§ 3.50 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (LORD STONHAM)
My Lords, I apologise for my unexpected lateness. It is unusual for Scottish business to be so rapid. I now beg to move that the Children and Young Persons Bill be read a second time. This is a Bill about children in trouble. I want to speak first about these children and their backgrounds, and then to show how the Bill is part of the historical process of making the law about children more humane, juster and more effective. It is not a very long historical process. I can recall my grandmother telling me of a child being hanged for stealing a loaf of bread. In my own childhood, prison for children under 14 was still the rule, the law of the land. It was not until 1932 that we raised the minimum age of criminal responsibility to the ripe age of 8. It stands at 10 years to-day, despite the very great efforts of my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger when we sat on the other side of the House. The forces of reaction have indeed been strong, and the high crime figures are the bitter harvest we reap from them. This Bill takes a big step forward and I want briefly to describe what each group of the Bill's provisions aims to do for children in trouble and how the Bill will affect those who work with them.
My Lords, I present this Bill to you as a Socialist: a Socialist committed to this Government's policy of developing the social services; committed to the idea of social justice for all. For many years I have worked on behalf of prisoners, the drop-outs of a defective society. Always in working with them I have recognised that I am dealing with the sorry end products of continuous social failure; a combined failure of the machine, the courts and of society at large. With nearly all of them we were starting too late. This Bill seeks to remedy that; to 1129 deal with the problems at the very beginning.
As a Member of another place I was continuously concerned in my constituency surgeries with the kinds of problem which this Bill is about. I know from personal experience how closely delinquency is related to unsatisfactory and deprived backgrounds. A child from a poor neighbourhood, or with ineffective or absent parents, is much more likely to get into trouble than a more fortunate child. This is not the fault of those who administer the law. It reflects the fact that children who are deprived of the love and support that all children need; who swim in the lowest streams in their schools; who go into dead-end jobs at 15; who have nowhere to play but the streets—these are the children who are much more likely to be caught breaking the law than children who do not suffer these disadvantages. This has been confirmed many times over in reports from research workers and others. We constantly hear about it from those who work with children. Only the other week the President of the Association of Child Care Officers said at the Association's annual conference:Where does delinquency come from if not from deprivation in the broadest sense of the word?She described the juvenile courts as:A segment of the social services reserved almost exclusively for the working class".
My Lords, these are the unhappy facts. I know from my own experience. I know, also, what is all too likely to happen to children who suffer from these disadvantages if not enough is done to control and help them when young. I have met all too many of those who end up as failures, and spend much of their adult lives filling our prisons. One of the major aims of this Bill is to help redress this situation, to prevent these children from ending up as prisoners, or in mental hospitals, or living on social security benefits because they cannot hold down a steady job.
The whole heart of this Bill is in Clause 1, where it says that a court may make an order in respect to a child only if it is satisfied that one of conditions (a) to (e) of subsection (2) is present; provided also that the court is satisfied that the child or young person is in need of care or control which he is unlikely to 1130 receive unless the court makes an order. Suggestions have been made in some quarters that because of this last proviso this Bill is discriminatory. It has been said that Clause 1 will mean that children from what the critics describe as "bad homes" will be taken to court, and those from "good homes" will "get off". I would never lend my name to a Bill which had that effect. I say categorically that the effect of this Bill is the exact opposite of what these critics have alleged. They have completely misunderstood or they have misinterpreted the facts. It is the present law which operates in a discriminatory fashion against the less fortunate families in our society—not because the law itself is discriminatory, but because of the sordid facts of life.
Clause 1 of the Bill does not say a single word about good homes or bad homes. It requires those concerned in the administration of the law to take account of the whole of each child's background. It positively requires them to avoid court proceedings and a court order if they can. It requires them to avoid it even if the child's background is poor; even if his parents are not doing a very good job. The sole criterion is the child's need and if that need can be met without an order, then no order can be made. And surely, my Lords, the child's need must be paramount. The purpose of Clause 1 is to give more help than at present to less fortunate children and their families, so that fewer of the children are taken before the courts. It discriminates in their favour, so that we may add true equality of treatment, and social justice, to formal equality before the law.
At the same time, the Bill will remove indefensible discrimination which happens now. For example, throughout the country today the police caution children instead of taking them to court, and very properly. But this is practised with great unevenness in different parts of the country. In Devon and Cornwall, for example, two child offenders out of three are cautioned. At the other end of the scale there was an area where until recently only one child in 20 was cautioned. The other 19 were taken to court. Another form of discrimination between different parts of the country is the choice of the court between sending a child to 1131 an approved school or making a fit person order. The difference is much less now than it was, say, nine years ago, but then the proportionate difference in the courts of England and Wales from the highest and lowest between making approved school orders or fit person orders was 24 to one. That, my Lords, is discrimination if you like! But I have not seen great volumes of letters in the national Press about it.
What I have said about the background to the Bill will, I believe, make clear the object behind the early clauses, Clauses 1, 4, 5, and 7, which deal with the jurisdiction and powers of the juvenile courts. Their broad effect is this. In due course, it will cease to be possible to prosecute children under the age of 14—they will no longer be criminals—and there will be restrictions on the prosecution of those aged 14 and under 17. Any court proceedings relating to offenders under the age of 14 will be civil and not criminal in nature, and the court will be able to make an order only if satisfied that this is necessary to secure the care or control which the child needs. As we know, a good many youngsters commit offences in twos and threes, or in gangs. I know that there is some concern on the question whether, in such circumstances, it would be fair for some of those jointly involved to be taken to court and others not. If noble Lords will look at page 19 of Children in Trouble, Appendix A, they will see there the criteria set out, which my right honourable friend in due course will embody in regulations under Clause 5(4), and which will determine whether a young person, aged 14 to 17, who has apparently committed an offence, will be prosecuted. Among these criteria for prosecution is 2(l)(g), which reads:The offence was committed in company with some other person … who is to be prosecuted".I submit that that is a clear answer in regard to young persons. Naturally this will not always be done, any more than it is now, but the situation is clearly being catered for.
With children under the age of 14, the situation is quite different. Here the Bill has two main aims: first, that each child should be dealt with according 1132 to his own individual circumstances and needs, not according to any regulation or any rule of thumb. Secondly, it is important to make use of all the facilities which are available for providing care and control without recourse to the courts; and there has been very general support for this principle of dealing with children outside the courts if possible. Situations inevitably arise when two or more children—I am talking now about children under 14—are involved jointly in an offence, their other circumstances being quite different, and it is clear to all concerned that they must be dealt with differently according to those circumstances. Those who suggest otherwise are demanding that we abandon the principles of the Bill, if the result of applying them would be that one child involved in a joint offence was taken to court and the other was not.
My Lords, I ask you, should our criterion of fairness be the particular machine for dealing with the child or should the criterion be the child's need and how that need can best be met? Surely there can be only one answer. I, for one, refuse to abandon the child for the sake of the machine and I refuse to abandon the basic principles of this Bill. We all know that juvenile courts, in the honest discharge of their functions, discriminate sharply between joint offenders: one may be sent to an approved school, another conditionally discharged. The parents and the child naturally often resent this differentiation, but no one ever questions that it is clearly right that courts should take account of differences in the background and history of different children, even if they are joint offenders.
It is, in my view, less than honest to say that the court's procedure is fair, as it is, and then to argue in the same breath that it would be unfair if, for the same kind of reasons, one child was taken to court and placed under the supervision of a local authority and another child, involved in the same offence, was helped by the same local authority in much the same way but without the need for a court order. Is anyone prepared to argue that only magistrates may differentiate beneficially between children? To do so, would be not only to reject Part I of this Bill 1133 but also to reject the idea that the social services should help children in trouble, whenever possible, without recourse to the courts. We cannot have it both ways. If we really believe in this aim, we must accept that social workers and the police can and should be trusted to differentiate between children whose needs and circumstances are different.
This is not a new idea. It happens now. When the police decide that one of two joint offenders should be prosecuted and the other should not, and the reasons for (his are explained carefully to the parents of the child who is prosecuted, our experience shows that often the parents accept that this is fair. They are often much less perturbed than when there is similar differentiation in court. We have plenty of experience that the police and local authorities are competent and proper bodies to exercise this kind of differentiation and that parents and children can understand the reasons for it and accept its fairness. There is also plenty of experience that, when courts differentiate, there is no guarantee that the decision will be accepted as fair.
Unfortunately, some magistrates are unable to accept that the child's view of fairness is not the same as the magistrates'. An example is the letter in yesterday's The Times from Mrs. E. S. M. Price, Chairman of the Haywards Heath Juvenile Court. Referring to the serious objections which she has to different criteria, she writes:I should like to make a suggestion which would, I think, satisfy most people concerned, who accept the underlying intention to keep children out of court wherever possible. This would be to the effect that, where one or more children are jointly concerned in the commission of an offence, and one of these is to be brought to court under Clause 1(2)(e) plus the proviso quoted above, then all other children jointly concerned in that offence shall be brought before the court without the need to satisfy the proviso.That is to say, even if they are not in need of care and control. The letter goes on:This would go a long way towards removing the sense of injustice that will otherwise be felt by the children 'picked on'…Just imagine that a number of children have been thought to be involved in the same offence. It is thought that one should be brought before the court and, as the others are not in any need of care and control, they should not be brought before 1134 the court. The chairman of this juvenile court thinks that they should and that this would fulfil everybody's sense of justice.
It is a long time since I was 10, but I still remember the rankling injustice of one incident of my childhood. I was sitting in the front row of the form. There was a disturbance at the back and the master, who presumably had a liver that morning, decided to cane the whole form. He started at the back and got to me almost last. I looked straight at him and I think that he was even sorrier than I was. A great many things I have forgotten, but one thing I do remember is the rank injustice of that occasion. That is why I say that a child's idea of justice is not always the same as that of the justices, and why I say that we must consider the needs of the child and not the perfection of the machine.
The fact is that differentiation is enshrined in the social circumstances, and, indeed, in the parents of different children. It is already there and unavoidable if children are to be treated according to their individual circumstances, as they must be if the system is to operate equitably. It would be intolerable to have a rule of thumb that joint offenders must always both be taken to court unless both can be dealt with out of court. There are no grounds for abandoning our principles in this one category of case. To do so would make the system even less fair than it is now, and very much less fair than it will be under the Bill. We should have equality of misery, not social justice. I am for social justice. I therefore reject utterly what I regard as the narrow and unreal idea of "fairness" which is implicit in the criticisms of Clause 1 of the Bill.
I understand that there is also some concern, which again I do not share, about whether it is prudent for Clause 4 of the Bill to operate up to the 14th birthday, and about whether this and other provisions of the Bill will throw too much strain on to the local authorities. This process will be carefully phased. In the first instance, it is the Government's intention that Clause 4 shall be brought into operation only for children aged 10 and 11. It will not be brought into force for children of 12 or 13 until we are satisfied that local authorities have 1135 the necessary resources of manpower to cope with the work involved, and that experience of the new system up to the twelfth birthday indicates that it would be sensible to extend it to older children. In 1963 there were only 1,549 child care officers in post. By March, 1968, the number had increased to 3,048—another of the minor, unheralded miracles achieved by this Government. A 1,500 increase in five years gives us every confidence that we can achieve the further necessary increase within a reasonable period, particularly as the output of trained students, which was only 50 a year in 1960, will have increased to some 700 a year by the end of next year. A final safeguard is that subsection (7) of Clause 32 provides that an order applying Clause 4 to children of 12 or 13 will require an Affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, and, of course, can be debated here. Since I have mentioned Clause 32 out of turn, perhaps I may add that this same approach, of introducing the various provisions of Part I of the Bill gradually, is the whole object of this clause. I can give a firm assurance that there is no intention of rushing these provisions into operation before the necessary resources are available.
I should like now to mention briefly two important new provisions in Clauses 12 to 19, the clauses about supervision. First, subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 12 deal with what was described in Children in Trouble as "intermediate treatment". These statutory provisions do no more than provide the necessary legal and administrative framework. This framework is intended to give wide scope to local authorities, the Probation Service, juvenile court magistrates, the police and voluntary agencies working with children, to make use of all the resources they have available in their locality and others that they will provide for children placed under supervision. The provisions open the way for many constructive possibilities for giving new experiences, a taste of adventure, particularly to children from deprived backgrounds, without the need for long-term removal from their own home and their own environment.
The other important provision in these clauses is subsection (2) of Clause 13. This draws the boundary between the 1136 work of the Probation Service with children and that of the Children's Service. Obviously this is a very difficult boundary to draw if we are to satisfy everyone. The clause recognises the primary responsibility of the Children's Service for working with children under 14, but gives the courts complete discretion to use either the Children's Service or the Probation Service from the fourteenth birthday upwards. There is also provision for probation officers to supervise children under 14 in families where they are already working or have worked previously. It is natural that all those concerned with the Probation Service should feel some regret at the loss of some of their work with young children, although it forms only a small proportion of the wide and growing range of functions which the service undertakes. Probation officers have made a great contribution to work with juveniles, and I join with others who have paid tribute to it. Nevertheless, complete duplication between the work of different services does not make sense, and I believe that the way in which we have defined the boundary between the two services is a sensible one. Indeed, it is more widely accepted than any other which has been put forward. Certainly, with the growth of the After-care Service, including parole and the possibility of added duties in respect of non-custodial penalties, probation officers cannot complain that their opportunities for service are not increasing in importance, in variety and in volume.
I now turn to the provisions which deal with the treatment of children in the care of local authorities—Clauses 24 and 25 and 33 to 48. These embody, with little modifications, the proposals which have long been before the public in Children in Trouble, and have been generally welcomed. I shall limit my comments to two points on which discussion has concentrated—the position of the child under a care order, and the system of community homes.
The powers and duties of local authorities when a child is committed to their care by a care order will be much the same as their powers and duties under the present law when a child is committed to their care as a "fit person". At any one time, over 22,000 children up to the age of 18 are in care under 1137 fit person orders. They include offenders, persistent absconders and aggressive teenagers. Local authorities have long experience in exercising the total responsibility for care and control which the fit person order entrusts to them. The new responsibilities which the Bill gives to local authorities, for children who now go to approved schools, and eventually for some of those who now go to borstal, is new in degree rather than kind. If local authorities are to discharge this responsibility, some adaptation to the present powers of a fit person is required. In particular, it is obvious that some few of those who will be the subject of care orders will need to be accommodated in secure conditions, as are some of those committed under the present law to approved schools or borstals. The Bill therefore enables a local authority to restrict the liberty of persons committed to their care, and provides appropriate safeguards.
These provisions are in Clause 24(2), which empowers the authority to restrict liberty, and in Clause 41, which (among other things) empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations about secure accommodation and the placing of persons in it. In particular, the regulations may require the local authority in whose care a child is to review any permission they have given for a child to be placed in secure accommodation, and to conduct that review through a committee which must include an independent person. This will ensure that there is no risk of anyone being kept in secure accommodation by the responsible local authority for any protracted period without an independent person having a say. There is also a statutory duty placed on the local authority by Clause 25(4) to review the cases of all children in care at not less than six-monthly intervals, and to consider, in particular, whether those who are the subject of care orders need remain so. Finally, by Clause 21(2), any child who is the subject of a care order may apply to the court at any time to discharge the order; and by Clause 67(2) this right is also exercisable by the child's parents or guardian on his behalf. These are totally new safeguards in this field and safeguard the liberty of the subject.
The accommodation of children in the care of local authorities is dealt with in 1138 Clauses 33 to 48. These provisions are based on three main considerations. First, the wide variety of the children's needs must be met by a wide variety of facilities, from which the authority responsible for the child can select those most suitable to his needs. This variety must be provided within an integrated system. The Bill therefore proposes to end the administrative and legal barriers which at present fence off, as it were, the three separate systems of approved schools, remand homes, and local authority homes and hostels, and to administer the whole as a comprehensive system of residential establishments described as community homes. Not that all children in care will live in community homes; half, at least, are expected to be boarded out with foster-parents, or placed with their own parents, on trial as it were, or to live in establishments which are not especially provided for children in care—boarding special schools for example.
Second, no one authority will be large enough, nor would the units proposed by the Redcliffe-Maud Commission be large enough, to provide for its own exclusive use a range of community homos so comprehensive as to embrace every type of provision required. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Byers, recently visited one of the kinds of homes I am talking about, and I hope that we shall hear something from him about it. Local authorities are therefore required by the Bill to set up children's regional planning committees. Through these committees the local authorities are to develop a plan of residential facilities for the area as a whole, including more specialised facilities in homes used by several authorities, along with homes used by a single authority. Third, the voluntary organisations play a large and valuable part in managing homes and schools mainly occupied by children who are in the care of local authorities. The Bill in Clauses 37 to 40 and 42 to 46, offers the voluntary organisations an opportunity to participate in the management of community homes. These clauses provide for certain establishments to be managed as "assisted" or "controlled" voluntary homes—that is, jointly by a local authority and a voluntary organisation, if that is the wish of both parties.
