HL Deb 24 January 1963 vol 246 cc174-238

Report stage resumed.

LORD STONHAM moved, after Clause 3, to insert the following new clause:

Assistance for persons previously in care

". On the application of any person who has ceased to be in its care on attaining the age of eighteen, a local authority may, if it thinks it is in that person's interests to do so, cause him, during any period until he reaches the age of twenty-one, to be visited, advised and befriended or given such financial or other assistance as may be necessary to aid him in maintaining himself and which is not available from any other source."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, may I bring your Lordships back from contemplation of the tremendously important but gloomy picture of the Common Market to the narrower but, I think, brighter prospect of the Children and Young Persons Bill? This Amendment is to insert a new clause, and it is quite simple in its meaning. I think that the number of such persons as are referred to in the Amendment who may need extended help of this kind, despite the fact, and in some cases even because of the fact, of earlier physical maturity in our young people to-day, is likely to be larger because of changes in the Mental Health Act. The twofold object of this Amendment is, first, to enable local authorities to continue in suitable cases to act as a good parent would towards persons who, when they pass out of statutory care at the age of 18, are still not sufficiently mature or self-supporting, or who get into personal or financial difficulties; and, secondly, in effect, to widen in such cases the restriction which Section 20 of the Children Act, 1948, places on the amount of financial support which can be given. Under Section 20 of that Act financial support can be given only in certain restricted circumstances.

There are always a considerable number of young people, formerly in care up to the age of 18, who need care, as well as or instead of financial support, after they have reached that age. Some, as I have said, have not reached social or personal maturity and often some are without the support of family or relatives. As many of us are aware, these persons remain attached to child care officers who formerly looked after them. It is no use telling these young people: "You are 18; you are no longer my pigeon; I do not want anything to do with you", because they either do not want to know or cannot understand that. This means that, since the officers cannot reject them simply because there is no continuing statutory power, in practice these young people are helped privately out of the officers' own resources and in their own time. In my submission, unofficial work of this kind ought not to have to be undertaken by officers out of their private resources. It should be the responsibility of the local authority to do what good parents normally do in such circumstances.

This was the declared intention of Section 20 of the Children Act, 1948, even with its narrowly defined restrictions, which really apply to cases of the kind which I am now submitting to your Lordships. A good parent (and in this context it would mean a local authority) would not limit help given to his child over 18 years of age to financial assistance, in very narrow circumstances, but would have regard to the child's needs of various kinds. It is suggested in this Amendment that in suitable cases, subject to the discretion of the local authority, and always and only on application by the young person concerned, he or she ought to be able to continue in the care of a local authority up to the age of 21. It would be for the local authority to decide whether to make the offer, and for the person concerned to decide whether to accept it. But if all were agreeable, a great deal could be done to help those formerly in care to stand fully on their own feet by the time they were 21.

I would mention that a similar provision for continued care, support and financial assistance after the statutory provision had ceased was included in the Second Schedule to the Criminal Justice Act, 1961, as regards approved school children. The analogy, I submit, is a very dose one, and much the same wording has been used in the Amendment that I am now submitting to your Lordships. It is the experience of many local authorities, including the London County Council, that there are cases in which financial assistance is needed in circumstances which go well beyond the narrow limits of Section 20 (1) of the Children Act, 1948, and cases where advice and befriendment is needed by persons over 18 who were in care until they reached that age. I feel that the purpose of the Amendment is quite fair, and I hope it will commend itself to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 3, insert the said new clause.(Lord Stonham.)


My Lords, under the Children Act, 1948, as your Lordships know, a young person ceases to be in care when he or she attains the age of 18. I do not think that age was chosen at random. It is the sort of age, at least in this country, where children brought up by their parents are normally considered capable of standing on their own feet and leading an independent life if need be away from home. In general, therefore, I think that the age of 18 constitutes something in the nature of a natural watershed. Indeed, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, admittedly in a somewhat different context, said herself during our Committee stage on December 4 [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 245 (No. 17), col. 218]: … I sometimes wonder what is going to be the age at which people are going to be allowed to live their c own lives. We are creeping up—16, 17 and 18—as people are getting more mature and more prepared to take responsibility at younger ages. I would submit, therefore, that in general the framers of the 1948 Act were right in fixing 18 as the upper age limit for children in care. Given the rewording of the noble Lord's Amendment, I would guess that he and I are on all fours on that general point. As I understand his Amendment, he would now like local authorities to be able to give supplementary help of various sorts for a further period of three years up to 21, where it is wanted, and where the need is established, to young persons who have been in their care. The noble Lord will appreciate that this matter was not raised at Committee stage, and we have not therefore had a great deal of time to consider this particular Amendment and its implication.

The help which the noble Lord has in mind falls under two categories, according to his Amendment as it is drafted: first of all, visiting, advising and befriending, and, secondly, such financial or other assistance as may help a young person over 18 and under 21 to maintain himself. I wonder whether I might deal with those two categories in turn. It is true that under Section 34 of the 1948 Act a local authority ceases to have a duty and, indeed, thereafter has no continuing power to advise and befriend a child in its area who was, when he attained school-leaving age or later, in the care of a local authority under Section 1 of the Act. I take the point which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, made, that there are cases when such a young person can benefit from the continuing guidance and friendship of, say, a child care officer with whom he has struck up a close relationship. I also take the point which he made that, recognising that some child care officers at present are in the habit of extending that sort of assistance in their spare time, it is asking a great deal of already hard worked and hard-pressed officers.

I should like to assure the noble Lord that in so far as the new clause would enable a local authority to advise and befriend a child formerly in their care, and now aged between 18 and 21. I can certainly accept it in principle, although I should like an opportunity between now and Third Reading to study the precise wording. One point, for example, which I think requires further looking at is whether the words in his Amendment, "on the application of any person" and so on, have quite the effect intended, which is presumably to ensure that advice and friendship is not forced upon an unwilling young person. The words might be taken to indicate that, whatever they hear about the child's needs from other sources, the local authority must never make the first approach. That is a possible difficulty which I should like to reserve the right to look at and study to see whether it can be got round by some alteration of wording.

Now for the second category. The new clause would also enable the local authority to make, in the noble Lord's words, financial or other assistance…in maintaining himself. I would remind noble Lords, or dwell again on the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has already referred, that under the Act of 1948 there are already provisions which enable a local authority to continue to extend, I would claim, the sort of assistance that a parent often gives his child in helping him to set himself up in life. Thus, Section 19—I do not think the noble Lord touched on this—empowers a local authority to provide hostels where young people formerly in care may live with other young people of their own age up to 21. May I say, parenthetically, that there are too few of those hostels, and that we should like to see more?

Furthermore, as the noble Lord himself said, under Section 20 of this Act local authorities already have certain powers. I think he tended slightly to diminish those powers, for in the first place the local authority can contribute to the cost of the accommodation and maintenance near the place where the young person is employed, or seeking employment, or is in receipt of education or training. Secondly, it can also make grants to a person under 21 who was in the care of the local authority until the age of 18 to meet expenses connected with his receiving suitable education or training.

As noble Lords will see, Clause 44 of this Bill is designed to extend the Section 20 powers. Its main effect is to lower the floor of eligibility for such assistance from 18 to 17. I think that what the noble Lord wanted, by this second part of his Amendment, was to widen the Section 20 powers. But I must confess that at present I find it hard to see in what circumstances not already covered by these provisions the local authority would reasonably wish to give financial assistance to a child or young person who had formerly been in their care. I find it hard, in the light of my personal knowledge and, indeed, in the light of the noble Lord's explanation, to see why this more general power is really needed. But if there is a point which I have missed here I should be only too glad if the noble Lord would draw it to my attention when he exercises his right of reply. Apart from that, I should be very glad to study the analogy of the Criminal Justice Act, 1961, to which he drew our attention.

Could I just summarise what I have been saying? First of all, we should be glad to consider an Amendment and, if necessary, introduce it ourselves if there is time at Third Reading, meeting the noble Lord on his first point of visiting, advising and befriending. But on the second part of his Amendment, that which deals with financial and other assistance, as I see it at present, I do not think it is really necessary, given the existing provisions of the 1948 Act and, indeed, of Clause 44 of this Bill.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for the careful and sympathetic way in which he has dealt with this Amendment. As he said, perhaps it was a pity that we did not discuss it in Committee, when we could have had a longer debate. I do not wish to prolong this discussion, because I do not think it would be very helpful, particularly as the noble Earl has said that we shall return to it on Third Reading. I gratefully accept his offer to put forward his own Amendment of the first part of this new clause. I agree with him that the Section to which he referred could have a double meaning, and certainly what is desired is that, first, the young person should himself or herself apply quite freely, and, secondly, that the local authority should think it is a case where help ought to be given. I welcome a form of words which would make that much more clear than my own Amendment.

On the second part, with regard to financial assistance, I am still of the opinion that the present powers are far too narrow. Had that not been the case, I would not have submitted the Amendment. Indeed, if he will study the statement by the then Lord Chancellor on this particular point as to the restrictive effect of subsection (1) of Section 20 of the Act, I think he will agree that that is the case. In due course I will let him have the reference. There might be opportunity for talk between us privately between now and the next stage when we might be able to come to an agreement on the whole matter. Meanwhile, I think we have gone a very long way on this particular point and I believe we shall come to a final agreement. I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 4 [Power to send case under s. 62 of principal Act to local juvenile court]:


My Lords, this Amendment and Amendment No. 15, which I hope we can consider together, are purely matters of drafting. The clause as it stands refers to a child or young person being brought before a juvenile court under Section 62, subsection (1), of the principal Act. It is in fact, however, subsection (2) of Section 62 that authorises the bringing of a child or young person before the juvenile court. Subsection (1) deals with the powers exercisable by the court over a person brought before it under subsection (2). The usual practice in the principal Act, and elsewhere, is to speak simply of bringing a child or young person before a court under Section 62, and these Amendments are accordingly designed to delete any reference to a subsection of Section 62. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 14, leave out ("(1)").—(Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg formally to move the next Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 17, after ("care") insert ("protection").—(Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 23, leave out ("(1)").—Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 7:

Extension of powers of juvenile court to deal with persons in the care of local authorities


(2) For subsection (8) of section 84 of the principal Act there shall be substituted the following subsection:— (8) Where a local authority are of opinion that it is desirable to do so in the interests of a child or young person who has been committed to their care, they may apply to a juvenile court, and that court may, if it thinks it desirable in his interests to do so, revoke the order committing him to their care and, where it revokes that order—

  1. (a) commit him to the care of another fit person, whether a relative or not, who is willing to undertake the care of him; or
  2. (b) order him to be sent to an approved school; or
  3. (c) order his parent or guardian to enter into a recognizance to exercise proper care and guardianship; or
  4. (d) without making any other order, or in addition to an order under paragraph (a) or paragraph (c) of this subsection make an order placing him for a specified period, not exceeding three years, under the supervision of a probation officer, or of some other person appointed for the purpose by the court.

4.23 p.m.

LORD STONHAM moved, in subsection (2), in the proposed new subsection (8), to omit "revoke the order committing him to their care and, where it revokes that order".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 16 and I hope your Lordships will find it convenient if we also discuss No. 17 at the same time. As subsection (2) of Clause 7 now stands, when a child in care of a local authority under a fit person order is taken back to court by the local authority the court must revoke the fit person order before making any other order. Although the object of taking a child back to court would be that the court should follow one of the courses of action mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (d) there may well be—in fact there are in many cases—reasons for which the continuity of personal support and assistance which the local authority's officers have built up during the child's period of care will be of value in whatever situation exists after the court has made the new order. Under the clause as it now stands, the local authority would have no continuing responsibility towards the child. It is felt that the courts should have the power—and this must rest with the courts—if they so wish, to leave the fit person order in existence although it is intended to make a fresh order under the new clause.

Even if it were only a case of the local authority, being able to allocate a case worker to visit and befriend after committal, for example to an approved school, this could well be helpful to the local authority with statutory authority for using its facilities, the facilities we are extending under this Bill in the child's interests. I submit that it is not satisfactory to suggest that officers could do this without having formal authority. Unofficial arrangements of this kind which local authorities are not able to take into account in deciding their staffing needs are not a satisfactory way of providing help that is needed, and it may be with reluctance that the local authority brings a child before the court with a view to his being sent to an approved school. This may be necessary at times and should not prevent a child care officer known to the child from continuing to help him, if appropriate, while he is in the approved school, just as a parent might do, by visiting him, and so on. We must understand that these local authority officers often stand in the relationship of a parent to such boys and girls who either have no parents or have no effective ones.

