: This is a matter of the liberty of the subject, and I think it is a matter of some importance. Young people are committed to approved schools and, for one reason or another, there are long delays before they get there. Sometimes it is because there are no vacancies; sometimes it is because there are no vacancies that are thought to be suitable in an appropriate institution. But the result is that the young people remain for a long time in temporary custody awaiting admission to an approved school, and I do not think we ought to do anything at all to make it easy for that time to be extended. We ought, in fact, to put every reasonable obstacle in the way of an extension of that time, even though the date of committal is the date when the order is made, and the period in the school is regulated by the date when the order is originally made.
§ As the Bill stands, when a young person has been waiting for 28 days in 225 temporary custody this may be extended by any justice of the peace though not for more than another 28 days. We think that, since this is not a matter which has to be dealt with so urgently that a juvenile court may not be available, it is a matter for a juvenile court and not a matter for a justice of the peace, and particularly not a matter for a justice of the peace who may have nothing at all to do with juveniles and would be signing away their liberty for 28 days without knowing anything about the case or the conditions of approved schools, or anything about the working of a juvenile court at all. For those reasons we want the power put only in the hands of a juvenile court instead of an individual justice.
§ I think it is a very serious matter that a person of any age should have his or her liberty at the mercy, if you like, of a single lay justice. It is true that the child is already in some kind of custody, and that he is not going to be released; but the committal to the approved school which has to provide his training and his education is postponed and postponed and postponed, and I think once he has been committed to the school he has the right to go there and it is part of his personal liberty. I beg to move.
Page 6, line 42, leave out ("justice of the peace") and insert ("juvenile court").—(Baroness Wootton of Abinger)
I rather hope that this Amendment will not be accepted, because I think perhaps the noble Baroness does not quite realise how seldom, at any rate in rural areas, the juvenile courts meet. I recently had a complaint from one of my rural courts that they had hardly enough magistrates to staff their juvenile court. I asked how often that court sat, and I was told it had not sat for over two years. That is because juvenile crime in the rural areas does not happen very often. Even the ordinary magistrates' courts sit only once a month. The effect of this Amendment might be that in order to give a purely formal extension—it might be for a couple of days—a body of magistrates might have to be assembled from far and wide to do that and nothing else. I think that might be unfortunate.
I think that the real point at issue here is whether the question of renewal of custody need be considered in every case by the juvenile court, as the noble Baroness's Amendment would require. That of course, as my noble friend Lord Raglan has said, would entail a special session of that court for that purpose. In London, which the noble Baroness knows very well, I would concede that this would not present any great difficulty. But in rural areas it would present a much more formidable problem. I do not think that I need necessarily base myself on the extreme example which my noble friend adduced; but, as the noble Baroness knows, in many rural areas juvenile courts meet fortnightly or monthly, at the most, and the requirement which she seeks to introduce would create a very real practical difficulty. Where the difficult issue arises, as I understand it, is when there is the case of transferring a young person from a place of detention to the custody of a fit person. I would remind the noble Baroness that in those cases the clause as it stands makes it obligatory for that decision to be taken by a juvenile court. The more simple instance seems to be merely renewing the question of custody, and on that I should have thought there is, in fact, very little scope for the exercise of the juvenile court magistrates' discretion: it is such a simple and practical question.
I would also remind the noble Baroness that, under the general law as it stands, a single justice of the peace has power to remand in custody. I should have thought there were no special reasons for making it a statutory requirement that the renewal of the provision of the kind described in Clause 9 should necessarily have to be authorised by the assembly of a form of juvenile court, more especially in view of the practical difficulties in certain areas which would most certainly follow from that. Moreover, there is nothing to prevent any bench of justices who wish it from instructing their clerk to put all applications for this purpose before a juvenile court. That procedure might well operate here. I feel that to make it a statutory requirement that this question of renewal must necessarily be a matter for a juvenile court is unnecessary, and that it might, in certain circumstances, create 227 quite considerable practical difficulties. For those reasons I cannot confess myself enamoured of this particular Amendment, although I fully recognise the reasons behind it.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I think the noble Earl rather exaggerates the practical difficulties. I am well aware that the rest of the country is not like London, and I think the noble Earl will find some evidence of that in one of the later Amendments standing in my name. But if courts meet fortnightly or monthly it should not be impossible for them to renew orders the duration of which is limited to 28 days. If, on the other hand, they meet only every two years it seems to me unlikely they will have committed anybody to an approved school, so that this problem will never arise. I daresay it might cause some minor practical inconvenience, and frankly I am not sorry. I think it is far too easy at present for children to remain month after month, awaiting the approved school which is supposed to start their rehabilitation; and anything we can do to put weight on the side of speeding up this process is advantageous.