1139 The merging of such different types of establishment as approved schools, remand homes and children's homes into a single system does not mean that all the community homes will be cast in the same mould. I have emphasised the need for variety within the integrated system, and noble Lords may recall that in a debate last year I gave a fairly detailed account of our thinking then on this subject. There will, for example, still be difficult, disturbed and anti-social boys and girls needing the kind of specialised treatment now provided in approved schools, and the approved schools will have an important place when they become community homes as part of the new system.
We have owed much in the past to the managers and staff of the approved schools. They have made many important contributions to the development of new forms of treatment for children who have, for one reason or another, to be removed from their homes. They have often been pioneers in this field. In particular, I pay tribute to the public spirit shown by those managers of voluntary approved schools who have devoted so much of their time, energy and experience to this service. Indeed, I am confident that many will feel able and willing to continue this valuable work within the framework of the new community homes system.
My Lords, I have tried, within I hope a sufficiently brief compass, to set out the background to this Bill, to expound the principles behind it, and to explain its main provisions. I believe that its objects will commend themselves to all who care about children. I believe that the means it proposes to achieve these objects will be fair, flexible, and effective. There is a clear, indeed a crying, need for legislation now, to provide an up-to-date framework for the development of work with children in trouble, over the next 20 to 30 years. This Bill will meet that need. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Stonham.)
§ 4.24 p.m.
My Lords, I should like first of all to thank the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for the lucid and comprehensive if at least at the start, surprisingly polemical, way in which he has 1140 introduced this Bill to us this afternoon. As he pointed out, this Bill is not the product of a virgin birth: it is not one of those minor unheralded miracles which this Government have achieved. It has a fairly long pedigree. He referred to the Act of 1963, which my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor sponsored when he was at the Home Office, and which, unlike this Bill, started off here in your Lordships' House, where I had the honour to launch it. I well recall the searching and well-informed criticisms which, in those far-off days when I used to think of myself as a young person, Lord Stonham addressed to that Bill; and because of that experience I recognise, as I am sure all your Lordships do, his deep involvement in these matters. The noble Lord said that he was introducing this Bill as a Socialist, and as somebody who believed in social justice. I should just like polemically to say that one does not necessarily need to be a Socialist to believe in social justice.
Later, of course, there was that famous piece of Longfordiana, Crime, a Challenge to us All—not quite, as a best seller, up to Mary Queen of Scots standards, but still a good piece of popular journalism. Then there was that somewhat unbalanced Government production, The Child, the Family and the Young Offender, which had a fairly short run. Last year the Government put on Children in Trouble—a distinct improvement. Now we have this Bill, an improvement in its turn, and improved in its passage through another place. I have no doubt that we should, and that we shall, further improve this Bill, and I shall have a few suggestions to make to this end. But I should like first of all to run—I hope at an acceptably brisk pace—over the more general ground, and to offer some reflections on the area covered by this Bill and its immediate parent, Children in Trouble.
The backdrop to this Second Reading debate is the problems which our younger people face, and with which they face us, in our modern experimental society. Many of your Lordships are doubtless familiar with the jolly Voltaire character, Dr. Pangloss, who believed that "All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds." Sometimes to-day, when we read in the newspapers about some particular fatuous and destructive manifestation of youth in our modern experimental society.
1141 we may be inclined to adopt what I call the counter-Panglossian position, that "All is for the worst in the worst of all possible juvenile worlds." And there is to-day, as any juvenile magistrate knows, a good deal to give us pause. Nevertheless, when we bang on, in our concerned elderly way, about juvenile delinquency we should be wise to retain a certain sense of balance.
Heaven knows! we have a very sizeable problem on our hands. Juvenile crime has risen pretty sharply in the past three decades. The number of young persons found guilty of indictable offences has risen from 28,000-odd in 1938 to nearly 63,000 by 1965. The interesting point about this escalation in criminality is that it is not a phenomenon confined to the younger generation. The rise in juvenile crime has been matched by an almost proportionate rise in adult crime. Nevertheless, that said, I should not wish for one moment to minimise the question mark which the rising tide of juvenile delinquency places against the future health of our society.
One of the first questions we should ask ourselves is whether our Whitehall structure is the right one. The fact that the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, has introduced this measure reflects the point that the Children's Department remains firmly within the Home Office and under the control of the Home Secretary. It has often been argued—not least by noble Lords opposite—that the Children's Department should be torn from the womb of the Home Office, and grafted on to another Department—presumably the Department of Education and Science.
I should like to say straight away that I am something of an agnostic in this particular matter. I have a high regard for the Children's Department. It had a quite remarkable head when I was a Junior Minister at the Home Office, and I have a very high regard for the Inspectorate which serves it. I think its retention within the Home Office has served as a humanising influence within that Department—if that is not too patronising. But to make a change while the Government are still a waiting their own decisions on Seebohm would he quite absurd. Meanwhile I hope that the Government will ensure that the liaison between the Government Departments concerned is improved. It badly needs improvement.
1142 Incidentally, while I am on Whitehall, I notice from the admirable Explanatory Memorandum which is attached as a prefix to this Bill—and I should like to congratulate whoever is responsible for it; it has helped the more hard-pressed of us; certainly it has helped me a great deal—that some temporary increase in the Home Office staff may be necessitated by this measure. Could the noble Baroness tell us, when she replies, to what extent the Government propose further to swell the swollen ranks of White-hall?
Since I have referred to the Seebohm Report (and it is of course impossible in discussing this Bill not to be aware that it lies very much in the lee of Seebohm), I should like to draw attention to something which I have not found in it—I am not necessarily saying that one should have, because it was covered by the 1963 Act. In discussing the social services for children and younger people, Seebohm laid a great deal of stress on the spectrum of measures available to our society to avoid the necessity for placing young people in care or under supervision, hauling them before the courts or providing the range of treatment which is written into this Bill. There is very little in the Bill itself about this preventive aspect, so if this is a suitable opportunity. and if the noble Baroness has time, I should be glad if she would tell us what is the Government's approach to this very important aspect of delinquency in our society to-day, since prevention is far better than cure.
I would of course concede that fostering is an aspect of prevention and that this Bill contains a number of clauses relating to foster children. These seem to me quite unexceptionable in principle. It was certainly my impression when I was more closely involved with the problems of children's departments that the more enlightened ones did everything to get as many as possible of the children for whom they were responsible into good foster homes. I am sure that I am pressing at an open door in urging the Government to do all they can to foster good fostering.
I turn now from prevention to cure. And I should like straight away to say that I support the principle of flexibility which is written into Children in Trouble and which runs as a thread through the 1143 relevant section of this Bill. I found myself particularly in sympathy with those passages in Children in Trouble which outlined the Government's ideas about various intermediate forms, I think it termed it, of treatment. Certainly their thinking here squares with that of Seebohm. Certainly, too, there is a great deal of scope for experiment here; and there is also, I would suggest, particularly here an especially valuable field where the volunteer and the voluntary body will have a positive and useful role to play.
As regards residential treatment, I would again not wish to take up any particular cudgels with the Government on their general approach to this problem. It has always struck me, as I believe it has the noble Lord, that the distinctions between the various forms of treatment available for the young offender or the deprived young person were rather artificial, and that our machinery here operated in far too watertight compartments; and indeed that there was a great deal of a lottery about the question of into which particular department a particular child fell. That said, there are two aspects of residential care on which I should like to press the Government. In the first place, all my experience at the Home Office, and indeed since, and certainly all that I have read in Seebohm and elsewhere, tells me that one of the crying needs in this country—and of course it extends far beyond the field which we are discussing this afternoon—is for the provision of much more, and much more varied, hostel accommodation. As the last Report of the Children's Department said:hostels provide an important bridge between living in a children's home and having to fend entirely for oneself".I find the progress which we have made here in general altogether far too slow.
Secondly, I must again press the Government (I hope that the noble Baroness when she winds up will be able to say something positive and encouraging this time) on the desperate need for more accommodation, and suitable accommodation, for really disturbed young people. Anyone who knows anything at all about approved schools knows, for example, how much one really disturbed boy or 1144 girl can do to disrupt the entire community. The need for this accommodation was pointed out in very definite terms in the 1964 Report of the Children's Department. These warnings were reechoed, rather stridently, in the 1967 Report. And, as I think the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, told us when she was not a Minister, in the whole of this country there are still only some 300 beds available in special units for disturbed adolescent children. The Seebohm Committee have also drawn our attention to—I quote the words from their Report:the crying need for more provision in psychiatric hospitals for severely disturbed adolescents".I am inclined to think that this is by far the most serious gap in the range of specialist residential accommodation which we are now discussing, and I would ask the Government to pay much more than lip-service to closing it.
I note of course that it will be for the local authorities, working together, to submit schemes to the Secretary of State for the organisation both of intermediate supervision, or possibilities of intermediate supervision, and for the whole range of residential accommodation. I am not certain how this is going to work out in practice. Many of these personal services would, as I see it, fall to be organised within the area of the local authority, or even below that; certainly within the area of the large local authorities foreseen in Maud. Nevertheless, where specialised treatment or accommodation is in question it is clearly right that there should be co-ordination over a wider area. But how wide should these regional catchment areas be? Will they, for example, be the provincial areas foreseen by Maud? Perhaps they are too large. The Provinces could be held to be too big, perhaps too impersonal, to plan these essentially personal services. On the other hand, I confess that I do not at all at first blush like the idea of interposing another range of intermediate authorities between the great new local authorities foreseen and the great Maud Provinces. Can the noble Baroness tell us anything about the Government's approach to what I think is a very difficult problem here and one which I am sure they must have been considering in their consideration of Maud?
I turn now to some of the wider implications of the Government's proposals 1145 and of this Bill. By and large, with one serious qualification to which I shall come in a moment, there is quite a lot to be said for them. One point that worries me is whether the implications of the scheme have been thought right through and whether the resources are available to match these ambitious proposals. Even to-day, as we read in Seebohm, the present level of provision of some kinds of education and treatment is sadly inadequate. According to the special study commissioned by the Seebohm Committee, at least one child in 10 in our society to-day needs special education, psychiatric or special help, but at present we have facilities for only one in 22. Well, the professors who were commissioned to make these studies, and who made these studies, may be right or they may be wrong. All I can say is that, given evidence of this kind, we must be very careful before we further overstretch our already overstrained resources.
Perhaps we have enough by way of bricks and mortar already, save perhaps for the hostels and for what is necessary to cope with the needs of the severely disturbed. But have we enough trained personnel, and are we planning to train sufficient personnel? I know that the Home Secretary has announced a pretty ambitious expansion of our training facilities, and I note what the noble Lord said in introducing this Bill, but the extra burden which this scheme is going to throw on the staffs of local authorities is going to be very big indeed. I hope that the Government are satisfied that the services will be able to take the strain, given the fact which obtains at the present time that only 15 per cent. of the whole-time staffs of local authority children's homes at present hold the certificate for the residential care of children. I hope that the Government have this fact in mind.
I am aware, of course, of Clause 32 and what the noble Lord has said about it, but this has been an area of doubt and some worry in my own mind. Be that as it may, I believe that this potential manpower gap of skilled personnel emphasises the importance of the volunteer and of voluntary bodies, a matter which again Seebohm has quite rightly laid stress on. As I see it, there are innumerable ways in which the volunteer, who is likely to-day to be very far removed from the ladylike 19th century 1146 dilettante amateur, can help in this vast field, perhaps particularly where prevention is concerned. I trust that this Government, who have done so much in other fields to dry up the springs of voluntary effort, will here at least do all they can to give real scope and elbow room to the voluntary body. In particular, I should like to express the hope that they will be represented on the regional planning committees and not merely consulted. They should be brought right into the planning of the various services.
Despite the assurances which the noble Lord has given, I am left with some doubts about the timing of these proposals. My doubts are two-fold. First, the local authorities may be asked under these proposals to bite off more than they are as yet able to chew. Secondly, it seems at least debatable—and I do not want to commit myself because I am not certain on this point—whether it is wise to embark upon this major reorganisation of all the social services affecting children and young people when the Government have yet to make up their minds about Seebohm, let alone to undertake the great restructuring reform which Seebohm requires.
In semi-conclusion, I should like to put down three specific markers for our Committee stage. On the principle that one should not advertise all pile's punches in advance I must warn the noble Lords opposite that this will not necessarily exhaust our Committee quiver. First, Clause 7. Under this clause i1 will become impossible to make a probation order in respect of a young person under 17. In future only a supervision order, as I understand it, will apply. At first sight I find it difficult to follow the logic of this. It will certainly add to the burdens of local authorities and their staffs. It will certainly diminish the control which can be exercised over young delinquents, and it has the quite serious legal consequence that when a second offence is committed by a young offender, his first offence, which may be quite a serious one, will not be taken into account. I should like to make it clear that we have a serious reservation on this point.
Next, Clause 20, which covers care orders. Under the Bill a care order may come into effect on a child at the age of 10 and endure for eight years. There 1147 is, of course, a six-monthly review procedure laid down in Clause 25(4), but such a review procedure could, I suspect, become a pretty routine affair in a hard-pressed local bureaucracy. At a later stage I wish to explore whether there is not a case for such orders lapsing after a period of two, three or four years unless and until the local authorities concerned make out a specific case for its renewal.
Finally, and most important, Clause 1, the clause to which the noble Lord devoted so much defensive time. Here I must say straight away that we part company from the Government's approach on this clause. It is a clause of considerable importance. As the noble Lord has explained, it is the intention under the Bill that children should only appear before the juvenile court, and court orders should only apply, if in addition to being guilty of an offence, he or she is also deemed to bein need of care or control which he or she she is unlikely to receive".unless an order is enforced. Hitherto it was the offence which counted.
I do not of course question the motives and intentions of the Government. Like us, they wish to ensure that children are not brought into the atmosphere of a court unless it is really necessary, and on that there are few of us who would dissent. At present the police liberally interpret the discretion regarding prosecution which is vested in them, although the noble Lord has referred to what may he rather erratic local deviations. Of the 120,000 offences committed by children and young persons annually, the police have decided not to prosecute in at least a quarter of these cases—some 30,000 in all. However, although I do not question the Government's motives, I very much fear the effects of Clause 1 should it be enacted as it stands at present. We can explore all this further in Committee and therefore I shall now put my argument briefly. I shall not make a speech at this stage as, if I may so with due respect, I thought the noble Lord was rather inclined to do in introducing the Bill.
In the first place, as I see it this clause is bound to lead to obvious injustice. May I refer to the example the noble Lord himself gave, of two children 1148 caught committing a joint offence. One, who may well have made the running, comes from what is commonly called a "good" home. Perhaps his parents are in comfortable circumstances. The other, who may have just tagged along, may come from a very bad home, possibly a very poor one, although there is nothing necessarily to equate the two. Under the clause as it stands, the first child will not be had up, or if he is had up an order will not be enforceable. But the second child will be had up. I cannot but feel that this will strike the children concerned, and also their parents, as an obvious and glaring injustice. And children, my Lords, have a very acute sense of justice. In explaining the Government's attitude to this clause I think the noble Lord said (paraphrasing his words) that this was something we had to accept. It was part of the social discrimination built into the structure of our society. That may be so, but it is not necessary to "rub in" that discrimination as this clause will do.
The noble Lord also said that the child's needs were paramount, and I agree with that. But I think the child's need for justice, and for justice to be seen to be done, is also paramount. I will only add that the Government have acted against the strong advice from many able bodies and from many influential quarters. I know there are many bodies which favour this approach. They are going against the recommendations of the Ingleby Committee, which investigated these matters exhaustively less than ten years ago. Moreover, they are going against a cardinal principle of juvenile justice—indeed of all justice—to which Ingleby so rightly attached importance; namely, that "justice for the young should always be swift". The preliminary investigations which this clause as it is drafted at the moment will call for will almost certainly involve tardy justice.
In sum, my Lords, I trust that in this important respect the Government will think again, or, failing that, we shall cause them to think again, although I must say that I do not have great expectation in this regard in view of the terms in which the noble Lord has introduced this Bill.