But I seek to ensure by this Amendment that a local authority's power should not be limited to visiting and befriending. There are instances where the power is needed to give occasional financial help which the approved school managers might not be able or willing to give. There is, of course, no intention that there should be a conflict of parental authority, or that there should be a conflict of parental right as between the approved school and the local authority. Obviously, the managers of the approved school must in this matter take precedence.

I do not want to make a longer speech than is necessary or prolong this debate, but I wonder whether I might make the suggestion to the noble Earl, before he comes to answer, that if it is not possible for him to accept the whole of this Amendment as it stands he may consider whether this particular situation in Clause 7 could not be dealt with in much the same way as at a later stage he will be proposing with regard to Clause 15. On Clause 15 he has himself an Amendment down, to which I have had the temerity to table two Amendments, but the amalgam of our efforts in Clause 15 might well fill the bill so far as Clause 7 is concerned—that is, of course, on the assumption that he does not feel able to accept my present Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 as they stand. But I certainly feel that the principle stands up that we should do nothing in this Bill to make it more difficult for a local authority which has been standing, as it were, parent to a child to continue, through its officers, that relationship. It is with that idea that these two Amendments are put forward, and I hope that they will commend themselves to the Government. I beg to move the first Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 26, leave out from ("so") to the end of line 27.—(Lord Stonham.)


My Lords, we have now embarked upon what I find rather a sea of legal complexities, and you may therefore find my explanations even more incomprehensible than usual. The purpose of this subsection of Clause 7 which the noble Lord's Amendment would seek to change is in itself, of course, quite clear. Section 84 (8) of the principal Act enables a local authority to whose care a child or young person has been committed by a fit person order to bring him before a juvenile court. The powers of that court are at present confined to sending the child or young person to an approved school. Subsection (2) of Clause 7, following an Ingleby recommendation, would extend the powers of the court to enable it to substitute for the fit person order a new order; (a) committing the child or young person to the care of another fit person; or (b) sending him to an approved school; (c) requiring his parent to enter into a recognisance to exercise proper care and guardianship; or (d) placing him under supervision. Under the clause as at present drafted the new order would take the place of the old fit person order in what I would call cases (b), (c) and (d). The noble Lord's Amendment would allow the court in those three cases to leave the original fit person order in force at the same time as the new order.

May I take these various cases, what I have called (b), (c) and (d), following the wording of subsection (2) of the clause, in order? Let us take first case (b), the approved school case. If the court were to leave the fit person order in force while sending the child or young person to an approved school, then I am advised the new Clause 15 in this Bill would bite. The fit person order would remain in suspense while he was under the care of the managers of the approved school. But if the new subsection (2) proposed in my Amendment No. 21 is added, with or without the refinements which the noble Lord would like to add to it, the local authority would still be able to visit and befriend him.

Clause 15 is primarily designed for the child who, while the subject of a fit person order or a resolution of the local authority assuming parental rights, is found guilty of an offence and sent to an approved school. The noble Lord's Amendment, as I understand it, would bring within the ambit of Clause 15 another type of child, a child in care under a fit person order who is brought before the court by the local authority. I feel that the mere fact that the local authority consider it necessary to take this rather drastic step may suggest that the child in question is not very likely to have established a relationship with a member of the local authority staff which is really worth much or possibly worth maintaining. However, I would grant that there may be instances to the contrary: there may be instances in which good relations between a child or young person and a particular child care officer remain unimpaired despite the local authority's recourse to the courts. I think these may be the sort of cases the noble Lord chiefly has in mind in moving his Amendment.

In so far as case (b) is concerned I can certainly accept the substance of his Amendment. I am frankly more doubt-full about case (c); that is, the case where a new order is made by the court requiring the parent or guardian of a child or young person to exorcise proper care and guardianship. I am doubtful about it, because such an order would seem quite inconsistent with the continuance of the fit person order, since under the flatter all parental rights and powers are transferred to the fit person and the child or young person must, in the words of the Act, continue in his care notwithstanding any claim by a parent or any other person. There would thus be no opportunity for the parent or guardian to exercise care and guardianship, because that would be the duty of the local authority.

I am also not really dear about case (d). I do not see how the addition of a supervision order to the existing fit person order would help the local authority as fit person to cope with a child. But I may be wrong here, and if the noble Lord can persuade me that a power of this sort would be helpful I shall certainly be glad to have a further look at this particular point.

To summarise, I am very willing to meet the noble Lord so far as case (b) is concerned, but I have serious doubts about case (c) and, indeed, about case (d). If the noble Lord can assure me that his main concern is case (b), the approved school case, then we should, I think, be able to produce before Third Reading an Amendment which I hope would have his approval. I think, therefore, that I am going some way in accepting the suggestion he put to me in moving this Amendment.


My Lords, certainly my particular concern is paragraph (b), the approved school case. I think that what the noble Earl said about paragraph (c) is very much to the point—I am afraid that that sounds rather patronising. Of course I do not mean it like that: I have nothing to say against him on that score. With regard to paragraph (d), I am not at all sure that he is right. I should like to have another look at that, because I feel that in many of these cases, particularly when a probation officer is coming into the picture, it would be of great advantage for the local authority officer to be able to work with the probation officer in such cases. It seems to me that paragraph (d) would arise when a child had been under a local authority officer for some time and the local authority officer wanted some help but did not desire the child to go to an approved school. This would be the very kind of case for collaboration of that kind. After all, a child under a probation order, particularly for as long as three years, has to pay regular visits, and it is a very important restriction on a child, and very different from the parent or guardian case in paragraph (c). I think that that would be a case, therefore, where it would be of advantage if the local authority officer who had had a child under his care and supervision could, as it were, compare notes with—or, if you like, concert joint action with—the probation officer when that was desirable. I think the noble Earl has come quite a long way, and if that last point commends itself to him it might be possible on Third Reading to produce an Amendment which would satisfactorily cover that point.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to say that I will consider further case (d), which the noble Lord has just been mentioning, in the light of what he has just said. I think it would bear looking at.


My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 [Duty of parents to notify changes of address to approved school or fit person]:

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I hope we can take this Amendment and Amendment No. 20 together. They cover a comparatively small point. As it stands, Clause 14 (2) provides that where a person under 16 is transferred from one approved school to another his parents are to be notified of the transfer. The subsection was limited to persons under 16 because it is only while a child is under that age that his parents are required by subsection (1) of the clause to keep the managers of the school informed of their address. The intention was to impose on managers of approved schools, by an Amendment of the approved school rules, a corresponding obligation with regard to the transfer of persons of 16 or over. However, on second thoughts it seems to us better to impose in this Bill a general obligation with regard to persons of all ages. That is the effect of these two small Amendments. I beg to move Amendment No. 18.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 31, leave out ("under the age of sixteen").—(Earl Jellicoe.)


My Lords, perhaps the noble Earl would make this abundantly clear. On the face of it, it looks to be an Amendment which I am sure would be welcomed on this side of your Lordships' House. Is its effect that when a young person over the age of 16 is transferred from one school to another there is the same obligation on the school to notify the parents of the address as there is in the case of a younger child? Is that a correct statement?


My Lords, I think that is a perfectly correct statement.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

EARL JELLICOE moved in subsection (2) to leave out "to" where that word occurs a second time, and insert "from". The noble Earl said: My Lords, Clause 14 (2) as it now stands imposes the duty of notifying parents of their child's transfer from one approved school to another on the managers of the school to which he is transferred. The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, urged in Committee that this duty should lie instead on the managers of the school from which the child is transferred, because, through some slip, the other school might not be told the parents' address. We have gone into this matter again in the light of the arguments which were deployed in Com- mittee. We have decided to accept the noble Lady's suggestion and this Amendment gives effect to it. I should perhaps mention that in so doing we have been mainly influenced by the argument that a parent should have as much notice as possible of his child's transfer, and that this result is more likely to be achieved if the duty to inform the parent rests on the school where the child is when the decision to transfer him is taken. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 33, leave out ("to") and insert ("from").—(Earl Jellicoe.)


My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Earl for the consideration that he has given to this Amendment. When I moved an Amendment in somewhat similar terms on the Committee stage of this Bill I referred to it, I think, as being both tiny and innocent. I should like to welcome this tiny piece of virtue on the part of Her Majesty's Government.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg formally to move Amendment No. 20.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 34, leave out from ("and") to ("duty") in line 35 and insert ("if the person transferred is under the age of sixteen, then, until his parent has been so informed, the parent's")—(Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 15 [Effect of approved school order on fit person order]:

EARL JELLICOE moved to add to the clause: (2) Where a person has ceased to be in the care of a local authority by virtue of subsection (1) of this section or of section 6 (3) of the Children Act 1948 (which makes similar provision with respect to children in the care of a local authority under section 1 of that Act) the local authority may, while that person is detained in an approved school, cause him to be visited and befriended.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, you will recall that during our Committee stage we discussed Clause 15 at some length, on Amendments both by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and by the noble Baroness, respectively proposing to amend it and delete it. The noble Lady withdrew her Amendment after I had said that I should like to think this matter over again in the light of the arguments which had been deployed. The Amendment which I am now moving is a result of that further reflection—that innocent reflection in which the Government indulge from time to time. As noble Lords will see, this Amendment would insert in Clause 15 a new subsection providing that, where a local authority ceases to have parental rights over a child because he has come under the care of the managers of an approved school, the authority are to continue to have power to visit and befriend that child or young person.

I would remind noble Lords that there are two sets of circumstances in which a local authority may have parental rights over a child. The first is because they have assumed parental rights by a resolution under Section 2 of the Children Act, 1948, when the child was in their care under Section 1 of that Act. They may, secondly, exercise parental rights because they are the fit person to whose care the child has been committed by a court.

Where the local authority have assumed parental rights under Section 2 of the 1948 Act, Section 6 (3) (a) of that Act provides that, if an approved school order comes into force with respect to the child, the resolution vesting parental rights in the local authority as to cease to have effect. This was a point which I think that none of us had fully in mind during our discussion at Committee stage. Clause 15—suspending the fit person order while the child is under the care of the manager of an approved school—is in fact designed to do in the second set of circumstances what Section 6 (3) (a) of the 1948 Act has already done in the first set of circumstances.

We shall have a chance soon, when we get to Amendment No. 24, again to discuss the principle whether we are right to seek to suspend the fit person order in this way—the way proposed in Clause 15. Here I would merely say that Clause 15 is in line with Section 6 of the 1948 Act, that it follows the recommendation of the Ingleby Committee and that I explained our reasons for seeking to introduce this clause during our Committee stage. As I said, we can again discuss the principle of this in a few moments. But the Amendment which I am moving is, of course, on the assumption that we accept that principle.

During our Committee stage noble Lords suggested that if a child committed to an approved school has been in the care of a "substitute parent" (whether a private person or a local authority) that person should be able to continue to fulfil towards the child the rôle of a good natural parent and the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, on an earlier Amendment reverted to that. Where the substitute parent is a private person, no alteration to the clause seems necessary to achieve this result. Having looked at this matter again since our discussion in Committee and since we have had the opportunity of discussing it with children's officers, I would grant that a local authority who have bean acting as substitute parents are not in the same position as a private person. They need express statutory authority, as the noble Lord opposite said, for any action they take, and at present there is no such authority for them to continue to befriend a child once he has gone to an approved school unless they are designated as the after-care agents, as I mentioned in our earlier debate. This Amendment would remedy this omission and would apply, whether parental rights had been vested in the authority by virtue of a fit person order or by virtue of a resolution under Section 2 of the Children Act, 1948.

What sort of action by the local authority would be sanctioned by this Amendment? Befriending is a wide term and can cover many things. I should like just to quote an example. The local authority, for instance, would be able to pay the travelling expenses incurred by one of their child care officers or foster parents visiting at an approved school a child with whom they had established a good and secure relationship. There are many incidental ways in which this power could be operated. Therefore this Amendment would, I suggest, not only sanction but also encourage that continuing relationship between the sustitute parent and the child which noble Lords opposite quite rightly wish to preserve. But it would also mean that in discharging this responsibility there would be express cover to the local authority for any expenditure incurred.

