HL Deb 25 October 1967 vol 285 cc1653-742

2.44 p.m.

EARL JELLICOE rose to draw attention to the administration of approved schools, with particular reference to the closure of Court Lees School; and to move for Papers. The noble Earl said: My Lords, we last discussed the approved school system at any length in March, 1960, following the report of Mr. Victor Durand into the grave disturbance at Carlton Approved School. In reading that debate over again during the weekend, I could not help reflecting that usually we find ourselves looking into this rather sad corner of our affairs only after something has gone rather wrong. That may be natural, but it tends to distort the mental picture which we make for ourselves of the approved schools system. Like all systems, it is not without its warts. But I, for one, speaking with some personal knowledge of these school, trust that this debate may at least help to dispel a too one-sided view. That is why, before turning to the particular case of Court Lees, I wish briefly to pass in review the general administration of our approved schools at this time.

Again, as I read the Durand Report I could not help reflecting on the progress made in many fields in the last seven years: the largest building programme of the approved school system ever seen, initiated under my noble friend Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, and in large part carried through by my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor; a considerable easement in acute pressure on places, familiar to many justices—too many disapproved of boys chasing too many approved places; an increase in more specialised facilities, and, not least, a far greater emphasis, and welcome emphasis, on the professional training of staff.

However, this overall improvement has been accompanied, I think, by a growing public disquiet over the functioning of the system. It is right that we should be deeply concerned about these schools. There are over 120 for boys and girls, and they accommodate over 8,000 young persons. But our disquiet, I think, also stems from deeper causes. It is partly a reflection of new problems, such as drug-taking among the young, which rear their heads in approved schools, as they do in other schools. Of course there are bright spots. A mere glance at the latest report of the Children's Department for the last three years, which came out in the summer, will show that they have had very striking success. However, there are all too many signs that the generation now coming through these schools is more unstable and difficult to control than those who went before them; and all the time we mark the inexorable rise in the failure rate. For boys, in 1947 it was under 30 per cent.; in 1962, it was 62 per cent. With girls, it was 14 per cent. (girls are, for some reason, better than boys) in 1958 and by 1962 it was 21 per cent. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to tell us that this remorseless rise is being contained.

It is natural, therefore, that the Government—any Government—should be concerned about the administration of these schools. This was one of the reasons which led the last Conservative Government to set up the Royal Commission on the Penal System. I would remind noble Lords that the then Home Secretary, my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor, stated in public at the time, in 1964, that one of the important questions for the Royal Commission was to review the approved school system and the borstal system together. These two systems had grown up independently—in many ways and in many areas they overlap—and both were, and are, under criticism. By now that Royal Commission, headed by my noble friend Lord Amory, might well have reported had not the Government, under the present Home Secretary, I think, chopped its head off.

The present Government have, of course, promised a great deal in this field. When in Opposition the Labour Party produced, with a great fanfare of trumpets, and under the ægis of the noble Earl the Leader of the House, their booklet, CrimeA Challenge to Us All. It was, if I may say so, a typical piece of "Longfordiana": in part sublime, in part less than sublime.


My Lords, since we are on that subject, can the noble Earl tell us which of the parts were less sublime?


My Lords, it would take a long time to do so. I think it would take me too much time, and I have rather a long speech to make.

Thereafter, we saw the Government's rather slim White Paper of 1965, and were led to suppose that legislation would soon follow. Since then, silence has descended, save that the Home Secretary, in the best traditional style, has told us that legislation will be forthcoming when Parliamentary time permits. If the noble Lords who will be replying cannot, in advance of the Queen's Speech, let Mr. Jenkins's cats out of the bag, I hope that at least they will be able to graft some flesh and blood on to the bare bones of that White Paper.

The Government apparently propose—or at least they proposed in that White Paper—to proceed, as I understand it, along four main lines. There is to be a merger of the junior and intermediate approved schools into a comprehensive range of residential establishments run, in the main, by the local authorities. There is to be a takeover of the senior approved schools by the borstals. The Home Office is to be the Government Department ultimately responsible for these services. There is also a polite obeisance in the White Paper towards a retention of the voluntary element in the new system.

We shall naturally judge the Government's detailed proposals if and when they ever see the light of day. Personally—and I am speaking quite personally here—I was much impressed by the fact that the great weight of evidence submitted to the Royal Commission on the Penal System favoured the integration of the approved school system into the main stream of our social services. This seems to me to be the right way forward. I have a more open mind about the proposal to merge the senior approved schools with the borstals. It may be sensible, but it does mean that the last buffer between a young man or a young woman and the penal system as a whole will be removed. Again, I personally believe that the White Paper is right in placing, or rather retaining, responsibility within the Home Office in this sphere. But only seven years ago I recall that noble Lords opposite took a rather different view. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, called it—and I think I am quoting him correctly—"a fundamental error" for the Home Office to retain responsibility. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, echoing him, went further. "One might just as well make the Ministry of Defence responsible", he intoned. I wonder whether a taste of Whitehall's honey has caused both noble Lords to eat their words?

Finally, I sincerely hope that the Government are sincere in what they say about the retention of the voluntary principle. I accept the case for broadening the composition of voluntary management committees. I accept that there may well be a good case for bringing the local authorities more into the picture, but in my view we must continue to tap the good will and keenness of the volunteer. Perhaps it is in those areas where social administration is more difficult, that it is most important to try to build in the corrective of the volunteer. In this field one needs professionals and one needs professional training, but often an ounce of knowledgeable enthusiasm may be worth pounds of professionalism. Therefore, I hope the noble Lord can confirm that whatever system is finally hatched out, the new managers will retain a good measure of autonomy.

A number of other matters have caught my eye in reflecting on this debate. There is the building programme. Can the noble Lord tell us how serious is the impact on the schools of the cuts resulting from the first Wilson economic crisis of 1964? Then there is the geographical location of the schools. Is the noble Lord satisfied that there are enough of them near the homes of the boys who live in them? There is the question of psychiatric treatment. I think anybody who knows these schools knows that a seriously disturbed boy or girl can almost hamstring the work of an approved school. Too many approved schools have to cope with very disturbed boys and girls because there is no suitable inpatient treatment available elsewhere. This serious problem was highlighted in the report of the Children's Department three years ago. Surely after another three years it is a bit "wet" merely to say, "it is still being considered", which is what is stated in this year's report.

There is the provision of pre-release and post-release hostels for boys and girls in, or leaving, these approved schools. The crying need for these hostels runs through nearly all the evidence submitted to the Royal Commission, and the Home Office has surely an important and rather exciting part to play in planning their provision. But in the last report of the Children's Department all we had was tame and neutral comment about "several schools" now having pre-release facilities. I hope the noble Lord will be able to tell us something more positive about this.

There are only two other general matters I should like to single out for comment. The first is the need for a new and clear-cut code of administration. The approved school rules were promulgated as long ago as 1933, and many of them are beginning to show the wear and tear of age. When will the new rules be issued? The second general point is that the quality of any approved school (and indeed this applies to more than approved schools) stems almost entirely from the quality of its staff. I know that great efforts have been made in recent years to recruit staff of the highest possible calibre and to see that they receive the best possible training. This is a plant, the nurturing of which should be the concern of every Home Secretary.

It is against this general background that I wish to express my serious concern about the Home Secretary's handling of the Court Lees affair. I do so because I believe it could vitally affect and impair the morale of those who run and staff our approved schools at a crucial moment in the evolution of the whole system. This sorry business has been fully reported in the Press and has been the subject of a careful Inquiry by a distinguished Queen's Counsel, Mr. Edward Brian Gibbens, and therefore I shall only sketch the history of these recent events.

This school was founded some 110 years ago in the Euston Road as a home for destitute boys by a group of well-intentioned businessmen. It was moved to its present rather pleasant position in Surrey between the wars. The largest school of its kind in the country, it is an intermediate school, catering for boys between the ages of 13 and 15 on admission. It has a management committee of 13 members, and the chairman of the managers is His Honour Judge Cohen, who succeeded a Colonel Hale in May, 1967, after the latter's death, and after the incidents which were the subject of Mr. Gibbens's Inquiry. The headmaster is a Mr. D. Haydon, who succeeded Mr. Fidoe on January 1 this year, and Mr. Haydon's deputy is a Mr. Draycon.

The Inquiry was ordered by the Home Secretary in May, following communications to the Press by an approved school teacher. He sent two letters, which your Lordships will find reproduced as appendices to Mr. Gibbens's Report. Later on, he sent another paper and photographs of boys who he alleged had received corporal punishment. The sender of these communications and photographs desired to remain pseudonymous—in other words, under a pseudonym. However, his identity was later revealed as Mr. I. R. W. Cook, a teacher at Court Lees school. I do not want to say a great deal about the pseudonymous Mr. Cook. I do not know him, as indeed I do not know anyone personally connected with the Court Lees affair. Other noble Lords who speak this afternoon may wish to say more on that subject.

I shall only refer your Lordships—and I shall not read them out—to the comments about Mr. Cook made by Mr. Gibbens in paragraph 29 in his Report. I understand that Mr. Haydon, who has spent some twenty years in the approved school system, has an excellent, indeed an outstanding record. He was appointed to Court Lees this year with the full and explicit approval of the Home Office. Of him Mr. Gibbens writes in paragraph 33 of his Report: As a witness he appeared honest and candid, making no attempt to avoid difficult matters which he was required to explain. Of Mr. Fidoe, the former headmaster, Mr. Gibbens writes: 'I think he was an honest witness, and where he was able to recollect the incident clearly I would accept his evidence. Mr. Gibbens held a full investigation and an Inquiry which lasted from June 26 until June 30. In the event Mr. Cook did not pursue many of the allegations in his letters. As will be seen from a comparison between paragraphs 27 and 78 of the Report, eleven main allegations were made, of which the majority were disproved. Four allegations were, however, deemed by Mr. Gibbens to be proven. Two were perhaps relatively minor, but two were far more serious. The first was that a cane of a type not authorised under the Approved School Rules had been used at Court Lees ever since 1961. That was six years before Mr. Haydon took over. This is quite clearly in absolute contradiction to the Approved School Rules, and Mr. Haydon did not contest this point.

The second allegation which Mr. Gibbens found proved was that, perhaps as a result of the use of this unauthorised cane, Mr. Haydon had in four instances caned boys with excessive severity. I do not wish myself, and I am not certain it is the time, to argue the principle, the pros and cons, of corporal punishment in approved schools. I do not wish to do so to-day. But I do not wish to minimise the seriousness of Mr. Gibbens's findings. Two most distinguished medical witnesses, Professor Simpson and Dr. Teare, made it clear that judging by the photos of the injuries inflicted as a result of the caning of two boys they would have felt bound to call for an investigation by the police or some other authority if those boys had been brought to them in their hospitals. I will only say myself that if corporal punishment is used in closed establishments against young boys it is absolutely essential that it should be used with moderation and with meticulous attention to the rules. Judging by the Report, that was not the case at Court Lees.

Now I am about to voice some criticisms of the Home Secretary's subsequent handling of this case. However, I should like to make it quite plain that up to this period in the mid-summer of this year I can see nothing in his actions to criticise. He was, I believe, entirely right to order this Inquiry. In my opinion no Home Secretary in his right mind could have afforded to ignore or make light of a Report of the nature which Mr. Jenkins received from this eminent Q.C. It is rather the subsequent actions of the Home Secretary on receiving Mr. Gibbens's Report which are, I think, open to criticism, and serious criticism at that.

First, there was his handling of the managers, including the distinguished chairman, Judge Cohen. According to Judge Cohen, a despatch rider arrived at his home on July 28 bearing a single copy of the Gibbens Report with a summons to discuss the Report and to hear the Home Secretary's conclusion on it a day or two later, on August 1. In a covering letter he was asked not to discuss the Report with his fellow-managers. On August 1 the chairman saw a high official, I think the Permanent Under-Secretary, at the Home Office, and he was informed tout court that the Home Secretary's intention was to withdraw recognition from the school and that this decision was likely to be announced on August 7. Again, the treatment which Judge Cohen received I can only characterise as cavalier. He asked for a personal interview with the Home Secretary, and this, to my mind, rather reasonable request was initially refused. It was subsequently accorded, I understand, as a result of an intervention by a Member of another place. He was also refused permission even to inform his colleagues of the Home Secretary's intentions before they were to meet on the afternoon of August 5, just two days before the final announcement of the Home Secretary's decision was expected.

Two days later the chairman was told it was up to him to suggest alternative ways of dealing with the situation. When the board met on August 5 they saw the Report for the first time—this, again, I find almost unbelievable—and were refused more than one copy, so I understand, between them. They asked for a further week to consider the matter properly, but once again a perfectly reasonable request from responsible managers was brusquely turned down. On August 6 the meeting between the Home Secretary and some of the managers, which Mr. Jenkins had originally refused, took place. The Home Secretary put five proposals to the managers, very much in the form of an ultimatum. In the upshot the managers, albeit with reluctance, accepted four of the five proposals, including the dismissal of Mr. Haydon. But they dug their toes in on the condition that Mr. Cook should continue in his present employment. I find it hard to see how any Home Secretary could possibly have expected the managers to stomach the suggestion that Mr. Cook should continue as a master at Court Lees after the comments that Mr. Gibbens, a Q.C., had seen fit to pass on him. However—and I make this crystal clear to your Lordships—save for this one condition the managers were prepared to accept all the Home Secretary's stipulations, and they left the meeting in the belief that their virtual capitulation had saved the school. They were wrong. On the very next day the Home Secretary announced his decision to close it.

What had Judge Cohen and his fellow managers done to merit such rough treatment? It is possible the Ministers who will be replying will tell us the Home Office had other reasons for convicting them in this summary way. If so, I hope they will tell us frankly what those reasons were. I would only point out that Court Lees, like any other approved school, is subject to Home Office inspection. It received the full treatment in 1963 and has been regularly inspected since. If, at these times, the Home Office inspectorate were dissatisfied with what they found and were dissatisfied with the reaction of the managers to their recommendations, they, or indeed a Home Office Minister, had only to pick up the telephone and tell the managers just that.

My second ground of criticism of the Home Secretary's subsequent actions lies in his precipitate and over-dramatised action in closing the school. I can find no possible justification for this. It meant that about 50 boys were prematurely released. It meant that some 70 more were suddenly uprooted at very short notice and dispersed to schools and unfamiliar surroundings all around the country. Was this really necessary? If the Home Secretary could not contemplate the headmaster and his deputy continuing at Court Lees, would it not have been possible for him, as a temporary measure, to call in temporary replacements? I hope in any event the Minister who will be replying will tell us when the school will be reopened.

My third and principal burden of complaint is the treatment which has been meted out to Mr. Haydon, the headmaster, and his deputy Mr. Draycon. In effect they have been dismissed from their jobs, since after six months it has been made clear by the Home Secretary that he will not approve of their re-engagement in approved schools, either as head or as deputy. Magnanimously, Mr. Jenkins concedes that either or both of them could possibly in the future occupy some minor post in the approved school system. The position of the remaining staff, who have all remained absolutely loyal to Mr. Haydon, with the exception of the egregious Mr. Cook, is also difficult. The Home Office are not their employers and they have no guarantee of future employment.

I hope I have said enough to persuade your Lordships that I recognise the seriousness of the allegations against Mr. Haydon and Mr. Draycon which have been held to be proved. I equally hope your Lordships will recognise the seriousness of the position in which these two men now find themselves. They have both given many years of service in approved schools. Mr. Haydon, a man, I am told, of quite exceptional quality, could have looked forward to some 15 or 20 years of active employment. On February 6, as a result of the Home Secretary's fiat, both their jobs will end. Both will lose not only their jobs but their homes.

But, worst of all, both these men have been condemned virtually unheard. They have certainly not received the normal tenure hearing which would have been open to any headmaster or deputy in the normal educational system. Moreover, in view of the nature of the Gibbens Inquiry, they laboured under very great disadvantages indeed at that Inquiry. It was held in private, and those witnesses who could have testified on their behalf were not therefore alerted. They had no prior knowledge of the sort of accusations which would be made. They were not permitted to attend whilst the boys were giving evidence, and apparently the statements of the boys were not shown to the masters' legal representatives, except where they were held to diverge from evidence already given. I am sure those of your Lordships who are lawyers will recognise that these are very grave disadvantages. Above all, the Inquiry was conducted under narrow terms of reference. It was held, accordingly, in isolation from the whole general background of a school which the Home Secretary himself has described as having meritorious features. It has, I understand, a notably high success rate—the sort of fact which could not be put in as evidence in favour of these masters.

Contrast this with the conduct of the Carlton Inquiry, seven years ago. That Inquiry was held in public. It is true that here again masters were excluded from it when the boys were giving evidence. However, when two of the 42 boys had given evidence the Inquiry was adjourned at the request of an able advocate, a certain Mr. Gerald Gardiner Q.C., in order that the staff and their advisers should study the shorthand record of the boys' allegations. I am a little surprised that the Lord Chancellor did not suggest this procedure at Court Lees. Finally, and above all, the Home Secretary of the day gave Mr. Durand the widest possible terms of reference. Nothing in fact is more striking than a comparison of these two Reports. It is no reflection on Mr. Gibbens—it is rather a reflection on the narrow terms of reference with which he had been armed—that from his Report, unlike Mr. Durand's, one gets no real feel of the school and of the atmosphere in it.

