HL Deb 21 March 1968 vol 290 cc792-849

8.40 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill to make further provision for promoting social welfare in Scotland", I feel more certain than on the previous Bill that your Lordships will share my pleasure in discussing it. It is a challenging and exciting Bill, but, despite that, it will not be without its controversies.

The Bill is designed to implement the policies which were proposed in the White Paper, Social Work and the Community, which in turn were partly based on the recommendations of the Committee on Children and Young Persons, Scotland—the Kilbrandon Committee. It is fitting that I mention again the debt which we owe to Lord Kilbrandon and his Committee for their analysis of the problems of juvenile delinquency. I am aware that Lord Kilbrandon has been waiting for a very long time to hear us discuss the Second Reading of the Bill which has arisen from the deliberations of his Committee. I must commend him for his fortitude in remaining so long to hear it. I hope that at the end of the debate he will feel that the long wait has been worth while.

After the Report had been discussed, my right honourable friend announced in another place, in June, 1965, that he proposed to act on the recommendation that a system of juvenile panels should be set up to replace the existing juvenile courts in Scotland. In August the same year, he announced that the Government also accepted the recommendation that the public services concerned with the welfare of children should be reorganised, for the reasons which the Kilbrandon Committee explained, but that before deciding on the form which that reorganisation should take he proposed to have a further study made of it. In that study of the reorganisation of children's services, the field was widened to include all the welfare services of local authorities and the Probation Service, because they are all closely related. The Bill is the result.

It seeks to do two broad things. One is to integrate all the existing services of local authorities which are concerned with the social support of individuals and of families. This is to be achieved by bringing together the existing welfare and child-care services and by giving the new organisation powers which are more general and a little wider than those which they possess under existing legislation. The new organisation will also include the probation service. The other main effect of the Bill will be to set up a new kind of body to deal, under some measure of compulsion, with children who, because they are delinquent or for some other reason, are in need of care and protection. This body is closely based upon the recommendations of the Kilbrandon Committee, although we have decided to call it a children's panel rather than a juvenile panel as the Kilbrandon Committee recommended.

As I have said, the duties and powers of local authorities will be in more general terms than in current legislation. That legislation has been built up over the years mainly by identifying from time to time various groups of people who were in need of a particular form of help. For this reason the legislation was couched in terms of categories of situation or categories of people. It has been very valuable, but our experience shows that to try to cover the field by defining people who need help implies frequent legislation to extend the powers of local authorities as new kinds of need are recognised. To realise this makes clear the need to legislate for welfare purposes in a rather different way. Our great need now is to create an effective organisation and to give it a wide power to help where it is needed and to develop services as new needs are recognised. Naturally, this approach does not mean that we expect that an Act of Parliament can create a service which will at once he able to meet every demand that is placed upon it. Resources will never be unlimited, and it would be foolish to ignore this fact; but a single organisation will be able to apply its resources in a most effective way.

Part I of the Bill sets up the administrative machinery for that purpose. It requires every local authority to appoint a social work committee and a new chief officer who, with his assistant staff, will form the social work department presaged in the White Paper. This department of the local authority will discharge the local authority's new powers under the Bill and also the authority's existing functions in relation to child care generally, the support in the community of people who are physically or mentally ill and the welfare of the elderly and handicapped. It will no longer be necessary for someone seeking advice or help to decide in the first instance which department of the local authority he must approach. Advice for all such people will be available from or through the social work department.

This Part of the Bill provides also for the Secretary of State to give general guidance to local authorities in the provision of those services. It sets up a new Advisory Council concerned with the whole field of social welfare and gives both to the Secretary of State and to local authorities rather wider powers than they now have to grant-aid voluntary organisations. It gives to the Secretary of State powers to stimulate and grant-aid training over the whole field of social work, powers which he presently has only in relation to child care.

The last provision in this Part which I wish to mention specifically is that provided in Clause 1, that the functions of local authorities under the Bill will be laid on county councils—which include, of course, the councils of the four cities, and the councils of large burghs. The White Paper made clear that the factors relating to the size of administrative units did not all point in the same direction, and its suggestion that a comprehensive social work service should be based on counties and cities was made only "on balance". The comments made on the White Paper, and changes in the general situation since its publication, have been considered very carefully. We have to recognise that the existing welfare functions which will form a large part of the duties of the new social work department are at present functions of the large burghs. It has been made clear from their comments on the White Paper that the large burghs want to retain those functions.

The further thought which has been given to these considerations has led to the conclusion that the balance of advantage lies now in allowing the large burghs, as well as the counties and cities, to retain welfare functions, and this is what is provided in Part I of the Bill. This provision does not, of course, prejudge any recommendations which the Royal Commission may make on local authority structure or on the best place for social work within that structure. My Lords, I have dealt with this point in some detail because I am aware that it is one on which your Lordships will not be all of the same mind.

It may be convenient if I turn next to another matter which is likely to be the other main point of controversy about local authority services. This is the provision in Clause 26 of Part II, that in Scotland the local authority will be responsible in future for the Probation and After-care Service, as part of the duty of their social work department. On this point again the arguments were set out in some detail in the White Paper, which concluded that "on balance" it would be best if all the present functions of the Probation Service were undertaken by the local authority social work department. Since then, the views of the Probation Service have been expressed very fully and clearly and have been very carefully considered with those of other bodies. On this point we have concluded that the balance of advantage as assessed in the White Paper remains sound, and is, if anything, clearer now than it was then. The main purpose of Part II of the Bill is to create a really comprehensive social work service. This cannot be achieved if probation and after-care, which are agreed to be rather specialised branches of social work, are kept separate.

Clause 26 provides that each local authority must consult the courts in the area and thereafter submit a scheme for the provision of probation services. This is designed to ensure that the courts will continue to be able to influence the development of these services, which are, of course, provided mainly to enable the courts to deal properly with offenders. Members of the Probation Service in Scotland are no less likely than other staffs to secure, within the new structure, posts which will offer both professional scope and material conditions at least as good as they now enjoy.

Having rather turned aside to deal with these topics, I should like to revert now to the provisions of Part II, which sets out the duties and powers which the Bill gives to local authorities. Clause 12 gives the local authority a general duty to promote social welfare. This phrase is the hub around which the whole Bill turns. I have no doubt that the promotion of social welfare includes, by general consent, a number of concepts such as the prevention of crime and delinquency, neglect and deprivation. It would have been possible in drafting Clause 12 to make use of all these concepts and to formulate the local authority's duty in that way. It is high time, however, that we stopped concentrating on the prevention of this, that and the other kind of social inconvenience, and started to think positively and constructively about encouragement of whatever is good in each community. This, of course, is not a new idea. I think it was Beatrice Webb who said a long time ago that it was not good enough to pull people out of swamps: we ought at the same time to set about draining the swamps. This is what we now hope to do. That is what the promotion of social welfare means.

Clause 12 goes on to provide that in carrying out their duty to promote social welfare, the local authority must do two main things. They must make available advice, guidance and assistance as may be appropriate in their area. This means in practice the setting up of a comprehensive social work service by each local authority, and making that service available to the community. The other main thing which the local authority are required to do is to provide a range of facilities including residential homes and centres and day centres.

This general duty of the local authority is set out in the first subsection of Clause 12. The remaining subsections empower the local authority in certain circumstances to exercise their general duty by giving assistance in kind or in cash. This power exists, so far as children are concerned, in Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1963; Clause 12 continues this power and extends it to cover situations in which children are not involved but in which the power to provide even a comparatively small amount of material help may avoid a social breakdown. I think it is important to stress that the intention here is not that the local authority should become a prime agency for giving financial assistance or should disburse large sums of money but that they should be able, in exceptional circumstances and in emergency conditions, to provide enough help to contain a situation until other arrangements can be made. The very recent disaster in Scotland that was consequent upon the hurricane was an example of where the local authorities had to go ahead and do what was the common-sense thing, without worrying too much, if I may reveal it, whether in fact they had legal power to do some of the things which obviously had to be done and which, if they had not been done by the local authority, would not have been done by anybody. We want to make certain over the field of social welfare that these things can be done in cases of emergency without worrying whether it is legal or not to do so.

Clause 13 imposes a duty on the local authority to provide domestic help for households where it is required either for social reasons or for health reasons. The local authority's existing function is a power to provide such help where it is necessary for reasons of health. This power is changed to a duty by the provisions of the Health Services and Public Health Bill which is now before Parliament. The effect of Clause 13 is to extend this duty to cover situations where the immediate problem is social. Clauses 14 to 25 of the Bill re-enact for Scotland the main provisions of the Children Act 1948, without substantial alteration.

I now turn to the provisions of Part III of the Bill, which deal with the setting up of children's panels and the ways in which these panels will carry out their functions. In detail these provisions follow very closely on the recommendations of the Kilbrandon Committee. This fact is probably the most sincere tribute which can be paid to the value of that Committee's work. I do not propose to go into the detail of these provisions. I should like, however, to bring out one or two of their most significant effects.

A child may be brought before the children's panel for the first time only if he has not attained the age of 16. The grounds on which he may be brought before the children's panel are very much those on which he may at present be brought before a juvenile court, so that the Bill does not propose any substantial widening of the present basis on which compulsory measures may be imposed on a child. The children's panel, or rather the children's hearing through which the panel will conduct its business, will have no power to decide any facts which may be in dispute. That power will rest entirely with the sheriff, to whom the children's hearing will have to refer any disputes on fact before it can deal with any child. Where the facts are not in dispute, or after they have been determined by the sheriff, the children's hearing is given a wide discretion to decide on the measures of treatment or control which are most appropriate in the circumstances of the child, and the decision of the children's hearing will be binding on the child with the force of law. It could be argued that there are risks in investing a lay body with this wide range of compulsory powers over a child. But there will be safeguards in the careful selection of people to serve on these panels (the method of selection is provided for in Schedule 2 of the Bill), in the rules of procedure which will be made for their guidance and in the full rights of appeal to the courts as provided in Part III.

Once a child comes under the control of a children's hearing the hearing is required by the provisions of the Bill to keep his case under review and to withdraw compulsory measures as soon as the child no longer needs them. The child may be kept under the control of the hearing up till his 18th birthday if this is necessary, but after his 18th birthday the children's hearing will no longer have any power over him.

Part IV of the Bill is concerned with the provision and regulation of the residential and other establishments which the local authority are given a duty to provide by Clause 12 of the Bill. Part IV makes no statutory distinction between different kinds of establishment, and it applies in exactly the same way to homes and day centres for children at one end of the scale and homes and centres for elderly people at the other. It applies to all establishments where they are provided and managed by the local authority themselves, by voluntary organisations or by private bodies or individuals, whether on a commercial basis or not. Any establishment carried on mainly to provide for people who could be assisted by the local authority under this Bill is required by Clause 62 to be registered with the local authority, who are given the powers of entry and inspection which will be necessary to ensure that the registration is effectively carried out. Part IV provides also for appeals against the refusal of a local authority to register any establishment.