I know that during the Committee stage the noble Lady urged—and I quote from Hansard, Vol. 245 (No. 19), col. 389—that … the local authority or substitute-parent should be obliged to maintain contact with the child. She will note, however, that the new function conferred on the local authority by the Amendment which I am moving is permissive, not obligatory. There are two reasons for this. In the first place, in some cases to which the Amendment applies it may not be necessary for the function to be exercised. It is not every child subject to a fit person order who, to use Lady Wootton of Abinger's phrase, has "either no parents or no effective parents". Secondly, we doubt whether the very special, intimate sort of relationship which noble Lords have in mind is likely to be established or consolidated by laying a statutory duty on the local authority. If such a relationship already exists—say, with a child care officer or a foster parent—the Amendment will, of course, give statutory support for its continuance, but we feel that to impose upon local authorities an obligation extending over a wide range of cases, in some of which it would serve no useful purpose, is likely only to detract from the efficiency with which this operation is performed in the cases where it is needed most.

Perhaps, while on this subject, I may deal with a point which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, during Committee. He asked me how a fit person would be informed when a child formally in his care was admitted to hospital from an approved school. I would take this opportunity of informing him that the Home Office intend to ask the managers of approved schools that when one of their pupils is admitted to hospital that fact should be notified, not only to the child's parents, but also to any local authority or other person who may have exercised parental rights over him before he is sent to the school. This will probably be done by an entry in the Managers' Handbook, which, of course, we shall be revising soon after this Bill becomes law.

I know that this Amendment does not go as far as some noble Lords opposite would wish; it does not go as far as Amendment No. 24 would go. But I feel, my Lords, that there are strong reasons for retaining Clause 15, and, provided that we do so, I suggest that this Amendment, or something very like it, will, in fact, perpetuate that relationship between the substitute-parents and the child while the latter is at an approved school—which was, as I understand it, the point which primarily concerned noble Lords opposite. My Lords, I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 22, at end insert the said subsection.—(Earl Jellicoe.)


My Lords, I am in some difficulty in discussing this Amendment, because it is, in fact, contingent upon the retention of Clause 15, and your Lordships will observe that lower on the Order Paper there is an Amendment standing in my name to leave out Clause 15. I think that all we can say at this stage is that this Amendment is certainly calculated to do no harm, though whether it will do any good is more of an open question. I myself doubt very much whether it will do any good, because experience suggests that permissive powers of this character are unlikely to be exercised by any but a few of the most active local authorities. The noble Earl himself said during the Committee stage on December 6, in column 392, that with an inadequate local authority or an overworked local authority there may be an advantage in having a statutory obligation laid upon that authority". Those are words that are borne out by experience. This Amendment gives an opportunity to authorities who are anxious about their expenditure and whose officers have plenty of work to spend more money and to impose still further duties on those officers. I must confess that I have very great doubts whether it will accomplish anything more than the insertion of these words into the Bill. Whether any real result will happen in the world outside, I must beg leave to doubt.

4.55 p.m.

LORD STONHAM moved, as an Amendment to the Amendment, after "detained in" to insert "or on leave from".

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I will now move Amendment No. 22, which is an Amendment to the noble Earl's Amendment No. 21. I will, with your Lordships' permission, discuss this Amendment and Amendment No. 23 together, because that also is an Amendment to the noble Earl's Amendment. If my first Amendment to the Amendment were accepted the noble Earl's new subsection would read: … the local authority may, while that person is detained in or on leave from an approved school, cause him to be visited and befriended. I feel that the omission of the words "or on leave from" must be an oversight. It must be obvious that the very period when the local authority officer could most help and befriend a boy or girl from an approved school is when he or she is on leave. Since, at the present time, these boys or girls may go home on leave up to a maximum of 24 days in any twelve months, it is important that there should be this statutory power to visit and befriend while they are on leave. I therefore hope that the noble Earl will accept my first Amendment to the Amendment.

My second one is to include a power for the local authority to give financial assistance. There are instances where the power of the local authority should not only cover persons in, or on leave from, approved schools, but also permit of their being given financal assistance. Instances sometimes arise in which a council has been able to find a foster home for a child while he or she is on leave, but the cost has been more than the approved school managers have felt able or willing to pay. On such occasions the local authority would be able to pay the enhanced allowance which the foster mother wanted, using their powers which would be removed by Clause 15 as it stands; indeed, by the noble Earl's Amendment local authorities have been able to pay in such cases and thus provide a more suitable home for a child during the leave period. Therefore, by this second Amendment, No. 23, I seek to widen the local authority's powers so that they as a former "fit person" can give suitable financial help as part of the power to visit and befriend the person concerned. As I mentioned on the earlier Amendment, there would be no conflict of parental rights between a local authority and the approved school managers; naturally the school managers would take precedence in a matter of that kind.

I feel that the Government must accept the first of the Amendments to the Amendment if they are to make the scheme effective, and I hope that they will also accept the second, so that in cases where it is necessary—and they do arise—local authorities should also be able to give financial assistance.

Amendment to Amendment moved— Line 6, after ("detained in") insert ("or on leave from").—(Lord Stonham.)


My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in connection with this Amendment and, indeed, with the clause in general, whether the phrase in the Government Amendment of "visited and befriended" would cover the payment which at any rate some local authorities make to foster parents While the child is at school. It is the custom in my county, when a child has been fostered with a family and when it is then decided that the child shall go to a boarding school, a training ship or something of that kind, to pay a small sum, a minimal sum, to the foster parents to compensate them for keeping the child's room open, for keeping his luggage and his possessions, and on the understanding that they will write to him, send him a cake on his birthday and that sort of thing. For this we make a small allowance of a few shillings a weak during the time that the child is actually at the boarding school. When a child is at an approved school, clearly the local authority would wish to make precisely the same arrangements, and I hope that the noble Earl will be able to assure me that his wording does in fact give the local authority power to make these payments.

As regards the noble Earl's reluctance to impose a duty on the local authority in this matter, I am with him, and I hope that the House will be satisfied by giving an opportunity to the local authority rather than imposing a duty. I have no experience of conditions that may obtain in an inactive or inadequate local authority, but I cannot believe that the extension of the duties of an inactive or inadequate local authority would produce very good results for the child or for anybody else. Speaking for my own authority, we are very unwilling to let go any of our cases whom we can possibly be allowed to help.


My Lords, I find myself in a slight procedural difficulty. Perhaps somebody more expert than I am in the procedure of the House may be able to help me, but I think at this stage I should confine any remarks to Amendment No. 22 which is the first Amendment to my Amendment, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. On that I can say straight away that the noble Lord has put his finger on an omission in the wording of my Amendment, and as a result I am glad to be able to tell him that I am very happy to accept his Amendment No. 22. I should like to say something in reply to the pessimistic forecast of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, as to the effectiveness of Amendment No. 21, but I think that that would probably be more appropriate at a later stage.

On Question, Amendment to Amendment agreed to.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, I have already spoken to Amendment No. 23, and I now formally move.

Amendment to Amendment moved— Line 7, at end insert ("and given such financial assistance as may seem to the local authority to be necessary in his interests").—(Lord Stonham.)


My Lords, I think that the noble Lord has already given his arguments on Amendment No. 23. I should like to say straight away that we certainly intend that local authorities should be able to spend money under this new subsection (2) to Clause 15, the new subsection which is covered by my Amendment No. 21, in a number of ways; for example, in seeing that their officers or others visit a child while he is at an approved school. It was also in our mind—and I think this was the example which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, gave—that subsection (2) should enable a local authority to arrange accommodation for the child, possibly with his former foster parents, while he is on leave from his school. Now I think that that was the sort of expenditure which the noble Lord had in mind and, if it is, I would tend to agree that there may be some doubt as to whether this would come within the notion of "befriending". I should be very happy to look at that again.

At the same time, of course, I think we must be careful to avoid conferring on the local authorities too sweeping powers to give financial assistance, because we must bear in mind that the primary responsibility of providing "for the clothing, maintenance and education" of an approved school pupil rests under the principal Act on the managers of the school themselves. However, I would agree that our proposed wording may be too restrictive for what we ourselves have in mind.

I should like the chance of further considering this in the Light of what the noble Lord has said, and in the light of what the noble Bad, Lord Iddesleigh, has said. I personally would like a further chance to consider how this new power, which we propose local authorities should have, can best be framed to cover all the possible contingencies which it should be designed to meet. I do not, for example, know, and I am afraid I cannot give offhand, the answer to the specific question which the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, has asked me, but that is the sort of point which we should like to have the chance of considering. In view of that I hope that at this stage at least the noble Lord will not wish to press this particular Amendment.


My Lords, I agree that it is impossible to "befriend" a person by giving him or landing him money as is often done. But in the terms of a section in an Act of Parliament, when we speak so often of financial assistance, I think that if it means that under certain circumstances financial assistance can be given, then it ought to say so. I also think that the word "befriend" certainly does not cover the point to the satisfaction of the people who would be likely to scrutinise this Act and scrutinise the expenditure. Nevertheless, my Lords, I do not insist that the words that I have suggested in my second Amendment to the noble Earl's Amendment are necessarily the right ones; and if he is willing to look at it, as I understand his words, to make sure that financial assistance can be given, or, if not under certain circumstances, to amend the Bill so that it can, I shall be perfectly satisfied. With that, I ask leave to withdraw.

Amendment to Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, I think we are now back on Amendment No. 21 as amended by my acceptance of Amendment No. 22 by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. I think that all I should like to do is to make a brief reply to the remarks of the noble Baroness on that Amendment, because I myself did feel that they were unduly pessimistic. I would remind her that there is much permissive legislation, and that under that legislation local authorities do in fact very often act very effectively indeed. I think that she was unduly underestimating in what she said about the continuing interest of many children's committees and officers for children and young persons who may have been sent to approved schools but who were nevertheless in care; and I should like to say how thoroughly I agreed with what the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said in this respect.

I think I have only two more remarks to make on what the noble Baroness said, and the first is this. Whatever she may say about this Amendment and its likely ineffectiveness, it has been warmly welcomed by a number of responsible children's officers with whom we have discussed it; and, again, I would merely point out that her noble colleague's Amendment No. 12A, with which I presume she agreed, was also permissive and covered very similar sort of ground.

On Question, Amendment, as amended, agreed to.

5.11 p.m.

BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER moved to leave out Clause 15. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this, again, as many of your Lordships will recall, is the case of the child who is in the care of a fit person other than his parents and who is sent to an approved school. Clause 15 provides that in that event the fit person order shall cease to have effect during the time that the child is at the approved school. I think it is very important to have in mind that, without Clause 15, the fit person order will not automatically continue. What normally happens at present is that when a child who is in the care of a fit person is sent to an approved school the fit person, usually the local authority, comes to the court, if it thinks fit, and asks for the order to be revoked. The court then examines the question in the light of all the individual circumstances. Sometimes it seems appropriate that the order should be revoked, perhaps because the fit person has been unsuccessful in the management of the child, and relations may not be good; or, again, the child may have natural parents who are now able to take more parental responsibility. But often that is not the case. Very often, a fit person is the only effective parent the child knows; and I still think that it is disastrous that the authority of this parent should be automatically extinguished during the period that a child is sent away to an approved school.

Under Amendment No. 21 the child will have a slender resource to draw upon—that is to say, if he is fortunate, and is in the care of a local authority which exercises this new permissive power, he will have someone to turn to. But that is on the hypothesis that that power is exercised, and effectively exercised, so that the child knows that he can use it. But in many cases, it is surely clear that the child will find himself in the school with no parent and no parent substitute to whom he can turn—and this, I suggest to your Lordships, is not a situation into which we ought automatically to cast any child.