But there is another matter to which I feel I must draw your Lordships' attention, and that is the specific undertakings which were given at the Inquiry by Mr. Solomon, the counsel for the Home Office instructed by the Treasury Solicitor. This is what Mr. Solomon said to Mr. Gibbens in his closing address. I will read his words from the transcript. He said: …no disciplinary consequences would follow or could properly follow automatically upon your Report. That matter would have to be investigated subsequently by the appropriate authority and gone into, and there would be the opportunity of defence and so forth given. He went on to say Therefore an adverse finding against somebody may be involved, but if somebody was found to be under criticism or blamed in the report of a tribunal of this nature, and dismissed or disciplinary action taken as a result of it, he would necessarily be the subject of a further inquiry or investigation and so forth. My Lords, the Government may care to resort to what I can only call the technical quibble that Mr. Haydon and Mr. Draycon have technically not been dismissed. Be that as it may, they have certainly been criticised in the Report of the Tribunal. Certainly they have been blamed, and certainly consequences for them, and disastrous consequences, are likely to follow. But yet they have been denied that opportunity of defence, that further inquiry or that investigation which was specifically promised by Mr. Solomon.

I would hold this to be serious even if nothing in the Report by Mr. Gibbens was contested. But, my Lords, certain aspects of his findings are indeed contested. In paragraph 78(a) for example, Mr. Gibbens found that the headmaster had not conformed with Rule 34(iv) of the Approved School Rules; and this finding is based in the main on what is said in paragraph 37 of the Report. In that paragraph it is stated that it is a standard practice at this school to administer corporal punishment immediately after the offence has been committed. Furthermore, in paragraph 37(c) it is stated that any preliminary inquiry by the headmaster before caning a boy for absconding is probably cursory. I understand that both these statements are strenuously denied.

There are other areas where a rather different gloss is put upon the action of the masters in the Report than others hold to be justified; and there are also obvious areas of doubt which arise, in particular over the interpretation of the injuries in the photographs. There was, of course, a deviation of opinion among the eminent medical witnesses here. I think that photographs of this nature are probably extremely hard to assess. Four eminent medical witnesses were called and they considered photographs of three boys. They were only unanimous in thinking that the photographs of one revealed injuries of quite unusual severity. Apart from this, many people find it hard to understand how it is possible to reconcile their findings in this respect with the statements of some of the boys who were caned, about the actions which they took immediately after the caning which they received. These statements are to be found in the transcript of the Inquiry, and I greatly hope that the Government will arrange to make the full transcript of the Inquiry available to Parliament.

Finally, there is new evidence which has come to light since the Inquiry. For example—I quote only one example—Mr. Johnson, who has been the horticultural adviser at the school for some 13 years, saw one of the boys who it was claimed was caned with exceptional severity, only a day or two after the incident had taken place, and he saw no unusual marks on him; and a number of the boys themselves have come forward with statements bearing this out.

The conclusion, my Lords, seems to me to be inescapable. As a result of the most restrictive terms of reference given to Mr. Gibbens by the Home Secretary, as a result of the Home Secretary's precipitate action following the Gibbens Report, and as a result of his persistent refusal as yet to entertain the idea of a further and fuller inquiry, despite the promise given by the counsel briefed by the Home Office on behalf of the Treasury Solicitor, there is grave doubt in my mind whether justice at least towards the headmaster and his deputy has been done. Certainly it has not been seen to be done, and I have a very real fear that a real injustice may be about to be perpetrated.

That is not only my personal belief; it is shared by the four associations most closely involved in these matters. I have met representatives of these associations and I have been impressed by their passionate feeling that an injustice may be about to be perpetrated. I do not think that we should minimise these feelings. This is a matter which closely affects those most closely involved, and above all, of course, the headmaster and his deputy. It is a matter which closely affects the managers of this school. But its ripples I think go beyond this. The Home Secretary's handling of this matter is important for the approved school system as a whole. It is important if we are to preserve the voluntary principle in these affairs. One will not attract good managers or good volunteers to-morrow if to-day's managers are slighted and spurned. Above all, it is important for the staff. The quality of our approved schools cannot be higher than the quality of the staff within them. Indeed, unless the existing staff within the system feel that they are receiving justice and that their colleagues are receiving justice, recruitment and quality are bound to fall off.

It is important for the Home Office itself. The Home Office is embarking on major measures of reconstruction and reform in this whole area. At no time has it been more crucial for it to maintain good communications right down the line. At no time have those communications been more in jeopardy. And they have been jeopardised by the Home Secretary's own actions. I do not believe I am exaggerating when I say that this case has caused a real and deep malaise throughout the whole system. There are a great many people in it who believe that in this case the referee has not played by the rules, and that the Home Secretary himself is offside.

Thus, the matter is important for the Home Secretary himself. My Lords, such criticisms as I have made of Mr. Jenkins's handling of this case have not come easily from me. I have a great respect for him in our public life. He is, and I hope he will remain, a personal friend. I have hesitated before voicing these criticisms. I have done so because I believe avoidable damage is being done to the system and that avoidable injustice is about to be perpetrated. I have also done so because I believe that the damage and the injustice are still avoidable and that the remedies lie close at hand to the Home Secretary.

I would suggest two measures which he can and should take. First, he should without delay lift the cloud of uncertainty which at present surrounds the whole approved school system, and announce, again without delay, how he intends to carry out the vague intentions of the 1965 White Paper. Second, he should institute a further public inquiry, with wide terms of reference as in the case of the Carlton Inquiry, before any official decision is taken regarding the future of Mr. Haydon and Mr. Draycon. I believe that if the Home Secretary can bring himself to take this second decision, which simple justice demands, he will heighten his already high reputation and strengthen the standing of his office. I trust that the noble Lord when he replies can give us some hope that this will, in fact, be his colleague's decision. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for raising this matter as soon as we have returned to our Parliamentary duties. I must begin with an apology to your Lordships, in that I shall not be able to be present during the whole course of this debate, and I hope your Lordships will be assured that this is not intended as any discourtesy.

I wanted to speak briefly in this debate because I have a particular interest in the subject, in so far as Court Lees School is within sight of my home, and we have seen many of their activities over the past eleven years during which we have lived in the area. I have visited the school on several occasions. I remember well the centenary of the school in which the headmaster welcomed back so many old boys, and we were all delighted to see them. I have known the former headmaster, Mr. Fidoe, and his wife, and a number of the managers, for a long time. I can assure your Lordships that these are all public-spirited and highly respected people. It was therefore a great surprise to me and a matter for very great regret and distress to read the Report of Mr. Gibbens on the administration of punishment in the school.

I must say that I thought it a very fair report. I thought that he bent over backwards in order to refuse any evidence which might be in doubt. I do not agree with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that in reading that Report one gets no idea of the atmosphere which must have prevailed at certain times in the school. Some people have sought to put forward the view that the administration of punishment was such a small aspect of the general running of the school that the Home Secretary's action in closing it amounted to a "gross injustice". Some people have condemned the Home Secretary on the grounds that nothing worse took place at Court Lees than took place at public schools before the Second World War, and may indeed take place at some of them to-day. I must reject these attitudes completely. I believe that the Home Secretary was fully justified in the action he took. I think that, faced with this Report, he had no alternative.

First, the Gibbens Report tells us much more than the punishment aspect. It draws, however indirectly, a clear picture of an atmosphere which must surely, if Mr. Gibbens is right—and I believe he is—have been prejudicial to the practice of modern ideas of reform and reclamation of boys. Secondly, it is no use saying that this place was no worse than an old-fashioned public school. This institution has to deal with boys from a very different background, all of whom must be in need of some form of care and protection and, above all, of sympathy.

The picture which emerges from the Gibbens Report is, to me, quite horrifying. I do not see how anyone can reject the conclusion that in a number of cases there was excessive severity of punishment. There was deceit on the part of certain members of the staff in not recording the excessive number of punishments, with the result that it was difficult, if not impossible, for the managers or the Home Office to know what was going on. To some extent this must reduce the blame which can attach to the managers, because they had not a record of what was happening. I think that it was this refusal to record what was taking place which must have played a considerable part in leading Mr. Cook into writing anonymously to The Guardian. I hold no brief for Mr. Cook—indeed, I do not know him—and I think it would have been much better if he had made representations to the Home Office and had informed the headmaster of what he was doing. But I would say to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who painted a rather black picture of Mr. Cook, that in the Gibbens Report, in paragraph 31, Mr. Gibbens said: However, in many parts Mr. Cook's evidence was corroborated by other evidence, and I find that much of it is true.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for one moment? I was not aware I had "painted a picture" of Mr. Cook. What I did was to refer your Lordships to what was said of him by Mr. Gibbens.


My Lords, I am sure the noble Earl did not intend to mislead the House, but he did not read paragraph 31, in which Mr. Gibbens specifically stated that he accepted much of Mr. Cook's evidence.

I believe that, apart from the size of the cane, there was, as Mr. Gibbens pointed out, ignorance of Home Office regulations when boys were caned in their pyjamas in the middle of the night And although the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, may say that this is a matter which is being contested, I do not think one can pick and choose the evidence according to what one likes or does not like in a Report such as the Gibbens Report. Many of us who have read the Report were extremely worried about the ways in which the boys were treated, and in particular about the statement made in the Report that: boys brought back to the school after absconding, if they are to be caned, are caned forthwith upon their return, whatever the hour. Thus it often happens that a boy who arrives at the school late at night disconsolate, tired after a long journey and probably emotionally upset, is immediately caned. Any preliminary inquiry by the headmaster as to the reason for absconding is probably cursory. That is what Mr. Gibbens said. Certainly it may be contested, but, so far as I know, the Report has been accepted generally as a very fair one.

Then there is the degrading spectacle of one master holding a boy's head between his knees while the headmaster beats him with excessive severity. That was the evidence given in the case of Boy No. 20. On the question of mental disability, which has not yet been mentioned this afternoon, I find the statement that the school's medical officer for the past twenty years had never been asked by the headmaster on any occasion as to whether any boy suffered a mental disability to be quite incredible. It is true that mentally ill children are not meant to be sent to approved schools, and Mr. Gibbens found no evidence of boys suffering from mental disability having been caned. But most of them are surely seriously emotionally upset and unbalanced, certainly for a time, and corporal punishment of such boys could do a great deal of harm. I ask the Government: do we not need a much clearer definition by the Home Office of what constitutes mental disability or emotional instability for the purpose of dealing with boys of this sort?

I would ask the noble Lord what are the facts about the qualifications of the staff at Court Lees. This matter was mentioned by Mr. Cook in one of the letters he wrote, and, in fairness to the headmaster, I would ask particularly what are the qualifications of the headmaster. What, in fact, was his background and experience which justified the appointment, and how was the appointment made? Was it made with the approval of the Home Office or not? I believe that many members of the staff must be exonerated from any blame in this matter, yet one cannot help feeling that if these things were going on some members of the staff might have been able to see them taking place and might have been in a position to report to the Home Office.

I should hate to feel that what has come out of the Gibbens Report is in any way representative of what prevails in other approved schools, but I think that the Court Lees affair should mark a turning point in approved school administration, not merely in the declining use of the cane (to me, this is not the most important aspect of the Gibbens Report), but in the whole approach of people who have to teach and care for boys in approved schools to the problem and reform and reclamation. These are problem children—they would not be there if they were not—and I think it is our job to see that these problems are dealt with with sympathy and understanding. As I have said, I believe that the Home Secretary was quite right in his action, and I hope that in the near future the school can be reopened and a fresh start made. If any injustice has been done to any individual, that is a separate matter which must be taken up; but to me a fresh start at Court Lees is the important point.

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, for the speech which he has just made, and for the support which he has given to the action taken by the Home Secretary. For somewhat different reasons I think that the House, as well as my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, has reason to be grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for having initiated the debate, because the Home Secretary has made only one statement on this subject. I am very glad of this opportunity to set out the facts clearly, and thus do what I can to refute the constant barrage of misleading, biased and frequently inaccurate statements which have been made about the closure of Court Lees school since my right honourable friend's decision.

As the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said, this has been an unhappy affair. Withdrawal of the certificate of approval of an approved school is a serious step. But in my view, and as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, indicated, my right honourable friend took the correct and, indeed, the only possible course open to him. Unfortunately, in most of what has been said and written during the last two and a half months the main issue has been clouded by a number of side issues—raised understandably, perhaps, in a vain attempt to defend the indefensible. In my view, this did not emerge clearly from the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, but I put it to your Lordships that the Home Secretary's main concern is, and must be, the welfare of the boys. That is the first consideration.

I also put it clearly to your Lordships that the main issue here is one of brutality. There is no other word for it: brutality in caning boys with excessive severity; in resorting to corporal punishment without properly considering whether some other punishment was more appropriate; administering the maximum number of strokes on almost every occasion and with an outsize cane, whatever the offence and whatever the boy's record; and in caning a boy at the earliest possible moment, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, said, so that an absconder arriving back at the school late at night, disconsolate and tired after a long journey and emotionally upset, was immediately beaten. These are the facts which we have to reckon with, and they are not softened by the assertion which has been made that the person responsible was an otherwise decent man, who resorted to excessive use of the cane because he did not know how to run the school without it.

Breaches of the Approved School Rules are more than ordinarily serious, because, unlike most schoolboys, boys in approved schools are not in day-to-day contact with their parents. They cannot tell them when they have been caned; they cannot be examined by their parents or by the family doctor. Of course this is true of many of the pupils in independent boarding schools but, as the noble Lord, Lord Byers, indicated, this is not a valid comparison. Boys in approved schools are detained in care under compulsion: their parents cannot remove them when they wish. We must therefore insist on strict compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the Approved School Rules. But more important than breaches of the rules is the attitude towards the boys. The Court Lees attitude allowed brutality of the kind I have mentioned without arousing protest from more than a tiny minority of the staff.

The words "approved school" have a very real meaning which must not be forgotten. They mean that the school has been approved by the Home Secretary for the reception of boys whom the courts have found to be in need of a fairly long period of residential care. This approval is signified by a certificate signed personally by the Home Secretary of the day when the school is first established, and is deemed to be continued by his successors until surrendered or withdrawn. Would any of your Lordships suggest that my right honourable friend could approve, or continue to approve, a school at which an independent Inquiry, conducted with great care and impartiality, had revealed continued and consistent attitudes and practices of the sort I have described?

Indeed, the situation revealed by Mr. Gibbens' Report was so disturbing and so intolerable that the Home Secretary had an inescapable duty to act swiftly to protect the boys. Corporal punishment on the same scale—and the noble Earl did not mention this—had continued even after the appointment of Mr. Gibbens to conduct an inquiry. Unless there was an immediate end to the unwarrantably harsh punishment, and a fundamental change in the attitudes of those responsible for running it, the school could not be allowed to continue as an approved school and boys could not be permitted to remain there a day longer than was necessary.

Your Lordships will be aware of the very long discussion which took place between my right honourable friend and the school managers nine days after the chairman had received a copy of the report. The noble Earl made something of the fact that it went to His Honour Judge Cohen by special messenger, by motor-cyclist, on the 28th. That was because we had received a copy only on the 27th. We could not send it any more quickly or any sooner. Accounts of the discussion which took place have concentrated on specific points which he put to them, and it has been alleged that, but for failure to agree on one point, my right honourable friend would not have decided to withdraw the certificate of approval. This is not true.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord on one point? I am grateful to him for giving way. I was not aware that I had made any great point about the motor-cycle. The point that I was making was that Judge Cohen was not permitted to give a copy of the Report to his co-managers. I thought that was perfectly obvious from what I was saying.


My Lords, I only repeated what the noble Earl said. I am afraid there is a misunderstanding here. The account which the noble Earl gave of this alleged restriction does not accord with our view in the Home Office, or with the view of officials who met Judge Cohen at the time. The reason for only one copy is the obvious one. In a matter of this kind the fewer copies there are about the better. It certainly was not the intention of the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office that Judge Cohen should not communicate the contents of this Report to his colleagues: indeed, he did so on Saturday, the 5th when he met them; and our understanding of the matter is that he himself could not arrange to meet them before.

But these are rather small points. The point I was making is that it is not true, as has been alleged, that it was failure to agree on only one point which determined the Home Secretary's decision. The break with the managers did not occur on a single point because, quite apart from their reaction to the detailed proposals, the unhappy fact which impelled the Home Secretary to withdraw the certificate was their failure even to understand the implications of Mr. Gibbens's conclusions. Thus, as a result of his discussions with the managers, my right honourable friend had no confidence in either their ability or their willingness to give the school the fresh start that it clearly needed.

The decision, affecting as it did the lives of many people—staff and boys—was a difficult one to take, but it was warmly received by all those people in the schools, in the social services, in many other professions and among the general public, who understood the issues and who really had the interests of the boys at heart. It is interesting and encouraging that, of nearly 200 letters received at the Home Office from ordinary members of the public, almost two- thirds expressed support for the Home Secretary's decision—and this despite the fact that the opposition to it was so vocal and publicised.

My Lords, once the decision had been taken it was imperative to remove the boys as quickly as possible. The publication of the Report and the hostility of the managers and staff to the decision gave rise to a serious danger of a breakdown in discipline, and the parents were entitled to expect that their sons would not long be left in a school from which the Home Secretary had withdrawn his approval. There was a danger—which the Home Secretary fully appreciated—that rapid dispersal might have an adverse effect on the boys, but this was minimised by taking great care to consider, in consultation with the school staff, the individual needs of each boy. About fifty of the boys were sent to their homes a little sooner than they would otherwise have been, and the rest transferred to other schools. There is no indication that this dispersal has given rise to any serious problems.