May I, in conclusion, say this? With the qualifications that I have made—and 1149 I attach great importance to the last one—I believe that there is a great deal in this Bill which is desirable, and certainly it has not been my intention to portray it in a partisan light. Nevertheless, let us not kid ourselves that by legislation or better organisation or good administration this problem, this intractable problem, of juvenile deprivation and delinquency can be solved. Clearly, we must all do our best, but I think we should be wise to remember the very wise words which the late Lord Ingleby used in this House nearly seven years ago when we were discussing the 1963 Act, when he said that in this fieldthere are no short cuts; there are no sovereign remedies; there arc no easy panaceas.All that we can all do is to do our best.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ LORD BYERS
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for the very lucid way in which he introduced this measure. I think it is true to say that the Bill had a mixed reception on its Second Reading in another place, but by the time it received its Third Reading the reception was, if not ecstatic, certainly not hostile.
May I go on to say what it is that appeals to me in the concept that is enshrined in the Bill, if not the technical details of the measure itself. It is simply the attempt that is being made to get the earliest possible identification of trouble, identification of potential delinquency, of the need for protection, and then hopefully, with common sense, to use the different agencies so that each one can make its appropriate contribution to solving the problem of the child and its family; and to treat each child appropriately—perhaps one might say each according to its needs. Perhaps that may be part of the answer to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. If you are really going to deal sensibly with each child you must resist the case for putting two children in the same position in the juvenile court when you are not in fact dealing with the exact needs of each. I should have thought this was a persuasive argument against the argument put forward by the noble Earl.
Like the noble Earl, however, I welcome the flexibility which is enshrined in this Bill, particularly the flexibility in the 1150 different possibilities of treatment. I think many of the fears which still prevail are due largely to doubts as to whether the facilities and the trained people exist in sufficient numbers to make the measure work in practice. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, went some way to allay these doubts in the assurance he gave about trained people, but I am not sure whether we are in a position to meet all the desirable accommodation needs within the time required. In some parts of the country we may be able to do it, but in others it may take a good deal longer.
Although the aim is simple, I believe that the mechanics and the practical problems of bringing this scheme into effect may be formidable. But that is no reason for opposing the Bill. What I think will be needed is adequate machinery to review fairly constantly how the idea is working out in practice, by bringing all those people involved in the administration of the scheme into fairly regular conference. I should like to say a little more on that point later. No one likes treating children as criminals, and under our present system I think there is a reluctance to report offences because of the fear that the child will inevitably be subjected to the process of law. I have had this feeling myself, when a Policeman says, "Do you want to take this case any further", and I have thought, "No I do not". But, looking back, I have often wondered whether I did not do a disservice to the child by not putting him in touch, through the police, with the proper authorities.
I believe that once we can get over to the public that the object at all times is to help and care, rather than to punish, we shall see new public attitudes develop in this field which will be much healthier than the ones we have had hitherto. I assume that the first contact in any case will still be through the police themselves: they do a first-class job in many parts of the country, though I was quite amazed at the figures quoted by the noble Lord (and I think by the Home Secretary in another place) showing the unevenness of the caution system as applied in different parts of the country. I am not quite clear on the relationship of the police to the problem at the various stages. I assume that if they decide to act in some way other than prosecution they can use any or all of the different services available—the 1151 Children's Service, the other local authority services, church, youth clubs and so on. If they decide that the proper procedure is to prosecute (this will apply, eventually, presumably to children over the age of 14) they have to apply to the juvenile court. They will still have a very important part to play, even if it is a slightly different function than now; because, as I understand it, the juvenile court will still have to satisfy itself that the best course is being adopted by granting any order applied for by any authority, whether the police or anybody else.
When the order has been made I presume that it is up to the local authority to use all the services available to determine the best treatment for the child. I do not think that this need weaken the power or the position of the juvenile court. I should have thought it has probably got the balance right. This is a most important stage in the development of the child, and at that moment the juvenile court magistrates still have a very important responsibility to discharge. I hope it will not be thought that the juvenile magistrates are being asked to take a back seat, because in many parts of the country my experience, particularly since juvenile magistrates have undergone training, is that there is a great deal of wisdom on the benches and a great deal of dedicated work being carried out.
The points I wish to make on the system, with which I basically agree, are very brief. I should like, however, to put this point. With so many organisations and agencies involved—police, magistrates, probation officers, Home Office, children's officers, teachers, churches, staffs of approved schools or community centres—is there not an overriding case for having one co-ordinator, either a person or a body, at a fairly local level? We are going to be dealing, in my view, with a situation not unlike that faced by the local race relations board, and I think it is important that, in addition to regular reviews there should be in each locality someone in the lead. It makes a great deal of difference if there is a striking personality to take a leading part in helping to solve these problems.
I should like to see an experiment on these lines in a few local authority areas. A possible solution might be to appoint 1152 a juvenile court magistrate to such a position. I know that a good deal of concern was expressed at the provision for a juvenile court magistrate to approve or disapprove of a prosecution, and I am glad that, as I understand it, this was dropped when the Bill went through another place. But it may be that such a juvenile court magistrate could be entrusted with the general oversight of the way in which the juvenile problem is being handled generally in a particular area. Such a magistrate might be seconded from the bench for a period of time, so that there was no suggestion that he was in any way trying to prejudge anything which might come to the court. Or such a function of co-ordination could be performed by the chairman of a regular review body in the area which had in its membership the people I have mentioned. But whatever the alternatives—and there are many—I should have thought that both from a mechanics point of view and from a social point of view there was a strong case for considering some form of local co-ordination of leadership.
Secondly, I would follow the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and ask the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, whether we can be told something about how this Bill will fit in with the proposals in the Maud Commission Report. I imagine that it will be difficult for the Government to give a precise answer, but what is done on the Maud Report will surely have a big effect on how the scheme is finally administered. We ought to know what unit of local authority we are talking about when we use the term "local authority".
The provision for community homes, as opposed to approved schools, is certainly to be welcomed. As the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, mentioned, I have had the good fortune quite recently to visit two of our better approved schools. One, the new Hayes Bridge School, is within only a few hundred yards of my own home, and we take a particular interest in it. But the other day I went to the Redbank complex, at Newton-le-Willows. This is a complex which includes a classification centre, a remand home, I think, and a security wing. I must say that I was absolutely amazed at the sense of dedication and experience which there is in a place like Redbank. It is the same now, thank goodness! 1153 in a smaller way at Hayes Bridge. One is immediately struck by the quality and dedication of the staff and their ability to cope with these problems; and, my goodness! they have some problems to cope with.
The only thing that worries me slightly about the community home complex is whether children with different problems will be mixed in the same school. If it is left to people who are handling the classification type of work that goes on at Redbank, I am not worried. I was very impressed indeed with the thoroughness with which the classification system works there, and the amount of work that goes into the study of the best needs of the child. But I can foresee, with the present shortage of accommodation, the possibility that young children will be mixed up in such a way that we shall not provide for them the care and treatment which we might otherwise expect they would have. But having said that I would make it plain that where classification is dealt with in the way I have seen it handled, my fears are much less.
Finally, I want to express the hope that the use of the phrase "a good home and a bad home" will not be allowed to obscure the problem by giving it a class or a snob gloss. It is not a matter of rich or poor. It is true, I think, that more delinquency arises in poor home surroundings; but it is not so much the deprivation of material goods which sets up the tendency to delinquency. Much more important, sometimes, is the absence of love, the sense of insecurity and the lack of peace in the home: and the insecurity which leads to crime can just as easily be found in the home of a millionaire as in the tenements of Lambeth. I believe that there will be many teething problems in the new system, but I certainly wish it well.
§ 5.3 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LEICESTER
My Lords, I should like from these Benches to give a general warm welcome to what I regard as an imaginative and constructive Bill. I note, in passing, that its provisions come very close to those which were suggested in evidence supplied by the Church of England Board for Social Responsibility to the Royal Commission on the Penal System in 1965.
I have to admit that I find the Bill extremely complicated, and I can only 1154 hope that magistrates and children's officers, not to mention the police and the public generally, will succeed in mastering its provisions with less intellectual exhaustion than I found necessary in my own case. Some of this complication I think might have been avoided, and some misunderstandings seem to have arisen because of the way in which it has been set out. Even in this debate this afternoon it has been said several times that the question of whether a child is to be brought before the court depends upon the somewhat uncertain circumstance of whether or not the home can provide the proper care. Yet so far as the actual words of the Bill are concerned, this does not seem to be stated anywhere.
It is true that this is a condition of the making of a court order, but bringing the child before the juvenile court is stated in Clause 1(1) to depend upon whether any authorised person or authority "believes that there are grounds for making an order". By implication, I suppose it could be said that if an authority or a member of the police force considered he was not likely to get the order that he personally thought was necessary, he would not bring the child before the court; but it is only by implication that that has anything to de with the question of whether or not the child is in fact brought before the court. If there is any point that I have misunderstood there, I hope that I shall be corrected at a later stage, but I believe that to be the fact.
Another reason for the complication is the fact that the Bill is trying to do two things which are not easily compatible but which certainly have to be provided for in the Bill. It seeks, first, to introduce into the proceedings of the community at large the family spirit by which disciplinary problems are normally dealt with in the best families and schools. But, second, this must be done in a way that secures fair play all round, and does not leave important steps, which could interfere with other people's liberties, at the mercy of the private emotions, whether they be angry or sentiments I, of persons in various positions of authority.
May I give some brief comments on the main provisions of the Bill? There is, first of all, the raising of the age of criminal responsibility to 14 except in the case of homicide. I do not regard this 1155 as an example of sentimentality, but of an approach to the problem which lays more stress on the future than on the past; and there is no doubt in my mind that this is the suitable approach when dealing with children of this age. It is difficult to distinguish precisely between the attitudes of adults and of children to their own wrong behaviour. It seems to me that much wrong behaviour in children arises from their precocity and that much wrong behaviour in adults arises from their childishness. But, at least in the case of children, one must ascribe more responsibility to parents, to the environment, to society, than in the case of adults. So the Bill treats all children in trouble alike, in the sense that it brings into its care those sinned against and those sinning, and it makes the sole distinguishing factor whether or not the care and control required is or is not available in the home and family. This, of course, certainly arises at the point of the hearing in the court.
If we have doubts in our minds as to whether we are taking too great a risk in allowing children of this rather higher age, from 10 to 14, to be, so to speak, exempted from the whole process of criminal examination and responsibility, we have to ask ourselves how we should like our own children of 11 or 13 to be treated if they were so unfortunate as to fall into one of these situations. I am sure we should all feel that the one thing we hoped to avoid would he that they were actually treated as criminals and tried in that kind of atmosphere.
Having left the question of children up to 14, we then come to the severe limits which are imposed on anything like prosecution of young persons between the ages of 14 and 17. It is perfectly true, as naturally it would be and as we have been told by the Minister, that many even now are cautioned. The figures which I have collected are that 30,000 between the ages of 10 and 17 were cautioned last year, and 13,000 of those were over 14 years of age; so the idea of some relaxation of criminal or prosecution proceedings is really nothing fresh. The only fresh thing is to have it embodied in a Bill of this sort.
It is certainly true that moral and educative training and the reasonable protection of the public will still be 1156 necessary. I think the defence of the Bill from that point of view is that there is ultimately no better protection for society than the creation of better citizens; and that is what we hope will happen in the end as a result of this Bill. That does not mean that I would altogether follow the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, in the words he used—if I heard him correctly—in the early part of his speech, where he suggested that the present increase, or the present high rate of crime among the young, was the direct result of the poor legislation that we have had in the past to deal with these matters. It is perfectly true that our legislation has not succeeded in preventing this state of affairs, but I think it is equally true that the steep rise in the rate of crime has run exactly parallel with the improvement in our legislation. That does not mean to say that the improvement in the legislation is wrong, but it does mean that there may be some deep, mysterious factors going on in the life not only of our own contry but of Western civilisation that are not easily susceptible to any ordinary methods of legal provision.
I hope that by the time the whole scheme gets going it will be clear to ordinary people how the police are to deal with critical situations. I tried to ask myself what the Bill told me about that, and I felt I should have to attend a seminar for a considerable time to find out what really was the power and the duty of the police in certain situations. What, for instance, happens in the teenage riot at a seaside resort? I am not making any serious judgment as to what goes on there—when I discuss these matters I am always reminded of how boat clubs at Cambridge used to burn un the bandstand after a "Bump" supper, and one takes all that into account—but, when it has all been said and done, the policeman on the front at Eastbourne presumably has to take some pretty rapid action, and most or many of the persons concerned will be within the age group of 14 to 17. I just ask myself—perhaps I shall be given information in the reply—do we have to start all this extraordinary business about consulting the local authority where the person lives, and so on? If so, it seems that ordinary methods of summary justice will be somewhat handicapped.
However, leaving critical situations of that kind aside, we then come to the 1157 normal hearing in court, and here we find that there is an abolition of what one might call "custodial" detention. I, personally welcome that. We have been used to approved school orders, but there is no doubt that, in spite of all the excellent work these schools have done—and I fully agree with everything that has been said about that and I am sure that my brother the Bishop of Coventry will develop the point later in the debate—the words "approved school" have now gathered round them a certain atmosphere. I am sure that when the phrase was first thought up it was felt to be a very neutral one, but one has only to see the reaction of the public to the case of the girl who was put into an approved school, as many people thought wrongly, to understand what it means now. So I welcome the fact that the approved school order goes and in its place, roughly speaking, there comes the order for supervision. The question of where and how the young person is treated depends upon the supervisor, who presumably will have much more time and opportunity to weigh the case in all its aspects.
I welcome the fact that resources are to be made available to the supervisors, and I hope very much that the churches will be able to play their part in this work of rehabilitation and restoration. I am sure that they will be given opportunities, and I only hope that they will be themselves sufficiently sensitive and tolerant and liberal-minded to enter into them. Even that cannot always, I am afraid, be taken for granted, because even church members are human and have not always reached that maturity that we should desire.
I shall say very little about the actual provisions for residential care, leaving that to others to develop, but I should like to ask one question. In a sense this is a small question, but I should like to have an answer to it if there is one. In Clause 38(3)—I have had to revise the numbering of my clauses since I saw the Bill in its latest form—it is said:.… the instrument of management shall prevail over the provisions of the trust deed in so far as they relate toany particular home. This arises from the very legitimate and right desire of the Government to preserve the general religious spirit and ethos of any particular home, and I welcome very much the clear way in which that object is set out 1158 on page 41, Clause 37(4)(b), where it says:for the purpose of securing that … the character of the home … will be preserved … the terms of any trust deed relating to the homemust he observed. Then we are told that the instrument of management will prevail over the provisions of the trust deed. There are various occasions where in fact the instrument of management will be a more up-to-date expression of what the home is trying to do than perhaps some very ancient trust deed, and I do not quarrel about that; but I have in my hand a paper issued front the Children's Department of the Home Office headed Provisions Relating Religion: Memorandum by the Home Office. This is dated January, 1969, and I can give the Ministers the reference if they should want it. What it says is:The provisions of trust deeds shall not be over-ruled by the instrument of managementIt may be that these regulations from the Home Office have been or will be modified, but it seems to me that at the moment there is a direct contradiction between what is stated in the Bill and what is stated in the memorandum of the Provisions Relating to Religion. With those very minor questions and hesitations, I would once more welcome the Bill arid thank the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for his introduction of it.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGS-BRIDGE
My Lords, I find myself in such close agreement with the way my noble friend Lord Stonham has presented the Bill that I do not think I need detain your Lordships as long as at one time, when preparing what I wanted to say, I thought I might, because my noble friend has said, with much more sincerity and conviction than I am able to do, most of what I think about it. But I should like to take up a couple of points which have been raised by previous speakers.
Both the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and the noble Lord, Lord Byers, warned against the danger of over-stretching the resources. But the problem is the other way round. We have a situation which is not being dealt with at the moment, and we are devising a machinery to deal with it. We do not have the resources to deal with it now under the present system, and we are not likely soon to 1159 have the resources to deal with it at all properly. One of the most interesting and curious features of all social work is that the more you do the more there is to do, and in many ways this is only to be expected. So I do not think we need stop for one moment from doing what we think is the right thing because of a danger about resources. Of course we have to pay a great deal of attention to increasing them, but that is a different point.
I should like to begin by saying that I am without the advantage of many of your Lordships of first-hand experience in a juvenile court. I have been a manager of an approved school, but my main acquaintance is with the end-product of what your Lordships and this Bill deal with as raw material, which is the prisoner rather than the becoming delinquent youth. I should like to stress a point which has been too little expressed all through the long and serious and sincere discussions in the other place, on Second Reading and in Committee, and this afternoon here; that is, that in this situation we are trying to deal with one of the most intractable of all human problems. There are no certainties to hang on to, and every case is different. Bringing up one's own children is difficult enough. Attempting to cope with children whose parents, for one reason or another, have already made a mess of their upbringing is incredibly difficult.