One effect of the Bill is that the present approved schools will become part of the whole range of establishments available to children's hearings for the care and treatment of children who come under their control. Children will no longer be sent to these establishments by courts, and the length of time which any child will remain in these establishments will be decided by the appropriate children's hearing, who will of course, be guided in reaching such decisions by the advice of the managers and staff of the establishment concerned. The name "approved school" is abolished, because it will no longer be appropriate. There is, however, no intention of making any dramatic or quick change in the ways in which the present approved schools are provided and administered. The precise ways in which the present approved schools will grow into the new system must be worked out in practice over the next few years by the managers themselves, in consultation with the local authorities and my right honourable friend.

My Lords the effects of Parts V, VI and VII of the Bill are sufficiently clear without anything being said by me. My final point is that although the formation of a local authority social work department under the Bill will provide an integrated service able to tackle any social work problem, this does not mean that the new department can or should become a self-contained group within the local authority. It will be able to do its job properly only if it develops good working arrangements with schools, hospitals, general practitioners, the local health authority services, the courts and the police, as well as with planning and housing authorities, with the Ministry of Social Security and with voluntary bodies of many kinds.

As the Bill is concerned with local authority services it says very little about voluntary work, in which some of your Lordships are very interested. In so far as it extends the functions of local authorities, the Bill might be interpreted as reducing the scope for voluntary work. I wish to reject this suggestion very firmly. It is true that the work of some voluntary organisations will become a duty of the local authority, and these organisations may want to take a fresh look at their work in the new circumstances. They are well able to do that, and the advisory services of my Department are fully available to help in this if they are asked. There is plenty of scope, too, for consultation between voluntary organisations and local authorities about the future development of their respective services. It would be quite inappropriate for the Bill to define or even indicate how voluntary organisations should develop their work. But the local authorities' ability to employ voluntary organisations as agents is fully preserved, and the powers of both the Secretary of State and local authorities to give grants to voluntary organisations are in fact extended. Moreover, the setting up of children's panels opens up to voluntary effort a whole new field of great opportunity and challenge. I have no hesitation in saying that although the forms and perhaps the emphasis of voluntary work may change, the scope and value of voluntary work is likely to be greater in the future, rather than less.

My Lords, the thought and intention underlying this Scottish Bill, and its progress in this House and in another place, are matters of interest well beyond Scotland—even beyond the United Kingdom. The quality of any society may depend largely on the stature and calibre of the people who shape it, but in the last resort it will be judged by the humanity it shows towards those who are shaped by it. I believe that this Bill offers us the means to extend that humanity in accord with our social conscience, and I commend it to your Lordships. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Hughes.)

9.5 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for the most clear and expeditious way in which he has explained this Bill to your Lordships. I think we are all sorry that this very important Bill has had to come on so late at night in your Lordships' House. I realise that it is not the fault of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, who has indeed had a marathon already this afternoon, but I hope that when we have Bills of this importance which are started in your Lordships' House it will in future he possible to arrange the business so that they come on at a more convenient hour.


My Lords, I wonder whether I might interrupt the noble Marquess? I think that in fairness to the Chief Whip I should point out that this was to have been the sole major business for to-day; but in order to meet the convenience of certain Scottish Peers who could not attend the agriculture business on Tuesday, that business was deferred until to-day, and when we deferred it we had no indication that it was going to take anything like the time which it actually took. So the Chief Whip cannot be blamed for the fact that we are starting on this Bill at this very late hour.


My Lords, I of course accept that from the noble Lord. Perhaps in future some of your Lordships will not be so loquacious. Nevertheless, I hope that it will be possible for these Bills to come on at an earlier hour in future.

I should like to extend a general welcome to this Bill because I am convinced, as I am sure are all noble Lords, of its great importance. We consider it favourably and at the same time we believe that it may be improved in several respects. I should like to assure the noble Lord that any criticisms and suggestions which are offered by my colleagues and me are offered in an entirely constructive spirit. I am sure that this will be matched by the noble Lord, Lord Hughes. I should also like to say that I hope it will not be felt necessary to rush this Bill too quickly. lf, for instance, on Committee stage we find that we need more than one day, perhaps it may be accorded to us.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, has said, this Bill introduces radical changes in the system whereby local authorities in Scotland administer their social and welfare services. It is based on the Report of the Kilbrandon Committee and the White Paper, and I should like to echo the noble Lord's tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Kilbrandon, and his Committee for their excellent Report, which is almost a milestone in Scottish social affairs.

The Bill has two fundamental purposes. First, it brings together all the various local authority social services into a single social work department and under a director of social work. Secondly, it abolishes juvenile courts and sets up instead children's panels composed of lay persons of experience, whose decisions, if disputed, can always be subject to appeal to the sheriff. I have no quarrel at all with either of these two aims—indeed, I support them. But I ant worried about the timing of the Bill. I am not referring to the fact that it is ten past nine at night. I think it is common knowledge that we are expecting the report of the Royal Commission, on Local Government in Scotland, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Wheatley, some time in the autumn. No doubt this report will recommend pretty radical changes in the number and shape and size of local authorities. Yet this Bill as it stands will set up something like 56 social work departments based on the present local authority areas, including the large burghs. Many of these areas, I suspect, will become superfluous and disappear in any proposed local authority reorganisation.

I feel that it will be demoralising, to say the least of it, to a new department when it is faced with the imminent threat of redundancy or at any rate complete reorganisation. I realise that the Government cannot withdraw this Bill, but I would ask the noble Lord most earnestly to consider delaying the date of the Bill's coming into operation, at any rate until six months from the date of publication of the Wheatley Report, because this would give valuable guidance to local authorities who may be planning amalgamation schemes. I feel that it is essential to have this time if a certain amount of chaos and demoralisation is to be avoided. I hope that the Government will consider this point.

Then we come to the question of the large burghs. The noble Lord has told us about their inclusion but I am still not quite clear exactly how and why they have crept into the Bill. I do not think that they were included in this context either in the Kilbrandon Report or in the White Paper. I am sure that no one suggests that some few of the large burghs in Scotland are not perfectly well equipped to sustain a viable social work department, but I feel that many of the so-called large burghs are in practice not really large enough to run such a department properly. I feel that financially they may not be able to attract good and sufficient staff. Career prospects, therefore, will be pretty bleak and the department's efficiency and—what is most important—the welfare of the community are bound to suffer.

I hope that the Government will think again about the proposal to include the large burghs, because a great many of my colleagues and I, and many bodies up and down Scotland, feel that their inclusion is going to weaken what is in general a very wise and sensible scheme. What I think is important is that any social work department should be large enough to offer good financial inducements for good staff, and by their competence and prestige should be able to command the respect of the community which they are going to serve. To this end, of course, much is going to depend on the personality and calibre of the new directors of social work, and I should have liked to know a little more about the sort of qualifications that the Secretary of State has in mind for applicants for this post. For instance, will they require legal qualifications? Will women be eligible (I should hope so), or employees of local authorities? Is there any special training or qualifications that the new directors of social work will be required to have? Questions like this, I feel, want answering a little more before we can make up our minds.

In this connection, I have a small matter to raise on Part I of the Bill, concerning Clause 2(3), where it lays down that at least half the members of the new social work committees or subcommittees must be members of the authority: in other words, that half of them can be co-opted. Personally, I think that the ratio should be something different, and that the local authority members ought to be in the region of two-thirds. Otherwise, there might be occasions when, through illness or some other difficulty, the co-opted members would be in a majority over the elected members; and I think this is something which is probably undesirable in local government.

While I am on the point of co-opted members, I should like to endorse what the noble Lord has said about the continuing need and importance of enlisting aid and experience of voluntary organisations and societies working in the social field. I regard this as of the utmost importance, because, as the noble Lord has said, there is such a fund of wisdom and experience there to draw on.

The noble Lord has told us pretty fully the Government's point of view regarding the role of the Probation Service in the light of this Bill. I think we all know that many members of that Service are not at all happy about the proposed change of status of the Service, and want its independence to be preserved. I know that several of my noble friends are going to pursue this matter, and therefore I do not propose to discuss Clause 26. But I welcome the general proposal to remove from juveniles under 16 the whole paraphernalia and atmosphere of the courts.

This brings me to Part III of the Bill. I know that there are those who believe that the apparatus of the law and the majesty of the courts are invaluable elements in the treatment of young offenders, in that they create a healthy respect (so it is said), if not fear of authority. My own feeling is that this holds true for only a small minority of cases, and that the proposed new children's panels, with their more relaxed, informal and sympathetic atmosphere, will be much better suited, in the majority of cases, to sorting out juvenile problems. It is, I think, important that the panels should operate by parental consent, and I am glad to note that in the case of dispute there is the right of appeal to the sheriff against the decision.

I should like to make one or two brief observations regarding the children's panels and their duties. In the first place, I think there should be a limit on the length of time that a person may serve on a panel before his appointment is reviewed, for it is most unlikely, even with the best will in the world, that all members of panels will be equally effective. I feel certain that from time to time there may be a few "duds" among them, and I do not think the panels should be saddled indefinitely with these people. I believe, too, that there should be an upper and a lower age limit for membership of the panels. I would suggest something in the region of, say, between 25 and 65. I believe that it is going to be important to have younger members of both sexes serving on the panels—housewives, and people like that, who have experience of children and of families from the practical point of view.

I was also glad to see that local authorities are to have power to arrange training for panel members. But I do not think that, under the Bill as it stands there is any obligation to accept training. I think this should be made obligatory, because, in a sense, much is going to be lost with this Bill if professionals, experts, are to be replaced by amateurs on these panels. I think this is something that the local authorities should be encouraged to avoid at all costs. Also, there does not appear to be any provision whatever—perhaps there need not be—for a member of the panel to withdraw from a case if he finds he is confronted by somebody in whom he has a personal interest or with whom he has a personal connection. It is a small point, but perhaps the noble Lord will look into it.

I am glad to see that the hearings of these panels are to be in private, although I imagine that the procedure will be flexible enough to enable panel members who are undergoing training to be able to attend hearings. Under the Bill a hearing consists of three members of a panel—a chairman and two others, one of whom, I believe, must be a woman. I am wondering whether this number is perhaps too small. I can think of cases where there might be a powerful and overriding personality dominating the other two, and I think that, at any rate to begin with, there should be rather more flexibility here: perhaps panels should consist of anything from between three and five members. This is one of those cases where we shall probably find out through hindsight what is the best answer, but I feel that it would be wise not to restrict the panels to three members at the moment.

Turning briefly to the question of the reporter, I do not think this is a very happy title for this office. I have not thought of a better one, but perhaps I shall do so before the Committee stage. This gentleman will obviously be a key figure in the whole set-up, and here again I think it would help the House to have a little clearer idea of what qualifications are required for this office. It would seem almost essential that he should have, for example, some form of legal training. And should there not also be a time limit to the appointment of a reporter? One problem has been brought to my attention in my own part of the world, which is a scattered rural area; namely, that it is unlikely that there will be enough work for a full-time reporter, and I am wondering whether there is any provision for this to be a part-time appointment.

