§ 3.12 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, in rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill I would first of all wish to remind your Lordships that there are in this country to-day some 12 million persons—infants, children and young people—under the age of 17. They represent about a quarter of the population of England and Wales; and it is not therefore surprising that from time to time your Lordships should consider measures designed to promote the health and happiness of our youth. It is a measure of this general kind that I have the honour to invite you to consider this afternoon.
I think, not surprisingly, that this is a good Bill and I hope it will receive your Lordships* approval and that of another place. If it does it will of course be but one further addition to the long list of Statutes dating back to the last century which show that in our society we find it right that Government, both national and local, should take an increasingly active part in protecting children and promoting their welfare. This whole body of legislation is something of which as a nation we have a right to be proud If anyone doubts that, I would merely advise him to read a contemporary account of the treatment of delinquent or homeless children in the last century or, to come closer home, to read some of the disclosures which were made to the Curtis Committee in 1946. I do not suppose that there is a single children's committee in a single local authority in this country which is satisfied with all that it is doing for all of its children, but we have certainly come a long way forward since the last war.
Yet, my Lords, we must face the fact that, despite all that has been done, far too many children in our society to-day suffer needlessly, are deprived of parental affection or the security of a proper home, or are otherwise neglected. This failure on the part of our society would appear to have roots far deeper 804 and more tenacious than perhaps the social reformers at the turn of the century may have supposed. And, as a reminder of the tenacity of those roots, there is the growing weed of juvenile delinquency—one of the most intractable of the nation's social problems.
Few problems, perhaps, lend themselves less readily to cold statistical analysis than part of the problem which we are discussing to-day. Yet figures may help to give us some feel of it. The child population in this country—that is children between 8 and 17—is to-day 7 per cent. higher than in 1938. But in that period the number found guilty of indictable offences has risen by 120 per cent. The proportion of boys of this age found guilty of indictable offences in 1961 is more than double what it was in 1938; and for girls the proportion is treble. Moreover, since the passing of the Children Act, 1948, the number of children in the care of local authorities has, despite our prosperity, remained steady at around 60,000, of whom between one-quarter and one-third have been committed to care for offences or as being in need of care or protection or as being beyond the control of their parents. There is very little for us to be complacent about here. It is I think dear that as a nation we have a problem on our hands here—a problem of juvenile deprivation and of juvenile delinquency—whose solution at the moment we are a long way from finding.
What moral can be drawn from this? One could, of course, quite simply conclude that neither parents nor their children can be made wise or virtuous by Acts of Parliament and that successive Governments and Parliaments have been merely wasting their time. This is not our conclusion. Money may not make people happy. Legislation may not make them wise or virtuous or better parents. But both can help. The caveat is that we cannot expect quick or startling results in this field. The causes of these problems and of these evils are too deeply rooted in human behaviour and the roots themselves are too closely intertwined. Nevertheless, the belief that inspires my right honourable friend the Home Secretary is that positive action by Government by way of legislation and 805 vigorous administrative action can in time cut these problems and these evils down to size. The purpose of this Bill is in large part to provide new means to reinforce our existing means of positive action.
First, could I say just a word about the Bill's parentage? It is "out of Ingleby by Bateson" with possibly, I fear, just a dash of the Whitehall tar brush about it. It has in fact these three parents. For most of the provisions in Part I and some in Part III of the Bill we are indebted to the Committee on Children and Young Persons which reported in 1960 and which was so ably presided over by my noble friend Lord Ingleby, who I am glad to see is taking part in the debate this afternoon. The provisions of Part II are based largely on a Report of earlier but no less respectable vintage 1950: the Report of the Committee on the employment of children as film actors, in theatrical work and in ballet, which was chaired by Sir Dingwall Bateson. In addition, as occasionally happens, we have had a few brainwaves ourselves.
I will not take your Lordships through all the provisions of the Bill. Many are highly technical, especially those which are designed to improve the procedure of the juvenile courts and to fill gaps in the law, which though inconvenient and tiresome to the workers in this field cannot be said to have led the public to lose much sleep. I should like, therefore, to concentrate mainly on those provisions which seem to me of the greatest intrinsic importance and most likely to interest your Lordships.
On the principle of first things first, I turn straightaway to Clause 1. This is based on the recommendations in Part II of the Ingleby Committee Report which is, to my mind, the real guts of Ingleby, if my noble friend will excuse that expression. At present, as he will recall, the powers of local authorities to promote the welfare of children are confined mainly to caring for those children whom they receive into care under the Children Act, 1948, and those who are committed to the care of the local authority under the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, by order of a court. But local authorities have had no express power either to take action while a child is in its own home, so as 806 to nip in the bud, as it were, this need for him to come into care, or so to improve the family situation of a child in care as to enable the child to be reunited quickly with his rehabilitated family.
Experience has convinced those who deal day to day and on the ground with these problems that the key to these matters is to avoid a family break-up; or, when it has occurred, to help to put the family back together again as soon as possible. Yet the absence of clear and precise powers has proved frustrating and inhibiting. Some authorities have undertaken some preventive work but, reasonably enough in the circumstances, have felt themselves inhibited by the absence of clear-cut statutory power from doing all the preventive work they would have wished to do. Others, perhaps with equal reason, have felt that they could not go beyond the strict statutory bounds in this respect.
The object of Clause 1 is to remove these difficulties and these inhibitions, and to encourage authorities within a wide general framework to develop this work of prevention and family rehabilitation, choosing from a wide variety of possible means those which they deem most suitable to the needs of their own areas. Clause 1 confers these additional powers and lays the exercise of these powers as a clear duty on every county and county borough. The action to be taken under the clause is defined asto make arrangements for such advice, guidance and assistance to be available as far as practicable".These terms cover, of course, a range of possible techniques and services almost as wide as the range of circumstances which cause children to come into care.
May I take a few examples of the sort of things which a local authority would be able to do, and which we should hope to see them doing, under this clause? They would be able, for example, to undertake extensive social case work with a family which, either because of the accumulation of problems, or perhaps because of the ill-health or low intelligence of the parents, is in danger of disintegration, or is living in such a state of total disorganisation that the children are bound to suffer. The local authority will be able to give or lend to such a family, with a view to setting it on its 807 feet, food or clothing or the elementary household equipment which they often lack.
Again, families sometimes break up because the parents are unable to manage their budget. They then get into arrears with the rent and are faced possibly with eviction. These new powers would enable local authorities, where they judged it right, to pay off the arrears in order to keep a roof over the family's head. They could help the mother to manage better in future. Alternatively they could take the family temporarily into a hostel where the parents could be taught the elementary household management which they may not know, with an eye to rehousing such families as soon as they appear able to stand on their own feet with some, but less, support. All families at risk will obviously not need help on this sort of scale. Sometimes all that may be needed to keep a family together and prevent the children coming into care might be—I quote an almost random example—the price of a railway ticket to enable a willing but distant aunt to come and look after the family while the mother is in hospital.
One of the measures which my noble friend's Committee thought wuold be helpful in this respect was the provision by the local authority of a family bureau to which families with a problem could go for advice. We do not go all the way with the Committee in their advocacy of a semi-autonomous diagnostic team (I think the expression was) operating in such a bureau. However, we do think that many people could be helped if there were some readily accessible point within the local authority where they could be put into contact with the appropriate service, whose existence they may know nothing about, and given an opportunity of discussing their problems. Thus, a family with a difficult teenage son or daughter could discuss the sort of problems which might lead to that son or daughter coming into care. The teenage son or daughter might even come for advice on how to cope with his or her parents.
May I here make one further point quite clear? At present a great deal of valuable work is done in this field by voluntary organisations, by organisations 808 like the Family Service Units, the Save the Children Fund, the Family Welfare Association, the W.V.S. and others, often and usually best in close liaison with the local authority in their area. The last thing we want to do is to dry up these valuable springs of voluntary work; and, in fact, nothing in this clause will do this. Indeed, a local authority will be quite within its powers in discharging at least part of its duties under Clause 1 through the agency, as it were, of a voluntary body. Likewise, the sort of assistance which I have been outlining would be offered only to families who need it: it would not be forced down anybody's throat, and there is no power to compel acceptance.
I should also perhaps mention that the Ingleby Committee proposed in their Report (in paragraph 48 to be precise) that these additional preventive powers should be vested generally in the local authority without specifying the particular committee through whom they should act. The existing powers in relation to child care are by law exercised by the children's committees of local authorities. It seemed to us that the new duties and powers are such a natural extension of the existing ones that they should also be exercised by the children's committees. The Parliamentary draftsman has tucked away the provision to achieve this, obscurely but neatly, in the way of draftsmen, in paragraph 40 of Schedule 3 to this Bill. I have had the luck and the opportunity to see something of the activities of children's committees and children's departments up and down the country in recent months. I therefore know something of the really gruelling—and I think it is gruelling—and devoted work that is being done in this field. I have no doubt that this Clause 1 will add to the responsibilities and labours of these children's committees and children's departments, but I have met no one working in this field who was not anxious to accept the challenge of this extra, but I am sure rewarding, work.
I turn now to Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill. Clause 2 is intended to remedy the defects in the existing definition of a child or young person "in need of care or protection" to which the Ingleby Committee drew attention in Appendix III of their Report, and to give effect to 809 the Committee's view—and I quote their words—thatproper care and guardianship is more than a negative function…it is the care that the normal parent devotes to his children's upbringing and welfare by the example of his conduct and by the protection and guidance that he gives them.Clause 2 alters the phrase "in need of care or protection" to "in need of care or control" and makes it a sufficient condition of a child or young person being in need of care or control that he is beyond the control of his parent or guardian. It thus in a way paves the way for the abolition by Clause 3 of the sometimes very distressing procedure, criticised, in our view quite rightly, by the Ingleby Committee, by which a parent may bring a child to court as being beyond control and thus, as it were, have to renounce that child in court in public. We have thought it right, however, to allow the parent to appeal to the juvenile court if the local authority decide not to bring the child before the court themselves.
A further group of clauses to which I wish particularly to invite your Lordships' attention are those designed to diminish the ordeal of a child's appearance before the court. Thus, Clause 26 is designed to reduce, at least in some degree, the strain under which a child may labour who has to give evidence in court, especially about sexual offences. Your Lordships will no doubt recall that this was a matter which engaged the attention of the late Sir Basil Henriques in his later years, and on which the Magistrates' Association have recently made recommendations.
The Government depart from the principle, to which the Ingleby Committee adhere, that the accused's right to cross-examine every witness against him at the court of trial should be preserved. This rules out any procedure, such as I think obtains in Israel, by which a child's evidence is taken completely at second-hand. Yet this same principle would not be inconsistent, in the case where a sexual offence is being tried on indictment, of a written statement by the child taking the place of oral evidence in the preliminary proceedings. Clause 26 deals with that sort of case. It enables a child witness under the age of 13 to be spared from having to give oral evidence twice over—in the preliminary 810 proceedings in the magistrates' court as well as when the case is tried at quarter sessions or assizes. Unless the defence object, or in certain other circumtances, the child's evidence in the magistrates' court may be given in the form of a written statement.
Clause 27, for its part, gives effect to the Ingleby Committee's recommendation to be found in paragraph 197 of their Report, that a simpler form of oath should be used in juvenile courts and by children under 17 in other courts. This may seem a small matter perhaps, but little things, even small matters of phraseology, can loom large in the minds of small children. Again, Clause 29 provides that a finding of guilt against a person when he was under the age of 12 is not to be cited among his previous convictions after he attains the age of 21. The clause thus achieves one of the advantages claimed for raising the age of criminal responsibility: that of ensuring that childish misdeeds do not dog the steps of an otherwise respectable citizen throughout his adult life.
Clause 52 again extends in several directions the existing restrictions on the publication of identifying particulars of children under 17 concerned in court proceedings. This the Ingleby Committee considered to be sound in principle. We are proposing first, as the Committee again recommended, to extend the automatic restriction on reports of juvenile court proceedings to proceedings arising in other courts, by way of appeal or otherwise from proceedings in a juvenile court. Secondly—and here we go further than the Committee—we propose that the discretion of the court to impose restrictions on publicity about a child under 17 should extend to every case in which a child under that age appears in a court other than a juvenile court. Thirdly, we propose to extend the restrictions to sound broadcasting and television; this is of course a logical extension to which both the B.B.C. and I.T.A. have agreed. Fourthly, we propose that the restrictions on the reports of such court proceedings should extend throughout Great Britain.
As I mentioned earlier, much of the Bill deals with rather technical aspects of court procedure, especially juvenile count procedure. The pundits have told me that these changes are admirable. However, I do not propose to expatiate 811 upon their merits, as I am sure they will receive close scrutiny at a later stage from your Lordships. Nevertheless, I feel that perhaps I should draw your Lordships' attention to Clause 18 which requires appeals and committals for sentence from borough juvenile courts to be heard by the Recorder sitting with juvenile court justices as assessors. Parliament has already made special provision (in the Criminal Justice Administration Acts, 1956 and 1962) about the constitution of county sessions when hearing appeals from the juvenile courts. Somewhat different provision has to be made for borough courts of quarter sessions, because they are differently constituted. However, the principle remains the same—namely, to ensure that the decision of a court which includes justices with special experience in dealing with juveniles is reviewed by a tribunal on which the same experience and expertise is represented.
Finally, before leaving the Ingleby part of the Bill, it would, I think, be disingenuous of me not to "come clean" and make clear to your Lordships which important parts of Ingleby we have left out. The provision most conspicuous by its absence it, I suppose, the proposal that the minimum age of criminal responsibility should be raised from 8 to 12, and possibly thereafter to the age of 14. This proposal was, of course, debated in both Houses of Parliament at some length during the passage of the Criminal Justice Bill last year; and the presence of the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, on the list of speakers here this afternoon, and I expect the names of one or two other noble Lords, suggest that perhaps we may debate it again.