We may differ over ways and means, and it is only natural that we should; in fact, the most responsible and experienced people in this field differ on this point. We have the Magistrates' Association (who have, I suppose, a greater knowledge of this than almost anybody) taking one view; and we have the Association of Child Care Officers, who are actually doing the job, taking another view. This fact does not worry me. In anything as difficult as this, wise people will not agree—not if they are really wise—because the one thing which is absolutely certain is that if you think you are right you will not be right in a situation of this kind. There are no clear answers.
Here I should like to mention a point which my noble friend Lord Stonham raised at the beginning, and which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, took up. My noble friend Lord Stonham presented the 1160 Bill as a Socialist, and I am very happy to support him as a Socialist. But I do not think this precludes the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, from supporting every view of social justice as a Conservative. If ever there was a non-political Bill this is one, and long may it be so. I hope that over the controversial point—and the only controversial point in the Bill—which is Clause 1, we shall manage to mix ourselves up and not all go through our respective Lobbies, as it is not a political point at all.
Some of us have children who have given trouble. We all of us have friends whose children have given trouble, and those children come from very good homes, in the sense in which we were told not to use the term, and have had nothing spared in the efforts to put them back on the rails. Yet, in my experience, there has been more failure than success. I suppose that the most tragic thing emerging from the rather rudimentary study of prediction techniques which is now going on is that the earlier and more often a child gets into trouble, the more certain he is to end up as a regular customer of Her Majesty's Prisons. Once the process has begun, it seems almost impossible to stop it. We have all seen the records—cautioned at eight, truant from school, probation, approved school, borstal, prison, prison and prison again. The chances of reconviction seem to be about even, whatever you do, and the rate of reconviction is certainly an under-estimate, as a certain number of people never get caught.
We have some rather interesting figures about the boys at Grendon. That is a borstal and psychiatric prison near Aylesbury. The figures are still only tentative, as it is early days, but with boys sent as difficult and disturbed, because they need psychiatric treatment, we have achieved a reconviction rate over two years which is only 25 per cent., compared with 50 per cent., which is the borstal average. This applies only to boys with four convictions or less. With the higher conviction rate—I do not know the significance of this, but it is disagreeable—we seem to be little more successful than average. In other words, the further they go the less we can do. We think that the success rate will fade. This is the rate for two years, but I think three years will see a worse one, and four years a worse one still. I do 1161 not mention this fact to try to prove anything, except as a straw in the wind to show that the kind of permissive régime which we use there, and which is based on the boys' acceptance of treatment, is the general direction in which this Bill is moving.
What I like about the Bill is its courage in seizing on the one fact which is common to all people who think seriously on this subject and firmly building on it. The fact is, of course, that there is an age below which treatment or care is the appropriate response to ill-behaviour, rather than punishment. One may argue about the age, but I think we all agree that that is the point. The Government have quite firmly chosen an age, about which we may argue in Committee. Seebohm want it to be older, and other people want it to be younger, but the Government have seized this nettle.
One has to admit that treatment may include painful methods, such as a ruler on the knuckles or a cane, but that is within the domestic discipline of home and school. Once the child is brought before the magistrate, however wise and humane he may be, there is a break with the familiar, a change of phase, and an element of public obloquy which should be avoided where possible. As the right reverend Prelate said, we all know how we like our own child of 16½ to be treated when he gets into a position of this kind and we should be very happy indeed if he were let off with a caution whatever he had done. So I think we shall have the public with us on this Part of the Bill.
The Bill draws an absolute line at the age of 14, so far as criminal prosecution is concerned, and a conditional line at 17. As we know—figures have already been given—one-third of the juvenile cases are dealt with by police caution, which is a solemn and serious affair in all but the most delinquent areas, where perhaps it does not count for very much. But in most families, whoever they are and whatever rating they have, it is a disagreeable and shaking affair to have a solemn police caution. I think we all agree that this method ought to be tried before anything more drastic.
The Bill tries to lay down, for the guidance of the police, conditions which 1162 should be met before more drastic action is taken. I should here like to reply to the right reverend Prelate and say that I am quite sure that the intention in laying down these conditions before which a care order can be put on is to give guidance to the police before they bring the offender to the court. I do not think one is stretching anything in saying that. These conditions form the controversial paragraphs (a) to (e) in subsection (2) of Clause 1, and they lay down the conditions precedent to a court making a care order. As my noble friend said in his opening speech, the prospects of a child being cautioned or brought before a court depend to-day on geographical reasons. That is intolerable and, clearly, it is nonsense. So guidance must be given, and all through the discussion of the Bill this has been the main problem facing us.
In another place the fear was expressed again and again—and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, expressed it to-day—that these guiding principles will produce an injustice. Committing an offence will not be a sufficient condition, because it must be combined with the need for care and control. Will this, or will it not, lead to a boy with a happy home—if your Lordships prefer that term—being treated differently from a boy with an unhappy home?
My Lords, one must, I think, deal with this a little, although it will be dealt with again and has been dealt with before. As long as we are concerned with treatment we must brave misunderstanding on this point. The best treatment is always within the family, and, if the family is in any way able to stand up to the strain, that is where the child should be treated. So to criticise the Bill under this heading is like saying that if two children catch 'flu together and one runs a high temperature and the other does not, it is unfair to give penicillin to one and not to the other. That is a facile argument, I know: it is treating a situation as one of health, whereas it is really something more complicated. But the principle of the Bill is that we are dealing with the condition of the child, and this is the only reason for treating one child differently from another.
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? I hope he 1163 does not think that the "Aunt Sally" which he has just erected and demolished so effectively represented my argument. I was not arguing that the treatment awarded by the court to children w hose circumstances are materially different should necessarily be the same. I was arguing only that when joint offenders are liable to prosecution they should both appear before the court.
§ LORD DONALDSON OF KINGSBRIDGE
I thank the noble Earl. I have something to say on this subject which I think will perhaps bring us nearer together.
I was glad to see that the Government agreed to Appendix A 2(g) in the White Paper, quoted by my noble friend, which entirely disposes of this argument in relation to criminal prosecutions of boys between 14 and 17. I believe it does not, and should not, apply to non-criminal prosecutions, or to children under 14; but I think it would do absolutely no harm to extend this provision to the non-criminal area between 14 and 17 and to the area below 14. On the grounds that I have given, I do not believe it is necessary on principle. I believe it would be a concession which would bring us very close together, and I should like the Government to think about it. That is perhaps the only point in the noble Lord's admirable opening speech on which I had the smallest qualification.
I think we have to look at this matter really from the point of view of present practice. A person who comes from a stable, middle-class home is evidently much less likely to end up in a court than one who comes from a problem family. That is a fact of life. Surely we should look at this matter from the angle that we are trying now, where possible, to give to all alike the same real advantages which class and money have always conferred on the few; and it is only where a home is manifestly unsuitable that the child should be taken away. This was the point which my noble friend made very strongly, and it is, I believe, the right way to look at this. If we look at it in that way, I do not think we shall find ourselves far apart.
May I say one word, before closing, about the disquiet which I know some magistrates, and other people, have at the limitation which this Bill places on 1164 the work of the Probation Service? I have enough real friends among probation officers not to fear being misunderstood when I say that, at the rate at which the number of adults over 17 in trouble is increasing, I think that to specialise in adults over 17 is enough to keep anybody busy. Equally, I think that to have a specialised group of people, children's officers, who specialise in children under 14 is a very sensible arrangement; and to have a grey area between the two, where either one or the other can take on the case, is an admirable compromise. I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, when he comes to speak on behalf of probation officers, will agree with me that these provisions are reasonable. We shall see what he says. Clause 13(2) says that if anybody in the family is being or has been looked after by a probation officer the case should remain with the Probation Service. The Probation Service has a future of rapidly expanding work in its own sphere, and I see nothing objectionable in the proposed division of labour. It seems to me entirely sensible.
I want to say one further word in appreciation of the intention behind Clauses 19, 33 and 48—the provision of widely differing and variable homes and facilities. If one can find a wide range of places with no criminal stamp on them, the child care officer will be able to ring the changes and will have real flexibility under, I should hope, by then, the general umbrella of the Seebohm Report's recommendations, some of which, at least, we may hope will be adopted in this way. Some children, for example, can go home for week-ends from their community home; others can stay at home and work at week-ends at the community home. There are some education authorities which run hostels for children to work in because the homes are too noisy. These children work in the hostels, under no compulsion or criminal suggestion, but simply because it is quieter, as a noble Lord might come to the Library of your Lordships' House, and they go home at week-ends. One feels that the provisions which are being offered here will enable child care officers to provide facilities for children in this sort of spirit, and not in a spirit of reproach or any kind of criticism.
My Lords, we hope that the approach to children will be of a factual rather 1165 than a reproachful kind. In Committee in the other place reference was made to Norfolk Hall, which is a voluntary place for difficult children, not residential but based on weekend visits, and run in very close relationship with the parents. All I have heard of this place—I have not been there—is admirable. I have met one of the men who has worked there for a long time; and it was referred to several times in the other place in Committee. It seems to be the sort of model that one hopes the children's planning committees will try to set up.
There was one point raised by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Byers, which I believe will present difficulty. At the moment, a classifying school chooses boys of different types to go to different types of school. If one is going to mix non-criminal and criminal offenders (I am using the old-fashioned word), clearly one has a problem, and I think perhaps the noble Baroness might be able to tell us a little about how the Government are thinking on this matter. It seems to me a sticky one and a difficult one. My Lords, I can honestly congratulate my noble friend and his colleagues on this Bill. It seems to me to be based on correct premises. The Home Secretary has accepted most of the major objections of the Bill's critics and has amended it accordingly, and we shall have the opportunity to look at it again critically in Committee. Meanwhile, I wholeheartedly support its Second Reading.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ BARONESS BIRK
My Lords, I should like to add my welcome to this Bill, although it goes rather too slowly, and certainly not far enough, for my taste. It raises the age of criminal responsibility; and I think we have to remember, when we are talking about the age of 14, that in the first instance, so far as I can gather, the age will be 12, simply because of lack of resources. I find it very strange that we have to keep the age of criminal responsibility down to what seems to me to be a ludicrous low just because we are short of resources. I do not think it helps in any way if the age of responsibility is kept down, rather than raised. It is true that children may still be put out to care, but at least they are not being brought before courts at ages 1166 which I personally think are still far too low.
One of the important things in this Bill, from my point of view, is that the type of supervision or care after a child or young person comes before a court, will be decided by the local authority, by the social workers, rather than by the court itself. This, I think, is a tremendous step forward. It is very important, because these are the people who have far greater and more detailed knowledge of the young person. I also very much like the idea—many of us have been pressing it for many years—of not retaining the distinction between approved schools and other forms of residential care, and grouping them together into different types of community homes.
Here I should like to support what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said about hostels. I should like to see a far wider-ranging series of hostels of different sizes for different types of people. I think that this is probably one of the ways in which the community homes should develop. I think we must also realise—(it has been said on several occasions) and the right reverend Prelate in, his speech paid tribute to the approved schools—that just as there are good and bad ordinary schools, so there are good and bad approved schools, and good and bad children's homes. I think it is going to take time, but it is extremely important that in changing the name we do not think that that is changing the attitude and the whole structure of what is being done in these places.
The idea of intermediate treatment, I think, has a number of attractions; but I hope that this does not mean that we will continue with the system of detention centres. I should like to see there go and a whole new range of ideas emerge as set out in Children in Trouble. But I think this whole idea of intermediate treatment has, as well as certain attractions, a great many dangers unless sufficient resources are available. Again we want the personnel and again a wide enough range.
Perhaps I might for one minute, as we have all stood up to be counted on this, say what I feel about Clause 1. On this clause I see the difficult issue, but on balance it seems to me that the Government's proposal is the right one. I 1167 start from the basis of not wanting to have any children or young people before the courts at all unless it is absolutely necessary, and I shall come to that later. As I take this view, I could not go along with the view that one should therefore have two or more children in court rather than one when it is not necessary. To me this seems compounding an injustice rather than righting one. I agree with the feeling behind the right reverend Prelate's question: How would we all feel if these were our own children? After all, the child who does not need to be brought before the court has rights, too. Why should that child be brought before the court in order to appear to right an injustice but really to create a uniformity of approach? I think the Government are right about this clause.
One of the other things about this clause, I think, is that if we perpetuate this practice, if we say to people, "This is unjust, it is wrong and it would be right if the person joined with the other child or youngster came before the court", we are contradicting what, so far as I can gather from every speech that has been made in this House, is the idea behind all our minds, which is to keep children out of the courts. I think the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, used the world "prosecution", but, as I understand it, there is no prosecution for children under 14. They are brought before the court as being in need of care or control because they fulfil one of the provisos and have also committed an offence. By perpetuating this practice we are prolonging the punitive stigma attaching to the court and the shame-making image of the court which, for young people, should be an investigating body which is trying to find the right sort of treatment for that particular young person. As my noble friend put it, and put it so admirably, let us also explain that when young people who are joined in the same offence come before the courts now, the treatment or sentence or whatever it is is different for different children. It is often known in the neighbourhood or in the street that whereas Johnny was caught, Billy got off. There is a sense of unfairness there as well.
1168 I think in this question the use of the word "justice" can be overdone in this connection. The trouble has arisen here because as a society and as a country we are still glued to the principle of court referral. If we stick rigidly to legal niceties in this human field, which above all others requires the greatest flexibility and informality, it means that justice in the deeper sense is not necessarily done, although superficially it may appear to be done. It is interesting to compare our courts (even with the improvements in the juvenile courts) with many of the courts in other countries abroad. We are still very much more formal and there are more people in the courts. I think we can learn in this field from other countries.
One of the other things which I find disturbing—I must hastily say that I heard no comment made along these lines in this House to-day, but certainly comments of this disturbing nature were made in the other place, in meetings outside and in the Press—is the attitude to children themselves. Frankly, I am deeply shocked to hear people referring to children as the "deprived" or the "depraved". To talk about a child as "deprived" is to state a sociological or social fact that the child is lacking something—it may be material or psychological or emotional. To talk about a child as "depraved" is to make a moral judgment. There are children who are disturbed, even children who are psychopathic and children who are psychotic; but once the word "depraved" is used you bring in the whole punitive attitude and you are talking about somebody who has been corrupted and is corrupting others. I cannot help feeling that many people, when talking or writing on this subject, somehow deep down really dislike or fear children—apart, perhaps, from their own.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Donaldson when he talked about the ineffectiveness of severe punishment in so many cases. We all know that whereas the majority of first offenders do not come back, the progression from approved school to borstal to prison, and the severe measures taken along the line, neither cures the person nor helps society. What I should like to see are far more voluntary arrangements between parents and the local authority, caseworkers or 1169 social agencies, or whoever are going to take this over; because in this way one would bring fewer and fewer children before the courts—which should be the target that we should set ourselves.
While I do not like to look a gift horse, in the shape of this Bill, in the mouth, I think that the cart has been put before the gift horse. For, as so many noble Lords have said, what this Bill does is to highlight even more dramatically the need for implementation of the Seebohm recommendations to provide a co-ordinated and comprehensive service for every family and individual. I hope that when my noble friend the Minister replies she will be able to say something about when we can expect a statement of intent. While I appreciate, with the Maud Commission, the discussions (I almost used the word "battle") and the different views as to which central Department should have which service, what is absolutely essential in the localities themselves are locally coordinated family services. It is only with these supporting agencies behind a Bill of this sort that it can become really effective and be more than the very interesting and humanitarian framework that it appears to be.
From the time of the Ingleby Committee (and I, with many others, through the Council for Children's Welfare, gave evidence to the Ingleby Committee and then to the Home Office, before the White Paper was issued, and then to the Longford Committee which produced Crime: A Challenge to us All) we have constantly stressed the need for two things: a family service and a family court. And I feel that we should regard this Bill, good as a great many parts of it are, almost as an interim measure.
I should like to see the age of criminal responsibility raised to 16. The argument that 16 is so near the age of majority that this should not happen is, in my view, absolute nonsense. Why should there be a "no-man's land ", or "no-child's land", between the age when you become responsible for any crime you may commit and the age at which you are entitled to assume civic and other responsibilities? It seem to me a completely natural process to raise the age to 16. I agree that we should need a really good and co-ordinated family service, properly staffed, in order to do so, 1170 but I should like to see youngsters under 16 referred to the courts only if the family service felt that it was a case with which the service could not cope, or if the parents of the youngsters concerned objected to the decision of the family service. This would keen the majority of children out of court and avoid the sort of dichotomy of thought over this Bill which many people experience when we are trying to keep children cut of court and at the same time are still using the courts. The family service would have to provide a great deal of strengthening help for parents to assist them, to give them confidence and encourage them to take on more responsibility themselves.