Several noble Lords are to speak tonight, and therefore I do not intend to comment on the provisions governing the working of these panels, the provisions for accommodation, appeals, and so on. I have tried to concentrate on some of the broader issues because I believe that this is a most important Bill for Scotland, and one that will affect the lives of many of our people, particularly our young people and their parents. It will make a great difference as to whether or not these youngsters grow up into useful and valuable citizens.

Nevertheless, I think we must remember that in this Bill, in some ways, we are sailing into somewhat uncharted seas, and therefore it is doubly important that the ship should be in the best possible trim. That is why we on this side of the House shall want to scrutinise the Bill with some care, and in a helpful spirit. I hope that the noble Lord will feel able, when it comes to the next stage, to treat on their merit any Amendments we may put down and not as something rather inconvenient to the timetable which may have to be resisted for reasons of timing. We have had examples of this in the past, and I know that the noble Lord would not wish it to happen in connection with this Bill, because I am sure we all want to do our best to make it work as well as possible. I trust that your Lordships will give it a Second Reading to-night.

9.25 p.m.


My Lords, before I start to make my few comments I should like to associate myself with what the noble Marquess said about the rather unfortunate timing of the Bill. At the same time, I would associate myself with the thanks given by the noble Marquess to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, for his explanation. I just hope that this kind of thing will not occur again.

When the Report of the Kilbrandon Commitee first came out, and again when the White Paper, Command 3065, was first published in 1966, I did not pay any particular attention to them, because although the subject of young people is a very important one my main interests lie in a different part of life. Then my attention was drawn to the White Paper by various colleagues of mine in Scotland engaged in geriatric work and I did read the White Paper fairly carefully, and there I saw that whereas the bulk of the White Paper dealt with the various problems of children, which I do not want to go into, there were two paragraphs, paragraphs 32 and 33, which suddenly, for no apparent reason at all, were headed "Welfare of Old People"; and that was about all that was said. When I read those paragraphs in conjunction with the rest of the Paper I became much more interested. I thought there was a bad idea coming from Scotland and I wished to do what I could to stop it from crossing the Border, which is why I think for the first time in my life I am speaking on a Scottish Bill; I generally am very careful not to do that.

The reason for my worry was quite simple. In the first place, I think a local authority with a welfare department with a single door has a good deal to be said for it, provided the door is not kept tightly or rigidly shut but can be pushed to and fro simply. But I am not quite sure that a door of that sort is appropriate for old people, because they pose a large number of problems. One must realise that it is not old age in itself which causes the problem, but when there is some breakdown in the physical or mental health of the old person which means that they begin to need some kind of care and assistance. That means, too, that one cannot really divide the problems of old people neatly and tidily into two compartments, one medical and one social. One of the things which I found in Scotland by making inquiries up there is that there has been a great improvement in the efficiency of the services for the elderly during the past decade by the unification of the health and welfare services in—I think I have the figure right—26 of the major local authorities in Scotland. I would therefore ask the noble Lord whether when the new social welfare department is in being this present alliance between the health and welfare services will continue, or will the welfare services be taken away from the health service and put into the new social welfare department?

May I give an example of what I am talking about? Under the Bill, so far as I can see, admission to an old people's home will be the responsibility of the new social welfare department, but I feel that admission to a home should be based entirely on incapacity rather than social need. I think you must have expert opinion covering admission to these homes, because otherwise—and indeed one has seen this occur in this country quite frequently—services which are not very plentiful, which are limited, are wasted on people who do not require them. Therefore I feel there is a need for quite a powerful medical opinion to be given before a person is admitted to such a home.

The example which comes to my mind at once is this. I once went to a big home in London where there was a comparatively young, fit looking woman. I asked her why she was there. She said she had been there for 15 years, having come there when her husband died. She felt lonely, and people began to talk—I never knew what about—and she was admitted to the welfare home where she lived comfortably for 15 years. That is a good thing to happen if you have a really prosperous community in which you can afford these luxuries, but when you have to look carefully at the way money is spent you must have a good medical reason for such admissions. That is why I rather doubt whether a social welfare department by itself, separate from the health department, is really right.

The same thing applies to some of the domiciliary services, particularly the home-help service. I think I am right in saying that the majority of people applying for this service are the elderly people. There, once more, I think some kind of medical background is needed for the service. I should like to ask the noble Lord whether he can give some kind of reply to these two questions, because I am rather worried about the increasing role of the social worker as opposed to the medical worker in the field. I always feel that the change started with the somewhat unfortunate Younghusband Report which was implemented by the Government some years ago. One of the effects of that, among other, legislation has been that it becomes extraordinarily difficult for the Hospital Service to obtain the services of medical and social workers, and psychiatric social workers, because they all get taken up by the local authorities. If you are going to have a social welfare department, I feel even more of them will be taken up by local authorities.

If elderly persons need some kind of umbrella under which to shelter from the storms which assail them when they grow old, one should have some kind of medical umbrella, working under the health department of the local authority, which runs clinics, gives talks and lectures and that kind of thing, rather than a purely social umbrella, which it looks to me as if we may be creating here. This is something which I have said more than once in your Lordships' House; I have said it unashamedly three, four or five times, and I shall go on saying it so long as I am a Member of your Lordships' House. In regard to its other aspects the Bill seems to have a lot of good points. We may have to consider it again in Commit- tee, but I trust that your Lordships will give it a Second Reading.

9.34 p.m.


My Lords, this is my first speech in your Lordships' House and I am certain that you will be patient. I speak on the case for delaying this Bill. It is obvious from the historical background in the evidence to the Royal Commission on Local Government in Scotland of the Association of County Councils for Scotland that the allocation of social work functions has been a controversial issue for a long time. Therefore, the decision of the Secretary of State to alter existing administrative pattern must cause serious embarrassment to the Royal Commission which is reaching the end of its deliberations.

At the meeting of the Association of County Councils for Scotland on January 26, 1968, the Secretary of State indicated that a date in May, 1969, would probably be the date to establish the new social work department. But as your Lordships know, the Royal Commission's Report is due at the end of this year, or early in 1969. Thus when that Report is published local authorities will already be establishing work departments in a manner which is contrary to all informed opinion in recent times, and also contrary to Government White Papers.

For example, counties with small populations such as East Lothian, of which I have the honour of being a county councillor, and which has a population of about 90,000, have recognised that they lack adequate resources for the elective administration of their functions, and thus have integrated with their neighbours. We in East Lothian, for the purpose of child care, have integrated with Midlothian and Peebles. But for the purpose of probation we have joined Midlothian, Peebles and also Edinburgh.

If this proposed legislation is passed it will be necessary for us and other counties with small populations to consider whether we should establish separate social work departments, or integrate for the purpose of social work as we cannot afford to compete for staff, which is in short supply anyway. If county councils should decide to combine, with which authorities should they do so? Is it fair to suggest to us that we should come out of our present relationships and start again, when there is a possibility or even a probability that in a few months' time the Royal Commission may give a different answer?

The proposals can also be considered unfair to the staff. Inevitably there will be a large number of small units with no career prospects for those working in them, and no certainty that the department will be able to settle down before further disruption takes place by local government reorganisation. It was the original intention that reorganisation of social services would enable Scotland to attract a higher proportion of qualified staff for appointments as directors of social work. There is now no prospect of this high ideal being achieved, because if the department is small the salary will be small, and in any event the staff are sufficiently knowledgeable to know that in smaller departments their prospects are very dim in view of the impending reorganisation of local government.

Again, at the meeting on January 26, 1968, the Secretary of State said that he intended that the Bill should permit combinations of local authorities, and indeed he would encourage combinations. This is why I consider it would be entirely wrong to make new arrangements in advance of the report of the Royal Commission.

9.39 p.m.


My Lords, I am so glad that I have the opportunity of congratulating the noble Earl on his maiden speech. He told me that he was not a fluent speaker, but I think we would all agree that he put the case before us clearly and told us what his opinion was, and if that is not a good speech I do not know what is. Speaking now at this late hour one has to consider which points to draw to the attention of your Lordships. All I will say on timing, which has already been mentioned by several noble Lords, is this. When I read in the White Paper that the immediate practical problem in this review is how best to fit the new department into the existing local authority structure, I thought the proposal was completely mad, because it will not be working in the existing local authority structure.

I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, whether he could not even now point out to his right honourable friend that the Royal Commission is about to report, or will do so by the end of the year, and we should at least wait till then. We should consider the problem, as I am going to consider it to-night, in a vacuum, so to speak, and then, having considered what we want to do, we should wait until we find what the structure is and see how we can fit what we want to do into the new structure that may be recommended by the Royal Commission.

This is a Bill of 94 clauses and seven Schedules, and so one has to be very firm with oneself and say, "What shall I select to speak about?" I am very interested in this Bill, and I always have been interested in the particular things that it touches. I would say, first, that it provides for a new grouping of our social services. Whatever grouping you have, you are bound to get a certain element of overlap. A little time ago—I say "a little time ago", but on looking it up I find it is now twenty years ago—we grouped the children's department and the children's officer separately, and then we grouped the recipients of the help that we were able to give. We now turn that round in this experiment—and the whole Bill, it seems to me, is an experiment. I am entirely in favour of such experiments. We can only advance by trial and error, and we can amend or change it later. But the arrangement now is that we should group by the help given and not by the recipients who are going to receive that help.

I looked at the grouping under this new social welfare department, under the new director of social welfare that we are to have. I was interested in this enthusiastic White Paper—enthusiastic, at any rate, in the first few pages—which pointed out that there was one door to which those in need of help could apply for that help, whatever it was, and that they could apply in confidence because they would be sure to get it. My Lords, I can picture the sort of title above this door: "You want help—We give it". I quite agree with that as long as it is made perfectly clear, as it is in the White Paper, that some of the help they can give is advice and guidance; because it is quite clear that there are all forms and types of help that can be given to people, and it cannot all be got under one single department. For instance, under social security you have pensions and allowances and the other very varied help that people can get. Then we have the National Health Service and all those who are working in the health department. Then there is the education authority. When we come to read this White Paper we see—and I am not objecting to it; it is bound to be—that there is a certain overlap between all those services. You cannot draw a line and say, "All this is social welfare provided by the local authority, and everything is contained within that limit".

After all, there is the overlap in the case of the health authority. There is bound to be. The social welfare department is to look after people who have been ill, or are ill, and their difficulties. So is the health visitor. He also is going into the house and helping. There must be arrangements so that people from the different departments can work together without friction.

I come next to education. I see that the school attendance officer is to be under the education authority, and the school welfare service is to be under the social welfare department of the local authority. The education department deals with schools for handicapped children and all the rest of it. We might describe these as welfare services, but, again, the line must be drawn somewhere.

I would much rather have seen the children's panels, which are later called the children's hearings—there are so many fancy names in the scheme; it does not matter whether anyone ever calls these things by those names—under the education authorities. They are dealing with school children. They have to supply the reports and so on. It would have been much better if the children's hearings had been kept under the education authority, as was suggested by the Kilbrandon Report.