On the future of the school, about which the noble Lord asked me, the Home Secretary has always hoped, and still hopes, that the premises of this school and most of the staff would continue in the approved school system—and this for two very good reasons. First, over the years my Department has spent a substantial sum of public money—some £200,000—in establishing the school and in providing first-class physical facilities for the treatment of approved school boys. We need this accommodation for 160 boys, although I am glad to assure the noble Earl that there has been little or no impact on the building programme by the restrictions to which he referred. We have some 9,700 places in approved schools now available, and in December, 1966, the usage was slightly under 8,000. So there is not that pressure. But we need this accommodation for the reasons of our general policy to which I referred, because, although we intend before long to change the system, we shall still need good residential accommodation of the kind which Court Lees provides.

Secondly, although some of the staff can fairly be criticised for not having reported injuries which they must have seen, the majority are not responsible for the situation in which they find themselves. The Home Secretary has therefore hoped from the outset that the school can be reconstituted under local authority management, and that most of the staff will be re-engaged in their present posts. To allow time for this to be done, he arranged for the staff to be given six months' notice and retained at the school for the whole of that period, although there are no boys there. He had hoped that long before the six months expired most of them would have been promised continued employment at the reconstituted school, and would know that they would not have to leave their homes.

Unfortunately, this has not yet happened, and your Lordships will want to know why. It has only recently become possible to take firm steps to reconstitute the school. Within days of reaching his decision, the Home Secretary asked the Surrey County Council if they would be prepared to open a new school in the premises, and to consider re-engaging the majority of the staff. The Council quickly agreed to do so, and we are very grateful to them for it. But the property is owned by the trustees, and the trustees are two of the managers. Without their agreement the property cannot be transferred and the new school cannot be established. The two trustees are not yet prepared to agree, even in principle, because the managers still hope that the decision will be reversed. They have said that they will agree if they are convinced that the school cannot continue in its present form. I hope I can convince them that it cannot, because their attitude is not consistent with their expressed concern for the staff, who are understandably extremely anxious about their jobs and their homes.

In this position, the Home Secretary suggested to the managers that, without prejudice to the outcome of any further representations that might be made, they should allow those members of staff who would wish to remain at the school, if it is reconstituted under the Surrey County Council, to be interviewed to see whether the Council would be prepared to reappoint them. The managers, I am glad to say, have now agreed to this, and the Council are making arrangements for the interviews. Those who are offered posts will therefore know definitely that their jobs and homes are secure. The Home Office does not run or own the approved schools, and apart from the headmaster, whose appointment is subject to his approval, the Home Secretary has no direct responsibility for the appointment of staff. But if—and I hope I can say, surely unthinkably—our hopes of opening a new school are frustrated, we shall do what we can to help the staff find alternative posts.

As I have said, the trustees and managers are still hoping that there will be some sort of a reprieve. I wish to make it perfectly clear that my right honourable friend has not the slighest intention of reversing his decision. Mr. Gibbens's Report, which the Home Secretary has accepted, was submitted after the most thorough Inquiry at which those against whom misconduct was alleged were legally represented—all of them: the headmaster, his deputy and Mr. Cook. As to the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, about the five points, it was a specific inquiry and eleven specific points were put to Mr. Gibbens. The school managers, the headmaster, his deputy and the previous headmaster, as well as Mr. Cook, were all legally represented, and of course it was open to counsel to put forward the names of any persons who might be able to throw light on the allegations, when, at the discretion of Mr. Gibbens, they would have been called to give evidence. There is no suggestion whatever that anyone who could have helped or who could have given evidence was barred from doing so, and any suggestion that the headmaster and others did not have full help, full legal representation and a full opportunity to say whatever they wished to Mr. Gibbens is not correct.

The Inquiry and the Report were scrupulously fair. The Times Educational Supplement said that Mr. Gibbens was "almost excessively fair". Indeed, if your Lordships read the Report you will find that he accepted as proved only allegations for which there was corroboration—most difficult under the circumstances, my Lords. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, asked me about the publication of a full transcript. Unfortunately, this cannot be made public because among other things it contains the names and addresses of the boys, and it is our duty to protect them from publicity of that kind. But the Home Secretary has examined most carefully the representations which have been made to him, including certain additional statements which were sent to him on August 23. He has met and held discussions with representatives of the National Union of Teachers, the National Association of Schoolmasters, the Association of Headmasters, Headmistresses and Matrons of Approved Schools, the National Association of Approved School Staffs, the Association of Managers of Approved Schools and the honourable Member of another place in whose constituency the school lies. They raised nothing new—certainly nothing which would justify him in instituting any further inquiry; and he does not propose to do so.

It has been suggested in some quarters that although justice may have been done to the headmaster it has not been manifestly seen to be done, and that there should be some further inquiry or other action to achieve this. My Lords, I cannot see what else is required. There was an independent Inquiry by an eminent Queen's Counsel at which there was full representation. It was a much more thorough Inquiry than is normal in local education authority or other approved schools. The findings have been published, and the main facts established by Mr. Gibbens have not been challenged.

My right honourable friend granted facilities to the professional associations representing the headmaster, both before and after the Inquiry, to submit the crucial photographic evidence to independent examination. It was not disputed at the Inquiry, and although doubts were raised subsequently the association have since told the Home Secretary that they no longer challenge its authenticity. And, my Lords, anybody who has seen the photographs would not have much doubt about this matter at all, and they are not now challenged.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? He says that if anyone had seen those photographs he would have no doubt. Would he not agree that the four eminent medical witnesses who saw them disagreed as to whether they showed punishment of quite exceptional severity, save in the case of one boy?


My Lords, in my recollection it was two very eminent people with great experience in these matters who thought that had it been a case which had come before the courts, it would have been a matter for prosecution by the police or submission to the Director of Public Prosecutions—


In one case.


My Lords, before the noble, Lord, Lord Stonham, replies, may I ask one thing? Does not the noble Lord think that it would be advisable to send these photographs in confidence to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe?


My Lords, these photographs have been seen by the legal representatives of the association representing the staffs concerned. They submitted them to their own independent technical examination and they have now said they are satisfied that these photographs are authentic. I think we are entitled to accept that, as others have now accepted it. The Home Secretary feels that any further inquiry or action could proceed only on the basis of the facts that have been established, and its only purpose would be to decide whether there were any factors in mitigation of the headmaster's actions. But, my Lords, this question will not arise unless disciplinary action is taken against the headmaster. In the event nobody was dismissed. The Home Secretary decided, largely for other reasons, to withdraw his approval of the school. As a result, the school has been closed and all the staff have, regrettably, lost their employment there; but that is a redundancy situation, not a disciplinary one leading to dismissal.

The noble Earl referred to the assurance given by the Home Office counsel, Mr. Solomon. My Lords, questions affecting the suitability of teachers for employment are not the responsibility of the Home Secretary, but of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The Secretary of State for Education and Science has considered the Report and will take any action he considers necessary. Your Lordships will appreciate that the course of such consideration must remain confidential between the Secretary of State and the person concerned and that in all such cases, before reaching any decision, the Minister takes steps to inform him of the matters under consideration and gives him an opportunity to reply to them. I am sure your Lordships will agree that it is not for me to comment further on this point at this stage.

My Lords, that is all that I have to say on the subject of Court Lees School. And I very much hope that everyone will agree that this unhappy chapter in the history of the approved schools had best be regarded as closed. The Home Secretary, as he must, has given his personal judgment on a matter which was his personal responsibility. I have no doubt that it was a correct judgment. And I have equally no doubt that there is nothing to be gained, and much to be lost, by continuing to focus public attention on a sorry record of ignorance, arrogance, disregard of statutory rules, and undesirable attitudes and practices.

I should, however, be less than just if I were to appear to suggest that the whole blame for what happened at Court Lees rests with the management and staff, or that the staff are all equally under a cloud. When a team of Home Office inspectors spent several days in the school early in August, to arrange the transfer or release of the boys, they found—as they expected to find—that the majority of the staff fully measured up to the high standards of professional skill and concern for young people which prevail in all approved schools. We look forward to retaining them within the service, either at a reconstituted Court Lees or in some other capacity. They must not suffer through their involvement in a situation which was not of their making: nor must other approved schools—and here I entirely agree with the noble Earl—suffer in public estimation through any unjustified implication of guilt by association.

But, my Lords, the team of inspectors equally found that the staff at Court Lees share the uncertainty about objectives which, in varying degrees, exists throughout the approved school service. And to the extent that this uncertainty contributed to the situation at Court Lees, we accept some of the blame. We cannot reasonably ask any body of men and women, however skilled and devoted, to behave as we expect, if we do not make our expectations clear. And if our expectations make demands which they cannot meet from their own resources, it is our responsibility, and not theirs, to make sure that the necessary additional support is made available.

My Lords, we accept the fact that the approved school system is out of date. It needs new objectives, a new setting, and much increased support from related central and local government services. In part, the necessary changes will require legislation, and Parliamentary time is a scarce commodity. It is, however, the Government's intention to implement, as soon as possible, the reforms of the approved school system foreshadowed in the White Paper The Child, the Family and the Young Offender. These were to abolish the approved school order, substituting committal to the care of a local authority, and to end the professional isolation of the approved schools by bringing them within a new and comprehensive system of residential child care establishments. This section of the White Paper met with almost unanimous approval and, while the Home Secretary is not yet ready to announce his final decisions on other proposals in that White Paper, it is the Government's firm intention to reform the approved school system along the line already indicated. And in reply to the question by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, we are emphatically of the opinion that the future in this field lies with the Home Office.

It would not be helpful to describe precisely what we have in mind until reform of the approved school system can be set in the broader context of reforms in legal procedures, and in the whole system of treatments available for young people in public care; but there are two general points which I should like to make now, since they are of direct relevance to this debate. The first is that there is no truth whatsoever in the suggestion which I have seen canvassed in the Press, and on which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, asked me a question, that the Government intend to abolish voluntary participation in the provision and management of residential child care establishments. On the contrary, we intend to preserve and develop the present partnership between voluntary and public effort.

There will, however, be changes in the present arrangements. In particular, overall planning of the new comprehensive system of residential child care will be entrusted to the local authorities. They will, for the first time, be able to formulate and carry out a coherent plan covering all the many needs and circumstances which bring children and young people into public care. But a distinction perhaps should be drawn between those voluntary approved schools which have the support of a large organisation, such as a religious community or a national charitable foundation, and those which, like Court Lees, are managed by the successors of the original founders, without such support. The former will continue to exercise a large measure of autonomy, once their place in the new system has been agreed with the local authority and approved by the Home Secretary. There will also be provision for minority local authority representation on their managing bodies.

But the Court Lees type of management is an anachronism; indeed, it is surprising that a system has so long survived under which children may be compulsorily removed from their parents and entrusted to the care of committees of private individuals. The fact that it has survived is a great tribute to the devoted work of so many of these committees. But the system has become unfair to the managers and staff of the schools concerned, who are expected to discharge what are now extremely heavy responsibilities from a position of professional and frequently of geographical isolation. These schools will therefore be asked to accept local authority control and support, secured through the appointment of a majority of local authority managers. The resulting partnership between voluntary and public effort will then be very much on the lines of the dual system of county and voluntary primary and secondary schools introduced by the Education Act of 1944. This system has shown itself capable of bringing together many of the most helpful characteristics of the two types of management, and the Home Secretary is confident that this will be equally true of the new system of residential child care.

The second point is that the new arrangements will make it possible to develop a much wider range of residential child care establishments, offering specialist forms of treatment adjusted to the differing needs of individual young people. One of the major defects of the approved school system in its present form is that it contains too many large establishments catering for too wide a range of need. It is extremely difficult to organise a single establishment to cater satisfactorily for needs as diverse as those of the boys and girls now sent to approved schools. At one end of the spectrum, there are needs which can be met by providing a therapeutic environment within which groups of young people given skilled guidance can help one another to achieve personal maturity. At the other end of the spectrum, there are boys and girls whose personalities are so badly damaged or disturbed that they need intensive adult support and treatment involving a higher staffing ratio, with access to highly specialised services, if they are to have any hope of living their lives as full and independent members of the wider community.

The need for a greater diversity of treatment is of particular importance in securing the early phasing out of corporal punishment. Punitive methods of control have no place in establishments devoted to the care and treatment of children who, most often through no fault of their own, have difficulty in controlling their emotions and in behaving in ways which are socially acceptable. These children need help, not punishment.

The phasing out of corporal punishment is not therefore a matter of devising new, and supposedly more humane methods of punishing those who misbehave. I read somewhere that this was supposed to be our intention. "The bastards will think up something", were the words actually used. We are ordinary men. We reject Mr. Squeers's long cane as the cure for maladjusted or emotionally disurbed children. We are attempting the very difficult task of abolishing the last vestiges of a punitive attitude towards those of our children who most need the help and support of the community. At best, a punitive approach can only suppress the symptoms of a damaged personality, without doing anything to make good the damage: at worst, the damage is increased, and the child leaves public care more likely to be a lifelong burden to himself and to the community than when he entered it.

As I see it, the concepts for the approved school service, both in its present form and in its future role as part of a comprehensive system of residential child care, are those of control and help. We must help those of our young people who are suffering from the effects of brain damage, neglect, ill-treatment and bad family or social conditions: above all, we must help them to rebuild their capacity for personal growth. This is the greatest gift which any parent can give his children: and what good parents want for their own children, society must try to secure for all its young people.

We also recognise that the help that these children need includes control. This is not separable from treatment. Many of the young people concerned are suffering, amongst other things, from the inability of their parents to define and justify limits of socially acceptable behaviour. Ordinarily, in a good family, an awareness of these limits and an understanding of their necessity are built up gradually. A young child's security in the love of his parents helps him to conform, even while he is yet too young to understand. Given a reasonable measure of support from social influences, even the disturbance of adolescence proves to be no more than an incident in continuous personal growth where the child's relationship with capable parents is one of love.

It is this need which we have to meet with the boys and girls whom the approved schools exist to help. Personal relationships are the foundation of a truly therapeutic community. Given this base, the skills of teachers, housemasters and housemistresses, doctors, psychiatrists and instructors can reach the child, remove impediments to personal growth, and promote it in those many directions which are within the potential of even the most damaged of our young people. If, on the other hand, there is no true sense of community—if young people see their relationships with one another, and with adults, as depending wholly or largely on impersonal factors, such as rank or status within a framework of rigid rules—it is perfectly possible to have a school which is superficially brisk, purposeful and seemingly well run, but which only succeeds in keeping young people temporarily out of trouble. While they are in such a school they may be reasonably well behaved, even happy. But they are not being helped to grow as persons, and when eventually they return to the difficulties of the environment from which they came, they will be no better placed to cope with the problems it presents than when they left it.

My right honourable friend and I consider that the time has come to end the uncertainty about objectives which is preventing the approved schools from realising their full potential. We believe that many aspects of the present system, and some public attitudes towards the approved schools, still belong far too much to their past history as junior penal establishments.

How can we develop therapeutic communities and dispense with corporal punishment when we have to contain boys and girls so severely disturbed that they disrupt the life of schools which are geared to meeting the needs of a majority of less badly damaged personalities? While the schools are expected to perform this impossible task, it is only to be expected that otherwise kindly people will, in desperation, reach for the cane. We need new establishments to provide intensive care and treatment for those whom we can only with difficulty contain, thus setting us free to develop a therapeutic approach towards those who can be helped by group methods without the need for punitive controls. We have to end the geographical and professional isolation of many approved schools. The managers and staff need much more support from related local and central services. And the boys and girls need the certain knowledge that the wider community cares about them, and has not sent them away to be out of sight, out of mind, and out of heart.

I want to make it clear to the approved schools to-day that we understand their uncertainties and the difficulties which flow from an ambivalent public attitude towards their work. I would also make it clear that we recognise that the aims of helping young people in trouble and of protecting the public from juvenile delinquency are not separate, or even separable: they are the two sides of a single penny. I want to tell the approved schools that we wish them to shed the last vestiges of their former penal role and, from now on, concentrate all their efforts on controlling in order to help, and on helping in order to remove the need for anything other than inner forms of control. I want to tell them also that we recognise their need for support in pursuing a new objective of great difficulty—securing the marriage of control and help within the essential setting of a therapeutic community, together with the quickest possible phasing out of all impersonal forms of punitive control.

Without waiting for legislation my right honourable friend intends to increase, in a variety of ways, the support which the Home Office Children's Department and Inspectorate will make available to the approved schools and to the other services concerned with children whose upbringing is a matter for public concern. His principal aims are to improve communications, to which the noble Earl referred, throughout these services, and to place the resources of the Home Office at the disposal of a co-operative effort to respond more rapidly than in the past to changing needs and circumstances.

The need for good communications has never been greater. Rapid social and economic change, growing knowledge of child development, and the rise and fall of fashions in interpretative theory, mean that we can no longer achieve co-ordination of effort by relying on a slow-moving consensus, broadly shared by all the partners (lay and professional alike) in the services with which they are concerned. We need to adopt a positive stance, deliberately fostering the communication of knowledge and know-how; stimulating the co-operative application of critical judgment to those many ideas and developments which are only partially, if at all, susceptible to empirical methods of evaluation; and constantly inviting all concerned to re-examine traditional procedures and received judgments.

My right honourable friend does not therefore propose to respond to the Court Lees affair by appointing more inspectors. This would not help. There is no need for more outside observers of individual establishments, concerned more with the regularity of their practices than with the validity of their concepts. No one but a fool engages in malpractices when an inspector is looking. The need is rather for a corps of professional consultants who will be welcomed within the children's services as friends and advisers, drawing attention to attitudes and relationships out of which crisis situations may develop, and offering help in modifying them before damage is done.

The Home Secretary has therefore decided to establish a development group within the Children's Department and Inspectorate. This will be launched next month, initially by freeing a number of inspectors and administrative officers from concern with day-by-day administration, so that they can work together as a team, tackling in much greater depth than is ordinarily possible some of our most pressing problems. But as the work grows, it is my right honourable friend's intention to offer posts within the development group to people in the field who might like to contribute to the development of the children's services by spending two or three years on secondment to the group. The group will work in close co-operation with the universities, the professional associations, and organisations such as the National Bureau for Co-operation in Child Care, seeking to supplement and support the research and development work which these bodies already undertake.