I sit as a magistrate in an ordinary magistrates' court and in a matrimonial court, but not in a juvenile court. It sometimes seems to me that we do not always have enough instruments to persuade parents to take on sufficient financial responsibility for their own children when they are in care. I think that what is required is not only to adopt firmer measures with some parents but also to provide much more counsel and encouragement for them. It does not help to get parents on one's side, or to establish a better rapport between them and their children, if all the time the only reason given—this happens so often—for a breakdown in relationships, or delinquency in a child, is a breakdown of the home background; or the effect of a bad family, and so on. This is frequeltly the case, and often it is through no fault of the individuals concerned. But I think that we must look at the matter in the broader way, in which the White Paper Children in Trouble, views it; that is, having regard to the effect of the local environment; the particular school to which the child goes; the whole field of genetics (about which we still do not know enough) and the wider social setting of society at any particular time.
As well as having the agencies, the child care people operating under the local authorities, we need more social workers attached to the schools, and many more teachers trained to do this work, so that it is a continuous process all the way through, both in the schools and outside. I heard to-day (I do not know whether the figure is correct) that in this country there are only 200 child 1171 counsellors. I do not take the view adopted by some people, that everything can be done in the schools. Even if the staff were available to do it, I think that youngsters (and the same applies to adults) would often prefer to confide in, and to be helped by, people other than those such as parents or teachers, with whom they are connected in a day-to-day capacity. So one needs all these interlocking, supporting services.
I must declare an interest as a member of the Youth Service Development Council. Our Report does not come out for another month or so, but it is well known that we are looking into the future of the Youth Service, and one of the reasons for this is the tremendous drop-out in membership of the Youth Service. I think this is very closely connected with some of the teenage problems, and in trying to build up a Youth Service which would prove a greater attraction to teenagers and be more in line with the sort of things that young people want to do nowadays.
I agree entirely with those noble Lords who stressed the need for more provision in psychiatric hospitals for severely disturbed adolescents. But where I part company from some people, including the noble Lord, Lord Byers, is in respect of this terrific fear about mixing children with different problems—though here I am not referring to the severe cases, the psychopaths, or to people, whether children or adults, who need very much more secure accommodation or who are dangerous. Some people have a fear about mixing children with different other children. But take any public school, my Lords, and look at the mixed types which you may find there. The mixing may sometimes do harm to some people but, on the other hand, I believe that having to cope with different types of people, not only from different backgrounds but with different personalities, is often a great advantage.
I was very interested the other day to hear from a justice of the peace who had come back from a tour in Holland of a school which she visited there and which was called an approved school. It was used by the neighbourhood as an ordinary day school, and the boarding part of it was used for children who were referred there by the courts. The visiting English magistrates were amazed at this and 1172 questioned the teachers and some parents. But nobody seemed to mind; no one was upset about it or said, "My son is mixing with delinquents". This basic attitude to children, to punishment, to treatment, is really at the root of some of the difficulties which arise when we are trying to weave a way between the various interests. I think that the reason why the Government have done an extraordinarily good job in this field is because they have had to compromise with so many interests.
My Lords, there is nothing in the Bill which would prevent things moving along the lines that I, and I hope many other people, would like to see them progress. I should like to see family courts take over all family matters; that is, take over the juvenile courts, the matrimonial courts and also such things as cases of common assault between husband and wife which are dealt with in the ordinary courts. I am sure that other magistrates could give other examples, but I know from personal experience of one family where the children appeared in the juvenile court and the husband and wife were before the matrimonial court; and also they appeared in the magistrates' court to answer charges of common assault. It was by sheer chance, or perhaps because in our court we have a good clerk, that we happened to know what had been going on in the other courts. But there are cases which occur, certainly in the City of London, where the matrimonial court and the juvenile court are not even under the same roof, and where you have members of the same family being dealt with by quite different people. I also feel that while family courts would still be courts, some of the sting and the stigma which attaches to an appearance before the magistrates, even in a juvenile court, would disappear.
Since we are aware that marital conflict is one of the things that sets up such tensions in the home, it seems to me that it would be a great advantage, and provide great support for the family, if we organised this end of our legal proceedings in that way and realised that we were dealing with a family of human beings and not with some of the rigidities and niceties of the law. To me it is wrong that these methods should seem unorthodox, but evidently they do because we seem to make progress at rather a slow pace. We should consider whether 1173 it is not time—in order to save human relationships—that the unorthodox should become the orthodox. I think that sufficient years have passed for this to happen.
I know that many of my colleagues on the bench, and many probation officers I have talked to, would agree that the present operation of the courts results in disintegrating as many families as it manages to bring together. This is not deliberate or calculated, but that is what happens in the result. The difference between the attitudes on this Bill, as my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge said, is not a Party political one but, as the discussions and arguments throughout the country have shown, is between those who see this Bill as part of the framework of past measures and attitudes and those who see it as a beginning upon which we should work for the future. Personally, I throw in my lot with the future. I believe that this Bill is not an end in itself but is a pretty good stepping off ground for far more radical social reforms in the future.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ BARONESS EMMET OF AMBERLEY
My Lords, I should like to say first of all that, due to personal circumstances, I am afraid that I have not been able to learn the Bill by heart or to study the whole of the Committee stage in another place and all the reports that one ought to have read in connection with the Bill, but perhaps I may be allowed to make a few remarks from what I have gathered and in relation to my own experience in these matters, which goes back some way. I revolutionised the children's court in my part of the world, when I took it over before the war. I was first Chairman of the Children's Committee of West Sussex County Council and also Chairman of the Child Guidance Committees and I helped to rescue a probation school for girls which had been in rather bad odour for six years. So, looking back on what has happened, I think that we should not be too depressed about the situation with regard to children. Every year one can see that the type of people dealing with children is improving.
I am a little worried over the extra responsibilities that are going to be thrown on the children's care officers by this Bill. I was delighted to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, that their 1174 number had practically doubled, but they are still in very short supply, and they will need a different sort of training if they are to undertake this extra work, because, for example, their legal knowledge will have to be greatly increased.
I am also rather disturbed by the facts that on the whole the greater number of children's officers are women and that a great many of them are unmarried. In this the Children's Care Service does not compare favourably with the Probation Service, where there is a large preponderance of men and of married people. If children's care officers are to deal with troubles in the home, this is an aspect that needs consideration. I should like to see the recruitment of part-time older married people as children's care officers. They might be extremely helpful. I am not saying anything against the present children's officers—they are wonderful people and absolutely devoted—but up to the present their work has been of a certain kind, and if it is to be altered in this rather drastic way I think that the Service wants reconsideration.
I should like to say a word t bout parents. It does not appear to me, on my looking through the Bill, that enough responsibility has been placed on parents. I feel that this point of parental responsibility must be brought home. In my court I insist on fathers coming as well as mothers, even if it means their losing a day's pay, though probably that is taken care of by way of a fine. But I cannot find this question of parental responsibility stressed anywhere in the Bill. There is some mention of payment up to a certain limit where a child is put into a communal home, but that is about all. So I should like to hear from the noble Baroness whether she agrees with me on this point.
Then there is the question of delay. I think that absence of delay is vital when one is dealing with children. When I think back to my own childhood—it is very difficult at my age—I recall that if I got into trouble, the sooner I could get rid of it the happier I felt. There is a real danger in these new arrangements, which have to go through borough councils, social committees and so on, that the whole thing may be delayed, arid this will certainly not be good for the children. I hope also that in dealing with them we shall not in any sense diminish 1175 the child's sense of responsibility for what he or she has done. We all know that circumstances make delinquents up to a point, but, in dealing with children, I have found that if they are treated right they have a great sense of responsibility. That sense of responsibility has to be increased and not diminished. I very much hope that in this new system this will be kept in mind.
Another thing I feel anxious about is the need for the children to understand what is going to happen to them. At the present moment a child knows perfectly well that if he gets into trouble and a policeman runs him in, he will go to the children's court and will be dealt with accordingly. Under the new system, I do not think the child will know how he is going to be dealt with or what is going to happen to him. This is a serious point which must be examined.
Now I would say a word about children's courts' magistrates. I think that they have done perfectly splendid work, but I am worried about how these magistrates are chosen. When I first joined the bench, the rule was that anybody under 65 could be a children's court magistrate. That puts a bench in a very awkward position, because with a bench of 14 or 15 or a smaller number of magistrates it is difficult for the chairman to say to anyone under 65 that he is not suitable for the children's court; and this has led to anybody under 65 being put upon the panel. I should very much welcome an alteration in this system. I think that this is foreshadowed in the Bill. I should like to see children's courts' magistrates appointed for a whole region and not for a bench, so that the best people in the region can be chosen and can sit on any bench as required. I very much hope that this point will be considered.
With regard to bricks and mortar, the Bill foreshadows a series of different sorts of communal homes, a proposal which I welcome. If only we had had something of this sort in past years, as childrens' courts' magistrates we might have known better how to deal with the children we had in our hands at that time. One of our difficulties was that there was so little choice of what we could do with them. But we must not think that when 1176 this Bill is passed, we shall have all these places immediately at our disposal. I am glad to see that they will be spread regionwise, because no local authority could possibly have every type of community home they would wish to have in order to give flexibility to their judgments.
There is one ideal I have always had, and though I do not suppose that it will come to fruition I have often thought that it would solve the problem of a number of youngsters—that is, to have a small boarding establishment attached to our secondary or comprehensive schools where children might spend a term or two in turn. This would often relieve the tension at home which has sent the child off the rails. We have been able to do this in Sussex, in the attachment to two of our grammar schools, and we have found it extremely successful. It does not label the child, who mixes with ordinary children. It relieves the tension of the trouble, and he may go back home a totally different child after, as it were, his term in school. I hope that perhaps some day we may proceed on those lines rather than have community institutions everywhere.
Finally, I am worried, so far as local authorities are concerned, about the financial side. It will mean enormously increased staff, and a great deal of building. It does not seem to me that the Government have made sufficient provision in the Bill, not just to help but to encourage local authorities to develop in this work. At the moment, of course, I can see the difficulties. I hope that we shall not misjudge local authorities if they do not go ahead as fast as we should like them to because, it may be, the financial help that we should like them to have is not available.
§ 6.12 p.m.
VISCOUNT ST. DAVIDS
My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley, will excuse me if I do not instantly take up certain points in her speech, but I propose to do so later. My speech will be rather shorter than I had intended, because a good deal of what I had intended to say has already been said by other speakers, and particularly by my noble friend Lady Birk, with whom I agree so much. I propose to confine myself to children of 14 and under, because this is the field that 1177 I know. It is the field in which I have been working, both as a schoolmaster and as a youth leader, and it is here that I have a certain amount of experience on which I can base some rational thought.
I find this a splendid Bill, and there are certain aspects of it which I find even more splendid than others. I am totally opposed to taking any child to juvenile court if there is any other way of treating him. The proper people to deal with a child are the parents. A child, as the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, so rightly said, has a sense of responsibility and a natural feeling of what should be done. The child who has done something wrong expects to be punished, but expects to be punished in the framework that he or she understands; and that framework normally is the home. If a child has done something wrong, the best thing that can happen is for the child to be handed to the police, for the police to take him home to the parents, and then for the parents to do whatever is normally done in that family. In any family with natural love of the children what is done will not be too severe, but will be adequate. That is true of not only what have been called the "good homes", but also in the great majority of homes that have some defect. So far as punishing the child is concerned, that, I believe, is enough.
I do not think that the punishment inflicted by a juvenile court, sitting weeks after the offence, has anything like the same effect on a child as what is done to the child at home when it has been taken there by the police. This is my firm conviction. With a normal child in the normal home, I believe that to be all that is necessary. After all, it is what your Lordships would do in your own homes, and what may have been done to you in your homes in the past. You have done something wrong; you have been taken home, and your parents have done whatever has been necessary; and if any compensation was needed for somebody who suffered from what had been done, that matter was normally dealt with by the parents. That is how things should go.
Unfortunately, we know that the trouble may be much more deep-seated than that, and may be due to some disturbance in the home which is putting 1178 the child off the rails. Where that is so, it is quite clear that something much more needs to be done. But what is needed is not punishment. What is needed is remedial measures, to be taken largely because of the state of the home. I will not go into this matter further, because I am not nearly so great an expert on this as many noble Lord; and noble Baronesses here at present.
One thing I should like to take up, however, is a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, who said how terrible it was that one could see these youngsters progressing slowly up, or down—whichever view you prefer—the criminal tree, getting worse and worse; starting as a small child with minor offences, and going on and on until finally, alas! so many of them end up in his care in the Prison Service. This is horribly and regrettably true. I have a great many children through my hands. The vast majority are good, well-behaved children, and the great majority of their families are good families, in the sense that they love their children and look after them, and are adequate for their care.
I find that there are certain children (I can spot them within days of their coming to my youth club, and I could list their names) whom I could put down for Lord Donaldson's Prison Service as surely as some parents put down their children for Eton in other circumstances, with the near certainty that, sooner or later, they will arrive there. These can he picked out at a very early age. This is why I am such a keen supporter of this Bill. I believe that the switching off of the evil circumstances which cause children to take up a criminal mode of life should start very early indeed. I have said in this House before that I consider that the Youth Service, in particular, does not start serving the young of this country early enough. I believe that we have to start by looking among those of 8 and 9 years old. I believe that by the time I am handling 10-and 11-year-olds I can tell with pretty near certainty what their future will be. I think it is essential that, whatever we do to put this matter right, we should do it early.
I want, in particular, to rub these words "criminal" and "non-criminal" right out of the picture, because I do not believe they are the right words to use. There 1179 are naughty children—and possibly we have all been naughty at some time or other—but when it comes to something further having been done than merely taking the child back home, that is not a matter of "delinquent children" and "the depraved and deprived", which I think are mere "Smart Alec" words. It is much more a matter of taking the child out of the unfortunate framework and either repairing the framework around the child, so that it is adequate, or taking the child right out of that framework and not returning it to that framework too often. So often, we know, a child is taken away from home and put in an approved school where he improves greatly and goes back home a different child, but then falls back into exactly the same terrible circumstances that caused the trouble in the first place. The child then reverts to exactly the same state, and it is necessary to start all over again with an older child, which makes a terrible difference.
I want to see this business of putting the homes right started as early as possible in the child's career. I am hoping some day to see clauses in a Bill (I know that they are not in this Bill) which will enable us to start putting matters right before the child starts to commit offences. Why have we to wait for a child to commit an offence before we start helping its parents to put their home in good order? Why have we to wait for this? Experienced school-masters could tell us just as well when a child is going to start going off the rails. They can see such children far earlier than I do. I can see them at these early ages; and. as I say, I could hand the noble Lord. Lord Donaldson, a list of his future boarders. Why have we to wait for them to commit an offence before we do this?
We are not really concerned with the offences: we are concerned with the children, and I want to split the two matters entirely apart. Let the offences, if there are offences, be dealt with in the normal family manner. Why cannot we start doing something about helping these unfortunate children in their homes, where they are not being given proper attention, before they get into this picture? Why cannot we divorce entirely the whole business of these homes from 1180 the whole business of criminality? We are not sending these children to approved schools to punish them.
No doubt the House saw in the past day or two the reports of the sixteenyear-old girl who was sent to an approved school for various reasons, and whose remark was: "Why should I go there? I have not done anything wrong." Why must we attach the sending of Youngsters to special schools to doing wrong? The two things are entirely separate, and the sooner we can entirely separate the two ideas, the better. Let the children be normally punished the way a home does, and in a way which the child understands. Let the child understand that that will be its punishment, and that this matter of homes has nothing to do with punishment. If it cannot be done by this Bill, then perhaps it can be done by another Bill in future. But, in any event, let us get these children away from the circumstances before things start going wrong, and not afterward. Then, maybe, we shall be able to put the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson on the dole—and the sooner the better.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, this Bill is the grandchild of one White Paper and the child of another. This seems to be one of those encouraging cases in which the quality of the family improves as the generations go by. Juvenile courts were established in this country 61 years ago in order to get the children out of the adult courts. I am quite certain that at that time that was an absolutely right and proper measure. We were preceded in this by some States in the United States of America. Canada and, I think, South Australia. Parliament was told in 1908 that the establishment of juvenile courts in those areas had led to a significant decrease in juvenile delinquency. High hopes were entertained that the same result would follow the establishment of juvenile courts in this country. I do not need to remind your Lordships that those hopes have not been fulfilled.
We have now come to the stage when with very great pleasure I have heard one noble Lord after another say that what we want to do now is to get the children out of the juvenile courts. We have got them out of the adult courts: now let us get them out of the juvenile 1181 courts. I regard the philosphy of this Bill—and I am sure that it is the philosophy of this Bill—as entirely admirable. Therefore, I welcome it very warmly. I regret that, as so often happens in this country, having embraced an admirable philosophy, we try to graft it on to an unadmirable system, and get into an unholy muddle.