When I moved a similar Amendment on Committee stage, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, argued that there might be conflicts between the fit person and the managers of the approved school, and he instanced as an example of such possible conflict that they might take different views as to whether the child should spend his leave with his natural parents. I am sure that the noble Earl will forgive me if I say that I think it was an extraordinarily bad example, because it is in just such a case that it would be invaluable for the approved school managers to be able, not to come into conflict with the fit person who is acting as parent but to consult the fit person who is acting as parent. After all, the fit person is likely to know very much more about the child's home than the approved school managers, if only for the reason that he is likely to be in the same area as the child's home, whereas the approved school managers, in a normal case, will have only a most tenuous contact with the child's own parents. I think it would be deplorable that we should allow even a small number of children to be in the situation in which they are, so to speak, in the sole care of the managers of a school to which they have been sent without the consent of their natural parents, and still more without their own consent. They find themselves friendless and alone in a strange environment; and we are going automatically to deprive them of the parental care of the fit person who has stood in as substitute parent, for whatever reason.

I must once again remind your Lordships that we are not saying that the fit person order should automatically continue. We ask simply that, as at present, and in every individual case, the matter should be considered by the court which sends the child to the school, and that the court should have the power to keep the fit person order alive in cases where it seems appropriate, where the child needs the fit person's parental help and friendship, or to extinguish the order in cases where it seems that there is no need for it or that it will produce unnecessary duplication. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 15.—(Baroness Wootton of Abinger.)


My Lords, we discussed the noble Lady's Amendment at some length at our Committee stage. Important though it is, it is perhaps less important than the Amendment which is coming immediately afterwards, and therefore I do not wish to repeat my views at inordinate length. Nevertheless, I think it right to make it quite clear that, despite the noble Lady's skill and persuasiveness in her advocacy, we continue to feel that Clause 15, as now amended, should be retained in this Bill.

In the first place, we think that it is beyond question right that, in certain instances, parental powers over children and young persons must be vested in managers of approved schools. This surely applies in the cases, for example, of orphans or children of incompetent or inadequate parents—the type of child who has no substitute parent, to use Lord Longford's phrase. If that is granted in the case of some children and young persons in approved schools, then I think that it follows that it must be granted in the case of all children and young persons at approved schools. I can think of nothing more unsatisfactory than a situation in which the managers of an approved school sit or act in loco parentis for some of their charges but not for others. This would surely make for a very confusing and muddling situation. In any event, of course, this is the law as it stands at present.

My Lords, does it matter if the parental powers are exercised not only by the managers of the approved school but simultaneously by some other person—a local authority or some private individual, in the case of a fit person order? I claimed during our Committee stage that the simultaneous exercise of parental powers by two sets of authorities would, in fact, lead to muddle and confusion, and should be avoided. This point was considered by the Ingleby Committee, and they also felt that simultaneous exercise of such powers would make for confusion—and there is, of course, in Section 6 (3) (a) of the Children Act, 1948, a clear precedent for avoiding such confusion.

The noble Lady does not seem to think that this would necessarily matter. I thought that she was wrong in Committee on this point, and I still think that she is wrong. I gave as an example (and the noble Lady quoted it against me) the sort of confusion which would arise if the managers thought it undesirable for a child to go and stay with his natural parents when on leave and the local authority, still exercising its parental powers, simultaneously thought otherwise. The noble Lady suggested that this was a bad example which told against my case. I do not think it is a bad example, because it does indicate that somebody must decide these issues, difficult though they may be to decide. I would remind the noble Lady that, given Amendment No. 21, which we have accepted, the approved school managers would have plenty of opportunity of discussing with the local authority the situation of the natural parent in question. That local authority, if it were doing its duty, would be befriending and visiting the child in question.

The noble Baroness has suggested—and she suggests again to-day—that it did not really matter having such overlapping and conflicting parental rights because the fit person order can be revoked by a court. But this is not really a solution, because the child's need of a friend and the undesirability of overlapping powers are quite separate issues. The court would presumably revoke the order where a child has no further need of a local authority's support but would be unwilling to do so where the local authority was the only outside friend. But the existence of conflicting parental rights and powers is surely just as undesirable in one case as in the other. I recognise that Clause 15 was criticised in Committee on the ground that it would prevent the fit person, as a child's substitute parent, from continuing to fulfil a parental rôle in relation to the child. In so far as that criticism is directed against withdrawal of the fit person's parental rights and powers it seems to overlook the fact that the approved school order already has the effect of similarly withdrawing the rights and powers of a natural parent. The parents of children in approved schools are not in the same position, vis-à-vis the school, as the parents of a child at a boarding school.

But that said, my Lords, let me remind you that the Government fully recognise that there is a clear need to enable a local authority which has been acting as a child's substitute parent to continue in a suitable case to take the same interest in his welfare and give him the same help as he might expect to receive from a good natural parent. That is the precise purpose of the Amendment that I have just moved. The noble Lady again criticised it as being a slender reed. But it is a good deal fatter than she wishes to grant. In any event, it is my view that my new subsection (2), as improved by Lord Stonham's suggestions, would leave the fit person in just the same position as the natural parent of a child in an approved school. It fully safeguards that relationship between the child and his substitute parent to which noble Lords opposite so rightly directed our attention during the Committee stage. Those, my Lords, are the reasons why I suggest that Clause 15 as just amended should be retained and why I suggest your Lordships should reject the noble Lady's Amendment.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with great attention to the arguments of the noble Earl and the noble Baroness. I come to this problem without preconceived ideas. May I say that, if it had been necessary, I should have supported the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, on his Amendment No. 22. I should also have supported him on Amendment No. 23, with perhaps a suggestion of a slight alteration in wording, if that had been necessary and practicable. So I am not in any way unsympathetic to much of what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and the noble Baroness. Lady Wootton of Abinger have suggested. But I must say that, having listened to them, and to the noble Earl, I feel that the noble Earl has had the better of the argument. Nothing is worse for a child than that there should be any suggestion of a duality or confusion of powers. To my mind it is essential that the child should know to whom he is responsible and that there should be only one authority responsible for him or her. Therefore, I feel it is much better to leave the position as the Government have proposed, so that in future it will be quite clear while the child is at an approved school who has the responsibility for him, or her.

As I understand it—I may be wrong—the order, so far as the fit person is concerned, is suspended while the child is at the approved school but, presumably, may be or will be automatically restored when the child is discharged. I did not find that this was made quite clear. But if I am right in my assumption, I can see no possibility of confusion. The child is in the care of a fit person; he then goes to an approved school, and while he is there the authority will be that of the approved school managers. When he is discharged he will come back into the care of the fit person.


My Lords, may I just interrupt for a moment? That is also my understanding of the position, save that the approved school order continues to run after the child has left the approved school, until the point when it would be discharged.


I appreciate that, and am grateful to the noble Earl. That was my own idea. I have just been trying to follow the arguments. If that is so, I cannot believe there is any better system and I think the House should regard very carefully the warning of the noble Earl, that to impute or impose or to bring into this system any possibility of confusion would be undesirable.

The noble Baroness said that the present system is that the local authority goes to court and asks for the order to be discharged when the child is committed to the approved school. I cannot see that that is any better system. Presumably they are discharged for good. The fact that the local authority may or may not ask for the order to be discharged means there is some possibility of complication. There may be some children at an approved school in the case of whom the local authority have applied for an order to be discharged and some in the case of whom they have not. You may get there a distinction between children in the same school. This can impose confusion and complexity in the minds of the managers and in the minds of the children themselves. I ask your Lordships to support the noble Earl in his case, which is a sound one.


My Lords, the noble Lord's argument has emphasised very much the importance that a single undivided authority should have jurisdiction over a child. All of us are well aware of the importance of that within the family, but I wonder how many of your Lordships would have liked your headmaster to have single, undivided authority not shared with any parent. This is the position which is likely to arise if Clause 15 remains. The noble Earl's arguments were almost entirely in terms of confusion and muddle. If I may say so, I think the noble Earl is a little easily muddled. The important arguments in this context are arguments as to the welfare of a child, and of a particularly defenceless child. In point of fact, it is possible for a child to be at an approved school and for a fit person order still to be in force. That happens where the authority goes to the court and asks for the order to be discharged and the court does not discharge it, or in a case in which, for a good reason, the authority does not ask for it to be dis- charged. It is possible for there to be a fit person order and for the child to be in an approved school; and the muddle, so far as I know, is not apparent in practice when this occurs.

Nor, I think, is it quite correct to say that the position of the fit person will be the same as the position of the natural parent if this clause remains. Under Clause 15, the fit person disappears altogether for the duration of the approved school order. The natural parent does not disappear. The natural parent is not extinguished during the time the child is in school. Only in those cases in which the order has ceased to be effective and the child has no effective natural parent and in which the local authority chooses to exercise the new permissive power, will there be any kind of substitute parent remaining.

For these reasons, I find the noble Earl's arguments somewhat unconvincing. They seem to me to suggest that the various authorities concerned with these children are not able easily to accommodate themselves, in the same way as the natural parents and school authorities talk out their difficulties and accommodate themselves in the best interests of the child.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 16:

Juvenile courts and proceedings in connection with children and young persons

Age of Responsibility

16. Section 50 of the principal Act shall be amended by substituting therein the word "twelve" for the word "eight".

5.32 p.m.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD DILHORNE) moved to leave out "'Twelve'" and insert "'ten'". The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, who so far has borne the heat and burden of the day, I beg to move Amendment No. 25 to Clause 16, to leave out the word "twelve" and to insert the word "ten". As your Lordships know, the present law is that it is to be conclusively presumed that no child under the age of 8 can be guilty of an offence. Your Lordships will remember that in the Committee stage the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, moved an Amendment to raise the age from 8 to 12 and that Amendment was carried against the Government. In that debate, I said that I should like an opportunity of considering with my friends whether we could go some way to meet the wishes expressed. The Amendment I am moving is the result of that further consideration.

It does not, of course, entirely meet the wishes of the noble Lady, but I am sure that she will acknowledge that it does go some considerable way in that direction, for the Amendment proposes that no child under the age of 10 can be guilty of a criminal offence, and it follows that, if this Amendment is accepted, no child under that age can be brought before a juvenile court and charged with an offence.

The noble Lady made it clear that she did not want any children under 12 to be brought before any juvenile court at all for an offence. She said—and I think that I am representing her argument correctly—that she does not believe that it is a right or sensible way of dealing with such children. It is her view that in fact that may do positive harm, by causing them to associate with other delinquents. She believes that these children should be dealt with by the social services and particularly by the educational system, without the intervention of the courts. I hope that I have correctly summarised her views. I cannot go the whole way with the noble Baroness and it must not be taken, therefore, that I can agree with all her contentions. At the same time, after further consideration and having regard to what was said in your Lordships' House, the Government have reached the conclusion that the age can be raised from 8 to 10, and to that extent the views of the noble Lady will be met.

I will say a little later on, if I may, why we do not feel that it would be right to go further than that, but before I do so I want to say something about the approach of my noble friend Lord Ingleby. He voted for the noble Baroness's Amendment but his object in doing so was diametrically opposed to that of the noble Lady. It was an alliance between the noble Baroness and my noble friend to which I hesitate to apply any adjective, but pit succeeded in defeating the Government. Whereas the noble Lady wanted the age raised to prevent children under 12 from coming before the courts for their misdeeds—and she said in the course of a debate earlier to-day that she did not want Clause 2 used for that purpose at all—my noble friend's intentions were that the raising of the age should be linked with provisions to facilitate the bringing of children before the courts and increasing the possibility of the courts' being able to deal with them. He wanted the courts' power to impose punitive treatment on children under 12 to be retained, while at the same time avoiding the stigma of a criminal conviction.

Under his proposals a child under 12 could still be brought before the courts far misconduct which, for a Child of 12 Or more, would amount to criminal misconduct. He envisaged non-criminal procedure that would avoid, if misconduct were established, the stigma of a conviction, but the main reason for this procedure was that it lowered the burden of proof of misconduct.

As your Lordships well know, any person charged with an offence is entitled to be acquitted unless guilt of the offence is proved beyond reasonable doubt. As the law stands now, the court has no power to sentence a child over 8 unless the conduct alleged to constitute the offence is proved beyond reasonable doubt. Under my noble friend's proposals, the court would have power to sentence, not on the charge being proved beyond reasonable doubt, but if, on the balance of probabilities, it appeared at Al probable that the child had done what was alleged against him.