My right honourable friend has also proposed to the local authority associations that the present Advisory Council on Child Care and the Central Training Council should be reconstituted and amalgamated, to become the central forum for the co-operative discussion and steering of research, development and training in child care. The reconstituted Council will be supported in its work by the new development group and by the Home Office Research Unit, both of which will undertake projects within programmes drawn up by the Council and approved by the Home Secretary and the local authority associations.

In this way we shall place the resources of the Home Office at the disposal of a body genuinely representative of all who have powers of decision in relation to child care. The professional associations and university and other research interests will be represented on the new Council as well as the local authorities and Government Departments; all will share in formulating and overseeing the carrying out of its programmes of research, development and initial and in-service staff training. We do not want a development group consisting of backroom boys, thinking great thoughts incapable of being communicated to the field workers. We need a co-operative setting, such that the Council, the development group and the research unit together assist the services to tackle problems which the field workers recognise to be real and pressing; and to ensure widespread communication of the results.

The development group will not, therefore, ordinarily undertake work entirely from its own resources. Usually, it will propose to the Council a plan of campaign involving active co-operation between the group and, for instance, a local authority which has ideas which it would like to put to the test of practical application. Indeed, one such project involving three local authorities is already being planned. The fruits of this work will be some new establishments, which people will be able to visit, together with published accounts of the work and of the lessons learned. These will certainly include recognition of unsolved problems which will need to be tackled again. For what we are now initiating is in no sense a search for definitive answers. The intention is rather to place the Home Office at the disposal of a co-operative and continuously advancing process of learning—which will reach out, eventually, to embrace, regularly and comprehensively, all who have a part to play in providing services for children.

We are in fact setting in train the development of a new role for the Children's Department and Inspectorate, for which the keynote is co-operation and communication. And this, my Lords, is especially appropriate, since we are above all concerned to foster the personal growth of young people who, because their personalities have suffered damage or deprivation, have a diminished capacity to communicate and co-operate with other people. We cannot expect to meet their needs unless we first put ourselves in a position to communicate and cooperate one with another. Then, having done so, we must pool our resources to acquire the insights and to develop the skills which will make us better able to communicate and co-operate with those children whose early unbringing has damaged their capacity to live in community. For living in community, harmoniously blending one's own independence with the independence of others, is above all a function of our capacity to communicate and co-operate one with another.

4.17 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has drawn attention to the Court Lees affair, because it gives us an opportunity to ask questions, which in the interests of justice need to be asked, and the Government an opportunity to answer. May I make my position clear? Court Lees is in my diocese, and in the recent troubles several members of the staff have told me that they want the Home Secretary to permit a full inquiry, in the hope that all relevant factors may be brought into the open. Of this request I can take account. I am not at this juncture concerned with the merits or demerits of approved schools or of the merits or demerits of corporal punishment; but I am concerned with justice to individuals. If anybody in my diocese, irrespective of Party or denomination, feels that he has not received a square deal then it is my duty to do what I can.

It may be that the Home Secretary had no alternative to do as he did. Indeed, if the situation was as the noble Lords, Lord Byers and Lord Stonham, clearly believe to have been the case, then there is no more to be said. But after a careful study of the facts I should like the Government to reassure me on certain points.

First, we are told that the punishment given to some boys was excessive; and the justification for this allegation is to be found in the photographs supplied by Mr. Cook. On the face of it the evidence may be thought to be conclusive. But the fact is—and I do not think the Home Secretary can ignore this point—that no colour transparency was ever positively identified. It would have been easy for the photographer, presumably Mr. Cook, to have done so. Why did he not? If Mr. Cook wished to prove the severity of the punishment why did he tell the boys not to show their marks to anyone? Surely it was his duty to report the matter at once, either to the managers or to the Home Office, not to command silence. He did neither.

Mr. Cook asserts that the bruising was still visible six weeks after caning. Why did he not obtain the corroboration of the school doctor? In fact, the boys concerned were examined by the doctor, and by Dr. Fleming on the 5th and 7th May, one month after the caning, and no marks were found on any boy. In respect of the alleged canings, I would draw your Lordships' attention to a letter in the British Medical Journal on October 14 from Mr. Writhall Rowe. This is what he says: In a B.B.C. Television programme on 1st August, a photograph which I believe was one of those used in evidence was shown briefly. It was in monochrome, and its appearance immediately aroused my suspicions for two reasons. The first was that the marks were equally apparent on both right and left buttocks, and the second was that they were equally distributed across the buttocks from the top of the natal cleft to the upper part of the thighs. Unless the boy was caned by an ambidextrous individual, operating first from his right side and then from his left, who had taken special care to distribute the strokes at regular intervals from the sacral region to the upper part of the thighs, I would beg leave to doubt the authenticity of the picture. My Lords, corporal punishment is an emotive topic, and I am among those who would like it to disappear. But emotive feeling is no substitute for honest fact-finding, especially when a man's reputation is at stake. Rightly or wrongly, the law permits corporal punishment in certain circumstances. The only question that needs to be asked in this case is: Was the punishment excessive? Was it against the law? The Gibbens Report, accepting the authenticity of the photographs, says "Yes". I am not yet convinced of the authenticity.

The second point which worries me is the reliability of Mr. Cook as a witness. The Gibbens Report tells us that Mr. Cook: is a complex character: very emotional and intense, apt to exaggerate greatly, and sometimes irresponsible in his behaviour. My Lords, that analysis in itself should have been sufficient to put the Home Secretary on his guard. But that is not all. The Report goes on to tell us that Mr. Cook's behaviour may have been determined by the fact that he, Mr. Cook, had applied for the headmastership but had been beaten in the race by Mr. Haydon. In fact, Mr. Gibbens crisply sums up the position in a single sentence: I think Mr. Cook's evidence is chiefly suspect on the grounds of exaggeration and that it is seasoned with a certain amount of malice to those men who are, or who have been, his superiors. Could anything be more damning?

It may be said that Mr. Cook, in spite of his defects, was basically an honest crusader; that he hated corporal punishment; that he felt it useless to appeal either to the managers or to the Home Office; that he had no alternative but to write anonymously to the Press to further his crusade. There he is, Sir Galahad! But, my Lords, the question I ask myself—it worries me a lot, and I hope that it will worry the Front Bench—is: was Mr. Cook the honest, white-sheeted crusader he would like us to believe? Having carefully studied the evidence, I have come to the opposite conclusion. And here is my reason. In an approved school a master who is unable to deal with his own disciplinary matters can, in the last resort, send a boy to the headmaster with a yellow ticket. The yellow ticket is likely to have serious repercussions. It probably means that the boy will be caned. The fact is that Mr. Cook distributed more yellow tickets than any other member of the staff. Sir Galahad! Between 1963 and the time of the Inquiry he issued certainly not fewer than 110, because I have seen them; in fact, they are in my possession, and I have read them all with interest.

I shall not trespass upon your Lordships' patience, but I think it may help us to get the situation into perspective and to know something of the calibre of the key witness if I give details of a few. There was one on May 26, 1964: The boy B— stole eggs and put them down the backs of two boys' shirts. On November 3, 1963: The boy W— threw a cake of soap down the stairway and the soap hit me where I was standing at the foot of the stairs. On November 4, 1963, the boy L— was told by Mr. Cook to clean the gutters. This is what Mr. Cook says: He started sweeping the drain gutter, trying to sweep in my direction. He succeeded in sweeping a wet brush loaded with filth across my clean shoes. I regard this boy as a constant threat to the maintenance of good order and discipline. Then, on October 10, 1965: The boy H— was on the playground. I heard him clear his throat loudly preparatory to spitting. He saw me watching and desisted. I followed him into the school. When he thought he was concealed from view by other boys he spat on the ground and scuffed his foot over the deposit. He left a disgusting mess on the ground. Then, on February 1, 1966, another boy, W— received a yellow ticket from Mr. Cook. Why? What was this extreme offence of which he was guilty, an offence which he could not deal with himself, and which required a yellow ticket, which was another way of saying: "This boy must be beaten"? Let Mr. Cook give the answer in his own words; let him describe this terrible crime which deserved perhaps corporal punishment. Here it is: I found that W— was wearing his socks in bed this morning at 6.45 a.m. My Lords, those are five cases from 110. Here is the apostle in the crusade against corporal punishment. Yet this is the sort of reasons for which he issues yellow tickets, the extreme punishment, knowing the likely consequence to be a beating. If I were to recount these incidents as the eccentricities of a schoolmaster at Narkover or in the Belles of St. Trinians, we could afford to laugh; but this is the man whose evidence has contributed towards closing a school and throwing a staff out of its job.

That leads me to my third point. In August I visited Court Lees to meet those members of the staff who wanted to discuss their problems with me. Mr. Cook was not present. He subsequently complained that I had not met him. So I wrote at once to say that I should be pleased to discuss the situation when I returned from my holiday. He did not respond to the invitation. So I must content myself with the lengthy typewritten letter, eight pages, that he sent me. In it he makes a disturbing remark, and to this remark I would call the attention of Her Majesty's Government. He tells me that he was assured by the Home Office that if he gave evidence to Mr. Gibbens he would not be victimised. I cannot be too careful at this point, so let me quote his words: At that time there was no longer point in remaining silent, but I asked the Mail's advice. They contacted the Home Office and received an assurance that if I came forward I should not be victimised. I do not know the definition of the word "victimised", but it is possible that Mr. Cook jumped to the conclusion that he could say what he liked to Mr. Gibbens, true or false, and nothing would happen to him.

My Lords, from what I have already told you, it is apparent that Mr. Cook finds it difficult to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and I prefer to believe that the Home Office gave no such assurance. However, in the interests of justice, it is essential that the spokesman of Her Majesty's Government, when replying, makes a categorical denial. If the denial is not forthcoming, I think your Lordships have no alternative but to believe that a key witness was in a position to make any allegation that he cared to make without fear of the ordinary consequences. But I must be fair to Mr. Cook. He obviously has a sense of guilt, because in the same letter he tells me that the headmaster, Mr. Haydon, is basically a kindly man and—here I quote his words: I think there is an injustice in this affair; that is, that Haydon should be dismissed for what is a fairly common state of affairs. My Lords, have you ever been to such a Mad Hatter's tea-party? Cook accuses the headmaster of terrible cruelties; he produces photographs—fake or not—to support his allegations. And then Cook concludes by saying that the headmaster is a good fellow, after all, and is being treated unjustly by Mr. Jenkins.

My fourth point puts the ball into Mr. Jenkins's court. May I say that I have great respect for Mr. Jenkins? I admire him as our Home Secretary; I value him as a personal friend. Nevertheless, I think I know him well enough to believe that he would want me to speak the truth, as I see it. Here is the point to which I would draw his attention. We have been told by the spokesman for the Government that those four questions which were put to the managers were not the determining ones for the withdrawal of the licence. If that is so, I wish that would be made clear to the managers, and that the reasons would be given fully. Meanwhile, they are certainly under the impression that it is because they said "No" to one of those conditions. Your Lordships will remember that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, reminded us that they reluctantly agreed to the dismissal of the headmaster, and the deputy; they were prepared to take representatives from the local authority, and to have a temporary acting headmaster. The one thing they said they would not do was to retain the services of Mr. Cook. If what I am told is correct, then a reason for the Home Secretary's withdrawing the licence was because the managers disagreed with him on that point, that they could not, with a clear conscience, re-employ Mr. Cook.


My Lords, will the right reverend Prelate allow me to intervene? I made it perfectly clear that the decision was not on one point, but that the Home Secretary, after very long discussions with the managers, took the view that they were unable to appreciate the implications of the Gibbens Report, and that they were unable, and unwilling, to carry on a reconstituted school.


My Lords, I hope that that reason will be given to the managers. Meanwhile, my problem is not solved; because, even if this was not the reason for the closure of the school, I am very surprised that a Home Secretary should require, should even ask, that Mr. Cook's services should be retained, because, from what I have told your Lordships, I do not think that any man in his right mind would let Mr. Cook loose in a community of boys. Why did the Home Secretary even ask the question? Was it perhaps because Cook had been given, in advance, that assurance that he would not be victimised?

I come now to my last point, which again is one that Lord Jellicoe raised, though I do not think it has yet been satisfactorily answered. I refer to the remarks of the Treasury Solicitor at the Inquiry: No-one is in the dock at this inquiry"; and No disciplinary consequence would follow or could properly follow automatically upon your Report. The matter would have to be investigated subsequently and gone into, and there would be the opportunity of defence and so forth given". But sentence was passed with the publication of the Report, and justice was neither done nor seen to be done.

My Lords, I have stated my reasons for supporting the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. None of us would wish to condone or excuse what is wrong. If the Home Secretary can satisfy me on the points I have raised then, so far as I am concerned, there is nothing more to be said. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that the Home Secretary has not as yet given us sufficient grounds for complete satisfaction, and I now ask him, in the interests of freedom and of fair play to all the persons concerned, to initiate a full and impartial Inquiry.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, like the rest of your Lordships, I am grateful to the noble Earl for having initiated this debate. It is an interesting and tragic story. I take part in it with a heavy heart, but I deem it my duty to your Lordships' House to say what I propose to say. I agreed very strongly with the noble Earl when he said in his opening speech that avoidable damage is being done to the approved school system. However, my Lords, I have a tale to tell.

I am frankly amazed, as the right reverend Prelate has obviously been, at the action of the Home Secretary, which has been described by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. What emotions influenced him in reaching his decision are rather obscure to me, and one cannot help wondering whether it may have been the arrogance, I regret to say, from which some of the more starry-eyed Socialists seem to suffer. I am constantly amazed at the apparent assumption by some that they are the sole repositories, not only of feeling for other people, but of knowledge and skills to serve the community.

There is an approved school in Scotland, close to a prosperous little town of, say, 1,500 to 2,000 inhabitants. I shall mention no names, because what I have to say is of general application to this debate, and I want to keep within the four corners of the Motion. It is my present intention to put down specific Questions, one for Written Answer, and to follow this up as time goes on. The school of which I speak—the only one of its kind in Scotland, one which was accepted as an experiment—was established in 1963. Many people in the locality were surprised that it had been located in a property so very close to the town. But the public was assured that the boys to be sent there were those who appeared likely to make good as decent citizens in the minimum of time. It has been suggested, actually by one of the governors to me, that the townspeople did not try to co-operate. This was not at all my impression. They were naturally hesitant, as any country community would be, at the arrival of an organisation of this nature, but in general they were absolutely willing to help, despite the absence of a member of the town council or, indeed, of the locality at all on the Board of Governors.

Unfortunately, from the first discipline was such that the boys started making trouble almost straight away. Had they not done so, things may have been very different, because the sympathies of the neighbourhood were directed towards helping the whole scheme, and these were in a measure alienated from the beginning. If you want the local people to help, please make certain that discipline is adequate ab initio. Unfortunately, the trouble has continued, and in the case of which I speak the damage done to neighbourly relations of the locality is now so serious that it will take years to re-establish, if indeed that is ever possible. Most folk are prepared to try, but it is bound to take years for a community to get over a slowly developed sense of insecurity. Unfortunately, a girl was murdered in the neighbourhood early in August. Here I must be very careful and speak with great deliberation, because it would be quite wrong even to hint that a boy in the school was responsible. I do not do this. The police have been unable to trace the murderer, and surely they would have done so had the boy been an inmate of the school. But an event of this kind, coming on top of these years of minor trouble, must affect a small community, especially—and this is my point, my Lords—when there is already a feeling of unease which arises from the absence of adequate local representation on the board. I shall return to this point as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, spoke on the subject.

Your Lordships know that I am not a "hang 'em and flog 'em" type, but I would also have you know that I was mercilessly beaten at my "prep" school to an extent I now know to have been quite excessive, though it did not seem to occur to me at the time, because I was a high-spirited and tough boy, but a bit lonely and introspective as my parents were in India, and perhaps for that reason I was a little stubborn and self-sufficient. But whether that treatment, which has eventually landed me in your Lordships' House, was successful or not, I will leave to your Lordships to judge. I say this because I know what it feels like to be at both ends of the stick as, like many of your Lordships, I have as a prefect dispensed the rough and generally fair justice at a public school. So my lesson No. 2 is, I believe, within limits, as the right reverend Prelate has said, that "spare the rod and spoil the child" still holds good.

By implication I have imputed blame for a really dreadful state of affairs to the school authorities, dreadful because the pattern of life of the whole neighbourhood—


My Lords, may I interrupt? I do not think the right reverend Prelate said anything about "sparing the rod and spoiling the child", although perhaps I should leave it to the right reverend Prelate to make that statement.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. What I said was that I was one of those who hoped that corporal punishment would disappear.


Then I mis-heard. I must say that I thought with some surprise that he had said the reverse. I therefore withdraw my words. As I was saying, the situation has altered the pattern of life of the neighbourhood, but—and this is my next point—the school authorities are not altogether to blame. The original plan which I have outlined, regarding boys who were likely to be rehabilitated in the minimum of time, has been abandoned, and the school has been sent boys with a number of convictions, I believe, despite the objections or, if not objections, protests from the headmaster and governors. Lesson No. 3, so far as I can see, seems to be that approved schools should be regarded as educational establishments and not confused with reformatory functions. That point has been made in the debate, and the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, made it to me in the Library before the debate.