Another recommendation of my noble friend's Committee that has attracted some public interest was their proposal to withdraw from officers of the N.S.P.C.C. the authority that they are present hold to bring a child before a juvenile court as in need of care or protection. The Government agree that before a child is brought before such a court as in need of care or control there should be proper and appropriate consultation to ensure that the authority initiating the proceedings acts in full knowledge of all the relevant circumstances. Of course this will be all the more necessary when local 812 authorities begin to exercise their powers under the Bill to do preventive work with families at risk—work which could obviously be prejudiced by proceedings initiated by some other agency who are not aware of what the local authority are up to. We see, however, no real difficulty in allowing this famous Society to retain their present right to institute proceedings, and we doubt whether it is necessary to write any specific obligations about mutual consultation into the Bill. We feel, especially in the light of discussions which we have had recently with the interested parties, that this is a matter which can safely be left to the good will and common sense of those concerned.
I come now to the second Part of the Bill. Your Lordships will be glad to hear that it is a shorter leg than the first one. The principal object here is to extend and improve the safeguards for children employed in the entertainment industry. Twelve years have elapsed since the Report of Sir Dingwall Bateson's Committee was received, and during those twelve years I have noticed no intense public demand, either inside or outside Parliament, for action in this field. But this does not necessarily mean that this part of the Bill is any less useful. In any event, this lapse of time has given opportunity for due consultation. These consultations have disclosed a measure of broad agreement, and the Home Office were in fact able to circulate a tentative but detailed scheme to the interests concerned. Broadly speaking, that is the scheme for which Clauses 35 to 41 now provide, although some of the more detailed and elaborate provisions have been dropped or reserved for statutory instruments to be made under the powers sought in this part of the Bill.
The basis of the general scheme is simple and threefold. First, it enlarges the present scheme of licensing children to take part in theatrical and similar entertainments by extending it to filmmaking, broadcasting and the appearance of children in licensed premises and registered clubs. Secondly, it increases from 15 to 16 the upper limit of the age group covered by the licensing scheme. Thirdly, it abolishes the present prohibition on the licensing of children under 12, substituting for it a power to license a child who is two years or more below school leaving age if, and only if, he is to act and if the applicant 813 declares that the part in which he s to act could not be taken save by a child of that age.
Where the licence is required—and there are certain exceptions, as your Lordships will see from subsection (3) of Clause 35—the local authority are to grant one provided they are satisfied that the child is fit to take part in the performance, that proper provision has been made for this welfare, and that if he is of school age his education will not suffer. It is proposed that local authorities should exercise their licensing power in accordance with such further regulations and conditions as my right honourable friend will have the power, if this Bill is approved, to promulgate. But the scheme is not designed as a rigid strait-jacket. Local authorities will have wide power to vary or revoke licences. Furthermore, there is a wide right of appeal to a magistrates' court against the local authority's decision.
As I have said, my Lords, the scheme derives in the main from the Bateson Committee Report. However, it differs in one important respect from the scheme proposed by that Committee. They proposed that a central licensing authority should be set up in London to deal with the licensing of all children performing on television, with children under 13 taking part in other forms of entertainment here, and with all children coming from or going abroad. But there is already a well-established system of licensing by the Bow Street magistrates for children who go abroad to perform. I gather this has worked well, and there seems no very good reason for changing it. As for the rest, I hope your Lordships will agree with us in thinking that a licensing scheme of this sort is best left in the hands of the local authority. It is true, of course, that central licensing would make for a higher degree of uniformity, but local authorities are far more likely to know the real circumstances of a particular case than is a necessarily rather remote central body.
My Lords, I hope I have said enough to show your Lordships that this Bill contains a pretty wide variety of measures to improve the law relating to children. It has, apart from those clauses which I have just been outlining, two main objects. The first is to enable 814 our society, in the words of the Report of my noble friend's Committee…to provide through its social and welfare services the advice and support which … parents and children need to build up their capacity for responsibility, and to enable them to fulfil their proper rôle".The second object is to enable local authorities to intervene more promptly and effectively where prevention fails and where their intervention is justified by the conduct of a parent or his child.
It may, of course, be felt in some quarters that to push the frontiers of the Welfare State forward in this way may possibly serve to diminish parental responsibility. But, my Lords, the welfare services are there to help parents to discharge their responsibilities and to relieve them of burdens which they may prove to be incapable of bearing only when their incapacity has become self-evident. Thus, the major object of the major clause of this Bill is to help parents to help themselves and, through themselves, their children. It is to ensure, in fact, that the responsibilities of parents are not necessarily handed over to public authorities. It opens up new prospects of helping parents to keep their homes together and thus to give their children not only the affection they need, but also the secure and familiar background they need no less well. At the moment we have yet to achieve this object on a nation-wide scale. We have yet to break this vicious circle of social inadequacy which often transmits itself so tragically from one generation to another.
There is no doubt in my mind that we are but at the start of our journey here, and that we shall need much more experience and perhaps many more discussions before we achieve our goal. Nevertheless, I claim that this Bill is a further step along this road, that it will stand the test of time, and that it will prove in the long run to have been for the benefit of the youth of this nation. My Lords, I beg to move the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Moved. That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ 3.46 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, I propose to confine my remarks to Part I of this Bill—to what 815 the noble Earl has described as "the longer leg" of this clearly limping measure. I would say at once how grateful I am to him for his exposition, not only for its lucidity but also for the serious and humane concern with which it was informed.
The Bill, as the noble Earl has told your Lordships, implements parts of the Ingleby Report, possibly, some of us may feel, the less important parts. I am sure the noble and learned Viscount who is to speak later, as Chairman of the Ingleby Committee, will forgive me if I say that some of the hopes we entertained when his Committee was appointed were dashed when their Report appeared. We had been hoping for a bold and imaginative reconstruction of the whole system for dealing with unfortunate and delinquent children in this day and age. And what we got was a number of useful minor reforms on a system which, in the judgment of many of us, is already outmoded.
But, my Lords, if the vision of the authors of the Ingleby Report was in some degree restricted, that of the Government is clearly greatly dimmer still. The noble Earl has looked back to the methods of dealing with delinquent children that prevailed in the nineteenth century. I am sure he has only to look a very short way forward to find succeeding generations describing his Bill in much the same terms as he applied to the measures of his predecessors. It is 54 years now since juvenile courts were first instituted in this country, and their creation was indeed a bold and imaginative measure. What mattered at that time more than anything else was to get our children and young persons out of the ordinary criminal courts and to remove them from subjection to the ordinary penalties that were imposed on adult criminals. When that measure was first before Parliament, Parliament was promised that its result would be—and I quote—"a large diminution in youthful crime". My Lords, I do not need to remind you that that promise has not been fulfilled. We have not had a large diminution of youthful crime; we have had a very substantial increase in such crime.
I should have thought that in the half century which has elapsed the failure 816 to diminish delinquency would have been the occasion for some radical rethinking of the whole system of dealing with this distressing social phenomena. Such radical re-thinking, my Lords, is not to be found in this Bill. I think we may say that the Bill, given the system as it exists, contains several admirable features; it contains some others which are doubtless admirable in intention—and we know where good intentions lead; it contains yet others which, whatever their intention, are clearly half-hearted, and it contains some which I suggest to your Lordships are, frankly, regrettable.
Let us begin with those which are admirable. The noble Earl expatiated at some length on Clause 1, and I should like to join with him in welcoming Clause 1. He referred to it as embodying, if I may borrow his phrase, "the guts" of the Ingleby Report. My Lords, I could not follow his metaphor further without becoming involved in anatomical indelicacies which I should hesitate to produce in your Lordships' House. I would only say that I am much surprised that this provision, admirable though it is, was felt to be the most important part of the Ingleby recommendations. But let me say at once how warmly I think we all welcome two provisions; first, that which relieves the child under 13 (though perhaps it would have been good had the age been set higher) from the need to give evidence twice in court in sexual cases. This provision will, I am sure, commend itself without reserve to your Lordships in all parts of the House.
Equally we welcome the provision which no longer makes it possible for a parent to go to a court and denounce his child as beyond his control. In effect, perhaps this is more a denunciation of himself than of the child, but the effect upon the child of this public parental rejection is damaging beyond all measure. We are glad, too, of the provisions that will extend and tighten restrictions on publicity in proceedings in which juveniles are involved; and glad, also, that learned recorders are to have sitting with them, when hearing juvenile appeals, justices with experience in the juvenile courts. These, my Lords, are all admirable if minor provisions.
No doubt, too, the intention of the redefinition of children "in need of care or protection" is to be welcomed. I 817 know very well the problem at which this is directed, the problem of caring for the child without necessarily blaming the parent, who may well have done his best. It will be interesting to see how this new definition works out in practice. I hope that your Lordships—especially those who are themselves parents—will take it well to heart, that you are now required to maintain such a standard ofcare, protection and guidance as a good parent may reasonably be expected to give".Legal interpretations of that phrase will doubtless afford some very important guidance to all families, but it is clearly aimed in the right direction. Nevertheless, I think we regret that there is no specific provision for protection of the child whose circumstances are damaging to his mental health. There is a phrase which offers him care or protection in circumstances in which he is likely to incur unnecessary suffering, or in which his health is likely to be seriously affected. I hope that we shall have an opportunity at a later stage to make it perfectly clear that health in that context implies mental as well as physical well-being.
I think that, for all the noble Earl has said, we do regret that the Ingleby recommendation, that proceedings under this clause should be confined to local authorities and the police, is not to be implemented. In saying that, I make no criticism against the admirable work which has been done by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, but I have very much in mind two things; first, that the N.S.P.C.C. has far more experience, and its inspectors are far better trained, in dealing with families in actual cases of cruelty and neglect, than they are in coping with proceedings in court; and, secondly, and more important, that so long as responsibility for these proceedings is divided between the family and the public authority, the public authority can all too easily shuffle out of its responsibilities.
There are one or two other provisions in the Bill which I think we must dismiss as eyewash—there often are, in the Bills which are presented to us in this House. We are told, for instance, that where remand centres are available, a young person who is too unruly to be kept in a 818 remand home may be detained in a remand centre. No doubt the noble Earl will tell us later in how many places they are available, and maybe he will also tell us something about the conditions in those remand centres which have already been established. I can only say, for my own part, of the one remand centre that was available to the juvenile courts in which I was recently operating, I would much rather have sent my child to prison than to the remand centre. However, since there are so few, perhaps we may take this provision as a pious wish rather than as something which will be accomplished by Statute.
The noble Earl did not explain another provision. It sounds technical, but things that sound technical are often very important to young children. That is the provision that where a child who is in the care of what is known as a fit person—that is to say, he has been taken out of the care of his family and given into the care of a local authority or a private person—is sent to an approved school, while he is at the school the fit person order is to cease to operate. My Lords, I think this is deplorable. The fit person is the substitute parent. When the child is sent away to the approved school he is no longer to have a substitute parent; he is to be handed over look, stock and barrel to the school authorities. Other Children will be visited by their parents, other children will be sent home to their parents when there are holidays, but the child who is in the care of a fit person will have no substitute parent. He will feel acutely that the welfare officer, the local authority, in whose care perhaps he has been, whom he has got to know and trust, is no longer there for him to turn to, if perhaps he finds things in the school that he cannot get on with, or if he feels himself to be treated unjustly at school.
I know that it has been the custom for many local authorities to ask to be rid of fit person orders, if the children who were subject to them were sent to approved schools. This was, I think, a pure matter of administrative convenience, in order that there should not be dual responsibility; and I can assure the noble Earl that in the court with which I was associated for twenty years such 819 applications were nearly always refused. There are one or two other minor but dubious proposals in this Bill, which perhaps we might take up at a later stage.
My Lords, the major sins of the Bill are, of course, sins of omission, and the greatest of these, as the noble Earl has half-admitted, is the failure to raise the age of criminal responsibility. Many of us are glad that the Bill did not accept the Ingleby recommendation, to raise the age of criminal responsibility in a curious and sophistical way which would, in fact, have put it down, by raising the age to 12 but at the same time allowing civil proceedings for care or discipline to be taken in respect of children of any age. We are glad that the Government did not accept that, for a child will not see the distinction between being charged with stealing and being brought before a court as in need of care or discipline because he has taken something which does not belong to him. But the failure to raise, de jure and de facto, the age of criminal responsibility is the major tragedy of this Bill; and it is a failure because it expresses our inability to recognise that the training of children of school age in the way they should go is fundamentally an educational and not a penal matter.
I will tell your Lordships quite frankly that I have changed my own view on this subject in the last ten years, and I have changed my own view on it for one reason and one reason only. For twenty years I served in the juvenile courts, and in the course of that period I personally dealt with something between 7,000 and 8,000 children and young persons who appeared before the court—a very considerable family. I was at one time impressed by the lawyers' argument, which is the argument that a child has as much right to the kind of defence which an adult has if he is charged in a criminal court; that it is as wrong to find him guilty and to penalise him for something which perhaps he has not done as it would be to do the same to an adult. This I entirely accept. But the notion that this is in fact what happens in the juvenile courts is a totally unrealistic picture of the courts as they are. It is wholly artificial.
Children, after all, do not arrange their own lives: adults, to a large extent, do. 820 Children do not decide for themselves whether they are to be educated at home or whether they are to be sent away to boarding school. Many of your Lordships have been sent away to school—not, as we say in the courts, "put away", but sent away. Your Lordships have been sent to Eton, to Harrow, to Christ's Hospital or to some other eminent boarding establishment. You had no right of appeal to the courts. You were sent because your parents thought (perhaps you agreed and perhaps you did not) that this was the best education that could be got for you. There are children who are best educated at home, and there are children who are better educated away from home; but the decision as to which should be educated in boarding establishments and which should be educated at home is an educational and not a penal decision, and it should not be made to hinge on some particular incident, perhaps an incident of stealing, in the child's life.
My Lords, as I see the damage that is done to young children of school age who are brought into the courts, who from the moment they enter into the court waiting-room are introduced into a delinquent community, I realise more and more that the one important thing to do is to get the children who are still at school out of the courts altogether. It is not as though we were going to unleash a horde of wild savages on to a defenceless community: I am speaking only of children of school age—children of 8, 9, 10, 11 or 12. I should like to go right up to 15. Of children under 14, there are in this country some 9¾ million. There are only 5,000 of them who have been taken away from their homes by court action, and there are only some 2,000 of those who are in approved schools—a tiny minority of small children who are dealt with by the courts and who are sent to establishments; who are taken out of the control of their own homes.