If there is one criticism to he made of this Bill above all others it is that it is appallingly complicated. Any noble Lord who is prepared with confidence to pass an examination on this Bill will he an outstanding student, both of law and of juvenile court procedure. It is quite easy to see how the complications have arisen. We do not like some things in the present system; we have not the courage to abolish it, so we try to graft a different system on to it. Then there are creaks at the joints, and we have to add on other things to cover the creaks. Fresh anomalies arise, and that is how we get this appallingly complicated situation. My heart sank when I saw that we had a Bill of 104 pages, 70 clauses and seven Schedules, to deal with children who are troublesome, or are in trouble. I felt a great urge to throw the whole thing away and say," I do not want to start from here". However, we have to start from here, and I should like to address myself to a few specific points in the Bill about which I have notified the noble Baroness who is to reply to this debate.
The emphasis, particularly in Clause 1, is that civil proceedings for care or control are to take the place of criminal proceedings for all children under 14, and in many cases for the 14s to 17s. The emphasis is on this change. I should like to ask what is the standard of proof required in the ease of a child who is brought before the juvenile court before—and I quote the words of Clause 1—"he is guilty of an offence". In the criminal courts of this country at the present time a finding of guilt or conviction requires that the charge should be proved beyond reasonable doubt. In civil proceedings decisions are made on the balance of probabilities. As under Clause I the proceedings are to be civil proceedings are we going to reach a situation in which a young child under 14 will be found guilty of an offence on a lower standard of proof than a person 1182 over 14? If so, that seems to me to be a retrograde step.
Secondly, I find it difficult to reconcile Clause 4, which is quite uncompromising, with some other clauses of the Bill. Clause 4 says in quite unequivocal terms:A person shall not be charged with an offence, except homicide, by reason of anything done or omitted while he was a child.Is this not a bit " Alice in Wonderland "? He cannot be charged, but he can be found guilty. I hope the noble Baroness will be able to work that one out. That is one of the complications.
The next complication is that although he cannot be charged with an offence under the age of 14, he can be found guilty of an offence at any age—at the age of 1, for example—and there is nothing in the Bill to prevent a chill of six months or one year (although I do not think it is very probable) being brought before the courts as in need of care because he has committed an offence. There are also consequentials about cases in which a child is alleged to have committed an offence in conjunction with a person over the age of 17. The case is brought, as at present, before a higher court. Under Clause 6 it appears that if there is an allegedly joint offence and it is in the interests of justice that both parties should be charged in a higher court, then both parties will be dealt with in the higher court. I cannot make out altogether whether this means that a child who cannot be charged will appear in a higher court along with the older person with whom he has been involved in an offence—he will appear in a hither court but he cannot be charged there—or whether we are to draw the inference, which I should like to draw (I hope this is the correct interpretation) that this means that a child under 14, even if involved in an offence with an adult, will not be liable to be dealt with in a higher court. I hope very much to hear that that is the right interpretation.
If it is, I should like to ask: why not extend this also to the 14 to 17-year-olds as well? One of the blemishes on our present system, frequently remarked upon by visitors from overseas who are astonished by it, is that although we hive juvenile courts, once a juvenile gets mixed up with an adult he is sent to the adult court and dealt with there along 1183 with his collaborator. There seems no reason why, if we can separate the two in the case of a child, we are not able to separate them also in the case of a young person.
I will not say anything further about the difficulties arising from Clause 1, about the case where two children are involved together in an offence and in one instance it is thought that the child can get proper care and control without a court order while in the other a court order is thought necessary. This situation has been referred to often. I think my noble friend who introduced the Bill brushed it aside rather lightly. I hope the Government will think again about this matter, because it is going to create great resentment if two children are involved together and one is brought to court and the other is not.
I should like now to refer to the section of the Bill on probation. Here, again, it seems to me that we are trying to ride two horses at once. The first impression one gets on reading the Bill is that probation is out: there is no more probation; there is only supervision. Substantially that seems to be true. This seems to have one rather interesting incidental effect. One of the conditions of probation, to which many probation officers have attached great importance, is that it is a voluntary commitment by the probationer, and that his consent is necessary to the order. Some of us are a little sceptical as to the genuine nature of that voluntary consent, but this is something which I know many probation officers feel about strongly. Is it the case that, by substituting supervision for probation, we have got rid of the requirement for consent? Well, apparently we have, but it creeps back. It creeps back in relation to just one particular form of condition on the supervision order, and that is the condition in which the person supervised is required to take mental treatment. There it is specifically laid down in the Bill that his consent is necessary. So again we seem to be trying to combine the relics of probation with what is substantially purely a supervision order.
Probation also creeps back when one finds that if the person supervised does not fulfil the conditions of the order, he can be brought back to the court and, 1184 if he is a young person, the orginal offence can then be revived and he can be dealt with as he could have been dealt with at the time the original offence was committed. That, of course, is exactly the position under the present probation system. I think we ought to make up our minds whether we want to have a probation system or whether we do not. I do not feel very happy about this kind of hybrid.
One of the other new conditions is that, before any prosecution of a young person is brought, the person qualified to bring it must consult the local authority and must consider whether the parent or teacher or somebody else concerned might be able to deal with the matter and a prosecution is not necessary. As the original White Paper stood, and as I think the original Bill stood before it went through another place, the person bringing the prosecution was also required to get an authorisation from a juvenile court magistrate. The removal of this last condition makes it slightly easier for the authorised person to bring the prosecution. My own view on this is, the more obstacles the better. I do not much mind what the obstacles are. If we want to keep children out of the courts, let us make it as difficult as possible for persons to prosecute them in the courts. Just for that reason I felt slightly disappointed to see that one obstacle had been removed. However, the obstacles that remain are pretty formidable, and in many cases the person authorised to prosecute will shrug his shoulders and say," Oh, it is too much trouble. I am not going on with it."
I should now like to pass to a very substantial point. A great deal of what I have been saying about these procedural matters hinges upon this vital question, so far as children particularly are concerned, and young persons to a less extent. No more prosecution; no more criminal conviction; only findings of guilt; no more criminal charges; no charges, only civil proceedings. You come to court. You are not convicted, or in the old language, found guilty of an offence. You are found guilty in the new language, which means that it is a civil finding and not a criminal finding. My Lords, let us not deceive ourselves. Practically none of the children or their parents who come to court would have the faintest 1185 idea that this is any different from the old style under which one was found guilty or, as the public would be inclined to say, convicted. These distinctions are understood by lawyers; they are understood with great difficulty by laymen, like myself, who have to operate in the courts; they are not understood at all by the public which is concerned. The public knows that you go to court because you have done wrong or you are in some kind of trouble—otherwise you do not go to court—and that is the only distinction it understands. It is important that we should not deceive ourselves that we are accomplishing too much by this change.
I should like to repeat what I think said just now, because it is extremely important: that in effect we are putting the age of responsibility (to be quite accurate, I cannot call it the age of criminal responsibility) down, because under this Bill you can bring a child of any age to court and say, "This child has committed an offence", and you can, in the words of the Bill, find that child guilty of an offence at the age of, if you like, 3, 4 or 5. I hope the Government will think again about this provision.
Apart from these purely procedural matters, I think the Bill is very much more imaginative and radical when it comes to treatments. How much we welcome this sweeping away of all these highly specialised institutions—remand homes, approved schools, junior detention centres, junior attendance centres, the lot—which are all to be merged into one kind of community home! Presently I am going to make one exception to the welcome which I give to this, but I think this alteration shows a really imaginative approach. When a child is in trouble the authority which is dealing with the child, which knows the child, should have a completely free hand as to what it is best to do, and chop and change about, if need be, from one kind of treatment to another. I am also very glad to see that the minimum age for borstal, which was carefully put down two or three years ago, is now going to be put up again, to 17.
I should like to welcome particularly the large powers that are given to this new race of supervisors. The supervisors are going to be able to direct the person supervised. May I say, incidentally, that 1186 one of the difficulties about losing probation is that we have lost the word "probationer" and now we must say "person supervised", or we shall soon be saying "supervisee". Under the new arrangements the supervisor can direct the person supervised to engage in certain activities—it is wide open. And here is opportunity, of course, for a very imaginative kind of treatment. History' tells us that very often new and imaginative proposals about treatment of offenders begin in the juvenile courts and creep up to the adult courts; and I lope that the adult courts, and those of us who are engaged in considering non-custodial treatment of adult offenders, may have something to learn from what the supervisors are able to invent.
May I now turn to a wider issue? I have one regret about this Bill. I regret very much the almost total divorce from the educational system. Reading this Bill one would barely know that children have to go to school at all, except for one clause which says that they must be subject to certain controls if they do not go. In another place there is a requirement that when an authorised person is thinking of bringing a prosecution he must consider whether a teacher may not be able to deal with the situation. I cannot guarantee that I have read the Bill so precisely as to be sure that there is no other reference, but if there are any other references they are very scanty: and certainly one would have no idea that there is a vast educational system in this country, the primary object of which is to bring children up in the way they should go.
I regret that the opportunity has not been taken to graft machinery for dealing with troublesome children, or children in trouble, on to the educational system so that the whole thing is dealt with not only, as my noble friend Lord St. Davids says, between the child and the family, but also between the child and the school and the family. I am not proposing that we should overburden teachers still further. I am simply saying that in my view there should be social welfare workers attached to schools who would know and deal with the children, day in and day out; with problems about their holidays and their leisure, and not purely those who are children in trouble. I will not enlarge on that now, because I realise that the Bill cannot be amended 1187 to that extent. But I regret this divorce from education.
I should like to point out, as my noble friend said, that this is exactly what happens in middle-class families. If the child gets into trouble he is brought home by the policeman, or lie is taken to the boarding school; and in nine cases out of ten the matter is sorted out between the parent and the school and the child. I should like to remove the juvenile courts altogether as a separate structure and extend the educational system to embrace the problems of the difficult child. I should like to do this for three reasons: the first is that children do not learn from strangers. You may be the best juvenile court magistrate in the world, but you are in an artificial situation, dealing with a frightened child whom you have never seen before and do not know, and who may well refer to magistrates (as children have done) as" the old gentleman wot don't like long hair". One of the psychiatrists attached to the London juvenile courts collected some commentaries from children in remand homes, and one of the observations was the one I have just quoted. However, let us be fair—another child said, "Well, I suppose they 'as their jobs to do, the same as our dads and mums "—which I think was very generous! The child learns from people whom it respects and—let us hope—loves.
Secondly, as soon as you take a child to court you mark him: you initiate him into a delinquent community. This is why we want to got them out of the courts altogether. My long experience in juvenile courts has convinced me that we make more delinquents in the waiting room than we ever cure in the court room. In some of our former colonial territories there is a high prestige class who are known as the " have beens ". They are people who have been abroad to an overseas university. In exactly the same way we arc creating a class of "have beens" —those who have been to the juvenile court.
I know the argument against this is that a child has as much right to his freedom as an adult, and therefore he ought to have all the defences which have been worked out as a protection for a person accused of criminal offence. If a child had that freedom he has lost it 1188 completely under Clause I of this Bill, where he no longer has the defence open to anyone on a criminal charge. Further, he does not have it anyway: the comparison is totally fallacious. A child may be sent to a boarding school by his parents any day. He does not have the freedom to choose his own residence, but no one suggests that he is deprived of his liberty. We think he is deprived of his liberty only if he is sent by a court to an institution with a stigma attaching to it. The difference between going to a boarding school and being" put away " is the reason why we regard one as deprivation of liberty and the other as not.
My third reason is one to which considerable weight was given by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary—and my noble friend Lord St. Davids has also mentioned it; namely, if we could get the children out of the courts we should do away with the class element in our procedure. Let us be frank: juvenile courts are for other people's children. That is a fact of life. Occasionally the police make a mistake and an embarrassing situation arises when the juvenile court magistrates find a defendant from quite an unexpected social group and rather astonished parents turning up. I once had a child appear in a juvenile court who was the offspring of an extremely distinguished legal family. On that occasion the court had the benefit of more skilled legal advice than at any other time during the 20 years I had occasion to stay there.
I am afraid that I have taken up too much of your Lordships' time. This is one of the subjects about which I feel strongly, and I have a certain amount of experience. The only other thing of which I would remind your Lordships is that since the juvenile courts have been established the educational system has been diversified at any rate on paper, out of all recognition. There arc the ordinary local authority boarding schools, child guidance clinics, special remedial classes, schools for the educationally subnormal, and schools for the maladjusted. You can also go to the Mental Health Act and have provision for the subnormal, the severely subnormal and the psychopathic. What child is left out of that list? Surely such provision as that is able to deal with every kind of troublesome child.
I know that we cannot make this revolution by abolishing the juvenile courts 1189 and extending the education system in this Bill. But we could have taken two steps. One would have been to make the age at which a child becomes a young person match the school-leaving age. The educational system should be responsible for the child so long as he is compulsorily at school. After that, he is beginning to stand on his own feet as a wage-earner. There is provision for altering the age, but we should have started with the age that matches the education age. If, for reasons of resources, we cannot do that now, we should keep the age down but make it perfectly clear that that is what we are aiming at. The other thing we could have done would be to take approved schools alone out of this omnibus sweeping together of all residential institutions for delinquent children. We should have taken out those schools which provided their own education and say that they should he under the local education authorities and the Department of Education and Science.
My Lords, I apologise for having spoken rather too long on this subject, and for having perhaps looked too far into the future. This is a very good Bill, but it is not as good as it might be. In 20 or 30 years time there will be another Bill, and it will be a better one: it will be a Bill to abolish the juvenile courts. I shall not see it, but I make the prophecy with confidence. It will abolish the juvenile courts and deal with all children through a unified educational system. I have forecast this and tried to say something about the merits of this proposal now, because very long experience in losing battles has taught me that one must start to advocate reforms at a time when they are quite impracticable. If that is done, there is hope that in 30 or 40 years time everybody will say, "Juvenile courts? Something out of Dickens! "
§ 6.51 p.m.
LORD HAMILTON or DALZELL
My Lords, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, will forgive me if I do not try to deal with the points she raised about probation. I agree that the Bill is extremely complicated and I think it would be far safer for me to leave the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, to explain what it means. I also agree 1190 with Lady Wootton about the White Papers. I think most of us were greatly relieved when the first White Paper, The Child, the Family and the Young Offender, was dropped. The succeeding White Paper, Children in Trouble, was a very great improvement, and this Bill, to me at least, is in the main acceptable, particularly after the improvements that have been made to it in another r lace. I hope that by the time it leaves your Lordships' House it will be better still.
My reasons for addressing your Lordships on this subject are, first, that I am, as has been indicated, the Pres dent of the National Association of Probation Officers and therefore in a position to give an indication of the feelings of members of the Probation and After-care Service; and also that I am a magistrate and until a few years ago I served on a juvenile court. As many noble Lords have said already, the basic aim of the Bill, or Part I of the Bill, is to keep children out of the courts, and of course this is a most desirable end. But, is we are to have a new system for dealing with juveniles, then it seems to me the most important thing about it must be that it should command the respect and acceptance of those to whom it is applied. As other noble Lords have said, children have a very keen sense of what is fair or not fair—of justice, in fact.
The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, gave an example from his own experience. I was not quite sure what point he was making. It was quite clear to me that he had been subject to a monstrous injustice which had rankled all his life, and that is exactly what I have in mind. I do not feel he would suggest that any juvenile court would be likely to punish a large body of children on the grounds that two of them had committed an offence, which is apparently what happened to him. Parents, too, when it comes to the disposal of their children, want to be certain that any decision has been arrived at dispassionately and fairly. I believe the juvenile courts are still accepted as providing that sort of service and that we should be extremely careful to see that any new system is equally acceptable.
What happens now, broadly speaking, is that the police bring a juvenile to court, the court decides on the treatment, and then some third agency carries it 1191 out. The court is quite clearly distinct from the other two parties involved, and I believe that parents and children accept that its decisions are not influenced by any special relationship with those parties. Furthermore, the stages of the procedure and the different rôles of the parties involved make quite clear what is being alleged about the child and the basis on which the decision is made.