How can such a collection of boys as they now are make fair use of unsupervised liberty? They smoke; they use dreadful language in the street; they call their masters by their christian names, and one senior boy and a young assistant matron spent part of a holiday together under the same roof. Is it altogether surprising that there are some who say, "If at one end of the scale Court Lees can be closed down out of hand, for goodness' sake close this one down"? I do not say it myself, but this is a reasonable deduction from what is happening in the neighbourhood. I will not continue on this point, but I have said nothing which has not already appeared in the Press and can be read by anybody.

Incidentally, the Member of Parliament for the constituency is meeting the Provost of the town on Friday, and we must hope that something will come out of this meeting. The Provost was, I think, put on the board only in 1965, after the first real outcry about the trouble relating to the school. There had been too much secrecy, certainly, until he and another member of the community joined the board. I think there has been too much secrecy, and secrecy only leads to rumours and to suspicions. So my lesson No. 4, which is like No. 1, is this. I feel that you should keep the public informed if you want to avoid rumours.

That leads me to my last point, which is this. The spread of the governing body of an approved school is a matter which requires infinite attention; and this matter has been touched on at length by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, whose speech in that respect I welcomed. It would be very easy to pour scorn on the pathetic, odd-man-out, class-conscious claptrap which appeared in a letter The Guardian published, and which is an Appendix to the Report we are considering. I refer to the first paragraph of that letter. All I would say is that I trust we shall remember that very large sums of public money, every penny of it public money—and I use those words deliberately because they also appear in this letter, in the same paragraph, in Appendix A to which I referred—have been, and are being, spent I believe extravagantly and unwisely, and the public in the neighbourhood are entitled to demand that no unreasonable burden should be placed on their shoulders by their having to suffer additional strains and stresses from an institution of this kind.

While admitting that some people—some Socialists I am afraid—are disposed to harry private charity and voluntary service, the personnel of boards of governors should be spread through all walks of life, and include a representative number of local people able to give their work and their time and their thought to it. This is lesson No. 5, which links up with what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said. Finally, as I see it, there should never be the feeling—this is a point upon which the noble Earl and the right reverend Prelate have touched—that there is a "big brother" at work somewhere and that some of it may be a covering up operation.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, unlike other Members of this House who have spoken in this debate to-day, I myself have never visited Court Lees school, and I certainly have not spoken to members of the staff of the school and the professional organisations concerned since the result of the Gibbens Inquiry was published. I speak, therefore, with no special knowledge of this particular school whatsoever, and am as a result more inclined to say something about the approved school service in general rather than about Court Lees in particular. But I must confess that, having listened to the debate to-day, particularly to the speech of the right reverend Prelate, I have begun to wonder whether the allegations of injustice or justice, as the case might be, might perhaps not have arisen here to-day if the Home Secretary had followed another course of action.

At the outset of the debate I thought, and I still think, that it was right to hold the Inquiry, and I firmly believe that the Home Secretary was right to take the decision he did. In the light of the Gibbens Report, there was excessive corporal punishment in this school; the Home Office Approved School Rules had been broken, and corporal punishment was used as a first, rather than a last, resort. When the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, spoke earlier he mentioned that one of the possibilities was that the papers in this case might have been submited to the Director of Public Prosecutions. In view of the remarks of the right reverend Prelate about injustice, and as one who thinks that the proper place for justice is a court of law, where the due processes of law can be followed, I should like to ask the noble Earl the Leader of the House, when he concludes this debate and sums up for the Government, to say whether this was one of the courses of action which the Home Secretary considered.

I would remind your Lordships that if this school had been a private school, where the parents paid fees for their boys, a case would most probably have been brought to a court on the basis of the observations of three eminent medical specialists, as quoted in paragraph 57 of the Report. They apparently, in a hospital setting, would have felt bound to report the situation to the police or other authorities with a view to criminal proceeedings. Recently in the case of a private school where allegations of this kind were made a case was taken to the court. The court found the case proved, and the headmaster was found guilty and punished.

Some of the things that have been said in this debate to-day are, to say the least, unfortunate. Until this debate took place it seemed to me that closure was the only alternative open to the Home Secretary, in the light of Mr. Gibbens's clear Report. What were, after all, the alternatives other than the one I have just mentioned? What alternative had he if he was not convinced that the managers of the school were willing to dismiss the masters who had been found to have used excessive corporal punishment on three, two, or, I would say to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, even one boy? It is enough that one boy should suffer excessive punishment for those responsible to have had their attention drawn to the fact that they had broken the Approved School Rules and were therefore subject to a full inquiry of this kind.

Moreover, I think the Home Secretary was right, if I understood the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, correctly, to insist that there should be no victimisation of any other member of the staff of the school. If the Home Secretary was not satisfied on both grounds, what possible alternative did he have? I should have liked to hear the debate which would have taken place in this House if the Home Secretary had delayed taking action in the light of the findings of this Report. I should also have liked to see the terms of the Motion that would have then been put down. Here was an Inquiry by a distinguished member of the Bar which is quite specific in its findings. A further inquiry with boys continuing in the school at that stage would only have delayed the whole matter. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, knows only too well the heavy personal responsibilities a Home Secretary carries in a case such as this, where boys are deprived of their liberty on a court order and the grave responsibility this places on a Home Secretary. In my view the Home Secretary was absolutely correct in the action he took.

It is, of course, extremely unfortunate that this was the only action he could take. It not only cast a slur on the whole of the approved school system, which many of us know to be unjustified, but also caused a disruption in the life of these boys, who need above all continuity of care of the right kind. Of course this was a disturbing and disrupting decision, but it was nevertheless, right. It arose because of the strange isolation of the approved school system which stems from its history.

If I may refer to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, none of us, in any part in this House would wish to decry in any way the outstanding philanthropy of those people who over a hundred years ago rescued the children from our adult prisons, where they rotted, and provided reformatory schools for their care and training instead. These were the origins of our present approved school system and no one would say that at the time they were wrong. As a result of their efforts, delinquent children in England received education in the reformatory schools, and later in the industrial schools, at a time when law-abiding children were not receiving education and were going hungry.

The situation to-day is totally different, when the frontiers of knowledge and of social provision, particularly in the field of child care and mental health and education, have advanced. We know that these children need help, not separation in a penal system. The major change in our educational provision for disturbed children has arisen since the 1944 Education Act when, for the first time, society recognised a category of maladjusted children who required special help and education. Since then schools for handicapped children—for maladjusted children are handicapped—have been developed, but the approved school system is still isolated from the broad general development of the education system. Similarly, because of the rather unusual nature of the approved schools, which lies in the history of their foundation, structure and management, many of them—indeed all but the local authority schools—have stayed outside the general stream of the thought and development in child care practice.

No Government can take credit for our present system. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, referred to the fact that the last occasion on which this House debated the approved school system was on the report of the disturbances at Carlton School. With the greatest respect, I would suggest to him that this House debated it again at length when he himself was Minister of State at the Home Office and discussions were proceeding in this House on the Children and Young Persons Bill—a Bill in which I think the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, takes great pride; and with some justification.

That Bill extended our social legislation, providing that local authorities should care for children who are deprived of a normal home life, to include the responsibility for preventing the need for them to be received into care or come before a juvenile court. Several of my noble friends on this side of the House, and indeed in another place, took the opportunity on that occasion to criticise the approved school system and to suggest that it was ready for radical change; but the Government of the day took no action whatsoever, except for some useful tidying-up legislation which had arisen from the recommendation of the Ingleby Report.

I was a little sad when I heard the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, taunting the noble Earl the Leader of the House on "Longfordiana". "Longfordiana" was not thought up in isolation. If the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, were to read the contemporary Report of the Kilbrandon Committee on children and young persons in Scotland he would find that it was even more forthright, and particularly in regard to the residential care and training of those who at present come before our juvenile courts. The Longford Report was preceded by a series of discussions based on the thought and practice of people who themselves worked in the residential child care and in the education fields; and if I had any criticism of our Government to-day it would not be of the Home Secretary and his action over Court Lees but of the Government's failure so far to introduce any new legislation bringing up to date the law relating to children and young persons, and the necessary supportive services for their care and education.

As I sat here in June and July, when we were considering a major Criminal Justice Bill, which was admittedly long overdue, I could not help regretting that we were not then in sight of a new Children and Young Persons Bill incorporating progressive thought in this field. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has given us some indication to-day of the way in which he sees the approved school system developing which we shall all study with great care. I believe he said that he saw the approved schools in future as part of a comprehensive child care system. I am not sure whether our thinking has gone far enough on this subject. At present, the approved school system is the residuary legatee of every other service for children and the children and young people in the approved schools to-day are suffering from multiple rejection of almost every kind. Many of them have been expelled from day schools, from special schools, and some even cannot be contained in children's homes. I fear if we concentrate all our efforts on that end of the problem we shall fail to do what we ought as a society to be doing, namely, to prevent children from becoming so damaged, so disturbed, so handicapped, that we have to think mainly in terms of provision for what has been called "the dark end of the spectrum".

As a member of the Seebohm Committee which is currently investigating the organisation of the local authority personal social services I am a little inhibited from expressing my thoughts in this respect. I suspect that the noble Earl the Leader of the House, when he replies, will say that the Government are waiting impatiently for our Report. But let us hope that the Government, too, are having some thoughts on these very difficult matters. I hope they are already looking far more widely into these problems and without trespassing on the possible recommendations of the Seebohm Committee it seems that this is not a job for the Home Office alone.

In January, 1966, there were 13,000 children in England awaiting places in special schools. Over 9,000 of those children were educationally subnormal and well over 1,000 were maladjusted. A large number of children needing forms of special education are in independent schools and there is a grave shortage of local authority schools. Eighty-three per cent., of those handicapped children being educated in private schools unrecognised by the Secretary of State for Education and Science were maladjusted. I am well aware that the Government have mounted a major building programme in the field of special education because of the tremendous backlog that they inherited in this particular sector. Schools are going up, but in London alone there are some 48 children waiting for day school places and another 124 waiting for boarding places. I do not have to describe to your Lordships what uncertainty this kind of delay causes to parents and children who need this help, let alone to juvenile court magistrates.

We know also that it is pure chance whether a child is deemed maladjusted and goes to a school for the maladjusted or, alternatively, commits an offence and is committed to an approved school for three years. The approved schools have coped for years with everybody's problems. Not only have they coped with children who should have been in maladjusted schools; they have also coped with children who should have been in mental hospitals. There are only approximately 300 beds available to-day in special units for disturbed adolescents, and any head of an approved school will tell you of the complete chaos that one disturbed adolescent in a residential setting can cause. I know, and I am very glad to know, that the Home Secretary, together with the Minister of Health, is at last taking action on this matter, but since the early 'fities, eminent and distinguished members of the London Juvenile Courts Committee, such as Dame Eileen Younghusband and Mrs. Mary Stewart, have been urging special provision for disturbed children who at present have to be committed by juvenile courts to approved schools because nobody else can provide for them. This is why I feel so sad that the Court Lees incident has added even greater uncertainty to the work of the approved schools.

My Lords, the whole system requires change. Some could well become schools for maladjusted children in the future while others become children's homes providing the very special care many of these children need, on the lines the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has so sensitively indicated. And I hope that these changes will happen very soon, for the present position cannot continue indefinitely without grave risk of further crises. The staff in the approved schools has been undervalued, underpaid and overworked for years. The building programmes mounted in 1960 have undoubtedly improved the physical conditions both of the schools themselves and, in certain cases, of staff accommodation. But the staff of the approved schools would be the first to admit that radical change is needed. It was, after all, some two and a half years ago that I went to the annual conference of the Association of Approved School Headmasters, Headmistresses and Matrons to explain to them the recommendations of the Longford Committee in relation to the care, treatment and training of children and young persons. I thought I was walking into the lions' den and that I was going to be eaten alive; but in fact there was general agreement on the need for change, and particularly on the direction that that change should take. Moreover, the evidence that the Association submitted to the Royal Commission on the Penal System was all for radical change too. The staff want an end to uncertainty. I hope that when the noble Earl the Leader of the House replies to this debate he can give us some indication of how soon the Government intend to act on this matter.

5.5 p.m.


My Lords, we all owe a great debt to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for having initiated this debate, and not least, I think, for starting off by saying that this was not a debate about corporal punishment in schools. Very strong passions are always aroused on this issue. Indeed, a noble Lord in the Lobby said to me how much he felt his career was owed to the fact that he had been thoroughly well beaten at school, and he felt this so strongly that he offered to show me the scars which he assured me remained with him to this day, But I told him that I was sure your Lordships would take those as shown. I think we need to try to get into the frame of mind, which I thought the noble Earl showed, of being extremely dispassionate and judicial, just as Mr. Gibbens was in his examination in his Report. I think it is important to get into this frame of mind because I am not entirely sure that the right reverend Prelate was quite in this frame of mind when he elaborated on Mr. Cook's eccentricities. I will come to that later.

It is important to get into such a judicial state of mind because the relations between a governing body, the headmaster and his assistant staff are possibly the most delicate in the world. Ideally, when an assistant master on a staff thinks that something really deplorable is going on in the school he ought to go to the headmaster and make perfectly plain what his discontent is. The headmaster, ideally, ought to listen to him, and if he rejects the assistant master's allegations ought to invite the assistant master to attend a meeting of the governing body and put his case to them. When the assistant master has withdrawn the headmaster should make his case, and then the governing body, ideally, ought, in the absence of the headmaster—and despite their loyalty to the headmaster, which must always be a very great thing, because after all the governing body has usually appointed the headmaster—to consider the matter not merely in relation to the headmaster or the staff but with special reference to their duties to the boys.

This is ideally what should happen. But I am afraid that the history of schools shows that this very rarely takes place. I have had some twenty years' experience on the governing bodies of schools and also, in my historical research, had to read large numbers of biographies and histories of schools. It is noticeable how time and again in the major rows which take place in schools these ideal conditions are never reproduced. They are not reproduced, I suppose, for many reasons. Your Lordships will remember the character in Kipling's Stalky and Co. There is a master who, when referring to the schoolmastering profession, says, "Hey-ho, ours is a belittling life". And of course there is something in the tensions which build up in monastic communities which boarding schools often are which do lead to people losing their heads. And here, it seems to me, Mr. Cook lost his.

It was wrong for Mr. Cook, as an assistant master, to write to the Press, and even more wrong to write pseudonymously. In the highly satirical picture the right reverend Prelate drew of Mr. Cook it is obviously open to question as to how wise he was in giving the number of yellow tickets he gave. I would ask the right reverend Prelate to change one thing he said in his speech. He said the effect of giving a yellow ticket must naturally lead to the boy being beaten. I wonder if it is so. It is for the headmaster to decide, on the basis of these yellow tickets, whether in fact this kind of punishment should have been given. Mr. Cook's behaviour was indefensible, as the behaviour of assistant masters who complain, who feel driven by their conscience to complain, in cases of this kind often is indefensible.

Let us now turn to the headmaster's conduct. The headmaster here, I think, did not take in any way seriously the complaint put to him. I will come back to his conduct in a moment. Moreover, it is quite clear that the managers certainly did not take their duties as responsibly as I think they should have done in the first place. They did not realise that here was a case of potential dynamite and that, however great their loyalty to Mr. Haydon and their suspicion of Mr. Cook, their first loyalty was to the boys; and their first duty was to sift the facts. They should not have waited for an investigation to be made by somebody else; they should have launched the investigation themselves.

May I turn just for a moment (here I do not want to criticise the headmaster, any more than I should wish to criticise Mr. Cook gravely, because, as I say, in these circumstances tensions and passions run high) and look at what the headmaster did. When the investigation had been concluded he had been requested by the Home Office, so I understand, not to carry out beatings of boys unless the discipline of the school was really going to be impeded. It is rumoured that although this undertaking had, in the opinion of the Home Office apparently, been accepted, nevertheless while the Report was still in the process of being written, he again beat 10 boys—all for offences which really could not be said to be endangering the discipline of the school.

What is more—again I must ask my noble friend Lord Stonham to correct me if I am wrong—I have heard a rumour that two or three of the boys from the 10 who were beaten at that time, were beaten for the school crime of masturbation. This would have been perfectly appropriate punishment for a Victorian schoolmaster to inflict. When I say that, I am not sneering at the Victorian school masters and at our ancestors. A hundred years ago there was a book which circulated widely in Britain written by William Acton, a medical treatise called The Functions and Disorders of the Reproductive Organs. In this book, Acton, as a medical man, maintained that the practice of masturbation led inevitably first to physical debility and then to insanity. It was under that medical theory that so often in Victorian times masturbation was treated as a major school crime, and something that could be expiated only with the most severe penalties of corporal punishment.

Of course, in our present state of medical knowledge, which has enormously changed, if you were to ask to-day any headmaster or any house master in our leading boarding schools; if you asked any school doctor, and, I should have thought, if you asked any priest, who no doubt when giving advice to his flock might say that, while it was important to maintain purity, at the same time this was not a mortal sin—if you asked any of these people for their opinion as to whether corporal punishment was the right kind of penalty for that particular practice, I am certain you would get an almost unqualified "No". This is why I think this case has so many overtones which do not always appear on the surface. It would be quite wrong, I think, to believe that the row started merely over the case of one boy's excessive punishment, though I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, that one boy's punishment, if it is unjust, is enough to institute an inquiry. What I think was the impression the Home Office formed from the whole of this melancholy affair was that here was a headmaster, an admirable man in many ways, but whose ideas of punishment were really out of all relation with modern practice in schools.