Let me remind your Lordships, too, that at the time the existing legislation was introduced our educational provision was very different from what it is now. Then, we had what we called elementary schools and secondary schools, and by no means secondary education for all. I speak of 54 years ago. But look at what we have now, at any rate on paper, for difficult 821 children. A difficult child, without recourse to the courts, can be sent to a child guidance clinic; he can be sent to a residential school for maladjusted children, or to a non-residential school of the same kind. If his education is subnormal, again he can be sent to an educational, subnormal school, either residential or non-residential. He can be directed to a special remedial class if he is backward; or he can be sent to boarding school under the ordinary local authority boarding school arrangements. Surely, my Lords, with all those flexible provisions, it is not still necessary to put children of 8 on criminal charges.
Fundamentally, this is a Bill for other people's children; this is not the procedure which your Lordships contemplate for your own children. If I may say so, this is not because of the peculiar virtue that inheres in the children of the more favoured social classes. There can be but few parents who have not at some time had to cope with a child, even a child above the age of 8, who has either taken something which did not belong to him or looked extremely like taking something which did not belong to him. All parents, surely, have hovered on the brink of seeing their children steal, if they have not actually passed over that brink. My Lords, respect for the laws of property is not inborn even in the best-regulated families, and all of us have to face these problems.
When they arise, what do we do? We do not bring the child before the court unless we are very unfortunate. Perhaps I ought to say that in my long experience I have seen descendants of your Lordships' House in the courts, but this was extremely exceptional. Mostly, those of us who are more favoured socially have other means of dealing with these problems. We go and consult the headmaster; or, if the child is very difficult, we consult a psychiatrist; but we keep the whole thing within the framework of the educational system. It is only other people's children for whom we believe that criminal charges are appropriate. It is all very well to provide—and the noble Earl congratulated himself on this—that the record of a finding of guilt under the age of 12 will be expunged so that it will not be mentioned if you are in trouble again 822 after the age of 21. I might say that very little is made of it now in courts for offenders of adult years. The record may be expunged from the official documents: it is not expunged from the memory of the child.
My Lords, let us just recall some of the things that will still happen, that will still be happening within two miles of your Lordships' House, if this Bill becomes law. Children of 8 will still be placed on criminal charges in what is, in law, a criminal court; children of 8 will still have to take on the burden of cross-examining the policeman who arrested them; children of 8 will still have to make for themselves the choice between giving sworn evidence on their own behalf and being subject to cross-examination or making an unsworn statement and not being cross-examined—and I should like your Lordships to imagine the problem of presenting that choice to a child of 8; children will still be educated in schools which are effectively penal institutions because they come under that Department of Government which is concerned with such institutions; and young persons of 15 and upwards will still languish in prison while waiting for a higher court to decide whether they are to receive a borstal sentence or not. My Lords, it is only to be hoped that, if we are to go into the Common Market, for very shame our neighbours in that Market will drive us to raise our standards somewhat nearer to those which already prevail in the great majority of European countries. Nearly all of them regard the age of 8 as the minimum for criminal responsibility as a kind of nineteenth century blemish, of which the noble Earl spoke so eloquently. But I suppose that, with all this still left untouched, the Government will be able to congratulate themselves on one tremendous contribution to the welfare of our children: that if this Bill becomes law as it stands, children will no longer have to swear in the name of Almighty God; they will be able to promise before Him. Did ever a smaller and more ridiculous mouse come out of a mountain?
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, I do not entirely agree in everything the noble Baroness has said in the course of her very interesting speech, because I regard 823 this as being quite a useful little Bill, if nothing more than that. It consists a good deal of bits and pieces taken from various Committee Reports, some of them Departmental Committees and some non-Departmental Committees. But where I should like to support the noble Baroness is in condemning the fact that the age of criminal responsibility has not been raised from 8 years to 12 years. It seems extraordinary that the Government should not have done this, because I can see no particular reason for keeping it at 8. But this is a matter we can discuss at greater length on the Committee stage, and I do not propose, therefore, to say anything more about it now.
I am very pleased to see that what one has done before the age of 12 will not be cited against one at the age of 21. Although that was not frequently done, it is a good point to get it out of the way entirely. Again, another good thing about the Bill is that parents cannot bring a child to court to say it is in need of care and control. I agree with the noble Earl and the noble Baroness that the public rejection of a child can do no good at all, and arrangements made for dealing with this matter under the Bill seem to be quite satisfactory.
There is another good point in the Bill, and that is the power it gives to local authorities to undertake case work when they deal with these children. It recommends that the local authorities take measures to find out what sort of homes children come from who are in need of care or are becoming delinquent or becoming deficient in other ways. And I am very pleased that they can give some kind of assistance to what may be called the "problem families" particularly to the extent of being able to pay rent, although it is said that financial assistance can be given in only "very exceptional cases." But this might go a long way to stop families from being broken up. A broken home is one of the biggest causes of children being delinquent, or not entirely satisfactory children.
There is another point about that. Where a family is broken up and evicted for non-payment of rent, and must be taken into care and custody, it is far more expensive, from an economic viewpoint, to take into care than to pay the not very big sum needed to keep the 824 family together. There was a report in The Times newspaper about a year ago giving the results of a survey which had been undertaken in Cardiff. It was not on a very large scale, but it showed that in homes where there was not enough money available for the bare essentials—for example, to pay rent; or for food and clothing—the proportion of delinquents among the children was eight times greater than among normal children; and even among children taken from the same part of the town and not handicapped in that way the rate was doubled. If one can accept this survey—and I think one can—it shows that if you do not provide proper housing and living conditions you are going to increase juvenile delinquency—and not only delinquency but juvenile general un-satisfactoriness: I will not go so far as to say delinquency always. Would it not be a good plan if the local authorities could be advised, when the Bill becomes law, to make plans and collect information as to where various delinquencies occur under their control so that they could see whether there was any one part or another where the majority of these children came from? If that could be done it would be an advantage to the housing and planning authorities to know what types of dwellings and neighbourhoods produce that form of delinquency and that form of deficiency.
It seems to me, and it may seem to more of your Lordships, a curious thing that I should be standing here saying this in your Lordships' House in November, 1962, because it was a principle which was enunciated and partly accepted by Edwin Chadwick, that great social reformer, in the middle of the nineteenth century. He pointed out, and proved conclusively, that bad housing and bad conditions of life led inevitably to infectious diseases. High mortality and morbidity were associated with bad housing and slums. The same thing is as true now as in Chadwick's day. I do not think that things are as bad as they were when he wrote in the 1850's and 1860's, but I am sure that they can have just as bad an effect on the child mentally as physical conditions had 100 years ago. That is why I wonder whether the large amount of poor housing is one of the reasons for the substantial increase in the sexual offences against girls of 13 to 16. I agree that it is not an entirely 825 fair analysis, because girls of 13 are today far more mature then they were in my young days. But certainly, when one sees the quite substantial increase in the number of convictions for sexual offences against young persons, one wonders whether it is not the housing and poor conditions generally that lead to that result. Would it not be a good idea if the local authorities were asked to submit to the Minister some kind of scheme such as they have for the care of the elderly and other things like that, a scheme outlining what they intend to do for the unfortunate children in their area? Could we not come to some kind of common policy under which that can be done?
There is one further point I would raise before I sit down. It is not directly connected with the Bill—in fact, it probably comes more under the Adoption Bill—but I think it is applicable when we are dealing with children, particularly difficult children, from broken homes. One of the most satisfactory ways of taking care of children improperly looked after by their own parents is by means of foster parents. At the present time there are about 29,000 children boarded out with foster parents for the miserable sum of an average of £2 4s. 7d. per week. Where the 7d. comes from, I do not quite know. Of this sum, the natural parent is supposed to contribute 5s. or 6s. To put a child in a communal home costs between £8 and £9 a week. Would it not, therefore, be better to make some increase in the fees paid to foster parents who are going to take in children, and thereby save a good deal of money? Because if these children do not get boarded out, they have to go into a home. If they were put out, not ony would it be much better for the children, which is a point in its favour, I think your Lordships would agree, but at the same time it would save the local authorities a deal of money, which would be a great pleasure not only to the local authorities but also to the ratepayers.
Another point, which does not quite arise from the Bill but is completely tied up with it, is the difficult and delicate point of whether the natural parents have too much power to remove children from their foster parents. That they should be able to do so is, I think, right and proper, but there are a few cases when that power should not be granted 826 to them. Most of my speech to-day seems to consist of quoting newspapers, but I would remind your Lordships that there was a case reported in The Times the other day from a probation officer, in which a child had been happily brought up by foster parents until the age of 13, and then the natural parents, of a somewhat worthless type, brought the child back to work in a shop the mother ran, whereupon the child became a hopeless juvenile delinquent until she met her foster parents again. I merely quote that as one example of the kind of thing that occurs and is generally covered by the terms of the Bill. There is nothing more that I want to say on Second Reading, although probably there are various points that need to be brought up on Committee stage.
§ 4.24 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT INGLEBY
My Lords, I should like my first observation to be joining with the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, in the tribute she paid to the excellence of the speech introducing this Bill made by the noble Earl, Lord Jollicoe. He gave the House an absolutely first-class exposition of the Bill. He told us that its chief purpose was to implement the main recommendations of the Committee over which I had the honour to preside for something like four years, which have not already been adopted or enacted in the Criminal Justice Act of last year.
I do not propose to address myself to those subsidiary clauses which implement the Reports of the Bateson and Gowers Committees, because I am not by any means an expert in that field. My Committee, if I may so call it in order to shorten the proceedings, was composed of fifteen persons—practically the size of the Cabinet—and it was a very high-powered Committee. We had upon it—I am not going through all the members in detail—four ladies of wide experience in the social services, two of them juvenile court magistrates. We had another juvenile court magistrate who was also a consultant paediatrician. We had a clerk of a county borough council and a clerk of a country council. We had a Cambridge professor of jurisprudence and we had a man who I think is the most expert clerk of a magistrate's court in this country to-day. We had the 827 Chief Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate. We had the head of the Children's Department at the Home Office, and we had a psychiatrist working in the remand home of the L.C.C. in West London, as well as the Chairman of the General Purposes Committee of the L.C.C. Finally, we had a Vice-President of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which has been mentioned this afternoon. So it was a pretty high-powered Committee. The task of the Chairman of a Committee like that is not to force his own views, if he has any, upon the Committee, but to secure the greatest possible common measure of agreement, and I think that in that, considering the extremely wide terms of reference which were given to us, we were reasonably successful, because, although there are over a hundred positive recommendations, it is only on three of them that there are three individual notes of dissent in the whole Report.
It is a pity, I think, that the Report, as such, was never debated in your Lordships' House. The noble Baroness who has addressed us this afternoon had a Motion on the Order Paper at one time with that end in view. I think that the Government might have avoided falling into a certain error, to which I shall refer later, had we had a debate upon the Report, and had they been able to know what your Lordships felt and thought about it Of course, if there had been a debate on the Report I, personally, should have felt precluded from participating in it.
The recommendations were the recommendations of the Committee as a whole. They were arrived at after hearing an immense volume of evidence, some of which did not reach us until two years after we had been appointed, after long discussion, and after much adjustment of diverging views. I would only say at this point to the noble Baroness that had we recommended the sort of sweeping reforms which I took her to be advocating in the earlier part of her speech, our Report would not have had the support of more than 5 per cent. of the evidence given to us, and probably would never have had any support from the Government at all, and we should not have been debating this Bill, which 828 I think is a very useful measure, this afternoon.
I have no wish to add to or to subtract from any of the recommendations in the Report, but I do feel free to discuss the Bill. Indeed, I conceive that it would be treating your Lordships with scant courtesy, if I failed to express my views at all. There is a kind of convention here that people who address your Lordships know something about the subjects upon which they speak, and, having spent four years with this subject, I cannot claim any ignorance upon any aspect of it. I shall say very little on general principles, which are dealt with in the first three chapters of our Report, but I would offer one preliminary observation, if I may. It will be a glimpse of the obvious to those of your Lordships who have studied the problems of youth and the problems of broken homes, but it is just this—and I think the noble Earl made the same point in his opening speech—that there are no short cuts in this field; there are no sovereign remedies; there are no easy panaceas.
How simple it would all be if the advocates of the birch were right! But the advocates of the birch are dying out. Out of 150 witnesses whom we heard, no single organisation, and only one individual, suggested a return to the birch; and no member of my Committee would have given it a moment's consideration. No, my Lords; it is only by laborious, plodding work to improve our structure of social and voluntary services, to improve our courts, to improve our probation service and our sanctions when things have gone wrong—the improvement of these things brick by brick, stone by stone, year by year—that we shall build a new Jerusalem.
There were four main themes in our Report. The first was that prevention is better than cure; and Clause 1 of the Bill, which implements our recommendations there, goes a long way, I think, to carry out what we suggested. I should like to pay my tribute to the work in this field of one organisation, the Family Service Units. It is not very well known; it is a Quaker organisation, started in the war by conscientious objectors, who go into the problem home right down at the kitchen-sink level and help the hard-pressed, harassed housewife with the ordinary jobs of the day. They are doing a 829 tremendous job of work. They are employed by many of our most important county boroughs in this class of work, and I should like to pay my tribute to them.
The second main theme of our Report was that parental responsibility must be made paramount, and several of our recommendations were directed to that end. Clause 24 of the Bill, which provides that both parents, instead of only one as hitherto, shall be brought to court, is an implementation of one of our recommendations in this field.
Our third main theme was that life must be made tougher for young hooligans and trouble-makers. The whole of my Committee were against any sort of wet or woolly approach to this problem of juvenile delinquency. Examples of what we recommended, and what has already been carried out in this field in the Criminal Justice Act, are, of course, increased penalties, financial penalties which can be passed over and on to the parents, and the lowering of the age for an attendance centre order, which deprives the child of his Saturday afternoon half-holiday, from the age of 12 to 10. Our fourth main theme was that better arrangements should be provided for the supervision and after-care of what one may call the old boys of the approved school and the borstal system. We had a good deal to say about that in our Report.