However, the hour is late, and the point is perhaps not so important as some that we have. If the noble Earl will perhaps consider taking some steps to remind the courts, or to bring to the notice of courts, that they can, if they wish, instruct their clerks that these matters shall be considered by the court, then perhaps, on the strength of that assurance, I might beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
May I say to the noble Baroness straight away that I am at one with her in seeking to do anything within our power to reduce these sometimes much too lengthy periods when a child or young person is waiting, remanded, before he or she can go to an approved school. Of course the main reason behind that is the pressure on approved school accommodation. That is not a matter which I feel we can discuss at length under this particular Amendment. But I am absolutely at one with her in agreeing that we should do everything we can to reduce the frustrating and sterile period of waiting in remand.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
May I ask the noble Earl one question on this? I understand that a justice of the peace can extend the order for a limit of 28 days. Having done that, can that justice of the peace extend the order for a further 28 days, and so on? If that is the case, I can see the point that is being made by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, that for the first extension a justice of the peace might be the appropriate person; but I would have thought it was wrong that, where there has already been one extension and another one is necessary, the same justice of the peace should make that extension. I would have thought it should be automatic that, having been given an extension and having failed then to deal with it, the matter should be referred immediately to the juvenile court. I think that would get over the difficulty that has been mentioned of calling juvenile courts together. I would have thought it vitally necessary where one extension has been given and another is required, that the question should be granted or considered by a juvenile court.
I am speaking here subject to correction, but I think that a justice of the peace in fact has this continuing power of extending the order. I do not think that I can—I certainly cannot at this stage—accept the suggestion which the noble Lord has just made. But I can at this stage, and will gladly, accept the noble Baroness's suggestion that we should at least consider bringing to the attention of the magistrates the fact that they have the power to instruct their clerks to put all applications before a juvenile court. I will gladly give the noble Baroness that undertaking.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I am grateful for the undertaking given. I do not think that many juvenile courts have this already in mind, and I think it would be useful if they were reminded of their powers. On the strength of that undertaking, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 9 agreed to.
§ Clauses 10 to 13 agreed.229
§ Clause 14:
§ Duty of parents to notify changes of address to approved school or fit person
§ (2) Where a person under the age of sixteen is transferred from one approved school to another the managers of the school to which he is transferred shall, where possible, inform his parents of the transfer; and until a parent has been so informed his duty under subsection (1) of this section shall be deemed to be duly discharged if he keeps the managers of the first-mentioned school informed of his address.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER moved, in subsection (2) to omit "to which he is transferred shall, where possible" and to substitute: "from which he is transferred stall". The noble Baroness said: This is a tiny Amendment, quite innocent like many of the children with which this Bill is concerned. Under Clause 14 (1) a parent is required, if his child is in an approved school, to keep the school notified of his, the parent's, address. If the child is transferred from that school to another school, as the Bill now stands it is the second school which has to notify the parents of the transfer. The second school, the school to which the child has subsequently been sent, is extremely likely to say, "We do not know the parent's address". Anything may happen—a slip between the first school and the second school—in passing on the parent's address. But the first school should have the parent's address if the parent has fulfilled his statutory obligation. It would surely be a simple matter for the first school to say to the parent, "We have transferred your son from our establishment to another one at such and such an address." The only purpose of this Amendment is to make sure—this is an important matter—that people whose children are being educated away from home, not at the parents' own choice, should know at the earliest possible moment and with the greatest confidence and security just where these children are at any one time. I therefore ask the Government to consider transferring the obligation from the school to which the child has been transferred and to put it on the school from which the child has been transferred. I beg to move.230
Page 9, line 33, leave out from beginning to ("inform") and insert the said words.—(Baroness Wootton of Abinger.)
Surely there is no difficulty about this. The local authority from whose area the child comes surely has the parent's address.
§ THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
I was most interested to hear what reason the noble Baroness was going to give for this Amendment, and I may say at once that I quite agree with her main point, that the vital and essential thing is that the parents should be told of the change of school. From that point of view, provided that was done, I do not think any of us would really object to who did it. It seems to me that there are certain more practical advantages in the school to which the boy or girl is transferred letting the parents know, although I accept at once that there may be trouble about the address. But, apart from that, I would have thought that they are probably going to get in touch in any case with the parents, to let them know how the child is getting on, to make arrangements about visiting, and generally to establish the right sort of atmosphere between the child and the school and the parents, which I am sure the noble Lady will agree is absolutely vital.
Nevertheless, I think that the balance of argument is close on this matter and I am quite prepared to give an undertaking that the Government will have another look at it before the next stage of the Bill. With that undertaking, I hope that the noble Lady will withdraw her Amendment.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I think that both the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, and the noble Marquess take an optimistic view of the smoothness and efficiency of administrative arrangements in all circumstances. But we are at one on the point that, whatever machinery is used to inform the parents, we want it to be the most efficient and the quickest. If the noble Marquess will look at this again and see whether the machinery satisfies these criteria, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.231
I feel that perhaps this may be an appropriate moment for us to adjourn this Committee stage. If that is generally agreed, I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ House resumed.