May I now turn to the action of the managers in all this? I do not think they realised how serious a matter this was, because they do not seem to have understood that it really was an important matter that the headmaster should not in any way exceed his powers. It is particularly important that a headmaster does not exceed his powers in an approved school, because the parents are not in a position to complain. That point has been made. But it is also, of course, particularly important that he does not exceed his powers because, after all, an approved school is a school to which children have been sent for breaking the rules. If the headmaster himself breaks the rules then what are the children to make of it? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? The answer, of course, to that, is that it is the managers' job, the governing body's job, to see that the custodians keep the rules. Throughout, I think, the managers' attitude was one of understandable but blind loyalty to the headmaster, and a belief that it was impossible that anything could be wrong in the school when somebody of instability had accused him.

That is why. I suppose, they first opposed the Inquiry that took place under Mr. Gibbens. They next refused to instruct the headmaster not to beat any more boys unless discipline was really threatened. But when, in fact, this principle had been accepted, the managers supported the headmaster when he defended his right to have beaten those 10 boys on the grounds that, after all, he was the only judge of the matter. They opposed the headmaster's removal, and the chairman and his successor really had only one object: to sever Mr. Cook's connection with the school. I do not think, reading the Report, one feels that they had any conception of the criticism to which this school could be open. When the Report was published I do not think they had any inkling that it probably would criticise them; and they never at any time realised that here they were in the middle of a serious row—and not merely a row, but something which in fact involved the moral principles on which the very school was founded. I fear that a great many of the difficulties which have arisen as regards the employment of staff in the future, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said, have been due to the intransigence of the managers in the hope that public opinion will come over to their side. I greatly hope that public opinion will not come over to their side.

When the noble Earl, in introducing this debate, said that it was most important to maintain our confidence in approved schools and that he feared that the Home Secretary (to whom he paid, I am glad to say, a most generous tribute) was not by his action doing anything to establish confidence in the approved schools, I would make one reply to that. It is even more important that there should be confidence in the Home Office. There has not in the past always been confidence in the Home Office and its officials. There has not always been the confidence that, in cases not merely of this kind but over the multitude of things with which that Office deals, they would be willing, if things went wrong under their management, not merely to institute inquiries but to admit that some of the people who were directly responsible to the Home Office might conceivably be wrong.

One of the great things that I think has happened during the tenure of office of the present Home Secretary is the confidence that some of us, at any rate, feel. We believe that when questions are put to him they will get a really fair hearing; that when some official has made a mistake, often merely a minor mistake, it will be generously admitted and steps will be taken to put it right; and that the Home Office is no longer now simply an implacable barrier to any kind of investigation. It is in fact becoming one of the most liberal Departments in the whole of the Ministries in Whitehall.


My Lords, before the noble Lord resumes his seat, will he allow me to correct something he said, I have no doubt quite inadvertently? I think he said that Mr. Haydon caned ten boys while the Report was being written. This is not so. Mr. Haydon caned ten boys between May 15 and June 23 while the preliminary inquiries were going on, but the formal hearing did not begin until June 26.


I apologise to the noble Earl for my mistake. I am afraid that I had to rely very much on what I heard.

5.22 p.m.


My Lords, many noble Lords have already expressed their thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for initiating this debate, and may I add mine, since we are dealing with a very important subject. As is probably inevitable when one trains the microscope on one very small corner of our country's affairs, some of us must find ourselves treading over the same ground, albeit treading in a different direction and with a different kind of emphasis.

I do not suppose there are many noble Lords or Ladies who spent the early years of their life within the precincts of an approved school. That was my own experience. Let me hasten to add that that was not because any signs of delinquency were showing themselves—not at that time, though perhaps later!—but because my father was the bandmaster and music master of two approved schools of this kind. In one of them we had to live on the premises and our house was just inside the main gate of the school—a great gaunt, sombre, prison-like gate. I hasten to assure my noble friend Lord Stonham that it was a very old school, and the schools of to-day are nothing like that. I believe that my father was quite a good bandmaster, because his boys used to win trophies and band contests all over the country. Whether that was due to the boys' natural love of music, I do not know. Perhaps it was due to his own enthusiasm. I know that he allowed this enthusiasm to overflow into our own domestic circle, and before I had reached the age of 12 he had drilled me to a fairly reasonable standard on the violin and euphonium.

The only reason for mentioning this is to enable me to lead on to my next remark. My father always used to tell me that his band boys were among the best behaved in the school; there were very few absconders among them. I do not know whether it was a fact that even in those days music had "charms to soothe the savage breast". I think it was rather that these boys were able to cultivate a hobby and indulge in a form of what one might call extra-curricula study which gave them very great pride in what they were doing. I know from my own evidence that many of these boys made good later in life. We used to get them, years later, coming round to our home, spick and span in their uniform as Army bandsmen, others dressed in neat blue serge suits—which in those days was a symbol of success in civil life. I think it is good that these boys, helpless and hopeless though some may be, should have an opportunity to discover some latent talent which lies within them and should be given a chance for that talent to be developed so that they should have an opportunity to fulfil themselves in their lives.

It is a fact that boys and girls who go into approved schools are not little angels. The majority are offenders; and not first offenders at that. Some of them are downright vicious, and measures are necessary to ensure some kind of forceful discipline. I am not one of those people who denounces corporal punishment per se. I believe that on occasion there might be room for the cane in enforcing discipline; but I also feel that it should be in the background, as the ultimate deterrent, and not the punishment of first instance. There are many punishments which can be awarded in corporate bodies like an approved school. There are what in the Army we used to call extra fatigues; there is deprivation of entertainment, and there are many other things which can be done to impose a penalty on a boy before indulgence in brutal whipping has to begin.

We have before the House this afternoon the Report of the Inquiry by an eminent Q.C. into the affairs at Court Lees school. I am unhappy about several of the aspects of this Report and this Inquiry. I am most unhappy about the anonymous letter method with which the whole thing was started. I think that if Mr. Cook had a grievance he should have gone to his headmaster and asked the headmaster to pass him to the next appropriate level in the hierarchy, so that he could put the case before the managers; and then, if he failed to obtain satisfaction, he could have asked the managers to let him go to the Home Office or to the particular inspector responsible for that part of the country. The old Army method where one went through the corporal to the sergeant, and through the sergeant to the sergeant-major, has a lot to be said for it when one is trying to enforce reasonable discipline.

I am also most unhappy about the feature of the Report which says that the teachers were not allowed to be present when the boys were giving evidence against them. I am not a lawyer and have not a legal mind—I am far too sentimental for that. But I have been chairman of a magistrates' court for many years, and I should think it most improper of me if, while the prosecution witnesses were giving their evidence, I ordered the defendant out of court, even though he might be legally represented.

Another feature of this Report which does not please me very much is that the Q.C. himself admits that he received much evidence which did not bear directly on the allegations that had been made. A further point was that many of the incidents referred to in the Report occurred long before the current headmaster had taken up his duties. It may have been necessary to sketch in some of the background, but I think that the action of including those incidents had the effect of plastering a great blob of bright colour against the background of this particular picture which was likely to prejudice the headmaster, not perhaps so much in the estimation of the Q.C. who was conducting the Inquiry, but certainly in the estimation of the public at large. The cumulative effect was something which counted against him, yet only part of it was his responsibility.

There were references to Mr. Cook, and he has been criticised. I do not know the man: I had never heard of him before this incident: and I have never communicated with him. Nor do I have the slightest idea what kind of man he is. But I criticise Mr. Cook for having accumulated one case after another of alleged brutality over a period of weeks, and perhaps months; and, instead of promptly reporting those cases to his superior, he entered them, metaphorically, in his little black book until he had enough to justify his writing the anonymous letter to the newspaper. Mr. Cook might have been observing the rhetorical rule that the cumulative effect of a number of incidents probably would make more impression than one isolated case. But one feels that all the time, week after week, while he was accumulating the evidence in these individual cases, one after another, there were boys who need not have been beaten if Mr. Cook had promptly taken the necessary disciplinary steps.

We have heard about Mr. Cook's unusual personality. Whatever awkwardness there may have been about Mr. Cook—and we all know that there are awkward people in all spheres of life; you find it in an Army unit, in a newspaper office, on a local authority, and there are such people who are always out of step with the march of affairs—the fact remains that, after discounting all those cases which were not proven, there remained a large number of cases where breaches of the regulations were proved.

And what did they amount to? There is, first of all, the question of the cane; a cane which was thicker than the regulation cane, a cane which was hidden away in a recess in the desk and not exhibited to public view as it always used to be in the school to which I went. The headmaster knew that this was a non-regulation cane; he knew that he could obtain the regulation cane from the Home Office, free, merely by asking for it. But he used that cane, he used it persistently and, according to the evidence, he used no other cane at all. It is true, of course, that those canes were purchased long before he took over the headmastership, but the fact still remains that in inheriting those canes he also inherited the custom of using them which had prevailed in the school before. He should not have done it, and in that respect his conduct, I submit, is inexcusable.

He also administered punishment on the spot, whether it be in the middle of the night or in the daytime. Instant punishment, like instant coffee or instant so many things which we have in these days, is sometimes justifiable, but it has the drawback that it is likely to be administered in hot blood; it is likely to be administered without a full inquiry, which might reveal that the person being punished was not the ringleader of an incident; and it might also prevent any mitigating circumstances from receiving proper consideration.

We know from the evidence and the findings that some of these boys were thrashed over their pyjamas. The headmaster knew perfectly well that this was contrary to the regulations. We also have the evidence of the coloured pictures. I think it is' accepted by the experts, although some dispute has been voiced here this afternoon, that those pictures have not been doctored, and they disclose a state of affairs which Professor Simpson—a man eminent in his own sphere—said would have caused him to go to the police had he been considering this matter in another context. Then we have the quotation in the Report of one case where a boy was beaten with "excessive severity".

I dismiss what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark has said. Mr. Cook may be a peculiar kind of person. We are not trying Mr. Cook here, we are trying the headmaster, and despite everything that Mr. Cook may have done or may not have done the Inquiry Q.C. found that these particular offences were proven without doubt against the headmaster. So I feel that the Home Secretary was perfectly right in the action which he took at the time, and which he has taken subsequently, and I form the opinion that in this school boys were not being given the chance to be reclaimed. The methods being employed in that school would, if anything, have intensified the hatred which those boys naturally felt against society.

I should like to say a word or two about the general question of approved schools as a whole. I hope that this Inquiry, and all the revelations which have been made with regard to this school, will not hamper the approved school system generally, nor undermine the confidence which is felt in it by the general public. I hope it will not have a bad effect upon recruiting, because we know already that many of these schools are running on short staffs.

Something has been said about the pay of those staffs. I do not want to enter into a discussion of that, but I should occasionally like to see on New Year's Day some signal mark of recognition of the fine work which these great social reformers in these institutions are doing. They have a big task. As your Lordships have heard, they have 8,000 boys and girls to deal with, though naturally there are more boys than girls. I do not know whether girls are more virtuous than boys, or merely that they are cleverer at not being found out, but the ratio is about seven boys to one girl. There are about 5,000 of them released from the schools each year, and their stay in these schools is usually from about one year to about two and a half years.

What I think may have surprised some of your Lordships is the fact that so many of these schools are not conducted under public auspices. Of the 123 schools in the country, only 30 are controlled by local authorities. The other 93 are controlled by religious organisations, very worthy organisations whom nobody can criticise; by charitable organisations, again held in high esteem by the public; and many of them by little ad hoc groups of eminent citizens in a locality, whom again nobody would wish to criticise. But I have felt for quite a long time that we as a community are in the habit of looking upon these as public institutions, and therefore public institutions they should really be. Of course, the majority of the boys and girls who go into these schools are offenders. There are only about 700 out of the 8,000—


Not the majority of the girls, my Lords. Of the girls, 60 per cent. have not committed an offence at all.


My Lords, my experience of girls is that they never commit offences. I was saying that about 700 out of the 8,000 children are non-offenders. The remainder are offenders, and usually something more than first offenders at that. Of course, reclamation and reform does not take place in all cases. In recent years about 300 boys have been sent to borstal from these approved schools, and that is not really surprising when you consider the particular character group from which they come. Also, in recent years, it has been found that after being released from the schools about half the children commit another offence within three years. Sometimes, of course, they are not serious offences, but those are the statistics.

On the brighter side, I think it is nice to find that nearly every child leaving an approved school finds employment within a week of his discharge, although I am rather sad to say that in the majority of those cases the work is in unskilled rather than skilled employment. The unfortunate thing about this is that in unskilled employment you are likely to get casual spells of work and worklessness, and, of course, if a young fellow who has been a year or so out of an approved school finds himself idle, it may mean that somebody finds work for idle hands to do.

But there is a brighter side still to that. The report of the after-care authorities, issued not so very long ago, showed that there was one approved schoolboy at university, that there were two girls who had completed their teacher training course, that there were two more girls who had become State Registered Nurses, that there were nine boys out of the A.T.C. contingent in a school who had become fully-fledged glider pilots, and that there was one boy who had received a public gratuity of £50 for helping to apprehend a bank robber in one of our provincial towns.

But that is not all. These boys are encouraged to engage themselves in useful social work. We hear of them going to help the staffs of the Cheshire Homes for the Disabled, of painting and decorating village halls, and of doing the gardening for old-age pensioners in their locality. Despite the shortcomings of the present approved schools—and there must be some improvements—I think they are really doing very worthy work in saving these young people from crime, and putting them on the road towards taking their place in a decent society.

I said that there must be improvements. Before I came into your Lordships' House this afternoon, I had a few of these improvements in my mind. One of them arose from the fact that an increasing number of the entrants into approved schools in these days are boys and girls who are suffering some serious mental trouble. Is it fair that they should be grouped along with normal children in one school?

Then there are the 700 who go into these schools as in need of care and protection because they have evil parents or the home environment is not good. These children have to mix with the young offenders. Now it is an arguable point—it is one of these two-bladed arguments—as to whether the good boys will have a good effect on the bad boys or whether the bad boys will have a bad effect on the good boys. I have the feeling that there is some kind of Gresham's law here which means that the badness of the bad boys will work itself off on to some of the good boys.

Before I came into this House this afternoon and heard my noble friend Lord Stonham, I felt that a more drastic system of inspectorship was needed: not necessarily any change in the system of visits by individual inspectors, but the restoration of the former system whereby a group of inspectors descended upon a school and examined it in depth for several days. But my noble friend has to some extent modified my view on that. I feel that the training these boys receive should be aimed more at fitting them for skilled employment than unskilled, because they are already under a handicap and they do not want to have to suffer the further handicap which is likely to descend upon them if they find themselves in an industry with casual employment.

I want to see school managers made to take a more active part in the management of these schools. In this particular case I am not satisfied with the part that the school managers played, and I hope that there will be more activity by school managers in the future. I had also thought that, as there were only 30 out of the 123 schools in the country which were under local authorities, they should all be put under local government administration and control; and, alternatively, I had thought that probably they should become direct Home Office institutions. But after hearing the remarks of my noble friend Lord Stonham, in which he lifted the curtain on the reforms that the Home Office has in mind, I think that many of the changes that I wanted to make will be made in a form which is even more acceptable to me than the one in which I had first conceived them. I shall look forward to those improvements with great pleasure.

Finally, my Lords, we are here spending public money. It costs over £21 a week to keep a boy or a girl in an approved school, and we really ought to see that we are getting full value for our money, not only financially but in terms of human happiness as well. I hope that the Court Lees case will not besmirch the escutcheon of approved schools generally. Many unpleasant things, many unwelcome things, have come to light as a result of this Inquiry, but I think the Inquiry was a good one and I think the decision which the Home Secretary subsequently made was a good one. If out of all this trouble there can come a better era for our approved schools and a bigger part for them to play in rehabilitating some of the more sick young members of our society, then the whole thing will have been well worth while.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened to this debate, and there is one particular aspect I should like to raise with the noble Earl who is to reply in the hope that he can allay some of the qualms that I have felt on hearing what my noble friend Lord Jellicoe has said, and on hearing the speech of the right reverend Prelate—and, indeed, that of the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland. I am not myself in the least critical of the action taken by the Home Secretary when he received this information, in appointing an Inquiry and in causing an Inquiry to be held. I think that was clearly the right course. What I am worried about is what happened thereafter.

In the course of his speech the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, said that we were trying the headmaster. We are not—and nor was this Inquiry. He was not on trial. He has been sentenced and punished without trial, and that is what worries me. The terms of reference were just to find out whether: punishment has been administered to boys in the school otherwise than in accordance with the Approved School Rules; and into any other similar allegations of irregular punishment at the school; and to report". My Lords, that is not a trial. One must bear this in mind: that on the findings of this Inquiry those who inflicted the corporal punishment were guilty of criminal offences. I thought that the question posed by the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, was a very shrewd one that is, had this matter been considered by the Director of Prosecutions?

If we consider what would have happened if this Inquiry had been before the ordinary courts and contrast the procedure here, it is a little illuminating. Many years ago I had to defend a schoolmaster charged with administering excessive corporal punishment in an elementary school. At the trial then, of course, the witnesses had to give their evidence in court in the presence of the accused; and if it had been heard afterwards that a man had been condemned on evidence heard in his absence, behind closed doors, those who are seeking to defend the action taken in this case would have been the first to protest. It is that side of the case which bothers me.

The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, said that he was very concerned about the conduct of what I might call the chief witness for the prosecution. It is clear from the Report itself that in certain respects he was not a satisfactory witness, and that his conduct was not wholly satisfactory. That has become even clearer from the information given by the right reverend Prelate. What I must confess staggers me is, if he was of the belief that there was excessive caning throughout the school, and that he was justified in preferring these 11 charges, why he should have sent in so many yellow tickets, which had the consequence of there being caning of other boys. I find that difficult to understand.