There is, however, one class of person included in the group whom I would exclude, and that is the officer who deals with ex-prisoners, the officer who works in connection with prisons, the officer who does work with the after-care of prisoners. I do not think that he should be included. I had some points that I should have liked to make about this, but as I see that the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, is to speak and he is an expert, I will leave it to him.

Having dealt with this group which we are to have—I have nothing against it except to register my view that there must be borderline cases—the next question I would ask is, what about staff? We can have a lovely plan on paper, any of us could write out a magnificent scheme, but the difficulty is to make it work. As we all know, the greatest difficulty is to get sufficient staff. There is not sufficient staff now for the services. I know that it is said that in this grouping arrangement there will be more efficient use of staff and more interchange of staff, but, even with all this, there is a great deal left to be done. I see that the Department of the Director of Social Welfare is to cost £300,000. I shall not deal with the cost, but that shows what an adequate staff will cost. How do we get the adequate staff? The adequate staff will be difficult to get.

There is one small sector with which we can make a comparison. Local authorities are empowered to supply domestic home helps. In future, they will not only be empowered, but it will be their duty, to supply home helps, and there are also to be laundry facilities. The reason why a great many local authorities are not supplying home helps is that they cannot get them. Whether we make it a duty or not, the first consideration is whether we shall get the staff to fulfil what we want. I am entirely in favour of it, but that is the difficulty.

Over and over again, both in the Kilbrandon Report and in the White Paper, we are urged to set up more residential establishments. They may be called approved schools, remand homes or anything else, but they will be residential establishments. I do not care what name is used, but I say again that we must consider how they are to be staffed. If we are to have a school or a home for difficult boys and girls, your Lordships would, I think, agree with me that it is worse than useless unless we have a first-class person in charge of it. How are we to get these people? I hope that we may be able to do so. It must, however, be remembered that we are absolutely dependent on getting more skilled and unskilled staff for this ambitious scheme, of which I am entirely in favour. I am trying to see whether we can do it.

Part III of the Bill deals with children's panels and children's hearings. These are awful words which will never be used, but that does not very much matter. The first thing I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, is this. Can he tell us—and those who composed the White Paper were unable to do so—whether it has yet been decided who is to appoint the members of the children's panels? This is an important point. In the Kilbrandon Report it is recommended that those appointments should be made by the sheriff; in the White Paper it says that the Government have not yet made up their mind.

There are going to be children's panels and from the children's panels there are to be the children's hearings—which, naturally, we shall call courts; so we need not bother about the name—and the children, when they are in need of care and protection or have committed an offence, will come before the three members of the children's panel. When I first heard of the scheme and first read in the newspapers that it had been recommended by Lord Kilbrandon's Committee that the juvenile courts were to be given up, I thought I should not be in favour of another scheme. But when I read the Report I see that it is going to be under the supervision of the sheriff the whole time. What happens? An official who is to be called the "reporter" and who is also to have an adequate staff—and with that I agree—is to bring the child before the hearing and to have all the information about his background.

If there is what is called an agreement, an agreement on the facts, between the three panel members and the child or the child's parents, then they can decide what is to be called the treatment or training that is to be given to him. In other words, if the child who committed the offence pleads guilty, then straight away the panel can lay down what particular training and supervision he is to have. If he does not plead guilty, if there is not what they call "co-operation", then the matter must go to the sheriff and there must be a court of law determination of the facts as to whether the child is guilty or not guilty. That leaves that decision with the sheriff; and I am sure that is good. The matter will then go back to the panel and the panel can arrange such things for the child as supervision in his home or in what is called a residential establishment. If, again, parents and child do not co-operate there can be an appeal to the sheriff over the length of supervision. I wonder whether any of us would think there is very much difference between detaining the child as a punishment or not as a punishment. It seems to me a little strange to find in the Bill that detention, as a punishment, is abolished. It is to be called a compulsory measure of care; but what difference will be apparent to the child or the parent I do not know.

Now, my Lords, I reach a part of the Bill with which I am in entire disagreement. I hope that the noble Lord will consult his right honourable friend so that at a later stage we can discuss it fully. I refer to the provision to allow the three panel members to issue a warrant, a warrant which when issued by a children's hearing shall have the same effect as a warrant for apprehension issued by a sheriff. I do not like that. I do not think that power should be given. Think what it is. Noble Lords who look at the Bill will find this referred to in clause after clause. These hearings can issue warrants for what is called an officer of the law to take the child away from his home and put him in a place of safety or a residential establishment. If the reporter thinks that the child may not turn up for the hearing, again he can take him from his home and put him where it would be known that he could be found. If he does not turn up there can be a warrant to apprehend him at his home. If he goes to the establishment and runs away again, there can be a warrant from the same people to apprehend him and bring him back. This is taking a very large power by those who have comprised the children's hearing, the three persons, to remove a child from his home. If the parents do not turn up at the hearing a warrant to bring them must be issued by the sheriff. I urge that we should have a change and that any of these warrants to deal with the child, to remove him from his home or to apprehend him, should come from the sheriff who has already been brought in in respect of an appeal and so on.

I do not wish to continue speaking, although there are other things that I should like to say. I wish the scheme well. It is an experiment, and I am entirely in favour of experiments. I think that we can make it better even now before we begin to work it. Above all, we must be clear that without extra, and trained, staff, it will be impossible to make this a good scheme. I should have thought that it would be mad to try to fit it into the existing structure of local authority. We should get the scheme ready and wait until we know what is to be the future structure of local authority, and try to fit it into that.

9.57 p.m.


My Lords, I must apologise to noble Lords because, due to the lateness of the hour, and the fact that I have to catch a train, I cannot stay until the end of the debate. Nevertheless, I am most anxious to take part because I speak as one who since 1948 has been chairman of a children's committee, with the exception of three years when I was chairman of an education committee. I am chairman of a probation committee which covers three counties, and for nine years I was Chairman of the Advisory Council on Child Care for Scotland. During the whole time I have been deeply involved in child care and social work in Scotland, and therefore I am extremely interested in this Bill, and I was very interested also when Lord Kilbrandon's Report came out.

Looking back on the nine years during which I was Chairman of the Advisory Council, when we were, as it were, working up for the White Paper and the Kilbrandon Report, I recall that there were three or four things about which we were conscious in the sense of not having aids to the work that we were trying to do. First, there was the acute shortage of trained social workers, particularly children's officers and child care officers. There were only a very few children's officers in Scotland who had had what I call real social work training. When vacancies occurred it was impossible to fill them with trained workers. Secondly, there was the lack of facilities for the training of social workers. In those days, with great care and a considerable amount of pressure, we got Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities to start generic training courses for social workers. These have been increased to some extent and there are training courses to-day at Jordanhill and Moray House. Nevertheless, even with all these courses we are desperately short of trained social workers.

Thirdly, we knew of the need to have much larger areas combining together for social work in order to be able to employ adequate staff for child care. Some counties and county burghs are still carrying on with part-time officers who have had no training in child care and are experienced only in such matters as public assistance and relief work which, I am sure noble Lords will agree, is different from the kind of case work and approach that we need in our social work officers.

Fourthly, still in reference to the past, there is a great shortage of trained treatment centres for maladjusted, handicapped and delinquent children, as well as a great shortage of approved schools and remand homes. With all these needs in mind, I personally welcomed the Kilbrandon Report and White Paper as setting out the principles on which our social work was to be based. In all the years that I have been chairman of a children's committee, I have felt frustrated by the fact that children are treated until the age of 5 by the medical services, from 5 to 15 by the educational services and at about 15 by other services; and if then they fall into trouble they are dealt with by probation and child care officers. We all know that children are not divided into neat little age packages, to be separately dealt with by local government departments: they are living human beings, struggling to grow up in a difficult world; and they want help, not on an administratively differentiated basis but on a basis of social care which covers the whole field of their lives and their families.

Now we come to what is happening at the present time. I believe that we have to start at the bottom and get things right fundamentally before we start to build a large administrative machine. It takes three years to train professional social workers. There are not nearly enough of them to-day, and a great many more will be needed if this Bill goes through. At present, they are simply not there. It is useless to set up a great administrative machine if we have not the trained people to put into it. Had I been responsible, the first thing I would have done would have been to provide more facilities for training social workers. Then, as my noble friend Lady Horsbrugh has said, we have to find the key person in these new departments, someone who needs to know about social work but who will also need some knowledge of the law and of local authority administration. It is difficult to find people who combine knowledge of all these subjects.

My noble friends Lord Lothian and Lord Mar spoke about the areas of these new social work departments. I feel strongly about this aspect. At the present time, county burghs are not the authorities for dealing with social work. To bring them in at this moment, seems to me to be a most retrograde step. As I have said, it is difficult to find trained workers now. We have 35 administrative groups which we have to staff. How on earth anybody thinks we are going to be able to staff 56 administrative groups, I do not know. It seems to me that this is "pie in the sky," whatever the pious hopes of training departments may be. If and when local government in Scotland is reorganised, the number of administrative centres is almost certain to be smaller. Yet all the people who have been heads of the social work department will not like to be brought into much larger areas, where they will be demoted from chief officers down to whatever grade is required for those bigger areas, at lower salaries. Any of us in local government know how impossible it is to suggest to people whose salaries have been on a particular grade that they are now going to have a salary on a lower grade. I do not think they will take at all kindly to having to be fitted into an area where their grade will be much lower.

I know that in my area, the Border area, where we have three counties in one probation area and two in the medical and sanitary area, far from breaking up this grouping, I would recommend the social welfare department to combine all three counties for the child care and welfare service. This would give an area where one could afford to pay proper salaries. I think it may well be larger under the Royal Commission, although, of course, I do not know what the Royal Commission Report will be. But it would certainly mean pay being larger rather than smaller, because the number of children you are dealing with is not so great, and you would be able to pay proper salaries to the people working in the department.

I should now like to turn for a moment to the problem of treatment, and the treatment centres which we want to see for the children with whom we are dealing. The treatment of problem families and of children, whether they are maladjusted, delinquent, mentally retarded, physically handicapped or with any other problems, is still—and this dates back a long way—lamentably difficult. Here, to me, is the nub of the difficulty. There are far too few psychiatric clinics. The work of such men and women, of genius, I may say, as Dr. Stone in Glasgow, Dr. Rodgers at Crichton Royal and Dr. Methven in Edinburgh, is beyond praise. But they can only deal with a small number of these disturbed children. Far more places are needed. Problem families, as most social workers know, are at the bottom of much juvenile delinquency: broken homes, mothers unable to cope and needing training in how to manage household and family care. The Mother-craft Centre in Dundee, set up in the first instance by a grant from the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, is the only place of its kind to help these inadequate families. It does a fine job. But here is only one treatment centre. Where are the others?

Help is needed for young people of adolescent age: residential accommodation, hostel accommodation for boys and girls to be able to live in a community, with some supervision, in order to be able to go out to work. We know that in the Bill approved schools are going to be dealt with in name; but there will have to be some kind of educational establishment of the kind that we now call approved schools which will be able to deal with difficult children. When it comes to trying to get accommodation for seriously mentally handicapped children, whose I.Q. is very low, and who will never be able to live on their own, the mental hospitals cannot take them, or can do so for only short periods. Where do they go?