My noble friend, as one would expect, was entirely frank about this. The object of this new procedure was to enable the court to deal with many young offenders who at present (to use his own words) "get away with it" and who cannot be punished by the juvenile court because their misconduct is not proved beyond reasonable doubt. If, on the balance of probabilities, it was probable that the child had committed the misconduct, under my noble friend's proposals the court would be armed with somewhat similar powers to those which they can exercise at present after a finding of guilt, including power, which the Ingleby Committee itself recognised as punitive power, to commit to a remand home for a month's detention and order attendance at an attendance centre. I hope that I have now said enough to justify my observation that the objectives of the noble Lady and of my noble friend are diametrically opposed. For entirely different reasons, they want the age to be lifted to 12, but I venture to think that my noble friend would not be in favour of that unless the raising of the age was accompanied by a new procedure of the kind that he advocates.

For the reasons that I will give, I cannot think that it would be right to adopt that procedure. When we discussed this in Committee, my noble friend seemed to be under the misapprehension that the phrase "care or control", as it then was in Clause 2 of the Bill, meant the same thing as the formula he proposed "care or discipline", and that it had virtually the same content as the definition proposed by the Ingleby Committee, on page 33 of their Report, of those who under 12 could be found to be in need of protection or discipline. This is not so. The definition in Clause 2 is wider than the present definition of those in need of care or protection, but it will be seen that it does not specifically include the important category of child we are now talking about—the child below the age of criminal responsibility who does an act which if committed by an older child would be a criminal offence. The Ingleby definition includes this child, but the Bill does not.

Of course, it is true that some of the children in this category to which I have referred might be brought before the courts and dealt with under one of the provisions of that clause. Some of them may be beyond the control of their parents; some of them may not be receiving the care, protection and guidance a good parent might reasonably be expected to give; some of them might also be falling into bad associations; in some cases the lack of care, protection or guidance might be likely to cause the child unnecessary suffering or seriously to affect his health or proper development. As I say, Clause 2 does not specifically provide for a child who is guilty of conduct which in an older child would amount to an offence, and it does not provide, therefore, for the child whom one might describe as on the verge of delinquency.

As I have said, it was part of the Ingleby Committee's intentions that that child in the early stages of delinquency should not get away with it. The question we have to consider, surely, is, if we raise the age at which a child can be charged with an offence, whether the procedure suggested by my noble friend is acceptable. In the Government's view—and we have considered this again very carefully since the last debate—it is not. We cannot believe that it would be right to accept a scheme which, from the point of view of the child and his parents, has all the effects of a finding of guilt of a criminal offence except the name, but which deprives him of the present safeguard against being found guilty of an offence; that is to say, without the safeguard of its having to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. The very features of the scheme which commend it to its advocates, the greater ease of establishing what has to be established, appear to us to be fatal defects. We do not believe that either the child or his parents would think of the consequences of a finding under that procedure as being other than, in part at any rate, a punishment for an offence.

The Ingleby Committee attached importance to avoiding a criminal stigma, and if, indeed, this could be done, we should all agree with them. But can it? The man in the street goes for the essence of the thing rather than the name, and if Johnny is before the court for doing something which in an older Child would have been larceny, for instance, I suspect that his parents and the neighbours will say that he has been had up for stealing and not as being in need of care, protection and discipline. The practical effect of the Ingleby scheme was intended to be to make it easier to secure a finding of guilt, and, apart from that, it does little more than change the name of the proceedings. We do not consider that the means by which it is proposed to make a conviction more easy to secure are acceptable. The price is far too high to pay for a change in name, which, like most euphemisms, we think will have little lasting effect.

We have carefully considered whether there is any way of overcoming what we regard as a radical defect in the Ingleby scheme, but I must confess that we have not been able to find any satisfactory way out of this difficulty. If you are going to base a court's action on the finding that a child has done something which if his older brother did it would be an offence, then we feel you must prove it in the manner in which you would have to prove the older brother's offence. If you do not require that amount of proof, it will be unjust to the younger child, but if the procedure includes the criminal burden of proof—namely, proof beyond reasonable doubt—then the procedure will be, in substance, criminal, whatever name you choose to give it.

Neither the Ingleby Committee, who devoted a great deal of thought to this problem, nor, so far as I am aware, anybody else, has found a solution to this difficulty. The Government therefore believe that, instead of attempting to find a non-criminal procedure for bringing a child before the court for his wrongful acts, it is more profitable to consider whether we can reasonably leave child offenders to be dealt with by the operation of the educational and social services up to a higher age than 8. That is, of course, What the noble Lady wants. The Government believe that the answer to this question is, "Yes; but not up to as high an age as 12—not at present, certainly".

Let us for a moment look at the size of the problem. What sort of gap would be left if criminal proceedings were abandoned below the age of 12 and no other proceedings put in their place? At present, some 18,000 children under 12 are found guilty of offences (including non-indictable offences) each year. Of these, about 13,400 are 10 or 11 and 4,700 are 8 or 9. In addition, over 7,000 are formally cautioned for indictable offences—about 4,000 of them 10 or 11 and 3,000 8 or 9. As the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, pointed out in Committee, the police will caution or talk to the parents in the hope that this will be sufficient to stop the child from getting into further trouble, and it is really only as a last resort, in the vast majority of cases, that proceedings are brought.

Of the 13,300 children between 10 and 12 who in 1961 were found guilty, about 32 per cent. were given a conditional discharge, 27 per cent. were put on probation, 25 per cent. were fined (and, of course, that meant that the parents had to pay the fine) 3 per cent. were sent to an approved school and 2 per cent. were made subject to a fit person order. Taking the last two categories together, 700 children of 10 or 11 were removed from home; over 3,500 were put in the care of a probation officer.

My noble friend Lord Ingleby emphasised in Committee that [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 245 (No. 20), col. 406]: there is very great reluctance to prefer a criminal charge against a child below the age of 12". The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said much the same thing. I think we are entitled to assume, therefore, that if these children to whom I have referred could have been dealt with by other means, as being in need of care or protection, through the schools or by means of talks with the police, they would not have been charged. Yet it is clear that over 4,000 of them were found by the courts, after the usual careful inquiries into their home circumstances, their school record, the consideration of a probation officer's report, and probably also a report from a remand home or special reception centre, to be in need of either removal from home or the supervision of a probation officer. In other words, my Lords, they needed help which they could apparently not be given except by the intervention of the court.

As I have said, Clause 2 of this Bill widens the scope of care or protection "proceedings, but not very much. The new definition will pick up the offender who is beyond control, and probably most of those who are really persistent and those who have such an unsatisfactory home that proceedings can be taken ion that account. It is not likely, I think, to pick up those who have not yet developed consistently delinquent habits but are well on the way to doing so. Those children—and I am sure my noble friend Lord Ingleby will agree—need help before it is too late, and the Government believe that if children in this category cannot be brought before a court before the age of 12, help may come too late.

I have been speaking of the needs of the child because this is the primary consideration. But one should not wholly set aside the needs of the public to be protected against wrongdoing by children. A child of 10 or 11 can be a pretty expert thief, even if he does not steal articles of much value. He can do a great deal of damage to property he can break in with considerable ingenuity and daring, and create havoc when he has done so. At present a court which finds a child guilty of an offence can, in certain circumstances—if, for instance, the child is put on probation—order the parents to pay compensation for damage or loss up to £100; and even if no payment is ordered, those who have suffered from a child's depredations can at least see that something is being done to vindicate the law and to protect them. But if a child cannot even be brought before the court, he will appear to the public and, what may be much more important and more harmful, to himself and his friends, to have broken the law with impunity.

If a delinquent child of 10 or 11 cannot be brought before a court, what can be done? The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, says that he should be dealt with as an educational problem; and she referred in our last debate to the range of educational provisions for difficult children. There are, indeed schools for maladjusted and the educationally subnormal, but the 10-year-olds or 11-year-olds who are at present taken away from home or put on probation have apparently not found their way into these schools. They do not necessarily need this sort of treatment; nor is it necessarily appropriate that the 2,300 who are put on probation should in future be sent to boarding schools. If they are not, their existing schools will have to cope with them. But how? What can a busy, crowded school do to prevent a thoroughly undisciplined urchin of 10 or 11 from getting into trouble out of school hours? I believe firmly that the schools have an important part to play in checking delinquency. Many potential and actual delinquents are, no doubt checked by the influence of their schools, but it is apparent from the figures I have given that not all of them are. And, highly though we may think of our schools, surely we must not ask too much of them. It is reasonable, I think, to expect them to deal with younger delinquents and with incipient delinquency; and this is what we propose to do.

It is not, I submit, realistic to expect them to deal, without the backing of the courts, with the 13,000 10- or 11-year-olds who are not at present responding to the remedial influences which the schools have brought to bear on them. We agree that criminal proceedings are not suitable for children of 8 or 9, and that their delinquency should be regarded as a problem for the social services—the schools, the child guidance clinics and the children's departments of local authorities in the exercise of their new preventive functions. At this age these services can and should give the child and his parents whatever help the child's behaviour may suggest is necessary.

I was very interested in the example which the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, gave in our last debate, of the effect which the creation of an adventure playground had had in reducing the attacks of small children on his factory. I am sure that measures of this sort, which provide an outlet for a child's energies and his taste for hazardous exercise, can be a valuable means of preventing delinquency. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary has told me that he is concerned to stimulate and encourage preventive action of this and other kinds. In proportion, as prevention and social action is successful with the younger children, so will the number of older children who come before the courts as offenders diminish. But we feel that the right course is to relieve of liability to be so brought before the courts only the 8 to 10 age group who are relatively few in numbers, as I have indicated, and more readily dealt with by other means, and in respect of whom I believe there would be fairly wide agreement that proceedings are unsuitable and should be avoided.

It is for these reasons, my Lords, that I put forward this Amendment and commend it to the House. If the alternative court procedure is unacceptable, as we think, for the reasons I have given, then the question of up to what age we can reasonably leave children who commit what I may call offences to be dealt with by the ordinary system of the social services has to be considered quite separately. To go as far as the noble Baroness wants us to do would not, I think, be in the interests of the members of the 10 to 12 age group who are now brought before the courts, because the social services and educational means are not found adequate to deal with them.

I must admit that the Amendment I am moving may be regarded as a compromise solution, but I hope that it will commend itself to your Lordships in this House, and to the public outside, as a reasonable and a right approach to what is, I admit, a very difficult problem. How difficult it is, is illustrated by the fact that my noble friend Lord Ingleby and the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger were united in the view that the present position is unsatisfactory and put forward diametrically opposed schemes for improving It. We have sought to find—I will be quite frank about it—the point at which the largest number of people might feel able to agree, because we believe that measures of this kind ought, if possible, to be backed by a broad measure of agreement. It is in the hope that our proposal be accepted in this spirit that I commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 26, leave out ("'twelve'") and insert ("'ten'")—(The Lord Chancellor.)

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, all of us on these Benches are, I am sure, very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for the offer of half a loaf, and he will. I am sure, understand if we feel a certain deep regret that the other half of the loaf for which your Lordships showed an aptitude at an earlier stage has, in fact, been thrown into the dustbin. I should also like to say how glad I am to hear from the noble and learned Lord that the Government do not associate themselve4s in any way with the alternative procedure suggested by Lord Ingleby's Committee. The noble and learned Lord was at great pains to point out that there might have been a difference of opinion between the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, and myself. No doubt Lord Ingleby will express his own views in due course and speak for himself; but I suspect that the Lord Chancellor was making use of the very ancient strategical mechanism, divide and conquer, and I must therefore remind him that the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, did support an Amendment to raise the age of responsibility to 12 without any strings on it or any reference to alternative procedures.

My Lords, I can think of but few arguments which would lead us to raise the age to 10 which would not be valid for the age of 12. One of the principal arguments which I put before your Lordships at the Committee stage was that this country lags enormously behind our neighbours, particularly on the Continent of Europe. We should still lag behind even if we went as far as 12. That gives you a measure of the modesty of the proposal which your Lordships accepted at an earlier stage. And we should lag behind not only those countries which do not have, as we do, special juvenile courts, but several of those which have a procedure quite as well adapted to the particular needs of children as our own.