However that may be, it still does not mean, as the noble Lord, Lord Leather-land, pointed out, that some of the criticisms are not well-founded. There has been criticism that there were breaches of the Rules—non-entry in the punishment book, and matters of that sort. I suppose that in every school and in every establishment one could find instances, if one went into it, where the detailed rules had not been kept with complete precision; but the gravamen of the case here, surely, is that at this school excessive, brutal punishment was inflicted by means of the cane on boys—and that is a charge of a criminal offence.

My Lords, I can well understand the reactions of the Home Secretary and, indeed, of the public when this Report was published—a feeling of shock and a feeling that some drastic action must be taken. That very often is one's immediate reaction. Sometimes it is justified, and sometimes it is not. That is what worries me. Take the case of the headmaster and the deputy headmaster. Can one really say that they have had a fair trial on these charges? Or, indeed, that the punishment inflicted on them is fair? If the case be, as I understand it is from my noble friend Lord Jellicoe, that there is no opportunity of their getting further employment in approved schools either as a headmaster or deputy headmaster, I must say that that seems to me to be extremely harsh. I should have thought that if anyone could learn from bitter experience to avoid conduct of that kind in the future it would be these two unfortunate individuals. I would put in a plea, even now, that that should be reconsidered.

For these two men to have become a headmaster and a deputy headmaster must mean that they had shown considerable skill and considerable ability in their work. Is it right that they should be permanently deprived of their employment and the approved schools service permanently deprived of their help, because of these unfortunate incidents (if Mr. Gibbens be right) with three boys? I cannot think it is. There has been no trial. We are told first of the boys who gave evidence without the masters being present; we are told that Mr. Gibbens heard such evidence as he wanted. At a trial the defence can call such evidence as it will; there can be evidence of character and of other matters; but that has not happened here. With great respect, I think I can understand how the Home Secretary came to act, but it does not seem to me right. This is why I rise to speak, though I had not intended to do so.

But, my Lords, it does not end with the deputy headmaster and the headmaster, for it would seem from the decision to close Court Lees School just like that, that the conduct of the managers has also been condemned. They, too, have been sentenced without trial. Reading through this Report, I could not see any criticism of the managers of that school. I may have missed it, because I read it only during the course of this debate; but if there is any criticism contained in it I am sure the noble Earl the Leader of the House will draw my attention to it.

But what about the managers? Were they to see, somehow, that correct entries were made in the punishment book? Are managers supposed to go down and measure the cane in use to see that it is one supplied by the Home Office? Are managers supposed to be present when caning takes place? Where was the fault of the managers in the conduct of the school? I should like to be satisfied that there was some fault on their part—fault of which they were accused and which they had adequate opportunity of explaining, which explanation did not satisfy the Home Secretary and led to the closure of the school with a clear reflection on the managers. I see nothing of that in this Report, and I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham—I did not catch it from his speech—confirmed or denied the statement made by my noble friend that the managers agreed to all the conditions prescribed by the Home Secretary, except one; namely, that they must keep the complainant in their employ. That strikes me as a most astonishing condition to impose.


My Lords, perhaps the noble and learned Viscount will allow me to intervene. I do not know whether he heard my speech. I made it clear that the Home Secretary's decision was not based on a single issue. He came to the view, after having a lengthy interview with the managers, that they were unable and unwilling to run Court Lees as a reconstituted school in the way that he would want it run. That was the basic reason for his decision.


My Lords, I heard the greater part of the noble Lord's speech. It happened that I was not visible, since I sat at the end behind the Bar, but I must have missed that part. Again, I think, there seems to have been an unfortunate sequence of events. I am not saying anything about the ultimate decision; but the decision announced at the time as to the future conduct of the managers clearly implies condemnation of their conduct in relation to the management of the school while these headmasters were there. But there is nothing in the Report, as I see it, to justify that.


My Lords, is the noble and learned Viscount aware that it is the responsibility of the managers to make an inspection of the punishment books every month, and to be aware of the amount and extent of the punishment? They were aware; they did nothing about it; and more than that, although according to Mr. Gibbens the offences—if I may use that word—of the deputy were less severe than those of the headmaster, they were not so worried about losing him.


My Lords, may I put it to the noble Lord that there is no evidence in this Report that they did not see the punishment book and read it and consider it. There is no suggestion in this Report that the punishment of caning was wrongly inflicted at any time, as entered in the punishment book. You have to put yourself in the position of the managers. They see the entries; can they say from that that the punishment has been inflicted too severely?

My Lords, it is not so much that aspect on which I wish to dwell. I am concerned with what happened afterwards. It seems to me that there has been very unfortunate action, both in relation to the managers and in relation to the two masters. My mind goes back to the time when I sat on what was called a Naval Court Martial Committee. In those days—and it had been so for many years in the Navy—under Section 92 of what was then the Naval Discipline Act if a ship were stranded, lost, destroyed or captured, it was lawful to try before one and the same court martial all the surviving officers and crew of any ship, and without any charge being preferred against them. That went on until 1957. We reported that that was very undesirable, because those who were convicted were not given notice of the charges that were going to be preferred against them, and were not able to produce a proper defence. The cause of the trouble was the confusion between an inquiry and a trial, and merging the two together and trying to make it one operation.


My Lords, in my submission, the noble Viscount is making the mistake of regarding the procedure in respect of Court Lees as a disciplinary inquiry. The Naval procedure he mentioned was a disciplinary inquiry. This was not.


My Lords, it is a pity that the noble Lord interrupted me just on that point, because in fact the operation of Section 92 was an inquiry and a court martial combined. It was called a court martial, but it was also an inquiry into the cause of the loss of a ship. The point I am making is a valid one. I think the real trouble is that the Court Lees Inquiry has been treated as if it were a trial: the language used by so many in this debate has substantiated that. It may well be that excessive punishments were applied—I express no view on that. It may be that the headmaster and the deputy headmaster ought to have been punished. But surely the punishment as far as they are concerned, if we can judge by the documents we have seen so far, is excessive. On the documents that have been put before us, the documents on which the Home Secretary acted, there does not seem to me to be any justification for closing the school and condemning the managers as if they were parties to the acts. There is no evidence.


My Lords, would the noble and learned Viscount agree that it was not purely on the grounds of the Report that the school was closed? It was on the action of the managers after the initial allegations were made, after the Report was made, and during all the negotiations which the Home Secretary was trying to carry out with the managers. This was the total situation which led the Home Secretary to take the step he did. It was not based on the Report alone.


My Lords, the noble Lord may be right, but what he has said does not accord with what my noble friend Lord Jellicoe said had happened. I do not profess to decide between them, but if anything of the nature of what my noble friend said happened, did happen, then the action taken against the managers was open to misapprehension. But, my Lords, I am much more concerned (because I think the managers can defend themselves) not only with justice to the boys—that is terribly important—but with justice to these two individuals. So far as I can see, unless the Home Secretary thinks again, unless the Secretary of State for Education and Science thinks again, they will stand condemned forever, and debarred from following the profession of their choice. That is what concerns me. That is why I hope that, even at this stage, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, will be able to say that there can be some reconsideration of the matter.

6.1 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a pretty thorough inquest into the affairs of Court Lees. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, who has just spoken so powerfully, has done a large part of my job for me by drawing attention to some of the main misgivings that we have over this affair. We believe that the Home Secretary made an error of judgment in deciding to close this school, and it is for that reason that we draw special attention to the matter. We believe that his action has had very serious consequences on the approved school system as a whole and that it may do lasting harm unless something can be done to mitigate its effects. I would emphasise, as did my noble friend Earl Jellicoe at the start of his speech, that we are not seeking to belabour the Government, although we believe we have a fairly powerful stick with which to do it; we are much more concerned in trying to persuade the Home Secretary to change his attitude; to give us a little bit of compromise; to show some willingness to hear our side of the case.

I must say that I was extremely disappointed with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. He seemed to hold out absolutely no hope whatever that we were going to receive any help or consideration from the Home Secretary. The noble Lord slammed the door and, seemingly, was not open to any kind of reconsideration. I hope that the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, may be able to uncover a small chink, especially after having heard some of the pleas made in this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, outlined some plans for the future which were extremely interesting, but I seriously believe that these plans will be hampered unless we get the right atmosphere in the approved schools now. I think that the Court Lees affair has adversely affected the whole morale of approved schools.

If I may, in summing up I would suggest that basically we have three reasons for concern. The first is that we believe an injustice has been done to the staff of the school. My noble and learned friend Viscount Dilhorne pinpointed the fact that we seem to have been involved in a trial by inquiry. The Inquiry set up under Mr. Gibbens was a fact-finding inquiry; I think that is beyond dispute. Its Report is headed Administration of Punishment at Court Lees Approved School and it never went any further than that. The Inquiry was not empowered to take into account any mitigating factors and, quite properly, no evidence was admitted on the merits of the school or of the staff in the course of the Inquiry. This was beyond its terms of reference and therefore such evidence was not admitted.

I must say, my Lords, that I thought the noble Lord, Lord Byers, gave a very false impression of the Inquiry when he said it gave a full impression of what was going on at the school; that was very far from the case. The Inquiry was set up for one specific purpose—to inquire into Mr. Cook's complaint—and that is precisely what it did. But the result of the Inquiry, coupled, it may be, with other inquiries made by the Home Office and other judgments made by the Home Secretary on the management, has been that Mr. Haydon and Mr. Draycon have not only been banned from future employment as a headmaster or deputy headmaster in an approved school but, I understand, have also been told that they will not be employed at all in the residential child care service as a headmaster or a deputy headmaster.


My Lords, will the noble Lord say by whom they have been told this, and in what way?


My Lords, I understood that was the Home Secretary's decision, but I am open to correction as to exactly what is the position and what they have been told.


My Lords, the Home Secretary has no responsibility for appointing approved school staff, or indeed any other teaching staff. His sole power in this matter is the ability to approve or to disapprove the appointment of a headmaster of an approved school.


My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. I am glad of that correction. Then I understand that the Home Secretary said he would not approve their employment as headmaster or deputy headmaster of an approved school in future—it goes no further than that. But nobody has really inquired much into the school itself and the conditions of the school in other ways than the purely disciplinary matters that were inquired into by the Inquiry. Yet I understand that the school was in fact a very good school, and that certainly the headmaster enjoyed the full confidence of his staff. In a Press release on September 1, the staff, with the exception only of Mr. Cook, said: We enjoy working with Mr. Haydon, who has earned, receives and appreciates our loyalty. Under his inspiring leadership the school was becoming increasingly stimulating and successful, a fact realised and appreciated by the boys and their parents, many of whom were very distressed at the closure. My Lords, I would ask you to contrast this attitude on the part of the majority of the staff, with the one exception of Mr. Cook, and the description of his character given in the report of the Inquiry and in the powerful speech by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark.

It would be interesting to know from the noble Earl what was the opinion of the Home Office on the school before this Inquiry arose. What were the reports made as the result of the inspections carried out at the school? Was there any indication in those reports that the Home Office was not satisfied with the school, or with the managers? Or do the reports reflect the opinion of the staff which I have just quoted, that the school was becoming increasingly stimulating and successful? It would be most interesting to know what were the Home Office reports on the school; and if the reports were satisfactory surely this might have been taken into account, side by side with the adverse findings of the Gibbens Inquiry, in treating the case of the headmaster and the deputy headmaster.


My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord's question, although I cannot of course disclose the nature of the Home Office reports, one can say briefly, and without unfairness, that they were satisfactory in some respects and not so satisfactory in others.


Well, my Lords, that is half-and-half, really; but I hope that the criticisms were not serious criticisms, at any rate, and I feel that some of the good points about the school might have been taken into account.

My Lords, what has really happened, as the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, said, is that we have seen an unjust punishment of the two people concerned as the result of a partial inquiry into one aspect, the disciplinary aspect, of the school. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, who rightly said that we should be conducting this inquiry in as judicial a way as we could, gave us one impression on which I should like to comment, although it is a somewhat unpleasant subject. He spoke about certain beatings that took place after inquiries had been begun into the school. He told us that the headmaster had undertaken that such beatings would not be administered unless the alleged offences were liable to affect the discipline of the school, and that, in spite of this, certain beatings had taken place, for masturbation. We must be judicial about this and I wonder whether that is altogether true, because my information is slightly different. What in fact these boys were beaten for was bullying smaller boys involving mutual masturbation. This, I suggest, is a slightly different matter and does involve the discipline of the school.


My Lords, I would certainly agree with the noble Lord that if that were the case, that would be a severe disciplinary matter. I would say that I can only speak of rumour: that was my information.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I am only suggesting that there should be a fuller and more judicial inquiry into all the circumstances in the school. What has happened? The treatment these two men have received is quite different from the treatment they would have received as teachers in the education service, who are entitled to attend a hearing, and very different from the procedure recommended by the Home Office for the investigation of complaints against members of staffs of approved schools.


My Lords, may I again make this point? So far as the teaching profession is concerned, if there had been a hearing of the kind which the noble Lord mentioned, it would have been a disciplinary inquiry. As I have tried to make clear in my speech, it is a matter for the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether there is such an inquiry in this case.


My Lords, I did not quite gather what the noble Lord was saying in his speech. Surely teachers in the approved school service should enjoy the same rights as those in the education service and, before they are dismissed, should have some possibility of justifying themselves.

But apart from the injustice to the head and deputy head, what about the rest of the staff? They have, in effect, been "sacked" at six months' notice. Although the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, correctly calls it redundancy, the effect is just the same. The noble Lord says that they have to get another job, but he has told the House that the Home Secretary cannot give them another job because he does not employ teachers in the approved school service. So these people are without jobs and without any assurance of jobs. And the whole school has been branded with a mark of shame. I think that the rest of the staff, who are in appalling uncertainty as to what their future is, deserve better consideration and some assurances as to what is going to happen to them. That is the first ground on which we have expressed our disquiet.

The second is the fact that we believe that the morale of the service is badly affected. We have heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, and others of the skill and specialist knowledge that is required in this service. We are all well aware that the teachers who serve in the approved school service have a real calling to do so. As Lady Serota said, the boys and girls who find their way into these schools are often the rejects from other parts of the treatment service, from probation hostels, attendance centres, detention centres and special schools. They are the most difficult problem children, and the teachers have an extremely difficult job. What will their future be? How easy will it be to recruit them, if they begin to lose confidence in the system? And what assurance can they expect to get from their own unions, from the National Union of Teachers and the National Association of School Masters, to encourage them to go into the service, unless there is some security of tenure? What has happened may also affect—and I believe I am right in saying has affected—the relationship between teachers and boys in these schools. Obviously a teacher, to get the best effect, has to build up a feeling of confidence between himself and his pupils, and once the more unruly of them see their teachers being disciplined in the way that has happened at Court Lees, it tends to encourage them and to lessen confidence in those in authority.

As for the managers, my noble friend Lord Jellicoe has described the cavalier treatment that they received. I must say that I think that they have been hardly treated. They certainly believed in their school and in their staff, and they were reluctant to see the whole place closed. Although the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said that they were unable and unwilling to conduct a re-created school, I believe that they did go a long way; and according to my information, even suggested that they would be prepared to suspend the use of corporal punishment for an agreed period if that would help the Home Secretary to allow them to carry on. But they have not been allowed to do so. I wonder again what effect this may well have on the morale of the other managers of approved schools throughout the country. As we know, 93 out of the 123 schools have voluntary managers.

The third and last reason why we are disturbed is that we see a serious deterioration in the relationship between the approved schools service and the Home Office. I have spoken to representatives of the associations concerned—of the Association of Heads of Approved Schools and of the National Association of Approved Schools Staffs—and they have all spoken most highly of the staff of the Home Office, and in particular of the close relationship that has always existed between the Home Office and the staffs of the schools. In this case, they are seriously disturbed. I think they are really worried that this close co-operation will be affected for the future. Surely the Home Secretary cannot view with equanimity a rupture of the close relationship that has existed hitherto, and surely he will pay some attention to their plea.

What we believe can be done is quite simple. We believe, first of all, that there should be a further hearing for Mr. Haydon and Mr. Draycon—a wider hearing, which can consider the whole merits of the service they have given in the approved school service, as well as the faults found in them by the Gibbens Inquiry. We certainly are not anxious to condone faults that have been found, but we do wish that these can be balanced against merits. In spite of what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said, we would ask for reconsideration. Secondly, we should like to see some guarantee given to the other members of the staff that they will be re-employed in the service. Thirdly, we should like to see the Home Secretary make some statement that will re-establish confidence in the service. He approves the approved schools. We should like to know that he approves of them. We should like a statement saying that they are doing a good job, something that will bolster the staff's feeling of confidence. Lastly, perhaps in conjunction with the asociations most closely concerned with the staff, some system might well be worked out for the future for a better security of tenure for staffs of approved schools, something similar, as I have suggested, to what obtains in the education service as regards tenure for staff.

The affair of Court Lees has drawn attention to wider organisational problems in the approved school system as a whole. Here the whole question is overshadowed by the Government's White Paper, and I would merely reinforce what my noble friend Lord Jellicoe said in his speech: how urgent it is that we should have a quick decision as to what is going to happen, and quick legislation to put it through. When the time comes for such a reorganisation, I hope that the Government will consult fully, so far as the staff in these schools are concerned, with the union representatives. It is clear that the approved school system as it exists to-day is in an unhappy state. It is overshadowed by the Government's reorganisation proposals and disturbed by the Home Secretary's action at Court Lees. What is required from the Government is an assurance of justice at Court Lees and an announcement of clear-cut plans for the future.