This is where the real social problem of dealing with children and young people really lies. You may well do away with criminal charges, have family courts or panels, but at the end of the day, if there is no treatment available, you are no further forward. Long before I spent large sums of money on new administration, I should have spent money on the provision of diverse numbers of treatment centres. I remember when I was chairman of the Advisory Council it set up a Committee under Professor Ellis to recommend action on remand centres. The remand centres in Scotland were terrible. There was only one in Glasgow which had been specially built, and I know some steps are being taken to build new centres and to modernise old ones. I should like to hear from the Minister what the situation is now; whether these remand homes and such places are available, because we may set up the machinery but we can do nothing unless there are more places to which children can go for treatment. It is far more urgent to do something about that problem than it is to build 56 administrative centres when half that number would do.

I have not dealt with the position with regard to probation. My own view is that to include the Probation Service in the social work department up to the age of 16 is a good plan. Beyond the age of 16, when the offender will appear before the sheriff and not before the panel, is a matter to be further considered. In my county the sheriff feels strongly that he should be the person dealing with the young offender as well as with the adult, and I am bound to put his views before the House as I respect his skill and understanding in dealing with young offenders. It is also fair to state that the number of juveniles dealt with by the sheriff in those three counties in the last seven years has never been more than eighty-five. It seems a small number of cases for which to set up new machinery. In fact, there is no question that in the Border area there is only a part-time job for a reporter. A reporter could deal with a much larger area, but as things stand the three counties appear to be a large grouping compared with what is contemplated elsewhere. What is the reporter going to do for the rest of his time? He cannot be employed by the County Council. This is forbidden by the Bill. These are the questions which really require consideration and answering. My noble friend Lady Horsbrugh has also put some questions about the panels and about the children coming before the panels, and the rights of the panels to call back the children in particular cases under warrant. I have not had sufficient experience to have very strong views about this. The sheriffs are concerned that the boy or girl brought before the panel shall have no less protection against punishment than he or she would have under the criminal law. With that I am in entire agreement. As we know, the criminal law has strict rules of procedure. A heavy burden of responsibility is put on the prosecution to prove guilt, and the child is innocent unless the proof of guilt is absolutely clear. I hope the panels will be as scrupulous, but they will have to make their own rules of procedure, and this is what the sheriffs are anxious about. I do not think we should lightly reject their views.

These matters are of vital importance to us, and this Bill is of the greatest possible importance. I hope we may have sufficient time allocated to us in this House to deal with it in Committee and on Report, and that we shall be able to improve it—as I think we can do—because most of us here are anxious to sec it become a good and useful Act of Parliament.

10.15 p.m.


My Lords, I should first like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Mar, on his maiden speech. I thought he had disappeared, but I was glad to see him come back again to allow me to do this. I think I can claim to represent the views of my own Highland county council and, like other noble Lords who have spoken, also some of the opinions of all the Scottish county councils. While the contents of the Bill are, with certain reservations, welcomed, the timing of it is not. I fully realise that the Government are anxious to get this Bill on to the Statute Book, but I repeat that there is a Commission which is shortly to publish its findings on reform of local government, which will radically alter existing county boundaries. Even if the Government are unwilling to await the final implementation of the Commission's recommendations, could they not delay this Bill until six months after the Commission's findings were published? This would give a fair indication of likely events, such as whether all our crofter counties are to be made into a single unit or whether certain counties are to be allowed to amalgamate. Whatever happens, if this Bill is rushed through we shall have to start all over again when we know the new pattern of local government.

In view of this, I, in conjunction with other of my noble friends, find it necessary to give notice of an Amendment at the Committee stage of this Bill that it be not passed until at least six months after the recommendation of the Commission on Local Government is published. Other noble Lords have gone fully into objections to certain clauses of the Bill.


My Lords, I think my noble friend said he would like this Bill not to be passed. Did he not mean brought into operation?


I beg your Lordships' pardon; I meant brought into operation until six months after publication of the Commission's findings. I should, however, like a clear statement from the Minister as to whether or not the relevant clause means that the local authority health services are included, and also some clarification of the relationship between the social and medical aspect as far as it affects local authority services. Whether or not the single door is an acceptable answer, it should be pointed out that while in large authorities the desirable personal contact between various departments in the social field is not always possible, such contacts do exist in the Highland authority areas.

The question whether the Probation Service should be included has already been discussed and I understand will be discussed by a great expert very shortly. But it would appear that the establishment of attendance centres, such as exist in England and Wales, would be an advantage for the training of the young offender. The local authority, I think, should appoint their own director of social work without the help of an advisory committee. It must not be forgotten that all these proposals will increase the work and expenditure of local authorities so that additional and heavy financial aid will have to be found by the Government, and this, I think the Minister will admit, is particularly the case in the northern counties. The question of children's panels raises some important points, and there is no doubt in my mind that local authorities should have a say in the appointment of the members, while the appointment of the chairman should be left to the panel itself. As, so far as I understand it, the panels will have no legal power, would it not be wise that in special cases delinquent children between 12 and 16 could be brought before the sheriff? Alternatively the panel might be given powers to fine the parents.

Finally, Clause 5 of this Bill indicates some Government interference with voluntary organisations. I feel that this should be resisted. Apart from anything else, this could result in the withdrawal by many people of financial and other aid to these invaluable organisations. Having said that, I am not in any way denigrating the Bill. I think it is a valuable Bill. I think that the timing is not very good, and that there are one or two matters which, as your Lordships have said in this House, need a good deal more attention.

10.21 p.m.


My Lords, I feel it incumbent upon me to apologise to noble Lords from Scotland for intervening in this debate, which is essentially a Scottish matter. I also feel that, having regard to what I want to say to your Lordships this evening, I ought to declare a certain interest—not a financial interest, but an interest in so far as I was for something like fourteen years a member of the London Probation Service and have for some years been a member of the Inner London Probation Service; and, if I may say so with the greatest respect, have some knowledge of the Probation Service throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. Furthermore, my noble friend Lord Hamilton, who does not sit on these Benches and who cannot be here to-day, who is President of the National Association of Probation Officers, would, I think (although I have not been in touch with him, nor have I discussed with him this matter), be making some of the observations that I want to make to-night.

As your Lordships have gathered, this Bill is to bring various forms of social work under the sole control of the local authority. As the Explanatory Memorandum says, it means the creation of a local authority social work department with comprehensive powers covering this whole field and a duty to promote social welfare and to give advice and help to people who need it. On the face of it, one would say that this seems to be most desirable, for it would appear to be a step in the right direction. And I would not deny that there is a real need, not only, if I may say so, in Scotland but also in England, for this kind of general organisation which is envisaged in the Bill. Having said this, I want to make it perfectly clear that I find that a number of the intentions of the Bill cause me some disquiet and some concern.

Frankly, I can see no valid reason, no good reason at all, for the abolition of juvenile courts. I understand that there are but few areas in Scotland where they have juvenile courts, and I am aware that where they have not juvenile courts the juvenile offenders are brought before the sheriff courts. Nor can I feel that the setting up of children's panels is a better alternative—or even desirable. My chief anxiety is the proposed treatment of the Probation Service which, under this Bill, will cease to exist in its present form. I think this is a grave mistake. As I say, this seriously concerns me, and it also concerns the National Association of Probation Officers.

I have no time to deal adequately with the intention to abolish the present method of dealing with juvenile delinquents, or the rigmarole surrounding the scope and function of the proposed children's panel. Your Lordships will recall the debate in this House in 1966 on the White Paper, The Child, the Family and the Young Offender, which suggested the setting up of what were called in that White Paper family councils to replace juvenile courts in England and Wales, and many of your Lordships were not impressed then by the proposed changes. If I have understood the Bill correctly, it appears that in a large number of cases the appropriate action for dealing with a young offender will be decided by direct agreement between the social worker and the parents. If this aspect of the work of probation officers is to be taken away, bearing in mind that the probation officers have been specially trained to deal with, and to advise on, delinquency, what competence, if any, will the local authority social workers have to advise on behaviour problems? I think that the machinery suggested is open to abuse, and I believe that it holds dangers both for the worker and for the child.

Sweden has pioneered this very suggestion, and I think I am right in saying that Sweden is anxious to stop it, to alter it, because it has been found that the children's panels just do not work, that the members of the children's panels tend to reflect (and I say this because I think it affects both sides of your Lordships' House) the political view that they hold in the area in which they are appointed. Goodness only knows! we have had considerable difficulty in the United Kingdom, particularly in England and Wales, in finding a sufficient lumber of really competent people to sit as magistrates in juvenile courts. Yet these children's panels will be far more plentiful, and I do not know where the people are to come from.

I should like to remind your Lordships of an opinion expressed by the Ingleby Committee on the question of dealing with delinquents. The Committee said this: Specific and definable matters must be alleged, and there should be no power to intervene until these allegations have been adequately proved. In my submission, it is desirable that young offenders, if they are offenders, should not be dealt with without the protection afforded by court proceedings. I feel very strongly about this. I cannot spend more time on this aspect of the Bill at this hour, because I want to deal with the implications and effects which the Bill will have on the Probation Service.

The Probation Service in Scotland came in for a certain amount of criticism by the Morison Committee in 1962, and I want to mention this particular criticism. The Committee remarked that: A principal cause of failure of the probation service to develop in Scotland as it should have done is that it has been regarded not as a court service, but as a relatively minor local authority service. The Morison Committee held that this was a retarding feature so far as the Probation Service was concerned. Since then, largely as a result of that comment, the Scottish Probation Service has progressed, under the guidance of the Scottish Home Department, and is now a well-developed and efficient service comparable to that in England and Wales. Its officers are carefully selected, they are rigorously trained and are subject to oversight and inspection by inspectors of the Scottish Home Department. In other words, the probation system in Scotland is on precisely the same lines and level of competence and ability as in England and in Wales.

Probation committees in Scotland, although they include local authority representatives, are ad hoc committees, and are not committees of the local authority. The measure of success which these probation committees have achieved, helped by the process—and I want to repeat this again—of central selection and training, contrasts with the development of the social services of the Scottish local authorities. I hope my Scottish friends will forgive my o saying this, but it has already been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood. Not only do the social services in Scotland, in general, compare unfavourably with the similar services in England and Wales, but I think we have to face the fact that social work generally in Scotland is inadequately staffed and is largely untrained—and I do not say that in any sense to give offence. I think there are strong arguments for retraining an independent Probation and After-care Service. In my view, there must be central selection and training if the high standards in the Probation Service are to be maintained. Local authority selection and training must of necessity give rise to varying standards of suitability of the individual and varying standards of competence. This must follow.

I believe that the Probation Service must remain a separate service for several reasons. In the first place, it must be independent, free from any local authority department, and must remain part of the court service, responsible solely to the court. Secondly, probation officers must be seen to be independent. If a probation officer is a servant of the local authority, he may find himself ex- pressing a view or suggesting a course of action contrary to the policies or to the approval of his local authority department. As a probation officer, I have many times found it necessary, when a boy or a girl has absconded from a local authority home, to be critical in one's report of the local authority home. Can a probation officer do this if he is a member of a local authority? In my view, he must remain independent.