This Bill, with one major, notable and, I think, regrettable exception, covers all the main points in our Report which were not included in the Criminal Justice Bill last year. That omission is the one to which the noble Baroness has referred: namely, the raising of the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12. In this regard, I should like to quote from the leading article in The Times of November 10, headed, "Children's Charter". It says:In taking up the Ingleby Report … the Government have as expected taken care to disencumber themselves of the two most contentious items in it—the recommendation that the age of criminal responsibility should be raised, and that the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children should be deprived of its present initiative over proceedings for care and protection. The former is a great pity, the latter a much smaller one, but what has been left of the Ingleby programme is still substantial and valuable.I endorse those statements completely. But what The Times leader writer had missed, I think (and I had myself missed 830 it until fairly recently) was that the then Home Secretary, before the present holder of the office (now named, I believe, the First Secretary of State) actually rejected this proposal of my Committee about raising the age of criminal responsibility in an Answer in Parliament on November 28 last year.
Our recommendation had only one dissentient in my Committee, who was Sir Robert Blundell, the present Chief Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate. It was backed by an immense weight of evidence, mostly in favour of an even higher age for criminal responsibility than that which we adopted. It is difficult, I agree, at first sight, to see how raising the age of criminal responsibility could comply with the principle I enunciated just now of making things tougher for the juvenile delinquent. Obviously, the proposal, on the face of it, is open to a lot of misunderstanding and facile misrepresentation. But what we suggested was that under the age of 12 these boys and girls be treated, in a civil proceeding, as naughty children, and not as criminals in a criminal one. We therefore proposed a new definition in Section 61 of the Act of 1933, the principal Act: namely, instead of describing the boys and girls as persons "in need of care or protection", to describe them as "in need of protection or discipline". I think it is true that Clause 2 of this Bill accords very closely with what we had in mind so far as this new definition was concerned.
But we went on from the new definition to propose some positive action. We proposed, first of all, that in these civil proceedings the parents or guardian of children should themselves be summoned to bring to the court children under the age of 12 who it was alleged had committed what would in older people have constituted an offence. We went on to suggest that the court in such proceedings not only should have available to them the treatments available to them at present that are applicable in "care and protection" proceedings, which are, of course, civil proceedings also and, incidentally, include the power to send a boy or girl away to an approved school and thereby deprive the child altogether of its liberty, but should have additional powers to send children in these cases to attendance centres, 831 which I have already briefly described, and to detain them, if necessary, in a remand home: and we went on to provide a power in the court to order the parents to pay compensation for damage done by the child up to an amount of £100—because I must remind your Lordships that it is not only, as I think Hilaire Belloc wrote… members of the upper classWho like the sound of breaking glass";it is very common among young children, and even children under 8 years old. At present there is a complete lacuna in the law which this proposal of ours would have closed, in that there is no redress whatever obtainable against neglectful parents whose children have done many hundreds of pounds' worth of damage, as they often do.
Under our proposal—and this is how we were making things tougher for delinquents than the law as it now stands, or as it will be under the Bill as presented to your Lordships—children would have been more readily brought to court, since no criminal charge would be involved; no criminal record would have been established; and no stigma, as it is called, would have attached, In the second place, a lower standard of proof is required and is acceptable in civil proceedings than it is in criminal proceedings. As your Lordships know, in a criminal proceeding the facts alleged have to be established beyond all reasonable doubt, and those of your Lordships who have been at boarding schools, or even at non-boarding schools, will appreciate that law and order in those schools would be quite nonexistent if proof beyond reasonable doubt of every misdemeanor were required before any treatment, punishment, or admonition was awarded by the masters in charge.
In the third place, under our proposals the outworn presumption of law, known technically as doli incapax, that children under 14 do not know the difference between right and wrong, would disappear altogether. This presumption of law was a humane invention of the lawyers to avoid having to apply the full blast of the criminal law, which involved deportation and other very severe penalties to children of 7 years old and upwards. It was a reasonable presump- 832 tion when 98 per cent. of the population received no education except that which they got at their mother's knee. It is a presumption which is variously interpreted by different juvenile courts, and from time to time the High Court has given rulings upon it. But if our proposals were adopted, this vague, indefinite presumption would disappear, and all the legal fog would disappear in which it is wrapped at the present time.
Under our proposals, those under 12 would be dealt with as naughty children, and those over 12—because the presumption applies to all children under 14—would be presumed henceforward to know the difference between right and wrong. That does not seem to me a very far-fetched conclusion, when you consider the number of years since compulsory public education was introduced. And that is just one more example of our Report making things tougher than they are at present for the juvenile delinquent.
We recommended the age of 12 for the new dividing line between the new type of proceeding and the old as a compromise. It was supported by the Magistrates' Association, though many witnesses and, indeed, some members of my Committee would have gone two or three years higher. Moreover, in adopting the age of 12 as a dividing line we were assured of the good will and cooperation of the police. Now that was vital. You cannot introduce changes in the criminal law in this country unless the police will co-operate. They are in the last resort the people who have to enforce the law. The police were prepared and ready to accept the age of 12 as the age below which civil proceedings should be brought and above which the ordinary criminal proceedings under the present law would continue.
I am therefore at a loss to understand why the then Home Secretary, in November of last year, selected this recommendation for rejection. He said that he had come to the conclusion that the time was not opportune for this change. That is always the way in which Governments reject any recommendation about which they have cold feet. Of course, this recommendation is, as I say, open to a good deal of quite easy misrepresentation and misunderstanding, but it would in fact have helped, rather than hindered, to deal with the problems of 833 juvenile crime as they exist today. I hope some of your Lordships are, as I am, addicted to the political novels of Mr. Anthony Trollope, because you will find that he named his Home Secretary Sir Harry Coldfoot. But our present Home Secretary, if I may say so, with great respect, is a man of very great determination, and I am sure he must be a little unhappy that his position in this matter has to some extent been prejudiced by the quite premature rejection in November of last year of this important proposal before any adequate debate or discussion in this House.
I think this situation poses an awkward question for your Lordships: what are we to do about this rather serious omission from the Bill? I should think 90 per cent. of what the Bill contains we all like, but the omission is serious, and if the opportunity is missed now to carry through this reform, which might do so much to secure, in my opinion, earlier and more effective treatment and guidance at the age when it is most needed for these young people, it may I think, he delayed for many years. I hope that the noble Earl, who introduced this Bill with such an excellent speech, when replying to the debate will not slam the door on possible Amendments on the Committee stage on the lines which I have adumbrated. It will not, of course, be easy and it may in fact be impossible for laymen to draft Amendments which could mot be riddled with criticism on technical grounds. It is a fairly complicated field in which we axe operating. But that our scheme was good and capable of enactment into law, had there been a will to do so, I have not the slightest doubt.
I am afraid that I have devoted too much time to this major omission. Despite it, as The Times leading article said, which I think I quoted, "what is left is still substantial and valuable". The Committee over which I had the honour to preside worked hard on this subject, and it is not often the lot of Commissions and Committees to see so much of their work put so quickly into practice. I am therefore sure that I speak for them as well as myself in giving a warm welcome to the Bill.
§ 4.50 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF SOUTHWELL
My Lords, the Bill is no doubt open to a good deal of criticism—indeed, it 834 has already had it, though more for what is not in it than for what is; and I share the regrets which have been expressed about the age of criminal responsibility. But we feel thankful for what the Bill does give us. In so far as the general aim and tendency of the first and most important part of the Bill seems to be a further attempt to keep the family together, I am sure that it will be warmly welcomed by Christian opinion. Since the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, the only begetter of the Report, has himself spoken, it would be impertinent as well as unnecessary for me to go into any of the details of the Bill at this point, but I should like to be allowed to bring before your Lordships' notice certain wider underlying considerations which seem to me to be important and deserving of the attention of your Lordships' House. Because, strange though it may be to your Lordships to hear me say so, this Bill carries one stage further a new relationship between Church and State, which is really implicit in all this new social legislation. As a result, a new, dynamic and extremely hopeful partnership is now developing between them, without any of us being much aware of it. This is not merely an academic point: it is not merely an ecclesiastical point; it concerns the whole quality of public life, the whole future development of the Welfare State and the place of the Church in the life of the community.
One could, I suppose, make the same point by saying that the Welfare State more and more recognises that welfare means more than just providing benefits, and involves the acceptance of what I can describe only (I can find no other words) as pastoral responsibility such as has hitherto been exercised, and in fact still is being exercised, by the Church through its clergy or other agents of its own. Is the State qualified to accept that responsibility? Here is a new situation. I am not complaining about it; I rather welcome it. It is not ecclesiastical jealousy, but we ought to be aware of what is happening. As I say, it is an entirely new situation.
The first clause of this Bill imposes upon the local authority a duty to make arrangements for advice, guidance and assistance in the home. That is what the Church has been doing for a thousand years or so. Does that mean that the 835 Church must stop doing it, or will stop doing it? Or will it continue to do it, in a different way, in collaboration with statutory services? For this is the new pattern that is beginning to emerge. As your Lordships know, in education, as in all other fields of social services, the Church was the pioneer and for centuries held a monopoly. Your Lordships are aware that it is less than 100 years ago that the State even entered the field of education. As the problem outruns voluntary resources, more and more the State comes in to take over. But that is not defeat for the Church, as it looks superficially and is popularly supposed to be. If the Church has so far leavened the national conscience that the whole community now feels responsible and itself takes action through the State, that is not defeat for the Church: it is achievement.
Nor does this mean, as is frequently now being said, that a purely secular State has pushed the Church out. There is no purely secular State in this country. It means that the way is opening to a new, dynamic partnership in which neither side can operate without the other and in which each can enrich and complement the other. My Lords, you cannot measure the influence of the Church simply by counting heads of church attendance on a given Sunday. What is called diffused Christianity is a very real force. It is the committed and worshipping Church which keeps that alive. The Church can never again have a monopoly in the social services. It ought never to wish to have it. There is something wrong with a Church that wants to dominate. The Church, like Christianity itself, ought to go into every situation not to be ministered unto but to minister.
Because the Welfare State is now at work, does that mean there is nothing left for the Church to do except to retreat back into its ecclesiastical ring fence and become a kind of club for religiously-minded people? Surely it means exactly the opposite. And, in fact, just at the time when we are being told so often and so loudly that the Church is ceasing to count in national life, there are now opening up before it new fields of opportunity, new claims for service, greater perhaps than it has known for centuries.
836 The Church, on its side, must realise now that its ministries in future are going to he discharged in part by other agents not directly under its control although still part of its own Ministry and concern. It must send its own members into the welfare services and it must actively collaborate with the statutory social worker. Neither can do the job without the other. It is not merely a question of money. The clergy in their parishes cannot do their pastoral job without the social services, without knowing what they are, what is available and where they can be found. I shall come back to that point before I conclude. The social services cannot do their job without the knowledge the Church possesses. After all, the man who knows most about She people among whom he lives, and who understands them best, ought always to be, and very often is, the vicar. They cannot do without the knowledge the Church possesses and without the help it can supply in dealing with personal, moral and pastoral problems.
I imagine that most of your Lordships are familiar with a report, called Responsibility in the Welfare State, published by the Birmingham Council of Christian Churches. That project in the so-called Southbridge Housing Estate revealed clearly what most of us knew already; that, with all the network of statutory services, there are still very many gaps to be filled, gaps which can best be filled, and perhaps be filled only, by the voluntary associations. And I do not mean only by trained expert workers employed by the voluntary associations; sometimes a thoroughly sensible understanding mother of a family, someone without any specialised or academic qualification at all, can be rather more help than the experts. Also it is partly a question of the need for just sheer neighbourliness in the vast loneliness of the new housing estates. One woman observed, "Our next-door neighbours are very religious and therefore they are not interested in other people". But that is not the attitude which the Church wishes to encourage. This task needs the help of the voluntary associations, partly on the level of sheer ordinary neighbourliness and partly by trained workers employed by the voluntary associations; and not 837 least it needs the help of the clergy and ministers, with their pastoral training and experience.
In my belief this new dynamic Church and State partnership which is growing up, and which can develop so much further, is far more important than arguing about the methods of ecclesiastical appointments or about the bare legal forms of what we call Establishment. The Secretary of State, through the local authorities, comes straight into the pastoral field, and if the plan is to work at all there will have to be trust and constant consultation between the local authorities and the Church. Clergy and statutory social workers will have to regard themselves as colleagues, not as juxtaposed co-existences; still less as competitors or rivals. Neither can get on without the other.
I heard the other day of a hospital almoner who had been seven years in the job and said she had never seen the vicar. Whose fault it is I do not know. But what an appallingly negative attitude! How impoverishing to both when they could each have done so much to help the other! If this kind of collaboration is going to happen, I am sure we shall need local clearing houses, not merely at county hall but much more regionalised than that, into which the various departmental agencies operating cam feed so that that information is readily available, and where there may be perhaps some mutual discussion of actual case work between the statutory workers and others. Something of the kind was urged in the Ingleby Report, in paragraph 33 and later.
Collaboration of this kind is not just a fiction of one's brain: it is actually happening all over the place. In my own diocese, for example, we run a small hostel for what are called problem families, in conjunction with the county welfare officer. He supplies the housing; we supply the warden and the training. That kind of thing can be indefinitely extended. We are also, at their own request, providing moral and theological courses of instruction for some of the statutory social workers. I mention that last point because obviously one of the questions which the Bill raises is how 838 the new officers whom it will require to work it are to be trained. Some of the universities are now offering mixed courses in social science and theology and philosophy which a number of prospective social workers are taking. In any case, I would suggest that the Home Secretary will have to think a good deal about the training of the civil servants to perform the duties which all this new social legislation imposes on them, and perhaps he might think it worth while to consult us.