The noble and learned Lord has drawn rather lurid pictures of the child offenders of 10 and 11 in numbers of thousands. There are a few thousand children of those ages who are, in fact, found guilty of indictable offences by the courts but they are, of course, but a tiny proportion of the whole child population. If we brought the age down from 12 to 10 we should be bringing more than 1¼ million additional children within the reach of the arm of the criminal law, and most of the offences for which these young children are now dealt with by the courts are, after all, not the serious breakings and the alarming offences of which the Lord Chancellor spoke.

At the Committee stage of this Bill the Lord Chancellor said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 245 (No. 20), col. 432]—and I think he repeated the sense of it to-night: …that it is only something in the nature of a last resort that a child should be brought before the juvenile courts on account of criminal conduct. I wish that were true, but the fact is that quite young children of 8, 9, 10 and 11 are brought before the courts for what are, after all, the sort of things that a very large number of children do, deplorable things. They steal bus tickets; they steal the pumps from other children's bicycles; sometimes they steal bicycles; sometimes they steal— this is in my own experience—volumes of comics; though I did have a child who denied that he had stolen the comics because, he said, they were Eagles and not worth it. It is not, I think, true, while court procedure is available, that it is used only as a last resort. It is increasingly used as a first resort, and one of the difficulties why the other, alternative educational and social mechanisms which are available are not drawn upon is that it is easier and simpler to charge a child and take him to court.

It seems that the burden of the Government's argument for sticking at 10 is that they do not know what to do with these children. It seems to me that this echoes down the pages of history. This is the argument that was used as a reason for not raising the age for hanging children for stealing and for transporting children for stealing. We do not know what to do with children of 10 and 11. It is a very poor argument in any circumstance, and it is a particularly poor argument if what in fact you are doing at the moment is not being successful—and all the evidence shows that it is not; the figures for delinquency show that it is not. As I argued with your Lordships at the Committee stage, when these very young children come before the courts, the primary and, I am sure, the most fundamental effect is that they are made members of the delinquent club and as much harm is done by that—indeed more harm, in my opinion—as good may be done by the procedures of fining their parents and putting children on probation. It is a very poor argument to say that you take the wrong course because it is the only thing, you know how to do. If your house is on fire you do not throw petrol on the flames because it is the only thing you have at hand. The argument that we should continue to do what is unsuccessful because we cannot think of anything else, is a close parallel to that. Indeed, emphatically I would say that so long as we bring children of 10 and 11 on criminal charges before the courts, we are feeding the flames of delinquency very much more than we are extinguishing them.

After all, we do know what else to do. I do not want to weary your Lordships by reciting again the wide range of educational and social provision that is available for young children who present behaviour problems. We do know what else to do. What is more, we very often do it. A great deal of delinquency among young children is dealt with outside the courts altogether. Delinquency is a very widespread problem. In my judgment, it is very nearly a universal problem among young people. Surely this must be known to one and all of us, for all of us have been children and most of us have been parents. How many of your Lordships are there who can lay your hands on your hearts and say that, both in your own childhood and in watching the childhood of your children, you are certain no delinquent act was ever committed? Of course we know that delinquency is widespread in all types of schools; public schools, preparatory schools, secondary schools and primary schools.

Delinquency is a widespread and almost universal problem and most of it in certain parts of the community is dealt with outside the courts altogether. If a certain type of child—and here I speak from experience—goes into a shop and takes something from the counter, he is taken to the manager's office. He is asked who his parents are. If his parents turn out to be professional people in a good position at a good address, they are contacted—the child is by then very suitably frightened and upset—and the matter is dealt with between the child, the shop owner or manager, and the child's school. A great deal of delinquency is dealt with outside the courts, and for that reason it is with very great reluctance that I contemplate the provision of one kind of machinery for one class of child and different machinery for the other. We do not find children from preparatory schools and from public schools who steal being brought before the courts, because the educational machine, the consultation of the school authorities and the parents and sometimes medical and social services are able to cope.

It is surely time that we made the same kind of provision up to the very low age of 12 for children in all social classes. After all, if the Government are so frightened, if the Government believe that it is impossible to deal with these children unless they are brought before the courts, and if at the same time the Government are uneasily aware, as appears, that there are great objections to criminal charges against children, they have had plenty of time to expand the social and educational services in such a way as to take care of this problem. If they do not believe the services exist, let them create the services, instead of continuing a procedure which does more harm than good.

These opportunities do not come very often. It is now just 30 years since Parliament took the momentous step of raising the age of criminal responsibility from 7 to 8. Greatly daring, your Lordships have already expressed your readiness to take the further step of raising it from 8 to 12. I can only ask your Lordships not to let terror seize you, not to go back upon that bold yet modest decision in the interests of the children. I find the spectacle of the British Government in this situation at once pathetic and ridiculous. It is so frightened of the crimes committed by children of 10 and 11 years old that it can think of nothing else to do with them except bring them within the arm of the criminal law; I find that both pathetic and ridiculous. I do not believe that your Lordships will wish to be associated with it.

6.13 p.m.


My Lords, I think you may wish to hear shortly from me what are my reactions to the Amendment which has now been moved by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. First of all, I would say a word of thanks to the Home Secretary for his efforts yin this matter. I think he was faced with a position of considerable difficulty, because he inherited a situation Where the proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility had already been rejected, before he was appointed Home Secretary, by his predecessor. Perhaps I might remind your Lordships that his predecessor, in a Written Answer to the House of Commons, I think on November 28, 1961, about a year after the Committee had reported, and about a year before this Bill was introduced, had turned down, on the ground that the Government did not consider the time opportune for this reform, the proposal of my Committee to raise the age of criminal responsi- bility. No question was then raised or suggested about the merits or demerits of the proposal. The reason given was that the Government did not find the time opportune.

My right honourable friend the present Home Secretary inherited this situation under which the proposal had been rejected. I think it was an excellent thing that your Lordships' House showed that it was not to be intimidated, and that we did not agree, as a House, with the view that the age of criminal responsibility should remain at 8. I thank the Home Secretary for now coming forward with a compromise proposal: I imagine that, politically speaking (and I was myself conducting this art of political compromise for a good many years), it was about as far as he could go, and as far as he could be expected to go, in view of previous events.

I am not going to weary your Lordships With long arguments on the merits of the proposals embodied in the Report of the Ingleby Committee. We sat for a very long time and heard a good deal of very informed opinion. All informed opinion was in favour of raising the age of criminal responsibility, and all the best opinion—by Which I mean the opinion of bodies like the Magistrates' Association, and probation officers—was in favour of something on the lines of what was finally embodied in our Report; that is to say, some form of civil proceedings, in place of criminal proceedings as hitherto, for those under a new age of criminal responsibility. It is a fairly simple proposition that public opinion in this country demands that Children should no longer be charged with criminal offences, and that, if they are to be brought before the court—and manly of them have a lot to gain by being brought before the court—it should be in a civil and not in a criminal proceeding.

The fear of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, as I understood him, is that if proceedings are of a civil and not of a criminal character in respect of the child under 12 then the child will be in greater danger than hitherto of being subjected to some remedial treatment. That, I think, is what it amounts to. My noble and learned friend kept talking of crime, and about the juvenile courts' meting out punishment and sentencing people to this or that. But, my Lords, let us face it: ever since the Act of 1933 the primary consideration in the eyes of juvenile court magistrates is, by Statute, the welfare of the child. That is embodied, as your Lordships know, in Section 44 of the 1933 Act. The juvenile court is to-day very much more of a welfare agency than a criminal court.

Of course it is inherent in civil proceedings that a lower standard of proof operates than in criminal proceedings. That follows from the very nature of the fact that once a crime is charged the court has to be satisfied beyond any reasonable doubt. And I think that most people with any experience of juvenile court work know that juvenile courts are continually prohibited from doing something for the benefit of the child, something remedial and helpful far the benefit of the child, by the mere fact that the case against the child is not proved beyond all reasonable doubt, and they have to give the child the benefit of that completely out-of-date presumption of law known as doli incapax—that is, the presumption that a child under the age of 14 does not know the difference between right and wrong.

It is, of course, inherent in the structure of the Act of 1933 that exactly similar or closely comparable treatments are prescribed for children and young persons found to be in need of care or protection, or children who are beyond control, and the same, or closely comparable, treatments for children and young persons who have committed indictable offences. In both civil and criminal proceedings the same range of treatments is prescribed. It follows from this that, if a lower standard of proof is accepted in civil proceedings, there is a better chance of the child getting the remedial treatment it needs in a civil proceeding than in a criminal proceeding.

In the civil proceedings, the "care or protection" proceedings, the court can, of course, send the child to an approved school. That is also the most severe thing the court can do to a child offender. In the "care or protection" proceedings the child can be committed to the care of the local authority, as a fit person. Exactly the same provision exists in regard to children who have committed offences. In the "care or protection" case the court can call on the parent to enter into a recognisance to exercise proper care; and in the criminal case the corresponding power is to make the parent give security for the good behaviour of the child. In the "care or protection" proceedings the court can, and often does, place the young person, the child, under the supervision of a probation officer; and in the case where a criminal charge is made, similarly the court has power to, and often does, put the child upon probation.

It will be seen, therefore, that in the range of treatment available there is not much difference, except that where there is an offender there are the additional powers of imposing a fine which, with children under 12, has to be paid by the parent; and in the criminal case, since last year, the child under 12 can be compelled to attend an attendance centre, which is a way of depriving the child of its Saturday half-holidays on a number of occasions. There is also the power which the Lord Chancellor mentioned, of at present ordering detention in a remand home for a period of a month. That is not a matter to which I personally attach much importance, and I think it is a power which could well be dispensed with in any event.

Our scheme was a balanced scheme. We wanted civil proceedings in place of criminal proceedings. We wanted an extension of the definition to bring the child offender under the age of 12 before the court and to enable the court to deal with him. We also wanted one or two of these additional powers—the attendance centre order in particular—available to the court in such cases. As the Lord Chancellor pointed out to-day, the Government have not seen fit really to extend the definition. I must confess that on first reading the new definition in Clause 2, I thought it went a good deal further than it does upon a closer examination. The definiton in Clause 2 is still pretty narrow. A deficiency on the part of the parent must be established as well as that the child is in moral danger, or fulfilling one of the other conditions in, I think, the second subsection of the clause; and this definition is not really much wider than the old definition in the Act of 1933. But to-day it is often a matter of pure accident whether a child is charged with an offence or whether it is brought before the court as in need of care or protection. I concede at once, of course, that if a crime is charged and sought to be established then it is necessary that the highest possible standard of proof should be required, especially in the case of a child. But let us get away from this idea of crime, so far as these young people are concerned, and concentrate upon their welfare. That is what my Committee's Report was seeking to do.

I must say that I have misgivings about this Amendment, because, without widening the definiton in any way of these "care or protection or control" cases, as they will now be, it raises the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 10 and does nothing whatever to bring within the scope of care or protection or control children who at the age of 91 may commit a pretty serious criminal offence. If it gets to be known among the young hooligan population that now, instead of being free of criminal responsibility below the age of 8, they are free of criminal responsibility below the age of 10, then I am afraid we may see, as the Lord Chancellor put it, a greater flouting of the law with impunity in the case of young people who do quite serious things, such as setting fire to a haystack, doing wilful damage, or some act of cruelty to an animal or something of that kind.

So far as I can see, taking the definition as it now stands in Clause 2, a child under 9½ may commit not merely a first offence, but even a second and a third offence of a serious character and still not come within the definition in Clause 2 of the Bill. Because to be within the definition in Clause 2, as I say, there has to be some established shortcoming on the part of a parent. If your Lordships look at Clause 2 (1) of the Bill, you will see that under paragraph (a), in addition to one of the conditions mentioned in the second subsection, it has to be established that the child is also not receiving such care, protection and guidance as a good parent may reasonably be expected to give. So that under that wing of the definition some deficiency or defect in the parent has to be established. The second wing of the definition is that: (b) he is beyond the control of his parent or guardian. I do not think the child who sets fire even to two haystacks need necessarily be assumed to be beyond the control of his parents or guardians, because I do not think parents can be expected to have their eyes continually upon all children below the age of 10. So that, as I say, I have some misgivings about how this provision is going to operate in practice.