It seems to me that under the new arrangements all this is in danger of becoming blurred in the minds of many children and many parents too. The local authority will be seen to be fulfilling all the rôles: collecting the evidence on which the decision will be based, making the decision and then providing the treatment decided upon. I am not certain how acceptable that will be. Provided the parents agree to what the local authority propose the case will never come to court at all, and confronted by the all-embracing, all-powerful local authority machine they will be under great pressure to do so. A court cannot make an order unless it is satisfied in the words of Clause 1,that he is in need of care or control which he is unlikely to receive unless the court makes an order ".It seems to me that that really means that the juvenile will not be brought to court unless the parents will not agree to what the local authority want to do. If one assumes, as presumably one must, that the course proposed by the local authority will almost certainly have been the right one, the only thing that the court can do will be to make an order putting that course into effect. And the result must surely be that the court will be seen as simply the rubber-stamping enforcement department of the local authority, and that does not seem to be much of a job for the magistrates involved.
These are the dangers I foresee, and I very much hope that my anxieties will be removed during the passage of the Bill. I welcome the intentions of the Bill; my only doubts are about how well those intentions will be fulfilled. I am delighted that the original Clause 5 has been replaced and that it is no longer proposed that a single juvenile court magistrate should have to give consent for criminal proceedings against young 1192 persons. I am sorry that the alternative suggested by the National Association of Probation Officers, for an examiner with rather wider functions than the single magistrate was to have had, has not been accepted, and I am still not wholly convinced by the arguments put forward against it in another place. It is satisfactory—and this is something which may not be entirely obvious on a first reading of the Bill—that in the case of young persons, the over-fourteens, the choice of supervisor is left to the court. In many cases no doubt the court will consider a probation officer more suitable than a local authority officer as supervisor, and I am glad that it will still be possible for the Service's involvement with this age group to continue.
Finally, I should like to say some-thing about the attitude of the Probation and After-care Service to the Bill. Many probation officers are not happy about the future of their Service. They have seen what is happening in Scotland, where the independent probation service is to come to an end in November. They are worried about the Seebohm Report and its implication that the same sort of thing might happen here. Now in this Bill they see their sphere of activity in work for young people much reduced; and many naturally find the greatest satisfaction in this part of their work. Certainly children are likely to be more rewarding clients for probation officers than many of the inadequate adults whom they have to try to prop up on probation or in after-care. Furthermore, probation officers remember that they were doing social work with delinquents, young and old, and their families, long before local authority children's officers or any other welfare officers had been thought of; and they now see themselves being gradually squeezed out of fields which they pioneered.
It is I think commendable, therefore, that the majority of the Service accept this Bill as representing a desirable advance, even though they do not yet accept it as perfect. In general they agree that it is right and inevitable that the same service that looks after the interests of children who are not delinquents should look after the delinquent ones too, at any rate as soon as there are enough trained people to take the job over. On this last point, I should 1193 like to remind your Lordships that at the most recent date for which I have been able to find figures, December 31, 1967, the Probation Service was responsible for children and young persons under probation or supervision orders to the number of 20,000 under 14 and a further 23,000 in the 14 to 17 age group. In addition, during 1967 nearly 70,000 social enquiry reports on juveniles were made for the courts. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, gave encouraging figures of the increase in the number of child care officers, but they have a high rate of wastage compared with the Probation and After-care Service, and a relatively small number of child care officers have professional social work qualifications. It is clear that it will be some time before the full transfer of responsibility is possible. Subject to these reservations, I welcome the Bill, with the hope that we may improve it further.
§ 7.0 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF COVENTRY
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships long, but I should like to add my words to those already expressed in saying how very much one appreciates and is grateful for this Bill. It seems to me to mark another milestone in that long upward road of progress towards the achievement of a community which really cares that every man, woman and child should have the opportunity to live a full and free and unfettered life. But having said this, I do not think we ought to expect too much from it.
My one real question is whether these new proposals, with their great and rightful emphasis on local community homes and family treatment, are all-embracing and comprehensive enough to take care of all children who present anti-social behaviour. It seems to me that the Bill will deal mainly with one type or kind of anti-social child—the behaviour that stems from what one would call personality or family difficulties. This is the justification for involving children's departments in therapy with young individuals and case work within the family, treating them as informally as possible without court process. All this, as has been said already, is much to be commended. No longer will this nation send a child of a young age through the courts, unless the family are demonstrably incapable of giving adequate care. 1194 Instead, we shall see an entirely new emphasis upon co-operation between the family, welfare officers and the police in an attempt to control the child without court action.
So far so good. But I would argue that the one thing wrong with such a proposition is that it takes care only of a certain sector of juvenile care, and that there are many other youngsters for whom law-breaking is simply a response to the prevailing moral climate within which they live. There are, in fact, two kinds of erring youngster. First, as the Bill makes clear, there are those who are disturbed in such a way that for them crime is an acting out of their personal emotional problems; and it is this group that this Bill is primarily designed to help. It seems to me that it will do it most effectively. The second group is that group of children whose criminal activities are the result of a cultural ethos which positively encourages crime. Some of this in other words, may stem from the attitudes and values of the parents. The rest may come from and be reinforced by the peer group in which they operate.
There is considerable evidence to support this view. Defective social attitudes are as much a cause of adolescent crime as emotional difficulties. The undoubted fact is that a high proportion of crime comes from certain social groupings in our bigger urban settlements, and not necessarily, I hasten to add, from one class. Urban crime has shown an enormous increase in the last 10 years, shall we say from 1955 to 1965. For instance, Blackburn has shown a 366 per cent increase; Nottingham a 365 per cent. increase. So I could go on. In other words, it is in areas where the boy across the road and the lad three houses down the same street are in trouble, or even perhaps where two or three families in adjacent flats produce delinquents, that the chances of a lad surviving are most difficult. In short, environmental pressures work strongly against rehabilitation. In other words, while one must be most grateful for the great emphasis in the Bill on remedial treatment in the form of community homes run by local authorities in close conjunction so far as possible with the child's own personal family, nevertheless the fact remains that for some children this could be the very 1195 worst possible treatment, and that the one hope for certain kinds of young people is that they should be got right away from their local environment and even, in some cases, alas I from their own family.
Therefore, I would maintain that there are two kinds of anti-social behaviour by adolescents, the first stemming from personality and family difficulties, and the second from the prevailing moral climate in the environment in which they live. Of course, the Bill deals with the first extremely competently. One cannot but be grateful that they are no longer to be dealt with under the criminal law, except in the case of homicide. One is extremely grateful that they will be looked at no longer mainly on the lines of what they have done, but of what potentially they can become.
We must be grateful that the Bill takes out of the hands of the police acting alone the duty of deciding whether or not to prosecute young persons between the ages of 14 and 17 who are thought to have committed criminal offences. If the police want to investigate and prosecute a young person they must now get the consent of a magistrate. Local authority welfare officers will have an excellent opportunity of making their opinions known as well. Surely, all this is a major advance, and a wise and constructive way of handling problem children.
The Bill lays an entirely new emphasis on co-operation between family, welfare authorities and police in an attempt to control the child without court action. Furthermore, the Bill has much to say about the people who are to decide with regard to the future of the child who has done things which are anti-social. In particular, the court cannot make an approved school order. All this, I am sure, most public opinion and informed opinion must agree with. With the new system, the decision about what form remedial treatment should take is handed over to the local authority and children's department. That is excellent. In other words, one must surely be grateful that although the juvenile court can still order custodial detention, the exact form of this treatment is left to the professional penologists in consultation with the parents.
1196 In this Bill great emphasis is laid on remedial treatment in the form of community homes run by the local authority. This is undoubtedly a high ideal, and for many children, as I have said, it may well be an admirable solution to their problems—though I think even here there are difficulties. First, are we wing to find a sufficient number of people capable of running these community homes which are to he greatly increased? Such people are rare, and not easily found. Secondly. are busy city and town councillors going to be able to give undivided and careful attention to the running of these community homes? Thirdly, are they going to provide the same opportunities for the quiet and tactful presentation of the Christian faith which is at present available in many of the present day approved schools? No longer will there be a chaplain, hut instead children will be looked after from time to time by an already very busy and, in some cases, heavily overburdened parish priest. These are comparatively minor problems which may well be overcome.
I repeat that for a certain kind of anti-social behaviour the treatment laid down in the Bill along these lines is admirable and effective. But I come back to my main point, that certain delinquent's anti-social behaviour stems largely from low moral standards and his immediate social environment: his home, his neighbourhood and his peer group. Here I emphasise that one of the most important steps in his treatment may well be to get him right out of his neighbourhood. It is precisely because the child has been placed for a time in what has been known as an approved school, away from his home in so many cases, that he has begun to recover from the ill-effects of an inadequate neighbourhood and home. Social education—moral, civic and social training—are all necessary ingredients of a comprehensive remedial approach, and one doubts whether this new style of community homes will have these built-in educational resources that are at present available in the best approved schools. I should have thought that the need for residential, caring establishments, with an educational ethos which is typical of approved schools, will still persist, and that identified and identifiable delinquents should still be separated for a time for 1197 the sake of affording hem comprehensive treatment and shielding the less disturbed from their influence.
I am the first to agree that the success rate for approved schools has not been what it might be but, having said that, the fact is that two out of three who have attended them do not again get into the same sort of trouble and do not need again to be " re-institutionalised", if I may use that word. Coming from such a group this is no mean achievement, and it may well have been due to the fact that in the best run approved schools one finds many headmasters and teachers who are both highly qualified, skilled in constructive discipline, and with a very real sense of vocation. Of course, there is no doubt that some children have emerged from them more of a problem than they were when they went in, although I believe they are in the minority.
In placing a great new emphasis (quite rightly, for certain children) upon community homes run by local authorities, we must not cease to be grateful for the work that has been done in the past by those much maligned and often greatly misunderstood approved schools—and I was very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for paying a tribute to them in his opening speech.
To summarise all that I have tried to say, I share with many other of your Lordships profound gratitude for this Bill and for what it is striving to do for those children whose anti-social behaviour has arisen, in the main, from personal or emotional problems stemming from personality or family difficulties. This Bill, I think, marks a milestone in the State's dealing with many unhappy children who are inflicting their troubles on the rest of the free community. But I have tried to point out that a danger lies in assuming that these new proposals are all-embracing and comprehensive enough to take care of all children presenting anti-social behaviour. It is tragically true that for the community of youngsters at large who come from areas where the rate of delinquency is high and where there is little support for pro-social values, there still remains an acute need for a massive programme of social education to be provided by nursery schools, well-equipped teachers and social workers, working together to help children to gain the necessary insights 1198 to live successfully in a society that has very little social cohesion and often very weak moral standards.
The excellent pamphlet from which the Bill has largely emerged, Children in Trouble lays great emphasis on intermediate treatment. Thank God it dots! At present there is too little of it, and suggestions to be considered have been made. I should like to make suggestions of temporary residence in establishments: participation in training schemes at weekends or in odd hours during the week: afternoon training; organised work projects; and social service. In short, great emphasis, quite rightly, is laid upon training and upon education in the broad sense. Indeed, it is precisely because of this, among other reasons, that one hopes that community homes will not totaly replace schools, because the latter have a most important educative role to fulfil. With those doubts and hopes expressed, I find myself able, like all the others, to give strong, though in some cases qualified, support for what seems to me to be a highly imaginative and valuable Bill.
§ 7 14 p.m.
§ BARONESS GAITSKELL
My Lords, my intervention in this debate will be extremely brief. I entered this Chamber this afternoon as a learner; I ought to have had a large "L" on my back because I have never myself worked in child care and noble Lords who have spoken to-day and taken part are both experienced and distinguished in this field. I was here to listen and to learn; and I must say that I have learned a great deal this afternoon.
I should like to comment on the most interesting speech of the right reverend Prelate who has just spoken. I do not agree with him in the way he has divided in his ideas the kinds of delinquents. It seems to me that there are many causes in our society for delinquency among our young people. I also do not agree with him in his insistence that the moral climate to-day is so terribly bad. But I will not continue to comment on his speech now.
Having read this Bill and thought about it and spoken to several probation officers and child care workers, I support warmly the philosophy and the intentions behind it. Generally speaking, punishment may be a short cut in dealing 1199 with offences committed, but it is becoming increasingly ineffective. The emphasis in this Bill on remedial measures, on co-opting the responsibilities of parents and the family, and the quest for a less superficial attitude towards the problems of children and young persons, seems to me absolutely on the right lines. The range of treatment has increased; the new Bill places the choice of treatment or care in the hands of supervisors, and the local authority, and not on the courts, thus concentrating on welfare and not on punishment, which seems to me a forward looking thing. Flexibility, as many noble Lords have pointed out, is introduced into the system.
When such an important change is made in the treatment of young offenders it is relevant to pose all our doubts and reservations even when we support this legislation strongly. I have read the views of those who support and those who are against it. I think that when such substantial changes are introduced into the sphere of social welfare it needs time to implement the changes; so before we get dizzy with success about the emphasis on care by the local authorities steps should immediately be taken to increase the number of child care officers. Here I am very much reassured by my noble friend the Minister when he says that the the number of child care officers is going to be considerably increased, because at present they are considerably under strength. I am not very clear whether the probation services are to be run down. I hope that the probation officer, as the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton of Dalzell has said, will find a place in the new setup. He quoted the figures which I have here. They show that at the end of 1967, the Probation Service was supervising over 20,000 children under 14 and 23,000 in the 14 to 17 age group.
It is perhaps too readily assumed that there are a large number of families who will immediately respond to the help offered by local authorities. The aim to reduce the number of children appearing before the juvenile court is to be welcomed, but it seems to me that parents will need to be educated to take advantage of the alternative voluntary arrangements between the local authority and the parents—and here I agree with what my noble friend Lady Birk said in her 1200 speech. Some families may resist the social help offered; and the more unstable a family, the more likely it is that that will be the case. In fact it is the social workers who will have to help parents bring up their children, if they are not already doing so now. Here I agree with the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet of Amberley. I think that she stressed this point, too. However, I think that the noble Baroness was not up to date in her knowledge about the appointment of juvenile magistrates to-day. I do not think she was aware that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has introduced in London a completely up-to-date system for appointing juvenile magistrates.
The crux of this Bill is in the changes in the legal procedure so that proceedings will now be brought under the care, protection or control procedure. This means that the child from a stable home. as has been said so often to-day, where control is deemed satisfactory would escape prosecution, whereas his friend involved in the same offence would be prosecuted, largely because it would be assumed his parents could not control him properly. I find this distinction hard to swallow. It seems to me that when two juveniles have committed the same offence control has broken down even in what has been judged to be the stable home. There was a letter in The Times this morning from a juvenile court magistrate. I do not know whether Lord Stonham or Lady Serota read this letter, but the magistrate suggested that where more than one child is brought before the court for the same offence the need to establish the additional proviso, that they are in need of care or control, should be waived.
Finally, my Lords, I wish I could say honestly that I accept the explanation of my noble friend Lord Stonham, though if anyone could influence me it is my noble friend, with his reasonable, moderate introduction, based on a lifetime of practical experience and devotion. But whatever reservations I have, I heartily welcome this Bill.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ LORD VIVIAN
My Lords, once again I have to apologise for coming in at the end of a debate in your Lordships' House. I promise not to detain your Lordships for more than four minutes, and I do so 1201 at short notice only because duties which I have to perform outside your Lordships' House prevented me earlier from attempting to digest and weigh-up this important Bill for children and young people. I agree with the greater part of what the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said in his clear introduction of the Bill, for which, like other noble Lords, I thank him. But I should also like to underline what the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said from these Benches, which I think was also stressed by the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester. I refer to the point that I hope the Bill will receive very careful consideration by your Lordships during its stages through this Chamber.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, rightly pointed out that we have a very sizeable number of children in need of care and guidance at the present time. To the noble Earl's wise words, I would add that they are in need of love, also. I have mentioned love because, as every noble Baroness and noble Lord will realise, that is the most important factor, together with family discipline. It is these two important factors, together with those which the noble Earl mentioned, which can prevent some of these unfortunate children from coming under the care of juvenile courts or probation officers, for whom I have the greatest respect. The word "love" is not mentioned in the Bill, nor did I expect it to be, but I claim, like Mr. Godfrey Winn—a very human and celebrated author of our times, who is well-known to your Lordships—that there would be very little juvenile delinquency but for the fact that there is a great deal of parental delinquency at the present time. It is my firm belief that if only we could stem or control parental delinquency, there would be fewer children to be cared for in the future under this important Bill.
To return to the Bill, the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said—and here I hope that I quote him correctly—"I am a little doubtful on Clause 1, in which can be found the heart of the Bill". I am in entire agreement with the noble Earl, and I beg Her Majesty's Government, through the medium of the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, to look into it very carefully. I suggest that we could have nobody more worthy for summing-up on 1202 this Bill than the noble Baroness, Who at the present time is doing so much to cure any ills which may exist in some of our hospitals for those who are ill in mind. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Byers that—and here I use his own words—"flexibility is necessary to improve this Bill ".