Finally, I have been talking about the Church of England, because a man speaks in your Lordships' House, if he is wise, only about what he knows at first hand. But, of course, I mean something much wider than that: I mean what we call the Churches; the organised Christian forces in this country. A probation officer said the other day that the Churches could not help him much because of their divided and disunited condition. We must all bear that reproach. It is not always true, and it need never be true. Only last week I was present at a conference which had been convened by the mayor of one of our boroughs, who is himself Vice-Chirman of the Methodist Conference. It was a meeting of clergy, ministers of all kinds, with some representative citizens, to consider and discuss the Birmingham report which I mentioned previously, and to try to discover its local applicability. In another borough we have been able through the Churches' group of the Rural Community Council, to initiate, under the chairmanship of the mayor, a regular meeting of clergy of all kinds with the statutory social workers. That kind of thing can be more and more widely developed. If the minister and his staff are afraid of consulting us because of denominational prickles—though, after all we are the national Church of this country—let them consult the British Council of Churches.
I hope that all this has not tried your Lordships' patience too hard, but it seemed to me that there were here considerations which ought to be brought before the notice of your Lordships' House in which there is such an intimate intermingling of the spiritual and the temporal.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am sure that we all appreciate and understand the last sentence of the right reverend Prelate's speech. I think he can be reassured on one point, however: namely, that those of us who have experience of institutions which have, as it were, been taken over by the State—for example, hospitals—are aware that there is a greater need than ever for volunteer effort and that it is virtually impossible to get all the volunteer workers that we need. I feel also that the right reverend Prelate, if I understood him, did himself and the Church—I speak in this as a humble member of the same Church—something of an injustice, because he conveyed a sort of feeling of nostalgia about the days a century ago when, as he put it, the Church was the only agent for work of this kind. If that were true—and I doubt that even then it was true—we must all admit that the work was tragically badly done or inadequately done, and we must all take comfort in the fact that the efforts of social workers in the century since then have resulted in the acceptance by Governments of the need for the kind of legislation that we are considering this afternoon.
In any case, the right reverend Prelate can console himself that the Bill we are considering this afternoon is by no means revolutionary and in my opinion does not nearly measure up to the need. We who are interested in and work in social work, work for years, as we did after the 1948 Bill, and eventually the Government appoint a Committee. In this case, the Committee, presided over by the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, commenced their deliberations six years ago, did four years long and hard work, and now, six years after they started work, we have a Bill which I, at least, and I think most of us on this side of the House, think is not only inadequate, but certainly does not measure up even to the recommendations of the Ingleby Committee, which in themselves were, in our view, disappointing. So although I am grateful to have a Bill at all, although I am grateful even that twelve years after the Departmental Committee of the Home Office finished their deliberations about child performers they are dealt with in the Bill—some of the 840 child performers about whom we first started agitating are now grandmothers and grandfathers, so it will not do them any good, but at least we can hope that it will do good in regard to future generations of children—my gratitude for the Bill is tinged with doubts, because to my mind it means a considerable shift of responsibility which will amount to passing the buck unless the responsible authorities have the will, and are given the means and the men and women, adequately to discharge their new or augmented duties.
The Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill declares that its primary object is to give local authoritiespower to do preventive work in the interests of children.But in one important aspect the Government have rejected our proposals for quite valuable "preventive work in the interests of children"—namely, the setting up and increasing the numbers of attendance centres which would have provided a major avenue for preventive work in the early stages of delinquency. As it is, apart from probation, the approved school will be the first corrective and training stage for the erring and refractory child. I foresee a substantial increase in approved school orders arising directly from the Bill, because Clause 7 is a positive invitation to local authorities to get rid of refractory children in this way; and the number of such orders will, in my view, be greatest in those areas where the local authorities fail adequately to carry out their duties under the important Clause 1 of the Bill. They are likely to be the very authorities who have not provided approved schools.
This fact strengthens my objection to Clause 8, which empowers the Secretary of State to send a child to an approved school in any part of the country. It could mean that a child whose home was in London could be sent to the North of England, with no real hope of a visit from his parents throughout the whole of his sentence. That is a disastrous prospect. I use the word "sentence" deliberately, because that is what it is; and that is what it will be so long as the care of children and young persons remains a Home Office responsibility. Approved schools will continue to be regarded not as schools, 841 places of training and education, but as penal establishments—part of the penal system. So long as this fundamental error continues, so long will approved schools and the children in them suffer a disadvantage.
I entirely support what my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger said on this particular score. The children's department should either be a separate Government Department or be the special responsibility of a Minister of State under the Ministry of Education. What have children to do with the Home Office and the general set-up of the Home Office? It is utterly wrong that we should be discussing children under a Home Office Bill, in the same Department where the Secretary of State decides whether or not a man shall hang. Approved schools, whose task is educational in the widest sense, should properly be classed as special schools because those sent to them are not, or at least should not be, regarded as offenders to be punished, but as children deprived of normal home environment, who are in need of treatment and training.
Lord Ingleby in his comments and the reasons which he gave for asking that the age should be 12, obviously echoed that opinion, as did his Committee to a considerable measure. I was startled, though, to hear him say that his Committee would have put the age higher, at 14; that all of them bar one wanted it at 14, but on the advice of the police they kept it at 12 because the police would not have worked it at the higher age. This is an extraordinary new doctrine. We have a police force to apprehend offenders and to help in administering the law; we do not have a police force for the purpose of dictating what those laws shall be. It really is remarkable that we should have heard this to-day in your Lordships' House, and it merely confirms me in my view that the Home Office have nothing whatsoever to do with the business of children, nor should they have. I myself hope to live long enough to see the day when at least this department will be taken away from the Home Office.
Few children are so unmanageable that they will not respond to an intelligent teacher who really wants to help them. But the few find their way to approved 842 schools. They include the dull, the defective, the psychopath and emotionally disturbed, and a high proportion of difficult and undisciplined children, the product of inadequate or broken homes. It is for such children that approved schools must, in the words of paragraph 459 of the Ingleby Report:! provide care, training and education in open conditions! to gain their confidence and co-operation, to encourage them in habits of self-control and self-reliance, and to give them parental control and guidance, while at the same time seeking to win the support and co-operation of parents who have been compelled to surrender temporarily the custody of their children.My Lords, it is the most formidable task in the entire educational and social field.
How are approved schools equipped to carry out this task? Very badly indeed. Two years ago, after the Carlton School inquiry and the jolt which that report administered, the Government launched a £5 million building and improvement scheme, and although, for the reasons I have given, I do not think this will be sufficient, it is a most welcome move in the right direction. But while the Government have made a move over buildings, they have done absolutely nothing in the far more important question of approved school staffs. If approved schools are to become, not centres of major human and financial waste, but vital, dynamic places, full of activity, they must be fully staffed with trained enthusiasts having the ability and character to raise and redeem their charges. But there is not a glimmer of light in this direction—just a lot of talk and no "do".
We have had the Working Parties on recruitment and training. They have demanded for approved school housemasters professional status, and salaries consistent with such status, which must be comparable with that of teachers. They have demanded the fixing of basic educational standards for entrants into training, and, of course, proper training arrangements. Nearly three years ago, in another place, Mr. Vosper said that… special training over and above teacher training should be provided in respect of the schools. …he was talking of approved schools. But, so far, my Lords, the Government have taken no steps to provide it. The recommendation for a staff training college has been ignored, and no one has been 843 appointed to visit universities or departments of social science, with a view to interesting students in approved school work. This may, of course, be the Government's way of admitting that such arrangements would be useless until they have tackled the question of pay and prospects for approved school staffs.
The number of social workers at last shows signs of increasing, but how many of the new entrants can be expected to enter a field which is both the most difficult and the worst paid of all social work? Approved school managers are obliged to take what they can get, and in many cases accept semi-trained or untrained people. My Lords, if one of my carpenters was willing to accept a £250 a year cut in salary he could be at the bench in the factory to-day and to-morrow could be a fully-fledged instructor in an approved school to some of the most difficult boys in the country, without having had a day's training in teaching or child management. That is an absolute scandal. It is not merely a scandal; it is a disgraceful waste of public money, and makes nonsense of all the talk of success rates. The staff shortage is chronic, and it is dangerous. Proof, if proof be needed, lies in the fact that the staff are demanding that their fifteen-hours a week of extraneous duties—that is, overtime—should be pensionable. In other words, it is permanent. Then they are resolved not to do more than six hours a week beyond that. That is a 56-hours a week minimum in one of the most exacting, exhausting and stressful jobs in the world. In such a situation, of course, they cannot do the job as they would wish to do it, and the essential and important task of classification becomes virtually impossible.
Some of us in this Chamber have devoted weeks, months and years to inquiries, reports, and legislation in the social field. We have had debates and have passed Bills, with a feeling of something done. But in fact all we have done, in most cases, is to make more work for someone else—usually the probation officers or the approved school staffs. Naturally, we are aware of this, and we demand that their pay and prospects should be improved so that there shall be more hands to do the work. The Government always approve the legis- 844 lation and refuse the better pay. It is about time, I think, that we called a halt to this confidence trick and insisted that, when we have agreed the ends, the Government must provide the means.
Some six months ago I initiated in your Lordships' House a debate in regard to the pay of probation officers. Everyone who spoke paid sincere and deserved tributes to the work of the probation officers; everyone who spoke said that they were entitled to have the pay scales recommended by the Morrison Committee, for which we had aready waited years. But they have still not had anything. Almost another year has gone by, and all they have had is an offer which would mean, on the maximum scale, £100 a year less than Morrison offered. So, of course, the matter has gone to the Ministry of Labour, and it is going to arbitration; and no doubt eventually something like justice will be done by the Arbitration Court. But what a way to treat some of the finest people, some of the most valuable servants who serve their country! It does not merely make one angry: it makes one marvel at the sheer stupidity of the people responsible for decisions and conduct of that kind.
We are aware, of course, that the Treasury loom over all. But in this Bill the battle is between the child and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Those of us who know what is necessary in the interests of deprived and delinquent children are firmly on the side of the child. We therefore say to the Government that if they really mean business over this Bill they will take steps, without further excuse, to provide salary scales, conditions of employment, and training schemes which will give approved school staffs and other comparable officers parity of pay, conditions, and esteem with teachers and with other social workers on the same plane.
Then, and only then, will this Bill become some sort of a reality. Then, and only then, shall we have sufficient trained workers in one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs in the whole educational and social field.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, I think it likely that there is a good deal of substance in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, on the 845 subject of approved schools, which have given me much concern, as they have other Members of your Lordships' House. But I certainly could not follow the noble Lord, in what I took to be his suggestion that children's matters should be transferred from the Home Office. It strikes me that the Home Office Children's Department is an extremely efficient setup indeed with large and liberal ideas, and I should lament children's interests being transferred to any other Department of State. I was very much interested, as we all were, in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, on his Report, and I am looking forward very much to hearing, as I no doubt shall on Committee stage, why the Government felt unable to accept the Committee's recommendations with regard to the age of criminal responsibility.
I welcome Clause 1 of the Bill. Preventive work by local authorities is no now thing. The first experiment, on a small scale, in such work was made at Dudley in 1949, where honour is due, and it was followed by a large-scale experiment by Oxfordshire in 1952. Since then a number of other counties have been doing this work and have, I believe, found it extremely valuable and rewarding. I was grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, not only for the clarity of his exposition of the Bill, but particularly for his remarks regarding voluntary services.
I could not agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, in her views upon the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. They are in that Society very conscious of the need for giving more training to their workers. They have recently extended the period of training for some classes of worker from six months to nine months. They are, I know, anxious so far as their funds allow to continue to train more and more, and I am quite sure that attention will be paid—and is being paid—in the course of that training to the important matter of presentment of evidence in court. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Swanborough, will hear with pleasure the noble Earl's remarks regarding the Women's Voluntary Services, which in this preventive work can be of the greatest service.
I know very well that the attitude of the Home Office towards voluntary workers is entirely satisfactory. I am 846 not sure that attitude extends as widely as it should, and I am not at all sure that some local authorities are making the best use of the voluntary workers in their areas. I would suggest that more representatives of voluntary societies, including the Women's Voluntary Services, should become co-opted members of the Children's Committee, and I am quite certain that they could be of vast assistance in the work under Clause 1.
We have always to remember this about the voluntary worker. Let us concede that the professionally-trained social worker has far better training, commonly more experience, and a much greater organisation behind him or her. But let us remember that the voluntary worker has this advantage: commonly she has the advantage of continuity. It is unfortunately true that the young professional social worker is very liable to be transferred to another area, to receive promotion in her own authority, to move to another authority, to be sent away on a course of training, or to incur the hazards of matrimony. That means a certain lack of continuity in dealing with the families that most need her services. The voluntary worker, working from her own home, may be able to achieve a more stable, more long-term, relationship with a problem family.
That brings me to the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Southwell on the subject of the clergy. Generally speaking, I agreed very well with the speech that the right reverend Prelate made. I agree with him particularly that there is a gap in the training of social workers. If I had my way with the training councils, I would see to it that every social worker, and particularly those in the children's field, should know at least something of the main religious denominations with which he or she is going to come into contact. They ought to know something, even if it is only the fruit of one or two lectures, about what the Roman Catholic Church demands of her people, what the Anglican Church demands, what spirit animates the Salvation Army. Those are, I suppose, the principal denominations with which a social worker makes contact, and I wish that that received greater attention in her training.
I will mention one other point made by the Ingleby Report, and that is the very great importance of all social work 847 being regarded as highly confidential. That point was made in the Report, and I should like to see a Home Office Circular to draw it to the attention of all the staffs of local authorities' departments, and of the newly-recruited members of case committees, stressing the very great importance of regarding as confidential anything they learn in the course of their work. My county has recently adopted new and particularly stringent precautions to keep confidential relations between the local authority and parents, and I wish that those precautions were more widely taken.