For myself, I have to make up my mind how I am going to vote upon a Division. It has been a matter of considerable difficulty. I recognise, on the one hand, that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has tried to go quite a long way towards meeting the views of those of us who think that the age of criminal responsibility should not be maintained where it is to-day. On the other hand, as I say, I have great misgivings about the future if this Amendment is accepted without any subsequent alteration of the definition contained in Clause 2. There seem to me to be evils associated with either of the two possible courses confronting me, and I must say that, in the circumstances, I have come to the conclusion that, as we have now established the word "twelve" in the Bill, and as this Amendment is to delete the word "twelve" and to insert the word "ten", it is probably more likely that the Government would think again if the age of 12 were now to be supported. But, speaking for myself, I am in such a difficulty over this matter that. I am afraid noble Lords must excuse me if I say that I do not propose to take part in the Division.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise for detaining your Lordships in the consideration of this Amendment by speaking now, especially as I had not the opportunity of addressing your Lordships during the earlier stages of the progress of this Bill in this House. The noble Baroness opposite said in the course of her remarks that in the principal Act, the Children and Young Persons Act, 1933, your Lordships were asked to consider the alteration of the Common Law, which had been the Common Law for a great number of years, by raising the age of criminal responsibility of children from 7 to 8. Perhaps one of the justifications for my intervention at this moment is that, so far as my recollection goes, I am the only Member of your Lordships' House who took an active part in the discussions on that Act, and I am now in your Lordships' House to follow very closely the developments that have accrued during the 30 years that have since elapsed. It is strange to reflect that at that date no objection was raised by any of your Lordships, so far as my memory goes—and I have corroborated it in the Library of your Lordships' House—about raising the age of criminal responsibility from 7 to 8. The main contention in those days was about raising the age at the other end of the juvenile court scale, from 16 to 17. However, that is really said in passing.

My Lords, the Reports of the debates on this Bill in this House show, in my opinion, that insufficient regard has been paid to an all-important consideration, when one takes into account the thorny question of the criminal age of responsibility for children. I refer to the question that is implicit in juvenile delinquency—whether or not the State can bring greater pressure to bear upon the people who are primarily responsible for the formulation of personality and character in the child; that is to say, the parents. My opinion, which is shared by the Magistrates' Association and by many others, is that the clause as it stands in the Bill is, on balance, very much better than the Amendment. As I see it, the substantial point of raising the age of criminal responsibility, as the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby has said, depended upon the re-definition of Section 61 of the principal Act. We have heard from my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, in his own words, that the expansion and the definition as contained in Clause 2 of the present Bill does not go as far as a layman would interpret the words to go. That is important, for the concept and the main trend of the Ingleby Committee Report emphasised that the misdemeanours of young children should be more squarely placed on the shoulders of the parents for their faulty upbringing and supervision of the child.

If we look at Clause 2 (1) (a) we see that the child has to receive such care, protection and guidance as a good parent may reasonably be expected to give". In ordinary common-sense parlance, and according to our knowledge and every statistical provision that is obtainable, the good parent may reasonably be expected to give care, protection and guidance which is first-class and enables the great majority of the younger generation to live a decent, respectable life. Subsequently, however, the clause qualifies the lack of care, protection and guidance—the falling into bad associations, the exposure to moral danger, and so on. It is a matter of the greatest distress to me that we have heard this evening from the Lord Chancellor that this re-wording, which Lord Ingleby in the recommendation of his Committee thought went a long way to widen the definition of Section 61 of the old Act, in fact fails to do so. But then, my Lords, that is according to legal interpretation, and I have no more to say than what a regret it is that words which the layman understands to be implicit in the clause do not in fact operate.

I should like to emphasise a statement made quite recently by Professor Carstairs, in the third Reith Lecture. He said: In reply to a recent questionnaire about the bringing up of children, a surprising number of working-class fathers expressed the view that children should be taught discipline by the State. My Lords, I believe that that is profoundly true. Therefore, I believe that the proposal of the noble Lady opposite in her earlier successful Amendment, to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12, will not ultimately succeed—although I should be very happy to see it succeed—because the attitude of too many parents will be that instead of "they", meaning those in the magistrates and juvenile courts, being responsible for the imposition of discipline upon the child, it will be the "they" of the education authority. And the fashion will be further perpetrated by the removal of parental responsibility for these young children of 8 to 12, rather than making the parents primarily responsible for their good conduct and welfare. Professor Carstairs also added: Traditionally one of the functions of a family has been to reconcile children to the restraints of their behaviour which a society expects them to obey. Every child has to submit to a great deal of frustration of immediate desires and impulses in the process of growing up. This frustration can be more readily tolerated if it is imposed by parents. A question that I should like to put to your Lordships in considering the age of criminal responsibility is this: does the age of 8, 10 or 12 lead to the establishment of a fashion in which parents will be regarded as more responsible for the upbringing of their children? In answer to that question, I am very clear in my own mind that the recommendations of the Ingleby Committee, composed of experts who sat for no less than four years taking expert opinion and evidence from every single source, are in fact the only practical way out of this dilemma. There is one basic objection as I see it, which has already been named by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, to the proposal of the noble Baroness. If we have the educational legislation and machinery enabling that part of the State to do as she desires, by its educational and social implications, to steer the child in the right direction so that there will be a reduction rather than an increase in juvenile delinquency, then we have the situation of the board of governors of a school, of the Director of Education, or of a children's officer coming in very close association with the education authorities, possibly depriving the individual of his liberty by committal to an approved school for a period up to three years.


My Lords, the noble Earl will forgive me, but he must not ascribe to me any suggestion that school authorities should have power to commit to approved schools. This is something that I have never proposed and never would propose.


My Lords, I beg the noble Baroness's pardon, if that is her view. But I must confess that previously I did not understand it to be so, because then we revert to the civil procedure which exists under the principal Act, the Act of 1933, and, as I understand it, we are back very close to the procedure enunciated by the Ingleby recommendations. No, my Lords; if I saw the practical opportunities of the noble Baroness's provisions being implemented effectively and satisfactorily during my lifetime, I would support her in her contention. But be- cause I do not see that, I have no alternative but to support the recommendations of Lord Ingleby's Committee.

I feel confident that the great body of justices of the peace, and of social workers in this country, would agree that, to overcome the predicament in which your Lordships' House finds itself in finding a solution to this problem, the better alternative is to do that which is done under the existing law, extended by the wider definition of Clause 2 contained in this Bill, of taking civil action when a child is in need of "care, protection or control". The argument of my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor is that this procedure involves a lower burden of proof than that required by criminal conduct where an offence must be proved beyond all reasonable doubt. My Lords, if the procedure under the "care, protection or control" section of this Bill is not so good as the procedure contained under the Act dealing with criminal matters, is it not possible to have a review by the highest authority in the land so that a higher standard of burden of proof is required in these cases? But surely the fact that a lower burden of proof is required in these proceedings than in the criminal courts, is not in itself a reason why children under the clause should not be dealt with in the way recommended by the Ingleby Committee.

Therefore, my Lords, without burdening the argument further, I would say that, without resort to the provisions which were the logical argument of the Ingleby Committee Report, which dealt first with this question of the age of responsibility and, subsequently, with the institution of restitution for damage of £100, and attendance at attendance centres, we cannot get very far. That was a logical plan, and I feel that it is necessary, for those of us who have followed this line of thought for so many years to support the noble Baroness and to resist the Amendment.

6.46 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add just a few words to this debate, as I was unfortunately prevented from taking part in the discussion on this problem in the Committee. I personally was rather sorry that the noble Baroness did not fix the age at 14, instead of 12, because that would have brought us much more into line with enlightened opinion in most countries in the world. I think we ought to realise that we in this country have a pretty bad reputation in respect of our criminal law, and it always makes me ashamed when discussing these problems with foreign lawyers, to find how they point the figure of scorn at us in regard to our deplorable history through the 18th and early 19th centuries. This is one of the blots which still remains on our escutcheon which I should like very much to see removed; and 14 would remove it much more effectively than 12.

It would also have the advantage of meeting the point which was touched upon by the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, and which is of some importance; that is that when these children between 8 and 14 are being prosecuted, quite a different burden of proof has to be discharged against them by the prosecution, from that required in regard to the older children of 14 and upwards. There is what is called in the older books "mischievous discretion", which was not referred to by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack. But the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, is quite right when he says that it results in quite a large number of these young, mischievous children getting away with it. It may be that, up to a point, that is good, but it means there is no control over them whatever, just because the "mischievous discretion" cannot be proved against them in the court. If the proposals of the Ingleby Committee were accepted, it would mean that this really quite substantial loophole in our present criminal law would be removed.

My Lords, I must say that, in regard to the noble Lady's description of the Government's proposals as being a little pathetic and a little ridiculous, I thought she might have used much stronger adjectives. I think they are shameful. Having had this Ingleby Report before them, and knowing quite well that this was likely to be pressed against them and might well succeed, they have, so far as I can see, taken no steps at all to work out a policy for dealing with the situation. They do not even seem to have considered the most serious effect—which, again, was referred to, but I thought not sufficiently underlined, by the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby—which the passing of their own Amendment will have on the criminal law of this country.

It is already the case, as the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, pointed out, that if a gang of youngsters employ a child of under 8 actually to commit a theft, then they can get away with it because the child under 8 cannot in law commit a theft at all. And not only will children get away with it, but the parents will get away with it; and they have indeed been getting away with it. This opens up a really wide vista of possibilities, which I know the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, is aware of, because I talked with him about it the other day, and yet the Government have taken no steps whatever. Instead of coming here with Amendments to put this situation right, they apparently accept cases of this sort—cases like Walters v. Lunt, of which the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is. I am sure, well aware. There, the parents of a boy of under 8 were accused in a criminal court of receiving stolen goods and were, in a sense very properly, convicted by the jury, because they were no doubt morally guilty; but the Court of Criminal Appeal were naturally bound to say that a child under age could not commit a theft, and that therefore the parents could not be properly convicted of receiving the stolen goods.

How much more is this going to happen in the future? Unfortunately there are many parents in this country at the present time who are only too ready to take advantage of a ruling of this kind. It was indicated by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice at that time that it might be possible to lay an alternative indictment of stealing by finding—and I believe that, since then, there has in fact been a case where an indictment of that kind was laid: but is it not ridiculous that we should have to adopt this roundabout method of tackling the problem of the guilty parent in a case of this sort by laying a charge of stealing by finding, instead of facing up to it—facing up to it in a way in which I suggest any responsible Government would have done?

This has much wider repercussions than just a case of receiving stolen goods, because is it not fairly clear that, if a child under 12 (or, if the Amendment is accepted, under 10) cannot be guilty of the offence of, say, larceny, then the parents cannot be guilty of instigating him—which, of course, is a well known offence at law? To instigate somebody to commit an offence is an offence; but if there is no offence, then the instigation itself will cease to be an offence, and those parents and adults and older boys who take advantage of this new rule in the law, or this new position of line law, will get away with it again. That applies also to aiding and abetting, and presumably to being an accessory after the fact to a felony, which is a serious crime. All of these will cease to apply in the case of these young boys—and girls, for that matter.

The Government come before us to-day without any proposal for dealing with this situation. I think that to call this ridiculous and pathetic is very much of an understatement; it is a scandalous thing. If the Government do not like the proposals of the Ingelby Committee as they stand, they should have been prepared with some modifications of them. After all, the Magistrates' Association is a very substantial and influential organisation, and the probation officers are people who have given a great deal of thought and trouble to matters of this sort; and if they could advise a solution of this kind, surely there was a great deal to be said for it in principle. It may be that it is not good in one way or in another way, but the Government have had many months in which to think out the problem—and yet now, because they were defeated on this point at the Committee stage, they come with this miserable suggestion of a compromise. I suggest to your Lordships that it should be thrown out and that they should be made to take up the task which is theirs as the Government of this country—namely, to provide a creative and dynamic solution to this difficult problem.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, I was very glad to hear the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, after leaving me in some doubt for some ton minutes, come through in the end and declare that the age of 12 was about right for criminal responsibility. When he was speaking of the 1933 Children's Act I was reminded that he must at that time himself have been a probation officer, or sometime later. Certainly he is President of the Association of Probation Officers, and he must be aware of their views. Indeed, I think I shall be able to show that all the authorities who deal or who are likely to deal with these children are against the wish of the Government in this matter to reduce the age to 10 years. My Lords, I think that, in this House, when the Government wish to reverse a decision of the kind which was arrived at on this point during Committee stage, they are wrong, and for a very good reason: that it is extremely difficult in this House for an Amendment moved by a member of the Opposition to be carried against the Government. It can be so carried only if the arguments are extremely sound, convincing and, perhaps, overwhelming. They were so in this case, and I think it is very bad indeed that the Government should bring this matter up again in this way.