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe said that there was an urgent need for room in psychiatric homes, in order for us adequately to help children and young persons who are in trouble. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, will refer to this in her summing-up, for I believe she will he fully aware that what the noble Earl said is very true. Like the noble Viscount, Lord St. Davids, I believe that those children who need help can be helped at an early age in their own homes, but they must be children who are living in homes where they have love and the right amount of discipline. Those who suffer through parental delinquency in their homes must be protected, and I hope we can find a way of doing this so that fewer children or young persons will have to come before a juvenile court, unless it is absolutely necessary. In resuming my seat, may I say that I hope the Bill will have careful consideration by your Lordships, for there is a great deal in it which makes very good sense. But there is at the same time, I feel. much which needs to be thought over very carefully.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, the House has to-day been debating one of the Session's major pieces of legislation. It is also, without doubt, the most important piece of social legislation in this field since 1933, when, for the first time, Parliament laid down the principle that in exercising its functions the juvenile court should have regard to the welfare of the child. Many of your Lordships, in valuable, moving and informed speeches to-day, have pointed out that this new Bill is a logical extension of that paramount principle and is based firmly on the experience and the growth of knowledge of the needs of children over the last thirty or more years. We all see parts of this Bill incorporating ideas and practices which have now been under active public discussion and consideration for the last decade. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, reminded us of the 1203 pedigree of the Bill, and I only wish he could forget the word "Longfordiana".
Most important of all, I think the support which this Bill has received in the House indicates that its provisions reflect the profound changes in attitude towards the moral culpability, the legal responsibility and the liability for punishment of children and young persons, which have clearly been seen to take place over the last 60 years, since the passing of the first Children Act, in 1908. Most of your Lordships who have taken part in this debate and who have welcomed this Bill have seen it as a natural development in a society which is not frightened by the delinquencies of its younger members, and which is now prepared to deal with them on essentially educational and social lines rather than on predominantly legal ones. Not one of your Lordships has raised serious doubts about the general wisdom of the changes proposed, nor seen this move from orthodox judicial and penal processes towards more flexible and discretionary procedures as a threat to the individual liberty of children or, indeed, to the proper inculcation of moral values during their upbringing. This represents a major and radical change in our thinking about the needs of children and about the services which parents require to assist them in bringing up their families.
One must confess that, throughout, the debate here to-day has differed considerably from the public debate which has ranged in other places since the presentation of this Bill. I think one must accept, even if one does not agree with it, that there is quite deep in our society a continued belief in the efficacy of punishment. The move away from the authoritarian conception of legal punishment, which your Lordships have fully accepted to-day, in order to meet the educational and social needs of children more effectively through other measures, is not so widely accepted throughout the country as a whole—and I think that this is really the answer to those noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have expressed the view to-day that the Government are not going fast enough and that the age of criminal responsibility is not yet high enough.
My Lords, the speakers in the debate have ranged over a wide variety of different 1204 aspects of work with children and over the whole scope and provisions of what I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton, called this vast and complex Bill. At this late hour, and after a debate of this length, it would clearly be impossible, not to say tedious, if I were to attempt to reply in detail to every point at issue. Many of the specific points will no doubt be discussed very fully as this Bill moves through the Committee stage of the House, and there we can examine it more fully, although I must thank the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and other noble Lords, who have given warning of the points that they wish to raise and examine in the later stages of the Bill. I shall try to confine my remarks tonight to replying to those matters which have been raised and which affect the general aims and principles of the Bill.
Perhaps I may remind the House for a moment, at the close of this debate, that the basic aim is to reduce the penal emphasis on methods of dealing with children, especially school-age children, both by changes in legal proceedings and by changes affecting treatment. There is also a very important section of the Bill on which I think only the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, touched—and I must say that for my part I was very glad that he did—namely, the section which makes certain changes in the law in relation to children who are placed, usually by their own parents, with persons other than close relatives for care over short or long periods. This is a very important part of the Bill. It is not such a dramatic part, but it represents, I think, a great improvement in the law as it stands at present.
Looking, then, at the treatment provisions of the Bill first—and I take those first because they have proved less controversial—there has been a general welcome for, or perhaps I could say no opposition to, the principle embodied in the Bill of developing a comprehensive range of community homes and integrating the existing approved schools into it. Everyone has welcomed this concept of a broad range of provision to meet the needs of children who are in difficulties; and I should like to add my personal tribute to those which have already been paid in this debate to the staff of our residential homes and schools of all kinds, who have worked with 1205 children over the years, sometimes in conditions of immense stress and difficulty, and who will have yet further challenges and problems placed on them when this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament and when we move towards the changing pattern of residential care.
There is one point that I should like to make on a matter raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton. She told us of her disappointment that the proposals in the Bill were not as closely linked to the education system as she would have liked to see, but I would point out to her that tucked away in Schedule 3 is a provision, which was foreshadowed in the White Paper, that, subject to the consultations that will be undertaken by the regional planning committees to be set up under this Bill, it will be open to some of the existing approved schools, if they so wish, to become either community homes or boarding schools. I thought that would bring some pleasure to the noble Baroness, as indeed it does to me.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, I should like to say that I am most grateful to my noble friend for calling my attention to this matter. My study of the Bill was mainly conducted at five o'clock this morning, and I did not get as far as this Schedule.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, I have every sympathy with the noble Baroness. I shall not tell the House at what time I was reading it. May I now turn to the question of the development of residential care and further facilities for seriously disturbed adolescents? On this point the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, quoted, I am glad to say, just the right section of the Seebohm Report. He and other noble Lords—Lord Vivian and Baroness Birk—asked whether I could tell the House what progress was being made in this field. I speak with great personal feeling here as one who, it now seems for about twenty years, has tried to see that we develop facilities to meet the needs of children and young people with these particularly difficult problems; and one must frankly admit that there has been a great gap in the services we have provided for seriously disturbed adolescents in our society.
There has been progress (albeit, for some of us, slow progress) in providing hospital units to meet needs of this kind. But I can tell the House that there are 1206 at present some 14 special units providing about 270 beds; and the units now being planned will in the future provide an additional 600 beds, of which 100 are due to be opened during the next twelve months. Of course, noble Lords are also aware that many adolescent patients are now treated with adult patients in mental hospitals, and clearly this adds to the provision available for them. But I would draw your Lordships' attention also to the provisions in the Bill which enable the Home Office to provide a very special kind of residential institution for boys and girls, children and young people, who are in need of intensive care, sometimes in secure conditions. This, to my mind, is a major step forward. I am sure that the House would like to know that the first of these units will be opened in January next year; and there are two more in the planning stage, where sites are being examined.
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Baroness, but I know of her deep concern about this matter, and it is one which I feel strongly about myself. It is good news that there are 100 beds, as I understood it, becoming available within the coming year, apart from the other provision to which she referred. Can she give any forecast when the remaining 500 may come into service?
§ BARONESS SEROTA
My Lords, not "off the cuff", but I can assure the noble Earl that I shall let him have that information. Perhaps this is, by some strange twist of fate, an opportunity where once again my noble friend Lord Stonham, at the Home Office, and myself in the Department of Health, will be able to put our heads together to see what we can do to expand the facilities that are available for treatment in this field, where the need is so acute and where we know that provision of the right kind can do so much to help these young people.
My Lords, I turn now to those aspects of the Bill which involve changes in legal procedures and which have been the subject of major comment throughout the debate. Several noble Lords have touched on the question of the age of criminal responsibility. I think all of us who have thought about this matter a great deal accept that any line must be 1207 arbitrary, for those of us who are concerned with children know that whether a young child commits an offence or is merely unruly must to some extent be arbitrary. But wherever the dividing line is drawn—and this, surely, is the issue—it has a profound influence on the responsibilities and relationships of the services concerned with children.
Of course, as the noble Viscount said, children have a great sense of natural justice. A child of two, my Lords, knows when it is doing wrong; but that does not mean that he should be criminally responsible. Nearly all your Lordships who have spoken in the debate—in fact, all your Lordships, I think—have accepted that intervention is necessary in certain circumstances to deal with anti-social behaviour in order to take the early action necessary to prevent such behaviour from developing into delinquency. But how society treats them when they get into trouble affects not only their present behaviour but the whole of their future life. This is why there has been agreement in the House to-night that we should not apply to children legal concepts and legal categories which are properly applicable only to the mature and independent adult.
I turn now to the difficult and vexed question which I call the "distinctions between children" argument, which clearly is still worrying certain noble Lords. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, and my noble friend Lady Birk both expressed views on it. The noble Earl and others suggested that the Bill will discriminate against certain children while other children might, for an identical offence not appear in court at all. As I believe my noble friend Lady Wootton pointed out—if not to-night, then in certain of her writings—this is the way that middle-class parents, with the assistance of teachers, have successfully kept their children out of court. My noble friend Lord Stonham dealt with this argument very fully in his opening remarks. The only point I would add at this stage to those noble Lords who are still concerned about this particular part of the Bill is that those who are familiar with these problems in their day-to-day experience, are only too aware of the contradictions that are to be found in a legal system which overtly proclaims equality before the law while operating 1208 within a social framework which is characterised by substantial inequalities in social and economic terms. This is what Clauses 1,2 and 4 are about. I have no doubt whatever that we shall discuss them more fully in Committee. Therefore I do not propose to detain your Lordships much longer.
A second issue that was raised here—a point that I think the noble Baroness, Lady Emmet, felt very strongly about—was the question of parental responsibility. The noble Lord, Lord Vivian, touched on this point. Of course the primary responsibility for children does, and should, rest with their parents; but there is to-day a wide variety of circumstances in which society accepts that it should share the responsibilities of parents: medical care, educational care and some of us now say, and say it through this Bill, social care. There is nothing in this Bill, I believe, that will undermine the responsibility of parents. The point is to assist, to support, to strengthen and to help the parents in the upbringing of their children. I see nothing in it that is contrary to this.
If one looks at what I believe to be the fundamental background of this Bill—namely, the preventive work developed since 1963 under the Children and Young Persons Act which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, introduced into this House—one can see how we are gradually building supportive services in the community to assist parents with problems before there is any crisis or, indeed, court situation. I could give the House figures showing the way that this work has been developing, but I will say only that although the number of children in the care of local authorities rose steadily from 1959 to 1966 the figures now appear to be flattening out, in spite of an increase in the total population in the age group.
Here one can only congratulate and give due credit to the noble Earl and his colleague, the then-Home Secretary, for the provision they made in Section 1 of the 1963 Act that enabled local authorities, who for many years had been operating on the fringes of their statutory powers, fully to develop preventive work. There is a great deal more to be done in this field; I am only too conscious of that. Nevertheless, this is the framework on which the Act is based. My noble friend Lady Wootton made it very clear to us, and I think we all agree with 1209 her, that there should be no differences in range of service available for children who are neglected, or ill treated or who commit anti-social acts or are beyond the control of their parents; nor should they be put in segregated categories.
So I turn now to a number of questions which were put to me throughout this debate. I will try my best to answer them. I would say to my noble friend Lady Wootton on the points of drafting that I will write to her on her specific points, although I am advised that her second and third points, which are fundamental to the Bill, do not work out in the way she thought at five o'clock this morning. The right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of Leicester raised a question. I will answer that also in writing. I think it was on Clause 39.
I now turn to the broader and more general points relating to the structure of our social services. Several noble Lords have said: "What about Seebohm?" I can only say that it is a matter of great regret that we have been unable so far to make a statement following upon the publication of the Seebohm Report. That Report was published last July, some 11 months ago, but the Government made it clear that they had to look at the recommendations of the Report in the light of the Royal Commission on Local Government. That Report, as noble Lords know, was published last week. I can assure the House that we will make every possible effort to make a statement as soon as is humanly possible. I am only too conscious of the anxieties and uncertainties that exist throughout many of our personal social services. I must confess, too, that one can only regret that certain local authorities have seen fit (if I may put it like this) to jump the gun and do their own Seebohms, in spite of the advice to the contrary. I can give the House an assurance that my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Social Services, the Secretary of State for Home Affairs and other Ministers concerned are only too conscious of the need to make a declaration of intent as soon as possible.
My noble friend Lady Birk told us of her belief in the need to develop family courts so that when issues come before a court of law affecting different members of a family they can be seen as a whole. She will remember the first 1210 White Paper and the references in this to a second White Paper. The Latey Committee on the Age of Majority made a recommendation about the establishment of a Family Division of the High Court, and at the moment we know that the Law Commission are engaged on a full-scale review and codification of family law. The Royal Commission on Quarter Sessions and Assizes are also sitting. This, in turn, will affect the structure and pattern of our magistrates' courts. I know that my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has this matter very much in mind. I only hope that within the foreseeable future he will have some progress for us in this field. I am sure that the noble Baroness realises that this is a complex and complicated matter. I do not think that anybody would dissent from the kind of principle she enunciated when talking about looking at the needs of the family as a whole.
Certain noble Lords mentioned the effect of the provisions in this Bill on the Probation Service. One must accept that this has created certain uncertainties for the Probation Service. In my view it is not the only uncertainty they face. Ever since the inquiry into the personal social services in local authorities and allied services, the Probation Service has been uncertain of its future and its role. I do not think that my noble friend Lord Stonham would wish me to say that there is less work for the Probation Service in the future—
§ BARONESS SEROTA
On the contrary, we need more probation officers; we need more work in our penal institutions, and we need more work in the communities from which the offenders come. It is gratifying to know that in spite of the present uncertainties the Probation Service has accepted that in the future the Children's Service, or whatever social service succeeds it, should have the prime responsibility for the care of children under 14. This is not just a whim, or an administrative change made for the sake of it, but because of the basic general principle of continuity of care; and I believe that as we develop the training of our child 1211 care officers we shall build up and staff the services of the future.
My Lords, I was very sorry when certain figures were given about the trained strength of the child care service. The figures were not correct, but I do not propose to correct them tonight. I can only say, from my experience of some nine years as a member of the Central Training Council for Child Care, that the House may rest assured that the Home Office, spurred on, I may say, by the professional organisations and certain other people, will continue to develop training, not only for young social science graduates but—something which to my mind is just as important—for mature students with experience in other walks of life, among whom there are many men, as well as women (and that will redress the balance of the service), who will provide the stable core of our services in the future.
I must try to answer the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Byers, about the Maud Report, and this ties in with the further point about the regional planning areas. I believe it was the intention to think in terms of setting up some 12 or 15 regional planning areas. Clearly, there has not been time since the publication of the Maud Report for very detailed consideration of this point. I think that one may only say now that this is the plan for the present local government organisation. The future organisation will clearly require quite a considerable period of time for debate, and ultimately for legislation, and one would naturally attempt to provide coterminous areas in some form or other so that we do not have that conflict and the crossing of boundaries which causes such confusion to so many of our services to-day.
As the debate proceeded, one or two of your Lordships pointed out, quite fairly, that this is not an end but really a beginning. In fact some of the most important provisions of the Bill—such as the reform of juvenile court procedures which was touched on in the debate, raising the age of criminal responsibility which could require Affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament, and the organisation of this new comprehensive system of community homes—will be dealt with later by Statutory Instrument 1212 and after full and proper consultation with local authorities. This is a very long and complicated Bill, and I am glad that no one has suggested to-day that the Government have acted in haste in submitting it.
On some occasions one has had the feeling that vital issues affecting the wellbeing of children were somewhat clouded and complicated by the sectional interests of existing groups and vested interests in the present arrangements. This has certainly not happened to-day, and it is also very pleasing that every noble Lord who has spoken in the debate has remained to the end. Surely, my Lords, this question may be judged, indeed has been judged in the debate, from one standpoint alone. These are our children, they are the community's children, they are not "other people's children". I join with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester in saying that our thinking, surely, must be determined—
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
My Lords, if the noble Baroness will forgive me for interrupting, surely she will not dispute that at present they are other people's children.
§ BARONESS SEROTA
But, my Lords, I do not want them to be. What I was really trying to say was that the criteria by which we decide on their best interests should be the same criteria, as the right reverend Prelate properly said, as we use for our own children, and this I think has gone throughout the whole of the debate.
My Lords, whatever differences there may be between us on matters of detail, and matters of drafting and phrasing, which I am sure we can argue out in your Lordships' usual amicable and friendly way during the later stages of this Bill, I know that my noble friend Lord Stonham, on behalf of the Home Office, and I, for my part, find it most encouraging that such a forward-looking measure, based on the simple principles that prevention is better than cure and that constructive treatment along educational and social lines is more worth while than repression, has received such a widespread and generous welcome in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, Lord Stonham, and I are grateful for all the support we have received, and I particularly for the way your Lordships 1213 have remained in the Chamber. I commend this Bill to the House and look forward to its Committee stage.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.