6.22 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, always seeks to be fair, and he has made a strenuous effort this evening. I think he is too gloomy, but that is a different thing from being unfair. If I may, I will try to alleviate a few of his anxieties at the end. We are all grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for initiating the debate. If there is a good place to debate this subject, which contains one gloomy feature in Court Lees but other more exciting possibilities in thinking of the future of the approved schools system, then the House of Lords is probably the best place to do it. The important issues raised by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, in his vigorous and helpful speech, were answered to a great extent by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. I will come back to one or two points which they made, but, if I may, I will try to deal with points raised subsequently, or points that, so to speak, bring the whole debate together.

The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, raised a particular case of one school which was causing him great disquiet, but I understand that he is going to put down a Question about it, and therefore I will not say more about that this evening. Since the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, spoke we have had speeches of the highest quality from the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, and from the noble Lords, Lord Annan and Lord Leatherland, all supporting the Government, and they will not expect me to do more than to thank them for those speeches. But there have been strong criticisms raised, even in this latter part of the debate, though not by many speakers.

I hope that the right reverend Prelate will forgive me if I say that I thought his speech was a monument of unfairness. I hope I say that with the same Christian spirit that he adopted towards Mr. Cook; perhaps it is neither more Christian nor less Christian than the spirit which he adopted to Mr. Cook. I assure the right reverend Prelate that I will call him by his proper title, but he began his speech by referring to "Mr. Cook" and then quickly lapsed into calling him "Cook". There is no doubt that the right reverend Prelate refused to give him his prefix.


I have a script, and I think the noble Earl will find that in the script he was referred to in every case as "Mr. Cook".


I am afraid one must rely on one's ears rather than on the script. I am in the recollection of the House, and I think others will confirm that when the right reverend Prelate became carried away he departed from his script in that respect. I have no doubt whatever that he several times referred to him as "Cook". I say that because I feel that the right reverend Prelate was extraordinarily unfair to this gentleman. Mr. Cook has behaved in a very odd fashion, as was brought out in the Report; but he is not a delinquent. If I may say so, I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, put the matter very well when he said: "We are not trying Mr. Cook." I venture to disagree slightly with the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, when he went on to say that we are trying the headmaster. I do not think the House of Lords is a very good court for that purpose. With all our great qualities, I do not think we are suited to try anybody in that sense. But I know what the noble Lord meant, because the condemnation in the document put before us this afternoon is a condemnation of Mr. Haydon and the deputy headmaster.

I hope that the right reverend Prelate will forgive me, and I will answer one particular point that he raised. I think he formed such a low opinion of Mr. Cook that he did not feel this criticism of the school by the Government was necessarily true. He asked whether any assurances had been given to Mr. Cook that, whatever he said, no disciplinary action would be taken against him. The answer is that he was told at one point by the Home Office that we would do our best to see that disciplinary action was not taken against him for coming forward, but that did not mean that he would be able to say anything he liked, true or false. I do not think this will be any surprise to the right reverend Prelate, but he asked the question, and I thought it right that I should answer it.

Perhaps I should say one other thing about Mr. Cook—and this is probably not within the knowledge of everybody. The Approved Schools Managers Association were certainly critical of some aspects of the handling of this case, but they supported the Home Secretary in his decision that Mr. Cook should not be victimised. So this body, which is critical of the Government's general handling in one or two respects, did not take the view that Mr. Cook should have been got rid of. They realised that it would be an appalling result in a case of this kind if somebody actually raised a grave scandal, and in many respects proved correct, and the dog that died should be Mr. Cook. The Approved Schools Managers Association rejected that. I say that, in passing, to the right reverend Prelate.

I had intended to speak quite briefly, but the details pile up and I may not be quite so brief. Before I come on to the more optimistic aspect of our story, the future of the approved schools system, I must say one or two more words about Court Lees. I would venture to think that four issues have been before the House to-day. First of all—and here there has been no argument—the question arises whether the Home Secretary was right to set up the Inquiry. That has been accepted by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, who very courteously told me just now that unfortunately he had to go. So we really need not spend time over that. But it was the first decision which the Home Secretary took.

Then there has been a great deal of discussion, explicit and, in a sense, implicit, as to whether we accept in essentials the Gibbens Report. I myself would feel that it would be most unwise that anybody who had not got far more grounds than have been disclosed in this House should set himself up as superior to this Report. Here is a Q.C. who, after taking great trouble, found this gentleman guilty of certain forms of malpractice. I should have thought that this Report would make a fair-minded impression on anybody. I am sure that the Q.C. was fully alive to the weaknesses of Mr. Cook, and he says so. It is not in the least likely that he was carried away by the evidence of Mr. Cook, and I think we must accept this Report as the only serious contribution before us. Nobody has come forward with rival documents, although I have been sent some that are full of inaccuracies. I should have thought that this House would take its stand on the Report being substantially correct.

Once we accept that as correct, we are passing a criticism on Mr. Haydon and his deputy. That inevitably follows. We cannot accept the Gibbens Report and say that, after all, perhaps Mr. Haydon and his deputy were not so wrong. We accept the fact that they were decent fellows, but we cannot say they were not guilty of grave misconduct. If we accept the Report, then I should have thought the next step that arises is what steps the Home Secretary should have taken to deal with the headmaster and his deputy, in particular.

There has been a good deal of discussion among critics as to whether the headmaster was treated fairly. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, brought out very clearly that the headmaster was represented throughout the proceedings. I think Lord Leatherland thought at one point that he was not represented at all. Mr. Haydon withdrew while the boys gave evidence—for boys to give evidence about being beaten by the headmaster in front of him would be somewhat fantastic—but he was legally represented throughout the proceedings. Even at the end of this debate a confusion as to what has happened to Mr. Haydon remains—and, with great respect, it was repeated in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. My Lords, I do not say this sarcastically, for it is easy enough to get the facts if one is given plenty of Government brief, but when you are on the other side of the House it is easy enough not always to have the correct facts.

It is wrong to say that Mr. Haydon has been dismissed. He has not been dismissed. He is in the same position, at the moment, as the other masters in the school: they are on full pay for six months, and I understand that he is still in his house. It would be wrong to talk as if he had been dismissed. The question of dismissing him was raised with the managers; it was an important point in their discussions. But when the managers showed themselves, in the view of the Home Secretary, to be totally unaware of the gravity of the issues involved, he came to the conclusion that he had to go further than simply deal with the one headmaster; he had to bring the school, as at present constituted, to an end.

After that, there was no question of further penalties being inflicted on this headmaster as against the rest of the staff. All the others are on six months' leave, at least the headmaster and his deputy are, and I imagine most are, unless any of them have obtained other work in the meanwhile. One should not talk of him as being dismissed—he has not been dismissed. That is important if we are referring to the grave injustice and persecution of the headmaster which almost seems to have been implied. If he had been dismissed (and this is what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, had in mind at one point) other procedures would have operated—there would have been an appeal. But as he was not dismissed, there was no appeal in his case, any more than there was in the case of the other masters. They have all been given notice that their contracts are terminated.

I am not in a position to answer the point very fully with regard to what his future may be. It would be very unwise for me to say exactly what kind of future I would surmise for the headmaster. As the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, brought out in an intervention, all the Home Secretary can do is refuse to accept the nomination of a particular gentleman as headmaster of a school; he cannot otherwise decide that he is or is not appointed to some other position. The Secretary of State for Education has to be generally satisfied, as I understand it, with the educational quality of a particular gentleman and, therefore, it could be that the Secretary of State for Education would come into it, and the managers, who would make the appointment in another case, would also have to reach their own decision. All the facts in this case would no doubt be laid before them. All one can say—and I have no official authority for this but it seems obvious—is that the less public inquiry there is into Mr. Haydon's activities, and the less this case is stirred up, the better his prospects for the future. That is a matter for common sense.

The one thing that would not have helped Mr. Haydon would have been if he had been prosecuted. If he was any friend or relative of mine I should certainly not want more inquiries and publicity. I would hope that he would obtain a future in another approved school or some other part of the educational system, and I think that the least fuss, battle and sensation that attaches to it, the better for him. That is not a statement pledging the Government to anything.—I am giving my own candid opinion.


My Lords, if I may interrupt, may I say that I am a little surprised to hear the noble Earl saying this, in view of the fact that so far as I know all the associations in this matter are pressing as vigorously as possible for a further inquiry. I should have thought they would be at least as good judges as to what is in Mr. Haydon's interests as the noble Earl. He has argued that Mr. Haydon has not been dismissed, and I am sorry to use this argument, because it seems to me something of a legal quibble. Is not the position that as from February 6 he will, as a result of the Home Secretry's decision, lose both his job and his home? Is not that equivalent to dismissal?


My Lords, I should not have thought that it was equivalent at all. A good many people do not get six months' notice on being dismissed from their jobs. The stigma of being dismissed from a job will not attach to him in this case. I do not accept that the two things are equivalent.


My Lords, my noble friend says that he has not been dismissed. I understand that the Home Secretary will no longer give him approval as a headmaster in another approved school.


My Lords, I know that my articulation is very bad, but I said that just now.


Is that not equivalent to dismissal?


My Lords, no. He is coming to an end in one position, just as I might come to an end as Leader of the House and never be reappointed to the position. But I would not be dismissed from the job, necessarily. There are many nice distinctions here. This is a perfectly clear distinction between being dismissed, which is an ignominious fate, and this is not something attaching to this gentleman. Have I made that clear?

Then comes the question of the managers. This is undoubtedly a matter where in the last resort one has to attach a great deal of weight to the opinion of the Home Secretary, because all the facts cannot be fully discussed in public. If you decide that certain gentlemen are not worthy of confidence in a particular role which they have been performing in the past, you do not want to spell all that out in great detail.

I am not accusing the managers of conduct which can be censured in the same way as the conduct of the unfortunate Mr. Haydon and his deputy, but the Home Secretary had not started with this idea as a firm one in his mind, although, of course, it was always a possibility when he saw the Report. After discussions with the managers, he came to the conclusion it was impossible for these gentlemen to continue in the positions they had occupied hitherto because they had failed totally to understand the gravity of the issues and the enormity of the offences committed by Mr. Haydon and his deputy. Those are the reasons that governed the Home Secretary. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has made the point more than once, which was not fully heard by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Dilhorne, that it was not just the fact that the managers would not take back Mr. Cook. That was just one element in a general decision.

Tributes have been sincerely paid by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Lord, Lord Annan, among others, to the quality of our present Home Secretary, so we must allow some weight, surely, to attach to his judgment. We were not there; none of us was there. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, was there, but possibly not. At any rate, the Home Secretary saw these managers, discussed these issues with them and, taking everything into account, including the background of the school, and any problems that had arisen in the past, he came to the conclusion that these gentlemen could not be allowed to continue as managers in the future.


My Lords, may I intervene again? I apologise for doing so, but there is a point here which puzzles me, and perhaps the noble Earl the Leader of the House can elucidate it. I have been following very closely what he said, but it does not explain to me why it was that Judge Cohen was informed on August 1, when he saw the Permanent Under-Secretary, I believe, at the Home Office, that it was the Home Secretary's intention to close the school. That was five days before the interview took place between the Home Secretary, Judge Cohen and the managers, when presumably the Home Secretary, according to what the noble Earl says, formed this impression. Five days before, the Home Secretary, through the Permanent Under-Secretary, was announcing his intention that the school should be closed.


My Lords, when I look at Hansard to-mor-row I shall see whether I put the matter correctly. The Home Secretary, I understand, made it clear that, while that was in his mind—and I think that a few minutes ago I referred to it as a possibility in his mind—he had not reached a firm decision. It was a possibility before the discussion; it became a firm decision after he had been engaged in these discussions. That is what I understand, and my noble friend Lord Stonham confirms it. I know that the noble Earl has regard for the Home Secretary, as the Home Secretary has for him; and one can only in the last resort say that I have very great confidence also in the Home Secretary, and I have no doubt whatever in accepting his judgment on this very difficult point.

Now may I come to the future of approved schools? I will not keep the House for very long. Certainly the future cannot be described as dark. There are many problems, but I do not think we should allow ourselves to pass on any state of gloom. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, did not generate any gloom; it was left to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, to introduce that element. But as Lord Jellicoe knows, progress has been made. If I refer to the progress made since 1964, it does not mean that there was no progress before. There was plenty of progress in the years before, under the noble Earl and under the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. But since October, 1964, 798 additional places have been provided in approved schools, though I gather that this is partly offset by the closure of some schools and a reduction in places at others. Five new schools have been opened. Further progress has been made in modernising existing schools, and the 25 boys' schools now have separate house units, with about 30 boys in each. The girls have the group system, but there the groups are smaller—usually they are of eight or ten girls.

There have been many other reforms, some of them started in the time of Lord Brooke of Cumnor and the noble Earl. Staff ratios have been improved, and better facilities for training have been introduced. All these have been developed. Do not let us talk of this service as if it were a declining service. But I accept from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, that the Service at the moment are somewhat bewildered as to the direction of Government policy. The noble Lord Lord Stonham, I hope, will have cleared their minds about that. I know that he gave us so much information that possibly noble Lords did not take it all in, or grasp it all fully. But I should hope that, after tonight, they will realise that the thinking is pursuing a most constructive course.

But let us be frank. We have been waiting—and I think it would have been inevitable that any Government should do this, as the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, and others have brought out—for various inquiries to be completed. It would be very difficult to reform the approved schools without reforming the services provided for children and young people more widely. We must hope, therefore, for further reform. When I say "hope", I am well aware that before very long, though I should not like to say in the absolutely immediate future, there will be fundamental legislation which will give effect to the ideals expressed by Lord Stonham.

In a moment or two I will end. I hope that noble Lords, and those who read this debate, will not feel that in a sense Court Lees has been the most important matter we have been discussing. I would feel that this new vision of a therapeutic society in approved schools, which Lord Stonham unfolded in a very careful speech, may suggest to the noble Earl that this debate will have served a purpose even more useful than clarifying the position of Court Lees. It has enabled Lord Stonham to set out fully, and I would say inspiringly, the Government's ideas for approved schools.

I would stress one point in case there is misunderstanding. Certainly this therapeutic community which Lord Stonham has mentioned does not mean an entirely permissive attitude, an attitude which encourages sloppy behaviour towards other people. He balanced his picture. There was to be therapy, but also help and friendship and control. I hope that all he has said on those matters will be carefully studied, because I am sure the future lies in that direction.

On the administrative side, of course we are all agreed in these latter days that the approved schools should be fitted into a wider setting. But I myself feel that even more important than the administrative adjustments is this new concept of helping these disturbed young people to form human relationships and to learn to behave properly towards their fellows. I believe that if Court Lees has helped to shake us up, to force us to come out a little sooner and say exactly where we stand, it will have served a useful purpose. Certainly this debate has been most valuable, but I hope noble Lords will agree that, whatever could have been done regarding Court Lees—and I am firmly behind the Home Secretary—in this House and in all the informed circles in this country we must all work towards a new kind of approved school from which the punitive approach has been abandoned, has been removed; and I believe that we are groping our way towards it, and that we shall achieve it before many years are past.


My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps he will clear up one important point which I think ought to be dealt with. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, told us that there was deadlock between Surrey County Council, who agreed to take over the school, and the managers and the trustees. Two of the managers were trustees, and they were prepared to hand over to the Surrey County Council the title deeds of the school. We were also told that £200,000 of public money had been spent on this school. It seems to me that there is a great scarcity of approved schools, and if this school is to remain permanently closed, and this battle goes on, I think this is very unsatisfactory and that a further inquiry ought to take place.


My Lords, this question is important, and I am glad that it has been raised; it struck me when I was looking at this matter in preparation for my speech. If £200,000 has been spent by the Government, can managers or trustees just snap their fingers at the Government and say they want to turn it into a hotel? The answer is that the property rests in trustees, but where Government money has been spent it must be repaid, so I have no doubt that eventually this school will become an approved school again.

6.49 p.m.


My Lords, I am not going to keep your Lordships for more than a moment, but I should like to say that I am sincerely grateful to those noble Lords who have taken part in this discussion, whichever way their sentiments have gone. But I do not think it would be right for me, before I withdraw my Motion, not to express my continuing disquiet over the Court Lees issue. I am not happy, and it would be wrong for me to pretend that I am happy, at the replies I have received.

I am not yet convinced that the managers have had a fair deal, but I am prepared to agree that they are probably well able to look after themselves. I am not yet convinced that the school even—and this is perhaps an even more important issue—has had a fair deal. If it is true that the managers and the headmaster were running a good and constructive school, in which, however, there had been grave breaches of the Approved School Rules, then I believe that the Home Secretary's decision in this matter is open to serious question. If, in fact, the school was not regarded by him as being in general satisfactory, he was obviously justified in his action. But having listened to this debate I cannot say that either this debate or the Report has really cleared up that aspect of the matter.

Thirdly, I am still deeply concerned about the future of the headmaster and the deputy headmaster, and indeed of the minority of the other masters, because in his reply the noble Lord referred to a hope that most of the masters would receive jobs when Court Lees opened again.


My Lords, may I make it clear that what I had in mind was that some of the teachers may not wish to return. So far as I am aware, all of those who are specified will have jobs open to them.


My Lords, I am glad that in these concluding moments I have been able to extract that from the noble Lord, but I am deeply unhappy about the position of the headmaster and the deputy. I, for one, was deeply impressed by the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, who knows the school more intimately than any other Member of your Lordships' House, and I was unhappy at hearing that speech stigmatised by the noble Leader of the House as being "unfair". However I am happy about one aspect of this debate and that is that we have had the veil at least a little lifted by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and the noble Earl the Leader of the House as to the Government's future intentions, and I listened with great interest to what the noble Lord said about their intentions. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, I only hope that these intentions can be put into effect with the least possible delay. If this debate has done anything to push the Government along that course, then at least in that respect it will have been justified. With those few words I beg leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.