Indeed, my views on this particular occasion are reinforced by the fact that the Lord Chancellor, in his very interesting speech, on no fewer than three occasions quoted in aid extracts from a speech which I made on the Committee stage. That speech, my Lords, was expressly designed in support of the then Amendment to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12 years, and it is an extraordinary thing that those points should now be quoted in support of an argument to reduce it to 10 years—because the main purport of my argument was to indicate the ways in which these young children could be dealt with. The whole charge against the Government, which was clearly put by my noble friend Lord Chorley, is that they have not given an indication that they are prepared to provide those alternative ways of dealing with younger children who are likely to be delinquent. The noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, referred to Clause 2 and indicated that, in his view, it was not a sufficient safeguard. In my view, he has misread the purport of the clause, and your Lordships will be aware that at an earlier stage of to-day's proceedings I myself moved an Amendment to provide that local authorities could take preventive action. If the Government accept that, the whole field will be covered.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, said, this particular question is a compromise; it suggests that we should do a deal. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said Chat the question which my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger asked was: "Do the Government not agree that young children should be dealt with other than by bringing them before a court on a criminal charge?" To which the Lord Chancellor answered, "The Government say, 'Yes, but not up to the advanced age of 12; only to the age of 10'". My Lords, that really is nonsense. There can be no case fox such an argument at all. The noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, suggested that there were political considerations for this Amendment, but in this Bill we are concerned not with political considerations, with doing a deal: we are concerned with the children—and we are expressly concerned with those 13,300 children between the ages of 10 and 12 who, in 1961, ware adjudged to be criminally responsible, were brought before courts and were dealt with in that way, with all the panoply and all the affliction of the procedures of the court on them.

The question has been asked in this debate, "if a child of 11 cannot be brought before a court, what can be done with him?" Surely, the same as the Government propose to do with the child of 9 years and 11 months. This Amendment of the Government is an argument not for helping unruly children to become good citizens but for saving money in the short term and spending a very great deal more in the long term. I mentioned that all the authorities were against the Government and I mentioned probation officers. In the Committee stage, the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, said the police told his Committee that they were satisfied with the age of 12. The noble Earl, Lord Feversham, said the Magistrates' Association are in favour of the age of 12 years. I have already mentioned the probation officers.

Now take the local authorities, the people who are to provide this education. I have in my hand a letter from the Solicitor and Parliamentary Officer of (the London County Council, one of the largest authorities who would be extremely interested in this particular subject. He says: It is anticipated that an Amendment will be tabled seeking to nullify the effect of the Government Amendment which has been tabled which would lower to 10 years the age of criminal responsibility. I shall be glad if you will kindly support any action to retain the clause in the form in which it was amended in Committee. It was then accepted that the minimum age should be 12. In most European countries, as my noble friend, Lady Wootton of Abinger, has said, the age is higher than this. To lower the age would be a retrograde step. If all the authorities who are to deal with these young people—the police, the probation officers, the education authorities, the magistrates, all who have experience of them—say that the age of criminal responsibility should be at least 12 years, surely the Government have no case at all for this Amendment.

It is no use talking about doing a political deal; and with respect to the noble Viscount Lord Ingleby, I would say that he has heard all the arguments ad nauseam and he came to a decision. I should say that on this issue he cannot possibly sit in his seat when it comes to a Division. He must vote against the Amendment. So must anyone else who takes a really honest view, who considers the welfare of these children. If any of your Lordships think of it emotionally, say as a parent, and of your own 10 or 11-year-old child, and consider him as being regarded as a responsible criminal for any of his delinquencies or, indeed, of yourself for your own at that age, then you must reject this Amendment and vote with us against it.

7.4 p.m.


My Lords, I would in general agree with the contention that the age of criminal responsibility should be raised and that criminal proceedings are not suitable for children. And there seems to be a unanimous view on that point. The question as to the speed and timing at which the age should be advanced is dependent on the competence of alternative provision. The difficulty that I myself find is on that very point. I was impressed by the arguments which the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack advanced, in the light of the particular provisions made in Clause 2, for not going beyond the age of 10 as the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

May I illustrate the difficulty, as I see it, from the point of view of an individual case? Johnny, age 11, steals a costly weapon. He has good parents and he has not fallen into bad associations. He has, in fact, been both bribed and threatened by an older boy to do this. I cannot see, within the terms of these clauses, what alternative protection would cover such a case as this, other than one which makes use of a judicial process after evidence. If I am wrong about that, I should wish to be corrected: but this is the difficulty. I should have felt there was, indeed, some real danger, if the provisions in Clause 2 are not adequate for such cases, in advancing the age to 12 in one jump. I should have thought there was every advantage in advancing that age to 12, and even beyond, as soon as practicable and possible. I am wholly in agreement with that.

I should like to say one final word. In everything that concerns the operation of this Bill There is at the back of my mind, and I am sure at the back of your Lordships' minds, one vital and general need: namely, for a strong moral leadership and a clearer moral guidance within this country as a whole and for a deeper concern for the moral stature as well as the physical well-being and social amenities of young and old alike. And this relates to a deeper respect for the sanctity of human life. It seems to me that an essential condition for giving effect to the provisions of this Bill is the acceptance of the needs to which I have referred.

7.7 p.m.


My Lords, at this late hour I do not expect that your Lordships will want from me a long reply to the interesting speeches that have been made. But I should like to say something on one or two points upon which it would seem I failed to make myself clear when I moved the Amendment. The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, advanced certain propositions which she had advanced previously in our debates, such as the proposition that to bring anyone before the juvenile court is to make him a member of the "delinquents club". That is a proposition which I cannot accept and I share the views expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Ingleby, that there is a lot that can be gained for the benefit of the young by their being brought before such courts. I would also say to the noble Lady that we may disagree about what is the right provision in this Bill, but she is quite wrong in suggesting that the Government are frightened of crimes committed by children or anything of that sort. It really is not warranted. What we are considering, and what everyone in this House is considering, is what is the best provision to make in the interests of the children and of the community.

It is because we believe that there is really no acceptable alternative procedure for bringing before the courts for misconduct, such as the Ingleby Committee recommended, that we feel it would mean a tremendous gap in the system if you raised or kept the age at 12. It would mean that there would be no powers to deal with the 13,300 who were dealt with before the courts between those ages last year. That is a serious thing, not just in the interests of the Government but in the interests of the children. I know the noble Lady does not agree, but it is my belief that you may stop one of those children in that age group from becoming a real criminal if he is brought before the courts at the right time. I do not want to expound again the arguments against the Report of the Ingleby Committee, but I must say I was surprised to hear that the noble Earl, Lord Feversham, apparently visualised with equanimity a charge being preferred against a child under 12 years for conduct which would constitute a criminal offence in a child over 12; and for it to be easier to establish guilt against the child under 12 than against the child over 12, and for the court to find, therefore, that it was able to deal with more children on a lesser standard of proof than if they had been guilty of the misconduct mentioned. I must say that I was somewhat surprised at that and, as I have said before, I do not think that that would be right.

My noble friend Lord Ingleby expressed fears about what would be the consequences of leaving the age at ten. He thought that that might lead to a lot more crime being committed with impunity by children between eight and ten. And that is why I simply cannot follow his argument, if that be his view, in favour of the retention of the age of twelve, because we know from the figures that that would bring a great many more in. It is not a choice here, on this Amendment, of voting between the Ingleby proposals and the age of ten years. The issue to be decided on this Amendment is whether we exclude children under ten from being charged with and convicted of any kind of criminal offence or whether we exclude children under the age of twelve from being charged with and convicted of a criminal offence, and to do that knowing that there is nothing in this Bill to make provision for dealing with the 13,300 between the age of ten and twelve who had to be brought before the courts last year. That is the simple issue.

It seemed to me that my noble friend Lord Feversham was proceeding on the basis that the choice here was between what I might call the Ingleby proposals and something else. It is not. I can assure him that the Government have given most careful and prolonged consideration to the scheme of the Committee over which my noble friend Lord Ingleby presided for so long and so well. It was worthy of the most careful consideration. It is too late to-night to go into all the details of the objections I could advance to it. I would just say, in view of the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that he was incorrect in saying that it expressed the views of the police. The police are not in favour of the Ingleby scheme. The Association of Chief Constables is against it

completely. The Commissioner of Police thinks that to raise the age to ten is as far as a change should go.


My Lords, since the noble and learned Lord has quoted me, perhaps I might be permitted to intervene on this point. What we tried out on the police, of course, were the Ingleby Committee proposals. The police came back to us, I remember, after having first given evidence and our specific proposals having been put to them, and the Commissioner of Police and, so far as I remember, the Association of Chief Constables accepted them, or said, at any rate, that they were prepared to make them work. What the attitude of the police is to the proposals in this Bill is, of course, quite another matter.


My Lords, I am not personally in touch with the chief constables, but I had the latest possible information and thought it right to convey to the House the position as it is now. I do not want to take up further time. The issue is simple and the Amendment is a simple one. In my submission to the House, it would be right to give the noble Baroness half the cake she was asking for (I think that was her expression) and it would really be wrong at this stage to go further than that. I hope that the House will accept the Amendment.

On Question: Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents 41; Not-Contents 27.

Ampthill, L. Dundee, E. Lansdowne, M.
Auckland, L. Dundonald, E. Luke, L.
Blackford, L. Eccles, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Bossom, L. Ferrers, E. Merrivale, L.
Boston, L. Fortescue, E. Newall, L.
Buccleuch and Queensberry, D. Goschen, V. [Teller.] Newton, L.
Carrington, L. Grenfell, L. Rockley, L,
Chesham, L. Hamilton of Dalzell, L. St. Oswald, L.
Conesford, L. Hastings, L. Somers, L.
Craigton, L. Hawke, L. Soulbury, V.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Hertford, M. Stonehaven, V.
Derwent, L. Jellicoe, E. Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Devonshire, D. Jessel, L. Waleran, L.
Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.) Lambert, V.
Adrian, L. Kenswood, L. Peddie, L.
Alexander of Hillsborough, V. Kilbracken, L. Sainsbury, L.
Attlee, E. Latham, L. St. Davids, V.
Burden, L. [Teller.] Lindgren, L. Shackleton, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Listowel, E. Shepherd, L.
Chorley, L. Longford, E. Stonham, L.
Feversham, E. Lucan, E. [Teller.] Summerskill, B.
Hughes, L. Merthyr, L. Taylor, L.
Iddesleigh, E. Ogmore, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.

Resolved in the Affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.


My Lords, I think this Amendment is self-explanatory, but I would just say that it restores a provision which we previously had in the Bill but which fell when the House decided in Committee to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 12. We then withdrew the existing provision. We now wish to reinsert it, but having thought the matter over again, we should like to raise the age from 12 to 14. This means that no offence committed while a person is a child within the meaning of the 1933 Act will be cited after he reaches full adulthood. I hope that our raising the age in this way from 12, which we previously had in mind, to 14 will commend itself to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 10, line 26 at end insert— (" (2) In any proceedings for an offence committed or alleged to have been committed by a person of or over the age of twenty-one, any offence of which he was found guilty while under the age of fourteen shall be disregarded for the purposes of any evidence relating to his previous convictions; and he shall not be asked, and if asked shall not be required to answer, any question relating to such an offence, notwithstanding that the question would otherwise be admissible under section 1 of the Criminal Evidence Act 1898.").—(Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I think we have reached as far as we agreed to go on this Report stage and, in view of this, I beg to move that further proceedings on the Bill be adjourned.

Moved, That further proceedings on the Bill be adjourned.—(Earl Jellicoe.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.















Presented, and read 1a

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past seven o'clock.