May I make a point regarding the voluntary children's organisations? I would thank the Children's Department of the Home Office for the quite excellent paragraphs on the subject of voluntary children's organisations, which occur in their very interesting and well-written Eighth Report. I am very glad that that relation should be so satisfactory at Home Office level. But while we were clearing up gaps in the Children Act, 1948, I think there is one other gap which might have been considered. The great need that we are experiencing is for more foster homes, and particularly for more denominational foster homes where our children can be brought up in the tenets of their parents. The Report, in paragraph 84 on page 21, quite rightly calls attention to the shortage of Roman Catholic foster homes. It goes on, in paragraph 85, on the next page, to point out that grants can be made for the reconstruction of the buildings and homes in the possession of voluntary children's societies, but that no grant can be made in respect of the administrative expenses or salaries of the voluntary societies. It seems to me that it would be well worth while for a local authority or the Home Office, whichever may be the most appropriate, to make grants to voluntary children's societies in order to enable them to pay child-care workers who would find and then supervise foster homes of their own faith. I think that any candid person, reading paragraph 84 in conjunction with paragraph 85, would agree that the point made, though a small one, is a valid one and worth taking trouble about.
May I say that I was also much interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, on the subject 848 of fostering in general, and that I am coming to the conclusion that he is right in thinking that the rates are rather too low in some cases? After all, no one is right to take a foster child if it means depriving members of his own family of what they would otherwise have had, and it is necessary to ensure that the remuneration of the foster parent does not damage the interests of the other members of his family.
May I say a word further on the oath or promise issue? The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, regards this as a "ridiculous mouse". I am glad that the noble Lady is able to take so intrepid an attitude towards mice. I regard it as a rather dangerous little mouse, and I think it is nibbling away at the law calf in which our traditions are bound. I should like to know whether Her Majesty's judges have been consulted on a matter which so very definitely affects them. They are accustomed to, and sometimes judges are very skilled in, extracting truthful evidence from children. Judges regard it as part of their duty to ensure that a juvenile witness understands the nature of an oath. Surely the judges should be very fully consulted on this point before we enact the Ingleby recommendations.
I am no great lover of delegated legislation in general, but in this case I, for my part, think it would be more proper to empower the noble and learned Lord who sits upon the Woolsack to make regulations on the question of oath, promise or affirmation as it is applied to young children. I would suggest that it might be more proper still to allow the trial judge, who has the witness before him and who is better able to judge than anyone else whether the witness should take an oath or a promise, the choice of the form in which he administers it to the child. I should like alternative forms of oath or affirmation at the discretion of the trial judge; and, for my part, I wish we could use as one of those alternatives the Scottish form of the oath, the most impressive form of which I know:I swear by Almighty God, and as I shall answer to God…There is one of the things which our sister Kingdom does better than we do, and I do not know whether there would be any great objection to borrowing from her in this matter.
849 The subject of the theatrical children has generally been avoided in this debate, but one point occurs to me and I would ask the noble Earl if he will clarify it in his reply. If local authorities are to decide whether a child can act or not, what on earth is going to happen to touring companies which contain a child in the cast? Is it not going to be administratively very inconvenient indeed to have to ask each local authority—it might be, perhaps, half a dozen or a dozen local authorities—whether the play may be performed? And how difficult it is going to be if different local authorities take up different attitudes in the question! I am quite sure that nothing whatever should be done to make more difficult the task of touring companies, which bring so much joy and encouragement, and so much art, to the Provinces. I would conclude, my Lords, by hoping that when this Bill has become an Act it will very early be consolidated with other children's legislation, so that it will be easier for those of us who are concerned to know where we stand.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, it may not be inappropriate, even at this hour, for one who has spent some of the best years of his life in children's welfare work to intervene in this debate. My interest in this Bill is because I had the privilege for many years of being the chairman of one of the largest children's homes in the country. In these homes many thousands of children were received over the years, and one of the greatest joys of my life was to see this happy body of boys and girls, and babies, in their daily rounds at meal times, at school, on the football and the cricket fields, and on the netball or tennis courts; to watch their amateur dramatics and pantomimes; and, above all, to see them instructed in trades which would be useful to them in their future life, when they had left the institution. The annual reunions, too, afforded me a particular pleasure. At these reunions I met fine men and women, many of them holding important and highly-paid positions. They were as proud of their home as if they had been at Eton or Harrow.
This home, as with many other larger homes throughout the country, is now closed. Time alone will tell the wisdom of these closures. I am, of course, aware 850 that there is much skilled opinion in support of the action. Commendable as it is to increase the number of children boarded-out, it should never be lost sight of that the immediate cause of setting up the Curtis Committee was the death of a boarded-out boy. Other cases of extreme cruelty came to light after investigation. Everyone will wish success to those engaged in finding good homes for the boarding-out of children but local authorities must never relax their vigilant supervision and must be ever watchful, particularly as it now seems probable that profit-making will be introduced into the payments—something which the Curtis Committee strongly condemned. My Lords, on more than one occasion in my time as chairman we had to bring back girls from homes where they were boarded out because of moral evils and even worse. Therefore I think I am justified in stressing that point.
Like other noble Lords who have spoken, I venture to think that Clause 1 of this Bill is the most important one. It gives to local authorities, for the first time, real power to help children and the families. But my anxiety for some time past has not been about the children in the care of the Children's Department, where everyone is desirous and anxious to do the best possible for the children, but about those children who may be termed rightly the "Legion of the Lost". My Lords, the plight of these children is a national scandal. Hundreds of little children to-day are forced to spend their days and nights in old Poor Law institutions, the old workhouses, in substandard accommodation sharing a common yard with old people, the mentally unstable, the single woman with her illegitimate child, often left for weeks without going to a school of any kind. The furtive occasional visits of the father to the institution suffice to satisfy those who think this keeps the family together. In fact, it is the very negation of family life.
This is not confined to London. Similar conditions exist in big cities like Liverpool and Manchester. In Manchester, for example, little children can be found at night in the old casual wards and, until recently, they were turned out next morning, cheek by jowl with the tramps of the roads. The Manchester casual wards have 851 been taken over by the National Assistance Board but they are still used to house homeless people. This, if I may say so, is the crux of the criticism I am making: these children are not visited by the children's officers although I venture to think that children in this unhappy position may need more attention than others. The children's officer places the responsibility upon the welfare departments. That is why I welcome Clause 1, because anything this Bill can do to bring these services together, so that no child in need of help is excluded, must be welcomed by everyone who has a knowledge of the conditions I have described.
Certainly the staff in charge of these institutions have a most difficult task and are doing an exacting and unrewarding job with the aged, the social misfits and the little children housed in one building. Everyone is indebted to the staff in these circumstances. None regrets more than they who have the duty of caring for them that children have to be placed in such conditions. I wish it were possible for the staff to speak freely in regard to the conditions. They would have some very sad and distressing stories to tell. What chances have these children? At least they have food and warmth in the institution, but what of those who tramp the streets with their mothers with nowhere to go and only the friendly policeman to guide them into shelter as the night falls? The police could tell how great is the extent of this problem.
This Bill should, and does, provide incentives for the greatest possible interest and care for the children living under the conditions I have described. But it is not enough to provide discipline, example and good upbringing by building bigger and better approved schools for the boy and girl later in life. Something must be done before then. The circumstances of every destitute child should be carefully investigated and the guide for all our actions should be what is best for the child, not what is best for the administrative machine, or, above all, for the theorists, who are the bane of child welfare work. There seems so much that needs careful and thorough investigation in this realm of child welfare work.
What of the abnormal increase in the number of children with whom the N.S.P.C.C. are having to deal? Only 852 yesterday the Daily Express reported that child cruelty cases dealt with by the N.S.P.C.C. in Nottingham have trebled in the past six years—no doubt, I suppose, because they have more inspectors to bring these cases to light. What is the reason for all that? Does it point to any breakdown in the Children's Department? Are children being allowed to drift along with worthless and cruel parents? These voluntary watchdogs, the N.S.P.C.C, are doing a fine job, and their files are open for inspection by the Department, so that when cases of child cruelty arise through the breakdown of official services the lesson can be learned and the faults corrected.
Certain it is that to-day hundreds of little children suffer through the failure of the children's departments and welfare departments to come to terms on responsibility. There can be no doubt that, with the ideals freely expressed when the Children Act, 1948, was introduced in another place, no one could have foreseen that in so short a time hundreds of defenceless little children would be housed in old Poor Law mixed workhouses. The Act envisaged that the setting up of a children's department and the appointment of a children's officer would place the responsibility for any deprived child fairly and squarely upon that department and that officer. Is it too much to hope that under this Bill those ideals of 1948 may be a little nearer achievement?
May I express the hope that every step will be taken to improve and increase accommodation in approved schools and remand homes, and to appoint staff, before the effects of this Bill come into force? Already (and I ask the noble Earl to note this point) local authority children's homes where normal children are housed are crowded with children who ought to be in approved schools or remand homes but cannot be found places because of the lack of accommodation, particularly in remand homes. The staffs of these children's homes are almost at breaking point, working frequently and uncomplainingly 60 to 70 hours a week, and it would be quite wrong to add to their problems by not remedying the accommodation position in remand homes and approved schools.
I should like to support very strongly what my noble friend Lord Stonham said 853 about the staffing problem. Perhaps the time has come when we ought to have an inquiry, rapid in operation, to see whether the primary conditions of staffs, not only in approved schools and remand homes, but also in children's homes, are proper and adequate. It is imperative that the staff appointed to run remand homes and approved schools should be most carefully selected and should be adequately paid. The conditions I have just described to your Lordships ought to be, and must be, remedied, and I sincerely trust that this Bill is a step forward to ensuring as speedily as possible that these grim and terrible conditions are no longer a disgrace to our national life.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE
My Lords, I should like to extend a warm welcome to what I consider a very useful Bill and I would congratulate my noble friend Lord Jellicoe on the lucid and brilliant way in which he introduced this Second Reading. I am somewhat overawed at speaking in the company of so many other noble Lords with great personal and export knowledge in dealing with young offenders, because my own experience has been primarily with the Youth Service. But I believe that all of us who are interested in the problems of young people, and who can boast very often of our successes within the scope of the Youth Service, should also face up to the failures, which are failures of society, represented by those young people who come before the courts.
The point has often been made to me that the Youth Service deals too exclusively with the best young people and does not do enough for those who are most in need of help. I think that to a large extent this is true, although there certainly have been many courageous experiments on the pact of the Youth Service in reaching out into the field of the more difficult type of young person, especially since the publication of the Albemarle Report. But the fact is that the Youth Service not only provides facilities for young people but also lays responsibilities on them to help others and to help themselves. Therefore, those who make most use of it tend to be the best of the young people, who are prepared to give as well as to receive service, and to that extent 854 members of youth clubs tend to be the better type rather than those who come from unhappy home backgrounds or who may he naturally inclined to lawlessness.
In saying this, I do not wish in any way to decry the Youth Service, which is providing the most essential opportunities and facilities for that 98 per cent. of young people who never come before the courts. Nor do I mean to say Chat the Youth Service has nothing to offer in tackling the problem of juvenile delinquency. From my own experience with the Y.M.C.A. I know of local associations which, in close liaison with probation officers, the police and the local authorities, are helping young people who have been in trouble. In at least one borstal institution, a Y.M.C.A. club has been formed, with the enthusiastic support of the governor, and it has proved extremely successful. And thousands of boys and girls from approved schools, and similar types of institution, spend their holidays at Y.M.C.A. camps. I believe that the Y.M.C.A. and other constituent parts of the Youth Service are in the best position to help to forestall trouble—to help in the home, and with the boys and girls while they are having difficulty at home before they come before the courts. It is for this reason that I particularly welcome Clause 1 of this Bill.
Under this clause county councils and county boroughs will have a duty to make available such advice, guidance and assistance as may diminish the need for children to be received into care, or kept in care, or be brought before a juvenile court as in need of care or control. My noble friend Lord Jellicoe in introducing this Second Reading mentioned the part that he felt the voluntary services could play, in conjunction with the local authorities, in fulfilling their duties under this clause. I would reiterate what he said and urge all local authorities in taking action under this clause to make use of the facilities that are offered by the Youth Service, in appropriate circumstances, to help children with an unhappy home background. Neither school nor youth club can be a real substitute for the home, but much can be done, nevertheless, in certain circumstances, and it is important that all available facilities should be used 855 to meet the very varied needs of young people.
It seems to me that, because every young person's needs are so highly individual, it is most important to retain the greatest possible flexibility in dealing with them. I read with great interest the excellent Report of the Committee under the able chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Ingleby, and it seemed to me that one of the underlying themes of the recommendations in the Report was the need to retain the utmost flexibility for juvenile courts or others who have the care of children and young persons, and to give them as many varied ways as possible for dealing with the individual young person concerned. I am glad to see that in this Bill certain of the recommendations of the Committee which would give that added flexibility are included, particularly those dealing with supervision orders and approved school orders. In my view, a significant and helpful recent development has been the growth of a system of classifying schools. Coupled with the increased specialisation in approved schools, this system should help to ensure that the needs of each individual young person are best taken care of. I therefore feel sure that Clauses 8 and 11 will be most helpful in making it easier to transfer a young person from one school to another, and in enabling the Secretary of State to designate remand homes as classifying centres. This will all help to achieve maximum efficiency and to take into account individual requirements.
I also feel it is particularly important that we should never cease to try to improve our methods of dealing with young people who have broken the law or are in need of care or control. My noble friend in his opening speech said that we were at the beginning of a journey, and I feel sure that if we are to make any progress on that journey we must do our best constantly to improve our methods. For that reason I particularly welcome Clause 43 of the Bill, which enables the Secretary of State and local authorities to conduct or assist research into these matters. I know that at the present moment a great deal of research is already being done by the Home Office Research Unit and in the universities, and I think it would be of great assistance if my noble friend, when he replies to the debate, could give 856 us some indication of what further measures of research he has in mind under Clause 43.