I also believe that the efficiency of the Probation Service within a local authority department could well depend on the local authority's view of crime and the cost to the rates in providing the various treatment measures which may be necessary. The present structure protects the probation officer and the Probation Service from such possibilities. It makes him an officer of the court, and responsible to the court and to the magistrate. I also feel it is important that the offender should see the probation officer as an officer of the court, and that the offender should be responsible to the court through the probation officer. I think it would not help the relationship between the delinquent and the probation officer if the delinquent felt that the probation officer was a local authority employee. I believe this is essential as part of the treatment.

The use of probation as a method of treatment and the confidence in probation which has been built up over the years has arisen because it represents the authority of the court operated by skilled, specialist workers. The new and growing responsibilities of the probation officer—and may I remind your Lordships what they are the supervision and aftercare of those who have been to borstal, detention centres and young offender institutions and, from April 1 next, those released on parole, in addition to those who have been subject to the normal probation officers—require skilled and specialist help. I feel that owing to the enormity of the task, the Probation Service should remain separate and independent and not become just another responsibility of an already overburdened local authority.

I am the first to realise that some of the skills of the probation officer are, in some ways, similar to the skills of other social workers, but this surely does not mean that merging is essential. Surely, it indicates that there must be co-operation. I believe that this is happening in Scotland at the present moment between the Probation Service and other social services. They are meeting, they are getting together and they are pooling their ideas and their experiences, but this can be done without making the Probation Service part of what I believe to be in some measure an untrained and already overburdened local authority.

I think that many of us feel that local authorities are already getting too large, and I do not feel that they can undertake effectively at the right level of personal relationship all that is required of them. To add the responsibility of the Probation Service would be to add to those difficulties.

We have to face the fact that delinquents present problems of anti-social behaviour which can have more far-reaching effects than the ordinary problems dealt with by social workers in a local authority. The Morison Committee, which was a Departmental Committee on the Probation Service in 1962—not many years ago—stressed the desirability of preserving the employer-employee relationship between magistrates and probation officers. If I may quote from its Report, the Morison Committee said: …we have no doubt that this relationship has been of prime importance in the growth of the probation sysem. It has fostered the courts' interest in probation and it has encouraged probation officers in their work by the assurance that their employers are people who are in daily touch with their practical problems. I find it very difficult that the Probation Service in Scotland should be included in the Bill with a view to putting it under the control of the local authority. I am informed that when this suggestion was made known, the Association of Scottish County Councils were against it. They may, I understand, have changed their opinion a wee bit, because I understand that when they made representations they were given to understand that nothing could be done. The whole of the Association of Scottish County Councils were, however, opposed to the inclusion of the Probation Service in the local authorities. The Sheriffs-Substitute Association are against it without qualification. The Medical Officers of Health Association are against it without qualification. The National Association of Probation Officers are against it, although I am the first to admit that there are some members of that Association who are willing to go in under local authorities. I am, however, saying that the Association as a whole and the majority of its members are against it.

I view the intention of the Bill as far as it relates to the Probation Service with suspicion, and I hope that my noble friend the Minister will come to the conclusion that references to the Probation Service should be excluded from the Bill. I do not think that I have ever had any great powers of persuasion, but, if I have any at all, I only hope that when we reach the Committee stage there will be an Amendment in the name of my noble friend the Minister to provide that Clause 26 should be deleted from the Bill.

10.40 p.m.


My Lords, like others, in principle I definitely welcome this Bill. I think Lord Kilbrandon has for the second time put all Scot and in debt to him. It has taken a long time for his Report, his work, to reach Parliament. His Committee took 2½ years to report, which they did in January, 1964; another 2½ years and the Secretary of State presented to Parliament a White Paper (Command 3065) in October, 1966; and another 2½ years has been taken in drafting the Bill. It is a pity that so long a time has elapsed. It makes one think that surely the Government can spare another year until they get the Report of the Royal Commission. The result of these delays has been that some of the best of the recommendations of the Kilbrandon Committee seem to have got "lost in the wash" or have got watered down over the years.

To my mind, the most interesting points of the Report are those on the juvenile panels and the abolition of the juvenile courts. The Report stresses the importance of the local nature of the panels which are to deal not on y with delinquency but also with refractory children who are beyond parental control and with truency. Hence, so far as children's hearings are concerned, I agree with the extension of the scheme to the large burghs in order that the children's hearings can be on an entirely local basis. But in this connection I regret the omission from the Bill of what is, certainly in this respect, the strongest recommendation of all in the Kilbrandon Report: that of the establishment in each area of a locally-based agency, publicly charged with specific responsibility for the prevention and reduction of juvenile delinquency. There is no mention of this in the White Paper or in the Bill as a major duty of the panel or of the hearing. As it is now constituted, the Bill sets up the panels to consider the children only and to have no wider responsibility for the general aspect of juvenile or children's delinquency in that part of the country. I hope that this will be put right and that it will be brought to the attention of these panels, when they are set up, that they have not only a responsibility to the children but also a responsibility to the community in which these children and they themselves live.

The second point which seems to have got lost is that concerning the constitution of the juvenile or children's panels. I think it a great pity that these are not to be appointed by the sheriff. After all, the sheriff is closely connected with juvenile delinquency, and the suggestion in the Report of a list of names submitted by the education committee to the sheriff sounds to me a wholly admirable one—infinitely better than the rather cumbersome method of establishing a Children's Panel Advisory Committee as is to be found in Schedule 2 of the Bill. This Children's Panel Advisory Committee will make recommendations to the Secretary of State who will then make the appointments. I submit that the sheriff who operates in the county is a better judge of these kinds of things.

My Lords, another point where the Government have not seen fit to follow the recommendations of the Kilbrandon Report has been referred to by several speakers, and by no one more strongly than by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. I will not go over all he said, but I should like to add one point to his list. The next step for probation officers in Scotland is that they are to be appointed as welfare officers in the prisons, as has already happened, I understand, in England. That gives them one more job far removed from the work of the juvenile courts or the local authorities.

The probation service attached to the sheriff court cannot be decently broken down to 56 or so authorities, as is contemplated in Clause 1. In Scotland at present there are some 29 probation areas, and six counties employ only part-time officers. I should like to quote from the Kilbrandon Report on this point. On page 43 it says: Probation has evolved in the closest association with the criminal courts. As such, it will of course continue but can have no place under the arrangements for juvenile panels. On page 93 the Report states: Probation has always been linked to the courts. As one method applied by the criminal courts it will continue. I recommend it not to have anything to do with the children's panels. Those are pretty definite words, my Lords, and I think the Government have to justify any departure from these recommendations by the Kilbrandon Committee.

After attacking the Government on these points I should like to conclude by referring to the voluntary bodies and to welcome the statement of the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, on this point. I regard the function of the voluntary bodies primarily to pioneer and to do forward-looking jobs which are necessary if we are to adjust these treatments to the changes in society and ways of life. The voluntary bodies have far more pioneering vision than local government or Central Government bodies. For that reason they should be encouraged. They should be given every possible help, including financial help. I entirely agree that where a voluntary body is not showing a pioneering spirit, or has settled down to antiquated methods, it should no longer be encouraged to exist. Lord Kilbrandon's First Report gave a tremendous help to the voluntary youth service, and I am glad to feel that his recommendations regarding the welfare service and the local authorities will also continue to be followed.

10.49 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to begin by protesting at the conditions under which this debate is taking place—not out of spleen or in order to waste your Lordships' time, but because I think it absolutely necessary that it should go on record that this debate is taking place under these conditions. At least one noble Lord has had to leave the Chamber early, and I am certain that every noble Lord who has spoken has had to curtail his remarks and been prevented from deploying his full contribution. As it is clear that a good deal of water will still have to flow under the bridge before the Bill leaves this House, I think this must go on record, so that on future occasions no one can say that we are talking too much.

Turning to the Bill, I accept that a measure of this nature is needed. It stems naturally from the Kilbrandon Report and the White Paper, and all noble Lords who have spoken have paid proper tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Kilbrandon, for his contribution to the welfare of young people in Scotland. But I cannot bring myself to support the Bill, because of its defects and because of its timing. With due respect, I differ from the noble Marquess and some other noble Lords who have said that they think something can be made of the Bill. I do not think that any amount of amendment of the Bill on Committee stage will put it into proper shape.

To me, even its Title is wrong. "Social work" covers so very much that this Title is the wrong one for a Bill referring almost exclusively to children and young persons. The debate in your Lordships' House yesterday struck me as making it abundantly clear that much more attention requires to be paid to the problems of old people in Scotland, in providing residential accommodation, domestic help and the like. Clause 13 makes a passing reference to this, but nothing like speakers yesterday envisaged as being necessary for the proper care of old people. I would support the suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, that there is need for what she called a "good neighbour" service. To add to my point about the curious structure of the Bill, I suppose that Clause 27, which gives local authorities power to bury or cremate, presumably refers to old people and not to children.


It refers to dead people.


The reference, of course, is to local authorities and their powers over the dead. Again, Clause 28, which refers to visiting, surely refers more to elderly people. The whole needs of old people should be brought into the Bill if its Title is to remain, Social Work (Scotland) Bill.

The main purpose of the Bill is obviously to deal with children and young persons, and the Bill is so full of defects that it would be much better to start again. The noble Earl, Lord Mar, in his maiden speech, which we welcomed so much, said that there would be plenty of time. The noble Lord, Lord Balerno, said that we had waited two and a half years for this Bill, and we could wait another year before we go any farther. There would be plenty of time for reconsideration and cogitation while we await the Report of the Royal Commission on Local Government.

Please believe, my Lords, that I am sure the whole outline of the service in the Bill could be improved. This is without question. But it does not make sense to me to propose that this can be done by merging the Probation, Prison, After-care and Child Welfare Services, and then splitting the whole thing up among a mass of local authorities. I live in Lanarkshire, where there is a good-going probation service, covering the whole county. Under these proposals this service would be split up into seven different parts. To me, the proposal is ludicrous, more especially when such changes will have to be altered again when the boundaries are redrawn by the Royal Commission. In any case, what did the White Paper say? The White Paper says in paragraph 6, on page 2: One of the main reasons for reorganising the services is to enable them to make a more rational and more effective deployment of staff. When you come to say that, what about the position in Lanarkshire? Let us take the three sheriff courts, the Lanarkshire Court in Glasgow, the Lanarkshire Court in Airdrie and the Lanarkshire Court in Hamilton. Under the proposals of the Bill there will be three probation officers going to Glasgow, three to Airdrie and four to Hamilton. So the three probation officers now required for these courts will be turned into seven. I do not call that an economic use of staff. Admittedly, prison after-care and probation services should be closely associated, but the probation officer must be an officer of the court.