But, whatever system we may establish by law, the ultimate success or failure of our attempts to deal with this problem will depend on those people who have the responsibility of dealing with young people. Primarily, of course, they are the parents. But if they fail in their duties, then the responsibility falls on probation officers and fit persons, local authority officers, members of juvenile courts and staffs of approved schools, detention centres, borstals and so on. I know that this aspect of the matter is somewhat outside the scope of the Bill, but it has already been mentioned by other noble Lords and by the noble Lord, Lord Burden, in the last speech and I cannot help adding my plea for those devoted people who give so much selfless service to help the young people. I hope that the Government and local authorities will keep in mind constantly the vital importance of attracting the best people into this type of service, and will ensure that their conditions of employment, training and available facilities will put the lifeblood of human enterprise into the bare bones of buildings.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just spoken is particularly well informed from all his first-hand work in relation to many of the matters that we have been discussing this afternoon. There have been, of course, other notable contributions to the debate. I know that the right reverend Prelate and the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, will forgive me if I do not trespass on the religious field. The attitude of noble Lords and Ladies on this side of the House has been clearly outlined by the noble Baroness in the first speech from this side. It is difficult, without seeming to be ungenerous, to explain clearly and unmistakably what a poor view we take of much that this Bill contains and as to much that it fails to contain. But, before coming to that, I should like to say once again how much, on the whole, we welcome Clause 1 of the Bill.
When we come to the Committee stage, it seems to me likely (though I have not had the opportunity of consultation with my noble friends) that 857 Amendments will be pressed. I will not mention more than one, though more than one occurs to me. The third section of Clause 1, in my view, in its present form, represents an important deficiency which I should have thought would strike the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, whom we were so glad to hear this afternoon. If I may turn to the Summary of Recommendations in the Report of his Committee, I find that we are told thatThere 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.I should hardly think that the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, would consider that that particular recommendation had been in any way met by the phaseology in the Bill. I am not on a drafting point, but on an important point of policy, because it seems to me essential that if the philosophy of the Ingleby Report (which in these respects at least we wholeheartedly endorse) is to be carried out, it should not be left to the Secretary of State of the day to call for such reports as he thinks fit. There should be an absolute duty for the Secretary of State to call for these reports, and for the local authorities to provide them. While I have not had an opportunity for consultation, I have no doubt whatever that we shall be putting down some important Amendment which we shall wish to press in respect of subsection (1) of Clause 1. Nevertheless, I think that all who are engaged in working for children—certainly those who have spoken to me—would feel it unduly churlish not to regard Clause 1, on the whole, as representing a distinct advance.
If we take the Bill as a whole, if we are asked eventually to pass the Bill in any form of this kind, we are bound to say that on balance this is not a Bill which in this form we would wish to pass into law. There is a famous phrase, used by a man whose policies I do not admire, but who had the gift of words; he said, "One step forward, two steps backwards". If we pass this Bill more or less as it is, doing nothing about criminal responsibility, missing this chance which may not recur for many years, then in truth I would say that we have taken one step forward and two steps backwards. Although there 858 has not been full opportunity for consultation, and at this stage I cannot commit the Labour Party or even the Party in this House, I feel certain that the kind of proposal in respect of raising the age of criminal responsibility which the noble Baroness was unfolding will be strongly pressed from this side of the House. I am bound to say that if it were not rather unusual for us—I do not say there is any absolute rule—from this side of the House to vote against a Second Reading, in my judgment it would be extremely probable that we should vote against the Second Reading of this Bill to show our extreme distaste for the failure to do anything about raising the age of criminal responsibility.
I should like to turn for a moment to the extremely interesting speech, if I may say so without impertinence, made by the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby. I will come again in a moment or two to what he said about the age of criminal responsibility, or touch on it briefly, because we shall no doubt come back to this at the Committee stage. Perhaps the noble Viscount will allow me to offer one or two general comments on the kind of philosophy of the Bill which he explained under four main headings. Before doing that, may I protest in the strongest possible way about what he said regarding the influence of the police in deciding policy? I can hardly believe that so eminent a Minister as the noble Viscount would seriously come down to the House and tell us that a Bill must not be passed into legislation unless, broadly speaking, it conforms to the ideas of the police. That is what we on this side understood him to say; and if I have misunderstood him of course I withdraw and apologise. As the noble Viscount does not see fit to correct me, I must assume that that is what he meant. This would seem to me to be the most extraordinary doctrine ever propounded in your Lordships' House.
§ VISCOUNT INGLEBY
My Lords, it may be the most extraordinary doctrine to the noble Earl, but it really is essential, in dealing with these delinquent young people, that the police should be ready and willing to operate any system that may be adopted. It must have their good will if it is to succeed. There rests in the police, as the noble Earl must know, a discretion in each case as 859 to whether or not to take proceedings; therefore it is vital to have the police in support of the scheme which is being operated.
§ THE EARL OF LONGFORD
That, I understand, gives the police an absolute veto on social reform. Suppose the police came to the Home Secretary of the day and said, "We cannot be responsible for law and order if capital punishment is abolished". Is the Home Secretary to come down to the House and say, "The police cannot be responsible for law and order, and for that reason, and that reason alone, this reform cannot be introduced"? I cannot pursue the point except to say that I can hardly believe my ears. I feel it must have been a thought which fell from the noble Viscount, and I do not want to tie him to it for life, because I think it would be a horrible burden for him to bear for years to come. We were profoundly shocked, and I cannot believe that he meant it.
I will come to one or two of the things he said with which we agree. He singled out four underlying ideas of the Report: first, that prevention is better than cure. We certainly agree with that; indeed, it was a most important contribution in the way worked out by the noble Viscount. I am sorry that that admirable, brilliant first chapter of the Report could not in some way have been embodied in legislation; but perhaps that was impossible.
The next underlying idea was that the emphasis must be laid on parental responsibility. There we are with him entirely. But then he said that things should be made tougher for the young delinquent. I cannot pretend that I sympathise with that way of putting things. I will come back to that in one moment, but may I say that I entirely agree with his fourth point: that particular emphasis should be laid on the provision of after-care. Speaking briefly, may I say that in my opinion this division between a tougher way of treating people and a more lenient way of treating people is something of a red herring in modern penal discussion. What is surely important is that it should be a constructive way of treating people.
If the noble Viscount says that he is on the side of toughness—and I hope 860 that I misunderstood him again—if he says to the Government, "We are asking you for rather a pronounced social reform in respect of criminal responsibility, but, have no fear: we are on the side of toughness", all I will say is that that argument does not appeal to anybody on this side of the House. Even if I forfeit the support of the noble Viscount in some hypothetical Division Lobby I must tell him that that way of looking at it is repugnant to us. Can we not all agree that we are seeking more constructive methods? Surely that was the burden of what the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the noble Lord, Lord Burden, and other noble Lords have said. We find that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has pointed out the horrible treatment of the probation officers and other social workers. I cannot remember that any good word was said in this House for that policy. Certainly, leading Conservatives, like the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, were taking a strong initiative in denouncing the behaviour of the Government, if I remember rightly.
I happened to be invited by the warden of a detention centre the other day to help a young man coming out of the centre. He asked whether my organisation—I mean the organisation of which I am Chairman—could do anything about him. I said that we were primarily concerned with adults but, of course, we could not refuse to help an adolescent, although we were not so well equipped for that purpose. I ask what is being done under the Criminal Justice Act about the after-care of those who have been to detention centres. If I remember rightly, the idea of after-care for those who come from detention centres was introduced by the Criminal Justice Act. But at the moment, so far as I can make out, there is no after-care for those who have been in detention centres. There are no signs of after-care, so far as I can discover—certainly in the case of one important detention centre—being introduced.
Why is that, if it is not ill will? It is certain there are not the probation officers or social workers. There is this policy of defrauding the social workers of their just dues. They are human beings like the rest of us, who require some remuneration. It is in fact preventing the carrying out of a constructive 861 policy. Therefore, the fourth feature of the noble Viscount's philosophy, and I think in a sense all that is best in the Ingleby Report, will be frustrated in just the way the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, explained.
I must say one word here about the Home Office. Of course, we are in a certain difficulty. One is not supposed to criticise individual officials, and there is no individual official in the Home Office whom I desire to criticise. I have not anybody in mind, even if there were not a rule about officials. Equally, one does not want to pin this on to any particular Minister. We have had more than one Home Secretary; we had one a little while ago and now we have another. I am not, therefore, pinning this on a particular Minister. Nor am I trying to make a Party point. Whom can one attack? What can one attack, if one says the Home Office have failed dismally to handle their responsibilities in the children's field? If anybody doubts whether they have failed dismally let me just remind them that we were unable, with all the pressure in the world, to extract from them any kind of Annual Report. We have here the Eighth Report on the work of the Children's Department, and that was published in 1961. The last one before that was published in 1955. This one took five years to produce. Is anyone now going to tell me that a Department which takes five years, in spite of many prods and pushes, to produce this sort of Report is a Department which can be safely left with these responsibilities? I do not think it is a question of individuals; it is just the wrong sort of Department. One might as well hand the work to the Ministry of Defence; it is just not the Department for constructive social work of this sort. I hope that this point can also be pressed in the proper way.
I want, in conclusion, to say only one word about the age of criminal responsibility. It has been put so brilliantly and with such depth of feeling and knowledge by the noble Baroness that my words would be what she would call "a mouse out of a mountain". At any rate, I would just remind the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe—and I hope he will not say too much about this although we usually want him to speak at great length on most matters we raise—but I rather want to echo what was said by the noble Vis- 862 count, Lord Ingleby, that we hope that the door is not closed, because argument has not started, certainly not in this House nor elsewhere. It would be monstrous if the Government closed the door before listening to any public discussion.
Let me remind the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, of something—I gave him an hour or so's notice that I was going to quote this—which was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, when replying to an Amendment by the noble Baroness at the time we dealt with the Criminal Justice Bill. Her Amendment was this [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 231 (No. 80), col. 445]:In Section fifty of the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933 (which fixes the age of criminal responsibility) for the words eight years' there shall be substituted the words 'twelve years'.One would think that that was plain enough. The noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, has told us—and I am sure he has gone into it—that a drafting Amendment may be quite a difficult one to work out properly. I am not saying that those proposed words were exactly what was required, but the meaning was plain enough; there is no doubt about that, in the course of that discussion the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham—who, I am sorry to say, was interrupted once or twice by myself—made this point (col. 456):… I find it all the more difficult to understand why the noble Earl"—that is, myself—led your Lordships to suppose that he was entitled to call the Ingleby Report in support of the noble Baroness's proposal. It is, in fact, quite inconsistent with the noble Baroness's proposal, and if the noble Baroness's proposal is accepted we shall have rejected the Ingleby Committee's Report.That is what the noble Viscount said. In her Amendment the noble Baroness had not coloured the words I have given here with any further views which she may or may not have held in common with the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby. She simply said that the age should be raised from 8 to 12.
The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, said that this was… quite inconsistent with the noble Baroness's proposal, and if the noble Baroness's proposal is accepted we shall have rejected the Ingleby Committee's Report.863 I am sorry that the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, is not here, because in his absence I had better not say exactly what I think of this, as one is always supposed to avoid sharp criticism in the absence of a noble Lord, even the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House, and I will just leave the matter where it is. Here we have the noble Baroness and the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, both, so far as I can see, pressing that the age be raised from 8 to 12. We shall press this very strongly in one way or another when we come to the Committee stage.
I hope I am not impertinent if I say to the noble Earl that when the time comes I hope he will not be too much tempted to drive wedges between the various points of view which might be held by the supporters of this proposal. It is not a question here of tactics; it is a question really of a fundamental change in the British law. Either we continue as we are, or we bring about a change of this kind. I can only say that if in 100 years from now they discover that in 1962 we clung to the present situation in respect of the age of criminal responsibility, they will say about us what we said about those who used to hang children and who made it so difficult for the Earl of Shaftesbury to introduce the Factory Act. They will not believe it possible that we were human beings. However, I will leave most of my observations for the Committee stage. I know that the noble Earl will speak to us once again graciously and also seriously, but I want him to realise that we take this very much to heart, and if we had to vote now for or against the Bill as it stands our vote would have to be against.
§ 6.36 p.m.
My Lords, you have already heard from me at some length earlier in this debate and I fear that your Lordships may be hearing something from me at later stages in the discussion of this Bill. Therefore, I shall be not only as gracious (and I thank the noble Earl opposite for this adjective) as I hope I always am, but I also hope even more brief than T usually am. A great many points have in fact been raised in our debate this afternoon. Some of them I must confess I thought 864 were somewhat of a Committee nature, and I hope noble Lords who have spoken will not feel too hurt if I am not able in a comparatively short speech to reply to everything that has been said. Of course, if there is any particular point on which any noble Lord wants an expression of our views between now and the next stage of this Bill I will do my best to oblige.
First of all, although I would be the first to admit that a number of speakers in our debate this afternoon have been perhaps a little critical of this admirable Bill, I, for one, am very glad that a fair team of your Lordships have in fact spoken, and I know, too, that others would have wished to do so—for example, my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood—had they not been irretrievably committed elsewhere, because it seems to me absolutely right that measures of this sort should engage the attention of noble Lords who may or may not be poles apart in their political philosophy but are at the same time, I would suspect, firmly united—whatever the noble Lord opposite who has just sat down may say—in a common desire that justice should be done and compassion shown to young people.
I am very glad that he said that his noble friends would not take the very unusual step of dividing this House at Second Reading. I think it would be deplorable if a Bill of this nature became a Party political football. Although, therefore, I would be unable to agree with every shade of expression which has fallen from the lips of noble Lords opposite, I do not for a moment question their sincerity and their experience in this matter. I think it is perhaps invidious for me to make any distinction between noble Lords opposite—we know they are all paragons not only of virtue but also of oratory—but I should like to say that in my view this debate would have been quite incomplete had we not had a typical and, I think, masterly contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. I think it is also particularly fitting that we should have had a speech this afternoon from my noble friend Lord Ingleby.
As he spoke I must confess I had just a slight twinge of conscience. My noble friend was one of my distinguished predecessors in the job which I 865 now have, and when I first saw the office in the Home Office, a room with which he is no doubt familiar, I was oppressed by the portrait gallery which hangs there, or hung there, of my noble friend's Victorian, venerable and bearded predecessors. I fear I have had the portraits of these great men removed and along with them those of some of their twentieth century successors, including my noble friend, but I hope he will forgive me for this iconoclastic act if I can assure him that he and his Victorian predecessors are in safe keeping.