Speaking as a Scotsman, I greatly welcome the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, who, speaking from his vast experience, appealed to his noble friend to think again over this matter, and even suggested that he himself might draft the necessary Amendment to the Bill in Committee. It is quite wrong, as the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, pointed out, for the probation officer to have divided loyalties by being a servant of a local authority. This is not only the view of the great majority of the probation officers in Scotland, as the noble Lord has said, but it is the view of the sheriffs, as he also said.

I make no apology for taking your Lordships' time. My noble friend Lord Stonehaven asked me when he had to go to apologise to your Lordships, and to express his disappointment at having to go; and he put into my hand a telegram which he asked me to read to your Lordships on his behalf. It is addressed to my noble friend and it says: Here you are speaking on Social Work (Scotland) Bill. Scottish Sheriffs-Substitute Association most anxious to avoid abolition of probation service and note with anxiety that it is proposed to change the criminal law of Scotland both on adult probation and on juvenile delinquents by means of Bill on local authority welfare. That is signed by the Sheriffs-Substitute Association. In reading that, I have not only done my duty to my noble friend Lord Stonehaven, but I have re-emphasised a point which I feel strongly, and which I, having taken the opportunity over the past few weeks to sound them, know is felt strongly by a number of authorities.

The Bill provides for panels, as recommended by the Kilbrandon Report. But that Report recommended that they should be appointed by the sheriff. This point has been made by my noble friend Baroness Elliot of Harwood, and by others. I would point out that the White Paper concurred with this. I believe that my noble friend Lady Horsbrugh suggested that the White Paper hinted that the Government were in doubt. I cannot see that, because on page 17, paragraph 63, the White Paper says: A children's panel will be set up on the area of each county and city on the lines recommended by the Kilbrandon Committee. That Report set out clearly that the panels should be appointed by the sheriff. I believe that local authority councillors are not fitted to select such panels. That point was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell. The difficulty is to get people with the right qualifications, and local authorities are not the people to do it, and they are still less fit to select a specialised staff.

I will not go so far as the Medical Officers of Health Association, when they contend that all that is claimed for the proposed social work services can be achieved within the existing structure. They believe that all that is claimed for this Bill can be achieved within the existing structure". I do not go all the way with that, but anxious as I am, and as every noble Lord is, to see that we get on with improving conditions for the young people and children in Scotland, if there is to be an interregnum between now and the time when a Bill which is workable and acceptable can be placed upon the Statute Book, can we not get on with spending even a fraction of the proposed £800,000 in developing the existing services?

I would go a long way with what the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood said, that perhaps the right thing to do is to get right ahead with spending adequate sums in training people so that they are ready when a Bill like this can be put into operation, because there are not enough of them and there are not enough establishments to which young people can be referred. I believe that time could be well spent between now and publication of the Report of the Royal Commission. Also let us face the fact that the economy of the country is not in the best state (shall we say?) at the present moment, and we must be careful just how deep we put our hands in our pockets, no matter how important the service is, because there are many important services.

This brings me to the question of cost. Roughing out in my mind what the Bill in its present form means, I rather feel that £300,000 and £500,000 will not be enough to cover the total cost, especially when there will be a multiplicity of panels, and under the Schedules it is to be left to the Secretary of State to decide what they shall be paid in terms of expenses and the like. Whichever way I look at it, this Bill is so half-baked that I believe no amount of gas, no matter how much we turn it on in Committee, is likely to cook it properly.

In conclusion, I make no apology for returning to the question of parental responsibilities. I should like to know what is being done to bring home to parents the fact that in so many cases young people become a charge upon the community because of their parents' neglect. In his Report Lord Kilbrandon gives a number of paragraphs to this question of parental responsibility and how it can be brought home to them. But I want to make the point I made when we debated the Motion on Sport, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, replied. I do not believe that enough is being done by the Departments of Government to use their publicity machinery to bring home to parents' this important fact that they are responsible. We have to face the fact that the "goggle-box" and Bingo are the reasons why so many children are turned out into the street, or go back to dark, cold and empty homes when they return from school. I should like to see the Press and the broadcasting authorities never cease to emphasise this. They do something but they should do more. And as I have said, let us use what powers we have in our own hands, in the hands of the Government, to impress upon parents the fact that their failure to meet their responsibilities involves the whole community in cost and, which is more important, involves young people in backwardness, distress and wrongdoing.

In the view I am taking of this whole Bill—my train is just leaving Euston—I am heartened by what has been said by the noble Earl, Lord Mar, and by the noble Baronesses, Lady Horsbrugh and Lady Elliot, and by others, because there is so much to complain about in this Bill, so much that can be improved in it, that I feel it is right for me to repeat my objections to the Bill; to its unacceptable proposals, its omissions, its timing and its very Title. For those reasons, I would vote against it on the Second Reading if things had gone otherwise. I would not have divided the House, but if anyone else had done so I would have voted against it. As we must now proceed with the Committee stage, we shall see whether any sense can be made out of it. If not, I am quite prepared to divide against it at a later stage, and it is for that reason that I prefaced my speech by the protest at the conditions which have led us to this situation. If noble Lords will forgive me, I must apologise to my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn and the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, whose stamina and patience has met with all our admiration, because the only other train I can catch will compel me to leave before they have finished speaking.


My Lords, may I say that my train left at 10.15.

11.7 p.m.


My Lords, we are now coming to the end of a very important debate, and I think it has been a debate on a very high level. We were very grateful indeed to the noble Lord, whose vocal powers sufficed to deliver a really spendid speech to us outlining the Bill. We have had the maiden speech from the noble Earl, Lord Mar, to whom we were very grateful. He gave a very forthright speech and expressed his point of view in a manner which was quite exemplary and quite that of an old hand, and we hope to hear him again. We have had a collection of experts, particularly my noble friends Lady Elliot and Lady Horsbrugh, the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell—whom we are most glad to welcome in our debate; we thank him very much indeed for participating and for his advice—and my noble friend Lord Balerno, finishing up with a characteristically vigorous speech from my noble friend Lord Ferrier.

The characteristic of this Bill, I think, is that it has two main aspects. First of all, there is the aspect of the unification of the social welfare services, which I think has been welcomed by everybody, although with certain reservations by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier. And the establishment of the children's panels, which has had a rather more mixed reception, as indeed one might have expected. Involved with the establishment of children's panels is the whole question of the Probation Service, about which I shall say something in a moment or two. The main point of criticism has been not so much on the content as on the timing. I am not going to put a lot Of questions to the noble Lord because he has been sorely strained to-day, though I am bound to say it is his own fault; he should not have had Part III of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill in the Bill at all. I am not going to put a strain on him, and I would not expect him to pick up all the questions that have been asked to-day, but there is one matter about which we should be most grateful if he could give us an opinion, because so much of the criticism has been on the question of timing.

I understand well that this Bill creates a legislative framework. The cladding can, and will, be put on over decades. What we are more concerned about at the moment is the structure. It seems odd that one should determine a structure of this far-reaching character just at the moment when we have sitting a Royal Commission on Local Government—the general organisation of local government. What I should like to know from the noble Lord is this. This Bill deals with accommodation; it deals with staff and with the general legislative framework. These really are separate aspects. But until you fix the framework you cannot do much. How long does the noble Lord reckon that it will take to establish the framework, in the sense of recruiting your directors of social work, getting their staffs mustered, setting up the children's panels, recruiting their members and training them? How long is all this going to take? I hope, with my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood, that once you have fixed this new pattern you will be able to recruit much more staff because you will have more obvious career prospects. You will, we hope at any rate, have larger units, and there will be the possibility of using the new directors of social work to train their staffs and to train the new intake that is coming into them.

All this is to the good. But it is difficult for us to judge of the merits of this proposal of the structure unless we know what this element of time is going to be. I personally feel that it is going to need a great deal of justification on the part of the noble Lord. I am not going to ask him to do it to-night, because obviously we shall have to discuss this subject at great length on the Committee stage. This departure from the proposals, which admittedly were on balance in the White Paper, is going to require a great deal of justification. Of course, that is not the only point at which it seems that there has been a departure from the White Paper; but I am not clear about that.

There are one or two short points that I should like to ask the noble Lord about. First of all, I would ask him whether the Government have changed their mind on the proposal in paragraph 30 of the White Paper, where it says: It is therefore proposed that these services of social support in the care and after-care of the ill, mentally disordered and handicapped should be undertaken by the new department. I appreciate that in a structural Bill like this, with this broad legislative framework, you cannot mention all the valuable services. But am I right in thinking that the health visitors are not included under this broad umbrella? If that is so, then of course there is a departure from the White Paper.

The next point in the White Paper about which I should like to ask is in paragraphs 32 and 33, which conclude by saying: It is therefore proposed that the new department should be responsible for the provision of support and assistance to old people, including the provision of old people's homes and day centres. There I understood that there was no departure. I hope I am right in that, and that they are covered, despite the strictures of the noble Lord, Lord Amulree. For my own part I would not agree with him, because, quite obviously, not only is there going to be a problem of co-ordination here, but there is going to be great activity of co-operation, because the various expert services will have to be called in from time to time. The point he seemed to miss was that so much of this is going to depend on the advice of the individual's own general practitioner, not on the medical officer of health of the local authority.

The third point is that I should like to know whether the provision of temporary accommodation, as well as the social rehabilitation of the homeless families, will be covered by the Bill. I imagine that this is so, but I should like to know how this fits in with the National Assistance Bill. Is there an overlap here; and who is going to determine who provides what? Then, again, is there any legislative provision required for the amalgamation of the Scottish Office's inspectorates for approved schools, child care, probation and the health departments' welfare officers? I am sure this is intended, but I could not find the provision in the Bill.

As I said, a great deal of the criticism on this subject was in regard to the treatment of the probation officers. I should like to refer to the Report of the noble Lord, Lord Kilbrandon, but first I should like to join very sincerely in the gratitude that has been expressed to him not only for the tremendous work that he put in on this matter, but for his very great interest in social work as a whole. He said in paragraph 140: One necessary consequence of our proposals is that the present distinction between supervision under the 1937 Act and probation as methods of treatment for juveniles would cease to exist. If that distinction ceases to exist, and if what probation officers are going to be required to do is to supervise along with the social workers in the social work department, then of course one has to look and see what the consequences will be.

Surely the overriding consideration must be the welfare of those in need of care, and not the administrative convenience. The administration has to be adapted to the needs of communities and individuals, and not vice versa. I suggest that with children who are out of parental control the important thing is that there should be one individual to whom the child can look for guidance and support; one individual who can both educate the parents in the exercise of their responsibilities and lead the child back to the love and respect of his parents and the acceptance of parental discipline. For a boy where there is no father, it seems to me important that that individual should be a man, especially when the boy is approaching puberty. There is a positive benefit in integrating the probation service with the other social welfare services, at least so far as child care is concerned. There is then the problem of youth and later the probation service for adults and the after-care of offenders.

Yesterday we were talking about the difficulties of families where the father is in prison, and the same difficulties are apt to continue when the offender comes out of prison. It seems to me that there will be considerable advantages in having the same person involved. I was a little surprised that it was taken as an argument against the co-ordination of the Probation Service that they were now going to be visiting prisons as well. If they are going to visit prisons and the families of the prisoners at the same time, I should have thought that that might be a valuable co-ordination. These are matters that we can discuss at considerable length on Committee, and I am sure that we shall, but I wanted to express my own feelings about this, which are not entirely in line with some of the views that have been expressed this evening.

It seems to me, so far as I can see at the moment, that the balance of advantage for the family as a whole points to the integration of the Probation Service with the other social welfare services, while retaining its separate, specialist identity. I take the point of the noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, about the need for the probation officer to be independent. It so happens that I have had a little experience in what is now the Ministry of Social Security, and there, of course, they have independent insurance officers within the framework, officers who give their independent advice. I have no doubt that from time to time they criticise what is done by others, but they are independent people.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will be good enough to give way—he has done so—perhaps I may say that I think the real objection is that if the Probation Service becomes part of the local authority the probation officer must of necessity be under the director, and must therefore be controlled by the policy of the director and by the policy of the department. Therefore, he cannot be independent because he is responsible to the director and is controlled by the policy of the department. This is my point; and I am sorry I did not make it more clear.


With respect, the noble Lord made his point abundantly clear, and I fully understood it. I quite see that there are times when he may want to criticise the department itself. I quite understand that. What I was saying was that there are precedents for having an independent officer within such a framework. I cannot pursue the point further to-night, but I thought it was worth while making it.

It seems to me that at least it might be worth while giving this a trial. But I would say that, in my view, it will work only if the probation officers are given an equal chance of promotion on merit—and this was a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, referred. I see no reason why probation officers should not become directors of social work. Indeed, I can remember one or two who, by their personality, by their authority and by their experience, would be very well qualified indeed to become directors.

I appreciate that the Bill implements the White Paper in so far as the statutory position of the probation officer is abolished, but I also note that the White Paper, if I understood it correctly, intended the training course for probation officers to be retained. It is the White Paper to which I am referring. If this is so then the probation officers are going to be identifiable within the system still. What I should like to see at the moment—because I think this is an experiment—is the integration, if it takes place, carried out in such a way that it is not irrevocable. If it works, it will be justified: if it does not, it can be changed. It occurred to me only during the course of this debate that one answer might be to make the probation officers the servants of the reporter instead of the servants of the social work department. There would then be very much less difficulty because they could be the servants of the reporter for the children and continue to be the servants of the courts for the adults.

The other thing about which there has been a great deal of discussion has been children's panels, on which I should like to say one or two words. Everybody recognises that the success of these panels will depend upon the quality of people recruited to them and on the skill of the reporter. We shall have to examine Schedule 2 very carefully, particularly the composition of the advisory committees. In my view, there is a good deal to be said for making the sheriffs the chairmen of the committees. Lord Kilbrandon's Committee recommended that the sheriffs should determine the number and location and appoint the members and deputy-chairmen of the panels. The Bill provides for the Secretary of State to do all this. This again, however, is a Committee point.

A good deal of reference has been made to the reporter. In paragraph 98 of their Report, the Kilbrandon Committee recommended that the reporter should be: an officer combining a legal qualification with a period of administrative experience relating to child welfare and educational services". They are pretty rare birds, my Lords. That will not be easy to achieve. Therefore, in Clause 35, the Secretary of State retains control of the list of applicants from whom reporters are to be chosen. This is in marked contrast with the choosing of the directors of social work in Clause 3, where, once the Secretary of State has prescribed the qualifications, the choice is left to the local authorities. With the reporters, however, the Secretary of State keeps control of the panels. I hope that he will stimulate recruitment and training of people with these qualifications.

The only other point that I should like to make is that it is important that cases should be referred sparingly to the reporter. I hope that the recommendation of the Kilbrandon Committee, that the system of police warning and police juvenile liaison officers should be encouraged, will be followed. It seems to me that this is the right way to deal with the isolated caper—for example, the boy who takes a piece of wood painted with his football team's colours to a football match. We Scots believe that that could not happen in Scotland. I do not mean that the boy could not take it, but I do not think that the same results would follow. As the Kilbrandon Report says, the exercise of a measure of discretion has for long been an inherent—and in our view commendable—feature of the Scottish system of public prosecution". It is one of the ways in which the system is superior to that below the Border. I hope that that system will be continued under the new arrangements for children's panels, both for its own intrinsic advantages and so as not to overload the panels.

It is idle to pretend that there will be no humiliation, either for the child or for his parents, in being summoned before the children's panels; and that is in itself a wholesome deterrent. The fact that it is not to be a public humiliation is very much to be welcomed, but the humiliation should not be inflicted lightly. The success of the system will, in my view, depend on the reporter's exercise of his discretion under Clause 38 to refer the matter to the local authority. It is not clear from the Bill that the local authority will have power under Clause 37 to refer the case back to the reporter if the child and the parents are recalcitrant. I suggest that in Committee this might be made clear.

Those are all the points that I wanted to make on the Bill. I express a welcome to both Parts of the Bill, both to the unification under the director of social welfare services and also the setting up of the children's panels. There are occasions when Scotland can pilot schemes and show the way. From what was said in the debate yesterday, it looks as if the rest of the country will look very carefully to see how this works. The mere fact that it may not be working too well in Sweden is a factor which has to be taken into consideration, but we may be able to profit by that experience and not make the mistakes which have led to the comparative failure in Sweden. For my part, I should give a general welcome to the Bill, but I must warn the noble Lord the Minister that he may have trouble with Clause 1.

11.30 p.m.


My Lords, as noble Lords are aware, it is my custom when replying to a debate to try to pick up as many points as possible. With that in view I gave instructions that I wished to be kept as well primed as possible with material—and your Lordships can see the result. But when I made that arrangement I expected to be replying to the debate at about 9.30 p.m. and not at 11.30 p.m. In view of the strictures which were repeated by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, I will repeat, since he does not seem to have taken it in, that the responsibility for the Bill's coming on at this late hour is not that of the Government. The intention was to finish the Committee stage of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill on Tuesday, and at the express request of certain Scottish peers—a request, I may say, that I thought perfectly reasonable—we went to a great deal of trouble to get Parts of the Bill left over for consideration to-day.

I must say—not in criticism of those noble Lords but in defence of the arrangers of Government business—that they were aware of the fact that there was a Second Reading of a major Bill on this day. We had no indication at all that they intended to discuss the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill—and in particular Part III of it—at such extraordinary length. If I had had any intimation of that kind I should have been willing to help accommodate noble Lords in having a day other than Tuesday to consider their points—but it would not have been to-day. I think I am entitled to make that point.

It is impossible for me at this hour—and, in any event, with so many noble Lords who have asked for information having had to leave in order to catch the train or plane that they had originally intended to catch, or the one after it—to reply adequately. It does not seem to me it would serve any useful purpose that they should look through Hansard to see if I had answered their points and, if so, how I had answered them. What I will undertake to do is this. All substantial points raised in the course of this debate will be answered in correspondence in such a way as will help noble Lords concerned to make up their minds what Amendment; they would wish to table.

The second point I wish to make is this. Although we have discussed this Bill later than we should have liked, although some noble Lords haw compressed their speeches—an example which I assure the House I intend to follow—I do not think the debate in any way suffered because of it. We have had a demonstration that short speeches can be just as effective, if not more so, than long speeches. I say, without hesitation, that the debate impressed me infinitely more than the previous one—and not because this debate has been lacking in criticism of Government proposals

I do not regard it as part of my task in replying to this debate to attempt to rebut any of the points of criticism made, except one. I regard it as my job, in dealing with a Bill of this kind which makes such fundamental changes, to give the fullest possible consideration to every suggestion that has been made. The exception is a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, who said that he did not like the Bill at all; that he considered it incapable of improvement and would have voted against the Second Reading if there had been somebody else of the same mind. With that exception, I regard every proposal and every criticism made as one that we must look at from this point of view: Is it likely to make the Bill a better one than it is as printed?

I wish to assure your Lordships that there will be adequate time on Committee. We are not committed to rushing this Bill through the Committee stage in one day. If it requires a second day, a second day will be made available. There will be a reasonable time between Committee stage and Report stage.


My Lords, I wonder whether I might make a point to the noble Lord. I think he may have difficulty in judging, merely from the Amendments put down, the length of time required for this Bill. I think this is the sort of Bill that one would want to discuss clause by clause.


My Lords, I give a firm assurance that we shall not rush the Committee stage any faster than is necessary. I accept that it is a prime requirement that the Bill should be discussed adequately. By that, I do not mean that I am giving an open invitation to noble Lords and noble Baronesses to talk as frequently and as long as their stamina will permit, but I do encourage them to put forward any proposal which they think will improve the Bill.

The one point on which I wish to say something is the question of timing, because so many of your Lordships have referred to this. The introduction of the legislation has not been rushed. After all, it was in 1961 that the Report stressed the urgency of something being done in relation to delinquent children, and here we are, seven years later; so there is need to get legislation. The options open to the Government were to introduce legislation now, with the Wheatley Commission Report still ahead of us, or to wait not merely until the Wheatley Commission had reported but until all the deliberations that must follow that Report had taken place and the necessary legislation had been implemented. The likelihood, my Lords, is that if we had done so, we should not have been acting for another five years. This, I think, would have been intolerable.

The alternative was the one which the Government chose, to introduce a Bill now. But I would remind your Lordships that the Secretary of State will have power to fix different appointed days for bringing into operation different sections of the Bill and different purposes. It would be foolish in the extreme if the Government, having got the Bill on to the Statute Book, were so to attempt to operate it as to frustrate its objects. There have been some terrible misconceptions about the likelihood of 56 probation services being set up. The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, foresaw the number of three in Lanarkshire being increased to seven. I wonder how many of those who worry about the probation service are aware of the fact that at the present time the service is legally based on the burghs, and the fact that there are so few is due to the success which has attended the voluntary getting together of authorities.

A reference was made by the noble Earl, Lord Mar, in his excellent maiden speech—and I hope, like everyone else, that, now he has found that the water is not so cold as he feared it would be, he will venture in much more frequently. It will be our delight, and I hope that he will enjoy it so that it will also be his delight. The noble Earl pointed out the combinations that have taken place with local authorities for other purposes. I assure you, my Lords, that it will be a great disappointment to my right honourable friend if this process of a voluntary getting together, in anticipation of the compulsory get-together after Wheatley has reported, does not take place. We will certainly give every encouragement to the maximum amount of voluntary co-operation between authorities.

Given that co-operation, the important thing was to get legislation on the books and then implement it in the best possible way. We believe that we took the right decision to do this now, instead of waiting for another four or five years. The trouble in this country is that so often we find it easy to make excuses for not doing something at the present time and find it so much more desirable to do it next year, or the year after. This was a temptation that we put behind us. I am certain that the consideration which this Bill will receive in your Lordships' House in its succeeding stages, and the attention that it will get in another place, when it goes there, will give us a piece of social legislation of which Scotland will be proud and to which we may expect other countries to look when in due course they seek to carry out their own legislation on social work.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.