I felt that his speech was of very great value. There was one thing he said which I, for one, would like to endorse, and that was his expression of regret that it had not been possible, for what reason I do not know, to debate the noble Lady's Motion on the Ingleby Committee's Report. I think indeed we should have gained experience from such a debate, and I also feel, having listened to my noble friend on this, that we should have lost if he had felt himself precluded front taking part in that debate.
I should like, as briefly as I can, to try to catch some of the birds which have been put up on the wing from the Benches opposite. First, I was glad that there was a general, if somewhat muted, welcome, at least so far as noble Lords opposite were concerned, to Clause 1 of this Bill. I should like here and now to reaffirm quite categorically the great importance which the Government attach to this clause, and which I was glad to see that many noble Lords also attached to this clause. I was very impressed with what the noble Lord, Lord Burden, said about Clause 1 and the preventive work which local authorities could do under it for the children in their care. I was also, if I may say so, very much impressed by what the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, and my noble friend Lord Aberdare said about the part voluntary societies can play under this new preventive umbrella.
In claiming that this particular clause is important, the last thing I washed to do was to decry the importance of other recommendations of the Ingleby Committee, including those which the Government have seen wise not to include in the Bill. But that said, I would remind noble Lords opposite, especially the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that cer- 866 tainly every local authority with which I have had any contact in regard to the Ingleby Committee's Report was clamouring that they should be given these preventive powers; and they would have been sad, to say the least, if the noble Earl, Lord Longford, had called a snap Division at the Second Reading on this Bill and, for one reason or another, it had fallen at this stage.
I should also like here to mention that not long ago I attended a conference in Leeds on juvenile delinquency. There again, every single individual, every organisation, was crying out that these preventive powers should be given to local authorities. I think that there is indeed a part, and a great part, which the Youth Service can play in this respect, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Aberdare.
May I also mention that I welcomed equally the reference of the right reverend Prelate to the help which the clergy might be able to give to the lay authorities in this respect. In the Home Office we should, of course, welcome such an initiative, and I can assure the right reverend Prelate that we should have no qualms whatsoever about consulting the Churches on this score. Indeed, we are already in close and continuing touch with the British Council of Churches, to which he referred, and we have been in touch with the Roman Catholic and Jewish communities as a follow-up to the former Home Secretary's conferences on juvenile delinquency. We feel that there is indeed great scope for the Churches to play a part in this field.
I also would entirely endorse—and again I am still on Clause 1—what the noble Lord, Lord Burden, said in his moving speech about the need for close co-ordination in preventive work, not only between the local authorities and voluntary organisations but also between the services within the local authority itself. It is right that these new and more precise powers should be given to and exercised by the children's committees, but that in no wise diminishes, in our view—indeed it increases—the need for really effective co-ordination between the local authority services concerned.
I come now to Clause 2, which I think the noble Baroness described as aimed in the right direction. She asked in 867 that context whether the provisions of the clause covered mental health. It is my understanding that Clause 2 (2) (b) is certainly intended to cover the case of a child so deprived of security or parental care that serious harm could be done to that child's emotional development, and I am assured that "health" as it stands in that subsection is wide enough, especially in association with the words "proper development" which come next to it, to include mental as well as physical health.
The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, and the noble Lord, Lord Burden, both referred to the problems of fostering. I would go along with all that the noble Lord, Lord Amulree (who gave me notice that he would not be able to be present at the end of this debate), said about the need to encourage and stimulate fostering. And of course it is increasing, from 35 per cent. of children in care in 1949 to 48 per cent. of children in care in 1961. The noble Lord, Lord Amulree, also drew attention to the feeling that some foster parents received inadequate recompense for the care which they give to children whom they are fostering. I will not go into detail here, but the position, as I understand it, is that until the Local Government Act, 1958, the Home Office imposed limitations on the average rate of allowance payable by local authorities. However, since that Act that limitation has been withdrawn and local authorities now have full discretion to pay whatever allowance they think fit.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, may I ask whether the information that the noble Lord has is correct: that the average figure per week per child boarded out to a foster mother is £2 4s. 7d.?
I have not the precise figure in my head, but I think the average figure now is something of that order. The general trend, however, is towards higher allowances, especially, of course, where special skills are required or special difficulties met with. Nevertheless, although no limitation is imposed, I think we have to ride a rather delicate balance here between the principle of the foster parent incurring any financial loss and the contrary principle of the foster parent incurring a financial 868 gain. I think there is a delicate balance which needs careful watching, but this is a matter for the local authorities.
The noble Baroness also asked me about a small point in connection with Clause 15. In her view it may not be a small point. It is about the proposal to extinguish a fit person order when a child is committed to an approved school under an approved school order. This is a rather detailed point, and perhaps I should confine myself to saying that the proposal was intended to remedy the anomaly which in fact the Ingleby Committee brought to our attention—the reference in Ingleby is to paragraph 349. But we can, of course, and I am glad to do so, undertake to look at this point, bearing in mind the remarks of the noble Baroness about it.
There was—and I was not surprised to hear it—considerable disquiet expressed in your Lordships' House to-day about the adequacy of our institutional arrangements to cope with this rising tide of juvenile delinquency. Noble Lords who referred to that matter were, I think, quite entitled and quite right to refer to what is a serious aspect of this whole problem. I think, however, that there may have been, perhaps unwittingly, some slight exaggeration here—for example, in connection with remand centres, to which the noble Baroness referred. Rightly or wrongly, we estimate that we shall need in all about nine remand centres to cover the country. As the noble Baroness knows, the first was opened at Ashford in July last year; four are under construction, and the remaining four are in an advanced stage of planning. So I think she may rest assured that a good deal of push is being given in that particular sphere, and of course a similar push is being given in the sphere of remand home accommodation, where there is, as noble Lords know, grave pressure.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, in his critical—in some cases I thought hypercritical—remarks referred to attendance centres, and suggested that the Government were putting the brake on an admirable initiative by noble Lords opposite for more attendance centres. That is simply not true. Of course, attendance centres can usefully be provided only in large centres of 869 population, and there is therefore some limit to the expansion which is possible here. But new centres have been opened in the past year in Birmingham, Blackpool, Salford and South Shields. Two more are on the way, and the total is already 47.
Finally, while we are talking about institutions, several noble Lords—I have in mind particularly what the noble Lords, Lord Burden and Lord Stonham, said—referred to the approved school programme and to the problems we are meeting in that field. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, recognised that there was a massive building programme at least in train here—a £5 million programme and 20 more new approved schools. In fact, this is the largest expansion of our approved school system which this country has ever seen. It is regrettable that it is necessary, but I think it is fair to recognise that this expansion is being pushed forward with a great deal of vigour and energy by that much maligned Children's Department.
That programme can, of course, help with the other aspects of this matter on which noble Lords touched—namely, the difficulties with staff. It is perfectly true that up till recently the staffs of many approved schools have been provided with totally inadequate accommodation. I am sure that better accommodation will help to attract both the quantity and the quality of staff which is obviously necessary here. I think on that point, so far as staff is concerned, since the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, is not here I should confine myself to saying that I, for one, am perfectly well seized of the need for keeping pace on the staff side with the material expansion which is going on. In that respect I should like to endorse what the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, and my noble friend Lord Ingleby said about the Children's Department of the Home Office. I think it came in for some unfair slanging in your Lordships' House this afternoon. I, for one, who have an intimate knowledge of that Department, can certainly endorse what the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said about the liberalism and humanity which inspires its members.
There is one other aspect of this subject which I should like to mention: 870 namely, that in the midst of what I thought was, at that stage, rather a tirade, the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, suggested that it was quite wrong that the Children's Department and the Home Office should have anything to do with approved schools. He is, of course, entirely entitled to his view. I would merely point out that the Ingleby Committee, who looked into this matter extremely carefully, came to this conclusion—this is in paragraph 434 of their Report, and I will read their words:… we consider that central responsibility for the administration of approved schools should remain with the Home Office.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, will the noble Earl accept that no criticism of the Home Office, as such, was, I am sure, intended, either by my noble friend Lord Stonham or by myself? What we take issue with is the fact that the Department which is primarily concerned with penal matters should be dealing with the education of children, even with the Ministry of Education co-operating. No criticism of the Home Office, as such, is involved.
I am glad to accept the noble Baroness's assurance there. Nevertheless, because noble Lords opposite take their text sometimes from the Ingleby Committee Report when it suits them, I would merely refer them to what is said there in this particular respect.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, may I point out to the noble Earl that in taking their text sometimes from the Ingleby Committee Report they are following his excellent example?
I hope that they will always follow my excellent example, and my excellent advice to vote for this Bill. Before I come briefly to the age of criminal responsibility, may I refer to one intriguing matter which the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, raised?—whether new arrangements for licensing might hamper the activities of touring companies. I think I can give him some assurance on that point. The Bill allows the local authority of the area in which the child resides to license him to perform in a whole series of performances, including performances in other local authority areas. This should give the flexibility 871 which I think the noble Earl wanted us to have introduced into the Bill.
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Earl—I should have interrupted him before he left the subject of approved schools. He has emphasised the importance of the recruitment of staff in this problem of expansion. Will the noble Earl look at the point I ventured to make in regard to the conditions of service, salaries and so on, not only for approved schools and remand homes but also for the children's service, and particularly those engaged in the field work, so to speak. I think it is most desirable in making this fresh start to have the right type of staff and to see they are adequately remunerated for their jobs.
My Lords, on the general principle, I could not agree more with what the noble Lord has said. It is highly desirable that we should get the right people for what is an extremely taxing and demanding job. I will certainly undertake to have the general problem looked at. Whether it should take the form of the type of inquiry which the noble Lord mentioned is, I think, another matter: on that I should not wish to give an undertaking. But I will gladly give him the undertaking to have the issue itself examined.
My Lords, several noble Lords, not entirely to my surprise, have taken the Government to task for not accepting the recommendation of the Ingleby Committee about raising the age of criminal responsibility. I suspect—in fact, I would go further than that, and say that I know—we may have a chance of going into all this in greater detail later. I will therefore confine myself, partly at the invitation of the noble Earl, Lord Longford, to certain fairly general considerations here.
The first is that I think it is important not unduly to exaggerate the significance of the change which the Committee proposed. They themselves pointed out, in paragraph 79 of their Report, that many countries which have a so-called higher age of criminal 872 responsibility use the expression to denote the age at which a person becomes liable to be dealt with under the same procedure and with the same penalties as an adult. But in this country, as all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate know, children are normally dealt with in separate juvenile courts up to the age of 17, and are subject to very special methods of treatment beyond that up to the age of 21. This is the first point I would ask noble Lords to bear in mind.
The second is that the noble Viscount's Committee themselves stated that the change which they recommended was, in their own words "essentially a matter of procedure". That being so, why have we felt unable to recommend to Parliament that we should change the procedure in the way proposed by the Committee? My Lords, as a non-lawyer in this den of lawyers, I will tread very warily here, but I was greatly interested recently to read two articles in learned journals, one by an experienced juvenile magistrate and the other by a distinguished ex-juvenile magistrate. Both these experts were, of course, obviously very doubtful about the wisdom of the Committee's recommendations in this general area.
The distinguished ex-magistrate described the Ingleby solution as "a most unsatisfactory compromise", and then went on:… the Ingleby compromise seems therefore to embody the worst features of both worlds in its zeal to maintain the juvenile proprieties it fails to remove much of the artificiality of the present procedure, and, in an approach which is fundamentally punitive it increases the risk of unjust punishment.Both writers also make the point—which the noble and learned Viscount, the Leader of the House, Lord Hailsham, made very forcibly in the debate to which the noble Earl, Lord Longford, referred—that the Ingleby compromise would in fact, in their view, mean that some children would be deprived of the protection which the present procedure affords them: the protection of the prosecution having to prove the guilt of the children in question beyond reasonable doubt.
My Lords, where the experts fear to tread—and one of the experts I am quoting is the distinguished noble Lady 873 opposite—then I suggest that the Government might be unwise to rush in. But, in any event, I would undertake—and I do so with deep seriousness—to read most carefully what my noble friend Lord Ingleby has said in this respect. I can assure him that I will examine, and I am quite certain that my right honourable friend will wish to examine, not only his remarks in this debate on that subject but also the remarks which other noble Lords have made on this whole question of the age of criminal responsibility. I think that, that said, I would not at this stage wish to go further.
I should wish only, since I am aware of the time, to make one further detailed observation. My noble friend Lord Aberdare (and I am sure we were all glad to hear him speaking again in your Lordships' House) asked me about Clause 43, which deals with research. This clause, as I understand it, would enable my right honourable friends, the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Scotland, either to conduct directly themselves or to promote research into matters relating to child care or adoption. It also empowers local authorities to do the same, and I think that local authorities would be able to undertake precisely the type of research under this cover which the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, was advocating in our discussion.
Your Lordships know, no doubt, that my right honourable friend already has power to promote and foster research into the causes of delinquency, into the treatment of offenders, and so on. I think that that particular work is proving increasingly valuable. Some research work, I understand, relating to child care is already being undertaken in this country—I have in mind the work of the Nuffield College. But I suspect that we have only just begun to scratch the surface of the possible research which can be undertaken here. I am myself quite convinced that the exercise of this new and extended power will lead to valuable results, especially in testing the effectiveness of the various aspects in the field of preventive work which is opened up by Clause 1 of the Bill. So I think I can assure my noble friend that we shall be very keen to use these new powers, and I am quite certain many 874 local authorities will also be keen to use these powers for research.
My Lords, I must apologise, in conclusion, for summing up the debate in a rather scrappy manner. I think the scrappiness is entirely my fault, and is due to the fact I have perhaps tried to follow too closely some of the observations made and to answer too many questions. But I can assure noble Lords that I, for one, have been greatly interested in the views expressed this afternoon in this House—especially the views of a non-partisan and constructive nature. They will give me much food for thought between now and the later stages of this admirable Bill.
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.